Hegel’s Science of Logic
Highlighted text is Lenin's underlining. The ® access his annotations.
The complete transformation which philosophical thought in Germany has undergone in the last twenty-five years and the higher standpoint reached by spirit in its awareness of itself, have had but little influence as yet on the structure of logic.
That which, prior to this period, was called metaphysics has been, so to speak, extirpated root and branch and has vanished from the ranks of the sciences. The ontology, rational psychology, cosmology, yes even natural theology, of former times – where is now to be heard any mention of them, or who would venture to mention them? Inquiries, for instance, into the immateriality of the soul, into efficient and final causes, where should these still arouse any interest? Even the former proofs of the existence of God are cited only for their historical interest or for purposes of edification and uplifting the emotions. The fact is that there no longer exists any interest either in the form or the content of metaphysics or in both together. If it is remarkable when a nation has become indifferent to its constitutional theory, to its national sentiments, its ethical customs and virtues, it is certainly no less remarkable when a nation loses its metaphysics, when the spirit which contemplates its own pure essence is no longer a present reality in the life of the nation.
The exoteric teaching of the Kantian philosophy — that the understanding ought not to go beyond experience, else the cognitive faculty will become a theoretical reason which by itself generates nothing but fantasies of the brain — this was a justification from a philosophical quarter for the renunciation of speculative thought. In support of this popular teaching came the cry of modern educationists that the needs of the time demanded attention to immediate requirements, that just as experience was the primary factor for knowledge, so for skill in public and private life, practice and practical training generally were essential and alone necessary, theoretical insight being harmful even. Philosophy [Wissenschaft] and ordinary common sense thus co-operating to bring about the downfall of metaphysics, there was seen the strange spectacle of a cultured nation without metaphysics – like a temple richly ornamented in other respects but without a holy of holies. Theology, which in former times was the guardian of the speculative mysteries and of metaphysics (although this was subordinate to it) had given up this science in exchange for feelings, for what was popularly matter-of-fact, and for historical erudition. In keeping with this change, there vanished from the world those solitary souls who were sacrificed by their people and exiled from the world to the end that the eternal should be contemplated and served by lives devoted solely thereto — not for any practical gain but for the sake of blessedness; a disappearance which, in another context, can be regarded as essentially the same phenomenon as that previously mentioned. So that having got rid of the dark utterances of metaphysics, of the colourless communion of the spirit with itself, outer existence seemed to be transformed into the bright world of flowers – and there are no black flowers, as we know.
Logic did not fare quite so badly as metaphysics. ®. That one learns from logic how to think (the usefulness of logic and hence its purpose, were held to consist in this — just as if one could only learn how to digest and move about by studying anatomy and physiology) this prejudice has long since vanished, and the spirit of practicality certainly did not intend for logic a better fate than was suffered by the sister science.
Nevertheless, probably for the sake of a certain formal utility, it was still left a place among the sciences, and indeed was even retained as a subject of public instruction. However, this better lot concerns only the outer fate of logic, for its structure and contents have remained the same throughout a long inherited tradition, although in the course of being passed on the contents have become ever more diluted and attenuated; logic shows no traces so far of the new spirit which has arisen in the sciences no less than in the world of actuality. However, once the substantial form of the spirit has inwardly reconstituted itself, all attempts to preserve the forms of an earlier culture are utterly in vain; like withered leaves they are pushed off by the new buds already growing at their roots.
Even in the philosophical sphere this ignoring of the general change is beginning gradually to come to an end. Imperceptibly, even those who are opposed to the new ideas have become familiar with them and have appropriated them, and if they continue to speak slightingly of the source and principles of those ideas and to dispute them, still they have accepted their consequences and have been unable to defend themselves from their influence; the only way in which they can give a positive significance and a content to their negative attitude which is becoming less and less important, is to fall in with the new ways of thinking.
On the other hand, it seems that the period of fermentation with which a new creative idea begins is past. In its first manifestation, such an idea usually displays a fanatical hostility toward the entrenched systematisation of the older principle; usually too, it is fearful of losing itself in the ramifications of the particular and again it shuns the labour required for a scientific elaboration of the new principle and in its need for such, it grasps to begin with at an empty formalism. The challenge to elaborate and systematise the material now becomes all the more pressing. There is a period in the culture of an epoch as in the culture of the individual, when the primary concern is the acquisition and assertion of the principle in its undeveloped intensity. But the higher demand is that it should become systematised knowledge.
