Analytic dialectic and synthetic dialectic

Two forms of dialectic can be distinguished. They have different characters and different trajectories.

Synthetic dialectic moves toward monism.

  • Synthetic dialectic is reductionistic.
  • Its method  is to uncover and cancel contradictions in antitheses which preserve irrelevant, complicating and inhibiting distinctions.
  • Synthetic dialectic has a passionate and destructive character. It tends to destroy complex structure and release energy.
  • Synthetic dialectic tends to decrease the total number of categories as well as the quantity and complexity of relationships connecting these categories, while increasing the scope of the remaining categories.
  • Synthetic dialectic is experienced as liberation from de-centering illusions — oppressive notions that alienate a person from himself, prevent him from living according to his own experience and judgment, and which oblige him to live according to the experiences and judgments of others.
  • The thrust of synthetic dialectic is to detect the irrelevance and invalidity of alien claims and to reject them on that basis.
  • Whether idealistic or materialistic, synthetic dialectic attempts to finally subsume all being under a single, universal ontological category, or a monad. This category is understood to be basis of truth. Thinking from other bases is at best provisional and at worst, false.
  • Synthetic dialectic can appear absolutist, and often succumbs to absolutism.
  • Synthetic dialectic strengthens the will, but weakens the intellect.
  • Synthetic dialectic synthesizes — “puts together” — broader, more universal categories. Fewer and fewer particularities are perceived in their particularity, but are taken as generalities, types or manifested principles and are treated according to their abstract intelligible character. Anomalous particularities are disregarded as irrelevant.

Analytic dialectic moves toward pluralism.

  • Analytic dialectic is antireductionistic.
  • Its method is to uncover and cancel contradictions in antitheses which project unnecessary, simplistic and unproductive equivalencies.
  • Analytic dialectic has a moderating and constructive character. It tends to consume energy generating structures of increasing complexity.
  • Analytic dialectic tends to increase the total number of categories and the quantity and complexity of relationships connecting them, while decreasing the scope of each categories.
  • Analytic dialectic discovers diversity within apparent equivalency. It looks for failures to detect relevant distinctions made by other people, due to the crudeness of one’s own schema. It discovers both new distinctions and new, valid, obligating claims from others.
  • The thrust of analytic dialectic is to detect the relevance and validity of alien claims and to affirm them.
  • Analytic dialectic attempts to understand multiple, overlapping ontological existences in all being, which permits the understanding of diverse, valid and finite perspectives. The ground of being is understood as an engulfing infinity, to which human beings relate in finite terms.
  • Analytic dialectic can appear relativist, and often succumbs to relativism.
  • Analytic dialectic strengthens the intellect, but weakens the will.
  • Analytic dialectic scrutinizes broad, universal categories and analyzes — “loosens them up” — into finer categorizations more capable of doing justice to “particularities in their particularity”. Particularities are still treated according to their intelligible character, but intelligibility is obligated to answer to the truth of particulars and to accommodate them.


Both forms of dialectic are necessary to human life. Neither is intrinsically good nor intrinsically bad. The question is one of context and dynamic balance.

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