Logical Illiterates Strike Again
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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
Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Log-On
A year or so ago I had the great misfortune to correspond with an irascible fellow who could not resist making ill-informed comments about my Essays, all the while refusing to read them.
I ended the correspond on that basis, but, it seems, he has been sulking ever since. Last year, I had occasion to slap some materialist good sense into him (here), but I fear that this incorrigible Idealist is beyond even my help. Despite several attempts to inoculate him from the effects of his own folly, Mr B has once again demonstrated that he is immune to the influence of modern logic, preferring his own brand of sub-Hegelian make-believe. Commenting on an argument of mine, he had this to say:
"CB: The sentence 'John is a man'
means John is both the same and different from Joe, Jack, Rosa, Charles...
It is precisely the 'is' of predication that is a unity and struggle of
opposites. The 'is' of identity 'He is John.' -- that is not a tautology.
CB: This should be 'that is a tautology'." [Quotation marks changed to conform to the conventions adopted here.]
This odd piece of reasoning was exposed for what it is here, and here.
Despite this, Mr B hopes to neutralise my arguments by referring merely to his own not inconsiderable authority in this field -- that is, the field usually occupied by Popes and assorted dictators whose word is law. And in matters logical, that should be enough for us. It certainly is for Mr B.
He now deigns to comment on the musings of my colleague Babeuf; here is an example of truly innovative historical materialism:
"CB: Another fundamental activity was the raising of children. I'm thinking language/culture emerged between parents and children."
It's reasonably clear that Mr B has shot from the hip again -- or rather shot from the holster and into his foot --, for if the above were the case, not only would parents and children confront each other like Pentecostal ecstatics, mouthing incomprehensible noises at one another, no two families would share the same idiolect. Communication between families would thus be impossible. In that case, 'culture', as Mr B sees it, would soon begin to resemble that cacophony which constantly sounds in his head.
Now, in Essay Twelve Part One, I asserted that most Marxists give lip-service to the idea that language is a social phenomenon, but fail to think through the implications of that fact, and talk and write as if language were a private affair. Mr B has shown once again that when it comes to getting things wrong, he is keen to elbow his way to the front of the queue. How language can be social, but remain a family affair is perhaps another one of the 'contradictions' that still compromises his 'thought processes':
"Before I had even heard of dialectics -- living in the a mental (sic) world of strict formal logic -- I started to 'run into' lots of contradictions and paradoxes. My own road to dialectics was a posteriori, not a priori."
Mr B here confuses matters biographical with matters logical; unless --, of course, he thinks paradoxes are a posteriori. But, even if he were right, this otherwise commendable public confession of his intellectual decline should not be read as mere humility. On the contrary, the road to Hermetic Enlightenment -- a path which all true believers have to pass along in order to qualify as adepts (the reasons for which are exposed here) -- elevates him way above the rest of us mere mortals. This means that if dialecticians like him ever regain, or attain, power (and readers will have to suspend their incredulity even to imagine that eventuality) they can screw-up all over again in a truly awe-inspiring manner. After all, they have a suitably crazy theory to give them unfair advantage.
But what is this? It's none other than our old friend Mr D, who volunteers a riposte so devastating I hesitate to post it here for fear it might affect your sanity, dear reader:
"This is just stupid, even more stupid than the Trotskyist recitations of dialectics."
Mr D, an individual not known for his ability to string a clear argument together -- but a well-respected expert at drawing attention to that fact --, probably does not know that the material about which he is commenting has to be compressed into a three minute slot, and has to be kept to a level that makes it comprehensible to mere workers. And here he can be forgiven, for over the years, at his site, he has become adept at repelling such lowly types, and to such an extent that he has probably forgotten their limitations. One of which is that they find the mystical ideas he spouts incomprehensible. It's a good job then that we have substitutionists of his exemplary calibre to do their thinking for them.
Now, we have already seen that Mr D takes exception to anyone who cannot compress a PhD thesis into a sentence or two --, a skill he taunts the rest of us with, since, as the sentence above reveals, he can squeeze several such into a single line. He is, I am sure, working on doing the same with a single word.
