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

Chapter II: First Stage – From 1797 to 1800 – Hegel’s Early Logic

Hegel’s earliest attempt to construct a philosophical system is of great interest to the student of his development. The mere fact that from the first he expounded his views in the form of a rounded system is of itself peculiarly characteristic of Hegel’s mind.

Philosophy was for Hegel always synonymous with system. This indicates at once that from the beginning to the end of his career his conception of philosophy and its problem remained fundamentally the same.

Its object was the Absolute, the totality of things; its aim was to organise the whole by some single unifying principle. Philosophy was not an inquiry into the nature of knowledge, but actual extension of knowledge.

It was not disconnected and spasmodic excursions into various problems of philosophy, still less sceptical distrust of its essential purpose.

Nothing, in fact, short of systematic exposition of the complete truth would fulfil the task it gave itself to do.

But while this idea of system is thus the necessary correlative of his conception of the problem of philosophy, we must also note that at the outset this conception was itself doubtless determined by the methods and results of the new philosophical movement which was led by his contemporaries Fichte and Schelling. It was the essential characteristic of their attitude to abandon the examination of knowledge, to assert as constitutive of experience principles which for Kant were merely regulative, and to attempt systematically to organise the whole content of experience. With this position Hegel was fundamentally in agreement; and hence consciously to regard the Absolute as the sole object of philosophy was to assist that development of philosophy with which he had the closest sympathy; and by which he was during his residence in Frankfurt and for some years afterwards radically influenced.

But this early scheme is significant in another respect. It contains in its general outline the essential features of his final system. We have what corresponds to the later Logic, Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Mind. There is indeed the greatest contrast between the earliest and the latest scheme; more particularly, as we shall see, in the treatment of the first part of the system. But the tripartite division of the whole of philosophical science is the same, and the general nature of the subject-matter dealt with in each part is also the same throughout the history of his system. The difference lies in the clearness and completeness of his conception of the subject, and more especially in the absence in the early scheme of a precise method. Thus we see that the history of Hegel’s philosophy is the gradual development of the meaning of a subject- matter whose general character was determined at the beginning.

The same problems therefore faced him from first to last. The relation between nature and spirit, and between the “ideal” and “real” content of experience, was not a problem for his final system only. It engaged his attention all along; for it inevitably arose when he attempted to connect into an organic whole those three parts of philosophy, which were originally taken primarily as distinct and relatively independent of each other.

Their separateness was for him the preliminary fact; the question of their relation arose from regarding them to begin with as in some sense independent of each other, and yet as moments of a single system.[1] It is again important to notice that in this earliest system Hegel adopts his fundamental philosophical tenet – that Ultimate Reality is Spirit (Geist). From this position it is safe to say, in spite of appearances to the contrary during the Jena period, he really never swerved.

The principle of Idealism is thus the basis upon which Hegel’s first constructive efforts were raised; and if Geist be taken as the pass-word of idealism, Hegel’s system is idealistic from the beginning of its development.

There seems no doubt, however, that at the outset this position was rather a dogmatic assumption, or at least a mere intuition, and not a principle arrived at after a process of preliminary critical inquiry. And indeed even to the last it remained in a sense an assumption of his philosophy, in the sense, namely, that it was always the starting-point of his system – a characteristic of Hegel’s principle, which was perhaps inevitable in a system whose sole aim was a direct construction of the Absolute without preliminary inquiry into the nature of knowledge, and which, as we shall find, led him to adopt a peculiar view regarding the kind of proof of which such a principle could be in reality capable.

To begin with, however, his fundamental principle can hardly be said to have been established by proof in any sense. The reasons for his adoption of it must be sought in the facts of his previous mental development, the history of which we have given in outline above. In the first place, and chiefly, the determination of the Absolute as Geist was due to his deepened appreciation of the nature of the religious and ethical consciousness, with which, as we saw, he was primarily concerned at the outset of his career, and which, as we shall find again and again, is the Leitmotiv of his mental history. Not that now for the first time he used the term to designate the reality of religion; but hitherto it was used, and that only occasionally, alongside another which was regarded as a more adequate, because more concrete, determination of the Absolute – the notion of “Life.” While, however, this somewhat indefinite term with its counterpart “Love” might suffice to characterise the active concrete nature of religious consciousness, and might fulfil all that was required for the half-mystical interpretation of the facts with which Hegel was then satisfied, they could not be regarded as sufficient when Hegel’s interests became predominantly philosophical, where a principle not merely concrete but capable of systematic development was called for.

Hence we find him declaring that though “Love is a more appropriate, and a more comprehensible expression for God, yet Spirit is more profound.” [2] This conception moreover, as Hegel gradually began to perceive, could alone enable him to reconcile the opposition of individual and universal in the various forms in which, as we have seen, he discovered them – in religion, in the state, in morality. This notion alone had in it the potentialities of a harmonious union of elements, a union which at once did justice to their differences and established their inner connexion.

Spirit exhibited infinite diversity; it contained radical contradiction and opposition within itself; and yet it overcame by itself alone all its opposites, for it remained always their concrete organising unity. Its reality therefore lay “deeper,” was more fundamental than such notions as “life” and “love.” And it lay, too, in the nature of Spirit (as was not the case with the previous obscure terms) that it was capable of explicit conceptual determination, of being used, in fact, as a self-developing philosophical principle. Hence Hegel’s change of conception marks his transition from mysticism to systematic metaphysic.

