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

Chapter V: Transition –
Origin of the “Phenomenology of Mind” and of the “Logic”

In order to understand the line of development which leads Hegel to the position which he finally adopts, and the reason which induced him to alter the views which he held during the period we have just reviewed, we must bear in mind the demands which from the first he expected philosophy to satisfy. These were that it should be the complete exposition of the knowledge of the Absolute, that the system of such knowledge should be determined by the inner connexion of its content, and that the nature of the Absolute should be shown to be Mind, Spirit (Geist). These are for Hegel simply assumptions, fundamental positions which must be held by those who would fulfil the task of philosophy.

He does not seek to prove them at the outset; rather he takes the only possible proof of them to be the actual realisation of them by philosophy.

They characterise his distinctive attitude in philosophy, and were the guiding purposes which were active throughout the construction of his system.

Now, in spite of certain appearances to the contrary, Hegel did not give way on any of these points during the second period; they existed side by side with positions which were in themselves incompatible with them. It is, of course, on the third point that this seems less evident. It certainly is impossible at the same time to hold that the Absolute, the unity of subject and object, is Mind, and also that the Absolute is the Identity of subject and object which is equally indifferent to both, in the sense that it is indistinguishably both at once and not one more than the other. For the nature of Mind holds more directly of the subject than of the object, and consequently the Absolute could not be equally indifferent to both subject and object. And his original view Hegel undoubtedly allowed to fall in the background at this time; but we are not entitled from the records left us to infer that that position had been even temporarily abandoned. For not to mention that the influence of Schelling lasted at the most for so short a time, after which Hegel brought again, and finally, into prominence the supreme importance of the conception of Spirit, we find throughout this period continual fluctuations between the Schellingian conception of the Absolute, and that which he hitherto held and later established. At one time he regards the Absolute as the “Indifference-point” of subject and object, at another he takes the Absolute to be most appropriately conceived as concrete individuality, that union of universal and particular which is the nature of intelligence. Or again, the Absolute is supremely Sittlichkeit; while at another time it is spoken of as a characterless Identity. Further, when describing[1] (in semi-theological terms, it is true) the nature of God, he does it in such wise as to indicate that God per se was not a mere neutrum of reality, but a living active self-consciousness. This attitude of hesitancy and ambiguity he abandoned by maintaining the ‘supremacy’ of Mind over Nature, of subject over object, the position which, as we already pointed out, marks his abrupt and decisive disagreement with Schelling.

It is important to note that this was no more than the reassertion of that principle which was indubitable dogma with Hegel all along. And having now adopted this position, he sought to establish it and to elaborate its complete import during those years immediately preceding the appearance of the Phänomenologie des Geistes, when his separation from Schelling, or, as Hegel preferred to say, “the Schellingian school,” was once for all signalised in the famous preface to that work.

His contention that “Mind is higher than Nature” is no mere secondary and unimportant difference from the view that the one is of the same value as the other for the Absolute, where both are identical. It becomes the foundation of that doctrine of degrees of reality which characterises Hegel’s system, it determines the point of view from which a system is to be obtained by stating the fundamental reality in it, and it indicates the line of development which he must immediately follow in order to obtain that system. Let Hegel once abandon the position that the Absolute is the indifferent identity of subject and object, and there was nothing possible for him except to maintain that the Absolute should be per se Mind.

It must, however, be observed, on the other hand, that this did not mean the annihilation of the view that the Absolute is unity of subject and object, unity of all opposites. On this he is at one with Schelling and also with Fichte. The question for him is, what most accurately and completely exposes the nature of the Absolute? Mind and Nature, Subject and Object together are the Absolute, and are opposed in it; is the Absolute the neutrum of both, or is it one rather than the other, does one more truly express it than the other? There is no third position possible.[2] It is stating the same problem to ask, are subject and object on the same level of reality, of value, of meaning, have they both in all and every respect the same nature, or is the content of one higher than, superior to, the other? Hegel maintained for a time the former alternative in the period we have been considering. For it there appears that each is simply a “relative identity”; the “preponderance” of one or other opposite is due to the point of view from which the Absolute is regarded; all philosophy consists in the “repetition of one and the same identity”; the Absolute is the “indifferent unity of both.” Henceforward, however, he adopts the second alternative, and thereby breaks with Schelling. All his subsequent philosophy is simply the complete establishment and exposition of this view. The plan by which he sought to obtain this result we shall presently indicate. We have merely to note that this explicit adoption or rather re-adoption of Mind as the fundamental philosophical principle is what leads him to abandon the Schellingian attitude of the second period, and determines finally the current of his subsequent thinking.

The reasons for this advance seem to have been cumulative. We have already insisted, perhaps sufficiently, on the essentially religious and ethical motives which led Hegel to devote himself to philosophy.

These fashioned his interest in its problems, and in a manner predetermined the result. Mind always appeared to him as the deepest, most real of Realities. This is seen, for instance, in the place which he assigns to Morality in his scheme in the second period. It is there taken to be the fullest, most concrete expression of the Absolute.[3] Again, the actual relation of Mind to Nature in moral experience, the very idea of freedom seemed to compel him to place one on a different plane from the other.[4] And on the other hand, in intellectual experience, the difference was also equally clear. The very meaning of knowledge meant the dominance of Mind over Nature, of subject over object, a superiority and prerogative which had been established by Kant in such a way as to have become almost self-evident. Moreover, the meaning which Hegel gives to philosophy in particular would seem necessarily to lead him to this position. Philosophy, as we saw, was the self-knowledge of reason; the Identity which is the ultimate fact is the identity of reason. But if so, then Reality must be primarily Mind, which is concrete self-consciousness.

Reason, or Mind, must contain and not be co-ordinate with object, Nature, or “necessity.” It is impossible to treat all philosophy (Philosophy of Nature included) solely in terms of reason, and impossible to speak of “the self-knowledge, the self-intuition of the Absolute,” the “absolute knowledge"[5] which the Absolute possesses of itself, and yet maintain that the Absolute is merely the indifferent identity of both Mind and Nature. By the virtue of that self-knowledge, the Absolute must be Mind rather than Nature; Mind must be “higher than” Nature.

