Conrad -- Heart Of Darkness
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Finally, as is the case with all my Essays, nothing here should be read as an attack either on Historical Materialism [HM] -- a theory I fully accept --, or, indeed, on revolutionary socialism. I remain as committed to the self-emancipation of the working class and the dictatorship of the proletariat as I was when I first became a revolutionary nearly thirty years ago.
The difference between Dialectical Materialism [DM] and HM, as I see it, is explained here.
Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism
(2) Same Old Same Old
(3) Hegel, A 'Mighty Thinker'?
(4) Exceptionally Crass
(5) How To Waste Ink Dialectically
Abbreviations Used At This Site
Return To The Main Index Page
Back in the Autumn of 2007, I was invited to outline my case against DM in Weekly Worker; to that end, I was given space for 2000 words.
A few months later saw a 'devastating' reply to the 1.3 million words published at my site (as of 2007) in just over 3000, from Jack Conrad of the CPGB.
To tell the truth, I had to read his 'response' several times, since I just could not believe how superficial and irrelevant it was from such a leading comrade!
And, as the reader will soon find out, that isn't just grandstanding on my part.
[Incidentally, my references to the Law below relate to Engels's First Law of Dialectical Materialism, the "transformation of quantity into quality, and vice versa" -- criticised at length here. This is, in effect, the only part of my work Conrad considered, and even then only superficially.]
Same Old Same Old
Comrade Conrad begins rather badly, but his response only deteriorates rapidly as the article progresses:
"Despite such grandiose claims, there is nothing much original in Lichtenstein's argument."
Anyone who reads my work will soon see this isn't so. As I pointed out in Essay One:
Another favourite response of late is for dialectically-distracted comrades to claim that these Essays contain "nothing new" (or that they have been "plagiarised").
Despite this, anyone reading my work will find that most of the content of my Essays is entirely original. Where I have borrowed from others, I have generally acknowledged that fact.
Of course, comrades who have made this accusation have been challenged to reveal where these allegedly "plagiarised" ideas have appeared before; to date, not one has responded. Either they cannot provide this information, or they simply enjoy being enigmatic. However, I suspect other motives.
The same can be said of comrade Conrad, for he nowhere shows where the original parts of my work have appeared before.
Conrad then indulges in some inappropriate hyperbole and indirect chest-beating:
"Repeated claims that she shoots down dialectical materialism in flames are sadly laughable. Yet precisely because the standard tropes of bourgeois academia are faithfully, unmistakably, echoed, that gives her labours a certain use-value."
As we will soon see, this is no less inaccurate than his opening salvo concerning my alleged lack of originality.
In Essay One, I also pointed out that DM-fans like to invent things in order to malign my work:
Among the most common responses (of comrades who have 'debated' this with me on the internet, and elsewhere) are the following:
...(7) The attribution to me of ideas I do not hold, and which could not reasonably have been inferred from anything I have said -- e.g., that I am a "postmodernist" (which I am not), an "empiricist" (same comment), a "Popperian" (I am in fact an anti-Popperian), that I am a "sceptic" (and this, just because I challenge accepted dogma, when Marx himself said he doubted all things), that I am an "anti-realist" (when I am in fact neither a realist nor an anti-realist --, I am indeed a "nothing-at-all-ist" with respect to philosophical theory), that I am a "reformist" (when I am the opposite), or that I am a "revisionist" (when Lenin enjoined us all to question dogma).
These are often advanced by comrades who have not read a single one of my Essays (but, they still feel that this does not prevent them from making things up about me), or they have skim read them. Naturally, they are the first to complain whenever anyone does this with the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and the rest. [This is just one of the latest examples.]
Conrad is thus to be counted among the very best of such dissemblers:
"She adopts, or claims to adopt, the method of Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), Karl Popper (1902-1994), etc."
Although he is right about the first two, he isn't about Popper, as he would have known had he researched his article with more care.
