16-07b: Summary Of Essay Seven: Engels's Second Law, The Interpenetration Of opposites -- Or, Why Dialectical Materialism Can't Explain Change
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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.]
[Since this Summary was written, I have published an Essay that is entirely devoted to this topic: If DM Were True, Change Would Be Impossible.]
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.]
Anyone using these links must remember that they will be skipping past supporting argument and evidence set out in earlier sections.
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1) Dialectical Logic Can't Explain Change
(a) Objects And Processes Change Into Their 'Opposites' -- Or Do They?
(b) Are Dialectical Cats Immortal
(c) Does Everything Have An Opposite?
(d) Suicidal Cats
(e) Are You About To Change Into A Giant Squid?
(f) Does Everything Change Into Its Opposite?
Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism
Abbreviations Used At This Site
Return To The Main Index Page
Dialectical 'Logic' Can't Explain Change
The doctrine that change occurs through 'internal contradiction' is analysed in detail in Essay Eight Parts One and Two; however, the thesis that everything is a UO -- which is a theory that is intimately connected with that doctrine -- hasn't yet been dismantled.
[UO = Unity of Opposites.]
Objects And Processes Change Into Their 'Opposites' -- Or Do They?
Engels depicted his second 'Law' as follows:
"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.]
Lenin put things this way:
"[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?]…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58. Emphases in the original.]
However, DM-theorists (like Lenin and Engels) are decidedly unclear whether objects/processes change because of (1) A contradictory relationship between their internal opposites, or because (2) They change into these opposites, or even whether (3) Change itself creates such opposites.
[FL = Formal Logic; NON = Negation of the Negation.]
Lenin's words merely illustrate this confusion in an acute form -- where he declares, for instance, that: "the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other…". Engels is equally unclear: "[M]utual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other...." The same can be said of Plekhanov and Mao:
"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. Bold emphases added.]
"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.]
"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. Bold emphases added.]
As noted above, these theorists plainly believe that all objects and processes (1) Change because of a struggle between internal opposites, (2) Change into their opposites, and (3) Produce these opposites when they change.
[Dozens of passages from the DM-classics, and from more recent 'lesser' works, all making the same points, have been posted here.]
As we are about to see, the idea that there are such things as "dialectical contradictions" and UOs (etc.), which cause change, presents DM-theorists with some rather nasty dialectical headaches, if interpreted along the lines expressed in the DM-classics.
To see this, let us suppose that object/process A is comprised of two "internal contradictory opposites" (or "opposite tendencies") O* and O**, and changes as a result.
[The problems I am about to highlight also emerge if these are viewed as 'external' contradictions. They arise, too, even if it is argued that the above changes only take place "under certain circumstances". I have omitted these complications since this is a summary Essay. However, they are all considered in detail in Essay Seven Part Three.]
But, O* can't change into O** -- since O** already exists!
According to this theory, if O** didn't already exist, O* couldn't change, for there would be no opposite there to bring that about, nothing with which it could 'struggle'. Recall, O* can only change if it struggles with its opposite, which, plainly, it couldn't do if O** didn't already exist.
And, it is no good propelling O** into
the future so that it becomes what
O* will change into, since O* will do no such thing unless
O** is already there in the present to make that happen!
So, if object/process A is already composed of a 'dialectical union' of O* and O**, O* can't change into O** since O** already exists. In other words, A can't change, if this theory were true!
Indeed, at the very least, this 'theory' leaves it entirely mysterious how O** itself came about in the first place. It seems to have popped into existence from nowhere.
That is because O** can't have come from O*, since O* can only change if it struggles with O**, which doesn't yet exist! And pushing the process into the past (via a 'reversed' version of the NON) will merely reduplicate the above problems. [Again, why this is so is explained in detail here.]
It could be objected that the above argument appears to place objects and/or processes in fixed categories, which is one of the main criticisms dialecticians make of FL. On that basis, it could be maintained that the above argument is completely misguided.
