the things themselves" refers ultimately—and that means: according to the matter, primarily—to the Science of Logic.
In the call "to the things themselves," the emphasis lies on the "themselves." Heard superficially, the call has the sense of a rejection. The inadequate relations to the matter of philosophy are rejected. Mere talk about the purpose of philosophy belongs to these relations, but so does mere reporting about the results of philosophical thinking. Both are never the real totality of philosophy. The totality shows itself only in its becoming. This occurs in the developmental presentation of the matter. In the presentation, theme and method coincide. For Hegel, this identity is called: the idea. With the idea, the matter of philosophy "itself' comes to appear. However, this matter is historically determined as subjectivity. With Descartes' ego cogito, says Hegel, philosophy steps on firm ground for the first time where it can be at home. If the fundamentum absolutum is attained with the ego cogito as the distinctive subiectum, this means the subject is the ὑποκείμενον which is transferred to consciousness, is what truly presences; and this, vaguely enough, is called "substance" in traditional terminology.
When Hegel explains in the Preface (ed. Hoffmeister, p. 19), "The true (in philosophy) is to be understood and expressed not as substance, but just as much as subject," then this means: the Being of beings, the presence of what is present, is only manifest and thus complete presence when it becomes present as such for itself in the absolute idea. But since Descartes, idea means: perceptio. Being's coming to itself occurs in speculative dialectic. Only the movement of the idea, the method, is the matter itself. The call "to the thing itself" requires a philosophical method appropriate in it.
However, what the matter of philosophy should be is presumed to be decided from the outset. The matter of philosophy as metaphysics is the Being of beings, their presence in the form of substantiality and subjectivity.
A hundred years later, the call "to the thing itself" again is heard in Husserl's treatise Philosophy as Rigorous Science. It was published