Dialectical Confusion 2

 

Preface

 

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Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Introduction

 

I was recently made aware of a series of criticisms of my work over at RevLeft, to which I wrote a set of replies. Subsequently, another batch of criticisms appeared there -- below are my responses.

 

Some might wonder why I am bothering to take issue with what appear to be a group of philosophical novices (and, in some cases, know-nothings), but it is part of my approach to this subject that if I can't explain myself to such ingénues, then I don't really understand my own work/ideas.

 

So, I engage with them for two reasons: 1) To sharpen up my act, and to try to explain myself in clearer and clearer terms, and 2) To put the obnoxious and abusive comrades (to which happy band, alas, most DM-fans belong, especially at RevLeft) in their place. That explains the tone I have adopted with some of these numpties.

 

DM-fans give the impression that their theory is so obviously true, that there is, and can be no serious challenge to it. In fact, the opposite is the case, and they need to be made to see that the opposite is the case -- even if only to encourage them stop thinking like philosophical conservatives, and begin to act like the radicals they claim to be.

 

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

 

As is the case with all my Essays, nothing here should be read as an attack either on Historical Materialism [HM] -- a theory I fully accept --, or, indeed, on revolutionary socialism. I remain as committed to the self-emancipation of the working class and the dictatorship of the proletariat as I was when I first became a revolutionary nearly thirty years ago. [The difference between Dialectical Materialism [DM] and HM, as I see it, is explained here.]

 

Phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" (etc.) used at this site (in connection with Traditional Philosophy and DM) aren't meant to imply that all or even most members of various ruling-classes actually invented these ways of thinking or of seeing the world (although some of them did -- for example, Heraclitus, Plato, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius). They are intended to highlight theories (or "ruling ideas") that are conducive to, or which rationalise the interests of the various ruling-classes history has inflicted on humanity, whoever invents them. Up until recently, this dogmatic approach to knowledge had almost invariably been promoted by thinkers who either relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another helped run the system for the elite.

 

However, this will become the central topic of Parts Two and Three of Essay Twelve (when they are published); until then, the reader is directed here, here, and here for more details.

 

Quick Links

 

1) First Set Of Replies

 

a)  Marxaveli

 

b)  Yet Another Boring Marxist

 

c)  Marxaveli

 

d)  Yet Another Boring Marxist

 

e)  Blake 3:17

 

f)   Red Godfather

 

g)  Blake 3:17

 

h)  Comrade 138672

 

i)   Marxaveli

 

j)   Comrade 138672

 

k)  Marxaveli

 

l)   Semendyaev

 

m) Jam Like a Jacobin

 

2) Second Set Of Replies

 

a)  Comrade 138672

 

b)  Takayuki

 

c)  Slim Sweezy

 

3) Third Set Of Replies

 

a)  Slim Sweezy

 

4) Fourth Set Of Replies

 

a)  Slim Sweezy

 

b)  Blake 3:17

 

c)  Slim Sweezy

 

5) Fifth Set Of Replies

 

a)  My Blood Is Red

 

b)  Mahmoud Ahmadinnerjacket

 

c)  Blake 3:17

 

6) Sixth Set Of Replies

 

a)  Strannik

 

b)  Semendyaev

 

c)  Blake 3:17

 

d)  Comrade 138672

 

7) Seventh Set Of Replies

 

a)  Semendyaev

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

Replies I

 

I posted the following comment in my last Essay, Dialectical Confusion 1:

 

Up until April 2011 I was a member of RevLeft, a leading discussion forum for revolutionaries of almost every stripe. However, when the dialectical mystics there gained a majority on the moderating and admin teams, I was banned for being rather too good at demolishing Dialectical Materialism [DM].

 

Since then this philosophical weed has grown almost unabated at RevLeft, with comrades happy to rehearse hoary old DM-theses that had been consigned by yours truly (and several others) to the trash can of history, many times over.

 

In addition, one or two characters there, still apparently seething over the countless arguments they lost, have now managed to turn this around, and win many arguments against me in my absence, clearly finding it much easier to prevail in debate when there is no Rosa around to respond. With brave and fearless comrades like this, the future of socialism is well assured,-- providing the ruling-class and their hangers on withdraw completely from the field.

 

And now, a new batch of Dialectically-Distracted comrades has attempted to take me on. Here is the opening salvo (from one 'Marxaveli'):

 

What do you guys make of this? Personally, I think this dude vulgarizes DM into being some 'deterministic' philosophy (even though DM is anti-dogmatic by its very essence) in his attempt to discredit it. In my opinion, DM is the backbone of Marxism, and to take it out of Marxism is an abandonment of it, since Marx and Engels clearly used dialectics in almost all their work. What are your guys [sic] thoughts? Sorry if this site has been posted before but I'm really curious.

 

The above comrade seems to be ignorant of the scores of dogmatic pronouncements (no exaggeration!) the dialectical classics (and more recent, lesser works) contain.

 

Here are just few:

 

"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be…. 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 transmitted....

 

"A motionless state of matter therefore proves to be one of the most empty and nonsensical of ideas…." [Engels (1976), p.74. Bold emphases added.]

 

"The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa…[operates] in nature, in a manner fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or quantitative subtraction of matter or motion….

 

"Hence, it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion…. In this form, therefore, Hegel's mysterious principle appears not only quite rational but even rather obvious.

 

"Motion in the most general sense, conceived as the mode of existence, the inherent attribute of matter, comprehends all changes and processes occurring in the universe….

 

"Dialectics, so called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature…. [M]otion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites…determines the life of nature….

 

"The whole theory of gravity rests on saying that attraction is the essence of matter. This is necessarily false. Where there is attraction, it must be complemented by repulsion. Hence already Hegel was quite right in saying that the essence of matter is attraction and repulsion….

 

"The visible system of stars, the solar system, terrestrial masses, molecules and atoms, and finally ether particles, form each of them [a definite group]. It does not alter the case that intermediate links can be found between the separate groups…. These intermediate links prove only that there are no leaps in nature, precisely because nature is composed entirely of leaps." [Engels (1954), pp.17, 63, 69, 211, 244, 271. Bold emphases added.]

 

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

 

"[D]ialectical logic holds that 'truth' is always concrete, never abstract, as the late Plekhanov liked to say after Hegel." [Lenin (1921), pp.90, 93. Bold emphases added.]

 

"Flexibility, applied objectively, i.e., reflecting the all-sidedness of the material process and its unity, is dialectics, is the correct reflection of the eternal development of the world." [Lenin (1961), p.110. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [E]ach thing (phenomenon, process, etc.)…is connected with every other…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other….

 

"In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics….

 

"The splitting of the whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the 'essentials', one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristic features) of dialectics….

 

"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…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing….

 

"The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute….

 

"To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., [sic] with any proposition...: [like] John is a man…. Here we already have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the individual is the universal…. Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say John is a man…we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other….

 

"Thus in any proposition we can (and must) disclose as a 'nucleus' ('cell') the germs of all the elements of dialectics, and thereby show that dialectics is a property of all human knowledge in general." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58, 359-60. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphases added.]

 

[Dozens more dogmatic pronouncements like these have been posted here.]

 

There is no way that the above dialecticians could have derived the above theses from what little evidence was available in their day, or even ours. Plainly, these ideas were dogmatically imposed on nature.

 

In fact, we know from where DM-theorists appropriated these a priori theses: from Hegel, and other assorted mystics, like Heraclitus.

 

And, of course, we now know that Marx had abandoned this mystical view of the world when he came to write Das Kapital -- on that, see here, here, and below.

 

'Yet Another Boring Marxist' [YABM] had this to say:

 

So all I will say is that without diale[c]tics, there is no Marxism. That's a simple fact. This doesn't say anything about diale[c]tics it's self (sic), perhaps Marxism is wrong after all, I haven't engaged their material enough to say, but no Marxist can denounce dialectics and continue to be a Marxist.

 

I'd like to see the proof that without 'dialectics' there is no Marxism, especially since that theory has presided over 140+ years of the almost total failure of Dialectical Marxism. It seems that with 'dialectics', Dialectical Marxism is slowly dying. So, in order to save it, we should at least try to be the radicals we claim to be, and ditch this ruling-class 'theory'.

 

And as far as the following claim is concerned: "no Marxist can denounce dialectics and continue to be a Marxist", I have had this to say in Essay Nine Part Two:

 

This accounts for another odd fact (and one that all who question this mystical creed will be aware of, anyway): each and every prospective anti-dialectician is issued with an ominous, personal warning that to 'abandon the dialectic' will lead those foolish enough to do so far from the one true path. [Of course, this is yet another trait the dialectical faithful share with genuine religionists.]

 

That is even though the one making such a prediction will belong to a vanishingly small grouplet, and who will roundly condemn all those who are not of like faith (i.e., those in every other such tiny grouplet) for 'abandoning' Marxism. This anathematisation will be promulgated even though all those who have been so peremptorily dammed fully accept Dialectical Materialism/Materialist Dialectics [DM/MD], and who will condemn (in like manner, and in return) this censorious comrade, and everyone else, and for the same reason: abandoning, distorting and/or failing to "understand" DM/MD!

 

Anyone who doubts this allegation can test it with the following experiment: the very next Orthodox Trotskyist [OT] you meet, try telling him/her that the Stalinists and Maoists also use the dialectic. Then, the very next Stalinist/Maoist you meet, try telling her/him that OTs use the dialectic, too. Try the same with the Maoists/Stalinists in relation to the Stalinists/Maoists. Extend this impromptu survey and permute the name of every tendency or group you can think of, telling each that all their opponents also accept and use the dialectic. Unless you are incredibly unlucky, you will be told the same thing over and over: "Those other guys misuse/distort/ignore the 'dialectical method'; they have all adopted wooden, formulaic abstractions, yada, yada...".

 

[Dozens of examples of this phenomenon are given below. Here is a recent, randomly-selected example (concerning the use made by the late Maurice Cornforth of the 'dialectic', and my response -- which, I can safely predict, will be ignored). Compare this with the way that sectarian Christians and Muslims accuse every other sect of their respective faiths, and everyone else, of similar 'heresies'.]

 

In fact, there is no objective way of deciding if or how the dialectic has been, or can be employed correctly. Indeed, as we have seen, it can be, and has been used to defend any theory you like and its opposite, sometimes in the very next breath, and by the very same dialectician!

 

This means that for any randomly-selected dialectician, there are countless thousands of renegade 'dialecticians' who have 'betrayed' Marxism --, namely, all those who aren't members of that randomly-selected accuser's microscopic sect. Hence, there are countless thousands of comrades who have 'betrayed' Marxism (in the opinion of every randomly-selected DM-fan out there), but who are all in fact card-carrying, orthodox, gold-plated, diamond-studded dialecticians in their own eyes!

 

'Abandoning the dialectic' is plainly in the eye of the accuser.

 

But, do any of these censorious comrades draw that conclusion?

 

Are you serious!?

 

So, the lesson here is that it isn't the dialectic-as-such that one should never 'abandon', but the exact copy of the dialectic that any randomly-selected censorious comrade has latched onto -- which, to any outside observer is indistinguishable from all the other versions of the very same theory adhered to by every other censoriously-condemned, and condemning, comrade!

 

Now, I double-dog dare you to put this to one of these randomly-selected comrades.

 

If you are brave enough to accept that challenge, let me warn you in advance to expect plenty of scatological abuse, at the very least.

 

This is quite apart from the fact that 30+ years after becoming a Marxist, I believe in the self-emancipation, and dictatorship of, the proletariat even more than I did back in the 1980s. As I noted in the Introductory Essay:

 

Some may wonder how I can claim to be a Leninist and a Trotskyist given the highly critical things I say about philosophical ideas that have been an integral part of these two traditions. However, to give an analogy: we can surely be highly critical of Newton's mystical ideas even while accepting the scientific nature of his other work. The same applies here.

 

I count myself as a Marxist, a Leninist and a Trotskyist since I fully accept, not just HM (providing Hegel's influence has been fully excised), but the political ideas associated with the life and work of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky.

 

'Marxaveli' then had this to say:

 

Yea I agree. I mean, Marx didn't even coin the phrase or state explicitly (that I know of) that DM was central to his thought, but it is pretty self-evident that he used it extensively and thus we kind of accept it by default as being one of the central themes of Marxism as a system... I mean, its [sic] like taking the concept of adaptation out of the process of evolution, which at that point it ceases to be evolution! This site absolutely blew my mind (not in a good way).

 

In fact, Marx steadily moved away from this theory all his life, to such an extent that by the time he came to write Das Kapital, he had abandoned it altogether. [That is, he had abandoned 'the dialectic' as it has traditionally been understood since his day -- after Engels, Plekhanov and Lenin had got to work on it.]

 

I have covered this at RevLeft many times, for example, at the links listed below, but more fully at my site, here.

 

http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1158574&postcount=73

 

http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1158816&postcount=75

 

http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1161443&postcount=114

 

http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1163222&postcount=124

 

And, far from the following being true: "it's like taking the concept of adaptation out of the process of evolution, which at that point it ceases to be evolution!", the opposite is in fact the case.

 

[I think this comrade means natural selection, since there are many non-Darwinian theories that accept adaptation. Even some Creationists do!]

 

However, far from the loss of DM crippling Marxism, if DM were true, change would be impossible. So, we have excellent reasons for ditching it. I have covered this topic at RevLeft, too:

 

http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1761299&postcount=30

 

http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1761300&postcount=31

 

But, once again, in more detail at my site, here.

 

'YABM' added these thoughts:

 

The very basis of Marx's critique of capitalism in Das Kapital begins with Marx noting that each commodity is a contradiction between it's use value and it's extange [sic] value. It's late so I wont' [sic] do it right now, but in the afternoon tommorow [sic] I can cite various quotes to show where the dialectics forms the basis of Marxist political economy and the critique of capitalism.

 

But, Marx told us, in the Afterword to the second edition, that he was merely "coquetting" with empty Hegelian jargon like this. [Once more, on this, see the four RevLeft links posted above.]

 

'YABM' again:

 

So to be honest, I just don't see where that leaves Marx's critique of capitalism if you remove dialectics. I guess you could vulgarize the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Decline into some sort of semi-Keynesian rubbish about technology decreasing demand until capitalism dies, but that takes away almost all of the punch and uniqueness in Marx's critique of capitalism.

 

For one thing: abandoning dialectics will at least leave us with a theory that doesn't make change impossible. Moreover, since Das Kapital is a dialectics-free zone (that is, "dialectics-free", if that word is understood in the post-Hegelian sense), we needn't worry about trying to make it work without dialectics. It does so already.

 

'Blake 3:17' had this to say:

 

The creator of the Anti-Dialectics site and seemingly endless chunks of text was a very prolific poster on revleft. I find it very strange.
 

Is it "strange" that Hegel, Marx, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Mao and Trotsky also published "seemingly endless chunks of text"? [Any who doubt this should check out the material posted at the Marxist Internet Archive.] In fact, when I used to post short replies at RevLeft, comrades complained about their brevity and superficiality! When I did the opposite, they moaned even louder. Which just goes to show: it is impossible to please Dialectical Mystics. Short articles or long Essays, if they attack the precious 'dialectic', they are all to be equally condemned, their argument ignored.

 

'Red Godfather' added this gem:

 

I think the owner of that site used to post a lot on RevLeft before they were banned. To be honest, I could never be bothered reading any of his/her book-length posts and I'm not about to start either.

 

Well, it's all the same to me if this numpty wants to stay ignorant.

 

'Blake' then passed a brief remark about comments like this, at my site:

 

I have added approximately 35,000 words of new material (thus making the Essay 25% longer).

 

'Blake' wasn't to know (but that didn't stop him pontificating about me and my ideas) that there are many comrades who follow my site, who also know that I regularly up-date my Essays. They have asked me to post information that tells them to what extend each up-date adds new material so they can decide whether or not to re-read the Essay in question.

 

'Comrade 138672' added this comment:

 

The owner of the site spent around 25 years of her life investigating this (so she claims).  Still, I think her critique of dialectics is wrong. Though, it is not bad per se to be critical about dialectics. She still upholds Marxism and believes in the validity of historical materialism [HM].

 

In fact, I have only spent the last 16 years researching DM (which, compared to Marx's lifelong study of capitalism -- or, indeed, his study of it all his mature life -- is rather short), although I have been arguing with Dialectically-Distracted comrades since approximately 1986. [However, I decided DM was a lamentably poor 'theory' nearly ten years before that.] The comrade is, however, correct about my view of HM.

 

'Marxaveli' then had this to say:

 

Not to mention, most of her arguments, the few that are actually coherent, seem to have little merit. Without dialectics, would Marxism have even developed into a system/mode of analysis? Hard to imagine.
 

Well, I'd like to see this courageous comrade take me on and show where my arguments go wrong or lack 'coherence'. He can do so, if he is brave enough, here:

 

http://www.revforum.com/showthread.php?438-What-is-dialectics

 

[I'll not be holding my breath!]

 

'Comrade 138672' then posted this comment:

 

According to Rosa, dialectics is hard because it is nonsensical. She attempts to demonstrate this by taking dialectics to the absurd. Also, her core argument is about showing that with dialectics change is supposedly impossible (inverting the idea that dialectics accounts for change).

 

In fact, I claim that DM is far too confused for anyone to be able to say if it is "hard" or not.

 

'Marxaveli' came back with this:

 

I saw that argument about how dialectics makes change impossible. Such a statement is pure mindf**kery I tell ya, and I have no idea how she came to that conclusion.

 

Once more, I'd like to see this comrade attempt to show where that argument falls short (it can be accessed here). Unfortunately, this comrade seems to be long on assertion, short on proof.

 

'Semendyaev' is in fact the first comrade in this thread to even so much as try to put a cogent argument together:

 

I have read some of the material on the site, and I'm not exactly impressed. The author makes an interesting point from time to time (concerning isomeric molecules for example), but their examples seem to provide new examples of dialectical change rather than disproving it (since changes in the position of molecules are quantitative changes leading to qualitative changes).

But the author's understanding of dialectical materialism is not as sound as the author believes it is. They constantly confuse materialist dialectics with Hegelian dialectics, and deal with opposite ideas instead of opposite tendencies in material phenomena.

They object, for example, that male cats do not change into female cats. But this is absurd; "male" and "female" are often considered as opposite concepts (I would have hoped that someone that calls themselves a Marxist would know better, though), but "male" and "female" are not contradictory tendencies in individual cats. On the level of the population, the number of male and female cats are contradictory, and indeed we see a complex interplay of these numbers, driven partly by internal sexual dynamics and partly by external influences.

I gave up on the section concerning the negation of the negation, where the author again tries to force dialectical materialism into the straightjacket of Hegelian triads and ignores the materialist meaning of the law - the retention of features of previous stages in new stages.

At best, the author has a point against Hegel and against poor Engels when he uncritically assimilates Hegel's examples. At worst, this is a left-ish version of the Time Cube site.

 

Taking each point in turn:

 

I have read some of the material on the site, and I'm not exactly impressed. The author makes an interesting point from time to time (concerning isomeric molecules for example), but their examples seem to provide new examples of dialectical change rather than disproving it (since changes in the position of molecules are quantitative changes leading to qualitative changes).
 

I think this comrade has read the short version of my argument (to be found here, which was a link added to the OP at RevLeft). That approach to my work is about as clever as criticising Das Kapital on the basis of having only read Wages, Price and Profit!

 

Even so, this comrade needs to do several things most DM-fans forget to do:

 

1) Tell us what a "quality' is. The 'definition' Hegel used -- and the one found at the Marxist Internet Archive (both quoted below) -- would in fact rule out many of the examples DM-fans themselves use. [For example, water as a liquid solid or gas is still H2O. Nothing new emerges.] This allows them to pick and choose which examples they regard as 'acceptable illustrations' of Engels's 'law', and which are not, on an entirely subjective basis. As I have argued in Essay Seven:

 

As the term "quality" is understood by dialecticians, this can't in fact be a qualitative change of the sort they require. 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 Marx 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 are still gold, iron and aluminium. [Worse, metals melt slowly, not nodally!]

 

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; 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 fans would be on firmer ground here than they are with their clichéd water as a liquid, solid or gas example.] 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.8b1

 

But, the volunteered DM-objection at the beginning of the previous paragraph, should it ever be advanced by a dialectician, only goes to show how vague this 'definition' is. It allows DM-fans 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. 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".]

 

2) This comrade needs to be much clearer about what he means by "qualitative addition of matter and energy". DM-fans leave it vague what a 'quantitative addition' of energy amounts to, just as they fail to tell us with any clarity (or at all!) what a body or even system is to which matter and/or energy is 'added'. This allows the above comrade, for example, to claim (with no proof!) that a geometric change is also a quantitative change. But, which quantity is changed in this case? He neglected to say.

 

[I have dealt with these issues at length in Essay Seven.]

 

But, what about this?

 

But the author's understanding of dialectical materialism is not as sound as the author believes it is. They constantly confuse materialist dialectics with Hegelian dialectics, and deal with opposite ideas instead of opposite tendencies in material phenomena.

 

DM-fans constantly make allegations about my work (and they invariably fail to support them with a single quotation from my Essays), many of which they have simply made up, or which they attribute to me without reading any of my longer Essays (where I deal with the sort of complications I omit from Introductory Essays -- as indeed I pointed out at the beginning of the Essay in question!). In this case, I do distinguish Marx's 'dialectic' from Hegel's, many times -- for example here. I also deal with 'opposite tendencies' here.

 

Now, no one has to read my work, but only a fool would pass comment on something they hadn't read.

 

What about this?

 

They object, for example, that male cats do not change into female cats. But this is absurd; "male" and "female" are often considered as opposite concepts (I would have hoped that someone that calls themselves a Marxist would know better, though), but "male" and "female" are not contradictory tendencies in individual cats. On the level of the population, the number of male and female cats are contradictory, and indeed we see a complex interplay of these numbers, driven partly by internal sexual dynamics and partly by external influences.

 

Again, I dealt with this obvious objection in Essay Seven (which the objector plainly failed to consult).

 

But, what of the objection itself? Does the population of male and female cats 'struggle' with'' and then 'turn into' each other, as the DM-classics assure all things inevitably do? I think we all know the answer to that one.

 

For proof of this allegation (that the DM-classics argue that objects and processes both struggle with and then change into their opposites), see here, or even here, at RevLeft:

 

http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1761300&postcount=31

 

And this?

