Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Hegel and the Cunning of History" by John Dwyer

Working on a opposition research paper for my community and stumbled on this very well presented academic paper that explains Hegel quite nicely if you ask me.

05. Hegel and the Cunning of History

Introduction to the Hegelian World

Plato believed that human reason could explain the world, individual morality and social life. Descartes also believed in reason, but severely restricted its ability to explain phenomena. Scientific reason could explain the laws of the physical universe, but could explain the nature of external objects. Hume destroyed the foundation of scientific knowledge by showing us that cause and effect did not relate to anything in physical nature, but was a psychological trick of the mind.

Intellectual thought, therefore, moved from a faith in reason to an extreme skepticism about the ability of reason to explain anything. Hume argued that there was not much that anyone could say with certainty; the best strategy for the human being was to enjoy life and try not to ask to many questions. Humean philosophy elevated the agreeable companion over the scientist and philosopher.

After Hume, it may have seemed that system building was dead. This turned out not to be the case, partly because the British empirical tradition never took a firm hold on the continental consciousness, and partly because new systems were built on the supposedly fragile foundation of the human mind. Continental thinkers argued that the human mind created its own reality; logical categories were not simply a way of understanding the world, they were the only genuine laws of the universe. It was even possible to think that individual minds were linked to a universal mind that operated and realized itself in human history. Enter Hegel.

If you were to hire a movie producer to film Hegelian philosophy, you would have to get someone like Cecil. B DeMille. So grand is the scope, so extensive the panorama, so comprehensive is the subject matter, that Hegel’s philosophy comes on like a tidal wave that never lets up. Hegel sets out to explain all of human life, all of history, and the meaning of the past that allows us to predict the future.

Hegelianism in a Nutshell

Hegel’s foundation is the realization that all of our reality, past and present, is a mental production. Our individual minds are limited, but history is the product of all minds over time. The universal mind moving through history is God’s mind. God moves through history with one goal – to realize himself and his essence. God’s essence is an Idea and the content of that idea is Freedom.

You will recall that the enlightened philosophes believed in progress, reason and nature. But their ideas of reason and progress seem puny in comparison with Hegel’s vision. Hegel argued that the Enlightenment was fundamentally flawed because it associated progress with individual freedom and happiness. Historical progress was only tangentially related to economic growth and the rule of law, Hegel argued. It was about the evolution of Ideas. While individuals might believe in these ideas or ideals, they were embodied in social culture. Every significant society embodies a particular idea. The historical role of society was to nurture that idea at a particular time in history. Sometimes that idea would be associated with a great hero, an individual who best personified the ideal of his time and used the force of his will to bring that idea to fulfillment. Caesar and Napoleon are examples of these world historical figures who put living flesh on ideas.

But it was the Idea that moulded history, not the men who helped move it forward. Men and women were merely the vehicles through which ideas expressed and realized themselves. The Idea was Freedom. It evolved from ancient times and, like a Cecil B. DeMille spectacle, it used a cast of millions to flesh itself out. Whereas a few heroic individuals were significant in the sense that they realized their particular stage in evolution and pushed the Idea forward, the great mass of people were hired extras in the spectacle of history. In fact, Hegel referred to the majority of people as victims on the slaughter bench of history, as various sub-ideas fought it out in the historical arena and contributed to the development of the one really big Idea – absolute Freedom.

Sound Complicated?

It gets worse before it gets better. Hegel is one of those writers who are difficult to appreciate until you grasp the big picture. His writings really do resemble a historical spectacle full of sub plots, twists and turns, flashbacks and a cast of stars supported by thousands of extras. Fortunately, Hegel doesn’t write like Hume. He doesn’t expect us to get it in lock-step fashion. He’s more than willing to repeat scenes and use different camera angles to get across his fundamental idea. This is a good thing, because some of his language is tortuous and his Teutonic sentences appear very convoluted to English (and presumably other) ears.

Hegel uses the terms Idea, God and Freedom as synonyms. The important think to know about Hegel’s God is that He is pure thought. He is the Idea that drives universal history. His essence is absolute freedom. All history is nothing more or less that the story of the Idea actualizing itself through mankind. Our world, therefore, is not merely created by God; it’s an extension of God. God is using the world and human history as the vehicle for self-reflection. Men and women, as thinking beings, are not merely created in God’s likeness, but are extensions of the Divine mind. Thought is the only thing that matters. God’s thought in history is the only thing that counts. Most phenomena and the vast majority of historical facts are chimeral; they are insignificant dross. The only thing that is significant is the Idea. The rich tapestry of history is woven by a divine master, whose design can only be appreciated when it is complete. “The owl of Minerva,” writes Hegel, “flies only at dusk.”

More here: http://opencopy.org/lectures/intellectual-history/05-hegel-and-the-cunning-of-history/

5 comments:

David Gordon Bain said...

