Essay Four Part One: Formal Logic And Change

 

This Essay should be read in conjunction with Essays Five and Six.

 

For some reason I can't work out, Internet Explorer 11 will no longer play the videos I have posted to this page. Certainly not on my computer! However, as far as I can tell, they play in other Browsers.

 

Preface

 

If you are using Internet Explorer 10 (or later), you might find some of the links I have used won't work properly unless you switch to 'Compatibility View' (in the Tools Menu); for IE11 select 'Compatibility View Settings' and then add this site (anti-dialectics.co.uk). I have as yet no idea how Microsoft's new browser, Edge, will handle these links.

 

The editor I have used to post this material on the Internet -- Microsoft's FrontPage -- has, for some reason, again inserted several formatting glitches into the final product -- glitches which are visible, I believe, only in Internet Explorer --, and only in relation to this Essay and Essay Six! I have no idea why this has happened, and all my attempts to correct this problem have so far failed.

 

If you are viewing this using Mozilla Firefox, you might not be able to read all the symbols I have used -- Mozilla often replaces them with an "°". As far as I know -- other than those mentioned at the top of the page -- there are no such problems with Internet Explorer. Google Chrome appears to reproduce them correctly. I have no idea if this is the case with other browsers.

 

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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.

 

It is important to point out that a good 30% of my case against DM has been relegated to the End Notes. This has been done to allow the main body of the Essay to flow a little more smoothly. This means that if readers want fully to appreciate my criticisms of DM, they will need to consult this material. In many cases, I have raised objections (some obvious, many not -- and some that will have occurred to the reader) to my own arguments, which I have then answered. [I explain why this tactic has been adopted in Essay One.]

 

If readers skip this material, then my answers to any objections they might have will be missed, as will the extra evidence and argument. Since I have been debating this theory with comrades for over 25 years, I have heard all the objections there are! [Many of the more recent on-line debates are listed here.]

 

I have endeavoured to keep this Essay as simple as possible, minimising the sort of technicalities normally to be found in logic, since -- sad to say -- most dialecticians appear to know little or no logic, and seem to care even less about that fact. This can be seen from the crass things they say about it -- even academic Marxists slip up in this regard -- on that, see here. In which case, the indulgence of those who know their logic will be required; this Essay hasn't been written with them in mind. Anyone who wants to read more substantial accounts of the approach to logic and language I have adopted in this Essay should consult the many works I have referenced in the End Notes and in other Essays posted at this site.

 

It is also worth noting that 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 suggest that all or even most members of various ruling-classes actually invented these ways of thinking or of seeing the world (although some of them did -- for example, Heraclitus, Plato, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius). They are intended to highlight theories (or "ruling ideas") that are conducive to, or which rationalise the interests of the various ruling-classes history has inflicted on humanity, whoever invents them. Up until recently this dogmatic approach to knowledge had almost invariably been promoted by thinkers who either relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the system for the elite.**

 

However, that will become the central topic of Parts Two and Three of Essay Twelve (when they are published); until then, the reader is directed here, here, and here for more details.

 

[**Exactly how this applies to DM has been explained in several other Essays published at this site (especially here, here, and here). In addition to the three links in the previous paragraph, I have summarised the argument (but this time aimed at absolute beginners!) here.]

 

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As of July 2018, this Essay is just over 109,500 words long; a much shorter summary of some of its main ideas can be accessed here.

 

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The material below does not represent my final view of any of the issues raised; it is merely 'work in progress'.

 

[Latest Update: 20/05/18.]

 

Quick Links

 

Anyone using these links must remember that they will be skipping past supporting argument and evidence set out in earlier sections.

 

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(1) Formal Logic [FL] Versus Dialectical Logic [DL]

 

(a) A 'Troubled' Relationship

 

(b) Dialectical Fabulation Strikes Again

 

(2) FL And Change

 

(a) Unfounded Allegations

 

(b) Validity And Truth

 

(3) FL Allegedly Uses 'Fixed' Definitions And Categories

 

(a) Variables And Change

 

(b) Static Terms Or Slippery Arguments?

 

(c) Change Of Denotation

 

(d) An Annoying Counter-Example

 

(e) Other Systems Of Logic Unknown To Dialecticians

 

(4) Conceptual Change

 

(a) 'Dialectical Change': Is It Conceptual Or Material?

 

(b) Conceptual Change -- Or Conceptual Distortion?

 

(c) Logic and Change

 

(d) Real Material Change

 

(5) Merely Academic?

 

(5) 'Unconscious' Dialecticians?

 

(a) Seriously?

 

(b) Russian Scientists' Disastrous, Conscious Application Of DM

 

(c) The 'Dialectical' Biologist

 

(7) Is DL A 'Higher From' Of Logic?

 

(a) Judge For Yourself

 

(b) The Crass Things Dialecticians Say About FL

 

(c) And About Ordinary Language And 'Commonsense'

 

(a) Mistaken Assumptions

 

(b) Descent Into Hegelian Confusion

 

(c) Ordinary Language Isn't A Theory I

 

(d) Ordinary Language Isn't A Theory II -- Nor Does It Assume Things Are Static

 

(e) Ordinary Language Different From 'Commonsense'

 

(f) Ordinary Language Isn't Ideological

 

(g) High Church Vs Low Church Dialectics

 

(h) Low Church Dialectics

 

(i) High Church Dialectics

 

(8) Was There Any Logic After Aristotle?

 

(9) Explaining Change

 

(10) 'Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis' -- Debunked

 

(11) Notes

 

(12) References

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

Formal Logic [FL] Vs Dialectical Logic [DL]

 

A 'Troubled' Relationship

 

The relationship between DL and FL hasn't been a happy one. Despite this, dialecticians in general take great pains to make it clear that while they don't reject FL, they regard its scope as seriously limited, especially in relation to motion and change. For example, John Rees commented as follows:

 

"[T]he dialectic is not an alternative to 'normal' scientific methods or formal logic. These methods are perfectly valid within certain limits…. [But] formal logic…has proved inadequate to deal with the 'more complicated and drawn out processes'." [Rees (1998), p.271. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Here are Woods and Grant [henceforth, W&G]:

 

"The elementary rules of thought are taken for granted by most people. They are a familiar part of life, and are reflected in many proverbs, such as 'you can't have your cake and eat it' -- a most important lesson for any child to learn! At a certain point, these rules were written down and systematised. This is the origin of formal logic, for which Aristotle must take the credit, along with so many other things. This was most valuable, since without a knowledge of the elementary rules of logic, thought runs the risk of becoming incoherent. It is necessary to distinguish black from white, and know the difference between a true statement and one that is false. The value of formal logic is, therefore, not in question. The problem is that the categories of formal logic, drawn from quite a limited range of experience and observation, are really valid only within these limits. They do, in fact, cover a great deal of everyday phenomena, but are quite inadequate to deal with more complex processes, involving movement, turbulence, contradiction, and the change from quality to quality....

 

"Formal logic (which has acquired the force of popular prejudice in the form of 'common sense') equally holds good for a whole series of everyday experiences. However, the laws of formal logic, which set out from an essentially static view of things, inevitably break down when dealing with more complex, changing and contradictory phenomena. To use the language of chaos theory, the 'linear' equations of formal logic cannot cope with the turbulent processes which can be observed throughout nature, society and history. Only the dialectical method will suffice for this purpose...." [Woods and Grant (1995/2007), p.83/pp.87-88; 94/99. Italic emphasis in the original; bold added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.] (p.94; or p.99 in the second edition)

 

And, here is Trotsky himself:

 

"The dialectic is neither fiction nor mysticism, but a science of the forms of our thinking insofar as it is not limited to the daily problems of life but attempts to arrive at an understanding of more complicated and drawn-out processes. The dialectic and formal logic bear a relationship similar to that between higher and lower mathematics." [Trotsky (1971), p.63.]

 

However, in the next breath DM-theorists often proceed to depreciate, or even ridicule, FL:

 

"The old logic has fallen into Verachtung [disrepute]. It requires transformation.... The old, formal logic is exactly like a child's game, making pictures out of jig-saw pieces....

 

"In the old logic there is no transition, development (of concept and thought), there is not 'eines inneren, notwen-digen Zusammenhangs' [an inner, necessary connection] of all the parts and 'Übergang' [transition] of some parts into others." [Lenin (1961), pp.96-97. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"A view that is often encountered among dialectical materialists is that formal logic is applicable to static situations, but since, in reality, nothing is static, formal logic is superseded by dialectical logic, which permits logical contradictions. Within the framework of this view, thought is the appropriation (in the mind) of the objectively existing material world, while dialectical logic, that is, dialectics taken as logic, must be considered to be the laws of thought (or correct thinking). Thus, in the approximation where things are viewed as static, formal logic becomes the laws of thought, equally in approximation. When, however, things are viewed in their motion, change, and development, dialectical logic becomes properly the laws of thought." [Marquit (1990), taken from here.]

 

"Formal categories, putting things in labelled boxes, will always be an inadequate way of looking at change and development…because a static definition can't cope with the way in which a new content emerges from old conditions." [Rees (1998), p.59.]

 

"Formal logic considers all things as motionless and changeless, each as separate from all others, isolated in itself. Dialectics is a higher form of thought, since it considers them also in their motion and in their interconnection.... The use of formal logic is limited, restricted. It is a restricted, inferior approach to phenomena. It is admissible so far as I can consider things as unchanged and rigidly demarcated from each other. Dialectics is a superior, more universal, more exact, and more profound approach to phenomena. As soon as I consider things as moved, as changeable, or in their reciprocal connection, I get nowhere with formal logic and I must turn to dialectics. I wish to add that the dialectics of both Plato and Aristotle had an idealistic character; that is, both assume that contradictions have their origin in the mind and that the contradictions in actual things derive from the mind. We materialistic dialecticians say that the contradictions in concepts are only a reflection of the motion of things." [Thalheimer (1936), p.97.]

 

"The introduction of symbols into logic does not carry us a single step further, for the very simple reason that they, in turn, must sooner or later be translated into words and concepts. They have the advantage of being a kind of shorthand, more convenient for some technical operations, computers and so on, but the content remains exactly as before. The bewildering array of mathematical symbols is accompanied by a truly Byzantine jargon, which seems deliberately designed to make logic inaccessible to ordinary mortals, just as the priest-castes of Egypt and Babylon used secret words and occult symbols to keep their knowledge to themselves. The only difference is that they actually did know things that were worth knowing, like the movements of the heavenly bodies, something which can't be said of modern logicians." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.97-98. This appears on p.102 in the 2nd edition. Bold emphasis added.]

 

These opinions about, and this approach to, FL are now as widespread as they are endemic in DM-circles (see, for example, here), although readers will search long and hard -- and to no avail -- through books and articles on DM to find any substantiating evidence -- or even a perfunctory argument in support of the allegation -- that FL is limited in the way that they say, or that it is incapable of handling change.

 

W&G did, however, present their readers with a rather weak attempt to substantiate the claim that FL deals only with 'static' forms:

 

"In an interesting article entitled The Origins of Inference, which appeared in the anthology Making Sense, on the child's construction of the world, Margaret Donaldson draws attention to one of the problems of ordinary logic -- its static character:

 

'Verbal reasoning commonly appears to be about 'states of affairs' -- the world seen as static, in a cross-section of time. And considered in this way the universe appears to contain no incompatibility: things just are as they are. That object over there is a tree; that cup is blue; that man is taller than that man. Of course these states of affairs preclude infinitely many others, but how do we come to be aware of this? How does the idea of incompatibility arise in our minds? Certainly not directly from our impressions of things-as-they-are.'

 

"The same book makes the valid point that the process of knowing is not passive, but active:

 

'We do not sit around passively waiting for the world to impress its 'reality' on us. Instead, as is now widely recognised, we get much of our most basic knowledge through taking action.' [Woods and Grant (1995/2007), p.84/p.88. Except for the first two titles, italic emphases can't be found in the original, but which nevertheless appear in the on-line version. Link added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. W&G are here quoting from Donaldson (1990), pp.98-99.]

 

As should seem obvious, the second passage quoted by W&G appears to contradict -- and rather appropriately, one feels -- the first; the former stresses the alleged 'static' nature of reasoning, while the latter emphasises its active component.

 

It could be countered that the first quotation focuses on ordinary logic (which supposedly deals with static "states of affairs"), while the second emphasises the active nature of the search for knowledge. So, there is no conflict here at all!

 

In fact, as noted below, ordinary reasoning makes use of countless verbs, adverbs, and adjectives, so it isn't the least bit 'static'. Furthermore, many of the nouns we use don't imply a 'static' view of the world, either. For example, anyone who thought our concept of a river implied that they were changeless, or didn't flow, would reveal a seriously flawed understanding both of language and the world. Indeed, Heraclitus, the dialectical guru whom DM-fans endlessly quote, used the fact that rivers flow to argue for universal change! The same can be said about our use of the following nouns: wind, hurricane, wave, runner, explosion, inflation, human being, cat, dog, rabbit... If anyone who used these terms thought they were talking about something static or changeless, they would merely be advertising their own lack of facility with language and their defective knowledge of the world.

 

Furthermore, anyone who argued that "We do not sit around passively waiting for the world to impress its 'reality' on us. Instead, as is now widely recognised, we get much of our most basic knowledge through taking action", but who then went on to claim that "Verbal reasoning commonly appears to be about 'states of affairs' -- the world seen as static...", would have some explaining to do. How is it possible to argue (consistently) one minute that "verbal reasoning" is somehow static while the search for knowledge isn't? If our reasoning is "static" how could the search for knowledge fail to be the opposite of "static"? Do we not "reason" while we search for knowledge? Do scientists and engineers not use language in their work? Donaldson failed to explain this incongruity, and it seems to have sailed right over W&G's heads, too.

 

[FL = Formal Logic; MFL = Modern FL; AFL = Aristotelian FL.]

 

Be this as it may, it might well be wondered what "ordinary logic" has to do with FL. W&G also failed to say, too, and it isn't hard to see why: there is no connection. Anyone who reads through any book on MFL -- or who consults websites devoted to MFL, or even AFL -- will soon discover that they have absolutely nothing to do with "ordinary logic", whatever that is. As I have pointed out at Wikipedia (in response to an individual who claimed to be able to think in syllogisms and the formulae found in MFL):

 

Thanks for those thoughts, during the expression of which, by the way, you did not use even so much as one syllogism or a single wff [added on edit -- wff = well-formed formula -- RL] from Principia, but you will note that I in fact said this:

 

"Does anyone seriously think that people actually cogitate in syllogisms, or that they use the formal calculi found in Principia Mathematica when they reason?"

 

I did not speculate whether or not there were maverick individuals on the planet who might at least claim they think in syllogisms (a remarkably useless and inefficient way to think, anyway) or the calculi of Principia (but I retain a healthy scepticism that you actually think using symbols like this: ~[(P→Q)v(P→R)(P→(QvR))], or this ~[~(Ex)(Fx&~Gx)(x)(Fx→Gx)]), but whether "people" do this, i.e., the majority of the population. And if they don't, then logic can't express 'laws of thought', otherwise we'd all be at it, and we'd have been doing it for thousands of years before Russell and/or Aristotle were thought of.

 

But, and more importantly, even if everyone on the planet thought in syllogisms etc., that would still not make logic the study of the 'laws of thought' -- as I also pointed out:

 

"If logic were the science of what went on in people's heads (or the study of the 'laws of thought' -- added comment), then logicians would busy themselves with brain scans, surveys, psychometric tests, and the like. They certainly would not bother with all those useless theorems and proofs."

 

My comments still stand, therefore.

 

Furthermore, as noted above, Donaldson and W&G ignored the thousands of verbs, adverbs, and adjectives we have available to us in ordinary language, which alone shows that 'ordinary logic', whatever it turns out to be, isn't as they would have us believe. [Again, I have listed several dozen such words, here.]

 

More importantly, even though Donaldson wrote long after logicians began to explore what has come to be known as Informal Logic [IF] -- a discipline that rapidly gained momentum in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and which focuses on what might otherwise be called 'ordinary logic' -- she clearly neglected to take this development into account. Of course, that might be because she is only interested in how children learn to reason. However, at least in so far as IF deals exclusively with the reasoning strategies adopted by adult speakers, it fails to support what Donaldson has to say about these supposedly 'static states of affairs'. As a result of their self-inflicted ignorance, W&G also failed to notice this.

 

Apart from that, W&G offered no absolutely evidence in support of the accusations they continually level against FL. But, that is just par for the course for these two; the allegations they direct at FL are left totally unsubstantiated, save for the above reference to Donaldson's similarly baseless assertions. However, what they have to say is not only demonstrably false, it is grossly inaccurate -- indeed, as we will discover as the rest of this Essay unfolds. [See also, here.]

 

The same can be said -- but perhaps with even more justification -- about the allegations advanced by other dialecticians, who quote even fewer (i.e., zero!) sources in support of their hackneyed accusations.

 

Nevertheless, as DM-theorists see things, the problem appears to be that even though they acknowledge that FL works well enough in everyday contexts, it can't cope with motion and change, with "long drawn out processes", or the complex, 'contradictory' nature of reality. That is because it supposedly operates with a "static" view of the world -- or, at least, it employs "fixed and immutable" concepts.

 

But, is there any truth to these allegations?

 

Dialectical Fabulation Strikes Again

 

As we will soon find out, when these accusations are examined a little more closely, they bear no resemblance to the truth.

 

FL And Change

 

Unfounded Allegations

 

In fact, as is well known, the criticisms DM-fans level against FL echo Hegel's own criticisms of the FL of his day, which was itself a garbled and bowdlerized version of AFL.1

 

The reasoning behind that attitude was outlined by Rees:

 

"Formal categories, putting things in labelled boxes, will always be an inadequate way of looking at change and development…because a static definition can't cope with the way in which a new content emerges from old conditions." [Rees (1998), p.59.]

 

The claim that concepts aren't 'static', but develop and change, was central to Hegelian Idealism. Nevertheless, dialecticians are careful to emphasise that even though their ideas have been derived from one of the most notorious examples of Absolute Idealism ever inflicted on humanity, their theory, DM, represents an inversion of that system, which has supposedly put the dialectic "back on its feet", preserving its "rational core". [I have questioned the validity of that claim, here.] This enables DM-theorists to provide a materialist account of 'change through contradiction', but only when it has been tested in practice.

 

Or, so we have been told.

 

Whatever merit these claims turn out to have (which is zero, as the rest of this Essay and Essay Eight Parts One, Two and Three will show), I propose only to examine here the idea that FL 'can't cope with change' because it relies on a "fixed" and "static" view of the world, and is somehow, or to some extent, an enemy of change. Again, to quote Rees:

 

"The reason why formal logic is often forced to abandon its own procedures in the face of the facts is that it attempts to analyze a living, evolving reality with static concepts. Formally things are defined statically, according to certain fixed properties -- colour, weight, size, and so on…. [This] is satisfactory only under conditions where the scale of change is not vital to our understanding…. But for more complex tasks in politics, history, and science generally, this will not do. Common sense and formal logic are agreed on static definitions…. But 'dialectical thinking analyzes all phenomena in their continuous change….'" [Ibid., pp.272-73. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

However, and consistent with other dialecticians (who, as we have seen, advance similar assertions), Rees failed to substantiate these allegations with quotations from, or even references to, a single ancient or modern logic text. In fact, in relation to FL, DM-authors in general -- in fact, unanimously --, rely on little other than unsupported allegations like these. As we will also discover, they have all failed to explain precisely how AFL is quite as handicapped in the way they allege -- save they merely repeat the same baseless assertions year in, year out.

 

And, they all appear to make identical claims. [Irony intended.]

 

Little evidence of the Heraclitean Flux here, it seems!

 

[AFL = Aristotelian FL; MFL = Modern FL.]

 

Indeed, as is easy to show, the revolution in logic that took place over 140 years ago, which replaced traditional AFL with MFL -- and which was largely the result of Frege's work -- has gone almost completely unnoticed by the vast majority of dialecticians.2 The old Aristotelian syllogistic, which DM-theorists almost invariably seem to think comprises the whole of FL, is now only of interest to antiquarians, historians and traditionalists -- and, of course, dialecticians who are sublimely unaware of these path-breaking developments. Here, again, are W&G:

 

"It is an astonishing fact that the basic laws of formal logic worked out by Aristotle have remained fundamentally unchanged for over two thousand years. In this period, we have witnessed a continuous process of change in all spheres of science, technology and human thought. And yet scientists have been content to continue to use essentially the same methodological tools that were used by the mediaeval School men in the days when science was still on the level of alchemy." [Woods and Grant (1995/2007), p.89/p.93. Bold emphasis added. I have slightly qualified my comments about W&G on this topic in Note Two, link above.]

 

Here, too is Trotsky (in an open letter to James Burnham):

 

"I know of two systems of logic worthy of attention: the logic of Aristotle (formal logic) and the logic of Hegel (the dialectic). Aristotelian logic takes as its starting point immutable objects and phenomena. The scientific thought of our epoch studies all phenomena in their origin, change and disintegration. Do you hold that the progress of the sciences, including Darwinism, Marxism, modern physics, chemistry, etc., has not influenced in any way the forms of our thought? In other words, do you hold that in a world where everything changes, the syllogism alone remains unchanging and eternal?... If you consider that the syllogism as immutable, i.e., has neither origin nor development, then it signifies that to you it is the product of divine revelation. But if you acknowledge that the logical forms of our thought develop in the process of our adaptation to nature, then please take the trouble to in form us just who following Aristotle analyzed and systematized the subsequent progress of logic. So long as you do not clarify this point, I shall take the liberty of asserting that to identify logic (the dialectic) with religion reveals utter ignorance and superficiality in the basic questions of human thought." [Trotsky (1971), pp.91-92. Bold emphases added.]

 

To which Burnham not unreasonably replied:

 

"You, however, serve up to us only a stale re-hash of Engels. The latest scientist admitted to your pages is -- Darwin; apart from Aristotle, the only 'logic worthy of attention' is that of -- Hegel, the century-dead arch-muddler of human thought. Comrade Trotsky, as we Americans ask: where have you been all these years? During the 125 years since Hegel wrote, science has progressed more than during the entire preceding history of mankind. During that same period, after 2300 years of stability, logic has undergone a revolutionary transformation: a transformation in which Hegel and his ideas have had an influence of exactly zero....

 

"In a most sarcastic vein, you keep asking me to 'take the trouble to inform us just who following Aristotle analysed and systematised the subsequent progress of logic', 'perhaps you will call my attention to those works which should supplant the system of dialectic materialism for the proletariat...' as if this demand were so obviously impossible of fulfillment (sic) that I must collapse like a pricked balloon before it. The sarcasm is misplaced, for the demand is the easiest in the world to fulfil. Do you wish me to prepare a reading list, Comrade Trotsky? It would be long, ranging from the work of the brilliant mathematicians and logicians of the middle of the last century to one climax in the monumental Principia Mathematica of Russell and Whitehead (the historic turning point in modern logic), and then spreading out in many directions -- one of the most fruitful represented by the scientists, mathematicians and logicians now cooperating in the new Encyclopedia of Unified Science. For logic in its narrower sense, C. I. Lewis' Survey of Symbolic Logic is an excellent, though not easy, introduction. I am afraid, however, that in all of these works you will find scarcely a single reference to Hegelian (or Marxian) dialectics; nor will you in those of a single reputable contemporary scientist -- except the Soviet scientists, whose necks depend upon such references, or one or two Kremlin hangers-on, like J. B. S. Haldane, in other nations. The study of these works would be not uninteresting; but I am afraid that when we finished we would be not much nearer the solution of the question of the role of Russia in the war." [Trotsky (1971), pp.236-37. Burnham's response hasn't been published alongside the on-line edition of Trotsky (1971), but it has been posted as a separate entry at the James Burnham archive. Italic emphases in the published edition, but omitted from the on-line version. Links added.]

 

Even worse, after another seventy years, DM-fans refuse to be told; they still think logic began and ended with Aristotle!

 

Admittedly, throughout its history Logic has been conflated by many with a host of unrelated disciplines -- e.g., Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ontology, Theology, Psychology (including the so-called "Laws Of Thought"), Mathematics, and, indeed, with Science in general. In such circumstances, it is understandable that the only legitimate role that FL can occupy -- the study of inference -- was all too easily forgotten. Alas, this is just one more tradition DM-fans have been only too keen to appropriate and then propagate.3

 

Validity And Truth

 

One explanation for this sorry state of affairs is that DM-theorists have allowed themselves to be led astray by what is in fact an elementary mistake -- an error novices often make --, that is, confusing validity with truth. Hence, as will soon become apparent, the limitations DM-theorists attribute to FL merely arise from their own misidentification of rules of inference with logical, or empirical, truths, and not from the supposed inability of FL to accommodate change.4

 

Unfortunately, this accusation is far easier to make than substantiate. That isn't because it is incorrect, or even because it is questionable, but because dialecticians rarely bother to say exactly why they regard FL as defective -- that is, again, over and above merely asserting this assumed fact, copying it off one another generation after generation without making any attempt to justify or substantiate it.

 

Neither is it to claim that DM-theorists fail to make the point that FL is defective because it deals with "static" forms, etc. Far from it, they all join in this tedious chorus, as we have seen. It is simply to underline the fact that they are content to rely on the repetition of this baseless assertion without ever bothering to check whether or not it is correct -- or, for that matter, without explaining what it could possibly mean.5

 

To be sure, the confusion of rules of inference with 'logical' or metaphysical 'truths' dates back to Aristotle himself (and arguably even earlier, to Plato and Parmenides, at least). And, it isn't hard to see why this should have been so. If a theorist (or, indeed, an entire culture) believes that everything was created by a 'deity' of some sort, then they will find it but a short step to conclude that what they take to be fundamental truths about 'reality' somehow express how the 'deity' went about creating everything, and, further, how, in their own thought they must reflect how this 'Being' actually 'reasons' so that they might emulate as best they could. If so, this would have seemed to them to connect 'correct' thinking about 'reality', society and 'cognition' with the divinely-constituted principles that govern absolutely everything in existence. Logic would thus become a study of 'divine thought processes', after the event, interpreted now as some sort of Super-Science that supposedly covered everything in the entire universe -- and human thought, into the bargain -- subsequently re-branded as "Metaphysics". If you are capable of thinking 'His' thought after 'Him', then who needs evidence? You can merrily impose these ideas on 'reality', and continue merrily with your day. DM theorists have caught a serious dose of this themselves, as we saw in Essay Two.

 

As Umberto Eco points out (in relation to the 'Western' Christian tradition, which, of course, drew heavily on Greek Philosophy and Religion):

 

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

 

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

 

"...Clearly we are here in the presence of a motif, common to other religions and mythologies -- that of the nomothete, the name-giver, the creator of language." [Eco (1997), pp.7-8. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Fast forward a score or more centuries and this ancient set of presuppositions re-surfaced in Hegel's work (which was supposedly presuppositionless!) as an integral part of a mystical, ontological doctrine connected with what he took to be a range of supposedly 'self-developing' concepts -- which idea was itself the result of an egregious error he committed concerning the nature of predication (a topic covered in detail in Essay Three Part One) -- further compounded by an even more egregious screw-up over the nature of the LOI.

 

[LOI = Law of identity.]

 

'Presuppositionless', my foot! Spot the presuppositions:

 

"This objective thinking, then, is the content of pure science. Consequently, far from it being formal, far from it standing in need of a matter to constitute an actual and true cognition, it is its content alone which has absolute truth, or, if one still wanted to employ the word matter, it is the veritable matter -- but a matter which is not external to the form, since this matter is rather pure thought and hence the absolute form itself. Accordingly, logic is to be understood as the system of pure reason, as the realm of pure thought. This realm is truth as it is without veil and in its own absolute nature. It can therefore be said that this content is the exposition of God as he is in his eternal essence before the creation of nature and a finite mind.

 

"Anaxagoras is praised as the man who first declared that Nous, thought, is the principle of the world, that the essence of the world is to be defined as thought. In so doing he laid the foundation for an intellectual view of the universe, the pure form of which must be logic.

 

"What we are dealing with in logic is not a thinking about something which exists independently as a base for our thinking and apart from it, nor forms which are supposed to provide mere signs or distinguishing marks of truth; on the contrary, the necessary forms and self-determinations of thought are the content and the ultimate truth itself." [Hegel (1999), pp.50-51, §53-54. Bold emphases and link added. Italic emphases in the original. I have reproduced the published version, since the on-line version differs from it; I have informed the editors over at the Marxist Internet Archive about this. (They have now corrected the on-line version!)]

 

In the above book alone, readers will find page-after-page of 'presuppositionless', a priori dogmatism like this. Hegel even manages to contradict himself within the space of two paragraphs in his Shorter Logic (somewhat ironically one feels):

 

"Philosophy misses an advantage enjoyed by the other sciences. It cannot like them rest the existence of its objects on the natural admissions of consciousness, nor can it assume that its method of cognition, either for starting or for continuing, is one already accepted. The objects of philosophy, it is true, are upon the whole the same as those of religion. In both the object is Truth, in that supreme sense in which God and God only is the Truth. Both in like manner go on to treat of the finite worlds of Nature and the human Mind, with their relation to each other and to their truth in God. Some acquaintance with its objects, therefore, philosophy may and even must presume, that and a certain interest in them to boot, were it for no other reason than this: that in point of time the mind makes general images of objects, long before it makes notions of them, and that it is only through these mental images, and by recourse to them, that the thinking mind rises to know and comprehend thinkingly.

 

"But with the rise of this thinking study of things, it soon becomes evident that thought will be satisfied with nothing short of showing the necessity of its facts, of demonstrating the existence of its objects, as well as their nature and qualities. Our original acquaintance with them is thus discovered to be inadequate. We can assume nothing and assert nothing dogmatically; nor can we accept the assertions and assumptions of others. And yet we must make a beginning: and a beginning, as primary and underived, makes an assumption, or rather is an assumption. It seems as if it were impossible to make a beginning at all." [Hegel (1975), p.3., §1. Bold emphases alone added; links in the on-line version.]

 

So, while Hegel says we can "assume nothing and assert nothing dogmatically", he seems quite happy to assert dogmatically that the object of Philosophy is "Truth" and that "God and only God is Truth", that "the mind makes general images of objects long before it makes notions of them" -- even while he happily asserted in the first paragraph that "philosophy may and even must presume" certain things about "objects", and that to make a start in Philosophy is to make an "assumption". One may well wonder why anyone took this confused bumbler seriously.

 

Be this as it may, when this misbegotten 'ontological' interpretation of FL is finally abandoned (or 'un-presupposed'), the temptation to identify logic with science (with the "Laws of Thought", or even with 'absolute' or 'ultimate' truth) loses whatever superficial plausibility it might once seemed to have possessed. If FL is solely concerned with inference, then there is no good reason to saddle it with such inappropriate metaphysical baggage, and every reason not to. On the other hand, if there is a link between FL and metaphysical, scientific or 'ultimate' truth -- as both legend and Hegel would have us believe --, then that thesis needs substantiation. It isn't enough just to assume, or merely assert, that such a link exists, as has generally been the case in Idealist and DM-circles ever since.

 

In addition, the idea that truths about fundamental aspects of reality can be uncovered by an examination of how human beings reason is highly suspect in itself; but, like most things, so much depends on what is supposed to follow from that assumption. As we will see, the line taken on this issue sharply distinguishes materialist thought from Idealist myth-making. Unfortunately, to date, DM-theorists have been more content with tail-ending Traditional Philosophy in supposing that logic functions as a sort of cosmic code-cracker, capable of unmasking profound truths about (otherwise) 'hidden' aspects of 'reality' lying behind 'appearances' -- aka the search for 'underlying essences' -- than they have been with justifying this entire line-of-thought with evidence and argument, as opposed to assumption and assertion. Nor have they been concerned to examine the motives that gave life to this class-compromised approach to Super-Knowledge, concocted over two thousand years ago in Ancient Greece by ruling-class ideologues.6

 

[Concerning other ancient ideas that language somehow 'reflects' the world, and that truths about nature can be derived from words, or thought, alone, see Dyke (2007). However, the reader mustn't assume that I agree with Dyke's own metaphysical conclusions (or, indeed, with any metaphysical conclusions whatsoever). As Essay Twelve Part One shows, the opposite is in fact the case: I regard them all as non-sensical and incoherent.]

 

Of course, modern logicians are much clearer about the distinction between rules of inference and logical truths than their counterparts were in the Ancient World (or even in the Nineteenth Century!), but that fact just makes the criticisms DM-theorists level against FL even more anachronistic and difficult to fathom.6ao

 

Anyway, if materialists are to reject the mystical view of nature prevalent in Ancient Greece -- and which is both implicit and explicit in Hegelian Ontology --, as surely they must, then the idea that FL is just another branch of the sciences proper becomes even more difficult to sustain.

 

Indeed, how would it be possible for language to 'reflect' the logic of the world if the world had no logic to it? Which it couldn't have unless Nature were 'Mind', or the product of 'Mind'.

 

If the development of Nature isn't in fact a (disguised) development of 'Mind' (as Hegel supposed), how can concepts drawn from the development of 'Mind' apply to Nature, unless once more it were 'Mind', or the product of 'Mind'?

 

Of course, dialecticians have responded to this with an appeal to the RTK (i.e., the sophisticated version of this theory); but, as we will see (in Essays Three and Twelve), that, too, was an unwise move.

 

[RTK = Reflection Theory of Knowledge, to be covered in Essay Twelve Part Four.]

 

This means that if FL is solely concerned with inferential links between propositions and conclusions -- and isn't directly concerned with their truth-values -- then the criticism that FL can't account for change becomes even more bizarre.

 

It is instructive to recall that since the Renaissance, 'western' humanity has (largely) learnt to separate religion from science so that the sorts of things that used to be said as a matter-of-course about science (for example, that it was the "systematic study of God's work", etc.) look rather odd and anachronistic today (that is, to all but the incurably religious -- or the naively superstitious). In like manner, previous generations of logicians used to confuse logic not just with science, but with the "Laws of Thought", also as a matter-of-course, and they did this for theological and ideological reasons, too. In that case, one would have thought that avowed materialists (i.e., dialecticians) would be the very last to perpetuate and then propagate this ancient confusion.

 

Clearly not.

 

As will be argued at length later on at this site, only if it can be shown (and not simply assumed or asserted) that nature has a rational structure would it be plausible to suppose that there is any connection at all between the way human beings think or reason and the underlying constitution of nature. Short of that, the idea that there is such a link between the way we draw conclusions and fundamental aspects of 'reality' loses all credibility. Why should the way we knit premises and conclusions together mirror the structure of the universe? Why should our use of words have such profound 'ontological' implications, valid for all of space and time?6a

 

Did the rest of us miss a meeting? Or fail to receive a memo?

 

Even to ask these questions is to answer them: there is no reason to suppose any of this -- that is, other than the class-compromised motives that stemmed from religious and ideological considerations, which were simply taken as read many centuries ago.

 

Indeed, how is it possible that certain metaphysical truths are only capable of being derived from, or expressed in, Indo-European grammar? Was this group of humans blessed by the 'gods'? Are there really "subjects", "copulas" and "predicates" out there in nature for language to 'reflect'?

 

On the other hand, if it could be shown that the universe does have an underlying, 'rational' structure, then the conclusion that nature is 'Mind' (or, that it was constituted by 'Mind') would be difficult to resist. If all that is real is indeed 'rational', then the identification of rules of inference with the "laws of thought" -- and hence with fundamental metaphysical truths about "Being" itself -- becomes irresistible.

 

As noted above: the History of Philosophy, Theology and Mysticism reveal that from such esoteric assumptions it is but a short step to the derivation of truths from thought alone. A priori thesis-mongering and Idealism thus go hand-in-hand; if Nature is Ideal, then truths can legitimately follow from thought, or language, alone -- a point underlined by George Novack:

 

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

 

In several other Essays posted at this site (for example, here and here) we will see that this is a step DM-theorists and metaphysicians of every stripe were only too eager to take -- and, many times over, too.

 

Nevertheless, there is precious little evidence to suggest that DM-theorists have ever given much thought to this particular implication of the idea that DL reflects the underlying structure of reality -- i.e., they have given little thought to the idea that their strain of logic actually implies reality is Ideal. If logic does indeed reflect the structure of 'Being', then 'Being' must be 'Mind', after all.

 

[On this, see Essay Twelve Part Four, to be published in 2019 -- summary here.]

 

This conclusion only further strengthens the suspicion that the much-vaunted materialist "inversion" -- supposedly inflicted on Hegel's system/'method' by early dialecticians -- was merely formal. This in turn implies that DM is simply inverted Idealism -- a form of Idealism nonetheless. If so, questions about the nature of Logic cannot but be related to the serious doubts raised at this site about the allegedly scientific status of DM. In that case, if Logic is capable of revealing fundamental, scientific truths about nature -- as opposed to its being a systematic study of inference, and only that --, then it becomes harder to resist the conclusion that DM is indeed just another form of Idealism that has yet to 'come out of the closet'.

 

Anyway, since the aim of this section is to examine the specific allegations DM-theorists level against FL, the above topic will be addressed in other Essays posted at this site (for example, Essays Three Part One and Twelve Parts One and Four).

 

FL And "Static" Definitions

 

As it turns out, despite the dearth of evidence offered in support of the allegations examined in an earlier section, there is good reason to question the usual accusation advanced by dialecticians that FL deals only with "static" definitions, and hence that it can't cope with change.

 

Variables And Change

 

As we have seen, DM-theorists regularly advance the following unsupported allegations about FL:

 

"The old logic has fallen into Verachtung [disrepute]. It requires transformation.... The old, formal logic is exactly like a child's game, making pictures out of jig-saw pieces....

 

"In the old logic there is no transition, development (of concept and thought), there is not 'eines inneren, notwen-digen Zusammenhangs' [an inner, necessary connection] of all the parts and 'Übergang' [transition] of some parts into others." [Lenin (1961), pp.96-97. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"The Aristotelian logic of the simple syllogism starts from the proposition that 'A' is equal to 'A'…. In reality 'A' is not equal to 'A'. This is easy to prove if we observe these two letters under a lens -– they are quite different to each other. But one can object, the question is not the size or the form of the letters, since they are only symbols for equal quantities, for instance, a pound of sugar. The objection is beside the point; in reality a pound of sugar is never equal to a pound of sugar -– a more delicate scale always discloses a difference. Again one can object: but a pound of sugar is equal to itself. Neither is true (sic) -– all bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour etc. They are never equal to themselves." [Trotsky (1971), pp.63-64.]

 

"It is necessary to acquire a concrete understanding of the object as an integral system, not as isolated fragments; with all its necessary interconnections, not torn out of context, like a butterfly pinned to a collector's board; in its life and movement, not as something lifeless and static. Such an approach is in open conflict with the so-called 'laws' of formal logic, the most absolute expression of dogmatic thought ever conceived, representing a kind of mental rigor mortis. But nature lives and breathes, and stubbornly resists the embraces of formalistic thinking. 'A' is not equal to 'A.' Subatomic particles are and are not. Linear processes end in chaos. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Quantity changes into quality. Evolution itself is not a gradual process, but interrupted by sudden leaps and catastrophes....

