Essay Four Part One: Formal Logic And Change

 

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

 

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

 

Preface

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The difference between Dialectical Materialism [DM] and HM, as I see it, is explained here.

 

It is 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.]

 

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As of October 2017, this Essay is just under 99,000 words long; a much shorter summary of some of its main ideas can be accessed here.

 

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

 

[Latest Update: 05/10/17.]

 

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!

 

I have adjusted the font size used at this site to ensure that even those with impaired vision can read what I have to say. However, if the text is still either too big or too small for you, please adjust your browser settings!

 

(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?

 

(a) Judge For Yourself

 

(b) The Crass Things Dialecticians Say About FL

 

(c) And About Ordinary Language And Commonsense

 

(a) Mistaken Assumptions

 

(b) Descent Into Hegelian Confusion

 

(c) Ordinary Language Isn't A Theory I

 

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

 

(e) Ordinary Language Different From 'Commonsense'

 

(f) Ordinary Language Isn't Ideological

 

(g) High Church Vs Low Church Dialectics

 

(h) Low Church Dialectics

 

(i) High Church Dialectics

 

(7) Was There Any Logic After Aristotle?

 

(8) Explaining Change

 

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

 

(10) 'Unconscious' Dialecticians?

 

(a) Seriously?

 

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

 

(c) The 'Dialectical' Biologist

 

(11) Notes

 

(12) References

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

Formal Logic [FL] Vs Dialectical Logic [DL]

 

A 'Troubled' Relationship

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"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, and to no avail, through books and articles on DM to find any substantiating evidence -- or even a perfunctory argument in support -- that FL is limited in the way that they allege, and that it is incapable of handling change.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As should seem obvious, the second passage quoted by W&G appears to contradict the first (and 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 (which supposedly deals with static "states of affairs"), while the second emphasises the active nature of the search for knowledge. So, there is no conflict here at all.

 

In fact, as noted below, ordinary reasoning makes use of countless verbs, adverbs, and adjectives, so it isn't the least bit 'static'. Furthermore, many of the nouns we use don't imply a 'static' view of the world, either. For example, anyone who thought our concept of a river implied that they were changeless and didn't flow would reveal a seriously flawed understanding of both 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 about our use of the following nouns: wind, hurricane, wave, runner, explosion, inflation, human being, cat, dog, rabbit... If anyone who used these terms thought they were talking about something static and changeless, they would only be advertising their own lack of facility with language and defective knowledge of the world.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

My comments still stand, therefore.

 

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

 

More importantly, even though Donaldson wrote long after logicians began to explore what has come to be known as Informal Logic [IF] -- a discipline that rapidly gained momentum in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and which focuses on what might otherwise be called 'ordinary logic' -- she clearly neglected to take this development into account. Of course, that might be because she is 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 offered no absolutely evidence in support of the assertions they continually level against FL. But, that is just par for the course for these two; their allegations about FL were totally unsupported, save for the above reference to Donaldson's similarly baseless allegations. What they have to say is not only demonstrably false, it grossly inaccurate -- indeed, 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 hackneyed charges.

 

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

 

But, is there any truth to these allegations?

 

Dialectical Fabulation Strikes Again

 

As we will soon see, when these accusations are examined a little more closely they bear little resemblance to the truth.

 

FL And Change

 

Unfounded Allegations

 

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

 

The reasoning behind this attitude was outlined by Rees:

 

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

 

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

 

Or, so we have been told.

 

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

 

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

 

However, and consistent with other dialecticians (who, as we have seen, 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 -- in fact, unanimously --,  rely on little other than unsupported allegations like these. As we will also see, they have also failed to explain precisely how AFL is quite as handicapped in the way they allege -- save they merely repeat the same baseless assertions year in, year out

 

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

 

Little evidence of the Heraclitean Flux here, it seems!

 

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

 

Indeed, as is easy to show, the revolution in logic that took place over 120 years ago, which transformed traditional AFL into MFL -- and which was largely instigated by 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 only of interest to antiquarians, historians and arch traditionalists -- and, of course, dialecticians who are sublimely unaware of these profound developments. Here, again, are W&G:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

To which Burnham not unreasonably replied:

 

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

 

"In a most sarcastic vein, you keep asking me to 'take the trouble to inform us just who following Aristotle analysed and systematised the subsequent progress of logic', 'perhaps you will call my attention to those works which should supplant the system of dialectic materialism for the proletariat...' as if this demand were so obviously impossible of fulfillment (sic) that I must collapse like a pricked balloon before it. The sarcasm is misplaced, for the demand is the easiest in the world to fulfil. Do you wish me to prepare a reading list, Comrade Trotsky? It would be long, ranging from the work of the brilliant mathematicians and logicians of the middle of the last century to one climax in the monumental Principia Mathematica of Russell and Whitehead (the historic turning point in modern logic), and then spreading out in many directions -- one of the most fruitful represented by the scientists, mathematicians and logicians now cooperating in the new Encyclopedia of Unified Science. For logic in its narrower sense, C. I. Lewis' Survey of Symbolic Logic is an excellent, though not easy, introduction. I am afraid, however, that in all of these works you will find scarcely a single reference to Hegelian (or Marxian) dialectics; nor will you in those of a single reputable contemporary scientist -- except the Soviet scientists, whose necks depend upon such references, or one or two Kremlin hangers-on, like J. B. S. Haldane, in other nations. The study of these works would be not uninteresting; but I am afraid that when we finished we would be not much nearer the solution of the question of the role of Russia in the war." [Trotsky (1971), pp.236-37. Burnham's response hasn't been published alongside the on-line version of Trotsky (1971), but it has been posted as a separate entry at the James Burnham archive. Italic emphases in the published edition, but omitted from the on-line 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, indeed, with 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 lost. This is, alas, just one more tradition DM-fans have been only too happy to adopt, maintain and then disseminate.3

 

Validity And Truth

 

One explanation for this sorry state of affairs is that DM-theorists have allowed themselves to be led astray by what is in fact an elementary mistake -- an error novices often make --, that is, of 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 with this 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 of rules of inference with 'logical' or metaphysical 'truths' dates back to Aristotle himself (and arguably even earlier, to Plato and Parmenides, at least). And, it isn't hard to see why this should be so. If a theorist (or, indeed, an entire culture) believes that everything had been created by a 'deity' of some sort, then they will conclude that what they take to be fundamental truths about 'reality' somehow express how that 'deity' went about creating everything, and further how they must reflect how this 'Being' actually 'reasons'. If so, this would 'naturally' then connect 'correct' thinking about 'reality', cognition and society with the divinely-constituted principles that govern both nature and society. Logic would thus become a study of 'divine thought' after the event (i.e., thinking 'God's' thoughts after 'Him'), interpreted now as some sort of Super-Science -- subsequently re-branded, "Metaphysics".

