Kangaroo Court

 

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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.

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

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In September 2007, UK Weekly Worker published an article of mine. Several months later Jack Conrad of the CPGB published a reply. I then posted a response to it at my site.

 

Now, I regularly check the internet for ill-informed comments about my work (these are rarely addressed directly to me), and in a recent trawl I came across the following Kangaroo Court, where some of my ideas were tried and found guilty, in my absence, of course:

 

The length is daunting, and it really should be read -- if at all -- consecutively, as the author points out. How lengthy is this anti-dialectical analysis-cum-tirade? We get the following admission by Lichtenstein:


"This week sees a 'devastating' reply to the 1.3 million words published at my site in just over 3000, from Jack Conrad, resident Dialectical Magus of the CPGB."

 

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

 

I haven't read it yet, but I'm hoping the Conrad/Lichtenstein exchange provides an entry point to understanding Lichtenstein's claims, if not the implied one that her words are sufficiently valuable that someone would wish to read 1.3 million of them.

 

While Lichtenstein's politics shouldn't prejudice assessment her philosophical analysis's assessment, we are entitled to our curiosity. Her politics are those one should expect of an anti-dialectician. She is a former member of the SWP (GB), who resigned to pursue her "university project." She is now critical of the SWP from the right. Above all, she "hates sectarians."

She writes in an irritating tone, which I mention because in addition to her prolixity, it makes her difficult to read. Consider her ad hominem remark about Conrad's reply in my preceding post, which continued by lamenting Conrad's theoretical level. Her message is not 'Conrad transparently fails to answer my arguments' but 'I'm the superior philosopher.'" srd [Taken from
here.]

 

A couple of points:

 

(1) I did not leave the SWP "to pursue [my] 'university project'". The quotation marks around "university project" suggest that this comrade is quoting me, but these aren't my words, they are his. I have not been enrolled in, or employed by, a University for well over 25 years. I am a full-time worker, and, until recently, a trade union rep. (unpaid), which role I occupied for 17 years. Moreover, I left the SWP for personal reasons (circa 1990/91), but began this project in 1998. I have absolutely no political differences with the SWP. [This was written before the SWP became embroiled in accusations that it had white-washed a leading member over accusations of rape. If I were still a member of the SWP, I would have resigned over this scandal alone.] It seems this comrade is quite happy to make things up where he lacks information. And this tactic carries over into his criticisms of my work (that is, what little of it he has read). In addition, the comment that I "hate sectarians" is also in quotation marks, but that phrase is nowhere to be found in my Essays, either. Once more, the comrade prefers invention over fact.

 

(2) I am not criticising the UK-SWP "from the right" since I am not criticising the SWP at all. My argument is solely with this mystical theory. Again, this comrade prefers fantasy to fact.

 

(3) The acerbic tone of my Essays is deliberate; had this comrade bothered to read the Introductory Essay, he would have found out why:

 

Several other features of these Essays will strike the reader as rather odd: (1) Their almost exclusively negative, if not unremittingly hostile tone; (2) Their quasi-dialectical structure (where the word "dialectical" is to be understood in its older, classical sense); (3) The total absence of any alternative philosophical theses; (4) Their extraordinary length; and finally, (5) Their analytic, if not relentless, style.

 

The first two of the above points aren't unrelated. 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 nearly 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 render DM a little clearer and/or more comprehensible.

 

To that end, the reader will find that many issues have been raised here for the very first time -- ever. Core DM-theses have been examined in unprecedented detail, most of them from a completely novel direction. It is a sad reflection on the mental paralysis induced in those who -- in Max Eastman's words -- "suffer from dialectics", that these 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 clarified and strengthened because of the entirely novel set of challenges advanced in this work.

 

As alleged earlier, it is the opinion of the present author that DM has contributed in its own not insignificant way to the spectacular lack of success 'enjoyed' by Dialectical Marxism. It is an alarming fact that of all the major political ideologies and/or movements in history, Dialectical Marxism is among the least successful. The role that DM has played in helping to engineer this disastrous state of affairs partly accounts for the persistently negative, if not openly hostile, tone adopted in these Essays.

