I'm trying to understand Hegel's impact on future thinkers. It can be difficult to read philosophical ideas and ascertain how they had "real world" impact, which includes impact on future philosophers, politicians, novelists, practicing psychologists, and non-elites. Hegel's master/slave dialectic is well-known, and my hypothesis is that the practice of finding antithesis within thesis goes back to Hegel. This makes Hegel a developer of philosophical tools, which therefore means he has potential for impact even on ideological foes.

I understand Hegel's master/slave dialectic to be a sort of inversion, in one summary as: "since a master is dependent on his slave, he is really the slave too." I've recognized this technique in more modern writing:

  • In existentialism, one cannot be totally free, because to be totally free mean's one's actions have no power. Camus thought suicide was an intellectually dishonest synthesis to the problem because it's a "leap" into thinking that all along suicide has been the answer. He proposes the synthesis that the despair itself must be meaningless, and since there is no reason to fear despair, one may just as well go on living with it.
  • Victor Hugo in Les Miserables described a thesis/antithesis problem between criticizing religion, perhaps by being an atheist, and performing it. He portrayed the performers of religion, either a bishop in the tension of being both learned and religious, or one of the "rabble", as so ignorant of criticism as to be doing something itself heightened and beyond criticism.
  • I think, partly from my own experience, that in the context of psychotherapy, a patient may eventually work through thesis/antithesis/synthesis problems of their own and find personal value in them. For instance: one wants to be loved, but if one is abandoned they are hurt; however, if they are abandoned there is no one to hurt them, therefore they are free to pursue love perhaps at a higher degree of personal peace.
  • The mathematical discovery of Godel's theorem follows the principle that any sufficiently advanced concept must be paradoxical, since it is advanced enough to disprove even itself. (A "Godel" number resembles the statement "This statement is false", which "advanced" systems can both create and interpret.)

My question is if this general way of rhetorical reasoning that seems to go beyond simply considering the (logical) inverse of a concept, and looking for a fatal flaw within the concept itself, was refined or popularized by Hegel. To illustrate the power of Hegel's philosophy, could one counterfactually argue that without Hegel, Karl Marx would have simply overlooked the idea that the powerless proletariat are more powerful than the elites? Would subsequent psychiatrists or psychologists not have deployed dialectics in practice?

  • I am not sure if I understand what you are asking. Is (part of) the question whether Marx could not have deployed his theory had he not known Hegelian dialectics?
    – user14511
    Dec 27, 2020 at 15:11
  • @Mr.White right. I keep reading Hegel was ultra impactful and my question is "OK, what's the evidence of that?" To say a philosopher has impact includes some belief that subsequent philosophers would have been different without that philosopher. I tried to put forth my best guess which is his general mode of reasoning could have been novel but I don't know that.
    – djechlin
    Mar 21, 2021 at 18:19


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