Searching for a Synthesis

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

  • Romans 5:9-11

“The notion of dialectic is central to what Hegel calls his immanent (internal) account of the development of things.  He declares that his account will guarantee four things.  First, that no assumptions are made.  Second, that only the broadest notions possible are employed, the better to avoid asserting anything without justification.  Third, that it shows how a general notion gives rise to other, more specific, notions.  Fourth, that this process happens entirely from “within” the notion itself.  This fourth requirement reveals the core of Hegel’s logic — namely that every notion, or “thesis”, contains within itself a contradiction, or “antithesis”. Which is only resolved by the emergence of a newer, richer notion, called a “synthesis”, from the original notion itself.  One consequence of this immanent process is that when we become aware of the synthesis, we realize that what we saw as earlier contradiction in the thesis was only an apparent contradiction one that was caused by some limitation in our understanding of the original notion.
“An example of this logical progression appears at the beginning of Hegel’s Science of Logic, where he introduces the most general and all-inclusive notion of ‘pure being’ — meaning anything that in any sense could be said to be.  He then shows that this concept contains a contradiction — namely, that it requires the opposite concept of ‘nothingness’ or ‘not-being’ for it to be fully understood.  Hegel then shows that this contradiction is simply a conflict between two aspects of a single, higher concept in which they find resolution.  In the case of ‘being’ and ‘not—being’, the concept that resolves them is “becoming.”  When we say that something “becomes”, we mean that it moves from a state of not—being to a state of being—so it turns out that the concept of ‘being’ that we started off with was not really a single concept at all, but merely one aspect of the three—part notion of ‘becoming.’  The vital point here is that the concept of ‘becoming’ is not introduced from ‘outside’, as it were, to resolve the contradiction between ‘being’ and ‘not—being.’  On the contrary, Hegel’s analysis shows that ‘becoming’ was always the meaning of ‘being’ and ‘not-being’, and that all we had to do was analyze these concepts to see their underlying logic.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

In thinking of the argument of ‘being’ or ‘not being’ as a contradiction that does not fit Hegel’s mold, Georg Hegel (1770-1831), ‘becoming’ works well as a synthesis to resolve the “contradiction.” But I wonder if that is how the pro-choice lawyers argued for abortion, that the unborn was in a state between ‘not being’ and ‘being’ and that in ‘becoming’ they were neither.  The argument is fallacious, wrong, and downright evil, but it seems evil works best in a fog of obfuscation.  Create enough confusion over the words being used and then you might get them to vote in favor of your plea.  It reminds me of the parable of the woman who continued to plead her case and it drove the judge to distraction and he heard her case, just to get rid of her.  Of course, Jesus told us the parable to encourage us to pray.

The book gave another example to illustrate the process.  The thesis was “tyranny.”  A logical antithesis might be “freedom.”  The proposed synthesis was “Law.”  That works to a point, but I find it unsatisfactory.  First, is the opposite of tyranny freedom?  Freedom from tyranny, but…  And if we can agree on those two concepts, if the tyrant is in control of the “Law” and the law always works in the tyrant’s favor, then “Law” is not a synthesis at all.  It does not resolve the “contradiction” between the thesis and the antithesis. Unless the only consideration is the tyrant.  It works well for the tyrant.

I apologize, but I must go off script.  I had taken a break for the evening meal and a shower and I came back to writing in the middle of the last paragraph.  Between the meal and the shower, my niece called, from a small town on the edge of the desert in west Texas.  She had been sick.  He was diagnosed with fluid in the pericardium.  She continued to work in spite of the pain and the coughing.  Then she ran a very high fever.  She has to go to a larger town in a couple of weeks to get treated, but she was sick from an infection now.  She was sent to the hospital, and they determined that the fluid in her pericardium had an infection.  She was sent home with steroids, strong antibiotics, and orders not to work for a few days.  When the doctor determined that she was not well, but well enough to go back to work, her boss told her that her hours were cut, her job was being advertised (fired if they found a replacement), and that her benefit of a room to stay in was revoked due to no longer being a fulltime employee, requiring more rent than the pay she would get due to reduced hours.

I could hardly get through a sentence or two about tyranny without feeling how hopeless the situation is.  My wife suggested that she hitch a ride to a larger town where there was more job openings and maybe stay at a homeless shelter until she could get a job.  Plus, the hospital there might be able to heal the other pericardium issue.  She is down to few options other than that.  We cannot help.  She already owes us money that we could not afford to lend her at the time.  And we are not physically able to help, even if we were not over 2,000 miles away.  Maybe a lawyer could see that her boss did not dot an “I” or cross a “T” but what puts food on the table until then?  I am all she has for a relative; the few other relatives will not answer the phone when she calls.  She has made bad decisions in the past, and no relative lives near where she is staying, staying there after being abandoned.

No.  A thousand times no.

The contradiction between tyranny and freedom is not the Law.  The Law lets you down, especially when her boss has done this before and knows how to work the system.

So, now, back to where this was going in my mind.

The Scripture above was chosen because it has two words in the quoted paragraph (Romans 5:9-11) relating to various forms of the word “reconciliation.”  What is a better word for a word meaning the resolution of a contradiction other than “reconciliation?”  I know; synthesis ends the same way as thesis and antithesis.  But as I read the passage from Romans, I saw a thesis “Holiness” and an antithesis “Sinfulness.”  Regardless of the impeccable logic of Georg Hegel, he could never produce a foolproof synthesis of anything that really mattered, but Jesus dying on the cross, represented by “Jesus” or “The Cross,” is possibly the only perfect synthesis.  Christ’s death washing our sinful bodies as white as snow.  In God’s eyes, we, who have Jesus in our hearts, are sinless.  The perfect resolution to the contradiction between Holiness and Sinfulness.

One added comment.  Would you pray for my niece?  Her initial is “C”. The photo above was taken a little over forty years ago, and the teen-ager at the table, on a picnic at Shiloh National Battlefield, is that niece. She had been abandoned then too, in a way, while her parents resolved their divorce. She stayed with my mother, who is talking to my wife while my sister and her husband were feeding the children at the table. Little did we know at the time how life would turn out.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. Prayer! Soli Deo Gloria

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your prayers. She is staying in the one-horse (maybe pony) town in Texas. A friend found her an adobe house that had been used as storage space. With the minimal rent, she can afford to live there on the reduced pay and the friend knows of other places that are hiring. And her heart testing is scheduled when she has a ride into the big city. Everything is shakey, but a lot better than a few days ago when I wrote this. God is good, all the time.


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