 

If revolutionaries genuinely wish to change the world by assisting in a successful working-class revolution (and I certainly count myself among those who do), then the sooner this alien-class ideology (DM) is excised the better.

 

In that case, if the ideas presented here are correct, then it is clear that DM has helped cripple the revolutionary movement almost from the beginning. Because of that, those who insist on clinging to this regressive doctrine (for whatever reason) risk extending this abysmal record of failure into this new century.

 

Unfortunately, it is far from clear whether either the planet or humanity can take another hundred years of Capitalism. Indeed, one more protracted cycle of DM-induced failures could mean that even fewer workers will take Marxism seriously --, or, what amounts roughly to the same thing, live to tell the tale in anything remotely resembling a civilised society.

 

In that case, if this comrade finds me irritating, that just means I am doing my job properly.

 

(4) The point of the exercise isn't, as this comrade says, to prove who is the "superior philosopher", since the point of my work is to show that Traditional Philosophy (including the fourth-rate version found in 'materialist dialectics') is just self-important hot air, and expresses a ruling-class view of the world.

 

[Why I say this is explained in detail here, and is summarised here and here.]

 

(5) If this comrade genuinely wanted an "entry point" to my work, then why did he not go to my site and read the many Introductory Essays I have posted there for readers like him?

 

[Here is the most comprehensive of them; here is one of the shortest.]

 

Another poster asks:

 

Lots of people have been 'opposed to dialectics' since the time of Marx and Engels. However, Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky all saw dialectical materialism as central to their world outlook. So why is just another anti-dialectician worth reading? Roger [From here.]

 

The simple answer is that my demolition of this mystical theory is by far and away the most comprehensive ever written by a revolutionary (or, indeed, by anyone) -- and by several orders of magnitude, too. Moreover, much of it is completely original to me.

 

"So what?" dialecticians might be tempted to ask. Well, "So nothing!" if they want to remain locked in a dogmatic slumber, wedded to a theory that has presided over 150 years of almost total failure -- a theory which history has thus already refuted. On the other hand, if they are interested in the scientific development of Historical Materialism [HM], then my Essays are the place to begin. We have to clear the ground of weeds before we can grow a new and healthier version of Marxism.

 

But, now to specifics:

 

Yes she's irritating alright. Remember her attack is on the dialectics of nature not on Engels per se. Taking a cursory look (a tiny sample without reading Conrad's reply -- I would say it's pretty predictable) of the Rosa Lichtenstein/Conrad (Weekly Worker) "entry level" debate we have her say this:


"Engels asserted the following:

"'[Q]ualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned.

"'Such changes are neither smooth nor gradual:

"'...[Q]uantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts….'

"And yet, there are many things in nature that undergo smooth qualitative change -- for example, melting metal, glass, plastic, butter, toffee and chocolate. Sure, some things change 'nodally', but many do not. So, the 'nodal' aspect of this Law is defective.

"Unfortunately, this implies that it cannot be used to argue that the transformation from capitalism to socialism must be nodal too, for we have no idea whether this transformation is one of these exceptions. Plainly, we could only use this Law if it had no exceptions whatsoever.

"This means that the whole point of adopting this Law in the first place has now vanished."


Her remarks are of such inaccuracy and triteness that they makes one wonder how she musters up the hide to write hundreds of thousands of words presumably in the same vein -- as this is the simplest stuff ("entry point dialectics") to deal with (almost sub-Hegelian).

In spite of what she says, all these things "metal, glass, plastic, butter, toffee and chocolate" do at some point undergo "nodal" changes at a certain point. Metal (presumably an element) vaporises, glass (a compound) no doubt vaporises and if it is cooled undergoes an apparent solidification, butter (a mixture) caramelises, toffee (a mixture) carbonizes, chocolate (a mixture) undergoes complex degradation. And even if there were an exception -- an infinite range of melting without an qualitative change this would prove NOTHING at all against Engels' point.

And further she says:


"What about 'quantity into quality'? Undeniably, many material things change qualitatively as a result of the addition or subtraction of matter or energy.

