Hegel, Marx and the Problem of Transformations in the Logical Structure

V. S. Bibler

1. On the Hegelian Scheme of the Development of Scientific Thinking

Its linear character is one of the shortcomings of the Hegelian scheme of the phylogenesis of logical structures. In essence, the subordination of categories in Hegel’s logic has elbowed their co-ordination out of existence, while the consistent deduction of categories has done away with the real interconnections between concepts. According to Hegel, every epoch produces a category or group of categories, but an integral system of categories is realised only as the outcome of a logical movement in the philosophical system of absolute idealism. That system (and we are referring only to its methodological fundamentals) has been engendered by two epistemological prejudices.

a) Hegel saw the entire historical movement of scientific thought exclusively through the prism of an “immersion in essence”. In the Hegelian scheme, the chain of categories is linked together along a “straight line”—from appearance (being) to the manifestation of that essence in the activities of the mind (in the dialectics of the concept). As a whole,. this line corresponds to historical reality and provides a general outline of the history (the logic) of human cognition. At the same time, this scheme is connected with a fundamental illusion, for it evokes the idea of a system of thought as the result of cognition, not as the necessary definition of the very essence of the scientific and theoretical movement of thought.


The scientist of today—-like any other contemporary—thinks in terms of a system of categories, but so did the “Greek of antiquity” and the “mediaeval craftsman”.

Incidentally, to say that man thinks in a system of categories is tantamount to saying that he thinks.

The history of philosophy and that of science confirm that such categories as “essence”, “appearance”, “content”, “form”, “possibility”, “actuality”, “cause”, “action”, “discontinuity”, “continuity”, and so on and so forth—all these in their comprehensive logical links—are in principle inherent in human thinking at all stages of its development; it is only in its interdefinition with all other categories-—only as the focus of an integral system of categories—that each category possesses its actual and “operative” logical meaning. A system of categories always resembles the Universe as defined by Giordano Bruno: its centre is everywhere, and the circumference nowhere. If that is so, then what comprises the historicity of an understanding of the onward march of scientific thought? Is it possible, in general, to speak of fundamental qualitative shifts or “revolutions” in the development of the logic of ‘thinking? Such shifts have, of course, always existed; only a rejection of the Hegelian linear scheme permits a logical comprehension of the actual character of such shifts and revolutions. Every shift means an elevation of the entire system of categories to a new qualitative level, and a basic change in the very understanding of what comprises the “essence” of things, of the location of the “sufficient foundation” for their “existence”, and of the nature of the mechanism of the connection (and mutual transition) between “cause and effect”.


Any new shift in activity (fundamental revolutions in the mode of production, or system of implements and system of intercourse) reveals to mankind a new cross-section of being, and makes it possible to give shape to a qualitatively new concept of the essence of objects of the second, third and n orders. Sufficient historical material has been amassed and systematised for a comprehension of such a spiral, not “linear”, movement of the actual logic of creative thinking. In the process of that comprehension, any particular moment in the development of logic (its historically determined stage) will operate as a moment in the development of the general, of the entire system of categories as a whole. In that case, however, there must also be a new consideration of the ontogenesis of thought—the reproduction of such shifts in the system of categories (as a whole) in the thinking of present-day Man, in the construction of present-day theoretical systems, and the logic of creative processes.

b) There lies at the foundation of the Hegelian “linear scheme” a bigger prejudice, which is closely bound up with the idealism of his philosophical system. A linear construction of the movement of logic is inevitable if the logical system of activities in the realm of science and research is identified with a “pure” system of categories (one that is set forth with logical consistency, i.e., on the basis of absolute subordination: “pure being” turns into “nothingness”, “being” and “nothingness” produce a process of “becoming”, the latter is “suspended” in “quality”, and so on and so forth).

Nobody is thinking in a “pure” system of categories—whether we are referring to the “Greek of antiquity”, the “mediaeval craftsman”, or the


scientist of today. A category is an “adjective” without a “noun”.

Hegel excluded from the realm of logic the logical subject of the movement of science (he excluded the very object of thinking as it operates in theory, that is to say, in the form of an idealised object). He retained in logic only the system of the general attributes of that subject, a system of category definitions whose object and mode of definition are unknown. However, the fundamental changes in a system of categories (universal definitions) can be understood and assimilated by the science of logic only if a fundamental change in the object of cognition [1] and, on that basis, a fundamental change in the idealised object, together with all its category attributes, becomes the object of logical analysis. This means that the historical development of scientific theory (the scientific concept), and not the “pure” (i.e., stripped of the history of science) development of systems of categories, must become the direct object of logic.

A scientific concept is a process in which the definition of the being of an idealised object and the definition of the essence of the idea, the understanding of that idealised object, are constantly “suspending” (aufheben) and reproducing each other.

It will suffice to cite a single example: in the 20th century the concept of the atom has devel-

1 An object of labour becomes an object of cognition in the measure in which the former is cognised (and given effect to) as the future instrument—a form that provides the possibility of action. Cognising this in an object of labour means cognising its essence. A practical attitude to an object shapes a theoretical attitude as one of its necessary definitions.


oped as an ideal model (Rutherford’s, Bohr’s and that of today) in a unity with the development of the idea (mode of understanding) of that model, i.e., a definite theoretical and mathematical structure. At every stage, the new model (the definition of the atom as being) has been an embodiment of the new idea, its realisation, the new idea (or theoretico-mathematical structure) arising as a more profound mode of the interpretation of a new and deeper cross-section of the atom’s being, of its objectness (Gegenständlichkeit). It is only the unity of these two definitions and only their constant mutual transition that provide an actual concept of the atom, e.g., provide thought in its elementary expression, its integrity and indivisibility.

