AB'SOLUTE (Lat. abso/utus, brought to a conclusion, final, complete, from a bsol erre, to loosen from. bring to a close. complete). A term employed in philosophy and theology with vari ous meanings, but in every ease in direct antithe sis to the raft t i re. :\ tany theological phi losophers speak of nod as absolute, meaning thereby that lie need stand in no relation to any thing distinct from Ihimself. Absolute means here independent of essential relations to other ob jects. Il•rbcrt Spen•er speaks of absolute ethics, meaning, ethic: dealing with a standard that is unchanging. as opposed to the relative ethics of any particular place or time. With the Ifege] ians absolute means all-inelusive: essential re lation is included in such a ('inception, but mere ly external relation is excluded: the uni verse, in the sense of all existence, including all the relations binding everything to everything else, is absolute in this meaning of the word; and the universe alone is absolute. Much of the discussion about the possibility of the absolute has turned upon the ambiguity of the word. So also with the question whether there can be knowledge of the absolute. If by the absolute is
meant something that exists in itself apart from all knowledge, and if knowledge is considered as a relation between two independent timings, the knower and the known, then knowledge of the absolute is impossible. This is Sir Wil liam Hamilton's (q.v.) contention, and also Spencer's (q.v.). If knowledge means exhaustive comprehension of every objective detail within the unity of a single consciousness, and yet if consciousness and its object are not looked on as independent of each other, then absolute knowl edge would be possible on the supposition of the existence of a being that sustains all reality within its unchanging consciousness (T. H. Green). If knowledge is not synonymous with exhaustive knowledge, and yet if the object of knowledge is regarded as essentially related to the consciousness that knows, and if such an ob ject also stands in essential relation to every other object, then all knowledge is partial knowl edge of the absolute. See KNOWLEDGE, THEORY OF.