A New Exploration of Hegel's Dialectics III
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A New Exploration of Hegel's Dialectics III

The Three-Dimensional Structure

Deng Xiaomang

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eBook - ePub

A New Exploration of Hegel's Dialectics III

The Three-Dimensional Structure

Deng Xiaomang

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This volume explores the unity of logic, epistemology and ontology in Hegel's dialectic and the interrelation among the three, thereby revealing the internal features of Hegel's dialectic as well as the connection and divergence between Hegel's and Marx's philosophical thought.
As the final volume of a three-volume set that gives insights into Hegel's dialectic and his overall philosophical thought, the book analyzes Hegel's dialectic as "a unity of three." As logic, it transcends language and is therefore epistemology; as epistemology, it transcends theory and is therefore ontology; as ontology, it transcends existing things and is therefore logic. Hegel's dialectic thus demonstrates itself as the revolutionary development of each of these three fields in the history of Western philosophy. The principle of the agreement of logic with history thereby expressed immediately becomes one of the most important philosophical sources of inspiration for Marx's historical materialism. A more profound understanding of Hegel's philosophy will therefore deepen our understanding of the philosophy of Marxism.
The title will appeal to scholars and students interested in Hegel's and Marx's philosophy, German classical philosophy and Western philosophy.

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Part IHegel’s dialectical logic

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s philosophy became epoch-making not only for expounding the dialectic’s series of principles but also for the first time turning the dialectic into logic, into a system of rigorous integrity. Of course, there is a contradiction, perhaps even a fundamental one, between this system and his dialectical method. However, no one can deny that it was the form of this system that for the first time turned the dialectic into something with definite form, not just something negative but something active and positive by itself. Therefore, it is incomprehensible to speak of Hegel’s dialectic and bypass his dialectical logic, which is indeed the purest form that it takes. Hans Friedrich Fulda is somewhat correct in this sense to argue that the Marxist school, though the closest historically to Hegel’s dialectic, departed from it by ignoring or abandoning dialectical logic and hence found itself in an almost helpless situation when facing the critique of the dialectic from the standpoint of logic.1 Even though not completely accurate, this viewpoint nevertheless correctly demonstrates that, relatively speaking, the historical features of Hegel’s dialectic always draw more attention than the logical aspects of it do, which is reflective especially of dialectical logic “in the narrower sense,” namely in the study of the first part of Hegel’s “Doctrine of Concept,” that is, “Subjectivity.” The Chinese people have historically frowned upon “chewing on text and ruminating on words” (yaowen juezi 咬文爵字), or in other words, it is not the Chinese custom to focus much on grammar and linguistic norms. They get a headache when they see the words “S is P.” Moreover, such abstract speculation is neither meaningful directly with respect to either politics or ethics, nor does it have any aesthetic value; it appears superfluous to boot. Chinese scholars, especially, on the contrary find it easier to accept contradictory doctrines, categories and historical theories that Westerners find harder to understand. This shows that the instinctual tendency of the Chinese way of thinking is toward the impalpable. Hegel’s dialectic also possesses impalpable factors, which are precisely what traditional Western thinking finds difficult to grasp. However, the impalpable aspect of Hegel’s thought is grounded in the palpable, and his dialectic is based on two millennia of formal logic that had been developing through the Western tradition prior to his inventive take on it. Therefore, if we simply rely on our partial strengths without delving into the logical form of Hegel’s dialectic, a comprehensive grasp of its true meaning will remain beyond our reach. On the other hand, although the logical form of Hegel’s dialectic utilizes the judgments and deductions of formal logic, Hegel transforms them into direct expressions of dialectical content. Therefore, the entire position of dialectical logic is fundamentally different from that of formal logic. Many people, including those who want to defend dialectical logic, attempt to add formal rules to the determinacy of dialectical logic from the standpoint of formal logic. We see this in the works of foreign scholars like Yuri Petrov from the Soviet Union, Fulda, and domestic scholars from China, all of whom speak of “formalizing” dialectical logic, which places Hegel’s dialectical logic in complete opposition to its historical content and marks an even greater departure from the spirit of the dialectic.
This part, therefore, first discusses the relationship between Hegel’s dialectical logic and formal logic. It then goes into the historical or empirical foundation behind dialectical logic, and finally draws out the consistency of dialectical logic and epistemology on such grounds.


