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

Commentary on Hegel's SCIENCE OF LOGIC
Part 3: Doctrine of Essence

Editor's Note: The following consists of Part 3 of Raya Dunayevskaya's detailed commentary on Hegel's SCIENCE OF LOGIC. Part 1, on the Prefaces and Introduction to the LOGIC, and Part 2, on the Doctrine of Being, appeared in our January-February and March issues. Part 4, on the Doctrine of the Notion, will appear in the May issue. These notes were first 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 is holding on "The Dialectics of Marx's CAPITAL and Today's Global Crises." To find out about how to participate in them, see the announcement, on page 10.

All material in brackets as well as footnotes has been supplied by the editors. "SL" 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, referred to as "LCW 38."

Dunayevskaya's text has been slightly shortened, indicated by the use of ellipses. THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 2806.

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

Book Two: The Doctrine of Essence

Section One: Essence As Reflection Into Self

Chapter I: Show

The profundity of Hegel is seen in the fact that even where he thinks that something is relatively unessential and is, therefore, mere show, that even there the show is also objective. He considers [that] "show, then, is the PHENOMENON of skepticism...skepticism did not dare to affirm 'it is'; modern idealism did not dare to regard cognition as a knowledge of Thing-in-itself" [SLII, p. 22; SLM, p. 396].

Hegel hits out against all idealisms, of Leibniz, Kant, or Fichte. Hegel writes, "It is the immediacy of NOT-BEING, which constitutes Show; but this Not-Being is nothing else than the Negativity of Essence in itself" [SLII, p. 23; SLM, p. 397].

In fact, [in his comments] on the page before [Hegel] said this, when he criticized both skepticism and idealism, Lenin noted: "You include all the manifold riches of the world in SCHEIN [show] and you reject the objectivity of SCHEIN!!" [LCW 38, p. 131]. And again: "Show is Essence in one of its determinations. . . Essence thus appears. Show is the phenomenon of Essence in itself" [LCW 38, p. 133]. Lenin further notes that in this section on the Reflection of Essence, Hegel again accuses Kant of subjectivism and insists on the objective validity of Show, "of the immediate given," and notes: "The term, 'GIVEN' is common with Hegel in general. The little philosophers dispute whether one should take as basis the Essence or the immediately given (Kant, Hume, Machists(1)). Hegel substitutes AND for 'or' and explains the concrete content of this 'and'" [LCW 38, p. 134].

Chapter II: The Essentialities or Determinations of Reflection

We will deal here with the three developments in Essence: first, simple self-relation or Identity; secondly, Variety [Difference]; and thirdly, Contradiction. But before Hegel develops these three, he has an observation on so-called "Laws of Thought," which allegedly prove that A cannot be at one and the same time A and not be A. That is absolutely hilarious. "Category, according to its etymology and its Aristotelian definition, is that which is predicated or asserted of the existent. -But a determinateness of Being is essentially a transition into the opposite; the negative of any determinateness is as necessary as the determinateness itself; and each immediate determinateness is immediately opposed by the other" [SLII, p. 36; SLM, p. 410].

When Hegel gets to Observation Two, which [Aristotle] called the Law of the Excluded Middle, he again hits out at the idea that something either is or is not A, that there is no third, insisting that there IS a third in the very thesis since A can be both +A and -A: "The something thus is itself the third term which was supposed to be excluded" [SLII, p. 66; SLM, p. 439], At this point, Lenin remarked: "This is very profound. Every concrete thing, every concrete something stands in diverse and often contradictory relations to all others, ergo, it is itself and another" [LCW 38, p. 138].

As for the observation which follows on the law of Contradiction where Hegel defines Contradiction as the "root of all movement and life, and it is only insofar as it contains a Contradiction that anything moves and has impulse and activity" [SLII, p. 67; SLM, p. 439], Lenin copies out in toto this entire section, at the end of which he makes his famous generalization that the idea of movement and change was disclosed in 1813 by Hegel, that is, by philosophy, and was applied by Marx first in 1847 and by Darwin in 1859 [LCW 38, p. 141].

