Image result for dialectic reversal


Dialectics are a formal system of reasoning examining opposing ideas through the exchange of logical ideas in order to find the truth.

From Old French dialectique, from Late Latin dialectica, from Ancient Greek διαλεκτική (dialektikḗ, the art of argument through interactive questioning and answering), from διαλεκτικός (dialektikós, relating to dialogue), from διαλέγομαι (dialégomai, to participate in a dialogue), from διά (diá, through, across) + λέγειν (légein, to speak).

dialectic (plural dialectics)

  1. Any formal system of reasoning that arrives at a truth by the exchange of logical arguments.
  2. A contradiction of ideas that serves as the determining factor in their interaction.
    This situation created the inner dialectic of American history.
  3. (Marxism) Progress of conflict, especially class conflict.


The Essential Dialectic of Dialectics is:

{Opposites-Antinomies ⇆ Antinomies-Opposites ⇵ Opposites-Opposites} ↻ Antinomies-Antinomies

The Essential Dialectic of Dialectics is the Intraobjective, Interobjective, Intersubjective, Intrasubjective Dialectic because ….


The primordial and paradigmatic opposition is the unity of subject and object: The unity of subject and object, in which we are all caught up, is also so evidently a state of opposition that it functions as the primal intuition upon which the validity of any paradoxical or dialectical logic is based. The category of S/O unity is susceptible to its initial and primordial differentiation on the basis of three possibilities regarding the emphasis on S and O, respectively. These three possibilities can represented graphically as O = S, S = O, and (O = S) = (S = O);
– Kainz, Howard Paradox, Dialectic, and System pgs 46

O = S: This is the schema or formula that summarizes the paradoxical notion that being is thoughtthe notion that in Western philosophy was originally and enigmatically formulated by Parmenides, who tells us that it is the same thing to be and to be thought. Perhaps the most illustrative contemporary application of Parmenides’ basic insight is to be found in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which give evidence that the entities or states or affairs we examine are to a great extent dependent upon the theories, procedures, and instruments we employ in the examination of them. This principle […] has been applied primarily to microscopic phenomena, but it is not limited to such phenomena.
– Kainz, Howard Paradox, Dialectic, and System pgs 46

Unless it is a system, a philosophy is not a scientific production. Unsystematic philosophizing can only be expected to give expression to personal peculiarities of mind, and has no principle for the regulation of its contents. Apart from their interdependence and organic union, the truths of philosophy are valueless, and must then be treated as baseless hypothesis, or personal convictions. Yet many philosophical treatises confine themselves to such an exposition of the opinions and sentiments of the author.
Hegel Minor Logic ?14

S = O: This formula encapsulates the revolutionary insight of Descartes, that thinking is existence. Perhaps the paradigmatic contemporary application of this insight is to be found in psychoanalytic theories, which portray the conscious and free decisions and acts of human beings as manifestations of latent or repressed residues existing in some individual or collective “unconscious.”
– Kainz, Howard Paradox, Dialectic, and System pgs 46-47

(O = S) = (S = O): This shorthand expression, which is a kind of dialectical synthesis of [2.441] and [2.442] above, has both a first-order and a second-order significance:
– Kainz, Howard Paradox, Dialectic, and System pgs 47

As a first-order synthesis, it is typified most concretely by language, in which subject and object meet in a special and unique way, and in which all the problems attendant upon this meeting seem to converge. For language is a paradoxical unity of external and internal, sound or symbol and conceptual meaning; the cause of paradoxes (grammatical); the solution to paradoxes (because it can be used as an instrument to designate and pinpoint identities and the differences that make paradox what it is); and the greatest obstacle to the solution both of verbal or logical paradoxes and of philosophical paradoxes (because of entrenched conventions, and the fact that language, science, and the function of analysis, as opposed to synthesis, have been accidentally intertwined).
– Kainz, Howard Paradox, Dialectic, and System pgs 47

In its second-order significance, finally, the above formula gives us an interesting example of the way that dialectical synthesis differs from the sort of synthetic combination that might emerge on the level of ordinary logic. For if we take into account the translations of S = O and O = S that were given above, we might take the third and longer formula, (O = S) = (S = O), to refer simply to some synthesis of organisms and consciousness, or perhaps of evolution and unconscious drives. But this would not be a dialectical synthesis, because it would not transcend its own initial levels of oppositions. Rather, the formula takes us into a different level entirely (i.e., the level of language), which does not appear arbitrarily (it does presuppose both the organic sphere and the sphere of consciousness, but does more than just fuse the opposites that is presupposed). For language alters the nature of opposition and both defuses and intensifies the opposition which it “synthesis.”
– Kainz, Howard Paradox, Dialectic, and System pgs 47-48
Subject and object are only one. The barrier between them cannot be said to have broken down as a result of recent experience in the physical sciences, for this barrier does not exist.
-Erwin Schroedinger, What is Life? and Mind and Matter (London: Cambridge University,1964 ), p.62
Since the Self, which is pure Consciousness, cognizes everything, it is the Ultimate Seer. All the rest: ego, mind, body, etc. are merely its objects; so each of them except the Self or pure Consciousness is a merely externalized object and cannot be the true Seer. Since the Self cannot be objectified, not being cognized by anything else, and since the Self is the Seer seeing all else, the subject-object relation and apparent subjectivity of the Self exist only on the plane of relativity and vanish in the Absolute. There is in truth no other than the Self, which is neither the seer nor the seen, and is not involved as subject or object.
-Arthur Osborne, The Collected Works Ramana Maharshi (London: 1959) p.25
There can be an object in the sense of ob-ject only where man becomes a subject, where the subject becomes the ego and the ego becomes ego cogito, only where this cogitare is conceived in its essence as the “original synthetic unity of transcendental apperception,” only where the apex for “logic” is attained (in truth as the certainty of the “I think”). Here the being of the object first reveals itself in its objectivity. Here it first becomes possible and, as a consequence, unavoidable to understand objectivity itself as “the new true object” and to think it unconditionally.

Subjectivity, object and reflection belong together. Only when reflection as such is experienced, namely, as the supporting relation to beings, only then can Being be determined objectively.
-Heidegger, Martin The End of Philosophy p.97


“Plato believed the dialectic was the sole method by which truth was arrived at.  The only one.” – Robert Zen Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance pg 366.

“Plato compares the good dialectician to the skillful cook who carves the animal without breaking its bones by following the articulations marked out by nature.” – Henri Bergson Creative Evolution pg 156.

Hegel’s best description of his dialectic method in Part I of his Encyclopaedia Logic. Hegel says the dialectic method has three sides or moments which are moments of “every logical concept”, as well as “of everything true in general”.

  1. First Moment—the moment of the understanding—is the moment of fixity, in which concepts or forms have a seemingly stable definition or determination.
  2. Second Moment—the “dialectical” or “negatively rational” moment—is the moment of instability. In this moment, the one-sidedness in the determination that was fixed passes into its opposite. Hegel describes this process as one of “self-sublation” or “aufheben” , which means to simultaneously cancel and preserve.
  3. Third Moment—the “speculative” or “positively rational” moment—grasps the unity of the opposition between the first two determinations and/or is the positive result of the dissolution or transition of those determinations. It rejects the traditional logical premise that arguments leading to a contradiction must be discarded.

When the result “is taken as the result of that from which it emerges”, Hegel says, then it is “in fact, the true result; in that case it is itself a determinate nothingness, one which has a content” or, as he says, “because the result, the negation, is a determinate negation it has a content”.  Hegel’s dialectic method is often described as one of “determinate negation”.

For an excellent overview of Hegelian Dialectics, visit the entry Hegel’s Dialectics on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website.


The Complete Dialectic of Dialectic Formulas is:

{Absolute-Recoil ⇆ Antinomies ⇅ Contradictions} ↻ Conincidentia-Oppositorum

As Hegel stated, his dialectical method rises above the arbitrariness of Plato’s dialectics to the level of a genuine science for at least the following reasons.

  1. Necessity: because the determinations in the moment of understanding sublate themselves, the movement to new determinations is necessarily driven by the nature of the earlier determinations. This sense of necessity—the idea that the method involves being forced from earlier moments to later ones—leads Hegel to regard his dialectics as a kind of logic. As he says in the Phenomenology, the method’s “proper exposition belongs to logic”. Necessity—the sense of being driven or forced to conclusions—is the hallmark of “logic” in Western philosophy.
  2. Immanence: in Hegel’s dialectics “nothing extraneous is introduced”. Hegel’s dialectics are driven by the nature, immanence or “inwardness” of its own content. As Hegel puts it, dialectics is “the principle through which alone immanent coherence and necessity enter into the content of science”.
  3. Universality: because the determination in the speculative moment grasps the unity of the first two moments, Hegel’s dialectical method leads to concepts or forms that are increasingly comprehensive and universal. Later concepts both determine and also surpass the limits or finitude of earlier concepts, or as Hegel says, “that is what everything finite is: its own sublation” and, “all genuine, nonexternal elevation above the finite is to be found in this principle [of dialectics]”. Dialectics thus allows us to get beyond the finite to the universal. .
  4. Completeness: because the dialectical process leads to increasing comprehensiveness and universality, it ultimately produces a complete series, or drives “to completion”. Dialectics drives to the “ABSOLUTE”, to use Hegel’s term, which is the last, final, and completely all-encompassing or unconditioned concept or form. The ABSOLUTE CONCEPT or FORM is unconditioned because its definition or determination contains all the other concepts or forms that were developed earlier in the dialectical process for that subject matter. The ABSOLUTE is thus unconditioned because it contains all of the conditions in its content, and is not conditioned by anything else outside of it. This ABSOLUTE is the highest CONCEPT or FORM of universality for that subject matter. It is the thought or concept of the whole conceptual system for the relevant subject matter.


The Equivalency Dialectic of Dialectics is:

{Dialectics ⇆ Formulas ⇅ Dialecticians} ↻ Exemplars

As in today’s formal logic,  whether or not dialectic logic counts as logical almost exclusively on the degree to which we are forced—necessarily—from earlier stages or series of stages to later stages. Debate over whether dialectic logic is logical may be fueled in part by discomfort with a particular brand of logic, which, unlike today’s symbolic logic, is not only syntactic, but also semantic and phenomenological.

While some of the moves from dialectic stage to stage are driven by syntactic necessity, other moves are driven by the meanings of the concepts and phenomenological factors.

  1. Syntactic Necessity: sometimes a move from one dialectic stage to the next is driven by a syntactic need—the need to stop an endless, back-and-forth process, for instance, or to take a new path after all the current options have been exhausted. Since most logicians are usually only familiar with modern logics which are focused almost exclusively on syntax, or the relationship of concepts to one another, they may regard dialectic logic, which is also focused on semantic meanings and phenomenological factors too, as not really logical.
  2. Semantic Meanings: sometimes a dialectic move from one stage to the next is driven by the meaning of a concept, such as the concept of a “This” or “Thing”. A logic that deals only with the forms of logical arguments and not the meanings of the concepts used in those argument forms will do no better in terms of preserving truth than the old adage ‘garbage in, garbage out’. A logic that defines concepts (semantics) as well as their relationships with one another (syntax) shows how concepts can be combined into meaningful forms.
  3. Phenomenological Factors: sometimes a dialectic move to another stage or series of stages is driven by a phenomenological need or necessity—by requirements of consciousness, or by the fact that the phenomenology is about a consciousness that claims to be aware of (or to know) something. The logic of phenomenology is thus a phenomeno-logic, or a logic driven by logic—syntax and semantics—and by phenomenological considerations.

7.1 “Far from ‘denying the validity of logic’, dialectical logic intends to rescue logic by bridging the gap between laws of thought and those governing reality – a gap which is itself the result of the historical development.  Dialectical logic attempts to accomplish this task by bringing the two manifestations of reality to their actual common denominator, namely, history.”  – Herbert Marcuse Studies in Critical Philosophy pg 206 – 207.


8.1 “The negative for Hegel is by no means some kind of lack or privation, but is the moving power of the whole dialectical process.  The power of the negative allows nothing to remain in one-sided fixity.  It negates the thing in its limited one-sidedness, preserves it in its essential being and elevates it to a more comprehensive level of reality.” – Joan Stambaugh Impermanence is Buddha-Nature pg. 79.

8.2 “The dialectical process receives its motive power from the pressure to overcome the negativity.  Dialectics is a process in a world where the mode of existence of men and things is made up of contradictory relations, so that any particular content can be unfolded only through passing into its opposite.  The latter is an integral part of the former, and the whole content is the totality of all contradictory relations implied in it.” – Herbert Marcuse Reason and Revolution; Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory pg 66-67.

8.3 “Hegel himself distinguishes between negative and positive dialectics.  By positive dialectics he understands the growth of a particular content, the elucidation of a concrete totality.  In the process, however, we find that he almost always advances from the determinants of reflection to the positive dialectics even though his conception of nature, for example, as “otherness”, as the idea in a state of “being external to itself” directly precludes a positive dialectics. (It is here that we can find one of the theoretical sources for the frequently artificial constructs of his philosophy of nature.)  Nevertheless, Hegel does perceive clearly at times that the dialectics of nature can never become anything more exalted that a dialectics of movement witnesses by the detached observer, as the subject cannot be integrated into the dialectical process, at least not at the stage reached hitherto.  Thus he emphasis that Zeno’s antinomies reached the same level as those of Kant, with the implication that it is not possible to go any higher.” – Georg Lukacs History and Class Consciousness pg. 207.

8.4 Only with Dialectic Science Theory has the dialectic process reached a stage within which the subject, or detached observer of natural science, can integrated.

Ever since Parmenides – the father of dialectics – enunciated the equivocation of being and thought, the dialectic of being (ontology) and knowing (epistemology) has been the metaphysics at the center of Western philosophy. Descartes – the father of modern philosophy –  advanced the dialectic of being and thought into modernity with his famous cogito ergo sum (I think therefor I am, i.e. thinking therefore being).

Edmond Husserl self consciously (pun intended) canceled and preserved, or transcended and included, Descartes’ cogito ergo sum within a transcendental subjectivity, thereby grounding the thought and being of postmodernity in the transcendental ego.  Husserl famously failed in his project of making phenomenology the sciences of sciences because of the dialectic necessity at that stage of dialectic development of grounding phenomenology in the transcendental ego.

Now with the historical development of dialectics to a stage which integrates the subject, Husserl’s project can become a success since the Ontotheological Event  will be the new Archimedean point for the antemodern or ABSOLUTE AGE.

10.1 “Archimedes, that he might transport the entire globe from the place it occupied to another, demanded only a point that was firm and immovable; so also, I shall be entitled to entertain the highest expectations, if I am fortunate enough to discover only on thing that is certain and indubitable.

I suppose, accordingly, that all the things which I see are false (fictitious); I believe that none of those objects which my fallacious memory represents ever existed; I suppose that I possess no senses; I believe my body, figure, extension, motion, and place are merely fictions of my mind.  What is there, then, that can be esteemed true?  Perhaps this only, that there is absolutely nothing certain.

But how do I know that there is not something different altogether from the objects I have no enumerated, of which it is impossible to entertain the slightest doubt?  Is there not a God, or some being, by whatever name I may designate him, who causes these thoughts to arise in my mind?  But why suppose such a being, for it may be I myself am capable of producing them?  Am I, then, at least not something?  But I before denied that I possessed senses or a body; I hesitate, however, for what follows from that?  Am I so dependent on the body and the sense that without these I cannot exist?  But I had the persuasion that there was absolutely nothing in the world, that there was no sky and no earth, neither minds nor bodies; was I not, therefore, at the same time, persuaded that I did not exist?  Far from it; I assuredly existed, since I was persuaded.  But there is I know not what being, who is possessed at once of the highest power and the deepest cunning, who is constantly employing all his ingenuity in deceiving me.  Doubtless, the, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something.  So that it must, in fine, be maintained, all things being maturely and carefully considered, that this proposition (pronunciatum) I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind.” -Renee Descartes Discourse On Method pg. 78-79.

1. Cogito Sum Ergo Sum

2.1 An axiom is a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement necessarily contained in all others, whether any particular speaker chooses to identify it or not. An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.

2.2Certainly, ‘dialectic’ is a magnificent thing.  But one never finds the dialectic, as if it were a mill which exists somewhere […].  Dialectic stands and falls with the matter itself, just as Hegel took it up as the matter of philosophy.” – Martin Heidegger Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit pg. 112.

2.3 “The dialectical method derives all concrete determinations from one comprehensive principle, which is the principle of the actual development of the subject-matter itself.  The various states, qualities, and conditions of the subject-matter must appear as its own positive unfolded content.  Nothing can be added from outside (any given fact, for instance).  Dialectical development is not ‘the external activity of subjective thought,’ but the objective history of the real itself.

Hegel is consequently able to say that in dialectical philosophy it is ‘not we who frame the notions,’ but that their formulation is rather an objective development that we only produce.” – Herbert Marcuse Reason and Revolution; Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory.  pg 158.

Dialectic formulas symbolically express the dialectic movements or moments between any two phenomena or variables. Although Hegel’s dialectic method only usually identifies three dialectic moments, there are in fact necessarily always four:

  1. First Moment—the moment of determination—is the moment in which the initial concept, variable or phenomena is identified and determined.
  2. Second Moment—the moment of sublation—is the moment in which the initial one-sided determination faces opposition and passes over into its own opposite. The process of this second moment was identified by Hegel as one of “self-sublation” or “aufheben”, which means to simultaneously cancel and preserve.
  3. Third Moment—the moment of negation—is the moment in which the sublation of the initial determination and its opposite are negated. In this moment the negation of the determinate and its opposition form what is referred to as a ‘determinate negation’.
  4. Fourth Moment—the moment of affirmation—is the final moment in which the ‘determinate negation’ is itself negated. This final fourth moment was not identified by Hegel in his dialectic method, therefor this ‘negation of the negation’ is often incorrectly confused with the negation in the third moment.

Read more about dialectic formulas on the Formulas page.


Logically, the dialectic has its beginning when human understanding finds itself unable to grasp something adequately from its given qualitative or quantitative forms.  The given quality or quantity seems to be a ‘negation’ of the thing that possess this quality or quantity.”[1]

There is no more adequate example of the formation of the dialectical notion than Marx’s concept of capitalism.  Just as Hegel, in accordance with the doctrine that the notion is an antagonistic totality, declares it ‘impossible and absurd to frame the truth in such forms as positive judgment or judgment in general,’ Marx, too, repudiates any definitions that fix the truth in a final body of propositions.  The concept of capitalism is no less than the totality of the capitalist process, comprehended in the ‘principle’ by which it progresses.  The notion of capitalism starts with the separation of the actual producers form the means of production, resulting in the establishment of free labor and the appropriation of surplus value, which, with the development of technology, brings about the accumulation and centralization of capital, the progressive decline of the rate of profit, and the breakdown of the entire system.  The notion of capitalism is not less than the three volumes of Capital, just as Hegel’s notion of the notion comprises all three books of his Science of Logic.

Moreover, the notion constitutes a ‘negative totality,’ which evolves only by virtue of its contradictory forces.  The negative aspects of reality are thus not ‘disturbances’ or weak spots within a harmonious whole, but the very conditions that expose the structure and tendencies of realty.[2]

– Popper’s rejection of dialectics is not incidental: an anti-dialectical logic is essential to his argument.  It is so because dialectical logic is throughout permeated with what he designates as ‘historicism’: its methods and its notions are shaped in accordance with the historical structure of reality.  Far from ‘denying the validity of logic’, dialectical logic intends to rescue logic by bridging the gap between laws of thought and those governing reality – a gap which is itself the result of the historical development.  Dialectical logic attempts to accomplish this task by bringing the two manifestations of reality to their actual common denominator, namely, history.  In its metaphysical form, this is also the core of Hegel’s dialectic: Subject and Object, Mind and Nature – the two traditional ‘substances’ – are from the beginning conceived as an antagonistic unity, and the universe the concrete development of their interrelation.  This undertaking involved a redefinition of the forms and categories of traditional logic: they lost their mode of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ‘either-or’ and assumed that ‘ambiguous’, dynamic, even contradictory character which makes them so ridiculous to the protagonists of purity but which correspond so closely to reality.  The realistic character of dialectical thought comes to fruition in the interpretation of history.  The latter may best be illustrated contrasting it with Popper’s view that historians are interested in ‘actual, singular, or specific events, rather than in laws or generalizations‘.  In contrast to the opposition between ‘singular’ and ‘law’, ‘specific’ and ‘general’ expressed Popper’s statement, the dialectical conception holds that the actual, specific, singular event becomes comprehensible only if it is understood as constituted by the ‘general’ is something very concrete and demonstrable, namely the society in which the specific events occur at a specific stage of its development.  The dialectical notion of historical laws implies no other ‘destiny’ than that which men create for themselves under the conditions of unmastered nature and society.  The less a society is rationally organized and directed by the collective efforts of free men, the more it will appear as an independent whole governed by ‘inexorable’ laws.  The manner in which men explain and exploit nature, and the societal institutions and relationships which they give themselves are actual and specific historical events, but events which occur on a ground already prepared, on a base already built.  Once institutionalized, each society has its framework of potentialities defining the scope and direction of change.  Historical determinism has freedom as a constitutive element: the latter is defined and confined by the ‘whole’ -but the whole can be (and constantly is) redefined, so much so that the historical process cannot even be regarded as irreversible.  There are ‘laws’, there is historical logic in the sequence of ancient slave society, feudalism, ‘free’ industrial capitalism, state capitalism and contemporary socialism: one emerges within the other and develops, under the prevalent conditions, its own laws of functioning as a whole system of material and intellectual culture – a demonstrable ‘unity’.  However, these very laws do not allow predictability of progress.  The present situation indicates clearly enough that a return to original barbarism appears as a historical possibility.  Again: certainly not as an inexorable ‘destiny’ in a cycle of growth and decay, progress and regression, etc. but as a man-made destiny, for which responsibility can be assigned and which can be explained (as failure, impotence, even impossibility to act otherwise) – explained in terms of the structure of the established society and the forms of control, manipulation, and indoctrination required fro the preservation of the structure.  It then appears that the alternative to progressive barbarism (and there have always been alternatives!) may well involve a change in the structure of society, in other words, a ‘holist’ change which is Popper’s real bete noire.    [3]

Dialectic logic links the form to its content.

– We live in a society where a kind of Hegelian speculative identity of opposites exists.  Certain features, attitudes, and norms of life are no longer perceived as ideologically marked.  They appear to be neutral, non-ideological, natural, commonsensical.  We designate as ideology that which stands out from this background: extreme religious zeal or dedication to a particular orientation. The Hegelian point here would be that it is precisely the neutralization of some features into a spontaneously accepted background that marks out ideology at its purest and at its most effective.  This is the dialectical “coincidence of opposites”: the actualization of a notion or an ideology at its purest coincides with, or, more precisely, appears as its opposite, as non-ideology.  Mutatis mutandis, the same holds for [fill-in-the-blank].[4]

Lacan: “Briefly, psychoanalysis is a dialectical experience, and this notion should predominate when posing the question of the nature of transference.

Lacan:  “The fact that a dialectical conception of psychoanalysis has to be presented as an orientation peculiar to my thinking, must, surely, indicate a failure to recognize an immediate given, that is, the self-evident fact that it deals solely with words.”

By and large, it is in the footsteps of Aristotle that later Western philosophers have followed, rather than Plato.  To be sure, some philosophers such as Cicero, Machiavelli, Spinoza, Malebranche, Berkeley, Hume, Fichte, and Schelling have written some philosophical dialogues, but for the most part major philosophical figures in the West have not employed dialectic of any sort systematically in developing their own insights.

5.3 Kainz, Howard P. Ethica Dialectica pg viii – ix

He who is unable to comprehend identity explicitly in this higher sense and to think and make statements in accordance with this concept remains stuck in “dialectical adolescence.”

Heidegger, Martin Schelling’s Treatise on the Essence of Human Freedom pg 78

Philosophizing is, as it were, a dialectical game that gets played at different levels of difficulty in the course of time.  When one examines the historical development of a philosophical position, one can always discern the unfolding of its inner perplexities¾those crisis junctures at which it slips into inconsistency.  It is this ultimate encounter with inconsistency within “established” philosophical positions that makes for inherent instability and provides the dynamical impetus to the ongoing alteration or replacement of philosophical systems.

– Rescher, Nicholas Philosophical Dialectics pg 83

Whatever may be the proper form for a systematization of dialectical logic, it seems that paradox should have a certain centrality in that logic, perhaps analogous to the centrality of the monadic assertorial propositions in ordinary logic.  For it is by means of paradox that we go beyond the vague idea of a “unity of opposites” (which emerged among some of the German idealists and Right Hegelians and some English Hegelians and is still a characteristic tenet in modern idealism)-as Hegel also went beyond that idea-to the kind of unity-in-distinction that seems to be called for by the exigencies of self-conscious reflection[.]

– Kainz, Howard  Paradox, Dialectic, and System pgs 35-36

Royce: All the greater emotions are dialectical.  The tragedies of the storm and stress period, and of the classical and romantic literature, are portrayals of this contradictory logic of passion.  Faust asks the highest, and therefore contracts with the devil and destroys Margaret.”

Hegel fought to make the “logic of passion” and “dialectics of emotion” rigorous.

Dialectics sees the old in the new as well as the new in the old.

Stanley Rosen Plato’s Symposium pf 201 “That is, dialectic as ‘measurement according to kinds’ occurs within a horizon of experience that cannot be reduced to the sum of those kind.  To measure is to divide; wholeness must precede measurement.”

Philosophy is necessarily dialectical and eristic because it seeks to account for the whole, even in the negative sense of specifying the limits of rational speech.  No account of the whole is complete unless it refutes or sublates its rivals.

– Rosen, Stanley Nihilism: A Philosophical Essay pg 3-4

The method of dialectic, Socrates informs us, is to remove hypothesis or postulates.  It makes use of pure reason, unaided by the senses and is the path to the attainment of knowledge of the Good Itself.  Since the Good Itself is the principle of intelligibility in virtue of which the Forms are knowable, the successful dialectician who attains knowledge of the Good is uniquely capable of attaining a synoptic view of the whole intelligible realm.

Dialectics is the existence or action of opposing social forces, concepts, etc.[5]

Among the classical Greek thinkers, the meanings of dialectic ranged from a technique of refutation in debate, through a method for systematic evaluation of definitions, to the investigation and classification of the relationships between specific and general concepts.[6]

G.W.F. Hegel identified dialectic as the tendency of a notion to pass over into its own negation as the result of conflict between its inherent contradictory aspects.[7]

Engels Anti-Durhing: A system of natural and historical knowledge, embracing everything, and final for all time, is a contradiction to the fundamental laws of dialectic reasoning. This law, indeed, by no means excludes, but, on the contrary, includes the idea that the systematic knowledge of the external universe can make giant strides from age to age.

Engels Anti-Durhing: In its operations with variable quantities mathematics itself enters the field of dialectics, and it is significant that it was a dialectical philosopher, Descartes, who introduced this advance. The relation between the mathematics of variable and the mathematics of constant quantities is in general the same as the relation of dialectical to metaphysical thought. But this does not prevent the great mass of mathematicians from recognising dialectics only in the sphere of mathematics, and a good many of them from continuing to work in the old, limited, metaphysical way with methods that were obtained dialectically.

Engels Anti-Durhing: And so, what is the negation of the negation? An extremely general — and for this reason extremely far-reaching and important — law of development of nature, history, and thought; a law which, as we have seen, holds good in the animal and plant kingdoms, in geology, in mathematics, in history and in philosophy — a law which even Herr Dühring, in spite of all his stubborn resistance, has unwittingly and in his own way to follow. It is obvious that I do not say anything concerning the particular process of development of, for example, a grain of barley from germination to the death of the fruit-bearing plant, if I say it is a negation of the negation. For, as the integral calculus is also a negation of the negation, if I said anything of the sort I should only be making the nonsensical statement that the life-process of a barley plant was integral calculus or for that matter that it was socialism. That, however, is precisely what the metaphysicians are constantly imputing to dialectics. When I say that all these processes are a negation of the negation, I bring them all together under this one law of motion, and for this very reason I leave out of account the specific peculiarities of each individual process. Dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought.

But someone may object: the negation that has taken place in this case is not a real negation: I negate a grain of barley also when I grind it, an insect when I crush it underfoot, or the positive quantity a when I cancel it, and so on. Or I negate the sentence: the rose is a rose, when I say: the rose is not a rose; and what do I get if I then negate this negation and say: but after all the rose is a rose? — These objections are in fact the chief arguments put forward by the metaphysicians against dialectics, and they are wholly worthy of the narrow-mindedness of this mode of thought. Negation in dialectics does not mean simply saying no, or declaring that something does not exist, or destroying it in any way one likes. Long ago Spinoza said: Omnis determinatio est negatio — every limitation or determination is at the same time a negation.

Men thought dialectically long before they knew what dialectics was, just as they spoke prose long before the term prose existed. [An allusion to Molière’s comedy Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, Act II, Scene 6 — Ed.] The law of negation of the negation, which is unconsciously operative in nature and history and, until it has been recognised, also in our heads, was only first clearly formulated by Hegel.

Lenin: In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics, but it requires explanations and development.

There can be no similarity without difference, and maximal similarity is unthinkable without maximal difference: One can perhaps think of two objects in the inorganic world, e.g., two stones indistinguishable in shape and distinguishable only in position and minor discrepancies in the constituents, as the extreme of minimal differentiation, concomitant to some basic and obvious similarities.  But one can also discern an extreme of minimal similarity, a similarity (between two beings) that is rather unimportant and uninteresting, although easy to comprehend, e.g., the similarity of a star with a bird, in the context of some overarching, obvious differences.  The more complex and interesting similarities illustrate what Teilhard de Chardin calls the “law of life,” namely, that “unity differentiates,” i.e., that the most consummate examples of unity are organisms and consciousness and thinking processes, in which greater unity goes hand in hand with greater complexification and differentiation.  An ineluctable element of differentiation is to be found even in the tautologies of ordinary logic, as thinkers as diverse as Hegel and Wittgenstein have brought out; and it is incontestable that the differences among the ideas coordinated and identified in our ordinary language are even greater that the elementary tautological theorems of logic.  But the propositions of ordinary logic and the statements of ordinary prose are not remarkable for bringing out in an explicit way the differences, oppositions, even contradictions which they entail.  Paradoxical statements or propositions, on the other hand, do accomplish this; this is their peculiar and unique contribution to thought.  In philosophy, the process of demonstrating these paradoxes in some systematic way by exploring the boundaries, so to speak, of language logic, and concepts leads to a paradoxical or dialectical logic.  This latter logic does not circumvent or supersede ordinary logic but, on the contrary, depends on the validity of ordinary logic, the boundaries and limitations of which function as the precise area of its concentration, or the indispensable starting point for its investigations.

– Kainz, Howard  Paradox, Dialectic, and System pgs 44-45

There can be no difference without similarity; This is the counterpart and corollary of the observations in the preceding paragraph.  Obviously, if two things were so different that they were worlds apart, there would be no basis for comparison, and they could not even be designated “different,”  Maximal differences are only able to emerge where the basis for comparison is evident and solid; and this implies a substantial bedrock of similarity.  This is why a paradoxical or dialectical logic, which is oriented to bringing out differences in a maximal way, is correspondingly maximally dependent on ordinary logic, to which is entrusted the task of preserving the self-identities, the uniformities of words and ideas as much as possible, in the face of a world without and within, which is undergoing constant changes.

– Kainz, Howard  Paradox, Dialectic, and System pgs 45-46

[1]      Herbert Marcuse Reason and Revolution; Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory pg 66-67

[2]        Herbert Marcuse Reason and Revolution; Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory pg 158 – 159

[3]        Herbert Marcuse Studies in Critical Philosophy pg 206 – 207

[4]    Slavoj Zizek Violence pg. 36

[5]      Oxford Dictionary

[6]      Encyclopedia Britannica

[7]      Encyclopedia Britannica



Western philosophy has a long and varied history of dialectic¾the relation of opposites.  Opposites can be related to each other in a contrary, contradictory, or polar fashion¾that is, as contraries (red and yellow), contradictories (A and -A), or polarities (north and south).

-Joan Stambaugh Impermanence is Buddha-nature (1990) pg. 78

Heraclitus’ dialectic is primarily a structure; it does not move. In the statement “That which differs from itself is in agreement,” there is no movement or process, but rather simultaneous harmony. Harmony (harmonia) is by its very nature simultaneous, in contrast to melody, which is discursive.

-Joan Stambaugh Impermanence is Buddha-nature (1990) pg. 93

-What Hegel calls speculative thinking is in effect his earliest presentation of the dialectic method.  The relation between dialectical thinking (reason) and isolating reflection (understanding) is clearly defined.  The former criticizes and supersedes the fixed oppositions created by the latter.  It undermines the ’security’ of common sense and demonstrates that ‘what common sense regards as immediately certain does not have any reality for philosophy.  The first criterion of reason, then, is a distrust of matter-of-fact authority.  Such distrust is the real skepticism that Hegel designates as ‘the free portion’ of every true philosophy.

The form of reality that is immediately given is, then, no final reality.  The system of isolated things in opposition, produced by the operations of the understanding, must be recognized for what it is: a ‘bad’ form of reality, a realm of limitation and bondage.  The ‘real of freedom,’ which is the inherent goal of reason, cannot be achieved, as Kant and Fichte thought, by playing off the subject against the objective world, attributing to the autonomous person all the freedom that is lacking in the external world, and leaving the latter a domain of blind necessity.  (Hegel is here striking against the important mechanism of ‘internalizing’ or introversion, by which philosophy and literature generally have made liberty into an inner value to be realized within the soul alone.)  In the final reality there can be no isolation of the free subject from the objective world; that antagonism must be resolved, together with all the others created by the understanding.

Absolute Reason

The final reality in which the antagonisms are resolved Hegel terms ‘the Absolute.’  At this stage of his philosophical development he can describe this absolute only negatively.  Thus, it is quite the reverse of the reality apprehended by common sense and understanding; it ‘negates’ common-sense reality in every detail, so that the absolute reality has no single point of resemblance to the finite world.

Whereas common sense and the understanding had perceived isolated entities that stood opposed to one to the other, reason apprehends ‘the identity of opposites.’  It does not produce the identity by a process of connecting and combining opposites, but transforms them so they cease to exist as opposites, although their content is preserved in a higher and more ‘real’ form of being.  The process of unifying opposites touches every part of reality and comes to an end only when reason has ‘organized’ the whole so that ‘every part exists only in relation to the whole,’ and ‘every part exists only in relation to the whole,’ and ‘every individual entity has meaning and significance only in its relation to the totality‘.

The totality of the concepts and cognitions of reason alone represents the absolute.  Reason, therefore, is fully before us only in the form of the all-embracing ‘organization of propositions and intuitions,’ that is, as a ‘system.’”[1]


Professor Walter Kaufmann: “Hegel’s ‘aufhebon’ has been the despair of his translators.  He was satisfied to remark that his word means both preserving and canceling; his translators, however, were grieved to discover that it also means lifting up.  Hegel apparently considered this the most obvious connotation and therefore did not mention it.  At any rate, it was taken for granted that there is not English word with the same three meanings.”

-The history of ideas teaches us very clearly that ideas emerge in logical or, if the term is preferred, in dialectical contexts.[2]

-The dialectic is ironic, but irony is the art of problems and questions.  Irony consists in treating things and beings as so many responses to hidden questions, so many cases for problems yet to be resolved.  We recall that Plato defined the dialectic as proceeding by ‘problems’, by means of which one attains the pure grounding principle – that is, the principle which measures the problem as such and distributes corresponding solutions.[3]

For example, if one puts forward the proposition: “The perfect is the imperfect,” the meaning is this: the imperfect is not due to that through which it is imperfect, but rather through the perfect that is in it; however, in our time it has this meaning: the perfect and the imperfect are the same, all is the same in itself, the worst and the best, foolishness and wisdom.  Or: good is evil, which means to say roughly that evil which has being is (considered in and for itself) the good.  This is interpreted in the following manner: the eternal difference between justice and injustice, virtue and vice is denied; both are logically the same.  Or, if in a different turn of phrase, necessary and free things are explained as One, the meaning of which is that the same thing (in the final judgment) which is the essence of the moral world is also the essence of nature, then this is understood as follows: free things are nothing but forces of nature, coil springs, which, like any other, are subject to mechanism.  The same thing occurs in the proposition that the soul is one with the body, which is interpreted as suggesting that the soul is material, air, ether, nerve fluid, and the like; for the reverse, that the body is the soul, or, in the preceding proposition, that the seemingly necessary is in itself free, though it is at once just as valid to infer from the proposition, is in a well-considered way set aside.  Such misunderstandings, which, if they are not deliberate, presuppose a level of dialectical immaturity that Greek philosophy surpasses almost in its first steps, make recommending the thorough study of logic into a pressing duty.

Schelling Philosophical Investigations pg 13-14

Philosophy is necessarily dialectical and eristic because it seeks to account for the whole, even in the negative sense of specifying the limits of rational speech.  No account of the whole is complete unless it refutes or sublates its rivals.

– Rosen, Stanley Nihilism: A Philosophical Essay pg 3-4

The philosophical protest against the all-controlling position of formal logic has been made in the name of dialectical thinking.  In dialectics yes and no, affirmation and negation, demand each other.  But in formal logic they exclude each other.   However, there is not real conflict between dialectics and formal logic.  Dialectics follows the movement of thought or the movement of reality through yes and no, but it describes it in logically correct terms.  The same concept always is used in the same sense; and, if the meaning of the concept changes, the dialectician describes in a logically correct way the intrinsic necessity which drives the old into the new.  Formal logic is not contradicted when Hegel describes the identity of being and nonbeing by showing the absolute emptiness of pure being in reflective thought.  Nor is formal logic contradicted when, in the dogma of the trinity, the divine life is described as a trinity within a unity.  The doctrine of the Trinity does not affirm the logical nonsense that three is one and one is three; it describes in dialectical terms the inner movement of the divine life as an eternal separation from itself and return to itself.  Theology is not expected to accept a senseless combination of words, that is, genuine logical contradictions.  Dialectical thinking is not in conflict with the structure of thinking.[4]

Dialectics as the logic of motion presupposes that all motion, all evolution, whether of nature, society or human thought, adopts certain general forms whicha are called ‘dialectical’.[5]

When the dialectical method is applied to the study of economic problems, economic phenomena are not viewed separately from each other, by bits and pieces, but in their inner contradiction as an integrated totality, structured around, and by, a basic predominant mode of production.This totality is analysed in all its apsects and manifestations, as determined by certain given laws of motion, which relate also to its origins and its inevitable dissapearance.  These laws of motion of the given mode of production are discovered to be nothing but the unfolding fo the inner contradictions of that structure, which define its very nature.[6]

When the dialectical method becomes rigid, as happens frequently in Hegel, to say nothing of this followers, the only control device and the only protection is the concrete historical method of Marx.[7]

An exact representation of the universe, of its evolution, of the development of mankind, and of the reflection of this evolution in the minds of men, can therefore only be obtained by the methods of dialectics with its constant regard to the innumerable actions and reactions fo life and death, of progressive or retrogressive changes.[8]

[1]    Herbert Marcuse Reason and Revolution; Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory pg 46-48

[2]    Karl Popper Objective Knowledge (1972) pg. 297

[3]    Gilles Deleuze Difference & Repetition (1994) pg. 63

[4]       Paul Tillich Systematic Theology pg 56

[5]      Fowkes Ben Introduction to Capital: A Critic of Political Economy Volume One (1976) pg 18

[6]      Fowkes Ben Introduction to Capital: A Critic of Political Economy Volume One (1976) pg 19

[7]     Georg Lukacs History and Class Consciousness (1967) pg. 207

[8]  Karl Marx Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1978) pg 87


First of all we analyze the simplest and most abstract movement, that of thought that has been stripped as far as possible of all content. In this way we discover the most general categories and how they are linked together. The dialectic, far from being an inner movement of the mind, is real, it precedes the mind, in Being. It imposes itself on the mind.[1]

Next this movement must be connected up with the concrete movement, with the given content. We then become aware of the fact that the movement of the content or of Being is made clear for us in the laws of the dialectic. The contradictions in thought do not come simply from thought itself, from its ultimate incoherence or impotence, they also come from the content. Linked together they tend towards the expression of the total movement of the content and raise it to the level of consciousness and reflection.[2]

Kant teaches that both laws are transcendental, fundamental principles of our Reason, which postulate conformity of things with them a priori; and Plato, when he tells us that these rules were flung down from the seat of the gods with the Promethean fire, seems to express the same thought in his own way.[3]

In the First Critique, Kant argues that any knowledge which tries to transcend the strict bifurcation he has set out remains illusory knowledge of transcendental dialectic.  By the time of the Third Critique, Kant realizes that the possibility of genuine knowledge and effective moral action requires a closer relationship between subject and object, and thinking and being, so he undertakes an investigation of the faculty of judgment as the unification of the universal and the particular.  Judgment he argues, entails unification of universality and particularity determinatively (the consumption of the particular under the universal) or reflectively (through the discovery of the universal in the particular).  He suggests the intellectus archetypus for which subjectivity and objectivity are not irrevocably opposed, but argues against this as real.

[1]  Henri Lefebvre Dialectic Materialism pg 109

[2]  Henri Lefebvre Dialectic Materialism pg 109

[3]  Arthur Schopenhauer On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (1813) pg 1-2



Dialectic generally means “of the nature of the dialogue,” which is a conversation between two persons.  Nowadays it means logical argumentation.  It involves a technique of cross-examination, by which truth is arrived at.  It’s the mode of discourse of Socrates in the Dialogues of Plato.  Plato believed the dialectic was the sole method by which truth was arrived at.  The only one.[1]

Dialectic” is a fulcrum word.[2]

[1]    Pirsig, Robert Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance pg 366

[2]          Robert Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance pg 366