Dialecticians In Glass Houses

 

Preface

 

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As is the case with all my Essays, nothing here should be read as an attack either on Historical Materialism [HM] -- a theory I fully accept --, or, indeed, on revolutionary socialism. I remain as committed to the self-emancipation of the working class and the dictatorship of the proletariat as I was when I first became a revolutionary nearly thirty years ago. [The difference between Dialectical Materialism [DM] and HM, as I see it, is explained here.]

 

Phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" (etc.) used at this site (in connection with Traditional Philosophy and DM) aren't meant to 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, this 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.

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

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Socialist Disunity

 

Dialecticians do not like to be contradicted, which is odd really in view of the way they fetishise 'contradictions', arguing that change can only come about by means of them. Nevertheless, contradict them we must if we are to rescue revolutionary socialism from the clutches of the mystical theory that holds the vast majority of its acolytes in its thrall.

 

In a recent debate at the Socialist Unity blog, I had the temerity to challenge a few of the sacred mantras intoned by this Hermetic cult, and paid the price for my sacrilege by being roundly abused as a nonentity, an "obsessive" and a "ridiculous" figure by fellow comrades. If these accusations are true, one wonders what names we should reserve for those who think that "contradictions" (i.e., arguments between at least two people) rule the universe(!), and who, while they tell us that truth is tested in practice, belong to a movement that is synonymous with defeat, set-back and long-term failure. Perhaps "deluded idiots"? Or maybe "self-important martinets?" Well, others can throw such names back at these political minnows, I won't. To my mind, being a dialectician is punishment enough, and it would be wrong of me to bad-mouth the afflicted.

 

However, the 'owner' of the aforementioned blog has replied to a response posted at that blog by a supporter of this site:

 

I should know better than to divert debate myself in response to you, but this is ridiculous:

Comrades,

 

For all those following the debate on the Hugo Blanco thread a few days ago, Rosa’s reply to Andy’s last post before he closed off the thread can be read here:

 

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/socialist_unity_censors_debate.htm

 

Is glass a liquid? Goodness me.

Firstly, the title of Rosa’s article accuses this blog of censorship. Now, I am amazed that you cannot understand the difference between editorial discretion and censorship.

 

I have neither the means nor the inclination to actually censor Rosa and prevent her putting forward her views. But I wish her to do so elsewhere, because this forum is not the appropriate place -- a very narrow and abstract debate on philosophy was swamping the discussion in the blog, and inhibiting other people from taking part.

 

Indeed I gave Rosa much more space on SU blog than the actual merit of her arguments deserves.

 

It is highly ironic, that one of Rosa’s main argument against dialectics is the alleged (but erroneous) claim that it leads to philosophical categories and processes being adopted regardless of the physical science.

 

Yet here, on the basis of Rosa's philosophy she -- and you -- reject an uncontroversial and mature accepted fact from the physical sciences -- that glass is a liquid.

 

It may be counter-intuitive that glass is a liquid, but it flows.

 

http://www.zyra.org.uk/glassliq.htm

 

Similarly butter, which Rosa claims is a simple solid is an emulsion, that is it a very complex structure whereby two or more liquids are intermingled at the molecular level.

 

Rosa claims that not all solids exhibit a dramatic state change between liquid and solid phases. She argues this on the basis of the gradual increasing viscosity of butter and glass, when heated.

 

But glass is already a liquid, and butter is a mixture at the molecular level of different substances with differing melting points.

 

This is exactly a case of Rosa imposing her philosophical views upon the physical evidence, and making a false conclusion.

 

Rosa’s attempt to expunge the dialectic also leads to her making an attack on mature scientific theories.

 

I will not tolerate a further bad tempered debate about what Rosa thinks of as philosophy, [which] to everyone else reads as ramblings from an obsessive. [Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors corrected; incorrect pronouns altered.]

 

Taking each point, one at a time:

 

Firstly, the title of Rosa’s article accuses this blog of censorship. Now, I am amazed that you cannot understand the difference between editorial discretion and censorship.

 

I have neither the means nor the inclination to actually censor Rosa and prevent her putting forward her views. But I wish her to do so elsewhere, because this forum is not the appropriate place -- a very narrow and abstract debate on philosophy was swamping the discussion in the blog, and inhibiting other people from taking part.

 

Indeed I gave Rosa much more space on SU blog than the actual merit of her arguments deserves.

