Hegel-by-HyperText Resources

Getting to know Hegel

A. The Parliament in the Sky

I was educated as a civil engineer, and we were all taught that Nature obeyed certain Laws, and that these Laws of Nature had been discovered by dead men and passed on to us, and if we learnt to apply these laws then we could build bridges and so on that would stand up. Never mind that numbers of our bridges were falling over while bridges built by the Romans were still standing up thousands of years later, even though the Romans didn't even know about Newton's Laws of Motion or the law of gravity!

Being a good student, I diligently applied these laws in my first design projects, the abject failure of which led to an interview with my structures lecturer which changed my life. This gentleman kindly explained to me how engineers actually think, which in fact bore no relation to applying laws of nature at all. They simply consulted the Code of Practice and applied a few rule-of-thumb formulae and Bingo! Not only was this method extremely simple to follow, differing from the method used by the Romans only by the addition of more experience and better materials, but achieved the engineer's objectives: to minimise the clients costs and avoid litigation. I rather suspect that doctors use the same approach, having forgotten everything they ever knew about microbiology the day they qualified.

So, I decided to abandon engineering and devote my life to science, to the discovery of these laws. So, it was a difficult thing for me when I eventually had to face the fact that this Parliament in the sky which legislated the laws which Nature was obliged to obey was just as absurd, even more so in fact, than this myth of a scientific practice founded on this marvellous legislation. And it was Hegel more than anyone else that showed me this absurdity.

On the other hand, when you hear people criticising Hegel, explaining where it was that Hegel got it wrong, it is usually to do with the fact that Hegel believed in a Spirit, a World Mind or Absolute Idea, which existed outside Nature and society and alienated itself in nature and expressed itself in the unfolding of history and the development of culture. Or that Hegel was an objective idealist because he saw the Idea as the cause of the world rather than the other way around, and so on.

And yet ask almost anyone brought up in the schools and universities of today and they will give you the same story that I swallowed all those years, about laws of nature and so on. It was Spinoza in the early seventeenth century who formulated the idea of Pantheism, that God is Nature. Reading Spinoza, I learnt the trick of crossing out the word "God" and substituting the word "Nature" and voilà! Spinoza reads like a "materialist". And conversely, you can substitute the word "God" for "matter" or "Nature" in the usual 'scientific' discourse and it makes no difference to the sense of what is being said at all.

What Hegel did was to show us how in the course of history people give the status of God to different principles, corresponding to different forms of social organisation or culture, and his great triumph was to knit all these different principles into a kind of idealised history of the world. This was a marvellous job which not only showed how the various principles which people had used to understand the world made sense within themselves up to a certain point, but also showed the interconnection one with another and how the inner logic of a culture sows the seeds of its own demise and the birth of a new principle. The only trouble was that in order to make all these 'laws' relative stages commensurate with the development of the social relations of which they were a part, he had to invent a principle which constituted the whole movement itself, which he called the Idea, or Spirit (Geist). It was Feuerbach who declared that in negating Religion by Philosophy, Hegel had only restored Theology.

But to be absolutely fair, insofar as Hegel conceived of a Spirit which existed outside Nature and society and posited itself in Nature so as to manifest itself in society, he was certainly no worse than the today's natural or social scientist and a lot more sophisticated. And insofar as Hegel saw the relative truths of the various philosophers and so on as interconnected, as mobile and in transition one into another, he stands far above most contemporary criticism.

I am making these points because I want people to appreciate the enormous value of what Hegel has to teach us before rushing to criticism. The marvellous thing is that by demonstrating how the various universal principles, which we have inherited through our language and culture, express different social relations, he actually created the possibility of doing away with the need for any such Parliament in the Sky, even the very sophisticated Idea he had, of a principle which was the sum and history of all the others strung together.

B. Individual, Universal and Particular

It is one of the peculiar things about the "human condition", that we exist only as individuals. There is no consciousness other than individual consciousness, but absolutely everything about us which is human is a collective, social, historical product - our language, our culture, our work. Our thoughts are all universals - we know nothing, see nothing and can do nothing other than as part of universals which are social and historical products; we are in fact individuals only to the extent that we are socialised; an individual knows only by means of universals; we live in a human world, produced not by our personal thoughts, but by the community, and we live and think and labour only as part of that community.

But again, these "universals" are mysterious things. We tend to think of them as having some ephemeral existence, much like the laws legislated by our "parliament in the sky", quite distinct from the particular and individual things in the world around us. Thanks to our ability to think, we have universals as well as particulars and individuals in our heads. But if we ask ourselves how we come to acquire universals, then we have to confess that it is only through our relationships with other people, and by internalising these relations, that we get to know about universals. The only way we get to know Universals, the only way we get to be part of a universal, is through particulars - people, groups, relations we have with other people, activity we get involved in.

It is this contradiction between the individual and the universal, mediated by the particular, which lies at the very root of the human condition, of our particular way of being part of it, changing it, producing it, producing ourselves.

It is this condition which is what the dialectic is about. Hegel referred to this relation as the "Syllogism". Hegel used this term because these are the same concepts we use when we are engaged in elementary logic: "All dogs are quadrupeds; Fido is a dog; Fido is a quadruped", and so on and so forth. In this relation "Fido" is the Individual; "Quadruped" is the Universal, and Fido participates in this Universal because he is a dog, a particular kind of quadruped, because Fido cannot just be a quadruped, he has to be some particular kind of quadruped.

It's just the same with a universal like "unionism". I'm a unionist, but I can't be a unionist except by being a member of a particular union. I belong to the NTEU, so I'm a unionist. Unionism cannot exist other than through particular unions to which individuals belong - no unions, no unionism.

Of course, unionism existed before the first union was founded, and if all the unions that exist today were smashed, unionism would keep going, because unionism is a movement, and people conceived of it before it actually existed, before it was actualised, and will not let go of it very easily. Universals can have an ideal existence, but there has to be a material basis for it. And the Universal is not just "the general idea" of the particular. That is to say, not only does unionism require particular unions and actual living individual union members to exist, it has to have a material existence in its own right too. That's why we have the ACTU. But like particulars, also Universals, don't come into existence finished and complete. They're a process, but they're a material process. But that's not what I'm talking about just now. We'll come to that later.

The point is that us individuals cannot know about logic, health, socialism, science, evil, electricity, carbohydrates, multiplication, ... as if these universals existed in some kind of ether accessible only to the Mind. We know them only through participating in definite relations with other people as part of a whole, interconnected, social and historical process of human development. We internalise them in the process of working with them. It is in this sense then that we say that universals - abstractions if you like - are just aspects of social relations, they are social relations.

In this context we can understand Hegel's meaning in the following passage from the Introduction to the Philosophy of Right:

"Thought regards this development of the idea and of the peculiar activity of the reason of the idea as only subjective, but is on its side unable to make any addition. To consider anything rationally is not to bring reason to it from the outside, and work it up in this way, but to count it as itself reasonable. Here it is spirit in its freedom, the summit of self-conscious reason, which gives itself actuality, and produces itself as the existing world. The business of science is simply to bring the specific work of the reason, which is in the thing, to consciousness."

So Universals are not manufactured by subjective thought either by means of a "rational faculty" or by means of gathering up facts and stacking them up in the form of empirical evidence, but are the products of social development, and theoretical thought just needs to be able to recognise them as such.

To say that principles are social-historical constructs does not contradict the fact that these concepts have a basis in Nature. Social relations are constrained by a world which exists outside of us and which provides us with the basis for living. But our knowledge of that world of Nature is uniquely and wholly human. Einstein may have proved that the speed of light is constant, but he did it only by clarifying the various human actions that make up the meaning of "the speed of light".

C. Two Part Harmony

Now this was not exactly the way Hegel approached things. But we have to have a way of approaching Hegel, too. We don't need God or the Absolute Idea to grasp what is essential and most important that Hegel has to teach us, and if we get to know the things he's talking about in an easy way, in a way that's all around us and part of our day-to-day experience, then we'll be able to get into it more deeply. And if we want, we can read Hegel and get to know him more personally.

What I want to do is explain this dialectic of Hegel's in terms of the way we human beings live. That's worth doing, because finding out how we can live differently is the only good reason for studying Hegel in the first place. And the profound importance of Hegel is evidenced by the effect he has had on others, people like Karl Marx, who we know have been part of this struggle to change the way we live, to be able to live more humanly. So our relation to Hegel is also a mediated one; that is, our relationship to Hegel, the significance of Hegel for us, is mediated through others. Hegel is dead and we'll never get the chance to meet him. We can read his writing, and his writing can be the mediating term. His writing allows us to get closer to Hegel. But we always read writing as human beings. Even to read Hegel's writing, we need to do it through other people. Not only printers, editors and translators, but also commentators and teachers as well as friends and comrades.

