Dialectics and Aristotle

Charles Andrews chandrews at igc2.igc.apc.org
Wed Feb 22 00:44:05 MST 1995

Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra praised Aristotle for dialectics:

>...dialectics is, at root, a methodology totally opposed to
monism and to dualism, forms that can be found in the Kantian
antinomies, but that are not to be found in the Aristotelian
tradition.  It was Aristotle's commitment to the analysis of the
whole, his rejection of Platonic idealism and Democritean
atomism, his rejection of the fallacy of reification, that was
most dialectical and influential... and unfortunately,
unheralded, by later "formalist" Aristotelians who viewed
dialectical logic as antithetical to logical thought.
    It was Marcuse in REASON AND REVOLUTION who reminds us that
even Hegel sought to recapture the dynamism of Aristotle's
ontology, the simultaneous focus on both being and becoming.<

    Was Aristotle dialectical when he supported Parmenides
against Heraclitus: "In general, it is absurd to present the
fact that familiar objects appear to change and never to remain
in the same state as a criterion of truth. For in the pursuit of
truth one must start from whatever is always in the same state
and does not undergo change." (Metaphysics, trans. Richard Hope,
1963, p. 231)
    Or was Aristotle dialectical when he denied the unity of
opposites: "...such a principle is the most certain of all;
which principle this is, let us proceed to say. It is, that the
same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to
the same subject and in the same respect; we must presuppose, to
guard against dialectical objections, any further qualifications
which might be added. This, then, is the most certain of all
principles ....For it is impossible for anyone to believe the
same thing to be and not to be, as some think Heraclitus says.
    "There are some who, as we said, both themselves assert that
it is possible for the same thing to be and not to be, and say
that people can judge this to be the case. And among others many
writers about nature [the Ionian materialists] use this
language. But we have now posited that it is impossible for
anything at the same time to be and not to be,..." (Metaphysics,
translated by W.D. Ross, Great Books of the Western World,
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952, 1005b-1006a)
    Okay, Aristotle admitted: "But all existing things and
intermediates in fact change into their opposites."
(Metaphysics, trans. Hope, p. 83)
    His writings are a unity of opposites...with a predominant
aspect. The Great Classifier was basically opposed to
revolutionary dialectics, which is simply thorough dialectics.

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