16-12-01 -- Summary Of Essay Twelve Part One: Why All Philosophical Theories, Including Dialectical Materialism, Are Non-Sensical

 

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First, 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.

 

 

Second, this has been one of the most difficult Essays to write, since (1) It tackles issues that have sailed right over the heads of some of the greatest minds in history, and (2) It far from easy to expose the core weaknesses of Traditional Philosophy in everyday language, even though, after dozens of re-writes, I think I have largely managed to do this.

 

I hasten to add, though, that I claim no particular originality for what follows (except, perhaps its highly simplified mode of presentation and its political re-orientation); much of it has in fact been derived from Wittgenstein's work, and, less importantly, from that of other Wittgensteinians.

 

Any who think that Wittgenstein's work is of no interest or use to the revolutionary left, since he was a conservative mystic, are encouraged to read this, and then perhaps think again.

 

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Phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" (etc.) used at this site (in connection with Traditional Philosophy and Dialectical Materialism [DM]) aren't meant to imply that all or even most members of various ruling-classes actually invented these ways of thinking or of seeing the world (although some of them did -- for example, Heraclitus, Plato, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius). They are intended to highlight theories (or "ruling ideas") that are conducive to, or which rationalise the interests of the various ruling-classes history has inflicted on humanity, whoever invents them. Up until recently this dogmatic approach to knowledge had almost invariably been promoted by thinkers who either relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the system for the elite.**

 

However, 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.]

 

In this particular Summary, several of the things I say may appear somewhat controversial; however the main Essay contains an extensive defence of these assertions, as well as references to the literature were these ideas are covered and/or defended in detail. Recall, this is only a summary!

 

I have tried to keep all these summaries below the 7000 word mark. In this particular case, that hasn't been possible.

 

However, because ideas presented below are extraordinarily difficult (for reasons outlined above), I have now written an even shorter, and I hope much clearer summary of the core argument advanced in this Essay; it can be accessed here.

 

 

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If your Firewall/Browser has a pop-up blocker, you will need to press the "Ctrl" key at the same time or these and the other links here won't work!

 

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1) Non-Empirical Propositions Masquerading As Super-Empirical Theses

 

a) Introduction -- Please Read First

 

b) Lenin's Metaphysics

 

c) Indicative Of What?

 

d) Imposed On Reality

 

e) Ignoring Critics And Evidence

 

2) Lenin Thinks The Unthinkable

 

a) Is Motion Without Matter Unthinkable?

 

3) The Slide Into Non-Sense

 

a) Invention -- The Mother Of Necessity

 

b) The Reason Why

 

c) Dogma On Stilts

 

d) Distorted Language

 

e) Traditional Thought

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

 

Non-Empirical Propositions Masquerading As Super-Empirical Theses

 

Introduction

 

In what follows, I have had to repeat myself more times than I would normally like since the points I am putting across are not at all easy -- in fact, as noted above, they have sailed right over the heads of some of the greatest minds in human history, and remained unacknowledged for over 2500 years.

 

I have also had to be far more pedantic than I would otherwise wish. For example, I regularly say things like the following: "Knowing the truth or knowing the falsehood of...", rather than just "Knowing the truth or falsehood of...". This has been essential since there is a world of difference between (1) knowing whether a proposition is true or false and (2) knowing whether it is true or knowing whether it is false. The former can be ascertained before any evidence is sought (since every proposition is either true or false -- dialecticians who reject this rule are taken to task elsewhere at this site), whereas the latter can't.

 

 

Lenin's Metaphysics

 

In MEC, Lenin quoted the following words (from Engels):

 

M1: "[M]otion without matter is unthinkable." [Lenin (1972), p.318. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

Here, Lenin was making a typically metaphysical statement. Naturally, dialecticians will repudiate that assertion. Despite this, it is possible to show that this peremptory response would be as hasty as it is mistaken.

 

With the above in mind, it might prove useful to remind ourselves what is meant by the word "metaphysics". Here is how the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy characterises this term:

 

"If metaphysics now considers a wider range of problems than those studied in Aristotle's Metaphysics, those problems continue to belong to its subject-matter. 'Being as such' (and existence as such, if existence is something other than being), for example, is one of the matters that belong to metaphysics on any conception of metaphysics. Thus, the following statements are all paradigmatically metaphysical: 'Being is; not-being is not' [Parmenides]; 'Essence precedes existence' [Avicenna, paraphrased]; 'Existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone' [St Anselm, paraphrased]; 'Existence is a perfection' [Descartes, paraphrased]; 'Being is a logical, not a real predicate' [Kant, paraphrased]; 'Being is the most barren and abstract of all categories' [Hegel, paraphrased]; 'Affirmation of existence is in fact nothing but denial of the number zero' [Frege]; 'Universals do not exist but rather subsist or have being' [Russell, paraphrased]; 'To be is to be the value of a bound variable' [Quine]. [Quoted from here. Links added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[This differs from the 'definition' of metaphysics employed in DM-circles. I can't enter into this topic in a Summary Essay, but I have discussed it at length here.]

 

The above characterisation is more-or-less how I intend to use this word here.

 

It is worth noting at the outset that theses like M1a purport to inform us of fundamental aspects of nature -- albeit in this case disguised as part of Lenin's admission of his own incredulity.

 

M1a: Motion without matter is unthinkable.

 

But, we aren't to conclude from M1a that Lenin was merely recording his own personal views. On the contrary, he certainly believed that matter and motion were fundamental aspects of "objective reality"; that they were inseparable and that this was a scientific (or even a philosophical) fact. Moreover, like Engels, he held the view that motion was the "mode of the existence of matter" (quoted below; Lenin's views can be accessed here) -– that is, he believed that matter could not exist without motion, nor vice versa. Motion was thus one of the principal ways that matter expressed itself (exterior to the mind).

 

The metaphysical nature of Lenin's declaration can be seen by the way it bypassed the need for any supporting evidence. It seemed to Lenin to be such an obvious fact about matter and motion that to deny it was "unthinkable".

 

Nevertheless, if humanity had access to information about motion and matter many orders of magnitude greater than is available even today, that would still not be enough to show that the separation of matter and motion is unthinkable. No amount of data could substantiate that.

 

But, as we will see, Lenin's ambitious assertion has far more serious problems to contend with than the mere lack of adequate supporting evidence.

 

 

Indicative Of What?

 

The seemingly profound nature of theses like M1a is linked to rather more mundane features of the language in which they are expressed: that is, they are connected with the fact that their main verb is often in the indicative mood.

 

Sometimes, the latter is beefed-up with subjunctive and/or modal qualifying terms -- which, incidentally, helps create even more of a false impression. For example, we find Engels saying things like the following (relevant occurrences the indicative mood have been highlighted in green, modal and subjunctive moods or terms in purple):

 

"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be…. Matter without motion is just as inconceivable as motion without matter. Motion is therefore as uncreatable and indestructible as matter itself; as the older philosophy (Descartes) expressed it, the quantity of motion existing in the world is always the same. Motion therefore cannot be created; it can only be transmitted." [Engels (1976), p.74. Italic emphasis in the original. Bold emphases added.]