Fortunately, repairs are easy to make: let us now suppose that object/process A is comprised of two changing "internal/external opposites", or tendencies, O* and O**, and it thus develops as a result.
The rest still follows: if object/process A is already composed of a changing dialectical union of O* and O**, and O* 'develops' into O** as a result of a struggle between these opposites, then the above objections still apply. Once more: O* can't change into O** since O** already exists.
Of course, it could be argued that O** 'develops' into O*.
[This objection might even incorporate that eminently obscure Hegelian term-of-art: "sublation".]
But, even if that were the case, this alternative still won't work.
Let us once again suppose that object/process A is comprised of two changing "internal opposites"/tendencies O* and O**, and thus develops as a result. On this scenario, O* would change/develop into a "sublated" intermediary. To that end, let us call the latter, "O*1" (which can be interpreted as a combination of the old and the new; a 'negation' which also 'preserves'/'sublates').
If so, then O*1 must remain forever in that state, unchanged, for there is as yet no not-O*1 in existence to make it develop any further -- assuming, of course, that not-O*1 is the opposite of O*1. If it isn't its opposite, then O*1 couldn't change anyway since there wouldn't be anything with which it could struggle.
So, there has to be a not-O*1 to make O*1 change further, if the DM-classics are to be believed. Of course, we could try to exempt O*1 from this 'dialectical requirement', but, if we do that, there would seem to be no good reason to accept the version of events outlined in the DM-classics, which tells us that all things/processes change because they struggle with their opposites (and O*1 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 in accord this dialectical 'Law', we would be left with no way of telling which changes were and which weren't subject to it.
This is, of course, quite apart from the fact that such a subjectively applied exemption certificate (issued to O*1) would mean that nothing at all could change. That is because, if we accept this theory, everything in the universe is in the process of change and is thus already a sublated version of whatever it used to be -- hence, everything is in its own way a version of O*1.
Despite this, even if O*1 were to change into not-O*1 (as we suppose it must if we are to believe what the DM-classics tell us), then all the earlier problems re-assert themselves, for this could only take place if not-O*1 already existed to make it happen! But, not-O*1 can't already exist, for O*1 hasn't changed into it yet!
None of this, of course, denies that change occurs, only that DM can account for it.
On the other hand, if DM were true, change would be impossible.
[The above argument is set out in more detail here, where several obvious and less obvious objections are neutralised. As far as social change is concerned, see here, here and here.]
Are 'Dialectical Cats' Immortal?
It could be agued that the above ignores the many stages there are in the development of changing objects and processes. In order to counter that objection it might prove useful to see how DM might cope with the stages in, say, a cat's life and death:
DM-classics inform us that cats,
too, 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).
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
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 this theory has presided over 140+ years of dismal failure?
Does Everything Have An 'Opposite'?
Leaving all this to one side for now, and ignoring for the moment the question how Hegel, Engels, Lenin and Plekhanov knew this 'Law' was true of everything in existence, for all of time (this particular issue is examined in more detail in Essay Two), it is worth pointing out that some things do not seem to have any 'internally interconnected opposites'. For example, electrons, which, while they appear to have several external opposites (but not only is it unclear what the opposite of an electron is -- is it a positron or is it a proton?), they seem to have no internal opposites, as far as can be ascertained. They are elementary particles. In that case, they must be changeless beings -- either that, or if they do change, they don't seem to do so as a result of their "internal contradictions" (for they don't have any). And neither do they change into their alleged opposites (which, according to the DM-classics, everything inevitably does). Well, do electrons turn into protons? Or, into positrons?
