Different types of thinking about different things
- Part I -
1. Introduction *
2. The Onto-Epistemic precondition *
3. Hegel’s System *
4. The three logics of Hegel *
       4.1.I Logic of Being *
       4.2.I Logic of Essence *
       4.3.I Logic of Notion *
       4.1.II Logic of Being *
       4.2.II Logic of Essence *
       4.3.II Logic of Notion *
Literature *



1. Introduction

I have worked with the problem of self-organization for more than 15 years. I came from the philosophy of physics and found that the concept of self-organization could be useful for the philosophy of society, too. I found that the abstract form of the conceptions of self-organization allows finding many parallels between different real objects and their connections and evolution. But I also found that such a parallel, such an analogy is not enough to explain something in its own connections. I saw that the abstract thinking in concept of self-organization helps to find new ideas. But I know that the meaning of philosophy is not to find more and more abstract concepts.

It took a long time for me to get a sense, in which way philosophy differs from other abstract theories. I began to get an idea of the special quality of philosophy by reading Fichte, Schelling and Hegel.

Now I know that it is a philosophical tradition to differentiate between several types of thinking (abstract and concrete, understanding="Verstand" and reason="Vernunft" and so on) and I would like to represent typical types which may be useful for our project.

2. The Onto-Epistemic precondition

We are parts of an infinite totality. We can’t grasp it in its infinity; we can’t even grasp the whole totality of one thing. Therefore our cognition depends on abstractions. We have the ability to abstract in several forms (Schlemm 2000). We can take out something which is invariant in changes, we can go from Particular to Universals, and we can take out essential characteristics and so on.

Therefore all our cognition is not a "copy of the whole world", it differs from the world, because it is OUR cognition. The philosophy of science has known the active role of the subject since Hume and Kant.

But I think, radical constructivists carry this role too far. If all reality would be only an individual subjective construction, we couldn’t live in the same world. Today a modern, maybe better post-modern tolerance wants to prevent us from searching such a "totalitarian" thing like truth. Yes, there is no "absolute truth", the absolute identity of thoughts and world. But we are not imprisoned in a "brain in a tank", we have the possibility to recognize the world, to see its phenomena, to interact with its processes and to understand their structures and laws better and better.

Because there is no reliable ground for a conditionless beginning, neither in an external world itself nor in our thinking, we have to use a system of concepts, which justify themselves in a specific way.

3. Hegel’s System

Hegel determines all the concepts, the notions by their relations to each other. Therefore there are no "first definitions", "first axioms" or so on. No concept is the basis – all concepts need all the other concepts to understand their meaning. If we begin with the concept "Being" like Hegel in its Logic, we need to know the whole system to understand, why the development of the concept "Being" goes further through "Nothing" to "Becoming" and so on. Each concept turns out to be the whole process of its development.

It is very hard to grasp, but we can make some hints for understanding. I found such a hint in the Websites "www.hegel-system.de" and will use it in this essay.

We can look at the development of one concept (or notion, or category): It begins with the simple identity of a thought. This simple identity will be the number "1" in our triangle. We will get the "1" if we ask: "What is it?".

But when we want to ask "Why is it?" we get the answer: Its characteristics are given by other things in its environment – Or: Its characteristics are given by the parts (or the relations of the parts) of the whole. Or: At first we see the immediate appearances (what?) and search the essence (why?) of them. Now we have the Identity and the Others – and the Others are in difference or contradiction to the simple identity. Now we get the difference, the "Other" in the inner triangle number "2". It is the negation of "1". But the "1" and the "2" cannot stay in eternal contradiction. The contradiction means, that they have something common (otherwise the "2" would not be the Other of the "1" – they would have nothing to do with each other). There is some unityof 1 and 2 – it is their Identity 3. In Identity 3 the Identity 1 founds itself negated twice (Negation of Negation). The identiy (3) contains its contradiction now and is more developed, more concrete then the simple identity. It is the famous "Identity of the Identity and Difference". It is typical for the state "3", that it never is a static thing, but it is always a developing process. There is an interesting difference between 2 and 3. 2 and 3 are different answers of the question "Why is 1?". They are different types of "grounds" of 1. One ground is the stable essence (its "laws") and the other, the deeper and more concrete ground is its evolution-coherence (the connection/Context of its evolution). 1,2 and 3 are now moments of a higher process.

The transition to 3 can be justified only by solving contradictions in a right way (whatever this "right" means) and the possibility to deduce all determinations of 2 and 1 from 3 (this is related with the problem of validity in philosophy of science).

