Not a member?     Existing members login below:

How is society possible?

that of nature, however, is this: the latter - according to the
Kantian standpoint here presupposed - comes to existence
exclusively in the contemplating unity (Subject), it is produced
exclusively by that mind upon and out of the sense materials
which are not in themselves interconnected. On the contrary, the
societary unity is realized by its elements without further
mediation, and with no need of an observer, because these
elements are consciously and synthetically active. The Kantian
theorem, Connection (Verbindung) can never inhere in the things,
since it is only brought into existence by the mind (Subject), is
not true of the societary connection, which is rather immediately
realized in the "things" - namely, in this case the individual
souls. Moreover, this societary connection as synthesis, remains
something purely psychical and without parallels with
space-structures and their reactions. But in the societary
instance the combining requires no factor outside of its own
elements, since each of these exercises the function which, with
respect to the external, the psychic energy of the observer
supplies. The consciousness of constituting with the others a
unity is the whole unity in question in the societary case. This
of course means, on the one hand, not the abstract consciousness
of the unity concept, but the innumerable singular relationships,
the feeling and knowing about this determining and being
determined by the other, and, on the other hand, it quite as
little excludes an observing third party from performing in
addition a synthesis, with its basis only in himself, between the
persons concerned, as between special elements. Whatever be the
tract of externally observable being which is to be comprehended
as a unity. the consummation occurs not merely by virtue of its
immediate and strictly objective content, but it is determined by
the categories of the mind (Subject) and from its cognitive
requirements. Society, however, is the objective unity which has
no need of the observer not contained in itself.
The things in nature are, on the one hand, more widely
separated than souls. In the outward world, in which each entity
occupies space which cannot be shared with another, there is no
analogy for the unity of one man with another, which consists in
understanding, in love, in common work. On the other hand, the
fragments of spatial existence pass into a unity in the
consciousness of the observer, which cannot be attained by
community of individuals. For, on account of the fact that the
objects of the societary synthesis are independent beings,
psychic centres, personal unities, they resist that absolute
merging in the soul of another person, to which the selflessness
(Selbstlosigkeit) of soulless things must yield. Thus a
collection of men is really a unity in a much higher, more ideal
sense, yet in a much lower degree than tables, chairs, sofa,
carpet and mirror constitute "the furniture of a room," or river,
meadow, trees, house, "a landscape," or in a painting "a
In quite a different sense from that in which it is true of
the external world, is society "my representation" (
Vorstellung), i.e., posited upon the activity of consciousness.
For the soul of another has for me the same reality which I
myself have, a reality which is very different from that of a
material thing. However Kant insists that objects in space have
precisely the same certainty as my own existence, in the latter
case only the particular contents of my subjective life can be
meant; for the basis of representation in general, the feeling of
the existing ego, is unconditional and unshakable to a degree
attained by no single representation of a material externality.