Indeed, Lenin can hardly stop himself from becoming a complete Hegelian and stressing over and over again how stupid it is to think that Hegel is abstract and abstruse, and how profound is the concept of Contradiction as the force of Movement and how different Thinking, Reason, Notion is to ordinary understanding: "Thinking reason (notion) sharpens the blunted difference of variety, the mere manifold of imagination, to the ESSENTIAL difference, to OPPOSITION. Only when the contradictions reach their peak does manifoldness become mobile (REGSAM) and lively in relation to the other,-acquire that negativity which is the INNER-PULSATION OF SELF-MOVEMENT AND LIFE." [Cf. LCW 38, p. 143; SLII, p. 69; SLM, p. 422]

Chapter III: Ground

The very first sentence-"Essence determines itself as Ground" [SLII, p. 71; SLM, p. 444]-lets us know that we are approaching the climax to Section One of Essence. As soon as Hegel, in the first observation on the Law of Ground, finishes his critique of Leibniz's Law of Sufficient Ground, he develops, in Absolute Ground, all the essentials of Form and Essence, Form and Matter, Form and Content where it becomes quite clear that these cannot be separated; that Form and Matter "presuppose one another" [SLII, p. 79; SLM, p. 452] and Content is the "unity" of Form and Matter [SLII, p. 82; SLM, p. 454]. And as we move from Absolute to Determined [Determinate] Ground and approach Complete Ground, it becomes quite clear that manifoldness or content-determinations could be used indiscriminately so that you could cite something as much FOR as AGAINST something, which is exactly what Socrates correctly argued against as Sophistry, because, of course, such conclusions do not exhaust the thing-in-itself in the sense of "grasp of the connection of things which contain them all" [SLII, p. 94; SLM, p. 466].

It is at this point that we reach the transition from Ground to Condition, which moves Lenin to say, "brilliant: all-world, all-sided LIVING connection of everything with everything else, and of the reflection of this connection-MATERIALISTISCH AUF DEN KOPF GESTELLTER HEGEL [Hegel materialistically turned on his head]-in the concept of man, which must be so polished, so broken-in, flexible, mobile, relative, mutually-tied-in, united in opposition, as to embrace the world. The continuation of the work of Hegel and Marx must consist in the dialectical working out of the history of human thought, science and technique." And at the same spot, Lenin rethinks Marx's CAPITAL, thus: "And a 'purely logical' working out? DAS FALLT ZUSAMMEN [It coincides]. It MUST coincide as does induction and deduction in CAPITAL" [LCW 38, p. 146].

We have now reached the third sub-section of Ground-Condition, which could be defined as History. In 1950, G. [Grace Lee] wrote quite a good letter on that sub-section, but C. L. R. James was no help whatsoever; indeed, he could never develop the strong point of Grace on philosophy. But we can gain something by quoting her letter at this point: "The essenceof Hegel's argument is this: It is necessary to get rid of the concept of Ground as a SUBSTRATUM, but when you get rid of this concept of something BEHIND the immediate you have not by any means gotten rid of the fact that the immediate is the result of a MEDIATING process. It is the self-mediating, self-repelling, self-transcending relation of Ground which externalizes itself in the immediate existent. Hence the relentless phrasing and rephrasing of his thesis that 'The Fact Emerges Out of Ground.'"(2)

The exact statement from Hegel reads: "When all the Conditions of a fact are present, it enters into Existence. The fact is before it EXISTS. . . " [SLII, p. 105; SLM, p. 477].