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Fast forward a score or more centuries and this ancient set of presuppositions re-surfaced in Hegel's (supposedly presuppositionless) work as part of a mystical, or ontological, doctrine connected with what he took to be allegedly 'self-developing' concepts -- which idea was itself the result of an egregious error Hegel committed over the nature of predication (a topic covered in detail in Essay Three Part One) -- further compounded an even worse screw-up 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. Hegel even manages to contradict himself within the space of two paragraphs (somewhat ironically one feels) in his Shorter Logic:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Indeed, how 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 will see (in Essays Three and Twelve), that, too, was an unwise move.

 

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

 

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

 

It is instructive to recall that since the Renaissance 'western' humanity has (largely) learnt to separate religion from science so that the sorts of things that used to be said as a matter of course about science (for example, that it was the "systematic study of God's work", etc.) look rather odd and anachronistic today (that is, to all but the incurably religious). In like manner, previous generations of logicians used to confuse logic with science and the "Laws of Thought", also as a matter of course, and they did this for theological and ideological reasons, too. In that case, one would have thought that avowed materialists (i.e., dialecticians) would be the very last to perpetuate and then propagate this ancient confusion.

 

Clearly not.

 

As will be argued at length later on at this site, only if it can be shown (and not simply assumed or asserted) that nature has a rational structure would it be plausible to suppose that there is any connection at all between the way human beings think 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 assumed as a matter of course many centuries ago.

 

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

 

On the other hand, if it could be shown that the universe does have an underlying, 'rational' structure, then the conclusion that nature is 'Mind' (or, that it 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 hence with fundamental metaphysical truths about "Being" itself -- becomes irresistible.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[On this, see Essay Twelve Part Four, to be published in 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. This in turn implies that DM is simply inverted Idealism -- but, a form of Idealism nonetheless. If so, questions about the nature of Logic cannot but be related to the serious doubts raised at this site about the scientific status of DM. In that case, if Logic is capable of revealing fundamental, scientific truths about nature -- as opposed to its being a systematic study of inference, and only that --, then it becomes harder to resist the conclusion that DM is indeed just another form of Idealism that has yet to 'come out of the closet'.

 

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

 

FL And "Static" Definitions

 

As it turns out, despite the dearth of evidence offered in support of the allegations examined in an earlier section, there is good reason to question the usual 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 advance the following, serially-unsupported, allegations about FL:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"Dialectics is the logic of change....

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Attentive readers will no doubt have noticed that every single one of the above omits any evidence or proof that FL is guilty in the way 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, DM-fans continue to assert such things despite being asked (repeatedly) to provide evidence and proof (here is just the latest example -- from May 2015 --, and here is my request for this comrade to provide the 'missing' evidence -- which, predictably, was 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 (i.e., general terms) long before they appeared in mathematics. This fact alone shows that traditional AFL was no more incapable of handling change than is modern Mathematics.7

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[I cover this specific point again, in Note 8 and in the next sub-section.]

 

Static Terms Or Slippery Arguments?

 

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

 

L1: 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 than it would be, say, for Electronics to take no stance on the evolution of Angiosperms -- even though electronic devices are used to assist in their study. Otherwise, one might just as well complain that FL can't launder clothes or eradicate MRSA. What FL supplies 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 (in MFL), truth-values are assigned to such schemas, but, in that case, what is being considered are the truth-values of interpreted propositions, should any be assigned.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

For example, the argument above (from TAR) appears to draw certain conclusions from apparently 'fixed definitions' (or 'fixed'/'relatively fixed' uses) of words -- like "change" and "static" -- in order to make 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 the body of an argument, or do they 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 no A or whatever they become is whatever B is or becomes, and if it is the case that all Cs or whatever they become are whatever B is or becomes, then it is the case that no A or whatever they become is whatever C is or becomes.

 

This shows that AFL can cope with change.

 

However, the point being made in 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 H2 still stands.   

 

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

 

Finally it could be argued that the syllogism is a categorical, not an hypothetical, argument form. Indeed, but H3 was only employed to make the point clear: that syllogisms can be interpreted so that they can cope easily with change.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

L1c: 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 the 'fixity' of those 'definitions' or otherwise are entirely misplaced. The flexibility of interpretation permitted here -- even with respect to traditional schematic argument patterns, like the one given above -- enables change to be accommodated by the simple expedient of choosing appropriate substitution instances for each and every schema. Moves like this will have the effect of re-distributing truth-values among the constituent sentences without affecting the associated inference.

 

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 all explained in Note 11.]

 

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

 

This indicates that the accusations levelled by DM-theorists against MFL are even less accurate than those they direct at AFL. Of course, the example above will hardly satisfy dialecticians, since no "new content" has been added in the conclusion. Fortunately, that is relatively easy to fix. Consider this 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', and with no dialectics anywhere in sight. [And, as perhaps an additional bonus, it depicts change to our dialectical friends, too!] This argument form is used in mathematics and the sciences all the time to derive results not available to those who are still super-glued to the old logic -- and, of course, DM-fans who are unaware of this fact.

 

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

 

Nevertheless, those examples were aimed at countering the specific claim that FL can't handle change. In later Essays we will see that DL itself can't account for changes of any sort -- simple and complex, 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. Worse still, if DM were true, change would be impossible.

 

Other Systems Of FL

 

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

 

Conceptual Change

 

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

 

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

 

Change In DM -- Is It Conceptual Or Material?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Or, indeed, these from Trotsky:

 

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

 

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

 

Admittedly, Rees appealed to the 'materialist inversion' that has allegedly been imposed on Hegel's system (to turn it into "materialist dialectics", and hence put 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 a concept once it had might be apprehended by an individual apprehender -- change in such circumstances? But, how could anyone possibly tell whether or not it had? If we have lost touch with the old 'concept' of colour (since it will have changed), with what could anyone compare the new 'concept' of colour to be able to declare it had in fact changed? No good appealing to memory, since the concept itself has allegedly changed -- unless we are to suppose there are now two concepts of colour: one that has changed, and one (in the memory?) that hasn't. And how might that be confirmed?

 

[I return to this topic below.]

 

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" and "developing" concepts.]

 

Furthermore, how is it possible for any changes experienced by material objects to be recorded by our use of concepts? In DM-writings the impression is given that these two sorts of change are simply the same, or 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 obscure (and now 'sanitised') 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 have appropriated the Christian/Hermetic concepts Hegel inflicted on his readers, but which they say they have put 'the right way up' in order to render them 'consistent' with materialism. This ploy is reminiscent of the way that Christian theologians, for example, re-interpret the scientifically 'unacceptable' passages in the Book of Genesis as 'allegorical' or 'figurative', 'sanitising' them in order to render them 'consistent' with post-Enlightenment sensibility and modern science.]

