Tag Archives: dialectics

PhoS: The Master and Slave [Prt. 1]

Following from the development of life and self-consciousness, we now are at Hegel’s most well known and famous philosophical passage, the Master/Slave dialectic of self-consciousness. Like prior sections, this is going to be a long one. There is much here that deals with some very dense phenomeno-logical developments.

One thing to comment here is that there is a vast misinterpretation of this section by most readers. Many take the account given in this section to be Hegel’s positive account of how we become self-conscious, however, this is not the case. The logic of self-consciousness,  found in the Philosophy of Spirit, is something different than the account of the master/slave. This is by and large an account of how the coming to be of recognition and self-consciousness appears to a self-consciousnesses.

The Conclusion of Life and
The Appearance of Spirit

At the end of the prior section Hegel tells us that the concept of Spirit in its most basic form is properly at hand in the concept of self-consciousness as the divided existence of mind in unitary form. Self-consciousness is an “I that is a we, and a we that is an I”. Not only that, but we have also stumbled on the first formulation of the substance as subject: The object of self-consciousness is another subject to whom itself it is an object. 

From here on the forms of consciousness are all expositions and unfoldings of Spirit’s inner development of its self-knowledge as knowledge of self-consciousnesses in relation to themselves and the world. These shall all be subject forms that are embedded in inter-subjective relations and norms. They are all cultural, social, and historical insofar as they build upon a legacy of thought and activity carried and transmitted by communities of individuals. Insofar as this holds, even the ‘objective’ knowledge claims of so-called reason in the objective mode of world observation—such as in empirical science—shall be shown to be grounded in Spirit’s conception of itself.

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The Logic of Recognition

Self-consciousness only exists in being recognized. It exists in and for itself only for an other. As a realization of the concept of Infinity, i.e. as an empirically determinate form of it, self-consciousness must be taken in its opposed meanings of a self-differentiated unity in which the differences are real and independent, yet dependent and the same. By this it is meant that if self-consciousness is posited as the united universal, it must be thought as the divided plurality of self-consciousnesses, and if posited as plurality of self-consciousnesses, it must be thought as the immanently necessary universal unity of this plurality.

Recognition is a movement, that is, it is an activity and not simply a state of mere being—it is a process. Empirically, consciousness does not simply just recognize another consciousness, there is a process to the coming about of this recognition. Consciousness must be forced to recognize the other as one like itself and become self-conscious, and only a self-consciousness like itself may inflict upon it the experience of an independent other which denies the negation imposed by another.

As the concept of it shows, the essence or source of self-consciousness is outside it in another self-consciousness. This, however, is at first not seen as another, but as itself. As self-consciousness faces another self-consciousness as its essence, it must sublate the otherness to be certain it is the essence, but in doing so it thus only sublates itself, for the other was its essence.

The sublation is double-edged in multiple senses.

1) Self-consciousness is outside itself; the other is itself

2) The sublation of another is only a sublation of itself

3) The sublation of its other gets the essence of self-consciousness back into itself, yet this return is a letting go, for it requires that the other indeed be recognized as the essence of self-consciousness, a free self-consciousness itself. This is to say, since the other is the essence in which self-consciousness exists for itself, self-consciousness thus sublates itself into the other, and thus the other is free as well. One cannot be self-conscious without recognizing the other as a self-consciousness and giving it its due as well.

The prior exposition is from one standpoint of one self-consciousness, but the other is self-consciousness as well, thus it also carries on this activity of recognition. Thus, the activity of one is the activity of the other for they are both independent self-sufficient beings that carry out the same activity in relating to the other for themselves. The other is also itself in-itself, thus it does not exist merely as an object that is initially and foremost for the desire of the first. The first self-consciousness cannot penetrate into the other self-consciousness and make it do anything unless the other does in-itself what another does to it.

[Comment:] This is to say this much: In my consciousness nothing can enter that I do not allow to be there for myself. No amount of physical coercion nor enticement can make any consciousness recognize anything or anyone within itself. You may make me say things and do things out of forced capitulation in the face of negative consequences, but never can you make me believe, respect, or recognize anything I refuse to. In my consciousness I have a being which seems immune to the penetration of any kind of other by any means external to my will, thus I have the power to deny all power over me—even my life itself.

In seeing the other do as one does, and recognizing the other to be as one is, one does what one demands of the other, i.e. by demanding recognition one has already recognized the other as the kind like one’s self. We only recognize insofar as we are recognized. I demand you to submit to me, and you do the same. I wager my life as proof of my absolute independence, and you do the same. I struggle, and you do likewise. Recognition as a movement is only possible with two self-consciousnesses, it would be pointless, useless, and meaningless for one consciousness to do such alone. To demand an entity incapable of recognition to recognize us is an empty act. The activity of recognition is double-edged in the sense that it is as much directed towards the other as it is to oneself. To demand recognition from you presupposes recognizing you.

—The analogy to the play of forces—

Hegel comments that this recalls the disintegration of Genuine Force into Force and Expression as the play of forces; each was nothing but the transition into its opposite and the endless circular movement shifting to the other. Expression was the becoming of Force, and Force the becoming of Expression. Self-consciousness finds its essence only in another consciousness, in its circular movement in the activity of recognition which shifts from self to other and back to self.

Self-consciousness as consciousness is outside itself for it faces another consciousness as its object. As self-consciousness however, its being is this very external relation which allows for self-reflection, hence the externality is internal to it, in it, and for it—as such it is outside of itself in-and-for-itself. The other immediately is and is not another consciousness, for it exists only in the relation of two self-consciousnesses. Each side of the difference requires the other to exist-for-itself as an independent entity which nonetheless is only being-for-itself insofar as the other is in relation to it. Self-consciousness thus finds itself self-mediated in its two existent extremes.

Each is the middle term to the other, through which each mediates itself with itself and integrates itself with itself. Each is, in its own eyes and in that of the other, an essence immediately existing for itself which at the same time exists for itself in that way only by way of this mediation. They recognize themselves as mutually recognizing each other.” (§184)

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. 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).
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  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.
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  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.
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  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, and 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.

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.

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, reflects 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 posses in itself a doubled insofar—one 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 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 and then its opposite and back again. However, Perception’s dissolution is not empty. Its dissolution came about because of the problem of conceiving the difference which was 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.

Hegelianism: Objectivity, Truth, and Universality.

One of the harder things that stands in the way of engaging Hegel fruitfully is his peculiar terminology, and while one can often find some short remarks scattered through papers and pages online regarding Hegel, many of these terms are not easy to grasp with the poor detail they are presented with in summary. This post isn’t to supplant a reading of these developments from Hegel but to at least provide a better summary resource than any I am aware of being available online for those interested in beginning to grapple with the concepts of Truth, Concept, and Objectivity as Hegel uses them.

Under common thinking conditions—what Hegel calls natural consciousness— there is a presumption that thinking and objective world relations are in a way unproblematically related despite a presupposition that consciousness and objects are utterly independent. Natural consciousness assumes that there are objects independent of consciousness—today we generally call them facts—and truth is considered the mere correspondence of thoughts and the world of facts. Just how it is possibly intelligible that thought and objects could coincide and form truth is forever deferred to assumptions of givens or of simple pragmatic convenience. In my prior blog post on a very basic notion of science and how Hegelianism can count as such, I vaguely gave an account of why and how objectivity and concept could coincide, but I’ll expand on that post in more proper detail here, this however is no exhaustive account of these terms.

Here I’m mainly following and putting forth Winfield’s summary account of the movement and relation of these concepts in his essay The Objectivity of Thought. I favor Winfield here mainly because he does a really nice job laying out the general logical form. It shall be easily apparent as you read on that there is a general form which runs through Truth, Concept, and Objectivity: Universality.

==The opposition of thought and object==

Thought is normally considered to be abstractly universal and fixed in character, while objectivity is individual and in constant change. Thought has no content of its own; it has no power to generate concepts other than what it can abstract from given experience of language or phenomena. Concepts, as abstract universals, merely externally subsume individuals that share a universal; e.g. red can be an abstract universal (as quality) which inheres in coats, cars, hair, cats, etc. Another type of abstract concept is class, which can be a collection of universals shared by a set of individuals, e.g. animals, but the class remains indifferent to all other characteristics that inhere in individuals that posses it and do not give any way to derive any further specifications of individuals and their relations to each other. Concepts as static definitions have no movement into other concepts and cannot through pure thought find a link to each other. The only option left is through the mediation of what is itself not thought: experiential intuitions. Thought itself, however, cannot explain why concepts should relate at all neither to other concepts nor to or through intuitions; it cannot ponder whether a thought itself is objective nor can it ponder the object which is external to thought in its own independence. All reason can do with such thoughts is to check their coherence when put together.