This is merely a single example, a prototype instance. What has been said can refer to any scientific concept.

[Some qualification is required here. The atom “example” may—but only if developed in greater detail—obscure an important point. As an essential definition of a scientific concept, an idealised object is an “object” (a “material point”, “virtual particle”, “differential”, “function” or the like) that reproduces, in the form of an object, definitions of the essence of the relations, changes and motion of objective things. In objects of the material world, the potency of these objects-—their possibility and their future, i.e., their essence as an object—is the object of cognition. Another “prototype” will be relevant here. In inventing (and making) a new implement, Man invents—and, on that basis, cognises and investigates—an object as the possibility of a definite operation, the potency of a definite motion, one that is arrested but can and must give vent to


itself. It is in this sense, and only therein, that an “idealised object” proves to be an “object”, as one of the essential definitions of a scientific concept. The theoretical clashes that take place in the formation of such an initial idealised object, which reproduces the motion (activity) of the object, underlie, incidentally, Zeno’s aporias at any stage of their renascence, in present-day science as well.]

Let us return to the fundamental line of our argument—an analysis of the Hegelian scheme of the movement of logic.

The historical logic in the development of a scientific concept can be understood only when

the science of logic sees the disappearance of the Hegelian division of the “system” of categories into categories of “being” and those of “essence” as independent vertical levels of logic. That, incidentally, is a special theme which calls for careful research.

We shall deal here with only one of a group of problems that arise in the context of a critique of the Hegelian linear scheme of the development of the logic of content (i.e., the doctrine of the content of the forms of thinking).

This is a question of the methodological significance of an analysis of basic logical shifts in the development of human thinking.

2. On the Logical System of Scientific Activities and Basic Shifts in That System

We are not here in a position to substantiate the existence of such logical shifts, and engage in a special analysis of their content and determination. We shall restrict ourselves to some introductory observations.


Of course, the essence of intra-atomic processes differs radically from the essence of the “mechanism” of heredity, the latter differing just as radically from the essence of social processes.

At the same time, all sciences (and science as a whole), during a definite period of history, are characterised by some “invariant” understanding of what is meant by searching after the essence of things and by finding that “essence”. There always exists, in the logical structure of thinking, a certain and historically necessary ideal model (a certain type of model) according to whose scheme an idealised object of a scientific theory is constructed. When that object has been constructed (one that is in keeping with a definite “prototype”), the researcher knows that “contact has been made”—the object has been understood.

Properly speaking, it is in a construction of this kind that the very category of “essence” reveals its rational meaning, its specific nature, which distinguishes it from, let us say, such categories as “cause” or “content”. To understand an object in its essence means “suspending” all the potencies, all the possibilities, of a given “external” object in the idealised object, which exists and moves in the context of a theory, the “space” of a definite theoretical structure. The history of science (as understood in terms of logic) reveals the fundamental difference in the “models” of essence as referring to antiquity, the Middle Ages, the science of the mechanical period, and finally the revolution in 20th-century logic. Each of these periods provides its own reply to the fundamental question of logic: what is meant by an understanding of an object?

To the entire science and the philosophy of antiquity, “understanding an object” meant


understanding it as an “ideal form”, i.e., as a form capable of being the starting-point of definite actions and qualities, the principle of a definite functioning. The Atom of Democritus, the Numbers of Pythagoras, the Homoeomeries of Empedocles, the Form of Aristotle were all such extra-qualitative, extra-quantitative, indivisible and non-content principles, which functioned in things as principles of quality, quantity, measure, content and action. The entire logical structure of the science of antiquity (which found its most complete and adequate expression in Euclid’s geometry and the statics of Archimedes) may be termed aporian. That is because the problem of Zeno’s aporias—that of the reproduction of empirically provided motion and plurality in an ideal, single and motionless form, one that harboured the possibility of motion and plurality (just as an implement’s form is a potency of its future functioning)—was the problem of all scientific activities of that period.

A quite different structure of thought—the antinomian—is characteristic of modern science, with the 17th century as the turning point.

In the modern period, “understanding an object” means “building its mechanical model” (William Thompson), which presupposes logical parallelism in the concepts of “force” and “law” (“the graph of motion in Descartes’s coordinates”), the identification of any object or phenomenon with a material point that moves in the space of n-dimensions (in three-dimensional space, or phasic space, or in the space of events). Further, this model (or understanding of the essence of things) demands an identity of geometrical and analytical notions, an identity that underlies all the major scientific “intuitions” of


the 17th-19th centuries (cf. Euler, Gauss, Hamilton and Poincaré, to mention but a few). During that period, science was marked by the antinomian development of scientific concepts, in which a single concept develops in the form of two quasi-independent theoretical systems (e.g., in the systems of kinematic and dynamic theories), each of which is self-contained and non-contradictory. [1]

The entire structure of the categories of scientific thinking in a particular period (the coordination, subordination and mutual definition of the fundamental categories) can be understood only in the measure in which all the connections between categories are regarded as a definition of a single problem, and are perceived in their actual historical definiteness. [2]

Each such new stage in the reproduction of the

1 In fact, it was Kant and Hegel who first established—of course in differing contexts—the specific features of the antinomian structure. The concrete mechanism of the operation of antinomies in scientific thinking was revealed by Marx in his critique of classical political economy. In the current century the antinomian character of 17th-19th century science has been analysed in the historico-scientific reviews of Einstein, Bohr and Heisenberg.

2 We have mentioned only two instances of a historically developing logical structure. In another work, the author considers the history of the actual logic of thinking as a movement from the aporian structure of thinking (antiquity) to an antithetical structure (the Middle Ages), then to an antinomian structure (modern times), to the present-day revolution in logic '(the transition to the logic of complementariness and, through the latter, to the logical structure of a dialectico-logical contradiction that has been established in theoretical structures). Providing a definition of a logical structure, for instance, as aporian in character, actually means determining the laws governing the transition of that structure to the next qualitative stage, for instance, to the antinomian structure.


“essence of things” characterises—of course in varying measure—all the sciences of a given period; that unity is ultimately determined by a single mode of productive activities, i.e., a single mode of producing (and consequently theoretically reproducing and understanding) motion in all its contradictoriness and many-sidedness.

The radical changes in the development of material production leave an impress on the logic of the movement of thought in the form of the development of mental experiments, i.e., the mode of shaping and modifying idealised objects. The “development (movement) of mental experiments”, in the broadest meaning of the expression, is an equivalent for “the development of the logical structure of scientific-theoretical activities”. The corresponding category system can be understood only in the meaning of a “trajectory of the movement of thought” in the process of mental experiments. It is here that identifications of “discontinuity” and “continuity”, “finiteness” and “infiniteness”, and “possibility” and “reality” emerge and acquire real force—identifications that are decisive in the process of the formation of new concepts (=in acts of scientific creativity).

At this point we must draw a comparison between the various logics contained in the mental experiments in the mathematical atomism of Democritus (in solving geometrical problems), the mechanics of Archimedes, the Dialogues of Galileo, and present-day physics.

The attention shown by logicians and historians of science to radical logical shifts will make it possible to ascertain the actual “subterranean current” of scientific thought—thought as “object-activity” (=mental experiment).


There is of course much work yet to be done in analysing and assessing these logical “shifts”, but it is no longer possible to deny the existence and qualitative nature of such logical “transformations”. It is, incidentally, just as impossible now to deny that all these transformations do not operate as “acts” of the “creation of a new logic” but are moments in the development of a single logic of scientific thinking, a single logic of productive activity. It is now impossible—we emphasise—-to deny this after the outstanding achievements of the Piaget group in Switzerland, the Vernant group in France, the work done by I. Lakatos, and many other recent discoveries and researches by historians of science.

Only the initial methodological aspect will be singled out in the framework of the present article. Basically speaking, the entire logic of content is a form of the understanding of fundamental revolutions in the realm of logic.

It is on the basis of that reflection that universal definitions of thinking reveal themselves, definitions that are valid for all periods and all processes of the movement of thought, this referring to the smoothest periods of evolution and the most reproductive processes.

"We shall now develop certain preliminary considerations in defence of this thesis.

3. The “Owl of Minerva" Effect and the "First Swallow" Effect

Only a historical movement of thought from essence to essence (from actuality to actuality, from being to being), i.e., only the fundamental transformation of a logical system, can be accepted as a movement in logic. The movement of thought


(and activity as a whole) from appearance to essence is merely a section of the movement from essence of the first order to essence of the second, third and n orders.

If that section is torn out of the integral and spiral movement of logic, it operates as a purely empirical movement of “generalisation”, as a movement within a single measure, with a “suspended” logical implication. The logical intent of the movement of concepts cannot be ascertained from this “section” of thought, but is revealed only in a fundamental shift in thinking, from one idealised object to another and, correspondingly. from one level of essence to another and more profound one. As a result, the creative status of activity will disappear, and thinking will have to be understood as a purely reproductive process. This “internal” movement, i.e.. the movement of thought within a single logical structure, if identified with all logical movement, must of necessity be realised as a continuous “removal” of essence to “beyond" the cognised (the Kantian variant), or else be understood as a closed circle: appearance—essence—manifestation (an understood appearance) (variant of the Hegelian scheme). The theoretically extracted logical aspect moves only from essence to essence.

We can, as a matter of convention, single out two fundamental “effects” which show why the logical structure of thought becomes an object of analysis and can be comprehended only in the process of the transition to a new logical structure, only on the basis of an investigation into such fundamental logical shifts.

These two effects may be fancifully called the


“owl of Minerva” effect and that of the “first swallow”. [1]

A. The “Owl of Minerva” Effect (in the historical phylogenesis of thought).

If, during the early development of a new type of activity, the category structure and the content of science operate in an intuitive and undivided identity (1), while, during a period of the advance of theoretical thought, method, separated from content, operates as a strictly formal apparatus of cognition (a totality of “devices”) that is wholly alien to the object and expresses a “pure form” of subjective activity (2), then during the decline of an existing system of logic and the consciousness of the need for change, a transformation of that system, there sets in a “reflection about reflection”, a philosophisation of science (3). At such a time, the logical structure of thought is called in question, emerges as an independent object of reflection, as a historically transitional method of activity (Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes).

Only when it has been “called in question” and shed its formal attachment to the hands and the head of the subject (that is, when the subject “changes its skin”, or, to be more exact, undergoes change by shedding its skin, which it now regards as something transitory and historically determined) does the logical form of a concept prove to be a problem, a contradiction, and reveals its content, i.e., its capacity for develop-

1 This section deals with the appearance of the movement of theoretico-scientific thinking that was first revealed and described by Hegel. The fundamentals of the essence of this appearance, as understood by Marx, are dealt with in Section Four.


ment. It is only when objectness operates in its actual essence, i.e., as an historically transitional and developing form of activity, that it reveals its universal logical content and can become an object of philosophical analysis, one that is, in general, critical, capable of “de-theorising” and breaking out of any closed scientific structure.

B. The “owl of Minerva” effect becomes at the same time an effect of the “first swallow”, the one that does not make a spring, yet foretokens it. That means that a philosophical realisation of a logical structure that is receding into the past already leads to without its boundaries and is a kind of draft or outline of a new logical system of activity. It is only when it is “super-imposed” on the draft of the new logical system that the old logical system is registered, manifests itself and proves “visible”.

