Astronomy, formal and dialectical reason


Formal reason:

‘Since fire is the rapid acquisition of oxygen, and since oxygen is a key indicator of life, fire on any planet would be an indicator of life on that planet.’

Dialectical reason:

To consider this statement dialectically, one would think creatively – of the relationship between destruction and creation. Hegel did this from the idealist perspective –

‘Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being stable and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by that Dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced beyond its own immediate or natural being to turn suddenly into its opposite. We have before this (§80) identified Understanding with what is implied in the popular idea of the goodness of God; we may now remark of Dialectic, in the same objective signification, that its principle answers to the idea of his power. All things, we say – that is, the finite world as such – are doomed; and in saying so, we have a vision of Dialectic as the universal and irresistible power before which nothing can stay, however secure and stable it may deem itself.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, Trans., William Wallace, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1975, Remark to §81, 118



‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ download

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I have put two links with a choice of title page colours for the PDF download of my thesis under my statement on my Home/About page and under both my emails to the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Sydney. ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ A has the above left title page, ‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ B has the one on the above right.

Instead of a thesis of 12,000 words, which I did not complete on time, I have completed one of 125,000 words.

If you find any processing errors, please let me know.

‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ A

‘Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist’ B


Coming very soon

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Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 15d


15. Conclusion (continued)

Engels, failing to recognise Hegel’s Neoplatonism, wrote

(Hegel) was compelled to make a system and, in accordance with traditional requirements, a system of philosophy must conclude with some sort of absolute truth. Therefore, however much Hegel, especially in his Logic, emphasised that this eternal truth is nothing but the logical or the historical process itself, he nevertheless finds himself compelled to supply this process with an end, just because he has to bring his system to a termination at some point or other.1

Yet he pointed to a profound contradiction in that system

the whole dogmatic content of the Hegelian system is declared to be absolute truth, in contradiction to his dialectical method, which dissolves all dogmatism. Thus the revolutionary side is smothered beneath the overgrowth of the conservative side.2

This contradiction is sourced in the tension between Plotinus’ first and second hypostases, between the greatest activity and stillness of the One Absolute and the dialectical unity-in-multiplicity of Intellectual-Principle. Hegel’s conflation of the first and second hypostases and use of Proclus’ triad Being-Life-Intelligence as his ‘reason-world’, in a superficially Christian model, both compounded and concentrated the problem. Being, the first element of the triad of triads now became One, God and Absolute.

This Absolute entails ‘the end of history’, an expression which, contrary to Magee’s claim,3 Hegel used three times in his Lectures on the Philosophy of World History,4 and ‘the end of philosophy’.5

With all philosophers it is precisely the ‘system’ which is perishable; and for the simple reason that it springs from an imperishable desire of the human mind — the desire to overcome all contradictions. But if all contradictions are once and for all disposed of, we shall have arrived at so-called absolute truth — world history will be at an end. And yet it has to continue, although there is nothing left for it to do — hence, a new, insoluble contradiction. As soon as we have once realised — and in the long run no one has helped us to realise it more than Hegel himself — that the task of philosophy thus stated means nothing but the task that a single philosopher should accomplish that which can only be accomplished by the entire human race in its progressive development — as soon as we realise that, there is an end to all philosophy in the hitherto accepted sense of the word. One leaves alone ‘absolute truth’, which is unattainable along this path or by any single individual; instead, one pursues attainable relative truths along the path of the positive sciences, and the summation of their results by means of dialectical thinking. At any rate, with Hegel philosophy comes to an end; on the one hand, because in his system he summed up its whole development in the most splendid fashion; and on the other hand, because, even though unconsciously, he showed us the way out of the labyrinth of systems to real positive knowledge of the world.6

Hegel, Marx and Engels all used dialectics with regard to the future – Hegel by implication, wrote of the present in relation to it (that self-knowledge had been attained in his time),7 Marx and Engels of the future in relation to the present (socialist revolution and communism) – on this, too, I disagree with Magee.8

