Hegel’s Science of Logic


Chapter 1: The Absolute

§ 1162

The simple substantial identity of the absolute is indeterminate, or rather in it every determinateness of essence and Existence, or of being in general, as well as of reflection, has dissolved itself. Accordingly, the process of determining what the absolute is has a negative outcome, and the absolute itself appears only as the negation of all predicates and as the void. But since equally it must be pronounced to be the position of all predicates, it appears as the most formal contradiction. In so far as both the negating and the positing belong to external reflection, this is a formal and unsystematic dialectic which has no difficulty in picking up here and there a variety of determinations, and on the one hand demonstrates with equal ease their finitude and mere relativity as, on the other hand, since it thinks vaguely of the absolute as the totality of determinations, declares these to be immanent in it; at the same time it is unable to raise either the positions or the negations to a genuine unity. But we have to exhibit what the absolute is; but this 'exhibiting' can be neither a determining nor an external reflection from which determinations of the absolute would result; on the contrary, it is the exposition, and in fact the self-exposition, of the absolute and only a display of what it is.


§ 1163

The absolute is not merely being, nor even essence. The former is the first, unreflected immediacy, the latter is reflected immediacy; further, each is a totality within itself but a determinate totality. In essence, being emerges as Existence; and the connection between being and essence has progressed to the relation of inner and outer. The inner is essence, but as totality, which essentially has the determination of connection with being and immediately to be being. The outer is being, but with the essential determination of being connected with reflection, and equally to be immediately a relationless identity with essence. The absolute itself is the absolute unity of both; it is that which constitutes in general the ground of the essential relation which, as relation, merely has not yet withdrawn into this its identity and whose ground is not yet posited.

§ 1164

From this it follows that the determination of the absolute is to be the absolute form, but at the same time not as the identity whose moments are only simple determinatenesses, but as the identity each of whose moments is within itself the totality and hence, as indifferent to the form, is the complete content of the whole. But conversely, the absolute is the absolute content in such a manner that the content, which as such is an indifferent manifoldness, has within it the negative form relation by virtue of which its manifoldness is only one substantial identity.

§ 1165

The identity of the absolute is thus the absolute identity, since each of its parts is itself the whole, or each determinateness is the totality, that is, determinateness as such has become an utterly transparent illusory being, a difference which has vanished in its positedness. Essence, Existence, the world-in-itself, whole, parts, force-these reflected determinations appear to ordinary thinking as a true being which is valid in and for itself; but the absolute as against them is the ground in which they have been engulfed. Now because in the absolute, the form is only simple self-identity, the absolute does not determine itself; for determination is a form difference which, in the first instance, counts as such. But because at the same time it contains all difference and form-determination whatever, or because it is itself the absolute form and reflection, the difference of the content must also appear in it. But the absolute itself is absolute identity; this is its determination, for in it all manifoldness of the world-in-itself and the world of Appearance, or of inner and outer totality, is sublated. In the absolute itself is no becoming, for it is not being; not is it a self-reflecting determining, for it is not essence which determines itself only inwardly; nor is it an uttering or expressing of itself [sich šussern], for it is the identity of inner and outer. But the movement of reflection thus stands over against the absolute identity of the absolute. In this identity it is sublated and thus is only the inner of it; but as inner, it is external to it. At first, therefore, this movement consists only in sublating its act in the absolute. It is the beyond of the manifold differences and determinations and their movement, a beyond which lies at the back of the absolute; consequently, though it accepts them, it also destroys them; it is thus the negative exposition of the absolute previously mentioned. In its true presentation this exposition is the preceding whole of the logical movement of the sphere of being and essence, the content of which has not been raked together from outside as something given and contingent, or submerged in the abyss of the absolute by a reflection alien to that content; on the contrary, it has determined itself internally through its inner necessity, and as being's own becoming and as the reflection of essence, has withdrawn into the absolute as into its ground.

