I've always assumed Hegel had one dialectical definition of thought relative to life, one for life relative to matter, and some other definition for matter.

But strangely, I can't find anything with the 3 bolded words while searching by plain text in Phänomenologie des Geistes.

I consider Hegel beyond a genius, so I can't conceive his neglect of precise definitions of material, living and thinking beings.

add relative to Joseph Weissman "too broad" hold post : let me just be precise. Consider a pebble (material being), a swallow (living being), and "2+2=4" (an idea). You have a strong feeling that these beings are not of the same kind, doesn't belong to same being category. You can also feel that each of these categories or kind of beings have a strong internal identity, you feel you could strongly define what is relatively to each other, the identity o a material, living and idea being (I can do it in one sentence).

So : how Hegel do that ? (in one paragraph).

Answers already given by Hegel's gnostics below explains that this question make no sense because the Hegel's way of thinking is soooo faaaar above the "immediacy" that encrap this kind of question i.e. that I am a moron to ask such question.

Ok ok I'm a moron but who can the most can the least : from the Hegel's "absolute" so superior way of thinking, please derive the difference that everybody can see between a pebble, a swallow and 2+2=4. In one paragraph.

Or just say Hegel's philosophy is unable to do it.

closed as too broad by Joseph Weissman Feb 20 '16 at 16:10

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's clear from the comments that OP is more interested in sadism, rather than philosophy. – Mozibur Ullah Dec 17 '15 at 8:22

There's some strange things going in your word choices vis-a-vis Hegel, and you might be looking at the wrong text if you're looking for those definitions.

First off, the word "dialectical" means many things for many different philosophers (not to mention people more generally). The way Hegel uses the term, it is the method that leads us to truth by continuously revising our concepts until we grasp the concept as it is (as the final culmination of Spirit in the form of philosophy -- if we're working in the same direction as the Phenomenology).

To pick a famous example that illustrates the basic pattern. In the Preface to the Phenomenology, Hegel attacks the most naive account of truth called "sense certainty":

truth is what I see right in front of me.

He attacks it by first positing, then pointing out that this statement cannot defend its own truth. Moreover, it's wrong about the nature of truth. Through this, a revised definition of truth is proposed as "certainty" more general.

As you progress through the text, views evolve either by adding qualifications or by needing to be demolished in light of some damning error in what they imagined they show. Alternately, two things will sometimes need to be merged.

Thus, it's kind of weird to search for an exact definition of something because one key difference between Hegel and say Kant is that for Hegel, the definition of a term in the Phenomenology will depend on where in the text the term occurs. To give an example, Sitten "ethics" is initially presented as naive and to be replaced by Moralitaet "morality", but then we discover not longer after that that Moralitaet is more deeply flawed and that what we need is Sitten raised to the level of universality without the loss of its original form.

Not all of Hegel's texts have the same goal though, so while the Phenomenology is a story about "Spirit" (in part a story about knowledge and in part a story about consciousness and reason), you might have better luck finding final word answer definition in Hegel's Logic (shorter or longer) or Hegel's histories.

But to spoil things a little bit:

The magic is that definitions are for Hegel always definitions for Spirit (for our purposes self-conscious active thinking). Thus, for him, it's not particularly meaningful that "life" exists relative to "matter", but it's rather relevant "thought" exists relative to "life" and to "matter."

In fact, he discusses this point in his Lesser Logic in a section on "objects" about how objects take different kinds that have different properties.