 

Editorial discretion is one thing, but when a debate is closed with these words of abuse, one suspects there are other (censorious) motives at work:

 

I think we have amused ourselves with Rosa for long enough, and I am closing this thread.

 

Moreover, in view of the fact that I had already exposed comrade Newman's 'fibs' about my work, showing him up as both a logical incompetent and way out of his depth in the philosophy of science, it is little wonder he closed that thread. To be sure, the line between damage limitation and censorship is fine indeed, but this fair-minded comrade has managed to straddle both sides of it in one go.

 

Less partisan readers might wonder how my intervention actually inhibited debate about a subject that was part of the title of that thread (and integral to its content); here is its title: No contradiction between my indigenous struggle and dialectical materialism

 

Moreover, comrade Newman sometimes devotes space to other 'abstract' topics. Indeed, the site also devotes space to trivia, and yet he can find no space to discuss a theory that is supposed to be integral to Marxism, and is the topic of the thread in question!

 

The difference in this case is that this comrade has met someone who knows what she is talking about, and that might show this fine comrade up to be the bag of hot air his critics (but not I!) have always taken him to be. Unfortunately, the case for the defence has been seriously damaged by his petulance.

 

To more substantive matters:

 

It is highly ironic, that one of Rosa’s main argument against dialectics is the alleged (but erroneous) claim that it leads to philosophical categories and processes being adopted regardless of the physical science.

 

Dialecticians seem to have an almost neurotic habit of inventing things that I am alleged to believe, or to have said. Nowhere have I argued this, and comrade Newman does not even try to quote me to this effect. Poor start, but it gets worse:

 

Yet here, on the basis of Rosa’s philosophy she -- and you -- reject an uncontroversial and mature accepted fact from the physical sciences -- that glass is a liquid.

 

It may be counter-intuitive that glass is a liquid, but it flows.

 

http://www.zyra.org.uk/glassliq.htm

 

This is rather unfortunate in view of the fact that comrade Newman had to withdraw this claim when confronted with the facts -- upon which he has clearly imposed the above assertions! [On that, see below.]

 

However, comrade Newman has been told that I have no 'philosophy' (and that I reject this bogus discipline as just so much hot air). I'd accuse him of having short-term memory issues, but this cannot be the problem, for other dialecticians say the same sort of thing. [In fact, they all imagine that everyone has a 'philosophy', even if the latter are unaware of it. Sure we do -- and we are all unconscious Zen Buddhists, too!]

 

Now, my case against Engels's first 'Law' is not based on whether or not glass is a liquid (as some scientists seem to define it), but on whether its manifest properties (or "qualities") change quickly or slowly when it is heated. But, who does not know that these "qualities" change slowly when glass is heated or cooled? Apparently, only this alleged balloon of dialectical hot air.

 

Similarly butter, which Rosa claims is a simple solid is an emulsion, that is it a very complex structure whereby two or more liquids are intermingled at the molecular level.

 

Rosa claims that not all solids exhibit a dramatic state change between liquid and solid phases. She argues this on the basis of the gradual increasing viscosity of butter and glass, when heated.

 

But glass is already a liquid, and butter is a mixture at the molecular level of different substances with differing melting points.

 

Of course, butter also slowly alters from hard to soft when it is heated, whether or not it is an emulsion. Does this logically-challenged comrade think otherwise -- that is, does he think that when he takes his Lurpak out of the fridge, he has to put it in a bowl immediately or risk it forming a puddle on the floor of his kitchen? Who can say what precautions he has to take with his instantaneously melting dialectical butter?

 

This is exactly a case of Rosa imposing her philosophical views upon the physical evidence, and making a false conclusion.

 

What "philosophical views" are these, then? And where did this dialectical fabulist find them? Not at my site; not in any of my posts. Comrade Newman does not say, but he apparently knows more about my beliefs than I do, so I am loathe to contradict him. Less deferential comrades might however just begin to suspect he makes stuff up as he goes along -- the Enid Blyton of dialectics?

 

Anyway, the above comment is a bit rich coming from someone who is happy to impose his 'theory' on nature and society in defiance of the facts (see below), and who thinks that metals go from hard to soft suddenly at their melting points, and that glass can be stirred with a spoon at room temperature.

 

Rosa’s attempt to expunge the dialectic also leads to her making an attack on mature scientific theories.

 

I will not tolerate a further bad tempered debate about what Rosa thinks of as philosophy, but to everyone else reads as ramblings from an obsessive.

