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

David Proud
59 min readDec 23, 2022

Clytie — The Sunflower’

by Leigh Gordon Giltner, (1875–1940)

(To F. H.)

In pale green twilight lands

Under the sea

Her rainbow palace stands,

Irised and opaline;

Agate and almondine,

Corals and pearly shells

Swept from deep ocean dells,

Strewing the silver strands,

Starring the golden sands

In the green twilight lands

Under the sea.

All thro’ the dreamy day

Under the sea

Where the sea-maidens play,

Twining foam-garlands fair,

Girding their golden hair,

Clad in her moss-robe green

Veiled in her bright locks’ sheen —

Where the dim seaweeds sway,

Trackless her white feet stray

All thro’ the dreamy day

Under the sea.

Or like a star she glides

Over the sea,

Deftly her steeds she guides —

Gold-fish that glint and gleam,

Jewels alive they seem —

Softly the surges swell,

Rocking the rosy shell

Where the sea-maiden rides,

Wafture of wooing tides,

Swift as a star she glides

Over the sea.

One day she lifts her eyes

Up from the sea

Where the great sun-god flies

Over the world afar,

Guiding his golden car —

All his star brow aglow,

All his bright hair aflow;

Dawn in his radiance lies,

Dusk at his coming dies —

Hapless she lifts her eyes

Up from the sea.

Swiftly his steeds speed on

Over the sea,

Soon is the splendor flown,

Lone on the shore she stands.

Stretching imploring hands,

Lifting impassioned eyes

Where the last sun-gleam dies;

All the day’s brightness gone,

Hapless she stands alone,

Heedless the god speeds on

Over the sea.

Ever her wistful gaze

Over the sea

Yearns on the sun-god’s rays —

Till by some subtle power

Changed to a golden flower —

Still in her robe of green,

Crowned with her gold hair’s sheen

Slight on her stem she sways …

Yet does her yearning gaze

Follow the sun-god’s rays

Over the sea.

‘Clytie’, 1814, John Martin. ‘Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,/Who countest the steps of the Sun:/Seeking after that sweet golden clime/Where the travellers journey is done./Where the Youth pined away with desire,/And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:/Arise from their graves and aspire,/Where my Sun-flower wishes to go’. -William Blake, (1757–1827)

As so in our excursions into Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s, (1770–1831), we arrive at finitude in the middle section of ‘Determinate Being’ in which reality sublates itself and becomes ideality and Being ceases to be but before marching onwards towards objective Idealism note must be taken of how chapter two is structured for in ‘Determinate Being’ we encounter the sequence of the Understanding, dialectical Reason and speculative Reason, and what must be disclosed is that this development was inclined towards the left (in the diagrams) within a tripartite structure which is to say it demonstrated a predilection towards Being and against Nothing and throughout its travels determinate Being remained relatively inclined towards the left and movement occurred within it. And finitude is the mirror opposite for its activity will be inclined towards the right It stays relatively negative with regard to Infinity. In effect, the work is being carried out in the extremes and for the moment the middle term of Infinity is still implicit, as Hegel explains (remember in the translation I am using by George D. Di Giovanni, (1935 — ), translates determinate Being as existence): :

‘In the first division where existence in general was considered, this existence had, as at first taken up, the determination of an existent. The moments of its development, quality and something, are therefore of equally affirmative determination. The present division, on the contrary, 21.105 develops the negative determination which is present in existence and was there from the start only as negation in general. It was then the first negation but has now been determined to the point of the being-in-itself of the something, the point of the negation of negation’.

- The Science of Logic’

In the first section in which determinate being in general was considered this had the determination of being. Consequently, the moments of its development, quality and something equally have an affirmative determination. In Finitude, the negative determination contained in determinate being is developed, and whereas in determinate Being, Negation was at first only negation in general, the first negation, it is now determined to the point of the being-with-itself or the inwardness of the something, to the negation of the negation. We left off Something as unaware of its own mediated-mediating nature and now its nature as negation of the negation acquires expression in accordance with which the first sub-moment of Finitude is itself double, Something and an Other, and so too is the second step, Constitution and Limit. The doubled nature of the steps reflects their negativity for Negation is always in need of a positivity to negate.

In the case of Something and an Other (in the 1812 edition of the Logic this section preceded the Something) Nothing is something after all. This is the truth of b in the Quality and Negation diagram, see previous article in this series. The Understanding now sees d, e, f, as the unity of Something e and Other f and in the diagram. In the Something and an Other diagram, see below, we take d, e, f, and represent it in an affirmative guise, d, e, f — a. Something and an Other depicts positing, or manifestation of what the thing is so we discover that the negative mediated nature of Something d, e, f, shuffles off to the left, not the immediate Something g, but the modulation between d, e, f, is presented in Something and an Other as a Static Unity, a, Something/Other.

Hegel has stressed that the constituent parts of Something were each Qualities or Somethings and now reiterates that Something/ Other in Something and an Other are both determinate beings or somethings:

‘1. Something and other are, first, both existents or something’.

‘Second, each is equally an other. It is indifferent which is named first, and just for this reason it is named something (in Latin, when they occur in a proposition, both are aliud, or ‘the one, the other’, alius alium; in the case of an alternating relation, the analogous expression is alter alterum). If of two beings we call the one A and the other B, the B is the one which is first determined as other. But the A is just as much the other of the B. Both are other in the same way. ‘This’ serves to fix the distinction and the something which is to be taken in the affirmative sense. But ‘this’ also expresses the fact that the distinction, and the privileging of one something, is a subjective designation that falls outside the something itself. The whole determinateness falls on the side of this external pointing; also the expression ‘this’ contains no distinctions; each and every something is just as good a ‘this’ as any other. By ‘this’ we mean to express something completely determinate, overlooking the fact that language, as a work of the understanding, only expresses the universal, albeit naming it as a single object. But an individual name is something meaningless in the sense that it does not express a universal. It appears as something merely posited and arbitrary for the same reason that proper names can also be arbitrarily picked, arbitrarily given as well as arbitrarily altered’

- ‘The Science of Logic’

In a similar manner Something/Other are each nothings or Others but one of them must be Something and one must be Other and it is of no matter which is first named and solely for that reason called something, the word ‘this’ serves to decide the matter. Hegel is here repeating the argument of Chapter One of the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ in which the subjective moment of this which is to say indexicality disrupted the unity of sense-certainty and mayhap it is being similarly disruptive here in the Logic.

Something and an Other

Accordingly the choice of Something and an Other is a subjective designation that falls outside Something and Other. The designation of one as affirmative and the other as negative is not an immanent move for external reflection, the silent fourth, settles the matter as to which is which. Once again contingency makes itself manifest albeit the meaning of Something and an Other is that determinate Being is determined as itself but also as an Other.

‘Otherness thus appears as a determination alien to the existence thus pointed at, or the other existence as outside this one existence, partly because the one existence is determined as other only by being compared by a Third, and partly because it is so determined only on account of the other which is outside it, but is not an other for itself. At the same time, as has been remarked, even for ordinary thinking every existence equally determines itself as an other existence, so that there is no existence that remains determined simply as an existence, none which is not outside an existence and therefore is not itself an other’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

There is no determinate Being which is determined only as a determinate Being but what determinate Being is not is expressly a determinateness and at the level of Something and an Other Being is either Something or Other but not both at the same time. Determinateness will denote the contradiction of Being and Nothing present at the same time and Determinateness as Such or Limit only appears in the diagram Limit or Determinateness as Such, g, which will be in the article following this one. John Burbidge describes Something and an Other differently (these diagrams don’t feature in the Logic by the way, I owe them to David Gray Carlson and I will amend them in due course, I am a philosopher of infinite tasks):

‘When speculative reason synthetically combines two concepts it may find on examination that the relation is one of integration and that the two collapse into a simple unity. On the other hand, however, the relation may not be integration, but something else, which still leaves the moment of thought incomplete’.

- ‘Hegel’s Logic’

That is to say he views Something and an Other as being speculative Reason’s move, but is it not Understanding’s move? Integration may fall short in that Something and an Other isolates non-integration and concerning Something and an Other Burbidge contends [Thought no longer has a simple concept, but wavers between [Something/Other]. The negative moment, implicit in [Determinate Being] has now become explicit’. One may think there is something there but is it even so that negativity has become explicit? Has not the movement between Something and Other manifested itself in a. ‘Here, although with ‘something’ ‘another’ is posited, they do not posit each other’ says Burbidge.

