Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 12b

12.3 The philosophies of Hegel and Proclus

In addition to my previous discussions of their Neoplatonism, of their belief that theology (for them, philosophy) is the science of the gods (Proclus) or of the Godhead (Hegel), of their obsession with triadic structures (a late antique Neoplatonic tendency), of the importance to Hegel of Proclus’ triad of triads Being/Life/Intelligence and of their perspectivism, there are numerous other points of similarity between the two that amply justify Feuerbach’s description of Hegel as ‘the German Proclus’.

12.3.1 Neoplatonists are not philosophers

Magee wrote the best first sentence I have read in philosophy

Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom – he believes he has found it. Hegel writes in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit, “To help bring philosophy closer to the form of Science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title of ‘love of knowing’ and be actual knowledge – that is what I have set before me” (Miller, 3; PG 3 [sic]).1

While I certainly don’t agree that Hegel wasn’t a philosopher, Magee made a very important point which hinges on the difference between the literal translation of ‘philosophia’ – between its traditionally accepted meaning (and a highly admirable approach to life) – and, in my view, what amounted for Hegel to Neoplatonic teleology.

Chlup points out that

Eastern Neoplatonism…(attempted) not to capture all things all at once in their complexity, but rather to analyse this complexity into a network of exactly defined relations.2

As evidenced particularly in his Elements of Theology, Proclus hardened the unsystematic art, fluidity and passion of Plotinus into systematic, almost scholastic law

Proclus’ emanational model is similar to that of Plotinus, but differs in being formalised and brought to greater precision. In his thought the cycle of remaining, procession and reversion becomes a universal pattern working at all levels of reality and helping to explain all relations between (metaphysical) causes and their effects.3

In a system in which every intelligence is its own object,4 in which the true is the whole5 and the modes of ascent analogy and negation,6 Proclus’ Elements of Theology sets out a doctrine of categories and in On the Theology of Plato, as in the development in the Science of Logic from being and nothing to the culmination in Absolute Idea, the closer a concept stands to the One, the more it embodies multiplicity

In the primal levels of reality multiplicity is present secretly and without separation, while in the secondary levels it is differentiated. The closer a term stands to the One, the more it hides multiplicity within itself (PT III 9, 39.20-4)7

Proclus meticulously externalised his system, with the ultimate aim of achieving harmony between the psychic ‘reality’ inside and the metaphysical ‘reality’ outside by a progressive process of cognition

it was no longer accessible by introspection only, but was perceived as objective reality ‘out there’ to which one needs to attune oneself. The decisive task became to come to know the structure of this reality as precisely as possible. Only in this way could the soul be brought into accord with the order of the universe, linking up with the gods by means of it. Hence the characteristic passion of eastern Neoplatonism for painstaking conceptual distinctions mapping the outer zone lying between man and the One.8

The principles Limit (peras) and the Unlimited (apeiria) work together at the heart of existence

For Proclus, Limit and the Unlimited represent a sort of basic ‘interface’ between the One and the lower levels….Limit is always tied to the Unlimited (PT III 8, 31.18-32.7)…All that exists needs to depend on these two primal principles: it needs to be limited while possessing an indefinite potency.9

Hegel used the Trinity as a metaphor to illustrate his equally fundamental concern for these two principles and how they worked creatively together – most broadly, the infinite (God) required the Son to live in the world (the infinite become incarnate infinite-finite) so that, upon his death and resurrection, the infinite (God) could be ‘reconciled’ with the finite (humanity), thereby finding completion in Spirit’s cultus on earth.10



1. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 1
2. Chlup, Proclus, An Introduction, op. cit., 21
3. Ibid., 65
4.Every intelligence in the act of intellection knows that it knows: the cognitive intelligence is not distinct from that which is conscious of the cognitive act.
For if it is an intelligence in action and knows itself as indistinguishable from its object (prop. 167), it is aware of itself and sees itself. Further, seeing itself in the act of knowing and knowing itself in the act of seeing, it is aware of itself as an active intelligence: and being aware of this, it knows not merely what it knows but also that it knows. Thus it is simultaneously aware of the thing known, of itself as the knower, and of itself as the object of its own intellective act.’ Proclus, The Elements of Theology, op. cit., Prop. 168
5. ‘(Proclus believed that) every single level of reality is divided into sub-layers in a way that mirrors the structure of reality as a whole. Proclus sums this up in one of the most fundamental rules of late Neoplatonist metaphysics: “All things are in all things, but in each according to its proper nature.” Chlup, Proclus, An Introduction, op. cit., 91
6. ‘In the next place, if the one is neither intelligible nor intellectual, nor in short participates of the power of being, let us survey what will be the modes of leading us to it, and through what intellectual conceptions Plato unfolds as far as he is able, to his familiars, the ineffable and unknown transcendency of the first. I say then, that at one time he unfolds it through analogy, and the similitude of secondary natures; but at another time he demonstrates its exempt transcendency, and its separation from the whole of things, through negations.’ Proclus, On the Theology of Plato, op. cit., Bk. II, Ch. V; ‘All that is immediately produced by any principle both remains in the producing cause and proceeds from it.
…In so far, then, as it has an element of identity with the producer, the product remains in it; in so far as it differs it proceeds from it. But being like it, it is at once identical with it in some respect and different from it: accordingly it both remains and proceeds, and the two relations are inseparable.’ The Elements of Theology, op, cit., Prop. 30
7. Chlup, Proclus, An Introduction, op. cit., 91
8. Ibid., 274
9. Chlup, Proclus, An Introduction, op. cit., 77-78; ‘Hence it is not wonderful, if that which is primarily being, though it is neither bound nor infinity, subsists from both these, and is mixed, superessential natures themselves not being assumed in the mixture of it, but secondary progressions from them coalescing into the subsistence of essence. Thus therefore being consists of these, as participating of both, possessing indeed the uniform from bound, but the generative, and in short, occult multitude from infinity.’ Proclus, On the Theology of Plato, op. cit., Bk III, Ch. IX
10. ‘the truth is the unity – the implicit unity – of divine and human nature, of infinite and finite.’; ‘Because the concept of religion entails the unity of subjective consciousness and its object, namely God as absolute essence or spirit, when the concept of religion becomes objective to itself, this unity of finite and infinite consciousness comes fully to expression. For this reason, Christianity is the “consummate” or “absolute” religion.’; ‘the understanding persists in finitude. Indeed, even in the case of the infinite, it has the infinite on one side and finitude on the other. But the truth of the matter is that neither the finite nor the infinite standing over against it has any truth; rather both are merely transitional.’ Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. III, Hodgson, 30 and 163 and Hegel, 281

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 12a

Hegel and Proclus

12.1 Academics on Hegel, Neoplatonism and Proclus

The response of academics to the influence of Proclus the Follower on Hegel is exemplary of that by them to the profound relationship between Hegel and Neoplatonism generally. Despite their repeated and clearest acknowledgement of that influence and relationship, the former within the latter, their analysis of them, setting out the debt Hegel owed to both Proclus and Neoplatonism and how he further developed Neoplatonism on the basis of that debt is still lacking.

On the pervasive influence of Neoplatonism on the German idealists, Redding wrote, with a gross understatement

It is common within recent accounts of the emergence of German Idealism to find stressed the impact of Spinozism on the generation to which Schelling and Hegel belonged, but it is less common (my italics) to find discussion of the neoplatonic aspects of their thought, despite the fact that this was commonly noted in the 19th century. …Both early Schelling and Hegel were clearly attracted to Plotinian thought, and especially the particular role Plotinus had given to the processes of life.1


With Proclus (the) dialectic of the one and the many had reached the most developed phase capable of antique thought, but with Fichte, this neo-platonic dialectic was now reproduced at the level of individual, actual consciousnesses.2

While the direct connection of Neoplatonic dialectic to Fichte is correct, Redding’s interpretation of it is erroneous. The Neoplatonic dialectic of the one and the many always functioned at the level of individual, actual (whatever that means) consciousness. The individual consciousness and soul is the focus of Plotinus’ system – Neoplatonic perspectivism is built on this. Fichte is simply one more philosopher who never acknowledged his profound debt to Neoplatonism, who claimed the fruits of Neoplatonic philosophy, which he rebadged, as his own great invention.3

Of the influence of Neoplatonism on Hegel specifically

in contrast to Aristotle, Hegel’s ‘theology’ insists on the ‘incarnation’ of God in man, symbolised in the divinity of Jesus. Thus Hegel might be said to have been a Christian Aristotelianised Platonist, but his is a form of Christianity in which…there is no ‘transcendent’ place for the God of Augustine.4

Findlay correctly wrote of Hegel, in his Foreword to the Encyclopaedia Logic no less

Those who are unwilling to see Hegel as an ontologist and First Philosopher, or as a theologian in the sense of Aristotle or Proclus, will never be able to make more than a partial use of his brilliant insights5

and Redding noted that Feuerbach described him as ‘the German Proclus’6 writing

Hegel showed clear features of the type of thought found in the Platonism of late antique philosophers like Plotinus and Proclus…Importantly it was these neo-platonist, and especially Proclean features, that would be central to Hegel’s understanding of Christianity, and especially the doctrine of the trinity7

The influence of Proclus on Hegel was both direct and indirect. Cusanus, who was also of the greatest importance to Hegel – a direct influence on him that has never been acknowledged by any academic – and whose philosophy bears so many similarities with Hegel’s had made a study of the philosophy of Proclus.8 Most important of all, as I have argued (11.3.4ff.), Proclus’ Being/Life/Intelligence triad provided the basic structure of Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia, recurring in that of Hegel’s non-Christian Trinity.

Where is Redding’s or any other academic’s thorough explication of these ‘important’, ‘clearly observed’ features of Neoplatonic and Proclean thought, these direct influences so ‘central to Hegel’s understanding of Christianity, and especially the doctrine of the trinity’?

Yet, with the decline of that stage of capitalist ideology known as ‘post-modernism’, there has been a small but growing recognition in academia of the immense philosophical and cultural importance of Neoplatonism – but even with that recognition, rather than acknowledging and analysing the direct influence of Neoplatonism on Hegel (for example), the acknowledgement is understated and the analysis is primarily of the relationships between him and those philosophers to whom he responded (particularly Kant, Fichte and Schelling) – all influenced by Neoplatonism – with Neoplatonism contained, like a dangerous philosophical tiger in an academic cage, in a secondary position.

It has been my intention throughout this thesis to argue for the direct relationship between Hegel and Neoplatonism and key Neoplatonists and to argue that his philosophy is Neoplatonism’s consummate achievement.

12.2 Hegel on Neoplatonism and Proclus

For Hegel, Neoplatonism was the ‘greatest flowering of philosophy’9 and the consummation of Greek philosophy, which brought it to a close

So Greek philosophy has the thinking that determines itself within itself. It develops itself into a totality of the idea (the world spirit does nothing by half measures). Its consummation10 comes in Neoplatonic philosophy, with which the history of Greek philosophy draws to a close.11

Again, noting that Neoplatonism incorporated all earlier forms of Greek philosophy, Hegel wrote

The third [epoch of the first] period takes the shape of Alexandrian philosophy (Neoplatonism, but likewise Neo-Aristotelian philosophy too). The consummation of Greek philosophy as such, it established the realm of noumena, the ideal realm. This philosophy therefore incorporated all earlier forms of philosophy within it.12

and continued by stating that Proclus was the culmination of this consummation

Plotinus lived in the third century and Proclus in the fifth. By choosing to regard Proclus as the culmination of this philosophy, the entire period of Greek Philosophy then amounts to about one thousand years.13