Plant, pointing to the fundamental contradiction in Hegel’s system, argued that it is impossible to give an ‘absolute’ characterisation – one which would be closed to future analysis – of any period of history

If Hegel’s philosophy is supposed to embody an Absolute standpoint in which Geist comes to full self-consciousness this would seem to require the claim to be true that nothing which happens in the future will fall outside the conceptual structure which Hegel has developed. Everything which happens subsequently can be rendered fully intelligible in terms of the concepts articulated in Hegel’s philosophical system. This claim, to be true, must require in some sense the foreclosure of the future. As such it embodies a particular judgement about the nature of the future which many would regard as absurd9


such a view of history is incompatible with the freedom and self-transcendence with which Hegel credits human nature10

As Hegel used the Neoplatonic Absolute to justify ‘the end of history’, so he did with ‘the end of philosophy’ – an ‘end’ on which he, Marx and Engels were in agreement, for different reasons. Where Magee wrote that Hegel aimed to end philosophy by capturing all reality in a circular speech11 (claiming this ‘speech’ is Hermetic), Marx wrote that ‘philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought’ and to be condemned.12

Plant wrote

Unless dialectical change comes to an end the achievement of Reason will always be a mere ought to be13

The contextualisation and clearest understanding of the contradictions and problems of Hegel’s philosophy are impossible without recognising both that it is the consummate expression of Neoplatonism and that those contradictions and problems were bound with Neoplatonism’s potential through the long history of its development. Again, since this is the philosophy Marx and Engels used to make materialism dialectical, that contextualisation and clearest understanding are also necessary to the further development of materialism.

The willingness to let go of all definitions, to negate all its own formulations, opens thought to what is moving within it, beyond or beneath the definitive grasp of words and concepts. Philosophy at this level is not merely cognitive but also shades into and merges with other dimensions of human experience and being, such as the affective and conative. In the ancient world, notably among the Neoplatonists, philosophy was so understood as a spiritual exercise involving all the human faculties of intellection and sensibility and praxis.14


1. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, op. cit., Part 1: Hegel,
2. Ibid.
3. ‘Today, Kojève is most famous for his so-called “end of history” thesis, which he claimed to find in Hegel (a claim disputed by many Hegel scholars).’, Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 7, ‘as many Hegel scholars have pointed out, there is little basis for the idea that there is an “end of history” in Hegel’s texts’, Ibid., 107
4. ‘the true nature of the ultimate end of history, the concept of the spirit.’, G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction: Reason in History, Trans., H.B.Nisbet, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984, 74, ‘From the point of view of religion, the aim of both natural existence and spiritual activity is the glorification of God. Indeed, this is the worthiest end of the spirit and of history.’, Ibid., 149-150, ‘World history travels from east to west; for Europe is the absolute end of history, just as Asia was the beginning.’, Ibid., 197
5. ‘Of the Absolute it must be said that it is essentially a result, that only in the end is it what it truly is…the spontaneous becoming of itself.’, Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 11
6. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, op. cit., Part 1: Hegel,
7. ‘Hegel believes that he stands at a privileged point in history – able to look back at the course of human events and see that they were aiming at a goal which, to all intents and purposes, has been reached in his own time: self-knowledge’, Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 165.
8. ‘It is worth noting that one of the most important ways in which Marx departs from Hegel is in insisting that dialectic can be used as a tool to predict the next phase of history.’, Ibid.
9. Plant, Hegel, An Introduction, op. cit., 233; ‘To arrest the process of dialectical development in history…is itself undialectical in the sense that it is inconsistent with the absolute or infinite negativity of the dialectic. The whole tendency of the dialectic is to dissolve and negate every fixed content’, Ibid., 237. Hegel himself must have recognised what Plant referred to as ‘a deep inconsistency’ (239) when he described America as ‘the world of the future’, Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction: Reason in History, op. cit., 215
10. Ibid., 237
11. Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition, op.cit., 13; ‘philosophy, for Hegel, is at one and the same time self-knowledge and knowledge of the whole. Thus it satisfies the two classical Greek definitions of wisdom. …The ultimate consummation of the love of wisdom occurs when, as discussed earlier, self-knowledge and knowledge of the whole become one and the same in a philosophy that demonstrates that self-knowledge is the purpose of existence itself. Of course, an implication of this claim is that Hegel’s system constitutes, in a real sense, the end of philosophy. Although Hegel does not say this outright, he makes remarks which come close to it, and such a claim is a clear implication of his thought.’, Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 177-178.
12. ‘Feuerbach’s great achievement is: (1) The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned…’, Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy in General,
13. Plant, Hegel, An Introduction, op. cit., 238; ‘But how can any thought be final? Is not the very life of thinking invested in constant displacements of every achieved formulation?’ William Franke, A Philosophy of the Unsayable, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, 2014, 159; Verene shows that Hegel fundamentally contradicted himself at the ending of his Phenomenology ‘with an image, an image of the inability of the divine to bring its own creation and its own being to a point of rest.’, Verene, Hegel’s Recollection: A Study of Images in The Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 7
14. Franke, A Philosophy of the Unsayable, op. cit., 200

