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A synthesis (from ancient Greek σύνθεσις sýnthesis "composition", "summary", "linkage") is the conversion (the union) of two or more elements (components) into a new unit. The term was introduced into natural science by Hermann Kolbe in 1845. Often with the "synthesis" the product itself, i. H. denotes the result of synthetic activity. Synthesis is inextricably linked with the opposite method of analysis . In natural science, synthesis is related to matter (e.g. chemical synthesis of substances) and in humanities it is abstract(e.g. putting together a new metaphor , example: “The ravages of time”), therefore synthetic in the sense of a synthesizing language: synthetic language structure . In philosophy, synthesis means the creation of a new doctrine or theory after weighing the pros and cons ( dialectics ).

Synthesis as a method to gain knowledge

The process of analysis ends in the knowledge of the essence of a phenomenon and its internal connections. Synthesis reverses this process and tries to assemble a new whole from the elements found by the analysis. Synthesis dialectically elevates the individual to the level of the general, the concrete to that of the abstract , it combines the diverse into a unity. This leads to complex concepts from elementary ones.

In the European historical sense, the first approaches to the formation of syntheses are available in Plato as the result of Socratic discussions.

Pappos of Alexandria presents a problem analysis of the construction process for geometrical problem solutions. The above-described rearrangement of the individual elements leads to logical and true propositions of geometry ( Euclidean geometry ). In modern algebra , this is understood to mean the search for sufficient conditions for solving equations.

Isaac Newton joined this from Pappos v. Alexandria adopts a certain methodology and understands synthesis as the derivation of physical principles from mechanical principles. Here too, in analytical mechanics, the search for sufficient solution conditions for equations of motion is understood.

In philosophy, synthesis generally refers to the linking of ideas, concepts and statements. With Immanuel Kant this is the connection of manifolds of perception through an active performance of the understanding with the help of the categories . He assumed that there are “synthetic” sentences or judgments in which parts that cannot be analytically explained flow and thus apparently add something new to them. In this context one speaks of enlargement judgments. The world cannot be thought without our own so-called synthesizing achievements. Kant gave as a simple example: “But in order to recognize something in space, e.g. B. a line, I have to draw it , and thus bring about a certain connection of the given manifold synthetically, so that […] through this first an object (a certain space) is recognized ”(KrV B 137-138) In the Dialectic describes synthesis as the abolition of the contradiction between thesis and antithesis . Thus, for Hegel that are a synthesis of the being and nothingness . Schelling spoke of a synthesis in the absolute act of self-confidence .

In modern philosophy of science a distinction is made between formal-synthetic statements and material-synthetic statements. The former are justified by dealing with certain symbols and the rules for dealing with them. In the case of material-synthetic statements, a certain ideal form is inferred by going back to the elements.

Compared to the empirical working method or that of the experiment , the synthesis is obtained from a mathematical model. It is known from analysis experience that there are often several realizations that match in at least one of their properties. This shows that the synthesis problem and thus the special synthesis tasks cannot be solved clearly. The subtasks of a synthesis are: 1. Mathematical synthesis , 2. Structure synthesis , 3. Equivalence stage , 4. Realization.

Special areas of application

  • the production of new substances through the reaction of certain elements or molecules with each other, special area especially organic chemistry → synthesis (chemistry) , catalyst
  • in electrical engineering, the design of linear and non-linear systems, circuits and electromagnetic fields, also the design of digital circuits → synthesis (electrical engineering) , Wilhelm Cauer
  • in mechanics, the design of systems that are used to implement a given movement task, e.g. B. a transmission
  • in other physical areas in which motion processes or fields are to be synthesized → thermodynamics , geometric optics , quantum mechanics
  • In computer science, synthesis is used as a problem-solving strategy for knowledge-based systems → artificial intelligence
  • In biology, especially in the physiology of living beings, the processes of dismantling individual parts of the whole and their changed recombination → biosynthesis , chemosynthesis , photosynthesis , translation
  • in music, in which one can compose new pieces with the knowledge of certain individual instrumental elements and certain harmonic rules → Synthesizer , Herbert Brün , music theory
  • in the artistic field in general, in which one can create new forms and compositions with knowledge of certain artistic elements and their combination → visual arts , architecture
  • programmatically in the title, the French historical-philosophical journal Revue de synthèse


  • Jürgen Mittelstraß (Ed.): Encyclopedia Philosophy and Philosophy of Science (in 4 volumes), JB Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart 1980–1996.
  • Klaus Buhr (Hrsg.): Philosophical dictionary (in 2 volumes). Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig (various editions).
  • Veikko Pietilä: Analysis / Synthesis. In: Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism , Vol. 1. Argument-Verlag, Hamburg, 1994, Sp. 196-201.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Contributions to the knowledge of the paired connections, Ann. Chem. & Pharm. 115 (1860) p. 145.
  2. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences , § 89.
  3. Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling: System of the transcendent idealism, 3. II. Deduction of the middle links of the absolute synthesis .