The Struggle for Recognition : On Animal Rights — part nine
‘The Notion of this individuality, which as such knows itself to be all reality, is to begin with a result: it has not yet set forth its movement and reality, and is posited here immediately as a simple in-itself or implicit being. Negativity, however, which is the same as that which is manifested as movement, is present in the simple in-itself as a determinateness; and [mere] being, or the simple in-itself, becomes a definite range of being. Accordingly, individuality appears on the scene as an original determinate nature: original, for it is implicit; originally determinate, for the negative moment is present in the in-itself and this latter is thus a quality. This limitation of being, however, cannot limit the action of consciousness, for here consciousness is a relation purely of itself to itself: relation to an other, which would he a limitation of it, has been eliminated. The original determinateness of the nature is, therefore, only a simple principle, a transparent universal element, in which the individuality remains as free and self-identical as it is unimpeded in unfolding its different moments, and in its realization is simply in a reciprocal relation with itself; just as in the case of indeterminate animal life, which breathes the breath of life, let us say, into the element of water, or air or earth, and within these again into more specific principles, steeping its entire nature in them, and yet keeping that nature under its own control, and preserving itself as a unity, in spite of the limitation imposed by the element, and remaining in the form of this particular organization the same general animal life’.
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770–1841), ‘The spiritual animal kingdom and deceit, or the ‘matter in hand’ itself’, in the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
Das geistige Tierreich. The spiritual animal kingdom. All the different varieties of animal life, all with their own distinct qualities and their connection with each other. Living organic things have a kind of inconsequentiality considered as an abstract reality whereby their individuality is without content and in need of filling in, as it endeavours to make sense of itself through action, it finds a way to comport itself in its behaviour, hence the spiritual animal kingdom is part of the section ‘Individuality which takes itself to be real in and for itself’, wherein is presented a theory of action:
‘Action is in its own self its truth and reality, and individuality in its setting-forth or expression is, in relation to action, the End in and for itself’.
‘Consciousness must act merely in order that what it is in itself may become explicit for it; in other words, action is simply the coming-to-be of Spirit as consciousness. What the latter is in itself, it knows therefore from what it actually is. Accordingly, an individual cannot know what he [really] is until he has made himself a reality through action. However, this seems to imply that he cannot determine the End of his action until he has carried it out; but at the same time, since he is a conscious individual, he must have the action in front of him beforehand as entirely his own, i.e. as an End’.
- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
As concrete individuals we have our own original natures, our specific talents, and intentions, we find out who we are through our particular actions, though this is not the final word in the matter of action and ends, one must avoid getting stuck at any particular stage of the dialectic, but powers, gifts, capacities, talents, predispositions, what we bring into the world, our original determinate nature with its particular tinge of Spirit, swimming in Spirit like a fish swimming in water unaware of the water, and there is a circularity about our actions for we are never always sure what we are trying to express, for our original determinate nature, our character, our talents, and so on, we have to find all of that out through actually acting, through doing something, and that is how I turn myself into something that matters. Swimming in Spirit maybe but without floundering around in empty thoughts and ends, I attain practical rationality whereby my original nature connects to my ends. I only get to know my original nature upon its being made into reality but there is a circularity in finding out what the end is through action. If I were to remain in the realm of thought nothing would ever get done but I do act while finding out my ends while working them out. One thinks of Martin Heidegger’s, (1889–1976), thrownness to describe an individual’s existence as being thrown into the world but as always Hegel got there first and went in more deeply. I am here, I start doing things, I discover myself while moving on, I am not abstractly motivated, I am thrown into situations and what I reflect is my original determinate nature, I am interested in some things and not others, bears are interested in anything that smells, wildebeests yearn for green grass, vampire bats drink blood from cattle and horses, we all display what is most central in our particular existences and talent is an inner means, the way we can go through action to the end and to create something, coming to be as Spirit, and action is more than we take it to be, we do not as fully conscious beings much of the time fully understand the meaning or significance of our own action while we are carrying it out.
The spiritual animal kingdom follows on from the section ‘Actualisation of Self-Consciousness with Virtue and the Way of the World’ wherein Hegel characterises virtue as an empty notion without any palpable worth. See my articles The Cult of Virtue — parts one to four. The virtuous person conceals him or herself behind a veil of reserve belief putatively to be the conclusive and decisive ordnance against the way of the world but it transpires that the way of the world is not grim as the virtuous took it to be and expounding upon notions such as the true, the good, the noble, is inefficacious when it comes to their actualisation. As it happens the way of the world has already incorporated them within the ethical substance for the virtuous consciousness to conceive of them to begin with and original determinate nature and negativity having accepted that the way of the world is not as dire as consciousness first made it up to be consciousness now attains awareness that its own individuality is expressed through its own actions which utilise its own universal capacities, that is to say, talents, skills, capabilities, and in acting individuals assert their individualities upon each other which might well be deleterious on occasion but such an interplay of individualities allows for the expression of freedom nevertheless. But quite how individuality is expressed through one’s actions is a curious matter and we must delve deep into the dynamics of action. Consciousness no longer sees itself as opposed to the external world as it had been from the beginning of sense-certainty and accepts the ethical substance to be its work space that permits its ends and intrinsic being to be equated as its being-for-another and reality, or to put it another way, the objective of consciousness becomes to make an impact upon others through its actions that are determined through its own being:
‘The element in which individuality sets forth its shape has the significance solely of putting on the shape of individuality; it is the daylight in which consciousness wants to display itself. Action alters nothing and opposes nothing. It is the pure form of a transition from a state of not being seen to one of being seen, and·· the content which is brought out into the daylight and displayed, is nothing else but what this action already is in itself. It is implicit: this is its form as a unity in thought; and it is actual-this is its form as an existent unity. Action itself is a content only when, in this determination of simplicity, it is contrasted with its character as a transition and movement’.
- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
Action is the pure expression of individuality which may be contrasted with the purely abstract notion of individuality as characterised by negativity, that is, the continual occurrences of changes that threatens the original determinate nature of consciousness, which is to say, the very core of oneself, that which makes you you but for now there is another transformation whereby negativity is no longer perceived as destabilising and malignant but rather as part of the original determinate nature and change allows the individual to express its own individuality and one must take it in ones arms willingly in order to act:
‘What we have, therefore, is a set of given circumstances which are in themselves the individual’s own original nature; next, the interest which treats them as its own or as its End; and finally, the union [of these] and the abolition of the anti thesis in the means. This union itself still falls within consciousness and the whole just considered is one side of an antithesis. This illusory appearance of an antithesis which still remains, is removed by the transition or the means; for the means is a unity of inner and outer, the antithesis of the specific character it has as an inner means. It therefore rids itself of that character and posits itself-this unity of action and being-equally as an outer, as an individuality that has itself become a reality, i.e. an individuality which is posited for individuality itself as [ objectively] existent. In this way, the entire action does not go outside itself, either as circumstances, or as End, or means, or as a work done’.
- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
In work the original determinate nature of the individual is compromised and yet at the same time this trade-off allows for the original determinate nature to be expressed into actuality by way of actions and only those aspects that are effectively expressed into action can be actually affecting the world and others, therefore if only what is expressed in action is deemed as significant then we must say that the individual is exactly what he or she does, what choices that a person makes and what actions he or she takes in accordance to the choice is what makes him or her him or her and the original determinate nature as a consequence fades into the background. And with the original determinate nature no longer in the limelight nature and action is centre stage an unusual reactive occurrence impacts upon consciousness, for the individual is precisely what he or she does, the individual merely an aggregation of his or her physical expressions, shades of Jean-Paul Sartre, (1905–1980), but as always Hegel got there first. What an individual is becomes subjected to what others make of his or her actions and upon an outcome being made apparent from one’s original determinate nature it becomes apparent for all, and to put it in more concrete terms whatever consciousness intends to do or schemes in carrying out matters not so much, rather in actuality it is the finished output that matters.
However, upon one’s actions becoming the single authority of one’s personality and whatever has been going on inside him or her is overlooked then alienation looms between what we are and what we do. Consciousness perceives the divide between its original determinate nature and actuality whereby the latter assumes the burden of significance more so than the former and yet this is so since we are using the perspectives of other people external to the original nature of the individual, and what is in the mind of the one acting? Intuitively the one acting will respond that the success or otherwise of his or her actions are contingent to his or her situation and circumstances and what truly matters is what gives rise to the actions in the first place, that is, the original determinate nature, round and round we go in circle, and from the point of view of consciousness for so long as it appeared to be endeavouring to act and to engage in the world the success or failure of its actions are not so important, not as much as takes encouragement from the fact that at least it tried to do something.
