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

Chapter IV: Hegel and His Contemporaries

We are not left in much doubt regarding Hegel’s attitude during this period towards his immediate contemporaries. His main contributions to the Critical Journal were expositions and critical discussions of their systems. It is important, however, to bear in mind that in these statements he is concerned primarily with the fundamental conceptions of the various systems rather than with their detailed contents; he deals with their principles in the broadest and most general outline, not with special developments of their principle. Hence we shall not find, and cannot expect, that much direct light is thrown on their treatment of the nature and content of Logic by the examination to which he subjects those systems. The main interest for us of his criticisms lies in the fact that they accentuate the central principle which, as we have seen, he had by this time gained for himself, and bring it into relief by contrast with the positions he criticises. They signalise his attainment of a governing conception and his triumphant confidence in its truth, and perhaps, too, in a distant manner suggest the future system into which that conception will develop.

In all of them, we must observe at the outset, he found the recognition of the same general “speculative idea,” the ultimate identity of subject and object. It was not the presence or absence of this conception in its general form which separated Fichte from Schelling, and both from Kant or Jacobi. It was the manner in which this principle was grasped and expressed by each, the completeness and explicitness with which the meaning of that idea was exhibited in their several systems, which distinguished the one thinker from another. This principle Hegel himself shared with all these thinkers; it is his own clear and comprehensive grasp of its nature which is the basis of his criticism, or of his appreciation.

His attitude towards all of them is thus at once sympathetic and critical; true to his unvarying objective method of treatment, his criticism is essentially immanent, not external.

Towards Kant and Fichte he takes up a position in the main antagonistic and negative. The genuine speculative element in Kant, Hegel finds in the problem, and in the solution offered to the problem, “how are synthetic a priori judgments possible?” The very expression of this problem indicates and implies the fundamental idea of the unity, the identity of subject and predicate, particular and universal, being and thought.[1] This unity is not a product of these opposites, but the original and absolute identity of them, from which in fact they sunder themselves.

The judgment formed with them as elements is just the original and primal division, or severing (Ur-teil) of the elements in that unity.

The possibility of this unity lies in reason; the idea it expresses is an idea of reason. This original and ultimate principle of unity appears in Kant’s Kritik in various forms. It is found in the “synthetic unity of apperception,” “productive imagination,” “category,” “schema,” as also in “the forms of intuition,” space and time. In all these forms it is one and the same conception that is actually operative. They describe different functions, but functions of one and the same unity of reason.[2] It is in the light of this ultimate unity that we are to explain and justify Kant’s insistence on the concrete character of knowledge, on the reciprocal necessity of Anschauung to Begriff.[3] Unless, again, we regard the “original synthetic unity of apperception,” not as a go-between, not as a meeting- place for an isolated subject existing on one side and a world of objects on the other, but as the primal and absolute unity out of which, as from their ultimate germ, subject and object proceed, and in proceeding sunder themselves apart, it is quite impossible to understand Kant’s deduction of categories or forms of intuition.[4] For this reason, then, we must distinguish between the merely logical Ego which “accompanies” presentations, and this all-constituting unity of the subject with its object; we must separate the one from the other to give meaning to Kant’s position – all that Kant establishes regarding the concrete character of experience, its unity, follows consistently from this his fundamental speculative position, and justifies the above interpretation of his meaning.

