I'm trying to write a paper and I've tried to reconstruct an argument about this on my own with no luck so far. It's about Hegel's criticism of Spinoza.

As far as I understand, Hegel's main critique of Spinoza's ontology is that it denies the actuality(not sure if that's the right word) of determinate things. A cup of coffee, for example, is ontologically dependent on Spinoza's Substance, as is everything else that you and I encounter in life. This kind of ontological dependence, though, results in everything being reduced to Substance: giving us a static, lifeless universe where change is impossible, not totally unlike Parmenides' universe.

I understand that Spinoza's system was actually valuable in that it avoided Cartesian dualism by unifying thought and extension in one higher category of thing i.e. substance, but failed to create room for the possibilty of change. With that in mind, I'm lead to believe that Hegel's task would be to retain the unification of thought and extension achieved in Spinoza, while finding a way to allow for change.

This is where I get lost. I know it has something to do with negation, but I cannot fathom how Hegel is able to overcome this problem. The root cause of the problem seems to me like the fact that Substance, insofar as it encompasses the whole cosmos, cannot be negated by anything else that is on the same ontological playing field. But doesn't Hegel's Absolute, which is analogous to Spinoza's Substance as far as I can tell, run into the same problem?

I would appreciate any help with this, because I'm a little stumped. Please correct any misunderstandings in my interpretation; I'm sure there are many.

  • 1
    Asking which is 'better' is asking for opinions. You might like to rephrase your question as to what are the arguments of Hegel over Spinoza's ontology... Mar 25, 2023 at 10:12
  • Thanks for the suggestion. Changed the title.
    – KaiGuyMBK
    Mar 25, 2023 at 12:39
  • According to Hegel, Spinoza underappreciates that the Absolute is a "thinking thing" capable of reflection. As such, it thinks itself, determines (delimits) itself, and thereby "negates" itself. Ironically, Hegel makes use here of Spinoza's own quip, "determination is negation". This "determinate negation" preserves the original within its delimited context, but is supplemented by opposing to it incompatible qualities that call for further determinations (sublations), setting off a dialectic cascade of self-change. See SEP for details.
    – Conifold
    Mar 26, 2023 at 5:25
  • Thank you Conifold! I was suspecting that the Absolute might be what does the negation but I wasn't able to reconstruct it by myself. Guess I'm a bad note-taker. Your explanation was really helpful, thank you.
    – KaiGuyMBK
    Mar 26, 2023 at 9:03


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