Discussion Paper Submission

Abstract: This paper demonstrates significant similarities between Dewey and Hegel's theories of causation and, by comparing the two, clarifies both theories. Both philosophers conceive causation as a logical, rather than metaphysical, principle that we postulate in the knowing process for specific purposes. Further, both philosophers conceive cause as a reciprocal, rather than a linear, relationship with the cause as dependent on its effect as the effect is on its cause. The larger goal of our paper is to rehabilitate Hegel as a thinker pragmatists should view as an ally. Hegel's potential alliance with pragmatism is more apparent to those familiar with the non-metaphysical reading of his thought now widely accepted among contemporary Hegel scholars. We will present such a reading in our paper.

Dewey, Hegel, and Causation

[Cause and effect], if they are distinct, are also identical. Even in ordinary consciousness that identity may be found. We say that a cause is a cause, only when it has an effect, and vice versa. Both cause and effect are thus one and the same content: and the distinction between them is primarily only that the one lays down, and the other is laid down. ("Lesser Logic," §153)1

Hegel is notorious for equating opposing terms through dialectical legerdemain. In the epigraph above, he claims that cause and effect are only distinct from a particular point of view. A cause only becomes a cause when it has an effect, thus the two apparently opposing terms reverse their roles. The effect is the cause of the cause and the cause is the effect of its own effect. In our paper, we will begin with a discussion of what we believe to be the effect, Dewey's theory of causation, and then proceed to Hegel's theory, arguing that the two philosophers clarify one another.

We seek to establish Hegel’s influence on Dewey's theory of causation, and to illuminate Dewey's unusual theory while simultaneously rehabilitating Hegel as a thinker pragmatists should view as an ally. Hegel's potential alliance with pragmatism is more apparent to those familiar with the non-metaphysical reading of his thought now widely accepted among contemporary Hegel scholars. We believe Dewey developed a version of the non-metaphysical reading of Hegel during the 1890s, as he rejected metaphysical idealism, but that historical point is beyond the scope of the current paper.2

On the non-metaphysical reading of Hegel, the moment of "absolute knowing" at the end of the Phenomenology of Spirit is not perfect knowledge of eternal truth; it is knowledge that does not go beyond itself to posit a metaphysical foundation for itself. Hegel's absolute knowing sublates the dualism between the self and its objects by seeing those two terms as moments within an ongoing, unified process. Both knower and the known are constructs, momentarily posited for specific purposes in the process of knowing. This standpoint is absolute precisely because it is a complete whole that does not go beyond itself, and Hegel's idealism is absolute because, contra Kant, Hegel refuses to posit anything that transcends experience in order to explain thought. For Hegel, any posit that goes beyond thought is dogmatic and thus anti-philosophical. Hence Hegel's Absolute Spirit is an entirely immanent social and historical reality, the history of the human ego. After reaching the absolute standpoint, Hegel begins his logic, which is not a pre-Kantian, normative logic of reality in itself, but a post-Kantian, descriptive logic of experience. Similarly, with the postulate of immediate empiricism, Dewey refuses to posit anything that transcends experience in order to explain experience (MW 3: 158-168). Lest the verbal difference between Hegel's "thought" and Dewey's "experience" mislead us, we should keep in mind that both philosophers reject mind/body dualism. This explains Hegel's apparently paradoxical statement that, although logical concepts "such as unity, or cause and effect, are strictly the property of thought, it by no means follows that they must be ours merely and not also characteristics of the objects" ("Lesser Logic," §42). Hegel's "consciousness" is a field in which thought and its objects occur as moments of the dialectic; Dewey's "experience" is a field in which mind and its objects occur as stages of inquiry. Verbal differences in these two formulations are apparent; substantive differences are more elusive.

In 1902, Dewey objected to the

purely metaphysical conception of causation . . . according to which the cause is somehow superior in rank and excellence to the effect. The effects are regarded as somehow all inside the womb of cause, only awaiting their proper time to be delivered. They are considered as derived and secondary, not simply in the order of time, but in the order of existence. (MW 2:12)

This conception of causation is an example of what Dewey called the historical fallacy because it holds that the cause is more real than the effect (EW 5: 105). According to Dewey, "Materialism arises just out of this fetich-like worship of the antecedent." The materialist believes he can trace all effects back to material causes, and that this proves reality is ultimately material because matter is the universal antecedent. Dewey went on to write that the idealist makes the same mistake in reverse because he "isolates and deifies . . . the later term," the consequent.

