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MAN AS POSSIBILITY
Ladies and Gentlemen: Let us begin in part at a reduced rate, but also
with vigor and variety, i.e., with dreams.
The dream is thought of mostly as night dream. However, we dream
not only at night; the day is also interwoven with dreams. But up to now
the day dream has not been investigated with the same energy as has the
night dream. Indeed the day dream is consideredeven "officially"as a
mere preliminary stage of the night dream.
However, between the two there exist considerable differences: principally in the fact that the ego does not disappear in the day dream. On
the contrary, it is there very actively and does not exercise any sort of
censorship, with the result that wishes function even better in the day
dream, more visibly than in the night dream, not disguised, but shameless, uninhibitedly open, often daring, and with a grudge.
The street is traversed by people with day dreams. In the displays of our
stores people play a symphony of day dreams: this elegant shoe, this evening dress, this washing machine, this rocking chair and all of the rest of
the stuff there with the dream-house at the top to put it all in. In short:
it is a world in which things proceed at a gusty pace; a world in which
castles are built in the air with a moderate down payment.
But, on the other hand, we still have the following, too: the fact that
so many of today's castles in the air become tomorrow's palaces, tomorrow's
cities, or even tomorrow's form of society.
Now, this can be expanded into the observation, indeed, into the calculated estimation that, presumably, absolutely nothing that is great arises
in the course of history which had not been sketched out in advance and
which afterwardswhen it has cooled off and attained some maturityhas
been planned out in advance. Absolutely different types of peoplerealistic politicians like Bismarck on the one hand or Lenin on the otherhave nonethelessthe one as well as the otherentertained airy plans.
Lenin, a sober type, complained once that dreaming had as much as died
out i n his movement.
Ideas exist easily side by side; things rub and collide in space. But they
This article, a translation of "Der Mensch ah Mglichkeit," first appeared in
Forum. Oesterreichische Monatsbltter fr Kulturelle Freiheit. Vol. XIII, Nos.
140-41 (1965), pp. 357-361. It is based on an impromptu speech delivered before
Viennese students*

too were once in the space of wishful thinkingfor example, on paper


which is not only patient, but which is also the maneuvering grounds of
precise imagination.
But whatI repeat, things rub and collide in space-what is the rela
tionship of the environment to the day dream after it has grown tall and
has been reflected upon responsibly? In the very greatest number of cases
we are surrounded by obstinacy. The world surrounding our dreams
proves to be perhaps not only contrary, but disparate, absolutely incom
mensurate. The world gives the cold shoulder to the dreamsor not even
the cold shoulder, for even that would be too much of a relationship. The
old does not want to pass away and the new does not want to come into
being.

The Usual Fate of a Dream


In such a situation, the dream becomes a mere dream in the most un
fortunate meaning of the wordthe one called Utopian in the pejorative
sense: nothing more than Utopian. That is the usual fate of a dream. But
it is one thing to recognize this fate and another thing not to want to
avert this fate, to yield to it. As Goethe says: "The fearful hesitation of
cowardly thoughts does not avert misery and does not make you free."
That means: resist evil, evil visited from without, tenacious, obstruc
tive evil. Things must not reach the point that the sourdougji will not
even rise, but merely remains sour; the thing with which we counter
evil must not become a lonely folly.
Reality does not have a definite dimension. The world is not finished.
It is possible to face the world in a manner which is not mere griping,
but which is otherwise defeatist, opportunistic or quietistic. "Accept
things as they are" is not an empirically exact formula, it is not a posi
tivism, but formula for vulgarity, cowardice and wretchedness.
What are these things, these factors of process which we call facti They
are in flux. They have been made and are therefore changeable. There
exists the possibility of being otherwise. Thereby, the presuppositionin
a difficult senseis made that coincidence does occur, that there is room
for contingencyall the way to the physical Uncertainty Principle and to
the historical Uncertainty Principle which is even more significant.
"Things can also be otherwise." That means: things can also become
otherwise: in the direction of evil, which would have to be avoided, or
in the direction of good, which would have to be promoted.
There are many degrees of reality. There is no unavoidable compul
sion which might exist independently of us. Reality is not self-righteous.
It is openness toward the future where there is more than ever before
an image of and, if we do not fail in our task, a place for progress as the
avoidance of evil.
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Ladies and Gentlemen: Reality is a category which is exposed to doubt


and which is liable to change. It merely appears simple and solid. The
realist is considered to be one who knows his way about, who stands
solidly with both flat feet on the flat earth. This is a caricaturelike the
opposite caricature of the dreamer.
Thomas Mann says that writers are people who have a more difficult
time writing than others; one can expand this: philosophers are people
who have a more difficult time thinking than others. [Laughter] Indeed,
in every case, very much thinking has taken place before we arrive at a
polished concept which can be taken at face value.
The visible is considered to be that which is there as clearly as the light
of daybut it is from this very point that the doubts in the history of
thought have started out. For example, in early Greek philosophy: the
stick in the water appears bent, in truth it is straight. The awakening
of philosophy began with doubt concerning the senses.
As far as what is as clear as the light of day is concerned: there is a
statementnot yet sufficiently thought outby Anaxagoras according
to which like has no perception of like: the eye has to be dark in order
to perceive light, the body has to be cold in order to perceive heat.
Thereby, we arrive at the statement that this is the reason why every
perception is associated with a feeling of displeasure.

The Flying Arrow Is Stationary


For this reason, not the world of the senses, but just the opposite,
thought, appears among the Eleatics and Parmenides as the clear light.
Thought guarantees reality to the extent that according to the wellknown proofs of Zeno there is no movementeven though our senses
indicate it to us. In truth, the flying arrow is stationary.
Thought and Existence are, consequently, the same materialnamely
spirit To be sure, this is not subsequently true for all thought. Thought
which stems from mere opinion or from error is mythos in the bad sense.
In order for a unity of Thought and Existence to arise, Thought itself
must be tested. Now scepticism arises not only concerning the senses, but
also concerning Thought: the sophists and Socrates.
Only in philosophy, only in the investigation of ideas, is there truth
and indeed to the extent that thought and reality not only touch, greet
and substantiate one another reciprocally, but also do so in the sense
of a succession of differing degrees of clarity in thought and differing
degrees of reality in existence.
Thus a succession arises. Reality becomes. Existence can have gradations. Something can be less than another thing. Existence runs more
thinly when the degree of thought in it is lower. The highest thought
does not merely not deceive, it is simultaneously the highest reality.
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This did not change until the time of Kant: one hundred real silver
dollars are not more than one hundred possible silver dollars. The
monetary value of the silver dollars, their color, roundness, silver content; these are qualities. Existence is not a quality. Only since existence
lost its logical definiteness in this questionable manner, or rather, since
it has not been a logical definiteness, only since that time has the comparability of Being been challenged, even though it continues to exist
in speech and maintains itself in philosophy until Leibniz, Hegel and
Marx.
If the superstructure, the hazy reflection in the sky, is fainter than the
substructure, the economic conditions which are reflected upwards in the
form of Law, Art, Religion and Philosophy, it does not follow that the
superstructure is somehow not: false consciousness does indeed exist, but
it is less real than the substructure. Here is comparable Being, the heritage of Plato and also of Scholasticism.
The More Something Is, The More It Is
The Scholastic ontological proof of the existence of God is not at all
understandable without the Platonic equation of worth and Being. The
more something is, the more it is. For Anselm of Canterbury the Ens
perfectissimum is of worth: the Summum bonum, an Existence, quo
maius cogitan non potest. This is the case until Leibniz, whose Grandeur
de la ralit coincides with Perfection.
Of this there is also the inverse. It comes very late with Schopenhauer, whose pessimism is opposed to PlatonioAnselmian-LeibnizianHegelian optimism. Here the assertion is: the more something is, the less
it is, the more weakly it occurs in the world, or it does not occur at all.
In any case it is persecuted, travailed, small and minute. Ecce homo is,
thus, the statement made about reality. The ascendance does not go to
more Being, but to Nothingness, to Nirvana.
To be sure, we have here an inversion. However, the proportion remains: Thought and Being correspond to one another The world is
illuminable and intelligible through thought because the world is flesh
of its flesh, or rather, spirit of its spirit.
The critical turning point comes from somewhere else: Descartes and
Leibniz. The ordo aeternus rerum which was "given" for the medieval
world loses its cathedral-like character. Reality is no longer constructed
upwards to the Summum bonum. Instead it is a phenomenon of light,
an illumination. The Monads are citizens of 18th Century Enlightenment. They belong to the race which strives out of darkness into light.
Stones sleep, plants dream, animals turn in their dreams as though
they wanted to wake up, and man awakes. A great illumination, a great
awakening, goes through the world. Time is transferred over into the
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cathedral. T o the vertical hierarchy of the real (of course the hierarchy
also remains) is joined a horizontal succession, and in such a manner
that an ascendance, an evolutio, takes place which is not merely e-volutio
--unwrapping of an already firm kernel out of its shell: instead, a novum
takes place in that light penetrates. Only the Supreme Monad, called
God, is luminous per se.
Such total rationalism is again destroyed later onas though the
sophists had returnedby doubts concerning this sort of understanding
of reality. In the intellectual portrayal of reality there takes place, with
Locke and Hume, a decisive division into subject and object.
The fact that reality consists of ego and object, of Zustaendlichkeit
and objectivity, works and smolders all the time in the history of
thought, but until now the subject had not been made the precise place
of illusions. For Locke the primary qualities are pressure and impact,
space and time, and not color, tone, taste or feel: these are in us, they are
secondary qualities. In Hume's case there is a thorough investigation of
not only the colors, the sensory perceptions, but also of categories like
substantiality and causality: scepticism in view of the contradictory
appearance of substantiality; scepticism against causality which transforms a post hoc into a propter hocwith what right?
These doubts are not eliminated by the Socrates of this scepticism, the
great Immanuel Kant, but they are placed at a level befitting them.
Transcendental apperception gives substantiality and causality back their
place: the world of phenomena, not the world of the thing in itself. Here
one can know, and indeed, in an uninterruptedly deterministic manner.
This is the world of natural science, the real world in which unbreakable order reigns: without trace of freedom, immortality or God. Such
things cannot be encountered in the world of science, or reality, in the
world of knowledge in the strict sense. And the thing in itself remains
unattainable, a mere limiting concept.
But at this point a strange rupture occurs, something completely
different. A thing which, to be sure, is not reality but also not foolishness, also not unreality. There is this indestructible thing in us, in the
world of total conditionality, in which not even the human mind has a
place. There are ideas of the unconditional (which is not the same as
the Absolute in the ordinary sense), ideas of the Not-determined, thus,
perhaps freedom.

