Hegel Glossary


(This glossary merely scratches the surface of Hegel's difficulty terminology. For more help, look in M. Inwood's Hegel Dictionary. Other works quoted from are listed at the end. Last modified: 4/8/2009)


1)     identity, sameness, equality Usually Hegel does not mean numerical identity, but something like "necessarily connected with." Does not exclude difference. Simple, mere, or abstract self-identity implies that the thing in question has no structure or determinate characteristics, since such characteristics imply contrast (and therefore connection) with other things. Self-identity (without the 'mere') implies some degree of independence, of having an identity that is maintained in becoming more determinate.


2)     (pure) being A (hypothetical) stuff whose only property is that it exists. Hegel argues that such a thing/stuff would be indistinguishable from (pure) nothing, hence being and nothing are identical (and also not identical). Thus pure being by itself is not possible, but only a unity of being and non-being, i.e., becoming, which expresses the instability of pure being or pure non-being.


3)     determinate being Thing or stuff that has specific characteristics and is therefore different from other determinate being(s).


4)     being-in-itself 'In itself' designates what is implicit or potential in something. A seed is 'in itself' a plant. Being-in-itself is the 'inner' nature of determinate being.


5)     being-for-itself Being that is something more than merely the opposite of the things it contrasts with. "Something is for itself in so far as it transcends otherness, its connexion and community with another, has repelled them and made abstraction from them." (SL158). Being-for-itself has developed to the point of having a degree of independence from its opposite by incorporating that opposite within itself. It does this by having an inner relation with that opposite, a relation with the opposite that (partly) determines what it is itself. Key example: something X that is conscious of itself by seeing another conscious being Y which is none-the-less identical to X. That is, I become conscious of my self only when I see other people who are identical with me, and who are conscious of me and of themselves.


6)     being-in-and-for-itself not only implies the previously noted characteristics, but has the connotation of a complete entity, that is what it is in conformity to its nature (its in it self), considered apart from any relation it may have with anything else.


7)     understanding The kind of thinking that produces contrasting categories like essence vs. appearance. Understanding makes sharp distinctions, and regards them as fixed and unchanging. (see speculative reason). speculative reason has a uniting function, but what it unites are opposites which it "dissolves." (SL28) The contradictory opposites of the Understanding must be reconciled and overcome by (speculative) Reason, the kind of thinking that produces the Notion (Concept). Speculative thinking "holds fast contradiction." (SL440)


8)     overcoming, aufheben, sublation A dialectical process the outcome of which incorporates what has come before, but is also different from what has come before. The result of this process is a unity which combines the things which are overcome, and modifies those things by their incorporation in to the unity. See moment.


9)     moment An aspect of something, or some whole as seen from a limited point of view. Not the same thing as a moment of time. The implication is that a mere moment is not the comprehensive thing, which will be a totality of various moments, each of which is merely a partial version of it.


10)   bad infinite An endless repetition of something without coming to an end, like the steps toward moral perfection in Kant's ethics.


11)   negation of the negation The sublation of something, particularly the relation of the true infinite that sublates the bad infinite. Repetition without limit is a kind of negation (of limit) and negation of the limitless repetition creates an outcome that incorporates that series of repetitions and completes it. More generally, the idea that applying dialectical negation twice does not lead back to the original thing, but produces something new.


12)   doctrine of internal relations This term was used by and about the British Neo-Hegelians. It describes Hegel's (and Marx's) view that a thing is partly constituted by its relationships to other things. An extreme example is Hegel's statement that destroying a speck of dust would destroy the universe.


13)   mediation A connecting link, or relationship between two things. Alternatively, the thing that something is linked to may be called a mediation. That is, if A is related to B and B to C, then B is a mediation between A and C. In the internal relations point of view, something is constituted (partly or fully) by the totality of its mediations.


14)   immediate Direct. Having no mediations. A relationship having no intermediate links. Something merely given, rather than being a result. Simple immediacy is pure being (SL 69). But immediacy is not necessarily simple. It can be the result of mediation that results in sublation. "… the third is the immediate, but the immediate resulting from the sublation of difference…. It is equally immediacy and mediation."(SL837) This sort of immediacy is a new starting point, analogous to the immediate being of the first stages of the dialectic. In this sense, illusory being is immediate.


