Logic of Existence: A Hall of Mirrors

In the newest translation of the Science of Logic (the Cambridge translation) Determinate Being is changed to Existence to be in line with the original spirit of Dasein. I must mention that there is a massive stumbling block in the 3rd concept of Existence, Reality, due to an unfortunately terrible and obtuse translation which not only makes it easy to derail the comprehension of the transition from Reality to Something, but makes it near impossible. Had I not looked at other translations and attempted a rephrasing by expanding the term to see an explicit relational chain I wouldn’t have understood it. Translation issues aside, Existence shall be used to refer to Determinate Being for the most part.

Existence is Hegel’s second major concept and the basis of the developments in chapter 2 in the Science of Logic. The main reason I’ve decided to write a blog on this is because the chapter holds a set of insights which despite being short and dense, are powerful to think with. The patterns of existence appear frequently over and over again within the Science of Logic alone, and these relations appear in many a philosophical work implicitly if not explicitly.

Existence as a concept is simple yet tricky in that the way its relations function differ significantly from the logic of abstract Being in chapter 1. Existence is Being with a non-Being, an immediate unity of Being and Nothing, Determinateness; as such it immediately implies and generates a specific set of self-repulsions and ‘reflections’ of itself like a hall of mirrors. Determinateness itself is what generates the difference and relation of Determinate Being and Quality, Something and Other, and Determination and Constitution; it is how they perform their act of reflecting self-opposition; it is the ‘engine’ of Existence. One should keep in mind the structural equivalencies of Existence, Determinateness, Determinate Being, and the repetition of their structures. I have found it useful in my readings to sometimes rephrase a term into an equivalent, e.g. Existence changed to Determinateness, to make it clearer what kind of relations and movements are going on in the Logic.

As always, images cannot do the concepts of the Logic justice. I add them not to supplant the conceptual explanation, but as a visual aid to “see” the conceptual relations in a structural sense.

2-logic-diagram-of-existence-final

Being with non-Being, this unity, is Determinateness as such; this Determinateness is, hence Existence is Determinate Being. Being and Nothing have shown themselves to be perspective relation of Beings. Being is the non-being of Nothing, and Nothing the non-being of Being. Existence, one could say, begins with an immediate repulsion/reflection of Being from Being in the structure of Being and Nothing.

Existence begins with a problem of identity of content just as Being and Nothing did.  In this first moment we do not have any determinations which differentiate Determinateness from Being; Determinateness is (Being with non-Being), and Being is likewise this very Determinateness (Being with non-Being). There is a difference implied in the terms, but none has been provided by the immediate content of Determinate Being. This is Existence in general. It is important to note the self-reflexivity of Existence implicit in Determinateness in order to comprehend the movements within it. Existence is from its very outset self-referencing and self-repelling; it Others itself, it ‘reflects’ off itself in order to make multiple determinations of itself. In the mere implicit content of Determinateness we find the entire internal and external self-reflection of Existence as Quality, Something and Other, Determination and Constitution, Limit—that’s as far as this blog post will go— and more.

Quality, existent Determinateness, or determinate Determinateness, is the concept which captures the difference of Determinateness and Determinate Being. Quality is the first repulsion and reflection of Existence against itself by making explicit the difference of the Determinateness which inheres in Determinate Being. Within Quality two moments are implied: Reality as the moment of existent Quality (structural moment of Being), and Negation as the moment of existent lack of Quality (structural moment of Nothing), lack which is itself a Quality. As one can see, both Reality and Negation have Existence beyond Existence in general, and their aspect as determinate concepts inherently connects both. Both are present as immediate unity in Quality, the existence of one requiring the immediate existence of the other in order to have determinateness. Both are repetitions of the Being and Nothing structure which is the immediate unity in Existence. This formal repetition of the moments of Existence which occurs in Quality is why Hegel can say that qualitative Being is existent Existence, Determinate Determinate Being, i.e. Something.

diagram-of-something-7

Something, qualitative Being, existent Existence. As a Being with Reality and Negation, the two determinations of Quality, it carries the implication of self-relation and relation to an Other. Self-relation because Reality affirms Quality of Something itself; relation to Other because Negation is the non-being of another Reality. In Something, Determinate Being has been limited and restricted by its own Determinateness, Quality; it has been realized and negated, and immediately implies an Other beside it as another repulsion/reflection of Existence. The very relation of Determinate Being and Quality already has opened the way to the oppositions of Something and Other, Determinate Being itself being in opposition to its Quality’s being.

