I think “entelechy” — or what Kant called internal teleology — is probably the most important guiding concept of Aristotle’s Metaphysics (rather than the “Being” championed by many). There is a great deal to unpack from this single word. Here is a start.

The primary examples of entelechy are living beings. Aristotle also suggests that pure thought (nous) is an entelechy. I think the same could be said of ethos, or ethical culture.

Sachs’ invaluable glossary explains the Greek entelecheia as “A fusion of the idea of completeness with that of continuity or persistence. Aristotle invents the word by combining enteles (complete, full-grown) with echein (= hexis, to be a certain way by the continuing effort of holding on in that condition), while at the same time punning on endelecheia (persistence) by inserting telos (completion [what I have been calling “end”]). This is a three-ring circus of a word, at the heart of everything in Aristotle’s thinking, including the definition of motion. Its power to carry meaning depends on the working together of all the things Aristotle has packed into it. Some commentators explain it as meaning being-at-an-end, which misses the point entirely” (p. li).

He points out the etymological connection of echein (literally, “to have”) with hexis, or “Any condition that a thing has by its own effort of holding on in a certain way. Examples are knowledge and all virtues or excellences, including those of the body such as health” (p. xlix).

I previously suggested a very literal rendering of entelechy as something like “in [it] end having”, with the implication that it more directly means being subject to internal teleology. As Sachs says, this is very different from just being at an end. The latter would imply a completely static condition not subject to further development.

Entelechy is Aristotle’s more sophisticated, “higher order” notion of an active preservation of stability within change, which in the argument of the Metaphysics accompanies the eventual replacement of the initial definition of ousia (“substance”, which Sachs renders as “thinghood”) from the Categories as a kind of substrate or logical “subject” in which properties inhere. What he replaced that notion of substrate with was a series of more refined notions of ousia as form, “what it was to have been” a thing, and what I am still calling potentiality and actuality.

Whether we speak of active preservation of stability within change or simply of persistence (implicitly in contrast with its absence), time is involved. Reference to change makes that indisputable. Persistence is a bit more of a gray area, since in popular terms lasting forever is associated with eternity, but strictly speaking, “eternal” means outside of time (which is why the scholastics invented the different word “sempiternal” for things said to persist forever in time).

Sachs’ translation for what I will continue to simply anglicize as “entelechy” is “being-at-work-staying-itself”. This is closely related to energeia (“actuality”), which Sachs renders as being-at-work. I think it is important that there is nothing literally corresponding to “being” in the Greek for either of these, and want to avoid importing connotations of Avicennist, Thomist, Scotist, or Heideggerian views of the special status of being into Aristotle.

I also think “staying itself” tends to suggest a purely static notion of the identity of a “self” that is foreign to Aristotle. Sachs might respond that “at-work-staying” negates the connotation that “itself” is static, but I don’t think this necessarily follows. It might take significant effort to remain exactly the same, but this is not what Aristotle is getting at. To be substantially the same is not to be exactly the same.

Entelechy is intimately connected with actuality (energeia) and potentiality (dynamis). As Sachs points out, “actuality” in common contemporary usage has connotations of being a simple matter of fact that are at odds with the teleological, value-oriented significance of energeia in Aristotle.

“The primary sense of the word [entelecheia] belongs to activities that are not motions; examples of these are seeing, knowing, and happiness, each understood as an ongoing state that is complete at every instant, but the human being that can experience them is similarly a being-at-work, constituted by metabolism. Since the end and completion of any genuine being is its being-at-work, the meaning of the word [energeia] converges [with that of entelecheia]” (p. li).

If we take “being” purely as a transitive verb (as it is indeed properly meant here), my objection above to connotations of its use as a noun could be overcome. But in English, “being” remains ambiguous, and it is not there in the Greek.

Further, though it has the good connotation of something being in process, “at work” also introduces all the ambiguities of agency and efficient causation, in which overly strong modern notions tend to get inappropriately substituted for Aristotle’s carefully refined “weak” concepts. Aristotle very deliberately develops weak concepts for these because — unlike most of the scholastics and the moderns — he thinks of all agency and causing of motion as subordinate to value-oriented entelechy and teleology.

Sachs’ glossary explains dynamis (“potentiality”, which he calls “potency”) as “The innate tendency of anything to be at work in ways characteristic of the kind of thing it is…. A potency in its proper sense will always emerge into activity, when the proper conditions are present and nothing prevents it” (p. lvii).

He notes that it has a secondary sense of mere logical possibility, but says Aristotle never uses it that way.

I fully agree that potentiality in Aristotle never means mere logical possibility. Kant’s notion of “real” as distinct from logical possibility comes closer, but it still lacks any teleological dimension. I think Paul Ricoeur’s “capability” comes closer than Sachs’ “potency”, because it it seems more suggestive of a relation to an end.

However, I am very sympathetic to Gwenaëlle Aubry’s argument that Aristotelian dynamis should not be understood in terms of any kind of Platonic or scholastic power. “Power” once again suggests all the ambiguities of efficient causality. I think such a reading is incompatible with the primacy of final causality over efficient causality in Aristotle. (Historically, of course, the divergence of scholastic “power” from Aristotelian dynamis was accompanied by assertions of a very non-Aristotelian primacy of efficient causality.) To my ear, “potency” has the same effect. (See also Potentiality and Ends.)

Sachs had said that entelechy is also at the heart of Aristotle’s definition of motion. (Motion with respect to place is only one kind of motion for Aristotle; he also speaks of changes with respect to substance, quality, and quantity as “motions”. He also says there are activities that are not motions.)

Properly speaking, motion (kinesis) for Aristotle is only “in” the thing that is moved. That is how it becomes reasonable to speak of unmoved movers. A moved mover is indeed moved, but not insofar as it is itself a mover, only in some other way. He says there is no “motion” in being-at-work or actuality as such, but there is activity.

In book III chapter 1 of the Physics, Aristotle says that “the fulfillment [energeia] of what is potentially, as such, is motion — e.g. the fulfillment of what is alterable, as alterable, is alteration; … of what can come to be and pass away, coming to be and passing away; of what can be carried along, locomotion” (Collected Works, Barnes ed., vol. I, p. 343).

Sachs expresses this by saying that as long as “potency is at-work-staying-itself as a potency, there is motion” (p. lv). Otherwise said, motion is the entelechy and “actuality” of a potentiality as potentiality. As I’ve noted before, Aristotle doesn’t just divide things into actual and potential, as if they were mutually exclusive, but at times uses these notions in a layered way.

A mover (kinoun) is “Whatever causes motion in something else. The phrase ‘efficient cause’ is nowhere in Aristotle’s writings, and is highly misleading; it implies that the cause of every motion is a push or a pull…. That there should be incidental, intermediate links by which motions are passed along when things bump explains nothing. That motion should originate in something motionless is only puzzling if one assumes that what is motionless must be inert; the motionless sources of motion to which Aristotle refers are fully at-work, and in their activity there is no motion because their being-at-work is complete at every instant” (pp. lv-lvi).

It is worth noting that Aristotle has a relatively relaxed notion of completeness or perfection. We tend to define perfection in a kind of unconditional terms that are alien to him. For Aristotle in general, complete actualization or perfection is always “after a kind”, and it is supposed to be achievable. But also, it is only unmoved movers (and not organic beings) whose being-at-work is being said to be complete at every instant.

When he says “the phrase ‘efficient cause’ is nowhere in Aristotle’s writings”, he means that “efficient” is another Latin-derived term that diverges from the Greek. Aristotle in book II chapter 3 of the Physics speaks of “the primary source of the change or rest” (Collected Works, Barnes ed., vol. I, p. 332), but again we have to be careful to avoid importing assumptions about what this means.

As I’ve pointed out several times before, the primary source of the change in building a house according to Aristotle is the art of building, not the carpenter or the hammer or the hammer’s blow, and everything in this whole series is a means to an end. The end of building a house, which guides the form of the whole series, is something like protection from the elements. Neither the end nor the source of motion is itself an entelechy. But the house-building example is a case of external teleology. Correspondingly, it requires an external source of motion.

Internal teleology and the entelechy that implements it are more subtle; entelechy is an in itself “unmoving” and “unchanging” activity. The things subject to motion and change in the proper sense are only indirectly moved by it (by means of some source of motion).

We might say that Kantian transcendental subjectivity and Hegelian spirit are also entelechies.

Recently I suggested that what makes Hegel’s “subjective logic” to be “subjective” is its focus on the activity of interpretation and judgment, which in fact always aims to be “objective” in the sense of reaching toward deeper truth, and has nothing at all to do with what we call “merely subjective”. This is a sense of “subjective” appropriate to what Kant calls transcendental as opposed to empirical subjectivity. This higher kind of subjectivity, characteristic of what Hegel calls “self-consciousness” and of the activity of Kantian reflective judgment, would be very well characterized as an entelechy.

I strongly suspect that what Hegel metaphorically calls “logical motion” would be expressed by Aristotle in terms of the end-governed “unmoving activity” of entelechy.

The Logic’s Ending

We’ve reached the very end of a walk-through of Robert Pippin’s Hegel’s Realm of Shadows, discussing Hegel’s Science of Logic. I have particularly valued the way Pippin brings to the fore Hegel’s close ongoing dialogue with Kant and Aristotle.

It now seems to me there is more hope of giving an ethical meaning to the specifically “logical” part of Hegel’s work than I had realized. My suspicion that Hegel ought to have something interesting to say about his removal of the qualifications in Kant’s recovery of Aristotelian teleology has certainly been confirmed. I also appreciated learning about Hegel’s specific use of the Kantian vocabulary of “reflection”, which plays a significant role in the admirable work of Paul Ricoeur.

I very much like Pippin’s idea that the Logic fundamentally develops a rich and multi-layered notion of judgment. His recognition of the normative character of Aristotelian and Hegelian actuality is salutary. Finally, I appreciate his foregrounding of the effectively hermeneutic rather than “given” notion of being that Hegel adopts from Aristotle.

He quotes Hegel’s ironic remark near the end of the Encyclopedia Logic, “When one speaks of the absolute idea, one can think that here finally the substantive must come to the fore, that here everything must become clear” (p. 317). I think Pippin also stole some of his own thunder for the climax by front-loading his detailed discussion of apperceptive judgment and related matters, rather than treating these in-line in his account of the Logic‘s major transitions.

Hegel’s fusion of the meta-level hermeneutics of Aristotle’s Metaphysics with Kantian “transcendental” logic — concerned with questions of the constitution of meaning — is a very different enterprise from scholastic and classical early modern “metaphysics”, which was supposed to give us “Being” and entities and general truths about the world.

Hegel nonetheless wants to insist that knowing can and does get at the real truth of things. But that truth is higher-order, not any kind of simple correspondence of statements and facts. Hegel insists that it is actually the lower-order, ordinary “truths” that should be called abstract, because they fail to make explicit what they depend on.

“[A] pure concept is not a class concept under which instances fall, but the ‘truth’ of any object” (p. 301).

In the final section of the logic of the concept, Hegel introduces “the idea”, which results from one more reflective turn beyond the preliminary identification of subject and object in the concept. In this final turn, we look back again at the things in experience and recognize how they fall short of what the concept tells us they ought to be. For Hegel, this means they fall short of Aristotelian actuality — as presented, they can’t be “really real” or true in a philosophical sense.

At the same time, Hegel resists the Fichtean idea of an infinite progress, which implies that the actual can never be fully achieved in knowledge. He seems to suggest that the fault is not with the inherent capabilities of philosophical knowledge, but rather with the world, and that it is up to us to do something about that.

Pippin quotes, “But since the result now is that the idea is the unity of the concept and objectivity, the true, we must not regard it as a goal which is to be approximated but itself remains a kind of beyond; we must rather regard everything as actual only to the extent that it has the idea in it and expresses it. It is not just that the subject matter, the objective and the subjective world, ought to be in principle congruent with the idea; the two are themselves rather the congruence of concept and reality; a reality that does not correspond to the concept is mere appearance, something subjective, accidental, arbitrary, something in which there is not the truth” (p. 300).

Pippin comments, “[T]his last non-correspondence of concept and reality takes in all of the finite world, the world we want to know and on which, in which, we act” (ibid).

“[W]hat specifies the realization of [a living being’s] life is always other than such an individual life — it must always work, strive to live — and in so being a manifestation of the idea at work becoming itself and already having become itself, being a living being, it introduces us to the structure of knowing, a striving self-realization that does not achieve what would be the end of such striving — complete wisdom — and that focuses self-conscious attention on this logical structure of knowing, and how one comes to know it by working through the opposition of the subject-object relation in its finitude. (This characteristic is what we know in knowing the Absolute Idea, not the completed knowledge of content. The ‘realm of shadows’ metaphor is relevant again.) Life is presented as the model for understanding the object-concept relationship at the heart of knowing” (p. 302).

