Concepts of the Absolute.

    The Absolute is a term used by metaphysicians to denote whatever is in no way dependent on or limited by anything else. Thus, in ethics an absolute value is one that is good in itself rather than useful for obtaining something else, and an absolute principle is one that permits of no exceptions. In political theory an absolute right is a right that society cannot take away from an individual.

    In theology and metaphysics the term Absolute usually refers to God. According to the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, God is absolute; that is, unlimited, because by his very concept nothing can limit God. All other existing things exist through this absolute substance. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant defined the Absolute as an all-encompassing totality and argued that scientific knowledge of such a being is impossible. This position was adopted also by the British philosophers Herbert Spencer and Sir William Hamilton. The Absolute figures also as the central concept in the philosophies of the 19th-century German idealists. In particular, the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel regarded the Absolute as a spiritual process that realizes itself through rationality alone, because only through the use of logic can reality be recognized. He maintained, as did the British idealist philosophers Bernard Bosanquet, Francis Herbert Bradley, and Thomas Hill Green, that all knowledge is indirectly and incompletely knowledge of the Absolute. The American idealist philosopher Josiah Royce identified the Absolute with a so-called cosmic community; his system of philosophy came to be known as absolute idealism.


"Absolute," Microsoft Encarta. 1994 Microsoft Corporation.  (Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.)

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