"But this is not true of all qualitative difference. The order in which events take place can affect quality, too. For example, try crossing a busy main road first and looking second -- now, try it the other way round! And anyone who tries pouring half a litre of water slowly into a litre of concentrated sulphuric acid will face a long and painful stay in hospital, whereas the reverse action is perfectly safe."


Who says that the order of events is of no importance? Does she think Engels was a stupid as she is?

 

Conrad, though some of what he writes has a satisfying historical sweep, doesn't pick up these errors. But he too goes on -- and on as if undergoing multiple orgasm.

Is this the amateur hour?

A Marxist philosopher of the calibre of John Hoffman (Marxism and the Theory of Praxis) -- gives scholarly and comprehensive answer to the deniers of the dialectic in nature. "dusty" [From
here.]

 

Again, several points arise from this remarkably superficial (and inaccurate) 'reply'.

 

Her remarks are of such inaccuracy and triteness that they makes one wonder how she musters up the hide to write hundreds of thousands of words presumably in the same vein -- as this is the simplest stuff ("entry point dialectics") to deal with (almost sub-Hegelian).
 

This from someone who has naively swallowed the Mickey Mouse Science and Minnie Mouse Metaphysics that Hegel and Engels inflicted on humanity!

 

Of course, in my 'debate' with Jack Conrad, I had to keep things relatively simple, but that is no more reason to judge the detailed work at my site as "simple" than it is to judge Das Kapital as "simple" on the sole basis of having read Wages, Price and Profit.

 

However, if this comrade is so easily put off my Essays, then he deserves to remain in the stygian gloom in which we found him. I have no desire to relieve him of his self-inflicted ignorance.

 

In spite of what she says, all these things "metal, glass, plastic, butter, toffee and chocolate" do at some point undergo "nodal" changes at a certain point. Metal (presumably an element) vaporises, glass (a compound) no doubt vaporises and if it is cooled undergoes an apparent solidification, butter (a mixture) caramelises, toffee (a mixture) carbonizes, chocolate (a mixture) undergoes complex degradation. And even if there were an exception -- an infinite range of melting without an qualitative change this would prove NOTHING at all against Engels' point.
 

This comrade misses the point. Metals slowly soften when heated; there is no "nodal" point in the "qualitative" transition from solid to liquid metal. Maybe there is a "nodal" transition later on if the metal is heated until it vaporises. But that doesn't affect the point that there is no such "node" when metals melt. Human beings have known this for thousands of years -- this is what makes metals malleable, and formable. So, the "qualitative" transition of metals from solid to liquid is slow, not rapid. The same is true of the other examples I gave. Who doesn't know that glass and plastic melt slowly?

 

Moreover, the above 'reply' runs contrary to what both Hegel and Engels said:

 

It is said, natura non facit saltum [there are no leaps in nature]; and ordinary thinking when it has to grasp a coming-to-be or a ceasing-to-be, fancies it has done so by representing it as a gradual emergence or disappearance. But we have seen that the alterations of being in general are not only the transition of one magnitude into another, but a transition from quality into quantity and vice versa, a becoming-other which is an interruption of gradualness and the production of something qualitatively different from the reality which preceded it. Water, in cooling, does not gradually harden as if it thickened like porridge, gradually solidifying until it reached the consistency of ice; it suddenly solidifies, all at once. It can remain quite fluid even at freezing point if it is standing undisturbed, and then a slight shock will bring it into the solid state. [Hegel (1999), p.370, §776. Bold emphasis added.]

 

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. [Engels (1976), pp.82-83.I have used the online version here, but quoted the page numbers for 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.]

 

From this it is quite clear that for both of the above, "nodes"/"leaps" are sudden. Indeed, for Engels, this fact applies right across the sciences. Once more, both are wrong -- not all qualitative change is "nodal" (even if we knew what dialecticians meant by "quality").

 

In that case, this critic perhaps needs to enrol himself in a crash course of "entry level" dialectics, even before bravely venturing on to Dialectics 101.

 

What about the other things he says?

 

Butter (a mixture) caramelises, toffee (a mixture) carbonizes, chocolate (a mixture) undergoes complex degradation.

 

Maybe so, but the transition from solid butter to liquid butter is nonetheless "node"-free; the same is the case with toffee and chocolate. In addition there are many other examples of such "node"-less "qualitative" changes (some of which are listed here).

 

And even if there were an exception -- an infinite range of melting without an qualitative change this would prove NOTHING at all against Engels' point.

 

Well, of course, the capital letters settle it, don't they? If my original article had been written in capitals these critics would surely have been silenced.

 

Some might want to appeal to the exact melting points of solids as clear examples of dialectical "leaps"; however, this is what we read about the so-called "amorphous solids" (such as glasses, gels, and plastics):

 

Amorphous solids do not have a sharp melting point; they are softened in a range of temperature. [Quoted from here; accessed 03/05/2015. Bold added.]

 

Amorphous solids tend to soften slowly over a wide temperature range rather than having a well-defined melting point like a crystalline solid. [Quoted from here; accessed 08/04/2015. Bold added.]

 

Moreover:

 

Almost any substance can solidify in amorphous form if the liquid phase is cooled rapidly enough.... [Ibid.]

 

This must mean that "almost any substance" will lack a melting point if it has been cooled in the above way. In turn, this implies that there are countless non-'nodal' (non-"leap"-like) changes in nature.

 

But, the comrade is wrong, anyway; these examples show that Engels's 'Law' is defective just here: there are many qualitative changes in nature and society that are smooth, and do not progress in "leaps".

 

Notice: I am not arguing that there are no sudden changes, only that not everything behaves this way

 

What of this, though?

 

Who says that the order of events is of no importance? Does she think Engels was a stupid as she is?

 

Well, Engels, actually, "says" so:

 

"...[T]he transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Dialectics of Nature, p.63. Emphasis added.]

 

Notice that? "Qualitative" changes can "only" occur by the "quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion", and that it is "impossible" to effect these changes in any other way. For Engels, that rules out the order in which events occur causing such changes.

 

So, yes, perhaps Engels was "stupid" -- but, plainly, far less so than this critic, who needs to learn to read what Engels actually said before he accuses me of "inaccuracy" and "triteness".

 

A Marxist philosopher of the calibre of John Hoffman (Marxism and the Theory of Praxis) -- gives scholarly and comprehensive answer to the deniers of the dialectic in nature.

 

No he doesn't; Hoffman makes all the usual mistakes in his haste to defend this Hermetic 'theory'.

 

There are several more points worthy of comment on the same page; such as this:

 

As far as I can tell without taking significant time, this is the basic error involved in Rosa Lichtenstein's critique. The ultimate thrust of dialectics is to deny the existence of a "point in time." Trotsky goes into this in "In Defense of Marxism." This is a logical rather than empirical matter. Thus the lack of relevant direct evidence. srd [From here.]

 

But, dialecticians use this phrase all the time, whereas I only use it to help sink their theory.

 

For example, here is Engels:

 

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

 

"Point in time" and "moment in time" are indistinguishable, as we can see from Trotsky's use of the latter:

 

A sophist will respond that a pound of sugar is equal to itself at 'any given moment'…. How should we really conceive the word 'moment'? If it is an infinitesimal interval of time, then a pound of sugar is subjected during the course of that 'moment' to inevitable changes. Or is the 'moment' a purely mathematical abstraction, that is, a zero of time? But everything exists in time; and existence itself is an uninterrupted process of transformation; time is consequently a fundamental element of existence. Thus the axiom 'A' is equal to 'A' signifies that a thing is equal to itself if it does not change, that is if it does not exist. [Trotsky (1971), In Defence of Marxism, p.64. Bold emphasis added.]

 

And, of course, I make the same point as the comrade above, but in this case against Trotsky, who gets himself into an awful tangle here. [More on that in Essay Six.]

 

Be this as it may, if Trotsky were correct, then Engels can't be, for then there would be no such thing as the "same moment" in which a moving object could be in two places at once (on this see Essay Five). On the other hand, if Engels were right, then Trotsky can't be, for in that case at least one of these "same moments" would have to exist if a moving object is to be in two places in that "same moment".

