27 October 2011

Subject, Object and Idea


CU Course on Hegel, Part 8

Subject, Object and Idea

Our course on Hegel is in ten parts. It is not exhaustive. It is designed, like all the Communist University Courses, to stimulate dialogue, in the belief that the kind of learning that we seek is the social and political kind of learning that happens in groups. This part will contain only one item, which is the eighth of Andy Blunden’s ten 2007 lectures on Hegel's Logic. It contains several quotations from Hegel, and there will be more in this post, below. We are not abandoning the main CU principle of relying on original writing and (as a rule) avoiding secondary commentators.

Hegel is indispensible because, among other things:

  • Without knowledge of the historical Hegel and Hegelianism, it appears as if Marx and Engels came from nowhere, whereas the history of ideas is continuous, and dialectical
  • Without knowledge of Hegel’s way of thinking, and in particular his Logic, some of Marx, especially parts of Capital, appears obscure, incomprehensible or even weak and “illogical”
  • Modern philosophy all descends from Hegel or from reactions to Hegel; it is incomprehensible without Hegel (i.e. not just Marx, but all of Hegel’s successors)
  • The revolutionary battle must be won in philosophy as much as anywhere else, if not more so
  • Hegel’s is the philosophy that we need for our revolutionary practice

Hegel is difficult for us because:

  • His work appears at first sight to be voluminous, self-contradictory and obscure
  • The body of scholars that maintain Hegel’s position in public thought is too small, and conflicted
  • Hegel offers a real transformation, which is in itself a difficult thing to accept and to internalise

The last line of Andy Blunden’s lecture Subject, Object and Idea (download linked below) contains the following:

“No-one else has produced anything that can rival [Hegel’s] Logic; and he left no room for imitators.”

And the first line of his second-last section of this lecture, “Hegel’s critique of the individual/society dichotomy” Andy Blunden writes:

“So what we have seen is that Hegel presented a critique of all aspects of social life by an exposition of the logic of formations of consciousness, which does not take the individual person as its unit of analysis but rather a concept. A concept is understood, not as some extramundane entity but a practical relation among people mediated by ‘thought objects’, i.e., artefacts.”

Quite so. Hegel presented a critique of social life. All of Hegel’s “Beings”, “Essences”, “Notions” et cetera, all the way up to and including “The Idea” and “The Spirit”, are ways of understanding people as social creatures (or “political animals” as Aristotle called them).

This is from the “Shorter Logic”:

“The Idea is truth in itself and for itself - the absolute unity of the notion and objectivity. Its ‘ideal’ content is nothing but the notion in its detailed terms: its ‘real’ content is only the exhibition which the notion gives itself in the form of external existence, while yet, by enclosing this shape in its ideality, it keeps it in its power, and so keeps itself in it. The Idea is the Truth: for Truth is the correspondence of objectivity with the notion - not of course the correspondence of external things with my conceptions, for these are only correct conceptions held by me, the individual person. In the idea we have nothing to do with the individual, nor with figurate conceptions, nor with external things. And yet, again, everything actual, in so far as it is true, is the Idea, and has its truth by and in virtue of the Idea alone. Every individual being is some one aspect of the Idea: for which, therefore, yet other actualities are needed, which in their turn appear to have a self-subsistence of their own. It is only in them altogether and in their relation that the notion is realised.

“The individual by itself does not correspond to its notion. It is this limitation of its existence which constitutes the finitude and the ruin of the individual.” (Shorter Logic, §213)

Not only does Hegel produce a thorough working-out of the relation of the individual to society, but he also unifies the Subject-Object dichotomy with the rest of the social logic. Without Hegel such unification would be impossible, and we would be left with nothing but nonsense like this cartoon:

To conclude this opening to the discussion, let us return to something we have quoted before. It is from an afterword of Karl Marx’s concerning the very work “Capital” that Lenin says cannot be understood without Hegel’s “Logic”:

“My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of “the Idea,” he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of “the Idea.” With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.

“The mystifying side of Hegelian dialectic I criticised nearly thirty years ago [but although] I openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker… with him [dialectic] is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.”

