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Subject and Object
By Theodor W. Adorno
To engage in reflections on subject and object poses the problem of stating what we are to talk about. The terms are patently equivocal. "Subject," for instance, may refer to the particular individual as well
as to general attributes, to "consciousness in general" in the language of Kant's _Prologomena_. The equivocation is not removable simply by terminological clarification, for the two meanings have reciprocal need of each other; one is scarcely to be grasped without the other. The element of individual humanity--what Schelling calls "egoity"--cannot be thought apart from any concept of the subject; without any remembrance of it, "subject" would lose all meaning. Conversely, as soon as we reflect upon the human individual as an individual at all, in the form of a general concept--as soon as we cease to mean only the present existence of some particular person--we have already turned it into a universal similar to that which came to be explicit in the idealist concept of the subject. The very term "particular person" requires a generic concept, lest it be meaningless. Even in proper names, a reference to that universal is still implied. They mean one who is called by that name, not by any other; and "one" stands elliptically for "one human being."
If on the other hand we tried to define the two terms so as to avoid this type of complication, we would land in an aporia that adds to the problematics of defining, as modern philosophy since Kant has noted time and again, for in a way, the concepts of subject and object--or rather, the things they intend--have priority before all definition. Defining means that something objective, no matter what it may be in itself, is subjectively captured by means of a fixed concept. Hence the resistance offered to defining by subject and object. To determine their meanings takes reflection on the very thing which definition cuts off for the sake of conceptual flexibility. Hence the advisability, at the outset, of taking up the words "subject" and "object" as well-honed philosophical language hands them to us as a historical sediment--not, of course, sticking to such conventionalism but continuing with critical analysis. The starting point would be the allegedly naive, though already mediated, view that a knowing subject, whatever its kind, was confronting a known object, whatever its kind. The reflection, which in philosophical terminology goes by the name of _intentio obliqua_, is then a re-relation of that ambiguous concept of the object to a no less ambiguous concept of the subject. The second reflection reflects the first, more closely determining those vague subject and object concepts for their content's sake.
The separation of subject and object is both real and illusory. True, because in the cognitive realm it serves to express the real separation, the dichotomy of the human condition, a coercive de-
velopment. False, because the resulting separation must not be hypostasized, not magically transformed into an invariant. This contradiction in the separation of subject and object is imparted to epistemology. Though they cannot be thought away, as separated, the _pseudos_ of the separation is manifested in their being mutually mediated--the object by the subject, and even more, in different ways, the subject by the object. The separation is no sooner established directly, without mediation, than it becomes ideology, which is indeed its normal form. The mind will then usurp the place of something absolutely independent--which it is not; its claim of independence heralds the claim of dominance. Once radically parted from the object, the subject reduces it to its own measure; the subject swallows the object, forgetting how much it is an object itself.
The picture of a temporal or extratemporal original state of happy identity between subject and object is romantic, however--a wishful projection at times, but today no more than a lie. The undifferentiated state before the subject's formation was the dread of the blind web of nature, of myth; it was in protest against it that the greater religions had their truth content. Besides, to be undifferentiated is not to be one; even in Platonic dialectics, unity requires divers items of which it is the unity. For those who live to see it, the new horror of separation will transfigure the old horror of chaos--both are ever-same. The fear of yawning meaninglessness makes one forget a fear which once upon a time was no less dreadful: that of the vengeful gods of which Epicurean materialism and the Christian "fear not" wanted to relieve mankind. The only way to accomplish this is through the subject. If it were liquidated rather than sublated in a higher form, the effect would be regression--not just of consciousness, but a regression to real barbarism.
