Someone please explain Hegel's work to me.

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Red Fox VII, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. Red Fox VII

    Red Fox VII Member

    I'm trying to wrap my mind around this guy, his philosophy of "the right" (not the political right, necessarily, but of there being absolute correctness). I know it can't be that simple, and I know the man's work has been debated for centuries now but I have a feeling someone here can help me deepen my understanding of Hegel.
  2. Mountain Valley Wolf

    Mountain Valley Wolf Senior Member

    Like just about all philosophers all the way up through Kant who started a split of philosophy into two schools, Hegel was an essentialist. This means that he believed that essence creates being. This is an idealistic philosophy that there is an unseen, and usually spiritual side to the universe. The other school of thought was that existence creates being, and this is often a materialistic philosophy that only the physical universe exists.

    This essence was partly described by Plato as the perfect form of a thing (the idea). For example, a table can have many shapes, sizes, colors, and other attributes, but every table is a table because it has the essence of the table---it is formed from that form of tableness.

    The essentialism of Plato and Hegel and most philosophers in between them is that there is a an absolute perfection to the universe. This absolute perfection or absolute truth, could be God, or the Buddhist Void, Pure Mind, or whatever but it is the absolute being of the universe.

    Hegel believed that each aspect of history of mankind was unique in that it had its own zeitgeist, spirit of the times---a collective consciousness so to speak, but that each historical development, each understanding gained from the zeitgeist of that time, generally fit a purpose of bringing man closer and closer to that absolute truth (historicism).

    Like many of those same philosophers, Hegel believed that we could discover the absolute through rationalism (and of course it was the Historicistic development of this rationalism that was helping bring man closer to that truth). They reasoned that the Absolute, as a perfection, must also represent perfection of rationality.

    Hegel believed that dialectic was the rational way to do this. His dialectic method was to take a thesis, and its antithesis, and come up with the synthesis of the two, then use that in a new dialectic of thesis and synthesis. The Thesis and synthesis represent opposites, but not necessarily dualistic opposites. For example, in the Christian sense of dualistic opposites, say for example, good and evil, you do not necessarily get a synthesis, technically they cancel each other out, but in the Christian sense one must win out over the other. Hegel's dialectic is different from that.

    The basis of Hegel's dialectic thought is first of all, that when we think of something, we are using thought, so thought and being are two sides of the same coin. We think of a table, and the table exists so thought and being are two sides of the fact that this table exists. Second, he believed that thought is movement. This movement brings us to contradiction, but this contradiction does not stop the movement of thought, but rather it helps alter its direction, and if done rationally, alters it in a direction closer to truth. Third, he believed that the absolute is expressed in nature and the physical world, and also in the human mind. A person's way of thinking is fixed by the way things happen and behave. Nature and the physical world is also fixed by the way things happen and behave---the natural laws---therefore the mind thinks of nature the way the absolute expresses itself in nature. (This is the basis of his dialectic, subjective (your experience of the world from your individual perspective), objective (the outside world) produces the synthesis of absolute).

    In his phenomenology of Spirit he says something to the effect that we can conceive of being easily enough, but when it comes to 'pure' being, what can we conceive but nothingness. Therefore the dialectic of being and nothingness produces 'becoming.'

    For example, in writing about non-actuality, such as death, he says that Spirit does not let things pass into non-existence and then is done with it, or stops being, instead it is a power of becoming, "...Spirit is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and tarrying with it. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that turns it into being." (By negative this is not referring to an ethical or moral negative such as evil, but simply the negative of 'non,' such as non-existence.

    This power or energy is the the energy of subjective thought (I can think of new things and ideas, and remember, thought is the opposite side of the coin of being). But it is also the energy of, as he says, "...the Pure 'I'."

    Does that help?
  3. Red Fox VII

    Red Fox VII Member

    Thank you, food for thought!
  4. themnax

    themnax Senior Member

    i don't know hagel. or if i do, i don't remember people's names, usually, even ancient ones who may have been wise and have gained a reputation to have been.

    but i can say something about an absolute rightness, becuase i too believe there is such a thing.

    it does not come from any one belief, religious or otherwise. it is much simpler then that, though in some way, people have come to feel it to be harder to arrive at.

    that which causes the least harm and sadness in agrigate, for all things that can feel and experience it, that simply is what it is. to me that is the only morality, because it is the ultimate morality, as well.

    some people use 'its not hurting anythng' as a throw away excuse, and that's not what i mean at all, because it does bring a responisbilty to never take for granted the non-causing of harm either.
  5. Mountain Valley Wolf

    Mountain Valley Wolf Senior Member

    I too feel that there is an absolute presence to the universe.

