And the (Dialectical) Beat Goes On...
I was asked on Facebook by one reader:
What is your definition of dialectics? One definition that I encountered was "inquiry into metaphysical contradictions and their solutions." From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Hegel: "'Dialectics' is a term used to describe a method of philosophical argument that involves some sort of contradictory process between opposing sides." But this is not the definition. Here, instead of "contradictory process between opposing sides," if we take "perceived contradictory process between opposing sides," then it can be taken as a point for discussion on the subject. But, the underlying premise, as far as I know, of Hegel and Marx on dialectics involves some sort of metaphysical contradictions. In a previous comment on this thread, you had claimed that "There is nothing in dialectics that is in opposition to the law of non-contradiction." This proposition of yours suggests that you are thinking of an entirely different definition for dialectics than what is generally considered by many, including me, as the process of dialectics. I think that if such a definition can be developed through a theory on epistemology, then it would have far-reaching consequences in the field of philosophy. It is my guess is that you have not yet reached your definition of dialectics. It must come only after a long theory taking into consideration Aristotle’s Topics in Organon, and the ideas of Hegel and Marx, and certain points of Ayn Rand, such as what I think an indirect reference to dialectics, that it is a "conditioned reflex."
I respond at length:
The only thing I can suggest is this: Have you read part 1 of Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism? I ask because that is precisely what I do. I begin with Aristotle and work through all the differing definitions offered of dialectics through the centuries right up to the current day, all within the first three chapters. I then turn in Chapter four to a much more rigorous definition of dialectics along the lines of genus and species, It is a species of the genus "methodological orientations", and it sits on a continuum among other orientations (I identify four others). I then formally define dialectics as "an orientation toward contextual analysis of the sytemic and dynamic relations of components within a totality." I devote a whole section to unpacking that definition so that you know what I mean by "contextual analysis", "systemic", "dynamic", "relations" and "totality". The shorthand definition I have used, however, is akin to Rand's identification of logic, which she viewed as the "art of noncontradictory identification"; my shorthand definition is "the art of context-keeping", and each (logic and dialectics) entails the other. One cannot keep context while holding a contradiction, and one can only understand a contradiction by keeping context (remember that the law of noncontradiction in Aristotle is that A cannot be A and not A "at the same time and in the same respect"... so the very notion of "at the same time and in the same respect" is a context for understanding what Aristotle means by the law of nonconradiction).
I hate to have to refer you to those first four chapters of Total Freedom but it does, in fact, address all of the concerns you have raised, and begins with Aristotle as the first theoretician of a dialectical mode of analysis.
I should add one comment about this notion of contradiction: there are some folks in the tradition of dialectical thinking who have tried to pit the laws of logic against dialectical thinking. I reject and repudiate any such attempts. Even Hegel, at his best, points to Aristotle as "the fountainhead" (and that is the phrase he uses) of the entire enterprise of dialectical thinking, the first theoretician of dialectics.
What you will usually see in the analysis of certain dialectical thinkers is that they will take a look at two things, events, or problems and say that they "appear" to be in contradiction. But since contradictions cannot exist, they try to unmask the contradiction as, rather, a "false alternative", that is, things that appear superficially to be opposed to one another, but which share a common premise.
The only way to understand that common premise is to shift one's level of generality or one's vantage point on the problem. This is what Rand does when she shows that the alleged opposition of "intrinsic" and "subjective" is not really a contradiction, but that they are false alternatives sharing a common premise, and she proposes that a genuinely objective approach is the only proper alternative. (She also roots many of the false alternatives that she rejects in the "mind-body dichotomy", which is deep in the history of philosophy.)