English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

These series, however, are only one particularly obvious example; throughout practically the whole of chemistry, even in the various nitrogen oxides and oxygen acids of phosphorus or sulfur, one can see how "quantity changes into quality", and this allegedly confused, hazy Hegelian notion appears in so to speak corporeal form in things and process.

  • What does 'corporeal form' mean?
  • What do these pronouns substitute?
  • Does "quantity changes into quality" only apply to physic objects?
share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Corporeal form, when used literally, means the physical existence of something. There's the idea of "you" as a self-aware entity or a soul that defines how you will behave and react, which nobody can see or touch directly; and then there's your corporeal form, which is to say your actual physical body. Similarly, there's the mathematical concept of a square, and then there's an actual square drawn on the sidewalk in chalk. The concept of a square has no corporeal form; the drawing takes the concept and gives it a corporeal representation.

The this that you highlighted is referencing the phrase "quantity changes into quality", and the author then further defines that phrase as being an "allegedly confused, hazy Hegelian notion".

The author is basically saying that you can point to something and say "at the start of this process, we have quantity. Then things happen, and at the end of the process, we have quality. Thus the process embodies the concept of quality changing into quantity."

share|improve this answer
+1 - The motto of my university alma mater is 'Spiritus, Mens, Corpus', literally: 'Spirit, Mind, Body'. Here it is easy to see a distinction between the ethereal mind and spirit, and the physical (corporeal) body (corpus). As @Hellion mentioned, a square exists in a person's mind (mens); it doesn't have a corporeal form until we construct it in the physical world, as a brick or tile. Incidentally, the word 'corpse', comes from the same root. A 'corpse' is a body that no longer has a 'spiritus' or 'mens'. – oosterwal Mar 15 '11 at 20:50

I believe that "so to speak" is the writer's way of putting quotes around the word "corporeal" to suggest that this should not be read as a literal meaning of the term.

and this allegedly confused, hazy Hegelian notion appears [figuratively speaking] in corporeal form in things and processes.

The writer could have simply said:

and this allegedly confused, hazy Hegelian notion takes shape in things and processes.

A larger context for the passage might let us understand whether this is just poor writing or a witty remark of some kind.

share|improve this answer
I looked at paragraphs before and after the one quoted (which can be seen near the end of a chapter of Anti-Dühring by Frederick Engels) and concluded that it is not a witty remark of some kind. – jwpat7 Aug 17 '12 at 5:07

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.