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Dialectical Inquiry

Summary of Dialectics. Abstract

History of Dialectical Inquiry (DI)


From I Ching, Lao Tzu, Heraclites, Plato, Socrates, Aristoteles, to Kant, Hegel, Fichte, Marx, and Engels.

Dialectics (D) has a long history during which the meaning and understanding of it changed. In Asia, the idea that everything is made of opposites--yin and yang--dates back to the I Ching around 3,000 years ago and the Taoist master Lao Tzu around 2,500 years ago. Taoism holds that change is the only constant. Taoist philosophy also understood that "gradual change leads to a sudden change of form (hua)."


Also around 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece, Heraclites advanced the idea that all change comes through the struggle of opposites. The Aztecs also held the idea of nature being made of opposites, as did the Lakotas in North America. In Plato's dialogues, Socrates typically "argues" by means of cross-examining someone else's assertions in order to draw out the inherent contradictions within the other's position. Aristoteles compared Dialectics with Rhetoric (the art of convincing others) stating that dialectics are dealing with an upright looking for the truth.


For some reason the idea of everything being made of opposites died out in Western thought until Kant and Hegel revitalized the idea of dialectics just as the industrial revolution was beginning.


Finally Fichte made the implicit triad existing in Hegel's work explicit by clearly distinguishing between Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis, and this idea was subsequently extended by Marx and Engels.

Use of the DI Method in VBM, Strategy and Ethics


Strategy, Value Based Management and Business Ethics (Values) are all complex by nature (Compare: History of Value Based Management). D offer a number of advantages to those that must deal with this inherent complexity and with these seemingly contradicting forces (tensions).

dialectical inquiry dialectics De Wit and Meyer (Strategy: Process, Content, Context) mention the following advantages of taking a dialectical approach to strategic paradoxes and complexity (instead of treating the tensions as puzzles, dilemma's or trade-offs or taking the average):

  1. A range of ideas can be exploited
  2. Help focus on points of contention (critical points)
  3. Provides a stimulus for bridging seemingly irreconcilable opposites
  4. Provides a stimulus for creativity (to find a synthesis that is better then the trade-off between the opposites)

A method resembling D is the Devilís Advocate Approach. This method is also useful in exposing underlying assumptions, but has a tendency to emphasize the negative, whereas DI is a more balanced and harmonious approach.

Book: Bob de With and Ron Meyer - Strategy: Process, Content, Context

Book: Alex Lowy and Phil Hood - The Power of the 2x2 Matrix - Using 2x2 Thinking to Solve Business Problems and Make Better Decisions

Book: Barry Johnson - Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems

Book: Charles M. Hampden-Turner, Fons Trompenaars - Building Cross-Cultural Competence: How to Create Wealth from Conflicting Values

👀TIP: On this website you can find much more about Dialectics!

Compare with Dialectical Inquiry: Root Cause Analysis  |  Theory of Constraints  |  Brainstorming  |  Six Thinking Hats  |  System Dynamics  |  Scenario Planning  |  Game Theory  |  Spiral Dynamics  |  Real Options  |  Kepner-Tregoe Matrix  |  Plausibility Theory

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