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By A. Hannay

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Only here it is not the essenceor nature of things or events in the physical world which escapesrational cognition, but the essenceor nature of the cognizer. ) The problem for the unhappy consciousnessis that it finds itself unable to dispensewith either of these opposing conceptions of itself. It might seem at first glance that the difficulty here was simply a special case of the general logical problem of the relation of particular to universal. Thus, granting the observation (Plato’s) that universalsare immutable in a sensein which the things exemplifying them are not, Hegel’s unhappy consciousness might be conceived simply as the special casein which the particular asks the question of itself and finds that no answer is conceivable.

I8 The true infinity is something Hegel also calls the ‘absolute idea’, which representsthe point of view of ‘speculative’ reason. That the absolute idea is of the identity of infinite and finite does not mean that speculativereasonis absolved from the laws of logic. It means that, in the absolute idea, speculative reasongraspsthe overriding principle of the absolute unity of all things. This principle then becomes the new and proper reference of the word ‘infinite’, still in its original senseof ‘un(de)limited’, but now with the impossibility removed of its application to the ‘natures’ or ‘essences’of finite things.

23 Hegel’s view is that what cannot be given in religion, with its limited, quasi-pictorial form of thought, can be given in philosophy, the highest expression of absolute mind and spirit. There the notion of supreme happiness or highest good (szrmmum banurn) takes the form of the idea of reason as the reconciliation of individual and universal. ‘25 Consciousness’sunhappiness,in summary then, is its inability to grasp itself as the self-same something to which both of the predicates ‘infinite’ and ‘finite’ (alternatively, ‘unchangeable’ and ‘changeable’)are applicable.

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