16-11-02 -- Summary Of Essay Eleven Part Two: Dialectical Wholism -- Full Of Holes

 

Preface

 

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This is an Introductory Essay, which has been written for those who find the main Essays either too long, or too difficult. It doesn't pretend to be comprehensive since it is simply a summary of the core ideas presented at this site. Most of the supporting evidence and argument found in each of the main Essays has been omitted. Anyone wanting more details, or who would like to examine my arguments in full, should consult the Essay for which this is a summary. [In this particular case, that can be found here.]

 

As is the case with all my work, 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 suggest 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, that 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.

 

[**Exactly how this applies to DM will, of course, be explained in the other Essays published at this site (especially here, here, and here). In addition to the three links in the previous paragraph, I have summarised the argument (but this time aimed at absolute beginners!) here.]

 

[Latest Update: 17/05/17.]

 

 

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1) More Holes Than A Lorry Load Of Swiss Cheese

 

a) Wholes Less Than The Sum Of Their Parts?

 

b) 'More' -- Before Or After?

 

c) Alternative Medicine?

 

d) Universal Interconnections?

 

2) Dialectical Biology And Flights Of Fancy

 

a) The Plane Truth

 

b) Property Relations

 

c) Dialectical Soothsayers?

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

More Holes Than A Lorry Load OF Swiss Cheese

 

This Summary takes the results of Essay Eleven Part One for granted.

 

Wholes Less Than The Sum Of Their Parts?

 

As we will soon see, DM-holism has more holes in it than a New Labour Iraq Intelligence Dossier.

 

TAR outlines this doctrine as follows:

 

"In a dialectical system, the entire nature of the part is determined by its relationships with the other parts and so with the whole. The part makes the whole, and the whole makes the parts…. In this analysis, it is not just the case that the whole is more than the sum of the parts but also that the parts become more than they are individually by being part of a whole…. [F]or dialectical materialists the whole is more than the simple sum of its parts." [Rees (1998), pp.5, 77.]

 

DM-holism in fact rests on little more than a few trite maxims, such as the following:

 

G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.

 

G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the parts.

 

G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

 

G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.

 

Hence we see yet again that allegedly profound truths about nature have been derived from a handful of catch phrases. [On that, see here and here.] Not only do these home-spun proverbs fall apart on examination, they aren't even empirically true. [Many examples where they fail are listed in Essay Eleven Part Two.]

 

One or two instances of the above will suffice for the purposes of this summary (more will be given below):

 

(1) Consider a set of non-zero forces aligned in a couple so that their resultant at some point is zero. In this case, each part is greater than the whole (which is zero!), and the whole is equal to, but not greater than the sum of the parts.

 

(2) Consider a rope made from, say, 1000 strands of material, with each strand, say, 0.5 metres long. Let these strands overlap one another for approximately 90% of their length. Collectively, because of this overlap the fibres stretch (as part of the whole rope) for only 50 metres. However, the sum of the lengths of these strands taken individually is 500 metres -- which would be (and is!) their total length at that instant had they not been woven into that rope. But, the rope is still only 50 metres long. Here the whole (rope) is considerably less than the sum of the parts.

 

Indeed, every item of clothing is a counter-example to this trite rule, for in each case, the total length of all the strands of fibre constituting any garment is greater than the length of that garment as a whole. And what goes for garments goes for most manufactured goods, as well. And, what is more, this also applies to the parts of many organisms; hence, the total length of all the muscle fibres in a wombat is greater than the length of a whole wombat. And we needn't stop at fury rodents: the total length of all the xylem tubes in a tree is greater than the length of that tree, and so on.

 

Finally, of course, the universe is equal to, but not greater than the sum of its parts.

 

To be sure, it is only the extremely vague nature of the terms used in dialectics that allows counterexamples like those above to count against it. Unfortunately, if the definition of each jargonised expression dialecticians use were to be tightened to exclude these and other examples, we would once again have a DM-thesis made 'true' by yet more linguistic tinkering.

 

As should seem obvious, nature is far too complex to squeeze this ill-fitting dialectical boot.

 

'More' -- Before, Or After?

 

Even worse, it isn't at all clear how the very same part can be "more" than it used to be before it was incorporated into the whole (of which it is now a part). If this were true, it couldn't be the same part. Of course, if "the entire nature of the part is determined by its relationships with the other parts and so with the whole", then it can't be the same part anyway -- nor even remotely like it.

