Book I: Metaphysics of Knowledge.

Chapter I: The Spiritual Principle in Knowledge and Nature.

§ 22.

In truth, however, there is no such thing. The very question, What is the real?—which we seem to answer by help of this opposition—is a misleading one, so far as it implies that there is something else from which the real can be distinguished. We are apt to make merry over the crude logic of Plato in supposing that there are objects, described as μὴ ὄντα, which stands in the same relation to ignorance as τὰ ὄντα to knowledge, and other objects, described as τὰ μεταξύ, which stand in a corresponding relation to mere opinion. Of this fallacy, as of most others that are to be found in him, Plato himself supplies the correction, but much of our language about the real suggests that we are ourselves its victims. If there is a valid opposition between the work of the mind and something else which is not the work of the mind, the one must still be just as real as the other. Of two alternatives, one. Either the work of the mind is a name for nothing, expressing a mere privation or indeterminateness, a mere absence of qualities—in which case nothing is conveyed by the proposition which opposes the real or anything else to it: or, on the other hand, if it has qualities and relations of its own, then it is just as real as anything else. Through not understanding the relations which determine the one kind of object—that ascribed to the work of the mind—as distinct from those which determine the other—that ascribed to some other agency—we may confuse the two kinds of object. We may take what is really of the one kind to be really of the other. But this is not a confusion of the real with the unreal. The very confusion itself, the mistake of supposing what is related in one way to be related in another, has its own reality. It has its history, its place in the development of man’s mind, its causes and effects; and, as so determined, it is as real as anything else. (§ 22 ¶ 1)