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Applying Hegel's Dialectic to Slashdot and Kuro5hin.

By Kiss the Blade in Op-Ed
Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 08:10:47 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

The other day I was considering Hegel's dialectic, and I thought, why not apply it to websites? I think that applying his dialectic to online communities could be a very fruitful process.

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comments (24)
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First of all, let me explain a little what Hegel's Dialectic is. The fundamental tenet of Hegel's philosophy is that the Human mind has a large part in structuring the existence of the individual, but only through opposition to the concrete, external world. As an example, imagine you are considering an apple. One solitary and particular apple. You have a concept of what an apple is, but this concept can only form through sensing the apple. When I see, feel, smell and taste an apple, I do not yet know that this thing I am sensing is an apple. Only when my mind has formed the concept of an apple can I truly comprehend what an apple is. Now enter the dialectical process - the next apple I see will be different in many of its particular characteristics, yet it is still an apple. By experiencing this new apple and comparing my sense of it with my already existing concept of an apple, I can improve my conceptual understanding of what an apple is. A synthesis has occurred - I have come to a fuller realisation of what an apple is. This is where thesis and antithesis enters the picture. The concrete physical apple is the thesis, my conceptualisation of what an apple is is the antithesis, and my new improved concept of what an apple is reached afterwards is known as the synthesis - a synthesis of a higher order. Every extra apple I experience sensually allows me to come to new and improved synthesises of what an apple is.

Hegel is famous, among many other things, for taking this simple idea and producing an entire theory of culture and history. The thesis, antithesis and synthesis do not merely occur on the individual level, between a man and the objects around him, but between entire cultures and civilisations. All of human history, according to Hegel, is nothing but an endless process of one culture's thesis meeting another culture's antithesis, and a new synthesis being produced (not just cultures - the process is occurring on all levels, whether it be the nation state, the beliefs we hold dear, and so on).

So, how does this rather grandiose idea apply to weblogs? Well, let us consider Slashdot and kuro5hin as case examples.

Slashdot is well known to be a more varied culture than kuro5hin is. For various reasons, such as the democratic nature of kuro5hin, which tends to produce ideas designed to appeal to the majority, rather than provoke, and the greater incidence of trolls on Slashdot, who deliberately produce provocative ideas, Slashdot produces a more varied set of ideas. Ideas produced on kuro5hin tend, in my opinion, to be of a higher quality and to be more lucidly and intelligently expressed, but for sheer variety and outrageousness of ideas, Slashdot wins hands down.

The interesting thing is that, according to the Hegelian dialectic, this should mean that slashdot, whilst superficially of inferior quality, should produce a far superior synthesis than kuro5hin does, because of the more opposed and varied nature of the thesis and antithesis on slashdot as compared to k5. The synthesis on slashdot, composed of the varied and antagonistic views of hundreds of thousands of readers, should create a hugely impressive synthesis.

If one considers each site on an atomistic level, then it is clear that on an individual post level kuro5hin is far superior. But why then is Slashdot so much more popular? Could it be because people are aware, on the level of the collective unconscious, that slashdot provides a superior synthesis? Possibly.

Of course, I must stress that here I am just bandying about ideas I find interesting. I have noticed that kuro5hin seems to be becoming more and more varied of late - possibly greater quality on the atomistic level leads to greater quality on the level of synthesis also, or at least a qualitatively different quality. There is plenty of space for both models of synthesis to co-exist.


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The synthesis on Slashdot is:
o Superior to that on Kuro5hin 8%
o Inferior to that on Kuro5hin 22%
o The same. 9%
o WTF? 58%

Votes: 102
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Kuro5hin
o Also by Kiss the Blade

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Applying Hegel's Dialectic to Slashdot and Kuro5hin. | 53 comments (38 topical, 15 editorial, 1 hidden)
It doesn't follow that Slashdot is better (4.70 / 10) (#1)
by Fabian on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 12:04:02 PM EST

You make a few mistakes in your analysis of the dialectic. Essential in the dialectic is that the objects of your synthesis and antithesis be real data. False synthesis is possible. That this is so has been recognized right from the first use of dialectic, which was in Ancient Greece.

Then, when the dialectic and the implied notion of synthesis was purely a means of discovering truth, it was recognized by all true philosophers that sophistry would not lead to truth. Read Theaetetus - Plato, speaking qua Socrates, is quite adamant that sophistry - the kind of karma whoring and deliberately provocative discussion practised by many on Slashdot (and less prevalent here I must say) - was illusion, and as he explains, illusion cannot lead to truth. For example, a crank doctor might convince you he had removed your cancer, but the illusion would be worse than useless because you would still have it.

The sense data produced would be false. That is what we have on Slashdot. Pure illusion - sophistry designed to provoke rather than to induce truth.

And from illusion you cannot advance. The dialectic relies on truth, and because Slashdot is 'of inferior quality', relying on ilusion, the synthesis will be inferior. This is your problem - although 'Slashdot wins hands down for provocativeness', this kind of sophistic illusion does not produce good synthesis

*cough* (3.87 / 8) (#2)
by Sunir on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 12:07:26 PM EST

Were you perhaps looking for Wiki:ThesisAntithesisSynthesis? Wikis win again! Wikis 42, weblogs 0. ;)

Actually, the real problem is that web logs are not collaborative media, so you can't achieve synthesis. Instead, everyone just spouts their opinions at each other. There is no way to unify divergent opinions, improve existing text, or otherwise build one-text.