Here Hegel took note of two points: first, to be understood, an object has got to be changed. “The true nature of an object . . . is grasped by the mind only by means of some change. . . . It is only by means of some re-fashioning, effected through reflection, of that which is directly given that cognition of the substantial is achieved.” [1] This also refers to the logic of thinking: to cognise that logic as it actually is, it has to be changed, made different, i.e., translated (at first in thought) into a new quality, the next logical system.

“If philosophy, in its content, does not stand higher than its time, yet it stands higher in its form, since, as thinking and knowledge of that which comprises the substantial spirit of the epoch, it makes it its object.

1 G. W. F. Hegel, Encyclopädie der philosophischen wissenschaften in Grundrisse, Erster Teil, Die Logic, S. 42.


“Since it thinks in the spirit of its time, philosophy comprises its definite content, which reflects the world. At the same time, in the capacity of knowledge, it also departs to beyond its borders, since it contraposes the spirit of the time to itself; however, this is merely a formal contraposition, i.e., it does not, in fact, possess any other content. . . . Through knowledge the spirit ascertains the distinction between knowledge and the existent. That same knowledge engenders a new form of development. New forms are at first merely new modes of knowledge, and it is thus that a new philosophy appears, but since the latter already comprises a further character of the spirit, it is the internal cradle of the spirit, which later sets about creating a new form of the existence of the spirit.” [1]

A new logical system of scientific-theoretical activity first arises as a “draft”, a problem, a logical, philosophical supposition, a hypothesis. Thus, the system of scientific activity typical of the 17th-19th centuries and the mode of posing and solving problems were presupposed in the antinomy of the methods of Descartes and Bacon, or, more precisely, in the antinomy of two supposedly independent logics—that of a mental experiment (Galileo) and that of “analytical geometry” (Descartes).

Also important is another point, again made by Hegel. A change in a logical structure of thought begins as a process of self-cognition and self-change in the subject of activity.

While reflection is directed towards concepts that are “prescribed” (i.e., while science is real-

1 G. W. F. Hegel, Sämtliche werke, Bd. I7, Stuttgart, 1928, S. 85-86.


ised in the mind only as a form of knowledge of the world, a system or picture of the world), no philosophical reflection yet exists in the proper sense of the term.

It is only when it is immediately (consciously) directed towards the subject and operates as a mode of the latter’s purposeful self-modification that reflection acquires a philosophical nature and proves to be an identity of a theoretical and a practical attitude to actuality, an identity of reflection and development.

The universal (the logical) reveals itself only in the process of the subject becoming conscious of itself and its self-modification.

“All turning points both in science and in world history derive from the spirit—in its striving to understand and heed itself, and to possess itself—changing its categories and itself comprehending and developing itself more genuinely, deeply and intimately, and achieving greater unity with itself.” [1]

This statement is reversible: cognising the logical status of one’s activities, i.e., the latter’s definition, means cognising oneself (as an individual) to the utmost and in the universal sense (which moves up to the next stage of "development), i.e., in one’s “supra-personal” expression. (Cf. Kant, Hegel and, in the 20th century, Einstein.)

Finally, there is another point here. [2] It is in the process of radical revolutions in science (in a wider sense, revolutions in productive activities as a whole) that there emerge particular forms of

1 G. W. F. Hegel, Sämtliche Werke, Bd. 9, S. 45.

2 See An Analysis of Concept in Development, Moscow, 1967, Part III (by A. S. Arseniev).


the existence and development of universal contradictions into the sphere of the boundless, the sphere of logic proper. This moment of emergence into the boundless (which is at the same time the moment of the formation of a new measure) constitutes the object proper of philosophical research and philosophical reflection. The universality of a contradiction (its logical status) finds expression, not within a given theoretical movement (not within a given measure) but in a departure from that system, in the process of the shaping of a new measure. The existent is cognised in its universality exclusively through an analysis (synthesis) of the potencies, the possibilities, of a fundamental transformation (change) of a given and particular object.

Or, again, to know a logical structure means knowing its “something else”.

At the “point of transition” to a new logical structure a system of category definitions that has been “divorced” from its object foundation and acquired a quasi-independent aspect is again compressed in a single and fundamental object-concept; it is at this point that it operates as a single, integral and, at the same time, open system. Again condensed in a single object-concept, the concealed category structure of the entire science of a given period now begins to be comprehended, not as an undercurrent but in the current of a logical development, undergoing a decisive change, a logical “shift”.

“Scattered". and, dispersed among various objects, among various quasi-independent theories, category definitions cannot be grasped by the mind, as dialectical categories, i.e., in the logical identity of opposite. definitions of a single universal object of cognition.


It is only when they come together deep within a fundamental object-concept (the universal definition of the essence of motion=activity comprising that concept for the entire science of a given period) that the various definitions of a single-logical subject reveal both their logical oppositeness and their logical identity, i.e., reveal their logical sense and turn into an impulse for a further logical advance, for fundamental scientific revolutions.

To be more precise, the scientist, on the basis of the identification of opposing definitions, radically changes the idealised object of thought, together with all its category attributes.

In their Evolution of Physics, Einstein and Infeld retraced this process in the activities of Galileo. It was by identifying, in the course of a mental experiment, such opposing definitions of motion as motion with negative and positive acceleration, curvilinear and rectilinear motion (for an infinite world), and finite and infinite fall-trajectories that Galileo was able to fundamentally transform the very concept of motion and, on that basis, all the logical foundations of scientific thinking. As a result of these identifications, it was no longer some particular instance of motion that now became an object of cognition (in Galileo’s mental experiments), but the universal concept of motion, or, more precisely, that universal object (“motion as such”) which could be reproduced in logic at the given level of productive activities, on the basis of a given mode of effecting motion.

