Debate With 'Marxist-Leninist Theory' -- 002

 

Preface

 

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(1) Background

 

(2) My Response -- Part Two

 

(a) Lenin and Self-Motion

 

(b) Quantity Into Quality [Q/Q]

 

(c) 'Dialectical Qualities'?

 

(d) Is Energy Matter?

 

(e) Examples Of Changes In 'Quality' With No 'Addition' Of Matter Or Energy

 

(3) DM Would Make Change Impossible

 

(a) Everything Changes Into That With Which It 'Struggles'

 

(b) DM Implies Workers Must Change Into Capitalists

 

(4) Notes

 

(5) Bibliography

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

Background

 

A few months ago, I posted a brief comment on a YouTube page devoted to introducing viewers to certain aspects of Dialectical Materialism. A debate soon followed (I have posted the material related to this in Part One); the present page constitutes the second half of my response to MLT (as I have called him).

 

It has also come to my attention that MLT has posted a video of his objections to my arguments against DM. As far as I can see, MLT merely repeats (in more detail) the objections he raised on the original page, to which, I think, these two halves of my response can be seen as an answer. However, over the next week or so, I will post a reply specifically targeted at the contents of this video. [That can now be found  here, here, and here.]

 

Up until now, this debate has been conducted in a respectful manner, and I hope this will continue. However, the aforementioned video is entitled "Refuting a Trotskyite attack on Dialectics". Because 'Trotskyite' is a term of abuse often used by Stalinists, Maoists and the right-wing press, I have asked MLT to stop calling me by this abusive term. Apparently, he has agreed.

 

Finally, I had hoped the second half of my reply would be much shorter than the first. While it is shorter (by approximately 11,000 words) it is still far too long -- for which I can only apologise to the reader.

 

My Response -- Part Two

 

Lenin And Self-Motion

 

In Part One, I replied to the first couple of paragraphs of MLT's response to me; in which case, I will begin with this comment of his:

 

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.

 

In fact Lenin claimed that Dialectical Logic [DL] "demanded" we see things a certain 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.]

 

As we saw in Part One (here and here), there were excellent reasons why Lenin (and Hegel) argued this point. Indeed, Lenin explicitly counterposed this approach to that which views objects and processes as externally moved:

 

"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, according to Lenin, this idea (something I have called "Internalism") isn't a minor point, something dialecticians can safely ignore, or down-play -- and that is because:

 

"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.]

 

Hence, according to Lenin, everything in the entire universe is 'self-moving'. To argue otherwise would be to allow 'God' back in.

 

Engels endorsed this point, as well:

 

"The philosophy of nature offered us a cosmogony whose starting point is a 'self-identical state of matter', a state which can only be conceived by means of the most hopeless confusion over the relation between matter and motion, and which, moreover, can only be conceived on the assumption of an extramundane personal God who alone can get it in motion...." [Engels (1976), p.183. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Mao, too, underlined this idea:

 

"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.]

 

In Essay Eight Part One, I have quoted numerous 'lesser' DM-theorists who say the same sort of thing as Lenin and Mao (some of which material has been re-posted in Note 1 -- link below), which shows that they, too, saw this as central to their theory. In that Essay, I have also tried to resolve the inconsistency between the claim that everything is "self-moving" and the idea that they also have external causes -- which seems to be Mao's position, although he nowhere tries to explain how this can work. As I have shown, there is no way to resolve this 'contradiction', which is why I often repeat the claim that DM is far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to say whether or not is it true, or even what it commits its believers to!

 

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

 

As noted above, other DM-theorists say more-or-less the same; here is Cornforth:

 

"The second dogmatic assumption of mechanism is the assumption that no change can ever happen except by the action of some external cause.

 

"Just as no part of a machine moves unless another part acts on it and makes it move, so mechanism sees matter as being inert -- without motion, or rather without self-motion. For mechanism, nothing ever moves unless something else pushes or pulls is, it never changes unless something else interferes with it.

 

"No wonder that, regarding matter in this way, the mechanists had to believe in a Supreme Being to give the 'initial push'....

 

"No, the world was not created by a Supreme Being. Any particular organisation of matter,  any particular process of matter in motion, has an origin and a beginning.... But matter in motion had no origin, no beginning....

 

"So in studying the causes of change, we should not merely seek for external causes of change, but should above all seek for the source of change within the process itself, in its own self-movement, in the inner impulses to development contained in things themselves." [Cornforth (1976), pp.40-43. Bold emphases alone added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

I have quoted other DM-theorists to this effect in Note 1.1

 

[I have covered the other things MLT said (in the passage quoted at the beginning of this section) in Part One.]

 

The Law Of The Change Of Quantity Into Quality [Q/Q]

 

[Much of the following material has been adapted from two sources: (1) Essay Seven Part One, and (2) Engels And Mickey Mouse Science.]

 

A few initial points are worth making before I proceed to reply to MLT:

 

I began this project back in 1998 in order to show that DM is far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to say whether it was true or false, but in late 2005 several friends (who were also revolutionaries) urged me to post this material on-line. In that year I also began to debate this theory on the Internet with comrades, and so my site took on an added advantage: it would save me having to type-out the same points over and over again. Since then, I have raked over this topic hundreds of times (no exaggeration!) -- links to many of these discussions can be found here. So, readers will, I hope, understand it if I quote this material extensively, since I really do not want to have to type it all out again -- for the 100th time!

 

With respect to Q/Q, I have also repeatedly made the point that this aspect of DM is far too vague and confused for its veracity to be assessed either way. Among background the issues I have raised are the following:

 

(1) The vast majority of DM-theorists (and comrades with whom I have debated this) fail to tell us what they mean by "quality". Often they think this word/concept is so straight-forward that it is in need of no clarification. However, as we will see, this allows them to apply this term when and where it suits them, refusing to do so when that is in their favour, too. This means that they all apply this key term subjectively. Moreover, of the few who do tell us what they mean by this term, the examples they then use to illustrate this law in fact refute it (as we will see).

 

(2) We are never told, either, how long a "nodal" point (a "leap") is supposed to last. So, anything from an Ice Age to a quantum leap could count as a "nodal" point. Again, this introduces a note of subjectivity into what is supposed to be an objective law.

 

(3) In like manner, we are left in the dark concerning the energetic, physical or thermodynamic boundaries of any body, system or process to which, or from which, energy and/or matter has been 'added' or 'subtracted'. In fact, as is easy to show, we aren't even told what 'adding' or 'subtracting' energy and/or matter amounts to, either.

 

(4) We are also left to guess what counts as a body, system or process to which, or from which, energy and/or matter has been 'added'/'subtracted'.

 

[There are other vagaries that haunt DM, some of which will emerge as this response progresses.]

 

When I raise these issues with those who support this theory, their response tends to fall into one or more of the following categories:

 

(a) The vast majority ignore them!

 

[This can be confirmed by anyone who follows the links I have posted here, or who reads Engels and Mickey Mouse Science, Socialist Unity Censors Debate, and Dialecticians in Glass Houses.]

 

(b) One or two make a lame attempt to 'define' "quality" (which attempt only serves to undermine the few examples of this law that they themselves have used to illustrate it, as we will also see) -- but even they refuse to tackle (2)-(4).

 

(c) Still others complain about my "pedantry" (on that see below).

 

This prompted me into labelling this aspect of DM, Mickey Mouse Science, and here is why (this material has been excerpted from Engels and Mickey Mouse Science -- link above):

 

Anyone who has studied or practiced genuine science knows the great care and attention to detail that has to be devoted by researchers, often over many years or decades, if they want to add to or alter even relatively minor areas of current knowledge, let alone establish a new law. This was the case in Engels's day, just as it is the case today. Moreover, the concepts employed by scientists have to be analytically sound. The use of primary data is essential (or it has at least to be reviewed and/or referenced by the scientists involved); supporting evidence has to be precise, detailed, meticulously recorded, and subject not only to public scrutiny, but also to peer review.

 

In contrast, the sort of Mickey Mouse Science one finds in Creationist literature is rightly the target of derision by scientists and Marxists alike. And yet, when it comes to DM, we find in Engels's writings (and those of subsequent dialecticians) little other than Mickey Mouse Science. Engels supplied no original data, and what little evidence he offered in support of his 'Laws' would have been rejected as amateurish in the extreme if it had appeared in an undergraduate science paper, let alone in a research document --, even in his day! It is salutary, therefore, to compare Engels's approach to scientific proof with that of Darwin, whose classic work is a model of clarity and original research. Darwin presented the scientific community with extensive evidence and fresh data, which has been expanded upon greatly over the last 150 years.

 

Contrast, DM-Mickey Mouse Science with the real thing; here, for example, is one report of the accuracy achieved by the instruments aboard the recently launched Gaia satellite:

 

"The satellite has been given an initial mission duration of five years to make its 3D map of the sky.

 

"By repeatedly viewing its targets, it should get to know the brightest stars' coordinates down to an error of just seven micro-arcseconds -- an angle equivalent to a euro coin on the Moon being observed from Earth." [Quoted from here. Accessed 06/02/2014. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Even back in the 16th century, astronomers were concerned with accuracy and precision; Tycho Brahe, for instance, was able to observe the heavens with the naked eye down to an accuracy of one arcminute (1/60th of a degree!). Once again, this is typical of genuine science, which, naturally, starkly distinguishes it from the 'science' we encounter in DM.2

 

[Several other examples of genuine science have been posted in Note 2.]

 

The picture is almost the exact opposite when we turn to consider not just the paucity of evidence illustrating (it certainly does not prove) Engels's first 'Law', the transformation of quantity into quality [Q/Q], but also the total lack of clarity in the concepts employed. In Anti-Dühring and Dialectics of Nature, for example, we aren't told what a "quality" is, nor how long a dialectical "node" is supposed to last. Furthermore, we are left completely in the dark what the phrase "addition" of matter and energy means, nor are we told what the energetic (thermodynamic) boundaries are (if there are any!) to the systems under consideration. Indeed, we aren't even told what constitutes a system, or what counts as that system "developing"!

 

Moreover, supporting 'evidence' alone is considered; problem cases are just ignored. In this, too, DM further resembles 'Creation Science'.

 

Again, unlike genuine science, this situation hasn't changed much in dialectical circles in the last 140 years. This led me to observe (in an earlier Essay):

 

Moreover, this Law is so vaguely worded that dialecticians can use it in whatever way they please. If this is difficult to believe, ask the very next dialectician you meet precisely how long a "nodal point" is supposed to last. You will receive no reply! As seems clear, if no one knows, anything from a Geological Age to an instantaneous quantum leap could be "nodal"!

And, it really isn't good enough for dialectically-inclined comrades to dismiss this as mere pedantry. Can you imagine a genuine scientist refusing to say how long a crucially important interval in her theory is supposed to be, and accusing you of "pedantry" for even asking?

 

On "pedantry" itself, I noted the following in another Essay:

 

However, to any who think that this sort "pedantry" (or "semantics") -- or, attention to detail -- can be ignored, it is worth pointing out that this is the only way they can excuse their own sloppy approach to philosophy, and the only way they can make their ideas even seem to work.

 

This sort of attitude would not be tolerated for one second in the sciences, or in any other branch of genuine knowledge. Can you imagine the fuss if someone were to argue that it doesn't really matter what Magna Carta said, or when and where the Battle of the Nile was fought, or what the Declaration of Independence actually contained, or what the exact wording is of Newton's Second Law, or whether "G", the Gravitational Constant, is 6.6742 x 10-11 or 6.7642 x 10-11 Mm2kg-2, or indeed something else? Such pedantic details are merely 'academic'.

 

Would we accept the following excuse from a boss who said that the precise wording of a worker's employment contract was irrelevant? Would we allow someone to argue that it was of no concern what Marx really meant by "variable capital", or who complained that he had "pedantically" distinguished use-value from exchange-value -- or more pointedly, the "relative form" from the "equivalent form" of value --, and that these distinctions are merely "semantic"?

 

And how would we react if someone said, "Who cares if there are serious differences in the evidence given by those two cops against these strikers"? Or, if someone retorted "Big deal if there are a few minor errors in this or that e-mail address/web page URL, or in this mathematical proof! And who cares whether there's a difference between rest mass and inertial mass in Physics! What are you, some kind of pedant!?"

 

So, one of the reasons why I have labelled DM "Mickey Mouse Science" is now quite plain. The examples usually given by dialecticians to illustrate the First 'Law' [Q/Q] are (almost without exception) either amateurish, anecdotal or impressionistic. If someone were to submit a paper to a science journal purporting to establish the veracity of a new law with the same level of vagueness, imprecision, triteness, lack of detail (or, indeed, mathematics!) -- aggravated by comparable theoretical naivety -- it would be rejected out-of-hand at the first stage, its author's reputation forever tarnished.

 

Indeed, dialecticians would themselves treat with derision any attempt to establish, say, the truth of classical economic theory or the falsity of Marx's work with an evidential display that was as crassly amateurish as this --, to say nothing of the contempt they would show for such theoretical wooliness. In circumstances like these, dialecticians, who might otherwise be quick to cry "pedantry" at the issues raised here (and in other Essays published at this site), would become devoted pedants themselves, and would nit-pick with the best at such inferior anti-Marxist work -- and rightly so.

 

Any who doubt this should compare the average DM text (even those that sincerely try to prove there is a dialectic of nature, such as RIRE, or Gollobin (1986)) with a bona fide scientific/technical paper that has been published in any randomly chosen issue of, say, Nature. The difference between Mickey Mouse Dialectical Science and genuine science will immediately become apparent.