Now whatever may have been accomplished for the form and content of philosophy in other directions, the science of logic which constitutes metaphysics proper or purely speculative philosophy, has hitherto still been much neglected. What it is exactly that I understand by this science and its standpoint, I have stated provisionally in the Introduction.
The fact that it has been necessary to make a completely fresh start with this science, the very nature of the subject matter and the absence of any previous works which might have been utilised for the projected reconstruction of logic, may be taken into account by fair-minded critics, even though a labour covering many years has been unable to give this effort a greater perfection. The essential point of view is that what is involved is an altogether new concept of scientific procedure.
Philosophy, if it would be a science, cannot, as I have remarked elsewhere, borrow its method from a subordinate science like mathematics, any more than it can remain satisfied with categorical assurances of inner intuition, or employ arguments based on grounds adduced by external reflection. On the contrary, it can be only the nature of the content itself which spontaneously develops itself in a scientific method of knowing, since it is at the same time the reflection of the content itself which first posits and generates its determinate character. ®
The understanding determines, and holds the determinations fixed; reason is negative and dialectical, because it resolves the determinations of the understanding into nothing; it is positive because it generates the universal and comprehends the particular therein.
Just as the understanding is usually taken to be something separate from reason as such, so too dialectical reason is usually taken to be something distinct from positive reason. But reason in its truth is spirit which is higher than either merely positive reason, or merely intuitive understanding.
It is the negative, that which constitutes the quality alike of dialectical reason and of understanding; it negates what is simple, thus positing the specific difference of the understanding; it equally resolves it and is thus dialectical.
But it does not stay in the nothing of this result but in the result is no less positive, and in this way it has restored what was at first simple, but as a universal which is within itself concrete; a given particular is not subsumed under this universal but in this determining, this positing of a difference, and the resolving of it, the particular has at the same time already determined itself. This spiritual movement which, in its simple undifferentiatedness, gives itself its own determinateness and in its determinateness its equality with itself, which therefore is the immanent development of the Notion, this movement is the absolute method of knowing and at the same time is the immanent soul of the content itself.
I maintain that it is this self-construing method alone which enables philosophy to be an objective, demonstrated science.®
It is in this way that I have tried to expound consciousness in the Phenomenology of Spirit. Consciousness is spirit as a concrete knowing, a knowing too, in which externality is involved; but the development of this object, ®like the development of all natural and spiritual life, rests solely on the nature of the pure essentialities which constitute the content of logic.
Consciousness, as spirit in its manifestation which in its progress frees itself from its immediacy and external concretion, attains to the pure knowing which takes as its object those same pure essentialities as they are in and for themselves. They are pure thoughts, spirit thinking its own essential nature. Their self-movement is their spiritual life and is that through which philosophy constitutes itself and of which it is the exposition.
In the foregoing there is indicated the relation of the science which I call the Phenomenology of Spirit, to logic. As regards the external relation, it was intended that the first part of the System of Science which contains the Phenomenology should be followed by a second part containing logic and the two concrete [realen] sciences, the Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Spirit, which would complete the System of Philosophy. But the necessary expansion which logic itself has demanded has induced me to have this part published separately; it thus forms the first sequel to the Phenomenology of Spirit in an expanded arrangement of the system. It will later be followed by an exposition of the two concrete philosophical sciences mentioned. This first volume of the Logic contains as Book One the Doctrine of Being; Book Two, the Doctrine of Essence, which forms the second part of the first volume, is already in the press; the second volume will contain Subjective Logic or the Doctrine of the Notion.
Nuremberg, March 22, 1812.