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Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 13i

13.6.3 Their philosophies are the world-valuing, intellectual mysticism of Neoplatonism

For Cusanus and Hegel, the ascent to God is above all an intellectual process. Moffitt Watts wrote

It is the intellect, the seat of learned ignorance, which enables man to transcend the limitations of discursive reasoning and to speculate more accurately concerning the nature of God…Cusanus argues…that man is able, through his intellect, to go beyond the oppositions that govern his senses and reason – at length in the De docta ignorantia.1

For both, this ‘way of the intellect’ is a necessary condition for approaching God mystically.

Both denied the centrality of feeling and asserted the centrality of knowledge. Cassirer wrote that in this denying, Cusanus went beyond the traditional conception of mysticism. In fact both the denying and the assertion are Neoplatonic. What both presupposed is a

self-movement of the mind as well as an original force in the mind itself that unfolds in a continuous process of thought.2

Just as Hopkins wrote that Cusanus is not reporting on mystical experiences but

is reflecting dialectically upon the relationship between God’s vision of man and man’s vision of God3

so Hegel philosophised likewise on that same relationship between man and God, finite and infinite, seer and seen, knower and known, subject and object, quoting in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion4 Eckhart’s use of the same Neoplatonic trope that Cusanus used in De visione Dei.

The philosophies of both Hegel and Cusanus are fundamentally neither apophatic nor kataphatic, and where Cusanus’ philosophy explores profound subtleties of coincidence5, Hegel’s, a great development on this, brings out fully though still in idealist form the subtleties and the driving dynamism and power of the dialectical and creative negation of Plotinus’ system.

As I have stated, both embodied the wonder of the Neoplatonist towards the world – Cusanus describing it as ‘a noble star’6, Hegel describing its aspects in detail

vast tracts of sea break out into phosphorescent light…the whole surface of the sea, too, is partly an infinite shining, partly an immeasurable, immense sea of light which consists purely of points of life lacking any further organisation. …each drop of water is a living globe of infusoria…Earth, like water, displays infinite, universal fecundity7

For them, from their Neoplatonic perspective, the world is not only a worthy but a necessary object of study, because God is its centre and all creation is the emanation from oneness to otherness.8 Their mysticism is not reflective but of the world. Plotinus, not Hegel objectified the inner mystical world.

Cusanus and Hegel believed that for theology to be authentic, it must be based in experience. When Marx stood their epistemology on its feet by incorporating it into materialism, he made experience as praxis the basis of his epistemology.



