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From the Writings of Raya Dunayevskaya: Marxist-Humanist Archives
May 2000



This month and next we continue Raya Dunayevskaya's 1961 lecture notes on Hegel's Smaller LOGIC. The first part, "Introduction and Preliminary Notion," appeared last month. Publishing the series is part of our continuing effort to stimulate theoretical discussion on the "dialectic proper."

Dated Feb. 15, 1961, these notes on Hegel's Smaller LOGIC-the first part of his ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL SCIENCES-comment on all sections of the work. Dunayevskaya's notes contain an especially detailed commentary on the "Three Attitudes of Thought Toward Objectivity," a section of the Smaller LOGIC which does not appear in the SCIENCE OF LOGIC and a theme overlooked by many writers on Hegel. Here Hegel critiques not only Kantianism and Empiricism, but also romanticism and intuitionism.

The text of the Smaller LOGIC used by Dunayevskaya is THE LOGIC OF HEGEL, trans. by William Wallace (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894), which differs in some respects from later editions of Wallace's translation. Parenthetical references are to the paragraph numbers found in all editions and translations of Hegel's text. All footnotes are by the editors. The original can be found in THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 2834-2842.

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

Chapter Three: First Attitude of Thought Towards the Objective World

Everything in pre-Kantian thought from faith and abstract understanding through scholasticism, dogmatism and metaphysics is dealt with in the brief chapter of twelve pages. It is remarkable how easy it sounds when you consider the range of subjects taken up. This is something, moreover, that he [Hegel] has not done in the larger LOGIC. All the attitudes to objectivity are something that appear only in the Smaller LOGIC.

Chapter Four: Second Attitude of Thought Towards the Objective World

This deals both with the empirical school and the critical philosophy.(1) He notes that we could not have come from metaphysics to real philosophy, or from the Dark Ages to the epoch of capitalism, without empirical studies and the shaking off of the bondage of mere faith. At the same time, the method of empiricists' analysis is devastatingly criticized. Somewhere later he is to say that it is equivalent to think that you can cut off an arm from a body and still think you are dealing with a living subject, when you analyze that disjointed arm.(2)

Here he states: "Empiricism labors under a delusion, if it supposes that, while analyzing the objects, it leaves them as they were; it really transforms the concrete into an abstract... The error lies in forgetting that this is only one-half of the process, and that the main point is the reunion of what has been divided" (paragraph 38). And finally in that same paragraph, he states:

"So long then as this sensible sphere is and continues to be for Empiricism a mere datum, we have a doctrine of bondage; for we become free, when we are confronted by no absolutely alien world, but by a fact which is our second self."

With the critical school, it is obvious that we have reached a revolution in thought and yet that it stopped being critical because of its divorce of thought from experience:

"This view has at least the merit of giving a correct expression to the nature of all consciousness. The tendency of all man's endeavors is to understand the world, to appropriate and subdue it to himself; and to this end the positive reality of the world must be as it were crushed and squashed, in other words, idealized" (paragraph 42).

He further accuses Kant of having degraded Reason "to a finite and conditioned thing, to identify it with a mere stepping beyond the finite and conditioned range of understanding. The real infinite, far from being a mere transcendence of the finite, always involves the absorption of the finite in its own fuller nature....Absolute idealism, however, though it is far in advance of the vulgarly-realistic mind, is by no means merely restricted to philosophy" (paragraph 45).

He, therefore, considers Kant's system to be "dualistic" so that "the fundamental defect makes itself visible in the inconsistency of unifying at one moment what a moment before had been explained to be independent and incapable of unification" (paragraph 60). And yet his greatest criticism of Kant is that his philosophy fails to unify, that is to say, that its form of unification was completely external and not out of the inherent unity: "Now it is not because they are subjective, that the categories are finite: they are finite by their very nature..." Note how in the end Hegel both separates and unites Kant and Fichte:

"After all it was only formally that the Kantian system established the principle that thought acted spontaneously in forming its constitution. Into details of the manner and the extent of this self-determination of thought, Kant never went. It was Fichte who first noticed the omission; and who, after he had called attention to the want of a deduction for the categories, endeavored really to supply something of the kind. With Fichte, the "Ego" is the starting-point in the philosophical development... Meanwhile, the nature of the impulse remains a stranger beyond our pale... What Kant calls the thing-by-itself, Fichte calls the impulse from without" (paragraph 60).