 

"The problem is that the categories of formal logic, drawn from quite a limited range of experience and observation, are really valid only within these limits. They do, in fact, cover a great deal of everyday phenomena, but are quite inadequate to deal with more complex processes, involving movement, turbulence, contradiction, and the change from quality to quality." [Woods and Grant (2007), pp.86-88. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"A view that is often encountered among dialectical materialists is that formal logic is applicable to static situations, but since, in reality, nothing is static, formal logic is superseded by dialectical logic, which permits logical contradictions. Within the framework of this view, thought is the appropriation (in the mind) of the objectively existing material world, while dialectical logic, that is, dialectics taken as logic, must be considered to be the laws of thought (or correct thinking). Thus, in the approximation where things are viewed as static, formal logic becomes the laws of thought, equally in approximation. When, however, things are viewed in their motion, change, and development, dialectical logic becomes properly the laws of thought." [Marquit (1990), quoted from here.]

 

"Formal categories, putting things in labelled boxes, will always be an inadequate way of looking at change and development…because a static definition can't cope with the way in which a new content emerges from old conditions." [Rees (1998), p.59.]

 

"The reason why formal logic is often forced to abandon its own procedures in the face of the facts is that it attempts to analyze a living, evolving reality with static concepts. Formally things are defined statically, according to certain fixed properties -- colour, weight, size, and so on…. [This] is satisfactory only under conditions where the scale of change is not vital to our understanding…. But for more complex tasks in politics, history, and science generally, this will not do. Common sense and formal logic are agreed on static definitions…. But 'dialectical thinking analyzes all phenomena in their continuous change….'" [Ibid., pp.272-73. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"There are three fundamental laws of formal logic. First and most important is the law of identity. This law can be stated in various ways such as: A thing is always equal to or identical with itself. In algebraic terms: A equals A.

 

"...If a thing is always and under all conditions equal to or identical with itself, it can never be unequal to or different from itself. This conclusion follows logically and inevitably from the law of identity. If A always equals A, it can never equal non-A." [Novack (1971), p.20.]

 

"Formal Logic starts from the proposition that A is always equal to A. We know that this law of identity contains some measure of truth…. Now…when we go to reality and look for evidence of the truth of the proposition: A equals A…we find that the opposite of this axiom is far closer to the truth." [Ibid., pp.32-33.]

 

"Dialectics is the logic of change....

 

"To understand the significance of this compare it with what is know as 'formal logic' (originally developed by Aristotle and usually thought of as the rules of sound thinking). The basic idea of formal logic is that something either is the case or is not the case, but that it can't be both at the same time. For example, the cat is on the mat or it is not on the mat.

 

"For many purposes formal logic is useful and necessary. But as soon as you take movement and change into account, it ceases to be adequate. A cat moving goes through a moment when it is in the process of passing onto the mat or in the process of passing off it -- when it is both on and off the mat. Dialectics is in advance of formal logic because it enables us to grasp this contradiction." [Molyneux (1987), pp.49-50.]

 

"This matters because the dominant mode of thinking, based on the logic developed by Aristotle, is not founded on the principle of universal change, rather it deals with fixed states or 'things'. Its basic axioms are that A = A (a thing is equal to itself) and A does not = non-A (a thing is not equal to something other than itself), from which are derived sequences of sound reasoning known as syllogisms....

 

"This formal logic was, and is, all well and good and very necessary for practical human affairs but it is limited -- it excludes change. Dialectical logic moves beyond formal logic by starting not with 'things' but with processes, processes of coming into being and passing out of being. The moment processes of change are fed into the equation it becomes necessary to deal with contradiction. If state A (e.g. day) changes into state B (night) it passes through a phase of A not being A or being both A and B (twilight)." [Molyneux, 'The Marxist Dialectic'.]

 

"Dialectics, or the logic of motion, is distinct from formal or static logic. Formal logic is based on three fundamental laws:

 

"(a) The law of identity: A is equal to A; a thing is always equal to itself.

 

"(b) The law of contradiction: A is different from non-A; A can never equal non-A.

 

"(c) The law of exclusion: either A, or non-A; nothing can be neither A nor non-A.

 

"A moment's reflection will allow us to conclude that formal logic is characterised by the thought processes which consist of putting motion, change, into parenthesis. All the laws enumerated above are true, so long as we abstract from motion. A will remain A so long as it does not change. A is different from non-A so long as it is not transformed into its opposite. A and non-A exclude each other so long as there is no movement which combines A and non-A, etc. These laws are obviously insufficient if we consider the transformation of the chrysalid (sic) into the butterfly, the passage of the adolescent into the adult, the movement of life into death, the birth of a new species or a new social order, the combination of two cells into a new one, etc." [Mandel (1979), pp.160-61. Italics in the original.]

 

"The 'logic' that we have been discussing is very different from what commonly passes for logic, the formal logic which deals with syllogisms and is to be found in the text book. Formal logic is necessary for dealing with the abstractions which are formed in the first stage of thinking.... The essence of its technique is to keep apart, to prevent from confounding the distinctions which have been made. It is therefore based on a development of certain very fundamental principles about identity and contradiction, principles such as the famous 'law of the excluded middle' which states that a thing must be one thing (say 'A') or not that thing (say 'not A'). It can't be both 'A' and 'not A' at the same time.

 

"This logic, which may be termed the 'logic of common sense,' is perfectly justified and indeed essential within certain limits -- the same limits within which the abstractions it deals with are valid.  But just because it is based on taking these abstractions, for the time being, as absolute, and because it necessarily overlooks their inter-connections, and the development of one quality or thing into another, formal logic is unable to grasp the inner process of change, to show its dialectical character. For this we require dialectical logic...." [Guest (1939), pp.71-72. Italics in the original.]

 

"Dialectics is a way of studying the phenomena of the world in a way that is quite a bit different than formal logic. Logic is undoubtedly very useful in many instances, but it has its limitations. Even the fundamental axioms of logic, which often seem intuitively obvious to western thinkers (e.g. A = A), only really hold when looking at the world at fixed moments in time." [Quoted from here.]

 

"Formal logic regards things as fixed and motionless." [Rob Sewell.]

 

Attentive readers will no doubt have noticed that every single one of the above omits any evidence that FL is guilty in the way they allege -- any who still doubt this are invited to re-check the references I have given above, as well as the dozens more cited elsewhere in this Essay and at this site. What is more, DM-fans continue to assert such things despite being asked (repeatedly) to provide evidence and proof (here is just the latest example -- from May 2015 --, and here is my request for this comrade to provide the 'missing' evidence -- which, predictably, was just ignored). [Unfortunately, these links are now dead!]

 

[FL = Formal Logic; AFL = Aristotelian FL.]

 

However, far from it being the case that FL depends on 'changeless categories', even traditional AFL employed variables to stand for propositions and predicates (i.e., general terms) long before they appeared in mathematics. This fact alone shows that traditional AFL was no more incapable of handling change than is modern Mathematics.7

 

Here is what the late Professor Nidditch had to say about AFL:

 

"One has to give Aristotle great credit for being fully conscious of this [i.e., of the need for a general account of inference -- RL] and for seeing that the way to general laws is by the use of variables, that is letters which are signs for every and any thing whatever in a certain range of things: a range of qualities, substances, relations, numbers or of any other sort or form of existence....

 

"If one keeps in mind that the Greeks were very uncertain about and very far from letting variables take the place of numbers or number words in algebra, which is why they made little headway in that branch of mathematics...then there will be less danger of Aristotle's invention of variables for use in Syllogistic being overlooked or undervalued. Because of this idea of his, logic was sent off from the very start on the right lines." [Nidditch (1998), pp.8-9. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

As Engels himself pointed out, the introduction of variables into Algebra allowed mathematicians to cope with change. That being the case, it is difficult to understand why DM-theorists believe that traditional FL can't cope with change, either. If mathematicians are able to depict change by their use of variables, why deny this of traditional formal logicians who employed the very same device at least 2400 years ago?

 

Of course, it could always be argued that the variables that designate quantities in mathematics aren't at all the same as the variables that relate to concepts, properties or qualities employed in FL. That is undeniable, but not relevant. The point is that either sort of variable allows for change, even if they do so in different ways.

 

[I cover this specific point again in the next sub-section.]

 

Static Terms -- Or Slippery Arguments?

 

Despite this, does the charge that FL can't cope with change itself hold water? In order to answer that question, consider one particular valid argument form taken from AFL:

 

L1: Premise 1: No As are B.

 

L2: Premise 2: All Cs are B.

 

L3: Ergo: No As are C.8

 

[Where "A", "B" and "C" stand for noun phrases, such as "mammal", "mortal", or "rational". Except when I am directly quoting DM-sources, where I use capital letters in the above way in this Essay I will highlight them in bold to distinguish them from the ordinary use of capital letters.]

 

With respect to this argument schema, the only condition validity requires is the following: if, for a given interpretation (on that, see the next but one paragraph), the premises are true then the conclusion is true. This is a necessary condition, but not sufficient. For it to be sufficient, another necessary condition must apply: the conclusion must follow from the premises by the rules of inference (for that formal system).

 

This characterisation of validity isn't affected by the fact that schematic premises can't themselves be true or false -- plainly, since they are schematic sentences, not propositions. The point is that for any legitimate interpretation of these schematic sentences, if the premises are true, the conclusion is true -- providing the latter follows from the premises according to the rules of inference, but it will automatically follow from them if the original schematic argument is valid. However, in the main body of this Essay, I have given an interpretation of this syllogistic form that validly argues from false premises to a true conclusion, a condition many novices find hard to accept -- in this case, had the premises been true, the conclusion would be true. [A clear explanation of this, with many more examples, can be found here.] "Legitimate" means substitution instances that follow from the syntactic rules of the given system. So, for example, a Proper Name can't be substituted for a schematic predicate expression, nor vice versa.

 

It is also important to note that "Interpretation" doesn't mean the same in logic as it does in the vernacular; it relates to the substitution instances that result from the systematic replacement of variable letters with suitable words drawn from some vocabulary or other (often these are from ordinary language, but they can also be taken from technical, scientific or mathematical languages), according to the syntax and the semantics of the formal system involved.

 

One interpretation of L1 that might illustrate this is the following:

 

Premise 1: No moving object is stationary.

 

Premise 2: All objects with zero velocity are stationary.

 

Ergo: No moving object has zero velocity.

 

[L1: Premise 1: No As are B.

 

L2: Premise 2: All Cs are B.

 

L3: Ergo: No As are C.]

 

[Certain stylistic changes were required here to prevent this ordinary language interpretation becoming somewhat stilted.]

 

The above syllogism is valid, and would remain valid even if all motion ceased. But, it also copes with movement, and hence with change, as is clear from what it says.

 

And we don't have to employ what seem to be 'necessarily true' premises (or, indeed, use this particular argument form) to make the point:

 

Premise 1: All human beings are aging.

 

Premise 2: All Londoners are human beings.

 

Ergo: All Londoners are aging.

 

[Premise 1: All As are B.

 

[Premise 2: All Cs are A.

 

[Ergo: All Cs are B.]

 

Admittedly, phrases like "aging" and "one with zero velocity" aren't of the sort that Aristotle would have countenanced in a syllogism, so far as I can determine. However, if we free Aristotle's logic from his metaphysics, the above inferences are clearly valid, based on a syllogistic form. Anyway, the term "aging" can easily be replaced by a bona fide universal term (such as "the class of aging animals"), to create the following stilted, but genuine, syllogism:

 

Premise 1: All human beings are members of the class of aging animals.

 

Premise 2: All Londoners are human beings.

 

Ergo: All Londoners are members of the class of aging animals.

 

[Except, of course, Aristotle would have employed "All men" in place of "All human beings".]

 

Finally, here is an argument that depends on change:

 

Premise 1: All rivers flow to the sea.

 

Premise 2: The Mississippi is a river.

 

Ergo: The Mississippi flows to the sea.

 

A couple of points are worth making about the above argument:

 

(a) In order for the conclusion to follow, the premises of an argument don't have to be true -- clearly Premise 1 is false.

 

(b) The above argument isn't of the classic syllogistic form, although it parallels it.

 

(c) Anyone who understands English will already know that rivers are changeable, and that they flow; this example alone shows that logic can not only cope with changeable 'concepts', it actually employs them. Hence, logic is capable of employing countless words that express change in a far more varied and complex form than anything Hegel (or his latter-day DM-epigones) ever imagined. [On that, see here.]

 

Here is another example:

 

Premise 1: All fires will release heat.

 

Premise 2: I have just lit a fire.

 

Ergo: My fire will release heat.

 

Or, even:

 

Premise 1: All sound waves transmit energy.

 

Premise 2: Thunder is a sound wave.

 

Ergo: Thunder transmits energy.

 

The above examples are perhaps more akin to argument patterns found in IF, but that is also true of many interpretations of argument schemas drawn from FL.

 

To be sure, the above changes aren't of the sort that interest dialecticians, but, as I pointed out above, examples like this have only been referenced in order to refute the claim that FL can't cope with change. Combine this with the additional thought that dialectics can't cope with change anyway (on that, see here), at which point the alleged 'superiority of DL over FL turns into its own opposite. [Which is yet another rather ironic 'dialectical' inversion.]

 

Someone could object that while the above examples might appear to cope with some of the changes we experience in nature and society, they ignore conceptual change, and as such show once again that FL is inferior to DL. I have dealt with conceptual change elsewhere in this Essay.

 

It could further be objected that this fails to show how FL can cope with complex or extended changes.

 

However, I have been studying DM for more years than I care to mention, but I have yet to see a single example of these 'complex drawn-out' changes that DM-fans continually bang on about. Perhaps the following example might allay their qualms:

 

Premise 1: All fertilised chicken eggs will hatch in about 21 days.

 

Premise 2: This egg is a fertilised egg.

 

Ergo: This egg will hatch in 21 days.

 

[Premise 1: All As are B.

 

[Premise 2: All Cs are A.

 

[Ergo: All Cs are B.]

 

[Try saying any of this in Hegel-speak.]

 

It wouldn't be difficult to replace eggs with tectonic plates that move slowly over millions of years, and in complex ways. How much more 'drawn-out' do DM-fans need? Of course, what the latter are looking for are changes expressed in 'dialectical' language, not the language of FL (or even IF). Well, they are welcome to that, especially since 'dialectical' language would in fact make change impossible; but the only point worth making here is that we can now see that both FL and IF can easily cope with 'drawn-out' changes.

 

[IF = Informal Logic.]

 

Returning to the above schema:

 

L1: Premise 1: No As are B.

 

L2: Premise 2: All Cs are B.

 

L3: Ergo: No As are C.

 

In this rather uninspiring valid argument schema the conclusion follows from the premises no matter what legitimate substitution instances replace the variable letters. So, L3 follows from the premises no matter what. But, the argument pattern this schema expresses is transparent to change; that is, while it can cope with change, it takes no stance on it (since it is comprised of schematic sentences that are incapable of being assigned a truth-value until they have been interpreted). Some might regard this as a serious drawback, but it is no more a failing than it would be, say, for Electronics to take no stance on the evolution of Angiosperms -- even though electronic devices may be used to assist in their study. Otherwise, one might just as well complain that FL can't launder clothes or eradicate MRSA. What FL supplies us with are the conceptual tools that enable scientists theorise about change, and much else besides.

 

As noted above, the truth-values of each of the above schematic sentences depend on the interpretation assigned to the variables (i.e., "A", "B" and "C"). The premises of L1 aren't actually about anything until they have been interpreted; before this they are neither true nor false. Not only that, but the indefinite number of ways there are of interpreting schematic letters like these means that it is possible for changeless and changeable items to feature in any of its concrete instances.

 

[That was the point behind the observation made earlier that dialecticians and logical novices often confuse validity with truth; the above schema is valid, but its schematic propositions can't be true or false, for obvious reasons. (For those not too sure: just ask yourself, "Is it true that No As are B?")]

 

Of course, when the method of truth-tables is used (in MFL), truth-values are assigned to such schemas, but, in that case, what is being considered are the truth-values of interpreted propositions, should any be assigned.

 

[I have given an elementary example of the use of truth tables, here.]

 

To illustrate the absurdity of the idea that just because FL uses certain words or letters it can't handle change (or that it uses nothing but 'rigid' terms), consider this parallel argument:

 

(1) If x = 2 and f(x) = 2x + 1, then if y = f(x), y = 5.

 

(2) Therefore, x and y can never change or become any other number.

 

No one would be foolish enough to argue this way in mathematics since that would be to confuse variables with constants. But, if that is the case in mathematics, then DM-inspired allegations about the supposed limitations of FL are all the more bizarre -- to say the least.

 

Of course, and once more, it would be naïve to suppose that the above considerations address issues of concern to DM-theorists. As John Rees himself points out:

 

"Formal categories, putting things in labelled boxes, will always be an inadequate way of looking at change and development…because a static definition can't cope with the way in which a new content emerges from old conditions." [Rees (1998), p.59.]

 

But, as a criticism of FL, this is entirely misguided. FL doesn't put anything in "boxes", and its practitioners don't deny change as a result.

 

[Sure, some logicians might have, or have had, metaphysical reasons for denying change, but that can't be blamed on logic, any more than the belief in three persons in one 'god' (as part the Christian doctrine of the Trinity) can be blamed on mathematics.]

 

Indeed, without an ability to reason discursively (along lines that have been systematised in FL -- and which have been explored more extensively in Informal Logic), dialecticians would themselves find it impossible to argue rationally.

 

[TAR = The Algebra of Revolution; i.e., Rees (1998).]

 

For example, the argument above (from TAR) appears to draw certain conclusions from apparently 'fixed definitions' (or 'fixed'/'relatively fixed' uses) of words -- like "change" and "static" -- in order to make a point about change itself. If, however, Rees's argument is now deliberately and uncharitably mis-interpreted (that is, if we emulate the tactics used by dialecticians when they deliberately misconstrue FL), it would soon turn into a self-refutation. In that case, in order to point out the supposed limitations of FL, Rees found he had to use the sorts of things he accused FL of employing -- i.e., "static" terms. Of course, if this unsympathetic way of reading Rees's book were correct -- or fair -- it would mean that if he and other DM-theorists want to argue validly about the limitations of FL using "static" categories such as these, their arguments would self-destruct along these lines.

 

On the other hand, if dialecticians were to employ 'non-static categories' consistent with their own precepts, then that would undermine any conclusions they hoped to derive no less rapidly. That is because such categories (having no fixed meanings) would sanction no inferences, for it isn't possible to decide what follows from what if the meaning of the terms employed is indeterminate or is liable to change. So, while it is unwise of DM-theorists to criticize FL for employing supposedly changeless categories, it would be even more inept of them to do this while using terms whose meanings are apt to change unpredictably. Hence, in practice, DM-theorists must either ignore their own principles and argue from 'fixed categories' about the limitations of FL, or they must construct a case against FL using 'slippery' terms, which would establish nothing whatsoever.

 

Like it or not, rational criticism of FL can't succeed, or even proceed, if either tactic were adopted.9

 

Some might feel that there is a contradiction here between what was said earlier about variables that can stand for things that change, and the objection above to the effect that changeable terms would prevent a conclusion following from its premises. So, it could be objected that while the following had been claimed earlier about the variables used in FL:

 

RL1: "...the indefinite number of ways there are of interpreting schematic letters like those in L1 [re-quoted below -- RL] means that it is possible for changeless and changeable items to feature in any of its concrete instances...",

 

the following point was also made:

 

RL2: "If, on the other hand, dialecticians were to employ 'non-static categories' consistent with their own precepts, then that would undermine any conclusions they hoped to derive no less rapidly. That is because such categories (having no fixed meanings) would sanction no inferences, for it isn't possible to decide what follows from what if the meaning of the terms employed is indeterminate or is liable to change. So, while it is unwise of DM-theorists to criticize FL for employing supposedly changeless categories, it would be even more inept of them to do this while using terms whose meanings are apt to change unpredictably. Hence, in practice, DM-theorists must either ignore their own principles and argue from 'fixed categories' about the limitations of FL, or they must construct a case against FL using 'slippery' terms, which would establish nothing whatsoever."

 

One minute we are being told that these variables stand for things that can change, the next that the idea that they can change would undermine any conclusion DM-theorists wanted to derive. Which is it to be? Are these variables or are they constants? Do they change within the body of an argument, or do they remain 'fixed' as DM-theorists allege?

 

Of course, the point of RL2 was to bring out the imprecise nature of the allegations levelled by DM-fans. If the denotations of the terms used in FL change within an argument, then L1-L3 might just as well become:

 

L1a: Premise 1: No As are B.

 

L2a: Premise 2: All Cs are D.

 

L3a: Ergo: No Es are F.

 

[L1: Premise 1: No As are B.

 

L2: Premise 2: All Cs are B.

 

L3: Ergo: No As are C.]

 

As B changes into D in L2a, A into E, and C into F, and/or whatever they supposedly stand for in L3a. Clearly, L3a would now no longer follow from L1 and L2.

 

But this is to misread these variables. In order to make this clearer it might help if we translate L1-L3 into hypothetical form:

 

RL3: If it is the case that no A, or whatever they become, is whatever B is, or becomes, and if it is the case that all Cs, or whatever they become, are whatever B is, or becomes, then it is the case that no A, or whatever they become, is whatever C is, or becomes.

 

This shows that AFL can cope with change.

 

However, the point being made in RL2 is that the above constraints don't apply. The nondescript 'changes' referred to by DM-theorists mean that their arguments more closely resemble L1a-L3a, not RL3, and so the point made in RL2 still stands.   

 

[I am not suggesting that this is how Aristotle would have viewed any of this (in fact, he probably wouldn't!); L1-L3 have only been expanded to show that AFL can cope with change.]

 

Finally it could be argued that the syllogism is a categorical, not an hypothetical, argument form. Indeed, but RL3 was only employed to make the point clear: that syllogisms can be interpreted so that they can cope easily with change.

 

Anyway, here is the categorical version to show that it, too, can be interpreted along the same lines:

 

L1b: Premise 1: No As (or whatever they become) are B (or whatever it becomes).

 

L2b: Premise 2: All Cs (or whatever they become) are B (or whatever it becomes).

 

L3b: Ergo: No As (or whatever they become) are C (or whatever it becomes).

 

And, here is an interpretation that might make the point clearer still:

 

L1c: Premise 1: No salmon (or whatever they become) are mammals (or whatever they become).

 

L2c: Premise 2: All cats (or whatever they become) are mammals (or whatever they become).

 

L3c: Ergo: No salmon (or whatever they become) are cats (or whatever they become).

 

Now, it isn't to the point to argue that L1c and L2c might very well turn out to be false (if evolution takes, or had taken, an odd turn, for example), thus making L3c false. That is because it confuses truth/falsehood with validity, once more. The hypothetical form brings this out a little better: Whether or not L1 and L2 are false, if they were true, the conclusion would follow.

 

Again another interpreted argument might show this to be so -- here using two unambiguously false premises that imply a true conclusion:

 

L1d: Premise 1: No roses are plants. [False]

 

L2d: Premise 2: All frogs are plants. [False]

 

L3d: Ergo: No roses are frogs. [True]

 

Change Of Denotation

 

The schematic letters employed earlier don't in fact possess "definitions" (only interpretations); hence, questions about the 'fixity' of those 'definitions' or otherwise are entirely misplaced. The flexibility of interpretation permitted here -- even with respect to traditional schematic argument patterns, like the one given above -- enables change to be accommodated by the simple expedient of choosing appropriate substitution instances for each and every schema. Moves like this will have the effect of re-distributing truth-values among the constituent sentences without affecting the associated inferences.

 

Unfortunately, even this might still fail to address the worry exercising DM-theorists, which seems to centre on the alleged superiority of DL over FL -- especially with respect to its alleged ability to depict complex change through 'internal contradiction'.

 

[DL = Dialectical Logic.]

 

Admittedly, whatever one thinks of the ability or inability of classical FL to handle change, few question its intolerance of 'true contradictions'. However, since this section of the Essay is largely concerned with a narrow range of logical issues, I will postpone the examination of DM-theorists' appeal to 'dialectical change' through 'contradiction' until later Essays.10

 

An Annoying Counterexample

 

Nevertheless, a more effective way of rebutting the claim that FL can't handle change would be to provide a counterexample  (in addition to the one given earlier!). The example below is based on a very simple pattern drawn from MFL, which employs a valid argument form despite the changes it records when interpreted. This is in fact an example of the schema known as Modus Ponendo Ponens (MPP):

 

1     (1) P®Q A. [Here, and in the next box, "A" stands for "Assumption".]

 

2     (2) P.       A.

 

1,2  (3) Q.       1, 2, MPP11

 

The following is an apt interpretation of MPP:

 

1     (1) If atoms of 64Cu undergo beta decay then 64Ni atoms, positrons and neutrinos are formed.  A

 

2     (2) Atoms of 64Cu undergo beta decay.  A

 

1,2 (3) Therefore,  64Ni  atoms,  positrons and neutrinos are formed.   1, 2, MPP

 

[The numbers, letters and terms used above are all explained in Note 11.]

 

This simple interpretation of MPP (and one involving reasonably rapid change) is perhaps as good a counterexample as one could wish to find that refutes the claim that FL can't handle change. Moreover, there are countless other inferences that MPP itself can instantiate, and many inferential forms other than MPP, all capable of depicting change equally well, when suitably interpreted.11a

 

This indicates that the accusations levelled by DM-theorists against MFL are even less accurate than those they direct at AFL. Of course, the example above will hardly satisfy dialecticians, since no "new content" has been added in the conclusion. Fortunately, that is relatively easy to fix. Consider this valid one premise argument:

 

Premise 1: All dialecticians are human beings.

 

Ergo: The refutation of a dialectician is the refutation of a human being.

 

Here, the conclusion 'contains' more than the premise, so new content has 'emerged', and with no dialectics anywhere in sight. [And, which is perhaps an additional bonus, it depicts change to our dialectical friends, too!] This argument form is used in mathematics and the sciences all the time to derive results not available to those who are still super-glued to the old logic -- and, of course, DM-fans who are unaware of any of this.

 

However, dialecticians might still wonder if the changes depicted above are at all relevant to their concerns. They tell us that DL is superior in the way it accounts for social change; that is, it handles developments of far greater complexity than the above examples could possibly countenance.

 

Nevertheless, those examples were simply aimed at countering the specific claim that FL can't handle change. In later Essays we will see that DL itself can't account for changes of any sort -- simple or complex, whether they occur in nature or society. In that case, no matter how poorly FL copes with change (if that is indeed the case), DL fares far, far worse. Even worse still, if DM were true, change would be impossible.

 

Other Systems Of FL

 

Of even greater significance is the fact that over the last hundred years or so theorists have developed several post-classical systems of logic, which include modal, temporal, deontic, imperative, epistemic and multiple-conclusion logics (among many others). Several of these systems sanction even more sophisticated depictions of change than are allowed for in AFL, or even MFL (i.e., so-called 'Classical Logic').12

 

Conceptual Change

 

Notwithstanding all of this, the feeling may perhaps persist that the above examples still employ "fixed concepts" and "static definitions". Unfortunately, because DM-theorists seldom (if ever) provide examples of what they mean by a "fixed concept" -- or what they imagine formal logicians take these to be (rightly or wrongly) -- it isn't easy to make much sense of their complaints.12a

 

However, there are several confusions that might lie behind, or which might motivate, this odd belief in 'changeable', or even 'changeless', concepts.

 

Change In DM -- Is It Conceptual Or Material?

 

The first confusion revolves around DM-theorists' own concept of material change. They frequently depict it in terms that are uncomfortably reminiscent of the Hegelian doctrine which holds that change is fundamentally conceptual. How else are we to interpret John Rees's words that any account of change must explain how: "…new content emerges from old conditions"? [Rees (1998), p.59.] How else are we to interpret the following words from Lenin?

 

"Hegel brilliantly divined the dialectics of things (phenomena, the world, nature) in the dialectics of concepts…. This aphorism should be expressed more popularly, without the word dialectics: approximately as follows: In the alternation, reciprocal dependence of all notions, in the identity of their opposites, in the transitions of one notion into another, in the eternal change, movement of notions, Hegel brilliantly divined precisely this relation of things to nature…. [W]hat constitutes dialectics?…. [M]utual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others." [Lenin (1961), pp.196-97. Emphases in the original.]

 

"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:]…internally contradictory tendencies…in this [totality]…and unity of opposites…. [E]ach thing…is connected with every other…[this involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other…." [Ibid., pp.221-22. Emphases in the original.]

 

Or, indeed, these from Trotsky:

 

"Cognizing thought begins with differentiation, with the instantaneous photograph, with the establishment of terms -- conceptions in which the separate moments of a process are placed from which the process as a whole escapes. These terms-conceptions, created by cognizing thought, are then transformed into its fetters. Dialectics removes these fetters, revealing the relativity of motionless concepts, their transition into each other. (S. Logik, I. 26-27)" [Trotsky (1986), p.97-98.]

 

[Or, the many other comments that have been posted here?]

 

Admittedly, Rees appealed to the 'materialist inversion' that has allegedly been imposed on Hegel's system (to turn it into "materialist dialectics", and hence put "back on its feet"), as, indeed, did Lenin and Trotsky; but all three pointedly failed to explain how conceptual change is related to material change, upside down or 'the right way up'. Precisely how is it possible for a concept, or a category, to change if neither of them is material? And it won't do to suggest that concepts, for example, change because the objects they 'reflect' change, since that would be to confuse concepts with objects, once more. Does the concept of colour, for example, change every time a leaf turns from green to brown? Or, a traffic light from red to green, and then back again? [In fact, in Essay Three Part One we saw that this approach to concepts represents a dead end. We will have occasion to examine it again in more detail presently.] Nor will it do to argue that concepts change because we reflect on them (that is, if we employ the 'sophisticated' version of the RTK, here), since that would be to treat concepts as objects, again.

 

It might be thought that concepts somehow form, or appear, 'in the head' as objects of "cognition". In that case, the question becomes: does the concept of colour change when, say, anyone thinks about a traffic light altering from red to green, and then back again? Indeed, does the concept of colour -- as a concept once it had been, or might be, apprehended by an individual apprehender -- change in such circumstances? But, how could anyone possibly tell whether or not it had? If we have lost touch with the old 'concept' of colour (since it will have changed), with what could anyone compare the new 'concept' of colour to be able to declare it had in fact changed? No good appealing to memory, since the concept itself has allegedly changed -- unless we are to suppose there are now two concepts of colour: one that has changed, and one (in the memory?) that hasn't. And how might that be ascertained or confirmed?

 

Even worse, how might be decide if our memories hadn't changed, too?

 

[I return to this topic again, below.]

 

The problem now facing DM-theorists is how to explain 'mental objects' like this (i.e., these 'images', 'reflections', or 'concepts' that supposedly reside in our heads, or in 'consciousness') while successfully avoiding reductionism -- or, indeed, bourgeois individualism.12b

 

[RTK = Reflection Theory of Knowledge. The 'sophisticated' version involves the active input of human "cognition" and practice, as opposed to the 'naive' version which (apparently) doesn't, but which merely stresses the passive 'subject' of perception or knowledge. Both theories will be criticised in Essay Three Part Six.]

 

[It is worth pointing out here that I am not denying conceptual change, merely questioning what dialecticians could possibly mean by "fixed" or "developing" concepts.]

 

Furthermore, how might it be possible for changes that material objects undergo to be recorded by our use of concepts? In DM-writings the impression is given that these two sorts of change are simply the same, or, at least, that one is a 'reflection' of the other. To be more honest, the impression is that little thought has actually gone into either sort of change -- that is, over and above the regurgitation of the obscure (and now 'sanitised') ideas dialecticians have imported from Hegel, which they have supposedly put back 'on their feet'.

 

[The word "sanitised" has been used here because of the way that DM-theorists have appropriated the Christian/Hermetic concepts Hegel inflicted on his readers, but which they say they have put 'the right way up' in order to render them 'consistent' with materialism. This ploy is reminiscent of the way that Christian theologians, for example, re-interpret the scientifically 'unacceptable' passages in the Book of Genesis as 'allegorical' or 'figurative', 'sanitising' them in order to render them 'consistent' with 'post-Enlightenment sensibilities' and modern science.]

 

It could be objected that the above comments ignore the dialectic that operates between the "knower and the known", just as it fails to take note of the fact that our concepts change in accord with the development of material and social reality -- as well as in response to practice. Admittedly, DM-theorists have made an attempt (of sorts) to explain the relationship between material and conceptual change along such lines, but, as noted earlier, they have invariably done this by means of a detour into the RTK, buttressed by an appeal to practice -- both of these then connect with a materialist analysis of the dialectical relationship between the abstract and the concrete. Since these topics are have been addressed in other Essays posted at this site, no more will be said about them here.

 

Conceptual Change -- Or Conceptual Distortion?

 

A second (perhaps hidden) source of confusion might have arisen from the fact that conceptual change isn't at all easy to depict. Indeed, if it should emerge that conceptual change can't be pictured using traditional-, or even DM-terminology, then the accusation that DL is superior to FL would become even more difficult to sustain. In order to motivate this surprising turn of events, a brief digression into a consideration of some of the problems involved in expressing conceptual change (along traditional lines) might be in order. Consider, therefore, the following sentence:

 

C1: Green has changed.

 

The word "green" in such circumstances would normally be understood as the name of an individual (as opposed to signifying a concept). However, if it were made clear that C1 did indeed relate to the colour green, and not someone called "Green", it would probably be re-interpreted in the following way:

 

C2: This patch of green has changed.

 

That is because little sense can be made of the idea that the concept green (expressed in C3 below) could have changed (for reasons that will be explored presently). In which case, C1 (re-interpreted as C2) would perhaps be understood as an allusion to a change in the colour of a material object, or part of an object -- but not to the concept green itself. That can be seen if the following sentence is substituted for C1:

 

C3: The concept green has changed.

 

Despite what C3 seems to say, the phrase "The concept green" is longer an expression for a concept; it is a singular term designating an object! This would transform the supposed concept into an object of some sort.

 

As noted earlier, if the concept itself had changed, or it were being asserted that it had changed -- and we understood this concept to be a 'mental entity' of some sort, apprehended somehow by each individual -- then it would be impossible to decide whether or not it had changed. With what could we (as individuals) compare our supposedly subjective apprehension of the concept green if or when it had changed? All we would have would be a fading memory of the 'old concept green', which, ex hypothesi, would also have changed! Otherwise, the concept green, as we 'individually apprehend it', won't actually have changed; any attempt to access the 'old concept green' will have to appeal to the current 'apprehension' of the concept green to be able to refer to it!

 

Hence, in order to access a memory of the 'old concept green' (labelled in G2 below, "greenn" which refers to the nth instantiation of 'the concept green' in the memory or in contemporaneous 'cognition'), something like the following would have to be 'cognised':

 

G1: My memory of the concept green is such and such, which tells me my current apprehension of the concept green has changed.

 

Or, more generally:

 

G2: My memory of the concept greenn is such and such, which tells me my current apprehension of the concept greenn+1 has changed. 

 

But, if so, it is plain that in order for this be of any use to the individual concerned, the concept greenn can't itself have changed, for if it had then it wouldn't be possible to decide if it had indeed changed. For if it had, it would no longer be the concept greenn, it would be the concept greenn+1 --, and we would then have changed the subject of the enquiry. Unless, of course, the individual concerned had access to an even older 'concept of green' (or an even older memory of 'the concept green') that hadn't changed, pushing this 'analysis' one stage further back. In that case, the following would have to be the case:

 

G3: My memory of the concept greenn-1 is such and such, which tells me my past apprehension of the concept greenn has changed. 

 

And so on...

 

Of course, if this were so, there would be no such thing as "the concept green" to change, just a potentially infinite set of fading memories of something that now no longer resembles the 'current concept green' as apprehended by the said individual!

 

[The 'relative stability' of language argument has been batted out of the park here and here.]

 

Finally, if an individual's memory of the concept green hasn't changed, then there would be 'fixed and changeless concepts', after all -- namely one for each colour, taste, smell...

 

[There are other, perhaps more fundamental reasons, explored in Essay Three Parts One and Two, that fatally undermine the theory that concepts are items we cognise individually, or even as individuals. They will be covered briefly in what follows, and in the End Notes associated with those comments.]  

 

Be this as it may, it now becomes difficult to say precisely what "the concept green" designates -- at least not without completely misconstruing what C3 is apparently trying to say about 'the concept green' itself. As noted above, "the concept green" can't in fact pick out the concept it appears to designate since that would transform its supposed target (i.e., what the "the concept green" seems to signify -- that is, 'the concept green') into an object -- now denoted by the definite description, "the concept green". Naturally, that would fatally compromise the distinction between concepts and objects, all the while failing to pick out the originally intended concept.13

 

C3: The concept green has changed.

 

The paradoxical nature of sentences like C3 may perhaps be illustrated by a consideration of the following sentence:

 

C4: The concept green is a concept.

 

If it is first of all assumed that C4 is well-formed, then it looks analytically true. In fact, and on the contrary, C4 is analytically false! That is because (once more) "the concept green" is a singular term, and as such it signifies an object, not a concept!14

 

Alas, absurd sentences like C4 are to metaphysicians what carrots are to donkeys; based on linguistic monstrosities like C4, some theorists hastily conclude that language -- or 'thought' (or 'reality', or 'everything') -- must be defective, or must be 'contradictory', or must be paradoxical, or must be this. or must be that. That is because Traditional Philosophers think they can dictate to 'reality' what it must be like based on their idiosyncratic use, or even misuse, of language.

 

With reasoning like this one might just as well argue that if a metre rule, say, had been manufactured incorrectly, then everything it has been, or will be, used to measure must be defective, too! [To be sure any subsequently recorded lengths will be incorrect, but the objects themselves will remain sublimely unaffected.]

 

From linguistic sins such as these -- committed by our philosophical forebears -- much of subsequent Metaphysics has descended without modification by unnatural selection. Unfortunately, DM isn't the only deformed progeny of mutant syntax such as this.15

 

In that case, it isn't possible to specify how concepts change by means of sentences like C3; in such contexts, the logical role occupied by terms that supposedly signify concepts transforms them so that they no longer function as concept expressions, or as expressions signifying concepts.16

 

C3: The concept green has changed.

 

[It is important to add that I am not denying that concept expressions can be nominalised, only that nothing metaphysically deep or 'ontological' follows from this superficial linguistic manoeuvre. Nor am I denying conceptual change!]

 

Of course, it could be objected that the mere fact that we can't express conceptual change in the manner specified above doesn't mean that it doesn't happen; after all, reality isn't constrained by the supposed limitations of language. Maybe not, but if a development like this can't be put into words without the distortion mentioned above -- or, if when it has been put into words, what it appears to say undermines what some individuals might attempt to use it to say -- then no viable option has been presented for anyone to consider.

 

Not only that, but the above response clearly trades on the supposition that there are indeed concepts in reality that can change; but that itself would be true only if reality were mind-like. No one supposes -- it is to be hoped(!) -- that concepts pre-dated the evolution of sentient life, or that they reside in a sort of 'limbo world' waiting to be thought about, and then, and only then, do they begin to change (which seems to be Hegel's position).

 

On the other hand, if reality isn't mind-like, then there are no concepts in nature for our minds to reflect. Or, rather it makes no sense to suppose there are.

 

Alternatively, again, if it is claimed that the mind does indeed reflect reality, and it employs concepts in order to do this, then it can only distort reality in so doing -- that is, it must actively distort in such a way because there no concepts 'out there' for it to 'reflect'.

 

Now, we saw in Essay Three Part One that the defective logic dialecticians inherited from Hegel (whereby they misconstrual of the "is" of predication as an "is" of identity) was founded on an even more ancient confusion over the nature of predicate expressions, re-interpreted as the names of Abstract Particulars, and that that had already predisposed them toward making this mistake -- i.e., the confusing objectual, with conceptual, change.

