Reason is negative and dialectical because it resolves determinations of understanding into nothing; it is positive because it generates the universal and comprehends the particular therein. Hegel, Science of Logic, 28/1: 16

What does this mean? Here's how I see it: reason lacks any prominent characteristics and is subjective, consisting of contradictions. To be honest this is as far as I've got. I have never really dabbled in philosophy, so if the answer was kept simple, I suppose that would make it easer for me to understand.

  • I don’t know exactly what it means. I suggest you read “Reason and Revolution” by Herbert Marcuse. It is often forgotten that Marcuse was an excellent Hegel scholar. I am pretty sure it is on Internet Archive. He covers the negative well in the book I think.
    – Gordon
    Apr 12, 2020 at 23:29
  • There is a “not yet” involved here. To get to the actual (Reason, the better place etc) the present must give way, ie be negated. But Marcuse’s book does a mess ch better job of explaining this and putting it into context.
    – Gordon
    Apr 12, 2020 at 23:46
  • 1
    The quote was cut off midsentence, I edited in the missing part. According to Houlgate, The Opening of Hegel's Logic, p.64:"Hegel clearly implies that unless we are active in employing our understanding and reason we shall not be in a position to follow passively the immanent development of the categories".
    – Conifold
    Apr 13, 2020 at 2:07
  • Thank you @Conifold. I think Houlgate gives some reading material too but I can’t remember if he mentions books or refers to a webpage/syllabus. (I was thinking of his lectures on YouTube. I see the book now).
    – Gordon
    Apr 13, 2020 at 2:31
  • I wonder if he means that in metaphysics we proceed by abduction. It eliminates ideas and is negative in this sense. Thus Bradley notes that metaphysics does not produce a positive result. It would be positive in the sense that to eliminate the impossible to is to reveal the possible. I don't understand the second half of H's sentence.
    – user20253
    Apr 13, 2020 at 11:22

1 Answer 1

  • The logic of understanding is the logic of non-contradiction : being is, non-being is not; each being is itself, and not other than itself. Understanding is a form of comprehension that is adapted to finite beings, and its concepts are those of traditional ontology, traditional " categories".

    • But understanding is not even aware of its own contardiction while rejecting the possibility of contradiction. It does not see that the assertion " no being is other than itself", precisely defines each being by a negation, by a reference to the other.

    • Reason accepts courageously this contradiction, the fact that the negative relation to the other constitutes every being in itself. According to reason, A = A is a result , that is, self identity is mediated by self -alterity : A is not not A, not being A is part of what it means to be A. ( The " aliquid" - the something - is essentially " aliud quid".)

    • Since every being has its being in the other, every being contradicts itself: the law of being is the law of contradiction, hence the law of mouvement, ofbecoming.

    • Contradiction is the negative side of Reason. Contradiction overcome ( contradiction contradicted at the level of the Universal, from the point of view of the " Whole") is the positive aspect of Reason.

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