Simple Explanation Of Hegelian Dialectic Method

Hegel is considered as one of the hardest philosophers to read, and it is not rare case for people to say that this is not because what Hegel said is hard to understand or because his writing was bad, but that actually what Hegel wrote was nonsense.
It is easy really to point to some quotes from his works taken out of the context, and say… Look, the person who said this, was surely talking nonsense. After all, would any sensible person say such thing as “Pure Being and pure nothing, are therefore, the same” or that “They are (i.e. being and nothing) in this unity (i.e. becoming) but only as vanishing, sublated moments. They sink from their initially imagined self-subsistence to the status of moments, which are still distinct but at the same time are sublated”? Those two are quotes taken from the first part of Hegel’s Science of Logic.  How can one argue that two different things which every person knows are different, are in fact same? And what is that talk about “sublating”?

Here, I will give something that might not be named an example, but maybe better named an analogy of the dialectic method of Hegel.

The analogy would work with the notions of “Left” and “Right”.
Let’s analyze those notions as abstractions. When we think of Left as something immediate (as Hegel uses the term), it marks let’s say half of the space (or line which is in front of us, etc..), and Right as something immediate marks the other half of the space (or line, or whatever). But if we take now those half-spaces, or half-lines by themselves, or if we limit our thinking just to those abstractions (this is important), we can figure out that there is ideal symmetry between them.  There is nothing that distinguishes them internally. The half-space that we named Left can be Right, and the half-space that we named Right can be also Left.

It is in this abstract symmetry where different notions become equal. (or more general produce a contradiction of some kind)

But for sure Left and Right as notions are not equal, they have different meaning. So, we are brought to a contradiction, they are different, but also they are equal. This is the important moment in the dialectical movement. Two different abstract notions are taken, and it is shown how in their abstract symmetry they are equal. However pointing to this contradiction is not an end in itself. Hegel is not defending contradictions, the next step he takes in this dialectical movement is to resolve the contradiction.

The resolution is based on really simple principle – if the distinction between two universals is not in them taken alone, then their difference is something outside of them.

So, let’s return to the notions of Right and Left. We might say that what is determined as Left and what is determined as Right depends on the position of the observer. But if we try to specify the observer by a point, it won’t make much difference. Still there is the symmetry between Right and Left. We need vertical observer. But even if we imagine observer as short vertical line on the edge between Left and Right, still there is perfect symmetry. Even if we name one of the sides of the observer-line as Top, and the other as Bottom, still there is perfect symmetry between Right and Left. It is when additionally to Top/Bottom we also have observer with Front/Back where the symmetry is broken.

So, we come to conclusion that the Left/Right distinction starts to make sense only in the whole new notion of Vertical-Observer- With-Bottom-and-Top -and-Front-and-Back-Sides- Who-Is-Existing-In-Space. OK, this is one silly named universal, but we can understand what Hegel means by “sublated” now. Hegel says as explanation for this term:

To sublate has a twofold meaning in the language: on the one hand it means to preserve, to maintain, and equally it also means to cause to cease, to put an end to. Even ‘to preserve’ includes a negative elements, namely, that something is removed from its influences, in order to preserve it. Thus what is sublated is at the same time preserved; it has only lost its immediacy but is not on that account annihilated.

So, in this case Left and Right are sublated. “They sink from their initially imagined self-subsistence to the status of moments” of the new wealthier silly-named concept.

So, what Hegel tries to do through this method, is to show a structure of universals, in which the “lower” ones are sublated in the higher and richer ones, arguing that former have their truth and meaning only as moments in the later. One can easily see that Hegelian philosophy is holistic, and that it denies that abstract universals have truth in themselves isolated from the whole. He tries to show that each of those concepts taken as having determinate meaning in itself necessarily will produce contradictions.