There is further to be taken into account the influence on Hegel for many years of Plato’s philosophy, in which assuredly there is little indication of an equality of value or significance between Mind and Nature.

And this conception of their relation, derivable from Plato, was found confirmed and more systematically elaborated by Aristotle, with whom in the later years at Jena Hegel became intimately acquainted, and whose influence upon him henceforward is pronounced and effective. Finally, in addition to all this, we must take note of a characteristic of Hegel’s mind which made it impossible for him to acquiesce for long in such an identity as Schelling offered. This was his deep appreciation of the richness, the multiplicity of the content of the world. When, therefore, he saw the results to which such a view as he advocated in and out of the Critical Journal really led, and were actually tending inside the school of Schelling; saw how it denuded the universe of its plenitude of difference, and converted it at best into a monotonous repetition of a characterless, indifferent identity, it is small surprise that such a position should not be long attractive to a mind so fully awake by nature, knowledge, and experience to its varied and complex life. All these factors, therefore, taken together, seem to make it inevitable that Hegel should find satisfaction only in the principle that the Absolute is Mind, and should seek to “demonstrate” that it is so.

The mention of the last of the above influences leads us to another aspect of philosophy which, on his view, must be insisted on and realised, if it is to attain its end – the completeness of the knowledge of the content of the Absolute. This was obviously present and operative in the second period, though it is not itself carried out. As it appears there, however, it is certainly defective and questionable, and it henceforth undergoes decided modification. We found that Hegel made a somewhat abrupt distinction between infinite knowledge and finite knowledge, between the knowledge which is concerned with the Absolute Identity qua absolute, and that which deals with the finite realities taken as finite.

And we found that the latter was dealt with by reflexion per se finite and infinite, was determined by understanding and by reason in its negative aspect, and formed the sphere appropriated by Logic; while the former was dealt with by transcendental knowledge which was one with transcendental Anschauung, was determined solely by reason in its positive aspect, and formed the sphere of Metaphysic and “Philosophy proper.” Logic we saw had at best merely a negative value for Metaphysic; the finite had significance for the Absolute only when and in so far as it was negated.

Now such a result was soon seen to be unsatisfactory in many ways.

For, in the first place, how could the knowledge of the Absolute be complete if the content of the Absolute was removed? And what content remained after all the finite content was abstracted from the Absolute as such? How was it possible to “construe” the Absolute at all when the opposites which appeared were viewed simply as negatives and were merely negated? And since these finite elements belonged to the sphere of Logic, what remained then for Metaphysic, or “transcendental knowledge” to do? All finitude being as such excluded from Metaphysic, nothing was to be done but to show the “repetition” of one and the same Identity throughout all reality. “Construing” it would only mean exhibiting its self-identity everywhere, not showing how it maintained itself as different or in differences, but showing that all differences were not differences at all but the same Identity. All differences were finite, and could only appear in the view of finite knowledge to be different. For infinite knowledge there was literally nothing but the one Identity. But such a Metaphysic in the attempt to give complete knowledge of the Absolute succeeded, or might succeed, in giving completeness, but utterly failed to give knowledge. Nothing was to be gained or received from the continuous manifestation of the same Identity; in knowing it at one step we knew all that was to be known. In addition, this Identity could hardly be exhibited in the differences, for there were no real differences for it at all. These all held good merely inside the sphere of the finite and were already negated in Logic (in “philosophical reflexion”); the differences were for the Absolute indifferent. What made them different was the absence of that positive element, the Identity, found and discussed in Metaphysic; when this appeared or was exhibited the differences vanished. In “transcendental knowledge,” therefore, in the “union of reflexion and Anschauung,” nothing could be dealt with but the Absolute Identity which was at best refunded into those realities which had a mere semblance of difference, a procedure which seems either impossible or inadequate and false – the former if there were no different realities into which the Identity could be refunded, the latter if there were such realities.

Further, it is also evident that such a Metaphysic seems perilously near to a discussion of what is a merely abstract identity of understanding, against which Hegel had already waged war. The Logic had been the negative assertion of an Absolute whose positive reality was exhibited in Metaphysic. But the negative activity of this Absolute which appeared in the Logic had wiped out as with a sponge all the plenitude of content which would have given meaning to the positive assertion of its identity, and left nothing to be considered but a characterless blank.

No real knowledge of the Absolute was given in the Logic itself – at best only a knowledge of what the Absolute was not; yet when the Metaphysic seeks to supply this knowledge of the Absolute Identity there is nothing in particular to know except that the Absolute Identity alone is. It is not open to show that this Identity is determined as different; there is no getting back to the differences at all, for the simple reason that they have been already abolished in the Logic in order to find place only for the one Absolute. It is as if all the wealth of the world were reduced by a process of elimination to a single species of commodity, which thereupon turned out to have by the nature of the case no exchange value whatever. It certainly seemed, therefore, that with such an Absolute what had been attained was not an identity which substantialised the various opposites of knowledge, but rather one which remained apart from them altogether, and at most destroyed the substantiality they possessed in finite knowledge. It was in fact an Absolute Identity which did not appear abstract, merely because it had established itself by destroying everything which offered itself as a rival to its supremacy – the lion that herded with the flock and became lord of them by the might of its hunger.

And this result was not the fault of the Logic, but rather of the Metaphysic. The Logic because negative of the finite content did not demand the Metaphysic, the Metaphysic rather demanded a negative Logic. It was because the Metaphysic was so conceived that the Logic was negative to prepare for it. For Metaphysic there was literally only one Reality; and yet in spite of this finite elements actually existed. It was plain that the completeness of the knowledge of the Absolute ought somehow to find a place for these finite realities, which would at once do justice to their reality while refusing to take them as merely finite.

Hegel appreciated the importance of this intensely, and soon felt it impossible, on those intellectual and other grounds already indicated, to find satisfaction in a picture which secured the harmony of its effect at the price of the monotony of its colouring. And he saw that there was only one requisite necessary to attain a different and more satisfactory result – namely, to alter the purely negative character of all finitude.

This was the sole ground of objection, the source of all the barrenness of the result of his previous conception, and here accordingly the change was to be effected. The finite factors, the finite opposites should not be entirely negated, and all differences vanish before the one identity; they should be posited.

