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.




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 ( 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, again, for some reason, 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. I don't know if this is the case with other browsers.




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 also worth pointing out that a good 50% 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. Indeed, in this particular Essay, most of the supporting evidence is to be found there. This means that if readers want to appreciate fully my case against 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 I have done this 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 technicalities, since -- sad to say, -- most dialecticians appear to know little or no logic, and seem to care even less about it. 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 that case, the indulgence of those who know their logic is required; this Essay has not been written for them. 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 will, of course, be explained in the 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.]




As of October 2016, this Essay is just under 96,000 words long; a much shorter summary of some of its main ideas can be accessed here.




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


[Latest Update: 08/10/16.]


Quick Links


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


If your Firewall/Browser has a pop-up blocker, you will need to press the "Ctrl" key at the same time or these and the other links here won't work!


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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?


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


(7) Was There Any Logic After Aristotle?


(8) Explaining Change


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


(10) The Crass Things Dialecticians Say About FL


(11) And About Ordinary Language


(a) Mistaken Assumptions


(b) Descent Into Hegelian Confusion


(c) Ordinary Language Isn't A Theory


(d) Ordinary Language Doesn't 'Assume' Things Are Static


(e) Ordinary Language Different From 'Commonsense'


(f) Ordinary Language Isn't Ideological


(12) 'Unconscious' Dialecticians?


(a) Seriously?


(b) Russian Scientists' Disastrous Conscious Application Of DM


(c) The 'Dialectical' Biologist


(13) Notes


(14) 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 to 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." [Woods and Grant (1995/2007), p.83/pp.87-88. Italic emphasis in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


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, often in the next breath DM-theorists then 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.]


"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, as well as 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 through DM-texts (and, incidentally, to no avail) to find any substantiating evidence -- or even a perfunctory argument in support, as opposed to serial assertion -- that FL is quite as limited dialecticians allege, or that 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 -- and here it is:


"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 the first (rather appropriately, one feels); 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 itself (which largely 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 adverbs, adjectives and verbs, and hence 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 and 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 this very concept to argue for universal change! The same can also be said for our use of the following nouns: wind, hurricane, wave, runner, explosion, inflation, human being, cat, dog, rabbit... Again, if anyone used these terms and thought they were talking about something static and changeless, they would merely be adverting both to their own lack of facility with language and defective knowledge of the world.


Moreover, 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 not be anything other than "static"? Do we not "reason" while we search for knowledge?


Donaldson failed to explain this incongruity, and it seems to have sailed right over W&G's heads.


[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, and it isn't hard to see why: there is no connection. Anyone who reads a book on MFL -- or who consults websites devoted to it, or even to 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 of 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 mysteriously ignore the thousands of adverbs, adjectives and verbs we have in ordinary language, which alone show that 'ordinary logic' isn't as she or they make it out to be. [Again, I have listed several dozen of these 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 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 specifically 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 offer no absolutely evidence in support of the assertions they level against FL. But, that is simply par for the course for these two: the allegations they make about FL have been left by them studiously unsupported, demonstrably false, and woefully inaccurate -- as we will see 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 baseless accusations.




Nevertheless, the problem here seems to be that even though it is acknowledged that FL works well enough in certain areas, 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 see, when these allegations are examined a little more closely than DM-theorists have so far shown any willingness to do, they bear little resemblance with the truth.



FL And Change


Unfounded Allegations


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


The reasoning behind this attitude is outlined for us again 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 [henceforth, AIDS] ever inflicted on humanity, their theory represents an inversion of that system, which has supposedly put the dialectic "back on its feet", preserving its "rational core". [I have questioned that inference, here.] This enables DM-theorists to provide a materialist account of 'change through contradiction', but only when 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 thus somehow, or to some extent, the 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, make 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 rely on little other than unsupported allegations like these. Moreover, as we will also see, they have signally failed to explain precisely how AFL is quite as handicapped in the way they say -- save they merely repeat the same baseless assertions year after year


And, they all appear to make almost 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, over 120 years ago, that transformed traditional AFL into MFL -- which was largely the result of the work of Frege -- 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 merely of interest to antiquarians, historians and arch traditionalists -- and, of course, dialecticians who are sublimely unaware of these profound changes. 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. This article of Burnham's hasn't been published as part of the on-line version of Trotsky (1971), but as a separate entry at the James Burnham archive. Italic emphases in the published edition, but omitted from the on-line copy. Links added.]


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


Admittedly, throughout its history Logic has been conflated by many with an assortment of unrelated disciplines -- e.g., Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ontology, Theology, Psychology (including the so-called "Laws Of Thought"), Mathematics, and science in general. In such circumstances, it is understandable that the only legitimate role that FL can assume -- the study of inference -- was all too easily forgotten. This is, alas, just one more tradition DM-fans have been only too happy to adopt, maintain and elaborate upon.3



Validity And Truth


One explanation for this sorry state of affairs is that DM-theorists have allowed themselves to be led astray by 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 and/or empirical truths, and not from the supposed inability of FL to accommodate change.4


Unfortunately, this accusation is far easier to make than it is to 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 it is as an assumed fact, copying this idea 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 the happy chorus, as we have seen. It is simply to underline the fact that they are content to rely on the mere 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 between rules of inference and logical or metaphysical 'truths' dates back to Aristotle himself. And, it isn't hard to see why this should be so. If a theorist (or, indeed, an entire culture) believes that everything had been created by a 'deity', then fundamental truths about nature can't help but reflect how that 'being' must 'think' and thus how 'he/she/it' actually went about creating everything. This would 'naturally' connect 'correct' thinking about nature, 'mind' and society with divinely-instituted, fundamental principles that govern, or even constitute, 'reality'.


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


"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 presupposition re-surfaced in Hegel's (supposedly presuppositionless) work as part of a mystical or ontological doctrine connected with allegedly 'self-developing' concepts -- which idea was itself the result of an egregious error over the nature of predication (a topic covered in detail in Essay Three Part One) -- seriously compounded an even worse error concerning the nature of the LOI.


[LOI = Law of identity.]


'Presuppositionless' -- my foot!


"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.


Be this as it may, when this misbegotten 'ontological' interpretation of FL is 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 had. If FL is solely concerned with inference, then there is no good reason to saddle it with 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 to assert, that such a link exists, as has generally been the case in Idealist and DM-circles.


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' -- 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 millennia ago in Ancient Greece.6


[Concerning the other ancient idea that language somehow 'reflects' the world, and that truths about nature can be derived from words or thought alone, see Dyke (2007). The reader mustn't assume, however, that I agree with Dyke's metaphysical conclusions (or, indeed, with any metaphysical conclusions whatsoever). As Essay Twelve Part One shows, the opposite of this is in fact the case -- I regard them all as both 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 hard to fathom.


Anyway, if materialists are to reject the 'mythical' 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 a branch of the sciences becomes even more difficult to sustain.


Indeed, how is it possible for language to 'reflect' the logic of the world if the world has 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 the (disguised) development of 'Mind' (as Hegel supposed), how can concepts drawn from the development of 'Mind' apply to Nature, unless it is '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 shall 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 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 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). In like manner, previous generations of logicians used to confuse logic with science and the "Laws of Thought", and they, too, did this for theological and ideological reasons. In that case, one would have thought that avowed materialists (i.e., dialecticians) would be the very last ones to perpetuate 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 and 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


Even to ask these questions is to answer them: there is no reason to suppose any of this -- other than the class-compromised motives that stem from religious or ideological considerations.


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' -- which are relatively minor grammatical features found almost exclusively in this one family of languages?


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 has been 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 "rules of thought" -- and with fundamental metaphysical truths about "Being" itself -- becomes irresistible.


As noted above: the histories 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 and/or language alone, a point also made 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 have been only too eager to take -- and many times over.


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 brand of logic implies reality is Ideal. If logic does indeed reflect the structure of 'Being', then 'Being' must be 'Mind'.


[On this, see Essay Twelve Part Four, to be published in 2018 -- 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, which in turn implies that DM is simply inverted Idealism -- a form of Idealism nonetheless. If so, then questions about the nature of Logic cannot but be related to the serious doubts raised at this site about the scientific status of DM. In that case, if Logic is capable of revealing fundamental scientific truths about nature -- as opposed to 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 claim 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 say the following sorts of serially unsupported things 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 DM-apologists omits any evidence or proof that FL is guilty in the ways they allege -- any who doubt this are invited to check the references I have given above (and the dozens more cited in this Essay and at this site). What is more, these DM-fans continue to assert such things despite being asked (repeatedly) to provide this 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 ignored yet again).


[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 (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. This is undeniable, but not relevant. The point is that either sort of variable allows for change, even if so in different ways.


[I cover this specific topic again, in Note 8, and in the next 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: Premiss 1: No As are B.


L2: Premiss 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 that way in this Essay I will highlight them in bold to distinguish them from the ordinary use of capital letters.]


In this rather uninspiring valid argument schema the conclusion follows from the premisses no matter what legitimate substitution instances replace the variable letters. [Several examples are given in Note 8 (link above).]


So, L3 follows from the premisses 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 this is no more a failing here than it would be, say, for Electronics to take no stance on the evolution of Angiosperms (even though electronic devices can be used to help 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 us to theorise about change.


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 premisses of L1 aren't actually about anything until they have been interpreted; before this has been done they are neither true nor false. Not only that, but the indefinite number of ways there are of interpreting schematic letters like those in L1 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.]


Of course, when the method of truth-tables is used, truth-values are assigned to such schemas, but, in this 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, 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.]


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 certain points 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 simply self-destruct.


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 just as quickly. 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 premisses. So, it could be objected that the following had been claimed earlier about the variables used in FL:


H1: "...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."


Then the following point was made:


H2: "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 just as quickly. 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 argument DM-theorists wanted to make. Which is it to be? Are these variables or are they constants? Do they change within an argument or remain fixed as DM-theorists allege?


Of course, the point of H2 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: Premiss 1: No As are B.


L2a: Premiss 2: All Cs are D.


L3a: Ergo: No Es are F.


[L1: Premiss 1: No As are B.


L2: Premiss 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:


H3: If it is the case that whatever A is or becomes, and that no A is whatever B is or becomes, and if it is the case that whatever C is or becomes, and that all Cs are whatever B is or becomes, then it is the case that whatever A is or becomes, no A is whatever C is or becomes.


This shows that AFL can cope with change.


However, the point being made in H2 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 H3, and so the point made in H3 still stands.   


[I am not suggesting that this is how Aristotle would have seen this (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 H3 was only employed to make the point clear: that syllogisms can be interpreted so that they cope easily with change.


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


L1b: Premiss 1: No As (or whatever they become) are B (or whatever it/they become).


L2b: Premiss 2: All Cs (or whatever they become) are B (or whatever it/they become).


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


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


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


L2c: Premiss 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: Premiss 1: No roses are plants. [False]


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


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


[I have added several more such examples to Note 8, here.]



Change Of Denotation


The schematic letters employed earlier do not in fact possess "definitions" (only interpretations); hence, questions about their 'fixity' 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. Such moves 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 revolve around 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 to it (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 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 DM-theorists' accusations directed 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, this is relatively easy to fix. Consider this one premiss argument:


Premiss 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 premiss, so new content has 'emerged', with no dialectics anywhere in sight. [And, as perhaps an additional bonus, it depicts change to our dialectical friends into the bargain.] 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 this fact.


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


Nevertheless, these examples were 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 -- whether they are simple or complex, and whether they occur in nature or society. In that case, no matter how poorly FL copes with change (if that is the case), DL fares much, much worse.



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 (rightly or wrongly) to be -- it isn't easy to make much sense of their complaints.12a


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



Change In DM -- Is It Conceptual Or Material?


The first confusion involves DM-theorists' own concept of material change; they frequently depict it in terms that are highly reminiscent of the Hegelian doctrine which holds that change is fundamentally conceptual. How else are we to interpret the following words by John Rees that any account of change must explain how: "…new content emerges from old conditions"? [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. Emphasis 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.]


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 thus put it "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, once more.


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 that concept if it had might be apprehended by an individual apprehender -- change in such circumstances? But, how could we (or she) 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 we compare the new 'concept' of colour to be able to declare it had in fact changed?


The problem now facing DM-theorists is how to explain 'mental objects' like this (these 'images'/'reflections'/'concepts' that supposedly reside in our heads/'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 concepts".]


Furthermore, how is it possible for any changes experienced by material objects to be recorded by our use of concepts? In DM-writings, as already noted, the impression is given that these two sorts of change are simply the same, or that one is a 'reflection' of the other. Or, 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 'sanitised' (mystical) ideas dialecticians have inherited 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 appropriate the Christian/Hermetic concepts Hegel inflicted on his readers, which they supposedly 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 sensibility and/or 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 these two categories of change (the material and the conceptual) 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 practical activity, both of these linked to a materialist analysis of the dialectical relationship between the abstract and the concrete. Since these topics are 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 novel approach, a brief discussion of some of the problems involved in expressing conceptual change 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 it signifying a concept). However, if it were to be made clear that C1 related 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 (interpreted now as C2) would perhaps be understood as alluding 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 in some way 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"), 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 in fact changed --, unless, of course, that individual 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. Otherwise the following would 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 individual concerned.


[The 'relative stability' 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 weaken 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 like it is 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 it must be contradictory, or it must be paradoxical, or it must be this or it must be that. [That is because Traditional Philosophers think they can dictate to 'reality' what it must be like based on their own odd use, or even misuse, of language.]


With reasoning like this one might just as well argue that if a metre rule, say, has been manufactured incorrectly, then same 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 unaffected.


From linguistic sins such as these -- committed by our philosophical ancestors -- 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 in such a way that they no longer work either 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 an option of this sort can't be put into words without the sort of distortion outlined above (or, if when it has been, what it appears to say undermines what some 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 only then do they begin to change (which seems to be Hegel's position).


On the other hand, if reality isn't mind-like, there are no concepts in nature for our minds to reflect.


Alternatively, again, if it is claimed that the mind does indeed reflect reality, and it employs concepts in order to do this, then it must distort reality in so doing -- that is, it must do this in so far as there are no concepts 'out there' for it to 'reflect'.


Now, we saw in Essay Three Part One that the defective logic dialecticians inherited from Hegel (where the misconstrual of the "is" of predication as an "is" of identity was founded on an even earlier confusion over the nature of predicate expressions, re-interpreted as the names of abstract particulars) 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 (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 of 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 terminology 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' and/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.]



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 for change. Indeed, despite what certain Philosophers (and DM-theorists) claim, the vernacular is perfectly capable of expressing change; 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 dumped on his readers, or, indeed, the terminology found in DM. The vernacular contains literally thousands of words that are capable of depicting change and development in almost limitless detail.17a



Real Material Change


Again, it could be objected that the above considerations seem to 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 is 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 media by means by which we accomplish this aren't relevant. Nor indeed can any attempt to show the opposite.


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


Anyway, the DM-account of material change is analysed in detail in several other Essays posted at this site (for example, in 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 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


[Arguments to the contrary are rebutted in Note 18 (link above), and Note 20.]


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


Indeed, one excellent example among 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 technology (in the 18th century) and mathematical logic (post 1850) proved to be decisive. The invention of Boolean and Fregean Logic, the mathematical logic of Russell, Whitehead, Hilbert, Peano, von Neumann and Church, among many others -- along with the logico-mathematical work of Alan Turing -- all helped make possible the development of these machines. FL has not only contributed to the evolution of software and of computer languages, the principles of Propositional Calculus govern the operation of all standard processors.19


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



DL -- A 'Higher Form' Of Logic?


What then of the general boast that DL is a superior form of logic? Is there any way of confirming it? Perhaps there is; TAR's author 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. However, a few awkward initial problems need to be addressed before the main picture 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 apt. 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 are fully documented below, and in Note 23.]


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 --, quite unlike the attitude adopted toward FL by DM-theorists, who continually excoriate it.


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


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 in 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 ordinary simple addition, multiplication or elementary trigonometry, nor do we find them expanding on the limitations of, say, the equal sign, the cube root function or quadratic 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 that fundamental criticisms of FL (like these) advanced by DL-fans are seldom if ever substantiated with examples taken from the work of a single logician.21 Add to this 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



Was There Logic After Aristotle?


As already noted, DM-theorists (but particularly those who are active revolutionaries) almost invariably identify FL with AFL -- and, worse, with the bowdlerized version that appeared in, and was further mangled by, Hegel's two seriously misnamed books on logic. DM-theorists from earlier generations (such as Engels, and possibly Dietzgen) may perhaps be excused in this regard, since they largely wrote before the revolution that took place in logic in the decades after the 1870s; later Marxists are not so easily exculpated.


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


For example, we find Trotsky (who was otherwise reasonably up-to-date in his knowledge of the sciences) writing the following in his "Open Letter to Burnham" -- approximately 60 years after MFL was almost single-handedly invented by Frege, and approximately 30 years after Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica was published:


"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…. [P]lease take the trouble to inform us just who following Aristotle analysed and systematized the subsequent progress of logic." [Trotsky (1971), pp.91-92.]22a


To which Burnham replied (quoted more fully earlier in this Essay):


"[A]part from Aristotle, the only 'logic worthy of attention' is that of -- Hegel…. Comrade Trotsky, as we Americans ask: where have you been all these years? During the 125 years since Hegel wrote…[,] after 2300 years of stability, logic has undergone a revolutionary 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 systematized the subsequent progress of logic'…as if this demand were so obviously impossible of fulfilment that I must collapse like a pricked balloon before it…. 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…the monumental 'Principia Mathematica' of Russell and Whitehead…." [Burnham (1971), pp.236-37.]


Unfortunately, wilful ignorance like this among dialecticians hasn't noticeably changed since Trotsky's day (with the notable exception of the work of logicians like Graham Priest, of course). Hence, we still find socialists of otherwise impeccable dialectical credentials repeating Trotsky's ill-informed opinions time and again, still confusing FL with AFL, still clinging to the dogma that Aristotle is and always will be the last (and only) word on the subject.


Worse still, Dialectical Marxists compound this inexcusable ignorance with an open failure to grasp what few degenerate ideas they mistakenly attribute to Aristotle.23



Explaining Change


Turning to specifics: according to its supporters, the superiority of DL over FL arises partly from its ability to explain change and partly from the understanding it gives of the contradictory behaviour of nature and society, thus assisting in the revolutionary transformation of the latter. This, it is claimed, FL can't adequately provide.


However, not even mathematics can supply a scientific account of change -- even if it plays a major role in the work of many scientists who can. Mathematical objects of themselves have no causal impact on the material world; they nowhere appear in nature.24 And yet, this doesn't mean that mathematics is inferior to a 'higher' brand of 'Dialectical Mathematics'. Why DM-theorists use an analogous argument to depreciate FL is somewhat puzzling, therefore.


Of course, some DM-theorists have attempted to offer their own account of the superiority of 'higher' over 'lower' mathematics, based, for example, on Engels's interpretation of Descartes's introduction of variables into Algebra, and on other, rather obscure notes left by Marx concerning the nature of Differential Calculus.25


Nevertheless, DM-apologists are adamant that when linked to a detailed analysis of material causes, their theory can provide a scientific account of change. This idea is discussed in detail in Essays Five, Seven Part Three, Eight Parts One, Two and Three, and then systematically dismantled.


The conclusion of this Essay is, therefore, that (1) FL can easily cope with change, and that (2) Far from DL being a superior form of logic, it can only be called a logic by those with a twisted sense of humour.


However, there is a distinctive claim advanced by DM-theorists that hasn't yet been discussed in these Essays, the supposedly 'contradictory' nature of motion. It is to this that I now turn.





1. Key, relevant aspects of Hegel's 'logic' have been taken apart here, here, and here -- more details will be added when the rest of Essay Twelve is published (summaries here and here).


Nevertheless, dialecticians not only tend to confuse FL with the garbled version of AFL extant in Hegel's day (but see here), they disregard, ignore or downplay the significant advances that have taken place in FL over the last 125 years. It is no exaggeration to say that a good 99% of FL is less than 150 years old. However, you wouldn't be able to guess that fact by reading any randomly selected DM-text. Quite the opposite in fact; naïve readers would be tempted into concluding from what they find there that FL has stood still for over 2400 years. [See also Note 2.] This, from those who tell us everything is constantly changing!


These negative comments don't, however, apply to the work of Graham Priest. His attempt to rehabilitate Hegel and Engels will be the subject of a special Essay to be published at this site at a later date. In the meantime, readers are invited to consult Goldstein (1992, 2004), Slater (2002, 2007b, 2007c), and this review by Hartry Field. Field has now published a book on the paradoxes, wherein he was able to show that the Dialetheic and Paraconsistent Logic that Priest favours can't even handle the paradoxes of truth, which had been one of the main motivators of this branch of non-standard logic -- i.e., Field (2008), pp.36-92.


On the subject of Hegel's (supposed) dismissal of, say, the LOC, see Hanna (1986) and Pippin (1978). The views of these two authors will also be critically examined in a later Essay. However, the best Hegelian account of this aspect of Hegel's work that I have read in the last 25 years [i.e., Hahn (2007)] will be examined in Essay Eight Part Three -- where the best Marxist account [i.e., Lawler (1982)] has already been analysed in detail.


On the LOC in general, see Horn (2006) -- although, I have e-mailed Professor Horn about his claim that the LOI can be found in Aristotle's work; he tells me he will now try to locate exactly where Aristotle's acknowledged this 'law'.


Update October 2009: Professor Horn now tells me that this comment will be changed in the next update of his article later this year. More on that here and here.


Update August 2011: The latest version of Professor Horn's article (i.e., Horn (2010)) now contains no reference to Aristotle accepting the LOI.


I have just read Deborah Modrak's book on Aristotle (i.e., Modrak (2001)); she devotes an entire section to Aristotle's views on 'identity' -- pp.194-98. However, Modrak concentrates on Aristotle's views concerning sameness; identity itself is conspicuous by its absence. Certainly, there is no mention of the LOI.


The Kneales, however, quote two passages (one from Topics and one from De Sophistici Elenchi (On Sophistical Refutations)), which might seem to some to contradict the above claims; here is the one from Topics:


"Whether two things are 'the same' or 'different', in the most literal of the meanings ascribed to 'sameness' (and we said that 'the same' applies in the most literal sense to what is numerically one), may be examined in the light of their inflexions and coordinates and opposites. For if justice be the same as courage, then too the just man is the same as the brave man, and 'justly' is the same as 'bravely'. Likewise, too, in the case of their opposites: for if two things be the same, their opposites also will be the same, in any of the recognized forms of opposition. For it is the same thing to take the opposite of the one or that of the other, seeing that they are the same. Again it may be examined in the light of those things which tend to produce or to destroy the things in question of their formation and destruction, and in general of any thing that is related in like manner to each. For where things are absolutely the same, their formations and destructions also are the same, and so are the things that tend to produce or to destroy them. Look and see also, in a case where one of two things is said to be something or other in a superlative degree, if the other of these alleged identical things can also be described by a superlative in the same respect. Thus Xenocrates argues that the happy life and the good life are the same, seeing that of all forms of life the good life is the most desirable and so also is the happy life: for 'the most desirable' and the greatest' apply but to one thing.' Likewise also in other cases of the kind. Each, however, of the two things termed 'greatest' or most desirable' must be numerically one: otherwise no proof will have been given that they are the same; for it does not follow because Peloponnesians and Spartans are the bravest of the Greeks, that Peloponnesians are the same as Spartans, seeing that 'Peloponnesian' is not any one person nor yet 'Spartan'; it only follows that the one must be included under the other as 'Spartans' are under 'Peloponnesians': for otherwise, if the one class be not included under the other, each will be better than the other. For then the Peloponnesians are bound to be better than the Spartans, seeing that the one class is not included under the other; for they are better than anybody else. Likewise also the Spartans must perforce be better than the Peloponnesians; for they too are better than anybody else; each then is better than the other! Clearly therefore what is styled 'best' and 'greatest' must be a single thing, if it is to be proved to be 'the same' as another. This also is why Xenocrates fails to prove his case: for the happy life is not numerically single, nor yet the good life, so that it does not follow that, because they are both the most desirable, they are therefore the same, but only that the one falls under the other.

