Quora answer: What are some life lessons learned through reading Hegel that are useful in other parts of life?

Apr 08 2013

First of all I must say that Hegel is definitely one of the hardest philosophers I have ever tried to understand, and I would not even have been able to start if it were not for the Bernsteintapes.com course on Hegel by Bernstein. I had tried and failed to read Phenomenology of Mind for years getting no where, but Bernstein gave me enough of a starting point to get me into the reading and made it possible for me to understand some  of it. Then I went on to listen to Bernstein’s other two lecture courses on Kant, and that helped me to understand Kant better, and that of course has a trickle down effect on understanding Hegel better because one is getting the interpretations from the same source. So I highly recommend listening to Bernsteintapes.com lectures as a way into Hegel. I have read a lot of secondary texts on Hegel, especially about dialectics. I have probably read every book about dialectics that exists, or near to it, well the english ones anyway. But what shocked me was that none of them mention that Hegel not only invented modern dialectics (however you can see it at work in Aeschylus in the Orestia if you look, so it is actually an old idea) but also he invented Trialectics. He does this at the point where he introduces work, and just as he is about to transition to Spirit. So this was a revelation to me, which seems to not have been picked up in the secondary literature which is quite amazing. There are some scholars that have their own version of Trialectics, but that is something else, and so the term is overloaded which needs to be considered when using the term. Well the discovery of Trialectics in Hegel allowed me to go on and continue to articulate Quadralectics and Pentalectics which I did in my recent dissertation called Emergent Design. So the area that I want to say that Hegel applies to in life outside of philosophy is design, which I try to show in my dissertation. I think that the identification of Hegelian Trialectics is very important. Of course he does  not call it Trialectics which is why it is a close reading is necessary to discern it. But I think it is quite clear and the fact that he puts it in his discussion of work, and that work is the penultimate thing before the transition to spirit I think is quite significant. It implies that work is the foundation of spirit in some sense. That means the work we do together binds us into a kind of collective mood or conscious affiliation that allows Spirit to unfold. Geist means Mind and Ghost and Spirit. The old english equivalent is http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gast which is life and spirit.

Middle English gost, gast, from Old English gāst; akin to Old High German geist spirit, Sanskrit heḍa anger


“Ghost” came.from the Old English ~gast~, related to the German ~geist~. ~Gast~ sneaks into modern English in “aghast” (be shocked, terrified, rendered breathless) http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gast and “flabbergast.” The German ~Zeitgeist~directly entered English; it means “the spirit of the times.”

http://www.adishakti.org/_/holy_spirit_or_holy_ghost.htm See also http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/feorh The upshot of this is that feorh has more to do with the blood of the living that confers spirit of life while gast/gost is more the idea of what lingers after death of a person who is no longer living. On the other hand in German it is Geist that has these meanings of Ghost and Spirit but also means mind which is conferred by the word Mood in Old English. Of course Heidegger gives mood a philosophical meaning in Being and Time being the non-specific mood of Anxiety that points toward the world and ones finitude within the world. Heidegger says at one point in Being and Time that Dasein is Geist. In some sense, although Heidegger hides the fact, Being and Time is an attempt to go back to the Phenomenology of Hegel to recontextualize the phenomenology of Husserl. It is Heidegger’s attempt to distance himself from Husserl via the more archaic phenomenology and giving it new meaning. Significantly Hegel appears at the beginning and end of Being at Time. And Dasein is a key term in Hegel’s Logic, as Determinate Being, the first positing of a new thesis after the synthesis of Being and Emptiness as Heraclitian Flux. Dasein is already embedded in the Mitsein and has to purify itself by understanding his relation to death so that Dasein can become authentic. Purified Dasein in some sense then can become pure spirit, i.e. the spiritual side of the community that embodies the holy spirit/ghost which is the neglected part of the trinity on which Hegel pinned all his hopes as a way to revive Christianity in a Pietist framework http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pietism] based on the revelations of Jacob Bohme http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Bohme .

So the Phenomenology of Geist is about our embeddedness in a community of the spirit which is also a community of the mind and therefore lives in history and goes though an evolution of the life of the mind, i.e. a history of not just ideas but ways of thinking about the world. Basically what Hegel tries to do is to show how each stage of that evolution exhaust all the covalent possibilities at each stage and then gives rise to the next higher stage that resolves the conflicts between these different covalent approaches to looking at the world. Spirit evolves as we discover new possibilities at each stage of that evolution. By reading the works at each stage we can reconstuct those states of mind that were shared and forged into various dogmatic positions that vied with each other in determining the nature of the world and of ourselves. So the way this applies to life is that at any stage in your development there are several structural possibilities of different ways to conceive of the world and ones place in it. If we exhaust all these ways of approaching the lifeworld (to use a term from Husserl) then we can ourselves see though their diversity to the underlying assumption that they have in common, as say Kant did in the move from dogmatic to critical philosophy, and then we can pursue understanding things from the next higher perspective, which should open up new possibilities of a different quality from those subsumed in our new view. And this is precisely what happens as you go from Descartes to Kant to Husserl to Hegel to Heidegger (note out of order series on purpose) for instance. In a way one should not be dogmatic and think what ever thoughts one has about things are the last word, but rather we should consider all the possible structural differences that are available as ways of looking at the world and identify with all of them. Then one may comprehend their underlying nihilistic assumption (example Communism and Capitalism assume humans are only valuable for production and nothing else, nb.  The Mirror of Production by Baudrillard). So we can understand that after a century of ideological struggles between Fascism, Capitalism and Communism that eventually they would all become alike via their struggles with each other until now we have Corporatism which is a combination of the three that supersedes them all. We still think of ourselves as Capitalists who live in a Liberal Democracy, but in fact the struggle against Fascism and Communism over the last century changed us and now we are entering the area of globalization and corporate oligarchy in which corporations are seen as persons as a recent Supreme Court decision shows. As Ron Paul points out Obama is not a socialist but a corporatist. He is working to increase the power of corporations, because that is where the re-election money comes from. The Occupy movement does not know what they are against because we have not really identified Corporatism as a threat to democracy yet. But it is clear that the Republicans have sold their souls to the Corporatist agenda and also it is clear that this is a danger to our Liberal democracy. Liberal Democracy is a form of government that provides liberty for the individuals, not corporations. But now corporations are posing even more as persons and claiming the rights of citizens, super-citizens. With regard to corporations we are at once employees, shareholders, and customers of corporations. But these corporations are mandated to screw over employees and customers and citizens to maximize shareholder value. Thus corporations do not protect the Commons but feed off of them. Zizek in his speech to Occupy Wallstreet said that the only part of Communism that was still relevant was the idea of protecting the commons. Occupy Wallstreet attempted to occupy the commons, and they were tolerated for some time, but eventually thrown out, for reasons of sanitation. So just as Fascism, Communism and Capitalism become one via their mutual struggle in the Twentieth Century, we are now entering a new Corporatist century where the struggle will be between corporations and ideas like Anonymous. In other words Corporations are made up of people who are relegated to various roles,  but these people’s rights are being threatened by the corporations in which they work who are starting to vie with them for the privileges of citizenship. Anonymous says that if the corporation is doing wrong then those within the corporation should leak the evidence, and this something that the corporations are going to have trouble securing themselves from, insiders whistle blowing and sending data about misdeeds to wikileaks.  Corporations have no moral compass, and thus they will do what ever is in the best interests of their internal bureaucracy and sociopathic CEOs and other leaders. Anonymous calls on people within the corporation to divulge the secrets of the conspirators within the corporation who are breaking the law. And so we have a new kind of struggle that is the dual of Terrorism in the coming century. Terrorism is the war with the other, and what is coming is the War with the self, i.e. the war between the people within the corporation regardless of their roles and the corporation itself. Now the corporation is a very low form of Spirit. It is reified Spirit.  But there is a new kind of corporation in some states that is allowed to do good things as well as make money, and they are not forced to increase shareholder value at all costs. And so this is a slightly higher form of less reified corporations. Corporations are bubbles of sovereignty in our democratic society. So some corporations are deciding to run themselves as limited democracies internally, and so this is another step of less reification. And of course some corporations are coops who are owned by their employees and consumers instead of by capitalists. All these are progressive ways in which Corporations can become less reified and thus shine with actual spirit rather than merely to continue to be evil by being the out of control vehicle that is destroying the planet, not to mention lives, and careers, etc along the way. In software development Agile methods are catching on where like in Sports team spirit is given a value which is promoted by the organization. So every time you participate in a self-organizing quasi-democratic team you are getting some concrete experience of Spirit which is something which if facilitated can improve our lives immensely. For the most part Corporate Values are just spin, but if corporations could have real values and follow those values then that could transform our lives because we spend a lot of our lives acting in and four corporations. It is interesting that Hegel’s Spirit did not become a major influence in sociology. It probably had some influence on Comte. But Comte began Positivism as opposed to speculative philosophy. Positivism wants positive empirical data to support its assertions rather than speculative reasoning. And because Hegelianism was an underpinning of Marxism it was always suspect even though Marx turned Hegel upside down and replaced idealism with materialism. Thus after Comte sociologists speak of Durkheim and Weber and sometimes Marx but almost never Hegel. But it is with the idea of Spirit that Hegel really inaugurated the concept of Sociology, even if he did not give it that name, because he was talking about the shared culture of societies that develop over time and the logic of that development as mirrored in philosophy which demonstrated the evolution of consciousness into social conscience. This is why the story of Antigone. She contradicts Creon’s edict over burying her brother and upholds traditional communal and family values against the values of the state. An interesting modern-day version of this way of thinking is Community without Unity by William Corlett http://books.google.com/books/about/Community_Without_Unity.html?id=J6cU5wVfsHcC   http://www.quora.com/What-are-some-life-lessons-learned-through-reading-Hegel-that-are-useful-in-other-parts-of-life

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