Brickhead Rides Again

 

Preface

 

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Unfortunately, older links to the comments pages at Lenin's Tomb no longer work now that Haloscan has been changed.

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

Saddle Up!

 

Most ordinary sites on the Internet do not require or even need a health warning, but it is sad to report that one of the very best blogs on the Web should in fact carry one. That is because the unwary poster will, at some point, stumble across Mr G, a comrade of seemingly inexhaustible stupidity --, indeed, to such an extent that I hesitate to use that phrase for fear I might be prosecuted for reckless understatement.

 

[This is no longer the case; Mr G has now vanished into the ether, having left the UK-SWP several years ago. He no longer frequents Lenin's Tomb. The reason for the acrid tone I have adopted in this Essay will become clear to anyone who reads this, this, or this.]

 

In a debate about the recent UK Prison Workers' Strike (at the above blog -- alas the links to the Haloscan comments at Lenin's Tomb no longer work!) I rather rashly posted an ultra-left one-liner (i.e., to the effect that I did not think we supported better pay for ruling-class bully boys, blah, blah) and was rightly taken to task for it. With not one ounce of dialectics, one particular comrade there patiently explained the issues, and won me around.

 

"So what?" you might ask. Well, so this: another stalwart there accused me of adopting the line I did because of my stance toward dialectics, which meant that I did not understand the 'contradictory' nature of this group of workers (I paraphrase). I then asked him why this was either a 'contradiction' or was 'contradictory', and that is where Mr G awoke from his dumbass slumbers.

 

Now, instead of explaining what dialecticians mean by their obscure use of this word (in response to my not unreasonable request for enlightenment), he asked:

 

Rosa can you explain what is meant by a contradiction?

 

[I have corrected any typos I found in Mr G's replies.]

 

To which I replied (with no little over-kill, for reasons that will soon become apparent -- there is an updated and extended version of my response to Mr G, here):

 

In its simplest form, the conjunction of a proposition with its negation. More complex examples would be:

 

~[(PQ)v(PR)(P(QvR))]

 

~[~(Ex)(Fx&~Gx)↔(x)(FxGx)]

 

[In the above, "E" is the existential quantifier; "" is a biconditional sign; "(x)" is the universal quantifier; "&" stands for "and"; "v" is the inclusive "or"; "~" stands for the negation operator; "" is the conditional sign ("if...then"); "P", "Q", and "R" are propositional variables; "F" and "G" are one-place, first-level predicate letters; and "x" is a second-level predicate-binding variable. More details here and here.]

Of course, you would know all this if you bothered to educate yourself.

The above, by the way, is a snippet from Essay Five, at my site.

 

Now, Mr G, who is always keen to prove he is quite as logically-challenged as a cheese roll, then responded:

 

"The conjunction of a proposition with its negation"

This sounds a bit circular to me. In ordinary language isn't this a bit like saying "a contradiction is a statement which is contradictory"?

 

Mr G failed to notice (perhaps because he is still sporting that fetching bag we have seen him wear so many times; paparazzi picture below) that I had tried to explain this notion as it is used in logic, not ordinary language. Hence, the characterisation I gave was in no way circular. Now, if I had then proceeded to define negation in terms of contradiction, he might have had a point, but I did not, and would not, so he hasn't. Nor would I even try to do so in ordinary language.

 

 

Mr G Gets Another Bright Idea

 

Careful readers will also note that Mr G ignored the more complex examples I gave (which is why I gave them). Two years ago, he and I engaged in a 'debate' of sorts where I accused him of knowing no logic -- even though he seemed happy to pontificate about it (like all too many fans of the dialectic). Now, it is no crime to know no logic, but it is surely unwise to pontificate about it from a position of total ignorance.

 

Well, it would be for normal denizens of this planet, but Mr G hails from Planet Bluster, where everyone is required by law to pass expert opinion on things about which they know nothing --, and then to act upon their own unwise pontifications. As one can well imagine, this leads to serious problems as the average Blustard foolishly tries their hand at brain surgery. [This might help explain Mr G's cerebrally-challenged condition.]

 

Unfortunately, dear reader, there is more:

 

I can contradict someone's statements. Can I also have contrary interests to yours? Could it reasonably be said that someone's behaviour was contradictory? Or that someone's interests were contradictory (in relationship perhaps to some goal they had)? Or that my interests contradicted yours? Certainly some data might appear contradictory in relationship to some enquiry we have about it.

Does this not suggest that the notion of a contradiction is not exhausted by what might go on inside a proposition? In ordinary usage?

 

Of course, contraries are not contradictions, nor is "contradictory" the same as "contradiction". [The difference between these two notions is explained below.] As indicated earlier, concerning two contrary propositions, both can't be true, but they can both be false (i.e., in this case they would merely be inconsistent with one another).

 

For example, the contraries "All swans are white" and "No swan is white" can't both be true (in a non-empty domain), but they could both be false -- for instance, if either or both of "Some swan is not white", or "Some swan is white" were true. But, two contradictory propositions can't both be true and they can't both be false, at once. Again, dialecticians invariably ignore such "pedantic" details.

 

Moreover, if someone were presented with these two propositions: "All swans are white" and "Some swan is not white" they will have been presented with two contradictory propositions, but this would only be a contradiction if they were conjoined to give: "All swans are white and some swan is not white". "Contradictory" applies to propositions or clauses that can be conjoined to form a contradiction (or which can be used to contradict someone), whether or not they are so conjoined, or so used. "Contradictory" also applies to states and performances (among other things), which, if expressed in propositions or clauses, can also be conjoined to yield a contradiction, whether or not they are so conjoined. In the same way, a drug can be described as hallucinatory, that is; it has the potential to cause hallucinations whether or not it does so, or is used to do so. Or, it can apply to imperatives which undo one another, or would do so, if acted upon. [There are analogous distinctions that also apply to "contradict" and "contradiction". See also here.]

 

True to dialectical form, Mr G knows nothing of this -- despite the fact that such details were basic principles even of Aristotelian Logic, 2400 years ago!

 

As I have alleged several times in my Essays, dialecticians almost invariably confuse contradictions with contraries (and with a host of other things, into the bargain). Mr G therefore is certainly at home as part of this nescient tradition.

 

And, what is more, DM-fans like Mr G refuse to be told. I know; I've banged my head against this brick wall for nigh on a generation. Mr G is just another Brickhead in this wall.