Something, like Existence, begins with a problem of identity once again. Something is faced with an Other which it lacks any explicit difference from other than the the intentional pointing to one existent as Something and another existent as the Other. Each existent is merely Other to the Other, each is Something to itself, both are different and identical at the same moment. Insofar as their being is determined as their mutual otherness, their non-being of the Other, they have Being-for-other. As Something that is not simply existent in relation to Other, but exists in its own right as an existent, Something has an inner being independent of the Other: Being-in-itself (Hegel’s own rebranding of Kant’s thing-in-itself).

In Being-for-other the Somethings confront each other as Others and thus they are the same with the first difference being that each is the Other of the Other. Because both are Other in relation to each other, they, as Others, are merely the other of themselves, i.e. Something is the other of Something, Other is the other of Other. In other words, they share the same content and repel this very same content. Self-repulsion and reflection is explicit.

To be Something is to be the Other of the Other, but this requires that Something have a being independent of the Other, it must really be an Other to the Other in itself, it must have Being-in-itself. One can see how Existence’s reflections are increasing in order to add necessary specificity to the conceptual object. First, Determinate Being reflected itself as Quality, then Something reflected itself as Other, and now Being-for-Other reflects itself as Being-in-itself.  Something is at first merely its negation of the Other, its non-being of the Other (it is Other of the Other), and its Being-in-itself is now its non-Being-for-other, its independent being. Something and Other’s moments on the surface imply an independence from each other, however, implicitly they are tied by a necessity to point to the other for their subsistence, for to have independent being, Being-in-itself, they must truly be Other not on the mere surface, but Other within and independent from the external Other. To be is not only to not be the external Other, but also to be the Other of that Other within.

What Something is in-itself, however, is what is in it, and what is in Something is its Being-for-other, for it is the Other of the Other within; it is the negation of the external Other; it negates its Being-for-other, and it is through this negation that it has determinate inner content at all. Being-in-itself is Otherness within Something; Being-for-other is Otherness outside. Something is merely being Other to the Other, its internal being only is by virtue of opposition to the external being it negates. Being-in-itself and Being-for-other repeat again the moment of existence as Quality, for it is another structural moment of determinate Determinateness; it is another immediate unity of the moments of Being/Nothing. This unity is Determination and its reflection, Constitution.

“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.”

Determination repeats the moment of Reality in Quality and is a bit of a tricky concept due to the increasingly complex and dense terminology describing it. It is at its most simple the Being-in-itself through the negation of Being-for-other, and as the explicit relation of unity of both terms it is a sublation. When Hegel says that it is “Determinateness existent-in-itself” one can translate that as: determinate Determinateness within; the structure repeats Quality’s relation to Existence within Existence (Determinate Being) itself;  it is Quality within. Something’s Determination seems to be indifferent to its Being-for-other, but despite Determination’s seeming independent being, it is thoroughly dependent on the Other through the explicit negation of Being-for-Other filling it.

Constitution is the reflected opposition of Determination, Determinateness which is in relation to the Other, and the moment of Negation. Constitution is thoroughly and explicitly the determinate Being-for-other of Something, that Quality which is not intrinsic or necessary to it, but it has taken up Being-in-itself into itself explicitly, thus Constitution is the Being-for-other of Being-in-itself.  Constitution is seemingly indifferent to Determination, but it too is not simply Being-for-other, it also depends on Being-in-itself to provide its determinateness. Determination and Constitution are each the determinate form of Being-in-itself and Being-for-other.

“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. – 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.”

If Determination is determinate inner being, Constitution is nothing but the determinate external relation of Determination to another Determination, or simply as self-referring Existence. Determination and Constitution are two sides of the same coin just as all moments of Existence have been. When Hegel says Determinateness is moment which contains the qualitative distinction of Being-in-itself and the Other which Something is not, it can be understood that Determinateness as such functions as the generative and transitive concept which makes explicit different beings and disappears into the background of what has been determined by reflected opposition.

At this point we now have the development of Something as a true existent with determined content. Something and Other oppose each other as seemingly independent beings through their determined moments. They both have Being-in-itself through their Determination, and Being-for-other through their relative Constitution. Their independence, however, is false. Their Determination shows itself to be open to otherness by its own determined content via the moment of Other and its self-relations which generates the entire structure of Something, thus the independence of Something and Other is thoroughly mediated through the otherness of Others and neither is capable of full independent self-determination.