To [the idealist] the reality is somehow "latent" or "potential" in the earlier forms, and, gradually working from within, transforms them until it finds for itself a fairly adequate expression. It is an axiom with him that what is evolved in the latest form is involved in the earliest. The later reality is, therefore, to him the persistent reality in contrast with which the first forms are, if not illusions, at least poor excuses for being. (MW 2: 12)

While the above may be true of some idealists, the epigraph that heads this paper indicates Hegel was not guilty of Dewey's historical fallacy. One might say Hegel articulated the pragmatic principle that we only perceive a cause after we see its effect (i.e., its consequences) and, in the same way, we only perceive an effect after we discover its cause. According to Hegel, the distinction of cause and effect is introduced by the understanding (Verstand) into an essentially homogeneous continuum, but reason (Vernunft) reveals that they are not metaphysically distinct. Distinctions such as cause and effect occur as moments within the dialectic, as functions of our effort to understand experience, but in the final moment of a particular dialectical process we see that the distinctions we posited are moments within a larger whole. Moreover, like Hegel, Dewey maintained throughout his philosophical development that cause and effect, means and ends, are not metaphysically distinct realities, but integrally related moments or stages within a process.

Dewey's Theory of Causation in Hegelian Terms

Hegel's seminal insight into causation is that without an effect, there is no cause:

As primary fact, the cause is qualified as having absolute independence and a subsistence maintained in face of the effect: but in the necessity, whose identity constitutes that primariness itself, it is wholly passed into the effect. So far again as we can speak of a definite content, there is no content in the effect that is not in the cause. ("Lesser Logic," §153)

To think there are causes without effects is to commit a dualism as serious as the knower verses known dualism.

Hegel's theory of causation emphasizes the relation of Parts in Wholes and Wholes in Parts ("the correlation of parts"), the Actual (i.e., the unity of "essence with existence"), the Contingent and the Possible that comprise Actuality, the Necessary that includes "the Condition" (i.e., Contingency, the accidental), the Fact ("unconditioned actuality," the "it is"), and "the Activity" (the agent whose movement translates the Condition into Facts). Dewey comprehends Cause in much the same way and agrees that causation is a product of investigation into a problem. Hegel describes this in terms of negation of a project; Dewey describes it as a problematic situation. Moreover, both philosophers agree that causation is circular ("Reciprocity" or "good infinity") not linear (an infinite regress or "bad infinity"), and that we fall into dualism by abstracting parts (e.g., Necessity and Contingency, Cause and Effect) from larger existential unities. Finally, for both philosophers, Freedom and Necessity are bound up with each other. While we do not have space to explore it here, we must note that neither Dewey nor Hegel talk about abstract, formal possibility such as we find in modal logic. Indeed, both critique formal logic for abstracting from existence and then hypostatizing the results. One notable difference between Dewey and Hegel, however, is Dewey's reliance on practical means-ends relations to the exclusion of theoretical relations.

In a 1902 Dictionary entry on "Relations" Dewey examines six philosophical positions. We are interested in the last three. The fourth is "Modern idealistic metaphysic" that at least realizes relations are products of the process of judgment. He claims this position has "attempted to invest relations with validity by regarding the world as the content of a single, permanent judgment, and hence made up of a system of relations" (MW 2: 226).3 On this account, "All real judgment is synthetic" and "Judgment as such is therefore bound up essentially, and not merely by occasion, with the question of the reality of relations" (Ibid., 227).

Dewey approves this position for overcoming the "complete skepticism," advocated by "the more thorough-going empiricists," that "destroys the whole fabric of science." But he believes science demands realism about universals. Dewey sums up this theory as proclaiming "a relation is a permanent and necessary mode of judgment by which objects, and the world of the object, of knowledge are constituted." Dewey accepts the idealist claim that the judgments of inquiry constitute the objects and relations of knowledge. Emergent objects and relations are among the means for resolving a problematic situation that, in new situations, become "means of attaining knowledge of something else." There are problems with this form of idealism that a non-metaphysical idealism overcomes, but Dewey's discussion of these issues is brief, being little more than a prelude to his own position. He does note, however, in the fifth position on relations, "Hegel accordingly gave relations a central position in the logic of reflective cognition." (MW 2: 227)

