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

Chapter X: Relation of Logic to Nature

We have now completed the History of the Principle, Method, and Content of Hegel’s Logic. With the publication of the Logic (1812-16), his conception of its nature and problem was finally established. Thereafter, while various re-statements of the Logic were published (in the successive editions of the Encyclopaedie), his point of view and his interpretation of the content remained unaltered.

There are indeed differences,[1] sometimes significant, between the Logic of 1816 and that of the first edition of the Encyclopaedie (1817), and between the latter and the second and third editions of the same work. But these variations are dictated mainly, if not solely, by the exigencies of an Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, which had to be at once comprehensive in content and curtailed in exposition, and consequently demanded brevity and compression. It was primarily, as Hegel announces, a handbook for the students attending his lectures, not a completed manual for the enlightened masters of philosophy. It bears, in fact, precisely the same relation to his students at the university which the Propaedeutik had to his pupils at the Gymnasium in Nhrnberg, and fulfils the same purpose and function.[2] It is, therefore, in the nature of such a work that variations in the form of re-statement, modification, and amplification should occur in the successive editions, that it should change as the experience of the teacher suggested and the needs of the student demanded.

The alterations in his Logic must thus be viewed in the light of the general character of the work itself, and cannot, as we have already pointed out, be regarded as indicating any variation in conception or interpretation.

Before passing to indicate the general significance of the result at which Hegel has now arrived, and to deal with some of the more important features of the Logic, we must endeavour to show the relation in which the Logic as a whole stands to the other parts of his system, the Philosophy of Nature and of Mind. Much obscurity has gathered round their connexion, and for this Hegel’s own wavering and insufficient statements are in no slight degree responsible. It seems even surprising that what to the student appears such an essential and important step in the attainment of a complete system should be dismissed in a brief paragraph.

Some light is thrown on the subject if we consider how the problem of their connexion arose. As we pointed out in a previous connexion,[3] Hegel did not start with any one science and its object-matter, and thence proceed to evolve the other sciences out of the first. On the contrary, following tradition, he started from the fact that Nature and Mind were distinct forms of reality, separately dealt with by the different branches of philosophy – Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Mind respectively.

And not only were these assumed at the outset to be distinct from each other, but both were taken also to be distinct from Metaphysic (the other branch of philosophy, however named). No one had philosophical priority over another. It was, therefore, only when the demand for complete system was made that the problem of the connexion between these various parts arose. The primary fact in the history of Hegel’s system is the separation of Logic from Philosophy of Nature and of Mind; it was the ideal of an absolute system which required Hegel to establish a relation between them. The connexion therefore was, in time, a secondary consideration. This to some extent accounts for the apparent discontinuity between Logic and Nature; the kind of connexion subsisting among the elements of the Logic does not lead us to the connexion between Logic and Nature. The latter seems attained by a leap rather than by a gradual transition.

It is further of importance to note that the various forms in which the relation between Logic and Nature is expressed vary with the stages in the history of his system. In the earliest recorded statement[4] of their connexion the fundamental fact is concrete Mind itself. This appears in its first moment as the mere Idea, dealt with in the final part of “Metaphysic,” and in its “other” as Nature, which is thus a realisation of Mind (not of the Idea). The relation between Idea and Nature is explicitly determined from concrete Absolute Mind. In the Phenomenology, [5] again, where the aim is to exhaust all modes in which mind appears, Nature is the form to which Mind passes in order to get rid of the limitation implied in pure self-knowledge. In the latter we have a relation, but a relation is a limitation, and “to know this limitation is to know how to sacrifice it.” To do so, mind breaks down the barrier, externalises[6] itself “in the form of indeterminate events,” and becomes Nature. Nature is here the externalisation of the notion of Mind in its process towards complete realisation. In both the statements, therefore, the explanation starts from concrete Mind.

With the assertion of the supremacy of Logic in his final system, a change of interpretation takes place. Nature is now the direct outcome of the Idea. The Idea even “creates Nature."[7] The attempt is therefore made to pass directly from the notion of Logic as such to Nature. There is a difference between the statement of the relation in the larger Logic (which is on the whole the simplest) and that of the first edition of the Encyclopaedie, and between this again and the third edition; but the general view is at least intended to be the same.[8] The Idea,[9] because embracing all the essential content of reality, has mediated all content, and is thus in itself the sublation of all mediation, i.e., is pure immediacy – the point from which the Logic started. The Idea is in its totality Being, and as such is Nature, for the totality of what is, is simply Nature.

