Dialectic Fallacy, The

The fallacy that all problems can be understood in terms of the struggle between two tendencies: good/evil, light/dark, right/wrong, working class/ruling class, my religion/your religion, my politics/your politics—a way of winding all life’s variety onto just two spools. The fallacy is important because it allows everything to be explained. If things are going well, that is, of course, because workers are winning the struggle for now; if things are going badly, that is down to the capitalists and they need to be punished. Here is an identity-defining cause to which anyone can belong, and it gives its members plenty to do, without fear of ever being proved wrong—for the dialectic is unfalsifiable: whatever the outcome, it can be explained by the theory.

The difficulty with this fallacy is that “dialectics” is a word to which almost everyone seems to ascribe a different meaning. The dialectic (Gr: dialektos, discourse) referred originally to the investigation of truth in discussion, and it was used in this sense in the Wyclif Bible:

Job . . . determyneth alle the lawes of dialatik, in proposicoun, assumpcoun, etc.D31

Kant, Hegel, Marx and Engels all used it in different ways.D32 Lean Logic offers no guarantee that the meaning defined above is already recognised by anyone, but suggests that it would be useful if it were.


Related entries:

Bivalence, Internal Evidence.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was an economist, historian and writer, based in London. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, Lean Logic and Surviving the Future. A film about his perspective and legacy - The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation? - was released in 2019, directed by BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong. For more information, including on Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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