[57] {23}



The classical ideas concerning essence which we are going to submit to rapid examination may be reduced to three groups. In the first place, there is the idea that essence is a "meaning". In the second place, there is the group in which we find the different ideas according to which the essence is, in one form or another, the "concept" of the thing. Finally, there is the idea of the essence as the correlative of the real "definition".

We will begin with the first group. We ask, then, in what does the primary necessitating unity of the real thing consist? A first attempt at an answer to this question-first only in order of this exposition-depends precisely on the conceptualization of the kind of necessity to which the essence refers. This is the conception of essence which Husserl held. It is not enough that something be necessary to insure that it be strictly essential, because there are different types of necessity. All natural laws involve some kind of necessity (whether it be statistical or causal is unimportant at this point); nevertheless, we do not say without further consideration that they are essential laws. Essential necessity is more than natural necessity. For Husserl, natural necessity is merely the necessity characteristic of a fact. Natural necessity, in a word, refers to individual realities, that is, internally determined realities situated in a certain place and at a certain moment of time. Every individual reality, we are told, is, in {24} itself, contingent; it is "thus" but it could be otherwise. It might be [58] found in some other place and encountered at some other moment of time. In its characteristics, this individual reality is what and as it is, but only as a matter of fact. Reality is, then, for Husserl, individuality, and for this reason contingency, and for the same reason, fact. Hence it is that natural laws are mere laws of matters of fact, factitious regulations of the factitious; as such, they share, in the last analysis, the contingent character of all matters of fact: things are as a matter of fact, subject to determined necessities. However, in their particular character (de suyo) they could be subject to other, different necessities. This factitive necessity is what the law of nature expresses; it is a hypothetical necessity because it rests on the supposition that things are regulated as they are, as a matter of fact, regulated. Hence, in its intrinsic character, no matter how necessary it may be, knowledge of natural laws is an empirical knowledge.

An essential law is something very different. It expresses an absolute necessity. Absolute here means not only that it admits of no exceptions, but also that it cannot have any exceptions because it does not depend upon any hypothesis concerning matter of fact: the essential not only is as it is, but also has to be as it is; it is impossible on the basis of its intrinsic character (de suyo) that it should be otherwise. For this reason, the essential law does not rest on reality as such but rather on something independent of all factitive reality. This object on which the essential law rests is what Husserl calls essence. While apprehension of matters of fact constitutes empirical knowledge, the apprehension of essences is the term of an absolute knowledge. It is clear that essences and realities are not totally independent of each other: an essence is independent of all reality, i.e., matters of fact; a reciprocal independence of matter of fact relative to essence is not certain. That is, every reality is founded on an essence. It has a to be, being, relative to an essence, and all empirical knowledge is based on an absolute knowledge. Essence, by contrast, has an absolute to be and is also the term of an absolute knowledge.

{25} On this basis, what, for Husserl, is this essence in itself, what is its absolute "to be" (ser)? Granted that the essence is the terminus of absolute knowledge, it will be enough for us to arrive at this knowledge: its object, the essence, will, by this very fact, be characterized. Empirical knowledge attains to the real thing insofar as it [59] is real and is the terminus of an act of apprehension by my consciousness, an act which in itself is also a real act, possessing psychic and psycho-physiological mechanisms of execution. Empirical knowledge, consequently, exhibits all of the relativity inherent in the character of reality of its object as well as of its act of apprehension. Without, however, abandoning this act, I can effect a change of attitude which would consist in taking the term which is apprehended solely in its character of being apprehended, and the act of apprehension solely in its character as a taking account of, that is, setting aside the mechanism of its execution. We thus place the character of reality "within parentheses". And, in virtue of this simple operation, we have opened an unsuspected world before our eyes. In these conditions, effectively, the object apprehended, insofar as it is apprehended, and the apprehending consciousness, insofar as it is a consciousness of this character, cannot be posited the one without the other; they are in strict, rigorous, and indissoluble correspondence, the traits of which can be precisely determined. That which is apprehended, strictly as apprenhended, does not form a part or moment of consciousness even though it is given evidently only in that consciousness. Reciprocally, consciousness, in this case, is not a real act, psychic in character, but is only "consciousness of" that which is apprehended, and cannot be posited without it. This is precisely what the "of" (de) expresses. This "of" belongs, then, to the structure of "pure" consciousness and is what Husserl calls intentionality. In its turn, that which is apprehended in this precise character is nothing else than what is intended (intentum), the intentional correlative of that "de", the intentional term "toward" which consciousness directs itself, that is, the "sense" (Sinn) of this intention. As object, this intentum is a new object, so new that it is irreducible to any matter of fact and remains unaffected by all the vicissitudes of reality; this is the case whether that which is apprehended, in its precise character as apprehended, be, in addition, a reality or not {26} (illusion or hallucination). This new object, which is the "meaning", is not, consequently, a real object, but pure "eidos". For this reason, that which is apprehended as apprehended, that is to say, not as the factitive term of a fact of consciousness, but as the objective meaning of its intention, is now not a reality but eidos. For this reason, that knowledge in which that which is apprehended is not [60] relative to empirical conditions but is independent of them, is absolute knowledge. Its object is precisely the essence. The essence, consequently, is nothing other than the eidetic unity of a meaning or sense. And consciousness itself, on having been reduced to an "intending" meaning, exhibits to us, in this intentionality, its own proper essence; consciousness would be, in a certain way, the essence of essences, because it is the essential (esencial) support of all of the essences. Consciousness is, then, effectively, an act of "giving" meaning (sinngebender Akt). Simply by the process of reducing reality to meaning, empirical knowledge has been turned into absolute knowledge, and fact into essence. The laws of the realm of essence, we may say, are absolute. For Husserl, this means that any attempt to violate them not only is false as a matter of fact, not only is, further, impossible because contradictory, but is something much more simple: it is "counter-sense" (contra-sentido) (Widersinn).

The essence, then, is the eidetic unity of meaning. As such, it is, in the first place, as we have said, "an object of a new character" and separated, that is, independent, of any reality of fact; it has indeed nothing at all to do with realities. Essence and reality are two distinct and separate worlds. In the second place, essence is that which establishes or grounds reality. Every reality is "thus and so"; it might, however, be in "some other manner"; this "thus and so" and this "other manner" refer back to the essence; every individual and contingent, by its very meaning, sends us back to an essence of {27} which it is the realization in fact and to which it must accommodate itself; the supreme condition of every reality is that what is realized in it must have meaning. Essence, as I was saying, is separated from fact, because it is independent of the latter. The fact, however, is not separated from the essence, but, quite the contrary, refers back to it and is founded in it; it is in itself inseparable from the essence. The essence is, then, the foundation of the possibility of the real. In the third place, essence as meaning is not only independent of reality and that which establishes the latter; it is also sufficient to itself. It is the unique entity (ente) which has no need of another in order to be what it is: pure meaning. Its to be, therefore, is absolute.

To sum up then, the essence, for Husserl, is an eidetic unity of meaning and as such rests upon itself in a world of absolute to be, [61] distinct, independent, and separated from the world of reality of fact.

Despite all the richness of the phenomenological analysis, this conception of essence is radically unsustainable, both in its presuppositions as well as in its content.

It is untenable before all else in its very suppositions. In the first place, by reason of the very form in which it focuses the question. Husserl, as a matter of fact, takes his point of departure from the absolute laws or necessities of things. Stated in this way, the obvious course would be to, concentrate on things in order to arrive with much effort at their absolute moment, without ever being secure of having reached it. Nothing could be farther from Husserl's mind. Husserl does not go directly to things because what he wanted, in the first place, was apodictic evidences, absolute evidences, that is, a knowledge which, by reason of its proper character as a form of knowledge, will guarantee these evidences and would, therefore, be an absolute knowledge in and for itself, quite different from every form of empirical knowledge. The radical differentiation, from which Husserl takes his point of departure in all his philosophy, is the contraposition between absolute knowledge and empirical knowledge; it is not the difference between two modes of to be-"the" absolute and "the" relative-but between two modes of knowing. He subsumes {28} the concept of essence under the concept of absolute and makes the absolute in its turn a form of knowing. With this, in place of seeking the absolute of things, what he does is delimit among them that zone to which this kind of knowledge, absolute by itself, attains. Husserl has projected the problem of essence by way of knowledge, by way of the act of consciousness, in which I apprehend it. However, in this way, the essence of things remains irretrievably lost beforehand and can never be recovered. The philosophy of Husserl, phenomenology, never tells us what anything is but only the mode of consciousness in which it is given. With his. celebrated essences Husserl will never tell us what the essence is, but only what it is which is given to us in the absolute mode of consciousness; and this "what" is that which he will call, without qualification, essence. This is to twist that which is apprehended to make it take on the character of a mode of apprehension; it is to call absolute that of which we have absolute consciousness. This, however, is inadmissible. By departing from things [62] and directing himself to consciousness for the sake of an absolute knowledge, Husserl has lost, in the very focusing of the question, the essential element of reality. He will attain, at most, a kind of "essential thinking" but never the essence of things.

However, even if we should accept this focusing of the question, the very idea of consciousness, with which Husserl operates, is inadmissible, namely, his supposition that the formal character of consciousness is "intentionality". Let us pass over the grave problem which (the manner of) speaking about that which Husserl, following philosophy since Descartes, calls "the" consciousness, constituted. It is not possible to speak of "the" consciousness for the simple reason that consciousness lacks all substantivity, all substantive to be. Consciousness is nothing but a character or property which some, but {29} not all, the acts which man carries out, possess; there are conscious acts, but there is no "consciousness". For this reason, the radical problem does not lie in the moment of consciousness, but rather in the "physical" character of those acts. Therefore, I repeat, let us not linger over this important question on which I have insisted extensively in my courses, and let us acknowledge that one speaks of consciousness as an entity in itself. Husserl tells us that this entity is "intentional". That means that the inner character of this act is to be "consciousness of" and that the character of the object is to be its intentional term, to be "correlative to" the intention in consciousness. What is true as a mere establishment of properties which the act and its object effectively possess is completely false as an affirmation concerning what they formally are. Consciousness does not consist formally in "being intention of" but in being "actualization" of its object. The intention itself is a mode of actualization and nothing more. Conversely, the to be of an object does not consist in "to be correlative to". To be sure, the object is correlative to the act; however, since the latter is an act of actualization, it follows that the formal character of the object, insofar as it is the term of the act, is merely to be actualized. To be the intentional object of consciousness not only does not exclude being reality-this should be obvious-but rather that it further "consists", in referring formally to that which the object is independently of consciousness and its meaning, and this in virtue of the formal character of consciousness: to actualize. It is a question, then, of a remission not of a "meaning", but a [63] "physical" remission just as the actualization is also physical. Hence it follows that the essence is not formally "meaning". To be a meaning is, in the essence, a character which it possesses only for the intentional moment of consciousness, but not the character in which the essence formally consists. As we shall see later on, consciousness by reason of its proper character, which is not intentional but physical, sends us back to this other character proper to the essence and, {30} therefore, does not exhibit it to us as mere meaning.

Consequently, in its very suppositions-both those which regard the focusing of the question as well as those which refer to the idea of the act of consciousness-the Husserlian conception of essence is inadmissible. However, what is still more serious, the very idea which Husserl forms of essence is radically erroneous in its content. The essence, he tells us, is an eidetic unity of meaning. We have just said that the essence is not the "meaning" of the intentional dimensions of consciousness; now we may add that, taken in itself, neither is it a meaning with respect to things. Things do not "send us back to" the essence as to a meaning which is regulative a priori of their reality. Things actually have a more intimate relation with the essence: they do not send us back to the essence but rather they "possess" the essence intrinsically; essences are realized "in" things; they are an intrinsic and formal moment of them. It is this moment that may be called eidos. The essence, however, is not an eidetic unity of meaning, but rather, it would be at most the structural eidos of the reality. To the degree that the matter stands in this way, the reality is not a pure contingent fact, but encloses within itself, as an intrinsic moment, essential necessity (the necessity proper to the essence). Hence it follows that to violate essential laws would be an absolutely impossible effort, not only through logical impossibility (contradiction) and less by way of counter-meaning (contra-sentido), but, ultimately, for a much more profound reason: by the "real" impossibility of the thing, should those laws be violated, continuing to be physically the same thing that it was. It is not a counter-sense, but a "counter-to be", a "counter-reality", that is, a radical and primordial destruction of the thing.

Hence, it follows that the reality of fact and the essence are not opposed to each other in the form which Husserl suggests. To the degree to which the essence is realized "in" the thing, it is "of" the [64] thing. Every essence is, by reason of its proper "to be", the essence {31} "of" the thing, a moment of it. The "of" belongs to the formal structure of the essence itself. The essence is necessarily "the essence of". There is no essence apart, as Husserl would have it. By its intrinsic character, in the first place, the essence is not something independent of the reality of fact. It is true that the color that I perceive, insofar as it is perceived, or a geometrical circle, are what they are in their pure suchness so long as my perceptions do not prove to be hallucinatory; the naturalist would be upset, but the painter and the geometer would continue unperturbed. This, however, does not mean what Husserl would have it mean. For the color which has been perceived, insofar as it is perceived, and the geometrical circle, are not essences, but objects sui generis; proof of this resides in the fact that I am necessarily compelled to inquire into the essence of this color and of this circle. These presumptive "objects", like all objects, have their proper essences. And of this essence we have to repeat that it is not independent of the object itself as though the essence were "an ideal thing", but is, rather, an intrinsic and formal moment of the object itself. That of which the essence is independent is the accidental contingency, but not the real thing, for this real thing has in itself and formally something more than its contingent moment, namely, the moment of essential necessity. The color which has been perceived insofar as it is perceived, and the geometrical circle, owe their indifference to existence not to the fact that they are essences but to the fact that they constitute another class of objects different from real things. The reduction in character of reality does not turn the fact into an essence, but the real thing into a phenomenal object. The essence, as such, issues untouched from this operation.

