Talk:Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
This is actually a solid observation made by Hegel about how history moves forward. Keep in mind though that the Dialectic is not a two-iteration process and will keep going until the Geist becomes self-realising. As an example of the Dialectic, think about the not-so-old sexual revolution in the 1960s. The thesis is the Victorian era of closet sexuality, where it was shunned and taboo. The antithesis is the sexual revolution of the 1960s in which sexuality came out of the closet and was a major theme of the era. History had one extreme, Victorianism, then moved to the other extreme, the 1960s, and finally we'll get a synthesis, something along the lines of a balance of sexuality in society. Not too much, not too little.
1: Balance fallacy.
2: Hegel's theory is ridiculously non-predictive. You can shoehorn ANYTHING into the roles of "thesis and counterthesis" and claim that we've always been pendulating between extremes. Hegel could easily have summarized his argument as "people's views in change in relation to what other people of the time think" and have had as specific a theory. The FCP Foundation (talk/stalk) 04:37, 1 April 2017 (UTC)
- Note also that Hegel never actually used the terminology of "thesis-antithesis-synthesis" — this is a later
rescue attemptreformulation of what people thought Hegel meant (taken from Fichte, IIRC?).
- Regardless, Hegel's own dialectic relies on violating the Law of noncontradiction, which states that:
Contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at the same time, e.g. the two propositions "A is B" and "A is not B" are mutually exclusive.
- Hegel's "logic" is based on going against the above principle. Indeed, as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it (noting that LNC stands for Law of Non-Contradiction):
Within the modern philosophical canon, Hegel has often been seen as the echt LNC-skeptic, well before his reputed deathbed lament, “Only one man ever understood me, and he didn't understand me.”
- Now, according to Hegel, he wasn't contradicting the LNC at all — thanks to a term he invented, called Aufhebung (from Aufheben, a verb simultaneously interpretable as "to preserve" and "to cancel out" — as well as "to lift up" in an overtly transcendental sense).
- This latter, transcendental use is the "real" purpose of Hegel's dialectics. Indeed, as philosopher Jon Stewart put it:
“”Hegel’s dialectic in the Phenomenology is a transcendental account.
- The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains how this is all meant to work thusly:
A transcendental argument begins with uncontroversial facts of experience and tries to show that other conditions must be present—or are necessary—for those facts to be possible.
- In other words, it's a flexible mix of begging the question, arguing from arbitrary axioms, and mistaking the map for the territory. The goal of this is to skip the legwork and graduate directly to dispensing ultimate metaphysical truth.
- This all comes as no surprise, considering how much Hegel despised ambivalence, skepticism and uncertainty — and as such, he was more than willing to rely on other ways of knowing in order to be able to divine mystical truth with absolute certainty.
- And, believe it or not, this isn't just a character assassination on my part. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy discusses his motives:
“Hegel’s dialectics” refers to the particular dialectical method of argument employed by the 19th Century German philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel (see entry on Hegel), which, like other “dialectical” methods, relies on a contradictory process between opposing sides. Whereas Plato’s “opposing sides” were people (Socrates and his interlocutors), however, what the “opposing sides” are in Hegel’s work depends on the subject matter he discusses. In his work on logic, for instance, the “opposing sides” are different definitions of logical concepts that are opposed to one another.
In the Phenomenology of Spirit, which presents Hegel’s epistemology or philosophy of knowledge, the “opposing sides” are different definitions of consciousness and of the object that consciousness is aware of or claims to know. As in Plato’s dialogues, a contradictory process between “opposing sides” in Hegel’s dialectics leads to a linear evolution or development from less sophisticated definitions or views to more sophisticated ones later. The dialectical process thus constitutes Hegel’s method for arguing against the earlier, less sophisticated definitions or views and for the more sophisticated ones later.
Hegel regarded this dialectical method or “speculative mode of cognition” (PR §10) as the hallmark of his philosophy, and used the same method in the Phenomenology of Spirit [PhG], as well as in all of the mature works he published later—the entire Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences (including, as its first part, the “Lesser Logic” or the Encyclopaedia Logic [EL]), the Science of Logic [SL], and the Philosophy of Right [PR].
