Can anybody simplify Hegel's theory of alienation?

This is a tough one but I’ll give it a shot….

My understanding of Hegel here is that, in order for consciousness to understand itself, it enters into an ongoing synthesis of self-discovery. This self-discovery occurs through first observing an object “outside” itself, then realizing that the object is really a subjective conception of that object, and then realizing that, via experience, a sort of confirmation of the subjective conception can then be verified or negated. Once experience moderates the subjective conception of an object, an objective understanding of that object becomes a bit more real…a bit more objectively concrete. This dialectical synthesis of subject-object relations is thus the process whereby consciousness can ultimately recognize its own functions…and by implication can recognize itself as an object as well. So, through experience, consciousness advances closer and closer to an “absolute” understanding of the subject-object relationship, inclusive of its own subject-object existence.

What is alienation, then? Alienation would be not understanding the process as just described - whereby consciousness is alienated from both a more accurate understanding of its own function, a more accurate understanding of the world in which it exists, and a more accurate understanding of the dynamic relationship between the two. In this way spirit is also alienated from material existence. Can consciousness ever completely overcome this hurdle? Hegel indicates several milestones in its progress, but I seem to recall he also indicates the process is ongoing. It also appears evident that consciousness isn’t always aware of its various levels of alienation…and that becoming aware is not only a healthy part of our growth, but that deliberately invoking alienation (as when consciousness objectifies itself) is a means of achieving greater understanding. The key, it would seem, is for us to remember our previous errors in understanding (i.e. our misunderstanding of the stimulative subject-object interaction), and continually moving to the next horizon of dialectical awareness. And of course all of this is cradled within a unitive spirit, which continually supports and integrates the interplay of subject and object.

Now this dialectic can also be applied to cultural development and our context of “self” within society, so that culture itself evolves to support more and more complete self-realization with a more unitive aspect (with the self becoming less differentiated from others), thereby (ideally) alleviating alienation in both individual consciousness and society. This is what Marx then took and ran with in advancing his own variations on history and human value.

So…I don’t think that was terribly simple, but perhaps it will help. Please let me know if it does.

From Quora post:


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