Now at this point, Lenin wrote: "Very good! What has the Absolute Idea and Idealism to find here? Remarkable, this 'derivation' of Existence" [LCW 38, p. 147]. We may be bold enough to answer the question, or better still, recognize that Lenin answered his own question when he reached the last part of Hegel precisely on the Absolute Idea, and therefore noted: (1) That one must read the WHOLE of the LOGIC to understand CAPITAL; (2) that man's cognition not only reflects the world, but "creates" it; (3) and noted in his conclusions that there was more sense in Idealism than in vulgar materialism, which made him so anxious to try to get the ENCYCLOPEDIA GRANAT to return his essay on Marx, so that he could expand the section on dialectics.

I want to return to the question of Condition as History, as well as to the expression that "The Fact IS before it EXISTS." The History that Hegel had in mind was, of course, the historic period in which he lived, following the French Revolution, which brought not the millennium, but new contradictions, i.e., philosophically speaking, Ground had been transformed into Condition and we did get a totality of Movement-the Fact-in-itself. The new contradictions will once again show that facts, facts, facts can also hide[:] "the unity of Form is submerged" [SLII, p. 104; SLM, p. 475].

And of course we know that our historic epoch, much more than Hegel's, demands more of reality than just a sound of "immediates."(3) For example, scientifically with Einstein, we get to know that facts, too, are relative. So that once again we need self-transcendence and therefore, in the expression "the fact is before it exists," we recognize the process of emergence of something new, and in its emergence we therefore get the transition to Existence. In our terms, if we think of the actual historical development of the working class in Marx's CAPITAL, we have "Ground in Unity with its Condition."

Section Two: Appearance

Here again, the very first sentence is a leap forward: "Essence must appear" [SLII, p. 107; SLM, p. 479]. So we can no longer merely contrast Appearance to Essence, because, while there may be much Appearance that is only "show," it also contains Essence itself (which in turn will soon mean we are moving to a real crisis or Actuality).

The three sub-sections on Appearance are: (1) Existence, (2) Appearance and (3) Essential Relation.

(I might state that Sartre's Existentialism is nowhere near this important section of Hegel's LOGIC, for in Hegel "whatever exists has a Ground and is conditioned" [SLII, p. 109; SLM, p. 481], whereas in Sartre, both the Ground and the Condition are quite subordinate to the Ego's disgust with it all.)(4)

The real tendency, as well as actuality, that we should have before us in studying this section on Appearance is Stalinism and its non-essential critique in Trotskyism. That is to say, if Essence-the present stage of capitalism or the present stage of the counter-revolutionary appearance of the labor bureaucracy-must appear, then Stalinism, which has appeared, is not just any old bureaucracy that has no connection with a new economic state of world development. On the contrary, the Appearance-Stalinism-and the Essence-state-capitalism-are one and the same, or the Form of a new Content. Trotskyism, on the other hand, by putting up a Chinese wall between what is mere Appearance to what is true Essence (and to him, the Essence is not capitalism, but the form of workers' state) has not been able to analyze either Stalinism or state-capitalism. I mean, either Stalinism as a mere perversion of the early Soviets, or Stalinism as the absolute opposite of that early workers' state.5

To get back to Hegel and Lenin's notes on Hegel, Lenin is quite impressed with Hegel's Analysis of the Law of Appearance, the World of Appearance and the World-in-Itself, and the Dissolution of Appearance, which are the sub-sections of Chapter II of this section.

Lenin keeps stressing at this point "the remarkably materialistic" analysis that flows from this objective analysis which will, of course, become the basis of Marx's analysis of the economic laws of capitalism. When Hegel writes "Law, then, is essential appearance" [SLII, p. 133; SLM, p. 504], Lenin concludes, "Ergo, Law and Essence of Concept are homogeneous (of one order) or, more correctly, uniform, expressing the deepening of man's knowledge of Appearance, the world, etc." [LCW 38, p. 152]. Finally, "The essence here is that both the World of Appearance and the World which is in and for itself are essentially MOMENTS of knowledge of nature by man, stages, changes or deepening (of knowledge). The movement of the world in itself ever further and further FROM the world of appearance-that is what is not yet visible in Hegel. NB. Do not the 'moments' of conception with Hegel have significance of 'moments' of transition?" [LCW 38, p. 153].

