Hegel’s Philosophy:

Its Present-Day Predicament and Its Historical Background


Thomé H. Fang


Translated by

Suncrates & Sandra A. Wawrytko



 Author’s Remarks (1956):

"Discussion on topics of ‘System-Building’ and ‘Hegel’s Systematic Philosophy’ provides the author with an excellent pretext whereupon he wishes to give vent to some of his long pent-up ideas and moods so as to put an end, though tentatively, to the controversies over science vs. speculative philosophy; idealism vs. positivism prevalent in China for decades."

Translators’ Note:

Here the author refers to the hot debate over the scientific vs. metaphysical views of life in China since February, 1923 when Carson Chang, a student of Henri Bergson in France and of Rudolf Eucken in Germany, lectured on the Lebensanshauungen at the Qing-hua University. He was attacked as "a metaphysical ghost" by the British-educated geologist Ding Wen-jiang (who later became General Director for Academia Sinica) and Wu Zhi-hui, a Nationalist revolutionary, who were reinforced by Hu Shih, John Dewey’s great disciple in China. In addition to John Dewey and Bertrand Russell, Bergson and Eucken were invited to visit China; unfortunately, neither was available for reasons of health and age, respectively.

At that time Carson Chang was ridiculed as a hopeless idealist. He wrote Wang Yangming: An Idealist of the Sixteenth Century China; Development of Neo-Confucian Thought; and co-authored The Problem of Human Life with Rudolf Eucken. Later he became Chairman of the Democratic Socialist Party in China, and drafted The Constitution for the Republic of China in 1947. Now he is unanimously acknowledged as a forerunner of the first generation of Neo-Confucians of the 20th century.

When the debate over science and speculative philosophy took place (1923) Professor Fang was studying abroad, and of course was not involved. He was working on his doctorial dissertation "A Comparative Study of the British and American Neo-Realism" after spending one year (1922-23) studying Hegel with Professor J. A. Leighton at Ohio University, Columbus, Ohio. As shown in this essay, the author has demonstrated a mature understanding of the issue, superior to those of the combatants on either side. This essay was originally delivered to a meeting of university professors and academics in Taipei, in 1956, hosted by his former pupil President Chiang Kai-shek (the war-time Generalissimo) among the audience.


Problematics: Two Dogmas

For contemporaries it is extremely difficult to discuss Hegel’s philosophy. Far from being explicable in a few words, such a difficulty must be left for specific treatment hereafter. This anthology, Essays on Hegel [in two volumes], is a joint product contributed to by various authors, each in his own way, without going through any group discussion in advance [on form and content]; what ingenious project the other ‘philosophic laborers’ have in mind is thus beyond my conjecture. For my part, initially, I was invited to write on Hegel’s art theory; I hesitated, because in Hegel’s system art, along with philosophy and religion, occupies the position of its "coping-stone." Until certain fundamental problems are clarified it is virtually impossible for me to proceed with the assignment at hand. After due deliberation, however, I have chosen the present subject instead. My leitmotif for the undertaking is not to make any systematic account of Hegel’s philosophy in its entirety; rather, it is to dispell two prevalent misunderstandings involved: Firstly, for some, Hegel’s philosophy is regarded simply as a sort of panaecea which, they claim, if swallowed whole [indiscri-minately], could replace the method of exact inference in modern science and logic. This is superstition. Hegel’s philosophy can by no means work such wonders. Secondly, on the other hand, there is another group [mostly academics] who, in the name of science and logic, have adopted a far worse kind of philosophy with a view to negating the possibility of metaphysics, thus opposing Hegel’s philosophy at bottom. This is impudence. Science and logic have each their own determined sphere; neither can trespass across its province to intrude into the proper realm of philosophy for conquest. It is only after these two dogmas have been dissolved that we can set out to consider the problems inherent in Hegel’s philosophy—without falling either into superstition or impudence.

I. Introduction

A. Bradley on Metaphysics

Considered from whatever point of view, Hegel’s philosophy forms a metaphysical system which, whether we understand it or not, should only be treated as such, apropos of its systematicity. Surely discussions on "metaphysics" and, along with it, "systems," would not only cause ordinary readers headache, but even wear out the philosophers’ brains. Should you disbelieve it, please witness the witty utterances of F. H. Bradley, the modern British philosopher:

Metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct, but to find these reasons is no less an instinct.

The world is the best of all possible worlds, and everything in it is a necessary evil.

Every truth is so true that any truth must be false.

Whatever you know it is all one. The one self-knowledge worth knowing is to know one’s mind.

To love unsatisfied the world is a mystery, a mystery which love satisfied seems to comprehend. The latter is wrong only because it cannot be content without thinking itself right.

The above statements, perhaps as some presume, may be suspected of hinting at Hegel’s systematic philosophy; yet to those who are Hegelian devotees, this seems like quite a mockery or irony—but actually, it is just the opposite! Bradley was himself an extremely clever philosopher; these utterances were intended to display subtlely his own sparks of wisdom. With a penetrating grasp of Hegel’s systematic philosophy, by no means would he wrong himself or stigmatize what is the true spirit of the Hegelian school.

B. General Features of Hegel’s system

As regards Hegel’s systematic philosophy, before attempting a synoptic analysis of its important problems, we may just point out dogmatically some of its general features as follows:

(1) The structure of the universe is seen to be an interpenetrative and in- separable totality;

(2) The supreme reality corresponds perfectly with the ultimate truth con-tained herein to constitute an all-comprehensive system;

(3) Such an all-comprehensive system is propelled by a great spiritual force, evolving and unfolding gradually, step by step, until it finally culiminates in pure truth, perfection, and wondrousness;

(4) All forms of existence, in the course of development through change and transformation, are dependent upon the conditions, bound thereto, unable to enjoy absolute freedom, and hence always falling into defects as imperfectness, viz., striving ubiquitously after transcendence, whose procedure consists in following a sequence of contradictions throughout, and an incessant process of dissolutions thereof;

(5) Human beings, turning their regard inwardly to see their own mind and outwardly to survey the whole universe, must be able to grasp the crucial moments of Reason in order to ascend, level after level, for a thorough comprehension of the mystery implied therein; all events and reasons, until reaching the realm of divinity in status and the state of ultimacy in cognition, are always on the verge of crises, hence far from being immune from errors and contradictions;

  1. Through the radical function of reason and on the wings of free imagination the philosopher’s ultimate spiritual achievements will consummate in the luminous wisdom that enlightens the entire realm of truth in the cosmos for the completion of Absolute Truth. Until the moment of final consummation, the principle of contradiction must be consistently observed and perpetually employed.
  1. Three Types of Western Philosophy: Speculative, Critical, and Skeptico-Positivistic

For Hegel’s systematic philosophy, the above sampling of statements may arouse a sympathetic understanding and, at the same time, incur certain relent-less criticisms as well. To do justice, either side has a point. Generally speaking, the development of Western philosophy can be differentiated into the following three types:

(l) Speculative Philosophy, based on the dogmatic attitude, aims to bring together poetry, art, morality, politics, cultures, religions, and philosophies in a flight of speculative imagination, intent upon the establishment of certain comprehensive systems of metaphysical thought for high degrees of spiritual satisfaction.

(2) Critical Philosophy, based on the theoretical achievements in sciences, aims to bring up the fundamental problems involved and compress them into the rigorous system of logic so as to formulate the universal concepts and principles whereby to determine human knowledge with respect to its nature and function, its scope and its limits as well. Only in accordance with such a method can philosophy establish any comprehensive system of thought on the criteria of adequacy. The treatment of any problems, be they scientific, artistic, moral, or religious, must observe the principles of strict logic and the procedures of certain knowledge before any solid adequate end-results can be thus obtained. Anything else is but fanciful imagination brought about by human natural emotion and capability or instinctive wishful thinking that cannot stand the measurement by reason.