 

I gave up on the section concerning the negation of the negation, where the author again tries to force dialectical materialism into the straightjacket of Hegelian triads and ignores the materialist meaning of the law - the retention of features of previous stages in new stages.

 

1) In fact, I quoted Engels on this topic, so this comrade should pick a fight with him, not me.

 

2) I have posted an entire Essay showing that these 'Hegelian triads' are a figment of the imagination; Hegel would have had nothing to do with them (and neither would Plekhanov or Lenin). So, the above accusation is wide of the mark, to say the least.

 

Or, this parting shot?

 

At best, the author has a point against Hegel and against poor Engels when he uncritically assimilates Hegel's examples. At worst, this is a left-ish version of the Time Cube site.

 

Brave words coming from someone who can't even be bothered to get my ideas right!

 

'Jam like a Jacobin' had this to say:

 

I don't know whether or not Rosa understands historical events. While she was making a fairly logical argument in the beginning, she's now blaming Dialectical materialism's logic for the collapse of the Soviet Union and she keeps referencing Hegel, even though DM is supposed to be a total reverse of Hegel's idealism (hence why 'Marx turned Hegel on his head').

 

This is a bit rich! When I was a member of RevLeft, I used to receive complaints that I failed to quote Hegel!

 

In fact, I reference all the DM-classics --, ad nauseam. This comrade has plainly not read my Essays.

 

But, what of this substantive point?

 

While she was making a fairly logical argument in the beginning, she's now blaming Dialectical materialism's logic for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 

I'd like to see where I claim this, or even so much as imply it. What I have argued (at PhD length and detail, too, here) is that DM only succeeded in making a bad situation worse. Which isn't surprising given its origin in Mystical Christianity.

 

So, the arguments these Dialectical Mystics level against me are no better (in fact they are considerably worse) than those directed at me when I was a member.

 

Comrades can read a similar (but slightly more sophisticated, and considerably better-argued) discussion of my ideas (based on the Essay that was linked in the OP at RevLeft), to which I was allowed to contribute, here:

 

http://www.soviet-empire.com/ussr/viewtopic.php?f=107&t=49251

 

 

Replies II

 

Here is 'Comrade 138672':

 

One thing I would like to ask Rosa is: she claims that "if we think like them, no wonder that we end up acting like them", but isn't this idealism?

 

It would be Idealist if this were all I had said, but since I give a materialist explanation why comrades have bought into this boss-class theory -- and one based on  (a) Marx's analysis of alienation and (b) Lenin's response to the turn to Idealism and mysticism among certain Marxists in response to the failed revolution of 1905 -- it isn't.

 

That explanation can be accessed here:

 

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2009_02.htm#ReligiousAlienation

 

Moreover, since this theory can be, and has been used to rationalise anything a theorist likes and its opposite, and this is often done by the very same dialectician -- since it glories in contradiction -- it 'allows' DM-fans to 'justify' substitutionism. Hence, using DM, other social forces have been substituted for the working class, resulting in the subsequent and predictable oppression and exploitation of workers in the new 'socialist' states that emerged as a result. I have expanded on this is great detail here:

 

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2009_02.htm

 

Sections (6)-(8)

 

'Takayuki' posted this comment;

 

Rosa is an odd-ball, although I agree with some criticisms of the DM; but I can't take Rosa seriously, he argued that vaccines are useless and blah blah, for all his rejection of DM he's some kind of strange mystic who argues endlessly but without substance in queer semantic games designed to confuse the reader/debatee.

 

First of all, I never argued this about all vaccination. What I argued was that there was a concerted effort by the medical profession, under the influence of Big Pharma, to suppress other opinions about the MMR vaccine. It may turn out that the MMR vaccine is safe, but the suppression of ideas and the vilification of those who hold contrary opinions is hardly a shining example of the application of the 'scientific method'.

 

And this is what I have written about my alleged focus on 'semantics':

 

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 the 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 this distinction is 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!?"

 

You can be sure such 'non-pedants' will be examining these Essays with well-aimed magnifying glasses, nit-picking at the detail, having turned their selectively pedantic eyes on all I have written in order to locate the smallest of errors --, all the while refusing to examine anything in the DM-Grimoire with a tiny fraction of this attention to detail. [In fact, they already have! See also here, here and here.]

 

With such serially sloppy disregard for logic, compounded by an unwise fondness for Mickey Mouse Science, is it any wonder that genuine ruling-class theorists regard Dialectical Marxists with undisguised contempt, and workers in their billions ignore all that they have to say?

 

Quite apart from this, 'Takayuki's' sloppy approach to detail prompted 'him' into misrepresenting my opinion of vaccination. One hopes 'he' will learn from this.

 

This is quite the opposite of Marx's approach. Anyone who reads his work will notice his careful use of language.

 

It is also worth reminding ourselves that Hegel's 'derivation' of 'the dialectic' was based on a series of rather dubious 'semantic arguments' (which Engels endorsed in Dialectics of Nature, as did Lenin in his Philosophical Notebooks -- on that, see here and here). In which case, if 'semantics' is to be avoided/rejected, then the 'dialectic' can't survive either.

 

But, what of this?

 

[H]e's some kind of strange mystic who argues endlessly but without substance.

 

1) 'He'?

 

2) There is plenty of substance in this Essay. But, Takayuki has a quick way with things; 'he' just dismisses it all as 'semantics'. Well, I challenge him to find anything that is little of substance in the aforementioned Essay.

 

3) On what basis does 'he' accuse me of being a 'mystic'. [As usual, RevLefters are long on assertion, short on proof.] Where is 'his' evidence? In fact, I am a militant anti-mystic, as anyone who reads my work will soon find out.

 

4) Finally, 'Takayuki' strikes me as the sort of numpty who would have said this about Marx back in, say, 1870:

 

Herr Marx argues endlessly about Capitalism and Socialism...

 

'Slim Sweezy' had this to say:

 

There has been a great amount of dialectical thought that is not orthodox "DM" or "diamat" or whatever you want to call it. Most of Rosa's criticisms seem to be about that orthodox school which no modern Marxist philosophers hold, as far as I can tell. A good book to try for an overview of modern philosophical dialectics is Fredric Jameson's "Valences of the Dialectic".

Further, I think the allegations of vagueness and such are not as watertight as Rosa would like to think. These allegations, if formal, are nonsensical due to the tired old critiques of positivism/"natural types"/vulgar empiricism. The definition of what is clear or non-vague necessarily rests on intuition, which is not uniform between people. If informal, they are also nonsensical due to, once again, their hypocritical vagueness.
 

In fact, I have already responded to 'Slim's' first point, here.

 

Jameson's book is, alas, awash with confusion, just as it is full of the sort of a priori dogmatism that has been a feature of boss-class theory since Ancient Greek times -- and which I have shown to be incoherent non-sense.

 

Indeed, I have characterised 'academic dialecticians' as follows:

 

(2) High Church Dialecticians [HCDs]:

 

These Marxists are in general openly contemptuous of the 'sophomoric ideas' found in most of the DM-classics (even though many of them seem to have a fondness for Engels's first 'Law').

 

More often than not, HCDs reject the idea that the dialectic operates in nature, sometimes inconsistently using Engels's first 'Law' to justify this 'leap' (which tactic allows them to claim that human history and development are unique), just as they are equally dismissive of simple LCD souls (on the latter, see here) for their adherence to every last word found in the DM-classics.31

 

{LCD = Low Church Dialectician -- members of the 'charismatic' wing of Dialectical Marxism.]

 

[Anyone who is familiar with High Church Anglicanism will know exactly of what I speak.]

 

HCDs are mercifully above such crudities; they prefer the mother lode -- direct from Hegel, Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks and/or the writings of assorted latter day Hermeticists -- such as: György Lukács, Raya Dunayevskaya, CLR James, Tony Smith, Tom Sekine, Robert Albritton, Chris Arthur, Bertell Ollman, Judith Butler, Frederic Jameson, and Slavoj Zizek.

 

This heady brew is often fortified with a several kilos of hardcore jargon drawn straight from that intellectual cocaine-den, otherwise known as French Philosophy -- including the work of such luminaries as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean Paul Sartre, Roland Barthes, Louis Althusser, Michael Foucault, Alain Badiou, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Bourdieu, and, perhaps worst of all, Jacques Lacan. Or, maybe even from that conveyor belt of systematic confusion: the Frankfurt School -- which includes the work of Max Horkheimer, Theodor W Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, and later, Jürgen Habermas, among many others.

 

[I have discussed Marcuse's somewhat dismissive attitude to Wittgenstein and 'Ordinary Language Philosophy', here.]

 

Or, even worse still, that haven of intellectual heroin: the work of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer.31a

 

[Chomsky's thoughts on many of the above can be found in Note 31a.]

 

HCDs are generally, but not exclusively, academics. In common with many of those listed above, tortured prose is their forte, and pointless existence is their punishment.

 

[Any randomly-selected issue of, say, Radical Philosophy or Historical Materialism, will provide ample evidence of the baleful influence on erstwhile left-wing intellectuals of the ideas of many of the above theorists. (Here's another example to add to the membership list of The Professional Producers of Gobbledygook.) Also, see my comments, here.]

 

 

Figure One: The Sisyphus College Recruitment Poster --

Aimed At HCDs Seeking A More Useful Existence

 

At least LCDs like to think their ideas are somehow relevant to the class struggle.

 

In contrast, High Church Dialectics is only good for the CV.

 

[Plainly, the sanitised version of dialectics HCDs churn out isn't an "abomination" to that section of the bourgeoisie that administers Colleges and Universities, or who publish academic books and journals.]

 

Nevertheless, both factions (the HCD and the LCD variety -- on the latter, see below) are well-stocked with conservative-minded comrades happy to appropriate the a priori and dogmatic thought-forms of two-and-a-half millennia of boss-class ideology, seldom pausing to give any thought to the implications of such easily won knowledge -- obtained without the help of a single experiment, and in the comfort of each theorist's own head. If knowledge of the world is a priori, and based solely on armchair speculation, reality must indeed be Ideal.

 

[Some might object that the above is a caricature of dialectical thought; indeed, they might want to argue that DM/MD are based both on evidence and on the practice and experience of the party. That naive belief was laid to rest in Essay Two and in Part One of this Essay. It is worth adding that there are notable exceptions to these sweeping generalisations -- some academic Marxists do actively engage with the class struggle; the point is that their 'High Theory' is irrelevant in this regard. Indeed, I can't think of a single example of the work of an academic Marxist which has had an impact on the class war -- except perhaps negatively. (Any who disagree are invited to e-mail me with the details.) One or two comrades have tried to think of a handful of practical applications of 'the dialectic'. I have shown how and why these attempts fail, here and here.]

 

[I contrast HCDs with LCDs -- I explain who the latter are, here.]

 

Hence, I ignore HCDs (by-and-large) since their work is (i) totally irrelevant to the class war, and (ii) full of non-sensical and incoherent gobbledygook. [See Chomsky's characterisation of this wing of academic confusion, here.]

 

In contrast, I concentrate on classical DM since the vast majority of Marxist revolutionaries (as opposed to Marxist academic drones) have bought into it, where it has done real damage.

 

But, what of this?

 

Further, I think the allegations of vagueness and such are not as watertight as Rosa would like to think. These allegations, if formal, are nonsensical due to the tired old critiques of positivism/"natural types"/vulgar empiricism. The definition of what is clear or non-vague necessarily rests on intuition, which is not uniform between people. If informal, they are also nonsensical due to, once again, their hypocritical vagueness.

 

1) I'd like to see 'Slim' render just one DM-concept non-vague (upside down or 'the right way up'). [And I can only wish him good luck with that one, since, if he succeeds, he'll be the first one to do so in nigh on 200 years.]

 

2) The rest of that paragraph, is -- dare I say it(!) -- far too vague to do much with. If anyone can explain it, please e-mail me.

 

In conclusion, it is worth pointing out that my work is just as much anti-empiricist and anti-positivist as it is anti-dialectical, since I hold that all philosophical theories are incoherent non-sense. [A much shorter summary of my reasons for saying that can be accessed here.]

 

 

Replies III

 

In an attempt to respond to this comment of mine:

 

1) I'd like to see 'Slim' render just one DM-concept non-vague (upside down or 'the right way up'). [And I can only wish him good luck with that one, since, if he succeeds, he'll be the first one to do so in nigh on 200 years.]

 

'Slim' replied as follows:

 

As to #1, how about the concept of interrelation (coming from an "HCD" standpoint). This "concept" basically says that various collections of "things" can be cognized so that their movements/effects/associations are thought of as being internal to them. For example, we can think of capitalism as just the market, with non-market effects being external to the system (as the liberals do), or as including the production process and having workplace conditions and governments etc. as being part of the system of capitalism. This is a dialectical concept, at least as I use the terms. The variance of abstractions, our ability to view relations as being internal.
 

Now, as I allege elsewhere at my site, DM-fans find it very difficult to reply to my criticisms because of the woefully defective and impoverished conceptual tools with which Hegel and 'Continental Philosophy' have saddled them, and 'Slim' has very helpfully proved me right. Indeed, 'he' has gone way beyond the call-of-dissembling-duty by demonstrating that 'he' has a rather novel and idiosyncratic understanding of "clarity" (or "non-vagueness", to use its less happy twin).

 

First, we are told that a relational expression ("interrelation") is a "concept" (with no clear idea what this can possibly mean when it is dragged unceremoniously out of Hegel's Hermetic Hell-Hole). We are then told it "says" something, as if it can speak for itself.

 

Well, what crystal clear words of wisdom does 'it' have to "say"?

 

[V]arious collections of "things" can be cognized so that their movements/effects/associations are thought of as being internal to them.

 

Unfortunately, exactly what constitutes a "thing" is left tantalisingly obscure, as is the pert expression "collection". By "collection" (or even "thing"), are we talking about groups of people milling about in waiting rooms (or even waiting rooms themselves), or sheep in pens, grains of sand on Bondi beach, fingers held up to the cops, Kings of England under six feet tall, Greek 'Gods' in all their non-dialectical glory, prime numbers that have yet to be discovered, rocks below the waves off the coast of Vanua Levu, waves themselves off that coast, victims of the Bubonic plague who died before July 10th, 1350, people I have never met, questions asked in Parliament yesterday, questions I have never asked, four edged triangles..., or what? All of these, and many more, are "things"/"collections". Some exist, some do not -- some can't.

 

We can, in fact, think about all of them.

 

But, can we "cognize" them?

 

Who can say? Not these chatty 'concepts', that's for sure.

 

Moreover, what exactly constitutes a "thing" is left as vague as the word "interrelation" ever was -- as this self-confessed HCD should know, but plainly does not. Indeed, as anyone who has studied even one year of Analytic Philosophy will know, it is a bad idea -- when trying to be clear (or "non-vague") about something (howsoever that word is defined) --, it is a bad idea to rope in yet more vague words in an attempt to do just that.

 

[And good luck trying to make "thing" clear!]

 

So, what kind of "concept" can it be that says such vague 'things' (howsoever it is defined)? Surely, it can only be one that has been smuggled out of yet another Deep Dialectical Dungeon, and given too much to drink. [If it can "say" things (howsoever that is defined), it can surely be allowed a few units of alcohol to help loosen its tongue.]

 

Before "thing" drinks itself into sanity, we move rapidly on to another no less vague word: "internal". We have seen how DM-fans equivocate over this word, between its logical and its spatial connotations (on that, see here, but more importantly, here) -- with Stalinists tending to opt for the latter (while thinking they are using the former), and Trotskyists tending to prefer the former (while not seeming to know difference between them), both failing to realise how much either version compromises their 'theory' (on that, see here, here and here) -- but we aren't even sure which one of these 'Slim' finally opts for. [So much for 'clarity' ("non-vagueness")!]

 

Passing on, before "thing" gets a chance to sober up, it might be a good idea to examine the following comment a little more closely:

 

[V]arious collections of "things" can be cognized so that their movements/effects/associations are thought of as being internal to them.

 

Unfortunately, 'Slim', who seems to be the non-existent 'deity's' gift to vagueness, forgot to tell us what "cognizing" amounts to, let alone how we can go about "cognizing" 'things' -- or who, indeed, is to be admitted to the "cognizing" fraternity. This might seem a rather trivial set of worries -- or it does so seem until we recall we were supposed to receiving a lesson in clarity ("non-vagueness"). Lest those of a more charitable frame-of-mind rush to 'Slim's' defence and press this point home, it might be wise to elaborate on these concerns.

 

Who, precisely, is allowed to join in the sport of "cognizing"? And what are such individuals supposed to be able to do with "things" (which term we must suppose they already understand, even if they seem incapable of telling anyone else (least of all 'Slim') what it means with so much as a modicum clarity ("non-vagueness")). Does the "cognizing" rule book tell us any more about this activity? Does "cognizing" encompass an idea that fleetingly skips across the mind, perhaps as we daydream? Or, is it to ponder briefly about some 'object of contemplation'? Is it to study, maybe over the weekend, a particular subject/"thing"? Or, is it to devote a significant portion of one's life to understanding something (as Darwin did with evolution, or Marx with capitalism)? Or, must we just guess for ourselves what this vague ("non-clear") term implies?

 

Is it perhaps a team sport? Or, is it one like solitaire that we do by ourselves, in the privacy of our heads? Well, we have already seen that this is indeed what DM-fans mean, since their theory of knowledge traps each of them in a solipsistic pit of their own making. [More details, and proof, can be found in Essays Three Part Two and Ten Part One.]

 

As I pointed out in the second of the above Essays, the only dialectician I have so far encountered -- in my 15-year hike across the Dialectical Dust Bowl who even so much as recognises that there is fatal problem situated right at the heart of this 'theory' -- is Bertell Ollman. Here is what I have said about him (as part of my discussion of that equally obscure notion "abstraction"):

 

Now, we have seen that the way this 'process' is depicted by traditional theorists (like Ollman) means it is in fact an individualised skill -- and one that undermines the social nature of knowledge and language. Indeed, this is something Ollman himself admits:

 

"What, then, is distinctive about Marx's abstractions? To begin with, it should be clear that Marx's abstractions do not and cannot diverge completely from the abstractions of other thinkers both then and now. There has to be a lot of overlap. Otherwise, he would have constructed what philosophers call a 'private language,' and any communication between him and the rest of us would be impossible. How close Marx came to fall into this abyss and what can be done to repair some of the damage already done are questions I hope to deal with in a later work...." [Dance of the Dialectic, p.63. Bold emphases added.]

 

Well, it remains to be seen if Professor Ollman can solve a problem that has baffled everyone else for centuries -- that is, those who have even so much as acknowledged it exists!

 

It is to Ollman's considerable credit, however, that he is at least aware of it.

 

[In fact, Ollman is the very first dialectician I have read who even so much as acknowledges this 'difficulty'! Be this as it may, I have devoted Essay Thirteen Part Three to a lengthy analysis of this topic; the reader is referred there for more details.]

 

Of course, none of this fancy footwork would be necessary if Ollman recognised the fact that even though Marx gestured in its direction, Historical Materialism doesn't need this obscure 'process' (even where some sense can be made of it) -- or, indeed, if he acknowledged the fact that Marx's emphasis on the social nature of knowledge and language undercuts 'abstractionism' completely. [Nor does Ollman take into account Marx's own refutation of abstractionism, in The Holy Family.]

 

[More about Ollman's traditionalism, here.]

 

Is "cognizing" then just such a solitary sport? If so, it suffers from the above defects. Here is how I posed this problem in Essay Three Part Two (suitably adapted, of course, for present purposes):

 

This brings us to the heart of the problem, for this approach to language in fact fragments knowledge. That is because it is surely impossible for Cognizer A to decide whether or not he/she possesses the same general or particular idea (of anything) as Cognizer B. This isn't just because no one has access to the thoughts of anyone else, but because it has yet to be established that A and B (or, indeed, everyone else) share the same idea of "same". And how might that be determined for goodness sake?

 

They would have to possess this concept before they possessed it!

 

The problem, of course, began much  earlier. Traditional Theorists viewed language as fundamentally representational -- that is, they assumed its primary role was to re-present to humanity either the thoughts of the 'gods', or the 'rational order' of reality. This approach helped rationalise the legitimacy of the state, which supposedly expressed or mirrored one or both of these. But, this simply created a whole series of insoluble philosophical 'problems', which, unsurprisingly, have remained unsolved to this day -- especially by DM-fans.

 

[That is because they are based on a systematic distortion of language, as Marx noted, and as Part One demonstrated.]

 

But, what now of "internal"? Fortunately, 'Slim' provided us with an example to help us understand ('cognize'?) this obscure term, and, indeed, what it is suppose to connect with what:

 

For example, we can think of capitalism as just the market, with non-market effects being external to the system (as the liberals do), or as including the production process and having workplace conditions and governments etc. as being part of the system of capitalism. This is a dialectical concept, at least as I use the terms. The variance of abstractions, our ability to view relations as being internal.

 

Er..., did anyone spot a definition, or even a vague-sort-of-characterisation of "internal", in there?

 

But, what is the "thing" that is being "cognized", here? Is it capitalism (surely not a "thing" but a 'relation', so we are told). Or, is it "capitalism as just the market"? Or, maybe it is simply "the market"? Or, perhaps it is "the market, with non-market effects being external to the system"? Could it be "the market...as including the production process and having workplace conditions and governments etc"? Maybe it is the lot? Who can say?

 

Perhaps 'Slim' understands "clarity" ("non-vagueness") in 'his' own idiosyncratic way -- which 'he' would do, wouldn't 'he' if 'he' had simply "cognized" it in the secret recesses of 'his' own brain. Ollman was right, 'Slim' has indeed created 'his' very own "private language". No wonder 'he' struggles to make 'himself' understood.

 

Let us now review the results so far: we don't know what a "thing" is, what a "collection" is, what "cognizing" is, or indeed, who is allowed to indulge in this obscure sport --, and to cap it all, we have no idea what "internal" means, either.

 

Yes, all so 'dialectically' clear ("non-vague")!

 

Whatever was I thinking to allege otherwise?!

 

Now, readers will recall that earlier I wished 'Slim' good luck in 'his' endeavour to render a single DM-concept/word/term clear ("non-vague"), for the first time in nigh on 200 years. It rather looks like our wait is poised to stretch on into a glorious third century...

 

[Good job I didn't hold my breath!]

 

But, did 'Slim' honestly think 'he' could render such ideas clear ("non-vague") in one brief paragraph of hastily cobbled-together vagaries?

 

I rather suspect 'he' did.

 

But, that's diabolical logic for you!

