When Aristotle died the philosophical ball passed to the Stoics and the Epicureans. The Stoics divided logic into grammar and dialectic. From this practice, on through the Middle Ages, the term dialectic became, in many quarters, synonymous with formal logic. This view was basic to the seven liberal arts which for centuries were the intellectual studies believed to be necessary for a free spirit. Grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic (formal logic) made up the Trivium. Arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music made up the quadrivium. Although the older usage of the term dialectic never died out, the identification of dialectic with logic became generally accepted for centuries. An unabridged 1894 Webster’s Dictionary gives only one meaning of dialectic, dialectician, and dialectics,

“pertaining to logic, logical argumentation a logician, a reasoner that branch of logic which teaches the rules and modes of reasoning.”[20]

For many people and for many centuries this is what the term dialectic meant. Even today, this is what some people mean when they speak of dialectic or dialectics or dialecticians.

Identifying dialectic with formal logic and reasoning is further complicated by numerous understandings and definitions of both logic and reason that have accrued over the centuries. In the study of the history of logic many diverse subjects and philosophical arguments have been classified as logical theory. In the history of philosophy, much that has been classified as logic had nothing to do with learning the rules of right reason in order to distinguish the genuine from the sham. Rather we find ponderous declamations on the relative merits of realism and nominalism, the problems of universals and particulars, the priority of essence or existence, the relation of thought and being, etc. Many metaphysical problems would have dissolved into nothing, if people had first known the basic rules of right reason. Unfortunately, the simple conception of logic became buried in the confusion.

In Western history, metaphysical logic often ended in quibbling and petty quarrels. Because logic was identified with dialectic, both logic and dialectic often picked up pejorative connotations. Along with all the other meanings that the term dialectic has acquired over the centuries, it also means “contentious reasoning”.