The Subject. Philosophical Foundations. Andy Blunden 2005/6

Hegel: The Subject as Concept

Hegel’s Science of Logic, was published in three books in 1812, 1813 and 1816, and marks one of those very rare occasions in history, when an author launches an entire new set of concepts, completely original and never to be superseded. The Logic is a very difficult read, and can hardly be made sense of in the mystical form in which it is presented by the author.

The structure of the Logic is three books: Being, Essence and the Notion. Books I and II constitute the genesis of the Notion or ‘Objective Logic’. Book III is the Notion or ‘Subjective Logic’, at the conclusion of which the Idea is defined as the identity of Subject and Object.

Very briefly, Being is the Subject “in itself” lacking in self-consciousness, such as a social class which has not yet developed class-consciousness, or all the people voting in a certain way at a national election. Essence is the process of coming-into-being of the subject which takes the form of a series of contradictory forms which supersede one another, until arriving at the “Abstract Notion.” The abstract, or universal notion (or “Subjectivity”), is a concept which is at first abstract, a bare declaration or name, which instead of being superseded like the forms of Essence, makes the foundation for a new idea, which becomes more and more concrete as it takes on new forms.

The story is presented as a treatise on logic, but following the clues found in the System of Ethical Life, we can make an interpretation of the section on the Subject which, without negating the fact that it is a treatise on logic, reads it as an elaboration of the normative process of subject-formation.

Hegel’s claim is that in the Logic, he demonstrates in detail the ‘scientific procedure’ in philosophy and the relations he exhibits in the Logic will also be found in the different parts of the Encyclopaedia which deal with the Subject. I shall read the Logic as a definition of the subject as a concept, but I do not suggest that what is discussed in the Logic is some kind of subject distinct from those dealt with in the Subjective and Objective Spirit, which we will come to presently.

As an initial step, simply to make the explanation more coherent, the reader is invited to think of a social subject, that is to say, a social movement, institution or organisation of some kind which can be understood in terms of a certain principle or Idea. For example, a trade union, a women’s group, a national liberation movement or political party, a church, some productive enterprise, scientific institute or whatever, where we can see some principle or concept as the raison d’être of the organisation. What we have then is a social subject which is the form of human activity realising the idea in the world. We shall also see that if, instead of a social subject representing a concept, we take the concept as one element in the consciousness and activity of an individual, then the same kind of insights are provided by the Logic.

We will take this reading a step further. In System of Ethical Life and in the Philosophy of Right, Hegel conceives of society by assigning to social classes different moments of the Idea, with social position determining a consciousness related to that of the whole community in a certain way; the political class for example is described as a “universal class” since its social role obliges it to concern itself with the universal, while the business class is disposed towards individualism and the peasantry is absorbed in particularity. In different contexts, Hegel renders this idea in different ways. In the context of an organisation or social movement, individuals take on a consciousness according to their role and activity in the organisation. An organisation or social movement can be dissected into the whole (or universal), the various (particular) parts or branches of the organisation, and its individual members. According to their position in the organisation, an individual may express either particular or universal judgments. For example, the President of a trade union or scientific institute concerns herself with the universal, while the various officers, section heads and so on concern themselves with particular aspects of the organisation’s work, and their judgments correspond to these concerns. So if we look at the relations between the President, a Branch Secretary and an ordinary member of an organisation, then we get an anatomy of a concept or principle, as it exists in the world. The President is also an individual, so by “Universal” we mean the consciousness of the President, insofar as their consciousness is universal, ... and so on. And it doesn’t really matter whether or not the social subject is a distinct and formal entity; it works just the same in the normal conditions of diffuseness by which ideas exist in the world. Of course such a division of labour according to universal, particular and individual is in reality somewhat exceptional, but is relied on here to make Hegel’s line of reasoning more accessible. Otherwise it is hard to understand what it is that Hegel is describing. Spirit? Spirit ‘is the nature of human beings en masse’ says Hegel in the Philosophy of Right.

