Hegel’s Science of Logic

Essence - Ground

Chapter 3 Ground

§ 964

Essence determines itself as ground.

Just as nothing is at first in simple immediate unity with being, so here too the simple identity of essence is at first in immediate unity with its absolute negativity. Essence is only this its negativity, which is pure reflection. It is this pure negativity as the return of being into itself; as such, it is determined in itself, or for us, as ground in which being is dissolved. But this determinateness is not posited by essence itself; in other words, essence is not ground except in so far as it has itself posited this its determinateness. Its reflection, however, consists in its positing and determining itself as that which it is in itself, as a negative. The positive and negative constitute that determination of essence in which essence is lost in its negation. These self-subsistent determinations of reflection sublate themselves, and the determination that has fallen to the ground [zugrunde gegangene] is the true determination of essence.

§ 965

Consequently, ground is itself one of the reflected determinations of essence; but it is the last of them, or rather the meaning of this determination is merely that it is a sublated determination. The reflected determination, in falling to the ground, acquires its true meaning, namely, to be within itself the absolute recoil upon itself, that is to say, the positedness that belongs to essence is only a sublated positedness, and conversely, only self-sublating positedness is the positedness of essence. Essence, in determining itself as ground, is determined as the non-determined; its determining is only the sublating of its being determined. Essence, in being determined thus as self-sublating, has not proceeded from another, but is, in its negativity, self-identical essence.

§ 966

In so far as the determination of a first, an immediate, is the starting point of the advance to ground (through the nature of the determination itself which sublates itself or falls to the ground), ground is, in the first instance, determined by that first. But this determining is, on the one hand, as a sublating of the determining, only the restored, purified or manifested identity of essence which the reflected determination is in itself; on the other hand it is this negating movement as a determining that first posits that reflected determinateness which appeared as immediate, but which is posited only by the self-excluding reflection of ground and therein is posited as only a posited or sublated determination. Thus essence, in determining itself as ground, proceeds only from itself. As ground, therefore, it posits itself as essence, and it is in positing itself as essence that its determining consists. This positing is the reflection of essence, a reflection which in its determining sublates itself, on that side is a positing, on this side is the positing of essence, hence both in a single act.

§ 967

Reflection is pure mediation in general, ground is real mediation of essence with itself. The former, the movement of nothing through nothing back to itself, is the reflection of itself in an other; but because the opposition in the reflection has not as yet any self-subsistence, the one that reflects is not a positive, nor is the other in which it is reflected a negative. Both are substrates, strictly speaking, only of imagination; they are not as yet self-related determinations. Pure mediation is only pure relation, without any related terms. Determining reflection, it is true, posits determinations that are self-identical, but at the same time they are only determinate relations. Ground, on the other hand, is real mediation because it contains reflection as sublated reflection; it is essence that, through its non-being, returns into and posits itself. In accordance with this moment of sublated reflection, the posited receives the determination of immediacy, of an immediate that, apart from the relation, or its illusory being, is self-identical. This immediate is being which has been restored by essence, the non-being of reflection through which essence mediates itself. Essence returns into itself as a negating activity; therefore in its return into itself, it gives itself determinateness, which is for this very reason the self-identical negative, sublated positedness, and consequently is equally an affirmative being [seiendes] as the identity of essence with itself as ground.

§ 968

Ground is first, absolute ground, in which essence is, in the first instance, a substrate for the ground relation; but it further determines itself as form and matter and gives itself a content.

Secondly, it is a determinate ground as ground of a determinate content; in that the ground relation in its realisation as such becomes external to itself, it passes over into conditioning mediation.

Thirdly, ground presupposes a condition; but the condition no less presupposes the ground; the unconditioned is their unity, the fact in itself, which through the mediation of the conditioning relation passes over into Existence.

