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A Critique of Hegel

Hegel suggests that history can be summarized by the process that his followers called thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. He himself almost never used those terms. Instead, his premise is that each concept that is applied by a society carries within it an inherent contradiction. This built-in contradiction leads to the emergence of the antithesis, and the attempt to reconcile this problem leads to the final step of the synthesis. This process then repeats itself.

For instance, one example which Hegel gave was people organizing into societies in order to combine their efforts and for mutual protection against enemies. This solution then led to a societal split between the common citizen and the ruling class. The ruling class did not progress further because its only goal was to stay in power. But, the pressure under which the citizens toiled forced them to develop skills along with an attitude of stoicism. The ‘thesis’ of stoicism then led to the ‘antithesis’ of skepticism which then provoked the ‘synthesis’ of the monk retreating from society in order to live in the wilderness. And so on and so forth.

According to Hegel, knowledge does not arise instantly. Instead, it grows step by step. It is as each group becomes aware of its condition and recognizes the contradiction under which it lives that the next step in the process begins.

He also says that the negation of the negation of A is not the same as A. In other words, if you take the opposite of the opposite of white, you do not get white. Instead, you end up with something different. White in this case is the ‘thesis’, the opposite of white is the ‘antithesis’, while the opposite of that is the new synthesis. Is this a valid principle? Yes. Why? Is it because logic does not work? No. Rather, forming the ‘antithesis’ lets the genie out of the bottle, so to speak, and once the genie is out, you can’t put him back the same way that you let him out.

For instance, I suggest that describes a prominent conceptual error of the religious right in the United States. They remember that society used to believe in absolute truth. That is the ‘thesis’. However, society no longer accepts the concept of absolute truth. That is the current ‘antithesis’. They conclude that absolute truth needs to be re-introduced into society. The problem is that the truth which used to be believed was accepted because of blind faith, and once this blind faith is gone, then the only way to bring it back is by imposing truth upon the population through force and dictatorship. Thus, instead of restoring conscience and the rule of law, the method of the religious right would actually lead to a dictatorship in which the leader considers himself to be above the law and has no respect for the law. In the language of Hegel, even though the ‘antithesis’ was a reaction against the ‘thesis’, and the ‘synthesis’ is a reaction against the ‘antithesis’, the end result is not the original point but rather something quite different.

Ironically, I suggest that Hegel’s model fails for precisely this same reason. Because the model is true, it actually ends up being false. Let me explain. Hegel’s model described the society in which he lived. That is the ‘thesis’. But, this model was accepted and modified by many groups. For instance, dialectical materialism was the foundation for Marxism and communist thought. All of these various responses formed the ‘antithesis’ to Hegel’s theory. Philosophers who attempted to form a ‘synthesis’ out of this ended up, not with Hegel’s theory, but rather with the angst of mental confusion and uncertainty. Thus, Hegel’s concepts released a mental genie from the bottle and that genie destroyed the foundation for Hegel’s concepts.

The reason for this can be explained by the model of mental symmetry. As a Facilitator person, Hegel was conscious in the part of the mind that observes, mixes and balances. But, the observer of the mind is not the same as the mind. What creates an antithesis? What causes one segment of society to identity itself as a distinct entity and to feel alienated from another segment society? It is Perceiver thought that decides which experiences belong together and which ones do not.

For instance, Perceiver thought in the mind of the communist comrade looked at stores at which he shopped and the goods that he could buy, compared these with the stores and goods accessible to the party member and came to the conclusion that these were not the same. As Hegel emphasizes, this type of Perceiver knowledge does not come instantly. Instead, it is built up one example at a time until it becomes a fact that is known with great confidence and deep certainty. Similarly, today the average Western citizen is gradually coming to a deep knowledge that he is being governed by an elite class that lives an existence that is utterly different than his.

It is this continual repetition of facts within a context of emotional Mercy pressure that builds Perceiver confidence: we are citizens; they belong to the elite class. I am paid adequate wages, but they make more in a day than I make in a year. I have an old car; he has a brand new yacht. I have to wait in line for medical treatment; he flies on his private jet to an exclusive clinic where he is treated by a team of world-class doctors. And so on…

Whenever the mind contains solid Perceiver bricks, then Teacher thought will use them to build an intellectual structure. This new Teacher understanding then leads to the synthesis that reconciles thesis and antithesis. This two stage process describes the life of the typical Facilitator philosopher: He starts with uncertainty. He builds Perceiver certainty by struggling to search for mental clarity. These solid Perceiver bricks are then combined into a philosophy by Teacher thought. I describe this further in the section on history.

