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dialectic (dialectique) The term 'dialectic' originated with the Greeks,

for whom it denoted (among other things) a discursive procedure in which an

opponent in a debate is questioned in such a way as to bring out the contra-

dictions in his discourse. This is the tactic which Plato ascribes to Socrates,

who is shown as beginning most dialogues by first reducing his interlocutor to

 a state of confusion and helplessness. Lacan compares this to the first stage of

psychoanalytic treatment, when the analyst forces the analysand to confront

the contradictions and gaps in his narrative. However, just as Socrates then

proceeds to draw out the truth from the confused statements of his interlocutor,

 so also the analyst proceeds to draw out the truth from the analysand's free

associations (see S8, 140). Thus Lacan argues that 'psychoanalysis is a

dialectical experience' (Ec, 216), since the analyst must engage the analysand

in 'a dialectical operation' (Sl, 278). It is only by means of 'an endless

dialectical process' that the analyst can subvert the ego's disabling illusions

of permanence and stability, in a manner identical to the Socratic Dialogue

(Lacan, 1951b: 12).

    Although the origin of dialectics goes back to the Greek philosophers, its

dominance in modern philosophy is due to the revival of the concept in the

eighteenth century by the post-Kantian idealists Fichte and Hegel, who

conceived of the dialectic as a triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. For

Hegel, the dialectic is both a method of exposition and the structure of

historical progress itself. Thus in Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), Hegel

shows how consciousness progresses towards absolute knowledge by means

of a series of confrontations between opposing elements. Each confrontation is

resolved by an operation called the Aufhebung (usually translated as 'sub-

lation') in which a new idea (the synthesis) is born from the opposition

between thesis and antithesis; the synthesis simultaneously annuls, preserves

and raises this opposition to a higher level.

    The particular way in which the Hegelian dialectic is appropriated by Lacan