 

[RIRE = Reason In Revolt; i.e., Woods and Grant (2007); UO = Unity of Opposites; FL = Formal Logic.]

 

In the place of hard evidence, what we invariably find in DM-texts are the same hackneyed examples, dredged up year-in year-out. These include the following hardy perennials: boiling and/or freezing water, cells that are alive and/or dead, grains of barley that 'negate' themselves, magnets that are UOs, Mamelukes' ambiguous fighting ability when matched against French soldiers, Mendeleyev's Table, the sentence "John is a man", homilies about parts and wholes (e.g., "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts", etc., etc.), characters from Molière who discover they have been speaking prose all their lives, laughably weak and misguided attempts to characterise the principles of FL, "Yay, Yay", and "Nay, Nay", anything more than this "cometh of evil", wave/particle 'duality', 'emergent' properties popping into existence all over the place, etc., etc., etc. Even then, we are never given a scientific report on these phenomena; all we find in DM-texts are a few brief, amateurish and impressionistic sentences (or, at most, a handful of paragraphs) devoted to each example. At its best (once again, in, say, Woods and Grant (2007), or Gollobin (1986)), all we are presented with are a few chapters of secondary or tertiary evidence (recycled year-in, year-out), which has been specially-selected and heavily slanted in the required direction. No contrary evidence is even so much as mentioned.

 

In contrast with, and in relation to, say, economics or current affairs, Marxists are keen to provide countless pages of primary and secondary data and analysis (much of it original), which they update regularly. But, when it comes to dialectics all we are presented with is watery-thin 'evidence', and even thinner reasoning. Small wonder then that to its Marxist opponents, like myself, this area of theory is regarded as risibly weak and is treated with the contempt it deserves.

 

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

 

So, what has MLT argued in favour of this aspect of DM?

 

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.

 

Of course, MLT was restricted in the amount of detail he could give by the space available to him over at YouTube, but, even then, we can see here the same vagueness and imprecision characteristic of DM-supporters in general. MLT made no effort to tell us what counts as a "quality", or how long a "nodal" point is supposed to last, in which case, as predicted above, it was easy for him to apply these vague notions to his interpretation of this theory.

 

The first point that needs to be made in reply is that I have nowhere argued that there are no sudden changes in nature or society, only that not all changes in "quality" are sudden -- so this aspect of Engels's law is defective.3

 

[Several examples of changes in "quality" that aren't sudden have been given in Note 3.]

 

But, what of the points MLT raises above?

 

My original argument had been that many substances change from sold to liquid slowly (when heated) -- for example, these include the following: melting or solidifying plastic (polymers), metal, resin, rock, sulphur, tar and asphalt, toffee, sugar, chocolate, wax, butter, cheese, and amorphous solids such as glass. [Concerning glass and other amorphous solids, see below.] MLT appears to ignore this, and refers me to melting points (and possibly also boiling points), but even this isn't as clear cut as he seems to think.

 

For example, if a pan of water is heated to, say, 70oC, and kept at that temperature for an hour or so, the water will slowly turn to steam in a non-"nodal" environment. As I point out in Essay Seven Part One:

 

Consider another example: what if a certain body of water were heated up very rapidly (for example, because the heat source was immense -- say, from a nuclear explosion), and it went from water to steam in just a few seconds; here, the "nodal" point involved would clearly be very short. Compare this with the same body of water heated up very slowly (perhaps as a result of long-term global warming), so that it evaporated gradually over the space of several centuries, for the same input of energy. Clearly, there would be no "nodal" point at all in this case -- because, in this instance the water would never actually boil, even though it would still evaporate. Indeed, evaporation takes place all the time, right round the world as the oceans re-cycle water into the atmosphere very undialectically.

 

Furthermore, the hackneyed example of water boiling at 100oC isn't all it seems either. Again, this is from Essay Seven Part One:

 

The boiling water example is one of the most overworked clichés in the dialectical repertoire. Hardly a single DM-supporter fails to mention it, so mantra-like has dialectics become.

 

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that as water is heated up, steam increasingly leaves the surface in a non-"nodal" fashion. The rate at which it leaves the surface increases gradually as the temperature rises. There is no sudden 'leap', in this case. So, even here we have a smooth transition from liquid to gas; indeed, if a pan of water is kept at 99oC for long enough, all of the water will slowly disappear as steam. And, who doesn't know that water evaporates at room temperature? Who has never dried clothes on a line, crockery and/or cooking utensils on a drainer? Who on earth doesn't know that some rivers, ponds and lakes dry up in hot weather? Where is the "leap", here? Hence, examples like this illustrate a well-known fact: many, if not most processes in nature run smoothly, and are non-"nodal".

 

Returning to the over-used cliché: at 100oC, events accelerate dramatically; but even then they do so non-"nodally". A few tenths of a degree below the critical point, depending on the purity of the water, ambient conditions and how the liquid is being heated (etc.), bubbles begin to form more rapidly in the liquid. This process accelerates increasingly quickly as the boiling point is approached. What we see, therefore, is a non-"nodal" change of phase/state of matter, even here. The phase or state of matter change in this case isn't sudden -- like the snapping of a rubber band, or of the breaking of glass. We do not see no bubbles and then a microsecond later a violently frothing mass, which we would do if this were "nodal".

 

Of course, dialecticians could concede the truth of the above observation -- i.e., that before the liquid reaches 100oC water molecules leave the surface all the time --, but they might still reject the above assertion that this isn't an example of "nodal" change. They might even add that when a water molecule changes from its liquid to its gaseous state certain chemical bonds are broken, and that this happens suddenly, and "nodally". But, even this isn't as clear-cut as it might seem. Certainly, when a bond is broken, this will be sudden, but there is no "break in gradualness" (required by this 'Law'), in this case. Bonds do not gradually break, and then suddenly break. They just break. There are only "nodes" in this instance.

 

Here, for example, is how Hegel depicted things:

 

"It is said, natura non facit saltum [there are no leaps in nature]; and ordinary thinking when it has to grasp a coming-to-be or a ceasing-to-be, fancies it has done so by representing it as a gradual emergence or disappearance. But we have seen that the alterations of being in general are not only the transition of one magnitude into another, but a transition from quality into quantity and vice versa, a becoming-other which is an interruption of gradualness and the production of something qualitatively different from the reality which preceded it. Water, in cooling, does not gradually harden as if it thickened like porridge, gradually solidifying until it reached the consistency of ice; it suddenly solidifies, all at once. It can remain quite fluid even at freezing point if it is standing undisturbed, and then a slight shock will bring it into the solid state." [Hegel (1999), p.370, §776. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

And here is Engels -- again copying Hegel:

 

"With this assurance Herr Dühring saves himself the trouble of saying anything further about the origin of life, although it might reasonably have been expected that a thinker who had traced the evolution of the world back to its self-equal state, and is so much at home on other celestial bodies, would have known exactly what's what also on this point. For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules -- including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper: heat, light, electricity, magnetism. In the same way, the transition from the physics of molecules to the physics of atoms -- chemistry -- in turn involves a decided leap; and this is even more clearly the case in the transition from ordinary chemical action to the chemism of albumen which we call life. Then within the sphere of life the leaps become ever more infrequent and imperceptible. -- Once again, therefore, it is Hegel who has to correct Herr Dühring." [Engels (1976), pp.82-83. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Here, too, is Plekhanov:

 

"[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

And this is what Lenin had to say:

 

"The 'nodal line of measure relations'... -- transitions of quantity into quality.... Gradualness and leaps. And again...that gradualness explains nothing without leaps." [Lenin (1961), p.123. Bold emphasis alone added. Lenin added in the margin here: "Leaps! Leaps! Leaps!"]

 

"What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness. The unity (identity) of Being and not-Being." [Ibid., p.282. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Notice, this law isn't just about sudden breaks, it is also about a discontinuity between "gradualness" and a subsequent sudden "leap".

 

However, the chemical bonds between atoms manifestly do not gradually break as the substance in question is heated; there are only sudden breaks here. So, whatever else this is an example of, it isn't Engels's [Q/Q] law; in this case there is no "interruption of gradualness".

 

Any who might be tempted to regard this as a minor point that can safely be ignored only needs to re-read what Lenin had to say:

 

"What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness...." [Ibid., p.282. Bold emphases added.]

 

This precise point -- the interruption of gradualness terminating in a "leap" -- distinguishes "the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition". So, according to Lenin, this is a core principle of dialectics which can only be ignored by those who seek to undermine the distinction between a dialectical and a non-dialectical transition.

 

The problem is that this means that the vast majority of examples to which DM-theorists appeal to illustrate their law (ranging from water boiling, through Organic Molecules, to Mendeleyev's Table) fail to illustrate it!

 

[Why this law fails to apply to Mendeleyev's Table, Organic Molecules or quantum "leaps" inside the atom, or elsewhere), is explained here.]

 

Of course, dialecticians might still want to insist that quantitative increase or decrease effects qualitative change (in the above manner), in this case; but, again, there is nothing in the phenomena themselves that forces that description on us. Hence, this 'Law' is subjective, at best, when it is applied here, too; i.e., it only appears to work if a preferred description is imposed on the facts.

 

Once more, how is this different from forcing a certain view onto nature?

 

But, what of the 'melting point' argument? They are surely sudden, "nodal" -- in the sense that they relate to a precise temperature at which a change of state occurs. Maybe so, but that doesn't affect the point that metals change from solid to liquid slowly. As I pointed out in Engels and Mickey Mouse Science:

 

Sure, each metal has a defined melting point at which juncture it (or parts of it) will have melted, but despite this, at lower temperatures that metal will begin to soften, and that softening is gradual. There is no clearly defined point between this gradual softening and the fully melted metal. Human beings have known this for thousands of years -- it is what makes metals malleable and formable. So, the "qualitative" transition of metals from solid to liquid is slow, not rapid. At the melting point, the above softening process ends, but the lead up to it is unquestionably slow. The qualitative change (solid-to-liquid) here is typically non-nodal. The same is true of the other examples I gave. Who doesn't know that glass and many plastics melt slowly?

 

This topic is clearly connected to certain processes and laws in Thermodynamics, in relation to latent heat, and to what are called 'First Order Phase Transitions', among other things. Here is what I have argued about this in Essay Seven Part One:

 

"Not so!" I hear some readers exclaim. But, as we will see, the nature of these "nodal points" is left entirely obscure by dialecticians. Until they clarify what they mean by this concept, whatever they might say, not even they will know whether or not the claims made in this Essay are accurate.

 

To be sure, the picture nature presents us with in this respect is highly complex, which is one of the reasons why Engels's 'Laws' can't possibly capture its complexity, regardless of the other serious flaws they contain.

 

It is also worth emphasising at this point that the nature of state of matter transitions is not being questioned in this Essay, only whether all of them are sudden/"nodal".

 

Consequently, either the "nodal" aspect of the First 'Law' is defective, or it only works in some cases, not others -- in which case, it can't be a law.

 

In fact, Physicists tell us that what they call "second-order" Phase Transitions can proceed smoothly. As one online source tells us:

 

"Second-order phase transitions, on the other hand, proceed smoothly. The old phase transforms itself into the new phase in a continuous manner."

 

[We will also see that "first order" phase changes aren't all that straight-forward, either.]

 

Moreover, under certain conditions it is possible to by-pass phase transformations altogether. [More about that later, too.]

 

Furthermore, it is important to distinguish between states of matter, and phases:

 

"Phases are sometimes confused with states of matter, but there are significant differences. States of matter refers to the differences between gases, liquids, solids, etc. If there are two regions in a chemical system that are in different states of matter, then they must be different phases. However, the reverse is not true -- a system can have multiple phases which are in equilibrium with each other and also in the same state of matter. For example, diamond and graphite are both solids but they are different phases, even though their composition may be identical. A system with oil and water at room temperature will be two different phases of differing composition, but both will be the liquid state of matter." [Wikipedia.]

 

On another page we find the following:

 

"States of matter are sometimes confused with phases. This is likely due to the fact that in many example systems, the familiar phase transitions are also transformations of the state of matter. In the example of water, the phases of ice, liquid water, and water vapour are commonly recognized. The common phase transitions observed in a one component system containing only water are melting/solidification (liquid/solid), evaporation/condensation (liquid/gas) and sublimation/deposition (solid/gas).

 

"Transitions between different states of matter of the same chemical component are necessarily a phase transformation, but not all phase transformations involve a change in the state of matter. For example, there are 14 different forms of ice, all of which are the solid state of matter. When one form of ice transforms into another, the crystal structure, density, and a number of physical properties change, but it remains a solid." [Wikipedia. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, here we have a 'phase change' while the supposed "quality" (the state of matter) remains the same!

 

It isn't easy to see how this can be made consistent with the First 'Law'.

 

And, as this Wikipedia article goes on to say:

 

"In general, two different states of a system are in different phases if there is an abrupt change in their physical properties while transforming from one state to the other. Conversely, two states are in the same phase if they can be transformed into one another without any abrupt changes." [Wikipedia. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, even here, some "qualitative" changes are non-"nodal".

