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Marxism and the Hegelian Dialectic

The following is from the Donmeh Mail list
Thur, 16 Apr 1999

Yakov Leib, Prof.Andrew Wilson, and Prof. Tom Hickey

Yakov wrote:

One of the things I've often wondered about Hegel's dialectic is whether "thesis" and "antithesis" always result in "synthesis." A possible disproof of that, it seems to me, might be the gigantic failure of Marxist philosophy and economics, which was based in large part on Hegelian thinking.

Andrew comments:

In my view, Marx's error was to interpret Hegel materialistically. Marx took Hegel's concept of dialectical negation of the Idea and made it negation of matter. This led Marxism to a theory pitting the capitalists against the proletariat, and justifying armed struggle. Nevertheless, Hegel's notion of dialectics with its concept of negation could certainly spawn such a mistake.

Tom Hickey responds:

Yes, I think that in "turning Hegel upside down," Marx got it backwards. It seems to me that Hegel's notion of negation as the driving force of  Becoming is related to the Nothingness of God/Ein Sof, i.e., Ayin. It is the basis of the dissolving aspect, as in the Hindu concept of Shiva or God's function as Dissolver. It could be also interpreted as corresponding with the Kabbalistic notion of nullification of being as what humans consider positively existent before God as negatively existent (Ayin). See the sections in Hegel's Logic on Being, Nothing and Becoming.

Andrew wrote further:

In my view, reality does not proceed so much dialectically as dialogically. The base of life is not conflict but harmony. This seems to be implicit in the Kabbalah's idea of the harmonious intercourse between the Ayn Sof and the material world through the mediation of the Sefirot, as well as the axes that link the Sefirot on the male and female side together. The Shechinah descends when there is harmony in the home, in the village, in the nation.

Tom responds:

I believe that Hegel's view includes both the dialectical and dialogical.  Marxists saw only the historical and materialistic dialectic, which is how the dialogical is reflected temporally in the relative changing universe, dominated by natural catastrophe, war, etc. But underlying this "buzzin, bloomin' confusion," to recall William James, is the purposeful "play" of Spirit eternally glorifying itself in its own Self-revelation in matter, but not as different from matter, since matter is really only an aspect or "appearance" of Spirit in the finite (consciousness). However, this Self-revelation occurs only in the life of a person of wisdom who can see the inner logic of the life of Spirit in the temporal and historical process of Incarnation, not in ordinary conscious, in which one is overshadowed by the shadow play. See Plato's cave analogy. As I said previously, I think Hegel's genius was his insight into the spiritual import of ancient Greek wisdom, which is one with the Universal Teaching.

Hegel, I think, has been misrepresented in much of the scholarship, especially due to unfortunate historical interpretations that gave "Hegeliansim" a bad odor, as well as to Hegel's own rather abrasive personality that may have sidetracked attention from his deepest insights. But Western scholars have also tended to miss the spiritual import of ancient Greek thought and so have trivialized not only the Greeks but Hegel along with them.

Peace and love.


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