 

Moreover, it is also far from clear how anything could become "more" than it used to be before it was incorporated into the whole of which it is now a part. That is because everything is always part of the "Totality". Since the "entire nature" of a part is "determined by its relationships with the other parts and so with the whole", the entire nature of that part must be determined by its relation to the "Totality" either side of incorporation into any specific sub-whole. If not, then it can't be the case that "entire nature" of a part is "determined by its relationships with the other parts and so with the whole".

 

In addition, it is far from easy to see how even a whole could be greater than the sum of its parts if that whole didn't exist before the parts became parts of that whole. It isn't as if the whole was a certain size (or whatever) before it had any parts, but then grew larger (or whatever) when it gained them, not least because it didn't exist yet. But, if not, what then is the force of words like "greater" or "more", here? Precisely what becomes "greater", or "more", and in what respect?

 

As usual, we are left in the dark.

 

Alternative Medicine?

 

Of course, those committed to a belief in this sort of Holism often appeal to the existence of organic composites, wherein the parts interconnect as components of just such an organic whole. So, for example, a heart in a living organism is "more" than it would have been had it not been part of that organism.

 

And yet, in nature, no actual heart is related to an organism in this way; all normal hearts are parts of their host animals from day one (or soon after). No one supposes that hearts somehow sneak into living bodies and thus become "more" as a result of this underhanded and delayed invasion. So, how can such hearts be "more" if they never were "less"?

 

Furthermore, when invasive surgery (etc.) is taken into account, must we say that a heart waiting transplantation into a new body, for instance, is less of a heart? Why transplant it then? Or, that blood waiting transfusion is not really blood? But, where do we stop? Is a coat not a coat until it is worn? Is a book not a book until it is in a library or bookshop -- or, indeed, until it is read?

 

Worse still: if the entire nature of each part were dependent on the whole, and vice versa, human beings would experience significant changes every time they had their hair cut, teeth drilled or nails trimmed. [Objections to this point -- on the grounds that such changes aren't significant -- are examined in the full Essay, and batted out of the park, here and here.]

 

Universal Inter-Connections?

 

Even worse still, mundane events like these would have profound effects on distant stars and galaxies (if, as we are constantly told, everything in the universe is interconnected, and if the entire nature of each part is dependent on the whole, and vice versa). Does anyone believe that the Andromeda Galaxy, for instance, undergoes significant changes when someone has their hair done? If not, what is the point of asserting the trite maxims beloved of DM-holists -- that the entire nature of part and whole are inter-linked in this way? Are they merely being whimsical?

 

It could also be objected that even if the entire nature of each part in the "Totality" is determined by its relation to other parts and the whole, that doesn't mean that all such influences are of equal significance. In that case, those parts that are separated from one another by millions of light years, say, would have vanishingly small effects on each other, which could safely be ignored because of their negligible impact.

 

This response would be effective if it were made by anyone other than a dialectician. That is because DM-fans hold that these 'influences' are not external and/or causal, but "internal" and dialectical-logical. They are, indeed, "mediacies". This means that remoteness has no effect on the inter-linkages imagined to exist part on part, whole on part or whole on whole.

 

To see this, compare the above with legitimate logical connections: are husbands and wives less married if one of them goes off on a world cruise, or into outer space? Is a mile on Jupiter shorter than one on Earth?

 

[I have said more about this in the full Essay.]

 

Dialectical Biology And Flights Of Fancy

 

The Plane Truth

 

[DB = The Dialectical Biologist, i.e., Levins and Lewontin (1985).]

 

The first problem here is that Rees and other DM-theorists provide us with few examples of what they mean -- that is, any that are supposed to illustrate the rule (or the 'law') they claim governs the relationship between parts and wholes, allegedly right across the universe, not just locally. However, Rees does mention one particular example, which had in fact been lifted from DB. Alas, even this turns out to be a rather unfortunate choice.