 

Indeed, the situation is even more complicated still:

 

"In the diagram, the phase boundary between liquid and gas does not continue indefinitely. Instead, it terminates at a point on the phase diagram called the critical point. At temperatures and pressure above the critical point, the physical property differences that differentiate the liquid phase from the gas phase become less defined. This reflects the fact that, at extremely high temperatures and pressures, the liquid and gaseous phases become indistinguishable. In water, the critical point occurs at around 647K (374°C or 705°F) and 22.064 MPa." [Wikipedia. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"In physical chemistry, thermodynamics, chemistry and condensed matter physics, a critical point, also called a critical state, specifies the conditions (temperature, pressure) at which the liquid state of the matter ceases to exist. As a liquid is heated, its density decreases while the pressure and density of the vapour being formed increases. The liquid and vapour densities become closer and closer to each other until the critical temperature is reached where the two densities are equal and the liquid-gas line or phase boundary disappears. Additionally, as the equilibrium between liquid and gas approaches the critical point, heat of vaporization approaches zero, becoming zero at and beyond the critical point. More generally, the critical point is the point of termination of a phase equilibrium curve, which separates two distinct phases. At this point, the phases are no longer distinguishable." [Wikipedia. Bold emphasis added. Spelling changed to conform to UK English.]

 

However, the above page has been altered since I originally consulted it. Nevertheless, what is had to say is conformed by this specialist site:

 

"At T6 the two phases cannot be distinguished any more. This point in the p-T-diagram is called the critical point. The distinction between gas and liquid cannot be made any more. From the critical point on we call both phases together the liquid phase in contrast to the solid phase." [Quoted from here; accessed 23/02/2015. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

This can only mean that qualitative differences between the liquid and gaseous phases of water are energy-neutral beyond this "critical point", contradicting Engels.

 

Here is what a standard Physical Chemistry textbook had to say:

 

"[W]e must distinguish the thermodynamic description of a phase transition and the rate at which the transition occurs. A transition that is predicted from thermodynamics to be spontaneous may occur too slowly to be significant in practice. For instance, at normal temperatures and pressures the molar Gibbs energy of graphite is lower than that of diamond, so there is a thermodynamic tendency for diamond to change into graphite. However, for this transformation to take place, the C[arbon] atoms must change their locations, which is an immeasurably slow process in a solid except at high temperatures." [Atkins and de Paula (2006), p.118. Bold emphases added.]

 

In that case, nature (i.e., the real material world, not the Ideal world that Hegel and Engels dreamt up) is far more complex than this Mickey Mouse 'Law' would have us believe.

 

Once more, not every change is "nodal".

 

Even so, it is entirely unclear whether the term "quality" -- as it is used by dialecticians -- means the same as "state of matter" or even "phase". Either way, the substance involved, whether it is in a different phase or state, remains the same substance. So, in that sense, if "quality" is defined in terms of the nature of substances (as was the case with Hegel and Aristotle -- on that, see below), it is clear that even though there are phase/state of matter changes, they can't count as qualitative changes of the right sort, since these substances remain the same throughout. Hence, howsoever slowly or quickly iron melts or solidifies, for example, it remains iron....

 

Returning to the boiling water example: naturally, "nodal"-points could be re-defined thermodynamically, in terms of latent heat (enthalpy of vaporisation/condensation), etc. What happens at the boiling point is that the vapour pressure of the liquid equals that of the surrounding medium. In fact, it is possible to induce boiling (in many liquids, and not just water) by lowering the surrounding pressure sufficiently. This can also take place without any obvious addition/subtraction of matter or energy to/from the liquid concerned.

 

[Raising or lowering the pressure in the surrounding medium isn't to add or subtract anything to/from the liquid concerned, it would seem. But, as with many other things connected with this hopelessly vague 'Law', who can say? As noted above, we have yet to be told what 'adding'/'subtracting' energy means in DM.]

 

"What about latent heat?", someone might object.

 

"Latent heat is the heat released or absorbed by a chemical substance or a thermodynamic system during a process that occurs without a change in temperature." [Quoted from here; accessed 04/11/11.]

 

Of course, the idea that the temperature of water stays the same as it boils is an abstraction/idealisation -- unless every single molecule of water is being heated alike, and at the same time, the convection currents induced in the liquid will mean that there are micro-changes in temperature throughout that liquid. We will thus have a "mixed-phase" system here. [On that, see below.]

 

As suggested above, this latest objection seems to depend on the idea that latent heat is only involved at the boiling point (or, at the phase change). If so, this will have nothing to do with the events in the lead up to that point (the alleged "gradualness" that is finally broken, resulting in a "leap"), as this 'Law' requires.

 

So, once again, we see this shaky 'Law' doesn't easily accommodate even to this hackneyed example of boiling water, even if we throw in latent heat....

 

However, if such phase/state-of-matter changes were to be defined thermodynamically, then many would indeed appear to abrupt. And yet, even this isn't as clear-cut as it might at first sight seem:

 

"The first-order phase transitions are those that involve a latent heat. During such a transition, a system either absorbs or releases a fixed (and typically large) amount of energy. Because energy can't be instantaneously transferred between the system and its environment, first-order transitions are associated with 'mixed-phase regimes' in which some parts of the system have completed the transition and others have not. This phenomenon is familiar to anyone who has boiled a pot of water: the water does not instantly turn into gas, but forms a turbulent mixture of water and water vapour bubbles. Mixed-phase systems are difficult to study, because their dynamics are violent and hard to control. However, many important phase transitions fall in this category, including the solid/liquid/gas transitions and Bose-Einstein condensation.

 

"The second class of phase transitions are the 'continuous phase transitions', also called second-order phase transitions. These have no associated latent heat. Examples of second-order phase transitions are the ferromagnetic transition and the superfluid transition.

 

"Several transitions are known as the infinite-order phase transitions. They are continuous but break no symmetries.... The most famous example is the Kosterlitz-Thouless transition in the two-dimensional XY model. Many quantum phase transitions in two-dimensional electron gases belong to this class." [Wikipedia. Bold emphases added.]

 

Once again, the above article has been changed somewhat since I first consulted it:

 

"First-order phase transitions are those that involve a latent heat. During such a transition, a system either absorbs or releases a fixed (and typically large) amount of energy. During this process, the temperature of the system will stay constant as heat is added: the system is in a 'mixed-phase regime' in which some parts of the system have completed the transition and others have not. Familiar examples are the melting of ice or the boiling of water (the water does not instantly turn into vapour, but forms a turbulent mixture of liquid water and vapour bubbles). Imry and Wortis showed that quenched disorder can broaden a first-order transition in that the transformation is completed over a finite range of temperatures, but phenomena like supercooling and superheating survive and hysteresis is observed on thermal cycling. [Footnote links omitted -- RL.]

 

"Second-order phase transitions are also called continuous phase transitions. They are characterized by a divergent susceptibility, an infinite correlation length, and a power-law decay of correlations near criticality. Examples of second-order phase transitions are the ferromagnetic transition, superconducting transition (for a Type-I superconductor the phase transition is second-order at zero external field and for a Type-II superconductor the phase transition is second-order for both normal state-mixed state and mixed state-superconducting state transitions) and the superfluid transition. In contrast to viscosity, thermal expansion and heat capacity of amorphous materials show a relatively sudden change at the glass transition temperature which enable quite exactly to detect it using differential scanning calorimetry measurements....

 

"Several transitions are known as the infinite-order phase transitions. They are continuous but break no symmetries. The most famous example is the Kosterlitz–Thouless transition in the two-dimensional XY model. Many quantum phase transitions, e.g., in two-dimensional electron gases, belong to this class." [Quoted from here; accessed 20/02/2015. Bold emphasis and one link added. Italic emphases in the original. Spelling adapted to UK English; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Another source has this to say:

 

"Discontinuous phase transitions are characterized by a discontinuous change in entropy at a fixed temperature. The change in entropy corresponds to latent heat L = TΔS. Examples are solid-liquid and liquid-gas transitions at temperatures below the critical temperature.

 

"Continuous phase transitions involve a continuous change in entropy, which means there is no latent heat. Examples are liquid-gas transitions at temperatures above the critical temperature, metal-superconductor transitions and many magnetic ordering transitions." [Quoted from here; accessed 20/02/2015. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Another added:

 

"Since the entropy is continuous at the phase transition, the latent heat is zero. The latent heat is always zero for a second order phase transition." [Quoted from here; accessed 20/02/2015. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Another concurs:

 

"'Discontinuities' at continuous phase changes (2nd order or higher): For continuous transitions, the entropy is continuous crossing the phase boundary and so there is no latent heat." [Quoted from here; accessed 20/02/2015. Bold emphasis added.]

 

[Which agree with the earlier Wikipedia article before it was changed.]

 

This is, of course, just another way of making the same point that was made earlier: not all changes are unambiguously 'nodal'.

 

With glass, this is even clearer (no pun intended):

 

"It is sometimes said that glass in very old churches is thicker at the bottom than at the top because glass is a liquid, and so over several centuries it has flowed towards the bottom.  This is not true.  In Mediaeval times panes of glass were often made by the Crown glass process.  A lump of molten glass was rolled, blown, expanded, flattened and finally spun into a disc before being cut into panes.  The sheets were thicker towards the edge of the disc and were usually installed with the heavier side at the bottom.  Other techniques of forming glass panes have been used but it is only the relatively recent float glass processes which have produced good quality flat sheets of glass.

 

"To answer the question 'Is glass liquid or solid?" we have to understand its thermodynamic and material properties.'...

 

"Some people claim that glass is actually a supercooled liquid because there is no first order phase transition as it cools. In fact, there is a second order transition between the supercooled liquid state and the glass state, so a distinction can still be drawn. The transition is not as dramatic as the phase change that takes you from liquid to crystalline solids. There is no discontinuous change of density and no latent heat of fusion. The transition can be detected as a marked change in the thermal expansivity and heat capacity of the material....

 

[The author of this article now goes into considerable detail, which I won't quote -- RL]

 

"There is no clear answer to the question 'Is glass solid or liquid?'.  In terms of molecular dynamics and thermodynamics it is possible to justify various different views that it is a highly viscous liquid, an amorphous solid, or simply that glass is another state of matter which is neither liquid nor solid. The difference is semantic.  In terms of its material properties we can do little better.  There is no clear definition of the distinction between solids and highly viscous liquids.  All such phases or states of matter are idealisations of real material properties.  Nevertheless, from a more common sense point of view, glass should be considered a solid since it is rigid according to everyday experience.  The use of the term 'supercooled liquid' to describe glass still persists, but is considered by many to be an unfortunate misnomer that should be avoided.  In any case, claims that glass panes in old windows have deformed due to glass flow have never been substantiated.  Examples of Roman glassware and calculations based on measurements of glass visco-properties indicate that these claims can't be true.  The observed features are more easily explained as a result of the imperfect methods used to make glass window panes before the float glass process was invented...." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases alone added. Accessed 10/11/2008. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Some links also added.]

 

See also the following New York Times article:

 

"'It surprises most people that we still don't understand this,' said David R. Reichman, a professor of chemistry at Columbia, who takes yet another approach to the glass problem. 'We don't understand why glass should be a solid and how it forms.'...

 

"Scientists are slowly accumulating more clues. A few years ago, experiments and computer simulations revealed something unexpected: as molten glass cools, the molecules do not slow down uniformly. Some areas jam rigid first while in other regions the molecules continue to skitter around in a liquid-like fashion. More strangely, the fast-moving regions look no different from the slow-moving ones....

 

"For scientists, glass is not just the glass of windows and jars, made of silica, sodium carbonate and calcium oxide. Rather, a glass is any solid in which the molecules are jumbled randomly. Many plastics like polycarbonate are glasses, as are many ceramics....

 

"In freezing to a conventional solid, a liquid undergoes a so-called phase transition; the molecules line up next to and on top of one another in a simple, neat crystal pattern. When a liquid solidifies into a glass, this organized stacking is nowhere to be found. Instead, the molecules just move slower and slower and slower, until they are effectively not moving at all, trapped in a strange state between liquid and solid.

 

"The glass transition differs from a usual phase transition in several other key ways. Energy, what is called latent heat, is released when water molecules line up into ice. There is no latent heat in the formation of glass.

 

"The glass transition does not occur at a single, well-defined temperature; the slower the cooling, the lower the transition temperature. Even the definition of glass is arbitrary -- basically a rate of flow so slow that it is too boring and time-consuming to watch. The final structure of the glass also depends on how slowly it has been cooled." [New York Times, 29/07/2008. Accessed 10/11/08. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

And finally, here is what we find in a recent article from Science Daily:

 

"Scientists fully understand the process of water turning to ice. As the temperature cools, the movement of the water molecules slows. At 32oF, the molecules form crystal lattices, solidifying into ice. In contrast, the molecules of glasses do not crystallize. The movement of the glass molecules slows as temperature cools, but they never lock into crystal patterns. Instead, they jumble up and gradually become glassier, or more viscous. No one understands exactly why." [Science Daily, 13/08/2007. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, and once again, not all state of matter/phase changes are nodal.

 

Indeed, the same points can be made with respect to other so-called amorphous solids.

 

"Amorphous materials are ubiquitous in natural and engineered systems. Granular fault gouge in earthquakes faults, thin film lubricants, and bulk metallic glasses are seemingly disparate systems which are similar in that they possess an amorphous structure. Colloids, emulsions, window glass, dense polymers, and even biological tissues are other examples.

 

"Other examples of amorphous materials include colloids and emulsions, foams, glass-forming molecular liquids, traffic jams...." [Quoted from here. Accessed 05/11/2011. See also here.]

 

"Melting Point: A crystalline solid has a sharp melting point, i.e., it changes into liquid state at a definite temperature. On the contrary an amorphous solid does not have a sharp melting point. For example, when glass is heated, it softens and then starts flowing without undergoing any abrupt or sharp change from solid to liquid state...." [Quoted from here; accessed 20/02/2015. Bold emphasis added.]

 

But, what of this claim of MLT's?

 

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.