The great Marx was arguing against Right Hegelians and anti-Hegelians at that stage, and in defence of Hegel. Unfortunately this saying of Marx is sometimes taken to mean that Marx had somehow “refuted” Hegel, demolished him and sent him into the dustbin of history, whereas the opposite is the case. Marx “openly avowed [himself] the pupil of that mighty thinker”, and certainly followed Hegel in believing that such “refutations” do not happen. In the Marxian as much as in the Hegelian world, the past is contained in the present, and is not lost.

Marx’s remark could lead to another error. It is clear that Marx is not saying here that he, Marx, stood Hegel on his head. He says that Hegel stood dialectic on its head. In fact, as we have seen, Hegel’s method involves constant reversals and Marx follows Hegel in that respect. So Marx might have better confined himself to saying that Hegel stood dialectic on its head once too often. We cannot say that all the reversals must be taken out of Hegel because it is largely in this way of reversals that Hegel is able to achieve the unprecedented transformations that he does undoubtedly achieve; and likewise with Marx himself. What we can say is that sometimes Hegel makes mistakes and offers a reversal that we may reject. But even then we should not be too hasty. Andy Blunden says:

“We should take [Hegel] at his word when he says that Spirit is the nature of human beings en masse. All human communities construct their social environment, both in the sense of physically constructing the artefacts which they use in the collaborating together, and in the sense that, in the social world at least, things are what they are only because they are so construed. The idea of spirit needs to be taken seriously. It may seem odd to say, as Hegel does, that everything is thought, but it is no more viable to say that everything is matter, and if you want to use a dichotomy of thought and matter instead, things get even worse.”

Please download and read this text via the link:

21 October 2011

The Subject and the Syllogism


CU Course on Hegel, Part 7a


The Subject and the Syllogism

“The Notion is the principle of freedom, the power of substance self-realised. It is a systematic whole, in which each of its constituent functions is the very total which the notion is, and is put as indissolubly one with it. Thus in its self-identity it has original and complete determinateness.

“The onward movement of the notion is no longer either a transition into, or a reflection on something else, but Development. For in the notion, the elements distinguished are without more ado at the same time declared to be identical with one another and with the whole, and the specific character of each is a free being of the whole notion.” (The Shorter Logic, The Notion §160-1)

Lenin in “The State and Revolution” writes about the true theory of development. He is referring to the dialectical logic of Hegel. This is not the theory of “service delivery”, or of the “developmental state”. It is the theory of how humans, taken all together, became what they now are, and how they continue to develop as humanity as a whole, into the future.

What are we getting from our studies of Hegel? One thing we are getting is a theory of development that can help us to make sense of “developmental” state, which is otherwise little more than a “buzz word” in our times.

So, for example, in the quotation above we may substitute the word “nation” for the word “notion”, and it makes sense, and is compatible with Karl Marx and Frederick Engels’ statement in the Communist Manifesto that “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”.

We have also noted that Karl Marx used Hegel’s ways and means to work out what became “Capital”, the most influential book in history.

We have got pointers or signposts which will help us as we continue to read, study and discuss.

Do we all need to fully master Hegel at once? No, but as a Party we do need a significant number of the communists to have mastered Hegel. The knowledge of Hegel needs to be kept alive by a virtual collective of communist scholars.

The rest of us need to be constantly moving towards a better understanding of Hegel. We need at least to have an appreciation of why we have to have some understanding of Hegel if we are properly to understand Marx; and in this course we have probably achieved that much, at least, by now. We need to appreciate that for the Party, Hegel is indispensible, and not a disposable option. That is why this ten-part course on Hegel is one of the twelve Communist University Generic Courses and must remain so.

The Subject

The downloadable study text for this instalment (see below) is Andy Blunden’s seventh lecture, on The Subject in Hegel’s Logic.