[Of course, the problem here is that DM-fans slide effortlessly between a logical and a spatial understanding of "internal"; more on that here. The spatial sense of "internal" is reasonably clear, but this isn't the case with its supposed logical sense. An example might help: all the lines of longitude on a map are internally connected to the Prime Meridian in Greenwich. Their location and status depend on that meridian; any changes to the latter automatically change each of the former. Remove the Prime Meridian and they disappear at the same time. In this case, although each line is spatially linked to the Prime Meridian (but they aren't geometrically internal to it), they are logically internal to it. The use of such terms dates back to Leibniz and Kant, where one concept was said to be internally related to another if the definition of one automatically implied the other -- so bachelor was said to imply unmarried man, and vice versa. (It has to be said, though, that the equivocation mentioned above -- whereby DM-fans slide between two different senses of "internal" -- dates back to these two Philosophers. In this Introductory Essay, however, I cannot go into this in any more detail.)]
Despite this, once more, it is difficult to believe Lenin and the rest were serious in claiming that everything is a UO -- just as it is impossible to give credence to the idea that "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [changes] into every other….", according to Lenin.
Are we really supposed to believe that, say, a domestic cat is a UO? But, what is the opposite of a cat? A dog? A tulip? A tin of beans?
Is it perhaps a 'non-cat'? And yet, if a 'non-cat' were the opposite of a cat, it would mean that if everything does indeed change into its opposite, cats must change into everything they are not -- that is, they must change into any one or more of the following 'non-cats': oak trees, sandy beaches, cuff links, dog baskets, rift valleys, petrol stations, revolutionary newspapers, stop clocks, rusty car wheels, potato peel, rusty nails, mountain ranges, meteors and galaxies, to name but a few. [The 'obvious' dialectical response to this particular objection will be considered presently.]
Not only that, but according to Lenin cats must contain all these things if they are indeed unities of their opposites (or, they must be "internally related" to them in some way; once more it is worth reminding the reader that DM-fans slide effortlessly between a logical and a spatial understanding of "internal") -- i.e., they must presumably be a unity of cat and 'non-cat' --, especially if the latter (i.e., this 'non-cat') is what causes a cat to change. Is, therefore, each unassuming domestic moggie a repository of all its myriad opposites, and do these opposites contain their own sets of opposites, ad infinitem, like glorified Russian dolls?
Well, it seems they must if, according to Lenin, "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [changes] into every other…." Hence, if change is the result of a struggle between 'internal opposites' (declared above to be an "absolute" by Lenin), and everything changes into everything else (as it now seems to the case form this latest statement by Lenin), then cats must both contain and change into (at some point) a host of things, which must in turn contain and change into even more.
[This assumes that Lenin was using "internal" in its spatial sense. If he was using it in its logical sense, then both he and Hegel failed to show that there were any such 'logically-internal' opposites of cats, or anything else, for that matter. On this, see Essay Eight Part Three, as well as here and here.]
It is little use complaining that these are ridiculous conclusions; if everything changes into its opposite, then follow they must. Any who still object should rather pick a fight with dialecticians for promoting such a crazy view of reality.
So, if cats do change, as surely they do, then they must change into their opposites. But, where are these 'opposite cats'? And how do they both feature in and cause the changes they allegedly induce in the original animal? On the other hand, if they don't do this, does this mean that feline parts of nature are not subject to 'dialectical law'?
Now, Engels did at least try to respond to this fatal objection by arguing that we must learn from nature what the actual properties of objects and processes are in each case, and hence, presumably, what each can legitimately change into. [To be sure, he made this point in relation to the first and third of his 'Laws', but there is no reason to believe he would have denied this of the second 'Law'.] He also pointed out that dialectical negation isn't the same as annihilation. [Engels (1954), p.63 and (1976), p.181.]
However, nature is annoyingly ambiguous on this score. For example, lumps of iron ore can turn, or be turned into many different things (with or without the addition of human labour, etc.). These include: hematite, magnetite, taconite, countless ferrous and ferric compounds (including rust, Ferrous and Ferric Sulphides, Fools Gold, etc., etc.), car parts, aeroplane components, ships, magnets, cutlery, pots and pans, scaffolding, girders, anchors, chains, bollards, cranes, tubes, engines, ornaments, jewellery, weapons, garden tools, scientific instruments, barbed wire, furniture, doors, gates, railings, railway tracks, rolling stock, wheels, zips, bars, handcuffs, bullets, iron filings, rivets, nails, screws, staples, steel wool, helmets, cytochrome nitrogenase, and, of course, haemoglobin -- again, to name but a few.
