Inferential Dialectics: On Dialectical Reasoning in Critical Social Science and the Socio-Cultural World

  • Piet Strydom


This chapter forms part of a programme aimed at developing a novel cognitive sociological approach concerned with the cognitive processes on which the construction and structuring of society depend and which pervade the latter’s every fibre. Here the starting point for the discussion is Fairclough’s treatment of critical social analysis as a form of dialectical reasoning. While broadly accepting his proposal despite a number of specific disagreements, this chapter fills in a largely blank space in his argument by focusing on the internal workings of dialectical reasoning. Rather than focusing on the practical dialectical nature of critical social analysis alone, it elaborates on the pre-supposed yet undeveloped epistemological dialectics of such analysis. The point is that an adequate grasp of practical dialectics requires the simultaneous consideration of the principal operative features of epistemological dialectics, not just in critical social analysis but more basically still also in social life itself. The proposal in this chapter is that this could be done by introducing the inferential stance in order to consider what I call the dialectics of inference or inferential dialectics. This argument is informed by the conviction that advancement beyond extant sociology demands the incorporation of the cognitive dimension—and inferential dialectics is one way in which this can be done.


Cognitive sociology Critical social analysis Critical theory Dialectics Inference Discourse 



I wish to thank Norman Fairclough for graciously having provided me with a copy of his 2014 ISSA paper as well as with relevant contextual information.


  1. Adorno, T. (1970). Negative Dialektik. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  2. Adorno, T. (1976). Sociology and Empirical Research. In T. Adorno et al. (Eds.), The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology (pp. 68–86). London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  3. Apel, K-O. (1981 [1967, 1970]). Charles S. Peirce: From Pragmatism to Pragmaticism. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
  4. Badiou, A. (2013a [1982]). Theory of the Subject. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  5. Badiou, A. (2013b [2006]). Logics of Worlds. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  6. Bhaskar, R. (1993). Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  7. Brandom, R. (1994). Making it Explicit. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brandom, R. (1999). Some Pragmatist Themes in Hegel’s Idealism: Negotiation and Administration in Hegel’s Account of the Structure and Content of Conceptual Norms. European Journal of Philosophy, 7(2), 164–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fairclough, N. (2012). The Dialectics of Discourse. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from 20Discourse%20Analysis.pdf
  10. Fairclough, N. (2014). Dialectical Reasoning in Critical Social Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis, ISSA (International Society for the Study of Argumentation) Proceedings. Retrieved February 2, 2015, from
  11. Fairclough, N., Jessop, B., & Sayer, A. (2004). Critical Realism and Semologic. In J. M. Roberts & J. Joseph (Eds.), Realism, Discourse and Deconstruction (pp. 23–42). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Habermas, J. (1984). The Theory of Communicative Action (Vol. 1). London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  13. Habermas, J. (1992). Peirce and Communication. In J. Habermas, Postmetaphysical Thinking (pp. 88–112). Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hegel, G. W. F. (2010 [1812]). Science of Logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Honneth, A. (2003). The Point of Recognition. In N. Fraser & A. Honneth (Eds.), Redistribution or Recognition (pp. 237–267). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  16. Horkheimer, M. (1972). Traditionelle und kritische Theorie. Frankfurt: Fischer.Google Scholar
  17. Jackendoff, R. (1999). Languages of the Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Jackendoff, R. (2007). Language, Consciousness, Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  19. Luhmann, N. (1995). Social Systems. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Luhmann, N. (1998). Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (Vol. 1). Frankfurt: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  21. Marcuse, H. (1972 [1937]). Negations. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  22. Mills, C. W. (1970 [1959]). The Sociological Imagination. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  23. Peirce, C. S. (1992 [1867–1893]). The Essential Peirce (Vol. 1), edited by N. Houser and C. Kloesel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Peirce, C. S. (1998 [1893–1913]). The Essential Peirce (Vol. 2), edited by Peirce Edition Project. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Piaget, J. (1983). Meine Theorie der geistigen Entwicklung. Frankfurt: Fischer.Google Scholar
  26. Strydom, P. (2011). Contemporary Critical Theory and Methodology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Strydom, P. (2015a). The Latent Cognitive Sociology in Habermas: Extrapolated from “Between Facts and Norms”. Philosophy and Social Criticism, 41(3), 273–291.
  28. Strydom, P. (2015b). Ecocriticism Beyond Constructivism and Realism: From Abstractive Fallacies to Full Sign-Mediation. Paper Presented at the International Conference ‘Sign and World: Implications for Ecocriticism’, Central University of Tamil Nadu, Kangalanchery, India, 1–2 September.Google Scholar
  29. Strydom, P. (2015b). Cognitive Fluidity and Climate Change: A Critical Social-theoretical Approach to the Current Challenge. Special Issue on Climate Change, European Journal of Social Theory, 18(3), 236–256.
  30. Strydom, P. (2016). The Sociocultural Self-creation of a Natural Category: Social-theoretical Reflections on Human Agency under the Temporal Conditions of the Anthropocene. European Journal of Social Theory.
  31. Van Peursen, C. A., Bertels, C. P., & Nauta, D. (1968). Informatie. Utrecht and Antwerp: Aula.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Piet Strydom
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Sociology and PhilosophyUniversity College CorkCorkIreland

Personalised recommendations