In the second place, the essence is not that which grounds the reality as the regulative meaning of the reality itself. We have already said: it is the eidos of the reality, a structural moment of it, but not its physical "meaning". The essence is not like an ideal pole toward which the thing would be directed in its contingent mobility and individuality.

Finally, in the third place, the essence has no absolute to be {32} whatsoever; it is not the being (ente) which is sufficient to itself in order to be what it is. And this for a simple reason, because, as [65] "separated" from the thing, the essence "is" not an entity; as to be (ser) only the thing "is". The essence is not an entity, but only a moment of the unique entity which the real thing is. Therefore, the essence does not repose on itself; it reposes on the real thing according to that mode of reposing on it which is "to be it". Consequently, it follows that the essence is in itself something completely made factitive (fáctico). There are no essences which are really and physically immutable and absolute.

In a word, then, the essence is always, and only the essence "of" the real thing and nothing more: it is an intrinsic moment of the latter. Essentiality and facticity are not two regions of entities, two classes of "things", but only two moments of every reality. The essentiality pertains to the structural moment of the real and not to the objective meaning of my absolute knowledge. By separating these two moments-essentiality and facticity-and by substantivizing them to the benefit of two types of knowing-absolute knowledge and empirical knowledge-Husserl has disjointed the real, and the reality has escaped forever from his hands.[66]

[67] {33}



Essence is, then, an intrinsic moment of the thing. In order to bring the question into focus in this second line of inquiry, let us anticipate some ideas again, that is, let us make some addition to the provisional determination of essence.

Since essence is an intrinsic moment of the real thing, the contraposition, or I might better say, the difference between the "simple" real thing and its essence remains carried back to a difference within the real thing itself between what is essential and what is not essential in it. Among the notes which the thing effectively possesses, there are some notes of a more profound character than that of their mere effective possession, because they are those notes upon which rests all that the thing is. This is what is essential; everything else is real in the thing, but non-essential to it. This difference between what is essential and what is non-essential is expressed, before all else, in the idea of truth: what is essential is what is truly real in the thing, the essence is its true (verdadera) reality. This is what we must add to our earlier provisional determination of the essence. Let us say then that the essence is primary unity and at least an intrinsic principle which necessitates the other notes of the real thing; we add, then, that it is the true reality of this thing.

The conception of essence as "meaning" does indeed indicate the character of the primary unity and of the necessitating principle of the real thing, but states it as extrinsic to the thing. Having seen, [68] {34} however, that it is intrinsic, we have turned our gaze toward the interior, so to say, of the real thing itself, and we try to verify in just what its truth may consist. Only in this way will we encounter the essence. What, then, is the true reality of anything?

It is not a question, in the first place, of truth, in the sense of true knowledge, but in the sense of the real character of things; as when, for example, we speak of a true wine in contrast to a wine that has been adulterated. It is customary to speak, in this sense, of an ontological truth. We may set aside, for the moment (though recognizing clearly its importance), the question whether this truth is, properly speaking, ontological; for reasons which I shall explain later, we will see that it is not an ontological truth, but another kind of truth, real truth. For the purposes of a simple exposition of philosophical positions other than our own, however, let us employ the idea of an ontological truth. By this term, what is usually meant is that it is not a question of a truth of the lÕgoj, but of a truth of the thing. What is this truth, truth in this sense? In this truth of the thing, the thing is not what we might call its reality without qualification, that is, the immediately apprehended reality, but rather it is the reality of that which we apprehend insofar as it corresponds to the concept of the thing. The truth of something would be its concept, or, if one prefers, conformity with its concept. When the thing corresponds to the concept of it, we are accustomed to say that it possesses ontological truth. Thus, authentic and true wine, that is, a liquid which is truly wine, is one which possesses all the properties which are included in the concept of wine.

On this supposition, this true reality would be, properly, the essence of the thing. As a consequence, we can say that the essence is the reality of the concept "of" the thing. Naturally this expression proves ambiguous; and it is deliberately so because it leaves in the {35} shadow the meaning of this "of". The only thing that we have wanted to say is that reality and concept are two dimensions in the correspondence between which essence is truly found. This correspondence is what is expressed in the "of". And the different interpretations of this "of" offer a corresponding number of distinct notions of the essence as the concept of the thing.





The essence, we are told, is the reality of the concept. This phrase, however, as I have just said, is enormously equivocal, because the concept itself can be understood in two ways. The concept is, on the one hand, that which is conceived and, on the other hand, the conception itself, that is to say, the act of conceiving that which is conceived and the thought in and with which I conceive it: this is the classical distinction between the objective and the formal concept.

In a first sense, to speak of the reality of the concept can mean that one is considering the reality of the formal concept itself. The formal concept would not be a form empty of content, but rather that in which the very activity of reason would formally consist: to engender, to conceive, to create something in and by thought. What, however, is this conception, and what is that which is conceived in it? This is the question.

That which is conceived, in the first place, is an objective concept; as such, it contains no more being than that which its formal conception confers upon it; that is, its being consists solely in being thought. Hegel will tell us that this is not enough; that which is conceived is not merely an objective concept, but is identical with the real thing itself, as real. If there should be a separation or distinction between the objective concept and the real thing, possession of the truth would not be possible. Therefore, the to be which the formal conception confers on that which is conceived is more than objectivity; it is the "physical" reality itself. All the to be of the real thing as real would be conferred upon it by the formal conception of reason. To be consists in being conceived. "To be is to think," (Phänom. Vorrede, 3); "the concept as such is the being in and for itself) (Logik, Einleit.). In this manner the concept would be "the living spirit of what is real" (Encyk., Section 162) and only that "is true in {37} reality which is true in and by the forms of the concept" (ibid.). Conception, therefore, has the strong meaning which it has in biology; [70] the formal conception, the act of reason, would be the generation or realization of things. Reciprocally, the whole of reality would be nothing else than the realization of reason. "Logical reason itself is the substantial element of the real" (Logik, Einleitung). Because it is the root and foundation of the whole of reality, this logical reason is in itself the divine reason. Nevertheless, it is, at the same time and as unity, human reason, because the latter is, in its proper concept, identical with the divine reason. To be sure, human reason is finite in itself; its finitude, however, in the same manner as the finitude of all other things, consists simply "in not as yet having within itself completely the reality of its concept" (Logik, III; Abs. 3, p. 40). The divine reason, by contrast, is reason in its full concept, is "the" absolute reason. By what it contains on the basis of reason, human reason is, then, identical with the divine reason; on the basis of what it has of the human, it is nothing but the realization, as yet fragmentary and deficient, of that divine reason. There is, between these two, only a difference of degree; human reason is only a moment of the {38} divine reason, of "the" reason. From this it follows that the content of human reason, insofar as it is actually reason, namely, the Science of Logic, "is nothing else in its content but the exposition of God as He is in His eternal essence before the creation of nature and finite spirit" (ibid.). Metaphysics and theology, consequently, are nothing but logic. That is to say, the structure of reality is identical with the formal structure of "the" reason and is founded on it. Such is Hegel's interpretation. What then is essence?

Evidently, it will be a moment of conception, that is, of the realization of reason. In a first moment, that is, immediately when we conceive something, we conceive it provisionally as "actually being" (siendo). To be is pure immediacy, because it is nothing but the setting in motion of conception. Therefore, reason cannot conceive pure to be and nothing more, because "to be and nothing more" is "not to be", determinately nothing: pure to be is the same as pure nothing, Hegel will tell us. That is to say, to be contains within itself intrinsically its own negativity; this "no" can rest in itself. Therefore, to be is seen as forced to emerge from itself; it is not rest but process, becoming (Werden). Reason is seen as forced to continue the process of conception; it has to conceive to be as "something"; this is to say, in its process of becoming, to be acquires its specific notes, [71] or quantitative and qualitative determinations. The oak is not only the tree; it is also the fruit and the seed; and it is these three things at one and the same time, as moments of a single process.

But let us not be deceived. To speak of to be has been, since the time of Parmenides, to speak of something supreme and ultimate. In Hegel's view it is exactly the contrary: to be is the most impoverished (of concepts). Not, to be sure, in the sense that it possesses the least comprehension; because this, in addition to being the oldest (point of view) would be false for Hegel, since for him to be, by reason of its processive character, is endowed, as we have just said, with specific determinations. The poverty of to be is for Hegel much more profound: it consists precisely in its pure immediacy, its being nothing more than setting the process of conception in motion. For Hegel, "to be" is "to be and nothing more". And to say of anything "only" that "it is", is to level off everything: all things "are" and are "equally"; when we look only to the fact of to be, all things have the same rank. Immediacy, therefore, is pure indifference (Gleichgüiltigkeit), and for the same reason, dispersion. This is what the poverty of to be consists in. Reason conceives that this "no" can be in this way. Therefore, it folds the notes back upon themselves (Reflexion), it interiorizes them, in a certain way, that is, it conceives them as the manifestation of a kind of internal nucleus of the thing. This is the essence: the second stage of conception as {39} realization. After the first, which was the immediacy of becoming, that is, the mere "setting in motion" of conception, we now have, so to say, "the concrete motion itself" of conception, a movement of the folding of becoming back upon itself, a quiescence of becoming which is the constitution of its internal supposition: the essence. What does Hegel understand by essence?

First of all, the manner in which Hegel arrives at the essence already foretells its proper formal character. For Hegel does not discover the essence by distinguishing, within real things, the essential and the non-essential notes. Not that it is the case that Hegel is entirely ignorant of this difference, but rather that he eliminates it as "superficial" and external (etwas äusserliches). For Hegel, the difference between the essence and that which is not essence is not a difference of notes but a difference of condition. It is not a question of what is essential in a thing, but of the essentiality (esencialidad) [72] of to be. All the notes of a thing, considered as notes which merely "are", constitute what is non-essential; non-essentiality (inesencialidad) is precisely the pure indifference of to be. However, all these same notes conceived as "growing out of" the interiority of the thing which "is" are what is essential in it, what is essential in to be. For this reason, that which Hegel calls non-essential (un-wesentlich) would have to be properly translated as "a-essential". That which is constitutively a-essential is for Hegel pure to be, because it is pure indifference. The essence, therefore, in a certain way stands beyond to be. Hence follows the formal proper character of the essence. The essence, in effect, because it stands beyond to be as such, is, eo ipso, the negation of the constitutive immediacy of pure to be; it consists in the "no" of simple to be (Nichtigkeit). Therefore, essence is formally {40} "pure negativity": here we have its specific formal character. On this supposition, the problem of essence is nothing else for Hegel except the problem of the structure of this pure negativity.

Hence, negativity is not a pure "nothing", because, for Hegel, the essence arises in a movement of refolding, in a "reflection" of becoming back on itself. It is the first structural moment of the essence as negativity: the reflexivity of to be. Reflection is not a movement of knowing, but of to be. As a character of to be it is not a transitive, but an intransitive movement, a "remaining" in itself, something, as it were, like a stationary movement, a "relation" rather than a process. In this reflection, and established upon the to be, what. movement does is to open the vacuum in it, the ambit of its interiority.

Reflexivity is, under this aspect, a negation of the simple immediacy of to be; it is not, however, an annihilation of to be. To be is conserved, but as something negated. In opening the ambit of the interiority of to be, reflection lodges in it precisely the to be itself, though "negatively", so to say. Rather than an annihilation, it is an annulment of being. I should say that, for Hegel, essence is not "nothingness" (nada) but rather "nullity" (this would be my translation of Nichtigkeit) in the order of to be, something which "is not actually being". And this is, concretely, "appearance" (Schein). Appearance, in fact, does not mean here a thing which appears other, that is, an apparent thing, an "apparent to be", but rather "an appearance of to be", pure and constitutive "appearanceness" [73] (apariencialidad). Appearance is not a nothing; nevertheless, it is not to be; to be is preserved in the appearance, though negated in its to be, that is to say, affirmed only as appearance; it is precisely the nullity of to be. Neither does appearance mean here that, for example, what I have before me appears to be an oak but is not such. Appearance is not "only appearance". Appearance means that the reflective refolding of all the notes of that which I have before me makes of them that which we call an oak precisely when I take these notes, subtracting (restando) from them their character of to be. As negativity {41} of to be, then, the essence is positively appearanceness. For this reason I would call the Hegelian essence a "positive negativity". It is to be which, in the process of negating itself to itself, remains as pure appearance. Here we have the second structural moment of essence as negativity: appearanceness. This is the terminal moment of the reflexive movement. As such, essence has a peculiar character. Because it stands beyond to be, essence is "in itself"; pure appearance lacks otherness, it does not send us back to an other thing. Even more, it has within itself that which is apparent; it consists, therefore, in its appearanceness; it is something "by and for itself". These two characters taken together constitute what Hegel understands by identity. The essence is constitutive identity with itself: it consists in what appears.

