Saturday, October 01, 2005

Hegelian musings on a Saturday evening

(A continuation of the ramblings I had sometime last spring)

In one of the "Ender's Shadow" books, Orson Scott Card makes the assertion that Adam and Eve had the option of choosing Knowledge or Life; thus, in choosing Knowledge, they brought mortality and death upon the world. However, it is important to note that without the concept of mortality and death (or rather, Life and not-Life), we would have a very different concept of Negation. Indeed, in eating the fruit, Eve became aware of Right and Not-Right. Going naked was Not-Right, and thus shame was born into the world. Clothing one's nakedness was Right, and thus a sense of morality was born into the world. These seemingly simple acts set in motion the fundamental dichotomy that we as humans deal with everyday: X and not-X.

This isn't meant as a reducitivist treatise; I don't believe every action or situation or behavior can be fundamentally reduced, either transcendentally or eidetically, to an X or a not-X. However, I do believe that in Genesis, we see the makings of the human character as well as the human situation. In an exceprt from Hegel's preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit:

"The living substance, further, is that being which is truly subject, or, what is the same thing, is truly realized and actual solely in the process of positing itself, or in mediating with its own self its transitions from one state or position to the opposite. As subject it is pure and simple negativity, and just on that account a process of splitting up what is simple and undifferentiated, a process of duplicating and setting factors in opposition..."

One of the most fundamental human functions or programs (from a math/CS point of view) is our proclivity towards settings things in opposition to each other, thus forming a framework of reference. If we knew that X is not-Y and that Y is Z, then we know that X is not-Z and that not-X could, possibly, be Z. So, for instance, we know that circular objects are "not"-square and that square things tend to have angles, so therefore we could suppose with some assurance that "not"-circular objects have angles of some sort. In this way, we approach all things that disturb, fascinate, or intrigue us, as a way of building a larger sense of where we are. (Written another way, this could be seen as "Man's Search For Meaning.")
This pattern becomes quite complex when turned inward. I never really thought about setting factors in opposition internally until I finished my paper on Freud's "Fort-Da" game. However, turning this framework inward is ultimately flawed, in the same way that it is extremely difficult to perform an appendectomy on oneself: we are too close to our own knots of pain and repressed feeling to allow our frameworks to fully include those things we find too frightening to deal with. This weakens the infrastructure of the perceptions we have about ourselves, and makes us blind to our weaknesses and internal sufferings.
It is true that we set things in opposition within ourselves, though; without that fundamental opposition, our mental processes would not exist. Wherever, in nature, there are two systems which are exist as antipodal to one another, energy of some sort results from their interaction. This can be seen in the the voltage batteries discharge across RC circuits, the generation of magnetic fields, and the movement of charged particles across electric fields. This opposition occurs in the most fundamental of objects, the atom; without the X (proton) and the not-X (electron) being set in opposition to one another, the framework of our entire universe would not be as it is. What it would be, I am not qualified to say, since I'm not sure if anyone knows what would happen if atomic and subatomic motion ceased to be.
I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to tie this into, except maybe to reassure myself that without these Negations and the realm of the Negative as powerful forces within the human world, that it would be impossible to achieve anything. Even with the stress and hardship that comes from setting things in opposition to each other, there has to be some way of generating vitality, that life energy that can be described by no scientific formula or equation but exists just as surely as the laws for electronics and magnetism do. Though we are unable to quantize this energy, we realize its potential, and perhaps in our search for meaing and in building our frameworks we seek to understand it better.
Or maybe it's just me, and I'm the only twenty year old who really cares enough and has so little to do on a weekend that he sits around combing metaphysics, psychology, and quantum mechanics.


Blogger Dymphna said...

there has to be some way of generating vitality...

the "generation" of vitality is a given, it is part of our genetic structure. However, there inevitably arise impediments which 'freeze' vitality -- mainly experiences of shame of one sort or another that curtail and even kill curiosity -- and it is these obstacles to curiosity, these icebergs in the human heart, that make navigation so difficult.

Self-observation is possible, but it is greatly enhanced by work with a disinterested "other" (not the same as uninterested) who serves to mirror back to us what we cannot see on our own.

Karen Horney's book, "A Constructive Theory of Neurosis" lays this out very well. She was one of the first neo-Freudians to talk about the social/political implications for individual human striving. Also, her book on self-analysis.

I liked your ideas until you dissed yourself and your ideas in that last sentence. Like maybe you could just delete it?

I'm just saying...

12:37 PM  
Blogger Gryffilion said...

I like a way to bring myself back to reality and insert a little self-deprecating humor. That way, it beats to the punch anyone who would make fun of me for rambling on for so long.
If you really think it detracts, though, I might alter it.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Baron Bodissey said...

Remember, the Tao Te Ching says:
Being is born of not being.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

it beats to the punch anyone who would make fun of me for rambling on for so long.

Hey, man, it's your blog. Who gives a flying fig whether some troll thinks you go on too long? Just delete ' need to read more blogs to see real "going on too long.."

Believe it or not, I know people who get criticized because they laugh too much. Like we need more whining, right? That's how shame-based some people are: they cannot stand too much curiosity or enjoyment or just plain old opining.

Philosophize all the way down your tie,'s fun to read and someday you'll enjoy re-reading it while sitting in your rocking chair.

BTW, I also like that intersection where philosophy/psychology and quantum mechanics meet. Hope you get to take a Philosophy of Science course before you leave the hallowed halls.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Gryffilion said...

Would you also accept that I sat there for five minutes trying to think of a way to end the post, couldn't, so I made do with a little flourish making fun of myself like I used to to do?

10:50 AM  

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