< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: All that Hegel Crap

Sunday, December 11, 2005

All that Hegel Crap

Recently I wanted to post a more thorough reply to Dan's interesting post on globalization, at least more thorough than my original thoughts. In the interim, I've noticed that the breadth of "hegelian" experience out there in the blogosphere is quite diverse. From complete novices, to bona fide experts, this site has readers all throughout that range. So before I get into a more detailed dialectic on globalization, I'd like to begin this by discussing why I personally think Hegel is so relevant to the current historical moment.

First off, regardless of the substance of one's political philosophy, if you are an American, you are by definition a Kantian. This is an important realization for one to make. Many people out there, many learned people at that, refuse to accept this premise, that the western world is a Kantian world, and that their concepts are still shaped by his writings, but you can just trust me now, this is the case.

Hegel was, to put it mildly, preoccupied with Kant, especially with the great beauty of the Kantian system. He was impressed with Kant, and speaks highly of him throughout the Science of Logic. But at the end, which for Hegel is also the beginning, Kant is finally rejected and freedom instead is embraced.

Hegel is sometimes called "a freedom philosopher". But as those of you who have studied know, he is "the freedom philosopher". Embracing freedom forces Hegel to abandon simple syllogistic reasoning. It forces him to give up non-contradiction, the excluded middle, and many other "live and die by" logical rules. And instead, Hegel focuses on the method of history, the method of noos, what some refer to as "the Hegelian dialectic".

Now at this point, the novices in Hegel will likely find one of the great misunderstandings (Hegel is perhaps one of the most misunderstood philosophers, besides Plato), which is the term dialectic. Many believe this refers to the positing, negating, and synthesizing process loosely defined in the Phenomology of Spirit as "thesis" "antithesis" "synthesis". And while this is convenient shorthand, it is misleading. Hegel was concerned not with "dia"lectic, but with "speculation". That is, the third movement (often termed sythesis) is a "speculative moment", or if you prefer, a creative instant. Understanding the essence is only piece, understanding its opposition is merely the same piece in a different light, but taking the essence and moving towards a third, as yet unposited idea is the genius in Hegel. Speculation, as always, is most important in volatile situations, where "bread and butter" routines or patterns have broken down.

All of this important in this period of history, in my opinion, for two very simple reasons. First, the notion of freedom is on trial these days. The ability to live an examined life is once again in jeopardy. So it would seem attention to "the freedom philosopher" would be warranted. Second, the tempo of the current epoch is dramatically increased. Changes are occurring much more frequently, with much more volatility than during most other historical reference points. Understanding the logic of speculation is absolutely criticial in order to continue finding and delivering value in whatever context.

Finally, let me end with a challenge to the expert and novice alike. Do not read Hegel with any preconceptions whatsoever. Do not ready any substantive commentary on his work. Just pick up a book and start moving through it. Let Hegel talk to you, for too long other people have spoken for him.