Dialectic, What is Dialectic?

Dialectic, What is Dialectic?

July 1, 2021 Off By Felso

Dialectics is a way of thinking and research that starts from the opposition relationship between concepts and uses this as a principle in revealing the processes that lead to the truth.

The beginning of dialectical thought is seen in pre-Socratic physicists in the form of mutual conflict or transformation relations between the first causes (arkhe) such as fire, air, water, earth, which are thought to form nature and the universe.

Later, Heraclitus, who dealt with the existence of things from their opposites and their disappearance in their opposites, became the pioneer of thinking dialectic as an active principle of the universe. According to Aristotle, the founder of dialectics is Zeno of Elea, in the sense of the technique of proving the opposites by reducing them to nonsense by reasoning based on some assumptions.


The traces of dialectical thought can be traced back to the view that “one cannot bathe twice in a river”, which is based on the understanding of “becoming” of the Ephesian philosopher Heraclitus. Then, the concept of dialectic, which is based on the roots of the word “dialogue”, was used for the first time by Zenon with the meaning of “argumentative art”.

Zeno of Elea

The use of this concept in written texts is encountered for the first time in Plato. Plato, in his early Socratic dialogues, used the concept of dialectic to mean “education by discussion”. Later, influenced by Hereaklitus, he used the dialectic in the form of “dialectic of ideas”, basing it on his theory of ideas.

The philosopher who is the real founder of dialectical thought is Hegel. Hegel developed the dialectical understanding of Plato and Heraclitus and laid the foundation of his idealist philosophy with the three-stage development law that emerged in the mystical form in the Middle Ages. Hegel goes beyond the accumulation of the German intellectual world up to that time and takes the first steps of a historical philosophy.

Dialectics in Socrates and Plato

Socrates was the first to use dialectics as a method. For Socrates, dialectic is a method of clarifying concepts through mutual question and answer.

Based on the response of the other party, showing that this is inconsistent and contradictory in terms of his thoughts is the first stage of the method. After that, the subject of discussion is discussed and explained from various angles with mutual questions and answers (See: What is the Socratic Method?).

Connecting Socrates’ method of explanation to a certain view of existence, Plato developed the dialectic as an education method based on the view of knowledge. According to him, dialectic is a teaching and learning process that is followed in order to reach the ideals by ascending from the lowest level in a sequence of existence.

Diagram of the Socratic Method
Dialectics in German Philosophy

Kant was the first to use the term dialectic in New Age philosophy. For Kant, dialectic is the logic of error; Reason in its own right takes some reasoning to its logical limits and eventually comes into conflict with itself.

In order to eliminate the emerging antinomies (contradictions), the method that Kant calls “transcendental dialectic” is applied; The conflict between two opposing arguments is resolved by proving the impossibility of both the thesis and the antithesis.

Thus, for Kant, dialectic becomes both a natural form of error in which reason falls, and a method of criticism and misrepresentation to be used to correct it.


Hegel, who took the idea of ​​the trinity underlying his dialectical understanding from Kant, attributed a completely different meaning to it. According to Hegel, each of the concepts that make up the real has its opposite within itself.

By turning from a concept (thesis) to its opposite (antithesis) and again to its opposite (i.e. the first concept), thought reaches the third concept (synthesis) that constitutes the unity of the two concepts in the dialectical movement.

This process increases the content of consciousness that allows thought to grasp itself. According to Hegel, dialectic is the formation principle of world history as well as the process of thought that determines existence.

It is possible to explain the Hegelian dialectic as follows: Everything proceeds with the operation of the chain of fantasies in the way that a universal balance is broken in its own system, it comes back to balance and the balance is lost again. In nature, history, and thought, this process is at work. Everything that exists is executed in this sense.

For example, a bud opens in nature and this bud destroys itself after a while. Thus, the balance is disturbed. This is not to be doomed to nothingness and disappear altogether, but to become a flower and thus to balance again in a new form. This time the balance of the flower is disturbed, the flower transforms and comes back into balance in the form of fruit in a brand new way. This self-propelled gait allows objects to self-destruct before they can continue in another form. The new form also disappears again and reappears in another form. It goes on like this. The name of this process is dialectic.


According to Karl Marx, who took his dialectical reasoning from Hegel and pre-Socratic philosophers, dialectic is a historical process; econo