The way Hegel explains the dialectic, as it is set out in the first part of the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences, the Logic, is in the form of a critique of formal logic, of ordinary understanding. Hegel understood that our cultural, our human world was formed and expressed in various fixed principles, which contain within them internal contradictions, a dynamic if you like, which takes itself beyond its own boundaries. Hegel was able to abstract these principles from the social relations of which they are a part, and exhibit for us this dynamic as if it belonged to the abstraction itself. The result is incredibly powerful and rigorous, because it goes right to the heart of a social relation, stripped of all contingency, all context, all specificity - all flesh in fact. As a result of this abstractness, it is hard to read.

So what I want to give you is a kind of "two part harmony": for each of the principle points as we go through the Logic, the typical human relation which is the subject of Hegel's conception, and, the proof Hegel gives in the form of a refutation of a proposition of formal thinking and subsequent demonstration of a new contradictory principle, appropriate to the given development of social relations and its trajectory.

In what follows, from time to time I will use the words 'principle' or 'movement' or 'organisation' interchangeably, just like I pointed out above that "unionism" and "union" are inseparable.

D. Being

But we've started from the end. Where did these universals come from? "Science" or "unionism", or "Rights" didn't always exist. If we can trace the way they come into existence, then we'll have a better chance of understanding them.

So we have to go back to the beginning. "From where must science begin?" asks Hegel.

"all that is needed to ensure that the beginning remains immanent in its scientific development is to consider, or rather, ridding oneself of all other reflections and opinions whatever, simply to take up, what is there before us.

"Pure knowing as concentrated into this unity has sublated all reference to an other and to mediation; it is without any distinction and as thus distinctionless, ceases itself to be knowledge; what is present is only simple immediacy.

"Simple immediacy is itself an expression of reflection and contains a reference to its distinction from what is mediated. This simple immediacy, therefore, in its true expression is pure being." [With What must Science Begin?, Science of Logic]

So Hegel advises us to begin with Nothing, and to allow that Nothing, that absence of all relation, all particularity, all "determination", itself to develop.

"... that which forms the starting point of the development remains at the base of all that follows and does not vanish from it. ...But because it is the result which appears as the absolute ground, this progress in ... must be determined by the nature of the subject matter itself and its content." [Science of Logic]

Among Hegel's observations in this essay which opens the Science of Logic, is that it is only at the end result of the process that we can know the truth of a thing, that a thing attains it own truth. At the beginning, it is a nothing, it is abstract, unconscious.

For example, we know that capitalism is generalised commodity production, but commodity production is as old as, or even older, than civilisation, but it has only been in this century that we see capitalism in its truth, when we see what capitalism really means. But as I said, Universals are never born fully fledged, they go through a process of development, and we are interested in knowing about that process of development.

For example, socialism. It is a matter of no small importance for a socialist to be able to recognise it at whatever stage of development we find it, not just to be able to form an idea of it as a completed universal.

So Hegel explains that in the beginning we have Pure Being. That is to say, the thing just is. Insofar as we are talking about human relations, as Marx says:

"The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity." [German Ideology]

So before an idea, a universal, an abstraction, comes into existence, we have people doing this and that, doing the sort of things which are what we would call the material basis for the idea, but not yet doing it with any particular idea or intention or conception of what they are doing in that respect.

So for example, before some political party or movement comes into being, we have a lot of people producing a new kind of product, harbouring a general kind of resentment, or an aspiration or are suffering from some particular kind of oppression or have this or that attribute, according to where they live, what they do for a living, their sexual preference, income group, or whatever. All these things form that material basis for something. But in the first place, Nothing exists.

The census might determine that a million people in Melbourne suffer from melanomas, but that does not in itself constitute a Campaign Against Sunburn or constitute the idea of exposure to sunlight as a health problem.

This is what Hegel calls "Being". This is the necessary beginning, in the sense that no true concept can arise that does not have a material basis. Given this, we want to know "what is the truth of this situation?", a question which arises out of the situation itself.

We use the word "immediate" to describe the relations between people at this stage. Someone says something, someone else says "Isn't that so!" or whatever and nothing more comes of it. The relationship is just an immediate one. It is there for a moment, and then it passes away. It is not anticipated and there is no reflection upon it. From time to time, people come together over an issue, protesting against a particular event, or coming together to witness something, but the same people never see each other again.

Real Human Relations

Now, in order to explain these concepts I want to ask the reader for just one effort of the imagination - and that is to imagine that modern mass communication media do not exist. This is because the mass media make certain kinds of quite mystical human relationships possible which form the basis for quite different types of conception than those upon which I want to focus. We can return to this problem later, but let's suppose for the moment that the only means of communication is the normal person-to-person communication that the human will, the five senses and the gift of language make possible, without technological assistance.

So this situation is what Hegel calls Being. (It is also sometimes called "thing-in-itself", because it is still "in itself", and still needs to "come out of itself"). As we have explained, so far as concepts go, it should more properly be called "Nothing", even though it is, and only remains to develop and show itself. In fact, it is the realisation that it is Nothing which is the very impulse towards Becoming. If it already existed, if it was already determined, then it would not be Pure Being at all.

This movement is what I will call, for the purposes of helping us fix things in our memory, the first classic form of the dialectic, which Hegel develops from this elementary form throughout the section on Being. It could be called the "dialectic of Otherness", and has been frequently drawn upon in twentieth century writing. For example, Simone De Beauvoir says in the Introduction to The Second Sex: "Thus it is that no group ever sets itself up as the One without at once setting up the Other over against itself."

In this section of the Logic, Hegel makes a critique of all the basic concepts of mathematics: finite and infinite, magnitude, quantity, quantum, ratio, degree, continuity, limit and differential, and so on up to measure. In his critique he calls upon this dialectic of Otherness, time and again. The sphere of Being, where things come and go without transition one into the other, without interconnection, is the domain of mathematics, and Hegel applies the method of criticism to demonstrate transition, to show how transition arises out of the movement of Being. For example, a variation on this dialectic is the dialectic of the Limit: he criticises the concept of Finite by showing that as soon as you put a boundary around something: equally as you define that which lies within the boundary, so also you define the outside of the boundary, the Infinite.

The standpoint of mathematical thinking is that which holds out against this transition. For instance, if you have a real situation where you can add together 250,000 quantities and the sum is a genuinely meaningful representation of the result, then mathematics is valid here; if you can elaborate a theorem with 250 logical propositions all connected by logical inference, and the result is another true proposition, then this makes valid mathematics. But experience tells us that these kind of experiences are confined to a relatively restricted domain, as is summed up in the expression: "Two's company, three's a crowd".

Thus, understanding and activity which is confined to this stage of development where people remain isolated from one another, where things happen just as one damn thing after another, is the relatively valid domain of mathematics, of statistics, of set theory and sociological groups and mathematical models and so on, known to mainstream "social science". This kind of relation where people appear to one another as nothing more than passing contacts, statistics and images is the world in which nothing really new ever happens. ... But Hegel shows how things nevertheless develop.

1. Quality

Hegel defines the three 'grades' of Being:

"Quality is, in the first place, the character identical with being: so identical that a thing ceases to be what it is, if it loses its quality. Quantity, on the contrary, is the character external to being, and does not affect the being at all. Thus, e.g. a house remains what it is, whether it be greater or smaller; and red remains red, whether it be brighter or darker. Measure, the third grade of being, which is the unity of the first two." [Shorter Logic 85n]

When a new Quality is manifested, something which doesn't have a name, something which you can't recognise, or more exactly you recognise as something which you can't identify, then that is exactly the moment of Becoming.

So in terms of the development of organisations, what we are dealing with here is those events where a meeting is called, a protest happens, a letter is sent, or whatever, and nothing ever happens. Or to put it another way, there may be lots of different groups of people all organising around what may later turn out to be the same issue, and at a given point, there is no mutual contact or connection between them. The meaning of the use of the word 'quality' here denotes the indeterminate character of the beginning of any social movement.

2. Quantity

As soon as any coming-together, any relation or event sees itself in some relation to some other such event, as soon as we have begun to talk about a number of such groups or such events, then something new has already developed. This is what Hegel calls Quantity. "This is the third accident on building sites this month!" Some relation-to-other exists. That is, we see a number of different events, different groups, different people which may now be more or less or a certain 'quality'. For example, although at this point we do not have a social movement, we do have x number of people or groups around a certain issue, or instead of this event and that event, we have x number of events of a certain kind. It's like when people say they are "just a statistic".

What Hegel shows in his critique of the formal conception which separates concepts like 'quality' and 'quantity' as absolutely distinct concepts is to show that as soon as we have a number of something, that is in itself a new something!