 

In fact, many dialecticians wear this badge of ignorance with pride, for they all respond to such attempts at correction with impressive consistency -- the liberal use of the "pedantry" gambit being one of their favourites, indeed, their only defence. Why they fail to accuse Marx of the same alleged failing (because of his "pedantic" attempt to distinguish, say, the relative from the equivalent form of value in Das Kapital) is an issue we should perhaps leave to the head doctors to fathom.

 

Even so, some dialecticians have tried to argue that there are indeed 'true contradictions' in reality. By far and away the most sophisticated of these is Graham Priest. However, it is far from clear whether the 'contradictions' he considers are indeed 'dialectical' -- that is, should we ever be told what a 'dialectical contradiction' is!

 

[Priest's work will be considered in more detail in an Additional Essay to be posted at this site at a future date. In the meantime, the reader should consult this.]

 

Despite this, veteran communist theoretician, Maurice Cornforth, attempted to show that there are 'true contradictions'. He did so as part of an argument intended to demonstrate that contradictions actually 'exist' in the natural and social world -- contrary to the view endorsed here that a contradiction (in its simplest form in logic) is merely the conjunction of a proposition with its negation, which has nothing to do with 'what exists':

 

The contradiction in things is a very familiar state of affairs. There is nothing in the least abstruse about it, and it is often referred to in everyday conversations. For example, we speak of a man as having a 'contradictory' character, or as being 'a mass of contradictions'…. [Cornforth (1976), pp.92-93.]

 

In which case, presumably, when we describe someone as a "bit of a puzzle" Cornforth thinks we mean that he or she can be purchased in a magic store or toy shop. Or that when we read:

 

All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances [William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7.]

 

we should all try to remember our lines and stage cues, pay heed to the director, make sure the audience can hear us, and ignore the reviews.

 

Clearly, Cornforth has never heard of metaphor.

 

[Why this is not a literal use of "contradiction" is considered below, and throughout Essay Eight Part Two. We have already seen that "contradictory" isn't the same as "contradict", or even "contradiction".]

 

It is worth recalling that Hegel attempted to show that logical contradictions, and not so much ordinary contradictions, were far too one-sided and limited. His sense of this word was, therefore, intended to transcend the former. (As far as I am aware, he was silent about the latter.) Now, DM-theorists might not aim to use "contradiction" in the same way as Hegel -- whether or not these have been turned "the right way up" or left upside down --, but, if that were so, their 'contradictions' wouldn't transcend those that appear in FL. Naturally, that would make their criticisms of FL rather empty, since they wouldn't be addressing the same concept. Nevertheless, they certainly intend to transcend FL-contradictions, and that is why I have largely concentrated on the latter here.

 

However, it is also clear (from the examples they give) that comrades like Cornforth, and the others considered below, focus on what are plainly ordinary contradictions (as opposed to FL-contradictions, or even 'dialectical contradictions') when they try to show that there are 'true contradictions', or that 'contradictions' exist. It is clear, too, why they do this: FL-contradictions are totally uninteresting. Who, for example, is going to get excited about the following (these in fact appeared in a letter sent to Socialist Review a few years back by a supporter of this site):

 

A1: In capitalism, there is a drive to accumulate and there isn't.

 

A2: Capitalism is governed by a blind competitive market and it isn't.

 

In debate, DM-fans are often genuinely surprised to see examples of FL-contradictions like these, or more formal examples listed earlier. From this it is plain that they are totally unaware of such contradictions, and when they see them they reject them as examples of what they intend when they use this word. [Here (in the comments section at the bottom, and this link still seems to work) is a recent example of this. When confronted with an FL-contradiction, the comrade with whom I was debating -- Mike Rosen -- denied that this was what he meant. He wanted to show that there was a perfectly ordinary use of this word that picked out what Marx (etc.) meant. And yet none of his examples were 'dialectical contradictions', either, which rendered the whole exercise rather futile, as I pointed out to him. There are plenty more examples of this sort of thing in the debates recorded here.]

 

On the one hand, whatever else DM-'contradictions' are supposed to be, they appear to be totally unrelated to FL-contradictions, and so can hardly surpass them. On the other, they have to be related to FL-contradictions, otherwise dialecticians will have to drop the pretence that DL is superior to FL.

 

In that case, in what follows, I will continue to refer to FL-contradictions in my criticism of DL-'contradictions'. If DM-fans mean something different by their use of this word, they should tell us -- and for the first time in over 150 years -- what that is.

 

[There is more on this here and here.]

 

However, Cornforth concedes that describing someone as "contradictory" involves a reference to their dispositions (or "tendencies"):

 

This means that [they evince] opposed tendencies in [their] behaviour, such as gentleness and brutality, recklessness and cowardice, selfishness and self-sacrifice. [Cornforth (1976), p.93.]

 

This automatically prevents the examples he gives from being literal contradictions. But Cornforth seems not to have noticed this.

 

Be this as it may, if this is meant to commit Cornforth to a dispositional account of contradictions, then much of classic DM would become obsolete as a result. The fact that someone might have, say, a disposition to be brave in certain circumstances, but cowardly in others, in no way suggests he/she can be both of these at once. [Indeed, what would that amount to? Standing one's ground while running away?] What is open to question is whether the simultaneous actualisation of these dispositions (in certain states or performances) may be expressed by means of true propositions (and without ambiguity).

 

Indeed, the fact that an iron bar, for example, can be red hot at one end and icy cold at the other at the same time is not a contradiction (even though, plainly, an iron bar is at any time disposed to be either of these at all times) -- but no one supposes (it is to be hoped!) that such a bar could actually be red hot and freezing cold all over at the same time.

 

[To be sure, the supposition that the entire bar could be both of these at the same time might be thought by some to be a contradictory supposition; and yet even this would merely be an inconsistency, since both could be false if the said bar were in fact merely warm.]

 

Anyway, as noted above, the emotions Cornforth considers are expressed by contrary suppositions and as such are inconsistent, not contradictory. For example, if NN was said to be both angry and calm at the same time, that would only be a contradiction if it couldn't be false to assert NN was both. But, it would be false to assert both if NN were slightly agitated (in which state NN would be neither angry nor calm), for instance.

 

So, even if both of these states were actualisable at the same time (which is, of course, a rather difficult scenario to imagine), this would still fail to be a contradiction!