Why do I focus upon Perceiver confidence and not Server confidence? Because of the asymmetrical effect which the physical body has upon the mind. The mind may be symmetrical, but the interaction between the mind and the body is not. On the one hand, Server confidence is relatively easy to gain. Whenever I practice or repeat a physical action, I am building Server confidence in action. Whenever I write words down, or type them into a computer, I am adding some Server confidence to Teacher theories. Perceiver confidence, on the other hand, is a more invisible quantity; it cannot be built up through any physical process. Instead, it is the result of agonized observation and uncomfortable analysis.

Remember that there are two ways of acquiring Perceiver ‘truth’. One is the long, hard way of careful observation, in which Perceiver thought gradually gains the confidence to organize Mercy experience into solid categories. But, there is also the shortcut of blind faith and defining experiences, in which emotional experiences overwhelm Perceiver thought and mesmerize it into ‘knowing’ instantly what is ‘true’.

As we shall see later, communism is built upon Hegel’s concept of dialectic. However, a communist revolution will not trigger the process of dialectic because it uses the trauma of war to define ‘truth’. Instead, it leads only to war, oppression and dictatorship. However, the long drawn out ‘class struggle’ between the communist comrade and the communist party member did lead eventually to the dialectic transformation of the downfall of communism.

As I mention elsewhere, Facilitator blending and mixing is guided by the information that Server and Perceiver thought know for certain—the choices and beliefs that are contained within the internal world of Server and Perceiver strategies. In neurological terms, dorsolateral Frontal cortex guides the balancing that is done by the reticular thalamic nucleus. The typical Facilitator person has no problem gaining Server confidence. But, he does struggle with the task of building Perceiver confidence.

Hegel’s Assumptions

Hegel’s personal struggle to clarify the concepts of dialectic built Perceiver confidence within his own mind. His attempts to bring intellectual order to this information helped to develop Teacher strategy. But, this did not happen with his readers. Instead, they were presented with a complete theory—served on a platter, as it were. Therefore, what they concluded from Hegel was quite different than what Hegel said.

First, they concluded that absolute truth does not exist: Everything is in flux; truth evolves over time; nothing remains solid. In other words, there is no solid content for the internal Perceiver world.

Second, they concluded that Facilitator blending is sufficient to generate mental content. Hegel himself only used the terms thesis, antithesis, synthesis once in his entire writings. Instead, Hegel usually referred to these three stages as abstract, negative, concrete. However, we associate Hegel with thesis, antithesis, synthesis, because others interpreted his thinking in this way.

The point is that thesis, antithesis, synthesis is a very Facilitator friendly formulation. It suggests that each concept or group somehow, magically, creates its opposite, and that Facilitator mixing then steps in and delivers its crowning solution through the process of compromise. In other words, if you start with white paint, then black paint will appear out of nowhere, and if you continue mixing, then you will come up with the ideal color.  

But, what defines the white paint, and what distinguishes the white paint from the black paint? Perceiver thought, which the readers of Hegel concluded no longer exists. What picks out the perfect color? Teacher strategy, which the Facilitator confuses with Facilitator mixing.Therefore, by defining dialectic, Hegel set off a process in his followers which led inevitably to the implosion of Facilitator thought.

What happens when you start with black and white paint and continue mixing—without explicitly reintroducing any new whites or blacks? Eventually, everything turns into the same shade of gray. Using the language of thermodynamics, you end up with ‘heat death’, in which further progress becomes impossible because everything is at the same temperature.

Similarly, if you want to generalize from a fixed reference point, then you need Teacher thought. Facilitator strategy averages. This is a very useful strategy when applied to the task of interpolation. Teacher thought, in contrast, ‘interprets the elephant in the light of the gnat’. It searches through the bin for the single element which is the key factor and then interprets other items in the light of that single element.

For instance, Einstein was a Teacher person. He took the obscure fact that the speed of light stays the same no matter how fast you are moving and interpreted all of space and time in the light of this single principle. The result was a universal theory of relativity. If Teacher thinking elevates the wrong specific item, then the result will be a false theory, but if it picks the right one, then everything will fit together. I should mention in passing that Teacher thought—by itself—often elevates the wrong item, but that is another topic.

Summarizing, there are two fundamental errors with the post-Hegelian interpretation of thesis, antithesis, synthesis:

1) You cannot generate solid points using a mental strategy that blends and mixes.

2) You cannot produce generality using a mental strategy that interpolates.

By the way, opening up another can of worms, I suggest that the same two principles apply to the theory of evolution, which is another Facilitator invention (Charles Darwin was a Facilitator person.) Restating these two principles in the terms of evolution:

1) If all life evolved gradually, then why is it possible to organize living organisms into discrete categories? Why are there cats and dogs, for instance? Instead, there should be cats, and cogs, and dats, and dat-cogs, and a whole continuum of beings all up and down the chain, which would make categorization impossible. The very fact that categorization is possible suggests that something other than Facilitator mixing is also at play.

2) Micro-evolution, or genetic interpolation, is obviously true. But, does it make sense to take a strategy of interpolation and use it to extrapolate across all of existence? I was taught in statistics that while interpolation can lead to the error of inaccurate measurement, extrapolation runs the additional risk of not just measuring incorrectly, but applying the wrong yardstick.

If you want an external example of the fallacy of using Facilitator synthesis without Perceiver categories, look at the grayness of the communist country. When I spent a weekend in communist Czechoslovakia, it literally felt as if I had gone from color television to black and white. Everything, and I do mean everything, was gray. And what is the philosophic basis for communism? Dialectical materialism, an application of Hegel’s method of dialectic to the material world.

Communism also tried to remove all Perceiver thought from the external environment: laws were overturned; private property was abolished; wealth was redistributed; individuality was discouraged; economic cause and effect was eliminated; people were placed into communes. The end result was economic and social ‘heat death’. Nobody was motivated to do anything because there was no longer any reason for doing anything.

As for Teacher understanding, instead of learning about physical law and natural order, the communist cadre studied dialectic, and he attempted to provoke change through the thesis versus antithesis of eternal revolutionary zeal. However, it was the technocrat and the nomenklatura with their technical facts and their Teacher understanding that actually produced the changes that communist dialectic promised but could not deliver.

Communism, I suggest, makes a third error in addition to assuming that Perceiver truth is not necessary and that Facilitator dialectic is sufficient. It also declares that mental content is unnecessary: change the environment and the individual will follow. But, it is the mental content which a person or group acquires that actually drives the Hegelian process. In the words of Hegel, it is when a group becomes self-aware and realizes how it differs from another segment of society that the next stage is triggered.

A similar process happened mentally with philosophy after Hegel. As long as philosophers declared that Perceiver absolutes did not exist and as long as they insisted upon the supremacy of Facilitator mixing, then each philosopher only succeeded in knowing less than his predecessor. Ultimately, Jean Paul Sartre concluded that only direct experience exists, and that any attempt at self-knowledge is doomed to failure. It is interesting to note that Sartre was also a staunch Marxist, demonstrating his connection with dialectic thought.  

Facilitator Thought and Truth

So, why does Facilitator strategy hate Perceiver absolutes when his mind cannot function without them? First, of all, Facilitator thought observes mental processing from a distance, and so it does not realize the global consequences of its immediate choices.

The second reason has to do with the way in which Perceiver truth is presented. Facilitator thought uses truth as a guide for mixing and blending. Truth that is acquired as blind faith may be solid, but it cannot handle blending, because blending destroys blind faith. For instance, suppose that I accept that the Bible is my ultimate source of truth. Using this as a reference point, Facilitator strategy will then try to compare the Bible with other holy books, such as the Quran, or the Book of Mormon. But, the very act of comparing the Bible with other holy sources will cause a person to question the supremacy of the Bible. This places the Facilitator person in a catch-22 predicament. He needs truth, but truth shuts him down. Given a choice between preserving conscious thought and protecting a subconscious mode of thought, a person will almost always choose to stick with conscious thought. And so, the Facilitator person chooses blending over absolute truth. The ultimate problem, of course, is the mental contradiction of attempting to build universal truth upon a specific item or incident.

The situation is totally different when Perceiver truth is gained through repetition and Perceiver confidence. Repetition, by definition, involves many similar items. When a Perceiver ‘bin’ is full of individual Mercy ‘items’, then Facilitator strategy is free to pick between these items and blend to its heart’s content. Facilitator blending then adds the third dimension to human thought, making thinking flexible and adjustable.

Hegel’s Concept of God and Religion

Because Hegel’s thinking occurred within the context of pre-Hegelian ‘truth’, the content that he developed was quite significant. I should mention that I developed my ideas on my own several years ago and I only recently did I realize that Hegel was describing something similar. Until now, I have equated Hegel with thesis, synthesis, and antithesis, and have basically written him off as an attempt to by Facilitator thought to do a coup d’état over the rest of the mind.