But note that by retaining as he did the conception of an Absolute which must be infinite, in the sense of including all and determining all, one and identical (just as formerly), the character of finitude as hitherto conceived was not entirely changed, but only partially so. The finite opposites were to be both posited, substantialised, and negated as well.

The mere insistence on the latter had turned the Absolute into the immediate tomb of the finite; the insistence on the former alone would give immortality to all finitude, and destroy the meaning of the Absolute. To avoid both these results he had to demand the negation as well as the preservation of the finite.

Indications, indeed, are not lacking that the importance of both these factors had occurred to him even when holding the view which he henceforth abandons. For, as we saw above, the finite realities are related to the Absolute, are therefore in a sense posited in it; but they are only related to it in order to be finally negated by it. Similarly, again, by asserting that the finite as such was the province of understanding, and yet that knowledge of understanding was “not entirely opposed” to that of reason, but rather intimately connected[6] with it, we have clear suggestion that a positive character belonged even to that which was negated by reason. And when it is maintained that reflexion, negation, is merely one side, the negative side, of reason, the same idea is in a measure contained. The truth is that the purely negative treatment of finitude which is undoubtedly the dominant tone of this period was due to an over-emphasis on the merely negative side of the activity of reason, which was perhaps a natural exaggeration when he had for the first time seized the significance of an absolute philosophy. If, then, the consequences to which this led did not by the nature of the case realise that knowledge of the Absolute which he sought, this purely negative activity of reason necessarily required to be qualified.

Now the positive aspect or moment of reason had hitherto been contributed by Anschauung; and the positive element was, we saw, the Identity. The treatment of this fell apart from reflexion (the negative moment of reason) and belonged to Metaphysic. If, therefore, a positive character was to be contributed to the finite realities as such, it could only come from the Anschauung of Metaphysic. But in that case the relation between reflexion and Anschauung must cease to be so external; the one must share the nature of the other, must be found with it.[7] They must, in fact, become one activity with two inseparable moments, a single current with opposite poles, a functional unity of two factors.

Reflexion must function with Anschauung, Anschauung must mediate and negate with reflexion; all externality of relation between the two must vanish. This would then give the completeness of knowledge desired.

Nothing finite would in such a case be left out; every finite would get its due, and find its place in the Absolute, for its positive reality would be conserved by the positive function introduced. Yet the Absolute would likewise hold its place as absolute, because every finite is to be negated, and negation in such a case only comes from the one absolute and infinite Reality. And nothing more nor less than such a unity of negative and positive function would satisfy Hegel’s demands.

It is not, be it noted, by laying greater emphasis on understanding as opposed to reason that this new result is to be brought about. True, it had been by the denial of that fixity contributed by understanding that the negation of the finite had been maintained in the Logic. But this fixity, we must observe, was attributed to an unauthorised and indefensible act of understanding, which “robbed” finitude of its reason-character, [8] and stemmed the flux of its own essential negativity.[9] The nature of understanding was determined from the point of view of reason, and as this was purely negative in character, understanding had no right per se to fix and determine finitude, and was much nearer in so doing, at least so far as philosophy was concerned, to illusion than truth. Now, however, when the positive element of the finite becomes emphasised and insisted on, understanding assumes another and a most important place in Hegel’s treatment. But this is because the positive element sanctions the fixity of the finite which is the work of understanding. It is because reason demands and asserts a positive aspect in the finite in order to attain that completeness of knowledge desiderated that the claims of understanding to substantiate the finite are allowed to hold good, just as it is reason which determines how far they are valid. No doubt the role which understanding usually plays, influenced Hegel at this juncture, and no doubt his first reaction from the barrenness of an Absolute Identity would find greater resource and satisfaction in the definiteness, the concreteness of the world as determined by understanding. And this would induce him doubtless to insist on the recognition of its claims per se, which again. might suggest the necessity for asserting that positive aspect of the finite already mentioned. Still, in spite of this, and in spite of the extraordinary prominence he henceforth attaches to understanding, which he declares to be “die verwundersamste und grösste oder vielmehr die absolute Macht,"[10] it is clear for the above reasons that it is the positive character derived in the manner and for the purposes stated that gives force and authority to the claims of understanding, and not understanding which fuses a positive content into the purely negative activity of reason. This will become still more evident as we proceed.

Now, since the above considerations indicate the line of development which Hegel is to follow in order to attain that completeness of knowledge of the Absolute desired, if we can lay bare the plan and the means he adopted to obtain the method which would realise that end, we shall have gone very far to disclose the clue to his Logic. We cannot, however, accomplish this till we deal with the third essential characteristic of philosophy on which Hegel insisted.

The third characteristic, which in Hegel’s view philosophy must have, was, we saw, the systematic connexion of its content. During the period we have considered there is obviously enough an attempt at systematic connexion, and with some measure of success. But it is equally clear that this connexion was not thorough. The parts of the Logic were not directly connected with each other, nor was there any except an external relation between Logic and Metaphysic. There was lacking that inner necessity in the scheme which could only come through development.

He had, indeed, hinted that this was the proper method by which to attain the system he required; but the law of this method he had not yet formulated. All the parts of his scheme have so much connexion that they are determined by reason, which alone, in fact, gave them philo sophical significance. But more than this they can hardly be said to possess. The law of the Logic is one principle of connexion; that of the Metaphysic another. The former is antinomy, the latter the immediacy of Anschauung. But one proceeds independently of the other, and no direct relation is established between them. Finitude is laid waste, with no connexion between the finite elements except that of a common ruin by a common enemy; and then without any evident preparation we enter at a single stride into the citadel of the Absolute. We are not led up to the Absolute through and by means of finitude; simply by the magic might of Anschauung the Absolute rises and takes shape before us. How we come by such a method is not established, nor is it shown how we get possession of the two-edged sword of reflexion. These are not so much distinct forms of knowledge as distinct kinds of it, and one is as arbitrary in starting-point and procedure as the other.

