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Broadly speaking, a dialectic is an exchange of propositions (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses) resulting in a disagreement. The aim of the dialectical method, often known as dialectic or dialectics, is to try to resolve the disagreement through rational discussion. One way -- the Socratic method -- is to show that a given hypothesis (with other admissions) leads to a contradiction; thus, forcing the withdrawal of the hypothesis as a candidate for truth. Another way of trying to resolve a disagreement is by denying some presupposition of the contending thesis and antithesis; thus moving to a third thesis.

Musicologist Rose Rosengard Subotnick gives the following example: "A question posed by Fred Friendly on a PBS program entitled 'Hard Drugs, Hard Choices: The Crisis Beyond Our Borders,' illustrates that others, too, seem to find this dynamic enlightening: 'Are our lives so barren because we use drugs? Or do we use drugs because our lives are so barren?' (The program aired on WNET, Channel 13, in the New York area, February 26, 1990.) The question is dialectical to the extent that it enables one to grasp the two opposed priorities as simultaneously valid." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic [May 2005]

In philosophy

When using the word "dialectic" philosophers usually refer to either the Socratic dialectical method of cross-examination, or to Hegel's dialectical model of history.

"The history of the term "dialectic" would by itself constitute a considerable history of philosophy" (Barbara Cassin, ed., Vocabulaire européen des philosophies [Paris: Le Robert & Seuil, 2004], p. 306, trans. M.K. Jensen).

Briefly, the term "dialectic" owes much of its prestige to its role in the philosophy of Plato, where it figures as the logical method of philosophy in the Socratic dialectical method of cross-examination. The term was given new life by Hegel, whose dialectically dynamic model of nature and history made it, as it were, a fundamental aspect of the nature of reality (instead of regarding the contradictions into which dialectics leads as a sign of the sterility of the dialectical method, as Kant tended to do in his Critique of Pure Reason). In the mid-nineteenth century, the concept of "dialectic" was appropriated by Marx (see, for example, Das Kapital, published in 1867) and Engels and retooled in a non-idealist manner, becoming a crucial notion in their philosophy of dialectical materialism. Thus this concept came, for a time, to play a prominent role on the world stage and in world history. Today, "dialectics" can also refer to an understanding of how we can or should perceive the world (epistemology), an assertion of the interconnected, contradictory, and dynamic nature of the world outside our perception of it (ontology), or a method of presentation of ideas or conclusions. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic [May 2005]

DIALECTIC: In Socrates (via Plato), dialectic (also "dialectics") simply meant argument in the form of question and answer. After slight variations proposed by Plato, Aristotle and Kant, Hegel reframed dialectic in the form still familiar to us today -- the process of reasoning by argument and counterargument, or contradiction and reconciliation: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Marxist thought took this one step farther, distinguishing between objective dialectic (that which holds true of nature) and subjective dialectic (the reflection of objective dialectic in human thought). More loosely, dialectic means any systematic reasoning that attempts to juxtapose and resolve contradictory ideas. --Robert Belton

The Bohemian Dialectic

Basically the paper traces the history of the Beat writers in print, from their early stirrings in the underground press, through to their publication by mainstream publishers. I use the term "bohemian dialectic" to refer to the process which seems to apply to almost all avant-garde movements: an initial emergence in opposition to the social and cultural norms of their time, followed eventually by popularization and absorption into the mainstream. --http://www.harbour.sfu.ca/~hayward/UnspeakableVisions/page1.html [Aug 2005]

see also: bohemia - dialectic

Dialectics of Underground and Mainstream Culture

A massive website by Jan Geerinck, guiding you through the maze of contemporary culture and music styles. Though not exclusively — in fact nothing is excluded on this site — the topics center on the 1990s with timelines and discussions of house music, hiphop and garage. Theoretical reflections concern the dialectics of underground and mainstream culture. Just take a walk through this amazing labyrinth. --Ger Tillekens for Soundscapes, Sept 2003

Dialectic of the Enligtenment [...]

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