John McTaggart A Commentary on Hegel’s Logic 1910
Essence       |     Essence

Chapter V
Essence as Reflection into Itself

95. Essence is divided in the Greater Logic into Essence as Reflection into Self, Appearance, and Actuality. In the two first of these the difference between the Greater Logic and the Encyclopaedia is more marked than elsewhere in the process. Categories which are found in one of these two secondary divisions in the Greater Logic are transferred to the other in the Encyclopaedia — a change which has no parallel in any other part of the dialectic. For this reason I shall postpone any reference to the Encyclopaedia till the end of Chapter VI.

Essence as Reflection into itself (Das Wesen als Reflexion in ihm selbst) is divided as follows:

I. Show. (Der Schein.)

A. The Essential and Unessential. (Das Wesentliche und Unwesentliche.)

B. Show. (Der Schein)

C. Reflection. (Die Reflexion.)

(a) Positing Reflection. (Die setzende Reflexion.)
(b) External Reflection. (Die äussere Reflexion.)
(c) Determining Reflection. (Die bestimmende Reflexion.)

II. The Essentialities or Determinations of Reflection. (Die Wesenheiten oder Reflexions-Bestimmungen.)

A. Identity. (Die Identität.)

B. Difference. (Der Unterschied.)

(a) Absolute Difference. (Der absolute Unterschied.)
(b) Variety. (Die Verschiedenheit.)
(c) Opposition. (Der Gegensatz.)

C. Contradiction. (Der Widerspruch.)

III. Ground. (Der Grund.)

A. Absolute Ground. (Der absolute Grund.)

(a) Form and Essence. (Form und Wesen.)
(b) Form and Matter. (Form und Materie.)
(c) Form and Content. (Form und Inhalt.)

B. Determined Ground. (Der bestimmte Grund.)

(a) Formal Ground. (Der formelle Grund.)
(b) Real Ground. (Der reale Grund.)
(c) Complete Ground. (Der vollständige Grund.)

C. Condition. (Die Bedingung.)

(a) The Relatively Unconditioned. (Das relative Unbedingte.)
(b) The Absolutely Unconditioned. (Das absolute Unbedingte.)
(c) Transition of the Fact into Existence. (Hervorgang der Sache in die Existenz.)

The term Show is used ambiguously — both as the title of I., and as the title of I. B.

96. At the end of the Doctrine of Being the conclusion was reached that there was a Qualitative substratum to the chancres of Quantity and Quality. At first this substratum was regarded as entirely indifferent to the changes, but ‘this view was discovered to be untenable, and it was then that the conception of Essence was reached. “At this point” Hegel says (G. L. i. 468), “Being in general, and Being as the immediacy of separate determinations and as Being an sich has vanished. The Unity is Being, immediately posited Totality, in such a way that this is only simple relation to self, mediated by the transcending of this positing. This positing and this immediate Being are themselves only a moment in its repulsion, and its original stability and identity with itself only exists m the resulting and infinite coming together with itself. In this way Being is determined to Essence — that Being, which, through the transcending of Being, is simple Being-with-itself.”

The language of this passage is rather difficult, but the meaning is not, I think, doubtful. Things are no longer simple in their nature. The nature of each thing has two sides. That which previously seemed to be the whole nature of the thing is now only a moment a more complex whole. The other element, to which it is elated, is called the substratum by Hegel — a natural metaphor, since it is the element which the dialectic process reaches after the other. It is this element to which he gives the general name of Essence, the first element being called Appearance.

97. Both these names have some erroneous suggestions about them. That the first element should be called Appearance might lead us to suppose that the distinction between it and Essence was that the Essence is the real nature of the thing, and the Appearance the partially erroneous representation of the thing to some conscious subject. But this would be a complete mistake. Hegel justly says that the categories of his dialectic are objective in the sense that they deal with what the reality is, and not with what it is thought to be. Unlike Kant’s categories, they do not refer to our knowledge of the reality, but to the reality which is known. And therefore, when Hegel speaks of the Appearance of a thing, he means a nature, not of the knowledge of it in us.

If we avoid this mistake, we may fall into another. We may be led by the names Appearance and Essence to suppose that the Essence represents a truer way of looking at the reality than the Appearance does. This would certainly be suggested by the English adjectives apparent and essential, though the suggestion is perhaps not so strong in German. And this view would be supported by the fact that the first two categories of Essence, in the Greater Logic, treat the Appearance as less real than the Essence[1]. But in the other categories this is not so.

The Appearance there is as real as the Essence, and it is as essential (in the ordinary English use of the word) to the Essence, as the Essence is to it.

The reason for calling this side Appearance is, I think, as follows. It is real, but it has not the exclusive reality which was attributed to it in the earlier categories of Being, when it was taken as the only nature of reality. Its true position, as now determined, gives it a less important function than that with which it started. And it is to express this, I believe, that Hegel gave it a name which, as contrasted with Essence, suggests subordination and diminished reality. The name cannot, however, be regarded as fortunate.

98. Hegel speaks of the Appearance as being immediate. This cannot mean that which is immediately known, for that would bring in the subjectivity which has already been said to be foreign to the dialectic. Nor can it mean literally that which is not mediated, since Appearance is mediated by Essence. It means, I conceive, that the Appearance corresponds to the nature of reality as seen in the categories of Being, when there was no internal mediation, because there was no internal diversity. It is not what is immediate, but what had previously been supposed to be so. The element of Essence would not be called immediate for this reason, since from the first point at which it is reached, it is seen to be in relation to the other side.

99. The name of Essence is not more fortunate than that of Appearance. In the first place, as has already been said, it suggests, when contrasted with Appearance, that one side of the relation is more real than the other. And in the second place it is ambiguous. Hegel uses it to designate one side of the relation. But he also uses it for the relation of the two sides, as when he speaks of the categories of Essence. it is sometimes difficult to see whether he is using it in the former sense or the latter, and it is desirable to find another name to designate the side of the relation which is not Appearance, so that we can confine Essence to its other meaning — the view of reality as consisting of the two related sides. The name of Inner, which would perhaps be the most natural, is unavailable, since Hegel uses it for a special category further on. I propose to use the word Substratum, which has already been used by Hegel of this side (G. L. i. 453). The Appearance side can then be called Surface, which will avoid the ambiguity arising from the fact that the second division of Essence is called Appearance.

At this point we may notice Hegel’s remark (G. L. ii. 5) that Essence has the same characteristic, in the dialectic as a whole, which Quantity has in the Doctrine of Being — the characteristic of indifference to its boundaries. It is, as we shall see, impossible to keep Substratum and Surface separate. Whatever is found in the one cannot be excluded from the other. But this leads only to an oscillation between these two sides, and not to an unending process in a straight line, such as we found in Quantity.

100. Hegel tells us that while the form of the process is, in Being “an Other and transition into an Other,” it becomes in Essence., “ showing, or reflection in the opposite” (Enc. 240). The transformation of form is, however, continuous throughout the dialectic, and no sudden change must be expected at this point[2].

I. Show.

A. The Essential and Unessential.

(G. L. ii. 8.) The first category of Essence ought to have the same content as the last category of Measure. But its content is, in fact, very different, and this constitutes a serious defect in the argument.

At the end of Measure the Substratum was clearly the more persistent Quality which only varied Quantitatively while the other Qualities came and went. This was a perfectly definite Quality with a determined nature of its own. Moreover, it would seem that there were many such Substrata. For each Nodal Line would have such a Substratum of its own, and there is nothing to suggest the view that the whole of the universe could be reduced to a single Nodal line.

