An Intense Five-Month Practicum in Dialectical Thinking

Increasingly, the issues on which the survival of our civilization depends are ‘wicked’ in the sense of being more complex than logical thinking alone can make sense of and deal with. Needed is not only systemic and holistic but dialectical thinking to achieve critical realism. Dialectical thinking has a long tradition both in Western and Eastern philosophy but, although renewed through the Frankfurt School and more recently Roy Bhaskar, has not yet begun to penetrate cultural discourse in a practically effective way. We can observe the absence of dialectical thinking in daily life as much as in the scientific and philosophical literature.

To begin to change this situation, Otto Laske, who comes from the Frankfurt School and has renewed dialectical thinking in Measuring Hidden Dimensions of Human Systems (2008) and Dialectical Thinking for Integral Leaders: A Primer (2015), is offering an intense practicum for thinkers and members of think tanks inside and outside of organizations, as well as members of organizations and consultants. He is using a mentoring approach in which mentees take responsibility for each other’s work as in an organizational team, offering a safe and open space in which practical as well as visionary people can come together to tackle issues of common concern that require a re-thinking of problem foundations using DTF, the Dialectical Thought Form Framework he has taught since 2000.

It is one of the benefits of the practicum to let participants viscerally experience that, and in what way, logical thinking — although a prerequisite of dialectical thinking — is potentially also the greatest hindrance to dialectical thinking because of its lack of a concept of negativity. To speak with Roy Bhaskar, dialectical thinking requires “thinking the coincidence of distinctions” that logical thinking is so good at making, being characterized by “fluidity around the hard core of absence” (that is, negativity, or what is missing or not yet there).

For thinkers unaware of the limitations of logical thinking, dialectical thinking is a many-faced beast which to tame requires building up in oneself new modes of listening, analysis, self- and other-reflection, the ability to generate thought-form based questions, and making explicit what is implicit or absent in a person’s or group’s real-time thinking. These components are best apprehended and exercised in dialogue with members of a group led by a DTF-schooled mentor/facilitator.

The complex thinking exercised in this practicum is beneficial far beyond those working in or for organizations. A wide range of professionals including members of think tanks, politicians, interdisciplinary researchers, graduate level educators, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers, life and executive coaches, and theologians equally benefit from going beyond mere logic-bounded systems thinking.

The practicum takes the following six-prong approach:


  Learning Targets Associated Activities
1 Foundations of Dialectic Understand moments of dialectic and classes of thought forms and their intrinsic linkages as the underpinnings of a theory of knowledge
2 Structured dialogue and communication Learn how to use moments of dialectic when trying to understand a speaker’s subject matter and issues, or when aiming to speak or writing clearly
3 (Developmental) listening and self-reflection Learn to reflect on the thought form structure of what is being said by a person or an entire group in real time
4 Text analysis Learn to understand the conceptual structure of a text (incl. an interview text) in terms of moments of dialectic and their associated thought forms as indicators of optimal thought complexity
5 Question & problem generation and formulation Learn how to formulate cogent and visionary questions (including to yourself), and give feedback based on moments of dialectic and their associated thought forms
6 Critical facilitation Learn how to assist others in understanding what they are un-reflectedly saying, thinking, or intending

Acquiring these six, mutually supportive capabilities takes time and patience with oneself and others. It goes far beyond ‘skill training’ since participants need to engage in revolutionizing their listening, way of thinking, structure of self-reflection, and attention to others’ mental process, — something that logical thinkers for whom the real world is “out there” (not “in here”) are not accustomed to.


Workshop Logistics

Preconditions: none

Participation: minimally 4, maximally 6 participants

Teaching mode: REAL-TIME DIALOGUE on Zoom

Workshop structure follows the 6 learning targets outlined above

Duration: 5 months

Session structure: weekly sessions with instructor, plus independent meetings of cohort members as needed for homework (recommended)

Number of sessions with instructor: 5×4=20 sessions of 1.5 hours duration, a total of 30 hrs

Scheduling: four 1.5 hr sessions per month allowing for holidays

Tuition: US$3,750 (US$125/hr), with US$250 discount in case of 6 sign-ups

Payment: ½ prior to start, the remainder 3 months after start

Session Mode: Zoom, with session recordings for review

Instructor Assistance: email (answers to questions, attention to personal needs)

Certification: IDM Certificate in Dialectical Thinking, Level I.


References to Otto Laske’s work on & with dialectical thinking since 1966:

  1. IDM Tribute of September 17, 2020: YouTube
  2. Lecture on cognitive coaching based on DTF: YouTube ;
  3. Text on dialogical dialectic, “A New Approach to Dialogue: Teaching the Dialectical Thought Form Framework,”
  4. Frankfurt School Hauptseminar Teachings from the Perspective of DTF,
  5. Dialectical Thought Form Manual (DTFM), (Publications), Section C (US85.00 via Paypal).

Suggested Workshop Preparation       

  1. read “2017b introduction to DTF” found in Social Science Archive V, Section V, at
  2. attend a first zoom info session in Otto Laske’s Personal Meeting Room
  3. buy Laske’s 2015 book Dialectical Thinking for Integral Leaders: A Primer at Amazon  (Amazon US$14.96)
  4. attend a 2nd info session and set a workshop start date for the study cohort
  5. pay ½ of tuition (US$1,875) prior to starting the workshop
  6. attend first workshop session.

EMAIL CONTACT: [email protected]

Author: Otto Laske

I am the founder and director of IDM, the Interdevelopmental Institute. My background is in philosophy, psychology, consulting, and coaching based on developmental theory to which I have mightily contributed myself. See the blogs at