BECOMING In a study-group to which I belong we have been cautioned against taking Hegel's remarks in his Encyclopaedia, paragraph

81, about understanding dialectic, its "nature", as being an attempt to define it. This would make it, some say, into just one more metaphysics of the understanding and this would be a misunderstanding. All understanding, after all, is misunderstanding if one stay with it, not rising above it to the rational and "relational" view. The alternative, however, it follows, is that dialectic is only known in the exercise of dialectic. It cannot be objectified, "specified", without being falsified, as finite object. It could only be known at all by looking back from the speculative result it finally attains to, the "Speculative stage or stage of Positive Reason", apprehending unity in opposition (82). **********************************' Just as it might be important not to take dialectic as descriptive of a supposed finite world, in the manner of rationalist metaphysics, so it is important not to confuse the dialectical category Hegel has chosen to call "becoming" with any theory in physics or, say, history. Hegel is not concerned to assert that physical atoms are forever in motion and cannot be observed, or that historical processes never stand still, even if the analogy be there to be drawn and is drawn, e.g. in The Phenomenology of Spirit. This mistake is easily made. It would be surprising if Hegel had not made it himself here and there. Thus McTaggart deprecated the choice of the name "becoming" (Werden) here. As I recall he suggested as alternative simply "Transition to Being Determinate". He claims after all that there is at least one other case in Hegel's logic beyond that of a transition where the category is given no definite name. Thus Hegel's category "cognition" differs from our ordinary usage as including volition, while "life" is an entirely a priori category focussing on a certain (imperfect or finite) kind of unity. As for mechanism and chemism, neither category can be assumed to coincide with any actual metaphysical or scientific system. ************************************* In Hegel's system the mind rises to God, discovers that it is God, before "setting in order" (Anaxagoras) the ins and outs of its alienation, from which it returns leaving nothing behind. This is indeed the way, the path, of God himself. We are, I am, that path. As God nous, Mind, then creates "nature", the kosmos, as its own entire self-manifestation before reintegrating all in itself. This path is at the same time "pure" act, as distinct from any process from A to B. All is complete without ever having been completed.

Regarding that "first" category of Becoming, resolving the apparent impasse of Being and Nothing, we note that it is not the same as, or "in the same category as", Aristotle's movement or change, kinesis. Aristotle defined this as "the act of something (existent) in potency in so far as it is in potency" (Physics III, ch. 1). This definition is aimed at removing contradiction, asserted by Zeno and others, from the idea of change and its measurement by time. Hegel, in contrast, from the start incorporates contradiction into dialectical thinking as negative condition for its onward movement towards absolute subjectivity. Thus the "Speculative stage, or stage of Positive Reason, apprehends the unity of terms (propositions)" or, one might say, of determinations, "in their opposition" (my stress). This affirmative unity follows close upon, "is involved in", their disintegration and "transition" (Enc. 82). It is not that Hegel fails or stops short at resolving the problem of movement solved at its own level by Aristotle. This is not his interest, simply. In so far as we now tend to see everything as text or "realm of discourse" we are closer to Hegel (or closer to Aristotle's metaphysics). The dilemma between "realism" and "idealism" is posed, after all, precisely by conscious subjectivity. One perceives one's perceiving (of "being"). Nor should one confuse this transparency of knowledge to itself with the subsequent epistemological reflecting or bending back upon one's subjectivity. Knowledge is essentially self-knowledge. The Delphic prescription was merely descriptive. No restriction or imprisonment is implied here, since I am "the universal of universals" in a coincidence of solipsisms. McTaggart again remarks that it is not certain that Hegel understood just how "mystical" his philosophy was. This appears to contradict that last paragraph of section 82 of the Encyclopaedia. There is mystery in the mystical only for the understanding, says Hegel there. It is, in either case, convenient here to point to the continuation (surely dialectical) of interpretation with (creative) development of a given thinker's thought, say. Obscure awareness of this coincidence is surely the motive cause of the "fundamentalist" refusal to countenance Biblical or Koranic hermeneutics. This finitude of "understanding" is reproduced in the "scholastic" approach to "established" texts or thinkers, where the transmitter or teacher so to say owns the meaning of such texts. So, it follows, to transcend such finitude is to blur an imagined line between what I or anyone responding to Hegel says and what Hegel says. We become one another and interpretation can and should improve upon the original, as is recognised in Biblical hermeneutics. This is part of the infinity of any possible "Word of God" and hence, on these premises, of man. Words are themselves self-transcendent, as the message is one with the messenger. The line then is not merely blurred but denied. It is not that such scholarly activity is quite other than philosophy, though the understanding always wishes to distinguish them. What begins maybe as scholarship, in the debate or conversation, must, as principle of its own life and liveliness, always go over into creative philosophy. The Reason which Hegel claimed to allow to unfold on its own unfolds in any and every individual, "man's ancient title of rational being" (82, Zusats), one, after all, with the entitlement of universal suffrage. Hegel however includes