But there was also a further reason for adopting this notion as his fundamental philosophical position. It emphasised the characteristic principle of modern philosophy, and, more particularly, put Hegel in line with his immediate philosophical predecessors. We saw that from Hegel’s early Hellenism a reaction had set in towards the individualism and “subjectivity” of his own day, the all-consuming universalism of the former tendency leading him to emphasise its opposite, the value of the individual as such. This value found its deepest expression in the notion of the freedom of spirit as spirit; and it was here Hegel joined issue with a tyrannous universalism on behalf of the governing principle of modern life. It was at least as true to maintain that, for instance, the state existed for the individual, as that the individual only had a meaning in the state. Moreover, the cardinal truth insisted upon by the Protestant form of the Christian religion was the supreme worth not merely of the life, but also of the judgment of the free spirit of every man. And this same principle, too, had been established in Hegel’s own day as the source and origin of knowledge, and indeed of all experience. Kant had once for all made spirit, self-consciousness (which were for Hegel synonymous), the central reality of an intelligible universe; and with the whole movement inaugurated by Kant, and carried forward by Fichte and Schelling, Hegel had ever confessed his closest sympathy. With Fichte’s conception and development of the new principle he must have been[3] by this time thoroughly conversant and was doubtless influenced by it. And now that his friend Schelling, during this Frankfurt period, followed up his juvenile philosophical essays by a bold and masterly reconstruction of the same fundamental notion, it was for every reason natural that what had so long been a familiar truth and obvious certitude, should come to be regarded by Hegel as a dogma as indubitable as to be accepted without hesitation as an ultimate principle. Thus it was in a way inevitable that Hegel should begin his own constructive efforts by taking Spirit as the sufficient and unquestionable foundation of his system.

With this early system as a whole we are not, of course, here concerned.

We must, however, remark, in passing to consider the part with which we have to deal, that we cannot expect and do not find in it the comprehension and completeness of his later views. The scheme is tentative and obviously imperfect. The general point of view is the same in the earlier as in the latest system. He regards reality from the standpoint of the Absolute; his philosophy is the interpretation of the universe from the point of view of Supreme Reality. This attitude, as we saw, was primarily determined by his religious interest in the problems with which philosophy deals; for philosophy and religion have at least this in common, that they are concerned with the same Ultimate Reality. His philosophy, therefore, is “speculative” from the start. As in the later scheme also, this early system regards the Absolute as expressible in three fundamental forms or moments – the purely Ideal, Nature, and Spirit. But while these aspects are already distinguished, the manner of their connexion seems of less importance than their distinction. There is still observable also in this early scheme a tendency to drop into mystical or metaphorical expressions, in place of determinate notions. “Spirit,"[4] for example, is spoken of as the “infinite life;” and Nature is termed a “formal” life, one which is in itself, but not for itself.

It is important, further, to note that philosophy has not at this time the same value as a mental attitude which it has afterwards. Philosophy is not the highest form of experience, for religion is regarded as the completest realisation of the Absolute. Philosophy moves in the sphere of reflexion, and reflexion, thought, requires for its activity an opposition – partly an Opposition to what does not think, in part too an Opposition between thought and what is thought about.[5] Such opposition is not overcome in thought itself, but is essential to its operation. But in religion all opposition, all finitude, is overcome. What the mind seeks to attain and what thought cannot obtain is accomplished by religion; for in it the finite is a moment of, identifies itself with, the infinite life.

Hence he maintained at this stage that “philosophy must leave off at religion.” This distinction between the concrete realisation of the absolute attained in religion, and the abstract construction of it sought by philosophy, is a particular form of that distinction between ideal and real which we find appearing throughout this early scheme. Thus Hegel distinguishes[6] in the construction of Absolute Spirit per se between the other of Spirit which is merely “ideal,” and the other which is “real.” Absolute Spirit is a self which reflects itself and finds itself in difference.

As the knowledge of itself so reflected it is absolute self-knowledge.

What it presents or represents to itself is an other. and this “other” is Nature. But this is not merely presented to Absolute Spirit, as an idea is to consciousness. The other is a “living” reality, the absolutely real other of living spirit. Hegel insists that this other, which exists for the simple abstract “Idea” of Absolute Spirit, is not the same as the other for “real” Absolute Spirit. The former is purely a “logical” other, the latter is a “real” other; the process in the one case is logical, in the second case metaphysical. Hegel, however, does no more than indicate the difference at this stage; yet in spite of its obvious obscurity he maintained that the difference was vital.

Such being his general position at this time we must now state in detail his view of Logic.[7] And here at the outset we must steer clear of an error into which it is perhaps easy to fall, and from which Hegel’s biographer seems hardly to have kept himself free – namely, that of regarding Hegel’s earliest scheme of Logic as essentially identical with his final view of its problem and content. This is certainly not the case.

The mere fact that Hegel distinguishes emphatically between Logic and Metaphysic would itself sufficiently make this evident. When we take note that he distinguishes between our knowledge of the Absolute Spirit and the knowledge which that Spirit has of itself, and again is at pains, as we have seen, to distinguish the ideal presentation of the real from the real itself without exhibiting the inner involution of the one with the other, the difference is clearly very marked indeed between his early and later points of view. And thus it comes about, as we shall see presently, that what is the Idea of Absolute Spirit or the Absolute Spirit qua Idea does not form part of Logic at all, but rather of Metaphysic. There can thus be only a distant resemblance between the Logic of this period and its later form.

Hegel distinguishes from the philosophy of Nature and philosophy of Spirit what he designates “theoretical” philosophy. The point of the distinction, which is perhaps not happily named, seems plainly to be that whereas the two former discuss the relations and connexions of concrete real objects as they actually exist, the last treats of the formal abstract concepts as concepts of what exist, not as concepts, but as real.

It would be inaccurate to describe it as a discussion on knowledge, for only one part of it is concerned with knowledge; and it is not simply ontology, nor again is it merely Logic; it comprehends all these parts of philosophy.

This theoretical philosophy he divides into Logic and Metaphysic.

