| Thinking hardly|
or hardly thinking?
|Major trains of thought|
|The good, the bad|
and the brain fart
|Come to think of it|
Dialectics is a philosophical journey to find truth via reasoned argument in dialogue, not unlike the Socratic method of questioning until you discover a new answer. The difference is that in the Socratic method, questions are asked, answers given and evaluated, then more questions to further explore an idea, whereas in dialectics, two people hold different positions and via this logical argument, they circle the topic until truth is found. It is, of course, assumed that there is "truth" to be found.
The development of dialectics is generally formally attributed to Socrates, who offered this reasoned approach as an alternative to the classical Greek view that arete (beauty, quality) is what should be most praised in life, including explorations of so-called "truth". Socrates believed true truth came from analysis of the ideas, via logic and not a simple esoteric view of their perceived perfection or quality artistically. However, dialectics, as a "not formally defined" approach to problem-solving or fact-finding, has been a central part of ancient Western thought long before Socrates, as well as Indian philosophy and argument.
The ultimate intent for dialectics is to reason out an answer to a disagreement via logic. The goal is not to compromise (arbitration), nor persuade (as an emotive argument, for example), nor "win" via bullying or pressure, nor win by a 3rd party judge decided who presented the best argument. In dialectics, the actual process is to improve everyone's understanding of the issue, and come to a single stance of what is the true or correct resolution. Dialectics does not give formal weight to "experts", but allows them to simply be one voice of several. The assumption is that an "expert" will know more relevant points to help center the argument, but the expert's word alone is not more important than the non-expert.
Dialectics generally assumes that the process is as important as the outcome, and that problems do not need immediate resolution, as the process can take a while. (That is to say, it is probably not a good idea to suggest a dialectic study on the best way to fix a broken pipe in your home, pouring gallons of water onto your nice new rug — probably best go for 'expert' at that point.)
Philosophical traditions in dialectics
Hegelian (Fichtean) dialectics
- Everything is finite, everything is transient, and everything exists within time.
- Everything is composed of opposition. (hopefully equal but always opposite forces)
- Over time, gradual changes cause crises at a point when one force overpowers the other
- All change is spiral (a growth), not circular which would simply reverse the position.
- Socratic method - A method of discourse that is typically dialectical
- Tarka sastra - a Sanskrit term for a method of discourse that is typically dialectical
- Historical materialism - associated with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, it applies a materialist conception of dialectics to society, specifically, the history of class struggle
- Dialectical materialism - the extension of Marx and Engel's dialectics as applied to the natural sciences, which gained prominence in the Soviet Union
- Deconstruction — associated with Jacques Derrida, it could be viewed as a postmodern version of dialectics, as it shares a logical basis with Hegelian and Marxist dialectics