So far, Something/Other has no way of distinguishing whether it is Something or Other, it is one of them, but not both, Something/Other must posit what it is immanently which will be done in the Being-for-Other/Being-in-Itself diagram, but prior to that it is necessary to take a moment to contemplate nature. This is not to be regarded as an empirical causal claim. ‘Logos and nature mutually presuppose each other; one cannot be posed without the other. It is absurd to imagine a causality of any kind in logos which would produce nature’ explains Jean Hyppolite, (1907–1968), rather, logic ‘is the whole which negates itself as nature’. From Something and an Other, Hegel derives physical nature. Suppose we take Something/ Other as Other only, as we are entitled to do. So far, there is no concrete relation between Something and an Other for the Other is to be taken to be isolated.

Nature: Otherness-in-Itself

‘Third, the other is therefore to be taken in isolation, with reference to itself, has to be taken abstractly as the other, the Το έτερο of Plato who opposes it to the one as a moment of totality, and in this way ascribes to the other a nature of its own. Thus the other, taken solely as such, is not the other of something, but is the other within, that is, the other of itself. — Such an other, which is the other by its own determination, is physical nature; nature is the other of spirit; this, its determination, is at first a mere relativity expressing not a quality of nature itself but only a reference external to it. But since spirit is the true something, and hence nature is what it is within only in contrast to spirit, taken for itself the quality of nature is just this, to be the other within, that which-exists-outside-itself (in the determinations of space, time, matter)’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Note: το έτερο : translated the other but as in alter ego, something that opposes you and complements you at the same time. When we say, for instance, το έτερον ήμισυ (literally translated the other half’) what is actually meant is what we call my better half. Somewhat antithetical they are two aspects or facets of one being.

Because the Other is isolated, it is the other in its own self but also the other of itself and if the Other is the Other of itself it is not itself, Otherness is self-alienated, a single entity has now doubled itself, there is Other, and there is the original self to which Other is Other and the original self, Absolute Knowing, on the law of sublation, implicates it has an Other nature. Is such a move warranted? Maybe. Other is a correlative term. If Other is taken as isolated no Other to the Other is supplied. Otherness must therefore turn back on itself and make itself its Other. Clark Butler refers to this move as ‘nonintentional reference’. ‘As other it refers to something which is not. Yet because itis isolated by understanding there is nothing else to which it can be related. It can only be other in itself by becoming other than itself’, he elucidates.

This self-alienation according to Hegel is physical nature, the Other of Spirit and this definition of Nature as Other (Nature not being a move in the Logic as such hence not to be labelled Being-for-Other/Being-in-Itself albeit the diagram resembles and is an implication of the official Being-for-Other/Being-in-Itself) to Spirit is somewhat miserly in virtue of Nature being determined as not spiritual and Nothing further is established here and Spirit’s determination is thus at first a mere relativity by which is expressed, not a quality of nature itself, but only a relation external to spirit. Whatever qualities nature has are not yet posited. Nature is Other to Spirit but on the law of sublation Nature is just as much Spirit therefore Nature is self-alienated Spirit. According to Darrel E. Christensen, (1923 — ), nature contains Notion ‘not as something explicit, to be sure, but as implicit’ while for Philip T. Grier, (1942 — ), nature is ‘the sphere of the externality of space and time into which [Spirit] ‘freely releases itself.’. And as Hegel himself expresses it the Idea is the process of sundering itself into individuality and its inorganic nature, and again of bringing this inorganic nature under the power of the subject and returning to the first simple universality:

‘As this connection, the idea is the process of disrupting itself into individuality and into the latter’s inorganic nature, and of then bringing this inorganic nature again under the controlling power of the subject and back to the first simple universality. The identity of the idea with itself is one with the process; the thought that liberates actuality from the seeming of purposeless mutability and transfigures it into idea must not represent this truth of actuality as dead repose, as a mere picture, numb, without impulse and movement, as a genius or number, or as an abstract thought; the idea, because of the freedom which the concept has attained in it, also has the most stubborn opposition within it; its repose consists in the assurance and the certainty with which it eternally generates that opposition and eternally overcomes it, and in it rejoins itself.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

‘Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion’, 1812, John Martin

‘Sadak: A fragment’

by Percy Bysshe Shelley, possibly, (1792–1822)

Day by day, and year by year,

Must the pilgrim wander there;

Through the mountain’s rocky pile,

Through the ocean, through the isle,

Through the sunshine, through the snow,

Still in weariness, and wo;

Pacing still the world’s huge round,

Till the mystic Fount is found,

Till the waters of the Spring

Round the roofs their splendours fling,

Round the pearl-embroider’d path,

Where the tyrant, Amurath, Leaves the haram for the throne:-

Then shall all his wo be done.

Onward, Sadak, to thy prize!

But what night has hid the skies?

Like a dying star the sun

Struggles on through cloud-wreaths dun;

From yon mountain’s shelter’d brow

Bursts the lava’s burning flow:

Warrior! wilt thou dare the tomb

In the red volcano’s womb!


Hanging now upon the ledge,

That the precipice doth edge;

Warrior! take the fearful leap,

Though ‘t were as the ocean deep:

Through the realm of death and night

Shall that pinion scatter light,

Till the Fount before thee lies.

Onward, warrior, to the prize!

Till thy woes are all repaid:

Thine, all thine, young Kalasrade!

The implicit presence of Spirit in Nature renders reconciliation a possibility and Nature is Spirit’s self-administered laceration in a manner of speaking and it is incumbered upon Spirit to fix the gash and render itself complete once more. ‘Nature is rediscovered as the self-external embodiment of the Idea developing itself through the natural process’, said Errol Eustace Harris, (1908–2009). ‘Just as logically self-determining thought required thinking its other, conceiving nature will require thinking an other to its initial determinacy’, further elaborates William Maker. Burbidge has presented an account of Hegel’s attitude toward Nature and contends that Hegel viewed Nature as the sphere of contingency and external relations. Things and events are separated in space and time even though space and time are themselves continuous, and if a theory is to explain natural phenomena it must therefore perform two interrelated tasks, it must demonstrate why isolated entities are separated in the way they are, that is, it has in some way to dissolve the contingency of appearances.

One may characterise Hegel’s philosophical system as it is laid out in the ‘Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences ‘ as beginning with Logic forward onwards to Nature and culminating in the philosophy of Mind whereby Logic can be equated to Being in which caser it cannot help but become other to itself or Nature and Nature corresponds to the Negation of Logic. But on the law of sublation Nature contains Logic that is to say Spirit even while it annuls Spirit and the philosophy of Mind chronicles Spirit emerging from Nature culminating in the absolute cancellation of the radical difference between Spirit and Nature. John McCumber, (1966 — ), states that Logic is ‘the philosophical comprehension of thought taken purely for itself; Philosophy of Nature … examines thought in the meaningless spatio-temporal dispersal which is the ultimate ‘other’ to thought; and Philosophy of Mind … considers thought insofar as, in human history, it gathers itself together out of this dispersal’. Michael Inwood suggests that Logic is the Father, Nature is the Son, and Mind is the Holy Ghost which is very imaginative but I am not buying it.

Hence Logic is prior to or above Nature and thereby truly metaphysical in its quality. Which brings us to Being-for-other and Being-in-itself. The Understanding has postulated that the Universe is either Something or a shadow Other Something and it is one or the other but not both, and it comes by this conclusion by staring back upon Something and taking hold of d, e, f, which is the mediated portion of Something, and g, affirmative Being, has been suppressed by the Understanding in Something and an Other. Always laying the stress upon what has been suppressed dialectical Reason retorts with one may suppose that the Universe is Something or Other d, e, f, but history demonstrates that it is just as much affirmative immediate Being, g, and hence a is therefore legitimately Some-thing/Other, a double, but if this is true of a, it likewise must be true of Being b, which is also a double. Hence Being is a Being for Something or it is a Being-for-other, it is one or the other of these things but whichever it is affirmative Being.


