From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya: Marxist-Humanist Archives
January-February 1999

Rough Notes on Hegel's SCIENCE OF LOGIC

Part I Preface and Introduction

Editor's Note: As part of our effort to stimulate new study and discussion of dialectical philosophy, News and Letters Committees is breaking new ground in the radical movement by publishing the following detailed commentary on Hegel's SCIENCE OF LOGIC in the next four issues of our newspaper.

The Logic is one of Hegel's most important works and was of great service to Marx, especially in the writing of CAPITAL. It has taken on new importance in light of the need to comprehend the logic of contemporary capitalism and the struggles against it.

Completed by Raya Dunayevskaya (1910–87) on Jan. 26, 1961, these Notes comprise one of the few studies by a Marxist covering the whole of the Logic. Lenin had earlier written a serious commentary on Hegel's Logic in 1914–15, which Dunayevskaya relies heavily on in these Notes. However, at several crucial junctures she expresses reservations about Lenin's interpretation of Hegel. For the most developed view of her critique of Lenin's philosophic ambivalence, see the 1991 edition of her PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION, FROM HEGEL TO SARTRE AND FROM MARX TO MAO.

Dunayevskaya also refers to the writings of C.L.R. James and Grace Lee, her colleagues during the years 1941–55, as well as those of Herbert Marcuse and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Dunayevskaya's commentary will be published in four parts. The first part, which follows, comments on the Prefaces and Introduction to the Logic. Further parts in the next three issues will comment on the three major sections of the work–Being, Essence, and Notion.

All material in brackets as well as footnotes and page references have been supplied by the editors. "SLI and SLII" refers to the text of the SCIENCE OF LOGIC as translated by Johnston and Struthers, in two volumes (Macmillan, 1929); "SLM" refers to the more recent translation by A.V. Miller (Humanities Press, 1969). Dunayevskaya's text has been slightly shortened, indicated by the use of ellipses. The original can be found in The Raya Dunayevskaya Collection, 2806.

These notes will serve as an anchor of a nationwide series of classes News and Letters Committees will soon hold on "The Dialectic of CAPITAL and Today's Global Crises." See directory.

by Raya Dunayevskaya, founder of Marxist-Humanism in the U.S.

Volume I: Objective Logic

Book One: The Doctrine of Being

Between the title of Volume I and Book One, we are confronted with two Prefaces, one of which was written when Volume 1 was first published in 1812, and the second Preface is one of the last things Hegel did before his death in 1831. Thus, the second Preface not only encompasses the first volume, but also the second volume (which contains Books Two and Three), which was published in 1816, and all of his other works; in fact it followed the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL SCIENCES.(1)

The historic period of Hegel's life will be one point of departure. The other point of departure will be 1914 when Lenin read this work. I will refer to his PHILOSOPHIC NOTEBOOKS so that you in turn can study them simultaneously with the LOGIC. Finally, we must have also our own historic period in mind.

Philosophically speaking, Lenin's period was summarized by himself dialectically as "the transformation into opposite"; our period has been characterized by ourselves as the Absolute Idea, or the unity of theory and practice, which must be further concretized as Freedom–the realization of Freedom in life most of all and in thought. That is to say, in Hegel's philosophy the Absolute Idea also stands for unity of theory and practice and its point of departure and return is likewise Freedom. But it is abstract.

A better way, perhaps, to express it is to say that while in Hegel the unity of object and subject–the unity of the Universal and Individual–is in mind alone, in the Marxist-Humanist outlook, the individual is the social entity, or as Marx put it, there is no proof of freedom in society except through the individual who is free. I do not mean to burden these notes with too many random thoughts. On the contrary, I mean to follow Hegel in quite some detail, but history and dialectic method is Hegelianism and hence very brief references to the current situation will be made.

One other item in regard to Lenin. Along with the PHILOSOPHIC NOTEBOOKS, we will consider the 4½ pages called "On Dialectics," which are on pp. 81–85 of his SELECTED WORKS, Vol. XI [see also COLLECTED WORKS, Vol. 38, pp. 355–63; hereafter "LCW 38"] but which are actually part of his PHILOSOPHIC NOTEBOOKS. I did not translate these because they had already been translated, but were put in quite undialectically by the Stalinists as if they and Lenin's MATERIALISM AND EMPIRIO-CRITICISM [1908] which follows it are by one and the same Lenin, whereas in fact the latter is quite mechanical and the exact proof of what Lenin had in mind when he wrote at the end of the NOTEBOOKS that none of the Marxists (in plural, that is, including himself, and the plural was the emphasis Lenin himself put in that word) had understood Marx's CAPITAL for the last half century. In fact, in this short essay, "On Dialectics," he criticizes not only everyone from Plekhanov to himself, but even Engels, although he excuses the latter, who, he says, has treated dialectics inadequately, by way of "EXAMPLES, 'a seed,' 'for example, primitive Communism.' The same is true of Engels. But with him it is 'in the interests of popularization. . .' and not as a LAW OF KNOWLEDGE (and as a law of the objective world)" [LCW 38, p. 359].