 

[Once more, I blame dialectical confusion.]

 

What of this though?

 

As to #2, I will try to explain better. The fact that intuition is vastly different between people, as it relates to "sense", creates difficulties in having "sense" or "clarity" or whatever you want to call it as being the criteria for the legitimacy of a theory or thought. Believe it or not, Wittgenstein's work is philosophical even as it is anti-philosophical (the way I use the terms), and arguing against dialectics from a philosophical-but-very-different-from-dialectics standpoint is not effective if you then say that standpoint is not "true"/philosophical/only elucidating (that secondary sense of "indicative").

 

Item 2 (by me) went as follows:

 

The rest of that paragraph, is -- dare I say it(!) -- far too vague to do much with. If anyone can explain it, please e-mail me.

 

Which was, in turn, a response to this comment of 'Slim's':

 

Further, I think the allegations of vagueness and such are not as watertight as Rosa would like to think. These allegations, if formal, are nonsensical due to the tired old critiques of positivism/"natural types"/vulgar empiricism. The definition of what is clear or non-vague necessarily rests on intuition, which is not uniform between people. If informal, they are also nonsensical due to, once again, their hypocritical vagueness.

 

Taking the first part first:

 

As to #2, I will try to explain better. The fact that intuition is vastly different between people, as it relates to "sense", creates difficulties in having "sense" or "clarity" or whatever you want to call it as being the criteria for the legitimacy of a theory or thought.

 

Well, we have already seen what 'dialectical clarity' means -- indeed, and impressively precise it is --, but, the above comment merely adds to our collective wonderment.

 

However, I'm not too sure that clarity is quite so variable as 'Slim' supposes it to be. But, let us assume it is. In that case what does 'he' "intuit" it to mean? Unless 'he' can say with some...er...clarity, 'he' might just as well have posted this instead:

 

The fact that intuition is vastly different between people, as it relates to "sense", creates difficulties in having "sense" or "schmarity" or whatever you want to call it...

 

In which case, 'Slim' is hoist by 'his' own petard, for if 'he' has a different understanding of this word from the rest of the English-speaking world, 'he' won't be able to inform us -- at least..., er..., not with any clarity.

 

[Readers can perhaps now see what I meant by the Deep Dialectical Ditch I alleged DM-fans have dug for themselves, and what I meant by the impoverished conceptual tools they unwisely appropriated from Hegel & Co?]

 

But wait! Here is the grand finale:

 

Believe it or not, Wittgenstein's work is philosophical even as it is anti-philosophical (the way I use the terms), and arguing against dialectics from a philosophical-but-very-different-from-dialectics standpoint is not effective if you then say that standpoint is not "true"/philosophical/only elucidating (that secondary sense of "indicative").

 

Not too clear, I hope you agree.

 

In fact, and by way of contrast, Wittgenstein was quite clear what he meant by his own brand of "philosophy":

 

As I pointed out to another RevLefter, not a month ago:

 

Here are just some of the things Wittgenstein said about philosophy:


"Thus there easily arise the most fundamental confusions (of which the whole of philosophy is full)." [Tractatus 3.324.]

"The right method of philosophy would be this. To say nothing except what can be said, i.e. the propositions of natural science, i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy: and then always, when someone else wished to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had given no meaning to certain signs in his propositions. This method would be unsatisfying to the other -- he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy -- but it would be the only strictly correct method." [Tractatus 6.53.]

"The main cause of philosophical diseases -- a one-sided diet: on nourishes one's thinking with only one kind of example" [Investigations, 593. I am using the latest translation here -- i.e., that which was published in 2009.]

"When philosophers use a word -- 'knowledge', 'being', 'object', 'I', 'proposition/sentence', 'name', -- and try to grasp the essence of the thing, one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used this way in the language in which it is at home?

"What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use." [Investigations, 116.]


This, of course, would include Hegel (with his misuse of 'being', etc.), and those who think we have anything to learn from that mystical bumbler, upside down, or 'the right way up'.


"And we may not advance any kind of theory.... Philosophy is a struggle against the bewitchment of our understanding by the resources of our language." [Investigations, 109.]

"But what we are destroying are only houses of cards, and we are clearing up the ground of language on which they stood. The results of philosophy are the discovery of some piece of plain nonsense...." [Investigations, 118-119.]

"When we do philosophy, we are like savages, primitive people, who hear the way in which civilised people talk, put a false interpretation on it, and then draw the oddest conclusion from it." [Investigations, 194.]

"Philosophers constantly see the method of science before their eyes, and they are irresistibly tempted to ask and answer questions in the way science does. This tendency is the real source of metaphysics, and leads the philosopher into complete darkness." [Blue and Brown Books, p.18.]

 

[I have since greatly expanded on this topic, here.]

 

So, Wittgenstein was working with two senses of "philosophy". The first of these relates to how the discipline has been practised since Ancient Greek times (in the 'West') -- he tends to call this "metaphysics". I call it "Traditional Philosophy". But, whatever we call it, its practitioners certainly endeavoured to concoct -- from language/thought alone -- a set of a priori theses, supposedly true for all of space and time. DM-theorists do likewise (proof here and here.)

 

The second sense is related to Wittgenstein's own method, which was aimed at exposing Traditional Philosophy as just so much hot air (my words, not his). [On that, see here.]

 

But, even if this wasn't what Wittgenstein wanted to do, it is certainly what I want to do (and have done).

 

This would be a lot easier if it were a discussion, or at least not text posts on separate websites...

 

Well, get me unbanned, and I'll be only too happy to make your, and other DM-fans', life a misery, just like I used to do at RevLeft in the good old days, pre-April 2011.

 

See for yourselves:

 

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

 

[The above page lists the vast majority of threads (at RevLeft, and on other boards and blogs) where I have exposed this 'theory' for what it is -- confused gobbledygook.]

 

 

Replies IV

 

'Slim', happy to lead with 'his' chin once more, has come back with this rather odd remark:

 

Since apparently all words are too vague for Rosa, I will assume she has absolutely no ability to get the "sense" of anything at all, no intuition, and no ability to communicate.
 

Of course, anyone who reads my previous reply to 'Slim' (here) will struggle long and hard, and to no avail, to find where I say, or even hint, that all words are too vague (for me) -- what I have alleged is that the philosophical jargon that has colonised 'Slim's' brain is hopelessly vague, and that 'he' has signally failed to explain 'himself' -- as, indeed, I predicted 'he' would. And no wonder, it is based on the distortion of language, as Marx himself noted:

 

The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Notice how Marx advises us to return to "ordinary language", which is exactly what I endeavour to do in my Essays.

 

And Marx went even further:

 

Feuerbach's great achievement is.... The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned.... [Marx (1975), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphasis and link added.]

 

One has to 'leave philosophy aside' (Wigand, p.187, cf., Hess, Die letzten Philosophen, p.8), one has to leap out of it and devote oneself like an ordinary man to the study of actuality, for which there exists also an enormous amount of literary material, unknown, of course, to the philosophers. [Marx and Engels (1976), p.236. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

[Exact references can be found here, in the Bibliography at the end.]

 

So, according to Marx, "philosophy is nothing but religion rendered into thought" -- in other words, it is a far more abstract source of consolation. It must therefore be "left aside", and one has to "leap out of it and devote oneself like an ordinary man to the study of actuality", and that is because Philosophy stands in the same relation to the "study of the actual world" as onanism does to sexual love. Furthermore, Philosophy is based on "distorted language of the actual world", empty abstractions and invented concepts. No wonder then that Marx contrasts a desire to change the world with that empty and pointless boss-class discipline called "Philosophy".

 

In fact, after the mid-1840s, there are no positive, and very few even neutral comments about Philosophy in Marx's work.

 

And we can now see why: from 'Slim's' rather pathetic responses alone.

 

[Other quotations from Marx that support the above conclusions can be found here.]

 

But, 'Slim' now threatens to take 'his' bat and ball home:

 

In conclusion, I can no longer argue with her, because she can't argue whatsoever when she refuses to even try to understand any word I use at all. Yes, I could attempt to keep defining word ad infinitum, but that wouldn't do any good. Sense, understanding, intuition -- they have to come in somewhere. And I get the feeling that Rosa will refuse these things as long as I try to argue them. There is literally no amount of definition I could ever do to make Rosa satisfied, because of this denial of communication.

 

This isn't the case; if 'Slim' had made a genuine attempt to tell us what 'he' meant by "interrelation" (as opposed to offering up a superficial non-'definition' in one short paragraph!) all would have been well. And since 'he' obviously can't cope with my detailed response (written partly in order to show 'him' how genuine philosophy is done (even outside the Analytic Tradition), and how one has to explain oneself at length, and not post a reply that would have shamed even a novice taking Philosophy 101), off 'he' goes with 'his' bat and ball. 'His' failings are projected on to me!

 

Alas, there is more:

 

My example was a broad one, and yes, it could be applied to any of those things you said. It was simply cognition, and I didn't even bring in truth or falsity or possibility of the objectivity of what was being cognized. Again, you have to try to get the idea or at least attempt to see what I'm saying to get an inkling of it. You'll probably respond to this with that quote about "Hegelism" being a mental disease. Whatever, but I don't think anyone will be convinced that I'm trying to get you to believe, rather than simply asking for communicative honesty.

 

And yet, we still have no idea what it is to "cognize" something, what sorts of "things" we can or can't "cognize", who is allowed to indulge in this sport, or, indeed, whether or not we need training in this obscure art-form. [Or, even what "things" are!]

 

Of course, in ordinary life we all generally understand one another, but when someone advances a new theory (or rehashes an old one), using words with novel and/or technical connotations, a clear explanation of what they are doing is the least one can ask. What one doesn't expect is that the one offering this 'new theory' should cut up rough when it is pointed out to them that they have failed to do what they promised: explain themselves clearly.

 

I have indeed studied a year of analytic philosophy, Rosa, and I think it's bunk.

 

A whole year! Gosh! It certainly puts into shade the 38 years I have been studying it, and no mistake!

 

But, what has this lengthy, and impressive, year-long study taught 'Slim'? What perceptive and well-aimed criticism has 'he' to offer as a result? What devastating ripostes has 'he' aimed at us Analytic Philosophers -- that is, other than refusing to tell us with any clarity what a "thing" is, or how we might "cognize" something?

 

Why, it's all "bunk"!

 

Ouch!!

 

That should finish the discipline off, for sure -- either that, or it will confirm that 'Slim' actually learnt nothing, and wasted a whole year.

 

Can't decide which...

 

But, let us assume 'Slim' is right and Analytic Philosophy is indeed "bunk". What of it? Well, at least it isn't fifth-rate "bunk" of the sort that Hegel inflicted on humanity -- upside down or the 'right way up'.

 

And, as if to prove my point, 'Slim' very helpfully left us with this enigmatic comment:

 

Wittgenstein's self-understanding of his philosophy as not-philosophy doesn't exactly answer the criticism...

 

Well, I promise to do better -- just as soon as 'Slim' makes it clear WTF 'he' is banging on about.

 

Alas, 'Slim' has now left the field. I'll miss 'him'; 'he' was, after all,  an object lesson concerning what happens to a fine mind when it allows this Hermetic Virus to nuke its capacity to "cognize" anything -- er..., whatever that word means...

 

"Blake" added this brief comment:

 

I certainly don't believe in Dialectical Materialism -- Rosa L could prove me wrong because I quoted Trotsky on dialectics years ago, but that's Spart crap -- Right, Rosa? Does anyone believe in that BS anyways? Last one standing is Lewontin and he is a piece of nasty work. I don't think much x, y or z logic applies to reality, unless one is talking about certain scales. As I understand Wittgenstein, the PI was an attempt to cure a certain solipsism, which is probably better cured by Heidegger.
 

In fact, as I have already pointed out, the vast majority of revolutionary Marxists accept DM (as do many academics -- Zizek, for example; check out his latest book). Just visit any Marxist web page, and unless you are incredibly unlucky, you'll find several pages devoted to classical DM.

 

Here are a few of these (this was taken from one of my Essays, which explains its polemical use of language):

 

Mao, Maoists, Canadian Trotskyists, the CPGB, the CPUSA, Weekly Worker, CPI(M) (ironically, this link is to a republished Soviet Communist journal -- The Marxist -- celebrating the fact that Marxism has been successfully tested in practice in the fSU; on that basis alone, this journal should be re-named The Fantasist), the Bulgarian CP, the DSP, the SWP(US) (posted on a website belonging to a group that has broken away from the Spartacists), the Indian branch of the ICM, Fourth International OTs, the RCP/US (Maoist), the League for the Fifth International (these comrades clearly hoping it will be fifth time unlucky), more Fourth International OTs (who have not yet noticed they have been out-flanked by the 'splitters' from the Fifth International), and a spilt (already!) from the Fifth International  -- is this the Sixth International in the making? Must we run out of ordinal numbers before workers in their millions eagerly queue for their party cards? --, the CPA, Italian Maoists...

 

[Most of these links still work, but not all; the above was originally written in 2006/7.]

 

But what of this?

 

I don't think much x, y or z logic applies to reality, unless one is talking about certain scales. As I understand Wittgenstein, the PI was an attempt to cure a certain solipsism, which is probably better cured by Heidegger.

 

Who said logic did 'apply to reality'? Not me. So, why make that point?

 

The Philosophical Investigations was in fact aimed at many targets, and not just 'solipsism' -- which, in fact, only receives two brief mentions in the entire book! And offering Heidegger as some/any sort of "cure" is analogous to offering Anthrax to someone with Pneumonia.

 

A card-carrying plonker, who calls 'himself' 'Left Solidarity' (I am sure others have more fitting names for this numpty, though) had this well reasoned and temperate comment to add:

 

I actually stumbled across this site maybe a year or 2 ago and just found it confusing but interesting since I hadn't heard such criticisms before. Now that I go back and read them I know why, because they are ridiculous pseudo-scientific criticisms most of which don't even deal with Dialetical Materialism (sic). Not to mention pretty self-obsessed. Oh, what a martyr in the struggle against ruling class Dialetical Materialism (sic) Rosa is.

 

Indeed, and I have never even heard of 'Dialetical Materialism', I doubt anyone has. In which case, who would want to criticise it? Not me. Good job then that I concentrated all my fire on Dialectical Materialism, a subject 'Lefty' here seems not to have heard of.

 

[Neutral observers will now perhaps see how low the level of argument is that passes off as 'debate' these days at RevLeft. Come to think of it, it has always been this bad! You want proof? Check this out.]

 

I hope this earns me a spot on her replies so there is more ridiculous self-obsessed pseudo-scientific nonsense to read on the internet.

 

You said it, and I am thankful to 'Lefty' that 'he' has kindly supplied us with yet more of 'his' unique and unsurpassed brand of nonsense. I can only aspire to be quite as ridiculous as 'he' is.

 

[Does anyone know if 'he' gives lessons?]

 

'Slim' has come back with this, but not in response to me:

 

Words like "thing" or "collection" are, I think, intuitively understandable, at least on the level at which I was speaking. The burden is on both of us. Specifically, it is on Rosa to try to understand my communications.

 

Well, if they are that 'intuitive', 'he' should find it easy to tell us what 'he' means by "thing" (I'm not too fussed about "collection"). Is a hand a "thing" or five "things" (one "thing" for each finger -- or maybe six (if a palm is a "thing", too)? But, what about the skin covering that hand, and what about all those fingernails? Are they "things"? So, we now have at least twelve "things", which are in fact one "thing"! But, what about all those skin and blood cells? I'd better stop or 'Slim's' "thing" will balloon horribly and assume massive proportions, running into the millions, if not the quadrillions, if we add in every elementary particle connected with this hand-"thing"-sort-of-er...-object.

 

And that's just one hand!

 

Good job I didn't start off with a herd of elephants, a colony of ants, or the Crab Nebula!

 

So, what is a "thing"? 'Slim" doesn't seem to know, otherwise 'he'd' have told us by now. [A hint that 'he' doesn't have a clue can be gleaned from 'his' use of "intuitive", a general cop-out phrase philosophers wield when they have run out of ideas, a catch-all term that turns up when the reasons have dried up. Er..., except 'Slim' doesn't even have so much as one reason to 'dry up'! Premature 'intuition'? Indeed, and I fear 'Slim' is one of those afflicted with this malady.]

 

So, 'Slim' and I are both in the same boat: neither of us knows what the dickens 'he' means by "thing". The difference between us is that I know I don't know, whereas 'Slim' doesn't know he doesn't know. No good looking to 'him' for assistance, then.

 

Does anyone out there know what 'Slim' means by "thing"?

 

Someone put this out on Twitter, or Facebook!

 

Replies V

 

Another comrade has now waded in with a lapel clutching expression of faith in the sacred 'dialectic'; here is the one and only: 'My Blood Is Red' [MBIR]:

 

Dialectical materialism [DM] is the philosophy of the modern world. It is the secular, science-based, reasoned view of the universe. It should be universal, across any kind of economic or political system. The other option is admitting that there is supernatural in the world.

The great thing about dialectical materialism is that it is the only logical way of viewing the world/universe, too. Using the supernatural or the spiritual to say that our mind plays a huge part or that it is all a construct of the mind is all cool when you're not actually trying to run a society. The only thing that matters in economics and politics is the matter.

Marx thought of this after the industrial revolution. He saw how easy machines can make people's lives and the only way to improve our lives is to improve technology. The best way to do this is to view the world as completely material. That is the only way you will have the ability to fully utilize resources and make progress. (in an environmentally friendly way, of course).

 

In fact, as my work shows, if we needed a "philosophy of the modern world", DM wouldn't even make the bottom of the reserve list of likely candidates. So, what has MBIR got to say in reply to my systematic demolition of this sub-fifth-rate 'theory' --, er..., only this:

 

So I don't know what the f*ck that guy is talking about.

 

Oh no! Not another thorough and complete demolition of my entire case against this Hermetic Creed! The 'quality' of the arguments at RevLeft seems to improve by the week.

 

Neutral observers might like to check, say, this out, and see if they can discern what the "f*ck" I am talking about, and then perhaps contact MBIR and lend him some assistance. It all seems a bit too much for the poor dear.

 

Another character, 'Mahmoud Ahmadinnerjacket' [henceforth, 'MA'] has posted what seems at first sight to be a much more substantive comment (but appearances are deceptive in this case), first of all quoting this passage of mine from earlier:

 

Anyone who doubts this allegation can test it with the following experiment: the very next Orthodox Trotskyist [OT] you meet, try telling him/her that the Stalinists and Maoists also use the dialectic. Then, the very next Stalinist/Maoist you meet, try telling her/him that OTs use the dialectic, too. Try the same with the Maoists/Stalinists in relation to the Stalinists/Maoists. Extend this impromptu survey and permute the name of every tendency or group you can think of, telling each that all their opponents also accept and use the dialectic. Unless you are incredibly unlucky, you will be told the same thing over and over: "Those other guys misuse/distort/ignore the 'dialectical method'; they have all adopted wooden, formulaic abstractions, yada, yada...".

 

MA, then argued as follows:

 

I'd say that is the dialectic. We're talking about a unity of opposites and if you take the method far enough, you will find a lot of irony.
 

And yet, as I pointed out in the Essay from which this had originally been taken there is no way to tell a legitimate application of 'the dialectical method' from an illegitimate application. [And MA certainly hasn't provided us with one such.] Since it glories in contradiction, it is in fact possible to use DM to prove anything you like, and its opposite, and this has often been done by the very same dialectician on the same page, article or even speech. Indeed, I have pointed out that a dogmatic adherence to the 'unity of opposites' allowed dialecticians to impose all manner of counter-revolutionary and anti-Marxist policies on the USSR, never mind what it allowed the Maoists and the Trotskyists to get away with. [On that, see here.] So, MA has hurled himself head first into that bear trap.

 

It seems that this person's project is based on a strict analytical method which shares that particular arrogance of analytical philosophy, which assumes that it can prove anything with certain logical formulas or whatever. Another irony is that the dialectical view would deny the whole basis of this person's theory, due to this very same unity of opposites. The writer is justifying dialectics through their own 'negation' of it. Many wasted years or a wonderful work of art?

 

While I certainly use several techniques drawn from Analytic Philosophy, my main focus, as it was with Marx, is on ordinary language -- which, as is easy to show, dialecticians systematically distort in order to concoct their mystical theses:

 

The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Unfortunately for MA, I do not have a theory, nor do I want one -- and, I even deny we need one (other than Historical Materialism, which is a scientific, not a philosophical theory). Indeed, as I pointed out above, Marx waved 'goodbye' to Philosophy sometime in the 1840s. [On that, see above, here.]

 

Is Analytic Philosophy "arrogant"? Maybe so, maybe not; but if it is, then 'Dialectical Philosophy' is even more arrogant, since, on the basis of some very weak and defective arguments (which themselves depend largely on word-juggling), and substantiated by watery thin evidence, dialecticians seem happy to tell us what must be the case with every particle and process in the entire universe for all of time. Howsoever arrogant Analytic Philosophers proves to be, they'd have to go up ten or more notches to beat that. Here's a classic example of this dogmatic arrogance:

 

In fact, Marx (or Engels) said that 'things are in a constant state of flux and motion.'

 

Well, Marx never said this, and Engels based his faith in this unprovable dogma on the word of an ancient mystic, Heraclitus, who derived this universal 'truth' from on impromptu conclusion about the possibilities of stepping into the same river twice! [And Heraclitus got this wrong, too, confusing the criteria of identity for objects and processed designated by mass nouns with those designated by count nouns.] But, even if he had got the details right, on what basis, other than extreme arrogance, were he or Engels justified in extrapolating this idea across the entire universe, for all of time?

 

This is especially ironic now that we know that some things don't change, and remain self-identical, as far as we know, for longer than the universe has been in existence. [On that see here.]


