A Twitter post by Elon Musk this morning using a Greek word: διαλεκτική – dialectic went viral, with users trying to understand the hidden meaning behind the world’s richest man’s choice of word.
At the time of writing, the tweet had over 3,000 retweets and over 41,000 likes.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 25, 2022
What are dialectics?
The word dialectic comes from the Greek word διαλεγομαι, which means to hold a debate.
Dialectic, also called dialectics or the dialectical method, was originally a form of logical argumentation. Now it is also a philosophical concept of evolution applied to diverse fields including thought, nature, economics and history.
In what is perhaps the most classic version of dialectics, the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, presented his philosophical argument as a back-and-forth dialogue or debate, generally between the character of Socrates, on one side, and some person or group of people to whom Socrates was talking, on the other. In the course of the dialogues, Socrates’ interlocutors propose definitions of philosophical concepts or express views that Socrates challenges or opposes. The debate between opposing sides produces a kind of progression in philosophical views or positions: as the dialogues go along, Socrates’ interlocutors change or refine their views in response to Socrates’ challenges and come to adopt more sophisticated views.
The concept of dialectics was given new life at the start of the 19th century by Georg Hegel. “Hegelian dialectics” refers to the particular dialectical method of argument employed by the German philosopher. Whereas Plato’s “opposing sides” were people (Socrates and his interlocutors), however, what the “opposing sides” are in Hegel’s work depends on the subject matter he discusses. In his work on logic, for instance, the “opposing sides” are different definitions of logical concepts that are opposed to one another. As in Plato’s dialogues, a contradictory process between “opposing sides” in Hegel’s dialectics leads to a linear evolution or development from less sophisticated definitions or views to more sophisticated ones later.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels adopted Hegel’s definition and applied it to social and economic processes. Whereas Hegel saw change and development as the expression of the world spirit, or Idea, realising itself in nature and in human society, for Marx and Engels change was inherent in the nature of the material world. They, therefore, held that one could not, as Hegel tried, deduce the actual course of events from any “principles of dialectics”; the principles must be inferred from the events.
For Marx and Engels, materialism meant that the material world, perceptible to the senses, has objective reality independent of mind or spirit. They did not deny the reality of mental or spiritual processes but affirmed that ideas could arise, therefore, only as products and reflections of material conditions.
(With information from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)