  1. Fulda’s “Scattered Notes on Dialectic” in (Horstmann 1978, 34).

1Dialectical logic and formal logic

DOI: 10.4324/9781003269830-2
In the history of Western philosophy, the word “logic” comes from the ancient Greek word logos, which originally referred to the universal forms of language, grammar and, by extension, to laws and the essences of things. According to Aristotle’s usage, and later to Scholastic philosophy’s usage (i.e., Aquinas), what constitutes the essence of a thing is the “form.” The source of this conception is the doctrine of logos. The form of something, according to Aristotle, is the logos (definition) of something. Therefore, Aristotle’s logic does not imply some “abstract form” that is totally separable from content, and for Aristotle, the form, on the contrary, is the true content, the essence of the thing. We owe the separation of form from content to the great merit of the medieval nominalists, who wherewith fought against the usage of textual interpretation and logical analysis of the Bible to restrict and stifle living thought, while holding to the differentiation of language, words, concepts and their relationships from empirical facts. However, the nominalists by doing so only affirmed the same thing as their opponents, the realists, who merely saw this tedious formal analysis divorced from factual reality as nothing less than the whole truth itself. When modern empirical science and empiricist philosophers emerged from the nominalist tradition, they also inherited the viewpoint of nominalist logic, which is that logic is nothing more than the formal means and tools by which subjective content is externally applied to content (the object) by the subject. Modern rationalist philosophy then went on to insist on the basis of mathematics that a logical relation shall enjoy having as much objective necessity as a mathematical relation would, reflecting how the objective thing and “substance” is by itself constituted. In this way, a “panlogism” with fatalist characteristics became the unbearable shackles of mechanical necessity choking humanity once again. Logic, in a word, became the new dead form that would come to drive the living mad. Immanuel Kant’s “transcendental logic” tried to conquer these two oppositions of subjective and objective. In one respect, Kant opposes the simple view of taking logic as nothing but the arbitrary means of subjective applications, insisting that the categories of the understanding and their logical application have both objective universality and necessity, insofar as the categories are “constitutive” of the objects of scientific knowledge. In another respect, however, Kant also opposes the view of taking objective universality and necessity as extrinsic qualifications of human subjectivity. For Kant, the contrary is the case thanks to his “Copernican revolution” in the thought that, truthfully speaking, this objective necessity is brought about by the activity of human subjectivity. However, Kant fails to truly achieve the mission on two fronts. On the one hand, the object constituted by “transcendental logic” is not the truly objective “thing in-itself” but is only “phenomenon,” and hence, merely subjective still. On the other hand, he does not “deduce” the categories but merely “discovers” them within the preexisting logic and knowledge of human beings, ultimately along with the synthetic unity of the human being’s a priori (primordial) apperception. Thus, the system of categories remains a rigidly fixed, unchanging framework which although intrinsically belongs a priori to human being’s faculty of understanding also regulates the human being. Johann Gottlieb Fichte largely overcomes the second shortcoming in Kant, and began the experiment of deducing the categories, but Fichte then falls short of overcoming Kant’s first shortcoming insofar as his deduction never escapes the subjective sphere. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling replace logical deduction with intuitive knowledge, but they fail to go beyond Kant’s finite subjective viewpoint when it comes to logic as such.
Such are the resources of thought standing before Hegel as he put together his dialectical logic, which he calls speculative logic. In Hegel’s view, the most critical step in the reform of traditional formal logic is the critique of Kant’s transcendental logic, for the reason that all of the limitations of traditional formal logic are most thoroughly exposed in Kant here, and neither Kant nor his successors ever successfully broke free of them. Thus, Hegel reminds the reader in the Science of Logic that “[i]n this work I make frequent references to the Kantian philosophy,” since “it constitutes the foundation and the starting point of the new German philosophy,” and “an added reason for these frequent references in the objective logic is that Kantian philosophy delves deeply into important, more specific aspects of the logic.”1 Hegel effectively only uses Kant’s conception of logic as the subject matter of critical investigation in “Subjective Logic” or “Doctrine of Concept.” For example, at the beginning of “Doctrine of Concept,” Hegel uses more than half of the space to analyze sentence-by-sentence Kant’s thought on logic. Kant exposes the subjective and abstract (rigidified) character of traditional formal logic, but never gets out of the trap of these two defects. Why is this so? Hegel thinks it is mainly because Kant views logic at the outset as ready-made instruments of some sort or as pre-fabricated means of understanding external to the subject matter. Though Kant wished to first examine the tools of cognition beforehand prior to cognition, since this examination by itself amounts to cognition, it already uncritically accepts traditional formal logic’s overall way of considering itself as performing external processing on the object or subject matter under examination. Formal logic had considered objects as static and standing in isolation, until he discovered through analysis that the essence of cognition is nothing other than self-consciousness’s synthetic unity of apperception. He saw this unity as the power of simply connecting together mutually disconnected things, however, and consequently never truly put the synthesizing function of this power into effect. Kant simply never took the examination of logical categories or determinations seriously, and hence no cognition of their nature ever developed in any way from this kind of philosophy. Hegel insists, “the finite determinateness in which that form is as ‘I,’ as consciousness, must be shed,”2 and it must become the infinite form of pure thought capable of the self-determination of supplying for itself the content necessary for pure thought. In other words, Hegel is not opposed to the formality of formal logic. Rather, he believes that formal logic is weak not because it lacks the material to fill it (for which reason it is empty), but for the reason that these forms do not actively posit their own content by themselves, contented as they are with abstractness of form:
More to the point is that the emptiness of the logical forms lies rather solely in the manner in which they are considered and dealt with. Scattered in fixed determinations and thus not held together in organic unity, they are dead forms and the spirit which is their vital concrete unity does not reside in them.3
It is usually thought that the contents of formal logic should be sought outside of the forms, such as in empirical material and emotional content. In fact, the content of formal logic consists in precisely these forms: those active, organic, concrete, unifying relations are the self-negating spirit contained within these forms. The form (or content) understood in this way is the “absolute form” or “infinite form,” and the logic of “form” thus understood is by itself speculative logic. Visibly here, Hegel understands “form” (ειδοs) in (Plato’s) and Aristotle’s sense of the term insofar as he views form as the essence, truth and “Idea” of the thing. He demands the form to posit the content all by itself. He thereby turns the form into an active totality. This infinite form whose content is itself the logical Idea:
More exactly, the Absolute Idea itself has only this for its content, namely that the formal determination is its own completed totality...


  1. Cover
  2. Half-Title Page
  3. Series Page
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright Page
  6. Contents
  7. Preface
  8. Part I Hegel’s dialectical logic
  9. Part II Hegel’s dialectical epistemology
  10. Part III Hegel’s dialectical ontology
  11. Conclusion
  12. Postscript
  13. References
  14. Index