J. B. Baillie. The Origin and Significance of Hegel’s Logic 1901

Chapter I: Introduction

It will greatly facilitate the appreciation of the history of Hegel’s views on Logic if at the outset we give some indication of his attitude to the problem of philosophy as a whole, the direction from which he approached philosophy, and the primary influences which helped to determine the course of his mental development. Hegel’s earliest conception of the nature of Logic has at least this in common with his latest, that Logic is no mere appendage or accident in his general system, but an integral element of it. The statement, therefore, of his general Philosophical point of view will throw no inconsiderable light on his theory of Logic.

Hegel’s intellectual development illustrates in a very suggestive manner a peculiarity of his own system. It consists in holding in succession opposite positions, along with the strenuous attempt to reconcile these opposites in such a way as to do complete justice to the importance of each. This, perhaps, may be taken as an indication that he possessed an unusually profound intellectual insight into the limitations inherent in the very nature of principles taken by themselves and in isolation; but more probably it was due to the natural sanity of a well-balanced personality which instinctively recoils from over-emphasis on any one part, no matter how important, of that single and completed whole whose life it shares. Hegel’s mind was continually and keenly alive to the value of the divergent aspects of the reality presented to it.

So much so, indeed, that a positive statement in one direction is unhesitatingly pitted against, and even “turned round” at times with bewildering facility into, its very counterpart – a modus operandi which is to a large extent the source of the perplexity found in deciphering his meaning. This appreciation of contrariety amongst the facts of experience is prominent at the very outset of his intellectual development, and determines it from first to last.

The first stage in Hegel’s career after leaving the gymnasium was devoted mainly to Theology. No doubt in his case, as in that of many another Weltkind, the capricious hand of fortune had most to do with deciding the course his earliest steps should take; but on this occasion fortune’s fingers turned the key of destiny at the first trial. For, whatever may have been Hegel’s interest in school theology, and in spite of the fact that he ultimately abandoned the intention of directly serving the Church, it is unquestionably Hegel’s intense appreciation of the aims and objects of religion that gives the dominant tone to his whole philosophy.

Not only is this evident from such records as we have of his studies during the years immediately succeeding his residence at Tübingen Theological Seminary, but we shall find it impossible to understand the position he assigns to religion in his final scheme,[1] and the incessant recurrence of its fundamental ideas and problems throughout his work, unless we assume this peculiarly intimate connexion in his own thought between religion and philosophy. The problems of the religious consciousness of his time compelled him to seek some satisfaction for them in philosophy; and in the light of this origin of his inquiry his subsequent development must be interpreted.

This pronounced influence of religion on Hegel’s philosophy must not, however, be understood in any narrow sense; for with it there was inevitably associated the problem of morality. The content of morality and religion is fundamentally the same. Both express what in man is most concrete, most universal, and most vital to his interests, and hence both directly appealed to a mind like Hegel’s, which from the first was awake to all that was deepest and most real in human life. These then must be taken together as supplying the objects with which Hegel was primarily concerned.

Now this native predisposition for ethico-religious inquiry put Hegel at once en rapport with the dominant spiritual movement of his time.

The wave of the new Humanism had at last (by 1794) broken over Germany, and carried with it everything and every one of affective significance during that epoch. Not only had the new Copernican metaphysics become the passionate creed and conviction of the leading philosophers of the day, led for the most part by Fichte; the influence of precisely the same ideas was also at work in the outpourings of the poetic genius of Goethe and Schiller, who were the princely embodiments of the new spirit. On Hegel the effect of this intellectual environment was not simply unconscious; he was ever closely in touch with the various agencies at work in the life around him, and found it easy to be sympathetically appreciative of the work of other minds. Thus his own innate mental proclivities, combined with the spiritual forces operative at the time, brought Hegel at the earliest stage of his intellectual development under the immediate influence of the master-builder of the new epoch – Kant. And though Kant’s influence is peculiarly associated with this first period of Hegel’s career, we shall find that it remained effective to the last.

