Hegel's dialectic method of interpreting history says that events occur in the following steps: a) an event happens b) an opposing event comes to contradict the original event c) a third event takes the first two and synthesis between the two.

As far as I know, this is the general way in which Hegel looks at history. From there he goes to take a rather mystical approach to history, saying that through it the "world spirit" is "showing itself" (not sure about the exact phrasing he uses).

Could we instead of going the more mystic path, interpret Hegel's history of philosophy as a way to look at life? For example, something like: an event happens to me, but then a worse event happens, but I should know that in the end a third event would happen that'd synthesis between the two (I'd must admit that's how I look at life most of the time).

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    Hegel's The Phenomenology of Spirit already deal of consciousness and self-consciousness. Mar 11 '18 at 17:52
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA I'm not exactly sure what you're trying to show here - that the way I interpret Hegel in the question is the common interpretation? Mar 11 '18 at 18:48
  • Hegel's theory in the Phenomenology is about the "I", consciousness and freedom: not about "everyday life". Mar 11 '18 at 19:26
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA so, what exactly is the issue with my question? I'm asking if it can be interpreted (and perhaps incorporated) into that subject. Mar 11 '18 at 19:35

The thesis-antithesis-synthesis idea is definitely present in Hegel but it was Engels who imposed this formula on the interpretation of Hegel as the major key to his entire philosophy.

M. Allegranza is, of course, completely right that Hegel's philosophy operates above the level of everyday life. Hegel's view of history, to which you draw attention is, very roughly that human history exemplifies through different civilisations at different times progressively deeper understandings and embodiments of freedom. That's the view, shorn of all detail, subtlety and illustration.

Hegel himself doesn't think there is any mysticism in his philosophy of history. The progressive realisation of freedom is also a rational process. The Hegelian relation between freedom and reason is too involved to go into here.

Reading your question sympathetically, I think I can see your point. Regardless of how Hegel on a grand philosophical level used the ideas of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, could you use them illuminatingly to interpret your own 'everyday life' ? Quick answer : I can't see why not. If it works, use it ! A sound pragmatic attitude.


You could, but it only is a "positive" outlook if you make one major assumption: One of the two events has to be positive from your point of view.

Hegel only says that to each event a conflicting event will arise, which eventually will lead to a synthesizing event that lies somewhere between the first two events. The conflict between the first two events doesn't have to align with anything that would make you see one of the events as better or worse.

Furthermore, look at this case: Something bad happens to you, then something even worse happens, in the end the synthesis lies somewhere between bad and worse. Now a fourth event happens that is even worse. The new synthesis lies somwhere between this event and the second one. The synthesis provides a temporary relief, but doesn't prevent a constant downward movement.

The outlook towards life you describe, requires that you allready assume a sort of "golden mean" towards which events will return, which is to say, you allready have the conclusion you want to arive at, why do you need any form of philosophy to justify it?

  • "the synthesis provides a temporary relief, but doesn't prevent a constant downward movement" - of course, but isn't that temporary relief what keeps us on our feet in life? We could expect a worse event to happen, but we take our comfort in the relief passages. Mar 12 '18 at 15:08
  • Not really, remember, the "relief" I'm talking about in this scenario is only a return to a still bad state, not the return to a good or neutral state. Imagine the following sentence: "They stopped stabbing me for a moment, and returned to beating me with clubs, while they had their knifes sharpened." A relief is only a good thing when it's combined with hope, which you can't get just by applying Hegel. Mar 12 '18 at 15:50
  • I understand you know, and I think it's interesting to come up here with a distinction between hope and false hope - when we're presented with the scenario you suggested, we come to the conclusion the hope that was thought was actually false hope. I like what we did here. Mar 12 '18 at 17:27
  • Actually now that I think about it, I can go around what you're saying with positivistic hope, the same Hegel uses for freedom - I can always look at the whole scenario you've presented as a whole, an entire event, and not thesis-antithesis-synthesis I analyze. Rather, I'll take a wider look, a wide enough look that'll give me the positive outcome. This could be of course criticized as not scientifically honorable, but it's basically what Hegel did. Mar 12 '18 at 17:35

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