There could not be clearer statements of the superlative regard which Hegel held for Neoplatonism and particularly Proclus.14



1. Redding, ‘Mind of God, Point of View of Man, or Spirit of the World? Platonism and Organicism in the Thought of Kant and Hegel’, op. cit., 9,10. Also see 1.2
2. Redding, ‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’, op. cit., 13
3. It is interesting that in a discipline that prides itself on honesty and ‘the love of wisdom and truth’, that holds honesty and ‘the love of wisdom and truth’ to be at its basis, there is so much dishonesty and pretence.
4. Redding, ‘The Metaphysical and Theological Commitments of Idealism: Kant, Hegel, Hegelianism’, op. cit., 18-19
5. Findlay in G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, op. cit., xxvi
6. ‘the Neoplatonic characteristics of Hegel’s thought came to be widely acknowledged during the nineteenth century, Feuerbach, for example, describing Hegel as “the German Proclus” (PPF: 47),’ Redding, Continental Idealism: Leibniz to Nietzsche, op. cit., 137
7. Redding, ‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’, op. cit., 6
8. ‘The real rediscovery of Proclus started in the Italian Renaissance, mainly thanks to Marsilio Ficino who followed Proclus’ influence in his Platonic commentaries and even composed, in imitation of Proclus, a Christian Platonic Theology on the immortality of the soul. Before Ficino, Nicolaus Cusanus had already intensively studied Proclus in translations. Proclus continued to enjoy wide interest at the turn of the 18th century. Thomas Taylor (1758–1835) translated all of Proclus’ works into English (reprinted by the Prometheus Trust [London]) and tried to reconstruct the lost seventh book of the Platonic Theology.’ Helmig and Steel, ‘Proclus’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy op. cit.
9. ‘The revival of the ancient Greek philosophy was tied to the decline of the Roman Empire, which was so vast, wealthy, and splendid, but inwardly dead; the greatest flowering of philosophy, the Alexandrian philosophy, emerged only then.’ Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. I, 69
10. Hodgson in his Editorial Introduction to volume III of Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion explained Hegel’s use of the concept ‘consummate’, which Hegel also, consistently, applied to his Neoplatonic version of Christianity: ‘Christianity is the “consummate” religion in the sense that the concept of religion has been brought to completion or consummation in it; it simply is religion in its quintessential expression.’ Hodgson in Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. III, 4. In referring to Hegel as the consummate Neoplatonist I use ‘consummate’ in the same sense – his philosophy brought Neoplatonism to completion and in so doing, is the most developed instance, the highest achievement of it’
11. Ibid., 162-163
12. Ibid., 202
13. Ibid.
14. Redding wrote in his Stanford Encyclopedia article on Hegel that ‘Plato, and especially Aristotle, represent the pinnacle of ancient philosophy’, ‘Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’, contradicting this elsewhere, referring to ‘what for Hegel was the most developed form of Greek philosophy, late-antique neo-platonism’, Redding, ‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’, op. cit., 13; Helmig and Steel wrote ‘In his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, in the chapter on Alexandrian Philosophy, Hegel said that “in Proclus we have the culminating point of the Neo-Platonic philosophy; this method in philosophy is carried into later times, continuing even through the whole of the Middle Ages. […] Although the Neo-Platonic school ceased to exist outwardly, ideas of the Neo-Platonists, and specially the philosophy of Proclus, were long maintained and preserved in the Church.”’, ‘Proclus’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, op. cit.

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Paul Redding and Hegel on the pinnacle of ancient philosophy – was it Plato, Aristotle…or Neoplatonism?

Plotinus (204/5-270), Anonymous, white marble, Ostiense Museum, Ostia Antica, Rome

Plotinus (204/5-270), Anonymous, white marble, Ostiense Museum, Ostia Antica, Rome

‘Plato and, especially Aristotle, represent the pinnacle of ancient philosophy…’

Paul Redding, ‘Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


‘The revival of the ancient Greek philosophy was tied to the decline of the Roman Empire, which was so vast, wealthy, and splendid, but inwardly dead; the greatest flowering of philosophy, the Alexandrian philosophy, emerged only then.’

