Science of Logic, “Introduction” (Some More Random Observations)

[The beginning is here and still more here.]

Having read “Introduction” several times last night and earlier this evening, I have to say that Hegel could be accused of all kinds of sins (being dense, confusing, haste and outright bizzare, for starters), but the lack of enthusiasm is not among them!  As I have already pointed out, only as an observation and not, by any means, as a chosen interpretive strategy, the language of the “Introduction” contains several theological metaphors of redemption/salvation: “ordinary logic” is to be saved from its blind mechanistic calculations that are presented to us as actual workings of the mind.  It is interesting to note, at least for me, that if Hegel were to join a discussion on the role of philosophy at a university and asked to share his views on the value of a variety of courses related to so-called “critical thinking,” one would probably hear something like this: 

The additions of psychological, pedagogic and even physiological material which logic received in the past have subsequently been recognised almost universally as disfigurements. A great part of these psychological, pedagogic and physiological observations, laws and rules, whether they occur in logic or anywhere else, must appear very shallow and trivial in themselves; and without exception all those rules such as, for example, that one must think out and test what one reads in books or hears by word of mouth, that when one’s sight is not good one should help one’s eyes by wearing spectacles — rules which in textbooks of so-called applied logic were solemnly set out in paragraphs and put forward as aids to the attainment of truth — these must strike everyone as superfluous — except only the writer or teacher who finds difficulty in expanding by some means or other the otherwise scanty and life-less content of logic. (§60, my italics)

Here goes our contemporary attempts to teach students to “think critically”!  Hegel seems to be suggesting that this attempt to use logic as a kind of a toolbox is both rather shallow and trivial and diverts our attention from what actually takes place in thinking.  All these rules, procedures, deductions and analyses are nothing but childish games “of fitting together the pieces of a coloured picture puzzle,” which, I have to point out, might be very difficult, challenging and even educational, but that tell us nothing about, let’s throw in some more Hegelian terms, “the realm of pure thought.” 

This is where Hegel gets straight to the point: what is lacking in “ordinary consciousness” and its groundless aspirations to be the science of thinking is the understanding of the truly philosophical method.  Philosophy needs its own method, but it also needs to discover the method, for “the method is the consciousness of the form of the inner self-movement of the content of logic.” (§62)  Hegel’s problem with the ordinary discussion of the philosophical method is two-fold: he disagrees with the general tendency for the method of philosophy to be modeled on the method of pure mathematics, but he also disagrees with a conventional interpretation of the method being a set of procedural guidelines that could be formulated with little reference to the subject matter:

I could not pretend that the method which I follow in this system of logic — or rather which this system in its own self follows — is not capable of greater completeness, of much elaboration in detail; but at the same time I know that it is the only true method. This is self-evident simply from the fact that it is not something distinct from its object and content; for it is the inwardness of the content, the dialectic which it possesses within itself, which is the mainspring of its advance. It is clear that no expositions can be accepted as scientifically valid which do not pursue the course of this method and do not conform to its simple rhythm, for this is the course of the subject matter itself. (§63, my bold)

“The dialectic which [method] possess within itself” is another important theme of the “Introduction,” a theme that, I imagine, will be a recurrent one, but just a couple of quick observations.  For Hegel, all that is necessary for “scientific progress” is “the recognition of the logical principle that the negative is just as much positive, or that what is self-contradictory does not resolve itself into a nullity, into abstract nothingness…” (§62)  In other words, and I think I like this particular formulation the best, it is important to recognize that “the result essentially contains that from which it results.” (Ibid.)  Hegel has more things to say about “the genuine dialectical moment” and “negativity,” but I think it is important to remember that for him the discussion of the “method” (“the consciousness of the form of the inner self-movement of the content of logic”) and the discussion of the “dialectic” are eventually united in a term “speculative thought” (das Spekulative).

I wish I could say more about the “Introduction,” but due to the lack of time, as a final remark, I would like to point out that the constant reference to Kant and a generally enthusiastic yet concerned tone of the opening pages of the SL is strongly reminiscent of both Critique of Pure Reason and What Is Enlightenment? as Hegel’s pathos, with all its specific concerns, gathers momentum and proclaims that “above all, [as a result] thought acquires thereby self-reliance and independence.” (§73)

6 thoughts on “Science of Logic, “Introduction” (Some More Random Observations)

  1. Pingback: » Science of Logic Reading Group: Introduction (Updated and Bounced to the Top of the Page!)

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