Because in such a situation of given thoughts reason can only check coherence and not question the universals themselves, it is a subjective arbitrary exercise of reason to pick and choose just what concepts will be input into its formal systems of logic to check coherence. From this results a plurality of equally coherent, plausible, yet contradicting claims such that one may just as coherently espouse monism or pluralism, atomism or internal relations, etc. As thought is normally considered, reason is incapable of justifying why this and not that should be the primary category or universal of the individual object against which all else is to hold coherence with.

==Objectivity==

Objectivity—as one of the ultimate aims of philosophical and scientific striving—is a category of prime importance, but what is objectivity as such? First in our common understanding is the aspect that objectivity is that which is what it is with or without us; it is indifferent to our relation to it, for it is what it is on its own account. The common sense understanding of the concept, however, tends to stop here. Objectivity is what is, but only as a generality considered without us; what this objectivity is in itself is an incoherent mess of supposedly independent atoms which yet are dependent on conditions of existence of many kinds. Objectivity is independent of us, but is only half-recognized as requiring independence from all other determinations external to the object. If an object is not determined by itself, but also by another, then that other must enter the account of the object itself.

Empirical science tends to think better of it, but not by much; e.g. in physics, what is objective is considered mostly as a system of related terms (forces/fields) which together constitute the foundation and engine of our experienced existence. This system, however— even if it was a unified mathematical system that cascaded out of its initial determination the spatial, temporal, and material dimensions of our every day experience, as some theoretical unifications deem to do—fails to provide complete explanation of phenomena such as life and consciousness, as well as a full explanation of itself through its own process; biology, chemistry, etc. suffer this same problem (the system remains founded on a given determination which is unintelligible in itself as well as giving no account of why it is at all). The objects of such science seem independent from each other, yet they only function in a dependence to other terms that are the experienced actuality of what underlies them, e.g. matter’s natural motion expresses the law of gravity, but gravity is only intelligible through matter and not in itself.

The scientific understanding comprehends objectivity only to the extent that it grasps that it must strive to find a unity in the multiplicity of experience which as one principle may explain out of itself all others. From this simple striving aim, such an understanding is doomed to fail, for it does not understand just what such a unity can even be conceived as. Therefore, it works in various models which posit underlying aspects which determine phenomena but which in themselves depend on the very phenomena they are supposed to ground and explain. Such an understanding alone can only grasp at the positing of an abstract unity, law, which from such principle alone cannot produce anything else it is supposed to explain.

Objectivity—when pushed to its conceptual limit beyond the scientific understanding—is that which is what it is wholly on account of itself and no other; it is self-determined. By this account the true object of knowledge for science is not this or that particular domain of abstract independent knowledge but the universe—the totality of reality as a whole. The true object is that which needs not even the external observer to consciously determine that it is indeed the true; it verifies itself from within.

==Truth==

Truth, as most understand it, is both simple and complex. The most popular theories of truth considered by most today are correspondence theories, coherence theories, and pragmatic theories. However, there are many more accounts of what constitutes truth in the modern day—many grounding the notion in different epistemological approaches concerned with social relations and perceptions, some grounding it on logical systems—but these aren’t all that popular, and I’d like to just compare the major notions to the Hegelian position.

Hegel, unsurprisingly, has a conception of truth that is familiar yet alien to us. First, it must be made clear that Hegel is concerned with Truth and not truth. In The Phenomenology of Spirit, §41, Hegel tells us that philosophy is not interested in historical or empirical truths; such truths are singular, unessential and contingent, of no interest to the mind which aspires to gain universal and necessary knowledge. What date the French Revolution began, how much volume a gram of sugar has, whether a goat is a four legged cute animal, or how many minutes are in a year. These are not the kind of truths philosophy is concerned with.

Hegel’s Truth is a priori and purely conceptual, requiring no empirical correlate. For Hegel, the Platonic notion that Truth must be what it is in itself eternally holds: a concept itself must be true, and it is the concept which is the criterion of empirical judgments of truth. Truth must be internally coherent in that it is not a contradiction of the kind of A=~A in the standard propositional sense. Hegel brings to light something not thought of by most (Plato, Spinoza, and some others had an inkling of it): Truth must be necessary in itself. This aspect is provided by the logic of concepts themselves, by how a genuine concept moves itself by its implicated relations to other concepts and eventually returns to itself.

