Wow does the Science of Logic ever hit the ground running! Talk about leaving a reader revved up! Ha.

Here’s my notes on the second preface, following on from the notes on the first. The notes aren’t systematic, just typed out as I read. I forgot how hard this stuff is to read!


Paragraph 13
“To exhibit the realm of thought philosophically, that is, in its own immanent activity or what is the same, in its necessary development”

I’m not sure of this. What does “it” refer to? Presumably “the realm of thought.” I don’t know how to read this other than as seeking some access to thought or mode of thought which in some way corresponds to some built-in qualities of thought. That’s not a charitable read for me – I’m not on board with that, because I’m not sure how one could tell the difference between thinking in tune with thought’s internal/essential properties and merely thinking one is doing so. And “necessary development”? Hmm. I’ll leave that for now.

I like this: “familiar forms of thought, must be regarded as an extremely important source, indeed as a necessary condition and as a presupposition to be gratefully acknowledged even though what it offers is only here and there a meagre shred or a disordered heap of dead bones” – it fits with the comment earlier about digestion and all that.

I’m quoting 14 in full:

“The forms of thought are, in the first instance, displayed and stored as human language. Nowadays we cannot be too often reminded that it is thinking which distinguishes man from the beasts. Into all that becomes something inward for men, an image or conception as such, into all that he makes his own, language has penetrated, and everything that he has transformed into language and expresses in it contains a category-concealed, mixed with other forms or clearly determined as such, so much is Logic his natural element, indeed his own peculiar nature. If nature as such, as the physical world, is contrasted with the spiritual sphere, then logic must certainly be said to be the supernatural element which permeates every relationship of man to nature, his sensation, intuition, desire, need, instinct, and simply by so doing transforms it into something human, even though only formally human, into ideas and purposes. It is an advantage when a language possesses an abundance of logical expressions, that is, specific and separate expressions for the thought determinations themselves; many prepositions and articles denote relationships based on thought; the Chinese language is supposed not to have developed to this stage or only to an inadequate extent.These particles, however, play quite a subordinate part having only a slightly more independent form than the prefixes and suffixes, inflections and the like. It is much more important that in a language the categories should appear in the form of substantives and verbs and thus be stamped with the form of objectivity. In this respect German has many advantages over other modern languages; some of its words even possess the further peculiarity of having not only different but opposite meanings so that one cannot fail to recognise a speculative spirit of the language in them: it can delight a thinker to come across such words and to find the union of opposites naively shown in the dictionary as one word with opposite meanings, although this result of speculative thinking is nonsensical to the understanding. Philosophy therefore stands in no need of a special terminology; true, some words have to be taken from foreign languages but these have already acquired through usage the right of citizenship in the philosophical realm-and an affected purism would be most inappropriate where it was the distinctive meaning which was of decisive importance. The advance of culture generally, and of the sciences in particular, gradually brings into use higher relationships of thought, or at least raises them to greater universality and they have thus attracted increased attention. This applies even to the empirical and natural sciences which in general employ the commonest categories, for example, whole and parts, a thing and its properties, and the like.”

There are a few elements I want to note here. First, the distinction and inter-relation between language and thought. Thought is not language. Rather, language displays and stores thought. This implies some mode or quality of thought which is not linguistic. That is, thought (here) is not reducible to language use. On the other hand, all interiority involves language. Question: are thought and interiority the same? If so, then there is not an alinguistic thought. (This seems wrong to me, in part because it renders language acquisition mysterious – it would either mean humans are always-already linguistc [such that “language acquisition” is a misnomer – that would mean that a language learner acquires _a_ language but already has _language_] or it would make language acquisition a sort of creation ex nihilo, a leap from nonlanguage [and thus nonthought] into language-and-thought.) Part of the stakes here I think has to do with categories: language use involves the use of categories. Therefore to the extent which thought is linguistic, thought is categorial. Not sure, though. I’m also not sure how to sort out Hegel’s categories of language vs languages – thought and language vs German and Chinese. Hegel’s racism and his German chauvinism strike me as illustrating what I said about re: paragraph 13 and thinking thought itself – what’s the position from (or criteria with) which to make the call about the superiority of this or that language for thought itself? Seems to me that any claim like Hegel’s is subject to a counter claim along the lines of “well, you think that about our language because you don’t speak it well enough; people who have mastered it are capable of the same feats of thought that you think can’t occur in this language – we can’t show you evidence, though, because you won’t understand those complex uses of the language.”

Second, time in this passage. Assuming (perhaps wrongly) that the terms are not an artifact of the translation into English, the passage uses temporal terms which imply something which happened, not something structural: “language has penetrated,” conceptions have been “transformed into language,” logic “transforms” things into full humanity. The terms suggest these things happen in time rather than being transhistorical aspects of humanity or thought. This also suggests to me that Hegel’s “human” is a normative category – more like “humane,” perhaps. Not a quality which all biological humans necessarily possess. I wonder – is human hear a quality which has gradations – more and less human? This is relates as well to the claim about human nature – logic as the “nature element” of the human.

Third, nature. Hegel contrasts nature as such from the spiritual sphere, identifying logic with the latter. And yet, logic is natural for the (properly?) human. Humanity, thus, has a sort of supernatural nature. A nature which is above itself? A nature which overcomes itself? (I’m reading what I know or think I know about Hegel back into this term, perhaps unjustifiably.)

Fourth, terminology. Philosophy requires no special terminology. Why not? And what does this mean? I think the point here is one about the relationship between philosophy and other speech and thought, but I’m not sure. The claim also seems odd, given that philosophy seems to involve a sort of terminological element much of the time.

Paragraphs 17 and 18 strike me as potentially self-serving. Philosophy appears in these paragraphs as the result of people being freed up from other activity – a freedom from necessity, perhaps – such that philosophy is the sign of an advance, of progress. That’s an awfully convenient thing for a philosopher to say. Of course, Hegel asserts that “interests (…) are hushed” in the type of thought he is after (is that as a thought to practice or a thought to study? thought as subject or object? anyway…), which presumably means he would reject my suspicions of interest on his part here (and in his remarks on the superiority of the German language). Again, awfully convenient – philosophy is a sign of an advanced, and is disinterested, so the claim that philosophy is advanced is just true, not an interested claim.

19: “logic is concerned only and solely with these thoughts as thoughts, in their complete abstraction,” just after Hegel quotes Aristotle that logic “is not studied for its utility,” a quote I wonder about – since Hegel doesn’t gloss the quote I assume he agrees with it. If logic is useless, then why study it? What’s the use? If none, then how is logic justified as a pursuit? (Are the justifications which don’t appeal to a sort of use or to something re-describable as use?)

In the next paragraph, 20, Hegel distinguishes contemplating logic – which honors logic/is honorable – from using logical categories – which degrades the categories/is a degraded relation to the categories. Sounds a bit ascetic to me. (The stuff on subject and object in this paragraph seems important to me, will have to come back to it, likewise with paragraph 22.) Also the contemplation bit… seems to imply that the categories are just there, found rather than made. Not sure, though, as in 23 he sounds different – though as active….

I like the stuff in 21 about abstraction as getting away from being submerged in (controlled by) perception etc. Abstraction as getting-free-from.

23 – recurrence of temporal terms. “To focus attention on this logical nature which animates mind, moves and works in it, this is the task. The broad distinction between the instinctive act and the intelligent and free act is that the latter is performed with an awareness of what is being done; when the content of the interest in which one is absorbed is drawn out of its immediate unity with oneself and becomes an independent object of one’s thinking, then it is that spirit begins to be free, whereas when thinking is an instinctive activity, spirit is enmeshed in the bonds of its categories and is broken up into an infinitely varied material.” Logical nature animates mind. Could mean that mind’s motive force is always derived from logic, yet there’s another version of logic here as something taught and acquired which means the mind pre-acquisition of logic must have some motive force already and means that the acquisition of logic (occurring in time) is an animation of the mind, a setting-into-motion. I like the stuff on freedom, names some of the stakes, though I’m not sure I understand or am compelled by the idea of freedom offered here.

I don’t know how to say this in a way that feels right, but I get the sense that Hegel has a sort of “become what you are” thing going on – the mind already acts logically, just not very well, so we become conscious of that acting in order to perfect. A sort of naturalist harmony with how things are – like becoming aware of how digestion works in order to eat and live in better harmony with the digestion process and thus to live better (more happily?) over all. (Is this what he means in 28 when he talks about the science of logic reconstructing thought determinations?)

Abstraction as getting-free is a utility; an implied disagreement with the Aristotle quote.

Para 26: “truth is the declared object of and aim of logic.” This is a move taken straight from Andrew Bowie, the guy who taught the Hegel class I had in 1999 (and which I remember being awesome and totally shaped my subsequent intellectual path) – if truth is the object and aim then Hegel must already have a notion of truth in mind. Logic doesn’t establish truth, it aims for it or acts in relation to it (logic takes truth as its object). One can only have an aim and object if one knows what that aim and object is. Otherwise how does one know when one has achieved the aim and object? (Reminds me of the Hunting of the Snark.) Doesn’t seem presuppositionless to me. I can’t really argue this, but I wonder then if Hegel is doing what he criticizes in 27, posing tautologies (truth is truth).

29: “I have been only too often and too vehemently attacked by opponents who were incapable of making the simple reflection that their opinions and objections contain categories which are presuppositions and which themselves need to be criticised first before they are employed. (…) Thoroughness seems to require that the beginning, as the foundation on which everything is built, should be examined before anything else, in fact that we should not go any further until it has been firmly established and if, on the other hand, it is not, that we should reject all that follows.” Again, time. A beginning is not a beginning until the moment after a beginning. It’s the end of this sentence that makes this a sentence. (Consider: “It’s end of this sent-“) Put simplistically and schematically, there are 3 or 4 moments here. Let’s say four. Time t1, t2, t3, t4. T1 is the beginning – some presupposed category. T2 is the formulation of some point (drawing on the presupposed category), which makes t1 a beginning. T3 is Hegel’s response, which says “no, let’s go back and analyze t1/the presupposition,” something Hegel probably only cares about because the formulation in t2 made the presupposition relevant. T4 is the instance when the consideration of t1 begins. So examining the beginning “before anything else” means “before any other next step from here.” (It seems to me. I may be wrong, though. Hegel may mean “consider the beginning before beginning.” That sounds silly to me, though, like trying to learn to swim before getting into the water.) Put differently, I think the abstraction procedure Hegel mentioned earlier – as a way of disentangling, of getting free – occurs at what I’ve here called t4, which is to say – one gets free/disentangles only a starting point – a beginning – which is not free/which is entangled.