Dewey sees his sixth, "pragmatic" position, as returning "to the simple, practical statement of relation as the 'having to do' of one thing with another in the way of effecting some result in which one is interested." He approaches relations in terms of practical need, desire, and purpose rather than theoretically. According to Dewey, for idealists, " relations are reducible to the identity-in-difference function of judgment (the disagreement between them being as to the absolute or merely phenomenal significance of judgment), and are the various modes in which this function progressively manifests itself." (MW 2: 228) Next, Dewey reframes the issue by employing the practical means-ends logic of his pragmatic instrumentalism. He asserts:

According to the view now stated, they [i.e., the idealist modes of judgment] are reducible to different forms of the means-and-end function—that is, while they develop out of judgment, judgment itself is an attempt to state experience with reference to discovering valuable ends and appropriate means of realizing them. The "relations" are thus objective definitions of the various influences which things have upon one another practically, that is, in the way of helping or hindering the attainment of aims, or in suggesting desirable modifications of these aims. (MW 2: 228)

Decades later, Dewey affirms, "Rationality as an abstract conception is precisely the generalized idea of the means-consequence relation as such" (LW 12: 17). Dewey's rationality as practical means-ends coordination yielding a unity-in-diversity is his transformation of Hegel's concept of "Reason" sublating, without effacing, the "self-originating, self-differentiating wealth of shapes" that we encounter in experience into a larger unity (Phenomenology of Spirit, §16).

George Herbert Mead remarks that it "was the logic rather than the metaphysics of [Hegel's] system that fascinated Dewey, the function of thought in the structure of the object, the evidence in thinking that thought and its object lie within the same experience. This position Dewey has never abandoned."4 Subject and object, stimulus and response, Necessity and Contingency as well as Cause and Effect, all lie within the same experience; that is, they have the same content. The content can be abstractly taken separately; that does no harm as long as we do not hypostatize the abstraction. But note how differently Mead's claim reads if, as we contend, Dewey formulated a non-metaphysical interpretation of Hegel. In fact, similar to Dewey, Hegel writes that reason is not opposed to dichotomies, because "life eternally forms itself by setting up oppositions. . . . What Reason opposes . . . is just the absolute fixity which the intellect gives to the dichotomy . . . " Hegel claims the very purpose of philosophy is to dissolve fossilized dichotomies: "When the might of union vanishes from the life of men and the antitheses lose their living connection and reciprocity and gain independence, the need for philosophy arises."5

In the following we focus on Dewey's "Superstition of Necessity" (1894), and the account of causation in the 1938 Logic. In "Superstition," Dewey announces early that "necessity" is logical not metaphysical; it has "relevancy only with reference to the development of judgment, not with reference to objective things or events . . . . [I]t refers to the content of that affirmation, expressing the degree of coherence between its constituent factors" (EW 4: 19-20). As with Hegel's notion of coherence and unity wherein all relations are internal, "The judgment of necessity . . . is exactly and solely the transition in our knowledge from unconnected judgments to a more comprehensive synthesis" (Ibid., 20). Once we have the Fact of the whole qualitative situation (including cognitive objects within them) all the seemingly externally related parts become internally related in the holistic unity of the Fact:

We do not say that the fact must [Necessarily] be such and such, but simply that it is such and such. There is no necessity attaching to the fact either as whole or as parts. Qua whole, the fact simply is what it is, while the parts, instead of being necessitated either by one another or by the whole, are the analyzed factors constituting, in their complete circuit, the whole . . . . The fallacy of the necessitarian theory consists in the transforming the determinate in the sense of the wholly defined, into the determined in the sense of something externally made to be what it is. (Ibid.)

Notice the circle of Reciprocity among the parts (i.e., their functional coordination) that constitutes the Fact. Like Hegel, Dewey's analysis of Necessity emphasizes the functional coordination (Correlation) of parts into wholes that constitute the immediate Fact. Compare Dewey's "Reflex Arc" paper where he writes: "What we have is a circuit, not an arc or broken segment of a circle" and it "is the co-ordination which unifies that which the reflex arc concept gives us only in disjointed fragments. It is the circuit within which fall distinctions of stimulus and response as functional phases" (EW 5: 102, 109). Necessity and Contingency, Cause and Effect, Stimulus and Response are subfunctions of a single unified Activity of functional coordination. The role of Activity, the knowing agent, is also of vital importance: "objects, as known, are not independent of the process of knowing, but are the content of our judgments" (EW 4: 21).

