In the Note of the article 10 in “The Philosophy of Right”, G.W.F. Hegel writes:

that because the truth is the idea, when any object or phase is apprehended only as it is in itself or in conception, it is not as yet apprehended in its truth

I’m having a serious trouble in understanding those lines, “because the truth is the idea” seems quite understandable to me as the “truth” is something abstract (existing only in mind, I maybe wrong also) but whatever follows it is very hard to understand.

Can someone present an answer which explains what Hegel wanted to say by those lines?

  • Hegel=Idealism: Idea with capital letter. Feb 25, 2021 at 10:54
  • "The Logic then transitions into a consideration of the “adequate concept, the objectively true, or the true as such” (SL: 670). This adequate concept is the Idea, which, after tracking through considerations of the living individual and theoretical and practical cognition, emerges as the Absolute Idea." Feb 25, 2021 at 10:59
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA Thanks, Mauro. You've given me a place to start: Idealism (however, I didn't get that capital letter joke). I will start by reading the introductory books on Idealism and then move to Hegel. If you have some other suggestion for starting with Hegel, please share it.
    – Nauram
    Feb 25, 2021 at 13:14

2 Answers 2


Since it is a basic question, I will try to give a basic answer without going too much into details and technicalities. That is impossible in and of itself, since Hegel is the embodiment of technical philosophy, but I'll give it a try.

Firstly, Hegel's terminology is quite peculiar. You cannot take common understandings of "idea" and "concept[ion]" as a given and apply them to Hegel.

On a very basic level, idea is not something abstract, but that in which the difference between the concept and the particular is sublated, ie. where the conception is one and the same with the object. Anything that really exists does exist as a particular that is not at odds with how it is thought (the concept) even if they always will retain the tension as opposites together embodying a single part of reality, ie. in their unity that is the idea.

The concept, or the thing as it is in itself, is that which, in the thought of the individual, is represented and a kind of abstraction which does not contain all the properties that make something a particular thing. Is is the subjective take on Reality and comparable with what would commonly be called the "idea" of something, in a sense. But in order to become "true", the concept must evolve into the idea by incrementally containing more and more of how the particulars are.

The particular, or the thing as it is for itself, as a pure object, is basically a bunch of properties among other bunches of properties, but it has not come to itself since it is not apprehended, ordered, and structured as it is in itself. The tree does not know that it is a tree, and without a subject who apprehends it as such and - in a sense - picks the properties that are of it apart from all the other properties of the world, there is no truth (in Hegel!). The tree as a particular, as a singular entity among others, only exists insofar it is perceived as such, if you will.

His whole book is about how the consideration of the object of right (and wrong), ie. its various forms of appearance, must be in accord or brought together with the concept, as it were, since only then, we will see which appearances are misleading, ie. only then it can be apprehended as its idea and in its truth.

May sound like the ramblings of a crazy man at first, but I think it helps if one keeps in mind that one of the core premises is that calling something an object implies that there is an opposite, a subject (mind), recognizing it as such. For Hegel, calling something objective reality is nonsense, simply as there either are objects (but then there must be subjects as well) or there simply is Reality. For him, the division of reality into particular objects is only because Reality is (exists) only insofar it is in a constant movement of division (into subjective and objective) and sublation (back to truth/idea/unity). His philosophy, therefore, is all about going this road of divisions backwards by subsequent sublation of the emerging opposites, so that we can get to the truth of things and, ultimately, to the truth of everything.

Paraphrase as asked for

Since only the idea of a thing is true [ie. only a conception which involves all particularities of/perspectives on a given object of cognition], when we understand an object or process to be as it is in our arbitrary conception of it, we do not understand it as it really is, since for that we would have to understand what the idea of it is.

  • Thanks for such a quick and good answer, but can you please paraphrase that quote at the end of your answer?
    – Nauram
    Feb 25, 2021 at 13:14
  • @Narum I think the final graf is the paraphrase
    – Joseph Weissman
    Feb 25, 2021 at 13:42
  • "idea is not something abstract, but that in which the difference between the concept and the particular is sublated, ie. where the conception is the one and the same with the object." Just to clarify, in this sentence does "the object" mean the same as "the particular", so that what you're saying here is that the "idea" a kind of unification of "the concept" and "the particular"? And that if one apprehends a concept without fully apprehending all the particular details, one does not yet fully apprehend the truth that is the idea?
    – Hypnosifl
    Feb 25, 2021 at 14:01
  • @Hypnosifl Basically yes. That certainly is simplifying but it is a useful description of the sublation of the subject-object opposition when it comes to cognition IMHO. The point is that the subject has to get into a state where it thinks the object as it really is, ie. fully takes the object (back) into itself and end the estrangement from the object.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Feb 25, 2021 at 14:10
  • @Nauram Done, hope that helps.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Feb 25, 2021 at 17:34

For me this is simply same as the ancient Socrate's famous Cave Men Analogy to understand what is really ontological truth. If all the cave men stayed in the cave for all their lives, all they saw and comprehended about themselves were merely their reflected shadows on the walls, ie, "apprehended only as it is in itself or in conception". But if somehow they could get outside under the sun, they would immediately and easily arrive at a more relative truth, ie, "apprehended in its truth". It's nothing deeper than that at all imho...

  • On a very superficial level, it is, in a sense. At the same time, Hegel does introduce methodological points there which will be important in the book again and again and, more importantly, Hegel strongly opposes the Platonic ontology and epistemology since truth is nothing "beyond" the world in a transcendental world of ideas. Ideas are the unity of mind and matter, much closer to Aristotelian thought - which was an explicit criticism of Plato as well.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Feb 25, 2021 at 19:43
  • From my rational idealism viewpoint, there "exists" transcendental world of ideas from pure reasoning to infinity. One good example is Leibniz's "dx" infinitesimal concept, or any convergent series on the real line. In the "dx" world, they cannot comprehend uncountably infinite summation (integration), while in our world it may converge and stop at a finite value. Obviously our world is transcendental to the dx world, much like in Zeno's paradox, the nonsensical infinite summation doesn't make sense (non-existent) in one world level, but does make sense in a transcendental one. Math has a lot. Feb 25, 2021 at 19:54
  • That does not really change anything here: For Plato, ideas are the true world and it contains no particular content, only abstract entities. For Hegel, abstract entities are non-sense, half-truths that lack the rich material that makes up particular objects. Hegel's Weltgeist (world spirit) is a closed system that is self-differentiating. There are no mappings possible since nothing outside of it exists.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Feb 25, 2021 at 20:01
  • I'm not a Platonist either, and see difficulty of how ideas/concepts/math alone can resolve the famous "hard problem of consciousness", the explanatory gap still exists, since idea/concept originates from conscious mind ultimately. It's like chicken-egg puzzle, for me like Leibniz, I favor ideal mind is the ultimate ontological reality if it exists...I just don't feel anything from Hegel's ideas which are more useful or deeper than Leibniz's, of course imho... Feb 25, 2021 at 20:39
  • He does have one huge advantage: he does not need pre-stabilised harmony established by an external entity. Ontologically, Hegel is extremely simple while at the same time he can include both theoretical and practical philosophy into a single system and allow for the development of knowledge over time since 'being is becoming'. That's about it IMHO. But that's...quite a lot.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Feb 25, 2021 at 20:56

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