Before anything else we must remember that we are trying to simply “think” the concept. We’re not reflecting on conceptual entity, we are not analyzing the usage of concepts, we are not thinking about concepts, but the concept of being is our real and immediate object. Only by focusing on nothing else but the concept in this manner, by concentrating our thinking on the pure contents of the concept, can we become witnesses to the inner development that produces with necessity other concepts. We must become onlookers at the movement of the concept itself.
This is what we must start with: the (concept of) being as the indeterminate immediate. It has no determinacy whatsoever. It is not connected to or even distinct from Essence. It does not receive any determinacy from the acts of thinking itself – it is being without any reflectivity. (Reflexionslos)
What else can we say about it? It is indeterminate, so it has no quality, nothing can be predicated of it. What does it mean to say that it has no determinacy? On the one hand this means that being is the opposite of whatever does have determinacy. It can only be indeterminate, with regard to something that is determinate. But on the other hand this means that the indeterminacy of being is in fact it’s determinacy. So we should not say that it is indeterminate as a result of the negation of the determinacy. Because that would imply that is not immediate, after all then it is immediately the result of a negation. We must emphasize that the determinacy of being is it’s being indeterminate. So to that degree it does have a determinacy. This first concept of being is in itself determinate and because of this inner contradiction the concept of being has to transcend itself and become “determinate being” (Dasein, being-somehow).
So how should this concept be expressed? The logic proper begins with this single statement: “Being, pure Being – without any further determination.” That is all that can truly be said in a positive manner. Notice that it does not say that being is pure. It is not a complete proposition. Is merely the evocation of a thought. Only in that form can something that is both indeterminate and immediate be expressed.
Being is the concept in itself and only in itself. The conceptual movement that begins with being is still implicit and contained in its immediacy. Potentially being can give rise to this conceptual movement, i.e. the process in which other concepts are derived from it. But in the concept of being this development, this process in which the concept is differentiated from itself, is still not revealed. Everything remains contained in this static identity, in this pure and primitive concept of being that is just being, this coincidence of being with itself.
Because being is defined as a concept that is only in itself, we need to understand that it contains an anticipation of a relationship with Essence. Ultimately it will be shown that it is Essence that in its conceptual development produces precisely this concept of being in itself. What is demonstrated in the second part of the logic to be the result of a movement within Essence, is atthe beginning taken independently and posited as this pure and immediate concept. But we may not make use of these anticapatory remarks.
We are not only dealing with the concept of being, but also with a whole section of the logic in which the various concepts all share in this character of immediacy that is defining the idea of being as such. All of these concepts within the section on being share the form of immediacy. That is why we can say that being is only the section of the concept in itself. Within this section being will develop from within itself and from within its immediate form, the concept with its determinations, those that belong to immediacy, like pure being, nothing, becoming etc. and these again will be organized in three basic circles: quality, quantity and measure.
All of these determinations of being, all of these categories that belong to the section of being (Sein, being as expressive of the infinitive “to be”), are “beings” (Seiende, as expressive of the participle). They are immediate determinations of the immediate form of the concept. That is why these determinations are not shown as predicates (being nothing, being becoming, being something), but they are posited with their own immediacy: nothing, becoming, being-something (here the english runs into problems, since it is hard to translate Dasein = being-there, being-something, being-somehow).
What does it mean to talk about pure being?
The adjective “pure” implies an absolute separation or abstraction from all other concepts. Pure being is therefore being that is nothing but being and nothing other than being. It is expressive of abstraction of all possible further determinations. This pure being constitutes the beginning of science in general, but even more specifically of the sciednce of logic. How is that possible? Because pure being is also pure thought.
Let’s consider this for a moment. The concept of pure being is also the pure concept. It is not only being in itself, it’s also the concept in itself, the concept in its immediacy and indeterminacy. It is empty or pure thinking. And certainly there is nothing that can be seen or perceived within this concept: “it is empty and pure perception itself.”
So let’s summarize: being equals pure being, pure being equals pure concept, pure concept equals the pure and indeterminate act of thinking, it equals pure abstraction of all mediation and all the termination. Now what if we express all of these these qualifications as a movement within the concept itself? Then we need to say that the concept of being negates mediation, negates determination, it is only this pure, immediate, indeterminate concept, because it produces itself as such. And this movement, that is the movement by which the concept of being is actually producing itself, can be expressed in language as “negation”, or rather, because we are still dealing with the immediate, as “nothing”.
Now pure being isn’t nothing in an absolute sense, it is a concept, but as concept it is “the negating”, abstraction, nothing. This logical idea, this nothing, is the most immediate expression of the actual movement of thought – remember that all determinations, including the determination of indeterminacy, require negation, separation of one content from another. The attempt to express the whole of thought and reality at the same time, by using the most immediate and indeterminate concept that we can possibly think of, turns out to contain the act of abstraction, separation of negation itself.
(To be continued)
Brief explanation of Hegel’s Encyclopedia par. 488 – 492, dealing with property.
It is meant as the summary for the more detailed discussion of property that we are producing in our commentary on the Phil. of Right.
What would happen if we take a difficult, yet understandable quote from Hegel’s work and run it through Google Translate a couple of times? Going from Dutch to Amharic, through Finnish and Mongolian right up to Croatian and English? The artificial Intelligence of the Google Translate program of course lost track of the meaning of the text. And – just for fun, though I suspect there is a lot more interesting to say about this from a linguistic perspective – here are some of the results.
I started with this older Dutch translation of a text by Hegel – originally in German:
Which I then translated into English:
This is pretty close to the original meaning, and so we must applaud Google translate for this high level of accuracy. It only missed the meaning of the text when it came up with “do so”, because this is in the original “do like this”, or “act in this manner”. “So” is close to “Zo” but insufficient. With a little help this could be quite a good translation. But what would happen if we translate into languages that have no relationship with each other at all? I started with the modern Greek rendering:
And then moved through several languages that I could not understand at all, like Finnish, Amharic, Mongolian etc. until I reached Croatian:
And finally English – the Croatian is based on the same Bulgaric version…
Now we see what Google translate ultimately wants to do: to make us dependent without a country. But that can wait till after the middle. In the mean time we can enjoy the fine poetry of Hegel Babelised!