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The expression opposition is ambiguous in both colloquial and technical terms.

Colloquial meanings

Colloquially , the expression becomes general

  • for the fact that something (a statement, a force, etc.) is opposite to something else,
  • or for the bringing about of such a state of affairs through an act that opposes or sets something else ( the opposition , e.g. the counter- submission , the antithesis, the conflict),
  • for what is opposed to another ( the opposite ; e.g. warmth is opposed to cold; true opposed to falsehood); or
  • for the relationship of the opposing (the opposing relationship , e.g. the contradiction, the contrast, the opposite, the (in) compatibility)


This relates to reality (in the narrower sense) (e.g. class antagonism; transferred: enmity, hostility) and / or to statements (assertions, legal positions, opinions) and derived from them to terms.


The term “opposition” is probably a loan translation of the late Latin term oppositio and originally only designates counter-submissions in legal disputes (the opposition that is said against the first sentence, see replica , duplicate ).


As a technical philosophical term, the expression “opposition” has a central meaning due to the (Hegelian) dialectic. The concept and classification depend heavily on the position on the dialectic.

A definition of the opposite is often avoided and instead one suddenly switches to differentiations of meanings. Difficulties arise in the assignment of the antithesis in the sense of the dialectic of German idealism (especially in the sense of Hegel ) and dialectical materialism .

This is how R. Eisler differentiates between opposites

  • the opposition in the logical sense (logical opposition) and
  • the opposite in the real sense (real opposite, real opposite).

The opposition in the sense of Fichte and Hegel is cited as primarily real opposition.

Since, at least according to Hegel's self-understanding, the dialectical opposition is an overarching logical-real one, a three-way division is made here.

The (purely) logical opposite

An opposition in the sense of (classical) logic (logical opposition) exists when statements (judgments, sentences) - derived also terms - exclude one another (exclusive opposition). A distinction is mainly made between adversarial and contradicting opposites .

Non-exclusive opposites are opposites that are neither adversarial nor contrary. They are links "which are in a certain way opposite, but actually compatible". In colloquial language they are formed by conjunctions such as "(although ...) but", "however", "although". For example: “It's small, but fat.” They are opposites not in a logical, but only in a subjective, psychological or apparent sense.

The doctrine of logical opposites is based in classical logic. It can also be reformulated in modern logic.

The contrast between statements and concepts

In logic, a contradiction is expressed primarily by statements (in scholasticism : oppositio enunciatorum ). The same applies to terms (predicates, predicators ) (scholasticism: oppositio terminorum ). In modern logic, contradiction is also predicated of sets of statements.

Opposing terms are terms whose application to one and the same object leads to a contradiction between the respective statements.

The divisions of the logical opposition

The logical opposition is mostly divided into a basic division

  • in adversarial contrast and
  • contrary contrast.

In addition, there is also a tripartite division into:

  • adversarial opposition,
  • contrary contrast and
  • sub-contrarian opposition.

"Basic forms of opposition" are also cited

  • adversarial (cold - not cold)
  • contrary (cold - warm)
  • privative (seeing - blind)
  • relative (father - son)
  • polar (man - woman)

The contradictory, contrarian, subcontractual and subaltern contrast (logical square)

The contradictory opposition (also: contradiction , contradiction ) is the logical opposition that exists when a statement is the negation of the other (or a concept is the negation of the other).

The contradictory contrast of classical logic corresponds to the contravalence (fwwf) of modern propositional logic .

  • Example of contradicting statements :
    • "Every tree has roots." - "Not every tree has roots."
  • Examples of adversarial terms :
    • "To be" - "Not to be" or "Nothing"
    • "Know" - "not-know"
    • "Possibility" - "Impossibility"

A contrary opposition exists when - under certain circumstances only within a certain reference system - both cannot be the case (true) at the same time, but both cannot be the case (false).

  • Examples of contrary statements :
    • “All swans are white” - “No swan is white”.
    • "Every tree has roots." - "No tree has roots."
  • Examples of contrary terms :
    • "To be" - "to be different"
    • "White black"
    • "Circle" - "Square"
    • "Maximum" - "Minimum"

The traditional doctrine of logical contradiction is based on classical logic, which is characterized by the principle of two- valued values and the validity of the principle of excluded contradiction . Accordingly, if two such terms reflect properties that cannot possibly be attributed to an object at the same time and in the same respect, or two such statements cannot be true at the same time, there are contradicting opposites.

However, while one of two contradictory sentences must always be true and the other false , whereby one can be formally derived from the other through logical negation, two contrary sentences can also be false together : one cannot be logically derived from the other.

In classical logic, the sub-contradiction is the logical opposition between statements that cannot both be false, but can be true at the same time, the falseness of one therefore implies the truth of the other.

The disjunction of modern logic corresponds to the sub-contrarian opposition of classical logic.