 

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

 

Conceptual Change -- Or Conceptual Distortion?

 

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

 

C1: Green has changed.

 

The word "green" in such circumstances would normally be understood as the name of an individual (as opposed to signifying a concept). However, if it were 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 (re-interpreted 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 somehow by each individual -- then it would be impossible to decide whether or not it had changed. With what could we (as individuals) compare our supposedly subjective apprehension of the concept green if or when it had changed? All we would have would be a fading memory of the 'old concept green', which, ex hypothesi, would also have changed! Otherwise, the concept green, as we 'individually apprehend it', won't actually have changed; any attempt to access the 'old concept green' will have to appeal to the current 'apprehension' of the concept green to be able to refer to it!

 

Hence, in order to access a memory of the 'old concept green' (labelled in G2 below, "greenn"), 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. In that case, the following would have to be the case:

 

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

 

And so on.

 

Of course, if this were so, there would be no such thing as "the concept green" to change, just a potentially infinite set of fading memories of something that now no longer resembles the 'current concept green' as apprehended by the 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 undermine the theory that concepts are items we cognise individually, or even as individuals. They will be covered briefly in what follows, and in the End Notes associated with those comments.]  

 

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

 

C3: The concept green has changed.

 

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

 

C4: The concept green is a concept.

 

If it is first of all assumed that C4 is well-formed, then it looks 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 must be contradictory, or must be paradoxical, or 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 idiosyncratic use, or even misuse, of language.

 

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

 

From linguistic sins such as these -- committed by our philosophical 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 so that they no longer function as concept expressions, or as expressions signifying concepts.16

 

C3: The concept green has changed.

 

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

 

Of course, it could be objected that the mere fact that we can't express conceptual change in the manner specified above doesn't mean that it doesn't happen; after all, reality isn't constrained by the supposed limitations of language. Maybe not, but if an option of this sort can't be put into words without the sort of distortion mentioned above -- or, if when it has been put into words, 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 then, and only then, do they begin to change (which seems to be Hegel's position).

 

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

 

Alternatively, again, if it is claimed that the mind does indeed reflect reality, and it employs concepts in order to do this, then it can only distort reality in so doing -- that is, it must 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 (that exist in the 'mind', or in 'reality') does it become 'natural' to conflate these two sorts of change.

 

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

 

We can now see where the real problem lies; it isn't with the 'fixed concepts of FL', but with the slippery jargon found in DL, which 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' or 'developing' concepts. Once more, this isn't to suggest that we can't make sense of conceptual change. Far from it; it is a constant feature of our social life. But, we certainly can't do so by means of a philosophical theory that relies on an egregious distortion of language, and on doctrines heavily infected with AIDS.

 

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

 

Logic And Change

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Real Material Change

 

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

 

Or, so it could be maintained.

 

Nevertheless, it is worth noting yet again that the points raised earlier were specifically aimed at the DM-thesis that FL can't handle change, not at whether material change is or isn't different from any of our attempts to depict it. Hence, the above complaint is itself misplaced. Since FL systematises certain aspects of some of the inferences we make, or are able to make, in ordinary life -- formalising but a fraction of the discursive principles implicit in our capacity to reason, communicate and picture the world, truly or falsely -- a defence of FL (even if that is what I am doing here, which I am not; FL needs no defence) can't suddenly pretend that our powers of depiction and the tools by means 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 of this is the case: DL has no discernible practical or scientific applications and has featured in none of the advances in the natural or physical sciences (and arguably none even in the social sciences) -- ever. Worse still, DL has made no contribution to technological innovation or development.18

 

[DM-arguments to the contrary have been neutralised 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 systems (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 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?

 

Judge For Yourself

 

What then of the general boast that DL is a superior form of logic? Is there any way of confirming it? Perhaps there is; 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 to one side. Other Essays posted at this site are aimed at examining these claims, and more besides. However, a few awkward initial problems need to be addressed before the main feature can begin.

 

First of all, while it is clear that Relativity has largely superseded Newtonian Physics it isn't at all obvious that this was related to the latter's inability to deal with "drawn out processes". Still less clear is what exactly FL and DL have in common that makes Trotsky's analogy with higher and lower mathematics at all 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 constantly 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 that Lenin's remarks:

 

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

 

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

 

Dialectical Inanities

 

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

 

Nevertheless, to return to the DM-fairytale that there are exactly three principles underlying FL: In fact, there are countless principles underpinning MFL --, as many as there are authors prepared to define them. But, as we will also see, this tired old 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 fanciful 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 effort to come to grips with FL bear an uncanny resemblance to the lame attempts made by Creationists to summarise Evolutionary Theory in their literature and on their websites.

 

Grossly ill-informed caricatures like this will only ever impress the ignorant, which appears to be the aim. Anyone who knows any MFL (or, indeed, AFL) will see these attacks for what they are. Those who don't will be led astray accordingly. Moreover, if my experience debating this topic 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 highly intelligent comrades (who are otherwise quite knowledgeable in science, economics, history, current affairs, politics, etc., etc.) continually pen 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 scores of 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 forty years, in order to try to make some sort of sense of it. Recall, too, that the quotations reproduced below are only a tiny fraction of those that could have been posted.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"Some examples: a man can't be inhuman; a democracy can't be undemocratic; a wageworker can't be a non-wageworker.

 

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

 

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

 

The LOI will be discussed in considerable detail in Essay Six, but the reader will note that Novack -- except in one instance (discussed below) -- nowhere attempts to substantiate his wild allegations with a reference to a single FL-text. To be sure, he paraphrases Aristotle from time to time, but it is just as plain that he 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 [i.e., some man is not white -- RL], no man is white -- some man is white. But I call the universal affirmation and the universal negation contrary opposites, e.g. every man is just -- no man is just. So these can't be true together, but their opposites may both be true with respect to the same thing, e.g. not every man is white -- some man is white.

 

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

 

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

 

 

Figure One: The 'Square Of Opposition'

 

[On this, see 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 also my comments over at Wikipedia, here, where I have shown that the passages from Aristotle, to which some appeal to show he did in fact use the LOI, don't in fact show this. Readers are referred there for more details, but it is important to add, I have posted about half a dozen comments on the same page.]22a1

 

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

 

However, we have the following quotation from Hamilton's Logic:

 

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

 

The aforementioned editorial change to that Wikipedia article -- on this see Note 22a1 (link above) --  doesn't alter much, but it does attempt to locate a use of "identity" in Aristotle's work. However, as far as I can see, Aristotle neither uses that word, nor this 'Law'. Moreover, Aristotle doesn't connect identity with his logic or with the Syllogism.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Indeed, he seems to be making a totally different point, as I noted on the 'Talk' page:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The failure to notice the difference between propositional negation, predicate negation and predicate-term negation (but more specifically the latter two) has clearly confused dialecticians like Novack; but, once again, this type of error is almost universal among DM-theorists. Nevertheless, Aristotle drew attention to this distinction over two thousand ago! It could be that DM-fans haven't had enough time for this to sink in...