"Again, look and see if, supposing the one to be the same as something, the other also is the same as it: for if they be not both the same as the same thing, clearly neither are they the same as one another.

"Moreover, examine them in the light of their accidents or of the things of which they are accidents: for any accident belonging to the one must belong also to the other, and if the one belong to anything as an accident, so must the other also. If in any of these respects there is a discrepancy, clearly they are not the same." [Aristotle (1984g), p.255. Links added. I have here used the
on-line version, which renders this passage differently to the Kneales -- i.e., Kneale and Kneale (1978), p.42.]


The passage from De Sophistici Elenchi reads as follows:


"For only to things that are indistinguishable and one in substance does it seem that all the same attributes belong...." [Aristotle (1984h), p.305.]


The on-line version is more-or-less the same (no pun intended):


"For only to things that are indistinguishable and one in essence is it generally agreed that all the same attributes belong...." [Quoted from here; Part 24.]


There are only three sentences in the above that could plausibly be linked to the LOI; I have highlighted them in bold. The first speaks about things being "absolutely the same", but, the more recent, published translation, has this as " the case where one of two things is said to be something or other in a superlative degree, if the other of these identical things can also be described by a superlative in the same respect" [Aristotle (1984g), p.255, section 152.5], which, although it uses the word "identity", neither employs, nor implies, the LOI. Aristotle, a quintessentially 'common sense' philosopher, is plainly using different ordinary terms for sameness as much he can; indeed, as I have done in Essay Six.


The second and third highlighted passages certainly anticipate both the 'Indiscernibility of Identicals' and the 'Identity of Indiscernibles' -- even though Aristotle still doesn't use the word "identical". Nevertheless, this is plainly the closest Aristotle came to enunciating the LOI, but it still isn't the LOI. Nowhere do we see "A is identical to A", or even "A = A", of DM-lore.


Indeed, Aristotle elsewhere derides anything that even remotely smacks of this 'law', and it features nowhere in his logic (again, contrary to the myth concocted by DM-fans).


[LOC = Law of Non-contradiction; FL = Formal Logic; AFL = Aristotelian FL; LOI = Law of Identity; DL = Dialectical Logic.]


Update October 2014: I have just been made aware of the following comment, which appears 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.]


2. These allegations will be substantiated presently.


W&G do, however, make a note (of sorts!) of these developments in FL, but they then dismiss them in the following terms:


"In the 19th century, there were a number of attempts to bring logic up to date (George Boyle (sic), Ernst Schröder, Gotlob Frege (sic), 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. Semantics (which deals with the validity of an argument (sic)) was separated from syntax (which deals with the deductibility of the conclusions from axioms and premises (sic)). This is supposed to be something new, when, in reality, it is merely a re-hash of the old division, well known to the ancient Greeks, between logic and rhetoric. Modern logic is based on the logical relations among whole sentences. The centre of attention has moved away from the syllogism towards hypothetical and disjunctive arguments. This is hardly a breathtaking leap. One can begin with sentences (judgments) instead of syllogisms. Hegel did this in his Logic. Rather than a great revolution in thought, it is like re-shuffling cards in a pack." [Woods and Grant (1995/2007), p.97/p.101.]


This paragraph alone tells us all we want to know about the sloppy 'research' W&G devoted to their thoughts about MFL. Not only do they (a) confuse George Boyle, the Dean of Salisbury, with George Boole, the mathematician and logician, (b) spell Gottlob Frege's name incorrectly (these errors were pointed out to Alan Woods by a supporter of this site soon after the 1st edition of their book came out, and they remain uncorrected in the 2nd edition), they completely mischaracterise semantics and syntax. Semantics is only indirectly connected with the validity of an argument, and syntax doesn't deal "with the deductibility of the conclusions from axioms and premises". As seems plain from what they say, semantics and syntax, according to these two, are identical -- for what else is the study of validity other than seeing what is deducible from what?


They also assert that: "apart from the introduction of symbols, and a certain tidying up, there is no real change here.... Rather than a great revolution in thought, it is like re-shuffling cards in a pack." This shows how grossly ignorant these two are. Anyone who compares, say, this with this, and who thinks that little has changed, needs to book an urgent appointment with their Optician:



Video One: Dialectical Myopia?


Several of the revolutionary advances made by modern logicians over the last 150 years will be outlined later on in this Essay.


3. Again, these allegations will be substantiated in Note 4.


Of course, limiting FL solely to the study of inference is controversial in itself. DM-theorists believe that logic (properly so handled -- i.e., in its 'higher form', as DL) is part of science, a tool for investigating the world and changing it. As such, DL clearly forms an extension to Metaphysics -- although, of course, DM-theorists understand the word "metaphysics" in their own idiosyncratic way, and would, naturally, reject that assertion. Be this as it may, dialecticians certainly see DL as a source of knowledge, capable of revealing fundamental aspects of reality, if used correctly and if tested in practice. That idea will be tackled head-on in Essay Twelve Part One, and later in the main body of this Essay. Here, for example is Lenin:


"Logic is the science of cognition. It is the theory of knowledge…. The laws of logic are the reflections of the objective in the subjective consciousness of man.... [These] embrace conditionally, approximately, the universal, law-governed character of eternally moving and developing nature." [Lenin (1961), p.182. Italics in the original.]


"To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., [sic] with any proposition...: [like] John is a man…. Here we already have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the individual is the universal…. Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say John is a man…we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other….


"Thus in any proposition we can (and must) disclose as a 'nucleus' ('cell') the germs of all the elements of dialectics, and thereby show that dialectics is a property of all human knowledge in general." [Ibid., pp.359-60. Emphases in the original.]


According to Lenin logic reflects the "objective world"; so, because of that dialecticians have been given a licence to derive fundamental truths, valid for all of space and time, from sentences like "John is a man", which is itself a classic example of Superscience in action. Contrast that with what George Novack had to say:


"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." [Novack (1965), p.17. Bold emphasis added.]


But, that is precisely what Lenin was attempting to do.


However, and by way of contrast, when I speak about FL, I mean logic in the sense outlined in the main body of this Essay: that is, as the study of inference -- which is the view adopted by the vast majority of modern logicians. On this, see Note 4 and Note 5.


4. Validity is a formal 'property' of argument schemas (formal patterns), whereas truth is a 'property' of propositions. [The word "property" is in 'scare' quotes since it is being used technically, if not figuratively, here.] If the only legitimate role FL occupies is the study of inference, then, as such, it is only indirectly related to the 'search for truth'. Logic is therefore, at a stretch, a science only in the wider (German) sense of the term -- that is, it is a systematic study focused on a given area of enquiry (which is, in this case, inference).


[The definition over at Wikipedia , for example, is incorrect -- as I have pointed out in the discussion pages. The confusion of FL with science proper is discussed below, in Note 5.]


For a clear definition of validity, see, for example, Tomassi (1999), pp.2-19, or Priest (2000), pp.1-6.


5. In line with many others (mostly those who know very little, if any, logic), DM-theorists in general labour under the widespread illusion that FL is the study of the "Laws of Thought", or the "Science of Cognition" -- that is, that it is one of the sciences proper. For example, here is Lenin:


"Logic is the science of cognition. It is the theory of knowledge…. The laws of logic are the reflections of the objective in the subjective consciousness of man.... [These] embrace conditionally, approximately, the universal, law-governed character of eternally moving and developing nature." [Lenin (1961), p.182. Italics in the original.]


Here, too, is Engels:


"In every epoch, and therefore also in ours, theoretical thought is a historical product, which at different times assumes very different forms and, therewith, very different contents. The science of thought is therefore, like every other, a historical science, the science of the historical development of human thought. And this is of importance also for the practical application of thought in empirical fields. Because in the first place the theory of the laws of thought is by no means an 'eternal truth' established once and for all, as philistine reasoning imagines to be the case with the word 'logic'." [Engels (1954), p.43. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"As soon as each special science is bound to make clear its position in the great totality of things and of our knowledge of things, a special science dealing with this totality is superfluous. That which still survives, independently, of all earlier philosophy is the science of thought and its laws -- formal logic and dialectics. Everything else is subsumed in the positive science of nature and history." [Engels (1976), p.31.]


And, here is Trotsky:


"Hegel himself viewed dialectics precisely as logic, as the science of the forms of human cognition....


"What does logic express? The law of the external world or the law of consciousness? The question is posed dualistically [and] therefore not correctly [for] the laws of logic express the laws (rules, methods) of consciousness in its active relationship to the external world....


"Thought operates by its own laws, which we can call the laws of logic...." [Trotsky (1986), pp.75, 87, 106. Trotsky is apparently referring to Hegel's Introduction to The Science of Logic (i.e., Hegel (1999), pp.43-64.]


We also find Novack, for instance, defining logic as:


"…the science of the thought process. Logicians investigate the activities of the thought process which goes on in human heads and formulate the laws, forms and interrelations of those mental processes." [Novack (1971), p.17.]


Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Novack have clearly confused logic with some form of psychology. If logic were the science of what went on in people's heads, logicians would busy themselves with brain scans, surveys, psychometric tests, and the like. They certainly wouldn't waste their time with all those useless definitions, theorems and proofs.


Do dialecticians seriously think that people actually cogitate in syllogisms? [As we will see, Trotsky certainly did!] Or, that they use the formal calculi found in Principia Mathematica when they reason? They must think this if they believe that logicians study how people actually think. [On this topic, see my comments over at Wikipedia, which have been re-posted here.]


So, not only does Trotsky imagine human beings think in syllogisms, he believes chickens do, too!


"The chicken knows that grain is in general useful, necessary and tasty. It recognises a given piece of grain as that grain -- of the wheat -- with which it is acquainted and hence draws a logical conclusion by means of its beak. The syllogism of Aristotle is only an articulated expression of those elementary mental conclusions which we observe at every step among animals." [Trotsky quoted in Woods and Grant (1995), p.89. A copy is available here (near the bottom of the page). In fact this comment is from Trotsky (1973), p.400.]


Unfortunately, Trotsky failed to say how he knew so much about the logical skills of these Avian Aristotles -- or why, if animals have known these things for so long, it took a genius like Aristotle to 're-discover' them about 1 million years after we 'left the animal kingdom', and countless million since 'we' branched off from our common ancestor with the birds!


Moreover, if chickens are such 'natural logicians', then perhaps among them there is a Feathered Frege, a Rooster Russell or even a Peano of the Poultry World?



Figure One: Aristotle, Frege, And Russell?


How far down the pecking order should we descend? If a chicken chooses seed on the basis of a syllogism, do toads select flies likewise? Do ticks opt for each passing deer this way, too? Perhaps locusts are logical as well, and reason that if all fields are good to ravish, and this is a field, it too is good to ravish? [Except, of course, genuine syllogisms are categorical, and aren't the least bit hypothetical. Maybe then locusts have mastered Stoic Logic, which is hypothetical in form?] And what about the humble Hydra? Does it munch away at single-celled organisms having discovered these Aristotelian syllogisms hundreds of millions of years before humanity happened upon them? What about e-coli? Does it select which mammalian gut to invade on this basis? And what about the flu virus? Does it reason that all human noses are good, and then proceed to infect yet another as a result? But, if all of these take place in nature, then the above organisms must all be natural logicians. If not, chickens aren't either. What is it that makes a chicken a 'logician' that prevents, say, a Dung Beetle from being one, as well?


Of course, it could always be argued that 'quantity turns into quality' here, so that at some point in the development of evolutionary complexity new organisms emerged capable of applying some form of logic. That would mean that chickens are capable of using logic while Dung Beetles aren't. Well, it would be good to see the evidence and/or original research that supports this novel approach to Zoology; but, as we have come to expect from DM-supporters, there isn't any. [However, as we have seen in Essay Seven Part One, Engels's 'First Law' is far to vague and confused to supply Trotsky with any support at all.] 


Anyway, in what sense can a chicken be said to know about " general"? Are they also expert Botanists? Newly hatched chickens will peck away at grain, too, having had no schooling in the time-honoured Protocols of Poultry Philosophy. Perhaps they received lessons inside the egg? Not so much home schooling as egg schooling, so that when they have passed their eggxams they are allowed to break out of their shells -- having learnt another syllogism about egg shells "in general", too -- and no doubt also one about syllogisms "in general".


Unfortunately, however, the syllogism is a severely limited and clumsy form of reasoning. [On that, see here, and especially here.] In which case, one would have thought that chickens would have learnt to move on at least to master Stoic Logic -- and then perhaps even aspects of Boolean Algebra.


On the basis of passages like these it isn't easy to defend the above dialecticians from the accusation that they haven't a clue what they are talking about, and that they prefer science fiction over fact. Nevertheless, this view of Trotsky's is representative of opinion in dialectical circles. Any who doubt this have only to read Trotskyist literature to see how uncritically the above fairy-tale has been swallowed hook, line and sinker by the faithful. [This isn't to pick on fellow Trotskyists, Maoists are no less gullible when it comes to the word of The Prophet, Mao Himself -- or that of other DM-Gurus -- witness the adulation and religious fervour surrounding the Little Red Book and 'Mao Zedong Thought'.]


In their collective defence it is worth pointing out that DM-fans inherited this general idea from an ancient tradition in logic (which was also influential on Kant and Hegel): that 'logic' is a sub-branch of Philosophical Psychology, and a priori Ontology.


However, FL is no more the science of thought than Geometry is the study of where to stand, or the rules of Cricket/Baseball represent the science of ball hitting. Science is descriptive, explanatory and predictive. The theorems of FL are constitutive and normative.


This topic is extensively discussed in Shanker (1998), pp.63-120. Also, cf., Coffa (1991), pp.113-67, and Baker (1988) and the general comments in Button, et al. (1995). Cf., also Brockhaus (1991), pp.65-106. [Again, see my comments over at Wikipedia on this topic.]


6. In Essays Twelve and Fourteen I will examine the connections that exist between this way of thinking and an assortment of ancient religious and mystical 'world views'. The ideological impact on revolutionaries of these age-old intellectual pretentions will also be detailed in Essay Twelve (summary here), as well as in Essay Nine Parts One and Two.


6a. It could be objected that if language is part of the world, it must have coded into it all sorts of things that are also part of reality. This response will be defused in Essay Twelve, where it will be shown that it depends on implicit forms of LIE. [A shorter version of that Essay can be found here.]


[LIE = Linguistic Idealism.]


For present purposes it is sufficient to note that it requires human beings to code anything, which further implies either that (a) this coding was intentionally inserted into language by an individual or group of individuals, or (b) this coding was incorporated into language by a non-human 'mind'. (b) directly implies some form of Idealism (arguably LIE, as noted earlier), while (a) does the same, only indirectly. In Essay Twelve Parts One and Two, it will be shown just how and why that is so. [I have also dealt with this option briefly, below.]  


It could also be argued that our minds work the way they do because this proved evolutionarily advantageous to our ancestors. Individuals whose thoughts didn't mirror the world would find it difficult to survive and hence reproduce. This is in fact a rather poor argument, which I will dispose of in Essay Thirteen Part Three. Again, for present purposes, all we need note is that even if this were the case, our thoughts need only 'mirror' the material world, not these 'underlying essences. How, for example, could the thoughts of our ancient ancestors mirror this hidden world of 'essences' (a world only revealed to us by Traditional Philosophers a few thousand years ago) if they are inaccessible to the senses? How could such imponderables assist in their survival in any away at all?


It could be objected that their capacity to form abstract thoughts would enable them to grasp general ideas about nature, which would free them from the "immediacy of the present", allowing them to take some -- albeit limited -- control of their lives and their surroundings. This would definitely assist in their survival.


However, as argued at length in Essay Three Parts One and Two, abstraction in fact destroys generality; hence, if our ancestors had access to these 'hidden essences' by means of a 'process of abstraction', that would in fact have seriously reduced their chances of survival.


This is, of course, quite apart from the fact that it is bizarre in the extreme to claim that our ancestors, hundreds of thousands of years ago, were aware of these invisible 'essences' -- and thus coded them into language -- which 'essences' were in fact conjured into existence only a few thousand years ago by a set of grammatical and logical verbal tricks, concocted by Greek Philosophers!


[The verbal tricks performed by Ancient Greek Philosophers in order to invent such fanciful theories are detailed in Barnes (2009), Havelock (1983), Kahn (1994, 2003), Lloyd (1971), and Seligman (1962) -- although, these authors do not characterise the aforementioned terminological gyrations in the pejorative way that I have done at this site! I will be dealing with this topic in more detail in Essay Twelve Part Two (summary here).]


This isn't to argue, either, that our ancestors didn't use general nouns, but general nouns aren't the same as the 'abstract general ideas' of Traditional Lore. Readers are directed to the above Essays (and the academic studies listed in the previous paragraph) for more details.


7. One has only to leaf through, say, Aristotle's Prior Analytics to see that this is no invention on my part.


A comprehensive history of Logic detailed in Kneale and Kneale (1978); the rapid degeneration of Logic after Aristotle's death is outlined in Peter Geach's article: 'History of the Corruptions of Logic' (i.e., Geach (1972b)). For Aristotle's use of variables, see Barnes (2009), pp.264-359.


8. With respect to this argument schema, the only condition validity requires is the following: if, for a given interpretation, the premisses are true then the conclusion is true. This characterisation of validity isn't affected by the fact that schematic premisses themselves can't be true or false (plainly, since they are schematic sentences, not propositions). To be sure, Aristotle didn't see things this way, but I do. The point is that when these schematic sentences are interpreted, if they are true, the conclusion is true. 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 believe or accept. [A clear explanation, with many more examples, can be found here.] 


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 what they supposedly mean (often this is what they mean in ordinary language, but it can also be what they mean in technical, scientific and/or mathematical languages), according to the syntax and the semantics of formal system involved.


One interpretation of L1 (given in the main body of this Essay) that might illustrate this is the following:


Premiss 1: No moving object is stationary.


Premiss 2: All objects with zero velocity are stationary.


Ergo: No moving object is one with zero velocity.


[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' premisses (or, indeed, use this particular argument form) to make this point:


Premiss 1: All human beings are aging.


Premiss 2: All Londoners are human beings.


Ergo: All Londoners are aging.


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 this stilted, but genuine, syllogism:


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


Premiss 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:


Premiss 1: All rivers flow to the sea.


Premiss 2: The Mississippi is a river.


Ergo: The Mississippi flows to the sea.


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


1) In order for the conclusion to follow, the premisses of an argument do not have to be true -- clearly Premiss 1 is false.


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


3) 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 utilising 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:


Premiss 1: All fires release heat.


Premiss 2: I have just lit a fire.


Ergo: My fire will release heat.


Or, even:


Premiss 1: All sound waves transmit energy.


Premiss 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 most interpretations of argument forms drawn from FL.


To be sure, the above changes aren't of the sort that interest dialecticians, but, as I pointed out in the main body of this Essay, examples like this have only been quoted 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), and the alleged 'superiority of DL over FL turns into its own opposite. [Which is yet another rather fitting 'dialectical' and ironic inversion.]


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


There is an excellent account of Aristotelian Logic in Smith (2015). And there is an equally useful account of MFL (i.e., now confusingly called "Classical Logic") in Shapiro (2013). Readers should also consult Hirsch (2004), which, while deeply flawed itself, represents a major step in the right direction by a 'fan of the dialectic'. Having said, that, Hirsch isn't above committing a few basic errors himself; on that, see here.


9. Naturally, this raises fundamental issues that lie at the heart of this dispute -- that is, whether or not concepts change over time as a result of inherent, 'internal', logical or 'rational' processes. This aspect of DL (incompatible as it has proven to be with the sort of HM that refuses to make any concessions to Hegelian mysticism) will be examined in Essay Fourteen Part Two.


[HM = Historical Materialism; DL = Dialectical Logic.]


This also raises questions about the relative stability of meaning in language. That topic is dealt with in more detail in Essay Six -- here and here. See also here.


10. The reader should consult Essays Five, Six, Seven, Eight Parts One, Two, and Three, as well as Eleven Part One, on this.


11. In fact, MPP was known to the Stoics, circa 200 BCE. This breaking news has yet to penetrate the adamantine skulls of the majority of 'dialectical logicians'. It looks like 2200 years isn't quite long enough!


On Stoic Logic, see Kneale and Kneale (1978), pp.158-76, and Mates (1953).


In the argument in the main body of the Essay, "A" stands for "Assumption". The un-bracketed numbers relate to the premises used on each line to derive the conclusion, and the bracketed numerals refer to the line numbers. In this, I have partially followed Lemmon's method of presentation. Cf., Lemmon (1993).


An introduction to Natural Deduction (a system devised by Gerhard Gentzen) can be found in Lemmon (1993); an axiomatic approach to logic is set out in Hunter (1996); more advanced logic can be found in Bostock (1997) (this links to a PDF) and Mendelson (1979). A recent and comprehensive survey of modern mathematical logic can be found in Hinman (2005).


Unfortunately(!!), Gentzen was either a Nazi, or he entertained what were distinctly Nazi sympathies. [On this, also see here.] But this should no more affect our opinion of his work in logic than Hegel's political and social views affect how dialecticians regard his 'logic'.


11a. Again, care must be taken not to confuse interpretation in logic with interpretation in other disciplines, or, indeed, in ordinary discourse. [On this, see here.]


It might be objected that the antecedent and consequent here aren't propositions -- that is, "Atoms of 64Cu undergo beta decay" and "64Ni atoms, positrons and neutrinos are formed" aren't capable of being true or false. That is correct, but the argument isn't beyond repair. However that repair would render the clauses involved highly stilted, if not unwieldy. The repaired version of the opening assumption would then read something like this:


A1: If an atom of 64Cu undergoes beta decay at T(1), then an atom of 64Ni, k positrons and m neutrinos are formed at T(2).


Where the temporal and numerical variables are also well defined. However, I rather think that A1 is scientifically uninteresting and possibly unverifiable, but that is no fault of logic.


12. The details behind these other systems of Logic can be found in Goble (2001), Hughes and Cresswell (1996), Haack (1978, 1996), Hintikka (1962), Jacquette (2006), Prior (1957, 1967, 1968), Sider (2010), and Von Wright (1957, 1963). A general survey of some of the background issues raised by Classical and Non-Classical Logic can be found in Read (1994). In fact, Graham Priest (who is both an expert logician and a defender of certain aspects of dialectics) has written his own admirable introductions to FL; cf., Priest (2000, 2008). Also worth consulting are the following:


Despite this embarrassment of riches, freely available on the Internet, DM-fans steadfastly cling to their studied ignorance, maintaining their self imposed nescience all the while pontificating about the alleged 'limitations' of FL as if each one were a latter-day Aristotle. [Anyone who doubts this need only examine, say, Trotsky's lamentably weak, if not embarrassingly incompetent reply to James Burnham, in Trotsky (1971), pp.91-119, 196-97, 232-56 -- and then count the number of subsequent Trotskyists who quote the master's words as they had come down from off the mountain, engraved on stone tablets. See also, here and here.]


12a. Examples of the rather weak attempts made by DM-theorists to argue that FL uses 'fixed concepts' will be examined below; but see also here.