 

On the other hand, if NN could be described (without ambiguity) as follows:

 

N1: NN is both angry and not angry at the same time, and with respect to the same object of that anger,

 

we might have a genuine contradiction here. But, it is unlikely that Cornforth meant what he said to be taken this way --, and it is even more doubtful whether he would have been able to say under what conditions he, or anyone else, for that matter, would or could hold N1 true -- or under what conditions he/they could attribute to NN such odd actualisations.

 

But, perhaps there is a buried ambiguity here? Consider then the following more precise examples (which might help bring this out):

 

N2: At time t, NN is angry with MM for lying to her at t, and not angry with MM for lying to her at t.

 

Or, perhaps even more precisely:

 

N2a: At times t1 and t2, NN is angry with MM at t2 for lying to her at t1, and not angry with MM at t2 for lying to her at t1. [t2 > t1]

 

Or, in ordinary terms:

 

N2a1: NN is angry with MM today for lying to her yesterday and not angry with MM today for lying to her yesterday.

 

[Naturally, there are several other possibilities allowed for in logic and ordinary language, such as the following:

 

N2b: At time t1, NN is angry with MM at t1 for lying to her at t1, and not angry with MM at t1 for lying to her at t1.

 

Or, in ordinary (if somewhat stilted) terms, again:

 

N2b1: NN is currently angry with MM for lying to her just now and currently not angry with MM for lying to her just now.]

 

Someone like Mr G could object and argue that it is possible to have mixed emotions at one and the same time. Perhaps, then, he might mean the following (confining our attention to N2, not N2a or N2b, for simplicity's sake):

 

N3: At time t, NN is both angry with MM for lying to her at t (because it was a violation of trust), and not angry with MM for lying to her at t (because she understands the pressures on MM when he lied).

 

In that case, N3 is really this:

 

N4: At time t, NN is both φ-ing at t, and not ψ-ing at t.

 

Here, we have two different actions/states (involving different objects of this particular emotion -- the ambiguity mentioned above): anger at MM because it was a violation of trust (i.e., "φ-ing"), and lack of anger at MM because of extenuating circumstances (i.e., "ψ-ing"). Which is, of course, why caveat N1 was added earlier:

 

N1: NN is both angry and not angry at the same time, and with respect to the same object of that anger.

 

[Greek letters like "φ" and "ψ" are used in FL to help distinguish action- or state-predicates (like "walks", "sits", or "has refuted DM") from others (such as, "is a man" or "is a confused dialectician").]

 

As soon as we fill in the details concerning the nature of the emotion involved, we can see that we have two different objects of the said anger, or two different states/actions, and hence no contradiction.

 

To be sure, someone might still object, but they will (like Cornforth, or Mr G) find it hard to say what the content of that objection amounts to without ignoring/editing out of the picture some object or other of the said anger/emotion, thus misrepresenting the intended situation.

 

[Which is, perhaps, why DM-fans do not like precision (i.e., they reject 'pedantry'); any attempt to state precisely what they mean would in fact undermine rather too many of the doctrines they unwisely inherited from Hegel -- as we can now see happening with these 'contradictions'.]  

 

In fact, by his use of the word "tendencies", Cornforth himself seems half ready to concede this point. But, not even he would want to describe the same action (performed by the same person) as, say, literally both gentle and brutal at the same time (without equivocation). While it is possible to ascribe contrary properties to the same object (e.g., one part of the aforementioned iron bar could be hot while another part is cold, as we have seen), a 'contradiction' may only be extracted from such familiar facts by someone who has never heard of ambiguity -- or, who is terminally confused. No one would think they had been contradicted by someone who asserted that the far end of an iron bar was red hot just after they themselves had asserted the near end was ice cold. Nor would they think they'd been contradicted if someone had said they were angry today, but calm the day before -- or indeed they were angry and calm about different things.

 

Anyway, as noted above, any description of the same action (that asserted it was literally both gentle and brutal at the same time (in the same respect and without equivocation)) would merely be an inconsistency -- since both alternatives would be false if the said act was in fact neutral (i.e., if it was neither gentle nor brutal).

 

[The disintegration of the Communist Block finally caught up with Cornforth; in one of his last works [Cornforth (1980)], he systematically retracted most of the theses he had once declared were cornerstones of the "world view of the proletariat".]

 

Now, Mr G has remained undeterred by such contradictory antics, and has vainly tried to defend the employment of this obscure notion (i.e., "dialectical contradiction") by appealing to (yes, you guessed it!) an everyday use of "contradiction", in connection with contradictory behaviour, when it is not at all clear that the examples he himself considered are themselves 'dialectical contradictions', to begin with.

 

Even so, what does he mean by "contradictory behaviour"? Perhaps someone who stands and sits all at once? [Or, maybe who has a tendency to do this? (Do what? Stand and sit all at once?) Or, who threatens to do one or both? (But what sort of threat would this be if it is impossible to carry out?) Or, perhaps someone who goes on strike and refuses to go on strike at the same time?

 

We aren't told. As usual, DM-fans (and especially Mr G) offer their bemused readers less than half-formed thoughts.

 

Who can say, therefore, what confused half-thoughts bounced around that empty skull of his?

 

As noted above, Mr G tried to argue along similar lines in the 'debate' over the recent UK Prison Workers' Strike:

 

I can contradict someone's statements. Can I also have contrary interests to yours? Could it reasonably be said that someone's behaviour was contradictory? Or that someone's interests were contradictory (in relationship perhaps to some goal they had)? Or that my interests contradicted yours? Certainly some data might appear contradictory in relationship to some enquiry we have about it.

Does this not suggest that the notion of a contradiction is not exhausted by what might go on inside a proposition? In ordinary usage?

 

Now, in relation to the aforementioned strike, this benighted comrade seems to have meant workers who support the state one minute, but act against it the next (or who hold what appear to be inconsistent beliefs about one or both). But, put this way, this isn't even a contradiction (ordinary, or otherwise)! On the other hand, if these workers both supported and didn't support this strike at the same time (without ambiguity), that would have been a contradiction, but he plainly didn't mean this. And, we have already seen that contraries aren't contradictions (nor are contradictories).

 

In fact, there was a rather good example of this sort of 'dialectical confusion' in Simon Basketter's recent article in Socialist Worker:

 

However, there are contradictions in the role of prison officers.

