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Difference Between Thesis and Antithesis

• Categorized under Miscellaneous | Difference Between Thesis and Antithesis

Thesis and antithesis are literary techniques used to make a point during a debate or a lecture or discourse about a topic.  The thesis is the theory or the definition of the point under discussion.  Antithesis is the exact opposite of the point made in the thesis.  Anti is a prefix meaning against.  The antithesis therefore goes against the thesis to create an opposition effect.  The antithesis creates a clash of ideas or opinions and is a rhetorical device used to sway the opinions of the reader.  The two opposite statements highlight a point in literature, politics and other forums of debate.  Hearing the two sides of an argument has to have more impact on the reader or listener.  The two opposing ideas make the writer’s point more definite and obvious.

thesis vs antithesis

Definition of  Thesis

The thesis is the beginning of the study or debate.  It is the introduction to the topic.  The thesis is the normal way of looking at the subject matter.  The thesis is the accepted way of thinking or viewing an issue to be discussed or written about.  It is often the theory that is presented by philosophers and usually believed by the majority.  A thesis can be used in a written document or as a speech.  The thesis study looks at the positive side of the topic to be presented or discussed.  The subject matter is usually what readers consider normal.  In a political context it may be what is seen as the status quo.  Not necessarily the right situation for the times politically, but what has been the norm, and what has been established before change must take place.

thesis vs antithesis

Definition of  Antithesis

The antithesis is the opposite or opposition to the thesis.  Anti being the prefix, and when it is added to thesis, spells antithesis.  Anti changes the meaning of the word thesis.  Opposition or an opposing statement or word, is the role that the antithesis plays.  The antithesis helps to bring out the reason behind a debate or an emotive statement.  Looking at the opposing theme and comparing the thesis and the antithesis highlights the mental picture through the anti aspect of the word antithesis.  For example, when Neil Armstrong told the world he had made one small step for man and a giant leap for mankind he used the normal step he took as the thesis, and used the antithesis as a giant leap to create the picture of how great this step was for mankind.  This created a memorable image, and shows the enormity of the first man walking on the moon.  Antithesis is a form of rhetoric and a useful way of persuading people and igniting emotional reactions.  Antithesis has been used by writers and politicians to stir emotions and bring home an important point.

What is the connection between Thesis, Antithesis and synthesis?

Thesis, together with antithesis results in a synthesis, according to philosopher Hegel.  Hegel’s dialectics is a philosophical method involving a contradictory series of events between opposing sides.  He describes the thesis as being the starting point, the antithesis is the reaction and the synthesis is the outcome from the reaction.  Karl Marx used this philosophy to explain how communism came about.  According to Marx’s theory:

The thesis was capitalism, the way Russia was run at the time.

The antithesis was the Proletariat, the industrial workers and labor force, at that time.  The Proletariat decided to revolt against the capitalists, because they were being exploited.  This reaction is the antithesis, or the opposition.

The synthesis results from these two groups opposing one another and there is an outcome, a synthesis.  The outcome is a new order of things and new relationships.  The new order was Communism.  I t was a direct result of the antithesis or political opposition.  The connection is therefore between the perceived ‘normal’ or starting point against the opposition, the antithesis, to create a new order of doing things.

How is Thesis and Antithesis used in literary circles?

Dramatic effect and contrasts of character are created through an antithesis.  The writer uses the normal character matched with the completely opposite character to create an understanding or the different personalities or the different environment.  Snow White and the wicked queen, who is the stepmother, are a shining example of antithesis.  Hamlet’’s soliloquy, to be or not to be, sums up his dilemma at the time and creates a confusion of thought.  Charles Dickens uses this rhetorical technique in a Tale of Two Cities as he describes ‘It was the best of times and the worst of times,’ when chapter one begins.  The reader is immediately drawn into the story and the upsetting times of the French Revolution that is the scene for the book. 

How are Thesis and Antithesis used in the political arena?

Well known politicians have used thesis and antithesis in their propaganda and speeches to rouse their followers.  The well known Gettysburg address, given by Abraham Lincoln, used the antithesis of little and long at Gettysburg at the dedication to national heroism.  Lincoln said:

“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”  This speech has gone down in history as one of the most important speeches and it has definitely been remembered.  

Antithesis in a speech helps to advertise sentiments and rally crowds together due to its emotional power.  Martin Luther King used antithesis to sway a crowd by saying unless people chose to live together as brothers they would surely perish as fools.  

How does Thesis and Antithesis form part of a debate?

Formal debates make good use of the opposition concept brought about by the use of antithesis.  The debate will start with the presentation of the thesis, followed by the antithesis and summed up in the synthesis.  For example, a debate about eating meat could open with the points for eating meat.  The next section of the debate argues for not eating meat and finally the points for and against could sum up eating meat, but as small portions of a persons dietary needs.  The conflict of the argument comes between the thesis and the antithesis.  The summary for the listeners to take away is the synthesis of the points made in the debate.

What makes Antithesis a rhetorical device?

The antithesis conjures up a more emotive response because of the opposition factor.  Adding in the opposite or exaggerated form of a word in a statement makes more impact for the listener.  In the event of a man walking on the moon, for example, this was not just a small event happening when a rocket went to the moon.  No, this was a gigantic expedition to another planet.  Whether it was intentional or not this statement has stood the test of time. It has become one of the most well known quotes highlighting a particular event.  The clever use of the antithesis of a giant leap as part of the statement has made these words stand out in asthey marked this occasion.  They bring the impact of these steps to the world as a great vision and achievement for mankind.  

Chart to compare Thesis and Antithesis 

thesis vs antithesis

Summary of Thesis and Antithesis:

  • Thesis and antithesis are literary devices that highlight themes or emotional rhetorical situations.
  • Well known events, using thesis and antithesis, show how this form of rhetoric creates an emotional response from readers or audiences.  Neil Armstrong’s comment upon landing and walking on the moon for the first time in history is a shining example.
  • The use of thesis and antithesis in literature enable the author to give more emphasis to an event or a theme in a story or play.
  • Karl Marx used the thesis, antithesis and conclusion of a synthesis, to explain the evolution of communism.
  • Using this format in debate helps to understand how two opposing ideals, around one debatable topic, can help the speakers provide their arguments.  The debate is then wrapped up in a synthesis of ideas and the conclusion of the debate leading to a consensus of opinion.
  • When well known politicians make a statement using thesis and antithesis, the statement is more powerful.  These rhetorical statements become part of our history and become famous for the impact they made using just a few words to express a life changing situation.
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Cite APA 7 Wither, C. (2020, November 23). Difference Between Thesis and Antithesis. Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects. http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-thesis-and-antithesis/. MLA 8 Wither, Christina. "Difference Between Thesis and Antithesis." Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects, 23 November, 2020, http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-thesis-and-antithesis/.

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Hegel’s Dialectics

“Dialectics” is a term used to describe a method of philosophical argument that involves some sort of contradictory process between opposing sides. In what is perhaps the most classic version of “dialectics”, the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato (see entry on Plato ), for instance, presented his philosophical argument as a back-and-forth dialogue or debate, generally between the character of Socrates, on one side, and some person or group of people to whom Socrates was talking (his interlocutors), on the other. In the course of the dialogues, Socrates’ interlocutors propose definitions of philosophical concepts or express views that Socrates challenges or opposes. The back-and-forth debate between opposing sides produces a kind of linear progression or evolution in philosophical views or positions: as the dialogues go along, Socrates’ interlocutors change or refine their views in response to Socrates’ challenges and come to adopt more sophisticated views. The back-and-forth dialectic between Socrates and his interlocutors thus becomes Plato’s way of arguing against the earlier, less sophisticated views or positions and for the more sophisticated ones later.

“Hegel’s dialectics” refers to the particular dialectical method of argument employed by the 19th Century German philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel (see entry on Hegel ), which, like other “dialectical” methods, relies on a contradictory process between opposing sides. Whereas Plato’s “opposing sides” were people (Socrates and his interlocutors), however, what the “opposing sides” are in Hegel’s work depends on the subject matter he discusses. In his work on logic, for instance, the “opposing sides” are different definitions of logical concepts that are opposed to one another. In the Phenomenology of Spirit , which presents Hegel’s epistemology or philosophy of knowledge, the “opposing sides” are different definitions of consciousness and of the object that consciousness is aware of or claims to know. As in Plato’s dialogues, a contradictory process between “opposing sides” in Hegel’s dialectics leads to a linear evolution or development from less sophisticated definitions or views to more sophisticated ones later. The dialectical process thus constitutes Hegel’s method for arguing against the earlier, less sophisticated definitions or views and for the more sophisticated ones later. Hegel regarded this dialectical method or “speculative mode of cognition” (PR §10) as the hallmark of his philosophy and used the same method in the Phenomenology of Spirit [PhG], as well as in all of the mature works he published later—the entire Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences (including, as its first part, the “Lesser Logic” or the Encyclopaedia Logic [EL]), the Science of Logic [SL], and the Philosophy of Right [PR].

Note that, although Hegel acknowledged that his dialectical method was part of a philosophical tradition stretching back to Plato, he criticized Plato’s version of dialectics. He argued that Plato’s dialectics deals only with limited philosophical claims and is unable to get beyond skepticism or nothingness (SL-M 55–6; SL-dG 34–5; PR, Remark to §31). According to the logic of a traditional reductio ad absurdum argument, if the premises of an argument lead to a contradiction, we must conclude that the premises are false—which leaves us with no premises or with nothing. We must then wait around for new premises to spring up arbitrarily from somewhere else, and then see whether those new premises put us back into nothingness or emptiness once again, if they, too, lead to a contradiction. Because Hegel believed that reason necessarily generates contradictions, as we will see, he thought new premises will indeed produce further contradictions. As he puts the argument, then,

the scepticism that ends up with the bare abstraction of nothingness or emptiness cannot get any further from there, but must wait to see whether something new comes along and what it is, in order to throw it too into the same empty abyss. (PhG-M §79)

Hegel argues that, because Plato’s dialectics cannot get beyond arbitrariness and skepticism, it generates only approximate truths, and falls short of being a genuine science (SL-M 55–6; SL-dG 34–5; PR, Remark to §31; cf. EL Remark to §81). The following sections examine Hegel’s dialectics as well as these issues in more detail.

1. Hegel’s description of his dialectical method

2. applying hegel’s dialectical method to his arguments, 3. why does hegel use dialectics.

  • 4. Is Hegel’s dialectical method logical?
  • 5. Syntactic patterns and special terminology in Hegel’s dialectics
  • English Translations of Key Texts by Hegel
  • English Translations of Other Primary Sources
  • Secondary Literature
  • Other Internet Resources
  • Related Entries

Hegel provides the most extensive, general account of his dialectical method in Part I of his Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences , which is often called the Encyclopaedia Logic [EL]. The form or presentation of logic, he says, has three sides or moments (EL §79). These sides are not parts of logic, but, rather, moments of “every concept”, as well as “of everything true in general” (EL Remark to §79; we will see why Hegel thought dialectics is in everything in section 3 ). The first moment—the moment of the understanding—is the moment of fixity, in which concepts or forms have a seemingly stable definition or determination (EL §80).

The second moment—the “ dialectical ” (EL §§79, 81) or “ negatively rational ” (EL §79) moment—is the moment of instability. In this moment, a one-sidedness or restrictedness (EL Remark to §81) in the determination from the moment of understanding comes to the fore, and the determination that was fixed in the first moment passes into its opposite (EL §81). Hegel describes this process as a process of “self-sublation” (EL §81). The English verb “to sublate” translates Hegel’s technical use of the German verb aufheben , which is a crucial concept in his dialectical method. Hegel says that aufheben has a doubled meaning: it means both to cancel (or negate) and to preserve at the same time (PhG §113; SL-M 107; SL-dG 81–2; cf. EL the Addition to §95). The moment of understanding sublates itself because its own character or nature—its one-sidedness or restrictedness—destabilizes its definition and leads it to pass into its opposite. The dialectical moment thus involves a process of self -sublation, or a process in which the determination from the moment of understanding sublates itself , or both cancels and preserves itself , as it pushes on to or passes into its opposite.

The third moment—the “ speculative ” or “ positively rational ” (EL §§79, 82) moment—grasps the unity of the opposition between the first two determinations, or is the positive result of the dissolution or transition of those determinations (EL §82 and Remark to §82). Here, Hegel rejects the traditional, reductio ad absurdum argument, which says that when the premises of an argument lead to a contradiction, then the premises must be discarded altogether, leaving nothing. As Hegel suggests in the Phenomenology , such an argument

is just the skepticism which only ever sees pure nothingness in its result and abstracts from the fact that this nothingness is specifically the nothingness of that from which it results . (PhG-M §79)

Although the speculative moment negates the contradiction, it is a determinate or defined nothingness because it is the result of a specific process. There is something particular about the determination in the moment of understanding—a specific weakness, or some specific aspect that was ignored in its one-sidedness or restrictedness—that leads it to fall apart in the dialectical moment. The speculative moment has a definition, determination or content because it grows out of and unifies the particular character of those earlier determinations, or is “a unity of distinct determinations ” (EL Remark to §82). The speculative moment is thus “truly not empty, abstract nothing , but the negation of certain determinations ” (EL-GSH §82). When the result “is taken as the result of that from which it emerges”, Hegel says, then it is “in fact, the true result; in that case it is itself a determinate nothingness, one which has a content” (PhG-M §79). As he also puts it, “the result is conceived as it is in truth, namely, as a determinate negation [ bestimmte Negation]; a new form has thereby immediately arisen” (PhG-M §79). Or, as he says, “[b]ecause the result, the negation, is a determinate negation [bestimmte Negation ], it has a content ” (SL-dG 33; cf. SL-M 54). Hegel’s claim in both the Phenomenology and the Science of Logic that his philosophy relies on a process of “ determinate negation [ bestimmte Negation]” has sometimes led scholars to describe his dialectics as a method or doctrine of “determinate negation” (see entry on Hegel, section on Science of Logic ; cf. Rosen 1982: 30; Stewart 1996, 2000: 41–3; Winfield 1990: 56).

There are several features of this account that Hegel thinks raise his dialectical method above the arbitrariness of Plato’s dialectics to the level of a genuine science. First, because the determinations in the moment of understanding sublate themselves , Hegel’s dialectics does not require some new idea to show up arbitrarily. Instead, the movement to new determinations is driven by the nature of the earlier determinations and so “comes about on its own accord” (PhG-P §79). Indeed, for Hegel, the movement is driven by necessity (see, e.g., EL Remarks to §§12, 42, 81, 87, 88; PhG §79). The natures of the determinations themselves drive or force them to pass into their opposites. This sense of necessity —the idea that the method involves being forced from earlier moments to later ones—leads Hegel to regard his dialectics as a kind of logic . As he says in the Phenomenology , the method’s “proper exposition belongs to logic” (PhG-M §48). Necessity—the sense of being driven or forced to conclusions—is the hallmark of “logic” in Western philosophy.