under this also children, who show their rationality by obeying and believing parents and teachers, as do adults who have faith in accredited teachers, a faith gradually being made perfect in vision. By "being" Hegel wishes to name "immediacy itself", thus beginning his logic with absolute beginning, presuppositionless. No intuition is involved. Yet, as a predicate, being is the "first definition of the Absolute", "absolutely initial" in the ascending series of such definitions which just is the dialectic, in absolute priority to all external observation. Of course the language one uses is, as such, a memory of such abstractive observation, inasmuch as the spiritual (geistlich) journey begins when already out at sea in a leaky boat, i.e. the language and "form of life" are alone to hand, limiting any "Cartesian" enterprises. Hegel is thus far at one with Wittgenstein. Language itself, however, is what must question the validity of such a (finite) memory. Such im-mediacy, absolutely negative therefore, "is just Nothing", the second "definition" (or identification?) of the Absolute. This is the "fate" of being as it is, prior to any intention or meaning (mediation) of ours, any evolving of a "profounder connotation". This equivalence (with non-being) is not one with mere nonsense. Hence he refers to "the Nothing of the Buddhists". The co-incidence of these two, their unity, Hegel calls Becoming. This unity, after all, is the same as, arises out of, their absolute difference. "The one is not what the other is." Nothing, das Nichts, just is non-being, even though it is the same as being (an ens rationis, Aquinas would say: but in fact all entia rationis are nothing, this is their definition), understood as "im-mediacy itself". In Becoming, however, we have only "the readiest example", says Hegel, of how to envisage or conceive the philosophically now established unity of abstract being with nothing, with non-being, of difference with sameness. At first Hegel places Becoming on a par with "a Beginning", where "the thing" both is and is not. But this means that Beginning "is itself a case of Becoming", selected though "with an eye to further advance" merely. Hegel notes here that "no speculative principle can be correctly expressed in a proposition" (not even this one, presumably! Compare our ope.ning remarks about expressing dialectic). The unity of being and nothing here asserted is, thus, all the same, exactly balanced by their absolute difference. The "unity has to be conceived in the diversity." "To become", he concludes, is the true expression of this, of that which both is and is not, absolute immediacy, in a word (though he is surely thinking too of the corresponding place in Plato's Republic here). It is both "the true expression", then, and "the readiest example". This equivalence tells us something upon which McTaggart fastens in his studies of the Hegelian dialectic, its free open-endedness, so to say. This , though, is in absolute abstraction from any "that", any Heracleitian world of fiery flickering, as mind, ultimately, thinks nothing other, which means nothing less than, itself. There is nothing less than mind, since "everything finite is false". Such is the unanimous witness of that mysticism or "highest truth" with which Hegel identifies himself at Enc. 82 (Zusats) and to which he constantly concludes. Such Becoming is the

