16-07-01C: Summary Of Essay Seven: Engels's Third Law, The Negation of The Negation -- Demolished
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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: 26/01/20.]
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1) Law Three: Non-Sense
a) Engels Screws Up
b) From Language To 'Scientific' Truth -- Again
c) Terminator Four -- The Rise Of Monsanto
d) Seedy Theory Confronted By Genetics
e) Socialism Brought From Without? Perhaps By Aliens?
f) Moth-Eaten Dialectics
g) Same Old Tune
Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism
Abbreviations Used At This Site
Return To The Main Index Page
'Law' 3: NON-Sense
The 'Negation of the Negation' [NON] fares no better than the first two 'Laws'. Indeed, since the NON is itself an elaboration of the previous 'Law' ('The Unity and Interpenetration of Opposites'), it suffers from all the latter's weaknesses.
As with other DM-theses, the NON is also based on a confusion of logico/linguistic categories with objects and processes in material reality, an age-old error Engels imported from Hegel, who in turn borrowed it from earlier mystics. [More on that in Essays Twelve and Fourteen (summaries here and here).]
Engels Screws Up
Nevertheless, the few examples that DM-theorists have produced over the years to illustrate this 'Law' fail to work even in the way they were apparently intended. For example, concerning grains of barley Engels, argued as follows:
"[T]he grain as such ceases to exist, it is negated, and in its place there appears the plant which has arisen from it, the negation of the grain… It grows, flowers, is fertilised and finally once more produces grains of barley, and as soon as these have ripened, the stalk dies, is in its turn negated…." [Engels (1976), pp.172-73.]
However, Engels failed to notice that many plants do not cease to exist (and so cannot have been 'negated') when they produce seeds. Do apples trees wither and die when, or soon after, they produce their first crop of apples? Do fig trees crumple to dust each time they produce a batch of figs? Is it really necessary to re-plant an entire vineyard each year? Engels seems to have generalised from the example of one plant species that produces an annual crop and then dies to a thesis supposedly valid throughout nature, for all of time.
Consider also the animal kingdom. Do all animals drop dead when they produce their off-spring? Are all human children made orphans the moment they are born?
If not, then it is clear that much of the living world ignores this obscure 'Law'.
[This is quite apart from the fact that most plants, and some animals, reproduce asexually. More on this below.]
Leaving aside for now the confusion noted earlier (i.e., whether plants (or, indeed, anything) change(s) because of (a) a struggle between "internal opposites", or whether they (b) change into those opposites), if each grain is indeed a UO (i.e., a union of grain and 'non-grain' -- or a union of the plant it is and the plant it becomes -- where 'non-grain' is the plant the grain becomes and where the latter is itself the negation of the grain, and so on), the grain itself must also contain the plant, not potentially, but actually. [That particular observation is itself dependent on the dialectical equivocation noted below.]
If this weren't so, the grain wouldn't itself be a union of these opposites -- and hence there would be nothing to cause it to change, and nothing for it to change into.
[Objections to this way of reading Engels will be neutralised presently. As we saw in Essay Eight Part One, dialecticians equivocate between to meanings of the word "internal" in "internal contradiction" -- that is, between a spatial and a logical sense of these terms. I have outlined the issues briefly here. The argument here trades on that equivocation. Readers need to keep this in mind as they proceed.]
[UO = Unity of Opposites; DM = Dialectical Materialism.]
However, this 'plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism must (for the same reason) contain its own opposite -- yet another plant (i.e., a 'plant-inside-the-plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism, if, according to Lenin, the 'plant inside the grain' is itself a UO). If it is, then it, too, must contain its own opposite, yet another grain (i.e., a 'grain-inside-the-plant-inside-the-plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism -- and so on, forever. If they didn't then they couldn't change, since we were also told that all change is the result of these 'internal contradictions'.