 

It is summed up by Cardiff prisoners chanting "you're breaking the law" to the strikers....

 

Prison officers' work, upholding law and order, frequently pushes them to accept the most right wing ideas and actions of the system. One of their main jobs is to control prisoners –- and throughout the prison system, many officers have a proven record of racism and violence.

 

Some of the contradictions can be seen in the strike. In Liverpool the POA shop steward Steve Baines responded to the high court injunction by telling fellow strikers, "Tell them to shove it up their arse, we're sitting it out."

 

Yet when prisoners in the jail protested against their treatment, the POA members rushed back in to control the situation and end a roof top protest.

 

Once more, what is the 'contradiction' here? Maybe, it has something to do with the following:

 

P1: Prison officers uphold the law.

 

P2: This either results from, or leads them into holding right-wing ideas.

 

P3: But, this strike has forced some to defy and/or disrespect the law.

 

P4: However, later, when some prisoners protested, the same officers rushed back to work to control them.

 

Now, I have already commented on the loose, indeterminate and often indiscriminate way that dialecticians like to use "contradiction", but even given such conceptual profligacy, what precisely is the contradiction here?

 

Let us try again (using "NN" this time to stand for the name of a randomly selected prison guard who thinks and acts along the above lines, and "L1" to stand for a law he/she rejects, or opposes, even if only temporarily):

 

P5: NN upholds the law.

 

P6: NN has adopted a number of right-wing ideas.

 

P7: One day, as a result of the strike, NN says "Screw law L1!" [No pun intended.]

 

P8: Later that day he acts in support of a totally different law.

 

Once more, where's the contradiction?

 

Now, if NN had said, "Screw all laws!" we might be able to cobble-together an inconsistency here (such as "Screw all laws!" (i.e., "All laws ought to be screwed!") and "No laws ought to be screwed!"), but not even that is implied by the above story.

 

In fact, a contradiction in this case could be formed from be something like: "All laws should be screwed" and "There is at least one law that should not be screwed." Or, perhaps: "No laws should be screwed" and "There is at least one law that should be screwed."

 

To be sure, people say all sorts of odd things, and it is relatively easy to utter contradictory sentences. Who has ever denied that! [Look, I have just posted two contradictory sets of propositions in the previous paragraph.] The question is, can both be held true, or held false (or, in this case, advocated and repudiated as a moral or political code), at the same time and in same respect? Well, did anyone from Socialist Worker try to ascertain from the aforementioned prison guards if any of them would have both assented to and rejected the following at the same time: "All laws should be screwed" and "There is at least one law that should not be screwed", or, "No laws should be screwed" and "There is at least one law that should be screwed"? Apparently not.

 

Indeed, if NN had assented to "No laws should be screwed", we could safely infer from his later strike action that he no longer held it true. Plainly, as a result of the strike he must have come to accept the following alternative in its place: "I now think there is at least one law (namely, law L1) that should be screwed".

 

[And this would still be the case even if tomorrow NN went back to holding his former beliefs about every law. Dialecticians, least of all, shouldn't need reminding that people and things change!]

 

Unless, that is, we think NN holds this odd belief: "I do not believe that there is at least one law that should be screwed and I also believe there is at least one law that should be screwed." Or, perhaps "Screw L1 and do not screw L1!"

 

Even so, it is also reasonably clear that we could only attribute schizoid beliefs like this to NN if he were about to go insane, or had suffered a blow to the head. We certainly couldn't rely on such a confused character to help win a strike -- nor could we depend on him to report his genuine beliefs with any accuracy, either! He/she is just as likely to tell us: "Yes I believe this and I do not...". Would Socialist Worker have even quoted such a confused individual? Hardly.

 

[No wonder 'dialectical reasoning' has been described as a form of "mental confusion".]

 

Elsewhere in my Essays, I allege that dialectics is based on little other than Hegel's egregious logical blunders (on their feet, the 'right way' up --, or, upside down --, it matters not), but I also added that DM-fans often base their assertions on half-formed thoughts, seriously garbled caricatures of logic (formal and discursive) and laughably thin evidence (which is why I have branded it Mickey Mouse Science).

 

Simon Basketter's obscure claims (and now those of Mr G) amply confirm these allegations.

 

Mr G then argued as follows:

 

Could it reasonably be said that...someone's interests were contradictory (in relationship perhaps to some goal they had)? Or that my interests contradicted yours? Certainly some data might appear contradictory in relationship to some enquiry we have about it.

 

Well, who can blame theorists for wanting to use old words in new ways? But, the above examples seem to be framed in ordinary language already. So why then the following claim?

 

Does this not suggest that the notion of a contradiction is not exhausted by what might go on inside a proposition? In ordinary usage?

 

Of course, these examples relate to what humans beings do or can think, so they aren't much use in showing how there are or can be 'true contradictions' in nature.

 

Now, Mr G might not have noticed (but it was staring him in the face in the example I gave, and in the ones he listed) that contradictions can relate to the inner workings of one proposition just as they can apply to the connection between several propositions at once, both in ordinary language and in logic. In which case, neither the complexities of logic nor the confused state of his logically-challenged brain can be used to defend Mr G from his self-inflicted errors -- for he himself provided his own counterexamples!

 

Considering this first:

 

Certainly some data might appear contradictory in relationship to some enquiry we have about it.

 

Unfortunately, this is far too vague to do much with. Perhaps Mr G meant something like the following:

 

D1: The measured distance to star YY is 4.8 million light years.

 

D2: The measured distance to star YY is 4.3 million light years.

 

But, these do not contradict one another, since the true distance to star YY could be 4.5 million light years, making both D1 and D2 false.

 

And, it is irrelevant whether the true distance to star YY is actually 4.8 or even 4.3 million light years. The fact is that it might not be, or might not have been, either of these.

 

It is worth recalling that if this were a genuine contradiction, D1 and D2 couldn't both be true and couldn't both be false at once (whether or not one of them was either of these). At best, therefore, D1 and D2 are inconsistent. So, even if D1 were true, it is still the case that both D1 and D2 couldn't both be true, but could both be false, at once. This couldn't happen if they were contradictories -- unlike the following two, which are:

 

D3: The measured distance to star YY is 4.8 million light years.

 

D4: It is not the case that the measured distance to star YY is 4.8 million light years.