I want to show one example of such a development:

If we analyse the concept "intelligence" (=theoretical mind), we have to take into consideration the three moments "Intuition /Intelligent Perception" (="Anschauung"), "Representation /Mental Idea" (="Vorstellung") and "Thinking" (=Denken). Intelligent Perception is the immediate feeling mind, the cognition of forms like the mind perceives them in their objective form.

In our Mental Idea we can imagine several connections between the forms, but they are only subjective imaginations. If the mind recognises the "right" connections, the real inner connections of the object, it reaches the Thought. (We know that Hegel’s objects were only "Sachen", and "Sachen" are objects, which are not differing from their notions.) In thoughts objectivity and subjectivity are united. And now we can come back to other Intelligent Perceptions but they will change with our thoughts. Hegel said:

"Only by education the mind attention will gain strength and fulfilment… A highly educated person immediately has a complete notion of anything presented…" (Hegel Enc.III, S. 250, § 448 n). ("Erst durch die Bildung des Geistes bekommt die Aufmerksamkeit Stärke und Erfüllung... Ein Mensch von ... großer Bildung hat sogleich eine vollständige Anschauung des Vorliegenden...") Or: "In Experience everything depends upon the mind we bring to bear upon actuality. A great mind is great in its experience; and in the motley play of phenomena at once perceives the point of real significance. The genius of a Goethe, for example, looking into nature or history, has great experiences, catches sight of the living principle, and gives expression to it."
(Bei der Erfahrung kommt es darauf an, mit welchem Sinn man an die Wirklichkeit geht. Ein großer Sinn macht große Erfahrungen und erblickt in dem bunten Spiel der Erscheinung das, worauf es ankommt. Die Idee ist vorhanden und wirklich, nicht etwas da drüben und hinten. Der große Sinn, wie z. B. der eines Goethe, der in die Natur ode
r in die Geschichte blickt, macht große Erfahrungen, erblickt das Vernünftige und spricht es aus. (Enz. I, § 24, Zusatz 3, 3. Satz))

This onto-epistemic circularity is never abolished (although Hegel’s linear writing needs a beginning point).

In this way (determined negation and negation of negation) Hegel develops all concepts of philosophy. Hegel speaks about the "rhythm" of the spirit (Hegel VLRel, S. 65). And as we know: If one used one simple rule to develop her/his thing in a non-linear process- she/he will get a fractal. Therefore the system of Hegelian categories looks like fractals:

Hegel himself used the figure of a triangle and therefore I will use it to explain one of the most important aspects of Hegelian thinking. Hegel himself spoke about "circle of circles" (Hegel, WdL II, S. 570-571; Enz. I S. 59, § 15) and a "diamond-like net" (Hegel Enz.II, S. 20, § 246 Zusatz). Bloch spoke about a "World-net", a "weaved-weavening plan of the world" (SO, S. 173). Bloch also remarked, that Hegel’s System is an En-kyklo-paidia ("In-Kreis-Lehre" / "within-circle-doctrine") it its best sense (SO, S. 184).

This System is an "In-one-another (Ineinander) of dynamics and static at least", which is grounded in the "In-one-another of capitalism and feudal standstill" in the days of Hegel (ebd.). Incidentally: Hegel wasn’t successful in doing the system. With his fire he could not built a sphere – as Bloch said (ebd., S. 187)…

4. The three logics of Hegel

If we look at the first triangle in his whole system, we will find the "Logic". Here Hegel models a theory of recognition; he makes models of typical forms of thinking. (It is not fully correct: Hegel himself worked out that the development of thinking is identical with the process of the things, of the "Sachen" their selves).

see more

I think, to know the forms if thinking is useful for us to access in which form of "logic" we are in certain moments of our work. Sometimes we misinterpret each other, because one’s thinking is located in one logic but the other in another logic.

Hegel distinguished three types of logical objects: Objects of Being, Objects of Essence and Objects of Notion. These objects require different types of thinking: the Logic of Being, the Logic of Essence and the Logic of Notion.

At first I will tell you a story I think, you might already know:

4.1.I Logic of Being

Some blind people meet and speak about their perceptions. One of them says: I feel a long hose with grooves. The other says: But I feel a cord with tassels. But the third insists that he feels a wall. They are within the logic of Being.

  • single, isolated phenomena
  • simple identity in its immediacy

Quarrell of opinions

In this logic the object is given as a single, isolated phenomenon. We see its simple identity in its immediacy. We get the answer of the question: "What is it?"- but the answer will not be a qualitative determination yet. In our immediate perception we merely feel an "It" without enough qualitative determination.