Still, Kant himself did not fully comprehend the significance of his own ultimate notion. Instead of grasping the essential meaning of that identity, that is, taking it as a concrete identity with diverse aspects, as the concrete Idea, constituted by reason, and in which the diverse elements were explicitly established as identical, because moments in the one primary unity, Kant regarded the judgment as the fundamental form of that unity. Now in judgment the constitutive elements are exhibited only in their diversity, in their duality; for judgment lays emphasis primarily, and indeed solely, on the diversity of the content. Productive imagination, which is the proximate ground of judgment, and is in fact understanding,[5] remains (though in reality a function, or potency of reason itself) sunk in diversity. The absolute unity, therefore, never comes to light. The identity, the universal which it contains, viz., the category, remains for ever over against, opposed to the particular with which in judgment it is united by the copula. The identity is merely a relative, formal, or abstract identity. The other element, the particular, does not exist in it, it comes to it as a foreign element from without, which is necessary to it, but not a constituent moment of it. The identity of the two, of understanding and sense, of universal and particular, of notion and intuition, is never completely and adequately established. Hence arise the “thing-in-itself,” the “limitation of reason,” the emphasis on “human” reason, the dialectic of “pure” reason, the fixed and insurmountable opposition between freedom and necessity, etc. In all this Hegel finds nothing but the consequences of his limited and erroneous conception of the nature of that ultimate unity which it was “his great merit” to have laid bare. Not that Kant is not forced in spite of himself to be truer to his own principle than his determination of it will logically allow. The idea of an “intuitive understanding,” for example, is the same idea as that of transcendental (productive) imagination; and such an understanding Kant declares to be “necessary.” Though he rejects the “real” necessity of it, while admitting the conceptual necessity, “problematic” reality of it, yet the bare admission of it shows his transcendence of his own limitations, while the rejection of the absolute validity of the conception was after all due, Hegel thinks, to his resolution to hold by his limited “subjective” starting-point, and remain consistent with his “finite” formal position.[6] Or, again, his emphatic insistence on the autonomy and spontaneity of reason likewise carries Kant beyond his restricted views; for this conception is in sharp contradiction with the assertion of the necessity of an opposed non-rational element over against, and therefore limiting, that freedom of reason.[7] How can reason be free and autonomous, if by its very necessities it is for ever limited and hampered, modified, and it may be even indirectly guided in its activity by this foreign material? Hence, Hegel concludes, Kant’s scheme, though certainly in principle Idealism (i.e., a construction from and of the identity of opposites[8]), is nothing more than merely formal Idealism. It contains the principle of the absolute unity of opposites, of reason-knowledge; but by restricting itself to knowledge of understanding alone (“finite” knowledge), to knowledge which remains rooted in the diverse counter-posed elements of the one Reality, instead of being genuine idealism, it becomes rather Dualism.[9] Its “critical idealism” consists in nothing but the knowledge that Ego and Things remain each apart by themselves and unreconciled.[10] The whole content of the philosophy is not knowledge of the Absolute at all, but knowledge of mere subjectivity, a criticism of the faculty of knowledge, a revised Lockeanism.[11] Now, through the foregoing criticism of Kant, Hegel lets in considerable light on his own conception of the content of Logic and Metaphysic during this period. We see at once that the above is a review of Kant from the standpoint of a pronounced philosophical principle by which he seeks at once to transform Kant’s ostensible principles, and at the same time to adopt them to his own position, in the belief that thereby he is conserving their essential significance. A priori ceases to have the subjective nuance which it has in Kant, its meaning is convertible with “absolute identity”; “universal and necessary priori” means rooted in the reality of the one identity of reason.[12] It is reason which has a priority, not understanding as such. Again, Hegel seems prepared to regard Kant’s notions as expressions or forms of the Absolute Identity itself; but they are no longer, but notions of mere notions of understanding, reason taken as finite and loosened from its unity.[13] Kant’s Logic ceases therefore altogether to be regarded merely as a subjective human apparatus for putting the tangled complexity of the world into harmonious order, and becomes essentially constitutive of reality, becomes at once objective and immanently determinant of it. And with this comes the introduction of notions of both subjectivity and objectivity, as we have already noted. Hence, too, arises the alteration in the significance of “transcendental.” Since the notions of Kant are notions of reason for Hegel, and reason is the ground Identity, the Absolute Reality, Kant’s “transcendental” Logic ceases to be that which states “the conditions under which human experience is alone possible,” and becomes a “metaphysical” Logic which exhibits the ground notions of all reality. And in general “transcendental” no longer has the limited meaning found in Kant, it becomes in every sense synonymous with “metaphysical.” Finally, we find here indicated how the knowledge of the Absolute, the reason-knowledge (which Hegel does not give, but which he all along implies or hints at) could be brought about. Such knowledge is no more than implicit in Kant. But Kant’s error just lay in restricting himself solely to judgment as the form of philosophical knowledge. Hence the direction in which true and final reason-knowledge can alone lie is in that form of knowledge which completes the judgment, by making completely explicit, through mediation, the identity which it implies. That form is the syllogism.[14] It is here that we have most clearly expressed and exhibited that “triplicity which is the germ of speculation,"[15] and which it is one of Kant’s merits to have at least disclosed. It is in virtue of this triple content and character of the one “Idea,” that there is and can be no ultimate opposition between a priori and a posteriori, that one is mediated in and through the other.