 

Of course, this depends on how "melting" is defined; if it is defined as the transition from solid to liquid, then it is plain that the substances mentioned above (metals, plastics, glass, tar, resin, rocks, etc., etc.) melt slowly. I have even posted several videos at my site that illustrate this gradual process (they can be accessed here). On the other hand, if this word is defined thermodynamically in terms of a substance's precise melting point (which approach, it seems, MLT might prefer), then, as we have just seen, things aren't as clear cut as we have been led to believe. Even at its melting point, not all of an ingot of iron, for example, will melt all at once. The same is true of water boiling; in such cases we would have what is called a "mixed-phase regime". And, as we have also seen, glasses and other amorphous solids have no melting point; they transition smoothly between states.

 

'Dialectical Qualities'?

 

After quoting me, MLT now argues as follows:

 

"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 than 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.

 

Not so; the problem is, as I have pointed out above, dialecticians in general fail to tell us what counts as a "quality", which means the vast majority of them apply this law subjectively. Here is what I have argued in Essay Seven Part One:

 

Qualities, as characterised by dialecticians -- or, rather, by those that bother to say what they mean by this word -- are those properties of bodies/processes that make them what they are, alteration to which will change that body/process into something else:

 

"Each of the three spheres of the logical idea proves to be a systematic whole of thought-terms, and a phase of the Absolute. This is the case with Being, containing the three grades of quality, quantity and measure.

 

"Quality is, in the first place, the character identical with being: so identical that a thing ceases to be what it is, if it loses its quality. Quantity, on the contrary, is the character external to being, and does not affect the being at all. Thus, e.g. a house remains what it is, whether it be greater or smaller; and red remains red, whether it be brighter or darker." [Hegel (1975), p.124, §85.]

 

As the Glossary at the Marxist Internet Archive notes:

 

"Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else and reflects that which is stable amidst variation. Quantity is an aspect of something which may change (become more or less) without the thing thereby becoming something else.

 

"Thus, if something changes to an extent that it is no longer the same kind of thing, this is a 'qualitative change', whereas a change in something by which it still the same thing, though more or less, bigger or smaller, is a 'quantitative change'.

 

"In Hegel's Logic, Quality is the first division of Being, when the world is just one thing after another, so to speak, while Quantity is the second division, where perception has progressed to the point of recognising what is stable within the ups and downs of things. The third and final stage, Measure, the unity of quality and quantity, denotes the knowledge of just when quantitative change becomes qualitative change." [Quoted from here. Accessed August 2007. This definition has been altered slightly since.]

 

This is an Aristotelian notion.

 

Cornforth also tries gamely to tell us what a 'dialectical quality' is:

 

"For instance, if a piece of iron is painted black and instead we paint it red, that is merely an 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.]

 

And yet, as we have seen, no new substance emerges as a result; liquid iron, gold and aluminium is still gold, iron and aluminium.

 

Of course, it could be argued that liquid and solid states of matter are, as Cornforth seems to think, different kinds of things, as required by the definition. But, to describe something as a liquid isn't to present a kind of thing, since liquids comprise many different kinds of things. The same is true of gases and solids. So, a state of matter isn't a "kind of thing" but a quality possessed by kinds of things -- so we speak of liquid iron, liquid mercury, gaseous oxygen, gaseous nitrogen; and if that quality changes, the "kind of thing" that a particular substance is does not (in general) change. To be sure, some substances change when heat is added -- for example, Ammonium Chloride (solid) sublimates into Ammonia gas and Hydrochloric Acid (when heated), but this isn't typical. [In fact, DM-theorists would be on firmer ground here (no pun intended) than they are with their clichéd water as a liquid, solid or gas example.] Again, liquid mercury is still mercury just as solid mercury is. Melted sugar is still sugar. So is plastic, and so are all the metals. The elements aren't situated where they are in the Periodic Table because they are solid, liquid or gas, but because of their Atomic Number. This shows that states of matter aren't "kinds of things"; if they were, solid mercury would no longer be mercury.

 

But, the volunteered DM-objection...that different states of matter are different "kinds of things"...only goes to show how vague the 'definition' of "quality" is. Indeed, it allows DM-supporters to count different states of matter -- but not shape, colour, heat or motion -- as different "kind of things"; so that, for example, an object in motion isn't counted as a different "kind of thing" from the same object at rest; or that spherical or cylindrical ingots of iron aren't different "kinds of thing". Sure, gases, liquids and solids have different physical properties, but so do moving and stationary bodies, and so do spherical and cylindrical objects. And so do different colours; as do coloured objects. It isn't easy to see why green and red objects aren't different "kinds of things" if liquids and solids are allowed to be. And, it is no use pointing to the "objective" nature of states of matter as opposed to the "subjective" nature of colour, since shape and motion are just as "objective".

 

[The "subjective" nature of colour will be questioned, anyway, in Essay Thirteen Part One -- as will the philosophical use of the terms "subjective" and "objective".]

 

Other than Cornforth, Kuusinen is one of the few DM-theorists who seems to make any note of this 'difficulty':

 

"The totality of essential features that make a particular thing or phenomenon what it is and distinguishes it from others, is called its quality.... It is...[a] concept that denotes the inseparable distinguishing features, the inner structure, constituting the definiteness of a phenomenon and without which it cease to be what it is." [Kuusinen (1961), pp.83-84. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

This assumes there is such a thing as an "essential nature" (which I will show in a later Essay there is good reason to doubt), but even if there were, is it essential to iron that it is a solid? Or that oxygen is a gas? How can it be if we still count liquid oxygen as oxygen, and liquid iron as iron?

 

Moreover, as has also been noted, H2O as ice, water or steam, is still H2O. As a liquid or a gas, Helium is still Helium. If so, these changes can't apply to any of the qualities covered by the DM/Aristotelian/Hegelian principles quoted above. So, it now seems that the hackneyed examples dialecticians give that supposedly illustrate Q/Q either undermine the meaning of a key DM-concept on which this 'Law' was supposedly based (i.e., "quality"), vitiating its applicability in such instances -- or they weren't examples of this 'Law', to begin with!

 

Once again, that would make this part of DM, at best, eminently subjective, since it would imply that changes in quality are relative to a choice of descriptive framework. Plainly, this introduces a fundamental element of arbitrariness into what dialecticians claim is a scientific law.

 

But what of this?

 

1) Solids have very different qualities than 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.

 

Sure, substances in a solid state have different "qualities" to the same substance as a gas or as a liquid, but are properties of solids (to which MLT referred) the sort of "qualities" the DM-classicists were referring to? Apparently not, since solids, liquids and gases aren't "new kinds of things", but properties belonging to certain kinds of things. It is mercury that is a liquid (at room temperature). Liquidity doesn't possess the property of being mercury; it's the other way round.

 

And no, I wasn't referring to anything from Alchemy. [I'm not too sure of the point (or relevance) of the other things MLT said, however.]

 

Is Energy Matter?

 

After I quoted several passages where Engels says precisely what I alleged of  him, MLT replies:

 

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.

 

Except, of course, Engels nowhere uses the phrase "physical object"; he does however, speak about "physical energies" (which puts his ideas more closely in line with what I alleged of him):

 

"Meanwhile physics had made mighty advances, the results of which were summed up almost simultaneously by three different persons in the year 1842, an epoch-making year for this branch of natural investigation. Mayer in Heilbronn and Joule in Manchester demonstrated the transformation of heat into mechanical energy and of mechanical energy into heat. The determination of the mechanical equivalent of heat put this result beyond question. Simultaneously, by simply working up the separate physical results already arrived at, Grove - not a natural scientist by profession, but an English lawyer -- proved that all so-called physical energy, mechanical energy, heat, light, electricity magnetism, indeed even so-called chemical energy, become transformed into one another under definite conditions without any loss of energy occurring, and so proved post factum along physical lines Descartes' principle that the quantity of motion present in the world is constant. With that the special physical energies, the as it were immutable 'species' of physics, were resolved into variously differentiated forms of the motion of matter, convertible into one another according to definite laws. The fortuitousness of the existence of a number of physical energies was abolished from science by the proof of their interconnections and transitions. Physics, like astronomy before it, had arrived at a result that necessarily pointed to the eternal cycle of matter in motion as the ultimate reality." [Engels (1954), pp.28-29. Bold emphases added.]

 

The reader will no doubt notice that Engels here speaks about different forms of energy transforming themselves into one another, just as he calls energy "physical".

 

He does speak about "physical particles" (in Engels (1976), p.74 -- although, in the Peking edition this is translated as "atom of matter"), but this isn't linked to the Q/Q law, but to motion being the "mode of existence of matter". In that case, Engels connects the "mode of existence of matter" with motion, which he elsewhere calls "energy", just as I have alleged:

 

"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be. Motion in cosmic space, mechanical motion of smaller masses on the various celestial bodies, the vibration of molecules as heat or as electrical or magnetic currents, chemical disintegration and combination, organic life -- at each given moment each individual atom of matter in the world is in one or other of these forms of motion, or in several forms at once. All rest, all equilibrium, is only relative, only has meaning in relation to one or other definite form of motion. On the earth, for example, a body may be in mechanical equilibrium, may be mechanically at rest; but this in no way prevents it from participating in the motion of the earth and in that of the whole solar system, just as little as it prevents its most minute physical particles from carrying out the vibrations determined by its temperature, or its atoms from passing through a chemical process. Matter without motion is just as inconceivable as motion without matter. Motion is therefore as uncreatable and indestructible as matter itself; as the older philosophy (Descartes) expressed it, the quantity of motion existing in the world is always the same. Motion therefore cannot be created; it can only be transferred. When motion is transferred from one body to another, it may be regarded, in so far as it transfers itself, is active, as the- cause of motion, in so far as the latter is transferred, is passive. We call this active motion force, and the passive, the manifestation of force. Hence it is as clear as daylight that a force is as great as its manifestation, because in fact the same motion takes place in both." [Engels (1976), p.74. Italic emphases in the original; bold added.]

 

Later, he refers to "physically active particles" (which is also translated the same way in the Peking edition):

 

"The mechanical theory of heat, according to which heat consists in a greater or lesser vibration, depending on the temperature and state of aggregation, of the smallest physically active particles (molecules) of a body -- a vibration which under certain conditions can change into any other form of motion -- explains that the heat that has disappeared has done work, has been transformed into work." [Ibid., p.79. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Again readers will note that Engels again talks about "forms of motion" that can be transformed into one another.

 

Later still, he talks about "physical forms of motion" -- further linking his ideas about energy (motion) with what is "physical":

 

"As is well known, it is only chemical action, and not gravitation or other mechanical or physical forms of motion, that is explained by atoms. And if anyone should read as far as the chapter on organic nature, with its vacuous, self-contradictory and, at the decisive point, oracularly senseless meandering verbiage, and its absolutely futile final conclusion, he will not be able to avoid forming the opinion, from the very start, that Herr Dühring is here speaking of things of which he knows remarkably little. This opinion becomes absolute certainty when the reader reaches his suggestion that in the science of organic beings (biology) the term composition should be used instead of development. The person who can put forward such a suggestion shows that he has not the faintest suspicion of the formation of organic bodies." [Ibid., pp.95-96. Bold emphasis added.]

 

In which case, as with Lenin, he saw no intrinsic difference between energy and matter. Indeed, he explicitly links these notions:

 

"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." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphases added.]

 

This agrees with what he had been saying in Anti-Dühring: "forms of motion" are called energy, which, as we have just seen is a "mode of the existence of matter". This isn't a million miles away from the things I alleged of him. [The problem is: Engels and other DM-theorists are so vague and equivocal here, as elsewhere, that it is in fact impossible to form a clear idea of what they are actually committed to!]

.]

 

Now, MLT says he knows about these passages (and the other ones I quoted), but he chooses to ignore them -- or, at least, to ignore/dismiss what they have to say.

 

It seems odd to me that MLT is happy to promote himself over Engels as an authority concerning Engels's own theory!

 

In my previous reply I referred to Lenin -- who declared that everything that exists "objectively outside the mind" is material, which implies that energy must be material (since it manifestly exists "outside the mind") -- but I neglected to quote Lenin's more explicit passages to this effect:

 

"If energy is motion, you have only shifted the difficulty from the subject to the predicate, you have only changed the question, does matter move? into the question is energy material? Does the transformation of energy take place outside the mind, independently of man…or are these only ideas?… Energeticist physics is a source of new idealist attempts to conceive motion without matter." [Lenin (1972), pp.324, 328.]

 

"[T]he sole 'property' of matter with whose recognition philosophical materialism is bound up is the property of being an objective reality, of existing outside our mind." [Ibid., p.311.]

 

"Thus…the concept of matter…epistemologically implies nothing but objective reality existing independently of the human mind and reflected by it." [Ibid., p.312.]

         

"[I]t is the sole categorical, this sole unconditional recognition of nature's existence outside the mind and perception of man that distinguishes dialectical materialism from relativist agnosticism and idealism." [Ibid., p.314.]

 

"The fundamental characteristic of materialism is that it starts from the objectivity of science, from the recognition of objective reality reflected by science." [Ibid., pp.354-55.]

 

[I have destructively criticised MEC -- Materialism and Empirio-criticism -- in Essay Thirteen Part One.]

 

In fact, there are many places in MEC where Lenin seems almost compelled to say the same thing over and over again: materialism is committed to the 'objective' nature of reality, to objects and process that exist independently of, or outside, the mind.