This necessity, eternality, and coherence of Truth is familiar in that most do understand Truth as something which is what it is regardless of us. Truth is objective, Truth is always true, and Truth is not self-contradicting. Par the course for Hegel, even correspondence between concept and object is not excluded. The notion that judgments of truth are correspondence to concept is not unfamiliar. We say things like: they are a true friend; their aim is true; s/he is a real woman/man; this is real sport, etc. In such statements, the concept is the criterion of truth, and the empirical correlate is what is false in relation to it. We think and say things like this often, yet we seem to not realize what such language implies about Truth.

If Hegel adds anything new to the concept of Truth, it is that Truth is the whole. By this it is meant that Truth is a completed and self-grounding concept which attains absolute form, i.e. Truth is something that is what it is of its own account and completely independent from any external determination. Truth attains to objectivity when it has found its full determination within itself, and this is achieved through a systematic development through a movement of concepts. Truth as such is not determined as a relation of our individual subjective claims against a world of given facts but a determination of itself; it is full of content developed in-and-for-itself. It is True because it is, not because we or anything else determine it to be so. This reiterates the independence of truth from us, which common understanding agrees with, so what is Hegel adding? First is that Truth is the system of the totality of the world from matter to mind that knows matter, not a contingent conglomeration of independent plurality of atomistic Truths.

Second, common understanding agrees that truth is what is, but denies that we can grasp it in-itself—only as it is from our subjective frame. Hegel claims we can indeed grasp Truth in-itself; not from our side, however, but from its side. However, this requires a new way of thinking which allows the concept of the object to develop itself before us without our subjective inputs determining it. It requires that the very concept of a concept in general be changed.

==Universality==

In the opposition of consciousness and thought, there was a problem between the knower and the known. This appears in various forms in different philosophies, but the main focus there was on the mere character of the universal concepts used by common understanding. Such concepts are abstract—both as poor in specificity and being separated from other concepts—and rigidly defined; thus they are mysteriously and problematically connected to the particular instances which they subsume. Hegel spends some moments in the Phenomenology to critique these kinds of “universals/concepts” for this failure to unite in themselves what they are supposed to unite as all-encompassing universals. For him, the universal is truly Universal only when it fully can account for its particular and individual instances in itself.

The Hegelian Universal is not like the standard universal as we understand it, but it is very specific as a category as to what it applies to. At best, we may talk of the standard account as one of abstract universals, but Hegel’s Universal is concrete. It is concrete for its very concept contains the particular individuals it aims to subsume in itself as its own particularizations, and it directly and explicitly logically links itself as concept to these subordinate concepts. The Universal does not simply rigidly contain its particular instances, but it develops them from itself as its own inner differentiations. The true Universal appears as a living concept which is a self-generated differentiated unity which returns to itself as whole in all its parts.

hegelian-universal-2

The Universal, as abstractly posited, is intelligible first in necessary opposition to its Particular instances. The abstract universal, as abstracted, is in opposition to its Particular and finds itself thus not just as Universal, for it faces opposition of another concept and is not all encompassing, but as Particular against its Particular as well. One Particular is, however, indifferent from any other Particular. Hence, the Particular fails to properly differentiate the instances of the Universal from from one another and thus itself is also an abstract universality. Hegel introduces a new term in the relation of Universality and Particularity, Individuality, as the solution.The Universal (itself being Particular), and the Particular (itself being Universal), find their difference as Particulars in their Individuality. As this Particular and not some other, the Particular is Individual, thus the concrete Universal is finally completed—the Universal is abstract no longer. The Universal is Particular and Individual; the Particular is Universal and Individual; the Individual is Particular and Universal. The Universal does not underlie its Individuals, but rather the Individuals are the direct realization of Universality. To be Universal is to be a unity realized through Particular Individuals.

There can be no such thing as an abstract universal that has never been instantiated, and, interestingly, neither can there be such a thing as a universal that has and will only ever be instantiated in a single individual instance, for a universal is an aspect shared by a plurality of individuals. To give some examples of what the Universal is in our everyday thinking:

A rose is always a particular individual rose, whether it is in our mind or in the world—it is not just a rose, it is this specific individual rose. A human is always a particular individual human, it is this or that human, it is never just a human. Repeat for anything else.

This kind of everyday Universality, however fun, is not what Hegel is primarily concerned with ultimately comprehending. These kinds of universals are abstractly concrete, but Hegel aims to take Universality beyond what the vast majority of philosophers dream of. The Universal is a structure not just of our basic abstract thoughts, but of real things themselves—especially living things. It is the basic process and structure of living entities which are differentiated within themselves and partake in a process of genesis, dissolution, regeneration, and reproduction.

As one can see, the Universal determines itself to be Particular and Individual. It does not depend on any external determination or relation; it is what it is in-and-for-itself. As such, the Universal is the structure of objectivity itself in the realm of thought. The Universal, once developed, makes Objectivity intelligible as self-grounded and fully self-determined. This very Universality is thus the Concept of Objectivity itself.

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To reiterate on the opposition of thought to object, the common understanding of concepts is that they are abstract universals which are static and disconnected from individual instances which fall under them; they are also disconnected from other universals as such, connected only by synthetic judgments of experience. They are useful insofar as they can be used as categories to group many under one unifying term, but this only speaks to the sharing of one universal by many and does not deal with differentiating characteristics of the individual objects themselves. Concepts are not considered as having their ground in thought, but they originate from reflection of given experiential content of language or external stimuli.

For Hegel, Truth is Concept, and Concept is a self-developing and self-determining system of thoughts which unify and complete as and within the Absolute. The necessity which moves concepts generates the system of the Absolute, and only when the Absolute is completed has Truth been accomplished. This is the meaning of “The true is the whole.” The Concept is the concept of the Object, but nonetheless there can be a disparity within Concept and the Object faced. Thus, Hegel terms the harmonious correlation of both as the Idea—i.e. the concept of the unity of Concept and Object. An Object which fully embodies its Concept is ideal; it is what it should be. Just as Truth can be incomplete, however, so can Objectivity and Concept be incomplete, and thus it should be no surprise that we find incomplete Universality in many thoughts and incomplete Objectivity in the objects of the world we face.

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

Logic of Existence: A Hall of Mirrors

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

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

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

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

2-logic-diagram-of-existence-final

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

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

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

diagram-of-something-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In so far as that which Something is in itself is also in it, the Something is affected with Being-for-other; Determination is therefore open, as such, to the relation with Other. Determinateness is at the same time moment, but it contains at the same time the qualitative distinction of being different from being-in-itself, of being the negative of the Something, another Existence. This Determinateness which thus holds the Other in itself, united with the Being-in-itself, introduces otherness in the latter or in Determination, and Determination is thereby reduced to Constitution. – Conversely, the being-for-other, isolated as Constitution and posited on its own, is in it the same as what the Other as such is, the other in it, that is, the other of itself; but it consequently is self-referring Existence, thus being in-itself with a determinateness, therefore Determination. – Consequently, inasmuch as the two are also to be held apart, Constitution, which appears to be grounded in Something external, in an Other in general, also depends on Determination, and the determining from outside is at the same time determined by the something’s own immanent Determination. And further, Constitution belongs to that which Something is in itself: Something alters along with its Constitution.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dialectics: An Introduction

Hegel is a philosopher known for his difficulty and speculative depth, but finding a mere entry point from which to learn the system is itself a difficult endeavor when the most fundamental aspect of his system, his method, is obscure. I hope that this article accomplishes the aim of clarifying dialectics in a way that very few articles do. What I write here is in no way an original conception or secret knowledge. A few authors have written on this topic with clarity. However, these authors are not known in popular discourse, nor are their works the first to come up in a search engine inquiry. As such, I set my task here merely as a condensed exposition of dialectics for others in hopes of sparing them from what should not be a long arduous road just to reach the door. Credit, first and foremost, goes to Hegel himself, who despite all claims made to the contrary is not mysterious or secretive about his “method” at all.

The So-Called “Method”

There truly is no such thing as dialectic as a method in the usual sense that people think of a method. Immanent (internal) critique is immanent critique, and insofar as Marx and Hegel engage in such an activity there is no difference, there is no ‘idealist’ or ‘materialist’ dialectical method. This is not to say there is no fundamental difference between Marxists and Hegelians, but that difference is certainly not dialectics themselves; not if Marx is using such a method as that which Hegel himself uses. I shall expand on this later on, but for now the focus shall be on dialectics as such.

What is often called ‘dialectical method,’ I must repeat, is a method that exists neither in Marx nor in Hegel like the likewise mythical scientific method of hypothesis-experiment-conclusion does not exist for science in general. There is no formula to this ‘logic’no set of rules to apply over and over. There is no {thesis-antithesis}-synthesis, nor {abstract-negative}-concrete. What is wrong with these formulas is not so much that they are just plain wrong, but that they serve to confuse the matter for someone who does not already know the logic of immanent critique. As a description of the process, the former is understandable to some degree, and the latter is even correct to a high degree in that it describes a pattern relation between the results produced. The issue, however, is that people generally don’t understand that these are mere descriptions and not the process itself. They conflate a processed result for the process that creates those results, and in thinking that dialectics is this description, they are led to misunderstand that the form that results is the method itself.

In one sense, one can look to Socratic/Platonic dialectic and its process of attempting to arrive at truth through a thorough and multifaceted inquiry into a concept by mutual interrogation between interlocutors demanding justification of claims by grounding in universal reason as a form of dialectical method akin to Hegel’s. In such dialectic, a knowledge claim is put through a gauntlet of merciless interrogation by reason from all available points of views in order that clarification by clarification those in conversation may come to agreement of the universal truth contained in the nebulous shadows of regular thought. In Plato’s dialogues, the most interesting of these concepts are those like truth itself, justice, the good, beauty, et cetera. Like these dialectical dialogues, Hegel’s dialectics involve multiple perspectives, a demand for coherence, and a demand for definitively final reasons.

What is often called dialectics as a method is more properly understood as immanent critique, i.e. critical analysis of concepts/objects from within. This kind of analysis does not use any conceptual resources outside of its concept/object to critique it; it does not presuppose a form it must  conform to. By this, it is meant that one basically follows the train of thought set by the concept, the relations already within it, and those that it brings up of its own content and their relations. The content being investigated leads the investigation itself, and the immanent critic is more like a detective observing carefully for their suspect to justify or incriminate themselves, yet never once stepping in so that it remain clear to all that it was indeed all the suspect’s doing. In simplified terms, what is aimed at by such an analysis can be considered three things: testing coherency, testing stability, and testing for a claim to logical/material independence, in other words testing for a claim of being a coherent absolute.

Dialectics

That there is no dialectical method as a formula is not to deny that there are such things as dialectics. Dialectics is the plural of dialectic. This may seem like a strange or pedantic point, but it seems many do not understand this; most people speak of the dialectic or dialectics as the name and form of the method. These two uses of the term expand dialectics too far, and it is this expansion to the level of Hegel’s entire method and system which makes it become so general as to be meaningless. It is indeed true that dialectics drive the method and as such can be understood as the method in a way, but the method of Hegel does not presuppose dialectics as its motor, it discovers them in the content it investigates; dialectics are a result themselves. It is, therefore, best to be introduced to the method through the abstraction of the dialectical moment. By a dialectic it is to be understood that this must always mean a relation of inner contradiction, and only inner contradiction; dialectics are not about contradictions in general, but only these necessary inner contradictions.  For clarification’s sake, let us say that a dialectic is shorthand for a dialectical relationship. To think dialectically is to think in and through internal contradictions of concepts. I shall continue using the term concept exclusively as the object of dialectics because even material objects and activities are only intelligible as concepts which we think through to comprehend the world. I here offer a static definition of the moment of internal contradiction in Hegel’s method that can be termed dialectical.

Dialectical relationships: Such relations are of the kind of contradictory  concepts that in their meaning, or existence, necessarily presuppose and require their opposite. To have one is to have the other. To think through one leads to thinking of the other. To change one is to change the other. This is the famous unity of opposites dialectics is described as by many Marxists. Such ‘materialist’ relations are: {Worker—capitalist}; {[use-value]—[exchange-value]}; {material—ideal}; {base—superstructure} etc.

The worker and the boss have no meaning or existence without each other, and if you have one you know you have the other. The distinction of use-value and exchange-value requires that each presuppose the other in order to mean anything, etc. In material relations of this kind this means that a change in one is a change in its other, e.g. a change in the economic base leads to changes in the ideological superstructure and vice versa even if not immediately.

Now—if you’re a Marxist—you may wonder how this fits in with something like a commodity being dialectical. By this all that can be meant is that the thing/concept contains a dialectic as its content. This is much like a version of Hegel’s sublation term, a concept that cancels yet preserves a contradiction by suspending and mediating it to avoid the mortal problem of immediacy (according to most popular accounts of sublation anyway, not quite according to Hegel’s own use of the term), of unavoidable contradiction, a metaphor of a struggle to the death. This movement towards mediation, of avoiding contradictions, is one of the key elements in which Marx turns away from Hegel. Generally, ‘idealist’ dialectics are thought to be far more abstract ones such as {Being-Nothing}, but in truth Hegel gets very concrete and materialist in certain dialectical chains.

This relation of inner contradiction, in a strict sense, is all that a dialectic can be as merely a moment of Hegel’s method. Hegel’s method is more than just the dialectics that arise, though they are central as moments to it. Whenever we are engaging in dialectics we know that we are dealing with the study of a plurality or series of dialectical relationships. The logical movement from one dialectic to another occurs, to our conscious perspective, by an inner analysis of these contradictory relationships, the inner development of one from the other and back again, and this very movement between concepts as a concept itself, is what pushes thought onwards insofar as the analysis generates more concepts to continue. This movement of concepts, however, is not our subjective movement in thought, it is the movement of the concept itself, something that will become apparent in the examples. Why does thought move from dialectic to dialectic, contradiction to contradiction? The reason is simple: because they are contradictions.

In the sphere of thought the clash of contradiction forces thought to move of its own accord by the power of reason, the drive of thought to find ultimate reasons to ground itself, and insofar as a concept points itself to reasons within and beyond it it moves on. In the sphere of materiality contradiction manifests as clashing forces which in their relation and contact inherently destabilize by their very concept and nature. Dialectics may end in a constructive sublation or dissolution, the first the path of the dialectics of the Science of Logic, the latter the path of the dialectics of the Phenomenology of Spirit.

About Contradiction

The contradiction which dialectics deals with is often treated by many philosophers as if it is the contradiction which formal logic terms as the law of non-contradiction: A cannot be A and not-A at the same time, or A cannot be true and false at the same time, or, in the case of what Paul Redding calls the Aristotelian concept of contradiction in term logic,  A cannot instantiate a property/attribute and its opposite at the same time. Hegel does not deny any of these laws, but rather considers contradictions as multiple points of views on the same thing. Being and Nothing are indeed separate and different, yet they are each aspects (moments) of understanding the Absolute of which they form and are a part of, and thus they are also the same and united. Contradiction exists insofar as there are multiple and opposing positions from which things can be looked at and comprehended, and things can materially be only insofar as there really are different things in unity. When we think of A, yes, we really do think of A, it just so happens that the whole truth of A is also what A is not, its non-being, its opposite, and this too must be looked at and comprehended as part of A’s totality and ultimate truth. In order to think at all thought must develop through one sided determinations which define each side of A momentarily. A and not-A indeed cannot be thought at one single moment from one single perspective, but we can see that A and not-A are both aspects of A from different perspectives at different moments.

Dialectics and Thought

Dialectics are a result, yet though they are a result the structure of dialectical opposition is inherent to thought itself. In pure concepts Hegel believes he shows the immanent character of thought itself as dialectical. In thinking anything at all, even the abstraction of thought itself, we cannot help but think by and through reflexive difference which in pure form is direct opposition. The first dialectic of thought, pure abstract Being, cannot help but immediately move and grasp towards its opposition to attain determinate content. Pure Being and Nothing are there to show it is impossible to think without oppositional difference—all thought is already oppositional and determinate. One may want to say it is the experience of our mind that cannot hold fast to a thought and that it is silly to say thought itself must move to opposition, but Hegel intends to show us that it is indeed a thought which necessarily moves and demands oppositional content, for a thought is only a thought in the opposition which makes it differentiated, determined, and therefore minimally defined. If a thought as concept is to be at all it must be determinate, already in any still moment calling forth from within itself the minimal requirement of its other which defines it as a thought at all. A thought is always already this specific thought and not another thought, never an empty universal abstraction. As thought is shown to be unable to hold fast to itself in one sided moments, it shows itself to be a thinking.

It is said by some that dialectical thinking is best learned by observing it in action, so here are three examples of a very basic level.

Example 1: Being And Nothing

A classical Hegelian dialectical development is the famous {Being-Nothing}-Becoming dialectic. Now, this dialectic is actually very different to what most will encounter regarding it; it is not as simple as this formula makes it seem. The full development of it is actually 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.

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. 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.

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.

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 onwards.

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.

Example 2: The Commodity

A classical Marxian analysis is the commodity-{(use-value)-(exchange-value)} dialectic. A commodity, as an already empirically given and determinate concept, contains within it a tense contradiction between two concepts of value in the economic sphere: use-value, what we desire a commodity for in use, and exchange-value, what we can trade or exchange it for. How do we know that commodities contain these two concepts? Because they are necessary presuppositions for commodities to serve the actual economic role they do, that is, the meaning of a commodity is to be a use-value with exchange-value. A commodity is something which someone has a use or need for, but which has no use for its holder other than to exchange for what they need.

These two values cannot be had at the same time. If we want the use-value we must give up the exchange-value and vice versa. The consuming aspect of the market wants use-value, the selling side wants exchange value. Not only do commodities presuppose their own inner relation of value, but they presuppose the social structure of private property and the institution of right, as well as a system of social dependency in which persons are in need of the commodities of others while others are in need of the commodities which they hold, and thus they are driven to the agreement of exchange to satisfy their needs. Quite a lot is presupposed in the mere concept of commodities, and quite a lot follows from its own specific development as the category of economic value.

Let us develop this concept of the commodity further. Commodities are use-values which can exchange for other use-values. In the relation of different qualities and quantities, however, how is this very exchange intelligible? If the direct substances and quantities in the exchange are themselves not directly comparable, a third term must be in operation in the relation which is equal; this third term is the concept of value. The development goes on from there.

Example 3: Freedom of Speech

An example of a simple yet concrete analysis of this kind is an article I wrote on the concept of free speech. A simple summary of the analysis is that free speech is contradictory in its idea and its reality. Free speech, as a right, upon analysis leads us to ask what kind of speech actually enacts its condition of protection, and we find it is only dissenting speech of those in minorities or outside the status quo power that actually falls under the need of such a protection of speech. Insofar as one speaks things in the acceptable range of popular or power discourse there is no need for protection. The analysis moves forward and questions why speech, mere words, should give ground for censorship at all.

One finds that speech is not mere words, hot air, but is also activity with practical purpose to convey messages, to create responses and actions. This action related aspect of speech is what censorship aims to stop. If speech were mere words nobody should ever fear speech, but speech has actual capacity to be a force that moves people to action, and action in the social sphere means real struggle for changing the dominant power and the structures of power themselves. Free speech as it is known in the west only protects dissenting speech as mere words, but it does not and cannot protect dissenting speech that aims to make action to change the status quo fundamentally.

Free speech in the end does not concern itself with speech as a medium of social activity at all, only mere words spoken to the wind. This is the contradiction: we are free to say what we want insofar as it doesn’t lead to undesired results to the status quo. Free speech, when it is claimed to exist, only exists as empty speech for those who need it most, mere words in the wind with no power, no capacity to make movement happen. This is why being a socialist during most of the last century was grounds for censorship and even imprisonment in the US, because there was a real danger that socialist speech would be a force and spark a revolution if ignored. There is nothing more dangerous than ideas of dissent in a time where critical minds provide fertile soil to push contradictions to breaking points of action. Free speech, as such, is not an absolute right and exists within limitations of social and legal context.

That free speech is contradictory as a concept is, however, not to imply that dissenters cannot leverage it to their advantage, indeed in reality many people successfully do so precisely because the state apparatus, though it is a tool of the ruling class, is not a conscious machine of perfect repression. An important point about this contradiction, however, is that as dissidents against capitalism we will ultimately lose this card to stay the hand of the ruling class and will have to openly fight to regain and reassert this freedom in a new society.

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As can be seen, the moments of abstraction-negation-concretion more or less show up, but this formulation is itself a dead abstraction that can tell us nothing about how to carry out a dialectical investigation and understanding of any subject matter. Dialectics are uniquely determined in form by their content, and their content by their form. No half baked idea the likes of an abstract unity of opposites such as the eternal unity of Yin and Yang, good and evil, light and darkness, being and nothing, etc. can pass itself off as a dialectical comprehension of the united terms. Only the penetrating power of reason focused on conceptual purity and holding steadfast to a development of a concept from its inner structure can properly make intelligible why such terms are inextricably united at all, and what could logically follow from their contradictory unity.

As Becoming shows, it is a myth that Becoming is the sublation of Being and Nothing, in fact it is Being and Nothing in unity which sublate Becoming. The path from Being and Nothing through Becoming back to Being and Nothing is a conceptual ride that requires focus and patience to think through in order to comprehend how these ontological categories relate to each other, and what they mean in themselves.

For a broader overview of Hegelianism I suggest that one read James Kreines’ articles, available online, and also to check out Richard Dien Winfield’s various lectures on Hegel’s works. Andy Blunden, a Marxist, provides some very good essays concerning the use of the Logic and dialectics for ‘materialist’ purpose. Hegel’s Philosophical Development by Richard Kroner is a great overview essay covering Hegelianism’s genesis, aims, and structure.