Hegel’s Science of Logic

The Mechanical Process

(a) The Formal Mechanical Process

§ 1553

The mechanical process is the positing of what is contained in the Notion of mechanism, and therefore, in the first instance, of a contradiction.

1. It follows from the Notion just indicated that the interaction of objects takes the form of the positing of the identical relation of the objects. This consists merely in giving to the determinateness that is determined, the form of universality; this is communication, which does not involve transition into an opposite. Spiritual communication, which moreover takes place in that element which is the universal in the form of universality, is explicitly an ideal relation in which a determinateness continues itself from one person into another unimpaired, and universalises itself without any alteration whatever-as a scent freely spreads in the unresisting atmosphere. But even in communication between material objects, their determinateness spreads, so to speak, in a similarly ideal manner; personality is an infinitely more intense impenetrability [Harte] than objects possess. The formal totality of the object in general, which is indifferent to the determinateness and hence is not a self-determination, makes it undistinguished from the other object and thus renders the interaction primarily an unimpeded continuation of the determinateness of the one in the other.

§ 1554

Now in the spiritual sphere there is an infinitely manifold content that is communicable; for being taken up into intelligence it receives this form of universality in which it becomes communicable. But the universal that is such not merely through the form but in and for itself, is the objective as such, both in the spiritual and in the material sphere; as against which the individuality of outer objects as well as of persons is an unessential element that can offer it no resistance. Laws, morals, rational conceptions in general, are in the spiritual sphere such communicable entities which penetrate individuals in an unconscious manner and exert their influence on them. In the material sphere the communicable entities are motion, heat, magnetism, electricity and the like-which, even if people insist on representing them as stuffs or matters, must be characterised as imponderable agents — agents lacking that element of materiality which is the foundation of matter's individualised existence.

§ 1555

2. Now if in the interaction of objects their identical universality is first posited, it is equally necessary to posit the other moment of the Notion, particularity; objects accordingly demonstrate also their self-subsistence, maintain themselves as mutually external and establish an individuality in that universality. This establishing is reaction in general. To begin with, reaction is not to be conceived as a mere suspension of the action and of the communicated determinateness; what is communicated is, as a universal, positive in the particular objects and only particularises itself in their diversity. So far, then, what is communicated remains what it is; it merely distributes itself to the objects or is determined by their particularity. The cause gets lost in its other, the effect, the activity of the causal substance in its action; but the active object only becomes a universal; its action is primarily not a loss of its determinateness but a particularisation, whereby the object which at first was the whole of that individual determinateness in it, is now a species of it, and through this the determinateness is posited for the first time as a universal. The two processes, the raising of the individual determinateness into universality. in communication, and the particularisation of it, or the reduction of what was solely a one to a species, in distribution, are one and the same.

§ 1556

Now reaction is equal to action. The manner in which this first appears, is that the second object has taken up into itself the entire universal, and so is now active against the first. Thus its reaction is the same as the action, a reciprocal repulsion of the impulse. Secondly, what is communicated is the objective element; it therefore remains the substantial determination of the objects along with the presupposition of their diversity; thus the universal specifies itself at the same time in them, and each object therefore does not merely give back the whole action, but has its specific share. But thirdly, reaction is a wholly negative action in so far as each object through the elasticity of its self-subsistence expels the positedness of an other in it and maintains its relation-to-self. The specific particularity of the communicated determinateness in the objects, what was before called a species, returns to individuality, and the object asserts its externality in face of the communicated universality. The action thereby passes over into rest. It shows itself to be a merely superficial, transient alteration in the self-enclosed indifferent totality of the object.

§ 1557

3. This return constitutes the product of the mechanical process. Immediately, the object is presupposed as an individual; further, it is a particular in relation to others; and again thirdly, as something indifferent to its particularity, as a universal. The product is that presupposed totality of the Notion now posited as a totality. It is the conclusion in which the communicated universal is united with individuality through the particularity of the object; but at the same time in rest the mediation is posited as a mediation that has sublated itself; in other words, it is posited that the product is indifferent to this determining of it, and that the determinateness it has received is an external one in it.

§ 1558

Accordingly the product is the same as the object that first enters into the process. But at the same time it is through this movement that it is first determined; in general, it is only as a product that the mechanical object is an object; because it is only through the mediation of an other in it that it is what it is. Thus in being a product it is what it is supposed to be in and for itself, a compound or mixture, a certain order and arrangement of parts, in general, something whose determinateness is not a self-determination but one that is posited.

§ 1559

On the other hand, it is no less true that the result of the mechanical process does not already exist before that process; its end is not in its beginning as in the case of the teleological end. The product is a determinateness in the object as an externally posited one. Therefore, as regards its Notion, this product is indeed the same thing as the object already is from the beginning. But in the beginning the external determinateness does not yet appear as posited. To this extent the result is something quite other than the first determinate being of the object for which it is something utterly contingent.

(b) The real mechanical process

§ 1560

The mechanical process passes over into rest. That is to say the determinateness which the object obtains through the process is only an external one. Equally external to it is this rest itself, since rest is the opposite determinateness to the action of the object, but every determinateness is indifferent to the object; rest can therefore be regarded as produced by an external cause, just as much as it was indifferent to the object to be active.

§ 1561

Now further, since the determinateness is a posited one and the Notion of the object has returned to itself through mediation, the object contains the determinateness as one that is reflected into itself. Hence in the mechanical process the objects and the process itself have a more precisely determined relationship. They are not merely diverse, but are now specifically distinguished as against one another. The result of the formal process which on the one hand is determinationless rest, is therefore, on the other hand, through the reflection into self of the determinateness, the distribution of the opposition which the object as such contains, among several objects standing in a mechanical relationship to one another. The object that on the one hand lacks all determination whatever and is neither elastic nor self-subsistent in its relationships, has on the other hand a self-subsistence that is impenetrable to other objects. Objects now also have as against one another this more specific opposition of self-subsistent individuality and a universality that lacks self-subsistence. The precise difference may be conceived as a merely quantitative one, as a difference of the magnitude of mass in the bodies, or as a difference of intensity, or in various other ways. But in general the difference is not to be adhered to in that abstraction; as objects, both are also positively self-subsistent.

§ 1562

Now the first moment of this real process is, as before, communication. The weaker can be seized and penetrated by the stronger only in so far as it accepts the latter and constitutes one sphere with it. just as in the material sphere the weak is secured against the disproportionately strong (as a sheet hanging free in the air is not pierced by a musket ball, or a weak organic receptivity is less susceptible to strong, than to weak, stimuli), so the wholly feeble spirit is safer from the strong spirit than one that stands nearer to the strong. Imagine if you like someone quite dull-witted and ignoble, then on such a person lofty intelligence and nobility can make no impression. The only consistent defence against reason is to have no dealings with it at all. Where the object that is not self-subsistent cannot make contact with one that is and no communication can take place between them, the latter can also offer no resistance, that is, cannot specify the communicated universal for itself. If they were not in the same sphere, their relation to one another would be an infinite judgment, and no process between them would be possible.

§ 1563

Resistance is the precise moment of the overpowering of the one object by the other, for it is the incipient moment of the distribution of the communicated universal and of the positing of the self-related negativity, of the individuality to be established. Resistance is overcome where the determinateness of the object is inadequate to the communicated universal that has been taken up by the object and is supposed to individualise itself in it. The object's relative lack of self-subsistence manifests itself in the fact that its individuality lacks the capacity for what is communicated and therefore is disrupted by it, because it cannot constitute itself as subject in this universal, or make this latter its predicate. It is only in this second aspect that the violence [Gewalt] exercised on an object is something extraneous to it. What turns power [Macht] into violence is this, that though power, an objective universality, is identical with the nature of the object, its determinateness or negativity is not its own negative reflection into itself by which it is an individual. In so far as the negativity of the object is not reflected into itself in the power, and the power is not the object's own self-relation, it is, as against the power, only abstract negativity whose manifestation is extinction.

§ 1564

Power, as objective universality and as violence directed against the object, is what is called fate — a conception that falls within mechanism in so far as it is called blind, that is, its objective universality is not recognised by the subject in its specific peculiarity. To make a few observations on this point: the fate of the living being is in general the genus, which manifests itself through the perishableness of the living individuals, which in their actual individuality do not possess the genus as genus. As mere objects, merely animate natures, like all other things of a lower grade, have no fate; what befalls them is a contingency; but in their Notion as objects they are external to themselves; therefore the alien power of fate is nothing else but their own immediate nature, externality and contingency itself. Only self-consciousness has a fate in the proper meaning of the word, because it is free, and therefore in the individuality of its ego possesses a being that is absolutely in and for itself and can oppose itself to its objective universality and estrange itself from it. By this very separation, however, it excites against itself the mechanical relationship of a fate. In order therefore that this fate should be able to have power over it, it must have given itself some determinateness or other conflicting with the essential universality; it must have committed a deed. By this, it has made itself into a particular, and this existence as abstract universality, is at the same time the side open to the communication of its estranged essence; it is on this side that it is drawn into the process. The nation without deeds is without blame; it is wrapped in objective moral universality and dissolved in it and lacks that individuality which, while it moves the unmoved, and gives itself a determinateness outwards and an abstract universality separated from the objective universality, yet in so doing converts the subject into something estranged from its essence, into an object, and brings it into the relationship of externality towards its nature, into that of mechanism.

(c) The Product of the Mechanical Process

§ 1565

The product of formal mechanism is the object in general, an indifferent totality in which determinateness appears as posited. The object having hereby entered t e process as a determinate thing, the extinction of the process results on the one hand in rest, as the original formalism of the object, the negativity of its being determined for itself. But on the other hand the sublating of the determinedness as the positive reflection of it into itself, is the determinateness that has withdrawn into itself or the posited totality of the Notion-the true individuality of the object. The object, determined at first in its indeterminate universality then as a particular, is now determined as objectively an individual, so that in it that mere semblance of individuality which is only a self-subsistence opposing itself to the substantial universality, has been sublated.

§ 1566

This reflection into self then is, as we have seen, the objective oneness of the objects, a oneness which is an individual self-subsistence — the centre. Secondly, the reflection of negativity is a universality that is not a fate confronting the determinateness, but a fate immanently determined and rational-a universality that particularises itself from within, the difference that is at rest and is constant in the unstable particularity of objects and in their process; in other words, the law. This result is the truth, and therefore also the foundation, of the mechanical process.

C. Absolute Mechanism

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