He quotes Hegel, “The identity of the idea with itself is one with the process; the thought that liberates actuality from the seeming of purposeless mutability and transfigures it into idea must not represent this truth of actuality as dead repose, as a mere picture, numb, without impulse and movement, … or as an abstract thought; the idea, because of the freedom which the concept has attained in it, also has the most stubborn opposition within it” (ibid).

“Said in a more Aristotelian way, a living being’s form, its principle of intelligibility, is its norm, not just a means of classification. This norm can be realized poorly or well. This is the way we understand the relation between objects in general and the Concept. (This does not amount to any suggestion that Hegel thinks we should view everything as alive, because every being’s truth is its concept. The domain of relevance implied [is] the nonempirical attempt to say what is, for those objects about which we can nonempirically say what they are: Geist [spirit], the state, friendship, art, religion.) Or, said in a Kantian way, pure concepts are constitutive of objecthood itself, not empirical classifications. In knowing this constitutive relationship, we acknowledge both the identity of conceptuality with determinate being, and the speculative nature of this identity, that is, the difference or ‘opposition’ remaining within this identity. Any finite thing can be known to be what it is only by knowing its concept, even though as finite, it is not, never will be, fully its concept, and the full articulation of its concept is not possible. That is what it means to say it is finite. And in just this sense, knowing can genuinely be knowing” (p. 303).

“More properly, in the appropriate philosophical register, we should say that what we want is to understand, not to know in the modern scientific sense, that is, to explain. When we understand something, we understand its cause, but in the Aristotelian sense, we mean we know why it is what it is, its mode of being. And this knowledge does not then ground explanation; it is self-standing. (Hegel is not leading us to: ‘Why does it rain?’ ‘Because it is in the nature of rain to water the crops’.)” (ibid).

Here Pippin is using “explanation” in the limited sense of accounting for empirical events, and “understanding” for something broader and more hermeneutic, taking into account form and ends. I use “explanation” in a more Aristotelian way, as what promotes what Pippin here calls “understanding”.

“Thinking can either overcome any opposition of being to knowing, by transforming itselfor transform the world in order to overcome the one-sidedness of subjectivity. The semblance of objectivity — that some being is the ‘actuality’ it presents itself as — can be penetrated, understood not to be such an actuality, and transformed by ‘the drive of the good to bring itself about'” (p. 305, emphasis in original).

Thinking transforming the world means us as thinking beings transforming the world.

“[I]n practical knowing, the subject does not face the world as an alien element that must be transformed on the basis of a subjective demand descending wholly from pure practical reason. Practical knowing consists both in acknowledging the ‘reality of the good’ and in participating in the world’s own constant realization of its ‘purpose’ by acting” (ibid, emphasis in original).

Hegelian practical “knowing” or practical judgment has the attitude of what I have called being “at home in otherness”.

“Material assumptions… must be and are present, are usually hidden, and reflect a specific historical context. We need to know something material about human beings to make any progress, and human beings being historical, some sort of practical knowledge is necessary to determine any rightful relation to others, a knowledge of practical reality inseparable from an assessment of what is to be done” (p. 306).

The Logic aims among other things to help us find the reflectively grounded wisdom to be able to formulate this kind of practical judgment of what ought to be in concrete cases.

He quotes Hegel, “The unsatisfied striving disappears if we know that the final purpose of the world has been brought about and to the same degree eternally brings itself about” (p. 307).

“It is this last phrase, ‘eternally brings itself about’… that makes it impossible to ascribe to Hegel the claim that with the arrival of representative institutions, a market economy, the bourgeois family, romantic art, and Protestant Christianity, the ‘world’s purpose’ simply has been achieved and may now only be contemplated in full reconciliation, or even that there is an ‘end of history'” (ibid).

“It is at least clear that Hegel is making an implicit distinction between, on the one hand, distinctly practical reasoning, as it is understood in Aristotle — that is, reasoning that concludes in an action, not in a judgment about what is to be done — and practical knowledge of the situation in which action is called for. (Something close to what the practically wise person, the phronimos as Aristotle understands her, would understand.) The assumption is that any such reasoning always relies on some knowledge of what we would call ‘practical actuality’, the ability to rightly distinguish between the ‘surface’ actuality, ‘vacuous and vanishing’, and ‘the genuine essence of the world’. We know from our discussion of the logic of essence that this is not a strictly either/or picture; such an essence is manifest in, and has to be seen in, such a surface or Schein. And Hegel is insisting that any exercise of action-oriented practical rationality is inseparable from such an attempt at practical knowledge, a knowledge that will have the speculative form we have been investigating” (p. 309).

Again there is a terminological difference from Sachs’ translation of Aristotle that I have been using for these terms, but the inseparability of what Sachs calls deliberation and what he calls practical judgment (which for Aristotle results in action) is the same in Hegel and Aristotle.

“Hegel’s position on the historicity of reason is quite complicated, and can sometimes seem like a moving target, at times making conceptual, a priori claims about what it is to be spirit (i.e., free, in the sense of self-realizing), and at times linking any understanding of spirit to an account of concrete historical actuality” (pp. 313-314).

In a way, this is Hegel’s whole point. He is neither simply a “historicist” affirming the relativity of circumstances, nor a Kantian/Fichtean moralist aiming to make universal prescriptions of what ought to be, but rather commends an Aristotelian mean that avoids the one-sidedness of both.

“The absolute idea, or ‘the logical idea’, is also called, revealingly for our interests, ‘the idea of thinking itself’…. Pure thinking, in determining what could be the object of a true self-conscious judgment, has turned to itself as the object of speculative judgment, since it has discovered, in detail, that the ‘truth’ of objects is the relevant pure ‘concept’, that conceptual determination without which no empirical determination would be possible, that is: qualitative and quantitative predication, a determination based on an essence-appearance distinction, the right understanding of substance, causality, and now the right understanding of the ‘thoughts’ that have made up the account thus far. Pure thinking is now in a position to ‘recollect’ what it ‘was’ to have been thinking purely. (We don’t thereby know any qualities or essences or attributes of modes of substance. We know the logic of substance-attribute, essence-appearance, and so forth…)” (p. 316).

At this final stage of the Logic, we are recollectively turning back to survey the whole “long detour” that was necessary for Hegel to be able to say what intelligibility is, and consequently, according to Hegel, for us to be able to judge what is actually true and good and right in concrete situations.

Pippin quotes, “Each of the stages considered up to this point is an image of the absolute, albeit in a limited manner at first, and so it drives itself on to the whole, the unfolding of which is precisely what we have designated the method” (p. 317).

“[T]his last characterization of method as the culmination of the entire book, as the absolute idea, is crucial” (ibid).

He quotes, “[The absolute idea] has shown itself to amount to this, namely that determinateness does not have the shape of a content, but that it is simply as form…. What is left to be considered here, therefore, is thus not a content as such, but the universal character of its form — that is, method” (p. 318).

Hegel is here telling us that what he has been discussing has been intended to clarify the “method” he implicitly follows throughout his work. Conversely, a fuller justification of that method will come from the concrete results of its use.

For Hegel, “truth, … the absolute idea, just is self-conscious conceptuality, or the right understanding of the implications of the logical structure of apperception, or purely logical knowledge, and in this purity the manifestation of absolute freedom” (p. 319; see also The True and the Good).

Reflection and Dialectic

As with dialogue, reflection provides a kind of model for dialectic. Reflection can be understood as an either metaphorical or literal dialogue with ourselves. We “question ourselves”, which is to say we examine and potentially criticize or refine the basis of our own commitments. Further, actual dialogue is always implicitly dialogue among fellow rational beings, all of whom are engaged at least to some extent in their own reflective activity, just by virtue of being rational beings, so dialogue implicitly presupposes reflection.

Pippin quotes Hegel: “But at issue here is neither the reflection of consciousness, nor the more specific reflection of the understanding that has the particular and the universal for its determination, but reflection in general…. For the universal, the principle or the rule and law, to which reflection rises in its process of determination is taken to be the essence of the immediate from which the reflection began…. Therefore, what reflection does to the immediate, and the determinations that derive from it, is not anything external to it but is rather its true being” (Hegel’s Realm of Shadows, pp. 238-239).

And again: “In general, this means nothing but this: Anything which is, is to be considered to exist not as an immediate, but as a posited; there is no stopping at immediate determinate being [Dasein] but a return must rather be made from it back into its ground, and in this reflection it is a sublated being and is in and for itself. What is expressed by the principle of sufficient reason is, therefore, the essentiality of immanent reflection as against mere being” (p. 239).

In the first quote, Hegel is again emphasizing that what he means by reflection is not just looking in a figurative mirror, but rather something more like finding an orientation among (or building a synthesis of) the potentially infinite mutual reflections in a hall of mirrors. Reflection “in general” is a name Hegel gives to reflection with this kind of potentially infinite dimension. (That the infinity here should be called potential is my friendly Aristotelian interpolation.)

In the second quote, he is saying that this kind of reflection — lifted out from the distinction between reflective activity and what it reflects upon — is what he would call the “truth” of everything that appears to be immediately determinate.

The principle of sufficient reason as formulated by Leibniz effectively says that for everything that is in some definite way, there is a reason why it is that way. Hegel is saying more specifically that such “reasons why” emerge immanently from the reflective grounding of what he is in a nonstandard way calling essence. What Leibniz cannot show is how a particular essence or monadic point of view results in certain predicates and not others; despite great sophistication, he is still to some extent using essence and monads as unexplained explainers to avoid what Hegel calls the “problem of indifference”. Hegel on the other hand explicitly makes essence and explanation interdependent.

“[T]he ‘principles’ of identification and differentiation are deeply intertwined, not independent of each other” (p. 240).

“[A] thing’s determinate properties are not, cannot be, a mark of that thing’s unlikeness from other things, just by being those properties…. If one thing is red and another square, we do not thereby know one is unlike the other; they are just two different things. A locomotive has nothing to do with a melody; it is not unlike a melody. We are trying to account not for determinate otherness, as in the logic of being, but for how objects that share properties (are like) could be, even with an extraordinary degree of such likeness, still unlike” (p. 241).

“Some of this anticipates topics in the logic of the Concept. Two trees are alike in being trees but unlike in being two individual trees. The idea will be that just in their likeness, their way of being alike, that they are unlike (different trees), just in the way each distinctly instantiates ‘treeness’ that they are unlike. Such a different ‘way of being a tree’ is not another property but the way the tree-properties are ‘had’ by the individual” (p. 242).

“Hegel is thinking of the way in which the specifying work of ‘unlikeness’ cannot be a matter of individual properties, atomistically conceived, but unlikeness within likeness is best understood as some content, the unlikeness of which is strict, even within such likeness. Some charge can be both positive and negative; some number, 4, can be both +4 and -4; some quantity of money can be an asset and also a debt pending; some force can be attractive and repelling; some distance marched east is canceled by the same distance marched west, and all these are ‘opposed’ only within some common likeness” (ibid).

I find “either-or” language more appropriate to these cases than the “both-and” language above, but the intent is the same. The distinctions in each sub-case are concrete “opposites” applicable to some specific context, and each definable only in reference to the other. In each case, it is possible to abstract an indifferent thing being measured or assessed — “positive-or-negative-quantity” for the one, and “virtue-or-vice” for the other.

“The ‘world’s being contradictory’ means nothing more than that, as he says, virtue cannot be virtue just by being other than, different from, in comparison with, vice, but only by ‘the opposition and combat in it’ against vice” (p. 243, emphasis in original).

Pippin complicates the matter with this example, because “relative” seems to have a different significance in the context of virtue and vice than it does in, say, that of positive and negative numbers. But the intended point is a very abstract one about constitution of meanings that is common to both cases. Whatever the difference between the two “oppositions” (positive/negative, virtue/vice), in each case the two sub-terms are somehow measured or assessed “against” one another.

“Hegel is trying to specify how affirming contrary predicates (‘in opposition’) does not amount to a logical contradiction. That is the point of his discussion, to make this distinction, not to treat such oppositions as if they were logically contradictory and then to affirm them anyway. As [Michael] Wolff puts it, Hegel’s orientation… is not from sentence or predicate negation, but from developments in the understanding of negative numbers and from Kant’s defense of Newton on positive and negative magnitudes. In general, then, mathematical, not logical negation” (pp. 243-244).

