Auto-Mouth Strikes Again
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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.
Abbreviations Used At This Site
Return To The Main Index Page
Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism
[October 2013: The Essay about Wittgenstein, referred to below, has now been re-written and greatly expanded with new and original research; it can be accessed here.]
In response to this Essay of mine, Mr Dumain writes the following:
"All this is rather superficial, however. I think Ernest Gellner nailed the essentially conservative nature of Wittgenstein's philosophy.
"Wittgenstein's conception of philosophy is hardly a notch above Carnap's dismissal of metaphysics as 'bad poetry' or Neurath's metaphysicophobia. The notion of philosophy as language on holiday or as bewitchment by language is infantile. Such a view is itself a metaphysical abstraction and bewitchment by language, divorced from history or any extralinguistic investigation of human cognition. Compared to Adorno's socio-historical conception of philosophy, Wittgenstein is a piss-ant.
"Nor does Wittgenstein have anything in common with Marx, whom you consistently misrepresent. For Marx, philosophy was not a linguistic disease, nor did he limit himself to Feuerbach's framework, though Feuerbach did take the decisive historical step of analyzing idealism as inverted consciousness. For Marx philosophy as practiced his milieu was the 'dream history' of Germany, not to be summarily dismissed but to be analyzed in its structure and related to its social genesis.
"The task of doing this for our time is infinitely more complicated, for the interrelationships of science, mathematics, logic, philosophical systems and their connection to alienated, inverted consciousness and social being are not simple and obvious, at least not until one develops a framework in which to place them, and even then there remains the long, hard labor of the negative.
"But Rosa knows nothing of this, for 'she' is obsessed with the childish forms of dialectical materialism to date and knows nothing of the Frankfurt School, for instance, which 'she' summarily dismisses for its lack of engagement in class struggle, preferring instead to weld 'her' sectarian politics mechanically to the banalities of analytic philosophy, in concert against the tired old diamat shibboleths.
"Trotskyism + Wittgenstein: a formula for insanity." [The original can be found here. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]
Unfortunately, Mr D hasn't done his homework (again!); Gellner's misconceived and demonstrably flawed review of Wittgenstein's work has been shown up for what it is on numerous occasions. I suspect Mr D isn't aware of the latest 'take down' [i.e., Uschanov (2002); a longer version of the latter can be found here], or perhaps any at all. Not to worry, Gellner (that well-known friend of Marxism) has spoken, and that is sufficient for Mr D.
[Update August 2007: The above comment is now out-of-date. Mr D has added a 'Wittgenstein and Marxism' Bibliography to his site, but oddly enough only after the publication of my Essay. As the above quotation shows, up until my Essay appeared, Mr D's opinion of Wittgenstein was very low. Why then the change? Why create a Bibliography for an author who Mr D says, with no proof at all, was a conservative thinker, and who was a "piss-ant"? How many other conservative thinkers/"piss-ants" has he honoured in this way? That Essay of mine has now been greatly expanded with the addition of much additional material, some of it completely original.]
Furthermore, anyone who can write this:
"I can't speak to the Fregean influence, but Frege ultimately led to a paradox, if I'm not mistaken",
is in no position to pass informed comment on Wittgenstein.
This is all quite independent of the rather bizarre claim that Wittgenstein's ideas were "conservative" (given the expert testimony I posted that refutes this slur -- now updated and greatly expanded, here), especially when that opinion is advanced by someone keen to defend 2500 years of ruling-class gobbledygook: our very own lover of Hermetic confusion, Mr D himself.
The comment on Carnap is no less amusing. Anyone who wants to know about the difference between Carnap and Wittgenstein need only do the opposite to Mr D here, and read up on the subject -- they will find I give more than enough references in the Essay in question.
Those who have read Mr D's other comments will recognise his penchant for 'infantile' name-calling in place of argument. To that end, it is enough for him to label Wittgenstein's ideas as "infantile", and to call him a "piss-ant", to warrant their consignment to the dustbin. [Oddly enough, however, Mr D plainly can't take my arguments on (his devotion to sub-Aristotelian Logic has more than seen to that area of his brain); even his abuse is third-rate!]
More-or-less the same can be said of Mr D's attempt to boost Adorno. [The word "piss-ant" is clearly a technical term known only to the adepts of Hermetic Philosophy, one assumes. That certainly puts me in my place.]
And, as if that weren't enough, we find yet more invention:
"But Rosa knows nothing of this, for 'she' is obsessed with the childish forms of dialectical materialism to date and knows nothing of the Frankfurt School, for instance..."
However, Mr D knows, because yours truly has told him (and not just him, everyone else, too, had he bothered to check, here and here) that I have purposely ignored philosophical and/or political dead-ends like The Frankfurt School. Now, Mr D can beat his brains out trying to comprehend the tortuous prose this 'school' has inflicted on its readers -- the deleterious effects of which he has very kindly illustrated once more in his own particular case --, if he so chooses, but I stopped taking notice of 'academic' gobbledygook like this twenty-odd years ago, in my PhD years.