When I undertook this fresh elaboration of the Science of Logic of which this is the first volume, I was fully conscious — not only of the inherent difficulty of the subject matter and of its exposition, but also of the imperfection of its treatment in the first edition; earnestly as I have tried after many years of further occupation with this science to remedy this imperfection, I feel I still have reason enough to claim the indulgence of the reader. One title to such claim in the first instance may well be based on the fact that in the main there was available for the contents of the science only external material in the older metaphysics and logic. Though these two sciences have been universally and abundantly cultivated, the latter even up to our own day, the interest taken in the speculative side has been only slight; in fact, on the whole, the same material has been just repeated over and over again, sometimes being thinned out to the point of being trivial and superficial and sometimes more of the old ballast has been hauled out afresh and trailed along with logic. From such efforts, often purely mechanical, the philosophical import of the science could gain nothing.
To exhibit the realm of thought philosophically, that is, in its own immanent activity or what is the same, in its necessary development,® had therefore to be a fresh undertaking, one that had to be started right from the beginning; but this traditional material, the familiar forms of thought, must be regarded as an extremely important source, indeed as a necessary condition and as a presupposition to be gratefully acknowledged even though what it offers is only here and there a meagre shred or a disordered heap of dead bones ®.
The forms of thought are, in the first instance, displayed and stored as human language. Nowadays we cannot be too often reminded that it is thinking which distinguishes man from the beasts. Into all that becomes something inward for men, an image or conception as such, into all that he makes his own, language has penetrated, and everything that he has transformed into language and expresses in it contains a category – concealed, mixed with other forms or clearly determined as such, so much is Logic his natural element, indeed his own peculiar nature. If nature as such, as the physical world, is contrasted with the spiritual sphere, then logic must certainly be said to be the supernatural element which permeates every relationship of man to nature, his sensation, intuition, desire, need, instinct, and simply by so doing transforms it into something human, even though only formally human, into ideas and purposes. It is an advantage when a language possesses an abundance of logical expressions, that is, specific and separate expressions for the thought determinations themselves; many prepositions and articles denote relationships based on thought; the Chinese language is supposed not to have developed to this stage or only to an inadequate extent. These particles, however, play quite a subordinate part having only a slightly more independent form than the prefixes and suffixes, inflections and the like. It is much more important that in a language the categories should appear in the form of substantives and verbs and thus be stamped with the form of objectivity. In this respect German has many advantages over other modern languages; some of its words even possess the further peculiarity of having not only different but opposite meanings so that one cannot fail to recognise a speculative spirit of the language in them: it can delight a thinker to come across such words and to find the union of opposites naively shown in the dictionary as one word with opposite meanings, although this result of speculative thinking is nonsensical to the understanding. Philosophy therefore stands in no need of a special terminology; true, some words have to be taken from foreign languages but these have already acquired through usage the right of citizenship in the philosophical realm – and an affected purism would be most inappropriate where it was the distinctive meaning which was of decisive importance. The advance of culture generally, and of the sciences in particular, gradually brings into use higher relationships of thought, or at least raises them to greater universality and they have thus attracted increased attention. This applies even to the empirical and natural sciences which in general employ the commonest categories, for example, whole and parts, a thing and its properties, and the like.
In physics, for example, the category of force has become predominant, but more recently the category of polarity which is the determination of a difference in which the different terms are inseparably conjoined, has played the leading part although it has been used inordinately in connection with all phenomena, even with light.
It is a matter of infinite importance that in this way an advance has been made beyond the form of abstraction, of identity, by which a specific concept, as, for example, force, acquires an independent self-subsistence, and that prominence and currency have been given to the determinate form, the difference, which is at the same time an inseparable element in the identity. Because of the fixed reality of natural objects the study of nature compels us to fix the categories which can no longer be ignored in her, although with complete inconsistency towards other categories which are also allowed to remain valid; and such study does not permit the further step of abstracting from the opposition and indulging in generalities as so easily happens in the intellectual sphere.
But while logical objects and their expressions may be thoroughly familiar to educated people it does not follow, as I have said elsewhere, that they are intelligently apprehended; and to have to occupy oneself with what is familiar can even arouse impatience — and what is more familiar than just those determinations of thought which we employ on every occasion, which pass our lips in every sentence we speak?
It is the purpose of this foreword to indicate the general features of the course followed by knowing in its advance beyond a mere acquaintance with its objects, of the relation of philosophical [wissenschaftlichen] thinking to this natural thinking. This much, together with what was contained in the earlier Introduction, will be sufficient to give a general idea of what is meant by logical cognition, the kind of preliminary general idea which is demanded in the case of any science prior to its exposition, that is, prior to the import of the science itself.