This objection cannot be neutralised by arguing that the opposite of the 'plant-inside-the-gain' is in fact the grain itself, for if that were the case, the 'plant-inside-the-grain' would turn onto that grain, if all things turn into their opposites, as we are told they must. For the 'plant-inside-the-gain' to develop into a plant it has to be in some sort of 'internal struggle' with its own opposite, that is, it has to struggle with what it has to yet to become (i.e., a plant), which in turn has to be internal to that 'plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism. Again, this mist be so if the Dialectical Classics are to be believed (link above). Furthermore, this 'plant-inside-the-plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism isn't itself changeless. Hence, if it is to change into its opposite (which opposite I have here surmised to be a 'grain-inside-plant-inside-the-plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism -- but, that is just my guess), that opposite must already exist for it to change into, or this would be a change with no DM-cause inducing it. It would, in that eventuality, have nothing with which it could 'struggle'.
The rest follows as before.
This must indeed be so if everything is a UO, as Hegel, Engels, Lenin and Mao said they were. In that case, Engels's version of the NON (at least as far as barley is concerned) seems to imply the actual existence of an infinite set of organic plant-and-seed 'boxes within boxes', as it were, which is about as believable as the picture of reality painted by 18th century preformationist/ovist biologists. This is because it would mean that every grain that ever there was must contain, and must be contained by, every subsequent plant that ever there grew (or will grow), with each of these organic mega-Russian Doll-type organisms complete with its own grains and plants within grains and plants within grains and…, etc., to infinity.
Figure One: The NON Dissected?
Of course, dialecticians (most probably those of the Low Church tendency) who accept Engels's seed analogy as Gospel Truth will reject the above analysis. According to them, the UO here is precisely what we see as, and understand to be, barley seed, with all its law-governed inner processes, tendencies, and dialectical interactions with its environment. The latter change each seed into a plant, unfolding the aforementioned 'negation' -- the latter of which doesn't destroy the grain as such, but "sublates" the original negation or seed (it isn't too clear which of these is intended) from which the new plant emerges.
["Sublate" is an Hegelian term employed by dialecticians; it roughly means to "negate and to transcend". It emphasises the creative/preservative, but not so much the destructive aspects of 'dialectical' negation, development and change.]
It could then be argued that none of this means that the original seed contains the subsequent plant in any way, as the above paragraphs rather foolishly suppose. Whatever opposites this natural process requires, so that a new plant grows from seed, can be ascertained from its actual development.
Or, so a response might proceed...
[It is worth pointing out that this 'get-out-of-a-metaphysical-hole-free-card' was in fact withdrawn from circulation here.]
But, what exactly are these "opposites", anyway? And why do the Dialectical Classics say that things change into their opposites because of an internal struggle between those very opposites, which, plainly, must co-exist for this to happen?
"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.]
"[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?]…. The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58. Emphases in the original.]
"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 alone added.]
[Much more of the same has been posted here.]
This can only mean that barley grains contain the barely plants they subsequently develop into -- so they are like Russian dolls. There doesn't seem to be any other way of reading this 'Law', at least as it is depicted by DM-classicists above. That is because there don't appear to be any 'external' opposites that make a seed change into its 'opposite', a plant; in which case, these opposites must be 'internal' to each seed.
From Language To 'Truth', Again
However, even if we ignore this serious difficulty for the present, what NON-sense can be made of the claim that a plant is the negation of a seed? That rather odd idea seems to depend on the ancient belief that all words, including the negative particle, are names -- in this case, the name of a special sort of dialectical process. As noted above, this idea can be traced back into the mists of time, but in its modern form it surfaces in Kant's claim that there are such things as "real negations". [On that, see here, here, here -- but more specifically, here.]
Since no DM-theorist appears to have given this 'Law' much thought, it isn't easy to follow the 'reasoning' here. Perhaps it goes something like this:
If we have a negative particle in language, and it corresponds to something in reality, then it must name that something. So, since negativity appears in language, it must reflect real negativity in nature. [Minus the Hegelian gobbledygook, I have yet to see anything more sophisticated than that in DM-writings. Lenin's feeble attempt in this regard will be examined in Essay Thirteen Part One.]
But, if that were so, it would become rather difficult to rectify incorrect naming and/or identification (something that is easy to do in the vernacular).
