I have thought on and off about a question I long to read Hegel and Whitehead to further enlighten myself about–because I have only read some Whitehead and little Hegel, and yet I wonder if there ideas might be close to mine or at least enrich mine. I am not claiming to be that great a philosopher, but I always did want to be a philosopher and not just a writer; I longed to “capture God,” as V-ger wanted to in Star Trek I: The Motion Picture. I admit, I am more of a theological bent than I think Gene Rodenberry was, but I still want to create my own philosophy, however imperfect, of God.
So it is that I begin where another Blog left off. It claimed that the Paradox at the Heart of Scripture and the best Literature is one and the same: the way things ought to be (which I will call the Ideal) and the way things appear to be in reality (which I will call the Material). I call the second the Material and not the Real because the Ideal is real, and moreover I hope to work out some day the relationship between God and the “Ideal.”
For the moment, however, I will only say that humankind tries to explain and shape the Material by its understanding of the Ideal. It does so even in scripture, in which God and Moses are the great Lawgivers. Yet the Ideal transcends the Law: some Laws are changed or modified in later Rabbinic Thought to make them closer to the Ideal. Yet as Whitehead discussed in his Adventures of Ideas, Freedom, for instance, begins as an idea until it is made into reality by humankind. He claimed that Roman slaves longed to be free and Christianity spoke to this longing, because it gave them the hope that in the Afterlife they would be free. Whitehead suggested that in the West—and it has largely happened, however today we are having relapses—would eventually become free. True, he lacked the insight that this freedom might spread to places like China, India, and Africa.
Yet what his insight does see is that the Ideal could be part of an unfolding History—to me the efforts of God to create a Just and Humane Society for Humankind. Yet this does leave the question of why the Good Society has not come about—or why our society, which has at times approached the Good Society, is having severe relapses.
I have heard people speak contemptuously of a writer I read in college, Francis Fukuyama. I don’t really blame them: the Muslim author of Destiny Disrupted probably wondered where Muslims fit into the Great Dreams that are still conjured up by the West, and Walter Bruggeman probably is right that his views are a trifle chauvinistic in Theology of the Old Testament. Yet without being heartless they ignore the appeal of the book: it claims that there really could be a future age when human beings are prosperous, peaceful and free. This is the Hope present in Isaiah and the other “Old Testament” prophets. If we ignore it, we ignore some what is most moving about the Jewish faith (and I hope the Christian and Muslim ones). That is why, though I am not planning to read Fukuyama again, I want to read the real Hegel… and not just Whitehead or Marx (the latter of whom stole some of Hegel’s ideas while reworking them in an atheist fashion). I believe in Hegel’s talk of “thesis-antithesis-synthesis” he may speak movingly about those prophecies that did not come true and also the “Ideal,” (the vision of a future world of Justice and Peace).