The Thing and its Logical Analysis

Just a few scattered remarks about the nature of the Thing from a logical point of view.

The thing in speculative philosophy is more than the analysis can give us that is contained in the phenomenology. The thing of perception can also be examined logically, as the concept of things that is active whenever some thing has become our object.  This is a very important difference.  The realist assumption that only things can become objects, and that logic is just an expression of the relationship between the intellect and such objects, is false.  Hegel’s philosophy shows that it is the concept of the thing that actually becomes my object, which then in a realist assumption is identified with reality as such. In his phenomenology Hegel shows the inner contradictions that occur when consciousness takes its objects as a thing, i.e. as a real absolute that has no logical structure in itself but is just a composition of sense data, i.e. a compound of sensuous qualities. Consciousness will find that it has to resort to different sorts of logical structures in order to evade the contradiction. It either starts with the many and contradicts itself with the necessary addition of oneness, or it starts with oneness and then has to move beyond it to the manifold of properties.

Now in the logical analysis of the thing as a concept, these inner contradictions that lead to the dissolution of perceptive consciousness, are developed and presented as something that is essential to the thing itself.  For perceptive consciousness contradiction cannot be a part of the definition of the thing.  In the logical analysis however these contradictions emerge as vital to the constitution of the thing.

The contradiction that constitutes a thing results from the very basic premise that everything has properties.  Now these properties in the first place can be understood as the determinate relations of the thing to something other, some other thing or quality.  In that sense the property of a thing is a negative reflection, because the property is inherent in the thing and thereby excludes that other, and at the same time it is reflected, i.e. it receives its determinacy from that other at the same time.

In the second place the thing in its relation to something other, remains what it is in itself, it has a being in itself.  In a very general sense the properties of a thing determine that thing to be the cause of its properties, being a cause means just basically, that it has the power to maintain this determinacy, to preserve the properties as such.

In the full development of this concept, Hegel applies the notion of existence.  The thing in itself exists, and it exists essentially.  It exists by withdrawing from its properties into itself.  However, precisely because it has existence, the qualities that are its properties, this external immediacy, are themselves the expression of this being in itself of the thing.

Hegel’s use of the category of existence is important to note here. There is no doubt that Hegel’s speculative idealism acknowledges the ‘existence of things in reality’, if we can use this expression loosely to convey a realist ‘attitude.’   But this existence is not simply a given, or an absolute reality, but at the same time a way of understanding of that reality that cannot be considered separately.  As soon as we talk about reality, as soon as we talk about the things that exist in reality, a logical structure is used.  A secondary division between a reality per se and ‘reality’ as a logical structure, is a logical fallacy. Tje separation between the two introduces a new category and new problems as well.

At the end of the chapter on perception, Hegel showed that the inner contradictions of the thing of perception lead necessarily to the concept of a manyfold of things.  Only the relationship between two things can solve the contradiction that arose earlier, because the one thing can be considered in its being in itself, and the other as its being for others.  The contradiction within the concept of the thing can now be resolved by the attribution of each of the conflicting characteristics to separate things.  A thing that has properties implies necessarily the existence of several things.  Hegel can now determine more accurately the relationship between the various and different things.  Because of their properties they have an essential reciprocal effect on each other.  Actually the thing is essentially what is expressed in its properties, and these properties exist in a reciprocal relationship.

When we talk about things and their properties, we must come to the conclusion that the properties themselves are vital.  Even though they are posited as determining something other than themselves, i.e. the thing as such, they and they alone express the determinate nature, they are the determinate thing.  Because they are universal in themselves they must at the same time belong to many things and they continue beyond the confines of the thing into other things.  The properties of a thing constitute an infinite world of things.  The connection between properties that define a single thing as a collection  – or medium – of qualities, is therefore no absolute at all.  A single determinate thing is ‘this’  thing in its exclusive oneness and at the same time just a collection or quantitative limit to gather in the free properties.  That defines the thing as changeable.  Things come and go, they change in form or color or size.  Because they themselves change, they must be one, but because they change, they must be the effect of their properties.

The properties turn out to be the free moving and independent qualities that cause these changes.  We have now reached the opposite conclusion.  It is the properties or the free matters as Hegel calls them, that are the true cause of the thing.

From this we can define the thing as the totality of the determinations of the thing as cause or existence, and the properties as the defining and determining instance, or do ground.  Or we can say in more abstract language, that a thing is the immediate unity of the reflection in itself and the reflection in others.  Never should we consider the thing just to be a collection of its properties and never should we apply the assumption that anything exists as something independent.  Every thing is more like the interplay of these various logical moments, and never something like a simple substance.

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