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Fr. 474

January 2, 2014

To the foregoing requirements, Hegel proposes two solutions: pure knowing as simple immediacy and the dialectic of ground and result.

Through the first, Hegel thinks to meet conditions 1.) and 2.). As indicated above, the mediate/immediate divide remains a dilemma only so long as we consider that mediacy and immediacy exhaust the range of possibilities and mutually exclude one another. The situation is quite the contrary, for Hegel maintains, on the basis of previous work, that it is fallacious to posit an opposition between mediacy and immediacy as the two determinations are ever to be found joined in individual instantiations. With this in mind, he posits the need for a modified beginning, labeled “simple immediacy” (21.55). It remains to be seen how Hegel arrives at this state.

A beginning attains logical status if it is “made in the element of a free, self-contained thought, in pure knowledge” (21.54). In that this pure knowing is the end result of a process starting from consciousness, this knowing is mediated in nature, for consciousness must posit a relation between knowing subject and known object. Yet, as per Hegel’s fallacy, pure knowing cannot be merely mediated and must therefore attain to immediacy as well. With this in mind, Hegel recalls the process, outlined in the Phenomenology, whereby:

“the idea [pure knowledge] has the determination of a certainty that has become truth; it is a certainty, which, on the one hand, no longer stands over and against a subject matter confronting it externally but has interiorized it, is knowingly aware that the subject matter is itself; and, on the other hand, has relinquished any knowledge of itself that would oppose it to objectivity and would reduce the latter to a nothing; it has externalized this subjectivity and is at one with its externalization” (21.55).

More concretely, consciousness surpasses the subject-object divide by analyzing inadequate epistemic claims built on this divide, synthesizing the terms of one claim into another more conceptually adequate, and repeating the process until such a time as subject and object are sublated and their respective contents coincident with one another1. Insofar as their contents coincide, there is no longer need for middle terms or demonstration to pass from one to another, as these are simply identical. This captures precisely the subject-substance identity at work throughout Hegel’s oeuvre: to know cognition is to know being and vice versa2. In this way, Hegel also resolves the challenged posed by 2.).

To return to 1.), the fact of this coincidence precludes the making of distinctions in that there remain no contents between which to establish a relation. In virtue of this distinctionlessness, this pure or, perhaps better, purified knowledge ceases to be knowledge as such, given that this term implies by its very form a distinction between knower and known. Instead, pure knowledge transitions naturally into “simple immediacy”. For, if “simple immediacy” implies a distinction (belonging to reflection) “from what is mediated”, Hegel’s logical beginning must not start from pure knowledge but rather from its correlate in “pure being” or being as such, “without further determination” (21.55-56). Certainly, pure knowledge as the result of the science of spirit in its appearance represents a precondition to Hegel’s logical beginning insofar as its process secures the perspective from which simple immediacy or pure being prove comprehensible. But “pure being” is the proper element for the beginning to a science of logic. That said, it is essential to retain here the way in which the logical beginning both stems from the sublation of mediated epistemic claims in consciousness, being thus subject to precise demonstration, and attains to the immediate as the inevitable result of this same process. Immediacy and the highest mediacy coincide in absolute knowing and its correlate, absolute being.

From the above, we can see that pure knowing as simple immediacy permits Hegel to meet, in part, the “demonstration” and “contingency” requirements as per his answers to 1.) and 2.) respectively. Yet this first solution leaves unanswered whether pure knowing, as a precondition to logical beginning, is therefore pretheoretical and established outside of science, the condition captured in 3.). To this end, Hegel elaborates the second of his solutions: the dialectic of ground and result.


1 See W. Dudley, Understanding German Idealism, Acumen Publishing, Durham, 2007, pp. 140-158.

2 For more on this identity and its application, see D. Heidemann, “Substance, subject, system: the justification of science in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit” in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. A Critical Guide (ed. D. Moyar and M. Quante), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008,pp. 1-20.

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