04 October 2012

The Logic

CU Course on Hegel, Part 4

The Logic

Some academics try to illustrate Hegel with diagrams, like the one above. They don’t help very much.

The following one is supposed to represent the scheme of Hegel’s “Encyclopaedia”, as if it was the world represented by an unfamiliar projection:

What this diagram suggests, among other things, is that Hegel’s headings (or constructs) are not eclectic or random, but do form part of an organic, or concrete, whole, as you would expect from the one who bequeathed “The Ascent from the Abstract to the Concrete” to Marx and Engels. Here below is another diagram, allegedly showing Hegel’s “11 forms of dialectic”. We must resist the temptation to reduce Hegel to the level of a corporate inspirational speaker. But we may be reassured to know that Hegel’s dialectical concerns (e.g. Unity and Struggle of Opposites; Particular and General; Being and Nothingness; Form and Content; Cause and Effect) are not infinite in number, but are actually quite few.

At least it is reassuring to be able to feel that such organic-seeming totalisations of Hegel as the above two-dimensional diagrams are possible. It is also useful to be shown that Hegel’s system is not the relentless march of the triads that the diagram at the top and some of its variations are apt to suggest. The shape is neither even, nor symmetrical. Hegel’s thought is not strained. It takes its own shape.

The indistinctness of the diagrams is not a big problem at this stage. We would not want to take them too literally or to trust them too much. They are not Hegel’s work and the present distance from where we are now to the point of being able to check the diagrams against Hegel’s actual work is long. It would require us to read and internally digest several of the most difficult books ever written, on the way.

But we don’t need to do all that. Marx is going to straighten out Hegel for us, anyway. What we need is enough of Hegel so as to fully understand Marx, in keeping with the task set for us by Lenin*. Lenin says: If you don’t have Hegel, or at least his “Logic”, then you don’t have Marx. We are going to get sufficient of Hegel in this course so as to have our Marx on a firm foundation.

The way we will begin this part is with a few spots that we will locate and explore. They will be tiny in relation to the whole but they will furnish is with some reference points, as well as begin to make us used to the great man’s style.

At the end of this part, we will take a very much larger portion of Hegel for reading. We must not have a course where we end up still being virgins in relation to the works of the main writer that we are studying. In between, we will look at what Andy Blunden has written about Hegelian Logic and also try to get some assistance from Communist University standby Tony Buzan. So there will be four instalments altogether within this fourth part of our course on Hegel.

So in this instalment we are using a compilation of four short extracts from Hegel’s Logic and The Shorter Logic (see the link to the download, below). Hegel’s work is usually divided into numbered passages (not always single paragraphs) that are usually given a sign such as § or φ.

Andy’s first given quotation is §62 from The Science of Logic. Hegel is saying that negation leads lower forms of consciousness to a higher form of consciousness. He says that for science it is therefore necessary to be able to see that the negative is as good as the positive, and that negation is what moves things on towards a result; and that a result is not an “immediacy”, where immediacy is simple, latent, unmoved being.

Hegel is writing of the common consciousness and therefore of science, and this view of science is the one that Marxism has.

Andy’s second quotation is §121 from The Science of Logic. This is the famous Hegel! This is the Hegel that drives people crazy, or makes them to think that Hegel is crazy. But Hegel, contrary to what appears, is not wasting time. To say that “being is nothingness” is the beginning of finding out what has substance, and how human beings are able on a daily basis to create, God-like, something out of nothing.

Andy’s third Quotation is §133 from The Shorter Logic, where Hegel is writing of Form and Content, as a struggle of opposites that define each other and constantly change places. Perhaps this is a good time to remember that this Communist University is not a didactic, but rather a dialogic University, and so to refrain from trying to “define” everything, but instead to leave the door open for discussion. Asikhulime!

Andy’s last quotation, §160-1 from The Shorter Logic, is about The Notion, and brings at last what is Hegel’s special gift to posterity, something we need right now in South Africa, which is a revelation of the nature of the thing called Development.

Because dialectic is not a magic for itself, but it is an understanding of development, and how humans develop themselves as humanity. And this is what we need to know.

* “It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!” – Lenin