Published on February 11, 2008
Writing a Dialectical Essay: Writing a Dialectical Essay What is a dialectical essay? It is an essay that examines a question from two points of view and concludes by choosing one point of view or an alternative point of view based on the data and evidence examined. Hi, this is Jay. Today we will be learning how to write a dialectical essay. Dialectical Thinking : Dialectical Thinking the process of finding a resolution by: searching out the oppositions, conflicts, contrasts, and contradictions in a situation; and by, finding an idea that unites them while keeping and using the tension between them. More information on Dialectic analysis Beginning the analysis: Beginning the analysis As this is a process which requires some practice begin by examining a controversial issue Many times there is more then one possible solution to a problem or an issue. People may not even agree on what the problem is. Life is complicated, and different people see things in different ways. But they still have to live together, and often they have to figure out how they can come to one conclusion even though they disagree. Dialectical thinking is a method people can use "to work things out". You are doing dialectical thinking when you have an argument with yourself about something in your head. Without putting any fancy words to it, when you argue with yourself you do something like this: Independent learning: Becoming aware of your own thinking - 1: Independent learning: Becoming aware of your own thinking - 1 Is like - Having an Argument with Yourself You want to do something very badly. So you imagine how wonderful it would be to do it in a certain way. Let's call that A. So you think of: all the different reasons why you should do this thing; how it would be good for you; how much you deserve this thing because you have worked so hard; and, how it would help others if you did it. Independent learning: Becoming aware of your own thinking - 2: Independent learning: Becoming aware of your own thinking - 2 Suddenly something else comes along that you could do at the same time with the same money. Then it hits you that maybe A wouldn't be such a good idea after all. You become very interested in this new thing; let's call it B. So now you think of: all the different reasons why you should do B; how it also would be good for you; how much you deserve B too because you have worked so hard; and, how it would help others if you did it. Now you have to make a choice. What are you going to do? This is where you need to do some hard thinking (scheming?): Is there some way I can arrange to do both? Do I really want to do A? or B? Do I know for sure that one is as good as the other? What will happen if I do one and not the other? What is the best choice I can make under these circumstances? Finally you might end up saying something like this: A looks really great, and I wish I could do it, but I think I'm going to go with B, or vice versa What you are actually doing when you think this way: : What you are actually doing when you think this way: It is Like: Having an Argument with Yourself Dialectical thinking begins by understanding that most situations are complicated and often you want two opposite things at the same time. Everyone has a point of view that may be right or wrong. We had better check it out to see whether our point of view is any good. Dialectical thinking means that we cannot ignore or pretend that other ways of doing things do not exist because they do and they might be better than we first thought. The second view like the first view also needs to be checked out to see if it is any good. This is the crunch part of the dialectic where you compare each view and its supporting reasons and try to decide which is better. Finally you make up your mind. If you're lucky maybe you can figure out how to get both things at the same time, or maybe you can find a way to get as much as possible while giving up as little as possible. How an essay would look if you used the system of dialectical thinking to handle an issue: : How an essay would look if you used the system of dialectical thinking to handle an issue: Writing A "Both Sides" Essay Paragraph 1: This is an introduction explaining briefly to your reader what the essay is about. Paragraph 2: Here you explain the position you are going to take on an issue. I believe that ... Paragraph 3: This paragraph is the "same-side" argument which outlines logically all the reasons supporting the position you are taking. Paragraph 4: This is the "other-side" position on the issue you are discussing in this essay. Paragraph 5: Here you outline logically all the reasons supporting that position. (To be fair it is important that you give all the reasons there are and write this side as if you believe it.) Paragraph 6: This is your concluding paragraph in which you examine both sets of reasons and then explain why you reached the conclusion(s) that you did. In the conclusion of a "both-sides" essay you can do three basic things: you can conclude that your position is basically correct; you can conclude that the other side is better and change your mind; or, you can conclude that some combination of both sides actually does a better job of explaining things than either of the two you began with. Organizing the Information: Organizing the Information Create a Gathering Grid A gathering grid can help you organize information for a research report. Write down your questions in the left-hand column. Write the title of your sources at the top of each column. Write down the answers you find and note where you found them. Use a Pro & Con Collection Grid: Use a Pro & Con Collection Grid A pro-con chart can help you gather and organize information for pro-con essays. In the “Pro” column, list benefits or facts to support your thesis. In the “Con” column, list drawbacks, or facts to support the antithesis Refer to your chart as you write your essay or presentation. You can also cut and paste the chart into your essay or presentation for a visual summary of your ideas. Subject Writing the Dialectical Essay: Writing the Dialectical Essay In the Roger Latimer case, where he was found guilty of murdering his daughter, does the sentence fit the crime?: In the Roger Latimer case, where he was found guilty of murdering his daughter, does the sentence fit the crime? In the Roger Latimer case, where he was found guilty of murdering his daughter, does the sentence fit the crime?: In the Roger Latimer case, where he was found guilty of murdering his daughter, does the sentence fit the crime? Writing the Dialectical Essay In the Roger Latimer case, where he was found guilty of murdering his daughter, does the sentence fit the crime?: In the Roger Latimer case, where he was found guilty of murdering his daughter, does the sentence fit the crime? Writing the Dialectical Essay The Completed Essay - Format: The Completed Essay - Format Summary: DIALECTICAL ANALYSIS: Summary: DIALECTICAL ANALYSIS A way to go deep. Dialectical analysis is a principal way to probe a thinker. The goal of dialectical analysis is to go beyond a summary to probe the ideas and values, their significance, and their limitations. It does not matter what your final conclusion is, as long as you show good dialectical analysis in getting there. The main thing to avoid is too-easy acceptance and too-easy dismissal. Initial, surface analysis: what are the ideas and values being presented? (Give quotes to illustrate and support your interpretation.) Deeper analysis: what are the issues involved, their basis, their support, and their implications? Sympathetic assessment : What is the significance of the ideas and values? In what way do they make sense for that thinker? In what ways are the ideas and their basis and support compelling? Critique : What are the problems and limitations of the ideas, their basis, the support used, and their implications? Response : How might the thinker or someone else respond to that critique? Self-critique : What are the assumptions, basis, and implications of your (the critic’s) view? And what are the potential limitations of them? Reply : How might a critic reply to that response? etc…. A dialectical analysis doesn’t require this structure, but the dialectic needs to animate and inform the analysis in some way. In this way you probe beneath the surface. And in this way your conclusion is more sophisticated and more compelling – even (or especially) if it is more complex.