Contrary to popular belief, Hegel’s dialectic has nothing to do with “thesis, antithesis, synthesis.” The characteristic pattern is rather:
- Consciousness: one experiences, thinks, and acts according to habit, custom, or instinct;
- Self-consciousness: one becomes aware of one’s habits, customs, or instincts, leading to irony, discomfort, conflict, and creativity;
- Reason: One chooses a particular way of thinking and being.
The cycle can repeat if one realizes that what looked like “reason” was, from a more distant perspective, an arbitrary choice.
I studied Hegel long ago and have found his structure widely applicable. Only lately have I paid serious attention to the thinker we call the Buddha. A characteristic pattern for him is:
- Suffering: the experience of all sentient beings, which inevitably includes frustration, fear, pain, and loss;
- Attachment: suffering that arises from wanting something that one cannot control (and often from knowing that what one wants cannot be had);
- Cessation of suffering, which arises from renouncing attachment;
- Equanimity, which is not complete dis-attachment or lack of concern but rather deliberate engagement with the world without a futile sense of frustration.
The parallels seem to me interesting and fruitful, although not exact.