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-it-selfness 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.

Finally, Limit arises as yet another reflection of existence. With Something in general determined in full specification as an existent being, Negation enters the picture yet again as Limit. First, Limit begins as the concept of Something’s non-being of Other; Limit is only of the Other, but this Other is a Something, and as such Something is affected by this very same Limit. Something holds the other Something away as its Other through its Limit, and thus each Something is by virtue of this Limit. Because Something has existence through its Limit, this Limit is within it. Limit itself is the Being and non-Being of Something and Other, it is a structural repetition of  Quality (Reality and Negation), and as such the moments of the Something’s Being and non-Being are determined outside each other. Something and Other thus have their Being outside this Limit, and Limit itself is the non-being of both. Limit has developed itself as a new Other against the two Somethings, but the first Something and Other are truly the same Existent being in general as has been seen. It is Limit which is in truth the Other of Something, and it is by virtue of Limit that multiple Somethings are.

To reiterate the major points: To be is to not be another; to have a quality is to at the same moment to lack another quality—the affirmative moment being a Reality and the lacking moment being a Negation; to not be another requires that Something have Being-in-itself beyond Being-for-other; what it is to be-in-itself is merely to not be-for-another, and this double negation (being by not being the Other, and then denying the Other is needed at all) of Something is Determination with its opposition to other Determinations being Constitution; and finally, to be Something differentiated against itself is to have a Limit which itself is a third other in the relation of Something and Something.

For an easy example of where else in Hegel one sees some of these logical relations one can merely look at chapters 2 and 3 of the Phenomenology of Spirit.

Phenomenology of Spirit: Substance as Subject

In the Phenomenology‘s “Preface” Hegel makes some quick, dense, and seemingly unintelligible equations of certain terms. In §22, 37, and 54  of the Miller translation Hegel makes a boggling rundown of conceptual equivalences that to the uninitiated must appear as utterly unintelligible.

Hegel basically ends up making this astonishing chain of equivalencies:

Reason=purpose= self-movement =Subject=Negativity=Being-for-self = Self=Immediacy=Becoming=Concept= Actuality=Substance=Being-in-itself

In §22, Hegel says Reason is purposive activity, and that purpose is what is both unmoved and is self-moving, and this is Subjectivity. Not only that, but this power of self-movement is negativity, and this negativity is the self.  This actually isn’t that unintelligible if one merely slows down.

That Reason is purpose is not a crazy idea; indeed, when you ask for the reason for something, you are usually asking for the purpose for which it is. Purpose being self-moving is also not strange, for purpose in a sense seems to be self-realizing in that something purposive begins with its purpose in potential and ends with its purpose actualized. That Hegel calls this self-movement Subjectivity, however, is definitely something that won’t find much traction in the section; we are told of it, and Hegel swiftly races onward. It isn’t an absurd notion, however, when we think of it in a very broad sense; our subjectivity as we understand it in regular life is fundamentally tied to our own self-movement as free agents to do whatever it is that we want to do; hence, that self-movement is in some basic sense Subjectivity is understandable. That self-movement is negativity is definitely strange if one is not thinking of negation and instead thinks of negativity in the sense of negative and positive, but with negation in mind it’s quite clear why this equivalence is made: that which moves itself must somehow be negating its state of being to change it. Negativity as the self-movement of purpose as a whole, Hegel tells us, is just what the self is. “The self is the sameness and simplicity that relates itself to itself.” Because purpose relates itself both as its beginning and end, and negativity likewise negates whatever it produces and in that sense also relates to itself, this equivalence is formally intelligible even if we have little clue what Hegel really means in these concepts.

In §37, Hegel brings all of what he states in §22 to continue the chain of conceptual connections.

He elaborates an addition to negativity; it is now the distinction between the I and the Substance it investigates. In this section, Hegel elaborates on the meaning of Substance as Subject. The negativity which separates  the I and Substance is the very power that is the I and the animating soul of Substance—this negativity constitutive of substance, though Hegel does not mention it, is at its most basic determinateness, the being of something by not being another something. Substance is “in disparity with itself,” shows negativity active within it, and negativity is constitutive of Substance’s very being; this is how Hegel cashes out the original enigmatic claim. Substance is Subject because it has negativity, i.e. it has the very same self-moving power as the I.