What is “The Subject”? In philosophy in general, the fundamental question is the relationship between human Subject and the material Objective universe. Simply put, life is a dialectical unity-and-struggle-of-opposites between Subject and Object, where the one cannot exist without the other. Paulo Freire is eloquent about this, notably at the end of Chapter One of “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” where he writes, among other things:

“A revolutionary leadership must accordingly practice co-intentional education. Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of re-creating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves as its permanent re-creators. In this way, the presence of the oppressed in the struggle for their liberation will be what it should be: not pseudo-participation, but committed involvement.”

The first page of Andy Blunden’s lecture gives depth to this basic understanding of The Subject and then introduces a Hegelian elaboration of The Subject. This may typify the difficulty of Hegel: Just when you thought that you had secured yourself to a firm philosophical rock, Hegel seems to be taking a hammer to it and setting you adrift again. Please do not fear: nothing is going to be lost.

Nor are we in the realm of mysteries. On the contrary, what we find is that Hegel is providing ways to think about quite familiar things, which may not have been in the realm of philosophy before, like The Judgement of Solomon, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and we can add, the South African Freedom Charter. Hegel is making a theory of how these determined movements forward can and do, in Hegel’s words, “emerge out of the throng of disputation”.

Hegelian philosophy, as obscure as it may seem, turns out to be the only philosophy that can help us with the actual political life we lead.

Almost at the end of this lecture Andy Blunden says:

“…the notions, judgments and syllogisms of the section on Subjectivity, render themselves as typical of the forms of consciousness encountered within such formal organisations. Lenin’s insistence in 1901 that to be a member of the Party an individual had to participate in one of the Party’s branches or activities is rational in this light.” (Read it! This is one occasion when the introduction will not suffice without the reading of the actual text.)

Earlier, Andy had written:

“[Hegel’s] Doctrine of the Notion is made up of Subject, Object and Idea. The Idea is the unity of Subject and Object, the process in which the objectification or institutionalization of the Subject continues to drive the development of the active and living subject. This development of the Subject itself, the inner development of the subject which continues within and alongside its objectification, has the form of the movement towards an all-round developed relation between individual, universal and particular.”

So we can note that there is a connection between Notion, Subject and Object, and then that the development of the Subject involves the individual, universal and particular, which three are soon reduced to “I”, “U” and “P”; and all this moves towards an articulation of socio-political behaviour which is practically useful to the point of being indispensible.


Andy Blunden goes into the question of Hegel’s specific “syllogisms” very carefully, so we can simply recommend that reading. But what is a “syllogism” as such? And what is different about Hegel’s syllogisms, as compared to other ones?

One difference is that Hegel’s syllogisms are all made up of one each of “I”, “U” and “P”; Individual, Universal and Particular. Andy Blunden shows very well what that means.

But syllogisms in general are also typically like the “Socrates” syllogism ("All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.") - a tight, undoubtedly true series of two premises and a conclusion, where because the premises are true, therefore the conclusion must also be true.

There are other syllogisms where the conclusion does not necessarily fully “follow” from the premises. Such a syllogism may appear to be a “non sequitur” (Latin for “does not follow”), or at least as a possible “non sequitur”. Andy Blunden gives several examples of such “deficient” syllogisms in his lecture.

Are such half-true syllogisms any use? Yes! Hegel has found a way to make use of them, and this way of Hegel’s works because of the distinction between Individual, Universal and Particular.

It is a bit like “approximation” in mathematics. When the student first comes across it, approximation appears to violate and betray everything that was hitherto taught about truth and certainty. But when approximation is done scientifically it creates a degree of certainty out of uncertainty that cannot be got in any other way.

So it is with Hegel’s syllogisms.

We are now getting very close to the precise reference for Lenin’s remark that: “It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic.” It should not be too difficult to find in Marx’s Capital a lot of syllogisms of the Hegel type, which are only understandable in the Hegel way.

Please download and read this text via the link:

Further reading:

20 October 2011

The Philosophy of Right


CU Course on Hegel, Part 7

The Philosophy of Right

In the second paragraph of his Preface to the Philosophy of Right (download linked below) Hegel wrote: “A compendium proper, like a science, has its subject-matter accurately laid out … its chief task is to arrange the essential phases of its material.”

This much can apply to our “Communist University”, in relation to this course on Hegel, and to the other 11 courses (see above for the full “compendium”).