 

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

 

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

 

"Some examples: a man can't be inhuman; a democracy can't be undemocratic; a wageworker can't be a non-wageworker.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"The central principle on which formal logic is built can be expressed in a simple formula that at first glance appears to be a self-evident truth 'A equals A'....

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Be this as it may, it would be interesting to see Conner derive all of FL from the LOI -- including disjunctive and conjunctive normal forms, to say nothing of consistency and completeness proofs. [On this, see Lemmon (1996), pp.75-91, 189-200, and Hunter (1996), pp.137-215.]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[In Essay Seven Part One, we will have occasion to note that Engels wasn't afraid of drawing his own hard and fast antitheses -- for example, when he claimed that water exists either as a sold (ice), as a liquid (water), or a gas (steam), but not as a solid-liquid, or as a gas-liquid (even when they change into one another where these 'fixed and rigid dichotomies' are supposed to break down). And, what these two have to say about the LOI will be dealt with in Essay Six.]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Indeed, while they are happy to tell us that according to FL "the whole is equal to the sum of its parts", what Aristotle in fact said was this:

 

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

 

Even for those like W&G who have been blinded by dialectics, Aristotle's "beside the parts" is hardly an "equal to".

 

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

 

Moreover, concerning the choice of colour that they give their readers (i.e., "a thing must be either black or white"), do they honestly think that logicians don't know that some things are red, green or sky blue?   

 

But, there is even worse to come:

 

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

 

"a) p = p

 

"b) p = ~p

 

"c) p V = ~p (sic)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

a) p is equal to p

 

b) p is equal to not-p

 

c) p or equals not-p (sic)

 

d) not both p not-p (sic)

 

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

 

c) Socrates or equals not-Socrates.

 

d) Not both Socrates not-Socrates. 

 

c) and d) are just plain gibberish.

 

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

 

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

 

Clearly, these two comrades didn't find these prize examples of syntactical confusion in a logic text written anywhere on this planet -- which must mean they simply made them up!

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

W1: Caesar is a man.

 

This doesn't say the particular is the universal, as these two allege, and can only be made to say so by imposing on it a grammatical theory that they (and Hegel) failed to justify. [Indeed, it can't be justified; on that see Essay Three Part One.] Even if, per impossible, W1 could be construed in this way, W&G failed to say why this is a contradiction, as opposed to it being a simple falsehood -- or, indeed, just plain, unvarnished nonsense.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"Let us examine the matter from another angle.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here, too, is Joseph Dietzgen:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As a late entry in the competition to find the worst summary of FL on the planet, submitted on behalf of the UK-SWP, this is how John Molyneux managed to get things hopelessly wrong:

 

"Dialectics is the logic of change....

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

He also argued as follows:

 

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

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

 

[UO = Unity of Opposites.]

 

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

 

To be sure, it might be possible to get around this 'difficulty' by defining twilight as a combination of day and night, but that would make Molyneux's assertions stipulatively 'true', and would as such have been imposed on nature.

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

A few pages earlier, Molyneux added this not unreasonable comment:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Here is Robin Hirsch, who seems to know a little more logic than most DM-fans:

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Figure Two: Use Value Slam Dunks Exchange Value

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"The science of the laws of thought, formal logic, reached its highest point with Aristotle....

 

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

 

To his credit, Thalheimer (parsimoniously) manages to get by with just two misrepresentations of AFL, all the while confusing the DM-version of the LOC with the DM-version of the LEM.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

To be fair to Somerville, he did try to qualify the second point above in a footnote (on p.205), where he made some attempt to come to grips with Aristotle (but, even then, his 'in depth' analysis was compressed into about a hundred words). However, the fact that it was tucked away right at the end of his book, when the body of this work confuses "what is said" (which is how Aristotle expressed himself) with "each existence" (Somerville's odd rendition), tells us all we need to know about his concern for accuracy. Also worthy of note is Somerville's sloppy use of letters; one minute "A" appears to stand for an object of some sort (an "existence"), the next for what can be predicated of that object (or "existence").

 

The above comment appeared in a slightly different form in an earlier work of his:

 

"The Law of Identity is usually expressed in the form, A is A. That is, each thing is identical with itself. The Law of Non-Contradiction states that A is not Non-A. That is, each thing is not different from itself. The Law of Excluded Middle states that X is either A or Non-A. That is, any third alternative or middle ground in addition to A and Non-A is excluded. The same thing cannot be both A (or itself) and Non-A (or different from itself) at the same time....

 

"What they all say is that A is A and cannot be non-A at the same time [Somerville (1946), p.183.]  

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

As we have witnessed many times, these 'dialectical' As enjoy a mercurial existence all of their own, changing their denotation from moment-to-moment -- oscillating between names, predicate expressions, 'existences', properties, relations, 'objects', and much else besides. In Somerville's 'logical' universe, on one interpretation of his sloppy prose, A is one minute a Proper Name, supposedly standing for some object or "thing", the next it somehow stands for A's parts -- as in "a thing called A is continuously changing in all of its parts all of the time into non-A...." If this were really so it would imply, for example, that all of Marx's "parts" were changing from Marx into non-Marx. So, for instance, Marx's left knee and right eyebrow were also changing from Marx into non-Marx. Did Marx really name his left knee and his right eyebrow "Karl Marx"? Worse still, was every atom in his body (i.e., all his "parts") really named "Karl Marx", too? One wonders how long his baptismal ceremony took if every single atom in his body had to be named "Karl Marx".

 

[In case a few bright sparks point out that atoms hadn't really been discovered when Marx was a baby, they can substitute "cell" for "atom", and the rest follows as before. And lest anyone think this is being unfair to Somerville, they should e-mail me with what they think is the correct interpretation of his confused words.]  

 

Surprisingly, on a slightly less unsympathetic reading, Somerville's account is even more ridiculous (why that is so will be explained below, here and here): "[A] thing called A is continuously changing in all of its parts all of the time into non-A, which means it is non-A as well as A...". [Emphasis added.]

 

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

 

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

 

While Gollobin's book is full of quotations and references (many of dubious worth -- or even relevance), he doesn't even attempt to substantiate these by-now-familiar DM-fibs about AFL.