If and when misidentification happens in every day life, we have reasonably simple ways of correcting ourselves. If we mistake, say, George H W Bush for George W Bush, it is easy to put it right; we simply use a definite description and a nominal qualifier (perhaps), such as: "I mean the former President of the United States, George Bush senior."
But, if "not" were the name of some thing/some process (DM-fans call it "negativity", and credit it will almost 'god'-like powers -- as a quick glance at the title of, say, Dunayevskaya (2002) should be enough to convince any doubters) and was incorrectly identified as the name of something else -- let us say that it was mistakenly interpreted as the name of "or" --, then it would be impossible to point this out. One could hardly say: "Not is not or", which, if the DM-Identity Theory of Predication were correct, would be equivalent to "Not = not or", and the first "not" would name something other than not, namely "not or" with which it is now 'identical'!
[Exactly why all words aren't names was considered in Essay Three Part One.]
More importantly, negation in language typically attaches to propositions (or clauses; however, see here), and if they too were names (in that they allegedly name the true, or the false, or facts, or whatever), then it would seem that any named thing could be negated. This certainly accounts for the nominalisation of the word "negation" in Hegelian/DM-circles, where the word slides effortlessly between its nominal and verbal forms. One minute it is the name of 'negativity' -- or perhaps that of a subsequently "sublated" 'opposite' --, next it is a process that creates novelty. Of course, it is precisely this terminological slide that causes the problem. But, negation is something we do in language, and we do it to certain sorts of expressions. Treating it as the name of something in the physical world could only therefore amount to the fetishisation of the negative particle. [More on this, too, in Essay Twelve (summary here). I have discussed the negative particle used in conjunction with Ordinary and Proper Nouns, here. More details will be given in Essay Twelve]
Well, even if this 'syntactical slide' represented a sound piece of Stone Age Logic, negation would still only apply to words, clauses and sentences, not things. Or, to put this another way, if negation applied to objects and processes in the world, DM-theorists have yet to provide us with the proof. [Further ruminations along these lines are explored here. More details will be given in Essay Twelve and Essay Four Part Two.]
Following Hegel and Kant, Engels just assumed that 'things'/processes could be negated; his only 'proof' seems to have been the fact that it is possible to negate sentences and clauses. To be sure, in the Kantian and Hegelian systems it made some sort of crazy sense to suppose 'things'/processes could be negated. After all, in Hegel's 'mental universe' the line between reality and language/thought had become thinner than George W Bush's excuse for invading Iraq. However, in a materialist theory no physical meaning can be given to this odd idea. On a similar basis, one might just as well think that conjunctions can attach to objects in reality just because we can speak about cats and dogs (or, if we attached this connective to processes (such as "riding and swimming")) -- which 'manufactured fact' would supposedly then 'allow' us to claim that reality contains 'objects' called "cats-and-dogs" (or "riding-and-swimming"), which an alleged natural process of "conjunction" could turn them into. This linguistic trick could then be justified by an appeal to the Fourth 'Law' of dialectics, the 'Conjunction of the Conjunction' -- in a similar way to how we might suppose, DM-style, that reality contains "negated-seeds". Or even, that nature contains 'and's (to which our word "and" refers), or that things are glued together and thus develop by the "power of andivity".
Of course, the motivation for thinking that reality contains negation (and that it doesn't contain conjunctions) had its own spurious 'logical' origin. As noted above, it was derived from (1) Kant's theory that there are "real negations"; (2) Hegel's defective 'analysis' of the LOI; (3) The odd idea that this 'Law' (stated negatively) implied the LOC and (4) Hegel's belief that the 'logical' processing of certain ideas (connected with Spinoza's unsupported claim that 'every determination is also a negation') had profound implications for the entire universe, and for all of time. Items (2)-(4) were demolished here (a summary of which can be found here), with (2) more extensively criticised in Essay Three Part One. Finally, (1) is partially tackled below, but more fully in Essay Eight Part Two. [See also my comments over at Wikipedia.]
[LOI = Law of Identity; LOC = Law of Non-contradiction.]