Reality Without Reality


These are the moral ideas in us, and they have no place in the world of
mechanical reality, the sole knowable world and the only world with
which one can deal in strict accordance with reason. There is an enigmatic alternate world without reality, a world which is not determined
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or at least not totally determined. In it, there is room for human freedom
and human hope: not real, not knowable, but thinkable. Here postulates
are madeso that one can actin accordance with the three questions
of the three critiques: "What can I know?" "What ought I to do?" "What
may I hope?'*
Both questions: "What ought I to do?" and "What may I hope?" have
no place in this world of reality. In spite of this they are not nonsense,
but rather the highest sense, the only thing which makes sense.
With Hegel, this separation between phenomenal world and essence
ceases. The world again becomes Leibnizian, again becomes whole. The
true and the real are one level. The subject does not exist in order to
have a say in the World-Process, but rather in order to take it into
account in accordance with the massive forward motion of the thing.
But the truth, in correspondence to the Process-character of the real,
now becomes much broader than with Leibniz, In the introduction to
the Phenomenology Hegel states, using a sentence from Lessing's Nathan:
The true and real is not a coin which can be spent like ready money in
one piece and received in the same way; instead, truth is a process, truth
is truth as reality.
The Blemish of Reason
With this categorical inversion something changes. If all that is real is
rational, then this is the ideology for peace with reality, then everything
is in order. The students of that period who were rebelling against the
Holy Alliance were thereby told: The Alliance is rational and you had
better grasp it! The first statementthat everything that is rational is
realis, however, just as revolutionary as the second is conservative. Also,
whatever reason says, "la raison," and whatever is reasonthat, too, is
real. The beauty of the argument has only one small blemishthat it
does not occur, or has not yet occurred. The blemish must be touched up.
Thus, both the Right and the Left are contained in these Hegelian
statements. The whole thing however, is an illumination in the Leibnizian sense: out of Being-in-Itself {An-sich-Sein) by way of Being-out-ofItself (Ausser-sich'Sein) to Being-in-and-of-Itself (An-und-fuer-sich-Sein).
With one limitation: namely, that the process of the realwhich is celebrated as being suchis really appearance again; it is merely evolution;
what has already existed eternally is being unrolled.
The Hegelian development, that dialectic which has had such a rich
history, has very much in common with the explication of a maxim on a
blackboard. It is a matter of pedagogy, it is being made clear for human
consciousness or, expressed politically, for the limited servile intellect;
how gloriously the world is arranged after all!
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For this reason, the preface to the Philosophy of Law contains the following statement: When philosophy paints her grays in gray, a figure of
life has become old; with grays in gray the figure cannot be rejuvenated,
but merely known. The owl on Minerva does not begin its flight until
dusk approaches.
The idea always comes too late. The revolutionary movement of the
conceptthe thing Hegel describes so wonderfully as "fetching the World
Spirit's chestnuts out of the fire"is thereby again dulled by the charm
of anamnesis which runs from Plato to Hegel and beyond: all knowledge
is the reminiscence of primal ideas which the soul has seen before its
incarnation. There is nothing new under this questionable sun of recollection; instead, only that is called forth which was already there anyway.
No surprise is possible, no genuine future.
Hegel does not have much good to say about the future. For him it is
chaff and wind, mist and haze, but nothing real. The world is finished.
The World Spirit has emerged from its diligence and makes its entrance
as Professor Hegel enters an auditorium of the University of Berlin.
[Laughter]
Well, that didn't work. It could not be maintained. Indeed, it is an
idea which can occur only in an asylum. The Left Hegelian School and
its member, Karl Marx, again make a serious proposition out of the
dialectic.
Dialectical reality is reality criticizing itself. In it truly new things
happen. Things happen which have never occurred to any man. Things
happen which likewise have never yet happened to any reality. The