But now, without any deduction or justification, the Substratum assumes a perfectly different nature. We are told (G. L. ii. 4) that it is “an undetermined simple unity.” And the whole of the treatment of the three categories of Show[3] supports this. This is very different from the definite Quality at the end of Measure. From the new position it follows that the whole universe has only one Substratum, since there can be no plurality in what is undetermined. And this also is supported by the treatment of these three categories.

It is possible that this flaw in the process might be removed by avoiding an earlier flaw. We saw, at the beginning of the last Chapter, that Hegel starts Measure with a conception which is unduly specialized and complex as compared with the conception which he had reached at the end of Quantity. I think that it might be maintained that if he had kept, as he ought, to the broader and simpler conception of Measure, it would have developed in such a way as to enable him to reach legitimately the wide conception of Substratum which, as it is, he reaches illegitimately. But to work this out would take us too far from what Hegel actually does say.

101. There is another point to be discussed with relation to the starting-point in Essence. The Surface is conceived as a plurality, and not merely as a plurality of qualities inhering in a single subject, but as a plurality of subjects. These subjects have been with us ever since the category of Quality (Quality in the narrower sense, the Antithesis in the triad of Being Determinate as such). At first they were called Somethings, and afterwards Ones. At present Hegel gives them no special name. A name is desirable, and I propose to call them at once by the name of things. It may be objected that Hegel uses the name of Thing for a special category later on. But his introduction of it there for the first time only means that there for the first time the Thing forms the Substratum. It does not mean that this is the first time that the conception of thing enters into the dialectic at all. I shall therefore use the name from this point[4].

There is, then, a plurality of things in the Surface at this point. All Hegel’s treatment implies this, and the transition from the category of Identity to that of Diversity rests on it explicitly. Now how is this assertion of a plurality to be justified? There is, I think, not much doubt about the answer Hegel would make. There was, he would say, a demonstrated plurality in the categories of Being, which arose, as has been said, in the category of Quality, and continued to the end of Measure. Now that which was Being has become the Surface side in Essence, and therefore the plurality is legitimately transferred to the Surface.

But there seems to me a defect in this argument. In the Second Chapter we considered whether Hegel was justified in making his transition from one existent to a plurality of existents (Section 25). And the result at which we arrived was that he was justified because an isolated existent could only have a definite nature by having a. plurality of qualities, and because the dialectic had not at that point reached the notion of one subject with a plurality of qualities. But now the case is different. We have been led on by the dialectic to the view that one subject can have a plurality of qualities. In that case I cannot see that anything that Hegel has said excludes the possibility of an existent having a definite nature although it should be the sole existent, and undifferentiated into parts. And if such a sole and undifferentiated existent could have a definite nature then nothing that Hegel has said excludes the possibility that nothing exists but one single undifferentiated unit. (I use undifferentiated to denote that which has no plurality of parts, though it may have a plurality of qualities.) If this is so, then Hegel is not, justified in taking the Surface as consisting of a plurality of things.

102. The supposition that there is no plurality of things is doubtless wild enough. For it does not mean that the universe is one as, well as many, or even that it is more truly one than many. Both these propositions would be compatible with a plurality of things. The only alternative which is incompatible with a plurality of things is the view that there is no differentiation at all — no plurality except a plurality of qualities of the same subject.

Such a view is incompatible with any reality of Space or Time, since the parts of Space and Time would give such a differentiation. And it is also incompatible with the existence of any belief, volition, or emotion, all of which are internally differentiated.

Moreover, there is certainly an appearance of differentiation in the universe as we perceive it. And if this is condemned as an illusion, the illusion will have to be itself part of the universe. And it is not easy to see how it is to be that without introducing differentiation into the universe.

But although there may be very good reasons of this sort for rejecting the view that the existent is completely undifferentiated, they are not such as the dialectic can appeal to. The dialectic has to deduce all its results from the category of Being without the introduction of any fresh data. If it is to exclude the hypothesis of an undifferentiated existent, it must be either because that hypothesis is self-contradictory, or because it is incompatible with some of the results reached by the dialectic process. It might be possible to show that it is to be rejected for one or other of these reasons, but I cannot see that Hegel has shown it. Here, too, therefore, we must regard the transition to Essence as erroneous.

103. We have then, in the present category, a Surface of a plurality of things with common qualities, and a Substratum which is “an undetermined simple unity.” From this Hegel proceeds as follows: “that the Essence becomes a merely Essential, as opposed to an Unessential, comes about through this, that the Essence is only taken as transcended Being or Being Determinate. The Essence is in this way only the First, or the negation, which is determination, through which the Being becomes merely Being Determinate, or the Being Determinate becomes merely an Other. But the Essence is the absolute negativity of Being, it is Being itself, but determined not merely as an Other, but as the Being which has transcended itself both as immediate Being, and also as the immediate negation, as the negation which is linked to an Otherbeing. The Being or Being Determinate has in this not preserved itself as something Other than the Essence is. And the immediacy which is still distinguished from the Essence is not merely an unessential Being Determinate (unwesentliches Dasein) but is the immediate which is null (nichtig) in and for itself: it is only an Unessence (Unwesen), only Show” (G. L. ii. 9).

This argument seems to me to be mistaken. No doubt the Being has not preserved itself as an element completely separated from the Substratum of which it now forms the Surface. But the proper conclusion from this is merely that which has already been reached in reaching Essence — namely that the two are related as sides or aspects of the same reality. To infer that, because the Surface is nothing apart from its Substratum, therefore it is null and an “Unessence” in its relation to its Substratum, is surely erroneous.

If this is so, the transition to Show must be rejected. But in rejecting the Greater Logic here we do not part company altogether with Hegel, for in the Encyclopaedia the Surface is never treated as null. The three categories of the triad of Show — Essential and Unessential, Show, and Reflection, find no place in the Encyclopaedia, where the Doctrine of Essence starts with the category of Identity. In this the later work seems to me to be much superior to the earlier.

B. Show.

104. (G. L. ii. 9.) The translation I have adopted for Schein is scarcely satisfactory, but I can find no better. Appearance is not available, as it is wanted to translate Erscheinung. Nor would Appearance emphasise with sufficient strength the total nullity of the Surface at this point.

This category must not be confounded with Absolute Indifference, which occurred towards the end of Measure. In Absolute Indifference it was not the reality of either side of the relation which was denied, but the relation itself was expressed in such a way as to be rather the denial of relation. Here, on the contrary, it is one side of the relation which is denied all reality.

The position of this category — that the Surface is merely nothing — is one which is easily seen to be untenable. If the category were correct, the Substratum would have no Surface. In that case it would not be a Substratum, and we should have no Essence-relation at all. We should have fallen back on the simpler conception of reality which was found in the Doctrine of Being, and which the course of the dialectic has already compelled us to abandon.

The Show is, then, and yet the Show is nothing. It is nothing and yet something. And this is impossible. Hegel aptly instances the attempt of the Sceptic to treat everything as devoid of all reality, and Fichte’s endeavour to consider as merely negative the “Anstoss” which in the long run determines the Ego (G. L. ii. 11. His further examples from Leibniz and Kant might perhaps be criticised as misrepresentations).

Since this category is untenable, we must proceed further. We must do this, Hegel tells us, by perceiving that the Show is a moment of the Essence, and not something distinct from it (G. L. ii. 12). It is clear that he must mean, not merely that the Show is a moment of the Essence-relation, which it has been all along, but that it is a moment of the Essence-side of that relation. The Show is, then. an element in its, Substratum. Thus Hegel is able to admit that all the reality is in the Substratum (the result which he thought he had arrived at in the category of the Essential and Unessential), while avoiding the impossible position of denying all reality to the Surface.

105. We reach here, then, a new category, in which the Essence-relation is between the. whole nature of the Substratum and a part of that nature. To this Hegel gives the name of

C. Reflection.

(G. L. ii. 14), which is, in the first place,

(a) Positing Reflection.