Even so, this 'secondary' argument (that the world must contain negativity if we have a word for it) fails too, for as we have seen, if this were a sound argument, then reality should also contain the supposed referents of adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and expletives (among other rather odd linguistic items).
We saw in Essay Three Part One (and will see again in more detail in Essay Twelve (summary here)), that the idea that inferences like this (i.e., the derivation from language alone of fundamental theses, valid for all of space and time) is a dodge that Ancient Philosophers and Mystics invented in order to account for the supposed link between the 'Word of God', the Logos, and 'His' creation. This ideological and theological thought-form was then employed in order to help rationalise and 'legitimate' State Power, since, in that case, both the natural world and the State were supposed to reflect the invisible 'divine'/logical order of reality.
Moreover, if the contingent features of language were capable of allowing us to infer a priori truths about reality directly from linguistic expressions like "not", then we might just as well go the whole hog and openly acknowledge the Ideal nature of reality, and be done with it, as George Novack pointed out:
Moreover, if the structure of language in fact allowed us to infer a priori 'truths' about reality from linguistic expressions (like "not") then we might just as well openly accept the Ideal nature of the world, and be done with it -- as George Novack pointed out:
"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...." [Novack (1965), p.17. Bold emphasis added.]
In that case, the materialist flip Hegel's system is supposed to have had inflicted upon it, transforming it into 'Materialist Dialectics', will have been through the full 360 degrees, and not the advertised 180.
However, the main objection to the idea that the negative particle finds a counterpart in reality is based on the nature of empirical propositions, and will be aired in Essay Twelve Part One.
Terminator Four: The Rise Of Monsanto
Engels argued that as things stand the development of grain into barley is a natural process; hence the plant that subsequently grows from each seed is its 'natural' negation. But, many things can 'naturally' happen to seeds. For example, they can be eaten or burnt as energy. But they can also rot, ferment, dry-out and be thrown at weddings. In fact, since anything that happens in nature must be natural (it surely isn't supernatural), all such processes must, it seems, be governed by these and other DM-'Laws' (that is, if they are genuine laws).
Nor could it be agued that the "natural" development of objects and process is whatever would happen to them if they were left alone to develop naturally as a result of the operation of their "internal contradictions". That is because nothing in the DM-universe is ever 'left alone' -- everything is part of an allegedly interconnected DM-Totality. Whatever happens in nature must have been 'mediated' to do so by some DM-'Law' or other, if DM-theorists are to be believed. [That is because the DM-classics tell us that every single change in the entire universe is governed by such 'laws'.]
It could be argued that if seeds are left to develop according their own "internal contradictions", their own "nature", the NON will assert itself just as Engels described. In that case, the above examples (of seeds being crushed, or eaten, etc.) aren't relevant to the operation of this 'Law'.
However, quite apart from the fact that the phrase "internal contradiction" is itself as clear as mud (and has yet to be explicated with any clarity (or at all!) by a single DM-theorist, as Essay Eight Parts One, Two and Three show), dialecticians themselves appeal to "external contradictions" to account for change (since, without these, their theory would imply that everything in nature is either self-moving, or is hermetically sealed-off from the rest of the universe -- on this see Essay Eight Part One, again).
Anyway, several of the above examples involve 'internal change': rotting and fermenting, for instance. Moreover, when grain is in an animal's stomach its internal regime will take over, and the grain will 'naturally' develop into that animal's tissue or provide it with energy. In fact, 'internal' to a wedding celebration, the 'contradictions' inherent in the bourgeois institution of marriage will surely prompt someone to throw grain at the hapless couple. All quite 'natural'.
So, exactly where the 'natural' boundaries of this 'Law' are to be found is somewhat unclear. [Indeed, as we saw in Essay Seven Part One, the thermodynamic boundaries of this 'Law' weren't delineated by Engels, and subsequent DM-theorists haven't bothered to fill in the gaps since.] Once more, this isn't surprising since DM-theorists haven't given the fine detail of their own theory very much thought.