In his turn, Einstein himself, by identifying the concepts of inert and gravitational mass (if only for definite conditions), by identifying the concepts of simultaneity and non-simultaneity in the motion of bodies, by identifying time and space


as two definitions of motion (an “interval”), and by identifying the mass and the energy of a moving body (i.e., the ability of a body to preserve and to transform its motion), again led the concept of motion out of the circle of particular applications into the mainstream of fundamental and universal definitions involving present-day science in its entirety, and reforming the logic of thinking.

Still greater universal logical force belongs to the concepts of quantum mechanics, which identify the existence and the “non-being of the micro-object”, and identify the potency of its motion and its “given being” at a definite point, its spatio-temporal and its power-impulse definitions, the latter being identified as opposites. This, however, is a special question, which has been mentioned here for the reader to keep in his field of vision the real prototype of all these quite abstract arguments.

4. A Deeper Look

In the context of Marx’s conception, this need to see an existent logical system in the focus of a fundamental logical shift can be substantiated on another level. [1]

The logic of thinking is an essential definition of the logic of productive activities as a whole. The latter (i.e., the concrete identity of the dialectics of things and that of concepts) becomes meaningless and loses the quality of a purposeful process if it ceases from being a logic of the movement of thought too. In that case, it will simply no longer be labour and productive activity. . . .

1 This section does not contain any direct references or quotations. The principles of Marx’s conception have been developed in many works by Marxist philosophers, particularly of the 1920s and 1950s-1960s.


Conversely, a logic of concepts that does not, at the same time, operate as a logic of things and does not function in its objective significance is, again, not logic, not labour (not even the work of thought), but simply language in the meaning of “twaddle”.

The actual logical system of thinking is, in its foundations, a logical system (= the logic of the movement of concepts) of single and integral productive activities. It is only in this reality that it can be understood and established. However, that reality of the logic of scientific-theoretical thinking is given directly and integrally only at the moment of the emergence and taking shape of a new mode of production, a new type of productive activities, at the “moment” of the formation of a new subject of social production.

During this period of a fundamental revolution in the mode of production, the following operate in a directly contradictory identity:

a) a practical and theoretical attitude to the world (according to the principle: understanding means inventing; cf. the logic of mental experiments in Galileo’s Dialogues);

b) a new type of activities and a new type of intercourse. The new logic of proof patently operates as the logic of dialogue (cf. Bruno and the selfsame Galileo);

c) a fundamental change in Nature (a revolution in science and technology) and a fundamental self-change in Man (the appearance of a new type of worker).

Perceiving this revolutionary period in the development of labour (and, consequently, of the work of the -mind) means revealing the movement of logic in its universal definitions.

It is during the period of a logical status quo,


when a given mode of production has already taken shape, become ramified, and established in innumerable external definitions, that its universal (logical) status, is elusive and non-discrete. Three features should be stressed here. First, during a period of the evolution of productive activities there takes place a distinct split of the practical idea and the theoretical idea (to use Hegel’s terminology), of theory as such and “practice”, in the narrow sense of the word. The category structure that is usually educed by professional philosophers is no longer an actual logical system of productive activities as a whole, but a universal attributive structure of “perfect” theoretical doctrines, a structure that is, in principle, incapable of development or change, is an abstraction from activities, and is therefore perceived as a complete “system of the world”, a purely ontological system. On the other hand, the concretely conceptual movement of applied “practice” (utilisation relationships) is understood by the science of logic as a rigid and formal technical apparatus, a sum of devices and conventions.

Here the logical structure of thought receives, in the final analysis, an interpretation grounded in signs and symbols (language).

During this period, the universality of the movement of logic is concealed no less thoroughly by the second “discrete” operation (within material-object activities, and within ideal-object activities), this involving two logical aspects. The first aspect is that of formal and continuous “follow-ups” and “proofs”; the second is that of the discrete transformation of the objects themselves (the objects of thought and of activities). The aspect of a “formal follow-up” is usually identified with a total movement of logic, while processes


of the transformation of the object itself (and in thought activities, the processes of mental experiments) are ejected from the sphere of logic and are understood as a purely ontological movement. [1]

The third “discrete” operation consists in the mode of production splitting away from the mode of intercourse, in “Man-Nature” links splitting away from “Man-Man” links. This process leads to the logical system of intercourse becoming identified with the formal movement of communication, of information, and gives a fetishised nature to the system of activity, glossing over its social essence, and “suspending” its definition as self-change in Man (cf. Marx’s Third Thesis on Feuerbach). In these conditions a system of proofs cannot be understood as a system of a historically determined scientific dialogue.

All these “discrete” operations, taken together, prevent us from viewing the universal and, at the same time, historical nature of the movement of logic in a period of “normal science” (cf. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by T. Kuhn). In its universal logical content, logic is comprehensible only when it is taking shape, only in the crucible of revolutionary practice. If we speak of logical shifts in modern science, Descartes and Galileo, Hegel and Marx embody this very non-discreteness of the philosophical and concretely conceptual aspect of the movement of logic, and also em-body this dialectics of the “un-baring” of the universal content of a given and particular form of movement, or, more precisely, the dialectics of the way in which the particular becomes the uni-

1 Modern science has failed to master the logic of mental experiments, as drawn up by Galileo, in its universal logical status.


versal, and the universal becomes the particular (the historically transitory).

It may be asked, however: in what measure is the statement that the logic of content always registers a fundamental logical shift (and is capable of registering an existent logical structure—one that is receding into the past—only in the focus of a shift of this kind)—in what measure is this statement borne out by the actual content of the most highly developed logical systems?