This is extremely important. The status of negative numbers was still controversial in Hegel’s time. Kant and Hegel contributed to their acceptance. Hegel struggled to invent new language to distinguish ambiguous cases in his Logic and to say reasonable things about them, but readers (certainly including myself) have found his unique idioms very hard to follow. Most of the ink spilled over “contradiction” in Hegel has been based on fundamental misunderstandings. (See also Negation and Negativity.)

“To use an empirical example, if the question is something like ‘Why did the ball fall to the ground?’ we want to avoid two kinds of answers: ‘because whenever a heavy object is dropped from a height, it falls’; and ‘it is in the nature of heavy things to fall’. Doing so, avoiding these alternatives, will allow us to see that the relation between a ‘ground’ and ‘what it grounds’ must be understood as a dynamic relation, one whereby the determinacy of the ground and that of the grounded cannot be fixed in isolation from each other” (pp. 245-246).

He quotes Hegel: “But the being that appears and essential being stand referred to each other absolutely. Thus concrete existence is, third, essential relation; what appears shows the essential, and the essential is in the appearance. — Relation is the still incomplete union of reflection into otherness and reflection into itself; the complete interpenetrating of the two is actuality” (p. 246).

“The general point [Hegel] keeps making is: a strict separation of the two moments, and an insistence that the nature of an appeal to an essence, or to a causal law, or to someone’s reason for acting cannot be understood as punctuated moments on the billiard-ball model of causation, but involve a kind of unity, the development of a kind of unity, much closer (yet again) to Aristotle on energeia. This essential-being-as-activity, manifesting itself in its appearances, is what should count as ‘actuality’. This has the implication that many existing things have no actuality, are not really ‘anything’. A lump of dirt, a cough, a strand of wire” (ibid).

“The question for Hegel is the question of ‘actuality’, not ‘existence’, or the sensibly apprehensible, just as for Aristotle, the question is the ‘really real’, to ontos on.” (p. 247).

Pippin quotes from the Encyclopedia Logic, “The logical is to be sought in a system of thought-determinations in which the antithesis between subjective and objective (in its usual meaning) disappears. This meaning of thinking and of its determinations is more precisely expressed by the ancients when they say that nous [“intellect”, or thought in a non-psychological sense] governs the world” (p. 248).

Here “governs” is meant in a constitutive sense. The important point is that the “thought-determinations” here are indifferent to the ordinary distinction between a subjective “thinker” and an objective “thought content”.

In this context he speaks of “this dynamical relation, this Ur-relation of all relations” (ibid).

“I have tried to show in another book that the most important, most clarifying implications of this Ur-relation occur in Hegel’s practical philosophy, both in his account of human agency, and in the implications of that account for the practical theory of freedom in his Philosophy of Right and theory of objective spirit in general (ibid).

“[T]he full demonstration of the truth of this Ur-relation lies in what it actually illuminates, in the cogency and credibility of, for example, an account of agency based on it” (p. 249).

It was the outstanding (and very Aristotelian) account of Hegel’s view of agency in Hegel’s Practical Philosophy that first attracted me to Pippin’s work.

In his own idiom, Hegel says “thus the inner is immediately the outer, and it is this determinateness of externality for the reason that it is the inner; conversely, the outer is only an inner because it is only an outer” (quoted, ibid.)

Pippin comments, “He does not mean here anything as obvious as: when I do something, my ex ante intention is fulfilled and so becomes something outer, just as what was done, the bodily movement, counts as an action because it expressed this ex ante intention. The passage does not say that the inner becomes the outer, nor that the outer is the expression of the inner. It says: there is no ex ante intention except as outer. It is the outer. And there is no outer except as what must count as inner, nor that it expresses a separable inner. There is no such separation” (pp. 249-250; see also Hegel on Willing).

This concludes Pippin’s chapter on the logic of essence. Unsurprisingly, we have not uncovered any magic formula that would tell us which appearances manifest the essence in particular cases. Such a thing seems completely impossible to me; we should not expect to be able to find any general formula covering an unspecified collection of particulars. Any judgments involving particulars must in part at least come back to something like Aristotelian deliberation and practical judgment, which yield only particular results.

Nonetheless, in discussing the logic of essence we have ruled out some important classes of misunderstandings, and we have set the stage for the climax of Hegel’s Logic in the “logic of the concept”. The logic of the concept will take as a starting point the non-separation of “inner” and “outer” that has been shown in the logic of essence.

Toward Essence

What does it mean to really explain something, as opposed to just making claims about it? According to Robert Pippin, this question underlies what he calls the key transition of Hegel’s Logic, between the “logic of being” addressed in several recent posts and what Hegel calls the “logic of essence”.

The logic of essence will itself eventually be superseded by the logic of the concept. With very broad brush, it seems to me one might expect that the logic of essence will be a representation of important insights Hegel attributes to Aristotle, whereas the logic of the concept is supposed to be a representation of what he claims as his own (and Kant’s).

“[Hegel’s] general approach [is] to begin with the least ‘mediated’, least theoretically committed determination and argue for the further determinations, further theoretical commitments, without which even these relatively simpler determinations would not be possible” (Hegel’s Realm of Shadows, p. 211).

Hegel assimilates all simple predications or assertions to the logic of being, the inadequacy of which we have seen in some detail. Every word, phrase, or assertion taken in strict isolation reduces to meaningless noise, just like the attempt to “say” indeterminate Being. Only taken together and in some sort of context do words and assertions begin to mean something.

According to Pippin, “a mere list of contingent properties and quantitative measures cannot count as having determined any subject of those determinations as such” (ibid). Hegel “summarizes this problem by calling it the problem of indifference” (ibid). We still lack any even quasi-stable things to talk about.

An explanation is more than just a generalization. Explanation requires distinguishing the essential from the nonessential.

Hegel thinks that even something as sophisticated as the use of Newton’s inverse square law to account for the elliptical shape of planetary orbits is still only a compact way of making a complex assertion about relational properties, and does not give us a reason. This corresponds to the level of the “force and understanding” chapter of the Phenomenology, which reaches a purely relational point of view on mathematical physics, but still lacks the features Hegel associates with self-consciousness.

“[A] distinction between what is truly real or essential and what appears, or that way of thinking, is now on the Logic‘s agenda…. A practice exists, and we want to know not merely what happens or whether it exists but whether the practice is actually a religious practice. Or a computer wins at chess, but is it actually thinking? Something is displayed in a gallery, but is it actually art?” (p. 218).

“These questions are just examples. The Logic is not concerned with them, and, we should say, is concerned with actuality as such, the possible actuality of anything intelligible” (ibid). “These example questions… depend on ‘the logic of actuality’ as such, which simply means: how we think about what anything ‘really is’. As we have seen, the determinations of such conceptuality cannot be empirical; they must be understood, according to Hegel, as ‘products’ of thought’s self-determination of itself, a process that continually realizes thought’s apperceptive nature. Or: the concept gives itself its own actuality. Hegelian conceptuality has this subjective dimension (‘thought’s autonomy‘), even while also being the articulation of the conceptual structure of reality. This has nothing to do with spinning every actual, contingent species-form out of thought’s self-examination. The topic… is logical or categorical formality as such, not ‘what are the existing species-forms?’ ” pp. 218-219).

“The very title of a ‘logic of essence’ suggests (yet again) immediately the philosopher whom Hegel seems most to admire, Aristotle” (p. 219). “We found in the logic of being that, according to Hegel, it was not possible to specify a thing’s ‘actual’ being by qualitative and quantitative markers…. Since Hegel accepts the Aristotelian premise that actually to be is to be a this-such, where that means it is identifiable by being an instance of a kind, this means we have failed with respect to the question of actuality. We are thereby compelled, in the prosecution of the original task, to consider that, ‘actually’, a thing is not how it simply appears, looks, sensibly manifests itself, however regular or predictable. We have to say that in some way, what a thing actually is lies hidden, must be uncovered, posited, a product of thought, not a simple empirical apprehension as such” (p. 220).

The “original task” is the determination of meaning, which didn’t get very far in the logic of being, even though in the parts Pippin has skipped over, Hegel did develop resources for making broad classes of simple assertions or claims about appearance.

“What we will need is a comprehension of the difference… between the ‘essential’ and the ‘unessential’, and the basis for this differentiation” (p. 221). “[W]hatever seemings are, (in not ‘actually’ being), they exist and are determinate, a determinacy inexplicable, Hegel claims, by the ‘skeptics and idealists’ who claim that the distinction cannot be made, and therefore say, ‘everything is illusory'” (ibid).

Whoever claims that “everything is only mere appearance” turns out to have no basis for making any distinctions within the so-called appearance.

“Someone who had understood everything said onstage, the plot of Shakespeare’s King Lear, and the basic motivations of the characters, as those characters and others voice them, and had understood only that, would not, we feel entitled to say, have understood ‘the play’. Put in the simplest possible way, to understand the play, one has to do more than listen to it; one must think about it, or we can say, using the word most important for Hegel, ‘reflect’ on it, understand what lies ‘beneath’… these facts about plots and characters…. There is no such thing as a hidden meaning in King Lear; there are just the words spoken or found on the page. How we get from this clumsy metaphor to the ‘concept’ of King Lear in itself is the underlying story of the logic of essence” (pp. 223-224).

All meaning that is worth talking about has this same kind of non-thing-like character. It is constituted from relations of connection and disconnection.

“It would be a mistake to sum a person up, attempt to ‘understand’ her in the distinct way persons should be understood, simply by adding up or listing everything she did, from what she had for breakfast to volunteering for a dangerous mission. A person would not be properly understood by attention to such ‘immediacy’ alone (or her qualitative/quantitative/measured appearances, as in the logic of being). We need to understand her deeds as ‘mediated’ by what Hegel calls her ‘inwardness’…, something (and now in the most important difference with the logic of being) that we cannot see, that does not simply present itself” (p. 224).

The relations that constitute meaning do not themselves directly appear. This applies as much to things in general as to human character.

It is certainly ubiquitous that people and things also respond differentially to direct appearances, without anything deeper than a qualitative or quantitative appearance being involved. Mid-20th century behaviorism claimed that was all there is, that the meaning at issue here was a mere figment or conceit.

Pippin continues his previous example, “For example, we can’t really understand what she did except by some attention to her own formulation of the act description and to her avowed motive (her ‘intention’). Sometimes what happens should not count as a deed because there is not the proper connection of inner and outer. An accident happens. Something prevents her from realizing her intention; that is, something happens to her. She does not do something. What happens is not an expression of her character. On the other hand, as Hegel states the central claim of the entire logic of essence in a phrase, we must concede that any such inner self-construal can ‘prove itself’… only in what manifests that outwardly, in the deeds. (It is immediately important that this ‘test’ can fail.) Too radical a separation and we have someone trying to disown what she in fact did, to fabricate excuses. (‘Mistakes were made’; ‘It was never my intention to deceive/hurt/offend anyone’, etc.) We need this distinction, but we can’t establish which deeds are true manifestations of essence and which are merely aberrations by any statistical analysis of frequency, any simple inspection of what happens. We need to understand how ‘what shows’, ‘what manifests itself’ (Schein), can be said to reflect these deeds’ essence when it does (if it does, then as Erscheinung, appearance), even if, as appearance, no one deed is ever a manifestation or simple representation of essence as such ” (pp. 224-225).

It was this sort of point about the ethical meaning and use of actuality in Hegel’s Practical Philosophy that initially greatly impressed me in Pippin’s work (see especially Hegel on Willing). According to Pippin, this kind of question about the relation of actuality to appearances is just what Hegel’s “logic of essence” is all about.

Unexpectedly for me at least, this now provides the occasion for Pippin to tell us more specifically what he thinks “mediated immediacy” means in Hegel. As I mentioned before, I have always thought first of things like the experience of riding a bicycle or recognizing an object, which properly speaking are examples of “immediatized mediation”, bridging the gap between the intrinsic emptiness of immediacy in itself and our undoubtedly non-empty “immediate” uptake of things in ordinary experience. In other words, my attention was drawn to the way in which complex results of some previous synthesis can be pre-consciously associated to what we experience “immediately” in a new synthesis of imagination.

Hitherto, in thinking about the term “mediated immediacy”, I have focused on ordinary appearances of meaning, in contexts that according to Hegel are not adequate to “immediately” support the constitution of that apparent meaning. This is admittedly to disregard the surface grammar of the phrase.

Pippin here starts to give “mediated immediacy” a sense that is aligned with the surface grammar, and is also closely aligned with what he has just said the logic of essence is all about.