The above views, which have now become fundamental for Hegel, agree clearly enough with the general content of the Logic of this period which we have already given. But they do more than this; they indicate the direction any further development on his part would be sure to take.

To Fichte, Hegel stands also in decided opposition – an opposition which he is never weary of reiterating. The ground of it is precisely the same as in the case of Kant, and the criticism only differs slightly from that of the latter. For Fichte the fundamental principle and ground fact is the Ego, Subjectivity, Thought, inward Self-consciousness. This is the Absolute, the Identity. So far his principle is idealistic, and so far it is genuine speculation. But it is of the essence of his conception that nothing more lies in the Ego than the subjective content of the Ego. Yet the subject cannot dispense with the object. Hence all the detailed content which the object possesses comes externally to this mere abstract “empty” form of reality.[16] The object, however, has no self-subsistence, no reality on a level with that of the subject. Object is dependent on subject, and even produced or created by it. This being so, the identity is not an identity of both subject and object, but an identity of subject, only the object does not share equal rights in the absolute unity; its right to be at all is constituted by the subject. The whole system of Fichte, therefore, remains rooted in subjectivity alone; and the very reality of the objective world which he set out to explain does not possess the substantiality necessary to warrant any explanation of it. In short, objectivity per se is not explained at all. So far as the principle has content, that content is subjective only, “sensation,” “intuition,” “feeling,” “impulse”; and these, with their various forms and relations” constitute all that objectivity means for Fichte.[17] And this remains true not merely in the theoretical construction of reality, but in the complementary realisation of the objective sense-world through the practical act of pure will. For here, too, there is nothing but subjectivity to start with, and out of subjectivity it does not pass, and cannot by its own logic pass.[18] There is thus in Fichte’s view no Absolute Identity; there is only a relative identity, that of the subject and its content. There can, indeed, hardly be said to be an identity at all, for the ultimate fact is a merely formal principle, and the particular, the filling-in, is and remains external to it, or forced into it ab extra. There is no objective content; nature is only sense-content, and has no subsistency of its own. The Absolute Identity therefore, does not contain diversity of content, but rather one order of content, into which the other is simply merged. It is impossible on this view to deal with Nature per se; it exists merely in relation, and by reference to the empirical subject.[19] Nature is simply the world of sense-experience.

The principle is, therefore, not the Absolute, nor is it concrete. Its content is conditioned, its reality solely subjective.

Again, when we consider its method, similar imperfection is found.

That method consists in what is called “Deduction.” Its nature is, in point of fact, a result, and an implicit recognition of the finitude and incompleteness of the fundamental principle. For the ultimate and universal truth and certainty, pure Ego, pure self-consciousness, is admitted to be itself incomplete; it is limited by an other, from which it is, and must be, abstracted in order to be obtained as ultimate principle.[20] But this limitation is a conditionedness which, in order to be the Absolute, the one Identity, it must overcome, and overcome by embracing that other. The recognition of this conditionedness, and thereby of the necessity of passing over to the other, of supplementing the incompleteness, of filling up the empty and abstract principle, is the nerve of this “Deduction” of the one out of the other.[21] It stands in absolutely contrary opposition; it is non-Ego. It therefore is, and remains in itself, foreign to that which it supplements. The deduction is not the result of an analysis of a content, but rather of the absence of any content at all; it is the result of a want, a need, a vacancy. The Ego starts as the utmost abstraction, a mere negation of all except itself, of objectivity in general; objectivity is, for this kind of pure knowledge, simply a minus. The deduction consists in taking up again that which was abstracted from, and in attaching it on to, the pure notion. In short, we merely alter the sign in the process, change the minus into a plus. It is as if one had spent one’s money and had nothing left but an empty purse, and then proceeded to deduce money from the fact of the empty purse, the sole meaning of the empty purse just consisting in the absence of money.[22] It is true that this completion cannot be recognised without the idea of the totality from which the abstraction is made. And there, again, lies the error of the whole procedure. For if this is so, then why was the Absolute merely subjectively conceived? Why was merely one term of the identity, one part of the whole taken as absolute? Why was the start and the construction not made. from the whole itself, from the underlying unity? The only reason apparently is that this part, this subjectivity, has immediate empirical certainty and truth – truth which every one can accept at once.[23] Since, however, Fichte restricts himself to this partial reality, and yet insists on completing it by passing to a further reality, from this again to still another, and so on, it is clear that this process by its very nature, if the whole objective world is to be gathered into the Ego, must go on ad infinitum. No matter how many have been safely housed, there must ever remain still one outside the fold; for without that other still to seek, the Ego would cease to be itself; it must have some other by means of which to realise itself. The totality, therefore, is never really attained; it continues, as always, what “is to be” attained; the complete identity, the absolute unity, which is the goal of philosophical endeavour, remains only an unfulfilled “ought to be,” a Sollen.[24] From all this, therefore, and the above contains the essential errors in the scheme, Hegel concludes[25] that by Fichte’s principle and method absolute knowledge can never be attained. Fichte’s Idealism is an entirely barren knowledge, a mere “formal idealism.” It is not true knowledge; this must begin from the Absolute; and the Absolute is not an abstraction, nor incomplete, nor a part. Its Idealism is indeed like Kant’s, a kind of Dualism; its principle of unity, is merely a principle of determination of one by an other, a causal connexion of one with the other.