Again, the same objections can be raised, and for the same reasons, against the relation which exists between the identity of the Absolute and the finite opposites, the finite differences. These are placed over against each other in unmediated and unreconciled opposition, and no connexion, organic or other, is exhibited between them. The result is, as we saw, they occupy two different spheres; in the one there is no identity, in the other no difference.

There is further no inner connexion stated between the various functions, understanding, reason, Anschauung; negative and positive reason; and yet all the knowledge supplied in the scheme is derived from these sources. They are, as it were, various closed chambers of knowledge, all important in themselves, but one hardly more so than the other, for each contains distinct information, and with no evident unity or connexion between them except that they all exist together under a common roof.

There is finally to be noted the ambiguous character of reflexion and Anschauung in the scheme. At one time he seems to distinguish between reflexion and the object of reflexion, between Anschauung and what is Angeschaut; at another time he seems to make no such distinction whatever.[11] The general position he takes up inclines him towards the latter rather than the former; and, as we saw, any other view would make his position meaningless. For its essential import is to insist on the identity of each with the other; and he is concerned not with the psychological process of thought, but with its result. Still, the other view does appear either as a survival from his earlier scheme, or because as a matter of fact the terms in question were ambiguous. The effectual removal of this ambiguity was clearly imperative before any system could claim to be thorough; and its deliberate removal would go a long way to attain that systematic completeness desired. Such an undertaking is, indeed, what Hegel set himself, the result of which appears as part of what we now know as the Phenomenology of Mind.

It is evident from the foregoing indication of the defects in systematisation of the content of knowledge, that if Hegel was fully to attain his ideal of system decided changes required to be made. For the purposes of the construction of the system he desired one thing was absolutely necessary, and would indeed be sufficient; there must be a unity of method governing the whole procedure from first to last. This was the radical defect in the construction of the scheme he had formed in the second period, a defect which was in the nature of the case, for the parts of the scheme contained forms of knowledge each determined by a different principle. Since the parts were external to each other, and each had a distinct method of procedure, there could be no one systematic whole determined by a single method. Method is necessarily dependent on content, if the system is to possess that character of inner necessity which Hegel sought. But the various functions above specified, negative and positive reason, etc., were not to be abandoned as valueless when the new advance was made. Rather that advance proceeds along the lines indicated by them; they are in reality permanent factors in his system. But inasmuch as the defect of his present scheme lay in allowing each to do its work independently, he was bound to remove this defect if he would accomplish that purpose he has in view. And this could only be done, and would be satisfactorily done, if each factor were shown to be a function of a single activity, a moment in a single process. Hence the other remaining problem to be settled was how to obtain such a method.

Now it is impossible to understand how Hegel overcame these three kinds of defects which rendered his second scheme unsatisfactory, unless we realise that no one could be removed without a corresponding alteration in the others. They were all necessarily involved in each other.

It was at once impossible and useless for him to attempt to discover a true and thorough method of systematisation without taking account of the completeness of the content of the system; and similarly he could not determine the completeness of the content without immediate and essential reference to his fundamental principle. And it is again clear that the primary fact, on the meaning of which all else depends, is the nature of that fundamental principle itself. If once this is determined, all the other elements (the method and the contents) will appear at once, or be easily determinable; for on that depends everything else in the system. The first problem, then, is to determine the nature and meaning of his ground principle. That principle which henceforward is the securely established basis of his system is, as we have seen, that the primary Reality, or that Reality primarily, is Mind.[12] The absolute Reality is not the mere Desert of Indifference; it is not the mere quantitative equilibrium of the opposed poles of reality (subject, object, etc.). It is one more than the other. One is actually higher than it, because embracing in itself what the other is. And therefore the Absolute can be expressed more truly by this one than by the other.

Since that which is higher contains in itself as a moment what is characteristic of the other, the Absolute is primarily the higher of the two. This is what in reality is absolute, what is absolutely Real.

But if Hegel has once risen above the position of Indifferent Identity, has once established that there is a difference, mainly a difference in degree of reality, between these opposites, and that the difference is fundamental, he has thereby set himself a unique and distinct problem.

That problem is to establish and exhibit this in philosophical, i.e., (for him) systematic form. It does not and cannot remain a mere conviction; the other demands which he makes on philosophy, force him to work it out in detail. Philosophy, he held, must not be merely love of knowledge, but must be really knowledge. And it can only be called real knowledge if it is complete knowledge, knowledge of the whole. This is simply what it claims to be; less than this will not satisfy it. But knowledge of the whole must be a whole of knowledge, must be system, and must by the nature of the case be a necessary system. Philosophical truth is, and must be, system of philosophy.

Incidentally, therefore, any principle which claims to furnish philosophical knowledge, and yet cannot or does not furnish it in this form, is thereby on this ground alone self-condemned. Thus when we are offered as a principle, e.g., that we know the Absolute immediately by feeling or by Anschauung, nothing more can by such a process be supplied, no construction, no exposition. But we do not thereby get philosophical knowledge, rather we get a substitute for all philosophy, not a system of truth, but that which renders any such system as dispensable as it is impossible. Indeed the satisfaction thereby sought is not the satisfaction of science, but rather that of religious enthusiasm, something nearer to cultured mysticism than explicit knowledge, not truth but rather edification. [13] Hegel, then, must work out his new conception systematically. And this is the more necessary when the difference which he asserts is as vital as he believes it to be. For all finitude is embraced under one or other of the fundamental opposed realities, subject, object, etc.; and hence the assertion of the superiority of the one over the other must affect all reality, be present throughout it, and must therefore be thoroughly established everywhere, if it is to be ultimately valid at all. Nothing less than this will satisfy; a mere general exposition of his contention will not suffice; he must show it to hold at every step where subject is brought into relation with object, mind with nature, etc. For take up reality at any point, and we shall find that there we have, ipso facto, a relation between the two opposites; the reality dealt with by us, as Subject, either belongs to the world of Nature only, or partly to one, partly to the other. But in any and every case that relation is in some form present; one opposite cannot be taken by itself without further reference, it must imply and be related to the other. Consequently, if this superiority is to be real, it must be shown to exist wherever that relation exists; it must be shown to hold, in short, of every phase or part of reality.

