Hegel’s concept of dialectic presents a very attractive solution to fundamental problems in philosophy. No wonder why so many philosophers, writers, and scientists were attracted to this concept for more than a century.
I did not understand dialectics when I was in college (1977-1981) in Istanbul where I was bombarded by Marxist propaganda presenting dialectical materialism as a new religion. In my mature age, I have become more dialectic-friendly. I am certainly not a materialist. I am referring to the methodology called dialectics. I still have some objections to this methodology but I appreciate it better now.
Digression: by “materialism” I am referring to the philosophy that does not recognize the spiritual dimension of existence. I am not a materialist but It should be clear from my writings, however, that I don’t see “matter” as illusion. I see “matter” as “transformed Consciousness.” Matter is the densest form of Consciousness. In fact, the entire Cosmos (totality of spiritual, mental and physical realms) is transformed Consciousness. Hence, the Cosmos is not separate from Consciousness. This is the meaning of the Unity of Being.
Remember the terminology: Consciousness (“C” is capitalized) is not perception or awareness. Consciousness is the Absolute Being (Godhead) which is the ultimate reality.
Hegelian dialectic of existence according to Jim Holt
In his wonderful book titled “Why Does The World Exist?” Jim Holt summarizes Hegel’s dialectic of existence as follows:
- Thesis: Reality is Pure Being
- Antithesis: Reality is Nothing
- Synthesis: Reality is Becoming
Note: Hegel never used the terminology Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis. He used the terminology Abstract-Negative-Concrete instead.
Similarities and differences with Tantra-Yoga philosophy
The term “Reality” used in Hegel’s philosophy may correspond to Saguna Brahma of the Tantra-Yoga philosophy. Hegel’s “Pure Being”, on the other hand, does not seem to correspond to the Nirguna Brahma of Tantra-Yoga philosophy.
My understanding of the Hegelian dialectic of existence
If you search the internet you will find hundreds of different interpretations of dialectic or dialectics. I will briefly mention my understanding of Hegelian dialectic of existence here and raise one objection.
- Reality (Saguna Brahma) exhibits “Being” and “Becoming” aspects simultaneously.
- It is possible to construct better models of Reality by using the “Being” and the “Becoming” aspects of Reality simultaneously.
- The “Being” and the “Becoming” aspects of Reality are on equal footing.
I agree with (1) and (2) but disagree with (3). After studying all the philosophical positions defending (3) I could not be convinced about (3).
Dialectic is different from dualism
Dialectic is different from dualism in the sense that dialectic is a type of monism. That’s why it is so attractive.
Dialectic is a type of monism
In my article titled “On Different Definitions of Monism” I mentioned the Dialectical Monism.
“Dialectical monism, also known as dualistic monism, is an ontological position that holds that reality is ultimately a unified whole, distinguishing itself from monism by asserting that this whole necessarily expresses itself in dualistic terms. For the dialectical monist, the essential unity is that of complementary polarities, which, while opposed in the realm of experience and perception, are co-substantial in a transcendent sense.” – Wikipedia
In that article I contrasted dialectical monism to the Ananda Marga definition of monism.
“Nirguna and Saguna are two aspects of one and the same Brahma. They are not two different Brahmas. It should be clearly mentioned that Ananda Marga is absolute monism – it is not dualism. A question may arise: How can Ananda Marga be called monism when it declares that Shiva and Shakti are separate entities. The answer is that in Ananda Marga philosophy, Shiva, or Cognitive Force, is both the material and the efficient cause, whereas Shakti, or Operative Force, is only the efficient cause. Shakti is merely subservient to Shiva, Shakti has no existence separate from Shiva. So we can safely conclude that Ananda Marga philosophy is based on monism.” – “Philosophical Treatise of Ananda Marga” (a text of only 17 paragraphs)
Even though the Ananda Marga Monism sounds very much like the Dialectical Monism it is not the same because Ananda Marga Monism does not accept “complementary polarities” as equally substantial. Ananda Marga philosophy clearly states that the cognitive aspect (Consciousness) of Absolute Being (Godhead) is primary