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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Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 11k Being, being and nothing

Dillon wrote

One major problem which Plotinus inherited from previous Platonism was a contradiction between the Platonic-Pythagorean doctrine of the first principle as a radical unity – One, or a monad – and the belief, enunciated most notably by Aristotle (but going back to Anaxagoras) that the first principle was an intellect (nous), and specifically an intellect thinking itself1

Plotinus’ ‘solution’ (modified by Proclus, Cusanus and Hegel) was to make the One and intellect the first and second hypostases (the latter generated from the first – followed by the third, Soul, created by the second). Dillon continued

That the first principle was both a monad and an intellect was accepted already by Xenocrates in the Old Academy (Frs. 15, 16 Heinze) – though not, we may note, by his predecessor Speusippus – and became the accepted position in Middle Platonism, no contradiction being apparently observed between absolute unity and self-intellection.2

Hegel drew on this flexibility, maximising the philosophical and creative potential of his first principle by not only conflating Plotinus’ One with the first element Being in Proclus’ triad Being/Life/Intelligence in the second hypostasis Intellect, but also by overlying the Christian Trinity across that triad. The first principle could now, with a range of philosophical and religious meanings to use creatively, be known as One, Absolute, Mind, Being and God – forming the first element both in a single reality (Hegel’s ‘reason-world’) and in the stages in the unfolding of ‘reality’.3

For Plotinus the activity of Intellectual-Principle is thinking. It is the author of being and Plotinus equated Intellectual-Principle with it.4 Hegel began his Science of Logic and Encyclopaedia with this thinking, the first element in Proclus’ triad.5

Not only does Being think,6 that thinking, as Hegel indicated in a quote in Greek from the Metaphysics at the culmination and close of his Encyclopaedia, is divine, is God7 which Hegel described using the same expressions – ‘essential being’ and ‘absolute being’ – he had used when discussing the One in Plotinus’ philosophy (7.1).

Hegel’s God and Plotinus’ Intellectual-Principle are only truly what they potentially are having ‘emanated’ and returned, and in that process become fulfilled and complete.

Hegel wrote

in our thinking, our first thinking, God is only pure being, or even essence, the abstract absolute, but not God as absolute spirit, which alone is the true nature of God.8

and Plotinus expressed the result of the same Neoplatonic process thus

It is now Intellectual-Principle since it actually holds its object, and holds it by the act of intellection: before, it was no more than a tendance, an eye blank of impression: it was in motion towards the transcendental; now that it has attained, it has become Intellectual-Principle9

The divine activity of thinking requires an object to initiate that process and it finds that object by creating a distinction within itself

Intellect, to act at all, must inevitably comport difference with identity; otherwise it could not distinguish itself from its object by standing apart from it, nor could it ever be aware of the realm of things whose existence demands otherness, nor could there be so much as a duality.’10

Redding identifies that initial object

As the Logic is an investigation into the categorial structure of thought, its starting point will be the most immediate thought determination, that presupposed by all others: being, or das Sein.11

and thinking about that initial object is the basis of all further development

Being seems to be both immediate and simple, but it will show itself to be, in fact, only something in opposition to something else, nothing. The point seems to be that while the categories being and nothing seem both absolutely distinct and opposed…they appear identical as no criterion can be invoked which differentiates them. The only way out of this paradox is to posit a third category within which they can coexist as negated (Aufgehoben) moments. This category is becoming, which saves thinking from paralysis because it accommodates both concepts. Becoming contains being and nothing in the sense that when something becomes it passes, as it were, from nothingness to being.12

The dialectical cognition of God is underway, to which process negation is essential

There is…a technical, logical sense in which the second concept or form is the “opposite” or negation of—or is “not”—the first one—though, again, it need not be the “opposite” of the first one in a strict sense.13

Theorising the relationship between contradictories, between a concept and its other is fundamental to Neoplatonism. Proclus discussed being, non-being and the negation of being and Cusanus discussed both the relationship between creation, being and nothing and Being, being and not-being. (8.4.5)

