comment by yesenadam ·
2015-01-29T08:13:59.201Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
The David Stove piece that Richard Kennaway links to is important, wonderful, and very funny, but doesn't shed much light on Hegel, (Why on earth is he sometimes considered the greatest modern philosopher?!) and no light on dialectic, in the Hegel sense. (There is also the not-unrelated Plato sense; the dialogue model of philosophy; philosophy as a conversation, analyzing, developing, refining as it flows on.)
William James' essay On Some Hegelisms (in The Will To Believe) is very good on Hegelian reason and logic - James noticed remarkable similarities between Hegel's reasoning and his own insane thoughts while tripping on laughing gas, which he recounts with extraordinary candour and.. well, can you imagine an academic philosopher or psychologist of today writing such a thing?! He is onto something else - Marxism and Hegelism, like other huge and obscure systems, seem addictive and hard to escape from once inside, "lifelong romances", judging by their true believers.
Contra Chomsky, I do have a foggy idea of what it is; I studied it many years ago in some detail. I've done, among other things, a whole course on Hegel's Philosophy of Right, (given by an extremely sympathetic-to-Hegel Marxist) which examines many levels of society, community, politics, law, etc, in a way similar to pragmatist's excellent description, only with a dozen or so of these levels in a chain, or ladder, each passing to the other, because unsatisfactory or incomplete in its own terms. Thus Hegel's doctrine of everything being contradictory, except everything. (I was tempted to put that second 'everything' as 'Everything', then before I know i will be putting '-in-itself' after words to try to clarify them etc... hehe. A slippery slope.) I even once read McTaggart's Studies in Hegelian Dialectic with enjoyment and apparent understanding.
Hegel's dialectic seems to me as much a method of exposition, of telling ('just so') stories of the evolution of levels of complexity in a system, as a revelation of structure. I think experiencing the feeling of climbing one of these ladders of multi-level explanation gives the essence (or at least, appeal) of it better than an analysis from outside can. I highly recommend reading R.G. Collingwood's Speculum Mentis (1924), which passes 'up' through the realms of art, religion, science, history and philosophy in a recognizably Hegelian way. Only it's written delightfully, with great clarity and insight, unlike nearly all texts in the Hegelian universe. E.g. the chapter on art is one of my favourite things ever written about the nature of art and artists.
James again, on Hegelian dialectics : "The only thing that is certain is that whatever you may say of this procedure, someone will accuse you of misunderstanding it." At least Hegel has the partial excuse of not using the term, but his willfully obscure writing has done, and goes on doing and inspiring more mischief in the world than is at all easy to believe. Santayana's Egotism in German Philosophy (1915) brilliantly and entertainingly dissects the whole tradition, from Leibniz to Nietzsche, after which Nazism seems an unsurprising next step.
On the whole, I suspect ChristianKl is right (even generous) when he says "the word appears like it doesn't appear to pay its rent and doesn't help us to understand things better and it's probably more useful to frame the issues differently."