Gerry Healy



Hegel and Lenin

The Doctrine of Essence – Part 7

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

News Line 24 September 1981

By G. Healy

     ‘The unfolding of the sum total of the moments of actuality’, said Lenin, ‘is the essence of dialectical cognition. (P. 158, Vol. 38, Lenin’s Collected Works). On the previous page he quotes Hegel approvingly:

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

   In order to do this we must be able to show the development of these moments, together with their growth and movement through contradictions. Furthermore, we must be able to explain this dialectical process as it is revealed through the activity of living people in a class-divided society.

   The moments are then reflected through individual parts of a whole. The dialectical method of cognition requires, in the case of the class struggle, that we are able to make a ‘summation of its individual parts, which we are cognising, from beginning to end.

Re-evaluating Hegel’s Science of Logic

   We now come to an important development of the materialisation of the Hegelian dialectic by Lenin. On page 361, volume 38, in the article entitled On the Question of Dialectics, Lenin referred to the genius of Hegel arising from the latter’s conclusion that ‘the individual is the universal’.

   A symposium held in Moscow almost a year ago on Hegel’s Science of Logic, entitled Problems of Dialectics, drew some very interesting conclusions on this all-important book, and the attention which Lenin gave to it. The symposium itself was an effort to meet Lenin’s proposition on the need for a ‘society of materialist-minded friends of Hegelian dialectics.

   The first issue of a new magazine, Science in the USSR, available from Paperback Centres, [WRP bookshops – Ed.], and Central Books Ltd., had this to say about the work of the symposium; referring to a contribution by one of the delegates present, the magazine remarks:

   ‘At the same time, Hegel’s teaching has its basis in philosophical idealism, and his remarkable dialectical foresights are often closely intertwined with mysticism, so that it is exceedingly difficult to make out the kernels of dialectical thought’. (P.105, Science in the USSR)

   Such a conclusion is absolutely correct, as is also a further point made by one of the contributors, Professor E. Albrecht, (German Democratic Republic), when he stressed that it was to Hegel’s credit that he ‘discovered in the scientific method a dialectical interconnection between the analytical and the axiomatic, between the historical and the logical.’

   The opinion of Professor Albrecht at the symposium was similar the Lenin’s when he said that Hegel came very close to a correct answer to the question ‘that the definiteness of the objective content of our cognition lies impractical activity’

   This is really the key towards an understanding of why Lenin paid tribute to Hegel’s genius, implicit in the statement ‘the individual is the universal’. When we turn to chapter 3 of the Science of Logic, page 664, Allen and Unwin’s edition, dealing with the syllogism, we will begin to understand what prompted Lenin’s tribute to Hegel.  

   In studying volume 38 we must never forget that the essence of Lenin’s theory as a guide to his practice was building the Bolshevik Party to lead the socialist revolution.

   Professor Albrecht’s interest lies in science, particularly the important contributions in recent years of the Soviet and East European philosophers to the relation between Marxism as a world scientific outlook and the rapid development of the sciences themselves.

   Compared to Lenin’s interest in Hegel this is a narrow but important field which reflects only indirectly the need to prepare the world socialist revolution. The philosophers themselves favour the class-collaborationist ‘peaceful road to socialism’. Yet, the contributions and the work of these philosophers on the whole strengthens the dialectical method.

Hegel’s Syllogism

   In his treatment of the syllogism Hegel, if we stand him on his materialist feet, does reveal the ‘connections’ referred to by Professor Albrecht. The sensuous reflection of a living human being contains a ‘syllogism’ of two opposites. Hegel refers to them as ‘extremes, such as Individuality (I) and Universality (U). Since, as Lenin explained, every Individual enters incompletely into the Universal, (see page 361 Vol.38), the middle term of the syllogism is Particularity (P).

   Hegel carefully explains that whilst the syllogism is a necessary essential relationship, it cannot be considered as a ‘whole’ which consists of three propositions. He resolutely opposed metaphysics and speculativeness, which suggested that the syllogism was some kind of mechanical dialectical system.

   For Lenin, the syllogism arose in the ‘Reflection’ of thinking, being. Hegel’s Particularity, (P), was for Lenin his thinking, being, entering incompletely into the external world, (Universality), through his practice. The process to begin with is Individual induction through external reflection which penetrates incompletely, (via Particularity), into the Universality of the external world. This must be understood as a dialectical process of cognition. Immediate Reflection is a property of highly organised matter, which is derived from the general property of reflection inherent in all matter.

   Reflection has, basically, two sides which are (a), the content of reflection or the image, and (b), the mode of its material existence, that is, the way in which objects are processed in cognition. Sensation is a general property of reflection, the source of which is the external world.

   The first syllogism of Reflection invokes necessity. From Individuality to Particularity is the first moment, (object to subject). Then from particularity to Universality, (second moment is self-relation of Reflection)

How the Syllogism Aids Analysis.

   The opposites, extremes, can be described as (I), Individual, connected with the Universal, (U), through the Particular, (P), that is, I.P.U. The middle term Particular, (P), is concrete in relation to the Universal because it contains many predicates which can be united with several Universals.

   It, [the Particular], appears in the reflective process arising out of  I, (Individual), in the first instance as I-P. In the second movement it is pulled towards the Universal, (U), as P-U. This is the moment of being, (unity of man and nature), which is sensation, (Identity).

   The negative into which Identity is dissolved is the Particular, (Difference). I, (Individual), now becomes the middle term in the second syllogism of Reflection, (Induction), P-I  Positive (Immediate) and I-U which is already mediated by the first syllogism I.P.U. whose mediated relation is contained in the opposites I.U. This first syllogism is a determination of the form of the image, (Identity).

   The second syllogism, (I.P.-I.U., (I.P.U.)), contains the posited contradiction. It is a negative unity of Positive P.I., (Other of the immediate), and Negative I.U. (Other of first). The universal, (I.U.), here is ‘in and for itself’ as a negative. It is therefore not a determinate particular since as an abstract universal it is a totality of Particulars.

   The dialectical movement of Reflection in the first syllogism , (I.P.U.),  from its source in the external world activates I.P.-P.U.  In the second syllogism (P.I.U.), the activation continues through P.-I., I.U., which now contains contradiction that it cannot resolve. The dialectical movement of reflection must be negated the first two syllogisms into a synthesis which I, (Individual), Being in self – absolute essence (semblance). [Last sentence is as text in News Line page.]

   The contradiction which has negated into I is the contradiction which incorporates the two opposite moments of Positive, (other of immediate), and Negative, (other of first). Therefore I is now both Positive and Negative which is a Universal relation. The form of Individuality (absolute essence), (I), is now Universality, (Existence), which is the third syllogism, I.U.P.

   Analysis consists of breaking down the whole into its parts. Thus, the first syllogism I.P.U., (I-P., P.-U.), establishes in sensation the original whole of Being with opposites Individual and Universal, (I.U.). This ‘whole’ is broken down into two main parts, Positive and Negative, each of which contains many parts. The negative Particular (P) is a predicate for many Universals (U) and the negative Universal (U) contains many particulars (P).

   The Negation of the Contradiction into synthesis which is both Positive and Negative is a negation deeper into the social consciousness which embodies all the knowledge of mankind immediately and historically. We can now understand what Professor Albrecht was referring to when he spoke about the connections between the analytical, logical (syllogisms), axiomatic and historical, established through Hegelian dialectics.

   Individuality (I), (absolute essence. Being-in-self  - Semblance), interpenetrates through negation of negation into Existence (the universal social consciousness which thinking beings have at their disposal) which then becomes Essence in Existence.

   The third syllogism I.U.P. (Individual-Universal-Particular) then emerges.  The source of motion from the external world changes from the movement of Reflection to the movement of cause into effect and effect into cause, (Causality). The images we are perceiving have become essence and are interpenetrating Existence. This penetration is a two-fold process. The quality of absolute essence interpenetrates a quantity of Existence and vice versa. Cause therefore interpenetrates effect and effect interpenetrates cause.

From Induction to Deduction

   The first two syllogisms were from outer to inner, (induction). The third syllogism, (I.U.P.), is from inner to outer, (deduction).

   ‘The world in and for itself’, writes Lenin, ‘is identical with the Word 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 movement is from I to U through interpenetration of essence, (cause), into existence, (effect), now sees existence, (effect), become cause, which is essence in existence, builds up and it becomes existence in Appearance, a new effect. [Text as original – Ed.]. Lenin quotes Hegel approvingly to explain this process:

   ‘The appearing world’, which is the existing world, ‘and the Essential World are each the independent whole of Existence. One was to have been only reflected Existence, and the other only immediate Existence, but each continues itself into the other, and consequently in itself is the identity of these two moments. Both in the first instance are independent, but they are independent only as totalities, and they are this insofar as each essentially has in itself the moments of the other. (Ibid)

   This process becomes clearer if we start from the third syllogism which is I.U., (existence in Appearance), U.P. (Appearance in existence). This same totality of particulars of the Universal is common to both.

The World of Appearance.

   Lenin comments in a box on page 153, volume 38:

   ‘The essence here is that both the world of Appearances 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 what is so far not to be seen in Hegel. N.B. Have not Hegel’s “moments” of the concept the significance of “moments” of transition’.

   He goes on to quote Hegel in relation to ‘Law as essential relation’: ‘The truth of Appearance’, Hegel stresses, ‘is Essential Relation’. (Ibid.)

   In the third syllogism, (I.U.P.) I.U – U.P., the contradiction which through negation of the negation whose essence has interpenetrated existence which in turn is now the force within the causality embodied in existence in Appearance. [This paragraph is as original text in News Line. Any confusion is almost certainly due to mistakes in the printshop. – Ed.]

   On page 155, volume 38, Lenin comments:

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

   This describes the dialectical process of Nature where changes are going on inwardly within their own outer cover still concealed from view. Thus existence grounded on appearance, (inner), Appearance grounded on existence, (outer), are inner developments in mediated thought. As the properties build up they are thrust outwards into the actual real world.  

   An example of this dialectically natural process can be understood if we follow the course of the bulbs of flowers which, when planted, begin to grow at first in the soil hidden from view. The bulbs undergo many changes as they take root until they are just ready to appear above ground. The appearance of the potential flower is at that stage covered over by a leaf which is a kind of afterbirth to protect it from the inclement weather.

The Moments of Actuality

   The world of actuality is now unfolding. If it were possible to X-ray the growth of bulbs into flowers whilst they were still underground, but were expected to emerge over-ground at any time, then the negative of the X-ray would be the abstract unity and identity of opposites as the negative side of Positive Actuality. The I.U. and U.P. would be revealed and identified as being equal to one another.

   Actuality is here the unity of Essence and Existence, where the negative moment now finds its positive, (Possibility), in the real world. ‘Whether a thing is possible of impossible depends on the content’, writes Hegel as quoted by Lenin, ‘i.e., on the sum total of the moments of Actuality which in its unfolding discloses itself to be Necessity.’ (P. 157, Vol.38). And Lenin notes: ‘The unfolding of the sum total of the moments of Actuality. NB = the essence of dialectical cognition.’ (P. 158 Vol. 38)

   [The movement of the process of cognition is now … – Ed.] From possibility to necessity, and the build-up of the substance and properties of the different parts of the new ‘whole’, which will now be mentally constructed out of the moments of cognition of the Actuality of the external world.

   The parts which are merging through appearance, on becoming actualised into a unity and identity of opposites, are mentally checked out as possibilities for assimilation into a new ‘whole’.  This process involves taking each part as a cause and finding its effect as it is mentally thrust into the external world where it establishes its own connections.

   As Lenin explains through a quotation from Hegel: ‘It is the same fact which displays itself first as cause and then as effect.’ Then he comments:

   ‘The all-sidedness and all-embracing character of the inter-connection of the world, which is only one-sidedly, fragmentarily and incompletely expressed by causality.’ (P. 159, Vol. 38). And again:

   ‘Causality, as usually understood by us, is only a small particle of universal interconnections, but (a materialist extension), a particle not of the subjective but of the objectively real interconnection.’

   Through causality at first, the parts are actualised or tested out as to what is possible or not possible in the real world. A unity of analysis and synthesis is established.  The substance of properties originally incorporated into the parts is deepened and its quality heightened through its contact with the external world.

Reciprocal Action

   Lenin in a quotation from Hegel describes the next moments of this process as follows:

   ‘At this point reciprocity presents itself as a reciprocal causality of presupposed substances conditioning each other; each is, in relation to the other, at once active and passive substance.

   ‘In Reciprocity, original Causality presents itself as an arising out of its negation, (or passivity), and as a passing away into it – as a Becoming …

   ‘Necessity and Causality, have, then, vanished in it; they contain both the immediate identity, (as connection and relation), and the absolute substantiality of distincts, and therefore their absolute contingency – the original unity of substantial variety, hence absolute contradiction.

   ‘Necessity is Being, because it is; the self-unity of Being, which has itself for ground; but, conversely, because it has ground, it is not Being, it is nothing whatever but Semblance, relation or mediation.

   ‘Causality is this posited transition of original Being, or cause, into Semblance or mere positedness, and conversely of positedness into originality; but the identity itself of Being and Semblance is, still, inner Necessity.

   ‘This internality, (or Being-in-Self), transcends the movement of Causality; and concurrently, the substantiality of the sides which are in relation is lost – Necessity reveals itself. Necessity does not become Freedom because it vanishes, but only because its identity, (as yet an inner identity), is manifested.’ (PP 161-162 Vol. 38)

   The movements generated by the Reciprocal relation of the parts to each other produces a constant stream of higher substances which in turn create a Necessity to be transformed into Notions. Like the abstract unity and identity of opposites in Actuality, Causality and reciprocal action, the parts reproduce some of the old properties such as Semblance of the Notion being formed.

   At a certain moment Necessity creates the conditions for the leap to the Abstract Notion. Necessity is a sort of shell or cover within which the notion develops before the leap occurs. During the leap this cover is thrust aside like an afterbirth and the notion emerges, first as an abstract notion.

   Referring to all the special aspects of the Notion and the development of the substances which produce it, Lenin quotes Hegel:

   ‘Reciprocity is undoubtedly the proximate truth of the relation of cause and effect, and stands, so as to say, on the threshold of the Notion; nevertheless, precisely on this account one should not rest content with applying this relation, insofar as it is a matter of conceptual cognition.

   ‘If one gets no further than considering a given content merely from the point of view of reciprocity, then such an attitude is in fact quite without concept; it is then merely a matter of dry fact, and the requirement of mediation, which is the point of immediate concern in applying the relation of causality, still remains unsatisfied.

   ‘On closer examination, the deficiency in the application of the relation of reciprocal action is seen to be that this relation, instead of being the equivalent of the Notion, has itself to be grasped first of all.’ (P. 163, Vol.38)

   Lenin remarks on the side margin of the page: ‘mere reciprocity = emptiness … the requirement of mediation, (of connection), that is the point at issue in applying the relation of causality.’

   Both Lenin and Hegel are warning against the dangers of simply comparing the parts with their counterparts in the external world and then jumping to conclusions. They emphasise that it is essential, through mediation, to study carefully the connection of these parts in the objective world, to allow them to merge into a ‘whole’ which is the Notion.