‘This vanishing of the vanishing lies in the Notion of the intrinsically real individuality itself; for that in which the work vanishes or what vanishes in the work, and what was supposed to give experience, as it was called, its supremacy over individuality’s own Notion of itself, is the objective reality. Objective reality, however, is a moment which itself no longer possesses any truth on its own account in this consciousness; that truth consists solely in the unity of this consciousness with the action, and the true work is only that unity of doing and being, of willing and achieving. Consciousness, then, because of the fundamental certainty of its actions, holds the reality opposed to that certainty to be for it alone; for self-consciousness which has returned into itself, and for which all antithesis has vanished, antithesis can no longer take this form of being-for-itself in antithesis to reality. On the contrary, then, the antithesis and the negativity manifested in work affect not merely the content of the work or the content of consciousness as well, but affect the reality as such, and hence affect the antithesis present in that reality, and present only in virtue of it, and the vanishing of the work. In this way, then, consciousness is reflected out of its perishable work into itself, and preserves its Notion and its certainty as what objectively exists and endures in face of the experience of the contingency of action. It experiences in point of fact its Notion, in which reality is only a moment, i.e. something for consciousness, not something which exists in its own right; it experiences it as a vanishing moment, and reality therefore has for consciousness only the value of being as such, whose universality is one with action. This unity is the true work; it is the very heart of the matter [die Sache selbst] which completely holds its own and is experienced as that which endures, independently of what is merely the contingent result of an individual action, tlle result of contingent circumstances, means, and reality’.
- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
The heart of the matter, or the matter in hand, die Sache selbst, the core of the issue, what is upon my hands, the unity of the individuals purpose and its consequent realisation through action, albeit at this point in the text the matter-in-hand remains abstract, it has not yet been discovered precisely what allows for the unity of the purpose and action of the individual who confronts alienation within him or herself. But for me right now the heart of the matter is championing animal rights. But where does the deceit come into it? ‘The spiritual animal kingdom and deceit, or the ‘matter in hand’ itself’. I will get to that, it is certainly something to take on board if you are campaigning for animal rights, as I am albeit my activism primarily takes the form of a vegetarian diet and writing articles like this one.
As I discussed in the last part normative evaluations are applicable to human and non-human animal which can be understood through the generic or genus process [Gattungsprozess]. The reasons that explain why things are as they are and do what are always to be found in immanent concepts [Begriffe] akin to immanent universals or kinds [Gattungen]. The world has the structure of thought and ‘reason is in the world conveys exactly what is contained in the expression ‘objective thought’’ said Hegel. Similarly, reality is structured by concepts of explanatory in the sense of explanatory kinds or universals and the logic of these thoughts is a consideration of forms of reason in the world. And how we can know about whether there is or is not an immanent concept in any given case is that we learn about universal laws and kinds or concepts by means of further thinking over empirical observations and experiments. Somewhat akin to the inference to the best explanation whereby we observe a repeating pattern in the positions of the planets and similar motions of moons and thinking about the pattern allows us to infer the reasons for it, that is to say, universal laws governing the motion of material bodies. And so:
‘The relationship of forms such as concept, judgment, and syllogism to others like causality, etc., can only establish itself within the Logic itself. But one can see already, though only in a preliminary way, that, since thought seeks to form a concept of things, this concept (along with judgment and syllogism as its most immediate forms) cannot consist in determinations and relationships that are alien and external to the things. As we said above, thinking things over leads to what is universal in them; but the universal is itself one of the moments of the Concept. To say that there is understanding, or reason, in the world is exactly what is contained in the expression ‘objective thought’. But this expression is inconvenient precisely because ‘thought’ is all too commonly used as if it belonged only to spirit, or consciousness, while ‘objective’ is used primarily just with reference to what is unspiritual’.
- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’
‘When thinking is taken as active with regard to objects, as the thinking-over of something, then the universal — as the product of this activity — contains the value of the matter, what is essential, inner, true’.
‘What is sensible is something singular and transitory; it is by thinking about it that we get to know what persists in it. Nature offers us an infinite mass of singular shapes and appearances. We feel the need to bring unity into this manifold; therefore, we compare them and seek to [re]cognise what is universal in each of them. Individuals are born and pass away; in them their kind [Gattung] is what abides, what recurs in all of them; and it is only present for us when we think about them. This is where laws, e. g., the laws of the motion of heavenly bodies, belong too. We see the stars in one place today and in another tomorrow; this disorder is for the spirit something incongruous, and not to be trusted, since the spirit believes in an order, a simple, constant, and universal determination [of things] . This is the faith in which the spirit has directed its [reflective] thinking upon the phenomena, and has come to know their laws, establishing the motion of the heavenly bodies in a universal manner, so that every change of position can be determined and [re]cognised on the basis of this law.-It is the same with regard to the powers that govern human action in its infinite diversity’.
- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’
Hegel’s three-part analysis of life consists of the living individual, the life process, and kind [Gattung], three requirements demanding something that is organized to preserve itself through the activities of necessary assimilation and reproduction. The parts have to be arranged in a way that benefits the whole and since the whole is made of the parts the parts are reciprocally and Hegel’s concept of life demands that a complex system itself can be so benefited in part because it needs something from the outside environment in order to preserve itself. For the living being, there must be an ‘otherness confronting it’ and ‘[i]ts impulse is the need to sublate this otherness’. It ‘preserves, develops, and objectifies itself in this process’. Furthermore, Hegel’s concept of life requires mortal individuals reproducing within a species, it requires the Gattungsprozess, for anything answering to Hegel’s concept must also be organized in a manner that allows self-preservation, not only in the sense of the assimilation that preserves the individual but also in the sense of the reproduction that preserves the species, kind, or Gattung, (genus, though perhaps that translation suggests there has to be a perfectly rational hierarchical classification system but Hegel’s analysis does not require and elsewhere he says biology does not allow ‘an independent, rational system of organization’. Gattung is to be understood in terms of reproduction so species and kind stress the relationship to lawful natural kinds).
Gattungsprozess features within the debate on biological functions in the philosophy of biology and some principal differences Hegel identifies between animal and vegetable organisms may implicate some plants as being normatively evaluable and others not. Sebastian Rand contends that animal organisms are not normatively evaluable according to some species-specific standard. Mark Alznauer contends that both plants and animals are evaluable in that manner though does not go into the role played by Gattungsprozess in Hegel’s account of animal organisms and their normative evaluability.
What is the meaning or content of evaluative judgments or judgments of the concept as Hegel designates them? Judgments that assume the form ‘x is good’, ‘x is as it ought to be’, or, contrariwise, ‘x is defective’, ‘there is something wrong with x’, ‘x is not as it ought to be’. What makes animal organisms as opposed to inorganic nature fitting subjects of normative evaluation ? What makes it the case that ‘this wildebeest’, ‘that beaver ’, ‘this human’, but not ‘this stone’ or ‘that leaf’, can feature in the ‘x’ position of judgments of the sort ‘x is as it ought to be’ and ‘x is defective’? What is meant by the judgments ‘there is something wrong with this ocelot’, ‘this rat is as it ought to be’, ‘this zebra is defective’ and and so on? In presenting an account of a certain type of judgment, that is to say, judgments of the concept, Hegel is not simply giving an account of our evaluative attitudes towards or subjective take upon the world which may well possess or be without the normative features we project onto it. Rather, Hegel’s account of judgments of the concept is meant to describe features and especially normative properties like goodness and badness that the subjects of those judgments can have independently of our subjective states or representations, and value in general is not a merely subjective projection on our or any other valuing entity’s part, which is to say, certain things would be good or bad, normatively sound or defective, even were creatures capable of using evaluative language never to have evolved (this will prove important in the case for establishing animal rights in case you think I am wandering off topic, again).
Hegelian anti-subjectivism is evident in his discussion of judgments evaluative or otherwise in the ‘Encyclopaedia Logic:
‘… the germ of a plant, for instance, already contains the particular: root, branches, leaves, etc., but the particular is here present only in-itself, and is posited only when the germ opens up; this unclosing should be regarded as the judgment of the plant. Consequently, the same example can also serve to make it obvious that neither the Concept nor the judgment is found only in our heads and that they are not merely formed by us. The Concept dwells within the things themselves, it is that through which they are what they are, and to comprehend an object means therefore to become conscious of its concept. If we advance from this to the judging of the object, the judgment is not our subjective doing, by which this or that predicate is ascribed to the object; on the contrary, we are considering the object in the determinacy that is posited by its concept’.
- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’
‘The judgment is usually taken in a subjective sense, as an operation and a form, which occurs only in thinking that is conscious of itself. But this distinction is not yet present in the logical [realm]; [here] the judgment is to be taken as entirely universal: every thing is a judgment.- That is, every thing is a singular which is inwardly a universality or inner nature, in other words, a universal that is made singular; universality and singularity distinguish themselves [from each other] within it, but at the same time they are identical’.
- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’
Hegel sets his account of judgments against the traditional or normal view whereby judgments are a subjective doing or a psychic operation in which some predicate or universal representation is ascribed to the object, hence in saying that every thing is a singular which is inwardly a universality we are to understand universality to be describing a facet of particular subjective representations which is to say concepts as they are usually taken that are predicated in some psychic operation of an object. Every thing is a judgment, every thing is a singular which is inwardly a universality or inner nature, every object or thing that is, every singular carries particular attributes or universals that together express that thing’s inner nature. That a singular carries some attribute or universal might or might not be registered by a subjective doing which is to say by a judgment as these are usually taken’. And such general considerations about judgments apply to evaluative judgments in particular too, the making of an evaluative judgment understood as a psychic operation is not primarily or merely the attribution to an object some subjective representation, that is to say, a predicate such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is to register that some object, thing or singular carries some attribute or universal, in this instance, a normative attribute. That some object carries a normative attribute, for instance goodness, might be but is not dependent upon its being registered by a subjective doing or psychic operation on the part of a subject.
