Philosophers rely on the human faculty of reason as they philosophize. Through this rational capacity, they arrived at a technique to resolve philosophical questions; this is called dialectics. Dialectics is an art of refutation that dates back to the ancient Greeks. Philosophical discovery is the result of collaboration with partners in dialogue or conversation. This is the reason why ancient Greek philosophers wrote dialogues. Dialogues illustrate how dialectics is an effective means of examining and evaluating truth claims. Errors or inconsistencies of a claim are demonstrated using rational abilities.
The philosopher Socrates is most noteworthy in his use of dialectics. His method of question and answer illustrates how views need to be defended with consistency and clarity. The series of questioning and answering he subjected Athenians into was effective in drawing out underlying assumptions. It is not enough to claim something as true. One has to give good reasons as the basis for any claim, and the claim must be able to extend further scrutiny and examination.
It is when our views are challenged that we feel compelled to defend those very views. The rational way to do it is to give good reasons. We need to welcome questions that probe into the core of what we claim because it is the best way to reveal what is not apparent. In the process, we learn more about our position or view – what it assumes, what it truly means, and what it entails. When we articulate these things, our mind is sharpened. A bonus is that we also learn more about ourselves. Our capacity to reason is revealed, and we may even gain insight into who we are at our core.
The dialectics of the ancients later developed in the modern era into a thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The exchange or confrontation between differing positions (one is a thesis, and the other one is antitheses) culminates in a synthesis that is a resolution of opposing views. The German philosophers G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx claimed that there is a dialectical pattern even in history as reflected in resolutions of contradictions through time.
G.W.F. Hegel (1770 – 1831)
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born in Stuttgart Germany. He belongs to the previous in philosophy known as “German idealism,” which shared Plato’s view that ideas are real as opposed to matter.
Hegel’s first major work, The Phenomenology of the Spirit, is linked to historical progress.
Thus, the interplay of opposing views is necessary for progress. Confrontations of this kind must not be avoided at all. We need this exchange of ideas so we can grow.
Even the collective view of Filipinos as a nation may be interpreted as one that develops through time dialectically. Our views are revised as we experienced turning points in history. From bowing to oppressors and dwelling on sentiment, we can now recognize manipulative appeals made to our emotions by politicians. We now demand that our leaders be responsible and accountable to People whose interests they swear to protect and to promote.
Dialectics is indispensable since it leads us closer to the truth. Finding the truth, in a way, involves a kind of “truth-ing,” and dialectics is one of its earliest and tested forms. When we inquire about philosophical questions in partnership with another, in some types of debate, we learn more because we are challenged to think about the question rigorously and exhaustively. A development or progress in thought thus occurs. The philosophical question is clarified, at the least, and so it contributes to a better understanding of the problem itself, or of the kind of answer that would qualify as plausible.
Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)
Born on May 5, 1818, in Trier, Germany, Karl Marx was trained in philosophy but later turned to economics and politics. Marx introduced the concept of “historical materialism,” which embodies his theory that societies rise and fall as a result of class struggles.
Philosophy teaches us to be open as we strive to know better. Debating amiably (that is, a confrontation without aggression ) with someone allows us to discover many things. It reveals our beliefs and challenges us to defend those beliefs. This rational activity teaches us to hold on only to those beliefs we can defend and to remain open so we can revise our views through time and in collaboration with others.