Absolute truth is a result

by Hegel Icon

Absolute truth is a result.

Conversely, a result presupposes a prior truth which, however, because it is a first, objectively considered is unnecessary and from the subjective side is not known.

This insight has recently given rise to the thought that philosophy can only begin with a hypothetical and problematical truth and therefore philosophising can at first be only a quest.

This view was much stressed by Reinhold in his later philosophical work and one must give it credit for the genuine interest on which it is based, an interest which concerns the speculative nature of the philosophical beginning.

The detailed discussion of this view is at the same time an occasion for introducing a preliminary understanding of the meaning of progress in logic generally; for that view has a direct bearing on the advance.

This it conceives to be such that progress in philosophy is rather a retrogression and a grounding or establishing by means of which we first obtain the result that what we began with is not something merely arbitrarily assumed but is in fact the truth, and also the primary truth.


The advance is a retreat into the ground, to what is primary and true, on which depends and, in fact, from which originates, that with which the beginning is made.

Thus consciousness on its onward path from the immediacy with which it began is led back to absolute knowledge as its innermost truth. This last, the ground, is then also that from which the first proceeds, that which at first appeared as an immediacy.

This is true in still greater measure of absolute spirit which reveals itself as the concrete and final supreme truth of all being, and which at the end of the development is known as freely externalising itself, abandoning itself to the shape of an immediate being —opening or unfolding itself [sich entschliessend] into the creation of a world which contains all that fell into the development which preceded that result and which through this reversal of its position relatively to its beginning is transformed into something dependent on the result as principle.

The essential requirement for the science of logic is not so much that the beginning be a pure immediacy, but rather that the whole of the science be within itself a circle in which the first is also the last and the last is also the first.


We see therefore that, on the other hand, it is equally necessary to consider as result that into which the movement returns as into its ground. In this respect the first is equally the ground, and the last a derivative; since the movement starts from the first and by correct inferences arrives at the last as the ground, this latter is a result.

Further, the progress from that which forms the beginning is to be regarded as only a further determination of it, hence that which forms the starting point of the development remains at the base of all that follows and does not vanish from it. The progress does not consist merely in the derivation of an other, or in the effected transition into a genuine other; and in so far as this transition does occur it is equally sublated again. Thus the beginning of philosophy is the foundation which is present and preserved throughout the entire subsequent development, remaining completely immanent in its further determinations.


Through this progress, then, the beginning loses the one-sidedness which attaches to it as something simply immediate and abstract; it becomes something mediated, and hence the line of the scientific advance becomes a circle. It also follows that because that which forms the beginning is still undeveloped, devoid of content, it is not truly known in the beginning; it is the science of logic in its whole compass which first constitutes the completed knowledge of it with its developed content and first truly grounds that knowledge.


But because it is the result which appears as the absolute ground, this progress in knowing is not something provisional, or problematical and hypothetical; it must be determined by the nature of the subject matter itself and its content.®

§ 106

The said beginning is neither an arbitrary and merely provisional assumption, nor is it something which appears to be arbitrarily and tentatively presupposed, but which is subsequently shown to have been properly made the beginning; not as is the case with the constructions one is directed to make in connection with the proof of a theorem in geometry, where it becomes apparent only afterwards in the proof that one took the right course in drawing just those lines and then, in the proof itself, in beginning with the comparison of those lines or angles; drawing such lines and comparing them are not an essential part of the proof itself.

§ 107

Thus the ground, the reason, why the beginning is made with pure being in the pure science [of logic] is directly given in the science itself. This pure being is the unity into which pure knowing withdraws, or, if this itself is still to be distinguished as form from its unity, then being is also the content of pure knowing. It is when taken in this way that this pure being, this absolute immediacy has equally the character of something absolutely mediated. But it is equally essential that it be taken only in the one-sided character in which it is pure immediacy, precisely because here it is the beginning. If it were not this pure indeterminateness, if it were determinate, it would have been taken as something mediated, something already carried a stage further: what is determinate implies an other to a first. Therefore, it lies in the very nature of a beginning that it must be being and nothing else. To enter into philosophy, therefore, calls for no other preparations, no further reflections or points of connection.