Imagine Something/Other, a, is Something not Other then b is Other and b’s Being is Being-for-other b, c, yet b is actually part of a, b. Something therefore negates its own being when it negates b and in accordance with this:

‘The something preserves itself in its non-being; it is essentially one with it, and essentially not one with it. It therefore stands in reference to an otherness without being just this otherness. The otherness is at once contained in it and yet separated from it; it is being-for-other’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Something a, b preserves itself in the negative of its determinate being b, it is in essence one with it and essentially not one with it. Something stands, therefore, in a relation to its Otherness and is not simply its Otherness. Its otherness is at once contained in it and also still separate from it, it is a Being-for-Other. ‘Sensible representation is being-for-another’, explains Jean-Luc Nancy, (1940–2021). Something a then cancels and preserves its own being b and a is hence with and not with b, Something is connected and disconnected with its Other. When paired with c, b is Being-for-other since c is Other, when c is paired with a, it is Being-in-itself. In itself after all means what is implicit and not express such usage being fitting for Being-in-itself, Something a denies that it is b yet b is Something’s own self, and the identity of a and b is only implicit, Something is in itself in so far as it has returned into itself out of the Being-for-Other.

‘Both moments are determinations of one and the same, namely of something. Something is in-itself in so far as it has returned from the being-for-other back to itself. But something has also a determination or circumstance, whether in itself (here the accent is on the in) or in it; in so far as this circumstance is in it externally, it is a being-for-other’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Houlgate disagrees with this interpretation: ‘a thing enjoys its own most being in itself only insofar as this is explicitly distinguished from the thing’s relation to other things’. Be that as it may b is both Being-for-other and Being-in-self, when we conceive of a as Something. But what if a is Other and b is Something? How does b fare when a is Other? In this case, b in a, b, is Being-for -Other and b in b, c, is part of Something and yet this is exactly what Something denies. From its own negative point of view the identity of b with c is simply implicit and hence the same outcome is arrived at, b is both Being-for-Other and Being-in-itself. But which is it? All we know for the moment is that it is one or the Other but not both. What is not to be overlooked here is that b serves as the narrow way into the country of Being and through b negativity on the right side of the diagram infiltrates into Being on the left side and that which was previously affirmative begins to turn negative. As Hegel puts it, non-Being, b, is a moment of Something a, b.

‘Being and nothing in their unity, which is existence, are no longer being and nothing (these they are only outside their unity); so in their restless unity, in becoming, they are coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be. — In the something, being is being-in-itself. Now, as self-reference, self-equality, being is no longer immediately, but is self-reference only as the non-being of otherness (as existence reflected into itself ). — The same goes for nonbeing: as the moment of something in this unity of being and non-being: it is not non-existence in general but is the other, and more determinedly — according as being is at the same time distinguished from it — it is reference to its non-existence, being-for-other’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

This coincidence of for-Other and in-Itself lays open the possibility that things are intrinsically related. Which brings us to the thing-in-itself. According to Hegel, b stands for both Being-in-itself and Being-for-Other thereby portending that the inner is outer. The in-itself as isolated however is Kant’s noumenal thing-in-itself of which Hegel was an acute critic.

‘It may be observed that here we have the meaning of the thing-in-itself. It is a very simple abstraction, though it was for a while a very important determination, something sophisticated, as it were, just as the proposition that we know nothing of what things are in themselves was a much valued piece of wisdom. — Things are called ‘in-themselves’ in so far as abstraction is made from all being-for-other, which really means, in so far as they are thought without all determination, as nothing. In this sense, of course, it is impossible to know what the thing-in-itself is. For the question ‘what?’ calls for determinations to be produced; but since the things of which the determinations are called for are at the same time presumed to be things-in-themselves, which means precisely without determination, the impossibility of an answer is thoughtlessly implanted in the question, or else a senseless answer is given. — The thing-in-itself is the same as that absolute of which nothing is known except that in it all is one. What there is in these things-in-themselves is therefore very well known; they are as such nothing but empty abstractions void of truth’.

-’The Science of Logic’

The proposition that we do not know what things are in themselves ranked as a profound piece of wisdom indeed. Even Kantians themselves lament over this aspect of Kant’s philosophy. ‘Surely to know that things-[in-themselves] are not spatial (or temporal) is to know a good deal about them’ points out Henry Edward Allison, (1937 — ). Things are in themselves if all Being-for-Other is purged. We perceive in a given thing only its Being-for-other, the indeterminate, affirmative community of something with its other:

‘Being-for-other is indeterminate, affirmative association of something with its other; in limit the non-being-for-other is emphasized, the qualitative negation of the other, which is thereby kept out of the something that is reflected into itself. We must see the development of this concept — a development that will rather look like confusion and contradiction. Contradiction immediately raises its head because limit, as an internally reflected negation of something, ideally holds in it the moments of something and other, and these, as distinct moments, are at the same time posited in the sphere of existence as really, qualitatively, distinct’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

‘The Crucifixion’, 1834, John Martin. ‘And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost’. — ‘Luke’, 23:46.

Hence Kant persisted in the notion that one can have no notion about what the thing-in-itself is which of course Hegel vehemently takes issue with:

‘It may be observed that here we have the meaning of the thing-in-itself. It is a very simple abstraction, though it was for a while a very important determination, something sophisticated, as it were, just as the proposition that we know nothing of what things are in themselves was a much valued piece of wisdom. — Things are called ‘n-themselves’ in so far as abstraction is made from all being-for-other, which really means, in so far as they are thought without all determination, as nothing. In this sense, of course, it is impossible to know what the thing-in-itself is. For the question ‘what?’ calls for determinations to be produced; but since the things of which the determinations are called for are at the same time presumed to be things-in-themselves, which means precisely without determination, the impossibility of an answer is thoughtlessly implanted in the question, or else a senseless answer is given. — The thing-in-itself is the same as that absolute of which nothing is known except that in it all is one. What there is in these things-in-themselves is therefore very well known; they are as such nothing but empty abstractions void of truth. What, however, the thing-in-itself in truth is, what there basically is in it, of this the Logic is the exposition. But in this Logic something better is understood by the in-itself than an abstraction, namely, what something is in its concept; but this concept is in itself concrete: as concept, in principle conceptually graspable; and, as determined and as the connected whole of its determinations, inherently cognizable’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Things are designated in themselves in so far as abstraction is made from all being-for-other which means merely in so far as they are thought devoid of all determination, as nothings, and in this sense it is of course impossible to know what the thing in itself is for the question what? demands that determinations be assigned but since the things of which they are to be assigned are at the same time supposed to be things in themselves, which means, in effect, to be without any determination, the question is made thoughtlessly impossible to answer, or else only an absurd answer is given. The thing-in-itself is the absolute, and, furthermore, it is one, that is to say once appearance is eliminated there is but one thing-in-itself in its indeterminacy and not many. What is in these things in themselves therefore we know quite well they are as such nothing but truthless, empty abstractions and by contrast Hegel’s analysis has demonstrated that the thing-in-itself, a, is concrete. Hegel’s observation that there is but one Kantian thing-in-itself is emphasized later, in ‘Existence] where Hegel examines the concept of the thing and observes that if essence is defined as the sum total of all realities, then this sum total reduces to empty oneness:

‘… if pure essence is defined as the sum total of all realities, these realities are equally subject to the nature of determinateness and abstractive reflection and their sum total is reduced to empty simplicity. Thus defined, essence is only a product, an artifact. External reflection, which is abstraction, only lifts the determinacies of being out of what is left over as essence and only deposits them, as it were, somewhere else, letting them exist as before. In this way, however, essence is neither in itself nor for itself; it is by virtue of another, through external abstractive reflection; and it is for another, namely for abstraction and in general for the existent which still remains opposite to it. In its determination, therefore, it is a dead and empty absence of determinateness’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

It is the same as being-for-other, what a thing is in itself is also what it is for other and appearance has a strong unity with essence and one can, through the Logic, glimpse the thing-in-itself. Hegel’s logic, then, ‘extends Kant’s transcendental logic by exorcising the phantom of a thing-in-itself, which would always haunt our reflection and would limit knowledge in favor of faith and non-knowledge’, as Hyppolite explains. This is the strong implication of regarding a as the unity of Being-in-itself and Being-for-other. Michael Inwood, however, endeavours to come to the Kantian thing-in-itself’d defence:

‘It need not involve the assertion that there are things … which lie beyond those limits [of knowledge], but only the supposition that there might be. The limits could be assigned not by saying ‘There are things-in-themselves and they are unknowable to us’, but rather ‘If there are any, then they are unknowable by us’. Even if the latter claim is difficult to justify, it does not look self-refuting in the way that the former does’.

