Dialectical Materialism Exam: Final Paper -- 2017


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1) Work steadily through and attempt every question.


2) Extra marks will be awarded for inconsistency, and an automatic pass granted to any candidate who submits contradictory answers.


3) The use of incomprehensible jargon is mandatory; any attempt at clarity will be severely penalised.


Begin when ready.



Question One


(a) Since the following abstract statement manifestly isn't "concrete" -- and we are told that truth is "never abstract" -- explain in detail how it can still be true that:


Dialectical logic holds that 'truth' is always concrete, never abstract, as the late Plekhanov liked to say after Hegel. [Lenin, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation And The Mistakes Of Comrades Trotsky And Bukharin. Bold emphases added.]


(b) In light of your answer to (a) above, explain where this argument goes wrong:


L1: There is no such thing as abstract truth.


L2: L1 is an abstraction -- it certainly isn't concrete.


L3: Lenin holds L1 true.


L4: But, since L1 is an abstraction, it can't be true. [By L1 and L2.]


L5: If L1 is false, then there can be abstract truths.


L6: But, all truth is concrete.


L7: L6 is an abstraction.


L8: L6 can't be true (by L1).


L9: So, not all truth is concrete. [By L8 and the assumption recorded in L5.]


L10: Assuming there are only abstract and concrete truths, then there can be abstract truths. [By L9.]


L11: Either way, there can be abstract truths. [From L1 and L6.]


L12: Therefore, there is at least one abstract truth, namely L11.


Question Two


In the light of Question One, explain how Engels may still be counted as a materialist even though he asserted that matter is just an "abstraction".

Question Three


(a) Lenin said the following:


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. [Volume 38, Collected Works. Bold emphasis alone added.]


However, did the fact that Lenin admitted he himself couldn't understand parts of Hegel's Logic mean he didn't understand Das Kapital?


(b) Explain why Marx never made this claim about his own work.

[Hint: Ignore these awkward facts -- every other dialectician does!]

Question Four


Is 'Being' identical with but at the same time different from 'Nothing', the 'contradiction' resolved in 'Becoming'?


[The above is a paraphrase of a key argument in Hegel's Science of Logic, Chapter One. Do not allow the fact that both Lenin and Trotsky thought this particular argument was the "work of genius" influence your response in any way at all.]


In your answer, make sure you explain upon which real, material forces, processes, evidence or practice the above a priori dogma is itself based -- ignoring totally this ridiculous comment:


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

Question Five


According to Engels:


Motion itself is a contradiction; even simple mechanical change of place can only come about through a body being both in one place and in another place at one and the same moment of time, being in one and the same place and also not in it. And the continual assertion and simultaneous solution of this contradiction is precisely what motion is. [Anti-Dühring. Bold added.]


(a) But, who did all this 'asserting' and 'solving' before human life evolved?


(b) Does this imply:


(i) That Engels believed that moving objects are intelligent?




(ii) That objects only began to move after human beings had evolved?


(c) If:


(i) 'Contradictions' are the result of a "struggle of opposites", and


(ii) All motion is a "contradiction", and


(iii) All change is caused by "internal contradictions",


explain in detail what sort of 'struggle' is going on inside, say, a billiard ball that keeps it moving.


(d) In the light of George Novack's comment in Question Four:


(i) Does the above 'abstract', 'theoretical' argument advanced by Engels show he was an Idealist?


(ii) If not, what physical evidence can you point to that substantiates, let alone supports, his dogmatic assertion about motion, that it is a 'contradiction'?

Question Six


Lenin also said this:


Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in change, in "self-movement"…. [Lenin, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation And The Mistakes Of Comrades Trotsky And Bukharin. Italic emphasis added.]


In the light of the above, and Question 5(c), if objects "self-move", how many dialecticians does it take to change a light bulb?

[Warning: the facetious answer we got last year -- "None at all, the light bulb changes itself" -- will result in an automatic "fail".]


Question Seven


According to Lenin:


Among the elements of dialectics are the following: Internally 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.... [Volume 38, Collected Works. Bold added.]


(a) If "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [transitions] into every other", explain in detail why, among other things, this doesn't mean that you are about to change into a giant squid -- and it into you!


(b) If not, was Lenin wrong that "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [transitions] into every other"?


(c) If Lenin was wrong, does this in turn mean that some "determinations, qualities, features, sides, properties" are in fact changeless?


Question Eight


(a) Explain fully why there is no conflict at all between these two quotations from Engels:


Finally, for me there could be no question of superimposing the laws of dialectics on nature but of discovering them in it and developing them from it. [Anti-Dühring. Bold added.]

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. [
Anti-Dühring. Bold emphases added.]


(b) Explain, too, how Lenin could possibly have known the following (other than by confining his 'research' to reading Hegel's Logic):


Cognition is the eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object. [Philosophical Notebooks, p.195.]


(c) If the above was indeed known by Lenin -- implying that this particular thought must correspond to its "object", if what he says is in fact true --, does that mean Lenin had in fact managed to transcend the limitations of space and time, and had completed an "eternal" approximation, which, because of that, shows it wasn't "endless", after all?


