Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 11h The Science of Logic and Neoplatonism

The Science of Logic, rather than being as Magee thinks the core of Hegel’s philosophy1, is the point of overlap for the influence on it of the Neoplatonism of Plotinus and Proclus.

Reflecting the development in the Enneads through Intellectual-Principle to its highest point before the first hypostasis, its conclusion in its final category Absolute Idea is the furthest attainment of the course initiated in the Phenomenology with the rise of consciousness from ‘sense-certainty,’ itself echoing the rise of Plotinus’ soul from the sensory world, through Soul, to Intellectual-Principle.

Again, reflecting the influence of Proclus, the Science of Logic is also the first element in Hegel’s Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences (in order – the Science of Logic, the Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Mind/Spirit).

Beginning with the act of thinking in the sphere of ‘absolute knowing,’ the process here has its completion not in Absolute Idea but in Hegel’s discussion of religion and philosophy in Absolute Spirit at the end of his Philosophy of Mind/Spirit 

The eternal Idea, in full fruition of its essence, eternally sets itself to work, engenders and enjoys itself as absolute Mind2.

As I have argued (11.3.7), the Encyclopaedia is not based on the Christian Trinity but on Proclus’ triad in the second hypostasis Intellect – Being/Life/Intelligence. In this, as I will argue in my discussion of the relations between Hegel and Cusanus, Hegel also followed the broad structure of the three books in Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia, the subjects of which are in turn God, the universe and Christ. Where Cusanus concluded the last book with a cultus of the Church, Plotinus concluded his system with a cultus of souls and Hegel his with a cultus of Spirit – each cultus one of individuals3.

Hegel criticised Plotinus’ hypostases, finding them inadequate for his dialectical interests4 but found in Proclus’ triad – a triad of triunities5 – the complexity, the potential, the ‘real trinity’ he sought (11.3.6). To creatively intensify this, again as I have argued and will return to, he introduced the errors that he made in his discussion of the philosophies of Plotinus and Proclus into his own philosophy by conflating the hypostases into Proclus’ triad (Chapter 7).

It is Hegel’s adherence to this triad and the degree to which he developed it that identifies him as the consummate Neoplatonist.



1. ‘one may argue that the Logic is the core of Hegel’s philosophy,’ Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 244
2. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, op. cit., 315
3.God is a trinity (my italics) of Oneness, Equality-of-Oneness, and the Union thereof,’ Jasper Hopkins, Nicholas of Cusa On Learned Ignorance, A Translation and an Appraisal of De Docta Ignorantia, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, 1990, 1-50, 2; ‘DI began with a discussion of the Absolute Maximum, which was shown to be Absolute Oneness. From out of Oneness there arose a oneness in plurality, viz., the created universe, which was discussed in Book Two. Book Three then took as its theme the return of the creation to God through Christ. But in its return the creation is not re-enfolded in God, is not merged with Absolute Oneness, for each finite thing retains its individuality; rather, the creation is reunited to God.’ Ibid., 49; ‘We shall have to consider this idea, this content, in three spheres (my italics):/1. the idea in free universality, or the pure essence of God – the kingdom of the Father;/2. the inward diremption of the idea, held fast for a moment in its differentiation – the kingdom of the Son;/3. the reconciliation of this finite spirit with spirit that has being in and for itself – the kingdom of the Spirit.’ Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. III, 362. To repeat, my contention regarding Hegel is that his philosophy is not Christian but that he used the Christian Trinity to disguise (eagerly pandered to by ideologues, supremacists and academics), illustrate and ground his Neoplatonism.
4. ‘in his Enneads he frequently reiterates the same general views; we find plenty of adversions to the universal and no convincing progression through the whole, of the sort we have seen in the case of Aristotle. The logos or what is thought is not apart from nous; the nous is what is thought; it envisages only itself, as thinking…’ Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. II, 337
5. Proclus wrote of ‘essence indeed in the first triad, intelligible life in the second, and intelligible intellect in the third. …essence is suspended from the first deity…life from the second, and intellect from the third.’ Proclus, On the Theology of Plato, op. cit., Bk. IV., Ch. III

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

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