- Michael Inwood, Hegel

Maybe, or maybe not, but there is the well known logical of stating the conditions under which a conditional is true. Inwood is concerned to tear holes into Hegel’s system but the above claim in effect asserts that make the assumption in the absence of deciding that there are things-in-themselves beyond our knowledge and it then follows that there are things-in-themselves beyond our knowledge which is a somewhat weak claim with which we can do very little. Inwood also laments that even were Hegel correct that we know a little bit about the thing-in-itself perhaps we don’t know everything and there might be more to know. Extraterrestrials with cognitive power to perceive the thing-in-itself might exist, such aliens being what Kant would call (from his second Critique) God’s marionette or automaton:

‘Even if it is admitted that the supersensible subject can be free with respect to a given action, although, as a subject also belonging to the world of sense, he is under mechanical conditions with respect to the same action, still, as soon as we allow that God as universal first cause is also the cause of the existence of substance (a proposition which can never be given up without at the same time giving up the notion of God as the Being of all beings, and therewith giving up his all sufficiency, on which everything in theology depends), it seems as if we must admit that a man’s actions have their determining principle in something which is wholly out of his power- namely, in the causality of a Supreme Being distinct from himself and on whom his own existence and the whole determination of his causality are absolutely dependent. In point of fact, if a man’s actions as belonging to his modifications in time were not merely modifications of him as appearance, but as a thing in itself, freedom could not be saved. Man would be a marionette or an automaton, like Vaucanson’s, prepared and wound up by the Supreme Artist. Self-consciousness would indeed make him a thinking automaton; but the consciousness of his own spontaneity would be mere delusion if this were mistaken for freedom, and it would deserve this name only in a comparative sense, since, although the proximate determining causes of its motion and a long series of their determining causes are internal, yet the last and highest is found in a foreign hand’.

- ‘Critique of Practical Reason’

Note: Jacques de Vaucanson, (1709–1782), French inventor and artist who built the first all-metal lathe which was of great importance in the Industrial Revolution and he was responsible for the creation of innovative automata including the Digesting Duck a mechanical duck that appeared to have the ability to eat kernels of grain and to metabolize and defecate them. What was the point of that? I dunno.

Anyway, concerning the hypothetical extraterrestrials, if such existed these extraterrestrials would prove there are things we don’t for the moment) know about the thing-in-itself. ‘[T]he mere possibility of alternative, but equally coherent sets of belief, some of them perhaps inconceivable to us, is sufficient to induce scepticism about our cognitive powers’ claims Inwood. And yet the implication here seems to be merely that that the proof of unknowability will be disclosed once we finally know the thing-in-itself and the extraterrestrials will be more likely to be Hegelian than Kantian.

Which brings us to the matter of positedness. Hegel contrasts Being-in-itself with Being-for-other, both contained indeterminately within a and in addition he contrasts Being-in-itself with positedness. Positedness must not be confused with the act of positing. ‘Positing is different from positedness’, Houlgate points out, for positedness belongs to the realm of Essence and is a passive state of being while positing in contrast is an activity:

‘Being-in-itself has at first the being-for-other as a moment standing over against it. But positedness also comes to be positioned over against it, and, although in this expression being-for-other is also included, the expression still contains the determination of the bending back, which has already occurred, of that which is not in itself into that wherein it is positive, and this is its being-in-itself. Being-in-itself is normally to be taken as an abstract way of expressing the concept; positing, strictly speaking, first occurs in the sphere of essence, of objective reflection; the ground posits that which is grounded through it; more strongly, the cause produces an effect, an existence whose subsistence is immediately negated and which carries the meaning that it has its substance, its being, in an other. In the sphere of being, existence only emerges out of becoming. Or again, with the something an other is posited; with the finite, an infinite; but the finite does not bring forth the infinite, does not posit it. In the sphere of being, the self-determining of the concept is at first only in itself or implicit, and for that reason it is called a transition or passing over. And the reflecting determinations of being, such as something and other, or finite and infinite, although they essentially point to one another, or are as being-for-other, also stand on their own qualitatively; the other exists; the finite, like the infinite, is equally to be regarded as an immediate existent that stands firm on its own; the meaning of each appears complete even without its other. The positive and the negative, on the contrary, cause and effect, however much they are taken in isolation, have at the same time no meaning each without the other; their reflective shining in each other, the shine in each of its other, is present right in them. — In the different cycles of determination and especially in the progress of the exposition, or, more precisely, in the progress of the concept in the exposition of itself, it is of capital concern always to clearly distinguish what still is in itself or implicitly and what is posited, how determinations are in the concept and how they are as posited or as existing-for-other. This is a distinction that belongs only to the dialectical development and one unknown to metaphysical philosophizing (to which the critical also belongs); the definitions of metaphysics, like its presuppositions, distinctions, and conclusions, are meant to assert and produce only the existent and that, too, as existent-in-itself’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

So properly speaking positing first occurs in the sphere of Essence while in the sphere of Being determinate Being only proceeds from Becoming, or, with the Something an Other is posited, with the finite, the infinite is posited yet the finite does not bring forth the infinite, does not posit it. In the sphere of Being, the self-determining even of the Notion is to begin with only in itself or implicit and as such it is called a transition. Roughly speaking positedness is to Essence what determinateness is to the doctrine of Being and both denote a unity of opposites. Positedness results when reflection-into-self withdraws while pulling into its world the very inessential Being it looked to cast off and Hegel says of positedness that it is opposed to Being-in-itself, it includes Being-for-other as suggested by its etymology but it specifically contains the already accomplished bending back of that which is not in itself into that which is being-in-itself. A positedness is an entity that manifests what it is by declaring what it is not and what it renounces bends back upon the announcing entity. By way of a political analogy, when Tony Blair, (1953 -), stated that he was not a Tory in disguise, (‘Because we’ve run the economy well, worked with business, are tough on law and order and believe in supporting our armed forces, then I must be a Tory in disguise: i.e., if you believe in economic efficiency and taking action on crime, you must be a Tory. It was never really true, of course’, he said. He was not only a not very well disguised Tory but delusional with it), he in effect disclosed himself to be a positedness and the astute British public understood Blair’s contention in just that manner. Being posited is in need of the silent fourth to do the positing, being posited is all that we have at this early stage, and Hegel employs the verb to posit but always in its passive tense, for positing is, thus far, only passive while active positing is merely in itself, hence determinate Being is posited out from Becoming but Becoming does not posit and self-determination puts in its appearance only later.

Harris identifies the positing of Being-in-itself/Being-for-other as ‘for us as reflecting philosophers’. Properly positing implies a correlate and for this very reason everything in Essence comes in pairs as Hegel explains elsewhere:

‘When we speak of ‘essence’, we distinguish it from being, i.e., from what is immediate. In comparison with essence, we regard being as a mere semblance. But this semblance is not simply ‘not’; it is not an utter nothing;’ rather, it is being as sublated.-The standpoint of essence is in general the standpoint of reflection. The term ‘reflection’ is primarily used of light, when, propagated rectilinearly, it strikes a mirrored surface and is thrown back by it. So we have here something twofold: first, something immediate, something that is, and second, the same as mediated or posited. And this is just the case when we reflect on an object or ‘think it over’ (as we also say very often) . For here we are not concerned with the object in its immediate form, but want to know it as mediated. And our usual view of the task or purpose of philosophy is that it consists in the cognition of the essence of things. By this we understand no more than that things are not to be left in their immediate state, but are rather to be exhibited as mediated or grounded by something else. The immediate being of things is here represented as a sort of rind or curtain behind which the essence is concealed’.

- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’

The terms in Essence are always mere pairs of correlatives and not yet absolutely reflected in themselves hence in essence the actual unity of the notion is not realized but only postulated by reflection. But in the doctrine of Being things are qualitative, they simply are, for the other is, the finite ranks equally with the infinite as an immediate, affirmative being, standing fast on its own account; the meaning of each appears to be complete even without its other. In the realm of Being self-identity appears possible for the moment but it will be otherwise in Essence where the Positive correlates with the Negative and has no meaning on its own.

