Definition of dialectic in English:


(also dialectics)


  • 1mass noun, usually treated as singular The art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions.

    • ‘The first of these preliminary considerations is related to some discussions within the art of dialectic whereas the second is theological in nature.’
    • ‘That is to say, we want to carve out a place for conversation, dialogue, dialectic, and debate.’
    • ‘With the second and third steps, one can see a similarity to Plato's idea of dialectic understood as collection and division.’
    • ‘Marx took the Hegelian dialectic and placed it on a materialist base.’
    • ‘Cloaked words can always be brought to the light of Truth by the subtle use of dialectics in debate.’
    reasoning, argumentation, contention, logic
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  • 2mass noun, usually treated as singular Enquiry into metaphysical contradictions and their solutions.

    • ‘But in Berio it is an element that generally functions within a complex dialectic.’
    • ‘Hare, in fact, constantly creates a form of internal dialectic.’
    • ‘The motivation for this negative dialectic is not simply conceptual, however, nor are its intellectual resources.’
    • ‘The classical methodology of rational dialectic is our only road to truth!’
    • ‘Before the appendices he includes a jokey bit of philosophical dialectic.’
    1. 2.1 The existence or action of opposing social forces, concepts, etc.
      • ‘For Brother Jack, individuals (even entire communities) are expendable, if the historical dialectic so dictates.’
      • ‘The master-slave dialectic in which French existence has been caught was briefly ruptured only when the first postwar generation reached the age of majority in May 1968.’
      • ‘The second is that human beings have existed in a historical dialectic with the natural world for thousands of years.’
      • ‘As a result of this dialectic, social policy must become more visibly coercive in providing new forms of control over the working class, in the context of a growing chasm between the reserve army and surplus population.’
      • ‘This is the spurious, evolving dialectic of electoral democracy.’

The ancient Greeks used the term dialectic to refer to various methods of reasoning and discussion in order to discover the truth. More recently, Kant applied the term to the criticism of the contradictions which arise from supposing knowledge of objects beyond the limits of experience, e.g. the soul. Hegel applied the term to the process of thought by which apparent contradictions (which he termed thesis and antithesis) are seen to be part of a higher truth (synthesis)


  • Relating to dialectic or dialectics; dialectical.

    • ‘Quite the contrary, assimilation and ethnic identification are two distinct poles of a dialectic process of reidentification that involves creative cultural crisscrossing.’
    • ‘To carry on that wise injunction, we have to engage in a process of self-reflection that unavoidably opens up to scrutiny the dialectic processes between self and context and contexts of contexts.’
    • ‘The dialectic narrative took the form of a collage, crafted with an uncommon conceptual and cinematographic rigour.’
    • ‘Because of these problems, there is a danger that the dialectic approach will seem unscientific and its strengths will be overlooked.’
    • ‘But the dialectic method of argument is undoubtedly a good one if used properly, as it is dynamic, progressive and evolutionary (as opposed to being static, reactionary and revolutionary).’
    rational, rationalistic, logical, analytical
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Late Middle English: from Old French dialectique or Latin dialectica, from Greek dialektikē (tekhnē) ‘(art) of debate’, from dialegesthai ‘converse with’ (see dialogue).