Dialogs and Dialectics

Dialogs and Dialectics

Hegel once described dialectics as “the grasping of opposites in their unity”.[1] Oppositions, it can be argued, provide the comparisons that make our experiences intelligible. Our understanding of the world is predicated on differentiation and comparison. We must compare this to that to know the identity of either or to assign relative value to both. This or that, and the excluded middle between… but what of the unbounded space beyond as well; beyond the binary oppositions, beyond the laws of non-contradiction, beyond the affordances and constraints of this or that?

“Scenarios are not seen as quasi-forecasts but as perception devices.” “Scenarios are used as a means of thinking through strategy against a number of structurally quite different, but plausible future models of the world”.
Kees van der Heijden

Definition of Dialectics

Source: Introduction/Dialectics for the New Century

Is a brief definition of ‘dialectics’ possible? In the history of Western thought the term has meant quite different things in different contexts. Dialectics in the Western tradition is customarily said to begin with Heraclitus. He insisted that the cosmos was in endless flux, in contrast to those for whom ‘true’ reality was immutable. For Socrates, dialectic had less to do with the dynamism of the cosmos than with the dynamism of intellectual discussion when pushed forward by challenges to the underlying assumptions of interlocutors. Aristotle then systematized Socratic dialectic, treating it as a form of argument that fell some- where between rhetoric and logic. While dialectical speech, like rhetoric, aimed at persuasion, Aristotle believed its efforts to overcome disagreements through rational discussion made it more like logic. Unlike logical argumentation, however, dialectical speech does not derive necessary consequences from universally accepted premises. Instead, by revealing the contradictions in particular arguments, it forces their modification or even abandonment, and moves the contending parties closer to a rational consensus. This notion of dialectics continued to hold sway in Western philosophy throughout the medieval and early modern periods.

A major shift occurred with Kant. For him, ‘dialectics’ does not refer to a process by which discussions can advance toward rational agreement, but to the frustrating and inclusive results that arise whenever reason transgresses its proper limits by attempting to investigate the ultimate nature of things. In Kant’s philosophy, dialectics becomes an endless series of debates in which each side reveals the contradictions of the other without being able to resolve its own. Following Kant, Hegel concedes that as long as contending positions are taken as complete and independent in themselves, the opposition between them is irresolvable. But why, Hegel asks, must we take the opposed positions as complete and independent? Why choose, for example, between ‘freedom’ and ‘necessity’? Another, far better option is available: to recognize that the apparently opposed positions only offer one-sided accounts of a complex reality. ‘Truth is the whole,’ he famously claims, and to be adequately comprehended we must find a place in our thinking for all these partial and one-sided truths. The key to Hegel’s notion of dialectic is the movement to a positive result in which previously antagonistic positions are reconciled within a higher-order framework (Pinkard, 1987). His Science of Logic is an unprecedented and unrepeatable attempt to show that all the fundamental categories of Western philosophy can be fit together in one coherent whole – once, that is, the contradictions which arise when they are taken as independent standpoints are rigorously confronted and resolved. In The Philosophy of Right Hegel attempted to show that neither a one-sided emphasis on the autonomous subjectivity of individual agents, nor a one-sided emphasis on the priority of the community over the individual, can adequately comprehend the reconciliation of both ‘principles’ found in the social and political institutions of modern society.

Key Terms

  • Plato’s Dialogues
  • Dialectic
  • Relational Dialectic
  • Hegel’s Dialectics
  • Marx’s Dialectics
  • Vygotskian Dialectics
  • Bakhtinian Dialogics
  • Contradictions
  • Relational process philosophy
  • Strategy
  • Development
  • Transformation
  • Constitutive relationships
  • Interaction
  • Multiple systems
  • Open systems
  • Metasystematic
  • Epistemic adequacy
  • Dialectical thinking
  • Dialectical philosophical perspective
  • Dialectical analysis
  • Psychotherapy
  • Higher education
  • AQAL Model of Ken Wilber
  • Quadrants in Scenario Planning
  • Possibilities
  • Uncertainty
  • Weak Signals
  • Constitutive and Interactive relationships
  • Dialectic Behavior Therapy DBT
  • Contradictions
  • Point of Views
  • Multiple Perspectives
  • Worldviews
  • Paradoxes
  • Complexity
  • Parts and Whole
  • Piaget
  • Oppositions
  • Informal Logic
  • Dialogue and Dialectics
  • Relational Dialectic
  • L S Vygotsky
  • Mikhail Bakhtin
  • Monologue
  • Discourse
  • Drama
  • Ensemble Theory

What is dialogue?

Source: Relating dialogue and dialectics: a philosophical perspective

Dialogue in different forms (political, philosophical, and dramatic) historically emerged in Ancient Greece in the context of the polis as a community of actively participating citizens (Dafermos, 2013a). Plato’s dialogues, the first written dialogical accounts in human history were formed in the context of ancient polis.

After a long eclipse in the history of human thought dialogue was reborn in the twentieth century in the writings of Russian literary theorist and philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin. He developed a multifaceted theory of dialogism based on a set of concepts such as dialogue, monologue, polyphony, heteroglossia, utterance, voice, speech genres and chronotope. Bakhtin’s writings inspired many scholars and practitioners to elaborate and apply various dialogical approaches in pedagogy (Matusov, 2009; Matusov, & Miyazaki, 2014), psychology (Shotter, 1995; Hermans, & Kempen, 1993), psychotherapy (Seikkula, 2011; Hermans, & Dimaggio, 2004) and cultural studies (Wertsch, 1993; Thornton, 1994).

One of the reasons for the apparent confusion in the emerging interdisciplinary field of dialogical studies is connected with the polysemy of the notion of dialogue and the multiple meanings of its use in different contexts. I will attempt to define several meanings of the term ‘dialogue’. In accordance with a first definition, dialogue is a live conversation between two or more people. In other words, dialogue can be identified with oral communication between two or more interlocutors. Being with other people and responding to their voices is an essential feature of a conversation. However, a difficult question at once arises whether dialogue is every form of conversation or a specific type of deep communication between different subjectivities. Nikulin (2010) defined four components that turn a conversation into a dialogue: a. the existence of personal other, b. voice, c. unfinalizability, d. allosensus (constant disagreement with other).

The second meaning of the term ‘dialogue’ refers to dialogue as a genre or literary device. Plato’s dialogues are one of the most famous forms of using a dialogical form as a genre. Plato’s written dialogues historically appeared as an imitation of oral communication in times of heated debates about the transition from oral to written communication. Dialogue as a genre has been used by many thinkers to formulate their ideas in various ways. However, the dialogical genre might be used as an external form for monological content. For exampledialogue might be used as a teaching method of catechesisIt refers to an instrumental approach to dialogue that tends to be considered as an “an effective means for non- dialogic ends, which are understood outside of the notion of dialogue, within a monological framework” (Matusov, & Miyazaki, 2014, p.2). However, if there is a perfect, final and absolute truth as in catechesis, there is no place and need for genuine dialogue.

In accordance with a third meaning, “…dialogue is the universal condition of using language at all” (Womack, 2011, p.48). From this perspective both oral and written speech, moreover, language itself has a dialogical character. Language can be considered mainly as an intersubjective communicative engagement, rather than a simple, formal, symbolic system.

Bakhtin offered a classic formulation of the dialogic nature of consciousness that can be regarded as the fourth meaning of the dialogue which goes beyond purely linguistic or literary phenomena: “I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another, and with the help of another. The most important acts constituting self-consciousness are determined by a relationship toward another consciousness (toward a thou) … The very being of man (both external and internal) is the deepest communion. To be means to communicate … To be means to be for another, and through the other for oneself” (Bakhtin, 1981, p.287).

Dialogue is an essential characteristic of consciousness. The word ‘consciousness’ originates from the Latin ‘conscius’ (con- ‘together’ + scientia- ‘to know’). ‘Conscious’ means sharing knowledge. Toulmin (1982) offers a brilliant interpretation of the etymology of the term ‘consciousness:

“Etymologically, of course, the term ‘consciousness’ is a knowledge word. This is evidenced by the Latin form, –sci-, in the middle of the word. But what are we to make of the prefix con– that precedes it? Look at the usage in Roman Law, and the answer will be easy enough. Two or more agents who act jointly—having formed a common intention, framed a shared plan, and concerted their actions—are as a result conscientes. They act as they do knowing one another’s plans: they are jointly knowing” (Toulmin, 1982, p. 64).

In Latin “to be conscious of something was to share knowledge of it, with someone else, or with oneself” (Zeman, 2001, p.1265). “When two or more men know of one and the same fact, they are said to be conscious of it one to another” (Hobbes, 1660, Leviathan, chapt. VII). However, the predominant use of the term ‘consciousness’ is connected with John Locke’s definition: “Consciousness is the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind” (Locke, 1690, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II, i, 19). It refers to ‘inner perceptions’ that are conceived by an individual. The understanding of consciousness as a private, internal awareness became dominant in contemporary scientific literature.

However, it is interesting to note that the term ‘consciousness’ has similar etymology in different languages: In Russian ‘Сознание’ (Со-знание), in Greek ‘συνείδηση’ (συν- ειδέναι), in English ‘Con- scientia,’ in French ‘Conscience’ (Con-science), in Italian ‘Coscienza’ (Co-scienza). The prefix ‘co’ refers to joint action, reciprocal interaction between people. The concept of ‘consciousness’ includes knowledge as its essential moment. However, consciousness is not reducible to simple knowledge but it refers to co- producing knowledge in the process of communication between different subjects. It refers to joining knowledge with another or shared knowledge. From this perspective, consciousness has dialogic structure and orientation.

The understanding of the dialogic nature of consciousness enables the demonstration of the mirrors of cognitivism and scientism. One of the most powerful objections to cognitivism has been formulated by Michael Bakhtin: “Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction” (Bakhtin, 1984, p. 110).

Dialogue has been defined by Bakhtin as opposed to monologism. Individual consciousness cannot grasp the complexity and variety of the human world. In contrast to the single, isolated, monological consciousness, a dialogical coexistence of different irreducible consciousnesses develops. Bakhtin argued that the idea is not developed in isolated individual consciousness but in dialogic communication between several consciousnesses. “…the idea is inter-individual and inter-subjective – the realm of its existence is not individual consciousness but dialogic communion between consciousnesses. The idea is a live event, played out at the point of dialogic meeting between two or several consciousnesses” (Bakhtin, 2003, p.98). The meeting spaces and dramatic processes of making meaning between different and not reducible consciousnesses constitute the ontological foundation of dialogue. The “ontological dialogue” (Sidorkin, 1999; Matusov, & Miyazaki, 2014) between consciousnesses penetrates the deeper and most important aspects of human existence.

Although dialogue has been defined as being contrary to monologue, the consideration of dialogue as a positive and monologue as a negative term leads inevitably to oversimplification of dialectic relationships between them. I totally agree with Matusov’s position that “Bakhtin’s notions of dialogue and monologue is complementary” (Matusov, 2009, p.112). Matusov argues that the concepts of dialogicity and monologicity mutually constitute each other. “Monologicity makes clear who is speaking (i.e., authorship and responsibility) and what is said (i.e., the message). In other words, monologicity objectivizes others and the themes of communication… Monologicity reflects centripetal forces of language, communication, and community oriented on centralization, unification, unity with action, seriousness, cohesiveness and integrity of voice (and position), articulateness, globalization, decontextualization, exactness and correctness of meaning (finalizing the meaning)” (Matusov, 2009, p. 131).

However, many Bakhtinian scholars tend to interpret the concepts ‘dialogue-monologue’ in terms of Western post-modernism such as ‘the death of author’ (more generally, the ‘death of subject’), ‘deconstruction,’ ‘decentration,’ ‘intertextuality’ (Bell, & Gardiner, 1998; Holquist, 2002). From the perspective of post-modernism, monologue is defined as a ‘grand narrative’ that should be ‘killed’ and ‘destroyed’. With the total ‘death of monologue’ any claims for ‘seriousness,’ ‘cohesiveness,’ ‘integrity of voice (and position),’ ‘articulateness’ and ‘correctness of meaning’ might disappear. The celebration of post-modern, deconstructionist discourse tends to lead to the deconstruction not only of ‘old’ metaphysics and ‘grand’ monologic narratives, but also of scientific thinking and knowledge itself. “…the deconstruction of metaphysics is the deconstruction of the scientificity of science. The deconstructive strategy aims at the very source of science itself, at the kind of question that gives rise to scientific investigation” (Evans, 1999, p.156).

It could be argued that the destruction of reason itself may give rise to a new form of irrationalism. Based on the analysis of post-Hegelian philosophical tradition, Lukács (1954) demonstrated that the destruction of reason and the advent of irrationalism prepared the ground for fascist ideas.

What is dialectics?

Source: Relating dialogue and dialectics: a philosophical perspective

The concept ‘dialectics’ has acquired different forms and meanings in various historical contexts. In ancient Greece dialectics emerged as an art of dialogue and a problem solving method through argumentation. The term ‘dialectics’ has a similar origin of the term ‘dialogue’. It refers to the art of conversation or debate that is connected with seeking truth through reasoning. “… someone tries, by means of dialectical discussion and without the aid of any sense-perceptions, to arrive through reason at the being of each thing itself” (Plato, 2004, Republic, 532a). By the power of discussions, dialectics provides genuine knowledge. Dialectics as a method originates from the Socratic elenchus, a method of hypothesis elimination that takes the form of a question-answer dialogue and brings out the contradictions in the interlocutor’s arguments.

Dialectics constitutes a way of thinking based on the understanding of the contradictory nature of both reason and being. Naive, spontaneous dialectics had been developed by ancient thinkers as an attempt to offer a living, sensory concrete perception of the world in the process of its change and becoming. “Tao-Te-Ching” in Ancient China as well as Heraclitus’ philosophy in Ancient Greece were forms of ancient spontaneous dialectics that were expressed in the idea that “everything is in a state of flux” (Skirbekk, & Gilje, 2001, p.13). Although Heraclitus didn’t use the term ‘dialectic,’ he developed a dialectical understanding that everything is becoming. However, a conceptual, categorical system for the representation of things as processes did not yet exist in the ancient world. Becoming is expressed through metaphors, images of an aesthetic equivalent such as the image of a river: “you cannot step into the same river twice” (Plato, 1997, Cratylus, 402a).

The meaning of the concept ‘dialectics’ was transformed by Aristotle. For Aristotle dialectic wasn’t a form of being but rather a method of logical argumentation. Moreover, dialectic broke down its interconnection with dialogue and became mainly a method of building knowledge. In the Middle Ages dialectic was constructed as a method of argumentation on the basis of a set of logical rules (Nikulin, 2010).

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries an analytic method of knowledge production dominated in concrete sciences and a metaphysical mode of thinking in the field of philosophy (Pavlidis, 2010). The metaphysical mode of thinking is based on the consideration of reality as a sum of separated, unconnected independent entities. A metaphysical outlook considers things as self-subsistent, isolated and abstracted from their context (Sayers, 1976). It denies fundamentally both the internal relatedness of all things and their development.

The concept of ‘dialectic’ was reborn and acquired new meanings and connotations in the context of German classical philosophy from Kant to Hegel and later in Marxism. Kant proposed “transcendental dialectic” as the logic of errors and illusions that arise when reason goes beyond its proper role in attempting to grasp the actual objects themselves (the thing-in-itself) (Williams, 2014). Kant demonstrated the structural necessity and inevitability of illusions. According to Kant, thinking confronts antinomies and falls into conflict with itself. Challenging Kant’s concept of dialectic as a logic of illusions, Hegel developed a “positive” dialectic based on the examination of a universal as a concrete unity of multiple determinations (Hegel, 2010). Dialectics was developed by Hegel as a method of thought that included the process of expounding contradictions and their resolution in the corpus of a rational understanding of an object (Ilyenkov, 1977). Materialistic dialectics developed by K. Marx as an attempt of the theoretical reconstruction of a concrete organic whole (the capitalist mode of production) through the creation of a system of interconnected concepts.

The conscious (or systematic) dialectics stood against the metaphysical method of thinking. Dialectics and metaphysics constitute two different ways of thinking about thinking. In contrast to the metaphysical method based on one-dimensional, abstract analysis of an object and its elements as unchanging and immutable, dialectical thinking examines an object in the process of its change. The dialectical method focuses on the examination of things in their mutual connections, movement and development. Dialectics as a way of thinking grasps and represents the developmental process of a concrete object in its interconnections with other objects (Pavlidis, 2010).

In the late 19th century and early 20th century the tendency of the rejection of dialectic and the acceptance of other trends such as Kantianism, philosophy of life and positivism became dominant in Western academy. The bulk of research for a long period in the Western academy was primarily associated with the assumptions of positivism and reductionism. In contrast to widespread reductionism in concrete disciplines which focuses on analysis of isolated elements of reality, the dialectic approach is oriented to grasp full complexity of interrelationships of reality and the contradictions that embody them (Bidell, 1988). The famous formula ‘thesis-antithesis-synthesis’ represents a very schematic and over simplistic description of the dialectical understanding of development. Such kind of caricatured representation of dialectics can give rise to the negative stance (or total rejection) of dialectical thinking. Laske (2009) argues that the dialectical mode of thinking “remains a closed book for the majority of adults in the Western world, while in Asian cultures nurtured by Buddhism it more easily assumes a common sense form” (Laske, 2009). Although the explanation of the negative stance toward a dialectical mode of thinking is out of scope of the present paper, I would like only to note that the increasing individualization, fragmentation and commercialization of social life in North America and Western Europe is not unconnected to a lack of understanding of dialectic at the level of everyday life.

The multiple crises (economic, political, ecological and scientific) as a result of the increasing social contradictions and asymmetries in a rapidly changing world may provoke interest in dialectics as a way of the conceptualization of contradictions. However, dialectics is not a given system of postulates that can be immediately applied as an external guiding system for investigating problems. The application of dialectics to the concrete fields presupposes its essential development. The question of how to further develop dialectics in a rapidly changing world remains open for future investigation.

Interconnection between consciousness and knowledge

Source: Relating dialogue and dialectics: a philosophical perspective

Dialectics and dialogue constitute two distinct traditions and each of them has its own logic of development in the history of human thought. Nevertheless, there was not an absolute gap between these traditions and it is possible to find complex relationships between them.

Traditionally, dialectics has been conceived as a mode of thinking connected with a concrete form of knowledge production. “…modern dialectic still tends to become the organon of thinking…” (Nikulin, 2010, p.71). Dialogue, on the other hand, has been traditionally conceptualized as a particular type of communication that creates shared meanings between different subjects. The concept of dialogue is more connected with the communication between consciousnesses rather than with knowledge production. However, there is not a gap between consciousness and knowledge. Dialectic connections develop in the interspace between consciousness and knowledge. On one side, consciousness includes knowledge as one of its moments. On the other side, reflective thinking has been involved in the dialogic communication between different subjects. Thus, thinking is not a solitary activity of a purely autonomous subject but a dialogical act, unfolding between different subjects. The knowledge representation of an object is socially mediated and the path to knowledge passes through relationships between subjects. Knowing with the other evidences the dialogical quality of consciousness (Shotter, 2006).

The investigation of developing interrelations between thinking and speech was examined by Vygotsky (1987) as the key to understanding the nature of human consciousness. The analysis of the internal relations between thinking and speaking as sides of human consciousness constitutes one of the most important foundations for linking dialectics and dialogue. Vygotsky (1987) addressed this crucial issue from a psychological perspective, but it remains under-investigatedHowever, it is worth emphasizing that dialectical thinking is a specific type of thinking that develops at a concrete stage of the process of historical development of human consciousness. Dialectical thinking offers the opportunity to overcome widespread positivism and reductionism in science (Ilyenkov, 1982a, 1982b; Dafermos, 2014).

In contrast to monologism, the dominant ‘paradigm’ in social and human sciences, Bakhtin revealed not only the dialogic nature of consciousness but also the perspective of conceptualization of thinking as a dialogue. “This mode of thinking makes available those sides of a human being, and above all the thinking human consciousness and the dialogic sphere of its existence, which are not subject to artistic assimilation from monologic positions” (Bakhtin, 1984, p.270). Dialogue was portrayed by Bakhtin as a unique meeting between several consciousnesses in a concrete moment of a historical and cultural chronotope.

Bringing together dialectics and dialogue, Feuerbach pointed out that “The true dialectic is not a monologue of the solitary thinker with himself. It is a dialogue between “I” and “You” (Feuerbach, 1843). Criticizing Hegelian philosophy, Feuerbach demonstrated the shortcomings of a pure speculation, which a single thinker carries on by or with himself, and subsequently, he focused on dialogue between “I” and “You” as sensuous and concrete human beings. It is worth mentioning that Feuerbach’s ideas on dialogue inspired Vygotsky to develop his theory of social education in the field of defectology: “Only social education can lead severely retarded children through the process of becoming human by eliminating the solitude of idiocy and severe retardation. L. Feuerbach’s wonderful phrase, might be taken as the motto to the study of development in abnormal children: ‘That which is impossible for one, is possible for two.’ Let us add: That which is impossible on the level of individual development becomes possible on the level of social development” (Vygotsky, 1993, pp. 218-219).

Development

Source: Relating dialogue and dialectics: a philosophical perspective

Contrary to the view about an absolute gap between a dialogical approach and a dialectical concept of development, it is possible to find in Bakhtin’s writings some ideas that seem unpredictably closer to dialectical understanding than to postmodernist celebration of the fragmentation of culture. “The study of culture (or some area of it) at the level of system and at the higher level of organic unity: open, becoming, unresolved and unpredetermined, capable of death and renewal, transcending itself, that is, exceeding its own boundaries” (Bakhtin, 1986a, p.135). Bakhtin’s idea of an open, developing organic unity is a truly dialectical insight in the theorizing of human sciences. The contradictory coexistence of ‘death’ and ‘rebirth’ constitutes a moment of a dialectical understanding of culture. I don’t claim that Bakhtin was a dialectical theorist, but only that it is possible to find influences of dialectics in his writings. In other words, there is no absolute gap or a rupture between dialogic and dialectic traditions but paradoxically, a dramatic relation between them might be detected.

From a developmental perspective, dialogue cannot be reduced to a simple communicative interaction or a conversation. Not every communicative interaction or conversation promotes human development. Dialogue is such a conversation that does promote human development. Dramatic tensions and collisions in a dialogue might become a source of personal growth for their participants. In other words, dialogue opens up the perspective of personal growth for subjects engaged in it (Apatow, 1998). “…the discursive dynamics has as its central question the ways to critically negotiate/collaborate meanings, highlighting the contradiction as a driving force for the development between participants with different social, historical, cultural and political constitutions” (Magalhães, Ninin, & Lessa, 2014, p.142).

Explaining the deep meaning of the general genetic law of cultural development as it was formulated by Vygotsky, Veresov notes: “Dramatic character development, development through contradictory events (acts of development), category (dramatic collision) — this was Vygotsky’s formulation and emphasis” (Veresov, 2010, p.88). The dramatic collision, conflicts and contradictory relations that emerge in a dialogue as they are experienced by its participants may promote their self reflection and personal growth.

The dialectic of change constitutes an essential dimension of a dialogue. “…neither a first nor a last word and there are no limits to the dialogic context (it extends into the boundless past and the boundless future). Even past meanings, that is, those born in the dialogue of past centuries, can never be stable (finalized, ended once and for all) – they will always change (be renewed) in the process of subsequent development of the dialogue” (Bakhtin, 1986a, p.170).

Dialectics encountered: the origins of great strategies

Source: Strategy and dialectics: Rejuvenating a long-standing relationship

A group of strategy scholars recently joined to explore the origins of great strategies—a question infused with theoretical and practical significance (Gavetti and Porac, 2018). While not claiming to capture the field’s diversity in its entirety, the set of papers compiled represents a wide range of perspectives on strategy. As they traced the evolution of firms, capabilities, strategies, and industries in contemporary business environments, authors have built on diverse literatures such as complexity theory, evolutionary theory, attention-based view, Weberian sociology, practice theory, institutional logics, relational contracts, social movements, behavioral strategy, and social networks, to name but a few. Curiously, none of the papers explicitly used the word “dialectics” or referred to dialectics as a guiding perspective.

For the more initiated, however, dialectics is highly present in this collection of readings. Dialectics ideas underlie several of the featured theories, particularly complexity theory, practice theory, institutional logics, social movements, and behavioral strategy. The different papers also employ several time-honored dialectics concepts. For instance, the notion of “creative destruction” (Podolny, 2018) has been inspired by Marx; the dialectics of “presence” and “absence” (Powell, 2018) features in Hegel’s writings. Key means for generating creative strategies— combination, contrast, constraint, and intersecting contexts (Brandenburger, 2017)—resonate with dialectics’ notions of synthesis, negation, contradiction, and overlap. Dialectics stress on conflict and opposition is echoed too: it features in the emergence of powerful strategies such as Apple’s, reflecting broader clash between the oppositional movements and cultures of personal and corporate computing (Rao and Datta, 2018); it is illustrated in the concept of Judo strategies in which firms turn their opponents’ strengths against them (Brandenburger, 2017). Finally, in line with dialectics stress on asynchrony as a stimulus for movement and development, effective strategies, such as used in the drone industry, successively built on disequilibria and bottlenecks (Eisenhardt and Bingham, 2017).

Process, conflict, contradiction, disequilibria, disruption, oppositions, and synthesis are dialectics’ stock in trade. These, and other dialectics’ notions, also bear on several of strategy’s core research streams: they inform the literature on innovation and technological change (Bodrožić and Adler, 2017; Schumpeter, 1942; Tushman and Nelson, 1990), the resource-based view of firm’s growth (Penrose, 1959; Vidal and Mitchel, 2018), and strategy-as-practice research (Jarzabkowski, 2003; Nicolini, 2012); they have also been incorporated into managerial tools such as scenario analysis, system dynamics, and red teams.

I submit that dialectics is more present in strategy that many realize and holds a great potential to become even more central to the field. Dialectics’ distinctive view on social processes and relations is particularly relevant for comprehending and navigating a world in flux, a welcome counterpart to more simplistic, reductionist, and binary models, and an alternative to views on strategy stressing equilibrium, linearity, and coherence. Dialectics holistic stance can serve to counteract the field’s notorious fragmentation (e.g. Durand et al., 2017; Hambrick, 2004). Moreover, dialectics’ philosophical foundations and its stress on critique and reconstruction makes it particularly attractive means for challenging established models, questioning existing ideologies and reconsidering alternatives.

To reassert dialectics in new, promising areas such as competitive advantage and shaping strategies (the “where”), strategy researchers first need to become more familiar with dialectics ideas (the “what”) and with potential ways they can be used (the “how”).

Dialectical Thinking

Source: John Rowan: Dialectical Thinking

Dialectics is a form of thought which goes back a long way. In the West, Heraclitus in Ancient Greece was aware of it, and in the East, there are a number of thinkers who practised it. The Tao-Te-Ching is a good example of dialectical writing.

Change

The first characteristic of dialectical thinking is that it places all the emphasis on change. Instead of talking about static structures, it talks about process and movement. Hence it is in line with all those philosophies which say – “Let’s not be deceived by what it is is now as we perceive it – let’s not pretend we can fix it and label it and turn it into something stiff and immutable – let’s look instead at how it changes.” Hence it denies much of the usefulness of formal logic, which starts from the proposition that “A is A,” and is nothing but A. For dialectics the corresponding proposition is “A is not simply A.” This is even true for things, but much more obviously true for people.

Conflict and Opposition

But the second characteristic, which sets it apart from any philosophy which emphasises smooth continuous change or progress, is that it states that the way change takes place is through conflict and opposition. Dialectics is always looking for the contradictions within people or situations as the main guide to what is going on and what is likely to happen. There are in fact three main propositions which are put forward about opposites and contradictions.

The interdependence of opposites

This is the easiest thing to see: opposites depend on one another. It wouldn’t make sense to talk about darkness if there were no such thing as light. I really start to understand my love at the moment when I permit myself up understand my hate. In practice, each member of a polar opposition seems to need the other to make it what it is.

The interpenetration of opposites

Here we see that opposites can be found within each other. Just because light is relative to darkness, there is some light in every darkness, and some darkness in every light. There is some hate in every love, and some love in every hate. If we look into one thing hard enough, we can always find its opposite right there. To see this frees us from the “either-or” which can be so oppressive and so stuck.

The unity of opposites

So far we have been talking about relative opposites. But dialectics goes on to say that if we take an opposite to its very ultimate extreme, and make it absolute, it actually turns into its opposite. Thus if we make darkness absolute, we are blind – we can’t see anything. And if we make light absolute, we are equally blind and unable to see. In psychology, the equivalent of this is to idealise something. So if we take love to its extreme, and idealise it, we get morbid dependence, where our whole existence depends completely on the other person. And if we take hate to its extreme, and idealise it, we get morbid counterdependence, where our whole existence again depends completely on the other person. This appreciation of paradox is one of the strengths of the dialectical approach, which makes it superior to linear logic.

A good symbol for these three processes is the Yin-Yang symbol of Taoism. The interdependence of opposites is shown in each half being defined by the contours of the other. The interpenetration of opposites is expressed by having a black spot in the innermost centre of the white area, and a white spot in the innermost centre of the black area. The unity of opposites is shown by the circle surrounding the symbol, which expresses total unity and unbroken serenity in and through all the seeming opposition. It is, after all, one symbol.

The lessons of the dialectic are hard ones. It tells us that any value we have, if held to in a one-sided way, will become an illusion. We shall try to take it as excluding its opposite, but really it will include it. And if we take it to its extreme, and idealise it, it will turn into its opposite. So peace and love, cosmic harmony, the pursuit of happiness and all the rest are doomed, if held to in this exclusive way.

The only values which will be truly stable and coherent are those which include opposition rather than excluding it. And all such values appear to be nonsense, because they must contain paradoxes. “Self-actualization” is one such value, because the concept of the self is self-contradictory, paradoxical and absurd. The self is intensely personal and completely impersonal at one and the same time. It is the lowest of the low and the highest of the high at the same time. And this is why, when we contact the self in a peak experience, our description of what happened is invariably a paradoxical one.

There is a logic of paradox, which enables the intellect to handle it without getting fazed, and its name is the dialectic. It is complex because it involves holding the spring doors of the mind open – hence it often tries to say everything at once. But it shows how we do not have to give up in the face of paradox and abandon the intellect as a hopeless case.

Hegel’s Dialectics

Source: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel-dialectics/

First published Fri Jun 3, 2016; substantive revision Fri Oct 2, 2020

“Dialectics” is a term used to describe a method of philosophical argument that involves some sort of contradictory process between opposing sides. In what is perhaps the most classic version of “dialectics”, the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato (see entry on Plato), for instance, presented his philosophical argument as a back-and-forth dialogue or debate, generally between the character of Socrates, on one side, and some person or group of people to whom Socrates was talking (his interlocutors), on the other. In the course of the dialogues, Socrates’ interlocutors propose definitions of philosophical concepts or express views that Socrates challenges or opposes. The back-and-forth debate between opposing sides produces a kind of linear progression or evolution in philosophical views or positions: as the dialogues go along, Socrates’ interlocutors change or refine their views in response to Socrates’ challenges and come to adopt more sophisticated views. The back-and-forth dialectic between Socrates and his interlocutors thus becomes Plato’s way of arguing against the earlier, less sophisticated views or positions and for the more sophisticated ones later.