dialectic iss -the critical method of the world itself, not monologue of the
World Spirit with itself in the course of which he is so friendly as to
remember his configurations.
The dialectic has to be set up as a critical method, as a bitingly critical
method of upheaval: first, so that something happens, so that something
is going on not merely in the head under the sleeping cap; second, so that
one knows what sort of contradictions are taking place, so that the
Utopia-making, the chasing after things in advance which have never
existed, has a foot to stand on, so that it becomes concrete and mediates
with the world.
Only in this way, in this important self-analytical process of mediation
is there openness toward the future, a genuine future which amounts to
more than simply being before us. Only in this way can concrete changes
be made. Marx's eleventh Feuerbach thesis states: the philosophers have
merely interpreted the world in different ways: now, however, it is a
question of changing it.
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Things Need Us
But this process of mediation must have concreteness so that it does not
grasp for emptiness as is so often the case with impetuous heroic deeds
or abstract utopias. It must be historical through and through. To grasp
what has been means to grasp something not as that which it was, not as
Having-Come-Into-Being (das Gewordensein), but as Coming-Into-Being
(Werden), a thing which has not yet played out its hand, but which
seeks what belongs to it and which above all needs man in order to
realize the potential pending in the World-Processthe transition out of
the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.
In reality there also lies hidden something which first must be realized;
grasped transcendentally as Deus Creator, pantheistically as World Spirit
or as Man himself. For this reason Marx says: "Prometheus is the most
noble Saint and Martyr in the calendar of philosophy. Man as active,
subjective factor must be in harmony with the objective movement or
reality. He must listen to this movement in an almost musical sense:
in which direction does the melody want to turn?"
Ladies and Gentlemen: I presuppose that the world is open, that objectively real possibility exists in it and not merely determined necessity,
not merely mechanical determinism. To be sure, this Marxistic idea
again transforms itself to a large extent into a fetishism of law: first,
in the excessive deprecation of the individual man; second, in the idea
that the World-Process proceeds without us and drags us, so to speak, by
the hair along behind, whether we want it or not.
Thus, Marxism as well has not given a guarantee for the existence of
genuine future, for genuine openness. Engles wrote the tract "The Development of Socialism from Utopia to Science." That is quite correct,
there is a progress from the abstract utopia to mediated science. But
there is also the somewhat too great progress from utopia to science;
namely, in which one suppresses all dreaming, all anticipation, all hope,
the pioneer existence which we humans lead on the foremost frontier of
the World-Process.
Openness toward the future is a large category which is handled perfunctorily. One must proceed beyond the horizon into that difficult
degree of reality not of Being-Present (Vorhanden-Sein), nor of Being-inProcess (Im-Prozess-Sein), but of Not-Yet-Being (Noch-nicht-Sein), into
the sphere of the Novum, of the mediation of the deed, of fear and hope.
Analysis of No Sample
One must view the world as a task, as a model, as an analysis of sample
which is not at hand. Science is necessary for this, a speculative, metaphysical science which understands the sky, which understands building
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up into the sky, the whole world is built up into the skyindeed, a science which not only understands the blue of the sky but even its ultraviolet; and this with the knowledge that the presence which is usually
called reality is surrounded by a tremendously greater ocean of objectively real possibility. Possibility is not hocus-pocus. It is an exactly definable concept; namely, partial conditionality. The world is not yet
completely determined, it is still somewhat open: like tomorrow's weather.
There are conditions which we do not yet know or which do not even
exist yet. Therefore, it can rain tomorrow or it can be pleasant. We live
surrounded by possibility, not merely by presence. In the prison of mere
presence we could not even move nor even breathe.
I am approaching the conclusion. Not-Yet-Being appears twice (since