 

Here is another Trotskyist, John Pickard, advancing similarly crass and unsupported allegations about FL:

 

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

 

"Formal logic is based on what is known as the 'law of identity', which says that 'A' equals 'A' -- i.e. that things are what they are, and that they stand in definite relationships to each other. There are other derivative laws based on the law of identity; for example, if 'A' equals 'A', it follows that 'A' cannot equal 'B', nor 'C'....

 

"Whereas the formal logician will say that 'A' equals 'A', the dialectician will say that 'A' does not necessarily equal 'A'. Or to take a practical example that Trotsky uses in his writings, one pound of sugar will not be precisely equal to another pound of sugar. It is a good enough approximation if you want to buy sugar in a shop, but if you look at it more carefully you will see that it's actually wrong." [John Pickard, quoted from here.]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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


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


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

Here is yet another:

 

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

 

A quick Google search will reveal how widespread this dialectical weed has become:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[Although the last author is merely paraphrasing Somerville.]

 

The same hoary old myths and wild fabulations, almost word for word!

 

DM, repetitive?

 

Ha! The very idea!

 

Here is one of my favourites, however:

 

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

 

Now, "That object is a horse and not a horse" might be a contradiction (it would depend on whether or not there are any hidden ambiguities buried in the quoted sentence, as well as on the meaning of the demonstrative "that"), but "That object is a horse and a television" would only be a contradiction if this were the case: "No horse is a television"; but logic can't legislate here.

 

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

 

At best, the quoted sentence merely expresses an inconsistency; that is because the object pointed out might be neither; it could be a dog, for example.

 

[It is worth recalling once more that concerning two contradictory propositions (or clauses) that they can't both be true and they can't both be false. DM-fans appear to be blithely unaware even of Aristotle's concept of a contradiction. On the other hand, two propositions or clauses are inconsistent if they can't both be true, but can both be false (as in the case above).]

 

As noted earlier, while dialecticians are quite happy to pontificate about logic, they also seem not to know the first thing about it.

 

From an earlier age, here is Fred Casey, underling that point:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

It is difficult to take this seriously. Does anyone think, did even Casey think, that a single logician in the last two thousand years believed it to be a logical law that, say, the Earth isn't part of the Solar System, or that cats aren't part of the animal kingdom? No wonder Casey quoted not one single logic text in support of these wild fantasies. This is in fact one of the worst examples of dialectical confusion I have ever seen. What the LEM has got to do with whether or not 'a thing' is part of another 'thing' is a total mystery. Casey can only have made this stuff up, he certainly didn't find it in a logic textbook published on this planet.

 

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

 

So, according to Casey's own characterisation of these 'laws', his last four examples should have read as follows:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The sloppy approach adopted by DM-theorists when it comes to all matters logical (exposed in this Essay) surfaces yet again in Sayers's article above. In the LOI, the letter "A" stands for a singular term (e.g., a Proper Name or a Definite Description), so, as such, it can't feature in the LEM or the LOC. For example, "It is not the case that (Socrates and not Socrates)" -- if we interpret the letter "A" in Sayers's "(~(A & ~A))" as a Proper Name variable -- is unvarnished nonsense. Sayers will search long and hard (and to no avail) through Frege's work, or Russell's, or that of any other logician not the worse for drink or drugs for any examples of such DM-inspired gibberish.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

DM, vague and confused?

 

Whatever was I thinking! Shame on me!

 

Here is yet another HCD -- and no less a figure than Herbert Marcuse:

 

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

 

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

 

And here is the doyen of French DM-fan (and many more besides), Henri Lefebvre:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

That is:

 

P1: N*(A) º ¬*A.

 

Or even:

 

P2: N*(A) = ¬*A.

 

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

 

Of course, given the above syntax, P1 is ill-formed, too. That is because neither "N*(A)" or "¬*A" are propositions or sentences. However, when names are supplied -- so that P1 yields, say, "Neg(Socrates) if and only if Not(Socrates)" -- P1 will be seen for the unvarnished nonsense it is -- just as 'Neg(Socrates) is identical with Not(Socrates)' is, too.

 

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

 

P3: N(A) º ¬A.

 

P4: N(A) = ¬A.

 

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

 

But, in this case, P4 would be ill-formed, too, since "=" can only be flanked by singular terms, not propositions. Once more, if we supply sentences, so that P4 yields, "Neg(Paris is in France) is identical to it is not the case that Paris is in France" (sic) we would be able to see just as quickly that this is equally nonsensical.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

The dilemma is now quite stark:

 

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

 

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

 

[Recall, given option (2), "A" has to go proxy for a proposition or sentence, not a name.]

 

Exception might be taken to the use of "A" to stand for the proposition "Caesar is identical with Caesar".

 

[DM-fans can't in fact lodge this objection since, as we have seen, according to them and their sloppy syntax/semantics, these As can be anything we please!]

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Now, do dialecticians really think that a philosopher of Aristotle's stature and sophistication actually believed that, say, "Rat does not equal cat"? [Interpreting here the 'dialectical definition' of the LOC/LEM literally, replacing "A" with "rat", and "B" with "cat".]

 

If they do, we might wonder why Marx thought so highly of him.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"Formal Logic asserts: 'A is A'. Dialectical Logic is not saying 'A is not-A'…. It says: A is indeed A, but A is also not-A precisely so far as the proposition 'A is A' is not a tautology but has real content." [Lefebvre (1968), p.41. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"This law of identity of opposites, which so perplexes and horrifies addicts of formal logic, can be easily understood, not only when it is applied to actual processes of development and interrelations of events, but also when it is contrasted with the formal law of identity. It is logically true that A equals A, that John is John…. But it is far more profoundly true that A is also non-A. John is not simply John: John is a man. This correct proposition is not an affirmation of abstract identity, but an identification of opposites. The logical category or material class, mankind, with which John is one and the same is far more and other than John, the individual. Mankind is at the same time identical with, yet different from John." [Novack (1971), p.92. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Nevertheless, even if their (collective) analysis of the LOC were correct, and it was true that "A is A and at the same time non-A", it would be impossible for dialecticians to begin to express any criticisms even of their own garbled version of AFL. That is because it would be impossible to state the following:

 

B1: A is A and at the same time non-A.

 

If it were indeed true that "A is A and not A/non-A" or "A" is at the same time "non-A", then the first half of B1 would have to be re-written as:

 

B2: Non-A is non-A.

 

Or, more accurately, the whole of B1 would become:

 

B3: Non-A is non-A and at the same time non-(non-A).

 

That is, if each "A" in B1 is replaced with what it is supposed at the same time to be (i.e., "non-A"), following the advice of DM-'logicians'. Plainly, B1 would 'dialectically disintegrate' into B3 -- or, perhaps worse, into the following:

 

B3a: A and non-A is A and non-A and at the same time non-(A and non-A).