Second, because the form or determination that arises is the result of the self-sublation of the determination from the moment of understanding, there is no need for some new idea to show up from the outside. Instead, the transition to the new determination or form is necessitated by earlier moments and hence grows out of the process itself. Unlike in Plato’s arbitrary dialectics, then—which must wait around until some other idea comes in from the outside—in Hegel’s dialectics “nothing extraneous is introduced”, as he says (SL-M 54; cf. SL-dG 33). His dialectics is driven by the nature, immanence or “inwardness” of its own content (SL-M 54; cf. SL-dG 33; cf. PR §31). As he puts it, dialectics is “the principle through which alone immanent coherence and necessity enter into the content of science” (EL-GSH Remark to §81).

Third, because later determinations “sublate” earlier determinations, the earlier determinations are not completely cancelled or negated. On the contrary, the earlier determinations are preserved in the sense that they remain in effect within the later determinations. When Being-for-itself, for instance, is introduced in the logic as the first concept of ideality or universality and is defined by embracing a set of “something-others”, Being-for-itself replaces the something-others as the new concept, but those something-others remain active within the definition of the concept of Being-for-itself. The something-others must continue to do the work of picking out individual somethings before the concept of Being-for-itself can have its own definition as the concept that gathers them up. Being-for-itself replaces the something-others, but it also preserves them, because its definition still requires them to do their work of picking out individual somethings (EL §§95–6).

The concept of “apple”, for example, as a Being-for-itself, would be defined by gathering up individual “somethings” that are the same as one another (as apples). Each individual apple can be what it is (as an apple) only in relation to an “other” that is the same “something” that it is (i.e., an apple). That is the one-sidedness or restrictedness that leads each “something” to pass into its “other” or opposite. The “somethings” are thus both “something-others”. Moreover, their defining processes lead to an endless process of passing back and forth into one another: one “something” can be what it is (as an apple) only in relation to another “something” that is the same as it is, which, in turn, can be what it is (an apple) only in relation to the other “something” that is the same as it is, and so on, back and forth, endlessly (cf. EL §95). The concept of “apple”, as a Being-for-itself, stops that endless, passing-over process by embracing or including the individual something-others (the apples) in its content. It grasps or captures their character or quality as apples . But the “something-others” must do their work of picking out and separating those individual items (the apples) before the concept of “apple”—as the Being-for-itself—can gather them up for its own definition. We can picture the concept of Being-for-itself like this:

an oval enclosing two circles, left and right; an arrow goes from the interior of each circle to the interior of the other. The oval has the statement 'Being-for-itself embraces the something-others in its content'. The circles have the statement 'the something-others'. The arrows have the statement 'the process of passing back-and-forth between the something-others'.

Later concepts thus replace, but also preserve, earlier concepts.

Fourth, later concepts both determine and also surpass the limits or finitude of earlier concepts. Earlier determinations sublate themselves —they pass into their others because of some weakness, one-sidedness or restrictedness in their own definitions. There are thus limitations in each of the determinations that lead them to pass into their opposites. As Hegel says, “that is what everything finite is: its own sublation” (EL-GSH Remark to §81). Later determinations define the finiteness of the earlier determinations. From the point of view of the concept of Being-for-itself, for instance, the concept of a “something-other” is limited or finite: although the something-others are supposed to be the same as one another, the character of their sameness (e.g., as apples) is captured only from above, by the higher-level, more universal concept of Being-for-itself. Being-for-itself reveals the limitations of the concept of a “something-other”. It also rises above those limitations, since it can do something that the concept of a something-other cannot do. Dialectics thus allows us to get beyond the finite to the universal. As Hegel puts it, “all genuine, nonexternal elevation above the finite is to be found in this principle [of dialectics]” (EL-GSH Remark to §81).

Fifth, because the determination in the speculative moment grasps the unity of the first two moments, Hegel’s dialectical method leads to concepts or forms that are increasingly comprehensive and universal. As Hegel puts it, the result of the dialectical process

is a new concept but one higher and richer than the preceding—richer because it negates or opposes the preceding and therefore contains it, and it contains even more than that, for it is the unity of itself and its opposite. (SL-dG 33; cf. SL-M 54)

Like Being-for-itself, later concepts are more universal because they unify or are built out of earlier determinations, and include those earlier determinations as part of their definitions. Indeed, many other concepts or determinations can also be depicted as literally surrounding earlier ones (cf. Maybee 2009: 73, 100, 112, 156, 193, 214, 221, 235, 458).

Finally, because the dialectical process leads to increasing comprehensiveness and universality, it ultimately produces a complete series, or drives “to completion” (SL-dG 33; cf. SL-M 54; PhG §79). Dialectics drives to the “Absolute”, to use Hegel’s term, which is the last, final, and completely all-encompassing or unconditioned concept or form in the relevant subject matter under discussion (logic, phenomenology, ethics/politics and so on). The “Absolute” concept or form is unconditioned because its definition or determination contains all the other concepts or forms that were developed earlier in the dialectical process for that subject matter. Moreover, because the process develops necessarily and comprehensively through each concept, form or determination, there are no determinations that are left out of the process. There are therefore no left-over concepts or forms—concepts or forms outside of the “Absolute”—that might “condition” or define it. The “Absolute” is thus unconditioned because it contains all of the conditions in its content, and is not conditioned by anything else outside of it. This Absolute is the highest concept or form of universality for that subject matter. It is the thought or concept of the whole conceptual system for the relevant subject matter. We can picture the Absolute Idea (EL §236), for instance—which is the “Absolute” for logic—as an oval that is filled up with and surrounds numerous, embedded rings of smaller ovals and circles, which represent all of the earlier and less universal determinations from the logical development (cf. Maybee 2009: 30, 600):

Five concentric ovals; the outermost one is labeled 'The Absolute Idea'.

Since the “Absolute” concepts for each subject matter lead into one another, when they are taken together, they constitute Hegel’s entire philosophical system, which, as Hegel says, “presents itself therefore as a circle of circles” (EL-GSH §15). We can picture the entire system like this (cf. Maybee 2009: 29):

A circle enclosing enclosing 10 ovals. One oval is labeled 'Phenomenology', another 'Logic', and two others 'Other philosophical subject matters'. The enclosing circle is labeled: the whole philosophical system as a 'circle of circles'

Together, Hegel believes, these characteristics make his dialectical method genuinely scientific. As he says, “the dialectical constitutes the moving soul of scientific progression” (EL-GSH Remark to §81). He acknowledges that a description of the method can be more or less complete and detailed, but because the method or progression is driven only by the subject matter itself, this dialectical method is the “only true method” (SL-M 54; SL-dG 33).

So far, we have seen how Hegel describes his dialectical method, but we have yet to see how we might read this method into the arguments he offers in his works. Scholars often use the first three stages of the logic as the “textbook example” (Forster 1993: 133) to illustrate how Hegel’s dialectical method should be applied to his arguments. The logic begins with the simple and immediate concept of pure Being, which is said to illustrate the moment of the understanding. We can think of Being here as a concept of pure presence. It is not mediated by any other concept—or is not defined in relation to any other concept—and so is undetermined or has no further determination (EL §86; SL-M 82; SL-dG 59). It asserts bare presence, but what that presence is like has no further determination. Because the thought of pure Being is undetermined and so is a pure abstraction, however, it is really no different from the assertion of pure negation or the absolutely negative (EL §87). It is therefore equally a Nothing (SL-M 82; SL-dG 59). Being’s lack of determination thus leads it to sublate itself and pass into the concept of Nothing (EL §87; SL-M 82; SL-dG 59), which illustrates the dialectical moment.

But if we focus for a moment on the definitions of Being and Nothing themselves, their definitions have the same content. Indeed, both are undetermined, so they have the same kind of undefined content. The only difference between them is “something merely meant ” (EL-GSH Remark to §87), namely, that Being is an undefined content, taken as or meant to be presence, while Nothing is an undefined content, taken as or meant to be absence. The third concept of the logic—which is used to illustrate the speculative moment—unifies the first two moments by capturing the positive result of—or the conclusion that we can draw from—the opposition between the first two moments. The concept of Becoming is the thought of an undefined content, taken as presence (Being) and then taken as absence (Nothing), or taken as absence (Nothing) and then taken as presence (Being). To Become is to go from Being to Nothing or from Nothing to Being, or is, as Hegel puts it, “the immediate vanishing of the one in the other” (SL-M 83; cf. SL-dG 60). The contradiction between Being and Nothing thus is not a reductio ad absurdum , or does not lead to the rejection of both concepts and hence to nothingness—as Hegel had said Plato’s dialectics does (SL-M 55–6; SL-dG 34–5)—but leads to a positive result, namely, to the introduction of a new concept—the synthesis—which unifies the two, earlier, opposed concepts.

We can also use the textbook Being-Nothing-Becoming example to illustrate Hegel’s concept of aufheben (to sublate), which, as we saw, means to cancel (or negate) and to preserve at the same time. Hegel says that the concept of Becoming sublates the concepts of Being and Nothing (SL-M 105; SL-dG 80). Becoming cancels or negates Being and Nothing because it is a new concept that replaces the earlier concepts; but it also preserves Being and Nothing because it relies on those earlier concepts for its own definition. Indeed, it is the first concrete concept in the logic. Unlike Being and Nothing, which had no definition or determination as concepts themselves and so were merely abstract (SL-M 82–3; SL-dG 59–60; cf. EL Addition to §88), Becoming is a “ determinate unity in which there is both Being and Nothing” (SL-M 105; cf. SL-dG 80). Becoming succeeds in having a definition or determination because it is defined by, or piggy-backs on, the concepts of Being and Nothing.

This “textbook” Being-Nothing-Becoming example is closely connected to the traditional idea that Hegel’s dialectics follows a thesis-antithesis-synthesis pattern, which, when applied to the logic, means that one concept is introduced as a “thesis” or positive concept, which then develops into a second concept that negates or is opposed to the first or is its “antithesis”, which in turn leads to a third concept, the “synthesis”, that unifies the first two (see, e.g., McTaggert 1964 [1910]: 3–4; Mure 1950: 302; Stace, 1955 [1924]: 90–3, 125–6; Kosek 1972: 243; E. Harris 1983: 93–7; Singer 1983: 77–79). Versions of this interpretation of Hegel’s dialectics continue to have currency (e.g., Forster 1993: 131; Stewart 2000: 39, 55; Fritzman 2014: 3–5). On this reading, Being is the positive moment or thesis, Nothing is the negative moment or antithesis, and Becoming is the moment of aufheben or synthesis—the concept that cancels and preserves, or unifies and combines, Being and Nothing.

We must be careful, however, not to apply this textbook example too dogmatically to the rest of Hegel’s logic or to his dialectical method more generally (for a classic criticism of the thesis-antithesis-synthesis reading of Hegel’s dialectics, see Mueller 1958). There are other places where this general pattern might describe some of the transitions from stage to stage, but there are many more places where the development does not seem to fit this pattern very well. One place where the pattern seems to hold, for instance, is where the Measure (EL §107)—as the combination of Quality and Quantity—transitions into the Measureless (EL §107), which is opposed to it, which then in turn transitions into Essence, which is the unity or combination of the two earlier sides (EL §111). This series of transitions could be said to follow the general pattern captured by the “textbook example”: Measure would be the moment of the understanding or thesis, the Measureless would be the dialectical moment or antithesis, and Essence would be the speculative moment or synthesis that unifies the two earlier moments. However, before the transition to Essence takes place, the Measureless itself is redefined as a Measure (EL §109)—undercutting a precise parallel with the textbook Being-Nothing-Becoming example, since the transition from Measure to Essence would not follow a Measure-Measureless-Essence pattern, but rather a Measure-(Measureless?)-Measure-Essence pattern.

Other sections of Hegel’s philosophy do not fit the triadic, textbook example of Being-Nothing-Becoming at all, as even interpreters who have supported the traditional reading of Hegel’s dialectics have noted. After using the Being-Nothing-Becoming example to argue that Hegel’s dialectical method consists of “triads” whose members “are called the thesis, antithesis, synthesis” (Stace 1955 [1924]: 93), W.T. Stace, for instance, goes on to warn us that Hegel does not succeed in applying this pattern throughout the philosophical system. It is hard to see, Stace says, how the middle term of some of Hegel’s triads are the opposites or antitheses of the first term, “and there are even ‘triads’ which contain four terms!” (Stace 1955 [1924]: 97). As a matter of fact, one section of Hegel’s logic—the section on Cognition—violates the thesis-antithesis-synthesis pattern because it has only two sub-divisions, rather than three. “The triad is incomplete”, Stace complains. “There is no third. Hegel here abandons the triadic method. Nor is any explanation of his having done so forthcoming” (Stace 1955 [1924]: 286; cf. McTaggart 1964 [1910]: 292).

Interpreters have offered various solutions to the complaint that Hegel’s dialectics sometimes seems to violate the triadic form. Some scholars apply the triadic form fairly loosely across several stages (e.g. Burbidge 1981: 43–5; Taylor 1975: 229–30). Others have applied Hegel’s triadic method to whole sections of his philosophy, rather than to individual stages. For G.R.G. Mure, for instance, the section on Cognition fits neatly into a triadic, thesis-antithesis-synthesis account of dialectics because the whole section is itself the antithesis of the previous section of Hegel’s logic, the section on Life (Mure 1950: 270). Mure argues that Hegel’s triadic form is easier to discern the more broadly we apply it. “The triadic form appears on many scales”, he says, “and the larger the scale we consider the more obvious it is” (Mure 1950: 302).

Scholars who interpret Hegel’s description of dialectics on a smaller scale—as an account of how to get from stage to stage—have also tried to explain why some sections seem to violate the triadic form. J.N. Findlay, for instance—who, like Stace, associates dialectics “with the triad , or with triplicity ”—argues that stages can fit into that form in “more than one sense” (Findlay 1962: 66). The first sense of triplicity echoes the textbook, Being-Nothing-Becoming example. In a second sense, however, Findlay says, the dialectical moment or “contradictory breakdown” is not itself a separate stage, or “does not count as one of the stages”, but is a transition between opposed, “but complementary”, abstract stages that “are developed more or less concurrently” (Findlay 1962: 66). This second sort of triplicity could involve any number of stages: it “could readily have been expanded into a quadruplicity, a quintuplicity and so forth” (Findlay 1962: 66). Still, like Stace, he goes on to complain that many of the transitions in Hegel’s philosophy do not seem to fit the triadic pattern very well. In some triads, the second term is “the direct and obvious contrary of the first”—as in the case of Being and Nothing. In other cases, however, the opposition is, as Findlay puts it, “of a much less extreme character” (Findlay 1962: 69). In some triads, the third term obviously mediates between the first two terms. In other cases, however, he says, the third term is just one possible mediator or unity among other possible ones; and, in yet other cases, “the reconciling functions of the third member are not at all obvious” (Findlay 1962: 70).