But Hegel wants to emphasise where his own compendium becomes the exception to the general rule, so in the next paragraph he says:

“This treatise differs from the ordinary compendium mainly in its method of procedure. It must be understood at the outset that the philosophic way of advancing from one matter to another, the general speculative method, which is the only kind of scientific proof available in philosophy, is essentially different from every other… True, the logical rules, such as those of definition, classification, and inference are now generally recognised to be inadequate for speculative science. Perhaps it is nearer the mark to say that the inadequacy of the rules has been felt rather than recognised, because they have been counted as mere fetters, and thrown aside to make room for free speech from the heart, fancy and random intuition… In my Science of Logic I have developed the nature of speculative science in detail.”

And Hegel says that he is now going to apply this new kind of Logic in his new book on the Philosophy of Right, of which this document is the Preface.

Is it the Philosophy of Right and Wrong? Or is it the Philosophy of Rights, as in Human Rights? You be the judge.

When reading Marx’s Capital, we too are apt, like Hegel’s contemporaries, to fall back upon the old-fashioned method of inference and formal reasoning” , i.e. the pre-Hegel method. Whereas Marx is using the Hegel method, so that if we are not aware, then we may be seriously baffled by some of what Marx is arguing as he “advances from one thing to another”.

This is why we study Hegel in the first place – so as the better to understand Marx.

The linked document of Hegel’s is readable and full of good things to discuss. Therefore it can stand as a discussion text without more elaboration.

But one thing that we can say at this moment is that Hegel is clearly investigating, as a philosopher, how it is that people's minds become made up about things, both as individuals and as society, and how it is that minds are later changed again. This is how politics is done. Hegel’s work is of direct, practical interest to political people.

“The ingenuous mind adheres with simple conviction to the truth which is publicly acknowledged. On this foundation it builds its conduct and way of life. In opposition to this naive view of things rises the supposed difficulty of detecting amidst the endless differences of opinion anything of universal application.”

In the next instalment of this part we will take one more of Andy Blunden’s lectures, and in the next part, take the remaining three of Andy’s lectures, for what is in them that can help us with Marx. In the final two lectures we will look at other commentaries and relevant texts, including from Evald Ilyenkov, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and Ron Press.

Please download and read this text via the link:

Further reading:

14 October 2011

From Ontology to Dialectics


CU Course on Hegel, Part 6a

From Ontology to Dialectics

From Being, through Essence, to Notion. We have been through this sequence once with Andy Blunden. Now he takes us through it again. Click on the link below to download two of Andy’s lectures, compiled together.

Did you ever wonder quite what makes Quantity turn into Quality? Hegel gives a much fuller explanation of this than Engels did in “Anti-Dühring”. Not that Engels was to blame. How was he to know that his own brief works would be more familiar to posterity than those of his master in philosophy, Hegel?

Ontology is a philosophical word for the way things follow one from another. The illustration above is a computer person’s visualisation of “ontology”, for the purposes of designing computers and software.

Hegel undermined the idea of ontology. Andy Blunden explains how, and why, it can’t just be “one damned thing after another”.

In the second of Andy’s two lectures, Andy moves into the “Essence” part, where we are dealing with dialectics in the Hegel way.

Andy Blunden’s lectures need little introduction, because they contain enough that is clear and could be understood and discussed by any study circle.

We must move through the material. The next time we pass along this road we will recognise many landmarks that we have noted this time, and next time we will also notice some more that we did not see this time.

Please download and read this text via the link:

Further reading:

13 October 2011

Excerpts on Essence and Notion


CU Course on Hegel, Part 6

Excerpts on Essence and Notion

Andy Blunden’s two lectures, for which he chose the excerpts from Hegel that are downloadable via the link below, begin with Being and go via Essence, to Notion, a journey that we have already taken with him once. Hegel also makes the same trip twice, once in the Shorter Logic, and another time in the Science of Logic.

So let’s just say that repetition is no bad thing when it comes to study.

