Hegel’s Science of Logic

Essence - Ground


(a) Formal Ground

§ 994

The ground has a determinate content. The determinateness of the content is, as we have seen, the substrate for the form, the simple immediate over against the mediation of the form. The ground is negatively self-related identity, which thereby makes itself into positedness; it is negatively related to itself, in that it is self-identical in this its negativity; this identity is the substrate or the content, which in this way constitutes the indifferent or positive unity of the ground relation and is the mediating principle of this unity.

§ 995

In this content, the determinateness of the ground and the grounded over against one another has at first vanished. But the mediation is further a negative unity. The negative element in the above indifferent substrate is the latter's immediate determinateness whereby the ground has a determinate content. But then this negative element is the negative relation of the form to itself. On the one hand, what has been posited sublates itself and withdraws into its ground; but the ground, the essential self-subsistence, relates itself negatively to itself and makes itself into a positedness. This negative mediation of the ground and the grounded is the characteristic mediation of the form as such, formal mediation. Now both sides of the form, because each passes over into the other, mutually posit themselves as sublated in one identity; in doing so they at the same time presuppose this identity. It is the determinate content to which, therefore, the formal mediation is related through itself as to the positive mediating principle. This content is the identical element of both, and since they are distinguished, but each in its difference is relation to the other, it is their subsistence, the subsistence of each as the whole itself.

§ 996

It follows from the above that what is present in the determinate ground is this: first, a determinate content is considered from two sides in so far as it is posited first as ground and again as the grounded. The content itself is indifferent to this form; in both it is simply one determination only. Secondly, the ground itself is just as much a moment of the form as that which is posited by it; this is its identity in respect of the form. It does not matter which of the two determinations is made the first, whether the transition is made from the posited to the other as ground, or from the one as ground to the other as the posited. The grounded considered on its own is the sublating of itself; through this it makes itself on the one hand into a posited, and is at the same time a positing of the ground. The same movement is the ground as such, it makes itself into a posited and thereby becomes the ground of something, that is, in this movement it is present both as a posited and also first as ground. The posited is the ground that there is a ground, and conversely the ground is therefore a posited. The mediation begins just as much from the one as from the other, each side is just as much ground as posited, and each is the whole mediation or the whole form. Furthermore the whole form itself is, as the self-identical, the substrate of the determinations which are the two sides of the ground and the grounded, and thus form and content are themselves one and the same identity.

§ 997

Because of this identity of the ground and the grounded, both as regards content and form, the ground is sufficient (the sufficiency of the ground being restricted to this relationship); there is nothing in the ground that is not in the grounded, and there is nothing in the grounded that is not in the ground. When we ask for a ground, we want to see the same determination that is content, double, once in the form of something posited, and again in the form of a determinate being reflected into itself, of essentiality.

§ 998

Now since in the determinate ground, the ground and the grounded are each the whole form, and their content, though determinate, is one and the same, it follows that there is as yet no real determination of the sides of the ground, they have no distinct content; the determinateness is as yet only simple, it has not yet passed over into the sides; what is present is the determinate ground at first in its pure form, the formal ground. Because the content is only this simple determinateness which does not possess within itself the form of the ground-relation, this determinateness is the self-identical content, indifferent to the form, which is external to it; the content is other than the form.

Remark: Formal Method of Explanation From Tautological Grounds

§ 999

When reflection, in dealing with determinate grounds, sticks to that form of the ground we have reached here, then the assignment of a ground remains a mere formalism and empty tautology which expresses in the form of reflection-into-self, of essentiality, the same content that is already present in the form of an immediate being, of a being considered as posited. Such an assigning of grounds is therefore accompanied by the same emptiness as the talk which restricts itself to the law of identity. The sciences, especially the physical sciences, are full of tautologies of this kind which constitute as it were a prerogative of science. For example, the ground of the movement of the planets round the sun is said to be the attractive force of the earth and sun on one another. As regards content, this expresses nothing other than what is contained in the phenomenon, namely the relation of these bodies to one another, only in the form of a determination reflected into itself, the form of force. If one asks what kind of a force the attractive force is, the answer is that it is the force that makes the earth move round the sun; that is, it has precisely the same content as the phenomenon of which it is supposed to be the ground; ® the relation of the earth and sun in respect of motion is the identical substrate of the ground and the grounded. When a crystalline form is explained by saying that it has its ground in the particular arrangement which the molecules form with one another, the fact is that the existent crystalline form is this very arrangement that is adduced as ground. In ordinary life, these aetiologies, which are the prerogative of the sciences, count for what they are, tautological empty talk.

