Fichte’s Science of Knowledge: On The Self’s Necessary Necessity For Itself

Our task is to discover the primordial, absolutely unconditioned first principle of all human knowledge. This can be neither proved nor defined, if it is to be an absolutely primary principle.

—Fichte,  Fundamental Principles Of The Entire Science Of Knowledge

Outside of German Idealism enthusiasts, mainly scholars, there isn’t that much about ol’ Fichte out there online nor in books. While I’m not deeply interested in Fichte’s own system, I am curious about his philosophy and took the opportunity to read a small snippet because I just happened to read somewhere that said snippet was pertinent to understanding the section on Self-Certainty in the Phenomenology. Pertinent it was, for this small section sets some background on what Self-Certainty as such is, and elucidates a bit on some claims Hegel just asserts.

It is very interesting that Fichte puts great emphasis on activity, telling us that the first principle of philosophy expresses an act which “does not and cannot appear among the empirical states of our consciousness, but rather lies at the basis of all consciousness and alone makes it possible.” What we seek is a proposition which will express this act, and if said proposition must be granted to us, then the act is necessarily also granted along with it. This proposition must be one of the greatest possible reflective abstraction, the most general one in order to be the basis of all following propositions in the system.

He tells us something else of great interest, to put it in my own paraphrasing: philosophy must lift itself up by its own bootstraps. It must at first assume certain things, such as the laws of logic—which he assures us he will prove later upon the principle that assumes them, making a logical circle. Circles aren’t anything new—not particularly scary—for those who are familiar with Hegel. One can only hope it is a nice virtuous circle, and not a vicious one.

Without further ado, this is my summary of Fichte’s argument for the absolute necessity of the self for itself.

The meaning of A=A, or A is A

The process of abstraction aside, Fichte gets right to business and asserts that the highest point of abstraction is the proposition of identity, A is A, or more commonly known in the form of A=A. No one can deny this principle is “perfectly certain and established.” If anyone asks for proof of this, Fichte tells us, we should not embark on such an attempt since it is a proposition of absolute certainty grounded by nothing else. In asserting this absolute certainty as characteristic of the proposition we ascribe “to ourselves the power of asserting something absolutely.”

Now, in insisting that the proposition is absolutely certain we do not assert that A is the case. A=A is not equivalent to A exists. Even if A is defined as something specific, though A is A remains true, it still does not entail that A exists. What A=A means is only the possibility of A being A if it exists, i.e. that if A exists, then A exists. The existence of A is irrelevant to the necessity, the connecting is/= in the proposition. In the proposition the form is all that is relevant, not the content, for A is an indeterminate universal abstraction. It is “not of that about which you know something, but of what you know about anything at all.” Now, if A itself is not absolutely certain and necessarily self grounded…what is it in the proposition that is absolutely certain without external ground? Fichte makes an interesting observation that borders on the cusp of the most obvious obviousness that may seem laughable at first: What is absolutely certain is the connection between the if and then of the A—it is a necessary connection.  This necessary connection is symbolized by X. A necessarily is A.

This being the case—that A=A on its own tells us nothing of much interest—how does Fichte move along? By making a transcendental turn.

Under What Condition Does A Exist?

A problem is posed: Under what condition is A necessarily, i.e. exists? Under condition that it is posited by the self in the self.

How do we get there? Recall that in asserting that A=A is an absolute certainty with no external ground we ascribed ourselves the power to assert something absolutely. A is only a possibility, it can only assert its own necessity if it is posited, but clearly we have no grounds to consider that A has any power of self-positing. Luckily for us, we already granted ourselves the power to posit something. The necessary connection of A to itself, X, is the absolutely certain piece of the proposition. As it is our self that judges the proposition A=A according to the law of X, X must be a law which the self gives to itself whether A is or is not posited.

“Whether, and how, A is actually posited we do not know,” but since X is a connection between a possibly posited A absolutely asserted as A, and since X is posited in the self, A is necessarily posited in the self as well—so far so good. In the proposition A=A, the first A occupies the logical position of subject, the second A the predicate position; X connects and unites subject and predicate. If X is posited, then the first A is posited, and necessarily and absolutely the second as well, i.e. if A as subject, then A is predicate of A. More formally: If X, then A=A; or, if A is posited in the self, then A is A; or more simply, A is (exists).

So far we know: The self asserts through X that A exists absolutely for the judging self which posits A, i.e. X, therefore A, therefore ‘A=A’. Fichte says this can also be said as: “It is asserted that within the self… there is something that is permanently uniform, forever one and the same.” From here Fichte makes what seems as his first leap of logic, from the assertion of permanently uniform something in the self to, “hence the X that is absolutely posited can also be expressed as I=I; I am I.” This problem of a leap aside, Fichte continues. The proposition ‘I am I’ is equivalent to ‘I am‘; this expresses not an act, but a fact—we do not want to mistake this as the first principle Fichte is after.

[Note:] Now, Fichte is right, can be expressed as I=I, but this is something entirely different and not necessarily derived from the argument which has developed from A=A. The new proposition, I=I, though it does not contradict the first, does not necessarily follow from the first as a determinate form of A=A. This I=I seems to be a bold and bald assertion coming from nowhere as far as the argument goes, but there may yet be a way to save this from being a groundless leap. ‘A=A’ as posited is an assertion that there is something within the self that is permanently uniform. Fichte may here be appealing to an empirically given minimal determinate content of A which can be identified as this something—this something is the self; the I.

X has already been shown to be posited absolutely by the self, but now X is equivalent to the proposition ‘I am I,’ which is therefore also asserted absolutely. Here Fichte explains that he’s no fool equivocating ‘A is A’ with ‘I am I,’ they are different in important ways. ‘A is A’ is only a possibility, a contentless form which only exists under a certain condition if it is posited as a content, but the proposition does not tell us whether it is posited as subject nor whether it has any particular predicate necessarily attached, i.e. whether A is posited at all as A, or A as B/C/D/etc. 

‘I am I’ is different from ‘A is A’ in that it is “unconditionally and absolutely valid, since it is equivalent to the proposition X (X therefore A); it is valid not merely in form but also in content.” That is to say, Fichte tells us in a footnote, that “I, who posit A in the predicate position, necessarily know, because the same was posited in the subject position, about my positing of the subject, and hence know myself, again contemplate myself, am the same with myself.” That is, in the proposition of ‘I am I’ within the self the I is posited absolutely with the predicate of equivalence to itself by the self. That isI posit ‘I am I’ and in my positing’s necessary connection I likewise find a necessary connection to myself as its positing subject just as one would find in the predicate A the necessary connection to the subject Atherefore the I “really is posited, and the proposition can also be expressed as I am.

[Note:] In ‘I am I’ the I is posited as subject and predicate of itself by the self, and can be expressed in the simpler form of ‘I am’ because,  to put another way with consideration to the equivalence to X: ‘I am I’ is necessarily necessary because there is necessity in the connection of the subject and predicate which the I posits.

‘I am,’ as a determinate form of ‘A is A’ is merely a fact and only has factual validity, however should the proposition A=A—more precisely X—be certain, then ‘I am’ is also certain, i.e. if necessity is certain then the propositions are certain. Fichte here claims that it is a fact of empirical consciousness that we are compelled to regard X as absolutely certain, i.e. that necessary connection connects things necessarily is certain, therefore ‘I am’ is also certain. “Hence it is a ground of explanation of all the facts of empirical consciousness, that prior to all postulation in the self, the self itself is posited.” That is, if necessary connection is certain, then I am certain I exist by virtue of my necessary connection to my positing of A, for in positing A I necessarily pre-posit myself as its positor.—[Fichte tells us that this all hinges on X indeed is the highest fact of empirical consciousness which underlies and contains all others, a fact which might be conceded to him without proof yet which his system will nonetheless attempt to prove.]

The Primordial Act: The Self’s Positing Of Itself

After such an arduous journey of the mind, we have finally arrived at the doorstep of the principle being sought after, the primordial act upon which all things rest, and this act shall be nothing less than the act of the I positing itself and therefor guaranteeing its own existence.—[This reminds me of the old ontological proof, and I would not be surprised at all if Fichte did have this in mind, for this is seeking after the proposition/concept which in itself provides for its own necessary existence.]

X being given, A being given through X, and now the I being given through X and A together…

Once more Fichte pushes us forward. A=A, we are reminded, is a judgment, and judgments are an activity of the human mind which presupposes all the conditions of activity which are known and established for purposes of reflection, e.g. logic. This activity rests on the ultimate ground of X=I am, therefore we at least know judgment as one particular activity which is grounded by X (but it is all activity, Fichte tells us, that is grounded in X). In knowing this activity of judgment we thus know of the pure character of X’s activity as such in abstraction from empirical conditions. What is this activity?

“The self’s own positing is thus its own pure activity. The self posits itself, and by virtue of this mere self-assertion it existsand conversely, the self exists and posits its own existence by virtue of merely existing. It is at once the agent and the product of action; the active, and what the activity brings about; action and deed are one and the same, and hence the ‘I am’ expresses an Act, and the only one possible, as will inevitably appear from the Science of Knowledge as a whole.”

[Note:] This is where Hegel draws the structure of his notion of self-certainty from, the proper concept in which content and form, certainty and truth, etc. are one and the same.

After this bold declaration from the prior results, Fichte asks us to consider the proposition ‘I am I’ once more, this time considering what is absolutely posited as the first I in the position of formal subject, while the second I is in the position of predicate representing that which exists. If this is the case, then we can absolutely assert the valid judgment: The self exists because it has posited itself.—[This seems like a bit of what Wittgenstein would call language gone on holiday. Just because we can say this does not mean it has any actual meaning. Fichte here is drawing upon notions of an essence in potential being to essence in actual being.]

In a footnote he adds that the general form of all propositions plays out this fundamental movement of positing when we reflect on the activity which occurs in A=A, i.e. that the first A is posited in the self—which is absolute subject—as a posited subject, and the second A designates what the self finds present in itself after having posited it. None of this movement is really pertinent of A, but is really the self’s for the self posits something of itself, a predicate to it, within itself, this predicate being A, i.e. the self posits A, and in reflecting upon the presence of the posited A becomes aware of A as its own predicate;  the “is expresses the passage of the self from positing to reflection on what has been posited.”

Fichte concludes thus:

The self in the first sense, and that in the second, are supposed to be absolutely equivalent. Hence one can also reverse the above proposition and say: the self posits itself simply because it exists. It posits itself by merely existing and exists by merely being posited.”—[A claim that is not convincing in the slightest in the form he presents it here, however, once more, there is a way to redeem the claim in a more reasonable form, and Fichte shall quickly supply it.]

Once more he continues:

And this now makes it perfectly clear in what sense we are using the word ‘I’ in this context, and leads us to an exact account of the self as absolute subject. That whose being or essence consists simply in the fact that it posits itself as existing, is the self as absolute subject. As it posits itself, so it is; and as it is, so it posits itself; and hence the self is absolute and necessary for the self. What does not exist for itself is not a self.”

[Note:] Here we see where Hegel’s theory of the self draws heavily on Fichte’s internal reflection in the self. Hegel not only takes up but also adds to that last statement the inverted equivalent beyond consciousness’s form: What is not a self does not exist for itself, i.e. what is not a subject cannot be an independent substance.

Continuing:

If the self exists only insofar as it posits itself, then it exists only for that which posits, and posits only for that which exists. The self exists for the self—but if it posits itself absolutely, as it is, the it posits itself as necessary, and is necessary for the self. I exist only for myself; but for myself I am necessary… To posit oneself and to be are, as applied to the self, perfectly identical…’I am absolutely, because I am’… Furthermore, the self-positing self and the existing self are perfectly identical… The self is that which it posits itself to be; and it posits itself as that which it is. Hence I am absolutely what I am.