Examined carefully, however, reason cannot pause at this point. By way of the negation of to be, essence arises; things, however, are (or are not) what they appear. That is to say, it is precisely the character of essence as appearance which forces us to return to the thing, to that to be which we began by negating. Essence lies beyond to be; nevertheless it belongs to to be. This movement from the essence to the thing is the contrary of doubling; it is the unfolding of the essence into the to be (ser). Just as unfolding is also a negation, the negation of doubling; however a negation of a negation, since doubling (reflection) already was a negation. And every negation of a negation is a "positing". In the essence to be is not annihilated, but is preserved as "appearance"; in the explication the essence is not annihilated, but rather returned to to be. As returned to to be, it still possesses a to be; and this new to be is what Hegel calls "ground" (Grund). Here we have the third structural moment of essence as negativity: groundedness (fundamentalidad). That which appears [74] {42} as an oak is what "makes" the thing an oak. To be, itself, insofar as it is the "grounded" in the essence, is what Hegel understands by existence. Hence it is that for Hegel things already "are" even before they exist: existence is an exit from the essence. Therefore, what the real thing is, is something which "already was" (gewesen). For this reason, that which already was is essence (Wesen).

To sum up then, things are, but they "not" merely "are". This not is the essence in its pure negativity. Therefore, things are "not" simply, "but are" internally grounded. This "but are" is the structure of the essence as pure negativity: it is the reflexivity of to be, the appearentiality and groundedness of to be;. The intrinsic and structural unity of these three moments is what Hegel understands thematically as essence: it is an intransitive movement, a movement of interiorization and exteriorization. Because it is intransitive, it does not separate us from the thing itself: it is a self-motion. The essence is not something that moves, but is the very movement of interiorization. This movement is the conceiving movement. In conceiving a thing, I conceive it as "being" (siendo); however, in making it I conceive it already as an interiority. That is to say, my conceiving movement conceives the reality by preconceiving it as interiorized. The essence of the oak is none of the three moments (seed, tree, fruit) taken in themselves, neither is it their unity as moments of a process. To invert the statement, the essence is something preprocessive; becoming and its moments are what they are precisely because they are the becoming of something which "already was" an oak. Let us call this "to be an oak". What, according to Hegel, would this prior "to be an oak" be? It is not to possess the formal characteristics of the seed, nor those of the tree, nor those of the fruit; that is to say, it is not to be in the sense in which the seed or the tree or the fruit are. Neither, however, is it "pure" process or becoming which leads from {43} one of the terms to the other; because, in being "pure", process is always a "going" from one to the other, whereas in the cycle of the oak (as well as in any other thing whatsoever), we are confronted with a "going" which "already" is internally "qualified" (this very un-Hegelian expression will be forgiven me on the grounds of clarity), a qualification in virtue of which the process is intrinsically an "oaking" (the word may be tolerated) process, and not, for example, a "dogging" process. This internal character of process as such is [75] what Hegel intends by "to be an oak", this is the "essence" of the oak. For Hegel, it is not something which qualifies becoming as a consequence of "coming from" or of "going toward" a term; on the contrary, it is the character which predetermines the internal quality of each of the three terms. The process ends in an acorn or begins from it or expands into a certain tree because the process is already in itself "oaking". The "first" oak is seed, "then" the oak is a tree, "finally" the oak is fruit, however it "always" is actually the same: an oak. To be-an-oak, therefore, predetermines its three moments. It is an internal motion, a self-motion, the internal and intransitive dynamism of reality. The essence is thus the internal determination of to be, that which, when we conceive to be, we are also forced to conceive: its intrinsic presupposition. In this its truth consists; essence is radical truth. Reciprocally, to be, that is to say, the thing in its becoming and with all its notes, is nothing but "manifestion" (Erscheinung) of the essence, of its interiority. And in this resides its truth: real to be is grounded truth.

Essence, then, is, for Hegel, the formal concept as the grounding truth of the to be. Therefore, for Hegel to discover the essence of anything is to construct conceptually, speculatively, the presuppositions of its reality; it is to re-engender the thing. Correlatively, reality itself is something "posited"; it is the "positing" of the to be as essentiated formal conception: the reality as "position", as essence. {44} Such is the second stage of the reality as "positing", as essence.

However, this is a singular "positing". Because, in "positing" the essence as the presupposition of the becoming, reason adds nothing to the essence; rather, it merely conceives expressly something which, without knowing it, it had already conceived when it conceived becoming. Interiorization is, in a certain sense, recall. At this point account is necessarily given of that fact. Reason "knows" that the essence is something pre-conceived, that is, reason conceives how the essence is conforming in and by a conceiving act of reason. This kind of conception Hegel calls Idea: it is the explicit and formal concept of the concept itself as the general conception of the real thing. It is the third and definitive stage of the realization of reason. In it, reason conceives itself as pure formal conception; it is the conception of the conception and, for this reason, of the whole of reality as "concept" of reason. In this entrance of reason into itself, [76] in this self-conception, we have the final term of the process of conception: as Idea, reason, in conceiving things, realizes itself conceptively to itself as absolute reality, unique and radical. "The Idea shows itself as a thinking which is pure and simple identity with itself, but which, in order to be sufficient to itself, is, at the same time, an activity in which it situates itself to itself before itself (as some other thing) in order that, in being with this other, it is only in itself." (Encyclopedia, Section 18.) Thinking, reason, is the Idea in itself and for itself; Nature is the Idea itself in its being other than itself; and Spirit is the Idea which from this condition of being other to itself turns back upon itself in order to be itself. As such, this reality of the Idea is justly God; nÕhsij no¿sewj, thought of itself, Aristotle called it, (Meta. A, 1072b 18-30) and as a synthesis of his own philosophy Hegel, in paragraph 577 of the Encyclopedia, {45} reproduces literally in the original language the entire Aristotelian passage.

The whole of reality, then, would be nothing else but the process of the self-realization of God himself, of logical reason as formal conception: to be, essence, Idea, that is, becoming, positing, self-conception, are the three moments of the unique process of formal conception. And each of them is the truth of the preceding: the essence is the truth of to be, and the Idea is the truth of essence.

In the introduction I said that in a good part of modern philosophy essence has reference to a unique substance, the I. And where this process actually culminates is in Hegel. For him the unique substance is the thinking subject; its essence is its function of conceiving, that is, of engendering, of producing things; and the essence of these things is nothing else than to be mere positings, mere "concepts" of thinking, that is to say, of the thinking subject. This would be the meaning of the "of" in the phrase "the essence is the reality of the concept 'of' the thing": it is the generating genitive.

Despite this mighty Hegelian effort, however, the essence cannot be understood as a moment of formal conception. This is absolutely untenable for various reasons.

In the first place, (it is untenable) by reason of its unitary and univocal concept of reason which leads it to assert the primacy of the logical over the real. What Hegel calls "the" reason does not exist. Reason is not a singular principle of which the divine reason [77] and the human reason would be two moments differing only in degree. On the contrary, the difference between them is essential; a difference between reasons precisely in their quality as reasons. In a word, to know the whole of reality, both actual and possible, in all its aspects and characteristics, solely by means of a formal concept, is something of which only an infinite intelligence, the divine intelligence, is capable; consequently it is chimerical to attribute it to human intelligences, intrinsically finite as they are. Human consciousness demands, not only different formal concepts, but objective {46} concepts which are dependent on things as well; and one of the essential moments of its intrinsic finiteness consists precisely in this dependence. This finiteness is not a mere "defect" or a deficiency of human reason; quite the reverse is the case: it is its positive and constitutive structure. Human intelligence and the divine intelligence are not different from each other only in degree, through their range of influence, so to say, as though the human were only less than the divine; a divine intelligence, as it were, which is cut back or diminished, a diminished divine reason; rather, they are essentially distinct in themselves by reason of the very structure of intelligence as intelligence. What we call intelligence is not the same when we are treating God as it is when we speak of men. Human reason is not identical with the divine reason, not even in that specific character of reason. They are not two levels of one same intelligence, but two distinct intelligences in their very character as intelligences; they are, so to say, two irreducible species of intelligence and intellection. Let me repeat in more general terms: the finiteness of things does not consist, as Hegel would have it, merely in the failure of the realization of the plenitude of their concept. There is another kind of finiteness, more profound and radical: the intrinsic limitation of the concept itself, that in virtue of which the plenitude which is conceived in one concept is not identical with the plenitude conceived in another; it is a question of a diversity within a generic unity; it is a question, above all, of a total diversity of a transcendental order. Correlatively, infinity is not only plenitude in the line of that which is conceived, but rather entitative plenitude in the line of reality as reality; the former would be a merely extensive infinity, whereas the second is an intensive infinity, so to say, an infinity in the transcendental order. Consequently, the difference between the [78] divine and the human intelligence belongs to this last order; it is {47} a transcendental difference. Therefore, what Hegel calls "the" reason does not exist; there exist only reasons which are intrinsically distinct.

Even less, consequently, can that grounding primacy of reason over reality exist. Because the difference between two modes of intellection, that is, the difference between intelligences as intellective, depends on the character of the physical reality of those intelligences, that is, the intelligences insofar as they are real; and in its turn, the difference between the intelligences as realities depends upon the difference of the character of the realities which possess the intelligences in question. The divine intelligence and the human intelligence are distinct precisely in their character as intelligences, because they are distinct in their physical reality; and they are distinct in their physical reality because the reality of God and that of man are essentially different. It follows that not even in the intelligence itself is there a primacy of understanding as such over its reality. In the very first appearance of metaphysics we have a root instance of the grounding primacy of reality over intelligence.

Therefore, neither does "the" reason exist nor does there exist a metaphysical primacy of reason over the real. Metaphysics can never be a logic. The fundamental supposition of the Hegelian metaphysics is untenable.

In the second place, the identification of the real thing with its objective concept as the product of formal conception is untenable. Hegel makes this identification rest on the argument that, if such an identity did not exist, truth would be impossible. However, this, in turn, is untenable, both because of what it implies concerning human reason and what it implies concerning the divine reason. To consider, first, the way in which it touches human reason, if that identity did exist, error would be impossible. Were to be and to think identical, what we call error could consist only in the failure {48} to realize fully the concept of truth, that is, in the fact that to be and to think, although identical, would not constitute, through their identity, the whole of the thing; error, then, would be, and Hegel himself recognizes this fact, a finite truth, therefore, a fragmentary and partial truth, a provisional stage on the road of absolute truth, of full and complete identity. Now, although it may many times be [79] the fact that, materially, error may be a partial truth, nevertheless, formally, error is never partialness but rather disconformity, resulting from a bad direction of thought with respect to the thing, a deviation; at most, the partialness would be the cause of a further deviation and nothing more. This means that thinking consists only in thinking "toward" (hacia) the thing and, therefore, in holding the thing at a "distance", not in "identity". It this were not the case, error would not be possible. Error is disconformity based on deviation. Correlatively, the truth of reason is conformity based upon being "on the way" (estar en vía). Therefore, human reason has, in its radical structure, antecedently to its judgments, true and erroneous, the double intrinsic possibility of being either on the right path or deviated. This essential co-possibility of truth and error in human reason proves, then, that in it there is no identity, but rather distance and distinction between to be and to think. This fact does not mean, as Hegel claimed, that the truth of human reason would not be possible, but signifies, rather, something entirely different, namely, that the truth of human reason does not rest, in the first instance, on reason itself.

However, even in the case of the divine intelligence itself, it is completely false, because impossible, that the to be of that which is conceived would consist merely in a kind of intellectual gestation. Even in the case of God, the mere objectivity-science of simple intelligence-rests at least upon a "previous", "physical" fecundity of the divine reality. However, even setting aside this problem of the science of simple intelligence, that which proves to be undeniable on {49} this basis and what is most important for us here is that if that which is known possesses "physical" reality, the intellection of it-the science of vision as the theologian would call it-is not a question of pure intelligence, either with respect to the reality of that which is known or with respect to the medium of intellection. For that, there is necessary a creative fiat, that is to say, an act of volition which would confer on the merely objective character of simple intellection a physical reality; without that volition that thing would lack any reality at all. Physical reality is not, even in the case of God, a movement or projection of mere intelligence; real things are something more than mere "divine concepts" (taking this last expression, which is in any case, an improper one, in a broad sense).

[80] Hence it follows, in the third place, that the real thing is not, even in the case of God, a merely immanent and formal moment of intelligence. To be sure, it is the terminus of His intellection; however, a terminus which is terminally transcendent to it and even to His creative volition. The infinite character of the divine intellection does not in any way consist in a monism of the intelligent spirit of God. The divine intellective act, formally immanent to the reality of God, is, from the point of view of the reality of that which is conceived, terminally transcendent. The real thing is not, formally, a formal moment of the divine intellection itself. Hegelian idealism has nothing to do with the idea that the metaphysical essence of God might be His subsistent intelligence. Even if this thesis, clearly problematical for that matter, were true, it would never mean that there is no more reality than the divine intelligence, and that all that is understood might be formally and terminally an immanent moment of the divine act of intellection. Idealism does not consist only, as has been asserted so many times, in the affirmation that absolute and radical being is an intelligence; it consists rather in the further affirmation that all that is understood in and by that intelligence is only a formally immanent and identical moment of that intelligence itself, a content of it which is merely thought, having no more formal and terminal {50} reality than pure intellection. That is, idealism consists in affirming that the infinite intelligence is not only the absolute and radical reality but also that it is "physically" the unique reality. But this is impossible as the reasons adduced make clear.

