Hegel's notion of aufheben

Inquiry 24 (1):75 – 103 (1981)
Abstract
The paper is an attempt to make sense of Hegel's notion of aufheben. The double meaning of aufheben and its alleged ?rise above the mere ?either?or?; of understanding? have been taken, by some, to constitute a criticism of the logic of either?or. It is argued, on the contrary, that Hegel's notion of aufheben, explicated in its primary and philosophical context, turns out to be a substantiation of that logic. The intelligibility of the formula of either?or depends, for example, on the categories of Being and Not?Being. But if these categories are regarded as particular finite determinations themselves subject to the formula of either?or, then the formula, far from being intelligible, ?falls apart?. Hegel is arguing, in other words, that if we are to substantiate the logic of either?or, we must, at the same time, ?rise above? that logic. The role of aufheben is then considered in the special sciences. Here it is argued that we must distinguish between empirical transitions, governed by the finite determinations of things, and logical or dialectical transitions, governed by considerations of the intelligibility of the notions involved. Applying the notion of aufheben to the former transitions suggests wrongly that empirical transitions have an objective or philosophic necessity. Finally, the place of ?immanent transformation? in the context of aufheben is examined. It is concluded that if there is to be a transformation, then a distinction must be drawn between thought and its content, but then the transformation cannot be regarded as immanent
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