Next, truth, as the correspondence of object and concept, within such an anti-subjectivist framework what of evaluative judgments or judgments of the concept. Some of the instances of judgments of the concept that Hegel provides are ‘This house is bad’, ‘This action is good’, ‘This body is diseased’, ‘A certain work of art is beautiful’. What characterizes judgments like these? The most general feature of these sorts of evaluative statements is that they can contain truth or have a content that is true or untrue, as the case may be, and the precise sense in which evaluative judgments can contain truth can be explicated in terms of a contract between truth and correctness [Richtigkeit]’:
‘It is one of the most fundamental logical prejudices that qualitative judgments such as: ‘The rose is red’, or: ‘is not red’, can contain truth. Correct they may be, but only in the restricted confines of perception, finite representation, and thinking; this depends on the content which is just as finite, and untrue on its own account. But the truth rests only on the form, i. e., on the posited Concept and the reality that corresponds to it; truth of this kind is not present in the qualitative judgment, however’.
‘Addition. In ordinary life correctness and truth are very often considered to be synonymous, and hence we often speak of the truth of a content when it is a matter of mere correctness. In general, correctness is only a matter of the formal agreement of our representation with its content, whatever kind this content may otherwise be. Truth, on the contrary, consists in the agreement of the object with itself, i. e., with its concept. It may certainly be correct that someone is ill, or has stolen something; but a content like this is not ‘true’, for an ill body is not in agreement with the concept of life, and similarly theft is an action that does not correspond to the concept of human action. From these examples it may be gathered that, no matter how correct it may be, an immediate judgment, in which an abstract quality is asserted of something immediately singular, simply cannot contain any truth; for subject and predicate do not stand to one another here in the relationship of reality and concept’.
- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’
Correctness consists in the formal agreement of our representation with its content. The judgment ‘The rose is red’ will be correct just in case our representation expressed in that judgment agrees with its content, that is, just in case the rose that judgment is about is indeed red. Truth, for its part, consists in the agreement of the object with itself, i.e. with its concept, which is to say an object, (a house, living body, an action, a work of art), counts as true just in case it satisfies certain criteria that define the concept, kind or type to which the object belongs. In the course of Hegel’s treatment of judgments of the concept he develops these thoughts on truth and correctness further in a section titled ‘The Idea’:
‘The Idea is what is true in and for itself, the absolute unity of Concept and objectivity. Its ideal content is nothing but the Concept in its determinations; its real content is only the presentation that the Concept gives itself in the form of external thereness; and since this figure is included in the ideality of the Concept, or in its might, the Concept preserves itself in it. The definition of the Absolute as the Idea is now itself absolute. All definitions given previously return into this one.-The Idea is the Tru th; for truth means that objectivity corresponds with the Concept — not that external things correspond with my representations (representations of this kind are just correct representations held by me as this [individual] ). In the Idea we are not dealing with this or that-be it representations, or external things. And-yet again, everything that is actual is the Idea inasmuch as it is something-true, and it has its truth only through the Idea and in virtue of it. The singular being is some side or other of the Idea; that is why other actualities were needed for it-actualities which likewise appear to subsist distinctly on their own account. It is only in all of them together and in their relation that the Concept is realised. By itself the singular does not correspond to its concept; this restrictedness of its way of being constitutes its finitude and its fall’.
Truth means that objectivity corresponds with the concept not that external things correspond with my representations (representations of this kind are just correct representations held by me as this individual. Elsewhere, Hegel refers to correctness as subjective truth and contrasts it to objective truth, for instance:
‘If subjective truth is the correspondence between representation and object, objective truth is the correspondence of the object, of the fact, with itself, so that its reality is in conformity with its concept’
- ‘Philosophy of Nature’
Such usage of truth or objective truth albeit technical is echoed in ordinary English and German when for instance someone is a good or true friend or that some piece is a true work of art, and Hegel himself notes the similarity with the ordinary usage:
‘Truth is understood first to mean that I know how something is. But this is truth only in relation to consciousness; it is formal truth, mere correctness. In contrast with this, truth in the deeper sense means that objectivity is identical with the Concept. It is this deeper sense of truth which is at issue when we speak, for instance, of a ‘true’ State or a ‘true’ work of art. These objects are ‘true’ when they are what they ought to be, i. e., when their reality corresponds to their concept. Interpreted in this way, the ‘untrue’ is the same as what is sometimes also called the ‘bad’. A bad man is one who is ‘untrue’, i. e., one who does not behave in accord with his concept or his destination. But without any identity at all between Concept and reality nothing can subsist. Even what is bad and untrue can only be because its reality conforms to some extent with its Concept. Precisely for this reason, what is thoroughly bad or contrary to its concept disintegrates inwardly. It is by virtue of the Concept alone that things in the world have their own standing — or, to use the language of religious representation, things are what they are only because of the divine and hence creative thought that dwells within them.
- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’
Houses for instance are the type of things whose function or end is to provide shelter to its inhabitants and a bad house will be bad or untrue in that it fails to meet criteria that characterize houses as members of the function kind to which they belong, for instance, by having thin walls, leaks in the ceilings or being otherwise badly insulated. Artefacts like houses are internally evaluable as good or true in the light of their satisfaction of features that characterize the functional kind to which they belong, the function that defines the kind or concept in question guides the activity of the producer who if successful bestows a shape and arrangement on the artefact parts that render the whole true. Apart from the producer’s activity, however, the components of a house, for instance, stones, planks of wood, and so on, can serve any number of purposes other than that of providing shelter and his is not so in the case of animal organisms, the causal structure of an animal organism is not the result of some external purpose, and the shape and arrangement of its components does not depend upon the conscious activity of a creator. As for the difference between artefacts and living organisms:
‘The particular parts of a house, for example, the individual stones, windows, etc., remain the same, whether they together form a house or not; their association is indifferent to them and the Concept remains for them a purely external form which does not live in the real parts in order to raise them to the ideality of a subjective unity. The members of an organism, on the other hand, do likewise possess external reality, yet so strongly is the Concept their own indwelling essence that it is not impressed on them as a form merely uniting them externally ; on the contrary, it is their sole sustainer. For this reason the members do not have the sort of reality possessed by the stones of a building or the planets, moons, comets in the planetary system ; what they do have is an existence posited as ideal within the organism, despite all their reality. For example, a hand, if severed, loses its independent subsistence; it does not remain what it was in the organism ; its mobility, agility, shape, colour, etc., are changed; indeed it decomposes and perishes altogether. It was sustained in existence only as a member of an organism, and had reality only as continually brought back into the ideal unity. Herein consists the higher mode of reality within the living organism; the real, the positive, is continually posited negatively and as ideal, while this ideality is at once precisely the maintenance of the real differences and the element in which they are sustained’.
- ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’·
Truth understood as the correspondence of an object with its concept or of a thing with its kind or nature is the most general concept of normative appraisal, which encompasses the more specific terms mentioned in the examples of judgments of the concept above, good, healthy, just or beautiful. Judgments of the concept characterize a thing or object as good or healthy, just, beautiful or, in general, true in the light of its satisfaction of criteria that define the kind or concept to which the thing belongs. As Hegel puts it:
‘To know how to form judgments of existence, such as ‘the rose is red’, ‘the snow is white’, etc., hardly counts as a sign of great power of judgment. The judgments of reflection are more in the nature of propositions; to be sure, in the judgment of necessity the subject matter is present in its objective universality, but it is only in the judgment now to be considered that its connection with the concept is to be found. The concept is at the basis of this judgment, and it is there with reference to the subject matter, as an ought to which reality may or may not conform. — This is the judgment, therefore, that first contains true adjudication; the predicates, ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘true’, ‘right’, etc., express that the fact is measured against the concept as an ought which is simply presupposed, and is, or is not, in agreement with it’.
- ‘Science of Logic’
Such an account of truth and judgments of the concept implicate the concept or kind to which a thing belongs serving as an ought, a normative standard or rule against which that thing is compared and accordingly judged to be good or bad. as for the concept of (objective) truth the bearers of truth are material things, a house, a work of art, a living body, albeit there are at least two other Hegelian usages of the concept of truth on which this is not the case. According to the first such usage the bearers of truth are pure concepts, categories or thought-determination: A ‘thought-determination is true just in case it ‘agree[s] […] with itself ‘ whereby this agreement is now not a matter of conformity between an object and its concept but consists in the absence of contradiction within the thought-determination or category itself, an absence exemplified only by the final thought-determination Hegel considers in the ‘Science of Logic’, the Absolute Idea. The second other usage of the concept of truth is pervasive throughout Hegel’s body of work, for instance: ‘becoming is the truth of being and nothing’ and ‘the truth of consciousness is self-consciousness’ and ‘ethical life is the truth of subjective and objective spirit itself ‘. So statements of this form ‘X is the truth of Y’ means that Y is somehow incomplete without X or that X is necessary for Y.