1. Moffitt Watts, Nicolaus Cusanus, A Fifteenth-Century Vision of Man, op, cit., 45
2. Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, op. cit., 14
3. Hopkins in Nicholas of Cusa’s Dialectical Mysticism, Text, Translation and Interpretive Study of De Visione Dei, op. cit., v
4. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. I, 347-348. See 8.5, Notes
5. ‘Cusa also later characterises the theological position that he first worked out in On Learned Ignorance as an alternative to both negative and affirmative methods….Negative and affirmative theology (Cusa believed) are limited in what they can say; neither attains the divine obscurity directly. …A theology that penetrates the divine obscurity must press beyond even the via negativa. We find in (Dionysius’) The Mystical Theology, especially, the kind of theological method that Cusa sees himself as pursuing – not disjunctive, neither affirmative nor negative, but coincident.’ Nicholas of Cusa, Nicholas of Cusa, Selected Spiritual Writings, trans., H. Lawrence Bond, Paulist Press, New York, 1997, 32-33; ’Cusa…employs coincidence of opposites in On the Vision of God to generate an iconic and a mystical theology. He proposes this as his alternative to the apophasis and silence of the via negativa, as well as to the less worthy descriptions of predication and analogy. …Cusa offers the coincidence of opposites as the central and unifying logical model in order to depict an appropriate likeness between metaphors and the divine reality. …coincident models…cause the mind the leap across to divine mystery.’, Ibid., 55
6. Nicholas of Cusa, De docta ignorantia (‘On Learned Ignorance’), op. cit., II,12,166
7. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, op. cit., 297-298
8. Beck wrote of Cusanus ‘Nicholas teaches a hypostatic union of nature itself with God. The near-deification of the world brings with it a deification of the soul.’ Beck, Early German Philosophy: Kant and his Predecessors, op. cit., 60

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Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 13h

13.6.2. Hegel followed Cusanus in structuring his Neoplatonism on Proclus’ triad of triads Further discussion of Proclus’ triad

I have discussed Proclus’ triad, particularly in relation to Hegel, from 11.3.3 to 11.3.8 inclusively, but some points warrant restatement. The triad Being, Life and Intelligence, within the second hypostasis Intellect or Intellectual-Principle, is suspended from the (first hypostasis, the) One which forms no part of it – Hegel, as discussed, was importantly and indicatively incorrect when he wrote of ‘One’ in this regard.1 In procession outward, one Being becomes Life which becomes Intelligence (or the ‘mixture’ of one Being and Life) in the developmental reversion to the one Being.

There must be Being to create Life (‘reality’, the multiplicity of what is) and Life for there to be Intelligence (nous). Each element mirrors or implies the other two in its own triadic structure. The principles are not hypostases but aspects of a single reality predominating at a certain stage in the process of emanation and return.

Proclus discussed this triad in Proposition 101 of his Elements of Theology and in Book III of On the Theology of Plato. He called these principles posterior to the One by different names – Being he also called ‘bound’ and ‘father’, life he also called ‘infinite’ and ‘power’ and he denominated Intelligence ‘limit’ or ‘the mixed’. As Dodds wrote, this unity-in-distinction was used by the Christian Neoplatonists, including Cusanus, to explain the doctrine of the Trinity.

Proclus described the first triad bound, infinite and the mixed in Book III, Chapter XII of On the Theology of Plato

Such therefore, is the first triad of intelligibles, according to Socrates in the Philebus, viz. bound, infinite, and that which is mixed from these. And of these, bound indeed is a God proceeding to the intelligible summit, from the imparticipable and first God, measuring and defining all things, and giving subsistence to every paternal, connective, and undefiled genus of Gods. But infinite is the never-failing power of this God, unfolding into light all the generative orders, and all infinity, both that which is prior to essence, and that which is essential, and also that which proceeds as far as to the last matter. And that which is mixed, is the first and highest order of the Gods, comprehending all things occultly, deriving its completion indeed through the intelligible connective triad2

He described the second triad in Chapter XIII

(There is a second triad proceeding from this.) That which is first…in this second triad, may be called bound; that which is second in it, infinity; and that which is the third, life.