In Essay One, I also noted the following abusive name-calling I have come to expect:
(6) A casting of the usual slurs e.g., "anti-Marxist", "positivist", "sophist", "logic-chopper", "naïve realist", "revisionist", "eclectic", "relativist", "post modernist", "bourgeois stooge", "pedant", "absolutist", "elitist", "empiricist", and so on.
Well, what do we find in Conrad's piece? This:
"Answering her allows us to answer positivism and thus the ruling class in a readily understood manner." [Bold added.]
But, if I'm not a positivist, how will this help answer my criticisms?
In fact, and once more, as comrade Conrad would have known, had he paid attention when reading my work, philosophically I am a nothing-at-all-ist, since I reject all philosophical theories. [This shouldn't be confused with nihilism.]
This is why (again from Essay One):
From time to time readers will find themselves asking the following question of the author: "Well, what's your theory then?" No alternative philosophical theory will be advanced here (or anywhere else for that matter). This tactic has not been adopted out of cussedness -- or even out of diffidence --, but because it is an important part of the Wittgensteinian method (employed here) not to advance philosophical theories. Wittgenstein's approach means that no philosophical theory makes any sense. Why this is so will be considered at length in Essay Twelve Part One. [Objections to the use of his ideas have been neutralised here.]
This should not be taken to mean I reject scientific theory or that I question Historical Materialism -- which I don't.
'A Mighty Thinker'? Some Hope!
However, to more substantive issues:
"A necessary digression. For her own peculiar reasons comrade Lichtenstein claims to 'fully accept' historical materialism. As if Marxist historic thinking is not founded on, bound up with and constantly stimulated by the dialectic. E.g., in the ‘Afterword’ to the second German edition of Capital volume one, Marx took some obvious delight in declaring himself a 'pupil of that mighty thinker', Hegel, and therefore a committed practitioner of the dialectic." [Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]
Like so many others, Conrad ignores the other things Marx said that indicated he was at best ambivalent toward that mightily confused 'thinker', Hegel.
Again, perhaps as part of the 'careful' work he did 'researching' this article, comrade Conrad neglected to read where I have shown that Marx either abandoned 'the dialectic' (as it has been traditionally understood) in Das Kapital, or kept it at arms length. [This material can be found here and here.]
But, even if this weren't the case, it is easy to show that the 'dialectic' makes no sense at all (as I claim to have demonstrated). If so, who in their left mind (other than the dogmatists who lead our movement) will want to cling on to it?
Especially since it has presided over 150 years of almost total failure.
[On that, see here.]
In which case, much that comrade Conrad says in this section of his article begs the question.
Conrad now moves on to my article in Weekly Worker, and tries to counter a few of the things I said.
After quoting my point that not all 'qualitative' change in nature and society is sudden, he comments:
"Working backwards, let me make an obvious point. Marxists do not posit a revolutionary leap from capitalism to socialism/communism on the basis of direct extrapolation from the physical properties of water, iron, chocolate, butter, the speciation of animals in biology or even the historic transition from slavery to feudalism. Capitalism has its own specific, higher laws. Laws, needless to say, which must painstakingly be located through study and the process of abstraction, then theoretically elaborated and integrated back into a concrete whole. Exactly what Marx’s projected books on capital, wage labour, the state and international trade were designed to do (sadly, he only finished the first of four volumes of book one, on capital)."
Maybe so, but this does mean that Engels's Law cannot safely be used to depict such transitions, which was the only point I was making. If that is so, then the only reason for accepting this 'Law' goes out of the window. Conrad ignored this, and just repeated the standard line.
He also ignored my long critique of 'abstractionism'. [The latter can be found here and here.]
How To Waste Ink -- Dialectically
Next, Conrad argues as follows:
"What about exceptions to general laws -- comrade Lichtenstein’s melting metal, glass, plastic, butter, toffee and chocolate? We shall perhaps specifically examine these so-called exceptions on another occasion. Meantime, let us ask ourselves whether exceptions by definition disprove, invalidate and therefore necessarily ‘vanish’ the truth-value of a particular law?