 

Which "mature scientific" theory have I attacked? Where did I question his claim that glass is a liquid? In fact, not even scientists can agree on that one:

 

It is sometimes said that glass in very old churches is thicker at the bottom than at the top because glass is a liquid, and so over several centuries it has flowed towards the bottom.  This is not true.  In Mediaeval times panes of glass were often made by the Crown glass process.  A lump of molten glass was rolled, blown, expanded, flattened and finally spun into a disc before being cut into panes.  The sheets were thicker towards the edge of the disc and were usually installed with the heavier side at the bottom.  Other techniques of forming glass panes have been used but it is only the relatively recent float glass processes which have produced good quality flat sheets of glass.

 

To answer the question "Is glass liquid or solid?" we have to understand its thermodynamic and material properties.

 

[The author of this article now goes into considerable detail, which I won't quote.]

 

There is no clear answer to the question "Is glass solid or liquid?".  In terms of molecular dynamics and thermodynamics it is possible to justify various different views that it is a highly viscous liquid, an amorphous solid, or simply that glass is another state of matter which is neither liquid nor solid. The difference is semantic.  In terms of its material properties we can do little better.  There is no clear definition of the distinction between solids and highly viscous liquids.  All such phases or states of matter are idealisations of real material properties.  Nevertheless, from a more common sense point of view, glass should be considered a solid since it is rigid according to everyday experience.  The use of the term "supercooled liquid" to describe glass still persists, but is considered by many to be an unfortunate misnomer that should be avoided.  In any case, claims that glass panes in old windows have deformed due to glass flow have never been substantiated.  Examples of Roman glassware and calculations based on measurements of glass visco-properties indicate that these claims cannot be true.  The observed features are more easily explained as a result of the imperfect methods used to make glass window panes before the float glass process was invented. [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]

 

So, opinion is divided on this, but one thing is for certain: glass melts from the 'solid' state to the 'liquid' state slowly, not 'nodally'.

 

[But, was my alleged "attack" on "mature science" carried out in my sleep? In a previous life? Under hypnosis? Comrade Newman does not say, but I am sure he must have photographic evidence, since we already know that he does not make stuff up.]

 

Moreover, in view of the fact that comrade Newman has been blogging away, come rain or shine, several times a day (often posting long and invariably well-written and competently researched articles on all manner of subjects) since February 2006, I can take a few lessons from him on obsessive behaviour.

 

Now, since the above was written, Alex, a supporter of this site, has posted this response:

 

'Yet here, on the basis of Rosa's philosophy she -- and you -- reject an uncontroversial and mature accepted fact from the physical sciences -- that glass is a liquid.’

 

Yeah, from now on, I’m going to get all my facts on science from the http://www.zyra.org.uk/ webpage.

 

Why not try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass instead?

 

You've really scrapped the bottom of the barrel Andy.

 

To this, our fine exemplar in comradely etiquette had this to say:

 

Alex, I gave a facetious reference, but my point still stands.


There is a serious argument that glass is a liquid based upon its lack of internal molecular order. I have never looked into the question of whether it actually flows or not.


I see from the following "serious" paper that the author argues:

 

http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/Glass/glass.html

The situation at the level of molecular physics can be summarised by saying that there are three main types of molecular arrangement: crystalline solids: molecules are ordered in a regular lattice fluids: molecules are disordered and are not rigidly bound. glasses: molecules are disordered but are rigidly bound.

And concludes

There is no clear answer to the question "Is glass solid or liquid?". In terms of molecular dynamics and thermodynamics it is possible to justify various different views that it is a highly viscous liquid, an amorphous solid, or simply that glass is another state of matter which is neither liquid nor solid. The difference is semantic. In terms of its material properties we can do little better. There is no clear definition of the distinction between solids and highly viscous liquids. All such phases or states of matter are idealisations of real material properties.

The argument that it is not a liquid and also not a solid is one I am prepared to accept, and this also refutes Rosa's point whereby she uses Glass as a example of a solid in terms of its transition behaviour to "prove" incorrect remarks by Engels that are accurate for the transition of phase for almost all materials. Glass is indeed an exception that proves the rule, because a detailed study of the transitional properties of glass show that the same arguments apply that explain the more dramatic state transitions of other materials.

 

The fact still stands that Rosa seeks to argue about the physical sciences based upon her philosophical position. The very thought crime that she falsely alleges that her philosophical opponents engage in. I have to say that these theoretical opponents are largely [sic], as Rosa simply doesn't understand many of the theories she polemicises against.


