15 | CR Book VII, Chapter 1 & 2

contradiction - that of an impersonal self negating itself to a personal
self. General being out of itself creates the illusions of individuality.
This is another aspect of the self-contradictory character of the self,
which it would be futile to explain away. Be becoming a separate entity,
the self loses the fullness of its being, and the initial contradiction leads
to a whole set of further contradictions*, as the price we pay for being
a distinct and definite being.

It is true of things in general that, in order to determine their
essence, we have to define them as something, and we do not know what
anything defines itself as. This is clear if we take the "essential" to
mean the "inseparable". Whether a thing is destroyed by the removal
of a property depends on the aspect by which we define it, or under
which we view it, and thereby on the uncertainties of the level of
generality. Every property is essential for a man defined strictly as an
individual, fewer for a man defined as a sportsman, etc. When defining
plants, we are bound to choose the unit of reference by a more or less
arbitrary consideration of what we want of the plant, and not of what
the plant itself wants of itself.


Objective units are relative to the levels of duration and generality,
and thereby essentially imply a reference to different levels of practical
activity. As a result we receive a bewildering number of units, and we
have no standard which would allow us to choose between them
objectively. Social practice turned out to be too multifarious to yield
unambiguous results. in addition we cannot overlook the possibility
that social practice may contain elements which lead us away from
reality. Perhaps just the social factor in social practice may block our
way to reality. And further, since social practice implies self-activity, we
have to survey the various degrees of self-activity, each of which
discloses its own units.

Chapter 1 - One may, first, argue (against Book 4) that
practice leads away from reality, and that one cannot live in close touch
with both society and reality at the same time. In what way, then, does
social practice produce obstacles to contact with reality? (1) In social
practice, we never have things alone, but always things in relation to our
private and collective interests and purposes. This inevitably leads not
only to selection, but to fabrication, unless the purpose coincides
accidentally with the natural course of the object itself. (2) The main
reason why we accept statements is the observation that others hold
them too. It may be that in this process of mutual suggestion the blind
lead the blind. (3) The necessity of succeeding in concrete society implies
a distortion of the co-operative nature of man, with consequent blind-
ness, through tribalism and oppression. Competition fosters the desire
to matter, and to be somebody, which plays havoc with one's perspective
of the world. Untruthfulness, self-deception, rationalisation and
camouflage seem essential to social life. (4) The preoccupations of daily
life lead away from great things. There is neither time nor inclination
for prolonged solitary meditation.

Chapter 2 - We may distinguish levels of self-activity, in accordance
with the contribution the self makes towards what we do. The lowest

*Book IX & Book X