Debate With 'Marxist-Leninist-Theory' -- 001

 

Preface

 

If you are using Internet Explorer 10 (or later), you might find some of the links I have used won't work properly unless you switch to 'Compatibility View' (in the Tools Menu); for IE11 select 'Compatibility View Settings' and then add this site (anti-dialectics.co.uk). I have as yet no idea how Microsoft's new browser, Edge, will handle these links.

 

Quick Links

 

Anyone using these links must remember that they will be skipping past supporting argument and evidence set out in earlier sections.

 

If your Firewall/Browser has a pop-up blocker, you will need to press the "Ctrl" key at the same time or these and the other links here won't work!

 

I have adjusted the font size used at this site to ensure that even those with impaired vision can read what I have to say. However, if the text is still either too big or too small for you, please adjust your browser settings!

 

(1) Background

 

(2) My Response

 

(a) Internal Vs External Contradictions

 

(b) Hegel's Response To Hume

 

(c) Lenin Endorses Hegel's Theory

 

(d) Dialectical Equivocation

 

(i)  Spatially-, Or Logically-Internal?

 

(ii) Change To Objects -- Or Systems?

 

(e) Internalism

 

(f) Atomism Returns To Haunt DM

 

(g) President Nixon Saves The Day

 

(h) Another Attempt To Resolve This Dialectical Dilemma

 

(i) Retreat Into A Concrete Bunker?

 

(j) Total Confidence?

 

(i) Yet More Word-Juggling

 

(ii) Contradictions And Change

 

(k) Decision Time

 

(i) The Choices Before Us

 

(ii) Is There A Dialectical Way Out Of This Hermetic Hole?

 

(3) Notes

 

(4) Appendix A

 

(5) Bibliography

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

Background

 

In 2015, I posted the following comment on a YouTube page which was devoted to introducing prospective viewers to a highly simplified version of DM:

 

Alas for this video, I have demolished this dogmatic theory (from a Marxist angle) at my site:

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

Main objections outlined here:

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Why%20I%20Oppose%20DM.htm

 

I have posted many similar comments on other pages at YouTube that are devoted to this theory and received little or no response. But, the producer of this film (whose on-screen name used to be Marxist-Leninist-Theory [MLT], but which has now changed to The Finnish Bolshevik -- henceforth, TFB) did respond (and to which I replied, here and here).

 

Not long afterwards, another video appeared on YouTube -- which was also produced by TFB, but posted to his other YouTube page -- entitled: "Refuting a Trotskyite Attack on Dialectics". I have replied to this largely incoherent video, here, here, and here.

 

Here is the original exchange, beginning with MLT's first response (I have corrected a few minor typos, altered the spelling to UK English, and have re-formatted this material to conform with the conventions adopted at this site):

 

I didn't really find any of your "criticisms" convincing.

You said because Engels said Mathematics is dialectical and uses variables formal logic which also uses variables can adequately explain change. Not sound logic.

You claim Lenin rejects external forces in the world but provide no proof for this other then the fact that he wrote about self-motion (which you distort) in his notebooks one time and which he never even published. Pretty sketchy to say the least. To rescue your argument you claim that external forces were invented by Stalinists which is probably the most laughable nonsense I've heard in a long time. Self-motion/self-development/self-organization w/e doesn't even contradict the existence of external forces.

You claim there's no nodal points because metal softens. You're going against science if you think metal warming or softening is melting.

You deny that in order for things to change matter or energy needs to be removed or added. There's literally not a single instance in which something would change without that being the case. Oh wait, you come up with the brilliant example of ENERGY itself. Wow. Especially after Engels specifically said he was speaking about physical bodies i.e. material objects with diameter and mass. Not energy. Of course you don't show the part of the quote where he talks about energy. Its pretty weird to use the thing that is being removed or added as the thing its removed from anyway.

Your argument about contradiction is absolutely horrible. You say A is the opposite of B and then can't turn into B if B already exists and if it doesn't then it can't struggle with it. This is idiocy. Have you ever heard of the negation of the negation or even the cliché phrase "thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis" that every philosophy student hears?

A forms a unity with B. Let's call it C. They struggle and bring forth something new. Let's call it D which has in it a new set of A or B, or X and Y or what ever you want to call them.

 

~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~

 

I replied as follows:

 

"You said because Engels said Mathematics is dialectical and uses variables formal logic which also uses variables can adequately explain change. Not sound logic."
 

You are quoting an introductory essay of mine (there was a warning at the top of that essay that it was intended for novices, not experts!); my arguments are worked out in much more detail (in relation to dialectics and logic) here:

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2004.htm

But, independently of that, you failed to say why my logic is 'unsound'.


"You claim Lenin rejects external forces in the world but provide no proof for this other then the fact that he wrote about self-motion (which you distort) in his notebooks one time and which he never even published."


In fact, I think I said that the concept "external contradiction" can't be found in Lenin's work (or Marx's -- or Engels's). So, you are welcome to quote any passage of Lenin's where he refers to these 'external forces'/'contradictions'. Until you do, my conclusions still stand.


"Pretty sketchy to say the least."


Without anything from Lenin's writings to back you up, I reckon the phrase 'pretty sketchy' more accurately applies to what you have to say. [In fact, I spell out the background theory (found in Hegel's and Lenin's work (in their answer to Hume's criticisms of the rationalist theory of causation)) here:

http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007_03.htm#Hegels_Response_To_Hume

And here:

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2008_01.htm

Where you will find the argument isn't the least bit 'sketchy'.


"To rescue your argument you claim that external forces were invented by Stalinists which is probably the most laughable nonsense I've heard in a long time. Self-motion/self-development/self-organization w/e doesn't even contradict the existence of external forces."


Again, until you can quote (or reference) something/anything written by a non-Stalinist (or a pre-Stalinist, or some other leading Marxist dialectician) who wrote before, say, 1924, that refutes my claim that this idea was invented by the Stalinists (that is, whose writings explicitly use the concept 'external contradiction'/'force'), this point of mine still stands.

Anyway, I nowhere asserted that "self-motion/self-development/self-organization w/e doesn't even contradict the existence of external forces." That isn't my point at all. Can I suggest you re-read my argument, set out much more comprehensibly in the Essay you will find if you follow the above link.


"You claim there's no nodal points because metal softens. You're going against science if you think metal warming or softening is melting."


The point was that metals turn from solid to liquid slowly with no nodal point anywhere in sight. [Same with many plastics, and with glass, butter, toffee, and resin.] Or do you think that metals melt like ice does?


"You deny that in order for things to change matter or energy needs to be removed or added. There's literally not a single instance in which something would change without that being the case. Oh wait, you come up with the brilliant example of ENERGY itself. Wow."


1) I nowhere deny this, I just claim that Engels's 'laws' are so vague and confused it is difficult to make any sense of them.

2) I give scores of examples that contradict Engels (that is, where any sense can be made of what he says), for example, here:

http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007.htm#QuantityIntoQuality

3) I'm not sure where you got this idea from:


"Oh wait, you come up with the brilliant example of ENERGY itself."


I nowhere assert this, and I challenge you to show otherwise.


"Especially after Engels specifically said he was speaking about physical bodies i.e. material objects with diameter and mass. Not energy."


Even if this were relevant to my demolition of this theory, which it isn't, you seem to have forgotten that Lenin argued that matter is anything that exists 'objectively outside the mind'. So, energy must be matter, too, if Lenin is to be believed. Or, do you suppose energy exists only in the mind?


"Of course you don't show the part of the quote where he talks about energy. Its pretty weird to use the thing that is being removed or added as the thing its removed from anyway."


Oh yes I do quote this part of Engels's words. And many times. Check out the link above if you don't believe me. [I also quoted it in the introductory essay you seem not to have read too carefully.] 


"Your argument about contradiction is absolutely horrible. You say A is the opposite of B and then can't turn into B if B already exists and if it doesn't then it can't struggle with it. This is idiocy. Have you ever heard of the negation of the negation or even the cliché phrase "thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis" that every philosophy student hears?"


1) In fact, I don't say this; what I am in fact doing is using the words of theorists like Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin and Mao (and many others, too -- you can find scores of quotations from the dialectical-classics and works of 'lesser' dialecticians if you follow the link at the end), who argue that (a) everything in the entire universe changes because of a 'struggle of opposites', and that (b) they inevitably turn into those opposites. But, this can't happen since those opposites already exist. If they didn't already exist, then there would be  nothing for anything to struggle with, and hence change. So, if this theory of yours were true, change would be impossible.

2) Not only have I heard of the 'negation of the negation' [NON], I spend about 40,000 words in one essay (Essay Seven Part One, link above) demolishing this aspect of your theory.

3) But, let us suppose I have failed to demolish the NON; does your point actually affect my argument? No, and here is why (this has been taken from Essay Seven Part Three, which is entirely devoted to this point, link at the end):


"Again, it could be objected that the dialectical negation of O(1), which produces not-O(1), isn't ordinary negation, as the above seems to assume. The above argument ignores the NON. But, the Dialectical Classics tell us that every object and process in the entire universe not only changes because of a 'struggle of opposites', it also changes into those opposites. But this can't happen.

"To see this, let us now suppose that O(1) turns into its sublated opposite, not-O(1s). But, if that is to happen, according to the Dialectical Classics, not-O(1s) must already exist if O(1) is to struggle with it and then change into it! Once again, if that is so, O(1) can't turn into not-O(1s), for it already exists! Alternatively, if not-O(1s) didn't already exist, O(1) couldn't change since O(1) can only change if it "struggles" with what it changes into, i.e., not-O(1s)!

"We hit the same non-dialectical brick wall, once more."


So, you perhaps need to familiarise yourself with my work before you pass comment on it, just as I have more than familiarised myself with your theory. [I did provide links in the introductory essay to assist those new to my work, like yourself!]

But, you have an answer:


"A forms a unity with B. Let's call it C. They struggle and bring forth something new. Let's call it D which has in it a new set of A or B, or X and Y or what ever you want to call them."


But, the dialectical classics don't argue this. [Check out the quotes I have given, reproduced at the link below, if you still doubt this.] They tell us that everything (1) struggles with its opposite, and then (2) turns into that opposite. So, nothing new can arise out of this process (and for the above reasons).

So, A won't in fact change into D (if those classics are to be believed), but into its opposite, not-A, with which it has to struggle if it is to change. But, it can't change into not-A since not-A already exists! If it didn't, A couldn't struggle with it, and hence change.

And this applies whether or not not-A is the sublated form of A as it changes (see point (3) above).

So, my demolition of 'the dialectical theory of change' is entirely general.

This argument is set out in extensive detail here -- along with (a) scores of the sort of quotes I mentioned above and (b) detailed answers to several objections to my argument, a bit like yours, in fact:

http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007_03.htm

By the way, "thesis/anti-thesis/synthesis" is in fact Kant and Fichte's method, not Hegel's. Both Plekhanov and Lenin criticised its banality; Engels never mentions it, and it is arguable that where Marx refers to it (in his very early work), he was being sarcastic/ironic. More details here:

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Thesis_Anti-Thesis_Synthesis.htm

 

~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~ 

 

To which MLT replied:

 

"Again, until you can quote (or reference) something/anything written by a non-Stalinist (or a pre-Stalinist, or some other leading Marxist dialectician) who wrote before, say, 1924, that refutes my claim that this idea was invented by the Stalinists (that is, whose writings explicitly use the concept 'external contradiction'/'force'), this point of mine still stands."

1) I don't see why the exact word has to be used.

2) You're shifting the burden of proof. You're saying that if I can't disprove your wild speculation then it has to be true. On the contrary the biggest problem with your argument is that its not based on sufficient evidence and even goes against what dialectics is about.


"do you think that metals melt like ice does?"


Metal is not ice. You wouldn't expect it to behave like ice. Does metal float?


"'Oh wait, you come up with the brilliant example of ENERGY itself."

'I nowhere assert this, and I challenge you to show otherwise.'"


Here:


"Engels argues that the same amount of energy can be transformed and appear in a different form, with a whole new set of qualities. So, here we have qualitative change with no addition of matter or energy!"

 

RL:


"Even if this were relevant to my demolition of this theory, which it isn't, you seem to have forgotten that Lenin argued that matter is anything that exists 'objectively outside the mind'. So, energy must be matter, too, if Lenin is to be believed. Or, do you suppose energy exists only in the mind?"


I think its pretty relevant because the only example of things changing without adding or removing of energy that you came up with (in 30 years as you said) was energy. Engels said "physical bodies", he didn't even say matter. He is also of the opinion that energy is matter in motion. Stop with the constant twisting of words. Besides what does it have to do with this what Lenin says? That doesn't make any logical sense.


"A won't in fact change into D...."


That's not what I said. I said the unity of A and B would change.

Here's Mao, On Contradiction:


"What is meant by the emergence of a new process? The old unity with its constituent opposites yields to a new unity with its constituent opposites, whereupon a new process emerges to replace the old. The old process ends and the new one begins. The new process contains new contradictions and begins its own history of the development of contradictions."


This is what I'm talking about.


"The contradictory aspects in every process exclude each other, struggle with each other and are in opposition to each other. Without exception, they are contained in the process of development of all things and in all human thought. A simple process contains only a single pair of opposites, while a complex process contains more. And in turn, the pairs of opposites are in contradiction to one another.)"

"by means of revolution the proletariat, at one time the ruled, is transformed into the ruler, while the bourgeoisie, the erstwhile ruler, is transformed into the ruled."


Nowhere it doesn't say the proletariat (A) is transformed into the bourgeoisie (B). This kind of change can only take place in the larger process of revolution. The positions of the ruling and ruled classes are reversed and emerge as one of the new contradictions.

It is saying through revolution (Unity of A and B = C) something new (e.g. D) emerges.

 

~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~

 

To which I responded:

 

"1) I don't see why the exact word has to be used."


Something close will do -- from Marx, Engels, Plekhanov or Lenin (or, indeed, any other pre-Stalinist dialectician).


"2) You're shifting the burden of proof. You're saying that if I can't disprove your wild speculation then it has to be true. On the contrary the biggest problem with your argument is that its not based on sufficient evidence and even goes against what dialectics is about."


1) Well you are the one who questioned my assertion that this phrase 'external contradiction'/'force' (or something close) was invented by the Stalinists; I'd be more than happy to withdraw it and apologise if you can find just one quotation (of the sort mentioned above) that refutes my allegation. You see, I have been studying this theory of yours since the late 1970s, and have read literally hundreds of books and articles devoted to it, and I have yet to find anyone before the mid-to-late 1920s who uses this term (or anything like it). Perhaps you know differently? If so, I'd appreciate it if you'd put me straight on this. I do not want to advance false allegations about fellow Marxists.

So, if you know your theory as well as you seem to think (but see below), you will need to find these missing passages for your own intellectual/theoretical development, never mind my allegations. I still maintain, however, that what I have to say is true. The questions is, are you in a position to show where I am mistaken? [Of course, I'm not the only one who has noticed this.]

2) However, as I point out in Essay Seven Part Three (so you can't have followed up on the link I posted in my last reply to you, and therefore you clearly do not know the background theory that Lenin, for example, drew on (from Hegel), which actually makes 'external contradictions' impossible, so no wonder Hegel, Engels, Plekhanov and Lenin knew nothing of them); I can't re-post that material here, so I can only refer you to it again:

http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007_03.htm#Hegels_Response_To_Hume

 
http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007_03.htm#Lenin_Endorses_Hegels_Theory

But, what of this?


"On the contrary the biggest problem with your argument is that its not based on sufficient evidence and even goes against what dialectics is about." 


Well, if I may be permitted to say this, you are the one who seems not to know what the Dialectical Classics have to say about 'change'. Again, I quote them extensively at my site (and once more you can't have followed up on the links I posted, otherwise you'd have seen that what I have to say about this theory is based on scores of quotations taken from the classics and the works of 'lesser' dialecticians). Just to take one more example, I quote literally hundreds of dialecticians (no exaggeration!), in this Essay:

http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2002.htm

So, it is rather ironic now that your claim that my argument isn't based on 'sufficient evidence' is in fact itself based on little or no evidence taken from my Essays!


"Metal is not ice. You wouldn't expect it to behave like ice. Does metal float?" 


I think you missed the point, here. I am sure you know that ice doesn't gradually turn softer and softer and then slowly become liquid water when it is heated. But, most metals do in fact do this when heated. So, in their case, there is no 'nodal' point, no 'leap'. Metals change from solid to liquid slowly, not nodally. Same with butter, toffee, glass, resin and most plastics. In which case, Engels's 'law' is no law.

Moreover, as a liquid or as a solid, iron, for example, is still iron. So, even when it is heated, and it turns into a liquid, no new quality has emerged; as a solid or as a liquid iron is still iron. As a liquid, or a solid, water is still H2O; nothing 'new' has emerged.

This 'law' is thus doubly defective.

And thank you for that correction about energy. That essay was originally written in 2002, and I had forgotten I had made that point.

Anyway, the point I made still stands, since, according to Lenin, energy exists 'objectively outside the mind', hence energy is, for Lenin, matter; that being the case, this still remains an effective refutation of Engels:


"Attentive readers will no doubt notice that Engels argues that the same amount of energy can be transformed and appear in a different form, with a whole new set of qualities. So, here we have qualitative change with no addition of matter or energy! In all my years studying DM (over thirty and counting...), I have yet to encounter a single author (DM-supporter or critic) -- and I have waded through far more of this material than is good for any human being to have to endure -- who has spotted this fatal admission in this classical DM-text." [This has been taken from Essay Seven Part One.] 


However, the above is a relatively minor point in that Essay; elsewhere in the same Essay, I give dozens of counter-examples which also refute what Engels had to say. I can only think you skim-read it, since you seem to have missed them all! Which explains why you said this in your last but one reply:


"You deny that in order for things to change matter or energy needs to be removed or added. There's literally not a single instance in which something would change without that being the case. Oh wait, you come up with the brilliant example of ENERGY itself. Wow. Especially after Engels specifically said he was speaking about physical bodies i.e. material objects with diameter and mass. Not energy. Of course you don't show the part of the quote where he talks about energy. Its pretty weird to use the thing that is being removed or added as the thing its removed from anyway."


As we can now see, this is a gross distortion of what I have to say in Essay Seven Part One. Check it out, you will see I am right (link further down the page, right after point (2)).

However, you add this comment:


"I think its pretty relevant because the only example of things changing without adding or removing of energy that you came up with (in 30 years as you said) was energy. Engels said "physical bodies", he didn't even say matter. He is also of the opinion that energy is matter in motion. Stop with the constant twisting of words. Besides what does it have to do with this what Lenin says? That doesn't make any logical sense."


(1) In fact, Engels said this:


"The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy).
 
"All qualitative differences in nature rest on differences of chemical composition or on different quantities or forms of motion (energy) or, as is almost always the case, on both. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned. In this form, therefore, Hegel's mysterious principle appears not only quite rational but even rather obvious." [Dialectics of Nature. Bold added.]


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1883/don/ch02.htm

So, as I noted earlier, it is you who seems not to know your own theory!

(2) In fact I give dozens of examples of things that change (in 'quality') where no matter or energy has been added. I can't post this material here (there is far too much!), but you will find it all itemised (in detail), here:

http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007.htm#QuantityIntoQuality

Since, (a) you have already quoted from this Essay, I can only think you must have skipped past these examples, or (b) I posted this link in my last reply, perhaps you disagree with them as counter-examples. If so, perhaps you would be kind enough to tell me where I go wrong.


"That's not what I said. I said the unity of A and B would change."


Ok, I am sorry if I misrepresented you (Notice, I apologise when I'm mistaken; perhaps you can learn from this).

Thanks for the quotation from Mao; I was aware of it, however.

In that case, let us call the above unity, 'C'. Now, according to the dialectical classics (and Mao too!), every object and process in the entire universe can only change by (1) struggling with its opposite, and then (2) by changing into that opposite. Hence, if C is to change it is must have an opposite with which it can struggle. Let us call that opposite 'C(1)'. So, C changes because it struggles with C(1), and it then changes into C(1). But, once again, we see that this can't happen since C(1) already exists! If it didn't already exist, there would be nothing with which C could struggle, and hence change.

Once again, this theory slams into the same non-dialectical brick wall.

So, your attempt to revise the classics in fact fails. My demolition is, as I said in my last post, completely general: it can cope with, and demolish, every conceivable attempt to repair the classic theory. Which means, of course, that if dialectical materialism were true, change would be impossible.