 

"The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa…[operates] in nature, in a manner fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or quantitative subtraction of matter or motion….

 

"Hence, it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

Now, this apparently superficial grammatical outer facade (in sentences like M1a) hides a deeper logical form. This is something that only becomes plain when such sentences are examined more closely.

 

M1a: Motion without matter is unthinkable.

 

As noted above, expressions like these look as if they revealed profound truths about reality; while they resemble empirical propositions (i.e., propositions about matters of fact), they go well beyond them. In the event, they turn out to be nothing at all like empirical propositions.

 

Consider an ordinary empirical proposition:

 

T1: Tony Blair owns a copy of Das Kapital.

 

[Some have objected that ownership is a complex social, and/or vague, notion. I have dealt with these worries here and here.]

 

Compare this with these similar-looking indicative sentences:

 

T2: Time is a relation between events.

 

T3: Motion is inseparable from matter.

 

First, in order to understand T1, it isn't necessary to know whether it is true or whether it is false. I'm sure all those who have read T1 understand it even though they haven't a clue whether or not it is true.

 

Contrast this with the comprehension of T2 and T3; 'understanding' either of these goes hand-in-hand with knowing they are both true (or, alternatively, knowing they are both false, as the case may be). Their truth or their falsehood follows either (1) from the meaning the words they contain, (2) from specific definitions or (3) from a handful of 'thought experiments' -- i.e., from yet more words.

 

In relation to T2, (2) might involve something like "Events take place in time". With respect to T3, it might be "Motion is a form of the existence of matter" -- as Engels and Lenin believed --, and so on. To be sure, (1)-(3) might also be prefaced by some sort of 'philosophical argument' -- but these are just more words; no evidence is needed. It isn't possible to devise experiments to test propositions like M1a, T2 and T3. What would they even look like?

 

Of course, some might claim not to understand T2 or T3. The point is that just as soon as they do (if they ever do), their truth or their falsehood will automatically be apparent to them. Either of these options (true/false) can be read-off from the words they use (or from the definitions/'thought experiments'/'arguments' from which they were derived).

 

For Lenin, understanding what matter is ipso facto involves knowing it is true to say that it moves. It follows from the Engels's definition that motion is "the mode of the existence matter", (quoted earlier).

 

This now intimately links the truth-status of sentences like T2 and T3 with meaning, not with factual confirmation. Their truth-status is thus independent of, and anterior to, the search for supporting evidence -- not that such a search is relevant anyway, or, indeed, that it is ever, or has ever been carried out. [Again, what could you look for to confirm T2 or T3?]

 

T1: Tony Blair owns a copy of Das Kapital.

 

T2: Time is a relation between events.

 

T3: Motion is inseparable from matter.

 

In contrast, understanding T1 is independent either of its confirmation or its disconfirmation. Indeed, it would be impossible to do either of these if T1 hadn't already been understood. Plainly, the actual truth or the actual falsehood of T1-type propositions follows from the way the world happens to be, and isn't solely based on the meaning of certain words. Their truth-status can't simply be read-off from the terms they contain, unlike T2-, and T3-type sentences.

 

Empirical propositions are typically like this; they have to be understood first before they can be confronted with any evidence that would establish their actual truth-status. In contrast, metaphysical propositions carry their truth-status on their faces, as it were, and need no evidence to ascertain what the latter might be. Understanding them is at one with knowing their truth or knowing their falsehood. [That is why it is impossible even to conceive of ways of factually confirming them, just as it is central to declaring their supposed opposites "unthinkable", "inconceivable", or "impossible".]

 

To sum up: we have here two sorts of indicative sentences, each with a radically different logical 'relation' to the world.

Understanding the first sort (i.e., those like T1) is independent of ascertaining their truth-status, whereas their actual truth or their actual falsehood depends matters of fact.

With the second sort (i.e., those like T2 or T3), their truth or their falsehood isn't dependent on the state of the world, but follows solely from the meaning of the words they contain (or from the meaning of those in the argument from which they have been 'derived'). To understand them is ipso facto to know they are true or to know they are false.

 

Metaphysical theses (like T2 and T3) were in fact deliberately constructed by Philosophers in order to transcend the limitations of the material world. This approach was justified on the basis that it allowed these thinkers to uncover the underlying "essence" of reality, thus revealing nature's "hidden secrets" -- i.e., the fundamental principles by means of which the 'deity' had created the world. Indeed, as Marx noted:

 

"Feuerbach's great achievement is.... The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx, 1844 Economic And Philosophical Manuscripts, p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Links added.]

 

This doctrine then related philosophical language with the underlying, 'god-ordained' structure of reality. This in turn was connected with the structure and legitimacy of the state, linking these with the 'natural', 'rational' or 'divine' order of things.

 

These ideas still remain in place to this day, even though their theological origins have largely been forgotten/abandoned, which is why metaphysical 'truths' are still being read from language/thought alone, even by atheists.

 

[To be sure, the 'modern' view of the 'world' no longer emphasises the will of the 'gods', it focuses on our genetic make-up. As if to cap it all, of late 'Evolutionary Psychology' informs us that selfishness, individualism, male dominance, violence, the instinct to "truck and barter", and much else besides, are all hard-wired in our brains -- to such an extent that we would be foolish even to try to resist them.]

 

Metaphysical theses like these are deemed "necessarily true" (or "necessarily false"), and are thus held to express knowledge of fundamental aspects of reality, unlike contingent propositions (such as T1) whose truth-status might alter with the wind.

 

T1: Tony Blair owns a copy of Das Kapital.

 

T2: Time is a relation between events.

 

T3: Motion is inseparable from matter.

 

After all, Tony Blair might sell his copy of Das Kapital -- or, indeed, buy the book if he doesn't already own it.

 

'Philosophical knowledge' -- 'genuine knowledge' --, on the other hand, can't depend on such changeable features of reality -- or, so we have been led to believe.

 

Traditionally, this meant that empirical propositions like T1 were considered to be epistemologically inferior to T2-, and T3-type sentences, since they were deemed incapable of revealing 'fundamental knowledge' of this sort. Indeed, "philosophical knowledge", yielding absolute certainty, has always been seen as the sole preserve of T2-, and T3-type sentences -- as Baker and Hacker note:

 

"Empirical, contingent truths have always struck philosophers as being, in some sense, ultimately unintelligible. It is not that none can be known with certainty…; nor is it that some cannot be explained…. Rather is it that all explanation of empirical truths rests ultimately on brute contingency -- that is how the world is! Where science comes to rest in explaining empirical facts varies from epoch to epoch, but it is in the nature of empirical explanation that it will hit the bedrock of contingency somewhere, e.g., in atomic theory in the nineteenth century or in quantum mechanics today. One feature that explains philosophers' fascination with truths of Reason is that they seem, in a deep sense, to be fully intelligible. To understand a necessary proposition is to see why things must be so, it is to gain an insight into the nature of things and to apprehend not only how things are, but also why they cannot be otherwise. It is striking how pervasive visual metaphors are in philosophical discussions of these issues. We see the universal in the particular (by Aristotelian intuitive induction); by the Light of Reason we see the essential relations of Simple Natures; mathematical truths are apprehended by Intellectual Intuition, or by a priori insight. Yet instead of examining the use of these arresting pictures or metaphors to determine their aptness as pictures, we build upon them mythological structures.