    But it cannot be good based on human values--because we are after all, only human, and we are restricted to only our own individual existential experiences. My value of what is good, may differ from your value of what is good, and therefore neither one of us can know what is truly good---and even if we were to compromise on what is good, this would still be different from what a third person values as good. And if we were to compare what was good with just about every human alive, the one thing that would certainly stand out, would be an overall consensus among most humans that death is bad. Yet from the perspective of an absolute consciousness to the universe, death would simply be a change from one dimension to another. It may not even be a negative thing.

    I think that an ethic based on what does the least harm is relevant to our existence within our physical realm. In other words, that there is a karmic balance to our physical existence. We make choices and we have to live with them, we have to take responsibility, and that if we go from one life time to another in this physical realm (reincarnation), that this karmic balance may very well play out in our lives. (Dr. Stanislav Grof has uncovered plenty of evidence that people are physically affected by past life events, and he has actually healed people from various afflictions by having them face and understand such apparent effects from previous lives).

    For me any absolute good in the universe would have to be unconditionally loving, which implies unconditional acceptance. So basically that is what pure goodness would have to be----a total acceptance of all, without any conditions, without any qualifications, without any standards what so ever. For it to be any other way would lead to a dangerous reductionism.

    Hegel's philosophy, and his belief in an Absolute Good has led to various reductionist-based crisis. Karl Marx took Hegel's absolute good, and turned it into a Materialistic concept, freeing it from its idealism. But the result was the creation of all kinds of totalitarian States that destroyed countless lives in a State-slavery, from Stalinist Russia to the hell created by the Khmer Rouge. Hegel's historicism and Absolute Good was used to create the fascist States of Hitler, Mussolini, and others. But you can't blame Hegel----this same reductionist belief has been used to fuel every religious war in history.
  6. MeAgain

    MeAgain Dazed and Confused Staff Member Super Moderator

    Most western philosophers baffle me. It all seems to turn into double talk with little value in the end.

    Without getting into the particulars of Hegel's thoughts, because they all seem to run around in circles to me, the belief in an Absolute Good is flawed from the start and can only lead to confusion,
    Just the use of the two terms is enough to destroy any rational attempt at understanding.

    Absolute? What, in heaven's name does that mean?
    Good? Good is a relational term.

    How can you have an Absolute good?
  7. Mountain Valley Wolf

    Mountain Valley Wolf Senior Member

    I have trouble with the term too, Meagain, which is why I said absolute presence---though later I referred to absolute good, but in order to clarify that the absolute presence is not based on human values of good.

    But you are right---absolute is defined in part as, independent and not relative. Yet good is a relational term, it is always relative to something that is less, or not good. This is a fallacy for me of Western philosophy as it has evolved from a mixture of Greek and Hebraic philosophies. But it is based on the duality mindset that has been handed down from our planter ancestors. Most of all it is based on the assumption that good will and must win out over evil. And if good did win out over evil and man lived happily ever after in the utopic promised land, and there was no longer anymore evil, then how would good be good?
  8. Red Fox VII

    Red Fox VII Member

    In the eastern systems, the union with creation and God...moksha, and I understand them, is a place and a state beyond exising or not existing, beyond, pleasure and pain, etc. Beyond these dualities....but it is still described as tranquil, peaceful, and timelessly blissfully.

    So the ultimate state in these systems (again as I understand them) are ultimately what we could call good, heavenly, full of serenity and happiness.

    There is no boredom, no anguish, no getting sick and tired of the peace and bliss.
  9. Red Fox VII

    Red Fox VII Member

    Is Hegel referring to something of this greater, more beautiful and blissful reality existing beyond transcendence of the temporal ego, when he writes about the absolute?
  10. Okiefreak

    Okiefreak Senior Member

    You might try , The Secret of Hegel by the nineteenth century author, james Hutchinson Stirling. But I agree with Lenin. He did a good job keeping the secret.
  11. Anaximenes

    Anaximenes Senior Member

    Maybe we can live in the abstract idea with Marx's Philosophy. But don't seem to have the One Heart about the national humankind after all.