You quote Mao to this effect:


"by means of revolution the proletariat, at one time the ruled, is transformed into the ruler, while the bourgeoisie, the erstwhile ruler, is transformed into the ruled".


Ah, but the ruling class under capitalism isn't just any old ruling class, it is the bourgeoisie. That is the class with which workers and others have to struggle. So, if Mao is to be believed, the proletariat must change into the bourgeoisie, and they must change into the proletariat!

Indeed, if we press this further by asking this question: under Feudalism, did the peasants (the workers under that Mode of Production) become the Aristocracy (the class with whom they struggled), and the Aristocracy become peasants? If they did, I think historians must have missed it.

Hence, this theory can't be made to work whatever running repairs are inflicted upon it.

But, you have an answer:


"Now here it doesn't say the proletariat (A) is transformed into the bourgeoisie (B). This kind of change can only take place in the larger process of revolution. The positions of the ruling and ruled classes are reversed and emerge as one of the new contradictions."


I agree that this can only take place under revolutionary conditions, but that doesn't affect the counter-argument presented above. If, according to the classics, everything in the entire universe changes because it struggles with its opposite, and it changes into that opposite (that is, everything changes into that with which it struggles), then, if the classics are right -- if Mao is right -- the proletariat must change into the bourgeoisie, and they must change into the proletariat!


"It is saying through revolution (Unity of A and B = C) something new (e.g. D) emerges..."


But, as we have seen, nothing new can emerge. What the classics have to say actually prevents this from happening.

In fact, nothing at all could change if this theory were true.

 

~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~

 

To which MLT responded as follows:

 

"Something close will do -- from Marx, Engels, Plekhanov or Lenin (or, indeed, any other pre-Stalinist dialectician)."


I mean everyone used external forces. When Engels said that when a grain of barley is exposed to heat and moisture it changes he was clearly talking about external forces. 

"Dialectics as the science of universal inter-connection" as Engels put it. It would be tough to argue that means there are no external forces.

Perhaps the term "external force" was introduced later but it doesn't make sense to me to assume Lenin or anyone rejected that idea. There's no evidence for it.


"it is rather ironic now that your claim that my argument isn't based on 'sufficient evidence' is in fact itself based on little or no evidence taken from my Essays!"


Lenin only spoke of self-motion once or twice. Speculation based on those couple of paragraphs is your supposed evidence. There's no quote where Marx, Engels or Lenin deny existence of external forces, in fact they use them all the time. You're saying that because they don't specifically say "yes, external forces exist" they must deny them. I think part of the problem here is that the Hegelian term "self-motion" is pretty vague and easy to misunderstand. It doesn't mean that things move infinitely by themselves but that they have some purpose/goal they're moving towards. In a way he is talking about them as subjects with intent but you shouldn't take it completely literally. Objects have internal contradictions and potentials which determine their development (self-motion) towards that higher stage of development. That is my understanding of it.


"I think you missed the point, here. I am sure you know that ice doesn't gradually turn softer and softer and then slowly become liquid water when it is heated. But, most metals do in fact do this when heated. So, in their case, there is no 'nodal' point, no 'leap'. Metals change from solid to liquid slowly, not nodally. Same with butter, toffee, glass, resin and most plastics. In which case, Engels's 'law' is no law."


Melting is the process where the molecular ordering of a substance breaks down. With water it happens seemingly instantly. With most things it happens over a temperature range which is known as the "melting point range" i.e. the point between when the first crystal begins to liquefy (or when the first drop of liquid appears) and the point when all of them are liquid because most things are alloys or mixtures of some kind. 

Pure iron (Fe) has a fixed melting point of 1535°C, chromium (Cr) 1890°C and nickel (Ni) 1453°C compared to a range of 1400-1450 °C for type 304 stainless steel.


@topics.php?article=103Even


With alloys this process doesn't begin until it reaches its melting point though. There's different kinds of softening but none of them are melting.


"Moreover, as a liquid or as a solid, iron, for example, is still iron. So, even when it is heated, and it turns into a liquid, no new quality has emerged; as a solid or as a liquid iron is still iron. As a liquid, or a solid, water is still H2O; nothing 'new' has emerged."


I think you're grasping at straws here.

1) Solids have very different qualities then liquids and gasses.

2) I assume you're expecting something like alchemy where lead turns into a completely different metal? Really even though that is not the case the atoms or other particles are arranged in different orders. There's even different forms within ice itself where particles are arranged in rings or oxygen atoms are arranged in a diamond shape.


"So, as I noted earlier, it is you who seems not to know your own theory!"


I am familiar with those Engels quotes but I don't see what they prove or why you think they support your argument...I pointed out that Engels didn't speak about Energy itself changing it's quality but about physical bodies changing.

Your response is to present once again the Engels quote where he says its impossible to alter the quantity or quality of a body without adding or removing energy. What is your point? I don't even understand what you're arguing at this point.

He says physical bodies wont change their qualities without qualitative change with the obvious exception of energy itself which is not even a physical object. If you want to use your own essays as proof of something then please quote them because the site is so hard to navigate I might not find the parts you're referring to. Besides as is evident you obviously interpret these quotes somehow to mean something else then what I interpret them to mean. For the sake of clarity you should just quote the exact words so we both know what you mean.

Then you say this:


"according to Lenin, energy exists 'objectively outside the mind', hence energy is, for Lenin, matter...."


Again, I don't see how something Lenin says or believes implies what Engels believes. I don't see the connection here and I don't get your point. We should both be completely aware that Matter and Energy are equivalent. Energy is matter in motion, literally energy has been turned into matter and vice versa. How does that argue against anything Lenin, Engels or I said?


"I give dozens of examples of things that change (in 'quality') where no matter or energy has been added...."


Give me one or two of your favourite examples then please just so I know exactly what you mean.


"Ok, I am sorry if I misrepresented you (Notice, I apologise when I'm mistaken; perhaps you can learn from this)."


I appreciate that.


"In that case, let us call the above unity, 'C'. Now, according to the dialectical classics (and Mao too!), every object and process in the entire universe can only change by (1) struggling with its opposite, and then (2) by changing into that opposite. Hence, if C is to change it is must have an opposite with which it can struggle. Let us call that opposite 'C(1)'. So, C changes because it struggles with C(1), and it then changes into C(1). But, once again, we see that this can't happen since C(1) already exists! If it didn't already exist, there would be nothing with which C could struggle, and hence change."


Not only is that also a distortion of what I said but its also in contradiction with what your own website says.


"DM-theorists are decidedly unclear whether objects and processes in nature and society change because of (1) A 'contradictory' relationship or 'struggle' between their 'internal opposites'...."


You yourself acknowledge that its a process with internal contradictions. The unity is not the opposite of its part.

First you said that according to dialectics A which forms a unity with B struggles with B and turns into B. 

I pointed out its really their unity C which changes. Now you're saying its the unity itself which struggles with another unity instead of it's internal contradictions struggling with one another. If C was struggling with some other unity of opposites (another pair of contradictions as Mao said) then it would form a unity with it and that unity would then change.

C with it's opposite D forming a unity E which would turn into F. Workers struggle with capitalists to change the society. In the new society these class forces emerge in new forms but most of all it is the society (their unity) which changes. Workers don't simply struggle with capitalists and then change themselves without the unity changing, quite the opposite.

 

"You quote Mao to this effect:


'by means of revolution the proletariat, at one time the ruled, is transformed into the ruler, while the bourgeoisie, the erstwhile ruler, is transformed into the ruled.'"


I specifically posted that quote because its quotes like that which you seem to have a hard time understanding.

These classes form a unity and struggle with each other. The contradiction is resolved in a revolution which gives rise to a new society, new unity of different opposites. This time with the workers as the ruling class.


The workers in this new unity cannot be capitalists. If they were there would be no development. It wouldn't be a social revolution at all. Things have certain contradictions, potentials and properties and they develop a certain way in processes. The real contradiction in capitalism is between the class that owns everything and the class that owns nothing. Other specific details of this conflict are secondary. If the workers wear jeans and capitalists wear top hats that doesn't mean they'll switch their clothes during the revolution because its not what's relevant to the struggle.

 

My Response -- Part One

 

I have decided to post my next response to MLT at this site, and I have done so for several reasons: (a) Our replies seem to be growing ever longer, and the comments section at YouTube is ill-suited to long posts; (b) Publishing it here will allow me to include material from my Essays that I couldn't post on YouTube (along with all the links I have inserted and the references I have added to my work); (c) Editing and formatting posts over at YouTube isn't at all easy.

 

In order to make this reply more manageable, I have divided it into two parts. The second part will follow in the next few days, and will be much shorter! Much of this material has been adapted from Essay Eight Part One.

 

Internal Vs External Contradictions

MLT:

 

I mean everyone used external forces. When Engels said that when a grain of barley is exposed to heat and moisture it changes he was clearly talking about external forces. "Dialectics as the science of universal inter-connection" as Engels put it. It would be tough to argue that means there are no external forces. Perhaps the term "external force" was introduced later but it doesn't make sense to me to assume Lenin or anyone rejected that idea. There's no evidence for it.

 

I take your point, but the problem here is that, as far as I can see, there could be no external forces, or, rather, external 'contradictions', if DM were true. This isn't just because (a) The DM-classicists tell us that all change is the result of "internal contradictions", or that (b) The idea that change is the result of anything external in the end implies there must be a creator external to the universe, it is that (c) This idea would completely undermine DM itself. I will try to explain each of these in turn, beginning with (a) and (b).

 

[DM = Dialectical Materialism/Materialist, depending on context.]

 

The DM-classicists tell us that all change is the result of "internal contradictions", and that any other theory that appealed to external causation implies belief in a creator -- here are a few quotations to that effect, beginning with Lenin:

 

"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).

 

"In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self-movement'.

 

"The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.

 

"The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphases added.]

 

So, Lenin tells us that the "identity of opposites" involves the recognition of the "contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature", and that this further implies the "self-movement" of "all processes on the world" -- not most processes, but all phenomena and processes in nature. This, it seems to me, leaves no room for these 'external forces' or "external contradictions" as Stalinists and Maoists have interpreted them. So, this doesn't imply Lenin didn't believe in 'external forces', but that he interpreted them in a specific way in order to undercut theism and mechanical materialism -- as we will see.

 

But, Lenin goes even further, he contrasts the idea that there are 'external forces' with the above dialectical understanding of nature:

 

"In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self-movement'.

 

"The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new." [Ibid.]

 

The first conception (as Lenin terms it) seems to leave the driving force of change "in the shade", or it is viewed as "external" -- which, when its implications are spelt out, implies that 'God' kick-started everything in an act of creation. Lenin pointedly contrasts this with the second conception where attention is focussed on "self-movement", which Lenin then claims is the only way to comprehend "the 'self-movement' of everything existing" -- notice once again: not most things, nor yet nearly everything, but everything in the entire universe (which I take it is the same as "everything existing").

 

There would be no contrast here if objects in nature and society weren't "self-moving", both developmentally and as they locomote. As we will see, this is indeed how Lenin has since been interpreted by his epigones: holding to the view that things actually self-develop and self-locomote.

 

[Now, there were for Lenin good reasons for asserting this, which I will cover (here and here) as part of my consideration of item (c) above.]

 

Some might object that Lenin only said this in unpublished work, but he in fact made the above points in published writing, too. In a debate with Trotsky and Bukharin on the Trade Unions, Lenin not only repeated this idea, he argued that Dialectical Logic [DL] "demanded" and "required" us to see things in no other way:

 

"Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it)…." [Lenin (1921), p.90. Bold emphases in the original. Italic emphasis added.]

 

So, not only are objects said to be capable of moving themselves, but Lenin adds that DL "requires" us to view their motion precisely this way.

 

As Lenin noted, in this he was merely echoing Hegel:

 

"But contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality; it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity." [Hegel (1999), p.439, §956. Bold emphasis added.]

 

The above is of course how other Marxists have seen things (I have added a dozen or so quotations from the writings of other dialecticians, which say the same as Lenin, to Note 3 of Essay Eight Part One); anyway, here is Mao:

 

"The metaphysical or vulgar evolutionist world outlook sees things as isolated, static and one-sided. It regards all things in the universe, their forms and their species, as eternally isolated from one another and immutable. Such change as there is can only be an increase or decrease in quantity or a change of place. Moreover, the cause of such an increase or decrease or change of place is not inside things but outside them, that is, the motive force is external. Metaphysicians hold that all the different kinds of things in the universe and all their characteristics have been the same ever since they first came into being. All subsequent changes have simply been increases or decreases in quantity. They contend that a thing can only keep on repeating itself as the same kind of thing and cannot change into anything different. In their opinion, capitalist exploitation, capitalist competition, the individualist ideology of capitalist society, and so on, can all be found in ancient slave society, or even in primitive society, and will exist for ever unchanged. They ascribe the causes of social development to factors external to society, such as geography and climate. They search in an over-simplified way outside a thing for the causes of its development, and they deny the theory of materialist dialectics which holds that development arises from the contradictions inside a thing. Consequently they can explain neither the qualitative diversity of things, nor the phenomenon of one quality changing into another. In Europe, this mode of thinking existed as mechanical materialism in the 17th and 18th centuries and as vulgar evolutionism at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. In China, there was the metaphysical thinking exemplified in the saying 'Heaven changeth not, likewise the Tao changeth not', and it was supported by the decadent feudal ruling classes for a long time. Mechanical materialism and vulgar evolutionism, which were imported from Europe in the last hundred gears, are supported by the bourgeoisie.

 

"As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development. Contradictoriness within a thing is the fundamental cause of its development, while its interrelations and interactions with other things are secondary causes. Thus materialist dialectics effectively combats the theory of external causes, or of an external motive force, advanced by metaphysical mechanical materialism and vulgar evolutionism. It is evident that purely external causes can only give rise to mechanical motion, that is, to changes in scale or quantity, but cannot explain why things differ qualitatively in thousands of ways and why one thing changes into another. As a matter of fact, even mechanical motion under external force occurs through the internal contradictoriness of things. Simple growth in plants and animals, their quantitative development, is likewise chiefly the result of their internal contradictions. Similarly, social development is due chiefly not to external but to internal causes.... According to materialist dialectics, changes in nature are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in nature. Changes in society are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in society, that is, the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, the contradiction between classes and the contradiction between the old and the new; it is the development of these contradictions that pushes society forward and gives the impetus for the supersession of the old society by the new. Does materialist dialectics exclude external causes? Not at all. It holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes. In a suitable temperature an egg changes into a chicken, but no temperature can change a stone into a chicken, because each has a different basis. There is constant interaction between the peoples of different countries. In the era of capitalism, and especially in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, the interaction and mutual impact of different countries in the political, economic and cultural spheres are extremely great...

 

"The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to end.

 

"Engels said, 'Motion itself is a contradiction.' Lenin defined the law of the unity of opposites as 'the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society)'. Are these ideas correct? Yes, they are. The interdependence of the contradictory aspects present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of all things and push their development forward. There is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist.

 

"Contradiction is the basis of the simple forms of motion (for instance, mechanical motion) and still more so of the complex forms of motion." [Mao (1961b), pp 312-13, 316. Bold emphases alone added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

These comments are reasonably clear: the cause of all motion and change is internal to each object and process, and, just like Lenin, Mao contrasts this 'dialectical' view with the old, metaphysical theory that sees the cause of change as external to an object or process.

 

It could be argued that Mao allows for external forces when he says dialecticians must study an object's "relations with other things", adding that they must take into account "each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it".

 

Indeed, and it could be pointed out that Lenin said something similar:

 

"Nowadays, the ideas of development…as formulated by Marx and Engels on the basis of Hegel…[encompass a process] that seemingly repeats the stages already passed, but repeats them otherwise, on a higher basis ('negation of negation'), a development, so to speak, in spirals, not in a straight line; -- a development by leaps, catastrophes, revolutions; -- 'breaks in continuity'; the transformation of quantity into quality; -- the inner impulses to development, imparted by the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body, or within a given phenomenon, or within a given society; -- the interdependence and the closest, indissoluble connection of all sides of every phenomenon…, a connection that provides a uniform, law-governed, universal process of motion -– such are some of the features of dialectics as a richer (than the ordinary) doctrine of development." [Lenin (1914), pp.12-13. Bold emphases added.]

 

That is, he also emphasised "the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body", which is tantamount to his acknowledging that there are such things as "external contradictions".

 

However, as we will see when I discuss option (c) above, things aren't quite so straight-forward; indeed, we shall see that there are in fact no "external contradictions" in the DM-world, nor could there be. So, it is no surprise therefore that neither Hegel, Marx, Engels, Plekhanov nor Lenin spoke of them.

 

As we will also see, while Engels, Lenin and Mao acknowledged the existence of external factors, it seems the latter not only couldn't take part in the action, as it were, if DM were true, there is no such thing as an external factor.

 

The reason for saying this connected with (i) Kant's response to Hume's criticism of rationalist theories of causation, (ii) Hegel adaptation of Kant's theory, and (iii) Lenin's incorporation of this into his understanding of dialectics. It is to this that I now turn.

 

Hegel's Response To Hume

 

The following material has been adapted from Essay Seven Part Three.

 

It is worth recalling that Hegel invented this way of characterising change by appropriating and then adapting Kant's response to Hume's criticisms of rationalist theories of causation. Hume had argued that there is no logical or conceptual connection between cause and effect. This struck right at the heart of Rationalism, and Hegel was keen to show that Hume and the Empiricists were radically mistaken. Kant had already attempted to answer Hume, but his solution pushed necessitating causation off into the Noumenon, about which we can know nothing. That approach was totally unacceptable to Hegel, so he looked for a logical connection between cause and effect; he found it in (1) Spinoza's claim that every determination is also a negation (which, by the way, neither Spinoza nor Hegel even so much as attempted to justify -- more about that in Essay Twelve), and in (2) His argument that the LOI "stated negatively" implies the LOC (which, unfortunately, it doesn't).1

 

[LOI = Law of Identity; LOC = Law of Non-contradiction.]

 

Based on this, Hegel was 'able' to argue that for any concept A, "determinate negation" implies it is also not-A, and then not-not-A. [I am, of course, simplifying greatly here! I have reproduced Hegel's argument below for those who think I might have misrepresented him.]

This then 'allowed' Hegel to conclude that every concept has development built into it as A transforms into not-A, and then into not-not-A. This provided him with the logical and conceptual link he sought in causation. Hence, when A changes it doesn't just do so accidentally into this or that; what it changes into is not-A, which is logically connected with A and is thus a rational consequence of the overall development of reality. This led him to postulate that for every concept A, there must also be its paired "other" (as he called it), not-A, its 'internal' and hence its unique 'opposite'. Hegel was forced to derive this consequence since, plainly, everything (else) in the universe is also not-A, which would mean that A could change into anything whatsoever if he hadn't have introduced this limiting factor, this unique "other".

 

From this, the "unity of opposites" was born. So, the link between cause and effect was now given by this 'logical' unity, and causation and change were the result of the interaction between these logically-linked "opposites".

 

Plainly, this paired, unique opposite, not-A, was essential to Hegel's theory, otherwise, he could provide his readers with no explanation why A should be followed by a unique not-A as opposed to just any old not-A -- say, B, or, indeed, something else, C, for example -- all of which would be not-A, too.

 

So, since B and C (and an indefinite number of other objects and processes) are all manifestly not-A, Hegel had to find some way of eliminating these, and all the rest, as candidates for the development of A, otherwise he would have had no effective answer to Hume.

 

[Hume, of course, wouldn't have denied that A changes into "what it is not", into not-A, he would merely have pointed out that this can't provide the conceptual link that rationalists require unless all the other (potentially infinite) not-As could be ruled out in some way. He concluded that it is only a habit of the mind that prompts us to expect A to change into what we have always, or what we have in general, experienced before. There is no logical link, however, between A and what it develops into since there is no contradiction in supposing A to change into B or C, or, indeed, something else. (In saying this the reader shouldn't conclude that I agree with Hume, or that Hume's reply is successful!)]

 

Hence, Hegel introduced this unique "other" with which each object and process was conceptually linked -- a unique "other" that was 'internally' connected to A  --, something he claimed could be derived by 'determinate negation' from A. [How he in fact derived this "other" will be examined in Essay Twelve Part Five, but a DM-'explanation' -- and criticism of it -- can be found in Essay Eight Part Three.]

