Virtual Currency as determinate being of Hegel

This is a short paper I wrote taking a master's class just for fun. It's not about virtual currency or Bitcoin, but a writing started from a funny idea - 'what would Hegel think the position of virtual currency?' This is not an academic paper.

대학교 다닐 때 호기심에 철학과 대학원의 독일인 교수님의 강의를 들었다가 쓰게 된 리포트입니다. 가상 화폐나 비트코인에 관한 내용은 없고, '헤겔이 가상 화폐를 보면 어떻게 생각할까?' 라는 뜬금없는 아이디어에서 시작된 글입니다. 학술적 가치가 있는 글은 전혀 아닙니다. (한글 x)

Virtual Currency as determinate being of Hegel

- by analysing “the concept of $100” of Kant


  1. Introduction
  2. Virtual currency
    1. Why “virtual” currency
    2. The concept of $100
    3. The problem of thing in itself    칸트 물자체의 문제점
  3. Determinate being
    1. Being and determinate being    "있음"과 "존재"
    2. Virtual currency as determinate being
  4. Conclusion

      I. Introduction

 This essay will discuss the meaning of virtual currency at first, and figure out the position of it in our time by dealing mainly with the notions of “concept” and “determinateness”. Analysing the concept of $100 of Kant, the differences can be found not only between the concept of $100 and actual $100 but also between “concept” and “virtual”. Furthermore, this “virtual” currency can be analogically called as “transcendental” currency by the fact that it is independent from experience (a priori) but at the same time making the actual transactions possible (a posteriori).

 However, since there is a fundamental problem with Kant’s theory which is the presupposition of “thing in itself”, it is not plausible to use this term directly. After discussing the problem with mainly Schulze’s point, I will suggest how Hegel deals with and solve this matter by his fundamentally different approach from his book The Science of Logic. By doing so, not destroying the core value of “transcendental” currency, the context of notion has changed so it can be called as “determinate” currency from Hegel’s word. Suggesting how Hegel explains the dialectic structure of process that indeterminate pure being proceeds to determinate being through “becoming”, I will suggest that virtual currency is determinate being by the same dialectic structure. At the end, the fact that virtual currency is the next step in historical development process of currency will be discussed in the same context.

II. Virtual currency

 1.Why “virtual” currency

 Virtual currency is not the most popular and preferable name to call it rather than digital currency, electronic currency and cryptocurrency. Digital currency apparently is the one understandable intuitively and clearly. In this essay, however, I would use the term “virtual” currency because this is the exact opposition of “actual” currency. The difference from the actual currency is one of the most important aspects of virtual currency, since it seems that actual currency is being replaced gradually by virtual currency these days. Kant discussed the difference between “concept” of currency and “actual” currency in his book Critique of Pure Reason, which is directly connected to our issue here.

 2.The concept of $100

 Suggesting criticism of ontological proof about existence of God, Kant compares two states “concept” and “financial state”. In terms of concept, existence is not a property or a real predicate, that is to say, not a concept of something that can be added to the concept of a thing.[1] This means being (the synonym of existence here) is not a content of determination, therefore possible does not contain more than the actual; a hundred actual dollars do not contain more than a hundred possible ones.

 On the contrary, in case of financial state, Kant is saying “there is more to a hundred actual dollars than there is to the mere concept of them (that is, there possibility)”, because “for with actuality the intended object is not merely included in my concept analytically, but is synthetically added to my concept,” [2] which means outside from concept.

[1] I. Kant, 『Critique of Pure Reason』, 2nd edn, pp. 628ff
[2] I. Kant, 『Critique of Pure Reason』, A599/B627

 As we are dealing with the actual “financial state” rather than “concept”, actual currency contains more than the concept of currency. However, since there is an obvious difference between the concept of currency and “virtual” currency, which is the fact that virtual currency is being used just like actual currency in the actual transactions, we cannot put virtual currency to the concept of currency here. Instead, it might be called as “transcendental” currency, from Kant’s word —

 being independent from experience (a priori) but at the same time making the actual financial transactions possible (a posteriori).

 This definition of virtual currency seems quite plausible and meaningful to understand the position of it in our time, but there is a problem to solve before use this notion, which is “thing in itself”.

 3.The problem of thing in itself

 Thing in itself is what Kant presupposed to explain his epistemology, [3] which becomes one of the main criticisms about his theory later. G. E. Schulze argued in his book Aenesidemus, since causality which is one of twelve categories only can find application on objects of experience, the fact that thing in itself “causes” appearance is a contradiction.