(G.L. ii. 16.) Noël remarks (La Logique de Hegel, p. 63) that in Ground “for the first time the Essence appears as substratum of the mediation.” I cannot regard this as correct. The Essence-side of the relation seems to me to be a true Substratum in the two first categories of Essence, and to become so. again in Diversity — if not in Identity. But, with regard to Reflection and its subdivisions, it is, I think, true that the Essence-side is not properly a Substratum. It does here, as Noël says (loc. cit.), “confound itself with the very movement of reflection.” For the Surface is here, as we have seen, actually part of the Essence-side. The whole of the relation of the two sides falls within one of them.

At this point, therefore, the name of Substratum, which I have adopted for the Essence-side of the relation, is unsuitable, since it suggests that the Surface is outside it. But it would be difficult to find another which was not already claimed by Hegel for use elsewhere. And, when we have passed beyond the three categories of Reflection, Substratum will again be an appropriate term.

Hegel says of the category of Positing Reflection that it is “a movement from nothing to nothing,” and again that it is transition as transcending of transition “ (G. L. ii. 16). The immediacy of the Surface is “only the negative of itself, only this — not to be immediacy,” for it is only a moment of the Substratum. But again Reflection is “the transcending of the negation of itself, it is coming together with self; in this way it transcends its positing, and since it is, in its positing, the transcending of positing, it is presupposition (Voraussetzen)” (G. L. ii. 17). In other words, in this category the immediate element loses its immediacy, because it is only a moment of the non-immediate element, the Substratum. But the Substratum has now nothing, outside itself, and is therefore itself immediate. As the negation of itself, the immediate ceased to be immediate. But the Reflection is “ the transcending of the negation of itself” and thus immediacy is restored.

106. The first form in which it is restored is, according to Hegel,

(b) External Reflection

(G. L. ii. 19), in which the Reflection finds an immediate element which exists independently of it — which is, in Hegel’s language, presupposed (vorausgesetzt), not posited (gesetzt).

107. But this, the argument continues, is an untenable position. The two, are not really external to one another, but depend on each other for their existence. For Reflection is clearly dependent on the Immediate. Without an Immediate, it would be unable to perform its work of mediation. The Immediate, again, without the Reflection, would be the mere Immediate of Being over again. This, of course, it is not. But for the difference it depends on Reflection. Thus the connexion between the two sides is essential to them. This gives us

(c) Determining Reflection

(G. L. ii. 23), in which we see that the Immediate is really the “absolutely mediated” — that is to say, the self-mediated, that which is mediated, not by anything outside it, but by a process within itself. That which is absolutely mediated has the same character of stability as the Immediate, since it does not refer to anything outside itself. Thus the new category synthesizes the two former. Like Positing Reflection, it places the mediation within that which is mediated. But, like External Reflection, it provides a real Immediate for mediation. The Surface no longer falls within the Substratum, as in Positing Reflection, nor is it something independent of the Substratum, as in External Reflection. The Surface and Substratum are now two moments, neither of which fills within the other, but both of which as moments in the same reality, are intrinsically united, and not independent of each other.

It seems to me that Hegel would have done better if he had suppressed Positing and External Reflection altogether, and had taken what he now calls Determining Reflection as the undivided category of Reflection. For the conception of Determining Reflection is really much simpler than that of Positing Reflection, and it would have been more convincing to reach it directly from Show (which it would have synthesized with Essential and Unessential), than first to proceed to Positing Reflection and then to reach Determining Reflection through it.

This would avoid, also, the transition from Positing Reflection to External Reflection, which seems to me fallacious. No doubt, as Hegel points out, the Substratum, if it absorbed the Surface, would be immediate, but it is very difficult to see how we could possibly pass, as Hegel apparently does, to the position that it has an immediate reality external to it.


108. (G. L. ii. 26.) Hegel accounts for the name as follows : , The Reflection is determined Reflection; and so the Essence is determined Essence, or it is Essentiality (Wesenheit)” (G. L. ii. 26). But this does not help xis to see why these, rather than the other categories of Essence, should be distinguished by a title so specially connected with Essence.

A. Identity.

(G. L. ii. 30.) This category is a restatement of the last. If anything is self-mediated, then that which is found on one side of the relation has exactly the same content as that which is found on the other side. Surface and Substratum reflect each other perfectly. If we start from an immediately given A, and endeavour to understand it by determining its Essence, the result which we get at this point will be “A is A.”

Before this point we could not have reached the category of Identity. So long as we had not passed beyond the Doctrine of Being, it would have been impossible to assert Identity as a category. For no category of the dialectic is a tautology. And consequently the Identity asserted must be an Identity between what can be distinguished, from another point of view, as not identical. Now this would be impossible among the categories of Being. For there we find no difference within the subject. And, if we predicate anything of it besides itself, our judgment will not be one of identity. The category of Identity only becomes possible when the division of form between Substratum and Surface enables us to put the same content on each side of the judgment, while at the same time keeping a distinction in form.

109. We must now consider Hegel’s treatment of the logical law of Identity, A =A, or, as he also expresses it, “Everything is identical with itself (Alles ist sich selbst gleich).” in the first place, in his general discussion of the Essentialities, he asks (G. L. ii. 27) why this law (which also, as he points out, takes the form of the Law of Contradiction, A is not not-A), and the Law of Excluded Middle, should be considered as universal laws of thought, to the exclusion of others. All the other categories, he reminds us, are also predicates of all things (“von Allem,” G. L. ii. 28). Such laws as “Everything is,” “Everything has Determinate Being” are just as true as the laws of thought in formal logic. In the case of the higher categories, it is not surprising that they have not formed the basis for generally recognised laws of thought, as the validity of the higher categories is not so immediately obvious — is, indeed, often not to be seen at all without the aid of the dialectic. But this cannot be said of the categories of Being — especially of the earlier among them.

In answer to this question Hegel points out (G. L. ii. 28) that in Being the Antithesis of each Thesis is its direct opposite. If we attempted to base a universal law on each category, these laws would directly contradict one another. By the side of the law that “ Everything is,” we should find, based on the category of Nothing, the law that “Everything, is nothing[5].” It would be quite clear then that each of these laws could not be absolutely true, since they contradict one another, and therefore they would not be taken by formal logic as universal laws of thought, to all of which it must ascribe absolute truth.

With the categories of Essence the case is different, owing to the gradual modification in form of the dialectic process. Difference is not so directly opposed to Identity, as Nothing is to Being. As we shall see, the Difference is added to the Identity, and does not replace it. And therefore no law formed out of Difference can be obviously and directly incompatible with the law of Identity, and thereby challenge the absolute truth of the latter.

I do not, however, see that the difference in question, though it certainly exists, can be accepted as the reason why previous thinkers did not make “ universal laws of thought out of the categories of Being. For the necessity of proceeding from the Thesis to the Antithesis is Hegel’s own discovery. The founders of formal logic would not have been deterred from making “ Everything is “ into a universal law of thought by its obvious incompatibility with “Everything is nothing.” For the latter would have seemed simply false to them, and to everyone else who had not accepted or anticipated the first triad of Hegel’s dialectic.

110. We must look for another way out of the difficulty. And I believe that this is to be found in the fact that the Law of Identity is not specially connected with Hegel’s category of Identity at all, and therefore gives us no reason to expect that similar laws will be connected with the other categories.

The category of Identity is, as we have seen, the assertion of an Identity of content in the Surface and Substratum of existent things. This, of course, narrows its field. Not to speak of non-existent realities, if such there are, it is clear that the category cannot be applied either to qualities or relations, since it is not qualities or relations which have Surfaces and Subtrata, but only things. And, again, it cannot be applied to a Surface or Substratum. For, if so, there would have to be, within that Surface or Substratum, a division into a fresh Surface and Substratum, and this is not Hegel’s view.

