Tuesday, September 1, 2020

know Dialectics ! ~ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel born this day 250 years ago !!

On the day before the battle, Napoleon entered the city of Jena. He recounted his impressions in a letter to his friend Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer: I saw the Emperor—this world-soul [Weltseele]—riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it.  ~  the post is on a man, a great philosopher born this day – 250 years ago !


From the time of Leibniz to the widespread adoption of Frege's logic in the 1930s, every standard work on logic consisted of three divisions: doctrines of concept, judgment, and inference. Doctrines of concept address the systematic, hierarchical relations of the most general classes of things. Doctrines of judgment investigate relations of subject and predicate; and doctrines of inference lay out the forms of syllogisms originally found in Aristotelian term logic.

Dialectic or dialectics (Greek: related to dialogue), also known as the dialectical method, is at base a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned methods of argumentation. Dialectic resembles debate, but the concept excludes subjective elements such as emotional appeal and the modern pejorative sense of rhetoric.  Dialectic may thus be contrasted with both the eristic, which refers to argument that aims to successfully dispute another's argument (rather than searching for truth), or the didactic method, wherein one side of the conversation teaches the other. Dialectic is alternatively known as minor logic, as opposed to major logic or critique. Within Hegelianism, the word dialectic has the specialised meaning of a contradiction between ideas that serves as the determining factor in their relationship. Dialectic comprises three stages of development: first, the thesis, a statement of an idea; second, the antithesis, a reaction that contradicts or negates the thesis; and third, the synthesis, a statement through which the differences between the two points are resolved.  

Dialectic tends to imply a process of evolution and so does not naturally fit within formal logic.   “Dialectics” is a term used to describe a method of philosophical argument that involves some sort of contradictory process between opposing sides. In what is perhaps the most classic version of “dialectics”, the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, for instance, presented his philosophical argument as a back-and-forth dialogue or debate, generally between the character of Socrates, on one side, and some person or group of people to whom Socrates was talking (his interlocutors), on the other. In the course of the dialogues, Socrates’ interlocutors propose definitions of philosophical concepts or express views that Socrates challenges or opposes.

“Hegel’s dialectics” refers to the particular dialectical method of argument employed by the 19th  Century German philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel which, like other “dialectical” methods, relies on a contradictory process between opposing sides. Whereas Plato’s “opposing sides” were people (Socrates and his interlocutors), however, what the “opposing sides” are in Hegel’s work depends on the subject matter he discusses. In his work on logic, for instance, the “opposing sides” are different definitions of logical concepts that are opposed to one another.

The man, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (27.8.1770 – 14.11.1831) was a German philosopher and an important figure in German idealism. He achieved recognition in his day and—while primarily influential in the continental tradition of philosophy—has become increasingly influential in the analytic tradition as well. Hegel's principal achievement was his development of a distinctive articulation of idealism, sometimes termed absolute idealism, in which the dualisms of, for instance, mind and nature and subject and object are overcome.   His master–slave dialectic has been influential, especially in 20th-century France.  Of special importance is his concept of spirit (Geist, sometimes also translated as "mind") as the historical manifestation of the logical concept – and the "sublation" (Aufhebung, integration without elimination or reduction) – of seemingly contradictory or opposing factors: examples include the apparent opposition between necessity and freedom and between immanence and transcendence.

Hegel has influenced many thinkers and writers whose own positions vary widely. Karl Barth described Hegel as a "Protestant Aquinas" while Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote that "all the great philosophical ideas of the past century—the philosophies of Marx and Nietzsche, phenomenology, German existentialism, and psychoanalysis—had their beginnings in Hegel”.

In 1801, Hegel came to Jena at the encouragement of his old friend Schelling, who held the position of Extraordinary Professor at the University of Jena. Hegel secured a position at the University of Jena as a Privatdozent (unsalaried lecturer) after submitting the inaugural dissertation De Orbitis Planetarum, in which he briefly criticized arguments that assert—based on Bode's Law or other arbitrary choice of mathematical series—there must exist a planet between Mars and Jupiter.    Unbeknownst to Hegel, Giuseppe Piazzi had discovered the minor planet Ceres within that orbit on January 1, 1801.  Later in the year, Hegel's first book The Difference Between Fichte's and Schelling's Systems of Philosophy was completed. He lectured on "Logic and Metaphysics" and gave lectures with Schelling on an "Introduction to the Idea and Limits of True Philosophy" and facilitated a "philosophical disputorium".                            

Of his exalted works was – ‘Science of Logic’ first published between 1812 and 1816, in which Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel outlined his vision of logic. For Hegel, the most important achievement of German idealism,  was the argument that reality (being) is shaped through and through by thought and is, in a strong sense, identical to thought. Thus ultimately the structures of thought and being, subject and object, are identical. Since for Hegel the underlying structure of all of reality is ultimately rational, logic is not merely about reasoning or argument but rather is also the rational, structural core of all of reality and every dimension of it.

The quote at the start is attributed to Hegel who recounted his impressions on Napoleon entering the city of Jena.   Pinkard notes that Hegel's comment to Niethammer "is all the more striking since he had already composed the crucial section of the Phenomenology in which he remarked that the Revolution had now officially passed to another land (Germany) that would complete 'in thought' what the Revolution had only partially accomplished in practice".  Although Napoleon chose not to close down Jena as he had other universities, the city was devastated and students deserted it in droves, making Hegel's financial prospects even worse. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

27.8.2020.

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