Omnis Determinatio est Negatio: A Genealogy and Defense of the Hegelian Conception of Negation


This dissertation explores a line of philosophical thought that accords negation a fundamental role in the determination of concepts and the kinds, universals and particulars to which concepts provide access. Though it takes the largely historical route of philosophical genealogy, focusing on Plato, Boethius and Hegel, the dissertation is also intended as a defense of the philosophical significance of negation itself, and of a principle Hegel famously attributes to Spinoza, omnis determinatio est negatio. I argue that in explaining negation as difference (to heteron) Plato reveals its originary function as the characteristic operation of cognition, and that this discursive role is the basis of the logical and grammatical roles it is more conventionally assigned. So understood, negation also underpins the traditional, scholastic treatment of differentiae to which it is historically and logically linked. It is also tied to a view of concepts (and kinds) as hierarchically determined, and to a method for mapping out this hierarchy, i.e., the so-called method of division. The method of division is introduced by Plato, developed by Aristotle, institutionalized by Boethius and, as I argue, reconceived by Hegel, in part in terms of his notion of sublation (Aufhebung). I argue, as well, that, given the role of negation, division and the inherence model of the proposition it supports show that concepts are grounded as much in negation (and non-being) as in the bedrock of being. This groundedness of the concept in negation, which I call the problem of negation, is a defining concern of the Hegelian lineage

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This paper was published in Loyola eCommons.

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