Remark: The Law of Ground

§ 969

Ground, like the other determinations of reflection, has been expressed in the form of a law: everything has its sufficient ground. This means in general nothing else but: what is, is not to be regarded as a merely affirmative immediate but as something posited; we must not stop at immediate determinate being or determinateness as such, but must go back from this into ground, in which reflection-into-self in contrast to mere being is expressed. To add that the ground must be sufficient is really quite superfluous for it is self-evident; that for which the ground is not sufficient would not have a ground, but everything is supposed to have a ground. Leibnitz, however, who had the principle of the sufficient ground very much at heart and even made it the basis of his entire philosophy, associated with it a profounder meaning and more important concept than is usually connected with it when no advance is made beyond the immediate expression; although even with this meaning, the law must be considered important, for it declares being as such in its immediacy to be untrue and essentially something posited, and ground is declared to be the true immediate. But Leibnitz opposed the sufficiency of ground mainly to causality in its strict sense as mechanical mode of action. Since this is an altogether external activity, restricted as regards content to a single determinateness, the determinations are comprehended by their causes, but their connection, which constitutes the essential feature of an existent, is not contained in causes belonging to the sphere of mechanism. This relationship in which the whole is an essential unity, lies only in the Notion, in end. Mechanical causes are not sufficient for this unity because their basis is not end as the unity of the determinations. Accordingly, by sufficient ground, Leibnitz understood one that was also sufficient for this unity and which therefore comprehended not merely causes, but final causes.

But this is not yet the proper place for this determination of ground; teleological ground is a property of the Notion and of mediation by the Notion, which is reason.


(a) Form and Essence

§ 970

The determination of reflection, in so far as it withdraws into ground, is a first, an immediate determinate being in general, which forms the starting point. But determinate being still has only the meaning of positedness and essentially presupposes a ground-in the sense that it does not really posit a ground, that this positing is a sublating of itself, that really it is the immediate that is the posited, and ground the not-posited. As we have seen, this presupposing is positing that recoils on that which posits: ground, as the determination that has been sublated, is not indeterminate; it is essence determined through itself, but determined as undetermined, or as a sublated positedness. Ground is essence that in its negativity is identical with itself.

§ 971

The determinateness of essence as ground is therefore twofold, that of ground and the grounded. It is first, essence as ground, determined as essence over against positedness, determined, that is, as a not-positedness. Secondly, it is the grounded, the immediate, which however is not in and for itself; it is positedness qua positedness. This, therefore, is likewise self-identical, but is the identity of the negative with itself. The self-identical negative and the self-identical positive is now one and the same identity. For ground is the identity of the positive or even of positedness, too, with itself; the grounded is positedness qua positedness, but this its reflection-into-self is the identity of the ground. This simple identity is therefore not itself ground, for ground is essence posited as the not-posited over against positedness. As the unity of this determinate identity (of the ground) and of the negative identity (of the grounded), it is essence as such as distinguished from its mediation.

§ 972

This mediation, compared with the preceding reflection from which it has proceeded, is first, not pure reflection, which is not distinguished from essence and is the negative, consequently also does not as yet contain the independence of the determinations. In ground as sublated reflection, however, these determinations do persist. Nor is it determining reflection, whose determinations have an essential self-subsistence; for this has fallen to the ground [zugrunde gegangen] in the ground, in whose unity the determinations are only posited ones. This mediation of the ground is therefore the unity of the pure and the determining reflection; their determinations or the posited, has a subsistence, and conversely, their subsistence is a posited. Because this their subsistence is itself a posited or has a determinateness, they are distinguished from their simple identity, and constitute the form as against essence.

§ 973

Essence has a form and determinations of the form. It is only as ground that it has a fixed immediacy or is a substrate [Substrat]. Essence as such is one with its reflection and inseparable from the movement of reflection itself. Consequently, it is not essence through which the reflective movement runs; nor is essence a first from which reflection begins. This circumstance makes the exposition of reflection in general more difficult; for we cannot really say that essence withdraws into itself, that essence inwardly reflects itself, because it is not before or in its movement, and this has no substrate on which it runs its course. A related determination only makes its appearance in ground conformably to the moment of sublated reflection. But essence as related substrate is determinate essence; by virtue of this positedness it essentially contains form. The form determinations, on the other hand, are now determinations as in essence; the latter lies at their base as the indeterminate which, in its determination, is indifferent towards them; in it they have their reflection-into-self. The determinations of reflection ought to have their subsistence within themselves and to be self-subsistent; but their self-subsistence is their dissolution; they have it in an other; but this dissolution is itself this self-identity or the ground of their subsistence that they give to themselves.