12b. Of course, as we will see, reductionism is generally 'refuted' by DM-fans by the simple expedient of repeating a series of flat denials and rejections, with little attempt at explanation or even justification -- other than, perhaps, a quick reference to the Part/Whole 'dialectic' (extensively criticised in Essay Eleven Part Two). The second consequence of the allegations advanced in the main body of this Essay about the 'dialectical theory of knowledge' (i.e., that it depends on some form of bourgeois individualism) is simply ignored by DM-theorists (that is, this implication is ignored, not my criticisms; they are never even read!). In fact, in my 35-year hike across this Desiccated Dialectical Desert, I have only ever encountered one author (Bertell Ollman) who even so much as recognises this implication of the 'dialectical theory of knowledge', and even then he merely kicks it into the long grass for future consideration. [On that, see here.] 


13. In what follows, when I am alluding to a concept (as opposed to a specific phrase expressing it), I will put any terms by means of which I attempt to do that in 'scare' quotes --, e.g., as in 'the concept green'. When I merely mention a concept, I will use quotation marks -- e.g., "the concept green". When I am not trying to say anything 'controversial', I will simply use, for example, the word "concept" without any quotation marks at all -- e.g., concept. When I use a concept expression (as opposed to merely mentioning it), that should be clear from the words I employ -- for example, "This leaf is green", using the concept expression "ξ is green". As will be apparent, I am adopting (as well as adapting) a neo-Fregean understanding of concepts -- i.e., they express rules for the formation of certain sentences.


I have briefly explained why this approach has much to recommend it over the traditional understanding of 'concepts' -- which sees them either as (a) 'mental entities' of some sort, or (b) 'abstract particulars' that 'reside' in 'heaven', the 'mind' of some 'god', or, indeed, 'elsewhere' -- on that, see here, here, and here.


As readers will no doubt appreciate, this topic is a minefield in itself, so this section of the Essay will need to be re-written many times in order to make sure that I don't fall into the very trap I am trying to highlight and thus avoid!


The distinction between concepts and objects (or rather, the distinction between concept expressions and singular terms -- Proper Names and Definite Descriptions) is crucially important; otherwise propositions soon turn into lists, and hence fail to say anything.


[This topic was covered in extensive detail in Essay Three Part One (and will be again briefly below, in Note 14). Several of the issues raised here are outlined with admirable clarity in Gibson (2004), and at some length in Gaskin (2008). (However, Gaskin's 'solution' to this pseudo-problem is no solution at all; I will say more about why that is so in a later Essay.) See also, Davidson (2005), pp.76-163.]


Anyway, dialecticians themselves appear to require this distinction, otherwise their theory would be little different from "crude materialism"; they need concepts to remain just what they are, concepts, and not turn into objects, or even the names thereof -- or risk losing their capacity to express generality. [This outcome was also explained in detail in Essay Three Part One (link above).]


Indeed, if concepts and objects were one and the same, there would seem to be no advantage (and, indeed, no point) in seeking a conceptual account of change in, or to, material objects, for that would turn it into an abstract account of change experienced by what are in fact objects, not concepts, only now it would be entirely unclear what these new 'objects' were (i.e., what these 'concepts-turned-into-objects' are), and how they could possibly account for anything.


Of course, as noted above, part of the problem here is that, following on from Kant and Hegel, concepts have tended to be viewed by DM-theorists as quasi-mental structures (images!), processes, or 'representations' of some sort -- the latter, in some cases, indistinguishable from the capacity we are all supposed to possess of being able to 'represent' to ourselves the so-called "Universals". This approach clearly blurs the distinction between concepts and objects (or, indeed, the names thereof); a DM-concept thus appears to be a peculiar sort of abstract (mental?) object.


[A brief account of the history of the introduction of this word (Begriff) into Philosophy (by Leibniz in the 17th century), can be found in Caygill (1995), pp.118-21. For Hegel's use of this word and its cognates, see Inwood (1992), pp.58-61. See also Tugendhat (1982).]


However, as far as conceptual change is concerned there seem to be only two straight-forward possibilities, here -- illustrated below in C2 and C3. Neither looks at all promising:


C2: This patch of green has changed.


C3: The concept green has changed.


(1) In C3, "The concept green" could be designating all green objects. On reflection, this seems unlikely since C3 is specific in its reference to 'the concept green', not to the objects that happen to instantiate it. Even though all or most of the said objects could change, it would still leave the 'concept' itself unaffected. Indeed, all green things seem to change at some point, but if the 'concept' also changed, we wouldn't be able to express this fact in any obvious way (as indeed we saw in the main body of this Essay).


So much was at least clear to Plato, but he (or, at least, later Platonists) 'solved' this problem by turning general nouns (and much else besides) into the names of abstract particulars (i.e., into the "Forms") -- or they employed other singular terms to designate them (such as "the Form of the Good"), unfortunately destroying generality, thereby. [On this, see Essay Six.]


This option would also mean that the phrase "the concept green" is no longer a general term; it is a singular designating expression, and hence no it no longer operates as a concept expression. Concept expressions are general in form; singular terms (manifestly) aren't. For DM-fans, this problem is considerably aggravated by the fact that they also seem to think that human beings cognise individuals (like Socrates, or Lenin) as concepts, too! That is because they conflate both as 'mental' entities of some sort. To be sure, these 'mental entities' are supposed to 'reflect' objects and process in 'reality', but that doesn't prevent them from being conflated in this manner. Whether or not they can 'reflect' anything will be subjected to considerable doubt in Essay Thirteen Part One.


[Having said that, the complex ways that Ancient Greek Philosophers, Grammarians, and Logicians attempted to grapple with such knotty problems are detailed in Barnes (2009), pp.93-167.]


(2) "The concept green" could refer to an 'abstraction', residing perhaps in some 'mind' or brain -- or, which (a) somehow 'inheres' in all the objects that shared the designated 'property', or which (b) refers to whatever is supposed to 'inhere' in them. But, again, on reflection, this expression can't designate a 'collective idea of green', for there is no such thing. [Why that is so is explained at length in Essay Three Parts One and Two.] And, even if there were such an idea, calling 'it' a concept would be decidedly inept since, ex hypothesi, 'it' would then be an 'object' (or the name thereof), or collection of 'objects', not a concept. Moreover, if 'all green objects' shared this common property, designating it in this way would deny it this very role, since 'The concept green' itself would be an object (or it would designate an object), not a general property!


Of course, options [1] and [2] imply that it isn't concepts that change, but objects that instantiate them which do, vitiating the entire exercise.


The problem here is that it is impossible to state (in indicative sentences) the logical role that concept expressions play without distorting that role itself. Any attempt to do so destroys their capacity to function in the way that might have been imagined for them.


[This topic is connected with the main theme of Essay Twelve Part One -- that is, that any attempt to construct theories about how language 'latches onto the world', how it supposedly 'reflects' nature, or 'essence', or 'the logical form of the world', or whatever, will always collapse into incoherence.]


While Frege was painfully aware of this 'difficulty', he couldn't account for it (or, indeed, circumvent it); Wittgenstein, I think, 'solved' this 'problem' -- or, rather, he did so by dissolving it. [On this, see the references given below.]


The illusion that we can refer to conceptual change (perhaps in the crude manner envisaged in TAR and other DM-texts) is fostered by the transformation that concept expressions undergo when they are located in new, but non-standard sentential contexts -- for example, if direct reference to them is attempted, or they are designated by singular terms, and those expressions are then situated in indicative sentences (for example, in C3).


C1: Green has changed.


C3: The concept green has changed.


As C1 and C3 show, the belief that concepts can change (in this crude manner) rests on the nominalisation and/or particularisation of concept expressions -- either by means of a Proper Noun (e.g., "Greenness"), or by the use of a definite description (e.g., "The concept green") -- which, once more, turns what should be a general expression into a singular term. This then motivates the idea that because singular terms denote objects -- which can and do change -- these newly nominalised/particularised 'entities' must similarly designate abstract objects, which must be subject to change in like manner.


[Particularisation is the process by means of which general words are turned into singular expressions (i.e., Proper Names, Definite Descriptions, etc.), which then supposedly designate Abstract Particulars. (It is important not to confuse particularisation with Hegel's use of "particular".) This isn't to suggest that the 'subject' term of such sentences can only be a singular term.]


Change in or to objects thus becomes the model for conceptual change, but only because, when an endeavour is made to refer to, or denote concepts, we are forced to nominalise/particularise concept expressions. This linguistic transformation constitutes the initial false step that results in the conflation of these two distinct sorts of change.


In Essay Three Part One we saw how this simple error of syntax spawned a philosophical pseudo-problem -- one lasting now the best part of 2500 years -- over the nature of 'Abstractions', 'Universals', 'Categories', 'Ideas', 'Forms' and 'Concepts'.


As the late Professor Havelock pointed out in relation to the linguistic gyrations of the Presocratic Philosophers:


"As long as preserved communication remained oral, the environment could be described or explained only in the guise of stories which represent it as the work of agents: that is gods. Hesiod takes the step of trying to unify those stories into one great story, which becomes a cosmic theogony. A great series of matings and births of gods is narrated to symbolise the present experience of the sky, earth, seas, mountains, storms, rivers, and stars. His poem is the first attempt we have in a style in which the resources of documentation have begun to intrude upon the manner of an acoustic composition. But his account is still a narrative of events, of 'beginnings,' that is, 'births,' as his critics the Presocratics were to put it. From the standpoint of a sophisticated philosophical language, such as was available to Aristotle, what was lacking was a set of commonplace but abstract terms which by their interrelations could describe the physical world conceptually; terms such as space, void, matter, body, element, motion, immobility, change, permanence, substratum, quantity, quality, dimension, unit, and the like. Aside altogether from the coinage of abstract nouns, the conceptual task also required the elimination of verbs of doing and acting and happening, one may even say, of living and dying, in favour of a syntax which states permanent relationships between conceptual terms systematically. For this purpose the required linguistic mechanism was furnished by the timeless present of the verb to be --  the copula of analytic statement.


"The history of early philosophy is usually written under the assumption that this kind of vocabulary was already available to the first Greek thinkers. The evidence of their own language is that it was not. They had to initiate the process of inventing it....


"Nevertheless, the Presocratics could not invent such language by an act of novel creation. They had to begin with what was available, namely, the vocabulary and syntax of orally memorised speech, in particular the language of Homer and Hesiod. What they proceeded to do was to take the language of the mythos and manipulate it, forcing its terms into fresh syntactical relationships which had the constant effect of stretching and extending their application, giving them a cosmic rather than a particular reference." [Havelock (1983), pp.13-14, 21. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Spelling modified to agree with UK English. Links added.]


Havelock then shows in detail that this is precisely what the Presocratics succeeded in doing: inventing abstract nouns, eliminating verbs in place of these newly-minted nouns, and transforming the verb "to be" in the required manner.


However, it is also worth adding that 'abstract objects' like these had been conjured into 'existence' because the distinction between concepts and objects had been obliterated -- again by means of yet another grotesque distortion of language, just as Marx intimated:


"The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphases added.]


[While I'm not saying that Marx saw things precisely this way, there are hints in his early work that in the 1840s he was moving in this particular direction. On that, see here and here.]


Metaphysicians have repeatedly made, and are still making 'mistakes' like this, regularly falling prey to what might be called the "Nominalisation or Particularisation Fallacy". Those who have been misled along these lines seem to think that if a clause (or phrase) can be nominalised or particularised then there must be something (visible or invisible (i) in the 'mind', (ii) 'spread across' collections of objects in some way, or (iii) languishing in 'Platonic Heaven'/the 'Mind of God') that answers to it. [This misconception is related to the 'Fido-Fido' fallacy highlighted by Gilbert Ryle.]


So, on this basis, it is concluded that 'the concept green' must exist (somewhere!) because the expression supposedly signifying it has just been particularised. Again, such inferences have only ever been justified by nominalisations/particularisations of this sort, which conjure into existence 'abstract objects' at the drop of a general noun.


As Havelock pointed out, this ancient error also motivated the idea that since our ordinary use of language actually prevents such linguistic tomfoolery, technical devices must be invented that allow it -- and words like "Form", "Concept", "Being", "Property", "Category", "Nothing" and "Becoming" were invented to order and then pressed into metaphysical service. The supposed meaning of such empty phrases and neologisms now appears to sanction the derivation of profound 'philosophical' truths, valid for all of space and time, from thought alone. In this way, the 'thoughts' of socially-isolated thinkers -- divorced from the constraints communal life places on the use of language -- seem able to penetrate into the very heart of reality, way beyond those misleading 'appearances' and the 'banalities of commonsense', uncovering 'hidden truths' in the comfort of their own heads. But, the only rationale for such moves was a terminological dodge motivated by an inept transformation of concept expressions into the names of Abstract Particulars, or in some case those Particulars themselves.


In DM, this (already distorted) approach to the vernacular resurfaces as part of the claim that the logic of ordinary discourse must be "surpassed" by the use of suitably obscure jargon -- dredged up, for example, from deep within Hegel's Logic --, which not only 'permits' such 'word magic', it positively insists upon it.


However, since singular terms aren't concept expressions (nor vice versa), moves like this must always fail. That is because, in order to pick out the alleged reference of a general term, a singular term supposedly denoting it will have to be invented. But, this term now designates an abstract object -- it has to be abstract, for if it weren't, there would be no need for this charade. So, these newly minted expressions no longer operate as general terms, but as singular expressions. Hence, because of this Ancient Greek segue, concepts now appear to be strange sorts of objects -- or, alternatively, objects now resemble a peculiar sort of concept, which can somehow stand in relation to other objects. [This observation will be expanded upon in Essay Twelve in order to reveal where, for example, Hegel's account of truth goes seriously wrong. These moves also underlie all that (Idealist) talk about "internal relations" one finds in DM. More on that in Part Two of this Essay.]


Now, instead of finding fault with the linguistic distortion that originally gave birth to these 'abstractions' (but which moves can't work anyway since they destroy the unity of the proposition -- how and why this happens was explained in Essay Three Part One), dialecticians assume that reality itself must be 'contradictory'. That in turn is because it suddenly becomes 'clear' to them that a singular expression can't actually designate a Universal (since, as the word suggests, Universals are supposed to be general, not particular!) -- in which case, reality must be at fault not the theory that relied on and created distorted language. So, transmogrifying a Universal into an Abstract Particular doesn't avoid the problem, it creates it.


Essay Three Part One shows how Hegel adopted the Medieval Identity Theory of Predication in order to motivate this and other aspects of his 'theory'. So, in sentences like the following:


S1: Blair is a man,


what we are 'really' supposed to have is this:


S2: Blair is identical with Man/Manhood.


But, since Blair can't be identical with the Universal, Manhood, we must conclude:


S3: Blair is not identical with Manhood.


Or, even:


S3a: Blair is a non-man.


But, this, too, misrepresents Blair, so we are forced (by the 'development' of these 'concepts) to conclude that:


S4: Blair is not a non-man.


From such tortured 'logic' the NON 'emerged'!


[I won't attempt to justify such moves (and that isn't just because I don't think they can be defended!), since I am only concerned here to abbreviate a complex argument, the background to which can be found here, here and here -- where I explain in detail how and why Traditional Theorists confused general words (concept expressions) with the names of Abstract Particulars.]


These bogus moves suggested to those who engineered them that further adjustments would have to be made to the original 'concepts', indicating -- again, only to those taken in by this linguistic conjuring trick -- that there was "movement" in the 'concepts' involved. Hence, and as a result, 'concepts' were now said to possess "identity-in-difference", which idea formed the basis for, or even constituted, the dynamic motor of universal development. That is because these ersatz 'concepts' or 'abstract objects' now seemed capable of change themselves, since they had been modified in such a way that they now resembled material objects!


We can see this, too, in Hegel's confusion of the LOI with the LOC, in the course of which he ran together concepts, objects, names, propositions, relations and relational expression, as well as judgements -- and a whole host of other things, to boot. This is something that dialecticians in general also manage to do (and that includes HCDs), since their thinking has been heavily skewed by an uncritical acceptance of that Hermetic bungler's logical howlers.  Indeed, anyone who objects to Hegel's verbal conjuring tricks is accused of 'pedantry', 'semantics', or, of course, of not 'understanding' dialectics.)


[LOI = Law of Identity; LOC = Law of Non-Contradiction; LEM = Law of Excluded Middle; RRT = Reverse Reflection Theory (to be explained in Essay Twelve Part Four); LIE = Linguistic Idealism; HCD = High Church Dialectician (this term explained here).]


In this way, a completely bogus (local) change, imposed on a handful of ordinary words, is taken to reflect an 'essential' feature of the development of absolutely everything in existence, for all of time --, and then promptly imposed on reality.


[In Essay Twelve, an epistemological version of this dodge will be called the RRT. One untoward implication of this particular theory is that -- despite what its supporters might tell you -- language itself is no longer said to reflect the world, the world is made to reflect the distorted language that has just been imposed on it. This reverse reflection in fact represents an essential move in the setting up of that pernicious strain of LIE that crawled out of German Idealism. (We have seen here and here how the entire dialectic is based on a series of logical blunders of this sort.)]


We can see this, too, in Hegel's recklessly ambitious 'derivation' of 'Nothing' from 'Being', via 'Becoming', which is a verbal trick that only works if 'concepts' are treated as objects of some sort (indeed, 'named' by words such as: "Being", "Becoming", and "Nothing").


[This 'argument' (unwisely praised by Lenin and Trotsky!) is destructively analysed in Essay Twelve Part Five (summary here). This tangled rat's nest -- otherwise known as Hegel's Logic -- is in fact a sub-Aristotelian Grimoire chock full of syntactic screw-ups like this, which have been uncritically swallowed by Hegel-groupies ever since.]


We can see this happening, too, in these words of Engels's:


"The identity of thinking and being, to use Hegelian language, everywhere coincides with your example of the circle and the polygon. Or the two of them, the concept of a thing and its reality, run side by side like two asymptotes, always approaching each other but never meeting. This difference between the two is the very difference which prevents the concept from being directly and immediately reality and reality from being immediately its own concept. Because a concept has the essential nature of the concept and does not therefore prima facie directly coincide with reality, from which it had to be abstracted in the first place, it is nevertheless more than a fiction, unless you declare that all the results of thought are fictions because reality corresponds to them only very circuitously, and even then approaching it only asymptotically." [Engels to Schmidt (12/3/1895), in Marx and Engels (1975), p.457, and Marx and Engels (2004), pp.463-64. Bold emphasis added.]


"The fact that identity contains difference within itself is expressed in every sentence, where the predicate is necessarily different from the subject; the lily is a plant, the rose is red, where, either in the subject or in the predicate there is something that is not covered by the predicate or the subject…. That from the outset identity with itself requires difference from everything else as its complement, is self-evident." [Ibid., pp.214-15. Bold emphasis alone added.]


Engels clearly saw concepts as objects. How else are we to interpret this comparison: "the concept of a thing and its reality, run side by side like two asymptotes, always approaching each other but never meeting." [More on this, here.]


Plainly, such artefacts of the imagination can't undergo change in the material world, and that is why these tendentious moves have to take place in the 'hidden' world of 'the mind', even though all we are ever presented with in this instance -- by way of 'proof' that any of this has actually happened -- is a set of distorted words!


Indeed, this 'linguistic miracle' is so 'profound' it can, on its own, create a whole world of developing 'concepts', hidden from human gaze, which 'exist' in, and which constitute, an invisible world that is more real than the material world from which they had allegedly been 'abstracted'. In fact, this 'occult' world supposedly encapsulates the essence of the material world, at once its architectonic and dynamism. That is why DM-theorists argue that without their 'dialectic', HM would be like a clock without a spring:


"Trotsky's reply to theses argument [i.e., to those advanced by James Burnham -- RL] contains a convincing explanation of why the dialectic is an essential part of Marxism...:


'In the January 1939 issue of the New International a long article was published by comrades Burnham and Shachtman, "Intellectuals in Retreat". The article, while containing many correct ideas and apt political characterizations, was marred by a fundamental defect if not flaw. While polemicising against opponents who consider themselves -- without sufficient reason -- above all as proponents of "theory," the article deliberately did not elevate the problem to a theoretical height. It was absolutely necessary to explain why the American "radical" intellectuals accept Marxism without the dialectic (a clock without a spring). The secret is simple. In no other country has there been such rejection of the class struggle as in the land of "unlimited opportunity." The denial of social contradictions as the moving force of development led to the denial of the dialectic as the logic of contradictions in the domain of theoretical thought. Just as in the sphere of politics it was thought possible everybody could be convinced of the correctness of a "just" program by means of clever syllogisms and society could be reconstructed through "rational" measures. so in the sphere of theory it was accepted as proved that Aristotelian logic, lowered to the level of "common sense," was sufficient for the solution of all questions.' [Rees (1998), pp.270-71. Rees is here quoting Trotsky (1971), pp.56-57 (UK edition); I have restored a corrected version of the on-line edition here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


"Trotsky once remarked that Marxist theory without dialectics was like a clock without a spring...." [Ken Tarbuck, quoted from here; accessed 23/05/2016.]


"In the autumn of 1939 he [Trotsky -- RL] was called upon to explain why several leading members of his own movement claimed that they accepted Marxism, but without the dialectic Trotsky tossed this impudent claim to one side by saying that that was in effect accepting 'a clock without a spring'. There are presently many such fraudulent groups, which while adhering to Trotskyism, hang on to the coat-tails of that New York group which tried to separate the dialectical method from Marxism 41 years ago." [Gerry Healy, quoted from here; accessed 23/06/2016. Bold emphasis in the original.]


"Marxism without the dialectic, Trotsky once said, is like a clock without a spring." [Permanent Revolution; quoted from here; accessed 23/05/2016. This links to a PDF.]


As I noted in Essay Three Part Two:


Indeed, this entire approach looks for all the world to be based on the belief that material reality is insufficient of itself, inadequate and not fully real, and that nature requires the background operation of Ideal principles to make it work. For dialectical materialists, matter (would you believe!) is far too crude and lifeless to do anything on its own -- even if this is all that nature has to offer. Apparently, it needs a 'Logic' to make it tick. Well, we all know which religion is based on the Logos.


[Answer: the vast majority.]


And that explains why Lenin could declare that he preferred intelligent Idealism to "crude materialism".22


By nailing their colours to this ruling-class masthead, dialecticians have unfortunately placed themselves on the side of the 'Gods'.23


Which line-of-thought somehow brings to mind this comment by Marx:


"Feuerbach's great achievement is.... The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement [alienation -- RL] of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphases and link added.]


As noted earlier, Hegel performed this conjuring trick on 'Being' to produce 'Nothing', and hence 'Becoming':


"Being is the indeterminate immediate; it is free from determinateness in relation to essence and also from any which it can possess within itself. This reflectionless being is being as it is immediately in its own self alone.


"Because it is indeterminate being, it lacks all quality; but in itself, the character of indeterminateness attaches to it only in contrast to what is determinate or qualitative. But determinate being stands in contrast to being in general, so that the very indeterminateness of the latter constitutes its quality. It will therefore be shown that the first being is in itself determinate, and therefore, secondly, that it passes over into determinate being -- is determinate being -- but that this latter as finite being sublates itself and passes over into the infinite relation of being to its own self, that is, thirdly, into being-for-self.


"Being, pure being, without any further determination. In its indeterminate immediacy it is equal only to itself. It is also not unequal relatively to an other; it has no diversity within itself nor any with a reference outwards. It would not be held fast in its purity if it contained any determination or content which could be distinguished in it or by which it could be distinguished from an other. It is pure indeterminateness and emptiness. There is nothing to be intuited in it, if one can speak here of intuiting; or, it is only this pure intuiting itself. Just as little is anything to be thought in it, or it is equally only this empty thinking. Being, the indeterminate immediate, is in fact nothing, and neither more nor less than nothing.


"Nothing, pure nothing: it is simply equality with itself, complete emptiness, absence of all determination and content -- undifferentiatedness in itself. In so far as intuiting or thinking can be mentioned here, it counts as a distinction whether something or nothing is intuited or thought. To intuit or think nothing has, therefore, a meaning; both are distinguished and thus nothing is (exists) in our intuiting or thinking; or rather it is empty intuition and thought itself, and the same empty intuition or thought as pure being. Nothing is, therefore, the same determination, or rather absence of determination, and thus altogether the same as, pure being.


"Pure Being and pure nothing are, therefore, the same. What is the truth is neither being nor nothing, but that being -- does not pass over but has passed over -- into nothing, and nothing into being. But it is equally true that they are not undistinguished from each other, that, on the contrary, they are not the same, that they are absolutely distinct, and yet that they are unseparated and inseparable and that each immediately vanishes in its opposite. Their truth is therefore, this movement of the immediate vanishing of the one into the other: becoming, a movement in which both are distinguished, but by a difference which has equally immediately resolved itself." [Hegel (1999), pp.82-83, §130-34. Italic emphases in the original.]


Attentive readers will no doubt have noticed that Hegel calls these 'concepts' an "it", and asserts that 'they' either can or can't have properties or 'determinations' just like any other object, failing to notice that in doing this he has destroyed their generality, nullifying the aim of the whole exercise. [This argument will be returned to the mystical swamp from which it has slithered in Essay Twelve Parts Five and Six.]


It could be argued that Hegel is talking about conceptual subordination, here, not object-concept subsumption. The former involves concept-to-concept predication, whereas the latter incorporates concept-to-object predication. [On this, see Redding (2007), pp.85-114.] The problem with this response is that Hegel strangled it even before it was born when he nominalised the 'concepts' he tried to employ -- again, for example, rendering them as "Being", "Nothing" and "Becoming".


These days the sad occupants of Hegel's Hermetic House of Horrors -- i.e., DL-fans -- also claim to have a 'method' that supposedly gives 'life' to 'concepts' (unfortunately, also transforming them into abstract particulars, or the names thereof), when in fact this kills them stone dead by destroying their capacity to express generality -- vitiating the whole exercise.


Hence, and once more, a move in language is held to mirror, or reveal, movement in reality --, but, as noted above, the former move is thought -- by Idealists and naive DM-fans alike -- to reflect changes which are in fact vastly more profound than plain and simple material development. Indeed, 'conceptual change' of this sort is said to drive material development forward. In this way, nature is 'dialectical' only because of a series of logical or syntactical blunders, which 'allowed' these Dialectical Magicians to conjure the underlying 'logic' of 'Being' and 'Becoming' into existence literally from 'Nothing' -- as these 'concepts' merge into, and re-emerge from, 'Nothing'.


The Big Bang from the Big Distortion.


It is worth re-emphasising here that the only 'evidence' for these 'impressive' moves is this inept analysis of a relatively minor, indicative sentential form found almost exclusively in Indo-European languages!


However, what finally emerges at the end of this linguistic conjuring trick isn't in fact an account of how concepts change, but how a bogus linguistic ceremony can be substituted for what was supposed to be a genuine account of change in the material world!


This inept syntactical 'research programme' (now over 2400 years in the making) deliberately runs together the logical roles played by singular terms and general expressions, names and concept words. [Why this was originally a deliberate tactic (adopted by boss-class theorists) is explained in Essay Twelve (summary here).]


Be this as it may, for present purposes it is worth asking the following question: If these logical 'categories' (the singular and the general -- concepts and objects) are in the end 'identical', how would it be possible to depict the functioning of either of them? Surely, a name only functions as a name alongside other expressions that aren't names. Similarly with predicate, or concept, expressions. If every word named something (concrete or abstract), how could we say anything about anything else, and hence how could we name anything? Language would fall apart if this were the case.


As was argued in Essay Three Part One, if sentences were composed solely of names (or singular terms), they would be no different from lists. Lists fail to say anything -- unless they are articulated by the use of concept expressions/predicates, and only then if the latter aren't viewed as expressions that designate abstract particulars.


Propositions, on the other hand, can (plainly) be used to assert or deny things. That being so, propositions can't contain only names and/or singular terms. Otherwise we wouldn't be able to assert or deny anything by means of them.


Of course, this is part of the reason why DM-'propositions' readily collapse into non-sense and incoherence; the inept syntactical theory dialecticians have inherited from Hegel and Traditional Thought denies DM-sentences any sense by turning them into lists, preventing them from saying anything at all. On top of this, the radical misuse of language upon which this verbal segue supervenes means that DM is incoherent, anyway.


14. Of course, this depends on what is meant by "concept". Few deny they have to be expressed by general terms (or that they feature in language as general terms), but definite descriptions (like "The concept green") aren't general, they are singular. This highlights the 'problem'; any attempt to talk about concepts this way destroys their generality (as we saw in Essay Three Part One).


Compare the following with C3:


[C3: The concept green has changed.]


C5: This leaf is green; next month it will be brown.


C5a: These leaves are green; next month they will be brown.


C5 succeeds in depicting change -– but, plainly, that is because it expresses those undergone by an object (or, in the case of C5a, a group of objects), not a concept.


In the first half of C5, the concept green is expressed by the use of the one-place predicable "ξ is green"**, which, when applied (as part of a rule of language) to the singular term (or the other way round), the singular term, "This leaf", maps that predicable onto the first clause of C5: "This leaf is green".


[It could be objected that if the comments in this Essay were correct, the above sentence -- i.e., "The concept green is expressed by the use of the one-place predicable 'ξ is green'" -- would itself be ill-formed. Well, it certainly lacks a sense -- it can't be true and it can't be false -- but this isn't a problem that confronts the account being presented here. That is because the 'offending' sentence** itself expresses a rather badly-worded rule -- in which case, it doesn't need to be true or false to be understood. (More on this in Essay Twelve Part One -- especially, here.) And, it is badly-worded only because of the constraints under which I am presently having to work -- defending ordinary language in the face of those who seem happy to distort it: DM-fans and Traditional Theorists. The sentence marked with two asterisks would perhaps be better expressed as follows: "We demonstrate our grasp of colour words and concepts expressed by the vocabulary of colour, such as 'green', by the rule-governed way we complete sentence stencils such that this 'ξ is green'." (The use of these rather odd looking stencils is explained here. It is further justified, here, and again below. A predicable is an expression that is capable of being predicated; it expresses a predicate when it is so predicated.)]


By way of contrast, in C3, the phrase "The concept green" operates as a singular term, which can't express a rule, whereas "ξ is green" can. [Again, why that is so is also explained in Essay Three Part One.]


Nevertheless, "The concept green", acting now as a singular term (when coupled with the one-place predicable "ξ has changed"), maps onto sentences like C3 -- plainly, when the phrase "The concept green" is used to complete "ξ has changed".


But, because of this, C3 is no longer an ordinary sentence. Despite what it seems to say, it can't now be about 'the concept green'. Although "The concept green" purports to pick out a concept it can't do so, and that is because as a singular term it can only designate an object. This means that C3 is now radically malformed. While C5 itself succeeds quite uncontroversially in expressing change to familiar everyday objects, C3 fails to depict anything at all because of its radically distorted linguistic form.


C3: The concept green has changed.


C5: This leaf is green; next month it will be brown.


Even if (per impossible) the phrase "The concept green" were able to designate anything (non-misleadingly), it couldn't serve as an archetype for the role that legitimate concept expressions play in sentences like C5. Once more, that is because a singular term (i.e., "The concept green") can't express a rule, which is what the ordinary use of "ξ is green" manages to do (when used in the above manner). So, while stencil like "ξ is green" express our use of such concepts, "The concept green" doesn't.


Anyone who understands the convention expressed by "ξ is green" -- i.e., that sentences can be formed by replacing "ξ" with singular expressions (or other syntactically legitimate subject terms) -- will have mastered a rule for the use of "green" (in such contexts). [Again, why that is so is also explained in Essay Three Part One.]


So, "ξ is green", as it is used to generate sentences like C5, the linguistic expression of a rule. Of course, ordinary speakers aren't aware of stencils like "ξ is green", nor need they be. These stencils merely assist us in understanding the patterns illustrated by our formation and use of such simple sentences. Nor does this mean that this is the only way that C5 can be analysed, or that we have to view things like this; but this way of depicting our use of language like this brings out the rule-governed way we all form sentences like C5. One distinct advantage of picturing things in this manner is that it shows that a singular term like "The concept green" can't express a rule, whereas "ξ is green" can.


This is, of course, just a formal way of making the point that description is different from naming, or designating -- which distinction remains valid no matter how we try to depict, analyse or formalise it.


However, the actual marks on the page or screen (i.e., "ξ is green") are nowhere to be found in C5. This incomplete expression is in fact the common pattern that underlies all the legitimate sentences that can be generated from it by the substitution of singular terms for the gap marker "ξ" -- as in, "This apple is green", "That lawn is green", "Your shirt is green", etc. The rule-governed use of the template "ξ is green" allows for the formation of an indefinite number of sentences in like manner -- some true, some false -- again, even though it nowhere appears in any of its instances.


[As already noted, there are other ways of looking at such sentences, but none, I think, brings out the nature of the patterns underlying the rule-governed way we generate and understand indicative sentences -- or, at least, none that do so without falling onto the nominalisation/particularisation trap mentioned earlier.]


Moreover, the singular term used in C3 (i.e., "The concept green") can't actually do what might have been intended for it -- that is, it can't depict a grammatical 'truth' about the role that the stencil "ξ is green" assumes in C5 (or, indeed, the role of "is green" in C5).


C3: The concept green has changed.


C5: This leaf is green; next month it will be brown.


[This underlies a theme that runs through Wittgenstein's work: that is, we can't express by means of indicative empirical propositions (i.e., propositions about matters of fact) how key logical or grammatical aspects of language work -- which was the point behind the so-called "saying/showing" (this links to a PDF) distinction that Wittgenstein drew in the Tractatus.]


However, this would certainly not be the intention of anyone who wanted to use a sentence like C3. In fact, the use of C3-type sentences (or even the more obscure examples found in DL --; their use in modern philosophical logic is another matter entirely) had originally been aimed at revealing nature's 'essences', or 'hidden secrets', which supposedly lay beneath the surface of 'appearances', and which allegedly underpinned all of reality. So, if dialecticians want to say something like the following, they will end up saying nothing at all comprehensible (as we saw here):


"Thus, for instance, if I affirm: 'John is a Man' I affirm that 'John' is a particular specimen of the general (or 'universal') category 'Man'. I understand what 'John' is by subsuming him under (or 'identifying him with') the wider category 'Man'.


"Metaphysical reasoning proceeds on the tacit or explicit assumption that the general category 'Man' and the particular category 'John' exist independently of each other: that over and above all the Particular 'Johns' in creation…over and above all particular men, there exists somewhere -– and would exist if all particular men ceased to be, or had never been -– the general category 'Man.'


"…The dialectical method traverses this rigid metaphysic completely. The category 'Man' includes, certainly, all possible 'men.' But 'Man' and 'men', though distinct, separate, and separable logical categories, are only so as logical discriminations, as ways of looking at one and the same set of facts. 'Man' -- is -- all men, conceived from the standpoint of their generality -- that in which all men are alike. 'Men' is a conception of the same fact -- 'all men' -- but in respect of their multiplicity, the fact that no two of them are exactly alike. For dialectics, the particular and the general, the unique and the universal -- for all their logical opposition -- exist, in fact, in and by means of each other. The 'Johniness' of John does not exist, can't possibly be conceived as existing, apart from his 'manniness'. We know 'Man' only as the common characteristic of all particular men; and each particular man is identifiable, as a particular, by means of his variation from all other men -- from that generality 'Man' by means of which we classify 'all men' in one group.


"It is the recognition of this 'identity of all (logical pairs of) opposites,' and in the further recognition that all categories form, logically, a series from the Absolutely Universal to the Absolutely Unique -- (in each of which opposites its other is implicit) -– that the virtue of Hegel's logic consists….


"Let us now translate this into concrete terms. John is -- a man. Man is a category in which all men (John, and all the not-Johns) are conjoined. I begin to distinguish John from the not-Johns by observing those things in which he is not -- what the other men are. At the same time the fact that I have to begin upon the process of distinguishing implies…that, apart from his special distinguishing characteristics, John is identical with all the not-Johns who comprise the rest of the human race. Thus logically expressed, John is understood when he is most fully conceived as the 'identity' of John-in-special and not-John (i.e. all man) in general.


"…When I affirm that 'John is a man' I postulate the oppositional contrast between John and not-John and their coexistence (the negation of their mutual negation) all at once. Certainly as the logical process is worked in my mind I distinguish first one pole, then the other of the separation and then their conjunction. But all three relations -- or better still, the whole three-fold relation -- exists from the beginning and its existence is presupposed in the logical act…." [Jackson (1936), pp.103-06. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


That is because they will have seriously distorted language in such an attempt to say what they imagined they wanted to say. In the above, "The category 'Man'" can't tell us anything about the logical role of " a man" (or, if you like, "ξ is a man") in "John is a man". But, the bogus form of words employed by comrade Jackson is typical of the way that DL-fans express themselves, and typical of the way that Traditional Theorists have expressed themselves for the last 2500 years.


Hence, C3-type sentences attempt to say something about what it is that predicate expressions (or maybe even 'concepts') allegedly refer to (or 'reflect') -- and this, too, involves further confusion between talk about talk and talk about things, to put it a little more crudely. In this particular case, C3 is trying to say that whatever it is that " green" supposedly denotes, or refers to, has itself changed.


However, as we have seen, " green" does not operate referentially!


In that case, there is no "underlying reality" here for it to point to or 'reflect'.


That is because, (1) the idea that there is just such an 'underlying reality' is a direct consequence of bogus linguistic moves such as these and (2) concepts expressions aren't referential.


Moreover, this isn't because I am here asserting that there is no such thing as 'underlying reality' or 'essence', it is that language can't be forced into saying there is without lapsing into incoherence -- indeed, as Marx himself suggested.


To put this another way: if there were any such "essences" 'out there', somewhere in reality (howsoever they are conceived), then they can't be the referents of predicate expressions, since the latter aren't singular terms. They don't operate referentially; they are descriptive or attributive.


[Naturally, these observations completely undermine the DM-theory of knowledge. More details on this here, and in the rest of Essay Three, when it is finally published.]


But -- just to continue with this ancient metaphysical fantasy a little longer --, if "essences" did indeed constitute general features of reality, then none of our general terms could be used to denote them. Any attempt to do so would transform these general words into singular terms, and that would imply that the 'general features of reality' were in fact Abstract Particulars (as we saw in Essay Three Part One) --, at the same time as robbing language of its capacity to express generality (once more, by turning predicate expressions into singular terms, and thus sentences into lists).


So, instead of reporting a change to a concept (as had been intended), C3-type sentences indirectly record a bogus logico-grammatical transformation that has been imposed on a concept expression -- such as "ξ is green" --, changing it into a singular term which allegedly names or designates an Abstract Particular, such as 'The Concept Green'.


C3: The concept green has changed.


C5: This leaf is green; next month it will be brown.


Change in the material world (properly expressed in sentences like C5) would in this way have been conflated with a series of spurious changes that had been imposed on concept expressions (in 'propositions' like C3). As we have seen, movement in material reality can't be depicted this way, and that is what prevents dialecticians from expressing the very thing they had claimed they had all along wanted to do.


So, by tinkering around with the capacity ordinary language already has for expressing change, dialecticians merely produce empty strings of words.


'Philosophical' sentences like C3 try to express the logical role of concept expressions by constructing what seem to be empirical (fact stating) propositions about language itself, or about 'concepts' themselves; but, in order to do this, concept expressions have to be changed into singular terms, which now allegedly refer to, or which designate something suitably 'abstract' and 'non-material'. But, if predicate/concept expressions don't (and can't) refer, and can only be made to do so by doctoring them in the above manner, then it is little wonder that sentences like C3 generate 'paradox', and thus provide endless -- or, to be more honest, useless -- employment for generations of Traditional Theorists.


This philosophical farce was further compounded by those who then to try to solve the pseudo-problem that this logical wrong turn conjured into existence. It is no surprise, therefore, that it has resisted all attempts to solve it for over two thousand years. And, to cap it all, we are no nearer this mythical 'solution' than was Plato!


Unfortunately, there is no way out of this logical hole. As soon as concept expressions are transformed into singular terms they cease to express concepts; they now denote objects, or supposed objects (albeit, 'abstract objects'). Worse still, in so doing, they misrepresent the role that ordinary, materially-grounded concept expressions (like "ξ is green") occupy in sentences like C5.


Naturally, this means that no philosophical theory of conceptual change is possible -- and that includes the theory found in the runt of the litter, DM.


[Of course, this doesn't mean that we can't make sense of conceptual change by other means. How this might be achieved will be entered into in a later Essay. (Spoiler: we can track conceptual development and change by attending to the way that the use of certain words alters over time.)]


For example, consider these attempts to state putative truths about a specific 'concept':


C6: The concept green is a concept.


C7: The concept green is a concept expression.


C8: "The concept green" is a concept expression.


C9: F is a concept expression.


C10: F is a concept.


C11: "F" is a concept expression.


C12: "F" is a concept.


[To be sure, several of the above seriously blur the use/mention distinction, but this does not, I think, materially affect the points I wish to make.]


The apparently analytic 'truth' in C6 is, if anything, analytically false, since what "The concept green" designates is plainly not a concept but an object (or rather it designates one)! Hence, and paradoxically, C6 is 'true' just in case it is 'false'! [However, I would argue that C6 is ill-formed, so it can't be true and it can't be false.]


C6: The concept green is a concept.


C7 is even worse, for it suggests that a 'denoted object' is in fact a linguistic expression! C8 is worse still: "The concept green" can't be a concept expression since it is a singular term. C9 and C10 are fake concept expressions; the letter "F" (as opposed to what it stands for) can't be a concept expression -- it is just a letter! If, instead, the letter "F" is used, as in C11 and C12, it becomes a singular term again, denoting whatever the key to this particular schema says it denotes.


C7: The concept green is a concept expression.


C8: "The concept green" is a concept expression.


C9: F is a concept expression.


C10: F is a concept.


C11: "F" is a concept expression.


C12: "F" is a concept.


[Some might wonder how we can ever set-up an adequate logical syntax; but whatever we set-up, if and when we do this, we aren't listing a set of truths, merely expressing rules for the use of certain symbols. Moreover, these are formal rules that we don't use or need in ordinary language, since the overwhelming majority of us use sentences like C5 every day of our lives without any fuss.]


The locus classicus for modern discussion of this topic is Frege (1892), upon which much of my own thinking has been based. [However, anyone not familiar with Frege's work will find this article of his very difficult; they might be advised to begin with Geach (1961), Beaney (1996), and Noonan (2001).]


Further background to this topic can be found in Davidson (2005), pp.76-163, Dummett (1955, 1981a, 1981b), Fisk (1968), Gaskin (2008), Geach (1976), Gibson (2004), Jolley (2007), Potter and Ricketts (2010), Slater (2000) -- now reprinted in Slater (2002, 2007a) -- and Textor (2010). For an alternative view, see Kenny (1995) -- criticised in Slater (2000). There is an excellent survey of where the debate is now situated (concerning the 'reference' of predicates, or even predicate expressions) -- or, at least where it was a few years ago -- in MacBride (2006). Having said that, MacBride doesn't consider the effect the traditional view -- i.e., that predicate expressions do refer -- has on the unity of the proposition (discussed at greater length in Essay Three Part One). But, then again, it wasn't meant to.


15. Distorted language like this motivates metaphysical systems in general; indeed, much of Traditional Philosophy has been founded on muddles such as these. [On that, see Essay Twelve Part One.]


[Examples of confusions like this are given throughout this site; this particular one was analysed in detail in Essay Three Part One. See also: Note 13 and Note 14, above.]


This partly explains why ontological and epistemological fairy-tales, coupled with the use of arcane jargon, have had to be concocted in order to justify the invention of the 'objects' to which these artificial terms can refer or 'reflect' -- such as, Forms, Universals, Ideas, Concepts, Categories, and the like. Naturally, this means that 'Ontology' (as an entire discipline) is completely bogus.


16. On this, again see Note 13 and Note 14, above.


17. Higher-order Logic is outlined in Boolos and Jeffrey (1980), pp.197-207, and Enderton (1972), pp.268-89. See also, here.


17a. Nevertheless, one bemused commentator has attempted to respond to this point (but without checking the detailed argument presented in Essay Twelve (partially reproduced below), in the following manner:


"Now this is very odd. Ordinary people are just as metaphysical and superstitious as the educated, though there is evidence to indicate that special types of superstitious thinking may be endemic to certain classes. But clearly ordinary language, its richness notwithstanding, is inadequate as is, due to imprecision as well as its ideological content, including inappropriate metaphorical content. At the very least, why else would we need the apparatus of formal logic, mathematics, notational systems, technical terminology, ideology critique?" [More on this here and here. Bold added.]


The reader will no doubt have noticed this commentator's use of metaphor (highlighted in bold) in his bid to criticise ordinary language for doing just that! This can only mean that this criticism itself (unwisely written in ordinary language, too, it seems) suffers from the same unspecified 'limitations' this critic claims to have found in the vernacular. Hence, if what he says about ordinary language is correct, no safe conclusions may be drawn from it -- indeed, and as we will see (in the next section), this hackneyed attack on the vernacular disintegrates alarmingly quickly -- since it, too, suffers from these very same unspecified defects and limitations.


Moreover, the above comments echo the usual confusion of 'commonsense', or everyday beliefs (disguised as "ideological content" and "superstitious beliefs"), with ordinary language. In that case, they are worthless, anyway. As will be argued in detail below, the fact that in ordinary language we can negate (i.e., assert the negation of) every indicative sentence expressing a 'commonsense', a 'superstitious', or an ideological belief shows that ordinary language can't be identical with 'commonsense', 'superstition', or ideology, or we couldn't do this.


And, since this critic unfortunately gave no examples of the "ideological" contamination of ordinary language (with allegedly suspect 'beliefs'), not much can be made of that unsupported allegation, either.


[More on this in the following sub-section.]



Ordinary Language


Dialecticians' Mistaken Assumptions


[The material below is a continuation of Note 17a. Unfortunately for those viewing this page with Internet Explorer, the formatting in this section might appear to be somewhat erratic -- for reasons explained here.]


This is how the contrary argument will be put in Essay Twelve (some of it has already been posted in Essay Six, but it is re-presented here in a highly edited form):


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. Complex technical or philosophical jargon (especially the terminology invented and then employed 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 (a) its continual interaction with nature and (b) the struggle between classes. In which case, ordinary language couldn't fail to have developed the logical multiplicity and vocabulary enabling it to register 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, or 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 example, think of the verb "to ring" and its cognates -- like "ringing", for instance.]


Naturally, it wouldn't be difficult to extend this list until it contained literally thousands of words (on that, see here and here), all capable of depicting countless changes in limitless detail (especially if augmented with the language of 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. On the contrary, it 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 leaden language has to be 'translated' into 'ordinary-ish' sorts of words for the rest of us to be able to gain even so much as a dim appreciation of the obscure message it supposedly contains (that was the whole point of his précis of a key Hegelian 'deduction' (discussed in detail Essay Twelve Part Five -- summary here); cf., pp.49-50 of TAR) --, the aim of which, apparently, is that we can't understand change without such assistance!