Many people can exchange their opinions (doxa) about their perceptions in this logic. But it is a meaningless quarrel. The best way within this logic is the tolerant indifference…

But our thinking doesn’t want do stay at this point. We ask, in which way the perceptions are connected. This is a first form of asking, "Why is it?"

(I want to remark that the relation between "What" and "Why" in this sense is kindred with the relation of "daß" and "was" in Bloch’s Experimentum Mundi.)


4.2.I Logic of Essence

The question about the connection of the perceptions leads us to the next type of logic, the logic of essence. The simple identity is situated among other objects and within relations to them. It turns out to have an inner structure.

In our example the three people find out, that the hose and the cord are located always in a distance of 5.50 to 7.5 metres. Other people tell them, that their hoses and cords have other distances. And our people notice, that much things change – the location of their objects and so on, but the distance is always the same. They recognise, that the distance of 5.5 to 7.5 metres is essentially for their object and the connection of their object.

  • abstract laws of essential connections
It depends on an inner structure of their connection. Maybe they invent a new science of hoses and cords and walls and they are able to find laws. If the law will be: "The distance of cord and hose is always 5.5 to 7.5 metres" and if they know the location of one object, they can explain it and predict the location of the other object.

The philosophy of sciences has a problem now: How can such laws be justified? Are laws the sum of all immediate perceptions (within the Logic of Being)? If we assume, that laws are simple generalisations of "facts", we get the problem of induction. We know, that the generalisation of scientific laws need a type of necessity, but no philosopher of science knows, what type of necessity it is. Formal necessity is not enough, now they are speaking about: "natural necessity", but this doesn’t solve the problem.

I think, we can understand what a scientific law is only, if we understand the distinction between the logic of being and the logic of essence. Essence is not only "more inductive generalisation", it is another qualitative level of cognition. And essence has no own existence outside the appearances – it is a special (namely a necessary) universal within the things of the world.

We have to remember that essence in Hegel’s Logic is not the stable, eternal "substance" ore the middle-age-"essence". Essence is determined as "ground for existence" and in relation to its appearance. In comparison to the "concrete phenomenon" as appearance the essence is a very abstract entity.

Okay, now we have reached the most important content of science. Maybe this is the end. Is it the end of cognition, when we know the abstract laws of essential connections?

4.3.I Logic of Notion

It is very useful, to go from the abstract "back" to the concrete. We have now to understand the concrete object in its necessary connections and to build upon this knowledge its right notion. The three blind people detect, that they spoke about an "elephant" all the time. The Notion unites the essence and the appearance. We can’t grasp the notion abstractly! We need an other form of concreteness, we can’t speak about "animals", but a concrete-universal "Elephant".

"I am an elephant!"

If we got the notion, we understand the phenomena’s in a new way. We know the meaning of them. We know, that the hose is the trunk of the elephant, that the wall is its body and the cord is the tail. The knowledge of the right notion allows us to explain the function of the parts of the whole, to deduce more about them. We get a new type of answer to our question: "Why is it?". The answer is not an abstract law, but the understanding of concrete connections.

We get a new "concrete", which is different from the fist concrete isolated appearances in the logic of Being. It is a universal-concrete, a totality.

Okay, this was our first circle through the rhythm of Hegel’s Logic.

The next circle uses the given explanations and goes deeper in our understanding.

4.1.II Logic of Being

The Logic of Being is the dominant logic in all positivistic models of science. The positivistic science tries to begin with immediate given particulars and to stay within the Logic of Being. Positivist scientists refuse the "metaphysics of essence". Also in positive political economy and in "vulgar Marxism" dominates the "simple acceptation of the immediately given (that is to say: empirical) social structure" (Lukács 1923/2000, S. 176). Other scientists try to criticise such a "dogma of the given" and remind of Kant’s emphasizing of the spontaneity of the mind (Mc Dowell 2000). But they have no notion of the logic of essence.

Hegel resolves (sublates) this logic in the further argumentation, but it is also preserved. He discusses this phase of cognition in his work "Phenomenology of Mind" it its transition to the understanding of the essence. At first the perception gets abstract information about sensation. The perception doesn’t know, "what" was the cause of the sensations. It is an abstract "It" ("Es", see Bloch EM, S. 39). But we can distinguish several things (Ding) with several characteristics. Such a thing contains a contradiction: The thing is an Identity against its environment or against its parts. But in its characteristics it is diversity at the same time. One thing has many qualitative determinations. What is the identity of them?

We can see now, how the essence of the thing produces all appearing characteristics - No, we can not "see" it !- this identity in the essence only can be thought, the essence is not an object of perception.

4.2.II Logic of Essence

At a deeper level of cognition we find the logic of essence. This level is connected with the activity of the understanding (Verstand).

The understanding (Verstand) is able to abstract from appearances and to reconstruct the essential inner relations of the object in a way that no formal contradiction obstructs the scientific work. Within different qualities some qualities, which can be taken as equivalent, are selected. In physics Newton defined mass, velocity and other measuring quantities ("Meßgrößen") in such a way that the dialectical contradiction of motion is prevented (Wahsner 1993/1996). Different moments of motion have to be separated in such a way that measurement and physical experience become possible. The understanding (Verstand) has the tendency to make things from relations (reification ="Verdinglichung") and to separate the abstract essence and their appearances. Understanding (Verstand) tries to imagine the connections. We remember: In Logic of being the Intelligent Perception (Anschauung) dominates, in Logic of essence the Representation (or Mental Idea) (Vorstellung) dominates. Thinking in this logic is mainly positing and external reflection. This two forms are within the Logic of Essence – they have an relationship of exteriority (Äußerlichkeit), not yet mediation (Vermittlung).

Therefore in this logic there are interchangeable models from different perspectives.

One emphasizes the relation of the distance of trunk and tail, the other emphasizes the girth of the body and others the length of the legs and other laws. But they don’t speak about the foundation of all their laws.

If we want to understand the logic of essence in a better way, it may be useful to look at the logic of notion. Later we will see the differences and understand both in a better way.

4.3.II Logic of Notion

I read Ernst Bloch’s Experimentum Mundi and compared it with Hegel’s Logic of notion. In Hegels Logic the "notion" exists triple. At first it exists as the "notion as such" (Hegel WdL II, S. 345) or the "abstract notion" (Blunden 2001) and secondly as the whole notion. I think the first "notion" corresponds to Bloch’s precept ("Ergriff"). Such a notion is a single determined notion (WdL II, S. 273). The "notion as such" is not yet the whole notion!

Maybe the translation "comprehension" for this "whole notion" is better – I found it in on translation of Hegel into English in the Internet.
Hegel wrote:

"Now although it is true that the Notion is to be regarded, not merely as a subjective presupposition but as the absolute foundation, yet it can be so only in so far as it has made itself the foundation. Abstract immediacy is no doubt a first; yet in so far as it is abstract it is, on the contrary mediated, and therefore if it is to be grasped in its truth its foundation must be first sought." (German: WdL II, S. 245, Translation from Internet)
(Ob nun wohl der Begriff nicht nur als eine subjektive Voraussetzung, sondern als absolute Grundlage anzusehen ist, so kann er dies doch nicht sein, als insofern er sich zur Grundlage gemacht hat. Das abstrakt Unmittelbare ist wohl ein Erstes; als dies Abstrakte ist es aber vielmehr ein Vermitteltes, von dem also, wenn es in seiner Wahrheit gefasst werden soll, seine Grundlage erst zu suchen ist." )
This foundation will be the whole Notion. The first, single determined notion turns out to be merely an issue of the Logic of notion, the part "subjective notion", in which judgements and conclusions take place. The "whole" Notion is the Totality, which results from the interactions (through mediation) from the sphere of essence (WdL II, S. 251). The Essence turns out to be the (relative stable) manifestation of the Notion and the notion generates its own logic, which differs form the logic of the essence.

"notion as such"

(Logic of) notion

  • A single determined notion
    (within subjective logic)
  • Totality, which results from the interactions from the sphere of essence
    and sets its own moments

Because Hegel took the way through his circles before he wrote his books, he knew the way. In principle the way can be thought as open.

Now to some characteristics of a whole notion, of the logic of notion. The most important difference to the logic of essence is the

  • Concreteness and the
  • (logical) Historicity, or better: the connection of (logical) development. (We have to distinguish between logical and historical development, see Schlemm 2002).

Here the famous "ascending from the abstract to the historical-concrete whole/universal" has to take place. The highest notion it the system of Hegel is the absolute spirit, given in the philosophy of Hegel. I think, this doesn’t say that all development is ready, the system is closed. If we pay enough attention to the notion of the notion we know that each notion is development itself. But it is not a random development, it needs relative destinations like "Heimat", "Utopia" or "hope" and I think that the meaning of an Hegelian notion can be understood as equivalent to draft ("Entwurf").

To think the notion as an evolving concrete-universal totality we need our reason (Vernunft), which is not identical with understanding (Verstand).

I want to say more about these characteristics later (Part II).