Clearly, the advancement of science and technology often confronts older theories with unexpected problems. Hence, Engels wasn't to know that one day a company like Monsanto would turn up and develop its so-called "Terminator Gene". This is a gene that can, by all accounts, stop certain plants from producing seeds, which 'scientific advance' seems capable of halting the NON in its tracks --, forcing farmers to buy all their grain from Monsanto, etc.
Is, therefore, the NON so weak and ineffectual that a large corporation can countermand its inevitability? Or, is the NON still at work somewhere in all this, 'negating' the rights of 'Third World' farmers behind their backs, as it were, so that they will no longer be able to produce their own seed --, if, that is, Monsanto change their minds, ignore public pressure, and go ahead with the production of this gene? Are Monsanto potential negators of the NON? Or, have they learnt how to control it?
In this case, shouldn't we rename Monsanto, "NONsanto", as a result?
Seedy Theory Confronted By Genetics
But, we needn't wait until Monsanto change their minds and produce this NON-starter; anyone who buys fruit these days knows about seedless grapes. In fact, most fruit nowadays doesn't come from seed; it is produced by propagation from grafts and cuttings. [On this see here and here.]
There are many varieties of seedless fruit; these include: navel oranges, clementines, seedless watermelon, persimmon, seedless cucumber, and Bartlett pears. Some seedless fruits are propagated naturally by vegetative reproduction (e.g., bananas and pineapples). [See also here, here and here.]
Indeed, many seedless fruits come from triploid plants (i.e., cells that don't possess the normal diploid paired sets of chromosomes) -- for instance, bananas. Have we here yet another example of organisms in nature which aren't UOs? Even though Woods and Grant, for example, swore blind that everything in nature exists in paired opposites (here), these Reactionary Chromosomes have clearly sold out.
"Polyploidy" (as this condition is in general known) occurs in animals, too; e.g., in goldfish, salamanders and lizards. But, it is also very common in ferns and most flowering plants. The wheat that goes into bread is hexaploid (i.e., it has six sets of chromosomes).
The following organisms are (i) Triploid: bananas and apples; (ii) Tetraploid: durum or macaroni wheat, maize, cotton, potato, cabbage, leek, tobacco, peanut, Pelargonium; (ii) Hexaploid: chrysanthemum, bread wheat, triticale, oats; (iv) Octaploid: strawberry, dahlia, pansies, and sugar cane.
Polyploidal animals are often sterile, though, and have to reproduce by parthenogenesis (another eminently non-dialectical process found in nature); on that, see also, here and here.
As is well-known, parthenogenetic reproduction proceeds without the intervention of the male; it is found in the following right-wing and shamelessly reactionary species: water fleas, aphids, honey bees, lizards, salamanders, nematode worms, turkeys, several species of spider (this links to a PDF), and some varieties of fish. Apparently, it can also be artificially induced in both fish and amphibians. Indeed, we read this from the BBC (in an article entitled "Lesbian Lizards"):
"Every individual in this whip-tailed lizard population is female -- genetically the same female. Every time they lay eggs, a clutch of new female clones is born. The lizards live in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, and must be perfectly adapted to their surroundings. As a result, they don't want their good genes diluted by the involvement of males. The females have opted to hang on to their favourable genes and have driven the males to extinction. But the ghost of the male haunts their life nevertheless. Near laying, all the virgins need the stimulation which a male would provide to make them ovulate. With none around, the role is played by a female. In every sense she apes being a male. Driven by a surge of the male hormone testosterone, she temporarily forsakes her true gender -- and goes through the motions of copulating." [The film can be viewed here. Accessed 21/11/2011. Link added.]
Consider, too, the Japanese Knotweed. In the UK, every plant of this noxious weed is female -- but that hasn't stopped its rapid spread:
"Every Japanese Knotweed plant in Britain is female and reproduces through its rhizomes or fragments of its own vegetation. Strimming it is the worst thing you can do: it creates millions of tiny pieces, each of which can sprout into a new plant. In Kenidjack [in Cornwall -- RL], the weed quickly spread down the valley: when local residents hacked it from their gardens, tiny fragments fell into the stream and seeded along the bank. For the past three years, local landowners, the county council, the National Trust and other agencies have worked together on an incredibly pain-staking and expensive clearance programme: cutting the knotweed by hand, carefully disposing of the waste and injecting each individual stump with specialist weedkiller. This summer, the valley has been returned to a native normality, with bluebells and bracken." [Guardian G2 Supplement, 14/08/2009, p.11. Links added.]
