Saturday, March 22, 2008

Two People -- Working Together -- Can Generally Get To A Better Place Than One Working Apart

Two people -- two minds, two hearts, two spirits, working together -- can generally get to a better place than one. This is the heart of what I mean by 'dialectic philosophy' -- or at least 'dialectic idealism'.

If we want to extend this idea to include more than two people -- which also deserves significant attention -- then we can start to talk about either 'multi-dialectic idealism' and/or 'pluralistic idealism'.

We also have to look at the potential downside of the three idealistic concepts I just introduced -- dialectic idealism, multi-dialectic idealism, and pluralistic idealism. As my main philosophical mentor -- arguably the greatest integrationist in the history of Western philosophy, G.W. Hegel once wrote (and I am paraphrasing from memory with a partical embellishment here because I have lost the home of the original quote -- indeed, I will give public thanks to the person who can find its original home for me) -- Ever idea, every theory, every characteristic carries with it the seeds of its own self-destruction. Stated a little differently in my own words, every theory, every idea, every characteristic -- when taken to its extreme or excess, and in so doing, snatching it from its 'natural context' of 'homeostatic balance' with its 'bi-polar opposite' idea, theory, and/or characteristic -- will eventually either explode or implode. In this regard the end result of such conceptual, ethical, and/or behavioral extremism will be pathology, not health.

Two people butting heads against each other, not working together, not working through problems together, not giving and taking, not showing a combination of self-assertion and social sensitivity, not showing honesty, respect, trust, and respect with each other -- is obviously not what I have in mind by dialectic idealism. Rather, this is more what I have in mind by the concept of 'dialectic ineffiency and/or pathology'.

Similarly, I have been in groups of -- let's say 10 people -- that have been totally inefficient in their group activity together and basically a waste of time and energy. People go off on different tangents. They are not listening to each other. They have different agendas. They have different 'narcissistic goals'. Let's call this type of inefficient group activity -- 'multi-dialectic or pluralistic ineffiency'. Even worse, is when people engaged in a controversial debate start resorting to trash-talking, social disrespect, character defamation and the like. This I would call 'multi-dialectic or pluralistic pathology'.

In 'The Birth of Tragedy' -- Friedrich Nietzsche's first book and the one I will most often allude to in my work here as the major philosophical bridge between Hegel and Freud -- Nietzsche opened up the idea of what I will call here as a 'dialectical split' in man's psyche between what I will call here his 'Dionysian Ego' -- a place in our personality that focuses on such thoughts, feelings, character traits, fantasies and actions as: biological impulse, hedonism, pleasure, narcissism, sex, violence, power, revenge, etc.; vs. our 'Apollonian Ego' that focues on such thoughts, traits, and actions as: reason, restraint, fairness, justice, law and order, ethics, righteousness, and the like...

Nietzsche also opened up the idea of 'homeostatic balance' (which can be traced alot further back in Western history than Nietzsche, back to the Pre-Socratic philosophy of Heralcitus) -- meaning that it is imperative that we work to find 'differential unity and harmony' in our personality between our Dionysian Ego and our Apollonian Ego -- not end up in a situation with one side dominating the other and/or 'getting stuck' in some sort of a 'dialecitc impasse or split'. Nietzsche basically thought that Western philosophy and Western man had been dominated by his 'head' since Socrates and Plato -- meaning man's Apollonian Ego (with everything focuing around the process of 'reason' and 'rationality' had basically 'marginalized, suppressed, and repressed' his Dionysian Ego into the deepest depths of his personality and in so doing, had become a man without passion -- a 'dead man walking'. (I am taking some creative liberties here in terms of extrapolating on the essence and philosophical importance of a book that Nietzsche himself later demeaned and marginalized as being too 'Hegelian' in its basic structure and core. In contrast, I think that it was this Hegelian structure and essence that made 'The Birth of Tragedy' so profoundly brilliant and historically important -- as it created a 'gravel roal' for the likes of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Fritz Perls to later 'pave'.

In a similar fashion, I too -- partly connected to my Nietzschean influence -- prefer most of the dynamics of Pre-Socratean Philosophy to the 'Apollonian one-sidedness' of Socratean and Platonic Philosophy. And it is in the depths of ancient Greece, in the depths of the dialectic philosophies of Anaxamander (the first dominant Western dialectic philosopher) and Heraclitus (the second dominant dialectic philosoher) that I reach back and pull out another dialectic split in man's psyche: the split betwwen what I will call his 'Spartan Ego' (his 'will to power and 'might is right' syndrome) and his Athenian Ego (a 'will to democracy, equal rights, social sensitivity, negotiation, integration...')

This second dialectical split in man's personality is being partly 'mythologized' here as no arbitrary classification system ever totally 'fits with' and/or 'matches' phenomenal reality. The more and more we generalize, abstract, and stereotype, the more we must remember that when we do this we lose important individual and particular characteristic of those we abstract, generalize and stereotype. So let us not confuse my partly arbitrary and mythological distinction between the 'Spartan' and 'Athenian' ego with the full extent of the real and particular dynamics that may or may not have been happening back there and then at the time when the Spartans and the Athenians were fighting with each other -- over power and philosophical ideals.

My argument here is that we all have greater or lesser degrees of 'Spartanism' and 'Athenianism' in each of us and that these opposing qualities -- the will to power vs. the will to listen, negotiate, and integrate -- can either 'dialectically split' us (Anaxamander's philosophical realism) and/or 'dialectically harmonize' us (Heraclitus' -- and Obama's -- and my -- philosophical idealism).

I will leave you with one more potential dialectic split in the personality before I leave you with this first synopsis and impression of DGB Post-Hegelian Philosophy.