I’m interested in different ways of thinking, in types of thinking, which we often use, without knowing that the used type may look up us within a limited area. To go beyond the pure logic of essence corresponds for instance with the principle of the Existentialists, that the existence will be before essence. I think, they do not mean that immediate, isolated existence is the very first – but the existence of a developing coherence/connection is the deeper reality ("Vermittlung" said Sartre) against the pure essence.

I want to remind that the differentiation of three types of logic corresponds to different types of reflection. Christian used the first two in his papers about society.

Logic of Essence

Transition to ® Logic of Notion




Unity of external and positing reflection:
determining reflection
(bestimmende Reflexion)



reflektierende Urteilskraft

- bestimmende Urteilskraft)

® notion as evolving



Hegel, Marx

simple form of value


unfold form of value

universal form of value


Capital is the right notion to explain bourgeois society and its evolution.

If we deduce the universal from the particular or the particular from the universal – we are still in the logic of essence. Both are in a relation of exteriority. The relation is a stable one. But if we take into account evolution, the emergence of New, we need another logic, a logic of mediation.

If we explain the world with systems, which are reproduce itself in an eternal Autopoiesis, we use the logic of essence – but if we are interested in Self-Organization of Emergence, we need the logic of Notion. Otherwise we don’t may be very useful.

Logic of Essence

Logic of Notion

stable selfreproduction
of systems

evolution of systems


Self-Organization with Emergence

I think this is enough for today. I will continue with the distinction of different types of systems (within the three logics) and some application in several sciences.


This paper is published: Annette Schlemm: Different Types of Thinking About Different Things. In: Zimmermann Rainer E.; Budanov, Vladimir G. (Eds)(2005): Towards Otherland. Languages of Science and Languages Beyond. INTAS Volume of Collected Essays 3. Kassel: kassel university press. p.110-122.



Bloch, Ernst (SO): Subjekt – Objekt. Erläuterungen zu Hegel. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 1985
Bloch, Ernst (EM): Experimentum Mundi. Frage, Kategorien des Herausbringens, Praxis. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 1985
Blunden, Andy (2001): Webprojekt: Hegel by Hypertext. http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/triads/subjectivity.htm
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (WdLII): Wissenschaft der Logik II. Auf d. Grdl. der Werke von 1832-1845 neu ed. Ausg. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag (is equ. to G.W.F. Hegel: Werke in 20 Bänden. Band 6. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag 1970)
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (Enz.I): Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse. Erster Teil. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag (is equ. to G.W.F. Hegel: Werke in 20 Bänden. Band 8. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag 1970).
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (Enz.II): Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse. Zweiter Teil. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag (is equ. to G.W.F. Hegel: Werke in 20 Bänden. Band 9. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag 1970).
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (Enz.III): Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse. Dritter Teil. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag (is equ. to G.W.F. Hegel: Werke in 20 Bänden. Band 10. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag 1970).
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (Ge.d.Ph.I): Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie. Erster Band. Nach der Ausgabe von Michelet (1833) überarb. und hrsg. v. G. Irrlitz und K. Gurst. Leipzig: Verlag Philipp Reclam 1982.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (
VLRel): Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag (is equ. to G.W.F. Hegel: Werke in 20 Bänden. Band 16 Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp Verlag 1970).
Lukács (1923/2000): Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein. London: Red Star Press. (Reprint der Erstausgabe von 1923.)
McDowell, John (2001): Geist und Welt. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp
Schlemm, Annette (2000): Die Abstraktion. In: Internet http://www.thur.de/philo/abstrakt.htm
Schlemm, Annette (2002): Das Problem des Verhältnisses Logisches-Historisches. Manuskript (demnächst im Internet: http://www.thur.de/philo/hegel/hegel4.htm)
Wahsner, Renate (1993/1996): Gott arbeitet nicht. Zur Notwendigkeit, Karl Marx einer optimalen Messung zu unterziehen. In: Wahsner, Renate (1996): Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Naturphilosophie. Über ihren Sinn im Lichte der heutigen Naturerkenntnis. Frankfurt a.M., Berlin, Bern, New York, Paris, Wien: Lang (Hegeliania, Studien und Quellen zu Hegel und zum Hegelianismus. Hrsg.v. H. Schneider, Bd. 7), S. 175-202.
Zimmermann, Rainer E. (2002): Principles of Blochian Approach. Material of the Kassel-INTAS Meeting 2002

Back to Homepage of my Hegel-Project

[My Homepage] [structure]

Stübchen Gliederung

- This page is a part of "Annettes Philosophenstübchen" 2002, publ. in 2005 - http://www.thur.de/philo/hegel/hegel_en1.htm -