The subaltern opposition (subalternation) “means that the truth of a general statement also makes a particular one true. If a particular is wrong, then a general one is wrong. From the falsehood of the general does not follow the falsehood of the particular, from the truth of the particular not the truth of the general statement. "

The relationships of the contradictory, contrarian, subcontrary and subaltern contrasts can be illustrated in the logical square .

The privative, relative or polar opposition

The privative, relative or polar opposition is a variant of the contrary opposition (see also: Antonym ).

A privative opposition is a contrary opposition based on the elimination of something.

  • Example: seeing - blind

A relative opposition is a contrary opposition based on a relationship.

  • Example: father - son

A polar opposition (also: polar-contrary opposition ) is present "if the terms can be understood as the two (relative) ends of a scale, which is based on a comparison, i.e. a two-digit relationship".

  • Example: white - black

The logical-real opposition in dialectics


Real opposites are not rigid or immobile, but, like all phenomena of objective reality , are subject to becoming and passing away (dynamic opposites). They develop from differences, the difference is at the highest stage of its development.

On the other hand, real opposites can turn into insignificant differences through essential differences and under certain circumstances cease to exist entirely. The dynamic of real opposites is also expressed in the fact that both opposites (poles) interact and interact with one another. In this active interaction, the opposites can mutually penetrate one another, can merge and become identical in certain respects (e.g. as an extensional effect of extreme currents).

The principle of identity and the opposing penetration of opposites is one of the most important principles in idealistic and materialistic dialectics. The dialectical real opposition differs from both the adversarial and the contrary.

While these do not exist in reality, but only appear as reflections of the objective facts, dialectical opposites exist objectively real. Sentences that express an adversarial or contrary contrast cannot be true together , while two sentences that reflect a dialectical real contrast must both be true . Example:

  • "An elementary particle has the character of a wave." - "An elementary particle has the character of a corpuscle."

The dialectical contrast in Hegel

According to Hegel , opposites are not mutually exclusive , on the contrary. “The peculiarity of Hegel's philosophy is precisely that it takes dialectics not only logically, as a form of thinking, but ontologically or metaphysically, as the peculiar form of the self-movement of reality, and that it also undertakes to show that Both: the self-movement of our thinking and the self-movement of reality are basically the same (or even the same) process. ”In Hegel's dialectical logic, the principle of identity , the principle of excluded contradiction and the principle of excluded third have one of function deviating from formal or classical logic . With him the negative formulation of the principle of identity (A ≠ -A) is coupled to that of contradiction. The two members are different, but both A and -A refer to the same A, which on the one hand makes up the whole of the relationship between these two members and on the other hand is preserved as a moment opposite to -A. So the identity has the difference in itself.

According to Hegel, the antithesis (opposition) depends on the determinateness of the object. It is thought of as a moment of identity of the different. So the mind opposes the infinite and the finite as unconnected. This, according to Hegel, separates their living relationship to one another. Reason recognizes that true infinity includes finitude and thereby cancels it. The finite remains different from infinity and is nevertheless, as a part, identical with it. In this way the opposites in the absolute, the true infinite, are abolished. The opposites are not destroyed, but remain as sensible or finite moments of reason.

The real opposite


The real opposition is the opposition between objects (in the broadest sense). Rudolf Eisler also calls it ontological opposition and describes it as “a conflict between two things, two qualities, two activities, dynamic opposition, will opposition, opposition of feelings (physical-psychological opposition, ethical, social opposition)”.

Doctrines of opposites


According to Aristotle (Met. I 5, 986a 22 squ.), The Pythagoreans put up a table of ten pairs of opposites as the principles of things: limit and unlimited (peras kai apeiron), odd and even (peritton kai artion), one and many (hen kai plêthos), right and left (dexion kai aristeron), masculine and feminine (arrhen kai thêly), moving and immobile (êremoun kai kinoumenon), straight and crooked (euthy kai kampylon), light and darkness (phôs kai skotos) , Good and bad (agathon kai kakon), as well as equilateral and unequal square (tetragônon kai eteromêkes).


Heraclitus , to whom Hegel later referred, explains the “opposition to the principle of development. In the 'opposite direction' (enantiodromia, Stob. Ecl. I, 60) of the event, the opposite is united in everything, one turns into the opposite (taut 'einai zôn kai tethnêkos, kai to egrêgoros kai to katheudon, kai neon kai gêraion ( Fragm. 78)). Everything is done kat 'enantiotêta according to the enantia rhoê, palintropia (Plat., Cratyl. 413 E, 420 A; panta te ginesthai kath' eimarmenên kai dia tês enantiotropês hêrmosthai ta onta, Diog. L. IX 1, 7; ginesthai te panta kat 'enantiotêta, lc 8; panta ... metaballei eis enantion oion ek thermou eis phychron Arist. Phys. III 5, 205a 6; cf. Sext. Empir. Pyrrh. hypot. III, 230). The opposites go together in a unity like bow and lyre (palintropos harmoniê kosmou hokôster lyrês kai toxou, Plut., Is. Et Osir. 5). "


For Plotinus , opposites are things that have nothing identical about them ( Enneades VI, 3, 20).

