Absolute (from the Latin absolutus – complete, perfect, independent, unbound, free, unlimited, unconditional) – a philosophical term for the concept of a self-sufficient, eternal, and truly infinite spiritual reality in which the fundamentals of being all things. In monotheistic religions, religious-philosophical and theological concepts, the concept of the absolute corresponds to the concept of God. In the ancient Indian teachings, the Brahman is the absolute, Taoism is Tao, in the Kabbalah is Ein Sof, boundless, pure divinity. In the history of classical Western European philosophy, various aspects and levels of this concept are discussed. Parmenides, for example, has this pure being; in Plato – “First-Ever-Good”; Aristotle has “thinking self-thinking” (it is also a “form of form”, an “ultimate goal,” a higher, or pure, entelechy and a “first-drive”); in Neoplatonism, the One; Eckhart’s “Divinity” (Gottheit); in Nicholas of Cusa – “absolute maximum”, “unintentional”, “possibility of existence” (possest); y Descartes – the absolute being, the connection of which with self-consciousness is manifested in the act of cogito; y Spinoza is a “substance”; Leibniz has a monad of monads; in Kant the theme of the absolute is somehow refracted in his discourse on the “ideas” and “ideal” of pure reason, about the thing in itself, the categorical imperative, the postulates of practical reason; Fichte has this “absolute self”; Hegel has an absolute spirit. It is believed that the term “absolute” was used for the first time by M. Mendelson and F. Jacobi to designate Spinoza’s “substance”. Schelling actively used this term (the absolute identity of the subject and object), then – after Hegel – the “absolute spirit” and, finally, “can be” (das Seinkönnende). The category of the absolute becomes central to English neo-Hegelianism – the so-called “absolute idealism” (Bradley). In SL Frank it is “incomprehensible”, comprehended through the comprehension of its incomprehensibility (in the spirit of the concept of “learned ignorance” of Nikolai Kuzansky); in Teilhard de Chardin – the intelligible unity of the points “Alpha” and “Omega” as a metaphysical center, the source and at the same time the ultimate goal (in the sense close to the Aristotelian entelechy in the universal process of noogenesis).
The concept of the absolute was not given to the human spirit from the very beginning, it was, rather, only “given” as the goal of the aspirations of philosophical thought, driven by the need for the cognition of the infinite. From what does this need arise? Does the concept of absolute correspond to any reality? Does it have a denotation? How should this concept be constructed so that it corresponds to something in reality? How general is this statement of the question? Can we, without going into contradiction, talk about the absolute as a “subject” of knowledge? If the contradiction must be a sign that we are on the right path to the knowledge of the absolute (Hegel), then where to find a criterion for distinguishing contradictions in the self-contradictory assertions about the absolute, which only testify to the limited, helplessness and delusions of the final spirit, from contradictions expressing the inner dialectic of the infinite?
The establishment of “learned ignorance” consists primarily in recognizing that the comprehension of the absolute is a task internally contradictory, for the absolute “by definition” is undefined and any attempt to cram it into the framework of the finite concept is doomed to failure in advance, for it leads only to the”. What is expressed in the final concept is no longer an infinite, but its opposite. In this sense, the absolute is always on the other side of the finite spirit, and what the final spirit manages to comprehend is, for that very reason, not an absolute. However, the next step is to understand that the absolute is inconceivable in principle, and not only empirically and situationally, in fact, because of the limitations of our cognitive ability, which, without qualitatively changing, could overcome this limitation “tomorrow”. Therefore, the task is set: to comprehend what is the incomprehensibility of the absolute. This question, however, in its turn is only an epistemological measurement of the metaphysical problem: what is the infinity of the infinite? That, in principle, knowledge is not available. Therefore, it is metaphysically localized only “on the other side” of the cognizing subject and, therefore, has its limit on the subject itself. But this otherworldly (repressed beyond the subject) is something just not an infinite reality. Absolutization of the epistemological transcendence of the absolute inevitably leads to the affirmation and absolutization of its metaphysical transcendence to the cognizing subject, and thereby to the conclusion of that which, by definition, is infinite. Thus, a skeptical assertion of the incomprehensibility of the absolute reveals internal contradictions, and the question of the content of the concept of the absolute comes to the fore. It turns out that such definitions as “pure being”, “substance”, “cause“, “necessary essence”, etc. too abstract, one-sided and express only a single aspect of that whole reality, to which the mind aspires to the absolute. Therefore, these conceptual definitions themselves are untrue, and those aspects of the absolute that they express, taken in isolation, are also untrue, and that is why they are unknowable. The assertion that truth is knowable is supplemented by the assertion that only truth is cognizable. In other words: only concerning the absolute and perhaps true knowledge, whereas of finite things only an opinion is possible. The task of reason, therefore, is to synthesize the individual features of the absolute captured in rational abstractions into a single, integral “image” and not only to theoretically disclose but also practically actualize the immanence of the absolute to the human spirit. Religious-philosophical systems were essentially nothing more than attempts to build such an “image” of the infinite, and in combination with the second moment of this task, they represented various forms of realization of a speculative-mystical attitude. Within the framework of European philosophy, speculative mysticism is a philosophical tradition, the richest in intuitions about the absolute. This tradition goes back to Plato and Aristotle, receives the confessional development of some of the Church Fathers (especially in Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite), and in German philosophy comes from Eckhart through Nicholas of Cusa and Boehme to Fichte, Hegel and Schelling.
