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

Commentary on Hegel's SCIENCE OF LOGIC
Part 2: Doctrine of Being

Editor's Note: The following consists of Part 2 of Raya Dunayevskaya's detailed commentary on Hegel's SCIENCE OF LOGIC. Part 1, on the Prefaces and Introduction to the LOGIC, appeared in our January-February issue. Parts 3 and 4, on the Doctrine of Essence and the Doctrine of the Notion, will appear in the April and May issues, respectively. These notes were written in 1961 and appear in print for the first time.

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. These notes will serve as an anchor of a nationwide series of classes News and Letters Committees will soon hold on "The Dialectic of Marx's CAPITAL and Today's Global Crisis." To find out about how to participate in them, see the announcement on page 11, or contact the News and Letters Committee nearest you (see page 7).

All material in brackets as well as footnotes have been supplied by the editors. "SLI" and "SLII" refer to the text of the SCIENCE OF LOGIC as translated by Johnston and Struthers, in two volumes (Macmillan, 1929); "SLM" refers to the translation by A.V. Miller (Humanities Press, 1969). The references to Lenin are to his 1914-15 commentary on Hegel's LOGIC, the first such study done by a Marxist.

Dunayevskaya's text has been slightly shortened, indicated by the use of ellipses. The original can be found in THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 2806.

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

We are finally ready to begin Book One, but we better remember the broad outline of the whole LOGIC into two volumes, Objective Logic and Subjective Logic; more definitely, it has three parts, namely: 1) The Logic of Being, 2) The Logic of Essence, and 3) The Logic of the Notion.

Book One: The Doctrine of Being

Section One: Determinateness (Quality)

Chapter I: Being

There are only three short paragraphs in chapter I on Being, Nothing and Becoming, whereupon Hegel goes into no less than five Observations which stretch over 25 pages, which, in fact, cover very nearly the whole of preceding philosophies, from the Orient through the Greeks to his own time on this question of Being. Thus: OBSERVATION ONE–the Opposition of Being and Nothing in Imagination contrasts Parmenides' "pure enthusiasm of thought first comprehending itself in its absolute abstraction" to Buddhism where "Nothing or Void is the absolute principle," to Heraclitus, whose opposition to both one-sided abstractions of Being and Nothing led to the total concept of Becoming: "All things flow," which means everything is Becoming [SLI, pp. 95-96; SLM, p. 83].

But Hegel does not stop either with the Orient or with the Greeks, but proceeds to consider Spinoza, as well as the Kantian Critique. Not only that, it's quite obvious that both in philosophy and in science Hegel is the historical materialist: "What is first in science has had to show itself first too, historically" [SLI, p. 101; SLM, p. 88].

If Observation One dealt with the Unity of Being and Nothing as Becoming in a profound manner, Hegel hurries to criticize this, too, in OBSERVATION TWO–The Inadequacy of the Expression "Unity" or "Identity of Being and Nothing." The point is that Unity "sounds violent and striking in proportion as the objects of which it is asserted obviously show themselves as distinct. In this respect therefore mere Unseparateness or Inseparability would be a good substitute for Unity; but these would not express the affirmative nature of the relation of the whole. The whole and true result, therefore, which has here been found, is Becoming. . ." [SLI, p. 104; SLM, p. 91].

He, therefore, proceeds to OBSERVATION THREE–The Isolation of these Abstractions, in order to stress that the Unity of Being and Nothing has to be considered in a relationship to a third, i.e., Becoming, and therefore, we must consider the TRANSITION. Otherwise, we would constantly be evading the internal contradictoriness, although Hegel admits that "It would be wasted labor to spread a net for all the twistings and objections of reflection and its reasonings, in order to cut off and render impossible all the evasions and digressions which it uses to hide from itself its own internal contradictoriness" [SLI, p. 106; SLM, p. 94].

He here hits out at his two main enemies, Fichte and Jacobi, whom he compares to the abstractions of Indian thought or the Brahma: "this torpid and vacuous consciousness, taken as consciousness, is Being" [SLI, p. 109; SLM, p. 97]. (With this should be read the section on Oriental philosophy [in] Hegel's PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY. It used to annoy me very much because I thought it showed German arrogance to Oriental philosophy. But it is, in fact, so objective an analysis of Hinduism that it will explain a great deal of modern India's difficulties in stamping out castes.)