So Greek philosophy has the thinking that determines itself within itself. It develops itself into a totality of the idea (the world spirit does nothing by half measures). Its consummation comes in Neoplatonic philosophy, with which the history of Greek philosophy draws to a close.’

‘The third [epoch of the first] period takes the shape of Alexandrian philosophy (Neoplatonism, but likewise Neo-Aristotelian philosophy too). The consummation of Greek philosophy as such, it established the realm of noumena, the ideal realm. This philosophy therefore incorporated all earlier forms of philosophy within it. Plotinus lived in the third century and Proclus in the fifth. By choosing to regard Proclus as the culmination of this philosophy, the entire period of Greek Philosophy then amounts to about one thousand years.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6 Volume I: Introduction and Oriental Philosophy, Together With the Introductions from the Other Series of These Lectures, Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2009, 69, 162-3, 202


‘We need not concern ourselves with the interpretative adequacy of Hegel’s reading of Aristotle’s noesis noeseos doctrine, but simply note how it is this allegedly ‘speculative’ dimension of Aristotle that allows Hegel to link Aristotle to subsequent forms of thought. First, it is linked to what for Hegel was the most developed form of Greek philosophy, late antique Neoplatonism, (my italics) which could equally be considered a form of Neo-Aristotelianism (Hegel 1995: vol. 2, 381), especially in its Proclean form (ibid.: 438), and thereby to the trinitarianism of the succeeding Christian theology (ibid.: 440-49), which Neoplatonism had influenced.’

Paul Redding, ‘Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion’, in Graham Oppy and N.N.Trakakis eds., Nineteenth-Century Philosophy of Religion: The History of Western Philosophy of Religion, vol. 4, Routledge, New York, 2014, 49-61, 58



Warmongering in Washington, preparation for war in Moscow



John Batchelor and Stephen Cohen


Neoplatonic essence and appearance


(Neoplatonic) emanationist cosmology rests on the tenet—based to some extent in observation, but elevated by them to the status of a heuristic principle—that every activity in the world is in some sense double insofar as it possesses both an inner and an outer aspect. For example, the inner activity of the sun (nuclear fusion, as we now know) has the outer effect of heat and light, themselves activities as well. Or the inner activity of a tree that is determined by the kind of tree it is (its genetic code, we would now say; the Neoplatonists spoke of an inherent formative principle, logos) results in the bearing of a particular kind of fruit; or again, thoughts and feelings internal to human beings express themselves in speech and actions. In each case, the outer effect is not the purpose or end of the inner activity; rather, it is simply the case that one falls out of the other and is concomitant with it. Furthermore, it is also the case that these outer activities will typically be productive of yet other outer activities that are ontologically more remote and derivative: Fruit serves as nourishment or poison for other individual life forms, and human speech and action constitute, over time, a person’s biography or a society’s history. It is important to note that, in all cases, the outer activity will not be some random affair, but rather something intimately connected with the inner activity it is an expression of. In other words, any inner activity will somehow prefigure the character and nature of its outer effect. Thus, the Neoplatonists insisted that there is nothing on the lower ontological levels within the chains of causality that is not somehow prefigured on the corresponding higher levels. In general, no property emerges unless it is already in some way preformed and pre-existent in its cause.