Fate, myth's bondage to nature, comes from total social tutelage, from an age in which no eyes had yet been opened by self-reflection, an age in which subject did not yet exist. Instead of a collective practice conjuring that age to return, the spell of the old undifferentiatedness should be obliterated. Its prolongation is the sense of identity of a mind that repressively shapes its Other in its own image. If speculation on the state of reconciliation were permitted, neither the undistinguished unity of subject and object nor their antithetical hostility would be conceivable in it; rather, the communication of what was distinguished. Not until then would the concept of communication, as an objective concept, come into its own. The present one is so infamous because the best there is, the potential of an agreement
between people and things, is betrayed to an interchange between subjects according to the requirements of subjective reason. In its proper place, even epistemologically, the relationship of subject and object would lie in the realization of peace among men as well as between men and their Other. Peace is the state of distinctness without domination, with the distinct participating in each other.
In epistemology, "subject" is mostly understood to mean the "transcendental subject." According to idealist doctrine, it will either construct the objective world with raw material along Kantian lines or, since Fichte, engender that world itself. The critics of idealism were not the first to discover that this transcendental subject constituting the substance of experience was abstracted from living individuals. It is evident that the abstract concept of the transcendental subject--its thought forms, their unity, and the original productivity of consciousness--presupposes what it promises to bring about: actual, live individuals. This notion was present in the idealist philosophies. Kant, in his chapter on psychological paralogisms, did try to develop a constitutive-hierarchic difference in principle between transcendental and empirical subject; but his successors, notably Fichte and Hegel, as well as Schopenhauer, resorted to logical subtleties to cope with the immense difficulty of the circle. They frequently had recourse to the Artistotelian motif that what comes first for our consciousness--in this case, the empirical subject--is not the First in itself, that as its condition or its origin it postulates the transcendental subject. Even Husserl's polemics against psychologism, along with the distinction of genesis and validity, continues the line of that mode of argument. It is apologetic. The conditioned is to be justified as unconditional, the derived as primary. That nothing can be true except the First--or, as Nietzsche critically phrased it, what has not come into being--is a _topos_ of the entire Western tradition; we find it repeated here. There is no mistaking the ideological function of the thesis. The more individuals are really degraded to functions of the social totality as it becomes more systematized, the more will man pure and simple, man as a principle with the attributes of creativity and absolute domination, be consoled by exaltation of his mind.
Yet for all that, the question of the transcendental subject's reality weighs heavier than appears in its sublimation as pure mind, fully so in the critical retraction of idealism. In a sense (although idealism would be the last to admit this) the transcendental subject is more real--that is to say, more determinant for the real conduct of
men and for the resulting society--than those psychological individuals from which the transcendental one was abstracted. They have little to say in the world, having on their part turned into appendages of the social apparatus and ultimately into ideology. The living human individual, as he is forced to act in the role for which he has been marked internally as well, is the _homo oeconomicus_ incarnate, closer to the transcendental subject than to the living individual for which he immediately cannot but take himself. To this extent, idealistic theory was realistic and did not need to feel embarrassed when charged with idealism by opponents. What shows up faithfully in the doctrine of the transcendental subject is the priority of the relations--abstractly rational ones, detached from the human individuals and their relationships--that have their model in exchange. If the exchange form is the standard social structure, its rationality constitutes people; what they are for themselves, what they seem to be to themselves, is secondary. They are deformed beforehand by the mechanism that has been philosophically transfigured as transcendental. The supposedly most evident of things, the empirical subject, would really have to be viewed as not yet in existence; in this perspective, the transcendental subject is "constitutive."
This alleged origin of all objects is objectified in rigid timelessness, quite in keeping with Kant's doctrine of the firm and immutable forms of transcendental consciousness. Its solidity and invariance, which according to transcendental philosophy bring forth all objects, or at least prescribe their rule, are the reflective form of the reification of humans that has been objectively accomplished in the social relationship. The fetish character, a socially necessary semblance, has historically turned into the _prius_ of what according to its concept would have it be the _posterius_. The philosophical problem of constitution has reversed into its mirror image; but in this very reversal, it tells the truth about the historic stage that has been reached--in a truth, of course, which a second Copernican turn might theoretically negate again. True, it has its positive aspect as well: society, as prior, keeps its members and itself alive. The particular individual has the universal to thank for the possibility of his existence--witness thought, which is a general relation, and thus a social one. It is not just as fetish that thought takes priority over the individual. Only in idealism, one side is hypostasized, the side which is incomprehensible except in relation to the other. But the datum, the irremovable _skandalon_ of idealism, will demonstrate time and again the failure of the hypostasis.
