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dialectic

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dialectic

Zeno the Stoic, quoted by Cicero in De Oratore

Definition:

The practice of arriving at a conclusion by the exchange of logical arguments, usually in the form of questions and answers. Adjective: dialectic or dialectical.

One of the most famous sentences in Aristotle's Rhetoric is the first one: "Rhetoric is a counterpart (antistrophos) of dialectic." See Examples and Observations, below.

See also:

Etymology:

From the Greek, "speech, conversation"

Examples and Observations:

  • Dialectic in Ancient Greece
    "Sophists employed the method of dialectic (Greek: dialektike) in their teaching, or inventing arguments for and against a proposition. This approach taught students to argue either side of a case."
    (James A. Herrick, The History and Theory of Rhetoric. Allyn and Bacon, 2001)


  • "Zeno the Stoic suggests that while dialectic is a closed fist, rhetoric is an open hand (Cicero, De Oratore 113). Dialectic is a thing of closed logic, of minor and major premises leading inexorably toward irrefutable conclusions. Rhetoric is a signal toward decisions in the spaces left open before and after logic."
    (Ruth CA Higgins, "'The Empty Eloquence of Fools': Rhetoric in Classical Greece." Rediscovering Rhetoric: Law, Language, and the Practice of Persuasion, ed. by Justin T. Gleeson and Ruth CA Higgins. The Federation Press, 2008)


  • "In the simplest form of Socratic dialectic, the questioner and respondent begin with a proposition or a 'stock question,' such as What is courage? Then, through the process of dialectical interrogation, the questioner attempts to lead the respondent into contradiction. The Greek term for the contradiction that generally signals the end of a round of dialectic is aporia."
    (Janet M. Atwell, Rhetoric Reclaimed: Aristotle and the Liberal Arts Tradition. Cornell Univ. Press, 1998)


  • "Aristotle took a different view of the relationship between rhetoric and dialectic from what Plato had taken. Both, for Aristotle, are universal verbal arts, not limited to any specific subject matter, by which one could generate discourse and demonstrations on any question that might arise. The demonstrations, or arguments, of dialectic differ from those of rhetoric in that dialectic derives its arguments from premises (protaseis) founded on universal opinion and rhetoric from particular opinions."
    (Thomas M. Conley, Rhetoric in the European Tradition. Longman, 1990)


  • Dialectic From Medieval to Modern Times
    "In medieval times, dialectic had achieved a new importance at the expense of rhetoric, which was reduced to a doctrine of elocutio and actio (delivery) after the study of inventio and dispositio had been moved from rhetoric to dialectic. With Ramus this development culminated in a strict separation between dialectic and rhetoric, rhetoric being devoted exclusively to style, and dialectic being incorporated in logic . . .. The division (which is still very much alive in present-day argumentation theory) then resulted in two separate and mutually isolated paradigms, each conforming to different conceptions of argumentation, which were considered incompatible. Within the humanities rhetoric has become a field for scholars of communication, language and literature while dialectic, which was incorporated in logic and the sciences, almost disappeared from sight with the further formalization of logic in the nineteenth century."
    (Frans H. van Eemeren, Strategic Maneuvering in Argumentative Discourse: Extending the Pragma-Dialectical Theory of Argumentation. John Benjamins, 2010)


  • "During the long interlude which started with the Scientific Revolution, dialectic virtually disappeared as a full-fledged discipline and was replaced by the search for a reliable scientific method and increasingly formalized logical systems. The art of debate did not give rise to any theoretical development, and references to Aristotle's Topics quickly vanished from the intellectual scene. As to the art of persuasion, it was treated under the heading of rhetoric, which was devoted to the art of style and figures of speech. More recently, however, Aristotle's dialectic, in close interaction with rhetoric, has inspired some important developments within the fields of argumentation theory and epistemology."
    (Marta Spranzi, The Art of Dialectic Between Dialogue and Rhetoric: The Aristotelian Tradition. John Benjamins, 2011)


  • Contemporary Theories of Rhetoric and Dialectic
    "[Richard] Weaver (1970, 1985) believes that what he considers as the limitations of dialectic can be overcome (and its advantages maintained) through the use of rhetoric as a complement to dialectic. He defines rhetoric as 'truth plus its artful presentation,' which means that it takes a 'dialectically secured position' and shows 'its relationship to the world of prudential conduct' (Foss, Foss, & Trapp, 1985, p. 56). In his view, rhetoric supplements the knowledge gained through dialectic with a consideration of the character and situation of the audience. A sound rhetoric presupposes dialectic, bringing action to understanding. [Ernesto] Grassi (1980) aims to return to the definition of rhetoric espoused by the Italian Humanists to give rhetoric a new relevance for contemporary times, making use of the concept of ingenium--recognizing similarities--to grasp our ability to distinguish relationships and make connections. Returning to the ancient valuing of rhetoric as an art fundamental to human existence, Grassi identifies rhetoric with 'the power of language and human speech to generate a basis for human thought.' For Grassi the scope of rhetoric is much broader than argumentative discourse. It is the basic process by which we know the world."
    (Frans H. van Eemeren, Strategic Maneuvering in Argumentative Discourse: Extending the Pragma-Dialectical Theory of Argumentation. John Benjamins, 2010)
Pronunciation: die-eh-LEK-tik

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