In the former he deals with the nature and formal character of being and of thought viewed abstractly and generally. The discussion of Logic falls therefore quite naturally into three parts – (a) the determination of the general character of Being; (b) of the general character of Thought per se; (c) of the method by which Being and Thought in their distinctness are related to each other. All these three are determined, and indeed arise, by our external reflexion; we abstract and fix in formal definite ness Being and Thought; not even (c), therefore, is the reflexion of the thing by itself, it is our reflexion on the relation of (a) and (b). Hence since reflexion of any reality through itself and in itself is what knowledge means, and since this requires not reflexion upon the reality, but the reflexion by itself of the content of reality, Logic is not concerned with knowledge; the latter falls out of its province and is dealt with by Metaphysic. Metaphysic is, however, still formal and ideal, because dealing with the conceptual nature of that which reflects and relates itself to itself.[8] “Logic, therefore,” Hegel states, “ceases where the relation [(c) above indicated] ceases."[9] It is true he suggests as an alternative name for Metaphysic “Logic of Reason,” distinguishing it thus from “Logic of Understanding."[10] But such a terminology is quite loose and misleading; for Logic would then be the general name for the whole of theoretical philosophy. In that case the above statement that Logic ceases at the “relation” of Being and Thought and that Metaphysic succeeds to it would have no meaning, and would be unquestionably opposed to Hegel’s general position at this time. Doubtless the term “Logic of reason” suggests a closer connexion between his earlier and later view than the term Metaphysic. none the less the term “Logic” is inaccurate and, loose in this connexion.

Logic, then, in Hegel’s present sense deals with the purely abstract and formal determinations and characterisations of Being and of Thought, taken each in the definite meaning usually belonging to them when regarded as distinct entities. This does not, as we shall immediately see, imply that Hegel conceived them to be fundamentally opposed; all that this division of the subject-matter of Logic means is, that these are the ultimate genera of what is determinable by external reflexion. The discussion in both cases does not confine itself to a single statement or catalogue of the determinations of each; there is a strenuous endeavour to unite by some inner connexion these various qualifications. And this last feature marks Hegel’s plan and method of thinking all along; it is system and systematic connectedness which is his dominant tendance.

Not that he is at first clear as to how this connexion is to be obtained, or what is its essential method; all we can claim is that it was an unhesitating presupposition that such connexion must be found, and that he endeavoured in some measure to realise it from the first.

I. The discussion of Being (the real) deals with its categories, which fall into two groups – those which determine Being taken by itself, and those which determine its relations. In the first group we have at the outset Quality; this is the most immediate determination of Being. Quality gives rise to Quantity by virtue of the indeterminateness of its character, which essentially implies limitation; for quality is limitation. Quantity again possesses as its forms the numerical one, numerical plurality, and numerical allness. If, further, we combine the concepts of Quality and Quantity, we shall find that they are constitutive elements of Infinity.

For this last is the negation of one quality through another, or of one quantity through another, or of a quality through a change in its quantity or degree. From consideration of these we get two kinds of infinity, that which is the result of a quantitative determination of a quality, and that which results merely from the passing of one definite quantity into another. In this we already find determined the “true” and the “false” infinity.

Without further elaboration Hegel passes to the second group of categories – those, namely, of the relations of Being. These are Substantiality, Causality, and Reciprocity. His conception and analysis of these were at this stage, for the most part, the same as what we find in the later forms of his system. We observe, too, that here, as later, Reciprocity is the category which leads the way to the Notion, or concept as such (Begriff); and since Hegel at this stage takes the concept to be the absolute form of thought, Reciprocity forms the stepping-stone on which we pass from the discussion of Being to that of Thought.

The elucidation of this connexion between the two is perhaps the most substantial and permanent contribution of this early Logic to his later system; and that he should have made that connexion clear to himself thus early in his development throws considerable light on his general purpose. For it indicates that his idea of system demanded from the first that there should be an inner and necessary relation amongst the determinations of reality, that there should be no gaps whatever separating one constituent element from another, that not even the established distinction between Thought and Being, which ran through modern philosophy and had its roots in the two-substance doctrine of Descartes, could be allowed to stand before a critical analysis of their essential relation. By insisting at the outset on this fundamental unity, Hegel, as we see, is already within sight of the necessary connexion of “substance” with “subject.” It was under the guidance of such an idea, therefore, that Hegel proceeded to establish a relation between Reciprocity, or the “paralytic infinity” as he then called it, and the Notion, the absolute self-mediating unity of universal particular and individual. But the attempt to exhibit this relation brings out quite clearly the point of view which determined even from the start his whole conception of the content and purpose of Logic. According to this Mind and Object, Thought and Being were elements in one total Reality; they existed together side by side, and were forms of the one comprehensive Reality. The business of Logic (the abstract formal science) was simply to state the abstract content of this one Reality without limitation of that content to the one element in the whole rather than the other. But just the exposition of this content marks off Logic in Hegel’s sense from Logic as ordinarily treated. The latter is “formal;” it deals with Thought only and in opposition to Being.

Hegel’s includes both Thought and Being. As contrasted therefore with “formal Logic” in its usual traditional signification, Hegel’s Logic deals from the first with what is constitutive of all reality; it is “Transcendental Logic.” In passing from this discussion of Being to that of Thought, we may merely note the very close similarity there is between these categories of being as given by Hegel and the “table of categories” in the first part of Kant’s “Transcendental Logic.” In view of his opinion[11] that the possibility of the “completion of science” was opened up by Kant’s system, and would be realised by following out the principle it contained, such a resemblance might perhaps have been expected. As in Kant we have Quantity, Quality, Relation, so here we have Quality, Quantity, Relation.

Modality Hegel omits partly because it is clearly not a category of Being in his sense, and partly for a reason which will presently appear.