the split into subject and object has been imparted to us for a long time) :
as something not-yet-conscious (noch-nicht-Bewusstes) and as something
not-yet-come-into-being (Noch-nicht-Gewordenes). The not-yet-conscious
in us, the creatively preconscious, represents the not-yet-come-into-being
in the object so far as it contains genuine futurity in itself. If it does not
contain this in itself it is wshful thinking, hocus-pocus.
The not-yet-conscious is alsoa fact which is curiously and tremendously misunderstoodno-longer-conscious (Nicht-mehr-Bewusstes), down
there in the cellar of consciousness where what was once conscious has
sunken down, where it either decays or is summoned up again.
Even at the height of consciousness there is a not-yet-conscious which
is not yet in circulation but which is nonetheless visible to us: in youth,
in the changing times and in productivity. These are the three conditions
in which the percentage oir the not-yet-conscious is greatest: high oxygen
conditions in which fire burns most strongly.
Youth is full of it. Something lies latent in us. We have our entire life
before us. That is youthat least if its head is not on backwards. Genuine
youth has everything before it and it takes part. It is addicted to what is
new and is still independent of the contents of the new.
The changing times: the old does not want to pass away and the new
does not want to come. But something is taking place, the age is pregnant,
society is pregnant, a child wants to be born. Late Antiquity, the Renaissance, Storm and Stress, the 18th Century, our agethese are epochs of
changing times, overcharged with the not-yet-conscious.
Then productivity: the production of a work that had not previously
existed, political, musical, poetic or religiousin any case surrounded by
a twilight toward the future. Not the twilight of the setting sun. Instead,
this state of producivity is dawn-like, most clearly, for instance, in the
case of Goethe as a young man in whom all three phenomena appear
simultaneously: youth, changing times and productivity.
The utopia is the place where the not-yet-conscious makes its appearance. To date the concept of the Utopian has not only been conceived of
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negatively, it has also been restricted to the political fable, the social
utopia. That is one thing: the ancestral house, Plato, Thomas More,
Campanella, Fourier, Saint Simon, Robert Owens, etc. These are magnificent attempts to sketch a better society; dreams of a better life. But that
is not the only thing. I have attempted to find the concept of the Utopian
everywhere. Human life, history and culture are full of it: architecture
which was never built, in which the Utopian is present and which is then
toned down to reality; medical day dreams; or technological day dreams;
science fiction which appears with Bacon in the "Nova Atlantis"; wish
landscapes in painting, music and poetry; the Arcadian, Elysian, Paradisical, ranging high above to the moment to which one says: "Verweile
doch, du bist so schn."
These are the tremendous herbs which can be dispensed against the
hardest anti-utopia, against death: dreams of continued existence, of
immortality in the artistic work, and the rest, religious utopias from top
to bottom, dreams toward the future, wish mysteries: quomodo deus
homoin what way can that come to us? Something salutary, even in
the medical sense, extending to the salutary in the other redemptive
sense. An antidote against death, resurrection and eternal life, in all
great religions, applied to something not yet existent, reserved, possibletreasures undevoured by rust or moths.
In spite of all the cowardice, in spite of all the means of keeping the
slaves in their place, in spite of all the consolations of the Hereafter with
the continuing unjust distribution of worldly goods, but with the just
distribution of heavenly goodsall of these utopias can happen here and
they have their place in the gigantic realm of Utopian consciousness and
Utopian obligation. Here it is a question of not allowing oneself to be
misused for ideological purposes, but rather of eliminating everything
that can be misused so that church, religion, indeed even atheism are
possible.
Whatever has not yet come into being is a thing pending in the WorldProcess, in a physical, medical, judicial and theological trial which can
neither be thwarted nor be won but which remains in abeyance. The
substratum of the real seethes on a dialectical fire; the essence still has
to be brought forth into a world which does not know which way is up
and which therefore needs man.