[3] And we indeed, rightly considering objects of sense as mere appearances, confess thereby that they are based upon a thing in itself, though we know not this thing as it is in itself, but only know its appearances, viz., the way in which our senses are affected by this unknown something.
- I. Kant, 『Prolegomena』, § 32

 By Schulze’s criticism, the problem of thing in itself shakes the ground of Kant’s theory in general. However, Hegel suggests a fundamentally different approach with the matter of being and existence, not only solving this problem but also keeping some of the important achievements of Kant, especially letting us be able to use some part of meaningful notion of “transcendental” currency. It would be discussed more explicitly in next chapter.

III. Determinate being

 1.Being and determinate being

 At the very beginning of the book The Science of Logic, Hegel starts with pure being as indeterminate being, without any presupposition. Being as “in itself” is just being, but the fact that it is indeterminate and immediate, it is in fact nothing as “for itself” of being. Nothing, complete absence of determination and content, by the fact that intuiting nothing means nothing is (concretely exist), is same as being.

 Therefore, being has passed over into nothing and nothing has passed into being, vanishing in its opposite, which is becoming as “in and for itself” of being. This is the first dialectic, then through the appearing and vanishing of “coming-to-be” and “ceasing-to-be” which are two unities as becoming contains being and nothing, being (in itself) proceeds to determinate being (in and for itself) through the relation between becoming (for itself) as the second dialectic. Determinate being here means existence which Kant did not strictly separate from indeterminate being.

 Now it is proven that only existence (determinate being) contains the real distinction of being and nothing. [4] Furthermore, only finite (determinate) things can have difference between concept and being (reality), [5] which means that the Kant’s criticism of ontological proof about existence of God has a false presupposition which is the fact that God and $100 cannot be applied to the same differentiation. [6]

 [4] G. W. F. Hegel, 『The Science of Logic』, 21.75
 [5] G. W. F. Hegel, 『The Science of Logic』, 21.77
 [6] It is the definition of finite things that in them concept and being are different; that the concept and reality, soul and body, are separable; that they are therefore perishable and mortal. The abstract definition of God, on the contrary, is precisely that his concept and his being are unseparated and inseparable. The true critique of the categories and of reason is just this: to acquaint cognition with this distinction and to prevent it from applying to God the determinations and the relations of the finite.
 - G. W. F. Hegel, 『The Science of Logic』, 21.77

 Thanks to the Hegel’s ontological model, there is no need to presuppose thing in itself outside from our concept or perception any more. Now we can get more well-grounded definition of virtual currency rather than “transcendental” currency, keeping some of it’s meaningful notion — being independent from the concrete actual things (indeterminate from reality) but at the same time making the actual financial transactions possible (determinate uses).

 2.Virtual currency as determinate being

 Back to the dialectic structure (being – becoming - determinate being), we can put virtual currency analogically: the concept of currency (in itself) as indeterminateness, actual currency (for itself) by appearing from the concept of currency but also having determinateness in reality, and virtual currency (in and for itself) by having both aspects of former and latter but as a fundamentally different currency. Therefore, virtual currency can be defined as “determinate  being” [7] of Hegel, which is the final state of dialectic process of currency. Considering the Hegel’s dialectically progressive view on history, virtual currency is the very next step of the history of currency.

[7] This “determinate” is from the “determinate being” because of the identical position in structure of dialectic, not because of virtual currency’s one of the aspects which is “determinateness”. Again, virtual currency has indeterminateness and determinateness at the same time similar to transcendental currency in chapter II.

IV. Conclusion

 Virtual currency, as opposition of actual currency, needed to be defined what it means in our time. Firstly, virtual currency was defined as “transcendental” currency from Kant’s word, which means “being independent from experience (a priori) but at the same time making the actual financial transactions possible (a posteriori),” analysing it from the difference between the concept of $100. Secondly, since there is a fundamental problem of “thing in itself” which is presupposed in Kant’s theory, Hegel’s ontology was applied to define virtual currency not only solving the problem but also keeping the key notion of the previous definition. By doing so, the notion “determinate” currency which is from the same dialectic structure of “(indeterminate) being – becoming - determinate being” was obtained, having more well-grounded meaning as “being independent from the concrete actual things (indeterminate from reality) but at the same time making the actual financial transactions possible (determinate uses).” Furthermore, the position of virtual currency in our time is revealed, as the very next step of the history of currency. It is the time to accept the new ascending currency and deal with it more actively rather than be obsessed with disappearing actual currency.

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