Section 1b

C. Reflection

by Hegel Icon

Essence, Illusory Being


§ 833

Illusory being is the same thing as reflection; but it is reflection as immediate. For illusory being that has withdrawn into itself and so is estranged from its immediacy, we have the foreign word reflection.

§ 834

Essence is reflection, the movement of becoming and transition that remains internal to it, in which the differentiated moment is determined simply as that which in itself is only negative, as illusory being. At the base of becoming in the sphere of being, there lies the determinateness of being, and this is relation to other. The movement of reflection, on the other hand, is the other as the negation in itself, which has a being only as self-related negation. Or, since the self-relation is precisely this negating of negation, the negation as negation is present in such wise that it has its being in its negatedness, as illusory being. Here, therefore, the other is not being with a negation, or limit, but negation with the negation. But the first, over against this other, the immediate or being, is only this very equality of the negation with itself, the negated negation, absolute negativity. This equality with itself, or immediacy, is consequently not a first from which the beginning was made and which passed over into its negation; nor is it an affirmatively present substrate that moves through reflection; on the contrary, immediacy is only this movement itself.

§ 835

Consequently, becoming is essence, its reflective movement, is the movement of nothing to nothing, and so back to itself. The transition, or Becoming, sublates itself in its transition: that Other which arises in the course of this transition is not the Not-being of a Being, but the nothingness of a Nothing, and this, to be the negation of a nothing, constitutes Being — Being only is as the movement of Nothing to Nothing, and as such it is Essence; and Essence does not have this movement within it but is this movement, as a being that is itself absolutely illusory, pure negativity, which has nothing without it that could negate it, but negates only its own negativity, which is only in this negation, which latter is only in this negating. ® ©

§ 836

This pure absolute reflection that is the movement from nothing to nothing determines itself further.

It is first, positing reflection.

Secondly, it forms the starting point of the presupposed immediate and is thus external reflection.

But thirdly, it sublates this presupposition; and since reflection in sublating the presupposition at the same time presupposes it, it is determining reflection.

(a) Positing Reflection § 837

Illusory being is nothingness or the essenceless; but this nothingness or the essenceless does not have its being in an other in which its illusory being is reflected: on the contrary, its being is its own equality with itself. This interchange of the negative with itself has determined itself as the absolute reflection of essence.

§ 838

This self-related negativity of essence is therefore the negating of its own self. Hence it is just as much sublated negativity as it is negativity; or it is itself both the negative, and simple equality with itself or immediacy. It consists, therefore, in being itself and not itself and that, too, in a single unity.

§ 839

In the first place, reflection is the movement of nothing to nothing and is the negation that coincides with itself. This coincidence with itself is, in general, simple equality-with-self, immediacy. But this coincidence is not a transition of the negation into equality-with-self as into its otherness: on the contrary, reflection is transition as sublating of the transition; for reflection is immediate coincidence of the negative with itself. This coincidence is thus first, equality-with-self or immediacy; but secondly, this immediacy is the equality of the negative with itself, hence self-negating equality, the immediacy that is in itself the negative, the negative of itself, that consists in being that which it is not.

§ 840

The self-relation of the negative is, therefore, its return into itself; it is immediacy as the sublating of the negative; but immediacy simply and solely as this relation or as return from a negative, and hence a self-sublating immediacy. This is posited being or positedness, immediacy purely and simply as determinateness or as self-reflecting. This immediacy which is only as return of the negative into itself, is that immediacy which constitutes the determinateness of illusory being and which previously seemed to be the starting point of the reflective moment. But this immediacy, instead of being able to form the starting point is, on the contrary, immediacy only as the return or as reflection itself. Reflection therefore is the movement that starts or returns only in so far as the negative has already returned into itself.