Are we to believe that all of these reside inside each lump of iron? [Or, that they are logically related to iron?] If not, what exactly is the point of this 'Law'? Alternatively, if these items don't exist inside each lump of iron -- or even if they don't confront them as antagonistic external opposites --, how is it possible for human labour and natural forces to turn iron into the above things while remaining in conformity with 'dialectical Law'? Does human labour counteract or work with the 'Laws' of dialectics? If a lump of iron doesn't ('logically', or physically) contain, say, a carving knife, how is it possible for human beings to change iron into carving knives, and do so dialectically? Are there changes in reality that aren't governed by DM-principles?
Are these iron DM-'Laws' not in fact applicable to iron itself?
In that case, exactly which opposites are united (spatially or logically) in/with iron ore? Of course, it could be argued that the above considerations completely misconstrue the nature of this Law. No one supposes that cats and nuggets of iron ore contain their opposites.
Indeed, this is how Woods and Grant explained things:
"Nature seems to work in pairs. We have the 'strong' and the 'weak' forces at the subatomic level; attraction and repulsion; north and south in magnetism; positive and negative in electricity; matter and anti-matter; male and female in biology, odd and even in mathematics; even the concept of 'left and right handedness' in relation to the spin of subatomic particles.... There are two kinds of matter, which can be called positive and negative. Like kinds repel and unlike attract." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.65.]
However, if nature works in pairs (at least), what then is the paired opposite of a cat that causes that animal to change? If cats have no 'dialectical opposites', then it must be the case that such feline parts of nature (at least) don't work in pairs, and thus don't change.
But, whatever applies to cats must surely apply to countless other things. What then are the external or internal opposites of things like Giraffes, Snowy Owls, Mountain Gorillas, Daffodils, Oak trees, Chinese Puzzles, broom handles, craters on the Moon, copies of Anti-Dühring printed in China in January or February 1976, a day-return ticket for a journey between Poughkeepsie and Peekskill, New York, on the 25th of February 2013 -- or even the question mark at the end of this sentence? Now, all of these are subject to change, but not it seems because of any obvious oppositional pairing, or struggle with its 'dialectical opposite'.
Is a question mark, for example, really locked in a life-and-death struggle with other punctuation marks? Or, with its 'DM-other' (depending on what this is)? But, what is the 'other' of an "?"? An "!", perhaps? And what does a day-return ticket for a journey between Poughkeepsie and Peekskill, New York, on the 25th of February 2013 'struggle' with? What is its 'other'? Or, is it the only changeless object in the entire universe?
[The term "other" here refers to an Hegelian term-of-art, accepted and used (at least) by Lenin; its relevance and philosophical significance are explained in more detail if readers follow the first link in the previous paragraph.]
It could be objected to this that in the case of cats (and several of the other objects listed above), the opposites concerned are plainly "male" and "female". But even if that were so, these are manifestly not "internal opposites" (and neither are they "internally related" to each other -- they are causally, historically and biologically related; sexual diversity is not a logical feature of reality -- if it were, not only would there be no hermaphrodites or asexual organisms, there could be none), so change here cannot be the result of 'internal contradictions'.
But, even if this weren't so, is it really the case that males and females must always conflict?
[Anyone who has, for example, seen Leopard Slugs mating might be forgiven for thinking that these fortunate creatures have had a dialectical exemption certificate encoded into their DNA at some point. They certainly don't 'conflict'!]
And do male cats really turn into female cats? They must if the DM-classics are to believed, where we are told that all thing change into their opposites?
