Reflection on the Western rather than Asian character of DTF and the need for research to make it more Asian or acceptable in Asia

By Otto Laske – At the end of the present introductory course on dialectic I wrote to my students the following note:

I should mention one great omission from the introductory class which will make the use of the Dialectical Thinking Framework (DTF) more complex but also more deep. We never discussed the issue of “contrasts”, or better of “alternative” thought forms. By this I mean that when scoring we use contrasts to narrow the choice of the thought form to be scored, by thinking of what alternative scorings could be. These could fall into the same class, in which case the overall scoring result would not change (since we are scoring moments of dialectic, not individual thought forms), but they could also fall into a different moment/class, and this could shift the resulting profile.

Investigating  the Thought Form table further, we realize how “Western” the presentation of thought forms is: we speak of “classes” of thought forms which is something Asians would not find easy since they are used to grouping things based on similarity relationships rather than categories or classes, and thus following logical rules about attribution to a class. Being critical of the table of thought forms that groups them as members of 4 classes then leads to the notion of different groupings of the thought forms, for instance grouping them with their contrasts/alternatives. This, however, would break up their belonging to four classes of thought forms, and thus also their link to the four moments of dialectic. We could then consider the thought forms individually and group them as Asians would group them, which would become a research project.

As you see, there is nothing sacrosanct about the table of thought forms. An Asian viewer/user of them would probably group them differently and still think of them as “dialectic”.

This shows that the notion of “four moments of dialectic” (Bhaskar) is a “Western”, not an Asian, concept. Asians could work with the thought form without seeing them as differentiations of Bhaskar’s four moments.

In any case, getting to know the alternatives for each thought form in the table is an interesting way of getting to know the 28 thought forms.

Of course, in the case study course, we will adhere to scoring according to the table of TFs, but will be aware that our “Western”, logical ordering of them differs from what comes easiest to Asian thinking.

Otto Laske

November 2014

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