Dialectical Thinking (Part 1)

Our own modification recognizes dialectic conflicts and contradictions as a fundamental property of thought. In contrast to Piaget, we maintain that at the level of dialectic operations at maturity, the individual does not necessarily equilibrate these conflicts, but is ready to live with these contradictions; stronger yet, the individual accepts these contradictions as a basic property of thought and creativity.

(Riegel, 1973, p.366)

Challenging Piaget’s established model of cognitive development, in which the highest form of development was the use of deductive reasoning to systematically and logically solve a problem, Reigel proposed a further sophistication of cognitive development in dialectical operations, cognition that has dexterity with inherent contradictions, movement, change, process; “able to transform contradictory experience into momentarily stable structures.”

The focus is a flexible, relational process of thought - dialogue - rather than creating firm identities.

The dialectical method has roots that extend back in western history as form of reasoning that resolves difference through dialogue. In contrast to rhetoric, where parties committed to their points of view aim to resolve the difference through persuading others to accept their perspective, dialectics aim at resolving differences through recognizing the interdependence of the differences from the perspective of a higher order.

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In Praise of Monsters

“We are going to have to slow down, reorient and regulate the proliferation of monsters by representing their existence officially.”ii

 

In the above quote, Bruno Latour muses on the tension between two ways of relating to information, which he calls “purification” and “translation.” Purification is the separation and specialization of knowledge. It distills, reduces and creates partitions, separating knowledge into distinct and exclusive realms.

 

Purification

 

Translation is hybrid and continuous knowledge, stitching together disparate fields and perspectives into networks.

 

Translation

 

Purification is the acknowledged project of modernity, and it is what generally passes for knowledge in the contemporary world. We go to scientists and mathematicians for facts, priests and philosophers for morality, artists and sociologists for a critical examination of the discourse itself. Generally, the more purified information is, the more “true” it feels to the modern person.

Hybrid knowledge on the other hand feels “uncanny, unthinkable, unseemly”: think creationist museums, a doctor doing energy healing, a politician admitting uncertainty. It is taboo to cross the lines, we are uneasy with these monsters.

 I’ve always been a fan of monsters.

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