In the Science of Logic Hegel explores these relations in the terms of a critique of Formal Logic. The interpretation I have put forward may appear at first sight as a rather poor metaphor, but it is in fact more rigorous than that.

Let us look at what is meant by Universal, Particular and Individual and how these three Judgments constitute an abstract Notion.

The Universal Notion

Let’s take an Idea, for example, unionism (it could just as well be feminism, microbiology, Egypt or health). How does ‘unionism’ exist in the world? Well, of course if the word is written down in books which have been preserved and available for people to read, then ‘unionism’ can exist in the world in just the same way as Atlantis or Chartism do, i.e., just as an abstract universal, as something which can only be known as a bare concept, as a word. Of course, when the early Chartists first put forward the idea of unionism, it was little more than a Universal. Conversely, any organisation which lacks a universal, has either forgotten or not yet discovered its mission, is no organisation at all; or rather, it may exist, but it is not rational and will perish unless it discovers its Universal, it is ‘unspiritual’. Most organisations either assign to certain individuals the role of speaking for the Universal (the President in our example), or have certain definite activities for which the universal is in and for itself the guiding principle. For example, organisations have annual conferences or mass meetings, or countries go to war and place their entire existence ‘on the line’. There is no hard line here. A writer assigned the job of writing the manifesto concerns herself with the universal because it is her task at the moment to give a textual form to the universal.

The key critique of Formal Logic Hegel makes in his presentation of the Universal Notion, is consonant with his critique of the state, that is, the confusion of the universal with what is general:

“When one understands by the universal, that which is common to several individuals, one is starting from the indifferent subsistence of these individuals and confounding the immediacy of being with the determination of the Notion. The lowest possible conception of the universal in its connection with the individual is this external relation of it as merely a common element.” [Science of Logic, p 621]

What is at issue here is the difference between a group of like-minded people and a social movement, or a collection of organisms sharing a common attribute and a genus or species, and it is absolutely crucial to the understanding of subjectivity. For Hegel, the subject is not something which has attributes, but a particular relation between the individual and the universal; to understand the state as an aggregation of all those individuals who live in a country, or a social class as all those individuals belonging to a certain employment and income group, is very mistaken, or rather represents the subject on ‘in itself’ and not ‘for itself’, not as a subject.

To understand a subject as an individual with a certain range of attributes – female, black, employed, etc., etc., is equally mistaken; the history of philosophy had already demonstrated that this road leads to the ‘transcendental subject’, a nothing. The universal is a principle which has its own subsistence and individuals engage with the universal by means of particular relations or activities; the particular mediates between the universal and the individual. An attribute is, by definition, inessential to the subject. For example, the entire political and economic system of modern ‘democracies’ rests on the substitution of the general for the universal, with a commodity economy and majority voting in large geographical electorates acting to destroy the subject and replace subjectivity with a ‘society’ (it hardly bears the name!) of atomised carriers of desires and purchasing power.

The Particular

Now it is formally possible for someone to get to know about and even act upon a universal which exists only as an abstract universal. If there is a basis for an idea, then it can be lifted out of the pages of a book and given a life in the world, like Riemann’s tensor calculus when Einstein resurrected it from the archives. But this is evading the issue, isn’t it? Universals are by their nature, eternal, so a universal can have a kind of virtual existence in suspended animation, but in order to live in the world, it has to be engaged in some particular activity. How can anyone get to know about ‘unionism’ or ‘radical feminism’ or ‘microbiology’ outside of participation in particular activity by a particular union or social movement or scientific institute? If all I know about unionism is what I have read in a book, then I do not really know about unionism, it has only an abstract existence for me (though strictly speaking the writing and reading of books are particular activities, only, in themselves, very ‘unreal’ ones). Unionism can only have a reality through people participating in some particular union. An organisation with a manifesto and mass membership which does not have particular activities, a division of responsibility or structure is no organisation at all. Mail-order lobby groups are ideas of this kind – everyone who believes in the environment signing a standing order to donate $10 for an executive group to act ‘on their behalf’. If you get down to it, of course, even this abstract process of signing standing orders is a particular activity, albeit a very abstract one. But with no such particular activity at all, that is, with a large number of people knowing about the idea (from old books maybe), but never engaging the idea in any particular activity at all, the idea does not exist. A dead language, a language with a grammar and a vocabulary, but no literature and no occasion on which speakers use the language to communicate or even say their prayers, is indeed dead. In a country where all unions have been abolished, even while there are many people who remember and support unionism, there is no unionism, even though there may be a potential for unionism to come back from the dead when conditions change. Unionism is a concrete universal then, which cannot really exist without particular unions.