"An opening thought. Everyone knows the phrase, ‘The exception proves the rule’. On the face of it evident nonsense. Exceptions disprove the rule. If an exception is proven, at the very least it demands more detailed investigation and certainly shows that the rule (law) in question is not fully accurate and needs some revision. Yet, as I understand it, the phrase was established in English jurisprudence in the early 17th century: Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis. Interpreted to mean that the 'exception confirms the rule in the cases not excepted'. In other words a rule exists...and that is the point."
However, the counter-examples I listed aren't just trifling exceptions; for instance, every metal in the universe disobeys this 'Law'. And Conrad ignores the numerous other examples I detailed in Essay Seven where this 'Law' simply fails to apply.
And, whatever jurists might or might not like to argue, genuine scientists cannot be so cavalier.
If biologists, for example, found that a small minority of species evolved other than by natural selection, or if they discovered mammalian fossils in pre-Cambrian rocks, they wouldn't be quite as glib about such anomalies as Conrad is about those which conflict with this 'Law'.
Indeed, if Physicists found a number of planets, or other astronomical bodies, which totally disobeyed both Newton's and Einstein's Laws, several fundamental questions would certainly be asked. Indeed, they are being asked, and precisely with respect to these particular issues: the anomalous motion of the Galaxies, and the accelerating expansion of the universe. In order to try to account for such oddities, genuine scientists didn't just complain about Hume and his 'exceptions', they introduced two new concepts: 'Dark Energy' and 'Dark Matter', invented precisely to explain 'exceptions' like this.
Indeed, genuine science is a fundamentally questioning discipline, to such an extent that these two concepts are themselves now under fire. [On that, see here.]
Unfortunately, quite the opposite is the case with the sort of Mickey Mouse Science one finds in DM, where only anecdotal confirmation is either sought or given, and 'exceptions' are ignored or explained away. Nothing is allowed to threaten this theory (and that is for reasons explored here), which is protected as if it were a religious dogma.
Now to Hume:
"Lichtenstein's exceptionalist argument originates with David Hume (1711-76). In his An enquiry concerning human understanding (1772) he well-foundedly questioned the logic of inductive reasoning. One can never tell whether or not a specific observation, no matter how many times repeated, will not at some point down the line hit upon an exception. E.g., we see the sun rising every morning … but does that mean it will necessarily rise tomorrow? No, it does not necessarily follow (though it is a good bet, with odds that basically amount to a dead cert). That being logically the case, however - ie, the sun is not bound to rise tomorrow -- Hume concluded that theories were essentially no more that useful human constructs. They were not nearer and nearer approaches to the complexities of the truth. Indeed, we can never know the objective world, he maintained. Observations, including those of science, are only streams of sense impressions. Hence Hume’s scepticism and the space he left open for religion." [Link added.]
My argument, of course, has nothing to do with Hume's 'thought experiments', since the numerous 'exceptions' I have uncovered aren't imaginary, but in fact involve well-known scientific processes and substances. Indeed, many of these are part of common understanding. Who, for example, does not know that metals don't melt suddenly? Or that changing the order of events alters their quality for no addition to the overall energy budget?
So, the above paragraph was a total waste of ink.
Much of the rest of this section of Conrad's article fails to address the scores of exceptions I have listed, or my lengthy dissection of the concepts he seems to have accepted uncritically --, or indeed, anything I have said in Essay Seven (or even much of what I said in the Weekly Worker article!).
But, what of this?
"According to its own epistemology, dialectical materialism does not claim to reveal any absolute or final truth about nature, history and thought (that being an absolute within the relative). Theory-making, including Marxism, that robustly stands up to the test of criticism and practice is in fact a never-ending process of being and becoming; a process that goes towards giving human beings a closer approximation, a more complete mental image, a stronger hold over objective reality."
However, Conrad himself treats this 'Law' as if it were a final truth, since he won't even consider the many cases where I have shown that it breaks down.
And as far as 'standing up to criticism' is concerned, that is a joke, too, for Conrad ignores 99.9% of such criticism, and special pleads his way through the 0.1% he superficially reviewed!
"Zeno's dialectical paradox of the flying arrow serves well in this context as a means of illustration. Half by half, then its half, ad infinitum, the path towards the target is constantly being covered. However, the target, the end point -- objective reality -- is never reached. Reality is infinitely complex, full of contradictions (and is therefore constantly changing). Hence, as an aside, big scientific discoveries are not doomed to peter out. They are bound to keep coming. Depend on that." [Link added.]
Unfortunately for comrade Conrad, I have taken this paradox apart, and have shown that motion isn't contradictory in any sense of that word.
Of course, that part of 'Dialectical Marxism' 'stands up' to 'criticism' by ignoring this, too!
How very scientific!
But, does my criticism ignore what scientists actually do? Conrad seems to think so:
"What about being unable to use a scientific law because of exceptions? Surely an unfounded assertion. Many scientific laws -- most perhaps -- implicitly, if not explicitly, are laws of tendency, frequency or probability. Put another way, either they account for or are not phased by exceptions.
"Tossing a coin under experimental conditions converges upon a 50-50 head-tail result…if done over a sufficiently long number of times. Yet it is quite possible to get two, three, four, five heads in a row. Does that invalidate the laws of statistical probability?
"Another example. Take the famous second law of thermodynamics: i.e., in an isolated system, a process can occur only if it increases the total entropy of the system. Nonetheless, call it what you will, there are exceptions, partialities or needed corrections. In isentropic processes no change does seem to take place without any overt increase or decrease in entropy. Should we conclude that the second law of thermodynamics has no truth-value and should therefore be rejected? Hardly."
Now, this all sounds quite reasonable until you realise that the scientific laws Conrad refers to have far clearer criteria of application, contain terminology that is well-defined, and enjoy extensive mathematical, theoretical and empirical support.
None of this is true of the 'Law' in question. For example, no matter how many times this is raised, or how many times 'fans of the dialectic' are asked, we are never told what the length of 'node' is, or what a 'quality' amounts to. Moreover, this 'Law' has no mathematical content or support. And, as noted above, the 'evidence' in its favour is equivocal (at best), anecdotal, non-technical, and secondary (or even tertiary), at worst. To cap it all, contrary evidence (of which there is much) is just ignored --, à la Conrad.
As I noted in Essay Seven:
In general, however, the examples usually given by DM-fans to illustrate this 'Law' are almost without exception either anecdotal or impressionistic. If someone were to submit a paper to a science journal purporting to establish the veracity of a new law with the same level of vagueness, imprecision, triteness, lack of detail and/or mathematics, compounded by such theoretical naivety, it would be rejected out-of-hand at the first stage. Indeed, dialecticians would themselves treat with derision any attempt to establish, say, either the truth of classical economic theory or the falsity of Marx's own work with an evidential display that was as crassly amateurish as this --, to say nothing of the contempt they would show for such theoretical wooliness. In circumstances like this, those who might otherwise be quick to cry "pedantry" at the issues raised here (and in other Essays published at this site) would become devoted pedants themselves, and nit-pick with the best at such inferior anti-Marxist work.
Now, anyone who has studied or practiced real science will know this to be true. It 's only in books and articles on DM (and internet discussion boards) that Mickey Mouse material of this sort seems acceptable.
I raised some of these issues in the paper to which this article of Conrad's purports to be a response. Conrad should therefore have used his time far more wisely telling us precisely how long a 'node' is supposed to last, and just what a 'quality' is. Alas, he failed to do so, as predicted
In connection with just the first point -- the length of a dialectical 'node' --, I noted this in Essay Seven, too:
The boiling water example is one of the most overworked clichés in the dialectical box of tricks. Hardly a single DM-fan fails to mention it, so mantra-like has dialectics become.
