Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Hegel's conception of the Absolute Ideal

Hegel's notion of the Absolute Ideal: three phases, the world of Theory, the world of Dialectic, the world of Mind or Spirit. What that means is that in the first place there's abstract logic taken in itself alone, with no reference to anything in real life. This leads to "Dialectic", which in Hegel is the analysis of how the world works from a scientific and sociological perspective. It's dialectical in the Socratic sense because it's a realm of give and take rather than something where absolute logic applies.

Hegel was very, very, big on the notion that world of nature doesn't embody things like perfect mathematical truth, for example that you never see a perfect circle in nature itself. Because of this, a different type of logic, separate from the absolute abstract logic, has to be developed that takes Nature and natural concepts as they are. This is connected also with the notion that nature doesn't deal purely with Aristotelian either/or logic but with many shades of gray, so to speak, and that's another place where the term 'Dialectic' comes in, because the Socratic method was about challenging absolute conceptions of truth and instead approaching ideas of truth through the process of a kind of back and forth of discussion and inquiry.  This process of trying to get at truth is more 'many shades of gray' than either or, more organic, almost, than absolute. Possibly, you could generalize from this to be a more naturalistic way of approaching things.

The realm of 'Mind' or 'Spirit' was formed by combining the previous two together, by applying the rules of pure formal logic to those of naturalistic logic. A way of thinking about this, and an example of it, is Newton's method of mathematical physics, which took observation from life and applied calculus to it in order to understand it. There are a lot of critiques out there, particular that of Alfred North Whitehead, that emphasize that drawing conclusions about the world often involves both observation of nature in itself combined with rational thinking, and this is what Hegel was getting at.

He described the results that could be gotten from combining formal logic with the more organic exploration of nature as describing the absolute ideal, the true form of the universe.

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