 

Only if concepts are viewed as abstract objects of some sort (that exist in the 'mind', or in 'reality') does it become 'natural' to conflate these two sorts of change.

 

So, no wonder then that dialecticians who take logical advice from Hegel end up talking about concepts developing, and berate the rest of us with tall tales about the 'limitations' of FL because it supposedly uses 'fixed concepts'!

 

We can now see where the real problem lies; it isn't with the 'fixed concepts of FL', but with the slippery jargon found in DL, which is in turn based on a crass syntactical error committed by a set of ruling-class hacks in Ancient Greece! And they did that because it was conducive to their world-view to re-configure reality conceptually.

 

[Until Essay Twelve is published in full, there are brief explanations why I have alleged this here, here, and here. It is also worth pointing out that the above remarks won't be fully understood by anyone who hasn't read Essay Three Part One!]

 

In that case, it is still unclear what exactly is being proposed by those who speak about 'changing', or 'developing', concepts. Once more, this isn't to suggest that we can't make sense of conceptual change. Far from it; it is a constant feature of our social life. But, we certainly can't do so by means of a philosophical theory that relies on an egregious distortion of language, and on doctrines heavily infected with AIDS.

 

[AIDS = Absolute Idealism; FL = Formal Logic; DL = Dialectical Logic.]

 

Logic And Change

 

Despite the above, it is possible to express conceptual change in FL by means of an ascent into Second Order Logic.

 

Now, this latest twist doesn't contradict the observation made in the previous sub-section (i.e., that what seem to be empirical truths about concepts can't be expressed in language -- it was in fact maintained that they can't be directly expressed by means of distorted sentences), since higher order logic is, among other things, a calculus that expresses rules of inference, not logical (or any other) truths.

 

In Second Order Logic, expressions for concepts become variables ranged over by Third Order Quantifiers, and so on.17

 

Even so, such systems only indirectly relate to the ordinary use of words we have for change. Indeed, despite what certain Philosophers (and DM-theorists) claim, the vernacular is perfectly capable of expressing change, and changes of almost unimaginable complexity, too. That is partly because (a) The word "change" is an ordinary language term itself, and (b) The vernacular was invented by those who interface with material reality in collective labour (etc.) on a daily basis -- i.e., workers. In fact, as will be demonstrated below, and in Essay Six, ordinary language is capable of expressing change far better than the obscure 'language' Hegel inflicted on his readers -- or, indeed, the vague and obscure terminology found in DM. The vernacular contains literally thousands of words that are capable of depicting change and development in almost limitless detail and complexity.17a

 

Real Material Change

 

Again, it could be objected that the above considerations concentrate on the linguistic expression of change. Whether or not it is possible to represent change in the vernacular isn't really relevant to the issues that exercise DM-theorists. Their interest lies in studying real material change in nature and society, tested in practice (by intervention and experiment) in order to change the world and bring an end to class society. That being the case, the above comments appear to be either academic, at best, or misguided, at worst.

 

Or, so it could be maintained.

 

Nevertheless, it is worth noting yet again that the points raised earlier were specifically aimed at the DM-thesis that FL can't handle change, not at whether material change is or isn't different from any of our attempts to depict it. Hence, the above complaint is itself misplaced. Since FL systematises certain aspects of some of the inferences we make, or are able to make, in ordinary life -- formalising but a fraction of the discursive principles implicit in our capacity to reason, communicate and picture the world, truly or falsely -- a defence of FL (even if that is what I am doing here, which I am not; FL needs no defence) can't suddenly pretend that our powers of depiction and the tools by means of which we accomplish that aren't relevant. Nor indeed can any attempt to show the opposite.

 

[Of course, IF captures even more examples of the above inferences.]

 

Anyway, the DM-account of material change is analysed in detail in other Essays posted at this site (for example, Essays Five, Seven Part Three, Eight Parts One, Two and Three); there, it will be shown that dialecticians themselves are incapable of doing the very thing they find fault with in FL -- that is, accounting for, or even depicting, change!

 

A Purely Academic Issue?

 

At first sight, it would seem obvious that a logical system based on a static view of the world -- as it is alleged of FL -- would have few if any practical consequences or applications. 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 DL -- should have countless practical applications in science and technology.

 

Ironically, the exact opposite of this 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 or development.18

 

[Some might object and point to the successful application of DL in Biology, for example. I bat that idea out the park later on in this Essay, alongside other alleged applications of DL -- in the next main section, for instance.]

 

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

 

Indeed, a particularly good example (among the many) of the impact of FL on science and technology is the development of computers. Their origin goes back many centuries, but advances in control systems (in the textile industry, in the 18th century) and mathematical logic (post 1850) proved decisive. The invention of Boolean and Fregean Logic, the mathematical logic of Russell, Whitehead, Hilbert, Peano, von Neumann and Church, among others -- along with the logico-mathematical work of Alan Turing -- all helped make possible the development of computer technology. FL has not only contributed to the evolution of software and computer languages, the principles of Propositional Calculus govern the operation of all standard processors.19

 

In addition, there are many 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 i technology or 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 never tire of telling us 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 can't be solved by the simple expedient of "grasping" it.20

 

Naturally, DM-apologists will want to deny this (indeed, they do deny it!), but apart from claiming that scientists are all "unconscious dialecticians", their evidence peters out alarmingly quickly. [Again, on that, see the next main section.]

 

Of course, if the claim that all scientists are "unconscious dialecticians" is still to be maintained, what is to stop Buddhists, for example, claiming that all scientists are "unconscious followers of The Eightfold Path"?

 

This is no joke; some already have! On that, see McFarlane (2003) -- and, of course, the fanciful works of Fritjof Capra -- except, in his case, scientists are perhaps "conscious" Daoists! Cf., also Wilber (1984). A timely corrective to this drift into 'scientific mysticism' can be found in Stenger (1995).

 

But, why don't we go the whole hog? Why not claim that scientists are "unconscious head-hunters"; there is about as much evidence to support that wild idea, too.

 

'Unconscious' Dialecticians?

 

Seriously?

 

As we saw above, dialecticians have become so divorced from reality that some have even claimed that scientists are "unconscious dialecticians", and because of this they imagine that the spectacular success of science can be chalked up to DL! For example, George Novack refers his readers to a series of arguments advanced by the famous French Physicist, Jean-Pierre Vigier -- who was also a Dialectical Marxist -- in a public debate with Jean-Paul Sartre, in December 1961. In the course of their discussion, Vigier responded to the criticism that DM has no practical or scientific applications with the following comments (I am relying here on Novack's summary):

 

"The existentialist [Sartre -- RL] resents and rejects the rationalism and objectivity of science. It supposedly leads us away from real being, which is to be perpetually sought, though never reached, through the ever-renewed, ever-baffled effort of the individual consciousness to go beyond our human condition. The terrible destiny of the human race is like 'the desire of the moth for the star/the night for the morrow/the devotion to something afar/from the sphere of our sorrow'. So the exasperated existentialist Sartre flings as his trump card against the dialectics of nature the current crisis in science. 'There has never been, I believe, as grave a crisis as the present one in science', he cries to Vigier. 'So when you come to talk to us about your completed, formed, solid science and want to dissolve us in it, you'll understand our reserve.'

 

"Vigier calmly replies: 'Science progresses by means of crises in the same manner as history; that's what we call progress. Crises are the very foundation of progress.' And he concludes: 'The very practice of science, its progress, the very manner in which it is today passing from a static to a dynamic analysis of the world, that is precisely what is progressively elaborating the dialectic of nature under our very eyes.... The dialectic of nature is very simply the effort of the philosophy of our time...of the most encyclopaedic philosophy, that is, Marxism to apprehend the world and change it.'

 

"This ringing affirmation will appear bizarre to Anglo-American scientists who may respect Vigier for his work as a physicist. They summarily disqualify dialectical logic on the ground that, whatever its philosophical or political interest, it has no value in promoting any endeavour in natural science. If the method is valid, the anti-dialecticians say, then purposeful application by its proponents should prove capable of producing important new theories and practical results in other fields than the social. Marxists are challenged to cite instances where the dialectical method has actually led to new discoveries and not simply demonstrated after the fact that specific scientific findings conform with the generalisations of dialectical logic.

 

"The most splendid contribution of this kind in recent decades has been Oparin's theories on the origin of life, which are widely accepted and have stimulated fruitful work on the problems of biogenesis and genetics. The Soviet scientist's theory is based on the hypothesis that the random formation and interaction of increasingly complex molecules gave rise to the simplest forms of living matter, which then began to reproduce at the expense of the surrounding organic material.

 

"Oparin consciously employed such principles of materialist dialectics as the transformation of quantity into quality, the interruption of continuity (evolution by leaps), and the conversion of chance fluctuations into regular processes and definite properties of matter, to initiate an effective new line of approach to one of the central problems of science: How did inanimate nature generate life on earth? Such cases would undoubtedly multiply if more practicing scientists were better informed about the Marxist method of thought." [Novack (1978b), pp.245-46. I have used the on-line version here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; spelling adapted to UK English. Several typos corrected. Links added and some paragraphs merged.]

 

However, as we have seen in Essay Seven Part One, these 'dialectical laws' are so vague and imprecise (that is, where any sense can be made of them), that they can be bent and twisted to conform with practically any theory or scientific fact DM-fans either find expedient or convenient.

 

Even so, what truth is there in the claim that Oparin "consciously employed" DM-principles, whether or not they are valid?

 

In fact, upon reading the above comments, I promptly obtained a copy of Oparin's book -- Origin of Life -- but could find no dialectics in it, conscious or unconscious! Oparin mentions Engels only five times in the entire book [Oparin (1953), pp.31-33, 131, 136], dialectics and its 'laws' not once. And, even where he mentions Engels, it is only in connection with (i) His idea that proteins are important for life and (ii) His criticisms of spontaneous generation.

 

Having said that, W&G quote Oparin along these lines (using what must have been a different edition of The Origin Of Life to the one I have consulted):

 

"This problem [of life's origins] has however always been the focus of a bitter conflict of ideas between two irreconcilable schools of philosophy -- the conflict between idealism and materialism....

 

"A completely different prospect opens out before us if we try to approach a solution of the problem dialectically rather than metaphysically, on the basis of a study of the successive changes in matter which preceded the appearance of life and led to its emergence. Matter never remains at rest, it is constantly moving and developing and in this development it changes over from one form of motion to another and yet another, each more complicated and harmonious than the last. Life thus appears as a particular very complicated form of the motion of matter, arising as a new property at a definite stage in the general development of matter.

 

"As early as the end of the last century Frederick Engels indicated that a study of the history of the development of matter is by far the most hopeful line of approach to a solution of the problem of the origin of life. These ideas of Engels were not, however, reflected to a sufficient extent in the scientific thought of his time." [Oparin, quoted in Woods and Grant (1995), pp.239-40. (This appears on the same pages in the second edition.) Bold emphasis added.]

 

Nevertheless, how the above might have helped Oparin in his research is far from clear. How does knowing that matter is always in motion help anyone design an experiment to investigate how life might have evolved?

 

It could be argued that it is quite plain that DM prompted Oparin to investigate nature materialistically, but there is no evidence that this is so, even though Oparin never said he was investigating it materialistically, but "approaching" it "dialectically". There were many other materialist theories that would, or could, have motivated him. We have also seen that DM is in fact the exact opposite of a materialist theory.

 

It could be countered that Oparin specifically mentions DM (which he does in other writings) and no other theory. Maybe so, but there were political reasons why Oparin and other Russian scientists felt constrained to refer to DM (on that, see below), so his words aren't conclusive proof. European and Russian science had become increasingly materialist throughout the previous century, with materialism, for example, making its presence felt in the work of Nicholas Chernyshevsky (1828-1889), who helped found Narodism, and hence whose ideas would have been well known to anyone associated with the Bolshevik Party or Russian socialism (for instance, Plekhanov and Herzen). Other Russian materialists included Dmitrii Pisarev (whose work influenced Ivan Pavlov as well as Lenin himself, whom he quotes in What Is To Be Done?), Nikolai Dobroliubov, Ivan Sechenov (named by Pavlov as the father of Russian Physiology). [On the history of materialism in Europe, see Lange (1925).]

 

Of course, the first point worth making is that while Novack is at pains elsewhere to distance his own brand of Trotskyist, 'superior', dynamic dialectics from the 'wooden, scholastic and lifeless' form that was allegedly on offer in Stalin's Russia (cf., p.232), even after The Great Teacher had passed away, he seems quite happy to quote the work of a card-carrying Stalinist scientist -- and who was state apparatchik, no less -- in support. Perhaps, then, Stalinist dialectics [SD] isn't quite so "ossified and scholastic" as Novack and other Trotskyists would have us believe. On the other hand, if SD is "ossified and scholastic", it can't have been of any use to Oparin in his research! Novack seems to want to have it both ways; but then that is what one has come to expect of DL-fans.

 

The second point is that scientists in Stalin's Russia learnt rather quickly that if they didn't appeal (directly or indirectly) to the 'laws' of dialectics in their work (and only as those 'laws' had been interpreted by party hacks, particularly by The Great Teacher), either their careers, or they themselves, soon disappeared (cf., Nikolai Vavilov). In which case, Oparin's "conscious employment" of DM was more of a conscious and understandable desire to preserve his own skin than it was an application of "conscious" dialectics. That suspicion is confirmed by the Wikipedia article about him:

 

"The Communist Party's official interpretation of Marxism, dialectical materialism, fit Oparin's speculation on the origins of life as 'a flow, an exchange, a dialectical unity'. This notion was re-enforced by Oparin's association with Lysenko." [Quoted from here. Accessed 08/07/2018. Bold added. Link in the original; some links omitted.]

 

Loren Graham, on the other hand, argues at length how influential DM was on Oparin's ideas and work, but concludes that:

 

"To be sure, there is the possibility that these sections of his writings were merely responses to political pressures...." [Graham (1987), p.71. Bold emphasis added.]

 

However, Graham dismisses this as a reason since, in his opinion, Oparin's entire career reveals he had been consistently influenced by DM, even quoting him to this effect:

 

"Only dialectical materialism has found the correct routes to an understanding of life. According to dialectical materialism, life is a special form of the movement of matter which arises as a new quality at a definite stage in the historical movement of matter." [Ibid., p.71. These words of Oparin's were first published in 1953.]  

 

Even so, Graham failed to show how these 'laws' in any way informed his scientific work, as opposed to influencing how he interpreted them (hence his "Only dialectical materialism has found the correct routes to an understanding of life" -- emphasis added). That was also the case with Novack.

 

Despite this, another commentator, Birstein, disagrees that Oparin adopted 'dialectics' merely to save his neck; he claims Oparin appropriated DM and supported Lysenko in order to advance his career:

 

"I strongly disagree with [those] who justified Oparin's behaviour [in supporting Lysenko -- RL] as the condition necessary for his survival.... In fact, nothing threatened Oparin's survival. He was an academic and director of the Institute of Biochemistry, which then was not directly involved in the study of genetics or evolutionary theory. He was not attacked by Lysenko or Prezent [a Lysenko supporter, DM-fanatic and self-styled 'philosopher' -- RL] in the press. He simply was an opportunist who saw his chance to advance his career in exchange for his support of Lysenko. Academician Schmalhausen, Professors Formozov and Sabinin, and 3000 other biologists, victims of the August 1948 Session, lost their professional jobs because of their integrity and moral principles and because they would not make compromises with their consciences." [Birstein (2001), p.289. Details of the above events can be found on pp.255-62. I hesitate to quote from this work because it is rabidly anti-Leninist. Paragraphs merged.]

 

Furthermore, we are all aware of the truly wonderful results Lysenko obtained when he tried to apply dialectics to Soviet agriculture, don't we? [On Lysenko, see below.] But, Birstein is right, nothing did threaten Oparin's life, and we know why: he towed the party line. Had he not done so, that wouldn't have been the case; his career would have nosedived.

 

The third and perhaps more important point is that Novack nowhere tells us what these "quantities" and "qualities" are which Oparin is supposed to have taken into account. We have already seen that DM-fans are quite happy to make stuff up in this regard as they go along (especially with respect to this particular 'law'), using conveniently vague, flexible, and malleable 'definitions' (or, what is more often the case, no definitions at all!) of "quality" as and when the need arises. Novack's lack of detail is no surprise, therefore.

 

Anyway, here is how Wikipedia summarises Oparin's work in this area:

 

"As early as 1922, he asserted the following tenets:

 

"1. There is no fundamental difference between a living organism and lifeless matter. The complex combination of manifestations and properties characteristic of life must have arisen as a part of the process of the evolution of matter.

 

"2. Taking into account the recent discovery of methane in the atmospheres of Jupiter and the other giant planets, Oparin suggested that the infant Earth had possessed a strongly reducing atmosphere, containing methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water vapour. In his opinion, these were the raw materials for the evolution of life.

 

"3. In Oparin's formulation, there were first only simple solutions of organic matter, the behaviour of which was governed by the properties of their component atoms and the arrangement of these atoms into a molecular structure. Gradually though, he said, the resulting growth and increased complexity of molecules brought new properties into being and a new colloidal-chemical order developed as a successor to more simple relationships between and among organic chemicals. These newer properties were determined by the interactions of these more complex molecules.

 

"4. Oparin posited that this process brought biological orderliness into prominence. According to Oparin, competition, speed of cell growth, survival of the fittest, struggle for existence and, finally, natural selection determined the form of material organization characteristic of modern-day living things.

 

"Oparin outlined a way he thought that basic organic chemicals might have formed into microscopic localized systems, from which primitive living things could have developed. He cited work done by de Jong on coacervates and research by others, including himself, into organic chemicals which, in solution, might spontaneously form droplets and layers. Oparin suggested that different types of coacervates could have formed in the Earth's primordial ocean and been subject to a selection process that led, eventually, to life." [Quoted from here; accessed 09/10/2011; changes to the on-line text incorporated 05/06/2015. Spelling altered to conform with UK English. Links in the original.]

 

Nevertheless, Point 1 above isn't unique to DM, so it can't be attributed to that theory. Neither are Points 2 and 4.

 

We might be on firmer ground with Point 3, however. But, as noted above, this can't be interpreted as an application of the 'Law of the Transformation of Quantity into Quality', either -- at least, not until we are told what these new 'qualities' are. If these 'qualities'/'properties' are the result of novel arrangements of the constituent atoms of each molecule involved (as the above seems to suggest), then this, too, can't be an example of Engels's 'Law' in action.  Here is what I have argued in Essay Seven Part One on this:

 

Engels...said the following:

 

"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." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphases added.]

 

In response, once more, it is worth pointing out that this makes a mockery of Engels's claim that such changes can only come about through the addition of matter and/or motion, and that it is "impossible" to alter a body "qualitatively" in any other way.

 

So, if anything, Oparin was "consciously" failing to apply Engels's 'Law', since these new molecular arrangements manifestly don't involve the addition of matter or energy. [Possible objections to this line-of-argument, including the claim that energy has been "added", have been neutralised here.]

 

But, what about the claim that increased complexity results in the 'emergence' of new 'qualities"? I will deal with "emergent properties" in Essay Three Part Three.

 

Independently of that, what can we say about the following claim advanced by Vigier?

 

"Oparin consciously employed such principles of materialist dialectics as the transformation of quantity into quality, the interruption of continuity (evolution by leaps), and the conversion of chance fluctuations into regular processes and definite properties of matter, to initiate an effective new line of approach to one of the central problems of science: How did inanimate nature generate life on earth?" [Novack (1978b), p.246.]

 

But, where is the "interruption" of continuity here? Does Vigier imagine that, for example, nature gradually incorporates elementary particles into organic molecules until this amounts to the addition of a new atom, and thus a "leap"? Presumably not. On the other hand, maybe he thinks that atoms are added one at a time; if so, there is no continuity here, either, just discontinuity.

 

Here is what I have written on this (also taken from Essay Seven Part One, slightly edited), where I quote several DM-theorists:

 

However, far more fatal is the observation that the Periodic Table doesn't in fact conform to Engels's 'Law'! To see why, we need to re-examine once again what Engels and others have actually said about this 'Law':

 

"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. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"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 alone added.]

 

"[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative 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…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"The 'nodal line of measure relations'... -- transitions of quantity into quality... Gradualness and leaps. And again...that gradualness explains nothing without leaps." [Lenin (1961), p.123.  Bold emphasis alone added. Lenin added in the margin here: "Leaps! Leaps! Leaps!"]

 

"What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness. The unity (identity) of Being and not-Being." [Ibid., p.282. Bold emphases added.]

 

"Dialecticians call this process the transformation of quantity into quality. Slow, gradual changes that do not add up to a transformation in the nature of a thing suddenly reach a tipping point when the whole nature of the thing is transformed into something new." [Rees (2008), p.24. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

The argument here is plainly this: (a) Quantitative increase or decrease in matter or energy results in gradual change, and hence that (b) At a certain point, further increase or decrease breaks this "gradualness" inducing a "leap", a sudden "qualitative" change.

 

But, this doesn't happen in the Periodic Table! Between each element there is no gradual increase in protons and electrons leading to a sudden change -- there are only sudden changes as these 'particles' are added! For example, as one proton and one electron are added to Hydrogen, it suddenly changes into Helium. Hydrogen doesn't slowly alter and then suddenly "leap" and become Helium. The same is true of every other element in the Table. In that case, one of the 'best' examples dialecticians use to 'illustrate' this 'Law' in fact refutes it! There is no "interruption" in gradualness.

 

This is a more honest reading from the extant data, is it not? And not a single foisting anywhere in sight!

 

These comments also apply to the other examples drawn from Organic Chemistry [quoted by Engels (and Woods and Grant (1995), examined in Note 4, of Essay Seven Part One); cf., Engels (1954), pp.161-63 and (1976), pp.65-68].

 

So, between each of the organic molecules (to which DM-theorists refer) and the next in line there is no gradual increase in atoms leading to a sudden change -- once again, there are only sudden changes as atoms are added! For example, as one atom of carbon and two atoms of hydrogen are added to Butyric Acid, it  suddenly changes into Valeric Acid. Butyric Acid doesn't slowly alter and then suddenly "leap" and become Valeric Acid. The same is true of every other molecule in similar organic series. In that case, another of the 'best' examples dialecticians use to 'illustrate' their 'Law' in fact refutes it! There is no "interruption" in gradualness, here, either. Recall what Lenin said:

 

"What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness...." [Lenin (1961), p.282. Bold emphases added.]

 

In all these cases there is no continuity, only discontinuity. This means that the most widely-, and over-used example in the DM-book-of-tricks that supposedly illustrates this 'Law' doesn't in fact do so!

 

Once again, if Oparin did in fact make use of this particular idea, then, whatever else he was, he wasn't even a "conscious dialectician".

 

Another comrade who has also appealed to Oparin's work as an example of 'dialectics' in action is John Parrington:

 

"The 'decentralisation' of DNA's role within the cell raises important issues about how life arose in the first place. We know that the chemicals that make up living cells would soon be burned up in the earth's oxygenated atmosphere if they weren't contained within the protective enclosure of the cell. A major insight was supplied in the 1930s by the Russian scientist Oparin, whose dialectical way of thinking proved crucial. He argued that, originally, the earth's atmosphere must have been quite different from now. Instead of the present highly oxidising atmosphere, it must have been a reducing mixture of hydrogen, ammonia and methane, together with carbon dioxide, exactly the composition that the Galileo probe is now revealing on the surface of Titan, Jupiter's moon.

 

"The present day atmosphere is very different precisely because it is a by-product of life itself, in particular the photosynthesising work of plants. Following Oparin's work it was shown that the major building blocks of life could be created spontaneously in such conditions. However, major questions still remained. How did the living cell itself arise? And at what point did DNA appear on the scene? For those with a DNA centred view the answer is simple. DNA must have arisen first. But given what we have said about the reliance of DNA on the cellular environment, it seems hard to imagine how this could have been the case. In fact, it seems far more plausible, as Rose argues:

 

'[that the] presence of the cell membrane boundary, rather than replication, was the first crucial step in the development of life from non-life, for it is this that enables a critical mass of organic constituents to be assembled, making possible the establishment of an enzyme-catalysed metabolic web of reactions. Only subsequently could accurate replication based on nucleic acids have developed.' [Parrington is here quoting from Rose (2005), p.254 -- although Rose, wisely, nowhere mentions 'dialectics'. Parrington referenced the first edition of Rose's book; I have referenced the second edition. The page numbers are the same.]

 

"In fact, the creation of such a membrane and the concentration within it of the necessary chemical components is a process that can be mimicked experimentally today. In summary then, when DNA did finally arrive on the scene, it must have radically transformed the form of proto-life, but to do so there had to be the pre-existing cellular environment to receive it." [Parrington (1998), pp.111-12. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphasis in the original printed copy. Parrington has repeated this allegation in Parrington (2017).]

 

However, just like the others considered above, Parrington neglected to say what was so 'dialectical' about Oparin's work! One might be forgiven for concluding that for comrades like Parrington the word "dialectical" only applies to work that turned out to be correct in their eyes (except in this case we have no idea if this work is correct, or even remotely correct -- but see below).

 

It is worth noting that Fundamentalist Christians claim the same sorts of things for their belief in the literal truth of the Book of Genesis (as do Muslim literalists, too); indeed, even 'mainstream believers' attribute the advancement of science to 'divine guidance'. [On that, see here.] It seems that this is one straw that both wings of contemporary mysticism (i.e., its religious and its 'dialectical' wings) appear only too eager to clutch -- for all the good it does them.

 

This is, naturally, quite apart from the fact that Oparin was wrong in almost everything he concluded about the origin of life. For example, contrary to Oparin, the early earth didn't have a reducing atmosphere. Concerning his notion that there were "complex coacervates" in the early formation of life, we read the following: "This hypothesis of colloidal assembly has largely been displaced by other concepts of life's origins." So, if he was using DM, it clearly led him astray. But, that is what DM does all the time.

 

Dialecticians have been forced to invent the fantasy that scientists are 'unconscious dialecticians (but only when they are right!) since, of course, few human beings have ever heard of dialectics. Outwith of the old Communist Block and its satellite states it is reasonably certain that there aren't enough 'dialectical scientists' to fill a medium-sized cinema.

 

But, if, as we are constantly being told, scientists are stuck with the rusty old concepts that FL and IL have bequeathed them -- this fable is retailed countless times in RIRE, for example; here are just a few of the places where W&G attempt to do this: pp.42, 67, 69, 82, 83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 91, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 106, 107, 119, 132, 148, 152, 156, 234, 255, 354, 365, 387, 406; even John Rees has joined in -- cf., TAR, pp.3-4 --, how was it possible for human knowledge and technology to advance quite so dramatically over the last four centuries? If, in practice, scientists actually use these 'decrepit, outmoded, formal categories', and science has advanced spectacularly as a result, doesn't that amount to a practical refutation of the idea that FL is inferior to DL?

 

Well, you would think so, but DL addles the brain to such an extent that it would be unwise to expect its hapless victims to derive such a glaringly obvious conclusion.

 

[RIRE = Reason in Revolt, i.e., Woods and Grant (1995/2007); TAR = The Algebra of Revolution, i.e., Rees (1998).]

 

On the other hand, is there a scrap of evidence to show that there is (or there has ever been) a single scientist who is (or who was) an "unconscious" dabbler in the Dialectical Black Arts? If there is any such evidence, DM-fans would be unwise to keep it to themselves any longer.

 

[The example of Mendeleyev has been dealt with here. However, Novack claims (in Novack (1978), pp.254-55) that Ernst Mayr used DL in his work -- but, only on the basis of Mayr's ruminations about evolutionary novelty --, even so, that would have been news to Mayr! We may perhaps also be allowed to conclude that whenever Mayr referred to an animal's head, that was sufficient proof he was an 'unconscious head-hunter'!]

 

Russian Scientists' Disastrous, Conscious Application Of DM

 

And what of the few genuine examples where DM has been used in any of the sciences? If the work of Lysenko is anything to go by, we must surely conclude that it hasn't been a ringing success: Lysenko's theory held Soviet agriculture back for over 30 years.

 

[On Lysenko, see Birstein (2001), Graham (1973, 1987, 1993), Joravsky (1970), Lecourt (1977) [this links to a PDF], Medvedev (1969), Sheehan (1993), pp.220-28, 315-68, and Soyfer (1994). Also see, Werskey (1988), pp.292-304. For a different view, see Lewontin and Levins (1976), reprinted in DB, pp.163-96. Cf., also here.]

 

Of course, if and when things go wrong in non-Soviet, non-DM science, dialecticians don't attribute that to "unconscious dialectics"; rather they put it down to "bourgeois logic", "formal thinking", or an unwise adherence to "commonsense", etc., etc. Which is odd given the fact that all the evidence suggests that logic (both Formal and discursive) has actually helped scientists refine and test their theories for centuries -- while there is none whatsoever that DL has featured anywhere at all -- except, of course, negatively, as in the case of Lysenko and Olga Lepeshinskaya (a personal friend of Lenin's). [On that fraud, see below.]

 

Small wonder then that dialecticians also believe that appearances 'contradict underlying reality'; given the above, they would, wouldn't they? It has helped them rationalise countless mismatches between DM and the facts. [On this, see Essay Nine Part Two.] This is, of course, an odd sort of thing for materialists to have to argue: if the material world contradicts, and continues to contradict, a certain idea, ignore reality and cling to the idea! To be sure, dialecticians consciously do that! And here is one of them doing it -- this is Herbert Marcuse, commenting on Hegel:

 

"The doctrine of Essence seeks to liberate knowledge from the worship of 'observable facts' and from the scientific common sense that imposes this worship.... The real field of knowledge is not the given fact about things as they are, but the critical evaluation of them as a prelude to passing beyond their given form. Knowledge deals with appearances in order to get beyond them. 'Everything, it is said, has an essence, that is, things really are not what they immediately show themselves. There is therefore something more to be done than merely rove from one quality to another and merely to advance from one qualitative to quantitative, and vice versa: there is a permanence in things, and that permanent is in the first instance their Essence.' The knowledge that appearance and essence do not jibe is the beginning of truth. The mark of dialectical thinking is the ability to distinguish the essential from the apparent process of reality and to grasp their relation." [Marcuse (1973), pp.145-46. Marcuse is here quoting Hegel (1975), p.163, §112. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions employed at this site. Minor typo corrected.]

 

"Prior to this formalisation, the experience of the divided world finds its logic in the Platonic dialectic. Here, the terms 'Being,' 'Non-being,' 'Movement,' 'the One and the Many,' 'Identity,' and 'Contradiction' are methodically kept open, ambiguous, not fully defined. They have an open horizon, an entire universe of meaning which is gradually structured in the process of communication itself, but which is never closed. The propositions are submitted, developed, and tested in a dialogue, in which the partner is led to question the normally unquestioned universe of experience and speech, and to enter a new dimension of discourse -- otherwise he is free and the discourse is addressed to his freedom. He is supposed to go beyond that which is given to him -- as the speaker, in his proposition, goes beyond the initial setting of the terms. These terms have many meanings because the conditions to which they refer have many sides, implications, and effects which cannot be insulated and stabilised. Their logical development responds to the process of reality, or Sache selbst ['thing itself' -- RL]. The laws of thought are laws of reality, or rather become the laws of reality if thought understands the truth of immediate experience as the appearance of another truth, which is that of the true Forms of reality -- of the Ideas. Thus there is contradiction rather than correspondence between dialectical thought and the given reality; the true judgment judges this reality not in its own terms, but in terms which envisage its subversion. And in this subversion, reality comes into its own truth.

 

"In the classical logic, the judgment which constituted the original core of dialectical thought was formalised in the propositional form, 'S is p.' But this form conceals rather than reveals the basic dialectical proposition, which states the negative character of the empirical reality. Judged in the light of their essence and idea, men and things exist as other than they are; consequently thought contradicts that which is (given), opposes its truth to that of the given reality. The truth envisaged by thought is the Idea. As such it is, in terms of the given reality, 'mere' Idea, 'mere' essence -- potentiality....

 

"This contradictory, two-dimensional style of thought is the inner form not only of dialectical logic but of all philosophy which comes to grips with reality. The propositions which define reality affirm as true something that is not (immediately) the case; thus they contradict that which is the case, and they deny its truth. The affirmative judgment contains a negation which disappears in the propositional form (S is p). For example, 'virtue is knowledge'; 'justice is that state in which everyone performs the function for which his nature is best suited'; 'the perfectly real is the perfectly knowable'; 'verum est id, quod est' ['the true is that which is' -- RL]; 'man is free'; 'the State is the reality of Reason.'

 

"If these propositions are to be true, then the copula 'is' states an 'ought,' a desideratum. It judges conditions in which virtue is not knowledge, in which men do not perform the function for which their nature best suits them, in which they are not free, etc. Or, the categorical S-p form states that (S) is not (S); (S) is defined as other-than-itself. Verification of the proposition involves a process in fact as well as in thought: (S) must become that which it is. The categorical statement thus turns into a categorical imperative; it does not state a fact but the necessity to bring about a fact. For example, it could be read as follows: man is not (in fact) free, endowed with inalienable rights, etc., but he ought to be, because be is free in the eyes of God, by nature, etc....

 

"Under the rule of formal logic, the notion of the conflict between essence and appearance is expendable if not meaningless; the material content is neutralised.... Existing as the living contradiction between essence and appearance, the objects of thought are of that 'inner negativity' which is the specific quality of their concept. The dialectical definition defines the movement of things from that which they are not to that which they are. The development of contradictory elements, which determines the structure of its object, also determines the structure of dialectical thought. The object of dialectical logic is neither the abstract, general form of objectivity, nor the abstract, general form of thought -- nor the data of immediate experience. Dialectical logic undoes the abstractions of formal logic and of transcendental philosophy, but it also denies the concreteness of immediate experience. To the extent to which this experience comes to rest with the things as they appear and happen to be, it is a limited and even false experience. It attains its truth if it has freed itself from the deceptive objectivity which conceals the factors behind the facts -- that is, if it understands its world as a historical universe, in which the established facts are the work of the historical practice of man. This practice (intellectual and material) is the reality in the data of experience; it is also the reality which dialectical logic comprehends." [Marcuse (1968), pp.110-17. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphases added. Spelling adjusted to conform to UK English. I have used the on-line text here, and have corrected any typographical errors I managed to spot. Some paragraphs merged.]

 

Marcuse nowhere criticises Hegel for this Idealist approach to knowledge; quite the reverse, he endorses it.

 

George Novack concurs:

 

"What distinguishes essence or essential reality from mere appearance? A thing is truly real if it is necessary, if its appearance truly corresponds to its essence, and only so long as it proves itself to be necessary. Hegel, being the most consistent idealist, sought the source of this necessity in the movement of the universal mind, in the Absolute Idea. Materialists, on the other hand, locate the roots of necessity in the objective world, in the material conditions and conflicting forces which create, sustain and destroy all things. But, from the purely logical standpoint, both schools of philosophy agree in connecting reality with necessity.

 

"Something acquires reality because the necessary conditions for its production and reproduction are objectively present and operative. It becomes more or less real in accordance with the changes in the external and internal circumstances of its development. It remains truly real only so long and insofar as it is necessary under the given conditions. Then, as conditions change, it loses its necessity and its reality and dissolves into mere appearance.

 

"Let us consider a few illustrations of this process, this contradiction between essence and appearance, resulting from the different forms assumed by matter in its motion. In the production of the plant, seed, bud, flower and fruit are all equally necessary phases or forms of its existence. Taken separately, each by itself, they are all equally real, equally necessary, equally rational phases of the plant's development.

 

"Yet each in turn becomes supplanted by the other and thereby becomes no less unnecessary and non-real. Each phase of the plant's manifestation appears as a reality and then is transformed in the course of development into an unreality or an appearance. This movement, triadic in this particular case, from unreality into reality and then back again to unreality, constitutes the essence, the inner movement behind all appearance. Appearance cannot be understood without an understanding of this process. It is this that determines whether any appearance in nature, society or in the mind is rational or non-rational." [Novack (1971), pp.86-87. Bold emphasis added.]

 

On the contrary, all the signs are that dialecticians are pretty visible practitioners of self-delusion. So, on the one hand, we are told that dialectics is and always has been central to revolutionary practice, and that revolutionary cadres always were, and still are, not only full to the brim, they are over-flowing with conscious dialectics, while on the other, we have witnessed little other than the failure of Dialectical Marxism to seize the masses, or even so much as lightly tap them on the shoulder.

 

Hence, if we are to believe this fable, conscious dialectics seems to be associated with long-term failure, while 'unconscious' dialectics appears to be superglued to long-term success!

 

What conclusion should we draw from that? Perhaps this: Every single revolutionary should emulate non-DM scientists and become consciously ignorant of DL.

 

Maybe then our movement will experience some success.

 

Or, perhaps this recommendation reveals yet another failure on my part to "understand" dialectics?

 

Furthermore, do any DM-fans regale us with the following salutary tale involving the 'dialectical ruminations' of Olga Lepeshinskaya?

 

"In the 1920s Lepeshinskaya discredited the work of her supervisor, Alexander Gurvitch, who investigated biophotons and mitogenic rays. She claimed that low doses of ultraviolet light were released by dying cells that had been treated with high doses of UV light. Later she claimed that cells could propagate by disintegration into granules which could generate new forms of cells, different from the parental cells. Also, crystals of inorganic matter could be converted into cells by adding nucleic acids. Further, she espoused spontaneous generation and the presence of a 'vital substance'. These claims were propagated as official dogma in the Soviet Union. A claim that soda baths fostered rejuvenation led to a temporary shortage of baking soda. She based her career on claims to observe de novo emergence of living cells from non-cellular materials, supporting such claims by fabricated proofs which were 'confirmed' by others eager to advance in the politicized scientific system. Actually, she filmed the death and subsequent decomposition of cells, then projected these films reversed.

 

"In May 22–24, 1950 at the special symposium 'Live Matter and Cell Development' for the USSR Academy of Sciences and the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences that was supported by Stalin and chaired by Alexander Oparin, Lepeshinskaya gave the keynote speech, and her discoveries were celebrated as revolutionary by the invited audience. She was the recipient of the Stalin Prize for that year, and her ideas became mandatory instruction in biology. In 1952 a second conference took place to demonstrate 'using experimental methods' that the bourgeois Virchowian concept of cell development (only a living cell can produce another cell) was replaced by a 'new dialectical-materialistic theory on the origin of all living cells from non-living matter.' While her impact and dogmatic dominance have parallels to those of Lysenko, her claims were never officially renounced but just faded away.

 

"She involved her daughter Olga and her son-in-law Vladimir Kryukov in her work; in contrast, her husband, Panteleimon Lepechinsky, thought little of it. 'Don't you listen to her. She's totally ignorant about science and everything she's been saying is a lot of rubbish' he told a visitor...." [Wikipedia, accessed 09/10/2011. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Birstein adds a few extra details:

 

"Academician Aleksandr Oparin (1894-1980) was another who gained significantly from the August 1948 Session. In 1949 he became secretary academician of the Biology Division instead of Academician Orbeli. In contrast to Prezent, he was a serious scientist and the author of a theory on the origin of life. The first version of his book Origin of Life was published in Russian in 1924, and the English edition that appeared in 1938 was widely read by Western scientists. He became corresponding member of the academy in 1939, academician in 1946, and director of the Bach Institute of Biochemistry in 1946. But from the 1940s-1960s, Oparin was more a Soviet official than a scientist. Besides his positions at the academy, in 1950 he was appointed a member of the International Council for Peace, and in 1952 and 1962, he was elected vice president of the International Federation of Scientists.