 

"We think of necessary propositions as being true or false, as objective and independent of our minds or will. We conceive of them as being about various entities, about numbers even about extraordinary numbers that the mind seems barely able to grasp…, or about universals, such as colours, shapes, tones; or about logical entities, such as the truth-functions or (in Frege's case) the truth-values. We naturally think of necessary propositions as describing the features of these entities, their essential characteristics. So we take mathematical propositions to describe mathematical objects…. Hence investigation into the domain of necessary propositions is conceived as a process of discovery. Empirical scientists make discoveries about the empirical domain, uncovering contingent truths; metaphysicians, logicians and mathematicians appear to make discoveries of necessary truths about a supra-empirical domain (a 'third realm'). Mathematics seems to be the 'natural history of mathematical objects' [Wittgenstein (1978), p.137], 'the physics of numbers' [Wittgenstein (1976), p.138; however these authors record this erroneously as p.139, RL] or the 'mineralogy of numbers' [Wittgenstein (1978), p.229]. The mathematician, e.g., Pascal, admires the beauty of a theorem as though it were a kind of crystal. Numbers seem to him to have wonderful properties; it is as if he were confronting a beautiful natural phenomenon [Wittgenstein (1998), p.47; again, these authors have recorded this erroneously as p.41, RL]. Logic seems to investigate the laws governing logical objects…. Metaphysics looks as if it is a description of the essential structure of the world. Hence we think that a reality corresponds to our (true) necessary propositions. Our logic is correct because it corresponds to the laws of logic….

 

"In our eagerness to ensure the objectivity of truths of reason, their sempiternality and mind-independence, we slowly but surely transform them into truths that are no less 'brutish' than empirical, contingent truths. Why must red exclude being green? To be told that this is the essential nature of red and green merely reiterates the brutish necessity. A proof in arithmetic or geometry seems to provide an explanation, but ultimately the structure of proofs rests on axioms. Their truth is held to be self-evident, something we apprehend by means of our faculty of intuition; we must simply see that they are necessarily true…. We may analyse such ultimate truths into their constituent 'indefinables'. Yet if 'the discussion of indefinables…is the endeavour to see clearly, and to make others see clearly, the entities concerned, in order that the mind may have that kind of acquaintance with them which it has with redness or the taste of a pineapple' [Russell (1937), p.xv; again these authors record this erroneously as p.v, RL], then the mere intellectual vision does not penetrate the logical or metaphysical that to the why or wherefore…. For if we construe necessary propositions as truths about logical, mathematical or metaphysical entities which describe their essential properties, then, of course, the final products of our analyses will be as impenetrable to reason as the final products of physical theorising, such as Planck's constant." [Baker and Hacker (1988), pp.273-75. Referencing conventions in the original have been altered to conform to those adopted at this site. Links added.]

 

Metaphysical propositions thus masquerade as especially profound, Super-Empirical Truths, which can't fail to be true (or can't fail to be false, as the case may be). They do this by aping the indicative mood --, but they then go way beyond it.

 

Thus, what such theses say doesn't just happen to be so, as is the case with ordinary empirical truths (like T1). What T2-, and T3-type sentences say can't possibly be otherwise. The world must conform to whatever they say, not the other way round. They determine the logical form of any possible world.

 

T1: Tony Blair owns a copy of Das Kapital.

 

T2: Time is a relation between events.

 

T3: Motion is inseparable from matter.

 

This isn't surprising given the theological origin of these ideas; after all 'god' spoke (so the Bible tells us) and reality just sprang into existence. Hence, on this view, the world is little more than condensed language -- i.e., it was created ex nihilo by the use of words.

 

As Umberto Eco points out (in relation to the 'western' Christian tradition):

 

"God spoke before all things, and said, 'Let there be light.' In this way, he created both heaven and earth; for with the utterance of the divine word, 'there was light'.... Thus Creation itself arose through an act of speech; it is only by giving things their names that he created them and gave them their ontological status....

 

"In Genesis..., the Lord speaks to man for the first time.... We are not told in what language God spoke to Adam. Tradition has pictured it as a sort of language of interior illumination, in which God...expresses himself....

 

"...Clearly we are here in the presence of a motif, common to other religions and mythologies -- that of the nomothete, the name-giver, the creator of language." [Eco (1997), pp.7-8. Bold emphasis and links added.]

 

Language was thus a vehicle for the "inner illumination" of the 'soul'; a hot-line to 'God'. Unsurprisingly then, the thoughts produced by countless generations of ruling-class ideologues almost invariably turned out to be those that 'coincidentally' rationalised or 'justified' the status quo.

 

In that case, Philosophers felt they could determine how the world must be constituted by ascertaining the 'divine secrets' (or logical principles) by means of which constituted 'Being'. No wonder then that such truths follow from language/thought alone, and can thus be imposed on the world.

 

This also accounts for the frequent use of modal terms (like "must", "necessary" and "inconceivable") -- as in "I must exist if I can think" [paraphrasing Descartes], "Time must be a relation between events" [paraphrasing Kant], "Being must be identical with and yet at the same time different from Nothing, the contradiction resolved in Becoming" [paraphrasing Hegel], or "Existence can't be a predicate" [paraphrasing Kant and/or Bertrand Russell].

 

Everything in reality must be this or it must be that.

 

Contrast this with T1. If anyone were to question its truth, the following response: "Tony Blair must own a copy of Das Kapital" would be highly inappropriate -- unless, of course, T1 itself were the conclusion of an inference of some sort (such as: "Tony Blair told me he owned a copy, so he must own one"), or it was based on direct observation (as in, "I saw his wife buy him that copy and give it to him, and I spotted it on his bookshelf a couple of minutes ago"). But, even then, the truth or the falsehood of T1 would still depend on an interface with material reality at some point. Its truth can't just be read-off from its wording.

 

T1: Tony Blair owns a copy of Das Kapital.

 

So, with T1-type sentences, the world dictates to us whether what they say is true or what they say is false. We do not dictate to reality what it must contain, or what it must be like. It tells us.

With respect to T2-, and T3-type sentences things are the exact opposite: because their truth-values (true or false) can be determined independently, and in advance of the way the world happens to be, they are used to dictate to reality what it must be like.

 

Such Super-Truths (or Super-Falsehoods) are derived solely from the alleged meaning of the words they contain (or from the 'concepts' they supposedly express). In that case, once they have been 'understood', metaphysical propositions guarantee their own truth or they guarantee their own falsehood. They are thus true, or they are false, a priori.

 

So: to 'understand' a metaphysical thesis is ipso facto to know it is true or to know it is false, as the case may be. That is why to their inventors (or to those who give them credence) they appear to be so certain, so self-evident, and, in many cases, so absolutely true. The intimate connection they have with language means that questioning their veracity seems to run against the grain of our understanding, not of our experience. Indeed, they appear to be self-evident precisely because they need no evidence to confirm their truth-status; they provide their own 'justification', and thus testify on their own behalf.

 

Unfortunately, this divorces such theses from material reality, since they are true or they are false independently of any apparent state of the world. [Which is, of course, why no experiment is conceivable by means of which they can be tested.] This isn't surprising since they dictate to the world what it must be like.

 

In that case, any thesis that can be judged true or judged false on conceptual/linguistic grounds alone can't feature in a materialist account of reality, only an Idealist one. [Why that is so is explained here and here, but see below, too. Apparent counter-examples to this claim are dealt with here.]

 

Now, these assertions might appear to be somewhat dogmatic, but they are based on how we all use ordinary language every day. Moreover, as we shall see, the opposite view is the one that is dogmatic, since it is based on a ruling-class view of reality -- which has to be imposed on the world -- and on a view whose validity isn't sensitive to empirical test. [Why that is so will also be explained presently.]

 

 

Imposed On Reality

 

Nevertheless, it is now possible to see exactly why DM-theses are so readily imposed on nature (in Essay Two we saw that dialecticians constantly do this): the internally-generated certitude these theses seem to generate means that no material fact could possibly controvert them. This implies that such theses can't have been read from nature (despite the claims made by DM-theorists that this is what they always do), since that would undermine their status by turning them into ordinary, common-or-garden empirical propositions, demoting them from Super-Duper Truths to boring material facts.

 

That is why such theses have traditionally been based on linguistic resources alone, which resources have been deliberately divorced from material reality -- that is, they are based on abstractions (which are meant to be divorced from 'concrete' reality), jargonised expressions, bogus terminology, and on ideas and 'concepts' located in an inner, immaterial world of 'cognition' --, as was pointed out in Essay Three Parts One and Two.

 

As we have seen, that is because the truth of DM-propositions is ascertainable from the alleged meaning of the words they contain, not from the way the world happens to be. For instance, the conclusions Engels drew about motion (i.e., that it is 'contradictory') command assent from the supposed meaning of words like "move", "same moment in time" and "place", which conclusions he felt he could safely extrapolate to all of reality, for all of time -- simply because such words supposedly guarantee they apply to every single instance of motion in the entire universe, past, present and future.

 

"[A]s soon as we consider things in their motion, their change, their life, their reciprocal influence…[t]hen we immediately become involved in contradictions. Motion itself is a contradiction; even simple mechanical change of place can only come about through a body being both in one place and in another place at one and the same moment of time, being in one and the same place and also not in it. And the continual assertion and simultaneous solution of this contradiction is precisely what motion is." [Engels (1976), p.152.]

 

That is also why, if pressed about this, dialecticians can't appeal to any evidence to support this thesis. As we saw in Essay Five, no evidence could possibly show that an object was in two places in the same instant, in one of them and not in it. Hence, they have to rely on the meanings of the words Engels (Hegel, or Zeno) used.

 

This explains, too, why dialecticians find it hard to see how anyone could possibly disagree with their theses -- and why they accuse anyone who rejects their theses of not "understanding" dialectics. That, of course, gives the game away, since it connects these theses with meaning, not evidence. Hence, the rejection of what Engels said about motion seems to conflict with fundamental aspects of language, and thus with understanding (which, in turn, seems to make the opposite conclusion "inconceivable" or "absurd").

 

Similarly, Trotsky referred us to the "axiom" that everything is always changing, and he felt he could do so because of the logical properties supposedly built into words (or 'concepts') like "equal", "change", "same" and "different". This thesis, too, applied to everything in existence, for all of time. Indeed, Hegel was able to 'derive' even more impressive results by considering a few doctored "concepts" (such as 'Being', 'Nothing' and 'Becoming'), and what these 'concepts' supposedly implied (as they 'self-developed') in order to 'derive' the most fundamental principles underlying all change and development in the entire universe (and possibly beyond), for all of time. [More on that in Parts Five and Six of Essay Twelve, when it is published.]

 

"[A]ll bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour etc. They are never equal to themselves…. For concepts there also exists 'tolerance' which is established not by formal logic…, but by the dialectical logic issuing from the axiom that everything is always changing…. Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradiction, conflict and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc…." [Trotsky (1971), pp.64-66. Bold emphases added.]

 

In Essays Three to Six (and in more detail here -- see also here), we will see that this particular set of theses 'follows' from Hegel's idiosyncratic analysis of subject/predicate propositions, wherein the subject is supposedly different from the predicate. For Hegel, this meant that our words/concepts had 'difference' (and hence 'negativity') built into them.

 

We have also seen that Lenin felt that from a simple sentence about "John" he could ascertain much of the deep structure of reality, relying on Hegel's fractured ''logic' to 'support' these impressive results. He also thought he could declare that motion without matter was "unthinkable", and he imagined he could do this well in advance of the unimaginably large body of evidence that would be needed to justify even a weaker form of this thesis. He was only able to do this because (as we have seen) matter and motion are inter-defined in DM (the latter being a "mode" of the existence of the former). So, from such a definition, Super-empirical truths could be 'deduced', by-passing the empirical checking stage -- indeed, rendering it redundant.

 

As is abundantly clear, Lenin didn't first review the evidence in favour of this thesis (that motion without matter is "unthinkable") before he delivered this semi-divine pronouncement (indeed, he confined his 'research' simply to reading Engels and Hegel). He then felt he could dictate to nature what he thought it must be like, deriving this idea from what he took the words "matter" and "motion" to mean -- or, from what the DM-tradition stipulates they must mean.

 

Naturally, dialecticians can only arrogate this impressive, semi-magical skill to themselves because of the social space that traditional thought had opened up for them -- and which their own class position predisposed them to prefer. [More on this in Essay Nine Parts One and Two.]

 

So, dialecticians have situated themselves in ancient intellectual tradition, and they are doing so according to rules invented by the class enemy, deriving their own a priori theses from words/thought alone -- which they then impose on the world in a thoroughly traditional manner.

 

 

Ignoring Both Critics And Evidence

 

Hence, Lenin and other DM-theorists feel they can safely ignore any evidence that disconfirms their theses, since the latter weren't empirical to begin with -- despite their indicative veneer. [A recent example of this malady can be found here.]