But whereas for Kant the order in which the categories were stated was immaterial, seeing that his purpose in the table was merely to make a list, a catalogue, and to make it complete, for Hegel the order is of the first importance. For his aim is not simply to state all the categories, but to state them in systematic connectedness with one another; and for this purpose it is obviously essential that he should determine with which to begin. Hence Hegel starts with Quality, and that apparently for two reasons – (a) because Quality is the lowest most elementary determination of Being we can find, and (b) in order that he might connect Quality and Quantity. To establish which should be prior could not have caused great difficulty, because the impossibility of getting Quality out of Quantity was a fairly obvious Philosophical commonplace, and nothing was therefore left but to unite them by starting from the side of Quality.

We cannot, however, lay much stress on the similarity between the two schemes of categories, pronounced and unquestionable though that similarity is. Hegel’s dependence on his predecessors, which might be apparent in his terminology, is never close; and we find in this case, when he seems to borrow from Kant, a divergence which must not be overlooked. For Hegel does not mean by Quality, for example, what Kant included under that term; indeed we might say that Quality in Hegel’s sense was not a category at all for Kant. With the latter, “Quality” is a general name for certain categories; for Hegel it is in itself an abstract determination of Being. But we cannot pursue further the connexion in detail between them.

II. The connexion between Reciprocity and the concept or Notion (Begriff) having been indicated, we have now to learn what the essential character of the concept itself is. It is, in the first instance, determinable from its relation to Reciprocity. Substance as the universal differentiates itself, and is not merely differentiated (is not merely passively recipient); it therefore owns the opposites as its particulars, but relates them to itself, and distinguishes itself therefore from them, thereby constituting itself subject of them, ideally (immanently) containing them, and not merely the substrata in which they “inhere.” But in so uniting its differences in itself, distinguishing itself from them and yet relating them to itself, it is not a mere universal, nor a mere medley of differences; it is a self-relating individual. And these three are the “moments” of the concept or the “notion.” They are not external to reflexion, they are themselves realised in our reflexion, and accepted by it, as its own moments.

Our reflexion is their actual reflexion; it is the relation which they themselves possess with one another.

The point of this reference to “reflexion” becomes obvious when we bear in mind the content of the Logic. The categories of Being form one part of the Logic, and in them we have the abstract moments of Being as these are determined by (external) reflexion upon it; they are its reflected moments. In the Notion we have content of mind proper; our mind is the reality in question. The reflexion of its (the notion’s) moments is the reflexion of our mind, of Thought proper. Our reflexion is one and the same with the reflexion of the moments of the Notion. In the categories of Being, therefore, we have the reflexion of Being as it is; in the moments of the Notion, the reflexion of our Thought as it is, “our reflexion.” Thought and Being, however, are not absolutely severed, for the Notion is the “ideal reflexion of Being.” But what this further means, and how the “reflexion” in the one case is related to “reflexion” in the other, Hegel does not here indicate.

The Notion further appears as determinate, i.e., convertibly as universal, particular and individual. It appears also as judgment, and finally as Syllogism. In the form of judgment Hegel considered two cases, one where the subject is subsumed under the predicate, the other where the predicate is subsumed under the subject; in the former case the predicate is first posited, in the latter the subject. He sought to convert the purely negative character of the predicate in the infinite judgment into a positive character, to consider the negation of being as the denial of a potentially necessary predicate. For this reason he did not mention Modality as a qualification of judgment;[12] the assumption being apparently that where, as in this case, all judgments become necessary, Modality ceases to apply to them. Syllogism likewise took two forms – a relation of opposed predicates inside a subject which holds their determinations ideally in itself, and a relation of two opposed subjects identified and united inside the reality of the predicates. This distinction gave him the hypothetical and inductive syllogisms.

These various determinations of the concept were not treated by Hegel at great length, and the barest outline of his meaning is the most that is indicated. We are simply left to conclude that these moments of the concept have significance for Thought, i.e., hold of Thought specifically.

III. From this Hegel proceeds to deal with the last part of Logic, under the head of “Proportion.” This may be regarded as simply an analysis of the method or procedure of Thought. Hegel seeks to establish an “equality” between the universal and the individual, and this by three methods – Definition, Division, and Proof. The first determines a given subject by reference to and in terms of its universal, the second by presenting the differences which the subject in its universality can contain and in which that subject can particularise itself. So far the “proportion” is determined solely by means of our reflexion, our “dialectical” treatment of it. In the case of proof, however, the reflexion is by and through the reality itself; the reality “reflects itself;” it is the actual unity of the universal, particular and individual, and proof just consists in this totality indicating itself through itself. This thorough-going self-mediation can be named “construction,” and, from another point of view, that namely of the complete “equality” of the reflexion with itself, “deduction.” In connexion with this part of the Logic it is for our purpose necessary to note the identification of the process in “proof” with the process of the real, which, as it were, proves itself. This has clearly a suggestion of the later attempts to determine the character of the real for and in itself, of the Idea as such. To this, however, we shall recur immediately.