§ 1000

To answer the question, why is this person going to town, with the reason, the ground, that it is because there is an attractive force in the town which urges him in that direction, is to give the kind of reply that is sanctioned in the sciences but outside them is counted absurd. Leibniz objected to the Newtonian force of attraction that it was the same kind of occult quality that the scholastics used for the purpose of explanation. Rather is it the opposite objection which must be made to it, namely, that it is a too familiar quality; for it has no other content than the phenomenon itself. What commends this mode of explanation is precisely its great clarity and intelligibility; for there is nothing clearer or more intelligible than that, for example, a plant has its ground in a vegetative, that is, plant-producing force. It could be called an occult quality only in the sense that the ground is supposed to have another content than the thing to be explained, and such a ground is not adduced; the force used for the purpose of explanation is of course a concealed or occult ground in so far as the kind of ground demanded is not adduced. Something is no more explained by this formalism than the nature of a plant is known when I say that it is a plant; or that it has its ground in a plant-producing force; this statement with all its clarity can therefore be called a very occult mode of explanation.

§ 1001

Secondly, as regards form, in this mode of explanation the two opposite directions of the ground relation are present without being apprehended in their determinate relation. The ground is, on the one hand, ground as the reflection-into-self of the determination of the content of the phenomenon which it grounds, on the other hand, it is the posited. It is that from which the phenomenon is to be understood; but conversely, it is the ground that is inferred from the phenomenon and the former is understood from the latter. The main business of this reflection consists, namely, in finding the grounds from the phenomenon, that is, converting the immediate phenomenon into the form of reflected being; consequently the ground, instead of being in and for itself and self-subsistent, is, on the contrary, the posited and derived. Now since in this procedure the ground is derived from the phenomenon and its determinations are based on it, the phenomenon certainly flows quite smoothly and with a favourable wind from its ground. But in this way, knowledge has not advanced a step; its movement is confined within a difference of form which this same procedure inverts and sublates.

§ 1002

Accordingly one of the main difficulties in the study of the sciences in which this method prevails comes from this perverse method of premising as ground what is in fact derived, and then actually placing in the consequents the ground of these supposed grounds. The exposition begins with grounds which are placed in mid-air as principles and primary concepts; they are simple determinations devoid of any necessity in and for themselves; what follows is supposed to be based on them. Therefore he who aims to penetrate such sciences must begin by instilling his mind with these grounds, a distasteful business for reason because it is asked to treat what is groundless as a valid foundation. Success comes most easily when, without much reflection, the principles are simply accepted as given and one then proceeds to use them as fundamental rules of one's understanding. Without this method one cannot make a start; nor without it can any progress be made. But progress is hindered by the fact that it reveals how the method counteracts itself: it proposes to demonstrate in the consequent what is derived, but in fact it is only in the derived that the grounds of the above presuppositions are contained. Also because the consequent shows itself to be the phenomenon from which the ground was derived, this relation in which the phenomenon is presented awakens a distrust of the exposition of it; for the relation presents itself not as expressed in its immediacy but as a support for the ground. But because this again is derived from the phenomenon one demands rather to see it in its immediacy in order to be able to derive the ground from it. In such an exposition, therefore, one does not know how to take either ground or phenomenon. Uncertainty is increased, especially if the exposition is not rigorously consistent but is more honest, by the fact that one comes across traces and features of the phenomenon which point to more and different things than are contained in the principles alone. Lastly, confusion becomes still greater when reflected and merely hypothetical determinations are mingled with immediate determinations of the phenomenon itself, and the former are spoken of as though they belonged to immediate experience. Many who come to these sciences with an honest belief may well imagine that molecules, empty interstices, centrifugal force, the ether, the single, separate ray of light, electrical and magnetic matter, and a host of other such things which are spoken of as though they had an immediate existence, are things or relations actually present in perception. They serve as primary grounds for something else, are enunciated as actualities and confidently applied; one lets them count as such in good faith before coming aware that they are, on the contrary, determinations inferred from that of which they are supposed to be the grounds, hypotheses and fictions derived from an uncritical reflection. In fact, one finds oneself in a kind of witches' circle in which determinations of real being and determinations of reflection, ground and grounded, phenomena and phantoms, run riot in indiscriminate company and enjoy equal rank with one another.