However, it is worth noting that as water is heated up, steam increasingly leaves the surface in a non-"nodal" fashion. So, even here we have a smooth transition from liquid to gas; indeed, if a pan of water is kept at 99oC for long enough, all of the water will disappear as steam. Hence, this example illustrates a well-known fact, many, if not most, processes in nature run smoothly, and are non-"nodal" -- even 'qualitative' ones.
At 100oC, events accelerate dramatically; but even then, they do so non-"nodally". A few tenths of a degree below the critical point, depending on the purity of the water, ambient conditions, and how it is being heated, bubbles begin to form in the liquid more rapidly. This accelerates increasingly quickly as that temperature is reached. What we see, therefore, is a non-"nodal" change of phase/state of matter, even here. The phase or state of matter change here is not sudden -- like the snapping of a rubber band, or of glass breaking. We do not first see no bubbles, and then a micro second later a frothing mass, which we would if this were "nodal". The rate of bubble creation increases smoothly, if more rapidly all the while.
Of course, some dialecticians might grudgingly concede the truth of the above observations -- that before water reaches 100oC water molecules leave the surface all the time --, but they could equally well maintain that this is still "nodal" all the same. They might point out, for instance, that when a water molecule changes from its liquid to its gaseous state certain chemical bonds are broken, and that happens suddenly and "nodally".
Once more, this depends on how a "nodal point" is defined.
As we saw earlier, since the time interval allowed for a dialectical "node" to be described as such is left hopelessly vague, dialecticians might feel they can challenge the above assertions. But, they may only do so if they are prepared to specify the length of a DM-"nodal" interval. Is there a DM-standards authority they/we can appeal to here? Genuine scientists use this system; that is why their results can be checked. Are there any standards at all in this branch of Mickey Mouse Science?
The answer is pretty clear: no, there are none.
In which case, dialecticians can use this aspect of the first 'Law' when it suits them (with no way of checking against some standard), and ignore cases they do not like, making their use of it entirely subjective.
On the other hand, if dialecticians took the trouble to re-define the word "node" just to accommodate these awkward non-dialectical facts (we noted earlier that in certain circumstances this is sometimes called a "persuasive definition"), it would become increasingly difficult to distinguish DM from stipulative conventionalism. As we will see in later Essays, there is in fact no problem with this (since scientists do this sort of thing all the time), but it does mean that dialecticians will have to abandon their claim that DM is 'objective', and admit their 'theory' is conventional.
So, DM-theorists could specify a minimum time interval during which a phase or state of matter transition must take place for it to be counted as "nodal". In the case of boiling water, say, they could decide that if the transition from water to steam (or vice versa) takes place in an interval lasting less than k seconds/minutes (for some k), and for a specified rate of energy transfer, then it is indeed "nodal". Thus, by dint of such a stipulation, their 'Law' could be made to work (at least in this respect). But, there is nothing in nature that forces any of this on us -- the reverse is, if anything, the case. Phase/state of matter changes, and changes in general all take different amounts of time; indeed, under differing circumstances even these alter. If so, as noted above, this 'Law' would become 'valid' only because of yet another stipulation and/or foisting, which would make it eminently 'subjective', once more.
However, given the strife-ridden and sectarian nature of dialectical politics, any attempt to define DM-"nodes" would surely lead to yet more factions. Thus, we are certain to see emerge the rightist "Nanosecond Tendency" -- sworn enemies of the "Picosecond Left Opposition" -- who will both take up swords with the 'eclectic' wing: the "it depends on the circumstances" 'clique' at the 'centrist' "Femtosecond League".
However, if such phase/state-of-matter changes are defined thermodynamically, then many are undeniably abrupt. But, even this is not as clear-cut as it might seem:
"The first-order phase transitions are those that involve a latent heat. During such a transition, a system either absorbs or releases a fixed (and typically large) amount of energy. Because energy cannot be instantaneously transferred between the system and its environment, first-order transitions are associated with 'mixed-phase regimes' in which some parts of the system have completed the transition and others have not. This phenomenon is familiar to anyone who has boiled a pot of water: the water does not instantly turn into gas, but forms a turbulent mixture of water and water vapour bubbles. Mixed-phase systems are difficult to study, because their dynamics are violent and hard to control. However, many important phase transitions fall in this category, including the solid/liquid/gas transitions and Bose-Einstein condensation.
"The second class of phase transitions are the 'continuous phase transitions', also called second-order phase transitions. These have no associated latent heat. Examples of second-order phase transitions are the ferromagnetic transition and the superfluid transition.
"Several transitions are known as the infinite-order phase transitions. They are continuous but break no symmetries.... The most famous example is the Kosterlitz-Thouless transition in the two-dimensional XY model. Many quantum phase transitions in two-dimensional electron gases belong to this class." [Wikipedia. Bold emphasis added.]
Which is, of course, just another way of making the same point that was advanced earlier: not all changes are unambiguously "nodal" (even if we knew how long one of these is supposed to be).
Now, with respect to the length of "nodal" points, Kuusinen had this to say (Kuusinen does not use the word "node", but it is plain that his "leaps" are "nodes"):
"The transition of a thing, through the accumulation of quantitative modifications, from one qualitative state to a different, new state, is a leap in development. This leap is a break in the gradualness of the quantitative change of a thing. It is the transition to a new quality and signalises (sic) a sharp turn, a radical change in development." [Kuusinen (1961), p.88. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphasis added.]
This seems pretty clear: all "leaps" are "sharp" turns, "radical" breaks in qualitative change. How then does he handle the slow changes mentioned earlier?
"Leaps, transitions from one quality to another are relatively rapid.... The leaps are rapid in comparison with the preceding periods of gradual accumulation of quantitative modifications. This rapidity varies, depending upon the nature of the object and the conditions in which the leap occurs.
"Some substances pass at once from the solid to the liquid state on reaching a certain critical temperature.... Other substances -- plastics, resins, glass -- do not have an exact melting point. On heating, the first soften and then pass into the liquid state. We might say that in their case the qualitative change, i.e., the leap, occurs gradually. But it is still relatively rapid." [Ibid., p.88. Italic emphasis in the original.]
This is all very confusing; "leaps" are rapid except where they aren't!
Now, that is about as scientifically useful as defining acids (a là Brønsted-Lowry) as "substances which donate a hydrogen ion, except where they don't". Would a genuine scientist be allowed to get away with a cop-out like this? Would anyone take a Physicist seriously who said that a half-life is the time taken for a radioactive compound to decay to half its original mass, except where it isn't?
Apparently, in this branch of Mickey Mouse Science, all this is fine.
However, this sits rather awkwardly with Engels own take on the matter:
"We have already seen earlier, when discussing world schematism, that in connection with this Hegelian nodal line of measure relations — in which quantitative change suddenly passes at certain points into qualitative transformation -- Herr Dühring had a little accident: in a weak moment he himself recognised and made use of this line. We gave there one of the best-known examples -- that of the change of the aggregate states of water, which under normal atmospheric pressure changes at 0oC from the liquid into the solid state, and at 100oC from the liquid into the gaseous state, so that at both these turning-points the merely quantitative change of temperature brings about a qualitative change in the condition of the water. [Engels (1976), p.160.]
Engels seems to know nothing of Kuusinen's protracted "nodes".
Now, Kuusinen tries to get round this with the usual "relatively-speaking" get-out clause tacked on at the end. But the transition from liquid water to steam (at 100oC) is arguably rapid, no matter how quickly or slowly the water is heated in the build-up to it.
But, what about qualitative changes that are very slow in cases where the build-up is rapid? Consider the larval stage of moths. The larva/grub will build a cocoon rapidly, but the radical qualitative changes that take place inside that cocoon (as it develops from larva to adult moth in its pupal stage) are painfully slow, ranging from a few weeks to many months. To be sure, when the moth breaks out, that change is rapid; but the unseen qualitative changes that have already happened before this event takes place are slow. By no stretch of the imagination is this unseen development, these radical qualitative changes, a "leap".