 

This special not-A was now the unique "other" of A. Without it Hegel's reply to Hume falls flat.

 

Engels, Lenin, Mao, and Plekhanov (and a host of other Marxist dialecticians) bought into this spurious 'logic' (several of them possibly unaware of the above 'rationale'; as far as I can see, of the DM-classicists, only Lenin seems to be aware of it!), and attempted to give it a 'materialist make-over'. And, that is why this Hegelian theory (albeit "put back on its feet") is integral to classical DM; it supplied Engels, Lenin and Mao (and all the rest) with a materialist answer to Hume.

 

[There are in fact far better ways than this to neutralise Hume's criticisms, and those of more recent Humeans, and which do not thereby make change impossible. More details will be given in Essay Three Part Five. Until then, the reader is directed to Hacker (2007), and Essay Thirteen Part Three.]

 

Lenin Endorses Hegel's Theory

 

Here is Lenin's acknowledgement and endorsement of this principle:

 

"'This harmony is precisely absolute Becoming change, -- not becoming other, now this and then another. The essential thing is that each different thing [tone], each particular, is different from another, not abstractly so from any other, but from its other. Each particular only is, insofar as its other is implicitly contained in its Notion....' Quite right and important: the 'other' as its other, development into its opposite." [Lenin (1961), p.260. Lenin is here commenting on Hegel (1995), pp.278-98; this particular quotation is found on p.285. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"But the Other is essentially not the empty negative or Nothing which is commonly taken as the result of dialectics, it is the Other of the first, the negative of the immediate; it is thus determined as mediated, -- and altogether contains the determination of the first. The first is thus essentially contained and preserved in the Other. -- To hold fast the positive in its negative, and the content of the presupposition in the result, is the most important part of rational cognition; also only the simplest reflection is needed to furnish conviction of the absolute truth and necessity of this requirement, while with regard to the examples of proofs, the whole of Logic consists of these." [Lenin (1961), p.225, quoting Hegel (1999), pp.833-34, §1795. Emphases in the original.]

 

Lenin wrote in the margin:

 

"This is very important for understanding dialectics." [Lenin (1961), p.225.]

 

To which he added:

 

"Marxists criticised (at the beginning of the twentieth century) the Kantians and Humists [Humeans -- RL] more in the manner of Feuerbach (and Büchner) than of Hegel." [Ibid., p.179.]

 

This shows that Lenin understood this to be a reply to Hume, and that it was central to comprehending dialectics.

 

It is worth quoting the entire passage from Hegel's Logic (much of which Lenin approvingly copied into the above Notebooks -- pp.225-28):

 

"Now this is the very standpoint indicated above from which a universal first, considered in and for itself, shows itself to be the other of itself. Taken quite generally, this determination can be taken to mean that what is at first immediate now appears as mediated, related to an other, or that the universal appears as a particular. Hence the second term that has thereby come into being is the negative of the first, and if we anticipate the subsequent progress, the first negative. The immediate, from this negative side, has been extinguished in the other, but the other is essentially not the empty negative, the nothing, that is taken to be the usual result of dialectic; rather is it the other of the first, the negative of the immediate; it is therefore determined as the mediated -- contains in general the determination of the first within itself. Consequently the first is essentially preserved and retained even in the other. To hold fast to the positive in its negative, in the content of the presupposition, in the result, this is the most important feature in rational cognition; at the same time only the simplest reflection is needed to convince one of the absolute truth and necessity of this requirement and so far as examples of the proof of this are concerned, the whole of logic consists of such.

 

"Accordingly, what we now have before us is the mediated, which to begin with, or, if it is likewise taken immediately, is also a simple determination; for as the first has been extinguished in it, only the second is present. Now since the first also is contained in the second, and the latter is the truth of the former, this unity can be expressed as a proposition in which the immediate is put as subject, and the mediated as its predicate; for example, the finite is infinite, one is many, the individual is the universal. However, the inadequate form of such propositions is at once obvious. In treating of the judgment it has been shown that its form in general, and most of all the immediate form of the positive judgment, is incapable of holding within its grasp speculative determinations and truth. The direct supplement to it, the negative judgment, would at least have to be added as well. In the judgment the first, as subject, has the illusory show of a self-dependent subsistence, whereas it is sublated in its predicate as in its other; this negation is indeed contained in the content of the above propositions, but their positive form contradicts the content; consequently what is contained in them is not posited -- which would be precisely the purpose of employing a proposition.

 

"The second determination, the negative or mediated, is at the same time also the mediating determination. It may be taken in the first instance as a simple determination, but in its truth it is a relation or relationship; for it is the negative, but the negative of the positive, and includes the positive within itself. It is therefore the other, but not the other of something to which it is indifferent -- in that case it would not be an other, nor a relation or relationship -- rather it is the other in its own self, the other of an other; therefore it includes its own other within it and is consequently as contradiction, the posited dialectic of itself. Because the first or the immediate is implicitly the Notion, and consequently is also only implicitly the negative, the dialectical moment with it consists in positing in it the difference that it implicitly contains. The second, on the contrary, is itself the determinate moment, the difference or relationship; therefore with it the dialectical moment consists in positing the unity that is contained in it. If then the negative, the determinate, relationship, judgment, and all the determinations falling under this second moment do not at once appear on their own account as contradiction and as dialectical, this is solely the fault of a thinking that does not bring its thoughts together. For the material, the opposed determinations in one relation, is already posited and at hand for thought. But formal thinking makes identity its law, and allows the contradictory content before it to sink into the sphere of ordinary conception, into space and time, in which the contradictories are held asunder in juxtaposition and temporal succession and so come before consciousness without reciprocal contact. On this point, formal thinking lays down for its principle that contradiction is unthinkable; but as a matter of fact the thinking of contradiction is the essential moment of the Notion. Formal thinking does in fact think contradiction, only it at once looks away from it, and in saying that it is unthinkable it merely passes over from it into abstract negation." [Hegel (1999), pp.833-35, §§1795-1798. Bold emphases alone added. I have used the on-line version here, correcting several minor typos.]

 

The most relevant and important part of which is this:

 

"It is therefore the other, but not the other of something to which it is indifferent -- in that case it would not be an other, nor a relation or relationship -- rather it is the other in its own self, the other of an other; therefore it includes its own other within it and is consequently as contradiction, the posited dialectic of itself." [Ibid. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

This "reflection", as Hegel also calls it, of the "other in its own self", a unique "other", provides the logical link his theory required. Any other "other" would be "indifferent", and not the logical reflection he sought. It is from this that 'dialectical contradictions' arise, as Hegel points out. Hence, Lenin was absolutely right, this "other" is essential for "understanding" DM.

 

Hegel underlined this point (but perhaps less obscurely) in the 'Shorter Logic':

 

"Instead of speaking by the maxim of Excluded Middle (which is the maxim of abstract understanding) we should rather say: Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in Earth, neither in the world of mind nor of nature, is there anywhere such an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things will then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being, and what they essentially are. Thus, in inorganic nature, the acid is implicitly at the same time the base: in other words, its only being consists in its relation to its other. Hence also the acid is not something that persists quietly in the contrast: it is always in effort to realise what it potentially is." [Hegel (1975), p.174; Essence as Ground of Existence, §119. Bold emphases added.]

 

[The serious problems these rather odd ideas create for Hegel are outlined here.]

 

Hence, any attempt to (1) Eliminate the idea that change results from a 'struggle of opposites', or (2) Deny that objects and processes change into these 'opposites', or even (3) Reject the idea that these 'opposites' are internally-related as one "other" to another specific "other", will leave DM-theorists with no answer to Hume, and thus with no viable theory of change.

 

[For Hegel's other comments on Hume, see Hegel (1995), pp.369-75.]

 

In which case, Hegel's theory (coupled with the part-whole dialectic) was at least a theory of causation, change and of the supposed logical development of history; so the Dialectical-classicists (in particular Lenin and Mao)  were absolutely right (as they saw things) to incorporate it into DM. It allowed them to argue that, among other things, history isn't accidental -- i.e., it isn't just 'one thing after another' -- it has a logic to it. Hence, Hegel's 'logical' theory enabled them to argue, for example, that capitalism must give way to the dictatorship of the proletariat, and to nothing else. Hume's criticisms -- or, rather, more recent incarnations of them (which, combined with contemporary versions of Adam Smith's economic theory (Smith was of course a friend collaborator of Hume's) in essence feature in much of modern economic theory and philosophy, and thus in contemporary criticisms of Marx's economics and politics) -- are a direct threat to this idea. If these bourgeois critics are right, we can't predict what the class struggle will produce. Or, rather, if Hume is right, the course of history is contingent, not necessary, not "rational" -- and there is no 'inner logic' to capitalism.

 

[This dependency on Hegel's theory of causation and change also supplies us with an explanation for the implicit teleology and determinism in DM, providing its supporters with hope in a hopeless world. More on this in Essays Nine Part Two and Fourteen Part Two. The mystical and rationalist foundations of this approach to change are outlined here, here, here and here.]

 

As far as I can tell, other than Lenin, very few dialecticians have discussed (or have even noticed!) this aspect of their own theory. The only authors that I am aware of who take this aspect of DM into account are Ruben (1979), Lawler (1982), and Fisk (1973, 1979). I will examine Fisk's arguments, which are the most sophisticated I have so far seen (on this topic), in other Essays published at this site. Lawler's analysis is the subject of Essay Eight Part Three. [However, since writing this I have also come across some of Charles Bettelheim's comments, which suggest he, too, understood this point.]

 

Incidentally, this puts paid to the idea that there can be such things as 'external contradictions' (a notion beloved of Stalinist and Maoist dialecticians). If there were any of these, they couldn't be 'logically' connected as 'one-other-linked-with-another-unique-other' required by Hegel and Lenin's theory. For Hegel, upside down or the 'right way up', this would fragment the rational order of reality, introducing contingency where once there had been logico-conceptual or necessary development. Hence, any dialectician reckless enough to introduce 'external contradictions' into their system would in effect be 're-Hume-ing' Hegel, not putting him 'back on his feet'! Once again, it is no surprise therefore to find that 'external contradictions' were unknown to Hegel, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Plekhanov.

 

Of course, there could be what some might want to call 'external forces'/'factors', but as we will soon see, these are in effect mis-described, or even mis-perceived 'internal contradictions'/'forces'.

 

To be sure, several dialecticians acknowledge this point; for instance, here is Kharin:

 

"The existing boundary between internal and external contradictions is not at the same time absolute. The same contradiction may assume different qualities with regard to different systems." [Kharin (1981), p.130.]

 

However, it isn't easy to see how this could be the case with respect to 'logically internal contradictions'. Presumably the alleged 'contradiction' between capital and labour is one of the latter sort. But, how could this 'contradiction' ever become 'external', or change its "qualities", as Kharin suggests?

 

Even supposing such 'contradictions' could change, then, according to the DM-classics, they themselves could only do so because of their own internal contradictions! So, if, because of the class struggle, the working class becomes the ruling class, or it abolishes all classes, then this could only happen because of contradictions internal to the working class. If, on the other hand, this takes place because of the contradiction between the working class and the capitalist class, then, since that contradiction is itself external to the working class (even if it is internal to capitalism), it can't change the working class itself in the above manner. We can now see where this serial confusion is leading. Here is Afanasyev, confusing "internal" with "spatially internal":

 

"Both internal and external contradictions are inherent in objects and phenomena of the material world, but internal contradictions, those within the object itself, are the principal contradictions that are decisive in development....

 

"Internal contradictions are the source of development because they determine the aspect or character of the object itself. If it were not for its internal contradictions the object would not be what it is....

 

"All external influences exerted on an object are always refracted through its inherent contradictions, which is also a manifestation of the determining role of those contradictions in development....

 

"The source of social development is also contained within society itself, in its inherent internal contradictions...." [Afanasyev (1968), pp.98-99.] 

 

But, this can only mean that the contradictions internal to capitalism are external to the working class; in which case, on this view, the working class can't change!

 

On the other hand, if the working class is to change, then, according to the above, it can only do so as a result of its own internal contradictions. The class war, is, however, external to the working class, given the above.

 

In which case, the motor of history isn't the class war (as Marx supposed), but the internal strife in any given class. Hence, if Afanasyev is to be believed, the struggle against the capitalists won't change the working class into the ruling class; internecine warfare inside the proletariat will do that!

 

We can now see, I hope, where the equivocation between the two senses of "internal" (coupled with ill-defined notions of objects, processes and systems) has led us. The fatal consequences for Historical Materialism of adopting such confused ideas -- upside down or the 'right way up' -- should be plain for all to see: on this view, the history of all hitherto class societies isn't the history of class struggle!

 

[Despite this, and in spite of what Hegel and the above DM-theorists argued, I have detailed several other fatal defects implied by the idea that there could be 'external' or even 'internal contradictions' (in nature or society) in Essays Eight Parts Two and Three, and  Eleven Part Two, here and here.]

 

The problem is that even though Hegel's theory sort of works -- if one is both an Idealist and lamentably poor logician (more on this in Essay Twelve Part Five) --, it can't work in HM, for the reasons outlined in Essay Seven Part Three -- since, if DM were true, change would be impossible!

 

Dialectical Equivocation

 

Spatially-, Or Logically-Internal?

 

[This material has again been adapted from Essay Eight Part One.]

 

It is worth noting at the start that there is considerable difficulty trying to decide what DM-theorists actually mean by "internal opposite" and/or "internal contradiction" (and by implication, what they mean by the "external" versions of either or both). Sometimes they seem to mean "spatially-internal", at other times they appear to mean "logically-internal". However, when dialecticians talk about "external opposites", for example, it is quite clear they mean "spatially external", but that is because in such contexts they also mean by "internal opposites", "spatially-internal". This distinction allows them to draw a stark contrast between their own view of change through "internal contradiction" compared with the theories adopted by the mechanical materialists, for instance.

 

In fact, the way that Stalinist and Maoist dialecticians speak about such "opposites" seems to rule out the possibility of there being any of the "external" sort:

 

"Opposites are, then, the internal aspects, tendencies, forces of an object, which are mutually exclusive but at the same time presuppose each other. The inseverable interconnection of these aspects makes up the unity of opposites...[they] are inconceivable one without the other." [Afanasyev (1968), pp.94-95. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

"...[C]ontrary to metaphysics, not only are fundamental opposites involved in every subject-matter, but these opposites mutually imply each other, are inseparably connected together, and far from being exclusive, neither can exist or can be understood except in relation to the other." [Cornforth (1976), pp.66-67. Bold emphases added.]

 

"Contradiction also expresses this feature of the relation of opposition, i.e., the mutual exclusion and mutual presupposing of its formative aspects. It can therefore be briefly defined as the unity of opposites which mutually exclude one another and are in struggle. The law of dialectics that demonstrates the driving force of contradictions is formulated as the law of the unity and struggle of opposites." [Kharin (1981), p.125. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"The essence of the dialectical contradiction may be defined as an interrelationship and interconnection between opposites in which they mutually assert and deny each other, and the struggle between them serves as the motive force, the source of development. This is why the law in question is known as the law of the unity and struggle of opposites." [Konstantinov, et al (1974), pp.144-45. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Opposites are the inner aspects, tendencies or forces of an object or phenomenon which rule each other out [this probably should be "which are mutually exclusive" -- RL] while simultaneously presupposing each other. The interconnection of opposites constitutes a contradiction." [Krapivin (1985), p.161. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"By a dialectical contradiction Marxism understands the presence in a phenomenon or process of opposite, mutually exclusive aspects which, at the same time, presuppose each other and within the framework of a given phenomenon exist only in mutual connection." [Kuusinen (1961), p.93. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Though opposites have different trends of functioning and development and different directions of change, thereby excluding each other, they do not eliminate each other but co-exist in an unbreakable unity and interdependence....

 

"The way in which opposites presuppose each other and are inseparably interconnected is a major form through which their unity manifests itself." [Sheptulin (1978), p.260. Bold emphases added.]

 

"Analysis shows that interaction is possible between objects or elements of objects that are not identical to one another but different. Identity and difference have their degrees. Difference, for example, can be inessential or essential. The extreme case of difference is an opposite -- one of the mutually presupposed sides of a contradiction. In relation to a developing object difference is the initial stage of division of the object into opposites. When it comes into interaction, an object seeks, as it were, a complement for itself in that with which it is interacting. Where there is no stable interaction there is only a more or less accidental external contact." [Spirkin (1983), p.144. Bold emphasis added.] 

 

"Identity, unity, coincidence, interpenetration, interpermeation, interdependence (or mutual dependence for existence), interconnection or mutual co-operation -- all these different terms mean the same thing and refer to the following two points: first, the existence of each of the two aspects of a contradiction in the process of the development of a thing presupposes the existence of the other aspect, and both aspects coexist in a single entity; second, in given conditions, each of the two contradictory aspects transforms itself into its opposite. This is the meaning of identity....

 

"The fact is that no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation. Without its opposite aspect, each loses the condition for its existence. Just think, can any one contradictory aspect of a thing or of a concept in the human mind exist independently? Without life, there would be no death; without death, there would be no life. Without 'above', there would be no 'below'; without 'below', there would be no 'above'. Without misfortune, there would be no good fortune; without good fortune, these would be no misfortune. Without facility, there would be no difficulty; without difficulty, there would be no facility. Without landlords, there would be no tenant-peasants; without tenant-peasants, there would be no landlords. Without the bourgeoisie, there would be no proletariat; without the proletariat, there would be no bourgeoisie. Without imperialist oppression of nations, there would be no colonies or semi-colonies; without colonies or semicolonies, there would be no imperialist oppression of nations. It is so with all opposites; in given conditions, on the one hand they are opposed to each other, and on the other they are interconnected, interpenetrating, interpermeating and interdependent, and this character is described as identity. In given conditions, all contradictory aspects possess the character of non-identity and hence are described as being in contradiction. But they also possess the character of identity and hence are interconnected. This is what Lenin means when he says that dialectics studies 'how opposites can be and how they become identical'. How then can they be identical? Because each is the condition for the other's existence. This is the first meaning of identity." [Mao (1961b), pp.337-38. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Hence, it isn't easy to see how there could be any 'external contradictions'. If all contradictions are a unity of opposites that imply or presuppose one another, they should all be 'internal'. Indeed, Kuusinen more-or-less rules out any other view of 'dialectical contradictions':

 

"By a dialectical contradiction Marxism understands the presence in a phenomenon or process of opposite, mutually exclusive aspects which, at the same time, presuppose each other and within the framework of a given phenomenon exist only in mutual connection." [Kuusinen (1961), p.93. Bold emphases added.]

 

So, if there were any "external contradictions", they would have to be understood spatially, not logically, since "dialectical contradictions" are, for the above theorists -- and, indeed, Lenin, as we have seen --, logical (in the sense that they are 'dialectical-logical', as Hegel seems to have understood this).

 

Be this as it may, it should be reasonably obvious that something can be spatially-internal to an object or system without it being logically-internal, just as something can be spatially-external while also being logically-internal. I suspect the disagreement between MLT and myself partly revolves around this equivocation. It certain lies behind my assertion that "external contradictions" were invented by Stalinist theorists post-1924 in order to help justify the doctrine that socialism could be built in one country. [This allegation was advanced and substantiated in Essay Nine Part Two.]

 

It might help if we were a little clearer about the meaning of these terms. The doctrine of "internal relations" (or as I shall often call it, "Internalism") clearly underpins the idea that there are, or can be, internal opposites as well as internal contradictions. In addition to the above quotations, we can perhaps illustrate what an internal opposite is by recalling what DM-theorists say about the relation between the two main classes under Capitalism, the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie, for example. This will also help us understand what they mean by an internal contradiction.

