On Hegel’s ‘Science of Logic’​ : A Realm of Shadows — part one.

‘So logic must indeed at first be learned as something which one may well understand and penetrate into but in which, at the beginning, one misses the scope, depth, and broader significance. Only after a more profound acquaintance with the other sciences does logic rise for subjective spirit from a merely abstract universal to a universal that encompasses within itself the riches of the particular: in the same way a moral maxim does not possess in the mouth of a youngster who otherwise understands it quite well the meaning and scope that it has in the spirit of a man with a lifetime of experience, to whom therefore the weight of its content is expressed in full force. Thus logic receives full appreciation of its value only when it comes as the result of the experience of the sciences; then it displays itself to spirit as the universal truth, not as a particular cognition alongside another material and other realities, but as the essence rather of this further content’.

‘Now although this power of logic is not consciously present to spirit at the beginning of its study, such a study will nevertheless impart to it the inward power which will lead it to the truth. The system of logic is the realm of shadows, the world of simple essentialities, freed of all sensuous concretion. To study this science, to dwell and to labour in this realm of shadows, is the absolute culture and discipline of consciousness. Its task is one which is remote from the intuitions and the goals of the senses, remote from feelings and from the world of merely fancied representation. Considered from its negative side, this task consists in holding off the accidentality of ratiocinative thought and the arbitrariness in the choice to accept one ground as valid rather than its opposite’.

- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770–1831), ‘The Science of Logic’. 1816.

Hegel frequently drew attention to the fact that philosophical concepts that he designated thought-determinations (Denkbestimmungen) ‘instinctively and unconsciously pervade our spirit everywhere — and remain non-objectified and unnoticed even when they enter language’, and furthermore, the issue is not the contents of our beliefs but the way that we have come to collectively regulate what is believable and such norms are not made evident or given much attention in our explicit attitudes, for our norms for authoritative explanations and for how we justify ourselves to each other overlap in the commonplace framework of a form of life and philosophy is as much an expression of an age as it is that age comprehended in thought. As for the matter of how it can be both is in itself a philosophical theme, the relation of concept to actuality. But in ‘The Science of Logic’ Hegel focusses upon neither a phenomenological nor an experiential limitation in a form of self-understanding but rather on the limitation of the form itself regarded in abstraction from its experiential materialization and he contends that the logic is ‘the realm of shadows, the world of simple essentialities, freed of all sensuous concretion’.

What does that mean? It is surely not meant to imply that caution is required with regard to the limitations of Hegelian logic, for the Logic is pivotal to his philosophical system, and is Hegel here declaring that the Logic is nonetheless a restricted and limited picture of thought’s self-determination? A realm of shadows. that does not sound so good, perhaps an exercise in self-criticism for it echoes the sort of thing Hegel claims concerning mind and metaphysics, a realm of shadows, and the shadows are moving, animated, a shadow dance.

We also find such characterizations in the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ drawing our attention to the vitality and wealth of nature becoming in the quietude of thought somewhat like a dull northern fog:

‘The more thought predominates in ordinary perceptiveness, so much the more does the naturalness, individuality, and immediacy of things vanish away. As thoughts invade the limitless multiformity of nature, its richness is impoverished, its spring times die, and there is a fading in the play of its colours. That which in nature was noisy with life, falls silent in the quietude of thought; its warm abundance, which shaped itself into a thousand intriguing wonders, withers into arid forms and shapeless generalities, which resemble a dull northern fog’.

- ‘The Philosophy of Nature’

If we regard Hegel as belonging to the rationalist tradition then the sensible world with which we endlessly engage is apparently the realm of shadows nonetheless one can still be of the view that the ultimately intelligible, the self-determining concept of the Concept, the absolutely thinkable, thinkability itself with which the Logic concludes is a reflective lighting up that grants us a view of the world-in-its-shadows, to observe its structure of intelligibility in a way it never exists isolated as such, and thus understood they persist in being shadows from a hylomorphic point of view, (hylomorphism: every physical entity or being is a compound of matter or potency and immaterial form act with the generic form as immanently real within the individual, an idea developed by Aristotle, (384–322 BC) though he did not use the term), albeit they are fully determinate shadows, sharply defined, no longer blurry and indistinct. The Realphilosophie (an Hegelian term for material philosophy) then brings us back to the embodied form of those forms rendering intelligibility a possibility, that is to say, Nature and Spirit.

