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Becoming Xii

Becoming Xii

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Published by: stephen theron on Dec 19, 2009
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12/18/2009

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BECOMING XII: THE THING The reflection-on-another of the existent is however inseparable fromthe reflection-on-self: the ground is their unity, from which existencehas issued... The existent is, when so described, a
Thing
(124). This Hegel identifies with the “thing-by-itself”, the Kantian
Ding-an-sich
shownhere “in its genesis”. “It is seen to be the abstract reflection-on-self, which isclung to, to the exclusion of reflection-on-other-things and of all predication of difference.” The Thing
in-itself 
of Hegel, that is (to which he will come here), isnot the abstract Kantian thing-in-itself, which Hegel calls Thing
by 
-itself. Thus inthe "mental" as opposed to the "natural" World" the in-itself, by which we are"meant to understand" what objects "strictly and properly are", is not anapprehension of an object "in its truth". It has to become
for 
-itself, or him- orherself.So the existent, seen here as Thing, “includes relativity”. Relativity is notattached to it as an afterthought but is a
 proprium
rather than an “accidental”property and even more than such. That is, the very conception of a presupposedand therefore distinct substrate or underlying individual “bearer” must be givenup.
 
“The thing-by-itself therefore is the empty substratum for these predicates of relation.” It is “thing in the abstract”, a clinging falsity of the Understanding likepredication itself. So, the “thing-by-itself... must certainly be as unknowable as itis alleged to be”, i.e. it has no “concrete character” in which to be comprehended(124,
 Zus
.). This judgement refers to what is falsely presumed as implicit to anyparticular cognition, as “lying behind”. It has no concrete character because anysuch, by the development of thought here outlined, will be relational. The situation is in fact no different with other categories, such as Quality orQuantity. They are not either finally to be taken in their “abstract immediacy,apart from their development and inward character”. So with the Thing as hereunderstood. A reflective judgement upon ordinary discourse is implied. Nothing is“in or by-itself” in this way; this is not its truth, is abstract. Even the
child 
, Hegelnow interestingly says in what is not mere illustration, has to “rise out of” thisundeveloped and abstract “in itself”. The very child as such is abstract, deeplyviewed and taking account of the unreality of time and change. For absolute Mindthe child is a Moment in our conceptual process, to be “put away”. The child
isnot 
a child, is, as it were,
set 
"for the fall and rise of many", but only because heor she
is
that ideally.
1
The “in itself” must become the “for-itself”, the “free andreasonable” being. On a deeper reading of Hegel only such are seen to be“beings” at all. Along with the child as “abstract”, the plants and the animals arefinally revealed as the outside that is inside, or part of our self-conception in the
1
I do not here "theologise" but draw rather analagous support from the well-knownBiblical text (
St. Luke, ch.2
) which for Hegel, belongs to "absolute religion" as possessing,in figurative or "imperfect" mode, the same Content, in its entirety, he would have to say. The contradiction there will lie in the term "absolute religion". But it is a contradiction of the type that "moves" reality and not, therefore, a simple error of Understanding. In thissense Hegel praises, for sure he does, Leibniz's philosophy as "contradiction in itscomplete development".
 