(3) Skepticism and Positivism, (originally these two schools of thought should not be put on a par; here they are just tentatively linked together for expediency of exposition because of the anti-metaphysical position they share in common), aim to evaluate human knowledge on the basis of certain and reliable rules in logic or rich and sufficient factual data in empirical sciences. In fact, this type of philosophy is scientific theory in variant forms. It advocates complete negation [elimination] of speculative philosophy altogether; and with a set of narrower or more exact logical techniques, so to speak, it aims to destroy any theoretical attempts of critical philosophy that lie far beyond the scope of what is permissable on logical grounds or factual evidences.


D. Hegel’s Impact upon Contemporary Thought

At the end of the l9th century, when certain offsprings of Hegelianism [known as its left-wing] had caused the wide spreading of dialectical materialism in Europe, many a German philosopher cried out for a "Return to Kant" ("Zuruck zu Kant!") in order to re-establish a new stronghold of idealism. Soon afterwards, as a result of the amazing progress made in modern formal, especially mathematical, logic with its far reaching impact upon the development of the phenomenological school, realism, and even neo-positivism, again many a philosopher unanimously called for "Going beyond Kant" ("Hinter Kant zuruck!") In one sense, it called for a return to Hume and other empiricists; or to Leibniz and the mathematicism he had advocated, in order to construct the new scientific philosophy (neue Wissenschaftsphilosophie). Theoretically, all such tendencies are launched as attacks upon any kinds of speculative philosophy—Hegel’s included. As pointed out at the outset, studying Hegel in the contemporary age, one will encounter many difficulties. In his "Preface" to A History of Modern Philosophy Wilhelm Windelband has emphatically remarked that the age for understanding Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit is past—irretrievably!

As interpreted above, is it really the case that Hegel has become a fossilized historical relic? Decidedy not! Many a distinguished contemporary German philosopher or expert, such as W. Dilthy, E. Spranger, N. Hartmann, K. Japsers, G. Lasson, R. Kröner, T. L. Haering, H. Glockner, and J. Hoffmeister, despite their divergent philosophical affiliations, have, as a rule, all shown their respect or sympathy towards Hegel. Needless to say, he has exerted profound influence in England and Italy such as upon T. H. Greene, F. H. Bradley, B. Bosanquet, J. M. E. McTaggart, H. H. Joachin, A. N. Whitehead, B. Croce, etc. Recently even for C. J. Friedrich, Editor of The Philosophy of Hegel (an anthology in English translation), Hegel’s philosophy is basically erroneous as considered both from the neo-Kantian position and in an historical perspective of political thought, yet he has to recognize the universal and living influences it still retains in every aspect of contemporary thought, in terms of which he has called it "a success philosophy." It is just because of its being such a "success" philosophy in character that it has invoked the chasing and distortion, first by the Marxists, and later by the German National Socialists, until eventually it has been rendered completely disfigured, with Hegel’s spirit radically lost. Such a live tragedy is so appalling indeed that it is all the more saddening and deplorable!

II. German Character and German Spiritual traditon

A. German Spirit and character: Creative Impulse and Tyrannical Drive

To some, what has just been said above may seem like a digression, "far afield of the motif." But in order to really understand Hegel’s systematic philosophy and its background, it is necessary that we take a further look into the German character and the German spiritual tradition. Kant, in his Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime (Beobachtung uber das Gefuhl des Schonen und Erhaben), has made an interesting comparative study concerning the modern European disposition and character. Nietzsche, Chamberlain, and Keyserling, etc., have made an even more elaborate and subtle indepth treatment of the same subject. A perusal of their works enables us to better appreciate what is the unique character of the German people in general and the German philosphers in particular. In this connection too much is involved and will take us far afield of the present study. To be brief, I only need to quote below certain passages from Nietzsche for adduction:

It [philosophy] always creates the world in its own image; it can not do otherwise. Philosophy is this tyrannical drive itself, the most spiritual will to power, to the ‘creation of the world,’ to the causa prima.

I insist that people should finally stop confounding philosphical laborers, and scientific men generally, with philosophers; precisely at this point we should be strict about giving ‘each his due,’ and not far too much to those and far too little to these.

It may be necessary for the education of a genuine philosopher that he himself has also once stood on all these steps on which his servants, the scientific laborers of philosophy, remain standing—have to—remain standing. Perhaps he himself must have been critic and skeptic and dogmatist and historian and also poet and collector and traveler and solver of riddles and moralist and seer and ‘free spirit’ and almost everything in order to pass through the whole range of human value feelings and to be able to see with many different eyes and consciences, from a height and into every distance, from the depths into every height, from a nook into every expanse. But all these are merely pre-conditions of his task: this task demands something different—it demands that he create values.

Those philosophical laborers after the noble model of Kant and Hegel have to determine and press into formulas, whether in the realm of logic or political (moral) thought or art, some great data of valuations—that is, former positings of values, creations of value which have become dominant and are for a time called ‘truths.’ It is for these investigators to make everything that has happened and has been esteemed so far easy to look over, easy to think over, intelligible and manageable, to abbreviate everything long, even ‘time,’ and to overcome the entire past—an enormous and wonderful task in whose service every subtle pride, every tough will can certainly find satisfaction. Genuine philosophers, however, are commanders and legislators: they say, ‘thus it shall be!’ They first determine the Whither and For What of man, and in so doing have at their disposal the preliminary labor of all philosophical laborers, all who have overcome the past. With a creative hand they reach for the future, and all that is and has been becomes a means for them, an instrument, a hammer. Their ‘knowing’ is creating, their creating is a legislation, their will to truth is—will to power.

Are there such philosophers today? Have there been such philoso phers yet? Must there not be such philosophers?

Suppose these words of Nietzsche’s were overheard by some Englishmen or the empirical philosophers at the dinner table in a restaurant; suddenly they would lose all their good manners as gentlemen, bursting into laughter, and even puffing out what they had just eaten, saying, "That madman’s nonsense talk!" But what would be Nietzsche’s response? Harken to his own utterances:

They are no philosophical race, these Englishmen: Bacon signifies an attack on the philosophical spirit; Hobbes, Hume, and Locke a debasement and lowering of the value of the concept of ‘philosophy’ for more than a century. It was against Hume that Kant arose, and rose; it was Locke of whom Schelling said, understandably, ‘Je méprise Locke’; in their fight against the English-mechanist doltification of the world, Hegel and Scho-penhauer were of one mind (with Goethe). . . What has been lacking in England. . .—real power of spirituality, real profundity of spiritual perception; in brief, philosophy.

Being not a lawyer in the field of philosophy, I am not inclined to defend any one’s polemical case with my "pen and ink." My point here is: that for the German philosophers, as for the German people in general, temperamentally their masculinity outwieghs their femininity, though both Nietzsche and Keyserling have spoken of the Germans as being feminine in character. The Englishmen, on the contrary, are adept in practising their masculnity by virtue of their femininity—profoundly and subtlely. In dealing with human affairs, natural principles, and world situations their mind, long before deliberation, is already made up instinctively, only to be expressed fragmentarily, sparodically, bit by bit, with all plausible reasons that sound fascinating and appealing. One more digressive remark: Frenchmen and Italians, while facing the crucial moments of transition as turning points in Western history and culture, are usually capable of creating some great vistas as new frontiers and suggesting some great themes; well then, they turn them all over to the masculine and feminine peoples for the latter to stir up and make a great fuss, while they indulge themselves in aesthetic experience and enjoyment as a life style and art of living! It is the extrordinary barbaric vigor of the Teutons combined with the downright cleverness of the Latins that forms the backbone of the modern European spirit.

In fact, what Nietzsche has called "the tyrannical drive" means nothing but the drive to display the tour de force of such a barbaric vigour whereby to think over those mysterious and profound problems which ordinary people will not, can not, and dare not to think over, so as to accomplish a thoroughgoing theory. This is what I have called above "systematic philosophy." The question—by what methods are these problems thought out? and by what techniques are their rationales formulated?—is in itself far more subtle and important.

