This is the problem Contradiction is a key concept in Hegel’s logic. Nevertheless, this concept is highly problematic because of its ambiguity or polysemy. This paper has two aims: I. To distinguish the three basic ways in which Hegel uses the concept of contradiction. II. To show how each of the three ways is based on a specific perspective on negativity and how this corresponds to a different value of the contradiction in the dialectical process. PART I Starting with the first point, I will analyze the general features of the three kinds of contradiction, and for each one I will provide and examine an example in Hegel’s Science of Logic1. 1. Contradiction as mistake of the understanding First of all, contradiction in Hegel’s logic means the mistake of the abstract comprehension of the understanding (Verstand). Understanding fixes every determination as something independent and self-subsistent and therefore it stops to the immediate and abstract structure of a determination. This abstraction basically consists in an exclusion of the constitutive role of the other of a determination in the way the determination defines itself. Nevertheless, this exclusion is still a kind of relation between the other and the determination. Therefore, the understanding at the same time
(a) denies the constitutive role of the other in the way in which a determination defines itself; (b) implicitly affirms it, because this constitutive role is implied in the exclusion denoted by the

denial itself. This is exactly what happens in the understanding’s claim about the infinite. Conceived as absolutely separate from the finite, the infinite turns out to be itself something finite, namely the bad infinite:
The infinite as thus posited over against the finite, in a relation wherein they are as qualitatively distinct others, is to be called the bad infinite, the infinite of the understanding, for which it has the value of the highest, the absolute Truth. The understanding […] is entangled in the unreconciled, unresolved, absolute contradiction […]. This contradiction occurs as a direct result of the circumstance that the finite remains as a determinate being opposed to the infinite, so that there are two determinatenesses; there are two worlds, one infinite and one finite, and in their relationship the infinite is only the limit of the finite and is thus only a determinate infinite, an infinite which is itself finite2.
1

The distinction between these three kinds of contradiction refers to an interpretative model that I developed with Prof. Luca Illetterati. Cf. L. Illetterati, Contradictio regula falsi? Intorno alla teoria hegeliana della contraddizione, in F. Puppo (ed.), La contradizion che nol consente. Forme del sapere e valore del principio di non contraddizione, F. Angeli, Milano 2010, pp. 85-114. 2 G.W.F. Hegel, Science of Logic, transl. by A.V. Miller, Allen – Unwin, London 1969, pp. 139-140.