(The first triad proceeds) intelligibly and unically, (the second triad proceeds) vitally, and…according to the form of infinity (and the third triad proceeds according to the fact) that it is mixed 3

and the third triad in Chapter XIV

As the first unity therefore, after the exempt cause of all things, unfolds into light intelligible being, and the second unity, intelligible life, thus also the third constitutes about itself, intelligible intellect, and fills it with divine union, constituting power as the medium between itself and being, through which it gives completion to this being, and converts it to itself. In this therefore, every intelligible multitude shines forth to the view. …the first being is most similar to the one; the second, is parturient with multitude, and is the origin of separation; but the third, is now all-perfect, and unfolds into light in itself, intelligible multitude and form.4

These three triads, ‘expressing an intrinsic and essential relation between successive levels of being’5, define the whole of the intelligible order for Proclus, and when dressed as the Christian Trinity, for Cusanus and Hegel. They comprise, for all three ‘the underlying principle of all triadic structures’6.

Proclus’ discussion of the triad of triads in Chapters XXIV-XXVI is also significant with regard to the organisation of the three books in both Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia and Hegel’s Encyclopaedia

Of the first triad

the father is the father of intellect, and that intellect is the intellect of the father…For deity is the father of the triad, and being is the intellect of this deity. …The first triad therefore is called one being…The first triad…is…unfolded to us7

Of the second triad which derives its completion from parts (multiplicity), whereas the first triad is a wholeness prior to parts

the second triad proceeds, being characterised by the first intelligible power…For all things being united and without distinction in the first triad, distinction and separation shine forth in this triad. Being also and power are more divided from each other.8

And of the third triad

all intelligible multitude shines forth…a wholeness consisting of many parts.9

The first triad is a union, the second is a separation and the third is a combination of perspectival parts in unity, power and being. In the third triad, the one and being are multiplied through an infinite multitude of collective power which is the same as the all-perfect. This infinity is both of power and multitude.

I have referred to Hegel’s praise in the superlative for Proclus’ ‘more precise definition of the idea in its three forms,’10 giving a real trinity, which Hegel noted is set out in his Platonic Theology, and his description of it (11.3.6). Proclus and Cusanus

Moffitt Watts summarised the relations between Cusanus, Platonism and earlier Neoplatonism

The dialectics of unity and plurality, of the one and the many, of the not-other and otherness that (Cusanus) comes to use in his metaphysical discussions must have grown out of his reading of the Parmenides itself, as well as out of the works of the great Neoplatonic synthesiser, Proclus, and those of various twelfth century Platonists.11

Cusanus discussed Proclus’ triad in De venatione sapientiae (‘On the Pursuit of Wisdom’), noting the same developmental flow Hegel did – from the Creator-Intellect to diversity and that the first requirement for intelligibility is existence.

Proclus…called the cause of beings a second god, viz., the Creator-Intellect. ([This second god is] subsequent to the first God of gods, whom Proclus affirmed to be the singular Good, as I said.) Proclus believed this Creator-Intellect to be Jove, the king and ruler over all things. Proclus also posited celestial gods and mundane gods and various other likewise eternal gods, according as he expressed these matters extensively in his six-book work The Theology of Plato. Nevertheless, at the head of all [these other gods] he placed the God-of-gods, the universal Cause of all things. And so, those attributes which we ascribe to our good God—attributes which are different [from one another] only in conception and not in reality—Proclus is seen to assert of different gods, because of differing distinctions among the attributes. [For] he was moved by [the consideration that] nothing is intelligible unless it actually exists, since, necessarily, being is participated in by what is intelligible. And so, everything that is understood, he affirmed to [really] exist.12 Cusanus and Hegel overlaid the Christian Trinity on Proclus’ triad, exploring its theological and philosophical potential

As with Hegel’s philosophy, Cusanus’ equates theology and philosophy. Cusanus’ De docta ignorantia and Hegel’s Encyclopaedia entail philosophical reflections on the Neoplatonic process in its application – they consider its working when applied to the world and to the religious beliefs they advocate. Christian faith and its ideal practice is to further anchor in the world a philosophy already oriented to it.

