The etymological route of the term antithesis starts in late Latin (antithĕsis) and then go to Greek (antithesis) before reaching our language. A Greek word is the result of the sum of several clearly delimited elements such as these:
-The prefix “anti-”, which can be translated as “contrary”.
-The term “tithemi”, which is equivalent to “I put”.
-The suffix “-sis”, which is synonymous with “action”.
The first meaning mentioned in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) make reference to that which, due to its characteristics or conditions, is totally opposite to something else.
For instance: “Ricardo is the antithesis of Juana: he is quiet and withdrawn, while she is talking and socializing all day”, “The political project of the opposition is the antithesis of the model that we have been successfully developing at the national level for more than a decade”, “The actions of the police in this case is the antithesis of what the procedures indicate”.
It must be established that one of the most important phrases of how many have become part of the rhetoric is precisely a perfect example of what the antithesis is. We are referring to the one pronounced by Neil Armstrong when he reached the Moon in 1969: “This is a small step for man, but a great step for humanity.”
However, there are many other examples of antitheses that are also well known, such as these verses from renowned writers:
– “When I want to cry I don’t cry, and sometimes I cry without wanting to” (Rubén Darío).
– “Love is so short and oblivion is so long” (Pablo Neruda).
– “You are like the rose of Alexandria, red at night, white by day” (Lope de Vega).
In the plane of rhetoric and of the philosophy, the antithesis is the opposition that exists between two expressions or judgments. Its use allows the development of the dialectic that results in the construction of knowledge.
In this framework, we find a proposition, a conception or a discourse that constitutes the thesis. It is a claim that is justified or proven in some way. The antithesis is the contrary reasoning: proposes something that contradicts the thesis, confronting its arguments. The dialectic indicates that, after the opposition between the thesis and the antithesis, a new look arises that is condensed in the synthesis. This third proposition (the synthesis) represents a different understanding of the matter at hand.
A example simplified process is as follows: “Dogs are black” (thesis) / “However, yesterday I saw a white dog” (antithesis) / “There are black dogs and white dogs” (synthesis).
Within what is the field of philosophy we can underline that the use of the antithesis and of this in itself has a series of peculiarities. Specifically, among them we can highlight the following:
-Its use can be understood because it, in a clear and forceful way, can be used to undertake a refutation.
-Also, it must be taken into account that, as a general rule, the antitheses used in this case are preceded by expressions such as “however”, “nevertheless” or “but”, among others.