 

The authors of DB argued as follows:

 

"The fact is that the parts have properties that are characteristic of them only as they are parts of wholes; the properties come into existence in the interactions that makes the whole. A person cannot fly by flapping her arms simultaneously. But people do fly, as a consequence of the social organisation that has created airplanes, pilots and fuel. It is not that society flies, however, but individuals in society, who have acquired a property they do not have outside society. The limitations of individual physical beings are negated by social interactions. The whole, thus, is not simply the object of interaction of the parts but is the subject of action of the parts." [Levins and Lewontin (1985), p.273.]

 

The general idea here appears to be that novel properties "emerge" (out of nowhere, it seems; they certainly cannot be reduced to the microstructures of each part, or of each whole -- according to Rees (1998), pp.5-8, and other dialecticians we will meet in Essay Three Part Three), because of the new relationships that parts enter into when they become incorporated into wholes -- coupled with the new natures they acquire as a result.

 

The above passage seems to be claiming that: (1) When human beings act as individuals (or, is it in less developed social wholes?) they lack certain properties --, in this case, the power of flight. Nevertheless: (2) As a result of their social organization, human beings apparently gain this new 'property' collectively -- even though as individuals they still can't fly. The conclusion then seems to be that: (3) Because of economic and social development (etc.) people acquire characteristics that they wouldn't have had otherwise --, which appears to indicate that when they are appropriately socially-organised, human beings become "more" than they would have been without it.

 

But, once again, in what sense are human beings "more" than they were before flight became possible? Manifestly, they still can't fly. They don't sprout wings, develop engines or grow sophisticated landing gear.

 

The only way that human beings would be "more" than they used to be would seem to be as a group. Hence, it could be maintained that as a group, humanity now has a property that it once lacked -- flight. Of course, human beings as a group or as individuals still can't fly; clearly, it is the machines they build that do this!

 

So, humanity itself still lacks this 'property'.

 

If it is argued in response that humans can now do something they couldn't do before (namely, fly through space), even this isn't entirely correct. Since we now know that the earth rotates on its axis as it orbits the Sun humanity has in fact been travelling, or flying, through space for hundreds of thousands of years. Which means we have been flying for many hundreds of thousands of years!

 

Again, it could be maintained that it is only since the invention of dirigibles, balloons and aeroplanes that human beings can do things at will that earlier generations could not: i.e., leave the surface of the earth whenever they wanted, and move about the planet, sometimes at great speed flying to destinations that would have been unimaginable, say, 250 years ago.

 

But, even this isn't correct. Human beings have been hurtling off cliffs and tall buildings for thousands of years. To be sure, the vast majority don't live to tell the tale, but for a few seconds they manifestly possess the property of flight (in the sense described above).

 

Once more, it is only in aeroplanes (etc.) that they can leave the surface of the earth at will. And if that is so, it still seems that it isn't humanity that has this novel property, but these new artefacts which have.

 

Anyway, human beings have been able to leave the surface of the earth at will -- not in dirigibles, balloons, or diving off cliffs and tall buildings -- in gliders. In the 19th century, intrepid glider pilots explored this area of human flight -- pioneers such as Jean Marie Le Bris, John J. Montgomery, Otto Lilienthal, Percy Pilcher, Octave Chanute and Augustus Moore Herring, and earlier still, in China, using human carrying kites.

 

Moreover, the properties of these machines are reducible to their parts. Try taking off without engines made of heat resistant materials; a chocolate jet engine will not get you very far -- nor will wings made of margarine or caramel. So, in this case, human beings just hitch a ride, as it were.

 

In that case, precisely what is the new property humanity is supposed to have gained? The ability to hitch new sorts of rides? Or, the capacity to form queues at check-in desks?

 

When powered flight was finally achieved by the Wright Brothers in December 1903 (or, earlier, by means of the steam/hot air powered machines or balloons of the 1800s -- or even by means of the gliders and kites mentioned above), what novel parts or wholes emerged as a result? To be sure, there was the new 'whole' comprising the Kitty Hawk (the name of the first flying machine) and its pilot, but it isn't easy to see how the entire nature of Orville Wright, say, was determined by this new Orville/Kitty Hawk 'whole', or that the entire nature of the Kitty Hawk was determined by its 'internal relation' to Orville.

