Hegelian Dialectic

Last month, I mentioned that the debate over Proposition 8 in California reminded me of Hegelian dialectic.1 But what is this strange sounding concept?

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel by Jakob SchlesingerHegelian dialectic is named after Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a German idealist who lived between 1770 and 1831. Dialectic is a method of persuasive argument and a form of logic.

Hegel believed that the “State is absolutely rational . . . . and has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State.”2 In other words, Hegel was a statist who believed the individual existed for the state – a view contrary to the vision of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

According to Wikipedia:

Hegelian dialectic, usually presented a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis. This model is named after Hegel but he himself never used such a formulation and denounced such ways of thinking.3

A visual diagram of this process can be seen at The Calverton School’s The Hegelian Dialectic.4 Basically, Hegel believed that history unfolds as a thesis is countered by an antithesis. Through persuasive argument, a synthesis is created which becomes a new thesis, countered by – you guessed it – an antithesis. This process continues until an “absolute idea” is created for which an antithesis cannot be formulated. Thus, society continues to progress toward’s Hegel’s ideal state.

Hegel’s Dialectic Appropriated by Marx and Engels
Karl Marx

What’s the big deal you say?

In the mid-19th century, the concept of “dialectic” was appropriated by Marx (see, for example, Das Kapital, published in 1867) and Engels and retooled in a non-idealist manner, becoming a crucial notion in their philosophy of dialectical materialism. Thus this concept has played a prominent role on the world stage and in world history.5

Karl Marx essentially joined Hegelian dialectic to materialism to create a process used for revolutionary social change in order to develop the ideal “classless and stateless” society called communism.

Dialectical Materialism is the philosophy of Karl Marx which he formulated by taking the dialectic of Hegel and joining it to the Materialism of Feuerback, extracting from it a concept of progress in terms of the contradictory, interacting forces called the thesis and antithesis, culminating at a critical nodal point where one overthrows the other, giving rise to the synthesis, and applying it to the history of social development and deriving therefrom an essentially revolutionary concept of social change.6

Hegelian Dialectic and Proposition 8

When Proposition 8 was originally submitted for ballot by petitioners, it was titled “The California Marriage Protection Act.” In November 2007, California’s Attorney General Jerry Brown changed the title¬† to “Limit on Marriage. Constitutional Amendment.” After the measure qualified for the general election, Brown changed the title again – this time to “Eliminates Rights of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.” Later, the Superior Court of California rejected a challenge to change the title back to the original because the California Supreme Court had already given gays the right to marry.

Throughout this whole ordeal – and even after the ballot was passed when Attorney General Jerry Brown urged the high court to let Prop. 8 take effect – it should not be too difficult to see Hegelian dialectic at work. By seemingly pitting one group against another and apparently changing his position on this issue, Mr. Brown is really just working towards creating an antithesis/synthesis to create revolutionary social change ala Marx and Engels.

War and Conflict

According to the late Dr. Antony C. Sutton, Hegelian dialectic has also been used as a tactic to create war and revolution – “managed conflict” – throughout the world.7 Dr. Sutton suggested that this Marxist philosophy was at work in 1917′s Bolshevik Revolution, the rise of Hitler in pre-WWII Germany, and WWII.

Additional Sources

For additional information about the pervasive use of Hegelian dialectic see What is the Hegelian Dialectic? by Nikki Raapana and Nordica Friedrich, Glasnost-Perestroika: A Model Potemkin Village by Steve Montgomery, and L.A. Detective Phil Worts’ Communist (Community) Oriented Policing. You may be shocked at how prevalent this tactic has become in American society and politics.

From a religious perspective, since prophecy is fulfilled by natural means, perhaps this is one of the means whereby the following statement by the Lord has been and will continue to be fulfilled:

And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place. (D&C 87:2).


  1. See Proposition 8 – The Best Gift Video. See also Nibley on the Redistribution of Wealth as another, albeit limited, example.
  2. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Philosophy of Right. Trans. S. W. Dyde. Kitchener, Ontario: Batoche Books, 2001. For a PDF of this book, see Philosophy of Right at McMaster University. 22 November 2008.
  3. “Hegelian Dialectic”. Wikipedia. 22 November 2008.
  4. 4 Sep 2012 Update: This diagram is no longer available.
  5. “Dialectic”. Wikipedia. 22 November 2008.
  6. “Dialectical Materialism”. Wikipedia. 22 November 2008.
  7. See Skull and Bones.

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