I read that in Hegel’s ontology, concepts and things are the same thing. The universe itself is constructed from concepts, so in a way, reality is made of ideas.

Is there a deep difference other than the minor “a thing is a specific instantiation of some concept in ‘the real world’”?

  • Please give a precise reference to the relevant passage from Hegel's work, thanks.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Mar 22 at 18:41
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    This is the idealistic pow...for realism, things and concepts are different: concepts are what are predicated of things and not vice-versa. Commented Mar 22 at 18:48
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    You can kick things. Concepts don't exist, they are human delusions. See: Heart Sutra. Repeat until enlightened.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Mar 22 at 22:20
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    @MauroALLEGRANZA There was no serious idealist who confused predicates with what is predicated. It's not "the idealist pov". If anything, what you described is nominalism. Commented Mar 23 at 14:46

2 Answers 2


This is a gross misinterpretation of Hegel.

Like I tried to explain in this answer of mine, Hegel's epistemology is very peculiar and I think if one is to "simplify" it in a paraphrase using his own terminology, it would be something like:

The concept, the mere abstraction of an object (not unlike Plato's ideas), does bear no reality in itself just as a mere particular, the subjective representation of an object, will have reality for itself. To be real, they need to come together in a way where the particular (what we would describe as empirical reality of an object these days) is in accordance with the concept of it, coming to itself as an object in and of itself through acquiring (or our thought and practice enabling us to percieve and understand it having) the properties it should "ideally" have. Only then, the object exists as its idea in in its reality.

I cannot fathom how helpful this is to anyone who never studied Hegel though.

In his later philosophy of the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Science (§§160+),¹ he equates Geist with Concept as the absolute, concrete, determinate existence that differentiates itself in itself through judgements (through which it ultimately falls into concepts and particulars in the above terminology). In a sense, that means that Concept is everything - but at once. Again, this does not seem to fit hat you write.

¹ Cheers to abracadabra for pointing me there with their answer.


He doesn't think this. Hegel rarely ever speaks of concepts like dog, house, liver, window, chair etc. You probably mean the Concept which is Hegel's name for what Kant calls the synthetic unity of apperception. Hegel says that all concepts (like dog, chair etc.) acquire their determinacy only in relation to the Concept.

  • Could you name a source for this terminology? I find it hard to reconcile it with his works I read in German or the English secondary literature I read so far.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 23 at 19:41
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    @PhilipKlöcking Encyclopaedia Logic §164 Commented Mar 23 at 19:42
  • Ah, I see. You mean where he says that Geist is absolute concreteness and thus the concept of concepts containing all individual concepts, if you like.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 23 at 19:54
  • I don't think that one should equate Geist with Kant's synthetic unity of apperception, though. Also, this reminds me that I should read the Encyclopedia one day. I only read the Phenomenology and Philosophy of Right.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Mar 23 at 20:01
  • @PhilipKlöcking No, I don't want to identify Kant's unity of apperception with Geist, but with Concept. I mean this quote: "...what are also called concepts, and indeed determinate concepts, for instance man, house, animal, etc.". Commented Mar 23 at 21:10

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