When it has shown this completely, Spirit has made its existence identical with its essence ; it has itself for its object just as it is, and the abstract element of immediacy, and of the separation of knowing and truth, is overcome. Being is then absolutely mediated ; it is a substantial content which is just as immediately the property of the ‘I’, it is self-like or the Notion.

To skip a bit ahead in the Phenomenology, Spirit in the end shall find nothing but itself in its objects of investigation. The reason is already clear in one sense, first because Spirit too is negativity and the I; secondly—and this shall be shown in the next section—because Spirit is thought and its knowledge of objects is their very Notion; and lastly, because as Hegel intends to show beyond the Phenomenology in his actual philosophy, the entire system of knowledge is one absolute system united and moved by negativity.

Lastly, in §54 Hegel brings forth for a moment the concepts of identity and thought.

The subsistence or substance of anything that exists is its self-identity ; for a failure of self-identity would be its dissolution. Self-identity, however, is pure abstraction ; but this is thinking.

Self-identity is the locus of being that keeps substance together. Self-identity is also pure abstraction in a literal sense: it rips substance away from any connections and determinations, and as Hegel has already told us earlier in the Preface, abstraction is thought. Being, he goes on, is thought. This is meant literally and not in any metaphorical way. Being really is thought for it is a concept of abstraction, yet it is a “thought” that certainly applies to existent beings despite its poverty of meaning. Here Hegel makes a claim that this is the solution to the problem of how Being and thought are one, a claim I’m not sure he keeps quite in this sense in his later system.

Now, since the subsistence of an existent thing is a self-identity or pure abstraction, it is the abstraction of itself from itself, or it is itself its lack of self-identity and its dissolution—its own inwardness and withdrawal into itself—its own becoming.

Here Hegel pulls a fast one on the reader, alluding to something he develops in the future Science of Logic, with becoming. Becoming is vanishing, and since self-identity in abstraction is its own dissolution, its own vanishing, the power of negativity appears freely from it. Substance’s self-identity is its own negativity, its own subjectivity. Substance, having Become, then attains to its own self-determination in accord with its own free self-movement and development via its negativity, a power which allows it to go beyond itself and link to what is different yet freely inherent to it. Thus, Substance constantly dissolves its boundaries—goes beyond itself—only to return to itself freely. This movement broadly maps the path of Spirit which goes beyond itself only to find itself.

Some of the equivalencies aside, it goes to show that Hegel really had something interesting to say in all these seemingly bizarre terms and phrases, however, he was unable to explain them due to the constraints of a Preface, and well… one should wonder what he was thinking when he decided it was a good idea to just throw them out considering the ignorance his readers suffer through no fault of their own on this part.

The Strangeness of Nothing

The ontological status of Nothing is very interesting, for there is in the common understanding an endless slew of problems in conceiving it. It is very likely that if you have ever had a discussion about Nothing with an average person it has basically ended in the strange predicament about the unintelligibility,  the ineffability, of Nothing. The very naming of Nothing seems to give it affirmation of Being which it does not logically allow. In my middle school and high school days I heard many-a-times the phrase, “Nothing can’t be Nothing, because calling it Nothing makes it something.” The apparent silliness of this seeming misunderstanding or obfuscation of language aside, what status does Nothing have in the world?

Logically, Nothing seems to be a negating term, an absence of Being. It has no positive existence itself, only Being does. We say, for example, that darkness is merely the absence of light, that cold is the absence of heat, etc. By definition negations, Nothings, obviously do not exist. The definition of Nothing is that it does not exist, that it has no Being for it is the absence of Being. Only being is; Nothing is not. Simple… or so it seems.

Language, and by extension thought itself, has a peculiar difficulty dealing with Nothing, with negations, absences. Because they are Nothings, and Nothings are not, language has had to develop rather strange and contradictory ways to refer to absences, to point to that which does not exist. We say “There is nobody at the door,” “There is nothing in my cup,” “There is nothing there.” We are naturally compelled to speak of absences in the affirmation of their Being. Some philosophers have considered this a mere example of the inadequacy of natural language and our animal intuitions for thinking properly about the world. According to such philosophers an ideal logical language purged of these confusions of natural language is required for thinking the world as it really is.

But why should we think that these natural developments of language are confused and wrong? Yes, by definition absences have no Being, but is this actually a tenable position? Is it not the case that when I notice and say, “There is nothing in my cup,” there really i Nothing in my cup? Isn’t it the case that there really is an absence there? Darkness may be an absence of light, yet I see darkness, I see the absence of light as its own Being. When there is an absence of heat i feel cold as a positive state. It seems strange that we conceive and interact with Nothings all the time, yet somehow we are to believe these are silly fictions.