 

Unfortunately, as noted above, this means that dialectical-metaphysical theses can form no part of a materialist account of reality, and hence can't be used to help change the world. DM-theses derive from as series of abstract ideas Hegel dreamt up, and are thus quintessentially Idealist; no amount of spin can give them the radical or materialist make-over that dialecticians allege for them. As George Novack conceded:

 

"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.]

 

So, rather like Catholic Theologians in Galileo's day, who wouldn't even look down his telescope, many DM-fans even refuse to read these Essays!

 

[Exactly why they adopt this nescient posture will be explored in Essay Nine Part Two.]

 

This also accounts for the cavalier attitude DM-fans adopt toward FL, the constant misrepresentation of the ideas of fellow Marxist opponents -- like yours truly --, and the alarmingly thin evidence they have scraped-together in support of their 'laws'.

 

If DM-theses are self-evident (or follow from the sort of 'immanent logic' one finds in Hegel's work), then that 'licences' the sort of knee-jerk and arrogant high-handedness practically all dialecticians display. Since nothing materially-based could possibly count against their theory, anyone who dares to arrange argument or evidence against it can safely be ignored, abused for their pains, or dismissed with the hackneyed allegation that they just don't "understand" dialectics.

 

In fact, this attitude of mind is somewhat reminiscent of the theologically-motivated arrogance displayed by certain Christian sects. Anyone who has conversed with, say, a devout Protestant from Northern Ireland will know of what I speak -- indeed, in attitude alone, if nowhere else, there is more than a passing resemblance between born-again Dialecticians and born-again Christians.

 

To be sure, if you imagine your beliefs have been sanctioned by the impenetrable 'logic' found in Hegel and the self-development of 'Cosmic Being' (upside down or the 'right way up') -- or by the equally impenetrable will of 'God' (in the case of Christians) --, you are going to think and act as if you are special, superior, and thus one of The Dialectical Elect.

 

This also helps account for the sectarianism dialectics aggravates in all who allow it to colonise their brains. [More on this in Essay Nine Part Two.]

 

In this way -- and as is this case with other varieties of ruling-class, anti-materialist thought --, DM is just another form of Idealism.

 

To be sure, this is what Hegel himself said about all philosophical theories:

 

"Every philosophy is essentially an idealism or at least has idealism for its principle…." [Hegel (1999), pp.154-55.]

 

That rare moment of clarity needs no spinning to put it 'back on its feet'.

 

 

Lenin Thinks The Unthinkable

 

Is Motion Without Matter Unthinkable?

 

[In this section, and in other parts of this Summary, some might conclude that I have confused use with mention; that worry has been addressed here.]

 

With regard to Lenin's avowal reported in M1a, it is worth asking the following question: What is it about these five words that make their content seem so "unthinkable"?

 

M1a: "Motion without matter is unthinkable."

 

Curiously, however, in Lenin's case at least, it is obvious that he must have thought the above words (and/or their content) in order to declare that they were unthinkable!

 

In that case, the phrase "motion without matter" (or its content) must have gone through his head at some point. Even if Lenin went on to think the additional words tacked on at the end (i.e., "…is unthinkable"), he must have rattled past the three offending words first (i.e., "motion without matter"). No one imagines that his brain switched his thoughts on just as they reached the relative safety of the last two terms in that sentence!

 

In doing this, Lenin must have done what he declared could not be done; he must have thought the "unthinkable" (i.e., the content of M1a) in the act of declaring that no one could do what he himself had just done!

 

Naturally, this means that, in practice, Lenin contradicted himself, for he managed to do what he said couldn't be done. That is why, in practice, Lenin's thesis becomes impossible either to comprehend -- or even to state. If he accomplished what he said no one could do in the act of telling us just that, why can't anyone else do it? What is so special about him?

 

Worse still, if the rest of us can think the three offending words ("motion without matter"), or their content whenever we read Lenin telling us that we can't do the very thing we must have done in order to grasp his point, we too must contradict Lenin in practice. Indeed, the very act of telling us we can't think these words, or their content, prompts us to do just that!

 

Even those who agree with Lenin that "motion without matter is unthinkable" must think these three illicit words, or their content, too. Hence, even the most slavishly sycophantic and servile disciple of Lenin can't avoid disobeying the master every time he/she reads this controversial phrase.

 

Have such characters not noticed that to read Lenin is to disobey/refute him?

 

This shows that it isn't possible to relate the content of Lenin's claim to anything that could be found in reality, since it is based on concepts concocted in defiance both of material reality and of the language derived from our complex relation to it (on which topic, see below).

 

 

The Inevitable Slide Into Non-sense

 

Invention, The Mother Of Necessity

 

The paradoxical nature of Lenin's words illustrates the ineluctable slide into non-sense that all metaphysical theories undergo whenever their proponents try to undermine either the vernacular or the logical and pragmatic principles on which it is based -- those which, for example, ordinary speakers regularly use to state contingent truths or falsehoods about the world without such a fuss.

 

It is worth pointing out that (at this site) "non-sense" is not the same as "nonsense". The latter expression has various meanings ranging from the patently false (such as, "Karl Marx was a shape-shifting lizard") to plain gibberish (such as, "783&£$750 ow2jmn 34y4&$ 6y3n3& 8FT34n").

"Non-sense", as it is being used here, characterises indicative sentences that turn out to be incapable of expressing a sense no matter what we try to do with them ("sense" is explained below) -- that is, they are incapable of being true and they are incapable of being false. In Metaphysics, as we have seen, the indicative/fact-stating mood has plainly been mis-used and/or mis-applied. So, when sentences like these are employed to state supposedly 'fundamental truths' about reality, they seriously misfire since they can't possibly do this. [This section will explain why that is so.]

Hence, non-sensical sentences are neither patently false nor plain gibberish. [However, there are different sorts of non-sense. More about that here and here.]

Finally, the word "sense" is being used in the following way: it expresses what we understand to be the case for the proposition in question to be true or what we understand to be the case for the proposition in question to be false, even if we do not know whether it is actually true or whether it is actually false, and may never in fact do so.

T1: Tony Blair owns a copy of Das Kapital.

For example, everyone (who knows English, who knows who Tony Blair is, and that Das Kapital is a book) will understand T1 upon hearing or reading it. They grasp its sense --, that is, they understand what would make it true and what would make it false. [Of course, there are complications with complex and/or vague words related to ownership, etc. I have dealt with these complications here, and here.]

More importantly, the same situation that makes T1 true (if it obtains), would make T1 false (if it doesn't obtain). [The significance of that comment will become clearer below.]

 

These conditions are integral to our capacity to understand empirical propositions before we know whether they are true or before we know whether they are false. Indeed, they explain why we know what to look for (or what to expect) in order to show (or recognise) such propositions are true -- or, in order to show (or recognise) they are false -- even if we never succeed, or even wish to succeed, in doing either.

