The Hegelian dialectic is one of the more insidious tools the enemy uses to pervert and destroy moral civilization.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem to be a festering boil of evil. People often use it to find compromises between two positions. We’ll see how wrong they are.
“Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis. Although this model is often named after Hegel, he himself never used that specific formulation. Hegel ascribed that terminology to Kant. Carrying on Kant’s work, Fichte greatly elaborated on the synthesis model, and popularized it.
On the other hand, Hegel did use a three-valued logical model that is very similar to the antithesis model, but Hegel’s most usual terms were: Abstract-Negative-Concrete. Hegel used this writing model as a backbone to accompany his points in many of his works.
The formula, thesis-antithesis-synthesis, does not explain why the thesis requires an antithesis. However, the formula, abstract-negative-concrete, suggests a flaw, or perhaps an incomplete-ness, in any initial thesis—it is too abstract and lacks the negative of trial, error and experience. For Hegel, the concrete, the synthesis, the absolute, must always pass through the phase of the negative, in the journey to completion, that is, mediation. This is the essence of what is popularly called Hegelian Dialectics.”
I suggest reading the whole entry. It’s short and covers just enough to paint a thumbnail of Hegelian dialectic.
Hegel might have roundly criticized Kant for using the terms “thesis, antithesis, synthesis” applied to his philosophy, but those terms stuck and is what people generally ascribe to his dialectic, so I’m rolling with them.
Hegel insisted his method lead to higher truths than from where you started, that his “negation” was essential to getting to the truth.
As with many of the continental philosophers, especially the Germans, it’s darn difficult to nail down the particulars. I’m sure someone will decry my efforts as “missing the point” or “not understanding the nuances” or I’m “not educated enough” to understand.
But do a quick search for examples. After wading through Marxist mumblings — I’ll get back to those jokers — this thread on Reddit is a prime example https://www.reddit.com/r/CriticalTheory/comments/4gm5bs/historical_examples_of_hegels_dialectic/
Granted, these guys are all arm-chair philosophers but they highlight the fact no one seems to agree about what Hegel was trying to say.
The two major camps boil down to Kant and his thesis-antithesis-synthesis and the camp that insists that “dialectics as the substance of mind, not the substance of reality.”
In the end, the difference doesn’t really matter because one of the core problems is each part is considered a priori to be at least morally equivalent with each other and the final result being morally superior to the starting point.
According to the non-Kant camp, and some inside it, Hegel maintained that the thesis/abstraction contains its own negation, or antithesis, and by resolving that tension you arrive at the concrete synthesis. You can see how Kant, right or wrong, distilled Hegel to the three terms.
To Hegel, the Truth wasn’t some Platonic Ideal of Truth, but an ever changing state as grasped by human reason, which made Truth malleable.
This is where the Marxists show up to the party.
Given that Hegelian dialectic assumes moral authority that is rooted solely in man’s imagination where a concrete is given to be at least on par if not morally superior to the starting point, and given that Truth is just whatever human reason wanted to make it, all this was like catnip to the perpetually morally stunted Marxists.
Under the warped hands of the Marxists, Hegelian dialectic became a cornerstone of Critical Theory, the rot that turns everything it touches to madness and sludge.
Check out this rambling mess disguised as something sound: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/help/easy.htm
“Hegel’s different way of thinking has become known as dialectical thinking. What makes dialectical thinking so difficult to explain is that it can only be seen in practice. It is not a ‘method’ or a set of principles, like Aristotle’s, which can be simply stated and then applied to whatever subject-matter one chooses.”
Uh-huh. (Read the whole thing if you want to see what someone with the pretense of sanity tries to explain things while being morally bankrupt from Marxism.) Of course, it can be stated, Kant boiled it down while pissing off Hegel, and if it can’t, it’s not really “thinking” is it? More like performance art, which really isn’t a basis for public policy, unless you do want policy that is built on sand. Regardless, the Marxists do apply to whatever subject-matter they chose, especially to tear down foundations of civilization.
Or this fine snippet of word salad: “How does one maintain commitment to the idea of Truth, while simultaneously recognizing Truth as a process of transformation in which what is True must become True by negating and changing its own condition of being True?” https://platypus1917.org/2021/04/03/hegels-dialectics-non-identity-contradiction-and-freedom/
Some have tried to separate the morality from his method, claiming it’s part of the scientific method. Here’s one example of that in the second answer: https://socratic.org/questions/what-are-some-examples-where-hegel-s-theory-of-thesis-antithesis-synthesis-ultim
This is also nonsense because Bacon already covered that in his “Instauratio Magna” with emphasis in “Novum Organum” on remaining skeptical and considering the opposite of the current theory as part of the process. Hegel brings nothing new to the table but he, or his adherents, just muddy waters that didn’t need it.
Most examples of Hegel for the uninitiated blather on about seeds and buds and flowers, trying to show that each stage of the process is a new Truth that is the negation of the former and only by arriving at the concretion do we have the greater truth.