With the discussion of Proportion, Logic proper ends. What we have there is a somewhat systematic statement of the formal abstract determinations of Reality furnished by reflexion. According to Hegel’s view at this time the content of the Logic is not self-mediated, but determined by reflexion from without. It is our reflective activity which constructs the Logic. When therefore an “equality” or union is established between the form of reflexion and the content, when these are indicated through each other, when the content reflects itself and furnishes its own determinations, we leave the sphere where formal conceptions stand in various relations to each other, where, because in relation, these conceptions have a distinctness from each other. The sphere to which we pass is named “Knowledge” (which is the “equality” of reflexion with content). But it is to be noted that the content in question is metaphysical absolute content, and the knowledge is “absolute” knowledge. Hence the name given by Hegel to this sphere is Metaphysic. What he proposes to do, in fact, in Metaphysic is to discuss Absolute Reality abstractly, in its formal but self-determining moments; and since this self-determination is only possible through its content, which is itself, the process of reflexion must implicate the absolute content. We have, in short, “absolute” knowledge, the formal moments and process of “Absolute Spirit.” This knowledge comprehends (1) a System of Principles which form a complete sphere in themselves; (2) Objectivity; (3) Subjectivity. The first contains the discussion of the principles of Identity, Contradiction, Excluded Middle, and Ground and Consequent. Hegel’s characteristic conceptions of these principles are already formulated and expressed in this early treatment of them. In particular we find him insisting on the necessity of contradiction as an element or factor in a concrete identity, which develops and thereby differentiates itself into opposites. His mastery of this fundamental principle at the outset of his philosophical career is significant. His discussion of the second feature (Objectivity) is in itself somewhat strained and unfruitful, though, as an indication of his present attitude, suggestive. By Objectivity he understands the Soul (or “Monad”), the World, and the Supreme Being. These are connected with one another, demand each other. Objectivity is self-sufficient, self-determining reality. This qualification is fulfilled by a self-conserving individuality; the primary form of Objectivity, therefore, is the monad-soul, or simply the monad. Monads differ, and various individual souls are subsumed under one monad genus as their ground. Thus we get a variety of generic monads, or monad-genera. The totality of these genera make up the world. But as such the world is a mere aggregate; this aggregate, however, has its unity and its ground in the Supreme Being, which contains all differences and is the creative principle of the various monad-genera. The Supreme Being is the genus of the genera. But so conceived, and as such, it is simply the abstract universal for which the various individual genera exist, and over against which they are placed.

Consequently a completer, more inner relation between this universal and its elements is found when it determines them as its own moments, posits itself as universal in their individuality, raises itself, in short, to self-conscious Subjectivity. Here alone have we that which is Ideality without qualification. Only when the Supreme Being is an Ego can all the endless multiplicity of its content become transparently recognised as its own. But, again, the Ego is theoretical and is practical. In both these cases, however, the subjectivity is not absolutely self-sufficient, for in both cases we have a limit which is not its own; in the former case in what is given to be known, in the latter in what is demanded as that which should be objective. Absolute Subjectivity must therefore be distinct from both of these; it must unite both and be absolutely at one with itself, absolute form and subjectivity and absolute content at once, in which knowledge is eternal without any beyond, its concept immediately realising itself, its reality possessing ideal existence in itself. Such is the idea of Absolute Spirit, of the Absolute Reality. But even when Hegel has so determined this Supreme Being, the double reference which we have noticed in Hegel’s present attitude asserts itself here too. For in reference to the formal character of Absolute Spirit, he points out that while Absolute Spirit relates itself to itself and so makes of itself an “other,” this relation is one thing to Absolute Spirit, another thing to us.

For Absolute Spirit it is that which is in-finite, that which is not, and is not determined as, a limit. For us, on the other hand, i.e., for spirit which is in process of realising itself, that relation is an other to spirit; we take it in its otherness; it is set over against, and thus as limiting, Absolute Spirit.

This earliest scheme of Logic will be seen on examination to contain at least the germ of his later and final Logic. It indicates, to begin with, the point of view from which he regarded the problem of Logic, and the function he assigned to it in a system of philosophy. For Hegel philosophy has not to commence with a criticism of “the nature and limits of knowledge.” Here at the very start he parts company with Kant.

What philosophy has to do is to determine in and by thought the essential nature of Reality, absolute and finite. Acting on the principle which he later described as learning to swim by entering the water, Hegel at once assumes that the knowledge philosophy professes to furnish is possible, is not to be sought or justified by a preliminary inquiry, but has simply to be expounded and exhibited. This was in the first instance due to the fact that Hegel started from a conception or principle (that of Spirit) by which reality was to be explained and interpreted, a conception which, as we saw, agreed with the needs of religion and the general conclusions of the philosophy of his time. What he had to do, therefore, was to make clear the content and implications of this principle. But in the second place it was also due to the absence of any question regarding the relation of thought to reality (being). Whether thought is able to know, or how far it can know being at all, is a problem which from the start he never seems to have considered, at any rate never discussed at length. These prima facie separated elements of experience seem never to have been dealt with or regarded by Hegel as if they were absolutely removed by “the whole diameter of being” from each other. It was always as elements, factors, contents, in one total Reality, that he considered them. This made it both possible and necessary for him to start from the whole as a whole, as a unity, and thence deal with those ultimate elements simply as different contents inside this one whole. There was therefore no initial problem regarding knowledge, whether philosophical or of any other sort. The only problem was to state in some system the content of this whole.

Now the universal conceptions, the thought-forms constituting Reality, furnished the matter for a science which had been dealt with to some extent by all Hegel’s active and prominent contemporaries – the science of Transcendental Logic. There was every reason, therefore, why Hegel, who, for reasons indicated, adopted the principle common to all these thinkers, and characteristic of the philosophy of his time, should also, in presenting his views systematically, have found it neces sary to state the fundamental conceptions of reality; in other words, to make Transcendental Logic a necessary part of his system. And because for him there is no abrupt opposition between the two ultimate elements in reality, thought and being, the Logic contains the formal contents of both, not of the latter only. These elements are from the start members of a whole; are, as such, on the same level; Transcendental Logic, therefore, concerns itself with both, each furnishes content to the Logic. The Logic is thus the exhaustive statement of the formal determining conceptions of his one principle. And this general position on which his Logic is framed, and from which it proceeds, remains virtually the same throughout all the history of his Logic. It is the vital principle in all its forms, the common germ from which they all spring.