 

[Cf., Lenin (1972), pp.1-2, 50, 58, 61, 63, 69, 86, 111, 123, 136-37, 165, 177, 191, 197, 200, 202-03, 211, 212, 215, 216-18, 221-22, 259, 270, 287-88, 306, 311-14, 320, 322, 324, 326, 354-55, 364, 366, 373, 377, 394, 407, 418, 420 (twice), 422, 425, and 426. This is an incomplete list!]

 

But, MLT took exception to my appeal to Lenin here:

 

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?

 

Of course, what Lenin did or did not say (unless he was directly quoting Engels) is no guide in and of itself to what Engels believed, but the question is: who do we believe, Lenin or Engels? Is Engels the authority here, or Lenin? As I have noted several times, one of the problems I have with DM is that it is so vague and confused that it is impossible to determine its truth or falsehood, or, in many cases, what the h*ll it is committed to! Here we have a classic example: Engels appears to disagree with Lenin, and MLT appears to disagree with both!

 

However, it is possible to reconcile these two theorists (Engels and Lenin) by allowing that both saw energy as a form of matter. Indeed, we have seen that Engels all but says this himself.

 

Unfortunately, the problem is, as I pointed out, this creates havoc for Q/Q:

 

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.] 

 

So: take your pick: either Engels's theory is defective, or Lenin's is, or both are --, or: and far more likely, it is impossible to say what the dickens they were all banging on about!

 

But what of this, though?

 

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.

 

The point is that Engels and other DM-theorists are thoroughly confused (in the way I have been indicating in this reply). The other things MLT says have been addressed above (and will be again below).

 

Examples Of Changes in 'Quality' With No 'Addition' of Matter Or Energy

 

MLT now says (quoting me):

 

"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, here are several examples of "qualitative" change (howsoever that word is understood!) where no matter or energy has been 'added' (if we also ignore for now the lack of clarity (among DM-theorists) as to what counts as "adding" either or both):

 

[Word of warning: Several comrades have argued that many of the examples I have given are misguided since they fail to apply to developing bodies, systems or processes, which is the sort of change pertinent to Q/Q. I have dealt with this counter-argument here and here. Among other things, I point out that Engels himself appeals to many things that don't, or haven't, developed, including isomers, to illustrate his 'Law' -- e.g., Engels (1954), p.67. In which case, DM-supporters can hardly object if I use similar examples to criticise it!]

 

There are countless examples in nature and society where significant qualitative change can result from no obvious quantitative difference. These include the qualitative dissimilarities that exist between different chemical compounds for the same quantity of matter/energy involved.

 

For instance, Isomeric molecules...represent a particularly good example of this phenomenon. This is especially true of those that have so-called "chiral" centres (i.e., centres of asymmetry). In such cases, the spatial ordering of the constituent atoms, not their quantity, affects the overall quality of the resulting molecule -- which, as we can see, Engels said couldn't happen:

 

"[Q]ualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. 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." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Here, a different molecular orientation -- a different geometry, not an increase in quantity -- alters quality.

 

Consider one example of many: (R)-Carvone (spearmint) and (S)-Carvone (caraway); these molecules have the same number of atoms (of the same elements), and the same bond energies, but they are nonetheless qualitatively distinct because of the different spatial arrangement of the atoms involved. The same is true of some of the Fullerenes.

 

This non-dialectical aspect of matter is especially true of the so-called "Enantiomers" (i.e., symmetrical molecules that are mirror images of each other). These include compounds like (R)-2-clorobutane and (S)-2-chlorobutane, and the so-called L-, and D-molecules, which rotate the plane of polarised light the left (laevo) or the right (dextro) -- such as, L-, and D-Tartaric Acid. What might at first sight appear to be small energy-neutral differences like these have profound biochemical implications; a protein with D-amino acids, instead of L-, will not work in most living cells since the overwhelming majority of organisms metabolise L-organic molecules. These compounds not only have the same number of atoms in each molecule, there are no apparent energy differences between them. Even so, they have easily distinguishable physical qualities.

 

Recall, too, that these are no less material differences than any Engels himself considered, so no genuine materialist should be embarrassed by them. It isn't as if I'm proposing non-materialist causes here!

 

In response, it could be argued that Engels had already anticipated the above objection:

 

"It is surely hardly necessary to point out that the various allotropic and aggregational states of bodies, because they depend on various groupings of the molecules, depend on greater or lesser quantities of motion communicated to the bodies.

 

"But what is the position in regard to change of form of motion, or so-called energy? If we change heat into mechanical motion or vice versa, is not the quality altered while the quantity remains the same? Quite correct. But it is with change of form of motion...; anyone can be virtuous by himself, for vices two are always necessary. Change of form of motion is always a process that takes place between at least two bodies, of which one loses a definite quantity of motion of one quality (e.g. heat), while the other gains a corresponding quantity of motion of another quality (mechanical motion, electricity, chemical decomposition). Here, therefore, quantity and quality mutually correspond to each other. So far it has not been found possible to convert motion from one form to another inside a single isolated body." [Ibid., pp.63-64. Bold emphases added.]

 

However, Engels slides between two different senses of "motion" here: (1) Change of place, and (2) Energy 'added'/'subtracted'. In this way, he is able to argue that any change in the relation between bodies always amounts to a change in energy. But, this depends on the nature of the field in which these bodies are embedded (on this, see below, where I draw the reader's attention to a distinction between what mathematicians call "conservative" and "non-conservative" fields), and Note 4a of Essay Seven Part One); Engels's profound lack of mathematical knowledge clearly let him down here.

 

Independently of this, Engels also confused the expenditure of energy with energy added to a system. The difference between the two is easy to see. Imagine someone pushing a heavy packing case along a level floor. In order to overcome friction, the one doing the pushing will have to expend energy. But that energy has not been put into the packing case (as it were). Now, if the same case has been hoisted by a crane into a high building, Physicists tell us that recoverable energy has been put into the case in the form of Potential Energy.

 

Now, as far as can be ascertained in the examples of interest to dialecticians (but again, they are not at all clear on this), it is the latter form of energy (but not necessarily always Potential Energy) that is relevant to this 'Law', not the former. The former sort doesn't really change the quality of any bodies concerned; the latter does. [Although, of course, in the limit the former can. Enough friction can melt a body, or set it on fire, for instance. I will consider this presently.] If so, then the above counter-examples (e.g., involving Enantiomers) will still apply, for the energy expended in order to change one isomer into another is generally of the first sort, not the second.

 

To be sure, some of the energy in the packing case example will appear as heat (and/or perhaps sound), and will warm that case slightly. But that energy will not be stored in the case as chemically recoverable (i.e., structural, or new bond) energy.

 

Despite this, a few die-hard dialecticians could be found who might want to argue that any expenditure of energy is relevant here. That would be an unfortunate move since it would make this 'Law' trivial, for in that case it would amount to the belief that any change at all (no matter how remote), since it involves the expenditure of some form of energy somewhere (but not necessarily energy put 'into' the bodies concerned), is the cause of qualitative change to other bodies somewhere else. This would make a mockery of Engels's claim that only energy added to the bodies concerned is relevant to this 'Law'.

 

"Change of form of motion is always a process that takes place between at least two bodies, of which one loses a definite quantity of motion of one quality (e.g. heat), while the other gains a corresponding quantity of motion of another quality (mechanical motion, electricity, chemical decomposition)." [Ibid. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Several examples of this sort of change are given in Essay Seven Part One. The problems this creates are discussed at length in Note 5 and Note 6a of Essay Seven Part One, where attempts to delineate the thermodynamic boundaries of the local energy budget involved (which would have to be specified in order to prevent remote objects/energy expenditure being allowed to cause proximate change) are all shown to fail.

 

Of course, this just illustrates the point made earlier: since we aren't clear what "adding"/"subtracting" energy is in DM (or even what constitutes a single body here --  more on this below), it is impossible to be sure. Having said that, DM-theorists themselves will be unable to say whether or not the above are counter-examples to their theory -- not unless they specify with far greater clarity and precision what they mean by "adding"/"subtracting" energy (and, upon doing that they risk being accused of "revisionism"!).

 

[However, I have covered this topic extensively in Essay Seven Part One; readers can access this material by following the above links.]  

 

Moreover, as noted above, Engels himself considered isomers as an example of the 'Law', even though there is no "development" in this case!

 

Finally, Engels seems to think it is always clear what constitutes a single body:

 

"Here, therefore, quantity and quality mutually correspond to each other. So far it has not been found possible to convert motion from one form to another inside a single isolated body." [Ibid.]

 

However, nature isn't quite so accommodating. In fact, when we look at the material world, and refuse to impose an a priori scheme like this on it, we see that the picture isn't as straightforward as Engels would have us believe. Indeed, as we will soon discover, it is easy "to convert motion from one form to another inside a single isolated body." [The reader is again directed to Note 5 and Note 6a of Essay Seven Part One for more details -- in addition to those given below.]

 

Tautomers, Resonance And Mesomers

 

Even more embarrassing for this 'Law' are tautomers; these feature as an:

 

"isomerism in which the isomers change into one another with great ease so that they ordinarily exist together in equilibrium." [Quoted from here.]

 

Wikipedia characterises them in the following way:

 

"Tautomers are organic compounds that are interconvertible by a chemical reaction called tautomerization. As most commonly encountered, this reaction results in the formal migration of a hydrogen atom or proton, accompanied by a switch of a single bond and adjacent double bond. In solutions where tautomerization is possible, a chemical equilibrium of the tautomers will be reached. The exact ratio of the tautomers depends on several factors, including temperature, solvent, and pH. The concept of tautomers that are interconvertible by tautomerizations is called tautomerism. Tautomerism is a special case of structural isomerism and can play an important role in non-canonical base pairing in DNA and especially RNA molecules.

 

"Tautomerizations are catalyzed by:

 

"1. base (a. deprotonation; b. formation of a delocalized anion (e.g. an enolate); c. protonation at a different position of the anion).

 

"2. acids (a. protonation; b. formation of a delocalized cation; c. deprotonation at a different position adjacent to the cation).

 

"Common tautomeric pairs are:

 

"3. ketone -- enol, e.g. for acetone (see: keto-enol tautomerism).

 

"4. amide -- imidic acid, e.g. during nitrile hydrolysis reactions.

 

"5. lactam -- lactim, an amide -- imidic acid tautomerism in heterocyclic rings, e.g. in the nucleobases guanine, thymine, and cytosine.

 

"6. enamine -- imine.

 

"7. enamine -- enamine, e.g. during pyridoxalphosphate catalyzed enzymatic reactions.

 

"Prototropic tautomerism refers to the relocation of a proton, as in the above examples, and may be considered a subset of acid-base behaviour. Prototropic tautomers are sets of isomeric protonation states with the same empirical formula and total charge.

 

"Annular tautomerism is a type of prototropic tautomerism where a proton can occupy two or more positions of a heterocyclic system. For example, 1H- and 3H-imidazole; 1H-, 2H- and 4H- 1,2,4-triazole; 1H- and 2H- isoindole.

 

"Ring-chain tautomerism occurs when the movement of the proton is accompanied by a change from an open structure to a ring, such as the aldehyde and pyran forms of glucose.

 

"Valence tautomerism is distinct from prototropic tautomerism, and involves processes with rapid reorganisation of bonding electrons. An example of this type of tautomerism can be found in bullvalene. Another example is open and closed forms of certain heterocycles, such as azide -- tetrazole. Valence tautomerism requires a change in molecular geometry and should not be confused with canonical resonance structures or mesomers." [Quoted from here; accessed 05/10/08. Paragraph numbering altered; spelling changed to conform to UK English. Several links added.]

 

[Any who object to the above examples will need to be far clearer than DM-theorists have hitherto been about (a) what counts as a single body/system, and (b) what "adding"/"subtracting" energy amounts to. As we saw in Part One of this reply, it is far from easy, given the 'logical' principles DM-theorists inherited from Hegel, to say what a body/system actually is!]

 

One standard Organic Chemistry text defines tautomers as follows:

 

"Tautomers are isomers differing only in the position of hydrogen atoms and electrons. Otherwise the carbon skeleton is the same." [Clayden et al (2001), p.205.]

 

On enol tautomerism, it adds:

 

"In the case of dimedone, the enol must be formed by a transfer of a proton from the central CH2 group of the keto form to one of the OH groups.

 

"Notice that there is no change in pH -- a proton is lost from carbon and gained on oxygen. The reaction is known as enolization as it is the conversion of a carbonyl compound into an enol. It is a strange reaction in which little happens. The product is almost always the same as the starting material since the only change is the transfer of one proton and the shift of the double bond." [Ibid., pp.524-25.]

 

Even though many of these reactions require catalysts (which add no energy or matter to the original compounds), these are qualitatively different substances, refuting the First 'Law'. This is a particularly intractable series of counter-examples because it involves the "development" of one substance into another. And, many of these changes occur to the same molecule -- or "body", again refuting Engels.

 

Of course, it could be argued that the above Wikipedia source acknowledges the fact that there is a change in matter or energy between the resonating isomers -- for example, here:

 

"Tautomers are organic compounds that are interconvertible by a chemical reaction called tautomerization. As most commonly encountered, this reaction results in the formal migration of a hydrogen atom or proton, accompanied by a switch of a single bond and adjacent double bond. [Wikipedia. Link above. Bold added.]

 

But, no energy or matter is added to the molecule, it is merely re-distributed within that molecule, as Clayden et al points out.

 

Resonance (mesomerism) is more controversial still, but no less fatal to this 'Law':

 

"Though resonance is often introduced in such a diagrammatic form in elementary chemistry, it actually has a deeper significance in the mathematical formalism of valence bond theory (VB). When a molecule can't be represented by the standard tools of valence bond theory (promotion, hybridisation, orbital overlap, sigma and pi bond formation) because no single structure predicted by VB can account for all the properties of the molecule, one invokes the concept of resonance.