15)   negativity Internal conflict, opposition or differentiation. The source of dialectical development of thought. "…the inner negativity of … determinations … [of thought is] their self-moving soul, the principle of all natural and spiritual life." (SL56)


16)   positing What is posited is dependent on something else from which it is derived, it is not being-in-itself.. What is posited is made explicit, is recognized as true or as existing. Can also mean something assumed and requiring later confirmation or justification. Carries some of the connotations it has in Fichte, i.e., free or arbitrary creation by thought. In the Notion (Concept) the necessities of essence thinking are converted into something freely posited by rational thought.


17)  posited being A kind of deficient being. "It is unstable in the highest measure. It is missing a considerable degree of self-sufficiency, or perhaps formulated more weakly, it lack a certain identity [equality with itself]." (Schmidt)


18)  reflection The activity of thought that connects and also differentiates or negates. The dialectical movement characteristic of the logic of essence. Reflection produces (or even constitutes) the relationships between things that are essentially connected. Reflection is supposed to partly determine the characteristics of something, and (not just metaphorically) to create those characteristics by reflecting into the thing, as if reflective thinking were like reflected light that illuminates something previously invisible, or creates a pattern not previously existing. "Reflection is taken as a process belonging to the thing itself." (Doz) In essence logic, pairs of opposite categories reflect into each other. "The image that guides the concept of reflection is that of the movement of something mobile that, when it encounters an obstacle, changes direction or even returns to the point of origin…. This initial image is corrected: light does not encounter a preexisting obstacle, but the point of turning back is created by the movement itself." (Doz)


19)   essence "Essence is reflection, the movement of  becoming and transition that remains internal to it, in which the differentiated moment is determined simply as that which in itself is only negative, as illusory being [shein]" (SL399) The term essence is used both for a structure which is internally differentiated into two moments, and for one of the two moments. These two moments are negatively related to each other. "The negativity of essence is reflection; and the determinations are reflected, posited by essence itself and remaining in essence as sublated." (SL391) Examples of the essence/appearance relationship: (a) physical thing / appearance of that thing; (b) Enduring substance / process that the substance undergoes; (c) Scientific law / specific empirical prediction. Essence results from the logical process of sublation of being in the sequence: being -> becoming -> quality -> quantity -> measure -> essence.


20)   illusory being, show, shein The negative of essence in the essence structure. Immediate in its relationship to essence, but mediated by essence, too.  One suggestion: illusory being is immediate in the sense that it corresponds to being in the earlier sections of the dialectical, that it is supposed to be immediate in its relationship to essence (McTaggert). Illusory being exist only as sublated being, as nothingness (see nothing in essence logic). It is non-essential, non-determinate-being, a determination of being that only exists in relation to another. (SL395-6) Illusory being is not a "first from which the beginning was made… nor is it an affirmatively present substrate that moves through reflection; on the contrary, immediacy is only this movement itself." (SL399)


21)   nothing, nothingness, nullity (in essence logic) Unlike the pure, completely indeterminate nothing discussed in the logic of being, the nothing of essence logic has a determinate character. "… the immediate that is in and for itself a nullity; its is only a non-essence, illusory being." (SL395) [Another translation: "… the in and for itself nothing-like immediate; it is only a non-essence, illusory being."] Illusory being has within the two moments "the nothingness which yet is" and "the being which is only a moment." (SL397) In a much discussed formula, Hegel says that at the level of essence, becoming is "the movement of nothing to nothing," or that "Being only is the movement of nothing to nothing." (SL400, see also pure absolute reflection). One take on this is that it refers to the dialectical development from simple indeterminate nothing of the logic of being to the determinate nothing (illusory being) of the logic essence. In being logic, becoming is the transition from being to nothing (and conversely). In essence logic, becoming might be seen as having developed into the transition from pure nothing to determinate nothing. A different reading says that the two nothings are the same. Hegel has been sharply attacked for this, with the claim that the circular path from nothing to nothing is an example of the bad infinite of endless progress that he rejects. "This circular course of essence [is] endless, without further development…. According to the criterion for the success of speculative progress, this circle is rather a collapse." (Heinrich). (Theunissen endorses this and Dubarle and Schmidt contest it. Schmidt claims that the appearance of circularity comes from the level abstraction, which ignores further determinations like form and matter).