Dewey concentrates on the practical Activity of a finite, impassioned, and fallible knowing agent. He describes the construction of the known object as a series of judgments where "the progress of judgment is equivalent to a change in the value of its objects" such that truth attaches "to late rather than to early judgments" (EW 4: 22). For Dewey, "the continued process of judging is a continued process of 'producing' the object" (Ibid., 23). In the Logic, Dewey asserts: "The name objects will be reserved for the subject-matter so far as it has been produced . . . by means of inquiry; proleptically, objects are the objectives of inquiry" (LW 12: 122). Dewey never backed down from his constructivist theory of knowledge. In "Superstition," "the net outcome" of a course of action (Dewey's example is a murder) is "the fact, the object" (EW 4: 25).

The third aspect of Hegel's analysis, Contingency, is critical to Dewey's analysis of Necessity as well. Indeed, Necessity and Contingency are correlates of the same Fact. The only difference between the two is the practical teleological purposes of the inquiring agent trying to bring about some circumstance (e.g., someone's death). What is Necessary and what Contingent depends on where we are in a given inquiry or what we abstract from the whole of the final Fact. Here, Dewey brings his emphasis on practical means-ends relations to the fore:

If the purely teleological character of necessity is not yet evident, I think the following consideration will serve to bring it out . . . . Contingent and necessary are thus the correlative aspects of one and the same fact: conditions are accidental so far as we have abstracted a fragment and set it up as the whole; they are necessary the moment it is required to pass from this abstraction back to the concrete fact. Both are teleological in character-contingency referring to the separation of means from end, due to the fact that the end having been already reached the means have lost their value for us; necessity being the reference to an end which has still to be got . . . . Note that the necessity of the means has reference to an end still to be attained, and in so far itself hypothetical or contingent, while the contingent circumstances are no longer needed precisely because they have resulted in a definite outcome . . . and we begin to see how completely necessity and chance are bound up with each other. (EW 4: 29)

Dewey also writes, "when the end is realized, the operations which enter into the realization cease to be means necessary to an end and become the specific content of that end" (EW 4: 31, emphasis in original). Necessity and Freedom are bound up together (correlated relations) like necessity and chance or cause and effect. Their content is the same, although it may be taken differently for different purposes. As long as we do not hypostatize this taking into antecedent existences, we may avoid " the philosophic fallacy" (formerly the historical fallacy) of confusing the products of inquiry with antecedent existence, thereby avoiding a priori metaphysics (LW 1: 34).

The key to understanding the last paragraph is to realize that Necessity, like Causality, is a logical not a metaphysical category. Everything falls into place as long as we separate existence from essence. What was Necessary to achieve the Actual correlation of existential Fact with the logical Essence becomes Contingent once we, the Active agent, achieve the unity of existence and essence we desire. Essence here is purely teleological; it is the form of existence that satisfies the purpose of inquiry (it commonly includes the essence of some emergent object that allows us to transform the problematic situation): "When the fact is really made out to our satisfaction, we drop the 'must' [Necessity] and fall back on the simple is" (EW 4: 35, emphasis in original).

The unified existential Fact of the matter (the situation) simply is as it is; if from the given Fact we can abstract out a configuration (form, essence, eidos) that satisfies some need, desire, or purpose (e.g., how to commit a murder), then our practical interests will identify the abstraction as the essence of the fact. In that case, existence and essence are identical given our teleological purposes. Said differently, the means are sufficiently coordinated as to constitute the desired end of inquiry. The tendency at this point is to hypostatize the form constituting the end into a timeless, fixed, and Necessary essence rather than a Contingent construction: "A fragment of the whole reality, the actual fact individualized and specified with all kind of minute detail having been thus hypostatized into an object [that rectifies a problematic situation], the idea of necessity is in fair way to arise" (EW 4: 27). Necessity and Contingency are logical constructions; it is an instance of the philosophic fallacy to pretend they are antecedently existing metaphysical principles.