 

Now, these two have to have opposite truth values (assuming, of course, that there is such a star); they both can't be true and they both can't be false. Given what we mean by "star", YY has to be some distance or other from the earth. One or other of D3 and D4 has to be true. Either YY is 4.8 million light years from earth or it isn't (or the meaning of the words used has changed, or the star has ceased to exist, etc., etc.).

 

To be sure, an inconsistency here might imply a contradiction, but it is far from clear if this benighted comrade meant this. But, even if he did, who has ever denied two propositions can contradict one another (if conjoined)? [Look, I have posted two of these above!] The point is, they can't both be true and they can't both be false at once.

 

DM-fans seem to want them both to be true -- but that would automatically prevent them from being contradictory, or from forming a contradiction.

 

Now, Mr G might have meant that raw data (not in a propositional context or form) could contradict some theory or other. Perhaps then he meant this:

 

D5: 4.8 million light years.

 

D6: 4.3 million light years.

 

But, neither of these is capable of being true or false since they aren't even indicative sentences. **And, if that is so, they can't contradict anything (since to do so, they'd both have to be capable of being true or false). Moreover, as soon as a (sentential) context is given them, they would merely be inconsistent, as we have seen.

 

But, couldn't D3 and D4, or D5 and D6 contradict the predictions of some theory/enquiry or other? Perhaps this:

 

D7: Theory T predicts that star YY is 5.7 million light years away.

 

And yet, the proposition "YY is 5.7 million light years away" is merely inconsistent with D3 and D4, if they are put in propositional contexts, that is. So, we don't have a contradiction even here.

 

[They have to be put in such a context or the point made above (**) would kick in.]

 

So, until this benighted comrade supplies us with clearer details about what he meant (always assuming we can attribute to him any clear intentions), little more can be done with his comments.

 

[I will however, be looking in detail at how data can 'contradict' a scientific theory, and the confused things DM-fans have said about this, in Essay Thirteen Part Two, when it is published.]

 

Be this as it may, is it possible, therefore, for an individual to have contradictory interests or goals in a relationship, as this comrades asserts? Perhaps by this Mr G meant the following (for simplicity's sake, I will concentrate on potential or actual interests an individual might have; the argument can easily be extended to cover goals -- that detail will be left to the reader):

 

B1: NM has interest A in relationship R.

 

B2: It is not the case that NM has interest A in relationship R.

 

This would appear to be a genuine contradiction (if B1 and B2 are conjoined -- always assuming they both applied simultaneously and with no equivocation):

 

B2a: NM has interest A in relationship R and it is not the case that NM has interest A in relationship R.

 

But, did Mr G mean this?

 

Apparently not. Well, what about the following?

 

B3: NM has interest A in relationship R.

 

B4: NM has interest B in relationship R.

 

B5: Interest A in relationship R contradicts interest B in relationship R.

 

But, if we are talking about literal contradictions here (and not the loose and ill-defined 'dialectical contradictions' we have come to know and loathe) then A and B in relationship R can only contradict one another if they are expressed in propositions (or in clauses), as indicated in B5a-B7:

 

B5a: Interest A contradicts interest B.

 

B6: "A" stands for "I, NM, must love my partner".

 

B7: "B stands for "It is not the case that I, NM, must love my partner".

 

It is hard to see how anything could be called an interest (as opposed to it being a vague sort of 'non-linguistic feeling') unless it were expressed in this way.

 

The question is: Can anyone assent to such conflicting interests all at once? Well, as we saw with NN above, people can assent to all manner of odd ideas and feelings, so there is nothing to prevent B6 and B7 from forming the content of someone's overall intentional/emotional make-up.

 

However, before we hastily slap the 'contradiction' label on, it is plain that this alleged contradiction can be disambiguated along the lines attempted above (in relation to N3 and N4, reproduced below) -- providing we supply plausible background details (ignoring, however, the complexities mentioned in N2a and N2b). That is because people do not just have interests simpliciter any more than they just have emotions simpliciter. [For something to be an emotion it has to be object directed; so, we are angry with someone or something, fearful of something or someone, in love with someone or something, etc. Of course, an individual could just be in a fearful state, with no object of that fear, but that would be enough to diagnose him/her as (acutely or chronically) mentally disturbed and/or ill. This wouldn't count as a genuine emotion, otherwise mental disturbance would not have been diagnosed. We can tell the difference between a genuine emotion and a mental disorder by the fact that the latter do not have clear objects.] As with most things connected with intentional behaviour, such things are goal-, or object-directed (which is why we use transitive verbs to characterise them). We'd not be able to make sense of someone who was just in love, but with no one or nothing in particular.

 

N3: At time t, NN is both angry with MM for lying to her at t (because it was a violation of trust), and not angry with MM for lying to her at t (because she understands the pressures on MM when he lied).

 

N4: At time t, NN is both φ-ing at t, and not ψ-ing at t.

 

[The reader is directed here for an explanation of these symbols.]

 

Hence, in this case, we would have something like the following (in an abbreviated, even if slightly stilted, form for clarity's sake):

 

N3c: NN feels she must love MM because of his caring for her, and NN feels she must not love MM for sleeping with her best friend.

 

[I have left N3c in a slightly stilted form so that it is clear what is being said.]

 

In that case, N3c is in fact this:

 

N5: NN feels she must love MM for φ-ing, and not love MM for ψ-ing.

 

As before, we have in effect two different objects of NN's love: his caring for her (i.e., "φ-ing") and his violation of her trust (i.e., "ψ-ing"). Which is, of course, why caveat N1 was added earlier (now re-written as N1a):

 

N1: NN is both angry and not angry at the same time, and with respect to the same object of that anger.

 

N1a: NN both loves and does not love MM at the same time, and with respect to the same object of that love.

 

Plainly, in N5, we have here two different objects of the said love, and thus no contradiction -- or, at least, no more than there would be here:

 

N6: NN saw MM in the distance with her binoculars.

 

N7: NN saw MN in the distance with her binoculars.

 

Here we have two different objects of NN's sight, MM and MN. If anyone thought these two propositions were contradictory, it would indicate they were the victim of serious linguistic confusion, not the author of a breakthrough in the science of optics.

 

It could be argued that the above express the cause of those emotions, or whatever occasioned them, not their objects. In fact, it isn't too clear that this is a distinction with a difference, any more than these are:

 

N8: MM in the distance caused NN to see him with her binoculars.

 

N7: MN in the distance caused NN to see him with her binoculars.

