Gerry Healy



Hegel and Lenin

The Doctrine of Being (Part Four)

Sixth in a series of articles dealing with Lenin’s treatment of Hegel’s Science of Logic

News Line 23 July 1981

By G. Healy

   Lenin explains that an important element in dialectics is: ‘The determination of the concept out of itself (the thing itself must be considered in its relations and its development)’. (P. 221, Volume 38, Lenin’s Collected Works.)

The Concept Determined Out of Itself.

   Such an element can best be understood if we consider that the first negation of Quantity from which Something emerges is what Hegel calls negation in general.

   The abstract of that ‘Something’ is ‘Other’ which contains implicit quality, which polarises into Being-in-Self as determinate Quality.

   Quality which is the negation of Quantity appears in two forms of Being between which a polarisation takes place. Since quantity itself, containing quantum particles, is both continuous and discrete, these are manifested in two forms of Being in general, Other, (which is implicit quality), and Being-in-Self which is determinative quality.

   Both are arrived at through Negation of Negation. Something is both ‘in-itself and ‘is’ for an ‘other’. Transition through polarisation provides the alteration between the two. Something has now produced the mediation of itself which becomes the ‘thing in itself out of itself’. Mediation is a manifestation of the law of Negation of Negation which in turn manifests the dialectics of Nature.

Attraction and Repulsion

   The movement and relation between the earth and the solar system in manifested through Repulsive energy from the sun and its attraction by the planet earth, which takes the form of Negation of Negation. Engels explains this process as follows:

   ‘For we are concerned here, first of all, not with the Universe, but with the phenomena occurring here on earth in the solar system, and of the solar system in the universe. At every moment, however, our solar system gives out enormous quantities of motion into space, and motion of a very definite quality, viz, the sun’s heat, i.e., Repulsion.

   But our earth itself allows of the existence of life on it only owing to the sun’s heat, and the earth in turn finally radiates into space the sun’s heat received after it has converted a portion of this heat into other forms of motion. Consequently, in the solar system and above all on the earth, attraction already considerably preponderates over repulsion.

   ‘Without the repulsive motion radiated to us from the sun, all motion on earth would cease … on the earth today attraction has already become altogether passive owing to its decisive preponderance over repulsion; we owe all active motion to the supply of repulsion from the sun … it, [the ‘modern school of science’ – Ed.], is absolutely right in conceiving energy as repulsion. (Dialectics of Nature, page 79)

   Human beings, as part of Nature, behave dialectically. In doing so they manifest repulsion and attraction. Something, whose source was in the external world, was first of all attracted by external reflection. This took the form of inner negation, which through polarisation was transformed into repulsion, now taking once more the inner form of Negation of Negation.

   Attraction is the moment of Continuity in Quantity. Continuity in turn as a moment needs discreteness, whilst Quantity is the unity of continuity and discreteness.

Dialectical Nature

   The dialectical laws of Nature can best be understood if we ourselves, as part of nature, become conscious of how these laws normally operate through us. Trotsky insisted that a dialectical training of the mind is as essential as finger exercises to a pianist.

   Idealists, who start from themselves as if they were outside the external world and not a part of it, see in these laws something to apply. Dialectical training starts from an examination of what we are doing and thinking in order to understand how the laws are manifested through us, thus presenting themselves for abstraction.

   Once we seriously and consistently take such an approach, then the predominance of the objective world of Attraction/Repulsion will help in dialectical training.  The categories of Negation of Negation are directly related to the concepts Infinite and Finite. It is extremely important to realise that each of these concepts is a dialectical concept, which have their own ‘Other’ present within each of them.

   This constitutes the unity of the Finite and the Infinite. Since each is the unity of both, we have two unities, just as we have two pairs of determinations. (See News Line 16 July 1981)

   The limit of the finite and the infinite in the form of the first negation, each, (finite and infinite), repels the other. The finite contains its own ‘other’, (infinite). The transition from the finite to the infinite takes place when the finite posits its own ‘other’ (abstraction) as infinite, and the infinite posits its own ‘other’ (abstraction) as finite.

   The common element in both is that their unity constitutes the unity of the two determinatednesses, but since they are negated in their unity into Appearance, (Being-for-Self), they lose their qualitative nature and dissolve into a new and higher quantity. Both finite and infinite contain its own negation within each other.