He continues, “Understanding this relation properly is what Hegel thinks allows him to speak of a mediated immediacy. The appearances are not denied as unreal. They ‘shine’ in their immediacy. But they can be understood in their determinate immediacy only as the manifestation of the thing that they are appearances of, and so are always mediated…. We can’t derive the appearances from a mediated (‘posited’, ‘reflected’, ‘thought-over’) essence. That would be a denial of their immediacy. But we don’t apprehend such appearances on their own, in pure immediacy, and then infer what appears. What appears is appearing in what manifests itself…. What a person does is tied to that person’s character, whatever it is. And understanding that character is nothing other than rightly understanding what that person has done. With respect to all the reflected dualisms introduced in the logic of essence, this thought in various forms remains the kernel of that logic throughout” (p. 225).

This is Hegel’s recovery of something like Aristotle’s qualified common-sense realism about experience. We say that we experience not just phenomena but also things, even if we are wrong about them sometimes. At the simplest level, though not itself thing-like, essence is what enables the distinction of things from arbitrary collections of appearances.

“This is also why essence is a retrospective reflection of what has been made manifest, why it is rooted in gewesen, the past participle of sein [to be] or ‘what has been’, a feature somewhat counterintuitive in an account of action. It is also why Hegel is happy to accept the Wesen/gewesen suggestion of temporality. It links his account with one he admired, Aristotle’s, whose term for what has often been translated as essence is to ti en einai, something like ‘the what it was to be’ of a thing” (p. 226).

Essence, I would suggest, subsists independent of time once constituted, but the constitution of essence for both Aristotle and Hegel has a dependency on appearances in time. It therefore could not be pre-given. We have to actively discover or construct it, often taking into account long sequences of appearances in time. These may wander in various directions or sharply reverse our previous expectation. Parts of them we will judge to be irrelevant. This is only the beginning of the story of essence, not the end.

“Ultimately on Hegel’s account, if we want to know whether this lie reveals a person to be a ‘liar’, what we need is not to have deeper insight into some thinglike essence, but to observe what else the person does over time and to understand the relation among these deeds, to interpret them or ‘think them over’ in their relation to each other. This will be a crucial point throughout the logic of essence, and it obviously raises the question of how to make, what guides us in making, this relational connection.”

It is relatively easy to express the openness of Aristotelian practical judgment. But we still have to do the work of judgment in each case, and due to the openness we will have committed to with Aristotle, there could not be a precise roadmap telling us how to do the work. But Kant already argued that at least at a sufficiently high level of abstraction, universals can meaningfully guide practical judgment, so perhaps something more could be achieved. Any such progress on how to judge what is essential would be priceless indeed.

“Finally, it is important to stress that this topic is being introduced very broadly. No particular theory of ‘essentialism’ is being entertained, and as already noted, making the general distinction just discussed could be achieved even by an account of the difference between transcendental and empirical subjectivity, or between categories and empirical concepts” (ibid).

Essence as such need not be taken as a specific “ontological commitment”. It means what is reasonably, reflectively judged to be important. That is part of the hermeneutics of things and of life, which we encounter as soon as we begin asking if someone or something is really or actually something-or-other. (See also Essence and Explanation; Hegel on Reflection.)

Aristotle on Perception

Real and meaningful analytic distinctions in experience such as activity and passivity need not be grounded in ontological dualities.

It is common to hear Aristotle summarized as asserting a monolithic passivity in processes of perception. This is a considerable simplification. What is true is that in the absence of something perceptible that does not depend on us for its being, Aristotle would say we have a case not of perception but of something else. This does not mean there are not many active dimensions to typical sense perception as well.

One of Aristotle’s deepest principles involves a recognition of profoundly mixed conditions as being more typical of real life than monolithic or homogeneous ones. Plato treats “mixture” as a first-class topic at the heart of what Aristotle would call first philosophy, and not as a mere derivative from “pure” concepts.

Later authors have often tended to downplay Plato and Aristotle’s emphasis on mixed cases in experience as normal, and instead to privilege pure “black and white” distinctions. I think we should if anything privilege the mixed cases, and demand evidence when confronted with claims that any real-world cases involve “pure” black-and-white distinctions.

Aristotle’s account of perception in book 2 of On the Soul relies mainly on descriptions expressed in terms of actuality, potentiality, and actualization. While it is true that actuality has a character that is mostly active and potentiality has a character that is mostly not active, it is once again an oversimplification to simply equate actuality with activity and potentiality with passivity.

Aristotle’s description of perception is deliberately abstract, which reduces the need to speculatively fill in missing details. Perhaps the most salient overall aspect of this account is that it involves a multi-leveled layering of actuality and potentiality and of active and passive aspects that may be only analytically distinct. He focuses very generally on the various requirements of the kinds of form involved, and works hard to avoid causal explanations not clearly grounded in evidence.

It is very characteristic that Aristotle treats perception and whatever is perceptible in a single context. For instance, his discussion of light occurs here. He has no theory of the transmission of light, which was only experimentally demonstrated in early modern times. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, he sees light as instantaneously diffused through a medium, and reasons that the medium must therefore play a necessary role in perception. For him, light is “the being-at-work of the transparent as transparent” (On the Soul book 2 ch. 7, Sachs trans., p. 101). “By transparent I mean what is visible but not visible in its own right, to put it simply, but on account of the color of something else…. Light is a sort of color of the transparent, whenever it is at-work-staying-transparent by the action of fire or something of that kind…. What, then, the transparent is, has been said, and what light is, that it is not fire or any body at all, nor anything that flows out of any body…, but the co-presence of fire or any such thing in the transparent” (ibid). “Rather, the color sets a transparent thing, such as air, in motion, and by this, if it is continuous, the sense organ is moved” (p. 103).

It is important to recognize that this is a thoughtful interpretation of ordinary experience, with minimal assumptions. We would say, e.g., that light is transmitted at the speed of light rather than instantaneously diffused, but this can only be justified by complex empirical evidence. We associate colors with particular wavelengths of light, and we think of light as consisting of material waves (or alternatively, particles of a particular kind) that cannot be directly observed, but all this depends on complex evidence and test equipment. By contrast, Aristotle aims mainly to do justice to our ordinary experience of seeing things — a dog, a rose, a landscape, and so on. He seems to think of the air in the presence of light as metaphorically “charged” with sensible forms, such that there is a continuous translation of visible configurations of color through the air along each perspectival line of sight.

He somewhat paradoxically speaks of a “transmission” of “forms without the matter” in perception, and of the soul-as-active-form-of-the-body “receiving” them. The soul, as an entelecheia (in Sachs’ translation “being-at-work-staying-itself”, or more literally “in [itself] end having”) of an organic body, is active at root. Perception is then at top level supposed to be the being-at-work of a receptivity of the primarily active soul. Since the “transmission” of color through the air is said to be without matter, it must be more like a translation of color between the medium and the eye.

Some contemporary writers have claimed that Aristotle’s account of perception is of historic interest only, sheerly on the ground that it focuses on potentiality and actuality rather than physical causes. But as usual, Aristotle is far more interested in interpreting experience in meaningful ways, with as few assumptions as possible.

I think it is better to have a very abstract description that remains descriptive of experience, rather than imaginatively positing physical or physiological explanations. That is to say, it is better to be only abstractly descriptive but faithful to ordinary experience like Aristotle, than it is to have a more physically grounded explanation like the Stoics, at the cost of depending on additional assumptions of fact that turned out to be wrong in light of more detailed empirical investigations.

The Stoic theory — following the general Stoic precept that everything that has being must be some kind of body — seems to involve a kind of subtly material forms of objects invisibly but literally flying through the air as distinct wholes, ancestral to the medieval “sensible species”. This is a logically consistent physical and physiological account, which however makes numerous speculative leaps of the sort Aristotle aimed to minimize.

The mathematicians Euclid and Ptolemy geometrically analysed properties of light rays, but believed light rays were actively emitted by the eye, rather than received by it.

The “father of modern optics” and early contributor to scientific method, Iraqi polymath Ibn al-Haytham (ca. 965-1040 CE), known to Latin readers as Alhazen, was the first to explain that vision occurs when light reflected from objects passes to the eye, and to assert that the brain plays a major (active) role in the process of identifying objects. His work was taken up by Roger Bacon, Robert Grosseteste, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Huygens, Descartes, and Kepler, among others.

The reception of light in and of itself is passive, but ordinary seeing has a large cognitive and interpretive dimension, whether considered at the level of events in the brain or at the level of an interpretation of meaningful content. Reception of light rays is passive, but even the most minimal identification of objects cannot be entirely passive.

The visible forms of patches of color that are diffused through the transparent medium in Aristotle — just like the reflected light in the modern account — are indeed passively received, but that no more makes the entire process of vision necessarily passive in Aristotle than it does in the modern account.

“But about all sense perception in general, it is necessary to grasp that the sense is receptive of the forms of perceptible things without the material, as wax is receptive of the design of a ring without the iron or gold…; and similarly the sense of each thing is acted upon by the thing that has color or flavor or sound, but not in virtue of that by which each of those things is the kind of thing it is, but in virtue of that by which it has a certain attribute, and according to a ratio” (book 2 ch. 12, p. 118).

Joe Sachs comments in a note that “Some of the difficulty can be avoided if one keeps in mind that, by form, Aristotle does not mean shape or appearance. In the Platonic dialogues, it is always emphasized that the eidos is not the mere look of a thing…. That to which one must look, according to Aristotle, is the being-at-work of the thing. It is, then, no part of the analogy Aristotle intends with the wax impression, that the eyeball, say, becomes shaped and colored like an olive when it looks at one. What it takes on must be some sort of active condition” (p. 118n, emphasis added).

This last point about the active condition, I think, is the import of Aristotle’s phrase in the above quote, “not in virtue of that by which each of those things is the kind of thing it is, but in virtue of that by which it has a certain attribute, and according to a ratio”. We do not directly perceive the kinds of things we perceive, but rather “that by which [things have] a certain attribute, and according to a ratio”. I take this to be a suggestion of what should or should not count as a “perception”.

There is a puzzle here about how “that by which” a thing has an attribute would count as perceptible. I would argue that if this kind of abstraction does count as perceptible in some way, that would be another indication that perception is not entirely passive. Aristotelian “perception” would then be quite rich, including many things I have been calling products of the Kantian synthesis of imagination. But it would still stop short of, say, directly apprehending a complex gestalt or whole “image” as an immediately intelligible unit.

Worries about “passivity”, it seems to me, ought to be directed mainly at the kind of claims of direct apprehension of complex images as meaningful wholes that Aristotle explicitly rules out in this passage.

“But ‘being acted upon’ is not unambiguous either…. For the one who has knowledge comes to be contemplating, and this is either not a process of being altered (since it is a passing over into being oneself, namely into being-at-work-staying-oneself), or is a different class of alteration” (p. 98).

“Being-at-work perceiving is described in the same way as contemplating, but differs in that the things that produce the being-at-work of perceiving are external, the visible and audible things, and similarly with the rest of the senses. The reason is that active perception is of particulars, while knowledge is of universals, which are in some way in the soul itself. Hence thinking is up to oneself, whenever one wishes, but perceiving is not up to oneself, since it is necessary that the thing perceived be present. And similarly too, even the kinds of knowing that deal with perceptible things are not up to oneself, and for the same reason, that the perceptible things are among particular, external things” (book 2 ch. 5, pp. 98-99, emphasis added).

I note first of all the explicit reference to “active perception”. Second, it makes perfect sense that “the kinds of knowing that deal with perceptible things are not up to oneself” — that in some way sensible things are what they are, independent of us, in a way that abstractions and universals are not. Aristotle even seems to think there is an at least abstractly identifiable level at which the particular senses cannot be deceived.

“[T]he means by which we live and perceive is meant two ways, as is the means by which we know (by which is meant in one sense knowledge but in another the soul, since by means of each of these we say we know something)” (book 2 ch. 2, p. 87).

“And neither is thinking the same as perceiving, for in thinking there is what is right and what is not right, … for sense perception when directed at its proper objects is always truthful, and is present in all animals, but it is possible to think things through falsely, and this is present in no animal in which there is not also speech” (book 3 ch. 3, pp. 133-134).

Here he explicitly bounds the analogy between perception and thought. We have already seen that perception for Aristotle is not entirely passive, so thinking, as something that is more up to us, must be less passive than that.

“And it is certainly not the reasoning part, or intellect in the way that word is used, that causes motion, for the contemplative intellect does not contemplate anything that has to do with action…. And even when the intellect enjoins and the reasoning part declares that something is to be fled or pursued one does not necessarily move, but acts instead in accordance with desire, as does one without self-restraint…. But neither is it desire that governs this sort of motion, since self-restrained people, even when they desire and yearn for something, do not necessarily do those things for which they have the desire, but follow the intellect” (book 3 ch. 9, pp. 152-153).