Moreover, while it is true that cats are able to reproduce because of well known goings-on between male and female moggies, cats themselves do not change because of the relationship between these two sexes. If they did, then a lone cat on a desert island would be capable of living forever (or, at least, of not changing). Hence, as long as this eternal and permanently miserably celibate moggie stayed clear of members of the opposite sex, it could look forward to becoming a sort of feline Super-Methuselah.
But, what are we to say of those organisms that do not reproduce sexually --, and worse what are we to make of, say, hermaphrodites? Are the latter an expression of a cosmic 'bourgeois anti-DM plot'?
And what should we conclude about things like broom handles and copies of Trotsky's IDM? Do they change because of the tension created by their own inner/outer opposites? But what could these possibly be? Is the opposite of IDM, Mein Kampf or Stalin's Problems of Leninism?
Could it even be these Essays?
Does this mean, therefore, that IDM will change into one of my Essays? Well, perhaps TAR will, since my work was originally aimed specifically in opposition to that book. In which case, had this work not been undertaken, would TAR and IDM have been eternally changeless books?
[IDM = In Defense of Marxism, i.e., Trotsky (1971); TAR = The Algebra of Revolution, i.e., Rees (1998).]
As seems reasonably clear, the passage from Woods and Grant quoted earlier fails to resolve this problem.
On the other hand, if cats change not as a result of the machinations of their external opposites, but because of their 'internal contradictions', then factors internal to cats must surely be responsible for their development. Should we now look inside each cat for these illusive opposites? If so, do they appear at the level of its internal organs? But, what is the opposite of, say, a cat's liver? Does it have one? If not, is it an everlasting liver? On the other hand, if it does have one, will a cat's liver one day turn into a cat's non-liver (a bus stop, say)?
Maybe we should delve even deeper into the inner workings of these 'reactionary', feline aspects of 'Being'?
If a cat's liver has no opposite, then perhaps its liver cells do? But once more, what is the opposite of a cat's liver cell? A kidney cell? A blood cell? (An onion cell?)
As we ferret deeper into the nether regions of feline inner space, perhaps these elusive opposites will appear at the molecular or atomic level? Some dialecticians seem to think so -- but they are only able to pull this dodge by ignoring their own claims that all of nature works in pairs, or paired opposites. So, we have yet to be told what, say, the River Amazon is twinned with, let alone what the Oort Cloud's dialectical alter ego could possibly be.
Nevertheless, it could be argued that 'internal opposites' actually involve the relations that exist between sub-atomic and inter-atomic forces and processes at work inside lumps of iron, cats, and much else besides.
But, if each thing (and not just each part of a thing), and each system/process in the Totality, is a UO (as we were assured they are by the DM-classicists), then cats and iron bars (and not just electrons, π-mesons (Pions) and positrons, etc.) must have their own internal and/or external opposites -- that is, if they are to change.
So, for a cat to become a 'non-cat' -- which is, presumably, the 'internal/external' opposite it is supposed to turn into --, it must be in dialectical tension with that opposite right now if the latter causes it to change. [We saw this in a more abstract form earlier.] If not, then we can only wonder what dialecticians imagine the forces are (and from whence they originate) that cause cats and lumps of iron to change into whatever their opposites are imagined to be.
And, even if molecular, inter-atomic or sub-atomic forces actually power the development of cats, the latter will still have to change because of their paired macro-level opposites (whose identities still remain a mystery). It isn't as if each cat is struggling against all the protons, electrons and quarks that exist beneath its skin. Nor are we to suppose that cats are constantly conflicting with their internal organs, fur and whiskers. If they were, then according to DM-lore recorded here, cats would have to turn into their internal organs, fur and whiskers, and the latter would have to turn into cats!
Moreover, even if these sub-atomic particles were locked in a sort of quantum wrestling match, one with another, the changes they induced in the average dialectical moggie must find expression in macro-phenomena at some point, or cats wouldn't alter at all. But what on earth could those macro-phenomena be?