 

"During his years of power, Academician Oparin was an open pro-Lysenkoist. I have already mentioned his role in the tragic fate of Sabinin [pp.255-56 -- RL]. He became even more famous as a supporter of Olga Lepeshinskaya and her pseudotheory on 'the origin of cells from noncellular matter.'

 

"Lepeshinskaya (1871-1963), an old Bolshevik, a personal friend of Lenin, and an active Party functionary, started her biological studies in the 1920s, when she was over fifty years old. In the 1930s, she published a few papers on 'the origin of cells from non-cellular matter,' which were seriously criticised by many scientists, including Professor Koltsov [who was also an outspoken critic of Lysenko -- RL]. It was evident that all Lepeshinskaya's 'discoveries' were simply based on artefacts (i.e., artificial substances or structures formed during the preparation of microscopic slides) obtained because of poorly and nonprofessionally made histology preparations (she worked at home with her daughter, granddaughter, and daughter's husband, who assisted her)....

 

"Finally, with the help of another old Bolshevik, F. Petrov, in 1945 Lepeshinskaya managed to publish a monograph under the same title as her theory. It had a forward written by Lysenko and one of his closest co-workers, the VASKhNIL [All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences -- RL] academician Ivan Glushchenko. The book described Lepeshinskaya's experiments in which, for instance, red blood cells 'were developed' from yolk.

 

"After Lysenko's victory in 1946 and using her Party connections in the Central Committee, Lepeshinskaya initiated a joint meeting of the Academy Biology Division, the Medical Academy, and representatives of the Agricultural Academy. This meeting took place on May 22-24 1950. Academician Oparin presided over the commission that organized it. He formulated the goal of the meeting:

 

'The attempts to create living systems are possible...only in the Soviet Union. Such attempts are not possible anywhere in capitalist countries because of the ideological position.... I think that the goal of the meeting should be the criticism and destruction of...the last basics of Mendelism in our country, the Virchowian description of the cell theory [i.e., that a cell can be originated only from another cell].'

 

"Twenty-seven speakers praised Lepeshinskaya's alleged discovery.... Some of them were forced to speak by personal order from the Central Committee.

 

"The same year (1950), Lepeshinskaya received the highest Soviet award, the Stalin Prize. Two years later, in 1952, with the involvement of Oparin, a second joint conference of the Medial Academy and the Academy Biology Division on the problem of cell origin was organized. As Lepeshinskaya declared '[U]sing experimental methods...a new dialectical-materialist theory of the origin of all cells from non-living matter has been developed.'

 

"All this nonsense was stopped only after Stalin's death. However, Oparin continued to be an admirer of Lysenko. In 1954 he wrote:

 

'The August 1948 Session of the VASKhNIL and the joint session of the USSR Academy of Sciences...had a profound influence on the development of Soviet biological science. They were turning points after which all branches of biology in our country started to be developed on the basis of materialistic principles of the Michurinist biology and Pavlov's physiology.... Our duty is to continue to guard biological science from the influence of foreign reactionary concepts of Morganism and vitalism.'" [Birstein (2001), pp.260-62. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[See also Wetter (1958), pp.451-55, Soyfer (1994), pp.213-29, and Grant (2007), pp.277-80.]

 

As seems reasonably clear, all this pseudoscience was a direct result of a "conscious application" of DM. It is odd, therefore, to discover that neither Vigier, Novack, nor Parrington mentioned Oparin's support for the 'dialectical science' promoted by Lepeshinskaya.

 

It could be objected that any theory can be misused (and that includes FL). But FL isn't a theory any more than biology or technology is a theory. It is a discipline.

 

Indeed, but how is it possible to decide whether or not DM has ever been used correctly? After all, it 'allows' its acolytes to derive anything they find expedient and its opposite (and that trick is often performed by the very same individual, sometimes on the very same page, in the very same paragraph, or even the very same speech!). As we have seen, any 'difficulties' or internal contradictions that emerge in a political or economic theory generated by the alleged use of DM are glossed over by labelling them 'dialectical' (in a way that is reminiscent of Christians who, in the face of natural or man-made disasters, absolve 'God' by telling anyone who will listen that 'He' works in "mysterious ways"). So, if a DM-fan can't actually explain why something happens they say it is 'dialectical' and that somehow fills the explanatory gap. As one comrade commented about his time in the old Workers' Revolutionary Party (WRP), which operated at the extreme end of the spectrum Dialectical Thought Control and Manipulation:

 

"[All this] was 'complimented' by the most abject philosophical philistinism and theoretically dissolute publication of Healy's very unremarkable 'Studies in Dialectical Materialism' which turned out to be an incomprehensible dog's dinner of convoluted mumbojumbo phrasemongering and terminological confusion. One comrade in Hull sarcastically recommended it as 'bedtime reading' when I told him I was having trouble sleeping. Because we didn't grasp it, we thought it was 'too advanced' for us. We didn't possess the 'supreme dialectical mind of a Gerry Healy'. As things turned out, when we looked at it as the fog started to lift, it was clear that we didn't understand it because it was unadulterated gobbledegook. Here again, we see a characteristic of cult-existence in which its leader was, momentarily at least, attributed powers which he really didn't hold. None of us understood the 'Studies' and so we were told to 'theoretically discipline ourselves' like a mental or intellectual form of self-flagellation or 'penance' found in physical form in some religious cults or sects...." [Quoted from here; accessed 09/10/2013. Quotation marks altered to conform with conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis and link added.]

 

The word "dialectical" thus operates like magic wand, capable of transforming confused thought into cutting edge science -- but only in the minds of DM-'true believers'. It bamboozles the rest.

 

[Dozens of examples of the above phenomenon were given in Essay Nine Part Two.]

 

The 'Dialectical' Biologist

 

Admittedly, a handful of 'dialectical' biologists have claimed that DM has played a crucial part in their study of living organisms -- for instance, the authors of DB, along with several notable members of the Communist Party from a few generations ago (i.e., Haldane, Levy and Bernal).

 

[See also, Lewontin and Levins (2007) -- as well as here. On these and other 'dialectical' scientists, see Roberts (1997), Sheehan (1993), and Werskey (1988). (I hesitate to list Roberts's book since his summary of Wittgenstein's ideas is lamentable, to say the least.)]

 

The authors of DB tell us they consciously use DM in their work. However, in a debate between the present author and Richard Levins a few years ago, it became clear that he, like so many other DL-fans, had a very insecure grasp of FL. Would he, for example, be prepared to accept the biological opinions of a Creationist as authoritative? Why then should we accept criticisms of FL as in any way reliable when they are delivered by those who struggle with its basic concepts?

 

[DB = The Dialectical Biologist; i.e., Levins and Lewontin (1985); DL = Dialectical Logic; FL = Formal Logic.]

 

Unquestionably, an appeal to organic wholes and interconnectedness makes some sort of sense in the Life Sciences, as well as in the study of social development. However, this admission doesn't mean we have to accept the entire DM-enchilada, and opt for universal Holism. [On this, see Essay Eleven Parts One and Two.] Anyway, as will be demonstrated throughout the rest of this site, the concepts found in DL and DM are far too vague, confused and incoherent for them to play a useful role in any of the sciences. Hence, it is little wonder that conscious dialectics helped ruin Soviet Agriculture and Genetics, or that subsequent dialecticians found they had to appeal to all those 'unconscious dialecticians' in non-Soviet science to help them undo the damage.

 

Nevertheless, the authors of DB advance a number of claims (which TAR quotes approvingly; e.g., p.4) that require comment:

 

[1] Levins and Lewontin [L&L] maintain that something called the "Cartesian mode" [i.e., Cartesian Reductionism, CAR] has dominated post-renaissance science. Unfortunately, they failed to substantiate their claims and simply left them as a bald assertions:

 

"The dominant mode of analysis of the physical and biological world and by extension the social world...has been Cartesian reductionism. This Cartesian mode is characterised by four ontological commitments...:

 

"1. There is a natural set of units or parts of which any whole system is made.

 

"2. These units are homogeneous within themselves, at least in so far as they affect the whole of which they are the parts.

 

"3. The parts are ontologically prior to the whole; that is, the parts exist in isolation and come together to make wholes. The parts have intrinsic properties, which they possess in isolation and which they lend to the whole. In the simplest case the whole is nothing but the sum of its parts; more complex cases allow for interactions of the parts to produce added properties of the whole.

 

"4. Causes are separate from effects, causes being the properties of subjects, and effects the properties of objects. While causes may respond to information coming from the effects.... there is no ambiguity about which is causing subject and which is caused object...." [Levins and Lewontin (1985), p.269.]

 

The above allegations are themselves framed in rather broad, general and somewhat vague terms. While it is undeniable that some philosophers and scientists adopted certain aspects of the world-view that L&L attribute to CAR, many either failed to adopt CAR, or they actively opposed it. Indeed, since most of the theorists who supposedly accepted and employed this mode-of-thought (if it is one) were devout Christians, they could hardly posit 'parts separate from wholes' given what they found in the Bible. Naturally, that conclusion (or its opposite) depends on what one means by "separate". [On that, see below.] It is worth adding that L&L cite no sources (primary or secondary) in support of the above views -- and no wonder, since that would have undermined the rather neat picture they hoped to paint.

 

Admittedly, different forms of atomism were prominent in early modern science, but Atomic Theory and the belief in the existence of molecules wasn't universally accepted among scientists until after (i) The publication in 1905 of Einstein's work on Brownian motion and (ii) The work of Jean Baptiste Perrin, a decade later. [Cf., the remarks on this topic in Miller (1987), pp.470-82; a detailed history can be found in Nye (1972).] Also, worthy of note is the fact that classical Atomic Theory (propounded by Dalton) had to be rejected before these novel innovations became generally accepted.

 

[Cf., Laudan (1981). There is an illuminating discussion of these developments in Toulmin and Goodfield (1962), pp.193-305. See also Mason (1962), Brock (1992), Pullman (1998), and Pyle (1997).]

 

DB's authors also ignore the fact that up until about 150 years ago many scientists and philosophers -- and these two disciplines weren't distinguished until the middle of the 19th century -- almost invariably understood the 'unity of the world' in theological, or even mystical, terms. Many of the pioneers of modern science and Philosophy openly accepted Hermetic, Rosicrucian, Alchemical, Occultist, Kabbalist, Neo-Pythagorean, NeoPlatonic and Teleological theories of the nature and origin of the world.

 

[On this see: Bono (1995), Copenhaver (1990, 1998), Coudert (1995, 1999), Debus (1956, 1977, 1978, 1987, 1991), De León-Jones (1997), Dobbs (2002), Easlea (1980), Faivre (1994, 1995, 2000), Harkness (1999), Henry (1986), Hughes (1992), Katz (2005), Linden (2003), Lenoir (1982), McGuire (1967, 1968), McGuire and Rattansi (1966), Newman and Grafton (2001), Newman and Principe (2005), Pagel (1986), Principe (1998), Ross (1983a, 1998 -- unfortunately this link is now dead!), Shumaker (1972), Vickers (1984), Webster (1976, 1982), White (1999), and Yates (1991, 2001, 2004). See also here.]

 

As Leibniz expert, George MacDonald Ross, notes:

 

"During the middle of the seventeenth century, there was a growing consciousness of a divide between two rival and apparently incompatible world-views. On the one hand, there was the materialist, mechanist picture, according to which the world was to be understood exclusively in terms of particles of matter interacting with each other in accordance with the laws of motion. On the other hand, there was the spiritualist, occultist picture, according to which some or all natural phenomena were to be understood in terms of the sympathies and antipathies of spiritual beings acting purposefully. An important dimension of Leibniz's philosophy was his project of synthesising these two approaches through a new set of concepts which would do justice to the insights of each." [Ross (1983b). Unfortunately, this link is now dead. A fuller version of this passage can be found here.]

 

Moreover, the impact of Christianity on the development of Western science was also profound; a particularly illuminating account of this can be accessed in Hooykaas (1973). The book on this is, of course, Webster (1976).

 

In fact, it is now clear that DM itself represents a return to an earlier and pre-enlightenment, enchanted view of nature. Given the fact that DM originated in, and developed out of, theories concocted by prominent Natürphilosophers (e.g., Schelling and Hegel), who themselves derived their ideas from previous generations of Hermetic Mystics (i.e., Plotinus, Proclus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Pseudo-Dionysius, the shadowy figure, Hermes Trismegistus, John Scotus Eriugena, Meister Eckhart, Raymond Lull, Nicholas of Cusa, Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola, Marsilio Ficino, Giordano Bruno, Paracelsus, Valentin Weigel, Jacob Böhme, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Friedrich Christoph Oetinger), this isn't surprising. [Details can be found in Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here). Several sources are cited below.]

 

Connected with the above, L&L omit any mention of the strong Organicist and Holistic traditions in early modern science (represented most notably in the work of people like Herder, Goethe, Schelling and Oken). Emerging out of the aforementioned Hermetic and Neo-Platonist philosophies of the Renaissance, this tradition helped give birth to Natürphilosophie, just as it inspired Vitalist and Romantic views of 'Nature'. Indeed, this set of world-views dominated the Romantic Movement, from whom Hegel also derived inspiration. This alone casts doubt on DB's simplistic picture of the development of science since the 17th century. Post-Renaissance scientific thought, therefore, was both Atomist and Organicist. [On this, see Holmes (2008).]

 

However, of much more interest and importance is the metaphysical thread that runs through science, as well as Traditional Philosophy -- the influence of which has cast DM itself in a compromising light, certainly more than the authors of DB imagine or might be prepared to admit. [The political context to much of this will be covered in Essays Nine Part One, Twelve Parts One and Two, and Fourteen Parts One and Two; summaries here and here).]

 

Concerning the influence of Hermeticism on Hegel, see J White (1996), pp.36-43, and Magee (2008); the Introduction to the latter has been re-posted here. On Goethe, see Bortoft (1996), Naydler (1996) and Tantillo (2002). Cf., also Collingwood (1960) and Lovejoy (1964). On the Natürphilosophie of thinkers like Böhme, Schelling, Oken, Kielmeyer, and Goethe, see Benz (1983), Mason (1962), pp.349-62, O'Regan (1994), Richards (2002) and Tuveson (1982). On Oersted's influence on Engels, cf., Graham (1973), and Williams (1980). See also, Brown (1977), Harrington (1996), Horn (1997), and Weeks (1991, 1993). There is an excellent summary of the ideas of several of the above theorists -- alongside the extent of their influence on Hegel -- in Beiser (2005), pp.80-109; see also Heidelberger (1998). [Unfortunately, this link is now dead.]

 

To be fair, Rees also argued that a holistic view of nature on its own is insufficient to distinguish DM from other superficially similar, mystical systems of thought; however, he added that there was another way to tell the two apart:

 

"Here the key is to see all the different aspects of society and nature as interconnected. They are not separate, discrete processes which develop in isolation from each other. Mainstream sociological and scientific thought 'has bequeathed us the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, detached from the general context'. Much of our schooling today still follows this pattern -- the development of the arts is separated from that of the sciences, and 'technical' subjects are separated from languages, history and geography. Our newspapers and TV news programmes divide the world up in the same artificial way -- poverty levels and stock exchange news, wars and company profit figures, strikes and government policy, suicide statistics and the unemployment rate are all reported in their own little compartments as if they are only distantly related, if at all. A dialectical analysis tries to re-establish the real connections between these elements, 'to show internal connections'. It tries, in the jargon of dialectics, to see the world as 'a totality', 'a unity'.

 

"To see society and nature as an interconnected totality which is in a process of constant change still leaves one vital question unanswered. What makes this whole process develop? Why does it change? There are any number of religious and philosophical theories which try to answer this question by insisting that the motor of change lies outside the historical process -- with god, or in the unchanging pattern of human nature or in the eternal features of the human soul. Marx and Engels rejected these approaches as mystical and, literally, supernatural. They insisted that the processes which drove the development of nature and society forward must be internal contradictions, not supersensible entities like god, the soul or, as Hegel had argued, the general essence of human consciousness existing somewhere in the ether beyond the consciousness of actual living human beings." [Rees (1994), p.62.]

 

"Totality alone is not, however, a sufficient definition of the dialectic. Many undialectical views of society make use of the idea of totality. The Catholic Church has its own mystical view of the all-embracing nature of God's creation and a very practical view of the temporal hierarchy that goes with it. 'The Taoist tradition in China shares with dialectics the emphasis on wholeness, the whole being maintained by the balance of opposites such as yin and yang'.... [Rees is here quoting DB, pp.274-75.]

 

"What unites all these explanations is that they see the totality as static. Beneath all the superficial bustle of the world lies an enduring, eternal truth: the unchanging face of God, the ceaseless search for the balance between yin and yang, or the timeless shapes, for good or ill, of human values. What they all lack is the notion of a totality as a process of change. And even where such systems grant the possibility of instability and change it is considered merely as the prelude to a restored equilibrium.... [Rees failed to notice that he had just contradicted himself; one minute none of these mystical systems admit of change; next some of them do! -- RL.]

 

"Change, development, instability, on the other hand, are the very conditions for which a dialectical approach is designed to account. The 'great merit' of the Hegelian system, wrote Engels, is that:

 

'[F]or the first time the whole world, natural, historical, intellectual, is represented as a process -- i.e., as in constant motion, change, transformation, development; and the attempt is made to trace out the internal connection that makes a continuous whole of all this movement and development. From this point of view, the history of mankind no longer appeared as a wild whirl of senseless deeds of violence, all equally condemnable at the judgment seat of mature philosophic reason and which are best forgotten as quickly as possible, but as the process of evolution of man himself.'" [Rees (1998), p.6. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Rees is here quoting Engels (1892), p.408 -- in the edition I have used.]

 

However, I have challenged Rees's claims, here, here, and here, where I have quoted numerous mystics who also believed in (i) Totality, (ii) Change through forces analogous to contradictions, and (iii) The idea that 'God' is subject to change, or that 'He' is a process, too. [I have listed even more of the same in Appendix One to Essay Two.] Admittedly, not all of those immersed in such belief systems thought that change was caused by contradictions, but many argued that things were ruled by dialectically-connected and inter-related opposites, distinguishable from Hegel and Engels's 'contradictions' in name alone. Nevertheless, Rees also failed to mention the important Organicist tradition in post-Renaissance science, nor did he alert his readers to the latter's influence on Schelling and Hegel (and hence on Engels).

 

Indeed, Rees failed to note that Hegel's mystical 'Totality' is suffused with change -- motivated by 'contradictions' --  from top to bottom, inside and out, and that includes his 'Absolute', 'God'.

 

Furthermore, it is also clear that DB's authors themselves adopt a mildly revisionist view of Engels's work; in fact, they even tell us that "much of what he [Engels] wrote about [the physical world] seems quaint." [DB, p.279.] Despite this, L&L also attempt to equate contradictions with opposing forces [DB, p.280], but as Essay Eight Part Two shows, that was an unwise move. Nevertheless, in their characterization of CAR, L&L pointedly failed to argue that the absence of an appeal to "contradictions" (to account for change) was one of its weaknesses. Perhaps this was an oversight, but it does tend to spoil the neat picture Rees hoped to paint.

 

[2] DB counterposes DL to CAR as a superior method, at least in the Life Sciences -- and, by implication, throughout the rest of the sciences. However, as we will see in other Essays posted at this site, DL introduced into epistemology a far more pernicious brain virus: HEX.

 

[HEX = Hegelian Expansionism; this term is explained in Essay Ten Part One; DL = Dialectical Logic.]

 

Small wonder then that the vast majority of scientists (outwith the old Stalinist block and its 'fellow travellers') have completely ignored DL -- that is, if they have ever even heard of it!

 

[On Soviet Science, see Birstein (2001), Graham (1973, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1998), Joravsky (1961), Kojevnikov (2004), Krementsov (1997), Pollock (2006), Soyfer (1994), and Vucinich (1980, 2001).]

 

In his reply to Burnham, Trotsky commented on a related issue:

 

"In order to deal me a blow in the most vital spot Burnham informs me that in the university textbooks on logic that he deals with, the dialectic is not mentioned at all. He should have added that in the university courses on political economy Marx's labour theory of value is not mentioned either, or it is mentioned only under the sign of condemnation. And the main thing that should have been mentioned is that in the university textbook there is no mention, or only a condemnation, of historical materialism. In the courses in civil law there is no exposition, or only a condemnation, of the socialist attitude toward property forms, etc., etc.... From the fact that the dialectic is not mentioned in the university textbooks [it is essential] to draw some conclusions about the class nature of official scholarship -- its fear of revolution, the inability of bourgeois thought to go beyond the limits of empirical tasks, etc. For Burnham and his ilk the banning of Marxism from official scholarship suffices to disprove the scientific nature of Marxism." [Trotsky (1973), p.403.]

 

To be sure, there is deep seated prejudice against Marxism in academic circles (and elsewhere), but the reason DL isn't mentioned in logic textbooks can't simply be attributed to bourgeois hostility since Hegel was a quintessentially bourgeois philosopher -- whose work and ideas are, alas, experiencing a significant revival even among Analytic Philosophers of late (for reasons that will be explained in Essay Twelve). [On that, see for example, Redding (2007).] And yet, DL still fails to make it into logic textbooks. The reason for this is plain, and it is similar to the reason why Astrology doesn't make it into textbooks on Astronomy, or why Crystal Healing fails to be included in Medical textbooks -- it isn't even logic.

 

Nevertheless, Rees refers his readers to several other theorists who have tried to find some sort of scientific role for DL to play. [Rees (1998), p.120; note 60.] Attempts like this (to squeeze science into a dialectical boot it won't fit) will be considered in detail in Essay Thirteen Part Two.

 

[On the allegation that David Bohm used DM in his work, see Essay Seven Part One.]

 

Finally, L&L only offer their readers only highly sketchy details concerning exactly how DM has featured in their work, indeed, of a sort that would prompt one or both of them failing an undergraduate who came out with such low grade work. [I will add more details about this in a future re-write of this Essay.]

 

DL -- A 'Higher Form' Of Logic?

 

Judge For Yourself

 

What then of the general boast that DL is a superior form of logic? Is there any way of confirming it? Perhaps there is; John Rees claims that DL doesn't reject FL, and neither is it:

 

"[A]n alternative to 'normal' scientific methods or formal logic…. Formal Logic, like Newtonian physics, has proved inadequate to deal with 'more complicated and drawn out processes.' So the dialectic stands in the same relation to formal logic as Newtonian physics stands to relativity theory or, as Trotsky puts it, as 'that between higher and lower mathematics'." [Rees (1998), p.271, quoting Trotsky (1971), p.63. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

If it can be shown that DL does all that Rees claims for it, then perhaps the 'academic' quibbles aired above can be set aside. Other Essays posted at this site are aimed at examining these claims, and more besides. However, a few awkward initial problems need to be addressed first before the main feature can begin.

 

First of all, while it is clear that Relativity has largely superseded Newtonian Physics it isn't at all obvious that this was related to the latter's inability to deal with "drawn out processes". Still less clear is what exactly FL and DL have in common that makes Trotsky's analogy with higher and lower mathematics at all apposite. If anything, the opposite appears to be the case: DM-theorists are only too happy to begin their discussions of FL by pointing out that many of what they (but no one else) take to be its central tenets are in fact fundamentally defective. This includes the LOI, the LOC and the LEM (among others). [These allegations will be fully documented in the next subsection.]

 

Although lower mathematics is clearly limited in scope, none of its precepts are defective and we don't find professional mathematicians criticising it in any way from the outset because of that --, quite unlike the attitude adopted toward FL by DM-theorists, who constantly excoriate it.

 

[LOI = Law of Identity; LOC = Law of Non-Contradiction; LEM = Law of Excluded Middle; FL = Formal Logic; DL = Dialectical Logic.]

 

Secondly, and as will be demonstrated in Essays Five and Six, Trotsky's attempt to criticise the LOI and Engels's 'analysis' of motion collapse into incoherence with remarkable ease. In stark contrast, higher mathematics doesn't disintegrate when we pass beyond its 'lower' forms. In fact, far from being able to handle "more complicated and drawn out processes", DL has great difficulty even coping with an ordinary bag of sugar and the movement of the average cat!

 

Furthermore, higher and lower mathematics aren't inconsistent with each other. Hence, we don't find mathematicians correcting elementary addition, multiplication or trigonometry, nor do we find them expanding on the limitations of, say, the equal sign, the cube root function or methods used to solve simple linear equations. Admittedly, higher mathematics contains concepts and rules not found in lower mathematics, but there is no suggestion that in the latter its procedures and symbols are defective, or that they are the very opposite of what they are normally taken to be. Compare this with the sort of comments made by DL-enthusiasts about FL:

 

"Trotsky saw that it was the inadequacies and contradictions of formal logic that drove theorists toward dialectical formulations. Even those who pride themselves on a 'deductive method', which proceeds 'through a number of premises to the necessary conclusion,' frequently 'break the chain of syllogisms and, under the influence of purely empirical considerations, arrive at conclusions which have no connection with the previous logical chain.' Such ad hoc empirical adjustments to the conclusions of formal logic betray a 'primitive form of dialectical thinking.'" [Ibid., p.272. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Again, it is worth pointing out once more that fundamental criticisms of FL (like these) advanced by DL-fans are never substantiated with examples taken from the work of a single logician.21 Add to that Lenin's remarks:

 

"The inaneness of these forms of formal logic makes them deserving of 'contempt' and 'derision'…. Hegel shrewdly adds [concerning the Syllogism]: 'Boredom immediately descends when such a syllogism is heard approaching.'" [Lenin (1961), pp.93, 177. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

It would be difficult to find a single mathematician who is as dismissive of lower mathematics as Lenin is of FL -- or any modern scientist, for that matter, who would be prepared to call Aristotle or Newton's work "inane" and fit only for "contempt" and "derision".22

 

Dialectical Inanities

 

[Readers should compare much of what follows with what Buddhists and Zen Buddhists have to say about the LOC and the LEM, posted here and here.]

 

Nevertheless, to return to the DM-fairytale that there are exactly three principles underlying FL: In fact, there are countless principles underpinning MFL --, as many as there are authors prepared to define them. But, as we will also see, this hoary old fable isn't even true of AFL!

 

[FL = Formal Logic; MFL = Modern FL; AFL = Aristotelian FL; LOC = Law of Non-contradiction;  LOI = Law of Identity; LEM = Law of Excluded Middle.]

 

Dialecticians who pontificate on this topic seldom (if ever) substantiate their fanciful attempts to re-write the history and the foundations of FL with quotations from, or citations to, a single logic text (except those badly mis-titled books Hegel inflicted on the world). In fact, their lamentably weak effort to come to grips with FL bear an uncanny resemblance to the lame attempts made by Creationists to do the same with Evolutionary Theory, in their literature and on their websites.

 

Here is John Molyneux who made this not unreasonable point:

 

"Marxist materialism is repeatedly attacked by the method of oversimplifying and caricaturing it to the point where it is obviously false...." [Molyneux (2012), p.36.]

 

As we are about to see, this is precisely what he and other DM-fans do when they attempt to summarise, discuss or criticise FL.

 

Grossly ill-informed caricatures like this will only ever impress the ignorant, which appears to be the aim. Anyone who knows any MFL (or, indeed, AFL) will see these attacks for what they are: ignorant bluster. Those who don't will be led astray accordingly. Moreover, if my experience debating this topic on the Internet is anything to go by, benighted DM-fans refuse to be told, preferring instead to believe what Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin or Trotsky have told them about AFL, or, indeed, logic in general, again, without an atom of supporting evidence. They are as impervious to correction as are rabid Donald Trump supporters.

 

This is one of many explanations of the fact that highly intelligent comrades (who are otherwise quite knowledgeable in science, economics, history, current affairs, politics, etc., etc.) continually publish descriptions of FL that are not only demonstrably incorrect, they aren't even coherent in their own terms -- as will be demonstrated presently. [I examine a number of other reasons for this self-inflicted ignorance in Essay Nine Parts One and Two.]

 

It is to be hoped that long exposure to DL hasn't completely destroyed these comrades' critical faculties, although, in what follows, it will become painfully clear that the case for the defence is considerably weakened by the publication of each new book or article on dialectics.

 

Below, I have reproduced just a few of the scores of crass things dialecticians have to say about AFL and FL, much of which is highly repetitive, anyway. It is to be hoped that having read through what follows, the conclusion that dialecticians simply copy these allegations off one another without bothering to check them -- let alone devote much thought to them -- will also have occurred to the reader and not just the present writer.

 

Apologies are owed once again to the hardy souls (who will have to wade through what follows) for my having to inflict yet more of this sorry material on them -- but they can spare a thought for yours truly who has had to read this stuff, and much more like it, over and over again for nigh on forty years, in order to try to make some sort of sense of it. Recall, too, that the quotations reproduced below are only a tiny fraction of those that could have been posted. Finally, I have chosen examples from right across the political spectrum of Dialectical Marxism; whatever the sharp disagreements the latter have over concrete political questions, they all agree, almost to the letter, about the alleged nature and limitations of FL, and they all make the same mistakes.

 

A particularly egregious example of this type of confusion can be found in George Novack's woefully misconceived book on DL:

 

"There are three fundamental laws of formal logic. First and most important is the law of identity. This law can be stated in various ways such as: A thing is always equal to or identical with itself. In algebraic terms: A equals A.... If a thing is always and under all conditions equal to or identical with itself, it can never be unequal to or different from itself. This conclusion follows logically and inevitably from the law of identity. If A always equals A, it can never equal non-A.

 

"This conclusion is made explicit in the second law of formal logic: the law of contradiction. The law of contradiction states: A is not non-A. This is no more than the negative formulation of the positive assertion expressed in the first law of formal logic. If A is A, it follows, according to formal thinking that A can't be non-A. Thus the second law of formal logic, the law of contradiction forms the essential supplement to the first law. Some examples: a man can't be inhuman; a democracy can't be undemocratic; a wageworker can't be a non-wageworker.

 

"The law of contradiction signifies the exclusion of difference from the essence of things and of thought about things. If A is necessarily always identical with itself, it can't be different from itself. Difference and identity are, according to these two rules of formal logic, completely different, utterly disconnected, mutually exclusive characteristics of both things and thoughts. This mutually exclusive quality of things is expressly taken note of in the third law of formal logic. This is the law of the excluded middle. According to this law, everything is and must be either one of two mutually exclusive things. If A equals A, it can't equal non-A. A can't be part of two opposing classes at one and the same time. Wherever two opposing statements or states of affairs confront each other, both can't be true or false. A is either B or it is not B. The correctness of one judgement invariably implies the incorrectness of its contrary, and vice versa." [Novack (1971), pp.20-21. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

The LOI will be discussed in considerable detail in Essay Six, but the reader will note that Novack -- except in one instance (discussed below) -- nowhere attempts to substantiate his wild allegations with a reference to a single FL-text. To be sure, he paraphrases Aristotle from time to time, but it is just as plain that he grasped little of what he read.

 

Let us be clear then what Aristotle himself said:

 

"So it must be possible to deny whatever anyone has affirmed. Thus it is clear that for every affirmation there is an opposite negation, and for every negation an opposite affirmation. Let us call an affirmation and a negation which are opposite a contradiction. I speak of statements as opposite when they affirm and deny the same thing of the same thing -- not homonymously, together with all other such conditions that we add to counter the troublesome objections of sophists....

 

"I call an affirmation and a negation contradictory opposites when what one signifies universally the other signifies not universally, e.g. every man is white -- not every man is white [i.e., some man is not white -- RL], no man is white -- some man is white. But I call the universal affirmation and the universal negation contrary opposites, e.g. every man is just -- no man is just. So these can't be true together, but their opposites may both be true with respect to the same thing, e.g. not every man is white -- some man is white.

 

"Of contradictory statements about a universal taken universally it is necessary for one or the other to be true or false; similarly if they are about particulars, e.g. Socrates is white -- Socrates is not white. But if they are about a universal not taken universally it is not always the case that one is true and the other false. For it is true to say at the same time that a man is white and that a man is not white, or that a man is noble and that a man is not noble.... This might seem absurd at first sight, because 'a man is not white' looks as if it signifies also at the same time that no man is white; this, however, does not signify the same, nor does it necessarily hold at the same time." [Aristotle (1984b), 7, 17-38, pp.27-28. Emphasis added. The on-line translation is different from the one I have used.]

 

In the above passage, Aristotle was alluding to an early version of his famous "Square of Opposition":

 

 

Figure One: The 'Square Of Opposition'

 

[On that, see here.]

 

Readers will, I hope, notice the sophistication apparent in Aristotle's first faltering attempts to say clearly how he intends to use certain words, just as they will no doubt take note of how little the musings of comrade Novack correspond with them. In fact, what Aristotle has to say about the LOC, for example, bears no little or relation to what Novack says about Aristotle's ideas. Aristotle nowhere uses identity, or lack of it, to define contradiction (that was a fiction invented by post-Renaissance philosophers and logicians, an odd idea Hegel was only too happy to appropriate; on that, see here).

 

Aristotle:

 

"So it must be possible to deny whatever anyone has affirmed. Thus it is clear that for every affirmation there is an opposite negation, and for every negation an opposite affirmation. Let us call an affirmation and a negation which are opposite a contradiction. I speak of statements as opposite when they affirm and deny the same thing of the same thing -- not homonymously, together with all other such conditions that we add to counter the troublesome objections of sophists....

 

"I call an affirmation and a negation contradictory opposites when what one signifies universally the other signifies not universally, e.g. every man is white -- not every man is white [i.e., some man is not white -- RL], no man is white -- some man is white. But I call the universal affirmation and the universal negation contrary opposites, e.g. every man is just -- no man is just. So these can't be true together, but their opposites may both be true with respect to the same thing, e.g. not every man is white -- some man is white." [Ibid.]

 

Novack:

 

"The law of contradiction signifies the exclusion of difference from the essence of things and of thought about things. If A is necessarily always identical with itself, it can't be different from itself. Difference and identity are, according to these two rules of formal logic, completely different, utterly disconnected, mutually exclusive characteristics of both things and thoughts." [Loc cit.]

 

Moreover, there is no reference to the LOI in Aristotle's work. [On that, see my comments over at Wikipedia, here, where I have shown that the passages taken from Aristotle's work, to which some appeal to show he did in fact use the LOI, don't in fact show this. Readers are referred there for more details; but it is important to add, I have posted about half a dozen comments about this on the same page.]22a1

 

The original Wikipedia article -- which has been changed -- asserted that no occurrence of the LOI could be found in anyone's work prior to that of Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century; however, the comments page asserts that the first instance of it occurs in John Locke.

 

However, we find the following comment in Hamilton's Logic:

 

"The law of Identity, I stated, was not explicated as a coordinate principle till a comparatively recent period. The earliest author in whom I have found this done, is Antonius Andreas, a scholar of Scotus, who flourished at the end of the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth century. The schoolman, in the fourth book of his Commentary of Aristotle's Metaphysics, -- a commentary which is full of the most ingenious and original views, -- not only asserts to the law of Identity a coördinate dignity with the law of Contradiction, but, against Aristotle, he maintains that the principle of Identity, and not the principle of Contradiction, is the one absolutely first. The formula in which Andreas expressed it was Ens est ens. [Being is being -- RL.] Subsequently to this author, the question concerning the relative priority of the two laws of Identity and of Contradiction became one much agitated in the schools; though there were also found some who asserted to the law of Excluded Middle this supreme rank." [Quoted from here (accessed 04/10/2014). I haven't yet been able to check this source. Bold emphasis and links added.]

 

The aforementioned editorial change to that Wikipedia article -- on this see Note 22a1 (link above) --  doesn't alter much, but it does attempt to locate a use of "identity" in Aristotle's work. However, Aristotle neither uses this word nor this 'Law'. Of course, this means that Aristotle didn't base his logic on this 'Law', or on the LOC, despite what generations of DM-theorists try to tell us.

 

Be this as it may, the aforementioned article quoted Aristotle as follows:

 

"Now 'why a thing is itself' is doubtless a meaningless inquiry; for the fact or the existence of the thing must already be evident (e.g. that the moon is eclipsed) but the fact that a thing is itself is the single formula and the single cause to all such questions as why the man is man, or the musical musical, unless one were to say that each thing is inseparable from itself; and its being one just meant this. This, however, is common to all things and is a short and easy way with the question." [Aristotle (1984e), p.1643; Book VII, Part 17. I have used a more modern translation than seems to have been used by the author of the Wikipedia article. This is available here; scroll down to Part 17. This is clearly the source the author of the said article used.]

 

So, far from basing his logic on 'identity', Aristotle seems quite dismissive of it.

 

Indeed, he appears to be making a totally different point, as I noted on the 'Talk' page over at Wikipedia:

 

And the quotation takes this 'law' out of context, for not only does Aristotle not mention 'identity', he specifically talks about predication (and since identity is a relation, he can't be talking about identity -- the conflation of relational with predicative expressions is more modern):

 

"Let us state what, i.e. what kind of thing, substance should be said to be, taking once more another starting-point; for perhaps from this we shall get a clear view also of that substance which exists apart from sensible substances. Since, then, substance is a principle and a cause, let us pursue it from this starting-point. The 'why' is always sought in this form -- 'why does one thing attach to some other?' For to inquire why the musical man is a musical man, is either to inquire -- as we have said why the man is musical, or it is something else. Now 'why a thing is itself' is a meaningless inquiry (for (to give meaning to the question 'why') the fact or the existence of the thing must already be evident -- e.g. that the moon is eclipsed -- but the fact that a thing is itself is the single reason and the single cause to be given in answer to all such questions as why the man is man, or the musician musical', unless one were to answer 'because each thing is inseparable from itself, and its being one just meant this'; this, however, is common to all things and is a short and easy way with the question). But we can inquire why man is an animal of such and such a nature. This, then, is plain, that we are not inquiring why he who is a man is a man. We are inquiring, then, why something is predicable of something (that it is predicable must be clear; for if not, the inquiry is an inquiry into nothing). E.g. why does it thunder? This is the same as 'why is sound produced in the clouds?' Thus the inquiry is about the predication of one thing of another. And why are these things, i.e. bricks and stones, a house? Plainly we are seeking the cause. And this is the essence (to speak abstractly), which in some cases is the end, e.g. perhaps in the case of a house or a bed, and in some cases is the first mover; for this also is a cause. But while the efficient cause is sought in the case of genesis and destruction, the final cause is sought in the case of being also." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]

 

There is, however, another site on the Internet that does manage to trace the history and origin of this 'Law' -- and it isn't to Aristotle --, but, in line with Hamilton, above, it traces the LOI to Medieval Roman Catholic Logicians. However, since that site is run by an overt fascist, I won't cite it. [A Google search will soon find it, though -- that is, if you can stomach the rest of the material you will find there!]

 

Now, it may be that Novack consulted a spectacularly poor logic text (and, alas, there are plenty of those about), or maybe none at all, and so just made things up. But, if he did, he wisely kept that shameful secret to himself.

 

[In fact, as we will see in Essay Twelve, Novack was relying largely on Hegel, and possibly also on a handful of traditional 18th or 19th Century logicians, who made similar mistakes. Readers are encouraged to read the rest of De Interpretatione; the above passage gives just a hint of the sophistication Aristotle attempted to bring to the subject all those years ago, something Hegel either failed to appreciate, or tried his best to undo. DM-fans have only succeeded in compounding this false step --, and, ironically, they have done this when logic is far better understood than at any other time in history, developments that have sailed over their ideologically compromised heads.]