The dialectic itself justified the bastardizations of Marxism in the 20th century -- 'you may not be interested in the dialectic, but the dialectic is interested in you'. These phenomena resulted from the contradictions of an emerging, global, industrialized world and the spread of capitalism across this world - the Soviets barely utilized the dialectic to justify themselves but, ironically, the dialectic justified their existence, due to the objective conditions that surrounded them. I always say that the Soviet Union essentially had its own version of an industrial revolution, later than other parts of Europe, and did so in a shorter amount of time and under the guise of 'socialism'. How is this historical occurrence inexplicable through a dialectical analysis? In fact, dialectics explain it perfectly, because it highlights the contradictions that led to this event and contradictions are what underpin the dialectical mode of analysis. The dialectical relations we are discussing exist, mostly, beyond human agency anyway so it is futile to discuss dialectical materialism in relation to how it has been utilized by various political systems. In fact, we can see a dialectical relationship between the productive forces within certain socio-historical contexts and the ideology that resulted from them - this, again, is the dialectic. The unity of opposites between Stalinist Russia and the 'Marxism' that developed is a dialectical relationship, which is not solely based on either the ideology of the ruling class or the socio-economic conditions of the period but is rather a result of the dialectical relationship between the two factors, as well as many others. Dialectics are relational - we use them to understand relations between phenomena and these relations exist independently of our analysis, we merely conceptualize them in order to understand society. This is where Marx is misunderstood: on the one hand he was a philosopher and on the other he was a polemicist. Marxism is both philosophical and political and these aspects of Marxism aren't necessarily coherent with one another (hence the fact that there are both Stalinists and Trotskyists, while both make claims to the dialectical method).

 

As I noted above, there is no way to tell what a correct application of the 'dialectical method' is, but none of the above tackles the fundamental flaws I have highlighted in this 'method' -- which aren't aimed at showing that DM is false, or incorrect, only that it is far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to say whether or not it is true. So, the above homily, as interesting as it is, in no way addresses my arguments.


This is why Marxism isn't always 'right' and nor should it be, it is a toolkit that we use in order to understand societies. I reckon that this person either doesn't truly understand Marxism or is trying to rewrite it in a way that fits their analytical viewpoint.

 

Well, I am a Marxist (and a Trotskyist), so I agree with much of this, which MA would have known had he bothered to find out what my ideas were before (arrogantly) jumping in feet first.

 

Can you see the dialectic here? The Marxist denouncing dialectical materialism -- the unity of opposites.

 

No, I can't, since the 'dialectic' is far too confused for anyone to be able to see it 'in' anything. And the reference to the 'unity of opposites' at the end merely confirms this, since, not only is this another dogmatic idea inherited from previous generations of mystics, it is a quintessentially confused doctrine, too. [Proof here.]

 

Again, we encounter yet more guesswork (but I covered this point earlier -- MA needs to pay attention!):

 
I should point out that I'm not a Marxist as such but that I have been reading Marx for years and he acts as a foundation for a lot of my philosophy. I'd also hazard a guess that the person we're talking about hasn't read many of the developments in Marxist theory, such as Althusser's work (off-the-top-of-my-head example), which allow us to explore the concepts of Marxism more intricately and in relation to social conditions which exist beyond Marx and Engel's original conceptions of society.

 

In fact, I had to study Althusser's obscure work as an undergraduate, and that inured me to his ideas for good. But, I can't for the life of me see how his befuddled musings can help anyone understand a theory that is confused already. Moreover, I have been studying Marxism since the late 1970s. 


'Dialectic thought is an attempt to break through the coercion of logic by its own means.' -- Theodor Adorno.

 

Yes, well Adorno was notorious for coming out with ridiculous sayings like this, the one above perhaps winning first prize, and with some ease. I have already noted the brainless things dialecticians say about logic (which the vast majority seem to think came to a grinding halt 2400 years ago, with the work of Aristotle!), just as I have shown how the entire dialectic is based on a series of crass logical blunders Hegel inflicted on his readers.

 

On that, see here and here, or my remarks over at Wikipedia:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Law_of_thought#Problems

 

So, Adorno might like to think he, or the dialectic, can 'break' free of logic, but logic has a nasty habit of biting back at anyone who tries. [On that, see here, where I look at Hegel's and other dialecticians' misguided attempts to "break through".]

 

Moreover, the dialectic doesn't belong to anybody and neither do the languages of philosophy in themselves, hence it is futile to try and take such a hardline analytical method to the question of dialectical materialism in the attempt to refute it. Dialectical materialism isn't logic and logic isn't necessarily a good thing in itself -- anything that attempts to simplify complex phenomena down to small statements is potentially dangerous.

 

This is no less misdirected, since I use modern logic only in a few places in my work, and then merely to show how dialecticians -- not known either for their logical prowess or their knowledge of the subject) -- how they tie themselves in knots because of their uncritical acceptance of the logical blunders Hegel bequeathed to them, and which they have all uncritically swallowed.

 

Moreover, I nowhere try to "refute" dialectics, since that would be to attempt to show it is false. Once more: DM is far too confused for anyone to be able to tell whether it is true or not. It doesn't even make it that far!

 

Here is yet another example of dogmatic dialectical arrogance:

 

As Marx put it: 'every idea is pregnant with its contrary.'

 

MA doesn't even ask how Marx could possibly have known this (other than from the fact that he copied it from Hegel, who similarly failed to show it was true -- he simply pinched the idea from Spinoza, another mystic, who, in turn also failed to show it was correct). But, not to worry, the dogmatic opinions of a gaggle of mystics seem to be enough for MA.

 

In that sense, we should be weary of trying to summarize phenomena through formulaic language and the dialectical method doesn't do this. In fact, Marx (or Engels) said that 'things are in a constant state of flux and motion.'. That is the dialectic and that is Marxism - it isn't easily written into a logical formula because it is always subject to change.

 

In fact, as I have shown (here, and at RevLeft, too -- check out these links), if DM were true, change would be impossible. So, and once again, if we needed a theory of change (which I deny we do), DM would be the very last one we'd choose.

 

That is why Marxism is historical and that is why the Marxist mode of analysis is always constant and continual - that is the dialectical method and that is why so many 'Marxists' have got it wrong, because they don't understand change. The person we are discussing in this thread seems to be even worse, given that they are completely rigid and dogmatic in their assumptions. Another irony which makes my case here is that Marx would probably laugh in the face of many of the people who claim to adhere to his theories today, given that they don't understand the flux and motion, inherent in society and history, which generate changes -- changes in objective reality as well as ideology.
 

What 'dogmatic assumptions' are these, then? MA failed to say. Anyway, this accusation is a bit rich coming from someone who has posted several 'dogmatic assumptions' of his own (listed above), and who seeks to defend a theory that is itself replete with dogmatic theses, supposedly true for all of space and time. [I listed some of these earlier; MA must have skipped past them. Plenty more here.]

 

And now we encounter yet more invention (why do DM-fans prefer to make stuff up?):

 

Claiming that you have 'negated' dialectical materialism through discourse is as nonsensical as the dialectical relationship between Marxism and the Soviet Union, ironically enough. And if, as we're being told, dialectical materialism is futile, then so is the process of negating it. Again, many wasted years or a wonderful work of art.

 

Where have I claimed this? Where have I even attempted to 'negate' DM? Nowhere, that's where.

 

Philosophy isn't dead but it does need to grow up and take its head out of its arse. The analytical side is arrogant and this arrogance is a barrier to the development of our understanding of the world as it assumes that it is right and that everyone else is wrong. Marxism's greatest legacy is the fact that it has the capacity to be fluid, in fact, it has the duty to be fluid in that the dialectical method recognizes change -- 'negating' this view is 'negating' change, which contradicts the revolutionary aspect of Marxian thought.

 

In fact philosophy was dead to Marx. [On that, see here.]

 

So, is there a 'fan of the dialectic' over at RevLeft who is able to assemble even so much as a weak argument against me, and who actually deals with what I say, not what I can be made to say?

 

Obviously not...

 

'Blake':

 

Apparently we're all too sane to care.

 

Apparently not, since this particular page has had over a hundred hits from RevLefters in the past week (ten alone since Hyacinth posted last night), and since my counters only record unique hits, there have been many more total hits than this at my site.

 

Replies VI

 

At last, we have a RevLefter who at least behaves like a comrade! Here is 'Strannik':

 

I understand "dialectical materialism" as a method for constructing language. We humans are processing the world through concepts and words. In order to further our understanding, we need to get new ones from somewhere. But where? The outside material universe does not come with equipped labels. So, to further our understanding we have to create new theoretical, ideological, philosophical language-constructs. There is no guarantee that these constructs have any use -- this is determined ultimately in the practice. Nevertheless, as we try to develop new approaches, it is sometimes useful to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" and replace it with a completely contradictory theory, hoping to get some new insight into the nature of reality. This, I think, is how Marx understood his theoretical method: he is generally deliberately trying to provoke theoretical debate while keeping in mind, that actual reality is the final judge of any language-based idealistic model.

Unfortunately, both "DM" supporters and opponents often confuse the language with actual reality. To think that laws of ideological evolution describe the actual underlying reality seems to me ridiculous. More so, when we research purely physical phenomena with no social component.

Sadly, I don't know what Rosa L thinks about my approach.

 

Ok, thanks for being one of the first to put forward a reasoned case, comrade!

 

Sadly, though, I have to disagree with you. Dialectics isn't a method at all (see my comments above for why that is so), never mind one that could be used in the way you suggest. The sad thing is that we already have a method, and a theory -- Historical Materialism -- and it can do all the things you say, providing Hegel's unhelpful concepts have been surgically removed.

 

The problem with your suggestion -- "it is sometimes useful to 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' and replace it with a completely contradictory theory, hoping to get some new insight into the nature of reality" -- is that it is susceptible to what I have called the 'Dialecticians' Dilemma':

 

The dilemma confronting dialecticians is thus quite plain: when faced with "glaring" contradictions (for example, those generated by the thesis that a moving object must be located in at least two places at once, or those suggested by the idea that certain sub-atomic particles are simultaneously discrete and continuous, particle and wave, or those indicated by the idea that living cells are alive and dead, all at once), a DM-theorist would normally be expected to resist their resolution to preserve the belief that reality is basically contradictory. DM-theorists who believe that reality is thus ontologically oppositional ought to be the very last individuals to try to remove contradictions from a given theory, especially if that theory pictures nature as contradictory. What reason could there possibly be for true believers to eliminate contradictions between theory and observation, or those within a theory, if the latter are themselves also part of reality, or which depict it as it really is?

 

Then again, if contradictions within and between theories are fatal defects, which require resolution -- if we are to understand the world aright, and if science is to progress --, how might this be so if reality is fundamentally contradictory and true theories are supposed to reflect this accurately? If the world is fundamentally contradictory, a more true theory should both contain and reflect more contradictions, not less. And yet, if this were to happen, any theory that did this would explain reality much less effectively/accurately, for it would be a more defective theory as a result. If only non-defective theories (i.e., those that are either free, or are freer from contradictions) are capable of depicting a contradictory world accurately, how might this happen if the contradictions they contain (or imply) are systematically eliminated, or those theories are themselves abandoned? On the other hand, if they aren't (and shouldn't be) eliminated, how might science advance? Thus, it seems that if the latter horn of the dilemma is "grasped" science must fail to advance since the removal of contradictions ought to provide scientists a less true picture of the universe.

 

Naturally, in that case, the fact that science does advance (by removing, or seeking to remove, contradictions in a given theory) would suggest that humanity should progressively abandon the DM-view of nature instead of adopting it. Hence, given that science does advance, it could only do so if (1) Scientists do not now (and never begin to) believe that nature is contradictory -- otherwise their motivation to remove contradictions would vanish, and (2) It is indeed the case that nature isn't contradictory, which would be why the removal of contradictions succeeds in drawing science ever 'closer to the truth' about this non-contradictory world. Otherwise, theories would become less true the more that contradictions were abandoned, hence the less accurately theories would reflect supposedly contradictory reality. Consequently, if dialecticians are correct in claiming that science advances when contradictions are gradually edited out, it would mean that nature can't be fundamentally contradictory -- and, in the limit, not contradictory at all.

 

On the other hand, if reality is fundamentally contradictory, how could science advance other than by misrepresenting nature? Would this not happen if scientists abandoned all contradictions, including the supposedly 'objective' ones? But, why would anyone want to call this an "advance" and claim that the knowledge so gained more closely approximated the 'truth' if it does the exact opposite? Conversely, again, if science is to attain to an increasingly correct view of an 'objectively' contradictory reality, scientists would be sorely mistaken in their efforts to remove contradictions. But, this must mean that science would fail to advance in the way that DM-theorists suppose.

 

It isn't easy to see how DM-theorists can avoid these fatal alternatives if they continue to hold onto their theory of scientific progress and adhere to the view that reality is fundamentally contradictory.

 

Nevertheless, once again in practice we can see that DM-theorists' advocacy of the scientific method indicates that they, too, do not really think that nature is fundamentally contradictory. Why else would they regard the presence of contradictions in a theory as a fatal defect and proceed to eulogise the scientists who resolve, or who eliminate them?

 

This then is the DD: if nature is fundamentally contradictory we would not only expect theories to be contradictory, we would expect them to become more contradictory the more they accurately reflected reality. But, if this is a correct picture of the world, the motivation for replacing a contradictory theory with one that is less contradictory must disappear. And, if science only advances by removing contradictions -- so that less contradictory theories depict nature more accurately -- that can only mean nature isn't fundamentally contradictory (or, perhaps, not at all). Otherwise, such less contradictory theories would depict nature less accurately. And yet, if contradictions are not removed, science couldn't advance.

 

Hence, dialecticians have no way of distinguishing those contradictions that are the product of a defective theory (and which should be eliminated where possible, if science is to advance) from those that accurately reflect contradictory reality (but which shouldn't).

 

This is quite apart from the fact that I have shown that if DM were true, change would be impossible. [On that, see above.] So, there's no baby in the bathwater, only water.

 

But, thank you once again for posting your comment in such a comradely manner. You stand out as an object lesson to many of the others who have posted in this thread, who behave as if they were defending religious dogma against a bunch of 'infidels'.

 

Now we come to 'Semendyaev' again:

 

I think most of us work under the assumption that people can abbreviate their own arguments without distorting them. Furthermore, if it is obvious from the short version of an argument that the author does not understand the subject matter, this is a valid grounds for criticism.

 

Well, it would be had he shown this, but he signally failed to do so (as my previous reply to him demonstrated).

 

All of them contain glaring errors, and most hinge on a blatant Hegelisation of Marxism.

 

In fact, in my Essays I have to take issue with many different interpretations of Marxism, and of DM, some of which do err in that direction (for example, Lenin's), so the fault, if such it be, lies with those with whom I am arguing.

 

[In fact, as we will see, 'Semendyaev' also failed to substantiate the allegation that I am guilty of "a blatant Hegelisation of Marxism", just as we will see he, too, prefers to make stuff up about my work, a failing he shares with most DM-fans.]

 

Rosa objects that I have not defined quality. I am surprised that someone who, as far as I can tell from the archived discussion, constantly references Wittgenstein would ask someone to define terms that everyone knows how to use. Even so, I think the definition Rosa cites is crude, but adequate.

 

In fact, I register a broader complaint: I first of all note that we are never told what DM-fans mean by "quality", and then I point out that this allows them to apply this term subjectively in relation to what is supposed to be an 'objective law', using it when it suits them, refusing to do so when it doesn't. [And, as we will soon see, this comrade does likewise!]

 

But, what of this?

 

I am surprised that someone who, as far as I can tell from the archived discussion, constantly references Wittgenstein would ask someone to define terms that everyone knows how to use.

 

Well, I'd be only too happy if 'Semendyaev' adopted Wittgenstein's method. If he were to do so, he'd soon come to see that DM is not only non-sensical, it is incoherent non-sense to boot (proof here).

 

But, what of the claim that since I constantly reference Wittgenstein then I shouldn't complain about terms that "everyone knows how to use". Unfortunately, this idea isn't to be found in Wittgenstein's work -- but, even if it were, there is precious little evidence that DM-fans know how to use this term (i.e., "quality"). [Proof here. More below!]

 

Exhibit A for the prosecution:

 

Qualitative change, so to say, is a process whereby one object becomes another kind of object. Now, Rosa objects that, for example, a quantity of liquid water is the same kind of object as ice. Well, yes and no. It is the same kind of object with respect to its chemical properties. But in other aspects, the region of the material world that had been ice becomes another kind of object when the ice melts.

 

"Another kind of object" is no less vague, unfortunately. We can see this from the example this comrade uses: water as a liquid and as a solid (ice). Is this a "new kind of object"? Well, both are still H20. So, there's no "new kind of object" here, at all. In fact, we aren't even told what counts as an "object", let alone what constitutes a new kind of 'object'.

 

[This echoes the problems we met earlier with 'Slim's' attempt to use the word "thing". Unless the domain of quantification is specified very clearly, these words are philosophically and scientifically useless.]

 

But, 'Semendyaev' went on to qualify what he meant:

 

The criterion of identity is not the same when discussing the various aspects of matter. Chemically, water vapour is the same kind of thing as ice. But in terms of the distinction between gases and condensed matter, water vapour is the same kind of thing as iodine vapours.

There are, of course, alternative definitions, that reproduce the same correct common usage of the terms "quantitative" and "qualitative". Quantitative change, for example, is change whose endpoints can be nontrivially and nonarbitrarily associated with a certain quantity - for example, changes in position can be nontrivially associated with quadruples of numbers that describe the coordinates of the starting point and the endpoint in some set of coordinates. Qualitative changes can be associated with such quantities only trivially (i.e. someone could arbitrarily assign the number 1 to one allotropic state and 2 to another - but this is hardly informative).

 

That makes my point for me, I think. This term, as it is used by DM-fans, is hopelessly vague. But, in order to close off every escape route seemingly open to the beleaguered DM-fan, it might be wise to examine the specifics of the above passage in more detail.

 

The criterion of identity is not the same when discussing the various aspects of matter. Chemically, water vapour is the same kind of thing as ice. But in terms of the distinction between gases and condensed matter, water vapour is the same kind of thing as iodine vapours.

 

Well, criteria of identity for mass nouns and count nouns (and what they supposedly designate) are totally different, so the above will depend on whether 'Semendyaev' is referring to buckets, glasses, pools or bodies (etc.) of water, or just water tout court -- and blocks, chucks or slivers of ice (etc.), or just ice tout court. He failed to say. So, 'Semendyaev' isn't much clearer in this respect, either!

 

But, let us suppose he is referring to mass nouns. [Good luck with that one comrade! Philosophers and logicians have been looking for such criteria for some time -- with not much to show for it!]

 

Even so, as we can see for ourselves, 'Semendyaev' arrived at no clear conclusions in the above passage (other than seeming to make my point for me!), so there isn't much more that can be said about it.

 

What of the longer passage, though?

 

There are, of course, alternative definitions, that reproduce the same correct common usage of the terms "quantitative" and "qualitative". Quantitative change, for example, is change whose endpoints can be nontrivially and nonarbitrarily associated with a certain quantity -- for example, changes in position can be nontrivially associated with quadruples of numbers that describe the coordinates of the starting point and the endpoint in some set of coordinates. Qualitative changes can be associated with such quantities only trivially (i.e. someone could arbitrarily assign the number 1 to one allotropic state and 2 to another -- but this is hardly informative).

 

Now, I have read this over many times, and I can't really see anywhere where this comrade makes it clear what he means by "new kind of object". He just seems to go round in circles.

 

[See what I meant earlier by "vague and imprecise"?]

 

Perhaps someone can help me out here?

 

In another Essay (entitled Engels and Mickey Mouse Science) I advanced this observation:

 

I made the point in Essay Seven Part One that Dialectical Materialism [DM] relies for its 'veracity' on what I have called "Mickey Mouse Science". 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 precise and analytically sound. The use of primary data is essential (or it has at least to be reviewed or referenced by the scientists involved), and supporting evidence has to be extensive, meticulously recorded, 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 -- added on edit, and now with 'Semendyaev's' amateur attempt to tell us what a "quality" is) little other than Mickey Mouse Science. Engels supplied no original data, and what little evidence he presented 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.

 

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 used. In Anti-Dühring and Dialectics of Nature, for example, we are not 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 energetic (thermodynamic) boundaries there are (or if there are any!) to any of the systems under consideration. Indeed, we are not even told what constitutes a system, nor what counts as that system "developing"!

 

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

 

So, we have yet more Mickey Mouse Science from 'Semendyaev'.

 

But, what of this?

 

Rosa furthermore objects that they [who 'they'? -- RL] distinguish Marxist and Hegelian dialectic. Nonetheless, they still interpret Marxist dialectic through an idealist, Hegelian lens. Let us return to the issue of cats and in particular the stubborn refusal of male cats to change into female cats. Rosa continues to insinuate that this is a counterexample to the law of the interpenetration of opposites. But, again, is this materialism? When Engels talks about opposites, he talks about actually existing tendencies, processes, things (things can also be reduced to tendencies in this context), not about opposite ideas. Are there perhaps male and female cats in every cat? Rosa claims to "refute" my objection in her Essay Seven, but here the confusion is even more evident. The essay talks about a person struggling with their own corpse. We who do not believe in ghosts must object that a person and their corpse can not exist simultaneously.

 

In fact, I dealt with this objection in Essay Seven. The comrade needs to stop skim-reading my work.

 

And, where did I mention "opposite ideas" in relation the male and female cats? Nowhere!

 

Anyway, let us suppose I did; wasn't it Engels who said the following?

 

Dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought. [Engels (1976), p.180. Bold added.]

 

So, if male and female cats are dialectical opposites, they should turn into one another, even if they are only thoughts/ideas!

 

The essay talks about a person struggling with their own corpse. We who do not believe in ghosts must object that a person and their corpse can not exist simultaneously.

 

However, the quotations I supplied from the DM-classics informed us that (1) all things have dialectical opposites (otherwise they couldn't change), that (2) they struggle with these opposite in order to change, and that (3) they "inevitably" change into their opposites.

 

In other words they change into that with which they struggle.

 

Here in fact is the cat example from Essay Seven:

 

The DM-classics inform us that cats, for example, change because of a 'struggle of opposites', and that they change into those 'opposites' (since we are told everything in the entire universe changes this way).

 

Consider live cat C, and its 'dialectical opposite', C*. According to the DM-classicists, C must at some point 'struggle' with and then change into C*. Again, at some point, C also changes from a live cat into a dead cat. So, this dead cat must be the 'opposite' of the live cat; that is, C* must be that dead cat. In that case, if the dialectical classics are to be believed, a dialectical cat must 'struggle' with the dead cat it is one day to become; hence, it can only die by struggling with itself as a dead cat!

Alternatively, live cat C can't change into dead cat C* since dead cat C* already exists! If C* didn't already exist, C couldn't 'struggle' with it and so couldn't change. Hence, according to this 'theory', C can't actually die, for to do so it would have to change into something that already exists, and that is impossible, even for a cat.

So, DM, the 'world view of the proletariat', implies that cats are immortal!

On the other hand, it also implies that cats are constantly scrapping with the dead cats that that they will one day turn into.