See also my previous post Why agree/disagree comment rating is broken.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r

I beg to differ (a little) (3.66 / 3) (#12)
by leviathan on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 01:43:34 PM EST

The mechanism employed in weblogs depends on community. I'm in no position to tell Sunir anything new about community, of course, but suffice to say it's the objective of gaining respect from the community that makes you consider other's ideas. You could well say that you only wish for respect from those you already agree with...and I'd have no good counter to that save for personal experience. I've learnt many things which are counter to the opinions I held when I first stumbled across k5 - and some of those were strongly held opinions.

It's likely that a wiki is more conducive to an agreeable community though, due to the fact that if you play at all you have to play by the rules. The two opposing measures of a quality of a community are that a wiki requires participants to form a relationship with other wikizens whereas weblogs allow for looser relationships and hence a wider diversity of culture. I suspect on that scale, k5 comes in at some point between /. and (for example) Ward's wiki.

I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
- Dogbert
[ Parent ]

Attitudes vs. technology (3.50 / 2) (#27)
by Sunir on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 04:53:29 PM EST

Ward asked me once whether I thought people who migrated to MeatballWiki from WikiWiki were better than those who came from Slashdot. I said the Slashdot contributors were far better because they were more open minded and are generally intelligent (those that have grown up and understand what we're trying to do; the younger members are still just playing around, but they get bored with our philosophical masturbation). I think this phenomenon exists for a few reasons. The major one being that Slashdot people don't already have expectations of how to behave on a wiki baked in their heads. However, that wouldn't be a problem if the WikiWiki folk hadn't acquired such a broken set of community expectations.

Things have changed there, mostly due to one individual. Him and I don't see eye to eye. For instance, I don't think it's ethical to alter people's testimony around completely, or sign anonymous works for other people (especially since he did it wrong frequently). I'd like to think that the community knew better, but he erased the history and then pinned it on me. So what was previously acceptable (deleting flame wars) became unacceptable, and I got frustrated, so I started trolling them out of shear annoyance. At first I hoped I was giving them a quiet zen slap, but it didn't work. And then the Extreme Programming people changed too, and that just annoyed me because they were so good before.

In the meantime, in the backdoor, free speech absolutists moved in and turned the place into Everything2. People are terrified of deleting material there, and when editorial decisions are made, they are often reversed and another flame war ensues. Another week, another flame war. And you can't delete flame wars because it's considered "disagreeing by deleting," (a trend originally set by my "nemesis").

Recently, before Christmas, I deleted a flame war. I was trolled several times in succession over a period of months, and as I got frustrated, I trolled back. The discussion was getting nowhere and had devolved into personal snipes. (And slowly I got more and more pissed off at the XP people to the point where I was making outright yet unjustified accusations of the quality of their characters.) Under the older conventions, the discussion would just be deleted. After all, if there was any valuable information in it, it would have been rewritten in the future anyway. But after some discussion, interested parties agreed that I'd write a new fresh start where we can discuss it more calmly after I returned from vacation.

Two busy weeks passed without action from me, although I had scheduled time to work on it the weekend following. Nonetheless, an individual who wasn't aware of the older, more polite conventions assumed I was attacking the server--i.e., disagreeing by deleting. He was very rude about this, violating the assume good faith ethos. I was already fed up with crap like that, so I was less than polite in responding (the second time; the first time I was jovial).

Enter the flame war.

Anyway, the end result on one hand was an amazingly high quality discussion about unit testing, where I think everyone with an open mind learnt something. On the other hand, my personal executioner later held a page hostage, left for vacation, and was late in restoring the server himself. Throw the first stone, eh. So now I have no respect there from the XP folk. Really, that's no big loss to me personally. XP isn't at all respected in this town because of their closemindedness (in my experience). But, dammit, it was good ever so long ago... So, I guess it was a big loss.

[At least Ron Jeffries, one of the Three Extremos, suggested I go for another round. Apparently I make him look like less of an asshole. ;) I think I'll try being civil in the future instead. He'll have to worry about his own reputation.]

But, you're right in that WikiWiki only accepts people of a similar credo. Everything is Extreme Programming there, even things that aren't. Normally--well, two years ago--that would be a good thing, but they've stopped listening to people with real problems. Apparently testing GUIs or distributed architectures isn't important to them because they can't even accept that people can't write unit tests for those. And so on with a myriad of other problems we all face, but they just won't.

But is this a function of the technology or the community?

I'm not one to analyze my own site, but I'd like to think that MeatballWiki espouses some of that laid back inclusion that I look for in spaces. Sure, I vehemently defend the real names only policy, but that's about it. I don't even care if you believe in the Singularity or don't. I don't care if you like soft security or hard security. I don't care if you like weblogs or wikis. It's all important. It's all worth discussing.

MeatballWiki exists to serve.

It's ultimately the community attitude. I think because of my role as Editor of MeatballWiki, I set the tone. I'd like to think I'm as laid back as Rusty, but I know I'm not. So I work towards that.

My view of "informations wants to be free" (modern sense) is that anyone can teach. Compare this to the file sharing folk who are essentially pirates with a cause (yes, that was a joke). Thesis, antithesis, synthesis is a way to collect and improve on everyone's teachings. But it can only be done if people are willing to listen and to collaborate.