We will return to Andy’s marvellously illuminating lectures in the second instalment of this part of our course on Hegel, but let us note for now part of the quote from Hegel’s “Shorter Logic” that Andy gives in the beginning of the first of these two lectures:

“Most commonly the refutation is taken in a purely negative sense to mean that the system refuted has ceased to count for anything, has been set aside and done for. Were it so, the history of philosophy would be, of all studies, most saddening, displaying, as it does, the refutation of every system which time has brought forth. Now although it may be admitted that every philosophy has been refuted, it must be in an equal degree maintained that no philosophy has been refuted. And that in two ways. For first, every philosophy that deserves the name always embodies the Idea: and secondly, every system represents one particular factor or particular stage in the evolution of the Idea. The refutation of a philosophy, therefore, only means that its barriers are crossed, and its special principle reduced to a factor in the completer principle that follows.”

And then at the end of the two Andy Blunden lectures, he writes: “Development is the struggle of opposites which do not disappear”.

This is the unity-and-struggle-of-opposites that we have picked up from Marx and Engels but which actually comes from their predecessor, Hegel, in exactly the manner that Hegel describes in the quotation above it.

It is wrong and doubly wrong to say that Marx and/or Engels refuted and did away with Hegel, as some have said and many more have assumed was the case. Hegel remains, and will always remain, “a factor in the completer principle that follows”.

Now frankly, in the Communist University, we would always love to find in any book the most concise, lucid passage, and if possible a single paragraph or sentence, that gave us the whole content of the book summed up. Through Clausewitz, Marx, Engels and Lenin we have sought and found the richest and most concentrated “short texts” to use for the stimulation of our dialogues.

Equally frank is Hegel, a very careful man, who has warned us from the start that he does not want us to be doing any such thing with his work.

Be that as it may, the four excerpts that Andy Blunden picked out on this occasion may be the closest we come to a short text from Hegel, in his own words, which would go towards fulfilling Lenin’s insistence that we must “thoroughly study and understand the whole of Hegel’s Logic.”

They cover Action & Reaction, Content and Form, Notion, and Development.

There are many cards in the Hegel pack. These four are as near to being a “full house” as we are likely to find. Not forgetting that our first business with Hegel is to understand what Marx got from Hegel.

Hegel is not always obscure. The following is clear enough:

“Real works of art are those where content and form exhibit a thorough identity. The content of the Iliad, it may be said, is the Trojan war, and especially the wrath of Achilles. In that we have everything, and yet very little after all; for the Iliad is made an Iliad by the poetic form, in which that content is moulded.

“The content of Romeo and Juliet may similarly be said to be the ruin of two lovers through the discord between their families: but something more is needed to make Shakespeare's immortal tragedy.”

Please download and read this text via the link:

Further reading:

7 October 2011

Hegel: Extracts about Being, Essence and Notion


CU Course on Hegel, Part 5a

Hegel: Extracts about Being, Essence and Notion

This is the halfway point in our course on Hegel. Our mission is to thoroughly study and understand the whole of Hegel’s Logic. How are we getting on?

Thanks to Andy Blunden’s lecture we got an overview of Hegel’s Logic in the previous post. In his next two lectures, Andy returns to the sequence Being-Essence-Notion in more detail.

What have we been doing so far? We have not been reading whole books of Hegel. We are not even at the stage where we can, as Tony Buzan would have it, skip over the difficult bits and come back later to fill in the gaps. We are still in the situation where, when reading Hegel, we find that most of it is incomprehensible, and only intelligible in spots, here and there. So we are making a virtue of that, and:

  • We are taking mostly relatively short spots of Hegel, learning how to handle them, and beginning to absorb them, and to become familiar with them.
  • We are also looking for any kind of overview material, including contents pages, as well as material like Andy Blunden’s summarising lecture on Being, Essence and Notion. The overviews will give us clues as to where to locate the small pieces that we are picking up.
  • We are not forgetting, also, that this is the Communist University, and that what we do here is to set things up for live dialogue between real people. We have done so, and we will continue to do it. It remains for the recipients of these posts to organise their Freirean dialogues around the material.