§ 841

It is a positing in so far as it is immediacy as a returning movement; for there is no other on hand, either an other from which or into which immediacy returns; it is, therefore, only as a returning movement, or as the negative of itself. Furthermore, this immediacy is the sublated negation and the sublated return-into-self. Reflection, as sublating the negative, is a sublating of its other, of immediacy. Since, therefore, it is immediacy as a returning movement, as a coincidence of the negative with itself, it is equally a negative of the negative as negative. Thus it is a presupposing. Or immediacy, as a returning movement, is only the negative of itself, only this, to be not immediacy; but reflection is the sublating of the negative of itself, it is a coincidence with itself; it therefore sublates its positing, and since in its positing it sublates its positing, it is a presupposing. Reflection, in its presupposing, determines the return-into-self as the negative of itself, as that, the sublating of which is essence. The presupposing is the manner in which it relates itself to itself, but to itself as the negative of itself; only thus is it the self-relating negativity that remains internal to itself. Immediacy presents itself simply and solely as a return and is that negative which is the illusory being of the beginning, the illusory being which is negated by the return. Accordingly, the return of essence is its self-repulsion. In other words, reflection-into-self is essentially the presupposing of that from which it is the return.

§ 842

It is only when essence has sublated its equality-with-self that it is equality-with-self. It presupposes itself and the sublating of this presupposition is essence itself; conversely, this sublating of its presupposition is the presupposition itself. Reflection therefore finds before it an immediate which it transcends and from which it is the return. But this return is only the presupposing of what reflection finds before it. What is thus found only comes to be through being left behind; its immediacy is sublated immediacy. Conversely, the sublated immediacy is the return-into-self, the coming-to-itself of essence, simple, self-equal being. Hence this coming-to-itself is the sublating of itself and is the self-repelling, presupposing reflection, and its self-repelling is the coming-to-itself of reflection.

§ 843

It follows, therefore, from the foregoing considerations that the reflective movement is to be taken as an absolute recoil upon itself. For the presupposition of the return-into-self-that from which essence comes, and is only as this return-is only in the return itself. The transcending of the immediate from which reflection starts is rather the outcome of this transcending; and the transcending of the immediate is the arrival at it. The movement, as an advance, immediately turns round upon itself and only so is self-movement — a movement which comes from itself in so far as positing reflection is presupposing, but, as presupposing reflection, is simply positing reflection.

§ 844

Thus reflection is itself and its non-being, and is only itself, in that it is the negative of itself, for only thus is the sublating of the negative at the same time a coincidence with itself.

§ 845

The immediacy that reflection, as a process of sublating, presupposes for itself is purely and simply a positedness, an immediacy that is in itself sublated, that is not distinct from the return-into-self and is itself only this movement of return. But at the same time it is determined as negative, as immediately opposed to something, therefore to an other. Thus reflection is determinate; and since, in accordance with this determinateness, it has a presupposition and starts from the immediate as its other, it is external reflection.

(b) External Reflection § 846

Reflection, as absolute reflection, is essence that reflects its illusory being within itself and presupposes for itself only an illusory being, only positedness; as presupposing reflection, it is immediately only positing reflection. But external or real reflection presupposes itself as sublated, as the negative of itself In this determination it is doubled: it is what is presupposed, or reflection-into-self, which is the immediate; and also it is reflection that is negatively self-related; it is related to itself as to its non-being.

§ 847

External reflection therefore presupposes a being, first, not in the sense that its immediacy is only positedness or a moment, but, on the contrary, that this immediacy is self-relation and the determinateness is only a moment. Its relationship to its presupposition is such that the latter is the negative of reflection, but so that this negative as negative is sublated. Reflection in its positing, immediately sublates its positing and thus has an immediate presupposition. It therefore finds this before it as something from which it starts, and from which it is first the return-into-self, the negating of this its negative. But the fact that what is thus presupposed is a negative or is posited does not concern it; this determinateness belongs only to the positing reflection, but in the presupposing the positedness is present only as sublated. The determinations posited by the external reflection in the immediate are to that extent external to the latter. This external reflection in the sphere of being was the infinite; the finite ranked as the first, as the real; as the foundation, the abiding foundation, it forms the starting point and the infinite is the reflection-into-self over against it.

§ 848

This external reflection is the syllogism in which are the two extremes, the immediate and reflection-into-self; the middle term of the syllogism is the connection of the two, the determinate immediate, so that one part of the middle term, immediacy, belongs only to one of the extremes, the other, determinateness or negation, belongs only to the other extreme.