I don't think either Slashdot nor kuro5hin are good places to teach. People don't listen in either place. kuro5hin is groupthink incarnate, and Slashdot is free-for-all incarnate. But that's ok. I like kuro5hin because it's a group I align with. I like Slashdot because I'm partial to the colour green.

But is this because they are weblogs?

Not especially. You can certainly have great discussions in weblogs. I've seen many, even on Slashdot and on here. But the problem is that you can't collect information on a weblog. How can you teach people without a library?

Of course, if you've been paying attention to the buzz in the backrooms, this is going to be solved shortly. So, we shall see if Rusty's WikiLog will change everything here.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Aaah! (none / 0) (#39)
by leviathan on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 01:56:50 PM EST

So that's why I don't read /.! Thanks for the info. I wasn't aware of any of that background when I replied to you (just that you ran meatballwiki). The major wikis so far have been a read only medium for me (possibly because GirlsDontWiki). It does put an interesting spin on what I wrote though. I always wondered what kept WikiTunaJourney from being removed.

It's a good question of whether Wiki is as it is because of its technology or its members. It's easy to think when you've first seen the c2 wiki that it couldn't exist with a different set of members - but the other wikis in existence tend to disprove that. As you've said, having preconceived ideas of how to make a wiki work is counterproductive to another existing wiki. Whether it is necessary or not in a virgin wiki I'm still making my mind up (I suspect not, just at the moment).

It's been interesting to observe you linking to a wiki in a weblog posting, which proves that it's possible to inform the person you're replying to at least. I've not been keeping an eye on the backrooms (I only tend to read the PPR with any regularity as a pretence to work) but I'll be very surprised to see if the wikilog can live (especially considering the absolute differences between WikiNow and WeblogNow you infer).

I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
- Dogbert
[ Parent ]

bad habits (none / 0) (#41)
by Sunir on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 03:52:36 PM EST

The only preconceptions you need to have for a new wiki are, "This is cool," and "What's an ego?" The latter may be the downfall of a WikiLog on kuro5hin, but that's ok. drop.org is going ahead on their own.

Why don't girls wiki anyway? Actually, they do on the NBTSC wiki, but not elsewhere. Maybe wikis are too pretentious in their openness.

Without cages, chains must be bound.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

To evaluate (none / 0) (#50)
by emmanuel.charpentier on Fri Mar 30, 2001 at 12:51:43 PM EST

sorry for plugging my own project, but I'm looking for someone to evaluate VeniVidiVoti. Considering meatballwiki, I guess you are into that kind of thing... no?
here: VVV library
it's supposed to be a weblog, and more hopefully

[ Parent ]
Wiki? (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by Tatarigami on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 05:37:01 PM EST

I hate to show my ignorance in public, but... what's a 'wiki'?

[ Parent ]
Wiki in a nutshell (4.00 / 2) (#30)
by Sunir on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 08:11:29 PM EST

A wiki is a site where anyone can edit any page. It typically has some simple syntax people can use to format the page, like bold, italics, lists, etc. A special "link pattern" is used to link between pages on the site. A common one is the CamelCase LinkPattern. Those "words" would automatically link to the pages "CamelCase" and "LinkPattern" respectively. Note that links are page names.

Security is achieved by not allowing people to save HTML, and through a lot of soft security. It works well enough. Wikis are simple. If it's complicated, it's broken.

For example of a wiki, see MeatballWiki.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

trolls (3.12 / 8) (#4)
by wiredog on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 12:10:36 PM EST

greater incidence of trolls on Slashdot

I dunno, I've seen quite a few of them here lately.

The idea of a global village is wrong, it's more like a gazillion pub bars.

or... (3.66 / 6) (#5)
by rebelcool on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 12:13:49 PM EST

the more likely case, is simply more people have heard of slashdot. And slashdot appeals more to people merely wanting a daily dose of nerd-news.

Also, these sites are not the same. Sure, you can have "articles" and dicussions on them, but slashdot is more of a news site (though i dare not call that journalism). Kuro5hin isn't about news, though current events often pop up as the topic.

In that, while similar, slashdot leans to the "news" side, whilst k5 leans to the discussion side. I know people who read /. and would be utterly bored by k5.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Bundling and Voting on K5 (4.16 / 6) (#6)
by TuxNugget on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 12:18:34 PM EST

I suspect, but do not know with certainty, that the K5 community would vote down a simple K5 vs /. post as mere religious flamebait.

But if this is bundled with a tidbit of philosophy, it becomes interesting.

Initially, I am not sure what to make of this. It could be simple bundling as in marketing, or it could be some kind of synthesis, or it could just mean we need line-item veto on K5.

The last option, I think, could be really cool on a one-day-per-week basis. Imagine posting a diff deleting the K5 vs /. part of the post and getting the diff voted up -- thereby just discussing the philosophy... Those who fiddle with CVS and similar systems for source code know that a line item veto weblog wouldn't be THAT hard to write.

But what is "quality" or "superior& (4.28 / 7) (#8)
by kostya on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 12:56:05 PM EST

I read both K5 and slashdot. To me, slashdot just seems like a bunch of people shouting in a room. Where is the "synthesis" you are talking about? I think the theory would hold, except for that--there is NO synthesis, just random opinions fighting with one another.