It is not the old _intentio recta_ that is restored by insight into the object's primacy; not the trustful bondage to the outside world as it is and as it appears this side of critique; not an anthropological state devoid of the self-consciousness that crystallizes only in the context of re-relating knowledge to the knower. The crude confrontation of subject and object in naive realism is indeed historically necessary and not removable by any act of will. At the same time it is a product of the wrong abstraction, already a piece of reification. Once we have seen through this, we would be unable without self-reflection to drag further a consciousness objectified to itself, a consciousness externalized precisely as such and virtually recoiling outward. the turn to the subject, though aiming at its primacy from the start, does not simply vanish with its revision; not the least reason why the revision occurs is the subjective interest of freedom. Rather, by primacy of the object is meant that the subject, for its part of an object in a qualitatively different sense, in a sense more radical than the object, which is not known otherwise than through consciousness, is as an object also a subject.
What is known through consciousness must be something; mediation aims at the mediated. But the subject, epitome of mediation, is the How--never the What, as opposed to the object--that is postulated by any comprehensible idea of its concept. Potentially, even if not actually, objectivity can be conceived without a subject; not so subjectivity without an object. No matter how we define the subject, some entity cannot be juggled out of it. If it is not something--and "something" indicates an irreducible objective moment--the subject is nothing at all; even as _actus purus_, it still needs to refer to something active. The object's primacy is the _intentio obliqua_ of the _intentio obliqua_, not the warmed-over _intention recta_. It is the corrective of the subjective reduction, not the denial of a subjective share. The object, too, is mediated; but according to its own concept, it is not so thoroughly dependent on the subject as the subject is on objectivity. Idealism has ignored such differences and has thus coarsened a spiritualization that serves abstraction as a disguise. Yet this occasions a revision of the stand toward the subject which prevails in traditional theory. That theory glorifies the subject in ideology and slanders it in epistemological practice. If one wants to reach the object, on the other hand, its subjective attributes or qualities are not to be eliminated, for precisely that would run counter to the primacy of the object.
If the subject does have an objective core, the object's subjective qualities are so much more an element of objectivity. For it is only as
something definite that the object becomes anything at all. In the attributes that seem to be attached to it by the subject alone, the subject's own objectivity comes to the fore: all of them are borrowed from the objectivity of the _intentio recta_. Even according to idealist doctrine, the subjective attributes are not mere attachments; they are always called for by the _definiendum_ as well, and it is there that the object's primacy is upheld. Conversely, the supposedly pure object lacking any admixture of thought and visuality is the literal reflection of abstract subjectivity: nothing else but abstraction makes the Other like itself. Unlike the undefined substrate of reductionism, the object of undiminished experience is more objective than that substrate. The qualities which the traditional critique of knowledge eliminates from the object and credits to the subject are due, in subjective experience, to the object's primacy; this is what we were deceived about by the ruling _intentio obliqua_. Its inheritance went to a critique of experience that realized its historical conditionality, and eventually that of society. For society is immanent in experience, not an _allo genos_. Nothing but the social self-reflection of knowledge obtains for knowledge the objectivity that will escape it so long as it obeys the social coercions that hold sway in it, and does not become aware of them. Social critique is a critique of knowledge, and vice versa.