Which brings us to determination, constitution and limit, (Determination Bestimmung also carries the meaning of vocation or destiny as in die Bestimmung des Menschen, the vocation of humankind):

‘In the unity of the something with itself, being-for-other is identical with its in-itself; the being-for-other is thus in the something. The determinateness thus reflected into itself is therefore again a simple existent and hence again a quality — determination’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

In Something/Other, Being-for-other is in the unity of something with itself, identical with its in-itself, b, stands for both Being-for-other and being-in-itself and this implies that Being-for-other, b, is in Something, a, b. Determinateness is thereby reflected back into Something/Other. It was an either/or. Now it is also a both/and. And a propos this new development Hegel explains:

‘The in-itself, in which the something is reflected into itself from its being-for-other, no longer is an abstract in-itself but, as the negation of its being-for-other, is mediated through this latter, which is thus its moment. It is not only the immediate identity of the something with itself, but the identity by virtue of which the something also has present in it what it is in itself; the being-for-other is present in it because the in-itself is the sublation of it, is in itself from it; but, because it is still abstract, and therefore essentially affected with negation, it is equally affected with being-for-other. We have here not only quality and reality, existent determinateness, but determinateness existent-in-itself; and the development consists in positing such determinateness as thus immanently reflected’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

The in-itself into which something is reflected into itself out of its being-for-other is no longer an abstract in-itself but as negation of its being-for-other is mediated by the latter. It is not only the immediate identity of the something with itself but the identity through which there is present in the something that which it is in itself; being-for-other is present in it because the in-itself is the sublation of the being-for-other, has returned out of the being-for-other into itself, but equally, too, simply because it is abstract and therefore essentially burdened with negation, with Being-for-Other.

‘Building on a Hill’, John Martin, (1789–1854).


by Eduard Friedrich Mörike (1804–1875)

Oh, world, let me be!

Entice me not with gifts of love.

Let this heart in solitude have

Your bliss, your pain!

What I mourn, I know not.

It is an unknown pain;

Forever through tears shall I see

The sun’s love-light.

Often, I am scarcely conscious

And the bright joys break

Through the pain, thus pressing

Delightfully into my breast.

Oh, world, let me be!

Entice me not with gifts of love.

Let this heart in solitude have

Your bliss, your pain!


Laß, o Welt, o laß mich sein!

Locket nicht mit Liebesgaben,

Laßt dies Herz alleine haben

Seine Wonne, seine Pein!

Was ich traure, weiß ich nicht,

Es ist unbekanntes Wehe;

Immerdar durch Tränen sehe

Ich der Sonne liebes Licht.

Oft bin ich mir kaum bewußt,

Und die helle Freude zücket

Durch die Schwere, so mich drücket,

Wonniglich in meiner Brust.

Laß, o Welt, o laß mich sein!

Locket nicht mit Liebesgaben,

Laßt dies Herz alleine haben

Seine Wonne, seine Pein!

To express it more plainly the above passage is stating that the In-itself is the Other and the in-itself thereby discovers itself concretely determined in Determination of the In-itself, see below. Determination is affirmative determinateness which is precisely what Something was not, Something was either/or, Determination implies that what something is in itself, is also present in it:

‘The quality which in the simple something is an in-itself essentially in unity with the something’s other moment, its being-in-it, can be named its determination, provided that this word is distinguished, in a more precise signification, from determinateness in general. Determination is affirmative determinateness; it is the in-itself by which a something abides in its existence while involved with an other that would determine it, by which it preserves itself in its self-equality, holding on to it in its being-for-other. Something fulfills its determination to the extent that the further determinateness, which variously accrues to it in the measure of its being-in-itself as it relates to an other, becomes its filling. Determination implies that what something is in itself is also present in it’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Hegel describes Determination as an affirmative determinateness as the in-itself with which something remains congruous in face of its entanglement with the Other by which it might be determined, maintaining itself in its self-equality, and making its determination hold good in its Being-for-Other, Which is to say in Something and an Other Something was Something/Other and it is only external reflection that can tell whether it was Determination of the Something or Other and whatever external in-itself reflection opts for that Cetermination by external reflection is Something/Other’s Being-for-other. Now external reflection chooses and with the accent on Being Something is determined as Something. Determination then stands for dependence on external reflection, Something is Somethmg and not Other because in virtue of being determined as such by an outside force. Yet it could not be so determined unless it were already in itself so determinable for an object needs outside force to be what it is but the object is not purely a subjective product, Determination is a compromise between Being-in-itself and Being-for-Other, between the object and the determining subject is a play of forces. In the Phenomenology knowledge of the object is shown to be a play of forces between the knowing subject and the object.

As an instance of Determination, Hegel writes the determination of the human being is thinking reason:

‘The determination of the human being, its vocation, is rational thought: thinking in general is his simple determinateness; by it the human being is distinguished from the brute; he is thinking in himself, in so far as this thinking is distinguished also from his being-for-other, from his own natural and sensuous being that brings him in immediate association with the other. But thinking is also in him; the human being is himself thinking, he exists as thinking, thought is his concrete existence and actuality; and, further, since thinking is in his existence and his existence is in his thinking, thinking is concrete, must be taken as having content and filling; it is rational thought and as such the determination of the human being. But even this determination is again only in itself, as an ought, that is to say, it is, together with the filling embodied in its in-itself, in the form of an in-itself in general as against the existence which is not embodied in it but still lies outside confronting it, immediate sensibility and nature’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Reason distinguishes the human being from the brute but bruteness exists within the human being as his or Being-for-other, brutality is to the human being what Nature is to Spirit. In Kantian moral theory inclination is natural and reason is spiritual and morality consists of suspending nature so that reason can speak. So when parents procreate they produce a brute and bruteness is what the baby is for the parents for the baby also has Being-in-itself and this is reason and the task of the parents is to bring forth the in-itself of the child and if they succeed the child is determined to be a person. Determination is the product of an external reflection for the child cannot raise his or herself and yet education works only in virtue of reason being the in-itself of the child. Hence the determination of the human being is thinking reason.

Determination of the In-itself

Which brings us to the matter of Constitution. In Determination of the in-itself d of the determined Something, d, e, is to be distinguished from what is only Being-for- Other d, f, and d retains against g the form of immediate, qualitative being:

‘The filling of the being-in-itself with determinateness is also distinct from the determinateness which is only being-for-other and remains outside the determination. For in the sphere of the qualitative, the distinguished terms are left, in their sublated being, also with an immediate, qualitative being contrasting them. That which the something has in it thus separates itself and is from this side the external existence of the something and also its existence, but not as belonging to its being-in-itself. — Determinateness is thus constitution’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Hegel assigns to f the name Constitution. That which something has in it thus divides itself and is from this side c an external determinate being but does not belong to the something’s in-itself b and the implicit determinateness is thus a constitution [Beschaffenheit]. Constituted in this or that way, something is involved in external influences and relationships. This external connection on which the constitution depends, and the circumstances of being determined by an other, appears as something contingent. But it is the quality of something to be open to external influences and to have a constitution.

‘Constituted in this or that way, the something is caught up in external influences and in external relationships. This external connection on which the constitution depends, and the being determined through an other, appear as something accidental. But it is the quality of the something to be given over to this externality and to have a constitution’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Constitution, then, is a foreign imposition representing the despotism of the Understanding, of external reflection. In the diagram Constitution the Understanding proposes that the universe is constituted, mediated by an external reflection that operates upon immanent material, and structurally this move resembles that which can be seen in Something and an Other, in it, the Understanding seizes upon d, e, f, the mediated portion of the middle term and this will prove to be the quintessential move of the Understanding across the three sections of Finitude. In effect the Understanding focuses upon the negative side of determinate Being and this fits nicely with the silent fourth for Constitution is the confession that Being cannot constitute itself, it is in need of the silent fourth to complete it.


The negative part of Something is isolated in Constitution and thus negativity has shuffled from the right side of the diagram over to the left and such is the germination and tender beginning from which will grow the self-destruction of the ‘Doctrine of Being’. This transition is challenged by Charles Taylor, (1931 — ), who insists that the brief mortality of things may cohere with our experience but there is no logical requirement for it. In effect, Taylor is levelling the accusation against Hegel of committing the inductive fallacy, drawing universals from experience, a faulty generalization and any ground in experience puts pay to Hegel’s assertion that he has generated a Logic. It is Taylor, however, not Hegel, who is guilty of appeal to experience. Taylor has experienced that some things (for the moment) endure. On this basis, he is unwilling to accept the premise that Being logically cannot sustain itself. It displays an excessive tenderness for the world to remove contradiction from it:

‘It is an excessive tenderness for the world to keep contradiction away from it, to transfer it to spirit instead, to reason, and to leave it there unresolved. In fact, spirit is the one which is strong enough that it can endure contradiction, but it is spirit again which knows how to resolve it. But nowhere does the so-called world — call it the objective, real world, or, in the manner of transcendental idealism, subjective intuition and sense content determined by the category of the understanding — nowhere, however you call it, does it escape contradiction; but it is not capable of enduring it and for that reason it is left to the mercy of the coming and ceasing to be’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Taylor is guilty of just such a tenderness in his attack upon Constitution. Inwood for similar reasons refused to countenance that contradictions are in things rather than simply in our minds. A comment towards the end of the Logic is relevant here:

