Sunday, February 8, 2009

Contradiction causing progress

The supplemental text by John Sibree put into words an intriguing aspect of Hegel's philosophy. The project of his philosophy was to an extent an attempt to unify contradictory aspects of existence. I like the words “comprehensive”, “evolving” and “rational” in describing the unity Hegel tries to work out. Sibree says "the main character of [Hegel’s] unity was that it evolved through and manifested itself in contradiction and negation” (Sibree 1). Hegel has these points of contradiction such as knowledge and faith meet each other and bring out qualities in the other “uplifting” them toward a more unified whole. This can be seen when he addresses the tension between private interests of individuals and the universal goal of the state. An essential element of the historical perspective is the struggle between the state and the passions of its citizens. But the unified Idea that is inherent in both is what allows the “long, hard discipline” that drives history forward makes progress possible.
Humans are not always cognizant of the goal of world history (“the fulfillment of the concept of the Spirit”), but the struggle that occurs between the human being and the whole of which she is a part brings forth the realization of that goal over time. Hegel says this goal is unconscious to begin with but is built into the nature of the world and of people. What he means by this “nature” I am not sure, but I would guess that it is something whose potential is met when set up to struggle through the tensions with its counterpart “mind”. For example, the coherent nature of the whole of world history is brought about by the mind; “it is mental because it is mind that can comprehend all of these phases and sub-parts as steps in its own process of comprehension. It is rational because the same underlying, logical, developmental order underlies every domain of reality and is ultimately the order of self-conscious rational thought” (Sibree 1). From what Hegel writes, it sounds like this happens in several different phases (of world history and individual life) over time.

No comments:

Post a Comment