There are two very big problems with Rosa's approach.
 

One is that she doesn't seem to understand that debates on blogs and discussions boards are ephemeral, and also that people don't take her or her arguments at all seriously. So there is an asymmetry between the obsessively detailed responses she makes to what are casual conversations. If anyone could be bothered to seriously debate her they would much more seriously research their position, and make much sharper arguments.


Secondly, Rosa has a problem with literalism; whereby she puts far too much store on specific technical meanings of words and phrases, without seeing that they may be used outside that formal context; or that they may have more than one meaning. And there is a certain obsessiveness and even anger from her; reading her articles, there is a great deal of superficial erudition combined with inability to understand or empathise with what other people are saying, if they are using words to mean something different from the literal technical meaning that she has decided they mean.

 

As JohnG has pointed out, much of Rosa's argument is simply her claim that she is the only one allowed to define the word "contradiction"; and also a literalism that puts almost fetishistic significance to whether or not working scientists use explicitly Hegelian language.


Rosa has no insights. Her superficially wide knowledge of philosophy doesn't mask the fact that she clearly has failed to understand a great deal of it. She is tilting at windmills; and the fact that she has put so many years effort into a futile obsession is sad.

 

In particular Rosa has completely failed to demonstrate any mechanism by which dialectical materialism has played the disastrous role she says it has.


As I said before, the fact that people are not prepared to debate with Rosa, doesn't mean that they are unable to do so; but that it isn't worth the effort. Particularly due to the confrontational and obsessive way she debates, her literalism, and her aggression.

 

I am sorry that one or two people. like you and Babeuf, seem to think that Rosa is a serious thinker. I think you need to step back and ask yourself what real content there is in Rosa's work. [Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors corrected; incorrect pronouns altered.]

 

Again, taking some of the above paragraphs, one at a time. Comrade Newman quotes the same online paper I quoted above, and adds this comment:

 

The argument that it is not a liquid and also not a solid is one I am prepared to accept, and this also refutes Rosa's point whereby she uses Glass as a example of a solid in terms of its transition behaviour to "prove" incorrect remarks by Engels that are accurate for the transition of phase for almost all materials. Glass is indeed an exception that proves the rule, because a detailed study of the transitional properties of glass show that the same arguments apply that explain the more dramatic state transitions of other materials.

 

So, it seems that I am not the only one who "imposed" a philosophy on nature, for comrade Newman has been forced to recant this bold claim from earlier:

 

Yet here, on the basis of Rosa's philosophy she -- and you -- reject an uncontroversial and mature accepted fact from the physical sciences -- that glass is a liquid.

 

It may be counter-intuitive that glass is a liquid, but it flows.

 

It now turns out glass neither flows nor is it uncontroversially a liquid. And yet, its "qualities" (hardness, an ability to transfer sheer, etc.) change slowly when heated. Is comrade Newman still going to "impose" his 'theory' on this phenomenon, and deny this particular qualitative change happens slowly?

 

The argument that it is not a liquid and also not a solid is one I am prepared to accept, and this also refutes Rosa's point whereby she uses Glass as a example of a solid in terms of its transition behaviour to "prove" incorrect remarks by Engels that are accurate for the transition of phase for almost all materials. Glass is indeed an exception that proves the rule, because a detailed study of the transitional properties of glass show that the same arguments apply that explain the more dramatic state transitions of other materials.

 

But, Engels was also wrong about metals, plastics (unknown in his day), and other materials (such as resins). Far from this being an "exception that proves the rule", it refutes the claim that all change in "quality" in nature is "nodal". What would we think if biologists discovered several classes of species that had not evolved by natural selection? One thing is for certain, these scientists could no longer claim that natural selection was universal. In contrast, comrade Newman, keen to impose his 'theory' on nature, claims that these exceptions "prove the rule"! [Of course, metals do not comprise an insignificant proportion of our planet (for example, Iron is the most abundant metal in the Earth's core), or indeed, the universe. So, this one counter-example is a pretty huge 'exception'!]

 

And, according to Wikipedia, I am right to call glass a solid:

 

Glass in the common sense refers to a hard, brittle, transparent amorphous solid, such as that used for windows, many bottles, or eyewear, including, but not limited to, soda-lime glass, borosilicate glass, acrylic glass, sugar glass, isinglass (Muscovy-glass), or aluminium oxynitride....