I bet, too, he can summarise Proust in fifteen seconds.
Mr B then posted a few sections from a summary Essay of mine, but the eagle-eyed Mr D swooped in for the kill, with yet more lethal prose:
"This is all pretty juvenile leftism."
Well, Mr D should know.
But, it is rather unfair of him to pull rank, and complain that my words are juvenile when he still has his dialectical diapers on. And as if to prove it, he throws another toy out of his pram:
"The entire history of philosophy to Rosa is a scheme, a ruse, duplicity."
He might like to quote where I say this, or even imply it...
But, accuracy is not Mr D's concern; we have seen that several times already.
[Less charitable readers might be forgiven a snigger or ten here when they notice that Mr D thinks that the history of Philosophy can be a "a ruse, duplicity". Philosophy itself might be so described (but not by me), but how the history of that bogus discipline can be depicted thus is a question that perhaps only Mr D's psychiatrist is qualified to answer.]
Back to Mr B, for he is intent on providing yet more amusement. In response to a summary of my criticisms of Lenin's crass remarks, he bravely leapt to his defence (but the reader will soon see that Lenin would be better defended by his sworn enemies, if this is the best Mr B can do):
"Anyway, the first thing I noticed is that this is from 'Philosophical Notebooks'. That means personal musings, talking out loud to oneself, unpublished personal thoughts. That doesn't mean they can't be criticized, but it also means we can't be sure what status Lenin gave them, but there's a good chance that he didn't publish them because he may have had criticisms of them himself. It's kind of cheating to attribute to them such a fundamental status in Lenin's arguments for his positions."
So, with Mr B as his defence attorney, Lenin would be well advised to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court.
Mr B should know (but I hesitate to praise him too much here) that Lenin's words are treated as gospel by practicing Marxists, and it is these I am addressing in my Essays, not armchair HCDs like him.
However, if Mr B is right, and we can disregard Lenin's amateurish musings, all well and good. In that case, perhaps we should throw Hegel's Hermetic Horror Show onto Hume's bonfire, too? Since that Mystical Idealist's work reads like an extended April Fool's joke, who will miss it (other than his groupies)?
But, how does Mr B handle the summary of my argument? Well, it's worth mentioning the fact that the comment below was written after he had pointed out that Lenin was summarising his own ideas, and shouldn't be treated unfairly because of that. No problem -- but then Rosa's summary can be treated with disdain. After all, consistency isn't to be expected of someone who thinks reality is riddled with contradictions.
"Also, the 'John is a man' discussion is not given in the discussion itself and inferentially by it being a personal diary, the logical status that Rosa gives it, i.e. that Lenin claimed to derive eternal truths and universal principles out of it. On the contrary, he seems to be discussing it as an example, not some kind of fundamental proof of the universality of dialectics. That's really cheating by Rosa. She portrays this example by Lenin as if he uses it in the opposite of the way he actually does. Can't remember whether I raised this with Rosa when she was here. I do remember she got pretty angry pretty quickly, started hurling insults pretty quickly when challenged. I realize she gets challenged a lot, so for her it was just the same old lunkheadism, but I mean, I really can't see where Lenin employed the 'John is a man' thing as fundamentally, can't see where he attempted to derive as much from it as she claims. She should start with an example from something published. When she uses an intellectual diary note, it could very well be that Lenin didn't publish it because he thought of some of the same criticisms of it that she did."
Can anyone figure out what this muddle-head is trying to say here? Is there an actual counter-argument in there -- anywhere?
Now, Mr B should know that Lenin is here summarising an argument Hegel inflicted on humanity (one that had first appeared in Aristotle, but which assumed classical form in Aquinas and Buridan (references can be found in Essay Three Part One)), where the Arch-Bumbler does try to derive everything from the nature of 'judgements' -- i.e., sentences of a certain sort -- where the "is" of predication was re-configured as an "is" of identity. Hegel uses "The rose is red" to show that the entire universe for all of time is fundamentally contradictory. Is it unfair of me to point this out? Perhaps it was even more unfair of Hegel to advert to his own logical megalomania in this way?
[That argument, if such it may be called, has been dissected here, and here.]
In passing, Mr B notes that I get angry very quickly. Here is how I explained why this is so (on the opening page of this site):
How Not To Argue 101
This 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 note that the vast majority all say the same sorts of things... They all like to make things up, too, about me and my beliefs.
25 years (!!) of this stuff from Dialectical Mystics has meant I now take an aggressive stance with them every time -- I soon learnt back in the 1980's that being pleasant with them (my initial tactic) did not alter their abusive tone, their propensity to fabricate....
So, these days, I generally go for the jugular from theget-go.
Except, of course, I do not get angry; I just go on the offensive.
Mr B's earlier correspondence with me showed that he, too, is quite happy to make stuff up about my ideas (without bothering to check).
Based on a summary of my argument -- which even at 110,000 words represents less than 5% of the material I have so far published -- he thinks he has understood every aspect of my work. Had he bothered to check (and you can stop that sniggering at the back; I'm sure he will, one day), he would have seen that I quote from published work, scores of times, right across the DM-spectrum. Indeed, I manage to show that every single dialectician indulges in the ancient sport 'writing a priori dogmatics' -- in private notebooks and in published work -- as, indeed, Lenin, Engels and Hegel have done. In fact, this is the only way they can make their loopy 'theory' seem to work: impose it on the universe.
But, how does our super-scientist respond to that allegation?
"Hegel, Marx, Engels, Lenin give lots of other examples as the basis for their generalization rendering their claims a posteriori, not a priori."
However, we can leave Marx out, for he is almost totally silent on this 'theory'. As for the rest, here is what I say in Essay Seven:
To be sure, there is a handful of scientists who accept these three 'Laws' as laws (for instance, Levins and Lewontin) -- particularly those who hailed from previous generations of the Communist Party (e.g., Bernal, Haldane and Levy, etc.), but it is plain that these comrades would have treated with contempt a PhD thesis that relied on evidence as weak and feeble as much that is to be found in the DM-literature.
[Incidentally, the same comments apply to Nobel Laureate Jacques Monod, who also seemed fond of these 'Laws'; Monod (1972).]
Indeed, the precipitate acceptance of the adequacy of the impoverished 'data' that supposedly supports DM is worryingly analogous to a similar acceptance by Creation Scientists of 'evidence' in favour of, say, the scientific accuracy of the Book of Genesis.
In both cases, faith has clearly 'affected' scientific judgement. This can plainly be seen in relation to the Lysenko 'affair'. For example, even though Bernal was widely considered to be one of the best scientific minds of his generation (and perhaps of the 20th century), and Haldane was one of the leading biologists of his day, both bought into the ideas of that charlatan for rather sordid political reasons....
The reason why I have labelled DM "Mickey Mouse Science" is now quite plain. The examples usually offered by DM-fans to illustrate their First 'Law' are almost without exception either amateurish, anecdotal, or impressionistic. If someone were to submit a paper to a science journal purporting to establish the veracity of a new law with the same level of vagueness, imprecision, triteness, lack of both detail and mathematics, aggravated by commensurate theoretical obscurity and ambiguity, it would be rejected out-of-hand at the first stage, its author's reputation forever tarnished.
Indeed, dialecticians would themselves treat with derision any attempt to establish either the truth of classical economic theory or the falsity of Marx's work with an evidential display that was as crassly amateurish as this, to say nothing of the open contempt they would show for such theoretical wooliness. In such circumstances, dialecticians who might otherwise be quick to cry "pedantry" at the issues raised in this Essay (and elsewhere at this site), would become devoted 'pedants' themselves, and would nit-pick with the best at attempts to defend classical economic theory or attack Marx's work.
Now, anyone who has studied or practiced real science will already be aware of the care and attention that has to be paid to detail and precision. It is only in books on DM (and on Internet discussion boards) that Mickey Mouse Science of this sort is acceptable.