This is a fair interpretation of Hegel's philosophy. I like the interpretive synopsis brought together by the author which is not to say that I even come close to sharing this entire philosophical vision -- in any strict, 'anal-retentive', Hegelian sense -- even though I call my blogsite Hegel's Hotel (which has more to do with the fact that people are still influenced and counter-influenced by Hegel, and talking and writing about Hegel -- even more so than Marx -- some 205 years after his classic work was published, 'The Phenomenology of Spirit'.) For myself, I have thrown all of the 'Ultimate Hegelian Idealistic Vision' out the window and just use some of his key concepts (like 'the dialectic', 'dialectic logic', 'dialectic thinking', and, on another plane of thought, issues surrounding the idea of 'the master/slave relationship'... As far as you Niki, I have never accused you of being a 'religious fanatic'...I HAVE accused you of 'trash-talking' but that was quite a while ago...However, I see you are using 'Hegel's Hotel' again as your 'private whipping post'...just as you have Hegel's idea of 'dialectic thinking' which does not have to 'swallowed whole' with Hegel's entire fantasy-laden Grand Narrative and Idealistic Vision...I will say this as clearly as I possibly can: I do not believe in Hegel's Grand Idealistic Vision anymore than you do...Let your readers judge for themselves -- if you are linking them over to Hegel's Hotel -- the relative strengths and weakenesses of my own brand of Post-Hegelian-Humanistic-Existential Philosophy...Your readers do not need you to 'babysit' and 'embellish' how they should think relative to reading, interpreting and judging essays from other blogsites that you either like or don't like...And I emphasize again, that every Post-Hegelian thinker does not necessarily have to swallow every idea of Hegel's -- hook, line, and sinker (stinker) -- anymore than I would expect any of my readers to swallow all of my ideas whole. I don't need to be the 'Napoleon' of my own blogsite...and hopefully neither do you relative to your own blogsite...As far as 'Communitarianism', my main criticism of it is that it can be defined to mean virtually anything and everything by any person who wants to take a shot at defining it...or alternatively turning it into another 'stereotyped whipping post'...Even your 'Anti-Commmunitarian' group -- as 'individualistic' as you may be -- still involves a 'community' with some rules and regulations...and some system of morals and ethics and laws that you can live with and that are not externally imposed or enforced on you by some government political figures who you do not respect their motive or their laws...On a more pragmatic level, I still prefer my townhouse to a tent -- even here in the Greater Toronto Area -- let alone up there in Alaska...I pass on that aspect of 'Anti-Communtarian thinking'...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't know what you are going on about. All a bit too clever for me.
All I know is that Niki does what she does because she is a loving, caring woman with integrity, and a big heart. What is your motivation?

By the way, the full-stop was invented so people can take breath. Short sentences and plain English, mate. Then we might understand you - oh - you Hegelians don't want us to, do you?
What is wrong with discussing articles on Hegel's work and influence? And having opinions on them?

Justa Numerican said...

The problem with Hegel... was the same as the problem... with Plato - both were Kabbalists and so were quite heavily indoctrinated... to the Talmudic "mystery" teachings... of their ever-moralizing rabbis.

Now, it's not that I have a weird problem with Kabbalists, mind you. But when one small minority of a population segment is that driven to dominating the other majority populations, it seems always to create... an imbalance of power... and needless (constant) tensions.

Americans today would do better to study the philosophies of Jesus or Diogenes. We're going to need some guidance and a new direction... after getting disinherited... from that once-sacred right to own even our own properties... before finally being branded... and watched over like we were cattle. After which... those peace-loving, oh-so-righteous... communitarian parasites... will have completely sucked the blood... from what may finally remain... of our cherished liberties.

The many fake Christians and their Zionist paymasters will certainly see to it... that the rest of the planet... truly hates America and its mind-controlled, drugged-up citizen-inhabitants'... loathsome, holier-than-thou attitudes... not to mention... their perfectly-robotic, crazed, democracy-lovin' guts. ;)

david bain said...

Caring is good, integrity is good, individuality is good...oftentimes, abstractions and polarized abstractions in particular get people arguing and fighting when they may not even necessarily disagree...it becomes all about words...and fighting over words...and 'put down' words'...when the values, the underlying essence of what is being debated, might not even be disagreed about in any kind of major way...I'll say this about you Nicki, regardless of how you are in your day to day living, you sure know how to polarize opinions and create great animosity on your blog site...My opinions are often strong...but I don't go out of my way to create enemies on my blogsite...

the tent lady said...

What's even more amazing is how many times Malachi Martin uses the term "dialectic" in his book The Keys to This Blood. Martin calls western caplitalism "capitalist materialism" as opposed to the USSR's "dialectical materialism." He devotes several pages to Hegel as an introduction to Gramsci.

Martin also assures us Pope John Paul II was convinced of the inevitability of a new synthesis for a world order; he predicted it would start with the formation of a new European Community in 1992.

David, The Hegelian dialectic is the formula used for establishing global communitarianism. My war is against the liars and sneaks who slipped us a Hegelian system of government and law we neither voted on nor were informed of its actual existence. Most people atill think, like you do, that it's just some vague theory, in spite of all the evidence I provide. Most people prefer to stick with their own opinions no matter how wrong they are.

I don't go out of my way to make enemies on my blog, but my enemies do often seek me out here and try to drag me into useless debates that are always Hegelian. Save the "you're too mean" lecture for your own blog. I'm not in kindergarten learning to be a nice little girl, and my real enemies don't play kid games either. The rules for this war are unwritten, like portions of the Talmud (another dialectic).