According to Hegel, the concept of the absolute is not a concept in the traditional formal-logical sense, but some living reality, whose name is the absolute spirit. At this level, the question of the correspondence of the content of the concept to any object disappears, since the “order of being” here coincides with the “order of cognition”. The Absolute seems to be transcendent to self-consciousness (and therefore unknowable) precisely because it is not comprehended as self-consciousness. This comprehension of the absolute as self-consciousness is a concept of the absolute and at the same time its real self-consciousness, which, in turn, is the absolute itself, or, in other words, God is the self-consciousness of God (K.F.Goshel). This statement is not a formal and logical mistake, but symbolically expresses the self-correlation of the absolute. Aristotle understood this self-correspondence as thinking, and Hegel – as an act of absolute self-consciousness creating itself. This reality is transcendental to the finite being. But it is by its infinity that it is also immanent in all that exists, including the human spirit, and by this immanence in a special way is knowable. M. Heidegger denotes the transcendent immanence of the absolute by the term “Parusie” (Greek – presence, penetration, intimacy) and emphasizes that the beginning of the knowledge of the absolute is to be able to perceive this presence. From a speculative-theological attitude, the specificity of this knowledge is due precisely to the fact that absolute Self-Consciousness retains its transcendence even in its immanence: it always remains correlated only with itself. However, through speculative meditation, the finite spirit can rise above its limb and actualize in itself the eternal presence of absolute transcendence. The result of this actualization is a “breakthrough” (Durchbruch – one of the fundamental senses in Eckhart’s teachings) of absolute self-consciousness in the human spirit, whereby a person’s self-consciousness elevates itself to a speculative symbol, i.e. such a reality that not only points to the transcendence that is “outside” and “independent” of it, but also reveals its presence in itself and demonstrates that the “infinite” is completely present in the “finite”, and the “finite” thus represents, really “reveals” the “infinite”, the whole. Thus, the cognition of the absolute turns out to be in a certain sense and impossible (for only he is able to know himself), and possible (for the finite spirit can achieve that the self-consciousness of the absolute has a present being in man’s self-consciousness).
Late Schelling in his so-called. “Positive philosophy” is trying to speculatively reproduce the structure of the absolute, through which it is able not to fall into an “necessary” and therefore completely unfree, “blind” being (like the substance of Spinoza), but remain in itself an free subject of being. In the doctrine of the potencies of the absolute spirit, Schelling seeks to show how the absolute manages to maintain its transcendence, or self-correspondence, through which it is precisely self-consciousness, and simultaneously its immanence, which is possible as a conscious and free creative action. At this level, too, the distinction between the “absolute of metaphysics” and “the absolute of religion” is removed and the living “concept” of infinite self-consciousness, or the absolute Person, crystallizes out. The concept of “absolute spirit” in Schelling and Hegel and represents such an understanding of the absolute. The difference between Hegel and Schelling is that in Hegel the presence of the absolute in the human spirit is necessary, while in Schelling the absolute is the free subject of being. The self-revelation of the absolute in the self-consciousness of man is in this sense the result not only of the activity of the human spirit but also of the activity of the absolute aimed at him. Here, the boundaries of one-sided speculative philosophical comprehension of the absolute are revealed.