Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Science of Logic Reading Group: To Be or Not To Be

So the in-person reading group on Hegel’s Science of Logic is meeting again on Thursday, having decided last week to slow our pace a bit, and move more slowly through the Doctrine of Being. This week, we will be discussing Chapter 1, Being (and, you know, Nothing…), and we’ll trundle along at a chapter per week through this section, and then decide whether we want to maintain this pace, or speed things along.

The online discussion since last week has been driven by the exceptional efforts of Alexei at Now-Times, who has written a series of posts that have moved from the first preface through to the section on Being, exploring connections between Phenomenology and the Logic along the way. This is fantastic stuff, to which I want to respond substantively – after I get my next chapter out of the way (with high hopes that this won’t be the monster that the previous one has proven to be). I will, though, try to write something tomorrow on one particular aspect of the discussion of Being – something that I find important (wait for it!) for what Marx is doing in Capital. (I promise to be less one-note in my writing soon – at the moment, I am enjoying precious and rare uninterrupted writing time, and am hording as much of it as possible for the thesis.)

Joining the Fray:

Anyone reading on who would like to contribute some material to the online discussion, but who would like a bit of background on the reading group first, can find some here. Note that, for whatever reason, I’m not finding pingbacks all that reliable lately, so, if you do write something, and I don’t pick up on it here, please email me to let me know.

Online texts of Science of Logic can be found:

In English: from MIA

In German: from Project Gutenberg

Posts so far in the online discussion:


What in the hell… is the spirit of practicality?, what in the hell…, Nate, on the first Preface

What in the hell… happens next?!, what in the hell…, Nate, on the second Preface

Opening Discussions, Rough Theory, N. Pepperell, on the first Preface and a fragment of the Second

Preparing for Being, Now-Times, Alexei, commentary on the other contributions on the first Preface

Masters and Slaves, Now-Times, Alexei, commentary on the second Preface, with reference to the issue of emancipatory possibilities

Transformative Negativity, against the Abstract Ought, Now-Times, Alexei, continuation of post above, with specific reference to the ethical import of Hegel’s approach, and with comparisons between Phenomenology and Logic


Hegel’s Science of Logic: Introduction, Perverse Egalitarianism, Mikhail Emelianov

Introduction (Some More Random Observations), Perverse Egalitarianism, Mikhail Emelianov


With What Must the New Year Begin?Rough Theory, N. Pepperell, on “With What Must the Science Begin” (Note that I’ve reprised this material in the conference paper here – the paper covers a lot of ground on Marx and also on Hegel’s Phenomenology, but the section on the method of the Logic is more accurate and complete than the material in the original post from which it was redrafted.)

Concretion and Appearance, Now-Times, Alexei, reflections on the relationship between appearance and Concept, spanning Phenomenology and Logic

Let It Be, Rough Theory, N. Pepperell, reflection on one aspect of the discussion of the “Concretion and Appearance” discussion at Now-Times

Background and General Comments

Online Resources on Hegel – English, Now-Times, Alexei

Online Resources on Hegel – German, Now-Times, Alexei

The Comfort of DeterminismPerverse Egalitarianism, Mikhail Emelianov, reflections on Kant, Leibniz and Hegel’s desire to erase the distinction between form and content

10 responses to “Science of Logic Reading Group: To Be or Not To Be

  1. Nick January 23, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Hi N. Pepperell!
    I just wanted to say thanks for collecting all these links together and for your (and the others’) work on Hegel’s Logic. I’m trying to make my way through it too, so I’m finding all this writing on it extremely helpful. It’s my intro to Hegel (not including secondary work), so it’s a bit rough at the moment. My concern right now is just to begin to understand it, but if I have any substantial comments to make, I’ll be sure to chime in!