If we want to commit another murder, we may call on the abstract formal aspects of the existential process that brought about the desired product (or Fact) previously in order to repeat the "solution." The abstractions yield a form, an essence. Or, like a detective, we might wish to solve a murder. Almost all criminals have a modus operandi, their general pattern of inquiry including the abstractions they make to carry out the crime. A keen detective can almost read the mind of the criminal by inferring from the pattern of his Activity. The murderer works forward in a sequence moving through Necessary means that, when the end is achieved, constitutes the unity (the form) of the Fact that is the functional coordination establishing the desired end. The detective works backward from the Fact to determine the ex post facto Contingent means and, if successful, the human agent whose Activity assembled them to commit the crime (the existential Fact) that for both criminal and detective, as well as the community, is the essence of the situation. Dewey concludes: "This passage-way from isolation to unity, denying the former but not admitting the latter, is necessity or determinism" (EW 4: 25). Dewey believes we have a choice: "We may deny the existence of any organic whole in life and keep chasing in a never-ending series, the progressus ad infinitum, after an end valid in itself" (Ibid., 30). Elsewhere, Dewey states that "a question about ultimate origin or ultimate causation is either a meaningless question, or else the words are used in a relative sense to designate the point in the past at which a particular inquiry breaks off" (MW 8:5). Dewey rejects the search for ultimate foundations whether it is ultimate first causes or final causes; his organic holism and rejection of an infinite regress (Hegel's "bad infinity") is part of his anti-foundationalism.

Dewey devotes only one paragraph to causation in "Superstition." Like Hegel, he treats it almost as an aside that arises from analysis of more basic ideas such as Fact, Necessity, and Contingency. Dewey writes:

It is but another instance of the supreme importance of our practical interests. The effect is the end, the practical outcome, which interests us; the search for causes is but the search for the means which would produce the result. We call it "means and end" when we set up a result to be reached in the future and set ourselves upon finding the causes which put the desired end in our hands; we call it "cause and effect" when the "result" is given, and the search for means is a regressive one. In either case the separation of one side from the other, of cause from effect, of means from end, has the same origin: a partial and vague idea of the whole fact, together with the habit of taking this part (because of its superior practical importance) for a whole, for a fact. (EW 4: 36)

Since it parallels Dewey's analysis of Necessity and Contingency this passage requires little comment. It depends on practical interest and instrumental means-ends relations in ways Hegel's analysis does not. Otherwise, the similarities in their analyses are striking.

We end this section by citing another long passage by Dewey on causation:

[C]ausation as ordered sequence is a logical category, in the sense that it is an abstract conception of the indefinitely numerous existential sequences that are established in scientific inquiry:—established by means of the use of generalized propositions as laws. For when events are taken strictly existentially, there is no event which is antecedent or "cause" any more than it is consequent or "effect." . . . . An event has to be deliberately taken to be cause or effect. Such taking would be purely arbitrary if there were not a particular and differential problem to be solved. (LW 12: 453, emphasis in original)

Note Dewey's separation of logic from metaphysics.

Hegel's Theory of Causation in Deweyan Terms

We begin with §135 of Hegel's "Lesser Logic," which seeks to establish that the "immediate relation is that of the Whole and the Parts." Hegel writes: "The parts are diverse from one another. It is they that possess independent being. But they are parts, only when the are identified by being related to one another; or, in so far as they make up the whole, when taken together." Like cause and effect in the epigraph of our paper, we should say of Wholes and Parts that " if they are distinct, [they] are also identical" ("Lesser Logic," §153). Cause and Effect, like Necessity and Contingency, are simply special cases of Wholes and Parts properly understood. We believe Dewey developed a Darwinian, biological functionalism at least in part from familiarity with Hegel's thinking about "immediate relation" and that, for him, Hegel's Correlation became the unity of organic functional coordination. Hegel himself writes: "The limbs and organs, for instance, of an organic body are not merely parts of it: it is only in their unity that they are what they are, and they are unquestionably affected by that unity, as they also in turn affect it." It is a clumsy example, but one could almost substitute "cause" ("stimulus" or "necessity") for "limbs," and "effect" ("response" or contingency) for "organs," and Dewey could have written the rest of the sentence as part of a discussion of functional coordination.

In §139, Hegel distinguishes between (inward) essence and (outward) existence. In §42 he asserts: "Actuality is the unity, become immediate, of essence with existence, or of inward with outward." In development, the immediate existence, say an acorn, may not have actualized its essence, an oak tree. Essence for Dewey is logical, a matter of human purposes (or teleological) not metaphysical as the last sentence suggests. Said differently, actual "objects are the objectives of inquiry" (LW 12: 122). But it is imperative to note that, for Hegel, essence does not precede existence, nor is it "something beyond or behind appearance" ("Lesser Logic," §131). The essence of a thing or a person is "a unity of essential distinctions" that develop "in a temporal succession as a history" (Aesthetics, 2: 962)[6] :

Even every blade of grass, every tree has in this sense its history, alteration, process, and a complete totality of different situations. This is still more the case in the sphere of the spirit; as actual spirit in its appearance, it can only be portrayed exhaustively if it is brought before our minds as such a course of history. (Ibid.)