Primacy of the object can be discussed legitimately only when that primacy--over the subject in the broadest sense of the term--is somehow definable, when it is more than the Kantian thing-in-itself as the unknown cause of the phenomenon. Despite Kant, of course, even the thing-in-itself bears a minimum of attributes merely by being distinct from the categorially predicated; one such attribute, a negative one, would be that of acausality. It suffices to set up an antithesis to the conventional view that conforms with subjectivism. The test of the object's primacy is its qualitative alteration of opinions held by the reified consciousness, opinions that go frictionlessly with subjectivism. Subjectivism does not touch the substance of naive realism; it only seeks to state formal criteria of its validity, as confirmed by the Kantian formula of empirical realism. One argument for primacy of the object is indeed incompatible with Kant's doctrine of constitution: that in modern natural science, the ratio peers over the very wall it has built, that it grabs a snippet of what differs with its well-honed categories. Such broadening of the ratio shatters subjectivism. But what defines the prior object as distinct from its subjective trappings is comprehensible in the conditionality of what conditions it, in that
which in turn defines the categorical apparatus it is to be defined by, according to the subjectivist pattern. The categorical attributes without which there is no objectivity as yet, according to Kant, are posited also, and thus, if you will, they are really "merely subjective." The _reductio ad hominem_ thus becomes the downfall of anthropocentrism. That even man as a _constituens_ is man-made--this disenchants the creativity of the mind. But since primacy of the object requires reflection on the subject and subjective reflection, subjectivity--as distinct from primitive materialism, which really does not permit dialectics--becomes a moment that lasts.
Ever since the Copernican turn, what goes by the name of phenomenalism--that nothing is known save by a knowing subject--has joined with the cult of the mind. Insight into the primacy of the object revolutionizes both. What Hegel intended to place within subjective brackets has the critical consequence of shattering them. The general assurance that innervations, insights, cognitions are "merely subjective" ceases to convince as soon as subjectivity is grasped as the object's form. Phenomenality is the subject's magical transformation into the ground of its own definition, its positing as true being. The subject itself is to be brought to objectivity; its stirrings are not to be banished from cognition.
But the illusion of phenomenalism is a necessary one. It attests to the all but irresistibly blinding context which the subject produces as a false consciousness, and whose member it is at the same time. Such irresistibility is the foundation of the ideology of the subject. Awareness of a defect--of the limits of knowledge--becomes a virtue, so as to make the defect more bearable. A collective narcissism was at work. but it could not have prevailed with such stringency, could not have brought forth the most potent philosophies, if the fundament had not contained a kernel, albeit a distorted one, of truth. What transcendentalism praised in creative subjectivity is the subject's unconscious imprisionment in itself. Its every objective thought leaves the subject harnessed like an armored beast in the shell it tries in vain to shed; the only difference is that to such animals it did not occur to brag of their captivity as freedom.
We may well ask why human beings did so. Their mental imprisionment is exceedingly real. That as cognitive beings they depend on space, on time, on thought forms, marks their dependence on the species. Those constituents were its precipitation; they are no less valid for that reason. The a priori and society are intertwined. The universality and necessity of those forms, their Kantian glory, is none other than that which unites mankind. It needed them to survive. Captivity was internalized; the individual is no less imprisioned in himself than in the universal, in society. Hence the interest in the reinterpretation of captivity as freedom. The categorical captivity of individual consciousness repeats the real captivity of every individual.
The very glance that allows consciousness to see through that captivity is determined by the forms it has implanted in the individual. Their imprisionment in themselves might make people realize their social imprisionment; preventing this realization was and is a capital interest of the status quo. It was for the sake of the status quo, something hardly less necessary than the forms themselves, that philosophy was bound to lose its way. Idealism was that ideological even before starting to glorify the world as an absolute idea. The primal compensation already includes the notion that reality, exalted into a product of the supposedly free subject, would vindicate itself as free.
Identitarian thought, the covering image of the prevailing dichotomy, has ceased in our era of subjective impotence to pose as absolutization of the subject. What is taking shape instead is the type of seemingly antisubjectivist, scientifically objective identitarian thought known as reductionism. (The early Russell used to be called a "neo-realist.") It is at present the characteristic form of the reified consciousness--false, because of its latent and thus much more fatal subjectivism. The residue is made to the measure of the ordering principles of objective reason, and being abstract itself, it agrees with the abstractness of that reason. The reified consciousness that mistakes itself for nature is naive: having evolved, and being very much mediated in itself, it takes itself--to speak in Husserl's terms--for a "sphere of Being of absolute origins" and the Other it has equipped for the desired matter. The ideal of depersonalizing knowledge for objectivity's sake keeps nothing but the _caput mortuum_ of objectivity.