To finally conclude: “I am absolutely, i.e. I am absolutely BECAUSE I am; and am absolutely WHAT I am; both FOR THE SELF.” That is, “The self begins by an absolute positing of its own existence.”

Fichte has just attempted to derive something the vast majority except the most die hard and stubborn skeptics have thought necessary: an argumentative proof of Descartes’ famous “I think, therefore I am.” To put it in normal terms:

The self exists in a moment which is unique in the realm of existence and logic alike—it exists because it posits itself, i.e. it reflects itself within itself and recognizes itself in this reflection, the self exists because it is self-conscious; however, it only posits itself because it already first exists as self-consciousness, then posits itself and becomes aware of its self-consciousness. Its positing and existence occur in one and the same moment.

To summarize: I am certain that I am because I am aware that I am when I posit that I am, and because that awareness is necessarily my awareness, for I posit what I am aware of, I am absolutely certain that I necessarily am absolutely… if necessity is indeed absolutely certain.

Comments on the PhoS: Consciousness

Up to now I’ve been writing expositions of the chapters, but here I’ll add my thoughts on the Phenomenology up to the end of the first section, “Consciousness”.

What Is Logical About the Phenomenology of Spirit?

First off, I’d like to make a comment on the logical—meaning Hegelian logic—structure of the Phenomenology so far. Hegel claims that the development of the investigation in the Phenomenology is strictly logical, but this is a truth that I think is interestingly qualified in the work so far. The structures internal to the forms of consciousness do not arise from a strict logical development of categories following from prior forms of consciousness, e.g. from the results of Sense Certainty, the categories posited by Perception do not follow. In Sense Certainty, Perception, and Understanding, the structure of the object and consciousness’s knowing are historical forms of consciousness which Hegel takes up and abstracts from their empirical forms into pure forms. These forms are arranged in an order in which they are brought into consideration as forms that posit an answer to the problems resulting from prior forms of consciousness, and as the Introduction tells us, the problem before us is the problem of knowledge and knowing. Why begin with Sense Certainty? Is it because it is the simplest claim to knowledge possible, and here Hegel is a good believer in the principle of simplicity against unnecessary complexity? If we shall entertain claims of knowledge, the simplest one that can do the trick should be our first target of observation, right? This would be only reason I could think of IF the systematic character of the future system did not already loom in the Phenomenology. Hegel already has the Logic‘s path in mind, and thus the form of the beginning is really for a logical reason. The way that science begins is always with the greatest level of abstraction possible, with the bare immediate being of things.

Since the forms of consciousness are not what follow any immanent logical chain, what does? Well, what does follow so far is the specification of the general concept of the object. With Sense Certainty we began with pure abstraction facing determinate sense experience, and therefore a lack of any determinate knowledge. In the experience of Sense Certainty, through its very experience of its act of knowing, immediate knowledge turns out to necessarily be mediated by the temporality, spatiality, and conceptual cognition of consciousness. From this result, restated into the proper category of determinacy, Perception attempts to give a determinate conceptual account of an object that is mediated in itself as a sensuous unity with individual differences and mediated through a universal concept. The failure of Perception is the inability to capture the experienced unity of unity and difference that is the object with a universal determined by sensuousness. Its categories fail, and what is learned from its experience is that the logical structure of the object has a unity that falls into difference and vice versa regardless of what perspective it takes of it.

Understanding then appears on the scene and offers new categories that take up this result and further develop it. In Understanding the categories of Force and Law take on the role of an unconditioned universality within which the dependence of unity and difference are taken as a single movement of a unity which contains both—a unity of unity and difference. Understanding is able to see that its answer requires a single concept that can generate this movement in itself, but in attempting to find a third concept to ground the movement it fails to attain anything but the concept of an object that is merely the movement of unity and difference. This movement has no third in its relation to act as grounding substance or essence, and any attempt to formulate a third ends in collapse back into the movement. From this experience of the Understanding we are left with the structure of opposed inversion in the movement of unity and difference in its pure form of pure opposition, i.e. self-opposition, or what appears in the future Logic as Something and Other, which immediately contain their opposite as their familiar inner essence and remain in difference and unity at the same moment. Through the incessant logical movement of inverted oppositions Hegel shifts to the category of infinity, and in an aside through infinity—via the slingshot of the Hegelian Universal—he brings forth life.

Here the forms of consciousness which correspond to traditional epistemology concerning an external world come to their end. Hegel sees no use in any further forms of consciousness of this kind for they have developed themselves to the point where the object of understanding shares the very structure of the consciousness which apprehends it, consciousness faces only itself in its object. Through the self-opposition of this pure concept of infinity he calls forth self-consciousness in this moment of consciousness facing its object. Consciousness, in opposing itself to an external object, posits itself as for-itself against it, and through the cognition of the other as an other to itself it becomes aware of itself as non-distinct from it for it has learned that this process of distinction in infinity is itself a non-distinction. In this awareness that what it faces is not distinct from it, consciousness is self-consciousness. We find here that the very cognition of external objects can only be for a self-consciousness, as such self-consciousness is a necessary condition for consciousness as we have observed it. What and how this self-consciousness is is what remains to be seen in the following developments.

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One can also see something else that’s interesting: that the structure of the object of a form of consciousness is only as complex as the form of consciousness itself, or put in another way, the object faced is structured in the way it is known, and a form of consciousness is a knowing. The object of the forms of consciousness correspond to the shape of consciousness itself, which—jumping ahead a bit into Self-Certainty—is why self-consciousness curiously begins the development of its object with the categories of lifedesire, and self-consciousness itself, for only an object which has these structures properly corresponds to the knowing of self-consciousness, that is, the knowing of itself.

Transcendental Deductions

I had heard/read about this before, but I can see now reading the Phenomenology that there is reason to think it might be one giant transcendental deduction of the conditions of possibility for knowing. Through each of the first three forms of consciousness we find something immanent to their experience which requires a further expansion in the concept of the object. In Sense Certainty we find that its immediacy requires mediation. In Perception we find that its cognition of the sensuous requires the use of pure universal structures, and at the end of Understanding we find that the very cognition of any object other to us—sensible or thought—requires a self-consciousness to make a distinction between itself and an other. Each consequent form of consciousness functions as the presupposed condition of possibility for the prior. Whether this holds after the first section, I don’t know.

Connections to the Science of Logic

Through these first three chapters—if one has read the first two chapters of the Science of Logic—interesting conceptual structures show up in an unfinished and disconnected form prior to the writing of the Science of Logic where they would properly be explicitly developed in their pure conceptuality. Particularly pertinent are pure Being, Determinateness, Becoming and Ceasing/Coming to be, and Something and Other.

Pure, or abstract, Being appears structurally in Sense Certainty (SC) in its concept of the object. SC  merely took its object as Being and refused to determine it conceptually, and this is all that Being is in the Logic, indeterminate meaning. Determinateness comes up at the end of SC and plays a major role in Perception, and it first appears interestingly as the mere fact of mediation. In Perception it is indirectly defined as a “this which is not this,” a very close definition to the development in the Logic where it is ‘Being with non-Being taken up into itself’. Becoming comes into prominence in the Understanding’s concept of Force, in which the moments of Becoming are structurally present in the Force and Expression which are nothing but the yet-to-be of the other. Becoming’s moments are Coming to Be and Ceasing to Be, which are just this same self-vanishing transition. Something and Other, by contrast to these other concepts, is very prominent through Perception and Understanding. The issue of substantive or essential being in these chapters is an unmistakable presence of this structure, for each posited moment either as the universal medium or the one, or as Force and Expression, repeats the movement of Something and Other in their positing of themselves as different when in fact their substantive essence is their Other. While structures from the logic of Essence in the Logic appear in this same movement, Essential and non-Essential, and Ground and Grounded, I haven’t read these portions and thus do not know to what extent they are of importance here. What I do know, however, is that the end of Understanding is basically the pure concept of Something and Other as the first true concept in the spirit of the Logic, as such Hegel calls the development of this concept as belonging to the realm of science, i.e. his later system.

The Connection of Forms of Consciousness

As the chapters go on, there is something noticeable, and that is that prior forms of consciousness return. Sense Certainty is taken up in Perception, and both are taken up into Understanding. This is not something hard to see, for Hegel constantly is reminding us of the sensuous and the perceived through Perception and Understanding. Since self-consciousness has been shown to be a precondition and logically prior to the consciousness of external objects which are other to consciousness, it should be interesting to see how these forms of consciousness will return in later chapters once self-consciousness develops up to consciousness proper again.

Whose Consciousness?

The layers of the Phenomenology run deep, and one can interpret the forms of consciousness in a few ways. One is that the forms of consciousness are akin to our own individual development of consciousness. As an infant we begin with Sense Certainty, as children we Perceive, as teens we Understand, and as adults we become explicitly self-conscious and aware of our role in the world. It seems like plausible reading for this first section.

Another one is, of course, that these are  actual historical forms of consciousness, but in these three chapters this actually does not make much sense to me. Sense Certainty, as a historical form of knowing, would have to correspond to a far gone pre-human stage of mere symbolic reference, a stage of “thinking” which is hardly any thinking at all, and that is pure signaling without memory. The first three forms of consciousness seem almost inseparable in actual life beyond this logical division into determinate moments once we move into Perception in which Sense Certainty dominates over the Understanding, yet the Understanding is implicitly present in its function already, and indeed finds its way out given the conditions for its free speculation. That said, Perception seems to be the pre-Socratic Greek’s naturalist world views, such as the universalization of a determinate element into the essence of all things.

Another view is that this is the very process of cognition of the general human being. First we encounter the sensuous object and have no determinate knowledge of it, but in perceiving we begin to determine the object through sensuous and conceptual categorization, after which we begin to engage in the pure understanding of the object. Were the inquiry to be one inquiring after absolute knowledge, we would then have to conceive of ourselves as knowers and our relation to the known explicitly, hence self-consciousness would come into the picture.

Ontology and Epistemology: The Structure of Objects and Knowing

Part of what smacks you, or at least should smack you in the face, when reading the introduction and this first major section is that ontology and epistemology come hand in hand and never are apart from one another. An ontology always has an epistemology to justify its knowing, and an epistemology always already presupposes the ontology of the knower, its knowing, and the objects it knows. The only ones that probably escape this criticism are the pragmatists because, well, they don’t care about Truth.

Phos: Force and Understanding (pt.2)

Following from the collapse of Force as the unconditioned universal, we here begin with the Understanding’s second attempt at conceiving such universal. We shall tread the path through Law, see Force appear once more, and once again encounter collapse. From there we shall make a transition from the external object to the Understanding itself, from where a second Law shall be posited and the strange argument of the inverted world—the culmination of the structure of inversion—shall be laid out. The inverted world and the second Law shall then lay the way to transition from the preoccupation with external objectivity in Consciousness to Self-Consciousness.

This is a long one.

Transition From Force to Appearance

With the collapse of Force as the unconditioned universal into its pure movement as vanishing being-for-another, a rearticulation of terms occurs in the Understanding. Force—as the unconditioned universal—has shown its essence to be the concept of the Understanding and not the object itself. If the first universal, the oneness, in the relation of Force is considered the mere concept of the Understanding, the second universal, its actual existence as the play of Forces in the Expression, is “the essence as it exhibits itself in and for itself” as the perceived object. In the inverse view we can regard the first universal, Expression, as the immediately existing actual object for the perceiving consciousness, and the second universal, Force, as the negative of the first, i.e. as mediated and un-objective essence—what is the inner being of objects as inner; the concept of Force as concept. Nonetheless, the vanishing play of Forces remains, and the Understanding takes up the results of the ruin of its first attempt and rearticulates this result.