B. The will to System-Making

1. Kepler

The German thinkers, including even scientists, poets, and philosophers, are, as a rule, all fond of building systems to display their tyrannical impulse. Other countries have this breed of bizarre heroes, too, but numerically far fewer than Germany. Such a tradition may be said to have started in the early part of the l7th century when Kepler, on the basis of religious fervor, asesthetic motive, mathematical inference, and the law of universal causality, considered that Nature loves simplicity and unity ("Natura simplicitaten amat" and "amat illa unitaten"), thus compressing all the planets of the solar system into the three laws of the celestial movement to form mathematical harmony. In his wake came Leibniz, who enlarged the same vision into the realms of mystery after mystery. Hume, before displaying his critical acumen, described the essence of rationalism in a passage as follows:

Nothing, at first sight, may seem more unbounded than the thought of man, which not only escapes all human power and authority, but is not even restrained within the limits of nature and reality. . . while the body is confined to one planet, along which it creeps with pain and difficulty; the thought can in an instant transport us into the most distant regions of the universe, or even beyond the universe, . . . What never was seen, or heard of, may yet be conceived; nor is anything beyond the power of thought, except what implies an absolute contradiction.

2. Leibniz

The systematic philosophy of Leibniz, it may be said, is established on this very belief in the omnipotence of reason. For, on the one hand, he advanced the principle of contradiction (in fact, of non-contradiction) as reigning throughout all the possible worlds and formed them into the universal and necessary order whereby to demonstrate the extent of truths analytic in nature; on the other hand, he resorted to the fundamental principle of sufficient reason—including the three moments of the concatenation of time, the synthesis of judgments, and the estimation of values—to affirm the limitation of all the possible worlds before he set forth the teleological system of the actual worlds to satisfy our human moral demands. Finally, Leibniz traced these two fundamental principles all the way up to God the Perfect as their ultimate ground, arguing that, operative under a certain perfect design, the natural order of the actual worlds created by God can select various kinds of possibilities in ways free from any contradictions, thus making the best possibility of all possible worlds; in other words, as dictated by reason, this is the state of the best actuality as indispensable. In his l679 to l680 correspondences with Philipp and others, Leibniz deliberately criticized the God of Spinoza and Decartes as having neither will nor understanding, hence unable to set up the goal of the Supreme Good for creating the best of all the possible worlds. For Leibniz, as we see, God would be no God were he unable to create intentionally the best world! In order to complete his own systematic philosophy Leibniz even prescribed to his God a "Categorical Imperative" in the name of Absolute Reason as Absolute Authority! (which was piquantly caricatured in Voltaire’s Candide.)

3. Kant

Admirably earnest and harmonious, gentle and gracious in person as Kant was said to be, yet in philosophy he was still found to be not entirely free from the "tyrannical drive," in that he insisted on having all the objective structures achieved in modern scientific theories transferred to, and placed upon, the transcendental unity of apperception of the mind, and then to predominate the entire sphere of human knowledge with those categories established through the synthetic judgments a priori, with a view to elucidating the ground of its "subjectivity" (which, in certain sense, is synonymous with "objectivity"). In addition, on the ground of moral metaphysics, he excluded any human dispositions and capabilities a posteriori and abandoned any conventional advantage and disadvantage; he adhered steadfastly to the Command of Pure Will. By the authority of Practical Reason and its lawfulness a priori, he enacted the categorical imperative as the universal and necessary moral law compelling, without exception, each and every one to follow and observe. Moreover, with its extended validity as a result of the practice of Good Will, such an imperative had even become the law of nature. What else could this be if not the "tyrannical drive" at work! But there is a great difference to be noticed here: The laws enacted by Pure Reason have for their object the natural world as manifesting the norm of "necessity" whereas those enacted by Practical Reason have for their object the human world as vindicating the measure of "oughtiness," whose sphere belongs to the supernatural and whose aim is subjective freedom. The former is mechanical; the latter, teleological, in character. How can these two be bridged? At this crucial point Kant again imperceptibly enacted another "Imperative" that requires human beings to reach the supernatural by going through the natural, or to view the natural under the aspect of the supernatural. The bond of these two orientations is implied in the great system of teleology that combines the natural with the supernatural. Basically, the laws of nature are devoid of any moral meaning and religious value; humankind must be liberated from bondage to the natural laws for the sake of voluntary actions and personal freedom in order to attain to the ideal of the Supreme Good as the consummation of perfections. This is a moral belief originating from religion. The essence of religion consists in enabling the natural man to hold in restraint his natural impulse in the the natural world, to aspire towards moral freedom, and to inspire noble actions for approaching ideality. Religon is precisely that holy imperative which urges human beings to perform their spiritual exaltation.

From what is said above we are led to see that the natural and the supernatural are set in opposition on the one hand, but interlinked on the other. How can this be possible? Nature is the world of things; Supernature, as the moral world or religious sphere, is the teleological system implying therein ideality. How can things be pressed into ideality? How can ideality direct things? In The Critique of Pure Reason Kant showed the synthetic function of reason as consisting in applying those categories of ideals to explain adequately the ground for the constitution of "things" (here the term "things" is cognate with "nature"), obtaining thereby universal certainty. This is the transcendental unity of apperception (die Transzendentale Einheit der Apperzeption) which is operative through imagination as medium.

In The Critique of Pure Reason imagination is only postulated until The Critique of Judegment, where it is given a full treatment. For Kant, judgment is a faculty by means of which we can press things as objects into general laws for determination. This is the strict logical standard in knowledge but can hardly be fully realized in aesthetic experiences. For, in the first place, the aesthetic objects are not the necessary phenomena of some real things in nature, but the images of the illusive metamorphosis of things and, as such, they can only arouse our subjective appreciation in the mind; in the second place, the appreciators are human beings, not things and, as such, from the viewpoint of Practical Reason, human beings have already transcended nature as the free subject in spirit. In sum, the aesthetic contents consist in our taking the ostensible appearances as reality; the aesthetic forms consist in the person as a free agent who, standing in the supernatural position and viewing therefrom, pours out in spontaneous overflow his spirit and ideal towards nature, directly and permeatingly, so as to transmute it into a teleological system. In the former case, there is no objectivity; in the latter, no universality.

But as viewed from the consistent function of reason, such a two fold standard is found to be indispensable to what is the truly aesthetic experience of appreciation and the truly aesthetic world of vision. Thus, Kant finally transformed determined judgment (bestimmende Urteilskraft) in epistemology into reflective judgment (reflektierende Urteilskraft) in aesthetics, and hence suggested a system of the "Philosophy of As-If" ("die Philosophie des Als-ob"). The world of beauty is the world of nature transmuted and transfigured; its raison d’etre must

be traced in the direction of the supernatural until it is found in the spiritual subject itself. The forms of beauty are beauty concretely embodied through the Transcendental Ego in its spiritual ascendence to the realms of ethereal heights, as well as through the gifted individuals, rich in talents and feeling, in their community of appreciation on the basis of the reflective judgment. The universality and objectivity of aesthetic experience are the product of the world of artistic transformation in varied forms of creation of wonders; actually it is made possible by imagination:

Denn wer den Schatz, das Schone, heben will,

Bedarf der hochsten Kunst, Magie der Weisen. . . .

(Faust, II, 63l5-6.)

For he that would such peerless beauty raise,

Must use the highest art, the magic of the wise. . . .

(Tr. Walter Kaufmann.)

Umgaukelt ihn mit süssen Traumgestalten,

Versenkt ihn in ein Meer des Wahns. . . .

(Ibid., I, l510-11.)

Dazzle him with the sweetening dream-visions,

Plunge him into the ocean of illusions.

