Section 1

Essence as Reflection Within Itself

by Hegel Icon

§ 817

Essence issues from being. Hence it is not immediately in and for itself but is a result of that movement.

Or if essence is taken at first as an immediacy, then it is a specific determinate being confronted by another such; it is only essential, as opposed to unessential, determinate being. But essence is being that has been sublated in and for itself; what confronts it is only illusory being [Schein]. The illusory being, however, is essence’s own positing.

Essence is first reflection. Reflection determines itself and its determinations are a positedness which is at the same time reflection-into-self.

Secondly, we have to consider these determinations of reflection or essentialities.

Thirdly, essence as the reflection-into-self of its determining converts itself into ground and passes over into Existence and Appearance.

Chapter 1 Illusory Being § 818

Essence that issues from being seems to confront it as an opposite; this immediate being is, in the first instance, the unessential.

But secondly, it is more than merely unessential being, it is essenceless being, it is illusory being.

Thirdly, this illusory being is not something external to or other than essence; on the contrary, it is essence’s own illusory being. The showing of this illusory being within essence itself is reflection.


Essence is sublated being. It is simple equality with itself, but only in so far as it is the negation of the sphere of being in general.

Essence thus has immediacy confronting it as an immediacy from which it has become and which in this sublating has preserved and maintained itself. In this determination, essence itself is simply affirmative [seiendes], immediate essence, and being is only a negative in relation to essence, not in and for itself; therefore essence is a determinate negation. In this way, being and essence are again related to each other as others; for each has a being, an immediacy, and these are indifferent to each other, and with respect to this being, being and essence are equal in value.

§ 820

But at the same time, being, as contrasted with essence, is the unessential; in relation to essence, it has the determination of sublated being. Yet in so far as it is only related to essence simply as an other, essence is not strictly essence but only a differently determined being, the essential.

§ 821

The distinction of essential and unessential has caused essence to relapse into the sphere of determinate being, since essence in its initial phase is determined as immediate, simply affirmative [seiendes] essence and hence only as other over against being. The sphere of determinate being is thereby made the base, and the fact that the being in this determinate being is being-in-and-for-itself, is a further determination external to determinate being itself; and conversely, while essence is indeed being-in-and-for-itself, it is so only in relation to an other, in a specific reference. Accordingly, in so far as the distinction is made of an essential and an unessential side in something [Dasein], this distinction is externally posited, a separation of one part of it from another that does not affect the something itself, a division which has its origin in a third. Such a division does not settle what is essential and what is unessential. It originates in some external standpoint and consideration and the same content can therefore be regarded now as essential and again as unessential.

§ 822

Closer consideration shows that when essence is characterised as essential only relatively to what is unessential, it is because it is taken only as sublated being or determinate being. In this way, essence is only the first negation, or the negation which is a determinateness through which being becomes only determinate being, or the latter becomes only an other. But essence is the absolute negativity of being; it is being itself, but not determined only as an other, but being that has sublated itself both as immediate being and also as immediate negation, as negation that is infected with otherness. Thus being, or determinate being, has not preserved itself as an other — for we are in the sphere of essence — and the immediate that is still distinguished from essence is not merely an unessential determinate being but the immediate that is in and for itself a nullity; it is only a non-essence, illusory being.


  1. Being is illusory being. The being of illusory being consists solely in the sublatedness of being, in its nothingness; this nothingness it has in essence and apart from its nothingness, apart from essence, illusory being is not. It is the negative posited as negative.

§ 824

Illusory being is all that still remains from the sphere of being. But it seems still to have an immediate side that is independent of essence and to be simply an other of essence. The other contains in general the two moments of determinate being and negated determinate being. Since the unessential no longer has a being, all that remains to it of otherness is the pure moment of negated determinate being; illusory being is this immediate, negated determinate being in the determinateness of being, in such wise that it has determinate being only in relation to an other, only in its negated determinate being; the non-self-subsistent which is only in its negation. All that is left to it, therefore, is the pure determinateness of immediacy; it is reflected immediacy, that is, immediacy which is only by means of its negation and which, when contrasted with its mediation, is nothing but the empty determination of the immediacy of negated determinate being.

§ 825

Thus illusory being is the phenomenon of scepticism, and the Appearance of idealism, too, is such an immediacy which is not a something or a thing, in general, not an indifferent being that would still be, apart from its determinateness and connection with the subject. Scepticism did not permit itself to say ‘It is’; modern idealism did not permit itself to regard knowledge as a knowing of the thing-in-itself; the illusory being of scepticism was supposed to lack any foundation of being, and in idealism the thing-in-itself was not supposed to enter into knowledge. But at the same time scepticism admitted a multitude of determinations of its illusory being, or rather its illusory being had for content the entire manifold wealth of the world. In idealism, too, Appearance embraces within itself the range of these manifold determinatenesses.

