Hegel and Concepts – The Diamond-Net

In a bunch of posts I have wrote and which relate to Hegel, I am trying to explain in a clear way some of the basic ideas, especially the ones that I buy also. So, I’m not doing this because of some historical  relevance of Hegel, or defending Hegel, but mostly because of the ideas themselves.

Hegel is seen as very hard to understand, and for anyone who has read (or tried to read) his books it is hard to deny that it is almost impossible to follow his train of thought (I would add, if you already don’t understand what he is saying). As my friend said the other day “I was reading Hegel for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and afterward I had trouble forming any thought at all.”

Anyway, in order to explain some parts of Hegelian system, it might be good idea to relate it to some other systems. I will try to do something like that in this post.

In the last post, I gave one example of relation of concepts of change and being (‘is X’/predicating X to something). The simple argument goes like this. If we try to specify truths about change (changing from being X to not being X) in terms of being, the most we can do is predicate both being X, and not being X. And we can’t use “at time” to solve this apparent contradiction, because time as a concept is seen as abstraction from the concept of change. From here, we conclude that “change” as a concept can’t be reduced to the concept of “being”.

This conclusion taken by itself, separate from the rest of Hegelian view, can be analyzed in terms of other systems. For example, in terms of Kantian kind of systems where concepts are seen as functions of the mind, which serve to organize the information that come from the senses, this conclusion can be read as saying that concept of “change” should be part of the pure concepts of understanding, because it can’t be reduced to ‘being X’ and ‘not being X’. And maybe, that the schema of the concept of “change”, is such that includes the concepts of “being” and “not being”.

So, Hegelian arguments through Science of Logic, where Hegel goes to show that some richer concept can’t be reduced to poorer ones (or more abstract ones), can be in that sense related to some kind of drawing the map of the concepts of pure understanding. So, instead of a linear group of categories of pure understanding, Hegel’s arguments give us a hierarchy of categories, where each “higher” concept in its schema contains as moments the concepts from the lower/more abstract level. This kind of analogy makes further sense, because as nothing can appear in form of thought for Kant except in terms of those categories, same is true for Hegel – nothing can appear in thought for Hegel, except in a form of one of those categories which form the hierarchy in Science of Logic.

As Hegel says in Philosophy of Nature, Part Two of Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences:

metaphysics is nothing but the range of universal thought-determinations, and is as it were the diamond-net into which we bring everything in order to make it intelligible.

Also, that the notions are to serve such a role can is seen in the next paragraph from Introduction to the Lectures on the History of Philosophy:

everyone possesses and uses the wholly abstract category of being. The sun is in the sky; these grapes are ripe, and so on ad infinitum. Or, in a higher sphere of eduction [which is to say, in the sphere of concepts higher in Hegel’s hierarchy], we proceed to the relation of cause and effect, force and its manifestation, etc. All our knowledge and ideas are entwined with metaphysics like this and governed by it; it is the net which holds together all of the concrete material which occupies us in our action and endeavor. But this net and its knots are sunk in our ordinary consciousness beneath numerous layers of stuff. This stuff comprises our known interests and the objects that are before our minds, while the universal threads of the net remain out of sight and are not explicitly made the subject of our reflection.

However the analogy between notions in Hegel, and pure concepts of understanding in Kant goes just that far. In what way Hegelian diamond-net differs from Kant’s pure concepts of understanding will be subject of some future post.

Diamond-net of concepts applied to an arm.
(They have applied those to every part of female body)

Note:Both citations are taken from Robert Stern’s Hegel and the Phenomenology of Spirit.

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