Michael TranProfessor Bo MouAsian PhilosophyJanuary 18, 2018Yin Yang and The Hegelian ModelThe Yin-Yang model of thinking, as well as the Hegelian model, offer important ways to look at specific issues in philosophy. Although these models have important, and surprising (given the cultural and historical differences in which they arose) points of overlap, they nonetheless offer different insights as well. The Yin-Yang way of thinking, along with the Hegelian model, works to illuminate public events as well as philosophical issues. Beginning with an explication of each of these models, this essay focuses on the current public issue of capitalism and income inequality as a means of showing the perspectives and guiding principles of each of these philosophies.The Yin-Yang is a philosophical approach from Asia. Dating back as far as 770 BCE (Wang). What does this philosophy entail? “…three basic themes underlie nearly all deployments of the concept in Chinese philosophy: (1) yinyang as the coherent fabric of nature and mind, exhibited in all existence, (2) yinyang as jiao (interaction) between the waxing and waning of the cosmic and human realms, and (3) yinyang as a process of harmonization ensuring a constant, dynamic balance of all things” (Wang). Therefore, this is a philosophy in which the yinyang represents the matter that flows through the world, and a continuing, continuously constructed relationship between the material and the immaterial worlds. It promotes balance and equality, and sees those as essential to the universe.The relationship of the yin-yang is a bit complicated but, “According to this interpretation, yin and yang are seen as qi (in both yin and yang forms) operating in the universe” (Wang). The Yin and Yang, therefore, constitute the qi of the universe, and they “…flow within the natural as well as the human worlds…thus qi, a force arising from the interplay between yin and yang, becomes a context in which yinyang is seated and functions. Yinyang as qi provides an explanation of the beginning of the universe and serves as a building block…” (Wang). However, other schools of thought within the Yin-Yang also hold that the Yin-Yang is also a concrete substance, in which yixing and yanxing “…define everything in the universe” (Wang).In the west, however, the Yin-Yang is often reduced to the symbol. This symbol is thought to represent the astrological symbols of Yin-Yang and their interrelationship with the universe. The symbol balances light and dark, with neither being fully “pure” within the symbol. The implication is that both forces constantly make and remake each another, and that both constitutes a small amount of the other. The two constantly change each other and existence is impossible without both of them. When an imbalance occurs, it transitions back to balance. This philosophy has been central to Asian thought for millennia.In contrast, the works of Hegel are much more recent. The Hegelian dialectic is, in some ways, rather similar to the YinYang in that it conceives of a duality or dichotomy. That is, it conceives of a Being and of its opposite, Nothing (Maybee). Hegel believes that logic has three “moments” (Maybee). “The first moment—the moment of the understanding—is the moment of fixity, in which concepts or forms have a seemingly stable definition or determination” (Maybee). This has become known as the “thesis;” it is essentially a hegemony in which a specific understanding is part of everyday life (Hegel). The thesis is the governing assumption that underlies things: It is the being, the ontological fact that is understood as concrete and immutable.The second moment is defined by its instability: “In this moment, a one-sidedness or restrictedness…in the determination from the moment of understanding comes to the fore, and the determination that was fixed in the first moment passes into its opposite” (Maybee). Hegel’s view is that at this point, the antithesis will occur because of the reaction to or backlash against the thesis (Hegel). Thus, the dialectical occurs as a sublation, that is, “…a process in which the determination from the moment of understanding sublates itself, or both cancels and preserves itself, as it pushes on to or passes into its opposite” (Maybee). The thing that is the opposite of the thing causes a transformation into the opposite. The antithesis could be understood, for example, within the context of the French Revolution, in which the thesis of the Ancien Régime divided the nation into three estates, which defined someone’s role within society. The antithesis occurred in the Revolution, in which this system experienced enormous upheaval. Eventually, however, the pendulum swung back in the third movement of Hegelian logic.The third moment, also known as the synthesis, “…grasps the unity of the opposition between the first two determinations, or is the positive result of the dissolution or transition of those determinations” (Maybee). Hegel uses this opportunity to rail against traditional logical arguments of reduction ad absurdum, emphasizing that this type of “skepticism” (Hegel §79) is too focused on nothingness, thus distracting from facts related to the relationship of the nothingness from its result (Hegel §79). The synthesis is an approach to the situation that emphasizes integrating new concepts into a thesis, rather than rejecting them outright on the basis of logic. The synthesis is a function of integrating new ideas as well as the existing facts into the thesis.Considering the concepts of being and nothingness in both Yin-yang as well as in Hegel, it is clear that both are dualistic philosophies that attempt to use this duality to understand the nature of being. The key differences are how Hegel and the Yin-yang divides the world. Hegel divides the world into being and nothingness and that Yin-Yang divides it into yin and yang, the Hegelian model is articulated through a three-step process, while the Yin-Yang model asserts that these concepts flow through the universe through one universalizing process. Hegel deals more so