§ 1003

Along with the formal business of this mode of explanation from grounds, we at the same time hear it repeated — in spite of all the explaining based on well-known forces and matters — that we do not know the inner nature (Wesen) of these forces and matters themselves. This amounts only to a confession that this assigning of grounds is itself completely inadequate; that something quite different from such grounds is required. Only then it is not apparent why this trouble is taken with such explaining, why the something quite different is not sought for, or at least why this mode of explanation is not set aside and the facts left to speak for themselves.

(b) Real Ground

§ 1004

As we have seen, the determinateness of the ground is partly determinateness of the substrate or determination of the content, and partly the otherness in the ground-relation itself, namely, the distinction between the content and form; the relation of ground and grounded comes to be an external form imposed on the content which is indifferent to these determinations. But in point of fact the two are not external to one another; for the content is this, to be the identity of the ground with itself in the grounded, and of the grounded in the ground. The side of the ground has shown that it is itself a posited, and the side of the grounded that it is itself ground; each is in itself this identity of the whole. But because they belong at the same time to the form and constitute the form's determinate difference each is, in its determinateness, the identity of the whole with itself. Consequently each has a distinctive content of its own. Or, considered from the side of the content, because this is the identity of the ground-relation with itself, it essentially possesses this difference of the form within itself, and then is, as ground, other than what it is as grounded.

§ 1005

Now since ground and grounded have a distinctive content, the ground relation has ceased to be formal; the retreat into the ground and the emergence from it of the posited is no longer a tautology; the ground is realised. Therefore when we ask for a ground, we really demand that the content of the ground be a different determination from that of the phenomenon whose ground we are seeking.

§ 1006

Now this relation is further determined. Namely, in so far as the two sides have a different content, they are indifferent to one another; each is an immediate, self-identical determination. Further, in their relationship as ground and grounded, the ground, in being reflected into the other as into its positedness, is reflected into itself; the content, therefore, possessed by the side of the ground, is equally in the grounded; the latter, as the posited, has its self-identity and subsistence only in the ground. But apart from this content of the ground, the grounded now also has its own distinctive content and is accordingly the unity of a twofold content. Now this, as the unity of distinct sides, is indeed their negative unity, but because the determinations of the content are mutually indifferent, the unity is only their empty, intrinsically contentless relation, not their mediation; a one or a something as an external combination of them.

§ 1007

Therefore in the real ground relation, what is present is twofold: first, the determination of the content, which is ground, is in continuity with itself in the positedness, so that it constitutes the simple identical element of the ground and the grounded; the grounded thus completely contains within itself the ground, their relation is an undifferentiated essential compactness. Therefore, what more is added in the grounded to this simple essence, is only an unessential form, external determinations of the content which, as such, are free from the ground and are an immediate manifoldness. Of this unessential side, therefore, the essential is not the ground, nor is it ground of the relation of both to one another in the grounded. It is a positively identical that indwells the grounded, but does not posit itself therein in any difference of form, but, as self-related content, is an indifferent positive substrate. Secondly, what is combined with this substrate in the something is an indifferent content, but as the unessential side. The main thing is the relation of the substrate and the unessential manifoldness. But because the related determinations are an indifferent content, this relation is also not ground; true, one of them is determined as essential and the other as unessential or posited content, but as self-related content this form is external to both. The one of the something that constitutes their relation is therefore not a form relation but only an external bond which does not contain the unessential manifold content as posited; it is therefore likewise only a substrate.