At the outset, however, it was not primarily the value of Kant’s principle and result for philosophy proper that made them of such interest to Hegel; their importance lay rather in their bearing on religion and morality. For their purely speculative import he did not profess much concern. He was prepared to study the development of the Kantian doctrine by Fichte, Reinhold, and his friend Schelling; but in these matters he was content to be a “learner,” to leave “theoretical” problems to others.[2] He was aware, indeed, of the supreme theoretical value of the principle, and from the complete realisation of its meaning he expected a “Revolution in Germany;"[3] but Hegel’s own attention was absorbed by it because of the flood of light it threw on what was then of most interest to him – the problems of the religious consciousness. His mind is alive with the new spirit of freedom infused into intellectual life, with the new rationalism that is investing the discussion of religious questions.

He speaks with all the vigorous contempt for the established order which is engendered by the newly awakened insight of youth into the seriousness of the problems of life, and confidently foretells the doom of the old orthodoxy, like any other irresponsible prophet of the Aufklärung.

He eagerly welcomed Kant’s ethical principle, and his natural insight into the import of great ideas saw in it the germs of a new religious life, and of a transformation of man’s appreciation of the meaning of his destiny. Some expression for his inchoate conceptions and anticipations Hegel found in the daring reconstruction of Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre (1794), as also in Schelling’s early essays. But his own attempts at reinterpretation were confined to the discussion of specific aspects of the problem. He endeavours to apply Kant’s conclusions regarding the practical reason to the ideas of providence, and the place of the notion of purpose in the physical world. “Moral theology,” he thinks, could thus be used to throw light on “physical (natural) theology."[4] In the philosophical justification of the dignity and worth of man he finds the clue to the reform of religion and politics at once; for these go hand in hand. “The former has taught what the latter under the form of despotism wanted and gave effect to."[5] The religious doctrine of communion with God he seeks to understand, and to harmonise with the “primacy of the practical reason” and its postulates.[6] Such disconnected efforts to reconsider current religious notions are all that we find recorded of Hegel’s philosophical activity during his residence in Switzerland (1794-97). They are too indefinite to convey accurate information regarding any precise results to which he might have arrived, but they are sufficient to indicate his essentially religious interest in the philosophical ideas of his time. His attitude at this period was not strictly philosophical; so far as it can be determined at all it was a crude blend of philosophy and theology, much more allied to mysticism than to clearly developed systematic thinking. This is confirmed by what is recorded of the influence exerted upon him by the German mystics, Eckhart and Tauler, with whom at this time he became acquainted.

The same tendency too is seen in the fundamental conceptions he employs in expounding his views. “Love” in its mystical sense he regarded as an ultimate principle of explanation in religion, and found in it all that was characteristic of reason, – unity, and harmony of opposites.

Love, in fact, was the “analogue” of reason.[7] “Life,” again, was treated as the supreme category by which to determine the essential nature of reality; and religion was constituted by the relation of “finite life” to the “infinite life,” and by the active union of these, a union which found complete expression in the idea of Love.

Hegel did not confine himself solely to the analysis of the actual problems of religion. Another influence was at work which was of supreme importance in his development. This was the study of History, the full appreciation of which alone would give Hegel a unique place in modern philosophy. It is impossible to over-estimate the part played by this subject in determining the character of Hegel’s philosophy. From the very start Hegel approached the study of a fundamental problem from a consideration of its history, either in order thereby to throw light on the solution of the actual problem itself, or in order exhaustively to appreciate its full significance.[8] It was because the one human spirit was alive to its purposes and destiny in diverse times and in diverse ways, that Hegel sought aid in the comprehension of the present by direct appeal to the past. The life of the past was to him not the monotonous intonation of recurrent but identical formulas, still less the mere wail of the multitude, which is no sooner uttered than it is vanished for ever. Rather every pulse in that life was necessary and significant, because a contribution to the revelation of the full meaning of humanity. It was the perennial human value of human deeds that led Hegel to learn of the past to appreciate the present. And this too determined the nature of his interest in historical facts. It was not their external character, their existence as mere facts that appealed to him, but their inner significance, the kind of spiritual forces and movements which they showed to be at work. Not the pragmatical importance of events, but their interpretative value lent them meaning; and this conception of them determined his method of study.

This method is pursued not merely in the case of political history, but still more in dealing with religious history, with which he was more directly concerned during the early years of his development. In the former he looked for the explanation of the trend of a nation’s history in the inner life, the ideas and ideals which peculiarly characterised the mind of the people. His interest in the history of religion was concentrated not on the outward events but on their essential religious worth, their actual contribution to the realisation of the meaning of religion.