Ok, let’s run with that and see where it gets us. I’m mostly using Kant’s terms, because, let’s face it, he actually made Hegel’s dialectic reasonably understandable and repeatable.
Thesis: We shouldn’t kill any babies. The truth of this is etched in the Christian soul. Hegelian disciples poo-poo such stodgy old fashioned views of truth and insist that this contains its own negation: we should kill all babies. That might give even the most materialistic Marxist some pause as a little bit of sanity might trickle through the thick walls of Marxist madness raised against reality, but there you have it, the antithesis. The synthesis is that we kill only some babies and under Hegel this is a greater Truth than the opprobrium of killing any. Thus the morally twisted raise a bulwark to support abortion.
The secret is out now: take a morally sound position, invert the morality of it, and arrive at a lesser evil than that and call it good and a higher truth.
Or how about this. Thesis: Christ is the Son of God. Antithesis: Christ was not the Son of God. Synthesis: Christ was just a man. Truth, combined with swill, results in bunk.
Let’s take another example. Thesis: Corporations should serve their stated purpose of providing goods and services to paying customers. Antithesis: Corporations should only serve Marxist interests, eschewing selling goods and services wanted by paying customers in order to push Marxist Critical Theories. Resolution: Corporations should be Woke and berate customers into buying their slop.
Case in point: Amazon’s billion dollar disaster “Rings of Power”. The whole thing is a exercise in crapping on Tolkien’s works by injecting as much Marxist wokeism into it as they could: black Elves, female Dwarves, Guyladriel, female Bilbo Baggins, weak men, etc. And then, when actual fans of the great man’s works complained, Amazon rolled out the attack media to slander fans as every -ist in the book, including the latest BS term of being “fascist-adjacent”. “Shut up,” Amazon countered the critics, “and watch this sewage, you cave-dwelling filth. Get excited for the next installment of this trainwreck, you worthless scum. Also, buy your subscription to Amazon Prime for even more content, you meatsacks with wallets.”
But let’s start with a morally unsound position. Sodomy is not a sin. The negation would be sodomy is a sin, with the synthesis being sodomy really isn’t that sinful. Again, swill and bunk diluting Truth.
Notice, too, there’s a lot of leeway on how things are synthesized at the end. Compare and contrast with Aristotle’s superior “Golden Mean” where, while certainly not perfect, at least has a way of saying there’s a halfway point between the two extreme ends.
For my final example, I’ve tried to come up with morally neutral positions – Thesis: a clean desk is better. Antithesis: a messy desk is better. Synthesis: A semi-clean/messy desk is best. This is just nonsense. It’s a matter of preferences, there’s no Abstraction here, so no negation. A thesis that’s based on what someone likes isn’t worth much. I’m sure a Hegelian would be scoffing at me for such plebeian tastes.
The Hegelian fails at a moral level when it comes to moral positions, it fails to have meaning for things that are morally neutral.
And if we are to take Hegel seriously, this only works in the landscape of the mind. (Shades of that quack, Freud, anyone? The arrogance of assuming everyone else is as fundamentally broken as they are seems to be a reoccurring theme of the Continentals.) But in claiming his dialectic to be of the mind, Hegel sets himself up to at least have to explain how to bridge the gap between mental states, reality, ‘is’ and ‘ought’. For the first two, he simply declares his dialectic to be a process of human reason grappling with the perceived aspects of reality and his method is always trying to move human understanding to the greatest truths, before diving down the whole “reality is how we perceive it” rabbit hole that, if really applied, leads us down to the “brain in the jar” thought experiment and doesn’t answer anything in meaningful way. For the latter, I didn’t read anything that covered it. Best I could tell, none of his internet disciples even considered that problem and I am not going to going wading through all his texts to see of he even bothered to pen a line or two to even acknowledge it. My impression is that he assumed he was so obviously correct that anyone would clearly see his process had to result in actionable acceptance.
Another thing that chaps my hide is Hegel really believed his system was superior to the Socrates/Platonic dialectic. While the Greek system has been understandable for the past 2500+ years, Hegel’s disciples are busy accusing everyone and themselves of not understanding Hegel. From just a pragmatic perspective, Hegel lost. From a moral standpoint, Hegel should be ignored in the dustbin of other bad ideas.
I’ve picked on the Marxists here, but other people and movements have made their own hash of the Hegelian dialectic, I’ll leave those as an exercise for the reader.
Since Hegelism is a process, today’s synthesis is tomorrow’s thesis, and each revolution dilutes the Truth and morality of the position into dross materialism inverted into higher Truth.
We are told that by their fruits you will know if something is good or evil and the evidence against Hegelian dialectic is damning.
Any man seeking Truth, the Good, and the Beautiful should recognize the Hegelian dialectic for what it is: the antithesis of Truth and the synthesis of moral poison.
The Hegelian dialectic is one of the more insidious tools the enemy uses to pervert and destroy moral civilization.