Christian Wildberg, ‘Neoplatonism,’ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 11m Metaphor and prose poetry

Redding acknowledged the function of metaphor and analogy in Hegel’s Science of Logic

I have argued elsewhere that Hegel’s ‘being-logic’ in fact describes the categorial structure of a type of pre-predicative thought which relies on analogy and metaphor to form its basic statements. In contrast to the  categorial structure of the ‘essence-logic’ of book 2, being-logic lacks the conceptual resources to differentiate any underlying substrate from its properties. The closest it can come to predication is to (metaphorically) identify the different as in the ‘passing over’ of its categories into their contraries.1

But because Hegel’s philosophy is dialectical, and all the more so because it is mystical, the problem faced by his ‘being-logic’ is fundamentally that faced by his philosophy in its entirety. As I have argued previously (10ff.), Hegel rejected propositional argumentation and the predication of Verstand because they separate subject from predicate and keep ‘each determinate content…immovable…(and) rigidly for itself…’2

One difficulty which should be avoided comes from mixing up the speculative with the ratiocinative methods, so that what is said of the Subject at one time signifies its Notion, at another time merely its Predicate or accidental property. The one method interferes with the other, and only a philosophical exposition that rigidly excludes the usual way of relating the parts of a proposition could achieve the goal of plasticity.3

Metaphor, as I have argued (11.3.1ff.), is not only necessary to ‘speculative’ philosophy, it is unavoidable – our language is full of metaphors and our mutual understanding depends on them. Hegel’s philosophy is built no less on metaphor – the metaphor of sculpting and ‘shaping’ – of consciousness and soul in the Phenomenology4 and of the ‘formal structure of reality,’ of God the self in the Science of Logic – than is Plotinus’ (6.4)

Shape here is only an image; so that which underlies it is also only an image. But There the shape is true shape, and what underlies it is true too.5

The shaping that is begun in the Phenomenology (including a specifically sculptural reference in ‘The living work of art’6) is completed with Hegel’s most developed and comprehensive category in the Science of Logic – Absolute Idea – of which he not only wrote of its various ‘shapes’ but further described it, again necessarily metaphorically, Neoplatonically

…the absolute Idea alone is being, imperishable life, self-knowing truth, and is all truth. It is the sole subject matter and content of philosophy. Since it contains all determinateness within it, and its essential nature is to return to itself through its self-determination or particularisation, it has various shapes, and the business of philosophy is to cognise it in these.7

What does the ‘shaping,’ the ‘creating,’ is the Notion

the Notion…as absolute negativity…is the shaper and creator…8

A philosophy professor said to me ‘In the Science of Logic there is not a poetic phrase to be found – it is just how one concept is derived from another.’ To show the error of this ideologically motivated assertion that obstructs the full appreciation of both Hegel’s art and his subject, I highly recommend reading a few times aloud and listening to yourself as you do so the following two quotations from the Science of Logic – the first on being and nothing, the second on cause and effect.

Without analysing the texts, ask yourself what you have taken from this exercise. Isn’t the first point the rhythm of each? Don’t rhythm and metaphor carry you irresistibly from beginning to end? Isn’t ‘rhythm’ itself a metaphor for movement and the passage of the concepts into their other? And what of how profoundly interwoven are the elements of each pair with its other, to the point of their disappearance into it? To convey the nature of dialectics is to convey above all a feeling for it, is to necessarily employ art. Nothing other than the poetry of dialectics can reflect the poetry of reality

in so far as being and nothing, each unseparated from its other, is, each is not. They are therefore in this unity but only as vanishing, sublated moments. They sink from their initially imagined self-subsistence to the status of moments, which are still distinct but at the same time are sublated.9

though the cause has an effect and is at the same time itself effect, and the effect not only has a cause but is also itself cause, yet the effect which the cause has, and the effect which the cause is, are different, as are also the cause which the effect has, and the cause which the effect is.