Thus the life of Christ, to the study of which Hegel continually recurred during this period,[9] was of importance solely for the light it threw on the essential nature of religion, or more particularly of the Christian religion.

And it need only be mentioned here in passing that precisely the same point of view was adopted when later on Hegel’s philosophical interest was fully aroused, and he appealed to the history of philosophy to aid in the comprehension of the nature of philosophy, and even in the solution of its problem. The supreme importance of the history of philosophy in the determination of Hegel’s own philosophy was continually insisted on by Hegel himself, and cannot be over-emphasised by his interpreters.

But what above all gives such significance for Hegel’s developments to this natural penchant towards the study of history is that he was thereby brought almost at the outset of his career into contact with the mind and life of Greece. For Hegel’s intense appreciation of the Hellenic spirit, and his enthusiasm for it became, next to the influence of religion already mentioned, the dominant factor in his mental history.

His love for the Greek ideals was awakened as early as his school days.

It was fostered by his friendship with the poet Hölderlin during and after his life in Tübingen. It was no doubt strengthened and deepened by that revival of Hellenism which was initiated by Lessing’s Laokoon, and carried forward with splendid devotion by Goethe, and which by the time of Hegel’s apprenticeship was in full possession of the best literature of the day.

The point, however, in regard to which the Greek ideal first decisively influenced Hegel’s intellectual attitude was the character of Greek religion.[10] This seemed to him to embody the highest purposes and essential meaning of religion; for in it was realised the oneness of the individual with the universal – a oneness which was so complete that nothing further than the realisation of this universal was ever desired by the individual. Devotion to the all-sufficient and supreme ends of the state exhausted the highest aims of the individual citizen; his gods were his own ideals clothed upon with the life and passions of humanity, sharing the common struggles and triumphs which were necessary for the common good. Above all they were inhabitants of the earth, of the woods, the rivers, and the hills; citizens of this common world, glorifying it by their presence; the companions and guardians of the children of men. Such a religion realised the great harmony of the jarring discords of life, filled up the clefts and gaps in human insufficiency, and transformed man’s existence into a poem of nature’s own creation.

The attractiveness of this ideal was brought out still further by its contrast with the religion of the Jews, a contrast to which Hegel incessantly recurs at this time.[11] Here man is separated from his God; man’s ends are not exhausted by the state, for even the state is not self-sufficient, but subserves another, a divine, will outside itself. The law of life is not an inner principle, but an external command; reconciliation is mechanical, being in fact no more than a truce between alien spirits, not the reacknowledgment of an essential union. The Jewish religion exalts God so far above man, that even the dignity and worth of man as a religious being are themselves threatened; and the life of religion, far from being a harmony of the discords of finitude, is the perpetual struggle of man to satisfy impossible demands.

Comparison with Greek religion, again, threw Christianity[12] itself into an unfavourable light. For this had essentially the same framework as the Jewish religion. God was set far above man as his law-giver and judge, who did not live in the hearts of men, but governed them from an inapproachable altitude, employing as his representative the voice and will of the Church. The Church, its worship and ordinances, reflected with accuracy this view of God’s relation to man. The moral code it regarded not as the inner purpose and meaning of man’s spirit, but the expression of an external will with which it was in no essential harmony, but which it had to obey on pain of guilt and punishment, either at the hands of the Church or in some future state. The religious life was a continual confession of the slavery, the fallen state, the worthlessness of man, a degradation which became the greater the more God was exalted, and the farther off he was placed from the living world of passion and pain.[13] For God’s exaltation above man did not affect man’s ability to know him; it was a moral and metaphysical exaltation, not an elevation beyond the range of man’s knowledge; men, indeed, “began now to have an amazing amount of knowledge of God.” God was wholly and simply objective to man, a being apart and outside himself, a God who revealed himself and urged conviction through wonders in place of reason, and in whose name, and for whose sake, just because he was outside the heart of man, deeds were done absolutely alien to the native instincts and natural laws of the conscience of his devotees.[14] We need not expand these statements into a digression; enough has been said to indicate the character of Hegel’s criticism. It is clear that both in regard to Judaism and Christianity his objections have precisely the same basis, his analysis is guided by the same general principle. In both of them the realisation of the highest religious life by the organic incorporation of the ethical content of man’s experience, through which his spirit is developed and becomes substantial and concrete, was rendered impossible by the removal or elevation of the divine far out of the reach of the world in which man actually lived. The result in both cases was the degradation of man, the transcendent superiority of God, and that distortion of the meaning of man’s life which was the inevitable consequence of bringing two such heterogeneous realities into relation.

