In the Science of Logic, Hegel initially presents quality as existent determinateness. He further distinguishes two modes of determining quality in accordance with the moments of existence:

Determinateness thus isolated by itself, as existent determinateness, is quality - something totally simple, immediate ... Quality, in the distinct value of existent, is reality; when affected by a negating, it is negation in general, still a quality but one that counts as a lack and is further determined as limit, restriction (Science of Logic, 21.98-99).

I am having trouble understanding what Hegel means by quality. In particular, I am having trouble with the locution "existent determinateness." Hegel has defined existence as the unity of being and non-being in the form of an immediate, and determinateness as the result of bringing being and non-being into concrete unity in the form of an immediate. Using Hegel's distinction between positing and reflecting, I can understand the distinction between existence and determinateness. But I am having trouble with existent determinateness (quality), and how it is the determinateness of existence.

  • 6
    What a good and interesting question!
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jul 26, 2011 at 0:35
  • 2
    I added a hyperlink to the passage from the translation at marxists.org, which unfortunately doesn't contain the phrase I highlighted (found in the translation by di Giovanni) . Relevant passages would be the opening of the section on Existence and the subsection on Something.
    – emi
    Jul 26, 2011 at 0:43

2 Answers 2


It's a part of how we think about or answer the question "what is it"? Aristotle asked the question and tried to answer it in the Categories, an important foundation of classical logic. Hegel is basically answering the same questions, but with the insight from Kant's transcendental idealism.

For example: this thing (substance) over there, it's a horse (a good example of existent determinateness, being a horse is a defining quality).

We could also say: it's fast (existent quality). Or: it's never afraid (negative determination, i.e. the non-existing quality is helping in determining what kind of horse it is). And: I'd wish this horse could live forever (where immortality is a non-existent infinite quality).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic (a few examples with water)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality_(philosophy) (Hegel's logic is in many was a continuation of Aristotle's line of thought in Categories)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_quality (Kant/Hegel: positive/negative, but also infinite judgements)

  • 2
    +1 It is related to the concept of intensive and extensive properties and quantity in physics.Not exactly,but you can roughly understand quality as an distinct property of e.g. an elementary particle. If you change quantity, then the identity of the being will not change, more horses are more horses, a big horse is still a horse. But a higher density is something different than a low density, its no quality of the being but a intensive quantity from Hegels point of view. An extensive would be volume or mass for example. If you change quality,the being changes,if quantity,the being does not
    – Hauser
    Jul 26, 2011 at 23:00

I have tried to briefly answer the question by restricting myself to Hegel's development at this particular point in the Science of Logic, and without reference to external writings on quality, of which there are many.

To Hegel, determinate being is the unity of being and non-being in the form of being; the element of non-being united with being is the determinateness of being itself. Consequently, determinate being is conceived as being that is coextensive with and indistinguishable from non-being. This minimal specification of determinate being does not supply the concepts necessary for applying predicates to sensible objects or intuiting the essences of sensible or intellectual objects.

Because being and non-being are coextensive in determinate being, determinate being must be conceived as both being that is non-being (i.e., is determinate), and determinacy (i.e., non-being) that is. Insofar as quality is existent determinateness, it is determinateness that is or entertains being. However, quality is therefore being that is determinate. For this reason, quality is identical with determinate being. In other words, the what of being is determinate being or being that is determinate. The determinations of reality and negation in quality further develop the moments of being and non-being in determinate being, and provide the concepts necessary to think determinate difference.

The development of quality into its determinations of reality and negation shows that quality has a richer internal logic. However, I think this helps clarify the role of the terms quality and existent determinateness.

  • Lawvere has observed that there is a useful formalization of just these points in the Science of Logic in "modal type theory", follow the links from here on: ncatlab.org/nlab/show/Dasein Nov 27, 2014 at 0:25

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