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The Cunning of Geist

Author: Greg Novak

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Gregory Novak explores philosophy, psychology, and science with an emphasis on Hegel. For seekers and scholars alike.
75 Episodes
Is philosophy just mental masturbation?  Nothing but air?Many today see no value in philosophy because there seems to be little agreement among philosophers on anything, and much of what they say seems to have little or no impact on one's life, or society in general.  Is this the case?An examination of the major pillars upon which society stands - political systems, the law, science, and its moral base - shows just the opposite.  Holding each of these institutions up is a philosophical position.  In most cases, these are stances that have been analyzed for over two thousand years by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and Hegel. As the 20th century demonstrated, the philosophy that nations choose to embrace can lead to the death of millions. And as citizens of the world, we do not have to blindly accept the doctrines that are handed us. We can, as Steve Job said, "change it, influence it, mold it."  This episode shows the major impact philosophy has had on all aspects of life.  Support the show
The behaviorism of B.F. Skinner took the psychology world by storm.  His 1971 book "Beyond Freedom and Dignity" was hailed as the most important psychological publication of the 20th century.  And this was from someone who denied mind and free will. It was an attempt to dignify psychology as a hard science, based on experiments and what can be observed, rather than what people think or feel, a direct contradiction to the root meaning of word psychology - "a study of mind."  He claimed that reason, values, concepts,  judgment, and purpose simply do not exist.  To him, all actions are based on conditioning. Hegel laid the groundwork for the unconscious, calling it soul, and saying it is from what consciousness itself comes.  Famed psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung built on this with their brilliant conceptions - the reality of the unconscious mind on Freud's part and the collective unconscious from Jung.  This episode discusses all this as well as Novak's personal interactions with Skinnerism in the university setting of the early 1970s. Support the show
Developing one's own philosophy of life can be one of the most rewarding experiences. ll can serve as the basis for a productive and happy experience in this world.  What many don’t realize is that our beliefs, values, and actions are based on a grounding in a particular philosophy, whether we understand it or not. Examining the underpinnings of our concept of self and the world can be a fruitful exercise. It is better to actively choose one's philosophy of life rather than have it handed to us by others, or by unconsciously absorbing it from the environment of family and friends.  The default position often produces conflicting and random direction, which can lead to doubt, frustration, a lack of fulfillment, and loss of meaning in one's life. This podcast episode demonstrates how we are handed a philosophical outlook starting in childhood, continuing through our education, and examines the current paradigms upon which this pedagogy is based. It discusses key philosophical questions that should be actively pondered, and dives into current topics such as sexual orientation, political affiliation, identity groups, and individualism vs. collectivism. Lastly it is shown how many of the casual cliches we use in speaking are actually statements of profound philosophical positions.Support the show
This episode explores psychologist Carl Jung's conception of the psyche, from the ego and the persona it shows to the world, down through the personal  and collective shadow, finally reaching the two core archetypes of the collective unconscious - the anima and the animus.  This fundamental polarity is seen in myths and narratives throughout the ages, including the yin/yang symbol, heaven and earth of the Bible, Hegel's being and nothing, and even the left and right brain hemispheres, with it two distinct approaches to thinking.While this polarity is often expressed as masculine/feminine, it is not dependent on the body, but on a host of psychological attributes that differ in their application.  The anima is more receptive, social, and connecting, whereas the animus is more divisive and abstract.   The aspects we identify with and put forward mean their opposites are kept below in the unconscious.  But both sides exist in all of us, whether implicit or explicit.  This episode explores the collective unconscious from several standpoints, including the mystical tree of life from the Kabbalah.  Support the show
