Present a detailed account of the organic theory of Hegel

The relation of the Absolute, the Whole to its parts like an organism – is the basic conception of Hegel’s philosophy. The conception of the relation between the parts and the whole in an organism is extended by Hegel to all truth and reality. Every truth or fact is dependent on and in turn helps to determine every other truth or fact. Since, everything is internally determined by its relation to every other thing, as opposed to Locke’s doctrine of externality of relations, this theory is called, ‘Organic theory of Truth and Reality’.

Hegel explains this organic theory of Truth and Reality with an example of a work of art. The meaning of a painting can be understood not by analysing the chemical constitution of the canvas, though the painting cannot exist without it. Nor, can we appreciate it by studying its each part, though each part has an artistic relation to the rest. It is part of a whole and the true significance of this whole is more than the addition of these different parts. The whole logically determines the character of each of the parts and in turn each part contributes to the whole. In the same way, the personality of man is determined not by what he is at present, but by the biologically inherited traits of his parents, influences of his relatives, teachers, playmates, associates, other individuals and human race itself. Not only that, even the planets on which he lives, which in turn is conditioned by the other heavenly bodies in the universe.

Life as a whole is conditioned by human society, which in turn is related to the entire universe. Thus Hegel concluded that universe becomes conscious of itself in the individual and considers the Absolute as the world in its unity and completeness. Hence, he opines that this Absolute is not beyond space and time, but it is in space and time, in its infinite, all embracing thought.

Hegel’s uniqueness is exhibited in the use of the terms – ‘Abstract’ and ‘Concrete’. He explains that understanding the functioning of a leaf in its relation to the tree or viewing the individual’s experiences as a member of the society is more ‘concrete’, while getting knowledge of a leaf by examining it under a microscope or regarding individual’s experiences depending on separate instances as ‘abstract’. That means, if we look at anything by itself apart from its relationship, we are looking at it ‘abstractly’ and on the contrary, if we consider it in its organic relationship, we view it ‘concretely’. Hegel claims that the absolute is wholly concrete Reality comprehended within a whole and not
something apart from other things.

(Source: BPY008/Block 4/Page 31)

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