Furthermore, if change is to be located ultimately at the quantum level, then what are all those sub-atomic particles changing into? Many are highly stable. But, even if they weren't, then whatever they finally change into must exist right now to cause them to change into it, if the DM-classics are to be believed. And yet, if these opposites already exist, the original particles cannot change into them (as we have already seen). The best that could happen here is that these 'opposite particles' must replace the originals (which then magically disappear). But, we have been here already.
In that case, given this view of nature, things don't actually change, they just vanish, and other things take their place (and they do so undialectically, since their opposites will have simply vanished). But, plainly, with no opposites (since they have just vanished!), they couldn't change any further.
[The idea that there are 'internal opposites' of 'sub-atomic particles' is discussed in more detail in Essays Seven and Eight Part One.]
Moreover, if the forces that cause cats to change are solely internal to cats, then as far as their mutability is concerned, they must be hermetically sealed-off from the rest of nature (as must everything else -– this dire dialectical difficulty is examined in more detail in Essays Eight Part One, and Eleven Parts One and Two), otherwise change wouldn't be internal to cats.
If, on the other hand, the causes of feline change are external to cats, then 'internal contradictions' can't be responsible for changing them into 'non-cats', and we are back where we started.
If we now ignore this 'either-or' of 'commonsense', and claim that cats change because of a 'dialectical' inter-play between 'internal' and 'external' contradictions, then we would be faced with the prospect of cats changing into these internal and external opposites, if the Dialectical Classics are to be believed. But, and once more, if these opposites already exist (which they must do if they are to bring about such changes through struggle), then cats can't change into them!
The same applies to sub-atomic particles: if the forces that cause change are solely internal to such particles, then as far as their mutability is concerned, they must be hermetically sealed-off from the outside world, otherwise such change wouldn't be internally-motivated. If, on the other hand, the causes of their change were external, then 'internal contradictions' can't be responsible for changing them into a 'non-whatever'.
Alternatively, once more, if the opposites of such particles (internal or external -- or even a dialectic combination of the two) cause them to change into their opposites, then they needn't bother, for those opposites already exist. If those opposites didn't already exist, what could initiate such changes?
In the macro-world, on the other hand, the doctrine that objects and processes change because of their 'internal contradictions' would seem to mean that when, say, a cat gets run over, that cat actually self-destructs and that the car involved had nothing to do with flattening it. One might well wonder why nature produced such suicidal mammals.
Of course, it could be argued along Leibnizian lines that had the cat in question been internally strong enough it would have survived this unequal tussle with that car. So, the real cause of this cat's radically modified shape is in fact to be found inside that cat. [This argument is outlined here. As we will see in Essay Eight Part One, several DM-theorists do indeed argue along such lines.]
There is something to be said for this argument, but fortunately not much. Whatever it is that causes a cat to alter dramatically when run over is plainly not whatever it is that maintains its anatomical integrity from day-to-day. Something must have upset whatever that factor is in order to transform that cat's shape; cats do not spontaneously flatten themselves. Few of us would be happy to be told by a Leibnizian drunk driver that it isn't his fault that the family pet is spread half-way across the road because the cat itself is the cause of its new shape. In such cases, we clearly have an example of interacting causes for the demise of that cat, none of which can be put down solely to events internal to that unfortunate animal. Of course, dialecticians do not deny this, but as Essay Eight Part One demonstrated, their 'theory' can't account for it.
However, someone could object that dialectics can account for such catastrophic reconfigurations of cats. A 'dialectical' combination of internal and external forces is the cause of their newly assumed shape. But even that won't work, for if a normal cat is to change into a flat cat, then according to the DM-worthies quoted here (where we were told that all objects and processes "inevitably" turn into their opposites, and those opposites cause that change), such a flat cat must already exist to flatten the non-flat cat into a flat cat. So the driver (unless we are desperate enough to describe her/him as a "non-flat cat", on the basis that he/she is the obvious cause of the flattened cat in question), given this new turn of events, didn't actually flatten the cat, the non-existent non-flat cat did that.