In the judgment of the concept the concept is laid down as the basis, it is an ought to which the reality may or may not be adequate, hence normative evaluation is internal or immanent in that it proceeds in accordance with criteria that are the object’s own qua member of its kind and not in accordance with some external standard, including our or any other valuing creatures’ interests or attitudes. Furthermore, a thing be it a house, action, living body or artwork can be bad or untrue and so fail to correspond to the concept to which it nevertheless belongs, without ceasing to exist altogether. In as much as it does not agree with, or correspond to, its own concept, a thing fails to agree with itself or exists in contradiction. So what of normative evaluation as it applies to animal organisms? A propos truth and normativity, in what sense is the normative evaluation of animal organisms internal or immanent? How can an animal organism continue to exist as a member of its kind while failing to correspond to the concept or kind to which it belongs? In what sense that is to say can animals endure contradiction?
And so to formation, assimilation, reproduction and the making of animal organisms as appropriate subjects of normative evaluation. Hegel resents a general account of animal life in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’, see the previous part of this series, wherein Hegel characterizes animals by their teleological structure and their membership in a species via reproduction, the genus process. Very generally animals are complex causal systems whose parts and whole are reciprocally determined, in particular, each, parts and whole, are simultaneously cause and effect:
‘As animal life is its own product and purpose, it is simultaneously both end and means’.
- ‘Philosophy of Nature’
The individual parts of an animal organism for instance its liver or heart are causally dependent upon other individual parts and ultimately upon the organism as a whole for their proper functioning. Animal life is thus a means to the proper functioning of its parts but animal life is also an end, the individual parts are also causally responsible for the subsistence of the whole, for instance, by cleansing our blood our liver causally contributes to the survival of the human organism to which it belongs. Most assuredly not only animal but also vegetable organisms appear to exhibit this two-way causal structure as plants and their parts seem to be simultaneously cause and effect, or means and end. Hence it is worth considering what status Hegel awards plants vis-à-vis animals. The principle difference between plants and animals is that first plant parts can often subsist apart from the whole to which they originally belong and sedond the causal role of some part within the whole can frequently be carried out by other parts thereby guaranteeing the continued existence of the whole:
‘The subjectivity by which organic being has singularity develops into an objective organism in the shape of a body, which articulates itself into mutually distinct parts. In the plant, which is merely subjective animation in its primary immediacy, the objective organism and its subjectivity are still immediately identical. Consequendy, the process whereby vegetable subjectivity articulates and sustains itself, is one in which it comes forth from itself, and falls apart into several individuals. The singleness of the whole individual is simply the basis of these, rather than a subjective unity of members; the part-bud, branch, and so on, is also the whole plant. A further consequence is that the differentiation of the organic parts is merely a superficial metamorphosis, and that one part can easily assume the function of the other’.
- ‘Philosophy of Nature’
Hegel makes the first point also in the introduction to the ‘Organics’ section:
‘… the main determination of the plant consists in its differentiating itself from itself in a merely formal manner, and only in this way maintaining its self-identity. It unfolds its parts, but as these parts, which are its members, are essentially the whole of the subject, it is not differentiated any further. Its leaves, roots, and stalk are also merely individuals. The real being which the plant produces in order to maintain itself is merely the complete equivalent of itself, so it also forms no proper members. Consequently, each plant is merely an infinite number of subjects, and the connection whereby these subjects appear as a single subject, is merely superficial. The plant is unable to maintain its power over its members, for they detach themselves from it and become independent. The innocence of the plant is also an expression of the impotence which results from its relating itself to inorganic being, where at the same time its members become other individuals. This second kingdom is the realm of water and of neutrality’.
- ‘Philosophy of Nature’
From these two points it follows that at least some vegetable organisms are in fact not teleological systems in the sense defined, that is to say, they are not such that their parts are causally dependent upon the whole and vice versa. From the first poing it follows that some plant parts do not causally depend on the whole, from the second point it follows that some plant wholes do not causally depend upon any of their specific parts since one part can easily assume the function of the other. In as much as this account of the normative evaluability of animal organisms relies upon their teleological organization it follows from these two points that not all plant specimens are susceptible of evaluation as normatively sound or defective, consequently it is an error to group together plants and animals and contend that they are both similarly evaluable or unfit to be subjects of normative evaluation.
According to Alison Stone:
‘[T]he entire set of functions specified by the whole is in principle performed by each part [of the plant]. It may seem that the parts of plants are functionally differentiated: leaves absorb light, roots absorb moisture, stems distribute water and sap, and so on. But each part can, if cut from the whole, take on any of the other functions and undergo a transformation in its material structure to support this. Branches, for instance, can be cut off and planted to become roots from which new plants grow’.
- ‘Nature, Ethics and Gender in German Romanticism and Idealism’
Recall the two differences between plants and animals, plant parts can often subsist apart from the whole to which they originally belong, and the causal role of some part within the whole can frequently be carried out by other parts, thereby guaranteeing the continued existence of the whole. Here the suggestion is that all and only vegetable organisms are such that any one of their parts can perform the role of any other and that any part of the organism can continue to exist independently upon being separated from the whole but the question arises as to whether or not all plant parts are capable of this feat while some parts of some animals flatworms for instance are, which is to say that the difference between plants and animals is not a hard and fast one.
In addition to characterizing them in general terms as teleological systems animal organisms can be described in terms of three specific end-directed processes or operations. First, the shape process or formation process [Gestaltungsprozess], second, the assimilation process, and third the generic process or genus process [Gattungsprozess]. All animals are subject to these three kinds of processes, a triad of processes that may be described as follows:
‘Animation is a process, and to the same extent as it is singleness, this process has to explicate itself into the triad of processes’.
‘Addition. The process of the plant falls into three syllogisms. As has already been indicated, the first of these is the universal process, the process of the vegetable organism within itself, the relation of the individual to itself. In this process, which is that of formation, the individual destroys itself, converts itself into its inorganic nature, and by means of this destruction, brings itself forth from itself. In the second process, living being does not contain its other, but faces it as an external independence; it does not constitute its own inorganic nature, but meets it as an object, which it encounters through an apparent contingency. This is the process which is specified in the face of an external nature. The third process is that of the genus, and unites the first two. This is the process of the individuals with themselves as genus, or the production and preservation of the genus. In it, the genus is preserved by the destruction of individuals, as the production of another individual. Inorganic nature consists here of the individual itself, while the nature of the individual is its genus. This genus is also distinct from the individual however, and constitutes its objective nature. In the plant, these processes coincide, and are not so distinct as they are in the animal. It is precisely this which constitutes the difficulty one encounters in expounding the nature of the vegetable organism’.
- ‘Philosophy of Nature’
The first, shape process consists of the set of operations of the nervous and other physiological systems of the animal organism, more generally the shape process is that process or set of processes whereby the animal relates to its own body parts and operations, without consideration of these parts’ interaction with the animal’s external surroundings. The first process is that of the vegetable organism within itself, the relation of the individual to itself, the second, assimilation process is comprised of both the theoretical operations operations (sensations) and the practical operations (for instance, breathing or nourishment) whereby the animal relates to its external surroundings. In this second process the organism is considered as idea which relates itself to its other, its inorganic nature, and finally, the Gattungsprozess consists at least in part in the production by some exemplars of an animal species of other specimens of the same sort or with the same structure. This third process represents the unity of the previous two in that the animal relates to an other which is itself a living individual, and thereby relates itself to itself in the other. So, the animal may be characterised thus. Animals are causal systems that are teleologically structured, both internally or physiologically and (externally or in their relations to the environment, so as to guarantee their own survival or individual preservation as well as their reproduction or the preservation of the species.
And so to normativity, teleology and the Gattungsprozess. Sebastian Rand contends that animal organisms are not appropriate subjects of evaluative judgments or judgments of the concept because:
‘When considering non-evaluative judgments, [Hegel] routinely uses examples from organic (and also from inorganic) nature. But when he turns to consider evaluative judgments and the individual–universal relations they involve, he stops using natural examples altogether and instead restricts his examples to just two: a house and a not-further-specified action. Hegel’s choice of examples may be wholly arbitrary, but then again may not be, and it at least invites a closer look at his views on animal individuality and animal defect. Hegel speaks of animal defect at length. But as it turns out, he does not think animals can be proper subjects of evaluative judgments, precisely because they do not have the right kind of individuality. Thus, while natural defect plays a central role in Hegel’s conception of animality, he regards such defect as different in kind from the (genuinely evaluative) badness predicable of minded agents, their actions and the products of those actions. The task of the next sections, then, is to see how Hegel understands animal individuality, what role defect plays in that individuality and how that individuality is to be differentiated from ethical individuality’.
- ‘What is Wrong with Rex? Hegel on Animal Defect and Individuality’
Rand contends that the pattern he believes to have discerned in Hegel’s examples is not accidental and that lack or defect [Mängel] is a feature of animal organisms generally, all animal organisms undergo some Mängel, for instance, feelings of thirst and hunger, in response to which they assimilate or take in part of their environment. This process of assimilation is one out of the triad of processes that constitutes animal life as such and since Mängel as just described,characterizes healthy well-functioning organisms, it cannot be an indication of badness or normative failure, according to Rand. And furthermore:
‘It would be obtuse to deny that there is a difference between getting thirsty and losing a limb. But whatever that difference may be, it is not relevant here. Our concern is the relation of defect to the form of unity characteristic of living individuals, and there is no reason to think that damage and need differ significantly in this regard. They may seem to differ causally; it may seem that a dog gets thirsty through its own activity and loses a leg through the imposition of an external force. But a dog can get thirsty by being locked in a hot car, and what happens to it when it is hit by a truck (or cut by a vet’s bone saw) is determined by its body’s constitution and its response to trauma.
