Gerry Healy



Hegel and Lenin

The Doctrine of Essence (Part Six)

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

News Line 3 September 1981

By G. Healy

   The article this week covers Appearance and Actuality, pages 152 to 159 of Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks, Volume 38 of his collected Works.

   It is part of a study of the Doctrine of Essence, contained in Hegel’s Science of Logic. We have quoted where necessary directly from the Science of Logic in order to explain the transition from appearance into Actuality.

   Upon completion of our study of the Doctrine of Essence next week, we shall review our study as a whole of the Doctrine of Essence from External Reflection to the Notion.

The Law of Appearance

   The Appearance of Essence can be likened to a self-moving form which is in continuous change. It is first of all internal, like the appearance of a baby in the womb of its mother during the months before it is born, or the appearance of a flower in the early stages before it emerges out of the ground, when it is still covered with leaves to protect it from the effects of the weather.

   The law which reveals the movement is called the law of Appearance. Hegel describes the process of such a law as ‘Quiescent … Reflection of the existing or Appearing  world … into identity with itself.’ Lenin’s comment, as we explained last week, was that ‘This is remarkably materialistic and remarkably appropriate.’ (P. 151 Vol. 38).

   Law and Essence are categories of a similar kind. The express the deepening of man’s knowledge of phenomena reflecting the external world of nature.  Lenin writes:

   ‘The world in and for itself is identical with the world of Appearances, but at the same time it is opposite to it. What is positive in the one is negative in the other.’ (P. 153, Vol. 38).

   The negative is described as the ‘world in itself’ – the positive is the ‘world for itself.’ The positive world of appearance and the abstract world ‘in itself’ are the same. To further emphasise this point, Lenin quotes Hegel:

   ‘The Appearing and the Essential World are each  … the independent whole of Existence. One was to have been only reflected Existence, and the other immediate Existence, but each continues itself in the other, and consequently in itself, is the identity of these two moments.’ (Ibid.)

   ‘The essence here’, Lenin writes, ‘is that both the world of appearance and the world in itself are moments of man’s knowledge of nature, stages, alterations or deepenings (of knowledge). The shifting of the world in itself further and further from the world of appearances  - that is so far still not to be seen in Hegel’, and Lenin asks the question: ‘Have not Hegel’s “moments” of concepts the significance of “moments” of transition?’

   The dialectical movement here is from outer to inner. Lenin explains such movement in the following way. First he quotes Hegel:

   ‘This is apparent, in all natural, scientific and in general intellectual development; and it is essential to understand that the First, when as yet Something, is internal or in its concept, is for this reason, only in its immediate and passive existence.’ (P. 154 Vol.38)

   Hegel refers here to the knowledge we already have before we commence reflecting the external world around us as ‘internal’ and ‘passive’, and Lenin comments:

   ‘The beginning of everything can be regarded as inner – passive – and at the same time as outer.’ Lenin continues:

   ‘But what is interesting here in not that, but something else: Hegel’s criterion of dialectics that has accidently slipped in: “in all natural, scientific and intellectual development”: here we have a grain of profound truth in the mystical integument of Hegelianism.’ (P. 155, Vol. 38)

   The ‘thing’ originally perceived now emerges as a quantitative connection with many properties which are in movement from inner Existence to outer Appearance. It tends more and more to become dissolved into those properties most closely related to it.

   These properties, including the ‘thing’ perceived break up into each other.  They interpenetrate one another in ‘such a manner that those which penetrate are equally penetrated by the other, so that each again penetrates its own penetratedness. Each is posited as its negation, and this negation is the subsistence of another, but this subsistence is equally the negation of the other and the subsistence of the first. (Page 497, Science of Logic.)

   The word Appearance dialectically describes a process which is both inner and outer. In such reciprocal relation, cause, (inner), is cancelled into effect, (outer),  and effect again is cancelled into cause.

   Existence is grounded on Appearance and Appearance is grounded on Existence. Form repels content and Content repels Form.