§ 974

To form belongs in general everything determinate; it is a form determination in so far as it is something posited and consequently distinct from that of which it is the form; determinateness as quality is one with its substrate, with being; being is the immediately determinate that is not yet distinct from its determinateness-or which in it is not yet reflected into itself, and this determinateness, therefore, is a simply affirmative [seiende], not yet a posited, one. Further, the form-determinations of essence, as determinatenesses of reflection, are, in their more precise determinateness, the moments of reflection considered above, identity and difference, the latter partly as diversity, partly as opposition. But, again, the ground relation also belongs to form since, although it is the sublated determination of reflection, essence is thereby made into something posited. On the other hand, the identity possessed by ground does not belong to form, for in this, positedness as sublated and positedness as such — ground and the grounded — is a single reflection that constitutes essence as the simple substrate which is the subsisting of form. But this subsistence is posited in ground; or this essence is essentially determinate and is thus once again the moment of ground-relation and form. This is the absolute reciprocal relation of form and essence, that essence is this simple unity of ground and grounded, but in this very unity is itself determined, or a negative, and distinguishes itself as substrate from form, but thus at the same time itself becomes ground and moment of form.

§ 975

Form is therefore the completed whole of reflection; it also contains this determination of reflection, namely, to be a sublated determination; consequently, as well as being a unity of its determining, it is also just as much related to its sublatedness, to an other which is not itself form, but form is in it. As essential self-related negativity over against this simple negative, form is the positing and determining principle; simple essence, on the other hand, is the indeterminate and inactive substrate in which the form-determinations subsist and are reflected into themselves. External reflection usually does not go beyond this distinction of essence and form; the distinction is necessary, but this distinguishing is itself their unity, just as this basic unity is essence which repels itself from itself and makes itself into a positedness. Form is absolute negativity or negative absolute self-identity through which precisely essence is not being but essence. This identity, taken abstractly, is essence as against form; just as negativity, taken abstractly, as positedness, is the single determination of form. But the determination, as we have seen, is, in its truth, the total, self-related negativity which, therefore, as this identity is in its own self simple essence. Consequently, form has in its own identity essence, just as essence has in its negative nature absolute form.

§ 976

The question cannot therefore be asked, how form is added to essence, for it is only the reflection of essence into essence itself, essence's own immanent reflection. Form is in its own self equally the. reflection. That returns into itself, or identical essence; in its determining, form s the determination into positedness make as positedness. It does not therefore determine essence as if truly presupposed by the latter and as if separate from it, for thus it is the unessential determination of reflection that hastens without pause to destruction., on the contrary, it is itself the ground of its sublating or the identical connection of its determinations. To say that form determines essence means, therefore, that form in its distinguishing sublates this very distinguishing and is the self-identity which essence is as the subsistence of the determination; it is the contradiction of being sublated in its positedness and of persisting in this sublatedness; it is accordingly ground as the essence that, in being determined or negated, is identical with itself.

§ 977

These distinctions of form and essence are therefore only moments of the simple form relation itself. But they are to be more closely considered and held fast. The determining form is self-related as a sublated positedness, and is therefore related to its identity as to an other. It posits itself as sublated; in doing so it presupposes its identity; according to this moment, essence is the indeterminate for which form is an other. As such, it is not essence, which is in its own self absolute reflection, but is determined as formless identity; it is matter.

(b) Form and Matter

§ 978

Essence becomes matter in that its reflection is determined as relating itself to essence as to the formless indeterminate. Matter is therefore the differenceless identity which is essence, with the determination of being the other form. It is consequently the real basis or substrate of form, because it constitutes the reflection-into-self of the form-determinations, or the self-subsistent element to which the latter are related as to their positive subsistence.

§ 979

1. If abstraction is made from every determination, from all form of anything, what is left over is indeterminate matter. Matter is a sheer abstraction. (Matter cannot be seen, felt, and so on — what is seen, felt, is a determinate matter, that is, a unity of matter and form). This abstraction from which matter proceeds is, however, not merely an external removal and sublating of form, rather does form, as we have seen, spontaneously reduce itself to this simple identity.