“Hegel’s dialectics” refers to the particular dialectical method of argument employed by the 19th Century German philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel (see entry on Hegel), which, like other “dialectical” methods, relies on a contradictory process between opposing sides. Whereas Plato’s “opposing sides” were people (Socrates and his interlocutors), however, what the “opposing sides” are in Hegel’s work depends on the subject matter he discusses. In his work on logic, for instance, the “opposing sides” are different definitions of logical concepts that are opposed to one another. In the Phenomenology of Spirit, which presents Hegel’s epistemology or philosophy of knowledge, the “opposing sides” are different definitions of consciousness and of the object that consciousness is aware of or claims to know. As in Plato’s dialogues, a contradictory process between “opposing sides” in Hegel’s dialectics leads to a linear evolution or development from less sophisticated definitions or views to more sophisticated ones later. The dialectical process thus constitutes Hegel’s method for arguing against the earlier, less sophisticated definitions or views and for the more sophisticated ones later. Hegel regarded this dialectical method or “speculative mode of cognition” (PR §10) as the hallmark of his philosophy and used the same method in the Phenomenology of Spirit [PhG], as well as in all of the mature works he published later—the entire Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences (including, as its first part, the “Lesser Logic” or the Encyclopaedia Logic [EL]), the Science of Logic [SL], and the Philosophy of Right[PR].

Note that, although Hegel acknowledged that his dialectical method was part of a philosophical tradition stretching back to Plato, he criticized Plato’s version of dialectics. He argued that Plato’s dialectics deals only with limited philosophical claims and is unable to get beyond skepticism or nothingness (SL-M 55–6; SL-dG 34–5; PR, Remark to §31). According to the logic of a traditional reductio ad absurdum argument, if the premises of an argument lead to a contradiction, we must conclude that the premises are false—which leaves us with no premises or with nothing. We must then wait around for new premises to spring up arbitrarily from somewhere else, and then see whether those new premises put us back into nothingness or emptiness once again, if they, too, lead to a contradiction. Because Hegel believed that reason necessarily generates contradictions, as we will see, he thought new premises will indeed produce further contradictions. As he puts the argument, then, 

the scepticism that ends up with the bare abstraction of nothingness or emptiness cannot get any further from there, but must wait to see whether something new comes along and what it is, in order to throw it too into the same empty abyss. (PhG-M §79) 

Hegel argues that, because Plato’s dialectics cannot get beyond arbitrariness and skepticism, it generates only approximate truths, and falls short of being a genuine science (SL-M 55–6; SL-dG 34–5; PR, Remark to §31; cf. EL Remark to §81). The following sections examine Hegel’s dialectics as well as these issues in more detail.


1. Hegel’s description of his dialectical method

Hegel provides the most extensive, general account of his dialectical method in Part I of his Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences, which is often called the Encyclopaedia Logic [EL]. The form or presentation of logic, he says, has three sides or moments (EL §79). These sides are not parts of logic, but, rather, moments of “every concept”, as well as “of everything true in general” (EL Remark to §79; we will see why Hegel thought dialectics is in everything in section 3). The first moment—the moment of the understanding—is the moment of fixity, in which concepts or forms have a seemingly stable definition or determination (EL §80).

The second moment—the “dialectical” (EL §§79, 81) or “negatively rational” (EL §79) moment—is the moment of instability. In this moment, a one-sidedness or restrictedness (EL Remark to §81) in the determination from the moment of understanding comes to the fore, and the determination that was fixed in the first moment passes into its opposite (EL §81). Hegel describes this process as a process of “self-sublation” (EL §81). The English verb “to sublate” translates Hegel’s technical use of the German verb aufheben, which is a crucial concept in his dialectical method. Hegel says that aufheben has a doubled meaning: it means both to cancel (or negate) and to preserve at the same time (PhG §113; SL-M 107; SL-dG 81–2; cf. EL the Addition to §95). The moment of understanding sublates itself because its own character or nature—its one-sidedness or restrictedness—destabilizes its definition and leads it to pass into its opposite. The dialectical moment thus involves a process of self-sublation, or a process in which the determination from the moment of understanding sublates itself, or both cancels and preserves itself, as it pushes on to or passes into its opposite.

The third moment—the “speculative” or “positively rational” (EL §§79, 82) moment—grasps the unity of the opposition between the first two determinations, or is the positive result of the dissolution or transition of those determinations (EL §82 and Remark to §82). Here, Hegel rejects the traditional, reductio ad absurdum argument, which says that when the premises of an argument lead to a contradiction, then the premises must be discarded altogether, leaving nothing. As Hegel suggests in the Phenomenology, such an argument 

is just the skepticism which only ever sees pure nothingness in its result and abstracts from the fact that this nothingness is specifically the nothingness of that from which it results. (PhG-M §79) 

Although the speculative moment negates the contradiction, it is a determinate or defined nothingness because it is the result of a specific process. There is something particular about the determination in the moment of understanding—a specific weakness, or some specific aspect that was ignored in its one-sidedness or restrictedness—that leads it to fall apart in the dialectical moment. The speculative moment has a definition, determination or content because it grows out of and unifies the particular character of those earlier determinations, or is “a unity of distinct determinations” (EL Remark to §82). The speculative moment is thus “truly not empty, abstract nothing, but the negation of certain determinations” (EL-GSH §82). When the result “is taken as the result of that from which it emerges”, Hegel says, then it is “in fact, the true result; in that case it is itself a determinate nothingness, one which has a content” (PhG-M §79). As he also puts it, “the result is conceived as it is in truth, namely, as a determinate negation [bestimmteNegation]; a new form has thereby immediately arisen” (PhG-M §79). Or, as he says, “[b]ecause the result, the negation, is a determinate negation [bestimmte Negation], it has a content” (SL-dG 33; cf. SL-M 54). Hegel’s claim in both the Phenomenology and the Science of Logic that his philosophy relies on a process of “determinate negation [bestimmte Negation]” has sometimes led scholars to describe his dialectics as a method or doctrine of “determinate negation” (see entry on Hegel, section on Science of Logic; cf. Rosen 1982: 30; Stewart 1996, 2000: 41–3; Winfield 1990: 56).

There are several features of this account that Hegel thinks raise his dialectical method above the arbitrariness of Plato’s dialectics to the level of a genuine science. First, because the determinations in the moment of understanding sublate themselves, Hegel’s dialectics does not require some new idea to show up arbitrarily. Instead, the movement to new determinations is driven by the nature of the earlier determinations and so “comes about on its own accord” (PhG-P §79). Indeed, for Hegel, the movement is driven by necessity (see, e.g., EL Remarks to §§12, 42, 81, 87, 88; PhG §79). The natures of the determinations themselves drive or force them to pass into their opposites. This sense of necessity—the idea that the method involves being forced from earlier moments to later ones—leads Hegel to regard his dialectics as a kind of logic. As he says in the Phenomenology, the method’s “proper exposition belongs to logic” (PhG-M §48). Necessity—the sense of being driven or forced to conclusions—is the hallmark of “logic” in Western philosophy.

Second, because the form or determination that arises is the result of the self-sublation of the determination from the moment of understanding, there is no need for some new idea to show up from the outside. Instead, the transition to the new determination or form is necessitated by earlier moments and hence grows out of the process itself. Unlike in Plato’s arbitrary dialectics, then—which must wait around until some other idea comes in from the outside—in Hegel’s dialectics “nothing extraneous is introduced”, as he says (SL-M 54; cf. SL-dG 33). His dialectics is driven by the nature, immanence or “inwardness” of its own content (SL-M 54; cf. SL-dG 33; cf. PR §31). As he puts it, dialectics is “the principle through which alone immanent coherence and necessity enter into the content of science” (EL-GSH Remark to §81).

Third, because later determinations “sublate” earlier determinations, the earlier determinations are not completely cancelled or negated. On the contrary, the earlier determinations are preservedin the sense that they remain in effect within the later determinations. When Being-for-itself, for instance, is introduced in the logic as the first concept of ideality or universality and is defined by embracing a set of “something-others”, Being-for-itself replaces the something-others as the new concept, but those something-others remain active within the definition of the concept of Being-for-itself. The something-others must continue to do the work of picking out individual somethings before the concept of Being-for-itself can have its own definition as the concept that gathers them up. Being-for-itself replaces the something-others, but it also preserves them, because its definition still requires them to do their work of picking out individual somethings (EL §§95–6).

The concept of “apple”, for example, as a Being-for-itself, would be defined by gathering up individual “somethings” that are the same as one another (as apples). Each individual apple can be what it is (as an apple) only in relation to an “other” that is the same “something” that it is (i.e., an apple). That is the one-sidedness or restrictedness that leads each “something” to pass into its “other” or opposite. The “somethings” are thus both “something-others”. Moreover, their defining processes lead to an endless process of passing back and forth into one another: one “something” can be what it is (as an apple) only in relation to another “something” that is the same as it is, which, in turn, can be what it is (an apple) only in relation to the other “something” that is the same as it is, and so on, back and forth, endlessly (cf. EL §95). The concept of “apple”, as a Being-for-itself, stops that endless, passing-over process by embracing or including the individual something-others (the apples) in its content. It grasps or captures their character or quality as apples. But the “something-others” must do their work of picking out and separating those individual items (the apples) before the concept of “apple”—as the Being-for-itself—can gather them up for its own definition. We can picture the concept of Being-for-itself like this:an oval enclosing two circles, left and right; an arrow goes from the interior of each circle to the interior of the other. The oval has the statement 'Being-for-itself embraces the something-others in its content'. The circles have the statement 'the something-others'. The arrows have the statement 'the process of passing back-and-forth between the something-others'.

Figure 1

Later concepts thus replace, but also preserve, earlier concepts.

Fourth, later concepts both determine and also surpass the limits or finitude of earlier concepts. Earlier determinations sublate themselves—they pass into their others because of some weakness, one-sidedness or restrictedness in their own definitions. There are thus limitations in each of the determinations that lead them to pass into their opposites. As Hegel says, “that is what everything finite is: its own sublation” (EL-GSH Remark to §81). Later determinations define the finiteness of the earlier determinations. From the point of view of the concept of Being-for-itself, for instance, the concept of a “something-other” is limited or finite: although the something-others are supposed to be the same as one another, the character of their sameness (e.g., as apples) is captured only from above, by the higher-level, more universal concept of Being-for-itself. Being-for-itself reveals the limitations of the concept of a “something-other”. It also rises above those limitations, since it can do something that the concept of a something-other cannot do. Dialectics thus allows us to get beyond the finite to the universal. As Hegel puts it, “all genuine, nonexternal elevation above the finite is to be found in this principle [of dialectics]” (EL-GSH Remark to §81).

Fifth, because the determination in the speculative moment grasps the unity of the first two moments, Hegel’s dialectical method leads to concepts or forms that are increasingly comprehensive and universal. As Hegel puts it, the result of the dialectical process

is a new concept but one higher and richer than the preceding—richer because it negates or opposes the preceding and therefore contains it, and it contains even more than that, for it is the unity of itself and its opposite. (SL-dG 33; cf. SL-M 54) 

Like Being-for-itself, later concepts are more universal because they unify or are built out ofearlier determinations, and include those earlier determinations as part of their definitions. Indeed, many other concepts or determinations can also be depicted as literally surrounding earlier ones (cf. Maybee 2009: 73, 100, 112, 156, 193, 214, 221, 235, 458).

Finally, because the dialectical process leads to increasing comprehensiveness and universality, it ultimately produces a complete series, or drives “to completion” (SL-dG 33; cf. SL-M 54; PhG §79). Dialectics drives to the “Absolute”, to use Hegel’s term, which is the last, final, and completely all-encompassing or unconditioned concept or form in the relevant subject matter under discussion (logic, phenomenology, ethics/politics and so on). The “Absolute” concept or form is unconditioned because its definition or determination contains all the other concepts or forms that were developed earlier in the dialectical process for that subject matter. Moreover, because the process develops necessarily and comprehensively through each concept, form or determination, there are no determinations that are left out of the process. There are therefore no left-over concepts or forms—concepts or forms outside of the “Absolute”—that might “condition” or define it. The “Absolute” is thus unconditioned because it contains all of the conditions in its content, and is not conditioned by anything else outside of it. This Absolute is the highest concept or form of universality for that subject matter. It is the thought or concept of the whole conceptual system for the relevant subject matter. We can picture the Absolute Idea (EL §236), for instance—which is the “Absolute” for logic—as an oval that is filled up with and surrounds numerous, embedded rings of smaller ovals and circles, which represent all of the earlier and less universal determinations from the logical development (cf. Maybee 2009: 30, 600):Five concentric ovals; the outermost one is labeled 'The Absolute Idea'.

Figure 2

Since the “Absolute” concepts for each subject matter lead into one another, when they are taken together, they constitute Hegel’s entire philosophical system, which, as Hegel says, “presents itself therefore as a circle of circles” (EL-GSH §15). We can picture the entire system like this (cf. Maybee 2009: 29):A circle enclosing enclosing 10 ovals. One oval is labeled 'Phenomenology', another 'Logic', and two others 'Other philosophical subject matters'. The enclosing circle is labeled: the whole philosophical system as a 'circle of circles'

Figure 3

Together, Hegel believes, these characteristics make his dialectical method genuinely scientific. As he says, “the dialectical constitutes the moving soul of scientific progression” (EL-GSH Remark to §81). He acknowledges that a description of the method can be more or less complete and detailed, but because the method or progression is driven only by the subject matter itself, this dialectical method is the “only true method” (SL-M 54; SL-dG 33).

2. Applying Hegel’s dialectical method to his arguments

So far, we have seen how Hegel describes his dialectical method, but we have yet to see how we might read this method into the arguments he offers in his works. Scholars often use the first three stages of the logic as the “textbook example” (Forster 1993: 133) to illustrate how Hegel’s dialectical method should be applied to his arguments. The logic begins with the simple and immediate concept of pure Being, which is said to illustrate the moment of the understanding. We can think of Being here as a concept of pure presence. It is not mediated by any other concept—or is not defined in relation to any other concept—and so is undetermined or has no further determination (EL §86; SL-M 82; SL-dG 59). It asserts bare presence, but what that presence is like has no further determination. Because the thought of pure Being is undetermined and so is a pure abstraction, however, it is really no different from the assertion of pure negation or the absolutely negative (EL §87). It is therefore equally a Nothing (SL-M 82; SL-dG 59). Being’s lack of determination thus leads it to sublate itself and pass into the concept of Nothing (EL §87; SL-M 82; SL-dG 59), which illustrates the dialectical moment.

But if we focus for a moment on the definitions of Being and Nothing themselves, their definitions have the same content. Indeed, both are undetermined, so they have the same kind of undefined content. The only difference between them is “something merely meant” (EL-GSH Remark to §87), namely, that Being is an undefined content, taken as or meant to be presence, while Nothing is an undefined content, taken as or meant to be absence. The third concept of the logic—which is used to illustrate the speculative moment—unifies the first two moments by capturing the positive result of—or the conclusion that we can draw from—the opposition between the first two moments. The concept of Becoming is the thought of an undefined content, taken as presence (Being) and then taken as absence (Nothing), or taken as absence (Nothing) and then taken as presence (Being). To Become is to go from Being to Nothing or from Nothing to Being, or is, as Hegel puts it, “the immediate vanishing of the one in the other” (SL-M 83; cf. SL-dG 60). The contradiction between Being and Nothing thus is not a reductio ad absurdum, or does not lead to the rejection of both concepts and hence to nothingness—as Hegel had said Plato’s dialectics does (SL-M 55–6; SL-dG 34–5)—but leads to a positive result, namely, to the introduction of a new concept—the synthesis—which unifies the two, earlier, opposed concepts.

We can also use the textbook Being-Nothing-Becoming example to illustrate Hegel’s concept of aufheben (to sublate), which, as we saw, means to cancel (or negate) and to preserve at the same time. Hegel says that the concept of Becoming sublates the concepts of Being and Nothing (SL-M 105; SL-dG 80). Becoming cancels or negates Being and Nothing because it is a new concept that replaces the earlier concepts; but it also preserves Being and Nothing because it relies on those earlier concepts for its own definition. Indeed, it is the first concrete concept in the logic. Unlike Being and Nothing, which had no definition or determination as concepts themselves and so were merely abstract (SL-M 82–3; SL-dG 59–60; cf. EL Addition to §88), Becoming is a “determinate unity in which there is both Being and Nothing” (SL-M 105; cf. SL-dG 80). Becoming succeeds in having a definition or determination because it is defined by, or piggy-backs on, the concepts of Being and Nothing.

This “textbook” Being-Nothing-Becoming example is closely connected to the traditional idea that Hegel’s dialectics follows a thesis-antithesis-synthesis pattern, which, when applied to the logic, means that one concept is introduced as a “thesis” or positive concept, which then develops into a second concept that negates or is opposed to the first or is its “antithesis”, which in turn leads to a third concept, the “synthesis”, that unifies the first two (see, e.g., McTaggert 1964 [1910]: 3–4; Mure 1950: 302; Stace, 1955 [1924]: 90–3, 125–6; Kosek 1972: 243; E. Harris 1983: 93–7; Singer 1983: 77–79). Versions of this interpretation of Hegel’s dialectics continue to have currency (e.g., Forster 1993: 131; Stewart 2000: 39, 55; Fritzman 2014: 3–5). On this reading, Being is the positive moment or thesis, Nothing is the negative moment or antithesis, and Becoming is the moment of aufheben or synthesis—the concept that cancels and preserves, or unifies and combines, Being and Nothing.

We must be careful, however, not to apply this textbook example too dogmatically to the rest of Hegel’s logic or to his dialectical method more generally (for a classic criticism of the thesis-antithesis-synthesis reading of Hegel’s dialectics, see Mueller 1958). There are other places where this general pattern might describe some of the transitions from stage to stage, but there are many more places where the development does not seem to fit this pattern very well. One place where the pattern seems to hold, for instance, is where the Measure (EL §107)—as the combination of Quality and Quantity—transitions into the Measureless (EL §107), which is opposed to it, which then in turn transitions into Essence, which is the unity or combination of the two earlier sides (EL §111). This series of transitions could be said to follow the general pattern captured by the “textbook example”: Measure would be the moment of the understanding or thesis, the Measureless would be the dialectical moment or antithesis, and Essence would be the speculative moment or synthesis that unifies the two earlier moments. However, before the transition to Essence takes place, the Measureless itself is redefined as a Measure (EL §109)—undercutting a precise parallel with the textbook Being-Nothing-Becoming example, since the transition from Measure to Essence would not follow a Measure-Measureless-Essence pattern, but rather a Measure-(Measureless?)-Measure-Essence pattern.

Other sections of Hegel’s philosophy do not fit the triadic, textbook example of Being-Nothing-Becoming at all, as even interpreters who have supported the traditional reading of Hegel’s dialectics have noted. After using the Being-Nothing-Becoming example to argue that Hegel’s dialectical method consists of “triads” whose members “are called the thesis, antithesis, synthesis” (Stace 1955 [1924]: 93), W.T. Stace, for instance, goes on to warn us that Hegel does not succeed in applying this pattern throughout the philosophical system. It is hard to see, Stace says, how the middle term of some of Hegel’s triads are the opposites or antitheses of the first term, “and there are even ‘triads’ which contain four terms!” (Stace 1955 [1924]: 97). As a matter of fact, one section of Hegel’s logic—the section on Cognition—violates the thesis-antithesis-synthesis pattern because it has only two sub-divisions, rather than three. “The triad is incomplete”, Stace complains. “There is no third. Hegel here abandons the triadic method. Nor is any explanation of his having done so forthcoming” (Stace 1955 [1924]: 286; cf. McTaggart 1964 [1910]: 292).

Interpreters have offered various solutions to the complaint that Hegel’s dialectics sometimes seems to violate the triadic form. Some scholars apply the triadic form fairly loosely across several stages (e.g. Burbidge 1981: 43–5; Taylor 1975: 229–30). Others have applied Hegel’s triadic method to whole sections of his philosophy, rather than to individual stages. For G.R.G. Mure, for instance, the section on Cognition fits neatly into a triadic, thesis-antithesis-synthesis account of dialectics because the whole section is itself the antithesis of the previous section of Hegel’s logic, the section on Life (Mure 1950: 270). Mure argues that Hegel’s triadic form is easier to discern the more broadly we apply it. “The triadic form appears on many scales”, he says, “and the larger the scale we consider the more obvious it is” (Mure 1950: 302).

Scholars who interpret Hegel’s description of dialectics on a smaller scale—as an account of how to get from stage to stage—have also tried to explain why some sections seem to violate the triadic form. J.N. Findlay, for instance—who, like Stace, associates dialectics “with the triad, or with triplicity”—argues that stages can fit into that form in “more than one sense” (Findlay 1962: 66). The first sense of triplicity echoes the textbook, Being-Nothing-Becoming example. In a second sense, however, Findlay says, the dialectical moment or “contradictory breakdown” is not itself a separate stage, or “does not count as one of the stages”, but is a transition between opposed, “but complementary”, abstract stages that “are developed more or less concurrently” (Findlay 1962: 66). This second sort of triplicity could involve any number of stages: it “could readily have been expanded into a quadruplicity, a quintuplicity and so forth” (Findlay 1962: 66). Still, like Stace, he goes on to complain that many of the transitions in Hegel’s philosophy do not seem to fit the triadic pattern very well. In some triads, the second term is “the direct and obvious contrary of the first”—as in the case of Being and Nothing. In other cases, however, the opposition is, as Findlay puts it, “of a much less extreme character” (Findlay 1962: 69). In some triads, the third term obviously mediates between the first two terms. In other cases, however, he says, the third term is just one possible mediator or unity among other possible ones; and, in yet other cases, “the reconciling functions of the third member are not at all obvious” (Findlay 1962: 70).

Let us look more closely at one place where the “textbook example” of Being-Nothing-Becoming does not seem to describe the dialectical development of Hegel’s logic very well. In a later stage of the logic, the concept of Purpose goes through several iterations, from Abstract Purpose (EL §204), to Finite or Immediate Purpose (EL §205), and then through several stages of a syllogism (EL §206) to Realized Purpose (EL §210). Abstract Purpose is the thought of any kind of purposiveness, where the purpose has not been further determined or defined. It includes not just the kinds of purposes that occur in consciousness, such as needs or drives, but also the “internal purposiveness” or teleological view proposed by the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle (see entry on Aristotle; EL Remark to §204), according to which things in the world have essences and aim to achieve (or have the purpose of living up to) their essences. Finite Purpose is the moment in which an Abstract Purpose begins to have a determination by fixing on some particular material or content through which it will be realized (EL §205). The Finite Purpose then goes through a process in which it, as the Universality, comes to realize itself as the Purpose over the particular material or content (and hence becomes Realized Purpose) by pushing out into Particularity, then into Singularity (the syllogism U-P-S), and ultimately into ‘out-thereness,’ or into individual objects out there in the world (EL §210; cf. Maybee 2009: 466–493).

Hegel’s description of the development of Purpose does not seem to fit the textbook Being-Nothing-Becoming example or the thesis-antithesis-synthesis model. According to the example and model, Abstract Purpose would be the moment of understanding or thesis, Finite Purpose would be the dialectical moment or antithesis, and Realized Purpose would be the speculative moment or synthesis. Although Finite Purpose has a different determination from Abstract Purpose (it refines the definition of Abstract Purpose), it is hard to see how it would qualify as strictly “opposed” to or as the “antithesis” of Abstract Purpose in the way that Nothing is opposed to or is the antithesis of Being.

There is an answer, however, to the criticism that many of the determinations are not “opposites” in a strict sense. The German term that is translated as “opposite” in Hegel’s description of the moments of dialectics (EL §§81, 82)—entgegensetzen—has three root words: setzen (“to posit or set”), gegen, (“against”), and the prefix ent-, which indicates that something has entered into a new state. The verb entgegensetzen can therefore literally be translated as “to set over against”. The “engegengesetzte” into which determinations pass, then, do not need to be the strict “opposites” of the first, but can be determinations that are merely “set against” or are different from the first ones. And the prefix ent-, which suggests that the first determinations are put into a new state, can be explained by Hegel’s claim that the finite determinations from the moment of understanding sublate (cancel but also preserve) themselves (EL §81): later determinations put earlier determinations into a new state by preserving them.

At the same time, there is a technical sense in which a later determination would still be the “opposite” of the earlier determination. Since the second determination is different from the first one, it is the logical negation of the first one, or is not-the-first-determination. If the first determination is “e”, for instance, because the new determination is different from that one, the new one is “not-e” (Kosek 1972: 240). Since Finite Purpose, for instance, has a definition or determination that is different from the definition that Abstract Purpose has, it is not-Abstract-Purpose, or is the negation or opposite of Abstract Purpose in that sense. There is therefore a technical, logical sense in which the second concept or form is the “opposite” or negation of—or is “not”—the first one—though, again, it need not be the “opposite” of the first one in a strict sense.

Other problems remain, however. Because the concept of Realized Purpose is defined through a syllogistic process, it is itself the product of several stages of development (at least four, by my count, if Realized Purpose counts as a separate determination), which would seem to violate a triadic model. Moreover, the concept of Realized Purpose does not, strictly speaking, seem to be the unity or combination of Abstract Purpose and Finite Purpose. Realized Purpose is the result of (and so unifies) the syllogistic process of Finite Purpose, through which Finite Purpose focuses on and is realized in a particular material or content. Realized Purpose thus seems to be a development of Finite Purpose, rather than a unity or combination of Abstract Purpose and Finite Purpose, in the way that Becoming can be said to be the unity or combination of Being and Nothing.

These sorts of considerations have led some scholars to interpret Hegel’s dialectics in a way that is implied by a more literal reading of his claim, in the Encyclopaedia Logic, that the three “sides” of the form of logic—namely, the moment of understanding, the dialectical moment, and the speculative moment—“are moments of each [or every; jedeslogically-real, that is each [or every; jedes] concept” (EL Remark to §79; this is an alternative translation). The quotation suggests that each concept goes through all three moments of the dialectical process—a suggestion reinforced by Hegel’s claim, in the Phenomenology, that the result of the process of determinate negation is that “a new form has thereby immediately arisen” (PhG-M §79). According to this interpretation, the three “sides” are not three different concepts or forms that are related to one another in a triad—as the textbook Being-Nothing-Becoming example suggests—but rather different momentary sides or “determinations” in the life, so to speak, of eachconcept or form as it transitions to the next one. The three moments thus involve only two concepts or forms: the one that comes first, and the one that comes next (examples of philosophers who interpret Hegel’s dialectics in this second way include Maybee 2009; Priest 1989: 402; Rosen 2014: 122, 132; and Winfield 1990: 56).

For the concept of Being, for example, its moment of understanding is its moment of stability, in which it is asserted to be pure presence. This determination is one-sided or restricted however, because, as we saw, it ignores another aspect of Being’s definition, namely, that Being has no content or determination, which is how Being is defined in its dialectical moment. Being thus sublates itself because the one-sidedness of its moment of understanding undermines that determination and leads to the definition it has in the dialectical moment. The speculative moment draws out the implications of these moments: it asserts that Being (as pure presence) implies nothing. It is also the “unity of the determinations in their comparison [Entgegensetzung]” (EL §82; alternative translation): since it captures a process from one to the other, it includes Being’s moment of understanding (as pure presence) and dialectical moment (as nothing or undetermined), but also compares those two determinations, or sets (-setzen) them up against (-gegen) each other. It even puts Being into a new state (as the prefix ent– suggests) because the next concept, Nothing, will sublate (cancel and preserve) Being.

The concept of Nothing also has all three moments. When it is asserted to be the speculative result of the concept of Being, it has its moment of understanding or stability: it is Nothing, defined as pure absence, as the absence of determination. But Nothing’s moment of understanding is also one-sided or restricted: like Being, Nothing is also an undefined content, which is its determination in its dialectical moment. Nothing thus sublates itself: since it is an undefined content, it is not pure absence after all, but has the same presence that Being did. It is present as an undefined content. Nothing thus sublates Being: it replaces (cancels) Being, but also preserves Being insofar as it has the same definition (as an undefined content) and presence that Being had. We can picture Being and Nothing like this (the circles have dashed outlines to indicate that, as concepts, they are each undefined; cf. Maybee 2009: 51):two circles with dashed outlines, one labeled 'Being' and one 'Nothing'.

Figure 4

In its speculative moment, then, Nothing implies presence or Being, which is the “unity of the determinations in their comparison [Entgegensetzung]” (EL §82; alternative translation), since it both includes but—as a process from one to the other—also compares the two earlier determinations of Nothing, first, as pure absence and, second, as just as much presence.

The dialectical process is driven to the next concept or form—Becoming—not by a triadic, thesis-antithesis-synthesis pattern, but by the one-sidedness of Nothing—which leads Nothing to sublate itself—and by the implications of the process so far. Since Being and Nothing have each been exhaustively analyzed as separate concepts, and since they are the only concepts in play, there is only one way for the dialectical process to move forward: whatever concept comes next will have to take account of both Being and Nothing at the same time. Moreover, the process revealed that an undefined content taken to be presence (i.e., Being) implies Nothing (or absence), and that an undefined content taken to be absence (i.e., Nothing) implies presence (i.e., Being). The next concept, then, takes Being and Nothing together and draws out those implications—namely, that Being implies Nothing, and that Nothing implies Being. It is therefore Becoming, defined as two separate processes: one in which Being becomes Nothing, and one in which Nothing becomes Being. We can picture Becoming this way (cf. Maybee 2009: 53):Same as the previous figure except arched arrows from the Nothing circle to the Being circle and vice versa. The arrows are labeled 'Becoming'.

Figure 5

In a similar way, a one-sidedness or restrictedness in the determination of Finite Purpose together with the implications of earlier stages leads to Realized Purpose. In its moment of understanding, Finite Purpose particularizes into (or presents) its content as “something-presupposed” or as a pre-given object (EL §205). I go to a restaurant for the purpose of having dinner, for instance, and order a salad. My purpose of having dinner particularizes as a pre-given object—the salad. But this object or particularity—e.g. the salad—is “inwardly reflected” (EL §205): it has its own content—developed in earlier stages—which the definition of Finite Purpose ignores. We can picture Finite Purpose this way:4 concentric ovals with the innermost one enclosing an oval and a circle; an arrow points inward from the outermost oval and is labeled 'Presents into or particularizes as'. The outermost oval is labeled 'Finite Purpose (the universality; e.g. 'dinner')'. The next most oval is labeled 'A pre-given object (e.g., 'salad')'. The next oval and the circle and oval in the center are labeled 'The content of the object, developed in earlier stages, that Finite Purpose is ignoring'.