Indeed, if we take, for instance, the Hegelian system of categories in the ideological interpretation given to it by Hegel himself, we get the impression that this is a “backward-looking” structure.

That, however, is an ideological illusion. In general, until Marxist logic took shape (Capital) philosophical doctrines, which, in essence, always registered shifts in a logical system (Plato-Aristotle; Galileo-Descartes-Spinoza-Leibnitz, and so on), operated in a transmuted form that concealed their essence, in a closed system of “pure” categories.

In fact, the Hegelian structure of categories was the first and purely attributive outline of the logical shift in scientific thinking that was only beginning to emerge in the late 18th and the early 19th centuries, as an ideal scheme, one that is being implemented only now, in the 20th century. This is a structure of the transition from the antinomian system of scientific activity (with theoretical mechanics as its logic of content) to a new system of logic, whose Science of Logic has turned into the science of the socio-historical activities of a social subject.

Let us consider this statement in greater detail. The inner antinomian character of the theoret-


ical structures in modern science (both contemporary with Hegel and that which is typical of the 20th century) cannot be grasped from within those structures. Within the limits of an existing logical system, they present themselves as non-contradictory (in the ideal) and closed. It is only in the process of the transition to another logical system that there rises to the surface the actual logical nature of “law-establishing theories”—their incurable antinomy, the dichotomy of single conceptions into quasi-independent and mutually opposed conceptional projections; the initial idealisations—in particular, the de-composition of the phenomenon of motion into spatio-temporal coordinates, and the separation of the source of motion from the process of motion (understood purely kinematically)-—that lie at the foundation of these theories (this type of theories) are realisable.

The first time “the owl of Minerva” came to action was in the philosophy of Kant, who discerned the antinomy in the mind of contemporaneous science which was noticed by positive science only in the first quarter of the 20th century. In Hegel’s logic antinomy was already understood as a form of transition to new theoretical structures which, in their logical movement, consciously assimilate the contradictoriness of fundamental scientific concepts, a transition to structures that “suspend” the “splitting of the whole” in the identity of opposite definitions.

This transition is only beginning to show in positive science, and that in quite a timid phenomenological form-—that of the principle of complementariness.

It is far from fortuitous that the “first swallow” of the new science was not recognised in the “owl of Minerva” and that natural philosophers paid no


heed to Hegel’s foresight, which was 150 years ahead of the logic of natural science. This is not a question of “prematurity” or, at least, not a question of prematurity alone. In the first place, the latter itself must be explained. The logical surmises made by Galileo, Descartes or Bacon were almost simultaneous with the onset of a new and positivist science. They were not premature, or, to be more precise, they constituted the beginning of modern natural science. Why was it, then, that Hegel’s conjectures proved so premature, and the “owl of Minerva” took to the air long before the decline of classical science, while the first swallow anticipated by a good hundred years the spring sun of new idealisations? A killing frost might well have set in.

All these rhetorical questions, however, stem from a fundamental misunderstanding. Both Kant’s surmises and the comprehensive predictions of Hegel were not at all premature—they were just as timely as the ideas of Descartes were for the 17th century; they were the beginning, or rather the immediate foretoken, of the new science, but this time the reawakening of science and of logic began, not with natural science but with the social sciences, which deal with human activities. It was in the universal definitions of human practice, not in universal definitions of mechanical motion, that Marx discovered the universal laws of logic. Marx was not born a century after the death of Hegel—he was the latter’s contemporary.

This time the science of logic found its objective laws (those of the movement of scientific-theoretical thought), not in some “ideal” and, in principle, immutable “system of instruments” (system of activities)-in the idea of a lever or of a machine—but in the very law of the constant


revolutionising of production. That law did not stem from any particular form—one that laid claim to universality—of “dead” or “suspended” labour, which is “frozen” in a definite type of tool and its functioning, say, in mechanical movement. This law was based on living labour, on the objective definitions of constant creativity, and on the universal definitions of the development of the social subject.

In just the same non-fortuitous way, the revolutionising of production, in its universal logical parameters, provided an impulse to logical reflection in the particular period, the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The most distant social consequences of capitalist civilisation were most clearly discernible during the formation of that civilisation. When it took place, the first industrial revolution was seen as a proem to the future radical scientific, technical and social revolution which came into full being only in the 20th century. It was with good reason that an analysis of the contradictions of Maschienerie (to use Marx’s term) and of classical political economy was the point of departure of Hegel’s philosophical evolution (vide, in particular, the Jena Philosophy of the Spirit, 1805-06). Incidentally, it is only now that the roots and the essence of this evolution can be properly comprehended.

In the early 19th century, the clear logical perspective “straightened out” within the theoretician’s purview all the zigzags of history and reduced to the narrowest limits the time required for historical achievements. In the 20th century, the scientific-technological revolution, which has been accompanied by the introduction of automation and the new demands presented to the type of


worker—the constant manifestation of creativity and the development of abilities (a revolution whose general features were foreseen by Marx in the 19th century)—has become a problem that is corroding all the sciences, including the natural (cybernetics, physics and biology). The logical shift ushered in by Kant, Hegel and Marx now involves all productive activities and has become a logical necessity. “Going back” to Hegel and Marx is a momentous step ahead for scientific-theoretical thought, but of course it cannot be a simple act of return. . . .

It was not a new logical system of scientific-theoretical activity, in its “pure” aspect, that was reproduced in the category system of Hegel. In the latter (and herein lies the gist of the matter) a shift in the logical system took place through a “superimposition” of a potential (the logic of socio-historical practice) “category system” on a “suspended” (mechanical) system. The subject of these definitions was absorbed by its attributes, inasmuch as the actual Homo Sapiens came under consideration only as a theoretical mind, i.e., as the “free definition” of its own definitions. As a result of this “superimposition”, it was in Hegel’s philosophy that the system of antinomian logic was first given shape with universal definiteness. The basic linear trajectory of the movement of the categories in the Science of Logic was an exact reproduction of the model of the mechanical motion of a material point. At the same time, Hegel’s method contained the first outline of the future logic, that of the theoretical mastery of the socio-historical practice, in its universal definitions, i.e., the logic of Marx.

