Sunday, November 15, 2015

Hegel’s Analogical Dialectic



The Analogy of Being

The analogy of being may be defined as a special mode of grammar that hypothesizes one universal analogon in a common proportionate relation to many distinct analogates. (i.e. a:b :: b:c etc.) It is typically described as the middle way between the opposed extremes of univocal and equivocal predication: where univocal signification involves a one-to-one signification of one term to one meaning; equivocal signification involves a one-to-two signification of one term to two (i.e. equivocal) or more (i.e. multivocal) meanings; but analogical signification involves a one-to-two-in-one signification of one term with two or more distinct analogates, each of which is related by participation in one universal analogon. Since analogy culminates in the participation of many auxiliary analogates in one primary analogon, it structurally parallels the ontology of Platonic participation. It may thus be described as a grammatical form of predication that signifies Platonic ontology, in which the lesser being of many auxiliary analogates are integrated into the greater being of one primary analogon. Since the meaning signified by any term is constituted from some being of thought, the grammar of analogy signifies that many analogates participate in one analogon, and each of the participating analogates possess a lesser degree of being than the participated analogon, the grammar of analogy also signifies a structure of being, or ontology. Analogical ontology first divides the one-to-one univocal referent-relation of referring terms and referenced being into an one-to-two equivocal referent relation; and then correlates this equivocal referent-relation by finding a third relation between the referents. This ‘third’ inter-relation between the analogate referents is the logical centre of the analogy of being, which is meant to inter-mediate all analogates in one central analogon. The great question for analogy and dialectics is to discover the possibility of this absolute middle.


Analogy and Dialectics

The domains treated by analogy and dialectics are conventionally segregated into exclusive spheres of terms and propositions. Analogy is thought to strictly apply only to the grammatical relation of discrete terms, while dialectic is thought to apply only to propositions, premises, and arguments. Hence it is thought that where analogy may signify the referential relation of terms, dialectics may only signify the reunion of opposed propositions. This strict separation of analogy from dialectics is also presumed to imply a corresponding separation between analogical and dialectical ontologies: where analogical relations may relate equivocally distinct but mutually participatory terms, dialectics may only relate opposed and annulled propositions; and where analogical relations of analogates participate in and are perfectly exemplified by the paradigmatic prime analogon, dialectical relations are meant to be annulled and resolved into a higher and richer synthetic unity of opposites. This strict separation is, however, merely the result of an objectification of the categories of finitistic understanding in the dead marks of writing, which always conceals a more originary and dynamic combination and division of the terms and propositions in ‘living speech’. Aristotle definitely distinguished terms and propositions in the fifth chapter of On Interpretation, but Plato had already, in the Theaetetus, pre-empted any permanent objectification of thinking in writing when he described how Socrates had learnt, in a dream, that letters may be combined to make syllables; syllables to make names; names to make descriptions; and descriptions given for accounts of justified true belief. (201e-205e) Hegel recognized that Plato had, in the Sophist, shown the de-composition of complex concepts into their determinate differences to dissolve any ultimate separation between the difference of terms and the contradiction of propositions. He described how Plato had re-conceived negativity as an essential “dialectical moment” to “preserve difference” and “determine the true universal.” (LHP II 62) Dialectical thinking thus promises to disclose the contradictions between opposed theses of speech and thought to dissolve the opposites in into a synthetic unity of opposites. Analogical thinking similarly distinguishes two equivocal referents of a term, concept, proposition, or judgment, namely the universal and the particular, and mediates these two equivocal judgments by analogically judging the universal in the mode of the particular. Whether of the production of the synthetic concept from the dialectical remainder, or the attribution of a finite term in an infinite mode, the distinctions between terms and propositions may all vanish in this mysterious middle of all negative differentia.


Hegel against Analogy

Hegel has, for a confluence of textual, historical, and systematic reasons, been widely read to have occluded any conception of the analogy of being from dialectic. First, Hegel evidently never wrote about the analogy of being as it had been formulated by Cajetan, Suarez, and the Thomists. The Syllogism of Analogy that he discussed in the Science of Logic (§§ 1496-1501) show no familiarity with this tradition. This absence should, however, be only a little surprising because Hegel also shows very little interest in medieval scholasticism. When, in his later years, he set himself to write on the philosophy of the Middle Ages, he dedicated only a little more space to its one-thousand year history than he had to Plato alone. Thomas Aquinas receives his attention for a scant two paragraphs, the content of which seems to have been derived exclusively from abstracts provided by Deitrich Tiedemann’s History of Philosophy. (LHP p.2, §2, B.2.b) Second, since the Neo-Scholastic revival following Aeterni Patris (1879), the analogy of being has been consistenty championed as a pillar of Thomistic philosophy, and Thomism as a pillar of Catholic theology, in double-opposition to secular philosophy and Protestant theology. Hegel has been indicted on each account as a rationalist who recast theology into a totalizing logic of concepts and as a Protestant who until his death professed “I am a Lutheran and will remain the same.” (LHP 1:73) His reputation has also suffered from unabating criticisms of rationalism, pantheism, and atheism, not least since the condemnation of George Hermes (1835), the critiques of Franz Anton Staudenmaier (1844), and the grace-nature controversy between Johannes von Kuhn and Constantine von Schäzler (1863).

