Dialectic in Brief


Dean Gotcher

Dialectic 'reasoning' is man's effort to resolve the conflict (antithesis) between authority (the "either-or" or rigidity of "right-wrong") and feelings (the spectrum or 'changingness' of "pleasure-pain"). By focusing upon authority (the rigidity of "right-wrong") first, rather than feelings (the 'changingness' of "pleasure pain"), feelings are made subject to authority (doing right and not wrong supersedes approaching pleasure and avoiding pain), preventing 'change.' But by focusing upon feelings first, i.e., making authority subject to feelings, i.e., making the augmentation of pleasure and attenuation of pain right and the inhibiting or blocking of pleasure and the inflicting of pain (in order to do right and not wrong) wrong, 'change' (synthesis) is made possible. Explaining the difference between traditional thinking (didactic reasoning), i.e., reasoning based upon the rigidity of "right-wrong" and transformational 'thinking' (dialectic 'reasoning'), i.e., 'reasoning' based upon the 'changingness' of "pleasure-pain," Carl Rogers (revealing his bias against authority) wrote:

"Individuals move not from a fixity through change to a new fixity [retaining the rigidity, the antithesis, the either-or, the "right-wrong" of authority], though such a process is indeed possible. But [through a] continuum from fixity to changingness, from rigid structure to flow, from stasis to process." "At one end of the continuum the individual avoids close relationships, which are perceived as being dangerous. At the other end he lives openly and freely in relation to the therapist [the facilitator of 'change'] and to others, guiding his behavior on the basis of his immediate experiencing [which is subject to his feelings of the 'moment,' i.e., his love of pleasure, including the pleasure which comes from being approved, and his hate of pain, including the pain which comes from being rejected] – he has become an integrated process of changingness [making authority subject to his and others feelings of the 'moment,' negating authority, i.e., negating anyone or anything which makes feelings subject to authority]." (Carl Rogers, on becoming a person: A Therapist View of Psychotherapy)

By calling "right" Thesis and "wrong" Antithesis (or visa versa) conflict (authority) is retained (the process of 'change' is inhibited or blocked). But by making the black and white of authority, i.e., the conflict or antithesis of "right-wrong" subject to the gray, i.e., to the relativity of the "pleasure-pain" spectrum of feelings—making "right" synonymous with pleasure and "wrong" synonymous with pain—Synthesis (reconciliation between right and wrong, i.e., Thesis and Antithesis) can be initiated and sustained, overcoming conflict, i.e., negating the "right-wrong," i.e., rigidity or "fixity" of authority.

"The philosopher Hegel said that truth is not found in the thesis nor the antithesis but in an emerging synthesis which reconciles the two." (Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love)

Children come into play here since they come into this world with the system of "pleasure-pain." It is the parent's (and God's) system of "right-wrong" that makes the child's "pleasure-pain" (feelings) subject to the parent's (and God's) authority, engendering conflict in the world (according to dialectic 'reasoning'). By making the "pleasure-pain" system of the child the focus of attention, i.e., first and formost, 'change' can be initiated and sustained.

Hegel wrote: "The child, contrary to appearance, is the absolute, the rationality of the relationship; he is what is enduring and everlasting, the totality which produces itself once again as such [once his feelings, thoughts, and actions and relationship with others is 'liberated' from the father's/Father's authority 'system']." (George Hegel, System of Ethical Life)

By focusing upon the feelings of children, the authority of parents is negated, 'liberating' society of the source of conflict, i.e., of "right-wrong" thinking, i.e., of parental or God's authority, i.e., of "Mine. Not yours," i.e., "My family. Not yours." "My property. Not yours." "My business. Not yours." "My country. Not yours." "My wife. Not yours." etc., i.e., of "My garden. Not yours." While parent's may hold their children accountable to standards which they have established in the home, those standards are no always adhered to or are compromised while visiting with friends and relatives in order to initiate and/or sustain relationships. The desire for or the pleasure of approval from others (who offer them pleasure or the potential of pleasure, whether actual or perceived) is strong enough in parents that they often "look the other way" (do not say anything) when friends and/or relatives say or do things they would not allow their children to "get away with" at home. According to dialectic 'reasoning' it is this willingness to compromise (to set aside right and wrong) for the sake of relationship (for the pleasure of approval from others) which initiates and sustains community.

"On account of the absolute and natural oneness of the husband, the wife, and the child [all being subject to "pleasure-pain"], where there is no antithesis [no "above-below," i.e., no "I am right and you are wrong"] of person to person or of subject to object [no father's or parent's authority over the child and no husband's authority over the wife)], the surplus is not the property of one of them [there is no private, as in private property or business, i.e., no "My child. Not yours."; "My property. Not yours."; "My business. Not yours," "My wife, Not yours." etc.], since their indifference is not a formal or a legal one [since, according to dialectic 'reasoning,' there is no authority above man, i.e., above "human nature," i.e., above "pleasure-pain," telling the husband, the wife, and the child what is right and what is wrong]." ibid. "... once you can identify a community [where parent's are willing to compromise, i.e., are willing to set aside (for "the 'moment'") the standards they hold their children, to in order to initiate and/or sustain relationship with others], you have discovered the primary unity of society above the individual and the family that can be mobilized ... to bring about positive [non-authoritarian] social change ["worldly peace and socialist harmony"]." (Robert Trojanowicz, The meaning of "Community" in Community Policing)

By changing communication from "I know" (because my parent's, teacher, God said so) to "I feel" and "I think" (my opinion) the "right-wrong" of authority can be replaced with the "pleasure-pain" spectrum of the child (sight), negating authority (faith). The consensus meeting (which is based upon feelings) accomplishes this deed.

"Bypassing the traditional channels of top-down decision making, our objective centers upon transform public opinion into an effective instrument of global politics." "Individual values must be measured by their contribution to common interests and ultimately to world interests.... transforming public consensus into one favorable to the emergence of a stable and humanistic world order." "Consensus is both a personal and a political step. It is a precondition of all future steps." (Ervin Laszlo, A Strategy for the Future: The Systems Approach to World Order)

The key to 'change' is therefore based upon 'changing' the classroom environment from the rigidity of authority ("right-wrong") to the 'changingness' of feelings ("pleasure-pain").

"To create effectively a new set of attitudes and values, the individual must undergo great reorganization of his personal beliefs and attitudes and he must be involved in an environment which in may ways is separated from the previous environment in which he was developed, many of these changes are produced by association with peers who have less authoritarian points of view, as well as through the impact of a great many courses of study in which the authoritarian pattern is in some ways brought into question while more rational and nonauthoritarian behaviors are emphasized." (David Krathwohl, Benjamin S. Bloom, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives Book 2: Affective Domain)

"There are many stories of the conflict and tension that these new practices are producing between parents and children." ibid.

With the community, media, and government supporting the current education system, parent's are pressured into 'changing' their way of communicating with their children. They are no longer speaking with authority, i.e. with "right-wrong," but rather focusing upon their children's feelings, i.e., their "pleasures" and "pains" of the 'moment' instead.

"Using social-environmental forces to change the parent's behavior toward the child." (Theodor Adorno, The Authoritarian Personality)

To resolve the conflict between the parent's "right-wrong" way of thinking and the child's "pleasure-pain" way of thinking, the parent's "right-wrong" way of thinking must be questioned, challenged, and replaced with the "pleasure-pain" way of thinking of the child. That is the drive and the purpose of those possessed with dialectic 'reasoning.'

© Institution for Authority Research, Dean Gotcher 2016