Hegel, however, did not and could not realise this actual and dual content of his own logic. Un-


der the spell of one extreme of the movement of logic (the succession of pure category structures), Hegel teleologised logic, and deleted the other extreme—the change in the object and the subject of activity, i.e., deleted integral and actual productive activity. As a result, all logic (in its systematic result) again “dried up” in a linear mechanical scheme of a ready-made system provided once and for all.

In the logic of Marx, the universal (the logical) was consciously developed in the form of the particular (logic developed within a politico-economic theoretical system); the logic of thought was purposefully realised as the logic of transformations of productive activities, i.e., as a category-object logic, the logic of revolutionary practice.

5. Modernity and Historicity in the Logic of Creativity

The problem under review has been outlined in its general historical definitions in Sections 2-4. On the surface, the entire discussion dealt with logical shifts in the phylogenetic development of human thought. In this kind of treatment, the identity of the logic and the history of scientific cognition looked quite abstract: logic was simply equated with history, or, at best, operated like a kind of pattern of the historical movement of thought. As a result, the impression might be created that only a few key points of historical development present interest to logic as a science, key points that are focal in decisive scientific revolutions (to be more precise, in revolutions in productive activities as a whole).

It is at these points that the identity of the category and of the object-conceptual movement of


thought, the identity of the change in a sensory-perceived object and an idealised one, the identity of change in the circumstances and the self-change of man (Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”) operates in a condensed form, and can be the object of its own logical analysis; the movement of thought lays bare its universal content. What follows is that logic has to do with some single-event and rare “festivals” in human history.

In fact, however, the considerations set forth above refer, not only to the phylogenesis but also to the ontogenesis of cognition; they characterise the tasks of logic, as a science, with reference to the thinking of present-day man, and to the universal laws of thinking as creativity. I shall here briefly emphasise, in advance, the most important points involved.

a) The universality of the logical movement is revealed in the thinking (activity) of present-day man, in the measure in which it embodies a new and forward-looking logical shift. This is not paradoxical, but an identity of opposite definitions that is of the utmost importance to the logical movement. It is in present-day thinking, which is experiencing a logical shift, that the universal laws of logical movement have acquired an appropriate universal form. In the logic of 20th-century scientific creativity, the phylogenesis of logical structures is represented ontogenetically—at the main nodes of theoretical movement. This is a resolution of the problem of the formation of the idealised obiect (here there arise aporias that were typical of antiquity), and a resolution of the problem of the movement, of an idealised object in the form of a self-contained and quasi-non-contradictory theory (with the operation of antinomies typical of modern science). Now, how-


ever, all these “nodes” of thought act in the capacity of moments in the solution of the present-day problem.

There is, of course, a kind of “feedback” here. For the logic of present-day creativity to be comprehended and to act in a most conscious way today, the springs that drive present-day transitions have to be “stretched” out in the historical sense, so as to permit taking in the historical and full-sweep content of these transitions. One cannot but consider logically inevitable the interest shown by Einstein or Heisenberg in the historico-scientific and historico-philosophical evolution of present-day problems and, thereby, in the ascertainment of their real meaning. Nevertheless, the “drive” behind this historical de-objectification (Entgegenständlichung) operates in the cycle of present-day logical problems. It is only the most up-to-date creativity, in the mainstream of the present-day logical revolution, that is marked by historicity and is capable of “disconnecting” the historical movement of cognition.

The content of the present-day revolution in logic cannot be specially analysed in the context of this article, which deals only with certain definitions of principle in the definitions of an analysis of fundamental shifts in the logical structure. We shall, however, note a single point: of the utmost significance for the problem of the contemporary “logical shift” is the problem of the conscious assimilation, in the structure of present-day theories, of the logical potencies of the qualitative transformation of these theories.

The principle of correspondence, of complementariness (i.e., of the reciprocal transformation of classical mechanics and quantum mechanics within a’“single” theoretical structure), the methodo-


logisation of present-day mathematics and many other symptoms testify to the reality and topicality of this problem.

This is the basis for the emergence of the idea of an idealised object of a new type (an object capable of qualitative transformation within theory and in the form of the movement of theory), i.e., a new understanding of what is meant by understanding an object, understanding—in its essence—the process of motion. The need arises (but not yet the possibility) of a transition to theories of a non-Netter type. [1]

Within the framework of this logical revolution, the contemporary concept of “essence” (to limit oneself to this example) is de-objectivised as an abridged history of previous logical shifts (the “ideal form”, [2] the “interaction, parallelism of force, of law”, [3] the “identity of opposite potencies” [4]). As a consequence, it proves possible to comprehend the universal (historically unfolded) content of the present-day concept of essence and the entire logical structure (connected with this level of comprehension of essence). It is on the basis of such de-objectification of concepts that a part can be played in the present-day radical transformation of the logical movement, and thinking (the formation of new knowledge) is pos-

1 Vide the considerations expressed on this question in the article by N. P. Konoplyova and G. A. Sokolik, “The Problem of Identity and the Principle of Relativity” (Einstein Collection, “Nauka” Publishers, Moscow, 1967), and in A. L. Zelmanov’s “On the Infinity of the Material World” (Dialectics in the Sciences of Inanimate Nature, “Mysl” Publishers, Moscow, 1964).

