David Corfield
Dialectic and Eristic

Terms discussed by R G Collingwood in The New Leviathan.

24.58 What Plato calls an eristic discussion is one on which each party tries to prove that he was right and the other wrong.

24.59 In a dialectical discussion you aim at showing that your own view is one with which your opponent really agrees, even if at one time he denied it: or conversely that it was yourself and not your opponent who began by denying a view with which you really agree.

28.17 An ‘eristic’ (24.58) political process can go on without discussion, Aiming as they do at victory, the parties to it may very well use force (20.5) or attempts at force; for each tries to crush the rest, and this is best done not by discussion but by violence: that is, by civil war among the rulers.

28.18 Parliaments are not an end in themselves, they are means to the end of dialectical politics. Their function is to establish agreement of will among rulers on political questions.

36.66 But although there is certainly an eristic of knowledge, a tendency to make it a matter of contention and competition and monopoly, there is also a dialectic of knowledge, a tendency to make it a matter of agreement and co-operation and sharing.

Civility as relations between people and of people with world. First as dialectical forging of joint will without force. Second requires generosity to pass on knowledge.

Does this point to a tension in nLab as place of instruction and place to work out ideas?

39.15 Being civilized means living so far as possible dialectically, that is, in constant endeavour to convert every occasion of non-agreement into an occasion of agreement. A degree of force is inevitable in human life, but being civilized means cutting it down, and becoming more civilized means cutting down still further.

On Hegel and dialectic,

33.81 ‘Dialectic’, we have seen, is Plato’s name for a peaceful, friendly discussion in which the disputants aim at agreement, as opposed to a discussion embittered or rendered warlike by their aiming at victory (24. 61-65).

33.82. In addition to the psychological value of arriving at agreement a dialectical discussion has the scientific value of arriving at truth when what is discussed is a ‘Heraclitean world’ in which there is a ‘dialectic of things’: where ‘everything moves and nothing rests’ (24.71-6).

33.83. Hegel, who did more than any other man to revive the study of Plato and Aristiotle in the modern world, not an unmixed blessing (33.39), reintroduced the Platonic word ‘dialectic’ in its Platonic sense.

33.84. In doing so he made at least one very bad mistake. Recognizing that a ‘dialectic of words’ to be scientifically valuable must be accompanied by a ‘dialectic of things’, he inferred that these two dialectics must be processes of the same kind; each must proceed from abstraction, through synthesis with its opposite abstraction, towards the concrete.

33.85. Hegel thought that a dialectical world is a world where everything argued itself into existence.

33.86. He thought that a Platonic ‘dialectic in words’ set the standard of a dialectic pattern to which the ‘dialectic of things’ must conform.

33.87. This was theology, and anthropomorphic theology of quite a low type. ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God’.

33.88. Hegel says outright that his dialectical logic is an exposition of the nature of God; and that the transition from God to Nature in his Encyclopaedia is an exposition of the process whereby God creates Nature.

33.89. The mistake is the Fallacy of Misplaced Argument. Hegel aims at building up the concrete out of abstractions; not realizing that, unless the concrete is given from the start, the abstractions out of which it is to be built up are not forthcoming (6.58-9).

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