The duality of Mind and Body has been debated for millennia.  This has resulted in two polarized camps - Realists vs. Idealists.  Realists contend that there is a world existing out there whether we are here or not, whether we are observing it or not, whether we are thinking about it or not.  Idealists contend that ultimately only Mind exists, and the physical world around us is just an illusion, an unreal fantasy of the Mind.But there is a third camp.  Many mistakenly classify Hegel as an Idealist,  However, he actually proposed a tripartite system with Mind and Nature coming together and evolving in one process of Becoming.  He referred to this as the historical advance of Spirit.  Interestingly, Bergson postulated a way that Mind and Body are linked through perception and memory.  As did Jung, with his collective unconscious.  This episode explores this topic in depth.    Support the show
Can't we all just get along?  The world today is increasing fractious.  The Electronic Age has fueled a return to tribalism, as the individualistic linear emphasis of the print age gave way to finding identity though emotionally connected groups.  And these groups are often based more on hatred of the "other" than on what they stand for themselves. What can be done?  As Hegel and others have pointed out, it starts with a recognition of Spirit within us all.  A freedom that humans alone can call their own.  And without this recognition in others, we cannot know it is within us.  This episode reviews the issue from different standpoints, include a look at the Lordship/Bondage and Beautiful Soul portions of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, as well as Žižek's Hegelian take on forgiveness. Support the show
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google parent company Alphabet, has said  that artificial intelligence (AI) could have a more profound effect on humanity than fire and electricity.   Quite a statement.New AI technologies are being produced, Including ChatGPT, that are conversational and can write better and communicate more clearly than most people.  And they provide fast, almost immediate, answers to any question.  While it is has not yet been perfected, and flaws have been noticed, the question has been raised as to whether such programs can self-learn on their own, and program themselves.  And importantly, when fully developed, whether they should be considered conscious entities.  Like a human being.   There seems to be two camps here. One group believes that it AI is just an algorithm at the end of day, and does not possess anything beyond the information and formulas put into it by the programmers.  The other group feels we are on the verge of a creating a digital super intelligence, a digital god. What has philosophy and psychology to say about this?  This episode explores. Support the show
The great psychologist Carl Jung was a leading pioneer in psychological type analysis.  In fact, he coined the terms "extrovert" and "introvert."  His work spawned a whole industry of personality analysis which is as strong today as ever.  And key to his psychological type system was his recognition of Intuition, or the "small still voice within."  This function has direct correspondence to Hegel's notion of Spirit.  In a 1933 lecture on proto-psychologists in philosophy, Jung thought that had a scientific study of psychology existed back in Hegel’s time, Hegel would probably have been a psychologist.   This episode reviews Jung's work, relates it to Hegel, and offer a new dimension based on Jung's work - the Creative/Receptive.  Support the show
Biologist Richard Dawkins is the poster child for the materialist doctrine and the new atheism.  His paradigm boils down to a mechanical replicator, that somehow appeared by chance, which no one can explain how (a miracle?), that goes by the name "gene."  He sees us all as mere robots, zombies, propagating the gene's replication.  The materialist doctrine stands on three assumptions - that all is matter, that the laws of nature are fixed, with us from the beginning, and that there is no inherent purpose in matter.  While this may be true for matter, what about Mind? Materialists use their doctrine as a sword against religion and philosophy.  Yet their paradigm is misguided.  There is a huge difference between being true and not being proven false.  Hegel showed how matter and mind are combined, both a part of Geist, Spirit, and are one fundamentally.  This episode explores the many problems with the pure materialist doctrine. Support the show
19th century Danish theologian and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was a towering figure not only in philosophy and religion, but in psychology as well.  He is commonly considered to be the father of Existentialism, with the importance he place on individual subjectivity in finding meaning and truth.  He was also a fierce critic of Hegel.  By examining the differences between the two, one can hopefully see the distinctiveness of each.  This podcast episode will examine two main themes of Kierkegaard, that of subjectivity and the "leap of faith," to show where some commonalities exist, where their difference was a matter of emphasis, and where there exists an unbridgeable gap between the two.  I hope to show how their differences cannot be reduced to the old "individual vs. society" or "head vs. the heart" debate; but what I believe to be a faulty/incomplete portrayal of Hegel's philosophy by Kierkegaard.  Support the show
