The new definition: Things are what they are, and only seem ‘different’ from a certain perspective
In order to avoid being caught in this circular motion, perception now makes a new distinction. It has found that both the thing and itself remain selfcontradictory. Consciousness is one and many, and the Thing is one and many. In this summarized version of its experience it finds a contradiction that it can only solve by introducing the distinction between the essential and the inessential.
Being-many and being-other – the negative elements of the experience – are now distributed over many things. Each of these things remains a unity with itself. I.e. each thing is One, remains identical to itself, it is just this single thing. However, with regard to other things, or in comparison to other things – as well as relative to consciousness – the thing is also a being-for-others, it has otherness that makes it specifically distinct from other things.
So this red book is just this single thing – a red book. When we start talking about this thing in comparison to our consciousness, then this redness is just what we perceive, when we talk about its relationship to other things we can say that the size is just what it is relative to other things of other sizes. When we focus on one of its properties or the determinacy of the whole, some kind of relation to something else is introduced, that does not affect that basic assumption that each thing is whatever it is. The relationship to others and to consciousness is inessential and in that inessential element we can now find all the difference and contradiction we have encountered before.
Each thing therefore in its being for itself is just this One and is essentially One. The appearance of difference and distinction is only relative to other things and consciousness. But we want to talk about things as determinate. Although the manifold of properties and relations is not intrinsic to the Thing, it nevertheless defines it. This ‘definition’ however is now seen as inessential. Only with regard to other things and consciousness will it appear. As such the thing is only ‘this single thing’ and nothing else.
Each thing therefore in its being-for-others is whatever the perspective or relationship makes it to be. This quality of the thing is however inessential, since it comes from the outside and does not affect the being-for-itself of the thing. That the red book is different from a green book is something that follows from our act of comparison and has nothing to do with what the red book is in itself. That it is red and that red as a determinate color is different from green also does not affect this intrinsic unity with itself.
Of course this attempt cannot succeed. The being-for-itself of the Thing is only valid in so far as the Thing is not in some relationship to others. We would have to assume that it can be this determinate thing just in itself without any relationship to other things. The basis for this would be some absolute quality that makes it absolutely distinct from all others. Something ‘essential’ that is not common with others and unique to it as this particcular thing. It would have to be some quality that excludes all other things. And only because it does indeed exclude all others, and is not common to any other, would it be possible to accept that quality as defining this unique single thing.
We can however only speak about something that is not common to others, an absolute quality, with reference to these other things that it – the thing for itself – is not. Every thing, precisely as this single unique thing, has therefore a relationship to all others, it is for its determinacy dependent upon all others.
We must conclude that the essence of a singlular, unique thing is therefore not within itself where we posited it earlier, but beyond it. The exclusion of all other things from itself, is actually an inclusion of all others – because it is whatever it is precisely because it is NOT what all others are. The independence of the thing as unique and singular is therefore the result of a negation. Whenever we try to establish that this unique thing has some unique quality that makes it distinct from all others, it is the distinction itself – the negative relationship to others – that makes it so. What seemed essential – the unique property – turns out to be inessential – as the mere result of the negation of all others.
If I try to argue e.g. that this red book is distinct from all others because of one single property that makes it different, then what can I say? It must be something like: the unique quality that beloings to this book alone. How can I determine what that is? It is certainly not the size, the matter or the color that makes it so. It must be something like the ‘this-red-bookness’ That however is merely an abstract statement about the fact that it is this single red book and NOT what every other object in the world is.
(to be continued)