§ 849

But a closer consideration of the action of external reflection shows it to be secondly, a positing of the immediate, which consequently becomes the negative or the determinate; but external reflection is immediately also the sublating of this its positing; for it presupposes the immediate; in negating, it is the negating of this its negating. But in doing so it is immediately equally a positing, a sublating of the immediate negatively related to it, and this immediate from which it seemed to start as from something alien, is only in this its beginning. In this way, the immediate is not only in itself — that means, for us, or in external reflection — identical with reflection, but this identicalness is posited. For the immediate is determined by reflection as its negative or its other, but it is reflection itself that negates this determining. Hence the externality of reflection over against the immediate is sublated; its positing in which it negates itself, is the union of itself with its negative, with the immediate, and this union is the immediacy of essence itself. The fact is, therefore, that external reflection is not external, but is no less the immanent reflection of immediacy itself; in other words, the outcome of positing reflection is essence in and for itself. Reflection is thus determining reflection.


§ 850

Reflection is usually taken in a subjective sense as the movement of the faculty of judgement that goes beyond a given immediate conception and seeks universal determinations for it or compares such determinations with it. Kant opposes reflective judgement to determining judgement. He defines the faculty of judgement in general as the ability to think the particular as subsumed under the universal. ®

If the universal is given (the rule, principle, law), then the faculty of judgement that subsumes the particular under it is determinative. But if only the particular is given for which the universal is to be found, then judgement is merely reflective. Here, then, to reflect is likewise to go beyond an immediate to the universal. On the one hand, it is only through this reference of the immediate to its universal that it is determined as a particular; by itself, it is only an individual or an immediate, simply affirmative being [unmittelbares Seiendes]. On the other hand, that to which it is referred is its universal, its rule, principle, law, in general, that which is reflected into itself, is self-related, essence or the essential.

§ 851

But what is under discussion here is neither reflection at the level of consciousness, nor the more specific reflection of the understanding, which has the particular and the universal for its determinations, but of reflection generally. That reflection to which Kant ascribes the search of the universal of a given particular is clearly also only external reflection, which is related to the immediate as to something given. But in external reflection there is also implicit the notion of absolute reflection; for the universal, the principle or rule and law to which it advances in its determining, counts as the essence of that immediate which forms the starting point; and this immediate therefore counts as a nullity, and it is only the return from it, its determining by reflection, that is the positing of the immediate in accordance with its true being. Therefore, what reflection does to the immediate, and the determinations which issue from reflection, are not anything external to the immediate but are its own proper being.

§ 852

It was external reflection, too, that recent philosophy had in mind when, as was the fashion for a while, it ascribed everything bad to reflection generally, regarding it and all its works as the polar opposite and hereditary foe of the absolute method of philosophising. And intellectual reflection, in so far as it operates as external reflection, does in fact start from something immediately given which is alien to it, regarding itself as a merely formal activity which receives its content and material from outside and which, by itself, is only the movement conditioned by that content and material. Further, as will become more evident as soon as we come to consider determining reflection, the reflected determinations are of a different kind from the merely immediate determinations of being. The latter are more readily granted to be transient, merely relative and standing in relation to other; but the reflected determinations have the form of being-in-and-for-self. This makes them count as essential, and instead of passing over into their opposites they appear rather as absolute, free, and indifferent towards each other. Consequently, they are stubbornly opposed to their movement, their being is their self-identity in their determinateness, in accordance with which, even though they presuppose each other, they maintain themselves completely separate in this relation. ©

(c) Determining Reflection § 853

Determining reflection is in general the unity of positing and external reflection. This is to be considered in more detail.

  1. External reflection starts from immediate being, positing reflection from nothing. External reflection, when it determines, posits an other-but this is essence-in the place of the sublated being; but the determination thus posited is not put in the place of an other; the positing has no presupposition. But that is why it is not the completed, determining reflection; the determination that it posits is consequently only something posited; it is an immediate, but not as equal to itself but as negating itself; it has an absolute relation to the return-into-self; it is only in reflection-into-self, but it is not this reflection itself.

