Thesis, antithesis, synthesis

a progression of three ideas; the third idea resolves the conflict of the first two

The triad thesis, antithesis, synthesis (German: These, Antithese, Synthese) is often used to describe the thought of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Although Hegel never used the terms Johann Fichte used them to describe Hegel's thought.


  • How is synthesis conceivable without presupposing thesis and antithesis?
  • The circle was this: The possibility of mutually liberating each other on the part of the offended and the offender is conditioned by the knowledge of their whole future; but this knowledge, again, is impossible, unless they mutually liberate each other. The method, which has been prescribed by the Science of Knowledge, tells us synthetically to unite both opposites, and thus to get rid of the contradiction. A synthesis of this kind would be, in our case: the mutual liberation of both parties and the knowledge of the whole future must be one and the same; or, in other words, this mutual liberation must involve of itself and guarantee the whole future, whereof knowledge is desired.
    • The Science of Rights 1796 by, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 1762-1814; Kroeger, Adolph Ernest, 1837-1882, tr Publication date 1889 P. 147
  • Thesis. The freedom of the person, according to the Conception of Rights, is limited only by the possibility that other persons are also to also with him as free persons, and hence as also having rights. Whatsoever does not violate the rights of another, each person has the right to do, and this, indeed, constitutes each person's right. Each one, moreover, has the right to judge for himself what is, and to defend, by his own powers, what he so judges to be, the limit of his free actions.
  • Antithesis. According to a correct conclusion drawn from the same Conception of Rights, each person must utterly and unconditionally transfer all his power and judgment to a third party, if a legal relation between free persons is to be possible. By this transfer each person loses altogether the right to judge the limits of his own right and to defend those limits. He makes himself completely dependent upon the knowledge and good- will of the third party, to whom he has made the transfer, and ceases to be a free being.
  • The antithesis contradicts the thesis. The thesis is the Conception of Rights itself; the antithesis is a correct result obtained from that conception. The Conception of Rights is, therefore, involved in a self-contradiction. This contradiction must be canceled.
    • The Science of Rights 1796 by, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 1762-1814; Kroeger, Adolph Ernest, 1837-1882, tr Publication date 1889 P. 149
  • Thesis. — The state guarantees to each citizen, who contributes toward the protection of the state and to the support of the poor, the absolute and unlimited property of the remainder of his possession. Each must have the right to waste, destroy, or throw away what belongs to him, provided he thereby inflicts no injury upon other citizens.
  • Antithesis. — The state continually takes possession of all the remainder — of the products of the producers, and of the wares and labor of the artist — in order thereby to make possible the necessary exchange, without which each can not be sure that he can sustain himself from the results of his labor.
  • To solve this contradiction we must discover its ground. The state takes possession of the remainder, not in respect to its form, as remainder and as property, but in respect to its substance, as something which is necessary to sustain life. In order to solve the contradiction thoroughly, form and substance must, therefore, be separated. The state must have the power of taking the substance without touching the form. Without exhibiting here unnecessary profundity, I shall solve the problem at once. We must discover a mere form of property, a mere sign of it, which is a sign of whatever is useful in the state, without having in itself the least use ; for if it were useful in itself, the state would possess the right to claim it, like the other products, for public purposes. Such a mere form of property is called money. The use of money must be introduced in a state necessarily; and this solves our problem. The producer has not the right to keep his products; he must sell them. Nevertheless, they are his absolute property, guaranteed to him by the state. True, he is not to give them away for nothing, but in exchange for wares. But he needs no wares at present, at least not those which are offered to him. Hence, he receives money. The same applies to the artist. The state is obliged to furnish to the producer wares for his products, and to the artist products for his wares.
    • The Science of Rights 1796 by, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 1762-1814; Kroeger, Adolph Ernest, 1837-1882, tr Publication date 1889 P. 317-319
  • Thesis. — Whosoever violates the municipal compact in any manner, whether from neglect or intentionally, loses, strictly speaking, all his rights as a citizen and as a man, and becomes an outlaw. ….
  • Antithesis. — The only object of the erection of a State government is to secure to each the full possession of his rights; and the state has only to discover and apply the means which will secure this object.
    • The Science of Rights 1796 by, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 1762-1814; Kroeger, Adolph Ernest, 1837-1882, tr Publication date 1889 P. 343-344
  • A man ... has two antagonists: the first presses him from behind, from the origin. The second blocks the road ahead. He gives battle to both. To be sure, the first supports him in his fight with the second, for he wants to push him forward, and in the same way the second supports him in his fight with the first, since he drives him back. But it is only theoretically so. For it is not only the two antagonists who are there, but he himself as well, and who really knows his intentions? His dream, though, is that some time in an unguarded moment and this would require a night darker than any night has ever been yet he will jump out of the fighting line and be promoted, on account of his experience in fighting, to the position of umpire over his antagonists in their fight with each other.
    • Franz Kafka, Parable translated by Hanna Arendt, in Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought (1954), p. 7

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