OTOH, K5, because of an almost seemingly required civility, generates discussion. It is a slower process with a lesser degree of dissension, but it seems to generate longer lasting discussion. K5 seems to generate synthesis. Perhaps not as extreme in its attempts to marry two drastically opposed opinions, but it does seem to accomplish something.

But I've gotten into this before. I believe this is all a matter of size. If K5 got slashdot-huge, the discussion and synthesis would degrade to current slashdot levels. OTGH, I'm not sure K5 will ever get that huge because K5 is so "heady"--whild Slashdot has always been a "ain't this the coolest?" site. K5 will have a limited amount of appeal because only a certain amount of people enjoy sitting around and discussing questions like the one you just asked.

I mean, when was the last time you say Hegel mentioned on slashdot? :-)

Veritas otium parit. --Terence
Interesting. (3.83 / 6) (#10)
by Electric Angst on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 01:20:50 PM EST

Wow, it's interesting to find this in the queue today, as I've just finished Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintinence, which, as you might know, goes to great lengths to attempt to smash such attempts as at dualistic logic.

In doing so, he make a very strong case for Quality, not simply as an attribute, but as phenomenon, measurable by man and yet neither objective substance or subjective thought.

That Quality was the first thing I thought of when reading your article. Sure, by Hegel's dualistic standpoint, Slashdot would be better, but Hegel come from the fallicious position of accepting only substance as having any worth, and all thoughts being derived from that. Instead, we as an audience should look at each site for evidence of Quality, and then it becomes plainly obvious that K5 is superior.

"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
reread hegel (4.16 / 6) (#13)
by buridan on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 01:43:54 PM EST

a synthesis is not perfected by more instances of the object. a synthesis is either becomes a thesis and gaining a new antithesis, thus progress or it merely persists.

Amen! (3.25 / 4) (#15)
by kaboom on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 02:05:44 PM EST

I voted -1 because, as you've pointed out, the whole article is based on a misunderstanding of the Hegelian synthesis.....

[ Parent ]
How do you know whats' the correct understanding (3.00 / 3) (#21)
by marlowe on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 03:20:04 PM EST

of Hegel? At best he's obscure. At worst he's openb to interpretation. Karl Popper claimed Hegel was a paid shill for the Prussian regime, and his whole dialectic was designed to confuse the reader into thinking that Prussian authoritarianism was the pinnacle of political evolution.

At any rate, Hegel was a crappy writer. Whether he was writing crap, or writing good stuff crappily, the end result is the same.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
How so? (4.33 / 3) (#25)
by Simian on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 04:34:36 PM EST

I've always found Hegel to be quite consistent (unlike Kant, who really was a writer of dubious gifts). Sure, you have to be very careful understanding his vocabulary, but once you grok it , he develops the concepts brilliantly. And his basic critique of Kant is something that remains unsurpassed.

The "Science of Mind" was mind-bogglingly boring, but the "Phenomenology" is structurally fascinating, one of the most interestly written works of philosophy I've ever attempted. The most interesting feature is his use of the rhetorical figure "prolepsis" to, in a single paragraph, speak in the voice of a reader who has already read the next one hundred pages!

In other words, the book was actually designed to be read at least twice, and you could argue that it should be read front to back, and then back to front so the reader can catch Hegel's references to things that haven't yet happened (from the readers point of view) the first time through. First you read as the reader, then you read as the writer. This isn't an incidental figure, either, but I think central to the point of the work (to attain a point of view capable of comprehending "Science" in Hegel's formulation of it). Few philosophers are capable of conveying such subtlety.

This might seem out of place, but I'm really reminded of Morpheus' saying (in "The Matrix", not greek mythology...;) "There's a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path." Hegel would have agreed completely.

The analytical philosophers and positivists have bitched about Hegel for a long time, and Popper's no exception. Sure, Hegel was an apologist for Prussia. Heidegger was more that casually involved in the Nazi party. That doesn't constitute a critique of their philosophy, although it makes a good prima facie case that there's a major problem in there somewhere!

"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
Associating Kant with Hegel is an insult .... (none / 0) (#45)
by nads on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 04:42:09 PM EST

Kant may have changed his views later in life. But Kant is at least comprehensible and probably created the last great Rationalist system. Hegel regurgitated, distorted, and obfuscated. I have only read 1 peice by Hegel, but I swear that it was one of the most obscure peices of philosphy I've ever read. Much more difficult than anything by Socrates or Plato. They at least wrote 2000 years ago, and I believe the major difficulty there is understanding the language. Hegel wrote no more than 150 years ago. The reason he is "hard" to understand is becuase his ideas are horrible. You have to want to "understand" them. "Reason is substance as well as infinite power, its own infintie material underlying all the natural and spiratual life; as also the infinite form, that which sets material in motion. Reason is the substance from which all things derive their being". As Reichenback points out, THAT is not philosophy, its GOBBLY-DE-GOOCK. If all he means to say is "Everything happens for a reasonable purpose", why does he not say that? Philsophy is not poetry. Philosophical ideas should be presented in the clearest terms possible. The reason he doesn't say it directly is because the idea itself isn't that good. Supposedly Hegel didn't even understand simple predicate logic, he though "A red rose" is a contradiciton. If He didn't have such a profound influence on the early socialists, no one would probably read him today. I would vote the whole damn story -1. Yea, perhaps his dialetical principle has been observed in history a number of times, but that doesn't make it philosophy. And hegel is a fukcing moron. The end.