On the other hand, the Law of Identity can be applied to any subject whatever. We can say just as well that a quality is a quality, or that a Substratum is a Substratum, as we can say that a thing is a thing. Since the law and the category have such difference in their application the law cannot be founded on the category.

And, again, the truth of the category of Identity is by no means a tautology. When we bring a thing under this category we assert that its nature has the two sides of Surface and Substratum, and that the content of these two sides is the same. And both these propositions are very far from being tautologies.

It is different with the Law of Identity. In the sense in which that asserts A to be A, the proposition is a complete tautology. Its truth rests, not on identity in difference, but on the absence of all difference. If any difference existed between the A of the subject and the A of the predicate, the assertion of their identity would be a proposition which might be true, and which, true or false, would have some interest. But it would not be the Law of Identity of format logic. And it is this Law of Identity of which Hegel speaks here.

Later on (G. L. ii. 35) he admits the tautologous character of the Law of Identity. Such propositions as “ a plant is a plant,” he says, are simply useless and wearisome. They would be universally admitted to be true, and universally admitted to say nothing. This is sufficient to show that the Law of Identity is not based on Hegel’s category of Identity. The statements that the nature of a plant has a Surface and a Substratum, and that the content of these is identical, certainly tells us something, whether it be false or true.

The connexion, then, between the logical Law of Identity and Hegel’s category of Identity is so slight that we need not be surprised at the absence of similar Laws corresponding to the earlier categories.

In his criticism of the Law of Identity Hegel, I think, goes too far when he says that its truth is incompatible with the existence of Difference (G. L. ii. 29, “If everything is identical with itself, it is not different, not opposed, and has no Ground.” Again, G. L. ii. 37, “The Law of Identity or Contradiction, since its object is only to express abstract Identity as the truth in opposition to Difference, is no law of thought, but rather the opposite of such a law”). That A is A would surely be quite consistent with the facts that A is not B, that A and C are polar opposites, and that A and D have a Ground E.

111. From the category of Identity Hegel passes on as follows. “ The Identity is the Reflection into itself, which is only this as being inner Repulsion (Abstossen), and this Repulsion exists as Reflection into itself, Repulsion which immediately takes itself back into itself. It is thus Identity as the Difference which is identical with itself. But the Difference is only identical with itself in so far as it is not the Identity, but absolute Not-Identity. Not-Identity, however, is absolute in so far as it contains nothing of the Other, but only itself, that is to, say, in so far as it is absolute Identity with itself “ (G. L. ii. 32).

We have already discussed the fact that Hegel starts the categories of Essence with a Surface containing a plurality of things (Section 101). This has not so far involved a corresponding plurality in the Substratum. For, till the transition to Determining Reflection, there was nothing in the relation of Surface to Substratum which should prevent an undifferentiated Substratum from having a differentiated Surface, and we could not argue from the differentiation of the Surface to a differentiation of Substratum. But in Determining Reflection, and its restatement as Identity, the Surface and the Substratum are identical in their content. And therefore the Substratum, like the Surface, is differentiated.

It is in this way that Identity, as Hegel says, involves Differentiation. Things are different on the Surface, and if the Substratum in each thing is identical with the Surface, then it must be different from the Substratum of every other thing. Since the conception of Difference is thus carried into the Substratum, we reach

B. Difference.

(a) Absolute Difference.

(G. L. ii. 37.) Difference is at first simple (einfach) (G. L. ii. 38). The Difference between two thin.” is only that they are different. If one is A, the other is not-A. By this Hegel cannot mean that the second is a mere negation of the first, for the second must also be identical with itself, and therefore must be as positive as the first. What he means is that the element of Difference between them lies simply in the fact that the second element, B, is not-A. If we had begun with B, then the difference would consist in A being not-B.

He goes on to say that we have here the Difference of Reflection and not the Otherbeing. of Determinate Being. In the Otherbeing of Determinate Being, the things are conceived primarily as isolated, and only secondarily as related. But now that we have reached Essence, the connection with others is seen to be a fundamental part of the nature of each thing.

There is no Difference without Identity, and no Identity without Difference. Identity, Hegel says, may thus be considered as a whole of which Difference and itself are moments. And Difference may be considered as a whole of which Identity and itself are moments (G. L. ii. 38). (This seems to be only an unnecessarily paradoxical way of expressing the fact that Identity involves itself and Difference, and that Difference involves itself and Identity.) This, he continues, “must be regarded as the essential nature of Reflection, and as the determined fundamental ground of all acting and self- movement.” It is, indeed, a rudimentary form of the principle of, the mutual implication of Unity and Differentiation, the establishment of which may perhaps be maintained to be the supreme result of the whole dialectic.

(b) Variety.

112. (G. L. ii. 39.) The deduction of this category (G. L. ii. 39-41) is extremely obscure. Hegel says that from Absolute Difference arise two forms, “Reflection into self as such, and Determination as negation, or the Posited. The Posited is the Reflection which is external to self “ (G. L. ii. 40). Of these the first is primarily Identity, and the second is primarily Difference (G. L. ii. 40). So far this seems only a repetition of what was said before. The Reflection into self is the Identity which includes itself and Difference, while the External Reflection is the Difference which includes itself and Identity. Hegel’s statement that they are indifferent (gleichgültig) to one another is also explicable. Identity and Difference, pure and simple, were not indifferent to one another. Each was the other’s complement. But if Identity is taken as including itself and Difference, or Difference is taken as including itself and Identity, each of them is a stable whole, since it includes its complement. And therefore they may be taken as indifferent to one another.

Things are Various, he continues, when they are indifferent in their connexion with each other. For, when they are indifferent to each other, it is because the Difference between them is seen to involve the Identity of each. A and B are indifferent, when B’s difference from A lies in the fact that it is B (and not in the merely negative consideration that it is not A), and when A’s difference from B lies in the fact that it is A. And it is this — the difference of positive from positive — that he calls Variety, as distinguished from Absolute Difference, which is the difference of a positive from its mere negation. And since Reflection in self gives us indifference, he says (G. L. ii. 41) that it gives us Variety.

But now Hegel goes on to a further argument which appears to me fallacious. “The External Reflection on the other hand is the determined Difference” of the two moments “ not as absolute Reflection in self but as Determination, against which the Reflection in self is indifferent; its two moments, the Identity and the Difference itself, are thus externally posited, and are not Determinations which are in and for themselves. Now this external Identity is Likeness (Gleichheit) and the external Difference is Unlikeness. Likeness is indeed Identity, but only what is posited, an Identity which is not in and for itself. In the same way, Unlikeness is Difference, but as an external Difference, which is not in and for itself the Difference of the Unlike “ (G. L. ii. 41).

But Likeness cannot be reduced to a sort of Identity. For the Identity of which Hegel speaks — the Identity of the previous category — is a relation which falls entirely within some particular thing. A is identical with itself because it has the same content in Surface and Substratum. And this cannot possibly become the Likeness of which Hegel speaks, which is a relation between different things.

It is true that, if things are like one another, they will have some identical quality. But then the identity is of the quality, while the identity of which Hegel has been speaking is an identity of a thing. And the identity of a quality cannot be an instance of Hegel’s category of Identity, since that only applies where there is a Substratum and Surface with an identical content, and it is only things, and not qualities, which Hegel regards as having Surfaces and Substrata.

113. It seems to me that it is necessary to reconstruct part of Hegel’s argument, though it is only the latter part which will need altering. The transition will start, as it does with Hegel, from the fact that Identity implies Difference, and Difference Identity. Then that A should be not-B, not-C, etc., is implied in its being A. And again that B should be not-A is implied in its being B. Thus A differs from B now because B is B, since its being not-A is seen to be a moment of its nature as B.