"Thus quantity by means of the dialectical movement ... turns out to be a return to quality. ... quantity seemed an external character not identical with Being, ... as what can be increased or diminished. ... We can, however, complete the definition by adding, that in quantity we have an alterable, which in spite of alterations still remains the same. The notion of quantity, it thus turns out, implies an inherent contradiction. This contradiction is what forms the dialectic of quantity. The result of the dialectic however is not a mere return to quality, as if that were the true and quantity the false notion, but an advance to the unity and truth of both, to qualitative quantity, or Measure." [Shorter Logic, 106n]

3. Measure

But at a certain point, after just so many strikes against accidents on building sites, or after just so many public meetings protesting against the intervention of the State Government in local planning disputes, something has happened. This point is what Hegel calls Measure, the point where quantities of qualities build up to make a new quality, a point where there has to be a mutual recognition, the point where the statistics are no longer "just statistics", but a national scandal. Where the families of dead building workers not only console each other at the funeral but recognise each other as fellows.

This I will call the second classic form of the dialectic, which Engels canonised as one of the "Three Laws of Dialectics", the dialectic of quantity and quality.

These two forms of the dialectic we find in Hegel's doctrine of Being, the dialectic of the Other and the dialectic of Quantity and Quality, are the forms in which a principle or movement exists but totally lacks any self-consciousness, and as such, is the playground of the numbers-people, the market researchers, statisticians and positivist sociologists.

Being and Essence

At this point we are already passing from consideration of the stage of Being to that of Reflection, of Essence. Now in the history of philosophy there has been a lot of controversy about Being and Essence. Schelling, and after Schelling, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger and after Heidegger the whole school of post-modernists, all criticise Hegel for emphasising Essence and seek to find much more in the concept of Being (for which is usually understood indeterminate forms of subjective consciousness), and the positivists and the whole tradition of what I could call "mainstream" bourgeois thought which wants to contain everything within the level of statistics with its simple becoming and passing away. And it is indeed in the Doctrine of Essence that we are coming to that Hegel really gets going.

There is of course no such thing as Pure Being. The people we have been talking about in illustrating this concept, are already fully developed human beings, socialised, speaking the language, with work and family, knowledge and feelings. They are determinate human beings. The concept of Being is an idealisation which we can use to understand the development of a universal which at this point does not yet exist. It is only possible to think into this state because we are in fact, already ourselves, human beings. But we have to be able to abstract for a moment, and focus out attention on a universal. And at this point, it does not yet exist.

E. Essence

Up till now we have looked at social relations expressing this thing which is still in-itself, which may have taken the form of meetings, demonstrations, accidents or whatever, but they are one-off events, or we have had groups people forming around an issue or a problem, but the contacts between them have been just isolated contacts, again meetings with no flow-on. The form of movement has been one of transition, of coming-into-being and passing-away.

In Hegel's words:

In the sphere of Essence one category does not pass into another, but refers to another merely. In Being, the forms of reference is purely due to our reflection on what takes place: but it is the special and proper characteristic of Essence. In the sphere of Being, when somewhat becomes another, the somewhat has vanished. Not so in Essence: here there is no real other, but only diversity, reference of the one to its other. The transition of Essence is therefore at the same time no transition: for in the passage of different into different, the different does not vanish: the different terms remain in their relation. When we speak of Being and Nought, Being is independent, so is Nought. The case is otherwise with the Positive and the Negative. No doubt these possess the characteristic of Being and Nought. But the Positive by itself has no sense; it is wholly in reference to the negative. And it is the same with the negative.

In the sphere of Being the reference of one term to another is only implicit; in Essence on the contrary it is explicit. And this in general is the distinction between the forms of Being and Essence: in Being everything is immediate, in Essence everything is relative. [The Shorter Logic, 111n]

The first time we have a recognition of commonality, of community of interest, of there being something to talk about, of something that continues to exist after the meeting has ended, that is the beginning of Essence, it is what Hegel calls Reflection, because in some way the one sees a reflection of themselves in the Other.

What takes place now is not just a coming-into-being and passing away but a development; this is the beginning of a rich and complex process, full of conflict and misunderstanding, of hesitation and fear, of mutual testing-out and mistrust, of the whole contradictory richness of how a new something is born.

The very first stage is that of simple identity, that is to say when the groups concerned recognise each other as being something, as having something in common. Let's quickly sketch the stages that characterise the from development here, though in practice it is not to "quickly sketch" which is important, but rather to move with patience and attention to detail without telescoping or skipping over a stage.

1. Reflection

First we have what we would call a Federation: the various people or groups expressing a new thing meet and agree to retain some kind of association in which the identity of the groups is agreed. But the essential identity is such as to allow the inessential difference to rest, and there is no interpenetration between the parties, which on the contrary, remain just as they were, not "interfering in each others' affairs".

If however, this difference can be incorporated and even codified, within an essential identity, then the different groups can form what I would call a Union, in the sense that unlike a federation, they can agree upon ground rules, common principles and so on, which already implicitly recognises difference. This is like the stage in a meeting between people who are new to each other, where everyone is very polite and seeking as wide as possible ground for agreement and common action, while respecting difference. Hegel calls this Identity.

Once this process is set in motion however, it is unlikely to rest there. There is always difference. Is the difference benign or is it perhaps essential? There thus begins on the basis of the agreed ground rules, a mutual testing-out of these differences, the search of essential differences as opposed to transient, accidental or inessential difference (Essential Identity which is simply Variety or Diversity). Essential difference is called Opposition.

This relatively contained conflict which Hegel have called Opposition, if there is found to be sufficient commonality of purpose, if the commitment proves sufficiently strong, passes over to a period of out-and-out Conflict, what Hegel calls Contradiction, where the opposition between the different tendencies is not incidental and transient, but essential, a struggle for power, or a struggle between opposing political tendencies, opposing "lines" takes place, and once entered upon this conflict cannot be allayed.

Many experienced organisers would agree with Hegel's description of this phase:

"If, now, the first determinations of reflection, namely, identity, difference and opposition, have been put in the form of a law, still more should the determination into which they pass as their truth, namely, contradiction, be grasped and enunciated as a law: everything is inherently contradictory, and in the sense that this law in contrast to the others expresses rather the truth and the essential nature of things. The contradiction which makes its appearance in opposition, is only the developed nothing that is contained in identity and that appears in the expression that the law of identity says nothing. This negation further determines itself into difference and opposition, which now is the posited contradiction. But it is one of the fundamental prejudices of logic as hitherto understood and of ordinary thinking that contradiction is not so characteristically essential and immanent a determination as identity; but in fact, ... contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality; it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity. [ The Law of Contradiction, Science of Logic]

This process leads to what Hegel called Ground: this is the point at which a parting of the ways may take place, but whether or not there is any parting of the ways among people, there is certainly a parting of the ways with what had gone before in the stage of Being: an organisation Appears. Any collection of people who has passed through the stage of conflict in which the differences between them are brought out and a true ground established for their Identity, have become something, the group has taken on a form of some kind. This is what Hegel calls the stage of Appearance.

This stage, of reflection, is the first stage of what could be called the "dialectic of discussion". One of the first meanings of the word 'dialectic' was "arriving at truth through dialogue " or through question-and-answer. The concept of "thesis - antithesis - synthesis" is well-known (though this term was never used by Hegel), and in this stage of reflection we see one of the many forms of this process. The process here is that it is necessary (if one wants to get to the bottom of things) firstly to establish a basis for agreement and discussion (Identity), to allow for a Diversity of views within that Identity, to sharpen up that variety and bring out the Differences and to uncover what is the essential difference, opposition, as opposed to inessential differences and to explore these essential differences to their ground so that either agreement is reached on a firm ground or there is a parting of the ways, usually both.

The form of Hegel's demonstration of this dialectic is the critique of four "Laws of Formal Logic": The Law of Identity (Every A is equal to itself), the Law of Diversity (No two A's are identical), the Law of Excluded Middle (Either A or not-A is true), the Law of Non-Contradiction (A and not-A cannot both be true) and the Law of Sufficient Ground ("the true essentiality of any thing is not the predication of it as identical with itself, or as different (various), or merely positive, or merely negative, but as having its Being in an other, which, being the self-same, is its essence"). In each case, he asserts the law, and then breaks it down and demonstrates its opposite, the next law in its turn.

The laws in question are broadly the laws which underlie formal, mathematical logic (at least in the form in which they were known in 1820) which have a validity in the domain of Being, where there is no transition or essential unity or development in things. Hegel's critique broadly is based on a refusal to regard the objects concerned as abstractions, as fixed, mutually exclusive, well-defined, simple objects like the elements of Set Theory. The outcome of this concrete criticism is a dialectic which leads from consideration of the inessential attributes of things (the sole business of Set Theory), to the recognition that these attributes are only the Appearance of the things.

2. Appearance

Now this whole thing can take place in the head of one individual in the space of a few minutes, because we are human beings, we a re social animals, we internalise all this stuff from when we are tiny little people, and we can go through it in our heads. But we are not talking about psychology here, and we are not talking about sociology either. Hegel has abstracted from all this.

In Hegel's Doctrine of Essence, he has three divisions: Reflection (which incorporates the series of intensifying conflicts from Identity up to Ground), Appearance and Actuality.