   The ‘thing’ initially perceived has now become ‘unessential’ and has been replaced by the ‘thing’ in property. For property is Universal matter in motion, which Hegel explains as follows:  

   ‘The transition of property into matter … is the familiar, transition performed on sensible matter by chemistry when it seeks to represent the properties of colour, smell, taste and so on, as luminous matter, colouring matter.’ (P.492, Science of Logic.)

Appearance and Actuality

   Essence in Existence is now property which contains contradiction. Semblance has been negated through external Reflection into Appearance. Appearance is the unity of Semblance and Existence. The world of Appearance is the world of manifold variety, confronted by the world of Essence.

   The world in and for itself, as a unity of Positive and Negative, is the determinate ground of Appearance in relation to the external world. Hegel explains the self-relation between the positive and negative like this:

   ‘The first side, the whole, is the self-subsistence which constituted the world in and for itself; the second side, the parts, is the immediate Existence which was the world of Appearance. In the relationship of whole and parts, the two sides are these self-subsistencies, but in such a manner that each has the other reflected in it and at the same time only is as this identity of both. (P. 514 Science of Logic)

   The part has the whole reflected in it and the whole has the part reflected in it. The dialectal interaction between the whole and the parts condition each side. The unity of whole and part in Appearance is therefore the unity of their essential self-relation.

   This is the driving force which is a reflected unity now moving into the external world. It is the identity of a unity which has implicit content – absolute essence interpenetrating the relative Essence in Existence.

   The negative unity is a unity of inner and outer which is identical with its own content. Appearance as outer is the unity of the moments of inner and outer when Essence Appears in a negative form. These negative moments are grounded on Existence, which is a negative unity of the two moments of  Existence and Appearance which are the content. Both content and form are now equal to each other.

   The form of Appearance contains the negative dialectical unity of Appearance and Existence and the content contains the dialectical negative unity of Existence and Appearance. Together, they comprise the negative of the unity of opposites which becomes the negative as against the positive, which has its source in the real world of actuality.

   ‘Actuality’, said Lenin in a quote from Hegel, ‘is the unity of Essence and Existence’. (P. 156, Vol. 38). These terms incorporate Essence, (Existence), in Appearance and Appearance in Existence, (Essence). On the same page Lenin then outlines the sub-divisions of Actuality:

   1. ‘The Absolute’. This is the negative unity and identity of opposites.

   2. Actuality proper: ‘Actuality, Possibility and Necessity constitute the formal moments of the  


   3. ‘Absolute Relation’, Substance.

   Substance here denotes the build-up of the properties and qualities which are incorporated into the part (object) which contains the whole.

   Once again, Lenin singles out the ‘materialism’ of Hegel in a quotation: ‘in itself there is no Becoming’, and then Lenin adds, ‘and other nonsense about the Absolute. (Ibid.)

   ‘The Absolute’, Lenin emphasises, ‘is the absolute Absolute, [with no reference to Devine presence GH]. The Attribute is a relative absolute.’  

   The absolute absolute is absolute Essence and the relative absolute is Essence in Existence, into which the absolute absolute has passed.

   Actuality is the world of the real which has now become the positive outer form whose content is the negative Unity and Identity of opposites of Appearance. It is the third sub-division of Essence.  

   ‘Actuality’, says Lenin, ‘is higher than Being and higher than Existence’. (Ibid.) This is because Actuality is the real external world. Lenin then gives an explanation of these moments of cognition:

   ‘1. Being is immediate, “being is not yet actual”’ [quoting Hegel – Ed.]. He is referring of course to

   Being on a higher level which is about to become Actual.

   ‘2. Existence’, Lenin stresses, has passes ‘into Appearance’ through ‘Reflection and immediacy, but

        still lacks the unity of Reflection and immediacy.’ (P. 157 Vol.38)

   ‘3. Actuality is the unity of Existence and Being-in-self.’

   Like Appearance, the term Existence has both inner and outer implications. Lenin emphasises the importance of the moment of Actuality, when at the bottom of page 157 he quotes Hegel.

   ‘The sum-total of the moments of Actuality, which in its unfolding discloses itself to be Necessity.’

   At the top of page 158 he sums up the process of Actuality:

   ‘The unfolding of the sum-total of the moments of actuality NB = the essence of dialectical cognition’. He quotes Hegel approvingly for the materialism of his statement; ‘ … the eloquent words on the vanity of mere delight at the wealth and flux of the phenomena of nature and on the necessity of “advancing to a closer insight into the inner harmony and uniformity of nature .”’ Lenin remarks that Hegel’s position is ‘closeness to materialism’, and further remarks, ‘Necessity as the last moment of Actuality from which the leap to the Notion occurs is blind only in so far as it is not understood. (Ibid)

   ‘It happens to him’, Lenin comments in a quotation from Hegel, ‘that from his activity there arises something quite different from what he had meant and willed.’

The Unity and Identity of Opposites.

   The term ‘Substance’ relates to the continuous build-up of properties in Actuality. Lenin notes  that it is ‘an important stage in the process of development of human knowledge of nature and matter’, and goes on, ‘The relation of Substantiality passes over into the relation of Causality.’ Quoting Hegel, Lenin continues, ‘Substance attains … Actuality only when it has become Cause …’  Cause, which initially began as outer, had as its effect the inner knowledge we already possessed.

   Actuality begins with Possibility which is contained in the build-up of the properties of substance. At a certain point of the movement of Appearance outward, this becomes Causality, through the substance becoming Cause whose Effect will be felt in the external world of Actuality, which creates a reciprocal movement of Cause cancelled into Effect and effect into Cause. Lenin explains the importance of this process in the box at the top of page 159:

   ‘On the one hand, knowledge of matter must be deepened to knowledge, (to the concept), of Substance in order to find the causes of phenomena. On the other hand, the actual cognition of the cause is the deepening of knowledge from the externality of phenomena to the Substance. Two types of examples should explain this: 1) From the history of natural science, and 2), from the history of philosophy. More exactly, it is not “examples” that should be here – comparison is not proof – but the quintessence of the history of both the one and the other + the history of technique.’ (P. 159 Vol.38)

   The Unity and Identity of Opposites is a negative moment whose positive is contained in the world of Actuality. From the initial moment of Identity, the dialectical movement is from outwards to inwards. In the process of transition this reached its dialectical transformation point in the movement from inwards to outwards in the moment of Existence in Appearance. The movement of thought (matter) is now outwards towards the Actuality of the real world.

   This positive movement of Possibility is due to the source of Reflection provided by the external world. This process is substance and it becomes Causality as it penetrates deeper through the phenomena of thought into the real world. Out of this process necessity emerges.

   Thought has become matter, so the process is no longer confined to reflective thought, as Lenin explains:

   ‘Cause and effect, ergo, are merely moments of universal reciprocal dependence, of (universal) connection, of the reciprocal concatenation of events, merely links in the chain of development of matter.’ (P.159, Vol. 38)

   The moment of possibility also introduces the problems of accident and chance. Actuality invokes the past history of the natural sciences, ‘Philosophy and Technique.’

   Once we start testing out theoretically the new knowledge which is the result of the process of Cognition, we will be in a better position to notice any changes which, unknown to us, have been building up, and may lead to our new-found knowledge being cast aside by some accident.

   In this case, we will have to recheck our process of Cognition in order to allow for the accident in our analysis. The same method applies to chance with could provide us with opportunities as well as setbacks.

   Lenin emphasises the materiality of this process by two quotations from Hegel: ‘Effect contains nothing whatever which Cause does not contain’, and vice versa. Lenin again reinforces this quotation with another from the same source. ‘It is the same fact which displays itself first as cause and then as effect – here as peculiar persistence and there as positedness or determination in an other’.

   Lenin sums up this process in a box at the bottom of the page:

   ‘The all-sidedness and all-embracing character of the interconnection of the world which is only one-sidedly, fragmentarily and incompletely expressed by causality.