And Hegel found the key to such religious attitudes in the political situation of the time to which they belonged. For it was in proportion to the extent of the deterioration of the national life of the Jews that their own confidence in themselves and their destiny failed them, and they looked outside themselves for a deliverer, a Messias who was to come; while again it was the entire destruction of national life at the time when Christianity appeared which withered the marrow of men’s moral substance, and induced them to seek God’s glory through their own infirmity, and to look for the blessedness of a distant future state as a compensation or substitute for the helpless incompleteness of the present.[15] All this, as Hegel points out, stands in decided contrast with the national religion of Greece and of Rome. There the life of the individual was absorbed by the universal aims and life of the state; in fulfilling the highest purposes of the state each fulfilled his own best will. The idea of his Fatherland was his mainstay and ideal end, and before this idea his own individuality simply disappeared;[16] he desired for that alone, security, continuance, and life. Thus religious conceptions which have become of supreme importance in Christianity find no counterpart in the religion of Greece and Rome. For example, “’Piety’ and ‘Sin’ are two notions which do not belong to the Greeks in the sense understood by Christians. ‘Piety’ is to us a sentiment proceeding from reverence towards God as law-giver; ‘sin’ is an act which transgresses commands so far as they are of God. But agion, anagion, pietas, impietas, express sacred feelings of human beings, and sentiments or acts which are suited or contrary to such feelings."[17] Now, while the influence exerted by Greek life and thought upon Hegel is perfectly manifest from the above religious views which he held at this time, it is not difficult to see that there was considerable affinity between Hellenism, as Hegel now understood it, and the Kantian principle, with which, as we saw, he was also in immediate sympathy. It was indeed in the light of that new doctrine that he examined and criticised the religious life of the past and of the present. Kant’s principle had secured or rather re-established the essential value and dignity of man’s place in the world; had raised him to a knowledge of his worth by proving his own self, his vital reason, to be the source of the order and meaning of his life, the measure and guarantee of its divinity; and had shown the idea of Freedom to be at once the key and the treasure of human existence. The wealth hitherto lavished upon heaven must therefore now be refunded to its rightful owner; and man’s first duty was to enter into his natural inheritance. Hegel found this principle of freedom concretely realised and implied as an end in the religion and life of Greece; that religion revealed the spirit of a free people, and could be a religion only for freemen. Hence the influence exerted upon him by the Greek ideal; it was a concrete historical embodiment of what seemed to him the essential aim and meaning of man’s life. The Hellenism of antiquity incarnated the spirit of the new Humanism of his own time.

Now these two influences above sketched (Kant’s principle and the Greek ideal) may be said to be the guiding threads of Hegel’s mental history. They undergo transformation in the course of his development, and their meaning becomes truer and deeper; but essentially they remain the dominant factors throughout. At first, as we see, they exerted their influence side by side, and that in the restricted sphere of ethico-religious inquiry. There was no sense of any opposition between the essential significance of Kantianism and Hellenism; they seem even to have been regarded as in harmony with each other; and there was no attempt at this time (1794-97) to extend them to other fields of inquiry. But closer consideration shows, and further reflexion on Hegel’s part made it evident, that there was a rooted antithesis between the principles of the two. On the one side the governing idea was that of individuality, self-development; this was of the very essence of Kant’s theory. On the other hand, however, the essential import of the Greek ideal was universalism, the limitation of the individual for and by the universal end of the state. The former attached a supreme worth to the individual will and purpose; the individual was the supreme end; the latter gave him no worth at all except in so far as he was determined by the higher and complete whole (the state) which was the end, and which he subserved.

The one emphasises the value of the individual in himself in virtue of his autonomous and inexhaustible spontaneity; the other absorbs the individual into the single harmonious unity of the common life. The one, in short, implies self-development; the other self-annihilation.