 

The passage taken from Mao (quoted above) might help us become a little clearer about this:

 

"The fact is that no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation. Without its opposite aspect, each loses the condition for its existence. Just think, can any one contradictory aspect of a thing or of a concept in the human mind exist independently? Without life, there would be no death; without death, there would be no life. Without 'above', there would be no 'below'; without 'below', there would be no 'above'. Without misfortune, there would be no good fortune; without good fortune, these would be no misfortune. Without facility, there would be no difficulty; without difficulty, there would be no facility. Without landlords, there would be no tenant-peasants; without tenant-peasants, there would be no landlords. Without the bourgeoisie, there would be no proletariat; without the proletariat, there would be no bourgeoisie. Without imperialist oppression of nations, there would be no colonies or semi-colonies; without colonies or semicolonies, there would be no imperialist oppression of nations. It is so with all opposites; in given conditions, on the one hand they are opposed to each other, and on the other they are interconnected, interpenetrating, interpermeating and interdependent, and this character is described as identity. In given conditions, all contradictory aspects possess the character of non-identity and hence are described as being in contradiction. But they also possess the character of identity and hence are interconnected. This is what Lenin means when he says that dialectics studies 'how opposites can be and how they become identical'. How then can they be identical? Because each is the condition for the other's existence. This is the first meaning of identity.

 

"But is it enough to say merely that each of the contradictory aspects is the condition for the other's existence, that there is identity between them and that consequently they can coexist in a single entity? No, it is not. The matter does not end with their dependence on each other for their existence; what is more important is their transformation into each other. That is to say, in given conditions, each of the contradictory aspects within a thing transforms itself into its opposite, changes its position to that of its opposite. This is the second meaning of the identity of contradiction.

 

"Why is there identity here, too? You see, by means of revolution the proletariat, at one time the ruled, is transformed into the ruler, while the bourgeoisie, the erstwhile ruler, is transformed into the ruled and changes its position to that originally occupied by its opposite. This has already taken place in the Soviet Union, as it will take place throughout the world. If there were no interconnection and identity of opposites in given conditions, how could such a change take place?" [Mao (1961a), pp.338-39. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

It is quite clear that for Mao (and for other DM-theorists) the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat presuppose, inter-define and condition one another; each providing the condition for the other's existence; without the one the other not only wouldn't, it couldn't exist. They are thus internally related, not externally or accidentally connected.

 

[In early modern Europe, the idea that certain concepts can be internally related dates back at least to Leibniz's work, and then to that of Kant and Hegel, which is how these notions found their way into Dialectical Marxism. However, it is arguable that this idea goes back much further, to Aristotle and his ideas about the relation between a substance and its accidents; in a fully rational world, there are and can be no accidents; everything would be logically inter-connected. I have said more about this and how it relates to Christian ideas about the relation of 'god' to 'his' creation, and then to how this affected the theories of the so-called 'necessitarians' and the 'voluntarists' in the Scientific Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, in Essay Eleven Part Two.]

 

This is what dialecticians mean by "interpenetration"; they don't mean these factors spatially interpenetrate one another, but that the one cannot exist without the other, nor vice versa; the existence of the one logically implies the existence of the other, and vice versa. And this is where the presumed "contradiction" arises; Proletariat and Bourgeoisie are logically locked together, they cannot exist independently of one another, but they have diametrically opposed material interests which force them into unremitting class conflict with each other. The "contradiction" here is at once logical and dialectical, as Marx noted (but here making a more structural point about connection between the relations of production and the productive forces):

 

"In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.

 

"The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.

 

"At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or -- what is but a legal expression for the same thing -- with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters.

 

"Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic -- in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production." [Marx (1968), pp.181-82. Bold emphases added.]

 

None of this is accidental or external; the interplay between capitalist and worker, relations of production and productive forces (as well as a whole host of other factors) is reciprocal, and inter-dependent.

 

Plainly, an external relation doesn't possess these logical properties. Concerning any two items (i.e., objects and/or processes), if they are externally related, the one can exist without the other; they do not presuppose each other, just as they do not inter-define one another.

 

But, as noted above, something can be (i) spatially-internal to an object or system without it being logically-internal, just as something can be (ii) spatially-external while also being logically-internal.

 

[Indeed, something can be spatially-internal to an object or system and logically-internal to it, too, just as something can be spatially-external while also being logically-external, as well.]

 

Here is an example illustrating (i), above: an Amazonian tribeswoman is logically-external to capitalism (since there seem to be no internal opposites in the capitalist system -- whether or not there are any internal opposites of any class to which she belongs, or to herself as an individual, in her own society -- that condition her and which are conditioned in return by her, or which define her and which she defines in return). Capitalism can live without Amazonian tribes-people, but it can't live without the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. Even so, she would still be spatially-internal to the capitalist system in that she lives in a Capitalist country, Brazil.

 

Alternatively, to illustrate (ii): consider the relation between, say, tenants and their landlords (using an example of Mao's). They presuppose and inter-define one another; each is the condition of the other's existence -- so they are logically-internal to one another. However, clearly no landlord lives inside his or her tenants, nor vice versa. In that case, landlords and tenants, while being logically-internal to each other are at the same time spatially-external to one another.

 

Of course, one could always say that landlords and tenants are spatially-internal to whatever social or economic system they happen to exist within, and that is the problem. As we will see, this ambiguity lies behind the equivocation mentioned above: When we consider wider economic, social, or even physical systems, it turns out that there are in the end no such things as spatially-external opposites, and hence spatially-external contradictions! Indeed, it is even arguable that there are no logically-external opposites either! Which is why I said what I did above.

 

In order to clarify this point, we need to examine a further equivocation lying at the heart of DM: the confusion between objectual and systematic change.

 

Change To Objects -- Or Systems?

 

So, the solution to this 'difficulty' might lie in the difference between objectual change and systematic change; that is, it might revolve around whether or not 'dialectical' change concerns change to objects or to systems. Precisely how this helps us understand whether or not, in the DM-scheme-of-things, there can be such things as "external contradictions" might also become clear.

 

Of course, it could always be maintained out that this is a false dichotomy since DM-theorists see their theory of change applying both to objects and to systems.

 

But are things as clear-cut as this might suggest?

 

DM And Causation

 

We have already seen Lenin's "demand" that we see change (to objects) as internally-motivated, which theory he counterposed to the opposite, "mechanical" view that change is externally caused. He also added that the latter approach implied the doctrine that the universe was created by some external force, or which held that motion inside the universe had an external cause, which, naturally, has led some to believe in 'god'. Hegel and Lenin's internalism cuts this theory off at the knees, for if all change is internally motivated, there can be no external cause of the universe. Other DM-theorists, such as Mao, echo this idea. [A selection of quotations to this effect can be found here.]

 

The problem is that if we now acknowledge external causation, external forces and/or external 'contradictions', this will only allow 'god' to sneak back in via a side door. The alleged superiority of the 'dialectical' theory of change will thus have been lost.

 

Is there any way to avoid this?

 

Causation: Internal Or External?

 

One of Hegel's criticisms of external causation was that it led to what he called a "bad infinity" (or, "spurious infinity", as the latest translation has it -- Hegel (1999), pp.137, 139), a series of causes that in the end led nowhere (or, as one dialectician puts this: it ends "who knows where?"), and provides absolutely no rationale for the system to which it had been applied.2

 

If a rational explanation is to be found it had to lie within an object or system, and not just be physically located within it; it has to arise from logical properties conceptually internal to that object/system.

 

Again, the problem is that if external causes are allowed back in, then those 'bad infinities' will simply follow in their train. We have already seen how Lenin endorsed Hegel's criticism of Hume's theory of causation, just as he accepted Hegel's attempt to forestall the need to appeal to 'bad infinities', by asserting that all change was internally motivated.

 

Naturally, this presents problems for the other DM-doctrine that all things are interconnected; that is because if all change is internal to a system, then there will be no need to appeal to these alleged interconnections. On the other hand, if change results from the interconnections between objects and/or systems, then the need to appeal to 'internal contradictions' to account for change becomes redundant. [Concerning 'interconnection', see Essay Eleven Parts One and Two.]

 

Again: Is there anyway out of this conundrum?

 

In another Essay at my site I drew a distinction between what some have called 'Cartesian Reductionism' [CAR] and what I have called 'Hegelian Expansionism' [HEX]. Here is what Levins and Lewontin had to say about CAR:

 

"The dominant mode of analysis of the physical and biological world and by extension the social world...has been Cartesian reductionism. This Cartesian mode is characterised by four ontological commitments...:

 

"1. There is a natural set of units or parts of which any whole system is made.

 

"2. These units are homogeneous within themselves, at least in so far as they affect the whole of which they are the parts.

 

"3. The parts are ontologically prior to the whole; that is, the parts exist in isolation and come together to make wholes. The parts have intrinsic properties, which they possess in isolation and which they lend to the whole. In the simplest case the whole is nothing but the sum of the parts; more complex cases allow for interactions of the parts to produce added properties of the whole.

 

"4. Causes are separate from effects, causes being the properties of subjects. and effects the properties of objects. While causes may respond to information coming from the effects.... there is no ambiguity about which is causing subject and which is caused object...." [Levins and Lewontin (1985), p.269.]

 

Now, I do not want to become sidetracked into a consideration whether or not Levins and Lewontin are correct in what they say (I have in fact shown that they aren't, in Essay Four Part One). I merely wish to contrast CAR with HEX. In which case, it might prove helpful if I outline what I take HEX to be; using the words of DM-theorists themselves might prove helpful to that end:

 

"The truth is the whole. The whole, however, is merely the essential nature reaching its completeness through the process of its own development. Of the Absolute it must be said that it is essentially a result, that only at the end is it what it is in very truth; and just in that consists its nature, which is to be actual, subject, or self-becoming, self-development. Should it appear contradictory to say that the Absolute has to be conceived essentially as a result, a little consideration will set this appearance of contradiction in its true light. The beginning, the principle, or the Absolute, as at first or immediately expressed, is merely the universal. If we say 'all animals', that does not pass for zoology; for the same reason we see at once that the words absolute, divine, eternal, and so on do not express what is implied in them; and only mere words like these, in point of fact, express intuition as the immediate. Whatever is more than a word like that, even the mere transition to a proposition, is a form of mediation, contains a process towards another state from which we must return once more. It is this process of mediation, however, that is rejected with horror, as if absolute knowledge were being surrendered when more is made of mediation than merely the assertion that it is nothing absolute, and does not exist in the Absolute." [Hegel (1977), p.11; section 20. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"'Fundamentally, we can know only the infinite.' In fact all real exhaustive knowledge consists solely in raising the individual thing in thought from individuality into particularity and from this into universality, in seeking and establishing the infinite in the finite, the eternal in the transitory…. All true knowledge of nature is knowledge of the eternal, the infinite, and essentially absolute…. The cognition of the infinite…can only take place in an infinite asymptotic progress." [Engels (1954), pp.234-35. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphasis added.]

 

"Cognition is the eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object." [Lenin (1961), p.195. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"A tumbler is assuredly both a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel. But there are more than these two properties and qualities or facets to it; there are an infinite number of them, an infinite number of 'mediacies' and inter-relationships with the rest of the world." [Lenin (1921), pp.92-93.]

 

"Dialectics requires an all-round consideration of relationships in their concrete development…. Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it)…." [Ibid., p.90. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

So, HEX holds out the prospect of an infinite task ahead of anyone who adopts this approach to knowledge. HEX-type investigations proceed in the opposite direction to those taken by CAR-like analyses (the latter of which seems to be linked to some form of reductionism). Among the avowed aims of reductionist theories are the following: (a) The description the properties of objects and processes in terms of their more basic (perhaps elementary) parts, and (b) To account for the latter with as few laws as possible.

 

Now, the problem with reductionism is that while it is possible to make some sort of a start, it isn't possible to bring it to an end. [Why this is so won't be entered into here.] By way of contrast, the situation with HEX is far worse. While it is also impossible for HEX to reach a conclusion (since it is avowedly infinitary), it can't in fact begin. The reason for saying this is bound up with the fact that instead of seeking increasingly fundamental units, HEX-theorists aim to discover ever wider, more involved and inclusive connections, all of which must be explored before any attempt to depict the "specific characteristics" of anything in particular can even begin.

 

This, of course, immediately stops the dialectical search for knowledge in its tracks because no element in this metaphysical wild goose chase is ascertainable before all the rest have been -– meaning, of course, that none ever will be. Since one half of this open-ended meander through endless epistemological space involves the completion of an infinite (or endless) task, neither option is viable. Therefore, the entire process can't end, and it can't begin.

 

However, further ruminations on this theme are beyond the scope of this reply, hence the reader is directed to Essay Ten Part One where it will be shown that a HEX-like approach in fact implies that human knowledge would be left forever in irredeemable scepticism.

 

So, it appears that, contrary to CAR-theorists, dialecticians appear to believe that objects and processes have what can only be called an 'extrinsic' nature -- that is, one which is a consequence of the relations each has with other unspecified objects (or sets of objects) and/or processes in reality. [On this, see Essay Eight Part One.]

 

In order to further this enquiry, it might prove helpful to return to a consideration of something I earlier called 'Internalism'.

 

Internalism

 

We saw above that DM-theorists constantly equivocate over what they mean by "internal opposite". Sometimes they seem to mean "physically-, or spatially-internal", at others "logically-internal". In the latter case, an "internal opposite" implies (the nature and existence of) and is interconnected with its dialectical "opposite", its "other"; in the former, this seems not to be the case. [On several more serious difficulties this equivocation presents dialecticians, see here.]

 

In what follows, I will explore the ramifications of this confusion, where it resurfaces in the distinction DM-theorists draw between 'internal' and 'external contradictions'.

 

We have already seen that there appears to be a serious problem with Lenin's claim that change is internally-motivated, and that things can move themselves.

 

But, on the other hand there seem to be several ways this problem might be defused, and in favour of Lenin. Consider the following options:

 

(1) Lenin and other DM-theorists were speaking non-literally.

 

(2) They didn't mean what they said.

 

(3) An appeal to internal contradictions does not rule out external causation -- the two are 'dialectically' interconnected. The important point is to concentrate on the system within which things change and develop.

 

(4) Lenin's words can be re-interpreted so that they apply only to self-moving objects (if there are any), but to nothing else.

 

I will not consider options (1) and (2); anyone desperate enough to opt for those two should find reconciling The Book of Genesis with modern science relatively easy in comparison.

 

The most promising line of defence seems to be that offered by (3) -- with (4) held in reserve.

 

From what we have seen, it looks like the apparent disparity here (between the claim that change is internally-generated and the idea that change is induced by opposites external to a system, process or body) might be reconciled by noting that the Dialectical-Totality is a "mediated" whole whose the parts mutually condition one another as UOs -- with these UOs interpreted, perhaps, as comprising "antagonistic forces" (and/or "non-antagonistic forces").3

 

[I have added to Note Three a series of passages (in addition to those already quoted above from Lenin, Mao and other theorists), taken from the DM-classics, and 'lesser' DM-works, that show that Internalism (the theory that all change is internally-motivated -- by internal contradictions -- is central to the classic DM-theory of development.]

 

[UO = Unity of Opposites.]

 

In that case, such opposites wouldn't in fact simply be 'external' (to a particular system), since the relation between them would be 'internal' to the wider system of which they form a part. Hence, "internal" and "external" are relative, not absolute terms.

 

Or, so the argument might go.

 

Naturally, this raises questions (which will need exploring) about the connection between "external contradictions" and the "logically-internal contradictions" mentioned above. If "external contradictions" turn out to be the same as "logically-internal contradictions", then the distinction dialecticians draw between "internal" and "external" 'contradictions' would be empty, or even pointless. In that case, any attempt to rescue Lenin by an appeal to "external contradictions" must fail. The two forms of contradiction aren't in fact different when the superficial labels are removed. Indeed, we can go further: the two different kinds "external contradiction" -- (a) Those which are in fact disguised or mis-identified "logically-internal contradictions", and (b) those which are genuinely "external contradictions", and which aren't "logically-internal contradictions"  -- are merely "spatially external".

 

However, if these "external contradictions" aren't "dialectical-logical contradictions", then Hegel's response to Hume's criticism of rationalist theories of causation must fail. This in turn will mean that dialecticians would have no theory of change that goes beyond the "constant conjunction" of events found in Hume's theory.

 

[These issues will be explored in more detail in Essay Three Part Five. In the meantime, see Note 17 and Note 22, of Essay Eight Part One.]

 

Despite this, the above response (from a few paragraphs back) still fails to resolve a number of serious difficulties.

 

From what Lenin appears to say, all change is internally-driven. But, if that were so, no object could have any effect on any other. Conversely, if objects do have an effect on each other, all change can't be internally-driven.

 

In fact, if Lenin were correct, and all change were the result of a "struggle of opposites", then those opposites would have to be internal to bodies or processes, and not external to either. [We met this problem in Essay Seven Part One (here).]

 

But, if such opposites are external to the relevant bodies and/or processes, then, clearly, it wouldn't be correct to say that all change is internally-driven.

 

On the other hand, if these opposites are internal to some system or other, then, plainly, one system would or could have no effect on any other -- unless they were both internal and external to each other at the same time (but how?), or perhaps internal to some other (third) system, which itself contained everything relevant to such changes.4

 

[It is worth reminding ourselves again that when Hegelians speak of "internal relations", they are not talking about spatial relations, but dialectical-logic relations. Hence, it could be objected that the discussion above seems to ignore this important fact. However, as pointed out earlier, that is because DM-theorists do the same -- or, at least, they appear to do so. This is, of course, what lies behind all that dialectical talk about "external pushes" that dialecticians attribute to mechanical materialism, which doctrine they say implies there must be an external cause of the universe. This "external" 'push' certainly looks both spatial and non-logical. Nevertheless, this serious defect/omission will be rectified as this Essay proceeds, and in Essay Eight Part Three, Essay Eleven Parts One and Two (especially here and here) -- but more fully in Essays Three Part Five and Four Part Two (when they are written).]

 

Now, this problem seems to have arisen because of the stark, un-dialectical contrast drawn above between what is internal to an object, process or system, and what is external to it.

 

And yet, according to DM, objects, processes and systems in nature are all part of a mediated Totality, and mediation seems to blur the distinction between what is internal and what is external to any or all of these. [That is the point of the earlier references to "misperception", as well as in D4, below.] For example, we have already seen that what is logically-external to a body or process could be spatially-internal or external to it/them, and the same could be true of what is logically-internal, too. However, universal, mediated interconnection seems to run across these distinctions, making them appear rather pointless.

 

And it is little use referring to the level of analysis, the level of abstraction, or the level of explanation, here -- to what is "relative" or "absolute" --  which might mean that what might appear to be "external" one minute could appear "internal" the next, as these level are changed, since that would mean that the external world will be sensitive to what we know, or can say, about it. In an Idealist system, that would present no problem, but no materialist theory can live with this idea. The world is what it is independently of what we know or say about it, surely?

 

Be this as it may, and once again, there would seem to be little point making such a fuss about the internal cause of change if in the end causes 'dialectically-external' to a given body or system also mediate it, and contribute to its development. In that case, Lenin might just as well have said:

 

"Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in 'self-movement' and in movement by external forces (as Hegel nowhere puts it)…." [Edited misquotation of Lenin (1921), p.90.]

 

Which would rather ruin the point, one feels.

 

Worse still, if change is externally-driven, that would leave the universe open to external influence, too, allowing 'God' to sneak back in through a side door. What is there now to stop a non-Marxist 'Dialectical Mystic' from claiming that 'God' created all the UOs in nature, and started the whole thing off with a Big 'outside' push, or 'Bang?

 

On the other hand, and once more, if objects and processes, systems and sub-systems are all internally-driven, then they can have no effect on each other. And, if that is so, equally, there seems to be no point in stressing the 'mediated' nature of the Totality.

 

Whichever way we turn, we seem to hit a non-dialectical brick wall.

 

Perhaps this is being too quick?

 

Atomism Returns To Haunt DM

 

To begin again afresh: the DM-Totality itself seems to be a Mega-system that contains many sub-systems. I say "seems" here because, as we will find out in Essay Eleven Parts One and Two, it is far from clear what dialecticians, if anything, themselves think their 'Totality' either is or contains.

 

Be this as it may; as we are about to find out, DM-theorists face a serious dilemma: either (a) every single thing in their universe is made of simple but eternally changeless objects, or (b) they are composed of sub-systems that cannot interact.

 

However, before I substantiate the above assertions, a couple of preliminary points about systems, sub-systems and parts, need making first:

 

(1) I shall count a system as any object or process that is made of simpler interconnected proper parts. For example, an atom is made of a nucleus and 'orbiting' electrons; the solar system, of a centrally-placed sun and orbiting planets, and so on, each of which is a sub-system in its own right. A sub-system is a system which is also a proper part of another system. By "system-specific" I mean processes (geometrically or topologically) internal to a given system or sub-system.

 

A proper part is a part that is less than, or is not identical with, the part of which it is a part; alternatively, if A is a proper part of B, then B isn't a part of A, nor is it equal to A. I am, of course, referring to systems that are not mere agglomerations (so-called 'Mereological Universalism'), but unified and internally interconnected wholes. [On this see Simons (1987), Varzi (2015), and van Cleve (2008).]

 

(2) A simple object is one that has no parts, and, in view of the above, isn't therefore a system. Apparently, electrons and photons are elementary particles, but whether they are metaphysically simple is unclear. [On this, see Castellani (1998).]

 

This means that nature is composed of at most two sorts of 'entities': systems and simple objects (or, to use the jargon: complexes and simples, (or, to use the jargon about the jargon, "mereological simples" -- this links to a PDF)). We need not assume that these are mutually exclusive categories, nor that there actually are any simple objects, only that there might be.

 

[The reader should not assume that I am expressing my own opinions here; I am just trying to make sense of DM.]

 

Now, the reasons for saying that either everything in the DM-universe is made of (1) Simple but eternally changeless objects, or it is composed of (2) Sub-systems that cannot interact may be summarised in the following series of connected, informal propositions (which list all the available relevant (that is, relevant to DM), alternative possibilities appertaining to systems, objects, change and interaction):

 

D1: Change is internal to systems. Objects and processes in each system mutually condition one another (as UOs).

 

D2: Change (to objects and processes) is internally-driven, not externally-motivated.

 

D3: Objects within systems change because of their internal relations and/or contradictions.

 

D4: On the one hand: Objects in a particular system do not have external relations with one another. What appear to be external links are in fact misperceived or misidentified internal relations.5

 

D5: Systems themselves cannot affect each other except by their own internal inter-systemic relations of the above (D4) sort.

 

D6: Alternatively: Individual and disparate systems cannot have such effects on one another, otherwise change wouldn't be wholly internal to a given system.

 

D7: Hence, single objects and/or processes cannot be systems, otherwise they couldn't influence each other (by D6).

 

D8: On the other hand, once more, objects and processes must be sub-systems (and hence systems in their own right), since they are composed of an indefinite (possibly infinite) number of their own sub-units (molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles, 'monads', and so on). But even then, as systems themselves, objects and processes cannot exert an influence one another (again, by D6).

 

D9: This means that at some point there must be simple units of 'matter' that are not themselves systems. Otherwise, if everything were system-like (or, if all that exists were sub-sub-sub-…systems, 'to infinity') nothing could have any effect on anything else (by D6) -- that is, if all change is internally-motivated.

 

D10: But, if there were such simple units (i.e., if these hypothesised 'simples' have no 'parts', and hence aren't systems, or sub-systems, themselves) they would be changeless. If that weren't the case, given the DM-theory of change, these 'simple' units would have to be UOs themselves (thus they wouldn't be simple, after all), and would be subject to their own internally-driven development. However, if these 'simples' are changeless, they can have no effect on one another (or they wouldn't be changeless). Indeed, it isn't easy to see how a 'simple' can change in any way at all (other than by a rearrangement among themselves).

 

D11: Hence, reality is either composed of a (possibly) infinite hierarchy of systems that have no influence on each other, or it is composed of fundamental (non-system-like) objects that are changeless, and which have no effect on anything.

 

However, as I have pointed out in Essay Seven Part Three, the idea that matter can be infinitely divided, and that at each stage there are internal contradictions (or 'inner tendencies') that drive change -- even with respect to the smallest particles of matter -- creates insuperable problems:

 

This view seems to imply that every change involves a potentially infinite number of tendencies within tendencies, within tendencies, within.... Let us suppose it does imply this, and that each interaction between these inner tendencies takes, say, 10-10 seconds (i.e., each takes one ten-billionth of a second). Let us further suppose that there is a series of, say, 10100 of these tendencies within tendencies, within tendencies, within.... Now, even though this number is huge (i.e., it is one followed by a hundred zeros, and is called a Googol), it is way short of infinity. But, let us suppose there is this number of such inner, inner, inner..., tendencies involved in each 'dialectical' change of an object/process into its opposite. If these changes (to those inner, inner, inner..., tendencies) each take 10-10 seconds to complete, then any single change of an object/process into its opposite (i.e., A into not-A) will take 10-10 x 10100 = 1090 seconds to complete. If a year is 60 x 60 x 24 x 365 = 31,536,000 seconds, then each such change will take 1090/31,536,000 = 3.171 x 1083 years to complete -- that is, approximately 3 followed by 83 zeros years! If we take the latest estimate of the age of the universe at approximately 14 billion years (that is, 14 followed by nine zeros), then each 'dialectical change' -- even assuming there isn't an infinite series of these inner, inner. inner..., tendencies -- would take approximately 2 x 1073 (i.e., 2 followed by 73 zeros) times longer to happen than the entire time that has elapsed since the 'Big Bang'!

 

On the other hand, an infinite series of these inner, inner, inner..., tendencies will take an infinite number of years to complete. The universe would grind to a halt just as soon as it 'began'.

 

Of course, if there isn't an infinite number of these inner, inner, inner..., tendencies, then at some point there will be a tendency A* that changes into an opposite tendency A** (or even into a not-A*) that won't have been caused/initiated by an inner struggle of still further tendencies. At this point, the theory will collapse, since it will then be clear that any change (all of which must begin with this very last uncaused (by a further tendency) change) will be uncaused, and hence will just happen. So, since all change must begin with this first uncaused change, then 'dialectical change' won't ultimately be the result of a struggle between opposites, but will just happen and have no 'dialectical cause', and the DM-classics will stand refuted.

 

Be this as it may, both horns of this dilemma contradict all we appear to know about nature (that is, that there are systems that do not interact, or that there are eternally unchanging objects that also do not interact). Is there any way to avoid this fatal conclusion? Could there be a 'dialectical' way out of this DM-cul-de-sac?

 

Perhaps we should start again with a consideration of the following propositions (wherein "T" stands for the Totality):

 

D12: Change is a result of "internal contradictions".

 

D13: Objects within T change only because of this internal dynamic.

 

D14: Reality is a mediated T; change is a consequence of a 'struggle' between opposites.

 

D15: No element of reality can be considered in isolation; all mutually condition one another.

 

However, D12 is ambiguous. The word "change" could mean:

 

(1) "Systematic change" (that is, it could mean "change internal to a particular system"); or it could mean:

 

(2) "Change internal to an object" -- as it does in D13 -– leaving it unclear whether or not this sort of change is wider-ranging, involving inter-objective or trans-systematic change.

 

Nevertheless, D13 seems clear enough:

 

D13: Objects within T change only because of this internal dynamic.

 

This clearly states that change arises only as a result of a dynamic internal to objects.

 

But, if that were so, it would once again be difficult to see what influence these objects could have on each other. If change is internal to an object, then the relations it supposedly enjoys with other objects would be irrelevant in this respect; ex hypothesi, they could have no impact on the changes that the latter underwent. This seems to imply that objects must be self-caused or self-motivated beings (indeed, just as Lenin "demanded").

 

Once more, however, whatever changes an object undergoes -- since these changes are exclusively internally-generated -- they can't be a function of the relations which that object enjoys with other objects, otherwise the cause of change wouldn't be internal to the said object, but external, after all -- and thus not the least bit 'rational' (since this option would imply a "bad infinity").

 

On the other hand, if change is internal to a system of mediated objects or processes, then it can't be the sole result of a dynamic internal to the objects in that system, but must be a function both of the inter-systematic relations between systems and bodies and of the 'internal contradictions' within those systems or bodies themselves. [This appears to be the idea that motivated Stalinist and Maoist theorists.]

 

Furthermore, if change is system-specific (that is, if it is internal to, and solely confined within systems), then the relations between those systems would become problematic, once more. Clearly, change cannot be exclusively system-specific if different systems are to have an actual effect on one another.

 

The question is, which of these is the correct account? Is change (A) The result of a dynamic internal to systems? Or (B) Is it internal to objects? Or (C) Is it a consequence of the external effects bodies have on each other?

 

[It is worth noting that Option (C) in fact allows change to be internal to systems even while it remains external to the bodies comprising that system.]

 

Is, therefore, change body-specific, system-specific, or is it inter-systematic? Or, is it (D) A complex combination of all three?

 

But: if (D) were the case, what would be the point of Lenin saying (nay, "demanding") that change is motivated internally (in bodies, processes or systems) if it is also externally-driven?

 

On the other hand, why say that everything is interconnected if change is exclusively internally-generated, and the alleged interconnections between systems or bodies have no part to play?

 

Up until now, DM-theorists appear not to have noticed these serious difficulties implied by their 'theory' of change. Since DM is supposed to be the philosophy of change, clearly this isn't a minor flaw, one that can easily be ignored or dismissed.

 

President Nixon Saves The Day

 

It could be objected that it is possible to resolve these problems by referring to the 'dialectical' interplay between objects and processes (i.e., between 'internal' and 'external' contradictions'), or even the interplay within and between systems.

 

But, this seriously overworked and hackneyed response doesn't actually provide a clear answer to the above questions -- not, that is, unless it turns out that objects themselves are in fact disguised systems, all the way down, as it were. This would mean that objects aren't really simple, but are composed of their own interconnected parts, and so on 'to infinity'.

 

But, as noted above, if that were so, the contrast between external and internal causation would disappear, and DM-'internalism' would become either an empty idea or a meaningless mantra. [It would also lead to the universe coming to a grinding halt (as we saw above).]

 

There seems to be little point in emphasising that change is internally-generated if it is externally-motivated, too (no matter how much this is couched in 'dialectical' jargon) -- still less any point in arguing for, if not "demanding" we focus on, the internal development of objects if they are in fact interconnect sub-systems themselves, subject to external constraints.

 

One might just as well try to defend theism by claiming that whereas, on the one hand, the universe is self-caused and needs no creator or an external cause..., but, on the other, Divine Logic "insists" that it does indeed possess an external cause, and that 'He/She/It' (i.e., 'God') is 'dialectically related' to the world (with that particular phrase left conveniently obscure). If such a theist then played the "Nixon" card,6 and claimed that Divine Logic enables its adepts to "grasp" this 'explanation' as a 'dialectical solution' to the "mystery of creation", we would be unimpressed, and rightly so.

 

Well, what is sauce for the Deist, is surely sauce for the DM-ist, too. We should no more be inclined to accept the word of a Theological Mystic who claimed he/she could 'solve' the 'contradiction' between the universe having an internal (but no external) cause, and the (alleged) fact that it actually did have an external cause, after all, than we should be prepared to do the same when DM-theorists concoct a similarly obscure 'explanation' expressed in dialectical jargon.

 

There is, however, another obvious way of responding to the above criticisms: Interpret one particular strand of this DM-conundrum as committing believers to the view that only systematic change, but not objectual change, is driven by "internal contradictions".

 

But, that would immediately prompt the question: Of what are these systems composed? If they too are composed of objects, then plainly the above dilemma would simply reappear. Are these 'objects' themselves (A) simple or are they (B) complex sub-systems, too?

 

Considering (B) first, if objects are to be edited out on the grounds that they are really systems themselves (i.e., that they are composed of (possibly) infinite sets of further sub-systems -- meaning that there is nothing fundamentally simple or object-like in reality), the entire edifice would collapse for want of bricks. If there are no objects, only systems, then there would seem to be nothing 'deep down' to condition anything else internal to any given system.7

 

D6: Alternatively: Individual and disparate systems cannot have such effects on one another, otherwise change wouldn't be wholly internal to a given system.

 

But, if change is system-specific, according to D6 -- i.e., if change is internal and confined to each sub-system --, then, once more: none of these sub-systems could interact, otherwise change wouldn't be system-specific.

 

Considering next, option (A): if there are fundamental objects internal to systems, but which are not themselves sub-systems (that is, if they are simple), even if they condition each other externally, they could have no inner contradictory lives themselves (since, ex hypothesi, they have no parts). But, as we have seen, this would then imply that such objects are eternally changeless.

 

This would mean, of course, that the above 'objects' couldn't even have an external effect on each other. [Why this is so will is explained in Note 22 of Essay Eight Part One, but it was dealt with partial above.]

 

On the other hand, if these 'objects' did have an internal structure or dynamic, after all, they would in fact be sub-systems, not 'simple' objects -- and this infinitary fandango would take another spin around the metaphysical dance floor.

 

[Incidentally, we met a few possible/actual candidates for these 'simple objects' in an earlier Essay, here and here.]

 

Alternatively, again, if these supposedly 'fundamental objects' conditioned each other externally, that would imply they had parts and weren't fundamental after all. [Again, on this, see Note 22 of Essay Eight Part One.]

 

So, unless the existence of simple objects -- which aren't systems themselves -- is countenanced, systems as such would have no 'bricks'. Or, if systems are comprised of such 'bricks' ('simples'), reality must be fundamentally discrete. In that case, all change would be externally-motivated since such simples would possess no internal contradictions of their own -- although, as Note 22 of Essay Eight Part One established, simple objects cannot interact externally, anyway!

 

So, if objects aren't systems, then they don't have an internal structure and therefore aren't UOs. Unfortunately, once more, this option would rule out interaction, for reasons outlined earlier (and in Notes 17, 21, 22, and 23 of Essay Eight Part One).

 

On the other hand, yet again, if there are no such 'bricks' ('simples'), and nature is system-like 'all the way down', as it were, then these systems can't interact, unless we admit that change is externally-motivated, after all.

 

This means that the dilemma that faced classical Ontology now confronts DM; the fundamental constituents of reality must be either:

 

(1) Extensionally significant bodies of matter (or energy).

 

This option preserves the systematic nature of reality (since it allows for the indefinite divisibility of parts, treating them as infinitary systems themselves, subject to endless sub-division).

 

Or:

 

(2) Fundamentally changeless atoms (or extensionless points).

 

This alternative safeguards the objects at the expense of the 'unity of nature'.

 

In the second case, reality would be composed of finitely (or 'infinitely'?) small but eternal 'billiard balls'; in the first case, everything would be made of an infinitely thin/abstract sort of 'gas'/'plasma' (not itself made out of anything else). Either way, causation would disappear for nothing could have an effect on anything else in either set-up -- and it would take an infinite amount of time to happen. [This is an echo of Leibniz's criticism of Newton.]

 

Of course, as noted above, the DM-'solution' to this (Kantian) antinomy -- following Hegel -- is to "grasp" it as a "contradiction". This handy logical trick clearly 'solves' everything by Nixoning it, which is a convenient escape route that DM-advocates reserve for their own exclusive use; no one else is permitted to employ this thoroughly dishonest argumentative dodge.

 

However, this disingenuous approach to philosophical problems fails to achieve what it was set up to evade (i.e., the glaring contradictions in DM itself). That is because it is still unclear how anything can be fundamentally atomic -- and hence maximally causally isolated from the rest of nature -- while at the same time being thoroughly systematic and interconnected with everything in existence. The DM-account of causation seems to imply both!

 

Instead of wanting to 'grasp' a serious confusion of this order of magnitude, DM-theorists should perhaps want to disown it.

 

In order to counter the above it could be argued that if we suppose that (1) Objects and processes within any given system can influence other bodies or systems external to themselves, that (2) Change is internally-driven, and that (3) Objects and processes do not in fact causally affect one another, they nevertheless "mediate" each other. In this way, change could still be regarded as internal to a system (or body), nature still seen as an interconnected Totality, and objects and processes could also exert an external influence on other objects and processes. [The ideas of several DM-theorists, who seem to argue along these lines, will be examined in Appendix A.]

 

However, the nature of these external 'influences' is highly obscure. How, indeed, would it be possible for objects or processes to 'influence' each other in this sense and for this not to have any causal impact? What sort of 'influence' is this if it changes nothing, if things could proceed in exactly the same way whether or not such 'influences' operated? And what would be the point of claiming that nature formed an interconnected whole if remote objects never causally affect one another? What would we say to someone who argued that although, say, the centre of mass of the galactic group of which our galaxy forms a part had an 'influence' on the solar system, this wasn't a causal influence? If they couldn't explain what they meant, would we be willing to accept such an obscure 'theory'?

 

Another Attempt To Resolve This Dilemma

 

In order to try to resolve this problem, we need to re-consider D12-D15 (and in particular D14) in more detail.

 

D12: Change is a result of "internal contradictions".

 

D13: Objects within T change only because of this internal dynamic.

 

D14: Reality is a mediated T; change is a consequence of a 'struggle' between opposites.

 

D15: No element of reality can be considered in isolation; all mutually condition one another.

 

Unfortunately, as we have seen, D15 creates problems for D14, for if change is inter-systematic then it is hard to see how the 'contradictions' internal to any sub-system of T can contribute to the wider picture. As noted above, their influence doesn't stretch beyond the boundaries of that system; but if that is so, it is difficult to see how systems could be interconnected. In the end, it all depends on how wide-ranging inter-systematic change is taken to be -- and how the internal dynamic of each sub-system of T is conceived. Consider, therefore, the following possibilities:

 

D16: Let T comprise n disjoint sub-systems S1 to Sn.8

 

D17: Also, let change to any Sk-th sub-system of T be a result of its "internal contradictions".

 

D16 and D17 seem to be essential moves for DM-theorists to make, otherwise the yawning chasm of HEX (on this, see Essay Ten Part One) might imply remote causation -- which we have good reason to question (on this, see Essays Seven Part One and Eleven Part One). Anyway, change to any Sk-th item must be internally-driven (according to D12 and D13); if not, the following infinite 'inflation' would ensue:

 

D18: Change in any Sk-th element is a result both of its "internal contradictions" and of its relations with m other elements or sub-systems within T (where m < n).

 

D19: Change to these m elements or sub-systems of T is a result of their own "internal contradictions" and of their relations with p other elements or sub-systems of T (where p < n), and so on.

 

As will readily be appreciated, D19 threatens to expand rapidly into another HEX-like proposition (i.e., if the sub-systems of T are held to be disjoint), at the same time as undermining D12 and D13, into the bargain.

 

This explains why the compartmentalisation of T -– noted in D17 -- was so important. Without it, D14 and D15 would support some rather odd ideas, such as the following:

 

H1: The 2005 UK New Labour majority in Parliament was partly caused by insignificant changes in the density of minute pockets of Hydrogen gas in the large Magellanic Cloud precisely:

 

601.345266789309865789024354685

 

million years ago, and vice versa. Moreover, this would also be true at every other moment in universal history (past, present, or future)! Similarly, and even more bizarrely, this would implicate every other event in universal history (at every moment, past or present) with the aforementioned Labour majority, and vice versa.9

 

While (UK) Labour supporters may be permitted the view that the aforementioned victory was historic, even they might balk at the cosmic significance it appears to assume given this overly-inflated view of interconnectedness. Even if anyone were credulous enough to believe this unlikely scenario, there is no way it could be verified; it would thus have to be imposed on reality.10

 

And it will not do to argue that dialecticians assent only to the 'relative' interconnectedness of objects and processes in reality, not their absolute inter-relatedness, as the above seems to allege. That response has been neutralised here.

 

Clearly, the difficulty in this case revolves around the problem of specifying the dimensions, boundaries and sphere of influence of each Sk. But, how do we decide the extent to which T should be partitioned into non-interacting/interpenetrating sub-systems? And, where do we stop? Unless we are careful, this attempt to forestall HEX is in danger of collapsing back into CAR, as the permissible sub-elements of T become increasingly microscopic. Is there any way of preventing this collapse? In the absence of 'objective' criteria, any partitioning of T must, it seems, be arbitrary. If we partition T into n elements, why not 2n, or even 10n?

 

In that case, it rather looks like DM has its own "bad infinity" -- which stops (and starts) "who knows where?"

 

The choice before DM-fans now appears to lie between one or more of the following options:

 

(a) Full-blown HEX with its incipient scepticism and its destructive implications for science.

 

(b) The partitioning of T to avoid HEX, accompanied by an attempt to scratch around for an ad hoc principle that limits the size of n to avoid a collapse back into CAR.

 

(c) A compartmentalisation of T that rules out universal "mediation".

 

(d) An admission that DM has its own "bad infinity", but in both directions (i.e., downwards toward CAR and upwards toward HEX).

 

(e) The concession that the cause of change is not internal to bodies or systems, after all.

 

Of course, the adoption of (d) would remove whatever motivation there might once have been for rejecting CAR in the first place.