 

Intractable logical problems soon begin to emerge (with regard to such supposedly empirical, but nonetheless metaphysical sentences) if an attempt is made to restrict or eliminate one or other of the paired semantic possibilities associated with ordinary empirical propositions; i.e., if we try to exclude their truth or we try to exclude their falsehood.

 

This occurs, for example, when an apparently empirical proposition is declared to be "only true" or "only false" -- or, more pointedly, 'necessarily' the one or the other -- perhaps as a "law of cognition". Or, more likely, when a 'necessary' truth or a 'necessary' falsehood is mis-identified as a particularly profound sort of empirical thesis employing the indicative mood (etc.), once more.

 

As we will soon see, this tactic results in the automatic loss of both semantic options (truth and falsehood), and with that goes any sense the original proposition might seem to have had, rendering it non-sensical.

 

That is because an empirical proposition leaves it open as to whether it is true or whether it is false, which is why its truth-value (true/false) can't simply be read-off from its content, why evidence is required in order to determine its semantic status (true/false, once more), and why it is possible to understand it before its truth or its falsehood is known. If this weren't so, it would be impossible to ascertain its truth-status. Plainly, it isn't possible to confirm or confute a supposedly indicative sentence if no one understands what it is saying.

 

When this isn't the case -- i.e., when either option (truth or falsehood) is closed-off, or when a proposition is said to be "necessarily true" or "necessarily false" -- evidence clearly becomes irrelevant.

 

As we have seen, the truth or falsehood of an empirical proposition can't be ascertained on linguistic, conceptual or semantic grounds alone, hence, if the truth or falsehood of a proposition is capable of being established solely on the basis of such linguistic/structural factors, it can't be empirical -- despite its use of the indicative mood.

 

If, however, such a proposition is still regarded as true by those proposing it, or, what is more likely, it is viewed as a Super-Truth about the fundamental aspects of reality -- concerning its "essence", or its underlying 'rational structure' -- then it thereby becomes metaphysical.

 

['Super-Truths' superficially resemble ordinary scientific truths, but they are in fact nothing like them. Super-Truths transcend anything the sciences could possibly confirm or confute. T2 and T3 (reproduced below) are excellent examples of this. Their supposed truth depends solely on meaning, not on the way the world happens to be.]

 

Otherwise the actual truth or the actual falsehood of such propositions would be world-sensitive, not solely meaning-, or concept-dependent; that is, their actual truth or their actual falsehood would depend on how the world is, and not solely on what their words mean. And that explains why the comprehension of metaphysical propositions appears to go hand-in-hand with knowing their 'truth' (or with knowing their 'falsehood'): their truth-status is based solely on thought, language or meaning, not on the facts.

 

This means that such Super-Truths can't be related to the material world or anything in it, and hence they can't be used to help change it.

 

To recap: an empirical proposition gains its sense from -- or, rather, its sense is constituted by -- the truth possibilities it holds open (which options can later be decided upon one way or the other by a confrontation with the facts). That is why the actual truth-value of, say, T1 (or that of its contradictory, T4, below) does not need to be known before it is understood; but it is why evidence is relevant to establishing that truth-value.

T1: Tony Blair owns a copy of Das Kapital.

T4: Tony Blair does not own a copy of Das Kapital.

 

[T2: Time is a relation between events.

 

T3: Motion is inseparable from matter.]


In order to comprehend T1 or T4, all that is required is some grasp of the possibilities they both hold open. T1 and T4 have the same content; that is, they are made true or they are made false by the same situation obtaining, or not obtaining, as the case may be.

It is also why it is easy to imagine T1 to be true even if it is false, or false even if it is true (and false even if it is true, and vice versa). In general, the comprehension of empirical propositions involves an understanding of the conditions under which they would/could be true, or would/could be false. As is well-known, these are otherwise called their "truth-conditions". That, of course, allows anyone so minded to confirm their actual truth-status by a confrontation with the facts, since they would in that case know what to look for or to expect.

These non-negotiable facts about language also underpin the Marxist emphasis on the social -- and hence the communal and communicational -- nature of discourse.

 

That is because this accounts for our ability to grasp empirical propositions before we know whether they are true, or before we know whether they are false, thus enabling communication. Communication would be impossible if you had to know a sentence was true before you understood it. How could you possibly manage that?

 

In contrast to the Marxist view, representational theories of language have dominated Traditional Thought since Ancient Greek times. Given this approach, we represent the world to ourselves first (by means of 'ideas', 'inner signs', 'concepts', 'abstractions', 'representations', etc., etc.) which we then try to communicate to others, second. Language is thus primarily a vehicle for thought, not communication.

 

This theory was originally based on the mystical idea that language was a gift from the 'gods' so that they could re-present their ideas to us -- or, to be more accurate, so that a select few -- priests, philosophers, kings and queens, etc. -- could con us into thinking they had.

 

As I have put this elsewhere (slightly edited):

 

"What Marx and Engels did was reverse this: if language is primarily a means of communication, not representation (as tradition would have it), then we begin with the fact that we can communicate, and our account of language has to catch up with that. Anything less would undermine the social nature of language and human intercommunication....
 

"Wittgenstein picked this idea up in his conversations with the Marxist economist, Piero Sraffa (Gramsci's friend), and it completely revolutionised his approach. He adopted what he called an 'anthropological' view of language.
 

"Given this view, we are all socialised by our carers, siblings, peers, and teachers to use language in the same way. We do not decide for ourselves what our words mean. This was the old idea -- you can see why the traditional approach appealed to bourgeois individualist philosophers, and still does. It is still the dominant view, hence the massive influence of cognitive psychology on the theory of mind and language these days (even Chomsky has fallen for it with his Cartesian approach to language and mind) -- it is the "ruling idea" in the field. Wittgenstein and Marx's approach is almost totally ignored.
 

"This new, Wittgensteinian approach underlines the fact that we are all taught what our words mean, we do not teach ourselves. Hence, this approach begins with the social, and works from there -- not the other way round. This re-emphasis eliminates at a stroke all the classic problems associated with abstractionism and representationalism."

 

After all, how could the 'contents' of one mind be communicated to another if there were no prior means of communication by means of which this could be achieved, something that representational theories typically undermine (or even deny)? Hence, if representationalism were true, it wouldn't be possible for us to understand our interlocutors, which in turn would mean that we would be in no position to decide if what they said was true or was false. How, indeed, would it be possible for anyone to communicate with anyone else if they could only figure out what had been said to them after they had ascertained its truth? (More on this in Essay Three Part Two.)

 

This isn't to argue that other uses of language aren't important, but fact-stating language is intimately connected with our capacity to understand nature, and thus to control it -- and that links it with our survival on this planet. [It is also the form of language that is aped by metaphysical discourse.]

 

Naturally, this new approach flies in the face of metaphysical and representational theories of language and 'cognition', which emphasise the opposite: that to understand a metaphysical thesis goes hand-in-hand with automatically knowing it is true (or automatically knowing it is false) -- by-passing the confirmation or disconfirmation stage, thus reducing the usual 'truth-conditions' to one option only.

 

[However, there are other serious problems faced by the traditional approach to language over and above the fact it would make communication (and knowledge) impossible. These will be examined in more detail the rest of Essay Twelve (when it is published) and in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]

 

However, if a proposition looks as if it were empirical -- because it uses the indicative mood -- and yet it can only be false (as seems to be the case with L1, below, according to Lenin) then, as we will see, paradox must ensue.

Consider, therefore, the following sentences, the first of which Engels and Lenin declared "unthinkable" (presumably because L2 is "necessarily true"):

L1: Motion sometimes occurs without matter.

L2: "Motion without matter is unthinkable."

 

Unfortunately for Lenin, as we have seen, in order to declare L1 necessarily (and always) false, or "unthinkable", he had to think the offending words, "matter without motion" -- or their content. In order to declare L1 "unthinkable", those words (or their content) patently had to go through his mind. That is, he had to do what he had just told us no one could do -- i.e., think these words (or their content)!

But, if the truth of L1 is to be permanently excluded by holding it as 'necessarily false' (or "unthinkable"), then, plainly, whatever would make it true has to be ruled out conclusively.

And yet, anyone doing that would have to know what L1 rules in (i.e., they would have to know what would make L1 true) so that they could comprehend what was being disqualified by its rejection as always and 'necessarily false'.

Unfortunately, that is precisely what can't be done if what L1 itself says is permanently ruled out on semantic/conceptual grounds, and we can't even think either it, or its content.

Consequently, if a proposition like L1 is declared 'necessarily false' this charade (i.e., the permanent exclusion of its truth) can't take place -- since it would be impossible to say and/or to think what could count as making it true.

However, because the truth of L1 can't even be conceived, Lenin was in no position to say what was being excluded by its rejection. He couldn't now say -- or think -- what he is ruling out!

His very own words thus undermined what he thought he wanted to say!

 

This now prevents any account being given of what would make L1 false, let alone 'necessarily' false. As we have seen, L1 could only be declared 'necessarily false' if what would make it true could at least be entertained just in order to rule it out as false.

But, according to Lenin, the conditions that would make L1 true can't even be conceived, so this train of thought can't be joined at any point. And, if the truth of L1 can't be conceived, then neither can its falsehood, for we would not then know what was being ruled out.

If we are incapable of thinking these words or their content, we certainly can't think of either of these as false.

 

In that case, L1 can neither be accepted nor rejected by anyone, for no one would know what its content committed them to so that it could be either accepted or rejected. L1 would thus lose any sense it had, since it could not under any circumstances be considered true, and hence not under any circumstances considered false.

This is in fact just another consequence of the point made earlier that an empirical proposition and its negation have the same content (they express the same possible state of affairs). If one option is ruled out, the other automatically goes out of the window with it, which is what we have now seen happen to Lenin's words.

 

T1: Tony Blair owns a copy of Das Kapital.

T4: Tony Blair does not own a copy of Das Kapital.

As soon as T1 is declared false (i.e., when the evidence has tuned up), that ipso facto declares T2 true. The truth of T2 rules out the truth of T1. Anyone who understands T2 will know what its truth rules out (i.e., the truth of T1), and vice versa.

 

This isn't the case with L1 and L3:

 

L1: Motion sometimes occurs without matter.

L3: Motion never occurs without matter.

 

Why that is so will now be explained.

 

This is connected with the non-sensicality of all metaphysical 'propositions', for their negations do not have the same content as the original non-negated 'proposition'. (Again, why that is so will be explained presently.)

 

[It is worth re-reading the above sentence, since it expresses one of the core ideas of this Essay.]

[The word "proposition" is in 'scare quotes' above since if it isn't clear what is being proposed, or put forward for consideration, then plainly nothing has yet been proposed or put forward.]

 

Indeed, because the 'negations' of metaphysical theses do not picture anything that could be the case in any conceivable world, they have no content at all. That, of course, automatically empties the content of the original non-negated proposition.

As we can now see, the radical misuse of language governing the formation of what look like empirical propositions (like L2) in fact involves an implicit reference to the sorts of conditions that underlie their normal employment/reception.

L2: Motion without matter is unthinkable.

L1: Motion sometimes occurs without matter.

L3: Motion never occurs without matter.

Hence, when sentences like L2 are entertained, even momentarily, a pretence (often genuine) has to be maintained that they make sense, that they are capable of being understood, and thus that they are capable of being true or capable of being false. In that case, a pretence has to be maintained that we understand what might make such propositions true, and their 'negations' false, so that those like L1 can be declared 'necessarily' false, or "unthinkable".

 

But, this entire exercise is an empty charade, for no content can be given to propositions like L1 -- and thus, L2.

With respect to motionless matter, even Lenin had to admit this! Indeed, he it was who told us this 'idea' was "unthinkable".

 

The same comments also apply to all the 'necessary truths' that have been concocted by philosophers since Anaximander was a lad.

[This doesn't imply that they all used the phrase "necessary truth", but the theses they invented weren't materially different from such Super-Truths.]

We can see why this is so if we consider another typical metaphysical thesis and its supposed negation:

L4: Time is a relation between events.

L5: Time isn't a relation between events.

As we have seen, the alleged truth of L4 is derived from the (assumed) meaning of the words it contains. In that case, if the truth of L4 is denied by the use of, say, L5, then that would amount to a change in the meaning of the word "time".

That is because sentences like L4 define what a given philosopher means by "time".

 

So, if time isn't a relation between events, then the word "time" must have a different meaning in L4 and L5. And, if that is so, L4 and L5 can't express the same state of affairs. They have a different content.

So, despite appearances to the contrary, L5 isn't the negation of L4!

And that is because the subject of each sentence is different.

To see this point, compare the following:
 

L6: George W Bush crashed his car on the 3rd of May 2012.

 

L7: George H W Bush didn't crash his car on the 3rd of May 2012.


L6 and L7 aren't the negations of one another since they relate to two different individuals, George W Bush and his father, George H W Bush. They are true or false under entirely different conditions since they do not have the same sense, the same empirical content. They picture different states of affairs.

 

[The fact that they are probably both false doesn't affect the point being made.]

The same comment applies to a metaphysical proposition (such as L4) and what appears to be its negation (i.e., L5).

 

L4: Time is a relation between events.

L5: Time isn't a relation between events.

 

If now L4 is deemed "necessarily true", then we would have to declare its alleged negation (L5) "necessarily false". But, L5 isn't the negation of L4 (since they both have different subject terms), and so -- as we discovered with Lenin's predicament above -- if we reject L4 by means of L5, we would have no idea what we would be ruling out, and thus no idea what we are ruling in.

 

Or, rather, what we think we are trying to rule out hasn't in fact been ruled out since we only succeed in changing the subject in the attempt to do so.