1) If you make explicit the two elements of Perceiver content and confidence together with Teacher understanding, then Hegel’s model—as he describes it—is quite similar to the concept of birth, death, and resurrection. You begin with some living system, such as a seed in the ground, or a social grouping. Truth then arrives and brings death by separating and categorizing: the seed dies; the social group feels alienated. Teacher order then brings resurrection. The dead seed transforms into a living plant; the social group develops new understanding and new structure.

This is the essence of my theory of Christian salvation: Mercy idolatry leads to life, Perceiver truth kills this life, and Teacher understanding brings it back to life at a higher level.

2) Hegel’s application of dialectic to the concept of God also makes sense—if you add Perceiver and Teacher thought to the equation. Here is Hegel’s explanation: God began as Universal Existence. The opposite of universal is specific. God entered the particular through the person of Jesus. Jesus then reconciled humans with God leading to the ‘synthesis’ of individuals existing within the Holy Spirit.

But, what defines the particular and causes someone to know that he is a specific person? Perceiver thought. Similarly, what allows the individual to remain an individual and yet become part of a group? Teacher strategy.

Facilitator blending, by itself, it incapable of generating either the particular or the individual. You can mix a can of paint as long as you want and it will not coagulate into separate particles, unless some other process is at play that is different than the mixing. Similarly, if you take a group of particles and mix them together, then they will lose their individuality, unless the grouping occurs in a fractal sort of way in which one item is chosen as an archetype that represents and encapsulates the essence of the other items.

Therefore, I suggest that Hegel’s description of God actually describes how God himself undergoes birth, death and resurrection. But why would a Perfect Infinite Being need to experience rebirth?

Here is the theological argument: The essence of Jesus the man is birth, death, and resurrection. If Jesus is also God, and if God is universal, then birth, death, and resurrection must be a universal principle. However, if it is a universal principle, then it must also apply to God.

So, how can an infinite God experience birth, death, and resurrection? By going through the finite step of incarnation and then re-emerging transformed on the other side. The essence of God was contained within the finite person of Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus will give everything back to the Father, leading to a transformed existence in which all finite beings are partial expressions, illustrations, and examples of the universal structure and order of God.

This explains why an infinite God would need finite human assistance. It appears to be a general Christian principle that God will never act in human history unless some finite human being first embodies a specific attribute of God. If you want an example, look at the story of Job.

3) Hegel’s Trinity. Hegel defines the Christian Father, Son and Holy Spirit as idea, finite reality, and reconciled community, summarizing the concepts that we just discussed. I define the Trinity as universal Teacher, Contributor incarnation, and universal Mercy, a quite similar definition. An idea is a Teacher theory without any substance. It is like saying F = MA to you without giving you any specific illustrations of Newton’s law of motion. In the human realm, intellectual Contributor thought helps to build universal Teacher understanding, it adds substance to the general concepts. In theological language, Jesus was with God as the universe was created. Practical Contributor thought, in contrast, uses the same Contributor content to build a plan for reaching a finite human goal. Incarnation occurs when these two aspects of Contributor thought come together and Jesus becomes both God and man. I explore this concept further in my discussion about Christianity.

When these two aspects of Contributor thought are brought together, then it becomes possible to redeem personal identity from its childish identity and rebuild it following a true Hegelian process of birth, death, and resurrection. What emerges then is the Holy Spirit, a community of Mercy universality in which Perceiver thought defines the individual and Teacher structure brings them together.

If you want a partial example, think of capitalism (the real thing and not today’s corporatocracy which masquerades as capitalism). Perceiver thought defines the individual and establishes rules of private property. Teacher order then creates the general structure within which individuals are free to specialize and trade. (Again, I am ignoring the Server side of this equation. For a discussion of that, please look at the pages on Heidegger.)

In conclusion, Hegel makes a lot of sense of you look at what he said and not at what others said that he said. However, by saying what he did and not making explicit the role played by Perceiver and Teacher thought, Hegel set off a chain of events that triggered the Hegelian dialectic of blind faith, Facilitator philosophy, and dictatorship. The blind faith of Christianity provided the initial knowing, Facilitator synthesis then digested this blind faith leading eventually to a sense of angst in the subjective. Moving on to the next cycle, this subjective angst, combined with ‘antithesis’ of objective technology led to the ‘synthesis’ of the dictator, who combined subjective certainty with objective military might. Russia and Germany have already experienced this entire dialectic chain, while we in the West are in the process of entering the second ‘synthesis’ triggered by the angst of 9/11.