 

Retreat Into A Concrete Bunker?

 

Admittedly, D12-D19 are abstract in form, whereas dialecticians in general make it perfectly clear that it is only as a result of examining concrete examples that the precise details of systematic change may be understood and verified -- i.e., tested in practice. Perhaps this is the problem with the above criticisms?

 

Nevertheless, this response fails to neutralise the difficulties outlined earlier. According to DM, the material world is independent of our knowledge of it. In that case, whether we are aware of it or not -- given this view -- one or other, or more, of D12-D15, or of (a) to (e) above, must obtain.

 

Anyway, the same 'abstract' analysis applied to T can be adapted and extended to any "concrete situation" depicting actual events. Consider, therefore, the following:

 

D20: Let C be a concrete situation comprising n disjoint elements or sub-systems C1 to Cn.

 

D21: Also, let change to any Ck-th sub-system or element of C be a result of its "internal contradictions".

 

D22: Hence, change in Ck is not a consequence of its relations with any other Ci.

 

But, once again, D22 means that T can't be a mediated whole; if D22 were true, T's concrete sub-systems would exist in permanent causal isolation. This implies that D22 should perhaps be replaced by one or other of the following:

 

D23: Change in any Ck-th sub-system is a result of its relations with m other elements or sub-systems of C. Or

 

D24: Change to C is not a consequence of its relations with any other concrete sub-systems of T.

 

Unfortunately, D24 would still mean that each C is a hermetically-sealed sub-unit of T, while D23 itself threatens to inflate into HEX if each C is extended widely enough --, and the mediationally-air-tight seals around it loosened, even slightly.

 

We needn't labour the point any further; D20-D24 can easily be adapted so that they mirror the problems created by D16-D19, above.

 

So, any attempt to retreat into a concrete bunker can't save DM. This entire approach either collapses back into CAR (resulting in the postulation of what are in effect 'elementary particles', which do not interact and do not change), or it threatens to expand uncontrollably into HEX, contradicting D12 and D13. Hence, one or more of options (a) to (e) above still appear to be unavoidable.

 

Of course, these problems arose because DM-theorists, in a thoroughly traditional manner, sought to provide an a priori, metaphysical theory of causation (and one that doesn't seem to have been thought-through with sufficient -- or any -- care), which they then peremptorily imposed on reality.

 

DM theorists nowhere explain why change has to result from "internal contradictions" (or even why it can't arise from external conflict and/or tension, or a mixture of both), or just from "contradictions" simpliciter -- or, indeed, from something else. Nor do they explain how a contradiction could possibly make anything change.

 

[Since this entire topic was discussed at length in Essay Five --, where, among other things, examples were given of objects and processes that remained the same even while they changed(!)--, no more will be said about that particular topic here.]

 

Other DM-theorists have attempted to derive similar results using their own brand of a priori reasoning (examined in Part Two of this Essay, and in Essay Seven Part One); these attempts were linked to the supposed logical concomitants of change, wherein objects change because they turn into 'what-they-are-not', or because they already contain 'what-they-are-not'.

 

However, attentive readers will have noticed once again the dearth of "careful empirical" work offered in support of these hyper-bold DM-theses. Moreover, they will no doubt also have observed how substantive theses like these have yet again been derived from the supposed meanings of a handful of words (such as, "opposite", "change", "contradiction" and "unity"). [On this, see Essays Two and Twelve Part One.]

 

Total Confidence

 

Word-Juggling Once More

 

As we saw in Essays Two and Twelve Part One, the conclusions DM-theorist reach about all of nature, for all of time are based on little more than word-juggling; that is, DM-theorists derive fundamental truths about all of reality from a handful of word like "Totality", "abstract", "concrete", "opposite", "contradiction", and "change" (etc.).

 

So, since the word "Totality" appears to mean "everything in the universe" (or "everything in existence") it then appears obvious (to dialecticians, but not on the basis of any evidence -- it just looks 'self-evident') that the Totality cannot be caused by anything 'outside' itself, -- otherwise such a cause would be part of the original whole by definition. Consequently, simply because of what the word "Totality" appears to mean, DM-theorists conclude that causation must be internal to whatever they have severally or collectively decided it must be internal to.

 

This can be seen from the way the way that Lenin uses terms like "requires" and "demands":

 

"Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it)…." [Lenin (1921), p.90. Bold emphases in the original. Italic emphasis added.]

 

If this thesis were empirically-based, such modal terms wouldn't be needed. Indeed, if this theory were based on evidence, Lenin would have said something like this:

 

"Dialectical logic and supporting evidence suggest that we go further…. They imply that it would be wise to view objects as developmental, and in some cases, as self-developing." [Edited re-write of ibid.]

 

Now that would be to take the following words seriously:

 

"Finally, for me there could be no question of superimposing the laws of dialectics on nature but of discovering them in it and developing them from it." [Engels (1976), p.13. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"All three are developed by Hegel in his idealist fashion as mere laws of thought: the first, in the first part of his Logic, in the Doctrine of Being; the second fills the whole of the second and by far the most important part of his Logic, the Doctrine of Essence; finally the third figures as the fundamental law for the construction of the whole system. The mistake lies in the fact that these laws are foisted on nature and history as laws of thought, and not deduced from them. This is the source of the whole forced and often outrageous treatment; the universe, willy-nilly, is made out to be arranged in accordance with a system of thought which itself is only the product of a definite stage of evolution of human thought." [Engels (1954), p.62. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"We all agree that in every field of science, in natural and historical science, one must proceed from the given facts, in natural science therefore from the various material forms of motion of matter; that therefore in theoretical natural science too the interconnections are not to be built into the facts but to be discovered in them, and when discovered to be verified as far as possible by experiment.

 

"Just as little can it be a question of maintaining the dogmatic content of the Hegelian system as it was preached by the Berlin Hegelians of the older and younger line." [Ibid., p.47. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

"The general results of the investigation of the world are obtained at the end of this investigation, hence are not principles, points of departure, but results, conclusions. To construct the latter in one's head, take them as the basis from which to start, and then reconstruct the world from them in one's head is ideology, an ideology which tainted every species of materialism hitherto existing.... As Dühring proceeds from 'principles' instead of facts he is an ideologist, and can screen his being one only by formulating his propositions in such general and vacuous terms that they appear axiomatic, flat. Moreover, nothing can be concluded from them; one can only read something into them...." [Marx and Engels (1987), Volume 25, p.597. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"The criticism to which the idealism of the Deborin school has been subjected in Soviet philosophical circles in recent years has aroused great interest among us. Deborin's idealism has exerted a very bad influence in the Chinese Communist Party, and it cannot be said that the dogmatist thinking in our Party is unrelated to the approach of that school. Our present study of philosophy should therefore have the eradication of dogmatist thinking as its main objective." [Mao (1961b), p.311. Bold emphasis and link added. See also here.]

 

Furthermore, since change involves an object or property becoming what-it-is-not (again, this too is assumed to be the case because of what certain words associated with change appear to mean -- on that, see here), change through contradiction is thought to have universal applicability.

 

[On this, see Appendix A.]

 

So, once more, from words alone another branch of 'Superscience' has sprung.

 

Now, to most people this might not seem such a big deal, but as we will see in Essay Twelve (summary here) -- and as Engels pointed out -- this tactic depends on an Idealist view of reality: specifically that nature is Mind -- either that, or it is just 'condensed language' --, and is thus governed by a priori 'logico-linguistic laws', accessible to 'thought' alone.

 

Here is George Novack:

 

"A consistent materialism cannot proceed from principles which are validated by appeal to abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source. Idealisms may do this. But the materialist philosophy has to be based upon evidence taken from objective material sources and verified by demonstration in practice...." [Novack (1965), p.17. Bold emphasis added.]

 

The fact that certain truths about fundamental aspects of reality have been inferred from the meanings of certain words can be seen if we direct our attention to the answers that might be given to the following questions:

 

(1) How do DM-theorists know that the cause of change is always and only internal?

 

(2) How can they be so sure that change universally results only from contradictions?

 

(3) How do they know that the Totality is a mediated whole?

 

As seems clear, the only possible answer to such questions is that this sort of knowledge is based on (i) What words like "Totality", "abstract", "concrete", "opposite", and "change" (etc.) really mean -- or, perhaps, on (ii) Whatever these concepts are said to imply, etc.11

 

These (and other terms) are then used as interpretative devices to sift, select and then colour whatever 'evidence' is produced in their support, which means, of course, that these concepts can't have been derived from experience or from a consideration of concrete events. They are far too general for that; but more importantly they are not even phrased as if they depended on experience: we have already seen that all those "insistences", "demands", "musts" and "requires" in DM-books and articles blow apart the defence that DM is based on a review of the available evidence. [This was the main theme of Essay Two.]

 

The ease with which theses like these have regularly been cobbled-together by dialecticians in its own way reflects on the totalising influence of Hegel's Absolute Idealism: it is only because the world is considered to be 'rational' that a systematic DM-explanation of reality is possible. [This will become the main topic of Essay Twelve Part Four, when it is published.] The alleged DM-'inversion' of the Hegelian Absolute -- with its associated 'logical' connections still left in place -- which then promptly morphed into the DM-"Totality", accounts for the absolute confidence with which dialecticians think they can derive so much from so little. Because Hegel's system hasn't actually been up-ended, but left the same way up (with a few 'materialist-sounding' phrases plastered all over it), dialecticians have issued themselves with a convenient licence to impose their own concepts on reality.

 

If all that is real is rational, and all that is rational is real, a priori thesis-generation like this makes perfect sense. The rest is, of course, simply window dressing.

 

However, DM-writers would also have us believe that not only is our present state of knowledge partial and relative, all future knowledge will always remain similarly incomplete. And yet, even in the face of this seemingly modest admission, dialecticians are still quite happy to inform us what must be true of every atom in the entire Universe, for all of time -- i.e., that everything must change because of its "internal contradictions".

 

This alone shows their theory isn't dependent on evidence but has its source elsewhere -- in mystical Hermetic Philosophy.

 

Contradictions And Change

 

Putting the above difficulties to one side for the moment, I propose to take D12-D15 at face value, but concentrate on D13-D15 (since they seem more closely to represent the DM-consensus) in order to try to rescue this part of 'Materialist Dialectics' from oblivion.

 

D12: Change is a result of 'internal contradictions'.

 

D13: Objects within T change only because of this internal dynamic.

 

D14: Reality is a mediated T; change is a consequence of a 'struggle' between opposites.

 

D15: No element of reality can be considered in isolation; all mutually condition one another.

 

However, D13 looks unnecessarily vague, so I will alter it to the following:

 

D25: Change within T is caused solely by 'internal contradictions'.

 

[Where "T" again stands for the "Totality".]

 

The difficulty with this version of D13 is that it is still unclear what it means to say that 'contradictions' cause change (and thus motion) -- we have already seen that there are good reasons to question this idea (cf., Essay Five).

 

However, in this connection it is worth reminding ourselves that DM-theorists have replaced Hegel's use of the term "contradiction" with a consideration of the antagonistic relation between real material forces (I have quoted several DM-passages to this effect in Essay Eight Part Two), that is, that material forces either represent, embody, or actually are contradictions.

 

Hence, on that basis, it could be argued that the discussion above is thoroughly misguided; indeed, it could even be maintained that the identification of contradictions with real material forces provides DM with a scientific and concrete interpretation -- and one that identifies the material analogues of causation --, which completely refutes the objections made so far in this Essay, and elsewhere at this site.

 

In which case, D25 should perhaps be re-written as:

 

D26: Change within T is caused solely by internally-opposed material forces.

 

But, D26 isn't obviously true. Nature is full of forces of attraction, which do not even look oppositional. Of course, DM-theorists would be the first to admit that there are dynamic equilibria/disequilibria between attractive and repulsive forces in nature. D26, therefore, needs further adjustment:

 

D27: Change within T is caused solely by internal forces of attraction and repulsion.

 

[D25: Change within T is caused solely by 'internal contradictions'.]

 

However, it will be shown (in detail) in Part Two of this Essay that there is no interpretation of D27 that makes it equivalent to D25. It isn't even plausible to suppose that "forces of attraction and repulsion" could serve either to explicate or replace "contradiction". The reader is directed there for more details.

 

Decision Time

 

The Choices Before Us

 

In advance of the discussion in Part Two, the question whether or not DM-theorists are right to claim that dialectical contradictions find their material analogue in material forces does not in fact affect the point at issue -- which is whether or not change is internal to each system or sub-system, whatever causes it. Even if forces could be represented in the way dialecticians suppose, the very same difficulties highlighted earlier will still arise.

 

In that case, if change is indeed internal to each system then at least one of the following options would, it seems, have to be true (take your pick!):

 

(A) There is only one system -- the Totality --, the contents of which are all (potentially or actually) maximally interconnected. Every object in the Totality is subject only to the operation of external causes. That is because the entire nature of the part is determined by its relation to the whole and to other parts, but not by a relation that any given part has with itself, and hence not by processes internal to each object.

 

Or:

 

(B) There is only one system -- the Totality --, which is (potentially or actually) maximally interconnected. But, change is exclusively internal to each object or process in this Totality (because everything is a UO). In that case, nothing can be interconnected with anything else.

 

Or:

 

(C) Change is internal to all systems, and nature forms an infinite 'ascending' and/or 'descending' hierarchy of systems and sub-systems ('all the way up'/'down', as it were). In such a set-up, ultimately, there is nothing that could be, or could become, the opposite of anything else. That is because, either:

 

(i) The fundamental parts of reality are extensionless 'simples' -- which, because they can be mapped onto or modelled by the Real Numbers, have no 'size' (no dimensions). This means that such objects possess no internal connections with anything else (unlike the Reals); they are therefore eternal and changeless. If they were subject to change then they would be systems themselves and hence wouldn't be extensionless points. As extensionless points they can have no effect on each other, or on anything else, or they would change. Hence, if systems are infinitely divisible change cannot be internally-motivated -- or rather, the only change that would be possible would be that which arises from the rearrangement of these eternally changeless 'simples'.

 

Or:

 

(ii) The fundamental parts of reality are systems. However, if that were so, these systems cannot have opposites that cause either or both of them to change. That is because those opposites would have to be external to each system, which would mean that change wouldn't after all be internally-driven. [The latter sort of opposite can't be internal to any given system. If they were, that system couldn't change into that opposite, since that opposite already exists.]

 

Or:

 

(D) Everything (but the Totality) is a sub-system of some sort, no matter how much or to what extent it is sub-divided. In that case, there are no fundamental 'point masses', since all sub-systems are infinitely divisible. In this set-up, while change is internal to the Totality it isn't internal to any of its sub-systems, but external to each. That is because if change were exclusively internal to such sub-systems they could have no effect on one another. But, if no sub-system had any effect on any other, there would be no change in the Totality over-and-above, perhaps, the rearrangement of these sub-systems. Hence, on this view, while the Totality changes, its sub-systems can't.

 

In that case, given this option, change would be internal to the Totality but external to all its sub-systems. Moreover, even if the latter were UOs, that fact would have no influence on whether they changed or not. If it did, change would be internal to each sub-system, contrary to the supposition. So, if (D) is to stand, change wouldn't be the result of instability internal to each sub-system -- because the latter are, on this supposition, externally-motivated.

 

[However, a moment's thought will show that this option can't work in the way described -- if change is merely the re-arranging of subsystems, then any larger system containing these subsystems would itself change internally, contrary to the hypothesis.]

 

Or:

 

(E) Change isn't just internal to the Totality, it is also internal and external to all its sub-systems (as they 'mediate' one another, or 'dialectically' interact). In that case, change to these sub-systems can't be the sole result of their own internal instabilities and/or 'inner contradictions', as dialecticians like Lenin maintain.

 

Unfortunately, this would have profound implications for Historical Materialism and the revolutionary overthrow of Capitalism, for example. The contradictions inside the latter would plainly be insufficient to precipitate its demise. External causes over and above the class struggle and the falling rate of profit (etc.) would be needed --, including, perhaps, bad weather, meteorite impact, or alien intervention (etc.).

 

Naturally, no one believes the class struggle is hermetically sealed against the rest of nature, but since these influences stretch off into infinity this would present DM with its own "bad infinity", which would end "who knows where?"

 

Moreover, if change is also external to every system, then the Totality (as a system itself) must itself be subject to just such external influences.

 

Any attempt to forestall that implication would prompt the same sort of objection that stumps naive supporters of the Cosmological Argument [henceforth, COMA] for the existence of 'God': if everything has a cause, then what caused 'God'?

 

In like manner, if every system is subject to external causation, then why not the Totality?

 

Clearly, this challenge can only be neutralised by an appeal to (a) The alleged 'definition' of the Totality, or to (b) An infinite set of causes, which stretch off to "who knows where?" -- in the way that theists respond to similar objections to the COMA. [This isn't surprising, given the mystical origin of DM.]

 

However, as Kant pointed out, the COMA has to be buttressed by a surreptitious appeal to the Ontological Argument [henceforth, ONAN]. So, from the supposed definition of the word "God" (i.e., as "That than which nothing greater can be conceived"), 'His' necessary and actual existence 'can be deduced'. In this way, questions about 'His' origin are supposedly rendered illogical, irrational or pointless.

 

Similarly, but in this case based on the meaning of "Totality" (i.e., as "All that there is" or, maybe, "That than which there is nothing else", or even "That outwith which nothing else can be conceived"), it could be argued that there is nothing outside the Totality that could cause it to exist.

 

Hence, it seems that the only way that dialecticians could defend this fall-back position (should they chose to adopt it) would be to use an 'atheistical' version of the ONAN -- along the lines that the Totality is "That than which there is nothing else".

 

Of course, such a defence would make plain the Linguistic Idealism implicit in DM, since, once again: from the meaning of a few words fundamental truths about reality will have been derived.

 

But, more importantly, if change is caused by the interplay of opposites, and objects and systems turn into those opposites (as the DM-classics inform us), then, whether or not it is internally-, or externally-induced, change would be impossible. As we have seen -- here --, if the opposite of a body or system already exists, that body or system can't change into it, for it already exists!

 

On the other hand, if it doesn't already exist it can play no part in helping to change that object or system, to begin with!

 

In view of their unwise commitment to 'inverted' Hegelian 'logic', there seem to be no other viable options left open to DM-theorists.

 

Moreover, if the last of these alternatives were correct, then (as we will see here) the similarities between DM and Mystical Christianity would become even less difficult to hide. For if there is a force external to the Universe that conditions it, then the Totality will have an external cause after all, and the DM-search for "how" and "why" will have run into the Ground Of All Being -- which ends "we all know where...".

 

The choice of name for such an ultimate cause doesn't affect the above point -- nor does it resolve the problems that have been exposed -- since a Deity by any other name is still a Deity.

 

As Hegel himself noted:

 

"Every philosophy is essentially an idealism or at least has idealism for its principle, and the question then is only how far this principle is carried out." [Hegel (1999), pp.154-55; §316.]

 

As far a DM is concerned, it looks like he was right.

 

Is There A Dialectical Way Out Of This Hermetic hole?

 

There are other alternatives that could be added to this complex set of Dialectical Difficulties, but those considered above should suffice. All seem inimical to any DM-account of change. Some even undermine HM!

 

In that case, DM faces yet another very real brick wall in its endeavour to explain change: the material world itself.

 

Everyday language, developed on the basis of collective labour, and an interaction with the material world, resists such idealist impertinences. It is thus no surprise, therefore, that DM collapses into incoherence yet again.

 

So, no way out then...

 

Notes

 

1. Of course, the theory that change is the result of some sort of relation, interplay or 'struggle' between 'opposites' encapsulates ideas that stretch back into the mists of time. For example, it forms the basis of Manichean dualistic ontology, just as it underlies the Daoist belief in yin and yang. In Appendix One of Essay Two I have posted a dozen or so examples of ancient and modern mystical systems that promoted this world-view.

 

This doctrine is also central to Aristotle's theory of change; he credits the Presocratic Philosophers, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Parmenides and Democritus, with different versions of this dogma, just as it is present in Heraclitus's thought, albeit in a very obscure form:

 

"All thinkers then agree in making the contraries principles, both those who describe the All as one and unmoved (for even Parmenides treats hot and cold as principles under the names of fire and earth) and those too who use the rare and the dense. The same is true of Democritus also, with his plenum and void, both of which exist, be says, the one as being, the other as not-being. Again he speaks of differences in position, shape, and order, and these are genera of which the species are contraries, namely, of position, above and below, before and behind; of shape, angular and angle-less, straight and round.