The Individual

But can you have unions without members? Can you have any particular activity without individual actors? Obviously not. Particular social formations don’t last forever, but they do have an on-going existence, being instantiated by different, finite, mortal individuals as time goes by. For a universal to exist there must be heads to think it and for particular activities to exist there must be bodies to act them out. Whereas universals and particulars are by their nature specific to the principle of which they are moments, individuals, living human beings are essentially non-specific; an individual may engage with a given universal, but they also have other thoughts, they may engage in a particular activity, belong to a particular organisation, and so on, but in order to live and procreate, they must have a life, and therefore other concerns. The Individual is therefore a distinct and necessary moment of every Notion. It would be a great mistake for organisations to think they had only ‘members’, for enterprises to think that they have only ‘employees’ and ‘customers’ – because these individuals are essentially human individuals, not just members, employees or customers.

The Judgment

The next section of the Logic deals with the Judgment, the various bilateral relations between the universal, the individual and the particular. The Judgment is a process of genesis of the Notion, analogous to the foregoing processes of Being and Essence, in which a series of Judgments starting from the simplest and most one-sided Judgments, or assertions of the relation of the Notion to the Universal, Particular or Individual rational moments of the Notion which are rational and proper to the Notion. The difference between Being and Essence on one hand, and the Judgment on the other, is that Being and Essence are the genesis of a Universal or Abstract Notion, a bare idea or principle, whereas the Judgment begins with this Universal Notion and establishes the concrete relation of the Universal to the Particular and Universals through which it exists in the world, something which is still unclear when the abstract notion first appears.

For example, at the beginning of the Women’s Movement it was said, let us suppose, that “Germaine Greer is a Feminist,” but at this point, no-one knew who Germaine Greer was or what feminism was, only that Germaine Greer is a Feminist. Or to take another example, in the 1840s communists organised themselves into secret societies and circulated fiery manifestoes around the bars and taverns, but it would be some time before it was clarified who were the subjects of communism and what would be communist activity. This stage is called the Immediate Judgment and corresponds to the stage of Being.

This Positive Judgment is negated with a Negative Judgment, with the discovery that Germaine Greer is not a feminist but “an assertive woman writer with expertise in ancient history who is making some incisive criticisms of the status of women,” and what is more, that there are many different types of people who are feminists. That is, further discussion and experience determines that the immediate relations cannot be encompassed by the Universal as it is understood, but is a particular instance; ‘stereotypes’ tend to break down. The Infinite Judgment goes further than this arriving at the conclusion that Germaine Greer is Germaine Greer, and no combinations of Universals is adequate to the given individual, not any collection of individuals adequate to the Notion. This is a judgment which is true, but absurd and Hegel says that in the Positive Judgment sublated through the Negative and Infinite Judgments, “the universality no longer appears as immediate but as a comprehension of distinct terms.” Such repeated determinations of a judgment sooner or later give rise to something new, not just a series of immediate decisions or observations, but a policy. After 20 black men are sent to the gas chamber and no white man gets gassed, we see that we have here not at all immediate judgments made on their merits, but a principle, even if the policy-maker was unaware of such a principle.

That is, when the abstract Notion first emerges, its Particular and Individual embodiments are going to be in discord with the Universal, and the process of establishing the individual instances and particular activities through which a Universal can exist in the world is a necessary and inescapable process in the formation of a subject.