The Logic, then, is from the first transcendental. So far Hegel comes at once into line with his immediate predecessors. On the other hand, in dispensing with a preliminary criticism of knowledge, he took the side of Fichte and Schelling against Kant. Hegel in all this must be considered, if not the follower, at any rate the independent and confessed[13] pupil of Fichte and Schelling. But the discipleship seems never, even at this early stage, to have gone beyond the acceptance of the general position adopted, defended, and expounded by them. He was, in fact, too much bound over to Kant, their common master, to be simply a follower of Fichte or Schelling; and, on the other hand, too sympathetic towards, and convinced of the value of the position insisted on by, Fichte and Schelling to make it possible for him to attach himself exclusively to Kant. In short, he preserved that sympathetic independence which is ever the privilege and the necessity of the thinker. Thus we find that the Logic of Hegel markedly differs from that of all these prominent contemporaries; from the start it diverges into a path distinctively its own.

At the time the above Logic was put into shape (between 1784 and 1800) Hegel must have been acquainted with the most important works of Fichte which had appeared up to at least 1796-97; and we have distinct evidence that he had carefully studied the Wissenschaftslehre of 1794 as well as the Kritik aller Offenbarung.[14] Yet there is hardly a trace of influence in the details of Hegel’s Logic of the peculiar construction of the principle which Fichte expounded in the Wissenschaftslehre; and this in spite of the community of principle between Fichte and Hegel. Even if, then, as is most probable, Hegel regarded the Wissenschaftslehre as a form of Transcendental Logic, we still find Hegel constructing a Logic without direct help either as to content or method from Fichte.[15] Again, Hegel must also have become familiar with[16] the earlier Fichteanised views of Schelling, as these are contained in Schelling’s first philosophical writings – Ueber die Möglichkeit und Form einer Philosophie Überhaupt and Vom Ich als Princip, etc. (both 1795); and Philosophische Briefe über Dogmatismus und Kriticismus (1796). Probably not much detailed help could be found in these works for his Logic, as they did not themselves present a system. In any case they did no more than help Hegel towards an understanding of his fundamental principle; they could hardly determine the course of his Logic. Even Schelling’s Philosophy of Nature, we may note in passing, which appeared in 1799, bears little or no resemblance to the content of Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, belonging to this time, so far at least as we can gather from the extracts from it given in the biography. It is possible, however, that Schelling’s work may have appeared later than the time at which Hegel’s sketch was framed.

Finally, close as is the resemblance, as we have already noted, between Kant’s Transcendental Logic and Hegel’s early Logic, the differences are too striking to be ignored or to be considered differences of detail. For, indeed, the initial position of Hegel (that philosophy is concerned with the whole, that the opposed elements in this whole are factors in one unity, not radical opposites) distinguishes completely the presupposition of Hegel’s Logic from that of Kant’s, so completely in fact that “transcendental” a priori hardly means quite the same to Kant and Hegel. For Kant “transcendental” means primarily subject-constituted; it applies to that which the subject (thought, understanding) must have in order that the object may be constituted necessarily, if it is to be possible object of knowledge. It is for the sake of objects that the conception must be transcendental. The essential meaning of the idea of “transcendental” turns for Kant on that initial distinction between thought and thing, subject and object, from the conception of which indeed his whole view starts, and which to the end remains vital for it. Hegel, Following Fichte and Schelling, seizes upon the kernel of Kant’s theory – the synthetic a priori conceptions and their “deduction” – emphasises solely their constitutive function and character, plants himself on the basis of Kant’s whole structure (self-consciousness in its unity), and, casting aside Kant’s presuppositions, deepens but at the same time transforms the notions which are merely subjectively transcendental into notions which are objectively transcendental, which are absolutely constitutive, the ground-plan of all reality. Hegel starts from Kant’s principle, but avoids his conclusions by refusing to recognise or be influenced by the presuppositions from which Kant started. Hence it is that for Hegel thought as well as being has also its fundamental “transcendental” conceptions, and these as well as those of being fall inside the Logic. Thus it is that while the categories of being in Hegel’s Logic show close resemblance to Kant, the treatment of the notion which forms the second part of Hegel’s Logic above has no analogue at all in Kant, and by the nature of his view could not have. That Hegel should have taken this step so early in his career is extremely significant, and that his Logic should, in spite of divergence from Kant, have held so closely by him as against Fichte or Schelling, indicates very decidedly his historical affinities.

But it must not be supposed that Hegel fully appreciated at this time the significance and importance of Transcendental Logic. The Logic is not a complete exposition of ultimate conceptions.[17] The conceptions, again, are not exhibited as determinations of his single principle; they are not shown to be moments of Spirit, self-consciousness. They are assumed to be, and are accepted as, such moments; but how or why is not established. In this respect his early Logic does not profess the same thoroughness as Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre. And again it seems that on the whole the Logic is a subordinate preliminary discussion in his present scheme. His main interest, and the important part of “theoretical philosophy,” seems to lie in “Metaphysic.” It is here that content “reflects itself”; it is here that the Idea is found of which Nature is the “other.” His idealism at this period is not at all logical idealism, but rather metaphysical idealism. His principle simply as a concrete fact contains in his concreteness all reality. The treatment of the universal notions of reality seem to occupy a secondary place in the scheme.

And when we pass from such general considerations to take the “theoretical philosophy” in detail, its tentative provisional character becomes apparent.

To begin with, the distinction of Logic from Metaphysic arises from his adherence to tradition. But since Hegel had as yet done little more than named the principle of Reality, and viewed Absolute Reality as such in the light of it without determining completely the nature of that principle itself, such a distinction was perhaps also inevitable on his scheme.

The division, again, of Logic into a discussion of the formal aspects of Being and of Thought (thinking, Denken), shows also in some respects a close adherence to tradition. Being is not taken in his later sense; it is not in this early view a category at all, rather it has categories.