Today’s main item consists of eleven short extracts from various works of Hegel that are given by Andy Blunden in broad support of his lecture on Being, Essence and Notion. They are from the Shorter Logic, the Philosophy of Right, the Phenomenology, the Science of Logic and the History of Philosophy.

Perhaps this is an appropriate time to make some provisional general remarks.

Hegel describes a movement through history that does not discard the past but treats it as a component part of the present and of the future.

Further: “[Hegel]’s supreme merit, as far as ethics and social and political philosophy are concerned, is that the concrete universal explicates affirmative intersubjective relations and makes possible an account of social institutions that is a third alternative to abstract atomic individualism and collectivist communitarianism.” [Hegel’s Ethics of Recognition, p. 112, Williams 1997]

If all this is so then Hegel has given us a way of seeing life that was not available before, and is better than what was available before.

Hegel does not lean on any “a priori”, presupposition, or Prime Mover. Hegel shows how creation of something from nothing is a daily occurrence. It is commonplace, except that nothing is lost, and accumulated quantity will generate qualitative change.

This new vision clarifies things that Euclidean geometry and its logical cousins cannot clarify, or even see at all.

Hegel talks of Spirit, and is classified as an Idealist, and was followed by noisy “materialists” such as Feuerbach.  These and other things, not least of them the shear difficulty of reading Hegel directly, have led people to misunderstand Hegel, who does not oppose the material against the spiritual. On the contrary, Hegel solves the contradiction between the material and the spiritual.

In Hegel, the human is both the creator, and the created.

“Materialists” think that they have solved the dichotomy of mind and matter by awarding priority to matter. But all this does is to replace a divine creator with an inanimate one, thus perpetuating a “Big Bang” type of theory and continuing to fail to explain creation as a constant, continuing and necessary presence.

In this way “materialists” become a version of what they thought they had overthrown. They continue to lack a strong theory of development, progress, or revolution.

Please download and read this text via the link:

Further reading:

6 October 2011

Being, Essence and Notion, The three divisions of Hegel's "Logic"


CU Course on Hegel, Part 5

“Immediacy”: Unselfconscious Being

Being, Essence and Notion

The three divisions of the Logic

Lenin wrote: “It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital… without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic.” Our mission, given by Lenin, is therefore to thoroughly study and understand the whole of Hegel’s Logic.

We soon find that there are actually two Logics: The Shorter Logic, and The Science of Logic; but they are similar and are both divided by three main headings:  Being, Essence and Notion.

This time we are going to reverse the order and take Andy Blunden’s lecture as the main item, simply because Andy has done a great job.

There is a movement from Being, through Essence, to Notion. This is not to deny the importance of the argument and the detail, but to say that what distinguishes Hegel’s Logic is that it shows how things develop from nothing to something. It is not a static philosophy of positions and definitions. Nor is it an owners’ manual for the mind.  It is a science of creation, and development. The beginning is Being, which is “immediate” with as yet no past and no future. Hence our illustration of the unselfconscious puppy-dog, above.

The following are extracts from Andy Blunden’s lecture, finishing with a reference back to Marx’s Capital, that may assist readers to get a quick overview of Andy’s overview of Hegel’s “Logic”:

“I should mention here as an aside that all Hegel’s major works have the same structure: he identifies the simple concept or notion which marks the unconditioned starting point for the given science, and then he applies the method, the model for which is given in the Logic, in order to elaborate what is implicit in the given concept; he develops ‘the peculiar internal development of the thing itself.’ 

“So, the Logic begins with a critique of Being, what is contained in the concept of ‘Being’. The Logic is really the study of concepts; so, the Concept is the truth of Being, whilst Being is the Concept still ‘in itself’. The Third Book of the Logic is the Doctrine of the Notion (or Concept which is same thing), that is, the Concept for itself. But in the Doctrine of Being, the Concept is still just ‘in itself’. 

“If there is to be some thing amidst the infinite coming and going, the chaos of existence, the simplest actual thing that can be is a Quality, something that persists amidst change. And if we ask what it is that changes while it remains of the same quality, what changes when the thing still remains what it is, then this is what we call Quantity. But a thing cannot indefinitely undergo quantitative change and remain still what it is, retain the same quality; at some point, a quantitative change amounts to a change in Quality, and this Quantitative change which amounts to a Qualitative change, the unity of Quality and Quantity, we call the Measure of the thing.

