There are several features of this account that Hegel thinks raise his dialectical method above the arbitrariness of Plato’s dialectics to the level of a genuine science. First, because the determinations in the moment of understanding sublate themselves, Hegel’s dialectics does not require some new idea to show up arbitrarily. Instead, the movement to new determinations is driven by the nature of the earlier determinations and so “comes about on its own accord” (PhG-P §79). Indeed, for Hegel, the movement is driven by necessity (see, e.g., EL Remarks to §§12, 42, 81, 87, 88; PhG §79). The natures of the determinations themselves drive or force them to pass into their opposites. This sense of necessity—the idea that the method involves being forced from earlier moments to later ones—leads Hegel to regard his dialectics as a kind of logic.

I've read a little Hegel, and at its close it does seem at least preconceived, if not necessary. Is it similar to Wittgenstein's Tractatus, insofar as an idea is clarified into containing the others, so that we're just left wondering how we didn't know it already? Or is it because Hegel's dialectic ends in the absolute idea (if I remember correctly), rather than e.g. silence?


1 Answer 1


The short answer is that reason, logic, and dialectic are conceptually overlapping.

Reason is often taken to be the process a philosopher engages is and is a property of intelligence. Therefore one reasons according to logic to perform the dialectic.

Logic is taken by many to be the formal properties of reason, in the least formal sense informal logic and in the most formal sense formal logic.

Dialectic is taken to be a methodlogy of philosophy which the reasonable person uses to demonstrate good logic, taken either as valid and sound in the deductive case or strong and cogent in the inductive case. The best forms of inference are taken to be parsimonious, salient, strong, and valid since they range across a whole collection of smaller arguments. From WP:

Dialectic (Greek: διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ; German: Dialektik), also known as the dialectical method, refers originally to dialogue between people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to arrive at the truth through reasoned argumentation. Dialectic resembles debate, but the concept excludes subjective elements such as emotional appeal and rhetoric.1 It has its origins in ancient philosophy and continued to be developed in the Middle Ages... In the modern period, Hegelianism refigured "dialectic" to no longer refer to a literal dialogue. Instead, the term takes on the specialized meaning of development by way of overcoming internal contradictions. (emphasis mine)

So, in the original sense, dialectic was just the informal use of reason to have a conversation in a very broad way looking to focus on the logos of an argument. By the time of Kant, Husserl, Frege, and Hegel, the notion of linguistic and logical analysis began to enter the fore where it was recognized that philosophy used language to root out contradiction.

Today, the analytic tradition takes the location of logical contradiction in language as a sancrosanct principle. There are whole bodies of work around Russell's paradox, category mistakes, and fallacy that those who follow the linguistic turn appeal to in their argumentation. In natural language ontology (SEP), for instance, one finds such topics as quantifier variance which relies on and looks to logical contradiction for explaining differences in ontological commitment in natural languages.

Hegel was attempting, like Frege with symbols, to put the notion of logical contradiction on a more scientific basis than the Ancient Greeks.

  • that is a good way of answering the question, thanks
    – user67675
    Nov 12, 2023 at 15:05
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    @prof_ghost What's sometimes not obvious from the modern perspective is that there was a time when the distinction between the psychological and the merely logical wasn't clear. Today we have formal semantics to point to as strong evidence of the objective and computational nature of logic and mathematics; we have fMRIs and NCCs. we have cognitive psychology all of which inform how the mind dabbles in logic. Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow puts forth the thesis that rigorous mathematical logic is one of two types of...
    – J D
    Nov 12, 2023 at 16:18
  • thinking, the other being the irrational, biased, emotional brain that uses shallow stereotypes. What's important to understand is that at the time of German idealism, none of this stuff had been worked out. Hegel, therefore, prefigured Frege and Husserl and Wundt and Brentano, pushing from the Antimonies and Exact Sciences of Kant to rigorous formal semantics surrounding mathematical logic and linguistics. The notion of the Hegelian dialectic is very influential because it makes a contemporary claim about the role of contradiction in thought.
    – J D
    Nov 12, 2023 at 16:22

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