Franz Loeser / East Berlin*

What Is Dialectical Logic?

For Marxists dialectics is the science of the most general laws of development in nature, society and thinking. So far so good, but the application of dialectics to the laws of logical thinking, or the definition as to what dialectical logic is, causes a great deal of disagreement. Many Marxists believe that there is a basic contradiction between formal logic and dialectical logic. Formal logic concerns itself with the extensional aspect of thinking, with the forms of thinking, viewing them as static, isolated entities. Dialectical logic however studies supposedly the intensional aspect of thinking, i.e. not its forms, but the contents of thinking, seeing it as a process of development.

I disagree with this point of view. First of all, to assign to (dialectical) logic the study of the contents of thinking is to trespass on fields which are the concern of other scientific disciplines such as philosophy, epistemology, psychology, educational theory and others. Furthermore it would prevent formal logic from carrying out its true function, namely to study the forms of thinking, the extensional aspect of thinking, not only as static entities, but also as a process of dialectical development—in their transition from one form of thinking to other forms of thinking, from lower forms of thinking to higher forms of thinking. It is true, that formal logic so far, has largely treated forms of thinking as static, isolated entities. Yet the fact that formal logic has not been interpreted dialectically does not justify a separate discipline, a dialectical logic, which opposed to formal logic, can eliminate its mechanical weaknesses. What is required is not a dialectical logic opposing a mechanical formal logic, but a formal logic interpreting its object, the forms of logical thinking, as a dialectical process. For example, to understand the logical operations of creative thinking, it is imperative to study the transition of a proposition to a question or problem, and again the transition of the question to an answer. In other words, to master the logical laws of creative thinking one has to interpret formal logic dialectically. Indeed the dialectic approach to formal logic seems to me one of the great tasks confronting formal logic in our time. In capitalist society, man has to a growing degree mastered the laws of nature. In socialist society man has begun to understand and apply the laws of society. In communist society, man will also master the laws of thinking, especially the logical laws of creative thinking. Yet the latter will only be possible if formal logic is interpreted dialectically. Thus there exist no such opposing disciplines as formal logic and dialectical logic, but only a formal logic interpreted mechanically and a formal logic which treats its object dialectically.

For a more elaborate exposition of my position to this question see: Franz Loeser, Dieter Schulze, Erkenntnistheoretische Fragen einer Kreativitätslogik. Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1976.

* Editor's Note: In the discussion in Moscow, Dr. Loeser made a very able defense of the Marxist-Leninist conception of dialectical logic. As a criticism of the different conceptions offered by the West European and American participants, his brief note belongs in this volume.

SOURCE: Loeser, Franz. “What Is Dialectical Logic?”, in Dialectical Logics for the Political Sciences;  guest editor, Hayward R. Alker, Jr. (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1982), pp. 95-96. (Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities; v. 7)

Note: According to the editor's introduction, this paper is "connected with a session on Dialectical Logics at the Moscow Congress (August 1979) of the International Political Science Association. The sponsor of the session was the IPSA Research Committee on Quantitative and Mathematical Approaches to Politics." (p. 5)

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