The ascendency of the Neo-Thomist party marked the sunset of Hegelian sympathies in Catholic theology. (cf. O’Meara 1982) During the era from popes Pius IX to Pius XII (cf. 1846-1958), the Hegelian theology issuing from the Tübingen School came to be increasingly associated with the heresy of modernism, because the teleological sublation of concepts suggested an historical evolution of dogma. The Irish Jesuit George Tyrrell, who in 1906 was censored for modernism, seems to have exhibited some Hegelian influence. (cf. Letters 1920, 22; Gardner 1926, 49) This influence seems to have received papal scrutiny in the encyclical Humani Generis (1950), which admonishes: “No Catholic can doubt how false this is, especially where there is question of those fictitious theories they call immanentism, or idealism or materialism, whether historic or dialectic, or even existentialism, whether atheistic or simply the type that denies the validity of the reason in the field of metaphysics.” (§32) The arch-critic of Nouvelle Théologie, Garrigou-Lagrange O.P. has similarly criticized Hegel for deriving the ‘becoming’ of historical processes from a productive contradiction. He writes that “there is no apparent reason why becoming should emerge from this realized contradiction, this identification of contradictories. On the contrary, we must hold with Aristotle that ‘to maintain that being and non-being are identical, is to admit permanent repose rather than perpetual motion.” (1946 174)

This familiar Roman Catholic opposition of Thomistic analogy against Hegelian dialectic has been largely shaped by a Counter-Reformation project which, for many centuries, has endeavored chart an alternative path around the steps leading towards modern secularism. In response to the Protestant Reformation and secular Enlightenment, the Catholic Church developed an alternative historical narrative, which tended to portray late-medieval nominalism, Protestantism, and German idealism as three seismic missteps leading in a retrograde descent from the medieval synthesis of Thomas Aquinas to the modern atheism of Feuerbach, Comte, and Nietzsche. (cf. de Lubac 1950) Since Hegel had consistently portrayed his own philosophy as the logical conclusion of Protestantism reform and Enlightenment rationalism, he is accordingly cast in this drama as the villainous architect of a megalomaniacal philosophical theology that has been ingeniously constructed from levelled building material of Scotus’ univocal being, Luther’s ‘death of God’, and Kant’s representational epistemology. Analogy is then retroactively defended as a theological alternative to dialectic by accusing Hegel of reducing the middle way of analogy to either an equivocal oscillation of mutually negating contradictories or a univocal sphere of Cartesian-Kantian representation.

William Desmond has, perhaps most famously, repudiated Hegel’s Absolute Idea as an idolatrous ‘counterfeit double’ of the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Being and the Between, he has prosecuted Hegel’s dialectic as a sterile “interplay of univocity and equivocity” within a univocal sphere of ‘aesthetic being’. (1995 168) Where Hegel consistently maintains that being is only an abstract determination of the Concept (cf. SL §807), Desmond follows Schelling in re-casting Hegel’s concepts as immediately given phenomenal beings. Once the originating stages of the immediate given sensory manifold of ‘sense-certainty’ in the Phenomenology and the pure and indeterminate immediacy of ‘being’ in the Logic have been forcibly reduced into an equivalent ‘aesthetic being’, each and every concept may be similarly reduced to merely virtual ‘determinate intelligibilities’ within the dynamic “rhythm of immediacy.” (1995, 134, 170) Consequently, he judges Hegel’s dialectic to be “a passage from the immediacy of univocal determination through the indetermination of equivocation, towards a more and more self-mediated self-determination,” and concludes that “Parmenides’ ghost rises at the end of Hegelian dialectic: Being and Thinking are one.” (1995, 172-175) Desmond’s recommendation for an ‘unsubsumable’ and ‘plurivocal’ metaxological metaphysics is meant to “reach out to what is other in self-transcendence”, but seems to fetishize the difference of this ‘otherness’ at the expense of intelligibly determinable concepts. (1995, 33)

Giles Deleuze has deployed a parallel criticism against Hegel for the purpose of preserving the independence of ‘difference itself’ in opposition to the absolute middle that prioritizes identity over difference and ‘inscribes difference in identity’. Jean Hyppolite, together with Jean Wahl and Alexandre Kojeve, had re-introduced Hegel into France in the 1930s to present a viable philosophical alternative to Husserl’s phenomenology of ‘irreal’ essences. In the Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Hyppolite described how universal concepts had unfolded from the shapes of phenomenal consciousness. (1974, 39, 101, 121, 579) Deleuze responded that Hyppolite had effectively identified ‘sense’ with ‘being’ and reduced Hegel’s Logic to the self-determination of univocal ‘sense-being’. He wrote that “philosophy, if it has a meaning, can only be an ontology and an ontology of sense. The same being and the same thought are in the empirical and in the absolute… This absolute identity of being and difference is called sense.” (Review of Logique et Existence, 1952, Lawlor and Sen trans., 1997 194-195) In Difference and Repetition, he transposed this criticism of Hyppolite into his criticism of Hegel when he describes how this “infinite representation relates” the difference between “both the essence and the ground” to a “foundation or sufficient reason” that “employs the infinite only to lead the identical to exist in its very identity” and therefore “does not suffice to render the thought of difference independent of the simple analogy of essences.” (1968 59-60) Deleuze specifically targets “Hegelian contradiction”, which, he contends, merely “consists in inscribing the double negation of non-contradiction within the existent” so that “identity” is “sufficient to think the existent.” (1968 60)