An insurmountable opposition is the essence of its content and method; contradiction and not the resolution of contradiction is its inevitable result.[26] It is evident, then, that Hegel’s points of difference from Fichte are based on the same grounds as in the case of Kant, and that the correction of Fichte’s principle and method was to be found in the fuller and more concrete appreciation of the absolute Identity on the one hand and by the use of “true intellectual Anschauung” as the instrument of systematisation.[27] This we have already described above.

It is significant for the understanding of the development which Hegel thinks at this time philosophy should undergo, and the actual realisation of which we may reasonably infer Hegel now (1802) intended, or had already actually begun, to set himself to bring about, that he considers[28] the philosophical systems of Kant, Fichte, and Jacobi to have completed and exhausted an epoch in the development of the new principle of speculation.

For in all three that principle has been conceived and expressed in a one-sided, limited, incomplete form, and all possible variations of that single form, which is common to them all, have in their systems been worked out. That form is subjectivity; the idealism in all three is grounded on a restricted reference to one side, one pole of the Absolute Identity, that of the subject. Their idealism is nothing more than the dogmatic metaphysic of subjectivity. In all of them the one primal reality is the subject; the objective world becomes mere appearance (Kant) or affection, determination of the sensibility of the subject (Fichte), or merely that whose reality is supported by and conditional on belief (Jacobi[29]). In all of them the Absolute as such, as Absolute Identity, is a mere beyond, for Kant a Ding an sich, for Fichte a Sollen, for Jacobi a Glauben (for Glauben is the condition both of the objective world and of the Absolute per se[30]). In Kant the Absolute Identity is a mere thought, a merely problematical objectivity, is not actually realised by and in that which for him is the fundamental element – the notion, the form, the universal. In Jacobi the opposition found in experience is only overcome by what is a “beyond” for knowledge, and the attainment of this beyond, which is to reconcile opposites, is merely subjective; it is a “belief,” a “yearning.” In Fichte there is a union of the bare formal objectivity of Kant with the yearning, the mere subjectivity of Jacobi in the form of a “demand,” which, however, is still not an Absolute Identity, but is confined to subjectivity.[31] Thus those three exhaust the possibilities of this one-sided conception of the principle of Idealism, without satisfying the needs of absolute knowledge. Their system begins and remains in the process of reflexion, of relativity, of duality, of diversity; and this characterises their entire exposition. It is because these forms of philosophy complete the cycle of systems based on the “absoluteness of finitude,” and rooted in the one-sidedness and subjective limitation which characterise a time of culture and spiritual development (Bildung),[32] that a true philosophy may be expected to arise through and by way of the negation of the absoluteness of their positions. And the time for the appearance of such a development of philosophy has now come, says Hegel.[33] Not that the negation of these systems means their annihilation; they contain what is of essential philosophical significance.