“Thus there are three grades of Being: Quality, Quantity and Measure. We apply these categories to things that we regard as objects, the business of the positivist sociologist, the observer. Even a participant in a not yet emergent social change or sociological category, has to play the role of sociologist to be conscious of it. 

“Essence is reflection… When people reflect on things, they do so only with the aid of what they already know. So reflection is a good term. It is new Being, reflected in the mirror of old concepts. It’s like what Marx was talking about in the “Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”:  

‘The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language.’ (18th Brumaire, I)

“The third part of the Logic is the Doctrine of the Notion. Notion is a translation of the German word Begriff which is also translated as ‘concept’. 

“The Doctrine of the Notion begins with an abstract notion, and the process of the Notion is that it gets more and more concrete. 

“The first section of the Notion is Subjectivity, or the Subject. And here for the first time we get a glimpse of Hegel’s conception of the subject: it is not an individual person in any sense at all, but a simple element of consciousness arising from social practices which implicate the whole community, reflected in language, the whole social division of labour and so on. 

“The process of the Doctrine of the Notion is the abstract notion becoming more and more concrete. This process of concretization takes place through objectification of subjectivity, that is, through the subject-object relation. The first thing to grasp about the Object, which is the second division of the Doctrine of the Notion, is that the Object may be other Subjects, Subjects which are Objects in relation to the Subject or Subjects which have become thoroughly objectified. Objectification is not limited to the construction of material objects or texts; it’s a bit like ‘mainstreaming’, or being institutionalized. The process of development of the Subject is a striving to transform the Object according to its own image, but in the process the Subject itself is changed and in the process of objectification becomes a part of the living whole of the community.

“The unity of Subject and Object, the third and last grade of the Doctrine of the Notion, is the Idea. The Idea can be understood as the whole community as an intelligible whole, it is the summation of the pure essentialities of a complete historical form of life. It is the logical representation of Spirit, or of the development and life of an entire community, in the form of a concrete concept. 

“So the starting point of a science is the Notion which forms the subject of the science, not Being. This is worth mentioning because there is a widespread fallacy about the relation between Marx’s Capital and Hegel’s Logic. Some writers have put Capital up against the Logic, and in an effort to match them, start by equating the commodity relation with Being, on the basis that the commodity relation is the “simplest relation” or on the basis that the commodity relation is immediate. But the first thing to be done in a science, according to Hegel (and Marx followed Hegel in this), is to form a Notion of the subject, the simplest possible relation whose unfolding produces the relevant science. In the case of Capital, this abstract notion, the germ of capital, is the commodity relation. In the case of the Philosophy of Right, it was the relation of Abstract Right, that is private property. The problem of the origins of value or of the commodity relation is a different question, and Marx demonstrates his familiarity with the Doctrine of Essence in the third section of Chapter One, where the money-form is shown to emerge out of a series of relations constituting historically articulated resolutions of the problem of realizing an expanded division of labour.”

Please download and read this text via the link:

Further reading:

4 October 2011

Preface to the Phenomenology


CU Course on Hegel, Part 4c

Preface to the Phenomenology

On scientific knowledge

This, the Preface to Hegel’s “Phenomenology” (download linked below) is a full-length, full-strength reading of the difficult man’s own work. It has 72 numbered passages and 21485 words. It is longer than a normal Communist University reading text.

So be it.