And it is not only necessary to do so, it is, Hegel believes, in the nature of the case quite possible to do it. For we have this relation appearing in different ways, in different spheres, embracing one order of fact at one place, another at another. We have it now, for example, as the relation of Percipient to Perceived, now as that of Observation to Observed, now as that of an assertion of a Law between Facts, or again in Conduct, in moral action. All these are different, and yet all imply and express this same fundamental relation. Now each of these because different can be treated separately and by itself; we can isolate it from others, and regard it simply as it stands. Hence we can examine each of these various forms where the relation holds, and show that in every form without exception this superiority is discoverable.

Hence, then, the maintenance of the supremacy of Mind is simply the other side to, has as its necessary complement, the complete and detailed exhibition of this supremacy throughout all reality. It means that Mind is to embrace its object. It is not to exclude it (that would be Dualism); nor to negate it (that would be Solipsism); nor to be on a level with it (that would be the Indifferentism of Schelling); it is to contain it in itself. This alone is Idealism. Now it was mainly to solve this problem and establish that position that Hegel wrote the Phenomenology of Mind.

Such being the general nature of the problem which he has to solve, it is not difficult to see that to accomplish his purpose the inquiry will conveniently fall into two parts. In one part he will be exclusively engaged in showing that Mind, when and wherever we find it in relation to an object, is actually “higher than"[14] its object, actually contains that object in itself, that only in so far as an object is the mind’s own, is the mind’s own self, is it an object for and over against mind at all. In such an inquiry there will be no need to confine attention to any one form under which this relation exists. Any and every form will have to be considered. It must be shown that wherever the relation exists, throughout the whole range of the life of Mind, an analysis of the relation will in all cases show that the essential character and content of an object is mind-constituted, mind-determined, that its being as an object for consciousness is the same as its being for itself, that its constitutive moments are determined by mind and for mind. Here, then, we have no special regard for the ultimate form under which such a relation is most truly expressed, or indeed is alone expressed truly and fully. This will of course be in the background of the inquiry all along, for it is the final result to be arrived at, and in a measure determines the inquiry from first to last. Still, because it is only at best one form of the relation, it will not in this part be treated in any other way except simply as a special form of the relation in question. For not merely the true form of the relation, but untrue, in the sense of imperfect forms of it, must be considered. In some cases, e.g., in perception, the object seems and is ordinarily taken to be quite external to mind; the latter seems to have nothing to do with its constitution, it seems to exist by itself, it is merely “given” to mind from without. Yet this is a form of the relation of mind to an object, and for that reason alone must find a place in the inquiry. In others again, e.g., the Moral Order or Religion, the object seems entirely determined, or at least mainly determined, from mind itself, is a sort of eject of its own activity; but here we have also a relation of an object to mind of a certain distinct type. And between the apparent pure externality of the object to mind, and the apparent simple “manifestation” of mind in its object, there is room for considerable variety of forms of the relation, all of them actual relations, but all more or less imperfect (when judged from the final and true form). All these, then, must be dealt with separately, for all have claims to consideration, because in all of them mind is established in relation to an object. From the point of view of this part of the inquiry it is in the first instance of no importance what degree of perfection any relation may possess, what degree of inwardness its terms may have to each other; the determination of this degree is an after result, discovered in the course of inquiry and by it. The mere fact that the relation actually is discoverable falls inside the experience of mind; the mere fact that mind is related to an object, no matter how that object may present itself, or what special attitude mind may take up towards it, is all that is necessary to warrant the discussion in the inquiry of the relation thereby established. Every relation because it exists must be dealt with simply because it expresses a determination, a definite pulse in the life of mind. Every relation because it exists is necessary to mind, for in each and all mind is determined differently, and the richness of its experience is not summed up in any one only.

The question regarding the truth of any given relation thus does not take the form of whether it has any truth at all. The mere fact that mind is determined with reference to an object itself implies that it has truth, for any relation is a determinate part of the experience of mind, and is necessary to it. Now simply because necessary to it, each form of the relation is, taken by itself, true; for in each mind is closed with its object, is satisfied and rests with it. There is an “agreement between the mind and the object,"[15] and the symbol or indication of this agreement is the “certainty” the mind possesses in dealing with the object in question – a certainty which is present in every form under which the relation appears. Since, then, every instance of the relation must be ipso facto true for mind, the further and second question is, what amount or degree of truth does each possess, what degree of intimacy is expressed by any given relation, how far does the object dealt with at any point realise or express the essential nature of mind, how far is the mind in dealing with the object explicitly aware of itself as being in its object, as being at one with it as well as its own self? To express it briefly and from another point of view, the degree of truth of a given relation between the mind and its object is determined by reference to, and in virtue of, the fundamental primacy and supremacy of mind in the relation; the fact that each relation does have truth at all, no matter what the relation be, is due to the inner unity of mind with its object in every case.

Looked at in this way, therefore, the inquiry deals with all actual relations between mind and objects because they are true and in virtue of their truth. But it at once distinguishes itself from two other inquiries which hardly concern it at all. It does not deal with the history of any given relation in itself, does not show how any relation arose, out of what factors or processes it was produced. Such a discussion is excluded because it is not the genesis of the relation that is philosophically important, but the relation itself, not the process but the product, not the origin but the actual meaning. Nor, again, is the above inquiry concerned with the consequences which result or are obtainable when a given relation is established. Each relation is regarded simply as a particular form of experience with a distinct character, appearing in a way distinct from other relations, having conditions and a nature of its own.

From such a treatment of the relation we can exclude all the detailed content of the particular sphere of experience constituted by the relation in question, and determined in all respects by it. For example, in the relation between mind and its object found in Perception we can analyse its nature simply as a relation, can determine its constitutive factors, can show that in it the object appears as a thing and its qualities, and is in this form a particular mode of the activity of mind; but in so doing we need not state what particular things and qualities (e.g., rocks, sounds, colours) there are in the sphere of experience to which Perception is appropriate. Similarly of the relation of mind to its object, e.g., in Morality.

It is the form and character of any relation, not the varied content which it embraces and determines, that is considered in the above inquiry.

It will therefore deal with all the different relations in which the mind can stand to its object, but will not include either the genesis of those relations or a systematic statement of all that is contained under them. To include the former would be at once irrelevant and extra-philosophical; to include the latter is impossible and unnecessary, for this would be to state all the details of all the sciences, and of all experience.

