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Hegel's Subjective Notion as Notion

Hegel's Subjective Notion as Notion

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Published by stephen theron
A reading/intepretation of the section on the Subjective-Notion-asNotion in Hegel's Logic (Encyclopaedia version)
A reading/intepretation of the section on the Subjective-Notion-asNotion in Hegel's Logic (Encyclopaedia version)

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Published by: stephen theron on Dec 31, 2009
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.HEGEL'S SUBJECTIVE NOTION AS NOTION (EL 160-165): A READINGHistory has shown that there are many ways of reading Hegel. This need not mean that Hegelhad many ways of understanding himself. It
mean that. The mind after all does notabandon dialectic once it has reached its final and absolute term. It rather sports back andforth within it in ceaseless
, thereby exemplifying the Notion itself, "pure play" saysHegel, at which it has arrived. One aim of the present "reading", however, is to show that oneof these possibly many ways Hegel had of understanding himself cannot have been that of atotal abstraction from the religious consciousness, in himself or in others indifferently. For hedoes not write as himself in that abstract and separatist sense, which the dialectic rather putsaside (
) in making "I" the "universal of universals". Another is to show that religionfor him, and indeed as such, reflects a consciousness of the
Content that philosophy, i.e.Wisdom, embodies in more perfect Form. This would be to vindicate Hegel's final claim atthe end of the
concerning Religion and also Art, of which I have not said muchhere. Art, as coming first in the triad, might be seen as
religion and philosophy, justas the Logic
the free
of "the Idea" (which
the Absolute) as Nature and
as Spirit. In this sense one might accept the claim that art "is a greater revelation than thewhole of religion and philosophy", as "founding" the rest, somewhat like Noah's rainbow.This would in turn draw attention to a not always noticed figurative element, proper toreligious consciousness, in the unexamined notion of divine revelation. Demythologising isthen here disclosed as quite the reverse of a reduction, but rather a case of the Pauline"understanding spiritual things spiritually". Theology here must take its directions from philosophy, the only science that "thinks itself", and that exclusively, itself firstly the
of Aristotle, from which the name is taken, the study of divine or absolute
.I. THE NOTIONHegel equates "the passage… from actuality into the notion" with that "from necessity tofreedom" (159). This passage is a matter of 
. But thinking thinks "the true", thinksitself. For Hegel this is as much as to say that it is true to itself, as against the realist"correspondence" theory. What rather "corresponds" to the Notion is that Notion's veryembodiment (172) in the Idea, "truth in itself and for itself". Here, at 213, Hegel "declares theAbsolute to be the Idea". This "definition… is itself absolute." Here we see how the Logic,this Logic,
Nature and Spirit and is not merely preliminary to them, as Absolute Mindcontains and "overlaps" any supposed
, on pain of not being infinite, which contradictsabsoluteness. "The Idea is the Truth", not the truth
but the Truth, byimplication now placed prior to Being. In other terms, other philosophies, it is identified withultimate Being, so that for Aquinas truth is nothing other than being itself, or reality takenwhole in all or any of its supposed parts
present to Mind or to any and every mind. Truth,that is, is a mere
ens rationis
QD De potentia
VII). Here this is reversed without beingdenied. The negation rather resides in the conception itself, as always.The correspondence theory refers only tothe correspondence of external things with my conceptions… these are only
conceptions held by
, the individual person. In the Idea we havenothing to do with the individual, nor with figurate conceptions, nor withexternal things" (213).
He means they are denied. "Everything actual, in so far as it is true, is the Idea… Everyindividual being is some one aspect of the Idea". But it "is only in them altogether and in their relation that the notion is realised." But this is a relation of Identity. The individual by itself,herself, himself, is untrue, ruined
in radice
, in a word finite, finished as never having begun.Yet the Idea is not "of something or other", as the Notion (of it) is not "specific" but Notion assuch, or the thought of thinking, what it is and what it implies. The Absolute, which the Ideais, "by an act of 'judgment', particularises itself to the system of specific ideas." This shouldnot surprise; as Absolute it must be capable of such action, must be,
inter alia
, Activity itself,unlike our finite thoughts and "intentions". Even for us, after all, the intention is the act of intending. Yet such intention, though an act, is not yet the act, good or bad, intended. If itwere then there would be neither need nor place for this material world and we ourselveswould be other than we are.Yet Hegel says "the passage" we began by mentioning "proposes that actuality shall bethought as having all its substantiality in the passing over and identity with the other independent actuality" (159). The notion, indeed, "is itself just this very identity", of God andworld, Logic and Nature, it seems plain. Thus Hegel writes of 
other independent actuality,as straight one to one opposition as of two "universes". Thus the Idea naturally, yet freely, asit were of itself, "goes forth freely as Nature", in
. Substance
this passage, one anduniversal, and just as such, "in its developed and genuine actuality", is