Later he specifies that the motion mentioned here is motion with respect to place, i.e., bodily movement, not anything directly associated with perception or thought. Comparatively speaking, the earlier “motion” of air in the presence of light was said in a different, more figurative way. We should not assume that the way activity and passivity apply in the one context is the same as in the other.

He continues, “But it is obvious that these two things [together do] cause motion, desire and/or intellect, since many people follow their imaginings contrary to what they know, and in other animals there is no intellectual or reasoning activity, except imagination. Therefore both of these are such as to cause motion with respect to place, intellect and desire, but this is intellect that reasons for the sake of something and is concerned with action, which differs from the contemplative intellect by its end…. So it is reasonable that there seem to be two things causing the motion, desire and practical thinking, since the thing desired causes motion, and on account of this, thinking causes motion, because it is the desired thing that starts it. So it is one thing that causes motion, the potency of desire” (book 3 ch. 10, pp. 153-154, emphasis added).

What Aristotle initially mentions as “obvious” is refined and corrected later in the chapter. This sort of thing is very common in Aristotle. In book 2 chapter 2, he says that “what is clear and more knowable by reason arises out of what is unclear but more obvious” (p. 84).

“[B]ut the potency of desire is not present without imagination, while all imagination is either rational or sensory” (p. 156).

The imagination is identified in Aristotle’s On Memory and Recollection as the root of all perception. Here he suggests that it also depends on the particular senses. Both could easily be true if the sense in which imagination is the “root” of perception is teleological, rather than causal in the modern sense.

“For imagination is different both from perceiving [by the particular senses] and from thinking things through, and does not come about without perception, and without it there is no conceiving that something is the case” (book 3 ch. 3, p. 134).

Aristotle is saying that while conceiving that something is the case depends on imagination and imagination ultimately depends on the particular senses, we never directly perceive that something is the case. That something is the case is a practical judgment about particulars, rather than a perception. “Thinking things through” (dianoia) is discussed separately from pure thought or intellect (nous), and is a rational activity of the soul grounded mainly in imagination. To really “occur” in a human, pure thought depends on the activity of thinking things through as its vehicle.

“[F]alsehood is always in an act of putting things together…. What makes each thing be one is intellect” (book 3 ch. 6, p. 144). “[B]ut thinking what something is, in the sense of what it keeps on being in order to be at all, is true, and is not one thing attached to another” (p. 145).

Here he seems to be emphasizing that the idea of what something truly is, in the sense of being-at-work-staying-itself, is not adequately expressible in terms of a simple combination of pre-existing parts or independently defined features. Also, no expression of a “what” by itself forms an assertion that could then be either true or false. A “what” by itself has more of the character of a definition that could be either accepted by hypothesis or considered hypothetically.

If the thought of a being-at-work-staying-itself is simply “true”, it seems to me it must be true in some sense other than correspondence — perhaps a being-true-to-itself through coherence. This use of “true” is also different from the way it is defined in On Interpretation, where truth and falsity are said to apply if and only if we say something about something, which means a “what” taken in isolation would be neither true nor false. Only what is said about the what could be true in that sense, but then it could also be false, depending on what is said. So “true” is being said in a different, special way here.

“Knowledge, in its being-at-work, is the same as the thing it knows, and while knowledge in potency comes first in time in any one knower, in the whole of things it does not take precedence even in time, for all things that come into being have their being from something that is at-work-staying-itself. And… the perceiving thing is not [merely] acted upon nor is it altered. Hence this is a different kind of event from a motion” (book 3 ch. 7, pp. 145-146, brackets in original, emphasis added).

Here he emphasizes a distinction between motion in the primary sense of ordinary bodily motion on the one hand, and the actualization of a potential on the other, identifying perception with the latter.

Hegel’s Union of Kant and Aristotle

Aristotle gets more pages in Hegel’s History of Philosophy than anyone else, and Kant gets the second most. This post will show that that is no accident.

Where I left off in Pippin’s account of Hegel’s Logic, he was still discussing the meaning of Hegel’s claim that now “logic” could take the place of metaphysics.

The idea of a “gap” between thinking and being, with the consequent need for an extensive inference to show that the rational categories of thought are after all applicable to being, had been a major theme of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Hegel ambitiously wants to eliminate that gap, while at the same time preserving and extending Kant’s critique of dogmatism. At first glance this might seem impossible, but as I see it, Hegel’s strategy consists of two moves.

First, Pippin has been arguing that a major theme of Hegel’s Logic is an alternative showing of the applicability of something analogous to the Kantian categories. Hegel’s alternative is inspired by Aristotle’s non-psychological view of the content of thought as shareable rational meaning. From this point of view, there is a no discernible difference (and therefore a strict and literal identity) between a thought and that of which it is the thought. Thought in Aristotle is unaffected by the modern distinction of subject and object in consciousness. This is intimately related to Aristotle’s ambivalence on whether or not thought belongs to a part of the soul.

“As with Aristotle, [the] link between the order of thinking (knowing, judging to be the case) and the order of being is not an inference, does not face a gap that must be closed by an inference. Properly understood, the relation is one of identity” (Hegel’s Realm of Shadows, p. 60).

The other, complementary part of Hegel’s strategy uses his critique of representation to express the Kantian problem of dogmatism in a different way. For Kant, dogmatism consists in ignoring or leaping over the gap between thinking and being. For Hegel, there is no such gap. Dogmatism consists in adhering to fixed representations and disregarding the real fluidity and liveliness of both thought and being.

Alongside this strategy for dealing with Kantian issues, Hegel revives Aristotle’s ideal of normative, teleological explanation of overall processes of actualization, and of the subordination of explanation by the efficient causes that serve as particular means of actualization (see Aristotle on Explanation). For Hegel as for Aristotle, intelligibility and explanation first and foremost involve a rational “ought”, and other forms of explanation are subordinate to that.

Pippin quotes John McDowell’s contemporary distinction between explanation by rational “ought” and by empirical regularity. McDowell refers to “explanations in which things are made intelligible by being revealed to be, or to approximate to being, as they rationally ought to be. This is to be contrasted with a style of explanation in which one makes things intelligible by representing their coming into being as a particular instance of how things generally tend to happen” (p. 61).

Pippin says that for both Kant and Hegel, logic “states the conditions of possible sense, the distinctions and relations without which sense would not be possible” (ibid). Here he is implicitly recalling Frege’s distinction between sense and reference, and making the point that Kant, Hegel, and Aristotle all see meaning mainly in terms of sense rather than reference. “The Logic is never said to seek a determination of what is ‘really’ real, and in a way like Kant, it also concerns the determination of the possibility, the real possibility, of anything being what it is. Hegel calls this Wirklichkeit, actuality, and distinguishes it often from questions about existence” (p. 62).

Possible sense construes real possibility in terms of explanation by a rational “ought”. Logical concepts for Hegel always embody a context-sensitive rational “ought”, rather than a direct simple determination of what exists. For example, “for Hegel to claim that ‘Life’ is a logical concept is to say not that there could not be a world that did not have living beings in it, but that if there is a world at all, the denial that there is any distinction between mechanically explicable and organically unified beings is self-contradictory” (ibid).

Such a contradiction is something we ought to avoid. The overcoming of contradictions in Hegel is a matter of teleological actualization that may or may not occur. Contrary to old stereotypes, no formal or causal determinism is involved. The overcoming of contradictions is in fact intimately connected with the motif of freedom. Kant and Fichte struggled to articulate a very strong notion of practical freedom that did not depend on a one-sided notion of free will. Hegel makes the explanation of freedom much easier by explicitly adopting the Aristotelian priority of explanation by ends and oughts. For him as for Aristotle, the realization of ends and oughts at the level of factual existence is contingent, and involves multiple possibilities. For him as for Aristotle, being has to do primarily with sense and intelligibility rather than brute factual existence.

“So what Hegel means by saying logic is metaphysics, or that being in and for itself is the concept, can be put this way. Once we understand the role of, say, essence and appearance as necessary for judging objectively, we have thereby made sense of essences and appearances, and therewith, the world in which they are indispensable…. In making sense of this way of sense-making, its presuppositions and implications, we are making sense of what there is, the only sense anything could make” (pp. 63-64).

“The actual Kantian statement of this identity is the highest principle of synthetic judgments, and it invokes the same thought: that the conditions for the possibility of experience are at the same time the conditions for the possibility of objects of experience” (p. 64).

Pippin quotes from Adrian Moore: “To make sense of things at the highest level of generality… is to make sense of things in terms of what it is to make sense of things” (p. 65).

He notes similarities and differences between his and Robert Brandom’s approach to Hegel.

On the one hand, Brandom agrees that the job of distinctively logical concepts is “not to make explicit how the world is (to subserve a function of consciousness) but rather to make explicit the process of making explicit how the world is (to enable and embody a kind of self-consciousness)” (quoted, p. 66).

On the other, Brandom sees the making explicit of the process of making explicit entirely in retrospective terms, whereas Pippin argues that Hegel in the Logic takes a more Kantian, prospective approach. Pippin calls Brandom’s retrospective approach “empirical” because it relies on retrospective insight into concrete occasions of making things explicit.

Elsewhere, Pippin had previously criticized Brandom’s emphasis on “semantic descent” in interpreting Hegel’s Phenomenology. Brandom himself introduces semantic descent in the following terms: “I believe the best way to understand what [Kant and Hegel] are saying about their preferred topic of concepts operating in a pure, still stratosphere above the busy jostling and haggling of street-level judging and doing is precisely to focus on what those metaconcepts let us say about what is going on below…. If the point of the higher-level concepts is to articulate the use and content of lower-level ones, then the cash value of an account of categorical metaconcepts is what it has to teach us about ordinary ground-level empirical and practical concepts” (A Spirit of Trust, pp. 5-6).

While I don’t care for the rhetoric of “cash value”, which to my ear sounds too reductive in the context of normative sense-making, the idea that meta-level considerations get their relevance from what they teach us about ordinary life seems fundamentally right to me, and of great importance. Moreover, this is clearly presented by Brandom as his interpretive strategy, which he points out is quite different from the way Kant and Hegel usually talk. Brandom’s reading of Hegel is also mainly focused on the Phenomenology; he doesn’t have much to say specifically about the Logic.

The idea of a retrospective reading of the Phenomenology is encouraged by Hegel himself, and there I think it is fair to say that Hegel’s own method is retrospective. On the other hand, I think the text of the Logic clearly supports Pippin’s claim that it takes a more prospective approach, closer to that of a Kantian a priori investigation. This still does not conflict with the suggestion that its ultimate value lies in what its high concepts have to teach us about living our own lives.

“[W]hatever the connections are in the [Science of Logic], they are clearly not truth-functional or deductive. As suggested, they have something to do with the demonstration of dependence relations necessary for conceptual determinacy” (Hegel’s Realm of Shadows, p. 70).

For Hegel, “concepts can be determinately specified only by their role in judgments, the determinacy of which depends on their roles as premises and conclusions…. And he never tires of noting that the standard subject-predicate logical form is finally inadequate for the expression of ‘speculative truth’…. The basic possibility of sense depends on an act, an act of rendering intelligible or judging” (pp. 71-72).

“In the traditional reading of Kant, it would appear that Kant wants to introduce a step here, as if skeptical about why ‘our’ ways of sorting things should have anything to do with ‘sortal realism’ in the world…. In this picture, there must ‘first’ be sensible receptivity (according to ‘our’ distinct, nonconceptual pure forms of intuition), and ‘then’ there is conceptual articulation/synthesis, which is possible because of the imposition of categorical form” (pp. 73-74).

According to Pippin, Hegel denies this two-step picture, though he “fully realizes the extreme difficulties in stating properly the dual claims of distinguishability and inseparability” of concept and intuition” (p. 75).

“Hegel clearly wants a way of understanding the mutual dependence of each on the other that involves an ‘identity’ even ‘within difference’. In other words, he came to see that the concept-intuition relation was at its heart a logical or conceptual problem, what he would variously call the problem of (how there could be such a thing as) ‘mediated immediacy’, or the inescapably reciprocal and correlated functions of identifying and differentiating. For another, in any apperceptive determination of content, a relation to content has to be understood as a modality of a self-relation….This gets quite complicated because such an apperceptive awareness in the case of perceptual experience… must be distinguished from apperceptive judging…. Neither Kant nor Hegel believes that experience itself consists in judgments” (ibid).

What Pippin here calls apperceptive awareness in the case of perception as distinct from judgment belongs in the same general territory as the “passive synthesis” discussed by Husserl.

