The Meaning of Hegel's Logic

X: The Dialectical Method

Lenin's "Elements of Dialectics"

Lenin summaries the dialectical method in his Philosophical Notebooks as follows:

  1. "The determination of the concept out of itself [the thing itself must be considered in its relations and in its development];
  2. the contradictory nature of the thing itself (the other of itself), the contradictory forces and tendencies in each phenomenon;
  3. the union of analysis and synthesis".

And in greater detail as follows:

  1. "the objectivity of consideration (not examples, not divergencies, but the Thing-in-itself).
  2. the entire totality of the manifold relations of this thing to others.
  3. the development of this thing, (phenomenon, respectively), its own movement, its own life.
  4. the internally contradictory tendencies (and sides) in this thing.
  5. the thing (phenomenon, etc) as the sum and unity of opposites.
  6. the struggle, respectively unfolding, of these opposites, contradictory strivings, etc.
  7. the union of analysis and synthesis - the breakdown of the separate parts and the totality, the summation of these parts.
  8. the relations of each thing (phenomenon, etc.) are not only manifold, but general, universal. Each thing (phenomenon, etc.) is connected with every other.
  9. not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?].
  10. the endless process of the discovery of new sides, relations, etc.
  11. the endless process of the deepening of man's knowledge of the thing, of phenomena, processes, etc., from appearance to essence and from less profound to more profound essence.
  12. from co-existence to causality and from one form of connection and reciprocal dependence to another, deeper, more general form.
  13. the repetition at a higher stage of certain features, properties, etc., of the lower and
  14. the apparent return to the old (negation of the negation).
  15. the struggle of content with form and conversely. The throwing off of the form, the transformation of the content.
  16. the transition of quantity into quality and vice versa (15 and 16 are examples of 9)".
    [Philosophical Notebooks, Volume 38, Lenin's Collected Works, p221]

Lenin's list is as good as any. It might be rewarding to return to this checklist from time to time while reading Hegel.

One could hardly do better, either, than Marx's famous reaffirmation of Hegel's gains

Theses on Feuerbach


The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism (that of Feuerbach included) is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism -- which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such.

Feuerbach wants sensuous objects, really distinct from the thought objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective activity. Hence, in Essence of Christianity, he regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-judaical manifestation. Hence he does not grasp the significance of "revolutionary", of "practical-critical", activity.


The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth -- i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.


The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.

The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.


Feuerbach starts out from the fact of religious self-alienation, of the duplication of the world into a religious world and a secular one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis.

But that the secular basis detaches itself from itself and establishes itself as an independent realm in the clouds can only be explained by the cleavages and self-contradictions within this secular basis. The latter must, therefore, in itself be both understood in its contradiction and revolutionised in practice. Thus, for instance, after the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be destroyed in theory and in practice.


Feuerbach, not satisfied with abstract thinking, wants contemplation; but he does not conceive sensuousness as practical, human-sensuous activity.


Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human essence. But the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual.

In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.

Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence, is consequently compelled:

  1. To abstract from the historical process and to fix the religious sentiment as something by itself and to presuppose an abstract -- isolated -- human individual.
  2. Essence, therefore, can be comprehended only as "genus", as an internal, dumb generality which naturally unites the many individuals.


Feuerbach, consequently, does not see that the "religious sentiment" is itself a social product, and that the abstract individual whom he analyses belongs to a particular form of society.


All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.


The highest point reached by contemplative materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.


The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity.


The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.


For my part, I have identified the following features of the dialectical method:

  1. The validity of things as moments or stages of development;
  2. Not definitions, but the genesis of a thing;
  3. Knowledge begins with Immediate perception, but all knowledge is mediated: Being is Nothing;
  4. The objective immanent movement of a thing itself;
  5. Both phenomenon and essence are objective;
  6. Subjection of all concepts to criticism the source of movement and change is internal to external;
  7. The Conception of a thing as a Unity of Opposites;
  8. The discovery of the internal contradictions within a thing;
  9. Practice is the Criterion of Truth;
  10. Not the Thing or its Other but the Transition between them;
  11. The Absolute is Relative and there is an Absolute within the Relative;
  12. Negation of Negation: the retention of the positive within the negative;
  13. Quantitative change at a certain point becomes qualitative change;
  14. The struggle of form and content, the content is also a form, the shedding of form and the transformation of content into form and form into content;
  15. Cause and effect are relative moments, merged and canceled in actuality;
  16. Chance and necessity are relative moments, merged and canceled in actuality;
  17. All that is rational is real, all that is real is rational and all that is real deserves to perish;
  18. Freedom is the understanding of Necessity;
  19. The truth of actuality is a concept;
  20. Knowledge proceeds from Abstract to Concrete;
  21. The truth is concrete;
  22. Subjectivity is also Objective, objectivity includes the subject;
  23. Analysis and Synthesis are inseparable, the alternation between synthesis and analysis;
  24. The Means is realised in the End, the End is realised in the Means;
  25. Life is Cognition;
  26. Theory is the comprehension of Practice.