Chapter Five: Third Attitude of Thought Towards the Objective World

To me, this chapter on what Hegel calls "Immediate or Intuitive Knowledge" and which is nearly entirely devoted to Jacobi, is the most important and essentially totally new as distinguished from the manner in which Hegel deals with the other schools of thought in his larger LOGIC. The newness comes not from the fact that he does not criticize Jacobi (and Fichte and Schelling) as devastatingly in the larger LOGIC, but in the sense that he has made a category out of it by devoting a chapter and by making that chapter occur when, to the ordinary mind, it would have appeared that from Kant he should have gone to his own dialectical philosophy. Hegel is telling us that one doesn't necessarily go DIRECTLY to a higher stage, but may suddenly face a throwback to a former stage of philosophy, which thereby is utterly "reactionary." (That's his word, reactionary.)(3)

The first critique of Jacobi's philosophy is the analysis that even faith must be PROVED; otherwise there would be no way to distinguish in anyone's say-so whether it is something as grandiose as Christianity, or as backward as the worshiping of an ox. No words can substitute for Hegel's:

"The term FAITH brings with it the special advantage of reminding us of the faith of the Christian religion; it seems to include Christian faith, or perhaps even to coincide with it; and thus the Philosophy of Faith has a thoroughly pious and Christian look, on the strength of which it takes the liberty of uttering its arbitrary dicta with greater pretensions to authority. But we must not let ourselves be deceived by the semblance surreptitiously secured by means of a merely verbal similarity. The two things are radically distinct. Firstly, Christian faith comprises in it a certain authority of the church: but the faith of Jacobi's philosophy has no other authority than that of the philosopher who revealed it. And, secondly, Christian faith is objective, with a great deal of substance in the shape of a system of knowledge and doctrine: while the contents of the philosophic faith are so utterly indefinite, that, while its arms are open to receive the faith of the Christian, it equally includes a belief in the divinity of the Dalai Lama, the ox, or the monkey, thus, so far as it goes, narrowing Deity down to its simplest terms, to a Supreme Being. Faith itself, taken in the sense postulated by this system, is nothing but the sapless abstraction of immediate knowledge" (paragraph 63).

You may recall (those of you who were with us when we split from Johnson)(4) that we used this attitude as the thorough embodiment of Johnsonism [as seen in] the series of letters he issued on the fact that we must "break with the old" and stick only to the "new" without ever specifying what is old and what is new, either in a class context or even in an immediate historic frame.(5) This is what Hegel calls "exclusion of mediation" and he rises to his highest height in his critique of Jacobi when he states: "Its distinctive doctrine is that immediate knowledge alone, to the total exclusion of mediation, can possess a content which is true" (paragraph 65). He further expands this thought (paragraph 71):

"The one-sidedness of the intuitional school has certain characteristics attending upon it, which we shall proceed to point out in their main features, now that we have discussed the fundamental principle. The FIRST of those corollaries is as follows. Since the criterion of truth is found, not in the character of the content, but in the fact of consciousness, all alleged truth has no other basis than subjective knowledge and the assertion that we discover a certain fact in our consciousness. What we discover in our own consciousness is thus exaggerated into a fact of the consciousness of all, and even passed off for the very nature of the mind."

A few paragraphs later (paragraph 76) is where Hegel uses the term "reactionary"-"reactionary nature of the school of Jacobi. His doctrine is a return to the modern starting point of the metaphysic in the Cartesian Philosophy." You must remember that Hegel praises Descartes as the starting point of philosophy, and even shows a justification for any metaphysical points in it just because it had broken new ground.(6) But what he cannot forgive is that in his own period, after we had already reached Kantian philosophy, one should turn backward:

"The modern doctrine on the one hand makes no change in the Cartesian method of the usual scientific knowledge, and conducts on the same plan(7) the experimental and finite sciences that have sprung from it. But, on the other hand, when it comes to the science which has infinity for its scope, it throws aside the method, and thus, as it knows no other, it rejects all methods. It abandons itself to the control of a wild, capricious and fantastic dogmatism, to a moral priggishness and pride of feeling, or to an excessive opining and reasoning which is loudest against philosophy and philosophic themes. Philosophy of course tolerates no mere assertions, or conceits, or arbitrary fluctuations of inference to and fro" (paragraph 77).

Chapter Six: The Proximate Notion of Logic with its Subdivision

This is the last chapter before we get into the three major divisions of the LOGIC itself. In a word, it took Hegel six chapters, or 132 pages, to INTRODUCE the LOGIC which will occupy, in this abbreviated form, a little less than 200 pages. On the other hand, this Smaller LOGIC will be such easy sailing, especially for anyone who has grappled with the larger LOGIC, that you will almost think that you are reading a novel and, indeed, I will spend very little time on the summation because I believe you are getting ready to read it for yourself now.

To get back to the Proximate Notion, Hegel at once informs you that the three stages of logical doctrine-(1) Abstract or Mere Understanding; (2) Dialectical or Negative Reason; (3) Speculative or Positive Reason-apply in fact to every logical reality, every notion and truth whatever.

There are places where Hegel is quite humorous about the dialectic as it is degraded for winning debater's points: "Often too, Dialectic is nothing more than a subjective seesaw of arguments PRO and CON, where the absence of sterling thought is disguised by the subtlety which gives birth to such arguments" (paragraph 81). And yet it is precisely in this paragraph where he gives the simplest and profoundest definition of what dialectic is, thus: "Wherever there is movement, wherever there is life, wherever anything is carried into effect in the actual world, there Dialectic is at work."

Over and over again, Hegel lays stress on the necessity to PROVE what one claims, and the essence of proof is that something has developed of necessity in such and such a manner, that it has been through both a historic and a self-relationship which has moved it FROM what it was "in itself" (implicitly), THROUGH a "for itself-ness" (a process of mediation or development) to what it finally is "in and for itself" (explicitly). Or put it yet another way, from potentiality to actuality, or the realization of all that is inherent in it.

Finally, here is the simple way: Logic is sub-divided into three parts: I. The Doctrine of Being; II. The Doctrine of Essence; III. The Doctrine of Notion and Idea. That is, into the Theory of Thought: I. In its immediacy (the notion implicit and, as it were, in germ); II. In its reflection and mediation (the being-for-self and show of the notion); III. In its return into itself, and its being all to itself (the notion in and for itself... "For in philosophy, to prove means to show how the subject by and from itself makes itself what it is") (paragraph 83).

To be continued next issue


We regret an error in a quotation from Hegel that appeared last issue, column 3, paragraph 3: "the tendency to reading and meditation," should read-"the tendency to reasoning and meditation." We thank one of our subscribers for catching this typo.


  1. Kantianism.
  2. See paragraph 216 of the Smaller LOGIC.
  3. See paragraph 76 of the Smaller LOGIC.
  4. C.L.R. James
  5. This refers to a series of letters written by James to his associates in early 1955, which helped lead to the breakup of the Johnson-Forest Tendency.
  6. See paragraph 77 of the Smaller LOGIC: "The Cartesian philosophy, from these unproved postulates, which it assumes to be unprovable, proceeds to wider and wider details of knowledge, and thus gave rise to the sciences of modern times."
  7. In the newer translation of the ENCYCLOPEDIA LOGIC by Geraets et al, "plan" is rendered as "method."