Hegel: being, becoming and dialectical idealism

becomingThe first problem discussed on this blog and arguably the primary problem of philosophy is the dialectical tension between being and becoming. Recall that the classical solution Plato offered was his dualistic theory of the forms, where he combined Heraclitus’ dynamic theory of reality as becoming and Parmenides static world of being into one.

Following the seminal work of Plato and Aristotle, the tacit assumption of philosophers was that being and becoming were diametrically opposed. However, some two thousand years after Plato, Hegel offers a novel and radically different solution to the classical dialectic.

Like Plato, Hegel would make two worlds one. At first glance, the theses of Heraclitus and Parmenides seem irreconcilable when being and becoming are opposed. However, Hegel’s insight was that that antithesis of being was not becoming but rather “non-being” or nothing. Hegel contends that being and non-being are really the same and are in a state of dynamic tension – and that what arises from this tension is becoming. While Plato placed primacy on the world of being in his theory of forms, Hegel contrarily emphasises the higher reality of becoming.

According to Hegel the essence of nature is process. Hegel expresses his idea of dialectical progress in its fullest in the suggestion that the evolution of reality is the result of the thinking of the Hegelian god. For Hegel, analysis of a thing reveals its internal contradictions. Through the dialectical process of being-nothingness-becoming, the initial simple idea of a thing is recast into a more complex understanding that dissolves the contradictions. In this way, the Hegelian world is one that gradually unfolds through dialectical analysis, progressively leading to a fuller understanding of the cosmos.

4 responses to this post.

  1. […] have written previously of Hegel’s dialectical view of history. According to Hegel reality progresses through a triad of phases (that can be referred to as […]


  2. […] Hegel and Rousseau, Comte took a tripartite view of the development of society. Comte called the first […]


  3. […] The potency of Marx finds its genesis in the ambiguity of Hegel. Marx was influenced by the Young Hegelians – a group of left-leaning German intellectuals that believed that the dialectical struggle of history had not yet reached its end. However, Marx would create his own unique interpretation of the Hegelian dialectical triad. […]


  4. […] jettisons the relevance of static things such as substance, form and matter. Instead, Whitehead like Hegel envisions reality as a type of organism or process, which consists in its most primary form as […]


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