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Title: Dialectic
Original Title: Dialectique
Volume and Page: Vol. 4 (1754), pp. 934–935
Author: Unknown
Translator: Malcolm Eden [University of London,]
Subject terms:
Original Version (ARTFL): Link

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Citation (MLA): "Dialectic." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Malcolm Eden. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2007. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <>. Trans. of "Dialectique," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 4. Paris, 1754.
Citation (Chicago): "Dialectic." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Malcolm Eden. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2007. (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Dialectique," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 4:934–935 (Paris, 1754).

Dialectic, the art of reasoning and arguing correctly.

The word comes from the Greek διαλέγομαι , I discourse , which is formed from δια and λέγω , dico , I say.

Zeno of Elea was the first to discover the natural sequence of principles and conclusions that are observed in reasoning, and from it he developed an art in dialogue form, which was for this reason called dialectic. See Reasoning and the article Logic.

Classical dialectic was generally divided into several kinds. The first was developed by Zeno of Elea, and was called eleatic ( eleatica ). It was also divided into three categories, namely, the dialectic of consequences, of conversations and of argument ( consècutionum, collocutionum and contentionum ). The first dealt with the rules that teach how to draw conclusions. The second examined the art of dialogue, which became so universally used in philosophy that all reasoning was called an interrogation . Philosophers abandoned the syllogism and only used the dialogue form; it was for the answerer to conclude and to discourse, in consequence of the different concession that had been made to him. The third and last part of Zeno’s dialectic , Εριστίκη, was contentious, or the art of argument or contradiction, although there were writers, Diogenes Laërtius in particular, who attributed this dialectic to Protagoras, one of Zeno’s followers. See Dialogue [Dialogue (Literature); Dialogue] and Argument.

The second kind was the Megarian dialectic ( dialectica megarica ), developed by Euclid – not the mathematician of that name, but Euclid of Megara. He followed the methods of Zeno and Protagoras closely, but two things characterise him: first he attacked the demonstrations of others not by assertion but by conclusions, and proceeded only by induction, from consequence to consequence. Secondly, Euclid never used arguments whose strength depended on comparison or resemblance, since he considered them valueless.

After him came Eubulides, to whom the dangerous invention of the art of Sophism is attributed. In his time this art was divided into several categories, like mentiens (the Liar), fallens (the Unnoticed), the Electra, obvelata (the Man in a Veil), acervalis (the Heap), cornvta (the Horns) and calva (the Bald Head). See Sophism.

The third was Plato’s dialectic , which he proposed as a kind of analysis to direct the human mind by dividing, defining and returning to first truths or principles. Plato used this analysis to explain material phenomena, but always with the aim of returning to first truths, which alone satisfied him. Such was the idea of Plato’s analysis. See Analysis, Platonism, Academy etc.

The fourth was Aristotle’s dialectic , which contains the doctrine of simple words, set out in his book the Categories ; the doctrine of propositions, in his books De Interpretatione , and the doctrines of the different kinds of syllogism, in his books the Analytica, Topica and De Sophisticis Elenchis. See Syllogism, Topic, Proposition, etc .

The fifth was the dialectic of the Stoics, which they called a part of philosophy , and which they divided into rhetoric and dialectics . To these they sometimes added the definitive species, through which things are precisely defined; the rules or criterium of truth are also included in it. See Evidence, Truth, etc.

The Stoics, before dealing with syllogisms, dwelt on two main topics, the meaning of words and the things signified by them. Under the first heading, they analysed the many things that are the field of study of grammarians, what is understood by all the different forms of literature , examining what a word is, a speech, a sentence, a discourse, etc.

The second subject the Stoics dealt with was the analysis of things in themselves, not insofar as they are outside the mind, but as they are received by the senses. Thus their first principle is that there is nothing in understanding that has not passed through the senses, nihil est in intellectu quod prius non fuerit in sensu; and that things can come aut incursione sui , like an object is seen; aut similitudine , like in a portrait; aut proportione , either by making an object bigger, like a giant, or smaller, like a pygmy; aut translatione , like the cyclops; aut compositione , like a centaur; aut contrario , like death, aut privatione , like a blind man. See Stoics.

The sixth was the dialectic of Epicurus. Although this philosopher apparently held dialectics in contempt, he cultivated it with a good deal of passion, and only rejected the Stoics’ use of it because, in his view, they attributed to their dialectic much more than they should have done, and claimed that only an individual versed in dialectics could be wise. For this reason Epicurus, apparently giving no importance to the common dialectic , had recourse to another means, i.e. to certain rules or principles that he established, and which in collective form are known as canonica . And as all the questions in philosophy are based around things or words, de re or de voce , he established special rules for each of these subjects. See Epicureans.