 

Depending on how radically we interpret the 'dialectical' re-write of the LOC.

 

So, in B3a, I have replaced each occurrence of "A" with an "A and non-A", since we have been told that each "A" is at the same time "A and non-A".

 

The above fatal outcome can be forestalled only by those who reject the DM-inspired version of the LOC (i.e., those who reject the dictum "A is at the same time non-A"), and who thus don't think that the first half of B1 is false, or maybe both false and true -- or even that "It depends...".

 

B1: A is A and at the same time non-A.

 

Even worse still, if every A is at the same time non-A, then these would surely follow from B3:

 

B4: Non-(non-A) is non-(non-A) and at the same time non-(non-(non-A)).

 

B5: Non-(non-(non-A)) is non-(non-(non-A)) and at the same time non-(non-(non-(non-A))).

 

And so on, as each successive A in B3, and then B4, is replaced with a non-A that dialecticians insist they at the same time are. Once more, this untoward result may only be prevented by those who reject standard DM-criticisms of the LOC.

 

Or, even worse still:

 

B4a: A and non-A and non-(A and non-A) is A and non-A and non-(A and non-A) and at the same time non-(A and non-A and non-(A and non-A)).

 

[B3a: A and non-A is A and non-A and at the same time non-(A and non-A).]

 

Replacing each A in B3a with A and non-A, once more. [I won't even attempt B5a!]

 

[Of course, it won't do to claim that all these "non-"s cancel out (an odd notion in itself; on that see here), since if they were to do that we would have to reject the idea that each A was at the same time a non-A. Thus, if each A were at the same time a non-A, then, when we formed a non-(non-A) from a non-A, in the above manner, and if this could be 'cancelled' back to an A, the A in non-A would no longer be a non-A, since these two "non-"s would ex hypothesi have cancelled, wiping out that non-A!]

 

As should now be apparent, the LOC has an annoying way of hitting back in a most un-dialectical manner when challenged. In which case, as noted above: it is impossible for dialecticians to say what they mean!

 

The same problems afflict other DM-inspired criticisms of principles dialecticians claim to have found in textbooks of FL all the while unwisely keeping the evidence to themselves).

 

In addition, as noted above, DM-theorists are invariably unclear what the As in these alleged FL-'laws' are supposed to stand for. Based on the quotations we have already seen, and on other passages posted elsewhere at this site, it is plain that DM-theorists regularly confuse A with one or more of the following: propositions, judgements, properties, qualities, words, objects, processes, predicates, statements, terms, assertions, type-sentences, token-sentences, concepts, ideas, beliefs, thoughts, phrases, clauses, relations, relational expression, indexicals, places, times, names, 'entities' --, and now, in the case of John Somerville, "existences" (i.e., everything in the universe!).

 

The significance of logical disorder of this magnitude lies not so much in the unmitigated confusion it creates, but in the fact that the vast majority of the DM-faithful haven't even noticed it!

 

And that accusation includes HCDs!

 

Indeed, even when this unmitigated confusion is brought to their attention, they almost invariably complain about "pedantry -- or reject it as "semantics"!

 

As has already been pointed out: 2400 years ago (and despite his own confusions) Aristotle was far clearer than all these 'dialectical logicians' put together.

 

[Which might prompt the introduction a new collective noun for the lot of them: "a garble of dialecticians", perhaps?]

 

But, far worse: are we really supposed to believe that this sub-Aristotelian, syntactic and semantic DM-rat's nest encapsulates ideas that lie at the very cutting edge of modern science and philosophy?

 

Now, anyone tempted to respond to the above on the lines that it gets the DM-view of contradictions (etc.) wrong, and that dialectical contradictions are really X, or they are in effect Y, or they are…whatever (readers can insert their own favourite DM-definition here -- call it Z), need only reflect on the fact that according to the DM-inspired criticism of the LOC, that criticism itself must be X or Y, or even Z, while at the same time being not X or not Y, or not Z -- if we here interpret the As above as X, Y, or even Z -- since, if we abide by sound dialectical-principles, these letters can be interpreted in any which way we fancy.

 

Let's see those who peremptorily accuse careful logicians of "pedantry" and "semantics" try to squirm their way out of that hole!

 

[In Essay Eight Part Three, we shall see that serious difficulties like this afflict, and thus neutralise, the best account there is (or, at least, the best account I have ever seen) of the nature of 'dialectical contradictions', written by a fellow Marxist.]

 

In that case, the radically imprecise nature of the DM-inspired criticism of the LOC (which sees everything as "X or Y, or even Z, and not X or not Y, or even not Z" -- where each "X or Y, or even Z" is simply left undefined, so it can be anything dialecticians please) must itself be "both a criticism and not a criticism" of the LOC. That must be so unless, of course, criticisms are themselves exempt from their own criticism -- and can't therefore ever aspire to become one of these wishy-washy dialectical letter As.

 

Alas, this means that dialecticians' own criticism of the LOC must now self-destruct. So, for example, any attempt made by DM-fans to define the LOC must be "a definition and not a definition" -- if their own 'analysis' of the LOC and the LOI is invoked against any such attempt.

 

Hence, using "D" to stand for "the DM-'definition' of the LOC" (whatever that 'definition' turns out to be, and whatever it means, if we are ever told), it must be the case that "D is at the same time non-D". Clearly, that would mean that the DM-inspired criticism of the LOC undermines its own definition of it! Or, at least, it does and it doesn't.

 

It is at this point that even DL-fans might just begin to see how devilish Diabolical Logic really is.

 

[BAD = Buddhist Dialectics/Dialectician; MAD = Materialist Dialectics/Dialectician, both depending on context.]

 

However, long experience 'debating' with DM-fans who think Hegel is the best thing since sliced Aristotle suggests that one should never underestimate their capacity to ignore anything they don't like or can't 'compute'. 'Debating' with those whose brains have been compromised by this Hermetic virus is like debating with Buddhists -- except the latter are at least respectful and non-abusive. However, in relation to both sets of mystics (the MAD and the BAD), whatever it is that is thrown at them in arguments against their systems simply doubles back and serves to strengthen their case. The fact that the BAD-ies can tell us absolutely nothing about 'Nirvana' phases them not one iota (since it is 'Nothing'!), just as it scarcely registers with the MAD-ies that they can't say what their "Totality" is, either.

 

And, it is little use pointing out to MAD-ies -- or BAD-ies -- that their belief in universal contradiction is self-contradictory, for to do so would be to feed this monster, simply lending it strength.

 

[This is especially true of MAD-Mystics who frequent Internet discussion boards -- a recent and extreme example of which can be found here; check out the abusive ramblings of one "Wangwei".]