We have thus got two of Hegel’s steps towards Variety. The things are (a) indifferent to each other. For their connexion is now through their positive qualities on both sides, which have other meanings than merely to express their Difference, though they do express it. And the things are (b) Unlike.

For they have positive qualities, which are different in each of them. And so we get Unlikeness, a name which Hegel does not give to the difference between a term and its mere negation, such as A and not-A.

On both these points we have followed Hegel’s argument, except that we have not distinguished between the two forms in which the unity of Identity and Difference can be put, which seems to be irrelevant here. But there remains the third point. The Various things must be determined by Likeness as well as by Unlikeness.

Some Likenesses exist wherever there are common Qualities, and we found in the categories of Measure that each thing had at least two qualities in common with others. But the break of continuity which we found to exist at the beginning of Essence renders it doubtful how far we are entitled to rely on this now. And, at any rate, it would not be sufficient. For the Likenesses to be found in Measure group things in one order only. No cross-groupings are possible by means of them, unless a thing (or, as it was there called, a One) should belong to two different Measure-series, which is not apparently contemplated by Hegel. Now the Likenesses in the category of Variety are clearly more complicated than this. For when the Likenesses turn into Grounds, we shall find that Hegel tells us that A can be connected with B and not with C, or with C and not with B, according to the Ground chosen. It is clear, then, that the category of Variety requires that A shall have one Likeness to B, and a different Likeness to C.

Can we prove that this must be the case? I think we can. Take any group of things, M, N, O, which is less than the whole universe[6]. There will therefore be one or more things outside this group. If we call one of these Z, it is clear that the individuals in the group M, N, O, have each the quality of not being Z — or, if you prefer it, of being not-Z. And this constitutes a Likeness between them.

We can go further. For any group of things we can find, not only a Likeness, but a Likeness shared by no others. Let M, N, O, X, Y, Z, stand for a complete list of existent things.

Then take the group M, N, O. Each of these has the quality of not being either X, Y, or Z, which constitutes a Likeness between them. And no other group can have this Likeness, for no other group can be formed (except one included in the group M, N, O) which does not include either X, Y or Z. And the same principle will apply, however great the number of things in the universe may be.

114. Thus we should be entitled to predicate Likenesses, as well as Unlikenesses, of the various things. But to do so in this manner would raise an important question which Hegel never considers. It will be noticed that the only qualities which have been deduced by my argument are the qualities which arise from the relation of Difference which has already been proved to exist between all things. The argument therefore rests on the principle that every relation determines a quality in each related thing. If Smith is taller than Brown, then “to be taller than Brown” is a quality of Smith, and “to be shorter than Smith” a quality of Brown. This principle, as I mentioned in Chapter I. (Section 6), is accepted by Hegel.

But when this principle is accepted, the question arises whether all qualities arise out of relations in this way, or whether there are some which do not. (These latter might be called for distinction ultimate qualities.) To this question there can, I think, be no doubt that Hegel’s answer would be that there were such ultimate qualities. The Qualities mentioned in the Doctrine of Being certainly did not depend on relations, though relations depended on them, and nothing in the subsequent transitions has removed these Qualities from our view of the nature of things.

These ultimate qualities differ in such an important way from the qualities determined by relation, that it would be very desirable to know something about them as distinguished from the others. Hegel unquestionably held, when dealing with Measure, that each thing had at least two ultimate qualities which could be common to it with other things, without being common to all things. And he probably went further, and held that every thing possessed some qualities which were common to it and to some other things. But does this hold now that we have passed out of Measure ? It is clear that things have still ultimate qualities. It is clear, from what has been said above, that everything has still qualities which are common to it with some other things, without being common to it with all other things. But are any of these common qualities ultimate qualities ? On this point the dialectic tells us nothing.

115. Hegel discusses here Leibniz’s principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (G. L. ii. 44). The reasons by which he accounts for the supposed connexion of the Law of Identity with his category of Identity (cp. above, Section 109) would suggest that a similar Law might be found in connexion with the category of Difference, and he seems to regard the principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles as holding this place. But the analog is very slight. The Law of Identity, Hegel tells us. was universally admitted, was a mere tautology, and fell within formal logic. Now the principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles is by no means universally admitted, is certainly not a mere tautology, and does not come within the sphere of formal logic.

116. We now proceed to the transition to the next category. Hegel says (G. L. ii. 44) “the Various is the Difference which is merely posited, the Difference which is no Difference.” And he goes on to say that the transition is due to the Indifference. (Gleichgültigkeit) of Variety.

What is meant by this? I conceive that he means that in, this category there is no special connexion of any thing with any other thing. The relation may fairly be said to be one of Indifference, if no thing has any connexion with one other except that which it has with all others. And this Indifference, I conceive, arises as follows. We are now dealing with Likenesses and Unlikenesses. But every thing is, as we have seen, Unlike every other thing. And it is also Like every other thing, for in any possible group we can, as we have seen, find a common quality. Thus under this category everything has exactly the same relation to everything else. For it is both Like and Unlike everything else.

It may naturally be objected to this that the relations are not precisely similar. A may be both like and unlike B and C, but it will be like B because they both have the quality x, unlike because A has and B has not the quality y. With C, on the other hand, it may be the quality m which makes the likeness, and the quality n the unlikeness.

The answer to this, I believe, would be that our present category makes the Substratum of things to be simply their Likeness and Unlikeness, and that therefore the relations recognised by it are just the same although they may be founded on different qualities. A is like B in respect of x, like C in respect of m, but all that this category deals with is the abstract relation of Likeness. And this is the same in the case of A and B as it is in the case of A and C.

The possession of a common quality is not, for Hegel, a direct determination of the nature of things till we reach the categories of the Notion. It is this, I believe, which is indicated by the fact that he then for the first time calls them Universals, and says that they constitute the nature of the things. Before the Notion is reached a community of quality only affects the nature of a thing by putting it into, or taking out of, a group with another thing. In Quantity and Measure this did not produce Indifference, because the common qualities there permitted only one system of grouping (cp. above, Section 113). But in Variety, where everything is like and unlike everything else, the Indifference arises.

The Indifference is a defect which makes the category untenable. We passed from Being to Essence because the existence of a plurality completely ungrouped and unorganised was impossible, and because its grouping required the duplicity of nature which conies in Essence. But it is evident that Essence cannot fulfil its task if all that the Substratum does is to give a relation which links everything to everything else in exactly the same manner. It gives no reason why A should be linked with B rather than with C, or with C rather than with B. And, ever since Undivided Quantity passed into Quantum, we have seen that such preferential linkings must exist.

Hegel maintains that we can only escape this difficulty by finding a Likeness and Unlikeness which are not indifferent to each other. Now if A and B have a particular Unlikeness which depends on their having a particular Likeness, then the indifference, he holds, has broken down. A and B are not simply Like and Unlike. Their Unlikeness depends on their Likeness.

And, if A can only enter into this particular relation to B, and to nothing else, then A and B are specially connected. Now this happens in cases of what is called polar opposition. Such is the case where A and B have both a temperature, and A is hot and B is cold. And again we have it when A and B are movements on the meridian of Greenwich, and A is a movement North, and B a movement South, or when A and B are sums of money, and I owe A and am owed B. Thus Hegel passes to a category which he calls

(c) Opposition.

(G. L. ii. 47.) This is a synthesis of Absolute Difference and Variety. As in Variety, the, differences are positive on each side, but, as in Absolute Difference, the differences lie in characteristics which are in a definite negative relation to one another, and are not simply not the same.