Elsewhere, in the introductory material for the logic of the Concept, ‘Of the Concept in General’, Hegel refers to the formal character of logic, as the absolute form that is implicitly totality and contains the pure idea of truth itself [12.25]) occurs in the introductory material for the logic of the Concept, “Of the Concept in General, and he contests the notion that in making a transition to the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ and the ‘Philosophy of Spirit one is in some manner filling in content that has been abstracted from:

‘… objective thinking is thus the content of pure science. Consequently, far from being formal, far from lacking the matter required for an actual and true cognition, it is its content which alone has absolute truth, or, if one still wanted to make use of the word ‘matter’, which alone is the veritable matter — a matter for which the form is nothing external, because this matter is rather pure thought and hence the absolute form itself. Accordingly, logic is to be understood as the system of pure reason, as the realm of pure thought. This realm is truth unveiled, truth as it is in and for itself. It can therefore be said that this content is the exposition of God as he is in his eternal essence before the creation of nature and of a finite spirit’.


‘Since it is logic above all and not science generally whose relation to truth is the issue here, it must be further conceded that logic as the formal science cannot also contain, nor should contain, the kind of reality which is the content of the other parts of philosophy, of the sciences of nature and of spirit. These concrete sciences do attain to a more real form of the idea than logic does, but not because they have turned back to the reality which consciousness abandoned as it rose above the appearance of it to science, or because they have again resorted to the use of such forms as are the categories and the determinations of reflection, the finitude and untruth of which were demonstrated in the logic. The logic rather exhibits the rise of the idea up to the level from which it becomes the creator of nature and passes over into the form of a concrete immediacy whose concept, however, again shatters this shape also in order to realize itself as concrete spirit’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

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I suppose I could write my own Wikipedia article on the subject, I flatter myself I could do a better job of it, (although the Wikipedia article seems decent enough to me), but I won’t do that, although I do believe the charges of incomprehensibility or hard to understand frequently levelled against Hegel are exaggerated. Instead I will post a series of articles here picking up on particular topics that he broaches in the Logic and bring out the poetry of it, and the extraordinary philosophical imagination at work, such an approach would probably fail to comply with Wikipedia’s ‘quality standards’ whatever they are, I can’t be bothered to look them up. I will begin however with a brief overview of the work.

The principle ideas advanced in the ‘Science of Logic’ are as follows:

1. What is real is rational and what is rational is real

2. Logic which is a systematic creative process has three stages, the abstract stage, the dialectical stage and the speculative stage.

3. In the abstract stage terms of thought are considered separately, in the dialectical stage one realizes that for something to exist it must be, not separate, but in relation to others, and in the speculative stage one understands the unity of opposites in their opposition.

4. There are three subdivisions of logic, the Doctrine of Being, the Doctrine of Essence, and the Doctrine of Idea, by which being is known not only for itself and for another, but in and for itself.

Hegel belongs to the Idealist tradition that evolved in Germany in the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Immanuel Kant, (1724–1804), and the post-Kantians came to regard the empirical philosophy of David Hume, (1711–1776), with is sceptical consequences, as inadequate, rather the mind through intuition, understanding and reason could discover the grounds of experience either in an a priori categorical structure or in experience itself if such experience were looked upon as primarily rational. Kant took the first alternative and contended that although events in themselves are unknowable, hence retaining an element of Humean scepticism, as phenomena which we percieve they are constructed according to the categories of the understanding and the forms of intuition and as such they have their intelligible basis in mind although there is an empirical content given from the external world. Hegel believed that the categories and forms are as much a part of reality as anything else and that the dichotomy between mind and its objects is a false one and hence that reality is as rational as thought itself. He expressed this view thus: in the famous statement ‘What is real (actual) is rational, what is rational is real (actual).

‘What is rational is actual;

and what is actual is rational’.