[ Parent ]
IHBT :) (none / 0) (#46)
by Simian on Wed Mar 28, 2001 at 06:04:10 PM EST

You're obviously trolling me. Ah well, I've a minute to spare.

Well, no I don't. Life's too short. I just can't take seriously a reply that admits "I have read only 1 peice by Hegel" and ends "And hegel is a fukcing moron. The end." Pray tell, what "peice" was that? Tee hee!

Just rest assured that nothing you said was right.

HAND :).


"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
not trolling.... (none / 0) (#47)
by nads on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 12:48:27 AM EST

The low reguard which Hegel is held in by philosophers I respect Reinback, a few of my philosophy professors, and several others combined with the complete obfuscation of the one peice of Hegel I did read, is sufficient for me to never read him again. He doesn't make sense!. A man who doesn't understand predicate logic and purports poetry as philosophy, is a f'n moron. What would you call him?

[ Parent ]
O.K., you asked for it. (none / 0) (#49)
by Simian on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 04:14:32 PM EST

You should be very careful automatically subscribing to any philosopher's point of view, especially about other philosophers. This goes for my opinion too, of course. :) It's a very political discipline, and there is presently a huge rift between rival traditions.

The anglo-american tradition can be traced ultimately to Hume, but mostly to late nineteenth century british neokantianism, the logician Frege, Whitehead and Russell, and the Viennese school of logical positivism. It's best work (IMHO) stems from Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the top ten philosophers of all time (again, IMO).

The rival continental tradition is much more historically rooted. It can be directly traced to Kant and Hegel, with strong roots in Spinoza, Liebniz, Giambattista Vico, and Descartes. It has a very different style than the A-A tradition, mostly because philosophy is seen as cummulative and school-oriented rather than individualistic and position-oriented.

Now, I'm the first to admit that the most incompetent practitioners of the continental school are full of shit. Their fault, as I see it, is to mimic a complex tradition of terminology without comprehending its significance. Their work is easily blown to pieces and satirized. A-A philosophers often make sport of this, and I can't blame them.

But when they confuse cause and effect and assume that, because someone mimics a complicated style and turns it into nonsense that the original work is therefore also nonsense is unforgivable! What arrogance!

The worst abusers of the A-A tradition aren't groteque writers, true, so much as they are obsessed with meaningless trivia! They don't even merit parody!

"If I say 'The King of France is bald' is it true because there is no King of France or false because of it? Or vice versa?" Oh dear god. Where do you go from there?

Read the first chapter of the Phenomenology of Spirit. Get a good commentary on it (I recommend Robert Solomon's or even Kojeve). Hegel has a very insightful critique into the *ontological significance* of predicate logic, which you (or your influencers) naturally confuse with Hegel "not understanding" predicate logic! I strongly suspect that whoever told you that heard it from someone else, and that that person hadn't read Hegel either. That's why the A-A tradition is a dead end.

If you go from "Critique of Pure Reason" to the "Phenomenology of Spirit" it's easy enough to follow (it helps if you are familiar with Ficte's and Schilling's critiques of Kant, which influence d Hegel greatly). I spend a semester on one, and then a semester on the other, and then did my senior thesis on Hegel and Nietzsche (267 pages).

Just because something is hard to read, complicated, and requires that one is familiar with a substantial prior body of work doesn't mean that it isn't elegant, much less moronic. That's like saying that a recursive algorithm written in Lisp is moronic because it isn't as easy to read as one written in Visual Basic!

Continental philosohpy is a strong, brilliant tradition that grapples with a whole range of questions. My favorites among its ranks are: (in no particular order) Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Levinas, Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, Bataille, Derrida, Foucault, Arendt, and Wittgenstein (who belongs as much to the continental tradition as the A-A one).

Let me draw a last analogy to programming here, because I think it gets to the heart of the matter. A-A in my mind is the equivalent of a good scripting language. Very high-level, almost never delving into the heart of the interpreter, easy to read and hard to do anything too interesting with.

The continental tradition is a lot like Lisp. Hard to read: (what (are all those (parentheses)) (doing here?)). The language is implemented in itself, is very extensible, adaptable, and is one of the oldest languages still used. Kant wrote Emacs. A work of continental philosophy is like a huge macro extension to Emacs--not undertaken lightly, but potentially very powerful, with an impact on the language itself. In fact, its a customized subset of the language.

If you want to continue this conversation, I'm amenable, but you should tell me what piece of Hegel you read, and quote from it. I'm familiar with his language, so I can translate.

For instance, you wrote:

    "Reason is substance as well as infinite power, its own infinite material underlying all the natural and spiritual life; as also the infinite form, that which sets material in motion. Reason is the substance from which all things derive their being".
    As Reichenback points out, THAT is not philosophy, its GOBBLY-DE-GOOCK. If all he means to say is "Everything happens for a reasonable purpose", why does he not say that?

Because that's not even close to what he's saying. THAT is an incredibly consise summary of the whole argument of the "Phenomenology" (at least, one aspect of it).

At the point where you so blithely quote out of context, "Reason" is so loaded a term that it simultaneously denotes "God the Father", one aspect of three that are the basic parts of the human mind (the other being Spirit and in some sense History), and the historical motivation for the advance of Science. In Hegel's particular use of that word. :)

All of human history is the struggle of Reason to overcome its alienation from the perception of Substance, destroying Substance (as an alien experience) and reconstituting the understanding of Substance as Science (that is, coterminous with Spirit). To say that Reason is Substance is the radical step Hegel wants his reader to make, since it is necessary to understand Science.