 

In the scientific sense the term glass is often extended to all amorphous solids (and melts that easily form amorphous solids), including plastics, resins, or other silica-free amorphous solids....

 

Glass is generally classed as an amorphous solid rather than a liquid. Glass displays all the mechanical properties of a solid. The notion that glass flows to an appreciable extent over extended periods of time is not supported by empirical research or theoretical analysis. From a more commonsense point of view, glass should be considered a solid since it is rigid according to everyday experience. [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

See also this New York Times article:

 

"It surprises most people that we still don't understand this," said David R. Reichman, a professor of chemistry at Columbia, who takes yet another approach to the glass problem. "We don't understand why glass should be a solid and how it forms."...

 

Scientists are slowly accumulating more clues. A few years ago, experiments and computer simulations revealed something unexpected: as molten glass cools, the molecules do not slow down uniformly. Some areas jam rigid first while in other regions the molecules continue to skitter around in a liquid-like fashion. More strangely, the fast-moving regions look no different from the slow-moving ones....

 

In freezing to a conventional solid, a liquid undergoes a so-called phase transition; the molecules line up next to and on top of one another in a simple, neat crystal pattern. When a liquid solidifies into a glass, this organized stacking is nowhere to be found. Instead, the molecules just move slower and slower and slower, until they are effectively not moving at all, trapped in a strange state between liquid and solid.

 

The glass transition differs from a usual phase transition in several other key ways. Energy, what is called latent heat, is released when water molecules line up into ice. There is no latent heat in the formation of glass.

 

The glass transition does not occur at a single, well-defined temperature; the slower the cooling, the lower the transition temperature. Even the definition of glass is arbitrary -- basically a rate of flow so slow that it is too boring and time-consuming to watch. The final structure of the glass also depends on how slowly it has been cooled. [New York Times, 29/07/08. Accessed 10/11/2008, Bold emphases added.]

 

Readers will find several quotations from a wide range of scientific textbooks that support the above conclusions about glass, here.

 

And here is what we find in a recent article from Science Daily:

 

"Scientists fully understand the process of water turning to ice. As the temperature cools, the movement of the water molecules slows. At 32 F, the molecules form crystal lattices, solidifying into ice. In contrast, the molecules of glasses do not crystallize. The movement of the glass molecules slows as temperature cools, but they never lock into crystal patterns. Instead, they jumble up and gradually become glassier, or more viscous. No one understands exactly why." [Science Daily, 13/08/2007. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Which only serves to confirm my claim that some "qualitative" changes are nodal, while others are not.

 

Engels, was relatively clear about what he meant:

 

"With this assurance Herr Dühring saves himself the trouble of saying anything further about the origin of life, although it might reasonably have been expected that a thinker who had traced the evolution of the world back to its self-equal state, and is so much at home on other celestial bodies, would have known exactly what's what also on this point. For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules -- including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper: heat, light, electricity, magnetism. In the same way, the transition from the physics of molecules to the physics of atoms -- chemistry -- in turn involves a decided leap; and this is even more clearly the case in the transition from ordinary chemical action to the chemism of albumen which we call life. Then within the sphere of life the leaps become ever more infrequent and imperceptible. -- Once again, therefore, it is Hegel who has to correct Herr Dühring." [Anti-Dühring, pp.82-83.I have used the online version here, but quoted the page numbers from the Foreign Languages Edition. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"We have already seen earlier, when discussing world schematism, that in connection with this Hegelian nodal line of measure relations -- in which quantitative change suddenly passes at certain points into qualitative transformation -- Herr Dühring had a little accident: in a weak moment he himself recognised and made use of this line. We gave there one of the best-known examples -- that of the change of the aggregate states of water, which under normal atmospheric pressure changes at 0°C from the liquid into the solid state, and at 100°C from the liquid into the gaseous state, so that at both these turning-points the merely quantitative change of temperature brings about a qualitative change in the condition of the water." [Ibid., p.160. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, what he says is plainly not the case.

 

Was I wrong then to say the following in Essay Seven (referring to Hegel, Engels, Plekhanov and Lenin, and their use of the word "leap")?

 

Unfortunately for these dogmatists, many things in nature change qualitatively without passing through such "nodal points" -- and not even so much as a tiny "leap".

 

These include the following: melting or solidifying plastic, metal, rock, sulphur, tar, toffee, sugar, chocolate, wax, butter, cheese, and glass. As these are heated or cooled, they gradually change (from liquid to solid, or vice versa).