“Failing to observe the ‘norms of thinking’ is not… making an error in thinking; it is not thinking at all, not making any sense. The prospect of objects ‘outside’ something like the limits of the thinkable is a nonthought…. But just because it is unthinkable, the strict distinction between a prior, content-free general logic and an a priori transcendental logic, the forms of possible thoughts about objects, can hardly be as hard and fast as Kant wants to make it out to be. Or, put another way, it is an artificial distinction…. For one thing, … the distinction depends on a quite contestable strict separation between the spontaneity of thought (as providing formal unity) and the deliverances of sensibility in experience (as the sole ‘provider of content’). If that is not sustainable, and there is reason to think that even Kant did not hold it to be a matter of strict separability, then the distinction between the forms of thought and the forms of the thought of objects cannot also be a matter of strict separability” (p. 76).

“‘To be is to be intelligible: the founding principle of Greek metaphysics and of philosophy itself…. [T]he formula ‘to be is to be intelligible’ is not, as it might sound, some sort of manifesto, as if willfully ‘banning’ the unknowable from ‘the real’…. ‘What there is is what is knowable’ is an implication of what knowing — all and any knowing — is if it is to be knowing. It is not a first-order claim about all being, as if it could prompt the question: How do we know that all of being is knowable? That is not a coherent question. There may be things we will never know, but that is not to say they are in principle unknowable” (p. 77).

“So those ‘two aspect’ interpretations of Kant’s idealism and his doctrine of the unknowability of things in themselves, those claiming that knowing ‘for us’ is restricted to ‘our epistemic conditions’, leaving it open for us to speculate about what might be knowable but transcends our powers of knowing, cannot be right. The position is internally incoherent. There is no ‘our’ that can be put in front of ‘epistemic conditions’. They would not then be epistemic conditions; the account would not be philosophical but psychological” (ibid).

In place of the Kantian unknowability of things in themselves, Hegel puts the “liveliness” of real things that overflows any particular representation. For Hegel, dogmatism is a disregard for the overflowing character of real meaning and being.

“[I]f we… ask how we can know a priori about nature’s suitability for our cognitive ends…, we have again imported a kind of neo-Kantian version of Kant” (p. 78).

“Yet more care must be exercised here, lest readers get the wrong idea. To say that the forms of ‘thought’ are, must be, the form of objects of thought does not mean that any form of ‘mere thinking’ delineates some ontological realm — as if the forms of the thought of astrological influence are the forms of such influence in the world” (ibid).

“Thought” here clearly does not mean any arbitrary belief. It refers to possible knowledge. Hegel and Pippin are saying only that if and wherever true knowledge is indeed possible, corresponding knowledge of objects must be possible. “It would never occur to us, I assume, to entertain the thought that the form of some piece of empirical knowledge is not the form of the object of knowledge” (ibid).

Pippin points out “what amounts to a kind of operator in Hegel’s Logic on which all the crucial transitions depend, something like ‘would not be fully intelligible, would not be coherently thinkable without…’ What follows the ‘without’ is some more comprehensive concept, a different distinction, and so forth” (p. 79).

This means that Hegelian logic is not about the deduction of consequences from assumptions, but rather aims to be an assumption-free regressive movement from anything at all to a fuller view of the conditions for its intelligibility.

In the introduction to the Encyclopedia, Hegel “notes explicitly that what exists certainly exists contingently and ‘can just as well not be‘, and he refers us to the Logic for the right explication of what is ‘actual’ by contrast with what merely exists. He adds, ‘Who is not smart enough to be able to see around him quite a lot that is not, in fact, how it ought to be?’…. Yet despite Hegel’s waving this huge bright flag inscribed, ‘I believe in contingency!’ one still hears often (even from scholars of German philosophy) that his philosophy is an attempt to deduce the necessity of everything from the Prussian state to Herr Krug’s fountain pen” (p. 87).

Pippin thinks that actuality in Hegel is “congruent with what Kant meant by categoriality” (ibid). I don’t fully understand this particular claim about actuality, unless it is intended as a variant of the Philosophy of Right‘s famous formula about the actual and the rational, which itself makes good sense with a normative or teleological as opposed to factual notion of the actual. I would agree there seems to be a strong “Kantian categorical” component to Hegelian “logic” in general. Pippin agrees that actuality has a normative rather than factual character in both Aristotle and Hegel. However, the generally normative emphasis of Kant’s thought notwithstanding, at this point in my effort to understand Kant, his “deduction” of the categories seems to me to make the categories more like a kind of universal “facts”. I also think of the Aristotelian “ought” as primarily concrete, as when Aristotle says that practical judgment applies to particulars. Kantian normativity by contrast aims to be universal in an unqualified way, which is certainly closer to categoriality. So, there is a question whether Hegelian actuality inherits more from Aristotelian actuality or from Hegel’s incorporation of Kantian universalizing normativity.

If we were talking about Hegelian “concrete universals”, this might provide a basis for reconciling Aristotelian and Kantian perspectives on the “ought” involved in actuality. Do the Hegelian incarnations of Kantian categories in the Logic — called by Hegel a “realm of shadows” — qualify as concrete universals? At this point I am in doubt. I suspect Hegel might say that the concrete universal is reached only at the very end of his development. Maybe the ultimate bearer of categoriality and the place where it unites with actuality will be the “absolute” idea.

“What we know is what we know in exercising reason, what we know in judging” (p. 90). In the Encyclopedia Logic, “Hegel remarks that Kant himself, in formulating reason’s critique of itself, treats forms of cognition as objects of cognition…. He calls this feat ‘dialectic’. Mathematical construction in mathematical proof makes essentially the same point…. And most suggestively for the entire enterprise of the Logic, practical reason can determine the form of a rational will that is also itself a substantive content. The self-legislation of the moral law is not volitional anarchy but practical reason’s knowledge of ‘what’ to legislate. It ‘legislates’ in being practical reasoning about what ought to be done. It legislates because in knowing what ought to be done it is not affected by some object, ‘what is to be done’, about which it judges. It determines, produces, what is to be done. Said more simply, when one makes a promise, one legislates into existence a promise. One is bound only by binding oneself…. Being bound is the concept of being bound, applied to oneself” (ibid).

Pippin is suggesting we look for ethical meaning in Hegel’s logic.

“Thought’s self-determination in the course of the book makes no reference to the Absolute’s self-consciousness in order to explain anything…. Any thinking of a content is inherently reflexive in a way that Hegel thinks will allow him to derive from the possible thought of anything at all notions like something and finitude, and ultimately essence, appearance, even the idea of the good…. Hegel thinks that thought is always already giving itself its own content: itself, where that means, roughly, determining that without which it could not be a thought of an object…. But all this can only count as previews of coming attractions” (pp. 91-92).

This is important. The thought that is self-legislating and one with its object, while it doesn’t include mere belief, is being said to include at least some thought that occurs in ordinary life. According to Pippin, thinking far enough through with any content at all has a self-legislating and category-generating character for Hegel.

“The suggestion is that Hegel thinks of anything’s principle of intelligibility, its conceptual form, as an actualization in the Aristotelian sense, the being-at-work or energeia of the thing’s distinct mode of being, not a separate immaterial metaphysical object. In understanding Hegel on this point, we should take fully on board the form-matter, actuality-potentiality language of Aristotle, and so the most interesting kind of hylomorphism, soul-body hylomorphism, as our way of understanding this nonseparateness claim.” (p. 92).

Here I can only applaud.

“To think that for creatures like us, we must distinguish the sensory manifold from the form that informs it is the great temptation to be avoided for Hegel. The power of the eye to see is not a power ‘added’ to a material eye…. The seeing power is the distinct being-at work of that body. The form-content model central to Hegel’s account of logical formality works the same way” (pp. 92-93).

That seeing is not somehow “added” to the eye is another Aristotelian point. The eye is what it is in virtue of what it is for the sake of. Incidentally, Joe Sachs’ translation of Aristotlian energeia as “being-at-work” appears to have a precedent in Hegel’s German.

Pippin’s identification of a being-at-work or actuality with a power here is novel. “Power” commonly appears in translations of (especially Latin scholastic) discourse about potentiality rather than actuality. Power seems to me to be some kind of capability for efficacious action, whereas potentiality and actuality both belong primarily in the register of ends and “for the sake of”. It does make sense that a capability could follow from an actualization or be attributed to it. Paul Ricoeur makes a nice ethical use of capability, but in general I worry that talk about power privileges efficacious action over the intelligible ought and the “for the sake of”.

Pippin returns again to the unity of thinking and being.

“So it is perfectly appropriate to say such things as that for Hegel reality ‘has a conceptual structure’, or ‘only concepts are truly real’, as long as we realize that we are not talking about entities, but about the ‘actualities’ of beings, their modes or ways of being what determinately and intelligibly they are. To say that ‘any object is the concept of itself’ is to say that what it is in being at work being what it is can be determined, has a logos…. We can say that reality comes to self-consciousness in us, or that the light that illuminates beings in their distinct being-at-work is the same light that illuminates their knowability in us, as long as we do not mean a light emanating from individual minds” (pp. 93-94).

“And here again, Hegel’s model of metaphysics… is Aristotelian. And Aristotle’s metaphysics is not modern dogmatic metaphysics, does not concern a ‘supersensible’ reality knowable only by pure reason. In many respects it is a metaphysics of the ordinary: standard sensible objects, especially organic beings and artifacts. This means that in many respects Kant’s critique of rationalist metaphysics in effect ‘misses’ it” (p. 94).

“By and large Hegel means to ‘denigrate’ the immediately given, how things seem to common sense…. This has nothing to do with doubting the external reality of tables and molecules…. The point of Hegel’s denying to finite, empirical reality the gold standard badge of true actuality is not to say that it ‘possesses’ a lesser degree of reality in the traditional sense (whatever that might mean). It is to say that finite objects viewed in their finitude, or considered as logical atoms, can never reveal the possibility of their own intelligibility” (pp. 96-97).

This provides a clue to the negative connotations of finitude in Hegel. It has far more positive connotations for me, but I consider the primary meaning of “finitude” to be a dependence on other things, which is as different as could be from logical atomicity. This is another different use of words, not a difference on what is or ought to be. If “finite” is taken to mean “to be treated as a logical atom” as Pippin suggests, the negative connotations are appropriate.

Logic and Metaphysics

In Emancipatory Logic? I began a walk-through of Robert Pippin’s important Hegel’s Realm of Shadows. This post borrows its title from his second chapter, though it only addresses the first part of it.

According to Pippin, Hegel’s Science of Logic is intended to exhibit the “spontaneous” or “self-generating” actualization of intelligibility. This takes places through the higher-order universals that Kant following Aristotle called “categories”.

Hegel’s “logic” provides his alternative to Kant’s notoriously long and difficult argument for the possibility of a priori knowledge that is not merely analytic, and to Kant’s derivation of the categories. As an exercise in what Aristotle called first philosophy, it is not supposed to depend on anything else.

By his own lights Hegel is extremely concerned with concreteness. He is therefore very conscious that his “logic as first philosophy” only addresses possible actualizations of intelligibility, and doesn’t derive anything real. We might think that the actualization of intelligibility would be a realm of light, but here the concern is with the emergence of light, hence his curious metaphor that “logic” is a realm of shadows.

“Hegel follows Kant’s innovation in his response to the empiricist challenge…. The basic question is, How could there possibly be objectively valid concepts, true of all objects, but not derived from experience? Where could they come from? In Hegel’s terms, this amounts to the question, How do concepts that are the products of thought alone ‘give themselves’ content, where by content we mean something extraconceptual?” (pp. 39-40).

Pippin says that Hegel will want “to determine objects in their thinkability, where that means their suitability not for a finite, subjective power, but for thought as such, that is, objects in their intelligibility, in their being at all intelligibly what they are. Their being what they are is their concept, or their ‘being their concept’, for Hegel. The concepts did not come from anywhere, any more than the thinking power comes from anywhere” (p. 40). Hegel aims for a “logic of the knowable as such” (p. 41).

“[Kant’s] critique concerns the modern tradition stemming from Descartes, embodied in Arnauld’s and Nicole’s Port Royal Logic in 1662, as well as the Leibnizian/Wolffian metaphysical tradition. The former held that clarity about the relations between ideas could lead the mind closer to the bearers of philosophical truth, clear and distinct ideas, known passively by the ‘light of reason’. For the latter, the laws of thought simply are the ‘laws of truth’ (to use Frege’s phrase), or a general logic is just thereby a logic of objects, because all philosophical truth is what Kant would call ‘analytic’, arrived at by logical analysis alone” (pp. 41-42).

Pippin emphasizes that Kant and Hegel both reject the early modern (originally Thomistic) idea of passive illumination by a “natural light” of reason. In the original Thomistic context, the idea of a natural light of reason played what I think was a very positive role as a counter-weight to sectarian tendencies in religion, but in the early modern context it led to a new kind of dogmatism.

