Dialectical thinking is all about how an individual perceives conflicting concepts to develop a comprehensive point of view. This article explains it dialectically.
When you hear the term ‘homosexuality’, what are the thoughts that clog your mind? Are you one of those who think it is completely unethical, and hence, straight-away bracket it as bad, or you think that there’s nothing wrong with it and accept it as a way of life for some people. Even if you are not homosexual yourself, and are ready to understand the emotions behind homosexuality … the pros and cons regarding its place in modern world, then it can be said that you are a dialectical thinker. Such kind of thinking involves considering both point of views of a subject equally with their reasons.
When you understand why one concept is actually bad, you do not do full justice to the contradictory viewpoint generated simultaneously. For instance, in the homosexuality example, if you think it is bad, you fail to understand the genetic and physical wiring of those individuals. It is like if you wish to eat non-veg food, you are opposed to all the human beings, who think it is not right. The essence is understanding the contradictions and oppositions to one viewpoint, and accepting a particular concept in its entirety.
Copernicus, way back in the 16th century, broke the notion held all over the world and mainly by the church, that the Earth is the center of the universe. He postulated that the Sun is the center of the universe, which was accepted years later. He was a radical thinker, and brought about a change in the mindsets of the entire world. So, his thinking made him look for alternatives and widened his, and the world’s horizon. Dialectical thinking is all about ‘change’, how we perceive it, and get rid of the prejudices and rigid thoughts. We, as human beings, are slightly partial towards terms like bias, prejudices, stereotypes, etc. Change is thought as an unity of the opposites, wherein you are ready to let go of your bias or prejudice, and unite the new thought with the existing one. When a person opens up to the idea of change, he opens up to dialectical thoughts.
For an ordinary thinker, appearance of something does the trick of passing a judgment on it. But for a dialectical thinker, the all-round perception of that thing is essential. When we are brought up learning a particular line of thought, or working in the same surroundings, or with minimum knowledge of the outside world, our thoughts are bound to be rigid. We are brought up to be biased. The mode of thinking which makes us break the shackles of rigid thoughts, and helps in achieving an ‘unbiased’ nature is, precisely, what can be termed as dialectical.
Dialectical thinking stems from argument and reasoning. Immanuel Kant and Hegel were the first thinkers propagating the theory of this type of thinking. Kant’s take on transcendental dialectic states that, logical reasoning is very effective within the confines of science, but ‘all the worse for the beyond’, and there are ways to go beyond things as ‘experienced’ and to seek the ultimate reality of things in themselves.
Hegel, simply, put it in this way – a thesis gives rise to its antithesis and as a result of this, a third view of synthesis emerges. This basically means that understanding any concept, doesn’t mean that we understand only the concept and the argument against it, but an entirely new view emerges. This new view is an amalgamation of the earlier views, hence helping us understand the idea in its entirety. In the larger sense of the term, understanding that opposites are, in fact, relative concepts, is the gist of dialectical thought.
Interdependence of opposites, interpretation of opposites, and unity of opposites are the main characteristics of dialectical thinking. Let us take a model to get to understand these characteristics. Suppose you have to write an argumentative essay on ‘nuclear energy’. Following this model, you write how nuclear energy can be destructive with all its negative implications on the world politics. But, you also explain the positive side of it, stating how it is a non-polluting source and the future of energy as a whole.
You interpret the opposites here, and their interdependence and unity is seen from the fact that, if nuclear energy was not so destructive, then the opposite view of it being the future of energy would not have been comprehensible itself. It is similar to the concept of light and darkness. If there was no darkness, the importance of light would be null. Then comes the most significant part, when you compare both views rationally, and try to decide which is better to be followed. Your conclusion becomes intelligible when a dialectical thinking model is involved.
Since the great Karl Marx was hugely influenced by Hegel’s ‘Dialectical Idealism’, from which his concept of ‘Historical Materialism’ took birth, and eventually developed into the Marxian philosophy, let’s take a Marx quote to understand this thinking. It goes like – Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
When you first read this quote, you may be taken aback with the brazenness with which Marx described religion. You may disagree vehemently with the person who advocated this quote. But that’s because you are a one-dimensional thinker. However, after understanding the background with which this statement was made, namely the European bourgeoisie-proletariat structure, the brutal repression of commoners, people submitting themselves to God for the solution of their problems, instead of standing up and taking matters into their own hands, you may get the statement’s relevance, and its power to wake up people to the harsh reality.
The multiple dimensions of understanding such a statement resulting in dialectical thoughts is a simple example emanating from daily thoughts. You also may be experiencing this situation, wherein you experience your rigid thought changing into an all-inclusive one with some in-depth understanding. For instance, if you fear something, your rigid thought of fear doesn’t change until and unless you think dialectically, and decide to face that fear. When you have to unite your perception of fear with fearlessness, it is then that your dialectical thinking takes birth.
Thus, in daily life it is very essential for effective problem-solving and decision-making. But it is said, It is easier to believe a lie that one has heard a thousand times than to believe a fact that no one has heard before. Doesn’t this quote succeed completely in explaining our aversion to dialectical thinking? If some radical thought is blasphemous or, indeed, a thoughtful conclusion needs to be decided only after a careful deliberation. After all, one radical thought can be more than enough to ignite an all-encompassing change.