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BECOMING XXI: DEVELOPMENT

"The position taken up by the notion is that of absolute idealism" (160 Zus.). Hegel does not
say that it is the position taken up by us here but that it is "taken up by the notion". It is taken
up, that is, by thinking as thinking itself. This is also the core-position assumed, thus far, to G.
Frege's essay "Der Gedanke". Nonetheless many Frege scholars praise his realism, his
supposed break with idealism, precisely on this ground.1 This says something about absolute
idealism, such as that it is indeed absolute. It is cut loose from the problematic self as
substance, as examined by Hume. Self has become subject and the subject merges into
absolute subjectivity. Our thinking does not become absolute by some quasi-political
allegiance to the principle of non-contradiction. We have to see this and generate it for
ourselves.2 This principle is the very birth in act of thinking itself, within or without us
indifferently. "I am you"3 or might just as well be. "I" is the universal of universals. Rather, I
am and have to be this super-universal, before Abraham or "any other name", as a name
which is "above all names" rather, whatever the merits of this as a translation of a well-known
Apostolic text. "I" is not itself a name or nomen, while the sense in which it is a pronomen is
just this negative, that it stands instead of (pro) a noun, rather than standing for it. This,
however, does not "reduce" thought to subjectivity but rather exalts the latter. In the absolute
subjectivity of thought self is no longer either considered or presupposed, as we also found
true in a way of "God". This is "the position" of the notion and of philosophy indifferently.

Philosophy is a knowledge through notions because it sees that what on other


grades of consciousness is taken to have Being, and to be naturally and
immediately independent, is but a constituent stage in the Idea.

We have left Being and especially beings behind, having found that Being and Nothing, like
good and evil indeed, cannot be kept apart. So with Quality and right up through Essence any
determinate something has some or, more probably, all of the others as counterweight, as foil.
"A Something is implicitly the other of itself" (92, Zus.) and on this is grounded our
perception of change. Our notion of Self is the mere abstract generalisation of this, is its
contrast with all others, misread for individual subjecthood. It is rather the act, inclusive of
both actuality and activity, since they are one, which is Reason. Now Reason, since it is what
alone is Infinite (it is infinitude absolutely considered and hence only as considering itself,
beyond all possibility of finite objectification), is necessarily differentiated and infinitely so.
Reason is thus Freedom, not limited to this or that or to any number. This is not, however, the
freedom of this or that individual person. Hence Hegel states that "the principle of personality
is universality". In this sense freedom is inalienably personal. Yet in becoming conscious of
my freedom I become conscious of my identity with all "others". Love names or can name the
impossibility of freedom's stopping short of this or of stopping short at all:

This liberation is called I: as developed to its totality, it is free Spirit; as feeling,


it is Love; and as enjoyment, it is Blessedness. (159)