We have taken a brief glance at the deepest, darkest depths of Ancient Greek philosophy and the most important distinction between the philosophical realism of Anaxamander -- opposite qualities fighting each other for power and supremacy and the 'pendulum swing of dominance vs. submission and/or dominance vs. suppression'; vs. the philosophical idealism of Heraclitus and his 'harmonizing and balnncing of opposite qualites -- both being essential to the ongoing life process and wholistic balance of nature.

Now let us take a minute and glance at the darkest depths -- and one of the finest creations -- of ancient Chinese philosophy (probably much more ancient than any of us, or at least most of us, can follow). I am talking about the philosophical creation of 'yin' (feminine qualities) and 'yang' (masculine qualities). Now before any of you ladies start to accuse me -- or the Chinese -- of 'sexual stereotyping', it is important to realize here again that we are talking about partly and arbitrarily 'mythologized' classification distinctions that are meant to at least partly help us to understand a particular biological, psychologicial, philosophical, political, economic, medical, and cultural process -- i.e. the process of 'homeostatic balance' (See Cannon's 'The Wisdom of The Body'). These classification distinctions are not meant to tell us what 'feminine should be' and/or what 'masculine should be'.

What I find shockingly amazing is the degree of closeness in the type of thinking that was going on in the foundations of Ancient Greek philosophy and in the foundations of ancient Chinese philosophy. Both focused on the 'dynamics of the dialectic' and in the idea of 'differential unity' and 'the harmonization of opposites (Heraclitus in the case of the ancient Greeks; the Han Philosophers and probably much further back into ancient Chinese history than the Han Philosophers in the case of dialectic Chinese philosophy. As close as ancient Greek and ancient Chinese philosophy were in their structure, dynamics, and spirit, for over two thousand years, their evolving differences would rule over the foundations of their similarities and it was not really until Marx stood Hegel on his head philosophically, that a particular brand of Western philosophy (Marx's 'dialectical materialism' and his 'Communist Manifesto') that Western and Eastern Philosophy would begin to seriously integrate -- and not with what most people would call ideal, humanistic results. Rather, one has to look at the respective political pathological ideologies of Lenin, Stalin -- and the crushing lack of democracy in China -- and wonder what went wrong?

Today, I look at the evolving 'dialectic negotiation and creative integration' that is going on between Western and Eastern philosophy -- through the ongoing harmonization of Western and Eastern medicine -- and see much more favorable rssults. Western medicine -- if it is to evolve and get better, which it is -- has to 'think outside the Western medical philosophical box', which it has, by introducing the strongly critiquing philosophical forces of alternative and natural medicine both of which are strongly steeped in Eastern -- and Middle Eastern -- medical philosophical foundatins. The degree of integration has not been fast or smooth -- but it is getting there with more and more favorable results -- in my opinion of course.

I don't think I can give you any better a quick introduction to the essence of the spirit and the dynamics behind 'Hegel's Hotel' than what I have given you right here.

Hegel's Hotel is a look at 'the good, the bad, and the ugly' -- all from a primarily post-Hegelian, dialectic, multi-dialectic, and pluralist, integrative perspective.

Before the latest American Democratic nomination, I had no idea in the world who Obama was. Where did he come from? What does he stand for? Wow! His speeches. Where did this man learn to speak so eloquently? Dare we believe his speeches. Dare we believe that there is substance, integrity, good judgment, and depth in this man's character -- not just the same old smooth talking, 'stereotypical used car type of salesmanship', with hypocrisy and political narcissism ruling the day once the man is nominated and/or elected. Dare the American people make themselves vulnerable again to another possible crash of false hopes by believing that this man Obama really has the type of personality, mindset, intelligence, integrity, strength of character, power, and perseverence -- to change Washington? To change how Washington is run? Have we all over-idealized the man? I can't remember people in general getting this mesmerized by the eloguence and hope springing from a man's speeches since -- maybe Martin Luther King? This is pretty heady company. So far I am only comparing the eloquence and the hope inspired by their speeches -- we wait further for the substance of the man, his judgments, and whether he can deliver what he aspires, inspires, and promises to deliver.

The American people do need significant change -- in their economy, in their health care, and in their foreign relations. The whole world needs this significant change. The whole world is watching America and the man they are going to elect as their next president. Can this man bring what America and the world as a whole is looking for? Can Obama bring the particular set of qualities that the American people are hungering most from the politicians that lead them -- honesty, integrity, caring about people, and to sum all the other characteristics up: substance, and with it, a revolutionary change in direction in the way things are done in Washington. Is this man just another fancy speaker -- or is he a man of substance who can really deliver significant amounts on what he promises.

Right now, all I can say is this: From what I have heard in Obama's speeches -- and I am only getting 'soundbites' as he would call them, it seems like we have one very important message that we are both preaching, both trying to get across.

We are both preaching integrationism, not divisionism.

And we are both preaching the 'democratic dialectic' -- open dialogue, debate, respect, trust, the commonality of being human and wanting to live in peace -- as the means of overcming differences in opinion, philosophy and lifestyle, to get us to a place that I will call 'differential unity' or 'the homeostatic balance and dialectic unity of opposing belief systems.

That is the essence of the spirit behind 'Hegel's Hotel'.

And that is a good place to start.

The world today has big, big problems confronting it -- from a polluted environment, to people not being able to make ends meet, to people flat out trying to kill each other in growing numbers. Political killings. Racial killings. Religious killings. Regional killings. Economci killings.

Basically as I see it, we have two essential choices based on tolerance and acceptance on the one side vs. intolerant righteousness and narcissism on the other: we can live together in dialectical integrationism -- or die apart in dialectical divisionism, resentment, rage, hate, power, revenge, and war.

Personally, I pick the former, not the latter.

dgb, March 23rd, 2008.

No comments: