Hegelian dialectic  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Although Hegel never used such a classification himself, Hegel's dialectic is often described as consisting of three stages: a thesis, an antithesis which contradicts or negates the thesis, and a synthesis embodying what is essential to each. In the Logic, for instance, Hegel describes a dialectic of existence: first, existence must be posited as pure Being (thesis); but pure Being, upon examination, is found to be indistinguishable from Nothing (antithesis); yet both Being and Nothing are united as Becoming (synthesis), when it is realized that what is coming into being is, at the same time, also returning to nothing (consider life: old organisms die as new organisms are created or born). Like Socratic dialectic, Hegel's dialectic proceeds by making implicit contradictions explicit: each stage of the process is the product of contradictions inherent or implicit in the preceding stage. For Hegel, the whole of western history is one tremendous dialectic, the largest moments of which chart a progression from self-alienation as slavery to self-unification and realization as the rational, constitutional state of free and equal citizens.

Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis. This model is named after Hegel but he rarely used these terms himself. Rather it is due to Fichte.

In the Logic, for instance, Hegel describes a dialectic of existence: first, existence must be posited as pure Being (Sein); but pure Being, upon examination, is found to be indistinguishable from Nothing (Nichts). When it is realized that what is coming into being is, at the same time, also returning to nothing (consider life: old organisms die as new organisms are created or born), both Being and Nothing are united as Becoming.

As in the Socratic dialectic, Hegel claimed to proceed by making implicit contradictions explicit: each stage of the process is the product of contradictions inherent or implicit in the preceding stage. For Hegel, the whole of history is one tremendous dialectic, major stages of which chart a progression from self-alienation as slavery to self-unification and realization as the rational, constitutional state of free and equal citizens. The Hegelian dialectic cannot be mechanically applied for any chosen thesis. Critics argue that the selection of any antithesis, other than the logical negation of the thesis, is subjective. Then, if the logical negation is used as the antithesis, there is no rigorous way to derive a synthesis. In practice, when an antithesis is selected to suit the user's subjective purpose, the resulting "contradictions" are rhetorical, not logical, and the resulting synthesis not rigorously defensible against a multitude of other possible syntheses. The problem with the Fichtean "thesis — antithesis — synthesis" model is that it implies that contradictions or negations come from outside of things. Hegel's point is that they are inherent in and internal to things. This conception of dialectics derives ultimately from Heraclitus.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hegelian dialectic" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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