The Prefaces to the SCIENCE OF LOGIC

Hegel's very first sentence to the first Preface is a reference–"The complete transformation which philosophical thought has undergone in Germany during the last five and twenty years" [SLI, p. 33; SLM, p. 25]—to 1787 and Kant's work.(2) Hegel's dissatisfaction with even this great step is due to the fact that it has not lived up to the challenge of the time, i.e., the French Revolution, 1789, up to the Napoleonic Period: "There are no traces in LOGIC of the new spirit which has arisen both in Learning and in Life. It is, however (let us say it once and for all), quite vain to try to retain the forms of an earlier stage of development when the inner structure of spirit has become transformed; these earlier forms are like withered leaves which are pushed off by the new buds already being generated in the roots" [SLI, p. 35; SLM, p. 26].

The necessity for the new, the Hegelian departure, arises from the times and a new concept of philosophical method, not the dialectic in general, which [Kant] had reached for, but Hegelian Dialectic, the form of thought which was as one with the MOVEMENT of mind: "This movement is the Absolute Method of knowledge and at the same time the immanent soul of the Content of knowledge. It is, I maintain, along this path of self-construction alone that Philosophy can become objective and demonstrated science" [SLI, pp. 36–37; SLM, p. 28].

Actually, this is only the fourth page of his Preface...and already we have covered, or rather Hegel has covered, the two fundamental movements of his entire work–the logical-dialectical and the polemical. These, in turn, contain reality–historic reality of the period in which he lived and historic reality as evolution up to that time. And sure enough, Lenin at once noted the two essences of the dialectic: (1) The emphasis on movement, "the MOVEMENT of scientific cognition–that is the essence"; (2) "'the PATH of self-construction' = path (here lies the nub, in my opinion) of true cognition, knowledge, movement" [LCW 38, pp. 87–88].

he Preface to the Second Edition is once again full of "immanent activity" and "necessary development," which leads Lenin to say in the very first paragraph: "What is necessary is not lifeless bones, but full-blooded life" and he stresses "an important beginning" [LCW 38, p. 89]. And Hegel, indeed, in the very approach to philosophic categories in the second paragraph is going to remind us that "so natural to man is Logic–indeed, Logic itself is just man's peculiar nature. But if Nature in general is opposed, as physical, to what is mental, then it must be said that Logic is rather that something Super-natural which enters into all the natural BEHAVIOR of man–Feeling, Intuition, Desire, Need, Impulse–and thereby alone transforms it all to something human–to ideas and purposes" [SLI, p. 40; SLM, pp. 31–32].

For a man so full of profundities, he never forgets impulses, feelings, intuition, desires, needs; indeed, it is quite obvious that he refuses to make a distinction between physical and mental, and to this day, the so-called behavioral sciences, psychoanalysis included, cannot shine this great philosopher's shoes, much less his divine (yes, divine) concept of human ideas and purposes.

Historical materialism, strange as that may sound as any attribute of Hegel, is nevertheless basic to Hegelian analysis and in this Preface he traces philosophy back in a manner in which it is quite clear that the elements of that total philosophy with which Marx is mainly associated were present in Hegelian philosophy. This sense of history is present also in his polemical critique of Kant: "In the still spaces of Thought which has come to itself and is purely self-existence, those interests are hushed which move the lives of peoples and of individuals" [SLI, p. 42; SLM, p. 34]. Lenin emphasized this expression as well as the one in which Hegel said, "When the Critical Philosophy understands the relation of these three Terms so as to make THOUGHTS intermediary between US and THINGS in such a sense that this intermediary rather excludes us from things than connects us with them. . ." [SLI, p. 44; SLM, p. 36]. At this point Lenin remarks: "In my view, the conclusion essentially is: (1) in Kant knowledge hedges off (separates) nature from man; in actuality, it unites them; (2) in Kant 'the empty abstraction' of the thing-in-itself is put in place of the living procession (SHESTVIYA), the movement of our ever deeper knowledge of things" [LCW 38, p. 91].

Hegel in this second Preface takes issue also with those who have criticized him since the PHENOMENOLOGY and this first book were published. The severest of all criticisms is for those who assume a category, which, first of all, has to be proved, which he calls an "uninstructed and barbarous procedure" [SLI, p. 49; SLM, p. 41].