‘This conviction is shared by every ingenuous consciousness as well as by philosophy, and the latter takes it as its point of departure in considering both the spiritual and the natural universe. If reflection, feeling, or whatever form the subjective consciousness may assume regards the present as vain and looks beyond it in a spirit of superior knowledge, it finds itself in a vain position; and since it has actuality only in the present, it is itself mere vanity. Conversely, if the Idea is seen as ‘only an idea’, a representation [Vorstellung] in the realm of opinion, philosophy affords the opposite insight that nothing is actual except the Idea. For what matters is to recognize in the semblance of the temporal and transient the substance which is immanent and the eternal which is present. For since the rational, which is synonymous with the Idea, becomes actual by entering into external existence [Existenz], it emerges in an infinite wealth of forms, appearances, and shapes and surrounds its core with a brightly coloured covering in which consciousness at first resides, but which only the concept can penetrate in order to find the inner pulse, and detect its continued beat even within the external shapes. But the infinitely varied circumstances which take shape within this externality as the essence manifests itself within it, this infinite material and its organization, are not the subject-matter of philosophy. To deal with them would be to interfere in things [Dinge] with which philosophy has no concern, and it can save itself the trouble of giving good advice on the subject’.

- ‘Elements of the Philosophy of Right’, 1820

How is thought to express the nature of reality? Philosophy from Hume through Kant and earlier held that the agreement of thought with reality is the criterion of truth yet Hegel contended that thought alone brings to light the nature of things and this is the true sense of thought and reality being in agreement. Like Idealists generally Hegel maintained that in virtue of reality being known by means of ideas and in virtue of the only thing that can agree with an idea is something like an idea reality must be mind-like, and in seeking to know the nature of things by way of reflection the individual concentrates upon the universal character of things and yet thought so directed loses its individual character, for in proceeding in this manner a person reflects as any other individual would who was in pursuit of the truth. Reflective thought thereby loses its subjective aspect and becomes objective, thought and reality became one.

Hegel took the view that thought expresses itself in triads each of which usually has its own triadic structure, a structure that frequently has a triadic structure of its own, hence logic has three stages, its subdivisions are three and each of these has a triadic structure. Note however that Hegel did not use the expression thesis-antithesis-synthesis (why should every thesis have an antithesis? Though every thing can be negated) that has been employed to characterise his position but the emphasis upon the development of thought in terms of a point of view, its negation, and the reconciliation of the two is reminiscent of the dialectical procedure of Socrates, (c. 470–399 BC) and Plato (428/427–348/347), and Hegel astutely aware of this resemblance employed the term dialectical for his own philosophy.

Hegel uses the word logic in somewhat the same sense that St. John spoke of logos:

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth’.

- ‘The Gospel of John’

The word refers to a systematic creative process rather than to an analysis of language and argument and there are three stages of logic, the abstract stage, or that of the understanding, the dialectical stage, or that of negative reason, and the speculative stage, or that of positive reason. In the abstract stages every term or product of thought appears separate and distinct from one another, the understanding believes that they exist on their own account, and upon reflection the individual initially considers the elements of his or her thought, that is, whatever he or she is reflecting upon, as taken from the context of experience or abstracted and as having an existence of its own independent of anything else. This stage in thinking occurs throughout the history of thought so that in each stage of philosophical development men and women begin by abstraction hence the first stage has its own abstract beginning but that stage itself when compared to the next stage will be seen as abstract.

One can make the position clearer through a consideration of the philosophical view known as empiricism whereby in the abstract stage of empiricism only the immediately given, that which is presented here and now, has ultimate reality, and such data usually designated impressions turn out to be bare givens bereft of relations and predicates and concealed in a sceptical fog while held to be separate and distinct and existing on their own account. And yet as we read the empiricist he or she appears to pass from this reality about which he or she can say nothing to his or her idea about which he or she says everything he or she can say but his or her ideas belong to a different level of knowledge. Memory and reflection are involved and thus the empiricist passes from the stage of abstraction to that of dialectic wherein mediate thought is now the subject matter.

The dialectical stage is one in which the understanding views the elements in their separate and distinct capacity and as such recognizes that no more can be said of them and in Hume’s work this stage can be seen in his denial of necessary connection in experience and in his scepticism regarding reason and the senses. There is a positive side to dialectic however in its indication that whatever is finite when seen as separate and distinct and as free from all relations to others, ceases to exist, for to be one without others is impossible, existence involves a relationship between at least two entities.