§ 1166

But at the same time this exposition has itself a positive side; for in so far as in it the finite falls to the ground, it demonstrates that its nature is to be connected with the absolute, or to contain the absolute within itself. But this side is not so much the positive exposition of the absolute itself as rather the exposition of the determinations, namely, that these have the absolute for their abyss, but also for their ground, in other words, that which gives a subsistence to them, to the illusory being, is the absolute itself. The illusory being is not nothing, but is a reflection, a relation to the absolute; or, it is illusory being in so far as in it the absolute is reflected. This positive exposition thus arrests the finite before it vanishes and contemplates it as an expression and image of the absolute. But the transparency of the finite, which only lets the absolute be glimpsed through it, ends by completely vanishing; for there is nothing in the finite which could preserve for it a distinction against the absolute; it is a medium which is absorbed by that which is reflected through it.

§ 1167

This positive exposition of the absolute is therefore itself only an illusory activity, a reflective movement [ein Scheinen]; for what is truly positive in the exposition and the expounded content, is the absolute itself. Any further determinations that may occur, the form into which the absolute reflects itself, is a nullity that the exposition picks up from outside and from which it gains a beginning for its activity. Such a determination has, in the absolute, not its beginning, but only its end. Consequently, this expository process though it is an absolute act through its relation to the absolute into which it withdraws, is not so as regards its starting point which is a determination external to the absolute.

§ 1168

But the exposition of the absolute is, in fact, its own act, which begins from itself and arrives at itself. The absolute, merely as absolute identity, is determinate, namely, as the identical; it is posited as such by reflection as against opposition and manifoldness; or it is only the negative of reflection and the process of determining as such. Therefore not only is this expounding of the absolute something imperfect, but so also is this absolute itself which is only arrived at. Or, the absolute that is only an absolute identity, is only the absolute of an external reflection. It is therefore not the absolute absolute but the absolute in a determinateness, or it is attribute.

§ 1169

But the absolute is not merely attribute because it is the subject matter of an external reflection and therefore something determined by it. Or, reflection is not only external to it; but because it is external to it, it is immediately internal to it. The absolute is the absolute only because it is not abstract identity, but the identity of being and essence, or the identity of inner and outer; it is therefore itself the absolute form which makes it reflect itself into itself [es in sich scheinen macht] and determines it into attribute.


§ 1170

The expression which has been used, the absolute absolute, denotes the absolute that in its form has returned into itself, or whose form is identical with its content. The attribute is the merely relative absolute, a connection which signifies simply the absolute in a form determination. For at first, before its completed exposition, the form is only internal, or what is the same thing only external, in general, at first determinate form or negation as such. But because form is at the same time form of the absolute, the attribute is the whole content of the absolute; it is the totality which previously appeared as a world, or as one of the sides of the essential relation, each of which is itself the whole. But the two worlds, the world of Appearance and the world-in-and-for-itself, were supposed to be opposed to each other in their essence. True, one side of the relation was equal to the other, the whole was equal to the parts, the expression of force the same content as force itself, and the outer altogether the same as the inner. But at the same time, each of these two sides was supposed to have as well an immediate subsistence of its own, one as simply affirmative, the other as reflected immediacy. In the absolute, on the other hand, these distinguished immediacies are reduced to an illusory being, and the totality which the attribute is is posited as its true and sole subsistence; but the determination in which it is is posited as unessential subsistence.

§ 1171

The absolute is attribute because as simple absolute identity it is in the determination of identity; now to the determination as such other determinations can be linked, for example, that there are also several attributes. But because absolute identity has only this meaning, not merely that all determinations are sublated but that it is also the reflection that has sublated itself, therefore all determinations are posited in this identity as sublated. Or the totality is posited as absolute, or the attribute has the absolute for its content and subsistence; its form determination, by virtue of which it is attribute, is therefore also posited, immediately as mere illusory being-the negative as a negative. The positive illusory being which the exposition gives itself through the attribute, in that it does not take the finite in its limitation to be something existing in and for itself but dissolves its subsistence in the absolute and extends it into attribute, sublates the very fact that it is attribute; the exposition submerges both the attribute and its distinguishing act in the simple absolute.