In this process the Absolute Idea in its entirety merely “releases itself"[10] from the “subjectivity” of the pure notion, lets itself be, and it becomes Nature. Here it is evident that the transition has taken this form as the necessary consequence of Hegel’s position that the ultimate meaning of all reality is Notion, and that the fundamental science is Logic, the construction of the philosophy of Nature itself being essentially (like that of the Phenomenology) a logical construction, for the notions mould its material.[11] It is unquestionably, therefore, Hegel’s ostensible purpose to connect Logic with Philosophy of Nature by a direct and immanent transition from one to the other. Only in this way could he claim to have established an absolute system of the different philosophical sciences. It was not sufficient to connect Logic with Nature by some external process; the character of “the only possible method of philosophy” demanded that the connexion should be found in the immediate content of Logic itself.

But while this is Hegel’s express aim, we must carefully note the nature of the relation itself. Hegel distinctly declares (1) that the transition is from the notion of the Logic as a whole (the Absolute Idea) to the notion of Nature as such. Nature is the idea in the form of “otherness."[12] (2) He distinguishes this transition from that between one notion and another in the Logic; for the Absolute Idea cannot as such have any further determination, for every determination is already in it. It is complete in itself, absolutely self-determinate.[13] And, indeed, it is evident that the Logic cannot at once be the closed system it claims to be, and yet require as a science some completion from without. Moreover, in addition to these express statements of Hegel’s, we may point out (1) that even if the Logic were not in itself complete, Nature as such could not be the step which would furnish completeness. For the content of Nature is per se distinct from that of the Logic; as Hegel admits, relatively to Nature, Logic is a “formal” science, philosophy of Nature being “concrete."[14] But if Nature were in this sense necessary to Logic, its content would have to be homogeneous with that of the latter. (2) Again, if the Logic actually covers, as it professes to do, the whole of reality, then all the essentially constitutive elements of Nature must be found in the Logic. And this is actually the case. The determining notions of Nature are “Mechanism,” “Chemism,” and “Teleology” (Life), and these fall inside the analysis of the Logic. If, as Hegel declares,[15] the notions are the archetypes of Nature, or if Nature be, as he elsewhere expresses himself, an “applied Logic,"[16] it is plain that its content must be dealt with by the Logic. But this being the case, so far from Philosophy of Nature completing the content of Logic, its own content must in some sense be already contained within the Logic. Similarly, mutatis mutandis, of Mind. (3) Furthermore, it has to be observed that if the “Idea” in its entirety is to pass over into Nature as its truth (in the sense required by the method), then we ought, as in every other case of the application of the method, to find contained in the higher truth all the content of the preceding moment. But as a matter of fact all the content of the Logic is not found sublated in that of Nature. Nature does not contain, e.g., the notions of “Knowledge,” “Goodness,” or even those of the “Absolute,” or “Actuality.” For this reason the relation of Logic to Nature cannot be considered to be determined by the method in the same way as the relation between the parts of the Logic itself. Hence both from a consideration of the actual character of the two sciences, as well as from Hegel’s own words, we see that the connexion between them cannot be regarded as the same as that of a transition of one notion to another.

What, then, is the connexion? There seems only one view which will at once do justice to Hegel’s intention (i.e., to attain absolute system) and take account of the qualifications above noted. It has to be admitted that Hegel sought to determine the relation of the three philosophical sciences by precisely the same method as operated in each separately.

At the same time each of these sciences was by the nature of its specific content distinct from the other. Hence the first point to note is that the connexion between them is really established outside each science specifically; one science is not the continuation of the other. The connexion is between each science as a whole, and the next in its entirety; and for this reason alone the determination of their connexion cannot be looked for in each science itself which contains all the content of that science. Thus we must look upon that part of each science (Logic or Nature), where the connexion is stated, not as dictated by the actual science itself, but by another point of view, that, namely, of the entire system of philosophical sciences. Or, to put it otherwise, the connexion between Idea and Nature (or Nature and Mind) does not really originate with Idea itself (or in the other case with Nature), but with the concrete Absolute Mind of which all these are moments, and which underlies them all. This will account for the fact (otherwise somewhat inexplicable), that in the section of Logic (as of Nature) preceding that in which the “transition” is stated, the last stage of Logic (as of Nature) is expressly determined, and the Logic, therefore, strictly concluded, while in the next section we are led to regard the Logic as in a sense not yet in reality completed. The connexion will on this view lie not between the last notion of the one and the first of the other, but between the notion of the whole of the one and that of the whole of the other.

This being so, the relation is brought about by the same method we have hitherto known. We start with the Absolute Mind, which is the one all-containing Reality. We have then, first, this Mind in itself, in its pure self-identity, its mere universality. This is the Notion of Mind as such, i.e., the Notion of Notion – the Absolute Idea. But the Absolute in its bare identity, its naked universality, implies and demands the Absolute as mere difference, mere particularity. Pure difference is pure diversity, and pure diversity is mere externality, “out-of-one-another-ness.” But this precisely describes Nature with its absolute multiplicity, its mere diversity, in Space and Time. From this the next step is easy. The discrete moments collapse into their primal unity, which is both the inwardness of the Notion and the outwardness of Nature, mere reference to itself, and mere reference to another – self-reference, or concrete Mind.