‘But formal thinking makes identity its law, lets the contradictory content that it has before it fall into the sphere of representation, in space and time, where the contradictory is held in external moments, next to and following each other, parading before consciousness without reciprocal contact. The firm principle that formal thinking lays down for itself here is that contradiction cannot be thought. But in fact the thought of contradiction is the essential moment of the concept. Formal thought does in fact think it, only it at once looks away from it and stating its principle it only passes over from it into abstract negation’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Formal thinking makes identity its law, and allows the contradictory content before it to sink into the sphere of ordinary conception, into space and time, in which the contradictories are held asunder in juxtaposition and temporal succession which is to say the endurance of things is just a trick that time and space play upon us while Logic is timeless and spaceless and quite immune from this trick and Taylor’s predilection for subsistence will be satisfied by the Logic for self-subsistence is the emblem of True Infinity and the True Infinite ceases to be but remains what it is and further down the line in the ‘Doctrine of Essence’ enduring things will appear but at this stage of the Logic things turn out to be contradictory, negative unities of multiple properties, and the very negativity that Taylor is against transpires to be the rescuer of things but self-subsistence is too advanced a notion for the evanescent ‘Doctrine of Quality; and has to await upon the arrival of essential Existence.

Nor is there anything amiss with Hegel’s methodology in Constitution Hegel’s technique is to focus the Understanding’s predatory eye upon the middle term and Taylor himself concedes that d, e, f, of Determination of the In-itself that which is negative compared to g is a constituent part of any Determination. What is to prevent the Understanding from regarding d, e, f, as such? Were it to do so and were the logic of the negativity to develop within the Determination then the Logic proceeds along its necessitated way and Hegel’s methodology is just fine nor should we accept that Hegel is covertly relying upon the experience of things not enduring, on the contrary it is Taylor who insists that the Understanding must not make the move of Constitution in case it troubles one’s experience of the persistence of some things. And furthermore the move immediately following in Constitution and Determination, see below, makes Taylor’s point for him in that Being does not go out of existence just because the negativity of Constitution protrudes itself into Being. Determinations do survive the isolation of negative activity, indeed subject to the law of sublation they are annihilated and preserved. Taylor makes an further criticism of Constitution and that is Constitution as a positivization of b, c in Being-for-Other and Being-in-itself carries two senses. Constitution is negation as contrastive borderland and is also negation as interactive influence or causal pressure which may well annihilate Something. Of Constitution Taylor writes:

‘This argument arouses our suspicion, and rightly so. For it trades on a number of confusions. First the two senses of negation, the contrastive and interactive are elided in the term frontier (Grenze). Something only has determinate being through its contrastive frontier with others. Its frontier is in this sense constitutive of it. ‘Something [Etwas] is only what it is in its frontier and through its frontier’. But this frontier is common with the other contrasted properties. It also defines and is constitutive of them. Hence in containing it each contains what negates it as well as what essentially constitutes it. If we now shift to the [interactive] sense of frontier … we can give this ‘negation’ a concrete as well as just a contrastive logical sense, and it looks as though each entity essentially contains the seeds of its own destruction. But of course however much we may be tempted to speak of something containing its negation in the contrastive sense, when we move to the frontier at which things ‘negate’ each other by interaction, it is just false to say that each contains its own negation. Quite the contrary, to the extent that they maintain themselves, they hold their “negations” off. If they fail to do so, of course, they go under, but they are not essentially determined to do so by the very way in which they are defined’.

- Charles Taylor, ‘Hegel’

Note: ‘Something [Etwas] is only what it is in its frontier and through its frontier’. Or as it is expressed in the translation I use:

‘In being-there negation is still immediately identical with being, and this negation is what we call ‘limit’. Something only is what it is within its limit and by virtue of its limit. We cannot regard limit, therefore, as merely external to being there; on the contrary, limit totally permeates everything that is there. The interpretation of limit as a merely external determination of being-there is based on a confusion of quantitative with qualitative limit. Here we are dealing first with qualitative limit. When we are considering a piece of land three acres in area, for example, that is its quantitative limit. But, in addition, this piece of land is also a meadow and not a wood or a pond, and this is its qualitative limit.-Humans who want to be actual must be there, and to this end they must limit themselves. Those who are too fastidious toward the finite achieve nothing real at all, but remain in the realm of the abstract and peter out’.

- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’

To put it another way things may change because of outside pressure but they do not necessarily change because of internal pressure. Hegel is apparently conflating these two senses of Limitation and Taylor implies that Hegel was mistaken to locate Constitution at the centre of Determination and it should have been left on the outside and Taylor dismisses the Logic on the basis of this very issue. Taylor concludes his line of inquiry by judging that Hegel’s doctrine of the immanent self-erasure of being is ‘not established by a strict proof’ but in using Something/Other and Constitution to introduce negativity into the centre of Being Hegel moves forward logically in the sense that in Determinate Being the Understanding exhausted the possibilities of seizing upon the immediacy to be found in Becoming (see previous articles). Now it pursues the study of mediation, which brings negativity into being and Negativity is now the in-itself of Being which when it becomes for itself marks the end of Finite Being, a strict proof and a rebuff to Taylor’s endeavours to put a spanner in the works of the Hegelian enterprise.

Which brings us to the matter of Determination. Hegel contends that if Something alters the alteration occurs within its Constitution and yet confronted by alteration Something preserves itself and alteration is only a surface change in Something for Constitutional change does not run so deep and Something in accordance with its determination is indifferent to its Constitution:

‘Determination and constitution are thus distinct from each other; something, according to its determination, is indifferent to its constitution. But that which the something has in it is the middle term of this syllogism connecting the two, determination and constitution. Or, rather, the being-in-the-something showed itself to fall apart into these two extremes. The simple middle term is determinateness as such; its identity belongs to determination just as well as to constitution. But determination passes over into constitution on its own, and constitution into determination. This is implied in what has been said’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Here Hegel agrees with Determination Kant that only the permanent is changed. ‘This remaining-in-conformity-with expresses itself in the being of something … as the ‘beginnings’ of a power over and against becoming- other, and thus reveal [Constitution] to be powerlessness’, explains Herbert Marcuse, (1898–1979). Constitution, a, represents only the mediated parts of Determination d, e, f and the immediate version of Determination g is immune to Constitution. It is Constitution’s negation and therefore Hegel opposes unconstituted Determination in its negative version, f, to Constitution. In Constitution and Determination the extremes of the syllogism behave in their customary manner in that Determination spontaneously passes over into constitution, and the latter into the former. This is the chiasmic exchange of properties represented in Becoming. Hegel describes this connection between Constitution and the negative version of Determination thusly:

‘The connection, upon closer consideration, is this: in so far as that which something is in itself is also in it, the something is affected with being-for-other; determination is therefore open, as such, to the relation with other. Determinateness is at the same time moment, but it contains at the same time the qualitative distinction of being different from being-in-itself, of being the negative of the something, another existence. This determinateness which thus holds the other in itself, united with the being-in-itself, introduces otherness in the latter or in determination, and determination is thereby reduced to constitution. –’

- ‘The Science of Logic’

In so far as that which something is in itself is also present in it, it is burdened with being-for-other.” (124) This was already true in Being-for-Other and Being-in-itself where b was the pair of Being-for-Other and Being-in-itself.

Constitution and Determination

Hence Being-for-Other was a constituent part of Determination in its positive sense as displayed in Determination of the In-itself. Hence the determination is as such open to relationship to other and this openness justifies the negative version of Determination as the right-inclining term in Constitution and Determination. In this position it is Being-for-other to Constitution. First, Determination in Determination of the In-itself was reduced to constitution, a, second Determination was reduced to c in Constitution and Determination.

‘Conversely, the being-for-other, isolated as constitution and posited on its own, is in it the same as what the other as such is, the other in it, that is, the other of itself; but it consequently is self-referring existence, thus being-in-itself with a determinateness, therefore determination. — Consequently, inasmuch as the two are also to be held apart, constitution, which appears to be grounded in something external, in an other in general, also depends on determination, and the determining from outside is at the same time determined by the something’s own immanent determination. And further, constitution belongs to that which something is in itself: something alters along with its constitution’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Conversely, being-for-other isolated as constitution, a, and posited by itself, is in its own self the same as the other b in its own self and Constitution is thereby a self-related determinate Being, a, but it also has Being-in-itself, b, with a determinateness, and therefore a determination. Constitution is taken immediately, a, but is also a determinateness, a, b, Constitution and Determination displays Constitution and Determination as mutually dependent. Constitution imposes Determination from the outside but it is simultaneously on the inside and it has its effect only because it is the in itself of Determination, b. Constitution, originally negative, is now on the side of Being in Limit Determination as Such, see below.