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?


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 our language is capable of expressing anyway -- 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? If it can't, then how might we ever understand Hegel?


Not surprisingly, if Hegel were correct, no one (including Hegel himself!) would be able to understand Hegel --, for, ex hypothesi, his words would then be un-'translatable' in terms that anyone could comprehend.


Conversely, once more, if Hegel's words are 'translatable', this can only mean that we already have the linguistic resources available to us to understand change (etc.) perfectly well. In turn, this implies that if Hegel were correct, no one would be able to understand him; on the other, if he were mistaken -- and we could understand him enough to say even that much -- no one need bother.



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 in like manner); in which case, the above comments are thoroughly 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 tell if anyone had ever understood Hegel? It would be no use pointing to the many hundreds of books and articles devoted to his work (which books and articles themselves defy comprehension, as I hope to show in Essay Twelve), 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 notion is comprehensible. In fact, Hegel scholars are little more than expert reproducers of jargon; this doesn't mean that 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 admit 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 Two: "Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics"


Indeed, science itself is shot through with metaphor and analogy. [See also this quotation from physicist, David Peat.]


[Several other points raised by this 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 word "change" does not match some ideal we hold out for it by so much or so little. 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 fielded presently.]


This shows that the argument here isn't solely about language, but about what it conveys to us -- in this 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, say, QM, where advanced knowledge and technical expertise are essential.


"Change", as it appears in H1a (that is, 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 after all, 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 feature in this explanation -- which, of course, would just take us back to where we were a few paragraphs back. If we don't 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, if we don't know what the technical term "change" means, H1a would remain incomprehensible until we did. 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 (i.e., "change").


H1a: Ordinary language can't account for or depict change.


Of course, this would also imply that the 'dialectical' development of this word or 'concept' can't even begin, for as yet, all that aspiring dialecticians would have available to them would be this empty word (i.e., "change"), which we have been led to believe we don't yet understand. For all the use it is, this word might just as well be "slithy tove":


H1c: Ordinary language can't account for or depict slithy tove.


It could be objected here that while our use of ordinary terms helps us partially grasp the nature of change, Hegel's language or method provides the wherewithal to comprehend the concept 'dialectically' and 'scientifically' (or, indeed, 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/or 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 method is required 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 (and what it relates to) is defective -- if users of this word don't understand it -- then H2a must 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 use of this word falls short) -- or even what the subject of this query actually is about --, all the technical and/or 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 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 point out its limitations) if the ordinary word "change" isn't itself being used?


Furthermore, if the word "change" and/or its associated terms have a special dialectical meaning, how could that meaning possibly help anyone correct 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 to begin 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.


Again, 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, say, in the sciences, or in philosophy, or in relation protracted and complex social change. This impugns neither common understanding nor the vernacular; it simply reminds us of their limitations.


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 perform are irrelevant; given this view, we still don't know what the initial 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 with their complex gyrations. They can hardly correct our supposedly faltering grasp of the ordinary word "change" (and what it supposedly relates to) without also having to use it. And just as soon as they do that, their own sentences would be subject to the very same unspecified shortcomings.


This shows that H2a is directly about our understanding of this word (and what it relates to), 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, since the criticism it presents 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 legitimately!


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 or what it relates to), 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 it, 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 linguistic or conceptual 'reformers' in fact understand the word "change" differently from the rest of us, then any proposed modification to ordinary language would only apply 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), or even to entertain the possibility that it might or might not mean whatever it now means, without using that word in any attempt to do so -- or, indeed, in a way that was free from the very same unspecified uncertainties.


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 at all relevant. We translate foreign words into English using words we already understand, and which translated words were understood by those who used that (foreign) language before they 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 word is used can't fail to inherit those unspecified limitations, making such sentences equally 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 authors defining unknown terms to us in words 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 edit and compile dictionaries.


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), 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, but could 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 certain sets of words, they wouldn't be listed.]


Again, it could be objected that we correct each other regularly concerning the misuse of certain words. That wouldn't be possible if the above comments were true.


Once more, this isn't relevant. 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), this isn't the case.


Some might feel that my comments rely on the word "change" having one and only one correct meaning, but this 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 use if every one of its many meanings was defective in some as-yet-unspecified sense. Or, less radically: even if this 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 'shortcomings' are can't work, either. Consider the following 'attempt' to revise or correct the word in question:


H3: "Change" does not 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 acting as parts of 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 acting as parts of a mediated totality" does not 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 acting as parts of a mediated totality."


[Any who think H4 is ridiculous are encouraged to shelve those concerns for a few paragraphs. Its point will soon become clear.]


The replacement of the word "change" in H4 with what it allegedly means just creates an incomprehensible sentence (and the same would happen with respect to any of its cognates -- indeed, Hegelians and/or 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.


Short of doing that, such an objector's own use of this word (or one of its cognates) to express his/her objection (howsoever mild or nuanced, or 'dialectically-motivated' it is) will be subject to the very same unspecified shortcomings, and the objection itself would fail for lack of determinate content.


In that case, however, such an objector would find him/herself in a worse predicament than the rest of us allegedly are. That is because he/she will now be unclear, not just about our ordinary words for change, but about the application of his/her own non-standard, jargonised replacement for them, because he/she will necessarily be unclear about what they were supposed to be replacing or correcting!


That was the point of the 'ridiculous' example recorded in H4.


Now, 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 acting as parts of a mediated totality" (which is what that word is used to mean) is illegitimate.


H3: "Change" does not 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 acting as parts of a mediated totality."


Fair enough; in that case consider then the following:


H3a: Change does not 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 acting as parts of a mediated totality.


If so, then H3a should be re-written as follows:


H4a: Development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces acting as parts of a mediated totality does not 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 acting as parts of a mediated totality.


Once more, if the word "change" (now used, not mentioned) in H3a actually means something else (or, the processes in reality it supposedly depicts aren't as we ordinarily take them to be), which implies 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' -- as illustrated in H4a.


The result is, if anything, worse.


It could be argued that the above, if valid, would mean we wouldn't be able 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 all its applications, only that it is the wrong word to use here. In this case, 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 "change". Indeed, if DM-theorists are right, that word has unspecified 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 objected 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, not seeking to alter or revise it, as was the case with H3 and "change".


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 sense), as was the case with H3.


On the other hand, had H6 instead been the following, the above objection might have had a point:


H8: "Recidivist" does not 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 the 'real meaning' of the defined term. In that case, we could legitimately conclude:


H9: "A, B and C" does not 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 we do not yet understand, it collapses into absurdity in H9.


Recall, given this analogy, 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 this analogy is to work, no one on the planet would be able to 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 do not understand a certain word, and that only they do.]


It could 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 new meanings of and to words already in use --, or 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 wasn'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 other term -- except when it comes to DM!


H3: "Change" does not 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 acting as parts of 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 earlier uses of typographically similar words, perhaps those used hundreds of years ago.


[However, 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 this objection is, though, slightly more complex. Unfortunately, in that it uses the word "change" to make its point, it can hardly be advanced by someone 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 will do so in the future, only that whatever they legitimately once meant will alter, or will have altered. Nor does it imply that no one understood, or fully understood,  the old use 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.


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 gyrations upon the above sentences?" Possibly in the following manner?


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" does not 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 acting as parts of a mediated totality."


H4: "Development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces acting as parts of a mediated totality" does not 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 acting as parts of 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, and they were chosen in order to neutralise the 'use/mention objection':


H3a: Change does not 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 acting as parts of a mediated totality.


H4a: Development over time as a result of internal contradictions understood as real material forces acting as parts of a mediated totality does not 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 acting as parts of a mediated totality.


This would mean that H12a is now irrelevant.


If, however, we modify H10 accordingly (as H13), my response should become a little clearer:


H13: "XXX" used to mean YYY, but now it means ZZZ.


Perhaps an actual example 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. All we have now is a modern, typographically identical token of it 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; but this can't affect the ordinary meaning that that word currently has (or once had). Such a revision would merely relate to this new and typographically identical word, with its new and/or extended meaning.


However, and on the contrary, no attempt could be made to undermine or question the use that a word already has without that revision itself descending into incoherence, as we have just seen.


It could be objected once more that all this misses the point; a philosophical understanding of change (as it 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 other) purposes. The vernacular is inadequate only when we try to use it to account for complex processes in the natural or social world; this 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", of course).


Or, so this latest response 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 expressed in ordinary language which enables the comprehension both of simple and of complex changes in nature and society), it is misguided in particular. That is because we are still in the dark as to 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 --, that is, if their 'theory' is correct. 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 this 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 as to what they were effecting to revise or criticise, since they now wouldn't 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 "the understanding" to motivate his own (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' and/or common understanding, 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 punched 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') has yet to come with a couple of parsecs of this minimal requirement (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 -- on this, also see Essays Five, Six, and Eight Parts One, Two and Three.


Hence, their assistance in this respect (toward our understanding of change) isn't needed. Indeed, if 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 George W Bush 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/'Materialist Dialectics' doesn't even make the bottom of the reserve list of viable candidates.


HM, on the other hand, minus the Hegelian gobbledygook, is far more than merely adequate.


And that is why we can be confident that not even Hegel understood this part of his own 'theory'. That isn't because it is a difficult theory, nor yet because it employs specialised terminology (which is completely incomprehensible to the untrained reader). 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, just 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 -- meaning vanishes.


[A similar, but more detailed argument concerning what Hegel did or didn't understand about his own theory can be accessed 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" initiates or 'demands' this). Either (i) the objector's understanding of this word is 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.


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


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.


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 of their own. The problem (if such it may be called) only occurs when attempts are made to translate scientific concepts into ordinary language. Since there is no scientific need to do this (although there may be several powerful ideological and economic reasons why some might want to do it, as will be argued in Essay Thirteen Part Two), the alleged clash with ordinary language is completely fictional.


Of course, no one is suggesting that ordinary language can be used in highly complex theoretical areas of study (although, even the most 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 are philosophical 'problems' relating to aspects of 'reality' and human existence, which, it seems, only expert theorists are 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 in fact invented or concocted) provided them with a level of prestige social standing, and income that they wouldn't otherwise have enjoyed.


Of course, with respect to superstition and magic, Marxists must take into account 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 rather more 'select' and 'exclusive' social groups. 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 Metaphysics has had on almost every aspect of Western thought for 2500 years (it is indeed a "ruling idea"), nor the longevity of Traditional Philosophy (with precious little to show for it after all that 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 this.


However, one reason usually given for the prevalence and/or the ubiquity of metaphysical beliefs is that everyone (including ordinary folk) at some time in their lives has philosophical thoughts of some sort, or asks metaphysical questions. This is supposed to show that philosophical problems enjoy universal appeal and legitimacy. Hence, the argument could go: if everyone thinks metaphysically (at least at some level), its existence can't be the result of its invention by an elite group of thinkers.


Nevertheless, it is worth noting the following four points in response:


(1) It is important to distinguish the confused and impromptu musings that many individuals indulge in from time to time during their lives on or around such things as the nature of space, time, 'God', 'good' and 'evil', the 'soul', or the purpose of human existence (aka 'the meaning of life') -- it is important to distinguish these phenomena from the systematic study of metaphysical questions by those who have the necessary leisure time, education and training to do so (i.e., professional philosophers, theorists, and sponsored or even rich '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 theoretical view of reality, an approach which has almost invariably been conducive to the interests of the rich and powerful. [On this, 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 and 'after life'. Nevertheless, if and when they do so ponder this still fails to legitimate Theology. The same applies to Metaphysics.


(4) The confusion endemic in both groups (that is, among professional, leisured metaphysicians and ordinary or lay amateurs) derives from two immediate sources: (a) the misconstrual of certain forms of communication as if they stood for the real relations between things, or, indeed, those things themselves, and (b) the systematic misuse of language. [This analysis 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 back onto the world as fetishised reflections of social reality in a systematic fashion. This they do because: (i) Their theories mirror the world as they see it (i.e., as governed by hidden forces, concepts and/or "essences"), and (ii) It assists in the legitimation of class division, inequality, oppression and exploitation. [Historically, it is easy to show that this has indeed been the case with the majority of metaphysical systems.] And (3) These days this approach to 'genuine' philosophy is good for the CV. [Again, these topics are expanded on greatly 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 language metaphysicians use, they would probably be re-classified 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!"




C: "Is this the Philosophy Department?"


D: "If we knew the answer to that, we wouldn't be here."


To be sure, it is the insular existence of professional metaphysicians that 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 acknowledged:


"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, this is because it is in daily life where the alleged clash between philosophical musings and 'commonsense' actually occurs and hence really matters. 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. Not one single philosophical materialist will treat his/her children or relatives as merely complex array of chemicals. 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 believe 'god' is on his/her side, because their cause is 'just', will fail to take cover when fired at. 


Naturally, this means that in ordinary surroundings this '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 Twelve Part Two.]  


Since ordinary language has 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). Not only that, its vocabulary is suffused with vagueness and its surface grammar encourages users to form, or to think about the import of, potentially misleading expressions (but this only applies to the unwary, the unwise, or the obtuse), forgetting, albeit temporarily, that neither we nor they use the vernacular in a 'metaphysical' way in ordinary life.


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 developed over tens of thousands of years, during which time 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 area and across a far greater range 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 extreme pedantry, almost any degree of accuracy is attainable. [It is worth recalling here that much of mathematical vocabulary is already part of ordinary language.] 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 this is so will be explored in Essays Twelve and Thirteen Part Three). Typically this doesn't happen when users apply the vernacular in everyday life; in the normal course of events such potentially misleading grammatical forms don't interfere with communication, nor do they puzzle ordinary speakers, since puzzles like this don't arise in such circumstances.


These considerations not only account for the vibrancy of ordinary language, they shed light on the source of many of the 'paradoxes' and philosophical 'problems' created by its misuse. While ordinary language couldn't function without the aforementioned features -- i.e., vagueness, ambiguity, metaphor, synonymy, antonymy, etc. --, they can easily foster misunderstanding if they aren't handled with due sensitivity, or, dare I say it, with no little common sense. Nevertheless, these aspects also lend to language sufficient space to enable a seemingly limitless expansion of its expressive and communicative powers -- in the Arts, for example.


However, the downside of this is that it is all too easy to misconstrue ordinary language when users try to reflect on it theoretically -- i.e., when language "goes on holiday" (to paraphrase Wittgenstein). This occurs whenever the vernacular is employed in areas that are either far removed from, or are insulated against everyday life --, or when its representational and communicational forms are mixed up. As will be argued at length in Essay Twelve Part One, philosophical pseudo-problems arise out of the misconstrual of grammatical rules as super-empirical propositions, which are then taken to represent substantive features of the world. DM-theorists, for example, do this in connection with the LOI, the LOC -- when they misconstrue these rules as just such super-empirical truths --, and in relation to the use of the negative particle, confusing it with a destructive/preservative process in nature and society (via the NON). When language is viewed primarily as representational device, its grammar fetishised, LIE is the inevitable outcome.


[LIE = Linguistic Idealism; LOI = Law of identity'; LOC = Law of Non-contradiction; HON = The Negation of the Negation.]


[The development and substantiation of the above ideas constitutes one of the main themes of Essay Twelve (summary here). Other comments connected with this topic will be published in other Essays at a later date. For example, whether language is a means of representation is discussed in Essay Thirteen Part Three. There it will be shown that representational theories of language (among other things) were invented by Traditional Theorists keen to argue that discourse (and particularly written language) is really a secret code, which they alone were capable of understanding, that maps-out, or mirrors hidden, underlying and "essential" aspects of reality -- conveniently forever inaccessible to the senses. This then allowed them to claim that this hidden code -- translated by them into impenetrable jargon, and kept this way in order to exclude the vast majority -- enabled them to re-present to themselves 'God's' thoughts, thereby providing their patrons (in the various ruling elites that history has inflicted on humanity) with an epistemological and ontological rationalisation of the status quo, which 'justification' varied as each Mode of Production and form of the State necessitated. In order to do this, Traditional Theorists had to undermine and belittle the communitarian and communicational aspects of language (which had been the original form taken by discourse, created by those involved in collective labour), and thus the vernacular. That explains why practically every single Traditional Philosopher (and now every DM-theorist -- almost without exception) denigrates, to a greater or lesser extent, the ordinary language of the working class.]


Now, as far as the supposedly fraught relationship between the vernacular and philosophical or metaphysical language is concerned, there can be no conflict -- that is, no more than there is a genuine clash between, say, the nonsense rhymes of Edward Lear and ordinary discourse. That is because metaphysical language is both non-sensical and incoherent.


Admittedly, ordinary language has changed in countless ways over the course of history. We are now capable of forming sentences and expressing thoughts that our ancestors couldn't. Doubtless this process will continue. But, ordinary language remains the highest and final court of appeal for human beings in their efforts to understand anything.15 That is because the historically-conditioned conventions within and by means of which we learn to apply the vernacular express and delimit our capacity to comprehend anything whatsoever.


This claim might appear somewhat dogmatic, but that isn't so. It is based on the simple observation that words like "understand", "comprehend", "know" and "grasp" are themselves ordinary language terms, and they gain whatever meaning they have from the conventions and practices governing their use at present. They don't receive their meaning from some imaginary or ideal usage, nor do they derive it from abstractions that are accessible only to philosophers -- or even Marxist intellectuals. Words like those mentioned above can't themselves be challenged without that attempt itself collapsing into incoherence -- as was illustrated earlier in connection with "change", and will be illustrated again elsewhere at this site with other ordinary terms.


The bottom line is that while scientists may quite legitimately introduce neologisms to suite their own aims, scientific language itself can't confront (or reform) ordinary language without undermining itself.


Moreover, ordinary language isn't a theory; it neither encapsulates a "folk ontology" nor a "folk metaphysics". It isn't identical with common sense, but it isn't also unconnected with it.


These seemingly dogmatic assertions will now be defended.


Ordinary Language Isn't A Theory, Nor Does It 'Assume' Things Are Static


The vernacular isn't a theory since every empirical proposition in ordinary language is pairable with its negation, and so can be contradicted. No theory can have this happen to all its propositions -- or have them so semantically accommodating. [This particular argument will be defended and then illustrated with a range of examples in Essay Thirteen Part Two, when it is published in late 2016.]


This means that Rees was wrong when he asserted that:


"Ordinary language assumes that things and ideas are stable, that they are either 'this' or 'that'…." [Rees (1998), p.45.]


Ordinary language can't assume anything -- plainly, it is human beings who "assume" things, and they do so by means of language. Unless language had the capacity to allow for the possible truth or falsehood of such "assumptions", and their negations, no "assuming" could even begin. That is, of course, because assumptions can be wrong as well as right.


Moreover, the rich vocabulary available to ordinary speakers also allows for the "assumption" that objects can and do change -- and in complex ways, too. Indeed, ordinary language enables its users to speak about and study countless different types of change, in seemingly limitless detail. A long list of just some of the words found in the vernacular that enable this was given earlier. Hence, and despite what Rees says, the sophisticated nature of ordinary language permits the formation of the following sentences that readily depict change:


H78: This protest is increasing in size as we watch.


H79: That case is becoming too heavy for the children to carry.


H80: This venue is now too small for our meetings.


H81: This spider's web is beginning to disintegrate.


H82: This train is being re-painted.


H83: That light over there is defective; it keeps flickering.


H84: This is how to lose members rapidly: spout dialectics at them.


H85: This dispute is no longer about working conditions.


H86: This entire continent is moving closer to Asia.


H87: That is how to break an egg.


H88: This is how to change workers' minds.


H89: This π-bond breaks in less than 5 nanoseconds if the molecule is rapidly heated.


H90: In an instant the pickets had re-grouped ready for the next police charge.


Many of the above sentences are somewhat stilted because they have been deliberately tailored to use the words "this" and "that" (i.e., the form of words that Rees employed to caricature the vernacular), in order to show that "things and ideas" aren't "assumed" to be stable -- contrary to Rees's assertion. However, the above list of examples at least demonstrates that even using Rees's unlikely and highly restrictive phraseology, ordinary language is capable of expressing material changes (especially if it is augmented with words drawn from science and mathematics), something Hegel's tortuous prose can't emulate -- that is, not without raiding the vernacular to assist it do just that.19


Even given this highly limited and constrained form of language the above list of sentences can be extended indefinitely. Of course, if the full range of devices available to ordinary speakers were called upon (H90 being just one example of this), then it would be possible to form an indefinitely large set of sentences of far greater sophistication than anything dreamt of in Hegel's work, depicting changes of every imaginable type.


This shows that ordinary language is capable of depicting (and thus permitting the explanation of) change in the real world far better than any philosophical language yet devised.


Now, this isn't something that a sophisticated user of English (like John Rees) should have to have pointed out to him -- even though my having to do this is a sad comment on the intellectual decay that dialectical thought induces in those held in its thrall.20


Hence, it is a little rich Rees proclaiming the superiority of the language employed in both DM and Hegel's work over ordinary language since, if correct, his own theory would make change impossible.


Ordinary Language And 'Commonsense'


'Commonsense' is often confused with ordinary language. Unfortunately, the term "commonsense" is rather vague.22 Bertrand Russell once claimed "commonsense" encapsulated the "metaphysics of cavemen", but even he would have been hard-pressed to say what it was, let alone how he knew so much about it.23


If the word has any clear meaning, it appears to denote an inchoate (but changing, depending on who is telling the tale) set of beliefs and opinions that most (all?) human beings are supposed to possess, whether or not they are aware of it. But, if this were so, it would mean that these beliefs must have been communicated telepathically from individual to individual, one generation or one community to the next, across the planet and down the ages. How else are we to account for the alleged universality of 'commonsense'? And yet, at no point in life has a single human being ever been tutored in 'commonsense'; no one runs through its canonical ideas at school, sat at their parents' knees or even behind the bike sheds at break with their friends. Nobody studies 'commonsense' at college, nor do they take tests in it or receive a diploma confirming their competence. That being the case, we should perhaps stop calling it "common".


One thing is reasonably clear about 'commonsense': it can't be all that common or we should all be experts at identifying its core ideas or saying where they came from; but nobody seems able to do this.23a


Moreover, if 'commonsense' is encapsulated in ordinary language, it is remarkably well hidden, for, as noted above, no one seems able to list its main precepts. In that case, no society in history could possibly have reached agreement over what should be included in 'commonsense', or what should be left out. Hence, the idea that 'commonsense' today is the same as it was two thousand years ago (or even last week), and that it is identical across one or more cultures (or, indeed, the opposite), if correct, must be one of the best kept secrets in human history. If no one ever talks about this hypothetical set of beliefs, and no one knows what it includes, it is no surprise it remains a mystery how it is, or could be, propagated within or between populations, or how one generation passes 'commonsense' on to the next.


Is it in the water? Is it genetically encoded?


But, if either of these were the case, we would all possess the same set of 'commonsense' beliefs; and yet, as far as can be ascertained, we don't. Or, rather, it seems that no one is able to say whether or not we all share the same set, since no one is capable of listing the 'commonsense' beliefs held by everyone -- or, indeed, anyone. Still less is it clear how 'commonsense' may be distinguished from what are merely widely held beliefs.


For example, is it a 'commonsense' belief that dogs have four legs, or a widely held belief? What about the belief that grass is green or that the sky is often to be found above our heads? Furthermore, how could anyone confirm the presence or existence of these beliefs or attitudes without biasing the result?24


Typically, the sorts of beliefs some appear to associate with 'commonsense' include ideological, metaphysical, religious, 'folk', mystical and/or superstitious notions, and the like. Again, this list of likely candidates varies according to who is telling the tale.