 

Moreover, when the first commercial flights began a few years after this, what new wholes and/or parts came into existence? To be sure, new capitalist ventures were set up, but what is whole and what is part here? Was this capitalist venture 'whole' the workers and the bosses, or the buildings and the legal documents -- or maybe the lawyers who drafted the contracts, the energy fed in from the outside to the lighting or the heating system, the roof on the office building, the waste paper basket in the corner of the room, the air circulating in and through the building, the natural 'forces' holding everything together...? And, are any of these items also parts? Or, are the latter the passengers, the freight, the paint on the aeroplane's fuselage, the rubber molecules in its tyres, the fuel in its tanks, the countless millions of dead sea creatures that went into forming that fuel millions of years ago...?

 

So many questions, so few answers.

 

Hence, even if these hackneyed sayings (i.e., G3 and G4) were true, flight wouldn't be one of their exemplars.

 

G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

 

G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.

 

It could be objected that the above is incorrect. The point is that as the forces and relations of production develop (and as new modes of production arise), human beings enter into novel and more complex social and material relations with one another. These generate or facilitate new capacities and possibilities that were unavailable in earlier modes of production.

 

[HM = Historical Materialism.]

 

Now, this way of putting things won't be controverted here (nor anywhere else for that matter), but it is worth adding that this HM-style re-formulation of the picture only works because the part/whole metaphysic has been dropped. This can be seen by the way that the language used in the above rejoinder only becomes available (and begins to make sense) when the unhelpful metaphysical 'concepts' under review here have been discarded. There is no mystery about the details of the social organisation of production and the new capacities it makes available to human beings. But, this has nothing to do with the alleged DM-connections between parts and wholes (for reasons given in previous paragraphs).

 

So, returning to the aeroplane analogy: are we really meant to believe that the entire nature of passenger, NN, say, is determined by her relationship with the aeroplane she has just boarded? [Or is it with some other whole that we must compare or interconnect her?] Conversely, is the entire nature of this new aeroplane/passenger ensemble determined in return by passenger, NN? What if she missed the flight and passenger, MM, took her place? Would the entire nature of that plane, and all on board, have (totally) changed as a result? It should do if the entire nature of part and whole affect each other in the manner suggested.

 

G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.

 

G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the parts.

 

Once more: in all this, which is part and which is whole? Is the entire nature of airline passenger, MM, determined by his/her relation with one or more of the following 'wholes': the aeroplane, the Airline, the Airport, the flight controller, the factory that built the aeroplane, the other passengers, the man at the check-in desk (and his sick grandmother), MM's whole life up to that point, the entire earth and its history, the cluster of galaxies of which ours is a part…?

 

Which one of these is the 'whole' that makes MM "more"?

 

Moreover, do we include in the part, here, passenger MM's hand luggage, her glasses, her clothes, her unborn foetus, the cells now sloughing off her skin, the air coming out of her lungs, the material she just flushed down the loo?

 

[It could be argued that these objections ignore the distinctions dialecticians make between different kinds of parts and wholes. On this, see the main Essay Note 11 and Note 14.]

 

Which parts and which wholes are in the end entirely constitutive of, say, passenger, NM, in seat 26 -- minus his toupee, sun glasses and copy of The Da Vinci Code, which he left at home by accident? What if he hadn't forgotten any of these items?

 

And, would an aeroplane be more of an aeroplane if there were 100 people board it as opposed to 99? Is the airport itself more than it would otherwise have been if passenger, MN, had failed to check-in last Sunday at 19:02?

 

But, all these would have to be the case if the entire nature of each part and whole is determined in the way that G1 and G2 assert. In that case, passenger, MN, must indeed be greater than he would have been had he not flown last Sunday; and the same would be true of the airport. And if MN repeats this journey regularly, over many years, is there no end to how much more she will become?

 

Is this the case with anything else? Is the entire nature of the universe enhanced as a result? If everything is interconnected (in order for it to be true that the nature of the whole is determined by its relation to the parts), and inter-linked by these mysterious "internal relations", then the universe must be more of a universe than it used to be because MN checked in last Sunday. To be sure, had MN's cosmic significance not escaped her on the day in question, she would surely have been much better insured.

 

Of course, such questions are obviously crazy -- but, this is only because they arise from a consideration of the use of the vague and ill-defined concepts found in DM. The obscure nature of the example given in DB is a direct consequence of the unworkable, Metaphysical-Wholist ideas expressed in G1-G4 (repeated at the end of the next sub-section).