Figure 6

In the dialectical moment, Finite Purpose is determined by the previously ignored content, or by that other content. The one-sidedness of Finite Purpose requires the dialectical process to continue through a series of syllogisms that determines Finite Purpose in relation to the ignored content. The first syllogism links the Finite Purpose to the first layer of content in the object: the Purpose or universality (e.g., dinner) goes through the particularity (e.g., the salad) to its content, the singularity (e.g., lettuce as a type of thing)—the syllogism U-P-S (EL §206). But the particularity (e.g., the salad) is itself a universality or purpose, “which at the same time is a syllogism within itself [in sich]” (EL Remark to §208; alternative translation), in relation to its own content. The salad is a universality/purpose that particularizes as lettuce (as a type of thing) and has its singularity in this lettuce here—a second syllogism, U-P-S. Thus, the first singularity (e.g., “lettuce” as a type of thing)—which, in this second syllogism, is the particularity or P—“judges” (EL §207) or asserts that “U is S”: it says that “lettuce” as a universality (U) or type of thing is a singularity (S), or is “this lettuce here”, for instance. This new singularity (e.g. “this lettuce here”) is itself a combination of subjectivity and objectivity (EL §207): it is an Inner or identifying concept (“lettuce”) that is in a mutually-defining relationship (the circular arrow) with an Outer or out-thereness (“this here”) as its content. In the speculative moment, Finite Purpose is determined by the whole process of development from the moment of understanding—when it is defined by particularizing into a pre-given object with a content that it ignores—to its dialectical moment—when it is also defined by the previously ignored content. We can picture the speculative moment of Finite Purpose this way:4 concentric ovals with the innermost one enclosing an oval and a circle; arrows point inward from the outermost 3 ovals to the next one in. The outermost oval is labeled 'Finite Purpose (the universality; e.g. 'dinner')'. The nextmost oval is labeled both 'The Particularity or object (e.g., 'salad')' and 'The object (e.g., 'salad') is also a Purpose or universality with its own syllogism'. The next oval is labeled both 'The Singularity (e.g., 'lettuce' as a type)' and 'The Particularity (e.g., 'lettuce' as type)'. And the 4th oval is labeled both 'Inner' and 'The Singularity (e.g., 'this lettuce is here')'. The circle in the middle is labeled 'Outer' and the oval in the middle 'Mutually-defining relationship'. The 3 interior ovals (not including the innermost) are also labeled 'The second syllogism U-P-S'. The 3 outer ovals are also labeled 'The first syllogism U-P-S'.

Figure 7

Finite Purpose’s speculative moment leads to Realized Purpose. As soon as Finite Purpose presents all the content, there is a return process (a series of return arrows) that establishes each layer and redefines Finite Purpose as Realized Purpose. The presence of “this lettuce here” establishes the actuality of “lettuce” as a type of thing (an Actuality is a concept that captures a mutually-defining relationship between an Inner and an Outer [EL §142]), which establishes the “salad”, which establishes “dinner” as the Realized Purpose over the whole process. We can picture Realized Purpose this way:4 concentric ovals with the innermost one enclosing an oval and a circle; arrows point inward from the outermost 3 ovals to the next one in and arrows also point in the reverse direction. The outermost oval is labeled 'Realized Purpose: the Purpose (e.g., 'dinner') is established as the Purpose or universality over the whole content'. The outward pointing arrows are labeled 'The return process established the Purpose (e.g., 'dinner') as the Purpose or universality over the whole content'. The nextmost oval is labeled 'The object and second Purpose (e.g., 'salad')'. The one next in is labeled 'The Singularity/Particularity (e.g., 'lettuce' as a type)'. The 3rd inward oval is labeled 'The second Singularity (e.g., 'this lettuce is here')'.

Figure 8

If Hegel’s account of dialectics is a general description of the life of each concept or form, then any section can include as many or as few stages as the development requires. Instead of trying to squeeze the stages into a triadic form (cf. Solomon 1983: 22)—a technique Hegel himself rejects (PhG §50; cf. section 3)—we can see the process as driven by each determination on its own account: what it succeeds in grasping (which allows it to be stable, for a moment of understanding), what it fails to grasp or capture (in its dialectical moment), and how it leads (in its speculative moment) to a new concept or form that tries to correct for the one-sidedness of the moment of understanding. This sort of process might reveal a kind of argument that, as Hegel had promised, might produce a comprehensive and exhaustive exploration of every concept, form or determination in each subject matter, as well as raise dialectics above a haphazard analysis of various philosophical views to the level of a genuine science.

3. Why does Hegel use dialectics?

We can begin to see why Hegel was motivated to use a dialectical method by examining the project he set for himself, particularly in relation to the work of David Hume and Immanuel Kant (see entries on Hume and Kant). Hume had argued against what we can think of as the naïve view of how we come to have scientific knowledge. According to the naïve view, we gain knowledge of the world by using our senses to pull the world into our heads, so to speak. Although we may have to use careful observations and do experiments, our knowledge of the world is basically a mirror or copy of what the world is like. Hume argued, however, that naïve science’s claim that our knowledge corresponds to or copies what the world is like does not work. Take the scientific concept of cause, for instance. According to that concept of cause, to say that one event causes another is to say that there is a necessary connection between the first event (the cause) and the second event (the effect), such that, when the first event happens, the second event must also happen. According to naïve science, when we claim (or know) that some event causes some other event, our claim mirrors or copies what the world is like. It follows that the necessary, causal connection between the two events must itself be out there in the world. However, Hume argued, we never observe any such necessary causal connection in our experience of the world, nor can we infer that one exists based on our reasoning (see Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part III, Section II; Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section VII, Part I). There is nothing in the world itself that our idea of cause mirrors or copies.

Kant thought Hume’s argument led to an unacceptable, skeptical conclusion, and he rejected Hume’s own solution to the skepticism (see Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, B5, B19–20). Hume suggested that our idea of causal necessity is grounded merely in custom or habit, since it is generated by our own imaginations after repeated observations of one sort of event following another sort of event (see Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Section VI; Hegel also rejected Hume’s solution, see EL §39). For Kant, science and knowledge should be grounded in reason, and he proposed a solution that aimed to reestablish the connection between reason and knowledge that was broken by Hume’s skeptical argument. Kant’s solution involved proposing a Copernican revolution in philosophy (Critique of Pure Reason, Bxvi). Nicholas Copernicus was the Polish astronomer who said that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around. Kant proposed a similar solution to Hume’s skepticism. Naïve science assumes that our knowledge revolves around what the world is like, but, Hume’s criticism argued, this view entails that we cannot then have knowledge of scientific causes through reason. We can reestablish a connection between reason and knowledge, however, Kant suggested, if we say—not that knowledge revolves around what the world is like—but that knowledge revolves around what we are like. For the purposes of our knowledge, Kant said, we do not revolve around the world—the world revolves around us. Because we are rational creatures, we share a cognitive structure with one another that regularizes our experiences of the world. This intersubjectively shared structure of rationality—and not the world itself—grounds our knowledge.

However, Kant’s solution to Hume’s skepticism led to a skeptical conclusion of its own that Hegel rejected. While the intersubjectively shared structure of our reason might allow us to have knowledge of the world from our perspective, so to speak, we cannot get outside of our mental, rational structures to see what the world might be like in itself. As Kant had to admit, according to his theory, there is still a world in itself or “Thing-in-itself” (Ding an sich) about which we can know nothing (see, e.g., Critique of Pure Reason, Bxxv–xxvi). Hegel rejected Kant’s skeptical conclusion that we can know nothing about the world- or Thing-in-itself, and he intended his own philosophy to be a response to this view (see, e.g., EL §44 and the Remark to §44).

How did Hegel respond to Kant’s skepticism—especially since Hegel accepted Kant’s Copernican revolution, or Kant’s claim that we have knowledge of the world because of what we are like, because of our reason? How, for Hegel, can we get out of our heads to see the world as it is in itself? Hegel’s answer is very close to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s response to Plato. Plato argued that we have knowledge of the world only through the Forms. The Forms are perfectly universal, rational concepts or ideas. Because the world is imperfect, however, Plato exiled the Forms to their own realm. Although things in the world get their definitions by participating in the Forms, those things are, at best, imperfect copies of the universal Forms (see, e.g., Parmenides 131–135a). The Forms are therefore not in this world, but in a separate realm of their own. Aristotle argued, however, that the world is knowable not because things in the world are imperfect copies of the Forms, but because the Forms are in things themselves as the defining essences of those things (see, e.g., De Anima [On the Soul], Book I, Chapter 1 [403a26–403b18]; Metaphysics, Book VII, Chapter 6 [1031b6–1032a5] and Chapter 8 [1033b20–1034a8]).

In a similar way, Hegel’s answer to Kant is that we can get out of our heads to see what the world is like in itself—and hence can have knowledge of the world in itself—because the very same rationality or reason that is in our heads is in the world itself. As Hegel apparently put it in a lecture, the opposition or antithesis between the subjective and objective disappears by saying, as the Ancients did, 

that nous governs the world, or by our own saying that there is reason in the world, by which we mean that reason is the soul of the world, inhabits it, and is immanent in it, as it own, innermost nature, its universal. (EL-GSH Addition 1 to §24) 

Hegel used an example familiar from Aristotle’s work to illustrate this view: 

“to be an animal”, the kind considered as the universal, pertains to the determinate animal and constitutes its determinate essentiality. If we were to deprive a dog of its animality we could not say what it is. (EL-GSH Addition 1 to §24; cf. SL-dG 16–17, SL-M 36-37)

Kant’s mistake, then, was that he regarded reason or rationality as only in our heads, Hegel suggests (EL §§43–44), rather than in both us and the world itself (see also below in this section and section 4). We can use our reason to have knowledge of the world because the very same reason that is in us, is in the world itself as it own defining principle. The rationality or reason in the world makes reality understandable, and that is why we can have knowledge of, or can understand, reality with our rationality. Dialectics—which is Hegel’s account of reason—characterizes not only logic, but also “everything true in general” (EL Remark to §79).

But why does Hegel come to define reason in terms of dialectics, and hence adopt a dialectical method? We can begin to see what drove Hegel to adopt a dialectical method by returning once again to Plato’s philosophy. Plato argued that we can have knowledge of the world only by grasping the Forms, which are perfectly universal, rational concepts or ideas. Because things in the world are so imperfect, however, Plato concluded that the Forms are not in this world, but in a realm of their own. After all, if a human being were perfectly beautiful, for instance, then he or she would never become not-beautiful. But human beings change, get old, and die, and so can be, at best, imperfect copies of the Form of beauty—though they get whatever beauty they have by participating in that Form. Moreover, for Plato, things in the world are such imperfect copies that we cannot gain knowledge of the Forms by studying things in the world, but only through reason, that is, only by using our rationality to access the separate realm of the Forms (as Plato argued in the well-known parable of the cave; Republic, Book 7, 514–516b).

Notice, however, that Plato’s conclusion that the Forms cannot be in this world and so must be exiled to a separate realm rests on two claims. First, it rests on the claim that the world is an imperfect and messy place—a claim that is hard to deny. But it also rests on the assumption that the Forms—the universal, rational concepts or ideas of reason itself—are static and fixed, and so cannot grasp the messiness within the imperfect world. Hegel is able to link reason back to our messy world by changing the definition of reason. Instead of saying that reason consists of static universals, concepts or ideas, Hegel says that the universal concepts or forms are themselves messy. Against Plato, Hegel’s dialectical method allows him to argue that universal concepts can “overgrasp” (from the German verb übergreifen) the messy, dialectical nature of the world because they, themselves, are dialectical. Moreover, because later concepts build on or sublate (cancel, but also preserve) earlier concepts, the later, more universal concepts grasp the dialectical processes of earlier concepts. As a result, higher-level concepts can grasp not only the dialectical nature of earlier concepts or forms, but also the dialectical processes that make the world itself a messy place. The highest definition of the concept of beauty, for instance, would not take beauty to be fixed and static, but would include within it the dialectical nature or finiteness of beauty, the idea that beauty becomes, on its own account, not-beauty. This dialectical understanding of the concept of beauty can then overgrasp the dialectical and finite nature of beauty in the world, and hence the truth that, in the world, beautiful things themselves become not-beautiful, or might be beautiful in one respect and not another. Similarly, the highest determination of the concept of “tree” will include within its definition the dialectical process of development and change from seed to sapling to tree. As Hegel says, dialectics is “the principle of all natural and spiritual life” (SL-M 56; SL-dG 35), or “the moving soul of scientific progression” (EL §81). Dialectics is what drives the development of both reason as well as of things in the world. A dialectical reason can overgrasp a dialectical world.

Two further journeys into the history of philosophy will help to show why Hegel chose dialectics as his method of argument. As we saw, Hegel argues against Kant’s skepticism by suggesting that reason is not only in our heads, but in the world itself. To show that reason is in the world itself, however, Hegel has to show that reason can be what it is without us human beings to help it. He has to show that reason can develop on its own, and does not need us to do the developing for it (at least for those things in the world that are not human-created). As we saw (cf. section 1), central to Hegel’s dialectics is the idea that concepts or forms develop on their own because they “self-sublate”, or sublate (cancel and preserve) themselves, and so pass into subsequent concepts or forms on their own accounts, because of their own, dialectical natures. Thus reason, as it were, drives itself, and hence does not need our heads to develop it. Hegel needs an account of self-driving reason to get beyond Kant’s skepticism.

Ironically, Hegel derives the basic outlines of his account of self-driving reason from Kant. Kant divided human rationality into two faculties: the faculty of the understanding and the faculty of reason. The understanding uses concepts to organize and regularize our experiences of the world. Reason’s job is to coordinate the concepts and categories of the understanding by developing a completely unified, conceptual system, and it does this work, Kant thought, on its own, independently of how those concepts might apply to the world. Reason coordinates the concepts of the understanding by following out necessary chains of syllogisms to produce concepts that achieve higher and higher levels of conceptual unity. Indeed, this process will lead reason to produce its own transcendental ideas, or concepts that go beyond the world of experience. Kant calls this necessary, concept-creating reason “speculative” reason (cf. Critique of Pure Reason, Bxx–xxi, A327/B384). Reason creates its own concepts or ideas—it “speculates”—by generating new and increasingly comprehensive concepts of its own, independently of the understanding. In the end, Kant thought, reason will follow out such chains of syllogisms until it develops completely comprehensive or unconditioned universals—universals that contain all of the conditions or all of the less-comprehensive concepts that help to define them. As we saw (cf.section 1), Hegel’s dialectics adopts Kant’s notion of a self-driving and concept-creating “speculative” reason, as well as Kant’s idea that reason aims toward unconditioned universality or absolute concepts.

Ultimately, Kant thought, reasons’ necessary, self-driving activity will lead it to produce contradictions—what he called the “antinomies”, which consist of a thesis and antithesis. Once reason has generated the unconditioned concept of the whole world, for instance, Kant argued, it can look at the world in two, contradictory ways. In the first antinomy, reason can see the world (1) as the whole totality or as the unconditioned, or (2) as the series of syllogisms that led up to that totality. If reason sees the world as the unconditioned or as a complete whole that is not conditioned by anything else, then it will see the world as having a beginning and end in terms of space and time, and so will conclude (the thesis) that the world has a beginning and end or limit. But if reason sees the world as the series, in which each member of the series is conditioned by the previous member, then the world will appear to be without a beginning and infinite, and reason will conclude (the antithesis) that the world does not have a limit in terms of space and time (cf. Critique of Pure Reason, A417–18/B445–6). Reason thus leads to a contradiction: it holds both that the world has a limit and that it does not have a limit at the same time. Because reason’s own process of self-development will lead it to develop contradictions or to be dialectical in this way, Kant thought that reason must be kept in check by the understanding. Any conclusions that reason draws that do not fall within the purview of the understanding cannot be applied to the world of experience, Kant said, and so cannot be considered genuine knowledge (Critique of Pure Reason, A506/B534).

Hegel adopts Kant’s dialectical conception of reason, but he liberates reason for knowledge from the tyranny of the understanding. Kant was right that reason speculatively generates concepts on its own, and that this speculative process is driven by necessity and leads to concepts of increasing universality or comprehensiveness. Kant was even right to suggest—as he had shown in the discussion of the antinomies—that reason is dialectical, or necessarily produces contradictions on its own. Again, Kant’s mistake was that he fell short of saying that these contradictions are in the world itself. He failed to apply the insights of his discussion of the antinomies to “things in themselves” (SL-M 56; SL-dG 35; see also section 4). Indeed, Kant’s own argument proves that the dialectical nature of reason can be applied to things themselves. The fact that reason develops those contradictions on its own, without our heads to help it, shows that those contradictions are not just in our heads, but are objective, or in the world itself. Kant, however, failed to draw this conclusion, and continued to regard reason’s conclusions as illusions. Still, Kant’s philosophy vindicated the general idea that the contradictions he took to be illusions are both objective—or out there in the world—and necessary. As Hegel puts it, Kant vindicates the general idea of “the objectivity of the illusion and the necessity of the contradictionwhich belongs to the nature of thought determinations” (SL-M 56; cf. SL-dG 35), or to the nature of concepts themselves.

The work of Johann Gottlieb Fichte (see entry on Fichte) showed Hegel how dialectics can get beyond Kant—beyond the contradictions that, as Kant had shown, reason (necessarily) develops on its own, beyond the reductio ad absurdum argument (which, as we saw above, holds that a contradiction leads to nothingness), and beyond Kant’s skepticism, or Kant’s claim that reason’s contradictions must be reined in by the understanding and cannot count as knowledge. Fichte argued that the task of discovering the foundation of all human knowledge leads to a contradiction or opposition between the self and the not-self (it is not important, for our purposes, why Fichte held this view). The kind of reasoning that leads to this contradiction, Fichte said, is the analytical or antithetical method of reasoning, which involves drawing out an opposition between elements (in this case, the self and not-self) that are being compared to, or equated with, one another. While the traditional reductio ad absurdum argument would lead us to reject both sides of the contradiction and start from scratch, Fichte argued that the contradiction or opposition between the self and not-self can be resolved. In particular, the contradiction is resolved by positing a third concept—the concept of divisibility—which unites the two sides (The Science of Knowledge, I: 110–11; Fichte 1982: 108–110). The concept of divisibility is produced by a synthetic procedure of reasoning, which involves “discovering in opposites the respect in which they are alike” (The Science of Knowledge, I: 112–13; Fichte 1982: 111). Indeed, Fichte argued, not only is the move to resolve contradictions with synthetic concepts or judgments possible, it is necessary. As he says of the move from the contradiction between self and not-self to the synthetic concept of divisibility, 

there can be no further question as to the possibility of this [synthesis], nor can any ground for it be given; it is absolutely possible, and we are entitled to it without further grounds of any kind. (The Science of Knowledge, I: 114; Fichte 1982: 112)

Since the analytical method leads to oppositions or contradictions, he argued, if we use only analytic judgments, “we not only do not get very far, as Kant says; we do not get anywhere at all” (The Science of Knowledge, I: 113; Fichte 1982: 112). Without the synthetic concepts or judgments, we are left, as the classic reductio ad absurdum argument suggests, with nothing at all. The synthetic concepts or judgments are thus necessary to get beyond contradiction without leaving us with nothing.

Fichte’s account of the synthetic method provides Hegel with the key to moving beyond Kant. Fichte suggested that a synthetic concept that unifies the results of a dialectically-generated contradiction does not completely cancel the contradictory sides, but only limits them. As he said, in general, “[t]o limit something is to abolish its reality, not wholly, but in part only” (The Science of Knowledge, I: 108; Fichte 1982: 108). Instead of concluding, as a reductio ad absurdum requires, that the two sides of a contradiction must be dismissed altogether, the synthetic concept or judgment retroactively justifies the opposing sides by demonstrating their limit, by showing which part of reality they attach to and which they do not (The Science of Knowledge, I: 108–10; Fichte 1982: 108–9), or by determining in what respect and to what degree they are each true. For Hegel, as we saw (cf. section 1), later concepts and forms sublate—both cancel and preserve—earlier concepts and forms in the sense that they include earlier concepts and forms in their own definitions. From the point of view of the later concepts or forms, the earlier ones still have some validity, that is, they have a limited validity or truth defined by the higher-level concept or form.

Dialectically generated contradictions are therefore not a defect to be reigned in by the understanding, as Kant had said, but invitations for reason to “speculate”, that is, for reason to generate precisely the sort of increasingly comprehensive and universal concepts and forms that Kant had said reason aims to develop. Ultimately, Hegel thought, as we saw (cf. section 1), the dialectical process leads to a completely unconditioned concept or form for each subject matter—the Absolute Idea (logic), Absolute Spirit (phenomenology), Absolute Idea of right and law (Philosophy of Right), and so on—which, taken together, form the “circle of circles” (EL §15) that constitutes the whole philosophical system or “Idea” (EL §15) that both overgrasps the world and makes it understandable (for us). 

Note that, while Hegel was clearly influenced by Fichte’s work, he never adopted Fichte’s triadic “thesis—antithesis—synthesis” language in his descriptions of his own philosophy (Mueller 1958: 411–2; Solomon 1983: 23), though he did apparently use it in his lectures to describe Kant’s philosophy (LHP III: 477). Indeed, Hegel criticized formalistic uses of the method of “triplicity [Triplizität]” (PhG-P §50) inspired by Kant—a criticism that could well have been aimed at Fichte. Hegel argued that Kantian-inspired uses of triadic form had been reduced to “a lifeless schema” and “an actual semblance [eigentlichen Scheinen]” (PhG §50; alternative translation) that, like a formula in mathematics, was simply imposed on top of subject matters. Instead, a properly scientific use of Kant’s “triplicity” should flow—as he said his own dialectical method did (see section 1)—out of “the inner life and self-movement” (PhG §51) of the content. 

4. Is Hegel’s dialectical method logical?

Scholars have often questioned whether Hegel’s dialectical method is logical. Some of their skepticism grows out of the role that contradiction plays in his thought and argument. While many of the oppositions embedded in the dialectical development and the definitions of concepts or forms are not contradictions in the strict sense, as we saw (section 2, above), scholars such as Graham Priest have suggested that some of them arguably are (Priest 1989: 391). Hegel even holds, against Kant (cf. section 3 above), that there are contradictions, not only in thought, but also in the world. Motion, for instance, Hegel says, is an “existent contradiction”. As he describes it:

Something moves, not because now it is here and there at another now, but because in one and the same now it is here and not here, because in this here, it is and is not at the same time. (SL-dG 382; cf. SL-M 440) 

Kant’s sorts of antinomies (cf. section 3 above) or contradictions more generally are therefore, as Hegel puts it in one place, “in all objects of all kinds, in all representations, concepts and ideas” (EL-GSH Remark to §48). Hegel thus seems to reject, as he himself explicitly claims (SL-M 439–40; SL-dG 381–82), the law of non-contradiction, which is a fundamental principle of formal logic—the classical, Aristotelian logic (see entries on Aristotle’s Logic andContradiction) that dominated during Hegel’s lifetime as well as the dominant systems of symbolic logic today (cf. Priest 1989: 391; Düsing 2010: 97–103). According to the law of non-contradiction, something cannot be both true and false at the same time or, put another way, “x” and “not-x” cannot both be true at the same time.

Hegel’s apparent rejection of the law of non-contradiction has led some interpreters to regard his dialectics as illogical, even “absurd” (Popper 1940: 420; 1962: 330; 2002: 443). Karl R. Popper, for instance, argued that accepting Hegel’s and other dialecticians’ rejection of the law of non-contradiction as part of both a logical theory and a general theory of the world “would mean a complete breakdown of science” (Popper 1940: 408; 1962: 317; 2002: 426). Since, according to today’s systems of symbolic logic, he suggested, the truth of a contradiction leads logically to any claim (any claim can logically be inferred from two contradictory claims), if we allow contradictory claims to be valid or true together, then we would have no reason to rule out any claim whatsoever (Popper 1940: 408–410; 1962: 317–319; 2002: 426–429).

Popper was notoriously hostile toward Hegel’s work (cf. Popper 2013: 242–289; for a scathing criticism of Popper’s analysis see Kaufmann 1976 [1972]), but, as Priest has noted (Priest 1989: 389–91), even some sympathetic interpreters have been inspired by today’s dominant systems of symbolic logic to hold that the kind of contradiction that is embedded in Hegel’s dialectics cannot be genuine contradiction in the strict sense. While Dieter Wandschneider, for instance, grants that his sympathetic theory of dialectic “is not presented as a faithful interpretation of the Hegelian text” (Wandschneider 2010: 32), he uses the same logical argument that Popper offered in defense of the claim that “dialectical contradiction is not a ‘normal’ contradiction, but one that is actually only an apparent contradiction” (Wandschneider 2010: 37). The suggestion (by the traditional, triadic account of Hegel’s dialectics, cf. section 2, above) that Being and Nothing (or non-being) is a contradiction, for instance, he says, rests on an ambiguity. Being is an undefined content, taken to mean being or presence, while Nothing is an undefined content, taken to mean nothing or absence (section 2, above; cf. Wandschneider 2010: 34–35). Being is Nothing (or non-being) with respect to the property they have as concepts, namely, that they both have an undefined content. But Being is not Nothing (or non-being) with respect to their meaning(Wandschneider 2010: 34–38). The supposed contradiction between them, then, Wandschneider suggests, takes place “in different respects”. It is therefore only an apparent contradiction. “Rightly understood”, he concludes, “there can be no talk of contradiction” (Wandschneider 2010: 38).

Inoue Kazumi also argues that dialectical contradiction in the Hegelian sense does not violate the law of non-contradiction (Inoue 2014: 121–123), and he rejects Popper’s claim that Hegel’s dialectical method is incompatible with good science. A dialectical contradiction, Inoue says, is a contradiction that arises when the same topic is considered from different vantage points, but each vantage point by itself does not violate the law of non-contradiction (Inoue 2014: 120). The understanding leads to contradictions, as Hegel said (cf. section 3 above), because it examines a topic from a fixed point of view; reason embraces contradictions because it examines a topic from multiple points of view (Inoue 2014: 121). The geocentric theory that the sun revolves around the Earth and the heliocentric theory that the Earth revolves around the sun, for instance, Inoue suggests, are both correct from certain points of view. We live our everyday lives from a vantage point in which the sun makes a periodic rotation around the Earth roughly every 24 hours. Astronomers make their observations from a geocentric point of view and then translate those observations into a heliocentric one. From these points of view, the geocentric account is not incorrect. But physics, particularly in its concepts of mass and force, requires the heliocentric account. For science—which takes all these points of view into consideration—both theories are valid: they are dialectically contradictory, though neither theory, by itself, violates the law of non-contradiction (Inoue 2014: 126–127). To insist that the Earth really revolves around the sun is merely an irrational, reductive prejudice, theoretically and practically (Inoue 2014: 126). Dialectical contradictions, Inoue says, are, as Hegel said, constructive: they lead to concepts or points of view that grasp the world from ever wider and more encompassing perspectives, culminating ultimately in the “Absolute” (Inoue 2014: 121; cf. section 1, above). Hegel’s claim that motion violates the law of non-contradiction, Inoue suggests, is an expression of the idea that contradictory claims can be true when motion is described from more than one point of view (Inoue 2014: 123). (For a similar reading of Hegel’s conception of dialectical contradiction, which influenced Inoue’s account [Inoue 2014: 121], see Düsing 2010: 102–103.)

Other interpreters, however, have been inspired by Hegel’s dialectics to develop alternative systems of logic that do not subscribe to the law of non-contradiction. Priest, for instance, has defended Hegel’s rejection of the law of non-contradiction (cf. Priest 1989; 1997 [2006: 4]). The acceptance of some contradictions, he has suggested, does not require the acceptance of allcontradictions (Priest 1989: 392). Popper’s logical argument is also unconvincing. Contradictions lead logically to any claim whatsoever, as Popper said, only if we presuppose that nothing can be both true and false at the same time (i.e. only if we presuppose that the law of non-contradiction is correct), which is just what Hegel denies. Popper’s logical argument thus assumes what it is supposed to prove or begs the question (Priest 1989: 392; 1997 [2006: 5–6]), and so is not convincing. Moreover, consistency (not allowing contradictions), Priest suggests, is actually “a very weak constraint” (Priest 1997 [2006: 104]) on what counts as a rational inference. Other principles or criteria—such as being strongly disproved (or supported) by the data—are more important for determining whether a claim or inference is rational (Priest 1997 [2006: 105]). And, as Hegel pointed out, Priest says, the data—namely, “the world as it appears” (as Hegel puts it in EL) or “ordinary experience itself” (as Hegel puts it in SL)—suggest that there are indeed contradictions (EL Remark to §48; SL-dG 382; cf. SL-M 440; Priest 1989: 389, 399–400). Hegel is right, for instance, Priest argues, that change, and motion in particular, are examples of real or existing contradictions (Priest 1985; 1989: 396–97; 1997 [2006: 172–181, 213–15]). What distinguishes motion, as a process, from a situation in which something is simply here at one time and then some other place at some other time is the embodiment of contradiction: that, in a process of motion, there is one (span of) time in which something is both here and not here at the same time (in that span of time) (Priest 1985: 340–341; 1997 [2006: 172–175, 213–214]). A system of logic, Priest suggests, is always just a theory about what good reasoning should be like (Priest 1989: 392). A dialectical logic that admits that there are “dialetheia” or true contradictions (Priest 1989: 388), he says, is a broader theory or version of logic than traditional, formal logics that subscribe to the law of non-contradiction. Those traditional logics apply only to topics or domains that are consistent, primarily domains that are “static and changeless” (Priest 1989: 391; cf. 395); dialectical/dialetheic logic handles consistent domains, but also applies to domains in which there are dialetheia. Thus Priest, extending Hegel’s own concept of aufheben (“to sublate”; cf. section 1, above), suggests that traditional “formal logic is perfectly valid in its domain, but dialectical (dialetheic) logic is more general” (Priest 1989: 395). (For an earlier example of a logical system that allows contradiction and was inspired in part by Hegel [and Marx], see Jaśkowski 1999: 36 [1969: 143] [cf. Inoue 2014: 128–129]. For more on dialetheic logic generally, see the entry on Dialetheism.)

Worries that Hegel’s arguments fail to fit his account of dialectics (see section 2, above) have led some interpreters to conclude that his method is arbitrary or that his works have no single dialectical method at all (Findlay 1962: 93; Solomon 1983: 21). These interpreters reject the idea that there is any logical necessity to the moves from stage to stage. “[T]he important point to make here, and again and again”, Robert C. Solomon writes, for instance, 

is that the transition from the first form to the second, or the transition from the first form of the Phenomenology all the way to the last, is not in any way a deductive necessity. The connections are anything but entailments, and the Phenomenology could always take another route and other starting points. (Solomon 1983: 230) 

In a footnote to this passage, Solomon adds “that a formalization of Hegel’s logic, however ingenious, is impossible” (Solomon 1983: 230).