That this antithesis could be no mere fiction of Logic was plain from the fact that in the latter case an organised national life was the indispensable condition of the realisation of the end of the individual.

Should the condition cease to be, as it did in the case of Greece and Rome, the life of the individual will also crumble under the ruins of national disaster. And yet the individual can and does survive the decay of the state. How then can an individual exist solely for the universal ends of the state? Moreover, religion – particularly religion in its highest forms – is a direct relation of the individual to God. But, if so, is not such a relation independent of any national life and sufficient for itself apart from it? And did not Christianity itself emphasise at its origin precisely this self-containedness of individuality? From both these sides, therefore, the antithesis between Kantian doctrine and the Greek spirit is seen to be no mere superficial contrast, but a deep-seated opposition of fundamental principles. The individual does and can exist in the world apart from the universal, and has a supreme value of his own; and yet, on the other hand, the life of the state seems to make real and concrete that of the individual.

Now there seems little doubt that it was Hegel’s appreciation of the full significance of this opposition, and the struggle to resolve it and harmonise the elements it contained, that determined his further development.

He came to see that the antithesis, in the form in which he had hitherto considered it (that of the sphere of religious life), was merely one instance in which it appeared; that the general opposition of individual and universal pervaded every sphere of knowledge and experience, contained, in fact, implicitly all oppositions of whatsoever kind which experience manifested. Hence it was that the struggle to resolve this antithesis gradually compelled Hegel to leave the limited sphere of religious inquiry, and raise the whole problem of philosophy itself, and thus led him finally to devote his life solely to philosophy. This indeed was the inevitable avenue of his development, For religion attempted to satisfy the essential nature, the ultimate needs of man; and the attempt fully to understand the meaning and problems of religion could only be realised by an inquiry into the final meaning of ultimate reality and man’s place in it. The living relation of the individual to the universal whole, or God, was the subject-matter of religion; the truth regarding the individual and his relation to the Absolute was the object of philosophy.

The fundamental antithesis found in the former, therefore, necessarily led Hegel to seek a fuller appreciation of it through the medium of philosophy. How close he always considered the affinity between the two to be we shall find as we proceed.

Hegel did not at once appreciate the significance of the problems with which he was occupied. His discovery of their nature, and indeed his deeper interest in their solution, could of course only come through steady devotion to philosophy. And to a mind of Hegel’s order no conclusion was ever admissible unless it appeared as the result of accumulated knowledge and laborious reflexion. However much he may have occupied himself with certain philosophical problems during his residence in Switzerland, it was his departure for Frankfurt in 1797 that marked the beginning of his exclusive devotion to the study of philosophy.

Henceforward the task of philosophy is the task of his life. Religion, as such, falls into the background; its questions form part of a large problem, the solution of which itself contains their answer.[18] His intensified interest in philosophy did not merely induce him to face independently the actual problems of philosophy as they appeared to his own time; he began also to direct his attention to the history of philosophy, and thus to call in the aid of past solutions to throw light on present problems. This method of procedure was, as we have already seen, characteristic of Hegel’s mind; but it was in philosophy that its application produced results of such profound significance. It did not merely help Hegel to appreciate the meaning of the task before him, and to find some solution to the questions he had raised; but the very meaning of the history of philosophy itself, became an integral and essential moment in the solution of the whole problem of philosophy. This gradually dawned on Hegel as his development proceeded.

At this stage the importance of his appeal to history lay in the fact that thereby he was from the outset of his work in philosophy made acquainted with the ripe results of Greek thought. The influence of Greek speculation on his intellectual life, it is safe to say, marked an epoch in his development. It was impossible for Hegel to breathe the clear air of Greek philosophy without finding his mental constitution profoundly modified. That native objectivity of mind on which his biographer lays so much stress could not but find its natural affinity with the genius of the Greek spirit; and his self-abandonment to the study of Greek thought would inevitably issue in the transformation of his intellectual attitude to the world. In Hegel there thus met for perhaps the first time in the history of philosophy the deepest influences which have moulded European culture – the thought of Greece and of Protestant Europe, the objectivity of the Greek mind, and the subjectivity of the modern spirit. It was the characteristic of Hegel’s genius to be equally alive to the significance of both of these divergent attitudes of human thought; and it is his strenuous effort to satisfy the aims of both that constitutes his unique claim to the place he holds in the history of human opinion. His philosophy, in fact, may be regarded as simply the systematic attempt to reconcile the essential tendencies and ideals of Greek and modern thought, to harmonise the monistic universalism of the one with the monadistic individualism of the other. If we consider, as we fairly may, the objective attitude of the former as the characteristic mark of the scientific spirit, and the prevailing subjectivity of the latter as the special feature of the religious type of mind, then we may say that Hegel’s system is the reasoned reconciliation of science and religion.