Is the Riechenback you speak of the same one who wrote the philosophy of quantum mechanics? If so, what's his excuse for not seeing the parallel between Hegel's argument and the argument that suggests the active role the observer plays in the definition of quantum reality? It's not far off. Hegel is in some sense arguing, along with Kant but much more thoroughly, that the mind participates actively in the formation of historical and perceptual reality.

Although often cloaked in Christian terms, when you look at the structure of his argument, it becomes obvious that Science, as Hegel expounds it, is intended as a complete replacement for culture, religion, and even politics. It's both an attitude and a body of knowledge and a social system.

Although the fundamental insights that underlay the Phenomenology are quite original and worth understanding, especially as a criticism of Kant, the conclusions Hegel draws are obviously wrong, though strangely compelling.

But don't knock it until you've tried it.

"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
correct understanding (none / 0) (#52)
by buridan on Sun Apr 01, 2001 at 09:57:39 AM EST

While, I agree Hegel is difficult in places, there is a large secondary literature that has come to certain general agreements of his theories. The one that I presented was derived from that literature, and my reading of Hegel. I don't necessarily think that my reading of Hegel is better or worse, but it is substantiated by others, which is about as good of a standard as it gets until there is a revolution of understanding.

[ Parent ]
you're both wrong :) (4.66 / 6) (#17)
by Simian on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 02:41:15 PM EST

Warning: IANAH. But I did play a Hegelian once on t.v. :)

First, to reduce the Hegelian philosophy to this triad (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) is so generalizing as to be quite misleading. This cycle is just one aspect of the journey of Mind towards the realization of a comprehesive Science.

The reason why there was an immediate split, after Hegel's death, into the Right and Left Hegelians was because of the importance (and ambiguity) of the telos (end-point/goal) of the dialectic. The Right Hegelians interpreted the movement of the dialectic to be driven by human "spirit" or mind. Thus in some sense the dialectic could be "completed" and the Science of Mind realized by an individual. Hegel no doubt himself subscribed to this point of view, at least most of the time. The Left Hegelians (such as Feuerbach and most famously Marx) interpreted the telos to be the total development of human history, i.e. the "Spirit" of human minds taken collectively.

Although this article's interpretation of the dialectic misses the point of it, neither is your criticism valid.

What separates Hegel from Kant is the emphasis on the significance of historical time and concrete reality (which Kant basically ignored in his own synthesis). So the repetition of experience and its cummulative impact on the development of Mind (or "synthesis" in this context) is precisely what perfects the Concept (the vehicle of synthesis). This is true of Hegel no matter which side of the left/right divide you fall on, interpretively.

Nevermind that both Right and Left positions are bollocks. (I spent 267 pages of my life proving that Nietzsche was the most interesting, uncredited Hegelian who transcended the left/right split nicely).

"As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy." Abraham Lincoln
[ Parent ]
reduction (none / 0) (#51)
by buridan on Sun Apr 01, 2001 at 09:53:56 AM EST

My intent was not to reduce his philosophy to this, but to reduce his logic to this. I concur that there is much more to Hegel than his logics, for instance there is the philosophy of right, a fine work of moral theory and statist doctrine. However, while I've read enough Hegel to give a somewhat authoritative account of his logic and political philosophy, I'm not a Hegel scholar by any means, nor do I plan to be.

[ Parent ]
KTB is a troll from Geekizoid -1 (1.17 / 34) (#19)
by 2400n81 on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 02:57:16 PM EST

yeah KTB is trollin again, trying to get a meaningless article to be modded +1 FP. it will be on the front page of Geekizoid tonight.

you would think K5 readers would actually read the damn article to see how lame it is.

kudos to KTB tho. he is pulling it off successfully.

Fundamentally flawed thesis (4.42 / 7) (#20)
by Anonymous 242 on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 03:07:28 PM EST

  1. /. has far, far less variety in the way of discussion material. To get an article posted on /., one has to grab the attention of one of a select group of individuals. At k5, anyone can (1) put an article into a public submission queue and (2) keep a diary. This means that k5 has much more variety in the way of articles.
  2. Kiss the Blade left rather unsupported the mistaken notion that /. has a wider variety in its posts. It is possible, but I doubt it. /. has a larger number of regular posters, which means that it will have a higher number of posts that qualify as being outside a given number of standard deviations. Whether this larger number of standard deviations actually provides more variety is unknown. I would only consider Kiss the Blade's thesis if an entire class of posts exists on /. that does not exist on k5. One only has to look through the diaries and the hidden comments to see that k5 has pretty much everything /. has, although perhaps in smaller quantity.
  3. See the editorial thread started by trhurler on how Kiss the Blade has misapplied Hegel's dialectic to /. and k5. Also see Simian's comment in a similiar thread.

I think the question about the quality of... (4.22 / 9) (#24)
by elenchos on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 03:48:48 PM EST

...the two sites is interesting, without regard to whether or not this summary of Hegel is accurate or not, or whether or not Hegel was a syphilitic raving lunatic.

My reason for avoiding Slashdot is that the noise level is too high, but I am getting sick of the ruts the K5 gets stuck in. There are only about four tribes on this site, with very little overlap between their memberships. These four tribes have the same arguments with each other over and over. And they all feel persecuted. They vote down each other's provacative stories by very close margins over and over. You often have almost as many FP's as -1's. What gets voted in most of the time is harmless pablum.