  2. Nick January 23, 2008 at 11:53 am

    By the way – have you heard of or read Tony Smith’s “The Logic of Marx’s Capital: Replies to Hegelian Criticisms”? I picked it up cheap a while ago on a recommendation, but haven’t yet made my way through it. It sounds perfectly suited to your work here though…

  3. N Pepperell January 23, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Hey Nick – Yes, I do know Tony Smith’s work – and your comment reminds me that I need to thread comments on it through the apparatus particularly of the chapter I’ve just written. I think I tend to reference Patrick Murray more because there’s something about the way Murray “attacks” a somewhat similar argument, that sort of… er… reminds me more of how I tend to think… 😉 From memory, I found myself agreeing with a number of Smith’s claims (as well as, of course, his overarching argument that Capital is structured as a “logic”), but finding the way he made his way into those claims didn’t quite capture what I was trying to draw attention to? But this is a very internal, sort of thesis-strategic, reaction on my part, rather than a criticism of his work. (He has a fairly accessible style, which is a benefit given the complexity of this material – although he skims the surface a bit, particularly in his presentation of Hegel, and he also focusses more on thematic issues – which gives a nice way “in”, actually, to a lot of what’s going on in Capital – just, again, not quite the same things I’m trying to draw attention to – which is, of course, not a criticism of Smith’s work.) But I should discuss the relation of my argument to his much more explicitly than I have (not that this would be visible on the blog, as I tend to shove these sorts of discussions down into footnotes, but your comment reminds me that I haven’t done this adequately).

    Again from memory, Smith does a good job of capturing that Hegel isn’t trying to collapse material reality into thought – that Hegel isn’t “idealist” in the way some Marxist theory sometimes takes him to be – and therefore sees a more “Marxian” Hegel than many approaches. Smith doesn’t, I think, quite see the practice-theoretic elements in Marx that I do – and, as a consequence, regards the “categorial” organisation of Capital as a less specific claim than I do, about the character of the practices constitutive of the reproduction of capital, and also perhaps understands a bit differently than I would the relationship between the categorial and “empirical” or contingent bits of Capital (I think – I should stress that I can’t comment seriously, as I don’t have Smith’s book with me, and so this is all distant memory). I think Smith probably doesn’t catch as well as Murray the complex philosophical references that run through Capital. He does do a nice job, though, with a categorisation of the history of debate over Marx’s relationship to Hegel…

    Not sure if that helps with the decision of whether to read him or not 🙂

    On the reading group itself, I think many of us are grappling with the text and trying to understand it – I wouldn’t hold back on commenting for fear that others already have a very firm “reading”. Raising questions can be as useful as anything else, I suspect. Hope you have the chance to chime in as time and interest permits. 🙂

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  5. Nick January 24, 2008 at 2:27 am

    Actually, that does help in regards to Smith’s work. I’m especially interested in the relation between materialism and idealism – for its own philosophical importance and for its significance to Marxism – so Smith sounds like a good read for that. I’ve approached the Logic with the hypothetical position of it being an idealist perspective, working within the medium of pure thought and its transcendental categories. As I read it, I’m looking for areas where it disrupts this sort of pure idealist position and incorporates materialist aspects, so Smith may be a good place to start too. Thanks!

  6. Bob Lippold January 24, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Thanks for establishing this reading group.

    I embarked on the SL in the quest of incorporating the Dialectical way of thinking.

    Works I’m finding helpful in digesting the SL are Justus Hartnack’s “Introduction to Hegel’s Logic” and David Gray Carlson’s “A Commentary on Hegel’s Science of Logic”

    Already, the bit of exposure I’ve now had to the SL have really opened a window into “Capital”–giving insight into the way Marx approached the subject and then presented it.

    Thank you.

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  8. N Pepperell January 24, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Hey Bob – Sorry you were held in moderation – anti-spam measure – it should happen only the first time you post. I’ve had a similar reaction, in terms of working back and forth between Hegel and Marx, and have explored a bit of my sense of their relationship in some of the other posts here. Thanks as well for the reading suggestions.

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  10. Pingback: » Science of Logic Reading Group: The Most Stubborn Error

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