   The negative of both together is infinite truth. Starting from initial external reflection each returns to itself through its negation as they proceed from lower to higher determinations. They reveal the properties for mediation only in their self-relation to each other.

   When we speak of infinite progress we must be able to show that as a developed infinite which constitutes the unity of the finite and infinite, it also contains their separation. Separation is contained within their unity and unity within their separation.

Cause and Effect

   The concept of Being should always be considered firstly as an objective indeterminate moment in which man is simply united with Nature and is not reflecting on anything in particular, just as he is when asleep. Then we shall be able to understand why there is not an infinite beginning as such, which is first of all infinite. Later, when reflection begins, Being becomes infinite out of which emerges the finite. Both finite and infinite cannot be separated, because in one lies the determination of the other. It is their inseparability which, as we shall see later, constitutes them as notion.

   Finite may be referred to as Positive, which is cause when separated from its effect, which is Negative. But in later articles, when dealing with the Actuality of the external world, we will be able to show how in Causality and Reciprocity, cause and effect amount to the same thing. What is determined as cause is also determined as effect.

   ‘Obviously’, writes Lenin, ‘Hegel takes his self development of concepts, of categories, in connection with the entire history of philosophy. He gives a new aspect to the whole Logic. (P. 114, Vol.38). Lenin then goes on to quote Hegel:

   ‘It is an old proposition that One is Many and more especially that many are one’.

   ‘The distinction of one and many has determined itself to be that of its relationship to one another; this is divided into two relations, Repulsion and Attraction.’

   From these remarks Lenin, by implication, mediates on how close Hegel came at times to getting on his ‘materialist feet.’

   ‘In general’, he writes, ‘all this Being-for-Self was probably, in part required by Hegel to deduce the transition of quality into quantity’ (Being-for-Self – Appearance. –GH.) ‘quality is determinateness, determinateness for self, the Posited, it is the One – this gives the impression of being very farfetched and empty.’ (P. 115, Vol.38).

   The ‘One’ signifies the passage of quantity into quality, which is ‘Many.’

Cognition and Non-Classical Physics


   The difference between the concepts Infinite and Finite, and Absolute and Relative, lie in their application. Infinite and Finite are used to describe objects and processes in movement and change, whereas Absolute and Relative are used to describe the difference between thoughts in general and particular thoughts.

   The Infinite is composed of countless finite objects and processes. The Finite, on the other hand, as a negation of the infinite means that ‘every finite form manifests the infinite’. It is in this relationship between the objects that we use the terms ‘one’ and ‘many’.

   Language is Absolute, as the form in which thoughts in general are manifested. In dialectics we use the term Absolute to describe the unconditional, complete in-itself, independent and immutable matter in Motion as the objective process of the world and the Universe.

   We may describe the concept of the Absolute as that which makes sense, and the concept of relative as that which makes sense in relation to another. The relative is ‘in-itself’ as an abstract thought ‘For others’ to another.

   The dialectical training of the mind in the use of these concepts is extremely important for speedily establishing the relation between thoughts manifesting objects in movement and change. The concepts Absolute and Relative are especially important in examining the enormous changes now taking place in the field of non-classical physics.

Flow of Matter Through Life

   The historical and scientific implications of living perception through external Reflection consists of a flow of matter through quantum particles as a source of sensation. This dialectical process has been brilliantly dealt with by the Soviet physicist and author M.E. Omelyanovsky in his authoritative book Dialectics in Modern Physics, (Progress Publishers, Moscow, and Central Books, London). This flow of matter, [quantum particles –Ed], becomes the source of the flow of information as they emerge in the form of a matrix synthesis in our minds.

   The flow of matter is objective reality which a synthesis of the most important part of living systems which are drawn together by proteins and Nucleic Acids. Nucleic Acids, (R.N.A.), are a complex compound of High Molecular Weight, which provides the vital constituents of living cells.

   These acids not only establish through a synthesis of proteins a flow of information, they also establish the relations to heredity, (D.N.A.), of, say, father and son.

    When we use the term, ‘flow of information’, we do so in the context that it is a component of living phenomena which is the primary manifestation of life which occurs at the molecular level. This level, in turn, contains the aggregate total of man’s historical and scientific achievements.  

   In the process of cognition these universal and dialectical facts of reality becomes forms of thought, (theory), which guide all practice. They are not simply derived from and revealed in reality, they are also the outcome of the historically collective practice of mankind, and the theory which has emerged out of it through molecules. As we have already explained, language is the unity of thought, (theory, the subjective), and objective practice.

   Through the dialectical interaction between Man and Nature in the process of living, thoughts and language have developed out of what was at first the unconscious practice, (labour), of man, creating and abstracting his own primitive means of subsistence from nature. In philosophical terms we describe such practice as the first. Thought and language are identified as ‘the other of the first’.

   Sensuous representation, (External Reflection), and thought apprehend simultaneously the subject matter perceived through Quantum Particles. A thought emerges as a result of a dual sensuous and abstract process of understanding objective reality.

   In quantum theory the single whole is divided into two, that is, particle and wave. A particle is a basic notion of classical physics in which, [in non-classical physics – Ed], Matter has simultaneously the property of particle and wave, which are dialectically united in their opposition to each other.

   Quantum particles are relative, whether in wave or particle form. Their unity exists in what in non-classical physics has been defined in the concept of the Micro-object, which is absolute. Micro objects do not behave in the same way as waves or particles. They have a dual particle-wave relationship. This is known as quantum-probability.  

   Here, the knowledge of a particle is associated with a wave process that reproduces a Probability wave, which unites both particle and wave. An example of this is the electron, which behaves as if it were in an atmosphere charged with electricity. The atmosphere forms the conditions under which wave, as particle, and particle as wave, exist.

   Quantum concepts of particles are relative within the limits of their theory. The particles in Classical Physics are absolute within the limits of their theory. This can best be understood through the process of Reciprocity in Causality  - cause cancelled into effect and effect cancelled into cause – particle into wave and wave into particle – outer into inner and inner into outer.

   The interconnections of all objects in the external world produces their interaction from which contradiction emerges. An elementary particle is at one and the same time both an elementary entity and a system. The neutron and proton are considered as two states of the same particle – the neucleon. Elementary particles exist in an intrinsic link with the condition in which their transformation occurs , i.e., CONTINUOUS, DISCREST, DISCONTINUOUS.

The Process of Cognition and Invariant Physics

   The independence of this dialectical world predominates over thought. Forms of thought are not some  subjective aid of man, but a reflection of definite characteristics of objective reality. The concept of the absolute in thought is a reflection of the Invariant or Absolute in Physics, as the science of motion of Universal matter.

   ‘Invariance means the property of immutability in respect of certain classes of changes in physical conditions: The invariance of mechanical laws in relation to motion of a constant velocity along a straight line. An example is the refuelling of aeroplanes from other aeroplanes, flying in a straight line at the same speed. The transfer of fuel through a connecting pipe link is the mechanical side of the process. This is made possible as there is an area of invariance between the two planes travelling at the same speed in a straight line.

   The constant equal nature of the speeds creates an immutable independence which allows the fuel to be transferred at the same time as the planes are in the air in the act of actual flight. The invariant formation, (fuel pipe with fuel flowing through it between planes flying in a straight lineate certain speed), is here an independent formation.

   Time for itself, space in itself, must sink into the shadows so to speak, whilst an independent unity of the two is created for the tasks in hand. Within this unity the duality and unity of the opposites, wave and particle, are synthesised. The law of negation of negation, as powerful elements of the theory, operates in the unfolding of these invariants.

   Here it is also possible to see the internal connections between the absolute and relative; as Lenin explained it, there is an absolute, (speed of planes), speed in general, within the relative transfer of aero-fuel and the difference between them is relative.  The principle of Invariance does not possess an absolute character of truth but only within certain limits of truth, (certain limits of air speeds etc.)

   The area of Invariance today lies within the growing intensity of struggle between the two major gigantic class forces on a world scale. We can only intervene scientifically within this relatively small area and unleash the enormous progressive power of the working class to put an end to capitalism through the development of the most advances theories to guide the most advanced dialectical practice.

   The emergence of invariance in Cognition is from living perception to abstract thought and from this to practice. It explains, we hope, why we have concentrated on re-analysing at some length the Doctrine of Being. Next week we shall start with the Doctrine of Essence.