Chemistry and Hegel’s Logic

  • John W. Burbidge
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire Des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 136)


When lecturing on elective affinity, Hegel referred to John Dalton’s theory of atomic weights. He observed that, although Dalton had been the first to recognize that chemical elements combine according to definite proportions, “he enveloped his determinations in the worst form of atomistic metaphysics”.1 This rejection of atomic theory did not appear unannounced, for in the remark to paragraph 298 of the Philosophy of Nature, he points out that when he talks about material parts he does not mean atoms or molecules. Since atoms and molecules are understood to be separated and subsisting on their own, they cannot be continuous; if there is to be continuity, two parts must subsist in the same place.


Large Logic Discrete Moment Inherent Relation Definite Proportion Ordinary Chemistry 
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  1. 1.
    Hegel Encyclopedia § 333 Addition; tr. Petry II.213,10f.; tr. Miller p. 263.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hegel Encyclopedia § 98; tr. Wallace (1895) pp. 181-185; tr. Geraets etc. (1991) pp. 155-157. Compare Hegel GW (WL) 11.93; 21.153-155; tr. Miller pp. 165-167.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hegel Encyclopedia §§ 326–336; tr. Petry II.178-222; tr. Miller pp. 232-272.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hegel Encyclopedia §§ 200–203; tr. Wallace (1892) pp. 341-343; tr. Geraets etc. (1991) pp. 277-279. See also Hegel GW (WL) 12.148-153; tr. Miller pp. 727-733.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hegel GW (WL) 12.152,7-20; tr. Miller p. 731.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hegel Encyclopedia § 329 Addition; tr. Petry II.190,32; tr. Miller p. 243.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Hegel GW (WL) 12.148,28-149,2; tr. Miller p. 727.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Hegel GW (WL) 12.150,7-9; tr. Miller p. 729.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For the motif of self-reference as central to the logic see Halper, E. 1981.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    This explication of the text is based on the larger Logic.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    For an extended discussion of Hegel’s theory of syllogism, see Burbidge, J. 1981, pp. 158-192.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hegel Encyclopedia § 263; tr. Petry I.244; tr. Miller p. 47.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Hegel Encyclopedia § 325; tr. Petry II.177; tr. Miller p. 232.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For this comparison I have relied on the texts provided in von Engelhardt, D. 1976, pp. 138ff.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • John W. Burbidge

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