In §145, Hegel proclaims: "Possibility and Contingency are the two factors of Actuality," and:

The contingent . . . is what has the ground of its being not in itself but in somewhat else. . . . . But the contingent is only one side of the actual . . . . It is the actual, in the signification of something merely possible. Accordingly we consider the contingent to be what may or may not be . . . whose being or not-being . . . depends not upon itself but on something else.

The contingent is the immediate, yet mediating, existentially actual before the Actual immediate unity of existence and essence. The contingent conditions constitute the Actual at the close of inquiry.

Section 146 of the "Lesser Logic" clarifies Hegel's meaning: "The Contingent, as the immediate actuality, is at the same time the possibility of somewhat else—no longer however that abstract possibility . . . but the possibility which is." In §147, Hegel writes that concrete Contingency is "Real Possibility," and declares that "Developed actuality, as the coincident alternation of inner and outer . . . is Necessity." Contingent sequences and entities are the immediate actualities that form the Necessary conditions for a fully developed Actuality. Hegel distinguishes two kinds of necessity, the second of which interested Dewey a great deal. In blind necessity "the End or final cause is not explicitly and overtly present" ("Lesser Logic," §147). But Hegel continues: "If on the contrary we consider teleological action, we have in the end of action a content which is already foreknown. This activity therefore is not blind but seeing" (Ibid.). Dewey's "ends-in-view" is a fine example of such teleological action. (Remember, the "end-in-view is logical while the actual end, or Fact, is existential.) We believe this is the conception of Necessity Dewey had in mind when he proclaimed " the purely teleological character of necessity" (EW 4: 29). Hegel explicitly discuses Activity in §147 as " carrying into effect the contingent actuality, the conditions." When we have the actual Fact of the matter, what was once Necessary becomes Contingent because no longer needed since the sum of the Conditional sequence has become the immediately fully developed actual Fact. In Dewey's terms, concrete contingency, or real possibility, and necessity are "thus the correlative aspects of one and the same fact" (EW 4: 29). Or, to state the same thing differently: "Necessity means needed; contingency means no longer required—because already enjoyed" (Ibid.).

Section 148 of Hegel's "Lesser Logic" discusses "the three elements in the process of necessity, the Condition, the Fact, and the Activity." The Condition is basically contingency as the condition of a real possibility and is "what is presupposed or ante-stated . . . . While thus contingent, however, this presupposed or ante-stated term, in respect withal of the fact, which is the totality, is a complete circle of conditions." In Necessity, all the necessary conditions prove sufficient to actualize the Fact. Meanwhile, "The Fact is also . . . something presupposed or ante-stated, i.e. it is at first, and as supposed, only inner and possible, and also, being prior, an independent content by itself." Also, "By using up the conditions, it receives its external existence, the realization of the articles of its content, which reciprocally correspond to the conditions, so that while it presents itself out of these as the facts, it also proceeds from them." The immediate conditions (Contingency) taken together constitute the Fact; if the Fact is fully actualized, the conditions will constitute the Actual unity of existence with essence. The Fact is simply the circular unity (Correlation) of the functional coordination constituting the Fact. The "Activity" has two parts. First, "an independent existence of its own (as a man, a character), and at the same time it is possible only where the conditions are and the fact." Second, "It is the movement which translates the conditions into fact. . . " Insofar as the activity is hidden, i.e. unknown to "a man," it appears to yield blind necessity, but when the Activity is carried out by an agent with a teleological end-in-view it can become deliberate and rational inquiry seeking to use the Contingent conditions of existence to secure its desires. This is why Hegel draws the following conclusion in §158: "This truth of necessity, therefore, is Freedom."

