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


This month we conclude Raya Dunayevskaya's 1961 lecture notes on Hegel's Smaller LOGIC. The first part, "Introduction and Preliminary Notion," appeared in April, and the second part, "Attitudes to Objectivity," 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 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 is a theme overlooked by many writers on Hegel. There 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 Seven: First Subdivision of Logic–The Doctrine of Being

I will not go into the separate categories of Quality, Quantity, Measure or the question of Being, Nothing and Becoming. Instead, all I will do here is point to the examples from the history of philosophy so that you get a feeling for yourself about the specificity of [Hegel's] thinking and realize that his abstractions are not abstractions at all. Two things, for example, from the section on Quality will speak for themselves:

"In the history of philosophy the different stages of the logical Idea assume the shape of successive systems, each of which is based on a particular definition of the Absolute. As the logical Idea is seen to unfold itself in a process from the abstract to the concrete, so in the history of philosophy the earliest systems are the most abstract, and thus at the same time have least in them. The relation too of the earlier to the later systems of philosophy is much like the relation of the earlier to the later stages of the logical Idea; in other words, the former are preserved in the latter, but in a subordinate and functional position. This is the true meaning of a much misunderstood phenomenon in the history of philosophy-the refutation of one system by another, of an earlier by a later (¶86)....Opinion, with its usual want of thought, believes that specific things are positive throughout, and retains them fast under the form of Being. Mere Being, however, is not the end of the matter" (¶91).

Remember that the sections in the smaller type are the ones that Hegel quotes orally and then you will get a view of his response to his audience when, say, they would look with blank faces when he would speak of something like "Being-for-self."(1) And now read the following:

"The Atomic philosophy (2) forms a vital stage in the historical growth of the Idea. The principle of that system may be described as Being-for-self in the shape of the Many. At present, students of nature who are anxious to avoid metaphysics, turn a favorable ear to Atomism. But it is not possible to escape metaphysics and cease to trace nature back to terms of thought, by throwing ourselves into the arms of Atomism. The atom in fact is itself a thought; and hence the theory which holds matter to consist of atoms is a metaphysical theory. Newton gave physics an express warning to beware of metaphysics, it is true; but to his honor, be it said, he did not by any means obey his own warning. The only mere physicists are theanimals: they alone do not think: while man is a thinking being and a born metaphysician."

(Read the rest for yourself–it is too important to miss ¶98.)

Chapter Eight: Second Subdivision of Logic–Doctrine of Essence

Here again I will not go into categories such as Identity, Difference, Contradiction, etc., all of which I dealt with when summarizing the Larger LOGIC and which you will find comparatively easy to read here. (3) What interests me are the so-called examples and once in a while the easy definitions like "The aim of philosophy is to banish indifference, and to learn the necessity of things" (¶119). So we go back to the historical basis which always throws an extra illumination on the generalization that follows:

"The Sophists came forward at a time when the Greeks had begun to grow dissatisfied with mere authority and tradition in the matter of morals and religion, and when they felt how needful it was to see that the sum of facts was due to the intervention and act of thought.....Sophistry has nothing to do with what is taught:-that may always be true. Sophistry lies in the formal circumstance of teaching it by grounds which are as available for attack as for defense" (¶121).

I want to recommend the studying in full of the final part of this section called "Actuality." It is not a question only of content or its profound insistence on the relationship of actuality to thought and vice-versa ("The idea is rather absolutely active, as well as actual") (¶142). It is a movement of and to freedom within every science, philosophy, and even class struggle, though Hegel, of course, never says that; nevertheless [one] must go through the actuality of necessity and the real world contradictions that are impossible to summarize in any briefer form than the 24 paragraphs Hegel does here (¶142-159).

You have heard me quote often the section on Necessity, which ends with: "So long as a man is otherwise conscious that he is free, his harmony of soul and peace of mind will not be disturbed by disagreeable events. It is their view of Necessity, therefore, which is at the root of the content and discontent of man, and which in that way determines their destiny itself" (¶147). Now you go to it and study those pages.

Chapter Nine: Third Subdivision of Logic–The Doctrine of the Notion

This last section of the LOGIC is the philosophic framework which most applies to our age. From the very start where he says, "The Notion is the power of Substance in the fruition of its own being, and therefore, what is free," you know that on the one hand, from now on you are on your own and must constantly deepen his content through a materialistic, historical "translation." And, on the other hand, that you cannot do so unless you stand on his solid foundation: "The Notion, in short, is what contains all the earlier categories of Thought merged in it. It certainly is a form, but an infinite and creative form, which includes, but at the same time releases from itself the plenitude of all that it contains" (¶160).

I would like you to read the letter I wrote to Olga [Domanski] on Universal, Particular and Individual (4) and then read Hegel on those categories, and you will see how little of his spirit I was able to transmit and how changeable are his own definitions. For example, he says, "Individual and Actual are the same thing....The Universal in its true and comprehensive meaning is one of those thoughts which demanded thousands of years before it entered into the consciousness of man" (¶163). Just ponder on this single phrase "thousands of years."