Both are studies in Neoplatonic emanation and return applied to the Trinity. Where the former develops from maximum absolutum (Book I/God) to maximum contractum (Book II/the universe) to maximum simul contractum et absolutum (Book III/Christ, concluding with the church of the Spirit), the latter develops from absolute objectivity (Science of Logic/God) to finite objectivity (Philosophy of Nature/Christ) to absolute objectivity in finite subjectivity (Philosophy of Spirit/God present and active in his community).

Where Cusanus explored the trinity of Oneness, Equality-of-Oneness and their Union in De docta ignorantia, he explored the philosophical potential of these relationships in different ways in his other treatises including God as ‘not-other’ in De li non aliud and God as ‘actualised possibility’ in De possest. 

Hegel, following Cusanus, derived from his overlay of the Trinity across Proclus’ triad his logic (the ‘science’ of the Idea in and for itself), the philosophy of nature (the ‘science’ of the Idea in its otherness) and the philosophy of Spirit (the ‘science’ of the Idea come back to itself out of that otherness), his three Kingdoms (the kingdom of the Father, that of the Son [encompassing differentiation, estrangement and reconciliation whereby the world is created, falls into evil and is redeemed] and the kingdom of the Spirit [concerning the formation of the community of faith and its orientation to the perfection of all things in God]) and his three syllogisms of Universal (the logical Idea is the principle of universality), Particular (nature is the principle of particularity) and Individual (finite Spirit is the principle of singularity) – a triadic structure of further triadic and spiritual essences13. After §567-§570 on universality, particularity and individuality in his Philosophy of Mind/Spirit, Hegel wrote ‘These three syllogisms, constituting the one syllogism of the absolute self-mediation of spirit, are the revelation of that spirit whose life is set out as a cycle of concrete shapes in pictorial thought.’14 How successful were both in bringing their treatment of the Trinity into sync with Proclus’ triad?

Just as Hegel had two ‘bites of the cherry’ with the Neoplatonic One, exploiting its philosophical and prose poetic potential both as the first hypostasis and as the one Being in the second, so he used Christ – unconvincingly – in his philosophy – first in his Philosophy of Nature as Nature,15 then in his Philosophy of Mind/Spirit as, in death, the means of our reconciliation with (return to) God in the perspectival cultus of Spirit.

Cusanus made Christ the subject of the third book of De docta ignorantia, assigning the first book to God and the second to the created universe – reflecting the primary philosophical elements and flow of Proclus’ triad. While both De docta ignorantia and Hegel’s Encyclopaedia conclude in a perspectival cultus and the conclusion of Cusanus’ treatise, though fundamentally Neoplatonic, is consistent with Christian belief, Hegel, on the other hand, drops all pretence and steps forward as the philosopher he was.

At the very point where Christ should have served a most important function in his Philosophy of Mind/Spirit (as he did in De docta ignorantia), he is nowhere to be seen. Christ has no part in Hegel’s concluding sections. What we see in §§575-577 in the Philosophy of Mind/Spirit is the overt triad of Proclus16 now elevated to Logic, Mind (which Hegel wrote in §576 ‘presupposes Nature and couples it with the Logical principle’17) and Idea.

Prior to his closing quotation from the Metaphysics regarding thought thinking itself and what Aristotle thought God is, Hegel’s closing sentence in his Philosophy of Mind/Spirit and to his Encyclopaedia is

The eternal Idea, in full fruition of its essence, eternally sets itself to work, engenders and enjoys itself as absolute Mind.18

For Hegel, God is now ‘apprehended as spirit in his community’19 and Idea sets itself to work – in a purely Neoplatonic cultus.



