Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis.
Mention these three words together, and you unlock the accursed genie that is the Hegelian Dialectic. Rising from the mystic ashes of ancient philosophy, the Hegelian promises riches beyond comprehension for those who follow his three-step process towards resolving conflict.
You only have to turn a blind eye to how the other half lives.
Hegelian Dialectic—which, interestingly enough, didn’t even come from Hegel himself—is a Linear process of solving problems. A truth, or problem, is introduced. An alternate truth, or Antithesis, enters the scene to maximize conflict. And then the resulting solution, or Synthesis, finds a third truth that takes the best of both to resolve the original problem.
Classic Linear, cause and effect problem-solving.
The Holistic mind takes a different approach. Seeing inequities instead of problems, and equities instead of solutions, the Holistic deals in the consistent application of balance.
Watch, as the vaulted genie-us of the Hegelian dissipates into the ether.
My series on The Holistic Premise addresses that train of thought wherein the wheels never stop turning. The Linear believes in the Solution—the resolution that permits one to move on, knowing the problem to be “solved.” The Holistic realizes problems themselves are manufactured within the mind and that nothing is ever solved, it’s only balanced for the time being.
I read your article about holistic premises and watched your writer’s room session, and it made me think about the Hegellian notion of the Dialectic and whether that might apply to Dramatica from the holistic standpoint – that we have thesis (problem), antithesis (solution), and that what you’re calling balance (which to me sort of implies just sticking them on a linear scale and going halfway between) might be thought of as synthesis – finding a way to forge a new perspective from the two?
This would be a Linear interpretation of balance—that there is a scale that exists between the two and once the perfect balance point is found (a synthesis), then all potential is resolved, and a solution has been found.
The Holistic knows there is never a real synthesis, but rather a constant cycle of growth and rebirth, continuous attention applied to balancing out inequities that are never truly solved.
I’d argue that they are solved but that every new balance (the synthesis that becomes the next thesis) creates the necessary preconditions for its own antithesis.
The Linear mind needs to argue that problems are solved because it can’t function without the recognition of problem and solution.
This is, in part, where “mansplaining” comes from: the Linear-minded person interrupts the Holistic because it believes that what the Holistic is seeing is somehow inaccurate or insufficient, when what they’re seeing is, in fact, what they’re actually seeing.
The Linear mind sees problems that are solved; the Holistic sees inequities that are met with equities. Neither is more right than the other, but indicative of a baseline for appreciating conflict.
The structure of a story must know the baseline of the mind of the story because it affects the order of concerns in a narrative. If you see everything as a problem that needs to be fixed, you’re going to go about solving that in a completely different way than someone who sees everything as an imbalance requiring balance.
I hear you about the scale being a Linear interpretation of balance. However you wouldn’t think of a Hegellian synthesis as being finding a point on that scale.
And neither would the Holistic in the process of resolving an inequity—as that point on the scale doesn’t exist for the mind that thinks that way. There are no points to the Holistic account, only waves.
A classic example is the notion of early childhood, where doing everything your parents say is the necessary normal state (the thesis = obedience). You become a teenager and begin to resent the oppressive nature of parental control and so rebel against everything they say (antithesis = rebellion). It’s only in becoming an when you reconcile the two oppositions – not through balancing “some” passive acceptance with “some” automatic rebellion, but through the realization that you require true independence which neither involves obedience nor rebellion (synthesis = independence).
So rebellion is the linear response to control, but independence is the synthesis that emerges from the clash of those two forces.
A synthesis is still a Linear-minded approach to solving a conflict. Both perspectives are evaluated separately for rightness—if one is right, or more right, than the other than that perspective is the solution. If neither is correct, then balance is the solution. If balance doesn’t work, then neither can exist.
Every thought process is an if…then statement—a primary function found in any programming language (even the most basic of programming language, BASIC).
It’s neither the Linear Dramatica move from one to the other nor finding a balance point on that scale, but rather the solution which removes the existence of the conflict (and in doing so, introduces a new thesis which will one day meet its antithesis as the cycles of growth and conflict continue – as you state below.)
Linear in Dramatica refers to the process that sees conflict as a problem to be solved. Moving from Problem to Solution is Linear. Finding a balance point on a scale is Linear. Finding a Solution that removes the existence of conflict is Linear.
The Holistic can never remove the existence of conflict because inequity always exists. It’s merely a matter of how much or how little.
The Matrix, which is structured with this Holistic approach to conflict, doesn’t serve up an account of synthesis—Neo hasn’t become one with his doubts and his beliefs. But he has become one with the overall balance between the two and can literally shape his world accordingly.
I always thought what was going on with the Matrix was:
Thesis: We are waiting for “The One” Antithesis: Neo isn’t actually “The One” (when he meets the nice old lady in her house or whatever and she says he’s not the one) Synthesis: Neo wasn’t The One until he became The One.
So both thesis and antithesis were wrong until Neo changed and made both of them true.
Another way to look at the narrative conflict within The Matrix, one that is closer to the foundational structure of the film, is to see it as a juggling back and forth between Faith and Disbelief.
The Oracle wasn’t wrong. She was only confirming what Neo already disbelieved. And Morpheus wasn’t wrong either. His belief that Neo was the One was right. Both positions are self-evident as appropriate throughout the film. And we experience the movie as a mind that seeks balance in all and sees all would when facing a similar inequity.
My previous article The Holistic Experience of Watching The Matrix shares an account of what it feels like when you take everything in at once. No judgments. No evaluations. No problems and no solutions. Only the flow of allowing one position in after the other and then back again.
You know that feeling of frustration you sometimes get when someone close to you won’t just do what they should to solve the problems in their lives?
That’s often someone comfortable with Holistic problem-solving—a method of problem-solving that doesn’t recognize the problem, nor the potential solution.
The “solution” for the story inequity is about synthesizing the two opposing forces into a new perspective rather than either picking one or the other or merely compromising between them.
The balance of inequities for the Holistic mind is also not a compromise. Holistic thinkers do not compromise. They don’t give this for that, and any suggestion that services rendered are an exchange for goods offends as it suggests some obligation supplants the growth of the relationship.
The Holistic is never at ease with forcing two into one, only at ease with a shift in direction that increases the flow of communication.
To the Holistic mind, there is no real Solution that solves it all—only an Intention. Neo doesn’t believe at the end, he is only “beginning to believe.” This Intention to balance out his disbelief with a personal truth sets the mind in a different direction—opening it up to receive whatever various sort of inequities that suggest an alternate path.
In a Changed Resolve/Holistic Minded story, the Main Character intends to balance out the inequity of their Throughline with an equitable element. That’s why in future versions of the theory, you’re likely to see Problem and Solution within Holistic stories adjusted to reflect their real purpose: Inequity and Intention.
The Dramatica theory of story is a holistic appreciation of narrative structure—which is to say that the relationship between Storypoints is as equally important as the structural concerns themselves. The theory develops in the way that all dynamic relationships do, by shifting back and forth, appreciating the lack of a specific solution.
Like the genie who emerged to grant untold fortune, the writer tied to the Hegelian Dialectic is trapped—trapped in the bottle of cause and effect and Linear methods of problem-solving, unable to see the totality of the world around them. Rich, but rich with an even higher cost. Whereas those swayed by the Siren Song of a centuries-old philosophy shackle themselves to ancient knowledge as if truth, the writer familiar with Dramatica appreciates the need for further thought, and if needed—a change in direction.