Blind necessity appears deterministic; necessity understood and incorporated into deliberate plans that employ careful inquiry to secure ends-in-view uses skillful means (techne) to make, create, or call into existence (poiesis) desired Facts. This helps us understand Dewey's meaning when he claims: "Intelligence is the key to freedom in act" (MW 14: 210). Like Hegel, he rejects the notion of abstract "metaphysical freedom of will." (Ibid., 209). A bit later in the same chapter, Dewey asserts:

Even if will chooses unaccountably, even if it be a capricious impulse, it does not follow that there are real alternatives, genuine possibilities, open in the future. What we want is possibilities open in the world not in the will, except as will or deliberate activity reflects the world. (MW 14: 214)

Freedom requires genuine or "Real Possibility" out in the world. For Hegel, "The problem of science, and especially of philosophy, undoubtedly consists in eliciting the necessity concealed under the semblance of contingency" ("Lesser Logic," §145). Dewey insists that "all the intelligent activities of men, no matter whether expressed in science, fine arts, or social relationships, have for their task the conversion of causal bonds, relations of succession, into a connection of means-consequence, into meanings" (LW 1: 277). Intelligence allows us to recognize the contingency of necessity and vice versa; therefore, it allows us to enter into the events of nature and play one set of causal sequences off others, to establish the necessary conditions (contingencies), to bring about the ends we seek, whether it be the creation of new "elements" of nature such as Ununbium that, so far as we know, would not exist in nature without beings with sufficient intelligence to synthesize it (by fusing 48Ca and uranium). Hegel is speaking of Necessity and Dewey of Cause, but both analyze Cause in terms of Necessity. For instance, Hegel claims "necessity is a correlation . . . . This is the correlation of Causality" ("Lesser Logic," §153).

As with Dewey, Cause and Effect are, for Hegel, almost an afterthought, something easily understood once you understand Necessity, Contingency, Real Possibility, the Fact, and the Actual; for "it is in the effect that the cause first becomes actual and a cause" ("Lesser Logic," §153). Hegel continues by stating: "Now, although this relation [of causality] does undoubtedly belong to necessity, if forms only one aspect in the process of that category. That process equally requires the suspension of the mediation involved in causality and the exhibition of it as a simple self-relation" (Ibid.). We get simple self-relation with the effect. Everything comes together, literally, when we realize that we "say that a cause is a cause, only when it has an effect, and vice versa. Both cause and effect are thus one and the same content" (Ibid.).

To properly grasp the relation between cause and effect for Hegel (or means-ends and stimulus-response, for Dewey), we must grasp Reciprocity. Hegel remarks: "In Reciprocity, although causality is not yet invested with its true characteristic, the rectilinear movement out from causes to effects, and from effects to causes, is bent around and back into itself, and thus the progress ad infinitum of causes and effects is . . . suspended. This bend . . . transforms the infinite progression into a self-contained relationship" ("Lesser Logic," §154). Hegel eschews what he calls a "bad infinity," an endless regress or progress. By good infinity, Hegel means something complete in the sense of not depending on anything beyond itself. Like Aristotle, Dewey and Hegel agree that infinity is always potential and never actual.

What imparts the "true characteristic" upon cause and effect is recognizing that "true self-reciprocation is therefore Necessity" ("Lesser Logic," §157). Recall that contingency, along with the Fact and Activity, is a part of necessity. Once we have the Fact, and especially when the fact is the Actual unity of existence and Essence, necessity and contingency, and cause and effect, simply become part of the functionally coordinated (one could almost say functionally Correlated), unified whole. If we remember that Necessity and Contingency as well as Cause and Effect are logical constructions, rather than metaphysical realities, we should be able to follow Hegel as well as Dewey's thinking.

We have not claimed that Hegel's and Dewey's theories of causation share exactly the same content. Dewey was influenced by Darwin, developed a thoroughly biological functionalism (although Hegel hints at something similar), and, most notably, Dewey insists that all relations are practical means-ends relations while Hegel retained theoretical relations. Nonetheless, their theories of causation are so stunningly similar that it is sensible to conclude that Dewey's theory is, to a considerable extent, an effect of Hegel's.


1 Hegel, The Logic of Hegel, Translated from The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, 3rd edition, trans. William Wallace (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975).

2 James A. Good, A Search for Unity in Diversity: The "Permanent Hegelian Deposit" in the Philosophy of John Dewey (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006).

3 Dewey's not clear about exactly who he has in mind here, but arguably F.H. Bradley fits this description better than any other idealist.

4 Mead, "The Philosophy of John Dewey" International Journal of Ethics 46 (1936), 69.

5 Hegel, The Difference between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of Philosophy, trans. H. S. Harris and Walter Cerf (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977), 90-91.

6 Cf. Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures On Fine Art , trans. T. M. Knox (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975).