Hegel’s conception of Being and Nothing is capable of making this strangeness intelligible. For Hegel the fact that we have had to develop language to speak of Nothing as we do is itself a pointer towards what this term really means. Being as such, pure Being, is nonsense. Likewise the idea of a pure Nothing that does not itself have Being is nonsense. As Parmenides believed, that ‘Only Being is; Nothing is not,’ we cannot help but think and speak from the side of Being and only from the side of Being, for if Nothing is really that which is utter non-Being, then it is logically unthinkable. Despite this, we clearly think of Nothing all the time, we speak of it all the time, we deal practically with it all the time. Being as pure Being doesn’t mean anything, just as Nothing as pure Nothing is meaningless, and this meaningless indeterminacy is what makes intelligible that Nothing already puts us in the form of Being for it is a meaningless and indeterminate emptiness. On the most abstract level Parmenides has touched on a truth that cannot be escaped, yet it’s also a truth that doesn’t tell us much of anything. If Nothing must Be, then the notion of Nothing as absolute negation of Being is not tenable. The solution Hegel offers in the Science of Logic is that Being and Nothing are concepts of relative position in a relation of Beings. Being and Nothing are in truth the perspective of Being this particular Being and not another. Where one Being meets another Being, there its non-Being, its Nothingness, begins.

For an expanded explanation of Being and Nothing as Hegel deals with it in the Science of Logic‘s first chapter, check out my post on the dialectic of Being, Nothing, and Becoming.

An anecdote on the myth that Hegel is impossible without background.

One of the most annoying points I encounter repeatedly when it comes to engaging Hegel for a newcomer is the repetition that Hegel is very, VERY, difficult. So difficult, in fact, that if you have not had at least four years of your life dealing with learning at least the continental movement from Hume to Kant to Fichte to Schelling to… ever increasing background qualifications, you have no hope in properly understanding anything Hegel has to say. That’s not even counting the difficulty of learning Hegel’s terminology itself and the obscure logic of dialectics. So… just hold on until you’ve made it through undergrad, there is no shame in admitting that Hegel is too hard for you.

This is from personal anecdote, but I find that in my experience the difficulty of Hegel is vastly overplayed. Yes, it is true that you will miss an immense amount of subtlety in the Phenomenology of Spirit and the later works’ arguments and the texts’ conversation with the philosophies of Hegel’s past and present, but just because one misses subtlety does not mean one is left with an unintelligible experience in which nothing great is learned. As Hegel himself says in the Phenomenology, to paraphrase: to demand that we know before we know is just a bit silly. To think that making mistakes is bad and invalidates any insights you may gain by misunderstanding is likewise silly. Depending on who you ask, some Hegelians claim that others have made quite a name for themselves due to their misreadings and the results thereof (Kojeve, anyone?).

When I began to read Hegel directly my only background in studying philosophy formally was virtually at the level of a summary text of the history of western philosophy covering snippets in the typical analytic fashion, I had just gotten past the philosophy 101 level classes. Most of the actual development in thought which led me to Hegel came from my own private philosophical readings that were for the most part utterly unrelated to the readings in my philosophy classes.

As I had been going through basic philosophy classes I had read Marx’s Capital Vol.1 as a challenge to engage with unpopular ideas and see their merits and failures for myself. I found Marx quite clear, and since I had at the time already arrived (due to quantum mechanics pop science) at process metaphysics speculations, I found Marx’s emphasis on processes and developments a welcome change from the philosophies I had encountered in my classes. It is through Marx that I encountered Hegel, and through random snippets of Hegel I truly encountered Kant as an epistemologist and ontologist, something far more fascinating to me than his ethics (at the time). In my attempt to understand Marx rigorously and philosophically I read many summary accounts of the silly idealism of Hegel, accounts which warned that it was an utter waste of time to engage with for someone focused on more practical matters of social existence, but over the couple of years I focused on comprehending Marxism one problem arose constantly: dialectics. It seemed like no one at all was capable of making intelligible this mysterious logic which was used by both Marx and Hegel, and which many claimed was the backbone to everything in their systems. Many of the accounts of it were so vague as to be useless, and I must admit that for some time I myself parroted these vague notions which in retrospect were nothing but word salad. In eventual frustration with the failure of Marxists and Marx himself in making intelligible what seemed most important, the logic which justified the argument’s development and validity in Capital, I finally decided to read about Hegel from the point of view of Hegelians. While I had been trying to penetrate the depths of Marxism I had quite a lot of times read snippets of Hegel, and I liked what I had encountered, so it wasn’t that big of a change for me.