Some scholars have argued that Hegel’s necessity is not intended to be logical necessity. Walter Kaufmann suggested, for instance, that the necessity at work in Hegel’s dialectic is a kind of organic necessity. The moves in the Phenomenology, he said, follow one another “in the way in which, to use a Hegelian image from the preface, bud, blossom and fruit succeed each other” (Kaufmann 1965: 148; 1966: 132). Findlay argued that later stages provide what he called a “higher-order comment” on earlier stages, even if later stages do not follow from earlier ones in a trivial way (Findlay 1966: 367). Solomon suggested that the necessity that Hegel wants is not “‘necessity’ in the modern sense of ‘logical necessity,’” (Solomon 1983: 209), but a kind of progression (Solomon 1983: 207), or a “necessity within a context for some purpose” (Solomon 1983: 209). John Burbidge defines Hegel’s necessity in terms of three senses of the relationship between actuality and possibility, only the last of which is logical necessity (Burbidge 1981: 195–6).

Other scholars have defined the necessity of Hegel’s dialectics in terms of a transcendental argument. A transcendental argument begins with uncontroversial facts of experience and tries to show that other conditions must be present—or are necessary—for those facts to be possible. Jon Stewart argues, for instance, that “Hegel’s dialectic in the Phenomenology is a transcendental account” in this sense, and thus has the necessity of that form of argument (Stewart 2000: 23; cf. Taylor 1975: 97, 226–7; for a critique of this view, see Pinkard 1988: 7, 15).

Some scholars have avoided these debates by interpreting Hegel’s dialectics in a literary way. In his examination of the epistemological theory of the Phenomenology, for instance, Kenneth R. Westphal offers “a literary model” of Hegel’s dialectics based on the story of Sophocles’ playAntigone (Westphal 2003: 14, 16). Ermanno Bencivenga offers an interpretation that combines a narrative approach with a concept of necessity. For him, the necessity of Hegel’s dialectical logic can be captured by the notion of telling a good story—where “good” implies that the story is both creative and correct at the same time (Bencivenga 2000: 43–65).

Debate over whether Hegel’s dialectical logic is logical may also be fueled in part by discomfort with his particular brand of logic. Unlike today’s symbolic logics, Hegel’s logic is not only syntactic, but also semantic (cf. Berto 2007; Maybee 2009: xx–xxv; Margolis 2010: 193–94). Hegel’s interest in semantics appears, for instance, in the very first stages of his logic, where the difference between Being and Nothing is “something merely meant” (EL-GSH Remark to §87; cf. section 2 above). While some of the moves from stage to stage are driven by syntactic necessity, other moves are driven by the meanings of the concepts in play. Indeed, Hegel rejected what he regarded as the overly formalistic logics that dominated the field during his day (EL Remark to §162; SL-M 43–44; SL-dG 24). A logic that deals only with the forms of logical arguments and not the meanings of the concepts used in those argument forms will do no better in terms of preserving truth than the old joke about computer programs suggests: garbage in, garbage out. In those logics, if we (using today’s versions of formal, symbolic logic) plug in something for the P or Q (in the proposition “if P then Q” or “P → Q”, for instance) or for the “F”, “G”, or “x” (in the proposition “if F is x, then G is x” or “Fx → Gx”, for instance) that means something true, then the syntax of formal logics will preserve that truth. But if we plug in something for those terms that is untrue or meaningless (garbage in), then the syntax of formal logic will lead to an untrue or meaningless conclusion (garbage out). Today’s versions of prepositional logic also assume that we know what the meaning of “is” is. Against these sorts of logics, Hegel wanted to develop a logic that not only preserved truth, but also determined how to construct truthful claims in the first place. A logic that defines concepts (semantics) as well as their relationships with one another (syntax) will show, Hegel thought, how concepts can be combined into meaningful forms. Because interpreters are familiar with modern logics focused on syntax, however, they may regard Hegel’s syntactic and semantic logic as not really logical (cf. Maybee 2009: xvii–xxv).

In Hegel’s other works, the moves from stage to stage are often driven, not only by syntax and semantics—that is, by logic (given his account of logic)—but also by considerations that grow out of the relevant subject matter. In the Phenomenology, for instance, the moves are driven by syntax, semantics, and by phenomenological factors. Sometimes a move from one stage to the next is driven by a syntactic need—the need to stop an endless, back-and-forth process, for instance, or to take a new path after all the current options have been exhausted (cf. section 5). Sometimes, a move is driven by the meaning of a concept, such as the concept of a “This” or “Thing”. And sometimes a move is driven by a phenomenological need or necessity—by requirements of consciousness, or by the fact that the Phenomenology is about a consciousnessthat claims to be aware of (or to know) something. The logic of the Phenomenology is thus a phenomeno-logic, or a logic driven by logic—syntax and semantics—and by phenomenological considerations. Still, interpreters such as Quentin Lauer have suggested that, for Hegel, 

phenomeno-logy is a logic of appearing, a logic of implication, like any other logic, even though not of the formal entailment with which logicians and mathematicians are familiar. (Lauer 1976: 3) 

Lauer warns us against dismissing the idea that there is any implication or necessity in Hegel’s method at all (Lauer 1976: 3). (Other scholars who also believe there is a logical necessity to the dialectics of the Phenomenology include Hyppolite 1974: 78–9 and H.S. Harris 1997: xii.)

We should also be careful not to exaggerate the “necessity” of formal, symbolic logics. Even in these logics, there can often be more than one path from some premises to the same conclusion, logical operators can be dealt with in different orders, and different sets of operations can be used to reach the same conclusions. There is therefore often no strict, necessary “entailment” from one step to the next, even though the conclusion might be entailed by the whole series of steps, taken together. As in today’s logics, then, whether Hegel’s dialectics counts as logical depends on the degree to which he shows that we are forced—necessarily—from earlier stages or series of stages to later stages (see also section 5).

5. Syntactic patterns and special terminology in Hegel’s dialectics

Although Hegel’s dialectics is driven by syntax, semantics and considerations specific to the different subject matters (section 4 above), several important syntactic patterns appear repeatedly throughout his works. In many places, the dialectical process is driven by a syntactic necessity that is really a kind of exhaustion: when the current strategy has been exhausted, the process is forced, necessarily, to employ a new strategy. As we saw (section 2), once the strategy of treating Being and Nothing as separate concepts is exhausted, the dialectical process must, necessarily, adopt a different strategy, namely, one that takes the two concepts together. The concept of Becoming captures the first way in which Being and Nothing are taken together. In the stages of Quantum through Number, the concepts of One and Many take turns defining the whole quantity as well as the quantitative bits inside that make it up: first, the One is the whole, while the Many are the bits; then the whole and the bits are all Ones; then the Many is the whole, while the bits are each a One; and finally the whole and the bits are all a Many. We can picture the development like this (cf. Maybee 2009, xviii–xix):4 figures each contains a rounded corner rectangle bisected by a vertical rod. In #1 the rectangle boundary is labeled 'One' and each half is labeled 'Many'; the caption reads:'Quantum: 'one' refers to the outer boundary, 'many' within. #2 has the boundary also labeled 'One' but the halves labeled 'ones'; the caption reads: Number: 'one' on all sides. #3 has the boundary labeled 'Many' and the halves labeled 'Each a one'; the caption reads: Extensive and Intensive Magnitude: 'many' on the outer boundary, 'one' within'. #4 the rounded rectangle is enclosed by a box; the two halves are labeled 'Many (within)' and the space between the rectangle and the box is labeled 'Many (without)'; the caption reads: Degree: 'many' on all sides.

Figure 9

Since One and Many have been exhausted, the next stage, Ratio, must, necessarily, employ a different strategy to grasp the elements in play. Just as Being-for-itself is a concept of universality for Quality and captures the character of a set of something-others in its content (seesection 1), so Ratio (the whole rectangle with rounded corners) is a concept of universality for Quantity and captures the character of a set of quantities in its content (EL §105–6; cf. Maybee 2009, xviii–xix, 95–7). In another version of syntactic necessity driven by exhaustion, the dialectical development will take account of every aspect or layer, so to speak, of a concept or form—as we saw in the stages of Purpose outlined above, for instance (section 2). Once all the aspects or layers of a concept or form have been taken account of and so exhausted, the dialectical development must also, necessarily, employ a different strategy in the next stage to grasp the elements in play.

In a second, common syntactic pattern, the dialectical development leads to an endless, back-and-forth process—a “bad” (EL-BD §94) or “spurious” (EL-GSH §94) infinity—between two concepts or forms. Hegel’s dialectics cannot rest with spurious infinities. So long as the dialectical process is passing endlessly back and forth between two elements, it is never finished, and the concept or form in play cannot be determined. Spurious infinities must therefore be resolved or stopped, and they are always resolved by a higher-level, more universal concept. In some cases, a new, higher-level concept is introduced that stops the spurious infinity by grasping the whole, back-and-forth process. Being-for-itself (cf. section 1), for instance, is introduced as a new, more universal concept that embraces—and hence stops—the whole, back-and-forth process between “something-others”. However, if the back-and-forth process takes place between a concept and its own content—in which case the concept already embraces the content—then that embracing concept is redefined in a new way that grasps the whole, back-and-forth process. The new definition raises the embracing concept to a higher level of universality—as a totality (an “all”) or as a complete and completed concept. Examples from logic include the redefinition of Appearance as the whole World of Appearance (EL §132; cf. SL-M 505–7, SL-dG 443–4), the move in which the endless, back-and-forth process of Real Possibility redefines the Condition as a totality (EL §147; cf. SL-M 547, SL-dG 483), and the move in which a back-and-forth process created by finite Cognition and finite Willing redefines the Subjective Idea as Absolute Idea (EL §§234–5; cf. SL-M 822–3, SL-dG 733–4).

Some of the most famous terms in Hegel’s works—“in itself [an sich]”, “for itself [für sich]” and “in and for itself [an und für sich]”—capture other, common, syntactic patterns. A concept or form is “in itself” when it has a determination that it gets by being defined against its “other” (cf. Being-in-itself, EL §91). A concept or form is “for itself” when it is defined only in relation to its own content, so that, while it is technically defined in relation to an “other”, the “other” is not really an “other” for it. As a result, it is really defined only in relation to itself. Unlike an “in itself” concept or form, then, a “for itself” concept or form seems to have its definition on its own, or does not need a genuine “other” to be defined (like other concepts or forms, however, “for itself” concepts or forms turn out to be dialectical too, and hence push on to new concepts or forms). In the logic, Being-for-itself (cf. section 1), which is defined by embracing the “something others” in its content, is the first, “for itself” concept or form.

A concept or form is “in and for itself” when it is doubly “for itself”, or “for itself” not only in terms of content—insofar as it embraces its content—but also in terms of form or presentation, insofar as it also has the activity of presenting its content. It is “for itself” (embraces its content) for itself (through its own activity), or not only embraces its content (the “for itself” of content) but also presents its content through its own activity (the “for itself” of form). The second “for itself” of form provides the concept with a logical activity (i.e., presenting its content) and hence a definition that goes beyond—and so is separate from—the definition that its content has. Since it has a definition of its own that is separate from the definition of its content, it comes to be defined—in the “in itself” sense—against its content, which has become its “other”. Because this “other” is still its own content, however, the concept or form is both “in itself” but also still “for itself” at the same time, or is “in and for itself” (EL §§148–9; cf. Maybee 2009: 244–6). The “in and for itself” relationship is the hallmark of a genuine Concept (EL §160), and captures the idea that a genuine concept is defined not only from the bottom up by its content, but also from the top down through its own activity of presenting its content. The genuine concept of animal, for instance, is not only defined by embracing its content (namely, all animals) from the bottom up, but also has a definition of its own, separate from that content, that leads it to determine (and so present), from the top down, what counts as an animal.

Other technical, syntactic terms include aufheben (“to sublate”), which we already saw (section 1), and “abstract”. To say that a concept or form is “abstract” is to say that it is only a partial definition. Hegel describes the moment of understanding, for instance, as abstract (EL §§79, 80) because it is a one-sided or restricted definition or determination (section 1). Conversely, a concept or form is “concrete” in the most basic sense when it has a content or definition that it gets from being built out of other concepts or forms. As we saw (section 2), Hegel regarded Becoming as the first concrete concept in the logic.

Although Hegel’s writing and his use of technical terms can make his philosophy notoriously difficult, his work can also be very rewarding. In spite of—or perhaps because of—the difficulty, there are a surprising number of fresh ideas in his work that have not yet been fully explored in philosophy. 

Bibliography
English Translations of Key Texts by Hegel
  • [EL], The Encyclopedia Logic [Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften I]. Because the translations of EL listed below use the same section numbers as well as sub-paragraphs (“Remarks”) and sub-sub-paragraphs (“Additions”), citations simply to “EL” refer to either translation. If the phrasing in English is unique to a specific translation, the translators’ initials are added.
  • [EL-BD], Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Basic Outline Part I: Science of Logic [Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften I], translated by Klaus Brinkmann and Daniel O. Dahlstrom, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • [EL-GSH], The Encyclopedia Logic: Part 1 of the Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences [Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften I], translated by T.F. Geraets, W.A. Suchting, and H.S. Harris, Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991.
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  • [PhG], Phenomenology of Spirit [Phänomenologie des Geistes]. Because the translations of PhG listed below use the same section numbers, citations simply to “PhG” refer to either translation. If the phrasing in English is unique to a specific translation, the translator’s initial is added.
  • [PhG-M], Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit [Phänomenologie des Geistes], translated by A.V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
  • [PhG-P], Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit [Phänomenologie des Geistes], translated and edited by Terry Pinkard, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  • [PR], Elements of the Philosophy of Right [Philosophie des Rechts], edited by Allen W. Wood and translated by H.B. Nisbet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • [SL-dG], Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: The Science of Logic [Wissenschaft der Logik], translated by George di Giovanni, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
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English Translations of Other Primary Sources
  • Aristotle, 1954, The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation (in two volumes), edited by Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Citations to Aristotle’s text use the Bekker numbers, which appear in the margins of many translations of Aristotle’s works.)
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Secondary Literature
  • Bencivenga, Ermanno, 2000, Hegel’s Dialectical Logic, New York: Oxford University Press.
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  • Burbidge, John, 1981, On Hegel’s Logic: Fragments of a Commentary, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.
  • Düsing, Klaus, 2010, “Ontology and Dialectic in Hegel’s Thought”, translated by Andrés Colapinto, in The Dimensions of Hegel’s Dialectic, Nectarios G. Limmnatis (ed.), London: Continuum, pp. 97–122.
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  • Jaśkowski, Stanislaw, 1999 [1969], “A Propositional Calculus for Inconsistent Deductive Systems”, translated by Olgierd Wojtasiewicz and A. Pietruszczak, Logic and Logical Philosophy (7)7: 35–56. (This article is a republication, with some changes, of a 1969 translation by Wojtasiewicz entitled “Propositional Calculus for Contradictory Deductive Systems (Communicated at the Meeting of March 19, 1948)”, published in Studia Logica, 24, 143–160.)
  • Kaufmann, Walter Arnold, 1965, Hegel: Reinterpretation, Texts, and Commentary, Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company Inc.
  • –––, 1966, A Reinterpretation, Garden City, NY: Anchor Books. (This is a republication of the first part of Hegel: Reinterpretation, Texts, and Commentary.)
  • –––, 1976 [1972], “The Hegel Myth and its Method”, in Hegel: A Collection of Critical Essays, Alasdair MacIntyre (ed.), Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press: 21–60. (This is a republication of the 1972 Anchor Books/Doubleday edition.)
  • Kosok, Michael, 1972, “The Formalization of Hegel’s Dialectical Logic: Its Formal Structure, Logical Interpretation and Intuitive Foundation”, in Hegel: A Collection of Critical Essays, Alisdair MacIntyre (ed.), Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press: 237–87.
  • Lauer, Quentin, 1976, A Reading of Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit”, New York: Fordham University Press.
  • Margolis, Joseph, 2010, “The Greening of Hegel’s Dialectical Logic”, in The Dimensions of Hegel’s Dialectic, Nectarios G. Limmnatis (ed.), London: Continuum, pp. 193–215.
  • Maybee, Julie E., 2009, Picturing Hegel: An Illustrated Guide to Hegel’s “Encyclopaedia Logic”, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
  • McTaggart, John McTaggart Ellis, 1964 [1910], A Commentary of Hegel’s Logic, New York: Russell and Russell Inc. (This edition is a reissue of McTaggart’s book, which was first published in 1910.)
  • Mueller, Gustav, 1958, “The Hegel Legend of ‘Synthesis-Antithesis-Thesis’”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 19(3): 411–14.
  • Mure, G.R.G., 1950, A Study of Hegel’s Logic, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Pinkard, Terry, 1988, Hegel’s Dialectic: The Explanation of a Possibility, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Priest, Graham, 1985, “Inconsistencies in Motion”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 22(4): 339–346.
  • –––, 1989, “Dialectic and Dialetheic”, Science and Society, 53(4): 388–415.
  • –––, 1997 [2006], In Contradiction: A Study of the Transconsistent, expanded edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press; first edition, Martinus Nijhoff, 1997.
  • Popper, Karl R., 1940, “What is Dialectic?”, Mind, 49(196): 403–426. (This article was reprinted, with some changes, in two different editions of Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, listed below.)
  • –––, 1962, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, New York: Basic Books.
  • –––, 2002, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, second edition, London: Routledge Classics.
  • –––, 2013, The Open Society and its Enemies, Princeton: Princeton University Press. (This is a one-volume republication of the original, two-volume edition first published by Princeton University Press in 1945.)
  • Rosen, Michael, 1982, Hegel’s Dialectic and its Criticism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rosen, Stanley, 2014, The Idea of Hegel’s “Science of Logic”, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Singer, Peter, 1983, Hegel, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Solomon, Robert C., 1983, In the Spirit of Hegel: A Study of G.W.F. Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit”, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Stace, W.T., 1955 [1924], The Philosophy of Hegel: A Systematic Exposition, New York: Dover Publications. (This edition is a reprint of the first edition, published in 1924.)
  • Stewart, Jon, 1996, “Hegel’s Doctrine of Determinate Negation: An Example from ‘Sense-certainty’ and ‘Perception’”, Idealistic Studies, 26(1): 57–78.
  • –––, 2000, The Unity of Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit”: A Systematic Interpretation, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
  • Taylor, Charles, 1975, Hegel, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Wandschneider, Dieter, 2010, “Dialectic as the ‘Self-Fulfillment’ of Logic”, translated by Anthony Jensen, in The Dimensions of Hegel’s Dialectic, Nectarios G. Limmnatis (ed.), London: Continuum, pp. 31–54.
  • Westphal, Kenneth R., 2003, Hegel’s Epistemology: A Philosophical Introduction to the “Phenomenology of Spirit”, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.
  • Winfield, Richard Dien, 1990, “The Method of Hegel’s Science of Logic”, in Essays on Hegel’s Logic, George di Giovanni (ed.), Albany, NY: State University of New York, pp. 45–57.

My Related Posts

Networks, Narratives, and Interaction

Phenomenology and Symbolic Interactionism

Narrative, Rhetoric and Possible Worlds

Kenneth Burke and Dramatism

Erving Goffman: Dramaturgy of Social Life

Phenomenological Sociology

Drama Therapy: Self in Performance

Drama Theory: Choices, Conflicts and Dilemmas

Drama Theory: Acting Strategically

Global Trends, Scenarios, and Futures: For Foresight and Strategic Management

Shell Oil’s Scenarios: Strategic Foresight and Scenario Planning for the Future

Strategy | Strategic Management | Strategic Planning | Strategic Thinking

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

Society as Communication: Social Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann

Key Sources of Research

Dialectic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic

Hegel’s Dialectic

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel-dialectics/

A Study of Hegelian Dialectical Embodiment in “Nostromo” written by Joseph Conrad

Asieh Beiranvand , Shahram Afrougheh , Elham Ahmadi

“Organizational Research Methods: Storytelling In Action”

Boje, David M. (2018)

URL = <https://davidboje.com/ORM_Storytelling_in_Action_Book/index&gt;

https://davidboje.com/655/ORM_Storytelling_in_Action_BOOK/Hegel_dialectics_chapter.htm

Using Dialectical Thinking to Manage Emotions

https://www.mindsoother.com/blog/using-dialectical-thinking-to-manage-emotions

ON CREATIVE DIALECTICS

OR WHY ISN’T THERE A SEAM ON THE COLORWHEEL?

Ian Gonsher

Dialectics for the New Century

Edited by
Bertell Ollman and Tony Smith

Strategies in Dialectic and Rhetoric

Erik C W Krabbe Groningen University

on ‘The Dialectics of Outside and Inside’ and ‘Intimate Immensity’

The Dialectic of the Nature-Society-System

  • Christian Fuchs
  • ICT&S Center – Advanced Studies and Research in Information and Communication Technologies & Society, University of Salzburg

DOI: https://doi.org/10.31269/triplec.v4i1.24

https://www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/24

Dialectics and Systems Theory 

Richard Levins

Chapter 3 in Book Dialectics for the New Century

Edited by Bertell Ollman and Tony Smith

Contradictions, Dialectics and Paradoxes

  • January 2016
  • In book: SAGE HANDBOOK OF PROCESS ORGANIZATION STUDIES
  • Publisher: Sage
  • Editors: Ann Langley, Haridimos Tsoukas

Moshe Farjoun

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282730228_Contradictions_Dialectics_and_Paradoxes

Strategy and dialectics: Rejuvenating a long-standing relationship

Moshe Farjoun

York University, Canada

Strategic Organization 2019, Vol. 17(1) 133–144

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1476127018803255

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1476127018803255

Contradictions, Dialectics, and Paradoxes in Organizations: A Constitutive Approach

Linda L. Putnam, Gail T. Fairhurst and Scott Banghart

Published Online:1 Jan 2016

https://doi.org/10.5465/19416520.2016.1162421

The Development of Dialectical Thinking As An Approach to Integration

  • June 2005

Michael Basseches

  • Suffolk University

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26507960_The_Development_of_Dialectical_Thinking_As_An_Approach_to_Integration

CULTURE, DIALECTICS, AND REASONING ABOUT CONTRADICTION

Kaiping Peng
University of California at Berkeley

Richard E. Nisbett University of Michigan

https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/91930/culture_and_dialectics.pdf?sequence=1

Relating dialogue and dialectics: a philosophical perspective

Manolis Dafermos

University of Crete, Greece

Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal | http://dpj.pitt.edu

DOI: 10.5195/dpj.2018.189 | Vol. 6 (2018)

Towards a Social-Relational Dialectic for World Politics

Brincat, Shannon

2011

European Journal of International Relations

https://research-repository.griffith.edu.au/bitstream/handle/10072/60820/94160_1.pdf;jsessionid=F573AC5F1A7F3EBB5E6A5F325C8886C5?sequence=1

How to Actualize the Whole Possibility: The Necessity-Contingency Dialectic in Hegel’s Science of Logic

by Nahum Brown

Guelph, Ontario, Canada © Nahum Brown, 2014

John Rowan: Dialectical Thinking

http://gwiep.net/wp/?p=427

The current state of scenario development: an overview of techniques

Peter Bishop, Andy Hines and Terry Collins

foresight. VOL. 9 NO. 1 2007

Ensemble Theory: Arguing Across and Within Scenarios

Peter McBurney

Department of Computer Science University of Liverpool Liverpool L69 7ZF UK p.j.mcburney@csc.liv.ac.uk Tel: + 44 151 794 6760

Simon Parsons
Sloan School of Management Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge MA USA sparsons@mit.edu

In Conference Probing the Future: Developing Organizational Foresight in the Knowledge Economy

11-13th July 2002

The art of disputation: dialogue, dialectic and debate around 800

Irene van Renswoude

First published: 06 January 2017 

https://doi.org/10.1111/emed.12185

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/emed.12185


Dialogic and Dialectic: clarifying an important distinction

29/6/2017

Rupert Wegerif

https://www.rupertwegerif.name/blog/dialogic-and-dialectic-clarifying-an-important-distinction

Shaping the Next One Hundred Years

New Methods for Quantitative, Long-Term Policy Analysis

Robert J. Lempert Steven W. Popper Steven C. Bankes

Published 2003 by RAND
1700 Main Street, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138

1200 South Hayes Street, Arlington, VA 22202-5050
201 North Craig Street, Suite 202, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-1516

RAND URL: http://www.rand.org/

DIALECTIC: EUROPEAN AND ASIAN VARIETIES

Revised version of an article published as “Dialectic: East and West,” Indian Philosophical Quarterly 10 (January, 1983), pp. 207-218.

https://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/dialectic.htm

DESIGN FOR SUPPORTING DIALECTICAL CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNING ACTIVITIES

Yu Wu1, Patrick C. Shih1, John M. Carroll1

College of Information Sciences and Technology, Penn State University

Political Event and Scenario Analysis Using GDSS: An Application to the Business Future of Hong Kong

Robert Blanning

Vanderbilt University

Bruce Reinig

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Rhetoric and dialectic in the twenty-first century 

Michael Leff

(1999). OSSA Conference Archive. 3.

https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/ossaarchive/OSSA3/keynotes/3

https://scholar.uwindsor.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1847&context=ossaarchive&httpsredir=1&referer=

Dialogical and Dialectical Thinking

Culture, Dialectics, and Reasoning About Contradiction

Kaiping Peng

Richard E. Nisbett

September 1999 • American Psychologist

structural dialectical approach in psychology: problems and research results

Nikolay E. Veraksa*, Anastasiya K. Belolutskaya**,
Irina I. Vorobyeva*, Eugene E. Krasheninnikov*,
Elena V. Rachkova***, Igor B. Shiyan**, Olga A. Shiyan

Psychology in Russia: State of the Art
Russian Psychological Volume 6, Issue 2, 2013

Click to access veraksa_pr_2013_2_65-77.Pdf

Integrating Dialectical and Paradox Perspectives on Managing Contradictions in Organizations

Timothy J Hargrave

Central Washington University, USA

Andrew H Van de Ven

University of Minnesota, USA

Organization Studies 2017, Vol. 38(3-4) 319–339

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0170840616640843

ORGANIZATIONAL DIALECTICS

Stewart Clegg

Grasping the dynamics within paradox
– comparing exogenous and endogenous approaches to paradox using social systems theory

Harald Tuckermann, Simone Gutzan, Camille Leutenegger, Johannes Rüegg-Stürm, Institute of Systemic Management and Public Governance, University of St. Gallen, Dufourstrasse 40a, 9008 St. Gallen, Switzerland, Email: harald.tuckermann@unisg.ch

Networks, Narratives, and Interaction

Networks, Narratives, and Interaction

Bruner (1973: xi) described this duality as follows:“our knowledge of the world is not merely a mirroring or reflection of order and structure ‘out there,’ but consists rather of a construct or model that can, so to speak, be spun a bit ahead of things to predict how the world will be or might be”

Key Terms

  • Narratives
  • Culture
  • Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Meaning
  • Meaning making
  • Networks
  • Boundaries
  • Folk Culture
  • Communication
  • Sensemaking
  • Active Learning
  • Karl Weick
  • Dirk Baecker
  • Jerome Bruner
  • Erving Goffman
  • George Spencer Brown
  • Charles Sanders Peirce
  • Social Interactions
  • Strategic Interactions
  • Cultural Psychology
  • Systems
  • Social Systems
  • Individual and Collective
  • Symbolic Interactions
  • Face Work
  • Face to Face
  • Micro Sociology
  • Drama
  • Kenneth Burke
  • Chain of Events
  • Sequence of Events
  • Time Space
  • Choices, Conflicts, Dilemmas
  • Constraints, Limits, Boundaries
  • Networks, Connections, Interaction
  • Social Simulation
  • Discrete Events
  • Scenes, Scenarios
  • Games and Dramas
  • Harmony
  • Colors, Tones
  • Interaction Rituals
  • Interaction Order
  • Ethnomethodology
  • LL and LR Quadrants in AQAL Model of Ken Wilber
  • Many Faces of Man
  • Backstage and Frontstage
  • Russell Ackoff’s Interaction Planning
  • Faces, Masks, and Rituals
  • Frame Analysis
  • Self and Others
  • Social Constructivism
  • Agent Based Modeling
  • Cellular Automata
  • Computational Sociology
  • Micro Motives and Macro Behavior
  • Conversations
  • Strategic Conversations
  • Boundaries and Distinctions
  • Networks and Boundaries

Jerome Bruner ON Narratives

Source: Chapter 1 Narrative Inquiry: From Story to Method

… Narrative as a mode of knowing 

In 1984 at an address to the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Jerome Bruner challenged the psychological community to consider the possibilities of narrative as one of two distinct and distinctive modes of thinking, namely the “paradigmatic” or logico-scientific mode and the narrative mode. For Bruner, each mode constituted a unique way of construing and constructing reality and of ordering experience. Importantly, neither of these modes was reducible to the other, as each was necessary in the development of human thought and action. Taking up these ideas in later writings, Bruner (1986) presents the narrative mode of meaning-making as one that “looks for particular conditions and is centred around the broader and more inclusive question of the meaning of experience” (p. 11), whilst the paradigmatic mode is characterised as one that is more concerned with establishing universal truth conditions.

Bruner has pursued the notion of “narrative” modes of thinking and explored the ways in which we draw on “narrative” modes of knowing as a learning process (1996a). For Bruner, we construct our understandings of the world “mainly in the form of narrative – stories, excuses, myths, reasons for doing and not doing, and so on” (2003, p. 44). In earlier writings, he points to the power and import of narrative as a meaning-making process, commenting that “our capacity to render experience in terms of narrative is not just child’s play, but an instrument for making meaning that dominates much of life in culture – from soliloquies at bedtime to the weighing of testimony in our legal system” (1990, p. 97). Importantly, Bruner suggests that our “sensitivity” to narrative constitutes a major link between our “sense of self and our sense of others in the social world around us” (1986, p. 69) and is the mode through which we “create a version of the world” with which we can live (1996a, p. 39).

Bruner’s work in the field of cognitive psychology constitutes one way in which narrative has been conceptualised within scholarship and has led to the establishment of the field of narrative psychology. It is perhaps serendipitous that Bruner’s account of the narrative mode of thinking occurred at a time of growing interest in the ways in which narrative might be drawn upon for research and inquiry purposes. As educators and scholars took up the “call of stories” (Coles, 1989) to provide alternative means to explore, interrogate, interpret, and record experience, “it helped that the messenger was Bruner, an enormously powerful scholar with unusual cross-disciplinary knowledge, stature, and impact, who ventured to articulate what narrative could mean to the social sciences at large” (Bresler, 2006, p. 23). Crucially, Bruner’s work leads us to consider narrative as more than a means of presenting meaning and to consider the role of narrative and narrative forms in “re-presenting,” in the sense of constructing meaning, both individually and collectively. For Bruner, narrative operates simultaneously in both thought and action, shaping the ways in which we conceive and respond to our worlds. In short, all cognition, whatever its nature, relies upon representation, how we lay down our knowledge in a way to represent our experience of the world . . . representation is a process of construction, as it were, rather than of mere reflection of the world (Bruner, 1996b, p. 95).