Let us look more closely at one place where the “textbook example” of Being-Nothing-Becoming does not seem to describe the dialectical development of Hegel’s logic very well. In a later stage of the logic, the concept of Purpose goes through several iterations, from Abstract Purpose (EL §204), to Finite or Immediate Purpose (EL §205), and then through several stages of a syllogism (EL §206) to Realized Purpose (EL §210). Abstract Purpose is the thought of any kind of purposiveness, where the purpose has not been further determined or defined. It includes not just the kinds of purposes that occur in consciousness, such as needs or drives, but also the “internal purposiveness” or teleological view proposed by the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle (see entry on Aristotle ; EL Remark to §204), according to which things in the world have essences and aim to achieve (or have the purpose of living up to) their essences. Finite Purpose is the moment in which an Abstract Purpose begins to have a determination by fixing on some particular material or content through which it will be realized (EL §205). The Finite Purpose then goes through a process in which it, as the Universality, comes to realize itself as the Purpose over the particular material or content (and hence becomes Realized Purpose) by pushing out into Particularity, then into Singularity (the syllogism U-P-S), and ultimately into ‘out-thereness,’ or into individual objects out there in the world (EL §210; cf. Maybee 2009: 466–493).

Hegel’s description of the development of Purpose does not seem to fit the textbook Being-Nothing-Becoming example or the thesis-antithesis-synthesis model. According to the example and model, Abstract Purpose would be the moment of understanding or thesis, Finite Purpose would be the dialectical moment or antithesis, and Realized Purpose would be the speculative moment or synthesis. Although Finite Purpose has a different determination from Abstract Purpose (it refines the definition of Abstract Purpose), it is hard to see how it would qualify as strictly “opposed” to or as the “antithesis” of Abstract Purpose in the way that Nothing is opposed to or is the antithesis of Being.

There is an answer, however, to the criticism that many of the determinations are not “opposites” in a strict sense. The German term that is translated as “opposite” in Hegel’s description of the moments of dialectics (EL §§81, 82)— entgegensetzen —has three root words: setzen (“to posit or set”), gegen , (“against”), and the prefix ent -, which indicates that something has entered into a new state. The verb entgegensetzen can therefore literally be translated as “to set over against”. The “ engegengesetzte ” into which determinations pass, then, do not need to be the strict “opposites” of the first, but can be determinations that are merely “set against” or are different from the first ones. And the prefix ent -, which suggests that the first determinations are put into a new state, can be explained by Hegel’s claim that the finite determinations from the moment of understanding sublate (cancel but also preserve) themselves (EL §81): later determinations put earlier determinations into a new state by preserving them.

At the same time, there is a technical sense in which a later determination would still be the “opposite” of the earlier determination. Since the second determination is different from the first one, it is the logical negation of the first one, or is not -the-first-determination. If the first determination is “e”, for instance, because the new determination is different from that one, the new one is “not-e” (Kosek 1972: 240). Since Finite Purpose, for instance, has a definition or determination that is different from the definition that Abstract Purpose has, it is not -Abstract-Purpose, or is the negation or opposite of Abstract Purpose in that sense. There is therefore a technical, logical sense in which the second concept or form is the “opposite” or negation of—or is “not”—the first one—though, again, it need not be the “opposite” of the first one in a strict sense.

Other problems remain, however. Because the concept of Realized Purpose is defined through a syllogistic process, it is itself the product of several stages of development (at least four, by my count, if Realized Purpose counts as a separate determination), which would seem to violate a triadic model. Moreover, the concept of Realized Purpose does not, strictly speaking, seem to be the unity or combination of Abstract Purpose and Finite Purpose. Realized Purpose is the result of (and so unifies) the syllogistic process of Finite Purpose, through which Finite Purpose focuses on and is realized in a particular material or content. Realized Purpose thus seems to be a development of Finite Purpose, rather than a unity or combination of Abstract Purpose and Finite Purpose, in the way that Becoming can be said to be the unity or combination of Being and Nothing.

These sorts of considerations have led some scholars to interpret Hegel’s dialectics in a way that is implied by a more literal reading of his claim, in the Encyclopaedia Logic , that the three “sides” of the form of logic—namely, the moment of understanding, the dialectical moment, and the speculative moment—“are moments of each [or every; jedes ] logically-real , that is each [or every; jedes ] concept” (EL Remark to §79; this is an alternative translation). The quotation suggests that each concept goes through all three moments of the dialectical process—a suggestion reinforced by Hegel’s claim, in the Phenomenology , that the result of the process of determinate negation is that “a new form has thereby immediately arisen” (PhG-M §79). According to this interpretation, the three “sides” are not three different concepts or forms that are related to one another in a triad—as the textbook Being-Nothing-Becoming example suggests—but rather different momentary sides or “determinations” in the life, so to speak, of each concept or form as it transitions to the next one. The three moments thus involve only two concepts or forms: the one that comes first, and the one that comes next (examples of philosophers who interpret Hegel’s dialectics in this second way include Maybee 2009; Priest 1989: 402; Rosen 2014: 122, 132; and Winfield 1990: 56).

For the concept of Being, for example, its moment of understanding is its moment of stability, in which it is asserted to be pure presence. This determination is one-sided or restricted however, because, as we saw, it ignores another aspect of Being’s definition, namely, that Being has no content or determination, which is how Being is defined in its dialectical moment. Being thus sublates itself because the one-sidedness of its moment of understanding undermines that determination and leads to the definition it has in the dialectical moment. The speculative moment draws out the implications of these moments: it asserts that Being (as pure presence) implies nothing. It is also the “unity of the determinations in their comparison [ Entgegensetzung ]” (EL §82; alternative translation): since it captures a process from one to the other, it includes Being’s moment of understanding (as pure presence) and dialectical moment (as nothing or undetermined), but also compares those two determinations, or sets (- setzen ) them up against (- gegen ) each other. It even puts Being into a new state (as the prefix ent - suggests) because the next concept, Nothing, will sublate (cancel and preserve) Being.

The concept of Nothing also has all three moments. When it is asserted to be the speculative result of the concept of Being, it has its moment of understanding or stability: it is Nothing, defined as pure absence, as the absence of determination. But Nothing’s moment of understanding is also one-sided or restricted: like Being, Nothing is also an undefined content, which is its determination in its dialectical moment. Nothing thus sublates itself : since it is an undefined content , it is not pure absence after all, but has the same presence that Being did. It is present as an undefined content . Nothing thus sublates Being: it replaces (cancels) Being, but also preserves Being insofar as it has the same definition (as an undefined content) and presence that Being had. We can picture Being and Nothing like this (the circles have dashed outlines to indicate that, as concepts, they are each undefined; cf. Maybee 2009: 51):

two circles with dashed outlines, one labeled 'Being' and one 'Nothing'.

In its speculative moment, then, Nothing implies presence or Being, which is the “unity of the determinations in their comparison [ Entgegensetzung ]” (EL §82; alternative translation), since it both includes but—as a process from one to the other—also compares the two earlier determinations of Nothing, first, as pure absence and, second, as just as much presence.

The dialectical process is driven to the next concept or form—Becoming—not by a triadic, thesis-antithesis-synthesis pattern, but by the one-sidedness of Nothing—which leads Nothing to sublate itself—and by the implications of the process so far. Since Being and Nothing have each been exhaustively analyzed as separate concepts, and since they are the only concepts in play, there is only one way for the dialectical process to move forward: whatever concept comes next will have to take account of both Being and Nothing at the same time. Moreover, the process revealed that an undefined content taken to be presence (i.e., Being) implies Nothing (or absence), and that an undefined content taken to be absence (i.e., Nothing) implies presence (i.e., Being). The next concept, then, takes Being and Nothing together and draws out those implications—namely, that Being implies Nothing, and that Nothing implies Being. It is therefore Becoming, defined as two separate processes: one in which Being becomes Nothing, and one in which Nothing becomes Being. We can picture Becoming this way (cf. Maybee 2009: 53):

Same as the previous figure except arched arrows from the Nothing circle to the Being circle and vice versa. The arrows are labeled 'Becoming'.

In a similar way, a one-sidedness or restrictedness in the determination of Finite Purpose together with the implications of earlier stages leads to Realized Purpose. In its moment of understanding, Finite Purpose particularizes into (or presents) its content as “ something-presupposed ” or as a pre-given object (EL §205). I go to a restaurant for the purpose of having dinner, for instance, and order a salad. My purpose of having dinner particularizes as a pre-given object—the salad. But this object or particularity—e.g. the salad—is “inwardly reflected” (EL §205): it has its own content—developed in earlier stages—which the definition of Finite Purpose ignores. We can picture Finite Purpose this way:

4 concentric ovals with the innermost one enclosing an oval and a circle; an arrow points inward from the outermost oval and is labeled 'Presents into or particularizes as'. The outermost oval is labeled 'Finite Purpose (the universality; e.g. 'dinner')'. The next most oval is labeled 'A pre-given object (e.g., 'salad')'. The next oval and the circle and oval in the center are labeled 'The content of the object, developed in earlier stages, that Finite Purpose is ignoring'.

In the dialectical moment, Finite Purpose is determined by the previously ignored content, or by that other content. The one-sidedness of Finite Purpose requires the dialectical process to continue through a series of syllogisms that determines Finite Purpose in relation to the ignored content. The first syllogism links the Finite Purpose to the first layer of content in the object: the Purpose or universality (e.g., dinner) goes through the particularity (e.g., the salad) to its content, the singularity (e.g., lettuce as a type of thing)—the syllogism U-P-S (EL §206). But the particularity (e.g., the salad) is itself a universality or purpose, “which at the same time is a syllogism within itself [ in sich ]” (EL Remark to §208; alternative translation), in relation to its own content. The salad is a universality/purpose that particularizes as lettuce (as a type of thing) and has its singularity in this lettuce here—a second syllogism, U-P-S. Thus, the first singularity (e.g., “lettuce” as a type of thing)—which, in this second syllogism, is the particularity or P —“ judges ” (EL §207) or asserts that “ U is S ”: it says that “lettuce” as a universality ( U ) or type of thing is a singularity ( S ), or is “this lettuce here”, for instance. This new singularity (e.g. “this lettuce here”) is itself a combination of subjectivity and objectivity (EL §207): it is an Inner or identifying concept (“lettuce”) that is in a mutually-defining relationship (the circular arrow) with an Outer or out-thereness (“this here”) as its content. In the speculative moment, Finite Purpose is determined by the whole process of development from the moment of understanding—when it is defined by particularizing into a pre-given object with a content that it ignores—to its dialectical moment—when it is also defined by the previously ignored content. We can picture the speculative moment of Finite Purpose this way:

4 concentric ovals with the innermost one enclosing an oval and a circle; arrows point inward from the outermost 3 ovals to the next one in. The outermost oval is labeled 'Finite Purpose (the universality; e.g. 'dinner')'. The nextmost oval is labeled both 'The Particularity or object (e.g., 'salad')' and 'The object (e.g., 'salad') is also a Purpose or universality with its own syllogism'. The next oval is labeled both 'The Singularity (e.g., 'lettuce' as a type)' and 'The Particularity (e.g., 'lettuce' as type)'. And the 4th oval is labeled both 'Inner' and 'The Singularity (e.g., 'this lettuce is here')'. The circle in the middle is labeled 'Outer' and the oval in the middle 'Mutually-defining relationship'. The 3 interior ovals (not including the innermost) are also labeled 'The second syllogism U-P-S'. The 3 outer ovals are also labeled 'The first syllogism U-P-S'.

Finite Purpose’s speculative moment leads to Realized Purpose. As soon as Finite Purpose presents all the content, there is a return process (a series of return arrows) that establishes each layer and redefines Finite Purpose as Realized Purpose. The presence of “this lettuce here” establishes the actuality of “lettuce” as a type of thing (an Actuality is a concept that captures a mutually-defining relationship between an Inner and an Outer [EL §142]), which establishes the “salad”, which establishes “dinner” as the Realized Purpose over the whole process. We can picture Realized Purpose this way:

4 concentric ovals with the innermost one enclosing an oval and a circle; arrows point inward from the outermost 3 ovals to the next one in and arrows also point in the reverse direction. The outermost oval is labeled 'Realized Purpose: the Purpose (e.g., 'dinner') is established as the Purpose or universality over the whole content'. The outward pointing arrows are labeled 'The return process established the Purpose (e.g., 'dinner') as the Purpose or universality over the whole content'. The nextmost oval is labeled 'The object and second Purpose (e.g., 'salad')'. The one next in is labeled 'The Singularity/Particularity (e.g., 'lettuce' as a type)'. The 3rd inward oval is labeled 'The second Singularity (e.g., 'this lettuce is here')'.

If Hegel’s account of dialectics is a general description of the life of each concept or form, then any section can include as many or as few stages as the development requires. Instead of trying to squeeze the stages into a triadic form (cf. Solomon 1983: 22)—a technique Hegel himself rejects (PhG §50; cf. section 3 )—we can see the process as driven by each determination on its own account: what it succeeds in grasping (which allows it to be stable, for a moment of understanding), what it fails to grasp or capture (in its dialectical moment), and how it leads (in its speculative moment) to a new concept or form that tries to correct for the one-sidedness of the moment of understanding. This sort of process might reveal a kind of argument that, as Hegel had promised, might produce a comprehensive and exhaustive exploration of every concept, form or determination in each subject matter, as well as raise dialectics above a haphazard analysis of various philosophical views to the level of a genuine science.

We can begin to see why Hegel was motivated to use a dialectical method by examining the project he set for himself, particularly in relation to the work of David Hume and Immanuel Kant (see entries on Hume and Kant ). Hume had argued against what we can think of as the naïve view of how we come to have scientific knowledge. According to the naïve view, we gain knowledge of the world by using our senses to pull the world into our heads, so to speak. Although we may have to use careful observations and do experiments, our knowledge of the world is basically a mirror or copy of what the world is like. Hume argued, however, that naïve science’s claim that our knowledge corresponds to or copies what the world is like does not work. Take the scientific concept of cause, for instance. According to that concept of cause, to say that one event causes another is to say that there is a necessary connection between the first event (the cause) and the second event (the effect), such that, when the first event happens, the second event must also happen. According to naïve science, when we claim (or know) that some event causes some other event, our claim mirrors or copies what the world is like. It follows that the necessary, causal connection between the two events must itself be out there in the world. However, Hume argued, we never observe any such necessary causal connection in our experience of the world, nor can we infer that one exists based on our reasoning (see Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature , Book I, Part III, Section II; Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding , Section VII, Part I). There is nothing in the world itself that our idea of cause mirrors or copies.

Kant thought Hume’s argument led to an unacceptable, skeptical conclusion, and he rejected Hume’s own solution to the skepticism (see Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason , B5, B19–20). Hume suggested that our idea of causal necessity is grounded merely in custom or habit, since it is generated by our own imaginations after repeated observations of one sort of event following another sort of event (see Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature , Book I, Section VI; Hegel also rejected Hume’s solution, see EL §39). For Kant, science and knowledge should be grounded in reason, and he proposed a solution that aimed to reestablish the connection between reason and knowledge that was broken by Hume’s skeptical argument. Kant’s solution involved proposing a Copernican revolution in philosophy ( Critique of Pure Reason , Bxvi). Nicholas Copernicus was the Polish astronomer who said that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around. Kant proposed a similar solution to Hume’s skepticism. Naïve science assumes that our knowledge revolves around what the world is like, but, Hume’s criticism argued, this view entails that we cannot then have knowledge of scientific causes through reason. We can reestablish a connection between reason and knowledge, however, Kant suggested, if we say—not that knowledge revolves around what the world is like—but that knowledge revolves around what we are like . For the purposes of our knowledge, Kant said, we do not revolve around the world—the world revolves around us. Because we are rational creatures, we share a cognitive structure with one another that regularizes our experiences of the world. This intersubjectively shared structure of rationality—and not the world itself—grounds our knowledge.

However, Kant’s solution to Hume’s skepticism led to a skeptical conclusion of its own that Hegel rejected. While the intersubjectively shared structure of our reason might allow us to have knowledge of the world from our perspective, so to speak, we cannot get outside of our mental, rational structures to see what the world might be like in itself. As Kant had to admit, according to his theory, there is still a world in itself or “Thing-in-itself” ( Ding an sich ) about which we can know nothing (see, e.g., Critique of Pure Reason , Bxxv–xxvi). Hegel rejected Kant’s skeptical conclusion that we can know nothing about the world- or Thing-in-itself, and he intended his own philosophy to be a response to this view (see, e.g., EL §44 and the Remark to §44).

How did Hegel respond to Kant’s skepticism—especially since Hegel accepted Kant’s Copernican revolution, or Kant’s claim that we have knowledge of the world because of what we are like, because of our reason? How, for Hegel, can we get out of our heads to see the world as it is in itself? Hegel’s answer is very close to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s response to Plato. Plato argued that we have knowledge of the world only through the Forms. The Forms are perfectly universal, rational concepts or ideas. Because the world is imperfect, however, Plato exiled the Forms to their own realm. Although things in the world get their definitions by participating in the Forms, those things are, at best, imperfect copies of the universal Forms (see, e.g., Parmenides 131–135a). The Forms are therefore not in this world, but in a separate realm of their own. Aristotle argued, however, that the world is knowable not because things in the world are imperfect copies of the Forms, but because the Forms are in things themselves as the defining essences of those things (see, e.g., De Anima [ On the Soul ], Book I, Chapter 1 [403a26–403b18]; Metaphysics , Book VII, Chapter 6 [1031b6–1032a5] and Chapter 8 [1033b20–1034a8]).

In a similar way, Hegel’s answer to Kant is that we can get out of our heads to see what the world is like in itself—and hence can have knowledge of the world in itself—because the very same rationality or reason that is in our heads is in the world itself . As Hegel apparently put it in a lecture, the opposition or antithesis between the subjective and objective disappears by saying, as the Ancients did,

that nous governs the world, or by our own saying that there is reason in the world, by which we mean that reason is the soul of the world, inhabits it, and is immanent in it, as it own, innermost nature, its universal. (EL-GSH Addition 1 to §24)

Hegel used an example familiar from Aristotle’s work to illustrate this view:

“to be an animal”, the kind considered as the universal, pertains to the determinate animal and constitutes its determinate essentiality. If we were to deprive a dog of its animality we could not say what it is. (EL-GSH Addition 1 to §24; cf. SL-dG 16–17, SL-M 36-37)

Kant’s mistake, then, was that he regarded reason or rationality as only in our heads, Hegel suggests (EL §§43–44), rather than in both us and the world itself (see also below in this section and section 4 ). We can use our reason to have knowledge of the world because the very same reason that is in us, is in the world itself as it own defining principle. The rationality or reason in the world makes reality understandable, and that is why we can have knowledge of, or can understand, reality with our rationality. Dialectics—which is Hegel’s account of reason—characterizes not only logic, but also “everything true in general” (EL Remark to §79).

But why does Hegel come to define reason in terms of dialectics, and hence adopt a dialectical method? We can begin to see what drove Hegel to adopt a dialectical method by returning once again to Plato’s philosophy. Plato argued that we can have knowledge of the world only by grasping the Forms, which are perfectly universal, rational concepts or ideas. Because things in the world are so imperfect, however, Plato concluded that the Forms are not in this world, but in a realm of their own. After all, if a human being were perfectly beautiful, for instance, then he or she would never become not-beautiful. But human beings change, get old, and die, and so can be, at best, imperfect copies of the Form of beauty—though they get whatever beauty they have by participating in that Form. Moreover, for Plato, things in the world are such imperfect copies that we cannot gain knowledge of the Forms by studying things in the world, but only through reason, that is, only by using our rationality to access the separate realm of the Forms (as Plato argued in the well-known parable of the cave; Republic , Book 7, 514–516b).

Notice, however, that Plato’s conclusion that the Forms cannot be in this world and so must be exiled to a separate realm rests on two claims. First, it rests on the claim that the world is an imperfect and messy place—a claim that is hard to deny. But it also rests on the assumption that the Forms—the universal, rational concepts or ideas of reason itself—are static and fixed, and so cannot grasp the messiness within the imperfect world. Hegel is able to link reason back to our messy world by changing the definition of reason. Instead of saying that reason consists of static universals, concepts or ideas, Hegel says that the universal concepts or forms are themselves messy . Against Plato, Hegel’s dialectical method allows him to argue that universal concepts can “overgrasp” (from the German verb übergreifen ) the messy, dialectical nature of the world because they, themselves, are dialectical . Moreover, because later concepts build on or sublate (cancel, but also preserve) earlier concepts, the later, more universal concepts grasp the dialectical processes of earlier concepts. As a result, higher-level concepts can grasp not only the dialectical nature of earlier concepts or forms, but also the dialectical processes that make the world itself a messy place. The highest definition of the concept of beauty, for instance, would not take beauty to be fixed and static, but would include within it the dialectical nature or finiteness of beauty, the idea that beauty becomes, on its own account, not-beauty. This dialectical understanding of the concept of beauty can then overgrasp the dialectical and finite nature of beauty in the world, and hence the truth that, in the world, beautiful things themselves become not-beautiful, or might be beautiful in one respect and not another. Similarly, the highest determination of the concept of “tree” will include within its definition the dialectical process of development and change from seed to sapling to tree. As Hegel says, dialectics is “the principle of all natural and spiritual life” (SL-M 56; SL-dG 35), or “the moving soul of scientific progression” (EL §81). Dialectics is what drives the development of both reason as well as of things in the world. A dialectical reason can overgrasp a dialectical world.

Two further journeys into the history of philosophy will help to show why Hegel chose dialectics as his method of argument. As we saw, Hegel argues against Kant’s skepticism by suggesting that reason is not only in our heads, but in the world itself. To show that reason is in the world itself, however, Hegel has to show that reason can be what it is without us human beings to help it. He has to show that reason can develop on its own, and does not need us to do the developing for it (at least for those things in the world that are not human-created). As we saw (cf. section 1 ), central to Hegel’s dialectics is the idea that concepts or forms develop on their own because they “self-sublate”, or sublate (cancel and preserve) themselves , and so pass into subsequent concepts or forms on their own accounts, because of their own, dialectical natures. Thus reason, as it were, drives itself, and hence does not need our heads to develop it. Hegel needs an account of self-driving reason to get beyond Kant’s skepticism.

Ironically, Hegel derives the basic outlines of his account of self-driving reason from Kant. Kant divided human rationality into two faculties: the faculty of the understanding and the faculty of reason. The understanding uses concepts to organize and regularize our experiences of the world. Reason’s job is to coordinate the concepts and categories of the understanding by developing a completely unified, conceptual system, and it does this work, Kant thought, on its own, independently of how those concepts might apply to the world. Reason coordinates the concepts of the understanding by following out necessary chains of syllogisms to produce concepts that achieve higher and higher levels of conceptual unity. Indeed, this process will lead reason to produce its own transcendental ideas, or concepts that go beyond the world of experience. Kant calls this necessary, concept-creating reason “speculative” reason (cf. Critique of Pure Reason , Bxx–xxi, A327/B384). Reason creates its own concepts or ideas—it “speculates”—by generating new and increasingly comprehensive concepts of its own, independently of the understanding. In the end, Kant thought, reason will follow out such chains of syllogisms until it develops completely comprehensive or unconditioned universals—universals that contain all of the conditions or all of the less-comprehensive concepts that help to define them. As we saw (cf. section 1 ), Hegel’s dialectics adopts Kant’s notion of a self-driving and concept-creating “speculative” reason, as well as Kant’s idea that reason aims toward unconditioned universality or absolute concepts.

Ultimately, Kant thought, reasons’ necessary, self-driving activity will lead it to produce contradictions—what he called the “antinomies”, which consist of a thesis and antithesis. Once reason has generated the unconditioned concept of the whole world, for instance, Kant argued, it can look at the world in two, contradictory ways. In the first antinomy, reason can see the world (1) as the whole totality or as the unconditioned, or (2) as the series of syllogisms that led up to that totality. If reason sees the world as the unconditioned or as a complete whole that is not conditioned by anything else, then it will see the world as having a beginning and end in terms of space and time, and so will conclude (the thesis) that the world has a beginning and end or limit. But if reason sees the world as the series, in which each member of the series is conditioned by the previous member, then the world will appear to be without a beginning and infinite, and reason will conclude (the antithesis) that the world does not have a limit in terms of space and time (cf. Critique of Pure Reason , A417–18/B445–6). Reason thus leads to a contradiction: it holds both that the world has a limit and that it does not have a limit at the same time. Because reason’s own process of self-development will lead it to develop contradictions or to be dialectical in this way, Kant thought that reason must be kept in check by the understanding. Any conclusions that reason draws that do not fall within the purview of the understanding cannot be applied to the world of experience, Kant said, and so cannot be considered genuine knowledge ( Critique of Pure Reason , A506/B534).

Hegel adopts Kant’s dialectical conception of reason, but he liberates reason for knowledge from the tyranny of the understanding. Kant was right that reason speculatively generates concepts on its own, and that this speculative process is driven by necessity and leads to concepts of increasing universality or comprehensiveness. Kant was even right to suggest—as he had shown in the discussion of the antinomies—that reason is dialectical, or necessarily produces contradictions on its own. Again, Kant’s mistake was that he fell short of saying that these contradictions are in the world itself. He failed to apply the insights of his discussion of the antinomies to “ things in themselves ” (SL-M 56; SL-dG 35; see also section 4 ). Indeed, Kant’s own argument proves that the dialectical nature of reason can be applied to things themselves. The fact that reason develops those contradictions on its own, without our heads to help it , shows that those contradictions are not just in our heads, but are objective, or in the world itself. Kant, however, failed to draw this conclusion, and continued to regard reason’s conclusions as illusions. Still, Kant’s philosophy vindicated the general idea that the contradictions he took to be illusions are both objective—or out there in the world—and necessary. As Hegel puts it, Kant vindicates the general idea of “the objectivity of the illusion and the necessity of the contradiction which belongs to the nature of thought determinations” (SL-M 56; cf. SL-dG 35), or to the nature of concepts themselves.

The work of Johann Gottlieb Fichte (see entry on Fichte ) showed Hegel how dialectics can get beyond Kant—beyond the contradictions that, as Kant had shown, reason (necessarily) develops on its own, beyond the reductio ad absurdum argument (which, as we saw above, holds that a contradiction leads to nothingness), and beyond Kant’s skepticism, or Kant’s claim that reason’s contradictions must be reined in by the understanding and cannot count as knowledge. Fichte argued that the task of discovering the foundation of all human knowledge leads to a contradiction or opposition between the self and the not-self (it is not important, for our purposes, why Fichte held this view). The kind of reasoning that leads to this contradiction, Fichte said, is the analytical or antithetical method of reasoning, which involves drawing out an opposition between elements (in this case, the self and not-self) that are being compared to, or equated with, one another. While the traditional reductio ad absurdum argument would lead us to reject both sides of the contradiction and start from scratch, Fichte argued that the contradiction or opposition between the self and not-self can be resolved. In particular, the contradiction is resolved by positing a third concept—the concept of divisibility—which unites the two sides ( The Science of Knowledge , I: 110–11; Fichte 1982: 108–110). The concept of divisibility is produced by a synthetic procedure of reasoning, which involves “discovering in opposites the respect in which they are alike ” ( The Science of Knowledge , I: 112–13; Fichte 1982: 111). Indeed, Fichte argued, not only is the move to resolve contradictions with synthetic concepts or judgments possible, it is necessary . As he says of the move from the contradiction between self and not-self to the synthetic concept of divisibility,

there can be no further question as to the possibility of this [synthesis], nor can any ground for it be given; it is absolutely possible, and we are entitled to it without further grounds of any kind. ( The Science of Knowledge , I: 114; Fichte 1982: 112)

Since the analytical method leads to oppositions or contradictions, he argued, if we use only analytic judgments, “we not only do not get very far, as Kant says; we do not get anywhere at all” ( The Science of Knowledge , I: 113; Fichte 1982: 112). Without the synthetic concepts or judgments, we are left, as the classic reductio ad absurdum argument suggests, with nothing at all. The synthetic concepts or judgments are thus necessary to get beyond contradiction without leaving us with nothing.

Fichte’s account of the synthetic method provides Hegel with the key to moving beyond Kant. Fichte suggested that a synthetic concept that unifies the results of a dialectically-generated contradiction does not completely cancel the contradictory sides, but only limits them. As he said, in general, “[t]o limit something is to abolish its reality, not wholly , but in part only” ( The Science of Knowledge , I: 108; Fichte 1982: 108). Instead of concluding, as a reductio ad absurdum requires, that the two sides of a contradiction must be dismissed altogether, the synthetic concept or judgment retroactively justifies the opposing sides by demonstrating their limit, by showing which part of reality they attach to and which they do not ( The Science of Knowledge , I: 108–10; Fichte 1982: 108–9), or by determining in what respect and to what degree they are each true. For Hegel, as we saw (cf. section 1 ), later concepts and forms sublate—both cancel and preserve —earlier concepts and forms in the sense that they include earlier concepts and forms in their own definitions. From the point of view of the later concepts or forms, the earlier ones still have some validity, that is, they have a limited validity or truth defined by the higher-level concept or form.

thesis vs antithesis

Antithesis Definition

What is antithesis? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

Antithesis is a figure of speech that juxtaposes two contrasting or opposing ideas, usually within parallel grammatical structures. For instance, Neil Armstrong used antithesis when he stepped onto the surface of the moon in 1969 and said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." This is an example of antithesis because the two halves of the sentence mirror each other in grammatical structure, while together the two halves emphasize the incredible contrast between the individual experience of taking an ordinary step, and the extraordinary progress that Armstrong's step symbolized for the human race.

Some additional key details about antithesis:

  • Antithesis works best when it is used in conjunction with parallelism (successive phrases that use the same grammatical structure), since the repetition of structure makes the contrast of the content of the phrases as clear as possible.
  • The word "antithesis" has another meaning, which is to describe something as being the opposite of another thing. For example, "love is the antithesis of selfishness." This guide focuses only on antithesis as a literary device.
  • The word antithesis has its origins in the Greek word antithenai , meaning "to oppose." The plural of antithesis is antitheses.

How to Pronounce Antithesis

Here's how to pronounce antithesis: an- tith -uh-sis

Antithesis and Parallelism

Often, but not always, antithesis works in tandem with parallelism . In parallelism, two components of a sentence (or pair of sentences) mirror one another by repeating grammatical elements. The following is a good example of both antithesis and parallelism:

To err is human , to forgive divine .

The two clauses of the sentence are parallel because each starts off with an infinitive verb and ends with an adjective ("human" and "divine"). The mirroring of these elements then works to emphasize the contrast in their content, particularly in the very strong opposite contrast between "human" and "divine."

Antithesis Without Parallelism

In most cases, antitheses involve parallel elements of the sentence—whether a pair of nouns, verbs, adjectives, or other grammar elements. However, it is also possible to have antithesis without such clear cut parallelism. In the Temptations Song "My Girl," the singer uses antithesis when he says:

"When it's cold outside , I've got the month of May ."

Here the sentence is clearly cut into two clauses on either side of the comma, and the contrasting elements are clear enough. However, strictly speaking there isn't true parallelism here because "cold outside" and "month of May" are different types of grammatical structures (an adjective phrase and a noun phrase, respectively).

Antithesis vs. Related Terms

Three literary terms that are often mistakenly used in the place of antithesis are juxtaposition , oxymoron , and foil . Each of these three terms does have to do with establishing a relationship of difference between two ideas or characters in a text, but beyond that there are significant differences between them.

Antithesis vs. Juxtaposition

In juxtaposition , two things or ideas are placed next to one another to draw attention to their differences or similarities. In juxtaposition, the pairing of two ideas is therefore not necessarily done to create a relationship of opposition or contradiction between them, as is the case with antithesis. So, while antithesis could be a type of juxtaposition, juxtaposition is not always antithesis.

Antithesis vs. Oxymoron

In an oxymoron , two seemingly contradictory words are placed together because their unlikely combination reveals a deeper truth. Some examples of oxymorons include:

  • Sweet sorrow
  • Cruel kindness
  • Living dead

The focus of antithesis is opposites rather than contradictions . While the words involved in oxymorons seem like they don't belong together (until you give them deeper thought), the words or ideas of antithesis do feel like they belong together even as they contrast as opposites. Further, antitheses seldom function by placing the two words or ideas right next to one another, so antitheses are usually made up of more than two words (as in, "I'd rather be among the living than among the dead").

Antithesis vs. Foil

Some Internet sources use "antithesis" to describe an author's decision to create two characters in a story that are direct opposites of one another—for instance, the protagonist and antagonist . But the correct term for this kind of opposition is a foil : a person or thing in a work of literature that contrasts with another thing in order to call attention to its qualities. While the sentence "the hare was fast, and the tortoise was slow" is an example of antithesis, if we step back and look at the story as a whole, the better term to describe the relationship between the characters of the tortoise and the hare is "foil," as in, "The character of the hare is a foil of the tortoise."

Antithesis Examples

Antithesis in literature.

Below are examples of antithesis from some of English literature's most acclaimed writers — and a comic book!

Antithesis in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities

In the famous opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities , Dickens sets out a flowing list of antitheses punctuated by the repetition of the word "it was" at the beginning of each clause (which is itself an example of the figure of speech anaphora ). By building up this list of contrasts, Dickens sets the scene of the French Revolution that will serve as the setting of his tale by emphasizing the division and confusion of the era. The overwhelming accumulation of antitheses is also purposefully overdone; Dickens is using hyperbole to make fun of the "noisiest authorities" of the day and their exaggerated claims. The passage contains many examples of antithesis, each consisting of one pair of contrasting ideas that we've highlighted to make the structure clearer.

It was the best of times , it was the worst of times , it was the age of wisdom , it was the age of foolishness , it was the epoch of belief , it was the epoch of incredulity , it was the season of Light , it was the season of Darkness , it was the spring of hope , it was the winter of despair , we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven , we were all going direct the other way —in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Antithesis in John Milton's Paradise Lost

In this verse from Paradise Lost , Milton's anti-hero , Satan, claims he's happier as the king of Hell than he could ever have been as a servant in Heaven. He justifies his rebellion against God with this pithy phrase, and the antithesis drives home the double contrast between Hell and Heaven, and between ruling and serving.

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

Antithesis in William Shakespeare's Othello

As the plot of Othello nears its climax , the antagonist of the play, Iago, pauses for a moment to acknowledge the significance of what is about to happen. Iago uses antithesis to contrast the two opposite potential outcomes of his villainous plot: either events will transpire in Iago's favor and he will come out on top, or his treachery will be discovered, ruining him.

This is the night That either makes me or fordoes me quite .

In this passage, the simple word "either" functions as a cue for the reader to expect some form of parallelism, because the "either" signals that a contrast between two things is coming.

Antithesis in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Shakespeare's plays are full of antithesis, and so is Hamlet's most well-known "To be or not to be" soliloquy . This excerpt of the soliloquy is a good example of an antithesis that is not limited to a single word or short phrase. The first instance of antithesis here, where Hamlet announces the guiding question (" to be or not to be ") is followed by an elaboration of each idea ("to be" and "not to be") into metaphors that then form their own antithesis. Both instances of antithesis hinge on an " or " that divides the two contrasting options.

To be or not to be , that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them ...

Antithesis in T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets"

In this excerpt from his poem "Four Quartets," T.S. Eliot uses antithesis to describe the cycle of life, which is continuously passing from beginning to end, from rise to fall, and from old to new.

In my beginning is my end . In succession Houses rise and fall , crumble, are extended, Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass. Old stone to new building , old timber to new fires ...

Antithesis in Green Lantern's Oath

Comic book writers know the power of antithesis too! In this catchy oath, Green Lantern uses antithesis to emphasize that his mission to defeat evil will endure no matter the conditions.

In brightest day , in blackest night , No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might Beware my power—Green lantern's light!

While most instances of antithesis are built around an "or" that signals the contrast between the two parts of the sentence, the Green Lantern oath works a bit differently. It's built around an implied "and" (to be technical, that first line of the oath is an asyndeton that replaces the "and" with a comma), because members of the Green Lantern corps are expressing their willingness to fight evil in all places, even very opposite environments.

Antithesis in Speeches

Many well-known speeches contain examples of antithesis. Speakers use antithesis to drive home the stakes of what they are saying, sometimes by contrasting two distinct visions of the future.

Antithesis in Patrick Henry's Speech to the Second Virginia Convention, 1775

This speech by famous American patriot Patrick Henry includes one of the most memorable and oft-quoted phrases from the era of the American Revolution. Here, Henry uses antithesis to emphasize just how highly he prizes liberty, and how deadly serious he is about his fight to achieve it.

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take: but as for me, give me liberty or give me death .

Antithesis in Martin Luther King Jr.'s Oberlin Commencement Address

In this speech by one of America's most well-known orators, antithesis allows Martin Luther King Jr. to highlight the contrast between two visions of the future; in the first vision, humans rise above their differences to cooperate with one another, while in the other humanity is doomed by infighting and division.

We must all learn to live together as brothers —or we will all perish together as fools .

Antithesis in Songs

In songs, contrasting two opposite ideas using antithesis can heighten the dramatic tension of a difficult decision, or express the singer's intense emotion—but whatever the context, antithesis is a useful tool for songwriters mainly because opposites are always easy to remember, so lyrics that use antithesis tend to stick in the head.

Antithesis in "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by The Clash (1981)

In this song by The Clash, the speaker is caught at a crossroads between two choices, and antithesis serves as the perfect tool to express just how confused and conflicted he is. The rhetorical question —whether to stay or to go—presents two opposing options, and the contrast between his lover's mood from one day (when everything is "fine") to the next (when it's all "black") explains the difficulty of his choice.

One day it's fine and next it's black So if you want me off your back Well, come on and let me know Should I stay or should I go ? Should I stay or should I go now? Should I stay or should I go now? If I go, there will be trouble If I stay it will be double ...

Antithesis in "My Girl" by the Temptations (1965)

In this song, the singer uses a pair of metaphors to describe the feeling of joy that his lover brings him. This joy is expressed through antithesis, since the singer uses the miserable weather of a cloudy, cold day as the setting for the sunshine-filled month of May that "his girl" makes him feel inside, emphasizing the power of his emotions by contrasting them with the bleak weather.

I've got sunshine on a cloudy day When it's cold outside I've got the month of May Well I guess you'd say, What can make me feel this way? My girl, my girl, my girl Talkin' bout my girl.

Why Do Writers Use Antithesis?

Fundamentally, writers of all types use antithesis for its ability to create a clear contrast. This contrast can serve a number of purposes, as shown in the examples above. It can:

  • Present a stark choice between two alternatives.
  • Convey magnitude or range (i.e. "in brightest day, in darkest night" or "from the highest mountain, to the deepest valley").
  • Express strong emotions.
  • Create a relationship of opposition between two separate ideas.
  • Accentuate the qualities and characteristics of one thing by placing it in opposition to another.

Whatever the case, antithesis almost always has the added benefit of making language more memorable to listeners and readers. The use of parallelism and other simple grammatical constructions like "either/or" help to establish opposition between concepts—and opposites have a way of sticking in the memory.

Other Helpful Antithesis Resources

  • The Wikipedia page on Antithesis : A useful summary with associated examples, along with an extensive account of antithesis in the Gospel of Matthew.
  • Sound bites from history : A list of examples of antithesis in famous political speeches from United States history — with audio clips!
  • A blog post on antithesis : This quick rundown of antithesis focuses on a quote you may know from Muhammad Ali's philosophy of boxing: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."

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thesis vs antithesis

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In philosophy, the triad of thesis, antithesis, synthesis (German: These, Antithese, Synthese; originally: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis) is a progression of three ideas or propositions. The first idea, the thesis, is a formal statement illustrating a point; it is followed by the second idea, the antithesis, that contradicts or negates the first; and lastly, the third idea, the synthesis, resolves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis. It is often used to explain the dialectical method of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, but Hegel never used the terms himself; instead his triad was concrete, abstract, absolute. The thesis, antithesis, synthesis triad actually originated with Johann Fichte.

1. History of the Idea

Thomas McFarland (2002), in his Prolegomena to Coleridge's Opus Maximum , [ 1 ] identifies Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781) as the genesis of the thesis/antithesis dyad. Kant concretises his ideas into:

  • Thesis: "The world has a beginning in time, and is limited with regard to space."
  • Antithesis: "The world has no beginning and no limits in space, but is infinite, in respect to both time and space."

Inasmuch as conjectures like these can be said to be resolvable, Fichte's Grundlage der gesamten Wissenschaftslehre ( Foundations of the Science of Knowledge , 1794) resolved Kant's dyad by synthesis, posing the question thus: [ 1 ]

  • No synthesis is possible without a preceding antithesis. As little as antithesis without synthesis, or synthesis without antithesis, is possible; just as little possible are both without thesis.

Fichte employed the triadic idea "thesis–antithesis–synthesis" as a formula for the explanation of change. [ 2 ] Fichte was the first to use the trilogy of words together, [ 3 ] in his Grundriss des Eigentümlichen der Wissenschaftslehre, in Rücksicht auf das theoretische Vermögen (1795, Outline of the Distinctive Character of the Wissenschaftslehre with respect to the Theoretical Faculty ): "Die jetzt aufgezeigte Handlung ist thetisch, antithetisch und synthetisch zugleich." ["The action here described is simultaneously thetic, antithetic, and synthetic." [ 4 ] ]

Still according to McFarland, Schelling then, in his Vom Ich als Prinzip der Philosophie (1795), arranged the terms schematically in pyramidal form.

According to Walter Kaufmann (1966), although the triad is often thought to form part of an analysis of historical and philosophical progress called the Hegelian dialectic, the assumption is erroneous: [ 5 ]

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.

Gustav E. Mueller (1958) concurs that Hegel was not a proponent of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, and clarifies what the concept of dialectic might have meant in Hegel's thought. [ 6 ]

"Dialectic" does not for Hegel mean "thesis, antithesis, and synthesis." Dialectic means that any "ism" – which has a polar opposite, or is a special viewpoint leaving "the rest" to itself – must be criticized by the logic of philosophical thought, whose problem is reality as such, the "World-itself".

According to Mueller, the attribution of this tripartite dialectic to Hegel is the result of "inept reading" and simplistic translations which do not take into account the genesis of Hegel's terms:

Hegel's greatness is as indisputable as his obscurity. The matter is due to his peculiar terminology and style; they are undoubtedly involved and complicated, and seem excessively abstract. These linguistic troubles, in turn, have given rise to legends which are like perverse and magic spectacles – once you wear them, the text simply vanishes. Theodor Haering's monumental and standard work has for the first time cleared up the linguistic problem. By carefully analyzing every sentence from his early writings, which were published only in this century, he has shown how Hegel's terminology evolved – though it was complete when he began to publish. Hegel's contemporaries were immediately baffled, because what was clear to him was not clear to his readers, who were not initiated into the genesis of his terms. An example of how a legend can grow on inept reading is this: Translate "Begriff" by "concept," "Vernunft" by "reason" and "Wissenschaft" by "science" – and they are all good dictionary translations – and you have transformed the great critic of rationalism and irrationalism into a ridiculous champion of an absurd pan-logistic rationalism and scientism. The most vexing and devastating Hegel legend is that everything is thought in "thesis, antithesis, and synthesis." [ 7 ]

Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) adopted and extended the triad, especially in Marx's The Poverty of Philosophy (1847). Here, in Chapter 2, Marx is obsessed by the word "thesis"; [ 8 ] it forms an important part of the basis for the Marxist theory of history. [ 9 ]

2. Writing Pedagogy

In modern times, the dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis has been implemented across the world as a strategy for organizing expositional writing. For example, this technique is taught as a basic organizing principle in French schools: [ 10 ]

The French learn to value and practice eloquence from a young age. Almost from day one, students are taught to produce plans for their compositions, and are graded on them. The structures change with fashions. Youngsters were once taught to express a progression of ideas. Now they follow a dialectic model of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. If you listen carefully to the French arguing about any topic they all follow this model closely: they present an idea, explain possible objections to it, and then sum up their conclusions. ... This analytical mode of reasoning is integrated into the entire school corpus.

Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis has also been used as a basic scheme to organize writing in the English language. For example, the website WikiPreMed.com advocates the use of this scheme in writing timed essays for the MCAT standardized test: [ 11 ]

For the purposes of writing MCAT essays, the dialectic describes the progression of ideas in a critical thought process that is the force driving your argument. A good dialectical progression propels your arguments in a way that is satisfying to the reader. The thesis is an intellectual proposition. The antithesis is a critical perspective on the thesis. The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths, and forming a new proposition.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Opus Maximum. Princeton University Press, 2002, p. 89.
  • Harry Ritter, Dictionary of Concepts in History. Greenwood Publishing Group (1986), p.114
  • Williams, Robert R. (1992). Recognition: Fichte and Hegel on the Other. SUNY Press. p. 46, note 37. 
  • Fichte, Johann Gottlieb; Breazeale, Daniel (1993). Fichte: Early Philosophical Writings. Cornell University Press. p. 249. 
  • Walter Kaufmann (1966). "§ 37". Hegel: A Reinterpretation. Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0-268-01068-3. OCLC 3168016. https://archive.org/details/hegelreinterpret00kauf. 
  • Mueller, Gustav (1958). "The Hegel Legend of "Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis"". Journal of the History of Ideas 19 (4): 411–414. doi:10.2307/2708045.  https://dx.doi.org/10.2307%2F2708045
  • Mueller 1958, p. 411.
  • marxists.org: Chapter 2 of "The Poverty of Philosophy", by Karl Marx https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/poverty-philosophy/ch02.htm
  • Shrimp, Kaleb (2009). "The Validity of Karl Marx's Theory of Historical Materialism". Major Themes in Economics 11 (1): 35–56. https://scholarworks.uni.edu/mtie/vol11/iss1/5/. Retrieved 13 September 2018. 
  • Nadeau, Jean-Benoit; Barlow, Julie (2003). Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France But Not The French. Sourcebooks, Inc.. p. 62. https://archive.org/details/sixtymillionfren00nade_041. 
  • "The MCAT writing assignment.". Wisebridge Learning Systems, LLC. http://www.wikipremed.com/mcat_essay.php. Retrieved 1 November 2015. 

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thesis vs antithesis

Animalz

Persuasive Writing In Three Steps: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis

April 14, 2021 by Ryan Law in

thesis vs antithesis

Great writing persuades. It persuades the reader that your product is right for them, that your process achieves the outcome they desire, that your opinion supersedes all other opinions. But spend an hour clicking around the internet and you’ll quickly realise that most content is passive, presenting facts and ideas without context or structure. The reader must connect the dots and create a convincing argument from the raw material presented to them. They rarely do, and for good reason: It’s hard work. The onus of persuasion falls on the writer, not the reader. Persuasive communication is a timeless challenge with an ancient solution. Zeno of Elea cracked it in the 5th century B.C. Georg Hegel gave it a lick of paint in the 1800s. You can apply it to your writing in three simple steps: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

Use Dialectic to Find Logical Bedrock

“ Dialectic ” is a complicated-sounding idea with a simple meaning: It’s a structured process for taking two seemingly contradictory viewpoints and, through reasoned discussion, reaching a satisfactory conclusion. Over centuries of use the term has been burdened with the baggage of philosophy and academia. But at its heart, dialectics reflects a process similar to every spirited conversation or debate humans have ever had:

  • Person A presents an idea: “We should travel to the Eastern waterhole because it’s closest to camp.”
  • Person B disagrees and shares a counterargument: “I saw wolf prints on the Eastern trail, so we should go to the Western waterhole instead.”
  • Person A responds to the counterargument , either disproving it or modifying their own stance to accommodate the criticism: “I saw those same wolf prints, but our party is large enough that the wolves won’t risk an attack.”
  • Person B responds in a similar vein: “Ordinarily that would be true, but half of our party had dysentery last week so we’re not at full strength.”
  • Person A responds: “They got dysentery from drinking at the Western waterhole.”

This process continues until conversational bedrock is reached: an idea that both parties understand and agree to, helped by the fact they’ve both been a part of the process that shaped it.

Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.png

Dialectic is intended to help draw closer to the “truth” of an argument, tempering any viewpoint by working through and resolving its flaws. This same process can also be used to persuade.

Create Inevitability with Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis

The philosopher Georg Hegel is most famous for popularizing a type of dialectics that is particularly well-suited to writing: thesis, antithesis, synthesis (also known, unsurprisingly, as Hegelian Dialectic ).

  • Thesis: Present the status quo, the viewpoint that is currently accepted and widely held.
  • Antithesis: Articulate the problems with the thesis. (Hegel also called this phase “the negative.”)
  • Synthesis: Share a new viewpoint (a modified thesis) that resolves the problems.

Hegel’s method focused less on the search for absolute truth and more on replacing old ideas with newer, more sophisticated versions . That, in a nutshell, is the same objective as much of content marketing (and particularly thought leadership content ): We’re persuading the reader that our product, processes, and ideas are better and more useful than the “old” way of doing things. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis (or TAS) is a persuasive writing structure because it:

  • Reduces complex arguments into a simple three-act structure. Complicated, nuanced arguments are simplified into a clear, concise format that anyone can follow. This simplification reflects well on the author: It takes mastery of a topic to explain it in it the simplest terms.
  • Presents a balanced argument by “steelmanning” the best objection. Strong, one-sided arguments can trigger reactance in the reader: They don’t want to feel duped. TAS gives voice to their doubts, addressing their best objection and “giv[ing] readers the chance to entertain the other side, making them feel as though they have come to an objective conclusion.”
  • Creates a sense of inevitability. Like a story building to a satisfying conclusion, articles written with TAS take the reader on a structured, logical journey that culminates in precisely the viewpoint we wish to advocate for. Doubts are voiced, ideas challenged, and the conclusion reached feels more valid and concrete as a result.

There are two main ways to apply TAS to your writing: Use it beef up your introductions, or apply it to your article’s entire structure.

Writing Article Introductions with TAS

Take a moment to scroll back to the top of this article. If I’ve done my job correctly, you’ll notice a now familiar formula staring back at you: The first three paragraphs are built around Hegel’s thesis, antithesis, synthesis structure. Here’s what the introduction looked like during the outlining process . The first paragraph shares the thesis, the accepted idea that great writing should be persuasive:

screely-1618224151623.png

Next up, the antithesis introduces a complicating idea, explaining why most content marketing isn’t all that persuasive:

screely-1618224157736.png

Finally, the synthesis shares a new idea that serves to reconcile the two previous paragraphs: Content can be made persuasive by using the thesis, antithesis, synthesis framework. The meat of the article is then focused on the nitty-gritty of the synthesis.

screely-1618224163669.png

Introductions are hard, but thesis, antithesis, synthesis offers a simple way to write consistently persuasive opening copy. In the space of three short paragraphs, the article’s key ideas are shared , the entire argument is summarised, and—hopefully—the reader is hooked.

Best of all, most articles—whether how-to’s, thought leadership content, or even list content—can benefit from Hegelian Dialectic , for the simple reason that every article introduction should be persuasive enough to encourage the reader to stick around.

Structuring Entire Articles with TAS

Harder, but most persuasive, is to use thesis, antithesis, synthesis to structure your entire article. This works best for thought leadership content. Here, your primary objective is to advocate for a new idea and disprove the old, tired way of thinking—exactly the use case Hegel intended for his dialectic. It’s less useful for content that explores and illustrates a process, because the primary objective is to show the reader how to do something (like this article—otherwise, I would have written the whole darn thing using the framework). Arjun Sethi’s article The Hive is the New Network is a great example.

screely-1618235046076.png

The article’s primary purpose is to explain why the “old” model of social networks is outmoded and offer a newer, better framework. (It would be equally valid—but less punchy—to publish this with the title “ Why the Hive is the New Network.”) The thesis, antithesis, synthesis structure shapes the entire article:

  • Thesis: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram grew by creating networks “that brought existing real-world relationships online.”
  • Antithesis: As these networks grow, the less useful they become, skewing towards bots, “celebrity, meme and business accounts.”
  • Synthesis: To survive continued growth, these networks need to embrace a new structure and become hives.

With the argument established, the vast majority of the article is focused on synthesis. After all, it requires little elaboration to share the status quo in a particular situation, and it’s relatively easy to point out the problems with a given idea. The synthesis—the solution that needs to reconcile both thesis and antithesis—is the hardest part to tackle and requires the greatest word count. Throughout the article, Arjun is systematically addressing the “best objections” to his theory and demonstrating why the “Hive” is the best solution:

  • Antithesis: Why now? Why didn’t Hives emerge in the first place?
  • Thesis: We were limited by technology, but today, we have the necessary infrastructure: “We’re no longer limited to a broadcast radio model, where one signal is received by many nodes. ...We sync with each other instantaneously, and all the time.”
  • Antithesis: If the Hive is so smart, why aren’t our brightest and best companies already embracing it?
  • Thesis: They are, and autonomous cars are a perfect example: “Why are all these vastly different companies converging on the autonomous car? That’s because for these companies, it’s about platform and hive, not just about roads without drivers.”

It takes bravery to tackle objections head-on and an innate understanding of the subject matter to even identify objections in the first place, but the effort is worthwhile. The end result is a structured journey through the arguments for and against the “Hive,” with the reader eventually reaching the same conclusion as the author: that “Hives” are superior to traditional networks.

Destination: Persuasion

Persuasion isn’t about cajoling or coercing the reader. Statistics and anecdotes alone aren’t all that persuasive. Simply sharing a new idea and hoping that it will trigger an about-turn in the reader’s beliefs is wishful thinking. Instead, you should take the reader on a journey—the same journey you travelled to arrive at your newfound beliefs, whether it’s about the superiority of your product or the zeitgeist-changing trend that’s about to break. Hegelian Dialectic—thesis, antithesis, synthesis— is a structured process for doing precisely that. It contextualises your ideas and explains why they matter. It challenges the idea and strengthens it in the process. Using centuries-old processes, it nudges the 21st-century reader onto a well-worn path that takes them exactly where they need to go.

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Ryan is the Content Director at Ahrefs and former CMO of Animalz.

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thesis vs antithesis

Writing Explained

What is Antithesis? Definition, Examples of Antitheses in Writing

Home » The Writer’s Dictionary » What is Antithesis? Definition, Examples of Antitheses in Writing

Antithesis definition: Antithesis is a literary and rhetorical device where two seemingly contrasting ideas are expressed through parallel structure.

What is Antithesis?

What does antithesis mean? An antithesis is just that—an “anti” “thesis.” An antithesis is used in writing to express ideas that seem contradictory.

An antithesis uses parallel structure of two ideas to communicate this contradiction.

Example of Antithesis:

  • “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” –Muhammad Ali

what does antithisis mean

First, the structure is parallel. Each “side” of the phrase has the same number of words and the same structure. Each uses a verb followed by a simile.

Second, the contracting elements of a butterfly and a bee seem contradictory. That is, a butterfly is light and airy while a bee is sharp and stinging. One person (a boxer, in this case) should not be able to possess these two qualities—this is why this is an antithesis.

However, Ali is trying to express how a boxer must be light on his feet yet quick with his fist.

Modern Examples of Antithesis

Meaning of antithesis in a sentence

  • “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Through parallel structure, this quotation presents an antithesis. It seems contradictory that one action could be a “small step” and a “giant leap.”

However, this contradiction proposes that the action of landing on the moon might have just been a small physical step for the man Neil Armstrong, but it was a giant leap for the progress of mankind.

The Function of Antithesis

meaning of antethesis

An antithesis stands out in writing. Because it uses parallel structure, an antithesis physically stands out when interspersed among other syntactical structures. Furthermore, an antithesis presents contrasting ideas that cause the reader or audience to pause and consider the meaning and purpose.

Oftentimes, the meaning of an antithesis is not overtly clear. That is, a reader or audience must evaluate the statement to navigate the meaning.

Writers utilize antitheses very sparingly. Since its purpose is to cause an audience to pause and consider the argument, it must be used with purpose and intent.

Antithesis Example from Literature

antitheses examples in literature

  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”

From the beginning, Dickens presents two contradictory ideas in this antithesis.

How can it be the “best” and the “worst” of times? These two “times” should not be able to coexist.

Similarly, how can the setting of this novel also take place during an “age of wisdom” and an “age of foolishness?”

The antithesis continues.

Dickens opens his with these lines to set the tone for the rest of the novel. Clearly, there are two sides to this story, two tales of what is the truth. These two “sides” should not function peacefully. And, in fact, they do not. That, after all, is the “tale of two cities.”

Dickens sets up this disparity to set the tone for his novel, which will explore this topic.

Summary: What is an Antithesis?

Define antithesis: An antithesis consists of contrasting concepts presented in parallel structure.

Writers use antithesis to create emphasis to communicate an argument.

  • Note: The plural form of antithesis is antitheses.

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Literature Review Survival Library Guide: Thesis, antithesis and synthesis

  • What is a literature review?
  • Thesis, antithesis and synthesis
  • 1. Choose your topic
  • 2. Collect relevant material
  • 3. Read/Skim articles
  • 4. Group articles by themes
  • 5. Use citation databases
  • 6. Find agreement & disagreement
  • Review Articles - A new option on Google Scholar
  • How To Follow References
  • Newspaper archives
  • Aditi's Humanities Referencing Style Guide
  • Referencing and RefWorks
  • New-version RefWorks Demo
  • Tracking Your Academic Footprint This link opens in a new window
  • Finding Seminal Authors and Mapping the Shape of the Literature
  • Types of Literature Review, including "Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide"
  • Research Data Management
  • Tamzyn Suleiman's guide to Systematic Reviews
  • Danielle Abrahamse's Search String Design and Search Template

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis

The classic pattern of academic arguments is:

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

An Idea (Thesis) is proposed, an opposing Idea (Antithesis) is proposed, and a revised Idea incorporating (Synthesis) the opposing Idea is arrived at. This revised idea sometimes sparks another opposing idea, another synthesis, and so on…

If you can show this pattern at work in your literature review, and, above all, if you can suggest a new synthesis of two opposing views, or demolish one of the opposing views, then you are almost certainly on the right track.

Next topic: Step 1: Choose your topic

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  • Next: 1. Choose your topic >>
  • Last Updated: Apr 2, 2024 12:22 PM
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Definition of Antithesis

Examples of antithesis in everyday speech, common examples of antithesis from famous speeches, examples of proverbs featuring antithesis, utilizing antithesis in writing, antithesis and parallelism, antithesis and juxtaposition, use of antithesis in sentences  , examples of antithesis in literature.