For Hegel’s Phenomenology, MIA gives an Index, a fuller Contents page, the Preface, an Introduction, and the remainder of the work, in numbered passages up to number 808. In the spirit of Tony Buzan, let us show here the contents of the preface, listed within the main Contents:

Headings in Hegel’s “Preface to the Phenomenology
Head  #

The element of truth is the Concept and its true form the scientific system
Present position of the spirit
The principle is not the completion; against formalism
The absolute is subject – 
– and what this is
The element of knowledge
The ascent into this is the Phenomenology of the Spirit
The transformation of the notion and the familiar into thought ...
– and this into the Concept/Notion
In what way the Phenomenology of the Spirit is negative or contains what is false
Historical and mathematical truth
The nature of philosophical truth and its method
Against schematizing formalism
The demands of the study of philosophy
Argumentative thinking in its negative attitude ...
... in its positive attitude; its subject
Natural philosophizing as healthy common sense and as genius
Conclusion: the author's relation to the public

This document is given for discussion. Like all the others, this blog-post or covering e-mail message is only intended as a potential opening to discussion and not as an explanation nor, least of all, as a didactic prescription. What we will do now is to give some short quotations from the document, but first just remark that it becomes clear why Andy Blunden (pictured above) recommends this document, because it contains some quite direct and straightforward statements by Hegel, which may well help us as we go along.

Extracts from Hegel’s “Preface to the Phenomenology

Passage 2

The more the ordinary mind takes the opposition between true and false to be fixed, the more is it accustomed to expect either agreement or contradiction with a given philosophical system, and only to see reason for the one or the other in any explanatory statement concerning such a system. It does not conceive the diversity of philosophical systems as the progressive evolution of truth; rather, it sees only contradiction in that variety.”

“The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant’s existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. These stages are not merely differentiated; they supplant one another as being incompatible with one another.”

But the ceaseless activity of their own inherent nature makes them at the same time moments of an organic unity, where they not merely do not contradict one another, but where one is as necessary as the other; and this equal necessity of all moments constitutes alone and thereby the life of the whole.”

Passage 11

… it is not difficult to see that our epoch is a birth-time, and a period of transition.”

“The spirit of man has broken with the old order of things hitherto prevailing, and with the old ways of thinking, and is in the mind to let them all sink into the depths of the past and to set about its own transformation. It is indeed never at rest, but carried along the stream of progress ever onward.”

“But it is here as in the case of the birth of a child; after a long period of nutrition in silence, the continuity of the gradual growth in size, of quantitative change, is suddenly cut short by the first breath drawn - there is a break in the process, a qualitative change and the child is born.”

Passage 12

“In the same way, science, the crowning glory of a spiritual world, is not found complete in its initial stages.”

Passage 13

“Intelligibility is the form in which science is offered to everyone, and is the open road to it made plain for all. To reach rational knowledge by our intelligence is the just demand of the mind which comes to science.”

Passage 17

“In my view - a view which the developed exposition of the system itself can alone justify everything depends on grasping and expressing the ultimate truth not as Substance but as Subject as well.”

Passage 23

“The need to think of the Absolute as subject, has led men to make use of statements like “God is the eternal”, the “moral order of the world”, or “love”, etc. In such propositions the truth is just barely stated to be Subject, but not set forth as the process of reflectively mediating itself with itself. In a proposition of that kind we begin with the word God. By itself this is a meaningless sound, a mere name; the predicate says afterwards what it is, gives it content and meaning: the empty beginning becomes real knowledge only when we thus get to the end of the statement. So far as that goes, why not speak alone of the eternal, of the moral order of the world, etc., or, like the ancients, of pure conceptions such as being, the one, etc., i.e. of what gives the meaning without adding the meaningless sound at all?”

Passage 27

“It is this process by which science in general comes about, this gradual development of knowing, that is set forth here in the Phenomenology of Mind. Knowing, as it is found at the start, mind in its immediate and primitive stage, is without the essential nature of mind, is sense-consciousness. To reach the stage of genuine knowledge, or produce the element where science is found - the pure conception of science itself - a long and laborious journey must be undertaken. This process towards science, as regards the content it will bring to light and the forms it will assume in the course of its progress, will not be what is primarily imagined by leading the unscientific consciousness up to the level of science: it will be something different, too, from establishing and laying the foundations of science; and anyway something else than the sort of ecstatic enthusiasm which starts straight off with absolute knowledge, as if shot out of a pistol...”

As much as Hegel is usually careful never to give an impression of summarising his work, yet here in this Preface are many statements of a rather concrete nature.

Please download and read this text via the link:

Further reading: