Thesis, antithesis, synthesis

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The triad thesis, antithesis, synthesis is often used to describe the thought of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel never used the term himself.

The triad is usually described in the following way:

  • The thesis is an intellectual proposition.
  • The antithesis is simply the negation of the thesis, a reaction to the proposition.
  • The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths and forming a new thesis, starting the process over.

According to Walter Kaufmann, although the triad is often[1] thought to form part of an analysis of historical and philosophical progress called the Hegelian dialectic, the assumption is erroneous. Hegel used this classification only once, and he attributed the terminology to Immanuel Kant. The terminology was largely developed earlier by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, also an advocate of the philosophy identified as German idealism.

The triad is often said to have been extended and adopted by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, however, Marx referred to them in The Poverty of Philosophy (1847) as speaking Greek and "Wooden trichotomies".

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  1. ^ Walter Kaufmann (1966). "§ 37". Hegel: A Reinterpretation. Anchor Books. ISBN 0-268-01068-4. OCLC 3168016. "Whoever looks for the stereotype of the allegedly Hegelian dialectic in Hegel's Phenomenology will not find it. What one does find on looking at the table of contents is a very decided preference for triadic arrangements. ... But these many triads are not presented or deduced by Hegel as so many theses, antitheses, and syntheses. It is not by means of any dialectic of that sort that his thought moves up the ladder to absolute knowledge." 

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