This illusory being and this Appearance are immediately thus manifoldly determined. This content, therefore, may well have no being, no thing-in-itself at its base; it remains on its own account as it is; the content has only been transferred from being into an illusory being, so that the latter has within itself those manifold determinatenesses, which are immediate, simply affirmative, and mutually related as others. Illusory being is, therefore, itself immediately determinate. It can have this or that content; whatever content it has, illusory being does not posit this itself but has it immediately. The various forms of idealism, Leibnizian, Kantian, Fichtean, and others, have not advanced beyond being as determinateness, have not advanced beyond this immediacy, any more than scepticism did. Scepticism permits the content of its illusory being to be given to it; whatever content it is supposed to have, for scepticism it is immediate. The monad of Leibnitz evolves its ideas and representations out of itself; but it is not the power that generates and binds them together, rather do they arise in the monad like bubbles; they are indifferent and immediate over against one another and the same in relation to the monad itself. Similarly, the Kantian Appearance is a given content of perception; it presupposes affections, determinations of the subject, which are immediate relatively to themselves and to the subject. It may well be that the infinite obstacle of Fichte’s idealism has no underlying thing-in-itself, so that it becomes purely a determinateness in the ego; but for the ego, this determinateness which it appropriates and whose externality it sublates is at the same time immediate, a limitation of the ego, which it can transcend but which has in it an element of indifference, so that although the limitation is on the ego, it contains an immediate non-being of the ego.

§ 826

  1. Illusory being, therefore, contains an immediate presupposition, a side that is independent of essence. But it does not have to be shown that illusory being, in so far as it is distinct from essence, sublates itself and withdraws into essence; for being in its totality has withdrawn into essence; illusory being is in itself a nullity; all that has to be shown is that the determinations which distinguish it from essence are determinations of essence itself, and further, that this determinateness of essence which illusory being is, is sublated in essence itself.

§ 827

It is the immediacy of non-being that constitutes illusory being; but this non-being is nothing else but the negativity of essence present within it. In essence, being is non-being. Its intrinsic nothingness is the negative nature of essence itself. But the immediacy or indifference which this non-being contains is essence’s own absolute being-in-itself. The negativity of essence is its equality with itself or its simple immediacy and indifference. Being has preserved itself in essence in so far as the latter in its infinite negativity has this equality with itself; it is through this that essence itself is being. The immediacy of the determinateness in illusory being over against essence is consequently nothing other than essence’s own immediacy; but the immediacy is not simply affirmative [seiend], but is the purely mediated or reflected immediacy that is illusory being-being, not as being, but only as the determinateness of being as opposed to mediation; being as a moment.

§ 828

These two moments, namely the nothingness which yet is and the being which is only a moment, or the implicit negativity and the reflected immediacy that constitute the moments of illusory being, are thus the moments of essence itself. What we have here is not an illusory show of being in essence, or an illusory show of essence in being; the illusory being in essence is not the illusory being of an other, but is illusory being per se, the illusory being of essence itself.

What we have here is not an illusory show of being in essence, or an illusory show of essence in being; the illusory being in essence is not the illusory being of an other, but is illusory being per se, the illusory being of essence itself.

§ 829

Illusory being is essence itself in the determinateness of being. Essence has an illusory being because it is determinate within itself and thereby distinguished from its absolute unity. But equally this determinateness is absolutely sublated in its own self. For essence is the self-subsistent, which is as self-mediated through its negation, which negation essence itself is; it is therefore the identical unity of absolute negativity and immediacy. The negativity is negativity per se; it is its relation to itself and is thus in itself immediacy; but it is negative self-relation, a negating that is a repelling of itself, and the intrinsic immediacy is thus negative or determinate in regard to it. But this determinateness is itself absolute negativity, and this determining which is, as determining, immediately the sublating of itself, is a return-into-self.

§ 830

Illusory being is the negative that has a being, but in an other, in its negation; it is a non-self-subsistent being which is in its own self-sublated and null. As such, it is the negative returned into itself, non-self-subsistent being as in its own self not self-subsistent. This self-relation of the negative or of non-self-subsistent being is its immediacy; it is an other than the negative itself; it is its determinateness over against itself; or it is the negation directed against the negative. But negation directed against the negative is purely self-related negativity, the absolute sublating of the determinateness itself.

§ 831

The determinateness, therefore, which illusory being is in essence is infinite determinateness; it is the purely self-coincident negative; it is thus the determinateness which as such is self-subsistent and indeterminate. Conversely, the self-subsistent, as self-related immediacy, is equally sheer determinateness and moment and is only as self-related negativity. This negativity that is identical with immediacy and immediacy that is thus identical with negativity, is essence. Illusory being, therefore, is essence itself, but essence in a determinateness, in such a manner, however, that this is only a moment of essence and essence is the reflection of itself within itself.

§ 832

In the sphere of being, there arises over against being as an immediacy, non-being, which is likewise an immediacy, and their truth is becoming. In the sphere of essence, we have first essence opposed to the unessential, then essence opposed to illusory being, that is, to the unessential and to illusory bel rig as the remainder of being. But both essence and illusory being, and also the difference of essence from them, derive solely from the fact that essence is at first taken as an immediate, not as it is in itself, namely, not as an immediacy that is as pure mediation or absolute negativity. The first immediacy is thus only the determinateness of immediacy. The sublating of this determinateness of essence, therefore, consists simply and solely in showing that the unessential is only illusory being and that the truth is rather that essence contains the illusory being within itself as the infinite immanent movement that determines its immediacy as negativity and its negativity as immediacy, and is thus the reflection of itself within itself. Essence in this its self-movement is reflection

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