Here, a narrative might become a “template for experience” (Bruner, 2002, p. 34) that works on the mind, modelling “not only its world but the minds seeking to give it its meanings” (p. 27). This move from narrative as “story presented” to narrative as a “form of meaning-making,” indeed, a form of “mind-making,” has played an important role in the development of narrative as a method of inquiry in the social sciences.

Source: INTRODUCTION: BRUNER’S WAY/ David Bakhurst and Stuart G. Shanker

Another reason why Bruner is an ideal focus is his role in two crucial paradigm shifts in twentieth-century psychology. In the 1950s, he was an instrumental figure in the cognitive revolution, which restored to psychology the inner life of the mind after decades of arid behaviourist objectivism. Cognitive psychology prospered and, in league with other fields, evolved into ‘cognitive science’, conceived as a systematic inter- disciplinary approach to the study of mind (see Gardner, 1985). Bruner, however, gradually grew more and more dissatisfied with what cognitivism had become. In 1990, he published Acts of Meaning, in which he argued that the cognitive revolution had betrayed the impulse that had brought it into being. The revolution’s principal concern, Bruner argued, had been to return the concept of meaning to the forefront of psychological theorizing. But cognitivism had become so enamoured of computational models of the mind that it had replaced behaviourism’s impoverished view of the person with one no better: human beings as information processors. In response, Bruner argued forcefully that meaning is not a given, but something made by human beings as they negotiate the world. Meaning is a cultural, not computational, phenomenon. And since meaning is the medium of the mental, culture is constitutive of mind.

In many ways, Bruner’s objection was familiar. It had often been lamented that mainstream psychology was individualistic and scientistic, representing minds as self-contained mental atoms and ignoring the social and cultural influences upon them. In the last decade, however, this well-known critique has really been gaining momentum. Besides Bruner, both Richard Shweder (1990) and Michael Cole (1996) have sounded the call for a new ‘cultural psychology’. Assorted versions of ‘constructionist’ and ‘discursive’ psychology have appeared on the scene, joining a veritable chorus of diverse voices urging that psychology treat the mind as a sociocultural phenomenon (e.g., Edwards and Potter, 1992; Harré and Gillett, 1994; Gergen, 1999). It is particularly striking that these voices no longer come exclusively from the margins. Just as the left/right divide is collapsing in political theory, so the dichotomy between mainstream ‘individualistic/scientistic/Cartesian’ psychology and radical ‘communitarian/interpretative/post-Cartesian’ psychology has become outmoded. Cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind now commonly acknowledge that no plausible account of the mind can be indifferent to the context in which we think and act, and some significant works have appeared devoted to the cultural origins, and social realization, of human mentality (e.g., Donald, 1991). A psychologist interested in culture is no longer a counter-cultural figure.

Source: The narrative constitution of identity: A relational and network approach

From diverse sources it is possible to identify four features of a reframed narrativity particularly relevant for the social sciences:1) relationality of parts, 2) causal emplotment, 3) selective appropriation, and 4) temporality, sequence and place.43 Together, these dimensions suggest narratives are constellations of relationships (connected parts) embedded in time and space, constituted by causal emplotment. Unlike the attempt to produce meaning by placing an event in a specified category, narrativity precludes sense making of a singular isolated phenomenon. Narrativity demands that we discern the meaning of any single event only in temporal and spatial relationship to other events. Indeed, the chief characteristic of narrative is that it renders understanding only by connecting (however unstably) parts to a constructed configuration or a social network of relationships (however incoherent or unrealizable) composed of symbolic, institutional, and material practices 4.4

Source: CHAPTER 2 SELF-MAKING AND WORLD-MAKING

Narrative accounts must have at least two characteristics. They should center upon people and their intentional states: their desires, beliefs, and so on; and they should focus on how these intentional states led to certain kinds of activities. Such an account should also be or appear to be order preserving, in the sense of preserving or appearing to preserve sequence — the sequential properties of which life itself consists or is supposed to consist. Now, in the nature of things, if these points are correct, autobiographies should be about the past, should be par excellence the genre (or set of genres) composed in the past tense. So just for fun, we decided to find out whether in fact autobiographies were all in the past tense — both the spontaneous ones we had collected and a sample of literary autobiographies.

We have never found a single one where past-tense verbs constituted more than 70 percent of the verbs used. Autobiographies are, to be sure, about the past; but what of the 30 percent or more of their sentences that are not in the past tense? I’m sure it will be apparent without all these statistics that autobiography is not only about the past, but is busily about the present as well. If it is to bring the protagonist up to the present, it must deal with the present as well as the past — and not just at the end of the account, as it were. That is one part of it. But there is another part that is more interesting. Most of the “present-tense” aspect of autobiography has to do with what students of narrative structure call “evaluation” — the task of placing those sequential events in terms of a meaningful context. Narrative, whether looked at from the more formalistic perspective of William Labov (1982) or the more literary, historical one of Barbara Herrnstein-Smith (1986), necessarily comprises two features: one of them is telling what happened to a cast of human beings with a view to the order in which things happened. That part is greatly aided by the devices of flashback, flashforward, and the rest. But a narrative must also answer the question “Why”, “Why is this worth telling, what is interesting about it?” Not everything that happened is worth telling about, and it is not always clear why what one tells merits telling. We are bored and offended by such accounts as“I got up in the morning, got out of bed, dressed and tied my shoes, shaved, had breakfast, went off to the office and saw a graduate student who had an idea for a thesis…”

The “why tell” function imposes something of great (and hidden) significance on narrative. Not only must a narrative be about a sequence of events over time, structured comprehensibly in terms of cultural canonicality, it must also contain something that endows it with exceptionality. We had better pause for a moment and explore what this criterion of exceptionality means for autobiography and, incidentally, why it creates such a spate of present-tense clauses in the writing of autobiography.

Source: CHAPTER 2 SELF-MAKING AND WORLD-MAKING

The object of narrative, then, is to demystify deviations. Narrative solves no problems. It simply locates them in such a way as to make them comprehensible. It does so by invoking the play of psychological states and of actions that transpire when human beings interact with each other and relates these to what can usually be expected to happen. I think that Kenneth Burke has a good deal to say about this “play of psychological states” in narrative, and I think it would help to examine his ideas. In his The Grammar of Motives, he introduces the idea of “dramatism” (Burke 1945). Burke noted that dramatism was created by the interplay of five elements (he refers to them as the Pentad). These comprise an Actor who commits an Action toward a Goal with the use of some Instrument in a particular Scene. Dramatism is created, he argues, when elements of the Pentad are out of balance, lose their appropriate “ratio”. This creates Trouble, an emergent sixth element. He has much to say about what leads to the breakdown in the ratios between the elements of the dramatistic pentad. For example, the Actor and the Scene don’t fit. Nora, for example: what in the world is the rebellious Nora in A Doll’s House doing in this banal doctor’s household? Or Oedipus taking his mother Jocasta unknowingly to wife. The “appropriate ratios”, of course, are given by the canonical stances of folk psychology toward the human condition. Dramatism constitutes their patterned violation. In a classically oral culture, the great myths that circulate are the archetypal forms of violation, and these become increasingly “smoothed” and formalized — even frozen — over time, as we know from the classic studies of Russian folktales published by Vladimir Propp (1986). In more mobile literary cultures, of course, the range and variation in such tales and stories greatly increases, matching the greater complexity and widened opportunities that accompany literacy. Genres develop, new forms emerge, variety increase — at least at first. It may well be that with the emergence of mass cultures and the new massifying media, new constraints on this variation occur, but that is a topic that would take us beyond the scope of this essay (see Feldman, in this volume).

Erving Goffman On Interactionism

Source: Wikipedia

Goffman was influenced by Herbert BlumerÉmile DurkheimSigmund FreudEverett HughesAlfred Radcliffe-BrownTalcott ParsonsAlfred SchützGeorg Simmel and W. Lloyd Warner. Hughes was the “most influential of his teachers”, according to Tom Burns.[1][3][22] Gary Alan Fine and Philip Manning have said that Goffman never engaged in serious dialogue with other theorists,[1] but his work has influenced and been discussed by numerous contemporary sociologists, including Anthony GiddensJürgen Habermas and Pierre Bourdieu.[23]

Though Goffman is often associated with the symbolic interaction school of sociological thought, he did not see himself as a representative of it, and so Fine and Manning conclude that he “does not easily fit within a specific school of sociological thought”.[1] His ideas are also “difficult to reduce to a number of key themes”; his work can be broadly described as developing “a comparative, qualitative sociology that aimed to produce generalizations about human behavior”.[23][24]

Goffman made substantial advances in the study of face-to-face interaction, elaborated the “dramaturgical approach” to human interaction, and developed numerous concepts that have had a massive influence, particularly in the field of the micro-sociology of everyday life.[23][25] Much of his work was about the organization of everyday behavior, a concept he termed “interaction order”.[23][26][27] He contributed to the sociological concept of framing (frame analysis),[28] to game theory (the concept of strategic interaction), and to the study of interactions and linguistics.[23] With regard to the latter, he argued that the activity of speaking must be seen as a social rather than a linguistic construct.[29] From a methodological perspective, Goffman often employed qualitative approaches, specifically ethnography, most famously in his study of social aspects of mental illness, in particular the functioning of total institutions.[23] Overall, his contributions are valued as an attempt to create a theory that bridges the agency-and-structuredivide—for popularizing social constructionismsymbolic interactionconversation analysis, ethnographic studies, and the study and importance of individual interactions.[30][31] His influence extended far beyond sociology: for example, his work provided the assumptions of much current research in language and social interaction within the discipline of communication.[32]

Goffman defined “impression management” as a person’s attempts to present an acceptable image to those around them, verbally or nonverbally.[33] This definition is based on Goffman’s idea that people see themselves as others view them, so they attempt to see themselves as if they are outside looking in.[33] Goffman was also dedicated to discovering the subtle ways humans present acceptable images by concealing information that may conflict with the images for a particular situation, such as concealing tattoos when applying for a job in which tattoos would be inappropriate, or hiding a bizarre obsession such as collecting/interacting with dolls, which society may see as abnormal.

Goffman broke from George Herbert Mead and Herbert Blumer in that while he did not reject the way people perceive themselves, he was more interested in the actual physical proximity or the “interaction order” that molds the self.[33] In other words, Goffman believed that impression management can be achieved only if the audience is in sync with a person’s self-perception. If the audience disagrees with the image someone is presenting then their self-presentation is interrupted. People present images of themselves based on how society thinks they should act in a particular situation. This decision how to act is based on the concept of definition of the situation. Definitions are all predetermined and people choose how they will act by choosing the proper behavior for the situation they are in. Goffman also draws from William Thomas for this concept. Thomas believed that people are born into a particular social class and that the definitions of the situations they will encounter have already been defined for them.[33] For instance. when an individual from an upper-class background goes to a black-tie affair, the definition of the situation is that they must mind their manners and act according to their class.

In 2007 by The Times Higher Education Guide listed Goffman as the sixth most-cited author in the humanities and social sciences, behind Anthony Giddens and ahead of Habermas.[2] His popularity with the general public has been attributed to his writing style, described as “sardonic, satiric, jokey”,[31] and as “ironic and self-consciously literary”,[34] and to its being more accessible than that of most academics.[35] His style has also been influential in academia, and is credited with popularizing a less formal style in academic publications.[31] Interestingly, if he is rightly so credited, he may by this means have contributed to a remodelling of the norms of academic behaviour, particularly of communicative action, arguably liberating intellectuals from social restraints unnatural to some of them.

His students included Carol Brooks Gardner, Charles Goodwin, Marjorie Goodwin, John Lofland, Gary Marx, Harvey SacksEmanuel Schegloff, David Sudnow and Eviatar Zerubavel.[1]

Despite his influence, according to Fine and Manning there are “remarkably few scholars who are continuing his work”, nor has there been a “Goffman school”; thus his impact on social theory has been simultaneously “great and modest”.[30] Fine and Manning attribute the lack of subsequent Goffman-style research and writing to the nature of his style, which they consider very difficult to duplicate (even “mimic-proof”), and also to his subjects’ not being widely valued in the social sciences.[3][30] Of his style, Fine and Manning remark that he tends to be seen either as a scholar whose style is difficult to reproduce, and therefore daunting to those who might wish to emulate it, or as a scholar whose work was transitional, bridging the work of the Chicago school and that of contemporary sociologists, and thus of less interest to sociologists than the classics of either of those groups.[24][30] Of his subjects, Fine and Manning observe that the topic of behavior in public places is often stigmatized as trivial and unworthy of serious scholarly attention.[30]

Nonetheless, Fine and Manning note that Goffman is “the most influential American sociologist of the twentieth century”.[36] Elliott and Turner see him as “a revered figure—an outlaw theorist who came to exemplify the best of the sociological imagination”, and “perhaps the first postmodern sociological theorist”.[14]

Source: Looking back on Goffman: The excavation continues

The “descent of the ego,” then, was witnessed by both Durkheim and Goffman in terms of the mechanisms at work in modem Western society whereby the tendencies toward an unbridled egoistic individualism are continually rebuffed (Chriss, 1993). MacCannell successfully makes the case for such a Durkheim-Goffman link through a semiotic sociology which resists the temptation of explaining in solely positivistic terms why it is that in modem Western society, imbued as it is with a strong ethic of individualism, we nevertheless see persons orienting their actions toward a perceived moral universe and the accommodation of the other. Like Durkheim and many of the great students of society from Plato to Hobbes, from Kant to Parsons, Goffman was ultimately concerned with the question, how is social order possible (Berger, 1973: 356; Collins, 1980: 173)?

Burns recognizes the Durkheim-Goffman link as well, but carries the analysis even further by comparing and contrasting Durkheim’s notion of social order with Goffman’s interaction order. Durkheim’s sui generis reality was society; Goffman’s is the encounters between individuals, or the social act itself. The moral order which pervades society and sustains individual conduct constitutes a “social fact” in both Durkheim’s and Goffman’s eyes. But Burns (1992) notes also that for Durkheim this order was·seen as durable and all-sustaining, whereas for Goffman “it was fragile, impermanent, full of unexpected holes, and in constant need of repair” (p.26).

my Related Posts

Boundaries and Relational Sociology

Boundaries and Distinctions

Boundaries and Networks

Society as Communication: Social Systems Theory of Niklas Luhmann

Third and Higher Order Cybernetics

Autocatalysis, Autopoiesis and Relational Biology

Relational Turn in Economic Geography

Cybernetics, Autopoiesis, and Social Systems Theory

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Systems and Organizational Cybernetics

A Unifying Model of Arts

Ratio Club: A Brief History of British Cyberneticians

Micro Motives, Macro Behavior: Agent Based Modeling in Economics

On Holons and Holarchy

Reflexivity, Recursion, and Self Reference

The Social Significance of Drama and Narrative Arts

Socio-Cybernetics and Constructivist Approaches

Drama Therapy: Self in Performance

Narrative Psychology: Language, Meaning, and Self

Psychology of Happiness: Value of Storytelling and Narrative Plays

Drama Theory: Choices, Conflicts and Dilemmas

Drama Theory: Acting Strategically

Key Sources of Research

The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology

edited by Jaan Valsiner

Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning

By Bradd Shore

Erving Goffman on Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erving_Goffman

On Face-Work
An Analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction

Erving Goffman
Pages 213-231 | Published online: 08 Nov 2016
https://doi.org/10.1080/00332747.1955.11023008

Chapter in Book Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face to Face Behavior

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00332747.1955.11023008

Click to access Goffman,%20Erving%20%27On%20Face-work%27.pdf

Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-To-Face Behavior

E. Goffman

Published 1967

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Interaction-Ritual%3A-Essays-on-Face-To-Face-Behavior-Goffman/976f5fcc01b26ec011790d419eb471eb7beb13f8

 

Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction.

Goffman, Erving. 1961

Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. 

Goffman, Erving. 1959. 

New York: Doubleday Anchor.

Strategic interaction.

Goffman, Erving (1969), 

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience.

Goffman, E. (1974). 

New York: Harper & Row.

Sociology. Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. 

Hevern, V. W. (2004, Apr). 

Retrieved [3/15/2021] from the Le Moyne College Web site: http://web.lemoyne.edu/~hevern/nr-soc.html

http://web.lemoyne.edu/~hevern/narpsych/nr-soc.html

Narrative scenarios: Toward a culturally thick notion of narrative. 

Brockmeier, J. (2012). 

In J. Valsiner (Ed.), Oxford library of psychology. The Oxford handbook of culture and psychology (p. 439–467). Oxford University Press.

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2012-04461-020

Erving Goffman

https://monoskop.org/Erving_Goffman

Looking back on Goffman: The excavation continues

James J. Chriss 

Cleveland State University

1993

Sociology & Criminology Faculty Publications. 98.
https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clsoc_crim_facpub/98

Beyond Goffman: Studies on Communication, Institution, and Social Interaction

1990

Erving Goffman: Exploring,the interaction order 

(1988)

Tom Burns’s Erving Goffman

(1992)

Chapter 1
Narrative Inquiry: From Story to Method

Troubling Certainty

Margaret S. Barrett and Sandra L. Stauffer

In Narrative Inquiry in Music Education

DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-9862-8  

Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

INTRODUCTION: BRUNER’S WAY

David Bakhurst and Stuart G. Shanker

In Jerome Bruner: Language, Culture, Self

Edited by
David Bakhurst and Stuart G. Shanker

Sage Publications, 2001

Analyzing Narratives and Story-Telling

Matti Hyvärinen

THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF SOCIAL RESEARCH METHODS

The narrative constitution of identity: A relational and network approach

MARGARET R. SOMERS

Universityof Michigan

TheoryandSociety23: 605-649, 1994

https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/43649/11186_2004_Article_BF00992905.pdf?sequence=1

Cognitive–Linguistic and Constructivist Mnemonic Triggers in Teaching Based on Jerome Bruner’s Thinking

Jari Metsämuuronen1* and Pekka Räsänen2

  • 1Department of Pedagogy, NLA University College, Bergen, Norway
  • 2Niilo Mäki Institute, Jyväskylä, Finland

Front. Psychol., 12 December 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02543

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02543/full

Storytelling and the Construction of Realities

Paul Stoller

Etnofoor Vol. 30, No. 2, Race-ism (2018), pp. 107-112 

The Construction of Identity in the Narratives of Romance and Comedy

Kevin Murray 

Texts of Identity In J.Shotter & K.Gergen (eds.)  London: Sage (1988)

The Construction of Identity in the Narratives of Romance and Comedy

Actual Minds, Possible Worlds

By Jerome S. BRUNER

The Narrative Construction of Reality

Jerome Bruner

Jerome Bruner Life as a Narrative

Polarising narrative and paradigmatic ways of knowing: exploring the spaces through narrative, stories and reflections of personal transition

CLEO91571

David Cleaver

cleaver@usq.edu.au University of Southern Queensland

Possibilities for Action: Narrative Understanding

Donald Polkinghorne

Fielding Graduate University

https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/NW/article/view/23789/27568

Two Modes of Thought

Jerome Bruner

Narrating the Self

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/faculty/ochs/articles/96narr_self.pdf?q=narrating-the-self

THE USES OF NARRATIVE IN ORGANIZATION RESEARCH

Barbara Czarniawska

Acts of meaning. 

Bruner, J. (1990). 

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Language learner stories and imagined identities

Margaret Early and Bonny Norton
Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia

Narrative Rhetorics in Scenario Work: Sensemaking and Translation

Zhan Li
University of Southern California USA

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.431.411&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Chapter 2
Self-making and world-making

Jerome Bruner

In Narrative and Identity

Studies in Autobiography, Self and Culture

Jens Brockmeier
University of Toronto & Freie Universität Berlin

Donal Carbaugh
University of Massachusetts at Amherst

John Benjamins Publishing Company

A Grammar of Motives

By Kenneth Burke

Essays Toward a Symbolic of Motives, 1950–1955

By Kenneth Burke

A RHETORIC OF MOTIVES

Kenneth Burke

Click to access CaricatureofCourtshipKafkaCastleKennethBurke.pdf

A Calculus of Negation in Communication

Cybernetics & Human Knowing 24, 3–4 (2017), 17–27

Posted: 23 Jan 2018

Dirk Baecker

Witten/Herdecke University

Date Written: September 1, 2017

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3102888

Working the Form: George Spencer-Brown and the Mark of Distinction*

Dirk Baecker

Universität Witten/Herdecke

dirk.baecker@uni-wh.de

Shape of things to come: From the ‘laws of form’ to management in the post-growth economy

André Reichel

http://www.ephemerajournal.org volume 17(1): 89-118

Click to access 17-1reichel.pdf

Systems, Network, and Culture

Dirk Baecker Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen, Germany baecker@mac.com

Presented at the International Symposium “Relational Sociology: Transatlantic Impulses for the Social Sciences”, Berlin, September 25-26, 2008

Click to access baecker2.pdf

Organisations as distinction generating and processing systems: Niklas Luhmann’s contribution to organisation studies

David Seidl and Kai Helge Becker

SOCIAL SYSTEMS

Niklas Luhmann
TRANSLATED BY John Bednarz, Jr., with Dirk Baecker FOREWORD BY Eva M. Knodt
STANFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA

Introduction to Systems Theory

Niklas Luhmann

Click to access Niklas_Luhmann_Introduction_to_System_Theory.pdf

Mysteries of cognition. Review of neocybernetics and narrative by bruce clarke.

Baecker D. (2015)

Constructivist Foundations 10(2): 261–263. http://constructivist.info/10/2/261

https://constructivist.info/10/2/261.baecker

The Communication of Meaning in Anticipatory Systems: A Simulation Study of the Dynamics of Intentionality in Social Interactions

Loet Leydesdorff

In: Daniel M. Dubois (Ed.) Proceedings of the 8th Intern. Conf. on Computing Anticipatory Systems CASYS’07, Liège, Belgium, 6-11 August 2007. Melville, NY: American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings, Vol. 1051 (2008) pp. 33-49.

Why Systems?

Dirk Baecker

Universität Witten/Herdecke http://www.uni-wh.de/baecker

Theory Culture & Society 18 (2001), pp. 59-74

LAWS OF
FORM by GEORGE SPENCER-BROWN

In collaboration with the Liverpool University
and the Laws of Form 50th Anniversary Conference.
Alphabetum III
September 28 — December 31, 2019 West Den Haag, The Netherlands

Click to access Alphabetum_III_V8_ONLINE.pdf

Systems in Context
On the outcome of the Habermas/Luhmann
debate

Poul Kjaer

Niklas Luhmann and Organization Studies

Edited by
David Seidl and Kai Helge Becker

Click to access 9788763003049.pdf

A Note on Max Weber’s Unfinished Theory of Economy and Society

Dirk Baecker
Witten/Herdecke University, Germany dbaecker@uni-wh.de

The fractal geometry of Luhmann’s sociological theory or debugging systems theory

José Javier Blanco Rivero

CONICET/Centro de Historia Intelectual, National University of Quilmes, Roque Sáenz Peña 352, Bernal, Argentina

Technological Forecasting & Social Change 146 (2019) 31–40


Diamond Calculus of Formation of Forms

A calculus of dynamic complexions of distinctions as an interplay of worlds and distinctions

Archive-Number / Categories 3_01 / K06, K03
Publication Date 2011

Rudolf Kaehr (1942-2016)

Click to access rk_Diamond-Calculus-of-Formation-of-Forms_2011.pdf

ART AS A SOCIAL SYSTEM

Niklas Luhmann

TRANSLATED BY EVA M. KNODT

Snakes all the Way Down: Varela’s Calculus for Self-Reference and the Praxis of Paradise

André Reichel*

European Center for Sustainability Research, Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany

Systems Research and Behavioral Science Syst. Res. (2011)
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com) DOI: 10.1002/sres.1105

Who Conceives of Society?

Ernst von Glasersfeld

University of Massachusetts evonglas@hughes.net

Constructivist Foundations 2008, vol. 3, no. 2 http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/journal/

Click to access glasersfeld.pdf

Dramaturgy (sociology)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramaturgy_(sociology)

Dramaturgy

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dramaturgy

Beyond Bourdieu:
The Interactionist Foundations of Media Practice Theory

PETER LUNT University of Leicester, UK

International Journal of Communication 14(2020), 2946–2963

https://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/11204/3104

Drama as Life: The Significance of Goffman’s Changing Use of the Theatrical Metaphor

Phil Manning

Sociological Theory Vol. 9, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 70-86 (17 pages) 

Published By: American Sociological Association 

https://doi.org/10.2307/201874https://www.jstor.org/stable/201874

RECONSTRUCTING THE SELF: A GOFFMANIAN PERSPECTIVE

Simon Susen

In: H. F. Dahms & E. R. Lybeck (Eds.), Reconstructing Social Theory, History and Practice. Current Perspectives in Social Theory. (pp. 111-143). Bingley, UK: Emerald. ISBN 9781786354709

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b8ca/9e1bb2a4bdf97330c932fc75ea7f60253551.pdf?_ga=2.252111627.386639570.1616097397-89425557.1612485585

Mainstreaming Relational Sociology – Relational Analysis of Culture in Digithum

P. Baert. Published 2016

The Foundations of the Social: Between Critical Theory and Reflexive Sociology

S. Susen. Published 2007

Language, self, and social order: A reformulation of Goffman and Sacks

A. RawlsPublished 1989SociologyHuman Studies

The Interaction Order: American Sociological Association, 1982 Presidential Address

Author(s): Erving Goffman

Reviewed work(s):
Source: American Sociological Review, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Feb., 1983), pp. 1-17 Published by: American Sociological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095141&nbsp;.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/cc41/6add65c01434e70c1eff295ccf2c4d45ad49.pdf?_ga=2.51373867.386639570.1616097397-89425557.1612485585

Face and interaction

Michael Haugh

(2009): In Francesca Bargiela-Chiappini and Michael Haugh (eds.), Face, Communication and Social Interaction, Equinox, London, pp.1-30.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313098378_Face_and_Interaction

Public and private faces in web spaces – How Goffman’s work can be used to think about purchasing medicine online. 

Lisa Sugiura

Organizational Analysis: Goffman and Dramaturgy  

Peter K. Manning

The Oxford Handbook of Sociology, Social Theory, and Organization Studies: Contemporary Currents

Edited by Paul Adler, Paul du Gay, Glenn Morgan, and Mike Reed

Print Publication Date: Oct 2014

https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199671083.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199671083-e-012

Complete bibliography: Erving Goffman ́s writings

Persson, Anders

http://lup.lub.lu.se/search/ws/files/5499425/2438065

Chapter 1 THE PROGRAM OF INTERACTION RITUAL THEORY

Click to access s7769.pdf

A review of Jerome Bruner’s educational theory:

Its implications for studies in teaching and learning and active learning (secondary publication)

Koji MATSUMOTO

Faculty of Economics Nagoya Gakuin University

Click to access syakai_vol5401_11.pdf

The Use of Stories in Moral Development: New Psychological Reasons for an Old Education Method

DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.45.6.709

Narrative Understanding and Understanding Narrative

Sarah E. Worth

Contemporary Aesthetics (Journal Archive): Vol. 2 , Article 9.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.risd.edu/liberalarts_contempaesthetics/vol2/iss1/9

Arts and Moral Philosophy

Arts and Moral Philosophy

This post is an extension of my last post on Aesthetics and Ethics.  How narrative arts such as Literature, Novels, Poetry, Films and Dramas interact with moral ethical concerns and emotions of human beings.

Key People/Terms

  • Martha Nussbaum – Aristotle
  • Iris Murdoch – Plato
  • Noel Carroll
  • Hall of Mirrors
  • Hall of Reflection
  • Literature
  • Novels
  • Films and Dramas
  • Narrative Arts
  • Aesthetics
  • Ethics
  • Moral Philosophy
  • Ethical Criticism of Arts
  • Virtue Ethics

Martha Nussbaum on Emotions, Ethics, and Literature

Martha Nussbaum on Emotions, Ethics, and Literature

Martha Nussbaum has been recently described as a “philosopher of feelings” and indeed, throughout her career, she has written on disgust, shame, desire, sex, patriotism, love, empathy, and most recently, anger. According to Nussbaum, there is ethical value in emotions, and we are wrong to ostracize them outside the sphere of philosophical relevance. Understanding our emotions helps us build a morally just society and relate to one another in a way that is deeply respectful and moral. It helps us extend our humanity toward people we have previously rejected as “the other,” and is a crucial part of building a healthy democracy.

Emotions are extremely significant to our efforts of living a good life. In Love’s Knowledge (1990), Nussbaum maintains that feelings have unrightfully been banished from philosophy under two equally false pretexts. Critics have either portrayed them as these blind, irrational impulses that have nothing to do with cognition and have to be strictly controlled by the reins of rationality, or maintained that if they do have any cognitive value and can indeed tell us something about the world, what they tell us is simply false. The first objection equates an emotion with an instinctual appetite, an animal need, a mere bodily function. Yet, Nussbaum argues, we can agree that grief, for instance, is very much different from hunger, and in fact due to developments in anthropology, cognitive science, and psychology, this view has become antiquated. Besides, we don’t need scientific evidence to acknowledge that grief cannot be compared to hunger, as grief is sustained by a variety of assumptions with epistemic value. Which leads us to the second set of objections.

Emotions do have cognitive value, so it should only follow logically that they must have some ethical value as well. To continue with the example of grief, the experience of the feeling presupposes the belief that someone has been lost, that the loss is irrevocable, that the person lost had tremendous and irreplaceable value, etc. To give another example, Nussbaum’s account of anger unfolds the various assumptions that underlie this emotion, amongst which the idea that there is some kind of cosmic balance that has been upset when a person has been wronged, and that directing his or her fury at the wrongdoer will somehow restore that balance.

Some emotions encompass beliefs about the world that upon scrutiny do indeed turn out to be wrong, but this is precisely why we need to take them seriously and subject them to careful investigation. It can be expected that upon discovering that certain emotions are unwarranted or unfounded, we will discard them, just as we do with beliefs when we discover they are false. Some emotions are indeed irrational, but so are a vast number of beliefs, yet it has never occurred to philosophers to banish beliefs from philosophy altogether. Furthermore, it is inconsistent, Nussbaum argues, to discredit emotions as insignificant and untrustworthy, while simultaneously recognizing that a change in one’s feelings also brings with it a change in one’s beliefs (see, for instance, the role emotions play in advertising or politics). We are wary of a political discourse suffused with emotions, as it can be much more effective than one that fully ignores our feelings. The Sophists, masters of rhetoric that they were, knew and fully embraced this, but Nussbaum points out that they weren’t the only ones. Pre-Socratic philosophers and poets were much more supportive of an entanglement between art, emotions, and philosophy, before Socrates/Plato came along and drew a dichotomy between them (pp. 14–15).