§ 1008

Ground, in determining itself as real, consequently breaks up, on account of the diversity of content which constitutes its reality, into external determinations. The two relations, the essential content as the simple immediate identity of the ground and grounded, and then the something as relation of the diversified content, are two different substrates; the self-identical form of the ground, namely, that the something is, on the one hand, essential and, on the other hand, posited, has vanished; the ground relation has thus become external to itself.

§ 1009

Consequently there is now an external ground which brings the diversified content into combination and determines which is ground and which is posited by the ground; this determination does not lie in the double-sided content itself. The real ground is therefore relation to an other, on the one hand, of the content to another content, on the other hand, of the ground relation itself (of the form) to an other, namely, to an immediate, to something not posited by it.

Remark: Formal Method of Explanation From a Ground Distinct From That Which is Grounded

§ 1010

The formal ground-relation contains only one content for ground and grounded; in this identity lies their necessity, but at the same time their tautology. Real ground contains a diversified content; but this brings with it the contingency and externality of the ground relation. On the one hand, that which is considered as the essential and therefore as the fundamental determination, is not the ground of the other determinations connected with it. On the other hand, it is also undetermined which of the several determinations of the content of a concrete thing ought to be taken as essential and as ground; hence the choice between them is free. Thus in the former respect, for example, the ground of a house is its foundation; this is the ground by virtue of the gravity which is inherent in sensuous matter and which is the purely identical principle in both ground and the house which is grounded. Now that there is in heavy matter such a distinction as that of a foundation and a modification distinct from it through which it constitutes a house, this fact is a matter of complete indifference to the heavy matter itself; its relation to other determinations of the content, of the end, of the furnishing of the house, and so on, is external to it; consequently, though it is indeed the foundation, it is not the ground of these determinations. Gravity, which is the ground for a house standing, is no less also the ground for a stone falling; the stone has this ground, gravity, within it; but that the stone has a further determination of its content by virtue of which it is not merely something heavy but a stone, this is external to gravity; further, it is something else that has caused the stone to be placed beforehand at a distance from the body upon which it falls; similarly time, space, and their relation, which is motion, are another content than gravity and can be conceived of without it (as the saying is), and consequently are not essentially posited by it. Gravity is also equally the ground which makes a projectile describe a trajectory opposite to that of a falling body. From the variety of determinations of which it is the ground, it is clear that something else is also required to make it the ground of this or some other determination. ®

§ 1011

When it is said of Nature, that it is the ground of the world, what is called Nature is, on the one hand, one with the world, and the world is nothing but Nature itself. But they are also different, nature being rather the indeterminate, or at least is determinate, only in the universal differences which are laws, the self-identical essence of the world, and before Nature can be the world a multiplicity of determinations must be externally added to it. But these do not have their ground in nature as such; on the contrary, nature is indifferent to them as contingencies. It is the same relationship as when God is characterised as the ground of nature. As ground, he is its essence; nature contains this essence and is identical with it; but nature has yet a further manifoldness which is distinct from the ground itself and is the third in which these two distinct sides are conjoined; that ground is neither ground of the manifoldness distinguished from it nor of its connection with it. The cognition of nature is therefore not from God as ground, for as ground he would only be nature's universal essence, and nature as a determinate essence is not contained in the ground.