 

Now, it could be objected once more that DM-theorists don't object to the use of the LOC, the LOI or the LEM in their proper area of application. As noted above, these FL-principles allegedly fall short when they are applied to processes in the real world, to change and movement. This hackneyed response will be tested to destruction in Essays Five, Six and Eight Parts One, Two and Three (where consideration will be given to Engels's 'analysis' of motion, Hegel and Trotsky's attempts to criticise the LOI, as well as the rather odd idea that change is the result of 'internal contradictions').

 

In the meantime, it is worth reminding ourselves once again that these DM-inspired criticisms of FL are themselves phenomenal and/or material objects in their own right (i.e., they have to be written/typed in ink, or pixels, on a page somewhere, or propagated through the air as sound waves at some point, just as they have to be apprehended by human beings), and as such they are surely subject to change (that is, if everything is). That being so, they "are never equal to themselves", so, the above DM-inspired criticisms of FL must apply to each and every material copy of 'dialectical' criticisms of FL. Indeed, if "A is A and at the same time non-A" is correct, meaning that letters (or what they refer to) are "never equal to themselves", sentences in books and articles on DM stand no chance -- they, too, are composed of letters! Unless, of course, sentences in books and articles on DM are the only things in the entire universe that don't change.

 

Hence, if DM-theorists are to be believed, no materially-expressed DM-criticism of the LOC is "equal to itself", each and every phenomenal example of a DM-criticism of the LOC is at the same moment both "a criticism and not a criticism".

 

The rest follows as before...

 

The counter-argument to this (that dialecticians only need to appeal to the 'relative stability' of material objects/processes to make their point) has been neutralised in Essay Six. The other counter-argument -- i.e., that this ignores Hegel's use of identity to derive the alleged fact that everything is related to, or 'reflects', its 'own other', and not merely to everything that it is 'not' --, is also defused in Essays Seven Part Three and Eight Part Three.

 

However, in an attempt perhaps to neutralise objections like those posted above, James Lawler argued as follows:

 

"Looking one step further into this matter, Hegel suggests that the relation of A to not-A is doubly negative. Identity is established (not immediately given) through a negative relation to not-A. A is itself in not being not-A. But this negative relation to not-A is itself negated. That is, the identity of A does not consist solely in its being not-A, there is a 'return' to A again -- which Hegel calls 'reflection.' Thus 'A is A' is not a tautologous (sic) repetition of A (as 'abstract understanding' would have it) but an affirmation that has been made possible only through a doubly negative movement, a 'negation of the negation.'" [Lawler (1982), p.22. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

"It is necessary to ask, first of all, whether and in what sense the fact that A necessarily relates to what is not-A permits us to insert not-A in A. Hegel is quite explicit that this relation is not to be understood in such a way that the results would be the blurring of all identities in a single monistic being -- as he accuses Spinoza of doing: 'Substance, as the universal negative power, is as it were a dark shapeless abyss which engulfs all definite content as radically null, and produces from itself nothing that has a positive substance of its own.'" [Ibid., p.32, quoting Hegel (1975), p.215, in the edition I have used, which seems to be different from Lawler's. Italic emphases in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Quite how the (quoted) incomprehensible passage from Hegel helps clear this up I will leave to those fluent in Martian to decide, but Lawler continues:

 

"If we grant that A's identity involves its necessary relation to what is not-A, and that this not-A is 'its own other' -- a definite other being and not any being whatsoever -- and that this relation to some definite other is necessary for the existence of A or is essential to the constitution of A (A's identity), it seems reasonable to look for some 'imprint' of this 'other' in A, so that in some sense not-A is internally constitutive of A.... In other words, to understand the internal nature of A it is necessary to study the determinate not-A not only as a necessary external condition but as 'reflected' in A. This is not to say that one should expect to find in A some direct and immediate duplication of not-A. The direct identity of A and not-A would constitute the annihilation of the beings involved." [Ibid., pp.32-33. Italic emphases in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

We have already had occasion to note that dialecticians are hopelessly confused about what they mean by the sub-logical symbols they use, and Lawler is, as we have seen, up there with the best of them -- confusing these As one minute with propositions and sentences, the next with properties, predicates, 'beings', indexicals, relations and nominalised relational expressions, among many other things, as we have just seen.

 

Exactly how Lawler's comments are capable of preventing the logical explosion we witnessed earlier -- which follows from Hegel's brilliant insight that "A is identical with, but at the same time different from not-A" (I paraphrase!) -- is somewhat unclear, too. Even if it were correct that "A = not-A, but at the same time A ≠ not-A" (which is a slightly shorter version of "A is identical with, but at the same time different from not-A"), we would still obtain the following logical spaghetti from B1 (modified):

 

B1: A is A and at the same time non-A.

 

B1b: A = A and at the same time not-A.

 

However, if we begin with the more 'orthodox' version suggested by Lawler, encapsulated in B1c, the situation is even worse:

 

B1c: A = A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A.

 

Here, I am taking "A is A and at the same time A is not-A, and A is also not-not-A" to have the same 'dialectical' content as "A = A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A".

 

If we take the part of this formula of 'genius' highlighted in turquoise (i.e., "A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A", which we are assured it is 'dialectically' equal to "A") and substitute it for each "A" in B1c (but parsed by means of brackets to make it 'easier' on the eye), we obtain the following monstrosity:

 

B6: (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A).

 

If we now do the same with B6, we end up with this bowl of 'dialectical' spaghetti:

 

B7: ((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) = ((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) and ((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) = not-((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) and ((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)) ≠ not-((A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) = not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) and (A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A) ≠ not-(A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A)).

 

[In the above, each A has been replaced successively by what Lawler assures it is identical with, namely, A and A = not-A and A ≠ not-A.]

 

 

 

Figure Three: Logic Before It Has Been Given

A 'Dialectical' Make-Over

 

 

Figure Four: Logic After The Makeover

 

Alas, my computer might not have enough memory to complete B8!

 

[That pleasant task is left to readers who have more time on their hands than is perhaps good for them. And, good luck with B999!]

 

Of course, if we throw the full weight of DL at these sentences, the entire theory [DM] will collapse onto gibberish even quicker, for if A is never equal to A, but is always equal to not-A, then no symbol at all will remain unscathed. In which case, each and every word that DM-fans use to criticise FL must be subject to these crazy strictures. Consider again B1:

 

B1: A is A and at the same time non-A.

 

This soon 'dialectically-develops' into the following (if we replace each and every word with 'not-'/'non-that word'; i.e, substituting "non-is" for "is", "non-non" for "non", "non-the" for "the", and so on), yielding:

 

B1c: Non-A non-is non-A non-and non-at non-the non-same non-time non-non-non-A.