Because the true object of the Understanding is the concept of Force, which is the un-objective essence it posits through the objective being of this essence—the play of vanishing Forces—the genuine essence of the object is in truth not immediately existing for the Understanding. It is mediated by a term that stands between the inner essence and consciousness. The play of Forces is this mediating term—it is the developed being of Force—with its immediate vanishing into two extremes with no true being. This term is Appearance, for it is “being that is immediately in itself a non-being,” a mere seeming-to-be. This Appearance is not merely an appearance, but the totality of Appearance, i.e. this refers to no individual appearance, but to the very category of Appearance as such, therefore this is not the sensuous character of the object or merely the play of Forces before perception, but the universal concept and truth of this very play of Forces. The play of Forces appear now as the developed negative of the object—its incessant vanishing as the sensuous being of the perceived object—but Appearance is now the positive being of the object for the Understanding, the universal concept which is existing-for-itself and endures through this very vanishing.

Understanding and Appearance

Through Appearance, the Understanding reflects itself into itself as if it were reflecting itself into the truth of the object, i.e. the Understanding takes its own cognitive reflection to be the object’s own movement and inner truth rather than its own. The Appearance of the object is thus the mediator of the truth of the object for consciousness, yet the Understanding does not take itself to be a part of its knowing, instead considering it a purely objective truth in which it has no hand. The inner is the in-itself of the object and thus its being-for-itself and not its being-for-consciousness, however, the ground upon which this inner is being posited is Appearance itself. The Understanding does not yet recognize Appearance as itself being-for-itself (it is merely being-for-other); thus it is not acquainted with the true nature of its concept.

Because the true is now posited as the unconditioned universal in which the opposition of universal and individual are contained within once again—the truth being the universality as the concept of the shifting sensuousness of the world—a supersensible world is now posited as the true world above the sensuously Appearing world. This supersensible world is a stable and enduring “other-wordly beyond,” while the world of sensuousness is a vanishing impermanence upon this essence.

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We see what Understanding does not, i.e. that it is as much a part of this so called truth as what it assumes is an external object. As the phenomenological observer we see that there is what Hegel here calls a syllogism of the [inner]-[Appearance]-[Understanding]. This syllogism maps not just the term relations to each other, and their movement, but also what the Understanding will learn from the experience of this relationship.

[Note:] Syllogism here must undoubtedly seem a bizarre term for Hegel to use. This is because it is indeed not a classical syllogism as it is conceived in formal logic. For Hegel, syllogisms are self-moving arguments that in each concept or proposition generate their subsequent term and conclusion. In the syllogism of the inner, Appearance, and Understanding the relation is such that the positing of an inner and an Appearance necessarily yields the conclusion that there is consciousness—here the Understanding—which apprehends such terms. The distinction of an inner behind an Appearance is only made by a consciousness, or, a consciousness which posits an Appearance before it must posit an inner behind it.

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At this point in the chapter Hegel brings up a short critique of the Kantian position that in this relation of consciousness, Appearance, and the inner truth of the object. At this point the development of the inner is merely the negative of Appearance, i.e. it is merely the negation and opposite of this Appearance which is empty and undeveloped. Kant claims that it is impossible to get behind Appearance and know a thing-in-itself; all we can know is the Appearances before consciousness, thus the inner is necessarily opaque and empty for us. Against this claim Hegel makes the counterclaim that even if this were true, it is better for us to speculate emptily beyond these Appearances, which we know to be false, with Appearances created by consciousness, for daydreams of the mind are better than the emptiness of reality.

The First Law of Appearance: The Stable Image

The inner world as the supersensible world emerges out of Appearance. Appearance is both the mediation of the supersensible and its essence—its fulfillment and actual being. Nonetheless, “The supersensible is the sensuous and the perceived posited as they are in truth.” It is Appearance as Appearance, the enduring substance behind the flux. Remember, Appearance is not the sensuous world which is for immediate Sense Certainty and Perception, but its concept. It is the world as sublated, with the sensuous vanishing taken up into enduring supersensible universality.

Appearance is but the inner truth of the play of Forces perceived, which is nothing but the “absolute exchange of determinateness with constitutes the sole content of what is coming forth: To be either a universal medium or a negative unity.” In the play of Forces we already discovered there is no enduring substance in the moments, indeed we saw that there was not even a difference in the moments as they were both Force merely soliciting itself to express and retreat into itself through the other Force. The distinction of content and form itself collapses in Force as it is itself the passive medium which it solicits to express. All particular distinctions of the two Forces collapse at this point. All that remains in the alternating movement is the “distinction as the universal distinction, that is, as the kind of distinction into which the many oppositions have been reduced.” This distinction as itself universal is the simple unity of the play of Force and what is true in it, its enduring essence; it is the Law of Force. The true essence of the play of Forces is the law of distinction which endures unmoving in this movement. This has come about due to the relation of Appearance to the Understanding, whose inner simplicity is posited as the simple distinction of Appearance’s Law.

The Law and Appearance

The inner as Law is in-itself and simple, but is also the universal distinction of the flux of Appearance, and thus this flux is its essence. The Law, however, is the stable image of this flux and is at rest within the flux perceived. The law is supersensible and beyond the perceived world, but it is present within this world as its “immediately motionless likeness.”

The Law, however, is not yet the unconditioned universal. It does not truly subsume Appearance completely, for it does not yet take up the determinate distinction of Appearance; it merely posits in itself the universal indeterminate distinction, i.e. it merely states there must be a distinction, but not what distinction or why. Thus, the Law is not yet Appearance as Appearance which is for-itself the stable flux. In each moment of Appearance the Law has a different actuality which it yet cannot account for. One may here posit that each moment of Appearance corresponds to its own determinate Law, one Law of many, but this undermines the very concept of Law which is to unify these many moments of Appearance’s flux into a simple unity. Up to now we merely have the concept of Law, i.e. that “everything has a constant distinction with regard to everything else,” but not the Law which generates a determinate distinction itself.

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The Understanding takes the Law it has found as one “which expresses universal actuality as such,” but while it has failed to attain a determinate Law that actually does this, it has inadvertently discovered in this thought that “actuality is in itself lawful.” Basically, the Understanding is at least insightful in seeing that the mere immediate being of Sense Certainty and Perception are mere appearances which have little value as truth themselves.

The Concept of Law

The Law as pure concept is the essence and truth of determinate Laws, but these determinate Laws owe their determinateness to Appearance, which owes its determinateness to the flux of sensuous being. The pure concept of Law does not just go beyond determinate Laws, however, it goes beyond itself as the law as such, for it determines itself to be more than the Law through its moments. The determinateness of Law and Appearance is itself merely a vanishing moment that seems unessential in the very concept of Law for they must ultimately depend on it as it is their truth and essence, and the Law itself is simple unity. However, since the Law contains in itself the distinction as immediately in the universal, these moments have enduring existence in it, for the Law expresses the relation of these moments as “indifferent essentialities existing in themselves.” Since these moments in the Law are themselves determinate, yet the Law itself is their simple unity, the pure concept of Law must be conceived in such a way that these determinate moments do not exist completely in-themselves, but return into the inner as simple unity, and in doing so the inner necessity of Law for its products and itself is shown in itself. That is to say, Law must somehow provide not only for its determinate self-differentiation, but also must determine these differences in such a way that their very determinateness returns these moments back into its simple universality and show the necessity of this Law as the unconditioned universal. 

[Note:] Hegel is here alluding to his concept of the concrete Universal which contains its determinate difference in it and in which each moment points back to the simple unity of the Universal moment.

Unification of Force and Law

Law has shown itself to have two moments: the Law as simple unity that is being-that-has-returned-into-itself, and the Law as expressed as independent moments. This should seem very familiar, for it is Force’s structure which has returned with a new face. The concept of Law is the moment of genuine Force as unconditioned universal returned in its apprehended truth as an abstraction which contains the distinctions of its moments and movement, but is itself not immediately these moments. The Understanding, seeing this, rearticulates its conception and posits Force once more as the passive universal medium as substance; Law in turn is now posited as the necessity of Force’s self-distinction in expression,i.e. Force’s self-soliciting to express is now externalized to the Law completely as pure independent expression of the unconditioned universal. Law is now a separate substantive moment that is, however, at the same time not a separate moment which solicits Force’s self-distinction, or what was prior known as its expression. Seem familiar? The only difference is that this time the moments are not explicitly structured by reference of being in the process of becoming the other like in Force and Expression; now Force and Law are posited as independent temporal moments supposedly linked in concept.

Force is the concept as such again, and the Law is the expressed determinate relation of independent terms related. Unity belongs to Force, but now the expression of distinction belongs to Law. The Understanding has once again committed itself to force a distinction where there is none. It brings together two concepts to explain the object, yet these concepts have no clear relation of need for each other.

The Indifference of Force and Law

When the relation of Force and Law is examined it is easy to see this as the Understanding’s mere positing without objective meaning. Hegel shows many examples of the disconnection of these terms and lack of any necessary relation. In the example of electricity, simple electricity is the Force, but the distinction of positive and negative charge belongs to its Law. The Law says Force must express itself in this way, but when it comes to determinate Forces and Laws we must ask why this Law for this Force and not some other combination? How does one go from the concept of electricity to the actuality of its inner distinction into positive and negative charge? Where is the necessity of the Law of electricity in the concept of electricity? This issue is not trivial and meaningless, for we know very well of terms which do have the necessity we’re seeking, the Law of electricity being just such an example. To posit positive charge is at one and the same time to necessarily posit negative charge in opposition to it, the distinction is in itself already. We may, Hegel tells us, just give up and say that the distinction itself is electricity as such, that it is its definition and there is nothing more, as such the existence of the Force is its concept and essence. However, if this is the case, then the existence of the Force itself becomes unnecessary and contingent, for the it relies either on our detecting it, or it relies on external conditions of existence which means its necessity is external. This cannot be the case, however, since this goes counter to the very concept of Force and Law which the Understanding has already developed out of its need to explain the object. It is clear that its attempts to discover the unconditioned universal has failed, the connection between Force and Law being unnecessary, i.e. the self-differentiation of the universal has not been achieved.

False Universals: The Indifference of Expressed Individuals

Hegel gives an interesting example of a concept which seems to be what is being sought, but in truth is not. Motion as a universal, he says, divides itself into time and space, or distance and velocity. Motion, however, is merely the relation of these terms; space, time, distance, and velocity themselves do not express any inner relation to any origin in motion as their universal. The terms are united in motion, but they are all independent and indifferent to each other, they have no necessary connection in this universal either to each other nor to the universal. Motion necessarily divides itself into its parts, but each part has no necessity for the other parts or for motion, and this is because motion is a false universal. It does not show itself to be the simple essence and origin of anything, it is already merely a superficial complex of divided independent terms. The truth of motion, says Hegel, is gravity, for it is the simple essence of motion as Force, but gravity does not contain these distinctions in itself.

Collapse of the Law of Force

The necessity of Force and Law  to each other has shown itself to be as unnecessary as the necessity of one expressed term to another. “The distinction is therefore in both cases no distinction in itself.” That is, the relation of terms is not an inner necessary distinction in the terms themselves. There is nothing within Force which necessarily posits its Law, nor is there anything in the Law which necessarily posits its Force just as there is nothing in the terms of motion which posit each other nor the universal of motion itself. The distinction and the relation are the positing of the Understanding and are not inherent to the object itself, thus their necessity is merely the necessity of the Understanding for simple unity. However, in the Law the Understanding already has the concept of this distinction in itself, i.e. as an inner existence-in-itself which is distinguished in itself.

The problem at hand is due to the Understanding’s stubbornness. It states this distinction in such a way that it is expressed as no distinction in the object itself, i.e. Force and Law are posited as different in one moment and then collapsed in a second moment as a unity of a single movement of the essence. Force is posited as the grounding essence of Law, but then this very Force is stated to be structured entirely in the same way as the Law. The ground and grounded collapse into one as the terms share one and the same structure (recall the structure of genuine Force and its mere doubling of the relation of its moments). In all this the Understanding believes itself to be explaining the object, but its explanations are empty tautologies. Not only do the distinctions of Force and Law have the same form, they have shown themselves to have the same content and thus they collapse. Nonetheless, the basic structural distinction remains, i.e. the distinction of the movement of the moments which immanently hold their other within themselves and find their essence outside in another.