with logic and the Yin-Yang more with intuition and being, and the interrelatedness of this ontological project.Both of these approaches can be integrated into a discussion or understanding of many current topics. The idea of capitalism was a revolutionary one at first: A focus on economics and on economic instruments led to financial markets, which in turn facilitated complex economic structures to develop. The prior system of the world, which was largely based on subsistence, fell away. Now, however, capitalism has led to many serious problems. Income inequality and global warming are just two of these problems, and critics have charged that capitalism, which has become a thesis, is responsible for global warming. Critics argue that the First World’s benefits are highly concentrated among a very small group of people and causing a majority of people to suffer in obscurity (Klein). Others claim that the assumptions of the market economy and capitalism, which rely on infinite and eternal growth, are deeply harmful – as well as unrealistic, and that capitalism always creates problematic inequality (Piketty).Thus, there has been a major backlash against capitalism in the past few years. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement, for example, involved a challenge to American capitalist hegemony, and drew significant attention to the problem of inequality by camping out at iconic centers of capitalism. The idea was to make visible the vast inequality in America by disrupting the symbolic centers of this system (Komlik), Hegel would certainly have much to say about this situation. The hegemony of capitalism dominates the world as a thesis, and so a backlash has begun with many people claiming that capitalism is benefiting few and harming many. These arguments cause people to ignore or downplay the many benefits that capitalism has indeed brought to people. At present, it could be said that the world is in an antithesis period. The backlash against American inequality, as seen in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, would certainly fall into the category of “antithesis” reacting against the thesis of capitalism. Yet a synthesis might represent a compromise of an approach, one in which the totalizing thesis of capitalism has been balanced with the need for a strong safety net.From a yin-yang approach to the situation, however, the Hegelian approach seems to be modestly altered to evaluate and analyze this situation. Since the yin-yang approach focuses on being as expressed in multiple forms, constantly waxing and waning, one might consider the current situation of income inequality as one in which there is a transition at place. There needs to be harmonization “…ensuring a constant, dynamic balance of all things” (Wang). A yin-yang specialist might note that capitalism and income inequality have led to a situation in which there needs to be a harmonization, as the balance in the universe has been upset. The harmonization is occurring through the backlash against this type of capitalism, and it has thus underscored the transition of energy. The Qi in the universe is out of balance because of this inequality, and so something must be corrected through actions or changes. The growth of awareness pertaining to income inequality is one symptom of that.Both of these schools of thought offer salient insight into how change can be understood in life as well as in society. These philosophies attempt to account for the state of being, or, in other words, ontology. The philosophies described refer to a variety of approaches to reality, and in understanding the flow of change in that reality. For the Yin-Yang philosophers, this approach refers to a central, flowing balance reinforcing universality and unity in the world; for others, it refers to a dynamic of change in which assumptions are continually and cyclically reevaluated and challenged. The result, of course, is that both viewpoints favor a universe that is bending towards balance and that is fundamentally self-correcting through specific processes of either harmonization or of dialectical actions. This can work on an individual or on a social basis. The ultimate result, of course, is an approach to the world that sees it as being in constant flux, and as a world that tends to self-correct when it is out of balance. Both approaches understand the world differently and spring from very different cultural, historical, and philosophical moments. However, the similarities between these two schools of philosophy may be somewhat surprising.When it comes to the issue of global income inequality and the dominance of capitalism, it may appear to be clear that there is a correction or change in the works. The changes that are occurring are in line with both Western Enlightenment-era philosophy as well as with ancient Asian philosophy. The reaction against income inequality is therefore unsurprising, and eventually the world will move back into some kind of balance. Although the current situation of income inequality and the torment of the poor while the rich show utter indifference may reflect a tragedy, it is nonetheless a necessary step towards a balanced world.Works CitedHegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Phenomenology of Spirit. Translated by A.V. Miller, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998.Klein, Naomi. “Let Them Drown The Violence of Othering in a Warming World.” London Review of Books, 2016, https://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n11/naomi-klein/let-them-drown.Komlik, Oleg. “The Original Email That Started Occupy Wall Street.” EconomicSociology.org, 2014, https://economicsociology.org/2014/12/27/the-original-email-that-started-occupy-wall-street/.Maybee, Julie E. “Hegel’s Dialectics.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2016.Piketty, Thomas. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Harvard University Press, 2014.Wang, Robin R. “Yinyang (Yin-Yang).” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Pub, 2017, http://www.iep.utm.edu/yinyang/.