- (Gk., dialektikē, the art of conversation or debate) Most fundamentally, the process of reasoning to obtain truth and knowledge on any topic. According to the different views of this process, different conceptions of dialectic emerge. Thus in the Socratic method dialectic is the process of eliciting the truth by means of questions aimed at opening out what is already implicitly known, or at exposing the contradictions and muddles of an opponent's position. In the middle dialogues of Plato, however, it becomes the total process of enlightenment, whereby the philosopher is educated so as to achieve knowledge of the supreme good, the form of the Good. For Aristotle, dialectic is any rational inference based on probable premises. In Kant, dialectic is the ‘logic of illusion’, or the misuse of logic to deliver the appearance of solid belief. It is one of the jobs of true philosophy to reveal the places where reason transgresses its proper boundaries, producing the illusions of transcendental metaphysics (see antinomy, paralogism ). In Hegel, dialectic refers to the necessary process that makes up progress in both thought and the world (which are identified in Hegel's idealism, although the idea that processes in the world unfold in a way that mirrors the processes of reason is as old as Heraclitus ). The process is one of overcoming the contradiction between thesis and antithesis, by means of synthesis; the synthesis in turn becomes contradicted, and the process repeats itself until final perfection is reached. See also dialectical materialism.
Philosophy dictionary. Academic. 2011.