22)   presupposing  takes something as immediate or immediately constituted (Soual), the opposite of positing (Schmidt).


23)   (pure) absolute reflection "essence that reflects its illusory being within itself and presupposes for itself only an illusory being, only positedness, … [as opposed to external or real reflection which] presupposes its self as negated, as the negative of itself." (SL402-3) The idea of this seems to be that in absolute reflection, essence takes is illusory opposite as given, but does not (yet) include the converse operation in which essence results from negating illusory being. "Pure absolute reflection thus will be nothing else but the absolute process of essence is so far as it is negativity." (Dubarle). Pure absolute reflection "determines itself further" (SL400) into positing, external, and determining reflection. Hegel also characterizes absolute reflection as "the movement from nothing to nothing." (SL400) On this formulation, see under nothing in essence logic.


24)   positing reflection This kind of reflection emphasizes that essence posits its other, illusory being, brings it into existence. Essence posits itself by positing its other, illusory being. "Essence is positing reflection because it is an activity of self-constitution by the mediation of an other that it gives itself, and from which it returns to itself…. To posit here is to give itself a determination, a gift [i.e., illusory being], not to an independent other, an other which is already there, but another of itself which institutes an other in itself in mediating it with itself." (Soual) "The movement of the positing of illusory being … on one side, a moment of self-repulsion and on the other, indissociable unity of the two sides…. The specificity of positing reflection consists in the correlatively necessary affirmation of a positing and a presupposing, a double movement of self-repulsion and return to self." (Biard)


25)  external reflection "What is specific to external reflection is to present as dissociated what positing reflection keeps united, as the result of a total process that its not yet deployed." (Biard) Reflection which "finds an [apparently] immediately element which [seems to] exist independently of it [but does not], which is .. presupposed, not posited." (McTaggart)


26)  self-sufficient, self-subsistent Something independent, not requiring or depending on anything else. Posited being is not self-sufficient, since it depends on an other.


27)  reflection-into-self means incorporating the relationship to an other which is part of essence into essence itself, "bending back" the relation to that other into itself. (SL407) The number -a, reflected into itself is just a. (SL428) (see the positive and the negative) Reflection-into-self makes something that reflection an other into something self-sufficient because it incorporates its other into itself.


28)  determining reflection The unity of positing reflection and external reflection. The result of reflection at this degree of development is a determinateness that is constituted by the relation to its other, but has gone beyond merely positing or presupposing the other, and of differentiating itself from that other. The determinateness that results from determining reflection is an "essential, not transitory determinateness." (SL407) It gains this stability by being not merely posited being, but by having its other reflection-into-another "bent back" into a reflection-into-itself (SL407).


29)   determinations of reflection, essentialities A determination of reflection is "positedness … reflected into itself." (SL407) "The determination of reflection is its relation to its otherness within itself." (SL408) Essential properties that something has not because of its relationship to something else, but it has incorporated that relation to another within itself, that is, as reflection-into-self. The two main essentialities are identity and difference. Difference is subdivided into diversity and opposition, and opposition develops into contradiction.


30)  identity (in essence logic) Essence is self identity, since essence is negativity of being within itself. Thus essence is (essentially) self-relation, but self-relation is identity. Identity is connection of something to itself, and this connection always has particular characteristics. Omitting all those particular characteristics yields abstract identity, which is sometimes taken to be the real identity. But of particular things is always particular, determinate, hence contains negation. Thus all identity also involves difference. "Identity, therefore, is its own self absolute non-identity."(SL413) Another way of putting this is that identity and difference have a common root in the negativity of reflection, and they don't get beyond this commonality.


31)  difference The negativity which reflection has within it, an essential moment of identity. Difference is a determination of reflection, it is not the mere otherness of the sphere of being, but difference from self, self-related difference. But what is different from difference is identity. Hence difference includes identity. "Difference is thus unity of itself and identity….[it] possesses both moments."(SL418)


32)  diversity Difference in which the two moments, identity and difference, are not related to each other, but only self-related. This kind of relationship is call indifference. Neither has its character determined by the other. Diversity is thus the "indifference of difference."(SL419) The kind of reflection that is involved here is only external reflection, reflection that concerns the kind of relationship in which the determinations of identity and difference are not part of the nature of the related entities, but are mere posited "from outside." External identity is called likeness, and external difference is called unlikeness.


33)  negative unity A unity of mutually exclusive moments


34)  opposition The unity of identity and difference, "its moments are difference in one identity." (SL424) Opposition has the positive and the negative as two of its moments, where each is through the non-being of the other. Each is in so far as the other is, and each is in so far as the other is not (SL425). The a moment of an opposition is not merely to be compared to its opposite, but opposition is a "determination belonging to the sides of the opposition themselves" (SL427) Each side of the opposition is "mediated by its other and contains it", but is also "mediated by the non-being of the other; thus it is a unity existing on its own and excludes the other from itself." (SL431)


35)  the positive, the negative The positive is "self-likeness reflected into itself that contains within itself reference to unlikeness" (SL424) The negative is "unlikeness that contains within itself the reference to its non-being, to likeness" (SL424). "Each has an indifferent self-subsistence." (SL431) In arithmetic, the negative is the "intrinsically opposite as such, but the positive is an indeterminate, indifferent sign in general." (SL 431)


36)  contradiction The two determinations of opposition each (a) contain the other side (by reflection-into-self) and (b) exclude the other side, its negative. Hence each side is contradictory, including and excluding the other. (SL 431). The positive, in excluding the negative from itself, makes itself into the negative of what it excludes, that is into the opposite of the negative. This negative is posited as excluding the positive. So positing the positive necessarily involves "immediately" ("in a single reflection") the positing of the negative, hence the positing of an absolute contradiction (SL432) Contradiction is "the root of all movement and vitality." (SL439) "Opposites … contain contradiction in so far as they are, in the same respect, negatively related to one another or sublate each other and are indifferent to each other." (SL 441, the contradiction is that negative relation and indifference are incompatible??)


37)  resolution Roughly speaking, resolution means a contradiction's ceasing to be a contradiction. This takes place by incorporating the contradictory sides into a whole by a mediating link. In the "self-excluding reflection" (see contradiction) each self-sufficient side overcomes (sublates) itself, transposes itself into its other. This "ceaseless vanishing of opposites into themselves" results in null (i.e., zero, like Kant's real opposition) (SL 433). Null is NOT simple abstract nothing. But the self-sufficiency of the two contradictory sides is sublated here. This resolved contradiction is ground (SL435). A thing, subject or the Concept is self-contradictory, but also this contradiction resolved when it is reflected-into-itself. It has a higher sphere for its ground. (SL443)


38)  ground A reason, basis, or explanation for something. "Falls to the ground" means "is destroyed." "Ground is essence as positive identity-with-self" (SL435)


39)   The truth of X is Y The outcome of the logical development of X is Y. Example: Essence is the truth of Being.


40)   inner (internal) vs. outer (external) The inner is the essential or necessary (sometimes also potential). The external is the inessential or contingent. Inwardness sometimes means self-sufficiency.


41)   the Notion, the Concept The outcome of the sublation of essence and being, incorporating the incompatible oppositions of essence logic, comprehending and reconciling them. The comprehensive nature of the Notion or Concept can be illustrated from particular notions or concepts. An example from Hegel: The customs of the Spartans were an effect of their constitution, and conversely their constitution is an effect of their customs. The concept of the Spartan people is a whole that incorporates (grounds) both of these reciprocal relations, and all other aspects of their life and history. Strictly speaking the Concept does not come into being, as what objects have in common. Instead, "things are what they are through the activity of the Concept that dwells in them and reveals itself in them." Moments of the Concept (Notion) are Universality, Particularity, Individuality.


42)   Universality, Particularity, Individuality The moments of the Notion. Each of these moments is the whole of the Notion. Most people think of the concept as primarily universal, something resulting from perceiving all plants, for example, and omitting all specific characteristics of plants. This abstraction is not, Hegel insists, what he means, even by the universal moment of the Concept. The Concept is different from the collection of all things that may fall under it; roughly the Concept is the principle that brings together the diverse cases that fall under it. Hegel's example: in Rousseau, the laws are the expression of the general will of the citizens (roughly, what would be in their interests), which is not the same as the will of all the citizens. "The general will is the Concept of willing, and the laws are the particular determinations of willing as grounded in this Concept." The particularity of the Concept is the totality of the instances that fall under it. Often Hegel speak of these instances as resulting from the division of the Concept into the particular cases. The dialectical result of universality and particularity is the singular. The singular, however, is a subject, i.e., self-consciousness. "Life, or organic nature, is the stage of nature at which the Notion emerges, but as blind, as unaware of itself and unthinking; the Notion that is self-conscious and thinks pertains solely to spirit." This idea is partly clarified by Hegel's discussion of freedom in the Philosophy of Right. There, Universality is identified with Indeterminacy, Particularity with Determination, and Individuality with Self-Determination. In Indeterminacy, freedom involves "my flight from every content as a restriction." In Determination, my willing must be willing of something in particular. Free will is the dialectical unity of Indeterminacy (absence of restrictions) and Determination (pursuit of particular objects). This unity is Self-Determination, where the ego posits itself as both determinate and therefore restricted, and yet independent, not determined by restrictions. Keeping this example from political theory/psychology in mind may make it easier to understand Hegel's claim that the Notion determines itself freely. It also helps to see what it means to say that the Universal aspect of the Notion is "free love and boundless blessedness". In "love and friendship" Hegel says that in relating to lover or friend, a person is not restricted by something external, but "we gladly restrict ourselves in relating to another."


43)   objectivity The Notion determines itself into objectivity in a way similar to the ontological proof for the existence of God. That proof infers the real existence of God from His concept. The Notion posits itself as "something real, something that is; this still abstract reality completes itself in objectivity."


44)   Idea The unity of the Notion and objectivity. On the state: The Notion of the state constitutes the nature of individual citizens, hence they have an urge to bring it into reality, thus the unity of Notion and objectivity in the Idea, no matter how imperfect the resulting state its.



45)   Absolute Idea The Absolute Idea is the unity of the theoretical Idea (Idea of the Truth) and the practical Idea (Idea of the Good). In the Absolute Idea, the Notion has personality (spirit?), and is being (sublated) and self-knowing truth.



References: SL = Hegel's Science of Logic, translated by A. V. Miller, Oxford, 1969; Soual = Philippe Soual, Interiorite et Reflexion: Etude sur la Logique de l'essence chez Hegel, L'Harmattan, 2000; Biard = J. Biard, et. al., Introduction a la lecture de la Science de la logique de Hegel: La Doctrine de l'Essence, Aubier, 1983; McTaggart = J. M. E. Mctaggart, A Commentary on Hegel's Logic, Cambridge, 1910,; Doz = A. Doz, La Logique de Hegel et les Problemes Traditionnels de l'Ontologie,  Vrin, 1987; Hansen = F.-P. Hansen, G. W. F. Hegel: "Wissenschaft der Logik": Ein Kommentar, Koenigshausen & Neumann, 1996; Schmidt = K. J. Schmidt, G. W. F. Hegel: "Wissenschaft der Logik—Die Lehre vom Wesen", Schoeningh, 1997; Dubarle = D. Dubarle, "La logique de la reflexion et la transition de la logique de l'etre a celle de l'essence," in D. Henrich, ed., Die Wissenschaft der Logik und de Logik der Reflexion, Hegel-Studien, Beiheft 18, Bouvier, 1978; Heinrich = D. Heinrich, "Hegels Logik der Reflexion: Neue Fassung," in Heinrich, Hegel-Studien Beiheft 18; Iber = Ch. Iber, Metaphysik absoluter Relationalitaet: Ein Studie zu de beiden ersten Kapiteln von Hegel's Wesenslogik, de Gruyter, 1990; Theunissen = M. Theunissen, Sein und Schein: Dir kritische Funktion der Hegelschen Logik, Suhrkamp, 2nd ed., 1994.