 

Has anyone witnessed this universal phenomenon?

 

Perhaps we don't 'understand' dialectics...

 

Incidentally, the same result emerges if we consider the intermediate stages in the life and death of cat C, whether or not these are 'sublated' intermediaries.

Let us assume, therefore, that cat C goes through n successive stages C(1), C(2), C(3)..., C(n-1), C(n), until at stage C(n+1) it finally pops its clogs.

But, according to the dialectical classics, C(1) can only change into C(2) because of a 'struggle of opposites', and C(1) must also change into that with which it has struggled; hence, C(1) must inevitably change into C(2).

So, C(1) must 'struggle' with, and change into, C(2).

If so, the same problems arise, for C(1) can't change into C(2) since C(2) already exists. If it didn't, C(1) couldn't 'struggle' with it! Moreover, if C(2) is itself also to change, it must struggle with whatever it changes into -- that is, it must 'struggle' with, and change into, C(3). But, C(2) can't change into C(3) since C(3) already exists! If it didn't, there would be nothing to make C(2) change, nothing with which it could struggle.

By n applications of the above argument -- if this 'theory' is to be believed -- all the stages of a cat's life must co-exist. In which case, no cat could change, let alone die! And what applies to cats, applies to anything and everything that changes. All their stages must co-exist, too.

 

It is a mystery, therefore, how there is any room left in the dialectical universe for anything to move, let alone change!

 

With such absurd implications, is it any wonder that Dialectical Marxism? is an abject and long-term failure?

 

 'Semendyaev' then continued:

 

The confusion that was apparent in Rosa's comments about identity is also present in Essay Seven. The essay, railing against what it terms the "tendency objection", denies that tendencies can be causal agents because their effects can also be traced to other causes. But this assumes that the causal history of a process can be described only in one way. This is obviously mistaken. It is legitimate to say that water, for example, boils because the fluctuations of the kinetic energy of water molecules have increased. It is also perfectly legitimate to say that water boils because it has been heated (for example).

 

But, once more I covered this in the said Essay; here it is:

 

But, what of the argument itself? Are "tendencies" causal agents? Aren't they (i.e., both the tendencies and the changes) rather the result of other causes? For example, do we say that the "tendency" for glass to break is what makes it break, or do we appeal to inter-molecular forces within glass, and an external shock? But, can't we call these inner forces "tendencies", too? Are there such inner "tendencies" in glass? If there are, what are their causes? Or, are they uncaused? In fact, if we just appeal to "tendencies" to explain things, noting is explained. "Why did that glass break?" "It just has a tendency to do so." "Why is it raining?" "It simply has a tendency to do so in this area." "Why did those cops attack the strikers?" "They have a tendency to defend the bosses." So, an appeal to a "tendency" is no explanation at all.

 

Or rather, if we insist on regarding and appeal to "tendencies" as an explanation, that is because we also view the word as a shorthand for other causes (known or unknown) at work in the system. Consider the "tendency" of the rate of profit to fall. Is that uncaused? But, no Marxist will argue it is. Indeed, Marxists point to several contributory causal factors that combine to make the rate of profit tend to fall over time. Would any of us have been satisfied if Marx had simply said there a "tendency" for the rate of profit to fall, and made no attempt to explain its cause/causes?

 

Hence, "tendencies" aren't causes; they are the result of one or more causes themselves. So, this critic [another RevLeft back in 2010 who wanted to make the same point -- RL] is mistaken, an internal "tendency" can't "preserve A", nor can the opposite "tendency", O**, cause a "transformation into not-A", since these "tendencies" are derivative not causative. Indeed, as the DM-classics inform us, the cause of these "tendencies" is the "unity and interpenetration of opposites", the "contradiction" and the "struggle" that results from this.

 

What does this comrade have to say in response?

 

"tendency objection", denies that tendencies can be causal agents because their effects can also be traced to other causes. But this assumes that the causal history of a process can be described only in one way. This is obviously mistaken. It is legitimate to say that water, for example, boils because the fluctuations of the kinetic energy of water molecules have increased. It is also perfectly legitimate to say that water boils because it has been heated (for example).

 

But, even if a causal history can be described in more than one way, how does that make a tendency a cause? 'Semendyaev' failed to say.

 

[Why the tendency here to omit key parts of my argument? What was that again about vague and imprecise?]

 

But, the comrade did add this comment:

 

It is legitimate to say that water, for example, boils because the fluctuations of the kinetic energy of water molecules have increased. It is also perfectly legitimate to say that water boils because it has been heated (for example).

 

Indeed, but is this even a tendency? In fact, it rather looks like 'Semendyaev' has made my point for me again, for the considerations he mentions look causal to me, and not the least bit like tendencies.

 

But, once more, let us suppose he is right. Let us suppose that heat is a tendency (and that fluctuations in kinetic energy are tendencies, too). Does this get 'Semendyaev' out of the corner into which the DM-classics have painted him?

 

Not even close.

 

As I pointed out in the Essay he clearly skim-read:

 

Well, perhaps it is the struggle between these "opposite tendencies" that causes A to change? Here is Lenin again:

 

Dialectics is the teaching which shows how Opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical, -- under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another, -- why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another. [Lenin (1961), p.109. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

But, do these tendencies themselves change? It seems they must if everything in the universe changes, and they can only do that (according to the DM-classics) if they struggle with one another and then turn into one another (as Lenin and many others have pointed out).

 

So, let us abbreviate the fluctuation in kinetic energy as, "K". If K is to change it must struggle with its opposite, that is, with what it becomes. According to this comrade, that opposite must be the increased kinetic energy:

 

It is legitimate to say that water, for example, boils because the fluctuations of the kinetic energy of water molecules have increased. It is also perfectly legitimate to say that water boils because it has been heated (for example). [Bold added.]

 

Call this increased Kinetic energy "K*". So, K must both struggle with K* and turn into it. But, this is just a repeat of the cat example, for K must struggle with something that does not yet exist, its future kinetic energy, K*! If so, K can't change.

 

On the other hand, if K* already exists so that it can struggle with K, then what is there for K to change into?

 

We hit the very same non-dialectical brick wall!

 

The same argument puts paid to the heated water example. Here is the version from Essay Seven:

 

Consider another hackneyed DM-example: water turning into steam at 100oC (under normal conditions). Are we really supposed to believe what the DM-classics tell us, that the 'opposite' that water becomes (i.e., steam) makes water turn into steam? But, this must be the case if the classics are correct.

 

Hence, while you might think it is the heat/energy you are putting into the water that turns it into steam, what really happens, according to these wise old dialecticians, is that steam makes water turn into steam!

 

In that case, save energy and turn the gas off!

 

It might be useful to make this example a little more concrete: To that end, let us track a water molecule to see what happens to it this liquid is heated. In order to identify it, call it, "W1", and the steam molecule it turns into, "S1". But, if the DM-classics above are correct W1 can only turn into S1 by 'struggling' with it. In that case, S1 must already exist, otherwise W1 couldn't struggle with it and thus change! But, how can W1 turn into S1 if S1 already exists?

 

In fact, according to the DM-classics, opposites turn into each other; if so, S1 must change into W1 at the same time that W1 is turning into S1! So, while you are boiling a kettle -- according to this Super-scientific 'theory' -- steam must be condensing back into the water you are boiling, and it must be doing so at the same rate it is turning into steam!

 

One wonders, therefore, how dialectical kettles manage to boil dry.

 

Of course, the same argument applies to water freezing (and, as we have seen, to any and all alleged examples of 'dialectical'-change).

 

It could be objected that the opposite that liquid water turns into is a gas (i.e., steam/water vapour); so the dialectical classicists are correct.

 

However, if we take the DM-classics at their word, this gas must 'struggle' with liquid water in the here-and-now if water is to change into it. But, plainly, this gas doesn't yet exist, or the water would already have changed into it! In which case, water would never boil if this 'theory' were true, since the gas it is supposed to change into isn't there yet for it to struggle with. And yet, it is plainly the heat we add that causes the change not the gas!

 

It could be maintained that what happens is that the heat energy input into the system makes water boil. Indeed, but then, if heat makes water boil, that water must struggle with this heat, and then change into it, just as heat must change into water! If not, the DM-classics are wrong, and dialecticians are left with no theory of change.

 

[Follow the above link for an explanation why Hegel and Lenin both adopted this rather odd theory of change.]

 

'Semendyaev' then argued as follows:

 

Subsequently in the essay, Rosa attempts to demonstrate that dialectics is incompatible with change. Superficially, the argument looks plausible, but like many superficially plausible arguments, it ends up proving too much. One could take any number of statements -- e.g. "motion occurs because potential energy changes into kinetic energy" -- and apply the same argument. Potential energy changes into kinetic energy? Why, that must mean that potential energy already exists etc. etc. -- the key to the mystification is that all of the potential energy does not need to change into kinetic energy and disappear. Opposite tendencies can strengthen each other in complex interplay without disappearing. But this is materialism, and Rosa, with their O* and O**, is again struggling with opposite ideas and not opposite tendencies in the development of material phenomena.

 

This would have been a good response had it not already been holed below the water-line by the DM-classicists (which only serves to confirm the impression I gained when arguing with DM-fans: that they don't even know their own theory!), indeed, as I pointed out in the Essay this comrade skim-read:

 

What is more, these 'opposites' have to co-exist -- as Gollobin notes:

 

"Opposites in a thing are not only mutually exclusive, polar, repelling, each other; they also attract and interpenetrate each other. They begin and cease to exist together.... These dual aspects of opposites -- conflict and unity -- are like scissor blades in cutting, jaws in mastication, and two legs in walking. Where there is only one, the process as such is impossible: 'all polar opposites are in general determined by the mutual action of two opposite poles on one another, the separation and opposition of these poles exists only within their unity and interconnection, and, conversely, their interconnection exists only in their separation and their unity only in their opposition.' In fact, 'where one no sooner tries to hold on to one side alone then it is transformed unnoticed into the other....'" [Gollobin (1986), p.113; quoting Engels (1891a), p.414. Bold emphases added.]

 

Mao underlined the same point:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As, indeed, did Engels:

 

"And it is just as impossible have one side of a contradiction without the other, as it is to retain the whole of an apple in one's hand after half has been eaten." [Engels (1891b), p.496. Bold emphasis added.]

 

The online version renders this passage slightly differently:

 

"And one cannot have one side of this contradiction without the other, any more than a man has a whole apple in his hand after eating half." [Quoted from here.]

 

In which case, these 'opposites' must co-exist.

 

[Exact references can be found at the end of the above Essay.]

 

And, it isn't hard to see why. If all change (according to the same classics) is a result of a struggle between opposites, then those opposites have to co-exist or they couldn't struggle with one another, and hence couldn't change!

 

But, what of the specific point this comrade made?

 

One could take any number of statements -- e.g. "motion occurs because potential energy changes into kinetic energy" -- and apply the same argument. Potential energy changes into kinetic energy? Why, that must mean that potential energy already exists etc. etc.

 

Oh dear, this is rather poor. When we ordinarily talk about change (even in science) we don't also saddle ourselves with a crazy 'theory' that tells us all things have to struggle with their opposites or they can't change. But, DM-fans have saddled themselves with just such a theory.

 

So, if potential energy is to change into kinetic energy, then (according to the DM-classics, not me!) it is going to have to struggle with it, or that won't happen. And, if that is so, the potential energy that the kinetic energy changes into will have to co-exist with that kinetic energy (or they couldn't struggle with one another, and hence change).

 

[By the way, anyone who can show that kinetic energy struggles with the potential energy it is to become stands a good chance of winning a Nobel Prize in physics. Of course, the DM-classics could be wrong (but before readers jump to that conclusion, they need to be made aware of the even worse consequences that await them if they do -- on that see here).]

 

But, we all know this is crazy, which just goes to show why I also asserted that if DM were true, change would be impossible.

 

And now we know why.

 

But, how does this comrade respond?

 

Opposite tendencies can strengthen each other in complex interplay without disappearing.

 

We have already been here. If these tendencies change (by 'strengthening' one another), then they must struggle with and then turn into one another (if the DM-classics are to be believed). But, they can't do that since they both already exist!

 

The reader might have noticed the repetitive pattern to the argument here. My demolition of the DM-'theory' of change was completely general. The above is just a particular example of it. Which is why we keep hitting the same non-dialectical brick wall.

 

But this is materialism, and Rosa, with their O* and O**, is again struggling with opposite ideas and not opposite tendencies in the development of material phenomena.

 

Of course, these aren't "opposite ideas". My demolition deals with the real material objects/processes to which the DM-classics refer.

 

[But, as we have already seen, since dialectics supposedly covers every sort of change (even changes to thought/ideas), then, even if I were just referring to ideas, my argument would still work. In which case, if DM were true, no one could change their ideas, either! I rather think that that conclusion is no less fatal to DM.]

 

'Semendyaev' now returns to an earlier topic:

 

Rosa again turns to cats, this time complaining that cats do not turn into non-cats. And she does so after citing Lenin on the unity of opposites.

 

Where did I complain "that cats do not turn into non-cats". Nowhere, that's where!

 

[Once more: why do DM-fans feel compelled to keep making stuff up?]

 

But, what of this?

 

Again, Rosa ignores that dialectics is about contradictory development, and talks about the logical negation of cats. This is nonsense. Considering a cat as a unity of opposites means identifying contradictory tendencies in the development of a cat, understanding how they give rise to a temporarily stable configuration, and analysing how their struggle will destroy this temporarily stable state. Anabolic processes are not contradictory to anything that is not an anabolic process, but to catabolic processes.

 

Staying on the topic of cats, Rosa asks if the male and female population of cats struggles with each other and changes into one another. Well, yes. Sexual dynamics involves the complex interplay between these two forces, and disturbances in the trend tend to be evened out as an excess of male cats, for example, results in the male population declining and so on, and so on.

 

In fact, I covered these points in Essay Seven, too! Here is my response to the first of them:

 

It could be argued that Engels had anticipated the above objections when he said:

 

"[RL: Negation of the negation is] a very simple process which is taking place everywhere and every day, which any child can understand as soon as it is stripped of the veil of mystery in which it was enveloped by the old idealist philosophy and in which it is to the advantage of helpless metaphysicians of Herr Dühring's calibre to keep it enveloped. Let us take a grain of barley. Billions of such grains of barley are milled, boiled and brewed and then consumed. But if such a grain of barley meets with conditions which are normal for it, if it falls on suitable soil, then under the influence of heat and moisture it undergoes a specific change, it germinates; the grain as such ceases to exist, it is negated, and in its place appears the plant which has arisen from it, the negation of the grain. But what is the normal life-process of this plant? It grows, flowers, is fertilised and finally once more produces grains of barley, and as soon as these have ripened the stalk dies, is in its turn negated. As a result of this negation of the negation we have once again the original grain of barley, but not as a single unit, but ten-, twenty- or thirtyfold. Species of grain change extremely slowly, and so the barley of today is almost the same as it-was a century ago. But if we take a plastic ornamental plant, for example a dahlia or an orchid, and treat the seed and the plant which grows from it according to the gardener's art, we get as a result of this negation of the negation not only more seeds, but also qualitatively improved seeds, which produce more beautiful flowers, and each repetition of this process, each fresh negation of the negation, enhances this process of perfection. [Engels (1976), pp.172-73. Bold emphases added.]

 

"But someone may object: the negation that has taken place in this case is not a real negation: I negate a grain of barley also when I grind it, an insect when I crush it underfoot, or the positive quantity a when I cancel it, and so on. Or I negate the sentence: the rose is a rose, when I say: the rose is not a rose; and what do I get if I then negate this negation and say: but after all the rose is a rose? -- These objections are in fact the chief arguments put forward by the metaphysicians against dialectics, and they are wholly worthy of the narrow-mindedness of this mode of thought. Negation in dialectics does not mean simply saying no, or declaring that something does not exist, or destroying it in any way one likes. Long ago Spinoza said: Omnis determinatio est negatio -- every limitation or determination is at the same time a negation. And further: the kind of negation is here determined, firstly, by the general and, secondly, by the particular nature of the process. I must not only negate, but also sublate the negation. I must therefore so arrange the first negation that the second remains or becomes possible. How? This depends on the particular nature of each individual case. If I grind a grain of barley, or crush an insect, I have carried out the first part of the action, but have made the second part impossible. Every kind of thing therefore has a peculiar way of being negated in such manner that it gives rise to a development, and it is just the same with every kind of conception or idea....

 

"But it is clear that from a negation of the negation which consists in the childish pastime of alternately writing and cancelling a, or in alternately declaring that a rose is a rose and that it is not a rose, nothing eventuates but the silliness of the person who adopts such a tedious procedure. And yet the metaphysicians try to make us believe that this is the right way to carry out a negation of the negation, if we ever should want to do such a thing. [Ibid., pp.180-81. Bold emphases added.]

 

Engels's argument is that "dialectical negation" isn't the same as ordinary (or even logical) negation in that it isn't simple destruction, nor is it a cancelling. Dialectical negation "sublates"; that is, it both destroys and preserves, so that something new or 'higher' emerges as a result. Nevertheless, as we have already seen, Hegel's use of this word (i.e., "sublate") is highly suspect in itself, just as we will also see: this 'Law' (i.e., the NON) is even more dubious still (partly because Hegel confused ordinary negation with 'cancelling out', or with destruction, as, indeed, did Engels).

 

Despite all this, it is worth asking: Does the above comment by Engels neutralise the argument presented earlier? Is the argument here guilty of the following:

 

"These objections are in fact the chief arguments put forward by the metaphysicians against dialectics, and they are wholly worthy of the narrow-mindedness of this mode of thought." [Ibid.]

 

To answer this question, let us once again suppose that object/process A is comprised of two changing "internal opposites"/"tendencies" O* and not-O*, and thus develops as a result. Given this scenario, O* would change/develop into a "sublated" intermediary --, but not into not-O* --, incidentally, contradicting the DM-worthies quoted earlier. If was are to believe what they tell us, O* should, of course, change into not-O*, not into some intermediary.

 

Putting this minor quibble to one side, too: Given this 'revised' view, let us suppose that O* does indeed change into that intermediary. To that end, let us call the latter, "Oi*" (which can be interpreted as a combination of the old and the new; a 'negation' which also 'preserves'/'sublates').

 

If so, then Oi* must remain forever in that state, unchanged, for there is as yet no not-Oi* in existence to make it develop any further!

 

[Recall that on this 'theory', everything (and that must include Oi*) changes because of a 'struggle' with its 'opposite'.]

 

So, there must be a not-Oi* in existence to make Oi* change further. To be sure, we could try to exempt Oi* from this essential requirement on an ad hoc basis (arguing, perhaps, that Oi* changes spontaneously with nothing actually causing it), and yet if we do that, there would seem to be no reason to accept the version of events expressed in the DM-classics, which version tells us that every thing/process in the entire universe changes because of the "struggle" of opposites (and Oi* is certainly a thing/process). Furthermore, if we make an exemption here, then the whole point of the exercise would be lost, for if some things do, and some things do not change according this dialectical 'Law', we would be left with no way of telling which changes were, and which were not subject to it.

 

[That would also mean that Engels's Second 'Law' isn't a 'law', either -- as we found was the case with the First 'Law', too.]

 

This is, of course, quite apart from the fact that such a subjectively applied exemption certificate (issued to Oi*) would mean that nothing at all could change, for everything in the universe is in the process of change, and is thus already a 'sublated' version of whatever it used to be.

 

Ignoring this 'difficulty', too: Even if Oi* were to change into not-Oi* (as we suppose it must, given the doctrine laid down in the DM-classics), then all the problems we met earlier simply reappear, for Oi* would only be able to change if not-Oi* already exists to make that happen! But, not-Oi* can't already exist, for Oi* hasn't changed into it yet!

 

On the other hand, even if we were to suppose not-Oi* already exists, Oi* couldn't change into it since not-Oi* already exists!

 

Again, it could be objected that the dialectical negation of O*, which produces not-O*, isn't ordinary negation, as the above seems to assume.

 

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

 

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

 

Hence, my argument covers any and all forms of negation (logical, 'dialectical', ordinary), and both kinds of contradiction (logical and 'dialectical' -- not that a single dialectician, including Hegel, seems to know what a 'dialectical contradiction' is; on that see here, here, here, here, and here).

 

Finally, this isn't the case:

 

Again, Rosa ignores that dialectics is about contradictory development, and talks about the logical negation of cats.

 

I do deal with 'contradictory development' (although 'Semendyaev' in fact fails to tell us what this obscure phrase actually means); the cat example is specifically about this. Even so, what does this comrade imagine these obscure beings ('dialectical contradictions') are composed of if not negations. Here is Lenin:

 

"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]….

 

"In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics….

 

"The splitting of the whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the 'essentials', one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristic features) of dialectics….

 

"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…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing…. 

 

"The unity…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.221-22, 357-58. Bold emphases added.]

 

And what are these 'opposites' if not the 'negations' of one another?:

 

"But someone may object: the negation that has taken place in this case is not a real negation: I negate a grain of barley also when I grind it, an insect when I crush it underfoot, or the positive quantity a when I cancel it, and so on. Or I negate the sentence: the rose is a rose, when I say: the rose is not a rose; and what do I get if I then negate this negation and say: but after all the rose is a rose? -- These objections are in fact the chief arguments put forward by the metaphysicians against dialectics, and they are wholly worthy of the narrow-mindedness of this mode of thought. Negation in dialectics does not mean simply saying no, or declaring that something does not exist, or destroying it in any way one likes. Long ago Spinoza said: Omnis determinatio est negatio -- every limitation or determination is at the same time a negation. And further: the kind of negation is here determined, firstly, by the general and, secondly, by the particular nature of the process. I must not only negate, but also sublate the negation. I must therefore so arrange the first negation that the second remains or becomes possible. How? This depends on the particular nature of each individual case. If I grind a grain of barley, or crush an insect, I have carried out the first part of the action, but have made the second part impossible. Every kind of thing therefore has a peculiar way of being negated in such manner that it gives rise to a development, and it is just the same with every kind of conception or idea....

 

"But it is clear that from a negation of the negation which consists in the childish pastime of alternately writing and cancelling a, or in alternately declaring that a rose is a rose and that it is not a rose, nothing eventuates but the silliness of the person who adopts such a tedious procedure. And yet the metaphysicians try to make us believe that this is the right way to carry out a negation of the negation, if we ever should want to do such a thing. [Engels (1976), pp.180-81. Bold emphases added.]