§ 1172

But since reflection thus returns from its distinguishing only to the identity of the absolute, it has not at the same time emerged from its externality and reached the veritable absolute. It has only reached determinate, abstract identity, that is, that identity which is in the determinateness of identity. Or, since it is as inner form that reflection determines the absolute into attribute, this determining is something still distinct from the externality; the inner determination does not penetrate the absolute; its utterance or expression is, as something merely posited, to vanish in the absolute.

Form, therefore, whether taken as outer or inner, whereby the absolute might be attribute, is at the same time posited as being something intrinsically null, an external illusory being, or a mere way and manner.


§ 1173

The attribute is first, the absolute as in simple identity with itself. Secondly, it is negation, and this as negation is formal reflection-into-self. These two sides constitute, in the first instance, the two extremes of the attribute, the mean of which is the attribute itself, since it is both the absolute and the determinateness. The second of these extremes is the negative as negative, the reflection which is external to the absolute. Or, in so far as it is taken as the inner of the absolute and it is its own determination to posit itself as mode, then it is the self-externality of the absolute, the loss of itself in the mutability and contingency of being, the accomplished transition of itself into opposites without the return into itself; the multiplicity of form and content determinations lacking the character of totality.

§ 1174

But mode, the externality of the absolute, is not merely this, but externality posited as externality, a mere way and manner, and hence illusory being as illusory being, or the reflection of the form into itself-hence the identity-with-self which the absolute is. Therefore it is in the mode that the absolute is in fact first posited as absolute identity; it is what it is, namely identity-with-self, only as self-related negativity, as a reflective movement [Scheinen] that is posited as reflective movement.

§ 1175

In so far then as the exposition of the absolute begins from its absolute identity, and passes over to attribute and from that on to mode, it has in its course completely run through all its moments. But first, in doing so its relationship to these determinations is not merely negative, but this its act is the reflective movement itsey, and it is only as this that the absolute is truly absolute identity. Secondly, in this activity the exposition is not dealing merely with something external, nor is mode merely the uttermost externality, but because it is illusory being as illusory being it is the return-into-self, the self-dissolving reflection and it is as this that the absolute is absolute being. Thirdly, the expounding reflection seems to begin from its own determinations and from something external, and to take up the modes and also the determinations of the attribute as simply found outside the absolute; and its act seems to consist in merely tracing these back into an indifferent identity. But in fact it has in the absolute itself the determinateness from which it begins. For the absolute as first indifferent identity is itself only the determinate absolute or attribute, because it is the unmoved, still unreflected absolute. This determinateness, because it is determinateness, belongs to the reflective movement; through this alone is it determined as the first identity, and equally through this alone does it have absolute form and is not that which merely is equal to itself, but is that which posits itself as equal to itself.

§ 1176

Accordingly the true meaning of mode is that it is the absolute's own reflective movement, a determining; but a determining which would make it not an other but only that which it already is, the transparent externality which is the manifestation of itself, a movement out of itself, but such that this being-outwards is equally inwardness itself and therefore equally a positing that is not merely positedness but absolute being.

§ 1177

When therefore a content of the exposition is asked for, what then does the absolute manifest? the answer must be that the distinction between form and content is simply dissolved in the absolute. Or the content of the absolute is just this, to manifest itself. The absolute is the absolute form which, as the diremption of itself is utterly identical with itself, the negative as negative, or that unites with itself, and only thus is it the absolute identity-with-self which equally is indifferent to its differences, or is absolute content. The content, therefore, is only this exposition itself.

§ 1178

As this movement of exposition, a movement which carries itself along with it, as a way and manner which is its absolute identity-with-self, the absolute is manifestation not of an inner, nor over against an other, but it is only as the absolute manifestation of itself for itself. As such it is actuality.