America went through a profound spiritual awakening in the 19th century, most commonly referred to as "New Thought."  Many leaders at this time credited Hegel  for laying the groundwork.  This episode explores several of the early developments in America, but such movements have also occurred across the globe at different times in various cultures. And there are many themes of this movement that echo Hegel, including: - There exists Infinite Intelligence, or the Absolute Idea as Hegel calls it,  - There is divinity or Spirit within each person,  - Mind and Nature are linked in Spirit, - Aligning your thoughts with Spirit is beneficial to oneself and the world, - Progress of Spirit in the world is historical. This New Thought movement continues today in various forms and incarnations the world over, and it has never been stronger.  And Hegel was one of its earliest pioneers.  But there is still much work to do.  This episode explores. Support the show
Free speech is of course linked to freedom.  And freedom is the cornerstone of Hegel's philosophy.  Today free speech is an issue with respect to social media platforms, which are used by literally billions of people over the world.  Yes billions.  And who exactly controls what can be said on these platforms?  Up to now it has been a handful of executives.  And some claim that free speech has been curtailed to a degree favoring the views of these executives.  Most nation-states have laws that govern the limits of free speech, such as libel, fraud, incitement, and sedition.  Do these laws apply the Internet?  Hegel had things to say about free speech.  In his Elements of the Philosophy of Right he discusses it, and notes that it is the state that gives freedom to individuals, and if the state is destroyed, so is freedom, including free speech.  But he saw the problems inherent in democracies of competing factions.  And these problems are still being worked out some 200 years later.This episode explores the issues surrounding free speech from an historical, philosophical, and Hegelian point of view, in light of the new Internet environment. Support the show
The word "spirit" has so many connotations. Per the thesaurus: character, courage, energy, enthusiasm, essence, heart, humor, life, mood, morale, quality, resolve, temperament, vigor, vitality, warmth, and will. Hegel had a different interpretation: God.  And he said it as clear as day.  He defines God as the timeless Absolute Idea, the idea of ideas, self-thinking thought.  But it doesn't end there.  The Absolute Idea freely others itself in Nature, and enters this finite world as Spirit.  It does so to become actual, real, not just abstract truth.  This episode reviews the etymology of the word "spirit" across different cultures - Greek, Latin, Hebrew, even Proto-Indo-European, up to the present day.  And then explores how spirit relates to Hegel's tripartite system, and finds its fulfillment in what Hegel calls True Infinity.  Support the show
The term "paradigm "and "paradigm shift" were made famous by Thomas Kuhn in his landmark 1962 book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". Steven Covey describes a paradigm as "frames of reference, worldviews, . . through which we see everyone and everything, including ourselves.  . They affect the way we interpret what we see and experience, and how we interact and relate with others.”The current naturalistic materialism paradigm of science (and much of the educated world) is beginning to show anomalies, particular in physics where the micro does not jibe with the marco.  And quantum physics itself does not have a consistently accepted theory underlying it. Hegel's philosophy has been called "a total system of the world, which included not only physics and the sciences, religion, ethics, but even a history of the world; . .  It was truly a theory of everything— We could really say this was the last great system,” (T. Cahoone).  Does Hegel's framework represent the true paradigm we should be moving toward?  This episode explores. Support the show
Hegel saw the Absolute metaphorically as a "circle of circles" (SL, pg. 842, Miller trans.).  He also said philosophy itself "forms a circle" (PR, Wood, ed.,  Nisbet trans., pg. 26, ¶2).Yet religions sees a creation event in our past, and modern science has embraced the Big Bang as the beginning of it all.  The universe is expanding and current theories show an eventual fizzle out into a "heat death."  Nothing will survive.  The end.  Full stop. Yet there is another scientific theory, proposed by Nobel prize winning physicist Roger Penrose, that suggests that this is all part of a cyclical process.  From the "death" of the finite universe a state of "infinity" will be reached and a new Big Bang will emerge.  Any correspondence here to Hegel's circle?  This episode explores.  Support the show
