Friday, December 23, 2011

An article rewrite: Hegel's idea of "Mind" as it relates to logic

The original was posted a few weeks ago.

Mind: Hegel's logical category in plain English

The term Mind in Hegel's thought confused me until recently. Hegel saw logic, dialectical knowledge, and Mind as three phases or 'moments' of knowledge, as three aspects of knowledge that contain within them all potential meaning.

Logic refers to logic with no reference to the external world. Dialectical knowledge refers not to the dialectical method but to knowledge gained from empirical reality. Scientific knowledge is dialectical knowledge, as are practical rules of thumb, because it emerges from a dialogue or interaction with the world itself.
According to Hegel, the stage of knowledge labeled "Mind, Geist or "Spirit", is produced by applying logic to dialectical knowledge, and is a higher form of knowledge. But in what way, and what exactly does it have to do with "Mind"?

How is Mind different from dialectical knowledge? If you're looking at something scientifically there's logic involved, but if you take a pure empiricist perspective, rationalist analysis should play a small part. In pure empiricism, meaning is supposed to only come from what the facts themselves say. If you rationally reflect on the facts to find truth, you can commit grave errors because of the inherent bias that comes from personal experience, points of view, and preferences.

However, there are problems with only using empirical facts. Noam Chomsky argues that if scientists only used the inductive empirical method, where every hypothesis is based on strictly verified chains of facts all observed experimentally, we wouldn't have modern technology. Instead, we'd still be waiting to observe all the facts we needed. At a certain point, the chain of facts we have access to runs aground and we have to use other methods to find conclusions. If rationalism is biased because we're trapped in our own heads, and have cultural, historical, and personal conditioning that influences us, empirical deduction is flawed because it can be very indeterminate. The solution, or a solution to the problem of how to get valid knowledge without relying on minute empirical observation is that observed facts have an inner logic to them. If you've studied something intently enough, you have enough information to make speculations based on the apparent logic and meaning that the system of facts contains. The speculations can then be experimentally verified or disproven those. Facts can be manipulated over and over again without taking new observations. No one said that hypotheses have to be sourced to a 't' in order to be true. They just have to be experimentally proven.

What sets speculation of this kind apart from rationalism is that the deductions and manipulations occur after the initial observations happen, not before, and so are contextualized within the space of the observations themselves, which puts obstacles in the way of direct interference from prejudice. Creative license can also be applied, but creative license anchored in experimentally confirmable observations.

Such speculation is an instance of Hegel's category of Mind, an application of logic to empirical or dialectical data. I believe that Hegel called this kind of logic "Mind" because it's what we do when we think critically about our experiences, our lives, and the issues we face. Through using logic to make sense of empirical data while not rationalistically prejudicing the content, by using the logical faculty of Mind, we can produce quicker associations that can spur faster human progress than if we just slogged through the prison of observed facts.

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