 

It could be argued that the above considerations are ridiculous since DM-Holism is concerned with organic wholes, not conglomerations or mere aggregates. But we have already seen that the passenger/plane example isn't an organic whole, and looks for all the world like a conglomeration/aggregate! Anyway, I return to this topic in much greater detail in the main Essay (where I question whether the distinction between organised wholes and aggregates (etc.) can successfully be maintained), here.]

 

Property Relations

 

In the above passage, the authors of DB referred to the ability to fly as a "property" that humans acquired as a result of social organisation, one they lacked earlier. But, is it correct to call this a "property"? Should we not rather want to call it a "facility", or perhaps a realisable "opportunity"? This is because no human beings can actually fly, and they cannot do so collectively, either. It is the machines we build that do all the flying!

 

But, if we still insist on calling it a "property", then perhaps we shouldn't be shy and declare that, for example, digital TV images are also "properties" that human beings have gained, or have attracted, as a result of their new capacity to walk around electronics stores. Or, to change the example: by inventing printing, humanity has perhaps acquired the "property" of browsing in second-hand bookshops.

 

In any case, in what sense is flying a property? What if someone carried a parrot onto a plane? Would that bird now have a double property? Perhaps the 'plane has acquired the property to be able to say "Pretty Polly!" Or, what if, say, an eagle carried off a rabbit? Would that hapless rodent thereby have acquired the new property of flight? -- Or, perhaps, the property of being 'kidnapped' by winged assailants? Indeed, would the new eagle/rabbit-whole be symmetrically unified (as far as part/whole determinations are concerned, and as G1-G4 seem to suggest)? Do eagles, therefore, acquire anything from rabbits when they enter into such predatory part/whole ensembles? Does, for example, the eagle part of this airborne duo acquire the rabbit part's ability to wriggle excessively when carried off by large predatory birds? But where does this end? On a demonstration, for example, do those protesting acquire the new property of being hit by police truncheons? Or, do those who use the Internet acquire the property of being harassed by trolls?

 

G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.

 

G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the parts.

 

G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.

 

G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.

 

Dialectical Sooth-Sayers?

 

Many of the above arguments are unlikely to impress convinced DM-theorists, let alone persuade them that their neat formula is unreliable. That is perhaps because the reasoning presented here uses analytic techniques uncongenial to DM's 'wholistic' approach.

 

Fortunately, however, we don't have to appeal to such alleged analytic tactics to demonstrate the weaknesses of DM-style Wholism.

 

Consider a passage written by Sean Sayers:

 

"Of course, a living organism is composed of physical and chemical constituents, and nothing more. Nevertheless, it is not a mere collection of such constituents, nor even of anatomical parts. It is these parts unified, organized and acting as a whole. This unity and organization are not only features of our description: they are properties of the thing itself; they are constitutive of it as a biological organism." [Sayers (1996), p.162.]

 

Now, this argument only looks plausible because it is based on a consideration of biological systems; hence, it fails to explain how a generalised sort of Wholism operates throughout non-organic nature, or indeed the rest of the universe.

 

So, even if Sayers were correct, what he says would be of little use in trying to understand the vast bulk of the material world in Wholist terms. For example, what sense could be made of the idea that a mountain is only a mountain because of its relation to the whole (which whole)? Or that, the Sun was only the Sun because of its relation to…, er..., well, what?

 

[Critics could now appeal to what I have  called (in the main Essay) the Spirkin Defense [SD] -- named after an STD who constructed perhaps the best defence of this aspect of DM I have so far seen in the literature -- and argue that arbitrary collections of objects aren't the sorts of wholes that dialecticians consider to be of prime importance. But, the Solar System is a system, and a mountain is part of a geological system. The problem here is that, as we saw in Note 14 (as well as Note 3 and Note 11) of the main Essay, the SD can't itself distinguish dialectically significant wholes from arbitrary conglomerations; or, at least, it can't do so on an 'objective' basis.]

 

[STD = Stalinist Dialectician.]

 

When a wider selection of examples is considered, further fundamental weaknesses in DM-Holism soon emerge. Consider, for instance, a car. Do its parts cease to be what they once were if they are removed from that vehicle? Does a wheel, for example, cease to be a wheel if it comes off its axle? Or, if it is removed while the car to which it belongs is being serviced? Is it any less of a wheel? Why replace it then? Does the axle cease to be an axle when it loses a wheel? Is it, too, any less of an axle? What would any replacement wheel be re-attached to then? Indeed, what happens to a lorry with four doubled-up rear wheels if it loses one while the other three remain on the axle? Would they still be wheels, and would they still be on an axle if the entire nature of a part is determined by its relation others, and to the whole?