 

Now, as noted above, Aristotle says the opposite of what Novack attributes to FL:

 

"...For example, the negation of 'to be a man' is 'not to be a man', not 'to be a not-man', and the negation of 'to be a white man' is 'not to be a white man', not 'to be a not-white man'....

 

"...For it is possible for the same thing to be and not to be: such statements are not contradictories of one another...." [Aristotle (1984b), 12, 1-12, p.34. Bold emphases added.]

 

It is reasonably clear from this that Aristotle wouldn't have accepted Novack's particular use of non-A as the contradictory of A, for instance.

 

The sort of negation Aristotle is alluding to above (where he rejects expressions containing locutions like "not-man" as contradictories of those that contain "man") is called predicate-term negation. [On that, see here.]

 

The failure to notice the difference between propositional negation, predicate negation and predicate-term negation (but more specifically the latter two of these) has clearly confused dialecticians like Novack; but, once again, such errors abound in the work of other DM-theorists. Aristotle drew attention to this distinction over two thousand ago! It could be that DM-fans haven't had enough time to catch up, or for it to sink in.

 

Logic has moved on considerably since Aristotle's day, as have mathematics and the sciences. No one -- other than traditionalists and confused dialecticians -- would be happy with Aristotle's characterisation of contradictions (etc.) today. However, it is nevertheless apparent from what Novack and the other DL-fans quoted below have to say that they are significantly less logically advanced than Aristotle was 2400 years ago! It is equally clear that Novack didn't consult Aristotle's writings before he simply made up the above comments (or he had a bag over his head as he leafed through Aristotle's work!), just as it is no less clear that the same can be said of the other DM-fans quoted below. For example, Novack pointedly confused the LOI 'stated negatively' with the LOC:

 

"This conclusion is made explicit in the second law of formal logic: the law of contradiction. The law of contradiction states: A is not non-A. This is no more than the negative formulation of the positive assertion expressed in the first law of formal logic. If A is A, it follows, according to formal thinking that A can't be non-A. Thus the second law of formal logic, the law of contradiction forms the essential supplement to the first law. Some examples: a man can't be inhuman; a democracy can't be undemocratic; a wageworker can't be a non-wageworker.

 

"The law of contradiction signifies the exclusion of difference from the essence of things and of thought about things. If A is necessarily always identical with itself, it can't be different from itself. Difference and identity are, according to these two rules of formal logic, completely different, utterly disconnected, mutually exclusive characteristics of both things and thoughts.

 

"This mutually exclusive quality of things is expressly taken note of in the third law of formal logic. This is the law of the excluded middle. According to this law, everything is and must be either one of two mutually exclusive things. If A equals A, it can't equal non-A. A can't be part of two opposing classes at one and the same time. Wherever two opposing statements or states of affairs confront each other, both can't be true or false. A is either B or it is not B. The correctness of one judgement invariably implies the incorrectness of its contrary, and vice versa." [Novack (1971), pp.20-21. Some paragraphs merged.]

 

As I have shown in Essay Eight Part Three, there is no connection at all between the LOI 'stated negatively' and the LOC. The same comment applies to Novack's attempt to drag the LEM into this logical quagmire.

 

To be sure, Aristotle made many mistakes; for example, he often confused propositions with what he calls "terms" (indeed, almost all the way through Prior Analytics), and he crossed effortlessly between talk about talk and talk about things, running both together at times; but he did at least try to be careful. He was, after all, beginning virtually from scratch. Anyone who reads his work (and who doesn't rely on comrades like Novack to put them off) will soon see why Marx thought so highly of him.

 

However, Novack did at least try to make a weak attempt to support what he said in the following quotation with a direct reference to Aristotle (his only one in fact in the entire book, as far as I can determine):

 

"Let me cite an interesting example of this kind of thinking from Aristotle's writings. In his Posterior Analytics (Book 1; ch.33, p.158 -- this is in fact pp.146-47 in the edition I have used; RL), Aristotle says that a man can't simultaneously apprehend first, that man is essentially animal, i.e., can't be other than animal -- and second, that man is not essentially animal, that is, may assume that he is other than animal. That is to say, a man is essentially a man and can never be thought of as not being a man." [Novack (1971), p.21.]

 

Now, if we check what Aristotle actually said, we will soon see things aren't quite as Novack would have us believe (which is perhaps why Novack chose to paraphrase, but not quote, the passage in question):

 

"Similarly there is both knowledge and opinion of the same thing. For the one is of animal in such a way that it can't not be an animal, and the other in such a way that it can be -- e.g. if the one is just what is man, and the other of man but not of just what is man. For it is the same because man is the same, but the manner is not the same.

 

"It is also evident that it is not possible to opine and to understand the same thing at the same time. For one would at the same time hold the belief that the same thing can be otherwise and can't be otherwise, which is not possible. For in different men it is possible for there to be each of these attitudes with regard to the same thing, as has been said; but in the same man it is not possible even in this way; for he will at the same time hold a belief, e.g. that a man is just what is an animal (for this is what it was for it not to be possible for something not to be an animal), and that a man is not just what is an animal (for let that be what it is for it to be possible)." [Aristotle (1984d), Book 1, 33, 89a:34-89b:6, pp.146-47. Bold emphases added. Again, I have used a different translation to the one published on-line.]

 

Admittedly, this passage isn't the clearest that has ever been committed to paper, but it nowhere mentions "essence", and although it contains allusions to the LOC, it is couched in terms that make Novack's 'paraphrase' prejudicial, if not misleading, to say the least. The sections highlighted in bold bring this out. Hence, Aristotle's position was far more complex than Novack acknowledged, but he was happy to misrepresent him nonetheless.

 

Finally, Aristotle had the following to say: "It is also evident that it is not possible to opine and to understand the same thing at the same time...". In relation to Novack, at least, I think we can agree with Aristotle on that one. Indeed, just like other DM-fans, Novack revealed that not only had he failed to grasp the basics of FL, but he was nevertheless quite happy to pontificate and "opine" about it.

 

Be this as it may, a measure of the sophistication modern logicians have brought to the subject can be judged from the content even of introductory textbooks on the Philosophy of Logic. For example, one such that takes a very 'Oxford' view of the subject is Wolfram (1989); a completely different slant can be found in Haack (1979). Dialecticians often label the attention to detail on display in books like this, "pedantry", but it is abundantly clear that their own relaxed, if not sloppy, attitude to what is a very difficult and complex discipline allows them to indulge in some easy, but quintessentially confused, 'thought'.

 

[Bertrand Russell once said: "Most people would rather die than think, in fact they do." He didn't have dialecticians in mind when he said this, but perhaps he should.]

 

More challenging material can be found in, say, Goble (2001), Jacquette (2002, 2006), Quine (1970) and Shapiro (2005). [This links to a PDF.]22a2

 

As an excellent historian of science, one would expect Clifford Conner to have known better, but as an avowed pupil of George Novack, he plainly doesn't. In fact he happily emulates the master, making all the usual mistakes -- except he is content to make do with only one basic law of FL:

 

"The central principle on which formal logic is built can be expressed in a simple formula that at first glance appears to be a self-evident truth 'A equals A'.... Beginning with this law you can derive all of formal logic. One important corollary is the law of exclude of middle. That is, if 'A equal B' is a true statement, then 'A is not equal to B' must be a false statement. A is either identical to B or it is not. It's one or the other; there is no middle ground." [Conner (1992), p.22. Link added and paragraphs merged.]

 

[The above comments appeared in a section entitled Aristotle's Formal Logic, leaving the reader in no doubt that the author associated these confused musings with Aristotle's logic.]

 

As expected, Conner offered his readers no evidence at all in support of these allegations (we have already seen they can't be found in Aristotle), nor did he explain how the LEM can be derived from the LOI. Of course, if the LEM is correct, then what Connor says about it is indeed the case, but then the LEM can't be a corollary of the LOI, since what he says follows only on the basis of both 'laws'. Neither takes precedence, and they aren't inter-derivable, either.

 

Be this as it may, it would be interesting to see Conner derive all of FL from the LOI -- including disjunctive and conjunctive normal forms, to say nothing of consistency and completeness proofs. [On this, see Lemmon (1996), pp.75-91, 189-200, and Hunter (1996), pp.137-215.] If he managed to do this, he would be odds on favourite for the award of a Fields Medal:

 

"Beginning with this law you can derive all of formal logic. One important corollary is the law of exclude of middle. That is, if 'A equals B' is a true statement, then 'A is not equal to B' must be a false statement. A is either identical to B or it is not. It's one or the other; there is no middle ground." [Conner (1992), p.22. Link added.]

 

Earlier, Conner had defined the LOI as follows: "A is equal to A", but it has now morphed into "A equals B". It looks like Conner's definition isn't 'equal' to Conner's definition!

 

Compare this with Novack's earlier comment, who seems no less confused:

 

"This mutually exclusive quality of things is expressly taken note of in the third law of formal logic. This is the law of the excluded middle. According to this law, everything is and must be either one of two mutually exclusive things. If A equals A, it can't equal non-A. A can't be part of two opposing classes at one and the same time. Wherever two opposing statements or states of affairs confront each other, both can't be true or false. A is either B or it is not B. The correctness of one judgement invariably implies the incorrectness of its contrary, and vice versa." [Novack (1971), pp.20-21.]

 

"Both can't be true or false"? That must mean they are truth-valueless!

 

However, one minute, A is the name of an object -- which is its legitimate role in simple versions of the LOI --; we can see this when Novack tells us that "According to this law, everything is and must be either one of two mutually exclusive things.... A can't be part of two opposing classes at one and the same time". The next it stands for a proposition (i.e., a "statement") or even a "state of affairs"(!) -- which we can see when he says that "Wherever two opposing statements or states of affairs confront each other, both can't be true or false."

 

But "Socrates is true" makes no sense, while "Socrates is identical with Socrates" does (even if DM-fans think it is both true and false at once -- i.e., if "A" stands for "Socrates", for example. [I return to consider this 'innovative' syntax, below.]

 

As we will see throughout this site, when DM-theorists try to 'explain' their 'logic' the abbreviations they use are as slippery as eels in olive oil.

 

Of course, anyone familiar with Aristotle's work -- or who bothers to check! -- will know he never puts things this way. Indeed, I have been unable to find a sentence remotely like any of the above in his work. [E-mail me if you think differently.]

 

Equally, if not even more wide of the mark are W&G:

 

"According to formal logic, the whole is equal to the sum of its parts....

 

"Let us examine the matter more closely. The basic laws of formal logic are:

 

"1) The law of identity ('A' = 'A').

 

"2) The law of contradiction ('A' does not equal 'not-A').

 

"3) The law of the excluded middle ('A' does not equal 'B')....

 

"The law of contradiction merely restates the law of identity in a negative form. The same is true of the law of the excluded middle. All we have is a repetition of the first line in different ways. The whole thing stands or falls on the basis of the law of identity ('A' = 'A'). At first sight this is incontrovertible, and, indeed, the source of all rational thought. It is the Holy of Holies of Logic, and not to be called into question. Yet called into question it was, and by one of the greatest minds of all time....

 

"Similarly with the law of the excluded middle, which asserts that it is necessary either to assert or deny, that a thing must be either black or white, either alive or dead, either 'A' or 'B'. It can't be both at the same time. For normal everyday purposes, we can take this to be true. Indeed, without such assumptions, clear and consistent thought would be impossible. Moreover, what appear to be insignificant errors in theory sooner or later make themselves felt in practice, often with disastrous results. In the same way, a hairline crack in the wing of a jumbo jet may seem insignificant, and, indeed, at low speeds may pass unnoticed. At very high speeds, however, this tiny error can provoke a catastrophe. In Anti-Dühring, Engels explains the deficiencies of the so-called law of the excluded middle:

 

'To the metaphysician,' wrote Engels, 'things and their mental images, ideas, are isolated, to be considered one after the other and apart from each other, fixed, rigid objects of investigation given once for all. He thinks in absolutely unmediated antitheses. 'His communication is "yea, yea; nay, nay"; for "whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." For him a thing either exists or does not exist; a thing can't at the same time be itself and something else. Positive and negative absolutely exclude one another; cause and effect stand in a rigid antithesis one to the other.'" [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.57, 91-93. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. This material now appears in the second edition, Woods and Grant (2007), pp.63, 95-98.]

 

[In Essay Seven Part One, we will have occasion to note that Engels wasn't afraid of drawing his own hard and fast antitheses -- for example, when he claimed that water exists either as a sold (ice), as a liquid (water), or a gas (steam), but not as a solid-liquid, or as a gas-liquid -- even when they change into one another where these 'fixed and rigid dichotomies' are supposed to break down. And, what these two have to say about the LOI will be dealt with in Essay Six. Again we see in the above these slippery DM-abbreviations slide effortlessly between different denotations. One minute A is the name of an object, the next it stands for a proposition. Readers should keep this slide in mind as they proceed, since every DM-theorist mentioned below seems happy to slide to their heart's content; although I won't point this out every time.]

 

I have made several comments about the sophomoric errors in W&G's book here, and at the end of this note, but for present purposes it is worth pointing out that (just like other DM-fans) these two comrades referenced no evidence whatsoever in support of their 'definitions'. To be sure, here and there they employed a few ideas lifted from two introductory logic texts (i.e., one written many years ago by A. A. Luce, and another by Morris and Nagel), but they failed to reveal from which lamentably poor textbook they retrieved these prize specimens:

 

"1) The law of identity ('A' = 'A').

 

 "2) The law of contradiction ('A' does not equal 'not-A').

 

 "3) The law of the excluded middle ('A' does not equal 'B')...." [Ibid., p.91. In the second edition, Woods and Grant (2007), this appears on p.95.]

 

Quite what the LOC has to do with whether A can or can't equal not-A, Woods and Grant failed to say. As we will also find is the case with Hegel (and as we discovered with Novack, above), these two have confused the LOC with the LOI "stated negatively" -- the former concerns the truth-functional connection between a proposition and its negation; it isn't about objects like A, still less about "equality".

 

[This topic is discussed in detail in Essay Eight Part Three. On the LOC in general, see Horn (2006). Unfortunately, Professor Horn alleges without textual support that the LOI was a foundational axiom for Aristotle's logic. I have e-mailed him about this (January 2009). For his reply, see Note 1. (Horn (2006) has now been superseded by Horn (2010).)]

 

Readers will note, too, that Aristotle, for example, can only be made to say such inane things if what he actually says (reproduced above) is ignored, or his words are altered so that they say the opposite of what he intended.

 

In that case, clearly, "Aristotle does not equal Aristotle", according to W&G! So, the important thing isn't to interpret Aristotle, but to change him.

 

W&G aren't averse to making irrelevant points, for example, this one:

 

"Moreover, what appear to be insignificant errors in theory sooner or later make themselves felt in practice, often with disastrous results. In the same way, a hairline crack in the wing of a jumbo jet may seem insignificant, and, indeed, at low speeds may pass unnoticed. At very high speeds, however, this tiny error can provoke a catastrophe." [Ibid.]

 

But, what catastrophe has ever resulted from the alleged misconstrual of the 'laws' of FL? W&G failed to say, but they immediately deflect to faults that arise in metallurgy! As if a theory is anything like a crack in an aluminium wing! Well, if they couldn't cite a single example from logic that might cause a 'catastrophe', we already know that DL lead to a catastrophic decline in harvests in the former USSR, as soviet agriculturists tried to apply the batty ideas promulgated by Lysenko.

 

Indeed, while W&G seemed happy to tell us that according to FL, "the whole is equal to the sum of its parts", what Aristotle in fact said is this:

 

"In the case of all things which have several parts and in which the totality is not, as it were, a mere heap, but the whole is something beside the parts...." [Aristotle (1984e), p.1650. I have used the on-line version from here.]

 

Even for those like W&G who have been blinded by dialectics, Aristotle's "beside the parts" isn't equal to "equal to". Perhaps W&G think that "beside the parts" is equal to "equal to"?!

 

Moreover, their characterisation of the LEM is no less risible. What, it may be wondered, has "A is not equal to B" got to do with whether concerning proposition, p, either p is true or p is false (or, in some versions p v ¬p -- "¬" being the sign for negation)? Do these two honestly believe that an intellect of the stature of Aristotle believed that their version of the LEM was one of his foundational principles? [Indeed, the long quotation from De Interpretatione, given above, explicitly contradicts what W&G assert.] Or even that there are any other logicians -- who haven't been turned over to "care of the community" -- who would accept this caricature of the LEM? No wonder they failed to quote a single reference supporting their fictional 'version' of it.

 

Moreover, concerning the choice of colour that they give their readers (i.e., "a thing must be either black or white"), do they honestly think that logicians don't know that some things are red, green or sky blue, and that they don't sometimes change? Or that while something is red (like a traffic light), it can't at the same time be green (like the same traffic light). If W&G disagree, then they will only be a danger to themselves and other road users. Of course, DM-theorists say their theory applies at the point of change. But, even at the point of change, that light can't be red and green at the same time! Yes, sure, lights can be red and orange at the same time, but which logician has ever said otherwise? And we have already seen that if DM were true, change would be impossible; so we don't need lectures from DM-theorists on logic or change.

 

[I am, of course, referring here to UK traffic lights, but most lights across the planet work on similar principles and with the same colours.]

 

But, there is even worse to come:

 

"Even the simplest judgement, as Hegel points out, contains a contradiction. 'Caesar is a man,' 'Fido is a dog,' 'the tree is green,' all state that the particular is the universal. Such sentences seem simple, but in fact are not. This is a closed book for formal logic, which remains determined to banish all contradictions not only from nature and society, but from thought and language itself. Propositional calculus sets out from exactly the same basic postulates as those worked out by Aristotle in the 4th century B.C., namely the law of identity, the law of (non-) contradiction, the law of excluded middle, to which is added the law of double negation. Instead of being written with normal letters, they are expressed in symbols thus:

 

"a) p = p

 

"b) p = ~p

 

"c) p V = ~p (sic)

 

"d) ~(p ~ p) (sic)

 

"All this looks very nice, but makes not the slightest difference to the content of the syllogism." [Ibid., pp.97-98. Unsurprisingly, after a supporter of this site pointed out the garbled nature of this passage, it has now been dropped from the Second Edition -- although it remains in place in the on-line version. Update July 2018: The above pig's ear has now been axed from the on-line version.]

 

This is what a)-d) translate out as the following:

 

a) p is equal to p

 

b) p is equal to not-p

 

c) p or equals not-p (sic)

 

d) not both p not-p (sic)

 

Now, a) above would be syntactically viable if p stood for an object, or operated as a singular term (standing for a Proper Name or a Definite Description), when in logic this letter normally stands of a proposition. However, in b), it isn't clear what role "not-" occupies. Is it an operator mapping a name onto a 'negative name' (whatever that is!), or is it an operator mapping a propositional variable onto its negation? If the latter were the case, then p can't be operating as a singular term, as it is in a). If the former were the case, then it would be pertinent to ask W&G what "not-Socrates" could possibly mean -- turning b) into "Socrates is equal to not-Socrates". Even supposing some sense could be made out of that, what sense can be made of c) or d)?

 

c) Socrates or equals not-Socrates.

 

d) Not both Socrates not-Socrates. 

 

c) and d) are just plain gibberish.

 

[I have covered these points in more detail below.]

 

Furthermore, if p were an object (as opposed to it being the name of an object), it couldn't be used to say anything. This is precisely the mistake Hegel made, which error W&G seem happy to compounded. [More on that here.]

 

Clearly, these two comrades found these prize examples of syntactical confusion in a logic text written nowhere on this planet -- which must mean they simply made them up!

 

[The above prime example of syntactic confusion has been removed from the second edition of W&G's book -- probably because a supporter of this site e-mailed Alan Woods about it several years ago. Having said that, Woods was made aware of several other errors and they haven't been corrected; the above garbled syntax remains in the on-line version (or it did up until at least May 2016, the last time I checked). Update March 2018: it has now been removed!]

 

At any rate, this shows that they made no serious attempt to comprehend much of what they constantly deride. Witness the way they confuse the Propositional Calculus with Aristotelian Syllogistic. The former was invented by the Stoics (and then largely forgotten about, or lost, until the middle of the 19th century); Aristotle knew very little, if anything about it, as far as we know.

 

Of course, what these two have to say about the contradictions allegedly implicit in simple predicative propositions is itself based on a 'novel' piece of grammar (also lifted from Hegel, who in turn borrowed it from Medieval Logicians).

 

W1: Caesar is a man.

 

"Even the simplest judgement, as Hegel points out, contains a contradiction. 'Caesar is a man,' 'Fido is a dog,' 'the tree is green,' all state that the particular is the universal." [Ibid.]

 

This doesn't say 'the particular/individual is the universal', as these two (and Lenin) allege, and can only be made to say so by imposing on it a grammatical theory that they all failed to justify. [Indeed, it can't be justified; on that see Essay Three Part One.] Even if, per impossible, W1 could be construed this way, W&G failed to say why this is a contradiction, as opposed to it being a simple falsehood -- or, indeed, just plain, unvarnished nonsense. As Aristotle would have said, propositions like W1 tell us that manhood applies to Caesar, not that the "particular is the universal".

 

Exactly who they are seeking to influence with these blatant fibs is reasonably clear (i.e., anyone as ignorant of FL as they are), but the fact that they have linked Marx's great name and reputation to this rubbish is something for which they should hang their heads in shame. The fact that they won't do this says it all.

 

We also find something similar, but no less inventive, at the website run by the UK Socialist Party. Here is Robin Clapp (revealing that he, too, has confined his reading to books about DM, all the while failing to consult a single logic text, which, naturally, makes him an expert in the subject):

 

"The formal logician operates within the limitation of three laws:

 

"The Law of Identity -- where A is equal to A

 

"The Law of Contradiction -- where A can't be equal to non-A

 

"The Law of Excluded Middle -- where A must be equal to A, or must not be equal to A." [Quoted from here.]

 

It looks like the split in The Militant Tendency between W&G and what later became the Socialist Party hasn't improved either side's grasp of logic.

 

[The lack of any connection between the LOC and the supposed negation of the LOI is discussed in more detail here.]

 

Not to be outdone in this respect, other comrades have vied to be crowned 'The Worst Expositor Of Traditional Logic Since Hegel'. Here is Plekhanov's impressive bid:

 

"The 'fundamental laws of thinking' are considered to be three in number: 1) The law of identity; 2) the law of contradiction, and 3) the law of the excluded middle.

 

"The law of identity...states that 'A is A' or 'A = A'.

 

"The law of contradiction... -- 'A is not A' -- is merely a negative form of the first law.

 

"According to the law of the excluded middle...two opposing judgements that are mutually exclusive can't both be wrong. Indeed, 'A is either B or non-B'. The truth of either of these two judgements necessarily means the falseness of the other, and vice versa. There is not, neither can there be, any middle." [Plekhanov (1908), pp.89-90. Italics in the original. The online version translates this passage slightly differently.]

 

But, how does Plekhanov counter the above garbled ideas he attributed to FL?

 

"Let us examine the matter from another angle.

 

"The motion of matter lies at the root of all natural phenomena. But what is motion? Here we have what seems to be a contradiction. If you are asked whether a body that is in motion is located at a particular place at a particular moment, you will be unable, however hard you try, to give an answer using [the above rules].... A moving body is at a particular place, and at the same time it is not there." [Ibid., p.90. Italics in the original.]

 

As we will see in Essay Five, these moves were unwise (no pun intended); there it will become plain that the 'contradiction' that Plekhanov and many others allege exists here is in fact no contradiction.

 

Even so, Plekhanov's own formulation of the LOC is fraught with problems: "A is not A" is merely the (alleged) negative form of his own ill-defined version of the LOI! He would be hard-pressed to find a logician (not the worse for drink, drugs, or mental disorder) who would recognise it as the LOC (not the least, once more, because it confuses -- à la Hegel -- objects, or the names thereof, with propositions). Small wonder then that Plekhanov (like other DM-fans) failed to refer his readers to a single logic text to substantiate these brazen examples of pure fiction.

 

[To be sure, Plekhanov elsewhere references Überweg's Logic, but not in support of this particular 'definition' of the LOC. We will see later that Hegel was the source of this rather odd idea: that the LOI "stated negatively" yields the LOC. Added on Edit: As far as I can determine, this error can be traced back as far as Leibniz -- a vastly superior logician and philosopher, nonetheless! Hegel merely copied it.]

 

Moreover, it is equally clear that Plekhanov has confused the LEM with Aristotle's definition of contraries (see above), and then later with a semi-classical version of the LOC (that is, a version that conflated propositions with "judgements"). Whether the LEM allows for the sort of examples Plekhanov considers will depend on the ones chosen, as well as on how a proposition is characterised. [On this, see Geach (1972c).]

 

[Once again, readers should compare Aristotle's carefully worded (but difficult) prose with the sloppy language employed by Plekhanov.]

 

Here, too, is Joseph Dietzgen:

 

"The first principle, then, declares that A is A, or to speak mathematically (sic), every quantity is equal to itself. In plain English: a thing is what it is; no thing is what it is not.... The square is excluded from the conception of a circle, therefore the predicate 'square' must not be given to a circle. For the same reason a straight line must not be crooked, and a lie must not be true.

 

"[The old logic] insists on its first, second and third law, on its identity, its law of contradiction and excluded third, which [sic] must be either straight or crooked, cold or warm and excludes all intermediary conceptions." [Dietzgen (1906), pp.386-89. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Is it really the case that Aristotle (never mind subsequent logicians) knew nothing of lukewarm water, or slightly curved (but not crooked) lines? Even so, the above comment is odd in other ways, for what else is warm but an intermediate state between hot and cold?

 

As a late entry in The International Competition To Find The Worst Summary Of FL On The Planet, submitted on behalf of the UK-SWP, this is how John Molyneux managed to get things hopelessly wrong:

 

"Dialectics is the logic of change.... To understand the significance of this compare it with what is known as 'formal logic' (originally developed by Aristotle and usually thought of as the rules of sound thinking). The basic idea of formal logic is that something either is the case or is not the case, but that it can't be both at the same time. For example, the cat is on the mat or it is not on the mat.

 

"For many purposes formal logic is useful and necessary. But as soon as you take movement and change into account, it ceases to be adequate. A cat moving goes through a moment when it is in the process of passing onto the mat or in the process of passing off it -- when it is both on and off the mat. Dialectics is in advance of formal logic because it enables us to grasp this contradiction." [Molyneux (1987), pp.49-50. Paragraphs merged.]

 

Precisely how DL succeeds in helping anyone "grasp" this spurious contradiction Molyneux left his readers to guess. But, what is especially difficult or challenging (or even reactionary) about a cat lying, sitting or sleeping partially on and partially off a mat? Clearly, if the said cat falls asleep half on, half off this mat, we would still have the same alleged 'contradiction', but no motion. In which case, this 'contradiction' has nothing to do with the ambulatory habits of furry mammals; in fact, it is a direct result of the ambiguous language used.

 

However, as we shall see in Essay Five, DL can't even account for the motion of domestic pets, mat or no mat; Diamat or no Diamat. And, as far as their capacity to "grasp" 'contradictions' like this is concerned, dialecticians seem content merely to label these ambiguous states of affairs "contradictions", and move on. Exactly how this 'contradiction' helps Molyneux's readers "grasp" anything at all is left entirely mysterious. In what way does it help us comprehend motion to be told it is 'contradictory'?

 

But, don't even think to ask, let alone complain, or you risk being accused of not "understanding" dialectics.

 

And, does Molyneux really believe that logicians and scientists (of the calibre of, say, Aristotle) failed to notice that things change?

 

In fact, Aristotle himself tells us he certainly did notice this:

 

"...A substance...is able to receive contraries. For example, an individual man -- one and the same -- becomes pale at one time and dark at another, and hot and cold, and bad and good.

 

"...Suppose, for example, that the statement that somebody is sitting is true; after he has got up this same statement will be false. Similarly with beliefs.... However, even if we were to grant this, there is still a difference in the way contraries are received. For in the case of substances it is by themselves changing that they are able to receive contraries. For what has become cold instead of hot, or dark instead of pale, or good instead of bad, has changed (has altered); similarly in other case too it is by itself undergoing change that each thing is able to receive contraries.... [I]t is because the actual thing changes that the contrary comes to belong to them...." [Aristotle (1984f) 5, 4a:15-36, p.7. Italics in the original; bold emphases added. The on-line versions renders this passage slightly differently.]

 

Admittedly, Molyneux's book was meant to be an entry level introduction to this subject; when he raised this point with a supporter of this site in private correspondence, he recommended that critics -- like those of us who post at this site, for instance -- should concentrate on the DM-classics, and ignore the writings of relatively minor figures like himself. As should now seem plain, the situation with the DM-classics is no better; in fact, in some cases it is far worse.

 

However, the above passage at least scotches the myth that Aristotle's logic can't accommodate change. [See also Aristotle (1984f), pp.23-24, where he analyses six different types of change; this passage can be found here, but scroll down to Part 14.]

 

Unfortunately, Molyneux repeated these egregious misconceptions in an article posted at his blog several years later:

 

"This matters because the dominant mode of thinking, based on the logic developed by Aristotle, is not founded on the principle of universal change, rather it deals with fixed states or 'things'. Its basic axioms are that A = A (a thing is equal to itself) and A does not = non-A (a thing is not equal to something other than itself), from which are derived sequences of sound reasoning known as syllogisms." [The Marxist Dialectic.]

 

As is the case with others who say similar things, Molyneux failed to demonstrate how a single syllogism follows from these illusory principles.

 

["A thing is not equal to something other than itself"?!? What the dialectics does that mean? And, what precisely has this got to do with FL?]

 

As this Essay has shown, the above paragraph contains nearly as many errors as it does words. I have posted a suitable reply here (which, as we can now see from Molyneux (2012), sailed right over his head).

 

He went on to argue as follows:

 

"This formal logic was, and is, all well and good and very necessary for practical human affairs but it is limited -- it excludes change. Dialectical logic moves beyond formal logic by starting not with 'things' but with processes, processes of coming into being and passing out of being. The moment processes of change are fed into the equation it becomes necessary to deal with contradiction. If state A (e.g. day) changes into state B (night) it passes through a phase of A not being A or being both A and B (twilight)." [Ibid.]
 

But, twilight looks pretty much like a "state", too -- certainly as much a "state" as night and day are. Even so, twilight can't be a unity of twilight and not-twilight -- which should be the case if everything, including twilight, is supposed to be a UO. On the other hand, if it isn't a UO, then, according to the DM-classics, it can't change!

 

[UO = Unity of Opposites.]

 

And, of course, if day is no longer day, but is twilight, then the above "A" (interpreted as "day" in Molyneux's example) isn't in fact "A and not A", it is "C" (twilight). In which case, this isn't "A and B", either, as Molyneux asserts -- it is "A and C"!

 

To be sure, it might be possible to get around this 'difficulty' by defining twilight as a combination of day and night, but that would make Molyneux's assertions stipulatively 'true', and would, as such, have been imposed on nature. Even worse, it would mean that twilight is a combination of two states, and hence must be a state itself!

 

As we will see in Essay Seven Part Three, none of this makes sense even in DM-terms. Night doesn't "struggle" with day to produce twilight (as the DM-classics tell us must be the case), so exactly how this alleged 'contradiction' makes anything change, or helps it do so, is a DM-mystery. And, if this alleged 'contradiction' doesn't, or can't, cause change, how is this a 'dialectical contradiction' to begin with? [Even if we knew what one of these odd 'entities' or processes -- these 'dialectical contradictions' -- is actually supposed to be!]

 

Also worth asking is the following question: What exactly is the 'internal opposite' of day that makes it change into night? Molyneux failed to say, and it isn't difficult to see why: day has no 'internal opposite'. Its alleged opposite is night, but that is manifestly external to day. So, unless we believe that the future can change the present (arguing perhaps that the fact that night is hours away allows it to 'back-cause' day to change into night!), Molyneux's own example can't be one of 'dialectical change'!

 

More problematic still: this doesn't even look like a 'dialectical contradiction'. No element in this example implies the existence of any other -- as they allegedly do in the relation between the proletariat and the capitalist class (an idea I have criticised here) -- such that one can't exist without the other. But day can surely exist without night; had the rotational period of the Earth been different, one side would have pointed toward the Sun permanently, meaning that one half of the planet would experience nothing but day. In addition, had the Earth been illuminated by a binary star system, the entire planet would have experienced nothing but day. Admittedly, we wouldn't be around to witness any of this, but that has nothing to do with the facts on the ground. Day can exist without night, which would be impossible if this were a 'dialectical' relation. Indeed, we read this about "tidally-locked" planets:

 

"Tidal locking is the name given to the situation when an object's orbital period matches its rotational period. A great example of this is our own Moon. The moon takes 28 days to go around the Earth and 28 days to rotate once around it's axis. This results in the same face of the Moon always facing the Earth. We see other examples of this in our solar system and universe.

 

"An extreme example is the case of Pluto and Charon. Charon is such a large satellite compared to Pluto that they are tidally locked together. This means that Pluto only sees one face of Charon and vice versa. It is as if a rod connects two points on their surface. This results in a bizarre phenomenon where the moon Charon would always be in the same place in Pluto's night sky." [Quoted from here. Accessed 10/07/2018. Link added.]

 

So, yet another example DM-fans use to illuminate their theory in fact refutes it. [No pun intended.]

 

Now, Aristotle certainly believed that during change something must remain the same -- but precisely what that "something" is, is subject to controversy among Aristotle scholars -- for example, in Aristotle (1984e), p.1595. But, he also claimed that:

 

"...since it is impossible that contradictories should be at the same time true of the same thing, obviously contraries also can't belong at the same time to the same thing.... If, then, it is impossible to affirm and deny truly at the same time, it is also impossible that contraries should belong to a subject at the same time, unless both belong to it in particular relations, or one in particular relation and one without qualification." [Aristotle (1984e) Book 4, 6, 1011b:15-23, p.1597. Again, the on-line translation renders this passage slightly differently.]

 

Here Aristotle allows contrary predicates to belong to a subject providing they attach to it "in particular relations"; presumably this means they could belong to parts of that subject separately (when, say, a metal poker is cold at one end, hot at another, or when a man is half wet, half dry, for instance), but not 'essentially'. Nevertheless, it is clear from this, as it is from Aristotle's other writings, that he continually switches back and forth without warning between talk about talk and talk about things. In so doing, he generates no little confusion himself, which is, of course, one of the reasons modern logicians over the last 150 years have had to re-think the entire subject from the ground floor up. But, even though Aristotle was himself a little confused in places, he was a model of clarity compared to Hegel and his dialectical groupies. [On that, see here.]

 

Alas, in subsequent writings, Molyneux failed to correct these serious errors (even though he had been informed of them several times!); if anything, he only succeeded in compounding them:

 

"Accompanying the development of practical human knowledge and science..., there was also developed (by Aristotle and his successors) a system of logic, i.e., rules of sound thinking. Logic was meant to tell you whether or not what you were saying, writing or thinking, made sense. A proposition that was logical was not necessarily true (in fact), but it had the possibility of being true. A proposition that was not logical, i.e., broke the rules of logic, could not possibly be true." [Molyneux (2012), p.43. Punctuation marks altered to conform the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

But, what does Aristotle himself tell us was the point of his logic? Wonder no more:

 

"First we must state the subject of the enquiry and what it is about: the subject is demonstration and it is about demonstrative understanding. Next we must determine what a proposition is, what a term is, and what a deduction is (and what sort of deduction is perfect and what is imperfect); and after that, what it is for one thing to be or not to be in another as a whole, and what we mean by being predicated of every or of no." [Aristotle (1984c), Book 1, 1 24:10-15, p.39.]

 

The on-line version renders the above passage as follows:

 

"We must first state the subject of our inquiry and the faculty to which it belongs: its subject is demonstration and the faculty that carries it out demonstrative science. We must next define a premise, a term, and a syllogism, and the nature of a perfect and of an imperfect syllogism; and after that, the inclusion or noninclusion of one term in another as in a whole, and what we mean by predicating one term of all, or none, of another." [Quoted from here.]

 

[By "demonstration" Aristotle meant "proof". (On this, see Lear (1980), p.1.)]

 

Not much there about logic being the study of what "makes sense". A bad start, for sure, but things only get worse:

 

"The basic principles of this Aristotelian or formal logic were the 'law of identity' and the 'law of non-contradiction'. The 'law of identity' stated, in symbolic terms, that A is equal to A, or an ounce of gold equals an ounce of gold, or, taking a unique object..., Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is equal to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. The 'law of non-contradiction' stated that A cannot be equal to non-A, it makes no sense to say that an ounce of gold is not an ounce of gold or the Mona Lisa is not the Mona Lisa. On the basis of these apparently 'obvious' propositions a system of logic or sound reasoning was erected, exemplified by the syllogism." [Molyneux (2012), p.43. Quotation marks altered to conform the conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original.] 

 

Once again, just like the other DM-fans exposed in this section of the Essay, Molyneux neither quotes nor cites even so much as one sentence from Aristotle (or any other logic text) in support of these clichéd accusations. As we have seen, the LOI was a Medieval invention, and the LOC doesn't concern what does or does not equal what. [See also below.]

 

As we also saw earlier, Molyneux added this not unreasonable comment:

 

"Marxist materialism is repeatedly attacked by the method of oversimplifying and caricaturing it to the point where it is obviously false...." [Molyneux (2012), p.36.]

 

And yet this is precisely what he and other DM-fans regularly do when they attempt to summarise, discuss or criticise FL.

 

[I will add a few more comments about Molyneux's book in a later re-write of this Essay.]

 

Here is Robin Hirsch, who seems to know a little more logic than the vast majority of DM-fans:

 

"The Aristotelian syllogism was the first great system of formalising the laws of rational thought. At its heart there were three principles.

 

"The law of identity. For any object, x, we have x is x.
 

"The law of non-contradiction. Nothing is allowed to have the predicate P and simultaneously the predicate not-P.
 

"The law of excluded middle. Everything has either the predicate P or the predicate not-P.

 

"Here a predicate is any property that may or may not apply to an individual, e.g. 'mortality' is a predicate that applies to an individual, say Socrates." [Hirsch (2004).]

 

First of all, Hirsch confuses predicates (which are linguistic expressions) with what they supposedly express -- properties -- conflating talk about talk, (i.e., language about language) with talk about the world (a perennial error in DM-, and Hegelian-circles, as we have seen). Of course, predicates don't just express properties. Secondly, Hirsh's 'definition' of identity is in danger of confusing the "is" of predication with the "is" of identity. Third, his 'definition' of the LOC confuses what we are consistently able to say about something with what it is "allowed" to possess, conflating what we may assert with the possibilities on offer in the world. Are objects "allowed" -- or, rather, not "allowed" -- to possess certain properties? Who is doing all this 'not-allowing'? And how is all this "allowing" to be policed? By 'God'?

 

Fourth, what Hirsch says also falls foul of a point made earlier about Aristotle (slightly re-edited):

 

Aristotle allows contrary predicates to belong to a subject providing they attach to it "in particular relations":

 

"...since it is impossible that contradictories should be at the same time true of the same thing, obviously contraries also can't belong at the same time to the same thing.... If, then, it is impossible to affirm and deny truly at the same time, it is also impossible that contraries should belong to a subject at the same time, unless both belong to it in particular relations, or one in particular relation and one without qualification." [Aristotle (1984e) Book 4, 6, 1011b:15-23, p.1597. Again, the on-line translation renders this passage slightly differently.]