§ 980

Further, form presupposes a matter to which it relates itself. But the two are not on that account simply present as externally and contingently opposite to one another; neither matter nor form is self-originated, or, in another terminology, eternal Matter is that which is indifferent to form, but this indifference is the determinateness of self-identity into which form withdraws as into its basis. Form presupposes matter in the very fact that it posits itself as sublated and consequently relates itself to this its identity as to an other. Conversely, form is presupposed by matter; for the latter is not simple essence, which is immediately itself absolute reflection, but it is essence determined as the positive, that is, essence that only is as sublated negation. But from the other side, because form posits itself as matter only in so far as it sublates, hence presupposes, matter, matter is also determined as a groundless subsistence. Equally matter is not determined as the ground of form; but since matter posits itself as the abstract identity of the sublated form determination, it is not identity as ground, and, in so far, form is groundless relatively to it. Form and matter alike are accordingly determined as being not posited by one another, as not being the ground of one another. Matter is rather the identity of the ground and the grounded, as a basis which stands over against this form relation. This their common determination of indifference is the determination of matter as such and constitutes, too, the mutual connection of both. Similarly, the determination of form to be the relation of the two as distinct sides, is also the other moment of their mutual relationship. Matter, the indifferently determinate, is the passive side over against form as the active side. The latter, as the self-related negative is the internal contradiction: it is self-resolving, self-repelling and self-determining. It relates itself to matter and is posited as relating itself to this its subsistence as to an other. Matter, on the other hand, is posited as being related only to itself and as indifferent to other; but it is implicitly related to form; for it contains sublated negativity and is matter only through this determination. It is related to form as to an other only because form is not posited in it, because it is only implicitly form. Matter contains form locked up within it and is absolute susceptibility to form only because it has form absolutely within itself, only because form is its implicit determination. Matter must therefore be formed, and form must therefore materialise itself, must give itself in matter self-identity or subsistence.

§ 981

2. Hence form determines matter, and matter is determined by form. Now because form itself is absolute identity-with-self and therefore contains matter within it, and equally, because matter in its pure abstraction or absolute negativity possesses within itself form, therefore the action of form on matter and the passivity of matter in its determining by form is, in effect, only the removal of the illusion of their indifference and distinguishedness. This relation of the determining Is thus the mediation of each with itself through its own non-being; but these two mediations are one movement and the restoration of their original identity-the inwardising of their outwardness. [Entäusserung.]

§ 982

At first, form and matter presuppose one another. As we have seen, this simply means that the one essential unity is negative self-relation which thus sunders itself into essential identity, determined as the indifferent basis, and into essential difference or negativity, as the determining form. That unity of essence and form that confront one another as form and matter, is the absolute ground that determines itself. The relation, in differentiating itself, becomes by virtue of the fundamental identity of the different sides, reciprocal presupposition.

§ 983

Secondly, form as self-subsistent is, besides, the self-sublating contradiction; but it is also posited as such, for it is at the same time both self-subsistent and essentially related to an other; it thus sublates itself. Since it is itself two-sided, this sublating, too, has a double aspect: first, it sublates its self-subsistence, converts itself into something posited, into something that is in an other, and this its other is matter. Secondly, it sublates its determinateness relatively to matter, its relation to it, and consequently its positedness, and in doing so gives itself a subsistence. Since form sublates its positedness, this its reflection is its own identity into which it passes; but since, at the same time, it divests itself of this identity and opposes itself to itself as matter, this reflection of the positedness into itself is a union with a matter in which it obtains a subsistence; in this union, therefore, it is just as much united with matter as an other — in accordance with the first aspect whereby it converts itself into something posited-as also, in that other, it is united with its own identity.

§ 984

Thus the activity of form through which matter is determined consists in a negative bearing of form towards itself. But, conversely, in doing so, form also bears itself negatively towards matter; yet this activity by which matter is determined is just as much a movement belonging to form itself. Form is free from matter, but it sublates this its self-subsistence; but its self-subsistence is matter itself, for in this it has its essential identity. Therefore the conversion of itself into something posited is the same thing as its making matter into something determinate. But looked at from the other side, form is at the same time divested of its own identity, and matter is its other; and to this extent, matter is also not determined, since form sublates its own self-subsistence. But matter is self-subsistent only as against form; the negative, in sublating itself, also sublates the positive. Form, therefore, having sublated itself, the determinateness which matter has as against form also disappears, namely, to be an indeterminate subsistence.

§ 985

This, which appears as activity of form, is also no less a movement belonging to matter itself. The implicit determination of matter or what it ought to be, is its absolute negativity. Through this, matter is not related to form simply as to an other: on the contrary, this external other is the form that lies concealed within matter itself. Matter is the same internal contradiction that form contains, and this contradiction, like its resolution, is only one. But matter is internally contradictory because, as indeterminate self-identity, it is also absolute negativity; it therefore sublates itself internally and its identity disintegrates in its negativity and the latter obtains from the former its subsistence. Therefore matter, in being determined by form as by something external, thereby achieves its determination, and the externality of the relationship both for form and matter consists in the fact that each, or rather their original unity, in its positing is at the same time presupposing, with the result that the relation to itself is at the same time a relation to itself as sublated, or a relation to its other.