In the first place, we must regard it as an infinite step forward that the forms of thought have been freed from the material in which they are submerged in self-conscious intuition, figurate conception, and in our desiring and willing, or rather in ideational desiring and willing — and there is no human desiring or willing without ideation — and that these universalities have been brought into prominence for their own sake and made objects of contemplation as was done by Plato and after him especially by Aristotle; this constitutes the beginning of the intelligent apprehension of them.
'It was only', says Aristotle, 'after almost everything necessary and everything requisite for human comfort and intercourse was available, that man began to concern himself with philosophical knowledge' 'In Egypt', he had previously remarked, 'there was an early development of the mathematical sciences because there the priestly caste at an early stage were in a position to have leisure'.
As a matter of fact, the need to occupy oneself with pure thought presupposes that the human spirit must already have travelled a long road.
In the silent regions of thought which has come to itself and communes only with itself, the interests which move the lives of races and individuals are hushed.® it is, one may say, the need of the already satisfied need for the necessities to which it must have attained, the need of a condition free from needs, of abstraction from the material of intuition, imagination, and so on, of the concrete interests of desire, instinct, will, in which material the determinations of thought are veiled and hidden. In the silent regions of thought which has come to itself and communes only with itself, the interests which move the lives of races and individuals are hushed.
'In so many respects', says Aristotle in the same context, 'the nature of man is in bondage; but this science, which is not studied for its utility, is the only absolutely free science and seems therefore to be a more than human possession.' Philosophical thinking in general is still concerned with concrete objects — God, nature, spirit; but logic is concerned only and solely with these thoughts as thoughts, in their complete abstraction. For this reason it is customary, to include logic in the curriculum of youth, for youth is not yet involved in the practical affairs of life, living at leisure so far as they are concerned; and it is only for its own subjective ends that it has to busy itself with acquiring the means to enable it to become actively engaged with the objects of those practical interests — and still theoretically even with these. Contrary to Aristotle's view just mentioned, the science of logic is included in these means; the study of logic is a preliminary labour to be carried out in school and it is not until later that the serious business of life and the pursuit of substantial ends begins.
In life, the categories are used; from the honour of being contemplated for their own sakes they are degraded to the position where they serve in the creation and exchange of ideas involved in intellectual exercise on a living content. First they serve as abbreviations through their universality (for what a host of particulars of outer existence and actions is embraced by a conception — battle, war, nation, ocean or animal, for example — and in the conception of God or of love there is epitomised in the simplicity of such ideating an infinite host of ideas, actions, states, etc.!).
Secondly, the categories serve for the more exact determination and discovery of objective relations; but in this process the import and purpose, the correctness and truth of the thought involved, are made to depend entirely on the subject matter itself and the thought determinations are not themselves credited with any active part in determining the content. Such a use of categories, which above was called natural logic, is unconscious; and when in philosophical reflection the categories are assigned the role of serving as means, then thinking as such is treated as something subordinate to the other activities of mind. We do not indeed say of our feelings, impulses or interests that they serve us, rather do they count as independent forces and powers, so that to have this particular feeling, to desire this, is what we are.® But probably we are more conscious of obeying our feelings, impulses, passions, interests, not to mention habits, than of having them in our possession, still less, in view of our intimate union with them, of their being at our disposal. Such determinations of feeling and mind soon show themselves as particular in contrast to the universality which we are conscious ourselves of being and in which we have our freedom; and we are disposed to regard ourselves as caught up in these particular states and dominated by them.
Consequently it is much more difficult to believe that the forms of thought which permeate all our ideas — whether these are purely theoretical or contain a matter belonging to feeling, impulse, will — are means for us, rather than that we serve them, that in fact they have us in their possession; what is there more in us as against them, how shall we, how shall I, set myself up as more universal than they, which are universal as such?
When we give ourselves up to a sensation, a purpose, an interest, and in it feel ourselves confined and unfree, the place into which we can withdraw ourselves back into freedom is this region of self-certainty, of pure abstraction, of thought. Or again, to speak of things, we call the nature or the essence of things their notion, and this is only for thought; but still less shall we say of the notions of things that we dominate them, or that the determinations of thought of which they are the complex are at our service; on the contrary, it is our thinking that must accommodate itself to them and our caprice or freedom ought not to want to mould them to suit itself.
Since, therefore, subjective thought is our very own, innermost, act, and the objective notion of things constitutes their essential import, we cannot go outside this our act, we cannot stand above it, and just as little can we go beyond the nature of things. ® We can however disregard the latter determination; in so far as it coincides with the first it would yield a relation of our thoughts to the object, but this would be a valueless result because it would imply that the thing, the object, would be set up as a criterion for our notions and yet for us the object can be nothing else but our notions of it. The way in which the critical philosophy understands the relationship of these three terms is that we place our thoughts as a medium instead of connecting us with the objects rather cuts us off from them. But this view can be countered by the simple observation that these very things which are supposed to stand beyond us, and at the other extreme, beyond the thoughts referring to them, are themselves figments of subjective thought, and as wholly indeterminate they are only a single thought-thing — the so-called thing-in-itself of empty abstraction.®
Still, sufficient has been said of the point of view which no longer takes the determinations of thought to be only an instrument and a means; more important is the further point connected with it, namely that it is usual to regard them as an external form. The activity of thought which is at work in all our ideas, purposes, interests and actions is, as we have said, unconsciously busy (natural logic); what we consciously attend to is the contents, the objects of our ideas, that in which we are interested; on this basis, the determinations of thought have the significance of forms which are only attached to the content, but are not the content itself. But if the truth of the matter is what we have already stated and also is generally admitted, namely that the nature, the peculiar essence, that which is genuinely permanent and substantial in the complexity and contingency of appearance and fleeting manifestation, is the notion of the thing, the immanent universal, and that each human being though infinitely unique is so primarily because he is a man, and each individual animal is such individual primarily because it is an animal: if this is true, then it would be impossible to say what such an individual could still be if this foundation were removed, no matter how richly endowed the individual might be with other predicates, if, that is, this foundation can equally be called a predicate like the others. The indispensable foundation, the notion, the universal which is the thought itself, in so far as one can make abstraction from the general idea expressed by the word 'thought', cannot be regarded as only an indifferent form attached to a content. But these thoughts of everything natural and spiritual, even the substantial content ®, still contain a variety of determinatenesses and are still charged with the difference of a soul and a body, of the notion and a relative reality; the profounder basis is the soul itself, the pure Notion which is the very heart of things, their simple life-pulse, even of subjective thinking of them.
To focus attention on this logical nature which animates mind, moves and works in it, this is the task. The broad distinction between the instinctive act and the intelligent and free act is that the latter is performed with an awareness of what is being done; when the content of the interest in which one is absorbed is drawn out of its immediate unity with oneself and becomes an independent object of one's thinking, then it is that spirit begins to be free, whereas when thinking is an instinctive activity, spirit is enmeshed in the bonds of its categories and is broken up into an infinitely varied material.
Here and there in this mesh there are firm knots ® which give stability and direction to the life and consciousness of spirit; these knots or nodes owe their fixity and power to the simple fact that having been brought before consciousness, they are independent, self-existent Notions of its essential nature. The most important point for the nature of spirit is not only the relation of what it is in itself to what it is actually, but the relation of what it knows itself to be to what it actually is; because spirit is essentially consciousness, this self-knowing is a fundamental determination of its actuality.
As impulses the categories are only instinctively active. At first they enter consciousness separately and so are variable and mutually confusing; consequently they afford to mind only a fragmentary and uncertain actuality; the loftier business of logic therefore is to clarify these categories and in them to raise mind to freedom and truth.
