Friday, May 18, 2007

The Legacy of Hegel's Evolutionary Dialectic Philosophy on The Evolution of Western and Eastern Philosophy and Culture

G.W. Hegel (1770-1831) was either loved or hated for his revolutionary philosophical work in 'The Phenomemnology of Mind(Spirit)', published in 1807. Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche all were heavily influenced by Hegel -- even in largely rejecting his most prized work -- and each went on to write his own passionate 'anti-thesis' against Hegel's philosophy. (How many 'anti-theses' can one philosophical theory have? In Hegel's case, the answer seems to be 'many'! Ironically, as each of Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche were writing their own respective 'theoretical compensations and retaliations' to Hegel's work, one could/can easily argue that they were just adding more 'fuel to the fire of Hegel's theory' because they were each showing the creativity of the human dialectic at work just as Hegel had argued that it was in every aspect of human thinking and cultural activity. 'Thesis', 'anti-thesis', and 'synthesis' -- These three terms were not actually Hegel's, and from what I understand, he only used them once in his work -- but he made them famous and they have been associated with his work every since. See below.*


*Although he never used the terms himself, the triad thesis, antithesis, synthesis is often used to describe the thought of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. It is often thought to form part of an analysis of historical and philosophical progress called the Hegelian dialectic.

It is usually described in the following way:

The thesis is an intellectual proposition.
The antithesis is simply the negation of the thesis.
The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths, and forming a new proposition.

Hegel used this classification only once, and he attributed the terminology to Immanuel Kant. The terminology was largely developed earlier by Fichte the neo-Kantian. The idea was subsequently extended and adopted by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

* Reference: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Now a philosophical theory, treatise, system -- or 'Grand Narrative' as the 'anti-system' philosophers or 'deconstructionists' like to call the 'system-philosophies' -- is likely to have numerous 'smaller theses' in it, all part of the workings and construction of the 'whole philosophical system' if you will. Now this would seem to explain the fact that various philosophers can put together various 'negations' of the same philosophical system. For example, Kierkegaard rebelled agaist Hegel's abstractionism (as opposed to Kierkegaard emphasis on concrete existence), Schopenhauer against Hegel's reason and rationalism (as opposed to Schopenhauer's irrationalism and pessimism), and Nietzsche against Hegel's long-winded, systemic Grand Narrative (as opposed to Nietzsche's supposed anti-systemic philosophy althogh Nietzsche did seem to be promoting his Superman, tightrope, abyss, and Dionysian philosophy which would seem to be at least partly systemic as well, if not quite as long-winded as Hegel's more Apollonian Grand Narrative.

So the deconstructionists -- primarily Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche -- picked apart Hegel's philosophy to the point that it came crashing off the wall like Humpty Dumpty. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Humpty Dumpty did not die. In fact, Humpty Dumpty was put back together again by a legion of 'post-Hegelians'. Marx (turned Hegel upside down but kept the dialectic and the conflict between 'class thesis and anti-thesis' alive (the bourgeous vs. the proletariat). Nietzsche (in 'The Birth of Tragedy' before Nietzsche himself rejected his own work as being 'too Hegelian'). Freud (The Id (thesis), The Superego (anti-thesis), and the Ego (synthesis). Jung (the personna (thesis) and the shadow (anti-thesis). Perls (topdog (thesis), and underdog (anti-thesis).

Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Foucault, Derrida, Perls...all made important evolutionary additions to Hegel's dialectic theory. But through it all, Hegel's dialectic evolutionary theory has climbed back on the wall -- as Humpty Dumpty, back together again, all in one piece, and stronger than the classic rendition. Hegel has been 'existentialized' -- and it incorporates Nietzsche's precursor to, and Derrida's later, 'Deconstruction Theory' just as easily as it can be called a 'structural Grand Narrative'. Indeed, it is the paradoxical and multi-bi-polar evolutionary element in Hegel's dialectic theory -- especially after the Hegelian snowball incorporates elements of Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, Perls, Derrida...and also appreciates the full legacy and ancient sophistication of the first Hegelian philosopher -- Anaxamander, 1350 years before Hegel -- that make's Hegel's dialectic theory, in this theorist's opinion, the greatest of all theories, the greatest of all Grand Narratives. Gap-DGBN Philosophy is one version, one post-Hegelian rendition, of Hegelian Classic Dialectic Theory, modernized, and very much alive and kicking as it rolls into the 21st century.

db, Feb. 12th, 2007.

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