And the same comments apply to the development of reptiles, birds, fish and other animals that grow inside egg sacks, or wombs. For example, a human baby takes nine months to "leap" from fertilised egg to fully-developed foetus before it is born --; as is well-known, fertilisation and parturition are pretty rapid in comparison.
All this, of course, is independent of the earlier comments made about the subjective implications of this "relatively-speaking" get-out clause, and the vagueness allowed to remain in the word "node".
In short, Kuusinen's amateurish attempt to spell-out the length of such "nodes"/"leaps" is no more impressive than the other things such Mickey Mouse Scientists try to sell us.
[I only quote the above so readers can see for themselves with what care I have approached this subject, and how Conrad's slap-dash response does Marxism no favours. The above is just a snippet from an Essay which runs to 75,000 words (as of 2007 -- now over 158,000 as of 2015) -- all of which Conrad simply ignored!]
Similar comments could be made about 'quality' (and were made in Essay Seven, and were all ignored by this leading 'fan of the dialectic'). Conrad, again:
"Ditto with the exceptions to other scientific laws. Darwin’s theory of natural selection is explicitly premised on gradualism and the absence of sudden catastrophes. Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge (sic) have convincingly shown that this is far from the case. There are sudden leaps (speciation) and mass extinctions (e.g., the end of the dinosaurs). Yet, as Gould himself is at pains to emphasise, that does not mean Darwinism as a paradigm ought to be rejected."
But, these 'leaps' last tens of thousands of years!
[The use to which Gould's theory has been put in dialectical circles is criticised at length, here -- Conrad just ignored this, too.]
Indeed, that is why I argued the following in the original article published in Weekly Worker:
Moreover, this Law is so vaguely worded that dialecticians can use it in whatever way they please. If this is difficult to believe, ask the very next dialectician you meet precisely how long a "nodal point" is supposed to last. As seems clear, if no one knows, anything from a Geological Age to an instantaneous quantum leap could be "nodal"!
And, it really isn't good enough for dialectically-inclined readers to dismiss this as mere pedantry. Can you imagine a genuine scientist refusing to say how long a crucially important interval in her theory is supposed to be, and accusing you of "pedantry" for even asking?
As seems clear, I might just as well have been talking to the cat...
What now of Conrad's conclusion?
"Crucially, however, no scientific theory, including the most general, should be conceived as being absolute. The truth discovered or revealed by theory is always relative. Comrade Lichtenstein's whole point of rejecting dialectics in this respect 'has now vanished'." [Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]
Far from it, this superficial, irrelevant and inaccurate response merely raises the question once again: Why can't DM-fans defend their 'theory'?
Finally, comrade Conrad's opening comment can now be seen for what it is:
"Repeated claims that she shoots down dialectical materialism in flames are sadly laughable. Yet precisely because the standard tropes of bourgeois academia are faithfully, unmistakably, echoed, that gives her labours a certain use-value."
I.e., as yet more dialectical bluster.
[By the way, I'm not an academic, but a worker and until recently a Trade Union rep (unpaid).]
Incidentally, Conrad's comments about my links with the SWP are accurate, but he neglected to say that the vast majority of SWP members agree with him about the 'dialectic', and disagree with me. It is thus important to add that my ideas are my own, and in no way reflect the views of the SWP.
[I must add, however, that after the SWP's disastrous handling of the rape allegations made against a leading member of that party, I no longer associate myself with the SWP.]
Moreover, the comment in Wikipedia was neither written nor posted by me. Someone keeps trying to delete it, though. The whole issue has now gone into arbitration.
[It has now been settled.]
Engels, F. (1976), Anti-Dühring (Foreign Languages Press).
Kuusinen, O. (1961) (ed.), Fundamentals Of Marxism-Leninism (Lawrence & Wishart).
Word count: 5580
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