In that case, we would be in no position to declare L4 "necessarily true".

[That is because to declare a sentence "true" is ipso facto to declare it "not false". But, if we can't do that (and plainly we can't do it if we have no idea what we are ruling out -- or, if in doing so we change the subject of the original sentence!), we can't then say the original sentence is true. (This is, of course, a controversial point, which some have denied. I can't enter into this in this summary Essay. I have said more about it here, and here.)]

The same applies if we declare, say, L4 "necessarily false", but I will omit the tedious details.

 

In which case, metaphysical propositions can't be true and they can't be false. They thus lack a sense, and there is nothing that can be done to rectify the situation.

They are, therefore, non-sensical.

 

 

The Reason Why

 

The reason why this keeps happening is as follows: when a metaphysician concocts a thesis like L4, what he/she is doing is inventing a new rule for the use of certain words, and rules can't be true or false, only practical or impractical, obeyed or disobeyed. (In that case, L5 amounts to the rejection or repudiation of the rule expressed in L4, not its negation. L8, for example, represents an alternative rule for the use of "time".) Metaphysicians misconstrue these rules as 'necessary' truths about reality. Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there, for these rules turn out to be incoherent, too. Why that is so will be explained in the next couple of sections.

 

L4: Time is a relation between events.

L5: Time isn't a relation between events.

 

L8: Time is absolute.

 

 

Metaphysical Fiat -- Dogma on Stilts

 

It is also worth highlighting another odd feature of metaphysical theses: since the truth-values of defective sentences like these are plainly not determined by the facts, they have to be given a (supposed) truth-value by fiat. That is, they have to be declared "necessarily true" or declared "necessarily false", and this is plainly because their truth-status can't be derived from the world, with which they cannot now be compared.

Or, more grandiloquently, their opposites have to be pronounced "unthinkable" by a sage-like figure -- a Philosopher of some sort.

Metaphysical decrees like this are as common as dirt in Traditional Thought -- and, as we can now see, in DM, too.

 

These philosophical 'gems' have 'necessary' truth or 'necessary falsehood' bestowed on them as a gift. Instead of being compared with material reality to ascertain the truth-status of such theses, the latter is derived solely from, or compared only with, other related theses (or, to be more honest, with yet more obscure jargon), as part of a terminological gesture at 'verification'. 'Confirmation' thus takes place only in the head of the theorist who dreamt them up. Hence, their bona fides are thoroughly Ideal and therefore 100% bogus.

The normal cannons that determine when something is true or false (i.e., a confrontation with the facts) have to be set aside, and a spurious 'evidential' ceremony substituted for them.

 

This is indeed how DM has developed: 'confirmation' is invariably carried out after the event (that is, after several core ideas had been copied from Hegel). Even then, DM-theses are only supported by a very narrow range of (trite/anecdotal) examples, which, as it turns out, don't apply anyway -- as we found with Trotsky's 'analysis' of the LOI and Engels's account of motion, and his 'Three Laws', etc.

 

Alternatively, if confirmation is ever carried out in advance, it is performed in the head, as a sort of 'thought experiment', or perhaps as part of a very hasty and superficial consideration of the 'concepts' involved.

 

In which case, DM-theses have to be imposed on reality, since they plainly weren't derived from it.

 

As far as Traditional Philosophy (Metaphysics) is concerned, this is precisely what happened as the discipline developed. Philosophers simply invented increasingly complex, jargonised expressions, juggled with ever more obscure terminology, and derived countless 'truths' from thought/language alone. Philosophy thus became a dogmatic discipline whereby sage-like figures revealed 'cosmic truths' to the rest of humanity.

 

With respect to DM, its class-compromised origin has encouraged a similar ideological degeneration. Undeniably, every dialectical doctrine was lifted from Hegel (and then supposedly given a materialist flip); but Hegel's ideas weren't based on experimentation of any sort, nor were they derived from material reality. He openly borrowed them from earlier mystics (as we will see in Essay Fourteen (summary here)), while attempting to justify them with some of his own 'innovative' word-juggling.

Unfortunately for their inventors, none of these theses can be given a sense, no matter what is done with them; as we have discovered, they are all non-sensical.


 

Distorted Language

 

Such Super-Empirical theses thus collapse under the weight of their own defective use of language.

 

Which is why Marx said the following:

 

"The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphases added.]

 

[We have seen how both metaphysical and DM theses are based on a distorted use of the indicative mood.

There are other serious mis-uses/distortions of ordinary language at work here. I won't enter into them in this summary (or it will be too long!). More details can be found in Essay Twelve Part One, and throughout the rest of this site.]

 

Notice that, according to Marx, philosophy is based on "the distorted language of the actual world." Since the indicative mood deals with what we have to say about the "actual world" we can now see how perceptive he was.

 

The bottom line is that since such theses are based on distorted language, they are incoherent non-sense.

 

That conclusion has been thoroughly substantiated in Essays Three through Eleven, and Thirteen Parts One and Three. There, we have seen how quickly DM-theses fall apart, as incoherent non-sense, at the slightest encouragement.

 

[On this, see also here.]  

 

 

Traditional Thought

 

There are many reasons why Traditional Theorists attempted to derive fundamental 'Super-Truths' from thought alone. One of them is the following:

The traditional method of conceptualising the relationship between 'reality' and our ideas about it depended on the ancient belief that behind appearances there lies a hidden world -- accessible to thought alone -- which is more real than the material universe we see around us.

This approach to 'knowledge' was invented by ruling-class hacks because if you belong to, benefit from, or help run a society which is based on gross inequality, oppression and exploitation, you can keep order in a number of ways.

The first and most obvious way is through violence. This will work for a time, but it is not only fraught with danger, it is costly and it stifles innovation (among other things) -- indeed, as we can now see happening in Egypt and Libya, for example.

Another way is to persuade the majority -- or a significant section of 'opinion formers', philosophers, theologians, administrators, 'intellectuals', teachers, judges, and editors, etc. -- that the present order either works for their benefit, is ordained of the 'gods', or is 'natural' and cannot be fought against, reformed or negotiated with. In this way, the ruling-class ensures that its ideas rule --, as, indeed, Marx noted:


"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch." [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65. Bold emphases added.]

 

Hence, a 'world-view' is necessary for each ruling-class to carry on ruling in the "same old way".

While the content of this ruling ideology may have changed with each new mode of production, its form has remained largely the same for thousands of years: Ultimate Truth is ascertainable by thought alone and can therefore be imposed on reality, dogmatically.

 

And, that is why Traditional Philosophy is thoroughly dogmatic and thus non-sensical.

Sadly, this ruling-class view of reality has been appropriated by DM-theorists, who incorporated it into Marxism. Small wonder then that it has presided over 150 years of almost total failure.

[Exactly why they have done this and how this theory has helped ruin Marxism are explained in Essay Nine Part Two.]

 

Word Count: 11,670

 

Latest Update: 29/05/13

 

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