1
But cp. Hans Sluga, "Frege and the Rise of Analytic Philosophy", Inquiry 18, 1975, "Frege's Alleged Realism",
Inquiry 20, 1977, as against Michael Dummett, "Frege", The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (ed. Paul Edwards,
New York 1967, Vol. 3, p.225.
2
See our "Classificatory Expressions and Matters of Moral Substance", Philosophical Papers (South Africa),
May 1984, Discussing R.M. Hare.
3
Cf. Daniel Kolac, I am You, Verlag Springer 2004.
The text further implies that it is not essential to this liberation which is thinking that it be
found "existing in an individual form", since this is added as a qualification (unless indeed it
be a proprium). Thinking means, after all, that in the other "one meets with one's self", now
become the other. What other force can "in" have here? So the self is truly spoken of as losing
itself, though we can hardly avoid speaking of thereby finding oneself more truly. The soul is
only known in knowing the other, wrote Aquinas.4 One who looks at himself does not shine,
runs a Chinese proverb. But we have here the nature of the Notion as such, one with each of
its constituents, and not some ethical afterthought.
This freedom, again, is not that of an individual, ruined in essence from the start because he or
she never was. He or she, rather, like I and all the pro-nouns, name the Notion, neither one nor
many. Here belongs Hegel's mysterious reference to "articulated groups of spirits" in The
Phenomenology of Mind, to spirits joined or jointed. Thus the illiterate doctora ecclesiae as it
were hears, in reality she thinks, the Notion as if saying, since it is active, that "I am He who
is; you are she who is not." Catherine of Siena, in her Dialogues, was contemporary with
Hegel's source, Eckhart, and both were Dominicans. We may reasonably note such pointers.5
I, then, am universal of universals, having the unity of all within myself and hence as
necessary to this universal unity as this is to me. Time, and therefore birth and death, along
with all contingency, are here excluded. This is why the state of Nature, to which the Notion
implacably proceeds, is a self-alienation, i.e. of and by "self" as applied now to the Notion
itself (selbst). We will investigate this implacability in its proper place. It does not mean that
God needed to create the world but that he is inconceivable without it. a quite different
relation, one of reason alone like all logical relations. The world is logical or necessary, which
is not to say that it is so in all its details. Yet the other which the Notion sets up "is in reality
not an other", since it is nothing other at all, and so "to be looked upon merely as play". Here
Hegel adds a frankly theological passage relaying the Christian teaching that the world is
"merely" an analogical reflection of the internal, which is to say real, "begetting" of "a Son, in
whom he, a Spirit, is at home with himself" (161 Zus.). This too, however, is not excluded
from the province of notional play, as applying to all of its "movement". The Son too is "in
reality not an other", if differently, and we indeed read in received Scripture that "I and the
Father are one", even if Trinitarian relations should imply a certain opposition. Thus Aquinas
will say, citing Augustine, that the Son is alius (masculine) than the Father, another Person, as
being relation6, but not aliud (neuter), not something else (Summa theol. Ia 31, 2). This in fact
is exactly what we have been saying about the relation of the Notion to its constituents, setting
up an other which is not an other and becoming other to itself. Thus Hegel makes good his
claim that philosophy gives more perfect form to the same content as is offered with external
grounding only in religion. Nor does this make of Hegel's philosophy a mere exercise in
apologetics, precisely because it is placed as prior to and more fundamental than religion. It is
put as the very thinking of Thought itself, of Nous, of the Notion, as we find it stated in a
well-known fragment of Anaxagoras ("Mind has set all in order.").
Such thinking, therefore, is "the principle of all life" and thus, it follows, thoroughly concrete,
not abstract merely. It has to be more concrete than the concretions issuing from it, though

4
Aquinas, Summa theol. Ia, 87, 1.
5
Hegel in fact may be seen as reinstating the Dominican and Augustinian tradition, whether by coincidence or
design, as against the ad hoc compromises of Jesuit humanism leading from Suarez to Wolff and Kant. In fact
Kant's domestication of Hume is analogous to the original Jesuit and indeed Molinist ploy, a scientia media
indeed, neither fish nor fowl.
6
The persons are themselves relations, the relations persons, says Aquinas, at first bewilderingly. Yet in English
we call at least some persons our relations (or relatives) and not merely ones related to us or Verwandte. In the
case of some twins they were for some time "consubstantial" with us, which might seem as baffling or
"mysterious" as the Trinitarian postulates. Here in the Notion, however, identity is reaffirmed as rediscovered,
like the recovery from abstraction in general.
they must be identical with it when not themselves abstracions, abs-tracted from it. the
Notion, again,

is a systematic whole, in which each of its constituent functions is the very total
(sc. whole) which the notion is, and is put as indissolubly one with it (160,
parenthesis added).

The Fregean notion, again, of the predicate as a function of its subject (always) is not alien to
the thought here, where every "constituent" is "but a constituent stage in the Idea", a
"moment". True, functions are not left behind, as are moments, and so for Frege the individual
that is a fish "fish-ises" for ever, a variable not thus bound in the logical opacity of the Greek
lettering chosen remaining a mere unbound variable, both Nothing and Ground. In logic a fish
cannot become a non-fish, as in physics or its biological application.7
The Idea, that is, is a state of universal identity posited in act as Judgement, the Judgement,
which actually overthrows all particular judgements whatever. A syllogism, therefore, as
judgement upon judgement (two things identical with a third are identical with one another)
can only have circular form, as having no outside point of entry. Yet we have found already,
in Essence, that the Outside is the Inside, that this relation was "but a constituent stage in the
Idea" (which is the Absolute), as, we shall see, in The Philosophy of Spirit, is language itself.
The notion contains,

is what contains all the earlier categories of thought merged in it. It certtainly is
a form , but an infinite and created form, which includes, but at the same time
releases from itself, the fulness of all content (160, Zus., stress added).