mind's constitutive "to be or not to be", he writes, prefiguring a formal transcendence of "mere existence", a finite category of the doctrine of essence (cf. Enc. 213), in his system. Implicit here, it will emerge, is an absolute voluntarism or freedom of the substance-transcending subject, corresponding to the divine creation which is yet necessary beyond all our perception (the cunning of Reason). Such necessity however he shows to be freedom beyond all limit and in no sense a restriction. It is connected with the argument that the Absolute both has to be seen as manifestation itself and, just therefore, again, as not possible manifesting anything other than itself. This, so to speak, is the necessity of necessity which is the necessity of freedom such as mind knows itself to possess. There is therefore no finite determinism or denial of freedom, either of God or creature, in Hegel's system. We may compare the Augustinian paradox, as it might at first seem, that angels (or humans) "established in grace" such that they cannot "sin" or err have a more perfect freedom than those who may "fall". Much more than a merely ideological changing of the meaning of a word is here intended and communicated. "I will be what I will be" gives the essence of "I am what I am". Both reduce to "I am" and finally "I", the notion refusing all predication. Hegel speaks here, somewhat figuratively, of the "inherent unrest" of that which is "at war with itself", to be unified in "determinate being", the following category which yet, as such, will also be "one-sided and finite". "Being is that passage into Nought, and Nought is the passage into Being." This is what Hegel calls Becoming, a passage. It is the opposite of the view that "from nothing comes nothing", which is equivalent to denying Becoming merely and which rests upon "absolute identity as upheld by the understanding". In Reason, in Mind, the case is different. Here Reason creates. "This Being which does not lose itself in Nothing is Becoming", creation ex nihilo. "Becoming is only the explicit statement of what Being is in its truth." It is in harmony with this when, in reasoned Christian belief, the Absolute is conceived as the Act and only the Act (cp. the Aristotelian actus purus) of ever generating the "Word" or, ultimately, itself, absolute Becoming indeed. Ecce omnia nova facio, I make all things new, continually. This is the Reason at work within us, on Hegel's principles. Becoming is "the first concrete thought-term", as abstract Being and Nothing were not. As first it must include all that is to come, but in its most schematic or reduced form. It marks Hegel's dialectical thought as essentially fluid, volatile. Yet it also gives the meaning of Being, as Hegel consistently says; not of Nothing, however, but of any Being one might conceive "which does not lose itself in Nothing". The distinction remains, however, between Becoming as "explicit statement" of Being and "abstract" Being (Enc. 88, Zus.). Being, Hegel notes, is the name for "what is wholly identical and affirmative". This however applies equally to thought, seeming here to touch on the Aristotelian principle of non-contradiction as governing thinking and being equally. In Aristotle however it governs thinking because it governs being (cf. Post. An. II, 17), as is not the case here. Being rather is, ultimately, the Idea. This, however, it should be said, is also Aristotle's final conclusion in the Metaphysics.

Becoming though, and not "utterly abstract" Being, is "the first concrete thought-term", again. The thought of Heracleitus is but an analogue of this first "stage of the logical Idea", not yet reached by the Eleatics. Becoming too is "an extremely poor term", to be replaced by such "terms" as Life, a Becoming indeed but not only that, or, better still, Mind, more "intensive" than either "mere logical" Becoming or than Life itself. Mind indeed is constituted by "the system of the logical Idea and of Nature". This "and", in a Zusats, surely implies that these two are one, or form a unity, since a mere summation of disparate characterisations is for Hegel the mark of the understanding negatively compared with Reason. There is, that is to say, no contingent dependence of the one over the other, viewed either way. The Idea, in fact, and so not Nature, is "the absolute prius", even if we should see it as "resulting", in some consequently notionally modified sense, from Nature, as it were fooled again by the cunning of Reason. Rather, it is a matter of what we have to say or "predicate" in our finite and, he implies, ultimately false way. This seeming paradox is seriously analysed by contemporaries such as Derrida, working with Hegel's semiological remarks, as it was by McTaggart. Even Dialectic itself requires manifestation and hence a certain selfalienation of the Idea. The latter would not otherwise be knowable, or be, since it is in itself manifestation. Here Hegel faithfully transmogrifies Anselm's classical argument which, all the same, he is willing to criticise (Enc. 193, last paragraph). A certain mystery therefore remains, as coincident with this "unsuitability" of predication for expressing (manifesting) truth. This again is the cunning of Reason, as we see it, with which Dialectic would come to terms. "This also is thou; neither is this thou."

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