The above seems an explanation of Hegel’s meaning, which is at once sympathetic and intelligible. We thus see why Hegel should adopt different terms in stating this relation from those used in relating other notions. For the conception of Mind “expressing” itself in its diversity is for the most part accurately represented by such Phrases as Entäuszerung, Entlassen, by which he describes the process. And this explanation, too, does justice to the early as well as the later attempts to express this connexion, that of the Phenomenology no less than that of the various editions of the Logic.

We have, however, to guard ourselves against an error. The above must be regarded not as stating a process which actually “takes place” in the life of the Absolute, – this is almost too gross a misunderstanding.

“Taking place” holds only of nature where of everything we can say “it occurs,” and therefore cannot hold of the Absolute. The Absolute is not first pure Notion and then pure Difference. Nature is never separated realiter from Mind. The relation as stated is simply the attempt to determine for speculative science the inner connexion amongst the constitutive elements of Ultimate Reality, by a principle and method of explanation held to be universally valid.[17] Such, then, is the place of the Logic in Hegel’s final system of philosophy.

Notes On the different statements of the relation of Logic to Nature.

The first of these is given in the Phenomenology, p. 590 ff. After stating that in Absolute Knowledge mind has “the highest freedom and certainty of its knowledge of itself,” Hegel proceeds: “Still this expresses the relation between certainty of self and the object, which, because standing in relation, has not obtained its complete freedom. The knowledge in question not only knows itself but its own negative as well, i.e., knows its limit. To know its limit means to know how to sacrifice itself.

This sacrifice is externalisation, wherein mind comes expressly to be mind through the medium of the free caprice of events, and beholds simply its self externally as Time, and similarly its existence as Space.

This last process (is) Nature.” In Logik, iii. p. 342, 343 the statement runs: “In that the Idea establishes itself as absolute unity of the pure notion and its reality, and thus encloses itself in the immediacy of Being, it is Nature, the totality in the form of Being. In this, however, there has been no becoming, no transition, like what is found when the subjective notion in its totality becomes objectivity.... The pure Idea... is rather absolute liberation, for which there is no further immediate determination, which is not just as much secured within it, and already notion. No transition, therefore, takes place in this liberation; mere Being by which the Idea characterises itself remains for it perfectly transparent, it is notion remaining within itself in a determination of its own. The process then must be rather taken to be this: that the Idea freely lets itself go, in perfect security and at home with itself. Having regard to this freedom, the form which it definitely assumes is likewise entirely free, namely, the absolutely self-sufficient externality of Space and Time.” The relation is stated in a slightly different form in the first edition of the Encyclopaedia, §191: “The Speculative Idea,” Hegel says, “being for itself Idea, is thereby infinite actuality, which in this absolute freedom does not merely pass over into Life, nor does it, as is the case with finite knowledge, see Life in a reflected form. But rather, remaining absolutely true to itself, it decides (sich entschlieszt) to let go (entlassen) the moment of its particularity, i.e., the form in which it first exists as determinate and as other, (which moment is the Idea in its immediacy, its own reflex); and thus lets itself go freely out of itself in the form of Nature.” The last part of the statement in the first edition is precisely the same as that in the last part of the relevant paragraph in the third edition, §244. There is some difference in the first part, which in the third edition appears in this form: “The Idea, which is for itself, when looked at in its unity with itself, is direct insight (Abschauen); and the Idea with this insight (die anschauende Idee) is Nature. Being in the form of insight, however, the Idea stands in the one-sidedness of immediacy, or negated by external reflexion. But the absolute freedom of the Idea is that it does not merely pass over into Life, etc.... ut supra.


1. v. note B, Chap. viii.

2. The publication of an Encyclopaedia at all may have been suggested by the use of the Propaedeutik at the Gymnasium.

3. pp. 22 ff., 64 ff.

4. Ros. Leben, p. 113.

5. Phän. pp. 589, 590.

6. Entäuszerung.

7. Log. iii. 26.

8. v. Note, p. 321.

9. Log. iii. 342, 343.

10. Sich entläszt.

11. Log. iii. 26, “... diese concreten Wissenschaften (of Nature and Mind) welche das Logische oder den Begriff zum innern Bildner haben und behalten, wie sie es zum Vorbildner batten.”

12. Ency. § 247.

13. Log. iii. 342.

14. Log. iii. 26.

15. v. p. 316, note 2.

16. Ency. § 24; too much stress cannot be laid on this expression.

17. Hence it is that (v. Ency. §§ 575-577) Hegel represents the relation between Logic, Nature, and Mind as a Syllogism, where ground, middle, and conclusion can be alternately Logic, Nature, or Mind.

These paragraphs also seem to bear out the view we have taken above of the way in which we must regard the relation of Logic, Philosophy of Nature, and Philosophy of Mind.