 

The answer (according to the above quotations) is "No".

 

Indeed, in relation to metals, comrade Newman might find it hard to find many (who are not dialecticians) who do not know that metals and plastics soften slowly when heated, or that glass slowly changes from the hard form of its liquid/solid/whatever state to the soft form of its liquid/solid/whatever state, too.

 

Moreover, Engels did not know what we now know about glass, and yet he ignored this counter-example. He surely knew it melted slowly! Does then 'solid' glass "leap" from that state to its "liquid" state? If so, glass blowers will be surprised to hear it.

 

Comrade Newman likewise ignores the many other examples of changes in "quality" that are non-nodal -- just as he, like all other DM-fans (and as I predicted), refuses to tell us what he means by "quality" or how long a "node" is supposed to last. Mickey Mouse Science at its best!

 

So, the evidence from nature confirms what I have alleged in Essay Seven: that some changes in "quality" are, and some are not, "nodal".

 

Is this an anti-materialist conclusion? No.

 

Does it disregard all the facts? No.

 

Was Engels right? No.

 

Will comrade Newman admit this? No.

 

Why? Because, like Engels and all other dialecticians, he is keen to "foist" DM onto nature.

 

The fact still stands that Rosa seeks to argue about the physical sciences based upon her philosophical position.

 

Once more: what 'philosophical position' is this? [Apologies! I forgot that this Dialectical Psychic knows more about my beliefs than I do!]

 

The very thought crime that she falsely alleges that her philosophical opponents engage in. I have to say that these theoretical opponents are largely, as Rosa simply doesn't understand many of the theories she polemicises against.

 

But, what views have I foisted on nature? None at all. Whereas we can see that comrade Newman has done just this, and there is abundant evidence that every other dialectician does likewise. [On that, see here.]

 

As far as "not understanding many of the theories" I criticise, this is an easy claim to make, but not so easy to prove. So, where is this clairvoyant comrade's proof? On the other hand, we already know that this comrade has an insecure grasp of logic and the philosophy of science; moreover, he seems to think nature is run by "contradictions", which word even he defines as "speaking against". So, his grasp of his own 'theory' is not too convincing either. [On these allegations, see here.]

 

No doubt impartial observers will agree with comrade Newman that he is perfectly well placed to make unfounded allegations about my incapacity to understand certain unnamed "theories", he being an expert in the genre (as we have seen in relation to glass).

 

There are two very big problems with Rosa's approach.
 

One is that she doesn't seem to understand that debates on blogs and discussions boards are ephemeral, and also that people don't take her or her arguments at all seriously.

 

There seem to be two claims here:

 

1) That debates on blogs are "ephemeral", and that

 

2)  "People" do not take my arguments seriously.

 

I agree with comrade Newman about 1), but 2) confirms the experience I have had over the last 25 years debating with dialectically-distracted comrades: since they cannot answer my criticisms, they quickly adopt the fall-back position of abusing me, and pretending the points I make are not "serious". This is an understandable defence reaction to the fact that not one of them can defend their core ideas.

 

What of this, though?

 

So there is an asymmetry between the obsessively detailed responses she makes to what are casual conversations. If anyone could be bothered to seriously debate her they would much more seriously research their position, and make much sharper arguments.

 

Readers will note the somewhat obsessive accusation that I am "obsessive"! However, as I pointed out to the comrade at his site, he is the sort of numpty who would have accused Marx of being an "obsessive" anti-capitalist, spending his entire mature life writing, and then authoring three (or four!) volumes of Das Kapital, the length of just one of which easily dwarfs all of my work. Will he now accuse Marx of "obsession" when he spent a whole year of his life writing Herr Vogt, a book that is over 300 pages long? Is Herr Vogt "obsessively detailed"?

 

Indeed, if it is a crime to follow Marx's example, and "obsessively" attack a theory that has helped ruin the movement he founded, then I am happy to plead guilty.

 

If anyone could be bothered to seriously debate her they would much more seriously research their position, and make much sharper arguments.

 

Sure! And your dad is bigger than mine...

 

One thing is for certain, had I not gone into such detail, I'd be accused of "superficiality"!

 

Nevertheless, these are brave words for someone who can't even get the basics of logic right, and who belongs to a movement overflowing with comrades who are similarly logically-challenged -- but who still pontificate about the "limitations" of Formal Logic (which claim is shown up to be the fraud it is, here). Brave words, too, from a comrade who, even now, after being challenged to do so, cannot tell us what a 'dialectical contradiction' is, and who still refuses to say what a "quality" is or how long a "node" is supposed to last!