(d) In the light of Question One, how can comments (1) and (2) above be true if they aren't concrete, but are abstract?


Question Nine


Lenin said the following:


Our sensation, our consciousness is only an image of the external world, and it is obvious that an image cannot exist without the thing imaged, and that the latter exists independently of that which images it. Materialism deliberately makes the 'naïve' belief of mankind the foundation of its theory of knowledge. [Materialism and Empirio-criticism, p.69. Bold emphasis added.]


The image inevitably and of necessity implies the objective reality of that which it 'images.' [Ibid., p.279. Bold emphasis added.]


(a) However, if all we have are images, and if an image "inevitably and of necessity implies the objective reality of that which it images" (emphases added), does this mean that Lenin must have believed in the real existence of Santa Claus -- in view of the fact that it is easy to form an image of 'him'?


(b) If not, was Lenin wrong to say that an image "inevitably and of necessity implies the objective reality of that which it images"?


(c) Again, if not, then on what basis was Lenin able to distinguish reliable from unreliable images?


[Remember, he can't appeal to practice to help him decide since, on his own admission, all he has available to him are images of practice and images of the results of practice, and he doesn't as yet know whether or not such images are reliable. Nor can he appeal to the common understanding of ordinary folk, 'commonsense', past experience, past practice, or science, since, once again, all he has, even here, are images of ordinary folk and what they do or do not believe, and images of past practice, experience, 'commonsense', and the results of scientific research.]


(d) Does this mean that Lenin was a closet solipsist?


(e) If not, why not?


[Solipsism is explained here.]


Question Ten


(a) If everything in the entire universe is a unity (if not, an identity) of polar opposites, locked in ceaseless 'struggle' -- and which opposites inevitably turn into one another -- explain why this alleged fact doesn't mean that:


(i) electrons will change into protons (and vice versa) after 'struggling' with them,




(ii) the proletariat will change into the bourgeoisie (and vice versa).


(b) In view of the above, also explain why the medieval peasantry didn't turn into the feudal aristocracy (and vice versa).


(c) In addition, explain why the above doesn't mean that:


(i) the relations of production will turn into the forces of production,


(ii) the relative form of value will change into the equivalent form,




(iii) material objects and processes will change into immaterial objects and processes, and vice versa,


(d) If it doesn't mean any of these, what is the point of the DM-classics asserting that everything "inevitably" turns into its opposite?


(e) Finally, also explain in detail why this doesn't mean that if Dialectical Materialism were true, change would be impossible.


Question Eleven


Which ruling-class theory (upside down or the 'the right way up') can you name that will help guarantee revolutionary socialists will have to endure another 140+ years of almost total failure?

[Hint: this theory was concocted by an Idealist Mystic and Christian Hermeticist, who lived in Germany about 200 years ago. Fortunately, it is also totally incomprehensible --, which, despite what you might think, has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the 'dialectical left' has been going nowhere slowly since at least the 1930s.]


Question Twelve


In the light of Question Eleven, complete this well-known phrase or saying:


"Everything in the entire universe is interconnected, except...".

[Spoiler: "...the long term failure of Dialectical Marxism and its core theory, 'Materialist Dialectics'." (Note the use of the phrase "Dialectical Marxism", here; the non-dialectical version hasn't been road-tested yet.)]


Question Thirteen


Engels famously informed us that:


The turning point in mathematics was Descartes' variable magnitude. With that came motion and hence dialectics in mathematics, and at once, too, of necessity the differential and integral calculus…. [Engels, Dialectics of Nature, p.258.]


In addition, the vast majority of dialecticians almost invariably say things like the following:


"Formal logic regards things as fixed and motionless." [Rob Sewell.]


"Formal categories, putting things in labelled boxes, will always be an inadequate way of looking at change and development…because a static definition cannot cope with the way in which a new content emerges from old conditions." [Rees (1998), p.59.]


"There are three fundamental laws of formal logic. First and most important is the law of identity....


"…If a thing is always and under all conditions equal or identical with itself, it can never be unequal or different from itself." [Novack (1971), p.20.]


[Full details of the above references can be found here.]


(a) Explain why, even though Aristotle introduced variables into Formal Logic 2400 years ago, and logicians have been using them ever since, Formal Logic has been singled out for criticism while mathematics hasn't.


(b) Can you quote, or even reference, a single logic text (other than those seriously mis-titled books Hegel wrote about 'logic') that supports the view that Formal Logic teaches that "things are fixed and motionless"?


(c) If not, can you explain why dialecticians keep asserting this despite the fact that there isn't a shred of evidence substantiating it?


(d) Indeed, why do you think they also refuse to tell their readers that Aristotle knew nothing of the so-called 'Law of Identity', or that it was in fact a Roman Catholic invention, concocted in the Middle Ages?


(e) Explain in detail why Marx and Engels's 'dialectical' theory of the Calculus doesn't put mathematical theory back to where it had been in the early 18th century.


(f) Finally, if the 'Law of Identity' doesn't actually preclude change -- since, if an object changes, anything identical to it will change equally quickly --, explain clearly why the entire 'dialectic' doesn't completely fall apart as a result.


End Of Exam



Now, read a summary of my reasons for rejecting this crazy 'theory'!



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