To put it the other way around, a child may think that they are going to become a hero by working as a fireman. Alas, it turns out not to be so. A person is not born with their subjectivity wired in; it has to be discovered.

That’s what Hegel calls the Immediate Judgment and as a subjective process, it broadly corresponds to the objective process of Being. The next stage of Judgment is the Judgment of Reflection, corresponding to the first division of Essence, recapitulating the ‘dialectic of discussion’, but on the basis of a shared principle rather than unconsciousness.

Here a group or individual reflects on the outcome of the immediate judgments and determines them as a principle, so a new definition of the Notion is produced, which transcends the original abstract notion. What sort of people, what sort of activities make a communist or a feminist, this knowledge gives a more reflective and concrete concept of communism or feminism, or whatever. Once the child find that she is not athletic but she is good at teaching and likes it, then this is a reflective judgment of subjectivity.

The Reflective Judgment passes through the Singular Judgment (“this thing is ..”), the Particular Judgment (“some things are ... “) and the Universal Judgment (“all such things are ...”). The Judgment of Reflection grows in scope towards assertions of ever broader scope, judgments which still do not constitute the notion even when they state that “all x are y,” but the Universal Judgment must be the Judgment of Necessity ...

Here the judgment expresses the very Notion itself and the import of the decision in respect of the principle is understood and implemented and the subjects it encompasses are themselves movements or notions, rather than just particular policies or individual actions. Thus the Judgment of Necessity is a concretization of the Notion which informs the import of the principle in relation of particulars and individuals in a way that, in the preceding forms of judgment, were either immediate or simply reflected.

The distinction between the general and the universal is the underlying theme throughout this section. A collective often begins as a ‘group of like-minded people’, and the construction of subjectivity is a process which begins with the establishment of true relations of the Particular and the Individual to the Universal.

The Universal Judgment of Reflection is defective because even when it says that ‘All Swans are white’ it has not yet grasped what it is about swans that means that they ought to be white; it makes a statement which appears to be a necessity because it says ‘all’, but it has not yet grasped what it is about swans which require them to be white. Any such determination of the Notion still stands in contradiction to the Notion itself and is consequently finite and must be transcended.

For example, if the child has discovered that it is good at teaching and likes teaching, it has still not grasped why she must be a teacher and what that means for them. So the child may indeed be destined to be a teacher, but this is not subjectivity until the child understands what that means and why they shall do that job and no other.

The Judgment of Necessity moves from the Categorical Judgment (“All x are y”) to the Hypothetical Judgment (“If x has y-ness, then it is a y”) to the Disjunctive Judgment (“x is either y-like or non-y-like”). That is, it determines exactly what it is about swans which make them white (or not – even if they are swans). (This is the same distinction Vygotsky makes between a concept and a ‘pseudo-concept’). For example, one might say that ‘Men always talk over women’, but further investigation will reveal the social conditioning which makes men do such things, even if indeed all men do talk over women, it is not the notion of men to do so – the reasons lie elsewhere. This development of the Judgment of Necessity thus becomes the determination of a new deeper notion.

Finally, in the Judgment of the Notion the judgment in effect constitutes a modification of the Notion, a new Notion, as the import of the principle has not only been fully thought-through from the standpoint of the Notion, but taken further, so that the contradiction between the Notion and the Judgment is brought to light, its one-sidedness is overcome and the possibility of the enrichment of the Notion is disclosed.

Hegel develops the Judgment of the Notion through the Assertoric Notion (‘Men who have been subjected to socialization in a patriarchal society deny women the right to speak’), the Problematic Judgment (‘If ... then ...’) to the Apodetic Judgment in which the content of the judgment is stated fully as an expression of the newly developed Notion, continuing with this example, the assertion that socially constituted gender domination determines the behaviour of the sexes in discussion and the struggle against gender domination may be expressed in the struggle for non-sexist practices in discussion.

So what Hegel has demonstrated here is how the life process of an organization or social movement or institution, or whatever, which begins acting immediately in accord with its principle, but it runs into problems, contradictions and so on and is obliged continuously to modify and concretize its actions, and through this process we do not just have rules-of-thumb, ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’, but the development of the principle itself. Taking the example of a voluntary organization furthering some cause, this development could initially take the form of lists of actions or judgments on individual instances and action committees (or whatever); it develops into whole policies and generalizations or divisions of the organization dedicated to this or that kind of task, and ultimately changes itself, becomes a new organization, a new principle, more concrete than before, a better ‘idea of itself’.

What is missing with the form of judgment though is that it is relatively unmediated. But the Judgment provides the basis for mediation, which Hegel discusses under the heading of the Syllogism.

The Syllogism

The Syllogism means the mediation of two of the terms: Individual, Universal or Particular, by the one of the terms: Individual, Universal or Particular. Mediation may mean a number of things: it may mean referring to the founding principles or the peak body of an organization in the course of making decisions in line with an established policy; it may mean reference to a policy, or the body responsible for a particular policy in the course of taking a decision or action on the part of the central body; it may mean making a decision in line with established procedures about the means of reconstituting the leading body. In all their cases there is a middle term which mediates the relation. Whether you are considering the construction of a mathematical theory, the building of steel bridge, or a national organization, it is the triangular relation which Hegel calls the Syllogism which is the basis of all real building.

Hegel outlines a succession of 10 different syllogisms in this section, but rather than exhaust the reader, I will limit myself to the 3 main divisions of the Syllogism, and the example of a branch-based voluntary organization.

1. The Syllogism of Existence

Continuing our example of an organization with its President or its A.G.M., its branches and its individual members, because this kind of formal division of labour between individual, particular and universal are something we are familiar with and it is easier to visualise.

The Syllogism can be understood as the decision-making process of an organization in respect of its individual day-to-day actions, its particular policies and the development of the universal principle itself, that is to say, how the principle translates into human activity. In the real life of an organization (Notion), the leadership (Universal) is constantly intervening in the relation between Individual members and Particular groups, committees or branches, just as “the principle” is intervening whenever a policy is being translated into an action. But also individuals are the only possible means of mediation between Particular groups and the Universal (whether in the form of representation or delegation or in the form of informal personal contact), and Particular groups (of which Individual members belong or otherwise deal with) are the only possible mediation between the Individual and the Universal.

The four successive “figures” of the Syllogism of Existence are respectively, (a) the mediation or the intervention of the Individual in the Universal by means of the Particular, which simply means the normal method of democratic participation in an organization which take place through representation; which can only happen by means of (b) in which a particular group (or interest, or aspect or policy) is represented at conference (or in a specific decision or discussion or whatever) by an individual, thus (c) the relation of the individual and the particular is mediated by the organization itself – its rules and regulations, but also its whole level of maturity and so forth, and in this way (d) the Universal mediates itself, given substantive form in a healthy organization when its peak bodies make decisions by well-informed, properly elected representatives.

Hegel explains:

“Now the syllogism, like the judgment, is in the first instance immediate; hence its determinations are simple, abstract determinatenesses; in this form it is the syllogism of the understanding. If we stop short at this form of the syllogism, then the rationality in it, although undoubtedly present and posited, is not apparent. The essential feature of the syllogism is the unity of the extremes, the middle term which unites them, and the ground which supports them. Abstraction, in holding rigidly to the self-subsistence of the extremes, opposes this unity to them as a determinateness which likewise is fixed and self-subsistent, and in this way apprehends it rather as non-unity than as unity. The expression middle term is taken from spatial representation and contributes its share to the stopping short at the mutual externality of the terms. Now if the syllogism consists in the unity of the extremes being posited in it, and if, all the same, this unity is simply taken on the one hand as a particular on its own, and on the other hand as a merely external relation, and non-unity is made the essential relationship of the syllogism, then the reason which constitutes the syllogism contributes nothing to rationality.”

The critique Hegel is making here is the fixed insistence on each member of an organization simply “playing their part.” So for example, the delegate to AGM loyally represents the point of view determined by their branch, the National Committee doggedly advocates the policy determined at the last National conference and so on. Though doubtless this entirely proper behaviour is the very stuff of a rough-and-tumble healthy, dynamic and democratic movement. In leading us through the implications of this understanding, Hegel takes us to the point which demonstrates the necessity for the action of the Individual, Particular and Universal to reflect upon each other ...

2. The Syllogism of Reflection

Thus, in a fully developed Universal, the discussion is not a random one, as would occur between people who had ‘walked in off the street’ so to speak, or as when the delegate from a brand new branch arrives at the AGM without any preconceptions other than what she had individually determined to bring to the AGM. On the contrary, when the individual delegate comes to conference she also comes as a member of the national conference; likewise, when the branch selected and instructed its delegate it had a mind not only to its own views, but had studied the agenda and considered the persuasive views of the National Committee, and so on, just as the National Committee has already been lobbied by branches and reflect their own parochial interests and experiences as well as their national responsibilities.

The development of this process of reflection is as follows. In the first figure of the Syllogism of Reflection (I – P – U), the Individual does not simply intervene in the Universal according to what they think, but carries a Particular mandate. In the second figure (P – I – U) on the other hand, the Particular branch does not just to mandate their delegate, whatever they may believe the delegate will do when she gets to conference, they will at best mediate through his or her own Individuality, rather than being simply the bearer of a message from the Branch. In the third figure (I – U – P), we recognize that the whole movement and its leading bodies is in any case mediating between the Individual and the Particular, both because the pre-conference discussion affects the mandatory process and because the individual is changed by participation in the wider movement. Hegel has the fourth figure (U – U – U) to indicate that this all-sided process of reflection thoroughly imbues the whole organisation and the while organisation, including its leading bodies is, so to speak, mediating between itself.

3. The Syllogism of Necessity

The highest stage of development of the Syllogism is the result of the diversity existent in the Syllogism of Existence, brought to light in the Syllogism of Reflection, being sublated or overcome, so that the Universal attains the concreteness and subjectivity of the Individual and the necessity of the Universal. As Hegel points out, this necessarily leads beyond the scope of any Universal, any finite Notion, to Objectivity.

Objectivity deals with the development of the Subject in and through its interaction with the objectification of itself and other subjects, the various institutions. Through this subject-object dialectic a Subject merges and become identified with the entire life of a community and institutionalized in the Idea.


Hegel’s Science of Logic is 840 pages containing literally hundreds of observations of the kind I have only mentioned above, insights which are, as Hegel himself says, unlikely to be understood through the study of any book on logic, but are generally acquired through life experience. Still it is unfortunate, perhaps, that when Lenin studied the Logic in 1914-15, he skipped over the entire section on the Subject, with a few remarks showing no glimmer of having seen anything other than a critique of formal logic, “set forth with the pedantic thoroughness of a school textbook, if I may be allowed to say so.” I have provided an interpretation of the Logic at somewhat greater length in my essay Getting to Know Hegel, but for the purposes of this work, let us leave it at this; we have said enough for the reader to get the idea of the ‘Subject as a Concept’.

In the above I have chiefly used the idea of a social subject, i.e., some organisation or social movement, to illustrate the idea of the Subject as a concept, and occasionally I have interspersed illustrations of the Subject as an individual person; implicit throughout is the idea of the Subject as some principle realized in some form of collaborative human activity or project. The three ideas can easily be identified as aspects or moments of one and the same idea.

For example, a person may define themselves as a Christian; Christianity in this sense corresponds more or less to the modern usage of the term ‘subjectivity’, that is to say, as a concept someone has of themselves, something they ‘believe in’ and see themselves as part of. But it is hardly novel to observe that a person cannot identify themselves as a Christian outside of the fact that the Christian religion exists, both as a Universal concept, denoted by the word ‘Christian’, and as a really-existing set of religious institutions, practices and institutionalized beliefs and rituals. In the wake of our description of the Subject as Concept, it is also easy to see that the abstract notion of Christianity, put forward in the early centuries of the Christian epoch, has undergone exactly the kind of concretization that Hegel has described, and the subjectivity (understood as a formation of consciousness) of Christians has undergone exactly the kind of historical development that is evidenced in the institutional history of the Christian Church.

The Logic, according to Hegel, is the ‘supernatural element’, and one gets the feeling that if conscious beings evolved on a planet in Alpha Centauri breathing ammonia and with liquid nitrogen in their veins, then the Logic would be just as relevant as it is here on Earth.

Admittedly, such a supernatural entity raises all those stubborn problems of ontology which are raised, for example, in the philosophy of mathematics, problems which Hegel disposes of with his concept of Spirit. Nevertheless, we see that no mind-matter dualism plagues this concept of the Subject, as consciousness, objective material activity and intangible ideas are all brought into relation with one another, that is, into a dialectical identity, and such ontological problems do not press themselves upon us.

Where do we stand in respect to the identification of the Subject with an individual human being, be it a transcendental subject, the ‘activity of the I’, the cogito or the material system of conditioned reflexes known to Empiricism and modern behaviourism?

In asking this question, we should remind ourselves that in Hegel’s Logic, the Subject is just one moment of the Idea, which is the unity of Subject and Object. The Idea is definitively supra-personal, so by any reading, the Subject has to be abstracted from a subject-object process. That is, for Hegel, even though the Subject is a perfectly real and valid abstraction, it is nevertheless an abstraction, constantly being superseded, objectifying and negating itself. But whether we understand by Subject, an individual or a social subject, or even a Universal, concretely, the Subject can only be a relation between the individual, particular and universal, in the sense of these words outlined above.

In the above I have skipped over entirely the passages of the Logic on Being and Essence, in which Hegel sketches the genesis of the Abstract Notion, and then left off at the conclusion of the section on Subjectivity. Enough is enough. Formal logic is as dry as dust and what is more, bares little relation to reality outside of a narrow domain of mathematics or legal argument. Hegel’s Logic fares a lot better, being broader in its application, much truer to life and considerably more ‘alive’. Nevertheless, real life is not so rational and human beings are made of flesh and blood. Hegel set himself the task of disclosing what is rational in history, but what is irrational, misunderstood and mistaken is also real. We have to translate the Logic into Earthly life as it is lived by homo sapiens. Philosophy alone is insufficient.

Later, we will turn to three literatures which take forward the conception of the Subject introduced in Hegel’s Science of Logic. First is the communist Karl Marx, who sought to do away with Hegel’s reliance on Spirit and locate the dialectic in the labour of real human beings.

Second is the semiotics of Charles Sanders Peirce, who put sign-activity in place of Spirit in his Logic. I have no evidence that Peirce was influenced by Hegel, but a grasp of Hegel’s idea of the Subject as Concept gives as a clue to the interpretation of Peirce’s semiotics which is very fruitful and perhaps more successful with the ‘irrational’ in human life than Hegel.

Third is the cultural historical activity theory of psychology of L S Vygotsky, A N Leontyev and A R Luria, as well as the ideas of the later workers in this school, E V Ilyenkov, Vasily Davidov, Feliks Mikhailov, Yrjö Engström, Mike Cole and others. The CHAT school was influenced by the Progressive movement in the United States and has much in common with John Dewey and George Herbert Mead, but whereas the Americans did no empirical psychological work, the Soviets did considerable empirical psychological work over a period of 80 years and have accumulated a substantial, scientific body of work on cognitive and social psychology. The founders of both these currents were educated in the Hegelian logic and we can presume that they consciously sublated the insights of this work into their own practical and theoretical work.

But first, we will turn to Hegel’s Philosophy of Spirit to see how Hegel himself used these ideas to describe the nature of real, human subjects.