Saturday, March 6, 2010

We're All Hegelians Now(?)

Can someone tell me when GWF Hegel took over the world?

Let me preface this by saying that no sane person should ever even consider reading German philosophy. It's all incoherent, non-sensical crap except for Nietzsche, who is a decent writer and an honest atheist. Anyways, the entire mass of the rest couldn't write their way out of a pre-K class. There is a reason why you see so many "interpretations" of these guys (yes, even Nietzsche), without anyone really knowing what they were talking about. It's because all they did was string together really long sentences, using only the vaguest of words, and wait for people to tell them how smart they were. It's the philosophical equivalent of the Emperor having no clothes.

Back to Hegel. This guy is most famous for what usually gets called the dialectic triad. That's the idea that things progress or are corrected (it takes various forms in the popular mind) by the introduction of a concept (called the thesis), which is then confronted by its contradiction (the antithesis) , said confrontation then resulting in their resolution (the synthesis). Before any philosophy folks have kittens, I know this isn't really what Hegel said, but it's this vulgarized revision that most folks are familiar with, so just roll with it.

Anyways, what I'm driving at with this post is that there seems to be a dominant modern view that the way you reach progress, or even Truth, on a point is by following the Hegelian process above.

Think about the recent debate here in America regarding health care legislation. Droves of people don't seem to care at all what is actually in the law being discussed, just as long as it is "bipartisan," with the implication that a bipartisan law means one that will be good. As long as both sides of the aisle (the thesis and antithesis) manage to have input, we'll all be ok, since the synthesis will be a move in the proper direction.

Right off-hand, I can't think of any guiding principle more bankrupt of reason than this one. What ever happened to people just being plain wrong? How do you get to a correct synthesis if both the thesis and antithesis are bass-ackwards? Yet people just march down the road of non-thinkingness, without even considering the possibility that the input of multiple morons simply leads to more varied forms of stupidity.

It's the same type of stuff that you hear with the ecumenical movement and all these other Jenkinsian pushes for "dialogue." Such postures completely ignore the Church's role as teacher, instead bringing both sides of the discussion into some sort of equivalent position. Then, with enough dialogue, the thesis of Catholicism and the antithesis of whatever false sect is involved will come to a new Truth of synthesis wherein we call all hold hands and buy the world a Coke. The problem is that, if the thesis is already the Truth (as is the case with Catholicism), the entire dialectic process can only lead to corruption.

By the way, Dietrich von Hildebrand (an exception to the aforementioned rule re: German philosophers) talks about this a bit in his book Trojan Horse in the City of God, in case you want to read a pro's take on the whole thing.

Like I said, this isn't really Hegel's fault. His work stinks for a whole host of other reasons. I think it's more of folks' willingness to shelve critical thinking (or just basic reason in this case) in favor of faith that a particular process will do all the real work for them.

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