Transition From the First Law to the Second Law

So far, the Understanding has taken its object to be a stable unity at rest, and therefore the movement of difference has taken place only in the Understanding itself. In the movement, however, we can see the essential piece that had been missing in the concepts of the unconditioned universal of the Understanding up to now: the flux of actuality. Standing back from the moments of the movement and looking at the movement itself we notice a structure of self-opposition: “It posits a distinction, which is not only no distinction for us but is a distinction which it itself sublates.” The movement itself posits a distinction which in its very realization is sublated back into a unity of no distinction and back again into distinction. In the explanation, then, the alternating flux is now finally taken into the supersensible world itself—the determinate distinction is no longer Appearance’s alone.

The Understandings enacts a shift away from the object to itself through its experience of repeating the same structural movement in every iteration of its explanation of the object—it becomes aware that the movement is so far only actual in itself. The first Law merely stated the being of a distinction, now a second Law comes forth which will make the structure of the movement into a Law itself.

The Second Law of Appearance: The Law of Inner Distinction

The alternating flux is yet to be posited in the object itself, but in virtue of this the object “turns out to be pure alternating fluctuation in that the content of the moments of the alternating fluctuations remains the same.” That is, The object is one and many at the same moment. The concept of the Understanding is still the inner of things; thus the flux becomes the inner Law of the Understanding. A second Law is now conceived in contrast to the first Law—the law of the external object—whose content was enduring distinction remaining selfsame. This second Law “expresses the becoming-non-selfsame of what is selfsame and the becoming-selfsame of the non-selfsame.” That is, the second Law is the conception of Understanding’s operation regarding the external object itself. Whatever the Understanding encounters in the external object, its truth is the opposite of what it appears. The concept demands that both laws be brought together and their opposition be recognized consciously, i.e. the Understanding is impelled by its own movement to bring them together.

The second Law, like the first, is also selfsame, but it is the selfsameness of the non-selfsame, “a constancy of inconstancy.” This is the structure which the play of Forces had, as such it is the very distinction in the object which has been at issue this entire time. The Understanding thus brings both laws together into opposition within the objective world.

plɹoM pǝʇɹǝʌuI ǝɥʇ }{ the Inverted World

The first supersensible world was the realm of selfsame laws at rest, the stable image of Appearance, i.e. the inversion of the perceived world of sensuousness. At first the supersensible world as the inner was opposed to Appearance; both remained selfsame and separate, but now we have the second Law as the inner truth of both; thus they are to an even greater degree the opposite of themselves, i.e. Appearance is in its inner truth the stable image, and the stable image is in its inner truth the flux perceived. It is only with the determination of the second Law that the inner distinction of the universal is truly made. A second supersensible world thus arises out of the first as its inversion, for it already had one moment of itself in it, i.e. the selfsame which now becomes non-selfsame. The first supersensible world took the alternating flux of appearance only into stable universality, but now the second supersensible world takes up the flux into itself and attains for itself the completion of the concept of Appearance as Appearance at last, i.e. it is the stable image that itself is fluctuation.

Here Hegel goes on to make a slew of examples of this absolute law of inversion,  but I shall not go into all of them here. In general, the point is that which is one thing in the first world of law is its opposite in the second: what is sweet in the first is sour in the next, what is positive in the first is negative in the second, etc. There is one specific example that drives home the point Hegel wants to make, and it is the example of law and punishment. In the immediate law of the first world revenge on an enemy is the satisfaction of the harmed individual who is not recognized as an essential self by the transgressor. This satisfaction is attained by way of showing one’s self to be the essential being by in turn not recognizing the enemy’s essential self through retribution, destroying them and sublating their essence by showing one as their true essence in return. In the second world this act is inverted and turns not into the reestablishment of the individual but to his own self-destruction. If this inversion, which is exhibited in the punishment of crime, is made into law, it is still merely a law of a world which has the second world standing in inverted opposition to itself.  Punishment according to the law of the first world dishonors and destroys a person, but in the inverted world this punishment is transformed into the pardon which preserves his essence and honors him. It is not hard to see that this opposition is united in the very truth of OUR world. The serving of the punishment of law is vengeance and forgiveness in one. Thus, the second supersensible world overreaches itself and sublates the first supersensible world as part of itself. The inverted world and the first world are not different, not separate, they are at one moment one and the same world. It is this world of ours which is in-itself inverted. Another way to put it is in terms of what we have already dealt with, e.g. the play of Forces and the first Law of Appearance were already both in the same world this entire time. The Understanding, however, does not see this.

The Actuality of Inverted Opposition

Now, superficially, the inverted world is the opposite of the first in that the first world is external to the second, and it repels that first world from itself as an inverted actuality. One is Appearance, the other the in-itself. One is being-for-others, the other is being-for-itself. This opposition has already shown itself to be impossible to work, for we have seen that the assumption that both sides of the inversion are separate substances or actualities cannot hold since they do not have substantial being in-themselves to support them independent of the other. The Understanding cannot turn back to these positions without falling into the same problems. In terms of actuality, the attempt to posit a distinction between an actual sensible world against an equally actual supersensible world itself does not work. If one moment of the duality is posited as substance in the perceived sensible world, then one of the two laws would be the case, and an inner world would be posited against it as the same kind of sensible world as the first, but which exists in the realm of representation. This second inner world cannot be pointed out or sensed with any of our senses, yet it would be represented in terms of the sensible world. “But if one posit is in fact something perceived and if its in-itself, as its [inversion], is likewise what is sensuously represented,” then the in-itself of the perceived would be just as actual as what is perceived, for it clearly has actually appeared through this sensuous actuality. One example is that in the first world something is sweet, and in the second inner world it is sour. This inner world, however, being the essence of the first, must be as actual as it, otherwise it is a mere fiction. If the inner is really represented in the outer, then the inner must be as actual as its outer appearance, i.e. the inner sourness must be an actual sourness just as actual as the outer sweetness.

Once again, the example of law and punishment helps illustrate the point: the actual crime has its full reality and inversion in its actual punishment by the law, not in some supersensuous punishment by a law that never reaches it in its own actuality. “The actual punishment has in it its own inverted actuality” in such a way that it is the actuality of the law itself despite being actual only in the moment of the very transgression which would seem to suspend law. Law is only actualized as law in its punishment of transgression against it as crime, and crime is only actually crime in its being punished in its transgression of law. Crimes which are never punished cannot be crimes, and laws that never actually punish cannot be laws. The inversion does not exist in separate alternating moments nor in separate world, but in one and the same moment and world.

This is the truth of the inverted world: that it is the absolute concept of distinction exhibited and grasped as inner distinction in which the selfsame repels itself into the non-selfsame and vice versa in one and the same world and moment. The opposing contradiction is within each moment of the fluctuation in the form of an opposite of an opposite in which the other is immediately already present within it. If one tries to take one of these opposites as in-and-for-itself and sets the other to one side, one finds its inner truth to be that it is the opposite of the opposite, i.e. the opposite of itself. This is how the second supersensible world, as inverted, overreaches itself and envelops the first world within itself. As the inverted world it is its own inversion and is both opposites in one unity. This is the true inner distinction, the distinction in itself, and thus is Infinity for its distinction, unity, and ceaseless movement is wholly within itself. It is what the Understanding has sought, the unity of unity and difference, what seems to be the unconditioned universal.

[Note:] This recategorization of the final Law is a bit strange, but not for Hegel. Now, the infinity referred to here is not just endless infinity, but absolute infinity which fully contains itself in itself, for it is as concept unbounded and no external limitation or difference enters into its determination. Infinity is also characteristic of Hegel’s concrete Universals.

From Consciousness to Self-Consciousness

Through infinity, we see that the Law of Appearance has acquired its necessity at last in all its moments. Hegel says that what is simple in Law is Infinity in the following ways, recounting the developments of Understanding’s concept of the object:

  1. What is selfsame, the unity of the object, is the distinction in itself.
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  2. What was called simple, or genuine, Force doubles itself, and in its infinity is Law
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  3. What is dirempted, which represent the individual parts or terms in the Law, turns out to be what is durably existing independent and indifferent to each other and Law
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  4. By virtue of the concept of inner distinction, what is unlike and indifferent is a distinction that is no distinction, for they are as independent and indifferent like a distinction of the same magnetic pole, whose essence is unity. Just as poles that are “like” repel each other, so too are the indifferent repelled from each other. They are because they are not the others, and in doing so they only posit themselves to be in unity to an even greater degree. Both poles exist in themselves as opposites, and thus opposites of themselves in a unity.

Infinity has shown itself to be the essence of all the movements of the Understanding, and when it finally appeared it appeared as explanation of the unity of difference. This structure is the Understanding’s structure as well, and when this consciousness becomes aware of this it becomes self-conscious. The Understanding’s activity and necessity is this infinite movement of explanation, but at first in the movement of the first Law this movement is not its object. The objects of the Understanding are a myriad of objects which it considers external to itself, but in them it finds nothing but its own structure, in otherness it finds only itself.

[Note:] Just an interesting side bit—Hegel says that this fact is why explanation is so satisfying to consciousness, because in truth it only “consorts” with itself.

In the movement of the second Law infinity becomes the object of the Understanding, but the Understanding does not recognize infinity as such in the division of two worlds or substances, etc. For the Understanding the movement is as it is in experience, an event, in which the different moments are separate predicates of an existing substrate. The Understanding is unable to rid itself of the sensuous appearance of the object, and only we as the phenomenological observers grasp the pure concept as it is in-itself. Hegel says that the exposition of this concept belongs to science, meaning, its proper development shall only come in his future system beyond the Phenomenology itself.

Consciousness, however, has this concept immediately within it, and therefore returns as a new form of consciousness which looks at what has gone before it not as its own essence but as an other. The concept of infinity is in its view the object, and it is conscious of this distinction; thus the distinction is immediately sublated. Consciousness is itself the structure of infinity, and it is aware now that it is for-itself—it is a distinction from what is not distinct. Because what it faces is thus not distinct from it, it faces itself in the object,  it is self-consciousness. “I distinguish myself from myself, and in doing so, what is immediately for me is this: What is distinguished is not distinguished.” Consciousness of an other, of an object as such, is necessarily self-consciousness already. Consciousness of other things than consciousness is only possible for a self-consciousness. The truth of consciousness is thus self-consciousness. However, self-consciousness now first appears for itself, but not yet in unity with consciousness itself. It has not yet attained to the truth of its claim of being self-consciousness for it at first does not recognize the other as another self-consciousness as independent as itself.

[Note:] This is akin to a transcendental move, a chain of a condition of possibility. Self-consciousness thus must be developed into consciousness.

The syllogism of the [inner]-[Appearance]-[Understanding] has dissolved itself, for the inner and the Understanding are one and the same; likewise, the truth of Appearance is nothing but the truth of consciousness. Here the forms of Consciousness—this first section of the Phenomenology—must be left behind as their results have vanished their objects of knowledge and their ways of knowing alike. To know what consciousness knows we must know what consciousness knows in knowing itself.

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PhoS: Force and Understanding (pt. 1)

Force and Understanding is considered the hardest chapter within the Phenomenology. Furthermore, its transition to Self-Consciousness through the Inverted World argument is considered one of the most strange arguments ever made and its meaning is highly contested. With this in mind, it is no easy task to provide a simple summary exposition. I will make a positive assertion here that, lack of consensus aside, the chapter has a logical development up to and even through the Inverted World, and I shall do my best to lay it out. In the original text Hegel uses Force often to mean both the totality of the movement of Force and the moment of Force within the totality of Force—an equivocation that points to the lack of true distinction—however, this can easily cause confusion without keeping in mind the distinction and paying attention to the context. I have here opted to use genuine Force to designate the totality of Force, and Force to point merely to the moment within the totality through the movements, but keep in mind that the distinction is ultimately false despite the initial attempts to maintain a difference.

Be forewarned that the movements of this chapter are tedious and repetitious, but this is in my view a necessary aspect. Prepare for a lot of “However…,” and a whole lot of Force.

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Following from Perception, we now transition into Understanding, the form of consciousness which was implicit in the activity of Perception, but which was leashed by the arbitrary and sensuous distinctions of it. Understanding is aware that the truth of the object is universal through and through—that the unity of the object must be unconditioned universality (unity) which subsumes its individual expression. This universal object exists and is cognized as a movement in which the object has its being-for-other (the also) within itself.

Like Perception, Understanding stands back from its object once again and faces it as an external object fully independent of consciousness and as the essential in the relation of cognition. This object, unlike Perception’s object, is purely conceptual. Understanding faces the object and pretends to merely apprehend it.

The General Problem of Understanding

Understanding, having rid itself of the arbitrary distinctions and sensuousness of Perception’s object, accepts that universality (unity) and individuality (plurality) are unified in the object. Just like Perception, Understanding faces the challenge of cognizing this difference, but now in pure unconditioned universality. Understanding has come to grasp that there is a unity (unconditioned universal, being-in-and-for-itself) of difference (individuals existing in a universal medium, being-for-other) and unity (universal, being-for-self). To this end, Force and Law shall be posited by the Understanding as attempts of conceiving an unconditioned universal which carries difference in-itself as a conceptual movement of the universal as one to the universal as many . This difference, however, shall in its development show itself to be in essence no difference. Perception faced inversions in its conceptions; however, its inversions pale in comparison to the viciousness of the Understanding’s inverting structure.

The dissolution of Understanding shall arrive at last with the grasping of the first form of universality which can give an answer to a question that has been implicit through Sense Certainty, Perception, and Understanding: How can difference and unity be united? The resulting concept is such that the very problems of the forms of Consciousness will require a whole new framework to answer.

The Development of Force

The direct results of Perception were that of a dissolution of the difference of the moments of being-for-itself and the  being-for-other into an abstract unity. Perception could not conceive of the object as it truly is in-itself, for its distinctions erased such an inwardness of the object by subordinating it to an external other as its implicit essence. The distinction, nonetheless, exists as the universal medium and multiplicity of matters which Perception last dealt with, a distinction Perception was unable to conceive as a true distinction and thus collapsed. Understanding brings forward the new categories of form and content in order to explain the possibility of an unconditioned universality with difference. What Perception had conceived as the true is relegated to the category of mere form—the universal medium along with the multiple matters—both  which vanish into the unconditioned universal, whose content remains unchanging and self-same in the difference of its form.

Force first appears as the movement of the transition between Perception’s universal medium and its multiplicity of independent matters. Recalling said movement, the universal medium was posited as the also—a negative unity—which was merely a collection of independent matters. These independent matters, however, remained independent only through the universal medium and thus are in essence merely the medium, which itself is nothing in essence but this multiplicity of distinct and independent universals (matters) without which it does not exist—inversion occurs. The universal thus exists in-itself in undivided unity with this plurality which is within it, for the matters subsist in the universal medium. The matters are in the same place within the unity yet do not touch, for they are independent. However, as independent, each matter has being-for-itself, but this is nothing but by virtue of the medium which is the essential moment that grants their distinction and keeps them apart. The universal medium and matters engage in a constant movement of pointing to and dissolving into the other as the self-sufficient moment. Unity passes into multiplicity and multiplicity into unity endlessly; this movement is Force.

force-2

In Force, the terms of the movement are rearticulated. The movement from universal medium  to plurality of matters becomes the moment of Expression; the inverse movement becomes the moment of Force driven out of its expression back into itself—into its truth—as genuine Force (the unconditioned universal). Force must express itself, but in this Expression Force is no less within itself, for Expression is nothing external to Force, but internal to it; it is Force existing within itself. Defined in this way, Force is its vanishing into Expression and Expression  its vanishing into Force. This is an explicit self-sublation of the terms as their immanent linking to each other in their opposition—a link which does not allow their true separation. Nonetheless, the Understanding posits these two moments, Force and Expression, as different immediate unities instead of the unity their content suggests—two different forms of one content, or a being-for-itself that is a being-for-another—thus Force in truth belongs as concept to the Understanding and not to the object. The movement of Force is the movement of the Understanding’s cognition itself; as such, the Understanding is really the concept of this movement, i.e. the structures and movements of the concepts of Understanding are in truth its own structure and its own movement imposed on the supposed external object.

Force as Force (genuine Force) is posited as the unconditioned universal which is in-itself what it is for-another; thus the distinction is in itself. Because genuine Force is the existent truth of its moments—Force and Expression—it is set free from them and posited as their persisting substance in-and-for-itself, for it is their inner truth, essence, and substance. Genuine Force is Force and Expression.

Note: First, here we see the emergence of the moment of sophistry in the Understanding, for though genuine Force was derived in the moment of Force’s return from Expression, this moment in its return is arbitrarily lifted above itself and posited as a distinct third underlying its original existence. We will see Force flip flop on the question of what is essential just as Perception did. Second, notice that genuine Force conceptually appears through its Expression. Genuine Force Expresses itself as Force and Expression in one moment; thus it doubles the form of Force, and this is exactly what we see in the second diagram. Force and Expression are themselves the form of Expression, the plurality, of genuine Force.

As its moments, however, Force and Expression are in genuine Force and thus take on its enduring substantiality; they likewise exist for themselves. The moment of Force driven back into itself (Force for short) is the essence of an excluding one for which the Expression in many matters is another enduring essence. However, Genuine Force, as the movement of the whole and the unconditioned universal, “remains what it is according to its concept,” i.e. the distinctions are its mere forms and are superficial vanishing moments within it and not external to it, and thus cannot be truly substantive independent existences. However, the distinction between the moment of Force and its unfolding in its moment of Expression as independent matters could not exist if these moments did not have an enduring existence themselves, which further means that the genuine Force as the unconditioned unity would not exist if it did not exist in truly substantial and distinct forms, for their separate substantial existence is the essence of its substantial existence. Genuine Force must exist as these distinct forms of one content.

force-4

Recall now the movements of Perception and it is clear that the movement of medium and matters is repeated. Unity and difference are once again posited as independent and for-themselves at one moment, and dependent and for-another in the next. Force is, again, just this very movement of unfolding into many and collapsing into one within its unconditioned unity.

As such, genuine Force appears as a middle term of these two extremes as forms of itself. It, however, vanishes into these two extremes which are for-themselves only in this vanishing of genuine Force. As this entire movement, genuine Force is not merely its objective forms—object being here the object of perception—in the movement of Force and Expression. The unconditioned universal is un-objective, for it is the inner unity of things which goes beyond the mere form of the object.

Movements of Force

Note: as a reader you must keep in mind that all this Force talk is not in truth about anything specifically and only related to physics, nor is the movement between terms a physical process. Force, Expression, and later Law, are terms for Understanding’s attempt to get at the concept of an object as a Universal differentiated in-and-for-itself. The movements are conceptual movements of implicit essential or substantive positing, i.e. the shift of category due to one concept depending on another. Force is one and inner because Expression is many and outer and vice versa, etc. The terms, however, are not merely dressed in a physics garb; they truly are concepts of physics, but Hegel removes them from their usual perceptual form in which sensuousness blocks the view of just what these concepts as absolute explanations would entail. Force truly is the force of physics, the absolute force, which is posited as the origin and true substance of all real objects.

1st Major Movement: Force and Expression Solicited/Soliciting

Because genuine Force as such is represented and determined as reflected into itself, it is one aspect of its own concept. It is represented as the durable substantial extreme of Force determined as the moment of the “one.” As one, Force excludes its Expression (its unfolding into many matters) as another durable substance which is other to Force’s oneness. However, since Force must Express itself, but in-itself is not yet expressed, its Expression is represented as an external other to Force that “approaches” it—it is not just an inert other beside it—and solicits it to express itself. Thus Force cannot truly be one, for its essence is the universal medium of many matters—its Expression. However, since Force is this Expression, and the essence of the multiplicity of matters is the universal medium in which they inhere and are separated in, Force as Expression posits its oneness outside itself as Force that solicits Expression to drive back into itself as a one.

Genuine Force has shown itself to really be the reflection into itself as the movement of the oneness of Force and its Expression as many. These have shown to necessarily be what they are not yet posited as being, i.e. Force is not yet its Expression, and vice versa. The other approaches Force in this way, as its not yet being the other, and solicits it to make a reflective turn into itself as the other. Genuine Force as Force is solicited to Express, and Force as Expression is solicited to return into itself as Force. However, this other has already shown itself to be nothing but Force itself. Thus, genuine Force has shown itself to truly be this movement of being-reflected-into-itself and thus takes Expression into itself; it sublates what was other to it. The oneness of Force disappears in the way it appeared, for another Force is posited outside it as the very Expression which is its essential moment. Force is thus Force driven into itself by its positing itself externally to generate its movement into itself. Force merely moves from moment of Force to moment of Force.

2nd Major Movement: Force Solicited by Force

Genuine Force as Force driven into itself seems unitary but in fact explodes the moment of absolute unity it seems to deliver. As a movement into itself, Force is a distinction against itself. Force must express itself, yet this Expression is merely Force itself. Force is simply the moment of Force as not yet its Expression, and its Expression is merely the moment of Force as not yet driven back into itself—the soliciting and solicited are one and the same Force, yet there is a difference. How is this possible? Force’s inner diremption as its moments shows itself to be not just superficial, but enters into a full duality of two fully independent Forces. As two Forces, however, there is no determination of conceptual difference between solicited and soliciting Force. The second Force—as a universal medium of many matters—at first appears as the solicitor of the first Force, but because it is a Force it shares in the exact fluctuating duality of expressing itself as such a universal medium of many matters and in such expression being driven back into itself. Both Forces solicit the other and are solicited in the same moment by virtue of their mutual soliciting. Both Forces enter into a play with each other in which they mutually determine each other as the opposite and reciprocally transition into the other determination, i.e. Force driven back into itself and Force as universal medium solicit each other to transition into the opposite moment.

force-5

Both Forces begin in mutual contrast: the first as Force as a one (or in-itself), the second as Force as the universal medium. They are each by virtue of this contrast and thus are  contrasted only in their being-for-each-other in which this determination occurs. The Force posited as universal medium, for example, solicits the Force in-itself. However, the former is universal medium by virtue of the other being the Force in-itself; thus the latter is in truth the one which solicits the former to solicit it, for it is the positor and determiner of the former. The first Force in-itself seems to be in an overdetermining role as absolute self-solicitor, but since both Forces share the same concept and moments both have already been in-itself and universal medium. The second Force as Expression is such because it had already solicited the first to solicit it to express. The movement of soliciting completed, the Forces do not just transition into the moment of the other, but already had passed over into the other. The second Force as universal medium is solicited by the first Force in-itself to solicit it, but this occurred only because the second Force had already as Force in-itself solicited the first to solicit it to express as universal medium. Force as Force shows itself to be the positor of the soliciting Force as its own essential determination, yet this shows Force is even more its soliciting Force through its own inner determination. Force is in truth the universal medium of independent matters through the very moment it seems to attain absolute self-unity. The Understanding’s sophistry begins to unravel as the truth of Force more and more appears to be merely the relation and self-othering movement.