Remark: The Philosophy of Spinoza and Leibniz

§ 1179

Corresponding to the Notion of the absolute and to the relation of reflection to it, as expounded here, is the notion of substance in Spinozism. Spinozism is a defective philosophy because in it reflection and its manifold determining is an external thinking. The substance of this system is one substance, one indivisible totality; there is no determinateness that is not contained and dissolved in this absolute; and it is sufficiently important that in this necessary notion, everything which to natural picture thinking or to the understanding with its fixed distinctions, appears and is vaguely present as something self-subsistent, is completely reduced to a mere positedness. Determinateness is negation-is the absolute principle of Spinoza's philosophy; this true and simple insight establishes the absolute unity of substance. But Spinoza stops short at negation as determinateness or quality; he does not advance to a cognition of negation as absolute, that is, self-negating, negation; thus his substance does not itself contain the absolute form, and cognition of it is not an immanent cognition. True, substance is the absolute unity of thought and being or extension; therefore it contains thought itself, but only in its unity with extension, that is, not as separating itself from extension, hence in general not as a determinative and formative activity, nor as a movement which returns into and begins from itself. Two consequences follow from this: one is that substance lacks the principle of personality — a defect which has been the main cause of hostility to Spinoza's system; the other is that cognition is external reflection which does not comprehend and derive from substance that which appears as finite, the determinateness of the attribute and the mode, and generally itself as well, but is active as an external understanding, taking up the determinations as given and tracing them back to the absolute but not taking its beginnings from the latter.

§ 1180

The notions of substance given by Spinoza are the notions of 'cause of itself', and that substance is that whose essence includes existence — that the notion of the absolute does not require the notion of an other by which it must be formed. These notions, profound and correct as they are, are definitions, which are immediately assumed at the outset of the science. Mathematics and other subordinate sciences must begin with something presupposed which constitutes its element and positive foundation. But the absolute cannot be a first, an immediate; on the contrary, the absolute is essentially its result.

§ 1181

Spinoza's definition of the absolute is followed by his definition of the attribute, and this is determined as the manner in which intellect comprehends the essence of substance. Apart from the fact that intellect, in accordance with its nature, is postulated as posterior to attribute — for Spinoza defines it as mode — attribute, determination as determination of the absolute, is thus made dependent on an other, namely, intellect, which appears as external and immediate over against substance.

§ 1182

Spinoza further determines attribute as infinite, and infinite, too, in the sense of an infinite plurality. However in what follows only two appear, thought and extension, and it is not shown by what necessity the infinite plurality reduces itself to opposition, that, namely, of thought and extension. These two attributes are therefore adopted empirically. Thought and being represent the absolute in a determination; the absolute itself is their absolute unity and they themselves are only unessential forms; the order of things is the same as that of figurate conceptions or thoughts, and the one absolute is contemplated only by external reflection, by a mode, under these two determinations, once as a totality of conceptions, and again as a totality of things and their mutations. just as it is this external reflection which makes that distinction, so too does it lead the difference back into absolute identity and therein submerges it. But this entire movement proceeds outside the absolute. True, the absolute is itself also thought, and so far this movement is only in the absolute; but as remarked, it is in the absolute only as unity with extension, and therefore not as this movement which is essentially also the moment of opposition. Spinoza makes the sublime demand of thought that it consider everything under the form of eternity, sub specie aeterni, that is, as it is in the absolute. But in the said absolute, which is only unmoved identity, the attribute, like the mode, is only as vanishing, not as becoming, so that here, too, the vanishing takes its positive beginning only from without.