full unity of the Notion. I anticipate a little, but that is the very method of thistext, this thinking, in which each element is a mirror reflecting all the others inself and as self. Indeed, the Notion
is
the Method, Hegel will say, as God,
nous
, forAristotle or Aquinas, is “pure Act”. This is the final sense of Augustine’s
nonaliquo modo est, sed est, est 
, which by some yardsticks might well be reckonedas “atheistic”. We need only certain critical representations concerning Spinoza inthis regard.So too the
state
-in-itself, immature, patriarchal, does not yet correspond to itsnotion, in which alone it is concretely realised, as “the logic of political principlesdemands”. This applies to all
growth
from germ-like beginnings or indeed ourown process of successive concept-formation. All things are originally in-themselves, but that is not the end of the matter.” “The thing in general passesbeyond” this, “the abstract reflection on self”. As being what it essentially is it
manifests
itself as a reflection, and that upon “other things” which in turn thusmanifest themselves. In this
sense
“it has properties”. The Thing, as here spoken of, becomes the “explicit unity” of ground andexistence. It is a concrete thing in virtue of its differences from, its reflections on,other such things. These
Properties
are “expressed by the word ‘have’”. This isdifferent though from the having of qualities in “the sphere of being”. The qualitythere “is directly one with the somewhat” (
etwas
), which “ceases to be when itloses the quality”. But the thing “is an identity which is also distinct from thedifference”; “also”, i.e. as well as being one with it! These properties or“attributes” share something of the removal from reality, the abstractness, of thePast
qua
Past, which is “absorbed or suspended being”, proper to the mind onlyas “its reflection-into-self”, since “in the mind only it continues to subsist”. In thissense
absolute
Mind does not, cannot, re-member. It cannot even
forget 
what isnot, though it perfectly perceives and determines us as performing suchoperations (upon what is not). Hegel does not really take us far afield here. Hemerely reminds us of the field in its entirety.Identity is never found without difference. So the properties “are the existentdifference in the form of diversity”. In “the thing we have a bond which keeps thevarious properties in union”, properties, not qualities. The Somewhat, by contrast,is “directly identical” with its quality, does not merely “have” it, as here:Somewhat is what it is only by its quality: whereas, though the thingindeed exists only as it has its properties, it is not confined to this orthat definite property, and can therefore lose it, without ceasing to bewhat it is. There is no contradiction in saying that. We might wonder if we have returned to,or by a roundabout route arrived at, a sheer Aristotelianism after all. However, asin the Ground still, “the reflection-on-something-else is directly convertible withreflection-on-self" (126). What’s yours is mine! The properties, therefore, are “notmerely different from each other” but are also self-identical, independent even,not attached to the thing and yet “not themselves things”, not “concrete” but“abstract characters” of the thing. They are called
Matters
, Hegel now writes, as
 
distinct from “things”. Thus “magnetic and electric mattersare “qualitiesproper, a reflected being”, character as no longer abstract, since they areimmediate and existent “entities”, these matters, which somehow recall the
Wesen
(essence) which is press, post or revenue as spoken of earlier (112,
 Zus
.). Thus elevating properties to this independent position, of matters “or materials of which it (sc. The Thing) consists”, is “based upon the notion of a thing”, as inempirical science where we get down to genes and vitamins. But even if colour orsmell can be explained as pigments and particles, say, such disintegration of things, of the thing, is not final or permanent. The colour of the chair is not thepaint slapped on but belongs to the chair in identity and is not therefore a “part”of it
.
 Things do not have parts. Such thinking belongs properly to inorganicmixtures, not to compounds, organic or such as those including the “acid base”already spoken of, which goes up out of itself into the compound. Electrical ormagnetic matters, he now says, “are at the best figments of understanding”,apparently contradicting or, better, situating what he said earlier. “Whereverthere is organic life” this category, Matters, is obviously inadequate. The way thatan animal “consists” of nerves, bones etc. is equivocal with how granite consistsof “quartz, feldspar and mica”. The elements of granite could subsist without itwhereas the “members of an organic body... subsist only in their union.” A deadhand is not a hand, we recall from Aristotle. In experience all the same theremight be continuous grades of this equivocation, as when failing eyesight startsto turn an eye to a free-standing “vile” or useless “jelly” (
King Lear 
). Thus we stillhonour these dead and equivocal “parts” of the former union where alone theywere themselves.
 Thus Matter is the mere abstract or indeterminate reflection-into-something-else, or reflection-into-self at the same time asdeterminate; it is consequently Thinghood which then and thereis, - the subsistence of the thing.Since
Matters
is marked as a category, under which therefore it is finitelypossible to think everything, this should not really surprise us. Thus "thething has on the part of the matters its reflection-into-self (the reverse of §125)". For there the
Properties
or "characters of the thing", with whichMatters are identified (126), "have their reflection-into-self not on theirown part, but on the part of the thing." Thus the relation between matters(here properties) and thing is reciprocal and, moreover, essential to each.Neither, that is, is a "thing-in-itself” nor could be. The relativity, "included"in existence, itself includes relation-to-self, reflection-into-self, assuperseding abstract thinghood. Matter, in fact, we have just noted, isthinghood, but matter as here relativistically understood. The advance,however, at 127, is that the thing now "subsists not on its own part, butconsists of the matters, and is only a superficial association betweenthem" which Hegel here calls "external".

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