The central concept in DIALECTICS is that of "contradiction". However, dialectical contradiction is not the same as logical contradiction, which is just the simultaneous affirmation and denial of some specific statement. [See: CONTRADICTION (Logical)]
Dialectical contradiction is more like an opposition between two forces. And really, "opposition" would be a better word for it than "contradiction", but we are stuck with that latter term for historical reasons. (Blame the Greeks and Hegel!)
A dialectical contradiction
Is basically just an oppositionó
A pair of wrestlers in a tuggle
Locked together while they struggle.
You can't separate them with two wild horses,
These two entwined, opposing forces.
Yet usually from this convolution
There comes eventual resolutionó
One force defeats, subsumes, the other
The struggling thing becomes another;
The conflict leads to elevationó
A qualitative transformation.
óJSH, "Wrestling with Contradiction" (2001)
The opposing poles of a (dialectical) contradiction are sometimes called its aspects. When one aspect finally completely wins out over the other, the contradiction is resolved (disappears).
As the ditty above suggests, most dialectical contradictions are not permanently stable. (They are instead what we might call "quasi-stable", or stable only for a time.) And the contradiction as a whole, that is, the unified thing which consists of both aspects of the contradiction or else at least includes them both within it, itself changes in a major way when the contradiction is resolved.
From the point of view of dialectics, change and development (in not only the world of ideas and in society but also in the natural world) takes place through contradictionsóboth through the struggle between their aspects while the contradictions still exist, and through the resolution of contradictions.
The best way to understand and get confortable with the concept of dialectical contradiction is through the consideration of many examples. In geophysics there are the forces which move tectonic plates, for instance, and the forces of resistence to that movement. This type of contradiction leads to earthquakes, volcanoes, and the rise of mountains. Then there is the contradiction between these mountain-raising forces and the collective forces of wind, rain, ice and gravity, which serve to wear away mountains. In human society we have the contradiction between social classes, such as the working class and the capitalist class, which eventually leads to social revolution.
See also: DIALECTICS, QUALITATIVE LEAPSReturn to Main Index