 

So, 'Semendyaev' has not only failed to get my ideas right, he doesn't seem to know what his own 'theory' commits him to, either!

 

[The other points he makes in the above passage (about those cats) have already been covered, and the vague comments he makes about anabolic process (etc.) have been dealt with here and here.]

 

Rosa objects that she does not believe Hegelian logic can be reduced to the triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. Fair enough. But then she has no grounds to claim that a particular organism disproves dialectical materialism because it has four stages instead of three. In all of these stages, there is a retention of certain forms associated with previous stages.

 

As I pointed out in my earlier reply to him (does this comrade need new glasses?), the examples I gave were in response to a particular point Engels was making (which was obvious from the original Essay (linked to in the OP)!) who certainly did think development was in triads (at least, so far as the 'Negation of the Negation' was concerned). So, he should pick a fight with Engels, not me.

 

We now arrive at the piece de resistance (having made a note that this comrade failed to show where my work 'Hegelianised Marx' -- yet another baseless allegation of his!):

 

As for my "brave words", well, perhaps Rosa's crankish tendencies, creative formatting and tendency to repeat themselves [are there many of me? -- RL] might be tolerable, but the sectarianism and the subpolitical insults are far too much. The entire site is a third-campist-liberal hate letter to orthodox Trotskyism and our refusal to dream up new classes and to take an anticommunist line. But, surprisingly, we orthodox Trotskyists are abbreviated fairly straightforwardly, as OT. Maoist dialecticians are, according to Rosa, MIST. Meanwhile, Stalinist dialecticians are STD. Meanwhile, and this is the absolute nadir of the infantile humour of the site, absolute idealism is -- AIDS. Seriously? Someone that calls themselves a communist can not only imply that "male and female" are absolutely opposed, but also make AIDS jokes?

 

Oh dear, so much bile! Well, here is why I am so hostile (this is from Essay One):

 

Several other features of these Essays will strike the reader as rather odd: (1) Their almost exclusively negative, if not unremittingly hostile tone...

 

As was alleged earlier, it is the opinion of the present author that DM has contributed in its own not insignificant way to the spectacular lack of success enjoyed by Dialectical Marxism [DIM]. It is an alarming fact that of all the major political ideologies and/or movements in history, DIM is among the least successful ever.8a The role that DM has played in helping to engineer this disastrous state of affairs partly accounts for the persistently negative (if not openly hostile) tone adopted in these Essays.

 

And here is what I posted on the opening page of my site (the page referred to below contains links mainly to RevLeft and other sites where I debated this 'theory' with equally nescient comrades between 2005 and 2011):

 

How Not To Argue 101

 

The above page contains links to forums on the web where I have 'debated' this creed with other comrades.

 

For anyone interested, check out the desperate 'debating' tactics used by Dialectical Mystics in their attempt to respond to my ideas.

 

You will no doubt notice that the vast majority all say the same sorts of things, and most of them pepper their remarks with scatological and abusive language. They all like to make things up, too, about me and my beliefs.

 

25 years (!!) of this stuff from Dialectical Mystics has meant I now take an aggressive stance with them every time -- I soon learnt back in the 1980s that being pleasant with them (my initial tactic) didn't alter their abusive tone, their propensity to fabricate, nor reduce the amount of scatological language they used.

 

So, these days, I generally go for the jugular from the get-go.

 

Apparently, they expect me to take their abuse lying down, and regularly complain about my "bullying" tactics.

 

So, these mystics can dish it out, but they cannot take it.

 

Given the damage their theory has done to Marxism, and the abuse they all dole out, they are lucky this is all I can do to them.

 

Since I have no respect whatsoever for those who peddle these mystical ideas, but who are, even now, helping to ruin Marxism by peddling more of it, it is no big surprise that I am hostile.

 

But, it is worth pointing out that this comrade's rather sensitive and precious attitude would have meant that much of Anti-Dühring and Materialism and Empirio-criticism would never have seen the light of day!

 

The other political points he makes are no less 'sectarian', so we can take the jibes he throws in my general direction with a bucket of salt.

 

And he misses the point. The joke isn't directed at AIDS, but at the mystics who control our ideas. Like AIDS, they are killing Marxism.

 

So, after all the bluster, we are still looking for someone, anyone, who can put me in my place.

 

It's about time someone did!

 

No good looking to 'Semendyaev', then!

 

Blake has now added this piece of 'helpful' advice:

 

For anybody trying to get their head around or through Hegelian thought I unexpectedly enjoyed Understanding Hegelianism by Robert Sinnerbrink. It's a series of short exegetical pieces on major European thinkers influenced by Hegel and has some very incisive criticisms of them.

 

In fact, anyone who wants to see where Hegel screwed up (and this is an Essay I wrote for beginners), check this out.

 

And he didn't screw up where most (sorry, all) dialecticians, including Marx, think he did. Hegel's blunders mean there is in fact no 'rational core' to his work, upside down or 'the right way up'. What is more, these are errors that most non-Marxist critics of Hegel have failed to spot, too -- indeed, I can't think of another commentator on Hegel who has spotted these glaring screw-ups (other than, perhaps, Bertrand Russell).

 

Also, check out my comments over at Wikipedia:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Law_of_thought#Problems

 

A more detailed consideration of Hegel's logical and philosophical blunders can be found here, here, and here.

 

'Comrade 138672':

 

Just wait. She will post a reply on her site within a day or so. She is like a predator always waiting to devour another dialectician.

 

Yum, Yum!

 

Replies VII

 

'Semendyaev' has returned to the fray with yet another futile attempt to defend the indefensible. This reminds me of a scene from Cool Hand Luke, where 'Luke', who has been incarcerated in a Southern US jail, finds himself in a fight with another convict. He is continually knocked off his feet, only to keep getting up for yet another beating:

 

 

 

Video One: 'Cool Hand' Semendyaev?

 

So, what devastating response has this comrade to offer his readers? Wonder no more:

 

Rosa's responses are becoming increasingly insubstantial....
 

Brave words, indeed, from someone who doesn't even understand his own theory (proof here and here)!

 

I have stated that Rosa Hegelianises the materialist dialectics; to this they reply that Lenin does so as well. This is, in fact, a direct untruth. Throughout his life, Lenin struggled ("and turned into?" Rosa might add -- but more on that later) against Hegelianisers of Marxism like Lukacs.

 

Well, he has certainly 'stated' it, but we have yet to see the proof.

 

Can we all do this? Can we all make stuff up, without a shred of evidence in support? Ok, in that case: 'Semendyaev' is a shape-shifting lizard.

 

[Less partisan readers will notice that 'Semendyaev' simply ignored my request that he provide proof of this allegation. Alas, DM-fans don't do proof, just assertion.]

 

But, how does he respond? Again, wonder no more:

 

As far as I can tell, Rosa's only source for this bizarre claim is one sentence in Lenin's conspectus of the Logic, to the effect that many Marxists (probably Plekhanov and Orthodox, and the school around them) have failed to understand the Marxist dialectic because they have failed to understand Hegel. But this does not mean that the Marxist dialectic is Hegelian; understanding the origin of a theory is important, but this does not mean that the theory is its origin. In any case, it's a strongly-worded sentence. But what else can one expect? It wasn't exactly meant for public consumption.

 

Well, if that were my only source, it would still be one more than the number of sources 'Semendyaev' quoted in support of his claim that I 'Hegelianise' Marx.

 

Fortunately it isn't. Right throughout my site (but especially here and here) I quote Lenin extensively to show that he uncritically appropriated passage after passage from Hegel's Logic, and knitted them seamlessly into his own world view -- without even so much as a perfunctory attempt to flip that Hermetic Harebrain 'the right way up'. [More of the same, below -- here and here.]

 

"But this does not mean that the Marxist dialectic is Hegelian; understanding the origin of a theory is important, but this does not mean that the theory is its origin. In any case, it's a strongly-worded sentence. But what else can one expect? It wasn't exactly meant for public consumption."

 

I agree, this doesn't mean the Marxist dialectic is Hegelian (where have I ever said it was?), but it does mean that Lenin Hegelianised it.

 

So what if these comments weren't meant for public consumption; Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks still reveal how much of an Hegelian he was in private, just as Newton's private papers reveal how much of a Hermeticist, Numerologist, Rosicrucian, Kabbalist, Alchemist, and Christian Mystic he was when no one was looking.

 

Here is what I have said about Marx's dialectic ('Semendyaev' would be well advised to do his homework in future before he tries to take me on -- this is what happened to scores of DM-fans, over at RevLeft, who similarly failed to do their homework before they attempted to debate this mystical creed with me; warning -- it isn't a pretty sight!):

 

In fact, upon learning of the aims of my site, rarely does a dialectically-distracted comrade (but, these are mainly drawn from the HCD-tendency) fail to quote the following passage (of Lenin's) at me, so influential has it become:

 

"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. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!" [Lenin (1961), p.180. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

[HCD = High Church Dialectician. This term is explained here. Exact references can be accessed here.]

 

Nevertheless, Marx himself certainly laid down no such preconditions for understanding his work. In fact, if anything, and as we will soon see, he tended to play down Hegel's influence.

 

However, this myth has sunk so deep in the collective Dialectical Mind that this response of mine will elicit immediate disbelief. But, it is nonetheless true for all that.

 

Here is why:

 

By the late 1850s, Marx himself pointed out (again, in a side remark) that the relevance of Hegel's method could be summarised in a few printers' sheets:

 

"What was of great use to me as regards method of treatment was Hegel's Logic at which I had taken another look by mere accident, Freiligrath having found and made me a present of several volumes of Hegel, originally the property of Bakunin. If ever the time comes when such work is again possible, I should very much like to write 2 or 3 sheets making accessible to the common reader the rational aspect of the method which Hegel not only discovered but also mystified." [Marx to Engels, 16/01/1858; MECW, Volume 40, p.248; copy here. Bold emphasis in the original.]

 

Needless to say, Marx never supplied his readers with such a précis. From this we may perhaps draw the conclusion that in the end Marx didn't really think Hegel's method was all that significant or useful. [Indeed, the evidence presented below suggests this is an understatement.] So, despite all the millions of words he committed to paper, he didn't consider it important enough to complete these relatively few pages.

 

Meanwhile, and in stark contrast, Marx spent a whole year of his life banging on about Karl Vogt -- but he still couldn't be bothered with this 'vitally important' summary.

 

Even had Marx written such a summary (and yet he did in fact endorse someone else's summary, and it is a Hegel-free zone -- see below), it would still have meant that only a tiny fraction of Hegel's work was relevant to understanding Das Kapital: a few pages!

 

Contrast that with what Lenin said.

 

Attentive readers, too, will no doubt have noticed that Marx tells us that he encountered Hegel's Logic by "accident"; this hardly suggests he was a constant and avid reader of that work. Indeed, he didn't even possess his own copy and had to be given one as a present by Freiligrath!

 

In contrast, the only summary we have of "the dialectic method" that Marx published and endorsed in his entire life suggests the interpretation presented below is 100% correct.

 

Much has been made of certain references to Hegel in Marx's later work. However, a close reading of them reveals a picture that is quite different from the standard line retailed by Dialectical Marxists. The scattered remarks concerning Hegelian Philosophy -- which mostly appear in unpublished books and letters -- are, at best, inconclusive. [Cf., Carver's remarks noted above, in Note 6.] I will examine several of them in what follows.

 

[It is worth emphasising at this point that I am not denying Hegel was a major influence on Marx's earlier work, only that by the time he came to write Das Kapital, he had waved 'goodbye' to that mystical and logical incompetent.]

 

Some might be tempted to point to the following quotation from the Afterword to the Second Edition of Das Kapital in support of the idea that Marx was still being influenced by Hegel's method (but only if put 'the right way up') when he wrote that classic work:

 

"...I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even, here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him." [Marx (1976), p.103. Bold emphasis added. I have used the punctuation found in MECW here.]

 

However, Marx's use of the word "coquetted" suggests Hegel's Logic -- at best -- had only a superficial influence on his ideas, confined merely to certain "modes of expression", and limited to just a few sections of Das Kapital. [Again, contrast that with what Lenin said, and with what we are about to discover about Marx's own view of "the dialectic method".]

 

Marxist dialecticians often take exception to this interpretation of the Afterword, arguing that Marx's "coquetting" was, on his own admission, confined to the chapter on value, not the rest of the book. This is a valid objection, but, in view of the material presented below, it isn't conclusive.

 

Far from it.

 

First of all, the punctuation in MECW (reproduced above) suggests Marx was using the chapter on value as one example where he had "coquetted" with Hegel's ideas, but it wasn't the only place. Moreover, it would be decidedly odd if he had "coquetted" in the most important chapter of the book, but nowhere else in the same work. Why pick on only the most important chapter?

 

Second, as far as Marx "openly" avowing himself a pupil of Hegel, he pointedly put that comment in the past tense:

 

"I criticised the mystificatory side of the Hegelian dialectic nearly thirty years ago, at a time when is was still the fashion. But just when I was working on the first volume of Capital, the ill-humoured, arrogant and mediocre epigones who now talk large in educated German circles began to take pleasure in treating Hegel in the same way as the good Moses Mendelssohn treated Spinoza in Lessing's time, namely as a 'dead dog'. I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even, here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him." [Ibid., pp.102-03. Bold emphases added. Once more, I have used the punctuation found in MECW.]

 

This is hardly a ringing endorsement; indeed, it is equivocal, at best. Marx doesn't say he is now a pupil of Hegel, but that he once was. Of course, it might still have been the case that he counted himself a pupil of Hegel when the above was written (and this letter tends to support that view), but there is nothing here to suggest that Marx viewed the link between his own and Hegel's work in the way Lenin did, or in the way that subsequent dialecticians have.

 

Of course, one can call a theorist a "mighty thinker", and claim to have learnt much from her/him, even while disagreeing with everything she/he said. For example, I think Plato is a "mighty thinker", and I have learnt much from him (mainly, how not to proceed!), and yet, I disagree with 99.99% of what he said.

 

John Rees attempted to neutralise this devastating admission (that the extent of the influence on Marx of Hegel's Logic was no more than a few jargonised expressions, used only "here and there", and with which Marx merely "coquetted"), by arguing as follows:

 

"Remarkably, this last quotation is sometimes cited as evidence that Marx was not serious about his debt to Hegel and that he only or merely 'coquetted' with Hegel's phraseology, and that he really did not make any further use of the dialectic. That this interpretation is false should be obvious from this sentence alone. The meaning is clearly that Marx was so keen to identify with Hegel that he 'even' went so far as to use the same terms as 'that mighty thinker' not that he 'only' used those terms." [Rees (1998), p.100.]

 

Well, if that is so, why did Marx put his praise of Hegel in the past tense, and why did he immediately add the following?

 

"...[E]ven, here and there, in the chapter on the theory of value, [that he had -- RL] coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him." [Marx (1976), p.103. Bold emphasis added. Once more, I have used the punctuation found in MECW.]

 

This is quite clear: Marx himself (not me, not Peter Struve, not James Burnham, not Max Eastman...), Marx himself says that he "coquetted" with Hegelian phraseology (hardly a serious use of the Logic!), and only in certain places ("here and there"). So, far from "using" such terms, as Rees suggests, he merely "coquetted" with them. Indeed, had this alleged "debt" to Hegel been plain for all to see, Marx would surely not have expressed himself so equivocally. [These days we'd perhaps use 'scare quotes'.]

 

As will soon become clear, the core HM ideas in Das Kapital owe much more to the dialectical method of Aristotle, Kant and the Scottish Historical School (of Ferguson, Millar, Robertson, Smith, Hume, Steuart) than they do to Hegel.

 

[On this, see Meek (1954). On Kant, see Wood (1998, 1999). On Marx and Aristotle, see McCarthy (1992), Meikle (1995). See also my comments at RevLeft, here and here.]

 

It is now apparent that the ideas of these earlier dialecticians, coupled with the above comments (and the content of the long passage quoted below), represent the "rational kernel" of that mystical theory -- but nothing from Hegel.

 

Hence, for Marx, to rotate Hegel and put him 'on his feet' is to reveal how empty his head is. The "rational kernel" contains not one microgram of Hegel.

 

Some have pointed to Marx's own words -- where he refers to his "dialectic method" -- in order to counter the above allegations. But, what did Marx mean by this phrase?

 

Well, we needn't speculate. Marx himself tells us what he meant by it in that same Afterword to the Second Edition. There he quotes a reviewer in the following terms:

 

"After a quotation from the preface to my 'Criticism of Political Economy,' Berlin, 1859, pp. IV-VII, where I discuss the materialistic basis of my method, the writer goes on:

 

'The one thing which is of moment to Marx, is to find the law of the phenomena with whose investigation he is concerned; and not only is that law of moment to him, which governs these phenomena, in so far as they have a definite form and mutual connexion within a given historical period. Of still greater moment to him is the law of their variation, of their development, i.e., of their transition from one form into another, from one series of connexions into a different one. This law once discovered, he investigates in detail the effects in which it manifests itself in social life. Consequently, Marx only troubles himself about one thing: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting-points. For this it is quite enough, if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over; and this all the same, whether men believe or do not believe it, whether they are conscious or unconscious of it. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence. ... If in the history of civilisation the conscious element plays a part so subordinate, then it is self-evident that a critical inquiry whose subject-matter is civilisation, can, less than anything else, have for its basis any form of, or any result of, consciousness. That is to say, that not the idea, but the material phenomenon alone can serve as its starting-point. Such an inquiry will confine itself to the confrontation and the comparison of a fact, not with ideas, but with another fact. For this inquiry, the one thing of moment is, that both facts be investigated as accurately as possible, and that they actually form, each with respect to the other, different momenta of an evolution; but most important of all is the rigid analysis of the series of successions, of the sequences and concatenations in which the different stages of such an evolution present themselves. But it will be said, the general laws of economic life are one and the same, no matter whether they are applied to the present or the past. This Marx directly denies. According to him, such abstract laws do not exist. On the contrary, in his opinion every historical period has laws of its own.... As soon as society has outlived a given period of development, and is passing over from one given stage to another, it begins to be subject also to other laws. In a word, economic life offers us a phenomenon analogous to the history of evolution in other branches of biology. The old economists misunderstood the nature of economic laws when they likened them to the laws of physics and chemistry. A more thorough analysis of phenomena shows that social organisms differ among themselves as fundamentally as plants or animals. Nay, one and the same phenomenon falls under quite different laws in consequence of the different structure of those organisms as a whole, of the variations of their individual organs, of the different conditions in which those organs function, &c. Marx, e.g., denies that the law of population is the same at all times and in all places. He asserts, on the contrary, that every stage of development has its own law of population. ... With the varying degree of development of productive power, social conditions and the laws governing them vary too. Whilst Marx sets himself the task of following and explaining from this point of view the economic system established by the sway of capital, he is only formulating, in a strictly scientific manner, the aim that every accurate investigation into economic life must have. The scientific value of such an inquiry lies in the disclosing of the special laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, death of a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher one. And it is this value that, in point of fact, Marx's book has.'

 

"Whilst the writer pictures what he takes to be actually my method, in this striking and [as far as concerns my own application of it] generous way, what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?" [Marx (1976), pp.101-02. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at my site.]

 

In the above passage, not one single Hegelian concept is to be found -- no "contradictions", no change of "quantity into quality", no "negation of the negation", no "unity and identity of opposites", no "interconnected Totality", no "universal change" --, and yet Marx calls this the "dialectic method", and says of it that it is "my method".

 

So, Marx's "method" has had Hegel completely excised --, except for the odd phrase or two, "here and there", with which he merely "coquetted".

 

In that case, and once more, Marx's "dialectic method" more closely resembles that of Aristotle, Kant and the Scottish School.

 

[This is, of course, the version of HM I have been advocating all along.]

 

Others point to the following passage:

 

"My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of 'the Idea,' he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of 'the Idea.' With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought." [Ibid., p.102. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Links added.]

 

But, one can't get more "opposite" to Hegel than to remove his ideas totally from one's own.

 

Again, we needn't speculate about this, since the long passage above -- in which there no trace of Hegel whatsoever, and which Marx's still calls "the dialectic method" -- supports this interpretation.

 

Recall this is the only summary of 'the dialectic method' Marx published in his entire life!

 

[I will pass no comment here on Marx's odd ideas about "reflection"; I will, however, do so in Essay Twelve Part Four, when it is published.]

 

Still others refer us to the following remarks:

 

"The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel's hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.

 

In its mystified form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension and affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and therefore takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence; because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary." [Ibid., p.102.]

 

Of course, this leaves it open to interpretation what the "rational form" of the dialectic amounts to. But, if we rely on what Marx actually published, as opposed to what tradition would have us believe, then the long passage above shows that the "rational form" contains no Hegel at all -- upside down or the 'right way up'. Indeed, as noted earlier, to turn Hegel "the right side up" is to show how empty his head really is!

 

But, what about this?

 

"The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel's hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner." [Ibid.]

 

To be sure, this doesn't prevent Hegel from being the first to do what Marx says. What does prevent him is that Hegel wasn't the first -- Aristotle, Kant and the Scottish School were. Moreover, Hegel failed to present us with a "comprehensive and conscious" form of 'the dialectic', as that long quotation shows. It isn't possible to make sense of Hegel's 'method'.

 

So, according to Marx's own endorsement -- not mine -- "the dialectic method" contains not one atom of Hegel.

 

Naturally, DM-fans are guaranteed not like this, but they should pick a fight with Marx, not me.

 

[Indeed, they most certainly do not like it. Witness the reception an earlier version of the above received at RevLeft (and elsewhere) -- here, here, here and again here. Reality is one thing dialectically-distracted comrades are not used to facing. (Witness, too, the latest attempt to foist Hegel on Das Kapital, here.) In these 'debates', I have responded to several further objections advanced against this interpretation of Das Kapital, some of which might have occurred to the reader. I do not want to reproduce this material here, so sceptical readers are referred to the above debates for more details.]

 

Woods and Grant, however, note that Lenin argued that Marx did leave behind his own version of Hegel's Logic, namely Das Kapital [Woods and Grant (1995), p.76.]. But, Marx's own words (i.e., where he tells us he merely "coquetted" with Hegelian terminology, and only in a few isolated places, coupled with his description of the summary written by that reviewer -- which he calls "his method" and "the dialectic method", but which contains not one atom of Hegel) shows that this is much more than a mere "exaggeration" on Lenin's part -- it is a complete fabrication.