117. Hegel says (G. L. ii. 48) that the Likeness is the Positive here, and the Unlikeness the Negative. I must own myself entirely unable to understand what he means by this. The whole course of the argument seems to show that the Likeness consists in the common character shared by two opposites, and that each of these opposites can be taken either as Positive or Negative.

He then recapitulates (G. L. ii. 49, 50) the three elements which make up the Positive and Negative. The first is that in which they are merely moments of the Opposition. In the second, each side has both elements in it — the elements of Positive and Negative — and they thus become indifferent towards one another. In the third, they are essentially connected, and yet at the same time have each a positive nature.

This recapitulation must not be mistaken for a subordinate triad within Opposition. In the first place, its terms are not marked off from each other in the text by separate headings, or provided with names of their own, which always happens with distinct categories. In the second place, it is obviously a recapitulation, since the last stage of the three is just the idea which we gained on passing from Variety to Opposition — that of two things, different in their positive nature, and yet each determining the other as its negative. The two earlier stages those dealing with a mere difference and with indifferent diversity — had been transcended before we came to Opposition at all, and could not return in it, since they are incompatible with the principle of Opposition. They are, as Hegel calls them, “determinations which constitute Positive and Negative,” but not forms of the category which contains Positive and Negative.

The transition to the next category (G. L. ii. 57) is as follows: Each extreme, he says, “has indifferent stability for itself through the fact that it has the relation to its other moment in itself (an ihm selbst). Thus it is the whole Opposition contained in itself. As this whole, each is mediated with itself through its Other, and continues its Other. But it is also mediated with self through the Not-Being, of its Other; thus it is a unity for itself, and excludes its other from it.” As thus it includes and excludes the Other in the same respect (Rücksicht), and therefore is only stable in so far as it excludes its own stability from itself, it involves a contradiction.

Is the category of Opposition valid? I do not think that it is. The Indifference of Variety was really a defect, and had to be transcended. But all that is needed for this purpose is that some Likeness shall be taken as specially fundamental — the conception which is introduced afterwards in Ground. If this were done, the Indifference would be removed, since things which had the same Ground would be specially linked together. And we have no right to introduce into the new category more than is necessary to remove the contradiction of the one below it. Now Opposition, involving as it does a special relation of the Unlikeness between two things to the Likeness between them, is a more complicated idea than Ground, and we ought not to have introduced it when Ground would suffice to say nothing of the incorrectness of reaching Ground (as Hegel does) after the more complex conception of Opposition has been transcended.

Moreover, if we could have accepted the transition which He gel makes into Opposition, we should still have to reject the transition by which he passes out of it. The contradiction which he finds here rests on a mistake. The stability of the Extremes of an Opposition rest, no doubt, on their relation to one another, and this very stability excludes them from one another. But there is no contradiction here. There is simply the truth, which the dialectic gave us as long ago as Being for Self, that a thing is determined to be itself by the fact of not being other things.

I think, therefore, that the category of Opposition is not to be justified, and that the transition should run from Variety direct to Ground[7]. The insertion of Opposition may be due to the tendency to which we have to ascribe so much of what is weakest in the dialectic — the tendency to bring in irrelevant conceptions which play a large part in empirical science, or in the history of philosophy. Polarity is, of course, a very important conception for science. And — a still more important consideration — it was the central conception of the philosophy which Schelling had constructed, and from which Hegel had found his way to his own system. It is not wonderful therefore that Hegel should have unconsciously deflected the course of the dialectic to include it.

118. We now pass to a category which Hegel calls

C. Contradiction.

(G. L. ii. 57.) In giving it this name, however, he seems to confuse the category with the transition to it. The contradiction just stated is the reason why we must pass on from Opposition to another category, but it cannot be the category itself. How could we pass to a conception which, as we get to it, we know to be contradictory ? The whole point of the dialectic method is that the perception of a contradiction is a reason for abandoning the category which we find contradictory. Moreover the category now before us is the Synthesis of Identity and Difference. And it is especially clear that a category cannot be accepted as a reconciliation of others where it is seen to be itself contradictory.

Hegel’s transition from his category of Contradiction is to be found on p. 61. “The exclusive Reflection of the stable Opposition makes it a Negative, something only posited. So it” — the Reflection — “degrades its previous stable Determinations, the Positive and the Negative, to the level of being only Determinations, and since the Position (Gesetzsein) has been made Position in this way, it has gone back into unity with itself. It is simple Essence, but Essence as Ground.”

119. It seems to me that we can do justice to Hegel’s argument here by taking the contradiction (which he makes the category of Contradiction) as the transition into a category constituted in the way described in this passage. The conception of Ground will thus be reached in II. C., instead of at the beginning of III., where Hegel puts it.

The contradiction which, if Hegel is right, is found in Opposition is now removed by taking the terms as each possessing its own Substratum — no longer merely sharing one with its Opposite — but a Substratum which is clearly recognised as something with both positive and negative nature. As Hegel says, “ Ground is Essence as positive Identity with itself, which, however, at the same time relates itself to itself as negativity, and thus determines itself and makes itself exclusive (ausgeschlossenen) Position; but this Position is the whole stable Essence, and the Essence is Ground, which in its negation is identical with itself and positive “ (G. L. ii. 62).

For this category, to which the name of Contradiction is clearly inapplicable, I should suggest the name of Stable Essentiality. It bears a marked resemblance to Identity, for in it, as in Identity, each part of the Surface has its own Substratum, which belongs to it, and to no other. This contrasts with the categories of Difference in each of which the Substratum of each thing, consisted in its relation to others.

But the difference between this category and Identity must not be overlooked. In the new category the Substratum is not merely the nature of the thing, but that nature recognised as essentially different from the nature of the other things round it. In the category of Identity, Difference has not yet been recognised. When it is recognised, we have passed on to the category of Difference. But in Stable Essentiality the Substratum includes in it, as an essential element, the fact of its difference from other Substrata. It is therefore, as its position in the process requires it to be, the Synthesis of Identity and Difference.

And this involves another change from Identity. The Substratum and Surface in Identity were seen to be identical, except in the form of being Surface and Substratum. Here, on the other hand, there is a further difference between Surface and Substratum. For the Substratum includes in itself its determination as different from the other Substratum — to which nothing corresponds in the merely immediate reality of the Surface.

120. At this point (G. L. ii. 66) Hegel inserts a Note on the Law of Excluded Middle, which he regards as specially connected with the category of Opposition. He remarks that there is one thing which is neither +A nor -A, namely A itself, which enters into both. No doubt this is true, and we might add that all the indefinite number of things in the universe of which A cannot be predicated are neither +A nor -A. If A is Seven, for example, Courage is neither +A nor -A. But the Law of Excluded Middle says nothing of +A and -A, but of A and not-A, which is very different (Hegel states the Law correctly at the beginning of his Note, but, towards the end, suddenly substitutes -A for not-A, without any warning or explanation). Now with regard to A and not-A, it is quite true that everything must be one or the other. Courage, for example, is not-Seven. And the law is true of A itself. For, although it is neither +A nor -A, yet it is A, and it is not not-A.

121. We now pass (G. L. ii. 73) to


A. Absolute Ground.

(a) Form and Essence.

(G. L. ii. 77.) Here the Substratum of each part of the Surface belongs to that part of the Surface alone. But it is distinguished from it as being explicitly determined by the negative relation to its surroundings, which is not the case with the Surface.

122. But, again, we cannot keep these relations out of the Surface. If the Surface is to be anything definite at all, it must have in it the negative relation of one thing to another, without which nothing can be definite. And thus, as Hegel says (G. L. ii. 79), “everything definite belongs to the Form.” The Substratum is left behind as an empty shell. “The Essence is according to this moment the Undetermined, for which the Form is an Other. So the Essence is not” (i.e. is no longer) “the absolute Reflection in itself, but is determined as formless Identity; it is Matter” (G. L. ii. 82). So we get

(b) Form and Matter.