Despite this, and to change the example, whatever their commitment to this 'Law' amounts to, one supposes that no dialectician still in command of her/his reason would excuse, say, a policeman for inflicting actual bodily harm on a striking worker on the grounds that Leibnizian 'Being' unwisely failed to incorporate into the heads of militants the ability to withstand Billy Clubs.
Once again, dialectics would be disproved in practice; gashed heads aren't the result of "self-development".
Alternatively, once again, if the causes of feline (or cranial!) mutability are both internal and external, then change can't be the sole result of 'internal contradictions', and things wouldn't be self-developing, as Lenin believed.
In which case, it remains a mystery what the opposite of a cat is, which is part of the UO that brings about such topological re-configurations --, if the above DM-worthies are to be believed.
In that case, can DM explain dead moggies?
Or, indeed, anything?
Are You About To Change Into A Giant Squid?
Earlier we saw Lenin argue as follows:
"[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?]…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58. Emphases in the original.]
If this is indeed so, it would seem to suggest that everything (and every property) must change into every other property! So, if Lenin were correct, heat, for example, must change into, say, colour, hardness and generosity (and much else besides); liquidity must transform itself into brittleness, circularity and inquisitiveness (and much else besides); gentleness must mutate into velocity, opacity and bitterness (and much else besides); squareness must turn into arrogance, honesty and duplicity (and much else besides), and so on.
In that case, are you about the change into a Giant Squid?
If Lenin is right, it seems you must.
Is there a single person on the planet -- not suffering from dialectics -- who believes any of this?
Once again, if these bizarre changes aren't the case (as they plainly are not!), and if such things aren't implied both by these terminally vague 'Laws' and by what Lenin opined, what is the point of him asserting that this is precisely what everything does?
Does Everything Change Into Its Opposite?
Furthermore, is it really the case that everything turns into its opposite, as Engels, Lenin, Mao and Plekhanov, and many others besides, believed? To be sure, certain states of matter do change into what we might conventionally call their "opposites" (e.g., a hot object might change and become cold; something above might later come to be below, and so on -- but even here, these opposites do not cause these changes!), but this is certainly not true of everything. Do men, for instance, turn into women, fathers into sons, brothers into sisters, left- into a right-hands, the working class into the capitalist class, forces of production into relations of production, use values into exchange values, negative numbers/electrical charges into positive numbers/electrical charges, electrons into positrons, and matter into 'anti-matter'? If not, what is the point of saying that everything does indeed do this? And why claim that objects and processes have internal or external opposites if in most cases they feature nowhere in the action --, or, again, if many things do not turn into them?
Of course, that was the point of the observation made earlier about dialecticians vacillating between (1) the theory that opposites cause change and (2) the idea that things change into those opposites -- sometimes veering toward the doctrine that (3) change produces these opposites. The first of these alternatives is examined in Essay Eight Part One, but if the second alternative were the case, we would surely witness some bizarre transformations in nature and society as men changed into women, cats into dogs(?), banks into charities and the Capitalist Class into the Working Class -- and then back again.
[The objection that these opposites are not 'dialectically-united' opposites is defused in Essay Seven.]
Naturally, as has been argued in detail above, if change merely creates these opposites then, plainly, that can't have been the result of a struggle between those two opposites, which have to exist side-by-side -- clearly so, since at least one element of these hypothetical pairs wouldn't exist yet. Hence, with respect to objects in the latter category, change would create them, not them it.
This completely scuppers the DM-account of change for it is now clear that there is nothing in the DM-scheme-of-things that could cause the many different sorts of change we see in nature and society.
In which case, if change occurs, dialectics -- the much vaunted 'theory of change' -- wouldn't be able explain it.
Indeed, if DM were true, change would be impossible.
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