5 Aug 2019

Priest (CBS) “Dialectic and Dialetheic,” collected brief summaries


by Corry Shores

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Collected Brief Summaries for


Graham Priest


“Dialectic and Dialetheic”




Dialectics Requires Dialetheism


Priest will argue that Hegel’s and Marx’s dialectics were based on dialetheia, that is, on true contradiction.




Why It Is Necessary to Argue This


Many scholars argue that Marx’s and Hegel’s dialectics involve a non-logical notion of contradiction or that contradiction is conceptual and does not obtain in reality. Priest, however, will argue that the logical sense of contradiction is fundamental to their philosophies of dialectic.





The Argument Against this Interpretation


The main argument against reading Hegel and Marx as dialetheists is that it goes against the basic restriction of classical logic that you cannot have contradictions. But this restriction is based on an assumption and is thus not a necessary one.





Dialetheic Logic


Dialetheic logic is just like orthodox logic except that it allows for true contradictions, and when there are true contradictions, we cannot infer from them any other proposition we want.





Motion: An Illustration


One way we can illustrate how dialetheic logic can apply to dialectics is by accounting for motion in a Hegelian way. An object in motion is at a certain point at a certain instant, but since it is in motion, in that instant it is already leaving that point. Thus it is both true and false that the object is at that point in that instant.





The History of Hegel’s Dialectic


If we look at three of Hegel’s influences – Neo-Platonists, Kant, and Fichte – we see that Hegel borrowed self-contradictory ideas from each of them. Thus Hegel is a dialetheist, that is, he believes that true contradictions exist.





Contradiction in Hegel’s Dialectic


In Hegel’s dialectical movement, contradictory categories result from one another and are conjoined. It is in this ways that Hegel is a dialetheist [someone who thinks that there exist true contradictions].





Contradiction in Marx’s Dialectic





Identity in Difference


Hegel’s dialectic takes the form of identity in difference, formulable as (a=b)&(ab). This is a variation on the dialetheic formulation A&~A.





Dialectics and Epistemology












Priest, Graham. “Dialectic and Dialetheic.” Science & Society 53, no. 4 (1990): 388–415.






  1. Dialetheic Logic! a rich idea and a beautiful word in contrast to Dialetic, also a rich word. I am not at all familiar with Graham Priest's ideas but I find just skimming the surface of these planes of discussion of interest because naturally questions of difference, identity and contradiction at are the non centered heart of philosophy and of our lives. Just a brief fly over remark here .

  2. An interesting mistake in the above comment where I meant to type Dialectic I wrote Dialetic, a strange looking creature!

    1. I also find Priest's ideas interesting in the context of difference. Dialetic is a great coinage!

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