(G. L. ii. 82.) Matter here is much more indefinite than the Matter of Materialism, or of physical science. For that is conceived as having a definite nature while here all the definite nature has been absorbed by the Form, leaving the Matter as an undetermined and undifferentiated basis for the Form.

It is, however, impossible that Matter, taken in this sense, should be the Substratum of. anything. For, with no definite nature, it can have no definite relation to anything. It is clear then that it cannot be in the very definite relation to the Surface of being its Substratum, without which the Surface would be inexplicable.

123. We must therefore conceive the Matter as having Form as a moment of itself — as being formed Matter. But again, the Form, since it has, according to the argument which produced the category of Form and Matter, everything in it, must have the Matter as a moment in itself (G. L. ii. 86). Thus both sides — Substratum and Surface — have the same nature, and we come to

(c) Form and Content.

(G. L. ii. 88.) In this category, says Hegel (G. L. ii. 89), we reach Determined Ground. It might be objected to this that the Ground is to be conceived rather as determining than as determined. But it must be remembered that Ground, like Essence, is used by Hegel both as the name of a relation and as the name of one term of that relation. It is, I think, rather the Ground-relation than the Ground-element of that relation of which he speaks here. And this relation may properly be called at this point determined, because here, for the first time in Ground, the nature of the two sides is explicitly identical, and there is therefore nothing on either side which is not related to its correlate on the other.

B. Determined Ground.

(a) Formal Ground.

124. (G. L. ii. 90.) This is simply the restatement of Form and Content. The Ground of the whole nature of the thing is its whole nature. The explanation is thus perfectly complete. ABC is the Ground of ABC. Such an explanation leaves out nothing, assumes nothing, and explains nothing. It is for this reason that it is called Formal.

It is worth while to compare this category with two previous categories which resemble it to some extent — Identity, and Form and Essence. Form and Essence is distinguished from it by not possessing the same absolute likeness of the two terms which is found in Formal Ground. The Substratum in Form and Essence has, as we saw, a more explicit reference to other reality than is found in the Surface.

But the resemblance between Identity and Formal Ground is closer, for in neither of them is any difference to be found between Surface and Substratum, beyond the fact that they are Surface and Substratum. The distinction between the categories is that, when we come to Formal Ground, the advancing process has determined each thing as explicitly possessing differences from other things, and similarities with them. The question, is no longer a vague “What?” but a more definite “Why this and not that?” In the category of Identity we merely tried, in a quite undetermined manner, to explain the thing. Here we have the definite problems to answer which are presented by a thing, each of whose similarities and differences is a special problem. In Identity, it is to be remembered, there was not yet a plurality of characteristics for each thine,. That came in for the first time in Variety.

The inadequacy of Formal Ground is clear. If the Surface was sufficient to explain itself, we should not want the Essence-relation at all. And since it is not sufficient to explain itself, we shall not gain anything by formally offering its own nature as its explanation. We must therefore look elsewhere for a new category, to avoid the contradiction of positing m an explanation that which can explain nothing.

125. How do we proceed? Hegel says (G. L. ii. 97) “The side of Ground has shown itself to be something posited, and the side of the Grounded has shown itself to be itself Ground; each is in itself this identity of the whole. Since, however, they belong at the same time to the Form, and constitute its determined Difference, each of them is in its own Determinateness the identity of the whole with itself. Each has thus a separate content as against the other. Or — to consider it from the side of Content — since it,” the Content, “is Identity as the Ground-relation with itself, it has essentially within itself this difference of Form, and is as Ground something different from what it is as Grounded.

“From this fact, that the Ground and the Grounded have a different content, it follows that the Ground-relation has ceased to be formal. The return into the Ground, and the advance to it from what is posited is no longer a tautology ; the Ground has become real (ist realisirt). We demand therefore, when a Ground is enquired for, that the Ground shall have a different determination of content from that for whose Ground enquiry was made.”

The truth contained in this, I think, is that however much the argument may require us to think of the two sides as exactly similar, still, if we keep to the Ground-relation at all, we must conceive the two sides as more or less different. The Ground is that to which we refer in order to explain the Grounded, and a thine, cannot be explained by a mere repetition of itself. Thus “the Determinateness of the two sides” — that is, the fact that one is Ground and the other is Grounded — requires a difference in what is contained in each of them.

Hegel’s language, however, is misleading. It suggests that the relation between the Ground and the Grounded not only requires a difference between what they contain, but also produces such a difference. In other words, it suggests that the Formal Ground turns into the Real Ground — that the Formal Ground which appeared at first sight to have both sides identical, turns out on further consideration to show some difference between the two.

This is not what really happens. What does happen is that the category of Formal Ground has broken down, because the characteristics implied by the Formality are contrary to those implied by the Ground. We have therefore to look for a category in which this contradiction shall be removed, and in which Ground shall be so expressed that the required difference in the content of the two sides shall be possible. And when Hegel develops the idea of his new category we see that in the new category the Ground is part of the nature of the thing and no longer the whole nature. It is not therefore the same Ground as before, looked at in a different manner, but a different Ground. It is called

(b) Real Ground.

(G. L. ii. 96.) Its advance on the last category consists in the Surface — the Grounded — having more in it than there is in the Substratum — the Ground. The Grounded is “the unity of a double content “ (G. L. ii. 97), of which one side is also to be found in the Ground, and the other is not. The difference has to be made somehow, and therefore one side must have more in it than the other. The reason why the excess is to be found on the side of the Grounded is not given by Hegel. I conceive it to be that we always start from the Surface, as that which now represents the stratum of the reality which was first determined. The Substratum is what is required to explain this. It is possible, therefore, that we should determine a Substratum which only explains part of the Surface, if all of the Substratum does explain part of the Surface. But if the Substratum contained more than the Surface, so that there was an element in the Substratum which did not explain the Surface, how could we ever show the existence of that element? For it is not part of the datum to be explained (since it is not part of the Surface), and it is not part of the explanation. The only alternative, then, is to take the Surface as having more in it than the Substratum.

The ungrounded element in the Grounded has a merely immediate connexion with the other element. The unity of the double content “ is, as unity of the different, their negative unity, but since the Content-determinations are indifferent towards one another, it is only their empty relation, without Content in itself, and is not their mediation; it is a One or Something as their external junction “ (G. L. ii. 97).

Thus Something, as the explanation of the union of the two elements — or rather, as the assertion of it as an ultimate fact is itself to be considered a Ground of a different sort. “The two relations, the essential Content, as the simple immediate Identity of Ground and Grounded, and then the Something, as the relation of the separated Content, are two separate Grounds[8]” (G. L. ii. 99).

126. It may be remarked of a Real Ground, though Hegel does not mention the. fact, that it may be shared by two or more things. For the nature of several things may be in part similar, and the Real Ground only explains part of a thing, so that it may in this way explain several similar things. But it is also the case, as Hegel points out in a Note (G. L. ii. 101), that a thing can have more than. one Real Ground. (This is distinct from the fact t hat both the Real Ground and the Something may be considered as Grounds.) For the special characteristic of any Real Ground is that it does not contain so much as is contained by the Grounded, and out of the remainder of the content of the Grounded, other Real Grounds may be made. This, as Hegel points out, gives a chance to Sophistry (G. L. ii. 103). To refer a thing to part of its content as its Real Ground implies that that part is the true significance of the thing — that which is, even in ordinary language, called essential to it. This can, by a selection of characteristics for that purpose, be used to disguise truth. Thus it would be sophistical to take as the Ground of highway robbery that it diverted wealth from a richer man for the benefit of a poorer man. For that would imply that the resemblance of highway robbery to voluntary charity or to the imposition of a poor rate, was more important than its difference from them.