- ‘What is Wrong with Rex? Hegel on Animal Defect and Individuality’
Rand considers and dismisses two attempts to distinguish between thirst and the loss of a limb:
‘Alternately, need and damage may seem to differ in frequency or statistical likelihood; all dogs get thirsty, but not all get hit by trucks. Yet for the analysis of their form, frequency is wholly irrelevant. What matters is the way both damage and need figure in the animal’s activity of bringing about its continued individual life, and in this respect, they are the same. The dog who recovers from an accident (or from surgery) and learns to lope about on three legs is acting to sublate a defect just as much as the thirsty dog that drinks. The action of each is what it is in relation to the defect it responds to and the unity it achieves. Thus, whatever their differences, damage and need are both subtypes of the broader category of defect, whose logical analysis applies to both’.
- ‘What is Wrong with Rex? Hegel on Animal Defect and Individuality’
But does not reflection upon the role of the Gattungsprozess in animal life disclose a difference between, for instance, a thirsty and a three-legged wildebeest, for Hegel, which Rand leaves out of the picture? Mark Alznauer on the other hand contends that animal organisms are appropriate subjects of evaluative judgments in Hegel’s view albeit his focus is not narrowly upon the normative evaluability of animal organisms rather his objective is to present an overview of Hegel’s theory of normativity generally both natural and spiritual, nevertheless he is certain, against Rand, that both plant and animal specimens can be appraised as normatively sound or defective insofar as they exhibit or lack features that characterize the species or kind to which they belong. ‘Hegel does not think that every divergence of the organism from one of the general characteristics of its species counts as a defect’ said Alznauer, and what matters for the purposes of the normative evaluation of organisms are the essential features or characteristics. And furthermore:
‘… there is an important difference between, say, a blue tit that is missing a characteristic round blue patch on its head and one that lacks something crucial to its way of life, such as the ability to fly; the latter is clearly defective in a way that the former is not. To mark this difference, we need to find a way to distinguish among those features and abilities that are characteristic of a given plant or animal those that are truly essential to the life of organisms of that species from those that are not essential (however widespread or typical they may be). Hegel thinks we can do this only by having recourse to the necessary determinations of the concept of life itself, whose determinations allows us to identify the three basic types of activities implied by the concept of life: growth, assimilation, and reproduction. We pick out which of the given organism’s features and capacities are essential to it by seeing which features play an important role in the way organisms of that kind grow, assimilate, and reproduce. For example, if a tiger’s teeth and claws are essential to its ‘establishing and preserving itself’, then these features will be included in the concept of a tiger. To arrive at the essence or concept of any given plant or animal thus requires that we keep one eye on the abstract, a priori determinations of the concept of life while keeping a second eye on the those concrete, empirically determined features and abilities that allow living organisms of certain species to engage in the activities required by the concept of life. Together, these allow us to arrive at a species concept that can serve as a rule or fixed type by which we can identify any divergences from the concept as ‘defective, imperfect, and deformed’; that is, a concept that allows us to say, for example, that some particular blue tit is defective because it lacks a capacity or feature that is essential to the habitus or life-form of the blue tit’.
-’Hegel’s Theory of Normativity’
We pick out which of the given organism’s features and capacities are essential to it by seeing which features play an important role in the way organisms of that kind grow, assimilate, and reproduce but Alznauer does not explain what features play an important role in animal life and hence are essential. How do we determine what features play said important role? What makes for an important role in any case? We should look to the ‘necessary determinations of the concept of life itself’ says Alznauer which Hegel spells out in terms of the three processes outlined above but the question arises as to whether the inquiry into the necessary conditions of the concept of life itself is an a priori undertaking and to the role does experience plays in the normative evaluation of animal specimens and whether each of those processes of life are equally relevant to picking out the essential features of an animal species or whether or not one of the processes has some privileged status in this respect. Maybe the Gattungsprozess is that process, we can extract from Hegel’s discussion of the genus process a principle for identifying a species’ essential features which serve as the criteria by which to evaluate specific members of that species and empirical observation has its role to play in an account of the normativity of animal life.
There are two general points I draw from Hegel;s discussion of evaluative judgments, first that the criterion or standard according to which a thing or object is normatively evaluated is internal to the thing evaluated, in particular the criterion is to be found in that thing’s own kind or concept and second that a thing or subject of evaluation can continue to exist as an exemplar of its kind while nevertheless failing to correspond to the concept to which it belongs. That animal organisms are appropriate subjects of normative evaluation is apparent from some of Hegel’s examples of judgments of the concept, ‘an ill body is not in agreement with the concept of life’, as well as from his remarks about normative failure and success in the passage on animal organisms in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’:
‘If one is prepared to admit that the works of man are sometimes defective, it must follow that those of nature are more frequently so, for nature is the Idea in the mode of externality. In man, the basis of these defects lies in his whims, his caprice and his negligence, e.g. when he introduces painting into music, paints with stones in mosaics, or introduces the epic genre into drama. In nature, it is the external conditions which stunt the forms of living being; however, these conditions produce these effects because life is indeterminate, and also because it is from these externalities that it derives its particular determinations. The forms of nature cannot be brought into an absolute system therefore, and it is because of this that the animal species are exposed to contingency.
- ‘Philosophy of Nature’
If Rand were correct about defect and animal life then one would expect this passage to say that nature is not just more frequently but always defective, and that external conditions do not stunt but enable or facilitate forms of living being (by offering animal organisms the opportunity to overcome the defect or lack that defines animal life as such). In order to understand the precise sense in which animals are appropriate subjects of evaluative judgments two questions concerning animal organisms need addressing, first in judging an organism to be good or bad sound or defective in what sense are we judging it on the basis of an internal standard and not some criterion imposed upon it from without? Second how is it that an animal organism can endure contradiction or self-negation in that it can fail to agree with itself, that is, with its concept? That is to say, what makes it the case that organic nature unlike its inorganic counterpart can exist as a member of a kind or fall under a concept with which it fails to correspond? The answers lie in part in the fact that animals are teleological systems.
First, the internal evaluation. The status of animal organisms as subjects of normative evaluation is closely connected to their teleological structure for an organism is as it ought to be when its parts function properly, that is to say, when they benefit or advantage or serve the ends of, the whole, at a minimum, self-preservation or survival, and further it appears that inorganic nature, a stone for instance, is not an appropriate subject of normative evaluation precisely because its parts are not teleologically structured, they have no ends or purposes that they can attain or fail to attain. As Hegel explains:
‘In the two relationships considered above, the self-mediation of the genus with itself is the process of its diremption into individuals and the sublation of its differences. However, as the genus also assumes the shape of an inorganic nature which is opposed to the individual, it brings forth its existence within it in an abstract and negative manner. The determinate being of the individual organism is therefore involved in a relationship of externality, and while the organism preserves itself by returning into itself in its genus, it may also, and with equal facility, fail to correspond to it. -The organism is in a diseased state when one of its systems or organs is stimulated into conflict with the inorganic potency of the organism. Through this conflict, the system or organ establishes itself in isolation, and by persisting in its particular activity in opposition to the activity of the whole, obstructs the fluidity of this activity, as well as the process by which it pervades all the moments of the whole’.
- ‘Philosophy of Nature’
An organism is hence defective or more precisely diseased when one or more of its parts obstructs the fluidity of the activity of the whole, that is to say, when the functioning of those parts is not conducive but obstructive to the end or ends of the organic whole to which they belong. Although teleology plays a role in the normative evaluation of animals the story benefit or conduciveness to the end of biological survival or self-preservation is not by itself sufficient to account for the ways in which we judge animal parts and accordingly the organic wholes to which they belong to be well or malfunctioning, normatively successful or defective. In particular benefit by itself cannot account for the sense in which the evaluation of animals is internal or proceeds in accordance with those animals’ own concept. An account of the normativity of animal life based solely upon the idea of advantage must be incomplete. Why is a three-legged wildebeest but not a four-legged wildebeest that lacks wings defective? The answer cannot rely on benefit or conduciveness to biological survival or self-preservation, for the possession of wings might well we may suppose be more beneficial or assist wildebeests more efficiently attain the end of self-preservation than any number of legs, three or four, in the absence of wings. For instance we might imagine that a winged wildebeest would more quickly and safely escape predators than any of its three- or four-legged yet wingless counterparts.
Hegel’s considerations concerning the normativity of animal life in occur more specifically in the context of his discussion of the Gattungsprozess. Reflecting more closely upon the relation between teleology on the one hand and membership in a species via reproduction on the other we can understand how exactly the evaluation of organisms is internal or proceeds by comparing an object with its own concept and is not a matter of judging it in accordance with some external standard. An animal is characterized by having parts that are structured in a purposive or end-directed way. For instance the function of a human liver is to cleanse blood in order to help guarantee the survival of the organic whole of which it is part, a part of some specific organism, this particular human liver for instance, owes its function to the role that parts of that sort play within the kind or species as a whole, more precisely if human livers in general did not serve the function of cleansing blood and in this way contributed to the biological survival of the species or kind specimens or exemplars of that kind would not have managed to survive and reproduce to give rise to other exemplars with similarly functioning parts, human livers. In brief the existence of animal specimens endowed with parts with specific functions or purposes depends upon the existence of prior organisms with similarly functioning parts and more generally upon a species, kind or concept of which those animal specimens are exemplars.