 

It is also worth recalling that Lenin repeatedly attributes to Marx philosophical ideas that can't be found in his work -- for example, this:

 

"All these people could not have been ignorant of the fact that Marx and Engels scores of times termed their philosophical views dialectical materialism." [Lenin (1972), p.6.]

 

Lenin can't have been ignorant of the fact that Marx never referred to his ideas this way. Not once.

 

Which means that Lenin isn't a reliable guide when it comes to Marx's 'philosophy', or his method.

 

[I have put the word "philosophy" in 'scare' quotes here since I aim to show in a later Essay that (in the mid-1840s) Marx abandoned this bogus and pointless boss-class discipline for good. Added on edit; In fact, here it is.]

 

However, Terrell Carver, a noted critic of the 'orthodox' view (that (1) Engels and Marx saw eye-to-eye on everything, and that (2) Hegel exerted a profound influence on Marx), has back-tracked somewhat, as far as I can see (in Carver (2000)). Even so, Carver's reasoning in this case is uncharacteristically obscure. Fortunately, John Rosenthal has neutralised this argument; for more details, see Rosenthal (1998).

 

It could be argued that the Grundrisse (i.e., Marx (1973)) is living disproof of much of the above. Well, it would be had Marx seen fit to publish it, but he didn't --, and so it isn't.

 

But, he did publish this:

 

"...I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even, here and there in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him." [Marx (1976), p.103. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Moreover, Marx did publish the only summary of "the dialectic method" that he endorsed in his entire life, which is, as we have seen, a Hegel-free zone.

 

So, whatever it was that happened to Marx's thinking between the writing of the Grundrisse and the publishing of Das Kapital, it clearly changed his view of Hegel's Logic -- to such an extent that its phraseology became something with which he merely wished to "coquette" --, or, in fact, almost totally ignore.

 

Some critics of the above point to certain letters Marx sent to Engels and others, which seem to support the view that Marx still looked to Hegel (as some sort of authority) when he wrote Das Kapital. However, these letters aren't conclusive, either. Moreover, and more importantly, no unpublished work can countermand an author's published comments. Once again, in Marx's case, and once more, this includes the only summary of "the dialectic method" he published in his entire life (quoted above), in which there is no trace of Hegel whatsoever.

 

Of course, this doesn't mean that Marx's unpublished material isn't important, only that when it comes to interpreting an author's work, published work must take precedence.

 

Hence, if we rely on what Marx actually published, which he called "his method" and "the dialectic method" -- and ignore the failed Hegel-Engels tradition -- it is clear that Marx had turned his back on this 'mighty thinker' when he wrote Das Kapital.

 

Others point to the following passage from Das Kapital:

 

"A certain stage of capitalist production necessitates that the capitalist be able to devote the whole of the time during which he functions as a capitalist, i.e., as personified capital, to the appropriation and therefore control of the labour of others, and to the selling of the products of this labour. The guilds of the middle ages therefore tried to prevent by force the transformation of the master of a trade into a capitalist, by limiting the number of labourers that could be employed by one master within a very small maximum. The possessor of money or commodities actually turns into a capitalist in such cases only where the minimum sum advanced for production greatly exceeds the maximum of the middle ages. Here, as in natural science, is shown the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel (in his 'Logic'), that merely quantitative differences beyond a certain point pass into qualitative changes." [Marx (1996), p.313. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at my site.]

 

Here is what I have said about this passage in Essay Seven Part One:

 

Values (it is assumed that these are "exchange values") do not become Capital by mere quantitative increment. It requires the presence of a Capitalist Mode of Production (and thus a change in the Relations of Production), or a different use of that money, for this to happen. The capitalist concerned has to do something with these exchange values. So, the mere increase of exchange values does not automatically "pass over" into a qualitative change and become Capital. They have to be invested, and that too isn't automatic (in certain circumstances, they could be consumed). So, what we have here is a change in quality passing over into another change in quality! Quantity has nothing to do with it. The same quantity of money could be used as Capital or fail to be so used. It requires a change in its quality (its use) to effect such a development.

 

Over the last twenty-five years or so, in my trawl through the Dustbowl of Dialectics, I have yet to encounter a single dialectician who has pointed out that the above application of Hegel's 'Law' contains a serious error!

 

Hence, £x/$y (or their equivalent) owned by a Medieval Lord in, say, the Eleventh Century couldn't become Capital, no matter how large this pot of money became, whereas £w/$z in Nineteenth Century Manchester, even though it might be less than the £x/$y pounds held by that Lord (allowing for inflation, etc.), would be Capital if employed in certain ways. It isn't the quantity that is important here but the Mode of Production and the use to which the money is put, that are.

 

Furthermore, does this money actually "develop"? In what way can it "develop"? Sure, money can be saved and/or accumulated, but how does a £1/$1 coin "develop" if its owner saves or accumulates more of the same? Even if we redefine "save" and  "accumulate" to mean "develop" (protecting this 'law' by yet another terminological dodge, thus imposing it on the facts), not all money will "develop" in this way. What if all the money was stolen or had been expropriated from, or by, another non-capitalist? What if all of it was obtained (all at once) by selling land, slaves, works of art, political or other favours, etc? Where is the "development" here? But, it can still operate as Capital, howsoever it was acquired, depending on its use and the Mode of Production in which this takes place.

 

Of course, this is not to deny that there were Capitalists (or nascent Capitalists) in pre-Capitalist Europe; but whatever money they had, its nature as Capital wasn't determined by quantity, but by use. This is also true in the transition from Feudalism to Capitalism (before the Capitalist Mode of Production was apparent); it's the use to which money is put that decides whether or not it is Capital, not its quantity.

 

In which case, this is an egregious mis-application of Hegel's 'Law' -- by Marx himself! Now, either we believe Marx was an imbecile (in that he committed this crass error, and failed even to understand HM!), or we conclude he was still "coquetting". Again, these days we'd use 'scare quotes' in such circumstances.

 

[I have debated this alleged use of Hegel's 'Law' at length over at RevLeft; the argument can be accessed here (beginning with a challenge from a critic in post #202, and then stretching across the next few pages.]

 

Others point to this passage from Volume One of Das Kapital:

 

"John St[uart] Mill, on the contrary, accepts on the one hand Ricardo's theory of profit, and annexes on the other hand Senior's 'remuneration of abstinence.' He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction, the source of all dialectic. It has never occurred to the vulgar economist to make the simple reflexion, that every human action may be viewed, as 'abstinence' from its opposite. Eating is abstinence from fasting, walking, abstinence from standing still, working, abstinence from idling, idling, abstinence from working, &c. These gentlemen would do well, to ponder, once in a while, over Spinoza's: 'Determinatio est Negatio.' [Every determination is also a negation -- RL.]" [Marx (1996), p.596. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at my site.]

 

This also appears to contradict the conclusions reached above.

 

Here is what I have posted at RevLeft on this passage (slightly edited):

 

The first thing to note is that this sentence is ambiguous:


"He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction, the source of all dialectic."

 

You [i.e., the individual with whom I was discussing this at RevLeft] seem to think its meaning is obvious, that Marx is claiming that "Hegelian contradiction is the source of all dialectic", but this isn't plausible, and for several reasons:

1) Marx goes on to appeal to Spinoza's principle to illustrate the source of the dialectic:


"It has never occurred to the vulgar economist to make the simple reflexion, that every human action may be viewed, as 'abstinence' from its opposite. Eating is abstinence from fasting, walking, abstinence from standing still, working, abstinence from idling, idling, abstinence from working, &c. These gentlemen would do well, to ponder, once in a way, over Spinoza's: 'Determinatio est Negatio.'"


Of course, Spinoza's 'principle' predated the invention of Hegel's 'contradictions'. If so, Hegelian 'contradictions' can't be the source of all dialectic (as Marx is clearly indicating by quoting Spinoza). And, indeed, these 'contradictions' most certainly aren't the source, since the dialectic originated in Ancient Greece (as Marx knew full well).

2. The sentence itself gives us a clue as to Marx's intentions:


"He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction, the source of all dialectic."

 

Now, the final clause could refer back to this passage:


"as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction...."


Or, to this:


"He is as much at home in absurd contradictions...."

 

Or, what is far more likely, to this:


"He is as much at home in absurd contradictions, as he feels at sea in the Hegelian contradiction...."

 

In other words Marx is alluding here to the sort of puzzlement that motivated the early Greeks to engage in dialectic (the pursuit of truth through argument and counter-argument), puzzlement that has now re-surfaced in Mill's mind.

And this interpretation is supported by point 1) above -- Marx appeals to the puzzling features of Spinoza's Principle.

So, far from Marx being guilty of a simple historical error here (i.e., the claim that Hegel's 'contradictions' are the source of all dialectic, which they plainly aren't), he is pointing out something much less controversial: that puzzlement is the source of the dialectic (in fact, this is a remarkably Wittgensteinian claim to make).

 

This attempt to absolve Marx of crass idiocy has gone down rather badly with one comrade over at LibCom -- on that, see here and here. But, if we attend to what Marx actually said, and not what we would like him to have said, or what tradition tells us he must have said, then my approach to this question succeeds in absolving him of just such idiocy.

 

The choice is quite stark: either Marx was an incompetent ignoramus or the above interpretation is correct.

 

Take your pick...

 

In that case, Lenin should have said:

 

"It is possible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, merely by coquetting with the phraseology of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later anyone who is capable of coquetting will understand Marx!!" [Edited misquotation of Lenin (1961), p.180.]

 

[Of course, support for this reading of the relation between Marx, Lenin and Hegel can be found in Louis Althusser's paper, 'Lenin Before Hegel' (reprinted in Althusser (2001)). I hasten to add that I do not agree with everything Althusser says in that essay (for example, I do not accept the "epistemological" break Althusser foists on Marx -- Marx is plainly not interested in 'epistemology', and odd idea Althusser himself has foisted on Marx). It is also worth noting that, as far as I can determine, I push this argument much further than Althusser ever would, or could. After all, he still thinks the word "contradiction" has a role to play in Marxist theory!]

 

Back to 'Semendyaev', who continues:

 

Rosa also pretends to not understand how words are commonly used.

 

Not so; what I do claim is that dialecticians don't understand their own use of terms like "quality", "node", "contradiction" and "opposite"! Certainly, if 'Semendyaev' does understand these terms, he has kept that fact rather well hidden (as my last reply to him revealed, at least with respect to "quality").

 

But, what of this?

 

For example, they pretend that chemical identity is the only possible criterion for identity of two objects (in which case graphite and graphene are the same thing, and the world can save a fortune on new semiconductor technology). [Emphasis changed from underlining to italic.]

 

'Semendyaev' has now reverted to the default position adopted by most dialectically-distracted comrades with whom I have debated this obscure 'theory, which is: if in doubt, make stuff up about Rosa and/or her beliefs -- but, whatever you do, don't quote her, or neutral observers will be able to see how much of a fibber you are!

 

Nowhere do I "pretend that chemical identity is the only possible criterion for identity of two objects"; what I do allege is that DM-fans are so vague about what they themselves mean by "quality" that their own examples fail to match what little we are told about differences in "quality". And 'Semendyaev' is no help in this regard, either, since he is no less confused! 

 

But, he has a reply:

 

And when I point out that there are multiple criteria of identity, they accuse me of being hopelessly vague. But this is nonsense. Even small children realise that there are multiple criteria of identity, so that liquids are all the same as liquids (whether in the mass or count sense, it doesn't matter), and different insofar as their chemical composition or physical properties or whatnot are different.

 

Well, let's look at what he said, and what I said in response:

 

'Semendyaev':

 

Rosa objects that I have not defined quality. I am surprised that someone who, as far as I can tell from the archived discussion, constantly references Wittgenstein would ask someone to define terms that everyone knows how to use. Even so, I think the definition Rosa cites is crude, but adequate.

 

In fact, I register a broader complaint. I first of all note that we are never told what DM-fans mean by "quality", and then I point out that this allows them to apply the term subjectively, in relation to what is supposed to be an objective 'law', applying it when it suits them refusing to do so when it doesn't. [As we will soon see, this comrade does likewise!]

 

But, what of this?

 

I am surprised that someone who, as far as I can tell from the archived discussion, constantly references Wittgenstein would ask someone to define terms that everyone knows how to use.

 

Well, I'd be only too happy if 'Semendyaev' adopted Wittgenstein's method. If he were to do so, he'd soon come to see that DM is not only non-sensical, it is incoherent non-sense, to boot (proof here). But, what of the claim that since I constantly reference Wittgenstein then I shouldn't complain about terms that "everyone knows how to use". Unfortunately, this idea isn't to be found in Wittgenstein's work -- but, even if it were, there is precious little evidence that DM-fans know how to use this term. [Proof here. More below!]

 

Exhibit A for the prosecution:

 

Qualitative change, so to say, is a process whereby one object becomes another kind of object. Now, Rosa objects that, for example, a quantity of liquid water is the same kind of object as ice. Well, yes and no. It is the same kind of object with respect to its chemical properties. But in other aspects, the region of the material world that had been ice becomes another kind of object when the ice melts.

 

"Another kind of object" is no less vague, unfortunately. We can see this from the example this comrade uses: water as a liquid and as a solid (ice). Is this a "new kind of object"? Well, both are still H20. So, there's no "new kind of object" here, at all. In fact, we aren't even told what counts as an "object", let alone what constitutes a new kind of 'object'.

 

[This echoes the problems we met earlier with 'Slim's' attempt to use the word "thing". Unless the domain of quantification is specified very clearly, these words are philosophically and scientifically useless.]

 

But, 'Semendyaev' went on to qualify what he meant:

 

The criterion of identity is not the same when discussing the various aspects of matter. Chemically, water vapour is the same kind of thing as ice. But in terms of the distinction between gases and condensed matter, water vapour is the same kind of thing as iodine vapours.

There are, of course, alternative definitions, that reproduce the same correct common usage of the terms "quantitative" and "qualitative". Quantitative change, for example, is change whose endpoints can be nontrivially and nonarbitrarily associated with a certain quantity - for example, changes in position can be nontrivially associated with quadruples of numbers that describe the coordinates of the starting point and the endpoint in some set of coordinates. Qualitative changes can be associated with such quantities only trivially (i.e. someone could arbitrarily assign the number 1 to one allotropic state and 2 to another - but this is hardly informative).

 

That makes my point for me, I think. This term, as it is used by DM-fans, is hopelessly vague. But, in order to close off every escape route seemingly open to the beleaguered DM-fan, it might be wise to examine the specifics of the above passage in more detail.

 

The criterion of identity is not the same when discussing the various aspects of matter. Chemically, water vapour is the same kind of thing as ice. But in terms of the distinction between gases and condensed matter, water vapour is the same kind of thing as iodine vapours.

 

Well, criteria of identity for mass nouns and count nouns (and what they supposedly designate) are totally different, so the above will depend on whether 'Semendyaev' is referring to buckets, glasses, pools or bodies (etc.) of water, or just water tout court -- and blocks, chucks or slivers of ice (etc.), or just ice tout court. He failed to say. So, not much clearer in this respect, either!

 

But, let us suppose he is referring to mass nouns. [Good luck with that one comrade! Philosophers and logicians have been looking for such criteria for some time -- with not much to show for it!]

 

Even so, as we can see for ourselves, 'Semendyaev' arrived at no clear conclusions in the above passage (other than seeming to make my point for me!), so there's not much more that can be said about it.

 

What of the longer passage, though?

 

There are, of course, alternative definitions, that reproduce the same correct common usage of the terms "quantitative" and "qualitative". Quantitative change, for example, is change whose endpoints can be nontrivially and nonarbitrarily associated with a certain quantity -- for example, changes in position can be nontrivially associated with quadruples of numbers that describe the coordinates of the starting point and the endpoint in some set of coordinates. Qualitative changes can be associated with such quantities only trivially (i.e. someone could arbitrarily assign the number 1 to one allotropic state and 2 to another -- but this is hardly informative).

 

Now, I have read this over many times, and I can't really see anywhere where this comrade makes it clear what he means by "new kind of object". He just seems to go round in circles.

 

[See what I meant earlier by "vague and imprecise"?]

 

Perhaps someone can help me out here.

 

Neutral readers will no doubt have noticed that 'Semendyaev' just goes round in circles in the above exchange, and we are no clearer at the end than we were at the beginning concerning what he means by "quality" (except we are now quite clear how confused he is!).

 

Even so, does this comrade now seize this golden opportunity to rectify the situation (after all we have only been waiting nigh on 200 years for some Hegel fan or other (upside down or the 'right way up') to tell us!)?

 

Judge for yourselves:

 

And when I point out that there are multiple criteria of identity, they accuse me of being hopelessly vague. But this is nonsense. Even small children realise that there are multiple criteria of identity, so that liquids are all the same as liquids (whether in the mass or count sense, it doesn't matter), and different insofar as their chemical composition or physical properties or whatnot are different.

 

Sure, (many) small children have mastered the vocabulary of mass and count nouns, but it seems 'Semendyaev' must go back to school, for he thinks this distinction can be ignored.

 

Indeed, this comrade again misses the point; I raised the issue over different sorts of nouns to underline the fact that there are different criteria of identity for the things we speak about by means of them -- the exact opposite of what he alleges of me! Why does he think I made this very point except to agree with him that there are multiple criteria of identity. I wasn't just filling a few gaps on the page!

 

Sure liquids are all the same (in the sense they are liquids), but we still distinguish how we refer to them.

 

In order to help him see this point -- perhaps he'd like to try to count water (not buckets of water, or pools of water, or glasses of water), but just water (mass noun). Can't do it? Now, don't tell me that that isn't an important distinction -- even children know that they can't count water. Alternatively: try telling me how much (not how many), how much words (count noun) I have used in this sentence? Can't do that either? There's a surprise!

 

But, as the non-dialectical dust settles, is anyone any clearer about what 'Semendyaev' does mean by "quality"? [If so, please help him out and explain it for/to him; he is obviously floundering -- which is, of course, one reason why he was forced to make stuff up.] He has now had three goes at it, and it still isn't clear what he means.

 

I guess we are just going to have to wait another 200 years...

 

The same confusion -- or wilful ignorance, as the case might be -- is apparent in their reply to $lim_$weezy, when they act as if they do not understand that a hand is a thing, and that fingers, etc., are also things.

 

Readers can check this for themselves: 'Semendyaev' has clearly graduated (with honours) from the same School Of Confusion But Blame It On Everyone Else as Slim (on that see here and here).

 

Anyway, a hand is also eleven 'things' (five fingers, one palm, and five finger nails). So, is one 'thing' also eleven 'things'? Slim couldn't cope with this obvious antinomy, either -- and it seems that all that 'Semendyaev' can do to help him out is blame me!

 

This underlines the point I made earlier: DM-fans don't even understand their own jargon! But, they are happy to blame others for their failings all the same.

 

Vague and imprecise? What was I thinking!

 

But, this comrade has a come-back:

 

In the next paragraph, they object that I do not explain what a "kind of thing" means, even though the paragraph they quote does not mention the term, and in fact provides an alternate definition of quantitative (and, indirectly, qualitative) change that does not rely on kinds.

 

Indeed, but the DM-authors I quoted are the ones who used this term. If 'Semendyaev' wants to distance himself from even this minimum attempt to be clear, fine -- but, that will just sink his own pathetic attempt to explain himself, or this theory, deeper in the mire.

 

Oops, except, he did use the offending term (and twice, too!):

 

The criterion of identity is not the same when discussing the various aspects of matter. Chemically, water vapour is the same kind of thing as ice. But in terms of the distinction between gases and condensed matter, water vapour is the same kind of thing as iodine vapours.

 

But, what 'definition' is 'Semendyaev' referring to? This, perhaps?

 

Qualitative change, so to say, is a process whereby one object becomes another kind of object. Now, Rosa objects that, for example, a quantity of liquid water is the same kind of object as ice. Well, yes and no. It is the same kind of object with respect to its chemical properties. But in other aspects, the region of the material world that had been ice becomes another kind of object when the ice melts.

 

And, how did I respond? Why..., like this:

 

"Another kind of object" is no less vague, unfortunately. We can see this from the example this comrade uses: water as a liquid and as a solid (ice). Is this a "new kind of object"? Well, both are still H20. So, there's no "new kind of object" here, at all. In fact, we aren't even told what counts as an "object", let alone what constitutes a new kind of 'object'.

 

[This echoes the problems we met earlier with 'Slim's' attempt to use the word "thing". Unless the domain of quantification is specified very clearly, these words are philosophically and scientifically useless.]

 

To which this comrade has yet to respond. And, it isn't hard to see why: he plainly knows very little logic.

 

[I hope I am not maligning him unfairly, but anyone who knows any logic would be ten times clearer than 'Semendyaev' is about such matters; they certainly wouldn't keep using the word "thing" indiscriminately like this -- or, indeed "object".]

 

But, 'Semendyaev' isn't finished:

 

And then Rosa has the gall to accuse me of "Mickey Mouse Science". I wonder if Rosa thinks that scientists, before they start their calculations, sit down and try to define what a "thing" is.

 

Ah, but in their technical work, scientists don't use such vague terms, or employ them indiscriminately. [They might slip into using them in the popularisations they write, but that is a separate issue.]

 

So, yes, this comrade can now be inducted as an Academician of The Dialectical University of Mickey Mouse Science -- and, indeed, one of its most esteemed, honorary graduates.

 

But, what of this?

 

In fact, Rosa's view of science is hopelessly idealist, in both meanings of that term.

 

One of the distinguishing features of Mickey Mouse Science (and we must express our gratitude to this comrade for illustrating for us what this is yet again) is the fact its theorists offer little or no evidence in support of a particular thesis, allegation, or assertion. Now, by way of stark contrast, when I advance a particular allegation about the putative beliefs of DM-fans, I provide quotations in support, as a minimum requirement; otherwise I either don't do it, or I phrase my words tentatively -- or, indeed, I put them in the hypothetical or even subjunctive mood.

 

What does our esteemed Honours Graduate do? Does he provide even so much as one quotation from my work in support of this latest allegation (recall we are still waiting for a single quotation that substantiates his earlier accusation that I 'Hegelianise' Marx's dialectic)?

 

Yes, you guessed it: not even one!

 

In which case, I reckon 'Semendyaev' should sigh up for the prestigious Postgraduate Program, run by The Dialectical University of Mickey Mouse Science, since he is a dead cert to qualify with a PhD!

 

Alas, there is more:

 

The rest of the response is, as I've said, simply a restatement of Rosa's previous claims, often with long citations from their essays.