I am starting to think about ways of breaking out of this pattern. I don't want K5 to be like slashdot-- if I wanted slashdot I would go to slasdot. But I would really like this site to quit being so tight-assed and monomaniacal.


Get rid of story voting (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by Sunir on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 08:03:12 PM EST

Getting rid of story voting would likely be an necessary step in getting out of the ruts. The same people vote over and over again, which means the same groups vote over and over again. Since voting reinforces the majority opinion at the cost of the minority, only groups large enough to collectively out-vote minority opinions will win. Eventually, since the editorial bias of this site shines through, it chases away those with opposing opinions and attracts those with similar opinions. This reinforces the existing groupthink in that vicious cycle we all are familiar with. Instant clique.

There are solutions that will reduce this problem. One is to lower the magnitudes of the story post/dump thresholds. However, this will only create more cliques as groups with smaller numbers will be able to vote a story up. It will also allow groups with smaller numbers to vote a story down. I'm not sure whether this would succeed. Certainly increasing the threshold will only exacerbate the problem.

Other solutions are more democratic than voting. In order of empowerment:

  1. MeatBall:RatingGroups
  2. MeatBall:WebLogDigests
  3. MeatBall:ViewPoint
But with more empowerment, the further away from a single community--well, collective intelligence--you might get. This could be a good thing. Then again, it is more difficult to achieve one-text. But as I point out elsewhere, that isn't happening anyway. Besides, as it says on MeatBall:WebLogDigests, who cares? There will be mainstream views and alternative views; this could be a good thing.

On the other hand, it also gives people the opportunity to choose groups that they align with. This will also exacerbate the problem.

The underlying issue is that it's really cheap to switch from one feed to another. So, if you don't agree with one site, you can just jump to one you feel more comfortable with. This market force can't be dealt with easily in a (virtually) costless environment. One could present material that is 90% pallatable to couch the 10% disjunctive content. Peas in apple sauce. kuro5hin currently does this. Another way might be to become as valuable as you can make yourself (thus, biased), and let the reader choose the mix of feeds that suits her. I prefer the latter which is why I read Adbusters and Harvard Business Review, This! Magazine and Wired.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Satire warning (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by spaceghoti on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 08:32:12 PM EST

There you go, bringing class into it again!

Personally, I'm curious to see which "tribe" I belong to. This isn't a concept I've seen applied to the Kuro5hin community before.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Kuro5hin Survivor (4.25 / 4) (#33)
by Sunir on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 08:55:43 PM EST

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we shouldn't get rid of voting at all. Maybe we should have Kuro5hin Survivor!

Every day, each tribe will race to get a story posted to the front page. The first tribe that can fool the others into voting it up, wins. This is a difficult challenge, as accusations of trolldom, poor grammar, affiliation with Slashdot, Americanism, or the dreaded MLP label will sink anything but the most insiduously ludicrous stories. Double points if you manage to not bore the audience to death.

The winning tribe survives another day, but the losing tribes will each have to vote a member off the site. I guess they'd have to go back to Slashdot.

The eventual winner gets a date with Inoshiro.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Yipe! (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by spaceghoti on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 09:10:10 PM EST

Having not appreciated the Survivor series to begin with, that just gives me full-body shudders.

Unfortunately, your suggestion sparked my imagination. Suppose the Tribes get together to pick one member of an opposing tribe and mods down everything that member posts? The last tribe to maintain Trusted User status gets the date with Inoshiro. Or Rusty, if Inoshiro can't make it.

Of course, then you get into the sticky issue of multiple troll accounts and the like. How about we do things the civilized way and just blow each other up with nuclear warheads?

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

[ Parent ]
Hilarious (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by Keslin on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 02:18:48 AM EST

I very rarely rate comments, it's just not in me, I'm too conflict-averse or something. I just thought that the Kuro5hin Survivor idea was hilarious though, I had to mention it. I'm also curious to know if I belong to a tribe, and if so which one.

...and a date with Inoshiro. Mmmmmm....

-Keslin, the naked nerd girl.

[ Parent ]

Hmmm (4.00 / 1) (#37)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 05:27:17 AM EST

Firstly, I don't see Kuro5hin story rating the way you do. I'm not sure who the "four tribes" you refer to are, but as I see it, almost all stories from the queue that are tolerably well written, not directly insulting to anyone and have some actual content get posted in the end. Contrary to widespread belief, people with extreme opinions *usually* are insulting someone, rehashing something they read somewhere, or completely barking mad (and therefore indecipherable, or incoherent). What gets moderated up here represents a fairly broad (witness the fairly extreme pro and anti environmentalist posts that have all been voted up) spectrum of liberal (old sense) opinion. To get a story posted you need a fairly small (100 odd out of a few thousand) number to people to like it, and noone to hate it. Its not that demanding.

The alternatives that you're proposing seem to me to go in a counterproductive direction. You can't claim to have a community if everyone sees a different view filtered for their preconceptions. You need to have some sort of system for working towards a consensus on whats good and whats bad. Its not impossible - people have done it for thousands on years. There isn't "one text" here, but I think thats a *good* thing, not a reason to split up into thousands of little splinter groups each safely self-contained and isolated from everone else's opinions. I never learnt anything from someone who agreed with me.