Appearance is that stage in the development of a concept where it is first out there in some form or other, with its own banner, its own slogans and some kind of program. It is an idea, but it is not necessarily true. It is just posited. A dialectic takes place during the stage of Appearance which Hegel calls the dialectic of Form and Content.

This is how truth is arrived at, in the struggle to find a form which is true to the content and which can open the way to Actuality. A demand is put forward, but in the course of time, this demand or perspective or explanation or whatever, shows itself to be just the "outside" of the "real issue". The real content emerges from the form, there is a conflict between form and content, and as a new content becomes clear, the form is changes, new tactics are adopted, new leaderships take over, there is a social shift in the support base, or whatever. Appearances change.

For example, anyone who has produced a magazine will know about the succession of formats which it may go through, before the editors find a form which is true to the intended content. And the content will change as the form changes.

Or a protest organisation that may begin, for example, by writing letters to prominent people, and as such they are a group of letter writers; but as they win more ordinary people to their side (for example) but fail to change the minds of the prominent people, they might become a group of activists, directing their activity not to prominent people but to the public at large, and utilising a range of skills which is better suited to a more popular organisation.

We could call this struggle between form and content the fourth classic form of the dialectic.

Hegel demonstrates this by means of a critique of the formal conceptions of form and content which hold them as fixed opposites, which conceives of a 'matter' which may be formed but is itself formless:

"The essential point to keep in mind about the opposition of Form and Content is that the content is not formless, but has the form in its own self, quite as much as the form is external to it. There is thus a doubling of form. At one time it is reflected into itself; and then is identical with the content. At another time it is not reflected into itself, and then it is external existence, which does not at all affect the content." [Shorter Logic 133]

3. Actuality

This process of changing appearances, of the unfolding of new contents within the old form and the overthrow of form by content shows itself in ever more concrete practices, experiences, partial gains. If the principle has any reality, then the organisation begins to have an effect on things around it (i.e., it is a Cause) and these actions in turn ricochet back in the form of effects, the work of an organisation begins to become something actual, like a research project which is beginning to produce prototypes, or a pressure group which has begun to win changes in legislation or shifts in the consciousness of the general public.

This is the stage of Actuality. Inside the group carrying out this activity, we must see now relationships which reflect consensus decision-making, trust in leadership, openness in discussion, a fluidity of action which reflects the growing actuality of their objective, because what is happening outside must be reflected inside.

This whole stage of Essential development is one in which development takes place through conflict, but the opposites do not pass away, but continue to exist, side-by-side with each other, not vanquished and destroyed, but continuing to push the positive and the negative.

In this stage we have a fifth classic form of the dialectic, which Hegel calls Reciprocity, or the dialectic of cause and effect. The stage of Appearance should achieve a Form which is adequate to the Content; what takes place in the stage of Actuality is the concretisation of the form. This is in effect the return of the Essence to Being.

The stage of essential development is completed when Actuality develops to the point where the whole community is involved, where all the conflicting tendencies find themselves in a completely new arrangement, when the pressure group is victorious in the sense that its demand is legislated, a new word enters the language and irreversible change in the whole society takes place. This is the Notion.

F. The Notion

Now once the Notion is achieved, the group or party or organisation of whatever kind which was the bearer of this new idea, can never be the same again. Insofar as it exists as a separate organisation it can only be an anachronism or a bureaucracy; it's development now takes on the character of death and grieving. The particular is now universal.

The notion also constitutes the sixth classic form of the dialectic: the unity of opposites, the unity of Being and Essence. The life-process of Hegel's Notion is mediation.

The Subjective Notion

The stage we have arrived at here, in the development of a new universal is what is called an Abstract Notion, or Subjective Notion. That is to say, although it has become something in the world and entered the language and the life of the community at large, it is still abstract, immature and lacking in life-experience, separate from other movements and pretty much a single-issue movement.

The aspects we want to look at here, in the Subjective Notion, will be found in gestation in the period of essential development, and from here on they will begin to die. Die they must, because the future of a new universal is to merge into the whole culture and life of the times, or to die. Consequently, the kind of development that will take place here is where the concept confronts another it does not contest it and do battle, but rather seeks to merge and absorb it, and to become more and more concrete. But for the moment, what we have to do is to look at the anatomy of the concept, how a concept which has its existence in a great organisation has its reality in the life of the individual human beings which belong to it.

In contrast to the forms of movement found in Being and Essence:

"The onward movement of the notion is no longer either a transition into, or a reflection on something else, but Development. For in the notion, the elements distinguished are without more ado at the same time declared to be identical with one another and with the whole, and the specific character of each is a free being of the whole notion." [Shorter Logic 161]

What we are dealing with here is a concrete universal notion. That is to say we are dealing with a Notion which has a real genesis and a real life in human society; it incorporates within itself its whole difficult process of birth, all its struggles and mistakes, and it exists in the world in and through those real human beings who have brought it into being and carried its banner. So what we want to do now is explore these relations between the Particular, Individual and the Universal, which must be embodied in some real social formation which bears the universal.

Hegel develops the concept of subjective notion through three stages: the Notion as Such, Judgment and Syllogism.

G. The Notion as Such

In the first place, the Notion as such, which is in-and-for-itself, is merely Formal. It is merely adherence to an idea, without any idea of what the Notion means in terms of the lives of people, actual activity and policies relevant to the broader life of society - it is just the Notion as such, such as The Cuban Revolution, Women's Liberation, Physics or whatever. The three 'moments' of the Notion as Such are the Universal Notion, the Particular Notion and the Individual Notion, in that order.

1. The Universal Notion

The Universal Notion, the utterly simple Notion, such as "unionism" or "Relativity" which, Hegel says, is like Being in that it is capable of abstraction, and as a simple indeterminate universal is also a "Nothing". However, as we pointed out at the beginning of this article, the Universal can and does exist only in and through its particulars, which in turn can and does exist only in and through individuals. Thus a principle, such as "Women's Liberation" does not immediately give you the necessity for equal pay and nor does it give you the specific campaign for inclusion of the Equal Pay principle in wage-fixing legislation; but equally, these particular policies and individual campaigns are both the only possible way a universal can exist, and also, the only way such a principle comes into being and has meaning.

Thus, when Che and Fidel dismount their horses and enter Government House in Havana in July 1959, it is equally the Cuban Revolution that walks up the steps as it is an Argentinian Doctor named Che and a Cuban lawyer named Fidel. The Revolution is by no means just a sum of examples or a collection of people, but rather is something itself, a social force which is just as real, or in fact more real, than any of its particular or individual concretisations.

Now a word of explanation is necessary here. In the language of social and political life Universal means the aims or founding principle of an organisation; Particular means the specific policies, rules and so on which are developed over time and may be seen as "applications" of the movement's Universal Notion, or equally, the Universal's more definitive elaboration; Individual means the definite day-to-day acts, findings, determinations, measurements, decisions etc., that flow from the Particular policies or rules. This conception makes the most comprehensible connection between the concepts of Hegel's Logic and the human activity which is their content. But also, these concepts themselves are abstractions from the actions and relations of cooperation between human beings.

So in a sense we have from here, instead of a 'two part harmony', a 'three part harmony', for while the logical categories of Individual, Universal and Particular remain existent only in the actions of people, they are also comprehensible as "real abstractions", which people deal with as if they were things.

The reality of Universal, Particular and Individual means that they take on specific human expressions. Thus within any movement at any given time, the Universal has a perfectly subjective existence, such as in the annual conference of a union which is its Universal, while the various branches or sub-committees dedicated to particular arms of the union's work, and of course, the individual members of the union. Hegel has abstracted from the relations practised by people involved in social and cultural production. In what follows, I will from time to time illustrate the concepts in terms of principles, policies and actions, and from time to time in terms of conference, branches and members, as well as illustrating Hegel "proof" which he gives in terms of Logic.

In the present case the issue is this: the first and, most immediate and as yet undeveloped form of a Notion is the Universal, and for example, in the Cuban Revolution, it is Che and Fidel walking up the step of Government House. But this is not to exclude the fact that it is also a particular movement or group of people and in fact individual human subjects, at the same time. And it to these determinations of the notion that we now turn.

2. The Particular Notion

What we have here is that in the first place the Universal is in fact a particular group of Individuals. It is not another example of the Universal, but rather the particular of the Universal. The Universal is not the collection of all its particular, but rather that in each of the finite particulars which is infinite.

In the course of his discussion of the Particular Notion, Hegel says: "The highest maturity, the highest stage, which anything can attain is that in which its downfall begins". The nature of the Particular as distinct from the Universal is exactly this: no particular can fully express a Universal. The Universal shows itself to be inadequate in this form which is shown to be but a particular, alongside other Particulars. In this way, the Notion deepens itself and becomes, if you like, a process rather than a fixity. The whole genesis which has culminated in the achievement of a new principle, must pass at this point into the opposite. Insofar as we are concerned with particulars, their fixity is the death of the principle, and conversely, the fixity of the principle constitutes the death of the particular, and consequently, the particular is immediately in conflict with the Universal. And this must take the only form it knows, a human form.