“With general logic as it was understood in the Port Royal and the Wolffian traditions, [Hegel] agrees that logical reasoning, understood in that way, does not provide knowledge of objects. He especially agrees with Kant that reason and understanding are activities, not passively ‘illuminated’. As ‘that great foe of immediacy’, in Sellars’ phrase, he does not mention or rely on such receptive or noetic intuition. As such a great foe, Hegel is opposed to any notion of self-standing, atomic conceptual content. As he wants so famously to show in a dialectical logic, determinateness is a function of determination, always an identification ‘through an other’, his formulation for discursivity” (p. 42).

For Hegel, there is no determinateness without a prior activity of determination. That activity is a discursive articulation of otherness in its concreteness by means of language.

Hegel’s Science of Logic is divided into what he calls an “objective” logic, consisting in a “logic of being” and a “logic of essence”, and a “subjective” logic, consisting entirely in a “logic of the concept”.

“The logic of being seems clearly to correspond to the Kantian categories of quality and quantity, what Kant called the mathematical and constitutive categories, and the logic of essence certainly seems to correspond to the categories of relation and modality, or the dynamic and regulative categories. The logic of the Concept makes use of the same syllogistic central to Kant’s conception of the role of such an inferential structure in the activity of reason” (p. 43).

Incidentally, I find it intriguing and highly plausible that Hegelian essence would express relation and modality. As much of an improvement as this is over the early modern notion of essence as a putatively self-contained content, it still does not yet address the fluidity of what would have been essence in development over time.

Pippin notes that in an 1812 letter, Hegel also said the objective logic roughly corresponds to the “ontology” he saw articulated in Aristotle’s logical works. I would add that Hegel’s “logic of the concept” moves beyond the “objective” logic in somewhat the same way that the discussion of “substance” in Aristotle’s Metaphysics moves beyond that in the Categories.

Pippin says “there is no question that Hegel both wholeheartedly agreed with Kant’s critique of substantive metaphysics, and realized that that critique applied only to modern metaphysics and left several possibilities open” (p. 44). He quotes Hegel saying “What Kant generally has in mind here is the state of metaphysics of his time…; he neither paid attention to, nor examined, the genuinely speculative ideas of older philosophers on the concept of spirit” (ibid).

He begins to clarify what Hegel more specifically means by logic.

“[F]or both Kant and Hegel, the unit of significance for any logic is not the proposition or any static formal structure but acts of reasoning and assertion” (ibid).

“Hegel’s logic does not primarily concern relations among, operations upon, propositions, and is instead oriented from a logic of terms. So we don’t see a syntax specified by axioms, a proof theory, and a semantics” (ibid).

In mainstream 20th century logic, the older term logic was regarded as a mere historical relic. But since the late 20th century, type theory has provided a formulation of term logic in higher-order mathematics that subsumes not only first-order but also higher-order predicate logic, so even in strictly mathematical terms, term logic is once again highly relevant.

“But as becomes clearer in the logic of the Concept, conceptual content is not provided by analysis of atomistically conceived concepts. Concepts are understood, as they were in Kant, as ‘predicates of possible judgments’, and the roles they play in possible judgments in various contexts, involving other concepts, and the roles they can and cannot play in such judgments (including the inferential relations among the judgments) are necessary to specify such concepts. This is why Hegel metaphorically speaks of concepts as alive, in movement, and why the logic’s ‘motion’ is the key to the specification of any concept…. Concepts are rules for judgmental unification, and judgmental unifications are always apperceptive” (p. 45).

“So the structure of concepts in use is the structure of the apperceptive ‘I’ (ibid; see also Ideas Are Not Inert).

“The concept of the Concept, the apperceptive understanding of the implications of this apperceptive structure, is what Hegel calls ‘the Absolute'” (ibid).

He compares Hegel’s view of concepts to that of the contemporary philosopher John McDowell in Mind and World.

“[I]n McDowell’s view we can certainly distinguish thinking from what is thought (the world is not a thought-thing; thinking is a discursive activity; the world is not a discursive activity) and still insist that the world ‘is made up of the sort of things one can think. (That discursive activity is, in its unity, the unity of anything that can be known would be expressed on the ‘object side’ by claiming that a determinate object is articulable as a single unity.) Or, for example, the profound-sounding (even Heideggerian) claim that there is no ontological gap between thought and world just comes down to the fact that ‘one can think, for instance, that spring has begun, and that very same thing, that spring has begun, can be the case’. What I think when I know (think truly) that something is the case is simply what is the case. It is thus a truism of sorts that, with the issue posed in a Kantian way, ‘the forms of thought are the forms of things…. The distinction between ‘conditions on the possibility of knowledge of things’ and ‘conditions on the possibility of things themselves’, which some use to characterize Kantian idealism, should be rejected ‘on the ground that the relevant conditions are inseparably both conditions on the thought and conditions on objects, not primarily either the one or the other'” (p. 47).

Frege said a fact is a true thought. The early Wittgenstein identified the world with what is the case. Aristotle said there is no difference between thought in the strong sense (nous or “intellect”) and that of which it thinks. Pippin quotes Hegel’s implicit invocation of Aristotle on this point:

“The older metaphysics had in this respect a higher concept of thinking than now passes for accepted opinion. For it presupposed as its principle that only what is known of things and in things by thought is really true [wahrhaft Wahre] in them, that is, what is known in them not in their immediacy but as first elevated to the form of thinking, as things of thought. This metaphysics held that thinking and the determination of thinking are not something alien to the subject matters, but rather are their essence, or that the things and the thinking of them agree in and for themselves (also our language expresses a kinship between them); that thinking in its immanent determinations, and the true nature of things, are one and the same content” (p. 48; see also Form and Things).

Pippin points out that Hegel does not simply identify facts with propositions. Rather, in the spirit of Kant’s unities of apperception, he is concerned with “thought’s agreeing with itself” (p. 51). “The force of a judgment is judgment’s own force; it is not a natural force or the result of the accumulation of empirical data” (p. 52). In a footnote Pippin adds that “‘I did it because I thought I ought to’ could be appealed to to make the same point” (ibid).

“A wolf is not simply, in itself, what it is to be a wolf but to some degree or other a better or worse exemplification of such a concept ‘for itself’. The object is not just ‘as it is’; it is ‘for’ (here, in the sense of ‘for the sake of’) its concept and hereby itself…. This is all in keeping with Hegel’s general tendency to gloss his use of for-itself with Aristotle’s notion of an actualized potential” (pp. 54-55).

“To say that an object is ‘for its form’ is just to say that there is an intelligible dynamic in its development. (As in Aristotle, the particular kind of unity by which any thing or process or activity is what it distinctively is is the unity by virtue of which it is intelligible.)…. This intelligible dynamic is its concept and is not something that exists separate from or supervening on some physical attributes and efficient causation. It just is the intelligible way a development develops; there is nothing ‘over and above’ the development” (p. 55).

Pippin quotes Hegel’s Encyclopedia logic where Hegel specifically recalls Aristotle’s criticism of Plato for neglecting the actuality of forms.

“Self” and “other” are inseparably related in the Logic, as they are in the discussion of self-consciousness in the Phenomenology. In the Logic, “‘for itself’ and ‘for an other’ will be reciprocally dependent notions” (p. 56).

For Hegel, a being “is what it is and not anything else (it is ‘in itself’), but only by virtue of the properties that can intelligibly distinguish it from its contraries (can determine what it is ‘for itself’)…. Accordingly, everything… turns on the sweeping claim that ‘truth [the truth of being, the determination of what things truly are] is self-consciousness [the forms of self-conscious judgment]…. This does not claim it exists only as conceived, or that the conceiving on which its determinacy depends should be understood as subjective mental episodes” (pp. 56-57).

“Thought can determine its objects, but not by appeal to the light of reason, not ‘immediately’…. Much more will have to be said about this, but it will be very important to Hegel that to consider things in their intelligibility is also and at the same time to consider them in terms of the only beings for whom beings can be intelligible, rational beings” (p. 57).

Pippin says that Hegel rejects Kant’s “distinction between things considered in their possible intelligibility and things considered simply as they are in themselves” (p. 58). He again notes that Hegel is neither simply identifying things with thoughts nor identifying thought’s self-determination with anything like the Absolute’s knowledge of itself.

“[T]he initial, simple point at issue now is that anything’s being at all would be mere indeterminate and indistinguishable being were it not conceptually determinate, articulable — in the simplest sense, an instance of a concept” (p. 59).

“And this raises Hegel’s main question in the Logic: how to account for conceptual content…. The answer to that question will depend on two very difficult elements in Hegel’s project: … that the form of the concept is the form of the self, and that, accordingly, truth is self-consciousness; and the claim that the way to understand this content is to understand these concepts as ‘self-negating’, but in a way that promises a positive result” (ibid).

Saying as Ethical Doing

Saying is a distinctive kind of doing. This goes way beyond the physical uttering of words, and beyond the immediate social aspects of speech acts. It involves the much broader process of the ongoing constitution of shared meaning in which we talking animals participate.

Before we are empirical beings, we are ethical beings. Meaning is deeply, essentially involved with valuations. The constitution of values is also an ongoing, shared process that in principle involves all rational beings past, present, and future. Our sayings — both extraordinary and everyday — contribute to the ongoing constitution of the space of reasons of which all rational beings are co-stewards. We are constantly implicitly adjudicating what is a good reason for what.

If immediate speech acts have ethical significance, this is all the more true of our implicit contributions to these ongoing, interrelated processes of constitution of meanings, valuations, and reasons. Everything we say becomes a good or bad precedent for the future.

Aristotle consistently treated “said of” relations in a normative rather than a merely empirical, factual, representational or referential way. Brandom has developed a “normative pragmatics” to systematically address related concerns. Numerous analytic philosophers have recognized the key point that to say anything at all is implicitly to commit oneself to it. As Brandom has emphasized, this typically entails other commitments as well. I would add that every commitment has meaning not only in terms of the pragmatic “force” of what is said, but also as a commitment in the ethical sense.

It is through our practices of commitment and follow-through that our ethical character is also constituted. As Robert Pippin has pointed out that Hegel emphasized in a very Aristotelian way, what we really wanted is best understood starting from what we actually did. In contrasting all this with the much narrower concept of speech acts, I want to return to an emphasis on what is said, but at the same time to take the “said” in as expansive a sense as possible. This is deeply interwoven with all our practical doings, and to be considered from the point of view of its actualization into a kind of objectivity as shared meaning that is no longer just “my” intention.

Whitehead: Process, Events

The originally British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) was profoundly concerned with the inter-relatedness of things. His later “philosophy of organism” inspired a movement of so-called “process theology”.

Whitehead was one of the inventors of universal algebra, which extends algebraic principles to symbolic representations of things that are not numbers. He collaborated with Bertrand Russell on the famous Principia Mathematica (1910, 1912, 1913) , which sought to ground all of mathematics in the new mathematical logic, but was less attached than Russell to the goal of reducing math to logic.

He did work in electrodynamics and the theory of relativity, emphasizing a holistic approach and the nonlocal character of electromagnetic phenomena. Counter to the spirit of the time, he developed a philosophy of science that aimed to be faithful to our intuitions of the interconnectedness of nature. He characterized mathematics as the abstract study of patterns of connectedness. In Science and the Modern World (1926), rejecting the world views of Newton and Hume as understood by the logical empiricists, he developed alternatives to then-dominant atomistic causal reductionism and sensationalist empiricism. Eventually, he turned to what he and others called metaphysics.

His Process and Reality (1929) is a highly technical work that is full of interesting insights and remarks. It aims to present a logically coherent system that radicalizes the work of John Locke in particular, but also that of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. As with many systematic works, however, it doesn’t engage in depth with the work of other philosophers.

Whitehead’s radicalization involves, among other things, a systematic rejection of mind-body dualism; of representationalism; of metaphysical applications of the subject-predicate distinction; and of Locke’s distinction between “primary” (mathematical) and “secondary” (nonmathematical) qualities. Plato and Aristotle both get positive mention. Whitehead thoroughly repudiates the sensationalist direction in which Hume took Locke’s work; aims deliberately to be “pre-Kantian”; and seems to utterly ignore Hegel, though he gives positive mention to the “absolute idealist” F. H. Bradley.

He wants to promote a thoroughgoing causal realism and to avoid any subjectivism, while eventually taking subjective factors into account. He wants to reinterpret “stubborn fact” on a coherentist basis. He is impressed by the work of Bergson, and of the pragmatists William James and John Dewey.