‘The understanding determines, and holds the determination fixed. Reason is negative and dialectical, since it dissolves the determinations of the understanding into nothing; it is positive, since it generates the universal, and comprehends the particular therein. Just as the understanding is usually taken as something separate from reason in general, so also dialectical reason is taken as something separate from positive reason. In its truth reason is however spirit, which is higher than both reason bound to the understanding and understanding bound to reason. It is the negative, that which constitutes the quality of both the dialectical reason and the understanding: it negates the simple, thereby posits the determinate difference of the understanding; but it equally dissolves this difference, and so it is dialectical. But spirit does not stay at the nothing of this result but is in it rather equally positive, and thereby restores the first simplicity, but as universal, such as it is concrete in itself; a given particular is not subsumed under this universal but, on the contrary, it has already been determined together with the determining of the difference and the dissolution of this determining. This spiritual movement, which in its simplicity gives itself its determinateness, and in this determinateness gives itself its self-equality — this movement, which is thus the immanent development of the concept, is the absolute method of the concept, the absolute method of cognition and at the same time the immanent soul of the content. — On this self-constructing path alone, I say, is philosophy capable of being objective, demonstrative science’.

-’The Science of Logic’

The last stage of logic is the speculative, in which reason is wholly positive and the contradictory character of certain metaphysical principles is finally reconciled. In the concept of causation it is contended that for every effect there must be a cause and that every cause is an effect for which there is yet a cause and this concept is such that the notion of a first cause is untenable since it too would have to have a cause but since causation which has no limits leaves any system of philosophy incomplete such a concept appears to reason as a manifest repugnancy. The same kind of analysis may be made with regard to time as a sequence of events that can have neither a beginning nor an end yet still must have both, and such paradoxical philosophical problems that Hegel contended had not been solved are reconciled by speculative reason that apprehends the unity of the categories in their very opposition.

The subdivision of logic has three parts. These are the ‘Doctrine of Being’, the ‘Doctrine of Essence’, and the ‘Doctrine of Notion’ (or Idea). We need to acquaint ourselves with the sense of each doctrine prior to going into the details, and it is to be noted that in these doctrines Hegel intended the kind of development aforementioned, namely implicit in the exposition of each is to be discovered the grounds for the next and albeit each may be taken as a doctrine in itself each would then be an abstraction (another instance of the first stage of logic) and hence untrue as well as incomplete. In the doctrine of Being we are confronted with an analysis of the given in its immediacy. In the history of philosophy there have been innumerable ideas concerning the nature of Being advanced by philosophers claiming to have identified the basic ontological stuff. The One of Parmenides, Aristotle’s primary substance, and Hume’s impressions are all candidates upon which the label of Being may be hung, and under this influence Hegel analyzes the full meaning and consequences of the immediately given and indicates wherein he thinks it false.

‘Simple immediacy is itself an expression of reflection; it refers to the distinction from what is mediated. The true expression of this simple immediacy is therefore pure being. Just as pure knowledge should mean nothing but knowledge as such, so also pure being should mean nothing but being in general; being, and nothing else, without further determination and filling. Being is what makes the beginning here; it is presented indeed as originating through mediation, but a mediation which at the same time sublates itself, and the presupposition is of a pure knowledge which is the result of finite knowledge, of consciousness. But if no presupposition is to be made, if the beginning is itself to be taken immediately, then the only determination of this beginning is that it is to be the beginning of logic, of thought as such. There is only present the resolve, which can also be viewed as arbitrary, of considering thinking as such. The beginning must then be absolute or, what means the same here, must be an abstract beginning; and so there is nothing that it may presuppose, must not be mediated by anything or have a ground, ought to be rather itself the ground of the entire science. It must therefore be simply an immediacy, or rather only immediacy itself. Just as it cannot have any determination with respect to an other, so too it cannot have any within; it cannot have any content, for any content would entail distinction and the reference of distinct moments to each other, and hence a mediation. The beginning is therefore pure being’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