Hegel’s dialectic has, in these ways, been criticized for trespassing upon ‘principle of non-contradiction’, ‘univocal equivocity’, and ‘difference itself’. Yet each of these criticisms has spuriously presumed that the very ‘difference’ involved contradiction, equivocity, and difference itself may be separated from the immanent self-differentiating activity of dialectical thinking. This separation of ‘difference’ from the self-differentiating activity of dialectical thinking, which Hegel calls ‘external reflection’, threatens to abolish the mediating centre of theology: for once the principle of non-contradiction is made into a pure and apodictic axiom that is prior to the content of thinking; and equivocity is made into a hypostatized mode of grammar that is indifferent to its terms; each ironically comes to resemble Deleuze’s ‘difference itself’ more than the Platonic participation of all differentia in a dynamic middle. Aristotle had foreshadowed this ironically self-defeating maneuver when, for the purpose of evading the paradoxes involved in Plato’s ‘universal forms’, he erected a no less mystifying array of separate axioms of logic. But even his principle of non-contradiction (i.e. Not (A & Not-A)) evidently presupposes the principle of excluded middle (i.e. A & Not-A) because it presupposes the difference of negation (i.e. the ‘Not’) between any positive and negative term. Once such a difference is formally abstracted as a simple negation and functionally separated from the content signified by its terms, then it threatens to become a difference that makes no difference: as a simple negation, it is not different because it remains identical to itself; but as a separated difference it is formally indifferent to all signified content. Hence, once the critics of Hegel have made difference into a principle that is separated off from all differentia, each paradoxically renders difference itself as both self-identical without difference and self-differential without identity. Hegel, like Plato before him, found a hidden path through this paradox by radicalizing the difference of contradiction.


Hegel for Contradiction

To save Hegel from narrative oblivion we must explain how dialectical contradictions may produce higher and richer synthetic concepts. Contradictions are conventionally understood to result from the affirmation and denial of one and same proposition that completely annuls the concepts signified. Their consequences are considered entirely negative, to annul the concepts signified, and to be resolved only by the falsification one or more of the contradictory premises. But the genealogy of contradiction reveals a richer portrait. Parmenides presented the proto-typical principle of non-contradiction when he wrote that “never will this prevail, that what is not is.” (On Nature) But in response to Heraclitean flux, Plato extended Parmenides' prohibition on the coincidence of being and non-being to the coincidence of contrary opposites in one and the same thought. In the Republic, Socrates comments that “it is obvious that the same thing will never do or suffer opposites in the same respect in relation to the same thing and at the same time.” (436b) In the Metaphysics, Aristotle extended variants of both the Parmenidean ontic (IV 3 1005b19) and the Platonic epistemic principle (IV 3 1005b24) to a new semantic principle of non-contradiction, which prescribed that “opposite assertions cannot be true at the same time.” (IV 6 1011b13) (cf. Gottlieb 2015) Each of these principles presumed a fixed meaning for negation, difference, and opposition. But, in the Sophist, Plato investigated the meaning of difference itself and found that difference in motion “partakes of existence.” (256d) This dynamic theory of participatory difference was later rediscovered by Nicholas of Cusa when, in On Learned Ignorance, he aesthetically re-imagined the grammatical relations of the analogy of being as a coincidence of contrary opposites suspended by the ‘maximum contractum’ of Christ the Logos. (c.9 n.37, 7-10) Immanuel Kant thereafter, but albeit in a quite different spirit, described these contrary oppositions as the antinomies of judgment that are inevitably produced by Reason (KrV A409/B436); Johann Gottlieb Fichte restricted contradiction to oppositively determined concepts (WS I.496); and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling made this concept into the first principle of life in nature. He writes: “Contradiction alone brings life even into the first necessary nature, which we have considered merely conceptually until now.” (WA 220)

Hegel is sometimes said to have rejected the principle of non-contradiction in favor of dialectic. (cf. C.S. Peirce 1868, 57) But this spurious libel results from a naive conflation of Aristotle’s semantic principle of non-contradiction with the Plato’s onto-noetic principle of the dynamic self-movement movement of spiritual concepts. (cf. Phaedrus 248e, Philebus 27a-28e, Timaeus 38e-40a, and Laws 256b) Hegel did not reject but radicalized the principle of non-contradiction by harnessing its explosive force within the inner combustion engine that motivates the dynamic self-determination of concepts. He writes: “Contradiction is the root of all movement and all vitality: it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity.” (SL §956) John McTaggart clearly recognized this when he wrote that “so far is the dialectic from denying the law of contradiction, that it is especially based on it. The contradictions are the cause of the dialectic process.” (1896, 9; cf. Brandom 2002, 179; Redding 2007, 201) Hegel never tires of repudiating the “dry bones” of formal logic and fixed propositions from which “flesh and blood are all gone” (PhG §51), and celebrating, instead, Schelling’s romantic spiritualization of Nature as the “soul of the world, the universal blood, whose omnipresence is neither disturbed nor interrupted by any difference, but rather is itself every difference as also their supersession.” (PhG §162) Like Plato and Cusa, Hegel aesthetically re-imagined contradictory propositions as oppository concepts. But like Kant and Fichte, he restricted its explosive force to the specific determinations of oppository concepts: where classical logic had hitherto held any contradiction to explode a system of inferences by rendering its conclusions trivially true (ex contradictione sequitur quodlibet or ‘from a contradiction anything follows’), Hegel restricted the negativity of contradictions to the specific coincidence of opposed concepts. He characterized the un-restricted negativity of contradictions as a kind of one-sided scepticism that “only ever sees pure nothingness in its results” and “ends ups with the bare abstraction” of empty nothingness “in order to throw it too into the same empty abyss.” (PhG §79)


Hegel’s Speculative Proposition

While Hegel acknowledges that Aristotle’s “rules of syllogizing” have “their place in cognition where they must be obeyed”, he nonetheless cautions that “they cannot serve higher, for example, religious truth… only the correctness of the knowledge of facts, not the truth itself.” (SL §27) The “profounder basis” for philosophical thinking is, he claims, “the soul itself, the pure concept which is the very heart of things” and which “animates the mind” to “raise mind” towards the “loftier business of logic” of “freedom and truth.” (SL §§ 23-25) This purpose can only be realized by re-constructing the abstract forms of logic through the self-determining content of thinking in the “absolute, self-subsistent object, the Logos.” (SL §28) But in contrast to artificial languages and formal semantics, Hegel contends that philosophy “stands in no need of a special terminology” because “the forms of thought” are already “displayed and stored in human language.” (SL §14) Hegel had formerly described, in the Nuremberg Propädeutik, how the ‘content of grammar’ comprised the “categories and unique creations of the intellect.” (1809, 322–323; cit. Malabou 2004 169) Since language is already informed by the categories of logic, the grammatical structure of language may operate as an indispensable medium for raising thought to logic. Yet Hegel is no mere grammariam. He rather harbours more ambitious plans to revise the structure and significance of grammar according to the lights of logic. Gillian Rose has, in this regard, recently called attention to the centrality of the speculative proposition when, in Hegel Contra Sociology, she described how the “speculative experience of lack of identity informs propositions such as 'the real is the rational', which have so often been misread as ordinary propositions.” (1981 49)

In the Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit (§§55-60), Hegel recommended a dynamic, participatory, and speculative mode of reading in which the fixed meaning of the proposition may be “shaken to its foundation” but preserved by “knitting or combining the predicates”, like the art of weaving in Plato’s Statesman (279a), in the “inmost reality” and dynamic rhythm of the living philosophic Idea. (§60) He describes how concepts are constructed from a “positive cognitive process” of combining subjects and predicates within a succession of speculative propositions. (§60) In the maelstrom of this dynamic process, the stable subject and substance “really disappears” while “the scattered diversity of the content is brought under the control of the self.” (§60) Once the subject and predicate pass over into one another, and neither retains their stable meaning, there remain no fixed terms as each are taken up into the “inmost reality” and “the entire mass of the content.” (§60) Once all subjects and predicates have been woven together in the entire content of ‘Absolute Knowing’, Hegel describes how the subject may come to “exist along with the content” in pure apprehension of universal reason, or Nous, in which being and essence coincide in the harmonic “rhythm of the organic whole.” (§56) Absolute Knowing is thus established, from the outset, as the teleological end and logical centre in which all of the terms of the speculative propositions participate to realize their meaning and truth. Hegel shows how he has adopted Speucippus’ teleological model of Platonic participation in the introduction and conclusion to the Phenomenology of Spirit, when he describes how “in pressing forward to its true form of existence, consciousness will come to a point… where appearance becomes identified with essence” (§89), in which the ‘figurative content’ of speculative propositions “participate in” the “pure knowledge of essence” of the Idea. (§796)

Although many commentators have celebrated Hegel’s speculative proposition, few have recognized its implications for the analogy of being. In The Idea of Hegel’s Logic, Hans-Georg Gadamer requests the retrieval of dialectics from “the reabsorption of all objectification into the sustaining power and shelter of the word” that “points beyond itself” to the medium of language that is “at work in everything which is” through the speculative proposition in which “all statement sentences referring a predicate to a subject” are reflected toward the “retreat of thought into itself.” (1982 94) He seems to suggest an analogical relation of propositions when he describes a “mean between the extremes of [univocally identical] tautology on the one hand and [equivocally differential] self-cancellation in the infinite determination of its meaning on the other.” (1982 95) Catherine Malabou has, in The Future of Hegel, similarly identified the future task of philosophy with elaborating the “speculative significance of a grammatical structure” that determines the relations between “the subject, the copula, and the predicate” through the dynamic “activity-of-form” of speculative propositions. (2006 171) She describes this dynamic relation as a gift that is “revealed as the scene of the advent”, and which inclines the reader on a Platonic ascent from the horizontal difference of terms to a vertical apprehension of their participatory and reciprocal gift-giving where “identity is retained within difference and difference preserved within identity.” (2006 173-174) She also approaches analogical language when she describes “three aspects” to the dialectical movement of the “[univocally identical] shared form, the [equivocally differentiated] suppression of that form, and the [analogically different-in-identity] presentation in return of the cancelled form.” (2006 180) But both Gadamer and Malabou neglect to thematise how this ‘mean between extremes’ of univocal and equivocal forms can imply that the speculative proposition may be read as equally speculative grammar of the analogy of being.


Hegel’s Speculative Analogy

The linguistic turn in philosophy, from Vico and Herder to Wittgenstein and Derrida, may portend an  equally momentous linguistic turn for Hegelian theology, in which the analogy of being may play a pivotal role. Formerly the self-determination of the pure Concept (reinen Begriff) was believed to exhaustively sublate (aufgehoben) and necessarily super-determine the figurative representations (Vorstellung) of language. Such an ‘overdetermination’ of the Concept could preserve no place for the free contingency of language, grammar, and analogy. But after Heidegger’s critique of technical ‘enframing’ of ontology, Gadamer has pointed a new path towards an underdetermined ‘clearing’ (Lichtung) of language when he described how Hegel’s Concept “constantly presupposes the functioning of language which sustains and accompanies it” and “in which thinking has its own abode.” (1982 94) This ‘clearing’ is meant to suggest Heidegger’s onto-logically undetermined ‘open space’ of contingent significations, which is not sufficiently determined by any prior concept but is rather adventitiously “open for everything that comes to be present and absent.” (GA 14: 80f; cit. Dahlstrom 2013, 45) The path towards this clearing was first opened by Schelling who argued, in his 1809 Freedom Essay, that only the radical freedom of self-determining beings could preserve the contingent signification of existence, experience, and language. (SW 385386; cf. Bowie 1993, 100) Were being not, in some sense, free to exceed its formally defined limits, then the multivocal significations of being would be encompassed within a single univocal Concept, and, not only the free contingency of language, but also the analogy of being would become altogether impossible.

Hegel outlines an approach towards analogy, first in the Quantitative Ratio, but finally in the Syllogism of Analogy. In the Encyclopedia Logic, he describes how the transition from Quantity to Measure develops through “the Quantitative Ratio, a mode of being which, while, in its Exponent, it is an immediate quantum, is also mediation, viz. the reference of some one quantum to another, forming the two sides of the ratio.” (EL §105) This Quantitative Ratio is a quantitative-qualitative proportion in which extrinsically related quantities come to be intrinsically determined by a common measure. This proportionate determination of extrinsically related quantities represents in German Idealism a homology, or parallel development, to the analogy of proportion in late-medieval Scholasticism, in which many extrinsically related analogates are determined through their proportionate relation to one common analogon. In the Syllogism of Reflection, Hegel elaborates upon how the ‘middle term’ of the syllogism is “equivalent to its essential universality.” (EL §190) Since, in Hegel’s system, the later stages sublate the former stages, and sublation implies a gradual reification of less into more concrete concepts, the proportionate analogy of the Quantitative Ratio may be read to have been sublated through this ‘middle term’ into the speculative analogy of the Syllogism of Analogy. This connection between the Aristotelian-Thomistic analogy of being and Hegel’s syllogism of analogy seems to have gone largely unnoticed, not only because of the aforementioned Neo-Thomist opposition to Hegelianism, but also because the Syllogism of Analogy seems at first sight to be more concerned with merely metaphorical arguments from analogy than with the divine names and theological grammar of the analogy of being. Once, however, the fixed distinction between terms and propositions has vanished in the dynamic process of the speculative proposition, a closer reading of the Science of Logic may reveal a closer connection between Aquinas’ analogy of being and Hegel’s syllogism of analogy.

Analogy has previously been described in both qualitative terms of attributed predicates and quantitative terms of arithmetic proportions. Hegel combines both the qualitative and quantitative descriptions of analogy in the moment of the Quantitative Ratio (SL §§669-694), through which qualitative Determinateness and quantitative Magnitude are united in Measure. He describes it as the “unity of both moments” of quantitative determination and qualitative movement in which each are “essentially related” by a “magnitude” that is “posited as a ratio.” (SL §§ 669-671) Hegel divides this quantitative ratio into (i) the direct ratio that posits its determinateness “in its very externality”; (ii) the indirect or inverse ratio that posits this contradictory negation internally in the “alterableness of the direct relation itself”; and (iii) the ratio of powers that resolves this contradictory negation into the “simple production of the quantum” that “becomes measure.” (SL §672)

Although Hegel seems to have been unaware of it, his (i) direct ratio resembles Cajetan’s analogy of proper proportion, in which the relation of analogy is external to substances, while his (iii) ratio of powers resembles Suarez’s analogy of attribution, in which the primary analogon paradigmatically ‘produces’ the auxiliary analogates. Hegel’s decisive contribution to this controversy is to have not only recognized but purported to resolve the intractable contradiction between “externality” and “self-relation” that had bedeviled the Aristotelian-Thomistic analogy of being since the late-Medieval era. John Duns Scotus and Willam of Ockham had each argued against Thomas Aquinas that the analogy of being could not genuinely establish any consistent relation between many distinct analogates and one common analogon without either annulling the distinction of the analogates, contrary to the principle of excluded middle, or affirming and denying this very distinction, contrary to the principle of non-contradiction. (cf. Scotus, Ordinatio 1 d.3 Q.2 a2. 26; and Ockham, Quodlibetal Questions, 4.12) Various late-medieval Platonists attempted to preserve the “analogical-participatory worldview” by radically re-thinking its “irreducibly paradoxical character” for the purpose of “abandoning non-contradiction at the ultimate level of being.” (Milbank, 2006, xxvi-xxviii) Nicholas of Cusa, for example, recalled Plato’s Parmenides and anticipated Kant’s antinomies when he argued that the finite limits of all imagined concepts must ineluctably produce contradictory coincidences of opposites (coincidentia oppositorum), which can only be known through their Platonic suspension by the absolute individuality (maximum contractum) of Christ the Logos.

The impetus to re-imagine the contradictory coincidence of opposites was borne anew in the bacchanalian fervor of Romantic idealism. Fichte responded to Kant’s antinomies with an infinite series of practical positings, Schiller, through aesthetic judgments of the beautiful, and Schelling, in the primordial infinite positing of judgements of the ‘invisible nature’ of Spirit. Once Hegel had similarly radicalized contradiction as the dialectical motor of all concepts, he could calmly claim that “it is Spirit which is strong enough to support the contradiction, but it is also Spirit which knows how to resolve it.” (SL §529)  He purports to resolve this contradiction of the mutual externality of distinct quantities in the Quantitative Ratio by annulling the negative relation of the (i) direct ratio and sublating each into the ‘reciprocal limiting’ and mutual containment of each opposed determination in the (ii) inverse ratio. This reciprocally delimiting oscillation produces a “spurious infinity of infinite progress” that “is consequently only [an] approximation.” (SL §685) But the “limit of the reciprocal limiting of both terms” is also “posited as negation of the negation” by “preserving itself and uniting with itself in the negation” of opposed determinations to propel the transition from the (ii) inverse ratio transitions to the (iii) ratio of powers. (SL §687) The (iii) ratio of powers finally results from of a “progressive realization” of the quantitative ratio through a double-transition of quantity to quality and vice versa that posits and sublates its limits in a self-determining Measure. (SL §§688-694)

The Syllogism of Analogy (SL §§1494-1501) is meant to further sublate the Quantitative Ratio into Measure, Measure into Essence, and Essence into the Concept. It is situated as the third subdivision of the Syllogism of Reflection, which is itself meant to be sublated into the Syllogism of Necessity, Objectivity, and ultimately into the Absolute Idea. Since each successive sublation is meant to preserve and incorporate the preceding concepts into a more complex and concrete concept, the Quantitative Ratio is likewise meant to be essentially preserved in Measure, Essence, just as the Syllogism of Analogy is meant to be essentially preserved in Subjectivity, Concept, and ultimately in the Absolute Idea. This sublation of the attributive analogy of the Quantitative Ratio and the speculative analogy of the Syllogism of Analogy implies that, for Hegel no less than Aquinas, the Idea of God can only be approached through a ‘positive cognitive process’ of constructing speculative propositions in an equally speculative grammar of analogy. The syllogism of analogy is also essentially distinguished from judgments by the presence of a ‘middle term’ that unites the extremes in a single inference. This middle term remains for Aristotle a fixed proposition, but Hegel dynamizes it into the speculative proposition, which, in a way that is reminiscent Plato’s self-moving souls, reflexively posits and unites “the totality of the terms” in the “genuine determinateness of form.” (SL §1485) Since, moreover, each of these syllogisms is meant to be constructed from speculative propositions, in which subject and predicate terms are combined in concepts, this ‘middle term’ is not merely a fixed axle of revolving predication but the dynamic ‘absolute middle’ of predicative self-determination in the Concept.

The ‘absolute middle’ is, for Hegel, the very keystone upon which rests the vaulting weight of his entire systematic architectonic. He describes how it is “only as immediately identical with universality that individuality can be the middle term.” (SL §1495) But he cautions that if universality were to remain external and separate from individuality then “the middle term would fall asunder into two unconnected parts and we should not have a syllogism.” (SL §1495) It is “no longer just any single quality” but the coincidence of “the individual taken in its universal nature” that is “the reflection-into-self” of its concrete nature. (SL §1496) This coincidence of universality and individuality in one nature recalls, not only Aristotle’s form-matter composition but also the divine-human nature of Christ. And although it is not yet necessarily self-determined in its objectivity, the middle term is undoubtedly essential to the Syllogism of Analogy, and its transition from Subjectivity to Objectivity. Hegel reiterates Suarez’ rejection of the four terms (quaternion terminorum), which had formerly characterized Cajetan’s analogy of proportion as an ‘imperfect syllogism’, in favor of a self-mediating three-term syllogism. (SL §1498) He contends that it is only by negating both immediacy and externality, that this syllogism may also sublate the “negative moment” of contingent individuality (i.e. the Syllogism of Induction) into a “higher universality” of self-determined necessity. (SL §§1500-1501) He writes that in “the syllogisms of reflection the middle term appears as the unity that gathers together externally the determinations of the extremes” that are “united only in a third term” and “inner unity” of the Concept. (SL §§1526-1528) Since this inner unity is comprehensively formed through syllogisms, and the Syllogism of Analogy is one of the essential moments of the Concept. As an essential moment of the Concept, the speculative analogy must comprise an essential moment for the subjective apprehension of the Idea. Hegel describes how this “syllogism is mediation, the complete Notion in its positedness” whose “movement is the sublating of this mediation, in which nothing is in and for itself, but each term is only by means of an other.” (SL §1529)

Hegel’s speculative analogy is thus meant to sublate the Quantitative Ratio, through Measure and Essence, into the Syllogism of Analogy, and Syllogism, through Objectivity and Idea, in the Concept. The Concept is then meant to reflexively determine itself through a dynamic process of speculative propositions which are essentially modelled on the analogy of being. This dialectical sublation of analogy into the Concept has suggested to many that Hegel’s Logic, no less than Spinoza’s Ethics, threatens to eliminate the free contingency of language, along with the grammar and signification of analogy. But Hegel purports to preserve this very contingency in and through the self-determined necessity of the Concept. He describes, in Actuality of the Doctrine of Essence (SL §§1187-1231), not only how contingent possibility is reflected into necessary actuality, but also how this very reflection of contingency-in-necessity is itself always contingent. (SL §1191) He writes: “This unity of possibility and actuality is contingency. The contingent is an actual that at the same time is determined as merely possible, whose other or opposite equally is.” (SL §1202) And near conclusion of The Idea, Hegel reiterates how “the concrete Notion itself is contingent” in “respect of its content” and its self-determinations. (SL §1724) Finally, in the third subdivision of the Encyclopedia, Hegel reiterates that the “Notion is the principle of freedom, the power of substance self-realized” and its elements are “identical with one another and with the whole, and the specific character of each is a free being of the whole notion.” But here, unlike the Logic, Hegel explicitly links the freedom of the Concept to the Incarnation of Christ: “not merely has God created a World which confronts him as an other; he has also from all eternity begotten a Son in whom he, a Spirit, is at home with himself.” (EL §§160-161)


Hegel’s Theological Analogy

The analogy of being may be described as a Christian theological analogy whenever the primary analogon signifies the divine person of Christ the Logos in whom all auxiliary analogates may be said to ‘live, move, and have their being’: its originary division and reconciliation is, for Christian theology, enacted outside time in the eternal filiation of Christ the Son from God the Father; both outside and inside time in the Creation of the world by the Word of God; and inside time as it is reflected in the grammar of analogy (vestigial trinitatis). Hegel’s speculative analogy may thus become a genuinely theological analogy when its ‘middle term’ signifies the ‘absolute middle’ of the universal Reason, or Nous, that is identifiable with Christ the Logos. Hegel first suggested this when he introduced the speculative proposition as a specific determination of Axanagoras’ universal Reason, or Nous. (PhG §55) He later reiterated this allusion, in the Logic, when he described the divine essence in Anaxagorean terms as the “principle of the world… the pure form of which must be logic.” (SL §54) Christological intimations subsequently recur at increasingly explicit registers scattered across many of the successive resolutions within the Phenomenology, from the life-blood of the cosmos in Force and Understanding (PhG §162), to the priestly mediator of the Unhappy Consciousness (PhG §226), to the angelic Ideas of Reason (PhG §437), and, penultimately, in the reconciling ‘Yea’ of forgiveness with the ‘beautiful soul’ at the conclusion of Morality. (PhG §671)

The successive sublation of lower into the higher stages of conscious implies that the highest stage of figurative consciousness in Religion must be dimly reflected in each of the lower stages. Christ accordingly ultimately appears at the very pinnacle of the entire system, in the consummate moment of Revealed Religion, as that singular ‘divine man’ whose death “implies at the same time the death of the abstraction” of objectified divinity that holds itself in separate isolation from the “pure subjectivity” of “universal self-consciousness.” (PhG §785) Christianity is similarly situated, in the Encylopedia, as the ‘absolute religion’ in which Christ reconciles and sublates the universality and particularity of Religion and Spirit in his own individuality. (Enc. §569) In each case, the moment of Christianity appears to be subordinated to and sublated within a higher superordinate moment of Philosophy. But this subordinate-superordinate relation does not annul but preserves, and does not efface but rather reiterates the grand Trinitarian structure of Hegelian theology.

Hegel describes, at the conclusion of the Encyclopedia (Enc. §§575 – 577), how each of the dialectical moments may be read in alternating sequences: (i) Logic – Nature – Spirit; (ii) Nature – Spirit – Logic; and (iii) Spirit – Logic – Nature. The divine persons of the Holy Trinity are thus mutually and recursively related, just as the conceptual moments are mutually and recursively related in the divine essence. The Arians had, on the contrary, subordinated Christ the Son to God the Father, but the Cappadocian Fathers had responded by reaffirming the co-equal divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Hegel’s Trinitarian recursion follows in their footsteps to imply that none of the logical moments may absolutely annul, eliminate, or dominate any of the others; and that the Christian Religion must be forever preserved as an essential moment in the life of Spirit. Dale Schlitt has helpfully described how Hegel uses these three logical moments to correlate the universality of the Father, the particularity of the Son, and the individuality of the Holy Spirit. He elaborates that this “inner dynamic of otherness… presents the triadic structure of inclusive subjectivity” that is “in its own way already absolute, divine subjectivity.” (1990 472) Since this “mediating individuality culminates or reaches its climactic depths in the death of Christ” Hegel “sets up a dialectical moment at the very core of God’s being” where he “has built the formal structure of the cruxifiction and death of Christ into the very movement of ‘immanent’ Trinity.” (1990 471)

When Hegel’s Logic is read as essentially Trinitarian and his conception of the Holy Trinity is essentially logical, then the major divisions and subdivisions of the Hegelian corpus can also be re-read to symbolically correspond to the persons of the Trinity: the simplest seminal first moment is the Father, the second self-opposed moment is the Son, and the third reconciling dynamic moment is the Holy Spirit. In the Encyclopedia, the Logic corresponds to God the Father, Nature to God the Son, and Spirit to the Holy Spirit. Further still, we might even read the Science of Logic to correspond to God the Father “in his eternal essence before the creation” of the world (SL §53), the via dolorosa of consciousness in the Phenomenology of Spirit to correspond to Christ the Son (PhG §77), and the pouring forth of the Encyclopaedia categories in the later lectures on history, politics, aesthetics, and religion to correspond to the Holy Spirit.

This Trinitarian structure of Hegel Logic also implies that moments of particularity, such as those of the Quantitative Ratio and the Syllogism of Analogy, may be read as essential moments in the ‘absolute middle’ of the Idea. Conversely, once Christ is read as the ‘absolute middle’ of the Idea, the Logos as the creative Ars may perform an essential mediating function, both as the ‘middle term’ of every syllogism, and the prime analogon of every analogy. Nicholas Adams has, in the Eclipse of Grace, identified Christ as the central mediating function of Hegel’s ‘Chalcedonian logic’. (2013 20) Hegel’s Logic may be described as ‘Chalcedonian’ because the possibility of uniting universality and particularity in the ‘middle term’ in each syllogism and in every concept is paradigmatically preserved by this individual union of divine and human nature. Once Adams’ ‘distinction-in-inseparable-relation’ between” the ‘logic of participation’ (Begriff) and the ‘logic of opposition’ (Vorstellung) is extended from the concepts of the Logic to the terms of language, Hegel’s ‘Chalcedonian logic’ may establish a participatory relation between the many distinct auxiliary analogates and the one prime analogon of Christ. Hegel’s speculative analogy may, in this way, function to “repair Hegel’s own repairs of the philosophical tradition, using Hegel’s own tools.” (2013 225)

Such a Chalcedonian logic might also promise to suspend, if not resolve, the contradictions involved in the Aristotelian-Thomistic analogy of being by theologically re-imagining the contradictory differences in all logical syllogisms as co-participants in the Chalcedonian union universal divinity and particular humanity. Once Christ the Logos is established at the pinnacle of Logic as the divine individuality in whom all contradictory differences are annulled, reconciled, and sublated, the theological analogy may promise, what philosophy finds foolish, that the contradictions present at the level of creatures may be suspended and resolved sub specie aeternitatis in and through the immanent operations of the Trinity. Nicholas of Cusa had, centuries before Kant, already anticipated this theological manoeuvre, by re-imagining the grammar of analogy as a coincidence of opposites participating in the ‘maximum contractum’ of Christ the Logos. Since the Trinity presents, for theologians no less than philosophers, an absolute paradox for finite understanding, in which all admit the absurdity that ‘God is one’ and ‘God is three’, no one should be surprised to find an ineluctable paradox in the vestigial trinitatis of language, grammar, and syllogisms. Hegel, no less than Cusa, may, in this way, propose a speculative escape from the site of these pervasive contradictions by radicalizing contradiction itself through the dialectical motor of Spirit, which annuls and sublates contradictory differences into, not only the dialectical identity of identity and non-identity, but the Christological unity of universality and particularity in the ‘absolute middle’ of a genuinely analogical dialectic.

To read more about Hegel and the Analogy of Being, see my essay Dialectical Analogy and Analogical Dialectics: Przywara and Hegel on the Analogy of Being

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