‘This altering of something is no longer the first alteration of something merely in accordance with its being-for-other. The first was an alteration only implicitly present, one that belonged to the inner concept; now the alteration is also posited in the something. — The something itself is further determined, and negation is posited as immanent to it, as its developed being-in-itself’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

That which alters is now posited in the something. Constitution stands for change, which becomes the inherent dynamic of the Something and rhe Something now changes itself as Burbidge characterises it. With Constitution being-within-self includes the negation within it, b, by means of which alone it now has its affirmative determinate being:

‘Something behaves in this way in relation to the other through itself; since otherness is posited in it as its own moment, its in-itselfness holds negation in itself, and it now has its affirmative existence through its intermediary alone. But the other is also qualitatively distinguished from this affirmative existence and is thus posited outside the something’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

This means that being-within-self has become negation of its other and the non-being of otherness:

‘The negation of its other is only the quality of the something, for it is in this sublation of its other that it is something. The other, for its part, truly confronts an existence only with this sublation; it confronts the first something only externally, or, since the two are in fact inherently joined together, that is, according to their concept, their connectedness consists in this, that existence has passed over into otherness, something into other; that something is just as much an other as the other is’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

And now we have a development that will culminate in the demise of the Finite. Positive Being is now a negative activity, the ceasing of an other in it:

‘Now in so far as the in-itselfness is the non-being of the otherness that is contained in it but is at the same time also distinct as existent, something is itself negation, the ceasing to be of an other in it; it is posited as behaving negatively in relation to the other and in so doing preserving itself. This other, the in-itselfness of the something as negation of the negation, is the something’s being-in-itself, and this sublation is as simple negation at the same time in it, namely, as its negation of the other something external to it. It is one determinateness of the two somethings that, on the one hand, as negation of the negation, is identical with the in-itselfness of the somethings, and also, on the other hand, since these negations are to each other as other somethings, joins them together of their own accord and, since each negation negates the other, equally separates them. This determinateness is limit’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Coming-to-be is now Ceasing-to-be which becomes the theme of Being’s discourse which has brought us now to Limit. In Constitution and Determination Constitution and Determination share a common element, b, which Limit which becomes Determinateness as Such, in Limit Determination as Such. This Hegel renames Limit (Grenze) where the thing stops, or what the thing is not. In Limit the non-being-for-other becomes prominent:

‘Being-for-other is indeterminate, affirmative association of something with its other; in limit the non-being-for-other is emphasized, the qualitative negation of the other, which is thereby kept out of the something that is reflected into itself. We must see the development of this concept — a development that will rather look like confusion and contradiction. Contradiction immediately raises its head because limit, as an internally reflected negation of something, ideally holds in it the moments of something and other, and these, as distinct moments, are at the same time posited in the sphere of existence as really, qualitatively, distinct’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

The Other d, f, is kept apart from Something d, e, and in the limit something limits its other:

‘Something is therefore immediate, self-referring existence and at first it has a limit with respect to an other; limit is the non-being of the other, not of the something itself; in limit, something marks the boundary of its other. — But other is itself a something in general. The limit that something has with respect to an other is, therefore, also the limit of the other as a something; it is the limit of this something in virtue of which the something holds the first something as its other away from itself, or is a non-being of that something’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

But the Other d, f, is likewise a Something, it claims Limit as much as the affirmative Something does. Limit, d, is a somewhat like the border between England and Scotland whereby the border is a line but were the line to belong to England or Scotland is undecidable indeed in virtue of a line is not spatial it is a non-entity so far as spatial England and Scotland have an interest in the matter.

‘Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still’, 1848, John Martin. ‘Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day’. — ‘Joshua’, 10: 12–13

Limit Determination as Such

As it happens Limit is the negative unity between the two Beings, as d in Limit Determination as Such displays. Limit is internal to Determinateness:

‘The being that is kept firmly distinct from the determinacy, being-in-itself, would be only the empty abstraction of being. In being-there the determinacy is one with being and is at the same time posited as negation; this determinacy is limit, restriction. Thus, otherness is not something indifferent outside it, but its own moment. In virtue of its quality, something is first finite and secondly alterable, so that the finitude and alterability belong to its being’.

- ‘The Encycopedia Logic’

We cannot regard the limit as only external to Being which is then and there. It rather goes through and through the whole of such existence. Limit implies the negativity of Being a negativity that underwrites the independence of the thing from outside oppression. But this can be turned around. Limit also prevents the thing from truly being what it is. Slavoj Žižek, (1949 -), exploits this aspect of Limit and uses it to explain the Lacanian idea of extimacy. (Jacques Marie Émile Lacan, (1901–1981), extimacy: a precise joining of ex-teriority with in-timacy). Limit implies there is a nothingness in the soul of the subject which it can never overcome in order to be truly an object. This nothingness is the subject’s ‘internal limit — that is, the bar which itself prevents the subject’s full realization’, explains Žižek.

Because Limit is the non-being of the other, Something is through its limit. It is true that something, in limiting the other, is subjected to being limited itself; but at the same time its limit is, as the ceasing of the other in it, itself only the being of the something. Limit is nothing else but a beyond. In Limit Determination as Such this beyond is g hence the Somethings d, e, f have their Determinate Being in part beyond their limit and further Limit has non-Being in the Somethings. The Somethings are thus different from their Limit, an idea illustrated by some simple geometric terms:

‘It is in accordance with this difference of the something from its limit that the line appears as line outside its limit, the point; the plane as plane outside the line; the solid as solid only outside its limiting plane. — This is the aspect of limit that first occurs to figurative representation (the self-external-being of the concept) and is also most commonly assumed in the context of spatial objects’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

The line appears as line only outside its limit, the point, the plane as plane outside the line, the solid as solid only outside its limiting surface. For instance if we take line XY comprised of infinitely numerous points X and Y are the limits of this line and the line only appears outside X and outside Y and so it is with the plane. Imagine a square enclosed by four lines, this plane exists only outside the four lines. A thing exists only outside its limit, and this outside constitutes the stuff or being of Limit. As a matter of fact Hegel states that Limit implies an unlimited something. And yet this beyond of the limit, the unlimited something, is a determinate Being indistinguishable from its Other — d, e = d, f, Limit, a middle term, is both the unity and distinguishedness of the two Somethings for in the absence of Limit the two Somethings are the same. Something owes its determinate Being to Limit yet Limit and determinate Being are each the negative of the other and what this means is that Something d, e, expels itself d from itself and banishes this material to Limit g. The notion of the universal Something expelling its being to a beyond is portentous for Hegel’s fully worked out theory for it marks the end of reality and the birth of ideality and ceasing-to-be takes centre stage in the Hegelian system.

Which brings us to Contradiction. After introducing Limit Hegel invokes the concept of Contradiction a term officially introduced in the ‘Doctrine of Essence’. Limit is in a condition of unrest in the same manner as Becoming was and Unrest — Contradiction — is that which impels Something to surpass its Limit. A geometric point which is Limit to the line goes outside itself and becomes the line an unlimited progression of points and the Limit of the plane is the line a plane is nothing but an unlimited array of lines. Hegel thus defines the line as the movement of the point and the plane is the movement of the line. As Limit to the line the point is the beginning of the line which spontaneously repels itself from itself to create the line yet in spatial or linear terms there is no such thing as a point, line or plane taken as limit to line, plane, or solid.

‘Inasmuch as the limit is not abstract negation, but is rather in this existence, inasmuch as it is spatial determinateness, the point is spatial, is the contradiction of abstract negation and continuity and is, for that reason, the transition as it occurs and has already occurred into the line, and so forth. And so there is no point, just as there is no line or plane’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

As Limit, they exist outside the line or the plane or the solid. Limit is a determinate Being but also a nothing and as such it somewhat resembles Becoming which begins from Nothing and becomes a determinate Being. A question then arises as to whether or not it is true that the point spontaneously produces the line for perhaps we can ignore the line and hold the point fixed and isolated, but if the point is Limit it must limit something just as previously the Other had to be Other to something, Something must be beyond Limit, the very notion of Limit compels a transcending and so the geometric point upon being conceived as Limit necessarily produces the line spontaneously.