What we indicated as the beginning of the science [of logic] — a beginning which we have already recognised as having a high value both on its own account and as a condition of genuine knowledge — namely, the treatment of Notions generally and the moments of the Notion, that is, the determinations of thought, primarily as forms which are distinct from the matter of thought and only attached to it, this attitude directly reveals itself as intrinsically inadequate for the attainment of truth — and the truth is the declared object of and aim of logic. For, as such mere forms, as distinct from the content, they are assumed to be standing in a determination which stamps them as finite and makes them incapable of holding the truth which is in its own self infinite. In whatever respect the true may be associated with limitation and finitude, this is the aspect of its negation, of its untruth and unreality, that is, of its end, not of the affirmation which, as the true, it is.®
Faced with the baldness of the merely formal categories, the instinct of healthy common sense has, in the end, felt itself to be so much in the right that it has contemptuously abandoned acquaintanceship with them to the domain of school logic and metaphysics; at the same time, common sense fails to appreciate the value even of a proper awareness of these fragments and is quite unaware that in the instinctive thinking of natural logic, and still more in the deliberate rejection of any acquaintance with or knowledge of the thought determinations themselves, it is in bondage to unclarified and therefore unfree thinking. The simple basic determination or common form of the collection of such forms is identity which, in the logic of this collection, is asserted as the law of identity, as A = A, and as the principle of contradiction. Healthy common sense has so much lost its respect for the school which claims possession of such laws of truth and still busies itself with them that it ridicules it and its laws and regards anyone as insufferable who can utter truths in accordance with such laws: the plant is — a plant, science is — science. It has also formed an equally just estimate of the significance of the formulas which constitute the rules of syllogising which in fact is a cardinal function of the understanding (although it would be a mistake not to recognise that these have their place in cognition where they must be obeyed); it knows that the formulas quite as well serve impartially error and sophistry and that however truth may be defined, they cannot serve higher, for example, religious truth — that generally speaking they concern only the correctness of the knowledge of facts, not truth itself.
The inadequacy of this way of regarding thought which leaves truth on one side can only be made good by including in our conception of thought not only that which is usually reckoned as belonging to the external form but the content as well. It is soon evident that what at first to ordinary reflection is, as content, divorced from form, cannot in fact be formless, cannot be devoid of inner determination; if it were, then it would be only vacuity, the abstraction of the thing-in-itself; that, on the contrary, the content in its own self possesses form, in fact it is through form alone that it has soul and meaning, and that it is form itself which is transformed only into the semblance of a content, hence into the semblance of something external to this semblance. With this introduction of the content into the logical treatment, the subject matter is not things but their import, the Notion of them. But in this connection we can be reminded that there is a multitude of Notions, a multitude of objects [Sache]. We have, however, already said how it is that restrictions are imposed on this multitude, that the Notion, simply as thought, as a universal, is the immeasurable abbreviation of the multitudes of particular things which are vaguely present to intuition and pictorial thought; but also a Notion is, first, in its own self the Notion, and this is only one and is the substantial foundation; secondly, a Notion is determinate and it is this determinateness in it which appears as content: but the determinateness of the Notion is a specific form of this substantial oneness, a moment of the form as totality, of that same Notion which is the foundation of the specific Notions.
This Notion is not sensuously intuited or represented; it is solely an object, a product and content of thinking, and is the absolute, self-subsistent object, the logos, the reason of that which is, the truth of what we call things; it is least of all the logos which should be left outside of the science of logic.
Therefore its inclusion in or omission from this science must not be simply a matter of choice. When those determinations of thought which are only external forms are truly considered in themselves, this can only result in demonstrating their finitude and the untruth of their supposed independent self-subsistence, that their truth is the Notion. Consequently, the science of logic in dealing with the thought determinations which in general run through our mind instinctively and unconsciously — and even when they become part of the language do not become objects of our attention — will also be a reconstruction of those which are singled out by reflection and are fixed by it as subjective forms external to the matter and import of the determinations of thought.