 

So, whatever the cause happens to be, the aforementioned emotions had different objects, and so aren't contradictory.

 

Of course, if Mr G meant something other than this, he should perhaps learn to be a little clearer.

 

However, it might be objected that it is reasonably obvious that the contradiction here is this:

 

B7a: NN: "I must love my partner and it is not the case that I must love my partner".

 

Once more, it is far from clear how this qualifies as a 'dialectical contradiction' -- that is, should we ever be told what one of these is. [Do they turn into one another, as the DM-classics tell us they should? And even if they did, how could anyone tell!]

 

Ignoring this minor niggle for now, it is undeniable that human beings experience conflicting emotions like this all the time, but when faced with B7a, the normal reaction would be to respond with: "Er..., what on earth do you mean by that?", and we'd be surprised if NN found it impossible to say why she felt this way. We'd certainly expect some form of disambiguation or clarification of what she meant, perhaps along the lines expressed in N3a:

 

N3a: NN feels she must love MM because of his caring for her, and NN feels she must not love MM for sleeping with her best friend.

 

If so, and once more, no contradiction would be implied.

 

But, even if B7a were an unambiguous contradiction, that would simply confirm the fact that contradictions in ordinary language and in logic are built around the content of propositions, and the logical links we hold between them -- undermining this benighted comrade's point:

 

Does this not suggest that the notion of a contradiction is not exhausted by what might go on inside a proposition? In ordinary usage?

 

The question now is, has anyone ever held the quoted propositions in B6 and B7 both true or both false at the same time? Or, indeed, anything like them? Perhaps they have (who can say?), but how that shows that there are in fact 'true contradictions' in nature and society is still somewhat unclear.

 

B6: "A" stands for "I must love my partner".

 

B7: "B stands for "It is not the case that I must love my partner".

 

[B5: Interest A in relationship R contradicts interest B in relationship R.]

 

As should seem obvious, the fact that someone believes (or holds) something to be true or believes something to be false does not automatically make it true or make it false!

 

[Once again, it is worth recalling here that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true and cannot both be false, at once. So, if someone does assent to two contradictory propositions, then they must believe both can be true or both can be false. (That is they must deny the following: Two contradictory propositions cannot both be true and cannot both be false, at once.) But, that would just mean they had misunderstood the word "contradiction". We certainly can't build a new science of human behaviour on the basis of confusions like this.]

 

Now Mr G might like to try to resurrect his moribund ideas in some way, but in order to do that he will need to learn a little more logic first. [I informed him of this over two years ago; he has clearly spent his time unwisely since.]

 

But, wait! Mr G has a powerful ally, none other than that outright charlatan, Freud:

 

Perhaps someone is in the midst of an unhappy love affair and says "I love him but I also hate him". It's not just the statement but the feeling which is a contradiction surely? If Freud is held to describe the human individual not as a unified subject but a bundle of contradictory drives and desires, might one not imagine contradictory drives (if not desires) in a particular social system?

Can I not have contradictory emotions about a subject, situation or person (I know I do about all sorts of things!).

 

Thus, on the back of some egregious Freudian Pseudo-science, this comrade is content to build his 'case'.

 

But, is there anything in these fraudulent Freudian fancies (even if we put to one side all the lies, deceit, client abuse, intellectual bullying, cocaine-induced fantasy, paranoia, and fabricated evidence that marked Freud's career)?

 

Well, once more, can people have contradictory emotions? Perhaps these will suffice?

 

B12: NN hates Blair.

 

B13: It is not the case that NN hates Blair.

 

However, I rather think that Mr G did not mean a contradiction like this. Perhaps he intended the following?

 

B14: NN both hates and loves Blair.

 

This is entirely possible, if unusual (but it can surely be disambiguated along the lines examined above).

 

However, it is worth noting that love and hate are not contradictory (when put in a propositional context), unless, say, hating someone implies not loving them; but, as the above quotation shows, it doesn't imply this! [That must be so unless by "contradiction" we mean something entirely different; if so, what?]

 

Moreover, we have already seen that B14 is not even a contradiction, since it could be false -- that is, if NN were indifferent to Blair.

 

Nevertheless, (1) The reader will need to re-read the caveats posted here, and (2) Note that in order to give content to this idea (if it is what was meant, or if these ideas mean anything at all), we had to use a propositional context to make things clear, once more.

 

This rather makes a mess then of the following rather rash assertions:

 

I'm just very puzzled about what it means to restrict the meaning of the term contradiction to a rule of formal logic. It's always been the least compelling of your arguments it seems to me. I don't understand the linguistic scandal that is supposed to be involved in talking about the human subject as a 'bundle of contradictory drives and desires' or talking about the capitalist system as encompassing contradictory tendencies (how TRPF [the tendency of the rate of profit to fall -- RL] is held to operate inside a concrete capitalist social formation for example)....

 

I don't see how there can be anything ipso facto absurd or meaningless about such statements to anyone familiar with ordinary language. [Bold emphasis added.]

 

No "scandal" here at all; this comrade's badly thought-out examples themselves imply the above conclusions -- that is, when we try to make sense of them. Even he had to use propositions to inform us of these Freudian foibles.

 

[Supposedly contradictory drives and emotions were disambiguated above. The alleged 'contradictions' in capitalism are dealt with here, and here. Finally, I have already pointed out, just as I pointed this out to Mr G, my concerns aren't solely with FL-contradictions.]

 

Even so, it is reasonably clear that DM-fans rarely think about what they say.

 

You want further proof?

 

Here are the following wise words of the G-man:

 

Perhaps Marxists have used the term contradiction to describe the relationship between labour and capital because that relationship simply in terms of an opposition does not adequately capture the relationship.

So if Capitalism as a system both requires labour and at the same time is threatened by it, and this combination of dependency and threat is not contingent but built into the relationship itself, does not the idea of this relationship being a contradictory one just seem a fairly straightforward way of talking about it?

 

But, what possible relevance does this have?

 

Well, let us briefly examine the dialectical 'theory' of change. Here is what the DM-classics tell us (and those who object to the presence of Stalin and Mao's thoughts here can console themselves with the additional thought that these two mass murderers were avid DM-fans, too  -- and, anyone who thinks these traditions can't be compared with Trotskyism, in this one respect, should read this, and then think again):

 

(1) 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.]