 

Now, it is all the same to me which one of these two it is that the other has sunk because of their sloppy use of language.

 

Alas, there is more (on the same page):

 

The question for me is what background do any of these characters have that makes them experts on physics and the philosophy of science? advanced degrees in physics, chemistry or biology? peer reviewed articles? etc. etc. It just seems that they are spouting forth their own lay, albeit somewhat educated opinions in the manner of creation science experts. As far as "In Defense of Marxism", I recall that excellent work which to my recollection dealt with the nature of the Soviet Union, not vulgar expositions of philosophy. It seems to me that as is sometimes said about the law, these individuals "know just enough to be dangerous" meaning to give a scientific rationalization to their views that can sound somewhat convincing-and mystical-to the uninitiated.

Engels and Trotsky were great political leaders, not scientists, although they, particularly the latter, were influenced by Darwin and developments in science which they sought to popularize and defend, drawing certain inferences to social history from these conclusions.

 

The comparison with creation science is inapt, because dialectics does not pretend to provide a testable scientific theory. On philosophical matters at the periphery of science, an educated layman can accomplish much. But to me the untestability of dialectics, the fact that its laws are permissive rather than prohibitive like scientific laws, suggests that the notion that matter itself is dialectical isn't quite right. Trotsky gives the best description of what dialectics is for here (the essay can also be found at http://www.themilitant.com/1997/6120/6120_32.html):


"Dialectical thinking is related to vulgar thinking in the same way that a motion picture is related to a still photograph. The motion picture does not outlaw the still photograph but combines a series of them according to the laws of motion. Dialectics does not deny the syllogism, but teaches us to combine syllogisms in such a way as to bring our understanding closer to the eternally changing reality.


"Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradictions, conflict of content and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc., which are just as important for theoretical thought as is the simple syllogism for more elementary tasks... The fundamental flaw of vulgar thought lies in the fact that it wishes to content itself with motionless imprints of reality, which consists of eternal motion. Dialectical thinking gives to concepts, by means of closer approximations, corrections, concretizations, a richness of content and flexibility, I would even say a succulence, which to a certain extent brings them close to living phenomena."

 

I see "vulgar thought," perhaps to reductively, as the innate starting point of al cognition. We cognize reality as static and then correct our picture to bring in motion. Dialectics systematizes the corrective steps we must take to have a dynamic view. It generates an open-ended catalogue of false assumptions that must be questioned when starting from the static picture we are innately cursed with as finite beings and moving toward a truer account. One assumption holds, for instance, that any trend can be extrapolated indefinitely. The denial of vulgar evolutionary extrapolation one expression of the interpenetration of opposites, or more narrowly, the transformation of things into their opposites.

Dialectics demands some ontology's underpinning, but that isn't necessarily simply (undialectically) asserting that the laws of dialectics apply to matter itself. One underpinning is the truistic existence of change. But there's little reason why or even as easy way how the path toward augmenting a static view, to the extent it is augmentable, would match the laws governing the actual movement of the universe. srd [From
here.]

 

Taking one section at a time:

 

The question for me is what background do any of these characters have that makes them experts on physics and the philosophy of science? advanced degrees in physics, chemistry or biology? peer reviewed articles? etc. etc. It just seems that they are spouting forth their own lay, albeit somewhat educated opinions in the manner of creation science experts. As far as "In Defense of Marxism", I recall that excellent work which to my recollection dealt with the nature of the Soviet Union, not vulgar expositions of philosophy. It seems to me that as is sometimes said about the law, these individuals "know just enough to be dangerous" meaning to give a scientific rationalization to their views that can sound somewhat convincing-and mystical-to the uninitiated.

 

Engels and Trotsky were great political leaders, not scientists, although they, particularly the latter, were influenced by Darwin and developments in science which they sought to popularize and defend, drawing certain inferences to social history from these conclusions.

 

If this comrade had bothered to read the Introductory Essay before putting his non-dialectical foot in his Hermetic mouth, he'd have seen only too well what my 'qualifications' are. But, even if I had none whatsoever, Engels wasn't a scientist and neither was Hegel (as this comrade acknowledges). Not one page of Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin or Trotsky's work was peer reviewed, either, and yet this comrade is quite happy to accept the untested and Mickey Mouse Science found in their work on dialectics.