 

To which we have yet to see a reply. Deafening silence is no response.

 

[Could it be that 'Semendyaev' has no reply to make to the many criticisms I have levelled against this 'theory'? The suspicion grows stronger by the hour, and. indeed, with each 'reply' from him. Readers will perhaps notice that I reply to every single word he levels against me. If he isn't committed enough to the defence of his own 'theory', then I think we can all draw appropriate conclusions.]

 

But, what of this 'incisive' comment?

 

The chief problem of Rosa's account, as I see it is this: what they term the "dialectical classics" state that tendencies, processes, things etc. struggle with one another and change into the tendencies, processes, etc., they struggle with.

 

Er..., yes, so?

 

"So" this:

 

Alright. But this does not mean that every individual process or thing thereby becomes "their opposite". Rosa is not keeping track of the level at which dialectical processes occur; indeed, they are not keeping track of the level in which contradictions play out.

 

Thwack! Yet another bear trap slams shut!

 

Now, I often allege that DM-fans don't even know their own 'theory', and 'Semendyaev's' comment above simply provides us with yet more proof.

 

Here is what some of the 'dialectical classics' (and lesser DM-clones), which this comrade plainly hasn't read, have to tell us:

 

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

 

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

 

"For a stage in the outlook on nature where all differences become merged in intermediate steps, and all opposites pass into one another through intermediate links, the old metaphysical method of thought no longer suffices. Dialectics, which likewise knows no hard and fast lines, no unconditional, universally valid 'either-or' and which bridges the fixed metaphysical differences, and besides 'either-or' recognises also in the right place 'both this-and that' and reconciles the opposites, is the sole method of thought appropriate in the highest degree to this stage. Of course, for everyday use, for the small change of science, the metaphysical categories retain their validity." [Ibid., pp.212-13.]

 

"And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite…." [Plekhanov (1956), p.77.]

 

"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]….

 

"In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics….

 

"The splitting of the whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the 'essentials', one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristic features) of dialectics….

 

"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…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing…. 

 

"The unity…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.221-22, 357-58.]

 

"Hegel brilliantly divined the dialectics of things (phenomena, the world, nature) in the dialectics of concepts…. This aphorism should be expressed more popularly, without the word dialectics: approximately as follows: In the alternation, reciprocal dependence of all notions, in the identity of their opposites, in the transitions of one notion into another, in the eternal change, movement of notions, Hegel brilliantly divined precisely this relation of things to nature…. [W]hat constitutes dialectics?…. [M]utual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others." [Lenin (1961), pp.196-97.]

 

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

 

Dialectics is the teaching which shows how Opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical, -- under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another, -- why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another." [Ibid., p.109.]

 

"Of course, the fundamental proposition of Marxian dialectics is that all boundaries in nature and society are conventional and mobile, that there is not a single phenomenon which cannot under certain conditions be transformed into its opposite." [Lenin (1916). Quoted from here. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"Why is it that '...the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another'? Because that is just how things are in objective reality. The fact is that the unity or identity of opposites in objective things is not dead or rigid, but is living, conditional, mobile, temporary and relative; in given conditions, every contradictory aspect transforms itself into its opposite....

 

"In speaking of the identity of opposites in given conditions, what we are referring to is real and concrete opposites and the real and concrete transformations of opposites into one another....

 

"All processes have a beginning and an end, all processes transform themselves into their opposites. The constancy of all processes is relative, but the mutability manifested in the transformation of one process into another is absolute."  [Mao (1961b), pp.340-42.]

 

"Second, and just as unconditionally valid, that all things are at the same time absolutely different and absolutely or unqualifiedly opposed. The law may also be referred to as the law of the polar unity of opposites. This law applies to every single thing, every phenomenon, and to the world as a whole. Viewing thought and its method alone, it can be put this way: The human mind is capable of infinite condensation of things into unities, even the sharpest contradictions and opposites, and, on the other hand, it is capable of infinite differentiation and analysis of things into opposites. The human mind can establish this unlimited unity and unlimited differentiation because this unlimited unity and differentiation is present in reality." [Thalheimer (1936), p.161.]

 

"So far we have discussed the most general and most fundamental law of dialectics, namely, the law of the permeation of opposites, or the law of polar unity. We shall now take up the second main proposition of dialectics, the law of the negation of the negation, or the law of development through opposites. This is the most general law of the process of thought. I will first state the law itself and support it with examples, and then I will show on what it is based and how it is related to the first law of the permeation of opposites. There is already a presentiment of this law in the oldest Chinese philosophy, in the of Transformations, as well as in Lao-tse and his disciples -- and likewise in the oldest Greek philosophy, especially in Heraclitus. Not until Hegel, however, was this law developed.

"This law applies to all motion and changes of things, to real things as well as to their images in our minds, i.e., concepts. It states first of all that things and concepts move, change, and develop; all things are processes. All fixity of individual things is only relative, limited; their motion, change, or development is absolute, unlimited. For the world as a whole absolute motion and absolute rest coincide. The proof of this part of the proposition, namely, that all things are in flux, we have already given in our discussion of Heraclitus.

"The law of the negation of the negation has a special sense beyond the mere proposition that all things are processes and change. It also states something about the most general form of these changes, motions, or developments. It states, in the first place, that all motion, development, or change, takes place through opposites or contradictions, or through the negation of a thing.

"Conceptually the actual movement of things appears as a negation. In other words, negation is the most general way in which motion or change of things is represented in the mind. This is the first stage of this process. The negation of a thing from which the change proceeds, however, is in turn subject to the law of the transformation of things into their opposites." [Ibid.,
pp.170-71.]

 

"This dialectical activity is universal. There is no escaping from its unremitting and relentless embrace. 'Dialectics gives expression to a law which is felt in all grades of consciousness and in general experience. Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being inflexible and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by the dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than it is, is forced to surrender its own immediate or natural being, and to turn suddenly into its opposite.' (Encyclopedia, p.120)." [Novack (1971), pp.94-95; quoting Hegel (1975), p.118, although in a different translation from the one used here.]

 

"Formal logic, which is based on abstract, or simple, identity (A equals A), is too one-sided to explain this negation of one state of matter and its transformation into its opposite, in this case the lifeless into the living, because it excludes from its premises real difference and contradiction, which is the extreme development of difference. But the unity of opposites (A equals non-A), which makes contradiction explicit and intelligible, can explain this transition, which actually occurred on earth. The emergence of life from the nonliving in turn substantiates the objective basis in nature of this law of concrete contradiction, a cornerstone of dialectical logic." [Novack (1978), p.239.]

 

"Contradiction is an essential feature of all being. It lies at the heart of matter itself. It is the source of all motion, change, life and development. The dialectical law which expresses this idea is the law of the unity and interpenetration of opposites….

 

"In dialectics, sooner or later, things change into their opposite. In the words of the Bible, 'the first shall be last and the last shall be first.' We have seen this many times, not least in the history of great revolutions. Formerly backward and inert layers can catch up with a bang. Consciousness develops in sudden leaps. This can be seen in any strike. And in any strike we can see the elements of a revolution in an undeveloped, embryonic form. In such situations, the presence of a conscious and audacious minority can play a role quite similar to that of a catalyst in a chemical reaction. In certain instances, even a single individual can play an absolutely decisive role....

 

"This universal phenomenon of the unity of opposites is, in reality the motor-force of all motion and development in nature…. Movement which itself involves a contradiction, is only possible as a result of the conflicting tendencies and inner tensions which lie at the heart of all forms of matter....

 

"Contradictions are found at all levels of nature, and woe betide the logic that denies it. Not only can an electron be in two or more places at the same time, but it can move simultaneously in different directions. We are sadly left with no alternative but to agree with Hegel: they are and are not. Things change into their opposite. Negatively-charged electrons become transformed into positively-charged positrons. An electron that unites with a proton is not destroyed, as one might expect, but produces a new particle, a neutron, with a neutral charge.

 

"This is an extension of the law of the unity and interpenetration of opposites. It is a law which permeates the whole of nature, from the smallest phenomena to the largest...." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.43-47, 63-71.]

 

"Opposites in a thing are not only mutually exclusive, polar, repelling, each other; they also attract and interpenetrate each other. They begin and cease to exist together.... These dual aspects of opposites -- conflict and unity -- are like scissor blades in cutting, jaws in mastication, and two legs in walking. Where there is only one, the process as such is impossible: 'all polar opposites are in general determined by the mutual action of two opposite poles on one another, the separation and opposition of these poles exists only within their unity and interconnection, and, conversely, their interconnection exists only in their separation and their unity only in their opposition.' In fact, 'where one no sooner tries to hold on to one side alone then it is transformed unnoticed into the other....'" [Gollobin (1986), p.115; quoting Engels (1891), p.414.]

 

"But, change itself also constitutes a unity of opposites. In the most general way, a system undergoing change is becoming something that it was not and is cessing to be what it was. In one form or another a change represents the transformation of an object into its dialectical opposite, a process referred to as dialectical negation...." [Marquit (1982), pp.69-70.]

 

"Qualitative change is one of the basic concepts of dialectics. And so-called qualitative change refers precisely to the transformation of the character of a thing into the opposite and its change into another thing. To deny this is to deny the whole of dialectics." [Wang Jo-Shui, p.3, quoted from here. (This links to a PDF.)]

 

Apart from the more or less broad division of contradictions into antagonistic and non-antagonistic, it is possible to emphasize specifically contradictions which are the basic source of development of an object (this is contradiction in its essence), contradictions connected with the transition of an object from a given state into its opposite state...." [I. Narski, Soviet Philosophical Encyclopedia (1963), p.1; quoted from here. (This links to a PDF.)]

 

[Exact references can be found here. Incidentally, I could have quoted many more passages that say the same thing (on that, see here).]

 

So, the DM-classics tell us that (1) all things change into their opposite, and that (2) they do so as a result of struggling with that opposite, and hence that (3) they struggle with whatever it is that they change into.

 

Not only that, the lesser DM-clones interpret the classics in the same way as I have done. [Follow the above link for proof.]

 

In fact, I have yet to come across a single DM-text (classical or post-classical) that says anything like this:

 

But this does not mean that every individual process or thing thereby becomes "their opposite". Rosa is not keeping track of the level at which dialectical processes occur; indeed, they are not keeping track of the level in which contradictions play out.

 

[And I have read practically everything there is to read on this 'theory' written in, or translated into English. Perhaps this comrade can quote a single published source that agrees with his revisionist 'theory'? (No, thought not.)]

 

But, maybe comrade 'Semendyaev' has hit on a new DM-'law', one that the classicists (and everyone else) missed?

 

Alas not. The DM-classicists weren't just filling a few gaps in their books and articles on DM with mindless waffle when they wrote the above. They lifted this 'theory' from Hegel (and then tried to turn it the 'right way up'). He in turn didn't just dream these ideas up; they were part of his reply to David Hume's criticisms of rationalist theories of causation.

 

Again, here is how I have put this in that Essay that this comrade should have read before he made it plain he doesn't even understand his own 'theory'.

 

[Apologies for posting yet another tract from one of my Essays, but it is the only way I can think of to upgrade Semendyaev's' defective knowledge of dialectics so that he doesn't continue making a fool of himself in public again. (Not that he'll read it. I think he prefers to remain ignorant; either that of he enjoys making a fool of himself.)]

 

I first of all make the following point (which appears at the end of a list of woefully poor objections to my demolition of this 'theory' -- this one is objection (7)):

 

(7) [Some try] to repair this theory on-the-hoof, as it were, substituting their own preferred, but hastily concocted substitute theory -- all of which attempted repairs suffer from other serious 'difficulties' which they also fail to spot, 'difficulties' about which Hegel and the DM-classicists were well aware. Indeed, Hegel's theory was specifically aimed at circumventing these problems.

 

And here is what Hegel tried to avoid (an attempted solution which, as we will see, Lenin himself endorsed):

 

In response to (7) above it is worth recalling that Hegel invented this way of characterising change by appropriating and then adapting Kant's response to Hume's criticisms of rationalist theories of causation. Hume had argued that there is no logical or conceptual connection between cause and effect. This struck right at the heart of Rationalism, and Hegel was keen to show that Hume and the Empiricists were radically mistaken. Kant had already attempted to answer Hume, but his solution banished causation into the  Noumenon, about which we can know nothing. That approach was totally unacceptable to Hegel, so he looked for a logical connection between cause and effect. He found it in (1) Spinoza's claim that every determination is also a negation (which, by the way, neither theorist even so much as attempted to justify), and in (2) His argument that the 'law of identity' "stated negatively" implied the 'Law of Non-Contradiction' (which it doesn't).

 

Based on this, Hegel was 'able' to argue that for any concept A, "determinate negation" implies it is also not-A, and then not-not-A.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And here is Lenin's acknowledgement of this principle:

 

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

 

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

 

Lenin wrote in the margin:

 

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

 

To which he added:

 

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

 

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

 

It is worth quoting, therefore, the whole passage from Hegel's Logic (much of which Lenin approvingly copied out in the above Notebooks -- pp.225-28):

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The most relevant and important part of which is this:

 

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

 

This "reflection", as Hegel elsewhere calls it, of the "other in its own self", a unique "other", provides the logical link his theory required. Any other "other" would be "indifferent", and not the logical reflection he sought. It is from this that 'dialectical contradictions' arise, as Hegel notes. Hence, Lenin was absolutely right, this "other" is essential for "understanding" DM -- except he forgot to mention that dialectics is in fact rendered incomprehensible and unworkable as a result!

 

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

 

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

 

[The serious problems this odd idea creates for Hegel are outlined here.]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[Exact references can be found here.]

 

So, 'Semendyaev's' hastily concocted, 'on-the-hoof-sort-of-theory' fails to mesh with Lenin's sophisticated understanding of Hegel. Recall Lenin wrote this in the margin of his Notebooks:

 

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

 

From which we are forced to conclude once again that Semendyaev doesn't even understand his own theory! [Alas, that shouldn't stop him from continuing to pontificate about it.]

 

But, this patsy -- this 'Cool Hand Luke of Dialectics' -- rolls over and gamely drags himself up off the canvas, and leads with his chin yet again:

 

For example, is it the case that the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is an individual one? No, that is absurd. The struggle occurs at the level of society. Likewise, the struggle between the male and the female population of cats takes place at the level of an entire population of that species. Therefore, individual cats do not change sexes (since "male" and "female" are not contradictory tendencies that exist within cats). And individual proletarians only rarely become bourgeois and vice versa (and this is due to forces that, again, operate on the level of society).

 

Alas, the DM-classics tell us that every 'object' (and not just classes of them) and process in the entire universe struggle with their opposites and then change into them. [If anyone disagrees, then they plainly skipped past the quotations from the classics I have posted above, along with my explanation why Hegel argued the way he did, and why Lenin agreed with him).]

 

But, even if 'Semendyaev' were right, if this 'theory' were correct, the proletariat must struggle with and change into its opposite, the bourgeoisie, and vice versa! Is this what we are all fighting for: to become capitalists?!

 

Indeed, the medieval peasantry must have struggled with and changed into the Feudal Aristocracy, and vice versa!

 

[Did anyone notice this in their history lessons?]

 

Howsoever you try to repair this rusty old banger of a 'theory', it still ends up wrapped around the same non-dialectical tree.

 

But, what about this?

 

Therefore, individual cats do not change sexes (since "male" and "female" are not contradictory tendencies that exist within cats).

 

But, as the DM-classics tell us, cats change by struggling with their opposites, and these opposites are what they change into. [The rest of this argument was posted earlier, here. 'Semendyaev' must have missed it.]

 

The good news is that 'Semendyaev' has an 'answer' to this -- the bad news is..., yes, you guessed it, it is yet another hastily concocted 'on-the-hoof-type-of-'theory':

 

One tendency "changing into" another does not necessarily mean that the entire tendency disappears and turns into its opposite -- rather, some quantitative measure associated with one tendency is diminished, and a corresponding measure associated with another is increased. Again, kinetic and potential energy are good examples.

 

[As far as kinetic and potential energy are concerned, see below.]

 

I do wish this comrade would consult the DM-classics before he writes stuff like this; it would at least save me the trouble of having to put him unceremoniously back on the canvass.

 

Ok, let's call the "quantitative measure associated with one tendency", "Q", and the result of it being "diminished", "Q*".

 

Now, if the DM-classics are to be believed, Q can only become Q* if it struggles with it. In other words, Q must struggle with its 'own future self'! But, that can't happen since Q* doesn't exist yet! In which case, Q can't change.

 

On the other hand, if Q* does exist (but where did it come from?) -- so that Q can struggle with it, and thus change into it -- how can this happen? Q* is already there! So, Q can't change into it!

 

Once again, we hit the same non-dialectical brick wall.

 

'Semendyaev':

 

When applying the dialectical method, it is always important to see what the real contradictory tendencies are, what level they operate on, and how their struggle results in transient unities.

 

It is even more important to read the DM-classics!

 

Alas, there is more:

 

And what of the objection that tendencies can't be causal entities? Well, Rosa has simply restated that objection, missing the point of my argument entirely. But we do talk about tendencies being causes, even in science, for example the tendency toward the extremisation of energy, inertia, etc. etc.

 

I restated it since he failed to respond effectively to what I had argued. Here's his original point:

 

The confusion that was apparent in Rosa's comments about identity is also present in Essay Seven. The essay, railing against what it terms the "tendency objection", denies that tendencies can be causal agents because their effects can also be traced to other causes. But this assumes that the causal history of a process can be described only in one way. This is obviously mistaken. It is legitimate to say that water, for example, boils because the fluctuations of the kinetic energy of water molecules have increased. It is also perfectly legitimate to say that water boils because it has been heated (for example).

 

And here is the ensuing exchange (beginning with my original argument):

 

But, what of the argument itself? Are "tendencies" causal agents? Aren't they (i.e., both the tendencies and the changes) rather the result of other causes? For example, do we say that the "tendency" for glass to break is what makes it break, or do we appeal to inter-molecular forces within glass, and an external shock? But, can't we call these inner forces "tendencies", too? Are there such inner "tendencies" in glass? If there are, what are their causes? Or, are they uncaused? In fact, if we just appeal to "tendencies" to explain things, noting is explained. "Why did that glass break?" "It just has a tendency to do so." "Why is it raining?" "It simply has a tendency to do so in this area." "Why did those cops attack the strikers?" "They have a tendency to defend the bosses." So, an appeal to a "tendency" is no explanation at all.

 

Or rather, if we insist on regarding and appeal to "tendencies" as an explanation, that is because we also view the word as a shorthand for other causes (known or unknown) at work in the system. Consider the "tendency" of the rate of profit to fall. Is that uncaused? But, no Marxist will argue it is. Indeed, Marxists point to several contributory causal factors that combine to make the rate of profit tend to fall over time. Would any of us have been satisfied if Marx had simply said there a "tendency" for the rate of profit to fall, and made no attempt to explain its cause/causes?

 

Hence, "tendencies" aren't causes; they are the result of one or more causes themselves. So, this critic [another RevLeft back in 2010 who wanted to make the same point -- RL] is mistaken, an internal "tendency" can't "preserve A", nor can the opposite "tendency", O**, cause a "transformation into not-A", since these "tendencies" are derivative not causative. Indeed, as the DM-classics inform us, the cause of these "tendencies" is the "unity and interpenetration of opposites", the "contradiction" and the "struggle" that results from this.

 

What does this comrade have to say in response?

 

"tendency objection", denies that tendencies can be causal agents because their effects can also be traced to other causes. But this assumes that the causal history of a process can be described only in one way. This is obviously mistaken. It is legitimate to say that water, for example, boils because the fluctuations of the kinetic energy of water molecules have increased. It is also perfectly legitimate to say that water boils because it has been heated (for example).

 

But, even if a causal history can be described in more than one way, how does that make a tendency a cause? 'Semendyaev' failed to say.

 

[Why the tendency to omit key parts of my argument? What was that again about vague and imprecise?]

 

But, the comrade did add this comment:

 

It is legitimate to say that water, for example, boils because the fluctuations of the kinetic energy of water molecules have increased. It is also perfectly legitimate to say that water boils because it has been heated (for example).

 

Indeed, but is this even a tendency? In fact, it rather looks like 'Semendyaev' has made my point for me again, for the considerations he mentions look causal to me, and not the least bit like tendencies.

 

But, once more, let us suppose he is right. Let us suppose that heat is a tendency (and that fluctuations in kinetic energy are tendencies, too). Does this get 'Semendyaev' out of the corner into which the DM-classics have painted him?

 

Not even close.

 

As I pointed out in the Essay he clearly skim-read:

 

Well, perhaps it is the struggle between these "opposite tendencies" that causes A to change? Here is Lenin again:

 

Dialectics is the teaching which shows how Opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical, -- under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another, -- why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another. [Lenin (1961), p.109. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

But, do these tendencies themselves change? It seems they must if everything in the universe changes, and they can only do that (according to the DM-classics) if they struggle with one another and then turn into one another (as Lenin and many others have pointed out).

 

So, let us abbreviate the fluctuation in kinetic energy to "K". If K is to change it must struggle with its opposite, that is, with what it becomes. According to this comrade, that opposite must be the increased kinetic energy:

 

It is legitimate to say that water, for example, boils because the fluctuations of the kinetic energy of water molecules have increased. It is also perfectly legitimate to say that water boils because it has been heated (for example). [Bold added.]

 

Call this increased Kinetic energy "K*". So, K must both struggle with K* and turn into it. But, this is just a repeat of the cat example, for K must struggle with something that does not yet exist, its future kinetic energy, K*! If so, K can't change.

 

On the other hand, if K* already exists so that it can struggle with K, then what is there for K to change into?

 

We hit the very same non-dialectical brick wall!

 

There has been no attempt by 'Semendyaev' to respond to this -- and it isn't hard to see why -- he can't.

 

At last, the denouement:

 

Finally, I am not complaining about Rosa's, well, colourful vocabulary; the only thing I complain about is the AIDS joke (of course it's not "about" AIDS, Rosa, but it still trivialises the rotten social attitudes toward that disease that we, as socialists, have a duty to fight). I am simply saying why I think Rosa's site is the leftish (or rather, liberal and Stalinophobic) version of the Time Cube site.

 

I disagree; it saddles the mystics who control the ideas of the revolutionary left with just the right sort of connotation. If the comrade doesn't like it, he should avert his sensitive eyes.

 

So, is there no one out there who can put me in my place?

 

Seems not... :-(

 

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