Both in the observation "Incomprehensibility of the Beginning" and the next OBSERVATION–"The Expression to Transcend," Hegel has shifted both the actual and the philosophic, not alone from Being and Nothing to Becoming, but transcended Becoming, which is the first leap forward from an abstract being to a determinate, or specific being, with which chapter II will deal. All we need to remember at this point is that "what is transcended is also preserved [SLI, p. 120; SLM, p. 107].

Chapter II: Determinate Being

The structure of LOGIC has now been set. We will at each point, though not in as overwhelming a manner, state a fact or proposition and then proceed to an Observation; in a word, the polemical movement in the LOGIC follows right alongside, and inseparably, with the affirmative statement.

You may recall that that is the form of Marxs [CONTRIBUTION TO THE CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY]. As you know, he was quite dissatisfied with the form, [and] discarded it for CAPITAL. This was not only due to the fact that he decided that the polemical, as history of thought rather than CLASS STRUGGLE, should all be placed together in a separate book (Book Four).(1) That much is obvious and would not have, in itself, produced such utter blindness on the part of Marxists who could quite easily see that the historical, to Marx, was not history of thought, but history of class struggle, since, as a matter of fact, Kautskyan popularizations dealt with the class struggle without much concern to thought. No, it is the dialectics, the new, the creative dialectics of the class struggle, which did not separate philosophy–how long is my working day?–from the class struggle, which remain a mystery to the materialists who were so busy "opposing the mystical" in Hegel.

But the fact that the Hegelian structure could not be "copied" by Marx, but had to be RE-created, does not mean that the Hegelian structure FOR HEGEL was wrong. On the contrary, he deals with thought, and the logical form of the Universal there is the Notion.

We have moved from the Universal, General, Abstract Being to a definite Being or Something, but this assumption of a definitive quality immediately moves Hegel to an observation–"Quality and Negation." "Determinateness is negation posited affirmatively, is the meaning of Spinoza's OMNIS DETERMINATIO EST NEGATIO [every determination is a negation], a proposition of infinite importance; only, negation as such is formless abstraction. Speculative philosophy must not be accused of making negation, or Nothing, its end: Nothing is the end of philosophy as little as Reality is the truth" [SLI, p. 125; SLM, p. 113].

But it must not be imagined that Hegel is only arguing with other philosophers, though that is his world. He is also moving to ever more determinate stages of the concrete, for what pervades everything in Hegel–everything from Absolute Idea to the simple Something of a chair or a leaf or a seed–is his fundamental principle that the Truth is always concrete. Because, however, what was most concrete with him was Thought, and because this early in the LOGIC when he deals with Something, he is already dealing with it as "the first negation of the negation," Lenin gets furious with him at this point and returns to a warm feeling toward Engels by referring to the quotation about "abstract and abstruse Hegelianism" [LCW 38, p. 108].

And yet it is only a few short pages beyond this when dealing with finitude and against the Kantian thing-in-itself [that] Lenin remarks that this whole attack on the Thing-in-itself is "very profound" and again "SEHR GUT!!" [very good, LCW 38, pp. 110-11]. Lenin straightaway makes that conclusion of the essence of the dialectic which he is going to repeat throughout his reading and which will indeed become the basis of all his writings from there on from IMPERIALISM to the WILL.

Thus, it is near Hegel's remark against the critical philosophy, i.e., Kant [SLI, p. 135, SLM, p. 122] that Lenin writes: "Dialectic is the doctrine of the IDENTITY OF OPPPOSITES–how they can be and how they become identical, transforming one into another–why the mind of man must not take these opposites for dead, blocked (ZASTYVAHIYE), but for living, conditioned, mobile, transforming one into the other. EN LISANT [in reading] Hegel. . ." [LCW 38, p. 109]. This, mind you, is said not in Book Three on Notion, nor even in Book Two on Essence, nor even in Section Three of Book Two on Measure where we are "practically" ready to jump into Essence, but in the very first section of Book One, chapter II.

At this point Hegel comments that in the question of determination the chief point is "to distinguish what is still IN ITSELF and what is POSITED . . . and being-for-other. This distinction is proper only to dialectical development and is unknown to the metaphysical (which includes the Critical) philosophy" [SLI, p. 135; SLM, p. 122]. It is here that Lenin has his first definition of dialectic as the doctrine of the identity of opposites, before which generalization, he writes: "This is very profound; the thing-in-itself and its transformation into the thing-for-other (cf. Engels). The thing-in-itself, IN GENERAL, is an empty, lifeless abstraction. In life in the movement all and everything is USED to being both 'in itself' and 'for other' in relation to Other, transforming itself from one condition (SOSTOYANIYE) to another" [LCW 38, p. 109].