 

Apparently then, it is only the critics of dialectics who need to be qualified. Any idiot can, it seems, write on dialectics. And they do, all the time, as we can see.

 

Moreover, it is quite clear that this comrade knows no logic, otherwise he wouldn't have been quite so impressed with Trotsky's 'defence' of dialectics.

 

[Trotsky's incompetence in this area (and with it that of the vast majority of dialecticians, including Hegel) has been exposed in Essays Four and Six.]

 

In that case, these words are more applicable to this comrade than they are to me:

 

It seems to me that as is sometimes said about the law, these individuals "know just enough to be dangerous" meaning to give a scientific rationalization to their views that can sound somewhat convincing-and mystical-to the uninitiated.

 

What of this, though?

 

The comparison with creation science is inapt, because dialectics does not pretend to provide a testable scientific theory. On philosophical matters at the periphery of science, an educated layman can accomplish much. But to me the untestability of dialectics, the fact that its laws are permissive rather than prohibitive like scientific laws, suggests that the notion that matter itself is dialectical isn't quite right. Trotsky gives the best description of what dialectics is for....

 

But, Lenin said:

 

From living perception to abstract thought, and from this to practice, -- such is the dialectical path of the cognition of truth, of the cognition of objective reality. [Lenin (1961), Philosophical Notebooks, p.171.]

 

The correctness of this aspect of the content of dialectics must be tested by the history of science. This aspect of dialectics (e.g. in Plekhanov) usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum-total of examples [“for example, a seed,” “for example, primitive communism.” The same is true of Engels. But it is “in the interests of popularisation...”] and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world). [Ibid., p.357. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Marx added:

 

The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth -- i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question. [Theses on Feuerbach, quoted from here. Bold added.]

 

The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. [p.46. The German Ideology. Bold added.]

 

And Engels argued as follows:

 

Finally, for me there could be no question of superimposing the laws of dialectics on nature but of discovering them in it and developing them from it. [Engels (1976), Anti-Dühring, p.13. Bold emphasis added.]

 

We all agree that in every field of science, in natural and historical science, one must proceed from the given facts, in natural science therefore from the various material forms of motion of matter; that therefore in theoretical natural science too the interconnections are not to be built into the facts but to be discovered in them, and when discovered to be verified as far as possible by experiment.

 

Just as little can it be a question of maintaining the dogmatic content of the Hegelian system as it was preached by the Berlin Hegelians of the older and younger line. [Ibid., p.47. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

These comrades are pretty clear; if Marxism isn't testable it is either an idealist theory, or false. Indeed, this is precisely the point George Novack made:

 

A consistent materialism cannot proceed from principles which are validated by appeal to abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source. Idealisms may do this. But the materialist philosophy has to be based upon evidence taken from objective material sources and verified by demonstration in practice.... [Novack (1965), The Origins Of Materialism, p.17. Bold emphases added.]

 

Perhaps the comrade here needs to be "initiated" in the inner, esoteric rites of dialectics a little more thoroughly. He will never make the level of Magus at this rate.

 

Of course, the real point about practice is that this is where dialectics comes unstuck, for practice has refuted it.

 

[This controversial allegation is substantiated here and here.]

 

Now, I won't comment on Trotsky's lamentably poor attempt to respond to Burnham (I have already done this in detail in several Essays, for instance here and here), but this deserves a few words:

 

I see "vulgar thought," perhaps to reductively, as the innate starting point of al cognition. We cognize reality as static and then correct our picture to bring in motion. Dialectics systematizes the corrective steps we must take to have a dynamic view. It generates an open-ended catalogue of false assumptions that must be questioned when starting from the static picture we are innately cursed with as finite beings and moving toward a truer account. One assumption holds, for instance, that any trend can be extrapolated indefinitely. The denial of vulgar evolutionary extrapolation one expression of the interpenetration of opposites, or more narrowly, the transformation of things into their opposites.