Decision for the Undecided


Man makes the decision for something undecided, so undecided that
Jahweh, when Moses asked him how he should call him, answered: "I
shall be who I shall be."
This is an early mythological and similtaneously no longer mythological determination of the essence, a determination which corresponds to
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the real condition of reality, a determination which posits no hereafter


or "above," but rather a possible "before-us."
Substance, said Aristotle, is Being-in-Possibility: as wax is the possibility
of the seal. Substance, passive possibility for Aristotle, became more and
more active for the Aristotelian Left, through the Arabian philosophers
until the Natura naturans which meets man halfway and gives him a
well-founded direction so that he can act creatively in a concrete manner
and in complete seriousnessnot with confidence, for that would be based
upon a determined world, but with fear and hope which are based on the
not yet determined.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I thinkand this is the last thing I want to
sayif our universities want to preserve their old tradition of universities,
I think that they cannot dedicate themselves too highly to the visible
transition and to the radical change of our age and of our society over to
openness toward the future. They must kindle the light. Especially
philosophy oughtas Kant says in the Conflict of the Facultiesto bear
the torch before and not the train behind.
Socialism and Christianity have many kinds of concordance, especially
in the most important matters. It is good that it is so, both in order to
give depth to the avowal of socialism as well asand perhaps even more
importantto give the avowal of Christianity a sign of genuineness, and
in such a manner that a new era of Christianity will be indicated, one
which will light the way as the light of hope: a new era in which the
kingdom of the Son of Man will occur not merely as something "above."
If the salvation in the Gospel is to become fleshfor us or for men who
followthere must not be merely something above, but also something
before us.
I thank you.
Translated by WILLIAM R. W H I T E

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