 

In a similar vein, consider the following unlikely conversation in the Parts Department of a garage:

 

NN: "Can I have a fan belt?"

 

NM: "Sorry, mate, you can't because fan belts are only fan belts when they are attached to the cooling system of an engine."

 

Or, another in a café:

 

MM: "Can I have a slice of cake?"

 

MN: "No, but you can have a slice of non-cake, which used to be cake when it was attached to the whole cake before we sliced it up for you."

 

If a part is only a part -- and its nature is fully determined in the said manner when it is incorporated in a whole --, the Parts Department in the above example is surely mis-named. It should be called the "Non-Parts Department" -- or, perhaps:

 

The-Less-Than-Parts-Until-They-Are-Attached-To-The-Rest-Of-The-Vehicle Department

 

Or, maybe even:

 

The-Unknown-Objects-Whose-Natures-Remain-Obscure-Until-They-Are-Later-Determined-By-Their-Attachment-To-Another-Something-Or-Other-That-Is-Itself-Indeterminate-This-Side-Of-The-Aforementioned-Union-Into-A-New-Whole Department

 

Interested readers can now join in and dream up their own 'Dialectical Menu' for the 'Wholist-café' mentioned earlier.

 

It could be objected that fan belts and the like are what they are because they have been designed to fit cars, and that it is this intended role that makes them parts of the wholes they later join. But, this would make the part/whole relation impossibly vague, for in that case we wouldn't know what is part and what is whole -- or how they are connected -- until some intention or other had been ascertained. And that difficulty would apply to the designers, too. How could they form an intention to design this or that part if they couldn't independently identify it first before they formed that intention?

 

Worse still, this new change of focus (and onto intentions) might have untoward teleological implications for the parts of plants and animals, to say nothing of the rest of the Universe. Was the Sun 'intended' to warm the earth and keep it in orbit? Are the stars there merely to provide gainful employment for Astrologers? Or, maybe to assist wayfarers traverse oceans?

 

In addition, consider cases where objects retain their identity ('designed' or not), even though they feature in a temporary or semi-permanent whole for which they weren't actually 'intended'. Examples of this would include instances where, say, ordinary tools (such as a hammer) are used in non-standard ways -- to prop open doors, deter a rioting Policeman, or smash the windows on buses carrying scabs. Or, where a house brick might be used to weigh some papers down, frighten some more scabs, or 're-configure' a group of Nazis. In the latter case, the brick clearly remains a brick throughout; the fact that it won't lose any of its usual properties if it enters into, say, a new brick/'damaged-Nazi-whole' will be one of the reasons why it would be recommended to that end. Are Nazis any more scum-like (or brick-like) when they are in a new 'Nazi/brick whole' than they were before? Would this brick be more of a brick when lobbed at a scab than it would be if it were thrown at members of, say, Britain First? Does the said scab get a similar 'wholistic promotion' because the brick knocks him out? If parts and wholes are entirely inter-determined in the way specified (by means of these "internal relations"), most or all of these would be the case.

 

It could be argued once more that the above aren't relevant counter-examples since the items in question weren't originally designed to feature in such systematic wholes, nor do they assume wider functional roles as working units in either their old or their new guises. But, we have been here already. A response like this would rule out one or more of the few positive examples to which that Rees and other DM-fans themselves appeal. For example, where is the 'organic unity' in the aeroplane example the authors of DB advanced? Moreover, it would still fail to account for the altered roles that systematically-functioning items often undergo as a result of inter-systemic exchange -- even while they retain their 'identity'.

 

Consider, for instance, a seat from an old car; it could still be used (when separated from that car) as a seat in a house, or as a display in a museum, or as part of a barricade (but still serving as a seat for the barricaders). If the properties of parts actually changed as a result of their separation from the wholes they were 'meant' to fit (as this 'theory' implies they should) a seat would no longer be of any use in such new surroundings.