But now the outcome of the movement of the determinate causal relation is this, that the cause is not merely extinguished in the effect and with it the effect, too, as in formal causality, but that the cause in being extinguished becomes again in the effect, that the effect vanishes in the cause, but equally becomes again in it. Each of these determinations sublates itself in its positing, and posits itself in its sublating; …Causality…conditions itself.10

In pointing to the superiority of poetry and metaphor over the prose of Verstand Hegel wrote

If, for instance, we say ‘the sun’ or ‘in the morning’, the meaning is clear to us, although there is no illustration of the sun or dawn. But when the poet says: ‘When in the dawn Aurora rises with rosy-fingers’, the same thing is expressed, but the poetic expression gives us more, because it adds to the understanding of the object a vision of it, or rather it repudiates bare abstract understanding and substitutes the real specific character of the thing.11

Prose poetic philosophy and the use of metaphor were central to Hegel’s mytho-poetic circumscription in his ‘scientific’ exposition of ‘the real specific character’ of Absolute Idea, of God thinking himself.



1. Redding, Hegel’s Hermeneutics, op. cit., 146
2. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. III, 185
3. Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 39
4. ‘…by passing through a series of shapes (Spirit must) attain to a knowledge of itself.’ Ibid., 265; ‘In this knowing, then, Spirit has concluded the movement in which it has shaped itself, in so far as this shaping was burdened with the difference of consciousness [i.e. of the latter from its object], a difference now overcome.’ Ibid., 490
5. Plotinus, Enneads, Trans., A.H.Armstrong, op. cit., vol. II, II.4.5
6. ‘This undisciplined revelry of the god must bring itself to rest as an object, and the enthusiasm which did not attain to consciousness must produce a work that confronts it, as in the previous case the statue confronts the artist; as a work, moreover, that is equally complete, but not, however, as an intrinsically lifeless, but as a living, self. …Man thus puts himself in the place of the statue as the shape that has been raised and fashioned for perfectly free movement, just as the statue is perfectly free repose. Although each individual knows how to play the part of at least a torch-bearer, one of them comes forward who is the patterned movement, the smooth elaboration and fluent energy of all the participants. He is an inspired and living work of art that matches strength with its beauty; and on him is bestowed, as a reward for his strength, the decoration with which the statue was honoured, and the honour of being, in place of the god in stone, the highest bodily representation among his people of their essence.’ Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 438
7. ‘…(Absolute Idea) embraces those shapes of real and ideal finitude as well as of infinitude and holiness, and comprehends them and itself.’ Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 824
8. Ibid., 603
9. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 105
10. Ibid., 565-566. Hegel’s writing on contradiction is comparable with the subtlety of that of Cusanus but he more vitally explored contradiction as a process of negation than did the latter. Here is Cusanus on enfolding and unfolding: ‘…if you consider [the matter] carefully: rest is oneness which enfolds motion, and motion is rest ordered serially. Hence, motion is the unfolding of rest. In like manner, the present, or the now, enfolds time. The past was the present, and the future will become the present. Therefore, nothing except an ordered present is found in time. Hence, the past and the future are the unfolding of the present. The present is the enfolding of all present times; and the present times are the unfolding, serially, of the present; and in the present times only the present is found. Therefore, the present is one enfolding of all times. Indeed, the present is oneness. In like manner, identity is the enfolding of difference; equality [the enfolding] of inequality; and simplicity [the enfolding] of divisions, or distinctions.’ Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (‘On Learned Ignorance’), op. cit., II,3,106
11. Hegel, Aesthetics – Lectures on Fine Art, vol. II, op. cit., 1002

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 11l God: conceptual and categorial

As previously observed (, logic for Hegel is the ‘scientific’ exposition of God – not of the ‘thoughts of God’ as Plant claimed,1 but of God himself – of a system of ‘pure reason’. That reason is purportedly strictly conceptual2 and manifested in the dialectical development of Hegel’s categories.

