July 3, 2002


[Appendix II]

Summary of Dialectical Systems

[URL: SummaryOfDialecticalSystems]

SECTIONS (& perhaps subsections):

            I          The General / Abstract Form of Dialectical Systems

            II         Listings of Specific Dialectical Systems Found in This Work

            III        Listings of Miscellaneous Other Dialectical Systems

Dialectical systems are mentioned throughout this work, and they are helping me organize my ideas. However, I am still working out the precise, general description of such systems. So to help the reader, and to help me in clarifying my own ideas, I am listing here all the dialectical systems that are used in this work as well as others that I think of.

I    The General / Abstract form of Dialectical Systems

The general / abstract form of dialectical systems is where two (or more) epistemic approaches (often theoretical and pragmatic), each able to correct / undercut / inform the other. I have diagramed this general form below; because I don’t yet know how to do diagrams in WordPerfect, the reader will have to add the arrows (actually, the heads of the arrows) in the central box to show that the direction of implication is from top-left to bottom-right and from top-right to bottom-left. Footnote

Realization [factual assertions: these are the results; this is morality]






Interpretation [assertions of meaning: this is what these results mean]







(frequently “theory”)




(frequently “practice”)

II     Listings of Specific Dialectical Systems Found in This Work

For the sake of saving space, the description presents only the four basic elements. It doesn’t indicate the causal connections or the row and column names; these are as in the diagram found in the previous section.


A.  The dialectic of moral belief

Formal representation of moral beliefs and/or principles

Actual decision and action

Interpretation / reconstruction of this decision, i.e., trying to express its nature externally. “Immanent critique” of a moral position.

Interpretation of a situation: intuition (=interaction of personas) is formed by moral beliefs & principles, i.e., trying to express one’s understanding of the situation as a final decision


B.  The dialectical arrangement of privileged moral positions

This diagram is not show a dialectic per se. It is related to the above dialectical system (of moral belief) in this fashion: each cell in the table below gives the moral system that results from privileging the corresponding cell in the dialectical system above. By “privileging” I mean cutting the dialectical cycle in such a way that the cell is the unmoved mover (i.e., the uncaused causer) of the subsequent cells in the cycle.

            I am very fond of this diagram, because it seems to me to indicate that all the disputes among these various philosophical-moral positions simply reflect the failure to recognize the underlying dialectical system at work. In other words, it reconciles them without denying any of them.

            Note that I am not yet certain of the proper terms, particularly for the positions in the left-hand column.

Legalism / modernism


Transcendentalism; postmodernism



C.  The dialectic of talking to oneself

My self / mind / thoughts

My speech as actually spoken

Reconstruction and interpretation of that which is spoken

Formulation of speech


D.  Kohlberg’s analysis of earlier theories of moral psychology

Morality is a matter of behavior, not reasoning, and in particular, behavior that is obedient to authority

People do disobey authority (cheat) to varying degrees

Interpretation / reconstruction of results in terms of settled patterns of moral behavior [unable to find any consistent pattern]

“Cheating” tests


E.  Kohlberg’s theory of the development of moral reasoning

Morality is a matter of coordinating claims; neo-Kantian criteria for judging moral reasoning

People do (all, and cross-culturally) respond to moral dilemmas in certain ways

Interpretation / reconstruction of people’s responses in terms of a developmental sequence of reasoning structures

The “Defining Issues Test”


F.  Habermas’s justification of discourse ethics

Discourse ethics is moral; everyone should accept discourse ethics

The critic does accept discourse ethics as a result of being confronted with performative contradictions relying on the presuppositions of argumentation

Presuppositions of argumentation

Critical test of discourse ethics: can a critic be persuaded through use of “performative contradiction”?


G.  The ways of relating perspective

The human mind automatically functions to reconcile the personas, except when painful emotion creates dissociation

My (or your) new experience

The reconstruction / interpretation of the experience as clarification and reconciliation of the personas and a discharge (release) of the painful emotions

Find blocked discourse, conflict, and dissociation; apply therapeutic discourse


H.  Piaget’s genetic epistemology

Have, modify structure

Preserve structure; digest

Be acted upon; interpret the world as threat (or opportunity); survival or non-survival is interpretation of the world. Cast about for new ways of encountering the world

Act, move, experience the world, apply the structure (but to an unknown reality)


I.  The dialectic of Taoism [very drafty first thoughts meant as a place-holder for better analysis]

The Tao that cannot be told; the eternal way

The 10,000 things; the Tao that can be told



Note that neither way is bad; they are just different modes of experience.

III     Listings of Miscellaneous Other Dialectical Systems

These are dialectical systems that are not directly related to (and especially not mentioned in) the rest of this work.

            [I am not going to list anything here until the work is near completion, because I won’t know until then what dialectical systems appear in the work. This section is thus merely a place-holder at present.]


A.  xx