Dialectics demands some ontology's underpinning, but that isn't necessarily simply (undialectically) asserting that the laws of dialectics apply to matter itself. One underpinning is the truistic existence of change. But there's little reason why or even as easy way how the path toward augmenting a static view, to the extent it is augmentable, would match the laws governing the actual movement of the universe.

 

It is not true that we "cognize reality as static"; this is a myth put about by dialecticians (following on Hegel's lead). Practically every verb and adverb (and more words besides) in ordinary language testify to the fact that in the vernacular we have a far more sophisticated handle on change than is allowed for by the wooden and incomprehensible jargon Hegel invented in order to fix something that wasn't broken. Here is a greatly truncated list:

 

Vary, alter, adjust, adapt, amend, make, produce, revise, rework, advise, administer, allocate, improve, enhance, deteriorate, depreciate, edit, bend, straighten, weave, merge, dig, plough, cultivate, sow, twist, curl, turn, tighten, fasten, loosen, relax, ease, tense up, slacken, fine tune, bind, wrap, pluck, carve, rip, tear, mend, perforate, repair, renovate, restore, damage, impair, scratch, bite, diagnose, mutate, metamorphose, transmute, sharpen, hone, modify, modulate, develop, upgrade, appear, disappear, expand, contract, constrict, constrain, shrivel, widen, lock, unlock, swell, flow, glide, ring, differentiate, integrate, multiply, divide, add, subtract, simplify, complicate, partition, unite, amalgamate, fuse, mingle, connect, link, brake, decelerate, accelerate, fast, slow, swift, rapid, hasty, protracted, lingering, brief, heat up, melt, freeze, harden, cool down, flash, shine, glow, drip, bounce, cascade, drop, pick up, fade, darken, wind, unwind, meander, peel, scrape, graze, file, scour, dislodge, is, was, will be, will have been, had, will have had, went, go, going, gone, return, lost, age, flood, swamp, overflow, precipitate, percolate, seep, tumble, plunge, dive, float, sink, plummet, mix, separate, cut, chop, crush, grind, shred, slice, dice, saw, sew, knit, spread, coalesce, congeal, fall, climb, rise, ascend, descend, slide, slip, roll, spin, revolve, bounce, oscillate, undulate, rotate, wave, splash, conjure, quick, quickly, slowly, instantaneously, suddenly, gradually, rapidly, briskly, hurriedly, lively, hastily, inadvertently, accidentally,  carelessly, really, energetically, lethargically, snap, drink, quaff, eat, bite, consume, swallow, gulp, gobble, chew, gnaw, digest, ingest, excrete, absorb, join, resign, part, sell, buy, acquire, prevent, avert, avoid, forestall, encourage, invite, appropriate, lose, find, search, pursue, hunt, track, explore, follow, cover, uncover, reveal, stretch, distend, depress, compress, lift, put down, fetch, take, bring, carry, win, ripen, germinate, conceive, gestate, abort, die, rot, perish, grow, decay, fold, empty, evacuate, drain, pour, fill, abduct, abandon, leave, abscond, many, more, less, fewer, steady, steadily, jerkily, intermittently, smoothly, awkwardly, expertly, very, extremely, exceedingly, intermittent, discontinuous, continuous, continual, emit, push, pull, drag, slide, jump, sit, stand, run, sprint, chase, amble, walk, hop, skip, slither, crawl, limp, swim, fly, hover, drown, submerge, immerse, break, abrogate dismiss, collapse, shatter, split, interrupt, charge, retreat, assault, squash, adulterate, purify, filter, raze, crumble, erode, corrode, rust, flake, demolish, dismantle, pulverise, atomise, disintegrate, dismember, destroy, annihilate, extirpate, flatten, lengthen, shorten, elongate, crimple, inflate, deflate, terminate, initiate, instigate, replace, undo, redo, analyze, synthesise, articulate, disarticulate, reverse, repeal, abolish, enact, quash, throw, catch, hour, minute, second, instant, moment, momentary, invent, devise, teach, learn, innovate, forget, rescind, boil, freeze, thaw, cook, liquefy, solidify, congeal, neutralise, evaporate, condense, dissolve, process, mollify, pacify, calm down, excite, enrage, inflame, protest, object, challenge, confirm, deny, repudiate, reject, expel, eject, repel, attract, remove, overthrow, expropriate, scatter, distribute, surround, gather, admit, acknowledge, hijack, assemble, attack, counter-attack, charge, repulse, defeat, strike, occupy, picket, barricade, revolt, riot, rally, march, demonstrate, mutiny, rebel, defy, resist, lead, campaign, educate, agitate, organise...