Plotinus described the process whereby Intellectual-Principle comes to know its prior14 – the same process whereby divine Being comes to cognise itself in the Science of Logic

Thus the Intellectual-Principle, in the act of knowing the Transcendent, is a manifold. It knows the Transcendent in very essence but, with all its effort to grasp that prior as a pure unity, it goes forth amassing successive impressions, so that, to it, the object becomes multiple: thus in its outgoing to its object it is not (fully realised) Intellectual-Principle; it is an eye that has not yet seen; in its return it is an eye possessed of the multiplicity which it has itself conferred: it sought something of which it found the vague presentment within itself; it returned with something else, the manifold quality with which it has of its own act invested the simplex.

If it had not possessed a previous impression of the Transcendent it could never have grasped it, but this impression, originally of unity, becomes an impression of multiplicity; and the Intellectual-Principle in taking cognisance of that multiplicity knows the Transcendent and so is realised as an eye possessed of its vision.15



1. Dillon, ‘Plotinus: an Introduction,’ The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., xcii
2. Ibid.
3. ‘Are Being, Life and Intelligence to be regarded as three aspects of a single reality or as three successive stages in the unfolding of the cosmos from the One? Proclus characteristically answers that both views are true: they are aspects, for each of them implies the others as cause or as consequent; they are successive, not coordinate, for each is predominant (though not to the exclusion of the others) at a certain stage of the process.’ Dodds’ commentary, Proclus, The Elements of Theology, op, cit., 254
4. ‘Intellectual-Principle is Being,’ Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., V.3.16; ‘Thus it is true that “Intellection and Being are identical”,’ Ibid., V.9.5; ‘The Being of Intellect…is activity, and there is nothing to which the activity is directed; so it is self-directed.’ Plotinus, Enneads, Trans., A.H.Armstrong, op. cit., vol. V, V.3.7
5. ‘the beginning…has the significance and form of abstract universality. …it is…thinking,’ Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 827
6. ‘the absolute Being is just this being that is thought,’ Hegel, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, op. cit., 371
7. Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, op. cit., 315; translation from Aristotle, The Metaphysics xii, 7, 1072b, Trans. and Introduction by Hugh Lawson-Tancred, Penguin, London, 2004, 374: ‘And God also has life; for the activation of thought is a life, and He is that activation. His intrinsic activation is supreme, eternal life. Accordingly we assert that God is a supreme and eternal living being, so that to God belong life and continuous and eternal duration. For that is what God is.’; ‘God, far from being a Being, even the highest, is the Being,’ Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, op. cit., 164
8. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 527
9. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., V.3.11
10. Ibid., VI.7.39
11. Redding, Hegel’s Hermeneutics, op. cit., 145
12. Redding, ‘Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,’ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel/, op. cit.
13. Julie E. Maybee, ‘Hegel’s Dialectics,’ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophyhttp://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel-dialectics/
14. Neoplatonic theory is anything but hard and fast. Plotinus’ position regarding the One’s transcendence is an instance. Dillon wrote ‘(Although Plotinus) emphasises the transcendence and otherness of the One, its superiority to Being and Intellect, and its unknowability by any normal faculty of cognition…in a number of passages…he makes some attempt to explore what sort of apprehension the One might have of itself. For Plotinus, after all, the One is not really a negativity…,’ Dillon, ‘Plotinus: an Introduction,’ The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., , xciii-xciv. He then quoted from V.4.2: ‘The intellectual object (i.e. the One) is self-gathered, and is not deficient as the seeing and knowing principle (i.e. Intellect) must be – deficient, I mean, as needing an object – it is therefore no unconscious thing…it is, itself, that self-intellection which takes place in eternal repose, that is to say, in a mode other than that of the Intellectual-Principle.’ Ibid., xciv
15. Ibid., V.3.11

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Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 11j With what does the Science of Logic begin?

My contention is that for philosophical and creative reasons, Hegel conflated the Neoplatonic hypostases with Proclus’ triad Being, Life and Intelligence which Proclus ‘suspended’ from the first hypostasis, the One.