 

And, we don't have to invent weird and wonderful counter-examples drawn from human interaction; consider cases where animals commandeer parts taken from other animals and use them in the same or nearly the same way as their former owners. For example, Hermit Crabs use the shells of other sea creatures as protection. Is such a shell more or less of a shell in this new organic whole? The same question, it seems, can be asked about octopodia. [Film here.]

 

What about holes in the ground, or in trees, used as 'homes' and successively occupied by rabbits, foxes, moles, badgers, assorted birds, and even bees and wasps? Does a hole, therefore, become "more" of a hole whole when it is part of, say, a new mole hole whole than when it was part of a former vole hole whole? Indeed, does a mole or a vole become more or less of a mole or a vole whole in their new mole or vole hole whole?

 

Think, too, of wool and feathers gathered by birds to line their nests, used for warmth and padding, and so on. Again, consider the way that human beings use animal skins to keep warm, employing the latter in the same way their former owners used them. Does wool, for example, become more of an insulator when it forms part of a new child/pullover whole than when it was on the original sheep? Does it become more woollen when used as part of a scarf/worker ensemble?

 

What about the medical use of animal parts in human bodies? Xenotransplantation would be a non-starter if parts and wholes were "internally related", as DM-theorists would have us believe. Are heart valves taken from pigs (and other animals) no longer valves when they leave the body of the donor animal and are about to be transplanted into a human heart? [I have added several examples of this development to the main Essay.]

 

Other examples include artificial sources of insulin (from pigs, bacteria or from yeast), hormones, clotting factors (the use of Chinese Hamster Ovaries (CHO), for example), stem cells, and cell culture in general to help treat human beings (or, indeed, other organisms). The latest example of this use of medical technology (i.e., as of November 2008) is just another reminder that this is an empirical, not a logical issue: the growth of a woman's trachea from her own stem cells to replace a diseased wind pipe (obviating the need to use tissue rejection medication). And, in 2011, a totally artificial heart was fitted to a UK man. None of this would be possible if the entire nature of the part was determined by the whole.

 

On the other hand, if the entire nature of the part is determined by its "internal relation" to the whole, medical staff would no longer need to go to the trouble of tissue-typing donors and recipients. They would merely refer anxious patients and their relatives to textbooks on DL, throw in a couple of references to "internal relations", and the patient and relatives would soon come to appreciate the logical connection that exists between their loved one's organs and the rest of his/her body, as well as the analogous relation that holds between a potential donor's organs and his/her body. Such relatives would no doubt then agree that organ donation is a non-starter because kidney, K, in donor NN's body ceases to be a kidney when removed and/or transplanted into anyone else's body, and let the poor sod die.

 

[DL = Dialectical Logic; LOI = Law of Identity; LOC = Law of Non-Contradiction.]

 

The fact that health workers do not do this (and are right not to so do) shows that the connection between an organism and its parts isn't logical (in the DM-sense), but causal -- and that we all know this to be so.

 

We needn't labour the point; the problems we are continually facing with respect to the attempts made by DM-theorists to outline their theory have arisen from at least two sources: (1) Their reliance on the defective 'logic' Hegel inflicted on humanity (upside down or 'the right way up') and (2) A  misconstrual of the complex social rules we have for the use of certain words (i.e., those connected with the LOI, motion, the LOC, and now here, with the part/whole relation), as if they expressed substantive truths about the world.

 

In short, dialecticians are serial fetishisers and distorters of language -- indeed, in this they resemble traditional metaphysicians.

 

A Total Mystery?

 

As both Parts of Essay Eleven have shown, the "Totality" and the part/whole relation have yet to be given a clear exposition by DM-theorists -- or one that even looks vaguely coherent.

 

However, we now know much about what the "Totality" isn't, but nothing of what it is. In that case, the allegation made at the beginning of Part One of this Essay (that the DM-"Totality" may be understood only by means of a via negativa) still looks sound. This isn't the least bit surprising given the mystical origin of this way of viewing nature.

 

Hence, as things now stand, the "Totality" appears to be so 'contradictory', its 'border fence' so full of gaping holes, that it might include -- for all we know, or for all that DM-theorists themselves know(!) -- the complete Hindu pantheon, all the Norse gods, the departed spirits of the entire Apache nation, and possibly even the Evil One Himself.

 

Latest Update: 17/05/17

 

Word Count: 6820

 

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