2 The period of antiquity.

3 The 17th-18th centuries.

4 The revolutionary shifts in present-day science.


sible. Defining the concept of essence today (as well as of all other categories—quality, quantity, form, actuality, and so on) means comprehending the logical history of the object and subject of activity, together with all its category definitions, within the framework of the present-day logical revolution. And vice versa.

A creative mastery of the present-day logical structure means “mastery” of its historical development and transformation, i.e., thinking in terms of problems.

b) Comprehending the structure of present-day knowledge as the “suspended” phylogenesis of its historical emergence (phylogenesis registered at moments of logical shifts, the latter being what leaves its impress on the basic nodes of present-day creative thought) means mentally grasping contemporary knowledge as a newly re-formulated problem, re-formulated because that process has taken place, ever more profoundly, on an ever new level of essence, in each logical shift, and in each node of the transformation of logical structures.

The identity of the historical and the logical is, first and foremost, an identity of a problem that has been formulated anew at moments of radical logical shifts in the historical development of scientific cognition. The philosopher’s urge, so frequently and short-sightedly ridiculed, to return time and again to the tackling of one and the same yet initial problems (“How on earth do you see scientific progress in this?!”) is an expression of a continuous logical movement and is based on the latter’s universal creative foundation. Galileo’s “return” to the radical contradictions in motion (from the aporias of Zeno to the antinomies of mechanical change of location), the “return”


of present-day quantum mechanics to these self-same age-old contradictions (from the antinomies of shifting to the principle of complementariness) is at one and the same time a return, a development, deepening and transformation, of the same problem, in its new logical shift. Together with the re-formulation of the radical problem (the latter reproducing the radical contradictions of motion at the new stage of productive activities), the entire logical structure of thinking, or rather, the logical system of human creativity as a whole, rises to a new qualitative level.

c) In itself, the division of the history of logic into “revolutionary” and “evolutionary” periods is a serious theoretical idealisation.

From the angle of principle, any historical stage in the development of the logic of scientific

thinking is an identity of the logical shift and the evolutionary development of the old logical bases. In theoretical abstraction, these definitions can be “broken down”, and the same historical period seen in one of two idealisations—either as a period of a logical shift (the latter’s potencies, realisation and consequences) or as a period of the development of one and the same logical system, i.e., essentially speaking, as a period of the development of one and the same activity. Revolutionary practice is a definition of the very essence of the process of social production, but in no way a description of the nature of some particular period of history.

Since any human activity is always a moment of revolutionary practice (an identity of a change in circumstances and in self-change in Man), the logic of human thought is, in its essence, always a universal logic of creativity, the logic of the emergence of new knowledge (the logic of repro-


duction always containing a moment of this universal logic). However, an insight into this universal content of practical (correspondingly theoretical) activity calls for certain idealisations. Thus, Marx’s analysis of capitalism and of the old forms of the division of labour through the prism of the forthcoming social (communist) revolution was absolutely necessary theoretically so as to ascertain the universal logical definitions of historical development. Alternately, with reference to thinking: to ascertain the universal essence of scientific thinking, it is necessary to represent to oneself (theoretically idealise) how the laws of thinking operate in the process of the transformation of the logical system, at the points of decisive logical shifts, in the process of the transformation of fundamental scientific concepts. To logic as a science, this is of the same significance as, for instance, the introduction of a methodological absolute vacuum during the creation of the mechanics of Galileo-Newton.

* * *

The considerations developed above call for another approach also to the presentation of the question of the very form of philosophical theorising.

Inasmuch as dialectical logic (the science of logic) can exist and develop only as a reflection of radical shifts in scientific thinking, a self-contained and non-contradictory system of concepts cannot provide a theoretical form of dialectics as a science.

The form of a closed system of concepts, that of a “law-establishing” theory (typical of the contemporary natural sciences) is possible and necessary only in a logical movement that is taking


place on a single level of essence. This form is impossible for theoretical activities during the transition from one essence level to another.

This form is a Procrustean bed for a thinking that registers the logic of this transition, which explodes the former logic.

The appropriate theoretical form of such science (the logic of content = philosophy) is that of a dialogue, [1] or, to quote Socrates, meieutics. This form has, in essence, always been a feature of philosophical works, although it has not always been realised by philosophers themselves. That realisation is demanded only by the theoretical range of problems in contemporary science.

The form of an inner dialogue brings philosophy (the logic of content) close to the historical sciences. Logic can reveal the essence of thinking (create a theory of thinking) only in the form of the history of theoretical activity and only by reconstructing the historico-philosophical and historico-scientific genesis of present-day cognition.

This form, which demonstrates the process of the emergence of new knowledge, a new object of knowledge (in the actual movement of an argument or discussion), does not and cannot provide an algorithm of the process of thinking. It does not teach how to think, but develops the ability to think.

However, the problem of the form of philosophical theorising is a special one, which calls for special study.

1 The reference is of course to the inner and logical form, not to the obligatory presence, in a work of philosophy, of two or more collocutors.


BIBLER, V. S. (b. 1918), M. A. (Philos.), senior scientific worker at the Institute of the History of Natural Science and Technology, the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences. Works mainly on problems of dialectical logic and the logic of content. Author of On the System of Categories in Dialectical Logic (1959), and the sections "The Concept as the Elementary Form in the Movement of Science" and “The Genesis of the Concept of Motion" in the book An Analysis of Concept in Development (1968).

SOURCE: Bibler, V[ladimir] S[olomonovich] (1918-2000). “Hegel, Marx and the Problem of Transformations in the Logical Structure,” translated by Julius Katzer, in Karl Marx and Modern Philosophy: Collection of Articles [Translated from the Russian] (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1968), pp. 107-141; bio p. 106.

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