Against the background of the connection between the teleological structure of particular organisms and their membership in a kind via reproduction let us consider the wildebeest. What is it if not benefit or advantage alone that makes a three-legged yet not a four-legged but wingless wildebeest defective? How is the verdict concerning these two wildebeests the upshot of an internal evaluation of them, of a comparison of each of them with some internal standard? The answer is that the four legs unlike the hypothesized wings of any particular wildebeest owe their existence and function to the existence of parts with that same role in other prior wildebeest and ultimately and more generally in the species or kind to which that particular wildebeest specimen belongs. Hence a three-legged wildebeest but not a four-legged wildebeest that lacks wings is defective in as much as it lacks a feature without which its species or kind would not have been able to survive and reproduce to give rise to that specific three-legged wildebeest. Which is to say, the three-legged wildebeest specimen is defective or not as it ought to be in that it fails to exhibit a feature without which its kind or species and so also a limp wildebeest would not have survived at all. The evaluation of animal organisms is internal in that it is thus the features or characteristics of each animal kind or species that set the standard or criterion by which we judge specimens of that very kind to be successful or defective, and the features or the determinations of a kind or concept constitute a rule or ought against which animal specimens of that kind are measured.
As Hegel explains:
‘The general determinations must be made to rule therefore, and the natural forms compared with them. If the natural forms do not tally with this rule, but exhibit certain correspondences, agreeing with it in one respect but not in another, then it is not the rule, the determinateness of the genus or class etc. which has to be altered. The rule does not have to conform to these existences, they ought to conform to the determinateness, and this actuality exhibits deficiency in so far as it fails to conform. Some Amphibia are viviparous for example, and like Mammals and Birds, breathe by means of lungs; in that they have no breasts, and their heart has a single ventricle, they resemble Fish however. If one is prepared to admit that the works of man are sometimes defective, it must follow that those of nature are more frequently so, for nature is the Idea in the mode of externality. In man, the basis of these defects lies in his whims, his caprice and his negligence, e.g. when he introduces painting into music, paints with stones in mosaics, or introduces the epic genre into drama. In nature, it is the external conditions which stunt the forms of living being; however, these conditions produce these effects because life is indeterminate, and also because it is from these externalities that it derives its particular determinations. The forms of nature cannot be brought into an absolute system therefore, and it is because of this that the animal species are exposed to contingency’.
- ‘Philosophy of Nature’
Hence regarding the normativity of animal life in this manner whether or not some feature of an animal species for instance a certain number of limbs qualifies as essential depends upon the contribution that that feature makes to the survival and reproduction of the species and an animal specimen is defective if it lacks an essential feature so characterized. So what precisely is the role that reproduction plays in animal normativity? Not all features of an organism that are causally dependent upon the existence of ancestors with similar features should qualify as essential features, the essential features of an animal organism are just a subset of those transmitted via reproduction, that is to say, those features of a species without which a current animal organism defective or otherwise could not have come about in the first place. What features figure within this subset, exactly, and how long it would take for a species to cease to survive and reproduce in their absence, are empirical and contingent matters and not ones that can be settled on the basis of a priori reflection on the concept of animal life alone. And what of the question concerning contradictory existence? How is an existence in disagreement with itself so much as possible? How more specifically can animal organisms exist as exemplars of a kind with which they do not correspond? Inorganic nature is incapable of this feat, for a stone cannot fail to correspond to its concept or kind without ceasing to exist as a specimen of its kind altogether, it ‘is unable to survive chemical decomposition’.
In dealing with this second issue, the connection between the teleological structure of a current animal organism and the Gattungsprozess that is to say its membership in a species by way of reproduction proves once again to be a great assist, think about for example such things as alchemy or transubstantiation (ok quite a jump but bear with me).
by William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace.
Even so my sun one early morn did shine
With all-triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack! he was but one hour mine;
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.
The morning sun is flattering the lowly mountains in a turnaround of the typical flattery of the baseborn towards those of higher station and the sun thereby is akin to an artist who osculates with golden light to bring forth a brighter green and akin to an alchemical artist who would blanket the natural world with gold. The artist (and the poet is alchemist too) and the flatterer are connected by way the alchemical art but then soon after all is transformed by way of a reversal of effect and the ignoble things associated with the world darken and degrade the countenance which is to say an ugly rack of clouds are allowed to ride the sun and darken the desolate world, but the poet is then involved, my sun, an all too brief possession on the poet’s part who is now revelling in a brightening and a gilding not so far removed from that experienced by the lowly mountains and streams, but then he goes through another reversal and the region cloud maybe a rival in love intervenes between the poet and his sun leaving him to observe a merely masked or splendour now covered over.
Distillation alchemical or otherwise operates as a very effective metaphor whereby the poet takes something he likes, subjects it to alchemical fire in the alembic of his imagination, out of which comes forth a higher concentration of the thing the poet liked about the thing the poet liked. And as for the plays if we compare the Bard’s source material with what he created out of it it really is a case of transmuting base metals into purest gold. Chrysopoeia, the making of gold, chryso, gold, poeia, making part, poetry, to make, poiein, the poet transmutes of base metals into gold, which is to say, turning the diurnal and the painful into the sublime and healing. And contrast modernist inclinations towards straightforward one to one compartmentalised analogies and isolated symbols with concomitant separated disciplines, an unambiguous conception and visualisation of the world whereas the truth of the matter is that each individual thing is connected to everything else in a network of metaphor and analogy. (Das geistige Tierreich. The spiritual animal kingdom. All the different varieties of animal life, all with their own distinct qualities and their connection with each other). Shakespeare by way of his exquisitely distilled sonnet wherein multiple and contradictory readings are possible entertains himself with contradictions ingrained in the human heart and purposively leaves us remaining in a state of uncertainty.
‘Theres scares knud in this gnarld warld a fully so svend as dilates for the improvement of our foerses of nature by your very ample solvent of referacting upon me like is boesen fienns’.
- James Joyce, (1882–1941), ‘Finnegans Wake’
The forces of nature in the Wake are the faeces of nature and there is more to that than meets the eye. In the Wake the ridiculing and disparaging of Shem the Penman (Joyce himself) by his brother Shaun the Post culminates in a Latin passage:
‘Primum opifex, altus prosator, ad terram viviparam et cuncti- potentem sine ullo pudore nec venia, suscepto pluviali atque discinctis perizomatis, natibus nudis uti nati fuissent, sese adpropinquans, flens et gemens, in manum suam evacuavit (highly prosy, crap in his hand, sorry!), postea, animale nigro, exoneratus, classicum pulsans, stercus proprium, quod appellavit deiectiones suas, in vas olim honorabile tristitiae posuit, eodem sub invocatione fratrorum gemino- rum Medardi et Godardi laete ac melliflue minxit, psalmum qui incipit: Lingua mea calamus scribae velociter scribentis: magna voce cantitans (did a piss, says he was dejected, asks to be exonerated), demum ex stercore turpi cum divi Orionis iucunditate mixto, cocto, frigorique exposito, encaustum sibi fecit indelibile (faked O’Ryan’s, the indelible ink)’.
- ‘Finnegans Wake’
Which may be translated thus:
‘First the artisan, the profound progenitor, approaching the fruitful and all-powerful earth, without shame or pardon, put on a raincoat and ungirded his pants, and with buttocks naked as they were on the day of his birth, while weeping and groaning, defecated into his hand. Next, having relieved himself of the black, living excrement, he — while striking the trumpet — placed his own excrement, which he called his scatterings (purgation), into a once honourable vessel (chalice) of sadness, and into the same place, under the invocation of the twin brothers Medardus and Godardus, he pissed joyfully and melodiously, continuously singing with a loud voice the psalm that begins: ‘My tongue is a scribe’s quill writing swiftly’. Finally, he mingled the odious excrement with the pleasantness of the divine Orion, and, from this mixture, which had been cooked and exposed to the cold, he made for himself indelible ink’.
Shem must undergo a complete and painstaking purgation of his sins and faults and endeavour to absolve and vindicate himself through his art. Shaun characterises the process of making ink, or writing, as scatological, and Shem ‘through the bowels of his misery’ is ‘the alshemist’ who becomes ‘transaccidentated’ into his art, for amidst the self-mockery Joyce is setting forth a profound and decidely original principle of artistic creativity. First, however, I must say something concerning transaccidentation. In medieval philosophy an accident is an attribute that may or may not belong to a subject, without affecting its essence, were you to lose one of your essential properties rather than one of your accidental properties (becoming a defective organism) you would no longer be you. To put it into the terminology of modality an essential property of an object is a property that it must have, while an accidental property of an object is one that it merely happens to have but that it could not have had. In Catholicism, transubstantiation refers to the miraculous transformation of the substance, but not of the accidents, the accidents being the appearance, of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during the sacrament of the Eucharist. In transaccidentation, however, a term first introduced by Duns Scotus, (c. 1266–1308), it is the accidents of the Eucharistic bread and wine that are changed into the body and blood of Christ at the moment of their consecration.