When we compare this amateurish approach to evidence, proof and clarity with the opposite state of affairs apparent in, say, HM, the contrast is stark indeed. In economics, history, current affairs, and politics Marxists display commendable attention to detail and admirable clarity, almost invariably adding page after page of (often novel) facts, figures, tables, graphs, references, and detailed analyses to their books and articles -- much of which shows signs of careful thought and painstaking research. They also devote much space -- indeed, sometimes whole articles and books -- to analysing concepts like "ideology", "mode of production", and "alienation" -- but hardly ever even so much as a single paragraph to "quality" or "node", to say nothing of the other missing detail noted earlier -- for example, here, here, and here.
At this point we might wonder where Engels's predilection for Mickey Mouse Science came from. After all, he was familiar with the careful and detailed work of contemporaneous scientists, like Darwin. Why then was he prepared to assert that his 'Laws' were indeed laws on the basis of very little primary data (or, in same cases, none at all) -- instead relying as he does on secondary or tertiary (and selectively-chosen) evidence --, compounded by brief, vague and sloppy analyses, instead? Well, we need look no further than Hegel himself for a clue, for Hegel was the original Mickey Mouse Scientist -- which makes Engels perhaps the Sorcerer's Apprentice. [Details of the above reference can be accessed here.]
Figure One: Researching For A PhD In Dialectics?
And this is what I have added to the Basic Introductory Essay:
Anyone who has studied and practiced genuine science will know the lengths to which researchers have to go in order to modify, revise or up-date even minor aspects of current theory, let alone justify major changes in the way we view nature.
[For those who haven't had this sort of background, I have posted several examples of genuine science here.]
In the place of hard evidence, what we invariably find in DM-texts are the same hackneyed examples dredged up year-in year-out. These include the following hardy perennials: boiling and/or freezing water, cells that are alive and dead, grains of barley that 'negate' themselves, magnets that are UOs, Mamelukes' ambiguous fighting ability when matched against French soldiers, Mendeleyev's Table, the sentence "John is a man", homilies about parts and wholes (e.g., "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts", etc., etc.), characters from Molière who discover they have been speaking prose all their lives, laughably weak and misguided attempts to depict the principles of FL, "Yay, Yay", and "Nay, Nay", anything more than this "cometh of evil", wave/particle 'duality', 'emergent' properties popping into existence all over the place, etc., etc., etc. Even then, we are never given a scientific report on these phenomena; all we find in DM-texts are a few brief, amateurish and impressionistic sentences (or, at most, paragraphs) devoted to each example.
From such mantra-like banalities, dialecticians suddenly derive universal laws, valid for all of space and time!
Even at its best (for example, in Woods and Grant (1995/2007) -- which is one of the most comprehensive attempts there is to defend classical, hard-core DM -- and in Gollobin (1986), which is in many ways an up-market version of Woods and Grant, but written from a Maoist perspective), all we find are a few dozen pages of secondary and tertiary 'evidence', padded out with no little repetition and bluster (much of which has been taken apart here). Contrary evidence (of which there is much) is simply ignored or hand-waved aside. This is indeed Mickey Mouse Science at its best.
In many ways this feeble and superficial attempt to substantiate Engels's 'Laws' resembles Creationist endeavours to show that the Book of Genesis is scientific! As noted above, what little evidence DM-theorists have cobbled-together is highly selective and heavily slanted. More often than not it is merely anecdotal, and is therefore deeply contentious -- as we are about to find out.... [Details of the above references can be accessed here.]
As Essays Two and Seven Part One show, the universal and eternally-true theses dialecticians imported from Hegel go way beyond even the meagre evidence Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, and Hegel scraped-together in support.
And now, Mr B's parting shot (ouch!):
"With this initial seriously cheating move by Rosa, I have trouble getting up the energy to look at her further arguments."
Well, what an absolutely shattering loss to humanity! This 'dialectical-saviour' can't "get it up"
Please, someone e-mail Mr B and tell him to "get it up".
Otherwise, I'll have no one at whom I can poke some more easy fun.
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