Antithesis is an effective literary device and figure of speech in which a writer intentionally juxtaposes two contrasting ideas or entities. Antithesis is typically achieved through parallel structure, in which opposing concepts or elements are paired in adjacent phrases , clauses , or sentences. This draws the reader’s attention to the significance or importance of the agents being contrasted, thereby adding a memorable and meaningful quality to the literary work.

Example 1:  Hamlet (William Shakespeare)

Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice ; Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Example 2:  Paradise Lost  (John Milton)

Here at least We shall be free; the Almighty hath not built Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure, and in my choice To reign is worth ambition though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.

Example 3:  Fire and Ice  (Robert Frost)

Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.

Example 4: The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives so that nation might live.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

Function of Antithesis

Synonyms of antithesis, post navigation.

  • Literary Terms
  • Definition & Examples
  • How to Use Antithesis

I. What is an Antithesis?

“Antithesis” literally means “opposite” – it is usually the opposite of a statement, concept, or idea. In literary analysis, an antithesis is a pair of statements or images in which the one reverses the other. The pair is written with similar grammatical structures to show more contrast. Antithesis (pronounced an-TITH-eh-sis) is used to emphasize a concept, idea, or conclusion.

II. Examples of Antithesis

That’s one small step for a man – one giant leap for mankind .  (Neil Armstrong, 1969)

In this example, Armstrong is referring to man walking on the moon. Although taking a step is an ordinary activity for most people, taking a step on the moon, in outer space, is a major achievement for all humanity.

To err is human ; to forgive , divine . (Alexander Pope)

This example is used to point out that humans possess both worldly and godly qualities; they can all make mistakes, but they also have the power to free others from blame.

The world will little note , nor long remember , what we say here, but it can never forget what they did  (Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address )

In his speech, Lincoln points out that the details of that moment may not be memorable, but the actions would make history, and therefore, never entirely forgotten.

Antithesis can be a little tricky to see at first. To start, notice how each of these examples is separated into two parts . The parts are separated either by a dash, a semicolon, or the word “but.” Antithesis always has this multi-part structure (usually there are two parts, but sometimes it can be more, as we’ll see in later examples). The parts are not always as obvious as they are in these examples, but they will always be there.

Next, notice how the second part of each example contains terms that reverse or invert terms in the first part: small step vs. giant leap; human vs. divine; we say vs. they do. In each of the examples, there are several pairs of contrasted terms between the first part and the second, which is quite common in antithesis.

Finally, notice that each of the examples contains some parallel structures and ideas in addition to the opposites. This is key! The two parts are not simply contradictory statements. They are a matched pair that have many grammatical structures or concepts in common; in the details, however, they are opposites.

For example, look at the parallel grammar of Example 1: the word “one,” followed by an adjective, a noun, and then the word “for.” This accentuates the opposites by setting them against a backdrop of sameness – in other words, two very different ideas are being expressed with very, very similar grammatical structures.

To recap: antithesis has three things:

  • Two or more parts
  • Reversed or inverted ideas
  • (usually) parallel grammatical structure

III. The Importance of Verisimilitude

Antithesis is basically a complex form of juxtaposition . So its effects are fairly similar – by contrasting one thing against its opposite, a writer or speaker can emphasize the key attributes of whatever they’re talking about. In the Neil Armstrong quote, for example, the tremendous significance of the first step on the moon is made more vivid by contrasting it with the smallness and ordinariness of the motion that brought it about.

Antithesis can also be used to express curious contradictions or paradoxes. Again, the Neil Armstrong quote is a good example: Armstrong is inviting his listeners to puzzle over the fact that a tiny, ordinary step – not so different from the millions of steps we take each day – can represent so massive a technological accomplishment as the moon landing.

Paradoxically, an antithesis can also be used to show how two seeming opposites might in fact be similar.

IV. Examples of Verisimilitude in Literature

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Forgive us this day our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us . (The Lord’s Prayer)

The antithesis is doing a lot of work here. First, it shows the parallel between committing an evil act and being the victim of one. On the surface, these are opposites, and this is part of the antithesis, but at the same time they are, in the end, the same act from different perspectives. This part of the antithesis is basically just an expression of the Golden Rule.

Second, the antithesis displays a parallel between the speaker (a human) and the one being spoken to (God). The prayer is a request for divine mercy, and at the same time a reminder that human beings should also be merciful.

All the joy the world contains has come through wanting happiness for others . All the misery the world contains has come through wanting pleasure for yourself . (Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva )

The antithesis here comes with some pretty intense parallel structure. Most of the words in each sentence are exactly the same as those in the other sentence. (“All the ___ the world contains has come through wanting ____ for ____.”) This close parallel structure makes the antithesis all the more striking, since the words that differ become much more visible.

Another interesting feature of this antithesis is that it makes “pleasure” and “happiness” seem like opposites, when most of us might think of them as more or less synonymous. The quote makes happiness seem noble and exalted, whereas pleasure is portrayed as selfish and worthless.

The proper function of man is to live , not to exist . I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong  (Jack London, Credo )

The opening antithesis here gets its punch from the fact that we think of living and existing as pretty similar terms. But for London, they are opposites. Living is about having vivid experiences, learning, and being bold; simply existing is a dull, pointless thing. These two apparently similar words are used in this antithesis to emphasize the importance of living as opposed to mere existing.

The second antithesis, on the other hand, is just the opposite – in this case, London is taking two words that seem somewhat opposed (waste and prolong), and telling us that they are in fact the same . Prolonging something is making it last; wasting something is letting it run out too soon. But, says London, when it comes to life, they are the same. If you try too hard to prolong your days (that is, if you’re so worried about dying that you never face your fears and live your life), then you will end up wasting them because you will never do anything worthwhile.

V. Examples of Verisimilitude in Pop Culture

Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee. (Sara Lee pastry advertisement)

This classic ad uses antithesis to set up a deliberate grammatical error. This is a common technique in advertising, since people are more likely to remember a slogan that is grammatically incorrect. (Even if they only remember it because they found it irritating, it still sticks in their brain, which is all that an ad needs to do.) The antithesis helps make the meaning clear, and throws the grammatical error into sharper relief.

What men must know , a boy must learn . (The Lookouts)

Here’s another example of how parallel structure can turn into antithesis fairly easily. (The structure is noun-“must”-verb. ) The antithesis also expresses the basic narrative of The Lookouts , which is all about kids learning to fend for themselves and become full-fledged adults.

Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes (the band “AFI” – album title)

The antithesis here is a juxtaposition of two different actions (opening and shutting) that are actually part of the same sort of behavior – the behavior of somebody who wants to understand the world rather than be the center of attention. It’s basically a restatement of the old adage that “those who speak the most often have the least to say.”

VI. Related Terms

  • Juxtaposition

Antithesis is basically a form of juxtaposition . Juxtaposition, though, is a much broader device that encompasses any deliberate use of contrast or contradiction by an author. So, in addition to antithesis, it might include:

  • The scene in “The Godfather” where a series of brutal murders is intercut with shots of a baptism, juxtaposing birth and death.
  • “A Song of Ice and Fire” (George R. R. Martin book series)
  • Heaven and Hell
  • Mountains and the sea
  • Dead or alive
  • “In sickness and in health”

Antithesis performs a very similar function, but does so in a more complicated way by using full sentences (rather than single words or images) to express the two halves of the juxtaposition.

Here is an antithesis built around some of the common expressions from above

  • “ Sheep go to Heaven ; goats go to Hell .”
  • “Beethoven’s music is as mighty as the mountains and as timeless as the sea .”
  • “In sickness he loved me; in health he abandoned ”

Notice how the antithesis builds an entire statement around the much simpler juxtaposition. And, crucially, notice that each of those statements exhibits parallel grammatical structure . In this way, both Juxtaposition and parallel structures can be used to transform a simple comparison, into antithesis.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website

Wikidiff.com Find the difference between words.

Antithesis vs Thesis - What's the difference?

Thesis is a related term of antithesis ., as nouns the difference between antithesis and thesis, related terms, derived terms, external links.

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Thesis vs. Antithesis — What's the Difference?

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Difference Between Thesis and Antithesis

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  • Fact Monster - Entertainment - Antithesis

antithesis , (from Greek antitheton , “opposition”), a figure of speech in which irreconcilable opposites or strongly contrasting ideas are placed in sharp juxtaposition and sustained tension, as in the saying “Art is long, and Time is fleeting.”

The opposing clauses, phrases, or sentences are roughly equal in length and balanced in contiguous grammatical structures.

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. (Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address” )

In poetry, the effect of antithesis is often one of tragic irony or reversal.

Saddled and bridled And booted rade he; A plume in his helmet, A sword at his knee; But toom [empty] cam’ his saddle A’ bloody to see, O hame cam’ his gude horse But never cam’ he! (“Bonnie George Campbell,” anonymous)

ESL Grammar

Antithesis: Definition, Grammartical Structure and Examples

Antithesis is a rhetorical device that involves contrasting two opposing ideas in a sentence or a paragraph. It is a powerful tool used in literature, speeches, and debates to emphasize the difference between two ideas. The word antithesis is derived from the Greek word “antitithenai,” which means “to oppose” or “to set against.”

Antithesis can be used to create a memorable impact on the audience. It draws attention to the stark contrast between two opposing ideas, making it easier for the audience to understand the message being conveyed. Antithesis can be used in various forms, such as contrasting words, phrases, or entire sentences. It is often used in famous speeches, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, where he used antithesis to emphasize the difference between segregation and equality.

Antithesis The Art of Contrasting Ideas

Antithesis Definitions

Greek Origins

The word “antithesis” has its roots in the Greek word “antithenai,” which means “to oppose.” The Greek word “tithenai” also contributed to the development of “antithesis,” as it means “to put, set, or place.” These Greek words were used to describe the concept of setting something in opposition to another thing, or placing two contrasting ideas side by side for comparison.

Modern Definitions

According to Merriam-Webster, “antithesis” has two primary definitions. The first definition is “the direct opposite,” while the second definition is “the rhetorical contrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangements of words, clauses, or sentences.” This second definition refers to the use of antithesis as a literary device, where contrasting ideas are presented in a parallel structure for emphasis or effect.

Other definitions of “antithesis” include “opposition” and “contrast.” Synonyms for “antithesis” include “contradiction,” “counterpart,” and “inverse.”

Overall, the concept of antithesis has evolved from its Greek origins to become a widely recognized literary device used in various forms of writing and speech. By presenting contrasting ideas in a parallel structure, writers and speakers can create a powerful sense of contrast and emphasis that can capture the attention of their audience.

Understanding Antithesis

In Rhetoric

Antithesis is a rhetorical device that involves the use of contrasting concepts, words, or sentences within parallel grammatical structures to create a balanced and contrasting effect. This literary device is often used to emphasize the differences between two ideas or concepts, thereby creating a more powerful and memorable message.

Antithesis is commonly used in persuasive writing and speeches, as it allows the speaker or writer to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of opposing viewpoints. By presenting two contrasting ideas side by side, the audience is able to see the differences more clearly and make a more informed decision.

In Literature

In literature, antithesis is used to create a sense of tension and drama by contrasting two opposing ideas or concepts. This technique is often used in poetry, where contrasting concepts are used to create a more powerful and memorable image or message.

In literature, antithesis is often used to create a sense of irony or contradiction, as the author juxtaposes two opposing ideas to create a more complex and nuanced message. For example, in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, the opening lines “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” use antithesis to highlight the stark contrasts between the two cities.

In Speeches

Antithesis is a common rhetorical device used in speeches to create a more powerful and memorable message. By presenting two contrasting ideas side by side, the speaker is able to emphasize the differences between them and create a more persuasive argument.

Antithesis is often used in political speeches, where the speaker may use contrasting concepts to highlight the differences between their own policies and those of their opponents. For example, in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, he used antithesis when he said “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Overall, antithesis is a powerful literary and rhetorical device that can be used in a variety of contexts to create a more memorable and persuasive message. By presenting two contrasting ideas side by side, the speaker or writer is able to highlight the differences between them and create a more nuanced and complex message that is more likely to be remembered by the audience.

Grammatical Structure

Antithesis is a rhetorical device that uses contrasting ideas in parallel grammatical structures to create emphasis and highlight the differences between them. The grammatical structure of antithesis is essential to its effectiveness, as it creates a balance between the opposing ideas and makes them more memorable to the reader or listener.

Parallelism

Parallelism is a crucial aspect of antithesis. It involves using the same grammatical structure for both contrasting ideas, such as using the same sentence structure for two opposing phrases. This technique creates a rhythmic effect that draws the reader’s attention to the contrasting ideas and emphasizes the differences between them.

For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. used parallelism in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech when he said, “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”

Contrasting Ideas

Antithesis relies on contrasting ideas to create a powerful effect. These ideas can be expressed through sentences, clauses, phrases, or words. The contrasting ideas must be balanced to create a harmonious effect, which is achieved through the use of parallelism.

For example, in Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” Mark Antony uses antithesis to compare the honorable Brutus to the treacherous Cassius. He says, “Brutus is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men,” emphasizing the contrast between Brutus’s character and his actions.

In conclusion, the grammatical structure of antithesis is crucial to its effectiveness. The use of parallelism and contrasting ideas creates a rhythmic effect that draws the reader’s attention and emphasizes the differences between the opposing ideas. By using a balanced grammatical structure, antithesis creates a memorable effect that enhances the impact of the message being conveyed.

Antithesis Examples

Antithesis is a literary device that positions opposite ideas parallel to each other. This section will explore some examples of antithesis in literature, speeches, and everyday life.

Antithesis is widely used in literature to create a contrast between two different ideas. One of the most famous examples of antithesis is found in Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

William Shakespeare also used antithesis in his writing. In “Romeo and Juliet,” he writes, “My only love sprung from my only hate! / Too early seen unknown, and known too late!” This example shows how antithesis can create a powerful contrast between love and hate.

Antithesis is also commonly used in speeches to emphasize opposing ideas. Martin Luther King Jr. used antithesis in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” This example highlights the contrast between living together peacefully and the consequences of not doing so.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is another famous example of antithesis in speeches. He said, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us.” This example contrasts the work of those who fought with the work that still needs to be done.

In Everyday Life

Antithesis is also commonly used in everyday life, often without people realizing it. For example, the famous quote by Neil Armstrong , “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” is an example of antithesis. The contrast between the small step and the giant leap creates a powerful image of the significance of the event.

Another example of antithesis in everyday life is the phrase “no pain, no gain.” This phrase emphasizes the contrast between the discomfort of hard work and the benefits that come from it.

In conclusion, antithesis is a powerful literary device that can be used to emphasize contrasting ideas. It is commonly used in literature, speeches, and everyday life to create a memorable and impactful message.

The Impact of Antithesis

On audience.

Antithesis can have a profound impact on an audience. By presenting contrasting ideas in a balanced grammatical structure, it captures the attention of the audience and creates a sense of tension that keeps them engaged. The use of antithesis can also make content more memorable and effective, as it creates a sense of rhythm and imagery that sticks with the audience long after they have finished reading or listening.