  • ideas,living things, non-living things are the 3 kind of things that constitute reality. Defining what they are is basic metaphysics, I can do it very simply. Hegel would fall down his pedestal like a pererstroskaied statue if it appears he is unable to give a concise definition of what a bird, 2+2=4, a peble are relatively to each other. – Socrade Dec 16 '15 at 21:28
  • as thought come from life and life from mater, my guess was he would define for example life dialectically from mater ie as a self-destruction-reconstruction of mater. (and btw I don't argue about "words" but real things and reality, even if I would agree that ideas only knows other ideas) – Socrade Dec 16 '15 at 21:37
  • lesser logic seems to be "philosophy of nature" and I found this : § 195. Nature is, in itself a living whole. The movement of its idea through its sequence of stages is more precisely this: the idea posits itself as that which it is in itself; or, what is the same thing, it goes into itself out of that immediacy and externality which is death in order to go into itself; yet further, it suspends this determinacy of the idea, in which it is only life, and becomes spirit, which is its truth. Problem is Hegel always this sadistic dialectical style nobody can understand. – Socrade Dec 16 '15 at 22:04
  • If I'm wrong somebody will extract a clear definition of what mater, life and ideas are as kind of things. Too bad he uses this sadistic style because I feel his conception of what a material,living and thinking things are is the same of mine. – Socrade Dec 16 '15 at 22:08
  • I dunno where you're coming from, but what you're saying isn't Hegel. The lesser logic is the Encyclopedia Logic, but the section doesn't speak in such clear terms that a word search will make sense of it all... – virmaior Dec 16 '15 at 22:44

To boil it down: Hegel does not differentiate between three basic instances of being because all being is (in the very special sense of Hegel) thinking. From the Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, Paragraph 17:

In my view, which must be justified by the exposition of the system itself, everything hangs on apprehending and expressing the true not as substance but rather even more as subject. At the same time, it is to be noted that substantiality comprises within itself the universal, that is, it comprises not only the immediacy of knowledge but also the immediacy of being, that is, immediacy for knowledge.

The difference of non-living, living and thinking only appears in the immediacy of experience. Hegel's whole system is essentially trying to overcome immediacy. He is showing that trying to ontologically differentiate the way you do is wrong, as it does not consider that all of that is consciousness of something that did not yet even reflect on its consciousness, only on its objects (Theme of Chapters 1-3 of this book). You are caught in an idealism in a Berkeley-ish sense, or even worse in a naive realism, he could say, but his goal is to establish philosophy as describing the absolute, the Weltgeist.

Conclusion: He does not define per your OP, because it would, in his system, not be philosophy at all if we would remain in immediacy like these definitions do.

  • I maintain he is simply unable to reach the mater/life/thought identity and that all of his arguing is wishful thinking. If it was for real he could go from this subjective exigence down to clear and concise elicitation of the obvious mater/life/though differences. – Socrade Dec 17 '15 at 22:49
  • I also use a "subjective" internal dynamic made of self-reflection self-negation and totality capacity but it lead to a clear, intuitive and concise (one word !) definition of what material,living,thinking beings are. The right answer to the original question is he simply can't give these definitions. – Socrade Dec 17 '15 at 22:57
  • @Socrade: So you're basically telling us that while ingenious, Hegel is just a douchebag compared to you, the insightful one revealing the oh so obvious truth finally to us, after two and a half millennia of tapping in the dark? Oh, well that's what I call self-confidence! Apart from the fact that you never actually did what you claim here, I ask myself why I didn't hear of this incomparable wisdom before in the decade in academic philosophy so far...oh wait! – Philip Klöcking Dec 17 '15 at 23:42
  • no I don't mind about me and consider myself 3 order of magnitude (x1000 if I'm not wrong) less intelligent than Hegel. It's true I have a system but it's only a mater/life/thinking structural descripition once again a tiny part not comparable to Hegel's work. And I've abandoned this thing. But I'm really exigent about answers given to philosophical subjets. I don't open my mouth in a cafe-philo if I don't have the exact answer to the discussion subject (ok it's rare :D). – Socrade Dec 18 '15 at 4:47
  • Problem here is there is no way to be satisfied by being unable to define the mater/life/thinking difference. Even if it's a dirty byproduct of the Hegel's subjective principle this HAS to be done because it's in the face of every thinkers since there are on this planet. I'm sure he give dialectical explanations of tons of less important things.He simply can't, that the right answer. I wouild loved to have see a dialectical description of respective identity of material/living/thinking thing. He can't, just admit and write it and you will feel right and good :D – Socrade Dec 18 '15 at 4:58

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.