In that case, one is tempted to say that the idea that there is such a thing as 'commonsense' must itself be a "scientistic folk belief", since it isn't based on any clear evidence --, at least none that hasn't already been 'tainted' by the sorts of ideas many would include in 'commonsense', itself!24b


However, since nobody appears to know which beliefs are to be added to, or scrubbed from, the favoured list, the word itself is something of a misnomer. If 'commonsense' had ever lived up to its billing, we would all be much clearer about its content; it would, after all, be eminently common.


Even so, almost invariably, the relationship between 'commonsense' (whatever it turns out to be) and ordinary language is assumed to be reasonably obvious; indeed, the latter is supposed to contain or express the former. So clear is this link imagined to be, and so universally is this belief itself held, that no one (literally no one (!) -- as far as I have been able to ascertain) questions it. Even Wittgenstein made this mistake!


But, while no competent speaker is in much doubt about his or her own language, nobody seems to be able to say what 'commonsense' is. Even though not all of us have a mastery of language equal to that of its most accomplished practitioners, no one (novice or adept alike) seems to know what 'commonsense' is. This is quite remarkable if the two are as intimately connected as we have been led to believe.


The case for identifying the two is no less questionable. As noted above, ordinary language is supposed to contain or to express 'commonsense' ideas. However, when pressed to supply the details, those wishing to lump the two together are often reduced to making a few vague references to things like sunrise, solid objects, colour vision, the possession of two hands, an assortment of psychological or 'mental' dispositions and 'processes', a set of perceptual conundrums, a handful of proverbs and 'wise' sayings, a few vague moral, political or ideological inanities, as well as the odd superstition or two. [On this see, here.]


In fact, the haste to identify the two isn't just unwise, it is ideologically-motivated (as will be demonstrated in Essay Twelve, summary here).


On the other hand, had more than a moment's thought been devoted to this pseudo-identity, its absurdity would have been immediately apparent: if ordinary language were identical with 'commonsense', it would be impossible to gainsay any of its alleged deliverances in the vernacular.


The plain fact is, we can.


And relatively easily, too.


Not only are we able to deny that tables are solid, that the sky is blue, that the earth is flat, round or cucumber-shaped, that NN believes (for most p) that p, that sticks don't bend in water, that Queen Elizabeth II is sovereign in the UK Parliament, that water falls off a duck's back, that Rome was built in a day, that an apple a day will tend to minimise visits from the doctor, that φ-ing is wrong, or right (for any conventional φ), that Capitalism is fair, that human beings are 'naturally' selfish, we can deny all of these in every known language that possesses the relevant vocabulary. That is, of course, the whole point of the negative particle.25 If ordinary language were identical with 'commonsense', none of this would be possible.


["p" above is a propositional variable (standing for sentences such as "Grass is green" or "Water is wet"); "φ" is a noun- or verb-phrase variable (standing for phrases like "murder", "scabbing", or "voting Tory".]


To be sure, many of the beliefs entertained by our ancestors we no longer hold, but as far as the connection between 'commonsense' and the vernacular is concerned, sentences drawn from the latter gain their sense because of the conventions sanctioned by social practice. Although we can express our beliefs in ordinary language, the sense of an indicative sentence doesn't arise from any of the beliefs we possess, nor from any we have inherited from the past. That is because beliefs themselves are dependent on language and thus on our capacity to articulate them accordingly. And we can be sure of that fact if language is social, otherwise beliefs couldn't be communicated, let alone formed.26


Just as social practices themselves can't be altered individualistically (any more than the value of money can), the conventions underpinning language can't be revised at will by a single individual or group (except perhaps at the margin).27 The conventions implicit in our practices at any point in time, of course, change and grow in accord with social development. They are, at basis, an expression of our "species being" and are intimately connected with our interaction with the world, our relation with one another and our connection with previous generations.28


Hence, just as it would it be impossible for an individual to bury, hide, or incorporate a set of beliefs in ordinary language in order to form the backbone of 'commonsense', it would be equally impossible for a group to do so.


In that case, it really isn't up to a revolutionary, or party of revolutionaries (or anyone else, for that matter), to disparage such a vitally important expression of our collective (but changing and class divided) humanity. Whether they do so or not is plainly up to them; the 'penalty' (if such it may be called) for even attempting to do this isn't always immediately apparent. However, anyone who does try to undermine the vernacular will soon find their ideas descending into incoherence (as was demonstrated above with the respect to the word "change", and will be again in other Essays posted at this site in relation to other words). In that sense, attacking the vernacular isn't a viable option, since such a strategy will always self-destruct.


That means this isn't an ethical issue -- but, it is a logical and political one. The latter half of that assertion will now be substantiated....


[The rest of this material can be found in Essay Twelve Part Seven when it is published.]



Additional Notes


In what follows, several of the Endnotes which form part of the following material drawn from Essay Twelve have been omitted, hence its rather odd numbering!


15. Since our use of ordinary language underpins our understanding of anything whatsoever, it is, as noted above, the court of last appeal --, which, while not democratic in one sense (we don't determine what something means by counting heads), it is in another: language is materially-grounded in the practices and social interaction of the vast majority -- i.e., in the everyday lives of those who, through their labour, continually interface with material reality and with one another. This means that there are certain features of ordinary language that can't be 'reformed' without ipso facto undermining our ability to comprehend anything at all. And that helps explain why traditional (i.e., metaphysical) attempts to do so rapidly fall apart, and why they are fundamentally undemocratic (in the second sense of that phrase, in that they were invented by a tiny minority, and weren't developed out of, or as a result of, collective labour and/or communal life). Not unconnected with this is how, in Dialectical Marxism, this endeavour to uncover nature's 'hidden secrets' is connected with substitutionist thinking. [On this see Essay Nine Parts One and Two.]


Moreover, many key scientific concepts have themselves been derived from ordinary language by analogical and metaphorical extension (etc.), as noted above.


Indeed, even though it is possible to comprehend a scientific theory without having to translate it into the vernacular, the former can't succeed in undermining the latter without fatally compromising that very attempt. [This slide into incoherence was illustrated above, and in more detail in Essay Three Part Two.]




19. Anyone who doubts this is welcome to try to express in 'Hegel-speak' what sentences H78-H90 manage to say quite easily without such 'assistance'.


20. Max Eastman's comment springs to mind here:


"Hegelism (sic) is like a mental disease -- you cannot know what it is until you get it, and then you can't know because you've got it." [Eastman (1926), p.22.]


These words were, of course, written when Eastman still regarded himself as a Leninist.


[I first encountered Eastman's work after about four-and-a-half years into this project. Some of the ideas expressed in the Essays posted at this site had clearly been anticipated in his writings, but only some. Anyone who objects to my quoting Max Eastman should check this out first, and then perhaps think again.]




22. It needs underlining here that these comments aren't aimed at the ordinary use of the term "common sense", simply its philosophical/'dialectical' deployment, highlighted in the text, and at this site, by the use of the word "commonsense".


The original meaning of the term "common sense" (i.e., as Aristotle used it) isn't relevant to the discussion here since the philosophical employment of this term parted company with Aristotle's meaning long ago.


Be this as it may, the majority of commentators seem to think "commonsense" refers to a body of commonly held (often reactionary) beliefs, values or opinions. However, and by way of contrast, in ordinary use "common sense" appears in sentences like the following:


C1: Use your common sense! Don't put your hand in the lion's cage!


C2: Have you no common sense? What on earth made you try to debate with a Nazi?


C3: It's just common sense. No one in their right mind would rummage around in a waste disposal unit while it is switched on.


C4: As the hurricane approaches, the public are advised to listen to the advice given by the emergency services and to use their common sense. Don't go for a walk along the promenade, for example!


C5: Where's your common sense? You can't feed your children nothing but junk food.  


Admittedly, the above examples depend to some extent on certain beliefs held about ourselves and the world around us, but the difficulty computer programmers have in reproducing human behaviour shows that this isn't just a matter of holding certain beliefs. Indeed, while some human beings might be very well be aware of certain facts, they will still act in ways that will elicit comments like those above. I am sure we have all met such individuals; the word "idiot" might well have been invented just for them.


To be sure, politicians use the word "commonsense" to defend all manner of right-wing, reactionary and populist ideas -- but then they will say anything. [The ideological use of "commonsense" will be examined below.]


23. As Michael Dummett pointed out (in Dummett (1979), pp.390-93), there is no such thing as "the commonsense" view of the world.


23a. If 'commonsense' beliefs were culturally 'relative', each generation would possess a different, or slightly different, set of 'commonsense' beliefs -- even if there were some overlap in places. In that case, of course, there would be no such thing as 'commonsense'. It would still be a mystery, however, how such beliefs could be passed on from one generation to the next, or between individuals, if no one has a clue what they are.


It could be argued that this might occur at a non-conscious level, as attitudes and 'values' were passed down the generations, or as they might be randomly acquired during a lifetime (perhaps as a result of socialisation, the mass media, or the education system, etc.).


Now, even if that were so (but this idea will be questioned in Essay Three Part Four), it would still be unclear exactly what was being 'passed on'. Indeed, no one -- researchers and their subjects -- seems capable of saying what this dubious inheritance is, over and above mentioning certain aspects of the vague lists alluded to earlier. This would be, of course, the first area of scientific research (should any be commissioned) where no one knew what they were talking about!


And, it is no use doing a survey; either the survey's questions will bias the result, or the questions will be too vague to be of any use. [But see Note 24b, below.]


That is quite apart from the fact that if these supposed beliefs were acquired in the random manner suggested, they wouldn't be all that common (except, perhaps, as the result of a giant fluke).


24. Again, since I don't accept the philosophical use of this term, I won't try to solve this intractable problem for those who do.


24b. By that I mean that anyone who attempted to show that certain 'commonsense' beliefs were accepted by all or most human beings would have to use evidence that was itself 'contaminated' with these allegedly 'commonsense' beliefs themselves -- for instance, that there are medium-sized objects in the world called "human beings", that there are such things as colours (so that, for example, any assertion that human beings believe there are colours isn't an empty claim itself), just as there are edges, corners, surfaces and holes, so that the words by means of which such ideas might be expressed have a meaning, and so on. In short, if this evidence is to make sense to the rest of us (and, indeed, to anyone hoping to sell us this tale), those using it will have to take for granted many supposedly 'commonsense' ideas themselves. What, for example, could be asked in any such research? "Do you believe in tables and chairs?" "What noise do cows make?" "Is water wet or dry?" At which point, one might just as well get the Janet and John books out.


25. The sophisticated use to which us humans are capable of putting the negative particle, at least in English, is explored at length in Horn (1989).


26. That controversial claim will be defended in Essay Thirteen Part Three.


27. Unless, of course, this is done to extend language. That aside, the abrogation of socially-sanctioned linguistic rules results in the production of incoherent non-sense; naturally, this could form part of the aim of an aspiring abrogater (for creative purposes, or for effect, or whatever). However, the creative extension of language undertaken by writers and poets (etc.) still has to make some sort of sense. Think of the work of James Joyce; Joyce didn't just write total gibberish, or randomly bash away at his typewriter.


Again, this doesn't undermine the comments made in the main body of this Essay. While language does indeed develop, those responsible for helping it on its way don't do so by undermining the use of words we already have; if anything, they do so by extending language, creating novel uses for it, augmenting its vocabulary, and so on.


[However, on certain aspects of imaginative or figurative extensions to language, see White (1996, 2010), and Guttenplan (2005). More on this in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]


28. Spelled-out more fully, this would provide some grip for the word "material" -- , at least, as it is used in many of these Essays. That task will be attempted when this project is finished.


The above ideas about ordinary language and common sense are developed and defended in the following: Baz (2012), Button, et al (1995), Cowley (1991), Cook (1979, 1980), Ebersole (1967, 1979a, 1979b), Hacker (1982a, 1982b, 1987), Hallett (2008), Hanfling (1984, 1989, 2000), Ryle (1960), Macdonald (1938) and Stebbing (1958). It has to be said that, as far as can be ascertained, all of these authors tend to confuse ordinary language with common sense. Or, at least, they don't distinguish between them as clearly as I have done. See also Uschanov (2002), and his longer article posted here. Coates (1996) also seems to mix these two up, too.


The ruling-class and their ideologues have always denigrated the vernacular and the common experience of ordinary working people. It is even less edifying to see Marxists (like this commentator, if he is a Marxist!) doing likewise.


More details on this topic will be given in Essay Twelve (summary here), but an excellent recent account can be found in the opening sections of Conner (2005).


As far as the propensity of the 'lower orders' to form 'superstitious' beliefs is concerned (a phrase this commentator doesn't use, but his intentions are reasonably clear), why we should pay any more attention to that phenomenon than we do to religious belief in general (when it grips ordinary folk) is somewhat unclear. But, even if it were clear, its philosophical (as opposed to its sociological, psychological, or political) implications would still be open to question. As noted above, since we can, in the vernacular, negate every single ideological, racist, and superstitious belief, ordinary language and such 'commonsense' beliefs can't be identical.


I turn to this topic in the next sub-section.



Ordinary Language And Ideology


Again, this is how I put things in Essay Twelve (see also, here and here):


Admittedly, ordinary language may be used to express patent of falsehoods, as well as offensive, reactionary and regressive of ideas, but it can't itself be affected by "false consciousness" (and that isn't just because the latter notion was foreign to Marx; on that see here), nor can it be "ideological".


Without doubt, everyday sentences can express all manner of backward, racist, sexist and ideologically-compromised notions, but this isn't the fault of the medium in which these are expressed, any more than it is the fault of, say, a computer if it is used to post racist bile on a web page. Ideologically-contaminated ideas expressed in ordinary language result either from its misuse or from the employment of specialised vocabularies borrowed from religious dogma, sexist beliefs, reactionary ideology, homophobic bigotry, racist theories or superstitious ideas. This isn't to suggest that ordinary humans don't, or can't speak in such backward ways; but this is dependent on the latter being expressed in ordinary language, but it isn't dependent on that language as such. That particular claim might sound paradoxical, so I will attempt to clarify what was meant.


First of all, this defence of ordinary language isn't being advanced dogmatically. Every user of the vernacular knows it to be true since they know that for each and every sexist, racist and ideologically-compromised sentence expressible in ordinary language there exists its negation.


This is why socialists can say such things as: "Blacks aren't inferior"; "Human beings aren't selfish"; "Wages aren't fair", "Women aren't sex objects", "Belief in the after-life is baseless", "LGBT individuals aren't perverts" -- and still be understood, even by those still in thrall to these ideas but who might hold the opposite view. If ordinary language were identical with 'commonsense' -- and if it were ideological (per se) in the way that some imagine -- you just couldn't say such things. We all know this to be true -- certainly, socialists should know this --, because in our practical discourse we manage to deny such things every day.


So, as noted above, while ordinary language may be used to express patent of falsehoods, as well as offensive, reactionary and regressive of ideas -- and, in order to express such ideas, reactionary, racist, sexist or homophobic individuals might depend on ordinary language in order to give voice to their vile or their anti-socialist opinions, the fact that socialist can reject all such ideas, using the very same medium, means that the vernacular as such can't be associated with those ideas.


In which case, it is odd that socialists don't advance the opposite claim: that because we can with relative ease explain socialist ideas in the vernacular -- just as we can challenge the regressive ideas mentioned above -- ordinary language is inherently progressive. Now, I'm not promoting that idea myself, merely asking why socialists are quite so quick to malign the language of the working class, and assume that because there are regressive ideas expressible in the vernacular that that automatically condemns it.


In this regard, it is as ironic as it is inexcusable that there are revolutionaries who, while they are only too ready to regale us with the alleged limitations of ordinary language -- on the grounds that it reflects "commodity fetishism", "false consciousness" or "static thinking" --, are quite happy to accept (in whole or in part) impenetrably obscure ideas lifted from the work of a card-carrying, ruling-class hack like Hegel. Not only are his theories based on alienated thought-forms (i.e., mystical Christianity and Hermeticism), his AIDS was a direct result of a systematic fetishisation of language -- indeed, as Marx noted:


"Feuerbach's great achievement is.... The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement [alienation -- RL] of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphases and link added.]


[AIDS = Absolute Idealism.]


This commentator also had the following to say:


"This project is inherently frustrating on so many levels, as Homer Simpson would say. On the one hand Rosa shows up the shameful ignorance of a century of Marxism-Leninism, marshalling in the process a prodigious array of sources on logic and mathematics, and also on the sciences, information that is urgently needed by her audience in view of the ignorance she contests. On the other, that so much energy should be invested to prove so little is tragic....


"Rosa occasionally acknowledges partial exceptions, but she has been so traumatized by the mountains of Trotskyist drivel she was force-fed, as well as its Stalinist counterpart, she rarely gets beyond that to see what else might be done or has been done with the dialectical tradition....


"Had Rosa not so precipitously dismissed 'academic Marxism', while copiously citing from other academics with expertise in mathematics, logic, and analytical philosophy, she would be better positioned to exploit their contributions as well as pinpoint their weaknesses. The whole history of critical theory is an excellent case in point, perhaps the best case. The Frankfurt School, their precursors, associates, and successors, all fell down on logic and mathematics. Nonetheless, they provided the tools to decipher the ideological phenomena of their time...."


The reason why so much has been 'wasted' on "so little" is that the political traditions to which the above commentator refers (which are dominated by Dialectical Marxism) have actually damaged to our movement over the last 140 years.


In contrast, academic Marxism and/or 'systematic dialectics' has largely been ignored in these Essays since it is politically irrelevant. Indeed, those particular currents are capable of damaging nothing other that the brains of those who still think they have anything worthwhile to offer humanity (which fact those so afflicted are unlikely to appreciate for the reasons Max Eastman highlighted). And, they are welcome to the political cul-de-sac they have helped build.


Far from being force-fed on an exclusive diet of Trotskyist and Stalinist 'drivel', I have been studying academic Marxist writings now for more than thirty years (indeed, at the time of writing this, the Bibliography to my thesis stretches over 90 pages, containing references to over 3500 books and articles by Traditional Philosophers, LCDs and HCDs, and many others). To be sure, this brand of dialectical gobbledygook is not the 'low grade drivel' one encounters in certain Trotskyist/Stalinist works, but it is high grade drivel nonetheless --, and politically inept drivel at that (since it is written by human beings who, for all their expensive education, by and large, can't write a clear sentence to save their lives). [For example, I expose some of the high grade 'drivel' one finds in Marcuse (1968), here. Chomsky's comments are also well worth reading.]


[LCD = Low Church Dialectician; HCD = High Church Dialectician.]


As I note elsewhere about these currents in Dialectical Marxism:


High Church vs Low Church


There are in fact two main categories of dialectician: 'Low Church' and 'High Church'. This distinction roughly corresponds to that between active revolutionaries and Academic Marxists (of course, there is some overlap at the margin). The members of neither faction are seekers after truth, since, like Hegel, they have found it. As Glenn Magee points out:


"Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom -- he believes he has found it. Hegel writes in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit, 'To help bring philosophy closer to the form of Science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title of "love of knowing" and be actual knowledge -- that is what I have set before me' (Miller, 3; PC, 3). By the end of the Phenomenology, Hegel claims to have arrived at Absolute Knowledge, which he identifies with wisdom.


"Hegel's claim to have attained wisdom is completely contrary to the original Greek conception of philosophy as the love of wisdom, that is, the ongoing pursuit rather than the final possession of wisdom. His claim is, however, fully consistent with the ambitions of the Hermetic tradition, a current of thought that derives its name from the so-called Hermetica (or Corpus Hermeticum), a collection of Greek and Latin treatises and dialogues written in the first or second centuries A.D. and probably containing ideas that are far older. The legendary author of these works is Hermes Trismegistus ('Thrice-Greatest Hermes'). 'Hermeticism' denotes a broad tradition of thought that grew out of the 'writings of Hermes' and was expanded and developed through the infusion of various other traditions. Thus, alchemy, Kabbalism, Lullism, and the mysticism of Eckhart and Cusa -- to name just a few examples -- became intertwined with the Hermetic doctrines. (Indeed, Hermeticism is used by some authors simply to mean alchemy.) Hermeticism is also sometimes called theosophy, or esotericism; less precisely, it is often characterized as mysticism, or occultism." [Magee (2008), p.1. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Links and bold emphasis alone added.]


Much the same can be said about Marxist Dialecticians of both Denominations (whether they realise this or not).


Low Church Dialecticians [LCDs]:


Comrades of this persuasion cleave to the original, unvarnished truth laid down in the sacred DM-texts (authored by Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, and/or Mao). Many of these simple souls are highly proficient at quoting or paraphrasing endless passages from the Holy Books in answer to everything and anything, just like the faithful who bow to the East or who fill the Gospel Halls around the world. Their unquestioning faith is as impressive as it is un-Marxist.


[An excellent recent example of this affliction, which was in fact prompted by the current crisis in the UK-SWP, can be found here. (In January 2013, I posted a mini-refutation of an article of Trotsky's on DM that had been republished at the latter site (my post was based on some of the points made in Essay Six), but as of May 2016 it is still 'waiting moderation'!)]


[FL = Formal Logic.]


In general, LCDs are blithely ignorant of FL. Now, on its own this is no hanging matter. However, such self-inflicted and woeful ignorance doesn't stop them pontificating about FL, or from regaling us with its alleged limitations at every turn -- accusations based on ideas they unwisely lifted from Hegel, surely the George W Bush of Logic.



Figure Two: Advanced Logic Class At Camp Hegel


LCDs are, by-and-large, active revolutionaries, committed to 'building the party'. Ironically, however, they have unwisely conspired to do the exact opposite, helping keep their parties small because of the continual splits and expulsions they engineer. This is a rather fitting pragmatic contradiction that the 'Dialectical Deity' has visited upon these, the least of its slaves.


Of course, LCDs can't see the irony in all this (even when it is pointed out to them -- I know, I have lost count of the number of times I have tried!), since they too haven't taken the lens caps off.


So, despite the fact that every last one of these short-sighted individuals continually strives to "build the party", after 140 years few revolutionary groups can boast membership rolls that rise much above the risible. In fact, all we have witnessed since WW2 is yet more fragmentation, but still no mass movement.


[Anyone who doubts this should look here, here, here and here -- or, now, here -- and then, perhaps, think again.]


Has a single one of these individuals made this connection?


Are you kidding!?


The long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism and its core theory (DM) are, it seems, the only two things in the entire universe that aren't 'interconnected'.


High Church Dialecticians [HCDs]


The above Marxists are in general openly contemptuous of the 'sophomoric ideas' found in most of the DM-classics (even though many of them seem to have a fondness for Engels's First 'Law').


More often than not, HCDs reject doctrine that the dialectic operates in nature, sometimes inconsistently using the aforementioned 'Law' to account for the evolutionary 'leap' that underpinned our development from an ape-like ancestor (which tactic allows them to claim that human history and development are unique), just as they are equally dismissive of simple LCD souls for their adherence to every last word found in the DM-classics.


[Anyone familiar with High Church Anglicanism will know exactly of what I speak.]


HCDs are mercifully above such crudities; they prefer the Mother Lode -- direct from Hegel, Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks and/or the writings of assorted latter day Hermeticists: György Lukács, Raya Dunayevskaya, CLR James, Tony Smith, Tom Sekine, Robert Albritton, Chris Arthur, Bertell Ollman, Judith Butler, Frederic Jameson, and, of late, Slavoj Zizek.


This heady brew is often fortified with a several litres of hardcore jargon drawn straight from that intellectual cocaine-den, otherwise known as French Philosophy -- including the work of such luminaries as: Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean Paul Sartre, Roland Barthes, Louis Althusser, Michael Foucault, Alain Badiou, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, Pierre Bourdieu, and, perhaps worst of all, Jacques Lacan.