127. This possibility of different Real Grounds for the same thing shows the defect of the category. It does not serve, as it professes to do, as a basis for the Surface of which it is a Ground. It does serve as a basis, no doubt, for that part of the Surface which has the same content as itself — but if we stopped there we should have got back into Formal Ground. And the other element is merely immediately connected with the actually Grounded element — so that this other element is not Grounded at all. Either no Ground, or the Formal Ground, which has already been abandoned — this is obviously an impossible position for a category of Ground. The solution is offered by the possibility, already noticed, of considering the Something, in which the Grounded and not-Grounded elements meet, as a Ground of their union. We thus reach

I. Complete Ground.

(G. L. ii. 103.) On the one hand we have the Real Ground connected with the corresponding element in the Surface. On the other hand we have the new connexion between that element and the other element in the Surface. (For the sake of distinction we might call this second element the Supplementary Ground.) Hegel calls this category the Complete Ground because it contains both the Formal and the Real. The Real Ground remains, and in the Supplementary Ground we have the Formal Ground back again in the sense that in the Supplementary Ground whatever, is the Grounded is also found in the Ground. If the Grounded is ABC, and the Real Ground is A, then the Supplementary Ground is the assertion of the connexion of A with BC. It thus accounts for the whole of the Grounded (G. L. ii. 104).

128. The elements of the Surface are not yet on an equality. If A is the Real Ground, then the element A in the Surface is grounded in a sense in which the other elements are not. And thus the elements BC are considered as less fundamental to the nature of the thing, but equally necessary. That is to say they are Conditions. Thus we pass to the last division of Ground,

C. Condition.

(a) The Relatively Unconditioned.

(G. L. ii. 107.) This new category is a transformation of the Supplementary Ground, the Real Ground being maintained within Condition as it was within Complete Ground. The Supplementary Ground, as has been said, was Formal. It explained ABC by asserting that A was connected with BC. The two sides being thus alike, the difference vanishes, and, instead of the connexion of A with BC being referred to a Ground which only repeats it, it is simply taken as an immediate fact. Condition is what was a form of Ground, but is so no longer. “ The Condition stands over against the Ground-relation. The Something has a Ground besides its Condition’ (G. L. ii. 109).

We may ask why the Ground-form should collapse here because of the identity of the two sides, though it did not do so in the category of Formal Ground. The answer, I think, is that there was then another way of avoiding the tautology, namely the recourse to Real Ground, and that this did not involve the collapse of the Ground-form. This alternative is not available here, for the Supplementary Ground has been required just because Real Ground, by itself, has been shown to be untenable.

But although Hegel’s position may be correct, his terminology seems to me to be misleading, He first calls the connexion of A with BC a new sort of Ground, by the side of Real Ground, and then ceases to call this by the name of Ground, though the earlier Real Ground still persists. It would surely have been clearer, if the connexion of A with BC — something quite different from any previous Ground — had from the first been called Condition and not Ground. The category of Complete Ground might then have been called Conditional Real Ground, which would be a natural and appropriate name for the category whose restatement takes us into Condition.

129. The two elements in the Surface — the Condition-element and the Ground-element — are at first considered as related, but as being also on one side indifferent and unconditioned towards one another (G. L. ii. 109). It is because of this that the present category is called the Relatively Unconditioned.

But this involves a contradiction. “Each of the two sides is thus the contradiction between indifferent immediacy and essential mediation — both in one relation; or the contradiction between stable existence and the determination of only being a moment “ (G. L. ii. 110). The same element in a thine, cannot, both be immediate and mediated by something else.

Moreover, Hegel continues (G. L. ii. 110), if the same thing could be both immediate and mediate, then, as immediate, it would be Being Determinate. And Being Determinate, like all the other categories of Being, has been shown to lead up to Essence. Thus the very conception by which the Immediacy is expressed has been shown to involve Mediation.

Thus we pass to

(b) The Absolutely Unconditioned.

(G. L. ii. 110.) The two elements have no longer any independence of one another. The whole thing is a single unity, and, looked at as a single unity, it is Absolutely Unconditioned. The elements indeed condition each other, but the whole has nothing determined as conditioning it. The Absolutely Unconditioned “contains the two sides, the Condition and the Ground, as its moments within itself; it is the unit into which they have returned. The two together make the Form or Positing of the Absolutely Unconditioned. The Unconditioned Fact is the Condition of both, but the Absolute Condition, which is itself the Ground “ (G. L. ii. 113). It will be seen that the Absolutely Unconditioned is not equivalent to the Absolutely Undetermined, but means that we are no longer considering a reciprocal determination of separate elements.

(c) Transition of the Fact into Existence.

130. (G. L. ii. 114.) Ground has now disappeared. The Unconditioned Fact is its own Ground, and thus the two sides, -Surface and Substratum, are identical, destroying the distinction which is essential to Ground. The same situation arose previously in Formal Ground. But there the distinction was restored by making the Ground correspond to part only of the Surface. This, however, has now been shown to lead us back to the rejection of the distinction. For the ungrounded parts of the Surface became Conditions, and these, with the grounded parts, have now fallen back into the unity, which is its own Ground, and which is therefore immediate. “ This immediacy, mediated through Ground and Condition, and identical with itself through the transcending of the mediation, is Existence “ (G. L. ii. 118). (It is not, of course, all mediation which is transcended, but the mediation through Ground and Condition, mentioned in the first part of the sentence.)

Existence is the first subdivision of Appearance, and in reaching it we pass out of Essence as Reflection into Self.

131. If the dialectic process were amended, as I suggested, by passing straight from Variety to Ground, the transition should be, I think, direct to Real Ground, since this would remove the Indifference, which was the defect of Variety, by making one Likeness between any two things (the Likeness selected as the Ground) of special significance and importance. From this the argument would proceed to Condition, as it does with Hegel, and from Condition a valid transition could be made to the categories of Form and Essence, Form and Matter, and Form and Content, with which Ground would close. Thus Formal Ground, which is identical with Form and Content, would follow Real Ground instead of preceding it. This would resemble the treatment in the Encyclopaedia, where, though Ground is not explicitly divided at all, the course of the argument begins with Real Ground and then passes through Formal Ground to Existence.

The difference is not so great as might be supposed. Formal and Real Ground are complementary conceptions. The defects of either would drive us to the other, unless the other had already been proved untenable. In that case we are driven to a new conception. Thus a transition from Real to Formal and a transition from Formal to Real would be in themselves equally valid. Which is correct would depend on which conception the dialectic ought to reach first.


1. I shall try to show later that the categories in which the Appearance is treated as unreal are unjustified, and that their omission in the Encyclopaedia was an improvement. (See Section 103.)

2. Cp. my Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Chapter IV.

3. Show in the wider sense, whose three categories are the Essential and Unessential, Show in the narrower sense, and Reflection.

4. To distinguish this more general use of the word thing from that in which it refers to Hegel’s categories of Thing, I shall use a capital initial only when the special categories are spoken of.

5. Hegel does not specify what the laws of Being and Nothing would be, but only says that they would be directly opposed to one another.

6. All the things in the universe have likewise a common Likeness. For of all of them it may be said that they are things, besides various other statements which are true of all of them.

7. Though not, as I shall explain later on, to the same subdivision of Ground which comes first in the Greater Logic (cp. below, Section 131.)

8. The last word of this extract is in the original Grundlage, not Grund (as in the other places where I have used Ground in translating). But later on Hegel gives the name of Grund to both the Real Ground and the Something.