Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Academy of Asian Studies

First Advisor

L. Pillai

First Committee Member

Floyd Saxton

Second Committee Member

H. [?]

Third Committee Member

Willis N. Potter


Philosophy is the quest for wisdom and hence it may share a common end with religion. Not all philosophies are, however, concerned with this end, nor, again are all religions involved with a quest for wisdom. There may be different techniques and tools employed in the accomplishment of wisdom, but this dissertation is concerned only with the study of the nature and use of reason. In the philosophy of Plato reason is employed in diverse fields including mathematics, myths, and elaborate analogies, but when he turns to reason itself, then it becomes important to this analysis. Reason may be utilized in other systems of thought, say in Aristotelian, but when it is functioning as the sole or paramount vehicle to the Good--then it is the subject for this paper and its contents will be examined. In the works of Plato, the use of reason in this sense is termed dialectic.

The terms "philosophy" and "dialectic" are, of course, derived from the Greek. It is equally clear that a radical change has occurred in the meanings of these terms from the original formulation in the Hellenic Age to the present day. The primary and original meanings of these terms have been nearly eclipsed by modern usages and there is a confusion as to the basic meanings and content of these terms. This problem is further complicated by the tacit agreement that whatever is modern, or of late origin, must be better than what preceded it. Hence there is today a general reluctance to examine basic origins and classic sources. Contrary to this belief is the concept that every real advance is a result of returning to the basic origins and sources and redefining problems from this perspective. This work will base itself on the latter concept. The final object will be to re-examine the grounds and the extent to which philosophy can be termed dialectical. It is a request to reconsider philosophy in the terms of dialectic.

A return to origins, in this case, is a return to the Greeks and the terms philosophy and dialectic will be defined with reference to the classic philosopher and dialectician - Plato. The Platonic concept of dialectic is to be utilized as a standard and basis of judging other systems that have been termed dialectical. Further, the work intends to reply to the criticism that philosophy, including philosophy as dialectic, has been superseded by religion since religion rather than philosophy can better insure the object of philosophy-- wisdom. Such a rejection of philosophy and dialectic must of course presuppose a familiarity with the process of the Platonic dialectic as well as its scope. Thus, a rejection, to be considered, must demonstrate a knowledge of Plato and an understanding of the dialectic. A decline of philosophy and dialectic based upon a valid criticism would be justified. On the other hand, it is important to discern the mechanism implicit in a denial of philosophy, as well as dialectic, in order to discern the consequences that follow from such a denial. Different systems of thought have been termed dialectic and those chosen for analysis will be examined to determine whether they advance the concept of dialectic as defined in the thesis, and if they do not, to see if it is possible to assign a cause. The deficiencies and inadequacies of the Platonic concept of philosophy as dialectic will also be shown and an attempt to correct this will be made by recourse to other traditions of thought.

In the succeeding chapters, the analysis will include Augustine, Vico, Kant, Hegel, and Jung, as well as Gaudapada, Sankara, Nagarjuna, Confucius, and Lao Tzu. These authors have been chosen because of their use of dialectic and/or because they can contribute to the concept of dialectic as a philosophy as noted in this thesis. There is no intention to review or appraise any part of their work, except as regards their use of dialectic in selected instances. The philosophers are chosen to support and to illustrate the thesis of this dissertation.

Therefore the task will be to define dialectic within the philosophy of Plato, to account for its decline or rejection, analyze some private definitions of dialectic, and to correct any shortcomings or inadequacies of dialectic.





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