Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Hegelian Materialism and Transcendence

Christopher M. Quigley
B.SC., M.I.I.I. Grad., M.A.

James Joyce often stated that history was a nightmare from which he sought to escape. Hegel was the first philosopher to fully incorporate time (history) into his system and thereby he produced the mental framework for advancing socialism and ultimately communism. Under his system of thought the only "time" is human time and its ultimate end product is a closed society where individuality is lost and "time" stops. Thus a nightmare of the "ever bureaucratic present" is replacing the nightmare of "history" around the globe.

Hegel in his masterwork "Phenomenology of Spirit" propounded that the only time that matters is human time, all else (i.e. nature) is space. This human time develops through a "dialectic" process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. For Hegel reality was all about a struggle for recognition and the story of history is the story of this struggle. Hegelian conflict produces masters and slaves. Masters order society; slaves build society. History is the story of this human action. While Hegel accepted the existence of spirit he rejected the existence of any God, he was a total materialist. Alexander Kojeve explains it as follows:

"Hegel knew that this knowledge cost him dearly. He speaks of a period of total depression that he lived through between the twenty-fifth and thirtieth years of his life. A "hypochondria" that was so severe as to paralyse all his powers, and that came precisely from the fact that he could not accept the necessary abandonment of individuality- that is, actually, of humanity- which the idea of absolute knowledge demanded. But, finally, he surmounted this "hypochondria" and becoming a wise man by that final acceptance of death. He published a few years later the first part of the "System of Science" entitled "Science of the Phenomenology of the Spirit", in which he definitely reconciled himself with all that is and has been, by declaring that THERE WILL NEVER BE ANYTHING NEW ON THE EARTH........ Thus the phenomenology ends with a radical denial of all transcendence."

The end result of this philosophy was a rejection of the divine and a replacement of the role of God by the State. This became the philosophical bedrock for the rise of Socialism and Communism. This mentality accepted that Man was alone and must rely on his own devices to survive and prosper. To quote Hegel:

"Man is negating action, which transforms given being and, by transforming it, transforms itself. Man IS what he IS only to the extent that he BECOMES what he is; HIS TRUE BEING IS BECOMING, TIME, HISTORY; and he becomes, he is history only in and by action that negates the given, THE ACTION OF FIGHTING AND OF WORK........."

"........For dialectical understanding is nothing other than the historical or temporal understanding of the real. Dialectic reveals the trinitary structure of being. In other words, in and by its dialectic the real reveals a present situated between the past and the future, THAT IS, AS A CREATIVE MOMENT, OR ELSE, AGAIN AS A RESULT WHICH IS A PROJECT AND A PROJECT WHICH IS A RESULT-

"........Only the present thus determined by the future and past is a human or historical present......."

Thus in summary, for Hegel, the "dialectical process" or the "concept" of reality is man in the present, focused on future action, determined by his experience of past events. THUS THE FORMULA IS: PRESENT-FUTURE-PAST.

We know this to be the correct interpretation because further on Hegel says;


For my part one can only truly understand the modern march toward global socialism and communism when one understands Hegel. In almost every society today we see five and ten year "economic & social plans". Human beings have become subservient to a FUTURE rather than the PRESENT. In other words the world lives in a suspended state of future orientation. "Nobody is here everybody is there". When one understands the nature of the Hegelian system one can readily comprehend why its teachings were so influential on Marx, Engels and Lenin. Anybody can be made to do anything in the expectation of the future "Utopia". Unfortunately what Marx and Lenin knew, which they did not inform their followers, was that Hegelianism is a closed philosophy, which produces a static society, which has no allowance for individuality. Static societies eventually stop "time" and opportunity is limited due to "statism". This is exactly what is happening all over the world today. Material future orientation is making the whole world "the same" and "time" ( i.e. human time) appears to be the same also. (E. G. the New Year, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas all blend into one similar event throughout the globe and nothing is "special" anymore because the local human "magic", the mystery and romance have gone and nobody really understands why).

To prevent a monolithic world sameness overtaking every society and destroying individuality folks need to understand the underlying Hegelian materialism surrounding modern culture. You cannot overcome what you do not understand.
Human culture is more than "a plan". The present does matter. Individuality is paramount. Freedom is essential to true peace and happiness. Creativity and individuality, fundamental benchmarks of western culture, need to become heroic ideals again. The socialist Emperor must be seen to have no clothes. TIME HAS NOT STOPPED BECAUSE "GOD IS DEAD"; as Hegel proposed. "God" is alive and is a human knowledge of truth, which accepts that there is transcendence. Human beings
evolved from nature. Therefore Hegel is wrong when he asserts that nature is "space" because the development of human consciousness enabled human beings to move beyond " nature" and transform it, therefore human consciousness is "transcendence" made manifest. This "transcendence" means that the future is not certain as socialists and communists assert, but is free and open and subject to potentials and possibilities as yet unknown. Consciousness proves Hegel false because we now know the following: THAT WHICH WAS NEED NOT NECESSARILY BE, THERE IS FREE WILL.

Thus in essence the spiritual crisis in World events is a crisis in human philosophy. The sophists are alive and kicking and are running the show. Social progressive materialists, of the Hegelian type, are communists in humanist clothing. Freedom and individuality and transcendent creativity need to be championed against statisim, totalitarianism and bureaucratic control. Many would say that this is overstatement but Hegelianism is definitely active and influential. For example, Alexander Kojeve one of the greatest pupils of Hegelian philosopy, was invited to give up lecturing and become one of the architects of the greatest experiments in World socialism, he graciously accepted. He went to Brussels and joined the economic board planning the European Economic Union (now the European Union). Need we say more?

If such socialist "planning" is allowed to flourish unchallenged eventually Europe, America, Asia and India will be crushed under Global institutionalism. The role of individual freedom will be replaced with political opportunism. Western culture needs a reawakening of the essence of the human spirit, which were its hallmark. This spirit once died in the dark ages but miraculously it experienced a rebirth. Do we have the courage, the insight and the philosophical awareness to nurture a new renaissance?


Introduction To The Reading Of Hegel

Lectures On The Phenomenology Of Spirit
Assembled By Raymond Queneau
Cornell University Press