No subject matter is so absolutely capable of being expounded with a strict immanent plasticity as is thought in its own necessary development; ® no other brings with it this demand in such a degree; in this respect the Science of Logic must surpass even mathematics, for no subject matter has in its own self this freedom and independence. Such an exposition would demand that at no stage of the development should any thought-determination or reflection occur which does not immediately emerge at this stage and that has not entered this stage from the one preceding it — a requirement which is satisfied, after its fashion, in the process of mathematical reasoning. However, such an abstract perfection of exposition must, I admit, in general be dispensed with; the very fact that the science must begin with what is absolutely simple, that is, with what is most general and of least import, would restrict the exposition solely to these same quite simple expressions of the simple without any further addition of a single word; all that could properly be admitted would be negative considerations intended to ward off and banish any heterogeneous elements which otherwise might be introduced by pictorial thought or unregulated thinking. However, such intrusive elements in the simple immanent course of the development are themselves contingent, so that the effort to ward them off is itself tainted with this contingency; besides which it is futile to try to deal with all of them, lying as they do outside the subject matter, and in any case, any demand for a systematic disposal of such random reflections could only be partially satisfied. But the peculiar restlessness and distraction of our modern consciousness compel us to take some account of the more readily suggested reflections and opinions. A plastic discourse demands, too, a plastic receptivity and understanding on the part of the listener; but youths and men of such a temper who would calmly suppress their own reflections and opinions in which original thought is so impatient to manifest itself, listeners such as Plato feigned, who would attend only to the matter in hand, could have no place in a modern dialogue; still less could one count on readers of such a disposition. On the contrary, I have been only too often and too vehemently attacked by opponents who were incapable of making the simple reflection that their opinions and objections contain categories which are presuppositions and which themselves need to be criticised first before they are employed. Ignorance in this matter reaches incredible lengths; it is guilty of, the fundamental misunderstanding, the uncouth and uneducated behaviour of taking a category which is under consideration for something other than the category itself. This ignorance is the less justifiable because this 'something other' consists of determinate thoughts and concepts, and in a system of logic these other categories must likewise have been assigned their own place and must themselves have been subjected to critical examination within the system. This ignorance is most obvious in the great majority of the objections and attacks on the first Notions of logic, being and nothing, and becoming which, itself a simple determination — the simplest analysis shows it to be so — contains the two other determinations as moments. Thoroughness seems to require that the beginning, as the foundation on which everything is built, should be examined before anything else, in fact that we should not go any further until it has been firmly established and if, on the other hand, it is not, that we should reject all that follows.
This thoroughness at the same time has the advantage of guaranteeing that the labour of thinking shall be reduced to a minimum; it has before it, enclosed in this germ, the entire development and reckons that it has settled the whole business when it has disposed of the beginning which is the easiest part of the business, for it is the simplest, the simple itself; it is the trifling effort of thought required to do this which really recommends this 'thoroughness' which is so satisfied with itself.
This restriction to what is simple gives scope for the free play of caprice which does not want to remain simple but brings in its own reflections on the subject matter. Having good right to occupy itself at first only with the principle and in doing so not to concern itself with what lies beyond it, this thoroughness actually proceeds to do the opposite of this, for it does bring in what lies beyond, that is, categories other than those which constitute the principle itself, other presuppositions and prejudices. Such presuppositions as that infinite is different from finitude, that content is other than form, that the inner is other than the outer, also that mediation is no immediacy (as if anyone did not know such things), are brought forward by way of information and narrated and asserted rather than proved. But there is something stupid — I can find no other word for it — about this didactic behaviour; technically it is unjustifiable simply to presuppose and straightway assume such propositions; and, still more, it reveals ignorance of the fact that it is the requirement and the business of logical thinking to enquire into just this, whether such a finite without infinity is something true, or whether such an abstract infinity, also a content without form and a form without content, an inner by itself which has no outer expression, an externality without an inwardness, whether any of these is something true or something actual. But this education and discipline of thinking by which it acquires plasticity and by which the impatience of casual reflection is overcome, is procured solely by going further, by study and by carrying out to its conclusion the entire development.
Anyone who labours at presenting anew an independent structure of philosophical science may, when referring to the Platonic exposition, be reminded of the story that Plato revised his Republic seven times over. The remembrance of this, the comparison, so far as such may seem to be implied in it, should only urge one all the more to wish that for a work which, as belonging to the modern world, is confronted by a profounder principle, a more difficult subject matter and a material richer in compass, leisure had been afforded to revise it seven and seventy times.
However, the author, in face of the magnitude of the task, has had to content himself with what it was possible to achieve in circumstances of external necessity, of the inevitable distractions caused by the magnitude and many-sidedness of contemporary affairs, even under the doubt whether the noisy clamour of current affairs and the deafening chatter of a conceit which prides itself on confining itself to such matters leave any room for participation in the passionless calm of a knowledge which is in the element of pure thought alone.
Berlin, November 7, 1831
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