§ 854

What is posited is consequently an other, but in such a manner that the equality of reflection with itself is completely preserved; for what is posited is only as sublated, as a relation to the returninto-self. In the sphere of being, determinate being was the being in which negation was present, and being was the immediate base and element of this negation, which consequently was itself immediate. In the sphere of essence, positedness corresponds to determinate being. It is likewise a determinate being but its base is being as essence or as pure negativity; it is a determinateness or negation, not as affirmatively present [seiend] but immediately as sublated. Determinate being is merely posited being or positedness; this is the proposition of essence about determinate being. Positedness stands opposed, on the one hand, to determinate being, and on the other, to essence, and is to be considered as the middle term which unites determinate being with essence, and conversely, essence with determinate being. Accordingly, when it is said that a determination is only a positedness, this can have a twofold meaning; it is a positedness as opposed to determinate being or as opposed to essence. In the former meaning, determinate being is taken to be superior to positedness and the latter is ascribed to external reflection, to the subjective side. But in fact positedness is the superior; for as positedness, determinate being is that which it is in itself, a negative, something that is simply and solely related to the return-into-self. It is for this reason that positedness is only a positedness with respect to essence, as the negation of the accomplished return-into-self.

§ 855

  1. Positedness is not yet a determination of reflection; it is only determinateness as negation in general. But the positing is now in unity with external reflection; the latter is, in this unity, an absolute presupposing, that is, the repelling of reflection from itself, or the positing of the determinateness as determinateness of itself. Consequently, positedness is, as such, negation; but, as presupposed, it is also reflected into itself. Positedness is thus a determination of reflection.

§ 856

The determination of reflection is distinct from the determinateness of being, from quality. The latter is immediate relation to other in general; positedness, too, is a relation to other, but to reflectedness-into-self. Negation as quality, is negation simply as affirmative [seiend]; being constitutes its ground and element. The determination of reflection, on the other hand, has for this ground reflectedness-into-self. Positedness fixes itself into a determination precisely because reflection is equality-with-self in its negatedness; its negatedness is consequently itself a reflection-into-self. Here the determination persists not through being but through its equality with itself. Because being, which supports quality, is not equal to the negation, quality is unequal within itself and hence a transitory moment vanishing in the other. The determination of reflection, on the other hand, is positedness as negation, negation which has negatedness as its ground; it is therefore not unequal within itself, and hence is essential, not transitory determinateness. It is the equality of reflection with itself that possesses the negative only as negative, as sublated or posited being, that enables the negative to persist.

§ 857

By virtue of this reflection-into-self the determinations of reflection appear as free essentialities floating in the void without attracting or repelling one another. In them the determinateness has established and infinitely fixed itself through the relation-to-self. It is the determinate that has brought into subjection its transitoriness and its mere positedness, or has bent back its reflection-into-other into reflection-into-self. These determinations hereby constitute determinate illusory being as it is in essence, essential illusory being. Because of this, determining reflection is reflection that has come forth from itself; the equality of essence with itself has perished in the negation, which is the dominant factor.

§ 858

In the determination of reflection, therefore, there are two sides which at first are distinguished from one another. First, the determination is positedness, negation as such; secondly, it is reflection-into-self. As positedness, it is negation as negation; this accordingly is already its unity with itself. But at first, it is this only in itself or in principle [an sich], or, it is the immediate as sublating itself in its own self, as the other of itself. To this extent, reflection is an immanent determining. In the process, essence does not go outside itself; the differences are simply posited, taken back into essence. But according to the other side, they are not posited but reflected into themselves; the negation as negation is in an equality with itself, is not reflected into its other, into its non-being.

§ 859

  1. Now since the determination of reflection is as much a reflected relation within itself as it is positedness, this fact immediately throws more light on its nature. For as positedness, it is negation as such, a non-being over against an other, namely, over against absolute reflection-into-self, or over against essence. But as self-relation it is reflected into itself. This its reflection and the above positedness are distinct; its positedness is rather its sublatedness; but its reflectedness-into-self is its subsistence. In so far, therefore, as it is the positedness that is at the same time reflection-into-self, the determinateness of reflection is the relation to its otherness within itself. It is not an affirmative [seiende], quiescent determinateness, which would be related to an other in such a way that the related term and its relation are distinct from each other, the former a being-within-self, a something that excludes its other and its relation to this other from itself; on the contrary, the determination of reflection is in its own self the determinate side and the relation of this determinate side as determinate, that is, to its negation. Quality, through its relation, passes over into an other; in its relation its alteration begins. The determination of reflection, on the other hand, has taken its otherness back into itself. It is positedness, negation, which however bends back into itself the relation to other, and negation which is equal to itself, the unity of itself and its other, and only through this is an essentiality. It is, therefore, positedness, negation; but as reflection-into-self it is at the same time the sublatedness of this positedness, infinite self-relation.

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