I would like to officially join N.Pepperell’s reading of Hegel’s Science of Logic, partly because I think a group effort would be a great idea in this case, partly because I have been turning to Hegel quite often in my recent studies and a reading of Science of Logic (SL) will do me good. I would have loved to attend an actual in-person reading group, of course, but it has been inconveniently scheduled to take place in Australia, so I will have to participate via the internets. Not taken it upon myself to introduce “Introduction,” I would like to share a few observations, while trying to fit my voice into what appears to be a rich community of readers (both online and offline).
I understand that Miller’s translation of SL is available online here. It is conveniently divided into §§, even though Miller’s translation itself (and Hegel’s own text in German) does not have such a minute division. I am wondering if we should use these divisions since the online text (or printed-out text) is so easily available for references?
Science of Logic, “Introduction”
It seems clear from the very beginning that Hegel’s task in the “Introduction” is to present his own study of logic as being very distinct from what one expects to find in a book on logic. This expectation is not unreasonable by any means, since Hegel’s version of the “science of logic” will be so completely different. Thus he spends some time trying to situation his own effort within the general philosophical context: both distant context of Greek philosophy and more immediate context of Kant’s critical philosophy. The simple version of Hegel’s argument in the opening paragraphs of the “Introduction” seems to be something like this: even though one expects to find a discussion about various forms of thinking (“forms of reflection and laws of thinking”) that can be later applied to a variety of matters that this (now organized) thinking will proceed to think, such assumption discloses a fundamental misunderstanding of the way thinking thinks. Or to cite Hegel (§35 of online version):
When logic is taken as the science of thinking in general, it is understood that this thinking constitutes the mere form of a cognition that logic abstracts from all content and that the so-called second constituent belonging to cognition, namely its matter, must come from somewhere else; and that since this matter is absolutely independent of logic, this latter can provide only the formal conditions of genuine cognition and cannot in its own self contain any real truth, not even be the pathway to real truth because just that which is essential in truth, its content, lies outside logic.
To show that such distinction between the form of thinking and the matter of thinking is misguided was, in a way, a task of Phenomenology of Spirit which, for Hegel, simply means pointing that out to the reader of SL and thus avoiding the repetition. However, one can read Hegel’s argument against the “ordinary consciousness” and its distinction between the content of cognition and its form without necessarily connecting it to the explication of the movement of consciousness from the “first immediate opposition of itself and the object to absolute knowing.” (§50) That is, I think Hegel provides enough context in the “Introduction” for any reader to understand his critique of what “ordinarily passes for logic.”
Without having to summarize Hegel’s critique of the distinction between form and matter – of which the present “Introduction,” I think, is a great summary in itself – I would like to point out a passage that interests me the most in these opening pages of SL. It is found in §§52-53 (of online Miller) (my bold):
Thus pure science presupposes liberation from the opposition of consciousness. It contains thought in so far as this is just as much the object in its own self, or the object in its own self in so far as it is equally pure thought. As science, truth is pure self-consciousness in its self-development and has the shape of the self, so that the absolute truth of being is the known Notion and the Notion as such is the absolute truth of being.
This objective thinking then, is the content of pure science. Consequently, far from it being formal, far from it standing in need of a matter to constitute an actual and true cognition, it is its content alone which has absolute truth, or, if one still wanted to employ the word matter, it is the veritable matter — but a matter which is not external to the form, since this matter is rather pure thought and hance the absolute form itself. Accordingly, 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.
This “exposition of God as he is in his eternal essence” is, it seems to me, a task for theology. In this sense, Hegel’s project is a theological project, even if he only uses explicitly theological language once in a while in this “Introduction.” But, of course, this is not unusual for Hegel and I by no means pretend to “discover” this kind of language. The question, however, is: What role does this theo-logical orientation play in our reading of SL? The language of liberation is very clearly a language of redemption/salvation: old spiritless and mechanical calculation, “these dead bones of logic,” are to be redeemed, to be “quickened by spirit” (§62)! Traditional logic is compared to arithmetics: philosophical method has been nothing but an “envy of the systematic structure of mathematics,” only a new science of logic will bring about a new truly philosophical method.