 

"Valence bond theory gives us a model for benzene where each carbon atom makes two sigma bonds with its neighbouring carbon atoms and one with a hydrogen atom. But since carbon is tetravalent, it has the ability to form one more bond. In VB it can form this extra bond with either of the neighbouring carbon atoms, giving rise to the familiar Kekulé ring structure. But this can't account for all carbon-carbon bond lengths being equal in benzene. A solution is to write the actual wavefunction of the molecule as a linear superposition of the two possible Kekulé structures (or rather the wavefunctions representing these structures), creating a wavefunction that is neither of its components but rather a superposition of them, just as in the vector analogy above (which is formally equivalent to this situation).

 

"In benzene both Kekulé structures have equal weight, but this need not be the case. In general, the superposition is written with undetermined constant coefficients, which are then variationally optimized to find the lowest possible energy for the given set of basis wavefunctions. This is taken to be the best approximation that can be made to the real structure, though a better one may be made with addition of more structures.

 

"In molecular orbital [MO -- RL] theory, the main alternative to VB, resonance often (but not always) translates to a delocalization of electrons in pi orbitals (which are a separate concept from pi bonds in VB). For example, in benzene, the MO model gives us 6 pi electrons completely delocalised over all 6 carbon atoms, thus contributing something like half-bonds. This MO interpretation has inspired the picture of the benzene ring as a hexagon with a circle inside. Often when describing benzene the VB picture and the MO picture are intermixed, talking both about localized sigma 'bonds' (strictly a concept from VB) and 'delocalized' pi electrons (strictly a concept from MO)." [Quoted from here; accessed 05/10/08.]

 

 

Figure One: Examples Of Resonance

 

In view of the fact that these are distinct qualitative variations on a common theme, created by no new energy or matter added to the body in question, it seems therefore this luckless First 'Law' has been refuted yet again.

 

Counter-Examples Just Keep Stacking-Up

 

Moving into Physics, consider the Triple Point:

 

"In thermodynamics, the triple point of a substance is the temperature and pressure at which three phases (for example, gas, liquid, and solid) of that substance coexist in thermodynamic equilibrium. For example, the triple point of mercury occurs at a temperature of −38.8344°C and a pressure of 0.2 mPa." [Quoted from here.]

 

Once again, we have here changes in quality (at a constant temperature) with no addition of energy or matter at that point.

 

Furthermore, if two or more forces are aligned differently, the qualitative results will invariably be altered even where the overall magnitude of each force is held constant.

 

Consider just one example: let forces F1 and F2 be situated in parallel (but not along the same line of action), and diametrically opposed to one another. Here these two forces can/will exercise a turning effect on a suitably placed body. Now, arrange the same two forces in like manner so that they are still parallel, but act diametrically along the same line (i.e., these two force vectors have opposite senses). In this case, as seems clear, these forces will have no turning effect on the same body. Here we have a change in quality with no change in quantity, once more. Since there are many ways to align forces (as there are with other vector quantities, like velocities and accelerations, etc.), there are countless counter-examples to the rather pathetic First 'Law' here alone.

 

Some might argue that moving a force in the manner envisaged requires energy, so these examples aren't in fact energy neutral. However, just like the example of the organic molecules quoted by Engels, or, indeed, elements in the Periodic Table, the arrangements listed above could exist side by side. A qualitative difference then would be obvious, but there would be no quantitative discrepancy between them.

 

In addition, as noted earlier, the expenditure of energy itself depends on the nature of the force field in which they are embedded (i.e., whether or not the field in question is "conservative"). [On conservative forces, see here and here.]

 

In a conservative field, the work done in moving a force in a circuit is zero, but certain (non-circuitous) line integrals in such fields can also be zero, if these are chosen carefully.

 

So, a force could 'develop' in this way in an energy neutral environment.

 

In either case, we would have a qualitative difference for no extra quantitative input of matter/energy. Naturally, once again, this 'Law' could be tightened to exclude these and other awkward counter-examples, but then it would cease to be a law and would simply become a narrow, subjectively applied convention/stipulation (and one that will have been imposed on nature).

 

Again, it could be objected that moving a force in a circuit, even in a conservative field, would merely take it back to where it began, which isn't what was required by the examples given above. There, forces were moved to somewhere different. But, that is to misunderstand the notion of a circuit. The point is that in a conservative field, movement of a body from A to B (where A and B could be widely separated, and non-coincidental) is independent of the path taken.

 

This is, of course, quite apart from the points made earlier about energy added to a system as opposed to energy expended in changing that system, an important detail DM-theorists pass over in silence.

 

Perhaps more significantly, this 'Law' takes no account of qualitative changes that result from (energetically-neutral) ordering relations in nature and society. Here, identical physical structures and processes can be ordered differently to create significant qualitative changes. One example is the different ordering principles found in music, where an alteration to a sequence of the same notes in a chord or in a melody can have a major qualitative impact on harmony, with no quantitative change anywhere apparent. So, the same seven notes (i.e., tones and semi-tones) arranged in different modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aolean and Locrian) sound totally different to the human ear. Of course, there are other ways of altering the quality of music in an energetically neutral environment over and above this (such as timing).

 

Another example along the same lines concerns the ordering principles found in language, where significant qualitative changes can result from the re-arrangement of the same parts of speech. For instance, the same number of letters jumbled up can either make sense or no sense, as the case may be -- as in, say, "dialectics" and "csdileati" (which is "dialectics" scrambled up).

 

Perhaps more radically, the same words can mean something qualitatively new if sequenced differently, as in, say: "The cat is on the mat" and "The mat is on the cat". Or, even worse: "It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic", compared with "It is impossible completely to understand Hegel's Logic, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Marx's Capital." Here there is considerable qualitative difference with no quantitative change at all.

 

[What are the odds that Engels would have tried to alter his First 'Law' to counter that awkward fact?]

 

There are many other examples of this phenomenon, but a few more should suffice for the purposes of this Essay: a successful strike (one that is, say, planned first then actioned second) could turn into its opposite (if it is actioned first and planned second). Now even though the total energy input here would be ordered differently in each case, the overall energy budget of the system (howsoever that is characterised) need not be any different. So, the addition of no extra matter or energy here can turn successful action into disaster if the order of events is reversed. Of course, we can all imagine situations where this particular example could involve different energy budgets, but this is not necessarily the case, which is all I need.

 

There are literally thousands of everyday examples of such qualitative changes (where there are no obvious associated quantitative differences), so many in fact that Engels's First 'Law' begins to look even more pathetic in comparison. Who, for example, would put food on the table then a plate on top of it? A change in the order here would constitute a qualitatively different (and more normal) action: plate first, food second. Which of us would jump out of an aeroplane first and put their parachute on second -- or cross a road first, look second? And is there a sane person on the planet who goes to the toilet first and gets out of bed second? Moreover, only an idiot would pour 500 ml of water slowly into 1000 ml of concentrated Sulphuric Acid, whereas, someone who knew what they were doing would quite readily do the reverse. But, all of these have profound qualitative differences if performed in the wrong order (for the same energy budget).

 

How could Engels have missed examples like these? Is dialectical myopia so crippling that it prevents dialecticians using their common sense?

 

Pushing these ideas further: context, too, can affect quality in a quantitatively neutral environment. So, a dead body in a living room has a different qualitative significance compared to that same body in the morgue (for the same energy input). A million pounds in my bank account has a different qualitative feel to it when compared to the same money in yours....

 

Furthermore, qualitative change can be induced by other qualitative changes, contrary to Engels's claim:

 

"...[Q]ualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion...." [Engels (1954), p.63. Emphasis added]

 

For example, in a 1:1 mixture of paint, one litre of brown can be made by mixing two half litres each of red and green, but the same qualitative effect can be achieved by using less or more of both (say, 2 litres of each), but in the same ratio. Here a change in the quantity of mixed paints has no effect on the qualitative properties of the mixture (i.e., its colour), while the qualities that are mixed have. In this case, two qualities (two colours) will have changed into a new quality (a new colour) when mixed. Not only do the same amounts (and proportions) of red and green paint exist before and after mixing, for any fixed amount of each, the two former qualities will have merged into a single quality. So, here we have qualitative change produced by qualitative change.

 

Of course, it could be argued that the mixture contains more paint than it did before (which means that there actually has been a quantitative change), but this is not so. In general, prior to mixing there were n litres of each colour (and 2n litres of both) preserving the 1:1 ratio; after mixing the same amount of paint still exists, namely n litres of each (and 2n litres of both, for any n), still preserving the 1:1 proportion. The qualitative change in colour has nothing to do with the quantities involved, but everything to do with the mixing of the two previous qualities in the same ratio.

 

To be sure, if the ratio of the mixed paints were changed, a different qualitative outcome would emerge, but as noted above, even this won't happen "nodally" (that is, when mixed, the overall change in colour takes place slowly, and gradually, as the colours mix), and so it seems to be of little relevance to the First 'Law'. Hence, if the ratio is kept the same, we would have here a change in quality initiated by qualitative change only, and not by an increase in quantity.

 

This perhaps highlights another serious ambiguity in Engels account of this 'Law':

 

"...[T]he 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)…. 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." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

As noted above, Engels is entirely unclear what it is that constitutes the "addition" of matter and/or energy to a "body", which is probably what underlies the objection noted a few paragraphs back. The latter, it seems, takes it as read that one litre of red is added to one litre of green, but if we word this differently, even this would become false. Imagine the following scenario: we have a 2 litre can holding one litre of red and one litre of green separated in the middle by a collapsible barrier (which stays inside the container). Let us assume that the barrier is collapsed so that the red and green begin to mix (we could even have a battery operated mixing device internal to this can, so that no energy is 'added' to the entire ensemble). In this scenario, the object/body in question was the entire container along with its contents. At the end, we would still have the same object (the paint tin with exactly the same quantity of paint, and the original collapsed divider (and mixer)), only now exhibiting a new quality -- the colour brown. Moreover, the collapsing of the barrier could also be induced by a battery-powered device internal to the system.

 

This tends to refute Engels's claim (even though he expressed this point tentatively):

 

"Here, therefore, quantity and quality mutually correspond to each other. So far it has not been found possible to convert motion from one form to another inside a single isolated body." [Engels (1954), p.64.]

 

Or, it shows how vague his notion of a "single body"/system really is. [As I have repeatedly alleged: this is Mickey Mouse Science, after all!]

 

And this example also applies to the development of this body of matter; at the start we had 2n litres of paint, and we finished with 2n litres. But, at the end we also have a new quality (a new colour) created by no increase in matter. And, the same will be true if these mixtures are increased indefinitely by the continuous addition of paint (in the same ratio -- say, by pouring it into a huge vat at the same rate from two pipes -- both of which are fed from two tanks, the entire ensemble located in one room of a factory); here the "same object" will be this particular room, to which no new energy or matter has been 'added'. Moreover, what applies to colour will apply to other qualities, too -- for example, heat (where the mixing of two 2n litres of hot and cold water creates a warm mixture also of 2n litres).

 

In addition, mixing 2n litres of molten metal (with severally different qualities) can lead to a qualitatively new alloy, for example, brass or pewter. This point clearly applies to any mixing of 2n units (or other amounts) of any sort of matter. Indeed, something similar can be achieved with the mixing of an assortment of chemicals (as solids, liquids, or gases) that are capable of being mixed, as it can with light, sounds and tastes.

 

Now, it could be argued that the above examples are highly contrived, and so cannot be considered 'natural' processes. And yet they aren't supernatural -- they all take place in this universe -- but they still contradict Engels. Anyway, even if that were a viable objection, there are countless processes in nature that display similarly non-dialectical features.

 

To take one at random; consider the Bombardier Beetle:

 

"Bombardier beetles store two separate chemicals (hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide) that are not mixed until threatened. When this occurs the two chemicals are squirted through two tubes, where they are mixed along with small amounts of catalytic enzymes. When these chemicals mix they undergo a violent 'exothermic' chemical reaction. The boiling, foul smelling liquid partially becomes a gas and is expelled with a loud popping sound...." [Wikipedia.]

 

If the original 'object'/'body' is the said beetle, then we have here a change in quality (this animal has turned into noxious beetle), where once we had an ordinary insect, but for no change in matter or overall energy in/to that animal. Sure matter is subsequently lost, but before that takes place, the beetle has already changed (otherwise the subsequent loss of matter wouldn't have happened!).

 

Even more annoying: the above change is part of that beetle's 'development', so this example isn't susceptible to the challenge that my counter-examples aren't developmental.

 

Someone could object that light will have impinged on the sensory surfaces of this beetle, so some matter/energy has been added. But, we can put the said insect in a box and worry it with a battery-operated device (or another insect/animal already in the same box). In this case, no new matter or energy will have been added to the 'box-battery-beetle-animal' ensemble/'object', but it will change qualitatively, nonetheless. [The reader will no doubt now be able to see what was meant when it was asserted that the words "body" and "add" aren't at all "straight-forward?"]

 

Consider another --, and one that is perhaps more familiar to most dialecticians than the Bombardier Beetle --, the Widget in certain cans of beer or lager:

 

"A can of beer is pressurised by adding liquid nitrogen, which vaporises and expands in volume after the can is sealed, forcing gas and beer into the widget's hollow interior through a tiny hole -- the less beer the better for subsequent head quality. In addition, some nitrogen dissolves in the beer which also contains dissolved carbon dioxide.

 

"The presence of dissolved nitrogen allows smaller bubbles to be formed with consequent greater creaminess of the subsequent head. This is because the smaller bubbles need a higher internal pressure to balance the greater surface tension, which is inversely proportional to the radius of the bubbles. Achieving this higher pressure is not possible just with dissolved carbon dioxide because of the greater solubility of this gas compared to nitrogen would create an unacceptably large head.

 

"When the can is opened, the pressure in the can quickly drops, causing the pressurised gas and beer inside the widget to jet out from the hole. This agitation on the surrounding beer causes a chain reaction of bubble formation throughout the beer. The result, when the can is then poured out, is a surging mixture in the glass of very small gas bubbles and liquid.

 

"This is the case with certain types of draught beer such as draught stouts. In the case of these draught beers, which before dispensing also contain a mixture of dissolved nitrogen and carbon dioxide, the agitation is caused by forcing the beer under pressure through small holes in a restrictor in the tap. The surging mixture gradually settles to produce a very creamy head." [Wikipedia.]

 

Change in quality, but no change in quantity.

 

It could be argued that there is in fact a difference in matter and/or energy to/in this can, namely the ring pull and gases near the opening. That is undeniable, but is this significant? What causes the change in quality is the Widget, not the ring pull. This can be seen by the fact that in cans where there is no Widget, the above does not happen.

 

However, someone could still object that the above differences in matter/energy are relevant to the subsequent change in quality; after all, they set in motion those very changes.

 

[This is in fact a particular example of the general point we met in Essay Seven Part One: if DM-theorists want to interconnect this can with other processes in the vicinity, then there is no way to prevent the 'absurd inflation' described in Note 5 of the aforementioned Essay.]

 

There are several problems with this response. First, we saw (in Note 5) that there is no question-begging way to define the thermodynamic/energy locale of such DM-changes.

 

Secondly, it is questionable that the removal of a ring pull, and the loss of small quantities of vapour amounts to the addition/removal of matter or energy from the beer/Widget ensemble itself. This, naturally, raises issues also touched on in Note 5. What exactly is the DM-"object" here? Until we are told, this objection itself can't succeed. Even after we are told, that can't help but beg the question (again, as noted above), for it will be plain that any new demarcation lines will have been drawn in order to save this 'Law', making it eminently subjective.

 

Finally, after the ring pull has been removed, and the small quantity of vapour has escaped, the beer/Widget ensemble will undergo a qualitative change for no new matter or energy input into that system, violating the First 'Law'. Anyone who objects to the 'line' being drawn just here (i.e., cordoning-off this system at the Widget/beer boundary just after the ring pull has been removed) will need to advance objective criteria for it to be re-drawn somewhere else.

 

Now, if that boundary is re-drawn to include the removed ring pull and the escaped vapour, then, once more, no new energy or matter will have been added to that system (i.e., the beer/Widget/ring-pull/vapour ensemble) even while it will have undergone a qualitative change.

 

[This is, once more, just a particular example of the general point made in Note 5. Incidentally, the same comments apply to similar objections directed at the Bombardier Beetle example given above.]

 

Anyway, the aforementioned ring-pull could be removed by a battery-operated device inside the can, controlled by an internal timer, meaning that the resulting change in quality will have been occasioned by no new energy added to the can/beer/widget/battery-device system. And of course, there are plenty of such systems already in use. For example, electronic alarm clocks run on internal batteries; when they change in 'quality' from ticking to ringing, no new matter/energy has been added to that clock/battery system. The same is true of most battery operated devices, or any system with its own internal energy source (and that includes motor vehicles, aeroplanes, ships, lap-top computers, etc,. etc.).

 

Several more counter-examples rapidly come to mind: a child living in, say, Paris can become an orphan (qualitative change) if both of its parents die in South Africa (meaning that no quantitative change will have happened to that child).

 

The largest cut diamond on earth (in a safe, say, in New York) could change into the second largest if another, bigger diamond is cut in, say, Amsterdam. This example also applies to other remote changes. For instance, the biggest star in a galaxy could become the second biggest if another star hundreds of millions of light years away (but in the same galaxy) grows in size (perhaps over millions of years) through accretion of matter. So, in both cases, there would be a qualitative change to the first object with no relevant matter or energy added or subtracted from/to that object. There are countless examples of remote change like this.

 

A cheque drawn, say, in New York will become instantaneously worthless (qualitative change) if the issuing bank in Tokyo goes bust (meaning that no quantitative change will have happened to that cheque). The same can be said about credit cards.

 

A Silver Medallist in, say, the Olympics can become the Gold Medal winner in a certain event (qualitative change) if the former Gold medallist is disqualified because of drug-taking (meaning that no quantitative change will have occurred to that Silver Medallist).

 

[Notice that many of the examples in the last few paragraphs relate to developmental change.]

 

In the limit, there is the following: the "Big Bang" (so we are told) led to the formation of a whole universe of qualitative changes, with no overall increase in energy or matter (in the universe). Now, here we have a massive change in quality (with Galaxies and planets, and all the rest, emerging out of the original debris) with no overall change in the quantity of energy in the universe.

 

On the other hand, if the 'Big Bang' example is rejected (as it is by some Marxists) -- and an infinite universe is postulated in its place -- since there can be no increase in energy in the entire universe, once more, any qualitative changes that take place in the whole of nature will have occurred with no increase in the universal quantity of energy.

 

As should seem plain, this constitutes the ultimate counter-example to this rather pathetic 'law': the development of everything refutes Q/Q!

 

Conclusion?

 

Matter in general is reassuringly non-dialectical.

 

Any who object to these examples need only reflect on the fact that they do not represent a challenge to materialism (since they are all manifestly material changes), they merely throw into serious doubt Engels's rather restrictive and obscure 'Law'.

 

In short, only someone more intent on defending Engels than they are understanding nature will find reason to cavil at this point.

 

DM Makes Change Impossible

 

Everything Changes Into That With Which It 'Struggles'

 

A last couple of points raised by MLT (again quoting me):

 

"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.

 

Again, I apologise if I have misconstrued what MLT argued.

 

Anyway, he is quite correct in quoting me -- but he did so only partially; here is the rest:

 

Surprising as this might seem, 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', or because (2) They change into their 'opposites', or even because (3) Change itself creates those 'opposites'.

 

[Scores of quotations (no exaggeration!) from the DM-classics and 'lesser' DM-works that support the above assertions have been posted here.]

 

That is, according to (2) objects and processes change into that with which they struggle.

 

Most DM-supporters with whom I have debated this, miss this salient point, or fail to spot its fatal consequences -- even after they have been pointed out to them!

 

So, what is MLT's point? Apparently, this:

 

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.

 

How do the three points above (and in particular (2)) affect this argument?

 

In order to see how, let us consider the contradictory parts of this unity, C; let us call them P* and P**, respectively; let us further assume they are 'dialectical opposites', and that they struggle with one another.

 

So, according to the DM-classics, P* and P** not only struggle with one another, they change into one another. But this can't happen; P* can't change into P** since P** already exists! If it didn't there would be nothing with which P* could struggle, and hence change. In which case, C itself can't change! This "unity", will forever remain the same.

 

[Moreover, I stand by my original counter-argument quoted above, but I won't press the point since MLT thinks it misrepresents his argument.]

 

As I have noted elsewhere, when confronted with the absurd consequences of this theory of change (i.e., that, if true, it would make change impossible) DM-supporters react with incredulity. I have speculated that this is because they have never really thought through the consequences of the thoroughly confused theory they inherited from that Christian Mystic, Hegel, and the DM-classicists. Indeed, some of them seem never to have read the relevant passages from the classics, quoted in Essay Seven Part Three.

 

There have been a few rather weak attempts to respond to my demolition of core DM-theory of change (I have itemised them, and responded to them all, here), but the vast majority of objectors ignore one or more of (1)-(3) above, just as we have seen was the case with MLT.

 

Alas for DM-supporters: my demolition of their core theory of change is completely general, and can cope with every conceivable objection.

 

Any who doubt this are invited to read Essay Seven Part Three.

 

DM Implies Workers Must Change Into Capitalists

 

The last point from MLT:

 

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.

 

However, if workers struggle with capitalists, and every object and process in the entire universe changes into that with which it struggles, if the DM-classics are to be believed, then we are forced to conclude that this theory implies workers must change into capitalists!

 

MLT can only derive what he thinks he can by ignoring (2) above, once again.

 

And he is right when he says this:

 

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.

 

Which constitutes an effective reductio ad absurdum of the 'dialectical theory of change', for this is exactly what DM implies: "If they were there would be no development. It wouldn't be a social revolution at all."

 

This isn't to deny change, only to assert that DM can't cope with it -- indeed, if true, DM would make change impossible.

 

Plainly, the lesson we should learn from all this is: ditch DM -- the sooner the better!

 

Notes

 

1. Here is Konstantinov (I am restricting myself to quoting only those DM-theorists MLT is likely to regard as authoritative):

 

"This law explains one of the most important features of dialectical development: motion, development takes place as self-motion, self-development. This concept is highly relevant to materialism. It means that the world develops not as a result of any external causes but by virtue of its own laws, the laws of motion of matter itself. It has dialectical meaning because it indicates that the source, the motive force of development of phenomena is to be found in their internal contradictions. In the past some materialists who rejected any supernatural force as a constant factor influencing natural processes nevertheless had to fall back on the mysterious 'first impulse' that was supposed to have set matter in motion.

 

"The dialectical doctrine that the motion or development of nature is in fact self-motion, self-development, explains why many contemporary bourgeois philosophers are so vehement in their attacks on the proposition of the contradictory essence of things. Development understood in this way leaves no room for a 'transcendental', mystical 'creative force' external to nature...." [Konstantinov et al (1974), pp.144-45. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphases added.]

 

And, here are two other communist theoreticians:

 

"...[Previous philosophers] did not recognise the contradictoriness of being and were compelled, therefore, either to reject motion, or turn to God, declaring Him the final cause of all changes in the world. Heraclitus was the first to propose that contradiction is the source of motion. Hegel, however, developed the idea on an idealist basis, with respect to pure thought, but only dialectical materialism substantiated this proposition on a truly scientific basis...." [Sheptulin (1978), p.266.]

 

"The source of the internal activity of matter lies within it.... Motion is absolute, for it is unrelated to anything external that could determine it. There is nothing else in the world except eternally moving matter, its forms, properties and manifestations.

 

"Any way of constructing [construing? RL] rest as absolute is as intolerable in the conception of motion, as it is in the relativist interpretation of the latter. Many philosophers, however, adhered precisely to such views since they regarded substance as something inert and immutable, and explained the motion of natural bodies through the action of an outside force. Logically this gave rise to the following question: if one body sets another in motion, the latter a third, etc., how then did they start to move? Who wound up the clock of the mechanism of nature? Those who reasoned this way had to recognise the existence of something that provided the initial impulse. Relative to seemingly motionless nature such an entity could only be God...." [Kharin (1981), pp.63-64.]

 

2. I am posting here several examples of popular accounts of genuine science (technical examples can be found in any academic science journal, such as Nature) -- these have been taken from Essay Seven Part One:

 

In late September 2011 the news media were full of stories about an experiment that seemed to show that a beam of neutrinos had exceeded the speed of light. Here is a brief description of the lengths to which scientists went to check this result:

 

"'Light-speed' neutrinos point to new physical reality

 

"Subatomic particles have broken the universe's fundamental speed limit, or so it was reported last week. The speed of light is the ultimate limit on travel in the universe, and the basis for Einstein's special theory of relativity, so if the finding stands up to scrutiny, does it spell the end for physics as we know it? The reality is less simplistic and far more interesting.

 

"'People were saying this means Einstein is wrong,' says physicist Heinrich Päs of the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany. 'But that's not really correct.'

 

"Instead, the result could be the first evidence for a reality built out of extra dimensions. Future historians of science may regard it not as the moment we abandoned Einstein and broke physics, but rather as the point at which our view of space vastly expanded, from three dimensions to four, or more.

 

"'This may be a physics revolution,' says Thomas Weiler at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who has devised theories built on extra dimensions. 'The famous words 'paradigm shift' are used too often and tritely, but they might be relevant.'

 

"The subatomic particles -- neutrinos -- seem to have zipped faster than light from CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, to the OPERA detector at the Gran Sasso lab near L'Aquila, Italy. It's a conceptually simple result: neutrinos making the 730-kilometre journey arrived 60 nanoseconds earlier than they would have if they were travelling at light speed. And it relies on three seemingly simple measurements, says Dario Autiero of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Lyon, France, a member of the OPERA collaboration: the distance between the labs, the time the neutrinos left CERN, and the time they arrived at Gran Sasso.

 

"But actually measuring those times and distances to the accuracy needed to detect nanosecond differences is no easy task. The OPERA collaboration spent three years chasing down every source of error they could imagine...before Autiero made the result public in a seminar at CERN on 23 September.

 

"Physicists grilled Autiero for an hour after his talk to ensure the team had considered details like the curvature of the Earth, the tidal effects of the moon and the general relativistic effects of having two clocks at different heights (gravity slows time so a clock closer to Earth's surface runs a tiny bit slower).

 

"They were impressed. 'I want to congratulate you on this extremely beautiful experiment,' said Nobel laureate Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after Autiero's talk. 'The experiment is very carefully done, and the systematic error carefully checked.'

 

"Most physicists still expect some sort of experimental error to crop up and explain the anomaly, mainly because it contravenes the incredibly successful law of special relativity which holds that the speed of light is a constant that no object can exceed. The theory also leads to the famous equation E = mc2.