It is good to have in mind here our opponent, for the whole of Russian Communist theory follows precisely this barbarous procedure of assuming that Socialism already exists and then blithely goes on. If, however, one thinks that it is sufficient merely to know that the Russians assume what is first to be proven to be able to get to the bottom of their usurpation of Marxist language, Marcuse's SOVIET MARXISM is there to prove the opposite. Despite all of his KNOWLEDGE of both Hegel and Marx and even Russian society, Marcuse still falls into the trap of apologetics on the basis that their professed theory discloses actual reality. The fundamental reason for the blindness is, of course, his complete isolation from the class struggle. But it is not the whole of the reason. The other part is the failure to create a category–state-capitalism in this case–for the new state of the world economy in general and Russia in particular. Without a category, an intellectual is just lost, since he has none of the proletarian instincts to carry him through on trodden paths, and therefore, falls into eclecticism.

The Introduction to the SCIENCE OF LOGIC

Before Hegel begins Book One, we have, besides the two Prefaces, also an Introduction. In the Introduction, his reference to the PHENOMENOLOGY will set us, too, in the proper spirit of continuity: "In the PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND I have set forth the movement of consciousness, from the first crude opposition between itself and the Object, up to absolute knowledge. This process goes through all the forms of the relation of thought to its object, and reaches the Concept of Science as its result" [SLI, p. 59; SLM, p. 48]. Having assumed absolute knowledge as the truth of all forms of consciousness, Hegel can now proceed to treat both knowledge and reality in the form of categories BECAUSE they do include historical reality, present reality, as well as the long road of thought about it. That is precisely why he is opposed to the other form in which thought is presented in the philosophies that have not met the challenge of the times.

Thus, in criticizing [the idea] that the structure of Logic has undergone no change, despite all the revolutionary development, he says: "For when Spirit has worked on for two thousand years, it must have reached a better reflective consciousness of its own thought and its own unadulterated essence. A comparison of the form to which Spirit has risen in the worlds of Practice and Religion, and of Science in every department of knowledge Positive and Speculative, a comparison of these with the form which Logic has attained shows a glaring discrepancy" [SLI, p. 62; SLM, 51].

Therefore, the need for the transformation of the structure of Logic and its actual transformation are present here. Hegel does give Kant credit for having "freed Dialectic from the semblance of arbitrariness...and set it forth as a NECESSARY PROCEDURE OF REASON," but the actual exposition is not, says Hegel, "deserving of any great praise; but the general idea upon which he builds and which he has vindicated, is the OBJECTIVITY OF APPEARANCE and the NECESSITY OF CONTRADICTION" [SLI, p. 67; SLM, p. 56]. It is Hegel's contention that only when you get to consider Universals, not as abstractions, but as concrete totalities of the whole historic movement, does Logic deserve to become the universal philosophy: "It is only through a profounder acquaintance with other sciences that Logic discovers itself to be subjective thought as not a mere abstract Universal, but as a Universal which comprises in itself the full wealth of Particulars" [SLI, p.69; SLM, p. 58].

It is at this point that Lenin refers the reader to CAPITAL, repeating Hegel's description of Logic as "not a mere abstract Universal, but as a Universal which comprises in itself the full wealth of Particulars" and then goes into paeans of praise, "a beautiful formula," and again repeats the phrase, adding "Tres bien!" [LCW 38, p. 99]. From now on, it is CAPITAL which Lenin will have in mind throughout his reading of the two volumes (three books) of LOGIC.

I would like to note also, although I will not elaborate upon this until much later, that the whole of the LOGIC, as well as each section of the LOGIC, as well as each separate thought in the LOGIC, will go through the following development, both as history, as reality, as thought: the movement will always be from U (Universal) through P (Particular) to I (Individual). Lenin takes it in the same form as U-P-I, but reverses the order more often precisely because he is thinking of the PROLETARIAN individual, who is also the social individual and the universal of socialism. Thus, when he concludes his PHILOSOPHIC NOTEBOOKS in those four pages of ["On] Dialectics" [which] I referred to, he says (the translator here used the word "singular," where the strict term is individual and "general" where the strict term is universal): "To begin with the simplest, most ordinary, commonest, etc., proposition, or any proposition one pleases; the leaves of a tree are green; John is a man; Fido is a dog, etc. Here already we have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the singular is the general. Consequently, opposites (the singular as opposed to the general) are identical; the singular exists only in the connection that leads to the general. The general exists only in the singular and through the singular" [LCW 38, p. 361].

In conclusion to his Introduction, Hegel returns once again to Kant, explaining that those who would just disregard him are the very ones who take his results and make the whole philosophy into a "pillow for intellectual sloth" [SLI, p. 73; SLM, p. 62]. (You will remember that that is the quotation I used in Chapter 9 in MARXISM AND FREEDOM, which deals with the Second International.). . .


1. This three-volume version of Hegel's philosophy, comprising the Smaller LOGIC, the PHILOSOPHY OF NATURE, and the PHILOSOPHY OF MIND (Spirit) was first published in 1817, and then reissued with changes in 1827 and 1830.[BACK]

2. In 1787 Kant published the second edition of his CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON.[BACK]