Chapter III: Essential Relation

"The truth of Appearance is Essential Relation" [SLII, p. 142; SLM, p. 512].

The relationship of the Whole and the Parts, you may recall from my various lectures on Hegel, has to me been a key, not merely to this section of Hegel, but to the entire philosophy of both Hegel and Marx. Thus, when I say that the whole is not only the sum total of the parts, but has a pull on the parts that are not yet there, even as the future has a pull on the present, it is obvious that we have moved from abstract philosophic conceptions to the actual world, and form the actual world back again to philosophy, but this time as enriched by the actual.

As Hegel puts it, "the Whole and the Parts therefore CONDITION each other" [SLII, p. 145; SLM, p. 515], "the Whole is equal to the Parts and the Parts to the Whole. . . But further, although the Whole is equal to the Parts, it is not equal TO THEM as Parts; the Whole is reflected unity" [SLII, p. 146; SLM, pp. 515-16]. "Thus, the relation of Whole and Parts has passed over into a relation of Force(6) and its Manifestation" [SLII, p. 147; SLM, p. 517]. Indeed, we will move from that to the relation of Outer and Inner,(7) which will become the transition to Substance and Actuality.

On the relationship of Outer and Inner, Lenin stresses what he calls "the unexpected slipping in of the CRITERIA of Hegel's Dialectic"-where Hegel notes that the relationship of Inner and Outer is apparent "in every natural, scientific, and, generally, intellectual development" [SLII, p. 157; SLM, p. 526]-and Lenin concludes, therefore, "that is where lies the SEED of the deep truth in the mystical balderdash of Hegelianism!" [LCW 38, p. 155].

Section Three: Actuality

The introductory note will stress that "Actuality is the UNITY OF ESSENCE AND EXISTENCE. . . This unity of Inner and Outer is ABSOLUTE ACTUALITY." He will divide Actuality into Possibility and Necessity as the "formal moments" of the Absolute, or its reflection. And finally, the unity of this Absolute and its reflection will become the Absolute Relation "or, rather, the Absolute as relation to itself, -SUBSTANCE" [SLII, p. 160; SLM, p. 529].

At this point in the Preliminary Note [on the Absolute], Lenin gets quite peeved at the idealist in Hegel and he divides the expression that "there is no becoming in the Absolute" [SLII, p. 162; SLM, p. 531] into two sentences by stating "and other nonsense about the Absolute" [LCW 38, p. 156]. But, as usual, it will not be long before Lenin is full of praise of Hegel and his section on Actuality.

To me, the most important part of Chapter I of Section Three, the Absolute, is the Observation [SLII, p. 167-72; SLM, pp. 536-40] on the philosophy of Spinoza: "DETERMINATENESS IS NEGATION-this is the absolute principle of Spinoza's philosophy, and this true and simple insight is the foundation of the absolute unity of Substance. But Spinoza does not pass on beyond negation as determinateness or quality to a recognition of it as absolute, that is, self-negating, negation" [SLII, p. 168; SLM, p. 536]. Hegel's conclusion is that though the dialectic is in it until Spinoza gets to Substance, it there stops: "Substance lacks the principle of Personality" [SLII, p. 168; SLM, p. 537]. And again later Hegel writes: "In a similar manner in the Oriental idea of EMANATION the Absolute is self-illuminating light" [SLII, p. 170; SLM, p. 538].

From now on, the polemical movement in the LOGIC will take a very subordinate place; the observations will do the same. Indeed, for the rest of the entire work, Hegel will have only two observations, as contrasted to the beginning of the SCIENCE OF LOGIC, where after but one single page on Being, he had no less than four observations (really five when you consider the one on Transcendence of Becoming) which took up no less than 23 pages.