What are the 'interpenetrated opposites' at work here? Which plant (or part of a plant) is the 'negation', and which the NON?
[Several more (detailed) examples of parthenogenesis have been posted here.]
In addition, sterile offspring/hybrids also seem to be no less contemptuous of the NON. The mule and the hinny are classic examples of this -- the mule results from crossing a male donkey with a female horse; the hinny from a female donkey with a male horse --, but many other organisms exhibiting polyploidy are sterile. However, the product of the union of a horse and a donkey (a mule/hinny) doesn't itself produce sterile offspring, just no offspring at all. In that case, it looks like the NON has hit another very material brick wall. [On this, see here and here.]
Even more problematic for the NON is the Liger; this large cat is a hybrid cross between a male lion and a female tiger. Male Ligers are sterile while females are fertile. The NON must have gotten its wires crossed. Similar comments apply to Tigons, a hybrid between a female lion and a male Liger. As with Ligers, male Tigons are sterile whereas females are fertile. Wikipedia adds:
"At the Alipore Zoo in India, a female tigon named Rudhrani, born in 1971, was successfully mated to an Asiatic Lion named Debabrata. The rare, second generation hybrid was called a li-tigon. Rudhrani produced seven li-tigons in her lifetime....
"Reports also exist of the similar titigon, resulting from the cross between a female tigon and a male tiger. Titigons resemble golden tigers but with less contrast in their markings. A female tigon born in 1978, named Noelle, shared an enclosure in the Shambala Reserve with a male Siberian Tiger called Anton, in the belief that she was sterile. In 1983, Noelle produced a titigon named Nathaniel. As Nathaniel was three-quarters tiger, he had darker stripes than Noelle and 'spoke' tiger rather than the mix of sounds used by his mother. Being only about quarter-lion, Nathaniel did not grow a mane. Nathaniel died at age eight or nine years old due to cancer. Noelle also developed cancer and died soon after." [Quoted from here. Accessed 12/09/2009. Here is film of Liger cubs, and here is footage of the first Liliger, the offspring of a Lion and a Liger.]
This is, of course, to leave out of account all mention of symbiosis (mutualism), an eminently non-'contradictory' way for many organisms to underline the radically non-dialectical nature of life. Far from 'struggling' with one another, such affable organisms go out of their way to assist each other. [On the important influence symbiosis has had on evolution, see Ryan (2002). On Parthenogenesis, see Prasad (2012).]
The question now arises: how come the NON is so weak and feeble and so easily by-passed? Countless processes in nature seem to be, as it were, non-NON-events of this sort, as human beings and a wide assortment of organisms have 'upset' the 'natural' DM-order of things.
And what are we to say about genetic engineering in general? Is this an interference in the operation of the NON, an infringement of the 'dialectical law' that all change is 'internally-generated'? Or, is this still a natural process, in view of the fact that none of the scientists or capitalists involved are supernatural beings (so we are led to believe), but are patently physical objects themselves?
In that case, if all the above are natural processes, then it can truly be said that no grain is an island. Anything that happens to grain anywhere inside the universe must be natural.
Hence, even if barley is dropped into the sea, crushed by a falling tree, genetically modified, or hit by American 'friendly fire', all these (and many more) are natural events and must, one presumes, be governed by one or more DM-'Laws'. In that case, there doesn't seem to be a single thing that could constitute, or which could act as the 'natural negation' of a grain of barley. So, does it have one?
On the contrary, it seems that given the supposed universal dominion of the 'Laws' of dialectics (which DM-fans tell us are the most "general" laws there are), there must be countless 'natural negations' of anything and everything.