Hegel’s philosophical reasons were that this triad of triads gave him the greatest potential for the development of Neoplatonic dialectics and that, with one stroke, it enabled him to obviate the impossibility of the cognition of the One. Now the entirety of the Neoplatonic system was open to the full development of ‘reason’.

Hegel’s creative motives were that by conflating the hypostases with Proclus’ triad and overlying the Christian Trinity across and weaving it into his use of it, every aspect of the Neoplatonic system could be illustrated and made more metaphorically rich – divine ‘mind’ and divine Being were now interchangeable with the Neoplatonic One and Absolute, with the Christian God, Father, Son and Spirit.1 Hegel used God, Christ and Spirit to symbolise every stage in the process of emanation and return.

By further anchoring Neoplatonism in the world through the coming of Christ and the Christian Spirit to it, Hegel aimed to make this austere, mystical philosophy more relevant to those who were drawn to the cultus he believed necessary for his time. In arguing thus, he also protected his career.

Hegel described the broad flow of his Science of Logic in Neoplatonic terms

The essential requirement for the science of logic is not so much that the beginning be a pure immediacy, but rather that the whole of the science be within itself a circle in which the first is also the last and the last is also the first.2

Despite writing that it must begin without presuppositions, Hegel then appeared to emphatically contradict himself

God has the absolutely undisputed right that the beginning be made with him3

Magee wrote of this

Hegel believed that before Christianity appeared philosophy could not have presented absolute truth in a fully adequate form. This leaves us with a troubling question: how can one square this claim about philosophy’s dependence on religion with Hegel’s claim that his philosophy is ‘presuppositionless’?…the thought that thinks the Logic is the thought of modern man shaped by Christianity, and much else. …Spirit had to undergo its encounter with Christianity in order to know the whole.4

But what did Hegel have to say of this beginning of his Science of Logic? That it must be made in pure knowing, without distinction; that it must be an absolute, that

it cannot contain within itself any determination, any content; for any such would be a distinguishing and an inter-relationship of distinct moments…The beginning therefore is pure being. …it is not truly known5


that which constitutes the beginning, the beginning itself, is to be taken as something unanalysable, taken in its simple, unfilled immediacy, and therefore as being, as the completely empty being.6 (all my italics)

These descriptions are philosophical not religious7 and are applicable not to the Christian God but to Plotinus’ One when brought into Intellectual-Principle, into the first element of Proclus’ triad – Being – and made the equivalent of that Being. Of the One Plotinus wrote

It is precisely because there is nothing within the One that all things are from it8

and Henry

The One is the One and nothing else, and even to assert that it ‘is’ or that it is ‘One’ is false, since it is beyond being or essence. No ‘name’ can apply to it; it eludes all definition, all knowledge9

While Hegel did argue that Christianity is the religion of absolute spirit – volume III of his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion is sub-titled ‘The Consummate Religion’ – his philosophy identifies the God that has the right that the Science of Logic begins with him and the religious basis for the presentation of absolute truth in ‘a fully adequate form’ as Neoplatonic.10 What Magee considers a ‘troubling question’ was, for Hegel – as he correctly wrote – a philosophical requisite.