3. The Individual Notion

We see then if a Notion is to live in the world, the Universal must find itself embodied in the mass of individuals, not just as some abstract principle, but rather in the hearts and minds of real, individual people, and it is precisely in this form that a principle becomes indestructible:

"Life, Spirit, God - the pure Notion itself , are beyond the grasp of abstraction, because it deprives its products of singularity, of the principle of individuality and personality, and so arrives at nothing but universalities devoid of life and spirit, colour and content.

"Yet the unity of the Notion is so indissoluble that even these products of abstraction, though they are supposed to drop individuality are, on the contrary, individuals themselves. Abstraction raises the concrete into universality in which, however, the universal is grasped only as a determinate universality; and this is precisely the individuality that has shown itself to be self-related determinateness. Abstraction, therefore, is a sundering of the concrete and an isolating of its determinations; through it only single properties and moments are seized; for its product must contain what it is itself. But the difference between this individuality of its products and the Notion's individuality is that, in the former, the individual as content and the universal as form are distinct from one another - just because the former is not present as absolute form, as the Notion itself, or the latter is not present as the totality of form. However this more detailed consideration shows that the abstract product itself is a unity of the individual content and abstract universality, and is, therefore, a concrete - and the opposite of what it aims to be". [Science of Logic, p 619]

This is Hegel's conception of the existence of the simple, abstract notion - that is, a notion which is only, as we shall see, at the beginning of its process of development and concretisation - like a new state on the day of its founding, or a new scientific discussion on the day it is announced, but which is nonetheless, the outcome of the whole process of Being and Essence and therefore warrants the name of "concrete universal".

Formal Logic

Hegel takes this opportunity to contrast his conception of concrete universal to the abstract general concept which is dominant everywhere today, and in fact the whole of this section of the Logic is a polemic against formal conceptions of human relations:

"When one understands by the universal, that which is common to several individuals, one is starting from the indifferent subsistence of these individuals and confounding the immediacy of being with the determination of the Notion. The lowest possible conception of the universal in its connection with the individual is this external relation of it as merely a common element". [Science of Logic, p 621]

Hegel is here referring to the concept which is basic to all modern (positivistic) natural and social science, and particularly the mathematical conception of science, the conception which is formalised in mathematical and formal logic. In this method, a concept is defined by reference to the attributes which a thing has in order to be included in the concept. For example: 'a fish is something with no legs which lives in the water' or 'the working class is all those who work for a wage'. But as is well-known, some of the things living in the water are not fish and some fish have legs, just as police work for wages but can hardly be counted as members of the working class while many proletarians these days are forced to work on contracts. This method merely moves the issue away from the thing itself to its inessential attributes, and is incapable of getting to the essence of the thing under consideration because it misses its genesis, and instead of grasping the real being of a thing in the world, attaches itself to inessential attributes. For example, the type of sociology which sets out from income and occupational groups, counting people into statistical boxes according to answers to simple yes-no questions; for example, the type of pseudo-research which begins with a questionnaire, the type of politics which determines how many people are for or against one or another proposition and concludes that "people believe x or y".

In this contrast between the "abstract general" and "concrete universal" concepts, the methodological depth and significance of Hegel's system is brought out most sharply. We will return to this contrast later when we look at the contrasting conceptions of the development of the notion and its application to conceptions of social and political organisation. We will see that conception of individuals as isolated, static collections of attributes is lived materially in the contemporary world.

H. The Development of the Notion

For anyone interested in working with other people to change the way we live, this section of Hegel's Logic is the most important. It is a regrettable reflection on the obscurity of Hegel's presentation, that when reading the Science of Logic, Lenin passed over this section entirely, noting only "The further development of the Universal, the Particular and the Individual is in the highest degree abstract and "abstruse" In reading ... These parts of the work should be called: "a best means for getting a headache!" ... a tribute to old formal logic? Yes! And another tribute - a tribute to mysticism = idealism" [LCW, Volume 38, p177].

Having shown how a Notion exists in and through people, Hegel goes on to show how it develops and how it translates itself into different views on this and that aspect of the world and into specific actions in any concrete situation. In the first place, here, we are dealing with the Subjective Notion, that is to say how a Notion (read new movement, discovery, concept of the world, or whatever) develops within itself, with its own forces; later Hegel moves to consider the development of the Notion through its relation to other Notions, the way it merges and changes with other principles. That is the Objective Notion, because it confronts these other Notions (movements, parties, nations, principles) as Others. The third phase in the development of the Notion is the Idea, but we will come to that later. For the moment, the Subjective Notion.

I. The Subjective Notion

The three phases in the Subjective Notion are the Notion as such (which we have just considered above, in which the Notion is simply posited, but not just as a Universal, but also as Particular and Individual, that is to say in and through Individuals and the relations between them, and as a Universal), the Judgment and the Syllogism.

While Notions are the products of Understanding, Judgments and Syllogisms are the constructive work of Reason. By Judgment is meant the way a Notion translates itself into a specific decision, while the Syllogism is "the restoration of the Notion in the Judgment" [Science of Logic, p. 664], the whole process through which Judgments unfold, interpenetrate and interconnect with one another, reconstituting the Notion concretely - the dialectic of judgments so to speak, which constitute the whole internal life of a principle.

Formally, any subject-predicate proposition is a Judgment, and while both subject and predicate are Notions, the predicate will be the more Universal or essential term, the subject the more determinate. For example, once the general Notion of Women's Liberation is understood, and there are movements and organisations promoting the Notion and it exists in the consciousness and activity of millions of women (and men), there comes the time when a woman has to answer the question: "Should I wear make-up?" Now you can say, as doubtless many individualists would say: "That's for an individual woman to decide", or you could say that such a decision must be a "party decision" to be adhered to by all members of the movement, which would be a sectarian approach, or you could say that the answer was given in the very principle of women's liberation and no mediation at all was required (reasonable in some instances, but not really in this example). The topic here is the relation between a principle and the actions and relations that flow from it in real life. In Hegel's words: "The judgment can therefore be called the proximate realisation of the Notion, inasmuch as reality denotes in general entry into existence as a determinate being." [Science of Logic, p 623]

Hegel understands that all judgments involve specific relations between the Individual, the Universal and the Particular, and we'll have a look at exactly how Hegel elaborates this understanding. Further, it is obvious that every time such a concretisation of the Notion of, for example, Women's Liberation is practised, then the Notion itself is changed, and that is what Hegel means when he talks of the Syllogism being the restoration of the Notion in the Judgment, and again, this is a complex process involving specific developments in the relation between individual, universal and particular.

Of the 240 pages Hegel devotes to the Doctrine of the Notion in the Science of Logic, 100 pages explore these relations, and although they look like an obscure treatise on formal logic, they are in my view the best exposition of participatory democracy ever written. We must of course qualify that statement. Marx comments: "In place of the concept of the constitution we get the constitution of the Concept. Thought is not conformed to the nature of the state, but the state to a ready made system of thought." But we can come to that later. First it is necessary to appreciate Hegel's insight.

J. The Judgment

Hegel identifies four grades of Judgment, and I am going to illustrate the meaning of these four grades more concretely by assuming that the Universal is incarnated as a "Conference", and the Particular as a "group". Now it is not my intention to imply that these terms should be interpreted so narrowly, because of course Hegel was trying to work these things out in a way which had almost unlimited scope, and consequently his concepts are correspondingly "abstract", abstract in the sense that they sum up and concretise all particulars, and so defy pictorial representation.

In the example just used, Women's Liberation, there has never been a "Conference" which could lay claim to the status of Universal for the Women's Liberation Movement. However, in order to express oneself in a way that keeps the scope of what you are saying utterly unlimited, the result is a manner of speaking which is so abstract, it is impenetrable. The principles are most clear when there is a definite group of people or relations between them which bears the title of Universal or Particular. In his Philosophy of Right, Hegel assigned specific arms of government to the Individual, Universal and Particular, namely the Crown, the Legislature and the Executive. However, any Notion at any given time has some human existence. It may never reach or pass through the stage of having a Legislature and Executive, but the same "logical" principles apply.

In the development of the Judgment, you will recognise a repetition of the stages of Being and Essence described above:

"We find the inner ground for that systematisation of judgments in the circumstance that when the Notion, which is the unity of Being and Essence in a comprehensive thought, unfolds, as it does in the judgment, it must reproduce these two stages in a transformation proper to the notion." [Shorter Logic, 171n]

1. The Judgment of Existence (or Immediate Judgment)

Here the (Particular) group (or Individual member or leader) takes an action in a specific instance simply and immediately according to what it determines in relation to the question at hand on the basis of the facts given, or proposes what it believes in as motions to be put to conference and selects the delegate with whom it finds the greatest rapport. In each case we have an immediate judgment, in which there is no mediation through an organisation, a policy or any reference to others. "Germaine Greer is a feminist" The judgment rests immediately on the Notion and is deemed to inhere in it. This stage in the development of the Notion corresponds to the stage of Quality in the development of Being, but what is immediately given or named is a notion.