§ 108

We cannot really extract any further determination or positive content for the beginning from the fact that it is the beginning of philosophy. For here at the start, where the subject matter itself is not yet to hand, philosophy is an empty word or some assumed, unjustified conception. Pure knowing yields only this negative determination, that the beginning is to be abstract. If pure being is taken as the content of pure knowing, then the latter must stand back from its content, allowing it to have free play and not determining it further. Or again, if pure being is to be considered as the unity into which knowing has collapsed at the extreme point of its union with the object, then knowing itself has vanished in that unity, leaving behind no difference from the unity and hence nothing by which the latter could be determined. Nor is there anything else present, any content which could be used to make the beginning more determinate.

§ 109

But the determination of being so far adopted for the beginning could also be omitted, so that the only demand would be that a pure beginning be made. In that case, we have nothing but the beginning itself, and it remains to be seen what this is. This position could also be suggested for the benefit of those who, on the one hand, are dissatisfied for one reason or another with the beginning with being and still more so with the resulting transition of being into nothing, and, on the other hand, simply know no other way of beginning a science than by presupposing some general idea, which is then analysed, the result of such analysis yielding the first specific concept in the science. If we too were to observe this method, then we should be without a particular object, because the beginning, as the beginning of thought, is supposed to be quite abstract, quite general, wholly form without any content; thus we should have nothing at all beyond the general idea of a mere beginning as such. We have therefore only to see what is contained in such an idea.

§ 110

As yet there is nothing and there is to become something the beginning is not pure nothing, but a nothing from which something is to proceed; therefore being, too, is already contained in the beginning. The beginning therefore contains both, being and nothing, is the unity of being and nothing; or is non-being which is at the same time being, and being which is at the same time non-being. ®

§ 111

Further, in the beginning, being and nothing are present as distinguished from each other; for the beginning points to something else — it is a non-being which carries a reference to being as to an other; that which begins, as yet is not, it is only on the way to being.

That which begins, as yet is not, it is only on the way to being. The being contained in the beginning is, therefore, a being which removed itself from non-being or sublates it as something opposed to it. ®

But again, that which begins already is, but equally, too, is not as yet. The opposites, being and non-being are therefore directly united in it, or, otherwise expressed, it is their undifferentiated unity.

§ 112

The analysis of the beginning would thus yield the notion of the unity of being and nothing — or, in a more reflected form, the unity of differentiatedness and non-differentiatedness, or the identity of identity and non-identity. This concept could be regarded as the first, purest, that is, most abstract definition of the absolute — as it would in fact be if we were at all concerned with the form of definitions and with the name of the absolute. In this sense, that abstract concept would be the first definition of this absolute and all further determinations and developments only more specific and richer definitions of it. But let those who are dissatisfied with being as a beginning because it passes over into nothing and so gives rise to the unity of being and nothing, let them see whether they find this beginning which begins with the general idea of a beginning and with its analysis (which, though of course correct, likewise leads to the unity of being and nothing), more satisfactory than the beginning with being.

§ 113

But there is a still further observation to be made about this procedure. The said analysis presupposes as familiar the idea of a beginning, thus following the example of other sciences. These presuppose their subject-matter and take it for granted that everyone has roughly the same general idea of it and can find in it the same determinations as those indicated by the sciences which have obtained them in one way or another through analysis, comparison and other kinds of reasoning. But that which forms the absolute beginning must likewise be something otherwise known; now if it is something concrete and hence is variously determined within itself, then this internal relation is presupposed as something known; it is thus put forward as an immediacy which, however, it is not; for it is a relation only as a relation of distinct moments, and it therefore contains mediation within itself. Further, with a concrete object, the analysis and the ways in which it is determined are affected by contingency and arbitrariness. Which determinations are brought out depends on what each person just finds in his own immediate, contingent idea. The relation contained in something concrete, in a synthetic unity, is necessary only in so far as it is not just given but is produced by the spontaneous return of the moments back into this unity — a movement which is the opposite of the analytical procedure, which is an activity belonging to the subject-thinker and external to the subject matter itself.

§ 114

The foregoing shows quite clearly the reason why the beginning cannot be made with anything concrete, anything containing a relation within itself. For such presupposes an internal process of mediation and transition of which the concrete, now become simple, would be the result. But the beginning ought not itself to be already a first and an other; for anything which is in its own self a first and an other implies that an advance has already been made. Consequently, that which constitutes the beginning, the beginning itself, is to be taken as something unanalysable, taken in its simple, unfilled immediacy, and therefore as being, as the completely empty being.