General Movements of Form and Content

The distinctions of Force can be can be looked at from the lens of content and form. In content, Force is distinguished as its two extremes of Force reflected in-itself as a one and the medium of matters. In form, Force is distinguished as the soliciting (active) and solicited (passive) Force. In the distinction of content the moments are as such only distinguished as independent for the Understanding, for they have shown themselves to exist only in their movement into the other. In the distinction of form the moments are self-sufficient in their relation to each other, dividing themselves off from each other and contrasting through their positing of the other to solicit them. In the movement of force, the Understanding perceives that in this way the extreme terms of genuine Force are nothing in themselves—each moment is merely a vanishing into the other which it is contrasted with and posited as momentary essence. Force in-itself is only its vanishing into the universal medium, and the medium its vanishing into Force in-itself. For us, the phenomenological observers, there is also the acknowledgement that the distinctions of form and content in Force themselves vanish, and thus Force itself is left as a movement of vanishing.

The Collapse of Force

Developed as it has, Force as genuine Force faces immanent collapse into its moments, for its distinction from them is no distinction and its essence an ever shifting yet to be. Genuine Force becomes actual only in its being doubled into two Forces, and “it emerges just how it comes to be actual”, i.e. genuine Force only is posited through the relation of these Forces and in truth is only the movement of these two forces. These Forces seem to be essences existing for themselves, yet each proves to be utterly dependent and existing only in its being posited through the Force that opposes it. The being-for-itself of Force has proved to be its being-for-another in the play of Forces. In truth the two Forces are but one single movement and moment of being through another; they lack any true independent essence to preserve them as separate.

The concept of genuine Force at first appeared as the unconditioned universal represented within itself as Force separate from its Expression, but this has shown itself to be false. Genuine Force actually exists as Force in-itself purely in its Expression, which is nothing but the play of two Forces and their self-sublating inversion. Force in-itself, however, has already shown itself to be nothing but a moment of its Expression, i.e. Force as Force only exists in its Expression (which itself is the play of forces)—it does not truly underlie this duality as an unconditioned unity all. Force has failed to attain unconditioned universality, and its movement has collapsed it into its moments. It is merely a viciously circular opposing duality where no true essence or substance can be found to unify them within their circular unity.

[Note:] Recall back to the second diagram when genuine Force was introduced, and remember that all it did was double the form of Force. What applies to genuine Force also applies to Force in-itself, or simply Force, for they are one and the same. Force too is only actual in its Expression, but once again this Expression is nothing but the play of Forces. Recall now another thing, Force was posited as substance earlier on, and its moments took on substantive being, but there was found no stable substance to rely on in Force, for itself and its moments were merely yet to be. Force has shown that its being-in-itself was nothing but its being-for-another. This is very important! The truth of Force is that it is this pure movement of being-for-other. Force as the play of Forces vanishes itself and is not a concept of any true grounding substance or essence at all. The conceptual structure of Force, having no substance, points to a new category of substance outside itself to ground it, for what is vanishing must vanish into something else.

The truth of Force as Force is thus merely that it is the thought of the unity being-for-itself which underlies this actual circularity of being-for-another in the Expression which is perceived by the Understanding. There has been no true being-in-itself discovered in Force, but the Understanding does not give up on the conception of the unconditioned universal. A new universal category thus is attained in the Expression, a universal with a content of pure self-diremption and vanishing into two extremes, its being-for-itself being nothing but its being-for-another. Since Force is nothing but its Expression as two forces in play, and its moments are nothing but vanishing yet-to-bes, Force itself is nothing but a vanishing in its concept. The unconditioned universal is once again posited against its Expression as the inner truth of the object, but no longer as Force. Force now stands as a vanishing term between the inner of the object and the Understanding which perceives the object. As a vanishing, this universal is but a seeming—a mere Appearance—through which the Understanding must get behind to reach the true essence of the object, its Law, the true being-for-itself.

Logic of Being, Nothing, and Becoming

This was already part of my post introducing dialectics, but I’m making it its own post here just to aid with blog organization. Enjoy.

 

The dialectic of Being is very visible when it comes to giving an example of dialectics online, many cite this rather short and dense dialectic to give a typical thesis-antithesis-synthesis example, but nothing could be further from the truth. The true order of the dialectic is not just {Being-Nothing}-Becoming, but rather it is this:

1-logic-diagram-on-being-final
**Sublation: equally means “to keep,” “to ‘preserve’,” and “to cause to cease,” “to put an end to.” Something is sublated only insofar as it has entered into unity with its opposite; in this closer determination as something reflected, it may fittingly be called a moment. – Hegel, Science of Logic

 

Now to break it down, if such a thing as simplifying what Hegel calls the already absolute simple is possible.

(Abstract) Being and Nothing

In the Science of Logic, for reasons ultimately only fully explained by the path of the Phenomenology, we begin in pure abstraction and indeterminacy. The most bare and abstract indeterminacy we can think is the general form of pure Being for the indeterminacy we begin with is indeterminacy. The content, or definition, of pure Being is nothing. There is no definition one can give for pure Being which is universal and indeterminate. That which means everything can only mean nothing. If all things, say, are known and understood as “Apple”, there is nothing specific Apple means, and as such it is indeterminate, it has no definition, and it means Nothing. Nothing is the very thought we think in the indeterminacy of Being.

Pure Nothing, like pure Being, is indeterminate and has no definition to be given. Nothing, however, is this indeterminacy, and thus it is Being. Here the peculiarity of pure Being and Nothing arises before us as an indistinguishable content: pure Being and pure Nothing are both indeterminate in content, they have the same meaning. Being = indeterminateness = Nothing. But in the relation of Being, Nothing, and their indeterminate content, there is a further peculiarity: that of the strange contradiction of their form and content. Being has shown itself to have Nothing as its content. Its form, that of Being, is in contradiction to its content, that of indeterminateness, Nothing. Nothing, however, faces an inverse contradiction. Nothing is in harmony with its indeterminate content, but is in contradiction with its form, the form of Being, for if Nothing is the case, the truth of Being, then Nothing is Being. The contradiction of form and content cannot be escaped, there cannot be form without content or the inverse; Being and Nothing are immediately moving from one to the other as their form and content forces the movement in their very thought.

A picture may help with understanding this movement. Attempt to picture a singularity, a dimensionless point which is all there is. What is within such point? Nothing, there is no being within or outside the singularity, the singularity is dimensionless, it is only itself immediately and without separation. Since pure Being peculiarly contains (means) Nothing, it points us to an interesting thought: Nothing is what makes Being what it is. Nothing, hence, has now been positioned by Being itself as that which is more fundamental than it. Being is not absolute, but it points to Nothing as a new candidate for absolute truth and it must be investigated. Continuing the analogy of a singularity, since Nothing is the content of Being, makes Being what it is, Nothing itself is in the form of Being. Pay close attention to that, Nothing is and it is in the form of Being. Nothing is in Being for it is its content, yet Being is nothing but the form of Nothing itself. Neither Being nor Nothing are absolute, they are utterly dependent on the other, yet they are not separate as others for they are a  unity of form and content that is indistinguishable. In fact, we find here something strange: Being and Nothing are one and the same concept. We may see them as the form and content of one concept: the Being of Nothing. We know, however, that this is ridiculous and nonsensical. There is a real difference between Being and Nothing, they cannot be the same concept, we cannot accept the Being of Nothing as a valid concept since it is no concept at all, it is the mere empty tautology of indeterminacy. Being and Nothing immediately move to each other due to the contradiction of form and content which is immediate and forces an immediate logical move to the opposite concept. Is there something more that can be used to determine the difference of Being/Nothing in this immediate movement?

We see in this simple beginning of the Logic already arise the strange and irreducible dialectic of just these two simple concepts. Being is Nothing is Being is Nothing is… ad infinitum. Being and Nothing, in being thought, immediately (this is not temporal transition, but logical) transition into their opposite by either content or form. Being disappears, vanishes, into Nothing, and likewise Nothing vanishes into Being. This incessant immediate movement between Being and Nothing as vanishing is what Hegel calls Becoming. Becoming is the sublation of Being and Nothing for it is their immediate unity as vanishing. This, however, is not enough to make Becoming intelligible as a genuine concept. In fact, we must realize there is a problem with our beginning. If pure Being and Nothing are both indeterminate and lack definition, just how is it that we know they are different?  We have up to now merely assumed they are different because we intend to mean something different by each, yet in this pure indeterminate beginning we find no conceptual resource to make this intelligible in concept. Being and Nothing vanish ceaselessly into each other, and this vanishing is Becoming. Two indeterminacies vanishing into each other, however, provides no content to define their relation. Hegel here reveals to us that this beginning which we made had been a false beginning, and laboriously spends 20 pages to convince us that there can truly be no such concept as pure Being or pure Nothing. The true beginning of the investigation is Becoming, for in becoming we now have the first proper concept in which the difference of Being and Nothing can be made in conceptual definition. Because Being and Nothing have already shown themselves to comprise Becoming, even if  we don’t know what their difference really is, Becoming can shed light on our indeterminate Being/Nothing. Just as Being and Nothing were related as a contradiction of form and content which forces a movement into each other, now that we have Becoming a retroactive definition of Being and Nothing by considering this movement as moments of Becoming can be carried out. The movement of Being and Nothing into each other itself sheds light on the form and content of Being and Nothing themselves.

Becoming and the redevelopment of Being/Nothing

In Becoming we immediately can discern two parts, Hegel calls them moments, that comprise the definition of the concept of Becoming: Being vanishes to Nothing, it is Ceasing to Be (Being); Nothing vanishes to Being, it is Coming to be (Nothing). Both Ceasing/Coming to be are sublations, immediate unities of Being and Nothing on their own, hence they self-sublate and are in internal unity with their opposite, e.g. Being is its vanishing from Being to Nothing, it includes its opposite explicitly. Being and Nothing are now differentiated by this simple definition as being inverse moments in Becoming. The problem of definition, of a content/form that is one and the same seems to be solved; we finally have Being, Nothing, and Becoming as definite concepts, or so it seems until we think further. Being and Nothing, defined now as Ceasing/Coming to be which comprise Becoming, show a new problem: they presuppose a further determinate difference of Being and Nothing. If Being and Nothing are merely Coming/Ceasing to be, then we see that we in fact have not made a true separation of Being and Nothing yet. Being is defined as its mere vanishing to Nothing, and Nothing the mere vanishing to Being. We have lost Being and Nothing as distinct concepts yet again, content and form forces the incessant vanishing of Coming/Ceasing to be into each other again. The immediate unity and indifference which made the indeterminate Being and Nothing a problem reappears only in a duplicated unity of vanishings of inverse order. What is the Nothing that Being vanishes into, and what is the Being that Nothing vanishes into? Through Becoming we determined (defined) Being and Nothing as moments, but now Becoming’s own moments are pointing us to Being and Nothing which lie outside Becoming as that which Becoming’s moments vanish into, yet as moments of Becoming Being and Nothing as Ceasing/Coming to be vanish. Being and Nothing vanish into what? Each other! Ceasing/Coming to be vanish into Nothing/Being. Becoming, because it is vanishing, vanishes itself into the background of Being and Nothing and leaves them in immediate unity once again.

Here, a marvelous conceptual move has occurred: Becoming, the vanishing of Being and Nothing, themselves determined in it only as inverse vanishings into each other, vanishes itself for it is vanishing. There is a possibility to err in this crucial movement, however, and what follows is why. Ceasing/Coming to be assume Being and Nothing to be distinct and separate in order to be vanishing into each other, but Being and Nothing in Becoming are nothing but vanishings into each other ceaselessly, but since Ceasing/Coming to be have vanished the distinction between Being and Nothing which they vanish into, now we see that this vanishes Being and Nothing themselves, and Ceasing/Coming to be vanish along with them. If Being and Nothing, which Ceasing/Coming to Be depend on to be at all, have vanished in general,  then the result of Becoming is a vanishing of the vanishing, but it returns us back to pure Nothing and brings us back to the transition of Becoming again. Pure Being’s content pointed to pure Nothing, and there it can be seen that there is no escape, no denying of Being or Nothing, for they are a necessary form/content to each other, likewise in Becoming there is no escape from denying Being and Nothing for they are the necessary contents for Becoming. The moments of Becoming point to the solution of their vanished distinctions by presupposing the distinction of Being and Nothing. Ceasing/Coming to be now carry out their full movement as vanishings: in Ceasing to be Being vanishes to Nothing; in Coming to be Nothing vanishes to Being. The vanishings complete and vanish themselves away into what they have Become. It is the truth of Becoming that it become and vanish itself into Being and Nothing that has each become. The vanishing of Being and Nothing has vanished, they are now a stable unity of distinct yet immediately united concepts. Being and Nothing now have distinct content, if only in that they became in inverse of each other, but now recall that Being and Nothing shared one other aspect: their form; both have the form of Being. Being and Nothing both are.