Or, maybe even from that conveyor belt of systematic confusion: the Frankfurt School -- which includes the work of Max Horkheimer, Theodor W Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, and later, Jürgen Habermas, among others.


[I have discussed Marcuse's somewhat dismissive attitude to Wittgenstein and 'Ordinary Language Philosophy', here. In relation to this, also see my Essay, Was Wittgenstein a Leftist?]


Or, even worse still, that haven of intellectual heroin: the work of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer.


At this point, a quotation from Nietzsche comes to mind:


"Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like ti seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity. For the crowd believes that if it cannot see the bottom of something it must be profound." [Taken from here.]


[Chomsky's thoughts on many of the above 'thinkers' can be accessed here.]


HCDs are generally, but not exclusively, academics. In common with many of those listed above, tortured prose is their forte -- and pointless existence is their punishment.


[Any randomly-selected issue of, say, Radical Philosophy or Historical Materialism will provide ample confirmation of the baleful influence the ideas of many of the above theorists have had on erstwhile left-wing intellectuals. (Here is yet another example to add to the membership list of The Hallowed Society of Professional Producers of Gobbledygook.) Also, see my comments, here.]



Figure Three: The Sisyphus College Recruitment Poster --

Aimed At HCDs Seeking A More Useful Existence


At least LCDs like to think their ideas are somehow relevant to the class struggle.


In contrast, High Church Dialectics is only good for the CV.


[Plainly, the sanitised version of dialectics HCDs inflict on their readers isn't an "abomination" to those sections of the bourgeoisie that administer Colleges and Universities, or who publish academic books and journals.]


Nevertheless, both factions, HCD and LCD, are well-stocked with conservative-minded comrades happy to appropriate the a priori and dogmatic thought-forms of two-and-a-half millennia of boss-class ideology, seldom pausing to give any thought to the implications of such easily won knowledge -- 'knowledge' obtained without the help of a single experiment, and concocted in the comfort of each theorist's own head. If knowledge of the world is a priori, and based solely on armchair speculation, reality must indeed be Ideal.


Some might object that the above is a caricature of 'dialectical thought'; they might want to argue that DM is based on evidence and on the practice and experience of the party/humanity. Alas, that rather naive belief was put to the sword in Essays Two and Seven, as well as in Part One of Essay Nine.


It is worth adding that there are notable exceptions to these sweeping generalisations -- some academic Marxists do actively engage with the class struggle. The point, however, is that the 'High Theory' they churn out is irrelevant in this regard. Indeed, I can't think of a single example of the work of an academic Marxist that has had any impact on the class war -- except perhaps negatively. (Any who disagree with this indictment are invited to e-mail me with the details of any counter-example they can think of.)


To be sure, one or two comrades have tried to come up with a few practical applications of 'the dialectic'. Alas, I have shown that all of them fail -- on that, see here and here.]


This has meant that the baleful influence of Hegelian Hermeticism becomes important at key historical junctures (i.e., those involving defeat and/or major set-back), since it acts as a materialist-sounding alternative to mainstream, Traditional Thought -- indeed, as we saw was the case with Lenin after the defeat of the 1905 Revolution in Russia.


Dialectics (especially those parts that have been infected with the lethal HCD-strain) thus taps into thought-forms that have dominated intellectual life for over two thousand years -- i.e., those that define the 'legitimate' boundaries of 'genuine' philosophy, and hence those that amount to little more than systematic and dogmatic thesis-mongering, aggravated by the invention of increasingly baroque, a priori theories.


So, because of its thoroughly traditional nature, DM is able to appeal to the closet "god-builders" and dialectical mystics that revolutionary politics seems to attract -- and who, in general, appear to congregate at the apex of this ever-growing mountain of dialectical disasters.


Indeed, I will continue to ignore the vast bulk of the material churned out by HCDs just so long as it remains irrelevant to the course of the class war. I suspect the Sun will cool first.


If that is regarded by this commentator as "tragic", so be it.


Moreover, I employ ideas and methods drawn from modern Analytic Philosophy and Modern Logic since they are incomparably superior to the Hegelian gobbledygook upon which most academic Marxists dote. In addition, the methods Analytic Philosophy and Modern Logic (or, at least those that I use) deliver clear results.


Other things this commentator says have either been dealt with already at this site, or are too vague themselves to do very much with.


Further remarks on this commentator's response to other Essays posted at this site can be found here and here.


18. 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. [This topic is examined in more detail in Note 20, below.]


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 works of Fritjof Capra -- except, in his case, scientists are perhaps "conscious" Daoists! Cf., also Wilber (1984). A useful and timely corrective 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.


The historical connections between FL and science are detailed throughout, for example, Losee (2001); similar links with mathematics can be found in Kneale and Kneale (1978), pp.379-742, with a brief survey in Nidditch (1998). There is a clear summary of the connection between Fregean FL and advances in mathematics in Beaney (1996), pp.1-117, 269-77. However, the best introductions are Weiner (1990, 1999, 2004) and Noonan (2001); and for the general background, Giaquinto (2004). There is an excellent short introduction to Frege's life and work in Potter (2010), although anyone unfamiliar with modern logic might find that book rather tough going.


The relation between science and DM will be examined in more detail in Essay Thirteen Part Two (which will be published in late 2016).


For a more illuminating discussion of the way that contradictions can be handled -- at least in Mathematics -- cf., Floyd (1995, 2000). For the same in science, see Harrison (1987).


19. Cf., Davis (2000), Hodges (1983), and Dyson (1997). The importance of Alonzo Church's work on the λ-Calculus can be judged by the fact that it underpins most programming languages.


W&G try to minimise all this with the following dismissive comment:


"There are two main branches of formal logic today -- propositional calculus and predicate calculus. They all proceed from axioms, which are assumed to be true 'in all possible worlds,' under all circumstances. The fundamental test remains freedom from contradiction. Anything contradictory is deemed to be 'not valid.' This has a certain application, for example, in computers, which are geared to a simple yes or no procedure. In reality, however, all such axioms are tautologies. These empty forms can be filled with almost any content. They are applied in a mechanical and external fashion to any subject. When it comes to simple linear processes, they do their work tolerably well. This is important, because a great many of the processes in nature and society do, in fact, work in this way. But when we come to more complex, contradictory, non-linear phenomena, the laws of formal logic break down. It immediately becomes evident that, far from being universal truths valid 'in all possible worlds,' they are, as Engels explained, quite limited in their application, and quickly find themselves out of their depth in a whole range of circumstances. Moreover, these are precisely the kind of circumstances which have occupied the attention of science, especially the most innovative parts of it, for most of the 20th century." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.99.]


We will have occasion to look at these wildly inaccurate allegations later on, but apart from brushing modern logic under the carpet with a simple put-down, these two authors offer their readers not one single example of a technological application of DL, even though they try vainly to 'expose' the alleged limitations of FL.


And while we are at it, it is also worth pointing out that these two have plainly confused logical falsehood with invalidity, when they say "Anything contradictory is deemed to be 'not valid.'" Invalidity has nothing to do with contradiction (in fact, one rule (RAA) actually depends on validity!).


Moreover, anyone who thinks that, say, QM threatens the LEM would do well to read Harrison (1983, 1985), and then perhaps think again. In which case, "quantum logic" poses no threat to the LEM; it has merely forced us to reconsider what we count as a scientific proposition. [For a different view, see Slater (2002), pp.177-79.]


[QM = Quantum Mechanics; LEM = Law of Excluded Middle.]


Of course, computers have had a massive impact right across the planet over the last fifty or sixty years -- all thanks to the Propositional Calculus.


However, DL possesses its own, perhaps less well appreciated practical outcome: it succeeded in confusing comrades like W&G!


[W&G's other baseless assertions will be taken apart in Part Two of Essay Seven.]


20. Admittedly, this is a controversial claim -- but only in so far as some have thought to controvert it.


'Unconscious' Dialecticians?


[This forms part of Note 20. Unfortunately for those viewing this page with Internet Explorer, the formatting in this section might appear to be somewhat erratic -- for reasons explained here.]




As pointed out in Note 18, dialecticians have become so divorced from reality that some have even claimed that scientists are "unconscious dialecticians", and because of this they then imagine that the many and varied successes of science can be chalked up to DL! For example, George Novack refers his readers to a series arguments put forward by the famous French Physicist, Jean-Pierre Vigier -- who was also a Dialectical Marxist -- in a public debate with Jean-Paul Sartre, which took place in December 1961. In the course of that debate, Vigier responded to the criticism that DM has no practical, scientific applications with the following comment (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. Typos corrected. Links added.]


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), they can be made to conform with practically any theory or scientific fact one finds expedient.


Even so, what basis is there in the claim that Oparin "consciously employed" such 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! Surprisingly, 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.


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, or after the latter joined his ancestors, he is quite happy to quote the work of a Stalinist scientist (and state apparatchik, too!) 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 used by Oparin to make any useful discoveries! 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 these 'laws' as they were interpreted by party hacks) 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 hide than it was an application of "conscious" dialectics. That suspicion is confirmed by the Wikipedia article about him:


"The influence of the Marxist theoretical concept of dialectical materialism, the official party-line of the Communist Party, fit Oparin's definition of life as 'a flow, an exchange, a dialectical unity'. This notion was enforced by Oparin's association with Lysenko." [Quoted from here. Bold added. This passage has been slightly changed since.]


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.]


However, Graham dismisses this as a reason since in his opinion Oparin's entire career reveals it had been consistently influenced by DM, 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. This comment was published by Oparin in 1953.]  


Despite this, Birstein disagrees that Oparin did this to save his neck; he claims Oparin adopted 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.]


And, we all know what wonderful results were obtained by Lysenko when he tried to apply dialectics to Soviet agriculture, don't we? [On Lysenko, see below.]


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 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 the need arises; so, Novack's lack of detail here is no surprise.


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 09/10/11; changes to the on-line text incorporated 05/06/15. 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 appear to be on firmer ground with Point 3; but, as noted above, this can't be seen as an application of the 'Law of the Transformation of Quantity into Quality', either -- 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 suggests), 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 "qualitative changes" [i.e., new arrangements of the atoms] 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. [Possible objections to this line-of-argument are neutralised here.]


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. [Again, several obvious objections to this response were neutralised in Essay Seven Part One (link above).]


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 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 process 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's no continuity here, either, just discontinuity


Here is what I have written on this (also taken from Essay Seven Part One), after quoting several DM-theorists:


"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: (1) Quantitative increase or decrease in matter or energy results in gradual change, and hence that (2) 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].


Furthermore, between each of the organic molecules (to which DM-theorists refer) and the next 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 molecular 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.



So, between each of the organic molecules (to which DM-theorists refer) and the next 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.]


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


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.] This is one straw, it seems, that both wings of modern mysticism (i.e., religious and 'dialectical' tendencies) appear only too eager to clutch, for all the good it does them.


This is, of course, 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's 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 led him astray.


Dialecticians have been forced into this 'fantasy corner' since, of course, few human beings have ever heard of dialectics. Outside 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 has bequeathed to them (this fable is retailed countless times in RIRE, for example; here are just a few of the places where they 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 would it have been possible for human knowledge and technique to have advanced quite so dramatically over the last 350 years? 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 victims to make such a straight-forward deduction.


[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, DM-fans would be well advised to keep it to themselves no longer.


[The example of Mendeleyev is dealt with here. However, Novack claims (in Novack (1978), pp.254-55) that Ernst Mayr used DL in his work -- on the basis of Mayr's ruminations about evolutionary novelty --, but this would have been news to Mayr! We may perhaps also argue that whenever Mayr referred to an animal's head, that was sufficient to prove 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 science? 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), and Soyfer (1994). For a different view, see Lewontin and Levins (1976). See 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 rather 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 in the case of Lysenko).


Small wonder then that dialecticians also believe that appearances 'contradict underlying reality'; given the above, they would, wouldn't they? Even so, this is, of course, an odd sort of thing for materialists to have to argue: if the material world contradicts a certain idea, ignore reality and cling to that 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.]


Marcuse nowhere criticises Hegel for this aspect of his 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, that revolutionary cadres always were, and still are not only full to the brim, they are over-flowing with conscious dialectics, on the other, we have witnessed little other than the constant 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 tale, conscious dialectics seems to be associated with long-term failure, while 'unconscious' dialectics appears to be wedded to success!


What conclusion should we draw from the above? Perhaps this: Every revolutionary should seek to copy non-DM scientists and become consciously ignorant of DL.


Maybe then our movement will experience some success.


[Or, would this recommendation reveal yet another failure to "understand" dialectics on my part?]


Furthermore, do any DM-fans regale us with the following salutary tale involving the 'dialectical ruminations' of Olga Lepeshinskaya (a personal friend of Lenin's)?


"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 09/10/11. 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), and 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 [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 [Lenin 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, and Grant (2007), pp.277-80.]


As seems reasonably clear, all this pseudoscience was a direct result of a "conscious application" of DL.


It could be objected that any theory (including FL) can be misused. Indeed, but how is it possible to decide whether or not DM has been used correctly? After all, it 'allows' its acolytes to derive anything he/she finds expedient and its opposite (and this trick is often performed by the very same individual, sometimes on the very same page, in the very same paragraph, or in the very same speech!). Moreover, any 'difficulties' or internal contradictions that emerge in a political or economic theory generated by the use of DL is glossed over by labelling them 'dialectical' (in a way that is reminiscent of Christians who, in the face of natural or man-made disaster, absolve 'God' by telling anyone who will listen that 'He' works in "mysterious ways"). The word "dialectical" thus operates like magic wand, able to transform confused thought into cutting edge science -- but only in the mind of each 'true believer'.


[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 DL has had an important part to play in the study of living systems -- for instance, the authors of DB, along with several notable members of the Communist Party from a few generations back (e.g., Haldane, Levy and Bernal). [Also see Lewontin and Levins (2007), and here.] In fact, the authors of DB tell us they consciously use DL in their work. However, in a debate between the present author and Richard Levins a few years back, it became clear that he, like so many other DL-fans, has 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 the criticisms of FL as in any way reliable when they are delivered up by those who struggle with its basic ideas?


[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 and 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 conscious dialecticians helped ruin Soviet Agriculture and Genetics, and 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 certain claims (which TAR quotes approvingly; e.g., p.4) that require brief 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 this claim and simply left it as a flat assertion:


"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 couched 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 it or they actively opposed it. Indeed, since most of the theorists who supposedly adopted 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 book of Genesis. Naturally, that conclusion (or its opposite) depends on what one means by "separate". [On this, see below.] It is worth noting 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 present.


Admittedly, different forms of atomism dominated early modern science, but Atomic Theory and the belief in the existence of molecules wasn't universally accepted among scientists until after the publication of Einstein's work on Brownian motion and the work of Jean Baptiste Perrin, approximately 100 years ago. [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 newer 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 many scientists and philosophers up until about 150 years ago (and these two roles were not distinguished before 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 origin and nature 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.]


And, the impact of Christianity on the development of Western science is undeniable; a particularly illuminating account can be found in Hooykaas (1973). The book on this is, of course, Webster (1976).


In fact, it is quite 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 the 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 at all surprising. [Details can be found in Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here). A few sources are cited below.]


Connected with the above, L&L omit any mention of the strong Organicist and Holistic tradition in 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 strand-of-thought underpinned Natürphilosophie, just as it inspired Vitalist and Romantic views of 'Nature'. As is now clear, this particular set of world-views dominated the thought of those involved in the Romantic Movement, from whom Hegel derived much 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 are the common metaphysical threads running through most of theoretical science and all of Traditional Philosophy, which cast DM itself in a rather more compromising light -- certainly more than the authors of DB imagine or might be prepared to admit. [A political context will be given to this phenomenon in later Essays (notably Nine Part One, and Twelve and Fourteen Parts One and Two; summaries here and here).]


On the Hermetic influences 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 some of the above theorists -- alongside their influence on Hegel -- in Beiser (2005), pp.80-109; see also Heidelberger (1998).


To be fair, Rees does go on to argue that a holistic view of nature on its own is insufficient to distinguish DM from other superficially similar systems of thought. [However, I have challenged this idea, here.] Nevertheless, the examples he gives of other holistic belief systems were pointedly taken from religious and/or mystical views of the world; for example, we are referred to Roman Catholic and Taoist beliefs. [Rees (1998), p.6.] Moreover, Rees 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). Admittedly, not all of those who immersed themselves in these 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's 'contradictions' in name alone. [On this, see Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here), and Appendix One of Essay Two.]


Nevertheless, it is also clear that DB's authors have themselves adopted a mildly revisionist view of Engels's work in this regard; 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 in Essay Eight Part Two it will become clear how unwise a move this is. 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 further ruin the neat picture Rees wanted 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 intellectual virus: HEX.


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


Small wonder then that the vast majority of scientists (outwith the old Stalinist block and its 'fellow travellers') have completely ignored DL -- 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 much prejudice against Marxism in academic circles (and elsewhere), but the reason DL isn't mentioned in logic textbooks can't be put down to bourgeois hostility since Hegel was a quintessential bourgeois philosopher himself -- whose work and ideas are, alas, experiencing a significant revival even among Analytic Philosophers (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 analogous to the reason Astrology doesn't make it into academic textbooks on Astronomy, or why Crystal Healing fails to make it into Medical textbooks --; it isn't even logic.


Nevertheless, Rees refers his readers to several other theorists who have tried to find some sort of a scientific role for DL. [Rees (1998), p.120; note 60.] Such attempts to squeeze science into an ill-fitting dialectical boot will be considered in detail in Essay Thirteen Part Two.


[On David Bohm, however, see Essay Seven Part One.]


21. In fact, Trotsky might have had in mind here the way that certain systems of classical modern logic (for example, Principia Mathematica) employ non-logical principles in an attempt to provide a logical foundation for Mathematics. In the case of Principia, for instance, the so-called "Axiom of Infinity" and the "Axiom of Reducibility" might match Trotsky's description. On the other hand, in view of the additional fact that Trotsky seems to have been totally ignorant of MFL, this is itself highly improbable. More likely: he was merely repeating hear-say.


[However, it is just possible he might have got this idea from Jean Van Heijenoort.]


Nevertheless, this criticism (if it is what Trotsky meant) only applies to foundational work in one branch of MFL connected with the so-called "Logicist" program. Whatever the limitations and failings of Principia (in particular), or of Logicism (in general) amount to, they don't necessarily affect other systems of MFL. [On this, cf., Bostock (1997) (this links to a PDF), Hunter (1996) and Kneale and Kneale (1978), pp.435-742. On the failings of Logicism (at least, Frege's version of it), see Noonan (2001).]


In fact, it may soon prove possible to solve the paradox that stopped Frege's program in its tracks (i.e., Russell's Paradox). Should this come to pass, it wouldn't mean that Logicism had become a viable option once again -- even if it isn't susceptible to the limitations many think were demonstrated by Gödel's Theorem --, but it would mean that at least one reason why some DM-theorists reject MFL (or, rather, consider it limited in certain ways) will have disappeared.


Recently, much work has gone into this area following upon Crispin Wright's attempt to reconstruct Frege's system [Wright (1983)]. On this, see the following excellent review article: MacBride (2003); see also the discussion articles written by Ian Rumfitt, William Demopoulos and Gideon Rosen in Philosophical Books 44, July 2003, as well as the reply by Crispin Wright and Bob Hale in the same issue -- Rumfitt (2003), Demopoulos (2003), Rosen (2003), Hale and Wright (2003). See also, Boolos (1998), Burgess and Rosen (1997), Demopoulos (1997), Dummett (1981a, 1981b, 1991, 1993, 1998a, 1998b), Hale (1987), Hale and Wright (2001), Heck (2011), Schirn (1998), Slater (2000, 2002), Teichmann (1992), Wright (1992, 1998a, 1998b). Cf., also the special edition of Dialectica 59, 2, 2005, which is entirely devoted to this aspect of Frege's work. A note of caution, though, is registered in Burgess (2005).


However, the most profound criticisms of Principia (and of Logicism in general) were advanced by Wittgenstein. The best discussion of this is Marion (1998). See also, Shanker (1987), Rodych (1997, 1999a, 1999b, 2000, 2002, 2011), and, in general, Hintikka (1996). In addition, cf., Floyd (forthcoming, 1 and 2). See also here.


22. Contemporary dialecticians also find it impossible to resist the temptation to make similarly derogatory remarks about FL. Here is what comrades Woods and Grant [W&G] had to say:


"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. What can we do about it? Facts are stubborn things." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.82-83.]


"The subject and the predicate of the conclusion each occur in one of the premises, together with a third term (the middle) that is found in both premises, but not in the conclusion. The predicate of the conclusion is the major term; the premise in which it is contained is the major premise; the subject of the conclusion is the minor term; and the premise in which it is contained is the minor premise. For example,


a) All men are mortal. (Major premise)


b) Caesar is a man. (Minor premise)


c) Therefore, Caesar is mortal. (Conclusion).


"This is called an affirmative categorical statement. It gives the impression of being a logical chain of argument, in which each stage is derived inexorably from the previous one. But actually, this is not the case, because 'Caesar' is already included in 'all men.' Kant, like Hegel, regarded the syllogism (that 'tedious doctrine,' as he called it) with contempt. For him, it was 'nothing more than an artifice' in which the conclusions were already surreptitiously introduced into the premises to give a false appearance of reasoning." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.86. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


However, the example these two give of a syllogism isn't one that Aristotle would have recognised. Use of the 'Socrates'/'Caesar' example is in fact a very common error; it is repeated in many a bad logic text and in the writings of those who haven't studied Aristotle too carefully.


Aristotle would have denied it was a legitimate syllogism in view of the fact that it has a particular middle premiss which isn't governed by a what we would now call a quantifier expression (e.g., "Some", "All", "Every", and "No"), but relates to a named individual.


And, as far as Kant's comment is concerned (and this particular error is almost as widespread), there are many valid arguments where the conclusion isn't "contained" in the premisses. [One such was given here. Several more can be found here.]


As noted earlier, W&G's book is replete with errors like this (many of which were left in place in the Second Edition, despite Alan Woods having been informed about them by a supporter of this site), just as it is full of snide remarks about FL -- a subject about which these two seem to know as much as they do about the whereabouts of Lord Lucan and Shergar. [On this, see Note 23.]


22a. Trotsky repeated these obsolete ideas in unpublished notebooks:


"Human thought has assimilated the cosmogony of Kant and LaPlace, the geology of Lyell, the biology of Darwin, the sociology of Marx, which analyse every existing thing in the process of its uninterrupted change, evolution, development, catastrophes, etc. But for formal logic the syllogism remains immutable; it does not appear as an instrument, a historical lever of our consciousness in the process of its adaptation to external nature with the aim of learning about nature in a word, not a concrete historical formation conditioned by the circumstances of time and place, including the structure of our consciousness, the scope of its experience, etc. On the contrary, the syllogism appears as a once-and-for-all-given form of comprehending external events. The syllogism stands above these events, above humanity itself and its consciousness, above matter, and is the eternal beginning, immutable and all-powerful, for it controls all our activity; in other words the syllogism is invested with all the attributes of God." [Trotsky (1973), pp.401-02.]


But, these comments were out-of-date sixty or seventy years before they were even written!



23. Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis Debunked


[This forms part of Note 23.]


Practically every book and article I have consulted on DM has included an egregious attempt to 'define' the so-called 'three laws' of FL. Why dialecticians imagine there are only three such laws is itself a mystery -- but it may have something to do with the mystical nature of the number three itself, which baseless fantasy resurfaces in what many ill-informed dialecticians think is Hegel's method: "Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis". [This idea is so widespread (indeed, the Tory commentator, Matthew Parris, in a recent (June 2015) debate on BBC TV with UK Labour Party activist, Owen Jones, declared his support for the 'Marxist' method, Thesis/Antithesis/Synthesis) and has sunk so deep in the minds of sloppy teachers, commentators, researchers, amateur YouTube video producers, and readers alike that it will survive any and all attempts to debunk it. This confusion has recently been given a boost by the publication of Wheat (2012). On the latter, see my comments here.]