Dialectics…prevails throughout nature…. [T]he motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites…determines the life of nature." [Engels (1954), p.211.]

 

(2) [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?]….

In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics….

The splitting of the whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the 'essentials', one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristic features) of dialectics….

The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing….

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.]

Hegel brilliantly divined the dialectics of things (phenomena, the world, nature) in the dialectics of concepts…. This aphorism should be expressed more popularly, without the word dialectics: approximately as follows: In the alternation, reciprocal dependence of all notions, in the identity of their opposites, in the transitions of one notion into another, in the eternal change, movement of notions, Hegel brilliantly divined precisely this relation of things to nature…. [W]hat constitutes dialectics?…. [M]utual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others." [Ibid., pp.196-97.]

Development is the 'struggle' of opposites." (Lenin, Vol. XIII, p. 301.)

 

(3) 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.]

 

(4) Why is it that '...the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another'? Because that is just how things are in objective reality. The fact is that the unity or identity of opposites in objective things is not dead or rigid, but is living, conditional, mobile, temporary and relative; in given conditions, every contradictory aspect transforms itself into its opposite....

In speaking of the identity of opposites in given conditions, what we are referring to is real and concrete opposites and the real and concrete transformations of opposites into one another....

All processes have a beginning and an end, all processes transform themselves into their opposites. The constancy of all processes is relative, but the mutability manifested in the transformation of one process into another is absolute."  [Mao (1961), pp.340-42.]

The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics....

As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development....

The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to end....[Ibid, pp.311-18.]

 

(5) Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in earth, neither in the world of mind nor nature, is there anywhere an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things with then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being and what they essentially are. Thus, in inorganic nature, the acid is implicitly at the same time the base: in other words its only being consists in its relation to its other. Hence the acid persists quietly in the contrast: it is always in effort to realize what it potentially is. Contradiction is the very moving principle of the world." [Hegel (1975), p.174.]

 

(6) Dialectics comes from the Greek dialego, to discourse, to debate. In ancient times dialectics was the art of arriving at the truth by disclosing the contradictions in the argument of an opponent and overcoming these contradictions. There were philosophers in ancient times who believed that the disclosure of contradictions in thought and the clash of opposite opinions was the best method of arriving at the truth. This dialectical method of thought, later extended to the phenomena of nature, developed into the dialectical method of apprehending nature, which regards the phenomena of nature as being in constant movement and undergoing constant change, and the development of nature as the result of the development of the contradictions in nature, as the result of the interaction of opposed forces in nature….

Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and phenomena of nature, for they all have their negative and positive sides, a past and a future, something dying away and something developing; and that the struggle between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between that which is dying away and that which is being born, between that which is disappearing and that which is developing, constitutes the internal content of the process of development, the internal content of the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative changes.

The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development from the lower to the higher takes place not as a harmonious unfolding of phenomena, but as a disclosure of the contradictions inherent in things and phenomena, as a "struggle" of opposite tendencies which operate on the basis of these contradictions…. [Stalin (1976b).]

 

[There are many more quotations like this, here. The rationale underlying this way of seeing change is outlined here.]

 

From the above, it is plain that dialecticians are hopelessly unclear, (1) Whether things change because of a "struggle" between internal contradictions (and/or opposites), or (2) Whether they change into these opposites, or, indeed, (3) Whether they create such opposites when they change.

Of course, if the third option were the case, the alleged opposites could not cause change, since they would be produced by it, not the other way round. And they could scarcely be "internal opposites" if they were produced by change.

If the second alternative were correct, then we would see things like males naturally turning into females, the working class into the capitalist class, electrons into protons, left hands into right hands, and vice versa, and a host of other oddities.

As far as the first option is concerned, it is worth making the following points:

If objects/processes change because of a struggle between already existing internal opposites, then they can't in fact change into those opposites since those opposites already exist -- contrary to what the DM-classics tell us

So, if object/process A is already composed of a dialectical union of A and not-A, and it 'changes' into not-A, this can't happen if not-A already exists!

 

In fact, all that seems to happen here is that A disappears. [And don't ask where it disappeared to!] Hence, given this 'theory', A does not in fact change into not-A, it is simply replaced by an already existing not-A.

At the very least, this account of change leaves it entirely mysterious how not-A itself came about. It seems to have popped into existence from nowhere.

It can't have come from A, since A can only change because of its 'struggle' with not-A, which does not yet exist!

 

[This argument is worked-out in extensive detail here, where several obvious and less obvious objections are neutralised.]

 

Now, it could be argued that certain brain states or underlying psychological and/or social forces are what lie behind the contradictory emotions/tendencies that exercised Mr G, and it is here where the contradiction lies.

 

[It is worth pointing out that the thesis that there are such things as 'contradictory forces' has been laid to rest in Essay Eight Part Two, but the overall idea is susceptible to the next series of objections, anyway.

 

The argument below also applies to the claim that there might be certain brain states/process and/or psychological 'drives' --  and/or social forces/tendencies  -- at work, of which we are as yet unaware, that constitute such 'material contradictions', or which cause/'mediate' them. These could even be these mythical Freudian fancies mentioned above.]

 

Let us, therefore, call "F" the brain state/process and/or psychological 'drive' and/or social force/tendency that results in, 'mediates', or from which "emerges", the following:

 

B15: NN loves Tony Blair.

 

Or, in the first person:

 

B15a: I, NN, love Tony Blair.

 

Let us also label "F*" as the brain state/process and/or psychological 'drive' and/or social force/tendency that results in, 'mediates', or from which "emerges", the following:

 

B16: NN hates Tony Blair.

 

Or, in the first person:

 

B16a: I, NN, hate Tony Blair.

 

So, "F" stands for the social or psychological force (etc.) that 'mediates' (etc.) "NN loves Tony Blair" (or its first person equivalent), and "F*" stands for the social force (etc.) which 'mediates' (etc.) "NN hates Tony Blair" (or its first person equivalent).

 

Let us further assume that F 'contradicts' F*, i.e., that they are 'dialectically-united opposites'.

 

Now, given these assumptions, not even this will work!

 

[Of course, if they aren't 'dialectically-united opposites' to begin with (or, if there can be no such things as 'dialectically-united opposites'), then the above comrade's objection fails by default.]