§ 986

Thirdly, through this movement of form and matter, their original unity is, on the one hand, restored, and on the other hand, it is now a posited unity. Matter is just as much self-determined, as this determining is for it an external activity of the form; conversely, form determines only itself or has within itself the matter that is determined by it, just as much as in its determining it relates itself to an other; and both, the activity of form and the movement of matter, are the same, save that the former is an activity, that is, negativity as posited, whereas the latter is a movement or becoming, negativity as an implicit determination. The result is accordingly the unity of implicit being of the in-itself, and positedness. Matter is as such determinate or necessarily has a form, and form is simply material, subsistent form.

§ 987

Form, in so far as it presupposes a matter as its other, is finite. It is not ground but only the active principle. Similarly, matter, in so far as it presupposes form as its non-being, is finite matter; just as little is it ground of its unity with form, but only the basis for form. But this finite matter as well as the finite form has no truth; each relates itself to the other, in other words, only their unity is their truth. Into this unity both these determinations withdraw and therein sublate their self-subsistence: this unity thus demonstrates itself to be their ground. Matter is therefore ground of its form-determination only in so far as it is not matter as matter, but the absolute unity of essence and form; similarly, form is ground of the subsistence of its determinations only in so far as it is the same one unity. But this one unity as absolute negativity, and more specifically, as exclusive unity is, in its reflection, presupposing; or, there is but a single activity: form in its positing both preserves itself, as posited, in the unity, and also repels itself from itself; it is related to itself as itself and also to itself as an other. Or, the process by which matter is determined by form is the mediation of essence as ground with itself in a unity, through its own self and through the negation of itself.

§ 988

Formed matter, or the form that has a subsistence, is now not only this absolute unity of the ground with itself, but also the posited unity. It is the movement just considered in which absolute ground has exhibited its moments as at the same time self-sublating and therefore also as posited. Or the restored unity, in uniting with itself has just as much repelled and determined itself; for since its unity is the outcome of negation, it is also a negative unity. It is therefore the unity of form and matter as their basis, but as their determinate basis, which is formed matter, but which is at the same time indifferent to form and matter, these being sublated and unessential determinations. It is content.

(c) Form and Content

§ 989

At first, form stands opposed to essence; it is then the simple ground relation, and its determinations are the ground and the grounded. Secondly, it stands opposed to matter; it is then determining reflection, and its determinations are the reflected determination itself and the subsistence of the determination. Lastly, it stands opposed to content; and then its determinations are again form itself and matter. What was previously the self-identical — at first ground, then simple subsistence, and finally matter — comes under the dominance of form and is once more one of its determinations.

§ 990

The content is, first, a form and a matter which belong to it and are essential; it is their unity. But since this unity is at the same time a determinate or posited unity, the content stands opposed to the form; this constitutes the positedness and is the unessential over against the content. The latter is therefore indifferent to form; form embraces both form as such and also matter; and the content therefore has a form and a matter of which it is the substrate, and which are to the content a mere positedness.

§ 991

The content is, secondly, the identical element in form and matter, so that these would be only indifferent external determinations. They are positedness in general which, however, in it the content has withdrawn into its unity or its ground. The identity of the content with itself is, therefore, first that identity which is indifferent to the form; but secondly, it is the identity of the ground. The ground has, in the first instance, vanished in the content; but the content is at the same time the negative reflection of the form-determinations into themselves; therefore its unity which is, at first, only the unity that is indifferent to the form, is also the formal unity or the ground relation as such. The content has, therefore, the latter for its essential form, and the ground conversely has a content.

§ 992

The content of the ground is, therefore, the ground that has returned into its unity with itself; ground is at first the essence that in its positedness is self-identical; as different from and indifferent to its positedness it is indeterminate matter; but as content it is also formed identity and this form becomes ground relation because the determinations of its opposition are also posited as negated in the content. Further, the content is determinate in its own self; not merely like matter as the indifferent in general but as formed matter, so that the determinations of form have a material indifferent subsistence. On the one hand, content is the essential identity of ground with itself in its positedness; on the other hand, it is the posited identity over against the ground relation; this positedness, which is present in this identity as a form-determination, stands over against the free positedness, that is to say, over against the form as a whole relation of ground and grounded; this form is the total positedness that has returned into itself, and the former is therefore only positedness as immediate, determinateness as such.

§ 993

The ground has thereby simply converted itself into determinate ground, and the determinateness itself is twofold: first, that of form, and secondly, that of content. The former is its determinateness of being external to the content as such which is indifferent to this relation. The latter is the determinateness of the content possessed by the ground.

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