Indeed, it now seems that anything and everything could be the natural, or even 'dialectical', 'opposite' of grain -- especially, if according to Lenin "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [changes] into every other…." If that is so, and if we apply this hyper-generous and open-ended 'Law' to Capitalism, once again, it should be possible for the latter, too, to change into a grain of barley, and vice versa. And it is little use saying that this sort of change has never been observed, since, according to the above, anything could be the opposite of grain and/or of Capitalism. Like the proverbial Black Swan, we just have to wait long enough and it is bound to appear.
In that case, since barley is "not-Capitalism", and Capitalism can only change into what it "is not", recklessly profligate 'dialectical logic' like this suggests that revolutionaries should consider radically re-configuring their aims and objectives. Instead of the struggle for socialism, they should perhaps struggle for…, well, er..., sowing. Clearly this suggests, too, that our slogans will need to be revised somewhat, too --, perhaps to: "Capitalism digs its own garden", or "You have nothing to lose but your daisy chains" -- or, "There is a tractor haunting Europe". Or, maybe even "From each according to his ability, to each according to his seed"?
Now, any who object to the above off-the-wall conclusions should direct their ire at this 'Law', and its Hermetic 'Law'-givers, not this piss-taker.
Either that, or they should say clearly, and for the first time ever, what NON-sense there is to this crazy 'Law'.
[Why there has to be a unique dialectical opposite for each object and process -- something Hegel and Lenin called its "other" -- is explained here and here.]
Socialism Brought From Without -- Perhaps By Aliens?
Nevertheless, and despite the above, as far as the descendants of barley plants are concerned, little development seems to take place; barley remains barley for countless generations -- unless change is externally induced (on that, see below). And, no matter how many times water freezes or melts, it fails to develop, via the NON, into anything new.
More interesting, however, is the fact that, based on such long-term lack of change --, and if the NON is to be used as the DM-model for social development (as dialecticians often insist) --, Marxists should now become staunch conservatives, since, in the majority of cases, the NON is itself impressively conservative.
So, the NON as applied to barley (and everything else in the living world, it seems), implies nearly universal biological stasis (unless, once again, change is introduced from the outside). In that case, anyone foolish enough to use this 'Law' as a metaphor for social change, if they are consistent, should be committed to the idea that society must develop peaceably, naturally, slowly -- possibly cyclically -- with no overall change at the end (unless, again, this is induced from the outside).
However, since organisms develop as a result of mutations (mostly in response to violent, externally-induced interruptions to the 'natural' order of growth and reproduction), this process cannot, it seems, be reconciled with the above NON-inspired, internally-generated view of change (or, rather, lack of it).
If, on the other hand, this superior, 'externalist' model of change is adopted (wherein the facts of nature are allowed to speak to us for a change, and speciation is recognised as largely externally-motivated), then the revolution, if and when it does occur, should result from the intervention of Aliens, or other NON-humans as external causes -- if, that is, we insist on using the NON as a metaphor for revolutionary change.
In that case, it looks like the 'internal contradictions' of Capitalism aren't enough to bring about its downfall; governed by the NON, they are far too conservative, if Engels's analogy drawn against barley seeds is to be the guiding model.
Some might object to the above on the grounds that it confuses classical materialist dialectics with Second International Marxism, where the NON was understood deterministically. Since, Capitalism is governed by the actions of human beings, this leaves room for human decision, choice and intervention.
Or, so this objection might go.
However, given the 'law'-like nature of the NON, its effects seem to be no more easy to escape than those of the law of gravity. Of course, DM-theorists get around this by arguing that 'freedom' somehow 'emerges' from 'necessity', as the first 'Law' (i.e., Q«Q) kicks into gear at some level of complexity. But, that 'Law' is far too weak to sustain this semi-miraculous defence; as we have seen, it cannot even account for baldness or melting butter!
Anyway, this topic will be taken up in detail in Essay Three Part Five. There we will see that, unless dialecticians can come up with some new evidence/argument, the NON (whether or not it is interpreted along the lines of Second International theorists) is eminently 'deterministic', eminently NON-Marxist.
In response, it could also be argued that some mutations are internally-generated. Maybe so, but these are errors of replication and can in no way be seen as negations (they are more like random spelling mistakes). Indeed, these 'copying errors' cannot have been created by "internal contradictions", since, if the Dialectical Holy Books are to be believed, such changes can only occur if a DNA sequence struggles with the sequence it is to become, its "opposite". This will require that "opposite" to exist before it exists! [This argument is developed and defended in detail here.]