For in them thought, by that ceaseless process of negation of opposition and finitude, is recognised to be, what it in truth is, infinite, “the negative side of the Absolute.” May we not fairly discover in all this the words of the herald who was himself to become the founder of Absolute Idealism? The disagreement which Hegel shows with the positions of the thinkers above considered is based upon principles which he consciously holds to be in harmony with those of Schelling. That connexion is so close in form and expression at this time that it would involve needless repetition to state and compare their several positions. We find the same general conception of the nature and meaning of the absolute identity;[34] the preservation of both opposites alongside the negation for each per se;[35] the dividing “negative” function of reflexion;[36] the character of the Absolute as the neutrum, “the indifference-point” of subject and object; [37] and the difference between subject and object being simply quantitative, due to a “preponderance” of the real over the ideal factor.[38] It is to be observed, however, that we have only grounds for asserting a general community of principle; further comparison of the views of Hegel with those of Schelling, beyond what can be gathered from the above, is not possible. Their Logic and Metaphysic would presumably be the same in content; for Hegel remarks, both Fichte and Schelling in their respective ways had, like himself, attempted to state in some systematic form Logic or Speculative Philosophy.[39] The difference of treatment between Hegel and Schelling on this point, so far at least as discoverable, is that Hegel deals confessedly with Logic as a distinct and separate discipline of philosophy, and acknowledges its importance, while Schelling fuses Logic with Metaphysic proper.[40] This difference between them seems of less importance at first sight than it really is; for we shall see that it is just the separation of problems regarded as identical by Schelling that comes to be characteristic of Hegel’s own system.

Other instances of divergence between them, of a more pronounced and deliberate kind, can also be found to exist at this time alongside the general ostensible agreement. There is a difference in the conception of method in the two cases, a point on which Hegel laid ever-increasing importance as he proceeded. Hegel’s fundamental conception is that of development, transition from lower to higher, and ordered involution of the later with the earlier steps in the process. Hints of this we have already had to a certain very limited extent in these schemes or sketches of philosophy and its parts which we have so far stated. The fuller consciousness of its importance grew with his intellectual development till he finally arrived at that conception of the method which he could and did regard as the very pulse-beat of the life of absolute truth, its only final medium of expression. It is the lack of development which he considers the primary defect in Schelling’s system.[41] And this is easily seen to be true of Schelling’s system, as exhibited in the work which had appeared just before Hegel came to Jena – the Transcendental Idealismus.

There is connexion, for there is both “deduction” and “construction” in the system; but there is no development in any proper sense of the term.

Like Fichte, Schelling starts from what he calls fundamental supreme principles, and from these as the highest ultimate of speculative knowledge proceeds to educe or ‘deduce’ the remaining content of the system as derivative, though of course constitutive and necessary elements in the whole. This is the reverse of a developmental method. And, moreover, there is no inner connectedness of part with part; there is the connexion of a single purpose in the system, but not the objective self-connexion of the content itself. It is by the seemingly arbitrary Machtspruch of an external agent that the whole obeys an ordered plan. These and similar defects of method (and it would be easy to discover others) would be readily perceptible to Hegel, to whom system was second nature, and for whom the significance of development was becoming ever more manifest.

And, indeed, he did not rest content with merely recognising this defect in a general way; we find some indication of his views regarding the function of development in the “system of Identity” mentioned in the only article in which at this time he deals with Schelling.[42] He there points out that while the two philosophical sciences of intelligence and of Nature are both sciences of the content of Identity, yet because the content of each is itself the one identity, the sciences cannot be left side by side and opposed, but “must be regarded as forming one continuity as one connected science.” So, again, Mind is not merely in its totality “Mind, but also carries with it the self-construction of Nature,” and vice versa. Or further, “the original Identity must unite both (the negative synthesis, synthesis by negation and opposites, and real positive synthesis of them) in the Anschauung of the objective process of the Absolute in its complete entirety.” Now this conception of an immediate and necessary continuity between the contents of the opposed sciences of the Absolute may not seem in direct contrast with Schelling’s own views as expressed, e.g., in the introduction to the Transcendental Idealismus; but it ought to be pointed out that the conception has at least no warrant or support from Schelling himself, for whom those sciences were palpably different ways of stating objective truth, the objective unity of subject and object. They were different because that unity was construed on a different basis in each case – in the one case from object, in the other from the subject; and their respective constructions were as different as object is from subject. Hegel probably supposes he is in agreement with Schelling in his interpretation; but it seems to indicate the presence of a conception alien to Schelling’s own view, and peculiar to Hegel himself. Hegel has, however, not shown in detail how it could be brought about, so that it would be valueless to consider this point.