Plotinus wrote

It is because there is something before (Being) that it has an object of intellection; even in its self-intellection it may be said to know its content by its vision of that prior.3

Being, in thinking itself, is in a way comprehending what it had from the vision of its prior. This is very similar to Cusanus for whom our ‘minds’ create conceptually as they model the ‘mind’ of God in his creation of the world

The Divine Mind’s Conceiving is a producing of things; our mind’s conceiving is a conceptualising of things. …If all things are present in the Divine Mind as in their precise and proper Truth, then all things are present in our mind as in an image, or a likeness, of their proper Truth. That is, they are present conceptually, for knowledge comes about on the basis of [conceptual] likeness (my italics).4

For Hegel, since there is no prior to divine Being, the exposition of the generation of concepts and the development of categories is the exposition of God himself in his activity of thinking, of producing. It is still no less a recollection of Spirit’s source and processes than the activity in Plotinus’ second hypostasis.5 To know the categorial infrastructure of God is to know the ‘formal’ structure of both reality and of our thought, thus giving knowledge of God the self.

Just as the process of Intellectual-Principle describes a circle going from unity through unity-in-multiplicity back to unity

From this Principle, which remains internally unmoved, particular things push forth as from a single root which never itself emerges. They are a branching into part, into multiplicity, each single outgrowth bearings its trace of the common source.6

so does that of the Science of Logic

the science exhibits itself as a circle returning upon itself, the end being wound back into the beginning, the simple ground…logic, too, in the absolute Idea, has withdrawn into that same simple unity which its beginning is; the pure immediacy of being in which at first every determination appears to be extinguished or removed by abstraction7

The end returns to the beginning, though the movement from beginning to end involves the self-specification of Absolute Knowing into the myriad forms of the Logic.8

Just as Plotinus expounded, on the basis of an initial impetus from the One, the Platonic doctrine of the categories of the intelligible world – being, rest, motion, same and other – arguing that they operate in thought to produce endless movement, change and variety, so Hegel’s Science of Logic, begun from an absolute without content and driven by negation is the systematic unfolding of the final category in the Science of Logic, Absolute Idea – all the categories prior to it being provisional ‘definitions’ of it.

Just as Idea is All in the Enneads

…nothing had part in the making but Being and Idea…The Exemplar was the Idea of an All…Thus nothing stood in the way of the Idea, and even now it dominates, despite all the clash of things: the creation is not hindered on its way even now; it stands firm in virtue of being All.9

so in the Science of Logic

(The Idea is) an eternal creation, eternal vitality, and eternal spirit … (but) it forever remains reason. The Idea is the dialectic…which brings the diversity back to unity. …the Idea is the eternal vision of itself in the other10

And just as in the attainment of Hegel’s Absolute Knowing (of Absolute Idea) – the telos of Spirit – there is no difference between knower, knowing and known, between subject and object, so in Plotinus’ philosophy

The First…is no duality – or rather, no manifold consisting of itself, its intellective act distinct from itself, and the inevitable third, the object of intellection. No doubt since knower, knowing, and known are identical, all merges into a unity: but the distinction has existed and, once more, such a unity cannot be the First; we must put away all otherness from the Supreme which can need no such support; anything we add is so much lessening of what lacks nothing.11

This concluding unity of knower, knowing and known, of subjectivity and objectivity is ‘the First’ in Hegel’s philosophy, because he conflated Plotinus’ One with Being in his use of Proclus’ triad Being/Life/Intelligence – a triad comprised of three aspects of a single reality which are also three successive stages in the unfolding of reality, finding completion not in re-enfolding but in reunion.



1. ‘Hegel regarded the categorical structure of The Science of Logic as the thoughts of God before the foundation of the world.’ Plant, Hegel, An Introduction, op. cit., 236
2. I have argued, following Magee, that Hegel’s use of concepts is mytho-poetic circumscription (10.6).
3. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., VI.7.40
4. Nicholas of Cusa, Idiota de mente (‘The Layman on Mind’), 1450, in Nicholas of Cusa on Wisdom and Knowledge, Trans., Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, 1996, 531-589, 72, 543
5. ‘The Hegelian Logic is…a recollection…of the thought-forms which underlie the acts of Spirit. Spirit comes into its own when it consciously appropriates and understands these thought-forms as a system.’ Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 175
6. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., III.3.7
7. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 842
8. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 113
9. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., V.8.7
10. Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, op. cit., 278
11. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., VI.7.41

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