"Contradiction is the rule of the true."—G.W.F. Hegel
by Clark Butler
Idealistic Studies, vol. 15, no. 2, pages 121-135
Ontological Historical Materialism. The Hegel-Marx relationship remains an issue both for Hegel scholars aware of underlying world historical causes of the recent Hegel Renaissance and Marx scholars attentive to the philosophical roots of Marxism. It may be questioned, however, whether the relation is merely historical and circumstantial or necessary and internal as well. Marx claimed to have overturned the Hegelian system.1 Yet the classical formula, according to which Marxism shares with Hegelianism its method but not its system, that the Hegelian system contradicts the dialectical methodology it shares with Marxism2 has exercised wide influence. On numerous issues, e.g., the state, the universal class, the alienation of labor, Hegelian and Marxist doctrines are admittedly not only different but contradictory. To this extent Engels’s classical formula is correct. But surely the more important consideration is method, though doctrine has so overshadowed methodological considerations in both Marxism and Hegelianism that it has been rare to define either school except in terms of specific tenets. Doctrinal definition of any movement resembles a death warrant. If either Marxism or Hegelianism is scientific and thus capable of breaking loose from nineteenth-century chains, it must be defined methodologically, programmatically. Contrary to Engels’s formula, I shall distinguish between Marxist and Hegelian methods, but shall argue that the methods are not only compatible but complementary.