virus: Hegel's Virus

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 22 Apr 1997 14:18:19 -0400 (EDT)

Now, before we go tearing David R's post to shreads I
think we should all go back to the archives and reread
it. I'm not saying it's a flawless argument or idea,
but if I may be so bold:

I invoke the "Reed principle"

Here, read it again and see if you understand it.
Don't ask "do I agree?" yet. You don't have to
agree with a thesis to see it's point:

Oh, I can't help it. I'm going to include style comments.
Sue me.

From: "D. H. Rosdeitcher" <>
Date: 20 Apr 97 16:04:58 EDT
Subject: virus: Hegel's Virus (was Altruism, Empathy, Etc.)

A lot of people on this list appear to have a thinking disorder which I

[Now, David...this is a shitty way to start off. You can say exactly the
same thing without declaring that these tendencies are a "problem"
we seem to have. You are welcome to believe we are "wrong-thinking"
but if you want to transmit a structure the it is often best to leave the
moral judgements as to what is a useful and what is a useless way of
thinking at the door, IMHO. One persons "disorder" is another persons
"vision". I'd suggest less confrotational language...especially in the

call Hegel's virus. Hegel's virus has to do with confusion about the
relationship between cause and effect. 2 examples include 1)believing that memes
literallly compete for survival, using people as hosts for the memes'
replication purposes and 2)believing that the meaning of ideas are determined by
the definitions of words used to express those ideas, (instead of meanings of
words being determined by how they are used in a given context of an idea).
Philosopher Georg Hegel discovered a new kind of logic that was different
from traditional (objectivist) logic.

[Careful. I don't accept that all "traditional" logic is synonymous with
"objectivist" logic. Making assertions like that strengthens the tie you
are trying to make between "objectivism" and "logic" but I think you
lose a lot more by weaking your argument with an unsupported and
unresolved assumptive allusion]

In traditional
logic, the notion that
things have their own identity often takes the expression, 'A is A'. Hegel made
a statement that 'A is both A and Not A'. Hegel's claim that 'A is both A and
not A', never contradicted traditional logic, as he was simply referring to a
different type of logic which applies the the act of thinking.
The notion that 'A is both A and not A', according to Hegel, meant that
when one thinks about something, the opposite or context of that something will
inevitably be thought about or implied. For instance, thinking about the color
'blue' can lead to thinking about the rest of the colors in the spectrum.
Similarly, when one thinks of 'day', 'night' comes to mind. 'Cause' implies
One aspect of this Hegelian way of thinking, is that it is possible to
reverse the relationship between 'A' and 'Not A' such as when the roles of cause
and effect are reversed. For instance, in selfish gene theory, the genes
compete with each other for survival, using people as their messengers to
replicate themselves instead of people competing for survival, using genes as

[I think I understand what you're getting at. But how do you know what
the "thesis" is as opposed to the "antithesis"? If, from my perspective, it
is the genes and memes which are "A" then "the individual" is "not A".
I can, from this basis, argue that all discussion about individual will and
selection is a Hegelian reversal of the true thesis: that genes, memes and
other replicators are the compeditors in selection and "the individual" is
the opposite invoked by our communal perception of this reality. How do
you determine what is the "figure" and what is the "ground"?]

While selfish gene theory and other types of Hegelian logic can be
used to clarify something, ( genes evolve), some people appear to take it

[But, previously, you were arguing that we should all use objectivist logic
and appeared to be very interested in the literal word of
Rand, and were cricized for this apparent shortsightedness. I think you can
generalize this criticism beyond Hegelianism. We are all too enamored of
the Word.]

There are other times when Hegelian logic is used for the purpose of
obscuring reality, as in "selfish definitions of words" theory, in which
definitions of words determine the meaning of ideas that use those words,
instead of ideas determining what its words mean in their context. For instance,

James W. wrote:
Reed wrote:
>>>Obviously we are
>>> the sense that we can engage in trade, that we can delay
>>>gratification, that we are willing to "invest" effort today on the
>>>assumption that there will be return with interest at a later date.

Robin wrote:
>>Sorry, that's not altruism.
>>Regard for others, both natural and moral; devotion to the interests of
>>others; brotherly kindness; -- opposed to egoism or selfishness.

>Robin appears to have difficulty with Reed's use of a word, presents a
>reference for how she understands it to have been defined, and cites the
>source. How else can you object to someone using a word in a context that
>you do not agree with?

Does anyone misunderstand what Reed meant by 'altruism' in this context?

[I agree with you. I thought that the caveat "in the sense that" would signal
people that I was using the word in a non-standard way. I'm afraid,
however, that we often lose the subtleties. We are altruistic...
in the sense that "A" is not an exclusive definition. We may also be the sense that "B". I was making a non-exclusive proposition,
whereas a number of readers interpreted this as an attempt to literally
redefine the word. In the end, though, the discussion will iron out
these misperceptions.]

and Martz wrote:
> I don't know about you David but when it comes down to finding a common
>ground regarding a definition of a word I reach straight for the

There's nothing wrong with looking up words to understand the author, but
that doesn't mean words can't have different meanings according to context.
Using a Hegelian trick of reversing the relationship between ideas and
definitions of words, can prevent certain points of view from being
expressed.(ie. the un-Catholic or un-Buddhist idea that altruism is in the
context of self-interest.)
Hegel's virus can also be shown by the spread of Communism. Karl Marx, the
father of Communism, claimed that Instead of people producing and controlling
goods and services, goods or services controlled the people. (politically,
socially, etc) Marx's theory, like selfish gene theory, might be simply an
interesting mental exercise to understand and observe the economy, but was
apparently taken literally by lots of people. Marx might have been joking but
most people didn't get it.

[What do you think Hegel contributed to philosophy which was useful? Do you
think Hegel himself often fell into these reversal-traps, or is this a
result of his
followers misinterpreting his method? Can you restate, in Hegelian
language, the
part you think is useful, if any?]

Anyway, David, I thought the post was excellent. I didn't comment on it
at the time becuase I was a little behind.


Reed Konsler