 

Presumably this means they can belong to parts of an object separately (when, say, a metal poker is cold at one end, hot at another, or when a man is half wet, half dry, for example), but not 'essentially'. Nevertheless, it is clear from this, as it is from Aristotle's other writings, that he continually switches back and forth without warning between talk about talk and talk about things. In so doing, he generates no little confusion himself, which is, of course, one of the reasons modern logicians over the last 150 years have had to re-think the whole subject from the ground floor up. But, even though Aristotle was himself a little confused in places, he was a model of clarity compared to Hegel and his dialectical groupies. [Quoted from here.]

 

It looks, therefore, like Hirsch has yet to draw the sort of distinctions that were plain even to Aristotle.

 

Finally, Hirsch's 'definition' of the LEM confuses the properties an object might possess with what we can say about it. Objects don't possess, or "have", or fail to possess, or fail to "have", predicates. Check your own person: how many predicates "have" you in your pockets, your bank account, the potting shed, or the boot of your car? How many predicates "have" you on, or even stuck to, your hand? Go on, count them. Can't do it? Now, there's a big surprise. Compare that with the question "How many fingers have you got?" Given Hirsch's qualifications, there are surprising errors.

 

Another comrade (from the UK-SWP), Camilla Royle, does her bit to maintain the honourable tradition established by Johns Rees and Molyneux -- getting AFL completely wrong:

 

"There are two ways to think about contradiction. In Aristotle's logic, saying that two statements are contradictory means that they oppose each other completely: logically the statements 'All blackbirds are black' and 'All blackbirds are white' cannot both be true. In contrast, capital's contradictions involve opposing forces or tendencies being present in the same process. Marx's assertion that commodities simultaneously embody both a use value and an exchange value is such a contradiction...." [Royle (2015), p.217. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Royle has plainly confused an inconsistency (i.e., two contrary propositions which can't both be true, but which can both be false) with a contradiction. It is worth recalling that (even for Aristotle -- on that, see here) two proposition are contradictories if they can't both be true and they can't both be false. With respect to the example Royle herself considers, "All blackbirds are black" is false if "Some blackbirds aren't black" is true (i.e., if there are blackbirds that are white -- or they are some other colour), and "All blackbirds are white" is false if "Some blackbirds aren't white" is true (i.e, if there are blackbirds that are black -- or they are some other colour). Hence, "All blackbirds are black" and "All blackbirds are white" are both false if there are some blackbirds that are or could be red or green -- or some colour other than black or white. In that case, Royle's two propositions aren't contradictories.

 

Quite apart from that, Royle doesn't explain why this is the case, either:

 

"In contrast, capital's contradictions involve opposing forces or tendencies being present in the same process. Marx's assertion that commodities simultaneously embody both a use value and an exchange value is such a contradiction...." [Ibid.]

 

There would be a contradiction here if either of these had been the example she chose:

 

R1: Commodities embody use value and they don't.

 

R2: Commodities embody exchange value and they don't.

 

Clearly, she didn't mean either of these. If not, what did she mean? DM-fans seem quite incapable of telling us. Royle's own examples don't even look like contradictions. [As we have seen elsewhere, the only reason DM-fans employ the word "contradiction" is that it is traditional to do so, and its use serves to identify the individual concerned as 'one of us', so they aren't branded as apostates.]

 

Even waving these seemingly 'academic niggles' to one side, what Royle says doesn't make sense even in DM-terms. Does use value really struggle with exchange value (as they should if this were a 'dialectical contradiction')? Does use value change into exchange value, so that a commodity winds up with no use when it is exchanged? Hardly. In that case, what is the point of all this sub-Hegelian jargon if it fails to account for such things, or if it implies something that not only doesn't, but can't happen? I.e., that use value can slug it out with exchange value!

 

 

 

Figure Two: Use Value Slam Dunks Exchange Value

 

Not only is this garbled AFL, it is garbled DL, too!

 

Next, we turn to the 'definitions' advanced by Ernest Mandel:

 

"Dialectics, or the logic of motion, is distinct from formal or static logic. Formal logic is based on three fundamental laws:

 

"(a) The law of identity: A is equal to A; a thing is always equal to itself.

 

"(b) The law of contradiction: A is different from non-A; A can never equal non-A.

 

"(c) The law of exclusion: either A, or non-A; nothing can be neither A nor non-A.

 

"A moment's reflection will allow us to conclude that formal logic is characterised by the thought processes which consist of putting motion, change, into parenthesis. All the laws enumerated above are true, so long as we abstract from motion. A will remain A so long as it does not change. A is different from non-A so long as it is not transformed into its opposite. A and non-A exclude each other so long as there is no movement which combines A and non-A, etc. These laws are obviously insufficient if we consider the transformation of the chrysalid (sic) into the butterfly, the passage of the adolescent into the adult, the movement of life into death, the birth of a new species or a new social order, the combination of two cells into a new one, etc." [Mandel (1979), pp.160-61. Italics in the original.]

 

As things have turned out, Mandel might have been well advised to devote more than a "moment's thought" to these knotty problems.

 

Once again, we aren't told from which spoil heap these 'logical gems' had been retrieved -- but notice how similar they are to the 'definitions' we have already met. To be sure, a mega-orthodox comrade like Mandel would rightly feel peeved if an opponent of Marxism simply made stuff up like this about, say, Trotsky and his ideas. Apparently, it is acceptable for 'scientific socialists' to indulge in a little fabulation of their own.

 

[Detailed criticism of Mandel's more substantive claims can be found in Essays Five and Seven Part One.]

 

From several generations ago this is what we find in David Hayden-Guest's 'textbook' on DM:

 

"The 'logic' that we have been discussing is very different from what commonly passes for logic, the formal logic which deals with syllogisms and is to be found in the text books. Formal logic is necessary for dealing with the abstractions which are formed in the first stage of thinking.... The essence of its technique is to keep apart, to prevent from confounding the distinctions which have been made. It is therefore based on a development of certain very fundamental principles about identity and contradiction, principles such as the famous 'law of the excluded middle' which states that a thing must be one thing (say 'A') or not that thing (say 'not A'). It can't be both 'A' and 'not A' at the same time.

 

"This logic, which may be termed the 'logic of common sense,' is perfectly justified and indeed essential within certain limits -- the same limits within which the abstractions it deals with are valid. But just because it is based on taking these abstractions, for the time being, as absolute, and because it necessarily overlooks their inter-connections, and the development of one quality or thing into another, formal logic is unable to grasp the inner process of change, to show its dialectical character. For this we require dialectical logic...." [Guest (1939), pp.71-72. Italics in the original.]

 

[I hesitate to criticise David Guest since he gave his life fighting fascism in Spain. Guest (1939) was put together from notes found after he died.]

 

Once again, we encounter yet more repetition, compounded by precious little -- or, rather, no -- substantiation. Notice, too, the odd idea that the LEM is about things, and not the logical connection between a proposition and its negation.

 

We now encounter this from comrade Thalheimer, whose aim was clearly to show that whatever Trotskyists (like Mandel and Novack) could misconstrue, he could garble even better:

 

"The science of the laws of thought, formal logic, reached its highest point with Aristotle.... The laws of logic are based on two main propositions. The first is that of identity or of self-conformity. The proposition very simply states: 'A is A,' that is every concept is equal to itself. A man is a man, a hen is a hen, a potato is a potato. This proposition forms one basis of logic. The second main proposition is the law of contradiction, or as it is also called, the law of excluded middle. This proposition states: 'A is either A or not A.' It can't be both at the same time. For example: Whatever is black is black; it can't at the same time be black and white. A thing -- to put it in general terms -- can't at the same time be itself and its opposite...." [Thalheimer (1936), pp.88-89. Italics in the original. Paragraphs merged.]

 

To his credit, Thalheimer (parsimoniously) managed to get by with just two misrepresentations of AFL, all the while confusing the DM-version of the LOC with the DM-version of the LEM. And, what has the LOI got to do with the equality of "concepts"? What is more, hasn't Thalheimer, like Trotsky, conflated equality and identity?

 

Having said that, Thalheimer mentioned another 'law' a few pages later:

 

"Let us now examine the second basic law of thought, the law of contradiction. According to this law a thing cannot at the same time be itself and its opposite. A figure is either round or angular; a line is either straight or curved." [Ibid., pp.92-93.]

 

Thalheimer has clearly confused the LOC with his own garbled version of the LEM. That is about as intelligent as mixing up use value and exchange value.

 

Here is how John Somerville summed things up (and he should have known better!):

 

"The Aristotelian conception of the laws basic to correct thinking may be stated as follows:

 

"1. Law of Identity: Each existence is identical with itself. A is A.

 

"2. Law of Noncontradiction: Each existence is not different from itself. A is not non-A.

 

"3. Law of Excluded Middle: No existence can be both itself and different from itself. Any X is either A or non-A, but not both at once." [Somerville (1967), pp.44-45. Italics in the original.]

 

To be fair to Somerville, he did try to qualify the second point above in a footnote (on p.205), where he made some attempt to come to grips with Aristotle (but, even then, his 'in depth' analysis was compressed into about a hundred words). However, the fact that it was tucked away right at the end of his book, when the body of this work confuses "what is said" (which is how Aristotle expressed himself) with "each existence" (Somerville's odd rendition), tells us all we need to know about his concern for accuracy. Also worthy of note is Somerville's sloppy use of letters; one minute the letter, "A", appears to stand for an object of some sort (an "existence"), the next for what can be predicated of that object (or "existence"). Just like so many other DM-fans, his slovenly approach to syntax means his criticisms aren't worth the paper they were written on.

 

The above words appeared in a slightly different form in an earlier work of Somerville's:

 

"The Law of Identity is usually expressed in the form, A is A. That is, each thing is identical with itself. The Law of Non-Contradiction states that A is not Non-A. That is, each thing is not different from itself. The Law of Excluded Middle states that X is either A or Non-A. That is, any third alternative or middle ground in addition to A and Non-A is excluded. The same thing cannot be both A (or itself) and Non-A (or different from itself) at the same time.... What they all say is that A is A and cannot be non-A at the same time." [Somerville (1946), p.183. Paragraphs merged.]  

 

We need only note here that Somerville simply copied Hegel's amateurish attempt to equate the 'negation' of the LOI with the LOC, subjecting the latter's 'derivation' to no scrutiny at all. This shows that HCDs, just like LCDs, are logical incompetents and suffer from a serious case of self-inflicted ignorance. That, of course, accounts for their fondness for Hegel, an Olympic Standard Competitor In The Screw-Up Logic Event.

 

If anything, Somerville subsequent attempt to characterise the 'laws' of FL is even worse:

 

"[I]f I am asked to give a true account of how something got to be what it is I will ultimately have to face the fact that a thing called A is continuously changing in all of its parts all of the time into non-A, which means it is non-A as well as A, which takes me beyond formal categories into dialectical categories." [Somerville (1968), p.68 -- this is actually the page reference of the 1974 reprint. Somerville says more-or-less the same (no pun intended), only at greater length, in Somerville (1946), p.184-85.]

 

Is Somerville serious? If "a thing" is "called A", then "A" is a Proper Name. Now, "Karl Marx" is a Proper Name -- if Somerville is to be believed, this appears to mean that at any point in his life, Karl Marx was Karl Marx and non-Karl Marx -- even though we still call him "Karl Marx" long after his death? Has a single DM-fan ever called Marx "non-Karl Marx"? Readers might like to check their copies of Marx's work (or those reproduced at the Marxist Internet Archive); they will see there that not one single book, article, essay, note, or review has ever been attributed to someone called "non-Karl Marx" -- nor yet "both Karl Marx and non-Karl Marx". Not even in his lifetime were his published works attributed to "Karl Marx and non-Karl Marx". And Engels wrote no letters to "non-Karl Marx", nor did he deliver a eulogy at the graveside of "non-Karl Marx".

 

We see yet again, that when it comes to practicalities, in the real world, DM isn't just useless, it is off-the-wall.

 

As we have witnessed many times, these 'dialectical' letter "A"s enjoy a mercurial existence all of their own; they change their denotation from moment-to-moment, oscillating between standing for Proper Names, predicate expressions, 'existences', properties, relations, relational expressions, 'objects', and much else besides. In Somerville's 'logical' universe, on one interpretation of his sloppy prose, A one minute is a Proper Name, supposedly standing for some object or "thing" -- as in "a thing called A is continuously changing in all of its parts all of the time into non-A....", the next it stands for an "existence".

 

Surprisingly, Somerville's account is even more ridiculous (why that is so has been explained here and here).

 

Here is Ira Gollobin's impressive contribution to dialectical confusion (which appears in what is perhaps one of the best books on DM -- that is, one of the best of the worst):

 

"Aristotle's formal logic is based on these principles of isolation and fixity; (1) identity (all A is A; whatever is, is); (2) contradiction (nothing is both A and non-A, nothing can both be and not be); (3) excluded middle (a thing is either A or non-A; everything must either be or not be)." [Gollobin (1986), p.106, footnote.]

 

While Gollobin's book is full of quotations and references (many of which are of dubious worth -- or even relevance), he doesn't even attempt to substantiate the by-now-familiar DM-fibs that its fans tell about AFL. His use of the letter "A" is no less inconsistent; one minute it stands for Proper Names (i.e., all A is A), the next for predicate expressions (i.e., a thing is either A or non-A). [More on this below.]

 

Here is another Trotskyist, John Pickard, advancing similarly inaccurate and unsubstantiated allegations about FL:

 

"Dialectics is quite simply the logic of motion, or the logic of common sense to activists in the movement. We all know that things don't stand still, they change. But there is another form of logic which stands in contradiction to dialectics, which we call 'formal logic', which again is deeply embodied in capitalist society. It is perhaps necessary to begin by describing briefly what this method implies.

 

"Formal logic is based on what is known as the 'law of identity', which says that 'A' equals 'A' -- i.e. that things are what they are, and that they stand in definite relationships to each other. There are other derivative laws based on the law of identity; for example, if 'A' equals 'A', it follows that 'A' cannot equal 'B', nor 'C'.... Whereas the formal logician will say that 'A' equals 'A', the dialectician will say that 'A' does not necessarily equal 'A'. Or to take a practical example that Trotsky uses in his writings, one pound of sugar will not be precisely equal to another pound of sugar. It is a good enough approximation if you want to buy sugar in a shop, but if you look at it more carefully you will see that it's actually wrong." [John Pickard, quoted from here. Some paragraphs merged.]

 

Plenty more examples of the same wild allegations can be found right across the Internet; for example:

 

"Dialectics is a way of studying the phenomena of the world in a way that is quite a bit different than formal logic. Logic is undoubtedly very useful in many instances, but it has its limitations. Even the fundamental axioms of logic, which often seem intuitively obvious to western thinkers (e.g. A = A), only really hold when looking at the world at fixed moments in time." [Quoted from here.]

 

Here is yet another 'expert', who -- surprise! surprise! -- quotes not one single logic text, article or website in support:

 

"Dialectics may be termed the logic of change. Traditional logic -- from the Greek logos, meaning 'word' or 'reason' -- was originally formulated by Aristotle, and seeks to define laws for rational thought. Aristotelian logic contends that there are three laws of logic:

"1. A equals A (a thing is equal to itself);


"2. A does not equal not-A (a thing is not equal to something other than itself);


"3. There is no thing which is not either A or not-A (i.e. there is no indeterminate middle ground)." [Quoted from
here; accessed 08/06/2015.]
 

Here is yet another:

 

"That is to say that the either/or claim essential to some versions of formal logic (A v ~A, something is either one thing or the other [i.e. it is raining or it is not raining, it cannot be both at the same time]) is, while correct on one logical level, ultimately insufficient. Dialectical logic claims that things can be both either one thing or the other just as -- and this is dialectically important -- they can also and at the same time not be either one thing or the other (A & ~A). So either/or and also not either/or. While it is correct to assert that it cannot both be raining and not raining at the same time at a given moment, once we imagine the fact of raining in a larger process, then the logic of A v ~A, while in some ways correct, is also insufficient. Is the fact of sleet an instance of raining or not-raining?  Do we not say that sleet is both snow and rain at the same time?" [Quoted from here; accessed 18/08/2015.]

 

But that transfers the question to: "Is it sleeting or not sleeting?" Or, indeed, "Yes it is raining since sleet is a mixture of rain and snow!" The LEM isn't so easily by-passed by those who think homespun 'logic' is part of cutting edge science. [The LEM has a nasty way of hitting back at those who think it clever to undermine it; on that, see here.]

 

A quick Google search will reveal how wide this dialectical weed has spread:

 

http://uweb.superlink.net/~dialect/Logictheory.html

 

http://www.stanford.edu/~rhorn/a/topic/phil/artclTrapsOfFormalLogic.html

 

http://www.comnet.ca/~pballan/logic2.htm

 

[Although the last author above is merely paraphrasing Somerville.]

 

These sites retail the same hoary old myths and wild fantasies, almost word for word!

 

DM, repetitive?

 

The very idea!

 

Here is one of my favourites:

 

"Note that Hegel uses the word contradiction to mean the conflict between two opposing sides. (page 431, Hegel's Science of Logic) He does not mean simply a logically contradictory statement such as, 'That object is a horse and a television.'" [Quoted from the 'Dialectics For Kids' website.]

 

But, could "That object is a horse and a television" be false?

 

Only if both of the following: "That object is a horse" and "That object is a television" couldn't be false would "That object is a horse and a television" be a contradiction. But, they would both would be false if, for instance, "That object is a cat" were true".

 

[It is worth recalling once more that two contradictory propositions (or clauses) can't both be true and can't both be false. DM-fans appear to be blithely unaware even of Aristotle's concept of a contradiction! On the other hand, two propositions or clauses are inconsistent if they can't both be true, but can both be false (as in the case above). As noted earlier, while dialecticians are quite happy to pontificate about logic, they seem not to know the first thing about it.]

 

So, this odd example on that wacko website isn't even a contradiction!

 

It might be argued that the meaning of the word "horse" precludes it from being a television, but if that were the case "That object is a horse and a television" would be a misuse of language, and would thus be non-sensical, not contradictory.

 

From eighty odd years ago, here is Fred Casey, underling the fact that DM-fans struggle to grasp the simplest ideas in logic (not because they are intellectually incapable, but because they look to that incompetent, Hegel, for advice):

 

"Before passing on to study the newer logic, which treats of thinking in relation to a constantly-changing universe, it may be as well to give some of the general laws of this rigid logic for the purposes of comparison. First, there is the law of identity, by which we say A is A; second, the law of contradiction which says that A is not B; and third, the law of excluded third which says that A is not part of B (sic!). According to the first of these rules, a thing is what it is; according to the second, no thing is what it is not; and according to the third, no thing is part of what it is not. As examples:

 

"A square is a square, a square is not a circle, nor is a square part of a circle.

 

"A straight line is straight, it is not crooked, nor is it part crooked.

 

 "A moving thing is in motion, it is not still, nor is it partly still.

 

"Land is land, land is not water, nor is it partly water.

 

"A door that is shut is shut, it is not open, nor is it partly open." [Casey (1927).]

 

It is difficult to take this seriously. Concerning his third 'principle' (i.e., "A is not part of B"), does anyone think, did even Casey think, that a single logician in the last two thousand years believed it to be a logical law that, say, the Earth isn't part of the Solar System, or that cats aren't part of the animal kingdom? No wonder Casey quoted not one single logic text in support of these wild fantasies. This is in fact one of the worst examples of dialectical confusion I have ever seen (but it isn't quite as bad as the egregious gobbledygook W&G inflicted on their readers). What the LEM has got to do with whether or not 'a thing' is part of another 'thing' is a total mystery. Casey can only have made this stuff up; he certainly didn't find it in a logic textbook published anywhere on this planet.

 

Even so, we see yet again the confused use of the letter "A", where it can stand for whatever takes a particular DM-theorist's fancy. For example, in Casey's first example, "A" stands for "A square", but by example two it suddenly becomes a little more malleable. It first of all stands for "A straight line" and then "straight". In his third example, it changes from "A moving thing" to "in motion". His letter "B" fares no better. In his second example, "B" stands for "crooked", and "part of B" becomes "part crooked", when it should have been "part of crooked" -- given his own fantasy version of this 'law': "the law of excluded third which says that A is not part of B").

 

So, according to Casey's own characterisation of these 'laws', his last four examples should have read as follows (had he been in the least bothered with consistency):

 

"A straight line is a straight line, it is not crooked, nor is it part of crooked.

 

"A moving thing is a moving thing, it is not still, nor is it part of still.

 

"Land is land, land is not water, nor is it part of water.

 

"A door that is shut is a door that is shut, it is not open, nor is it part of open."

 

It is now reasonably clear that the title of Casey's book, Thinking. An Introduction To Its History And Science, should perhaps be changed to, Thinking? An Introduction To How Dialectics Screws With Your Head.

 

From Academic Marxism, here is HCD-theorist, Sean Sayers:

 

"In Frege-Russell logic there are valid equivalents for the traditional Aristotelian logical laws: the law of identity (A = A), the law of excluded middle (A v ~A), and the law of non-contradiction (~(A & ~A)). For this reason, the Frege-Russell system is often referred to as 'standard logic'." [Sayers (1992); quoted from here.] 

 

The sloppy approach adopted by DM-theorists when it comes to all matters logical (exposed in this Essay) surfaces yet again in Sayers's article above. In the LOI, the letter "A" stands for a singular term (e.g., a Proper Name or a Definite Description) -- as such, it can't feature in the LEM or the LOC.

 

For example, "It is not the case that (Socrates and not Socrates)" -- if we interpret the letter "A" in Sayers's "(~(A & ~A))" as a Proper Name variable -- is unvarnished nonsense. Sayers will search long and hard (and to no avail) through Frege's work, or, indeed, Russell's, or that of any other logician not the worse for drink or drugs, for any examples of such DM-inspired gibberish.

 

[If we are intent on being excessively charitable, Sayers probably meant to write, or should have written: "...the law of excluded middle (P v ~P), and the law of non-contradiction (~(P & ~P))."]

 

[LEM = Law of Excluded Middle; LOI = Law of Identity; LOC = Law of Non-Contradiction.]

 

We find similar confusion in the work of another HCD, Hyman R Cohen (here criticising an article written by Mark Mussachia):

 

"Engels showed as early as his writing of Dialectics of Nature that he meant nothing more than this: the opposites he had in mind were simultaneously existing tendencies, existing in the one object or process, comprising its unity as a whole. Mussachia assumes that Engels made the error of believing that A and not-A must always be of the 'direct line' kind, otherwise he (Mussachia) would not be trying so hard to prove Engels wrong. But if he wants to use the Law of Non-Contradiction (nothing can be both A and not-A) to deny that dialectically opposing tendencies can exist within one thing or process, then I must remind him of his previous argument about the Law of Identity which applies to complex things, in which he argued for a broader interpretation of the concept A = A. Engels had already shown that science had undermined the narrow 'old metaphysical' concept of the Identity Law. So, why cannot a given entity, A, have dialectically opposing elements constituting it, and still be a given A?" [Cohen (1980), p.119. Italic emphases in the original; quotations marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

As usual, Cohen fails to tell us what these As stand for -- are they name, predicate, property, relational, or sentential/propositional variables? Once again, in the LOI, A is a singular term (standing for Proper Names or Definite Descriptions), but it can't function that way in the LOC. In the latter, "A" is a propositional, sentential or predicate letter variable, but it can't be any of these in the LOI. [Why this is so was covered in detail in Essay Eight Part Three, but see also below.]

 

Even so, in the final sentence A now becomes an entity! It is no longer a variable standing for an entity, nor yet its name, but the entity itself! It might be news to DM-fans, but entities feature neither in the LOI nor the LOC, only letters or variables.

 

Perhaps worse still, we are told that A = A is a concept, as opposed to a law -- and later that there is such a thing as the "concept of the Identity Law", which must mean that we have here the concept of a concept!

 

A few pages earlier A was a proposition (but note, not a propositional variable), and even a condition:

 

"[For Marxists] a contradiction [has the following nature]: the proposition A contradicts the proposition or condition not-A...." [Ibid., p.107.]

 

We aren't told how a condition can be contradicted by a proposition (do these two 'struggle' with, and then turn into, one another, as we have been told they must by the DM-classics), or why using the word "contradiction" is at all apt in relation to such conditions. We can only conclude from this that, for Cohen, the operator, not- (that is, if this is what that inscription is!) is capable of turning A into a condition! [Since we have just been told that not-A is now a condition.]

 

DM, vague and confused?

 

Whatever was I thinking!

 

Here is yet another HCD, and no less a figure than Herbert Marcuse -- of course following Hegel --, arguing that the LOC is the LOI 'stated negatively':

 

"Contradiction, or the concrete form of it we are discussing, the opposition, does not displace the actual identity of the thing, but produces this identity in the form of a process in which the potentialities of things unfold. The law of identity by which traditional logic is guided implies the so-called law of contradiction. A equals A only in so far as it is opposed to non-A, or, the identity of A results from and contains the contradiction. A does not contradict an external non-A, Hegel holds, but a non-A that belongs to the very identity of A; in other words, A is self-contradictory." [Marcuse (1973), p.124.]

 

[It could be argued that Marcuse is simply summarising Hegel, here -- maybe so, but he nowhere takes Hegel to task for these logical confusions -- again, concerning the latter, see below.]

 

Not to be left out of all this dialectical fun, here is the doyen of French DM-fans (and many more besides), Henri Lefebvre:

 

"Formal Logic asserts: 'A is A'. Dialectical Logic is not saying 'A is not-A'…. It says: A is indeed A, but A is also not-A precisely so far as the proposition 'A is A' is not a tautology but has real content. A tree is a tree only by being such and such a tree, by bearing leaves, blossom and fruit, by passing through and preserving within itself those moments of its becoming...." [Lefebvre (1968), p.41.]

 

So, in the above, the LOI is variously defined as "A = A", "A is equal to A", "A equals A" -- or even "A is A" (on all these, see Essay Six) --, and this 'law' is said by other DM-fans to imply that "A can't be other than A" (which is incorrect -- the LOI doesn't preclude change; again, on that see Essay Six). The LOC is similarly characterised as "A can't at the same time be A and not be A" -- or even "A can't be non-A" and "A equals A only in so far as it is opposed to non-A, or, the identity of A results from and contains the contradiction", which is more-or-less the same (no pun intended) --, and which is said to follow from the LOI (but, as usual, with no proof that it does). At the same time, the LEM is depicted rather loosely as "Everything must be A or not A"; or even worse, "A does not equal B"! In every case, dialecticians serially confuse objects (or the names thereof) with propositions -- alongside a host of other things, to boot.

 

These confusions have been thoroughly dissected here, where I make the following points (slightly edited):

 

However, as noted above, the real problem here is that if the negative particle attaches to singular terms (such as Proper Names, or their surrogate, A), so that it is interpreted as an operator mapping singular terms onto 'negative' singular terms (whatever that means!), then it can't also be a sentential operator mapping a sentence or proposition onto its negation, which is what it has to do in the LEM and the LOC.

 

That is:

 

P1: N*(A) º ¬*A.

 

Or even:

 

P2: N*(A) = ¬*A.

 

[Where "N*" is a 'negative' operator, "A" is a name variable, and "¬*" is a 'negative' particle in this modified logic. (I have used asterisks to highlight the non-standard nature of the symbols employed.)]

 

Of course, given the above syntax, P1 is ill-formed, too. That is because neither N*(A) nor ¬*A are propositions or sentences. However, when names are supplied -- so that P1 yields, say, "Neg(Socrates) if and only if Not(Socrates)" -- P1 will be seen for the unvarnished nonsense it is -- just as "Neg(Socrates) is identical with Not(Socrates)" is, too.

 

On the other hand, if the negative particle above is a sentential operator mapping a sentence or proposition onto its negation, then it can't also be an operator mapping names in the above manner.

 

P3: N(A) º ¬A.

 

Or,

 

P4: N(A) = ¬A.

 

[Where N is a 'negative' operator, again, A is now a propositional variable, and ¬ is the negative particle in standard logic, here mapping a proposition onto its negation.]

 

But, in this case, P4 would be ill-formed, too, since "=" can only be flanked by singular terms, not propositions. Once more, when we substitute ordinary sentences for the variables, P4 yields, "Neg(Paris is in France) is identical to it is not the case that Paris is in France" (sic), which is no less nonsensical.

 

P3, on the other hand, seems to be alright as it stands: "Neg (Paris is in France) if and only if it is not the case that Paris is in France" is certainly odd, but it isn't nonsense; however, that is only because N now works as a surrogate for the more normal sentential or propositional negation.

 

Once again, that is why it is so important to keep track of the denotation of each letter "A" that Hegel and others use --, or rather, mis-use.

 

Recall, Hegel thought he could derive the LOC from the LOI by claiming that the LOI "stated negatively" is, or implies, the LOC. To that end, he argued that while the LOI is A = A, when stated (negatively) it is also "A can't at the same time be A and not A" -- or: "¬(A & ¬A)".

 

[Of course, there are other ways of expressing the 'negative form' of the LOI; for example, ¬[(A = A) & (A = ¬A)]. However, the latter form presents problems of its own; they have been explored here and in Note 2, of Essay Eight Part Three.]

But, as far as the LOC and the LEM are concerned, A stands for a proposition, a
declarative or indicative sentence -- or a even statement (again, depending on one's philosophical logic) -- i.e., it goes proxy for expressions that are capable of being true or false.

 

By way of contrast, in the LOI, A goes proxy for singular terms; it isn't a propositional or sentential variable. So, for example, "Caesar" -- a singular term -- on its own isn't capable of being true or false. Hence, if ¬ is taken to be a propositional or sentential operator (mapping truths onto falsehoods, or vice versa), ¬A would make no sense --  "It is not the case that Caesar" is, once more, nonsensical.

 

Alternatively, if A is a sentential or propositional variable, ¬(A & ¬A) would become "It is not the case that (Caesar is identical with Caesar and Caesar is not identical with Caesar" (where, for instance, "A" now stands for "Caesar is identical with Caesar", and not just "Caesar" on its own, as would be the case in the LOI), which seems to make sense -- but only if one is thinking of questioning the LOI.

 

The other form mentioned above (i.e., ¬[(A = A) & (A = ¬A)]) fares little better (even if it isn't patent nonsense), becoming, for example: "It is not the case that ((Caesar is identical with Caesar) and (Caesar is not identical with not Caesar))" -- that is, if ¬ now seems to function as both a sentential or propositional operator and an operator on singular terms! Who exactly is this "not Caesar" person?

On the other hand, if ¬ operates on names, or singular terms, then ¬(A & ¬A) would make no sense, either. In that case, ¬(A & ¬A) would become "Not (Caesar and not Caesar)". But, what does that mean? It isn't even a proposition. "Not Caesar" isn't an expression that is capable of being true or false, nor is "Not (Caesar and not Caesar)". In which case, given this use of ¬, ¬(A & ¬A) can't be the LOC. "Not (Caesar and not Caesar)" isn't the LOC, nor is it even a contradiction; it is either plain gibberish or it isn't even a proposition.

 

The other form (i.e., ¬[(A = A) & (A = ¬A)]) isn't much better, either, since it pans out as "Not ((Caesar is identical with Caesar) and (Caesar is identical with not Caesar))".

 

[This isn't to suggest that the negative particle can't attach to names (on that, see here), only that when it does, it assumes an entirely different role -- and thus takes on a different meaning -- from the role it occupies when it operates on sentences or propositions. Indeed, as we have seen here, when the negative particle attaches to a name (in what appear to be relational expressions (e.g., "Paris is no Vienna", or "Brutus is not Caesar")), its role changes dramatically.]

 

The dilemma is now quite stark:

 

(1) If ¬ operates on names, or singular expressions, and if A is a singular term variable, then A = A certainly seems to make sense. But, in that case, the 'negative form' of the LOI -- ¬(A & ¬A) (or even ¬[(A = A) & (A = ¬A)]) -- turns out to be plain and unvarnished nonsense: "Not (Caesar and not Caesar)" -- (or "Not ((Caesar is identical with Caesar) and (Caesar is identical with not Caesar))"!

 

(2) On the other hand, if ¬ operates on sentences or propositions, mapping them onto their negations, and if A is a sentential or propositional variable, then the LOI, (A = A), would become, for example: "Caesar is identical with Caesar is identical with Caesar is identical with Caesar" (interpreting A here as the proposition "Caesar is identical with Caesar", again), which isn't the LOI!

 

[Recall, given option (2), A has to go proxy for a proposition or sentence (in this case "Caesar is identical with Caesar"), not a name.]

 

Exception might be taken to the use of A to stand for the proposition "Caesar is identical with Caesar". DM-fans can't in fact lodge this objection since, as we have seen, according to them and their sloppy syntax/semantics, these As can be anything we please!

 

In that case, let us take any randomly selected proposition to replace each A in the LOI. That having been done, not much changes: "Paris is in France is identical to Paris is in France". (Interpreting the A here as "Paris is in France").

 

Remember this doesn't yield "'Paris is in France' is identical to 'Paris is in France'", but  "Paris is in France is identical to Paris is in France". Is anyone prepared to accept that as an example of the LOI?

 

[In case someone is prepared to so accept, I have considered that desperate (and unwise) move, here.]

So, Hegel was only able to 'derive' the LOC from the LOI by allowing A to slide effortlessly between two radically different semantic roles: between its denoting singular terms and its denoting propositions, 'judgements', or sentences (and, in fact, denoting a whole host of other things besides -- such as processes, concepts, relations, relational expressions, etc., etc. -- on that, see an earlier section of Essay Eight Part Three). But, as soon that is done, the negative particle changes its meaning in the above manner -- that is, it changes from a sentential operator to a name modifier, and we end up with unvarnished nonsense.

 

Another, and much more sophisticated dialectician (who is probably also a card-carrying member of the HCD fraternity, and who should know better), is Erwin Marquit, who presents his readers with the following 'definition':

 

"The method of dealing with contradictions in two-valued logic conforms with the laws of classical logic: a thing can't be contrary to itself (law of noncontradiction) and a thing can't be both itself and contrary to itself at the same time in the same respect (law of excluded middle)." [Marquit (1982), p.76. (This article appeared earlier in Science & Society, which only goes to show that if that redoubtable journal employs a peer review system, it seems it will pass for publication any old rubbish!)]

 

This not only confuses contraries with contradictories, it commits many of the errors that have already been highlighted.

 

Be this as it may, it turns out that it is impossible to decide (or even say!) what it is that DL actually commits its adherents to:

 

"The principles of difference: 'All things are different....' 'A is also not A....'

 

"And then -- Hegel says wittily -- it is said that there is no third. There is a third in this thesis itself. A itself is the third, for A can be both +A and -A. 'The Something thus is itself the third term which was supposed to be excluded.'" [Lenin (1961), p.135-38. Italic emphases in the original; bold added.]

 

"And it is just as impossible have one side of a contradiction without the other, as it is to retain the whole of an apple in one's hand after half has been eaten." [Engels (1891), p.496.]

 

"Let us now consider the matter from the standpoint of a higher doctrine of thought, from the standpoint of dialectics. Let us take the first law which we have developed as the foundation of logic: A is A. A thing is always the same thing. Without testing this law, let us consider another one which we have already mentioned, the law of Heraclitus which says 'Everything is in flux,' or 'One cannot ascend the same river twice.' Can we say that the river is always the same? No, the law of Heraclitus says the opposite. The river is at no moment the same. It is always changing. Thus one cannot twice nor, more exactly, even once ascend the same river. In short: the law 'A is A' in the last analysis is valid only if I assume that the thing does not change. As soon as I consider the thing in its change, then A is always A and something else; A is at the same time not-A. And this in the last analysis holds for all things and events." [Thalheimer (1936), pp.88-89. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"[I]f I am asked to give a true account of how something got to be what it is I will ultimately have to face the fact that a thing called A is continuously changing in all of its parts all of the time into non-A, which means it is non-A as well as A, which takes me beyond formal categories into dialectical categories." [Somerville (1968), p.68. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Formal Logic asserts: 'A is A'. Dialectical Logic is not saying 'A is not-A'…. It says: A is indeed A, but A is also not-A precisely so far as the proposition 'A is A' is not a tautology but has real content." [Lefebvre (1968), p.41. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"This law of identity of opposites, which so perplexes and horrifies addicts of formal logic, can be easily understood, not only when it is applied to actual processes of development and interrelations of events, but also when it is contrasted with the formal law of identity. It is logically true that A equals A, that John is John…. But it is far more profoundly true that A is also non-A. John is not simply John: John is a man. This correct proposition is not an affirmation of abstract identity, but an identification of opposites. The logical category or material class, mankind, with which John is one and the same is far more and other than John, the individual. Mankind is at the same time identical with, yet different from John." [Novack (1971), p.92. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Nevertheless, even if their (collective) analysis of the LOC were correct, and it were true that "A is A and at the same time non-A", it would be impossible for dialecticians even to begin to express any criticisms, even of their own garbled version of AFL. That is because it would be impossible to state the following:

 

B1: A is A and at the same time non-A.

 

If it were indeed true that "A is A and not A/non-A" or "A" is at the same time "non-A", then the first half of B1 would have to be re-written as:

 

B2: Non-A is non-A.

 

Or, more pointedly, the whole of B1 would become:

 

B3: Non-A is non-A and at the same time non-(non-A).

 

That is, if each A in B1 is replaced with what it is supposed at the same time to be (i.e., non-A), following the advice of DM-'logicians'. Plainly, B1 would 'dialectically disintegrate' into B3 -- or, perhaps worse, into the following:

 

B3a: A and non-A is A and non-A and at the same time non-(A and non-A).

 

Depending on how radically we interpret the 'dialectical' re-write of the LOC.

 

[In B3a, I have replaced each occurrence of A with an A and non-A, since we have been told that each A is at the same time A and non-A.]

 

The above fatal outcome can only be forestalled by those who reject the DM-inspired version of the LOC (i.e., those who reject the dictum "A is at the same time non-A"), and who thus don't think that the first half of B1 is false, or maybe both false and true -- or even that, "It depends...".

 

B1: A is A and at the same time non-A.

 

Even worse still, if every A is at the same time non-A, then these two would surely follow from B3:

 

B4: Non-(non-A) is non-(non-A) and at the same time non-(non-(non-A)).

 

B5: Non-(non-(non-A)) is non-(non-(non-A)) and at the same time non-(non-(non-(non-A))).

 

[B3: Non-A is non-A and at the same time non-(non-A).]

 

And so on, as each successive A in B3, and then in B4, is replaced with a non-A that dialecticians insist they at the same time are. Once more, this untoward result may only be forestalled by those who reject standard DM-criticisms of the LOC.

 

Or, even worse still:

 

B4a: A and non-A and non-(A and non-A) is A and non-A and non-(A and non-A) and at the same time non-(A and non-A and non-(A and non-A)).

 

[B3a: A and non-A is A and non-A and at the same time non-(A and non-A).]

 

Replacing each A in B3a with A and non-A, once more. [I won't even attempt B5a!]

 

[Of course, it won't do to claim that all these "non-"s cancel out (an odd notion in itself; on that see here), since if they were to do that we would have to reject the idea that each A was at the same time a non-A. Thus, if each A were at the same time non-A, then, when we formed a non-(non-A) from a non-A, in the above manner, and if this could be 'cancelled' back to an A, the A in non-A would no longer be a non-A, since these two "non-"s would ex hypothesi have cancelled, wiping out that non-A!]

 

As should now be apparent, the LOC has an annoying way of retaliating in a most un-dialectical manner when challenged. In which case, as noted above: it is impossible for dialecticians actually to say what they mean!