Wie Seelenschonheit steigert sich die holde Form,

Löst sich nicht auf, erhebt sich in den Äther hin

Und zieht das Beste meines Innern mit sich fort.

(Ibid., II, 10064-6.)

Like beauty of the soul, the sweet form is sublimed,

Still it dissolveth not, into the sky it soars.

And with it bears away whate’er is best in me.

(Tr. Sir Theodore Martin.)

Er facht in meiner Brust ein wildes Feuer

Mach jenem schönen Bild geschaftig an.

So taum ich von Begierde zu Genuss,

Und im Genuss verschmacht ich nach Begierde.

(Ibid., I, 3247-50.)

He kindles in my breast a savage fire

And keeps me thirsty after that fair image.

Thus I reel from desire to enjoyment,

And in enjoyment languish for desire.

(Tr. Walter Kaufmann.)


E. Goethe

The above cited fragments represent what Goethe the poet had himself expressed as his ecstatic state of mind while taking a free flight of fancy in the aesthetic world of ethereal vacuity. Originally, it is Kant who, as soon as he had completed a trilogy of systematic philosophy on the ground of exhaustive reason, found himself on the verge of reaching the dead end of reason itself on the one hand, while disclosing thereby a boundless and wondrous world of art on the other. This world is far beyond the full grasp of rigid reason, and must therefore be preserved for free construction by the creative imagination. Goethe inherited such a mission and displayed himself a superb genius: Spanning heaven and hell, he let go the "fantastic imagination accompanied by reason, understanding, sensibility, emotion, sentiment, and even stupidity," and indulged in its free flight for the creation of wonders in search of the miraculous. As a result, he was able to establish, in addition to the actual world of things, what Dilthy has called "the second world." Namely, it is the visionary, dream-world of freedom, beautiful and sublime, constituted of the poetic mind, poetic feeling, and poetic art. In regard to Life—individual life, human life, natural life and cosmic life as all integrated and unified—Goethe, [who saw life dynamically and saw it whole],cast a broad survey on the one hand and a deep perspective on the other, on the basis of the most penetrating experience, before setting out to compose, by the magic of imagination, a cluster of words and dictions rich in musicality to express the note of beauty and magnificence. Here one finds a variety of the bizarre and grotesque states of events, fluctuating and impermanent world-phenomena of creation and perishing, hybrid human nature mixed of nobility with ugliness, and profound, mysterious, and unfathomable divine will, all so vividly represented and so perfectly interwoven into a seamless whole that one cannot but feel enthralled in passions, provoked in thoughts, and inspired with boundless reflections and pathos.

The note of personal charm, the flavor of imagination, and the style of poetry—all these are perfectly blended in Goethe’s life to form an amazing unity and harmony. As Dilthy has well observed:

Here there is no bewilderment, nor breach. Such a type of life completely follows the inmost spiritual law and grows freely and spontaneously, pure and genuine in intention, perfectly harmonious in conduct, fully accordant with noble justice, pursuing the path of liberality and magnanimity. Goethe had thoroughly penetrated into the divine power as exhibited in the creative transformation of nature, before he took it for the object of poetical art. The creation of the poetical world, as well as the development of the poet’s life and soul, must follow the spiritual rule as expressive of the perfectly congruent structure of unity.

In view of the spiritual development of the German people, we are enabled to comprehend the ground for such a marvellous phenomenon. Ever since Martin Luther and Leibniz they had sought for the profundity and mystery of the spirit itself and the spiritual activities whereupon to establish the innermost harmony of religion, science, philosophy, art, and poetry. This is how the world-historical spiritual power was brought to the forefront and, from the l8th century onwards, had spread its unitive influence from Germany to all over Europe. Such a spiritual force had permeated all the creations during the time of Goethe. The general theme that our universal humanity was traced out of the subtlety and depths of our existence found its expression in the transcendental philosophy of Goethe, Kant, Fichte, and Hegel as well as the instrumental music of Beethoven. Human beings, they maintain, must exhibit their genuine nature in accordance with the spiritual laws for a satisfactory existence; on such an ideal converged also the positions of Goethe and the rest mentioned above, as well as those of Schiller, Humboldt, and Schleiermacher. It is in the sphere of such a new culture that the poetical world had been created first by Goethe, Schiller, and Jean Paul, and then followed by Novalis and Hölderlin.

The entire spiritual development of modern Europe was motivated by such a new world-historical force. For all this Goethe was of crucial importance. Now, the difficulty of the highest spiritual creation is thus timely solved by the magic of Goethe’s poetry: viz., the mystery of life must be expressed through life itself; the meaning of life must be interpreted in terms of its intentions. The marvellous life, wonderful images, and great poetry are all fused into an integral whole, constituting an entirely new organic unity established on the basis of scientific studies. In light of such an organic unity we may gain access to nature, fathom truth, appreciate delicacy, and penetrate her enigmas in order to comprehend the mystery of life. This is the secret revealed by Goethe to the poets and philosophers of the later ages.

This is why to the younger generation of German poets Goethe, in his old age, claimed himself to be the "spiritual liberator of the Germans" ("Befreier der Deutschen.")

As discerned above, it is not difficult for us to understand the German spiritual tradition on the basis of the German character. German thinkers are, most of them, full of the tyrannical drive and creative impulse so that, on matters of the universe and human existence, they would never cease until they have worked out a whole set of theoretical systems. At times when carried away too far in the release of such drives, automatically they would seek some bad reasons for what they believe upon instinct. As H. Keyserling has keenly observed,

Germany, compared with other nations, has indeed produced far more bad philosophers. In terms of proportion, she is even worse than England supposedly lacking philosophy. Though the latter has not produced many philosophers, yet the majority of what she has already had are still noteworthy whileas ninety percent of German philosophers are completely worthless.

C. German Tradition and Three Metaphysical Motivations

But, from the l7th century onwards, the German spiritual tradition was splendid and admirable. Dilthy used to call this tradition the new world-histo-rical force (die neue weltgeschichtliche Kraft), continually motivating German thought with tremendous impact upon European culture. From the philosophical viewpoint, such a spiritual force is based on three metaphysical motivations. Modern Europeans, though desirous to create novelties in every aspect of life, are spiritually linked to the legacy of the Medieval, Roman, and Greek traditions.

The first is the religious motivation. Essentially it intends to comprehend from the bottom of the human heart how it is possible for the human soul to come into communion with a living God. This may be called the [Medieval] metaphysics of the inward world of spirit.

The second is the scientific motivation. It asks for a systematic account of the realities of the objective world-structure wherein to arrange properly the position of human existence. This is the Greek metaphysics of the objective realm of actuality.

The third is generally regarded as the practical motivation. It emphasizes promotion of the will, implement of organization, delimitation of right and duty, and discrimination by ranks of value and quality, for the satisfaction of the purpose of life. This is, of course, the practical achievement of the Romans, but more important is the motivation for the solution of another theoretical problem: Namely, under what circumstances can the innermost spirit of human mind meet in complete harmony with the objective world and the Lord of the Universe. This is the Stoic metaphysics during the Graeco-Roman period.

Modern European thinkers may vary in their selection and emphases on these three motivations, of which the pivotal point is firmly grisped by the Germans. During the early part of the modern age when the Italian, French, and English peoples were engaged in working on the artistic and literary ideals or practical life, Martin Luther, on the relics of the primitive barbaric nature of the Germans, and by looking into the innermost mystery of human nature in the natura naturans, brought forth the free conscience in order to break down the barriers between man and God rendered by the Medieval institutionalized church. This is of key importance for the wide spread of pantheistic thought in German philosophy and the remarkable development of the lyric notes in art and literature.

As a result of the breakthrough of the Man/God barrier and, with it, the breakdown of the Man vs. Nature opposition, Kepler in science, and Leibniz in philosophy, each leapt out of the trap of subjectivity and established the fundamental principle of mathematical harmony and pre-established harmony on the basis of the framework of the universe itself. Thus, it is seen that the aesthetic love of beauty and the scientific pursuit of truth were inseparably conjoined.

D. From Kant to Goethe

Later, Kant, who inherited the Newtonian mechanistic physics on the one hand and adopted the Leibnizean abstract speculation on the other, differentiated the field, the ground, and the domain (das Feld, der Boden, und das Gebiet) according to the strict standard of knowledge; again, on the basis of the tripartite doctrine of human faculties (knowing, feeling and willing, Erkenntnisvermogen, Gefuhl und Begehrungsvermögen), he further distinguished the realms of nature, art and morality accordingly, to the effect that those fundamental laws which are valid in their respective realms can hardly be thoroughly brought into harmony and unity, thus creating many theoretical difficulties, planting the seeds of many oppositions and contradictions in philosophy, bringing about the crises for the unitive function of reason. But Kant was to open up new opportunities for the rebirth of science, philosophy, religion and art amid such theoretical difficulties and spiritual crises until Goethe arose. By abandoning the mechanistic method, experiencing the depths of life, and taking flight in free imagination, Goethe once more accomplished the new mission of the German spiritual tradition. Usually we have looked upon Goethe as only a poet but, in fact, his achievement in philosophy was amazinly great. Thanks to Goethe’s achievement, we are again enabled to fuse together science, philosophy, religion, and art such that European culture may obtain a higher synthetic unity.

In this aspect the Goethean mode of thought can, on the one hand, deal with the European incurable disease of the schism of the soul; on the other hand, it can dovetail with the Oriental subtle and great principle of the Identification of Brah-man and &127; tman [Brahman-&127; tman-&127; tyantª ] or Unity of Man and Heaven. Thus, it really deserves our appreciation and admiration. As viewed from Goethe’s standpoint, the totality of the universe constitutes an all-comprehensive infinite system of life wherein all phenomena, completely free from the separation or gap of natural vs. supernatural, are each developing, growing, and completing, step by step, in the process of the successive operation of antecedent and consequent, as heaps upon heaps of the stupendous waves in the ocean, in order to accomplish the consummate unity of perfect harmony of the cosmic life as a whole.

Man occupies a middle position in the cosmos, comprising within himself the whole range of creation from mass and matter, through plant life and animal sensation, on to the hightest cognizance of spirit and intellect, aspiring even towareds communion with the God-head. He thus has an advantage even over the angels: he is the only one of God’s creatures who is able to comprehend within himself, in epitome, the totality of creation.

Intoxicated in such a wonderful speculation, thus sang Goethe from a lofty postion during his Italian journey:

Erhabner Geist, du gabst mir, gabst mir alles.

warum ich bat....

Sublime Spirit, thou have given me, have given me all.

Because thus have I asked.

E. Nietzsche and Hegel

The beginning and end of the l9th century were marked respectively by two bizarre heroes in German philosophy—Hegel and Nietzsche (the establishment of Hegel’s systematic philosophy was begun in l800). Poles apart in thought and character as they were, yet in specific views and senses, they had much in common: they were (1) both admirers of the Greek spirit; (2) both sympathizers with the Goethean spirit; and (3) both highly imaginative and extremely tyrannical as philosophers. In his autobiography Nietzsche claimed to be a terrible form of dynamite, intending to destroy a large part of the traditional, especially German, culture. For him, German culture—above all, its idealism that was far removed from the reality of the actual world in search of the illusive ideals—was completely worthless. Most Germans, he said, had dyspepsia; "Wherever Germany extends, she corrupts culture." He recognized nothing as real culture except the ancient Greek tragic spirit, the modern French artistic sentiment, and the vanished German classical music. As he said, the proximity of Germans retarded his digestion. They were the flat men of the Flatland of Europe—deutschland, simply lacking the air of heights and cold, as of the icy-clean distant rocks, and the snow-clad lofty peaks.

It is with Germans almost as it is with women: one never fathoms their depths; they don’t have any, that is all. They aren’t even shallow.—What they call ‘deep’ in Germany is precisely this instinctive uncleanliness in relation to oneself. . . one does not want to gain clarity about oneself.

Thus Nietzsche reprehended the Germans as fond of creating cloudiness, choosing to be muddle-head; but we may praise them with "How rarely precious it is to be muddle-headed!"—to quote Cheng Pan-chiao [or Zheng Ban-qiao, a well known poet and painter of l8th century China].

In the strongest terms Nietzsche criticized and negated almost the entire European—especially German—spiritual tradition, except the great contributions of Goethe. For him, the Christian "God is dead"; the morality of religion has become the shield of the weak, whose life vitality was vitiated; science, entangled by erroneous epistemology, is unable to affirm the genuine meaning and value of all forms of existence; art, devoid of its truly creative impulse, has degenerated into decorations for the average men’s decadent and voluptuous way of life; philosophy, predominated by the atmosphere of idealism, has proven to be so suffocating that one just could not breathe in it. In sum, "All the highest values are depreciating themselves" ("Die obersten Werte entwerten sich"), thus creating nihilism. Man’s self-evaluation, therefore, has lost its infinite dignity. Look-ing back and looking forward, Nietzsche insisted on rediscovering the great creative power that would save men from the crises they are facing, exhorting us to model ourselves after the Over-man in re-evaluating radically all the prevalent lowly and petty values. With all such views fully expressed in Nietzsche’s own works, we need not repeat them here.

The reason that we take Nietzsche, the epigone, first is because we wish to elucidate by contrast Hegel’s fundamental problems and his historical mission. It is Nietzsche who intended to destroy the main part of German spiritual tradition, whereas it is Hegel whose achievement represented the climax of such a tradition. It is Nietzsche who radically negated Christianity and its spiritual values, whereas it is Hegel who thought that the Christian culture, through the development of the German free spirit, had attained to the summit position in world history. It is Nietzsche who criticized modern science as implying three fundamental mistakes:

(1) Psychologically, it has taken thinking as the sole human motivation, hence it insists on abandoning all other faculties and counts on the intellect to work out a set of schemes or formulae whereto are submitted all natural phenomena for explanation, at the sacrifice of the plenitude and multiplicity of ever-changing events as facts.

(2) Epistemologically, it has externalized the world in the form of purely objective states of equilibrium, subjecting all things to determination by the law of causation. As a result, the whole world is thus reduced to a neat mechanical order, ready-made and once for all. It follows therefore that, in theory, a vivacious human life and its creative activities would become virtually impossible.

(3) Methodologically, it begins with sensation, which is soon considered as basically fallacious, hence unproductive of truth. Then it shifts to rely upon the intellect for the fabrication of hypotheses, with which to infer the consequences, and take as truth such consequences, whose origins remain problematic. Ultimately, the question of whence the truth comes remains enigmatic. "In sum, science only leads to a sovereign ignorance" ("In summa, bereitet die Wissenschaft eine souverane Unwissenheit vor").

Whereas, from Hegel’s point of view, if science has betrayed so many of its defects as loopholes, it is precisely because it is only a half-way system of know-ledge, finite and relative in character. So long as we can turn abstract understanding into concrete reason, tracing from root to branches, it is not difficult to obtain a complete and absolute system of knowledge from the Absolute Spirit in its successive procedure of change and transformation.

III. Hegel’s System and Its Fundamental Problems

  1. Hegel’s Systematic Philosophy in light of Avatamsaka (Hua Yen) Buddhism

Thus far, to sum up: We may understand the Germans’ character as a base upon which to understand their spiritual tradition. Hegel’s systematic philosophy is a product of such a dual condition. We may now concentrate on dicussing its fundamental problems.

Hegel’s entire system can be likened to a great circle within which are rotating three distinct but interrelated balls, each flashing with a peculiar glow of its own. While contemplating such a picture of the rotating balls, we may illustrate its mystery in terms of the "Doctrine of Six Characteristics" of the Hua Yen (Avatamsaka) School of Buddhism. The Cosmic Reality comprehends all events and integrates by interpenetration all reasons to express its synoptic characteristics. Reality is One; but, because of the all-pervading great spiritual power that manifests itself in the flux of change and transformation, it engenders an infinite variety of individual characteristics, as represented in the differentiated worlds. In spite of the variance of the differentiated worlds, each and every item of events and reasons situated in the total system is subtlely evolving in accordance with certain laws as the public paths, without the slightest departure from the form of unity. This is called the homogeneous characteristics. In spite of the fact that all phenomena are identical with, and unified by, Reason itself, each is situated in its specific world and properly oriented in its own world of fitness, without the slightest confusion. This is called the differentiating characteristics. The Cosmic Reality are developing ubiquitously, wherein all the potential possibilities are interlinked as a whole in an on-going process of augmentation, step by step, to express individuality and achieve actualization. This is called the constructive characteristics. If any phenomenon, thus constructed, is somehow blocked by its own differentiated world without mutual congruence and inter-communication with all the others, it is then called the destructive characteristics.

To put it in the Hegelian terminology: The total picture of the rotating balls represents the Absolute (das Absolute); the synoptic characreristics, its Totality (Totalität); the individual characteristics,its individuality (Unterschied); the homogenous characteristics, its unity (Einheit). In terms of the conceptual scheme, Hegel also calls the Absolute the Idea (der Idee), with its specific objects designated respectively as (1) Reason (die Vernunft), (2) Nature (die Natur), and (3) Spirit (der Geist). In other words, Hegel’s philosophy is a general metaphysical system comprising within it a science of logic (der Logisch Wissenschaft); a philosophy of nature (die Naturphilosophie); and a philosophy of spirit (der Geistphilosophie). These three are interfused together to make one complete circular system of the triad of reason, nature, and spirit. This is what Hegel has declared to be the essentials in The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (Encyclopadie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrise, with three editions in 1817, 1827, and 1830).

Reason, in its function and development, constitutes thought, whose abstract moment is the pure Idea (reine Idee). Though the great function of thought can be applied by extension to nature and spirit as concretely involved; yet, apart from all these, thought can still hold to itself as object to establish a "science of logic." Modern psychologistic logic conceives thought as an inner activity of the mind, unable to reach the external objects; logic in this sense is only a subjective science (criticized by Husserl as psychologism). Modern empiricistic logic considers thought as necessarily implying objects as expressive of contents, apart from which thought is empty; logic, it maintains, is a non-formal science. Modern formal logic, on the contrary, casts off the contents of thought for the establishment of a system of empty frames—the propositional forms and their relations of implication—and, by the skillful use of the techniques [e.g., of exis-tential or universal quantifications], covers some or all objects [as the universe of discourse] for validation of the truth-values contained therein.

What Hegel calls logic differs sharply from any of the above three senses. His point of departure is Parmenides of ancient Greece, who openly declares the Unity of Thought and Being and treats the forms of thought as synonymous with the categories whereby all beings are determined. In other words, the Science of Logic is a complete system of ontology or theory of reality; its "logical" comprehensions [Begriffs] are the ontological categories. Inasmuch as they can determine their own meanings by themselves, they are a priori; inasmuch as they can universally conform with the essence of all beings, they are not empty—as inseparable from the empirical actuality. Even the operation of nature and the transformation of spirit must be determined thereby to manifest their rational structure.

The categoreal scheme of logic, if skillfully operated, can thus encompass both the philosophy of nature and the philosophy of spirit as their backbone. It is for this reason that Hegel’s philosophy is also called panlogism. In addition, since the logical system is a construction by abstract forms it follows that, only by reaching the external objects, can it constitute nature and become the concrete and rational actuality. Therefore, logical reason is fundamental and nature, derivative, in terms of difference in order. Since the categorical system is only an abstract scheme it follows that there must be an active subject working as agent in between before it can reach the objects. The categories are but the conditions for the operation of thought with nature as its object. But neither thought nor nature can be self-determinant; such a wondrous function of self-determination can be performed only by spirit. Spirit is thus seen to be the mainspring of reason from which all thoughts originate, and along with which all nature evolves. This point, though a fundamental principle for Hegel, nevertheless falls into the fallacy of a circular argument, judging from the general standard of logic.

Next, nature itself is devoid of any independent meaning, owing its existence to the transformation of spirit. Spirit projects the abstract Idea outwardly, such that it may obtain concreteness in Space and Time for the completion of nature. For reason, as we see, nature is only the external fringe or the "individual characteristics" as the otherness of the logical Idea (das Andere der logischen Idee); for spirit, nature is the product of its transformation; hence, it is the second moment in the Absolute-System (das zweite Moment des Absoluten). Concerning this point, Hegel’s thought originates from Fichte.—More on him later.

Moreover, the term "spirit" ("Geist") is the most difficult to explicate. Viewed from one aspect, spirit must be constituted by nature, and nature transforms into spirit gradually by the process of transcendence, step by step; for spirit is the third moment in the Absolute-System. But, on the other hand, as we notice, Hegel had also asserted emphatically that for nature, spirit is its truth, adding, "it is exactly on this account that spirit must be absolutely the first moment." (This last sentence was added by Hegel himself to sec. #381 in the third and final edition of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Science. It is not found in sec. #299 in the first edition of 1817.) At any rate, however, this causes not only quite a confusion of orders, but also self-contradiction. Now let me render a literal translation of this passage before examining its meaning:

Spirit, as we see, must presuppose nature as its truth, and it is exactly on this account that it must be absolutely the first moment. In such a truth, nature has already been transfigured; spirit, too, has already become the Idea in-and-for itself, merging subject and object into a unified category. Such an identity is simply the absolute negativity because the category, with its complete objectivity in external nature, has now destroyed its outward tendency of alienation, and returned to, and eventually identified with, itself. Meanwhile, the reason that the category can attain to unity is because its has already abandoned nature and returned to itself.

B. Fundamental Problems

In view of the preceding exposition, there must be many problems to be raised concerning Hegel’s philosophy. What, after all, is meant by the "Aboslute" in the proper sense of the term? How is the Absolute-centric system made possible? How are reason, nature, and spirit differentiated from the Absolute Itself? How are we to explain the specific relationships between the Absolute and reason, nature, and spirit? What are the relationships among reason, nature, and spirit as well?

Let us begin with the last question. If the picture of the rotating balls is an appropriate analogy, then, for the expression of the secret of the Absolute as Totality, the first representation in order should be reason, because it is only with reason that the abstract pure Idea can arise. But inasmuch as the Idea is abstract as a mere possibility, unactualized until it has obtained the concrete contents, it must be intentional towards objectivity through alienation (Entäusserung), hence issuing in nature as the second moment in the totality of the Absolute-System. But, once nature is thus constituted, it immediately involves two crises: (1) With complete objectivity in itself, nature has essentially already alienated itself from the Idea, opposed thereto, hence implying contradiction; (2) Nature is such that all beings in Time and Space are mutually exclusive, each on its own externality, hence each is seeking its own destruction. Regarded in such a light, unless nature returns to the Idea for location of its fundamental raison d’être, it simply becomes extremely irrational; thus it must accord with reason for further transformation into spirit in order to be rescued from the crisis of self-destruction. In the Absolute-System, evidently, spirit appears after nature. In the great circle of the cosmic reality, the first rotating ball is reason; the second, nature; and the last, spirit. But, as shown in the above cited original text, Hegel had adopted the diametircally opposed view by taking nature as devoid of any independent existence, and treating only spirit as the absolutely first cause. Yet, for the expansion of freedom, spirit must express absolute negativity whereby to transfigure nature in order to return, for self-completion, to the Idea in-and-for itself. According to this order, then, the first rotating ball is spirit; the second, nature; and the third, reason.

These two views, put together in juxtaposition, evidently constitute a vicious circle in logical argument. Such an absurdity can be easily illustrated with the following story: Once, a certain idealistic philosopher was taking a walk with his friend along a solitary path in a graveyard. All of a sudden, there came an earthquake; he felt as if the earth were about to fall off and, with it,their lives would be annihilated in an instant. Panic-stricken, the idealist philosopher hit upon an idea as scheme—arbitrarily he had the earth changed into "earth" inscribed on a Monument of the Divine Way, saying with a gleam, "Now, the earth has got so well settled!" "What about the Monument?" asked his freind, "On what does it rest?" Our philosopher went on, saying, " the ‘earth’ is inscribed on the monument, which rests on the back of the turtle; the turtle rests on the earth, which again as ‘earth’ is inscribed on the said Monument, . . . You see, all is thus well settled, isn’t it?" If Hegel’s system with the Absolute as its core principle is established by such a methodological procedure, then, from the logical point of view, it may justly be called a "hotchpotch"; if judged further as a metaphysical theory, it embodies at best a whole set of bad reasons. Many philosophers have viewed his philosophy as a "hotchpotch" and fundamentally erroneous.

IV. Varieties of System

Before deprecating Hegel’s system to such a miserable extent, it is necessary to explain what is a "system" and how many kinds there are. Viewed from one aspect, a system must comprise within itself a set of facts whose textures and headings are conjoined together through a unifying thread to form a completed structure. Viewed from another aspect, at times a system may refer to a certain construction of thought embodying within itself a set of fundamental concepts and principles. But how these concepts can be extended and generalized, and how these principles can be interconnected and unified is a case that proves convincing only by way of the strict procedures of demonstration and the apodictic relations of logic. In some cases these two views can be grouped together, in that if the combination of facts conforms with the construction of thought in a one-to-one correspondence in their respective constituents, then they are said to form paralel systems.

A. Arbitrary and Absurd Systems

A system will be awfully arbitrary and absurd if formed merely by lumping together certain facts, and accumulating certain concepts, without any reasonable guiding principles and strictly established connections. The following example is a good case in point: The Republic of South Africa has a total population of l2. 6 million distinguished generally into three races, the white, the black, and the mixed. Each race has some different way of life, separated abode of residence, discriminated status in law, differentiated area of work, and unequal opportunity for education. Judging from humanity, it is already sufficiently absurd. Recently, the South African Government has promulgated an order of registration forcing many people to "change their appearances" and alter their kindred relationships; consequently many of the whites have become the mixed and many of the mixed, the blacks, and hence are each to be deprived of what was originally their occupations, statuses, residences, family names, languages, relative relations and friendships. How unreasonable this is! Such a formation as population policy may be called an arbitrary system. If Hegel’s philosophy is taken by some as fundamentally erroneous, is it because in his Absolute System the Abstract Ideas, by alienation, can change into Nature and Nature, by returning to Reason, can change into Spirit, pralleling the population of South Africa where, by the execution of an order from the government, the whites can become the mixed and the mixed, the blacks? If this is really so, isn’t it the case that his philosophy is a hopeless system of "hotchpotch?" This problem deserves careful consideration.

B. Genus-Species System

Next, we consider what is widely prevalent in science as the genus-species system. While we are observing certain objects and finding them sporadic and disorderly as mutually unrelated, then by using analysis and comparison we may well select the common properties or common relationships from among them as a base whereupon to have them subsumed under a general name as class-concept, or included within a certain scope of laws, such that they are interconnected to form a system. But inasmuch as the classes may vary as large or small in magnitude, the names, as high or low in order, and the laws, as broad or narrow in scope, the systems thus constructed on various orders may differ widely. Their general form or pattern can be roughly represented by the following figure:









As discerned from the above scheme, a, b, c, . . . p designate the individual objects, each with rich properties and contents. If we can interconnect horizontally these specific contents and locate their areas of common characteristics, we may well take them as the bases whereupon to establish A, B, C, D as classes at the first level, each representing a small system—extaposed as the systems on the first order. Again, if we can inter-connect horizontally the common characteristics as implied in AB, BC, and CD, we can then elevate them into a higher level to establish the systems E, F, and G on the second order, where both F and E and F and G derive the overlapping relation in content respectively from below, with B and C as bases whereupon we can then elevate them into the third level to estabish the larger systems H and I. Finally, on the basis of the overlapping relation derived from F, we can then further elevate them into a still higher level to establish the largest system J.

C. Features of the Genus-Species systems

Methodologically this kind of the genus-species system represents several features:

(1) Developments of scientific thought, especially in empiricial sciences, are in the main based on specific facts as data and are, by gradual generalization, organized into systems of concepts or laws in order to cover more extensive and complex objects. The essence of science consists in the scientists demonstrating general conclusions on the basis of the facts as premises. As well says H. Poincare, "He (the scientist) attempts to collect plenty of experiences and condense general ideas into brief formulae, . . ." "The wondrous function of science consists precisely in the correction of facts in order to establish general principles, apart from which there is no science whatever."

(2) In light of the conceptual interpretation based on traditional logic, all the class-systems in the above scheme are then seen to be constructed, at each level, by the method of abstraction. We observe the rich facts as contents and drop differences for identity before we can establish class A. Similarly we arrive at classes B, C, and D. By the same token, moreover, all other classes at various levels are derived gradually from the operational procedure of extensive abstraction. Evidentally, it contains three theoretical difficulties: (i) Each "class" can represents only the analytic or abstract unity, because it is essentially a matter of taking identity without difference. (ii) If we reduce each "class" to the conceptual system and compare it with the original state of facts whereupon it was based, it is found impoverished in content, because many of the important differences have been thus obliterated. Hence, the more developed towards simplification and generalization our thought is, the further removed it is from truth in terms of factual basis. And up to a certain point, then, the construction of thought and that of facts fail to have a one-to-one correspondence in their respective constituents. (iii) If, by comparison and contrast, A, B, C, D in the above scheme are seen to be radically specific systems with only absolute differentiated contents among them without any point of identity, then there can be no bases whatever from which to derive the class-systems of a higher order, and the procedure of abstraction in progress must also come to a complete stop. Isn’t this to curtail the vital development of thought in its on-going process? As shown in the history of logic, this defect can be saved only by Aristotle’s method: Bringing in the metaphysical concept of "essence" such that in the teleological system of dynamic development the "form" in the upper realm can determine the "matter" in the lower one or the latter can be made to move upward to receive the direction of the former. This is a remedial dodge in philosophy, but not the best one in science.

In the course of the estabishment of scientific systems, as we see, those of concepts represent only the initial step. For further advance, it is necessary to change concepts into laws before we can discover the logic of relation in place of the logic of concept. The latter is based on abstraction, whose secret consists in dropping difference for identity, tending therefore to be impoverished in contents and removed from truth; the former is based on concretion, whose key point consists in seeing identity in difference, or unity in diversity, tending therefore to approximate richness and truth. It is necessary that we establish the systems on general laws before we can encompas sufficient facts to show the contextual coherence of theoretical framework. This relational structure of scientific systems may be called the relational interpretation.

The reason that a certain systems-building can be appealing is only because it can be combined with the procedures for building some other kindred systems so as to form a small class under a larger one [as species sub genus]. To accomplish this task, it is necessary that we revert to the particular facts as bases whereupon to take one or several leaps before we can elevate them into the general principles. Building systems on the analytic procedure alone cannot allow us to make such a review; it only enables us to dwell on the same plane. Only by virtue of the mathematical induction can we leap forward, for only by its aid can we create new knowledge. Such an induction, though varying slightly from the physical induction, is equally valid. Without it all system-buildings would be unable to make science.

(Here we have no intention to cite Poincare’s method of methematical induction as the justifying ground for the establishment of theoretical systems in mathematics and physics. This aspect has been fully treated in his Science and Hypotheses, Chapters I and IX; Science and Method, Chapters III, IV, and V. Interested readers are referred thereto for details.)

Now let us return to our pressing question. Scientific systems are established, first, by the method of abstraction, by reduction of difference to identity, in order to discover the analytic unity of concepts; then, to prevent their becoming more and more impoverished, the approach we have usually adopted is by way of reversion, by reduction of the abstract concepts to the concrete ones; and, finally, the empirical truths are to be further determined by the results of observation and experimentation for factual confirmation. As far as the empirical sciences are concerned, undeniably such a method has its merits. No skyscrapers can be made ex nihilo, they must be based on the solid ground; nor can they be erected at random merely by piles of stones being lumped together. The true scientific system must be grounded in the logic of relation and developed, step by step, towards abstraction to show its creative vitality. First, we start with the wealth of facts to establish the conceptual systems by abstraction and, then, we bring out the generating relation in respect of the classes contained therein as a base wherefrom to ascend, level after level, moving towards the establishment of the systems of laws.

How is this possible? As discerned from the scheme in the preceeding section, A, B, C, D, by comparison and contrast, are each a specific class; yet, by tracing their "whence," they have their common base in the concrete facts and their common procedure in the abstractive method; in sum, we find their interrelation throughout, both longitudinally and laterally. It is a kind of universal relation of identity in difference in terms of which we can apply the synthetic judgments to elevate respectively A and B, B and C, and C and D to a higher level, so as to form the three new unified systems E, F, G. Then, by tracing their common base below, we find that A and D, separated in position, have only remote or indirect relation whereas B and C, close in position, have immediate or direct relation. This direct relation is a great discovery, because B makes the differentiating constituent both for E and F, hence serving as the common base for their overlapping relation, as well as their specific divergence from an identity. On the basis of the overlapping relation of B and C, and through the three intermediate classes E, F, G, we may leap further to a higher level to build the two larger classes H and I as two new unified systems. Furthermore, we may trace the overlapping relation in F as a common base whereupon to elevate through H and I to J as the highest unified system. It follows therefore that, with the exception of A, B, C, D as the conceptual systems at the first level, all the remaining systems of laws, such as E, F, G on the first order, H and I on the second order, and J on the higher order, are constructed as unified and interlocking theoretical systems owing to (i) the universal relation of identity in difference for reduction of difference to identity; (ii) the overlapping relation for divergence from an identity; and (iii) the synthetic judgment for gradual generatic relation. The logical relation of continuous succession and its importance for the construction of scientific system, as put forward here in this and in the succeeding sections, is a crucial point that has been often neglected, even within the Western intellectual community. For that matter, the multipliticity and manifoldness of the scientific systems have inspired the pathos as follows:

Boundless rivers and mountains

Contend to dazzle our eyes;

While boisterous winds and rains

Rush unto the towers crosswise.

(4) In the establishment of scientific systems, the first part is based on the facts as premise, of the rest; at various levels each results in a conclusion derived from several kinds of logical relation as stated above, which include a series of logical inferences in the form of "Given A, and A implies B, then B can be affirmed. Next, given B, and B implies C, then C can be established. Moreover, given C, and C implies D, then also D can be established. . . ," and so on, ad infinitum. So long as the logical relation continues and the methodological procedure is correct, we will then be able to obtain an open-ended scientific system. I call this system open because, no matter how complicated the universe may be, so long as there are some kindred systems expressive of some kindred structures—except the large system J—we may apply the same method to establish J1, J2, J3, . . . Jn as kindred systems. If, with all of them put in extaposition, we can apply the foregoing method to build upward, level after level, it is not difficult to obtain infinitely boundless systems. For all this, ilustrations pervade the history of scientific development—too ample to be enumerated here.

(5) This kind of open system results from the logical inferences of the linear progression type; we may call it the system of linear progression or, simply, the linear system. It includes many, indeed even infinite, orders, each of which can be explicated with a certain kind of logical language. The language on the first order may be called the factual language (die tatsachliche Sprache) or language of "matter of fact"; that on the second order, the conceptual language (die begriffliche Sprache); and that on the third order, generally the language of lawfulness (die gesetzmassige Sprache), which can be further diferentiated into the first, the second, the third, . . . and the nth orders. If all such kinds of language can be employed appropriately, that is to say, by strictly observing the world-spheres and the system-orders, their meanings can be rendered thoroughly explicit and intelligible. Sometimes, languages on different orders can be translated in terms of one another but, owing to the overlapping relation at each level, ambiguity may occur—occasionally—in the course of intertranslation. But such an ambiguity is avoidable if we can keep a clear understanding as to each of the differentiating constituents concerned.

(6) If, with a good command of so complicated a linguistic apparatus, we can depict the realities of those scientific worlds and explicate the contents of those scientifc systems, we may then obtain various kinds of differentiated truths. All of them have only relativity, not absoluteness, for the reason that the scientific worlds are open worlds and the scientific systems, open systems. We cannot wall them with iron and bronze, nor encircle them, block them, turn them into closed prisons. The factual language can only express the existence or non-existence of things, instead of truth. The speech about the non-existent things is pseudo-speech, simply nonsensical; the speech about the existent things is genuine speech, hence meaningful. Truth begins with the conceptual language. Based on identity without difference, the conceptual language has already exceeded the scope of things themselves; it has created another system, a system of of meaning, whose one-to-one correspondence with things in structure is called truth. But this kind of truth is made possible directly by the selective process of abstraction; as partial representations of the totality of things, it can only form the analytic truth. (different from the analytic truth in the Leibnizean sense as obtained through the analytic judgment on the principle of contradiction.) What is expressed by the language of lawfulness at various levels, for reasons stated above, must be established through the synthetic judgment for elevation into the superstructure of systems; it may be called the synthetic truth. This kind of truth, having exceeded the scope of what is originally warranted by the premise, can only make truths that are probable, not necessary, in character. As said above, it is precisely for this reason that truths attained in the open system of science have only relativity, not absoluteness.

(7) For reasons stated in (3), (4) and (6), we are fully aware that a serious difficulty is implied in the procedure for constructing scientific systems. Although, by following the logical inferences consistently, we can proceed smooth-ly to treat all phenomena of the scientific world by identity without difference, divergence from an identity, and synthetic unity through interfusion, for the construction of open systems, it is necessary that in each stage of crucial importance we sum up the grounds in the preceeding stages to make more extensive generalizationas. Since such extensive generalizations have, in truth-values, all exceeded the scope of grounds as originally available, what after all is their warrantry as justifying ground?

To this question we have six answers, as follows: (i) Since the scientific world is originally a relational structure of rational coherence, it follows therefore that, by abiding by reason, naturally we can discover the structure of extensive continuum, and hence there is no need for any further ado to look extraneously for the synthesis of judgments in the mind. This is Whitehead’s position as well as H. Weyl’s. (ii) Hume, Jevons, etc. apply the inductive principle to warrant the validity of synthetic judgements. (iii) Hans Reichenbach in his book Experience and Prediction simply turns this theoretical difficulty to wagering; apart from wagering, he argues, there is no better way out as solution. (iv) Most logicians submit it to the logic of probability for exact calculation and decide thereupon its varying possibilities as success or failure. (v) H. Poincare resorts to the principle of mathematical induction for justification of the validity of general conclusions and synthetic judgments. (vi) Kant sees more clearly that this difficulty is incapable of any fundamental solution in terms of the systems of scientific theories per se; he finally appeals to the unity of apperception of the transcendental ego, so as to be able to prove: How are the synthetic judgments made possible? and why can they reach the things as objective certainty? Actually, [Kant tells us], it is because all these are determined by the lawfulness a priori of the transcendental ego. [to be continued.]