Hegel proceeds next to analyze Finitude and Ought. The Ought in turn is followed by an Observation where he tangles with Leibniz [SLI, p. 148; SLM, p. 135] and with Kant and Fichte [SLI, p. 149; SLM, p. 136] who, he insists, have the standpoint, precisely because they get stuck in Ought, "where they persist in Finitude, and (which is the same thing) in contradiction."

Lenin is again moved here to speak about the profound analysis Hegel makes of the Finite, saying "The Finite? that means MOVEMENT has come to an end! Something? that means NOT WHAT OTHER is. Being, in general? that means such indeterminateness that Being=Not-Being. All-sided, universal flexibility of concepts–flexibility reaching to the identity of opposites" [LCW 38, p. 110].

In the section which follows on Infinity, the critical point is transition: "Ideality(2) may be called the Quality of Infinity; but, as it is essentially the process of Becoming, it is a Transition, like that of Becoming in Determinate Being, and it must now be indicated" [SLI, p. 163; SLM, p. 150]. Two other observations followed this one, one on "Infinite Progress": "Bad Infinity,"(3) says Hegel, like progress to infinity, is really no different than Ought, "the expression of a contradiction, which pretends to be the solution and the ultimate" [SLI, p. 164; SLM, p. 150]. The second observation is on "Idealism," where he contrasts Subjective and Objective Idealism, and which brings us to Chapter III, "Being-For-Self."

Somewhere in this chapter–in fact, in the first Observation–ideality is taken up both as it applies to Leibniz's Monads,(4) as well as Eleatic Being,(5) and also the Atomistic philosophy,(6) and again, there are many observations ending with the one on Kant's "Attraction and Repulsion." Now on the one hand, Lenin is very specific in his interpretation here, calling attention to the fact that "the idea of the transformation of the ideal into the real is PROFOUND; very important for history. . . against vulgar materialism" [LCW 38, p. 114], and yet the whole chapter on Being-For-Self, when Lenin first approaches it, is considered by him to be "dark waters" [LCW 38, p. 114]. At this point here, during the correspondence with [C.L.R. James] and [Grace Lee] in 1949, Grace [Lee] developed her thoughts on this chapter as one dealing with the developing subject as it first arose, 500 B.C., to the Absolute Idea, or the conditions for universality of the modern proletariat. She seemed to think that Being-For-One coming from Being-For-Self was unclear to Lenin because he did not understand abstract labor as we did. I doubt that was the reason since in the Doctrine of Being, we are, comparatively, at a low stage of development in Hegelian thought.

The fact, however, that [Hegel] can at this "low stage" be so profound and point to so many of the conditions which we will meet in the Absolute Idea shows that you can, in fact, not make sharp divisions even in those most sharply pointed to by Hegel himself–Being, Essence, Notion–as is shown over and over again by the fact that he deals with Kant who was the greatest philosopher before him in this very section.

Indeed, Lenin here notes (evidently it struck him for the first time) that the self-development of the concept in Hegel is related to the entire history of philosophy. In any case, in the Observation on the Unity of the One and the Many, [Hegel] deals also with the dialectic of Plato in the PARMENIDES. What is true is Hegel's very sharp opposition to so-called independence in the One: "Independence having reached its quintessence in the One which is for itself, is abstract and formal, destroying itself; it is the highest and most stubborn error, which takes itself for highest truth; appearing, more concretely, as abstract freedom, pure ego, and further as Evil. It is freedom which goes so far astray as to place its essence in this abstraction, flattering itself that, being thus by itself, it possesses itself in its purity" [SLI, p. 185; SLM, p. 172].

Section Two: Magnitude (Quantity)

We have first now reached the transformation of Quality or Determinateness into Quantity, Being-For-Self having concluded Section One, and having in turn been divided into three–Being-For-Self as such, the One and the Many, and Repulsion and Attraction.

In the first observation on Pure Quantity, as well as in the second observation on Kant's "Antinomy of the Indivisibility and Infinite Divisibility of Time, Space and Matter," the concept that we are approaching is that of Continuous and Discrete magnitude.(7) But before he deals with these concepts, Hegel feels he must attack not only the concept of Quantity as simple unity of Discreteness and Continuity, but also the idea that Kant had of four antinomies, as if that number exhausts contradiction instead of the fact that every single concept is in fact an antinomy. In attacking Kant's CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON, the attack is on Kant for being "apagogic" [SLI, p. 207; SLM, p. 193], that is to say, assuming what is to be proved and thus repeating the assumption in the conclusion. Hegel protests that Kant's proofs are "a forced and useless tortuosity," "an advocate's proof" [SLI, p. 208; SLM, p. 194], which sounds exactly as if it says he is a "Philadelphia lawyer." He considers the dialectic example of the old Eleatic school of thought as superior to Kant, despite the fact that so much of actual history had occurred since that period, which certainly should have led to a more profound conception of dialectic.

Discreteness, like Continuity, is a moment of Quantity and in fact it is only both moments, their unity that is, that produces Quantum. At the same time, both in this chapter and in chapter II on "Quantum," we sense Hegel's sharp distaste for mathematical proof as being unworthy of philosophy, even though at its start, in the theorems of Pythagoras, they were of the essence, and there is no doubt also of their importance, and in fact necessity, to Newtonian science and differential and integral calculus. Although I know next to nothing of this, and I am sure that modern mathematics which has reached into economics, automation, and space science, that in essence all that Hegel says here is inescapably true as is all that he says on "Bad Infinity," and I dare say that any infinity that is not human is bad....

Section Three: Measure

With the very first statement, "Abstractly the statement may be made that in Measure, Quality and Quantity are united" [SLI, p. 345; SLM, p. 327], Lenin once again becomes excited and at the end of it, he makes all those observations–Leaps! LEAPS! L E A P S ! [LCW 38, p. 123]. The observation on Nodal Lines Lenin copies out nearly in full. There is no doubt whatever that a transition from Quality into Quantity as a leap, in opposition to the concept of any gradual emergence, is the transition point for Lenin himself, breaking with the old Lenin, not because the old Lenin was ever a "gradualist," but because the OBJECTIVITY of these leaps in ALL aspects of life is not anything merely quantitative or merely qualitative, or as Hegel puts it: "The gradualness of arising is based upon the ideas that that which arises is already, sensibly or otherwise, ACTUALLY THERE, and is imperceptible only on account of its smallness. . . Understanding prefers to fancy identity and change to be of that indifferent and external kind which applies to the quantitative" [SLI, p. 390; SLM, p. 370].

To sharpen his own very different concept, Hegel goes over to this question of gradual transition of Quantity to Quality in Ethics, and says, "A more or less suffices to transgress the limit of levity, where something quite different, namely, crime, appears; and thus right passes over into wrong, and virtue into vice" [SLI, p. 390; SLM, p. 371].

The third chapter of this section is called "The Becoming of Essence" and is the transition, therefore, to the Second Book [The Doctrine of Essence].


  1. This refers to Marx's decision, made in the mid-1860s, to place his polemics with various theoreticians in a separate volume 4 of CAPITAL; it was published after his death as THEORIES OF SURPLUS VALUE. See Dunayevskaya, MARXISM AND FREEDOM, pp. 81-92.
  2. In German the paired terms idealism and ideality are used more frequently than in English, in a sense parallel to realism and reality.
  3. "Bad" or "spurious" infinity refers to the condition in which a finite thing, in reaching for infinity, becomes another finite thing, AD INFINITUM, without ever reaching true universality.
  4. Irreducible, fundamental substances of the universe according to Leibniz, of which the prime monad is God.
  5. The Eleatics were a school founded by Parmenides who upheld a doctrine of monism wherein reality is one, motionless, undifferentiated, and unchanging.
  6. The chief ancient Greek atomists were Democritus and Epicurus, who held that reality is composed of indeterminate particles called atoms, which acquire determinacies such as color and shape only through their interaction with human sense organs.
  7. In Hegel continuous magnitude is a quantity which "propagates itself without negation...a context which remains at one in itself" [SLI, p. 214; SLM, p. 200]. Discrete magnitude is a quantity that is noncontinuous or interrupted; it breaks up into "a multitude of ones." The unity of both constitutes the concept of quantity. "The fact that the Hegelian structure could not be 'copied' by Marx, but had to be re-created, does not mean that the Hegelian structure for Hegel was wrong. On the contrary, he deals with thought, and the logical form of the Universal there is the Notion."