Nikolaus von Kues

Nikolaus von Kues represented a coincidentia oppositorum (the union of all opposites in God or in the infinite).

This idea influenced the philosophy of identity ( Schelling ) and can also be found in Marxist philosophy, for example in Lenin's teaching of dialectics , as the teaching of how opposites can be identical.


See dialectic

Guardini (dialogue)

In his Theory of Opposites (1925), Romano Guardini fundamentally differentiated polar opposites from contradictions and described them as constantly re-concretizing, i.e. living-concrete, tension , without the respective poles ceasing to exist. This leads to a dialogical instead of dialectical structure of opposites in the sense of polarity .


Peter Knauer's relational ontology assumes that all reality in the world has the structure of an indissoluble unity of opposites (identity and non-identity: change; being and non-being: finitude; necessity and non-necessity: contingency, etc.). This is the fundamental need for an ontological explanation of the world, because it must be indicated how one can express the unity of opposites without a logical contradiction. According to Knauer, this requires two different perspectives (because of the opposites), but they are not mutually exclusive (because of the unity of the opposites). Such aspects can ultimately only be found in the properly understood concept of creatureliness of the Christian message: "complete reference to ... / in complete difference from ...". The world, as a unity of opposites, merges into being nothing but being related to a reality that is no longer subject to concepts and from which it remains completely different. This reality, without which nothing is and nothing can be, is traditionally called "God".

Art, poetry, music

In art, poetry and especially music, one speaks of the contrast in different contexts, e.g. B. Contrast is called the first counterpoint on the theme of a fugue .

See also


  • Rudolf Eisler: Dictionary of Philosophical Terms. Volume 1: A-N. Mittler, Berlin 1904 ( ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Contrast  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. On the philosophical meaning of colloquial language see Ordinary Language Philosophy
  2. contrast. In: Duden, German Universal Dictionary. 5th edition, 2003, ISBN 3-411-05505-7 .
  3. a b c d e f Rudolf Eisler: Dictionary of philosophical terms. 1904 ( ).
  4. Also Kuno Lorenz: Contrast. In: Mittelstraß (Hrsg.): Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. 2nd edition, Volume 3, 2008, ISBN 978-3-476-02102-1 , according to which the dialectical contrast of the associated terms is a derived one.
  5. ^ So Seiffert: Logic. 1973, p. 155.
  6. a b c d e f g Kuno Lorenz: Contrast. In: Mittelstraß (Hrsg.): Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. 2nd edition, Volume 3, 2008, ISBN 978-3-476-02102-1 ,
  7. ^ A b Arnim Regenbogen, Uwe Meyer, Friedrich Kirchner: Contrast . In: Dictionary of Philosophical Terms . Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-7873-3150-6 .
  8. Brandt: Philosophy. 2001, ISBN 3-15-018137-2 , p. 44 (related to sentences).
  9. contrast. In: Schischkoff: Philosophical Dictionary. 22nd edition, 1991, ISBN 3-520-01322-3 .
  10. Seiffert: Logic. 1973, p. 153 f.
  11. contrary. In: Hügli, Lübcke: Philosophielexikon. 1991, ISBN 3-634-22405-3 .
  12. Different probably Kuno Lorenz: Contrast. In: Mittelstraß (Hrsg.): Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. 2nd edition, Volume 3, 2008, ISBN 978-3-476-02102-1 . "T10: Adversarial opposites are also contradicting opposites, but not all contradicting opposites are adversarial".
  13. Strobach: Introduction to Logic. 2005, p. 62.
  14. Tatievskaya: propositional logic. 2003, p. 72.
  15. ^ Menne: Logic. 6th edition, 2001, p. 36.
  16. Tatievskaya: propositional logic. 2003, p. 71.
  17. Article "Contrast". In: Georg Klaus, Manfred Buhr (Hrsg.): Philosophical dictionary. 11th edition, Leipzig 1975.
  18. Hans-Joachim Störig: Small world history of philosophy. Extended new edition 1996, ISBN 3-596-13520-6 , p. 463.
  19. Hans-Joachim Störig: Small world history of philosophy. Extended new edition 1996, ISBN 3-596-13520-6 , p. 461.
  20. ^ Ock-Kyoung Kim: Identity. In: Paul Cobben [et al.] (Ed.): Hegel-Lexikon. WBG, Darmstadt 2006, p. 270 f.
  21. Peter Jonkers: Opposition. In: Paul Cobben [et al.] (Ed.): Hegel-Lexikon. P. 196.
  22. On the use of language in music cf. ;
    General in art contrast 2 b). In: Jacob Grimm , Wilhelm Grimm (Hrsg.): German dictionary . tape 5 : Gefoppe – Drifts - (IV, 1st section, part 2). S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1897, Sp. 2253 ( ).