 

"Shaper arguments" my foot! In fact, the useless conceptual tools Hegel bequeathed to this sorry bunch of mystics actually prevents them from defending their ideas against my attacks. Which is just one of the reasons they are so terminally unclear about all of their core ideas.

 

Of course, comrade Newman can easily prove me wrong if he thinks his core ideas are worth defending. [Readers are advised not to hold their breath.]

 

As JohnG has pointed out, much of Rosa's argument is simply her claim that she is the only one allowed to define the word "contradiction"; and also a literalism that puts almost fetishistic significance to whether or not working scientists use explicitly Hegelian language.

 

JohnG, by the way, is the "Mr G" of the polemical Essays collated here:

 

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/shrine_to_mr_g.htm

 

Readers are encouraged to check out what I have said there, where they will soon see that I do not claim that I alone can define the word "contradiction". What I have done is show that Mr G (and by implication comrade Newman) have yet to tell us what they mean by the use of this word, and that what little we have been told so far makes no sense at all.

 

[Except, as pointed out above, comrade Newman has informed us that the word "contradiction" means "speaking against", which is a reasonably good explanation of its ordinary meaning -- I happen to use "gain-say", but the differences are cosmetic. And yet he also seems to think that these vocalisations run the universe -- perhaps a bit like 'God' in the Book of Genesis, who only has to speak and things jump to attention. Now, if this comrade wants to define the motive force of the universe in this way, who I am to stop him making a complete fool of himself?]

 

The accusation concerning the use of "Hegelian language" is entirely accurate, however. It is surely of "fetishistic significance" to request of someone who claims that scientists use dialectics in their work (as comrade Newman has done) that they prove it, not least by showing where they do so. [We are still waiting on that one!] Indeed, it would be highly unreasonable of me not to overlook the fact that scientists do not use Hegelian terminology -- which negative fact I now acknowledge can legitimately be used to prove that one and all are orthodox dialecticians! In fact, I shouldn't have ignored this conclusive negative evidence in other respects too: I should have admitted that scientists are all Buddhists, Christian Scientists, Flat Earthers, and Klingons -- for which the available evidence is equally compelling.

 

Secondly, Rosa has a problem with literalism; whereby she puts far too much store on specific technical meanings of words and phrases, without seeing that they may be used outside that formal context; or that they may have more than one meaning.

 

Readers of a more fair-minded disposition might wonder where I have committed this heinous crime, but it is no use looking to comrade Newman for help (for he does not reference these strange allegations). And sure, dialecticians do use words in odd ways, but when they are asked to explain themselves, they either ignore such requests (as this 'erudite' comrade has done -- once more, we have yet to be told what a dialectical "quality" or what a "dialectical contradiction" is, or even how long a "node" is supposed to last), or they become abusive (rather like comrade Newman, and worse).

 

And there is a certain obsessiveness and even anger from her; reading her articles, there is a great deal of superficial erudition combined with inability to understand or empathise with what other people are saying, if they are using words to mean something different from the literal technical meaning that she has decided they mean.

 

And why am I so "angry" and "aggressive"? Here is part of the explanation (taken from the opening page of my site):

 

How Not To Argue 101

 

The above page contains links to forums on the web where I have 'debated' this creed with other comrades.

 

For anyone interested, check out the desperate 'debating' tactics used by Dialectical Mystics in their attempt to respond to my ideas.

 

You will no doubt notice that the vast majority all say the same sorts of things, and most of them pepper their remarks with scatological and abusive language. They all like to make things up, too, about me and my beliefs.

 

25 years (!!) of this from Dialectical Mystics has meant I now take an aggressive stance with them every time -- I soon learnt back in the 1980s that being pleasant with them (my initial tactic) did not alter their abusive tone, their propensity to fabricate, nor reduce the amount of scatological language they used.

 

So, these days, I generally go for the jugular from the get-go.

 

Apparently, they expect me to take their abuse lying down, and regularly complain about my "bullying" tactics.

 

So, these mystics can dish it out, but they cannot take it.

 

Given the damage their theory has done to Marxism, and the abuse they all dole out, they are lucky this is all I can do to them.

