Summary of Hegel's Logic

Note: People keep editing Hegel’s Wikipedia and replacing my beautiful work with an inferior (i.e. atheist) interpretation of Hegel. I have created this page in order to preserve my summary of Hegel’s Logic, which would otherwise be destroyed by the democratization of knowledge.

The following was written and published on Wikipedia in April 2022.


Hegel’s System of Science is the total comprehension and exposition of God, who is a Trinity of three spheres or kingdoms:

  1. Logic – the Eternal Thinking, the Divine Logos or Concept – which is at the same time metaphysics – God-in-himself.
  2. Nature – the Concept that has fallen into space and time – which is also alchemical and hermetic – God-for-himself.
  3. Spirit – the Concept that has reemerged out of nature and returned to itself in the form of Art, Religion, Philosophy, and the State – God-in-and-for-himself.

Logic

Hegel’s Science of Logic is “the exposition of God as he is in his eternal essence before the creation” of the world. What is described in its pages is thus absolutely true and eternal, and is valid for all times and all peoples. As with God, the Logic is a Trinity of three phases or aspects [Momente]. In order of increasing freedom and intelligence, these are: Being, Essence, and Concept. The doctrines of Being and Essence together comprise Objective Logic, which is analogous to Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and the doctrine of the Concept is Subjective Logic, analogous to the Organon.

Now, Hegel differs from Aristotle in that he aims to unite Logic and Metaphysics into a total, unified system of concepts [Begriffe]. To do this, he builds on the insights of Immauel Kant. In his first Critique, Kant laid out a Table of Categories, the twelve pure, ancestral concepts that structure all experience irrespective of content. These he derived from a standard term-logical table of judgments, noting also that “the true ancestral concepts…also have their equally pure derivative concepts, which could by no means be passed over in a complete system of transcendental philosophy, but with the mere mention of which I can be satisfied in a merely critical essay.” Hegel thus takes up the project that Kant suggested is necessary but did not complete, namely “to take note of and, as far as possible, completely catalog” the derivative concepts of the pure understanding and “completely illustrate its family tree.”

The affinity between the logics of Hegel and Kant is reflected in their vocabulary. Kant spoke of Entstehen (coming-to-be) and Vergehen (ceasing-to-be), the same two terms that Hegel used to refer to the two compositional elements of Werden (becoming) in the doctrine of Being. However, Hegel faulted Kant for copying the table of judgments from the “modern compendiums of logic” whose subject matter is, Hegel said, in need of “total reconstruction.” Above all, Hegel’s Logic differs from Kant’s in that, for him, Concepts are actual, as they were for Aristotle: what the objective world is, in its truth, is the Concept. Concepts are not subjectively imposed on the world; rather, things exist for their Concept. And insofar as they succeed at this they are Ideas.

Now, how are the concepts derived? Hegel wrote that “profounder insight into the antinomial, or more truly into the dialectical nature of Reason [Vernunft, intellectus] demonstrates any Concept whatsoever to be a unity of opposed elements [Momente] to which, therefore, the form of antinomial assertions could be given.” Every Concept thus contains a contradiction that is itself the determination of another Concept. All concepts are thus interrelated through a process of concretization, which is self-determination or freedom. The fully concrete system of logic (what Hegel calls the “diamond net” of concepts) thus emerges through a process that Hegel describes as a ‘walking backwards’ or retrogression into the primordial ground of the Idea, which alone is the object of knowledge and the wellspring of truth. The development is thus a retroactive grounding, in which later, more concrete Concepts become the reasons for the earlier, more abstract Concepts. This process culminates in what Hegel calls the Absolute Idea, which is “being, imperishable life, self-knowing truth, and is all truth” and outside of which there is only “error, confusion, opinion, endeavor, caprice and transitoriness.”

And because this Absolute Idea is God the Father Himself, who necessarily has personality, creative freedom, supreme blessedness, and intelligence—the Logic is the Science of Thinking, in which each Idea (concrete universal) has these three aspects:

  1. Being is immediacy – analog of sensation in phenomenology, and feeling in psychology – the Concept-in-itself.
  2. Essence is reflection and mediation – analog of perception in phenomenology, and representation in psychology – the Concept-for-itself.
  3. Concept is thinking having returned back into itself – analog of intellect in phenomenology and thinking in psychology – the Concept-in-and-for-itself.

Being

Being is immediacy. It is simply what is there, without judgment, and without regard to differentiation between higher and lower, inner and outer, absolute and relative. As such it is everything, and therefore it is Truth or Sat, though at first so abstractly conceived that it is only the apathetic transition from one being to the next, each being standing firmly independent of all others. The sphere of Being is equally the realm of living and dead, motive and static; and for this very reason it is inappropriate for genuine life and motivity. Its triune categorial structure is Quality, Quantity, and Measure. These categories are indispensable for cognition, but lowly. Lacking as they are in Substance, the categories of Being only supply the abstract predicates of judgments. For example, ‘five’ and ‘red’ in the judgment ‘there are five red apples’. These categories apply most properly only to the peripheral aspects of objects, e.g., the leaves of a tree. Every normal child quickly masters the categories of Being, they are so simple. Being thus corresponds to the stage of ‘sense-certainty’ in the Phenomenology of Spirit and ‘sensory consciousness’ in the Philosophy of Spirit. The principal defect of the sphere of Being is that in it, everything is external to everything else. Substance is nowhere to be found. ‘Being’ applies equally and indifferently to a corpse, a flower, a person, a nation. This sphere is the metaphysical analog of egalitarianism. Above all, what must be sublated [aufgehoben] at the end of the exposition of Being, is the naïve indifference between the essential and the unessential, the critical and the uncritical. Being thus withdraws into Essence.

Essence

Essence is what stands behind Being. Whatever is thoroughly apprehended by the categories of Being, is now revealed to be an illusory showing of something deeper, profounder. Being is Seeming, Maya, the superficial outwardness; and Essence is the glistening inwardness. The most basic movement of Essence is reflection, which is a bending back into itself or introjection of outwardness. What is superficial and transitory is distilled (as in an alchemical procedure) into something pure. By means of reflection, content is distinguished from form, outer from inner, the whole from its parts, the thing from its appearance, etc. In this dialectic, Being becomes Existence as set off against Essence. Opposites interpenetrate each other and thus have no independence. Existence and Essence are interrelated in a dialectic of subordination and domination reminiscent of the Master-Slave dialectic of the Phenomenology. The world thus comes to double itself; and as such, this sphere tends toward skepticism and Pyrrhonism, and the frightening reversals of revolution and terror. Such skepticism is overcome in the unity of Essence and Existence, which is Actuality: that which expresses itself while remaining what it is (what Aristotle calls energeia). The tree withdraws into the seed, the kernel, which under the right conditions manifests itself as a new tree. Actuality, however, is the reflection itself. Consequently, it is Substance (the ‘apple’ in ‘there are five red apples’) which relates itself to another substance and acts on it: activity on passivity, male on female, cause on effect. But as in the dialectic of Existence and Essence, reflection is itself an active self-relation which bends round into a circle. Substance bounces back into itself. The truth of Substance is thus cyclical causality or Reciprocity, which is the Absolute Substance (known already to Aristotle) and therefore free activity. Subject is the truth of Substance, Freedom is the truth of Necessity, and Reciprocity is the genesis of the Concept.

Concept

The Concept is the ‘I’, the Atman, which contains all Being, Existence and Essence, within itself. It possesses its rich content without doing violence to it, which would render the content unfree and enslaved. The sphere of the Concept is the realm of eternal love, truth, and freedom. And the Doctrine of the Concept is therefore also the exposition of the thinking that is appropriate for the conditions that emerge at the end of history. In this way, Hegel’s Doctrine of the Concept builds on the eschatological apocalypticism of Christian mystics such as Joachim de Fiore. In developing his doctrine, Hegel largely adheres to the triune organization common for logic textbooks prior to the advent of predicate logic: Concepts are combined into Judgments (relations of subject and predicate), and Judgments are combined into Syllogisms (triune inferences)—and this is what thinking really is. Yet Hegel’s Logic is unique in that, as we saw above, the Concept has been derived from the metaphysical structure of reality itself, and is therefore concrete rather than abstract. However, recall that the grounding is retroactive: reality is grounded in the Concept, and not the other way around. The Concept, which is the self-motivating ‘I’ or Atman, is therefore the same as the Object itself. As Subject, the Concept is the Universal which contains its particularity within itself in such a way that the Universal may reappear in the Particular as the Individual. And the Object is the Concept of the whole of the preceding metaphysics: Being becomes Mechanism or self-externality, Essence becomes Chemism or relational reactivity, and the Concept itself becomes Teleology, which is the End [Zweck]. And the End is the Idea, which is the unity of the Concept and Reality (e.g., Soul and Body). The Idea is Life, the urge that has its own self as its End, being the unity of the Good and the True, the Subject and the Object, and is therefore the world’s immaterial, efficient, formal, and final cause—the Absolute Idea, the Brahman, or God the Father, the First Person of the Christian Trinity.