 

"Hotly anticipated are results from other neutrino detectors, including T2K in Japan and MINOS at Fermilab in Illinois, which will run similar experiments and confirm the results or rule them out (see 'Fermilab stops hunting Higgs, starts neutrino quest')....

 

"Even if relativity is pushed aside, Einstein has worked so well for so long that he will never really go away. At worst, relativity will turn out to work for most of the universe but not all, just as Newton's mechanics work until things get extremely large or small. 'The fact that Einstein has worked for 106 years means he'll always be there, either as the right answer or a low-energy effective theory,' Weiler says." [Grossman (2011), pp.7-9. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Subsequent experiments have confirmed this anomalous result, but some scientists think they have found a flaw.]

 

This is how genuine science is practiced. Three years looking for possible errors! Even today (this was written in late 2011), scientists around the world are still pouring over the data, examining it closely for mistakes, in the experimental details or in the interpretation of their results. They certainly don't attack each other for having the temerity to question Einstein. Nor do they moan about "pedantry" when their work is peer reviewed; and they definitely don't retreat into a 'dialectical sulk' and refuse to engage with those who insist on their work being checked and double-checked.

 

That is the difference between science and dialectical sectarianism. And, it takes a little more than a few references to balding heads, boiling water, melting points, or the ambiguous fighting habits of the Mamelukes to refute even a remotely possible counter-example to Einstein's theory.

 

Oddly enough, a hasty reference to the a priori and dogmatic musings of a Hermetic Mystic who lived 200 years ago isn't sufficient, either.

 

Update March 2012: The above experiment has been repeated far more carefully, and it now appears that neutrinos do not travel faster than light:

 

"Neutrinos clocked at light-speed in new Icarus test

 

 

"An experiment to repeat a test of the speed of subatomic particles known as neutrinos has found that they do not travel faster than light. Results announced in September suggested that neutrinos can exceed light speed, but were met with scepticism as that would upend Einstein's theory of relativity. A test run by a different group at the same laboratory has now clocked them travelling at precisely light speed.

 

"The results have been posted online.

 

"The results in September, from the Opera group at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory in Italy, shocked the world, threatening to upend a century of physics as well as relativity -- which holds the speed of light to be the Universe's absolute speed limit. Now the Icarus group, based at the same laboratory, has weighed in again, having already cast some doubt on the original Opera claim. Shortly after that claim, Nobel laureate Sheldon Glashow co-authored a Physical Review Letters paper that modelled how faster-than-light neutrinos would behave as they travelled.

 

"In November, the Icarus group showed in a paper posted on the online server Arxiv that the neutrinos displayed no such behaviour. However, they have now supplemented that indirect result with a test just like that carried out by the Opera team.

 

"Speedy result

 

"The Icarus experiment uses 600 tonnes -- 430,000 litres -- of liquid argon to detect the arrival of neutrons sent through 730km of rock from the Cern laboratory in Switzerland. Since their November result, the Icarus team have adjusted their experiment to do a speed measurement.

 

"What was missing was information from Cern about the departure time of the neutrinos, which the team recently received to complete their analysis. The result: they find that the neutrinos do travel at the same speed as light. 'We are completely compatible with the speed of light that we learn at school,' said Sandro Centro, co-spokesman for the Icarus collaboration.

 

"Dr Centro said that he was not surprised by the result. 'In fact I was a little sceptical since the beginning,' he told BBC News. 'Now we are 100% sure that the speed of light is the speed of neutrinos.'

 

"Most recently, the Opera team conceded that their initial result may have been compromised by problems with their equipment. Rumours have circulated since the Opera result was first announced that the team was not unified in its decision to announce their findings so quickly, and Dr Centro suggested that researchers outside the team were also suspicious.

 

"'I didn't trust the result right from the beginning -- the way it was produced, the way it was managed,' he said. 'I think they were a little bit in a hurry to publish something that was astonishing, and at the end of the day it was a wrong measurement.'

 

"Four different experiments at Italy's Gran Sasso lab make use of the same beam of neutrinos from Cern. Later this month, they will all be undertaking independent measurements to finally put an end to speculation about neutrino speeds. The Minos experiment in the US and the T2K experiment in Japan may also weigh in on the matter in due course -- if any doubt is left about the neutrinos' ability to beat the universal speed limit." [Quoted from here. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space.]

 

Again, this is how genuine science is conducted -- typically, results have to be rigorously tested (and re-tested) before they are accepted and are published in the scientific literature and then in the textbooks -- unlike Mickey Mouse DM-'Science'.

 

Consider another example -- the following is a brief description of the precautions (highlighted in bold) taken by one scientist trying to ascertain a more accurate value for the Gravitational Constant, G:

 

"Harold Parks's belongings were already leaving for France when he realised gravity had given him the slip. 'The movers were in my apartment taking my stuff away,' he says. He was in his lab at the research institute JILA in Boulder, Colorado, making the final checks on an experiment that had taken up the past two years of his life -- to precisely measure the strength of gravity. 'The signal shouldn't have changed,' he recalls. 'But it did.'

 

"That was 10 years ago. Having relocated, for a while Parks was tempted to give up on gravity. But the force exerts a mysterious pull on those who measure it. After a sojourn at the high temple of metrology, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris, France, Parks was back in Boulder, rebuilding and improving his old experiment....

 

"Meanwhile, Parks was beavering away in Boulder. His and [his supervisor] Faller's experiment was a variant of an apparatus that had been used to try to pin down big G before. It consisted of two free-hanging pendulum bobs surrounded by four massive stacks of tungsten. Moving the tungsten masses inwards...draws the bobs closer together by an amount 1000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Still, the shift is large enough to be picked up by a laser interferometer.

 

"Not that it is easy to be sure the movements are down to gravity alone. 'It's about thinking of all the things the world can do to you to muck up your experiment,' says Parks. The pair set up the pendulums in a vacuum to avoid the effects of temperature changes and air resistance slowing the pendulums' movements. They also floated the tungsten stacks on a thin layer of air to stop them vibrating unexpectedly. Even so, tiptoeing anywhere near the experiment was a no-no: the additional mass of a person would weigh down one side of the floor and nudge the apparatus ever so slightly.

 

"The problems didn't stop at the doors of the lab. Next to, and towering over, the basement where the experiment was situated was a high-rise block. As the sun crept across the sky during the day, it warmed first one side of the tower and then the other, causing it to expand unevenly. The effect was to imperceptibly tilt the tower and everything attached to it, including Parks's lab, first one way and then the other.

 

"Even that cruel trick was nothing compared to what was unmasked the day the fire alarm sounded. 'There had been regular spikes in data taken during the day,' says Parks. 'They just went quiet.' It turned out that a surge in current each time the elevator moved in the tower caused a slight change in the magnetisation of the pendulum bobs, moving them ever so slightly and skewing the results." [Webb (2011), pp.45-47. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added.]

 

Do we see such attention to detail in Engels's work on DM, or in that of subsequent DM-supporters? Or, anything even remotely like it?

 

3. Other examples of continuous, node-free 'qualitative' change (in addition to several others listed above, concerning melting metals, glass, tar, butter, etc., etc.) include the following (this has also been taken from Essay Seven Part One):

 

When heated, objects change in quality from cold to warm and then to hot, with no "nodal" point separating these particular qualitative stages. Hot water is significantly "qualitatively" different from cold water. The same happens in reverse when they cool. Moving bodies similarly speed up from slow to fast (and vice versa) without any "nodal" punctuation marks affecting this transition. Bodies with a high relative velocity are "qualitatively" different from those with a low relative velocity -- and who doubt this should stand in front of a stationary bus, and then in front of one moving at top speed. [Only joking!] In like manner, the change from one colour to the next in the normal colour spectrum is continuous, with no "nodal" points evident at all -- and this is also the case with the colour changes that bodies experience when they are heated until they are red-, or white-hot. Sounds, too, change smoothly from soft to loud, and in pitch from low to high, and then back again in a "node"-free environment. In fact, with respect to wave-governed phenomena in general, change seems to be continuous rather than discrete, which means that since the majority of particles/objects in nature move in such a manner, most things in reality seem to disobey this aspect of Engels's rather unimpressive 'Law' -- at least, at the macroscopic level. Hence, here we have countless changes in "quality" that are non-"nodal".

 

To be sure, some wave-like changes are said to occur discontinuously (indeed, the word "node" is used precisely here by Physicists), but this isn't the result of continuous background changes. For example, quantum phenomena are notoriously discontinuous, and such changes are not preceded by continual or gradual quantitative increases, as this 'Law' demands. They occur suddenly with no build-up. So, discontinuous quantum phenomena can't be recruited to fit this 'Law' -- unless, of course, it is altered on a post hoc basis so that they can. Naturally, that done, this 'Law' would no longer be 'objective'.

 

Some might complain that the above examples aren't of the right type, and therefore do not refute the theory, but until we are told with greater clarity what (i) a "node" is (and how long they are supposed to last), what (ii) counts as a "quality", what (iii) constitutes the "addition"/"subtraction" of matter and/or energy, what (iv) the thermodynamic boundaries of an object, process or system are -- and, indeed, what (v) constitutes a single body, system or process -- the above counter-examples still stand....

 

To this end, DM-theorists could get their act together and specify a minimum time interval during which a phase or state of matter transition must take place for it to be counted as "nodal". In relation to boiling water, say, they could decide that if the transition from water to steam (or vice versa) takes place in an interval lasting less than or equal to k seconds/minutes (for some k), then it is indeed "nodal". Thus, by dint of just such a stipulation, their 'Law' could be made to work (at least in this respect) in this instance. But, there is nothing in nature that forces any of this on us -- the reverse is, if anything, the case. Phase/state of matter changes, and changes in general take different lengths of time. Moreover, under differing circumstances even these intervals can alter, too. If so, as noted above, this 'Law' would become 'valid' only because of yet another stipulation, or imposition, which would make it eminently 'subjective'.

 

However, given the strife-riven and sectarian nature of dialectical politics, any attempt to define a DM-"node" could lead to yet more factions. Thus, we are sure to see emerge the rightist "Nanosecond Tendency" -- sworn enemies of the "Picosecond Left Opposition" -- who will both take up arms with the 'eclectic' wing at the "it depends on the circumstances" 'clique' at the 'centrist' "Femtosecond League".

 

In this respect, also worth repeating is a point made earlier:

 

But, the volunteered DM-objection...that different states of matter are different "kinds of things"...only goes to show how vague the 'definition' of "quality" is. Indeed, it allows DM-supporters to count different states of matter -- but not shape, colour, heat or motion -- as different "kind of things"; so that, for example, an object in motion isn't counted as a different "kind of thing" from the same object at rest; or that spherical or cylindrical ingots of iron aren't different "kinds of thing". Sure, gases, liquids and solids have different physical properties, but so do moving and stationary bodies, and so do spherical and cylindrical objects. And so do different colours; as do coloured objects. It isn't easy to see why green and red objects aren't different "kinds of things" if liquids and solids are allowed to be. And, it is no use pointing to the "objective" nature of states of matter as opposed to the "subjective" nature of colour, since shape and motion are just as "objective".

 

Bibliography

 

Atkins, P., and de Paula, J., (2006), Physical Chemistry (Oxford University Press).

 

Clayden, J., Greeves, N., Warren, S., and Wothers, P. (2001), Organic Chemistry (Oxford University Press).

 

Cornforth, F. (1976), Materialism And The Dialectical Method (Lawrence & Wishart, 5th ed.). [A copy of the 1968 edition is available here.]

 

Engels, F. (1954), Dialectics Of Nature (Progress Publishers).

 

--------, (1976), Anti-Dühring (Foreign Languages Press).

 

Gollobin, I. (1986), Dialectical Materialism. Its Laws, Categories And Practice (Petras Press).

 

Grossman, L. (2011), 'Neutrinos Point To A New Reality', New Scientist 211, 2823, 01/10/11, pp.7-9.

 

Hegel, G. (1975), Logic, translated by William Wallace (Oxford University Press, 3rd ed.).

 

--------, (1999), Science Of Logic, translated by A. V. Miller (Humanity Books).

 

Kharin, Y. (1981), Fundamentals Of Dialectics (Progress Publishers).

 

Konstantinov, F. et al (1974), The Fundamentals Of Marxist-Leninist Philosophy (Progress Publishers, 2nd ed.).

 

Kuusinen, O. (1961) (ed.), Fundamentals Of Marxism-Leninism (Lawrence & Wishart).

 

Lenin, V. (1921), 'Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation And The Mistakes Of Comrades Trotsky And Bukharin', reprinted in Lenin (1980), pp.70-106.

 

--------, (1961), Collected Works Volume 38 (Progress Publishers).

 

--------, (1972), Materialism And Empirio-Criticism (Foreign Languages Press).

 

Mao Tse-Tung (1961a), Selected Works Of Mao Tse-Tung, Volume One (Foreign Languages Press).

 

--------, (1961b), 'On Contradiction', in Mao (1961a), pp.311-47.

 

Plekhanov, G. (1956), The Development Of The Monist View Of History (Progress Publishers). This is reprinted in Plekhanov (1974), pp.480-737.

 

--------, (1974), Selected Philosophical Works, Volume One (Progress Publishers, 2nd ed.).

 

Sheptulin, A. (1978), Marxist-Leninist Philosophy (Progress Publishers).

 

Webb, R. (2011), 'Notorious Big', New Scientist 210, 2808, 23/04/2011, pp.44-47. [The on-line article has a different title.]

 

Woods, A., and Grant, T. (2007), Reason In Revolt. Marxism And Modern Science (Wellred Publications, 2nd ed.).

 

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