§ 1012

Because of this diversity of the content of the ground, or strictly speaking of the substrate, and of what is connected with it in the grounded, the assigning of real grounds is just as much a formalism as the formal ground itself. In the latter, the self-identical content is indifferent to the form; in real ground this is equally true. Now the result of this is, further, that the real ground does not itself indicate which of the manifold determinations ought to be taken as essential. Something is a concrete of manifold determinations which show themselves to be equally fixed and permanent in it. One as much as another can therefore be determined as ground, namely, as essential, compared with which the other is then only a posited. This links up with what has already been mentioned, namely, from the fact that in one case a determination is present as ground of another, it does not follow that this other is posited with it in another case or at all. Punishment, for example, has various determinations: it is retribution, a deterrent example as well, a threat used by the law as a deterrent, and also it brings the criminal to his senses and reforms him. Each of these different determinations has been considered the ground of punishment, because each is an essential determination, and therefore the others, as distinct from it, are determined as merely contingent relatively to it. But the one which is taken as ground is still not the whole punishment itself; this concrete also contains those others which, whilst associated with the ground in the punishment, do not have their ground in the latter. Again, an official has an aptitude for his office, as an individual has relationships with others, has a circle of acquaintances, a particular character, made an appearance in such and such circumstances and on such and such occasions, and so on. Each of these attributes can be, or can be regarded as, the ground for his holding his office; they are a diverse content which is joined together in a third; the form, in which they are determined as being either essential or posited in relation to one another, is external to the content. Each of these attributes is essential to the official because through it he is the specific individual that he is; in so far as the office can be regarded as an external, posited determination, each can be determined as ground relatively to it, but also conversely, they can be regarded as posited and the office as their ground. How they are actually related, that is, in the individual case, this is a determination external to the ground relation and to the content itself; it is a third that imparts to them the form of ground and grounded.

§ 1013

So in general anything can have a variety of grounds; each determination of its content, as self-identical, pervades the whole and can therefore be considered essential; the door is wide open to innumerable aspects, that is, determinations, lying outside the thing itself, on account of the contingency of their mode of connection. Therefore whether a ground has this or that consequent is equally contingent. Moral motives, for example, are essential determinations of the ethical nature, but what follows from them is at the same time an externality distinct from them, which follows and also does not follow from them; it is only through a third that it is attached to them. More accurately this is to be understood in this way, that if the moral motive is a ground, it is not contingent to it whether it has or has not a consequent or a grounded, but it is contingent whether it is or is not made a ground at all. But again, since the content which is the consequent of the moral motive, if this has been made the ground, has the nature of externality, it can be immediately sublated by another externality. Therefore an action may, or may not, issue from a moral motive. Conversely, an action can have various grounds; as a concrete, it contains manifold essential determinations, each of which can therefore be assigned as ground. The search for and assignment of grounds, in which argumentation mainly consists, is accordingly an endless pursuit which does not reach a final determination; for any and every thing one or more good grounds can be given, and also for its opposite; and a host of grounds can exist without anything following from them. What Socrates and Plato call sophistry is nothing else but argumentation from grounds; to this, Plato opposes the contemplation of the Idea, that is, of the subject matter in and for itself or in its Notion. Grounds are taken only from essential determinations of a content, essential relationships and aspects, and of these every subject matter, just like its opposite, possesses several; in their form of essentiality, one is as valid as another; because it does not embrace the whole extent of the subject matter, each is a one-sided ground, the other particular sides having on their part particular grounds, and none of them exhausts the subject matter which constitutes their togetherness [Verknüpfung] and contains them all; none is a sufficient ground, that is, the Notion.

(c) The Complete Ground

§ 1014

1. In real ground, ground as content and ground as relation are only substrates. The former is only posited as essential and as ground; the relation is the something of the grounded as the ' indeterminate substrate of a varied content, a 'togetherness' of ' it which is not its own reflection but an external and therefore only posited reflection. Hence the real ground-relation is rather the ground as sublated; consequently it constitutes rather the side of the grounded or of positedness. But as positedness, the ground itself has now withdrawn into its ground; it is now a grounded and this has another ground. In consequence, the latter so determines itself that, first, it is that which is identical with the real ground as its grounded; in conformity with this determination both sides have one and the same content; and the two determinations of the content and the 'togetherness' in the something are likewise present in the new ground. But secondly, the new ground into which that merely posited, external 'togetherness' has sublated itself is, as its reflection-into-self, the absolute relation of the two determinations of the content.

§ 1015

In consequence of the real ground itself having withdrawn into its ground, the identity of ground and grounded, or formal ground, is restored in it. The resultant ground-relation is therefore the complete ground relation, which embraces both formal and real ground and which mediates the determinations of the content which, in the latter, confront one another as immediate.