For Whitehead, “experience” encompasses everything, but he gives this an unusual meaning. Experience need not involve consciousness, sensation, or thought. He stresses the realist side of Locke, and wants to apply some of Locke’s analysis of the combination of ideas to realities in general.

He says that the world consists fundamentally of “actual entities” or “actual occasions” or “concrescences”, which he compares to Descartes’ extended substances. However, he interprets Einstein’s theory of relativity as implying that substances mutually contain one another, a bit like the monads in Leibniz.

For Whitehead, every actual entity has a kind of self-determination, which is intended to explain both human freedom and quantum indeterminacy. On the other hand, he also says God is the source of novelty in the universe. Whitehead recognizes what he calls eternal objects, which he compares to Platonic ideas, and identifies with potentiality.

Compared to the Aristotelian notions of actuality and potentiality I have been developing here, his use of actuality and potentiality seems rather thin. Actuality is just factuality viewed in terms of the connections of things, and potentiality consisting in eternal objects amounts to a kind of abstract possibility. His notion of causality seems to be a relatively standard modern efficient causality, modified only by his emphasis on connections between things and his idea of the self-determination of actual entities. His philosophy of science aims to be value-free, although he allows a place for values in his metaphysics.

According to Whitehead, perception has two distinct modes — that of presentational immediacy, and that of causal efficacy. Humean sensationalism, as codified by early 20th century theories of “sense data”, tries to reduce everything to presentational immediacy, but it is our intuitions of causal efficacy that connect things together into the medium-sized wholes recognized by common sense. As far as it goes, I can only applaud this move away from presentational immediacy, though I have also tried to read Hume in a less reductionist way. (I also want to go further, beyond intuitions of efficient causality in the modern sense, to questions of the constitution of meaning and value that I think are more general.)

In his later works, he emphasizes a more comprehensive notion of feeling, which he sees as grounded in subjective valuations, glossed as having to do with how we take various eternal objects. Compared to the logical empiricism that dominated at the time, this is intriguing, but I want to take the more radically Aristotelian (and, I would argue, also Kantian) view that values or ends (which are themselves subjects of inquiry, not simply given) also ultimately drive the constitution of things we call objective. I also don’t see “metaphysics” as a separate domain that would support the consideration of values, over and above a “science” that would ostensibly be value-free.

Whitehead considered the scientific reductionism of his day to exemplify what he called the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness”. What I think he wanted to question by this was the idea that scientific abstractions are more real or more true than common-sense apprehensions of concrete things. I would phrase it a bit differently, but the outcome is the same. Abstractions can have great interpretive value, but they are things entirely produced by us that have value because they help us understand concrete things that are more independent of us.

Attempting to take into account the idea from quantum mechanics that reality is not only relational but also granular, he made what is to me the peculiar statement that “the ultimate metaphysical truth is atomism”. Whitehead is certainly not alone in this kind of usage; indeed, the standard modern physical notion of “atoms” allows them to have parts and internal structure. That concept is fine in itself, but “atom” is a terrible name for it, because “atom” literally means “without parts”. The word “atom” ought to denote something analogous to a point in geometry, lacking any internal features or properties whatsoever.

Be that as it may, Whitehead sees an analogy between the granularity of events in quantum mechanics and the “stream of consciousness” analyzed by William James. “Your acquaintance with reality grows literally by buds or drops of perception. Intellectually and on reflection you can divide these into components, but as immediately given, they come totally or not at all” (Process and Reality, p. 68). To me, this is an expression not of atomism but of a kind of irreducibility of medium-sized things.

Anyway, Whitehead’s “atomic” things are events. Larger events are composed of smaller events, but he wants to say there is such a thing as a minimal event, which still may have internal complexity, and to identify this with his notion of actual occasion or actual entity.

I like the identification of “entities” with occasions. For Whitehead, these are a sort of what I call “medium-sized” chunks of extension in space-time. Whitehead’s minimal events are nonpunctual.

Freed of its scholastic rigidifications, this is close to what the Aristotelian notion of “primary substance” was supposed to be. I think of the latter as a handle for a bundle of adverbial characterizations that has a kind of persistence — or better, resilience — in the face of change. Only as a bundle does it have this kind of resilience.

Although — consistent with the kind of grounding in scientific realism he is still aiming at — Whitehead emphasizes the extensional character of actual occasions, they implicitly incorporate a good deal of intensional (i.e., meaning-oriented, as distinguished from mathematical-physical) character as well. Following Brandom’s reading of Kant on the primacy of practical reason, I think it is better to explain extensional properties in terms of intensional ones, rather than vice versa. But I fully agree with Whitehead that “how an actual entity becomes constitutes what that actual entity is” (p. 23, emphasis in original), and I think Aristotle and Hegel would, too.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Whitehead’s work was attractive to theologians especially because it offered an alternative to the traditional notion of an omnipotent God creating everything from nothing. Whitehead argued that the Christian Gospel emphasizes the “tenderness” of God, rather than dominion and power: “not… the ruling Caesar, or the ruthless moralist, or the unmoved mover. It dwells upon the tender elements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love” (p. 343). “The purpose of God is the attainment of value in the world” (Whitehead, Religion in the Making, p. 100). God for Whitehead is a gentle persuader, not a ruler.

(I would not put unmoved moving in anywhere near the same bucket as ruling omnipotence. Unmoved moving in Aristotle is attraction or inspiration by a pure end, where all the motion occurs in the moved thing. It is not some kind of ruling force that drives things.)

Properly Human, More Than Human?

The conclusion of Aubry’s essay has a very different character from what preceded it. It rejoins her development elsewhere of a purely Aristotelian theology, and provides an interesting complement or contrast to the medieval debates about the spiritual significance of Aristotelian “intellect” that I have reviewed recently. As usual, in reading this it is best to forget what we think we know about what “intellect” is. It also seems to me there are a few resonances here with Harris’ reading of Hegel’s views on religion.

“Aristotelian ethics poses the possibility, for every human, of acceding to the divine in oneself. Far from being the prerogative of luck and of the blessings of the gods, this possibility is inscribed in the essence of every rational being: it demands to be developed and modified by virtuous work, the exercise of reason and of freedom. Thus, the access to this immanent transcendence, instead of being a natural gift or the effect of a divine inspiration, requires the mediation of the specifically human faculties: it is in being fully human that one can, for Aristotle, accede to the divine in oneself” (Aubry in Dherbey and Aubry, eds., L’excellence de la vie, p. 91, my translation).

I very much like the formulation “it is in being fully human”. This is an ethical criterion. Being human for Aristotle has little to do with biological species — any rational animal would be human. I have noted that being a rational animal is only having a certain potential. To be fully human is to actualize that potential.

Aubry notes that Aristotle “rejects the ethics of privilege and election as well as that of the natural good and of talent: he does not believe in conversion, in a first choice to which one can only, throughout one’s life, remain faithful” (ibid).

Aristotelian potentiality in its ethical dimension, Aubry says, is a conceptual translation of the figure of the Platonic daimon. This suggestion is new to me. She particularly refers to the myth of Er in Plato’s Republic, in which the human is said to choose her daimon rather than being chosen by it. In the same way, she says that for Aristotle the human chooses her potentiality instead of being determined by it.

She credits her colleague Dherbey at the end, and I think Dherbey’s remark that for Aristotle choice is more a matter of character than of punctual decision is highly relevant here. Putting the two together suggests a kind of reciprocal determination between character and this sort of nonpunctual choice. Paul Ricoeur has richly developed this kind of reciprocal relation, with explicit reference to Aristotle’s notion of character.

Next she moves to Aristotle’s brief explicit discussion of a kind of immortality, which does not seem to me to be an immortality of the soul. Aristotle linked immortality to what he calls intellect (nous) but left many details open, which later led to extensive debates between Thomists, Averroists, and Alexandrists like Pietro Pomponazzi (1462-1525).

“One could even say that Aristotle radicalizes the Platonic project: for the Platonic injunction to ‘immortalize oneself insofar as it is possible’ becomes, in Aristotle, an invitation to ‘immortalize oneself according to potentiality’. The divine is not in the human as a simple possibility, but indeed as a real potential. The human contains by nature her beyond-nature: she bears within herself an immanent principle of [self-] exceeding” (p. 92, emphasis in original).

This would seem to be a reference to the potential intellect, much discussed by Alexander of Aphrodisias, Averroes, Aquinas, and others. Despite their differences, these writers all basically agreed that potential intellect is fundamental to what distinguishes rational animals. For all of them, to be a fully realized rational animal is to have a certain relation to “intellect”, which transcends the biological organism.

Aubry continues, “One has seen in effect that the definitional dunamis [potentiality] that the ethical effort aims to realize is reason…. To the definitional dunamis of the human corresponds a double ergon [work] — for, if the first is properly human, the other is a bit more than human” (ibid). She had introduced the idea of “definitional potentiality” earlier in the essay. I think this just means the potentiality inherent to any rational animal. As noted above, the commentary tradition links this specifically to potential intellect.

Next she quotes from Nicomachean Ethics book 10 chapter 7. I will substitute a slightly longer version of the quote from Joe Sachs’ translation:

“But such a life would be greater than what accords with a human being, for it is not insofar as one is a human being that he will live in this way, but insofar as something divine is present in him, and to the extent that this surpasses the compound being, to that extent also the being-at-work of it surpasses that which results from the rest of virtue. So if the intellect is something divine as compared with a human being, the life that is in accord with the intellect is divine as compared with a human life. But one should not follow those who advise us to think human thoughts, since we are human, and mortal thoughts, since we are mortal, but as far as possible one ought to be immortal and to do all things with a view toward living in accord with the most powerful [Aubry has “noble”, and I don’t have my Greek text handy] thing in oneself, for even if it is small in bulk, it rises much more above everything else in power and worth. And each person would seem to be this part, if it is the governing and better part; it would be strange, then, if anyone were to choose not his own life but that of something else. What was said before will be fitting now too: what is appropriate by nature to each being is best and most pleasant for each, and so, for a human being, this is the life in accord with the intellect, if that most of all is a human being. Therefore this life is also the happiest” (Sachs trans., p. 193).

Aristotle compresses a tremendous amount into a few lines here. Many have found him too minimalist on these topics. I take his minimalism as reflecting an admirable intellectual modesty, carefully avoiding claims that are beyond human knowledge.

Traditional scholastic readings expanding on this aspect of Aristotle narrowly emphasize elaborating his very schematic, sketch-like remarks about intellect. I think the work of Paul Ricoeur (and of Hegel, particularly as read by Brandom, Pippin, and Harris) provides rich, multidimensional alternative expansions of Aristotle’s minimalist formulations on the ultimate ends of human life that are genuinely Aristotelian in spirit.

Aubry continues, “To be human in act, therefore, can signify being human among humans, or being a bit divine. One is certainly far, here, from the tragic wisdom, from an ethic of resignation and of limit. The Aristotelian ethic includes rather an irreducible dimension of [what from the tragic point of view would be] hubris [pride]. Divine knowledge is not posed as a simple ‘ideal’, nor divinization as a ‘regulative, not constitutive, principle’: on the contrary, and we underline it, the divine element that nous [intellect] is in the human, this immanent transcendent, is indeed a constitutive potentiality, a faculty to be actualized, and not a simple possibility. This actualization is nonetheless mediated: it is by the intermediary of humanity that the human rejoins the divine in herself, in exercising her reason, her virtue, her freedom. If the Aristotelian ethic is an ethic of surpassing, it passes nonetheless through full humanity: the daimon of Aristotelian eudaimonism [pursuit of happiness] is not enthusiasm, delirium, possession, or an irrational guide, arbitrary and infallible…. [I]t is possible, at the end of becoming virtuous, to be perfect and happy, even though this accomplishment, hindered by matter, broken by fatigue, is only ephemeral.”

“To the God of pure act of the Metaphysics, that God without power who has no other force than the desire he arouses, thus corresponds, in the Ethics, the divine posed in human potentiality” (p. 93).

Later religious traditions have often regarded talk about divinization of the human as objectionable. The great Persian Sufi Mansur al-Hallaj (858-922 CE) was stoned to death for saying “I am the Real”. Teachings of the great Christian theologian-philosopher-mystic Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) were condemned in the West.

Aristotle, however, has a very positive concept of a kind of pride that he calls “greatness of soul” (see Magnanimity), which he actually makes into a key virtue. He sees it as as promoting other virtues, and as prompting people to help others and be forgiving. Alain de Libera and Kurt Flasch have emphasized that the affirmative view of human life in Aristotelian ethics found a significant audience even in the middle ages.

All this provides an interesting contrast to both sides of the debate about humanism in 1960s France.