Hence follows the radical falseness of the Hegelian idea of essence and of the path by which it is to be apprehended. For Hegel, essence has two characteristics: it is the presupposition of being (let us call this "suppositionality") and it is the truth of being. I agree without more or greater demands for rigor that these two characteristics do undeniably belong to essence; however, they are in no sense specifically Hegelian. What is specifically Hegelian resides in the interpretation of these two characteristics as structural moments of negativity, and, therefore, as moments of the formal conception. And this interpretation is untenable because, as we have just seen, the primary suppositions of the Hegelian philosophy are untenable. Nevertheless, let us permit our attention to dwell for a bit on each one of these three characteristics: negativity, truth, and suppositionality.

[81] In the first place (let us consider) the formal character proper to essence according to Hegel: its formal and constitutive negativity. It is a central concept in the whole Hegelian philosophy, because negativity constitutes the primum movens of the entire dialectical process of thought: it is that which causes the antithesis to emerge and that which advances to the synthesis. In the case of essence, negativity is that which compels reflection, doubling (antithesis) and the unfolding in the ground (synthesis).

As, for Hegel, the dialectic is the formal conception as generating physical reality, it becomes necessary to introduce negativity into to be itself as one of its constitutive moments. And this is the {51} question; can it be said that to be, that reality itself, is constitutively affected by negativity? This is impossible. Reality is that which is, and, in that which is, there is distilled all its reality, no matter how limited, fragmentary and insufficient it might be. The negative, as such, has no physical reality whatsoever (we are here using to be and reality as synonyms). Of two real things we say, and we see with truth, that the one "is not" the other. This "is not" does not, however, affect the physical reality of each of the two things, but it affects this physical reality only insofar as it is present to an intelligence, which, when it compares those things, sees that the one "is not" the other. Negativity, therefore, is a constitutive moment of the objective concept of reality, but not of physical reality itself. In the case of essence this observation is decisive. Hegel considers the essence as a pure "appearing"; it is the concrete form of the negativity of simple being. This, however, is impossible. In reality there is no pure apparition of being. Every appearance rests on a previous reality. And this resting with which appearance is constituted is negativity only in the objective concept and not in the thing itself. Hence, it results that Hegel calls essence, not a physical moment of reality, but its objective concept. And it is the fact that Hegel begins by identifying physical reality with the objective concept; and since the latter has no more to be than that which is conferred upon it by formal intellection, it follows that reality remains submerged in the intelligence from the very beginning. And this is impossible for the reasons adduced above. To anchor the problem of essence in negativity is to make of the suppositionality and of the truth of essence [82] moments in formal conception. But this cannot be maintained. Let us examine this, independently of those general reasons.

In the first place, (let us consider) essence as the "truth" of to be. What does Hegel understand here by "truth"? Naturally, there is no question here of logical truth, but of ontological truth, of truth as a {52} constitutive moment of to be. This truth is, for Hegel, the "manifestation" (Erscheinung) of the essence in the reality of the thing. Is this maintainable? The identification between reality and its objective concept tends to return. In this oak which I have before me it is certain-later I shall have to insist upon this point at great length-that its notes manifest the essence, the to be an oak; the fact is, however, that here "essence" is a physical, structural moment of the thing itself, of the oak. However, if by essence one understands something that lies beyond being, this to be is not the manifestation of the essence. Quite the contrary. As we shall see in the following paragraph, it is things which manifest themselves in objective concepts and therefore it is they which send the intelligence on to something which stands beyond to be. Only in a secondary sense may we call the thing the manifestation of that which is conceived. It is the problem of ontological truth, as conformity of the thing with its objective concept. Hegel, however, has greater pretensions; for him ontological truth would consist, in the last analysis, in the fact that the formal act of intellection was physically and formally the very configuration of the thing; stated in the Aristotelian terms which Hegel favored so much, in which the formal conception would be the very "form" of the thing. And this, independently of the fact that the essence would be beyond being, is impossible. For then you would not have "conformity" between the thing and its concept, but rather "conformation" of the former by the latter. Well then, this is false, both as it touches on God and as it refers to things. It is false, with regard to God, since the divine Idea, considered objectively, is not really the informing form of things, but only their formal paradigm. And if one takes the Idea as the act of ideation, that is to say, as the formal act of intellection, then the impossibility is even more manifest. Because, as the formal act-I will say it in general terms without {53} entering into the problem-the Idea is nothing else but the intellection of God's own reality insofar as it is the "fountain" of reality, not insofar as it is a reality which in and by the intellection of that [83] which is not identical with it will, in giving form to things, give form to himself. And this is also false with respect to things. Things are not the Ideas but merely transcendent projections of ideas. And in their character of reality, things are infinitely more rich than the Ideas, because in the Ideas there is to be found, objectively and determinately, "that which" things are or are going to be; but not, however, their physical reality itself for which there is necessary, as we have said, an act of infinite divine volition. Ontological truth is not the identity of thought and thing; rather it presupposes, in some form or other, a kind of distance between the intellective moment and the physical moment of reality. Without the former there would be nothing but brute reality without Idea, or Idea without reality. There is ontological truth only when there is conformity, not when there is conformation. This means that the essence is not the Idea as the formal act of intellection. At the very most it would be the Idea as objective concept. We shall see immediately, however, that neither can it be this latter. For the present moment, however, it is enough that we see that the essence is not the formal act of intellection and that, as a consequence, the essence does not show that the truth of to be is thought itself.

It would only show us that, if it made us see that essence is the presupposition of to be and that to be "the presupposition" is something formal and exclusive to thinking. And this is the last character of essence that we must examine: the essence as the presupposition of to be. What is the internal characteristic of this presupposition? And in what does "to be a presupposition", that is, "suppositionality", consist?

In the first place (let us consider) the internal character of the essence as the presupposition of to be. Hegel tells us that essence as the presupposition of to be is the intrinsic principle of its becoming, in such wise that the essentialness of things would be self-motion.

Hegel, then, leaves unclarified, first of all, the character of {54} pre-supposition which essence would possess. He has told us that essence is interiorized, folded back upon itself, that is, as the principle whence there flow or flower the notes which it possesses by the mere fact of being what it is. That is to say, that to be a presupposition-let us repeat it-would be simply "to be a principle" through which all the difference between the essential and the non-essential would prove [84] to be a simple difference between that which is principiated as such and the merely happening and indifferent, a difference which, for greater clarity, I have called the difference of condition. Well then, this surely is not enough, because if this were true, all the notes which the thing possesses here and now, on being folded back into their principle, would, by that fact, be essential to it. And this is impossible. The non-essential is not simple indifference, but rather a real moment of each thing, a moment within it physically distinct from that which is essential to it. The real thing encloses as a reality not only the essential notes, but "in addition" many other notes by no means less real than those. The difference between the essential and that which is not essential is not a difference of conditions of some of its notes, but a difference among the notes themselves. In his effort to arrive at the problem of the essence by way of the concept, Hegel, like Plato (although for radically different reasons), glides over this distinction between essential notes and non-essential notes within a thing itself; he does not tell us in what this difference would consist; he is satisfied to call it superficial. And it is here that we may see the complete obscurity in which he left the formal character of "to be a presupposition", that is, the character of the essence as principle. The fact is that all of the notes, both the essential and the non-essential, have a single principle in the "interior" of the thing. This principle, however, does not have the same character in the case of the essential notes and in the case of the non-essential. For {55} the essential notes, the interior principle is the primary unity which determines their formal character as notes. The non-essential notes, however, even though they rest on, or are grounded on, this primary interior unity, nevertheless are not necessarily determined by that same unity. This makes it clear that, although Hegel says correctly that the essence is the presupposition of to be as its principle, he has, nevertheless, left in complete obscurity the unitary and formal character of this supposition or principle as such; that is, he does not tell us what "to be a supposition" is or in what the proper and formal "suppositionality" of the essence with regard to the notes which unify "what" a thing is, consists.

Even when the essence is taken without this necessary clarification, however, is it true that the internal character of this supposition consists in being self-motion? Hegel underlines the character, in a [85] certain sense dynamic, of the essence, that is, the intrinsically determined character of the process of becoming as such; the essence is not ascribed by Hegel to one alone of the three moments, for example, to the "oak-tree", but rather to the to become, "oaking" as such. This conception of Hegel's is, at best, problematical. It is difficult, as a matter of fact, to conceive what to become might be if it is not "reality in process of becoming", that is to say, reality becoming; and in that case it will be a matter of discussion, if one wishes, what this reality might be, whether it is the seed, the tree, or the fruit, or something distinct from all three; it will always be the case, however, that the essence resides in the moment of reality and not in the moment of becoming. Nothing is gained by underlining the moment of the aÜtÕj; quite the contrary. For what is to be understood by the aÜtÕj? A real thing is aÜtÕj, the "self-same", when it possesses a character of physical "sameness" in virtue of which "it moves itself". Here the aÜtÕj, the reality which is itself or "the same", is a prius with respect to its "self-motion", is its principle. As such, it is beyond movement. It might be that this principle is not a mere support or a subject of movement, but something intrinsically and formally enveloped in it; a metaphysics of becoming {56} will have to make clear in what form the principle of movement stands beyond the movement which is principiated. It always will be a principle, however, a prius, with respect to its own self-motion. This is not the aÜtÕj, about which Hegel speaks. In Hegel there is no question of a prius, but rather of a posterius (at least in the order of dialectical development) with regard to self-motion. For Hegel, self-motion does not consist in the fact that something which already is an aÜtÕj "moves", but rather only in the fact that this movement is intransitive; in that case the aÜtÕj is not a principle but is quite the contrary, the intrinsic result of the movement itself. Sameness or selfness would be the compass constituted by an intransitive movement. In other terms, for Hegel, the essence "is" not already something at hand, but rather something which is in "process of" making itself in and by an intransitive movement; even better, the essence is that intransitive movement itself. But this position is radically untenable. The decisive question remains unanswered: on what is the intransitive, that is, reflexive character of the movement grounded? For Hegel it is based on the negativity of simple to be.

[86] But we have already seen that negativity is not a moment of physical reality but only its objective concept. Only because the notes are what they are can they constitute this intransitive dynamism in intellection. The essence is already a physically constituted principle and, as such, is not the intransitive movement, but rather its principle. In a word, this dynamism (we may call it such in order to simplify "becoming", is not, for Hegel, a physical and temporal becoming; that is to say, he does not undertake to elaborate an ontogenetic theory of the real, a natural history of the universe. The becoming to which Hegel refers is quite other: it is an a-temporal becoming in which its different moments do not succeed each other but are grounded in one another kat§ lÕgon, for its own "reason". What Hegel understands by becoming is this "logical" deployment of the {57} process of fundamentation of the formal conception, not its possible temporal process. And the "reason" of this whole deployment is precisely what Hegel calls essence. The essence of the oak is the "reason" through which this process "seed-tree-fruit" is a process intrinsically "oaking". And this character of process which is the essence, Hegel will tell us, is something which we see ourselves forced to conceive in order that there may be becoming; and "forced to conceive" is precisely a character of thinking. And this is the reason why the Hegelian becoming is not a causal "ontogenetic" process but, in a certain way, a "logogenetic" process. And just as it is "necessary" to conceive this in order that there may be "to be" it follows that, for Hegel, the conceptive character of the essence will show that, fundamentally, to be itself is conceptive in character; essence, as the supposition of to be, will be the "positing" in and by thought. But this is impossible. In what effectively does the necessity, according to which essence must be conceived, consist? In thinking, that is to say, "in" the thinking, is where we see ourselves forced to conceive it; however, we are not forced "by" thought but by the force of things, that is to say, by the force of the "to be" previously intellected. What thinking "posits" is not the essence in the "to be", but the essential character of to be in the intelligence. As a formal act, thinking does not generate to be, but, at most, the actualization of "to be" in the intelligence. Hence, this necessity, this logical dynamic character of essential thinking, is not what constitutes the proper character of the essence as the presupposition of to be, but the proper character [87] of the essence as the reason for the intelligibility of to be. The essence as the presupposition of to be is not intransitive dynamism, but physical structure. It is not "the presupposition" of "to be", but the "to be a supposition." The necessity is the ratio cognoscendi of the essence, not its ratio essendi. The essence is not a necessity of to be; things are, as a matter of fact, what they are, and nothing more. The essence is necessity only for the intellection of things. {58} And precisely in this rests the whole reason why the essence is intellective: it is what forcibly plunges us in the things themselves.

This is a matter of the utmost seriousness. In submerging itself in pure intellection by itself, reason, for Hegel, occupies itself only with itself, and it occupies itself with itself not insofar as it is reality, but insofar as it is intelligent; its very mode of being so occupied is also purely intellective. Hence it is that, despite its presumed becoming, reason in Hegel does no more than conceive itself; in reality, in this Hegelian becoming, nothing happens, everything is preserved. And this conception of itself is purely "logical". It is a conceiving becoming in which there is no true innovation, no true creation, neither in things nor in the human spirit itself. It is a gigantic conservation of itself in pure conception. If one wishes to go, on speaking of becoming in Hegel, that is, of a "real movement", he would have to say that it is a singular movement, a transformation like that which the mathematicians call "automorphism". In our case, it is a logico-dynamic automorphism. But this is impossible. By intelligence, man is in things (including himself among them) as realities; he is necessitated by them and, therefore, in a real, rather than logical, becoming. As a matter of fact, we see ourselves compelled by the reality of things to bow before them modestly and problematically. Modestly, that is, with an effort to submit ourselves to them, no matter how irrational they may appear to us; it is not possible to apprehend the essence of anything by pure conceptual dialectic. Problematically, because we can never be sure of being able to apprehend, either in fact or in principle, the essence of anything, and even less to apprehend it wholly and adequately. Before the conceptualism of Hegel it is necessary to underline forcefully the givenness of the real, whether or not we can conceive it adequately. Formal concepts are one thing, then, reality another.