The development of the Judgment is one of successive concretisation. Hegel makes the sublation of this form of judgment as follows: we have the Positive Judgment ("Germaine Greer is a feminist"), the Negative Judgment ("Germaine Greer is not a feminist, but a learned, assertive woman writer with expertise in ancient history who originated a number of founding ideas of the women's movement"). That is further discussion and investigation determines that the issue at hand cannot be encompassed by existing policy (the Universal) but is a particular instance. The Infinite Judgment goes further than this arriving at the conclusion that Germaine Greer is Germaine Greer, and no combinations of Universals is adequate to the particular at hand. This is a judgment which is true, but absurd and Hegel says that in the Positive Judgment sublated through the Negative and Infinite Judgments, "the universality no longer appears as immediate but as a comprehension of distinct terms". Or, the repeated determination of a judgment sooner or later gives rise to something new, not just a series of immediate decisions, but a policy. After 20 Black men are sent to the gas chamber and no White man gets gassed, we see that we have here not at all immediate judgments made on their merits, but a policy, even if the policy-maker was quite unaware of any such policy.

2. The Judgment of Reflection

Here a group or individual reflects on the immediate judgments and determines them as a policy. What is important here is the reflection, or the recognition of the constitution of a new something which transcends the immediate judgment and expresses now a generality of some kind, such as "Women need economic independence" which goes further than immediate judgments, which in this example might have gone to various elements which are here subsumed as "economic independence".

The Judgment can be seen to be repeating the dialectic of discussion, but here the elements are not just objective events, but subjective acts.

Hegel demonstrates through the Singular Judgment ("this thing is .."), Particular Judgment ("some things are ... ") and Universal Judgment ("all certain things are ...") how the judgment of reflection grows in scope towards assertions of ever broader scope, judgments which still do not constitute the notion even when they state that "all x are y", but with the Universal Judgment there arises the Judgment of Necessity ...

3. The Judgment of Necessity

Here the decision or judgment expresses the very Notion itself and the import of the decision in respect of the principle is understood and implemented and the subjects it encompasses are themselves movements or notions, rather than just particular policies or individual actions. Thus the judgment of necessity is a concretisation of the Notion which informs the import of the principle in relation of particulars and individuals in a way that is either immediate or simply reflected in the preceding forms of judgment. The Universal Judgment of Reflection is defective because even when it says that "All Swans are white" it has not yet grasped what it is about swans that means that they ought to be white, it makes a statement which appears to be a necessity because it says "all", but it has not yet grasped what it is about swans which require them to be white. Any determination of the Notion still stands in contradiction to the Notion itself and is consequently finite and must be transcended. The judgment of necessity moves from the Categorical Judgment ("All x are y") to the Hypothetical Judgment ("If x has y-ness, then it is a y") to the Disjunctive Judgment ("x is either y-like or non-y-like"). That is it determines exactly what it is about swans which make them white (or not - even if they are swans). For example, one might say that "Men always talk over women", but further investigation will reveal the social conditioning which makes men do such things, even if indeed all men do talk over women, it is not the notion of men to do so. This development of the Judgment of Necessity thus becomes the determination of a new deeper notion (in this case of gender relations). ...

4. The Judgment of Notion

Here the decision in effect constitutes a modification of the Notion, a new notion in fact, as the import of the decision has not only been fully thought-through from the standpoint of the Notion, but taken further, so that the contradiction between the Notion and the Judgment is brought to light, its one-sidedness is overcome and the possibility of the enrichment of the Notion is disclosed.

Hegel develops the Judgment of the Notion through the Assertoric Notion ("Men who have been subjected to socialisation in a patriarchal society deny women the right to speak"), the Problematic Judgment ("If ... then ...") to the Apodetic Judgment in which the content of the judgment is stated fully as an expression of the newly developed notion, in this case the assertion that socially constituted gender domination determines the behaviour of the sexes in discussion and the struggle against gender domination may be expressed in the struggle for non-sexist practices in discussion.

So what Hegel has demonstrated here is how the life process of an organisation or movement which begins acting immediately in accord with its principle, but life being as complex as it is! It runs into problems, contradictions and so on and is obliged continuously to concretise its actions, and through this process we do not just have rules-of-thumb, 'dos' and 'don'ts', but the development of the principle itself. This development initially takes the form of lists of actions or judgments on individual instances, project teams and action committees; develops into whole policies and generalisations or divisions of the organisation dedicated to this or that kind of task, and ultimately changes itself, becomes a new organisation, a new principle, more concrete than before.

What is missing with the form of judgment though is that it is relatively unmediated. But the Judgment provides the basis for mediation, which Hegel discusses under the heading of the Syllogism.

K. The Syllogism

Hegel shows how action after action, decision after decision, can constitute the basis for the development of policies and social formations expressing policies and ultimately leads to modification of the organisation or principle at its root. However, decisions are never made simply and directly flowing out of the Notion, and nor does any substantial organisation act as a simple unity. The maturity of a movement and its actions brings with it the necessity for mediation.

Mediation may mean a number of things: it may mean referring to the founding principles or the peak body of an organisation in the course of making decisions in line with an established policy; it may mean reference to a policy, or the body responsible for a particular policy in the course of taking a decision or action on the part of the central body; it may mean making a decision in line with established procedures about the means of reconstituting the leading body. In all their cases there is a middle term which mediates the relation. Whether you are considering the construction of a mathematical theory, the construction of steel frame bridge, or the building of a national organisation, it is the triangular relation which Hegel calls the Syllogism which is the basis of all real building.

1. The Syllogism of Existence

Continuing our example of an organisation with its conference, its branches and its individual members, the Syllogism which means in normal language a formal reasoning process, means in Hegel's realistic and historical approach to logic, simply the decision-making process of an organisation in respect of its day-to-day actions, its particular policies and the development of the principle itself. In the real life of an organisation (read Notion), the leadership (and what it stands for, read Universal) is constantly intervening in the relation between Individual members and Particular groups, committees or branches, just as "the principle" is intervening whenever a policy is being translated into an action. But also individuals are the only possible means of mediation between Particular groups and the Universal (whether in the form of representation or delegation or in the form of informal personal contact), and Particular groups (of which Individual members belong or otherwise deal with) are the only possible mediation between the Individual and the Universal.

The four successive "figures" of the Syllogism of Existence are respectively, (a) the mediation or the intervention of the Individual in the Universal by means of the Particular, which simply means the normal method of democratic participation in an organisation which take place through representation; which can only happen by means of (b) in which a particular group (or interest, or aspect or policy) is represented at conference (or in a specific decision or discussion or whatever) by an individual - not everyone can be present!, thus (c) the relation of the individual and the particular is mediated by the organisation itself - its rules and regulations, but also its whole level of maturity and so forth, and in this way (d) the Universal mediates itself, given substantive form in a healthy organisation when its peak bodies make decisions by well-informed, properly elected representatives.

Hegel explains:

"Now the syllogism, like the judgment, is in the first instance immediate; hence its determinations are simple, abstract determinatenesses; in this form it is the syllogism of the understanding. If we stop short at this form of the syllogism, then the rationality in it, although undoubtedly present and posited, is not apparent. The essential feature of the syllogism is the unity of the extremes, the middle term which unites them, and the ground which supports them. Abstraction, in holding rigidly to the self-subsistence of the extremes, opposes this unity to them as a determinateness which likewise is fixed and self-subsistent, and in this way apprehends it rather as non-unity than as unity. The expression middle term is taken from spatial representation and contributes its share to the stopping short at the mutual externality of the terms. Now if the syllogism consists in the unity of the extremes being posited in it, and if, all the same, this unity is simply taken on the one hand as a particular on its own, and on the other hand as a merely external relation, and non-unity is made the essential relationship of the syllogism, then the reason which constitutes the syllogism contributes nothing to rationality."

The critique Hegel is making here is the fixed insistence on each member of an organisation simply "playing their part". So for example, the delegate to national conference loyally represents the point of view determined by their branch, the National Committee doggedly advocates the policy determined at the last National conference and so on. Doubtless this entirely proper behaviour is the very stuff of a healthy, dynamic and democratic movement. In leading us through the implications of this understanding, Hegel takes us to the point which demonstrates the necessity for the action of the Individual, Particular and Universal to reflect upon each other ...

2. The Syllogism of Reflection

Thus, in a fully developed Universal, the discussion is not a random one, as would occur between people who had "walked in off the street" so to speak, or as when the delegate from a brand new branch arrives at conference without any preconceptions other than what she had individually determined to bring to conference. On the contrary, when the individual delegate comes to conference she also comes as a member of the national conference; likewise, when the branch selected and instructed its delegate it had a mind not only to its own views, but had studied the agenda and considered the persuasive views of the national Committee, and so on, just as the National Committee has already been lobbied by branches and reflect their own parochial interests and experiences as well as their national responsibilities.