§ 115

If impatience with the consideration of the abstract beginning should provoke anyone to say that the beginning should be made not with the beginning, but straightway with the subject matter itself, well then, this subject matter is nothing else but the said empty being; for what this subject matter is, that will be explicated only in the development of the science and cannot be presupposed by it as known beforehand.

§ 116

Whatever other form the beginning takes in the attempt to begin with something other than empty being, it will suffer from the defects already specified. Let those who are still dissatisfied with this beginning tackle the problem of avoiding these defects by beginning in some other way.

§ 117

But we cannot leave entirely unmentioned an original beginning of philosophy which has recently become famous, the beginning with the ego. It came partly from the reflection that from the first truth the entire sequel must be derived, and partly from the requirement that the first truth must be something with which we are acquainted, and still more, something of which we are immediately certain. This beginning is, in general, not a contingent idea which can be differently constituted in different subjects. For the ego, this immediate consciousness of self, at first appears to be itself both an immediacy and also something much more familiar to us than any other idea; anything else known belongs to the ego, it is true, but is still a content distinguished from it and therefore contingent; the ego, on the contrary, is the simple certainty of its own self.

§ 118

But the ego as such is at the same time also concrete, or rather, the ego is the most concrete of all things — the consciousness of itself as an infinitely manifold world. Before the ego, this concrete Being, can be made the beginning and ground of philosophy, it must be disrupted — this is the absolute act through which the ego purges itself of its content and becomes aware of itself as an abstract ego. Only this pure ego now is not immediate, is not the familiar, ordinary ego of our consciousness to which the science of logic could be directly linked for everyone. That act, strictly speaking, would be nothing else but the elevation to the standpoint of pure knowing where the distinction of subject and object has vanished. But as thus immediately demanded, this elevation is a subjective postulate; to prove itself a genuine demand, the progression of the concrete ego from immediate consciousness to pure knowing must have been indicated and exhibited through the necessity of the ego itself. Without this objective movement pure knowing, even in the shape of intellectual intuition, appears as an arbitrary standpoint, or even as one of the empirical states of consciousness with respect to which everything turns on whether or not it is found or can be produced in each and every individual. But inasmuch as this pure ego must be essential, pure knowing, and pure knowing is not immediately present in the individual consciousness but only as posited through the absolute act of the ego in raising itself to that stand-point, we lose the very advantage which is supposed to come from this beginning of philosophy namely that it is something thoroughly familiar, something everyone finds in himself which can form the starting point for further reflection; that pure ego, on the contrary, in its abstract, essential nature, is something unknown to the ordinary consciousness, something it does not find therein. Instead, such a beginning brings with it the disadvantage of the illusion that whereas the thing under discussion is supposed to be something familiar, the ego of empirical self-consciousness, it is in fact something far removed from it. When pure knowing is characterised as ego, it acts as a perpetual reminder of the subjective ego whose limitations should be forgotten, and it fosters the idea that the propositions and relations resulting from the further development of the ego are present and can already be found in the ordinary consciousness — for in fact it is this of which they are asserted. This confusion, far from clarifying the problem of a beginning, only adds to the difficulties involved and tends completely to mislead; among the uninitiated it has given rise to the crudest misunderstandings.

§ 119

Further, as regards the subjective determinateness of the ego in general, it is true that pure knowing frees the ego from the restricted meaning imposed on it by the insuperable opposition of its object; but for this reason it would be superfluous at least to retain this subjective attitude and the determination of pure knowing as ego. This determination, however, not only introduces the disturbing ambiguity mentioned, but closely examined it also remains a subjective ego. The actual development of the science which starts from the ego shows that in that development the object has and retains the perennial character of an other for the ego, and that the ego which formed the starting point is, therefore, still entangled in the world of appearance ® and is not the pure knowing which has in truth overcome the opposition of consciousness.

§ 120

In this connection a further essential observation must be made, namely that although the ego could in itself or in principle [an sich] be characterised as pure knowing or as intellectual intuition and asserted as the beginning, we are not concerned in the science of logic with what is present only in principle or as something inner, but rather with the determinate reality in thought of what is inner and with the determinateness possessed by such an inner in this reality. But what, at the beginning of the science, is actually present of intellectual intuition – or of the eternal, the divine, the absolute, if its object be so named – cannot be anything else than a first, immediate, simple determination.

Whatever richer name be given to it than is expressed by mere being, the consideration of such absolute must be restricted solely to the way in which it enters into our knowing as thought and is enunciated as such. True, intellectual intuition is the forcible rejection of mediation and the ratiocinative, external reflection; but what it enunciates above and beyond simple immediacy is something concrete, something which contains within itself diverse determinations. However, as we have remarked, the enunciation and exposition of such concrete beginning is a process of mediation which starts from one of the determinations and advances to the other, even though the latter returns to the first; it is a movement which at the same time may not be arbitrary or assertoric. Consequently, it is not the concrete something itself with which that exposition begins but only the simple immediacy from which the movement starts. And further, if something concrete is taken as the beginning, the conjunction of the determinations contained in it demand proof, and this is lacking.

§ 121

If, therefore, in the expression of the absolute, or eternal, or God (and God has the absolutely undisputed right that the beginning be made with him) — if in the intuition or thought of these there is implied more than pure being — then this more must make its appearance in our knowing only as something thought, not as something imagined or figurately conceived; let what is present in intuition or figurate conception be as rich as it may, the determination which first emerges in knowing is simple, for only in what is simple is there nothing more than the pure beginning; only the immediate is simple, for only in the immediate has no advance yet been made from a one to an other. Consequently, whatever is intended to be expressed or implied beyond being, in the richer forms of representing the absolute or God, this is in the beginning only an empty word and only being; this simple determination which has no other meaning of any kind, this emptiness, is therefore simply as such the beginning of philosophy.

§ 122

This insight is itself so simple that this beginning as such requires no preparation or further introduction; and, indeed, these preliminary, external reflections about it were not so much intended to lead up to it as rather to eliminate all preliminaries.

General Division of Being


Being is determined:

  1. As against another in general
  2. As immanently self-determining
  3. Setting aside the preliminary character of this division, it is the abstract indeterminateness and immediacy in which it must be the beginning.

According to the first determination, being is classified as distinct from essence, for later in its development it proves to be in its totality only one sphere of the Notion and to this sphere as moment, it opposes another sphere.


According to the second determination, it is the sphere within which fall the determinations and the entire movement of its reflection. Here, being will posit itself in three determinations:

  1. Quality – as determinateness as such
  2. Quantity, Magnitude – as sublated determinateness
  3. Measure – as qualitatively determined quantity

At this stage, this division is, as was remarked of these divisions generally in the Introduction, a preliminary statement; its determinations have first to arise from the movement of being itself and in so doing define and justify themselves.

As regards the divergence of this classification from the usual presentation of the categories, namely, as quantity, quality, relation and modality — these moreover with Kant are supposed to be only titles for his categories though they are, in fact, themselves categories, only more general ones — this calls for no special comment here, as the entire exposition will show a complete divergence from the usual arrangement and significance of the categories.


This only perhaps can be remarked, that hitherto the determination of quantity has been made to precede quality and this as is mostly the case — for no given reason.

The beginning is made with being as such, therefore, with qualitative being. It is easily seen from a comparison of quality with quantity that the former by its nature is first. For quantity is quality which has already become negative;

Magnitude is the determinateness which is no longer one with being but is already differentiated from it, sublated quality which has become indifferent.

It includes the alterableness of being, although the category itself, namely Being, of which it is the determination, is not altered by it. The qualitative determinateness, on the other hand, is one with its being: it neither goes beyond it nor is internal to it, but is its immediate limitedness. Quality therefore, as the immediate determinateness, is primary and it is with it that the beginning must be made.


Measure is a relation, but not relation in general, for it is the specific relation between quality and quantity; the categories which Kant includes under relation will come up for consideration in quite another place.

Measure can also, if one wishes, be regarded as a modality; but since with Kant modality is supposed no longer to constitute a determination of the content, but to concern only the relation of the content to thought, to the subjective element, it is a quite heterogeneous relation and is not pertinent here.


The third determination of being falls within the section Quality, for as abstract immediacy it reduces itself to a single determinateness in relation to its other determinatenesses within its sphere.

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