It is said that French philosopher Henri Bergson was the best known philosopher in his day during the early 20th century.  In fact, when giving a lecture in New York City, he caused the first traffic jam the city had ever seen.  Although presently he is less prominent, there was much reason for his positive perception back then in philosophy circles. His concepts of duration, intuition, élan vital, and memory took on the established determinism of the day.  And Bergsonism is just as relevant as ever, as unfortunately naturalistic materialism remains the solidly entrenched dominant position.  He was even one of the very few philosophers bold enough to broach the subject of comedy (Hegel also bravely ventured into this territory as well).  All this is reviewed in the current episode.  Plus some thoughts on Bergson by my comedian daughter Jacqueline. Support the show
To me, the goal of meditation is to escape the left-brain world of analyzing, breaking things down, either/or judgmental thinking, and to get in touch with life itself.   Thoughts tend to come to the foreground, but there remains a background.  In meditation, thoughts can be viewed like passing clouds in the sky, and the goal is to experience the sky, and not get hung up on the clouds. The notion of Being and Nothing is central to Hegel's philosophy.  And Hegel is clear - focusing on just "being" and not "nothingness" as well, misses the point.  Becoming is the truth, which contains both being and nothing as moments.  For Being to "be there" (determinate) it must contain both notions.   The goal of meditation is not to ignore or eliminate being, or thought.  It is just to spend some time each day to quietly sense the complete picture, both the sky and the clouds.   This episode explores meditation from this standpoint, with commentary on Buddhism as well, noting that equating Buddhism with a nihilism of pure nothingness is a mistake.  Support the show
"Becoming" is addressed very early in Hegel's Science of Logic.  And it provides a foundation for all that follows in his project.  But the concept of becoming is much more than an abstract philosophical term.  It is the foundation of growth, evolution, and all development processes.  Nietzsche recognized how important Hegel’s concept of becoming was.  Hegel of course preceded Darwin,  and Nietzsche knew that Hegel, with his notion of becoming, had planted the seed for the idea of evolution among European thinkers when he claimed “No Hegel, no Darwin” (Gay Science §357),  And Nietzsche goes on in same page to say that the notion of becoming, as a process of conceptual development, is a superior notion to just looking at "what is” in isolation.  This has direct correspondence to the left brain/right brain dichotomy discussed here so often.  As well as to the meanings of the German words "verstand" (common understanding) and "vernunft" (holistic reasoning).  This episode explores Hegel's notion of "becoming" from several standpoints. Support the show
"Good and evil" is a core philosophic and religious issue.  Perhaps the most important issue.  Where did this concept originate?  Why do we often see God, or Karma, as seeking  retribution and causing our misfortunes?The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is one of the oldest, if not the oldest myth out there to explain what is going on.  And there are two different takes on this.  Traditional religion says, in the Old Testament, that our eating of the forbidden fruit is the cause of our separation from God; and if one believes in the New Testament, Jesus was the reconciliation and now we were forgiven. But Hegel has a different interpretation.  This episode explores.  Support the show
Is it easier to do Sunday's crossword puzzle on Monday morning?  If so, the Collective Memory may be the reason.  Many believe minds are joined at a very deep level.  Hegel taught that "Substance is Subject."  Not only minds but matter as well.  But Hegel's project is more:  subject is also Spirit, and Spirit is an historical process.  Enter Memory.This episode explores memory from several standpoints in addition to Hegel 's - Plato's reincarnation and anamnesis, Jung's collective unconscious, Theosophy's Akashic records, and Rupert Sheldrake's morphic resonance.  Support the show
Comments (2)

Granny InSanDiego

This analysis would be better conducted using Thucydides as a guide. The US fears China. It sent agents to Ukraine to foment the Maidan revolution which overthrew the duly elected government and resulted in Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea. The US will soon celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine which established its sphere of influence as being the whole western hemisphere, all of North and South America. If Mexico decided to join a military alliance with Mexico, what would the US do? How long would it be before the US invaded Mexico? The same situation exists for Russia which has every reason to fear US aggression. That is why it invaded Ukraine. NATO is a driving force for war. Without war it has no need to exist. It is an arm of US hegemony which, like all hegemonies before it, is waning. Ukraine will be seen as a major policy blunder of the US. It shows US and EU weakness as it has unified China, Russia, India, and Iran who defy US sanctions and are work

Apr 29th
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