[I have now added my own criticism of Marcuse's lame attempt to criticise Ordinary Language Philosophy in general, and Wittgenstein in particular, here.]
And, oddly enough, Mr D's own laboured attempts to come to grips with the complex arguments found in Analytic Philosophy is sufficient to warn me not to slide back into the theoretical quagmire that still has hold of him.
And now we come to the pièce de résistance; complex algebra from a commensurably advanced intellect:
"Trotskyism + Wittgenstein: a formula for insanity."
Who said HCDs like Mr D are ignorant of logic?
One small question, however: If my Essays are so irredeemably flawed, superficially infantile and hopelessly banal, why has this super-sized ego bothered with them?
Has he nothing better to do?
Or, is the world of Traditional Philosophy, which he inhabits, where the ideas and thought-forms of the ruling-class are held in high regard, crumbling under my relentless attacks?
Just a thought, but it does help explain all the name-calling, constant invention, incessant flow of misrepresentation, and the many baseless assertions he and other Marxist 'intellectuals' throw about the place.
So, put that aluminium hat back on Mr D; plenty more proletarian materialism coming your way.
Dialectical Mystics like you have been rumbled...
Cook, D. (1984), 'Hegel, Marx And Wittgenstein', Philosophy And Social Criticism 10, pp.49-74.
Kitching, G., and Pleasants, N. (2002) (eds.), Marx And Wittgenstein (Routledge).
Uschanov, T. (2002), 'Ernest Gellner's Criticisms Of Wittgenstein And Ordinary Language Philosophy', in Kitching and Pleasants (2002). pp.23-47. A longer version of this paper can be found here.
One of Mr D's side-kicks -- one Charles Brown (who became rather upset with me when I refused to correspond with him because of his continual sniping at me without bothering to read my Essays), has produced the following devastating response to a point made in Essay Three Part One -- although, it is clear that Mr CB is here merely commenting on excerpts posted by Mr D himself:
"RL: The boss is a crook". Plainly, this does not mean that the boss is identical with a crook! (Which one?)
CB: Uhhhh, plainly, yes it does."
[I plan to use this prize example in Essay Twelve to show how even academic Marxists and HCDs are rank amateurs when it comes to logic.]
If this were so, then we would be able to argue as follows (and this should not be news to Mr CB since I demonstrated this point in the above Essay, which he clearly skim-read, or, if our earlier correspondence is anything to go by, did not bother to read at all, before he felt he could comment upon it):
C1: The boss is a crook.
C2: C1 means: The boss is identical with a crook.
C3: George W Bush is a crook.
C4: C3 means: George W Bush is identical with a crook.
C5: Ergo: The boss is identical with George W Bush.
And it will not do to argue that "...is identical with a crook" in each case designates a different crook, perhaps along these lines:
C6: The boss is a crook = The boss is identical with that particular crook1.
C7: George Bush is a crook = George W Bush is identical with that particular crook2.
For, even if we were to so argue, we would then be able to reason as follows:
L6: "...is a crook" = "...is identical with that particular crook1."
L7: "...is a crook" = "...is identical with that particular crook2."
L8: So: "...is identical with that particular crook1" = "...is identical with that particular crook2."
L9: Ergo: The boss is George W Bush.
[It is worth reminding any DM-fans tempted to argue that L6-L8 are syntactically incoherent that they lost the right to lodge that complaint the moment they re-configured the "is" of predication as an "is" of identity and predicate expressions as the Proper Names of abstract particulars. L6-L8 were intend to expose these incoherencies at the heart of DM.]
And do not even begin to ask what the "is" in "....is identical with..." means, or you will soon end up where Lenin did -- this is also from that Essay Mr CB omitted to read, precisely here:
OK, Comrades, Reach For The Prozac
Nevertheless, there are several serious problems with Lenin's reasoning, which require resolution before questions can even be raised about the support his theory might or might not gain from what little 'evidence' there is.
H1: John is a man.
Lenin clearly interpreted the "is" in H1 as an "is" of identity (and later perhaps as an "is" of class inclusion). But, because it plainly isn't one of identity in the vernacular, both Lenin and Hegel imagined they could 'derive' several counter-intuitive conclusions from the incongruity they had artificially introduced into such sentences in this way.39 However, instead of concluding perhaps that Hegel's "genius" had misled him -- or that this wasn't the only way (or even the most obvious, natural, or sane way) to interpret such simple sentences -- Lenin proceeded to weave several lengths of dialectical cloth from these slender threads of woolly thought.
"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.359-60. Bold and italic emphases in the original; paragraphs merged.]
The fact that the "is" of H1 isn't one of identity can be seen from Lenin's own use of it. Consider one of his more 'abstract' sentences:
H5: "[T]he opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical."
[H1: John is a man.]
From this we can perhaps extract two embedded sentences:
H4: The opposites are identical.
H6: The individual is opposed to the universal.
[H4 plainly contains a cognate of "is" -- namely, "are".]
