This comment was prompted by Taimur Rahman asking me to watch this video.

Taimur, you are certainly a very good and clear lecturer but I dont think that the lecture has made me any more sympathetic to the idea of contemporary students studying Hegel. Far from being a help it would , I think be a hinderence to their intellectual development.

The problem is that the whole edifice is the most awful mysticism and speculation. The very concepts that are being applied like being, nothingness and essence have no part in the scientific materialist understanding of reality. These ideas are not relied upon by any of the contemporary sciences.

No biologist thinks that there are essences, instead we know that species are characterised by common genetic codes, that the relationship between species is familial or inherited not one of logical characterisations. In other words the relationships come down to actual configurations of atoms in DNA and the comparative shared sequences in related species.

The idea that logic is something that nature has, is also quite misleading. Logic can only occur where matter is so configured as to perform logical operations, conjunctions, disjunctions negations etc. This is something that can be done by neural networks, by various electical and mechanical devices, and at a lower level by various enzymatic feedback relationships within cells. But that is because it is advantageous to the evolutionary survival of organisms to be able to react to their environment. To do this they must process information. This processing of information by neurons can, in certain cases, be approximated by a description in terms of boolean logical operations. So to a limited extent neural systems can implement logics, but describing them in terms of logic is actually very crude, a very poor approximation to what they do. A more sophisticated understanding would be in terms of matrix multiplication rather than simple logic.

I can not think of any instances in which a useful understanding of any real process can be well modeled by the sort of abstractions that Hegel employs.

We have so more tools to look at the world with developed in the last 200 years that to go back to 1820s would be a terrible retrograde step. The great danger is that young people’s minds will get stuck in a time warp, employing modes of thought that have long since been abandoned whilst in the process they ignore the concepts and threads of intellectual development that have led up to a modern scientific understanding.

The only useful point from Hegel in what you covered is the determino est negato point. But this is nothing specific to Hegel. Students at school level are introduced to this early on in the curriculum maths when they cover set theory and Venn diagrams. It is so much the common understanding of anyone who has been to high school that they hardly have to read Hegel.

If people are to understand a modern materialist outlook, and if they are to start that with philosophy then the starting point has to be Lucretius. Then move onto either Maxwell or Boltzman and get a grip on the concept of entropy. From that move onto the application of Boltzmanns concepts via Shannon in information theory, then Crick and Watson and the information revolution in our understanding of life. They should obviously read Darwin as well.

If you want to concentrate on logic the thinkers I would recomend would be Boole, Russell, Turing and perhaps Deutsch.