Here, in Logic itself already or in principle, we make the reditus from Nature to Spirit, which
"includes but at the same time (ipso facto he should rather say) releases from itself…" It
releases as including, not, therefore, as "box-within-box" (cf. 161, Zus.). This is what was
pointed to by the impossibility of separate finite substance, whether individual or specific,
primary or secondary in Aristotle's terms, or by the impossibility of discretely distinct
qualities or of separable components to any relation thus made particular and finite. The form,
form as such and no longer as constituent, is the content and the "matter", once again. This,
these modulations, is how thought finds itself face to face with itself only, in that infinite and
eternal manifestation of thinking or "thought-ising" (itself and hence all), as the Fregean fish
"fish-ises". The subject, as absolute, is necessarily its own function, actus purus. Thus it is
absolute freedom. "I will be what I will be". This truth was glimpsed anew in pre-
contemporary "existentialism", but too often abstractly merely, abstracting abstraction's very
denial8. Similarly democracy or rule by the people becomes, at the hands of abstracting
ideologists, restricting themselves to Verstand, the most absolute rule of or over the people yet
seen, whether social ostracism or the guillotine be the persuasion thereto.
So we may style the Notion "abstract", in a merely insensitive choice of terms. It is however
concrete, involving "the total wealth" of Being and Essence, "merged in the unity of thought".
It "involves" them to the point where the thought of each and any item is identical with that
activity which is the Notion as a whole, once called the "divine essence" as that with which all
the (divine) ideas are identical.9 Here "this also is thou; neither is this thou", i.e. all self and
particularity is overthrown as moment, existing, rather, only as whole, as Absolute Idea or I.

7
In Frege's The Foundations of Arithmetic (Breslau 1884, tr. J.L. Austin, 1950) Leibniz and Kant are frequently
mentioned, Hegel not at all.
8
Cf. E. Gilson, On Being and some Philosophers, PIMS Toronto, 1952.
9
Cf. Aquinas, Summa theol. Ia Q15.
Our definition of the Absolute now, succeeding to the earlier ones, is that "the Absolute is the
Notion". Is this but a new use of an old term? By no means. Nor is the same word "employed
in two contrary acceptations".10 Hegel does not wish, he says, to give occasion "for confusion
and misconception". Rather, "the speculative notion and the notion of Formal Logic" are
closer in meaning than at first appears. Thus we deduce content from notions, e.g. from the
notion of property in law. What else could provisions for the protection of property be based
upon? This finite notion then is not mere form without original content and thus Hegel derives
all content from the proto-notion as Absolute, which is to say infinite.
The onward movement of the Notion, thus shown to be active, is Development, of itself from
within. Each element of it "is a free being of the whole notion". Here the elements we
distinguish "are identical with one another and with the whole", as soul and body we might
think, for there is no such thing as a body thus distinguished. 11 Nor does the hand survive one
second in separation from the arm, even though truly distinguished. The point is thus far
Aristotelian merely.
What then develops? Well, within Being we descried transition into something else as "the
dialectical process", says Hegel here. In Essence we had reflection still bringing something
else into light. Here the movement, in and of dialectic, is development, "by which only that is
explicit which is already implicitly present." Nothing else, that is, comes in as from outside.
For this reason Hegel parallels it to the growth of a plant. "In the world of nature it is organic
life that corresponds to the grade of the notion." The development is of the plant's or notion's
own self. The content remains unchanged as it passes through and sheds the various forms. It
is no doubt nudged on in this by what may be outside of it, soil and so on, but it does not take
therefrom in the sense of mixing with it. It rather absorbs it into itself in identification as in an
action intrinsic to its own being, though here the example falls short of the original. For the
notion is entirely self-contained beyond possibility of uprooting, such that the "world" is
within it or truly nothing apart from it, as Absolute. This indeed is what is developing here. It
is contrasted with "box-within-box" theories or that of "innate ideas", as if the "germ" of the
plant were already a perfected exemplar in miniature, like the fictitious homunculus.
Development means, however, that "that only is explicit which is already implicitly present"
(161 Zus.). That is why, in our reading of the dialectic and especially of this third division of
it, we naturally pass back and forth in the way that we do.

10
Use of this term might suggest that Hegel was acquainted with medieval "term logic" (proprietates
terminorum) and speculative grammar.
11
Aquinas remarks somewhere that this holds in metaphysics but not in logic. Logicus enim non considerat
essentia rerum.