In a word, the closer he approaches the Notion, especially the Absolute Idea, that is to say, the climax of his system as it has been comprehensively and profoundly developed both historically and polemically, the more he has absorbed all that is of value in the other systems of philosophy, rejected that which is not, and presented a truly objective worldview of history and philosophy, which contains the elements of a future society inherent in the present. (We will return to this point at the end.)

Of Chapter II on Actuality, the categories dealt with-Contingency, or formal Actuality, Possibility and Necessity-are all to pave the way to Chapter III, the Absolute Relation, which is the apex of the Doctrine of Essence and will bring us to the Notion.

Lenin begins to free himself of any residue of taking the empiric concrete as the Real or Actual. Near [Hegel's discussion of] the question of the relationship of Substantiality and Causality, Lenin writes: "On the one hand, we must deepen the knowledge of matter to the knowledge (to the concept) of substance, in order to find the causes of appearance. On the other hand, actual knowledge of causes is the deepening of knowledge from externality of appearance to substance. Two types of examples should explain this: (1) out of the history of natural science and (2) from the history of philosophy. More precisely: not 'examples' should be here-COMPARISON N'EST PAS RAISON [comparison is not proof], -but the QUINTESSENCE of the one and the other history-plus the history of technique" [LCW 38, p. 159].

A couple of pages later, Lenin will note that Hegel "FULLY leads up to History under Causality" and again, that the ordinary understanding of Causality fails to see that it is "only a small part of the universal connection" [LCW 38, p. 160] and that the small part is not subjective, but the objectively real connection. Indeed, Lenin very nearly makes fun, along with Hegel, of course, of Cause and Effect. Where Hegel wrote, "Effect therefore is necessary just because it is manifestation of Cause, or because it is that Necessity which is Cause" [SLII, p. 192; SLM, p. 559], Lenin noted that, of course, both Cause and Effect are "only Moments of the universal interdependence, of the universal concatenation of events, only links in the chain of the development of Matter" [LCW 38, p. 159]. And by the time he has finished with this chapter and met up with Hegel's definition of the next and final part of the Logic, the Notion, "the Realm of Subjectivity or of Freedom" [SLII, p. 205; SLM, p. 571], Lenin translates this without any self-consciousness over the word "Subjective," as follows: "NB-Freedom=subjectivity ("or") goal, consciousness, striving" [LCW 38, p. 164].

It is important to note that Herbert Marcuse in his REASON AND REVOLUTION also chooses this, not only as the climax, which it is, to the Doctrine of Essence, but more or less as the Essence of the whole of Hegelian philosophy. Thus, on p. 153, he states, "Without a grasp of the distinction between Reality and Actuality, Hegel's philosophy is meaningless in its decisive principles."


  1. "Machists" refers to the followers of Ernst Mach (1838-1916), Austrian physicist and philosopher who argued that all knowledge is a conceptual organization of the data of sensory experience.
  2. This letter of March 22, 1950 has not been located, but extracts of it appear in notes later prepared by Dunayevskaya. See SUPPLEMENT TO THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 14670-72.
  3. Hegel writes in the same paragraph that "the immediacy of Being essentially is only a moment of Form" [SLII, p. 104; SLM, p. 476].
  4. A reference to Sartre's BEING AND NOTHINGNESS.
  5. Compare the discussion of form and essence in Dunayevskaya's 1949 "Notes on Chapter 1 of Marx's CAPITAL: Its Relation to Hegel's Logic," in Dunayevskaya, THE MARXIST-HUMANIST THEORY OF STATE-CAPITALISM, pp. 89-94.
  6. For Hegel, matter and substances do not simply possess various forces (such as weight or magnetism), they also are forces. This is in keeping with his overall view that we cannot adequately apprehend the world as substance only, but must eventually view it also as subject. Force is not yet subject, but it does convey motion and change, rather than simple inert substantiality.
  7. Hegel writes in his observation on "the immediate identity of inner and outer" that they are not so separate as common sense would believe, for "each immediately is not only its other but also the totality of the whole" [SLII, p. 157; SLM, p. 526].