Book I: Metaphysics of Knowledge.

Chapter I: The Spiritual Principle in Knowledge and Nature.

§ 23.

It is thus in vain that we seek to define the real by finding, either in the work of the mind or elsewhere, an unreal to which it may be opposed. Is there, then, no meaning in an opposition which is constantly on our tongues? Undoubtedly that which any event seems to us to be may be—nay always is—more or less different from what it really is. The relations by which we judge it to be determined are not, or at any rate fall short of, those by which it is really determined. But this is a distinction between one particular reality and another; not between a real, as such or as a whole, and an unreal, as such or as a whole. The illusive appearance, as opposed to the reality, of any event is what that event really is not; but at the same time it really is something. It is real, not indeed with the particular reality which the subject of the illusion ascribes to it, but with a reality which a superior intelligence might understand. The relations by which, in a false belief as to a matter of fact, we suppose the event to be determined, are not non-existent. They are really objects of a conceiving consciousness. As arising out of the action of such a consciousness, as constituents of a world which it presents to itself, they are no less real than are the actual conditions of the event which is thought to be, but is not really, determined by them. It is when we reflect on the judgments in which we are perpetually deciding that what has previously been taken to be the reality of a particular event is a mere appearance, i.e., not the reality of that particular event—or rather when we reflect on the language in which those judgments have been expressed—that we come to speak of the real, as an abstract universal, in contrast with another abstract universal, the unreal. Thus for a contrast which is in truth a contrast between two acts of judgment—the act of judging an event to be determined by certain relations which, according to the order of the universe, do determine it, and that of judging it to be determined by relations other than these—we substitute another, which exists merely in words, but to which we fancy that we give a meaning by identifying the unreal with the work of the mind, as opposed to a real which has some other origin, we cannot say what. (§ 23 ¶ 1)