§ 1183

The Third, the mode, is with Spinoza affection of substance, specific determinateness, and this is in an other and is apprehended through this other. The attributes have, strictly speaking, only indeterminate difference for their determination; each is supposed to express the totality of substance and to be understood from itself alone; but in so far as it is the absolute as determinate, it contains otherness and cannot be understood from itself alone. It is in the mode, therefore, that the determination of the attribute is first really posited. Further, this mode remains mere mode; on the one hand it is something immediately given, and on the other, its nullity is not cognised as reflection-into-self. Consequently, the Spinozistic exposition of the absolute is complete in so far as it starts from the absolute, then follows with the attribute, and ends with the mode; but these three are only enumerated one after the other, without any inner sequence of development, and the third is not negation as negation, not the negatively self-related negation which would be in its own self the return into the first identity, so that this identity would then be veritable identity. Hence the necessity of the advance of the absolute to unessentiality is lacking and also the dissolution of the unessentiality in and for itself in the identity; or, there is lacking the becoming both of identity and of its determinations.

§ 1184

In a similar manner, in the oriental conception of emanation the absolute is the light which illumines itself. Only it not only illumines itself but also emanates. Its emanations are distancing [Entfernungen] from its undimmed clarity; the successive productions are less perfect than the preceding ones from which they arise. The process of emanation is taken only as a happening, the becoming only as a progressive loss. Thus being increasingly obscures itself and night, the negative, is the final term of the series, which does not first return into the primal light.

§ 1185

The lack of reflection-into-self, from which both the Spinozistic exposition of the absolute and the emanation theory suffer, is made good in the notion of the Leibnizian monad. The one-sidedness of a philosophical principle is usually countered by its opposite one-sidedness and totality, as in all of them, is usually present as a dispersed completeness-The monad is only one, a negative reflected into itself; it is the totality of the content of the world. In it, the varied multiplicity has not only vanished but is in a negative manner preserved; (Spinoza's substance is the unity of all content; but this manifold content of the world is not as such in it, but in the reflection which is external to it). The monad is therefore essentially ideative; but although it is finite its nature is not passive, the mutations and determinations in it being manifestations within it of itself. It is an entelechy, and the manifestation is its own act. The monad is thereby also determinate, distinguished from others; the determinateness falls in the particular content and the way and manner of the manifestation. Consequently, the monad is in itself or according to its substance, the totality, but it is not so in its manifestation. This limitation of the monad necessarily falls, not in the self-positing or ideating monad, but in its in-itself [Ansichsein]; or it is absolute limit, a predestination which s posited by another being than itself. Further, since limited entities exist only as related to other limited entities, yet the monad is at the same time a self-enclosed absolute, the harmony of these limitations, that is, the relation of the monads to one another, falls outside them and is likewise pre-established by another being or in itself.

§ 1186

Clearly, by the principle of reflection-into-self which constitutes the fundamental determination of the monad, otherness and external influence in general are no doubt removed and the alterations of the monad are its own positing; but on the other side, passivity in relation to otherness has merely been transformed into an absolute limitation, into a limitation of the being-in-self or the in-itself. Leibniz ascribes to the monads a certain internal completeness, a kind of self-subsistence; they are created beings. When their limitation is considered more closely, it is evident from this account of the monads that the manifestation of themselves which belongs to them is the totality of form. It is an extremely important concept that the alterations of the monads are conceived of as actions in which passivity plays no part, as manifestations of themselves, and that the principle of reflection-into-self or of individuation stands out as essential. Further, it is necessary to let finitude consist in this, that the content or substance is distinct from the form, and also that the former is limited but the latter infinite. But now we should have to find in the concept of the absolute monad not only that absolute unity of form and content, but also the nature of reflection as the self-relating negativity which repels itself from itself whereby it posits and creates. True, in Leibniz's system, the further point is likewise to be found that God is the source of existence and of the essence of the monads, that is to say, that those absolute limitations in the being-in-self or the in-itself of the monads are not limitations in and for themselves, but vanish in the absolute. But in these determinations are to be seen only the usual conceptions which are not philosophically developed, nor raised into speculative Notions. Thus the principle of individuation does not receive its profounder realisation; the concepts concerning the distinction between the various finite monads and their relation to their absolute do not originate out of this being itself, or not in an absolute manner, but are the product of ratiocinative, dogmatic reflection and therefore have not achieved an inner coherence.

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