But it is clear from what has been said that if we are not to have here a genetic history of mind, nor an explicit system either of imperfect or perfect knowledge, of incomplete or complete truth, we have at least elements of both history of mind and of truth. For each mode considered by itself expresses an essential and necessary attitude of mind, and in each there is truth. All modes or relations of mind to objects are simply to be taken as they actually appear or have appeared, that is, we are to have a history of these various forms. And all such relations are regarded solely with reference to the kind and degree of truth they possess. Hence the inquiry is a historical analysis or analytical history of the kinds of truth of which the mind is capable.

Or again, if we consider the relation of mind to object as the essential characteristic of all that is named Experience,[16] the inquiry in question may be named a Constructive History of the forms of Experience.

Once more, if we take consciousness to be the fundamental form under which mind exists, that which constitutes its very nature, the inquiry can be looked at as a Philosophical History of Consciousness.

Or finally, regarded as an analysis and statement of the functions, the activities of mind in its relation with reality, we may view it simply as a Transcendental Psychology. All these various expressions merely indicate different aspects of exactly the same problem.

To carry out this inquiry is, then, the first part of that problem which Hegel was forced to undertake and to solve, if the principle he sought to establish was to be fully developed. Such an undertaking was primarily what he sought to accomplish in his Phenomenology of Mind, the origin and purpose of which is contained in the general statement we have just given.

We must defer for a moment any further exposition of the content of the Phenomenology. It is of immediate importance to note that the analysis and discussion contained in it must have occupied from about 1803[17] till the time of its publication, 1806-7. For it was from this time onward that the breach with Schelling became ever wider; and his examination of the various forms of experience seems at once to have created and confirmed his difference from him. All along he had maintained with Schelling that subject was one with object; in the Phenomenology he proceeded to examine and analyse this in detail.

It was this analysis that was the vital problem, on the answer to which depended the nature of the relation between these opposed elements of reality and the character of the unity which held them together.

This inquiry alone could give Hegel any new result of his own, as it alone could establish a final philosophical position. Not that Schelling or Fichte, or even Kant, had not likewise maintained the “unity of subject and object”; nor had they neglected the inquiry into the relation subsisting between them. It was neither such an inquiry nor the fact of the unity which distinguished Hegel’s problem from theirs, or made necessary his new and distinctive analysis. It was rather the character of the inquiry and the nature of the unity which distinguished him from them, and which compelled him to re-undertake an inquiry and establish in his own way a result which in their general form were similar to those of his predecessors. For instead of, as in the case of Schelling,[18] as also of Fichte, beginning consciously and explicitly with and from the bare absolute unity of the two stated in the form of a single principle, and thence “deducing” from this highest fundamental fact all the content of experience, Hegel neither starts from such a bare unity, nor does he even admit the validity of expressing in the form of a single proposition the principle of all philosophy. Schelling and Fichte start from the supreme fact, which should rather be conclusion and result than a starting-point; for a beginning in philosophy should properly be the simplest truth and not the highest. Hegel, on the other hand, takes up the position that if subject and object are one, then in all cases where in experience we find them in relation, we ought either to find them actually expressing this unity, or else by their imperfection, their incompleteness, their inner disagreement, revealing to analysis the presence in them of their unity in every case, and thereby pointing towards and “leading up to” that complete explicit unity which is their inmost reality. Let us then, he seems to say, instead of starting from the highest form of their relation, start from cases where they are obviously separate and opposed, and let us by examining these see where and why they fall short of, and how near they approach to, their essential unity. This was clearly a different procedure from that of either Fichte or Schelling, and held in itself prospect of a conclusion different in character, though not necessarily in principle, from theirs. The suggestion of such an inquiry may possibly have come from Schelling’s conception of the content of philosophy being simply a history of self-consciousness, though it is manifestly suggested also as simply the reverse process of establishing idealism from that adopted by Fichte and Schelling.

There were, moreover, two secondary but very important reasons for undertaking the inquiry contained in the Phenomenology. There was first a consideration of practical importance. Hegel had a distinct, and in that sense a new, philosophical point of view and a new philosophical truth to lay before the world, and being new it was distinct from the ordinary conceptions of his immediate audience in the lecture-room, and of the larger philosophical public. If, then, he was to succeed in establishing the claims of his own view, if he was to get his new truth understood, he was bound to meet his audience half way. This implied that he should treat the forms of experience familiar to his audience, and deal with them in such a way as at once to appreciate their conceptions of these forms and indicate the significance which his own view compelled him to attach to them. This was the more necessary because each of those forms laid claim to possess a truth of its own, a claim which the natural consciousness was prepared to admit as absolute. Hegel admitted this claim on the part of these various forms to possess truth, and thereby stood on the same level with his audience. But by a pedagogic device he converted these several forms of truth discoverable in experience into steps by which he might lead his public up to his own final point of view. Thus he at once enriched and enlarged the conception of truth and of experience familiar to his audience by doing justice to each form in which the mind experienced truth, and by bringing all such forms within the sweep of his analysis; while at the same time he thereby conducted others to the position at which he himself stood. Looked at in this way the Phenomenology is a propaedeutic introduction to Hegel’s philosophy, the preparatory text-book to Absolute Idealism,[19] the Pilgrim’s Progress to the city of Perfect Light.

The other reason which made the inquiry necessary was theoretical.

Hegel’s philosophical point of view was in the first instance merely one among others which had also appeared in the course of history, and prima facie had no more right to be considered final truth than any of the others. Yet it was of its very essence to lay claim to be the absolute and true philosophical position; all others were at best simply imperfect forms or precursors of it. Such a claim was not merely opposed to the similar contentions of other thinkers who had appeared in the past, and who likewise claimed to have the final truth, but came into abrupt collision with the views of his immediate antecedents and contemporaries, who equally claimed to have fashioned the final scheme. He was therefore bound to defend his claim and establish his position, and this could only be accomplished to his own satisfaction and that of others if he systematically proved the truth of his own view.