§ 1016

2. The ground-relation has thus determined itself more precisely in the following manner. First, something has a ground; it contains the determination of the content which is the ground, and, in addition a second determination, one which is posited by the ground. But each is an indifferent content, so that the one determination is not in its own self ground, nor is the other in its own self that which is grounded by the first; the fact is, that in the immediacy of the content, this relation is a sublated or posited relation and has, as such, its ground in another. This second relation, as different only in respect of form, has the same content as the first, namely, the two determinations of the content, but it is their immediate 'togetherness'. However, the determinations thus connected constitute a simply varied content, and are therefore determined as indifferent to one another; consequently, this relation is not their truly absolute relation in which one of the determinations would be self-identical in positedness, and the other only this positedness of the same self-identical determination.

§ 1017

On the contrary, they are supported by a something which constitutes their merely immediate, not reflected, relation which is, therefore, only a relative ground in relation to the 'togetherness' in the other something. The two somethings are therefore the two distinct relations of the content which have been brought to view. They stand in the identical ground-relation of form; they are one and the same whole content, namely, the two determinations of the content and their relation; they are distinguished only by the kind of this relation, which in the one is an immediate, in the other a posited relation; through this, they are distinguished one from the other as ground and grounded only in respect of form. Secondly, this ground-relation is not merely formal, but also real. The formal ground passes over into real ground as we have seen; the moments of form are reflected into themselves; they are a self-subsistent content, and the ground relation also contains one peculiar content as ground, and another as grounded. The content, in the first instance, constitutes the immediate identity of the two sides of the formal ground which thus have one and the same content. But it also has form within it and is thus a twofold content which has the nature of ground and grounded. One of the two determinations of the two somethings is therefore determined as being, not merely common to them as in an external comparison, but as being their identical substrate and the foundation of their relation. As against the other determination of the content, this determination is essential and is the ground of the other which is posited, namely, in the something, of which the grounded determination is the relation. In the first something, which is the ground-relation, this second determination of the content is immediately and in itself connected with the first. But the other something only contains the one in itself as that in which it is immediately identical with the first something, but the other as the determination posited in it. The former determination of the content is its ground by virtue of its being originally connected with the other determination in. the first something.

§ 1018

The ground-relation of the determinations of the content in the second something is thus mediated by the first, implicit relation of the first something. The inference is as follows: in one something, the determination B is implicitly connected with determination A; therefore, in the second something to which only the one determination A immediately belongs, B is also linked with A. In the second something, not only is this second determination a mediated one, but the fact that its immediate determination is ground is also mediated, namely, by its original connection with B in the first something. This connection is thus the ground of ground A, and the whole ground-relation is, in the second something, a posited or a grounded.

§ 1019

3. Real ground shows itself to be the self-external reflection of ground; the complete mediation of ground is the restoration of its self-identity. But since this self-identity has thereby also acquired the externality of real ground, the formal ground-relation in this unity of itself and real ground is just as much self-positing as self-sublating ground; the ground-relation mediates itself with itself through its negation. First, ground as the original relation, is the relation of immediate content-determinations. The ground-relation, being essential form, its sides are determined as sublated or as moments. Therefore, as form of immediate determinations, it is self-identical relation at the same time that it is the relation of its negation; hence it is ground, not in and for itself, but as relation to the sublated ground-relation. Secondly, the sublated relation or the immediate which, in the original and the posited relation, is the identical substrata, is likewise not in and for itself real ground; on the contrary, it is posited as being ground through that original connection.

§ 1020

The ground-relation in its totality is therefore essentially presupposing reflection; the formal ground presupposes the immediate content determination and this, as real ground, presupposes form. Ground is therefore form as an immediate 'togetherness' but in such a manner that the form repels itself from itself and rather presupposes immediacy, in which it is related to itself as to an other. This immediate is the content determination, the simple ground; but as this, namely, as ground, it is equally repelled from itself and likewise is related to itself as to an other. Thus the total ground-relation has determined itself to be conditioning mediation.

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