28 Dec 2008

Hegel's Critique of Spinoza in Science of Logic §§1179-1183, summarized

by Corry Shores
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(interpretations not informed by a complete read of the text)

Volume One: The Objective Logic

Book Two: The Doctrine of Essence

Section Three: Actuality

Chapter 1 The Absolute

C The Mode of the Absolute

Remark: The Philosophy of Spinoza and Leibniz:

§ 1179

Hegel's Notion of the Absolute corresponds to Spinoza's notion of Substance. But,

Spinozism is a defective philosophy because in it reflection and its manifold determining is an external thinking.

Because there is but one substance, all determinateness is "contained and dissolved in this absolute." What we would normally consider to be distinct conceptions are for Spinoza self-subsistent positings.

Determinateness is negation-is the absolute principle of Spinoza's philosophy; this true and simple insight establishes the absolute unity of substance.

But negation is not determinateness or quality for Spinoza, and because his cognition does not negate, it does not ascend to the absolute. Spinoza's Thought is unified with Extension, and hence is neither a "determinative and formative activity" nor a "movement which returns into and begins from itself."

Two consequences follow:

1) substance lacks the principle of personality, and
2) cognition is external to reflection, and it does not derive the finite determinateness of attributes and modes from the absolute, but rather the other way around; it begins from given determinations and traces them back to the absolute. [see the end of the Macherey's Hegel ou Spinoza, "Le fini et l'infini," entry for Macherey's claim that Hegel has this backwards.]

§ 1180

Hegel also criticizes Spinoza for beginning by establishing his definition of the substance (the absolute) as self-caused and necessarily existing essentially, because Hegel claims that the absolute must be a result of the scientific process, and not a pregiven supposition.

§ 1181

Hegel then notes the strange fact that Spinoza's attributes are dependent on certain modes, namely, our intellects. For, an attribute is an essential nature of substance determined by the way the intellect conceives it. But the intellect is a mode, which is supposedly posterior to the attribute; hence what determines substance is exterior and "over against" substance, despite its supposed unity.

§ 1182

There are an infinite plurality of attributes. But only two appear to us, Thought and Extension, and it is not clear why the infinite has been reduced so drastically. So without some deduction, we adopt these two attributes empirically. Thought and Extension determine the unified substance in unessential forms (modes), whose orders parallel each other across each attribute.

the one absolute is contemplated only by external reflection, by a mode, under these two determinations, once as a totality of conceptions, and again as a totality of things and their mutations. Just as it is this external reflection which makes that distinction, so too does it lead the difference back into absolute identity and therein submerges it.

But this movement that unifies the attributes into one substance proceeds outside the absolute. Although, because this movement proceeds through thought, and because Thought is in the absolute, in a sense the unifying movement occurs inside the absolute. Nonetheless, this unity is between Thought and the Absolute, and not yet between Thought and Extension with the Absolute.

Spinoza also "makes the sublime demand of thought that it consider everything under the form of eternity, sub specie aeterni, that is, as it is in the absolute." But when we think how the attributes unify, they vanish, as do the modes. So when we think the absolute, attributes and modes are vanishing rather than becoming. And because we consider them as vanishing, we must again regard attributes exteriorly rather than from an interior preunified perspective.

§ 1183

Modes are determinate affections of substance. On the one hand, attributes exress substance's totality and must be understood from themselves alone, so we might then think that they alone determine substance. But on the other hand, attributes are expressing something that is determinate, namely, substance, and so they cannot be understood from themselves alone. For, determination involves negation and exteriority. Thus attributes alone only indeterminately determine substance, because they largely must be understood in themselves and hence non-determinately. Thus the attribute's determination is first posited modally.

But Spinoza's modes do not lead to a return to the absolute, because they do not reflect upon themselves in a self-negating way, and thus the movement from substance to attribute to mode does not return to the first identity.

Hegel. Science of Logic. Transl. A.V. Miller. George Allen & Unwin, 1969.
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