“Belief,” Nussbaum writes, “is sufficient for emotion, and emotion necessary for full belief” (p. 41). If a person believes that X was the most important person in her life, and X died, then that person will be affected by grief. If she doesn’tbelieve in the significance of X, she will not experience grief. Conversely, if a person maintains that she is a feminist, for instance, and witnesses an act of abuse against women and yet has no reaction (i.e., outrage), this would make us question the sincerity of that person’s convictions. We should admit, along with Aristotle—a philosopher Nussbaum reveres and draws significantly from—that emotions are “discriminating responses closely connected with beliefs about how things are and what is important” (ibid.). Sometimes, they might be even more reliable as our moral compasses than detached intellectual judgements, since they embody our most deeply rooted views about the world.

If emotions indeed have cognitive value, why do we still reject them? Nussbaum suggests that the main objection brought to emotions is that “they involve value judgements that attach great worth to uncontrolled things outside the agent; they are … acknowledgements of the finite and imperfectly controlled character of human life” (p. 42). To counter this vulnerability, Western philosophy has aspired to a kind of self-sufficiency, a belief that nothing bad will ever happen to those who do everything right.

In the uncertain world of ancient Greece, being human was seen as both supremely beautiful and fatally doomed. In a world governed by capricious gods, man felt subjected to tuche (fate or luck, or as Nussbaum explains it, that which just happens to a person as opposed to that which is her own doing). Many thus aspired to regain some form of control, some way to escape being at the mercy of tuche. This control came in the form of Platonic, rational self-sufficiency. Use your reason and you will be in touch with the divine forms. Nothing bad can happen to a good person. This rational self-sufficiency aspires to make “the goodness of a good human life safe from luck through the controlling power of reason” ([1986] 2001, p. 3). At its roots lies Socrates’s claim that a good person cannot be harmed, as expressed by Plato in the Apology (41c-d).

Nussbaum urges us to recognize, along with the Greek tragic poets, that mankind is fragile.  In The Fragility of Goodness (id., p. 5), she writes that her position acknowledges

That I am an agent, but also a plant; that much that I did not make goes towards making me whatever I shall be praised or blamed for being; that I must constantly choose among competing and apparently incommensurable goods and that circumstances may force me to a position in which I cannot help being false to something or doing some wrong; that an event that simply happens to me may, without my consent, alter my life; that it is equally problematic to entrust one’s good to friends, lovers, or country and to try to have a good life without them—all these I take to be not just the material of tragedy, but everyday facts of lived practical reason.

These “everyday facts of lived practical reason” may be central to morality, but unfortunately, our lives are limited. Building on Aristotle’s views in his Rhetoric and Poetics, Nussbaum reminds us that “we have never lived enough” and that our experience is “too confined and too parochial” (1990, p. 47). Fortunately, however, there is something that can compensate for the inevitable shortness of our lifespan and the limited breadth of human experience: literature.

Literature extends our life and our experience, “making us reflect and feel about what might otherwise be too distant for feeling” (ibid.) One of the main points of literary art is to present us with moments where “habit is cut through by the unexpected” (p. 43), testing our aspirations to live a good life through events outside of our control. This way of reading becomes a way of moral learning, a way of training ourselves to recognize the important features in a moral situation. No prefabricated principle can help us here, but we can only learn experientially, step by step, guided by the novel.

Nussbaum describes moralities that are exclusively based on general and universal principles as “ethically crude” (p. 37) and instead proposes the view influenced by Aristotle, which focuses on practical wisdom. General principles can only help us so much, and, following Aristotle’s analogy between ethical judgement and the arts of a navigator, there will always be the “unexpected” to face, our version of the Greek tuche, and inevitably, principles will prove insufficient. Here is where perception will prove more useful, defined as the ethical ability to discern the important features of one’s particular situation. Perceptions, in combination with a healthy dose of moral responsibility, are the ethical antidote to principles. We should bear in mind that “perception without responsibility is dangerously free-floating, even as duty without perception is blunt and blind” (p. 155).

Literature widens our experience and expands our moral imagination. It gives us the opportunity to vicariously explore seemingly infinite instances of lived practical reason. In her essay “Finely Aware and Richly Responsible,” Nussbaum makes the case for the novel as a “paradigm of moral activity” (p. 148). It gives us the uniquely privileged position from which we can explore situations deeply, but from afar. It allows us to be emotionally involved while also maintaining neutrality. In this sense, we inhabit a place that is “both like and unlike the position we occupy in life” (p. 48), perfect for awakening ourselves to moral perceptions. Much like a rehearsal before the live show, novels give their readers the opportunity to explore ethically demanding situations from a place of safety.

James’s novel The Golden Bowl serves as an example of a literary piece that provides the reader with moral perceptions, those nuanced insights into some of the infinitely varied instances of human existence. Because of the privileged position that the literary form of the novel offers, “Most of us can read James better than we can read ourselves’’ (p. 162). It is only once we’re aware of these fine complexities and reach a state of “perceptive equilibrium” that we can hope to act morally. To ignore the particularities, the contingencies and the “context-embeddedness” (1990, p. 38) of human experience is to be morally blind. “By themselves, trusted for and in themselves, the standing terms are a recipe for obtuseness” (p. 156). Instead, to respond with the right emotions “at the right times, with reference to the right objects, toward the right people, with the right aim, and in the right way, is what is appropriate and best, and this is characteristic of excellence” (Aristotle EN 1106b21-23, quoted in Nussbaum, 1990, 156). Analyzing The Golden Bowl, Nussbaum puts forth the two main characters of the novel as two moral agents, two people who managed to act altruistically toward each other without relying on rules and concepts of duty, but instead “improvised” with the particulars given to them. Perceptions assume priority over rules, and the particulars of a situation over general principles.

Artistic narratives are sometimes the only possible way of rendering life in an accurate fashion:

Certain truths about human life can only be fittingly and accurately stated in the language and forms characteristic of the narrative artist. With respect to certain elements of human life, the terms of the novelist’s art are alert winged creatures, perceiving where the blunt terms of ordinary speech, or of abstract theoretical discourse are blind, acute where they are obtuse, winged where they are dull and heavy. (1990, p. 5)

Nussbaum invites us to suppose, along with Proust, that ‘The most important truths about human psychology cannot be communicated or grasped by intellectual activity alone: powerful emotions have an irreducibly important cognitive role to play” (p. 7). If we combine this with the assumption that there is an organic connection between form and content, then novels emerge as a unique medium for truth-telling. Style is not incidental to the content it aims to convey, Nussbaum suggests, but rather the adequate fit between form and content is almost absolute, in the sense that once something is appropriately conveyed in a rich artistic form, it cannot be expressed equally well in, for instance, rigid academic terms. Paraphrasing in a completely different style will fail.

If we accept all of the above, is there anything left for the philosopher to do? Should Nussbaum herself not have written the 400-page Love’s Knowledge because the novels she writes about speak for themselves?

Firstly, it was necessary to explain—philosophically—why not taking novels seriously would be a great loss to philosophy. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, once again inspired by Aristotle, Nussbaum does advocate a philosophical style that, while different from the expressiveness typical of literary texts, can also be “their natural ally” (p. 18). While the critical skills proper to philosophy can be substantially helpful, it is imperative that philosophy assumes a much more modest role.

Philosophical commentary should only gesture toward concrete particulars, nudging us toward responsible perceptions, providing a mere “sketch” or “outline” of the “salient features of our moral life” (p. 161). The awareness that such an outline does not contain life itself, but can only “quote life” as it were from the literary text, places philosophical commentary in a “posture of sufficient humility” (ibid.).

It will be interesting to see if more philosophers embrace this newly defined role. Given the reaffirmed importance of emotions in our ethical lives, and the significance of artistic narratives, the philosophical style, as reimagined by Nussbaum, is presented with new requirements. It must clarify in a way that is enriching, explain without being oppressive, and illuminate the fineness of human experience while still protecting its fascinating multiplicity. The readers of Love’s Knowledge will hopefully agree that in terms of style and philosophical commentary, Nussbaum herself has managed to live up to the standard that she so graciously elevated.

Ana Sandoiu is a writer, researcher & philosophy lover living in Brighton, UK. She also writes on her personal blog, On a Saturday Morning.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/07/25/martha-nussbaums-moral-philosophies?verso=true

The Philosopher of Feelings

Martha Nussbaum’s far-reaching ideas illuminate the often ignored elements of human life—aging, inequality, and emotion.

What I am calling for Nussbaum writes is a society of citizens who admit that they are needy and vulnerable.
“What I am calling for,” Nussbaum writes, is “a society of citizens who admit that they are needy and vulnerable.”Photograph by Jeff Brown for The New Yorker

Martha Nussbaum was preparing to give a lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, in April, 1992, when she learned that her mother was dying in a hospital in Philadelphia. She couldn’t get a flight until the next day. That evening, Nussbaum, one of the foremost philosophers in America, gave her scheduled lecture, on the nature of emotions. “I thought, It’s inhuman—I shouldn’t be able to do this,” she said later. Then she thought, Well, of course I should do this. I mean, here I am. Why should I not do it? The audience is there, and they want to have the lecture.

When she returned to her room, she opened her laptop and began writing her next lecture, which she would deliver in two weeks, at the law school of the University of Chicago. On the plane the next morning, her hands trembling, she continued to type. She wondered if there was something cruel about her capacity to be so productive. The lecture was about the nature of mercy. As she often does, she argued that certain moral truths are best expressed in the form of a story. We become merciful, she wrote, when we behave as the “concerned reader of a novel,” understanding each person’s life as a “complex narrative of human effort in a world full of obstacles.”

In the lecture, she described how the Roman philosopher Seneca, at the end of each day, reflected on his misdeeds before saying to himself, “This time I pardon you.” The sentence brought Nussbaum to tears. She worried that her ability to work was an act of subconscious aggression, a sign that she didn’t love her mother enough. I shouldn’t be away lecturing, she thought. I shouldn’t have been a philosopher. Nussbaum sensed that her mother saw her work as cold and detached, a posture of invulnerability. “We aren’t very loving creatures, apparently, when we philosophize,” Nussbaum has written.

When her plane landed in Philadelphia, Nussbaum learned that her mother had just died. Her younger sister, Gail Craven Busch, a choir director at a church, had told their mother that Nussbaum was on the way. “She just couldn’t hold on any longer,” Busch said. When Nussbaum arrived at the hospital, she found her mother still in the bed, wearing lipstick. A breathing tube, now detached from an oxygen machine, was laced through her nostrils. The nurses brought Nussbaum cups of water as she wept. Then she gathered her mother’s belongings, including a book called “A Glass of Blessings,” which Nussbaum couldn’t help noticing looked too precious, the kind of thing that she would never want to read. She left the hospital, went to the track at the University of Pennsylvania, and ran four miles.

She admired the Stoic philosophers, who believed that ungoverned emotions destroyed one’s moral character, and she felt that, in the face of a loved one’s death, their instruction would be “Everyone is mortal, and you will get over this pretty soon.” But she disagreed with the way they trained themselves not to depend on anything beyond their control. For the next several days, she felt as if nails were being pounded into her stomach and her limbs were being torn off. “Do we imagine the thought causing a fluttering in my hands, or a trembling in my stomach?” she wrote, in “Upheavals of Thought,” a book on the structure of emotions. “And if we do, do we really want to say that this fluttering or trembling is my grief about my mother’s death?”

Nussbaum gave her lecture on mercy shortly after her mother’s funeral. She felt that her mother would have preferred that she forgo work for a few weeks, but when Nussbaum isn’t working she feels guilty and lazy, so she revised the lecture until she thought that it was one of the best she had ever written. She imagined her talk as a kind of reparation: the lecture was about the need to recognize how hard it is, even with the best intentions, to live a virtuous life. Like much of her work, the lecture represented what she calls a therapeutic philosophy, a “science of life,” which addresses persistent human needs. She told me, “I like the idea that the very thing that my mother found cold and unloving could actually be a form of love. It’s a form of human love to accept our complicated, messy humanity and not run away from it.”

A few years later, Nussbaum returned to her relationship with her mother in a dramatic dialogue that she wrote for Oxford University’s Philosophical Dialogues Competition, which she won. In the dialogue, a mother accuses her daughter, a renowned moral philosopher, of being ruthless. “You just don’t know what emotions are,” the mother says. Her father tells her, “Aren’t you a philosopher because you want, really, to live inside your own mind most of all? And not to need, not to love, anyone?” Her mother asks, “Isn’t it just because you don’t want to admit that thinking doesn’t control everything?”

The philosopher begs for forgiveness. “Why do you hate my thinking so much, Mommy?” she asks. “What can I say or write that will make you stop looking at me that way?”

Nussbaum is drawn to the idea that creative urgency—and the commitment to be good—derives from the awareness that we harbor aggression toward the people we love. A sixty-nine-year-old professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago (with appointments in classics, political science, Southern Asian studies, and the divinity school), Nussbaum has published twenty-four books and five hundred and nine papers and received fifty-seven honorary degrees. In 2014, she became the second woman to give the John Locke Lectures, at Oxford, the most eminent lecture series in philosophy. Last year, she received the Inamori Ethics Prize, an award for ethical leaders who improve the condition of mankind. A few weeks ago, she won five hundred thousand dollars as the recipient of the Kyoto Prize, the most prestigious award offered in fields not eligible for a Nobel, joining a small group of philosophers that includes Karl Popper and Jürgen Habermas. Honors and prizes remind her of potato chips; she enjoys them but is wary of becoming sated, like one of Aristotle’s “dumb grazing animals.” Her conception of a good life requires striving for a difficult goal, and, if she notices herself feeling too satisfied, she begins to feel discontent.

Nussbaum is monumentally confident, intellectually and physically. She is beautiful, in a taut, flinty way, and carries herself like a queen. Her voice is high-pitched and dramatic, and she often seems delighted by the performance of being herself. Her work, which draws on her training in classics but also on anthropology, psychoanalysis, sociology, and a number of other fields, searches for the conditions for eudaimonia, a Greek word that describes a complete and flourishing life. At a time of insecurity for the humanities, Nussbaum’s work champions—and embodies—the reach of the humanistic endeavor. Nancy Sherman, a moral philosopher at Georgetown, told me, “Martha changed the face of philosophy by using literary skills to describe the very minutiae of a lived experience.”

Of course you still make me laugh just not out loud.
“Of course you still make me laugh, just not out loud.”

Unlike many philosophers, Nussbaum is an elegant and lyrical writer, and she movingly describes the pain of recognizing one’s vulnerability, a precondition, she believes, for an ethical life. “To be a good human being,” she has said, “is to have a kind of openness to the world, the ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control that can lead you to be shattered.” She searches for a “non-denying style of writing,” a way to describe emotional experiences without wringing the feeling from them. She disapproves of the conventional style of philosophical prose, which she describes as “scientific, abstract, hygienically pallid,” and disengaged with the problems of its time. Like Narcissus, she says, philosophy falls in love with its own image and drowns.

In several books and papers, Nussbaum quotes a sentence by the sociologist Erving Goffman, who wrote, “In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports.” This sentence more or less characterizes Nussbaum’s father, whom she describes as an inspiration and a role model, and also as a racist. He was prejudiced in a “very gut-level way,” Nussbaum told me. “It was about shrinking and disgust.”

For the past thirty years, Nussbaum has been drawn to those who blush, writing about the kinds of populations that her father might have deemed subhuman. She argues that unblushing males, or “normals,” repudiate their own animal nature by projecting their disgust onto vulnerable groups and creating a “buffer zone.” Nussbaum thinks that disgust is an unreasonable emotion, which should be distrusted as a basis for law; it is at the root, she argues, of opposition to gay and transgender rights. Her work includes lovely descriptions of the physical realities of being a person, of having a body “soft and porous, receptive of fluid and sticky, womanlike in its oozy sliminess.” She believes that dread of these phenomena creates a threat to civic life. “What I am calling for,” she writes, is “a society of citizens who admit that they are needy and vulnerable.”

Nussbaum once wrote, citing Nietzsche, that “when a philosopher harps very insistently on a theme, that shows us that there is a danger that something else is about to ‘play the master’ ”: something personal is driving the preoccupation. In Nussbaum’s case, I wondered if she approaches her theme of vulnerability with such success because she peers at it from afar, as if it were unfamiliar and exotic. She celebrates the ability to be fragile and exposed, but in her own life she seems to control every interaction. She divides her day into a series of productive, life-affirming activities, beginning with a ninety-minute run or workout, during which, for years, she “played” operas in her head, usually works by Mozart. She memorized the operas and ran to each one for three to four months, shifting the tempo to match her speed and her mood. For two decades, she has kept a chart that documents her daily exercises. After her workout, she stands beside her piano and sings for an hour; she told me that her voice has never been better. (When a conductor recently invited her to join a repertory group for older singers, she told him that the concept was “stigmatizing.”) Her self-discipline inspired a story called “My Ex, the Moral Philosopher,” by the late Richard Stern, a professor at the University of Chicago. The story describes the contradiction of the philosopher’s “paean to spontaneity and her own nature, the least spontaneous, most doggedly, nervously, even fanatically unspontaneous I know.”

Nussbaum is currently writing a book on aging, and when I first proposed the idea of a Profile I told her that I’d like to make her book the center of the piece. She responded skeptically, writing in an e-mail that she’d had a long, varied career, adding, “I’d really like to feel that you had considered various aspects of it and that we had a plan that had a focus.” She typically responded within an hour of my sending an e-mail. “Do you feel that you have such a plan?” she asked me. “I’d like to hear the pros and cons in your view of different emphases.” She wasn’t sure how I could encompass her œuvre, since it covered so many subjects: animal rights, emotions in criminal law, Indian politics, disability, religious intolerance, political liberalism, the role of humanities in the academy, sexual harassment, transnational transfers of wealth. “The challenge for you would be to give readers a road map through the work that would be illuminating rather than confusing,” she wrote, adding, “It will all fall to bits without a plan.” She described three interviews that she’d done, and the ways in which they were flawed. Among other things, they hadn’t captured her devotion to teaching and to her students. One of the interviews, she said, had made her “look like a person who has contempt for the contributions of others, which is one of the biggest insults that one could direct my way.”

For our first meeting, she suggested that I watch her sing: “It’s the actual singing that would give you insight into my personality and my emotional life, though of course I am very imperfect in my ability to express what I want to express.” She wrote that music allowed her to access a part of her personality that is “less defended, more receptive.” Last summer, we drove to the house of her singing teacher, Tambra Black, who lives in a gentrifying neighborhood with a view of the churches of the University of Chicago. It was ninety degrees and sunny, and although we were ten minutes early, Nussbaum pounded on the door until Black, her hair wet from the shower, let us inside.

Nussbaum wore nylon athletic shorts and a T-shirt, and carried her sheet music in a hippie-style embroidered sack. Her fingernails and toenails were polished turquoise, and her legs and arms were exquisitely toned and tan. She stood beside Black’s piano with her feet in a ski-plow pose and did scales by letting her mouth go completely loose and blowing through closed lips.

The first aria she practiced was “Or sai chi l’onore,” from “Don Giovanni,” one of the few Mozart operas that she has never run to, because she finds the rape scene reprehensible. As she ascended in pitch, she tilted her chin upward, until Black told her to stop. She excelled at clarion high notes, but Black thought that a passage about the murder of the heroine’s father should be more tender. “Can you make it a little more pleasant?” Black asked.

The next aria was from the final act of Verdi’s “Don Carlos,” which Nussbaum found more challenging. She had to embody the hopelessness of a woman who, knowing that she can never be with the man she loves, yearns for death.

“Put a little longing and sadness in there,” Black said. “Don’t give too much too early.”

Nussbaum softened her tone for a few passages, but her voice quickly gathered force.

“You have too much power,” Black told her. “Save a little for the end.”

“I’ll have to work on that,” Nussbaum said, her eyes fixed on the sheet music in front of her. “It’s difficult to get all the emotions in there.”

Hours later, as we drove home from a concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Nussbaum said that she was struggling to capture the resignation required for the Verdi piece. She couldn’t identify with the role. “I feel that this character is basically saying, ‘Life is treating me badly, so I’m going to give up,’ ” she told me. “And I find that totally unintelligible.”

 The Walking Dead American Horror Story Bates Motel or the Convention
“ ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘American Horror Story,’ ‘Bates Motel,’ or the Convention?”

When Nussbaum was three or four years old, she told her mother, “Well, I think I know just about everything.” Her mother, Betty Craven, whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, responded sternly, “No, Martha. You are just one person among many.” Nussbaum was so frustrated by this response that she banged her head on the floor.

Her father, George Craven, a successful tax lawyer who worked all the time, applauded her youthful arrogance. He thought that it was excellent to be superior to others. He liked to joke that he had been wrong only once in his life and that was the time that he thought he was wrong. The Craven family lived in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, in an atmosphere that Nussbaum describes as “chilly clear opulence.” Betty was bored and unfulfilled, and she began drinking for much of the day, hiding bourbon in the kitchen. Nussbaum’s younger sister, Gail, said that once, after her mother passed out on the floor, she called an ambulance, but her father sent it away. Nussbaum’s half-brother, Robert (the child of George Craven’s first marriage), said that their father didn’t understand when people weren’t rational. “It was an emotionally barren environment,” he told me. “You were supposed to just soldier on.”

Nussbaum spent her free time alone in the attic, reading books, including many by Dickens. Through literature, she said, she found an “escape from an amoral life into a universe where morality matters.” At night, she went to her father’s study in her long bathrobe, and they read together. Her father loved the poem “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley, and he often recited it to her: “I have not winced nor cried aloud. / Under the bludgeonings of chance / My head is bloody, but unbowed. . . . I am the master of my fate: / I am the captain of my soul.”

Her father’s ethos may have fostered Nussbaum’s interest in Stoicism. Her relationship with him was so captivating that it felt romantic. “He really set me on a path of being happy and delighted with life,” she said. “He symbolized beauty and wonder.” Gail Busch found her father’s temperament less congenial. “I believe he was probably a sociopath,” she told me. “He was certainly very narcissistic. He was extremely domineering and very controlling. Our mother was petrified for most of their marriage.” Busch said that when she was a young child her father insisted that she be in bed before he got home from work.

Nussbaum once wrote of Iris Murdoch that she “won the Oedipal struggle too easily.” The same could be said of Nussbaum herself. Busch told me, “There were very few people that my father touched that he didn’t hurt. But one of them was Martha, because they were just two peas in a pod. I know that he saw her as a reflection of him, and that was probably just perfect for him.”

Nussbaum excelled at her private girls’ school, while Busch floundered and became rebellious. In an interview with a Dutch television station, Nussbaum said that she worked so hard because she thought, This is what Daddy’s doing—we take charge of our lives. Of her mother and sister, she said, “I just was furious at them, because I thought that they could take charge of their lives by will, and they weren’t doing it.”

Nussbaum attended Wellesley College, but she dropped out in her sophomore year, because she wanted to be an actress. Playing other people gave her access to emotions that she hadn’t been able to express on her own, but, after half a year with a repertory company that performed Greek tragedies, she left that, too. “I hadn’t lived enough,” she said. She began studying classics at New York University, still focussing on Greek tragedies. She came to believe that reading about suffering functions as a kind of “transitional object,” the term used by the English psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, one of her favorite thinkers, to describe toys that allow infants to move away from their mothers and to explore the world on their own. “When we have emotions of fear and pity toward the hero of a tragedy,” she has written, “we explore aspects of our own vulnerability in a safe and pleasing setting.”

Nussbaum felt increasingly uncomfortable with what she called the “smug bastion of hypocrisy and unearned privilege” in which she’d been raised. She had spent her childhood “coasting along with assured invulnerability,” she said. In a class on Greek composition, she fell in love with Alan Nussbaum, another N.Y.U. student, who was Jewish, a religion she was attracted to for the same reason that she was drawn to theatre: “more emotional expressiveness,” she said. She associated the religion with the social consciousness of I. F. Stone and The Nation. Her father, who thought that Jews were vulgar, disapproved of the marriage and refused to attend their wedding party. Robert Craven told me, “Martha was the apple of our father’s eye, until she embraced Judaism and fell from grace.”

Four years into the marriage, Nussbaum read “The Golden Bowl,” by Henry James. She kept thinking about Maggie Verver’s “wish to remain, intensely, the same passionate little daughter she had always been.” She was so captivated by the novel that she later wrote three essays about the ways in which James articulates a kind of moral philosophy, revealing the childishness of aspiring to moral perfection, a life of “never doing a wrong, never breaking a rule, never hurting.” Nussbaum told me, “What drew me to Maggie is the sense that she is a peculiarly American kind of person who really, really wants to be good. And of course that’s impossible. She has a particularly demanding father, and, in order to be fully herself with her husband, she has to leave her father and hurt him, and she just had no way to deal with that. She was not prepared.”

Nussbaum entered the graduate program in classics at Harvard, in 1969, and realized that for years she had been smiling all the time, for no particular reason. When her thesis adviser, G. E. L. Owen, invited her to his office, served sherry, spoke about life’s sadness, recited Auden, and reached over to touch her breasts, she says, she gently pushed him away, careful not to embarrass him. “Just as I never accused my mother of being drunk, even though she was always drunk,” she wrote, “so I managed to keep my control with Owen, and I never said a hostile word.” She didn’t experience the imbalance of power that makes sexual harassment so destructive, she said, because she felt “much healthier and more powerful than he was.”

She soon drifted toward ancient philosophy, where she could follow Aristotle, who asked the basic question “How should a human live?” She realized that philosophy attracted a “logic-chopping type of person,” nearly always male. She came to believe that she understood Nietzsche’s thinking when he wrote that no great philosopher had ever been married. “I think what he was saying is that most philosophers have been in flight from human existence,” she said. “They just haven’t wanted to be entangled.” She rejected the idea, dominant in contemporary philosophy, that emotions were “unthinking energies that simply push the person around.” Instead, she resurrected a version of the Stoic theory that makes no division between thought and feeling. She gave emotions a central role in moral philosophy, arguing that they are cognitive in nature: they embody judgments about the world.

Ugh stop it Dadeveryone knows youre not making that happen
“Ugh, stop it, Dad—everyone knows you’re not making that happen!”

One of her mentors was John Rawls, the most influential political philosopher of the last century. He stuttered and was extremely shy. She said that one day, when they were eating hamburgers for lunch (this was before she stopped eating meat), he instructed her that if she had the capacity to be a public intellectual then it was her duty to become one.

Utilitarian and Kantian theories were dominant at the time, and Nussbaum felt that the field had become too insular and professionalized. She was frustrated that her colleagues were more interested in conceptual analyses than in attending to the details of people’s lives. While writing an austere dissertation on a neglected treatise by Aristotle, she began a second book, about the urge to deny one’s human needs. In “The Fragility of Goodness,” one of the best-selling contemporary philosophy books, she rejected Plato’s argument that a good life is one of total self-sufficiency. She argued that tragedy occurs because people are living well: they have formed passionate commitments that leave them exposed. She began the book by acknowledging:

I must constantly choose among competing and apparently incommensurable goods and that circumstances may force me to a position in which I cannot help being false to something or doing something wrong; that an event that simply happens to me may, without my consent, alter my life; that it is equally problematic to entrust one’s good to friends, lovers, or country and to try to have a good life without them—all these I take to be not just the material of tragedy, but everyday facts of practical wisdom.

Nussbaum describes motherhood as her first profound experience of moral conflict. Her pregnancy, in 1972, was a mistake; her I.U.D. fell out. She had just become the first woman elected to Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and she imagined that the other scholars must be thinking, We let in a woman, and what does she do? She goes off and has a baby. Nussbaum carried on for nine months as if she weren’t pregnant. She ran several miles a day; she remained so thin that her adviser told her she must be carrying a “wind egg”; she had such a rapid delivery—with no anesthesia—that doctors interviewed her about how she had prepared for birth. She told them that “Lamaze was for wimps and running was the key.” She brought Aristotle’s Politics to the hospital. Her husband took a picture of her reading. She was at a Society of Fellows dinner the next week. “I wanted everyone to understand that I was still working,” she said.

Alan Nussbaum taught linguistics at Yale, and during the week Martha took care of their daughter, Rachel, alone. “Among the good and decent men, some are unprepared for the surprises of life, and their good intentions run aground when confronted with issues like child care,” she later wrote. They divorced when Rachel was a teen-ager. When Nussbaum joined a society for female philosophers, she proposed that women had a unique contribution to make, because “we had an experience of moral conflicts—we are torn between children on the one hand, and work on the other—that the male philosophers didn’t have, or wouldn’t face up to.” She rejected the idea, suggested by Kant, that people who are morally good are immune to the kind of bad luck that would force them into ethically compromised positions. She told me, “A lot of the great philosophers have said there are no real moral dilemmas. Well, we were saying, ‘No woman would make that stupid mistake!’ ”

Nussbaum left Harvard in 1983, after she was denied tenure, a decision she attributes, in part, to a “venomous dislike of me as a very outspoken woman” and the machinations of a colleague who could “show a good actor how the role of Iago ought to be played.” Glen Bowersock, who was the head of the classics department when Nussbaum was a student, said, “I think she scared people. They couldn’t wrap their minds around this formidably good, extraordinarily articulate woman who was very tall and attractive, openly feminine and stylish, and walked very erect and wore miniskirts—all in one package. They were just frightened.”

This was the only time that Nussbaum had anything resembling a crisis in her career. I was eager to hear about her moment of doubt, since she always seemed so steely. Projecting a little, I asked if she ever felt guilty when she was successful, as if she didn’t deserve it. “No—none of that,” she said briskly. “I think women and philosophers are under-rewarded for what they do.” After she was denied tenure, she thought about going to law school. “The doubt was very brief,” she added. “I thought about law school for about a day, or something like that.”

Instead, she began considering a more public role for philosophy. One of her mentors, the English philosopher Bernard Williams, accused moral philosophers of “refusing to write about anything of importance.” Nussbaum began examining quality of life in the developing world. She was steered toward the issue by Amartya Sen, the Indian economist, who later won the Nobel Prize. In 1986, they became romantically involved and worked together at the World Institute of Development Economics Research, in Helsinki. At the institute, she told me, she came to the realization that “I knew nothing about the rest of the world.” She taught herself about Indian politics and developed her own version of Sen’s capabilities approach, a theoretical framework for measuring and comparing the well-being of nations. Her earlier work had celebrated vulnerability, but now she identified the sorts of vulnerabilities (poverty, hunger, sexual violence) that no human should have to endure. In an Aristotelian spirit, Nussbaum devised a list of ten essential capabilities that all societies should nourish, including the freedom to play, to engage in critical reflection, and to love. The capabilities theory is now a staple of human-rights advocacy, and Sen told me that Nussbaum has become more of a “purist” than he is. When it comes to judging the quality of human life, he said, “I am often defeated by that in a way that Martha is not.”

Nussbaum went on to extend the work of John Rawls, who developed the most influential contemporary version of the social-contract theory: the idea that rational citizens agree to govern themselves, because they recognize that everyone’s needs are met more effectively through coöperation. Nussbaum argued that Rawls gave an unsatisfactory account of justice for people dependent on others—the disabled, the elderly, and women subservient in their homes. For a society to remain stable and committed to democratic principles, she argued, it needs more than detached moral principles: it has to cultivate certain emotions and teach people to enter empathetically into others’ lives. She believes that the humanities are not just important to a healthy democratic society but decisive, shaping its fate. She proposed an enhanced version of John Stuart Mill’s “aesthetic education”—emotional refinement for all citizens through poetry and music and art. “Respect on its own is cold and inert, insufficient to overcome the bad tendencies that lead human beings to tyrannize over one another,” she wrote. “Public culture cannot be tepid and passionless.”

By the late nineties, India had become so integral to Nussbaum’s thinking that she later warned a reporter from The Chronicle of Higher Education that her work there was at the “core of my heart and my sense of the meaning of life, so if you downplay that, you don’t get me.” She travelled to developing countries during school vacations—she never misses a class—and met with impoverished women. She said she felt as if she were “a lawyer who has been retained by poor people in developing nations.”

In the sixties, Nussbaum had been too busy for feminist consciousness-raising—she said that she cultivated an image of “Doris Day respectability”—and she was suspicious of left-wing groupthink. Once she began studying the lives of women in non-Western countries, she identified as a feminist but of the unfashionable kind: a traditional liberal who believed in the power of reason at a time when postmodern scholars viewed it as an instrument or a disguise for oppression. She argued that the well-being of women around the world could be improved through universal norms—an international system of distributive justice. She was impatient with feminist theory that was so relativistic that it assumed that, in the name of respecting other cultures, women should stand by while other women were beaten or genitally mutilated. In “Sex and Social Justice,” published in 1999, she wrote that the approach resembles the “sort of moral collapse depicted by Dante, when he describes the crowd of souls who mill around in the vestibule of hell, dragging their banner now one way now another, never willing to set it down and take a definite stand on any moral or political question. Such people, he implies, are the most despicable of all. They can’t even get into hell because they have not been willing to stand for anything in life.”

In 1999, in a now canonical essay for The New Republic, she wrote that academic feminism spoke only to the élite. It had become untethered from the practical struggle to achieve equality for women. She scolded Judith Butler and postmodern feminists for “turning away from the material side of life, towards a type of verbal and symbolic politics that makes only the flimsiest connections with the real situations of real women.” These radical thinkers, she felt, were focussing more on problems of representation than on the immediate needs of women in other classes and cultures. The stance, she wrote, “looks very much like quietism,” a word she often uses when she disapproves of projects and ideas.

In letters responding to the essay, the feminist critic Gayatri Spivak denounced Nussbaum’s “civilizing mission.” Joan Scott, a historian of gender, wrote that Nussbaum had “constructed a self-serving morality tale.”

When Nussbaum is at her computer writing, she feels as if she had entered a “holding environment”—the phrase used by Donald Winnicott to describe conditions that allow a baby to feel secure and loved. Like the baby, she is “playing with an object,” she said. “It’s my manuscript, but I feel that something of both of my parents is with me. The sense of concern and being held is what I associate with my mother, and the sense of surging and delight is what I associate with my father.”

She said that she looks to replicate the experience of “surging” in romantic partners as well. She has always been drawn to intellectually distinguished men. “I suppose it’s because of the imprint of my father,” she told me one afternoon, while eating a small bowl of yogurt, blueberries, raisins, and pine nuts, a variation on the lunch she has most days. Her spacious tenth-floor apartment, which has twelve windows overlooking Lake Michigan and an elevator that delivers visitors directly into her foyer, is decorated with dozens of porcelain, metal, and glass elephants—her favorite animal, because of its emotional intelligence. “I used to observe that my close female friends would choose—very reasonably—men whose aspirations were rather modest,” she told me. “That works out nicely, because these men are really supportive of them. I’ve thought, Wouldn’t it be nice to have romantic and sexual tastes like that? But I certainly don’t.”

After moving to the University of Chicago, in 1995 (following seven years at Brown), Nussbaum was in a long relationship with Cass Sunstein, the former administrator for President Obama’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and one of the few scholars as prolific as she is. Nussbaum said that she discovered her paradigm for romance as an adolescent, when she read about the relationship between two men in Plato’s Phaedrus and the way in which they combined “intense mutual erotic passion with a shared pursuit of truth and justice.” She and Sunstein (who is now married to Samantha Power, the Ambassador to the United Nations) lived in separate apartments, and each one’s work informed the other’s. In an influential essay, titled “Objectification,” Nussbaum builds on a passage written by Sunstein, in which he suggests that some forms of sexual objectification can be both ineradicable and wonderful. Straying from the standard line of feminist thought, Nussbaum defends Sunstein’s idea, arguing that there are circumstances in which being treated as a sex object, a “mysterious thinglike presence,” can be humanizing, rather than morally harmful. It allows us to achieve a state that her writing often elevates: the “abnegation of self-containment and self-sufficiency.”

Nussbaum is preoccupied by the ways that philosophical thinking can seem at odds with passion and love. She recognizes that writing can be “a way of distancing oneself from human life and maybe even a way of controlling human life,” she said. In a semi-autobiographical essay in her book “Love’s Knowledge,” from 1990, she offers a portrait of a female philosopher who approaches her own heartbreak with a notepad and a pen; she sorts and classifies the experience, listing the properties of an ideal lover and comparing it to the men she has loved. “You now begin to see how this lady is,” she wrote. “She goes on thinking at all times. She won’t simply cry, she will ask what crying consists in. One tear, one argument.”

Nussbaum isn’t sure if her capacity for rational detachment is innate or learned. On three occasions, she alluded to a childhood experience in which she’d been so overwhelmed by anger at her mother, for drinking in the afternoon, that she slapped her. Betty warned her, “If you turn against me, I won’t have any reason to live.” Nussbaum prayed to be relieved of her anger, fearing that its potential was infinite. “I thought it would kill somebody,” she said.

Anger is an emotion that she now rarely experiences. She invariably remains friends with former lovers, a fact that Sunstein, Sen, and Alan Nussbaum wholeheartedly affirmed. In her new book, “Anger and Forgiveness,” which was published last month, Nussbaum argues against the idea, dear to therapists and some feminists, that “people (and women especially) owe it to their self-respect to own, nourish, and publicly proclaim their anger.” It is a “magical fantasy,” a bit of “metaphysical nonsense,” she writes, to assume that anger will restore what was damaged. She believes that embedded in the emotion is the irrational wish that “things will be made right if I inflict suffering.” She writes that even leaders of movements for revolutionary justice should avoid the emotion and move on to “saner thoughts of personal and social welfare.” (She acknowledges, “It might be objected that my proposal sounds all too much like that of the upper-middle-class (ex)-Wasp academic that I certainly am. I simply deny the charge.”)

Martha Nussbaums Moral Philosophies

For a long time, Nussbaum had seemed to be working on getting in touch with anger. In the nineties, when she composed the list of ten capabilities to which all humans should be entitled—a list that she’s revised in the course of many papers—she and the feminist legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon debated whether “justified anger” should make the list. Nussbaum was wary of the violence that accompanies anger’s expression, but MacKinnon said she convinced Nussbaum that anger can be a “sign that self-respect has not been crushed, that humanity burns even where it is supposed to have been extinguished.” Nussbaum decided to view anger in a more positive light. “I thought, I’m just getting duped by my own history,” she said. In an interview a few years later, she said that being able to express anger to a friend, after years of training herself to suppress it, was “the most tremendous pleasure in life.” In a 2003 essay, she describes herself as “angry more or less all the time.”

When I asked her about the different self-conceptions, she wrote me three e-mails from a plane to Mexico (she was on her way to give lectures in Puebla) to explain that she had articulated these views before she had studied the emotion in depth. It was not full-fledged anger that she was experiencing but “transitional anger,” an emotional state that embodies the thought: Something should be done about this, in response to social injustice. In another e-mail from the air, she clarified: “My experience of political anger has always been more King-like: protest, not acquiescence, but no desire for payback.”

Last year, Nussbaum had a colonoscopy. She didn’t want to miss a workday, so she refused sedation. She was thrilled by the sight of her appendix, so pink and tiny. “It’s such a big part of you and you don’t get to meet these parts,” she told me. “I love that kind of familiarization: it’s like coming to terms with yourself.”

Her friends were repulsed when she told them that she had been awake the entire time. “They thought it was disgusting to go through the procedure without their consciousness obliterated,” she said. She wasn’t surprised that men wanted to be sedated, but she couldn’t understand why women her age would avoid the sight of their organs. “Here are the same women who were inspired by ‘Our Bodies, Ourselves,’ ” she told me. “We said, ‘Oh, let’s not shrink from looking at our vaginas. Let’s not think, Our periods are disgusting, but let’s celebrate it as part of who we are!’ Now we get to our sixties, and we are disgusted by our bodies again, and we want to be knocked out.”

Nussbaum believes that disgust “draws sharp edges around the self” and betrays a shame toward what is human. When she goes shopping with younger colleagues—among her favorite designers are Alexander McQueen, Azzedine Alaïa, and Seth Aaron Henderson, whom she befriended after he won “Project Runway”—she often emerges from the changing room in her underwear. Bodily functions do not embarrass her, either. When she goes on long runs, she has no problem urinating behind bushes. Once, when she was in Paris with her daughter, Rachel, who is now an animal-rights lawyer in Denver, she peed in the garden of the Tuileries Palace at night. (Rachel was curt when we met; Nussbaum told me that Rachel, who has co-written papers with her mother on the legal status of whales, was wary of being portrayed “as adjunct to me.”)

Nussbaum acknowledges that, as she ages, it becomes harder to rejoice in all bodily developments. Recently, she was dismayed when she looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize her nose. Sinking cartilage had created a new bump. She asked the doctor who gives her Botox in her forehead what to do. “He is a minimalist,” she told me. “He’s very artistic.” He fixed the problem by putting filler above the tip of her nose. It wasn’t that she was disgusted. “But I do feel conscious that at my age I have to be very careful of how I present myself, at risk of not being thought attractive,” she told me. “There are women like Germaine Greer who say that it’s a big relief to not worry about men and to forget how they look. I don’t feel that way! I care how men look at me. I like men.”

In a new book, tentatively titled “Aging Wisely,” which will be published next year, Nussbaum and Saul Levmore, a colleague at the law school, investigate the moral, legal, and economic dilemmas of old age—“an unknown country,” which they say has been ignored by philosophy. The book is structured as a dialogue between two aging scholars, analyzing the way that old age affects love, friendship, inequality, and the ability to cede control. They both reject the idea that getting old is a form of renunciation. Nussbaum critiques the tendency in literature to “assign a ‘comeuppance’ ” to aging women who fail to display proper levels of resignation and shame. She calls for an “informal social movement akin to the feminist Our Bodies movement: a movement against self-disgust” for the aging. She promotes Walt Whitman’s “anti-disgust” world view, his celebration of the “lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean. . . . The thin red jellies within you or within me. . . . O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul.”

At a faculty workshop last summer, professors at the law school gathered to critique drafts of two chapters from the book. Nussbaum wore a fitted purple dress and high-heeled sandals, and her blond hair looked as if it had recently been permed. She appeared to be dressed for a different event from the one that the other professors were attending. As she often does, she looked delighted but not necessarily happy.

In one of the chapters, Levmore argued that it should be legal for employers to require that employees retire at an agreed-upon age, and Nussbaum wrote a rebuttal, called “No End in Sight.” She said that it was painful to see colleagues in other countries forced to retire when philosophers such as Kant, Cato, and Gorgias didn’t produce their best work until old age.

The libertarian scholar Richard Epstein raised his hand and said that, rather than having a national policy regarding retirement, each institution should make its own decision. “So Martha, full of vim and vigor, can get offers from four other places and go on and continue to work,” he said.

“Sure, I could go and move someplace else,” she said, interrupting him. “But I don’t want to.” If she were forced to retire, she said, “that would really affect me psychologically in a very deep way. And I have no idea what I’d do. I might go off and do some interesting thing like be a cantor. Or I might just get depressed.”

“Martha, it’s too autobiographical,” Epstein said. His concern was not that “Martha stays on. It’s that a bunch of dead wood stays on, as well, and it’s a cost to the institution.”

When another colleague suggested that no one knew the precise moment when aging scholars had peaked, Nussbaum cited Cato, who wrote that the process of aging could be resisted through vigorous physical and mental activity. Her celebration of this final, vulnerable stage of life was undercut by her confidence that she needn’t be so vulnerable. She said that her grandmother lived until she was a hundred and four years old. “Why do I have my outlook?” she said. “It’s a matter of the habits you form when you are very young—the habits of exercise, of being active. All of that stuff builds to the sense of a life that can go on.”

I would share but Im not there developmentally.
“I would share, but I’m not there developmentally.”

Not long ago, Nussbaum bought a Dolce & Gabbana skirt dotted with crystal stars and daisies. “It had a happy look,” she told me, holding the hanger to her chin. She planned to wear it to the college graduation of Nathaniel Levmore, whom she describes as her “quasi-child.” Nathaniel, the son of Saul Levmore, has always been shy. Saul told me, “Of my two children, this is the one that’s the underdog, and of course Martha loves him, and they talk for hours and hours. Martha has this total belief in the underdog. The more underdog, the more charming she finds them.”

Nussbaum has taken Nathaniel on trips to Botswana and India, and, when she hosts dinner parties, he often serves the wine. When I joined them last summer for an outdoor screening of “Star Trek,” they spent much of the hour-long drive debating whether it was anti-Semitic for Nathaniel’s college to begin its semester on Rosh Hashanah. Their persistence was both touching and annoying. Just when I thought the conversation would die, the matter settled, Nathaniel would raise a new point, and Nussbaum would argue from a new angle that the scheduling was anti-Semitic.

Recently, when I had dinner at Nussbaum’s apartment, she said she was sorry that Nathaniel wasn’t there to enjoy it. We sat at her kitchen island, facing a Chicago White Sox poster, eating what remained of an elaborate and extraordinary Indian meal that she had cooked two days before, for the dean of the law school and eight students. She served me heaping portions of every dish and herself a modest plate of yogurt, rice, and spinach.

I mentioned that Saul Levmore had said she is so devoted to the underdog that she even has sympathy for a former student who had been stalking her; the student appeared to have had a psychotic break and bombarded her with threatening e-mails. “I feel great sympathy for any weak person or creature,” she told me. She mentioned that a few days before she had been watching a Webcam of a nest of newborn bald eagles and had become distraught when she saw that the parent eagle was giving all the food to only one of her two babies. “The other one kept trying to eat something, and didn’t get it!” she said. “I thought it was possible that one of the eagles was getting weaker and weaker, and I asked my bird-watcher friend, and he said that kind of sibling rivalry is actually pretty common in those species and the one may die. I was really upset by this.”

“Isn’t that the sort of dynamic you had with your sister?” I asked.

“Yeah, it probably is,” Nussbaum said, running her finger along the rim of her plate. “It is, I guess.” She said that her sister seemed to have become happier as she aged; her musical career at the church was blossoming. “Well, this is what we’ll have to talk about in class tomorrow,” she said. “Can guilt ever be creative?” She licked the sauce on her finger. “ ‘Guilt’ might not even be quite the right word. It’s a kind of sorrow that one had profited at the expense of someone else.”

We began talking about a chapter that she intended to write for her book on aging, on the idea of looking back at one’s life and turning it into a narrative. “Did you stand for something, or didn’t you?” she said. She said that she had always admired the final words of John Stuart Mill, who reportedly said, “I have done my work.” She has quoted these words in a number of interviews and papers, offering them as the mark of a life well lived. The image of Mill on his deathbed is not dissimilar to one she has of her father, who died as he was putting papers into his briefcase. Nussbaum often describes this as a good death—he was doing his work until the end—while Nussbaum’s brother and sister see it as a sign of his isolation.

She said, “If I found that I was going to die in the next hour, I would not say that I had done my work. If you have a good life, you typically always feel that there’s something that you want to do next.” She wondered if Mill had surrendered too soon because he was prone to depression.

“It does sound a little bit final,” she went on, “and one rarely dies when one is out of useful ideas—unless maybe you were really ill for a long time.” She said that she had been in a hospital only twice, once to give birth and once when she had an operation to staple the top of her left ear to the back of her head, when she was eleven. It poked out, and her father worried that boys wouldn’t be attracted to her. “I just enjoyed having this big bandage around my head,” she said. “I was acting the part of Marley’s ghost in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and it made quite an effect.”

She stood up to clear our plates. “You’re making me feel I chose the wrong last words,” she called out from the sink. She returned with two large cakes. “I think last words are silly,” she said, cutting herself a sliver. “Probably the best thing to do with your last words is to say goodbye to the people you love and not to talk about yourself.”

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Aesthetics and Ethics: At the Intersection

Aesthetics and Ethics: At the Intersection

 

Aesthetics and Ethics have normally been studied separately.

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AESTHETICS AND ETHICS: THE STATE OF THE ART

https://aesthetics-online.org/page/DeanState

Jeffrey Dean

Because the poet traffics in mimesis, ungoverned by reason, appealing to the irrational part of the soul, this makes it right for us to proceed to lay hold of him and set him down as the counterpart of the painter, for he resembles him in that his creations are inferior in respect of reality, and the fact that his appeal is to the inferior part of the soul and not to the best part is another point of resemblance. And so we may at last say that we should be justified in not admitting him into a well-ordered state, because he stimulates and fosters this element in the soul, and by strengthening it tends to destroy the rational part, just as when in a state one puts bad men in power and turns the city over to them and ruins the better sort. Precisely in the same manner we shall say that the mimetic poet sets up in each individual soul a vicious currying favor with the senseless element that cannot distinguish the greater from the less, but calls the same thing now one, now the other. – Plato

I spoke of the novel as an especially useful agent of the moral imagination, as the literary form which most directly reveals to us the complexity, the difficulty, and the interest of life in society, and best instructs our human variety and contradiction. – Lionel Trilling

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. – Oscar Wilde

You know you’ve arrived when your likeness appears on The Simpsons or on MTV’s Celebrity Death Match, and while I don’t expect philosophers to show up on either of these shows any time soon (despite the notable publication of The Simpsons and Philosophy), for those interested in the intersection of aesthetics and ethics we have recently seen the next best thing: a survey article by Noel Carroll on art and ethical criticism in the journal Ethics. Of course, any arrival marks the end of an absence, and as Carroll points out in the opening paragraphs of his essay, the recent flood of work on the ethical criticism of art puts an end to a surprising dearth of work on the part of Anglo-American philosophers in this area. Surprising, not only because connections between ethics and aesthetics were central to much philosophy from Plato through the end of the eighteenth-century, but also because outside of Anglo-American academic philosophy, the ethical “interrogation” of art (and artists) has been steadily mounting for much of the twentieth-century. Precisely because it is the work that has seen most development in the last ten to fifteen years, and in order to help make this overview manageable, discussion here will be limited to what I see as the two most robust areas of renewed interest in Anglo-American philosophy of an “analytic” bent: research pertaining to the role of art and aesthetics in the development of moral imagination and understanding; and work on the relationship between moral and aesthetic values.

A great deal of this recent work in aesthetics has emphasized the connection between art and moral understanding, a connection long thought important, but as noted, largely neglected during the better part of the last two centuries. This neglect can be attributed to, among other things, zealous attempts to define and defend the intrinsic value of art, attempts which shun any whiff of an instrumentalism that sites the value of art in its didactic or ethical effects. But as contemporary critics of this approach often stress, the resulting aestheticism, the purpose of which was to save art from moralizing, is itself too often a form of reductive and blinkered formalism. The task some of those working in contemporary aesthetics have set themselves is to understand and characterize the relationship between art and ethics in a way that avoids the weaknesses of both instrumentalism and aestheticism.

In this endeavor aesthetics has been met halfway by ethics. Until fairly recently, the dominant strains in British and American philosophical ethics have been Utilitarian and Kantian. The central debates were over whether ethics should be characterized in deontological or consequentialist terms, with a shared focus on impartial principles designed to regulate self-interest for mutual advantage, and disagreements centered around the structure of moral intentions and obligations and the moral relevance of the consequences of actions.

But more recently there has been a renewed interest in what is commonly referred to as “virtue ethics”. In the tradition of Aristotle, virtue ethics focuses more on the long-term development of moral agency-including character, moral emotions, and the perception of salient details of particular moral contexts-than on finely tuned general principles intended to entail impartial outcomes in particular cases. The difference in approaches is sometimes cast as between an ethics of obligation vs. an ethics of character. This shift dovetails nicely with the recent efforts in aesthetics, since one element central to Aristotelian ethics is precisely what engagement with art has long been claimed to provide: a means to imaginative perception, feeling, and understanding Peter Lamarque provides one characterization of this trend, referring to the Wittgensteinian school of (literary value and) ethics (also represented by D.Z. Phillips and R.W. Beardsmore) as follows:

It is not the central task of ethics to formulate and apply general principles but rather to stress the particularity of moral situations and the idea that profound moral disagreements reside not in a difference of beliefs but in different ways of looking at the world. The argument is then brought to bear on literature with a parallel more or less explicitly drawn between a moral agent on the one hand and a competent reader on the other. The idea is that the moral agent and the reader both in effect confront complex moral situations with both called upon to adopt an imaginative perspective on those situations which should yield in the one case a moral judgement or appropriate action and in the other a moral insight or revised way of seeing. A competent reader might hope to learn from the literary work not by formulating a derived moral principle but by acquiring a new vision or perspective on the world.The list of recent and contemporary philosophers who stress the close connection between aesthetic and moral perception and understanding is long one, including among many others Wayne Booth, Noël Carroll, Gregory Currie, Richard Eldridge, Susan Feagin, Peter Lamarque, Peter McCormick, Iris Murdoch, Martha Nussbaum, Frank Palmer, John Passmore, and Hilary Putnam. Most of the discussion by these authors focuses on narrative art, usually narrative fiction in the form of poetry, literature, drama and film. Also common to these accounts is their rejection of a central role for propositional knowledge vis-à-vis the moral relevance of art. Instead, it is claimed variously that art “shows” rather than “tells” us morally relevant features of the world, illuminating the importance of feeling, reflection and the perception of particulars in the moral evaluation of character and situation (esp. Murdoch, Nussbaum, Palmer, and Passmore), is especially well-suited to modifying our moral concepts (esp. Carroll, McCormick, and Putnam), and exercises the very imaginative capacities necessary for making sensitive moral judgments (esp. Booth, Currie, Feagin, and Lamarque). Each of these sorts of claim is intended to highlight ways in which the appreciation of art engages and refines capacities necessary for sound moral understanding and judgment, stressing that what is morally valuable about such art is inherently bound up with its aesthetic appreciation.

While most of the early work in this area tended to valorize the moral benefits of sensitive engagement with works of art, recent work has also stressed the potential dangers of imaginative commerce with art-particularly narrative art-in those cases where the work in question encourages or mandates imaginative identification with, or mental simulation of, morally deficient or pernicious points of view. Although little has been made of this as of yet, taking seriously the morally disruptive or destructive power of art (even while bearing in mind its virtues) may have significant consequences for one’s attitudes regarding censorship and arts education. That is, given the nature of the kinds of views developed and defended in current research, it becomes increasingly difficult to take seriously the ethical benefits of imaginative engagement with art without acknowledging its potential dangers as well. I expect to see increased discussion of this issue in the coming years.

Given that recent efforts have centered on close connections between imaginative engagement with works of art and moral understanding, it is perhaps unsurprising that the other main focus of research and debate has been the relationship between aesthetic and moral value, and by extension, the relationship between aesthetic and moral judgment. The debate here has centered on the question of whether the moral and aesthetic values of works of art are independent, or, alternatively, at least on occasion interdependent.

Consider the case of Marquis de Sade’s Juliette. Here, Sade offers a narrative which appears to endorse the notion that sexual torture is erotic and amusing. In this case, the “successful” understanding of the narrative (in the sense that we see things as the author would have us see them) would entail some distortion or perversion of our moral understanding, on the assumption that sexual torture is not, or at least should not be, either amusing or erotic, and that persons should not be treated merely as means to one’s own sadistic gratification. It may be said, then, that because Juliette prescribes a response to its subject matter that is ethically inappropriate, it is a morally flawed work.

The question then arises whether the fact that Juliette is morally flawed (because it endorses a morally defective perspective which prescribes a morally inappropriate response to its subject matter) in a manner that undermines its narrative intent (morally sensitive audiences should not respond in the manner prescribed by the work) means that it is thereby aesthetically flawed as well (and for that very same reason). The question is a surprisingly difficult one to answer. For, on the one hand, it seems intuitive to say when a work fails to merit a prescribed response, it has to that extent failed aesthetically. Thrillers that do not thrill, comedies that are not humorous, and tragedies that are not tragic fail in some respect, and that failure, given that it is internal to the nature and aims of the work, would appear to be an aesthetic one. Since Juliette fails in a respect internal to the aims of the work, it would also appear to be an aesthetically flawed in this regard. And the explanation for this failure is that the work is morally flawed. So the work is both aesthetically and morally flawed, and for the same reason.

On the other hand, however, a thriller that fails to thrill (say) is aesthetically flawed precisely because of its failure to thrill; why it fails to thrill would seem to be extraneous to the aesthetic issue, viz., that it fails. It may fail to thrill because the pacing is off; it may fail to thrill because the dialog is weak; or it may fail to thrill due to some moral defect, e.g., the putatively sympathetic protagonist is in fact morally repugnant, such that the audience doesn’t have sufficient sympathy with him or his plight to care about what happens to him or take a positive interest in the outcome of the storyline. In each case we have an aesthetic failure-a thriller that fails to thrill-with different explanations for this failure: pacing, dialog, moral misstep. In the latter case, it is mistaken to say that the thriller’s aesthetic defect (its failure to thrill) is “the same as” its moral defect (its prescription to sympathize with a repugnant character). Indeed, it would be mistaken to identify the failure to thrill with any of the explanations for that failure. Likewise, it is mistaken to identify the aesthetic defect in Juliette (its failure to warrant its prescribed response) with its moral defect (its endorsement of and invitation to share a morally corrupt perspective).

It is important to note that whether one supposes that moral and aesthetic values and judgments sometimes overlap, or steadfastly maintains their conceptual independence, there is one thing that most of those currently writing on aesthetics: works of art have multiple dimensions of value, including not only aesthetic and moral values, but historical, sociological, political, anthropological and other sorts of values as well. My own view (a view certainly shared and articulated by others, but not always made apparent in the literature) is that for the sake of clarity, the value matrices that converge in works of art ought to be referred to as artistic value (or “overall artistic value”). Artists are concerned with more than the expression of aesthetic values in their work, and so too are critics and philosophers of art. It is clear, in this sense, that moral values are sometimes artistic values, whether or not they are sometimes aesthetic values (which, as indicated above, is a more vexed question). A work of art that is aesthetically excellent, historically significant, and morally profound is a better work of art, overall, than one which is only some or none of these things (assuming of course that we hold the various achievements in the varieties of value constant across cases). This helps explain, in part, why judgments about artworks are so often contested. When one pays attention to the specifics of criticism or praise, one often finds that disputants are talking past each other: one is touting the excellence of a work while the other is decrying is triviality, but it will often turn out that the former, say, is focused on the work’s historical significance and moral fortitude, while the latter is considering only a specific set of aesthetic values relevant to the genre. Again, whether or not one believes varieties of value may sometimes merge, it is important to be mindful of their differences, so that evaluations are commensurable.

In closing, it should be noted that in addition to the topics discussed above, much interesting work has recently been undertaken on emotional engagement with artworks (including moral emotions), on a variety of relationships between works of art and simulation theory, imagination, and identification (where a great deal of this work has bearing on our understanding of the moral relevance of art), and on a variety of other topics. This is of course only the beginning, but a promising one, and I would wager that interest in the intersection of ethics and aesthetics has not only arrived: it is here to stay.

2002 © Jeffrey Dean

Please see my related posts:

The Good, the True, and the Beautiful

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

On Aesthetics

On Beauty

On Classical Virtues

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Drama Theory: Acting Strategically

Drama Theory: Choices, Conflicts and Dilemmas

Drama Therapy: Self in Performance

 

Main Sources of Research

Aesthetics and Ethics : Essays at the Intersection

AESTHETICS AND ETHICS: THE STATE OF THE ART

Levels of Human Psychological Development in Integral Spiral Dynamics

Levels of Human Psychological Development in Integral Spiral Dynamics

 

From Consciousness models in action: comparisons

 

Many models of Human Development

  • Graves’s Spiral Dynamics (SD) model
  • May’s model of development of consciousness
  • Gebser’s Structures of human consciousness
  • Piaget’s model of cognitive development
  • Myss’s model of spiritual development
  • Kohlberg’s model of moral development
  • Perry’s model of intellectual and ethical development
  • Loevinger’s model of ego-state development
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  • Kegan’s model of psychological development
  • Wilber’s AQAL model
  • Tolle’s model of spiritual development
  • Atmananda’s model of spiritual development
  • Hurtak’s model of spiritual development
  • McTaggart’s scientific model
  • Pribam’s scientific model
  • Hawkins’s scientific model

From Consciousness models in action: comparisons

In this paper, the construct of ”levels of consciousness”as used in psychology and consciousness theory, is closely linked to those of worldviews, perceptual frameworks, organising systems, value orientations, “intelligences” or “memes”, in terms of which people understand and respond to their worlds. It reflects levels of awareness, or the inclusiveness,extensiveness, the depth and breadth by which incoming information is interpreted. These levels of consciousness largely determine intellectual, emotional and behavioural aspects of human functioning.

The various theoretical models on the evolution of consciousness reflect common themes, principles and structures. These models have emerged from different study fields including philosophy, physics, sociology, psychology, economics and theology, and address consciousness, cognitive, moral, educational, physiological and spiritual development.

All the models that are mentioned in this paper are not discussed in detail, and the focus is primarily on the contributions of Graves, Wilber, May and Myss. Gebser’s and Piaget’s work is merely addressed in support of Wilber’s AQAL model. The views of educationalists Perry and Kohlberg are briefly discussed under the heading of intellectual, moral and ethical development (section 2.4). Psychological perspectives such as Loevinger’s model of ego-states; Maslow’s need hierarchy; and Kegan’s equilibrium stages are mentioned but not discussed in any detail. These models are, however, included in the final integrated framework as proposed in this paper (section 3). Additional views from the spiritual and physical domains are referred to in support of the general themes that characterise speculations on consciousness. The role of consciousness theory in complementing current leadership models and practices is explored in terms of an integral perspective of leadership.

From Consciousness models in action: comparisons

Graves’s Spiral Dynamics (SD) Model

The Spiral Dynamics model of Graves, also referred to as the Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theory (ECLET),provides a profound and elegant system in terms of which human development can be understood (Wilber, 2001). Wilber also points out that subsequent research has validated and refined the ECLET or SD model.