The doctrine of Essence takes up where the failure of Being as a satisfactory philosophical doctrine occurs whereby If the immediate nature of things cannot reveal their essential characteristics to thought, if the search for them forces us to mediate knowledge, that is, to look for intervening features, to wonder how the given came to be as it is, then we can no longer consider the given in itself, but only in its relation to an other. The other need not be an entity in addition to the immediately given, it may merely be the recognition that the given has limits, a recognition which Hegel believed takes us beyond the immediate. It is here that the doctrine of Essence makes its entrance for in order for the essential features of a thing to be known by thought, it must be seen in its relations to an other, while the doctrine of Essence however is concerned in itself with an exclusive analysis of the mediate, hence it, too, is incomplete,

‘The truth of being is essence’.

‘Being is the immediate. Since the goal of knowledge is the truth, what being is in and for itself, knowledge does not stop at the immediate and its determinations, but penetrates beyond it on the presupposition that behind this being there still is something other than being itself, and that this background constitutes the truth of being. This cognition is a mediated knowledge, for it is not to be found with and in essence immediately, but starts off from an other, from being, and has a prior way to make, the way that leads over and beyond being or that rather penetrates into it. Only inasmuch as knowledge recollects itself into itself out of immediate being, does it find essence through this mediation. — The German language has kept ‘essence’ (Wesen) in the past participle (gewesen) of the verb ‘to be’ (sein), for essence is past — but timelessly past — being’.

‘When this movement is represented as a pathway of knowledge, this beginning with being and the subsequent advance which sublates being and arrives at essence as a mediated term appears to be an activity of cognition external to being and indifferent to its nature. But this course is the movement of being itself. That it is being’s nature to recollect itself, and that it becomes essence by virtue of this interiorizing, this has been displayed in being itself’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

The doctrine of Notion or Idea or Concept is that in which the inadequacy of the previous two is reconciled whereby Being must be known not only for itself and for another but in-and-for-itself. As noted previously for an other need not imply a second given, it might indicate the limits of the given, its finiteness, and hence refer to itself. In its immediacy nothing can be said about Being but when seen in this way Being is understood as a Notion or Idea, and the truth of the given is grasped by reason.

;What the nature of the concept is cannot be given right away, not any more than can the concept of any other subject matter. It might perhaps seem that, in order to state the concept of a subject matter, the logical element can be presupposed, and that this element would not therefore be preceded by anything else, or be something deduced, just as in geometry logical propositions, when they occur applied to magnitudes and employed in that science, are premised in the form of axioms, underived and underivable determinations of cognition. Now the concept is to be regarded indeed, not just as a subjective presupposition but as absolute foundation; but it cannot be the latter except to the extent that it has made itself into one. Anything abstractly immediate is indeed a first; but, as an abstraction, it is rather something mediated, the foundation of which, if it is to be grasped in its truth, must therefore first be sought. And this foundation will indeed be something immediate, but an immediate which has made itself such by the sublation of mediation. From this aspect the concept is at first to be regarded simply as the third to being and essence, to the immediate and to reflection. Being and essence are therefore the moments of its becoming; but the concept is their foundation and truth as the identity into which they have sunk and in which they are contained. They are contained in it because the concept is their result, but no longer as being and essence; these are determinations which they have only in so far as they have not yet returned into the identity which is their unity’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

In discussing the doctrine of Being Hegel endeavoured to achievetwo things, to present the totality of Being and to abolish the immediacy of Being. There are three grades to Being which are necessary to our discussion of it, quality, quantity and measure. Here the concern is not only with the history of philosophical thought but also with the evolution of thought itself. In the bare beginnings of thought we have, in a manner of speaking, an indeterminate something from which something determinate is to come. Hegel designates this bare beginning Being. This impression of which there is not yet an idea cannot be talked about (while I talk about it) it is taken as here-now, in order to talk about it, think about it, predicate anything of rt, we would have to take it out of the here-now and make of it something determinate, but as something determinate it would have a quality. A bare datum is without distinction, without time, and to say of it that it is here in a specified way is already to take it out of the immediate and determinate it. The bare beginnings then pass to a stage in which the given is qualified, is made something, that it is something and not others, that it has a distinct character that differentiates it from others, subjects it to change and alteration, indeterminable no longer, (Being itself), nothing no longer, (not-Being) it stands between the two in the realm of Becoming.

One may elucidate the discussion by means of a philosophical illustration. Impressions may be considered as similar to indeterminable Being, impressions are sensations below the level of consciousness about which we can say nothing because of their fragmentary fleeting nature, they are gone before they can be talked about. consciousness arises concomitantly with the birth of ideas, and from the fleeting impressions mind selects and holds for observation, that is to say, determines, one of these, and thus ideas are generated. In the analysis of ideas mind finds qualities, time, cause, change hence Being is quality, that determining characteristic without which the given would cease to be. If we consider a determinate entity we observe that it is what it is independently of any increase or decrease of its quantity, since a qualitative characteristic defines it. Quantity is both discrete and continuous for it resets upon a unit construction which is exclusive and which is equalized. Numbers, for instance, fulfill this requiremment and may be used to determine both continuous and discrete magnitude, yet quantity itself cannot be considered as an absolute notion for as an object is increased or diminished eventually a quantitative difference will make a qualitative one. (See my article Scriabin and the philosophy of Desire). Generally Hegel regards change of quantity in terms of absolutes, that is to say, he conceives of increase or decrease to the infinitely large or infinitesimally small, the one approaches the entire universe, the Absolute, the other approaches nothing, not-Being. A house may be a house no matter how large or small but no matter how is to be understood relatively, a house cannot be nothing or everything. Hegel regards this as an instance of the dialectical in operation in quantity making it what it is not, that is to say quality.

And so we have reached the third grade of Being a quantified quality or measure. In measure we attain the knowledge that everything is not immediate but relative or mediate for everything has its measure, which is to say, its proper qualitative and quantitative range beyond which it cannot remain the same and to know the proper measure of a thing, of Being, is to know its Essence. Hegel then achieves what he set out to do which is to say he presented the totality of Being by analyzing its three grades, quality, quantity, and measure, and he abolished the immediacy of Being by demonstrating that its Essence, that is, whatever makes it what it is, rests not upon its immediately given appearance but upon its measure which is a mediate or relative concept demanding that the given be seen in terms of an other. Such an analysis depended not upon simply its immediately given appearance but upon its measure which is a mediate or relative concept demanding that the given be seen in terms of an other and this analysis depended not upon mere perception of the immediately given but rather upon reflective thought, thought and its object are progressing together. Being is the immediate appearance of reality, through reflection the philosopher has preceded to the mediate aspect of reality, its Essence, and neither Being nor Essence is more real than the other, reflective thought has gone from one to the other to give us a greater insight into reality.

In the doctrine of Essence we also discover three grades, identity, diversity and ground. As previously noted an analysis of a thing is such that it is conditioned by, and conditions, something else, and inn order to be determinate not only are the boundaries of the thing required in order that it can be defined as as a finite object but in its very definition it is distinguished from what it is not, hence not only is it related to itself in terms of its identity but also it is related to others in terms of its difference.

Hegel’s argument is reminiscent of Plato’s analysis of the One and the Many in the ‘Parmenides’. (See my article On Plato’s ‘Parmenides: Being and non-Being). Plato demonstrated that the paradox of the One, that it is and yet it is not, can be resolved if we introduce the concepts of identity difference and other than. The One is (identical with itself) and the One is not (others), that is to say, the One is other than or different from. Hegel’s Logic contains a similar albeit in many ways different analysis whereby in order to understand the essence of a thing we must apprehend the apparently contradictory characteristics of identity and diversity in some sort of unity. Unity is discovered in the concept of the ground and in order for a thing to be, that is to say to exist, there has to be more than its self-identity for self-identity when not contrasted with what the self is not would once more lead to an indeterminate abstract Being. On the other hand there has to be more than the mediating relations that indicate that there are others than the self which is to say we cannot focus only upon what the self is not. In the concept of a ground Hegel discovers the proper meaning of essence for the thing is seen in its inward relations (its self-identity)and in its relations to an other in addition but this is the concept of the ground.

The final sub-division in Hegel’s logic is that of the doctrine of Notion or Idea or Concept. Hegel’s term in German is Begriff, a term which is replete with difficulties, it contains the conflicting shades of meaning alluded to earlier and as it happens all present at the same time. The three grades of this doctrine are universal, particular, and individual. Having presented two aspects of reality, its immediate and mediate appearance, its Being and its Essence, Hegel was prepared to consider reality in its totality. The movement from Being to and through Essence is a dialectical process involving reflection, a process by which the nature of the given is disclosed. The doctrine of Idea emphasises for us that the only way in which we can discover the nature of a thing is to proceed through this kinds of process and Hegel points out in the doctrine of Idea that in the process of development the thing is revealed to reflective thought in the aforementioned grades. In its bare beginnings as immediate Being it is an indeterminate undefinable thing in itself, the very ding an sich that Kant spole of. It is an undeveloped universal and from the immediately given one proceeds to a consideration of the thing as a differentiated something which Hegel refers to as the particularizing phase of development. And finally, in reflecting upon the further development of the thing into a Being which is both immediate and mediate, identical and different, universal and particular, the individual is realized, and yet to see the individual as it is it must be understood in terms of its process from undifferentiated universal to differentiated particular to individual. If the parts are to be understood we must understand the process as a whole hence for Hegel the process of knowledge and that which is known, Being, ultimately are one. Reality and rationality are interchangeable.

‘The idea, namely, in positing itself as the absolute unity of the pure concept and its reality and thus collecting itself in the immediacy of being, is in this form as totality — nature. — This determination, however, is nothing that has become, is not a transition, as was the case above when the subjective concept in its totality becomes objectivity, or the subjective purpose becomes life. The pure idea into which the determinateness or reality of the concept is itself raised into concept is rather an absolute liberation for which there is no longer an immediate determination which is not equally posited and is not concept; in this freedom, therefore, there is no transition that takes place; the simple being to which the idea determines itself remains perfectly transparent to it: it is the idea that in its determination remains with itself. The transition is to be grasped, therefore, in the sense that the idea freely discharges itself, absolutely certain of itself and internally at rest. On account of this freedom, the form of its determinateness is just as absolutely free: the externality of space and time absolutely existing for itself without subjectivity. — Inasmuch as this externality is only in the abstract determinateness of being and is apprehended by consciousness, it is as mere objectivity and external life; within the idea, however, it remains in and for itself the totality of the concept, and science in the relation of divine cognition to nature. But what is posited by this first resolve of the pure idea to determine itself as external idea is only the mediation out of which the concept, as free concrete existence that from externality has come to itself, raises itself up, completes this self-liberation in the science of spirit, and in the science of logic finds the highest concept of itself, the pure concept conceptually comprehending itself’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’


Madam, your majesty is too much sad:

You promised, when you parted with the king,

To lay aside life-harming heaviness

And entertain a cheerful disposition.


To please the king I did; to please myself

I cannot do it; yet I know no cause

Why I should welcome such a guest as grief,

Save bidding farewell to so sweet a guest

As my sweet Richard: yet again, methinks,

Some unborn sorrow, ripe in fortune’s womb,

Is coming towards me, and my inward soul

With nothing trembles: at some thing it grieves,

More than with parting from my lord the king.


Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,

Which shows like grief itself, but is not so;

For sorrow’s eye, glazed with blinding tears,

Divides one thing entire to many objects;

Like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon

Show nothing but confusion, eyed awry

Distinguish form: so your sweet majesty,

Looking awry upon your lord’s departure,

Find shapes of grief, more than himself, to wail;

Which, look’d on as it is, is nought but shadows

Of what it is not. Then, thrice-gracious queen,

More than your lord’s departure weep not: more’s not seen;

Or if it be, ’tis with false sorrow’s eye,

Which for things true weeps things imaginary.


It may be so; but yet my inward soul

Persuades me it is otherwise: howe’er it be,

I cannot but be sad; so heavy sad

As, though on thinking on no thought I think,

Makes me with heavy nothing faint and shrink.

- William Shakespeare, (1564–1616), ‘Richard II’, Act 2, Scene 2

To be continued ….



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David Proud

David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.