If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Katz and consensus (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by Sunir on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 04:18:26 PM EST

You can't claim to have a community if everyone sees a different view filtered for their preconceptions.

Actually, you can for many reasons. One, there will always be a mainstream because people need to relate to each other. Popularity just doesn't disappear when people are given choices.

Actually, I think now that people have been given more choices they are getting angry, similarly to slaves that kill their liberators out of panic. Living your whole life having your world controlled for you and then suddenly having no one to support you is really scary.

My motto: there is no freedom, only responsibility. You aren't even free, you are just made responsible for decisions affecting your life. If you don't want to be responsible, you have to give up "freedom" to others who control it. The problem is that they often make inefficient decisions.

I don't think having someone pick what I should read is a bad thing, provided I get to choose that person. I currently have that choice on the web. I just go to a different site, as many have left Slashdot and came to kuro5hin. However, since online community proprietors have an obsession with larger audiences (possibly for advertising revenue), they need to satisfy this need for diversity on their site.

Furthermore, I don't believe that it dissolves community because there is still a communal base of information to draw upon. Think about how deep and wide the All Your Base slogan reached into online culture; certainly all those sites weren't edited by the same people. Similarly with many other important events and ideas.

Finally, due to cross pollination of one site to another, good ideas will flow from one edition to another. That's the way the world works. Gossip, baby.

Jon Katz wrote a good article on Slashdot today. Don't read the comments in reply to it. They are as lame as always.

You need to have some sort of system for working towards a consensus on whats good and whats bad.

Consensus is often not good. If my monitor hadn't burnt out yesterday, I would have written up MeatBall:HealthyConflict. If you have access to Harvard Business Review archives, you might want to read the article mentioned there or wait until I can write it up (in a couple days, I hope).

Voting is forced consensus. It's useful in that if everyone can agree to voting on a proposal at a certain date, it ensures decisions are made in finite time. However, voting over frivilous items is pointless. Often compromise is a better choice. In the case of filtering, sometimes it's better to give everyone what they want. It's cheaper that way.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Comparing apples to apples (4.70 / 17) (#35)
by jabber on Mon Mar 26, 2001 at 11:12:33 PM EST

I like apples. They're not my favorite fruit, but for the most part I like apples. There are particular varieties that I like more than others, but in general, I think that apples are pretty good.

Slashdot is very much like a Macintosh. It's soft and sweet, but after I have about half of it, it starts getting bland. Macintosh apples tend to rot quickly, and all too often, in my experience, from the inside out. There is nothing more unpleasant to a lover of apples than biting into what appears to be a particularly sweet and delectible specimen, only to pull back in disgust at a mouthful of brown mush. This is an all too frequent experience of mine on slashdot of late.

By far my favorite type of apple is the Red Delicious. It is firm and substantial. It is juicy and remarkably resilient to damage from individual bumps. It is cooling and envigorating to sink my teeth into a nice Red Delicious, and from today on, doing so will always remind me of a good Kuro5hin article. Sometimes, a Red Delicious is a little too firm, and a little on the tart side, and just like an unpolished article, it is not quite ready for consumption. The great thing about Red Delicious apples is that if one is not ready, you can set it aside for a day or two, and come back to a ripenned and tasty one. To keep the bitten area from getting brown on a Red Delicious, I recommend a sprinkling with lemon juice. For the same effect on K5, a liberal application to salt grains should do just as well.

Then there are other apples, which I like the taste of on occasion, but of which I am not a great big fan. There is the Plastic-like Maccoon, which to me has no taste and very little texture. There is the Granny Smith, which very much like Suck, makes you pucker with it's bitter acidity and can not be consumed in too great a quantity at one sitting, at the risk of becoming sick to one's stomach. There are the little oddball Crabapples that individual people have growing in their yards. These fruits, like private, individual weblogs, are usually only there for vanity and decorative purposes, but on occasion, you may find one worth visiting again and again, due to the occasionally sweet and juicy morsel.

Finally, beware wax, wood and plaster apples. These very often look as good as the real thing, but, like the corporate website and CNN message board, are only there to catch the eye with a contrived facade of life where there is none.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Variety is not the same as synthesis... (none / 0) (#48)
by ponos on Thu Mar 29, 2001 at 03:56:18 PM EST

I am not very familiar with the works of Hegel,
but I believe that "synthesis" does not really
have to do with many diffrerent things being
presented or compared but mostly with the
*conflict* that emerges between them.

Strong conflict contains powerful forces that
will produce a "synthesis" of ideas. Having a
zillion different stories that are not related
is not really "synthesis" and does not really
constitute opposition (=antithesis). In that
sense, Linux vs. Windows *is* a conflict and
produces synthesis (convergence of Linux and
Windows(*)). That is why I do not believe
that the variety of stories in Slashdot actually
matters much. It does not guarantee forceful
arguments and contrasts.

(*) Linux is changed by windows and vice versa.

-- Sum of Intelligence constant. Population increasing.
Moderation (none / 0) (#53)
by ogfomk on Sun Apr 01, 2001 at 04:18:25 PM EST

I wonder if I could moderate more posts than I do now? I confess that I plow through the moderations. I am looking for the hook to make me bite.
This is my opinion. I am not liable for any disclosed information.
Applying Hegel's Dialectic to Slashdot and Kuro5hin. | 53 comments (38 topical, 15 editorial, 1 hidden)
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