"It is plain then that they all in one way or another identify the contraries with the principles. And with good reason. For first principles must not be derived from one another nor from anything else, while everything has to be derived from them. But these conditions are fulfilled by the primary contraries, which are not derived from anything else because they are primary, nor from each other because they are contraries.

"But we must see how this can be arrived at as a reasoned result, as well as in the way just indicated.

 
"Our first presupposition must be that in nature nothing acts on, or is acted on by, any other thing at random, nor may anything come from anything else, unless we mean that it does so in virtue of a concomitant attribute. For how could 'white' come from 'musical', unless 'musical' happened to be an attribute of the not-white or of the black? No, 'white' comes from 'not-white'-and not from any 'not-white', but from black or some intermediate colour. Similarly, 'musical' comes to be from 'not-musical', but not from any thing other than musical, but from 'unmusical' or any intermediate state there may be.

"Nor again do things pass into the first chance thing; 'white' does not pass into 'musical' (except, it may be, in virtue of a concomitant attribute), but into 'not-white'-and not into any chance thing which is not white, but into black or an intermediate colour; 'musical' passes into 'not-musical'-and not into any chance thing other than musical, but into 'unmusical' or any intermediate state there may be.

 

"The same holds of other things also: even things which are not simple but complex follow the same principle, but the opposite state has not received a name, so we fail to notice the fact. What is in tune must come from what is not in tune, and vice versa; the tuned passes into untunedness -- and not into any untunedness, but into the corresponding opposite. It does not matter whether we take attunement, order, or composition for our illustration; the principle is obviously the same in all, and in fact applies equally to the production of a house, a statue, or any other complex. A house comes from certain things in a certain state of separation instead of conjunction, a statue (or any other thing that has been shaped) from shapelessness-each of these objects being partly order and partly composition.

"If then this is true, everything that comes to be or passes away from, or passes into, its contrary or an intermediate state. But the intermediates are derived from the contraries-colours, for instance, from black and white. Everything, therefore, that comes to be by a natural process is either a contrary or a product of contraries." [Aristotle (1984b), pp.321-22.]
 
 

As we will see, this doctrine also forms the backbone of Hegel's answer to Hume's attack on rationalist theories of causation.

 

Of course, dialecticians fail to tell their readers that their own theory of change owes much to Aristotle, probably since that would undermine their ill-informed criticisms of his logic.

 

On Aristotle's theory of change, see Bostock (2006). The writings of the Presocratics mentioned above are to be found in Kirk, Raven and Schofield (1999). On the Presocratics in general, see Barnes (1982). [I have also covered this topic in Note 4 to Essay Eight Part One.]

 

2. "Bad infinity" is an Hegelian term, and is roughly equivalent to "endless" in the sense that the number line is endless.  For Hegel, the "true infinite" is endless but bounded, rather like a circle. On this , see Inwood (1992), pp.139-42.

 

This was, of course, part of the reason why Leibniz opted for a 'logical' solution to the 'problem' of causation. In order to provide an ultimate, 'rational' explanation of the world, external causes had to be re-written as internal causes in disguise, which led Leibniz to postulate the existence of 'Monads'. These were tiny 'minds' programmed to behave as if they had external effects on each other -- but they were all in fact logically inter-connected by means of their 'pre-programmed, pre-installed predicates' -- enabling them not only to be self-moving but also to act as if they had an external effect on one another. They were also hermetically-sealed-off from the rest of nature (they were thus "window-less", as he put it) -- even though all their predicates contained logical links to every other monad.

 

[This is indeed the origin of the 'containment' metaphor Kant used to help distinguish Analytic from Synthetic truths, an idea Hegel also appropriated. As we will see, this is also the origin of the idea that there can only be internal contradictions in DM. All 'external contradictions' are in fact 'internal contradictions' mis-perceived or mis-described.]

 

As Leibniz scholar, George Ross, notes:

 

"During the middle of the seventeenth century, there was a growing consciousness of a divide between two rival and apparently incompatible world-views. On the one hand, there was the materialist, mechanist picture, according to which the world was to be understood exclusively in terms of particles of matter interacting with each other in accordance with the laws of motion. On the other hand, there was the spiritualist, occultist picture, according to which some or all natural phenomena were to be understood in terms of the sympathies and antipathies of spiritual beings acting purposefully. An important dimension of Leibniz's philosophy was his project of synthesising these two approaches through a new set of concepts which would do justice to the insights of each.

 

"Leibniz's best known concept is that of a monad, literally a 'unit'. At all periods, commentators have found it difficult to decide whether his monads were fundamentally infinitesimal atoms of matter, though described somewhat paradoxically, or whether they were thoroughly spiritual realities, little different from the vital principles of occultist philosophers. Along with Leibniz himself, it could be said that both interpretations are right in what they assert, and wrong in what they implicitly deny. His monads were indeed both the atomic foundations of the material world, and the basis of an organic and holistic interpretation of reality. But for his synthesis to work, his ultimate entities had to be neither simply material, nor spiritual -- they had to be immaterial, but without ending up as the invisible spirits, demons, and angels, and the such-like of the occultist world-view.

 

"In fact he accepted the basic assumption of the new philosophy that explanations of particular events had to be in terms of mechanical interactions between material particles. He was, indeed, an extremist, in asserting that all events, including human thoughts and behaviour, could be given purely mechanical explanations. For Leibniz, materialists were definitely right in what they asserted, and spiritualists were wrong to deny the universality of mechanical causation. On the other hand, he also saw the orthodox mechanical philosophy as hopelessly one-sided. In his view, its limitations could be made good only by recognising the positive insights of spiritualism. I shall outline just two of the more serious shortcomings he found in crude materialism.

 

"The first difficulty was that the atomic constituents of matter, or spatially extended substance, could not themselves be spatially extended. This is a consequence of the infinite divisibility of space. However small you take atoms to be, you can still consider them as compounds of smaller parts, and hence not truly atomic. But if you make atoms into indivisible, mathematical points, then they are too small to be characterised by the spatial properties traditionally held essential to matter, such as solidity, size, and shape.

 

"Instead, Leibniz defined the essence of matter in terms of its dynamic properties. What distinguished solid matter from empty space, or from immaterial things like ghosts or rainbows, was essentially its power to resist penetration or acceleration. He thus circumvented the problem of indivisibility by making the essence of matter a power, or force, or energy -- the terms were interchangeable in his day. Since there was no logical absurdity in conceiving a quantum of energy as existing at a mathematical point, Leibniz's monads could therefore function as energy-points.

 

"The second main difficulty he saw in materialism was its inability to explain the basic process of mechanical interaction itself, namely the transfer of energy from one material particle to another by pushing or colliding into it. At any level, it was possible to give a provisional explanation in terms of the elasticity of the particles composing colliding bodies. So, when two objects collide, the particles of each are first compressed, and then spring back again from each other, thus reconverting elastic forces back into kinetic energy. But this gets us no nearer to understanding the underlying process of energy transference, since it presupposes precisely the same processes at a more microscopic level: the elasticity of the particles can be explained only in terms of their elastic sub-particles, and so on to infinity. To explain mechanical interaction as mediated by a sub-mechanism merely postpones any solution to the problem of interaction itself.

 

"As before, Leibniz got round the difficulty by conceptualising the situation in a radically different way. He saw it as a mistake to picture mechanical interaction as consisting in the handing over of parcels of energy from one physical object to another. Really, the colliding body merely functioned as a stimulus to which the other body responded of its own accord. As we all know, every force has an equal and opposite reaction. Leibniz held that colliding bodies reacted by virtue of their own reactive forces. In his terminology, all action was spontaneous.

 

"However, this gave rise to a new difficulty. Orthodox mechanists explained everything as blind reactions to imposed forces. But if all actions were to be spontaneous, how could monads register what stimuli they were receiving, and react to them in such a way as to avoid complete chaos in the universe? In order to preserve the harmony of things, monads had, in some sense, to 'know' what everything else was doing, and to be motivated to promote the harmony of the whole.

 

"In the light of these requirements, it is hardly surprising that Leibniz was reduced to metaphor and analogy. In order to express his ideas, he adopted the terminology of spiritualism. He said that monads were like souls, only unconscious: they were sources of energy and spontaneous activity; they perceived their spatial environment without themselves being spatial; and they acted purposefully in accordance with a motivation towards the best." [Ross (1983). Emphases in the origin. Alas, this link is now dead!]

 

Hegel adapted this idea, enlarged it grotesquely in the direction of Spinoza's metaphysics -- pebble-dashing it along the way with a lorry load of gobbledygook -- subsequently burying the lot in the self-development of his cosmic 'Super Ego' (the 'Absolute'). Hence, everything in his mystical world was self-moving and inter-linked, as a result. For Hegel, therefore, there could be no external causes; howsoever much some causes looked external, they were all logical and internal.

 

[To be sure, Hegel sometimes spoke as if he believed there were external causes, but (and perhaps ironically) there is no way these can be made consistent with his overall theory.]

 

Engels and Lenin seem to have uncritically appropriated Hegel's ''logical' approach.

 

[Exactly why the above comrades did this is the subject of Essay Nine Part Two. The origin of these notions in Mystical Hermeticism will be detailed in Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here). See also Note 22 of Essay Eight Part One.]

 

On Leibniz's early development, see Mercer (2001); on his occult influences, see Ross (1983, 1998). The theological background to all this can be found in Osler (2004); on that, see here.

 

3. Here are a few quotations which show that Internalism is a core DM-concept (I am of course quoting only those theorists which I think MLT will accept as authorities in this area):

 

"The law of the interpenetration of opposites.... [M]utual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes...." [Engels (1954), pp.17, 62.]

 

"Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature, and so-called subjective dialectics, dialectical thought, is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature. Attraction and repulsion. Polarity begins with magnetism, it is exhibited in one and the same body; in the case of electricity it distributes itself over two or more bodies which become oppositely charged. All chemical processes reduce themselves -- to processes of chemical attraction and repulsion. Finally, in organic life the formation of the cell nucleus is likewise to be regarded as a polarisation of the living protein material, and from the simple cell -- onwards the theory of evolution demonstrates how each advance up to the most complicated plant on the one side, and up to man on the other, is effected by the continual conflict between heredity and adaptation. In this connection it becomes evident how little applicable to such forms of evolution are categories like 'positive' and 'negative.' One can conceive of heredity as the positive, conservative side, adaptation as the negative side that continually destroys what has been inherited, but one can just as well take adaptation as the creative, active, positive activity, and heredity as the resisting, passive, negative activity." [Ibid., p.211.]

 

"Further, we find upon closer investigation that the two poles of an antithesis positive and negative, e.g., are as inseparable as they are opposed and that despite all their opposition, they mutually interpenetrate. And we find, in like manner, that cause and effect are conceptions which only hold good in their application to individual cases; but as soon as we consider the individual cases in their general connection with the universe as a whole, they run into each other, and they become confounded when we contemplate that universal action and reaction in which causes and effects are eternally changing places, so that what is effect here and now will be cause there and then, and vice versa." [Engels (1976), p.27.]

 

"Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and phenomena of nature, for they all have their negative and positive sides, a past and a future, something dying away and something developing; and that the struggle between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between that which is dying away and that which is being born, between that which is disappearing and that which is developing, constitutes the internal content of the process of development, the internal content of the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative changes." [Stalin (1976b), pp.836, 840.]

 

"This struggle is not external and accidental…. The struggle is internal and necessary, for it arises and follows from the nature of the process as a whole. The opposite tendencies are not independent the one of the other, but are inseparably connected as parts or aspects of a single whole. And they operate and come into conflict on the basis of the contradiction inherent in the process as a whole….

 

"Movement and change result from causes inherent in things and processes, from internal contradictions….

 

"Contradiction is a universal feature of all processes….

 

"The importance of the [developmental] conception of the negation of the negation does not lie in its supposedly expressing the necessary pattern of all development. All development takes place through the working out of contradictions -– that is a necessary universal law…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.14-15, 46-48, 53, 65-66, 72, 77, 82, 86, 90, 95, 117; quoting Hegel (1975), pp.172 and 160, respectively.]

 

4.  Of course, there could be a hierarchy of systems, any one of which would contain the sub-systems below it in the ontological pecking order, as it were. This option will be considered presently.

 

5. This appears to be the view at least of Ollman (in Ollman (1976, 1993, 2003)); more on this in Essay Four Part Two, where 'internal relations' will be destructively criticised.

Nevertheless, this caveat is required in order to harmonise the claim made by other dialecticians (who are mostly Stalinists and Maoists) that change can also be induced or motivated externally -- this option allowing for the incorporation of opposing forces as surrogate 'internal' relations. On this view, even though forces would appear to act as external causes, they actually operate internally on bodies, causing change. [Here, external relations are thus mis-perceived or mis-identified internal relations, it seems. Notice, however, the continual slide between geometric and logical senses of "internal" and "external", mentioned earlier.]

 

6. The 'Nixon' card refers to an underhanded ploy based on the following series of events: in the run-up to the 1968 US Presidential election, Richard Nixon announced that he had a 'secret plan' to end the Vietnam War, which plan he couldn't reveal since that would defeat its 'secret purpose'. As things turned out, he had no plan -- except perhaps to expand the war into Cambodia!

 

So, in order to 'Nixon' a problem, all a theorist has to do is declare that it has been "solved", and then refuse to explain any further.

 

In this area of DM, this ploy would involve a dialectician claiming that the world is maximally interconnected even though all its parts are at the same time maximally isolated from one another, and that DL allows this contradiction to be "grasped". End of story.

 

[DL = Dialectical Logic.]

 

However, this particular 'problem' has been created entirely by dialecticians themselves; the 'solution' on offer (that we should simply "grasp" the contradiction) helps not one iota in understanding what it could possibly mean to suggest that everything is maximally discrete and maximally interconnected, all at once.

 

Throwing a few jargonised phrases at the page might satisfy the ever-dwindling band of DM-fans remaining on this planet (few of whom can come to much agreement over what these jargonised words mean, anyway), but that is about all it will do.

 

7. This much was at least clear to Zeno. [There is a useful summary of this 'paradox' in Pyle (1997).]

 

The implications of this horn of the dilemma are reasonably clear: if systems are composed of sub-systems -- 'to infinity', meaning there are no simple objects -- then there are in fact no "internal contradictions", either! What might appear to be "internal contradictions" will, upon further analysis, all turn out to be "external contradictions". [On this, see Note 23 of Essay Eight Part One.]

 

If it is responded that although the above contradictions might appear to be external, they are still internal to an encompassing sub-system, no matter how far we analysed the whole set of nested sub-systems. Indeed, these contradictions would be internal to the collection of nested sub-systems.

 

But, in that case, what is to stop a 'Dialectical Theist' from claiming that what might appear to atheists to be an "external push" in relation to the origin of the universe is in fact "internal" to the entire system -- including 'God' -- called "Reality", or "Being"?

 

Be this as it may, this option will merely reproduce its own "bad infinity", which this approach to change was meant to avoid. This "bad infinity" will unravel in the opposite direction, as it were; instead of a "bad infinity" expanding ever outwards, this one will spiral ever downwards, never reaching a rational conclusion.

 

[At least theists have a 'rational conclusion' -- 'God'!]

 

Of course, if this series of sub-systems inside sub-systems goes on to infinity, then, as we have seen, the time taken for anything to happen (as infinite sets of sub-systems and their assorted 'internal contradictions' unravel) would be infinite, too. Nothing would happen in this DM-universe (or it would take billions of years for a kettle to boil).

 

No matter how rapid/brief the interplay between these contradictions proves to be, an infinite number of them would take an infinite time to work through. After all, for any (finite) positive integer, n:

 

Ào x 10-n = Ào

 

["Ào" (pronounced aleph zero) is the 'smallest' transfinite cardinal -- i.e., for all intents and purposes, the smallest infinite number.]

 

In order to avoid this result, all such 'internal contradictions' would have to operate instantaneously, in zero seconds. But, as Trotsky pointed out, that would mean they do not exist. [This is, of course, just a corollary of Leibniz's criticisms of Newton -- on that, see Note 22 of Essay Eight Part One.]

 

8. "Disjoint" means they do not overlap physically, or in any other way. If they weren't disjoint, then the sub-systems of T would more readily collapse into HEX (on this, see Essay Eight Part One, here). That is because this interpretation of the sub-units of T would make them all interdependent, and hence interconnected.

 

9.  Of course, this latest batch of assertions requires no little substantiation, which was presented in Essay Eleven Part One. In addition, this conclusion is not unconnected with several points made in Essay Ten Part One.

 

It could be objected that the vast majority of the causal links mentioned in the main body of this Essay (i.e., those that allegedly connect the (UK) New Labour victory in 2005 with distant regions of space and time) are so vanishingly small that for all practical purposes they can be ignored.

 

First, as the argument in this Essay shows, there is no question-begging way of specifying where the boundary lies between systems and/or sub-systems in the DM-Totality (even if we knew what the latter was!). If all systems affect one another significantly at the boundary (which they must), and possibly elsewhere, then any attempt to partition the Totality would smack of ad hoc subjectivism.

 

Second, as Essay Eleven Part One shows, DM-theorists have no developed theory of the 'Totality' (in fact, they have no theory of it whatsoever -- nor even a superficial description of this mysterious entity), so even they would have no way of knowing whether or not these remote effects are (largely) irrelevant. In that case, one dialectician's 'irrelevant effect' could very well turn out to be another's significant input. [More on that here. This argument is used to great effect in Essay Ten Part One to show that DM-epistemology rapidly collapses into scepticism.]

 

Third, there seems to be little point in practically every DM-text telling us that everything is interconnected (and that the entire nature of the part is determined by its relation to the whole) if the vast bulk of these can be ignored.

 

Fourth, since DM-epistemology in fact implies its own rejection (as was established in Essay Ten Part One), and since it can never be verified (how, for example, could anyone show that the entire nature of the tumbler Lenin mentioned depended on its relation with, say, the Crab Nebula and then with everything else, if, as we will see in Essay Eleven Part One, nobody has a clue what this 'everything else' is?), it would probably be wise to ignore the vast bulk of DM.

 

Finally, this objection is tackled head-on in Essay Eleven Part Two; the reader is referred there for further details.

 

10. Some might object at this point that all this emphasis on verification, evidence, confirmation and proof shows that the present author is indeed a positivist, or at least an empiricist. Neither of these is the case. The present author is merely taking DM-theorists at their word:

 

"Finally, for me there could be no question of superimposing the laws of dialectics on nature but of discovering them in it and developing them from it." [Engels (1976), p.13. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"All three are developed by Hegel in his idealist fashion as mere laws of thought: the first, in the first part of his Logic, in the Doctrine of Being; the second fills the whole of the second and by far the most important part of his Logic, the Doctrine of Essence; finally the third figures as the fundamental law for the construction of the whole system. The mistake lies in the fact that these laws are foisted on nature and history as laws of thought, and not deduced from them. This is the source of the whole forced and often outrageous treatment; the universe, willy-nilly, is made out to be arranged in accordance with a system of thought which itself is only the product of a definite stage of evolution of human thought." [Engels (1954), p.62. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"We all agree that in every field of science, in natural and historical science, one must proceed from the given facts, in natural science therefore from the various material forms of motion of matter; that therefore in theoretical natural science too the interconnections are not to be built into the facts but to be discovered in them, and when discovered to be verified as far as possible by experiment.

 

"Just as little can it be a question of maintaining the dogmatic content of the Hegelian system as it was preached by the Berlin Hegelians of the older and younger line." [Ibid., p.47. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

"The general results of the investigation of the world are obtained at the end of this investigation, hence are not principles, points of departure, but results, conclusions. To construct the latter in one's head, take them as the basis from which to start, and then reconstruct the world from them in one's head is ideology, an ideology which tainted every species of materialism hitherto existing.... As Dühring proceeds from 'principles' instead of facts he is an ideologist, and can screen his being one only by formulating his propositions in such general and vacuous terms that they appear axiomatic, flat. Moreover, nothing can be concluded from them; one can only read something into them...." [Marx and Engels (1987), Volume 25, p.597. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"The dialectic does not liberate the investigator from painstaking study of the facts, quite the contrary: it requires it." [Trotsky (1986), p.92. Bold emphasis added]

 

"Dialectics and materialism are the basic elements in the Marxist cognition of the world. But this does not mean at all that they can be applied to any sphere of knowledge, like an ever ready master key. Dialectics cannot be imposed on facts; it has to be deduced from facts, from their nature and development…." [Trotsky (1973), p.233. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Whenever any Marxist attempted to transmute the theory of Marx into a universal master key and ignore all other spheres of learning, Vladimir Ilyich would rebuke him with the expressive phrase 'Komchvanstvo' ('communist swagger')." [Ibid., p.221.]