Once we concede the object's dialectical primacy, the hypothesis of an unreflected practical science of the object as residual after deducting the subject will collapse. The subject is then no longer a deductible addendum to objectivity. By the elimination of one of its essential elements, objectivity is falsified, not purified. And indeed, the notion that guides objectivity's residual concept has its primal image in something posited and man-made--by no means in the idea of that in-itself for which it substitutes the cleansed object. It is the
model of profit, rather, that stays on the balance sheet after all costs of production have been subtracted. Profit, however, is the subjective interest, limited and reduced to the form of calculation. What counts for the sober realism of profit thinking is anything but "the matter"; the matter is submerged in the yield. But cognition would have to be guided by what exchange has not maimed, or--for nothing is left unmaimed--by what the exchange processes are hiding. The object is no more a subjectless residuum than what the subject posits. The two contradictory definitions fit into each other: the residue, with which science can be put off as its truth, it the product of their subjectively organized manipulative procedures.
Defining what the object is would in turn be part of such arrangements. The only way to make out objectivity is to reflect, at each historic and each cognitive step, on what is then presented as subject and object, as well as on the mediations. In that sense, the object is indeed "infinitely given," as Neo-Kantianism taught. At times, the subject as unlimited experience will come closer to the object than the filtered residuum shaped to fit the requirements of subjective reason. According to its present polemical value in the philosophy of history, unreduced subjectivity can function more objectively than objectivistic reductions. Not the least respect in which all knowledge under the spell has been hexed is that traditional epistemological theses put the case upside down: Fair is foul, and foul is fair. The objective content of individual experience is not produced by the method of comparative generalization; it is produced by dissolving what keeps that experience, as being biased itself, from yielding to the object without reservations--as Hegel put it: with the freedom that would relax the cognitive subject until it truly fades into the object to which it is akin, on the strength of its own objective being.
The subject's key position in cognition is empirical, not formal; what Kant calls formation is essentially deformation. The preponderant exertion of knowledge is destruction of its usual exertion, that of using violence against the object. It can do this only where, fearlessly passive, it entrusts itself to its own experience. In places where subjective reason scents subjective contingency, the primacy of the object is shimmering through--whatever in the object is not a subjective admixture. The subject is the object's agent, not its constituent; this fact has consequences for the relation between theory and practice
Even after the second reflection of the Copernican turn, there remains some truth in Kant's most questionable theorem: in the distinction between the transcendent thing in itself and the constituted object. For then the object would be the nonidentical, free from the subjective spell and comprehensible through its self-criticism--if it is there at all, if indeed it is not what Kant outlined in his concept of the idea. Such nonidentity would come close to Kant's thing in itself, even though he insisted on the vanishing point of its coincidence with the subject. It would not be a relic of a disenchanted _mundus intelligibilis_; rather, it would be more real than the _mundus sensibilis_ insofar as Kant's Copernican turn abstracts from that nonidentity and therein finds its barrier.
But then the object, along Kantian lines, is what has been "posited" by the subject, the web of subjective forms cast over the unqualified Something; and finally it is the law that combines the phenomena, disintegrated by their subjective re-relation, into an object. The attributes of necessity and generality that Kant attaches to the emphatic concept of the law have the solidity of things and are impenetrably equal to that social world with which the living collide. It is that law, according to Kant, which the subject prescribes to nature; in his conception, it is the highest peak of objectivity, the perfect expression of the subject as well as of its self-alienation: at the peak of its formative pretension, the subject passes itself off as an object. Paradoxically, however, this is not wrong at all: in fact, the subject is an object as well; it only forgets in its formal hypostasis how and whereby it was constituted. Kant's Copernican turn hits the exact objectification of the subject, the reality of reification. Its truth content is the by no means ontological but historically amassed block between subject and object. The subject erects that block by claiming supremacy over the object and thereby defrauding itself of the object. As truly nonidentical, the object moves the farther from the subject the more the subject "constitutes" the object.
