<philosophy, history of philosophy, philosophical inquiry> process of thinking by means of dialogue, discussion, debate, or argument. In ancient Greece, the term was used literally. Parmenides and the other Eleatics used such methods to defend paradoxical claims about the natural world. Dialectic is questioning and conversation for Socrates, but Plato regarded it as a systematic method for studying the Forms of suprasensible reality. Although he frequently employed dialectical methods in his own writing, Aristotle maintained that it is inferior to the careful logical reasoning that aims at theoretical knowledge (Gk. epistÍmÍ). German philosophers of the modern era applied the term "dialectic" only to more narrowly-defined patterns of thinking. Thus, Kant's "Transcendental Dialectic" is an attempt to show the general futility of abstract metaphysical speculation, but dialectic is, for Hegel, the fundamental process of development - in both thought and reality - from thesis to antithesis to synthesis. Recommended Reading: F. E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon (NYU, 1967); Francisco J. Gonzalez, Dialectic and Dialogue: Plato's Practice of Philosophical Inquiry (Northwestern, 1998); Hans-Georg Gadamer, Dialogue and Dialectic: Eight Hermeneutical Studies on Plato, tr. by P. Christopher Smith (Yale, 1983); Howard P. Kainz, Paradox, Dialectic, and System: A Contemporary Reconstruction of the Hegelian Problematic (Penn. State, 1988); Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hegel's Dialectic, tr. by P. Christopher Smith (Yale, 1982); and Richard Norman and Sean Sayers, Hegel, Marx and Dialectic: A Debate (Humanities, 1980).
[A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names]
<logic, metaphysics, marxian dialectical materialism> <political theory, philosophy of history> for Hegel, a logical progression from thesis (established order), through (alienated) antithesis, to synthesis (more inclusive order); then the process is repeated, synthesis becomes thesis and gives rise to a new contradiction, or antithesis; ever upward, on to more and more inclusive orders; thus does the Absolute Spirit progress. Hegel's dialectic was "turned off its head, on which it was standing, and placed upon its feet" (Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Part IV) by Karl Marx. Marxian dialectical materialism holds that society progresses through a series of stages -- from Feudalism to Capitalism to Communism -- by a dialectical progression fueled by class conflict between the owners or ruling class (under Capitalism, the bourgeois) the excluded (ruled or dispossessed) class (under Capitalism, proletarians).
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