 

"A consistent materialism cannot proceed from principles which are validated by appeal to abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source. Idealisms may do this. But the materialist philosophy has to be based upon evidence taken from objective material sources and verified by demonstration in practice...." [Novack (1965), p.17. Bold emphases added.]

 

"Our party philosophy, then, has a right to lay claim to truth. For it is the only philosophy which is based on a standpoint which demands that we should always seek to understand things just as they are…without disguises and without fantasy….

 

"Marxism, therefore, seeks to base our ideas of things on nothing but the actual investigation of them, arising from and tested by experience and practice. It does not invent a 'system' as previous philosophers have done, and then try to make everything fit into it…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.14-15. Bold emphases added.]

 

"[The laws of dialectics] are not, as Marx and Engels were quick to insist, a substitute for the difficult empirical task of tracing the development of real contradictions, not a suprahistorical master key whose only advantage is to turn up when no real historical knowledge is available." [Rees (1998), p.9. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"'[The dialectic is not a] magic master key for all questions.' The dialectic is not a calculator into which it is possible to punch the problem and allow it to compute the solution. This would be an idealist method. A materialist dialectic must grow from a patient, empirical examination of the facts and not be imposed on them…." [Ibid., p.271. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted here.]

 

And, if this means I'm an empiricist, then so was Marx:

 

"The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way....

 

"The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. The social structure and the State are continually evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals, but of individuals, not as they may appear in their own or other people's imagination, but as they really are; i.e. as they operate, produce materially, and hence as they work under definite material limits, presuppositions and conditions independent of their will." [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.42, 46-47. Bold emphases added.]

 

11. The idea that DM-theses are based on evidence has already been batted out of the park in Essays Two to Seven, Essays Eight Part Two and Eleven Parts One and Two.

 

Appendix A

 

I have been researching this topic intensively now for well over fifteen years, and less intensively for more than thirty, but I have yet to find an explanation of the metaphysical ideas underlying this aspect of DM -- or, indeed, an explanation why change is held to be a result of 'internal contradictions'. There's a rationale of sorts in Thalheimer, and a more substantial account in an Essay written by James Lawler -- i.e., Lawler (1982). [A rather weak attempt to address this (from a non-Marxist angle) can also be found in Hahn (2007). I will address her arguments in a later re-write of Essay Eight Part Three.]

 

As far as I can ascertain, not even Hegel broaches this topic (even though he developed the principles by means of which some sort of an account of change might be constructed).

 

Despite this, several dialecticians have attempted to show how 'external contradictions' can be harmonised with Lenin's claim that matter is 'self-moving'. Mao's and Afanasyev's accounts are among the best I have so far seen (but there are analogous versions in Kharin (1981), Konstantinov (1974), Sheptulin (1978), Yurkovets (1984), and Cornforth (1976), among others). An analysis of Mao's attempt to shed some light on this murky corner of DM will be examined in a later Essay; so I will focus mainly, but not exclusively, on Afanasyev's analysis in what follows.

 

He first of all notes that contradictions aren't all of one type:

 

"The most diverse contradictions exist in the world.... We shall examine internal and external, antagonistic and non-antagonistic, basic and non-basic contradictions...." [Afanasyev (1968), p.98.]

 

Of course, the last five contradictions were unknown to Hegel, Marx, Engels, Plekhanov or Lenin. 'External contradictions' in particular can't be made compatible with Hegel's theory of change (upside down or 'the right way up') -- and for reasons explored above.

 

Even so, this widening of the net smacks of desperation as DM-theorists try to bend their theory to fit the facts, helping themselves to different types of contradiction as effortlessly as Medieval Astronomers helped themselves to extra epicycles to save their theory. In fact, there are rather more sordid reasons for their invention; these will be explored in Essay Nine Part Two, here and here.

 

Be this as it may, Afanasyev then proceeds to examine the first category (external and internal contradictions), which is the only sort relevant to the present discussion (the other 'contradictions' will be analysed in another Essay -- on that see here):

 

"The interaction, the struggle of opposites of a given object make up its internal contradictions. The contradictory relations of a given object to its environment are its external contradictions." [Ibid., p.98. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

However, exactly what constitutes a DM-'object' is left entirely obscure. As we have seen in Essay Eight Part One, this isn't a minor detail, one that can be put to one side or left unexamined. Which of these, for example, is an 'object' in this sense: an elementary particle, an atom, a molecule, a cell, a crystal, a lump of copper ore, an organism, a species, a swarm of flies, a pile of sand, a soccer team, a coral reef, a population, a mountain, a continent, a planet, a galaxy? Plainly, 'contradictions' that are 'external' to any one of these will turn out to be 'internal' to others in the list, and vice versa. [This point has already been made, but from a different angle, in Note 23, of Essay Eight Part One.] Hence, 'contradictions' internal to a galaxy, for instance, might be external to a planet; those internal to a cat will be external to a dog; and those external to a mouse, might be internal to a cat (if the latter eats the former), and so on. In that case, the above distinction threatens to self-destruct when the details are filled in. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that the details are never filled in.

 

Of course, as noted earlier (here and here), all this trades on an equivocation between two senses of "internal": "physically"/"spatially internal" and "logically internal"; hence, while something could be physically external to an object, it might still be logically internal to it. So, for example, a husband and wife are physically external to each other (most of the time), but the fact that one of these partners is, say, a husband logically implies that another (indeed, this other) must be his wife (or he'd be a divorcee/widower), and this implication is internal to his status as a husband (which thus allows for these inferences to be made). [This is in fact a consequence of how we use words like "husband", "wife", "married", and "imply"; there is nothing metaphysically deep about this.]

 

However, it isn't too clear that, with respect to the writings of the DM-theorists considered here, this distinction is much use, anyway. In fact, the way they phrase things suggests that they, too, have run these two different senses of "internal" together (which fact will soon become obvious to the reader as she works her way through the quotations given below). Again, this isn't the least bit surprising, since, in the end, the distinction itself is incoherent. That claim will be substantiated in Essay Four Part Two (when it is published).

 

Moreover, as we have also seen: if the universe is an object, then, on this view, it too must have 'external contradictions', and hence it must have had a cause. In that case, the universe is not sufficient to itself as Afanasyev claims (on pp.53ff; see also Note 6 of Essay Eight Part One).

 

It could be argued that 'external contradictions' are exactly what this author says they are: "the contradictory relations of a given object to its environment", and since the universe has no environment, it has no 'external contradictions'.

 

But, how do we know?

 

Appealing to the 'definition' of the universe (which 'definition' might perhaps be: "The universe is all that there is or that exists") has already been shown to be a dead end --, it will be picked apart further in Essay Eleven Part One. Even so, an appeal to a definition would amount to yet another a priori imposition onto nature, something dialecticians say they never do.

 

We have also seen that some astrophysicists believe there is evidence for the existence of other universes outside ours -- which, if they are right, means ours has an 'environment' after all.

 

Be this as it may, this question can't be settled on an a priori basis.

 

But, even if it turns put to be true that the universe we find ourselves in is all there is, we have seen that this view of 'contradictions' is in fact merely a re-description of it (which neither forestalls a series of "bad infinities" nor supplies DM-theorists with the 'why' of things which they sought). In addition, as we also saw earlier, this theory implies the existence either of (1) Simple, changeless objects that aren't conditioned by anything else, or of (2) Infinitely divisible sub-systems, the contents of which cannot support 'internal opposites' of any kind, and hence cannot change (at least on DM-lines). Afanasyev failed to spot these corollaries.

 

Putting these difficulties to one side for the moment, we need to examine the use to which Afanasyev puts this distinction. He goes on to argue:

 

"Internal contradictions are the source of development because they determine the aspect or character of the object itself. If it were not for its internal contradictions the object would not be what it is. An atom, for example, could not exist without the interaction, the 'struggle' of the positively charged nucleus and the negatively charged electrons; and organism could not exist without assimilation and dissimilation, and so on." [Ibid., pp.98-99.]

 

However, it is clear from this that Afanasyev is confusing the nature of an object with the conditions for its existence. It may or may not be true that a certain atom will disintegrate if there is no integrity or cohesion to it (whatever their cause happens to be), but in DM, since the nature of the part is determined by its relation to the whole, the 'internal contradictions' of atoms (etc.) cannot be what make that atom what it is (i.e., what defines its 'intrinsic properties'). Given DM, atoms must have 'extrinsic properties'; that is, properties that are defined by their relations with everything else.

 

Of course, if DM-Wholism is now to be rejected because of this 'difficulty', all well and good. But, it seems that these two doctrines (DM-Wholism, and the doctrine of 'intrinsic properties') cannot both be true at once (unless, that is, we Nixon this 'contradiction' and then quietly ignore it).

 

And it is also worth noting at this point that, just like other dialecticians, Afanasyev has to put the word "struggle" in quotation marks to make his explanation 'work', since, of course, electrons and protons do not literally struggle with one another; they aren't agents. [On that, see here.]

 

Moreover, as we will see in Part Two, depicting forces and/or the relations between bodies in this way is misleading; far from there being a 'struggle' going on in atoms -- as with most other things in nature -- they seem to be eminently peaceful beings. Their almost constant state of equilibrium smacks of harmony and cooperation -- or, they would do if we choose to anthropomorphise nature at every turn in the way that dialecticians constantly do. In fact, if we have to depict nature in this way, we should call such things "dialectical tautologies", join forces with Prince Kropotkin, and see an anarchist utopia almost everywhere we look. [I am of course being ironic here!]

 

And, even if it were the case that certain sub-atomic particles 'struggle' among themselves, manifestly they do not turn into one another -- when was the last time an electron turned into a proton? --, which, as we have seen, is another odd claim advanced by the DM-classics. In that case, this 'struggle', if there is one, does no work, and thus makes no sense even in DM-terms!

 

So, what exactly is the point of all this? Afanasyev has an answer:

 

"All outside influences exerted on an object are always refracted through its internal contradictions, which is also a manifestation of the determining role of those contradictions in development. Changes in the external environment merely give an impulse to the development of an organism, but the direction of development and its ultimate purpose depend on the organism's metabolism, i.e., on the interaction of assimilation and dissimilation that is characteristic of the particular organism." [Ibid., p.99.]

 

It is worth pointing out once again that Afanasyev can only make this work by concentrating his attention on living things, which, like the use of the word "struggle", once again, betrays the animistic origins of this aspect of DM: if everything were animate -- a Cosmic Egg, if you will --, then cells and organisms could be used analogically in this way in order to explain the alleged relation between 'external' and 'internal contradictions' throughout nature and society. It all makes some sort of crazy Hermetic sense.

 

However, if we try the same sort of analysis on, say, a billiard ball, it won't work. Once it has been hit, what 'internal contradictions' make it continue to move? What 'external contradictions' do so, too?

 

More to the point, what 'internal contradictions made it move in the first place? And it won't do to appeal to Newton's Third Law, here. The "action" that causes the "reaction" is manifestly external to that ball. [And, arguably, the "reaction" is, too. It is this "reaction" which affects the first ball, and that is also external to the latter.]

 

Indeed, what are the 'internal contradictions' that make the planets and stars orbit whatever it is they orbit? It is no use appealing to the operation of certain forces here in a desperate attempt to find the 'internal contradictions' in, say, the Moon that keep it circling the Earth. In such a set up, 'external' forces are what deflect bodies from their 'natural' rectilinear motion. There is no 'internal contradiction' (i.e., none internal to that planet or that star) to get hold of here.

 

[And, as we will see in Part Two, using forces to illustrate 'contradictions' of any sort (external or internal) is thoroughly misconceived.]

 

Furthermore, as was pointed out earlier, Afanasyev has a confused idea, or insecure grasp, of the external/internal dichotomy -- that is, he sees it as spatial, not logical.

 

Nevertheless, the other dialectician mentioned above, Cornforth, has an answer to objections like this -- but, only if we take the word "answer" non-literally. Referring to the qualitative changes bodies undergo when affected by external causes, he argues:

 

"For instance, if a piece of iron is painted black and instead we paint it red, that is merely and external alteration..., but it is not a qualitative change in the sense we are here defining. On the other hand, if the iron is heated to melting point, then this is such a qualitative change. And it comes about precisely as a change in the attraction-repulsion relationship characteristic of the internal molecular state of the metal. The metal passes from the solid to liquid state, its internal character and laws of motion become different in certain ways, it undergoes a qualitative change." [Cornforth (1976), p.99.]

 

We have already seen that the above change in metals (as they are heated) is smooth (they gradually soften and become molten), so this example wasn't the wisest of choices; in fact, it refutes the claim that qualitative change is always nodal. [More of this in Essay Seven.]

 

Putting this to one side for now, what are we to say of Cornforth's response in general? We have already noted the loose way that dialecticians 'define' their use of the word "quality" (in fact, even though I have checked several times, I cannot find anywhere where Cornforth tells us what a DM-quality actually is --, but see below), and how that omission allows them to find 'qualitative' changes whenever and wherever it suits them, ignoring them whenever and wherever it doesn't. In this particular case, it isn't too clear how the liquidity of a metal changes its 'quality'; it still has the same chemical (and many of the same physical) properties, its crystal structure (state of matter) has merely changed. Liquid Gold is still Gold.

 

But, even supposing a case could be made for arguing that this particular change could be counted as a DM-'qualitative' transformation, it isn't easy to see how this could be the result of 'internal contradictions' -- or, indeed, the result of any 'contradictions' that formerly defined the 'intrinsic nature' of this metal (as Afanasyev, for instance, indicated they should).

 

What seems to happen here is that as the metal is heated, the vibration of its constituent atoms increases until the inter-atomic bonds can no longer hold them in place in the old crystal structure. But where is the 'contradiction' here? Cornforth leaves this question unanswered; he seems to think we will just assume it has something to do with the inter-atomic forces operating inside the said metal. But, as we noted above, such forces are external to each atom that they operate on. As we have already seen, what is internal to one system, is external to another. [Recall the muddle DM-theorists get into over what "internal" means, highlighted earlier.]

 

Moreover, as we will see in Part Two, this analogy (involving the use of forces to illustrate DM-'contradictions') doesn't work, anyway. But, even if it could work, change here would be produced by a resultant force, not a set of 'contradictory' forces.

 

Cornforth appears to have an answer to this, too; he speaks about "dominance relations" inside objects and processes:

 

"The unity of opposites in a contradiction is characterised by a definite relation of superiority-inferiority, or of domination, between the opposites. For example, in a physical unity of attraction and repulsion, certain elements of attraction or repulsion may be dominant in relation to others. The unity is such that one side dominates the other -- or, in certain cases, they may be equal.

 

"Any qualitative state of a process corresponds to a definite relation of domination. Thus, the solid, liquid and gaseous states of bodies correspond to different domination-relationships in the unity of attraction and repulsion characteristic of the molecules of bodies....

 

"Domination relationships are obviously, by their very nature, impermanent and apt to change, even though in some cases they remain unchanged for a long time. If the relationship takes the form of equality or balance, such balance is by nature unstable, for there is a struggle of opposites within it which is apt to lead to the domination of one over the other....

 

"The outcome of the working out of contradictions is, then, a change in the domination relation characteristic of the initial unity of opposites. Such a change constitutes a change in the nature of a thing, a change from one state to another, a change from one thing to another, a change entailing not merely some external alteration but a change in the internal character and laws of motion of a thing." [Ibid., pp.97-98.]

 

Even so, on this view, change is still initiated externally, for the internal relations of objects and processes appear to be incapable of altering their own condition. Electrons, for example, change, not because of an internal struggle (since they are elementary particles; they have no inner structure), but because of their relation to other particles and/or forces. And, howsoever dominant or submissive these relations turn out to be, those to which Cornforth appeals are manifestly external to atoms, just as they are external to sub-atomic particles, too.

 

Putting this niggle to one side, too, it looks like these "domination" relations are what in the end define a DM-'quality', at least for Cornforth. However, once more we note the anthropomorphic overtones here; it seems that this part of DM can only be made to work if the parts of bodies and process are in some sort of dominant-submissive relation with one another. Perhaps this unfortunate metaphor (shades of S&M!) can be cashed-out in vector algebra; I will leave that for others to decide/work out. But, even if this were either possible or desirable, that wouldn't help this beleaguered 'theory'. Vectors do not 'struggle' among themselves since they are mathematical objects. Anyone who thinks vectors can 'struggle' has already confused a description of the phenomena with the phenomena themselves (in the way that someone might confuse the numbers on a metre rule with their own height).

 

Since Cornforth's account in the end depends on the plausibility of the analogy he draws between forces and contradictions, no more will be said about it here. That will be the topic of Part Two of this Essay; in fact, Cornforth's quirky theory is neutralised here.

 

Finally, Cornforth's analysis bears an uncanny resemblance to that offered up by Mao (with his "primary" and "secondary" contradictions); but as we saw here, Mao's solution is no solution at all. For example, how can a "domination relation" change into a "submissive relation"? Is this spontaneous, or is it caused by further 'internal contradictions'?

 

[This argument is outlined in more detail here, and in more general terms here; the same points are easy to adapt so that they apply to Cornforth's version.]

 

Nevertheless, one thing is clear, the universal conclusions derived by Afanasyev and Cornforth are based on laughably thin evidence, and on a controversial (and suspiciously animistic) interpretation of the nature of forces. But, that doesn't stop either or both of them from projecting these ideas right across nature, so that they are deemed valid for all space and time. Here is Afanasyev:

 

"Lenin called the law of the unity and struggle of opposites the essence, the core of dialectics. The law reveals the sources, the real causes of the eternal motion and development of the material world....

 

"All objects and phenomena have contradictory aspects which are organically connected and which make up the indissoluble unity of opposites....

 

"The contradictoriness of objects and phenomena is thus of a general, universal nature. There is no object or phenomenon in the world which cannot be divided into opposites...." [Afanasyev (1968), pp.93-95. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphases added.]

 

We have already had occasion (in Essay Two) to note similar a priori impositions originating from Cornforth's pen -- and from that of practically every other dialectician.

 

Yet more a priori superscience; yet more Idealism. All so traditional, all so predictable.

 

We will also see that this analysis 'allowed' Stalinist Dialecticians to argue that socialism could be built in one country because the intrinsic nature of the USSR could be defined by its internal relations, not the relations it held with the rest of the Capitalist world. This confusion 'allowed' these theorists to claim that the actions of the imperialist powers, for example, constituted a set of 'external contradictions' in relation to the former USSR, and thus to argue that the real nature of the former USSR could be defined by its own internal, but "non-antagonistic" 'contradictions'. This then 'enabled' them to conclude (or, rather, it 'allowed' them to rationalise a conclusion already arrived at for other reasons) that socialism could be built in one country. Clearly, this super-plastic theory can be bent into any shape found to be either convenient or expedient.

 

Moreover, this 'theory had catastrophic consequences for the European working class (connected with the ultra-left tactics adopted by the Communist Party between 1928 and 1933) -- in the shape of the rise of Hitler --, and later, after another 'dialectical' about turn (connected with the Popular Front), then another (with the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression treaty of 1939), and yet another (connected with the 'Great Patriotic War').

 

In Essay Nine Part Two, these major Communist Party blunders (which were partly the result of this 'theory' --, or rather, these political u-turns could be sold more easily to cadres because of DM and its various 'contradictions') will be linked with analogous, but far less murderous tactical and strategic errors committed by Trotskyist Dialecticians. This helps account for the precipitous decline in support experienced (in Europe) by Marxist parties of every stripe. Similar, DM-induced screw-ups (by Stalinist, Maoist and Trotskyist parties) have merely ensured this collapse has continued world-wide ever since.

 

This will form part of a materialist explanation why Dialectical Marxism is so monumentally unsuccessful, and why this will continue while it adheres to this boss-class 'theory'.

 

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