The ‘Negation of Negation’

The idea of a dialectical ‘negation of negation’ sounds complex. For whatever reason, dialectical thinkers i.e. Hegel and so on, have perpetuated this stigma through very obscure authorship. However, at its most elementary form, the dialectical ‘negation of negation’ is quite simple to grasp.

Look at it from this perspective, our laws of nature are held together through a dialectical ‘negation of negation’. For example, the earth is continually trying to move itself away from the sun, and yet gravity holds it in orbit. Electrons try to fly away from the nucleus of an atom, but electromagnetism holds the atom together. So in a very real way, for the universe to function properly it requires the opposite. At a smaller scale, look at how our conversations function, one person speaks to another person, at some point the other interjects with a rebutle. Without the rebutle the conversation cannot continue. It’s the ‘negation of negation’ that keeps the conversation going. What’s important to notice is that this back and forth creates a dialectical spiral. Meaning the ideas of the conversation are moving either upwards or downwards throughout.

To be clear, the spiral that occurs during the ‘negation of negation’ can most assuredly lead to bad things. Capitalism is a fantastic example of a downward spiral created by our push back. I am bombarded daily with news stories of the so-called “left” fighting the poverty, oppression, and genicide created by the Empire. Yet, what we are failing to realize is that in our participation, we are only serving to keep the Empire functioning as it should. Slavoj Žižek has brilliantly stated that the most powerful thing we can do is to bow out. By choosing to disengage, we are now ending the conversation. We can see that capitalism has had major catastrophes during its reign, and yet it seems to only thrive and become more intertwined in our lives through these situations. It’s in our engagement that capitalism receives it’s ability to continue.

As Christians we see this disengagement from Christ himself. The idea of “turning the other cheek,” or “carry his bag an extra mile” is the most powerful thing we can do. What we see here is peaceful violence, which ultimately is our distruction of the ‘negation of negation’. We are allowing the earth to move away from the sun.


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