According to Graves,humans respond to life conditions by developing certain adaptive views and capacities which he refers to as “levels of human existence”. These adaptive responses can be grouped into value systems which permeate the culture of groups, organisations and individuals. Each stage allows for the possible further development of “higher” stages or levels. The levels are not to be seen as fixed, but represent flowing waves, continuously overlapping with, and interweaving, each other.

A detailed explanation of the SD model can be found in Beck and Cowan’s “Spiral Dynamics Theory” (1996) and Cowan &Todorovic’s (2008) work.

The SD model, as adopted and applied by other authors, has undergone a number of conceptual changes. Beck and Cowan (1996), for example, extended the “value systems” language of Graves with the notion of “value memes”. The term meme was originally introduced by Dawkins to refer to a unit of cultural information. According to Wilber (2001), a “meme” can be seen as a stage of development that is expressed in behaviour. For purposes of clarity,Wilber recommended the use of the word “value system” as proposed by Graves.

The level of consciousness associated with each of these value systems, provides a perceptual framework, type of “intelligence” and worldview by which experiences are interpreted and responded to. A sense of flow results from the match between the person’s orientation and the contextual requirements.

The SD model is hierarchically organised and consecutive levels both incorporate and transcend preceding orientations. It is a soft hierarchy and growth may involve a person or group temporarily moving down on the hierarchy in response to a particular trauma or challenge, before transcending previously inadequate worldviews. Upward movement only takes place according to the hierarchical structure of the spiral and levels are therefore not skipped. This view on growth ties in with Wilber’s idea of “holons”. Holons depict the manner in which systems are organised and where evolution involves the emergence of more complex systems, each of which includes and transcends previous levels.

The initially proposed and rather cumbersome labelling technique of the Spiral Dynamics model, postulated the organisation of a double spiral in terms (a) the problem of existence: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and (b) coping mechanisms: N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U to provide an: AN, BO, CP, DQ, ER, FS, GT, HU categorisation. It has since been replaced by using simple colour codes. Eight such colours are currently identified (with possible additions in future): Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange, Green, Yellow and Turquoise. These colours represent ways of thinking that have far-reaching effects on an individual’s life and group adaptation.

The various value orientations, as represented by different colours, each has a particular credo referring to either an expressive, internally controlled “I” (the “warm” colours), or a self-sacrificing, externally anchored “we” side (the “cooler” colours). The eight “holons” as specified by the SD model represent a spiral structure.

The eight valuing systems can be divided into first and second tier consciousness. The first tier consciousness encompasses the first six colours (Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange and Green). The first tier valuing systemstend to be emotionally driven. Perspectives based on the lower level value systems in this first tier also do not necessarily accommodate for the existence of other valuing systems – although Green less so that the colours preceding it.

Second tier consciousness is reflected by the Yellow and Turquoise valuing systems and encompasses the first tier. Unlike first tier thinking, second tier awareness appreciates the necessity of the various other valuing systems. As Gardner (Wilber, 2001) observed, the whole course of human development can be viewed as a continuing decline in egocentrism.

The various value orientations of the SD model can briefly be described, as follows:

Beige
– The theme is that of “survival”
– The focus is on basic-instinctive reactions;subsistence needs; physical survival; physiological needs; capitalisation on instincts and habits
– It involves a reactive response to the environment
– There is little self-awareness
– Responses tend to be impulsive
– It is survivalist
– This value system can be found amongst the very young and old; as well as amongst ill, starving or traumatised people

Purple
– The theme here is “safety”
– This value system is associated withgroup dependence; tradition; an avoidance of change; an “us-and-them” orientation; a tendency to maintain family / in-group bonds; at times dogmatic beliefs / ideologies; the need for safety and protection; and a general fearfulness
– This orientation values group belonging and group boundaries; authority; respect; protection; obedience; familiarity, certainty and routine; what is sacred as well as observes rituals and customs
– Those who embrace a purple orientation often are ethnocentric, traditionalist and their relationships are largely role-based
– This worldview is associated with an external locus of control
– Learning is largely passive and there is a tendency to seeks guidance
– People espousing this value system tend to be self-sacrificial toward their in-group and antagonistic toward out-groups
– This value system can be found amongst paternalistic culture; where elders are valued; the superstitious; those who are highly patriotic; within dogmatic religions; in enmeshed families; where there is a belief in luck, blood oaths, ancient grudges, trance dancing, family rituals, gangs, corporate “tribes”; and it is inherent to old “school ties”, soapies and fanatical sports team support cultures.

Red
– The theme here is “power”
– This orientation can be described as: highly energetic, impulsive, dominant, active, achievement driven; critical; demanding; competitive; egocentric; defensive; dominant and power driven
– There are tendencies to be expressive; not to be inhibited by guilt; to strive for respect and recognition; to seek excitement and sensual pleasure; and to fear shame; loss of face; and loss of autonomy
– Those who have adopted this orientation may come across as proud, assertive, energetic and/or imaginative
– There may be a tendencies to blame and take revenge; there is a scarcity mentality and expectation of threat
– The value system is associated with an emphasis on performance and results; a tough image and a “carrot-and-stick” leadership approach
– Those espousing this value orientation are results focused, energetic and normally obtain their goals
– Emotionally, it is associated with seeking impulse gratification; fear of failure; and avoidance of insult and pain
– Inherent to this worldview are beliefs such as “survival of the fittest”; “others are not to be trusted”; and “results can be achieved through hard work”
– It is important to impress, influence and conquer others, even though the means may be somewhat aggressive, exhausting, fanatical, exploitative or dogmatic
– Learning primarily takes place via reinforcement and conditioning
– It can be found in bravado; rebellious youths; frontier mentalities; fanatical groups; macho cultures; entrepreneurs and activities which require effort and control

Blue
– The theme here is “truth”
– It can be described in terms of: purposefulness; structure; seeking the truth; showing depth; reliability; being pedantic; a loyalist orientation; the tendency to conform and to avoid change; appreciation of quality and a sound work ethic
– Those adhering to this value system believe in order and are obedient to authority; they practice self-discipline and tend to differentiate between what they regard as right and wrong
– They seek security and are cautious
– They value integrity and ethical behaviour; observe laws and regulations and believe that hardship and self-discipline build character and moral fibre
– In addition there is a focus on controlling impulsivity; seeking stability and adhering to a code of conduct; being honourable; and being punctual and reliable
– It may also find expression in bureaucratic or hierarchical structures; totalitarian or dogmatic organisations; inflexible ideologies; and moralistic inclinations
– It involves learning from authority and decisions are based on ethics, facts and authority opinions
– It also follows tradition, convention and policy; values certainty, structure and order; is motivated by duty; is loyal; is responsible; is careful; and promotes fairness and traditions
– According to this value system, sacrifices need to be made for the greater good of all
– Stress is caused by ambiguity and uncertainty; chaos is feared; and change is avoided
– This value orientation finds expression via patriotism; codes of chivalry and honour; boy andgirl scouts; traditional schools, certain family practices and churches

Orange
– The theme here is “value creation”
– This orientation can be described as strategic; somewhat materialistic; opportunistic; individualistic; achievement oriented; flexible; resilient and politically astute
– It is associated with an abundance mindset; the exercise of freedom of choice; and self-interest
– Individuals who have adopted this value system enjoy playing the game; having autonomy; manipulating outcomes; are optimistic, practical, take risks andare self-reliant and resilient
– They tend to look for opportunity;strategise; take initiative; are competitive; are normally interested in technology; and feel deserving of success, prosperity and abundance
– It supports entrepreneurial activities; goal setting and achievement; tough negotiations; and business strategy formulation
– At times it may deteriorate into narcissistic, inconsiderate and materialistic tendencies and become exploitative and short sighted
– Learning takes place via experimentation, mentors, guides or experts
– Motivation is rooted in the achievement of material rewards and the possibility of opportunity
– It values competition, ambition, affluence, image and continuous improvement
– Stress is caused by setbacks; goals not being realised; and obstacles
– This orientation provides the flexibility and skill to reframe setbacks, though
– It encompasses a logical, efficient, flexible and competitive style
– This orientation finds expression in colonialism; the fashion industry; prosperity ministries; the emerging middle classes; the advertising industry; mining cartels; go-getter cultures; venture capitalists activities; a large proportion of generation Y and the corporate culture in general

Green
– The theme here is “communitarian” and “relating”
– It can be described as sensitive; humanistic; theoretical; emotional; compassionate; relativistic; and is often characterised by inner peace whilst exploring the caring dimensions of community
– There is a strong interest in other points of view / theories
– This value system promotes equal opportunities to all; kind interpersonal relations; and a charitable orientation towards the oppressed
– Decision-making takes place via reconciliation and consensus
– There is a genuine concern for others and personal goals involve spiritual awareness; interpersonal harmony and human development
– Learning is based on exploring feelings; sharing experiences and ideas; as well as interaction with others
– Decisions are based on being just and reasonable toward everyone involved, but decision making is complicated by many conflicting considerations which may require compromise and collaboration
– Stress is created by rage, discord, extinctions, contamination, group separation and lack of consideration
– The associated leadership style involves a democratic approach; it is consultative
– Management strategies include being humanistic; demonstrating emotions; care for the group; an emphasis on consensus and a listening orientation
– This value system finds expression in “Doctors without Borders”; sensitivity training; animal rights groups; Rogerian counselling; philanthropic and humanistic intentions; and theoretical and academic endeavours

Yellow
– The theme here is “systemic”
– It can be described as an integrative approach; seeking of learning experiences; living responsibly, and the emphasis is on flexibility, functionality, simplicity and spontaneity
– Here knowledge, understanding, competence and intuition supersedes rank, position status symbols and power
– There is an appreciation of dynamic factors and natural flows; variety; context; holistic perspectives; and the value of simplicity and functionality
– The associated psychological disposition is that of individualistic; independent-mindedness; self-actualisation; and freedom of choice
– Learning is sought in varied experience, observation, knowledge, and involves an intuitive process
– Factors such as structure and order are to some extent irrelevant
– Stress is caused by stagnant, rigid, dull, rule-based contexts that are not stimulating or challenging
– Emotionally this orientation is associated with a significant degree of integration which may at times be interpreted as distanciation
– This value system finds expression in principles of systems thinking; learning organisations; chaos theory; and eco-industrial parks

Turquoise
– The themes here are “holistic” and “transcendent”
– This orientation can be described as existential-philosophical; living in the “now”; depth of awareness; a spiritually inclination; and it is focused on the meaningfulness of human endeavours
– It is associated with a concern about the proliferation of life; experiencing the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit; accessing the collective mindset; connection and transcendence
– The world is regarded as a single, dynamic organism with its own collective mindwhere everything is connected
– There is an emphasis on holistic, intuitive thinking and cooperative actions
– It finds expression in ideas such as Gandhi’s pluralistic harmony, Tolle’s work on consciousness; and the theories of David Bohm

The hierarchical ordering of the various value systems is “soft”, or dynamic, and should not be interpreted strictly in terms as “higher is better”. The suitability and desirability of each of the value systems depend on contextual factors. The ranking and ordering of these value systems should therefore not be taken too literally or seen as a fixed, linear, step-by-step progressions. This is emphasised by Wilber (2001) who indicated that development is not a linear ladder but a fluid and flowing affair, with spirals, swirls, streams, and waves – and what appears to be an almost infinite number of modalities.

Particular value systems or worldviews, representing levels of consciousness, are generally associated with the manifestations of certain clusters of cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural tendencies (referred to by Wilber as “lines” of development). The expanded awareness of each consecutive level of consciousness, allows for greater connection to self, others and the world. Progressively inclusive worldviews accommodate increasingly complex cognitive processing, for example.

spiraldyn2spiraldyn1

Please see my related posts:

The Great Chain of Being

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

Multilevel Approach to Research in Organizations

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

 

Key Sources of Research:

Never Ending Upward Quest:  An Interview with Don Beck on Spiral Dynamics

WIE 2002

Click to access 046_spiraldynamics_wie.pdf

 

Summary of the Spiral Dynamics Model by Ken Wilber

 

Click to access summaryofthespiraldynamicsmodelbykenwilber.pdf

 

 

 

Sidebar C: Orange and Green: Levels or Cousins?

 

Click to access C-jenny-don.pdf

 

 

 

Consciousness models in action: comparisons

(As published in the Integral Leadership Review (ILR) June 2012)

 

Click to access Consciousness%20models%20in%20action%20-%20comparisons%20-%20ILR.pdf

 

 

Spiral Dynamics Integral and the Theory of Living Human Systems: Part 1

– Michael Robbins

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268053319_Spiral_Dynamics_Integral_and_the_Theory_of_Living_Human_Systems_Part_1

 

 

SPIRAL DYNAMICS INTEGRAL AND THE THEORY OF LIVING HUMAN SYSTEMS, PART 2

– Michael Robbins

Click to access MichaelRobbins_SpiralDynamicsIntegral2.pdf

 

 

 

 

Models, Metrics, and Measurement in Developmental Psychology

Zachary Stein and Katie Heikkinen

Click to access Stein%26Heikkinen_IR_2009.pdf

 

 

 

 

A General Introduction to Integral Theory and Comprehensive Mapmaking

 

By Sean M. Saiter

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.210.2686&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

Clare W. Graves and the Turn of Our Times

Nicholas Reitter

 

Click to access Reitter.pdf

 

 

 

Spiral Dynamics Integral

Christopher Cooke and Ben Levi

 

Click to access SD_Integral.pdf

 

 

 

 

Introduction to Spiral Dynamics

 

Ian McDonald

 

Click to access McDonald-Ian-Introduction-to-Spiral-Dynamics-1007.pdf

A Brief History of Spiral Dynamics

 

albion m. butters

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312033145_A_Brief_History_of_Spiral_Dynamics

 

 

 

What Is Spiral Dynamics Integral?

By Don Beck

Click to access IN-SDi%20Intro.pdf

 

 

 

 

Integral Dynamics, A new integration of Wilber’s Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics

 

Harry Donkers

2016

Click to access 10.pdf

 

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

Meta Integral Theories: Integral Theory, Critical Realism, and Complex Thought

 

Three Meta Integral Theories:

  • Integral Theory (Ken Wilber)
  • Critical Realism (Roy Bhaskar)
  • Complex Thought (Edgar Morin)

 

Please see review papers for each of the theory in the references below.

These are the best meta theories in my opinion.

Ken Wiber, Roy Bhaskar, and Edgar Morin have created ideas worth reading about.

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

MIT

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

MIT2

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

 

MIT3MIT4MIT5MIT6

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

 

MIT7MIT8MIT9

 

I also suggest Cyber Semiotics a book by Soren Brier.

 

Please see my related posts:

Semiotics, Bio-Semiotics and Cyber Semiotics

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Systems View of Life: A Synthesis by Fritjof Capra

 

 

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

 

Overview of Integral Theory

Click to access Integral_Theory_Overview.pdf

 

 

Critical Realism

Click to access Critical%20Realism_REVISED.pdf

 

 

Ken Wilber on Critical Realism

Click to access Critical%20Realism_Revisited-1.pdf

Complex Thought

Click to access Complex_Thought_FINAL.pdf

 

Metatheory for the Twenty-First Century: Critical Realism and Integral Theory in Dialog

edited by Roy Bhaskar, Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, Nicholas Hedlund, Mervyn Hartwig

2017 published by Routledge

 

 

 

Keynote Address by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens

ITC 2013

Click to access Esbjorn-Hargens%27%20ITC%202013%20Keynote.pdf

TOWARDS A CRITICAL REALIST INTEGRAL THEORY
Ontological and Epistemic Considerations for Integral Philosophy

Nicholas H. Hedlund-de Witt

https://www.academia.edu/4661222/Towards_a_Critical_Realist_Integral_Theory_Ontological_and_Epistemic_Considerations_for_Integral_Philosophy

Click to access Hedlund-de%20Witt_Nick_ITC2013.pdf

 

 

 

A Complex Integral Realist Perspective: Towards A New Axial Vision

By Paul Marshall

© 2017 – Routledge

 

https://www.routledge.com/A-Complex-Integral-Realist-Perspective-Towards-A-New-Axial-Vision/Marshall/p/book/9781138803824

Situating Critical Realism Philosophically

Ruth Groff

Department of Political Science St. Louis University

Click to access GROFF.pdf

 

 

 

Sean Esbjorn-Hargens discusses integrative thinking and the new leadership

June 2017 Podcast

http://unbeatablemind.com/sean-esbjorn-hargens/

 

 

 

The Future of Leadership for Conscious Capitalism

By: Barrett C. Brown

 

https://associates.metaintegral.org/blog/future-leadership-conscious-capitalism

 

 

Edgar Morin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Morin

 

 

Integral Theory (Ken Wilber)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_theory_(Ken_Wilber)

 

 

 

From the Concept of System to the Paradigm of Complexity

Edgar Morin
Translated by Sean Kelly

Click to access morin-paradigm-of-complexity.pdf

 

 

 

Integral Meta-Theory – The What and Why

Zak Stein

https://centerforintegralwisdom.org/integral-theory/zak-stein-integral-meta-theory/

 

 

Sophia Speaks: An Integral Grammar of Philosophy

By Bruce Alderman

Click to access Alderman_ITC2013.pdf

 

 

 

The Variety of Integral Ecologies: Kosmopolitan Complexity and the New Realisms

Sean Kelly

Adam Robbert

Sam Mickey

Click to access Mickey%20%26%20Robbert%20%26%20Kelly_ITC2013.pdf

 

Metatheory for the Anthropocene: Emancipatory Praxis For Planetary Flourishing (Routledge Studies in Critical Realism (Routledge Critical Realism))

Nicholas Hedlund (Editor), Sean Esbjörn-Hargens (Editor)

 

 

 

Meta Integral Foundation

https://metaintegral.org

 

 

 

Toward an Integrative Theory of Higher Education: Connecting Lines of Inquiry from Morin’s Complex Thought, Bhaskar’s Critical Realism, and Wilber’s Integral Theory

Gary P. Hampson and Matthew Rich-Tolsma

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION: On the Deep Need for Integrative Metatheory in the 21st-Century

Nicholas Hedlund
Sean Esbjörn-Hargens
Mervyn Hartwig
Roy Bhaskar

 

 

 

Situating the Mapmaker: An Imminent Critique of Wilber’s Cartography of the
Transphysical Worlds

Prepared by Nicholas Hedlund-de Witt, M.A.

Professor Eric Weiss

California Institute of Integral Studies

Spring 2011

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

Truth, Beauty, and Goodness: Integral Theory of Ken Wilber

 

AQALfig1

I, we, It/Its

 

AQALfig2

Self, Culture, and Nature

 

 

AQALfig12

The Eight Zones

 

AQALfig5

 

Levels in each Quadrant

 

From AN OVERVIEW OF INTEGRAL THEORY

 

“The word integral means comprehensive, inclusive, non-marginalizing, embracing. Integral approaches to any field attempt to be exactly that: to include as many perspectives, styles, and methodologies as possible within a coherent view of the topic. In a certain sense, integral approaches are “meta-paradigms,” or ways to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching.” – Ken Wilber

 

The world has never been so complex as it is right now—it is mind boggling and at times emotionally overwhelming. Not to mention, the world only seems to get more complex and cacophonous as we confront the major problems of our day: extreme religious fundamentalism, environmental degradation, failing education systems, existential alienation, and volatile financial markets. Never have there been so many disciplines and worldviews to consider and consult in addressing these issues: a cornucopia of perspectives. But without a way of linking, leveraging, correlating, and aligning these perspectives, their contribution to the problems we face are largely lost or compromised. We are now part of a global community and we need a framework—global in vision yet also anchored in the minutiae of our daily lives—that can hold the variety of valid perspectives that have something to offer our individual efforts and collective solution building.

In 1977 American philosopher Ken Wilber published his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness. This groundbreaking book integrated the major schools of psychology along a continuum of increasing complexity, with different schools focused on various levels within that spectrum. Over the next 30 years he continued with this integrative impulse, writing books in areas such as cultural anthropology, philosophy, sociology of religion, physics, healthcare, environmental studies, science and religion, and postmodernism. To date, Wilber has published over two dozen books and in the process has created integral theory.2 Wilber’s books have been translated into more than 24 languages, which gives you an idea as to the global reach and utility of integral theory.3 Since its inception by Wilber, integral theory has become one of the foremost approaches within the larger fields of integral studies and meta-theory.4 This prominent role is in large part the result of the wide range of applications that integral theory has proven itself efficacious in as well as the work of many scholar-practitioners who have and are contributing to the further development of integral theory.

Integral theory weaves together the significant insights from all the major human disciplines of knowledge, including the natural and social sciences as well as the arts and humanities. As a result of its comprehensive nature, integral theory is being used in over 35 distinct academic and professional fields such as art, healthcare, organizational management, ecology, congregational ministry, economics, psychotherapy, law, and feminism.5 In addition, integral theory has been used to develop an approach to personal transformation and integration called Integral Life Practice (ILP). The ILP framework allows individuals to systematically explore and develop multiple aspects of themselves such as their physical body, emotional intelligence, cognitive awareness, interpersonal relationships, and spiritual wisdom. Because integral theory systematically includes more of reality and interrelates it more thoroughly than any other current approach to assessment and solution building, it has the potential to be more successful in dealing with the complex problems we face in the 21st century.

Integral theory provides individuals and organizations with a powerful framework that is suitable to virtually any context and can be used at any scale. Why? Because it organizes all existing approaches to and disciplines of analysis and action, and it allows a practitioner to select the most relevant and important tools, techniques, and insights. Consequently, integral theory is being used successfully in a wide range of contexts such as the intimate setting of one-on-one psychotherapy as well as in the United Nations “Leadership for Results” program, which is a global response to HIV/AIDS used in over 30 countries. Towards the end of this article I provide additional examples of integral theory in action to illustrate the variety of contexts in which people are finding the integral framework useful.

Wilber first began to use the word “integral” to refer to his approach after the publication of his seminal book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality in 1995. It was in this book that he introduced the quadrant model, which has since become iconic of his work in general and integral theory in particular. Wilber’s quadrant model is often referred to as the AQAL model, with AQAL (pronounced ah-qwal) standing for all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, and all types. These five elements signify some of the most basic repeating patterns of reality. Thus, by including all of these patterns you “cover the bases” well, ensuring that no major part of any solution is left out or neglected. Each of these five elements can be used to “look at” reality and at the same time they represent the basic aspects of your own awareness in this and every moment. In this overview I will walk you through the essential features of each of these elements and provide examples of how they are used in various contexts, why they are useful for an integral practitioner, and how to identify these elements in your own awareness right now. By the end of this tour, you will have a solid grasp of one of the most versatile and dynamic approaches to integrating insights from multiple disciplines. So let us begin with the foundation of the AQAL model: the quadrants.

 

ALL QUADRANTS: THE BASIC DIMENSION-PERSPECTIVES

According to integral theory, there are at least four irreducible perspectives (subjective, intersubjective, objective, and interobjective) that must be consulted when attempting to fully understand any issue or aspect of reality. Thus, the quadrants express the simple recognition that everything can be viewed from two fundamental distinctions: 1) an inside and an outside perspective and 2) from a singular and plural perspective. A quick example can help illustrate this: imagine trying to understand the components of a successful meeting at work. You would want draw on psychological insights and cultural beliefs (the insides of individuals and groups) as well as behavioral observations and organizational dynamics (the outsides of individuals and groups) to fully appreciate what is involved in conducting worthwhile meetings.

These four quadrants also represent dimensions of reality. These dimensions are actual aspects of the world that are always present in each moment. For instance, all individuals (including animals) have some form of subjective experience and intentionality, or interiors, as well as various observable behaviors and physiological components, or exteriors. In addition, individuals are never just alone but are members of groups or collectives. The interiors of collectives are known generally as intersubjective cultural realities whereas their exteriors are known as ecological and social systems, which are characterized by interobjective dynamics. These four dimensions are represented by four basic pronouns: “I”, “we”, “it”, and “its.” Each pronoun represents one of the domains in the quadrant model: “I” represents the Upper Left (UL), “We” represents the Lower Left (LL), “It” represents the Upper Right (UR), and “Its” represents the Lower Right (LR).

 

As both of the Right-Hand quadrants (UR and LR) are characterized by objectivity, the four quadrants are also referred to as the three value spheres of subjectivity (UL), intersubjectivity (LL), and objectivity (UR and LR). These three domains of reality are discernable in all major languages through pronouns that represent first-, second-, and third-person perspectives and are referred to by Wilber as “the Big Three:” I, We, and It/s. These three spheres can also be characterized as aesthetics, morals, and science or consciousness, culture, and nature.

 

Integral theory insists that you cannot understand one of these realities (any of the quadrants or the Big Three) through the lens of any of the others. For example, viewing subjective psychological realities primarily through an objective empirical lens distorts much of what is valuable about those psychological dynamics. In fact, the irreducibility of these three spheres has been recognized throughout the history of Western philosophy, from Plato’s True, Good, and Beautiful to Immanuel Kant’s famous three critiques of pure reason, judgment, and practical reason to Jürgen Habermas’ validity claims of truth, rightness, and truthfulness (Fig. 2). Wilber is a staunch advocate of avoiding reducing one of these spheres into the others. In particular, he cautions against what he calls flatland: the attempt to reduce interiors to their exterior correlates (i.e., collapsing subjective and intersubjective realities into their objective aspects). This is often seen in systems approaches to the natural world, which represent consciousness through diagrams of feedback loops and in the process leave out the texture and felt-sense of first- and second-person experience.

 

One of the reasons integral theory is so illuminating and useful is it embraces the complexity of reality in ways few other frameworks or models do. In contrast to approaches that explicitly or inadvertently reduce one quadrant to another, integral theory understands each quadrant as simultaneously arising. In order to illustrate the simultaneity of all quadrants I will provide a simple example with Figure 1 in mind. Let us say I decide I need to buy some flowers for the garden and I have the thought, “I want to go to the nursery.” The integral framework demonstrates that this thought and its associated action (e.g., driving to the garden store and purchasing roses) has at least four dimensions, none of which can be separated because they co-arise (or tetra-mesh) and inform each other. First, there is the individual thought and how I experience it (e.g., mentally calculating travel time, the experience of joy in shopping, or the financial anxiety over how I will pay for my purchase). These experiences are informed by psychological structures and somatic feelings associated with the UL quadrant. At the same time, there is the unique combination of neuronal activity, brain chemistry, and bodily states that accompany this thought, as well as any behavior that occurs (e.g., putting on a coat, getting in the car). These behaviors are associated with various activities of our brain and physiological activity of the body, which are associated with the UR quadrant. Likewise, there are ecological, economic, political, and social systems that supply the nursery with items to sell, determine the price of flowers, and so on. These systems are interconnected through global markets, national laws, and the ecologies associated with the LR quadrant. There is also a cultural context that determines whether I associate “nursery” with an open-air market, a big shopping mall, or a small stall in an alley, as well as determining the various meanings and culturally appropriate interactions that occur between people at the nursery. These cultural aspects are associated with worldviews in the LL quadrant.

 

Thus to have a full understanding of and appreciation for the occurrence of the thought, “I’m going to the nursery,” one cannot explain it fully through just the terms of either psychology (UL), or neurobiology and physiology (UR), or social and economic dynamics (LR), or cultural meaning (LL). For the most complete view, as we will see, one should take into consideration all of these domains (and their respective levels of complexity). Why is this practical? Well if we tried to summarize this simple situation by leaving out one or more perspectives, a fundamental aspect of the integral whole would be lost and our ability to understand it and address it would be compromised. Thus, integral practitioners often use the quadrants as their first move to scan a situation or issue and bring multiple perspectives to bear on the inquiry or exploration at hand.

 

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

Introduction to the Integral Approach (and the AQAL Map)

Ken Wilber

 

Click to access IntroductiontotheIntegralApproach_GENERAL_2005_NN.pdf

 

AN INTEGRAL THEORY OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Ken Wilber

Journal of Consciousness Studies, 4 (1), February 1997, pp. 71­92 Copyright, 1997, Imprint Academic

 

Click to access www.imprint.co_.uk_Wilber.pdf

 

Integral Theories of Everything: Ervin Laszlo and Ken Wilber

 

Click to access LASZLOWILBERCOMPAR.pdf

 

Integral Ecology A POST-METAPHYSICAL APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL PHENOMENA

Sean Esbjörn-Hargens

 

Click to access Integral%20Ecology_Intermediate.pdf

 

Integral Spirituality

The Role of Spirituality in the Modern and Postmodern World

Ken Wilber
Summer 2005

 

Click to access Integral%20Spirituality.pdf

 

 

AN OVERVIEW OF INTEGRAL ECOLOGY

A Comprehensive Approach to Today’s Complex Planetary Issues

Sean Esbjörn-Hargens Michael E. Zimmerman

 

Click to access IntegralEcology_031809.pdf

 

 

AN OVERVIEW OF INTEGRAL THEORY

An All-Inclusive Framework for the 21st Century

Sean Esbjörn-Hargens

 

Click to access IT_3-2-2009.pdf

https://integrallife.com/integral-post/overview-integral-theory

 

 

Integral Theory in Action

Sean Esbjörn-Hargens

 

Click to access 62114.pdf

 

 

In defense of Integral Theory

In response to Critical Realism

Ken Wilber

 

Click to access JITP_7(4)_Wilber.pdf

 

 

Social Work as an Integral Profession

Heather Larkin

 

Click to access social_work_as_an_integral_profession.pdf

 

 

The Evolution of Integral Futures

A Status Update

By Terry Collins and Andy Hines

 

Click to access 79-Evolution-of-integral-futures-WFR-JunJul2010.pdf

 

 

Ken Wilber – Excerpt G:

Toward A Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies

 

Click to access KKCExcerptG.pdf

 

 

Integral Resources

 

Click to access Integral-Resources-15.pdf

 

 

CRITICAL REALISM

A Synoptic Overview and Resource Guide for Integral Scholars

Nicholas H. Hedlund-de Witt

Click to access Critical%20Realism_REVISED.pdf

 

 

SPELLING OUT INTEGRAL ECONOMIC SCIENCE

The Full-Spectrum Project

Christian Arnsperger

 

 

BUILDING AN INTEGRAL ECONOMIC SCIENCE

Opportunities and Challenges

Christian Arnsperger

 

 

Full-Spectrum Economics: Toward an Inclusive and Emancipatory Social Science

By Christian Arnsperger

2010

Published by Routledge

 

 

Integral Ecology AN ECOLOGY OF PERSPECTIVES

Sean Esbjörn-Hargens

2005

 

Click to access IU_Ecology_Intro.pdf

 

Metatheory for the 21st Century: Critical Realism and Integral Theory in Dialogue
Roy Bhaskar, Sean Esbjö-Hargens, Mervyn Hartwig, Nicholas Hedlund-de Witt

Routledge, Jul 22, 2015 – Social Science – 358 pages