Antithesis can be a powerful tool for writers and speakers looking to convey complex ideas in a clear and concise manner. By juxtaposing opposing ideas, it allows them to highlight the differences between them and make their point more effectively. Antithesis can also be used to create a sense of tension and drama in a piece of content, which can help to keep the audience engaged and interested.

When used effectively, antithesis can be a powerful tool for writers and speakers looking to create memorable and effective content. By capturing the attention of the audience and creating a sense of tension and drama, it can help to convey complex ideas in a clear and concise manner. Whether used for rhetorical effect or simply to create a sense of rhythm and imagery, antithesis is a powerful tool that should not be overlooked.

Antithesis and Other Literary Devices

Antithesis is often used in conjunction with other literary devices to create a more impactful effect. One such device is the oxymoron, which is a figure of speech that combines two contradictory terms. An oxymoron can be used to create a sense of irony or to highlight a paradox. For example, the phrase “bittersweet” is an oxymoron because it combines two opposite terms.

Another literary device that can be used in conjunction with antithesis is the foil. A foil is a character who is used to contrast with another character in order to highlight their differences. This can be used to create a sense of conflict or to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a particular character. For example, in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet,” the character of Hamlet is contrasted with the character of Laertes in order to highlight their different approaches to revenge.

While antithesis is often used to highlight contrasts and opposing ideas, it can also be used to create a sense of synthesis. Synthesis is the process of combining two or more ideas in order to create a new and more complex idea. For example, the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” combines the idea of writing (which is often associated with intellect) with the idea of physical force (which is often associated with strength) in order to create a new and more complex idea.

Antithesis, oxymorons, foils, and synthesis are all powerful literary devices that can be used to create a sense of comparison and contrast. By using these devices, writers can create more impactful and memorable works that speak to the complexities of mankind.

Common Misconceptions and Overuse

Antithesis is a powerful literary device that can add depth and complexity to writing. However, it is often misunderstood and overused, leading to annoying and cliché writing. In this section, we will address some common misconceptions and overuse of antithesis.

One common misconception is that antithesis must always involve a direct opposition between two ideas or words. While this is often the case, antithesis can also involve a contrast between two related ideas or words. For example, “love and hate” are direct opposites, while “love and indifference” are related but contrasting ideas.

Another misconception is that antithesis should be used in every sentence or paragraph. Overuse of antithesis can lead to annoying and cliché writing. It is important to use antithesis sparingly and only when it adds value to the writing.

Additionally, some writers may try to force antithesis into their writing, resulting in awkward and unnatural phrasing. It is important to use antithesis in a way that flows naturally and enhances the meaning of the writing.

Overall, antithesis is a powerful tool that can add depth and complexity to writing. However, it should be used sparingly and only when it adds value to the writing. Avoid overuse and forcing antithesis into writing, as this can lead to annoying and cliché writing.

In conclusion, antithesis is a rhetorical device that involves the use of contrasting or opposite ideas in a balanced grammatical structure. It is commonly used in literature, speeches, and other forms of communication to create emphasis, contrast, and impact.

Antithesis is often used in conjunction with the thesis-antithesis-synthesis dialectic, a process of logical argumentation that involves presenting a thesis, then presenting its opposite (antithesis), and finally synthesizing the two opposing viewpoints to arrive at a new conclusion.

Through the use of antithesis, writers and speakers can create a sense of tension and drama, as well as emphasize the differences between two opposing ideas. It can also be used to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of different arguments and perspectives, and to help readers or listeners come to their own conclusions about a particular topic.

Overall, antithesis is a powerful tool for writers and speakers who wish to make a strong impression on their audience. By using contrasting or opposite ideas in a balanced structure, they can create a sense of tension and drama, emphasize key points, and help their audience come to their own conclusions about a particular topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of antithesis?

Antithesis is a figure of speech that contrasts two opposing ideas in a sentence or a phrase. It is often used to create a dramatic effect or to emphasize a point. The term comes from the Greek word “antithesis,” which means “opposition.”

Can you give an example of antithesis in literature?

One famous example of antithesis in literature is the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” This sentence contrasts the two opposing ideas of good and bad, wisdom and foolishness, to emphasize the stark differences between the two cities.

How is antithesis different from juxtaposition?

Antithesis and juxtaposition are both figures of speech that involve contrasting two ideas. However, antithesis specifically involves contrasting two opposing ideas, while juxtaposition can contrast any two ideas, regardless of whether they are opposing or not.

What are some common uses of antithesis?

Antithesis is commonly used in literature, speeches, and advertising to create a memorable impact on the audience. It can be used to emphasize a point, create a dramatic effect, or to convey a deeper meaning.

What is the purpose of using antithesis in writing?

The purpose of using antithesis is to create a contrast between two opposing ideas, which can help to emphasize a point or to create a memorable impact on the audience. It can also be used to convey a deeper meaning or to create a dramatic effect.

Can you provide an example of antithesis in a school setting?

An example of antithesis in a school setting could be the phrase “knowledge is power, ignorance is weakness.” This phrase contrasts the two opposing ideas of knowledge and ignorance to emphasize the importance of education.

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What's the difference between "Hypothesis", "Thesis" and "Antithesis"? Please give a few examples to illustrate how they are different. Thank you.

Thesis vs. Antithesis

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thesis vs antithesis

Thesis noun

A statement supported by arguments.

A written essay, especially one submitted for a university degree.

(logic) An affirmation, or distinction from a supposition or hypothesis.

(music) The accented part of the measure, expressed by the downward beat; the opposite of arsis.

(poetry) The depression of the voice in pronouncing the syllables of a word.

(poetry) The part of the metrical foot upon which such a depression falls.

A position or proposition which a person advances and offers to maintain, or which is actually maintained by argument.

Hence, an essay or dissertation written upon specific or definite theme; especially, an essay presented by a candidate for a diploma or degree.

An affirmation, or distinction from a supposition or hypothesis.

The accented part of the measure, expressed by the downward beat; - the opposite of arsis.

The depression of the voice in pronouncing the syllables of a word.

an unproved statement put forward as a premise in an argument

a treatise advancing a new point of view resulting from research; usually a requirement for an advanced academic degree

A thesis, or dissertation (abbreviated diss.), is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings. In some contexts, the word or a cognate is used for part of a bachelor's or master's course, while is normally applied to a doctorate.

Antithesis noun

A proposition that is the diametric opposite of some other proposition.

(rhetoric) A device by which two contrasting ideas are juxtaposed in parallel form.

An opposition or contrast of words or sentiments occurring in the same sentence; as, "The prodigal robs his heir; the miser robs himself." "He had covertly shot at Cromwell; he how openly aimed at the Queen."

The second of two clauses forming an antithesis.

Opposition; contrast.

exact opposite;

the juxtaposition of contrasting words or ideas to give a feeling of balance

Antithesis (Greek for , from ἀντί and θέσις ) is used in writing or speech either as a proposition that contrasts with or reverses some previously mentioned proposition, or when two opposites are introduced together for contrasting effect. This is based on the logical phrase or term.Antithesis can be defined as "a figure of speech involving a seeming contradiction of ideas, words, clauses, or sentences within a balanced grammatical structure.

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Definition of antithesis

Did you know.

Writers and speechmakers use the traditional pattern known as antithesis for its resounding effect; John Kennedy's famous "ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country" is an example. But antithesis normally means simply "opposite". Thus, war is the antithesis of peace, wealth is the antithesis of poverty, and love is the antithesis of hate. Holding two antithetical ideas in one's head at the same time—for example, that you're the sole master of your fate but also the helpless victim of your terrible upbringing—is so common as to be almost normal.

Examples of antithesis in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'antithesis.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Late Latin, from Greek, literally, opposition, from antitithenai to oppose, from anti- + tithenai to set — more at do

1529, in the meaning defined at sense 1b(1)

Dictionary Entries Near antithesis

anti-theoretical

Cite this Entry

“Antithesis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/antithesis. Accessed 28 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of antithesis, more from merriam-webster on antithesis.

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What is Hegel's concept of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, in simple terms?

thesis vs antithesis

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  1. Difference Between Thesis and Antithesis

    The thesis is the theory or the definition of the point under discussion. Antithesis is the exact opposite of the point made in the thesis. Anti is a prefix meaning against. The antithesis therefore goes against the thesis to create an opposition effect. The antithesis creates a clash of ideas or opinions and is a rhetorical device used to sway ...

  2. Hegel's Dialectics

    For G.R.G. Mure, for instance, the section on Cognition fits neatly into a triadic, thesis-antithesis-synthesis account of dialectics because the whole section is itself the antithesis of the previous section of Hegel's logic, the section on Life (Mure 1950: 270). Mure argues that Hegel's triadic form is easier to discern the more broadly ...

  3. Antithesis

    Antithesis vs. Juxtaposition. In juxtaposition, two things or ideas are placed next to one another to draw attention to their differences or similarities. In juxtaposition, the pairing of two ideas is therefore not necessarily done to create a relationship of opposition or contradiction between them, as is the case with antithesis. So, while ...

  4. Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis

    In philosophy, the triad of thesis, antithesis, synthesis (German: These, Antithese, Synthese; originally: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis) is a progression of three ideas or propositions. The first idea, the thesis, is a formal statement illustrating a point; it is followed by the second idea, the antithesis, that contradicts or negates the first; and lastly, the third idea, the synthesis ...

  5. Persuasive Writing In Three Steps: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis

    Thesis: Present the status quo, the viewpoint that is currently accepted and widely held. Antithesis: Articulate the problems with the thesis. (Hegel also called this phase "the negative.") Synthesis: Share a new viewpoint (a modified thesis) that resolves the problems. Hegel's method focused less on the search for absolute truth and more ...

  6. What is Antithesis? Definition, Examples of Antitheses in Writing

    An antithesis is just that—an "anti" "thesis.". An antithesis is used in writing to express ideas that seem contradictory. An antithesis uses parallel structure of two ideas to communicate this contradiction. Example of Antithesis: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." -Muhammad Ali. This example of antithesis is a famous ...

  7. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis

    Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. An Idea (Thesis) is proposed, an opposing Idea (Antithesis) is proposed, and a revised Idea incorporating (Synthesis) the opposing Idea is arrived at. This revised idea sometimes sparks another opposing idea, another synthesis, and so on…

  8. Antithesis

    Antithesis is an effective literary device and figure of speech in which a writer intentionally juxtaposes two contrasting ideas or entities. Antithesis is typically achieved through parallel structure, in which opposing concepts or elements are paired in adjacent phrases, clauses, or sentences. This draws the reader's attention to the ...

  9. Antithesis: Definition and Examples

    In literary analysis, an antithesis is a pair of statements or images in which the one reverses the other. The pair is written with similar grammatical structures to show more contrast. Antithesis (pronounced an-TITH-eh-sis) is used to emphasize a concept, idea, or conclusion. II. Examples of Antithesis.

  10. How to Use Antithesis in Your Writing: Definition and Examples of

    How to Use Antithesis in Your Writing: Definition and Examples of Antithesis as a Literary Device. Written by MasterClass. Last updated: Sep 29, 2021 • 3 min read. The English language is full of literary devices that can enliven your writing. One tool used often in literature and politics is called antithesis. Articles. Videos.

  11. Antithesis

    Antithesis (pl.: antitheses; Greek for "setting opposite", from ἀντι-"against" and θέσις "placing") is used in writing or speech either as a proposition that contrasts with or reverses some previously mentioned proposition, or when two opposites are introduced together for contrasting effect.. Antithesis can be defined as "a figure of speech involving a seeming contradiction of ideas ...

  12. Antithesis vs Thesis

    Thesis is a related term of antithesis. As nouns the difference between antithesis and thesis is that antithesis is a proposition that is the diametric opposite of some other proposition while thesis is a statement supported by arguments.

  13. Thesis vs. Antithesis

    A thesis is a statement or theory put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved. Antithesis, in contrast, is the direct opposition or contrast to the thesis. In rhetoric, a thesis is the starting point of an argument, the claim you're making. Antithesis, on the other hand, introduces a contrasting idea to highlight differences.

  14. Antithesis

    antithesis, (from Greek antitheton, "opposition"), a figure of speech in which irreconcilable opposites or strongly contrasting ideas are placed in sharp juxtaposition and sustained tension, as in the saying "Art is long, and Time is fleeting.". The opposing clauses, phrases, or sentences are roughly equal in length and balanced in ...

  15. Antithesis: Definition, Grammartical Structure and Examples

    Antithesis is a rhetorical device that involves contrasting two opposing ideas in a sentence or a paragraph. It is a powerful tool used in literature, speeches, and debates to emphasize the difference between two ideas. The word antithesis is derived from the Greek word "antitithenai," which means "to oppose" or "to set against.".

  16. Antithesis in Literature: Definition & Examples

    Antithesis vs. Other Comparative Terms. There are several literary terms that, like antithesis, make comparisons between two things or concepts that are opposites or contrast in some way. Three such terms are dichotomy, oxymoron, and foil. Dichotomy is a division between two entities, whereas antithesis pits two opposing entities against each ...

  17. What are thesis, antithesis, synthesis? In what ways are ...

    In general terms a thesis is a starting point, an antithesis is a reaction to it and a synthesis is the outcome. Marx developed the concept of historical materialism whereby the history of man developed through several distinct stages, slavery, feudalism, capitalism and in the future communism.. The movement from one stage to another could be explained by using thesis, antithesis and synthesis.

  18. PDF Thesis/Antithesis/Synthesis Structure in Presentations and Papers

    Thesis - a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved Antithesis - the negation or contradiction of the thesis Synthesis - the resolution of the conflict between thesis and antithesis. In CISC 497, the rationales must be backed up with facts found during research on the topic.

  19. What's the difference between "Hypothesis", "Thesis" and "Antithesis

    A thesis is a more broad declaration that you will then go on to support through argument and/or evidence. A master's degree student will finish their degree by creating and then defending a thesis in their field, for example. An antithesis is just the exact opposite of something. So, for example, the antithesis of hot is cold.

  20. Thesis vs. Antithesis

    A thesis, or dissertation (abbreviated diss.), is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings. In some contexts, the word or a cognate is used for part of a bachelor's or master's course, while is normally applied to a doctorate.

  21. Antithesis Definition & Meaning

    antithesis: [noun] the direct opposite. the rhetorical contrast of ideas by means of parallel arrangements of words, clauses, or sentences (as in "action, not words" or "they promised freedom and provided slavery"). opposition, contrast. the second of two opposing words, clauses, or sentences that are being rhetorically contrasted.

  22. What is Hegel's concept of thesis, antithesis and synthesis ...

    Antithesis refers to the refutation of the idea. Synthesis is the moulding of the idea and its refutations into a new idea. For instance, I can crudely write an example like this: Thesis - There is a God. Antithesis - There is a lot of bad in the world. Synthesis - There is a God but His ways are mysterious. See below: A couple of things to ...