[88] {59}



I have said that the phrase "the essence is the reality of the concept" is equivocal because one cannot tell whether the concept in question is the formal concept or the objective concept. For Hegel, as we have seen, it is a matter of the formal concept. However, that phrase can be understood by referring it to the objective concept. Such is the point of view of all forms of rationalism which have their origin in the philosophy of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, become incarnated in Descartes, and culminate in Leibniz and in Kant himself. The objective concept of a thing is not, consequently, the thing itself. However, we are told, the objective concept is the locus where, formally, we are presented with "what" the thing really is; this is the reason why this presentation is, in a certain sense, a "second" presentation of the thing itself, that is to say, its "representation". Whether this is enough to enable us to know the real thing, as Leibniz held, or whether it is not enough, as Kant believed, it will always be the fact that, in these philosophies, the objective concept is the representation of what the thing is. And since "what" a thing is, is precisely its essence, it follows that the essence, for these philosophies, is nothing else than the content of the objective concept. Naturally, the concepts to which reference is made are, in the first case, the divine Ideas; the essence would be the objective content of these Ideas. However, essence may also be applied to human concepts, when they exist, because in their objective dimension these have the same content as those Ideas. Consequently, in order to ascertain what the essence is, it will be enough to ascertain what the objective concept is.

Every real thing, we are told, is the factitive realization of an objective concept; to realize anything is, in a word, to realize {60} "something", that is, "to make" what is conceived. Dogs, men, oaks, are realizations of what it is to be dog, man, or oak. The first characteristic of an essence would, therefore, be its "anteriority" with [89] respect to reality. And this is clear precisely when it is a question of the radical origin of things, that is to say, of the divine creative act: God creates the world on the pattern of His Ideas. Human concepts do nothing more than reproduce this anteriority of the divine objective concept.

Hence flows a second characteristic of the essence as objective concept. Since it is anterior to the real thing itself, it will be "the ground" of that thing; it is not a question of temporal anteriority but of an anteriority of ground. What is this character of the objective concept of anything which makes it the foundation or founding principle of the essence? The objective concept would be the ground of the reality in at least three respects.

In the first place, since, in the concept, there is represented what the real thing is anteriorly to its reality, it follows that the thing, in being realized, is referred to, is measured by, that which is represented in that concept. The concept is, then, the ground of the thing, before all else, as the measure of its reality. And since this concept is the essence of the thing, it follows that the essence is the measure of the reality of things. Or, making use of the medieval idea of ontological truth-the conformity of the thing with its objective concept-rationalism will say that the essence, as objective concept, is the ground of the ontological truth of things. And this truth will be the primary and radical truth of those things.

However, in the second place, what is the objective concept in as far as it is the measure of the reality? That is to say, in what does its grounding character consist? To be sure, the essence is the ground of the real thing, but it is not its causal ground, because the objective concept, by itself, does not produce the existent reality. Nevertheless, it contains objectively "what" the thing is going to be if there is anyone who might produce it. What is objectively conceived "is not" reality by the mere fact of being conceived, but is {61} something which "can be" real. The world of concepts and, therefore, of essences, will be the world of the possibles. In this context, possible does not mean that there is anyone or anything capable of producing the thing, but that the thing is, in itself, producible. This internal possibility is what is proper to the objective concept. Anterior to things, the objective concept will be their ground as their proper internal possibility. In what, then, does this internal possibility [90] consist? Objective concepts are composed of notes which possess two characteristics: they are notes independent among themselves, and are, moreover, compatibles, that is, non-contradictory. Therefore, it follows, the objective concept of a synthesis of independent and non-contradictory notes will correctly be the essence in its strict sense. And that non-contradictoriness will be formally the internal possibility: and everything which is not contradictory is possible in itself, and everything which is contradictory is impossible in itself. Therefore, the essence, as objective concept, is irreducible internal possibility of the real.

In the third place, what is the objective concept, what is the essence in itself, not as measure and as possibility but in its proper and positive to be? What is objective in itself is certainly not a real thing; nevertheless, it has a positive to be, it is "something" in itself; if the contrary were the case, it would not be able to be the ground of the real, either. This to be is not the to be which the intelligence as a "faculty" possesses; for while it is true that what is objective possesses no other existence save that in the intelligence, it is no less true that it "is" not, formally, the intelligence itself. Hence, neither is this to be that which the real thing possesses, since what is objective lacks all physical existence, to state it in this way. Different from the intelligence, as well as from physical reality, what {62} is objective, nevertheless, as Descartes said, is not pure nothing, but rather is "something". That is, it is "thing"; but a thing sui generis, an "ideal thing". It is a thing which, despite the fact that it has no real existence, still does have an ideal existence. With respect to it, the real thing will be the factitive realization of an ideal thing. And since it is capable of being converted into the real thing, the ideal thing can also be called "possible thing". Existence will be something which is "added to" this anterior thing, which is the essence as ideal thing; to realize will be to confer existence on an ideal thing. The fundamental to be will be the essence, and existence will have, inexorably, to rest on it. And, since this essence is an objective concept of reason, it follows that the fundamental and absolute to be is rational objectivity: this is rationalism.

In a word, the essence is what is objectively represented in the concept. As such, it is anterior to the real and the ground of its [91] reality in a triple dimension: as measure or ontological truth of the real, as internal possibility of the real, as the ideal thing in itself.

However, this is inadmissible. In this conception of the essence, there interweave, without criticism, the most disparate themes, while, fundamentally, the problem of essence remains untouched.

On the one hand, let us consider the theme of the objective concept as such. If I prescind from the existence of a real thing and form in my mind the concept of "what" that thing is, the objective content of this concept contains-let us establish this without further question-the pure "what", that is to say, the essence of the thing. This is true; however, it does not even remotely follow from this that the essence consists formally in being the objective dimension of a conception, because the objective concept of the essence is, as we have said, posterior to the real thing and to "what" that thing is. We have, then, on the one hand, the objective concept of the essence and, on the other, something very distinct from this, namely, the essence itself. Rationalism, however, by a singular paradox, inverts the terms and converts the objective concept into the essence {63} itself. How could this have been possible, and what grave reason could have moved rationalism to do this?

It is that, together with the theme of the abstractive conceptuation of the real thing, there appears the theme of the radical origination of things, as Leibniz pointed out: the theme of divine causation. The causal origin of things leads rationalism to establish an identification between the essence and the objective concept, which is fundamentally a quasi-identification of logic and metaphysics. And the reason is evident: it is that God, the first cause, is an intelligence as well. As such, in order to produce things, God knows "what" He is going to produce. Therefore, He orders His causality according to His ideas. And in this respect the ideas are anterior to the things; and since, in those ideas, there is represented objectively "what" the things are going to be really, it follows that the objective term of these ideas is not only anterior to things but also constitutes the pure essence of what is real; "pure" essence, because it lacks real existence; it is an esse essentiae.

To locate the problem of essence on this line of thought is to dislocate it ab initio; and to dislocate it in two ways.

[92] (a) The way of intelligent causality leads us to the discovery of the ideas as anterior to things, and as the sole and exhaustive canon of their individual reality. However, this is to set the question on a wrong path, because the divine Idea is the paradigm of every thing, but only the paradigm or, as we are accustomed to say, exemplary cause; in no manner whatsoever is it the essence of the thing, because only when the thing realizes the idea in its breast, does it possess an essence as its intrinsic moment. When the essence is confounded with the intellectual paradigm, the problem of essence is sent off on a false path, because, taking refuge in the ideas, it {64} avoids saying what the essence is in itself as a real moment of the thing. To trace the origin of this thing contributes nothing to the solution of our problem: the anteriority of the Idea leaves the problem of essence untouched.

(b) In the second place, the way of causality leads one to distinguish "in a certain manner" what the thing is from the fact of its really existing. Hence, by an easy illation this distinction in made to coincide with the merely abstractive formation of the concept of what the thing is, to "prescinding" from its real existence. In this way, the problem of essence is launched on the path of its contraposition to existence. Once more it avoids telling us what the essence is in itself.

At the very focal point of the question, consequently, rationalism evades the problem of essence, that is to say, the question of ascertaining what the essence is, considered in itself (and not in as far as it is opposed to existence) and as an intrinsic moment of the real thing (and not insofar as it is the ideal paradigm of that thing).

Hence it follows that the "fundamental" character of the essence as rationalism understands it is formally inadmissible.

1. We are told, in the first place, that the radical truth of the thing is its measure or conformity with the objective concept of that thing: the ontological truth. To be sure, it is not possible to deny that this conformity is really to be found in things. Is this truth, however, their radical truth? This is a question which affects equally both rationalism and medieval metaphysical systems. It is undeniable, in a word, that reality is "true" solely by reason of its respect to an intelligence. However, is this respectiveness, which formally constitutes the truth of things, basically and primarily a respectiveness to [93] the intelligence, insofar as it is a "conceiving" intelligence? The reply to this question depends on what may be the primary and radical function that is assigned to intelligence, and, therefore, what intelligible or that which is intellected as such may be. If the formal function of the intelligence were to form concepts, to conceive or to form ideas, then all respect to intelligence would repose on the respectiveness {65} to concepts, and the radical truth of things would be their ontological truth. However-to anticipate some ideas to which later on I shall, in a certain way, return-the formal function of intelligence is not to conceive, but to apprehend real things as real. The formation of concepts is an ulterior function which rests upon this other primary function and derives from it. And this is the case whether we are speaking of human intelligence or of the divine intelligence. God does not, in the first place, know real things qua real in objective concepts qua concepts, but rather in a "vision" of them as real or as realizable. The intelligible, and intellected, is formally the real as real. In fact, therefore, the primary and radical respectiveness of things to intelligence is not a respectiveness to concepts, but to their being apprehended as real in the intelligence. Consequently, prior to an ontological truth (which might well be called a conceptive truth), there is what I shall call "real truth" which is the basis of that other, ontological, truth. The real truth does not separate us from things in order to carry us towards something else, toward their concept, but, on the contrary, consists in holding us and holding us firmly, formally submerged in the real thing as such, without ever sallying forth from it. We shall see this later on. The essence, then, of the thing is found enveloped in this real truth and is, as a consequence, an intrinsic moment of the thing, and not its extrinsic measure, whether in the form of a paradigm or in the form of an objective concept. Consequently, the essence is not a ground anterior to the thing, and ontological truth is not the radical truth of real things.

2. We are told, in the second place, that the essence as objective concept is the internal possibility of the real thing, understanding by this possibility merely the state of non-contradiction between the notes of its concept. This position is, however, for various reasons, untenable. Because, before all else, we must ask what is the force or reach of this non-contradiction? If two notes are contradictory they [94] {66} will never be realized joined formally in one same thing. However, if we know nothing more than that they are not contradictory, nothing follows from this fact, because here we are not asking about the thing insofar as it may possess a multiplicity of notes, but insofar as it may possess an internal structural unity; the essence, in a word, is not an addition of compatible notes, but a positive unity of which those notes are only moments. Non-contradiction signifies nothing relative to the positive constitution of this essential unity. Non-contradiction is merely a negative limit, and not a source of positive to be as an entity. In the divine intelligence itself, the possible is not merely the non-contradictory, but that which is positively the terminus of the divine essence insofar as it is imitable.

However, the difficulty of identifying the possible with the noncontra-dictory increases immediately if we turn our attention to the objective concepts of the human mind. I may be permitted to repeat what many years ago I expounded in one of my courses. It is true that the contradictory never will be able to be realized. When, however, is something contradictory or non-contradictory? This is the question; let us examine it in each of its two terms.

In the first place, let us examine that which concerns non-contradiction. The truth is that the non-contradiction of a true system of notes or objective concepts can never be positively demonstrated, not even in the realm of mathematics (Gödel's theorem). It will be said that the fact that a thing is real is already a manifest proof of the non-contradiction of its notes. This is true. However, in making appeal to this consideration, we have already abandoned the anteriority of the objective concept respective to the real thing. And then, already installed within the latter, we repeat what we said before, but now with greater reason, namely that the internal possibility of a real thing is not a merely negative possibility, but has to be a real positive possibility, that is to say, something which is actual in that real thing as its intrinsic principle. That is to say, as {67} the internal possibility of the thing, the essence is not an un-contradictory concept, but a real principle of the real thing in its reality.