The development of this process of reflection is as follows. In the first figure of the Syllogism of Reflection (I - P - U), the Individual does not simply intervene in the Universal according to what they think, but bear a Particular mandate. In the second figure (P - I - U) on the other hand, the Particular branch does not just to mandate their delegate, whatever they may believe the delegate will do when she gets to conference, they will at best mediate through their Individuality, rather than being simply the bearer of a message. In the third figure (I - U - P), we recognise that the whole movement and its leading bodies is in any case mediating between the Individual and the Particular, both because the pre-conference discussion affects the mandatory process and because the individual is changed by participation in the wider movement. Hegel has the fourth figure (U - U - U) to indicate that this all-sided process of reflection thoroughly imbues the whole organisation and the while organisation, including its leading bodies is, so to speak, mediating between itself.

3. The Syllogism of Necessity

The highest stage of development of the Syllogism is the result of the diversity existent in the Syllogism of Existence, brought to light in the Syllogism of Reflection, being sublated or overcome, so that the Universal attains the concreteness and subjectivity of the Individual and the necessity of the Universal. As Hegel points out, this necessarily leads beyond the scope of any Universal, any finite Notion, to Objectivity.

From whence does this kind of Logic arise? Essentially because Hegel is concerned with principles moving and acting in the only way they can, in the lives of human beings; and human beings stalwartly refuse to be dropped into boxes like the elements of Set Theory. They talk to each other, they change, they express all sorts of interests and needs. The kind of Constitution which sets up an organisation along the lines of the Syllogism of Existence will soon be either the constitution of a dead movement, or it will be surpassed. Is it wrong if the National Secretary drops into the Branch meeting and tries to persuade the branch not to move their motion at next month's conference? Is she interfering in Branch affairs? If the Branch leans heavily on their delegate to ensure they vote the right way in the budget debate, is that wrong either? If the National Secretary continues to express support for the smaller branches against the larger because she was nominated by a coalition of smaller branches last year, is this wrong?

The implied answer to all these questions is "No" because any attempt to contain a movement into immediate forms of mediation, those which are simply given in the respective roles of the various parties, will only place a barrier for the movement growing into a genuinely objective principle in the real world.

L. The Society of Mutual Reconciliation

Now before proceeding, just a couple of points of clarification. Firstly, the concepts Hegel is dealing with here are Individual, Particular and Universal, not member, branch and conference, and his Logic will not make sense unless we allow the most general and correct interpretation of these categories. But as I remarked at the beginning, one has to have a "way in" to Hegel.

Secondly, the concepts I have been introducing come from Hegel's Science of Logic, and it is in the Philosophy of Right, or Objective Spirit, that Hegel develops the shape of the Idea in social and political life and history, not in the Logic.

About 3/4 of the way though his 1843 study of the Philosophy of Right, Marx remarks appears to lose patience with Hegel's intricate web of mediations and remarks (Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right):

"Now the complete absurdity of these extremes, which interchangeably play now the part of the extreme and now the part of the mean, becomes apparent. They are like Janus with two-faced heads, which now show themselves from the front and now from the back, with a diverse character at either side. What was first intended to be the mean between two extremes now itself occurs as an extreme; and the other of the two extremes, which had just been mediated by it, now intervenes as an extreme (because of its distinction from the other extreme) between its extreme and its mean. This is a kind of mutual reconciliation society. It is as if a man stepped between two opponents, only to have one of them immediately step between the mediator and the other opponent. It is like the story of the man and wife who quarrelled and the doctor who wished to mediate between them, whereupon the wife soon had to step between the doctor and her husband, and then the husband between his wife and the doctor. It is like the lion in A Midsummer Night's Dream who exclaims: 'I am the lion, and I am not the lion, but Snug.' So here each extreme is sometimes the lion of opposition and sometimes the Snug of mediation. When the one extreme cries: 'Now I am the mean', then the other two may not touch it, but rather only swing at the one that was just the extreme. As one can see, this is a society pugnacious at heart but too afraid of bruises to ever really fight. The two who want to fight arrange it so that the third who steps between them will get the beating, but immediately one of the two appears as the third, and because of all this caution they never arrive at a decision. We find this system of mediation in effect also where the very man who wishes to beat an opponent has at the same time to protect him from a beating at the hands of other opponents, and because of this double pursuit never manages to execute his own business".

And Marx continues with these most significant remarks which we will return to later:

"It is remarkable that Hegel, who reduces this absurdity of mediation to its abstract logical, and hence pure and irreducible, expression, calls it at the same time the speculative mystery of logic, the rational relationship, the rational syllogism.

"Actual extremes cannot be mediated with each other precisely because they are actual extremes. But neither are they in need of mediation, because they are opposed in essence. They have nothing in common with one another; they neither need nor complement one another. The one does not carry in its womb the yearning, the need, the anticipation of the other. (When Hegel treats universality and individuality, the abstract moments of the syllogism, as actual opposites, this is precisely the fundamental dualism of his logic. Anything further regarding this belongs in the critique of Hegelian logic.)"

Hegel's system begins with the Logic, followed by the Philosophy of Nature - "the idea in the form of otherness", which then rises to the Philosophy of Spirit: Subjective Spirit, Objective Spirit, Absolute Spirit. We will come back to this structure later, but as a number of Hegel scholars have pointed out, including Georg Lukacs and Herbert Marcuse, Hegel's earliest studies were concerned not with arcane questions of logic but with the political, economic and social problems of his day, then came the Phenomenology which begins and ends with consciousness, and the Science of Logic came last and only after the publication of the Science of Logic was the Encyclopedia composed, and then last of all The Philosophy of Right.

So, there is a basis for asserting that Hegel's method is based on a realistic and humanistic approach, but Hegel himself begins with "Thinking in its truth" not "real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live".

Finally, the material I have introduced above are explained by Hegel in the form of an exposition and critique of Logic. To look at just one example, the second figure of the Syllogism of Reflection (U-I-P) Hegel calls the Syllogism of Induction. The explanation I gave was that this syllogism was about how the Individual mediates between the Universal and the Particular most completely if the Individual reflects consensus within the Particular. Alternatively, if we make the interpretation of policy for Particular and specific action for Individual, the syllogism of reflection in this instance refers to how the Universal is developed when every individual case is determined in respect of a particular policy. The concept of the syllogism of Induction in logic is that every individual, one after another, is found to have the particular (Fido is a quadruped, Rex is a quadruped, Mimi is a quadruped, .... therefore all dogs are quadrupeds). Hegel here devotes two and half pages to a critique of this syllogism, the drift of which is to show that such an induction still misses the notion, is still trapped within the syndrome of substituting for a genuine notion, a collection of attributes which adhere inessentially even to all individuals.

So what I want to do now is complete this review of the Logic in the same terms, and then we can look at the place of the Logic in the whole scheme of Hegel's philosophy, and I want to emphasise that I am not trying to make any kind of critique of Hegel' philosophy here, but simply to make his concepts clear, which is after all a precondition to assessing his contribution and making a critique of his philosophy.

M. Objectivity

The completion of the stage of Subjectivity means that a principle has completed its development as far as it can within itself. Objectivity is the second stage of Hegel's Doctrine of the Notion. In the Subjective Notion we looked at what we could call the internal dynamics of an organisation (universal). This means it has become so concrete that it has "subjectivity", and this necessarily leads it to confront its relation to other principles. This world of Other principles (organisations) the subject confronts is Objectivity. Hegel's method of presentation requires him to present these categories in strict succession, but it hardly likely that a principle could complete the development of Subjectivity without already having passed over to Objectivity.

To explain what this means, consider the development of the women's liberation movement again. Having achieved consciousness of itself, marked itself off from all other and previous movements and organised its forces, it worked out the meaning of its principle in terms of attitudes to everything from housework to sex to art and a woman's own body. But this immediately and essentially led the women's liberation movement into confrontation with every other principle, it was obliged to make a critique of every branch of science and art, of the internal organisation of every organisation, industry and other social formation.

Hegel identifies three stages in this "confrontation":

Whereas I read Essence as an essay on the dialectic of discussion, or consensus decision-making, and Subjectivity as an exposition on the internal life of an organisation, Objectivity is for me about the life of an organisation in the wider community where it is confronted with a mass of principles and organisations whose basis is quite different, and it must achieve its aims by confronting, changing, winning-over and merging with all these others. This dialectic differs from that of Essence because each of the participants is a fully self-conscious, organised body, whereas in Essence, the point was that the Essence was not yet clear and had to be disclosed in the course of discussion. Hegel contrasts the development of the Notion like this:

"The onward movement of the notion is no longer either a transition into, or a reflection on something else, but Development. For in the notion, the elements distinguished are without more ado at the same time declared to be identical with one another and with the whole, and the specific character of each is a free being of the whole notion. [The Shorter Logic, Development of the Notion, 161]

I will number the whole dialectic sketched above under the Subjective Notion as the seventh classic form of the dialectic, and we now are beginning a series of new classic forms of the dialectic. Specifically, we shall to identify the three distinct forms of this dialectic developed in each of the phases of Objectivity in turn, 1. Extension or 'Reductionism' (eighth), 2. Generalisation (ninth) and 3. Universalisation or 'Means and Ends' (tenth).