The block on which Kantian philosophy racks its brain is at the same time a product of that philosophy. And yet, due to the _chorismos_ of any material, the subject as pure spontaneity and original apperception, seemingly the absolutely dynamic principle, is no less reified than the world of things constituted after the model of natural science. For by that _chorismos_ the claimed absolute spontaneity is brought to a halt--in itself, though not for Kant; it is a form supposed to be the form of something, but one which due to its own character cannot interact with any Something. Its abrupt divorcement from the activity
of individual subjects, an activity that has to be devalued as contingent-psychological, destroys Kant's inmost principle, original apperception. His apriorism deprives pure action of the very temporality without which simply nothing can be understood by "dynamics." Action recoils into second-class Being--explicitly, as everyone knows, in the late Fichte's turn away from the 1794 theory of science. Kant codifies such objective ambiguities in the concept of the object, and no theorem about the object has the right to ignore it. Strictly speaking, primacy of the object would mean that there is no object as the subject's abstract opposite, but that as such it seems necessary. The necessity of that illusion ought to be removed.
No more, to be sure, "is there" really a subject. Its hypostasis in idealism leads to absurdities. They may be summarized like this: that the definition of the subject involves what it is posited against--and by no means only because as a _constituens_ it presupposes a _constitutum_. The subject itself is an object insofar as existence is implied by the idealist doctrine of constitution--there must be a subject so that it can constitute anything at all--insofar as this had been borrowed in turn, from the sphere of facticity. The concept of what "is there" means nothing but what exists, and the subject as existent comes promptly under the heading of "object." As pure apperception, however, the subject claims to be the downright Other of all existents. This, too, is the negative appearance of a slice of truth: that the reification which the sovereign subject has inflicted on everything, including itself, is mere illusion. The subject moves into the chasm of itself whatever would be exempt from reification--with the absurd result, of course, of thereby issuing a permit for all other reification.
By idealism, the idea of true life is wrongly projected inwards. The subject as productive imagination, as pure apperception, finally as free action, encodes that activity in which human life is really reproduced, and in that activity it logically anticipates freedom. This is why so little of the subject will simply vanish in the object or in anything supposed to be higher, in Being as it may be hypostasized. The self-positing subject is an illusion and at the same time historically very real. It contains the potential of sublating its own rule.
The difference between subject and object cuts through both the subject and the object. It can no more be absolutized than it can be put out of mind. Actually, everything in the subject is chargeable to the object; whatever part of it is not objective will semantically burst the
"is." According to its own concept, the pure subjective form of traditional epistemology always exists only as a form of something objective, never without such objectivity; without that, it is not even thinkable. The solidity of the epistemological I, the identity of self-consciousness, is visibly modeled after the unreflected experience of the enduring identical object; even Kant essentially relates it to that experience. He could not have claimed the subjective forms as conditions of objectivity, had he not tacitly granted them an objectivity borrowed from the one to which he opposes the subject. But in the extreme into which subjectivity contracts, from the point of that extreme's synthetic unity, what is combined is always only what goes together anyway. Otherwise, synthesis would be nothing but arbitrary classification. True, without a subjectively performed synthesis, such going together is equally inconceivable. Even the subjective a priori can be called objectively valid only insofar as it has an objective side; without that side the object constituted by the a priori would be a pure tautology for the subject. Finally, due to its being insoluble, given, and extraneous to the subject, the object's content--to Kant, the material for cognition--is also something objective in the subject.