Note that, although Hegel acknowledged that his dialectical method was part of a philosophical tradition stretching back to Plato, he criticized Plato’s version of dialectics. He argued that Plato’s dialectics deals only with limited philosophical claims and is unable to get beyond skepticism or nothingness (SL-M 55–6; SL-dG 34–5; PR, Remark to §31).
According to the logic of a traditional reductio ad absurdum argument, if the premises of an argument lead to a contradiction, we must conclude that the premises are false—which leaves us with no premises or with nothing. We must then wait around for new premises to spring up arbitrarily from somewhere else, and then see whether those new premises put us back into nothingness or emptiness once again, if they, too, lead to a contradiction.
Because Hegel believed that reason necessarily generates contradictions, as we will see, he thought new premises will indeed produce further contradictions. As he puts the argument, then,
- the scepticism that ends up with the bare abstraction of nothingness or emptiness cannot get any further from there, but must wait to see whether something new comes along and what it is, in order to throw it too into the same empty abyss. (PhG §79)
Hegel argues that, because Plato’s dialectics cannot get beyond arbitrariness and skepticism, it generates only approximate truths, and falls short of being a genuine science (SL-M 55–6; SL-dG 34–5; PR, Remark to §31; cf. EL Remark to §81).
- In other words, Hegel forged a system that would allow him to ignore any constraints that reality would otherwise place on his thinking. No wonder he got pissed by Socrates' method.
- Hegel didn't share our contemporary focus on the process — on fallacies, on justification, on stipulative belief. On the contrary, Hegel's work was in part an attempt to write himself a "Get Out Of Jail Free"-card as pertains to logical limitations — thereby allowing him to "cut to the chase" by skipping straight to the mouth-watering divine truths.
- As Robert C. Solomon put it:
The important point to make here, and again and again, is that the transition from the first form to the second, or the transition from the first form of the Phenomenology all the way to the last, is not in any way a deductive necessity. The connections are anything but entailments, and the Phenomenology could always take another route and other starting points. (Solomon 1983: 230)
- Worth noting is that in a footnote to the above passage, Solomon added that:
A formalization of Hegel’s logic, however ingenious, is impossible. (Solomon 1983: 230)
- The weight of this point cannot be understated — Hegel's method quite literally cannot be formalized. The meaning of which is: Hegel's approach is entirely illogical. Not in the colloquial sense, "Oh, that's illogical, haha". Rather, in the sense that it's really not possible to formalize his approach, even in theory. Oops.
- Furthermore, as put by philosopher Thomas J Bole III:
In the course of his discussion of contradiction in the section of the Logic devoted to essence, Hegel makes two startling claims. First, he states that everything is inherently contradictory (WL II, 59:14-27 (SL 440]). Second, he states that speculative thought or philosophy is distinguished from ordinary thinking (Vorstellen) by holding fast to contradiction (WL II, 59:39-60:3 [SL 440-41]).
Hegel was, of course, aware of the unorthodox nature of these remarks. However, even sympathetic readers of the Logic may be hard put to justify Hegel at this point. It is, to put the matter simply, very hard to see how to take the statements in question seriously. A self-contradictory thing would not be a thing at all. (Hegel's examples to the contrary are, as we shall see, astonishingly weak.) And no self-contradictory ideation is thought, i.e., makes sense.
- Keep in mind, also, the truly vast extent to which Marx and Engels built on this core Hegelian approach (see above), as did many prominent Postmodernists. Now, while these later writers are certainly not equivalent to Hegel in any sense, you better believe that their reliance on Hegel comes at a great cost to the fundamental reasonableness of their theories.
- I mean, not to sound like a STEMlord here — though, to sound very much like an analytic philosopher — but no wonder they can't even tell what's right in front of them half the time.
- And yes, I'm barely getting started here. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 14:01, 1 April 2017 (UTC)
- By all means, please edit this article and rework the Dialectic section. As I haven't read Hegel's Phenomenology and have only had an introductory course to philosophy (the rest is self taught and I'm only 17 so I probably haven't learned that well haha), you all undoubtedly understand this better than I do. Edhelrimdil (talk) 16:20, 1 April 2017 (UTC)