1. Proclus was emphatic on this point and made it numerous times. See 7.2: ‘For the one being does not abide purely in an hyparxis void of multitude and possessing the form of one. But the one itself is exempt from every addition. For by whatever you may add to it, you will diminish its supreme and ineffable union. Hence it is necessary to arrange the one prior to the one being, and to suspend the one being from that which is one alone. For if the one and the one being were the same, and it made no difference to say one and being (since if they differed, the one would again be changed from the one being,) if therefore the one differs in no respect from the one being, all things will be one, and there will not be multitude in beings, nor will it be possible to denominate things, lest there should be two things, the thing and the name. …the one and the one being are not the same.’ Proclus, On the Theology of Plato, op. cit., Bk. III, Ch. XX
2. Proclus, On the Theology of Plato, op. cit., Bk. III, Ch. XII
3. Ibid., Ch. XIII
4. Ibid., Ch. XIV
5. Christoph Helmig, Carlos Steel, ‘Proclus,’ Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., Ch. XXIV
8. Ibid., Ch. XXV
9. Ibid., Ch. XXVI
10. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6, op. cit., vol. II, 342
11. Moffitt Watts, Nicolaus Cusanus, A Fifteenth-Century Vision of Man, op, cit., 22
12. Nicholas of Cusa, De venatione sapientiae (‘On the Pursuit of Wisdom’), 1462-3, in Nicholas of Cusa: Metaphysical Speculations, Six Latin Texts Translated into English, Trans., Jasper Hopkins, The Arthur J. Banning Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1998, 1278-1354, 8, 21
13. ‘the characteristic feature of the Notion and its determinations (is that they are) spiritual essences.’ Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 685. That Hegel rejected formal. propositional argumentation from the ‘reason’ he advocated – that of Vernunft – can be seen in his position on the dialectical syllogism ‘Everything is a syllogism, a universal that through particularity is united with individuality; but it is certainly not a whole consisting of three propositions.’ Ibid., 669; ‘It is thus the Notion of the syllogism that declares the imperfection of the formal syllogism in which the middle term is fixedly held, not as unity of the extremes but as a formal, abstract determination qualitatively distinct from them.’ Ibid., 683
14. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, op. cit., 299-301
15. Hegel wrote ‘Nature is the son of God, but not as the Son, but as abiding otherness’ (my italics) followed immediately by Neoplatonic vitalism ‘in Nature, Spirit lets itself go, a Bacchic god unrestrained and unmindful of itself; in Nature, the unity of the Notion is concealed.’ Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, op. cit., 14.
16. §575 ‘It is this appearing which originally gives the motive of the further development. The first appearance is formed by the syllogism, which is based on the Logical system as starting-point, with Nature for the middle term which couples the Mind with it. The Logical principle turns to Nature and Nature to Mind.’ Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, op. cit., 314
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid., 315
19. Ibid., 292

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Engels on materialism: part 6 – the universe is a process

The second specific limitation of this materialism lay in its inability to comprehend the universe as a process, as matter undergoing uninterrupted historical development. This was in accordance with the level of the natural science of that time, and with the metaphysical, that is, anti-dialectical manner of philosophising connected with it. Nature, so much was known, was in eternal motion. But according to the ideas of that time, this motion turned, also eternally, in a circle and therefore never moved from the spot; it produced the same results over and over again. This conception was at that time inevitable. The Kantian theory of the origin of the Solar System (that the Sun and planets originated from incandescent rotating nebulous masses) had been put forward but recently and was still regarded merely as a curiosity. The history of the development of the Earth, geology, was still totally unknown, and the conception that the animate natural beings of today are the result of a long sequence of development from the simple to the complex could not at that time scientifically be put forward at all. The unhistorical view of nature was therefore inevitable. We have the less reason to reproach the philosophers of the 18th century on this account since the same thing is found in Hegel. According to him, nature, as a mere “alienation” of the idea, is incapable of development in time — capable only of extending its manifoldness in space, so that it displays simultaneously and alongside of one another all the stages of development comprised in it, and is condemned to an eternal repetition of the same processes. This absurdity of a development in space, but outside of time — the fundamental condition of all development — Hegel imposes upon nature just at the very time when geology, embryology, the physiology of plants and animals, and organic chemistry were being built up, and when everywhere on the basis of these new sciences brilliant foreshadowings of the later theory of evolution were appearing (for instance, Goethe and Lamarck). But the system demanded it; hence the method, for the sake of the system, had to become untrue to itself.

Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886


Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

A mystical tale


Hi Moshe,

You’ve asked me to briefly re-state my position on mysticism, so I’ll begin with a tale.

Long ago (aren’t these always the first words of a tale?), because a conversation I had with a girl seemed to go well, I asked her for a date and she agreed.

I turned up in a 3-piece suit with tie on a very hot and humid afternoon (in Australia we call such weather ‘stinking hot’). I waited and waited but she never appeared. I wondered, as one might, ‘Why not?’

I remembered that during our conversation I had said, and with some feeling, that I thought concrete is beautiful. Could this have been the reason for her ‘no-show’? That concrete is beautiful was something I had been cogitating.

Why is concrete beautiful? I recommend the study of it – the richness and subtlety of its textures, of its colours, its ‘flaws’, the processes and effects of its ageing.


At a deeper level, concrete and I are the same matter, the same objective reality, but organised differently (I just remembered that when I worked in the Tate as a gallery attendant, my supervisor, in philosophical conversation one day in the staff-room said sagely ‘Grass never grows on a busy footpath [my hairline had substantially receded] – or through concrete’. How you interpret that is up to you.).

When I die, the matter of which I am comprised will pass back into the same world into which all concrete, too, will similarly decay.

If all humans are beautiful in their mere existence (as I think), then why not concrete?

I particularly think concrete is beautiful because I perceive my profound relationship to it. At the most fundamental level (isn’t this what philosophers seek?), our beauty is its beauty.

Then there are the considerations of the relations of concrete and humans as parts to the material whole. These relations and the manifestation of them are what is most beautiful.

What links Plotinus to Chernyshevsky is that for both, beauty is reality and life. Where Plotinus referred to those of ‘another’ world, Chernshevsky referred to those in this.

Star Cluster R136 Bursts Out

Star Cluster R136 Bursts Out

The philosophical current developed in mysticism (particularly German) and then incorporated into dialectical materialism addresses all this.

But where both mysticism and materialism equally address the whole and its parts and processes, the centrality of emotion (though rationalised) and, particularly, intuition to mysticism give much greater scope to our ‘feelings’ and brain processes other than those of linguistic reason – a crucial point yet to be absorbed into dialectical materialism, which is still in the shadow of the patriarchal model, the Man of Reason.

Marx stood the mystical understanding of ‘reality’ and ‘life’ on its material feet. It is up to us to further develop dialectical materialism. While not a science, it is the philosophy of the future.

I look forward to your response,

All the best,



Images: top/middle/bottom

Zamyatin: We – 3


…The whole night was beset by wings of some sort, and I kept on the go all the time, with my hands and arms protecting my head from these wings. And then – a chair. Not one of our modern chairs but of an ancient style, and wooden. With a horselike gait (right foreleg and left hindleg, left foreleg and right hindleg) this chair trotted up to my bed and climbed up on it; it was uncomfortable, painful – and I loved that wooden chair.

It is amazing: is it really impossible to contrive any remedy against this dreaming disease that would cure it or make it rational – perhaps even put it to some use?

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, (1920) Trans., Bernard Guilbert Guerney, Penguin, London, 1984, 126

Part three/to be continued…



Engels on materialism: part 3 – you don’t get philosophy like this in the bourgeois academy

Eleanor Anne Ormerod (1828-1901), entomologist

Eleanor Anne Ormerod (1828-1901), entomologist

…during this long period from Descartes to Hegel and from Hobbes to Feuerbach, these philosophers were by no means impelled, as they thought they were, solely by the force of pure reason. On the contrary, what really pushed them forward most was the powerful and ever more rapidly onrushing progress of natural science and industry. Among the materialists this was plain on the surface, but the idealist systems also filled themselves more and more with a materialist content and attempted pantheistically to reconcile the antithesis between mind and matter. Thus, ultimately, the Hegelian system represents merely a materialism idealistically turned upside down in method and content.

Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886


Full text at Marxists Internet Archive