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ABSOLUTE. The term absolute is frequently used in con trast with the terms relative, comparative, conditioned, etc.

(a) Absolute and Relative, Etc.

(1) Sometimes the con trast intended is that between what expresses a relationship and what does not. In Logic, for instance, a term is described as relative when its function is to indicate some definite relation ship in which the object named stands to some other object de noted by the correlative term. Thus teacher is called a relative term because it indicates the relationship in which somebody, say Socrates, stands or stood to somebody else, for instance, Plato, who is consequently designated by the correlative term disciple, or pupil. But a term that indicates no relationship is called absolute. Thus the names Socrates and Plato are called absolute terms because they do not indicate any definite relationship in which Socrates and Plato stood to each other. (2) More com monly the contrast intended is that between what a thing is relatively to something else (or in comparison with certain other things) and what it is in itself (that is, apart from such compari sons), or absolutely. In this sense one sometimes contrasts what is relatively or approximately true with what is absolutely true, or what is comparatively beautiful, or large, or old, etc., with what is absolutely so. (3) Intimately connected with the preceding distinction between absolute and relative, etc., is yet another dis tinction, which is perhaps the commonest of all. This is the con trast between what is subject to certain reservations or conditions and what is not subject to conditions or reservations. Thus, for example, relative success may mean success under certain difficult circumstances, while absolute success would mean complete suc cess, without any reservations. In this way absolute monarchy means monarchical government not subject to any conditions or reservations, whereas constitutional monarchy means monarchical government subject to certain reservations or restrictions formu lated in the constitution of the country. Similarly a system of ethics conceived to be valid for all times under all conditions would be described (by H. Spencer, for instance) as absolute, whereas a system of ethics conceived to be valid only under cer tain conditions of time, place or circumstance, would be called relative, or local, or temporary, etc. (4) The foregoing distinction naturally leads to yet another distinction; namely, that between that which is conditioned by, or dependent on, something else and that which is independent of, or unconditioned by, anything else. In philosophy, absolute frequently means "independent" or "unconditioned." When certain philosophers speak of "absolute truth," or of "absolute value," they mean that there are truths, or values, as the case may be, that are objective, independent or self-dependent, and not relative to, or dependent upon, individual thinkers or seekers.

(b) The Absolute.--This

term owes its great vogue in recent times mainly to the German Idealists (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, etc.) and their followers. But the main idea which it expresses is already found in Plato ; and both the idea and the term were familiar to Thomas Aquinas, Giordano Bruno, Benedict Spinoza, and many others, long before the period of German Idealism. The use of the term is intimately connected with the last of the above-mentioned applications of the term absolute (4). Spinoza describes substance (that is, Nature, God or the Universe) as absolutely infinite, in contrast with its ultimate attributes, which are infinite each in its kind only; and absolutely infinite substance is conceived by Spinoza as the self-existing, independent, uncon ditional ground of all that is. It is the ultimate ground of all reality that is always, or nearly always, meant by the Absolute. But different systems of philosophy hold out different views as regards both the reality and the nature of the absolute. In Vaihinger's Philosophy of "As If," the Absolute is a fiction. For Hamilton, Mansel and Spencer the Absolute is the Unknown; for Kant the Absolute (or Noumenon) is even Unknowable. Theists identify the Absolute with God; pantheists, with the Universe; Schopenhauer and Wundt, with Will; Bergson, with a Life-force characterized by creative evolution; Fechner and Lipps, with Con sciousness; Bradley, with Experience; Joel, with the Potentiality of all that is real ; Lotze and Royce, with self-conscious Person ality; Alexander, presumably with the Space-time matrix of all reality. Hegel, whose philosophy is most intimately connected with the conception of the Absolute, identified it with the Uni versal Spirit, which by a process of logical or dialectical develop ment takes on one predicate after another until it manifests itself as an objective world in perfect harmony with reason.

of Philosophy by Erdmann, Windelband, etc.; the works of Hegel, Bradley and the other philosophers referred to in the text. (A. Wo.)

term, relative, conditions, reservations and absolutely