It is accordingly easy to look on the subject as nothing--as was not so very far from Hegel's mind--and on the object as absolute. Yet this is another transcendental illusion. A subject is reduced to nothing by its hypostasis, by making a thing of what is not a thing. It is discredited because it cannot meet the naively realistic innermost criterion of existence. The idealist construction of the subject founders on its confusion with something objective as inherently existent--the very thing it is not; by the standard of the existent, the subject is condemned to nothingness. The subject is the more the less it is, and it is the less the more it credits itself with objective being. As an element, however, it is ineradicable. After an elimination of the subjective moment, the object would come diffusely apart like the fleeting stirrings and instants of subjective life.
The object, though enfeebled, cannot be without a subject either. If the object lacked the moment of subjectivity, its own objectivity would become nonsensical. A flagrant instance is the weakness of Hume's epistemology. it was subjectively directed while believing it might do without a subject. To be judged, then, is the relation between individual and transcendental subject. The individual one is a component of the empirical world, as has, since Kant been stated in countless variations. But its function, its capacity for experience--which
the transcendental subject lacks, for no purely logical construct could have any sort of experience--is in truth far more constitutive than the function ascribed by idealism to the transcendental subject, which is itself a precritical and profoundly hypostasized abstraction from the individual consciousness. Nevertheless, the concept of transcendentality reminds us that thinking, by dint of its immanent moments of universality, transcends its own inalienable individuation. The antithesis of the universal and particular, too, is both necessary and deceptive. Neither one exists without the other--the particular only as defined and thus universal; the universal only as the definition of something particular, and thus itself particular. Both of them are and are not. This is one of the strongest motives of nonidealist dialectics.
The subject's reflection upon its own formalism is reflection on society, and results in a paradox: on the one hand, as the late Durkheim intended, the form-giving constitutive elements have social sources, but on the other hand, as current epistemology can boast, they are objectively valid; in Durkheim's argumentations, they are already presumed in every proposition that demonstrates their contingency. The paradox is likely to be at one with the subject's objective imprisionment in itself. The cognitive function, without which there would be neither difference nor unity on the subject's part, had emerged from a source. It consists essentially in those form-givers; as far as there is cognition, it has to be carried out along their lines even where it looks beyond them. They define the concept of cognition. Yet they are not absolute; there have come to be like the cognitive function itself, and their disappearance is not beyond the realm of the possible. To predicate them as absolute would absolutize the cognitive function, the subject; to relativize them would be a dogmatic retraction of the cognitive function.
Against this, we are told that the argument involves a silly sociologism: that God made society and society made man, followed by God in man's image. But the priority thesis is absurd only as long as the individual or its earlier biological form is hypostasized. In the history of evolution, a more likely presumption would be the temporal _prius_, or at least the contemporaneousness of the species. That "the" human being antedated the species is either a Biblical reminiscence or sheer Platonism. Nature on its lower levels teems with unindividuated organisms. If, as more recent biologists claim, humans are actually born so much more ill-equipped than other creatures, it probably was only in association, by rudimentary social toil, that they could stay
alive; the _principium individuationis_ would be secondary to that, a hypothetical kind of biological division of labor. That any single human should have emerged first, archetypically, is improbable. By the faith in such an emergence, the _principium individuationis_, historically fully developed already, is mythically projected backwards, or onto the firmament of eternal ideas. The species might individuate itself by mutation, in order then, by individuation, to reproduce itself in individuals along the lines of biological singularity.
Man is a result, not an _eidos_; the cognitions of Hegel and Marx penetrate to the innermost core of the so-called questions of constitution. The ontology of "the" human being, the model for the construction of the transcendental subject, is oriented towards the evolved individual, as shown linguistically by the ambiguity in the article "the," which in German covers both the individual and the member of the species. Thus nominalism, the opponent of ontology, is far ahead of ontology in featuring the primacy of the species, of society. Society, to be sure, joins with nominalism in a prompt denial of the species (perhaps because it reminds them of animal life)--a denial which ontology performs by raising the individual to the form of unity and to Being-in-itself as opposed to the Many, and nominalism by unreflectingly proclaiming the individual, after the model of the human individual, as true Being. Nominalism denies society in concepts by disparaging it as an abbreviation for individuals.