And perhaps it is the general use of the term “being” which makes it unnecessary for him to have what afterwards appears as the discussion of essence. The qualifications ascribed to Being are, as we noted, taken directly from Kant. Hegel seems to have been at no pains closely to criticise them. A possible increase to their number does not seem to have occurred to him. The only modifications he introduces are primarily due to the need of systematising them, to weaving them into one texture. Such systematisation, in fact, is the sole contribution of Hegel to the discussion of the categories, and seems to have been his main interest in dealing with them. It is this also which induced him to connect the determinations of Being as such with those of Thinking. In this way Being and Thought, as originally separated, are viewed as merely distinguished inside reality; both are forms of reality; hence the possibility of an inner connexion between their qualifications. As in the case of being, so in that of Thinking, the determinations related by Hegel are those currently attributed to it; no extension or examination of them is offered.

The doctrine of “Proportion,” while in itself somewhat arbitrary and artificial, is so far of importance for us in that it contains Hegel’s earliest attempts to make Logic “objective."[18] In it Hegel seeks to leave the subjective as such (thinking), and to state those formal determinations which the real posits for itself, and which are not simply attributed to it by external reflexion. This is particularly seen in his interpretation of “proof.” Indeed it is difficult to see why, except on the general view above stated that Logic contains simply the formal character of the real and is constructed by means of “external” reflexion, “proof” should not have been included under metaphysic. Hegel has not yet identified the mode of procedure, the forms of relation, which hold inside the real, with the reality. Form and content of the real are kept in some way distinct. Hence under the doctrine of Proportion he merely gives the formal character of proof as such, as a mode of procedure.

It is only in the Metaphysic that we become acquainted with the content of the real. And here, almost without exception, Hegel has simply adopted the results of his predecessors, and has merely connected them in a manner and for a purpose of his own. The first part, the System of Ground-Principles of the real, contains merely those principles which philosophy up to Hegel’s day had shown to be necessary to experience. They are, however, interpreted and expressed in the characteristically Hegelian manner; they are viewed not as principles necessary solely to knowledge of the real, but principles in and of the real itself; they are not simply forms of reality, they are reality itself. It is this conception of them, in fact, which seems to justify their place in his Metaphysic; and this is significant for his whole attitude, which on this point at any rate he never changed. It is, for example, the content of the real which makes contradiction possible, as well as the solution of contradiction.

Mere inconsistency of concepts in itself means nothing, for these concepts can only contradict if they possess content, and the contradiction they can exhibit is in virtue of that content. Contradiction, therefore, is the essence of the real. These principles, however, are not connected in any way with the other parts of his Metaphysic; they are treated as elements of the real, and nothing further is stated of them.

The second part, again, begins quite abruptly with the fundamental nature of the real. This part does little more than repeat the Leibnitz- Wolffian metaphysical conception of the real, and the difference between it and his later view of “objectivity” is too glaring to need comment.

The real is divided in the usual way into the Self, the World, and God, and a monadistic interpretation of reality is given. That Hegel should have accepted without extensive inquiry the monadistic scheme of the world, indicates the uncritical character of his idealism, and of his conception of Spirit at this period.

Yet a view which, like Hegel’s, regarded Spirit as the principle of Reality could hardly have done otherwise without a more thoroughgoing interpretation of Spirit. As we indicated, all he was concerned about in the first instance was to hold his conception of ultimate Reality.

He had accepted the view that the selfhood of Spirit is the primary reality, that Absolute Reality was Spirit, and the natural form which such a conception at first could take would be that all reality is spirits; difference in reality meaning plurality of spirits. His idealism at this stage was monadistic idealism; reality is thinking beings, not, as later, reality is thought (logical idealism). That he should have advanced from one to the other is significant for the interpretation of his scheme, and indicates the line of his development. This view of Spirit which he adopted, and this conception of reality as thereby determined, accounts for his early view that Logic and Metaphysic are both necessary but distinct parts of philosophy. Hence too it is evident, not only that they are not systematically connected, but that on such a view they do not require to be connected.

It is to be noted that there seems little connexion between his view of the “world” as given in the Metaphysic, and his view of Nature in the Philosophy of Nature. In the latter, Nature is the determination of Spirit, Spirit in itself but not for itself; in the former the “world” is the totality of monad-genera. These views are perhaps compatible, but their agreement is at least not obvious.

Again, in regard to the conception of Absolute Spirit, this early view shows a striking and significant difference from the later. This early conception of the Supreme Reality was Deisic. All reality is not Absolute Reality; nor again are all finite realities “moments” of the one Absolute Reality. Absolute Spirit is one reality among other realities; it is the supreme monad-genus. But it is distinct and even separate from the others; for it alone is the absolute union of objectivity with subjectivity.

Such a conception was perhaps natural enough on Hegel’s early view of Spirit. This conception is a metaphysical idea; but while in some external respects it resembles the determination given to the Absolute Idea, it cannot be at all identified with it. He is careful also to point out that this metaphysical idea of the Supreme Reality is only idea, is not the Reality itself – a difference on which we have already commented.

The transmutation of this metaphysical idea into the logical, and the removal of the distinction between the metaphysical determination of the Supreme Reality and the formal determination of this Reality in all its completeness, we have to trace in his further development.

It only remains to conclude our discussion of this part by pointing out the unsatisfactoriness of this early attempt to frame a scheme of Logic. Its fragmentary character, its incompleteness, the imperfection of its systematic form, its lack of thorough critical analysis, the ambiguous insistence on the distinction between form and content, thought and the real, a distinction which at one time, seems abrupt, at another hardly seems discoverable, the vagueness and indefiniteness in statement,[19] the merely relative independence of his point of view, and even of his treatment, – all this is quite manifest from the foregoing. He can hardly be said, in fact, to have fully realised as yet the nature of the problem he had undertaken, or the kind of solution which would satisfy those needs on behalf of which he had turned to philosophy. His conception of his problem seems to have been limited and narrowed by his close adherence to the results and views of his predecessors in the field – views which he had accepted perhaps too readily, and which he had not yet fully determined for himself.

Of one thing he seems to have been assured – the necessity for thorough- going system in philosophy, and this, with however limited success, he certainly strove to attain.[20] That such a demand was inevitable on his view of the object and purpose of philosophy is obvious enough.

