Being and Nothing in Hegel

(Pertaining to the Heidegger texts cited before…)

From The Science of Logic

§ 111

Further, in the beginning, being and nothing are present as distinguished from each other; for the beginning points to something else — it is a non-being which carries a reference to being as to an other; that which begins, as yet is not, it is only on the way to being.

That which begins, as yet is not, it is only on the way to being. The being contained in the beginning is, therefore, a being which removed itself from non-being or sublates it as something opposed to it.

But again, that which begins already is, but equally, too, is not as yet. The opposites, being and non-being are therefore directly united in it, or, otherwise expressed, it is their undifferentiated unity.

§ 112

The analysis of the beginning would thus yield the notion of the unity of being and nothing — or, in a more reflected form, the unity of differentiatedness and non-differentiatedness, or the identity of identity and non-identity. This concept could be regarded as the first, purest, that is, most abstract definition of the absolute — as it would in fact be if we were at all concerned with the form of definitions and with the name of the absolute. In this sense, that abstract concept would be the first definition of this absolute and all further determinations and developments only more specific and richer definitions of it. But let those who are dissatisfied with being as a beginning because it passes over into nothing and so gives rise to the unity of being and nothing, let them see whether they find this beginning which begins with the general idea of a beginning and with its analysis (which, though of course correct, likewise leads to the unity of being and nothing), more satisfactory than the beginning with being.




Chapter 1 Being

A Being

§ 132

Being, pure being, without any further determination. In its indeterminate immediacy it is equal only to itself. It is also not unequal relatively to an other; it has no diversity within itself nor any with a reference outwards. It would not be held fast in its purity if it contained any determination or content which could be distinguished in it or by which it could be distinguished from an other. It is pure indeterminateness and emptiness. There is nothing to be intuited in it, if one can speak here of intuiting; or, it is only this pure intuiting itself. Just as little is anything to be thought in it, or it is equally only this empty thinking. Being, the indeterminate immediate, is in fact nothing, and neither more nor less than nothing.

B Nothing

§ 133

Nothing, pure nothing: it is simply equality with itself, complete emptiness, absence of all determination and content — undifferentiatedness in itself. In so far as intuiting or thinking can be mentioned here, it counts as a distinction whether something or nothing is intuited or thought. To intuit or think nothing has, therefore, a meaning; both are distinguished and thus nothing is (exists) in our intuiting or thinking; or rather it is empty intuition and thought itself, and the same empty intuition or thought as pure being. Nothing is, therefore, the same determination, or rather absence of determination, and thus altogether the same as, pure being.

C Becoming

1. Unity of Being and Nothing

§ 134

Pure Being and pure nothing are, therefore, the same. What is the truth is neither being nor nothing, but that being — does not pass over but has passed over — into nothing, and nothing into being. But it is equally true that they are not undistinguished from each other, that, on the contrary, they are not the same, that they are absolutely distinct, and yet that they are unseparated and inseparable and that each immediately vanishes in its opposite. Their truth is therefore, this movement of the immediate vanishing of the one into the other: becoming, a movement in which both are distinguished, but by a difference which has equally immediately resolved itself.

Remark 1: The Opposition of Being and Nothing in Ordinary Thinking

§ 135

Nothing is usually opposed to something; but the being of something is already determinate and is distinguished from another something; and so therefore the nothing which is opposed to the something is also the nothing of a particular something, a determinate nothing. Here, however, nothing is to be taken in its indeterminate simplicity. Should it be held more correct to oppose to being, non-being instead of nothing, there would be no objection to this so far as the result is concerned, for in non-being the relation to being is contained: both being and its negation are enunciated in a single term, nothing, as it is in becoming. But we are concerned first of all not with the form of opposition (with the form, that is, also of relation) but with the abstract, immediate negation: nothing, purely on its own account, negation devoid of any relations — what could also be expressed if one so wished merely by ‘not’.

§ 136

It was the Eleatics, above all Parmenides, who first enunciated the simple thought of pure being as the absolute and sole truth: only being is, and nothing absolutely is not, and in the surviving fragments of Parmenides this is enunciated with the pure enthusiasm of thought which has for the first time apprehended itself in its absolute abstraction. As we know, in the oriental systems, principally in Buddhism, nothing, the void, is the absolute principle. Against that simple and one-sided abstraction the deep-thinking Heraclitus brought forward the higher, total concept of becoming and said: being as little is, as nothing is, or, all flows, which means, all is a becoming. The popular, especially oriental proverbs, that all that exists has the germ of death in its very birth, that death, on the other hand, is the entrance into new life, express at bottom the same union of being and nothing. But these expressions have a substratum in which the transition takes place; being and nothing are held apart in time, are conceived as alternating in it, but are not thought in their abstraction and consequently, too, not so that they are in themselves absolutely the same.

§ 137

Ex nihilo nihil fit — is one of those propositions to which great importance was ascribed in metaphysics. In it is to be seen either only the empty tautology: nothing is nothing; or, if becoming is supposed to possess an actual meaning in it, then, since from nothing only nothing becomes, the proposition does not in fact contain becoming, for in it nothing remains nothing. Becoming implies that nothing does not remain nothing but passes into its other, into being. Later, especially Christian, metaphysics whilst rejecting the proposition that out of nothing comes nothing, asserted a transition from nothing into being; although it understood this proposition synthetically or merely imaginatively, yet even in the most imperfect union there is contained a point in which being and nothing coincide and their distinguishedness vanishes. The proposition: out of nothing comes nothing, nothing is just nothing, owes its peculiar importance to its opposition to becoming generally, and consequently also to its opposition to the creation of the world from nothing. Those who maintain the proposition: nothing is just nothing, and even grow heated in its defence, are unaware that in so doing they are subscribing to the abstract pantheism of the Eleatics, and also in principle to that of Spinoza. The philosophical view for which ‘being is only being, nothing is only nothing’, is a valid principle, merits the name of ‘system of identity’; this abstract identity is the essence of pantheism.


One thought on “Being and Nothing in Hegel

  1. Érthető, hogy az egzisztencialisták által felkapott “Semmi” eredeti értelmezését is bemutatja, bár Heidegger nem volt egzisztencialista.

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