Now only one method of proof was open to him. For he held, on the one hand, that his own view was the absolutely true, and on the other hand, that the views of others were likewise true, but imperfect. His proof, therefore, had to reconcile both of these positions. And this was only possible by showing that the truth the other views contained was true by being a form or expression of his own, and was imperfect because it did not completely, but only implicitly, contain his view, and was thus at the same time out of agreement with its own immanent principle. And on the other side he had to show that his own view actu ally and explicitly expressed the truth implied in the other imperfect views, and really contained whatever truth was present in them. This second part of the proof is merely the counterpart of the first, and indeed is obviously presupposed by the first itself. If, then, Hegel could establish both these claims, he would completely justify theoretically not merely to himself, but to the philosophical public, the claims he put forward on behalf of his own philosophy. Regarded in the light of this purpose, the Phenomenology may be considered the systematic proof of the standpoint of absolute idealism.[20] It was, then, to accomplish all these ends, satisfy all these needs above indicated, viz., to remove the defects of his preceding position, to introduce and to establish his new conception, that the inquiry contained in the Phenomenology was undertaken. In what manner this first part of his problem was carried out we shall presently state.

It is not difficult to discern what bearing such an inquiry will have on the other two essential factors in philosophy, its content and its method.

For while the systematic and exhaustive examination and demonstration of the principle of Hegel’s philosophy form the problem of the Phenomenology, it must not be supposed that the inquiry is a by-product of his system, a mere introduction, external to it and independent of it.

This we shall show later on more fully is not the case; and meanwhile we may merely note that Hegel himself considered that the work was a constitutive part of his system.[21] It is inevitable, then, that the inquiry would determine both content and method as well as principle. Now all relations between subject and object, found in experience, are to be passed in review from the most extreme forms of opposition between those two elements, up to their closest and most explicit union. And in all of them subject and object are to be shown to be essential one, subject being higher than the object, including it and the determining ground of it. The whole content of experience will thus appear as moments or modes of the ground reality of experience, Mind. Since, then, all experience is to be embraced, since every where that unity between subject and object is to be exhibited, every content will have that place in experience which it is entitled to as a moment in the one experience of the one reality, Mind.

Consequently on this new view, and as a result of this new inquiry, there will not be a merely abstract characterless “indifferent” identity; the finite varied content of experience will not exist simply to be negated.

Both the unity and the differences will be maintained and preserved, and the one by means and because of the other. Thus the only and complete content of philosophy will be the whole diversity of experience, which alone reveals, and where alone is found, the meaning and content of that Absolute which is the only object of philosophy. Not the Absolute per se as an identity indifferent to though uniting subject and object, but that Absolute only in and through its own wealth of varied content, is what henceforward is to be found in philosophy. The Absolute, because essentially and truly mind, is not merely at once substance and subject, but is pre-eminently and primarily Subject,[22] a unity containing and revealing all its diversity to itself, and preserving it because possessing it as its self, and thus containing nothing but what it reveals – the whole content of experience. That the Absolute is Subject, not Substance, that all the reality of the Absolute can only be what it reveals, that all experience is just the laying out in extenso of the content of the Absolute – all these are mutually implicative or even convertible statements. This then will be henceforth the actual and only content of philosophy on Hegel’s principle.

And it is clear that this advance which he is to take is just the counterstroke of his previous negative attitude towards all finitude. Not merely does he maintain and preserve all finitude through and by means of the Absolute. The tendency of this new view even seems to be to do full justice to them at the expense of the Absolute itself. It is clear, too, that this complete preservation of finitude is a necessary consequence of the supremacy of subject over object. But of this again.

With such a determination of principle and content, the method of philosophy must necessarily appear (if only, so to say, unconsciously and naturally) by means of, and in the course of, the inquiry itself. Not that Hegel could possibly be unaware of the method by which this “System of Experience” was to be constructed until he had well begun. He must certainly have had a conception of the course the inquiry was to follow from the start. But it is equally clear that he could only become fully conscious of the richness and full significance of that conception after it had been thoroughly and comprehensively used. This general conception was undoubtedly that of Development, a method which he had already suggested as the only appropriate one for philosophy, a method “neither synthetic nor analytic.” This conception he found lacking even in his philosophical comrade Schelling,[23] and it is stating their divergence from another point of view to say that the method of philosophy was the weapon of separation of the one from the other.

But what can development mean except that we must begin from the lowest form of experience, the form where subject and object stand furthest apart from each other, while still, all the same, standing in relation and referring to each other, and from that point work up and through all the varied relations of subject and object which will, and do, show various degrees of closeness of union between these opposite poles, till we reach a point where they are explicitly, and without any reservation, absolutely one? Granted that subject and object are identical, are one inseparable unity; granted that the Absolute is, and must be, the identity of these differences (and this is the cardinal certainty from which Hegel starts, a certainty which he maintained with confidence from the Jena period onwards), yet, though that is ultimate truth, the Absolute cannot, and must not be, “shot out of a pistol” at us. It is too rich and concrete to be either appreciated or expressed fully at the start, and, as it were, at a single stroke; we must begin at the lowest level of its reality and work from that. True, we begin with the Absolute; it is the terminus a quo of all genuine philosophy. But we must not begin immediately from and at the Absolute; it is for our inquiry, for the system, the terminus ad quem.

Only at the end are we brought actually face to face with it in its full truth. Thus, then, the only beginning with which we can properly begin is at that point of experience (which throughout is determined by the fundamental unity of subject and object) where subject, mind, and object stand ostensibly far apart, while yet maintaining a connexion by referring explicitly to one another. And since, further, it is their fundamental unity that is the one final ultimate fact for the connexion of both, the one theme for our inquiry, the succeeding forms of experience will naturally be determined on the one hand from this starting-point, on the other from the ultimate goal; in other words, by the degree of explicit realisation of the essential unity of these two opposites named. Thus, then, the method consists in the systematic connexion of all the forms of experience, a connexion which exists because all have a place, and must be maintained in the one Absolute, and which is brought about by the immanent inner reference of the actual form of each (a form common to every experience, subject-object) to its determining vital nature, the reference of its actual content to the ideal of all experience. Only thus will each form be limited by and connected with every other, and preserved in the one system of experience. The whole thus forms an organic development.

