Understanding dialectical thinking from a cultural-historical perspective

Philosophical Psychology 19 (2):239 – 260 (2006)
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The present essay aims to throw light on the study of dialectical thinking from a cultural-historical perspective. Different forms of dialectic are articulated as ideal types, including the Greek dialectic, the Hegelian dialectic, the contemporary German negative dialectic, the Chinese dialectic, and the Indian negative dialectic. These influential cultural products in the history of the East and the West, articulated as ideal types, serve as constellations that could facilitate further empirical studies on dialectical thinking. An understanding of the complexity of these constellations reveals the pitfalls of investigating dialectical thinking without an appropriate conceptualization of the research target. With the ideal types of dialectic as "figure," and Vygotsky's thesis of the cultural-historical origin of higher psychological processes as "ground," we explore possibilities for further lines of inquiry on dialectical thinking. Adhering to the Scribnerian multilevel scheme that reconstructs Vygotsky's thesis, and returning to the core ideas of Vygotsky himself, we discover new, meaningful questions about the study of dialectical thinking. In the research area of "culture and cognition," consideration of a cultural-historical perspective appears to be both necessary and promising.



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