Which brings us back to the matter of Finitude, the middle section of the chapter, in determinate Being the first third of the chapter a circle was made but the work was all done to the left of the diagram and the initial move of the Understanding was g — a and in Finitude the move has been d, e, f — a, which isolates mediation as such. Attention has been paid to the right side of the diagram, two more mediated turns have to be undertaken before moving on to Infinity. Limit transcends itself necessarily. Something with its immanent limit through which it is directed and forced out of and beyond itself, is the finite:

‘The something, posited with its immanent limit as the contradiction of itself by virtue of which it is directed and driven out and beyond itself, is the finite’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

As Finite Something has Being that is determined but limited. Its quality is its limit, and, burdened with this, it remains an affirmative, stable being.

‘Existence is determinate. Something has a quality, and in this quality it is not only determined but delimited; its quality is its limit and, affected by it, something remains affirmative, quiescent existence. But, so developed that the opposition of its existence and of the negation as the limit immanent to this existence is the very in-itselfness of the something, and this is thus only becoming in it, this negation constitutes the finitude of the something’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Limit ‘prevents the introduction of changes that would destroy its specific qualities and would make it into something else’ explains Burbidge. But Limit as negative to Something must develop its negativity a negativity that is now the being-within-self, d, of Something. This development is ceasing-to-be the Something’s Finitude:

‘When we say of things that they are finite, we understand by this that they not only have a determinateness, that their quality is not only reality and existent determination, that they are not merely limited and as such still have existence outside their limit, but rather that non-being constitutes their nature, their being. Finite things are, but in their reference to themselves they refer to themselves negatively — in this very self-reference they propel themselves beyond themselves, beyond their being. They are, but the truth of this being is (as in Latin) their finis, their end. The finite does not just alter, as the something in general does, but perishes, and its perishing is not just a mere possibility, as if it might be without perishing. Rather, the being as such of finite things is to have the germ of this transgression in their in-itselfness: the hour of their birth is the hour of their death’.

- ‘The Science of Logic’

Notes: ‘ . . . (as in Latin) their finis . . .’ the translator’s gloss, the Latin root of finite and finitude is finis, that is, end.This connection between finite and end is clear in the German, endlich, Endlichkeit, Ende, and Hegel plays on it a wordplay that in English implicates the Latin word.

transgression: Vergehen has the meaning of both offence as in transgression and passage of time.

When we say of things that they are finite, we understand thereby that finite things are not merely limited as such they still have determinate being outside their limit but that non-Being constitutes their Being. Finite things send themselves away beyond themselves, beyond their being. They are, but the truth of this being is their end. The finite not only alters, like something in general, but ceases to be and its ceasing to be is not merely a possibility but the being as such of finite things is to have the germ of decease as their being-within-self: the hour of their birth is the hour of their death. We think of ourselves as finite beings. We know that we shall die. So death is already embedded within us. Death is our Being-in-itself. We only await our Being-in-itself to posit itself as actual. At that point life ends, and we shuffle off this mortal coil to encounter what dreams may come. For God, there is no time, birth is simultaneously death. God sees our lives as the constant modulation of Being into Nothing. To God, we are born and we die in the very same hour. Like Shakespeare, Hegel accords us an hour to strut and fret upon the stage. To God this hour is nothing at all. ‘For the first time the concept of finitude is removed from the theological tradition and placed on the ground of pure philosophical ontology … From this point on, Hegel opens the wholly new dimension of the universal historicity of beings and clears the way for understanding the essence of the historical’, contends Marcuse, ‘a preliminary enunciation of the decisive passages in which Marx later revolutionized Western thought’.

‘But a closer look shows that the finite is not restricted merely from the outside; rather, it sublates itself by virtue of its own nature, and passes over, of itself, into its opposite. Thus we say, for instance, that man is mortal; and we regard dying as having its ground only in external circumstances. In this way of looking at things, a man has two specific properties, namely, he is alive and also mortal. But the proper interpretation is that life as such bears the germ of death within itself, and that the finite sublates itself because it contradicts itself inwardly’.

- ‘The Encyclopedia Logic’

We say that the human being is mortal and seem to think that the ground of his or her death is in external circumstances only so that if this way of looking were correct, the human being would have two special properties, vitality and also mortality but the true view of the matter is that life as life involves the germ of death and that the finite being radically self-contradictory involves its own self-suppression. Although according to Nancy : ‘the negation of the given or of Being-in-itself, in other words, its entry into becoming, into manifestation and desires, goes toward nothing other than freedom’. Being-in-itself is negation as such and is the fate of any given.

‘Macbeth’, 1820, John Martin.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

— William Shakespeare, (1564–1616), ‘Macbeth’, Act 5, Scene 5

Which brings us to the immediacy of Finitude. The thought of Finitude brings sadness. There is no longer left to things an affirmative being distinct from their destiny to perish:

‘The thought of the finitude of things brings this mournful note with it because finitude is qualitative negation driven to the extreme, and in the simplicity of such a determination there is no longer left to things an affirmative being distinct from their determination as things destined to ruin. Because of this qualitative simplicity of negation that has returned to the abstract opposition of nothing and perishing to being, finitude is the most obstinate of the categories of the understanding; negation in general, constitution, limit, are compatible with their other, with existence; even the abstract nothing, by itself, is given up as an abstraction; but finitude is negation fixed in itself and, as such, stands in stark contrast to its affirmative. The finite thus does indeed let itself be submitted to flux; this is precisely what it is, that it should come to an end, and this end is its only determination. Its refusal is rather to let itself be brought affirmatively to its affirmative, the infinite, to be associated with it; it is therefore inseparably posited with its nothing, and thereby cut off from any reconciliation with its other, the affirmative. The determination of finite things does not go past their end. The understanding persists in this sorrow of finitude, for it makes non-being the determination of things and, at the same time, this non-being imperishable and absolute. Their transitoriness would only pass away in their other, in the affirmative; their finitude would then be severed from them; but this finitude is their unalterable quality, that is, their quality which does not pass over into their other, that is, not into the affirmative; and so finitude is eternal’.

- The Science of Logic’

The other negatives, Negation, Constitution, Limit reconcile themselves with their Other but Finitude is negation fixed in itself, and it therefore stands in abrupt contrast to its affirmative. Yet Finitude is likewise an affirmative thing. The understanding persists in this sadness of Finitude by making non-Being the determination of things and at the same time making it imperishable and absolute. In Finitude, see below, d, e, f represents the beyond of Limit, its non-Being. The Understanding makes this into a and Finitude or death is eternal and fixed and for this reason Finitude is the most stubborn category of the understanding. But dialectical Reason sounds a more optimistic note:

‘This is a very important consideration. But that the finite is absolute is certainly not a standpoint that any philosophy or outlook, or the understanding, would want to endorse. The opposite is rather expressly present in the assertion of finitude: the finite is the restricted, the perishable, the finite is only the finite, not the imperishable; all this is immediately part and parcel of its determination and expression. But all depends on whether in one’s view of finitude its being is insisted on, and the transitoriness thus persists, or whether the transitoriness and the perishing perish. The fact is that this perishing of the perishing does not happen on precisely the view that would make the perishing the final end of the finite’.

Certainly no philosophy or opinion, or understanding will let itself be tied to the standpoint that the Finite is Absolute the very opposite is expressly present in the assertion of the Finite, the Finite is limited, transitory, the stance of Finitude rebounds upon as for under the laws of sublation Finitude itself ceases to be.


‘The Last Man’, 1849, John Martin

‘There is a solitude of space’

by Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

There is a solitude of space,

A solitude of sea,

A solitude of death, but these

Society shall be,

Compared with that profounder site,

That polar privacy,

A Soul admitted to Itself;

Finite Infinite

Add alt text

Why does the sun go on shining?

Why does the sea rush to shore?

Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?

’Cause you don’t love me any more

Why do the birds go on singing?

Why do the stars glow above?

Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?

It ended when I lost your love

I wake-up in the morning, and I wonder

Why everything’s the same as it was

I can’t understand, no, I can’t understand

How life goes on the way it does

Why does my heart go on beating?

Why do these eyes of mine cry?

Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?

It ended when you said, ‘Good-bye’

Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm

(Why do these eyes of mine cry?)

Mmm, mmm, mmm

Don’t they know it’s the end of the world?

It ended when you said, ‘Good-bye’.

Coming up next:

Towards Infinity

To be continued …



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.