Explain the concept of the dialectic, a key concept for both Hegel and Marx. How did Hegel and Marx view the dialectical dynamic? Additionally, Hegel described the process of evolution as “occurring beyond the control of people and their activities” (Ritzer, 2010, p.21). Did Marx agree with this view? Please explain.
Dialectic is an argument fundamentally brewed between Western and Eastern philosophy right from ancient times. It is a dialogue involving two people (each holding different views about a common subject) who try convincing and persuading one another with their views. The common assumption is that the two differing people do at least agree on some of the issues on the topic even if they do hold differing opinions in general. As stated above dialectics is an argument between Western and Eastern philosophers, a major form of dialectic is that that exists between the Marxist school of thought as proposed by Karl Marx and the Hegelian school of thought as proposed by Hegel.
Dialectics revolves around three fundamental principles:
a). That everything is made of opposing forces
b). Change is never circular; it is spiral in nature
c). That everything does exist in a medium of time and that everything is finite and transient
The dialectics history has been weighed on the same scales as philosophy’s history. The main aim of dialectics is to solve the tussle that exists between different ideologies in a more civilised way or through rational discussions. This way a more truthful conclusion about the subject matter can be arrived efficiently.
Hegel is the pioneer of modern philosophy and as such he gave the dialectics concept a new lease of life. This new lease of life given to the dialectic was a fundamental aspect of nature’s reality. Hegel’s works influenced many philosophers later on, for instance Karl Marx and Engel. However, Marx and Engel deeply criticised and in fact his works were later on banned by the Prussian right-wing (Engel, 1940). Furthermore, his works were rejected by the left wingers in many official writings. His work on innovation of logic was considered to be difficult. Hegel later on formed a new logic of Speculation which was a retaliation of Immanuel’s Kant work on Pure reason. His works to date remain highly un-understandable; in fact most of the philosophers who were influenced by his works never fully understood his position or his dialectical logic.
Karl Marx opposed Hegel’s dialectics an in fact overturned it inside out. Marx held the opinion that the universe 2constituted matter in motion. He posited that everything in the universe was interconnected and acted interdependently and did so according to natural law. Therefore it is correct to construe that Marx did support materialistic philosophy which went parallel with idealism as posited by Hegel. However, Marx’s materialistic stand should not be confused and misconstrued with simple materialism. Marx in fact he considered classic materialism to constitute idealistic philosophy. Marx was of the idea that philosophy should not be metaphysical; it should not be spiritual as was evident in Hegel’s teachings. He posited that, philosophy should take up its role in society and help in highlighting the problems in society and at the same time provide solutions to those problems. It was regarded by Marx that philosophy had to cease its habit of explaining and interpretation of global occurrences in a never ending web of metaphysical debates. The ideas proposed by Marx led to many rising workers movements especially in Germany, France and England. This way Karl Marx reduced the spiritualist idealism that existed in Hegel’s work as they only represented ideologies. Marx’s approach later on proved useful because it illuminated for Frankfurt School’s critical theory (which combined social sciences and philosophy and hence tried in solving the problems in society).
Throughout history, evolution has always been regarded as a historical approach that tries to explain the development of humanity. Historians have found themselves always congruent in as far as evolution and the Standard Social Science Model is concerned. Karl Marx and Hegel both thought along the same line as the evolution theory as proposed by Darwin. Hegel has applied his dialectics in the discussion of human events and the history of ideas. He notes that the concepts will shift and consequently change as time progresses. This process of change will continue till humanity arrives at a single idea that suits every person’s needs. This ‘supreme idea’ is called ‘the self-reflective recognition of the spirit’ as posited by Hegel. This supreme idea according to Hegel will embody unity amongst humanity, the world and nature. Human history is therefore justified by this progress as posited by Hegel. The ideas proposed by Hegel, can be compared to the Darwin’s theory of evolution. Hegel’s theory however is not biological as Darwin’s but it shares the same ideas as Darwin’s theory of evolution. The similarities that exist between them can be referred to as the concept of adaptation through competition and progression. The relationship between the theory of evolution and that of social evolution as posited by Karl Marx and Hegel brings the two differing philosophers to a common point; that is they all agree that society is changing. When Karl Marx first read Darwin’s book on evolution, he was drawn to it, because he held the belief that the ideas presented in Darwin’s book helped further hi s own ideas of class struggle. He believed that Darwin’s work helped explain the society’s internal struggles. Furthermore he believed that it provided foundation that helped explain the nature’s processes which were the pillars of his works (Hinshaw, 2008). Far from contrasting in their dialectics, Hegel’s and Marx’s works societal change can both be considered as congruent therefore. Hegel argued that society changed. He went further to explain that the changes in society do occur at a pace or in a way that is beyond the control of humanity (Ritzer, 2010). This notion was also shared by Karl Marx especially when he talked about Capitalism. While comparing both their works which Marx thought to go hand in hand with the evolution theory, Karl Marx presented the ‘Bourgeois’ society which he considered to be top of the food chain and therefore the most advanced social organisation (it has remained so to date). Marx believed that the capitalistic nature of the society resulted to tremendous change on the factors of production. However, he posited that these changes do occur at a pace that cannot be dictated by society. He explained that the changes cannot occur if time has not warranted or if their time has not come. Therefore, he posits on the unpredictability of social evolution just as posited by Hegel.
The situations discussed above do bring to light the nature of ‘dialectics.’ While Hegel supported idealism in his theories, Marx was against it as he thought it was of no significant use to society. However, both philosophers do agree on some point and that is on the evolution of society as compared to the works of Darwin, thereby showing what dialectics is all about.
Engels, F. (1940) Dialectics of Nature, New York: International Publishers.
George Ritzer: Classical Sociological Theory Sixth (6th) Edition
Hinshaw, J.H. (2008). Karl Marx and Charles Darwin: Towards an Evolutionary History of Labour. Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology
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