In the second place, let us consider what concerns contradiction. The truth is that we are in no better situation on this matter. The principle of contradiction is true; two notes which are formally [95] contradictory can never be realized in one same thing simultaneously and under the same formal aspect. This is supremely evident. However, this does not prove to be applicable with security, save in the order of that which is formally conceived, insofar as it is formally conceived. If we transpose it from the order of objectivity to the order of reality, that is to say, to the things in which the objective concepts are realized according to their formal, proper character, the question presents a different aspect; because the condition under which the principle of contradiction is applied is that the thing being considered is nothing more than that which the notes, objectively conceived, formally contain. And here the difficulties begin. For, we may ask, is this condition itself possible? I do not believe so. Not only treating of real things, but of objects as well, the mere fact that various notes which are objectively conceived are realized in those things, or that we ourselves realize the objects, carries with it, inexorably attached to it, the fact that through this very condition these things or objects possess more properties than those which we have conceived objectively. And this is not only true in the sense of implication, which is obvious: in a word, if a thing possesses N properties, it must also inexorably contain all those others which may be deduced from those notes, that is to say, it contains more properties by implication. I am not referring to this, but to other properties which are not implied, but which are even more intimately involved ("com-plicadas") with the initial properties simultaneously posited ("co-puestas") by the fact that these others have been "posited" and by the mere fact that they have been posited or realized. Realization, whether in the physical order or in the order of objects, is, as such, the root of other properties. In this case, it is not that the principle of contradiction {68} is not true with respect to these things, but rather that its application proves problematical and fragile, given that the subject to which it is applied is complex and the formal purity of the concept can undergo important limitations.

However, even if we pass over this difficulty we encounter others which are still more serious. In order to apply the principle of contradiction it is necessary to isolate a reality and to consider it in itself; only in this way can it become the subject of the attribution of a predicative logos. The principle of contradiction forbids me to state that this reality, substantivated in this way, is something [96] contradictory. However, this is only half the question; the other half is to be found in the very supposition of the presumed subject of attribution. For in re this subject is not isolated from others, but is intrinsically connected with them. Hence it is that many things which have persistently appeared to be contradictory are not in fact so, and the contrary is true as well; this is the case, not because the principle of contradiction is not true, but because reality does not validate the supposition of the "diction", that is to say, it is not made up of unconnected subjects. In order that the principle of "contra-diction" might have, in the human mind, the exhaustive and definitive application to real things which Aristotle claimed for it, it would be necessary that man should have before his eyes, as the subject of the attribution of its logos, the totality of the real in its integrity. The fact is, this logos does not exist in man. I may put it in other terms: the principle of contradiction rests on the unity (Ÿn) and the sameness (tautÕn) of the being (×n). However, this is equivocal, because a being may be, on the one hand, that to which the logos is referred formally and intentionally, that which is signified by the vocables (ÔnÕmata), that is, the being as declared (qua legÕmenon); it may, on the other hand, be the thing itself about {69} which I think and speak with my logos. Are these two "beings" identical? This is the question. If they were identical, not only would the reality not be contradictory, but we would positively and firmly know the conditions and limits of its non-contradictoriness, because the presupposition on the basis of which we would be able to speak of contradiction in re would then have been realized. The fact is, however, that this identity between the being as signified intention and as thing (pr­gma), is highly problematical. Proof of this lies in the fact that Aristotle himself, in book G of his Metaphysics, is aware that the being as signified intention is not enough, and that the being as thing is also necessary (oß ... tÕ ×noma ¦llª tØ pr­gma, Meta. G1006 b 22). Nevertheless, despite the fact that he had divined the difficulty, Aristotle does not formulate the problem, and goes on to admit that identity without further ado. The only thing he does is to justify the principle of contradiction, in each of the two meanings of being, a step which breaks the unity of the exposition and makes it, for the moment, disconcerting. In a word, after he had defended the principle in its reference to the being as signified intention-resting [97] his case on the "meaning" of the terms-insofar as he wants also to justify it with reference to things, Aristotle finds himself forced to enter into a discussion with the physicists and physiologists, that is, to ascertain if all be permanence or change in reality, without raising the question whether the "being", with which the physicists and the physiologists concern themselves, were the same as that with which he himself had been concerned when he was speaking of the logos as such. As it appears to me, in this stage of his exposition more than the truth of the principle-which he takes as established-what Aristotle is trying to see is whether the presuppositions for its application are given in reality. He is then constrained to examine the three hypotheses (which are exactly the three ways of the Hymn of Parmenides, and this observation is of enormous importance): whether everything is at rest, or whether everything is in motion, or whether everything is sometimes at rest and sometimes in motion. Here, instead of appealing to "being" or to the "meaning of being", what he does appeal to is nothing less than the Theós, to the unmoved {70} mover, something immensely remote from the principle of contradiction in itself. The real application of the principle of contradiction is, then, exceedingly difficult and every precaution which we may take in this order will be too little. Aristotle himself, more than anyone else, sensed the difficulty in trying to conceptualize change, that subtle unity of being and non-being in movement.

It will be said that these are merely difficulties of application which do not invalidate the principle as such. This is true. These difficulties of application, however, are not mere difficulties in the "management" of the objective concepts, but difficulties in application of the principle, touching its applicability, difficulties which touch the very supposition on which this management as well as the principle which regulates it, rest. And this is reason enough and more not to identify, without qualification, the possibility of something with the mere fact that its concept involves no contradiction.

3. If, in the third and final place, someone should say to us what the objective concept represents is an ideal or possible "thing" in itself, we should say the following: this presupposition is equally inadmissible for a serious reason which is to be directed both against rationalism as well as against a number of the great medieval metaphysical systems at least insofar as these touch on human intellection. [98] They confuse the "objectivity" in what is conceived, in its character as conceived, with what I would call the "objectuality", that is to say, the fact that something may be an object. Taking their point of departure in the fact that the objective has no entitative character, many medieval metaphysical systems go on to deny all entitative status to objects. Taking their point of departure in the fact that objects have a certain entitative status, a number of other medieval metaphysical systems, and rationalism joins them in this, attribute positive entitative status to the objective. The fact is that neither of the two theses is true, because objectivity and objectuality are not the same thing. Without treating this problem thematically, we may content ourselves here with indicating the unequivocal differences between them. Any geometrical figure whatsoever, and a fortiori entities such as non-Archimedean space, are examples of {71} "objects". It is undeniable that they have some positive entity, that they are "something" whether they be called ideal things or by some other term; solid proof of this is the fact that laborious investigations are conducted upon them. Nevertheless, these objects are toto caelo distinct from the objectivity of a concept. The proof resides in the fact that I find it necessary to elaborate only with difficulties, sometimes enormous ones, the objective concepts which represent those objects, sometimes exactly, many times inexactly, and at all times in a fragmentary way. Objectivity is the terminal moment of the concept, but a purely intentional dimension of it. For this reason, while the object has "a certain" entitative status proper to itself, the objective has no entitative status whatsoever in its own right; it is only that which I conceive about things, whether these be real things or merely "objectual". That which is objectively conceived about a thing is distinct from the thing itself, not only when it is a question of real things, but when it is a question of objectual things as well. The objective is so devoid of entitative status that I can form objective concepts of privation, of not to be, etc.; that is to say, the objective not only is not an object, but is not even necessarily positive.

On this supposition, the essence is a moment of the thing (whether real or objectual) while the objective concept of its essence, as objective concept, lacks all to be, that is to say, is not a possible object. If the essence is "an object" or ideal "thing", it is not "objective" possibility, and if it is objective possibility it is not a thing or an [99] ideal object. As a matter of fact, the possibility of an object belongs to the domain of objectivity, but not to that of objectuality. That is to say, even were the possibility of a thing to consist in the objectivity of its concept, it would never be possible to transpose the "possibility of a thing" into "a possible thing". There is no "anything" in itself except insofar as that "anything" would, in addition, be possible, because this presumed anything is not "anything" but only the "possibility" of something. If this were not the case, we would have further to admit an impossible "thing", given the fact that objective impossibilities are conceived; but this is absurd, because, if {72} it is impossible, it manifestly is not anything. There is not "anything", consequently, which would have two statuses, that of possibility and that of reality; there is only a pure objective possibility on the one hand, and, on the other, a thing (whether real or objectual, in this context, matters little). Hence, it follows that to realize something is not "to add" an existence to the essence considered as an ideal object, but rather to produce, at one and the same time, the existent essence or, what comes to the same thing, the essentiated reality. Prior to this production there is nothing but the causes capable of producing the real thing. The objective possibility is nothing else than the intentionally conceived terminus of that real capacity. Reality, therefore, does not rest on ideal objects. The essence as objective concept is not the ground of the reality, in the sense of an ideal thing, because the objective concept is not a thing, either objectual or real.

To sum up, then, the essence of which rationalism speaks could at most be the objective concept of the essence, but not the essence itself of the thing. Therefore, that concept is not the ground of the thing, either as its radical truth or as its internal possibility, or, finally, as an ideal thing. Clearly, rationalism cannot be unaware, nor is it unaware, that the essence understood in this way is realized in the thing and is, consequently, an intrinsic moment of the thing. In this it would be differentiated from any conception of the essence as pure "meaning" or any other conceptions possessing affinities to this one. This, however, is to be thought of merely as a concession in rationalism, a concession rather obvious in itself. Installed thus in the line of intelligent causality, rationalism does not believe that to be an intrinsic moment of the thing is the primary and radical note [100] of the essence; nor does it tell us anything about this real moment in itself, but only by counterposing it to existence. The only thing which could distinguish the essence as an intrinsic moment of the thing from the essence as mere concept would then be the mere {73} contingent "fact" of its existence. Only by abstraction from this latter would we lay hold on the pure essence, and this pure essence would eo ipso remain reduced to the pure objective concept. This, however, is merely to avoid the problem of essence, because the primary and radical character of it is that of being an intrinsic and real moment of the thing itself, independentally, not only of all intellective conception, but also of all eventual relationship to existence. In a word, the problem lies in the physical essence in and for itself. To have confused, or at least to have involved the "physical" essence with that which recent scholastics call the "metaphysical" or abstract (I would say conceptive) essence, that is to say, to have confused that without which the thing cannot have formal reality with that without which the thing cannot be conceived: this has been the serious error of rationalism in dealing with our problem.






Neither the formal concept nor the objective concept, then, yields us a satisfactory idea of essence. Nevertheless, the phrase "the essence is the reality of the concept of the thing" can point in a third direction: the reality intended need not be the conceptual reality (whether formal or objective) but rather the thing itself as the correlate of its concept; that is to say, the reality of that of which the concept is the concept, the reality which is conceived, but not as conceived but as real. In that case, the determination of the essence would rest, not on the truth of the concept, but on that reality. The concept would be no more than the organ with which we apprehend that, in the thing, which constitutes its essence; and the essence itself would be that which, in the thing and, as a real moment of the thing, corresponds to the concept. This is the point of view of Aristotle. However, what we here have called "concept", Aristotle, more properly, calls "definition". And the reason for this preference is clear: the essence is the "what", the of anything; and the response to the question what something is, is, for Aristotle, exactly the definition.

Having brought the question of essence to a focus in this manner, Aristotle begins to approach the real thing by way of the definition, in order then to tell us what the essence, as a real moment of the thing (to tˆ Æn enai) is.

[102] {76} In the first place (we must consider) the route of the definition. It is not a question of logic, but of ascertaining what the real thing must be in order that a definition of it may be formed. Aristotle characterizes this process as "proceeding logikëj". The logos, called the definition, is composed of a number of predicates to which a like number of notes of the thing correspond. Of these notes, there are some which the logos predicates of its subject in virtue of that which it is in itself (kaq> aÛtÕ) while there are others which are, indeed, predicated of the thing, but which are accidental to it (katª sumbebekÕj). Thus, "animal" belongs to Socrates in virtue of what Socrates is in himself, that is to say, because he is a man, while "musical" does not belong to him in the same way, because being "musical" is something accidental to him. All the predicates of every definition belong to the first type. Not all of the predicates of a definition, however, are parts of the definition of a thing. Only those definitions state the essence of a thing in which the predicate is not a "property" of the subject, and in which, therefore, the subject does not enter formally into the predicate of the definition. If I want to define a white surface, the "whiteness" is a note which the subject, the surface, demands in virtue of "what it is in itself"; but it demands it merely as a property in such wise that this subject is formally different and distinct from the whiteness. Actually, in the definition of a white surface, the term and the concept "surface" must, in one way or another, enter in the predicate. Only those definitions, then, express the essence of a thing in which the predicate belongs to the subject in virtue of what the latter is "in itself", without this subject entering formally into the predicate itself, that is to say, without that which is defined forming part of the definition.

On this basis, we may ask which are the beings in which this actually happens? That is to say, which are the beings of which there are definitions in the strict sense we have just expounded? To be sure, nothing that we today would call an "ideal thing" is for Aristotle a being in the proper sense of that term (leaving aside the obscure problem of what "mathematical entities" were for him). However, {77} even among real things, beings have very diverse entitative character. Indeed, only "natural" things have the character of beings in the strict sense. Here, then, Aristotle takes another route, that of nature, of fÝsij, that of generation and corruption. Only natural entities [103] (fÝsei ×nta) deserve to be called beings and only they, therefore, have essence. It is clear, of course, that, for Aristotle, there are entities which are separate from nature: the stars and the qeÕj, indeed, are not subject to generation and corruption. So far as our problem is concerned, however, the latter are not distinct or different from natural entities, since, equally with the latter, they are counterposed or contrasted to "artificial" things, and this is the only point which is of interest to us here. Without diminishing the general character of the problem, consequently, we can limit ourselves to speaking of everything non-artificial as though it were natural. For Aristotle, artificial beings (tžcnV ×nta) are not beings in the strict sense and, strictly speaking, do not have an essence. A bed of chestnut wood is not, in a strict sense, a being. The proof is to be found in the fact that if it were planted in the earth and if it would be able to germinate, not beds, but rather chestnut trees, would grow from it. The chestnut tree, not the bed, is the being. For the Greeks, tžcnh, that which we, in a clumsy expression, call technic, is something inferior to nature. In any case, the technic of the Greeks does not do what nature does, but rather that which nature does not do; at most, it helps nature in its processes and actions. What really and truly possesses the character of being is nature. Therefore there is essence only of natural beings.

These natural beings, in their turn, are of very different kinds. There are some which are, not so much beings, as beings of being, affections or dispositions of other beings. They are, as a matter of fact, predicated of other beings and have no being separated from the latter, but only with reference to them and, by analogy, with them: these are the accidents. In contrast to the accident, substance (oÜsˆa) is the ultimate subject of all predication: it is not predicated of anything else nor does it exist in anything else. Substances alone, consequently, possess a true "what", a . They exist in themselves, {78} separately (cwristÕn) from every other being. Therefore, in a strict sense, only of them can there be a definition; accidents can be defined only analogically. Because substance is the ultimate subject of predication, consequently, it is only of it that notes can be predicated in virtue of what it (the substance) is in itself, without that which is defined entering into the definition. Therefore, every definition is a lÕgoj oÜsˆaj, the logos of a substance. Propositions in this form [104] or definitions can be formulated about anything one may wish, but there can be a definition only of substance. Only substances, therefore, have essences.

What, then, is the essence as a real moment of substance? Before all else, the essence is not identical with the substance; on the contrary, it is properly recognized as something "of" substance, and, therefore, may be predicated of it: Socrates is a man, etc. The distinction between Socrates and man is not merely logical, but real. Socrates, in fact, in addition to the human notes which are essential to him, has many other notes which are not essential. As a consequence, Socrates is the complete and total being, while the essence is only a part of him. Strictly speaking, when we say Socrates is a man, the predicate is distinguished really from the subject, as the part is from the whole. In order to verify the essence in a positive sense, it is enough for Aristotle to point out to us which notes are not essential, that is, the other "part" of the total entity Socrates. These non-essential notes, he will tell us, are of two classes. Some are the notes to which we alluded earlier: the accidental notes, those which are superadded to Socrates, that is to say, the accidents of the substance. There are others, however, which do not supervene to Socrates but only to his essence. Of what kind are these? That is the question.

At this point Aristotle finds it necessary to recur to the structure of the natural substance. At first glance, it might be thought that the essence is the substantial form, that is to say, that which conforms to indeterminate matter in order to make of it a determined {79} substance, in such wise that the essence would be distinguished from the thing only as the formal part of the substance is distinguished from the whole, from the complete hylomorphic compound (tØ oÝnolon) in which the substance under consideration consists. It is of this substantial compound that the substantial form would be predicated as its essence, its formal part. This, however, is not true when we are considering natural substances, because it is "naturally" essential to all of them (with the exception of the qeÕj) to have matter. The difference between substance and essence does not lie between the substantial principles as such, but rather at another point, for the discovery of which it is enough to observe the natural generation of substances. When Socrates begets a son, this son, no [105] matter how different he may be, as an individual, from his father, will always be, just as his father is, a "human" being. This character of being "human", consequently, is a "specific" character. As such, it is not something "logical" but something real and "physical", since really and physically fathers beget sons of the "same kinds" as themselves. This moment of specific sameness is precisely the essence of the man. Into it, matter enters as much as does form, though in a supremely special way: not "this" matter, but "matter". It is, of course, clear, that just as there is an immaterial substance, the qeÕj, which is pure form, and just as, even among material substances, the form is the substantial act, it follows that it may be said that, in a certain sense, the essence is the form. For this reason, the difference between essence and substance is not a difference between form and substantial compound but between specific substantial compound and individuated substantial compound. The characters, consequently, which supervene on the essence are these individuating moments.

This interpretation of the essence as something which includes "the" matter itself, is not the only possible one, for on this point, as on so many others, Aristotle's expressions are not easy to reconcile or put into clear relation to each other. In some passages Aristotle {80} seems to say that the essence of every substance is solely the substantial form. However, even in this latter interpretation, the essence consists in nothing other than the moment of specificity of the form. And, in the last analysis, this is the only thing of importance to us.

The essence as a real moment of substance is, then, its physical moment of specificity. And all non-specific characters-whether they be accidents or individuating moments-are, for Aristotle, non-essential.

And here the concept of essence as the real correlate of the definition and the concept of essence as the real moment of substance converge. Let us remember, in fact, that, to designate the essence understood in this manner, Aristotle made use of a word which, though already philosophically consecrated, was, nevertheless, colloquial among the Greeks: the term eidos (edoj) which the Latins then translated as species. This word, in Aristotle, has two meanings. The first is simply the one customary among the Greeks, and which is the decisive use in reference to our problem. Eidos designates the unitary conjunction of features or characters in which "one [106] sees" (and this precisely is the reason why they are called "eidos", the class of thing to which the reality in question belongs, the mode of being of this reality: dog, parrot, man, oak, olive, etc. It is the typical form "which manifests" the mode of being of the thing. For Aristotle, the substantial principle of these characters is the substantial form (morf¿), that is, the "conforming" form of the being of the thing in the "materia prima". For this reason, Aristotle calls the substantial form itself eidos. However, on the other hand, I can make of this eidos the term of my predicative logos, comparing it with other eidos (eŠdh). I then discover that there are some, more or less vague, characters which may be attributed to all those eidos equally and which announce their lineage, their common descent, their unique trunk, their gžnoj, on the basis of which there can be {81} traced something like a genealogy, clearly not physical, but according to the logos by way of the more "general" affinities. In that case, eidos does not signify that which physically manifests the mode of being of the thing, but rather that which identifies the "genus" to which it belongs in a determinate manner. The eidos, then, is only one of the many configurations which the genus can determinately present, and includes not only the form but "the" matter as well. Though originally it signified the same as eidos, the Latin word species persisted almost solely in this second sense, that is, as signifying the species as the determination of the genus.

In the first sense, eidos is the essence as a real and physical moment of the thing. Each one of its parts (form and matter) are precisely this: "parts" of the thing. By contrast, in the second sense, eidos is that in the thing which is the real correlate of the definition. The species, as defined, is compounded or composed of two "notes" (genus and difference); however, each one of these is not a "part" of the thing, but an aspect of "all" the entire thing : the genus is the whole thing as determinable, and the species is the genus as determined by a difference. Here the essence is not formally a physical moment of the thing, but a "defined" metaphysical unity. We have said that the notes which are predicated of the substance in the definition and which constitute its essence are those which belong to it in itself or by reason of itself in such wise that that which is defined does not enter into the definition. These notes, then, are those which belong to the substance by reason of its own specificity. [107] These two notions of essence, however, have a point of convergence, because the characters which manifest the mode of being of the thing are the same as denote its genus. And this point is easy {82} to see. In effect, the essence as real eidos is a physical moment of the thing, though it is its physical moment of specificity; the eidos is always typical. And precisely this real eidos, insofar as it is specific, is what the logos defines by way of genus and difference; one does not define Socrates, but the "man" that Socrates is. It follows, then, that the species as defined is "materially" identical with the species as a real moment of the thing. This is the reason why the species as defined is not a mere "objective concept" but is rather, if not formally, then "materially", the real correlate of the definition. It is in the specificity, then, that there is found the unity of the concept of essence, because the essence as eidos has two slopes, the physical and the definitory, which coincide in the specificity.

To sum up, the essence is the specific, both as the physical moment, and as the defined unity.

This concept of essence, unfortunately, suffers from a murky ambivalence. The ambivalence consists in this, that, as in all the problems of his first philosophy, Aristotle addresses the problem along two paths: that of predication (lÕgoj) and that of nature (fÝsij). It is true that, in some cases, it appears that he follows only one path; however, this is not the case, for it is only a matter of the predominance of one way over the other. As a matter of fact, the two ways are always present. And since they are radically different and independent of each other, it is very difficult for them to lead to a single and identical concept of that which is sought. In our problem there exists, fundamentally, a clear preponderance of the lÕgoj over the fÝsij, of predication over nature. Even more, the very appeal to fÝsij was used to attack the position of Plato who was, correctly, looked upon as the great theoretician of the lÕgoj of ×n, the one who delineated the problem of the "eidos" and delineated it properly in terms of the lÕgoj. For this reason Aristotle tells us, somewhat hesitantly, that he is going to begin "according to the lÕgoj" (logikëj). As a matter of fact, while it is very true that he is seeking the essence of anything by way of the fÝsij, nevertheless, insofar as he is seeking to apprehend positively that which is the essence of {83} a natural thing, what he does is simply to emphasize in the natural [108] thing, as "natural", those characteristics which belong to it only insofar as it is legÕmenon, that is, as a term of predication, as object of lÕgoj. This confuses the concept of essence.

In order to facilitate our discussion and to orientate it toward the object of our quest, let us propose that the problem of essence be deployed in three successive steps:

1. Define the ambit of those things which I propose to call "essentiables".

2. To indicate, within this ambit, those things which have an essence: "essentiated" things.

3. To determine in what the essence of this latter class of things formally consists.

When the question is brought to focus in this manner it is clear that, for Aristotle, the ambit of the "essentiable" is "nature"; the "essentiated" entity is the natural "substance"; the essence itself is its "specificity." On none of these three points, it must be protested, does the Aristotelian conception prove satisfactory.

In the first place, let us consider the point which concerns the ambit of the "essentiable", that is, nature. Aristotle defines this area by contrasting it to tžcnh. In this contraposition one encounters a serious confusion which invalidates the entire Aristotelian intention on this point. Nature and tžcnh are indeed, from one point of view, two principles of things and, in this sense, they are counter-opposed to and exclude each other in the manner that Aristotle indicates to us. Each being emerges from a principle and realizes, so to say, the "design" (sit venia verbo) of that principle. In tžcnh this principle is extrinsic to the things in question: it is to be found in the imagination or in the intelligence of man. In nature, by contrast, the principle is intrinsic to the things in question. For this reason we speak, in the first case, of "production" of things while, in the second {84} case, we speak of the "birth" of those same things (and this is what fÝein fundamentally signified). This is true, but does this complete duality of principles also involve a complete duality in the entity of the beings generated according to those principles? This is the single question which is decisive for our problem. And when serious thought is given to it we must respond, without the slightest hesitation, negatively.

[109] Perhaps Greek technology and, in general, all ancient technology was able only to produce "artifacts", that is, things which nature does not produce and which, once they have been produced, have no "natural activity". In this case, the duality of principles leads to a duality of entities; the example of the wooden bed is decisive on this point. In our world, however, this is not true. Our technology produces not only artifacts, that is, things which nature does not produce, but also the same things which nature produces and which are endowed with an identical natural activity. And it is in this sameness that the decisive factor is to be found. An abyss separates our technology from ancient technology; nor is it only a difference of degree, but a fundamental difference of incalculable philosophical impact. The whole of our chemistry is clear proof of this fact. In this dimension our technology has achieved undreamed of proportions and finds itself on the brink of achieving results which were before considered impossible. It produces not only those things which are called compound bodies, but also elements and even elementary particles, identical with the compound bodies, the elements and the particles which emerge from nature. It produces synthetically molecules which are essential to the structures of living beings. It intervenes prodigiously in ever more extensive zones of living being and it is possible to believe that the day is not far distant in which there will be produced the synthesis of any type of living matter. In these conditions the difference between artifacts and natural beings disappears: {85} our technology produces natural entities artificially. (It is not important that the capacity of producing natural entities artificially is very limited.) This is the idea of the new technology. For a Greek this phrase would constitute an inadmissible paradox. The duality of fÝsij (nature) and tžcnh, valid in the order of principles, fails to prove so in the order of the beings generated by those principles. Nature and tžcnh are, at times, only two possible ways for producing the same beings. The serious Aristotelian error on this point has been to have confused both things. When this confusion is eliminated, the intention of delineating the area of "essentiable" realities by way of the contra-position of nature and tžcnh also proves invalid.

Within this area, poorly defined as we have seen, Aristotle tells us that only substances possess an essence properly so called, because only the substance is a true being. However, we may ask, in what [110] does this priority of substance in the entitative order consist? This is the question; and it is a question which, to be sure, is not as simple as it may appear. Aristotle establishes this range by appealing to that which he calls the figure of the categories, in which substance is counterposed to the accident of which it is the subject. Only from this point of view is it justified to speak of substance, Ûpokeˆmenon, sub-stans. That which is proper to substance, its formal ratio, and its metaphysical prerogative, would consist, according to Aristotle, in its irreducible status as subject. Aristotle comes to this conception by the double way of predication and of nature: substance is the ultimate subject of predication, while the accidents are nothing more than affects of substance. To be sure, he tells us that substance is the only "separable" reality. For Aristotle, however, separability is merely a consequence of subjectuality: the reason why the substance is separated is that it is the ultimate subject and the subject {86} determined by a . The Platonic ideas are not separated realities since they are predicated of individual subjects, and prime matter, despite being subject, is not separable because it is indeterminate in itself (de suyo), it lacks all . The true being possesses its character as such by reason of the radical and determined subjectuality in which it consists. To be sure, there is a special substance, the qeÕj, which is pure form. However, apart from the fact that it performs no function in the Aristotelian theory of substance, Aristotle himself conceives his qeÕj somewhat after the manner of a subject of itself; his autonoesis fundamentally means only this, something very different from what, for example, reflectivity in medieval and modern philosophy will be. Scholasticism will continue to consider substance as being par excellence; in general, however, it affirmed that the formal ratio of substantiality is not subjectuality but perseitas. Later on we shall see what must be thought of this idea of perseitas; for the moment our attention must be limited to Aristotle. And substance, that is, true being, whatever may be its formal ratio (did Aristotle even ask this question?) has for Aristotle a formal subjectual character. This concept, we must conclude, is justified neither by the way of the lÕgoj nor by way of the fÝsij.