1. Mechanism

At this stage in the development of a principle or organisation, the rest of the world is viewed as so many things (Mechanical Objects), which are 'mixed' together in some order or arrangement and each of them are determined by other things in an entirely external way. The particular principle of each such object is reduced to some particular action of yet other objects, and these in turn explained in terms of other objects. The conception of the world which builds on the Mechanical Processes externally relating these Mechanical Objects, Hegel calls Absolute Mechanism. It is the well-known mechanical, or Structuralist, view of the world which follows from a reductionist approach of objects which are denied their own internal notion. Hegel's critique of this view, this stage of development of an idea or social movement, shows that it must pass over to "Chemism".

Since these other principles or organisations are viewed as inherently Other, the only option for a movement or organisation to expand itself and extend its influence under this conception is simple Extension. In its literature, it will deny the validity of other principles and it will show that every other principle can in fact be explained by its own principle, by reductionism.

Dale Spender expressed it:

"It is because males have had power that they have been in a position to construct the myth of male superiority and to have it accepted; because they have had power they have been able to 'arrange' the evidence so that it can be seen to substantiate the myth." [Man Made Language, 1980]

and Evelyn Reed was someone who did a lot of work in relation to the myths of science. She says:

"Uncovering their own hidden history is just as essential and urgent a part of women's work as winning concessions and reforms in daily activities. Women will no longer accept the formula that theory and history are man's work while practical activities are chores for women. They will pursue their own intellectual course and will not cease their explorations until they find what they are looking for - truth about women's evolution". [1975]

2. Chemism

Chemism (a word which is really a misnomer in that its relation to chemistry is admittedly tenuous) differs from Mechanism in that the objects dealt with are taken as inherently in transition and in relation to others by their own nature. Consequently an organisation (or principle) here does not regard the Other as external and foreign to it and approach others with an attitude of Reductionism, hoping only to expand its self at the expense of others, but rather, seeks to Generalise its own insights by demonstrating the transition from the One to the Other. Thus we see that feminism gives rise not just to opposition of feminism to socialism, or liberalism, or whatever but rather the emergence of socialist-feminism and liberal-feminism.

For instance Shulamith Firestone says:

"We have not thrown out the insights of the socialists; on the contrary, radical feminism can enlarge their analysis, granting it an even deeper basis in objective conditions and thereby explaining many of its insolubles." [The Dialectic of Sex, 1970]

This development towards the conception of the various components of the world around leads to the final stage of Objectivity, Teleology, in which the subject wants to restore itself out of its Otherness.

3. Teleology

Teleology is the dialectic of Means and Ends, and Hegel's treatment of this subject should be required reading for any political or social activist. I have already indicated it as the tenth classic form of the dialectic under the name of Universalisation, and Hegel shows that Univeralisation has the form of a dialectic of means and ends.

How many times have you heard people complain in frustration that they lack the Means to achieve their Ends, or alternatively, you may have heard of people claiming to justify their corrupt methods of work by the lofty aims they pursue. In the final analysis, there can be no contradiction between means and ends: "the material conditions [means] for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation" (Marx, Preface of Contribution to a Political Economy)

While "The End justifies the Means", which is invariably the signal for the most opportunist and cynical political practices, if "Everything is in the process", the End is reduced to a nothing, and the process cannot negate what is. One of my favourite quotations from Marx's 1844 Manuscripts is his aphorism: "Communism is the riddle of history solved, and knows itself to be this solution. The entire movement of history, as communism's actual act of genesis ... is, therefore, for its thinking consciousness, the comprehended and known process of its becoming."

A movement has a certain conception of the world and arising from this it has its aims and objectives, and corresponding to these, its various policies and activity, and organises these in the way we have considered in the Subjective Notion. Unable to achieve its aims and fulfil its notion, subjectively, by its own self, it turns to the Objective world, at first seen as foreign and external to it, as so many opponents, but then understood and related to as changing, as constituting other forms of its own self, and ultimately both the means and in fact end of its activity. However, in the first place the Notion finds the world "unsatisfactory", the world is not the way it ought-to-be and the means to bring about the desired state of affairs are not at hand. Further, when it does things to further its aims, invariably the Realised End is in contradiction to the Subjective (intended) End.

Hegel points out that the subjective desire to achieve the End actually manifests itself as an obstacle. This is a very complex dialectic. The way I see it is that one has to re-conceptualise one's objective, and consequently one's view of the world from which this objective arises, in such a way as to try to close the gap between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be, but not so as to eliminate the contradiction, i.e. to reconcile oneself to things as they are, but rather precisely so as to sharpen that contradiction, sharpen it because instead of the contradiction being external and objective, a hopeless task so to speak, it becomes utterly concrete and subjective, personal.

There is an interesting discussion of Lev Vygotsky's psychology by the US community activists Lois Holzman and Fred Newman which calls this the tool-and-result methodology, which is well worth the read.

In the stage of Mechanism, we reduce other principles to our own; in the stage of Chemism, we find in others expressions of our own; in Teleology, we find that we are being forced to concretise our own conception, so that we find in others, not just an expression of what we already knew, so to speak, but new, more concrete expressions of our principle. This is taking us into the dialectic of totalisation - the Idea.

I will leave the discussion of this very rich portion of Hegel's Logic on Objectivity at this point with the observation that the dialectic of Means and Ends demonstrates how the negative phase of the development of the Notion is forced to negate Subjectivity and leads us to the final part of the Logic, The Idea.

N. The Idea

The Idea is defined as the unity of Life and Cognition. Life is the unity of the Living Individual and the Life Process (or Species), and Cognition is the unity of Analysis and Synthesis, and the Logic concludes with the Absolute Idea, the unity of the Theoretical and Practical Idea. Our Three Part Harmony is now becoming a veritable Chorale. This section of Hegel's Logic is rich in realistic, if sometimes obscure, observations on knowledge and scientific method. It is a summing up of all that has gone before and completes what I call the dialectic of totalisation, the eleventh classic form of the dialectic.

If we were to interpret Hegel's Logic as an exposition of the scientific method, then we would describe The Absolute Idea as a 'Unified Theory of Everything'. Interpreting it as we have here, it corresponds to what one would have to call a totalitarian project.

To criticise of this part of the Logic is of course to make the most fundamental criticism possible of Hegel, and my objective here is not critique, but simply clarification. So let me briefly explain this dialectic of totalisation which is so deeply inherent in Hegel's philosophy, being both its greatest strength and I think one of its most problematic aspects.

Unlike in Mechanism - which is the dominant methodology of Western academia and all of our powerful elites as well as ordinary understanding, for Hegel, the world is not composed of externally related objects, but are different "determinations of a single essence". So for example, confronted by Means and Ends which simply don't match, rather than banging away by trial and error looking for a solution, or relying on "Will Power" to bring the mountain to Mohammed, we have to reconceptualise both our own subjective desire and our conception of the world until we can understand how both arise from the same problematic world. This is an Art, not a Science. Reading Hegel, and following the way he deals with fundamental categories is a kind of training-ground. Working with this kind of method it becomes a reflex to abhor the conception of things as mixtures and composites, seeing things as fixed opposites, mutually foreign to one another, and instead to "look behind", and seek out the way of conceiving of things in their interconnection, their genesis and transition and mutual relation, and this reflex is an incredibly powerful one when dealing with complex problems such as confront us in modern society.

However, is this really valid? Sure, we all live in the same, globalised, human world. But isn't the unified conception of the world just a truism like "everything is connected" or "there's no such thing as an accident"? By the time such truisms become a reality, the Universe will probably have completed its heat death and it won't matter anyway. Some contradictions in the world we live in are irreconcilable.

This is but one of the issues that will arise when we come to make a criticism of Hegel, and this we shall leave to later. What I want to do now is to briefly skate across the whole scope of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, of which the Logic is the first of three parts.

O. Summary

By way of summary, the following are the twelve classic forms of the dialectic which I have canonised with a number in the above:

  1. The dialectic of Otherness (Being & Nothing)
  2. The dialectic of Quantity and Quality
  3. The dialectic of Discussion (identity, difference, opposition, contradiction, ground)
  4. The dialectic of Form and Content (Appearance)
  5. The dialectic of Cause and Effect (Reciprocity, Actuality)
  6. The Unity of Opposites (The Concrete Notion)
  7. Individual, Universal and Particular (The Subjective Notion, Judgment & Syllogism)
  8. Reductionism (Mechanism)
  9. Generalisation (Chemism)
  10. The dialectic of Means and Ends (Teleology)
  11. Totalisation (The Absolute Idea)

continued: The Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences.