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The Owl of Minerva

Volume 35, Issue 1/2, Fall/Spring 2003

John McCumber
Pages 1-24
DOI: 10.5840/owl2003351/216

Substance and Reciprocity in Hegel

This paper explores how an earlier stage of Hegel’s system structures later stages. Starting with the section on “substance” in the Logic, I argue that substance for Hegel is a “dialectical” or narrative structure, one whose nature is to unfold over time. In the Logic, substance unfolds into causality and reciprocity in turn. This established, I then show how this narrative structure can be found in Hegel’s treatments of three phases of objective spirit: marriage, family, and state. Objective spirit, I argue, can make only the transition to causality. The final transition in the narrative structure, into reciprocity, is reserved for absolute spirit. This means that while the categories of both substance and reciprocity structure Hegel’s accounts of marriage, family, and state, they coexist uneasily. Only in art are they harmoniously brought together via a philosophically comprehended transition.