    I'll cover with this remark, as my previous Christianity remark was hasty. Oh well, making friends on the Internet.
  12. Mountain Valley Wolf

    Mountain Valley Wolf Senior Member

    Yes---the humanism of Marx was certainly good in intent. I don't think a people can be programmed and forced into the humanistic culture of communism---it has to have a precedent and a cultural context that evolves into it.

    I hope in the next stage of man's development, we will somehow find a way limit the alienation of mankind, and put emphasis on the value of a human as a human-------but as we solve one problem we create new ones. That is the problem that historicism and utopian ideals fail to recognize. Even as we move higher to a new level of human development, we create new problems.
  13. Mountain Valley Wolf

    Mountain Valley Wolf Senior Member

    I'll have to check that out!
  14. Mountain Valley Wolf

    Mountain Valley Wolf Senior Member

    Yes, in Hegel's own early Modern Age attempt to remain strictly academic, and rational----he was referring to something along those lines. But this is also true of most of Western philosophy until relatively recent times, and in fact, just about all post-planter-culture philosophies and belief systems.

    But it is interesting to see how much influence Eastern philosophy has had on Western philosophy around the time of Kant, Hegel and others. Jung too was influenced by Eastern traditions. I think it is interesting because my generation kind of felt like we were the ones that really introduced Eastern beliefs into Western Culture----but clearly there was a side to intelligensia that incorporated such ways a 100 or more years earlier...
  15. Anaximenes

    Anaximenes Senior Member

    Hegel's Philosophy is one concerning the meaning of God for His concept. Somehow, the highest stage of Consciousness is and should Be common to the Religions of loving men (and, I guess, women as part of the community Bond) for the terms of human beings of common Psychology of Personality. It is objectivity which detaches the view of Faiths in the God, and is criticized often for being unjust to the particular individual Human Being.

    But it is a tranquil wisdom for the conscience of being with (and helpful) to the community at large. It was coined that it's Absolute Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences is a Unity of the Immanent and Transcendent, really neither of the two.
  16. Red Fox VII

    Red Fox VII Member

    "I think it is interesting because my generation kind of felt like we were the ones that really introduced Eastern beliefs into Western Culture----but clearly there was a side to intelligensia that incorporated such ways a 100 or more years earlier..."

    Would you agree that there is much in the New Testament that echoes what is said in the Bhagavad Gita?
  17. Mountain Valley Wolf

    Mountain Valley Wolf Senior Member

    Yes I think you can draw a lot of parallels. But I think you can also draw parallels with the Rig Veda and the New Testament.

    In fact I think that there are elements around the story of Jesus that are more Indo-European than Middle Eastern---enough so that I would argue that Rome had something to do with embellishing the story.

    In particular is the connection between the Axis Mundi motif (the cross) and its strong connection to the star which is more significant to people of more northerly latitudes, who are more acquainted with the pole star. The Greek word for crucifixion, the cross, and so forth are all based on the root for star, aster. Then you have the story surrounding his birth, and so forth, which again relates to the star. The axis mundi is the portal to the divine, and to the heavens---in the case of Jesus he came to earth through the star (Star of David) and returned to heaven through the star (the cross). In the Middle East, the star is less significant as a motif of the axis mundi.

    Also the Rig Veda told the Indo-European story of the sacrificial death of the male god to himself, to be reborn of himself long before the New Testament. There is also the sacrifice of Odin to himself to be reborn of himself. Religions always build on the precedent that came before it. Christianity for example has many elements that relate back to the Canaanite Goddess cults, for example, and many of the stories are from various places around the Middle East. But the Middle East has no precedent for the male god sacrificing himself to himself to be reborn of himself.

    But if you are referring to parallels of a spiritual or mystical nature---things that truly are related to man from spirit----I think there are some amazing parallels. In fact there is a book that translates more directly from Aramaic and explains the original context of the various teachings of Jesus, such as the Lord's Prayer from the original Aramaic. It is surprising how mystical these things were in their more original Aramaic forms.

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