For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Dialectic vs. Science: Socrates, Plato, Kant, Hegel
  • Tommi Juhani Hanhijarvi
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Sound Bite

How much does human thinking matter these days? The scope of AI grows by the year, with computers learning to compose symphonies and rule the stock market; and increasingly, the entertainment industry builds simply on algorithms which establish predictable regularities in individuals’ preferences.

In this climate talking about dialectics can at first seem wild and outlandish, and especially in their more radical versions they are already being ignored rather consistently at many college lectures and textbooks. However if there is a serious accusation against the great dialecticians, then this must be that they lack the rigor of the modern computer.

In response, dialecticians should take up the challenge and actively reveal why dialectics still have the kind of liberating and critical power which their adherents have advertised through the centuries. But this requires that we introduce novel idioms: we cannot cling merely to traditional languages if dialectics are to have a future.


About the Author

Tommi Juhani Hanhijärvi holds a PhD in Philosophy from Berlin’s Humboldt University and has an M.A. in Philosophy and History. Originally from Finland, he has lived half his life in the USA, Netherlands, and Germany. He have taught at the university and secondary school level and has published several books in English, focusing on Socrates, Logic and related subjects.

About the Book

In the later nineteenth century logic became a rigorous discipline in eliminating the need of human interpretations or intuitions (primarily due to Frege). This is why logic is now so widely automated.

Dr. Hahnijärvi sets out the...

In the later nineteenth century logic became a rigorous discipline in eliminating the need of human interpretations or intuitions (primarily due to Frege). This is why logic is now so widely automated.

Dr. Hahnijärvi sets out the framework for a historical review of dialectics in his Introduction. This section provides the overall setting for the book, borrowing heavily from Marcuse but introducing several formal examples of both AI and dialectics that are not familiar from Marcuse’s texts.

The next chapter examines Plato. This ancient Greek philosopher was not the first dialectician but he was the first comparatively systematic one, unifying strands from predecessors like Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Parmenides, and Socrates.

It was not normal in the Greece of his day to say that men and women, and the rich as well as slaves, or both youths and adults, were to exemplify the same virtues (aretai), for rather the Greeks normally said that, e.g., slaves and women had other obligations and different rights. But Plato’s idealization of virtue led him to require equal results from all. In general, the bottom line is that perfectionistic thought rules the roost: we are not simply to conform mechanically to whatever laws or conventions there happen to be. Nothing less than perfect consistency suffices, and the examined life consists of a search for a utopia of this kind.

Next comes Aristotle, Plato’s student, who was officially a critic of his teacher’s dialectic; in practice also Aristotle erected his first principles by relying on dialectics alone. Once Aristotle had his first principles, he was content to dwell mostly on topics of a lower order. He introduces his logical categories and produces the first logical system in history.

In Chapter 4, we examine the work of Immanuel Kant. Kant was the father of German Idealism and Romanticism because he transported Plato’s cosmic Ideas into the human mind.

Finally, Dr. Hahnijärvi introduces Hegel, the major German Idealist after Kant. He was the least inhibited dialectician, but to some readers he is also the most inspiring. Hegel formulates what he calls a "logic" but its meaning is dialectical. Hegel is the major German Idealist after Kant. He is the least inhibited dialectician, but at least to some readers he will also be the most inspiring. He formulates what he calls a “logic” but its meaning is dialectical. In Hegel’s logic all but the most complete examples of justice are contradictory, because they are in part unjust. However justice is not all he has in mind, and he uses a vast variety of examples for his dialectics. These he draws from the world’s arts, religions, and philosophies as well as morals and politics.

Tommi unravels the specialized language and thought processes that make each of these thinkers great, and he shows what we can learn by pondering the issues they examine.


Pages 180
Year: 2022

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