Now that you have already completed the section on materialism, and realize that truth comes from the real world and not from some imaginary world, stepping up to dialectical materialism is an absolute snap.

The ancient Greeks gave us the word "dialectic" to mean that a good way to arrive at truth is to argue two different positions and arrive at a third, more accurate, position. The philosopher Hegel named the two starting positions "thesis" and "antithesis." The third, better, position was named "synthesis."

Marx and Engels were students of Hegel. Hegel's system of arguments seemed really good as a system. However, they soon figured out the problem: Hegel was an idealist, and he was only using his powerful system of argument to arrive at the conclusion that the world, as it existed then, was good enough and needed no change. Marx and Engels knew better than that, so they re-examined Hegel's system in light of their all-important scientific materialism.

The result was called dialectical materialism. It begins with the idea that everything is changing all the time. Its old nature could be called the "thesis," and whatever it was changing into could be called the "antithesis." The conflict of these two natures eventually results in something new and different.

How is dialectical reasoning different from common sense?

Common sense is our accumulated experience, and is a reliable guide most of the time. However, how do we deal with things we have never experienced? Dialectical reasoning can extend our abilities beyond common sense! Most of us have lived under capitalism all our lives. How can we understand what came before or what is likely to come afterward?

Dialectical materialism was and is revolutionary, especially when applied to human history and the development of society. If a society were capitalist, for example, it could be seen, over time, as developing a large number of incremental, quantitative changes. These quantitative changes contradict the original form of the society and change it. A qualitative change, Marx and Engels knew, would happen sooner or later. The society would no longer be capitalist.

These were powerful ideas. Combined with other knowledge, some of it originally contributed by Marx and Engels, made some extremely exciting conclusions possible. Plans for action found a scientific basis, and the world communist movement was born!

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You can go through these little modules in any order you like, but now that you have finished Is Dialectical Materialism Really So Complicated? then

What Do Marxists Mean by "Class?" is recommended next.