 

The same problems afflict other DM-inspired criticisms of principles dialecticians claim to have found in textbooks of FL all the while unwisely keeping the evidence to themselves (which suggests they opened not one textbook on FL).

 

In addition, as noted above, DM-theorists are invariably unclear what those As in the alleged FL-'laws' are supposed to stand for. Based on the passages we have already seen, and on other quotations posted elsewhere at this site, it is plain that DM-theorists regularly confuse A with one or more of the following: propositions, judgements, properties, qualities, words, objects, processes, predicates, statements, terms, assertions, type-sentences, token-sentences, concepts, ideas, beliefs, thoughts, phrases, clauses, relations, relational expression, indexicals, places, times, names, 'entities' --, and, in the case of John Somerville, "existences" (i.e., perhaps everything in the universe!).

 

The significance of logical disorder of this magnitude lies not so much in the unmitigated confusion it creates, but in the fact that the vast majority of the DM-faithful haven't even noticed it!

 

And that includes HCDs!

 

Indeed, even when this unmitigated confusion is brought to their attention, they almost invariably complain about "pedantry, or reject such criticism as "semantics"!

 

As has already been pointed out: 2400 years ago -- and despite his own confusions -- Aristotle was far clearer than all these 'dialectical logicians' put together.

 

But, far worse still: are we really supposed to believe that this sub-Aristotelian, syntactic and semantic DM-rat's nest encapsulates ideas that lie at the very cutting edge of modern science and philosophy?

 

Now, anyone tempted to respond to the above on the lines that it gets the DM-view of contradictions (etc.) wrong, and that dialectical contradictions are really X, or they are in effect Y, or they are…whatever (readers can insert their own favourite DM-definition here -- label it, Z), need only reflect on the fact that according to the DM-inspired criticism of the LOC, that criticism itself must be X or Y, or even Z, while at the same time being not X or not Y, or not Z -- if we here interpret the As above as X, Y, or Z -- since, if we abide by sound dialectical-principles, these letters can be interpreted in any which way we fancy.

 

Let's see those who peremptorily accuse careful logicians of "pedantry" and "semantics" try to squirm their way out of that one!

 

[In Essay Eight Part Three, we shall see that serious difficulties like this afflict, and thus neutralise, the best account there is (or, at least, the best account I have ever read) of the nature of 'dialectical contradictions', written by a fellow Marxist.]

 

In that case, the radically imprecise nature of the DM-inspired criticism of the LOC (which sees everything as X or Y, or even Z, and not X or not Y, or even not Z -- where each X or Y, or even Z is simply left undefined, so it can be anything dialecticians please) must itself be both a criticism and not a criticism of the LOC. That must be so unless, of course, criticisms are themselves exempt from their own criticism -- and can't therefore ever aspire to become one of these wishy-washy dialectical letter As.

 

Alas, this means that dialecticians' own criticism of the LOC must now self-destruct. For example, any attempt made by DM-fans to define the LOC must be a definition and not a definition -- if their own 'analysis' of the LOC and the LOI is invoked against any such attempt.

 

Hence, using "D" to stand for "the DM-'definition' of the LOC" (whatever that 'definition' turns out to be, and whatever it means, if we are ever told), it must be the case that D is at the same time non-D. Clearly, that would mean that the DM-inspired criticism of the LOC undermines its own definition of it!

 

It is at this point that even DL-fans might just begin to see how devilish Diabolical Logic really is.

 

[BAD = Buddhist Dialectics/Dialectician; MAD = Materialist Dialectics/Dialectician, both depending on context.]

 

However, long experience 'debating' with DM-fans, who think Hegel is the best thing since sliced Aristotle, suggests that it is unwise to underestimate their capacity to ignore anything they don't like or can't 'compute'. 'Debating' with those whose brains have been compromised by this Hermetic virus is like 'debating' with Buddhists -- except the latter are at least respectful and don't press the 'abuse button' at the first opportunity. Nevertheless, in relation to both sets of mystics (the MAD and the BAD), whatever is thrown at them in argument simply doubles back and serves only to strengthen their case, since both glory in contradiction. The fact that the BAD-ies can tell us absolutely nothing about 'Nirvana' phases them not one iota (since it is 'Nothing'!), just as it scarcely registers with the MAD-ies that they can't tell anyone, least of all one another, what their "Totality" actually is.

 

And, it is little use pointing out to MAD-ies -- or BAD-ies -- that their belief in universal contradiction is self-contradictory, for to do so would be to feed this monster, lending it strength.

 

[This is especially true of MAD-ies who frequent Internet discussion boards -- a recent, extreme example of which can be found here; check out the abusive ramblings of one "Wangwei".]

 

Now, it could be objected once more that DM-theorists don't object to the use of the LOC, the LOI or the LEM in their proper area of application. As noted above, these FL-principles allegedly fall short when they are face processes in the real world involving movement, change and development. This hackneyed DM-response will be tested to destruction in Essays Five, Six and Eight Parts One, Two and Three (where consideration will be given to Engels's 'analysis' of motion, Hegel and Trotsky's attempts to criticise the LOI, as well as the peculiar idea that change is the result of 'internal contradictions').

 

In the meantime, it is worth reminding ourselves once again that these DM-inspired criticisms of FL are themselves material objects in their own right (i.e., they would have to be written or typed in ink, or as pixels, on a page somewhere, or propagated through the air as sound waves at some point, just as they would also have to be apprehended by very material human beings), and as such they are surely subject to change (that is, if everything is subject to change, as DM-fans assure us they are). That being the case, DM-inspired criticisms of FL "are never equal to themselves", too; so, they must apply to each and every material copy of these 'dialectical' criticisms of FL. Indeed, if "A is A and at the same time non-A" is correct -- which means that letters (or whatever they refer to) are also "never equal to themselves" -- then sentences in books and articles on DM stand no chance; they are similarly composed of letters, and so must change! Unless, of course, sentences in books and articles on DM are the only things in the entire universe that don't.

 

Hence, if DM-theorists are to be believed, no materially-expressed DM-criticism of the LOC is "equal to itself", each and every phenomenal example of a DM-criticism of the LOC is at the same moment both "a criticism and not a criticism".

 

The rest follows as before...

 

The counter-argument to this (that dialecticians only need to appeal to the 'relative stability' of material objects and processes to make their point) has been neutralised in Essay Six. The other counter-argument -- i.e., that this ignores Hegel's use of identity to derive the alleged fact that everything is related to, or 'reflects', its 'own other', not merely to everything that it is 'not' --, has also been defused in Essays Seven Part Three and Eight Part Three.

 

However, in an attempt perhaps to neutralise objections like those posted above, James Lawler argued as follows:

 

"Looking one step further into this matter, Hegel suggests that the relation of A to not-A is doubly negative. Identity is established (not immediately given) through a negative relation to not-A. A is itself in not being not-A. But this negative relation to not-A is itself negated. That is, the identity of A does not consist solely in its being not-A, there is a 'return' to A again -- which Hegel calls 'reflection.' Thus 'A is A' is not a tautologous (sic) repetition of A (as 'abstract understanding' would have it) but an affirmation that has been made possible only through a doubly negative movement, a 'negation of the negation.'" [Lawler (1982), p.22. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

"It is necessary to ask, first of all, whether and in what sense the fact that A necessarily relates to what is not-A permits us to insert not-A in A. Hegel is quite explicit that this relation is not to be understood in such a way that the results would be the blurring of all identities in a single monistic being -- as he accuses Spinoza of doing: 'Substance, as the universal negative power, is as it were a dark shapeless abyss which engulfs all definite content as radically null, and produces from itself nothing that has a positive substance of its own.'" [Ibid., p.32, quoting Hegel (1975), p.215, in the edition I have used, which seems to be different from Lawler's. Italic emphases in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Quite how the (quoted) incomprehensible passage from Hegel helps clear this up I will leave to those who are fluent in Martian to decide, but Lawler continues:

 

"If we grant that A's identity involves its necessary relation to what is not-A, and that this not-A is 'its own other' -- a definite other being and not any being whatsoever -- and that this relation to some definite other is necessary for the existence of A or is essential to the constitution of A (A's identity), it seems reasonable to look for some 'imprint' of this 'other' in A, so that in some sense not-A is internally constitutive of A.... In other words, to understand the internal nature of A it is necessary to study the determinate not-A not only as a necessary external condition but as 'reflected' in A. This is not to say that one should expect to find in A some direct and immediate duplication of not-A. The direct identity of A and not-A would constitute the annihilation of the beings involved." [Ibid., pp.32-33. Italic emphases in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

We have already had occasion to note that dialecticians are hopelessly confused about what they mean by the sub-logical symbols they use, and Lawler is up there with the best, confusing these As one minute with propositions and sentences, the next with properties, predicates, 'beings', indexicals, relations and nominalised relational expressions, among many other things.

 

Exactly how Lawler's comments are capable of preventing the logical explosion we witnessed earlier -- which follows from Hegel's brilliant insight that "A is identical with, but at the same time different from not-A" (I paraphrase!) -- is somewhat unclear. Even if it were correct that "A = not-A, but at the same time A ≠ not-A" (which is a slightly shorter version of "A is identical with, but at the same time different from not-A"), we would still obtain the following DM-spaghetti from B1 (modified):

 

B1: A is A and at the same time non-A.

 

B1b: A = A and at the same time not-A.

 

If we begin with the more 'orthodox' version suggested by Lawler, encapsulated in B1c, the situation is even worse:

 

B1c: A = A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A.

 

[Here, I am taking "A is A and at the same time A is not-A, and A is also not-not-A" to have the same 'dialectical' content as "A = A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A".]

 

If we take this part of the formula of 'genius' -- i.e., A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A, which we are assured it is 'dialectically' equal to A -- and substitute it for each A in B1c (but parsed by means of brackets to make it 'easier' on the eye), we obtain the following monstrosity:

 

B6: (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A).

 

If we now do the same with B6, we end up with this bowl of 'dialectical' spaghetti:

 

B7: ((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) = ((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) and ((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) = not-((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) and ((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) ≠ not-((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)).

 

[In the above, each A has been replaced successively by what Lawler assures it is identical with --, A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A.]

 

 

 

Figure Three: Logic Before It Has Been

Given A DM-Makeover

 

 

Figure Four: Logic After The DM-Makeover

 

Alas, my computer might not have enough memory to complete B8!

 

[That pleasant task is left to readers who have more time on their hands than is perhaps good for them. And, good luck with B999!]

 

Of course, if we throw the full weight of DL at these sentences, the entire theory would collapse onto gibberish even more rapidly, for if A is never equal to A, but is always equal to not-A, then no symbol will emerge unscathed. In which case, each and every word that DM-fans use to criticise FL must be subject to these crazy strictures. Consider again B1:

 

B1: A is A and at the same time non-A.

 

The above rapidly 'dialectically' develops into the following (if we replace each and every word with 'not-'/'non-that word'; i.e., substituting "is is is and at the same time non-is" for "is", "non is non and at the same time non-non" for "non", "the is the and at the same time no-the" for "the", and so on -- leaving "B1", ":" and the final full-stop to fend for themselves), yielding :

 

B1c: (A is A and at the same time non-A)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(A is A and at the same time non-A)(and is and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-A is non-A and at the same time non-non-A).

 

[I have added brackets to make B1c easier on the eye.]

 

And then -- this disaster-area -- with these replacements substituted into B1c:

 

[1] (A is A and at the same time non-A) becomes [(A is A and at the same time non-A)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(A is A and at the same time non-A)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-A is non-A and at the same time non-non-A)]

 

[2] (is is is and at the same time non-is) becomes [(is is is and at the same time non-is)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-is is non-is and at the same time non-non-is)]

 

[3] (and is and and at the same time non-and) becomes [(and is and and at the same time non-and)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-and is non-and and at the same time non-non-and)]

 

[4] (at is at and at the same time non-at) becomes [(at is at and at the same time non-at)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-at is non-at and at the same time non-non-at)]

 

[5] (the is the and at the same time non-the) becomes [(the is the and at the same time non-the)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-the is non-the and at the same time non-non-the)]

 

[6] (same is same and at the same time non-same) becomes [(same is same and at the same time non-same)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-same is non-same and at the same time non-non-same)]

 

[7] (time is time and at the same time non-time) becomes [(time is time and at the same time non-time)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-time is non-time and at the same time non-non-time)]

 

[8] (non-A is non-A and at the same time non-non-A) becomes [(non-A is non-A and at the same time non-non-A)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(non-A is non-A and at the same time non-non-A)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-non-A is non-non-A and at the same time non-non-non-A)]

 

Yielding the following monstrosity (with square brackets inserted to make it easier of the eye, if that were possible):

 

B1d: [(A is A and at the same time non-A)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(A is A and at the same time non-A)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-A is non-A and at the same time non-non-A)][(is is is and at the same time non-is)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-is is non-is and at the same time non-non-is)][(A is A and at the same time non-A)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(A is A and at the same time non-A)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-A is non-A and at the same time non-non-A)][(and is and and at the same time non-and)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-and is non-and and at the same time non-non-and)][(at is at and at the same time non-at)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-at is non-at and at the same time non-non-at)][(the is the and at the same time non-the)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-the is non-the and at the same time non-non-the)][(same is same and at the same time non-same)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-same is non-same and at the same time non-non-same)][(time is time and at the same time non-time)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-time is non-time and at the same time non-non-time)][(non-A is non-A and at the same time non-non-A)(is is is and at the same time non-is)(non-A is non-A and at the same time non-non-A)(and is and and at the same time non-and)(at is at and at the same time non-at)(the is the and at the same time non-the)(same is same and at the same time non-same)(time is time and at the same time non-time)(non-non-A is non-non-A and at the same time non-non-non-A)].

 

[Leaving "B1c", ":" and the final full-stop to fend for themselves, once more.]

 

And so on...

 

Hence, the same fate must befall every word that DM-fans themselves use -- since, as we have noted, words are just as material as any letter A that either they or Hegel ever contemplated. In which case, if we apply their own 'logic' to what they attempt to tell us, dialecticians will end up with unmitigated gibberish in place of sentences that might have seemed to make some sort of crazy sense before they had been 'dialectically-processed', leaving them in the unenviable position of not being able to communicate anything at all.

 

[This is just an elaboration of a point Aristotle made 2400 years ago! If we held a proposition and its contradictory to be true at the same time, rationality would soon fall apart. B7 and B1d above illustrate this rather nicely.]

 

And, it is no good complaining that this is unfair; dialecticians' sloppy use of those ill-defined letter "A"s invites such parody.

 

So, Lawler's 'solution' would in fact represent a major step backward, even when compared with the implications of the crass 'definitions' concocted by lesser LCD souls.

 

[Lawler's attempt to derive, à la Hegel, a not-A from an A was demolished in Essay Eight Part Three. It is worth adding that in the midst of all of this DM-confusion, the distinction between not A (predicate negation) and not-A/non-A (predicate-term negation), has been ignored since Lawler and other DM-fans seem to be blithely unaware of it, even though Aristotle himself wasn't. More on that, here.]

 

On a more general note, W&G advance several additional allegations about FL that reveal just how little they know about a subject they seem happy to misrepresent:

 

"It is an astonishing fact that the basic laws of formal logic worked out by Aristotle have remained fundamentally unchanged for over two thousand years." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.89. This appears on p.93 of the 2nd edition.]

 

This is so patently false that these two comrades have had to distort and ignore the significance of the major advances that have been made in logic since the 1850s to make their superficial criticisms even seem to 'work':

 

"In the 19th century, there were a number of attempts to bring logic up to date (George Boyle (sic), Ernst Schröder, Gotlob (sic) Frege, Bertrand Russell and A. N. Whitehead). But, apart from the introduction of symbols, and a certain tidying up, there is no real change here. Great claims are made, for example by the linguistic philosophers, but there are not many grounds for them...." [Ibid., p.97. This appears on p.101 of the 2nd edition.]

 

We have already had occasion to take note of the many errors this passage contains -- for example, W&G confuse George Boole with a fictional character, George Boyle, and they also mis-spelled Gottlob Frege's name. Admittedly, these are relatively minor issues but they highlight just how careless these two jokers are when it comes to matters logical. Add to that the following 'minor' detail: Russell and Whitehead's work in logic dates from the 20th century, not the 19th. Moreover, the fact that these two comrades can see no difference between the old logic of subject and predicate, and the newer logic of function and argument, quantifiers and predicates of different levels, of relations and sets, tensed and modal functors, etc., only serves to highlight further their self-imposed ignorance.

 

Traditional (Aristotelian) logic not only ignored complex inferences inexpressible in syllogisms -- and, it is worth reminding ourselves, The Syllogism is a remarkably inept, limited, and inefficient way to argue; who on earth argues this way in everyday life, and which scientist or mathematician has ever used a single syllogism? --, it failed to deal with relational expressions, quantifiers expressing multiple generality (the latter are used in mathematics all the time -- for example, "If every number has a successor, then there is no prime larger than every number"), internal and external negation, coupled with scope ambiguity. [This links to a PDF.] In relation to the latter distinction, consider the difference between the following:

 

F1: Not every event has a cause.

 

F2: Every event has no cause.

 

Clearly, F1 would be true if there was at least one event that had no cause, while F2 would be true if no event had a cause.

 

F3: Some dialecticians don't know the difference between external and internal negation.

 

F4: It isn't the case that some dialecticians know the difference between internal and external negation.

 

F3 allows for the possibility that some dialecticians do know about this difference, while F4 rules that out.

 

AFL was seriously limited partly because of the way that quantifier expressions had been interpreted by earlier logicians, who, with their slavish adherence to Term Logic and the traditional grammar of subject and predicate, not only crippled logic it held up its advance for well over two thousand years.

 

[On the origin of some of these confusions, see Barnes (2009). The impact of the new logic and why it assumed a crucially important role in the advancement of mathematics are detailed in Giaquinto (2004) and Grattan-Guinness (1970, 1997, 2000a, 2000b). See also Kitcher (1984), pp.227-71. On Frege's importance, see Dummett (1981a), pp.665-84. On the general background, see Beaney (1996). Concerning the superiority of MFL over AFL, see Dummett (1981a), pp.8-33, Noonan (2001), pp.25-28, 39-43, as well as here. The power of Fregean Logic is underlined with admirable clarity in Geach (1961). See also, Zalta (2016).]

 

Wittgenstein himself underlined some of the confusions and limitations of the old logic in Wittgenstein (1913). Indeed, what Wittgenstein had to say about the work of one particular logic textbook (i.e., Coffey (1938a, 1938b)) might well have been addressed at our DM-brethren with equal justification:

 

"In no branch of learning can an author disregard the results of honest research with so much impunity as he can in Philosophy and Logic. To this circumstance we owe the publication of such a book as Mr Coffey's Science of Logic: and only as a typical example of the work of many logicians of today does this book deserve consideration. The author's Logic is that of the scholastic philosophers, and he makes all their mistakes -- of course with the usual references to Aristotle. (Aristotle, whose name is taken so much in vain by our logicians, would turn in his grave if he knew that so many Logicians know no more about Logic today than he did 2,000 years ago). The author has not taken the slightest notice of the great work of the modern mathematical logicians -- work which has brought about an advance in Logic comparable only to that which made Astronomy out of Astrology, and Chemistry out of Alchemy.... The worst of such books is that they prejudice sensible people against the study of Logic." [Wittgenstein (1913), pp.2-3. Paragraphs merged.]

 

However, W&G continue, digging an even deeper hole for themselves:

 

"Using a superficial and inexact analogy with physics, the so-called 'atomic method' developed by Russell and Wittgenstein (and later repudiated by the latter) tried to divide language into its 'atoms.' The basic atom of language is supposed to be the simple sentence, out of which compound sentences are constructed. Wittgenstein dreamed of developing a 'formal language' for every science -- physics, biology, even psychology. Sentences are subjected to a 'truth test' based on the old laws of identity, contradiction and the excluded middle. In reality, the basic method remains exactly the same. The 'truth value' is a question of 'either…or,' 'yes or no,' 'true or false.' The new logic is referred to as the propositional calculus. But the fact is that this system can't even deal with arguments formerly handled by the most basic (categorical) syllogism. The mountain has laboured, and brought forth a mouse." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.97. This appears on p.102 of the 2nd edition.]

 

Again, the errors in this passage were exposed here. However, W&G nowhere reference a single passage from Wittgenstein's work that supports the allegation that he wanted to set up "a 'formal language' for every science -- physics, biology, even psychology". In fact, these two have manifestly confused Wittgenstein with Rudolph Carnap and the other members of the Vienna Circle. Nor do they show how or why the new logic can't handle syllogistic inferences, when it manifestly can. [On that, for example, see Lemmon (1993), pp.168-79.] To cap it all, they assert that Wittgenstein's work was somehow "based on the old laws of identity", when he in fact argued as follows:

 

"Roughly speaking, to say of two things that they are identical is nonsense, and to say of one thing that it is identical with itself is to say nothing at all.

 

"Thus I do not write 'f(a,b).a = b', but 'f(a,a)' (or 'f(b,b)'); and not 'f(a,b).~a = b', but 'f(a,b)'....

 

[Wittgenstein explains what he is doing here: "Identity of object I express by identity of sign, and not by using a sign for identity. Difference of objects I express by difference of sign." (5.53, p.105.) -- RL.]

 

 "The identity-sign, therefore, is not an essential constituent of conceptual notation." [Wittgenstein (1972), 5.5303-5.533, pp.106-07.]

 

"'A thing is identical with itself.' -- There is no finer example of a useless sentence.... It is as if in our imagination we put a thing into its own shape and saw that it fitted." [Wittgenstein (2009), §216, p.91e.]

 

"'a = a' is a perfectly useless proposition." [Wittgenstein (1976), p.283.]

 

"The law of identity, for example, seemed to be of fundamental importance. But now the proposition that this 'law' is nonsense has taken over this importance." [Wittgenstein (1993), p.169.]

 

We also read the following in a letter Wittgenstein sent to Bertrand Russell (dated October 1913):

 

"But just now I am so troubled with identity...." [Wittgenstein (1979), p.125. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

We also read this from a note dated 29/11/1914:

 

"I believe that it would be possible wholly to exclude the sign of identity from our notation and always to indicate identity merely by the identity of the signs....

 

"By means of this notation the pseudo-proposition (x)x = a or the like would lose all appearance of justification." [Ibid., p.34e.]

 

Not finished, these two continue:

 

"The introduction of symbols into logic does not carry us a single step further, for the very simple reason that they, in turn, must sooner or later be translated into words and concepts. They have the advantage of being a kind of shorthand, more convenient for some technical operations, computers and so on, but the content remains exactly as before. The bewildering array of mathematical symbols is accompanied by a truly Byzantine jargon, which seems deliberately designed to make logic inaccessible to ordinary mortals, just as the priest-castes of Egypt and Babylon used secret words and occult symbols to keep their knowledge to themselves. The only difference is that they actually did know things that were worth knowing, like the movements of the heavenly bodies, something which can't be said of modern logicians." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.97-98. This appears on p.102 of the 2nd edition.]

 

If this were the case: "The introduction of symbols into logic does not carry us a single step further", then on a similar basis algebraists were unwise to introduce symbols into mathematics. And, how many ordinary people understand algebra? Does that mean algebra is "elitist"? More revealingly, one feels, W&G's jibe (about the esoteric nature of modern logic) hides the fact that these two comrades clearly found even elementary Symbolic Logic far too difficult to grasp. [Exhibit A for the prosecution was recorded earlier; add to that the many sophomoric mistakes they make.]

 

To be sure, MFL is undeniably difficult. As I noted above, in my own study of University Mathematics and Postgraduate Logic, for example, I found that advanced Abstract Algebra (Group Theory) was far easier to follow than advanced MFL (especially if we throw in the Philosophy of Logic, surely one of the most difficult subjects yet devised by the human brain). Others, of course, might find the reverse is the case. But, that no more impugns MFL than it does, say, Group Theory, Lie Algebra, or Sturm-Liouville Theory (this links to a PDF).

 

Readers, however, will no doubt also have noticed how W&G managed to throw in a snide remark about the contrast between FL and certain un-named priests in the ancient world, whose knowledge, we are told, actually involved the mastery of "occult symbols" and a number of unspecified practicalities, (supposedly) unlike modern logicians. This from comrades who sing the praises of a 'logical theory' (DL) which has no known practical applications (other than that of thoroughly confusing its acolytes and, of course, crippling Soviet Agriculture), but who nevertheless endlessly snipe at an entire discipline (FL) that has countless such applications.

 

And, as far as "Byzantine jargon" is concerned, anyone who reckons they can learn something (anything!) from Hegel's Logic has little room to point fingers at others for there excessive devotion to opaque jargon. The technical terms used in MFL are there for the same reason they are there in modern mathematics. No such basis exist for excusing the barrage of terminally obscure verbiage and tortured prose that confronts hapless readers of Hegel's Logic -- quite the reverse, as we shall see.

 

Unfortunately, there is more:

 

"Terms such 'monadic predicates,' 'quantifiers,' 'individual variables,' and so on and so forth, are designed to give the impression that formal logic is a science to be reckoned with, since it is quite unintelligible to most people. Sad to say, the scientific value of a body of beliefs is not directly proportionate to the obscurity of its language. If that were the case, every religious mystic in history would be as great a scientist as Newton, Darwin and Einstein, all rolled into one." [Ibid., p.98. This appears on pp.102-03 of the 2nd edition.]

 

The novel terminology employed by modern logicians was introduced simply because the old logic of subject and predicate failed to do justice to inferences we draw in everyday life, to say nothing of the complex proofs required by mathematicians. Moreover, W&G's reference to religious mystics is a little rich in view of the Hermetic writings from which they caught such a virulent dose of dialectics.

 

"In Moliere's comedy, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, M. Jourdain was surprised to be told that he had been talking prose all his life, without realising it. Modern logic merely repeats all the old categories, but throws in a few symbols and fancy-sounding terms, in order to hide the fact that absolutely nothing new is being said. Aristotle used 'monadic predicates' (expressions that attribute a property to an individual) a long time ago. No doubt, like M. Jourdain, he would have been delighted to discover that he had been using Monadic Predicates all the time, without knowing it. But it would not have made a scrap of difference to what he was actually doing. The use of new labels does not alter the contents of a jar of jam. Nor does the use of jargon enhance the validity of outworn forms of thought.

 

"The sad truth is that, in the 20th century formal logic has reached its limits. Every new advance of science deals it yet another blow. Despite all the formal changes, the basic laws remain the same. One thing is clear. The developments of formal logic over the past hundred years, first by propositional calculus (p.c.), then by lower predicate calculus (l.p.c.) has carried the subject to such a point of refinement that no further development is possible. We have reached the most comprehensive system of formal logic, so that any other additions will certainly not add anything new. Formal logic has said all that it has to say. If the truth were to be told, it reached this stage quite some time ago." [Ibid., pp.98-99. This appears on p.103 of the 2nd edition.]

 

I have been unable to find the term "Monadic predicate" in Aristotle, but that doesn't mean he didn't use monadic predicates. But so what? Ancient mathematicians used concepts and abbreviations that are analogous to the symbols employed by modern mathematicians; does that mean that modern mathematics is full of "fancy-sounding terms", and thus fit only for ill-informed derision from a pair of ignoramuses? Or, that modern formalism is no advance over the terminology used in ancient mathematics?

 

And, of course, a monadic predicate (such as "ξ is a confused dialectician") can apply to more than one individual (as in "Anyone who reads RIRE, and believes everything they have read, is a confused dialectician"); so it isn't true that 'monadic predicates' are expressions that "attribute a property to an individual". Plainly, in this case, it applies to anyone who reads, and believes, what they read in RIRE (which could be no one, or it could be thousands).

 

The question whether or not MFL has been rendered partially obsolete by advances in science will be dealt with elsewhere at this site (however, see Harrison (1983, 1985) and Slater (2002) on the LEM and QM); but, as far as the allegation that MFL has reached the end of the line is concerned, only those who know nothing of the subject will think to assert this, or, indeed, believe it. Even a cursory look along the relevant shelves in a University Library will soon show how the subject is continuing to blossom --, as, indeed, will a quick Google search.

 

[LEM = Law of Excluded Middle; QM = Quantum Mechanics.]

 

In fact, this by-now-familiar 'head in the sand' approach -- perfected by W&G, not alone among many other DM-fans -- is reminiscent of the attitude to Galileo's work adopted by Roman Catholic Theologians: "Stick to Dogma -- and under no circumstances look down that telescope!"

 

One final W&G comment is worth quoting:

 

"Another type of syllogism is conditional in form (if...then), for example, 'If an animal is a tiger, it is a carnivore.' This is just another way of saying the same thing as the affirmative categorical statement, i.e., all tigers are carnivores. The same in relation to the negative form -- 'If it's a fish, it's not a mammal' is just another way of saying 'No fishes are mammals.' The formal difference conceals the fact that we have not really advanced a single step." [Ibid., p.86. This appears on p.90 of the 2nd edition. The italic emphasises appear in the on-line version, not the published editions.]

 

Alas, these two have seriously exposed their self-inflicted ignorance here; a hypothetical proposition -- such as: 'If an animal is a tiger, it is a carnivore' -- isn't even an argument, so it can't be a syllogism.

 

On the other hand, if the above example were a conditionalised proposition (i.e., an argument that has been transformed into a conditional sentence), the original argument must have had a suppressed premise (as in, "No fish is a mammal", in connection with "If it's a fish, it's not a mammal"). Either way, these aren't syllogisms.

 

Nevertheless, W&G have clearly missed the point of hypothetical deductions in MFL (something that was in fact absent from AFL -- but not Stoic Logic --  not that Aristotle was unaware of them). We can surely reason from premises whose truth-status is unknown to us (as scientists often do), in order to try to establish their truth-value. Indeed, it is no less important for us to find out whether or not some of our beliefs are false, and we often do that by drawing out their consequences. This can't be done with categorical reasoning -- unless the hypothetical mode was being used implicitly.

 

Hypothetical reasoning has always featured in the sciences (on that see, for example, Losee (2001)); these days this aspect of logic tends to be connected with the use of "thought experiments" --, but the two aren't the same. Even so, "thought experiments" have been employed by scientists for centuries in order to confirm, or refute, specific theories and hypotheses. Galileo was a past master at their use, as was Einstein.

 

[On thought experiments, see the popular account in Cohen (2005). More scholarly studies can be found in Brown (1986, 1993, 2002, 2005, 2014), Häggqvist (1996), Horowitz and Massey (1991), McAllister (2005), Norton (1996, 2005) -- these link to PDFs --, and Sorensen (1992). Brown, however, adopts a rather Platonic view of "thought experiments", an approach rightly rejected by Norton, for example. Another quick Google search will reveal dozens of articles on this topic. See also, John Norton's page of classic examples.]

 

But, we don't need to appeal to technical, or even arcane, aspects of the scientific method; W&G themselves engage in their own form of hypothetical 'reasoning'. They do this when they derive what they take to be false conclusions from premises which they attribute to what they call "formal" thought. They manifestly do not hold the latter propositions true; they merely reason from their assumed truth to what they then claim are obvious falsehoods implied by those assumed truths, in order to show that the original assumptions must have been false or were of limited applicability. They couldn't do this with a categorical argument, where the premises are known to be true, or known to be false.

 

[In saying this, the reader shouldn't assume that I am attributing to W&G a clear or coherent logical strategy or thought, here; few of their arguments work (and many are aimed at targets that would give the phrase "straw man" a bad name, as we have seen). But, that isn't the point; they certainly intended to argue hypothetically, which is.]

 

In practice, we see once again that dialecticians only succeed in shooting themselves in their oversized feet, which they have then firmly lodged in their even bigger collective mouths.

 

Finally, a more faithful and accurate account of the foundations of AFL can be found in Lear (1980).

 

Ordinary Language And 'Commonsense'

 

Dialecticians' Mistaken Assumptions

 

Here is how I will cover this topic Essay Twelve Part Seven:

 

Concerning the alleged limitations of ordinary language, John Rees expressed himself as follows:

 

"Ordinary language assumes that things and ideas are stable, that they are either 'this' or 'that'. And, within strict limits, these are perfectly reasonable assumptions. Yet the fundamental discovery of Hegel's dialectic was that things and ideas do change…. And they change because they embody conflicts which make them unstable…. It is to this end that Hegel deliberately chooses words that can embody dynamic processes." [Rees (1998), p.45.]

 

The problem with this passage is that it gets things completely the wrong way round. It is in fact our use of ordinary language that enables us to speak about change, movement and development. Complex technical, philosophical jargon (especially the terminology invented by Hegel) is completely useless in this regard, since it is wooden, static and of indeterminate meaning, despite what Rees asserts.

 

[Any who think differently are invited to reveal to us precisely which set of Hegelian terms is able do what the words listed below (or their equivalent in German) already achieve for us, only better.]

 

As is well-known (at least by Marxists), human society developed because of (i) our interaction with nature and (ii) the class struggle. In which case, ordinary language couldn't fail to have developed the logical multiplicity and vocabulary allowing it to register and cope with changes of limitless complexity.

 

This is no mere dogma; it is easily confirmed. Here is a greatly shortened list of ordinary words (restricted to modern English, but omitting simple and complex tensed participles and auxiliary verbs) that allow speakers to refer to changes of unbounded complexity, rapidity, and duration:

 

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 instance, think of the verb "to ring" and its cognates -- like "ringing".]

 

Naturally, it wouldn't be difficult to extend this list until it contained literally thousands of words -- on that, see here and here --, all capable of depicting countless changes in limitless detail (especially if it is augmented with terms drawn from mathematics, science and HM). It is only a myth put about by Hegel and DM-theorists (unwisely echoed by Rees, and others -- such as W&G) that ordinary language can't adequately depict change, since it is supposedly dominated by 'the understanding', a 'psychological module' helpfully identified for us by Hegel without a scrap of evidence supporting its invention. On the contrary, ordinary language performs this task far better than the incomprehensible and impenetrably obscure jargon Hegel invented in order to fix something that wasn't broken.

 

Dialecticians like Rees would have us believe that because of the alleged shortcomings of the vernacular only the most recondite and abstruse terminology (concocted by Hegel, the meaning of much of which is unclear even to Hegel scholars!) is capable of telling us what we already know -- and have known for tens of thousands of years -- that things change!

 

Of course, as Rees himself implicitly concedes, Hegel's jargon has to be 'translated' into 'ordinary-ish' sorts of words for the rest of us to be able to gain even a dim appreciation of the obscure message it supposedly contains (that was the whole point of Rees's précis of a key Hegelian 'deduction', which many others have also 'translated' for us (and which will be discussed in detail Essay Twelve Part Five -- summary here); cf., Rees (1998), pp.49-50) --, the aim of which, apparently, was that we can't understand change without such assistance!

 

[Although an earlier version was published in Hegel (1977), Hegel's the more 'mature' attempt to 'derive' 'Nothing' from 'Being', and then 'Becoming' from the 'relation' between these two appeared in Hegel (1999), pp.82-108.  Like Rees, others have tried to make this incomprehensible derivation 'comprehensible', for example: Burbidge (1995), pp.38-45; Carlson (2007), pp.9-53; Hartnack (1997), pp.11-19; Kaufmann (1978), pp.199-203; and Marcuse (1973) pp.129-34).]

 

But, if we already have ordinary terms like those listed above that enable us to talk about, and comprehend, change, what need have we of Hegel's obscure terminology?

 

Conversely, if, according to Rees, ordinary language is inadequate when faced with the task of 'translating' Hegel's observations into something we can understand, then how would anyone be able to grasp what Hegel meant, or even determine whether he meant anything at all? Why translate Hegel into the vernacular if the latter can't cope?

 

On the other hand, if we are capable of comprehending Hegel's obscure ideas only when they have been rendered into ordinary-ish sorts of terms, why do we need his convoluted jargon to reveal to us what it now turns out our language is capable of expressing after all -- when (on this supposition) it must have been adequate enough for just such a successful re-casting of his ideas by commentators like Rees for the rest of us to grasp?

 

If ordinary language enables its users to capture what Hegel meant, in what way is it defective? Alternatively, if it can't do this, then how might we understand Hegel? Hence, if Hegel were correct, no one (including Hegel himself!) would be able to understand Hegel! That is because, ex hypothesi, his words would then be un-'translatable' in terms that anyone could comprehend.

 

Conversely, once more, if Hegel's words are 'translatable' in terms we understand, that must mean we already have the linguistic resources available to us to understand change, etc., perfectly well.

 

In which case, the following dilemma now faces Hegel-fans: (a) Supposing Hegel were correct, no one would be able to understand him, or (b) Supposing he were mistaken -- and we could understand him enough to say even that much -- no one need bother.

 

Either way, Marxists would be wise to avoid this logical bumbler like the plague.

 

Descent Into Confusion

 

It could be objected that it isn't necessary to translate Hegel into ordinary language in order to understand his work (any more than it is necessary to understand, say, QM by rendering it into everyday speech). In which case, the above comments are completely misguided.

 

[QM = Quantum Mechanics.]

 

In response it is worth making the following points:

 

1) If the above objection were valid, how would we be able to decide if or when anyone had ever understood Hegel? It would be no use pointing to the hundreds of books and articles devoted to his work any more than it would be to point to the many books and articles there are on the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity (a dogma that originated in the same Neoplatonic swamp that spawned many of Hegel's ideas) as proof that this obscure theological notion is comprehensible. In fact, Hegel scholars are little more than expert reproducers of jargon; that doesn't mean any of it makes the slightest sense.

 

2) The word "understand" is in ordinary language already.

 

3) The analogy with QM is unfortunate in view of the fact that leading physicists themselves tell us that QM is incomprehensible.

 

"Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory can't possibly have understood it." Niels Bohr

 

"If you are not completely confused by quantum mechanics, you do not understand it." John Wheeler

 

"Quantum mechanics makes absolutely no sense." Roger Penrose

 

"There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there ever was such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did, because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lot of people understood the theory of relativity in some way or other, certainly more than twelve. On the other hand, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics…. I am going to tell you what nature behaves like. If you will simply admit that maybe she does behave like this, you will find her a delightful, entrancing thing. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, 'but how can it be like that?' because you will get 'down the drain,' into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that." [Feynman (1992), p.129. Bold emphases added.]

 

 

Video One: "Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics"

 

Indeed, science itself is shot through with metaphor and analogy, which often makes it difficult to interpret literally. [I will say more about this in Essay Thirteen Part Two. See also this quotation from physicist, David Peat.]

 

[Several other points raised by the above objection will be dealt with below.]

 

The idea that ordinary language can't cope with rapid, slow or even protracted change may perhaps be summarised by the following sentence (which seems to capture something of what Rees had in mind -- those who think otherwise are encouraged to shelve their doubts for a few more paragraphs):

 

H1a: Ordinary language can't account for or depict change.

 

But, is H1a itself written in ordinary language? It certainly looks like it. If it is, it is pertinent to ask what the word "change" in H1a actually means.

 

If we, as ordinary speakers, do not understand this word, what precisely is it that Hegel and Rees are presuming to correct? We may only be educated if we know of what it is that we are ignorant -- that is, if we already know what change is so that we can at least say that the ordinary word "change" fails to match, by so much or so little, an ideal others might hold out for it. But, ex hypothesi, we aren't supposed to know this since our language is allegedly inadequate in this area. [Several obvious objections to this line-of-argument will be considered presently.]

 

This shows that the argument here isn't just about language but about what it conveys to us -- in this particular case, what our words convey about change. Indeed, if we want to study change, we can only get a handle on it by the use of words (albeit those that are connected in some way with material practice, etc.), like the ones listed above. Who on earth ever learnt to use such words by reading Hegel?

