Thursday, 1 October 2009


Having been granted an incredibly lengthy summer break, I thought only fair to intellectually challenge myself. ‘The History of Western Philosophy’ by Bertrand Russell has long graced my bookshelf, used only as a resource. When coming across philosophers in other literature, I could easily refer to this book to glean a little information on their theories. I have found this an immensely useful tool. However I firmly believed it would be nigh on impossible to read this book cover to cover as if an Austen novel. Nevertheless (hopefully I get some points for endeavour) I tried. I have to say to varying degrees of success. I skipped some bits, I read with intrigue some bits, overall I found much of it relatively comprehendible, the chapter titled Hegel was not one of these bits.
However since today’s lecture I have put together a mini-analysis of Hegel, which I think one can digest with relative ease.
Hegel has three major theories which you can dissect to understand his wider philosophy.
1) Alienation. This is the idea that the mind can perceive it’s own thoughts, thus being alienated from itself. Hegel has a circular conception of life, starting from an ‘enlightened’ state, being ‘at one’ with god, at this point our consciousness is internalised. Then, after ‘the fall’ from the garden of Eden (when Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge) our thoughts become externalised. Our minds will only internalise again when humans regress to a state of ‘oneness’ with god.
2) Change. Hegel believes, contrary to empiricists that there are no objects, there is only change. Nothing is static. This preceded the scientific idea that all matter is an evolving chemical reaction. Furthermore, he believes change is constantly occurring, change is time. Therefore you can only understand what is happening to you after it is has happened, and it is therefore no longer happening. This suggests to me that we are only able to conceive our thoughts retrospectively.
3) The previous theories of Hegel are substantiated by the last, which is Dialectic. This theory explains that everything has a counterpart, and an outcome. ‘Dialectic’ coming from the Greek, meaning debate is defined as ‘the investigation of the truth of opinions, especially logical discussion.’
The idea of a debate is that there are two opposing sides of an argument and a result, this result may not necessarily be a solution, one of Hegel’s favourite outcomes was often revolt or war. However there will always be a result.This affirms again the scientific atomic theory, as a good example would be a proton existing, it’s counterpart being an electron and matter being the result of these two co-existing. The proton would be the thesis, the electron, the antithesis and the matter would be the synthesis. The idea can be used in an abstract sense or a more practical sense such as the Thesis; a home team Antithesis; an away team and the synthesis being the game.

1 comment:

  1. Good notes. What about Karl Marx though? And any thoughts on Germinal. Have you read it yet?