Concrete—or determinate—Being and Nothing

Once more Being and Nothing inherently relate, no longer as vanishing forced by their form/content contradiction, but as that which has become into the two stable concepts. What is their relation now? They are beings in immediate unity, beings which are in virtue of their not being the other. This is a unity that is, and as such the unity of Being/Nothing has the form of Being itself. Now at last we have a Being  whose being is the immediate unity of Being with a non-being(Nothing), i.e. a Being whose being is in virtue of its non-being. This new Being is the vanishedness of Becoming.

Becoming’s inner movement’s vanishing has revealed a strange yet undeniable truth following from the logical movements that have developed thus far: Being and Nothing are one and the same, they are inseparable,  and they truly are different. Both Being and Nothing are ( they are the same);  both have Being. Now we can see Being is a being with a non-being, a Being with negation, and this negation is nothing other than another Being itself in its own right (they are different). Being is an immediate unity of beings which negate each other in virtue of being two beings which are not each other (they are inseparable). The entire development from Being/Nothing to the moments of Becoming have not been falsehoods or misunderstandings at all; on the contrary, they have further revealed the pieces to the baffling puzzle we started with and now allow us to further make sense of just how all of these aspects of Being and Nothing can be true. What vanishes in Becoming is also an incomplete concept of Being and Nothing as radically incommensurable concepts that cannot define themselves without transitioning into the other, and the resultant vanishedness makes way to the first real concept of Being: a Being with a non-Being as part of its being. 

As Hegel explains in the text, the absolute basic form of determination (definition) is negation, of Being which is negated. What negates Being? Nothing. But what is Nothing? A Being itself, but a being that is the non-being of the first Being. This unity of Being and Nothing is basic Determinate Being, or, general Existence. This is the first concept in which we can finally begin to think about  definable Being(s), however, there is at this point no difference between the determinateness of Being, and Being itself. Determinateness is, and Being is determinate. The contradiction of form/content forces thought’s movement onward.

The form of the path of relations which pure Being has traversed, its dialectical development, is unique to itself. If one attempts to impose the form of relations which pure Being develops on its way to Existence one shall be terribly mistaken for Existence has its own peculiar form of development, one which is not unlike a hall of mirrors reflecting its content and form as multiple determinations of determinateness itself.

As to what this development of abstract concepts becoming more determinate, or concrete, is necessary for… I’ll leave that to your curiosity.

PhoS: Perception and Error (part 2)

Continuing from the prior post which developed the thing with properties, here we continue with the movements of Perception’s comprehension of its object.

Movements and moments of Perception

In §117 of the Phenomenology the general movement of Perception’s cycle of error is laid out as follows:

  1. The object is taken up and perceived as a simple pure individual thing (one) with property which itself has universality. By attributing to the one the property, its universality as a simple singular object is nullified. Perception has erred in its attribution of universal essence to the singular individual; the truth is that the universal unity is community (the continuous plurality as property).
    _
  2. As a community, property is determinate and contrasted to an other and excludes it. As determinate, however, this property excludes and breaks apart the continuity of the object’s community into a broken plurality of properties by positing the excluding One as the essence of the object. Thus a second error has been made.
    _
  3. As a One that excludes, the object is a plurality of separate and mutually indifferent properties. As such, the object is in truth a universal communal medium (an also) in which a plurality of determinate sensuous universalities exist indifferent to each other. Error has once more occurred.
    _
  4. This communal medium, as contrasted to the properties in it, is itself an individual property like them and is equally indifferent to them. As a purely individual property, however, it loses all conceptual determinacy and cannot be a property at all, for it is neither in a One nor in a related plurality. As a pure self-relating indeterminate entity with no exclusive character (negation) the object now appears as pure sensuous being to which consciousness relates to merely as the “meaning of something“, thus stepping back from Perception only to reenact the process anew.

While Perception began with the act of an I and a sensuous being it wished to apprehend, its results are the vanishing of the object it originally determined. In its attempts to determine the truth of the object, consciousness merely moved away from the object and back into itself in the act of perception. Perception, however, becomes in this movement aware of its own act of perceiving the object only to return into itself. It learns from this that its thoughts are not a pure apprehension of the object, but the object is nonetheless truth. The object is self-same universality, and any appearance of a contradiction to this shall be taken on as Perception’s error. Perception now is aware it errs in its act, and by virtue of this awareness it believes it has the capacity to sift truth from falsity through its thoughts and once again gain a pure apprehension of the object through the correction of the mediating thoughts. The movement of Perception begins anew with the qualified limitation which Perception’s awareness of its role as perceiver plays.

In the 1st movement, Perception takes heed that the object is one, and when it notices the plurality of different properties it no longer attributes them to the object, but to its own doing. The object is white to my eyes, salty to my tongue, etc. Perception recognizes that it is the universal medium (the also) which differentiates the one into the determinate and independent many through the given determinate difference of its sense organs. As determinate, properties exclude each other—white is in contrast to black, and one is in contrast to many. The thing, however, is one only through its exclusion of the many, this is its determinateness, and thus the properties must not merely be Perception’s, but must be part of the thing itself in order that it may indeed be determined as one against another.  As in the thing, the properties are its essence for they are its inner being, i.e. the one depends on the many to be what it is; as the thing is itself the truth it exists in-itself independent of others. As differentiated within the thing—as its essence—the properties exist in independent exclusion of each other, and thus exist in-and-for-themselves. The thing is thus perceived to be in truth the universal medium (the also) in which the properties exist indifferent to each other and the medium. A reversal of Perception’s first judgment has occurred, for the the properties now exist in-themselves and independent from the each other and the universal medium itself. It is the unity of the object which is Perception’s doing, not the plurality, for the properties exist independent and indifferent to each other and are unified only in the perceiving consciousness.

A second movement begins once again as Perception continues to attempt to understand the object. As the properties are independent they are, and in relation to other properties they are merely also with another, e.g. the thing is white also with cubical shape, etc.  Because each property is in-itself, the thing is white insofar as it is not cubical, or is white and cubical insofar as it is not salty, i.e. a property is in-itself insofar as it is not in relation to another. In this way the properties are kept apart.  Since the one has been seen by Perception as its own doing and not the thing’s, the properties cease to be properties of a one and are conceived as free-standing matters. However, as independent matters are all that are, the also is recognized as a mere collection of independent properties which form an enclosing surface; the also is their indifferent unity and itself has no positive existence.

Perception has gone from positing oneness in the thing itself and difference (the also) within its consciousness, to positing oneness in itself and difference in the object. Looking back on the process it sees that both the thing and itself have the one and the also. What it faces is a differentiated truth in itself and in the object. Perception and its object are both “one and also”. Not only is it in the act of Perception’s apprehending that there is diversity and the returning-into-self of this diversity into the object, but the thing itself has these aspects. The object exhibits itself by reflecting out of itself in a determinate way for the apprehending consciousness, but reflects back into itself what it originally reflected out of itself.  It first exhibited oneness in itself and seemed to reflect difference out of itself into consciousness, but in the act of perception the difference returns to the thing and the oneness is reflected out of it into consciousness. The object has both determinations and has a contrasted truth in itself.

In a third movement the thing is no longer simply true and selfsame. The thing is now non-selfsame and returns back into itself from out of selfsameness. The object is the movement of perception in itself.  As one the object is in-and-for-itself, but it also is for-another (also). As for-another it is itself an other for-itself. Perception is unwilling to allow this difference to inhere in the thing itself, so it attempts to place it outside it. As the moment of the also falls into the thing and its oneness, however, the also and oneness are different, thus the also falls into different things in doing so. The contradiction of the also and oneness is resolved by having two objects (things). The thing is for-itself and selfsame, but this unity is disturbed by other things (the also between them). The unity of oneness is preserved as the thing and consciousness in-itself; the also is preserved as separate from the thing and from consciousness as an external otherness to both as an indifferent relation of otherness of different things.

The in-itself of things which determines them as different is not a contrast within themselves; they are each a simple determinateness and are essentially such in their oneness. Within the thing, however, we already saw there was plurality and difference in its differentiated matters (properties). The diversity within the things is an actual distinction of multiple compositions in them, but because simple determinateness composes the essence of the thing, the multiple composition is unessential for the thing is one in its simple determinateness. Within the unity the thing possesses in itself a doubled insofarone insofar as not also (being-posited-into-one); also insofar as not one (being-posited-in-contrast)—but its contrast is not a contrast in the thing as one in itself. The oneness is taken as of higher value than contrast in the thing. As such, insofar as the thing comes into contrast through its absolute distinction as a simple determinateness in itself the distinction is external to it. The multiplicity necessarily in it is considered unessential due to this overvaluing of the oneness, thus the distinction outside and within it are both unessential to the thing. As a one through its simple determinateness, the thing contrasts itself with others and preserves itself. However, it is a one existing for itself insofar as it does not stand in relation to others, but it relates itself to others through this very absolute character as a one—for to be one is to exclude the others—thus the thing is merely this act of relating via negating others, and its independence perishes by virtue of what supposedly made it independent.  What was supposed to secure the truth of the unified object’s independence, its being-for-itself, has only shown that in truth its essence is an other.

Thus the object and truth of Perception dissolves itself away. What was supposed to be the essential for the object, being-for-itself, has shown itself to be just as unessential and essential as being-for-another. Perception’s concept of the object was nothing but a set of meaningless and empty differences first positing one aspect as essential and then another. As Hegel puts it: a mere show of sophistry claiming one thing as true, then its opposite as true, and back again. However, Perception’s dissolution is not empty. Its dissolution comes about because of the problem of conceiving the difference which is in the object, and despite its failure two things has been learned: 1) the difference is a difference of the object itself and not a fiction of perception; 2) the determinacy of the object cannot be captured by appealing to sensuous experience of individuality as opposed to the abstract universality of its unity.

If there is a way to capture the difference of one and many in the object it must be captured in a single movement of thought, a true universal unity which subsumes its individuals within itself. This insight and movement away from the perceived object’s essence lying in its sensuous character is the movement away from Perception to Understanding, a new form of consciousness which grasps that the truth of the object’s unified difference must be found within a realm of pure universality.

PhoS: Perception and Error (Part 1)

Perception is the second of the forms of consciousness, and follows from the results of Sense Certainty. In Perception the mediation of thought and language have been acknowledged by the knower, but the experiential object of knowledge is still considered the essential substance of knowledge and the conceptual knowing as the inessential in the relation. All seeming contradictions or errors that Perception finds in its conceptions of the object of knowledge are considered by it solely its own error and are not ascribed as a reality of the object itself. Since mediation is allowed by Perception, this mediation shall prove itself problematic for it will stand between consciousness and its object. Hegel terms this particular form of consciousness the form of general common sense; it is not reducible to being any particular philosophy or philosopher’s epistemic framework despite having aspects that can be pinpointed to some philosophers. Just like Sense Certainty, Perception will be plagued by problems of inversion, but of a different kind.

In the first § of the chapter Hegel says something quite Hegelian concerning the I and the object perceived. The I and its object are both universals, and

“One of them [the I] is the very moment of “pointing out,” and the other is the same movement but as the “simple.” The former is the act of perceiving, the latter is the object. In terms of its essence, the object is the same as the movement; the movement is the unfolding and distinction of the moments, and the object is those moments as jointly grasped together.” (§111, Pinkard trns.)

Perception, then, shall show itself to be a single movement in which the perception of the object shall constitute the knowledge of the object itself; the sensuous object shall be shown to not be the essence of knowledge itself.

The general problems of Perception

The first general problem of Perception is the problem of the relation of the universal to individual in the form of the thing and its properties. The thing, the experiential singled this, is the universal for it is the unity of the different properties which inhere in the thing. Perception tries to first think the object by capturing its sensuous plural existence through an abstracted unity of thought. Because there is a clear difference in the thing between its unity (universality) and individuality (properties), and further between individuals themselves, Perception tries to articulate this difference through a third mediating term to do the work of negation (the One). Its failure shall be shown to be its inability to capture the complete unity and determinateness of the object. The object as a whole is fragmented in the categories of Perception as the medium (universal), the One (negation), and property (individual); all are perceptual perspectives of the unified object which alone cannot provide the conceptual coherency of the object, yet Perception can only conceive of the object from one of these categories and its primacy in relation to the others. As it cognizes the object from these categories they shall dissolve into each other.

The second problem is that of essential vs unessential. For Perception there is an ambivalence of just what its actual object of perception essentially is: Is the object truly the universal unity and the plurality of individual properties unessential, or is the object in truth the inverse, i.e. is it that the plurality of individuals is essential and singular unity unessential?

First, however, the transition from Sense Certainty and Perception must be fully articulated, and none should be amazed that this is no easy task.

Mediation and Determinateness

Perception begins with a reflection of the implied truth of Sense Certainty’s phenomenological experience of the many nows, heres, and thises. This result is that the object of knowledge must itself be a mediated universal: a this of many thises, a now of many nows, a here of many heres. This mediated universal, however, is not recognized as mediated by other universals, but as mediated by individual particular sensuous experiences. This mediated universal in general is a thing with many properties. This acknowledgement by Perception gives it a place as the first form of consciousness with determinate knowledge for it accepts mediation into its conceptual schema of the object and no longer rests happy with merely pointing to the object of experience.

Determinateness enters the this that resulted from SC by acknowledging its mediation through other thises. It is a this that is not this, i.e. a this that is not another this, a determinate this. What this is, however, is not yet itself determined, it is a conceptual nothing, and remains an abstract universal. The pure this is determined merely as the abstracted unity of the object before Perception.

The determination of the This into the Thing with many Properties

Recalling Sense Certainty, the sensuousness of the object it faced is retained, but now as the universal itself, i.e. sensuousness is the property of the this. The this retains the immediacy of Sense Certainty’s sensuousness as property—this is a sublation, for it explicitly unites the concretely sensuous and individual with the abstract universal. Because the this with property has immediacy it implies a multiplicity of properties, for as we saw at the end of Sense Certainty, immediacy is itself the mediation of one thing through another. Each property is like the this which merely is not another this, as such they are a simple abstract universal as such.

As universal the properties self-relate and exist independently and indifferent to all other properties. It must be noted that at this point there is here no talk about universals, only of the universal character of the this and properties. Property is itself universal as sensuousness as such, but Perception has not recognized this as a separate universality from the this. How can Perception not recognize that property itself is another universal against the the general unity of the this? Because it relies on the experiential sensuousness of the object for the determination of the individual properties which inhere in the this. The properties are determined through their sensuous existence, e.g. the whiteness, cubical shape, and taste of salt are recognized only as these individual experiential determinations whose mediation is the unity of the thing.

Because only the this has been properly recognized as universalas the unity (as medium) of these properties, but property as such has not been recognized as another universal unity itself, Perception conceives of the thing and its properties as a brute unity of universal and individual with no recognition that properties can relate to each other and be determined as much by their relation to each other as by their relation to the unity of the thing. Therefore, the this appears as the medium in which properties inhere and interpenetrate without affecting or relating to each other, e.g. in salt the color, shape, and taste seem to be utterly independent of each other in mere sense-experience; they merely relate to the this in which they are unified in one place. As the medium which unifies the many properties, the this functions as the ‘also‘ through which properties relate in their utter independence, e.g. in salt (thing) there is whiteness also with cubicalness also with hardness, etc. As is clear, Perception conceives of properties first as pure individualities with no independent universal character themselves, the universal character being the this’s  and not their own. This is why it is said that the self-related universality of properties is not their own, but is separate from them as the pure self-relating-itself-to-itself, i.e. the this is the universal (as unity of the object) as such which alone relates itself to itself, the properties relate to and through this as their own universality, but do not relate to each other. The this as universal is the unity and medium of the properties by being the one here and now where properties are assembled together, e.g. whiteness also with squareness are united here. The this is thus the pure thinghood and the first conception of the essence of the object of Perception.

One more specification of the object remains to be made by Perception: it must further specify how properties may be determinate without having universality or negation themselves. Properties cannot be indifferent to each other lest they lose their determinate character, they must relate as properties to each other as different, excluding, or negating, in order to be multiple properties, e.g. color that is not taste etc. However, Perception cannot acknowledge this determinate character—the having of positive being that negates others—of properties as inherent to properties themselves, for this would grant essentiality to what is not essential of the object. The first solution Perception attempts is to further specify the excluding character necessary for the determinateness of properties not in them as such, but in the thinghood, the universality, which is further determined to take on the role of exclusion (negation) as a moment of itself, this negating moment is the One which mediates the difference of individual properties and does the work of excluding for them; the One is negation as such. It becomes pure negation which separates the properties yet is itself separate from them and is self-related unitary essence; it is conceived as the thing alone without its unnecessary properties.

To finish this part off, here is Hegel’s articulation of the final assembly of the determinations of the general object of Perception:

“In these moments taken all together, the thing, as the truth of perception, reaches its culmination or at least insofar as it is necessary to develop such a culmination here. It is α) the indifferent passive universality, the “also” of the many properties, or, rather, matters; ß) likewise the negation as simple, that is, the one, the excluding of contrasted properties; and γ) the many properties themselves, the relation of the two first moments, namely, it is the negation as it relates itself to the indifferent element and extends itself within it as a range of distinctions; it is the point of individuality in the medium of durable existence radiating out into multiplicity.” (§115)

perception-1

Phenomenology of Spirit: Sense Certainty

Sense Certainty (SC) is the first form of consciousness in the Phenomenology, and it’s relatively easy to understand. Sense Certainty posits itself as a completely passive I which immediately, without the mediation of thought, relates to its objects of knowledge by way of pointing either linguistically or literally. In this manner SC seems to circumvent the problem of knowing as a medium or instrument, for it has rejected all mediation and places its knowing in the immediacy of the object it knows. From the perspective of SC, it captures the purest knowledge in its activity of pointing to the concrete object itself without further additions. All who want to know the truths which SC wishes to convey must merely look towards the object which SC points out and immediately absorb the rich experiential manifold that is the object itself.

Who believes in Sense Certainty?

Before we engage the issue, I’d just like to make a tangent concerning just who in the world actually has ever believed knowledge is what is known in the manner of SC. Listening to Bernstein’s lectures on the chapter, he does not believe anyone has nor can possibly function with knowledge in the way that SC does, and that it is simply a primitive logical form for the sake of completeness of argument. While indeed, I don’t think anyone can function with knowledge and language like SC, I do think there is a surprisingly large minority that at least believes that knowledge functions like this, and here I’ll use myself as a fine anecdotal example. During my short lived year dipping into eastern philosophy and mysticism a few years back (hadn’t yet read Hegel directly) I reached a philosophical skepticism of the mediation of thoughts that is very much SC’s, and I even used similar language to argue for it: the truths which we wished to convey were not our concepts of things but the thing to which words pointed to. For example, I once actually did have a conversation with a friend regarding meaning and truth regarding a dinner table. Regarding meaning, I argued, we use the word table to point to the object which we really mean to draw to attention, and if one were to consider the question of what true was, the concept or the thing (this), it clearly was the thing which was before us here and now. I wasn’t alone in that kind of thinking, many a mystic and intuitionist at least believes that truth is ultimately like this, an immediate experiential encounter with the this which is only here and now. Anecdote aside, it just goes to show that yes, humanity does hold some strange ideas sometimes. While SC is part of what Hegel deems natural consciousness, and it logically is first for it is simplest, it isn’t common sense, indeed, it rests on a very intellectual basis and requires a rational and abstract thinking process to be convincing.

Sense Certainty

sense-certainty

The problems of SC arise from its obstinate commitment to hold fast to what it believes is immediacy and concreteness in its knowing. It holds that it performs its act of pointing and knowing in the now, the here, and the this. For it these basic and seemingly singular and concrete categories guarantee it indeed does know the concrete object itself without the errors of thought. Hegel shortly introduces the common idea that truth is what it is forever, thus SC’s claims to truth shall be challenged on this account which it as well must agree to.

Despite SC’s beliefs, since knowledge is something the knower in SC has in their mind, we must question SC’s claim to knowing the objects. With the meager conceptual tools which it has limited itself to, SC cannot but hold the bare conceptual knowledge of this, a category merely pointing out a being before it here and now. What specific being is before SC, at what specific time, and at what specific place, it cannot say; it can only point to it. Different I’s in different places and times all claim the same: this is here now. The this is a plurality of the many things which the I’s have before them. The here is a plurality of places where they point. The now is a plurality of nows as the day goes by. The truths which SC claims to know seem to be ever changing and contradicting experiences. Now here is an apple; now here is a tree; now here is a cloud; now here is day; now here is night. The now and here are nothing and everything, changeless in abstraction, changing in every utterance repeated. SC’s knowledge claims seem to contradict themselves, to invert the truth it intends. Its truths change moment to moment and I to I because it refuses to acknowledge memory and conceptual specificity.

The knowledge of SC thus turns out to be bare and pure abstraction, not just of its object, but even of itself. To SC, the I and its object are not even conceptually differentiated in kind, both are mere thises here and now. It is so committed to this immediacy of knowing that it refuses to even acknowledge the past and its memory. All SC can truly know and communicate is that there is a being before it now and here, nothing else. One may retort, “But SC doesn’t care about conceptual knowledge, it cares about knowing the object in its pure manifold of experience.” Very well, what object is it that SC can know in its mere experience of the here and now? As was shown earlier, a changeless abstract universality with en ever changing experiential content. In what it utters, SC cannot capture the content to which it points.

sense-certainty-ph

sense-certainty-here

Not only is SC’s knowledge poor and abstract, but its claim to immediacy is questionable. The following is what SC does when it makes a knowledge claim:

1) It points to the object before it now
2) It claims “This is here now”

In § 107 Hegel lays out formally what is implicitly wrong with SC’s own claim to immediacy. First, the I points out the now, but in the very pointing the now has moved. Second, the I claims the now which it pointed out but which has already passed; it sublates the now within itself for it unites the now which has been with the now that is. Third, in the very claiming that “this is now” the now has yet again moved and the now pointed to as well as the now claimed have passed away and been within the now as it keeps moving. What has been shown is that every now is not actually immediately apprehensible, that the now apprehended is always a plurality of nows, thus every claim made by SC is a now mediated by other nows. The this and here too are a plurality along with the now, as such they too are mediated.

SC has been shown to be unable to speak the truths it wishes to speak, it cannot convey the objects it wishes to know and communicate, for its meager concepts invert the object into abstractions. The analysis of SC ends with the realization by it that the truth of its knowing is its pointing to the objects of knowledge and attempting to conceive it in thought and express it in language, hence it has realized it perceives its object and that its mental content and its expression in language can err in conveying the object perceived.

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 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.

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.

"There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits."-Karl Marx