We have seen already how during his residence in Switzerland Hegel dealt with the opposite attitudes in the restricted sphere of religion. In the Frankfurt period he was brought face to face with fundamentally the same antithesis in the more comprehensive field of philosophical inquiry.

It was during this time that the opposition between them was felt most keenly, because seen to be an essential opposition of principles; and it was then that the struggle to harmonise them had once for all to be undergone. Little light is thrown by his biographer on the silent labour and strenuous patience of these three years at Frankfurt. The results, however, as we shall find, are seen in the earliest productions which came from his pen immediately after he emerged from the obscurity of the Frankfurt days into the philosophical arena at Jena, and there from the first took his place as a unique luminary in that bright constellation.

We are informed, however, that it was Plato’s influence[19] which was most pronounced during the Frankfurt period. The greater metaphysical dialogues, such as the Parmenides, claimed special attention, and we may safely conjecture that from them he first discovered the significance of what he afterwards named the essentially dialectical nature of individual conceptions. There seems little doubt that the concrete illustrations of the instability of isolated notions and one-sided truths, which forms the perpetual subject-matter of the Platonic dialogues, were of the utmost importance in suggesting to Hegel the value of dialectic as the appropriate method of philosophy. Kant’s “antinomies” in the Critique of Pure Reason were merely particular cases of precisely the same peculiarity of the contents of human reason, illustrated by Plato. We have no facts, however, to show in detail how Hegel’s view of dialectic arose from Plato’s.

But while Hegel was thus engaged in assimilating the results of the past, his own reflexion was not in abeyance. His thoughts began to take systematic expression even during this Frankfurt period. What gives this early system its importance to us is the fact that in the course of it we meet for the first time with a discussion of what is here of more particular interest to us – the problem of Logic. The treatment in itself is short, and is on the whole of slight value; still it is necessary to deal with it; and we shall find that in some measure it contains even at this stage the germs of his later Logic. With this his earliest systematic view of Logic, therefore, our inquiry must begin.


1. Cp. the “Philosophy of Mind” in the Encyclopaedia, where Religion is the highest stage in the life of “Mind” excepting Philosophy itself.

Also the “introduction to the Philosophy of Religion,” which establishes the closest possible relation between Religion and Philosophy.

2. v. First letter to Schelling, Rosenkranz, Leben, pp. 64 ff. (Hegel’s Briefe, vol. I. pp. 6 ff.).

3. Third letter to Schelling (Briefe, i. p. 14).

4. Rosenkranz, Leben, p. 68.

5. Ibid. p. 70.

6. Rosenkranz, Leben, p. 72.

7. Ibid. p. 45.

8. Cp. Haym, Hegel u. seine Zeit, pp. 44 ff.

9. He wrote about this time a History of the Life of Christ (Ros. Leben, pp. 52 ff.).

10. v. Haym, pp. 474 ff. Haym publishes some valuable extracts from Hegel’s literary remains, not found in Rosenkranz.

11. Ros. Leben, pp. 490 ff.

12. Hegel has in view primarily Christianity as it historically originated.

13. “The objectification of God went step for step with the degradation and slavery of man.” v. Haym, p. 481.

14. “Such a distortion of moral principles was only possible because at such a time God must have entirely ceased to be subjective, and become solely an object.” v. Haym, p. 482.

15. v. Haym, pp. 478 f.

16. Haym, p. 476.

17. Haym, p. 482.

18. During this period too, no doubt, Hegel finally abandoned his original purpose of serving the Church; his relations with Schelling and the circle at Jena helped to open up the possibility of engaging in the more congenial work of a university.

19. Ros. Leben, p. 100.