and henceMind (213).Whatever is thoroughly bad or contrary to the notion, is for that very reason onthe way to ruin. It is by the notion alone that that the things in the world havetheir subsistence; or as it is expressed in the language of religious conception,things are what they are, only in virtue of the divine and thereby creativethought which dwells within them. (213,
)One cannot miss the warmth or "at-homeness" with which Hegel repeatedly cites receivedreligious teaching. He might seem, in his repeated mention of God, to be untrue to his owndemand that philosophy avoid "figurate" conceptions. However, as is quite plain from hissemiological section in the Philosophy of Spirit, he recognised that all speech is based upon aselection of figure and (eventually dead) metaphor. He must have thought, then, that whatever figurateness is entailed in the idea, the word rather, of God, against which he himself warnsus, is not unambiguously more than is found even in "scientific" language taken on the whole.To that extent he implicitly aligns himself with the Aristotelian logical doctrine of 
,whereby "being is said in many ways", though he never consents to rest in it, agreeing withWittgenstein that philosophy has to be a "battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence bylanguage".So "the actual substance as such", the Idea, "which in its exclusiveness resists all invasion" (is"what we call God" in other words), is
ipso facto
"subjected" to a necessary "passing intodependency" (159), i.e. this
to Infinity intrinsically. Without it Infinity would be"only abstract", not concretely thought or therefore, as self-thought, active. God and world arenot two parts of some greater reality, as in eighteenth century Deism, since the Absolute assuch is and has to be Greatness itself. We have to see it in terms of the necessity which isinfinite freedom and not, therefore, imposed, not even self-imposed, as many theologians persist in
(under the rubric or mantle of 
). This passage is rather what theAbsolute is, precisely as Hegel says.Seeing the Absolute in terms of necessity means
necessity. It comes back to thoughtand what thought is, viz.
the meeting with oneself 
the other actuality, necessarily"bound" to one because one
in essence (!) this passage, this contradiction of the immediate
or abstract conception, a mutual inherence even. This is nothing other than the necessity of Substance to be what it is, namely or ultimately, Subject free from all limit, restriction or  particularity. This "is called I;… is free Spirit;… is Love; and as enjoyment, it is Blessedness"(159). The notion, Hegel adds, is "pure play", as contemplation superseding all work andactive involvement, is yet, or just therefore, "the highest
" (Aristotle,
, NE). This Notion is "the truth of Being and Essence", as thinking is truth as true to itself or, as Cicero put it in
 De legibus
, reason is divine (
. absolute) and therefore law. Play is law, law is play,an at first challenging equivalence.*********************************So now, the "
is the principle of freedom, the power of substance self-realised":It is a systematic whole, in which each of its constituent functions is the verytotal which the notion is, and is put as indissolubly one with it (160)and that is the system, under or according to which the Absolute Idea will be seen, along withthe Absolute itself which it is (213), to contain everything. Of this, of each "constituent", wecan say "This also is thou; neither is this thou". If we agree with McTaggart that only
can be
then we have here,
mutatis mutandis
, the Kantian "Kingdom of Ends". This is then one in
with, in religion, the
corpus mysticum
. The same Content isexpressed or comes out in the all-embracing joy or "blessedness" to which the last symphonyof Hegel's exact contemporary, Beethoven, or Dante's main poem or, maybe, the Parthenon or Rembrandt's portrait of Homer beside Aristotle or any number of other works is dedicated.The examples are mine, the assertion is Hegel's."Is put" (160)? By what? By whom? We can only refer back to the text of Eckhart Hegel likedto quote, one of several such:The eye with which God sees me, is the eye with which I see Him, my eye andHis eye are one… If God were not, I should not be, and if I were not, He toowould not be" (
 Phil. of Rel.
I, 228).Such depths are by no means "equivocal", as J.N. Findlay qualifies them, but the finestdistillation of philosophic and dialectical Reason. They are perfectly reflected, again, in the"atheistic" system of McTaggart. Here each "has the unity" of all in each again (the infinitudeof "determinate correspondence",
McTaggart) and the all is thus only realised concretelyin each of these supremely necessary persons, only born or dying under the "figure" of time.McTaggart argues with rock-like consistency for this his reading of Hegel, at the same time ashe severely (too severely?) criticises him, rising continually above the so-called "Britishidealists" surrounding him, as Aquinas above the School-men, Hegel above the "Romantics".For if my eye is God's eye then I am at liberty to arrange things as I wish, am I not, as volitionsucceeds upon cognition? Here though comes in Necessity as the Freedom which is Infinity, both God and I, as here, identified with God. "Myself and God" said Newman, existentially,without talk of 
I. The much maligned "argument from natural desire" never found morecoherent expression than in Hegel, but as it were surpassing itself, since this is the desire, i.e.the
, exercised by that which is desired, by Thought-thinking-itself. "The position
Cf. J.M.E. McTaggart,
Studies in the Hegelian Cosmology
, Cambridge University Press 1903, Chapter 2.

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