Shaun thus exploits the term to describe the Eucharistic doctrine of artistic creation whereby Shem’s appearance or ‘bodily getup’ (his accidents) is transmuted into the accidents or appearance of ink or words, within which Shem’s spiritual substance continues to dwell, for the notions that are behind the term transaccidentation are used to give expression to Joyce’s remarkable insight into the act of literary creation and into the artist’s relation to art; as the artist in producing words is ‘transaccidentated through the slow fires of consciousness in to a divided chaos, perilous, potent, common to allflesh, human only, mortal’, and through these words is thereby present to every reader. The Eucharistic metaphor appears elsewhere in Joyce’s work, in ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ the artist is equated with ‘a priest of eternal imagination, transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life’. But in the Wake the Eucharistic imagery attains to a significantly higher level with this use of the term transaccidentation, for now, and somewhat paradoxically, the artist, who must deal with that which is intrinsically human, and therefore with that which is mortal, achieves an everlasting presence in the creation of his or her art and invites all who partake in it to share in a thoroughly extreme and transforming type of liberty that goes well beyond temporal restrictions.
Take heed as we plunge into the question of contradictory existence and of how an animal can endure contradiction, of how an animal organism can continue to exist as a member of its kind while failing to correspond to the concept or kind to which it belongs, an existence in disagreement with itself whereby an animal exists as an exemplars of a kind with which it does not correspond. Put forward whatever moral arguments in support of animal rights you like, and I have covered many in this series, they will be met with counter-arguments, and all both for and against trade upon vague concepts to such a degree that we are not always even sure if what we are talking about is to do with moral issues at all. But now we are in the realm of logical contradiction wherein it can be demonstrated that denying rights to animals is illogical and hence irrational, issues of sentiment, (a common charge against animal rights advocates), comes into it not at all, and who can argue against logic?
In the instance of lead, to continue with the alchemical theme, its concept or kind consists in a certain chemical structure and if an alleged piece of lead does not correspond to its concept or if it has a chemical structure other than that of lead, that of gold let us say, then the piece of metal in question is not lead at all.
‘What belongs to external nature is destroyed by contradiction; if, for example, gold were given a different specific gravity from what it has, it would have to perish as gold. But mind has the power to preserve itself in contradiction and, therefore, in pain (pain aroused by evil, as well as by the disagreeable) . Ordinary logic is, therefore, in error in supposing that mind is something that completely excludes contradiction from itself. On the contrary, all consciousness contains a unity and a separation, hence a contradiction. Thus, for example, the representation of house is something completely contradictory to my I and yet endured by it. But contradiction is endured by mind, because mind contains no determination that it does not recognize as a determination posited by itself and consequently as a determination that it can also sublate again. This power over all the content present in it forms the basis of the freedom of mind.6 But in its immediacy, mind is free only implicitly, in concept or possibility, not yet in actuality; actual freedom is thus not something that is immediately in the mind but something to be produced by mind’s activity. So in science we have to regard mind as the producer of its freedom. The entire development of the concept of mind displays only mind’s freeing of itself from all the forms of its reality which do not correspond to its concept: a liberation which comes about by the transformation of these forms into an actuality perfectly adequate to the concept of mind’.
- ‘Philosophy of Spirit’
There is thus no defective gold just as, I may add, there is no defective lead. By contrast an animal organism can be defective in that it has a malfunctioning liver to return to the matter of distillation above, well the human animal is certainly noted for harming its liver, and thereby failing to correspond to its concept while nevertheless continuing to exist as a specimen of that concept or kind. This difference between inorganic and organic nature may be accounted for by considering a current animal organism with a malfunctioning liver still as an organism of its kind in that it exists and its parts exist and have or lack certain specific causal roles on account of its being the product of organisms of the same kind or species, a species that could not have survived and reproduced without its parts fulfilling certain causal roles, for instance, without livers cleansing the organisms’ blood. A question arises as to how far can a thing’s failure to correspond to its concept extends before it stops belonging to that concept altogether, or to put it another way, how defective an organism can be before it stops counting as an instance of its kind. Maybe an organism no matter how defective or malfunctioning counts as a member of its kind insofar as it is brought about as the result of the reproduction of other members of the species.
But within the context of internal evaluation and contradictory existence let us re-consider Rand’s claim that by no means within the context of Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Nature’ can we distinguish between defects like the feeling of thirst and the absence of a limb in a limbed species. We now see the way, the species specific way in which organisms assimilate the environment to overcome Mängel like thirst is part of what characterizes the kind or species in question and assist in guaranteeing the species’ survival and reproduction, but in the case of a missing limb the absence of a limb will not figure in the description of that creature’s concept or kind and is not conducive but obstructive to the survival and reproduction of the species, more particularly a three-legged wildebeest is defective in that it lacks a feature without which its kind would not have been able to survive, reproduce, and so give rise to that three-legged specimen whereas a healthy, four-legged wildebeest, whether thirsty or not, is normatively sound in that it lacks no such features.
Alznauer contended that essential features which is to say those that serve as a standard by which to appraise organisms as sound or defective are picked out ‘by seeing which features play an important role in the way organisms of that kind grow, assimilate, and reproduce’ and the connection between Hegel’s Gattungsprozess, teleology, and normativity spells out Alznauer’s position through delivering a principled way of identifying the features that play that important role in animal life, for a feature of an animal species or kind qualifies as essential just in case it is a feature in the absence of which the species as a whole would not have been able to survive and reproduce so as to give rise to further specimens of the species defective or otherwise, hence only by viewing organisms through the lens of their reproductive process are we able to identify the essential features of the species and in the light of those features normatively evaluate its members.
And so the normativity of animal life. Where does Hegel’s view of the functions of animal parts fit if at all within the debate on functions in the philosophy of biology over the past several decades? The debate upon functions can be sorted into historical and non-historical accounts. Matteo Mossio who works principally in philosophical and theoretical issues related to biological autonomy and has inquired into that which makes biological functions teleological spells out such a view by contending that in order for part P of some current organism to have function F that part P must contribute to the self-maintenance of that organism and the organism must be organizationally closed and differentiated into parts that perform different causal roles. On the first causal role account defended by Robert Cummins in order to identify the functions of the parts of some animal organism we need not look any further than that current organism itself so that on this causal role view the function F of some part P of a current animal organism is just whatever causal role P has within the more complex system that contains it. The causal role and so the function of our livers is inter alia to cleanse our blood, the causal role of the liver can itself be explained in terms of the causal roles of its component parts, lobes, ligaments, membranes, the heart has the causal role, and so the function, of pumping blood, but as others have pointed out the heart also causes other effects in the organism of which it is a part, for instance it produces a repeated thumping sound. Is producing a sound thereby also a function of the heart? Many participants in the debate have wanted to resist answering this question in the affirmative as the causal role account seems to commit us to do.
A second, more recent non-historical view attempts to escape the counterintuitive consequences of Cummins’s position by restricting the function or functions F of some current organism part P to those causal roles performed by P that contribute to the self-maintenance of that current organism. Roughly part P has a function F just in case P contributes to its own existence as well as that of the organism to which it belongs hence even though both pumping blood and producing thumping sounds are effects caused by the heart, only the former of these two causal roles has a functional character, for only that former causal role contributes to the maintenance of itself and the organism of which it is a part.
Contrary to these two views Ruth Millikan, (1933 — ), contends that in order to identify the function F of some part P of a current animal organism we should not look at the organism’s current features and causal dispositions but turn instead to that organism’s history. But according to Hegel it is an organism’s reproductive past not natural selection or its evolutionary past that explains its possession of some part P with a purpose or function F. According to this historical account a part of P of some current animal organism has a function F just in case that organism exists and is endowed with P in part as a consequence of its ancestors possessing P and having actually performed F in the past. Why this heart exists here now and has the function of pumping blood is causally explained by the contribution of hearts in the current, hearted organism’s ancestors, and using this account of functions Millikan furthermore maintains that we can explain failure of purpose or defect in ways that the non-historical theorists appear to be unable to. Albeit some current animal organism may lack P or be unable to fulfil F it is nevertheless a member of a species or function category defined by F so long as the current organism is the descendant of other organisms endowed with P and that actually performed F.
Hegel’s view is similarly historical, a part P of some current animal organism has the purpose or function that it does on account of the existence of past organisms with similarly functioning parts which have reproduced to give rise to the current organism under consideration. If the current organism lacks part P or if P does not fulfil in it the causal role that it fulfilled in its ancestors, then the current organism is on that account defective and this negative appraisal of the current organism is internal in as much as it results from the comparison of some of its parts or features with a subset of the parts or features of its ancestors, namely, those features without which they would not have been able to survive and reproduce to give rise to the current organism.
Such are the questions raised in considering judgments of the concept, in judging a current animal organism to be sound or defective the judgment is internal and not based upon some standard imposed upon it from outside, and further an animal organism unlike inorganic nature can fall under a concept with which they fail to correspond. A current animal organism is defective in as much as it lacks some features or is unable to perform certain functions without which its species or kind would not have been able to survive and reproduce to give rise to that current organism under evaluation, and the evaluation of animal organisms is internal in that it is thus the features or characteristics of each animal kind or species that set the standard or criterion by which we judge specimens of that very kind to be successful or defective. Secondly a defective animal organism is still an organism of its kind or falls under its concept in that it exists as a descendant of organisms of that same kind, these ancestral organisms being ones that could not have survived and reproduced without its parts performing the functions on account of whose lack or malfunction the current organism is deemed defective.