Moreover, the random nature of these internal copying errors is difficult to square with a law-governed process. Not only are most mutations highly lethal (whether they are internally-, or externally-induced), they are not the least bit directional. Hence, at any specific point in its history a particular mutation might be of no use to an organism, or population (in terms of natural selection); at another, it could be a species-saver. There does not, therefore, appear to be much here that can be squeezed even into this NON-boot.
In addition, it isn't easy to see how this NON-theory is applicable to other natural life-cycles. What, for instance, are we to make of the development of moths and butterflies? Engels clearly thought that their development illustrated his one of 'Laws':
"With most insects, this process follows the same lines as in the case of the grain of barley. Butterflies, for example, spring from the egg by a negation of the egg, pass through certain transformations until they reach sexual maturity, pair and are in turn negated, dying as soon as the pairing process has been completed and the female has laid its numerous eggs." [Engels (1976), p.173.]
But, moths and butterflies go through the following developmental stages:
Which is the negation of which here? And which is the NON? And what about organisms that reproduce by splitting, such as amoebae and bacteria? In any such spit, which half is the negation and which the NON?
Indeed, many organisms reproduce asexually, showing admirable contempt for the NON. [However, there are far too many of these non-dialectical creatures to list here. Several examples have been given in the full Essay.]
Spare a thought, too, for Hermaphrodites, or even weird examples of Pseudohermaphroditism -- for example, exhibited by the African Bat Bug. The New Scientist had the following to say about this strange insect:
"If you thought human sexual relationships were tricky, be thankful you're not an African bat bug. They show what could be the most extreme case of transsexualism yet discovered. Male bat bugs sport female genitalia, and some females have genitalia that mimic the male's version of the female bits -- as well as their own redundant vagina. Bat bugs, and their relatives the bed bugs, are renowned among entomologists for their gruesome and bizarre method of reproduction. Males never use the vagina, instead piercing the female's abdomen and inseminating directly into the blood, where the sperm then swim to the ovaries. It is this 'traumatic insemination', as it is termed, which is at the root of the extreme levels of gender bending in the African bat bug, says Klaus Reinhardt of the University of Sheffield, UK.
"Female bat bugs have evolved a countermeasure to the stabbing of the male's penis -- structures on their abdomens known as paragenitals. These are a defence mechanism that limits the damage by guiding the male's sharp penis into a spongy structure full of immune cells. When Reinhardt's team studied bat bugs in a cave on Mount Elgon, Kenya -- already famous as a place that elephants visit to mine for salt -- they found that the males also had defence genitals. What's more, they had scarring on their abdomens similar to that of the females following copulation. In other words, males had been using their penises to stab other males.
"If that isn't strange enough, when the team looked at 43 preserved female bat bugs, they found that 84% had male versions of the defence genitals. Females with this male version of female genitals had less scarring due to penetration than the other females.
"'This is what we think might have happened,' says Reinhardt. 'Males started getting nobbled (sic) by other males, so they evolved the female defensive genitals. As this reduced the amount of penis damage they were getting, females evolved the male version of the female genitals.'
"While theoretical models have predicted that females should evolve different morphologies to escape male attention, this is the first time it has been seen in genitalia, Reinhardt says. 'It's a spectacular example of evolution through sexual conflict.'" [New Scientist, 195, 2622, 22/09/2007, p.11. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space.]
It is to be hoped that the NON visits these highly confused insects one day to give them more than just friendly marriage guidance counselling.
Same Old Tune -- Different Words
Finally, as noted in Essay Two, with respect to each of these 'Laws', DM-theorists have been quite happy to derive Superscientific 'truths' from a handful of obscure words -- only in this case, these Supertruths have been plucked from badly garbled, less than half-formed ideas, misconceived anecdotes, and seriously botched 'thought experiments'.
In that case, they are of no use in helping to understand the world and how to change it.
Latest Update 26/01/20
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