But again, not merely in the method but in the nature and meaning of philosophy, Hegel differs from Schelling. For the latter Philosophy has its origin in Poetry, is by itself a subjective activity, which remains inside the limits of its ideality, and can only be again delivered from its subjectivity, can only pass beyond these limits into complete objectivity, by means of Art. Art is the deliver, the coadjutor, “the only and true and eternal Organon und Document” of philosophy, the creative productive function necessary to realise the objectivity philosophy demands.[43] With Hegel, on the other hand, Philosophy has its roots in Religion, has its own functions and instrument complete in itself, is a self-closed activity, lives and moves in the clear transparency of the notion, of conceptions, and as contrasted with religion is the mediating reflective process by which the immediate unity of the individual with the universal present in religion is reproduced in the sphere of conception and of thought. It is hardly necessary to point out how this profound difference of point of view, purpose, and content of philosophy would affect the respective systems of the two thinkers.

Finally, there is a specific advance and transcendence of Schelling’s point of view. That “qualitative preponderance” of polar opposites in an indifferent neutrum did not long satisfy Hegel. By his work in ethics primarily, but also by other considerations to be mentioned presently, it was not long before he broke through the conception of an indifferent unity of opposites. Mind was seen to be higher than, and not on a level with, Nature. But with such a radical change of conception of the relations of the opposed elements in the Absolute, there would necessarily come a change in the interpretation of the Absolute itself. And this change we shall find taking place. How soon Hegel split with Schelling after their first collaboration in 1801 we cannot exactly say. Certain it is that his warm agreement did not last long. We find him remarking in his note-book[44] during this Jena period that “a short time will make it clear what Schelling’s philosophy essentially is. Judgment upon it stands, so to say, before the door; for even already many see through it. Philosophies like these give way not so much before proof and argument as before empirical experience of how far they can lead us.” The critical attitude implied in these words completely loosen the bonds of intimate union and intellectual sympathy which had hitherto bound Hegel to Schelling, and leave Hegel again, but at a very much higher level of attainment, in the independence which he possessed before committing himself to the philosophical influences of Jena.


1. WW. I. 20, 21.

2. WW. I. 23.25.

3. i. 22.

4. i. 24, 25.

5. WW. I. 25.

6. WW. I. 42.44.

7. i. 35.

8. i. 19.

9. WW. I. 31.

10. i. 27.

11. i. 20, 31.

12. i. 21, 24, 32, etc.

13. Kant himself deserves the great credit, according to Hegel, of not limiting reason to the forms of finitude; but rather placing reason as such above or beyond it (i. 57).

14. WW. I. 24, 26. With this may be mentioned the thesis defended by Hegel at his “Habilitation” in Jena: “Syllogismus est principium Idealismi” (Leben, p. 157). But too much. stress cannot in the nature of the case be laid on his “defence” of such a thesis.

15. WW. I. 33.

16. WW. I. 115 ff.

17. WW. i. 115ff.

18. i. 135 f.

19. i. 123, 126, 220 ff.

20. WW. i. 117f.

21. i. 119ff.

22. WW i. 120.

23. ibid.

24. i. 114, 216 ff.

25. WW. I. 114, 120, 126.

26. e.g., that between freedom and necessity, i. 123 ff.

27. i. 120.

28. i. 151 ff.

29. The separate consideration of Jacobi’s fundamental ideas (WW. I. 51 ff.) would yield no more light on Hegel’s position, and can be here dispensed with; cp. I. 116, 117, 152.

30. WW. I. 99 ff.

31. WW. i. 113, 114.

32. i. 153, 154.

33. Cf. Leben, pp. 214, 215.

34. WW i. 244 ff.

35. i. 245.

36. i. 246.

37. i. 257, 261, etc.; cf. I. 19.

38. i. 257.

39. Ros. Leben, p. 188.

40. In Trans. Idealismus.

41. Leben, p. 189.

42. WW. i. 261 ff.

43. Trans. Ideal. Absch. vi. 3 ff.

44. Leben, p. 544.