Indeed, here is what Hegel expert Terry Pinkard had to say (in an interview) about 'the triad':


"Britannica: One of the things most associated with Hegel's thought is the thesis/antithesis/synthesis scheme, the process by which reality unfolds and history progresses. But you claim this never appears in Hegel's work.


"Pinkard: This myth was started by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus. It appears in a history he wrote of recent German philosophy (published in the 1840s), in which he said, roughly, that Fichte's philosophy followed the model of thesis/antithesis/synthesis, but Hegel went further and cosmologized that notion, extending it to the entire universe. The book was widely read (apparently the young Marx was one of its readers), and the idea stuck. It's still touted in a lot of short encyclopedia entries about Hegel. Like many little encapsulations of thought, it has the virtue of being easy to understand and easy to summarize. It's just not very helpful in understanding Hegel's thought. It has also contributed to the lack of appreciation of Hegel in Anglophone philosophy. It's not too hard to point out all the places where it doesn't apply, dismiss it as a kind of dialectical trick, and then just go on to conclude that Hegel isn't worth reading at all." [Interview here. This link now appears to be dead!]


Add to that the following comments:


"Some say Hegel used the method of: thesis-antithesis-synthesis, and others deny this. Who is correct?


"The most vexing and devastating Hegel legend is that everything is thought in 'thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.' [...] The actual texts of Hegel not only occasionally deviate from 'thesis, antithesis, and synthesis,' but show nothing of the sort. 'Dialectic' does not for Hegel mean 'thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.' Dialectic means that any 'ism' -- which has a polar opposite, or is a special viewpoint leaving 'the rest' to itself -- must be criticized by the logic of philosophical thought, whose problem is reality as such, the 'World-itself.'


"Hermann Glockner's reliable Hegel Lexikon (4 volumes, Stuttgart, 1935) does not list the Fichtean terms 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis' together. In all the twenty volumes of Hegel's 'complete works' he does not use this 'triad' once; nor does it occur in the eight volumes of Hegel texts, published for the first time in the twentieth Century. He refers to 'thesis, antithesis, and synthesis' in the Preface of the Phenomenology of Mind, where he considers the possibility of this 'triplicity' as a method or logic of philosophy. According to the Hegel-legend one would expect Hegel to recommend this 'triplicity.' But, after saying that it was derived from Kant, he calls it a 'lifeless schema,' 'mere shadow' and concludes: 'The trick of wisdom of that sort is as quickly acquired as it is easy to practice. Its repetition, when once it is familiar, becomes as boring as the repetition of any bit of sleigh-of-hand once we see through it. The instrument for producing this monotonous formalism is no more difficult to handle than the palette of a painter, on which lie only two colours....' (Preface, Werke, II, 48-49).


"In the student notes, edited and published as History of Philosophy, Hegel mentions in the Kant chapter, the 'spiritless scheme of the triplicity of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis' (geistloses Schema) by which the rhythm and movement of philosophic knowledge is artificially pre-scribed (vorgezeichnet).


"In the first important book about Hegel by his student, intimate friend and first biographer, Karl Rosenkranz (Hegels Leben, 1844), 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis' are conspicuous by their absence. It seems Hegel was quite successful in hiding his alleged 'method' from one of his best students.


"The very important new Hegel literature of this century has altogether abandoned the legend. Theodor Haering's Hegels Wollen und Werk (2 vol., Teubner, 1929 and 1938) makes a careful study of Hegel's terminology and language and finds not a trace of 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis.' In the second volume there are a few lines (pp.118, 126) in which he repeats what Hegel in the above quotation had said himself, i.e., that this 'conventional slogan' is particularly unfortunate because it impedes the understanding of Hegelian texts. As long as readers think that they have to find 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis' in Hegel they must find him obscure -- but what is obscure is not Hegel but their coloured glasses. Iwan Iljin's Hegel's Philosophie als kontemplative Gotteslehre (Bern, 1946) dismisses the 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis' legend in the Preface as a childish game (Spielerei), which does not even reach the front-porch of Hegel's philosophy.


"Other significant works, like Hermann Glockner, Hegel (2 vols., Stuttgart, 1929), Theodor Steinbüchel, Das Grundproblem der Hegelschen Philosophie (Bonn, 1933), and Theodor Litt, Hegel: Eine Kritische Erneuerung (Heidelberg, 1953), Emerich Coreth, S.J., Das Dialektische Sein in Hegels Logik (Wien, 1952), and many others have simply disregarded the legend. In my own monographs on Hegel über Offenbarung, Kirche und Philosophie (Munich, 1939) and Hegel über Sittlichkeit und Geschichte (Reinhardt, 1940), I never found any 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis.' Richard Kroner, in his introduction to the English edition of selections from Hegel's Early Theological Writings, puts it mildly when he says: 'This new Logic is of necessity as dialectical as the movement of thinking itself.... But it is by no means the mere application of a monotonous trick that could be learned and repeated. It is not the mere imposition of an ever recurring pattern. It may appear so in the mind of some historians who catalogue the living trend of thought, but in reality it is ever changing, ever growing development; Hegel is nowhere pedantic in pressing concepts into a ready-made mold (sic). The theme of thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis, like the motif of a musical composition, has many modulations and modifications. It is never "applied"; it is itself only a poor and not even helpful abstraction of what is really going on in Hegel's Logic.'


"Well, shall we keep this 'poor and not helpful abstraction' in our attic because 'some historians' have used it as their rocking-horse? We rather agree with the conclusion of Johannes Flügge: 'Dialectic is not the scheme of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis imputed to Hegel.'


"In an essay by Nicolai Hartmann on Aristoteles und Hegel, I find the following additional confirmation of all the other witnesses to the misinterpretation of Hegel's dialectic: 'It is a basically perverse opinion (grundverkehrte Ansicht) which sees the essence of dialectic in the triad of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.' The legend was spread by Karl Marx whose interpretation of Hegel is distorted. It is Marxism superimposed on Hegel. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis, Marx says in Das Elend der Philosophie, is Hegel's purely logical formula for the movement of pure reason, and the whole system is engendered by this dialectical movement of thesis, antithesis, synthesis of all categories. This pure reason, he continues, is Mr. Hegel's own reason, and history becomes the history of his own philosophy, whereas in reality, thesis, antithesis, synthesis are the categories of economic movements. (Summary of Chapter II, Paragraph 1.) The few passages in Marx's writings that resemble philosophy are not his own. He practices the communistic habit of expropriation without compensation. Knowing this in general, I was also convinced that there must be a source for this 'thesis, antithesis, and synthesis,' and I finally discovered it.


"In the winter of 1835-36, a group of Kantians in Dresden called on Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus, professor of philosophy at the University of Kiel, to lecture to them on the new philosophical movement after Kant. They were older, professional men who in their youth had been Kantians, and now wanted an orientation in a development which they distrusted; but they also wanted a confirmation of their own Kantianism. Professor Chalybäus did just those two things. His lectures appeared in 1837 under the title Historische Entwicklung der speculativen Philosophie von Kant bis Hegel, Zu näherer Verständigung des wissenschaftlichen Publikums mit der neuesten Schule. The book was very popular and appeared in three editions. In my copy of the third edition of 1843, Professor Chalybäus says (p.354): 'This is the first trilogy: the unity of Being, Nothing and Becoming...we have in this first methodical thesis, antithesis, and example or schema for all that follows.' This was for Chalybäus a brilliant hunch which he had not used previously and did not pursue afterwards in any way at all. But Karl Marx was at that time a student at the university of Berlin and a member of the Hegel Club where the famous book was discussed. He took the hunch and spread (it?) into a deadly, abstract machinery. Other left Hegelians, such as Arnold Ruge, Ludwig Feuerbach, Max Stirner, use 'thesis, antithesis, synthesis' just as little as Hegel.


"(Quoted from the article of Gustav E. Mueller: 'The Hegel Legend of "Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis"', in Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume XIX, June 1958, Number 3, Page 411. The article is still as valid today as it was in 1958.)" [This can be found here. The comments in brackets are from the edited published version. Quotation marks have been altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; US spelling modified in line with UK English. The full article is Mueller (1958).]


This suggests that Marx and all subsequent Marxists who use or reference this 'schema' aren't reliable interpreters of Hegel. Having said that, it is arguable that Marx was being ironic and dismissive when he said the following in The Poverty of Philosophy.


"If we had M. Proudhon's intrepidity in the matter of Hegelianism we should say: it is distinguished in itself from itself. What does this mean? Impersonal reason, having outside itself neither a base on which it can pose itself, nor an object to which it can oppose itself, nor a subject with which it can compose itself, is forced to turn head over heels, in posing itself, opposing itself and composing itself -- position, opposition, composition. Or, to speak Greek -- we have thesis, antithesis and synthesis. For those who do not know the Hegelian language, we shall give the ritual formula: affirmation, negation and negation of the negation. That is what language means. It is certainly not Hebrew (with due apologies to M. Proudhon); but it is the language of this pure reason, separate from the individual. Instead of the ordinary individual with his ordinary manner of speaking and thinking we have nothing but this ordinary manner purely and simply -- without the individual....


"So what is this absolute method? The abstraction of movement. What is the abstraction of movement? Movement in abstract condition. What is movement in abstract condition? The purely logical formula of movement or the movement of pure reason. Wherein does the movement of pure reason consist? In posing itself, opposing itself, composing itself; in formulating itself as thesis, antithesis, synthesis; or, yet, in affirming itself, negating itself, and negating its negation.


"How does reason manage to affirm itself, to pose itself in a definite category? That is the business of reason itself and of its apologists.


"But once it has managed to pose itself as a thesis, this thesis, this thought, opposed to itself, splits up into two contradictory thoughts – the positive and the negative, the yes and no. The struggle between these two antagonistic elements comprised in the antithesis constitutes the dialectical movement. The yes becoming no, the no becoming yes, the yes becoming both yes and no, the no becoming both no and yes, the contraries balance, neutralize, paralyze each other. The fusion of these two contradictory thoughts constitutes a new thought, which is the synthesis of them. This thought splits up once again into two contradictory thoughts, which in turn fuse into a new synthesis. Of this travail is born a group of thoughts. This group of thoughts follows the same dialectic movement as the simple category, and has a contradictory group as antithesis. Of these two groups of thoughts is born a new group of thoughts, which is the antithesis of them.


"Just as from the dialectic movement of the simple categories is born the group, so from the dialectic movement of the groups is born the series, and from the dialectic movement of the series is born the entire system.


"Apply this method to the categories of political economy and you have the logic and metaphysics of political economy, or, in other words, you have the economic categories that everybody knows, translated into a little-known language which makes them look as if they had never blossomed forth in an intellect of pure reason; so much do these categories seem to engender one another, to be linked up and intertwined with one another by the very working of the dialectic movement. The reader must not get alarmed at these metaphysics with all their scaffolding of categories, groups, series, and systems. M. Proudhon, in spite of all the trouble he has taken to scale the heights of the system of contradictions, has never been able to raise himself above the first two rungs of simple thesis and antithesis; and even these he has mounted only twice, and on one of these two occasions he fell over backwards.


"Up to now we have expounded only the dialectics of Hegel. We shall see later how M. Proudhon has succeeded in reducing it to the meanest proportions. Thus, for Hegel, all that has happened and is still happening is only just what is happening in his own mind. Thus the philosophy of history is nothing but the history of philosophy, of his own philosophy. There is no longer a 'history according to the order in time,' there is only 'the sequence of ideas in the understanding.' He thinks he is constructing the world by the movement of thought, whereas he is merely reconstructing systematically and classifying by the absolute method of thoughts which are in the minds of all." [Marx (1978), pp.98-102. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Link added.]


It is clear that when Marx refers to Hegel's 'dialectics'/'method' he is talking about his earlier comments from the same section of this book:


"Is it surprising that everything, in the final abstraction -- for we have here an abstraction, and not an analysis -- presents itself as a logical category? Is it surprising that, if you let drop little by little all that constitutes the individuality of a house, leaving out first of all the materials of which it is composed, then the form that distinguishes it, you end up with nothing but a body; that if you leave out of account the limits of this body, you soon have nothing but a space -– that if, finally, you leave out of account the dimensions of this space, there is absolutely nothing left but pure quantity, the logical category? If we abstract thus from every subject all the alleged accidents, animate or inanimate, men or things, we are right in saying that in the final abstraction the only substance left is the logical categories. Thus the metaphysicians, who in making these abstractions, think they are making analyses, and who, the more they detach themselves from things, imagine themselves to be getting all the nearer to the point of penetrating to their core -- these metaphysicians in turn are right in saying that things here below are embroideries of which the logical categories constitute the canvas. This is what distinguishes the philosopher from the Christian. The Christian, in spite of logic, has only one incarnation of the Logos; the philosopher has never finished with incarnations. If all that exists, all that lives on land, and under water, can be reduced by abstraction to a logical category -- if the whole real world can be drowned thus in a world of abstractions, in the world of logical categories -- who need be astonished at it?


"All that exists, all that lives on land and under water, exists and lives only by some kind of movement. Thus, the movement of history produces social relations; industrial movement gives us industrial products, etc.


"Just as by means of abstraction we have transformed everything into a logical category, so one has only to make an abstraction of every characteristic distinctive of different movements to attain movement in its abstract condition -- purely formal movement, the purely logical formula of movement. If one finds in logical categories the substance of all things, one imagines one has found in the logical formula of movement the absolute method, which not only explains all things, but also implies the movement of things.


"It is of this absolute method that Hegel speaks in these terms:


'Method is the absolute, unique, supreme, infinite force, which no object can resist; it is the tendency of reason to find itself again, to recognize itself in every object.' (Logic, Vol. III [p. 29])


"All things being reduced to a logical category, and every movement, every act of production, to method, it follows naturally that every aggregate of products and production, of objects and of movement, can be reduced to a form of applied metaphysics. What Hegel has done for religion, law, etc., M. Proudhon seeks to do for political economy." [Marx (1978), pp.99-100. Italic emphases in the original.]


And we can see from what Marx wrote in The Holy Family that it is this method of abstraction, turning everything into a 'logical category', that "constitutes the essential character of Hegel's method", not the 'thesis-antithesis-synthesis' triad:


"Now that Critical Criticism as the tranquillity of knowledge has 'made' all the mass-type 'antitheses its concern', has mastered all reality in the form of categories and dissolved all human activity into speculative dialectics, we shall see it produce the world again out of speculative dialectics. It goes without saying that if the miracles of the Critically speculative creation of the world are not to be 'desecrated', they can be presented to the profane mass only in the form of mysteries. Critical Criticism therefore appears in the incarnation of Vishnu-Szeliga ["Szeliga" was the pseudonym of a young Hegelian, Franz Zychlinski -- RL] as a mystery-monger....


"The mystery of the Critical presentation of the Mystéres de Paris is the mystery of speculative, of Hegelian construction. Once Herr Szeliga has proclaimed that 'degeneracy within civilisation' and rightlessness in the state are 'mysteries', i.e., has dissolved them in the category 'mystery', he lets 'mystery' begin its speculative career. A few words will suffice to characterise speculative construction in general. Herr Szeliga's treatment of the Mystéres de Paris will give the application in detail.


"If from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds I form the general idea 'Fruit', if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea 'Fruit', derived from real fruit, is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the pear, the apple, etc., then -- in the language of speculative philosophy –- I am declaring that 'Fruit' is the 'Substance' of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be an apple is not essential to the apple; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence that I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea -– 'Fruit'. I therefore declare apples, pears, almonds, etc., to be mere forms of existence, modi, of 'Fruit'. My finite understanding supported by my senses does of course distinguish an apple from a pear and a pear from an almond, but my speculative reason declares these sensuous differences inessential and irrelevant. It sees in the apple the same as in the pear, and in the pear the same as in the almond, namely 'Fruit'. Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence is 'the substance' -- 'Fruit'.


"By this method one attains no particular wealth of definition. The mineralogist whose whole science was limited to the statement that all minerals are really 'the Mineral' would be a mineralogist only in his imagination. For every mineral the speculative mineralogist says 'the Mineral', and his science is reduced to repeating this word as many times as there are real minerals.


"Having reduced the different real fruits to the one 'fruit' of abstraction -– 'the Fruit', speculation must, in order to attain some semblance of real content, try somehow to find its way back from 'the Fruit', from the Substance to the diverse, ordinary real fruits, the pear, the apple, the almond etc. It is as hard to produce real fruits from the abstract idea 'the Fruit' as it is easy to produce this abstract idea from real fruits. Indeed, it is impossible to arrive at the opposite of an abstraction without relinquishing the abstraction.


"The speculative philosopher therefore relinquishes the abstraction 'the Fruit', but in a speculative, mystical fashion -- with the appearance of not relinquishing it. Thus it is really only in appearance that he rises above his abstraction. He argues somewhat as follows:


"If apples, pears, almonds and strawberries are really nothing but 'the Substance', 'the Fruit', the question arises: Why does 'the Fruit' manifest itself to me sometimes as an apple, sometimes as a pear, sometimes as an almond? Why this semblance of diversity which so obviously contradicts my speculative conception of Unity, 'the Substance', 'the Fruit'?


"This, answers the speculative philosopher, is because 'the Fruit' is not dead, undifferentiated, motionless, but a living, self-differentiating, moving essence. The diversity of the ordinary fruits is significant not only for my sensuous understanding, but also for 'the Fruit' itself and for speculative reason. The different ordinary fruits are different manifestations of the life of the 'one Fruit'; they are crystallisations of 'the Fruit' itself. Thus in the apple 'the Fruit' gives itself an apple-like existence, in the pear a pear-like existence. We must therefore no longer say, as one might from the standpoint of the Substance: a pear is 'the Fruit', an apple is 'the Fruit', an almond is 'the Fruit', but rather 'the Fruit' presents itself as a pear, 'the Fruit' presents itself as an apple, 'the Fruit' presents itself as an almond; and the differences which distinguish apples, pears and almonds from one another are the self-differentiations of 'the Fruit' and make the particular fruits different members of the life-process of 'the Fruit'. Thus 'the Fruit' is no longer an empty undifferentiated unity; it is oneness as allness, as 'totality' of fruits, which constitute an 'organically linked series of members'. In every member of that series 'the Fruit' gives itself a more developed, more explicit existence, until finally, as the 'summary' of all fruits, it is at the same time the living unity which contains all those fruits dissolved in itself just as it produces them from within itself, just as, for instance, all the limbs of the body are constantly dissolved in and constantly produced out of the blood.


"We see that if the Christian religion knows only one Incarnation of God, speculative philosophy has as many incarnations as there are things, just as it has here in every fruit an incarnation of the Substance, of the Absolute Fruit. The main interest for the speculative philosopher is therefore to produce the existence of the real ordinary fruits and to say in some mysterious way that there are apples, pears, almonds and raisins. But the apples, pears, almonds and raisins that we rediscover in the speculative world are nothing but semblances of apples, semblances of pears, semblances of almonds and semblances of raisins, for they are moments in the life of 'the Fruit', this abstract creation of the mind, and therefore themselves abstract creations of the mind. Hence what is delightful in this speculation is to rediscover all the real fruits there, but as fruits which have a higher mystical significance, which have grown out of the ether of your brain and not out of the material earth, which are incarnations of 'the Fruit', of the Absolute Subject. When you return from the abstraction, the supernatural creation of the mind, 'the Fruit', to real natural fruits, you give on the contrary the natural fruits a supernatural significance and transform them into sheer abstractions. Your main interest is then to point out the unity of 'the Fruit' in all the manifestations of its life…that is, to show the mystical interconnection between these fruits, how in each of them 'the Fruit' realizes itself by degrees and necessarily progresses, for instance, from its existence as a raisin to its existence as an almond. Hence the value of the ordinary fruits no longer consists in their natural qualities, but in their speculative quality, which gives each of them a definite place in the life-process of 'the Absolute Fruit'.


"The ordinary man does not think he is saying anything extraordinary when he states that there are apples and pears. But when the philosopher expresses their existence in the speculative way he says something extraordinary. He performs a miracle by producing the real natural objects, the apple, the pear, etc., out of the unreal creation of the mind 'the Fruit'. And in regard to every object the existence of which he expresses, he accomplishes an act of creation.


"It goes without saying that the speculative philosopher accomplishes this continuous creation only by presenting universally known qualities of the apple, the pear, etc., which exist in reality, as determining features invented by him, by giving the names of the real things to what abstract reason alone can create, to abstract formulas of reason, finally, by declaring his own activity, by which he passes from the idea of an apple to the idea of a pear, to be the self-activity of the Absolute Subject, 'the Fruit.'


"In the speculative way of speaking, this operation is called comprehending Substance as Subject, as an inner process, as an Absolute Person, and this comprehension constitutes the essential character of Hegel's method." [Marx and Engels (1975), pp.71-75. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphasis added.]


If not, then (according to Lenin) that must mean that Marx didn't understand Das Kapital!

"It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!" [Lenin (1961), p.180. Bold emphases alone added.]


Naturally, this implies that understanding Hegel (even if that were possible) isn't integral to Marxism, or we would be faced with the ridiculous conclusion that Marx didn't understand the core text of Marxism -- Das Kapital -- depending, of course, on how we read The Poverty of Philosophy.


Dialectical Inanities


[This is a continuation of Note 23. Compare much of what follows with what Buddhists and Zen Buddhists have to say about the LOC and the LEM, here and here.]


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


[FL = Formal Logic; MFL = Modern Formal Logic; AFL = Aristotelian Formal Logic; 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 innovative attempts to re-write the history and the foundations of FL with quotations from, or citations to, a single logic text. In fact, their lamentably weak endeavour to come to grips with FL -- which, in my experience, is a far more challenging subject than, say, advanced Group Theory -- bear an uncanny resemblance to the lame attempts made by Creationists to summarise Evolutionary Theory, in their literature, or on their websites.


Grossly ill-informed caricatures like this will only ever impress the ignorant, which seems to be the aim. Anyone who knows any MFL (or indeed, AFL) will see them for what they are. Those who don't will be led astray accordingly; and, if my experience debating this on the Internet is anything to go by, such benighted comrades 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).


This is the only explanation I can think of that accounts for the fact that seemingly intelligent comrades (who are otherwise quite knowledgeable in science, economics, history, current affairs, politics, etc., etc.) constantly produce 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 several other reasons for this self-inflicted nescience in Essay Nine Parts One and Two.]


It is to be hoped that long exposure to DL hasn't completely destroyed the critical faculties of these comrades, 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 crass things dialecticians have to say about AFL and FL in general, much of which is highly repetitive, anyway. Again, 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 -- or even 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 very much more like it, over and over again for nigh on thirty 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.


A particularly egregious example of this type of confusion can be found in George Novack's woefully misguided 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.]


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 quite clear that he has mastered 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, 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 Four: The 'Square Of Opposition'


[On this, see also here.]


Readers will, I hope, note the sophistication apparent in Aristotle's first attempts to say clearly how he intends to use certain words, just as they will no doubt notice how little the musings of comrade Novack correspond with them. In fact, Aristotle says the opposite of what Novack attributes both to him and to FL.


Moreover, I can find no reference to the LOI in Aristotle's work. [On that, see here.]


[Since this Essay was originally posted, however, the above reference has been edited; the one to which I linked earlier can be found here.]