Its moving vital principle is namable as Dialectic; and only by such a method can the demands of system be met and completely satisfied.

It is clear in what consists the advance in this conception of the nature of the method over that of the preceding period. Anschauung and Reflexion are no longer different and contrasted functions of mind. They are fused into one single process without losing their essential nature (the expression respectively of the positive and negative content and processes of reason), yet without preserving their individual distinctiveness.

The process of negating is that of positing, and this by one and the same act of reason. This advance is precisely what is necessary to remove that artificiality of contrast of these two functions.

But now no sooner will this inquiry of the Phenomenology be completed than another problem will present itself for solution, a problem already implicit in the Phenomenology all along, but only becoming prominent at the end of that inquiry. If the unity of subject and object is the one essential reality in all experience, and if the modes of this unity are just the modes of experience, then does not the problem suggest itself to state in systematic connectedness the inner identities as such, the modes of unity qua unity, which have been the ground reality throughout the whole of the Phenomenology? We have these various concrete relations of subject and object in experience; can we not proceed further to extract or abstract the inner kernel of ultimate truth exhibited and preserved by all the several moments of experience, by each relation of subject to object, and constituting it a necessary pulse in the life of the Absolute? There is in every mode such a vital essence, namely, the identity or unity, which is the ground of the connexion of subject and object in each case. And each such unity will be a specific truth, the ultimate truth, namely, of each mode. The complete system of such unities will of course cover the same area as that of the Phenomenology, namely, the whole of experience, the content of the Absolute. The only difference will be that whereas in the Phenomenology we have the concrete, actual embodiment of experience, in the other inquiry we shall have nothing else but the abstract, “formal,” conceptual, “pure” essentialities stripped of all direct reference to the diversity and tangibility of existent experiences, and expressed and connected in the form determined by their own character. The content of this new science being the inner reality of each mode of experience, and this inner reality being, as we saw, the principle of connexion of the various modes, it is further evident that the method which this new science will follow will be none other than that of the Phenomenology itself; it needs no other, and it can find none other. The only difference will be that the method will in this new science be exhibited in its ultimate and purest form; for here it is operating with and through a content which is itself “simple” and “pure.” But what else can this new science be but just what has been hitherto known as Logic? It will appear, and is indeed evident, that these vital essences can only be thoughts, notions as such; and these have been, and are always, the matter of Logic. But if, then, Logic is this ultimate and absolute science par excellence, it is clear that it will cease to be distinct from and to lie outside “Metaphysic,” and will become an independent and self-dependent science. It will, again, cease to be divisible into Logic of understanding and Logic of reason; will cease to be a “negative Logic of reflexion,” and will become in very deed the all-embracing science with a single absolute method – will be Speculative Philosophy in its truest form.

Thus the transformation of Hegel’s principle, and the systematic establishment of its content, paved the way for, and necessitated his epoch-making Reformation of Logic. He was undoubtedly aware that this was his next step after the Phenomenology, which, he indicates to Schelling,[24] is “merely the beginning.” Not that there was no Logic at all similar to his own already given to the world. Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre and Schelling’s Transcendental Idealismus were after all merely attempts “to establish by itself Logic or Speculative Philosophy as a complete and independent science."[25] But neither of them saw at all clearly that this was really what they were trying to do; and in Fichte’s case both principle and method were wrong, in Schelling’s, while the principle was in a way sound, there was no proper method, no “development.” [26] The importance and significance of Hegel’s reformation consisted not merely in the soundness of the principle and the perfection of the method, but in the careful and precise distinction of the problems of Logic. Logic with him ceases to be mixed up with the concrete forms and characteristics of the experience we find ready to hand. Logic becomes pure logic, deals with pure notions; Logic handles the conception as such. All that holds of existent experience, as embodied historical appearance of the Absolute, is dealt with in a distinct science – in the Phenomenology. Notions, thought – unities, in their “purity” and ultimate form, are dealt with in another science – in Logic alone. It was exactly that confusion of problems that characterised both Fichte and Schelling, and likewise Kant, whose work is in truth restricted to what characterises Phenomenology of Mind.[27] How all these changes are brought about we must now proceed to determine.


1. Ros. Leben, pp. 292, 193.

2. We might say that the essential difference between Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel just consisted in the alternative adopted by each respectively.

Fichte chose the latter, giving none but a subjective reality to object; Schelling chose the former, giving equal reality to both; Hegel chose the latter, giving merely a superior reality to the subject.

3. WW. I. 381 f.

4. Cf. Ros. Leben, p. 187.

5. WW. I. 381 f.; Ros. Leben, pp. 192, 193.

6. Leben, p. 190.

7. It is true, he says, that transcendental reflexion and Anschauung are united (in transcendental knowledge); but the point is, that in spite of this so-called identification, they still remain side by side as distinct factors or processes; neither is abandoned, or gives way to the other, and they are not alternatives.

8. Leben, p. 190.

9. Ibid. p. 184.

10. Phänomenologie, Vorrede, p. 25 (ed. 1841).

11. There is also apparently a distinction made between the reflexion of “understanding” and that of “reason”; but doubtless this is another form of the ambiguity just noted (pp. 133, 134).

12. The statements, apparently different in meaning, are for Hegel alternatives, because Reality for him is one, the Absolute is a single unity.

13. Hegel has the school of Jacobi in view in this criticism.

14. This phrase will become more precise as we proceed.

15. The ordinary conception of “truth.”

16. Phän. d. Geistes, Vorrede, p. 27.

17. He promises to have the Phenomenology published by the autumn of 1805 (Briefe, i. 52).

18. Viz., In Trans. Ideal.

19. Phän. Vorrede, p. 21.

20. Logik, i. Einleit. p. 31; also p. 57 (ed. 1841).

21. Briefe, i. 52; Logik, i. First Preface ad fin. note. The change of title there mentioned seems obviously due not to change of point of view regarding the work, but to external reasons.

22. Phänomenologie, Preface.

23. Leben, p. 189.

24. Briefe, i. 79.

25. Leben, pp. 179, 188, 189.

26. ibid.

27. Cf. Ency. § 332 (1st ed.).