However, if "is" always indicates identity -- and could be interpreted as an expression of the form "ξ is identical with ζ" -- then we should be able to re-write H4 and H6 in the following manner:
H7: The opposites are identical with identical.
H8: The individual is identical with opposed to the universal.39a
[In H7, the verb "are" (from H6), and in H8 the verb "is" (from H6), have been replaced by "are identical with" and "is identical with", respectively, on 'sound' dialectical lines. (The reason why these terms have been highlighted in bold will soon become apparent.)]
It doesn't take any dialectical logic at all (and no bourgeois prejudice whatsoever) to see what nonsense results from this 'brilliant' Hegelian insight. Nor is it difficult to foresee the infinite task Lenin's 'analysis' holds open to those who have swallowed this theory as he, or anyone else, tries to say what the meaning is of each bold "is" (or the meaning of each bold "are") that recurs in "is identical with" (or in "are identical with") in H7 and H8, respectively, now made explicit in H9 and H10:
H9: The opposites are identical with identical with identical.
H10: The individual is identical with identical with opposed to the universal.
Here, the bold "is" from H8 and the bold "are" from H7 have been replaced with what we are told they really mean -- namely "is identical with" and "are identical with", respectively (both highlighted in bold again) -- to yield the nonsensical result we see in H9 and H10. In turn, two more similar replacements by their supposed 'dialectical' equivalents yields these gems:
H11: The opposites are identical with identical with identical with identical.
H12: The individual is identical with identical with identical with opposed to the universal.
And so on to infinity...
Lest anyone thinks this is unfair to Lenin, or even Hegel, they are invited to try to say for themselves what the "is" in "is identical with" itself means (without thereby abandoning Hegel's theory!).
Neutral onlookers can only wish such brave souls plenty of luck, and hope they are blessed with boundless patience, limitless supplies of paper and ink -- and, of course, plenty of Prozac.
It is worth recalling, though, that the above collapse into incoherence has only arisen because dialecticians insist that the "is" of predication is really an "is" of identity -- i.e., that it is the same as "is identical with". By assuming this (again, with no proof), they themselves would be forced to use another "is" to reveal this good news to the rest of us -- as in:
H13: The is of predication is an is of identity.
But the middle "is" in bold in H13 cannot -- ex hypothesi cannot! -- be one of mere predication. It, too, according the Hegel has to be one of identity (in that it tells us what is or identity 'essentially' are). In that case, we would obtain the following from H13:
H14: The is of predication is identical with the is of identity.
H15: The is of predication is identical with identical with the is of identity.
As each alleged "is" of predication is suitably replaced by an "is identical with" with which it is supposed to be identical. If anyone wants to go down that route, they, too, will require an endless supply of painkillers and anti-depressants. But, more fool them; they have been warned!39b
On the other hand, those who hold that the "is" of predication is in reality just that (i.e., an "is" of predication -- or better, that "is" is part of the predicate expression to begin with!) aren't faced with such an infinite and morale-sapping task. That is because they seek neither to revise nor re-write ordinary language in such Idealist terms, replacing an ordinary "is" with another sort of "is" -- a dodge that 'allows' metaphysicians to think they can transform predicates into the Proper Names of abstract particulars as and when it suites them.
So, when genuine materialists say things like "Blair is a warmonger", they aren't saying that Blair is identical with a warmonger (which one?), they are merely saying that the description "warmonger" applies to the individual named "Blair".
No "is" anywhere in sight.
You can put the Prozac away now, comrades; that ancient philosophical pseudo-problem has been dissolved.40
[I have dealt with the objection that since the above aren't "essential judgements" or "essential predications" this entire argument is flawed from beginning to end, here, here, and here.]
Bertrand Russell was right when he said (I paraphrase): "The worse a man's logic the more interesting are the conclusions that can be derived from it."
Have we reached the bottom of Mr CB's barrel? Well, only he knows, but from his other comments I suspect we are going to have to dig way below the base of this barrel to find out; indeed, we may have to sink a mine shaft.
Witness this gem:
"CB: If philosophy is mostly 2500 years of claptrap for the bosses, why is it to Wittgenstein's credit that he is a major philosopher?"
[This question is pitched at about at the same level as the standard right-wing jibe: "Why don't you go and live in N Korea/Cuba?"]
Alas, and as usual, Mr CB has spun an idea of dubious worth around in his head until its angular velocity has overcome the forces of good sense, and out it plopped.
Had he bothered to read the Essay in question (in an e-mail he promised he would abandon the tactic of not reading my work before passing an opinion on it!), he'd have seen that for Wittgenstein, Philosophy took on an entirely new meaning (just as socialism did when Marx had finished with it): it became a method aimed at exposing the hot air ruling-class theorists tend to produce (my words, not Wittgenstein's) -- the kind of guff that still holds Mr CB in its thrall.
So, Mr CB, here's a piece of advice for you to take note of -- but only if you are capable of reaching the end of this sentence before passing judgement on something else completely unrelated to it --, in future, it would be a good idea to learn something about a subject (i.e., Wittgenstein) before you begin pontificating about it.
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