This being the time for relaxed summer reading and thinking, I reread today two strikingly similar passages from Georg Hegel and Søren Kierkegaard, philosophers I generally think of as stylistically opposed.
At issue are two key questions:
1. What is the origin of the universe?
2. What is the self?
Hegel on the beginning of the universe: “So far, there is nothing: something is to become. The beginning is not pure nothing, but a nothing from which something is to proceed; so that being is already contained in the beginning. The beginning thus contains both, being and nothing; it is the unity of being and nothing, or is not-being which is being, and being which is also not being.” (The Science of Logic, in The Philosophy of Hegel, ed., C. J. Friedrich. Modern Library, 1953/54, p. 211)
Kierkegaard on the self: “A human being is spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation’s relating itself to itself. A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis. A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered in this way, a human being is still not a self.” (The Sickness Unto Death, translated by Howard V. Hong & Edna H. Hong. Princeton University Press, 1980, p. 13)
Having sorted out those two issues, we can now move on to other pressing philosophical matters.