It is not justified by way of a lÕgoj because every reality, no matter what its character may be, can be converted into a subject of predication. And precisely because this can be done with every [111] reality, the fact of being legÕmenon, of being the subject of predication, leaves untouched the question of the physical character of the reality to which we are referring, that is to say, its subjectual or nonsubjectual character. It would be a serious error to invert the formal structure of the lÕgoj, and the thing itself. Under this aspect Aristotle leads to Leibniz and even to Hegel. To be a subject in the sense of the terminus of a lÕgoj is not to be physically a subjectual reality as a reality. To be the subject of attribution is not the same as to possess the attribute as a physical property of the subject. The lÕgoj is nothing more than one way, always the same, the way of predication, to enunciate truths about realities of the most diverse {87} structure, of structures which are, perhaps, irreducible: the identity of the way does not involve the identity of the real structure of that to which this way leads; that is to say, not all realities which are the subject of predication are, for this reason, sub-jectum in their character as realities.

Neither does the way of fÝsij impose this subjectual conception of reality. It is one thing that, "within" a transformation, there should be persistent structural moments: another that the persistent element should be a subject-thing which persists "beneath" the transformation. In the first instance, the transformation-or at least the movement-affects the entire reality of the thing; in the second, it takes place on the surface, no matter how substantial one seeks to make it.

There is no reason to think, therefore, that every reality, as such, would have to be necessarily subjectual in character. It is true that all the realities which we know through experience are, in one way or another, subjects; this does not mean, however, that subjectuality is their radical structural characteristic. Precisely to elaborate a theory of reality which does not unqualifiedly identify reality and subjectuality have I introduced a terminological distinction: I have called the radical structure of all reality, even though it involves a moment of subjectuality, substantivity, differentiating it from substantiality, which latter would be the specific characteristic of reality only insofar as it is subjectual. Substantivity expresses the plenitude of entitative autonomy. The hierarchical priority in the order of reality, as such, resides not in substantiality but in substantivity. Substantivity and subjectuality are two irreducible moments of [112] reality, while of these two the moment of substantivity is anterior to that of subjectuality. The failure to discriminate between these two moments causes the Aristotelian notion of "essentiated" being to lack {88} sufficient precision or at least sufficient exactitude. For, as we shall see, the essence is a moment proper, not to subjectuality, but to substantivity.

However, when we have passed, even lightly, over these important questions concerning the "essentiable" and the "essentiated", the third point remains: namely, what is the essence in itself? For Aristotle, the essence is the specificity of the substance. He arrives at this opinion, once again, by way of "the convergence" of the two ways, that of the lÕgoj, and that of fÝsij. On the one hand, the essence is the real correlate of the definition; on the other, it is a moment of the physical structure of the substance. And the presumptive point of "convergence" would be precisely the moment of specificity. However, despite the appearances, this last moment is determined, in its turn, in function of the definition itself, in such wise that, in the problem of essence, there is revealed a decisive preponderance of the lÕgoj over fÝsij. Responding to the pressure of the Platonic tradition, Aristotle goes to the thing, in our problem, with the organon of the notion which it is possible to have of the thing in the form of a definition. And since only the universal is definable, the result is that the essence, for Aristotle, involves, before everything else, a formal moment of specific universality. It is the predominance of the lÕgoj which has launched the problem of essence on the line of specificity.

It is true that Aristotle appeals to the process of generation in order to come to the specificity of the essence by a way that is truly "physical". However, he does not state with formal rigor what this physical species might be. On the contrary, he takes from the process of generation only the fact of the multiplicity of "equal" individuals and their inclusion in the "identity" of a single concept (Ÿn ka‹ taÜtÕn). Aristotle energetically rejected the Platonic conception according to which species have "separated" reality (cwristÕn) and repeats to the point of satiety that species are separate only in the {89} order of noãj and lÕgoj. According to this position, the species possesses physical reality in the individual; however, that which, in the individual, is species is the unity of the concept insofar as it is [113] realized in many individuals. This, however, is more than questionable. Does the mere identity of the concept univocally realized in many individuals suffice to constitute these individuals as a "species"? In its proper time, we will see that this is not the case. That identity is indeed necessary for the species but in no sense is it sufficient. In every case it is manifest that, even in this presumed physical characterization of the essence, there is to be observed an undeniable primacy of the conceptual unity over the individual physical unity to the point that the latter remains formally unclarified and, as a matter of fact, is not even formulated properly as a problem. That is to say, there is an undeniable predominance of the essence as something defined over the essence as physical moment. This predominance leads to an inadequate idea of the essence for, no matter how important the structure of definition (a logical problem) may be, it is something entirely secondary with respect to the structure of things (a metaphysical problem). Let us examine, then, these two concepts of essence separately.

1. When the essence is taken as the real correlate of the definition, the least that must be said is that it is a question of a very indirect way of arriving at things. For, as we have already said, instead of going directly to the reality and asking what in it may be its essence, one takes the roundabout way of passing through the definition. This might be admissible if it was a matter of no more than a roundabout way. It is, however, something more; it is a roundabout journey which rests on an enormously problematic presupposition, namely, that the essential element of every thing is necessarily definable; and this is more than problematical. It is one thing that by means of our concepts we approximate more or less closely to realities and that we even succeed in characterizing some of them in such wise that they may be distinguished more or less unequivocally among themselves, but another, very different thing, to say that the whole of reality can be explicated in concepts and, even less, its essence defined. It were better to say that we could give definitions {90} of some essences. Even in this case, however, the question remains, what is it in reality that these definitions define? We have already said, they define the essence as species. However, the essence "man" is one thing; the essential characteristics of a determinate individual are something else. Aristotle will permit "matter", but not "this matter", [114] to enter into essence; not "these" bones, "this" blood, etc., of Socrates. This would, indeed, be true of the essence as abstract specificity, but not as a physical moment of Socrates for whom what is essential is precisely "these", bones, "this" blood, etc. With his pertinacious orientation toward the definition, Aristotle leaves us without what is most important for us in the essence, namely, the physical essence. Aristotle will say, naturally, that the individual cannot be defined, that only the specific can be defined. This is true. It does not follow from this, however, that the non-specific is not essential; rather, quite the contrary, that the essence, as such, does not consist in that which can be defined. An individual can possess many characters which are essential for it, and which are not specific. Despite the fact that they recognize this, some scholastic philosophers nevertheless continue to be faithful disciples of Aristotle, limiting the essential to the specific, and precisely for logical reasons. The investigation of essence, however, is not the elaboration of a definition. It is one thing to ascertain what the essential of something is, another that that which has been ascertained should be formally a definition. Instead of making the essence the measure of the definition and recognizing that the definition corresponds to only one aspect or other of the essence, Aristotle makes the definition the measure of the essence. And this, even from a logical point of view, is unacceptable, unless by another path it will justify the view that the strict and formal function of the essence is to be the principle of specification. This latter, however, is not the case: and this fact leads us to the second concept of essence.

{91} 2. Let us take the essence as a real and physical moment of substance. Aristotle brings to focus the structure of the individual substance by considering it as a subject endowed with certain notes which are the same as those possessed by other individuals, and it is these identical notes which he calls essential notes. In this way the essence appears to him as a physical moment of specification. Instead of confronting the question of the essence in itself and trying to see in what, within a determined individual, its essential physical moment may consist in respect to the totality of the notes which it might possess hic et nunc, Aristotle is looking for something else, namely: how this individual articulates itself within the species; the structure of this articulation would be the essence. Thus the essence would [115] consist in that which collocates a thing within a class of things. What is this? It is a "man", a "dog", an "apple". This and this alone is what the Greeks called tˆ, quid, what. The rest would not belong to the what, but rather to the tˆj, quis, the who or what kind of. Indeed, that the specific essence should be a moment of the individual, because the species does not exist separately from the individual, as Plato pretended, will be a question as important as one may wish with respect to the species, but will, nevertheless, leave untouched the prior question of knowing what within this determined individual may be that which we call its essence, independently of the fact that it may further serve to constitute the possible unity of a species. These are two entirely distinct questions, because specificity supposes the plurality of individuals, so that the essence, in its own character (de suyo) makes no formal reference to other individuals. So much so, that, if this were not the case, it would not be possible to speak of essence in those realities which, for any reason whatsoever, do not admit of numerical multiplication. But this is absurd, because in that case what would happen is precisely that the and the tˆj "would change into each other" (se convertirían) by reason of their content: the entire content of the tˆj would enter into the and vice {92} versa. The multiplicity of individuals is certainly an inevitable means for arriving at the knowledge of the essence, but nothing more. Specificity is formally alien to essentiality. Within the individual, those characters which we call essential, fulfill a function proper to themselves, independently of whether or not there may be other individuals with possible identical characteristics. This function, therefore, is not a specifying function, but a structuring function. There is a moment, to be sure, when Aristotle seems as though he is going to treat of this aspect of the question, namely, when he refers to the substantial form, because the form is a physical moment of substance. Nevertheless, for him, the form is in itself specifying; between its specifying function and its structuring function there exists nothing more than an abstractive difference; independently of the act of constituting the substance, the form, in itself, is only a principle of specification. And this is not enough. The essence, as a physical moment of the substance, exercises a structuring, and not a specifying, function; and it exercises this function in the order of [116] the properties of the thing themselves, and not solely in the order of the actuation of matter by form.

3. The insufficiency of this conception becomes more sharply apparent if we consider what happens, in Aristotle's case, when he considers these two concepts of essence together. For Aristotle, the essence seems always to be supported by a substantial subject: it is the subject of "attribution" of some predicates, it is the subject of "inherence" of certain real notes. It is a theory of essence established on a theory of reality as subjectuality. Hence, the failure to distinguish the abstract essence and the essence as a physical moment of the reality. Since, for Aristotle, the essence is specific, instead of arriving at a unitary idea of the essence and of the "essentiated" substance, {93} he becomes trapped in an irreducible duality. If the essence is something specific, it follows that it, the essence, is the species insofar as it exists in the individual and, therefore, this species is the true subject of attribution of the essential notes. Hence, it follows that even though the ultimate subject would seem to be Socrates, nevertheless the true and proper subject of his human notes is not Socrates, but rather the humanity which is in him. Consequently, this humanity is something like a subject within the subject Socrates, a second substance, as Aristotle himself says, within the primary substance. What might be the nature of the strict articulation of these two surprising substances is something that forever remains obscure, and not by accident, but rather as a result of the very way by which, primarily and preponderantly, approach is made to things, the way of the lÕgoj. Hence arose, as is well known, the medieval problem of universals.

To sum up, when we are told, with Aristotle, that the essence comprises those notes which are predicated of a thing in itself (kaq> aÛtÕ), it appears very clearly that the essence possesses what I would call a function, very precisely determined, which certain notes fulfill in the real thing. What might this function be? For Aristotle, it is the function of specification: the essence proves to be the principle of the specificity of the substance. We have already seen that this is difficult to admit. The function of the essence, as we have said, is something else: it is a structuring function independent of all specification. Neither is this function what Aristotle would call an actuation of prime matter by substantial form. This is not the [117] question here. The question concerns a structuring function, but in the order of the very properties of the thing. The Aristotelian idea of essence is woven of the thread of the lÕgoj and, for this reason, ends necessarily with the specificity of the subject of this predication. It is a conception of essence based on a theory of reality as subjectuality. And in this consist its intrinsic limitations.

In medieval philosophy, a return is made to this theme for the {94} first time in that celebrated opusculum of St. Thomas, De Ente et Essentia. Following this, there is an uninterrupted series of texts and commentaries concerning this problem. As a matter of fact, however, medieval philosophy does nothing more on this matter than rethink the Aristotelian ideas, making use of the elaboration of those same ideas by Avicenna and Averroës. Its originality is encountered in two points: it raised and considered the problem of the distinction between essence and existence and it penetrated more profoundly the problem of universals, which is so intimately connected with the essentiality of substance; I shall refer to these points as they arise in the course of our exposition.

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Let us sum up. Rationalism and Hegel represent two ideas of essence which rest upon the concept we have of the thing: the essence would be the reality of the concept of the thing. This equivocal phrase may be understood as referring either to the formal concept (Hegel) or to the objective concept (rationalism). In Aristotle, by contrast, the essence is a moment of reality; of reality, however, taken as the physical correlate of its definition. After the extreme Hegelian idealism, by way of rationalism, we fall back with Aristotle to the reality itself. This return, however, comes about in a very special way, namely, by considering reality as legÕmenon admitting that its essential character is always and necessarily expressible in a definition. Having made clear the insufficiencies and the vacillations of this special contact with reality-special in the sense of being indirect-we are now free to take a step forward: to go directly to reality and to try to ascertain in it and by way of it what the reality of essence may be.