The other day, I was looking through Andy Blunden’s “The Meaning of Hegel’s Logic”, which I gather Andy prepared for the first Hegel Summer School back in 1997. I laughed at this comment, which Andy makes in his introduction:
Following Lenin’s advice, we recommend a “materialist reading” of the Logic. That is, where Hegel talks of a “spirit” which expresses or “posits” itself in Nature or human affairs, we read a law or process manifested or expressed by Nature or human activity; when Hegel starts talking about God, we skip to the next paragraph.
I meant to toss the comment up on the blog at the time, but got distracted and forgot. What reminded me was the following comment, from Hegel’s discussion in the Science of Logic of “With What Must Science Begin”:
If, therefore, in the expression of the absolute, or eternal, or God (and God has the absolutely undisputed right that the beginning be made with him) — if in the intuition or thought of these there is implied more than pure being — then this more must make its appearance in our knowing only as something thought, not as something imagined or figurately conceived; let what is present in intuition or figurate conception be as rich as it may, the determination which first emerges in knowing is simple, for only in what is simple is there nothing more than the pure beginning; only the immediate is simple, for only in the immediate has no advance yet been made from a one to an other. Consequently, whatever is intended to be expressed or implied beyond being, in the richer forms of representing the absolute or God, this is in the beginning only an empty word and only being; this simple determination which has no other meaning of any kind, this emptiness, is therefore simply as such the beginning of philosophy. (121)
Something about Hegel’s “and God has the absolutely undisputed right that the beginning be made with him” just kills me (you’ll have to forgive me – I frequently – and sympathetically, as a matter of sheer enjoyment in what he’s doing in the text – think Hegel is hilarious – I realise this reaction is highly idiosyncratic, but I still can’t seem to keep myself from sharing…). And the whole passage reminded me of Andy’s advice.
For those who haven’t seen it yet, the Hegel-by-Hypertext site, part of the ever-useful marxists.org, has online versions of a number of Hegel’s texts, and links to commentaries and other resources. As long as I’m assembling links, other useful sites for links to Hegel’s works and commentaries are J. Carl Mickelsen’s University of Idaho site (hat tip Self and World), and gwfhegel.org.