 

Contrast H1 with the following:

 

H1b: Ordinary language can't account for or depict quantum phenomena.

 

The situation with regard to change isn't at all like the comprehension of QM, where advanced knowledge of Physics and Mathematics is essential. But, "change", as it features in H1a -- if H1a is indeed in the vernacular --, can't be an example of the technical use of language, unlike the complexities hinted at in H1b.

 

Of course, if H1a isn't in the vernacular, then the technical word "change" it contains will need to be explained in terms of the ordinary word "change", so that we might grasp what this more complex, but typographically identical, technical word "change" actually means. And, if that is so, the ordinary word "change" would have to appear in that explanation, But, that would just take us back to where we were a few paragraphs back. If we don't yet understand the ordinary word "change" then we certainly can't use it in order to have its 'technical cousin' explained to us. But, without such an elucidation, and if we don't know what the technical term "change" means, H1a will remain incomprehensible until we do. That is because H1a would now contain at least one word (i.e., "change") that, on this view, no one -- not one single human being -- yet understands. Unfortunately, this would mean that our knowledge can't be upgraded by means of H1a --, or, for that matter, by the use of any other sentence that employs this as-yet-to-be-explained word, "change".

 

H1a: Ordinary language can't account for or depict change.

 

This would in turn imply that the 'dialectical' development of this word, or this 'concept', can't even begin, for, as yet, all that the aspiring dialectician would have available to her/him is this empty word (i.e., "change"), which we have been led to believe we don't yet understand. For all the use it would be, this word might just as well have been "slithy tove":

 

H1c: Ordinary language can't account for or depict slithy tove.

 

It could be objected here that our use of ordinary terms helps us partially grasp the nature of change, but Hegel's language, or method, provides the wherewithal for us to comprehend the concept 'dialectically', and 'scientifically' (or, indeed, it helps us grasp the real processes this concept depicts more fully -- that is, when his ideas have been put the 'right way up'), as it were. So, it isn't true that dialecticians don't understand the technical meaning of "change" (or its dialectical/speculative equivalent) applied to natural and social phenomena.

 

Perhaps then Rees and other DM-fans meant the following?

 

H2a: Ordinary language can't fully grasp change.

 

H2b: A specially created terminology, or specially constructed method, is required in order to enable its comprehension.

 

But, once again, what does the word "change" in H2a mean? Is it being used in the same way that we use the ordinary word "change"? Or does it possess its own 'special', technical sense, which has yet to be explained? If it does mean the same as the ordinary term, then where does our common understanding of that word (and what it relates to) fall short? Why do we need a theory to explain something we already understand?

 

On the other hand, if our common understanding of this word is defective -- if users of this word don't understand it -- then H2a will be incomprehensible as it stands, since it contains a word (i.e., "change") that no one as yet comprehends. Until we know the extent of our ignorance (or, indeed, where our ordinary understanding of this word falls short) -- or even what the subject of this query is actually about --, all the technical and dialectical terminology in the world would be of no use, even to dialecticians!

 

Alternatively, if the word "change" in H2a has its own 'special meaning', what is it? And, if it does have its own 'special meaning', what sort of criticism of ordinary language do H2a and H2b represent, especially if they aren't actually employing the vernacular term "change", but a technical alternative (which is, as yet, devoid of any meaning)? Indeed, if in H2a the word "change" has a technical sense, how can that word, with this special sense, be used to criticise the ordinary word "change" (or highlight its limitations) if the ordinary word "change" isn't itself being used?

 

On the other hand again, if the word "change" and any terms associated with it have a special dialectical meaning, how could that 'meaning' possibly help anyone correct, or clarify, the ordinary word if we still don't understand the ordinary word? And how might dialecticians explain to themselves, or even to one another, what this special 'dialectical meaning' is if all they have available to them at the beginning of their quest is the defective, ordinary word "change", a word that no one as yet comprehends? This side of a clear answer to these questions, H2a is as devoid of sense as H1a ever was.

 

In response it could be argued that H2a isn't about our understanding of the meaning of a word; it merely reminds us that ordinary language can't be expected to operate effectively outside its legitimate sphere of application (i.e., "beyond certain limits"). No one expects ordinary language to cope with complex issues found in, say, the sciences, or philosophy, or, indeed, in relation protracted and complex social change. This impugns neither commonsense nor the vernacular; it simply reminds us of their limitations.

 

H2a: Ordinary language can't fully grasp change.

 

Nevertheless, unless we are told in what way the ordinary word "change" -- as we now understand it -- falls short of whatever it is it is supposed to fall short of, a dialectical extension to our knowledge can't even begin. So, the complicated somersaults that dialecticians subsequently, and impressively, perform are irrelevant; given this view, we still don't know what the ordinary word "change" means -- or, if we do, we still don't know in what way it falls short of its assumed 'dialectical ideal'.

 

In fact, if the meaning of the word "change" is indeterminate, as it now stands, dialecticians can't even begin their warm up exercises, let alone impress us further with their complex gyrations. They can hardly correct our supposedly faltering grasp of the ordinary word "change" or its supposed 'limitations' without also having to use it. And just as soon as they do that, their sentences would be subject to the same unspecified shortcomings. It isn't possible to point out the limitations of the ordinary word "change" and then use it as if it had no such limitations. That in turn means that if it does have these 'limitations', so does any sentence in which it is found.

 

This shows that H2a is directly about our understanding of this word, for if the word "change" (as it is used in H2a) doesn't mean what the ordinary word "change" means, then the meaning of H2a itself must be indeterminate -- the criticism it makes of the vernacular is now devoid of content. And that is because it contains at least one word whose meaning isn't yet understood -- "change".

 

Again, it could be objected that no one is claiming that the ordinary word "change" is understood by no one at all, only that it can't handle complex processes that occur in nature and society.

 

But, if our understanding of the word "change" is even slightly defective (in these areas), we certainly can't use it while pretending to correct it. We can't feign comprehension of a word for the sole purpose of revising its current (supposedly defective or limited) meaning. That isn't because this would be a difficult trick to pull off, it is because it is no more of an option than, say, pretending (to oneself) to forget the meaning of a word while actually using it meaningfully!

 

Conversely, if the word "change" has no meaning (or if it is unclear what it means -- or, indeed, if we don't fully understand it), then, plainly, neither that word nor its meaning may be corrected by means of any sentence that also contains this 'suspect' word (as we saw in H2a). Once more, any attempt to do so must involve the use of this defective word, thus compromising any sentence in which it appears.

 

H2a: Ordinary language can't fully grasp change.

 

So, if it is true that our grasp of this word is defective (in any way at all), then those very same imperfections or limitations will be inherited by any sentence used by those who seek to correct, or reform, it -- such as H2a (or its preferred 'dialectical' equivalent). Clearly, in that case, prospective revisers of the vernacular would be in no position to comprehend what they themselves were trying to reform, since they would be in the same boat as the rest of us, using a word with unspecified shortcomings.

 

On the other hand, if such hypothesised linguistic, or conceptual, 'reformers' in fact understand the word "change" differently from the rest of us, then any proposed modification to ordinary language would apply only to their own special use of this novel term -- i.e., to a word that is typographically identical to the ordinary word "change", but which is still itself of undisclosed meaning --, but not to "change" as it is used in ordinary language.

 

The claim here, therefore, is that with respect to the word "change", it isn't possible for anyone even to begin to say in what way it fails to mean what it is ordinarily taken to mean -- or even by how much or how little it falls short of this --, let alone entertain the possibility that it might or might not mean whatever it now means, without using that word in any attempt to do just that -- or, indeed, in a way that was free from the very same unspecified uncertainties.

 

As to the claim that the ordinary word "change" can't cope with long, drawn-out processes it is sufficient to point out that using words drawn from the list above (perhaps augmented with words drawn from mathematics and science), ordinary language is quite able to cope with changes of any sort or complexity, and far better than anything Hegel came up with -- especially now we know that if his theory were true, change would be impossible.

 

It could be argued that this would make the translation of foreign words into, say, English impossible. In addition, it would render dictionaries totally useless.

 

Neither of these objections is relevant. We translate foreign words into English using words we already understand, and which words to be translated are also understood by those who used that (foreign) language before those words were translated. In contrast, the above ruminations concern the use of a word in relation to which it isn't possible for anyone to point out its limitations without also using this word in that very act. And, plainly, any sentence in which this very word is used can't fail to inherit these unspecified limitations, making such sentences no less defective.

 

On the other hand, if sentences which use "change" have a clear sense, then that word must be alright as it is, vitiating the whole exercise.

 

More-or-less the same comment applies to the use of a dictionary, the successful employment of which depends on its compilers defining words (that are possibly unknown to some of its users) in terms we already understand. If, however, no one knows what "change" really means (or if it has unspecified shortcomings), then no one would know precisely what was being corrected or defined --, still less how to go about doing it. And that observation also applies to those who compile dictionaries. Such a word would not appear in their dictionary.

 

Consider an example taken from Essay Six: if someone wanted to know what "meskonator" meant, but could find no one who knew (and there was no one who knew) what it meant, then, plainly, it wouldn't appear in a dictionary. If, on the other hand, someone claimed to know what this word meant, but they also let slip that there were unspecified 'difficulties' with their comprehension of this word, and could, or would, say no more, then that word would still fail to appear in a dictionary. Dictionaries typically contain words that human beings use, or have used, with comprehension. [That isn't to suggest that everyone comprehends every single word in a dictionary -- but if no one understood a given 'word', it wouldn't be listed.]

 

Again, it could be objected that we correct each other regularly concerning the misuse of words. That wouldn't be possible if the above comments were the case.

 

Once more, that is irrelevant. If and when we correct one another, at least one party to that social interaction would have to understand the corrected words aright before they were corrected. In the above (with respect to "change", and because of this theory), that isn't the case.

 

Some might feel that my comments rely on the word "change" having one and only one correct meaning; but that objection, too, is incorrect. Howsoever many meanings this word has in ordinary language, no one would be able to use it in any sentence seeking to correct that specific use of it if every single one of its many meanings was defective in some as-yet-unspecified way. Or, perhaps less radically: no one would be able to do so even if that were the case merely with respect to a restricted sub-set of its relevant ordinary connotations -- i.e., those of concern to dialecticians.

 

Moreover, and worse, any attempt to specify what these alleged 'shortcomings' are can't work, either. Consider the following 'attempt' to revise, or correct, the word in question:

 

H3: "Change" doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: "development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality."

 

If so, then H3 should be re-written as follows:

 

H4: "Development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality" doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: "development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality."

 

[Any who think H4 is ridiculous are encouraged to shelve those concerns for a few more paragraphs. Its point will soon become clear.]

 

The replacement of the word "change" in H4 with what it allegedly means just creates an empty sentence (and the same would happen with respect to any of its cognates -- indeed, Hegelians and DM-theorists can replace the proposed 'dialectical meaning' of "change" offered above with whatever formula they deem fit, the result won't change (irony intended)).

 

[Incidentally, this argument (and those above) can be generalised to cover any and all attempts to 'correct' the vernacular.]

 

If it is now objected that the above example is unfair (or even ridiculous), then it behoves that objector to indicate in what way our ordinary material words for change (or what they relate to) fall short of whatever they are supposed to fall short of -- without actually using the word "change" (or any of its synonyms) anywhere in that attempt.

 

That was the point of using the 'ridiculous' example recorded in H4.

 

Short of doing that -- i.e., short of indicating in what way our ordinary material words for change fall short without actually using the word "change" -- such an objector's own use of this word (or one of its cognates) to express her/his objection (howsoever mild or nuanced, or 'dialectically-motivated' it happens to be) will be subject to the very same unspecified shortcomings, and the objection itself would fail for lack of determinate content.

 

In that case, such an objector would find herself in a worse predicament than the rest of us supposedly are. That is because she will now be unclear, not just about our ordinary words for change, but about the application of her own non-standard, jargonised replacement for it, since she will necessarily be unclear about what they were supposed to be replacing or correcting!

 

It could be objected that this particular manoeuvre confuses use with mention; in H3 the word "change" isn't being used, merely mentioned, so its replacement with "Development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality" (which is what that word is used to mean) is illegitimate.

 

H3: "Change" doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: "development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality."

 

Fair enough; in that case consider then the following:

 

H3a: Change doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality.

 

H3a should perhaps then be re-written as follows:

 

H4a: Development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality.

 

Once more, if the word "change" in H3a (now used, not mentioned) actually means something else (or, the processes in reality it supposedly depicts aren't as we ordinarily take them to be), which would imply that we are all currently mistaken about its real meaning, then H3a must be meaningless, too -- or, at best, it must be of indeterminate sense. In that case, the only way that H3a could be made comprehensible would be to replace the meaningless term it contains (i.e., "change") with words that H3a tells us constitute its 'real meaning' -- illustrated in H4a. The result is, if anything, worse.

 

It could be argued that the above, if valid, would mean we would be unable to correct inadequacies in the use of any word whatsoever. For example, someone might choose to say that the war in Iraq was "unfortunate". If the above conclusions were legitimate, no one would be able to point out that this particular word was totally inadequate in such a context.

 

Again, this is an irrelevant objection. The word "unfortunate" in the above counter-example isn't being criticised because it is inadequate in (possibly) all of its applications, only that it is the wrong word to use here. In this example, no one would be seeking to correct or revise the meaning of "unfortunate", nor suggest that it was universally inadequate. Indeed, and to the contrary, it is easy to see this word is inappropriate here because of what it already means.

 

This isn't how things are with this attempt to correct the word "change". Indeed, if DM-theorists are to be believed, this word has unspecified and universal inadequacies, which 'shortcomings' must of necessity also feature in the very act of pointing this alleged fact out -- nullifying that criticism.

 

It could be countered that this isn't in fact the case with the use of "unfortunate"; someone could complain about its use along the following lines:

 

H5: "Unfortunate" is totally inadequate to capture the magnitude of the unmitigated disaster in Iraq.

 

Once more, the use of H5 would only work in this context if the above objector was appealing to the current meaning of this word (or, at least, one current meaning of it) to show it is inadequate, but who wasn't seeking to alter or revise it, as was the case with H3 and "change". Once more, it is because "unfortunate" already means what it does that makes it inappropriate in this instance. This volunteered objector isn't suggesting we continue to use the same word with a new meaning attached to it, or even with a revised meaning, only that its current meaning is inadequate to the task at hand.

 

It could be argued that that is precisely why H5 was introduced as a counter-example, because "its current meaning is inadequate to the task at hand", namely in relation to dialectical change.

 

However, with respect to "unfortunate" no one is claiming it is defective in any and every way, only that it was the wrong word to use in this case because of the meaning it already has. But, with respect to "change", no one is suggesting it is the wrong word to use, only that it was incapable (in some unspecified way) of depicting..., er..., change! In that case, that just takes us back to where we were several paragraphs back.

 

Again, it could be argued that the type of 'analysis' paraded in H3 and H4 could be applied to any word with equally ridiculous results. Consider, for example, the following:

 

H6: "Recidivist" means "a second offender; a habitual criminal; often subject to extended terms of imprisonment under habitual offender statutes."

 

H7: "A second offender; a habitual criminal; often subject to extended terms of imprisonment under habitual offender statutes" means "a second offender; a habitual criminal; often subject to extended terms of imprisonment under habitual offender statutes."

 

Transforming H6 into H7 shows how misguided the above comments were; the definition of any word can be reduced to absurdity if that definition is substituted for the word in question, as was attempted in H4.

 

Or, so this objection might proceed.

 

However, the difference here is that H6 doesn't seek to re-define the given word, or point out its 'real' meaning (the latter of which is supposed to be different from its accepted meaning), as was the case with H3. Nor os it suggesting that "recidivist" is inadequate to the task at hand, unlike "change", because of some unspecified shortcomings.

 

On the other hand, had H6 instead been the following, the above objection might have had a point:

 

H8: "Recidivist" doesn't mean what we ordinarily take it to mean (i.e., "a second offender; a habitual criminal; often subject to extended terms of imprisonment under habitual offender statutes...."), it means "A, B and C".

 

Where "A, B and C" stands for the preferred replacement, or even the 'real meaning' of the defined term. In that case, we might conclude:

 

H9: "A, B and C" doesn't mean what we ordinarily take it to mean, it means "A, B and C".

 

In this case, the only way that H8 could be made comprehensible would be to replace the meaningless term it contains (i.e., "recidivist") with words that H8 tells us constitute its 'real meaning' -- as illustrated in H9. In so far as H8 seeks to re-educate us about a word that we do not yet understand, it collapses into absurdity in H9. If we don't to this then we would be forced to use a  word that no one understands, rendering H8 incomprehensible.

 

Recall, given this latest example (i.e., H8), it isn't the case that one, and only one, individual on the planet has failed to comprehend "recidivist" (just as it wasn't the case earlier that only one individual failed to comprehend "change"). If H8 is to work, not one single person on the planet would actually understand this word.

 

[Naturally, H9 is absurd. But that is because no one in their left or right mind would try to tell us that the rest of us don't understand a given word, and that only they do.]

 

It might now be objected that this would undermine the use of stipulative definitions, or re-definitions, of certain words -- that is, definitions which establish by fiat the new meaning of words already in use, or even that of newly introduced words -- neologisms.

 

Again, this worry is misplaced. Stipulative definitions don't seek to re-define the meaning of ordinary words in their entirety, merely introduce a new meaning, or extend the old. That isn't the case with H3. When someone introduces a new word, or they are re-defining a word already in use, they aren't telling us that up until now no one has understood, or fully understood, some term, or that the term that everyone has been using for years is defective (in some as yet unspecified way).

 

H3: "Change" doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: "development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality."

 

Once more, it could be objected that this would mean that language couldn't change, or that we wouldn't be able to understand any earlier uses of typographically similar words, perhaps those employed hundreds of years ago.

 

In fact, the second half of the above worry is simply a variation of the 'translation' objection fielded earlier. The reader is therefore referred back to it.

 

The first half of the above objection is, though, slightly more complex. Unfortunately, in that it uses the word "change" to make its point, it can hardly be advanced by anyone querying the universal applicability of that very word! Hence, until it is rephrased in a way that doesn't use this word (or any other related ordinary word for change), not much can be done with it.

 

Nevertheless, this account of the ordinary use of "change" (in this Essay) doesn't in fact rule out the evolution of language. To see this, consider the following:

 

H10: The word "XXX" used to mean "YYY", but now it means "ZZZ".

 

Now, H10 isn't the following:

 

H11: The word "XXX" does not mean, and has never meant, "YYY", but now it means "ZZZ".

 

The argument being advanced in this Essay doesn't deny words meant different things in the past, or that they will do so in the future, only that whatever they legitimately once meant will alter, or will have altered. If a word -- say "XXX" -- meant something specific in the past -- "YYY", for example --, that past meaning, "YYY", plainly won't have changed, since the past doesn't change. So, if "XXX" meant "YYY" in, say, 1567, then nothing we now, or try to do, do can change that fact, or its meaning as it was then -- even if "XXX" now means something different. Nor does it imply that no one understood, or fully understood, the old meaning of such words.

 

The 'dialectical theory' under review here is in fact saying something far more radical. It is telling us that a specific word, "change" (and its related terms), never in the entire history of humanity captured what dialecticians would now like to tell us is the 'real meaning' of "change". The 'dialectical' view is in fact a more extreme version of H11.

 

H11a: The word "XXX" does not mean, and has never ever meant, "YYY"; it really means "ZZZ".

 

In response, it could be objected that despite this the approach adopted in this Essay still can't account for linguistic change. "Indeed," an objector might continue, "why can't we inflict some of Ms Lichtenstein's own moves upon the above sentences?"

 

H12a: The word "XXX" used to mean "YYY", but now it means "ZZZ".

 

H12b: The word "XXX" used to mean YYY, but now it means ZZZ.

 

Perhaps along these lines:

 

H12c: The word "ZZZ" used to mean "YYY", but now it means "ZZZ".

 

H12d: The word "ZZZ" used to mean YYY, but now it means ZZZ.

 

Which neatly mirror H3 and H4:

 

H3: "Change" doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: "development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality."

 

H4: "Development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality" doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: "development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality."

 

Initially, in response to this latest criticism, it is worth pointing out that the more radical versions of H3 and H4 (i.e., H3a and H4a) were in the end the preferred alternatives, since they neutralised the 'use/mention objection':

 

H3a: Change doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality.

 

H4a: Development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality doesn't mean what ordinary language would lead us to believe; it means: development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces in a mediated totality.

 

This means that H12a is now irrelevant.

 

If, however, we modify H10 accordingly (now as H13), my reply should become a little clearer:

 

H13: "XXX" used to mean YYY, but now it means ZZZ.

 

[H10: The word "XXX" used to mean "YYY", but now it means "ZZZ".]

 

An actual example here might help:

 

H14: "Lunatic" used to mean someone affected by the moon [Skeat (2005), p.351)], now it means they are insane.

 

Hence, on the view advanced here, the old word still means what it used to mean -- that is, when we read old manuscripts that employ this word, we don't replace the old meaning with what this word has now come to mean, we read it with its old meaning in place. What we now have is a modern, typographically identical token of "lunatic" with a new meaning. But, no one is questioning that earlier meaning. No one is suggesting that several centuries ago people didn't mean by "lunatic" someone affected by the moon.

 

Now, if would-be critics want to revise a word in common use, all well and good; no problem with that. But this can't affect the ordinary meaning that that word currently has (or even once had). Such a revision would merely relate to this new, and typographically identical, word with its new, or extended, meaning.

 

However, and on the contrary, no attempt could be made to undermine or question the meaning that a word already has without that revision itself descending into incoherence, or undermining itself, as we have seen.

 

It could be objected once more that this misses the point; a philosophical understanding of change -- as one might feature in the natural and social sciences, on the lines advocated by dialecticians, perhaps -- doesn't seek to replace ordinary language, which is quite adequate in its own sphere of application. It is aimed at augmenting our comprehension of natural and social development, for political, or for other purposes. The vernacular is inadequate only when we try to use it to account for complex processes in the natural or social world. That is where Hegel's ideas can be of genuine assistance (i.e., when the "rational core" of his system has been separated from its "mystical shell", put "the right way up", and then tested in practice).

 

Or, so this latest rebuttal might proceed.

 

However, as we will see in other Essays posted at this site, not only is the above incorrect in general -- in that it is the conceptual wealth possessed by ordinary language which enables the comprehension of simple and complex changes in nature and society --, it is misguided in particular. That is because we are still in the dark over what it is that dialecticians are actually proposing, or what they are presuming to add to our understanding of a word neither they nor anyone one else yet fully comprehends, according to them. Once more, if our (collective) understanding of this word (or any other) is defective (in any way at all, and no matter how slight or nuanced that is), then any use of that word in an attempt to correct these unspecified defects (or even vaguely hint at them) must self-destruct, too.

 

Of course, it could be argued that there is no such thing as a "collective understanding" of this or any other word. That complaint will be tackled head-on in Essay Thirteen Part Three. For present purposes, suffice it to say that if that were the case, then dialecticians themselves would be even more in the dark over what they were effecting to revise or criticise, since they wouldn't now be able appeal to a standardised set of meanings -- commonly held -- that they are seeking to 'correct' or extend.

 

After all, Hegel himself had to appeal to the limitations of that mysterious 'faculty', "the understanding", to motivate his own (egregiously defective) 'logic'. If there is no such thing as "the understanding", then his theory can't even loop the first Hermetic loop. As should seem obvious: in order to criticise 'commonsense', or common understanding, or advertise their shortcomings, it isn't a good idea to tell us there is no such thing!

 

Quite apart from this, we would surely be unwise to listen to dialecticians trying to extend our knowledge of 'change', nor yet to those regaling us with the 'superiority' of their 'theory', if  they have yet to succeed in explaining clearly to the rest of us a single one of their theses (which, as I have shown in these Essays, they have so far failed to do) -- or, indeed, until they have repaired the gaping holes I have blown in Hegel's 'logic' elsewhere at this site (for example, here and here).

 

Howsoever limited ordinary language is -- or isn't --, when it is used in relation to HM it makes eminent good sense. DM (with its obscure Hegelian jargon and radically defective 'logic', upside down or 'the right way up') has yet to come with a couple of parsecs of this minimal condition (and that comment applies to 'systematic' and 'academic' dialectics, too --, perhaps even more so).

 

In addition, but far worse, dialecticians can't account for change themselves.

 

Hence, their assistance in this respect is definitely not needed. Indeed, if it were ever to be accepted, DM would set back the scientific study of nature and society by at least two-and-a-half thousand years, given its reliance on a mystical and enchanted view of natural and social development. We might as well ask Astronomers, for example, to take account of Astrology in their endeavour to understand the universe.

 

Small wonder then that Dialectical Marxism is to success what Donald Trump is to intellectual achievement. In that case, as far as rival (scientific or philosophical) theories (aimed at helping us understand the world and how to change it) are concerned, DM doesn't even make the bottom of the reserve list of viable candidates. We would be more inclined to accept 'Trump Thought' instead:

 

 

Video Two: Donald Trump Shows DM-Fans

How To Explain Stuff

 

HM, on the other hand, minus the Hegelian gobbledygook, is much more than merely adequate.

 

And that is why we can be confident that not even Hegel understood his own 'theory'. That isn't because it is difficult, nor yet because it employs specialised terminology (which is completely incomprehensible to untrained readers, and arguably to trained readers, too). Nor is it even because Hegel didn't use H3 (or anything like it). It is because as soon as any attempt is made -- by anyone, even a person of "genius" -- to correct ordinary language, or, as soon as the vernacular is dismissed as defective, or even slightly flawed, and its terms are held to be deficient when applied beyond "certain limits", requiring that they be "surpassed", by-passed or revised -- all meaning vanishes.

 

[A similar, but more detailed argument concerning what Hegel did or didn't understand about his own theory has been published here.]

 

To repeat, it isn't possible to pretend to understand an ordinary word like "change" and then claim that it is defective (whether or not "speculative reason" suggests, or even "demands", this). Either (i) the objector's understanding of this word is itself defective, and the ordinary term is alright as it is, or (ii) the ordinary word is defective and no one (including that objector) actually understands it, and so should stop using it.

 

In the second case, there would be nothing comprehensible left to modify; in the first, no one need bother.

 

Ordinary Language Isn't A Theory -- 01

 

It might still be objected that since ordinary language is obviously inadequate in scientific and technical contexts (let alone in Metaphysics), it needs reforming, supplementing or augmenting in some way, or to some extent.

 

And yet, science has managed to make significant progress over the last four hundred years without having to reform the vernacular, even if scientists have had to develop specialised and technical languages all of their own (some of which have been drawn from the vernacular). The problem (if such it may be called) only surfaces when attempts are made to translate scientific concepts into ordinary language. Since there is no scientific need to do this (although there may be powerful ideological and economic reasons why some might want to do it, as will be argued in Essay Thirteen Part Two), the alleged clash between ordinary language and science is completely bogus.

 

Of course, no one is suggesting that ordinary language can be used in highly complex, theoretical areas of study (although, even technical scientific and mathematical papers have to use ordinary words at some point), but that is no more a limitation on the vernacular than it is a defect of Das Kapital that it can't predict winning lottery numbers.

 

Metaphysics (partly) arose out of the ancient belief that there were philosophical 'problems' about existence, 'reality' and humanity (etc.) that only expert theorists were capable of solving -- or even understanding.

 

Keith Thomas highlighted a similar tactic among 16th century magicians:

 

"It would be tempting to explain the long survival of magical practices by pointing out that they helped provide many professional wizards with a respectable livelihood. The example of the legal profession is a reminder that it is always possible for a substantial social group to support itself by proffering solutions to problems which they themselves have helped to manufacture. The cunning men and wise women had an undoubted interest in upholding the prestige of magical diagnosis and may by their mere existence have helped to prolong a mode of thinking which was already obsolescent." [Thomas (1972), p.295.]

 

Even though Thomas finally rejects this as an adequate explanation of this phenomenon, he notes that the 'special' skill these magicians arrogated to themselves (that is, the ability to solve 'problems' they had invented) provided them with a livelihood, a level of prestige and social standing that they wouldn't otherwise have enjoyed. Of course, with respect to superstition and magic, Marxists also take into account their origin in the alienated lives and beliefs of susceptible audiences -- the latter of which would have included, of course, many ordinary people.

 

Clearly, this isn't the case with Metaphysics, which was (and still is) practiced almost exclusively by a rather more 'select' and 'exclusive' social group. Hence, Thomas's reason for rejecting his own tentative explanation of the persistence of magical beliefs (i.e., that magicians provided a service which ordinary people actively sought) doesn't apply to Metaphysics. Moreover, his account explains neither the overwhelming influence of Metaphysics on almost every aspect of Western thought for over 2500 years (it is, indeed, a ruling idea), nor the longevity of Traditional Philosophy (with precious little to show for it after all the time and effort spent on it --, so this pointless activity can't be justified on purely economic grounds). Of course, Thomas's comments weren't designed to do that.

 

However, one reason usually given for the prevalence, or the ubiquity, of metaphysical beliefs is that everyone (including ordinary folk) at some point in their lives has, or expresses, philosophical thoughts of some sort, or they ask metaphysical questions. This is supposed to show that philosophical problems enjoy universal appeal or legitimacy. Hence, the argument might proceed as follows: if everyone thinks metaphysically (at some level, at some point in their lives), its existence can't be the result of its invention by an elite group of thinkers.

 

Nevertheless, it is worth noting the following four considerations in response:

 

(1) It is important to distinguish the confused and impromptu musings that many individuals indulge in from time to time on, or around, such things as the nature of space, time, 'God', 'good' and 'evil', the 'soul', or the purpose of human existence (i.e., 'the meaning of life'), it is important to distinguish these from the systematic study of metaphysical questions by those who have the necessary means, leisure time, education and training so to do (i.e., professional philosophers, theorists, and sponsored, patronised or wealthy 'amateurs').

 

(2) It isn't being suggested here that metaphysical beliefs were invented by the ruling-class (or their hangers-on), only that the systematic study of Metaphysics is the sole preserve of those who have (knowingly or not) consistently promoted a highly abstract, theoretical view of reality, an approach which has almost invariably been conducive to the interests of the rich and powerful. [On that, see Essay Twelve -- summary available here.]

 

(3) The fact that ordinary people indulge in amateurish metaphysical musings from time to time no more makes Metaphysics a legitimate pursuit than it would do the same for religious or theological discourse. Ordinary people don't somehow turn into theologians if they wonder whether there is a 'god' or an 'after-life'. Nevertheless, if and when they do so ponder, that still fails to legitimate Theology. The same applies to Metaphysics. Ordinary people don't become metaphysicians if they wonder what time really is or whether there is such a thing as truth.

 

(4) The widespread confusion endemic in both groups (that is, among professional, leisured metaphysicians and amateurs) derives from two immediate sources: (a) the misconstrual of ordinary words as if they stood for the real relations between things, or, indeed, those things themselves, and (b) the systematic misuse of language. [This approach to metaphysics is fully substantiated in Essay Twelve Part One.]

 

However, and independently of this, only 'professional metaphysicians' have an ideological motive for projecting these social norms onto the world as a fetishised reflection of social reality, expressed in, or by, a systematic theory or set of theories. This they do because: (i) Their philosophical theses mirror the world as they see it (i.e., as a universe governed by hidden forces, concepts and "essences"), and (ii) It assists in the 'legitimation' of class division, gross inequality, oppression and exploitation. [Historically, it is easy to show that this has indeed been the case with most, if not all, metaphysical systems.] And (iii) These days this approach to 'genuine' philosophy is good for the CV. [Again, these topics will be expanded on in Essay Twelve.]

 

Lay metaphysicians, on the other hand, have no class-based motivation to fetishise their own language in like manner -- not the least because to do so would clash with the way they already employ the vernacular in their everyday lives.

 

In fact, if ordinary folk in their day-to-day activity were to emulate the approach adopted by metaphysicians, they would probably be regarded as psychotic, deranged or delusional. Which reminds one of the old joke:

 

A: "The great questions of philosophy interest me: Who am I? What am I? Where am I?"

 

B: "Sounds more like amnesia to me!"

 

Or:

 

C: "Is this the Philosophy Department?"

 

D: "If we could answer that question, we wouldn't be here."

 

To be sure, the insular existence of professional metaphysicians mercifully protects them from themselves (as it were). It is only when they have to engage in everyday practical activities alongside the rest of us that their metaphysical theories look decidedly weird, if not completely ridiculous --, even to themselves --, as David Hume let slip:

 

"I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours' amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.

 

"Here then I find myself absolutely and necessarily determin'd to live, and talk, and act like other people in the common affairs of life. But notwithstanding that my natural propensity, and the course of my animal spirits and passions reduce me to this indolent belief in the general maxims of the world, I still feel such remains of my former disposition, that I am ready to throw all my books and papers into the fire, and resolve never more to renounce the pleasures of life for the sake of reasoning and philosophy." [Hume, Treatise, Book I Section VII.]

 

Clearly, that is because it is in ordinary life that the alleged clash between philosophical musings and 'commonsense' actually surfaces, and where 'reality' bites. When metaphysicians have to behave like 'ordinary folk' in the real world, their metaphysical fancies lose all credibility. Not one single sceptic or idealist (short of the suicidal) will fail to jump out of the way of a bus or a tram that is headed their way, preferring to pause and try to work out if that perception is 'real' or imaginary. Not one single philosophical materialist will treat his/her children or relatives as no more than a complex array of chemicals reactions or electrical impulses (a result of the interplay between natural selection and random mutation). Not one single scientific realist, or empiricist, will fail to respond to a red light on the grounds that red is only a subjective experience. Not one single metaphysician will turn up late to an interview because 'time is an illusion'. Not one single theist, who might fervently believe 'god' is on his/her side because their cause is 'just', will fail to take cover when fired at by the enemy (although some believers can be found who have failed to do this, but only because they wore a 'magic' vest).

 

In ordinary circumstances and surroundings the Philosophical 'Emperor' looks naked, even to 'true believers'. [On this, see Cowley (1991).]

 

Small wonder then that Traditional Philosophy has solved not one single philosophical 'problem' in over 2500 years -- as Peter Hacker reminds us:

 

"For two and a half millennia some of the best minds in European culture have wrestled with the problems of philosophy. If one were to ask what knowledge has been achieved throughout these twenty-five centuries, what theories have been established (on the model of well-confirmed theories in the natural sciences), what laws have been discovered (on the model of the laws of physics and chemistry), or where one can find the corpus of philosophical propositions known to be true, silence must surely ensue. For there is no body of philosophical knowledge. There are no well-established philosophical theories or laws. And there are no philosophical handbooks on the model of handbooks of dynamics or of biochemistry. To be sure, it is tempting for contemporary philosophers, convinced they are hot on the trail of the truths and theories which so long evaded the grasp of their forefathers, to claim that philosophy has only just struggled out of its early stage into maturity.... We can at long last expect a flood of new, startling and satisfying results -- tomorrow.

 

"One can blow the Last Trumpet once, not once a century. In the seventeenth century Descartes thought he had discovered the definitive method for attaining philosophical truths; in the eighteenth century Kant believed that he had set metaphysics upon the true path of a science; in the nineteenth century Hegel convinced himself that he had brought the history of thought to its culmination; and Russell, early in the twentieth century, claimed that he had at last found the correct scientific method in philosophy, which would assure the subject the kind of steady progress that is attained by the natural sciences. One may well harbour doubts about further millenarian promises." [Hacker (2001), pp.322-23.]

 

[Some might think that several philosophical problems have been solved by the natural sciences. That response will be defused in Essay Thirteen Part Two. Others might think that it isn't in the purview of philosophy to 'solve problems'. Well, in that respect it has succeeded admirably. Otherwise that is an open admission it is indeed useless.]  

 

Since ordinary language has grown and developed in an unplanned way over tens of thousands of years it can be imprecise and ambiguous, and it is manifestly 'non-scientific' (i.e., non-technical). Ordinary terms are not only suffused with vagueness, surface grammar encourages users to form, or to ruminate on the import of, potentially misleading expressions (but that comment only applies to the unwary, the unwise, or the obtuse), forgetting, albeit temporarily, that neither we nor they use the vernacular in such a 'metaphysical' way in ordinary life. As Wittgenstein pointed out:

 

"Why is philosophy such a complicated structure? After all, it should be completely simple if it is that ultimate thing, independent of all experience, that you make it out to be. Philosophy unravels the knots in our thinking, hence its results must be simple, but its activity as complicated as the knots it unravels.

 

"Lichtenberg: 'Our entire philosophy is correction [sic] of the use of language, and therefore the correction of a philosophy -- of the most general philosophy.'... You ask why grammatical problems are so tough and seemingly ineradicable. -- Because they are connected with the oldest thought habits, i.e., with the oldest images that are engraved into our language itself (Lichtenberg)....

 

"Human beings are deeply imbedded in philosophical, i.e., grammatical, confusion. And freeing them from these presuppositions [amounts to?] extricating them from the immensely diverse associations they are caught up in. One must, as it were, regroup their entire language. -- But of course this language developed as it did because human beings had -- and have -- the tendency to think this way. Therefore extricating them only works with those who live in an instinctive state of dissatisfaction with language. 

 

"Language has the same traps ready for everyone; the immense network of easily trodden false paths. And thus we see one person after another walking down the same paths....

 

"One keeps hearing the remark that philosophy really doesn't make any progress, that the same philosophical problems that occupied the Greeks keep occupying us. But those who say that don't understand the reason this must be so. The reason is that our language has remained constant and keeps seducing us into asking the same questions. So long as there is a verb 'be' that seems to function like 'eat' and 'drink', so long as there are the adjectives 'identical', 'true', 'false', 'possible', so long as there is talk about a flow of time and an expanse of space, etc., etc. humans will continue to bump up against the same mysterious difficulties, and stare at something that no explanation seems able to remove.

 

"And this, by the way, satisfies a longing for the transcendental [an alternative version of the manuscript has 'supernatural' here -- RL], for in believing that they see the 'limit of human understanding' they of course believe that they can see beyond it.

 

"I read '...philosophers are no nearer to the meaning of 'Reality' than Plato got...'. What a strange state of affairs. How strange in that case that Plato could get that far in the first place! Or that after him we were not able to get further. Was it because Plato was so clever?" [Wittgenstein (2013), pp.311-12e. Italic emphases in the original; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Some paragraphs merged. Link added. When Wittgenstein says that language has remained constant, he isn't denying change; what he is referring to are its nominal, adjectival and verb forms, and the metaphors and analogies that cause perennial problems, those that puzzled Plato and still puzzle us today.]

 

However, this doesn't mean that ordinary language is defective in any way. Far from it, ordinary language was founded on conventions and material practices that our species has shaped and re-shaped, developed and refined over tens of thousands of years, during which the vernacular functioned perfectly well as a means of communication. The vagaries of ordinary language enable its users to communicate effectively over a much wider range, and across a far more extensive subject area, than would otherwise be the case if it were overly precise.

 

When required, however, precision is relatively easy to achieve; indeed, at the risk of targeted pedantry, almost any degree of accuracy is attainable. It is also worth recalling that much of mathematical vocabulary is already part of ordinary language (many of which terms initially arose out of the vernacular, anyway). In addition, the potentially misleading grammatical forms which the vernacular contains only succeed in confusing users when they attempt to reflect on language itself (which we/they are ill-equipped to do -- why that is so will be explored in Essays Twelve Part Seven and Thirteen