And he seems to have worked parts of his scheme into as systematic a form as they could well admit, e.g., the treatment of substantiality, causality, and reciprocity. On the other hand, it is just as evident that certain parts of his early scheme are not systematically connected, and bear no resemblance, except perhaps in name, to his later results. This incompleteness of system seems due partly to his uncritical adoption and use of terms, but mainly to the absence of any definite method of attaining system. In one or two cases the relation of part with part seems to have that inner necessity of connexion which we find in his later scheme. At another time, however, it is the mere arbitrariness of the thinker who is resolved to be systematic at all costs that brings the elements together.

There is about the procedure as a whole an externality and artificiality which makes any result attained by it extremely questionable. One part is connected with another, not because it leads us inevitably to it, not because it is organically connected with it, but because being a part of reality it must stand in relation somehow with other parts. Thus the parts really remain distinct after they are connected; no one is taken as embracing another in itself and containing its “truth.” The idea of development which, as we shall find, is essential to Hegel’s true method, and the discovery of which marks one of the stages in his history, has not yet dawned upon him. It might, perhaps, at first seem that in the metaphysic there is some attempt to connect Objectivity with Subjectivity by the necessary transition of one to the other which contains it; but this is only possible by construing the connexion by a method only found in his later scheme. In this part of his early system, which is indeed the obscurest part of all, we are no more justified from the statements of the biography in finding any sort of dialectical development at work, than we are (as has been maintained[21] by one writer,) in finding there Hegel’s first attempt to incorporate into the process of his own system the systems of thought which historically preceded him. All this is of later origin, and finds no warrant from the data left us. It is true, indeed, he uses the term “dialectic” to indicate the process of negating, limiting, and defining notions; but as so used it is not a technical term at this period; it has simply the significance which a term current in the school of Kant and of Fichte might have for one who, like Hegel, was in close sympathy with the philosophical movement which they had directed.

The only suggestion of a method to be found in this early scheme is in the idea of “reflexion” which has met us repeatedly in the preceding exposition. But this is in itself so obscure, and its use so confused, that it is hardly possible to state even its significance. There seem as many forms of reflexion as there are objects to be reflected upon. The term is used for the process of philosophy as a whole; it is applied to the content of Logic where we have both “external” reflexion, “our” reflexion, and the “ideal” reflexion found in the notion; while again the term “self-reflexion” is used for procedure in Metaphysic. What is the precise meaning of the various forms of reflexion is not made evident, still less their relation to each other.[22] We are compelled, therefore, to conclude that there is no single method to be found in this early system: a fact which undoubtedly in large measure accounts for the heterogeneous and incomplete form of the scheme.

All these obscurities, however, are perhaps inevitable in an early scheme which is at best hardly more than tentative, and too much cannot be expected from it. They indicate, however, the course he must pursue if his thought is to become clear in form and complete in content.


1. v. infra, pp. 61 f., 64 f.

2. Ros. Leben, p. 102.

3. No record of detailed influence is left us.

4. Ros. p. 94.

5. Ros. pp. 94-96.

6. Ibid. pp. 114-115.

7. Ros. pp. 104 ff.

8. See below.

9. Ros. p. 110.

10. Ibid. p. 104.

11. Leben, pp. 69 f.

12. Leben, p. 109.

13. Briefe, i. 21.

14. v. Second and Third letters to Schelling, Briefe, i. 10.17.

15. It is remarkable that the influence of the Wissenschaftslehre on Hegel should have been so slight. We find no trace of an analysis, similar to Fichte’s, of the categories of Limitation, Negation, and especially Real ity, to which Fichte attached such importance. We should naturally have expected such a discussion as Fichte’s to have influenced at least the content of Hegel’s Logic. The divergence, again, of Hegel’s metaphysic from Fichte’s position hardly requires to be mentioned; the difference is too striking to be overlooked. Finally, Fichte’s method of deducing or reducing all the content of the Wissenschaftslehre at every step from the pure notion of the Ego finds no acceptance whatever with Hegel. Fichte starts from the reality of the Ego; Hegel from its abstract content. Fichte descends from the Ego; Hegel, if anything, ascends to it. Fichte begins with the highest notion; Hegel with the lowest. And this contrast is of vital importance all along. Perhaps Hegel was acquainted with Kant’s public repudiation of Fichte’s views in 1799.

16. v. Briefe, i. 10 ff.

17. It is noteworthy that only the most general categories are dealt with – Quality, Quantity, etc. The specific determinations or forms of the categories, e.g., Becoming, Limit, Negation, or Measure, etc., are not mentioned at all.

18. In his final sense.

19. This is to be traced not merely to immaturity, but to that tendency towards mysticism which we find throughout this early period.

20. The conception of organism, organic unity, which is the basis of Hegel’s ideas of system, was early realised by him. It is especially emphasized at this period in the sphere of Ethics; v. Leben, pp. 124 ff.

21. Haym, Hegel u. seine Zeit, pp. 106 ff. There seems little doubt that the contention of this brilliant critic that Hegel was already in this period fully conscious of the dialectic method, and had made use of it in his early scheme, cannot be maintained. (1) There are no recorded facts or statements to bear it out. (2) Such connexions as are established, e.g., between quantity and quality, do not imply that this was due to a conscious method. (3) The connexion between “Idea” and “Nature” can be explained by bearing in mind Hegel’s religious and mystical tendency.

(4) it would be remarkable if so important a fact as this method should not have been even mentioned by Hegel and yet employed by him. (5) It is unlikely that a beginner should so early be a master.

22. We shall find a modified form of the same difficulty here mentioned even in the second period of his development. In fact it is not till after the inquiry of the Phenomenology that this difficulty regarding the nature of reflexion in philosophy is removed.