 

According to the DM-classics -- where we are told that all things change into their opposites, and that they do so because of a "struggle" between those opposites -- F must change into F*, and vice versa. But, F can't change into F* since F* already exists! If it didn't already exist, according to this theory, F couldn't change, for there would be no opposite to 'struggle' with to make it do just that!

 

Once more, it is no good propelling F* into the future so that it now becomes what F will change into, since F will do no such thing unless F* is already there to make it happen!

 

Now, it could be objected that love can surely turn into hate, and vice versa. Indeed, it can, but the whole point of introducing F and F* was to show that if and when that happens, dialectics cannot account for it -- and for the above reasons!

 

The same must be said for the connection between, say, capitalism and communism (or better, Capitalist Relations of Production [CRAP]), and Socialist Relations of Production [SORP]) --, as well as the connection between the forces and relations of production (where it is patently obvious that neither of these change into the other (their opposites)!).

For the purposes of this argument, let us assume that SORP does not actually exist in the here and now. But, given these DM-theses, if CRAP is to change into SORP, SORP must already exist in the here-and-now for CRAP to change into it, and for that change to be produced by it.

 

But, if SORP already exists, it can't have come from CRAP (its 'opposite') since CRAP can only change because of the action of its own opposite (namely -- SORP!) -- unless, that is, SORP exists before it exists!

[The same comments would apply to 'potential SORP' (or even to some sort of 'tendency' to produce SORP, be this a 'sublated' tendency or actuality, it matters not), but the reader is left to work the details out for herself. (In fact, they have now been worked out here.)]

So, SORP must have popped into existence from nowhere --, or it must always have been in existence, if the DM-classics are to be believed.

 

Once more, this isn't to deny change, nor is it to suggest that the present author doesn't want to see the back of CRAP and the establishment of SORP; but if DM were correct, this will never happen.

 

Or, if it does, DM can't account for it.

 

To be sure, in the real world very material workers struggle against equally material Capitalists, but neither of these turn into one another, and so they can't help change CRAP into SORP, since neither of these is the opposite of CRAP or SORP, nor vice versa.

 

[On the 'contradictions' Marx speaks about in Das Kapital, see here. On 'real material contradictions', see here.]

 

And, as should seem obvious, similar comments apply to the obscure 'contradictions' to which Mr G refers:

 

Perhaps Marxists have used the term contradiction to describe the relationship between labour and capital because that relationship simply in terms of an opposition does not adequately capture the relationship.

So if Capitalism as a system both requires labour and at the same time is threatened by it, and this combination of dependency and threat is not contingent but built into the relationship itself, does not the idea of this relationship being a contradictory one just seem a fairly straightforward way of talking about it?

 

Now, if labour (L, or labour power, LP) and capital (C) are indeed 'dialectical opposites' then they must (1) Cause one another to change, (2) Change into each other, or (3) Be produced by the 'struggle' between these two.

 

Of course, in Marxist economics we have LP (or, perhaps, Variable Capital) and C cycles, and the like, but does LP actually 'struggle' with C? Not obviously so. As we have already noted, very material workers struggle against their equally material bosses, but how is it possible for LP to 'struggle' with C?

 

Once more, it is undeniable that class division causes struggles to break out, but how can this abstraction itself (LP) struggle against C?

 

Someone might object that the inherent contradiction between capital and labour causes this struggle, but we have yet to be told what this 'contradiction' is. Mr G refers us to "contradictory" interests, but we have already seen that these can only be given expression propositionally, and propositions can't struggle (so far as I am aware -- but perhaps Mr G knows different).

 

Again, someone might object that the contradiction between L and C (understood this time as classes) causes (or makes manifest) such contradictory interests. That could be so, but in order to make sense of that claim, we would need to be told what the 'contradiction' between L and C is, or why we should call the relation between them "contradictory", to begin with. And even if we are ever told, does L change into C, and vice versa -- as we were told they must?

 

[Anyway, we still await such an explanation -- and we have only been waiting for 150 years.]

 

Now, DM-fans might be using "contradiction" in a new, and as-yet-unexplained sense. Fine -- but, if so, what is it? I have been asking this question of our Hermetically-compromised comrades for nigh on 25 years, and still no satisfactory response has been forthcoming --, or indeed any at all. In fact, dialectically-distracted comrades actually object to being made to think about such 'pedantries', and often respond with a few home-spun vagaries of their own! [On that, for example, see this exchange.]

 

At best, when I ask what a 'dialectical contradiction' is, I encounter prevarication -- but more usually I'm the target of yet more abuse for even daring to ask (or for refusing to accept the usual dialectical blarney), hence my aggressive response above. After 25 years of this sort of thing one tends to get a little tetchy.

 

Even the best Marxist account (of this obscure notion) I have ever read also failed rather badly in this respect.

 

Be this as it may, Mr G finishes with this:

 

I don't see how there can be anything ipso facto absurd or meaningless about such statements to anyone familiar with ordinary language.

 

"He's a bundle of contradictions that lad".

 

Or to relate it to this discussion. Some people might be thought to have a contradictory class location. Are they workers or are they screws? Well the answer is both isn't it? And the two roles, both integral to the job pull them in different directions.

 

Mr G, as we have seen, often fails to see much; but the rest of us have seen that no sense can be made of such claims -- except we use propositions to that end, and that limits contradictions to our use of language, and not 'extra-linguistic reality' (whatever that means!).

 

Nice try, airhead; now buzz off back to Planet Bluster, and do humanity a huge favour.

 

 

References

 

Cornforth, M. (1976), Materialism And The Dialectical Method (Lawrence & Wishart, 5th ed.).

 

--------, (1980), Communism And Philosophy (Lawrence & Wishart).

 

Engels, F. (1954), Dialectics Of Nature (Progress Publishers).

 

Hegel, G. (1975), Logic, translated by William Wallace (Oxford University Press, 3rd ed.).

 

Lenin, V. (1961), Philosophical Notebooks, Collected Works Volume 38 (Progress Publishers).

 

Mao Tse-Tung, (1964), Selected Works Volume One (Foreign Languages Press).

 

--------, (1961), 'On Contradiction', in Mao (1964), pp.311-47.

 

Plekhanov, G. (1956), The Development Of The Monist View Of History (Progress Publishers).

 

Stalin, J. (1976a), Problems Of Leninism (Foreign Languages Press).

 

--------, (1976b), 'Dialectical And Historical Materialism', in Stalin (1976a), pp.835-73.

 

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