 

[In each case, where there is a noun form of the word listed, its verb form is intended. So, where you see "ring", for example, think of the verb "to ring" and its cognates -- like "ringing", for instance.]

 

Naturally, it wouldn't be difficult to extend this list until it contained literally tens of thousands of words all capable of depicting countless changes in limitless detail (especially if it is augmented with words drawn from mathematics and HM).

 

In fact, and ironically, dialectics itself can't account for change; or, to state this in another form: if DM were true, change would be impossible.

 

[That controversial allegation has been substantiated here.]

 

Finally, there is this:

 

Whilst Engels and Trotsky were not scientists they were well educated in philosophy something most scientists are not. The major problem for natural scientists in drawing philosophical conclusions from their work is that the logic they use is quite formal and little changed since the philosophers of the middle ages. Now this leaves natural science in a somewhat 'aimless' position which can do a lot of valuable empirical research and create the conditions for the rapid development of technology but is socially very backward and conservative. Roger [From here.]

 

Dialecticians say this sort of thing all the time, but in every case they fail to substantiate it, happy merely to copy it off one another from one generation to the next, without bothering to check. The fact is, as any history of logic would have told them, 99% of logic is less than 150 years old. Burnham tried to tell Trotsky, but he might as well have been talking to the cat for all the good it did.

 

Indeed, at first sight, it would seem obvious that a logical system based on a static view of the world -- as it is alleged of Formal Logic [FL] -- would have few if any practical consequences. On the other hand, it would appear equally clear that a different logical system based on the opposite view of reality -- as is also claimed of Dialectical Logic [DL] -- should have countless practical applications in science and technology.

 

Oddly enough, the exact opposite is the case: DL has no discernible practical or scientific applications, and has featured in none of the advances in the natural or physical sciences (and arguably none even in the social sciences) -- ever. Worse still: DL has made no contribution to technological innovation.

 

[I have responded to those who might think otherwise, here and here.]

 

In stark contrast to this, FL has played an invaluable role on the development of science and mathematics, and has featured in countless applications in technology and the applied sciences.

 

Indeed, one excellent example (among many) of the impact FL on technology is worthy of note: the development of computers. Their origin goes back many centuries, but advances in mathematical logic (post 1850) proved to be decisive. The invention of Boolean and Fregean Logic, the mathematical logic of Russell, Whitehead, Hilbert, Peano, von Neumann and Church (etc.) -- along with the logico-mathematical work of Alan Turing -- all helped make the development of computers possible. FL has not only contributed to the evolution of software and of computer languages, the principles of Propositional Calculus govern the operation of all standard processors (etc.).

 

In addition, there are numerous other examples of the practical applications of FL, ranging from Cybernetics to Code Theory and from Linguistics to Game Theory and Discrete Mathematics. The question is: Can DM-theorists point to a single successful application of DL in technology, or in the natural and physical sciences? The answer is reasonably plain; they can't. But this glaring failure becomes all the more revealing when it is remembered that dialecticians repeatedly claim that their 'logic' is superior to FL when it is applied to the material world.

 

This is perhaps one paradoxical mismatch between DM and recalcitrant reality that cannot be solved by the simple expedient of "grasping" it. [More on that, here.]

 

~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~

 

So, this Kangaroo Court was convened and has decided in my absence that my work is "trite", "inaccurate", and amateurish. However, we can see from the superficial and error-strewn comments of this cabal of self-appointed judge, prosecuting counsel and jury that it is this court that is at fault, not the accused.

 

Case dismissed!

 

Word Count: 7,270

 

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