When I finally began reading the Phenomenology of Spirit I did so without any guide. I had read a few overview articles, and I read Findlay’s introduction to the Miller translation, but they were mostly unintelligible and of no help. However, once I began the famous Preface I had moments of experiencing the sudden flashes of insight which reading Capital had first dazzled me with. Despite the difficulty and denseness of the Preface, and of not seeing how the discussions going on were related, Hegel made points at many moments which were epiphanies for me. I did not at the time understand the meaning of “dialectical”, Spirit, the Concept, the Idea, etc., and Hegel did not offer definitions, yet I also noticed they were not so unintelligible or even necessary for grasping the general gist of what went on. The unique idealist terminology remained unclear to me for the good part of half a year, yet my desire to make sense of Hegel compelled me to think these terms were not what most accounts had led me to believe. Hegel struck me as too intelligent to be so foolish as to think all of reality was mental in a Berkelyan or in a (simplistic) Platonic sense. What Hegel seemed to refer to in these terms, the Concept, the Idea, etc. seemed very different to anything I had ever known by them, yet I could not at the time understand them.

In reading the first section of the Phenomenology, Consciousness, I made my first major grasps of what Hegel was doing. This section’s three chapters made apparent to me that whatever Hegel was doing in the Phenomenology it seemed to have to do with meta-epistemology. I took this point and began searching for secondary literature on it, and here I encountered Westphal’s reading of Hegel. In attempting to understand the meta-epistemological view dialectics began to take the form of a process of investigation that had something to do with critiquing the inner coherence of conceptual schemes such as epistemology and ontology. The second insight I gained from reading Hegel directly was the point that epistemology and ontology were not distinct beginning standpoints, but two standpoints that each assumed the other and always came together. An epistemology assumes an ontology, and ontology assumes an epistemology.

At the door of the Master/Slave dialectic, however, I gave up on the Phenomenology. It wasn’t because I found it boring, or that it was too hard. I had made it through the third chapter, the infamous Force and the Understanding, and felt I had understood at least the general form of the argument if not the details, yet I stopped because I found reading Hegel too exciting. I wanted to talk about the ideas I discovered in the text with someone, to discuss interpretations, and I was frustrated by the lack of anyone else to engage the topic with in a timely and lively manner. My reading of the Phenomenology being indefinitely postponed, however, did not end my study of Hegel in general.

These two first insights gained from directly reading the Phenomenology ended up providing my entry path towards grasping Hegel more broadly. As I read more on those topics I began to find papers which led me further to new connections. From meta-epistemology and further overviews of the Phenomenology and Hegel’s system as a whole I began to think of Hegel as a meta-philosopher due to his overview of what seemed like all general points of view on topics, and by this point I had settled into the comprehension that whatever dialectics was it was something that didn’t have a general form and had more to do with a critique of inner coherence of concepts and thought structures. Searching for meta-philosophical readings of Hegel led me to the work of James Kreines, whose articles turned my focus away from the Phenomenology towards the Science of Logic. I had known the connection of the Science of Logic‘s concepts to ontology, but Kreines’ work led to a greater interest in the Logic‘s role and function in Hegel’s system as a whole. The connection between logic as such and the world, a notion I had already held as necessary for philosophizing for some years, became far more interesting and central. I read more on this, but without touching the Logic itself my understanding was limited to abstract papers and making general connections with little else. Where I had gaps I would study backwards to get at least the bare arguments necessary to understand a point, and often I read beyond what I had to.

I have continued to read Hegel (some Science of Logic, some Enclyclopedia), and most of what has kept me from a complete study of any of the works has been the overwhelming excitement they cause, and my own learning-by-explaining style. I’ve found that I think better and pay far closer attention when I read with the aim of discussing and attempting to clarify and explain what I read to someone else. I may not be a very wide or deep reader of philosophy or even Hegel, still, I can understand most Hegelese I encounter these days, especially the beginning developments of the particular sciences that are built up. When I can open up a work by Hegel and find myself following a conceptual development once I have situated myself in the context of the discussion… that’s quite something for someone who lacks the training of 4 years of Descartes to Schelling.