 

A while back, one supporter of my site complained to me that I was overly aggressive, and enjoined me to be more reasonable in my response to dialecticians. However, after just one week debating with these characters (Mr G included) he e-mailed me to say that he now understood why I was the way I was, for he had just experienced seven days of the sort of 'dialectical comradeship' I have endured for over two decades. Indeed, when I first posted at the Socialist Unity blog (in late 2007), I was not the least bit aggressive, but that did not stop several comrades there from openly abusing me and lying about my ideas. Sceptical readers can check this for themselves, here:

 

Socialist Unity -> Yet More Dialectical Dunderheads

 

In fact, comrade Newman was quite reasonable and pleasant to me last year, but as soon as I appeared one year later (I had in fact given his blog a wide berth for twelve months), he was almost the exact opposite. Had I bad-mouthed him in the intervening months? No. But that did not stop him using abusive language when I posted a rather innocent comment at his site the other day.

 

[Comrades who know us both have speculated that this change is due to the fact that comrade Newman is trying to cosy-up to Derek Wall of the Green Party, who is a prominent dialectician. In that case, I presented this 'non-aggressive' comrade with an ideal opportunity to prove his orthodoxy, which is why he was 'non aggressive' with me, and a 'model' of internet etiquette this time around.]

 

What of the other things this pleasant comrade says of me?

 

[T]here is a great deal of superficial erudition combined with inability to understand or empathise with what other people are saying, if they are using words to mean something different from the literal technical meaning that she has decided they mean.

 

Well, others (hopefully, non-dialecticians, or the dice will be loaded) will have to judge whether I am "erudite" or not, but in my Essays I go out of my way to consider every conceivable alternative in my bid to understand what on earth dialectical comrades are banging on about. Which is why I said this in Essay One:

 

Although I have endeavoured to construct as comprehensive a case against DM as I am capable of producing, I have also sought to raise objections to my own criticisms at almost every stage. While this strategy has been adopted to test my ideas to the limit, it has also been of some use in trying to make DM comprehensible.

 

To that end, the reader will find that many issues have been raised here for the first time ever. Core DM-theses have been examined in unprecedented detail, most of them from a completely novel angle. It is a sad reflection of the mental paralysis induced in those who -- in Max Eastman's words -- "suffer from dialectics", that such key ideas have escaped detailed attention for over a hundred years, but it is nonetheless accurate for all that.

 

Even if it should turn out that this project is misconceived in some way, it succeeds in breaking entirely new ground, as readers will soon discover. In fact, should DM-supporters engage fairly with the content of this site -- even if they remain of the same opinion by the end --, they will find that their own ideas will emerge strengthened because of the entirely novel challenges advanced in this work.

 

Alas, the last paragraph has proven to be a vain hope, since dialecticians simply cannot engage in fair debate, but must invent ideas to put in my mouth, lie about me and my work, and abuse me along the way. [The mountain of evidence that supports that depressing conclusion can be found here. Added, 18/02/10: In fact, this is the latest example.]

 

Rosa has no insights. Her superficially wide knowledge of philosophy doesn't mask the fact that she clearly has failed to understand a great deal of it. She is tilting at windmills; and the fact that she has put so many years effort into a futile obsession is sad.

 

It is no use asking this 'philosophically astute' comrade for the proof that I do not "understand a great deal of" Philosophy -- if you do, be prepared for no little abuse. And yet this comment is from a 'non-superficial' thinker who struggles to tell us what the core concepts of his own theory mean! If this is what "understanding" amounts to, I hope I remain pig ignorant...

 

In particular Rosa has completely failed to demonstrate any mechanism by which dialectical materialism has played the disastrous role she says it has.

 

Of course, this is not the case. I have set this out in extensive detail in Essay Nine Parts One and Two. If there is a flaw in my argument, it is no good looking to this 'expert philosopher' for help; you are sure to be labelled an 'obsessive' for your pains.

 

As I said before, the fact that people are not prepared to debate with Rosa, doesn't mean that they are unable to do so; but that it isn't worth the effort. Particularly due to the confrontational and obsessive way she debates, her literalism, and her aggression.

 

In fact, this is well-known 'dialectic-speak' for: "Oh dear, none of us seem able to answer her criticisms!"

 

To the ever-lengthening list of such sorry comrades I think we can now add comrade Newman's name.

 

In fact, I rather suspect he has now become the 'Alfred E Newman Of Dialectics'.

 

 

 

Word Count: 7,230

 

Latest update: 16/04/11

 

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