So where are we now with respect to animal rights? As follows. Nature has a conceptual aspect whereby concepts are not items that only exist in the human mind, they are not merely things we think about, they exist objectively independently of whether human (and non-human?) thinking animals are thinking about them:
‘… thoughts can be called objective thoughts; and among them the forms which are considered initially in ordinary logic and which are usually taken to be only forms of conscious thinking have to be counted too. Thus logic coincides with metaphysics, with the science of things grasped in though ts that used to be taken to express the essentialities of the things. … thinking things over leads to what is universal in them; but the universal is itself one of the moments of the Concept. To say that there is understanding, or reason, in the world is exactly what is contained in the expression ‘objective thought’. But this expression is inconvenient precisely because ‘thought’ is all too commonly used as if it belonged only to spirit, or consciousness, while ‘objective’ is used primarily just with reference to what is unspiritual. … In line with what has been said so far, then, 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 governs the world, or by our own saying that there is reason in the world, by which we mean that reason is the soul of the world, inhabits it, and is immanent in it, as its own, innermost nature, its universal. An example closer at hand is that, in speaking of a definite animal, we say that it is [an] ‘animal’. ‘Animal as such’ cannot be pointed out; only a definite animal can ever be pointed at. ‘The animal’ does not exist; on the contrary, this expression refers to the universal nature of single animals, and each existing animal is something that is much more concretely determinate, something particularised. But ‘to be animal’, the kind considered as the universal, pertains to the determinate animal and constitutes its determinate essentiality. If we were to deprive a dog of its animality we could not say what it is. Things as such have a persisting, inner nature, and an external thereness. They live and die, come to be and pass away; their essentiality, their universality, is the kind, and this cannot be interpreted merely as something held in common’.
- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’
There is a structure of forms of thought on which all other beings depend and such forms of thought are not simply subjective categories but rather they objectively exist within the world independently of human thought about them albeit human animals may come to think using categories which have the same content as these objective forms and when this occurs human animals are having thoughts that are true, thoughts that accurately describe the world’s independent structure, nevertheless the independent structure itself is not something that only exists within the human animal mind. This is idealism, reality is fundamentally structured by thought that is to say ideas and objective forms of thought structure the natural world, forms of thought or conceptual structures are combined with matter in different ways and as nature develops the forms of thought increasingly pervade and organise matter. Hence too in the spiritual animal kingdom human and non-human animals have their truth which consists in their agreement with their objective concept and there is a normativity to animal life, rights in general have a normative standing, hence denying that animals have rights is a logical contradiction.
Human and non-human animals all have their individuality, so, I return now to where I began with the matter in hand and in the alienation between purpose and action, for here we encounter problems in our activism for the cause of animal rights, for to find the best and most effective way to further the cause requires a deeper understanding of one particular animal, the human animal. On the subject of individuality Hegel as always goes in deep, well, I was wanting to go into some detail over these problems as they are rather important for us to bear in mind but this article is too long so I will just make some brief points. The matter-in-hand while an abstract concept for the unity of purpose and action renders the latter alienated from the individual but the individual is endeavouring to discover what allows purpose and action to be unified and hence what produces the matter-in-hand. Instead what we have now is deceit whereby an honest consciousness cares not for the affairs it claims to be concerned with and at most interferes with the work of others and passes judgment upon them and even were an honest consciousness to approve of that particular work it merely passes upon on contribution as a indicator of generosity in not having interfered in the work through its own censure:
‘In showing an interest in the work, it is enjoying its own self; and the work which it censures is equally welcome to it for just this enjoyment of its own action which its censure provides. Those, however, who think or pretend to think that they have been deceived by this interference, wanted really themselves to practise the same kind of deceit. They pretend that their action and efforts are something for themselves alone in which they have only themselves and their own essential nature in mind. However, in doing something, and thus bringing themselves out into the light of day, they directly contradict by their deed their pretence of wanting to exclude the glare of publicity and participation by all and sundry. Actualization is, on the contrary, a display of what is one’s own in the element of universality whereby it becomes, and should become, the affair of everyone’.
— ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
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Different individuals respond to this alienation in different ways as some will accept in resignation while others will reject in some unhappiness, the former are those we have just referred to, the honest, they accept the alienation between purpose and action and an n as honest, the honest consciousness is able to accept failure of its own actions for it is honest to itself and derives satisfaction from the fact that it has at least willed something to be done, even if nothing were done though it had been resolved to do something the honest consciousness finds consolation in the fact that it had at least willed it. However:
‘If this consciousness does not convert its purpose into a reality, it has at least willed it, i.e. it makes the purpose qua purpose, the mere doing which does nothing, the ‘heart of the matter’, and can therefore explain and console itself with the fact that all the same something was taken in hand and done. Since the universal itself contains subsumed under it the negative moment or the vanishing, the fact that the work annihilates itself, this too is its doing. It has incited the others to do this, and in the vanishing of its reality still finds satisfaction, just like naughty boys who enjoy themselves when they get their ears boxed because they are the cause of its being done’.
— ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
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‘Or, again, suppose it has not even attempted to carry out the ‘matter in hand’, and has done absolutely nothing, then it has not been able to; the ‘matter in hand’ is for it just the unity of its resolve and the reality; it asserts that the rea1ity would be nothing else but what it was possible for it to do’.
- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
Anyone can simply say what has to be done, what needs to be done, what one wants to do but actually carrying out upon one’s words that is what gives to a person life and saying something without doing it or doing something that was not given word so to do is a form of deceit and ultimately an honest consciousness itself turns out to be dishonest:
‘The whole is the spontaneous interfusion of individuality and the universal; but because this whole is present for consciousness only as the simple essence, and thus as the abstraction, of the ‘matter in hand’ its separate moments far apart outside of that ‘matter in hand’ and of one another. As a whole, it is only exhaustively exhibited by alternately exposing its moments and retaining them for itself. Since in this alternation consciousness keeps, in its reflection, one moment for itself and as essential, while another is only externally present in it, or is for others, there thus enters a play of individualities with one another in which each and all find themselves both deceiving and deceived’.
- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
Those who claim to be set about achieving great things or are trailblazers in reality are waiting for others to do their work for them and when the work is done an honest consciousness comes back to claim the merits of the work for itself. And what transpires upon an individual rejecting the alienation between purpose and action? They are dissatisfied with the manner by which their action turns against their original determinate natures for no one likes to be misinterpreted for what they do not intend (like causing the extinction of water voles). However rejecting such alienation does not mean casting the issue of the matter-in-hand to one side. Indeed:
‘Rather is its nature such that its being is the action of the single individual and of all individuals and whose action is immediately for others, or is a ‘matter in hand’ and is such only as the action of each and everyone: the essence which is the essence of all beings, viz. spiritual essence. Consciousness learns that no one of these moments is subject, but rather gets dissolved in the universal’ matter in hand’; the moments of the individuality which this unthinking consciousness regarded as subject, one after the other, coalesce into simple individuality, which, as this particular individuality, is no less immediately universal. Thus the ‘matter in hand’ no longer has the character of a predicate, and loses the characteristic of lifeless abstract universality. It is rather substance permeated by individuality, subject in which there is individuality just as much qua individual, or qua this particular individual, as qua all individuals; and it is the universal which has being only as this action of all and each, and a reality in the fact that this particular consciousness knows it to be its own individual reality and the reality of all’.
- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
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Consciousness learns of its own mistake in conceiving the matter-in-hand and while the matter-in-hand is taken as something like an abstract unity of the individual’s actions the matter-in-hand was not supposed to be taken for an individual’s in the first place and all the moments within action, that is to say, purpose, means, ends, circumstances, vanish within a single universal matter-in-hand. For the matter-in-hand is abstract only because it has been conceived in such a way as to describe the unity for a single person, when it should have been conceived as a universal, something that everyone can contribute to. For instance the purpose of ‘I want to create a world within which the rights of animals are recognised and respected’ does not merely consist of an individual’s endeavours to recognise and respect the rights of animals rather it has to be contributed by other individuals who want to recognise and respect the rights of animals. Rather than sharply dividing between oneself and others the dynamics of action require a recognition of the contributions of others to our causes and ours to theirs and evidently this can only be achieved within a harmonious ethical substance.
Finding ourselves in our projects and our work and all that do in the course of it can be narcissistic navel lending itself to self-deception rather than submitting it to a world of others whereas we become actual in relation to other self-conscious beings in our environment, not all of whom are present for part of what it means to be in an harmonious ethical substance or culture is to relate to others most of whom are not in your vicinity at any given time, and some of whom you meet and connect with and they vanish, and most of whom you will never meet in your lifetime:
‘In the first place, we have to consider by itself the work produced. It has received into itself the whole nature of the individuality. Its being is therefore itself an action in which all differences interpenetrate and are dissolved. The work is thus expelled into an existence in which the quality of the original nature in fact turns against other determinate natures, encroaches on them, and gets lost as a vanishing element in this general process. Although within the Notion of the objectively real individuality all the moments -circumstances, end,means, and realization — have the same value, and the original specific nature has the value of no more than a universal element, on the other hand, when this element becomes an objective being, its specific character as such comes to light in the work done, and obtains its truth in its dissolution’.
- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’
To be continued ….