I've talked a little philosophy on this blog before, so hopefully by now you're not scared when I bring it up. If you, relax, I'm going to make this pretty painless.
I incorporate a lot of philosophical ideas and questions in my writing, in a very intentional way. At the risk of unmasking Zorro a little, some of my stories have their genesis in my attempt to reify a philosophical model that I'm wrestling with in some way. So I think that perhaps some occasional exploration of the philosophical world in which my mind operates give you a neat peak at the gears, and perhaps a richer understanding of my writing.
To minimize the risk of being too boring, I'll also give you both a quick literary and practical application each time I talk about part of that philosophical schema. And I will do my best to speak in English, even at peril of technical precision (forgive me, philosophers).
So, with no further ado, Nevetsosophy Part 1: the Hegelian Dialectic.
"Wait," you're saying. "What happened to speaking in English?"
Hegelian just refers to the German philosopher Hegel. You don't really need to know any more than that. Hegel's philosophy occupies a big part of mental universe, and so as we go through the Nevetsosophy, you will learn more about Hegel. No prior knowledge (a priori) is necessary.
Dialectic is a little more complicated, but let me boil it down to this: a dialectic is when two opposites come into conflict and must be reconciled. Sometimes, it's easiest to look at something paradoxical. Let's use the language of writers: the same writer may say, "I'm a slave to my muse," and yet also say, "I only feel free when I'm writing."
But let's come back to that.
Let me start by reducing this to something more elementary: 1-black and 1-white meet.
A fairly common East Asian dialectic might reconcile this with the familiar yin/yang concept of balance. The two 1's are reconciled in a new construct that is half black and half-white. Opposites are brought together, moderated and combined, kept separate but in balance. 1B + 1W --> 0.5B + 0.5W = 1 (B&W).
"Without the darkness, there can be no light."
A popular corruption of this Asian dialectic in popular US culture is found in the middle ground. The two 1's are reconciled in a new construct that is all grey. Opposites are brought together and mixed thoroughly until what's left is the average of the two. 1B, 1W; average = 1(grey).
"Now is not the time to be liberal or conservative, it's the time to reach across the aisle and get things done."
The most popularly known dialectic is the Marxist dialect, which holds that two opposites come into conflict and their conflict drives progress. The ultimate resolution (in a crude simplification) is in a new construct in which one side emerges as dominant, improved by the incorporation of the other. The two 1's are reconciled in a new construct that looks like one or the other, but speckled. 1B and 1W --> 1 (black with white speckles).
"The conflict between the classes can only be resolved when the laborer also control the means of their own production."
The Hegelian dialectic, the one that most interests me, and the one upon which the Marxist dialectic is based, holds that two opposites are only reconciled in a new truth that includes and supersedes both prior truths. The two 1's are reconciled in a new construct that includes both ones in a new and better truth. 1 + 1 = 2.
"Good and evil are reconciled not in the triumph of one over the other, or in finding common ground, but in the emergence of a new truth that is both good and evil, and better than either."
Let's go back now to the writer's paradox, which I hope also offers a practical application to the understanding or yourself or some of your fellow writers: the same writer may say, "I'm a slave to my muse," and yet also say, "I only feel free when I'm writing."
Adapting one of Hegel's better known dialectics, the resolution to this paradox could be this: yes, as a slave to your muse, you may be at times subject to its whims. However, you must never forget that your muse, which seems to be in power, is helpless on its own. Your muse cannot express itself without you. In the end, it is you who actually create all the product, and it is you who make the mark on the world. So yes, perhaps, at the end of the day you sleep when the muse allows you sleep. But at the end of a life, the muse has done nothing in the world, and you have created all these beautiful writings. It is you who have the power. You have the influence. So, yes, you are both slave and free. You are something that is both and yet greater than either.
Let me wrap-up here with another application, something you might consider in the craft of your writing. There are a lot of conflicts in stories. Typically, one party comes out ahead. Sometimes, it's a Pyhrric victory. Sometimes it's just a hollow victory. And sometimes there's a stalemate. But you can also have conflict resolved according to a Hegelian dialectic, in which the conflict ends in a way that answers both sides of the conflict, and yet is better than either. 1 +1 = 2.
Hope you found this interesting. Hope you found this educational. And hope this might give you something to think about when you're reading my stuff, because I've worked with the Hegelian dialectic in more than story and in more than one way.