Kant brought about a rebirth of the importance of dialectics by
working out the antinomies of reason. According to Kant, serious
thought about one general description of the world often leads us to a
contemplation of its opposite. Kant thus proposed the paradox that the
world consists of antinomies – contradictions that cannot be resolved.
Hegel built on the idea of Fichte that the antinomies could perhaps be
overcome through a synthesis that would transcend the contradiction.
Hegel went on to suppose that the two concepts so held in opposition
can always be united by a shift to some higher level of thought.
According to Hegel, contradictions are inherent in reality and
everything is made of opposites. He believed that it is the interplay
between opposites that leads to all observable phenomena and our
interactions with the world.
Hegel declares that
reality is a systematic progression of clashing contradictions –
thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. An idealist in metaphysics, he
maintains the underlying reality of the universe is the nonmaterial,
divine, dynamic, cosmic mind (God, the Spirit, Idea, World Reason, the
Absolute, etc.) whose nature it is to evolve constantly, thereby
unfolding itself in a series of stages. In one of these stages, the
Spirit externalizes itself in the form of the material world, taking
on the appearance of numerous seemingly distinct and autonomous
individuals. The finite is real only in the sense that it is a phase
in the self-development of the Absolute. Nature is thus conceived as a
coherent whole and external manifestation of World Reason that is
progressively revealed in time and space. Individual minds and actions
are all phases or parts of the Divine Mind-they constitute steps in
its self-actualization. Not a transcendent being, Hegel's God is an
Absolute that is immanent in reality.
According to Hegel, God
as mind, is everything but is unaware of his own identity. God, for
Hegel, is not omniscient. This God is driven by need to discover his
identity. Unknowledgeable of his own infinitude, God creates the
apparent objective world in his search for his own nature. God thus
struggles to get past this illusion of otherness. The Absolute (i.e.,
the primacy of consciousness cosmic spirit) creates the objective
world that is in fact a surface appearance. Tensions occur and a
dialectical process follows through which truth (i.e., the oneness of
all apparent things) is sought.
Where did Hegel get the
notion that God is not omniscient and therefore is unaware of his own
identity? Ayn Rand has observed that for Kant one's knowledge lacks
validity because to truly know involves relating to reality directly
without depending on one's conceptual mechanism. Kant said that to
know reality requires a consciousness not limited to specific means of
cognition. Perhaps Hegel built on this idea by observing that God has
identity and is (or has) consciousness and therefore is likely to be
unaware of his own limitlessness.
The Spirit must
progressively actualize itself until it reaches its full development -
the key to which is the interplay between opposites. The Absolute
finds expression in nature through a process of contradiction. All
ideas contain their own contradictions, which, rather than being
obstacles to truth, are in fact the very means for achieving truth.
These contradictions exist for the imperfectly reflecting human mind.
Hegel explains that both the assertion and negation of a statement may
be viewed as true if they are understood as imperfect expressions of a
higher proposition (synthesis) that contains all that is essential in
both of these, embodying it in a fuller entity. This is an ongoing
process. The final truth about reality will contain no distinctions of
any kind. Everything will be one.