1. ‘it is the abstract God, the supreme being, the Father, who dies in the death of the Son, and who is, as it were, reborn as concrete, world-encompassing Spirit.’ Hodgson in Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. III, 53; ‘if pure being is to be considered as the unity into which knowing has collapsed at the extreme point of its union with the object, then knowing itself has vanished in that unity, (my italics)’ Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 73
2. ‘We begin with a knowing that cancels the distinction between subject and object – and we end with Absolute Idea, which is the unity of subjectivity and objectivity. …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. The goal of the whole system (and, Hegel thinks, of reality itself) is implicit in the beginning and, in a way, known immediately: the sublation of subject and object.’ Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 113
3. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 75, 78. Schlitt wrote that ‘the entire Hegelian system begins in the Encyclopaedia with God.’ Schlitt, Hegel’s Trinitarian Claim: A Critical Reflection, op. cit., 36
4. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 246-247
5. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 70-72
6. Ibid., 75; ’this emptiness is therefore simply as such the beginning of philosophy.’ Ibid., 78
7. Plant wrote that Hegel believed that a philosophical reinterpretation of religion would enable the achievement of community and argued that this is ambiguous, asking why religion would be needed by a community that had achieved the philosophical perspective. Plant, Hegel, An Introduction, op. cit., 196-197
8. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., V.2.1
9. Henry, ‘The Place of Plotinus in the History of Thought,’ op. cit., liii-liv
10. ‘while the object or content of religion is the absolute, religion itself does not entail absolute knowledge of the absolute: that is the role of philosophy. The representational forms of religious expression, even of the Christian religion, must be “sublated” (annulled and preserved) in philosophical concepts. …Whether religion as such is to be superseded by philosophy is another question…’ Hogdson in Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., vol. III, 4

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Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist 11i The Science of Logic is a theology

Logic for Hegel is the ‘scientific,’ systematic exposition of the ‘formal structure,’ the infinite ‘mind’ of God

logic is to be understood as the system of pure reason, as the realm of pure thought. This realm is truth as it is without veil and in its own absolute nature. It can therefore be said that this content is the exposition of God as he is in his eternal essence before the creation of nature and a finite mind.1

Plotinus wrote of this ‘system of pure reason’ and ‘realm of pure thought and truth’

(in the Intellectual Cosmos, dialectic) pastures the Soul in the ‘Meadows of Truth’: it employs the Platonic division to the discernment of the Ideal-Forms, of the Authentic-Existence, and of the First-Kinds (or Categories of Being): it establishes, in the light of Intellection, the affiliations of all that issues from the Firsts, until it has traversed the entire Intellectual Realm…it leaves to another science all that coil of premisses and conclusions called the art of reasoning2

The truth of logic is God alone, the relationship between religion and philosophy having a long history

Already for the Neopythagoreans and Neoplatonists, still situated within the pagan world, the folk deities were not deities of phantasy but had become deities of thought.3

Not only is the Logic, consistent with Neoplatonic philosophy, both an ontology and a metaphysics –

an account of what it means to be…(and) simultaneously an account of the highest or most complete individual being4

– as the exposition of God, again consistent with Neoplatonic philosophy, it is also a theology. Schlitt, who described Hegel’s logic as ‘speculative theology’5 wrote

In his 1829 lectures on the proofs for the existence of God, Hegel spoke of logic as metaphysical theology in so far as logic consisted in the elevation of finite thought determinations to the infinite. ‘Logic is to that extent, metaphysical theology, which treats of the evolution of the Idea of God in the ether of pure thought…’6

Jaeschke and Magee both refer to Hegel’s logic as a theology.7 Jaeschke importantly noted the potential for a ‘more detailed interpretation of the Science of Logic as speculative theology’8 and Magee, in identifying the philosophical strands in the Logic unknowingly identified the elements of Proclus’ triad – Being, Life and Intelligence

The Logic is simultaneously an account of the formal structure of God (the self-knowing Idea), the soul or mind (the living embodiment of Idea), and the Cosmos (the whole whose every part is an approximation to the being of Idea). It is thus at one and the same time a theology, rational psychology and cosmology.9



1. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, op. cit., 50
2. Plotinus, The Enneads (Abridged), op. cit., I.3.4. The note added ‘This puts Aristotelian and Stoic logic in its place. These logical systems deal with words and propositions and their relationships, and are thus merely preliminary to Platonic dialectic, which deals with the structure of reality.’ Of Hegel’s ‘structure of reality,’ Schlitt wrote ‘When (Hegel) spoke of “logic,” he meant the immanent and consistent self-positing and self-determining movement of pure thought,’ Schlitt, Divine Subjectivity: Understanding Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion, op. cit., 136
3. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. I, op. cit., 152; ‘In ordinary moods of mind there is a long way from logic to religion. But almost every page of what Hegel has called Logic is witness to the belief in their ultimate identity.’ Bibliographical Notice in Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, op. cit., xlii
4. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 148; ‘Hegel himself did not hesitate to speak of categorical determinations of pure thought as metaphysical definitions of God. “Being itself and the special sub-categories of it which follow, as well as those of logic in general, may be looked upon as definitions of the Absolute, or metaphysical definitions of God …For a metaphysical definition of God is the expression of his nature in thoughts as such; and logic embraces all thoughts so long as they continue in the thought form.” (Logic #85)’ Dale M. Schlitt, Hegel’s Trinitarian Claim: A Critical Reflection, E.J.Brill, Leiden, 1984, 37
5. Ibid., 34
6. Ibid., 32
7. ‘(Hegel’s Science of Logic) is not solely a logic in the sense of an ontology but just as much a metaphysical theology.’ Walter Jaeschke, Reason in Religion: The Foundations of Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion, Trans., J. Michael Stewart and Peter C. Hodgson, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1990, 22
8. Ibid., 22
9. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary, op. cit., 133

Contents of Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist posts

Hegel on Contradiction: Part Four

…internal self-movement proper, instinctive urge in general, (the appetite or nisus of the monad, the entelechy of absolutely simple essence), is nothing else but the fact that something is, in one and the same respect, self-contained and deficient, the negative of itself. Abstract self-identity is not as yet a livingness, but the positive, being in its own self a negativity, goes outside itself and undergoes alteration. Something is therefore alive only in so far as it contains contradiction within it, and moreover is this power to hold and endure the contradiction within it. But if an existent in its positive determination is at the same time incapable of reaching beyond its negative determination and holding the one firmly in the other, is incapable of containing contradiction within it, then it is not the living unity itself, not ground, but in the contradiction falls to the ground. Speculative thinking consists solely in the fact that thought holds fast contradiction, and in it, its own self, but does not allow itself to be dominated by it as in ordinary thinking, where its determinations are resolved by contradiction only into other determinations or into nothing.

G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, Trans., A.V.Miller, Humanities Press, New York, 1976, pp. 440-441


Part four/to be continued…

Hegel on Contradiction: Part Three

the negative relation to self (is) the innermost source of all activity, of all animate and spiritual self-movement, the dialectical soul that everything true possesses and through which alone it is true; for on this subjectivity alone rests the sublating of the opposition between Notion and reality, and the unity that is truth. The second negative, the negative of the negative…is this sublating of the contradiction, but just as little as the contradiction is it an act of external reflection, but rather the innermost, most objective moment of life and spirit, through which a subject, a person, a free being, exists.

G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, Trans., A.V.Miller, Humanities Press, New York, 1976, pp. 835-836


Part three/to be continued…

Hegel on Contradiction: Part Two

…the negative as determined in the sphere of essence (is) the principle of all self-movement…External, sensuous motion itself is contradiction’s immediate existence. Something moves, not because at one moment it is here and at another there, but because at one and the same moment it is here and not here, because in this ‘here’, it at once is and is not. The ancient dialecticians must be granted the contradictions that they pointed out in motion; but it does not follow that therefore there is no motion, but on the contrary, that motion is existent contradiction itself.

G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, Trans., A.V.Miller, Humanities Press, New York, 1976, 440


Part two/to be continued…

Hegel on Contradiction

…it is one of the fundamental prejudices of logic as hitherto understood and of ordinary thinking, that contradiction is not so characteristically essential and immanent a determination as identity; but in fact, if it were a question of grading the two determinations and they had to be kept separate, then contradiction would have to be taken as the profounder determination and more characteristic of essence. For as against contradiction, identity is merely the determination of the simple immediate, of dead being; but contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality; it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity.

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Science of Logic, Trans., A.V.Miller, Humanities Press, New York, 1976, 439


Part one/to be continued…