These categories–Universal, Particular and Individual–are first described in the [Doctrine of the] Notion as notion, then they enter Judgment, then Syllogism, and then throughout to the end, and in each case they are not the same, and you can really break your neck if you try to subsume them into a definitional form. They just will not be fenced in. Hegel, himself, has something to say on this fencing in of the syllogism, for example, which in "common logic" is supposed to conclude so-called elemental theory, which is then followed by a so-called doctrine of method, which is supposed to show you how to apply what you learned in Part I:

"It believes Thought to be a mere subjective and formal activity; and the objective fact which confronts Thought it holds to be permanent and self-subsistent, but this dualism is a half-truth... It would be truer to say that it is subjectivity itself, which, as dialectics, breaks through its own barrier and develops itself to objectivity by means of the syllogism" (¶192).

(I want to call to your attention that it is the last sentence in ¶212, which [C.L.R. James] so badly misused in justifying our return to Trotskyism. Note that the quotation itself speaks of error as a necessary dynamic, whereas James spoke of it as if it were the dynamic: "Error, or other-being, WHEN IT IS UPLIFTED AND ABSORBED, is itself a necessary dynamic element of truth: for truth can only be where it makes itself its own result." (The phrase underlined was underlined by me in order to stress that James had left it out.) (5)

The final section on the Absolute Idea is extremely abbreviated and by no means gives you all that went into the SCIENCE OF LOGIC, but it will serve if you read it very carefully; to introduce you to its study in the Larger LOGIC. I will quote only three thoughts from it:

"The Absolute Idea is, in the first place, the unity of the theoretical and practical idea, and thus at the same time, the unity of life with the idea of cognition....The defect of life lies in its being only the idea in itself or naturally: whereas cognition is in an equally one-sided way, the merely conscious idea or the idea for itself, The Unity... (¶236). It is certainly possible to indulge in a vast amount of senseless declamation about the idea absolute, but its true content is only the whole system, of which we have been hitherto examining the development" (¶237).

I love the expression that to get to philosophic thought one must be strong enough to ward off the incessant importance of one's own opinion:

"The philosophical method is analytical, as well as that end, however, there is required an effort to keep off the ever-incessant impertinence of our own fancies and opinions" (¶238).

The final sentence of the whole book in the Smaller LOGIC is what pleased Lenin so highly that he wrote as if the SCIENCE OF LOGIC ended [there] by stating that the "rest of the paragraph" wasn't significant. It is on that rest of the paragraph in the Larger LOGIC around which the whole reason for my 1953 Letters on the Absolute Idea rests. (6) The sentence Lenin liked because it held out a hand to materialism is: "We began with Being, abstract being: where we now are we also have the idea as Being: but this idea, which has Being is Nature." This is the oral remark which followed the written last sentence:

"But the idea is absolutely free; and its freedom means that it does not merely pass over into life, or as finite cognition allow life to show in it, but in its own absolute truth resolves to let the element of its particularity, or of the first characterization and other-being, the immediate idea, as its reflection, go forth freely itself from itself as Nature" (¶244).


1. Hegel defines "being-for-self" thusly: "We say that something is for itself in so far as it cancels its otherness, its relatedness to and community with Other, rejecting and abstracting from them. In it, Other only exists as having been transcended, or as its moment... Self-consciousness is Being-for-Self accomplished and posited; the aspect of relation to an Other, an external object, has been removed" [SLI, p. 171; SLM, p. 158].

2. "The Atomic philosophy" refers to the doctrine that existence can be explained in terms of aggregates of atoms, irreducible fixed particles or units. It reached its classic expression in ancient Greece in the philosophy of Democritus. Atomism has often been connected to philosophical materialism.

3. Dunayevskaya's notes on Hegel's SCIENCE OF LOGIC can be found in THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 2815-2833. NEWS & LETTERS reprinted them in the January-February, March, April and May 1999 issues.

4. This refers to a letter to Olga Domanski, a colleague of Dunayevskaya's, of Feb. 27, 1961. It can be found in the SUPPLEMENT TO THE RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA COLLECTION, 13842-43.

5. In 1947-48 James used the notion that "error is THE dynamic of truth" to justify the Johnson-Forest Tendency's decision to rejoin the Socialist Workers Party, despite its "erroneous" politics which the Johnson-Forest Tendency had long combated. See his NOTES ON DIALECTICS, pp. 92-93.

6. See the "Letters on Hegel's Absolutes of 1953" in THE PHILOSOPHIC MOMENT OF MARXIST-HUMANISM (Chicago: News and Letters, 1989) and "New Thoughts on the Dialectics of Organization and Philosophy" in PHILOSOPHY AND REVOLUTION: FROM HEGEL TO SARTRE AND FROM MARX TO MAO (New York: Columbia Unviersity Press, 1989), where Dunayevskaya critiques Lenin's interpretation of the closing sentences of the LOGIC.