 

And then:

 

B1d: Non-non-non-A non-non-non-is non-non-non-A non-non-non-and non-non-non-at non-non-non-the non-non-non-same non-non-non-time non-non-non-non-non-non-non-A.

 

And so on...

 

Hence, the same fate must befall every word that DM-fans themselves use -- since, as we have noted, words are just as material as any letter A that either they or Hegel ever employed. In which case, if we apply their own 'logic' to what they attempt to tell us, dialecticians will end up with unvarnished gibberish in place of sentences that might seem to make some sort of crazy sense, leaving them in the unenviable position of not being able to say anything at all.

 

[This is just an elaboration of a point Aristotle made 2400 years ago!]

 

And, it is no good complaining that this is unfair; dialecticians' sloppy use of those ill-defined letter "A"s invites such parody.

 

So, Lawler's 'solution' is in fact a major step backward, even when compared with the implications of the crass 'definitions' concocted by lesser LCD souls.

 

[Lawler's attempt to derive, à la Hegel, a "not-A" from an "A" was demolished in Essay Eight Part Three. It is worth pointing out again that in the midst of all of this DM-confusion, the distinction between "not A" (predicate negation) and "not-A"/"non-A" (predicate-term negation) has been ignored, since Lawler and other DM-fans seem to be blithely unaware of it, even though Aristotle himself wasn't. More on that, here.]

 

On a more general note, W&G advance several other allegations about FL that reveal just how little they know about a subject they seem quite happy to misrepresent:

 

"It is an astonishing fact that the basic laws of formal logic worked out by Aristotle have remained fundamentally unchanged for over two thousand years." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.89. This appears on p.93 of the 2nd edition.]

 

This is so manifestly untrue that these two comrades have had to ignore or distort the major advances that have been made in logic since the 1850s to make it 'work':

 

"In the 19th century, there were a number of attempts to bring logic up to date (George Boyle (sic), Ernst Schröder, Gotlob (sic) Frege, Bertrand Russell and A. N. Whitehead). But, apart from the introduction of symbols, and a certain tidying up, there is no real change here. Great claims are made, for example by the linguistic philosophers, but there are not many grounds for them...." [Ibid., p.97. This appears on p.101 of the 2nd edition.]

 

We have already had occasion to take note of the many errors this passage contains -- for example, W&G confuse George Boole with a fictional character, "George Boyle"; they also mis-spell Gottlob Frege's name --, sure, these are relatively minor issues (even though they highlight just how careless these two jokers are when it comes to matters logical). Add to that the following 'minor detail': Russell and Whitehead's work in logic dates from the 20th century, not the 19th. In addition, the fact that these comrades can see no difference between the old logic of subject and predicate, and the newer logics of function and argument, quantifiers and predicates of different levels, of relations and sets, tensed functors, and so on, merely underlines their self-inflicted ignorance.

 

Traditional (Aristotelian) logic not only ignored complex inferences inexpressible in syllogisms -- and, it is worth reminding ourselves, The Syllogism is a remarkably inept, limited, and inefficient way to argue; who ever argues this way in everyday life, and which scientist or mathematician has ever used a single syllogism? --, it failed to deal with relational expressions, quantifiers expressing multiple generality (these are used in mathematics all the time -- for example, "If every number has a successor, then there is no prime larger than every number"), internal and external negation, coupled with scope ambiguity. [This links to a PDF.] That was partly because of the way that quantifier expressions themselves had been interpreted by earlier logicians, who, with their slavish adherence to Term Logic and the traditional grammar of subject and predicate, crippled logic and delayed its advance for well over two thousand years.

 

[On the origin of some of these confusions, see Barnes (2009). The impact of the new logic, and why it occupied a crucially important role in the advancement of mathematics, is detailed in Giaquinto (2004) and Grattan-Guinness (1970, 1997, 2000a, 2000b). See also Kitcher (1984), pp.227-71. On Frege's importance, see Dummett (1981a), pp.665-84. On the general background, see Beaney (1996). Concerning the superiority of MFL over AFL, see Dummett (1981a), pp.8-33, Noonan (2001), pp.25-28, 39-43, and here. The power of Fregean logic is underlined with admirable clarity in Geach (1961). See also, Zalta (2015).]

 

Wittgenstein himself highlighted some of the confusions in, and limitations of, the old logic, in Wittgenstein (1913). Indeed, what Wittgenstein had to say about the work of one particular logic textbook (i.e., Coffey (1938a, 1938b)) could well have been addressed at our DM-brethren with equal justification:

 

"In no branch of learning can an author disregard the results of honest research with so much impunity as he can in Philosophy and Logic. To this circumstance we owe the publication of such a book as Mr Coffey's Science of Logic: and only as a typical example of the work of many logicians of today does this book deserve consideration. The author's Logic is that of the scholastic philosophers, and he makes all their mistakes -- of course with the usual references to Aristotle. (Aristotle, whose name is taken so much in vain by our logicians, would turn in his grave if he knew that so many Logicians know no more about Logic today than he did 2,000 years ago). The author has not taken the slightest notice of the great work of the modern mathematical logicians -- work which has brought about an advance in Logic comparable only to that which made Astronomy out of Astrology, and Chemistry out of Alchemy....

 

"The worst of such books is that they prejudice sensible people against the study of Logic." [Wittgenstein (1913), pp.2-3.]

 

However, W&G continue, digging an even deeper hole for themselves:

 

"Using a superficial and inexact analogy with physics, the so-called 'atomic method' developed by Russell and Wittgenstein (and later repudiated by the latter) tried to divide language into its 'atoms.' The basic atom of language is supposed to be the simple sentence, out of which compound sentences are constructed. Wittgenstein dreamed of developing a 'formal language' for every science -- physics, biology, even psychology. Sentences are subjected to a 'truth test' based on the old laws of identity, contradiction and the excluded middle. In reality, the basic method remains exactly the same. The 'truth value' is a question of 'either…or,' 'yes or no,' 'true or false.' The new logic is referred to as the propositional calculus. But the fact is that this system can't even deal with arguments formerly handled by the most basic (categorical) syllogism. The mountain has laboured, and brought forth a mouse." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.97. This appears on p.102 of the 2nd edition.]

 

Again, the errors in this passage were exposed here. However, W&G nowhere reference a single passage from Wittgenstein's work that supports the idea that he wanted to set up "a 'formal language' for every science -- physics, biology, even psychology"; in fact, these two have plainly confused Wittgenstein with Rudolph Carnap and the other members of the Vienna Circle. Nor do they show how or why the new logic can't handle syllogistic inferences, when it manifestly can. [On that, for example, see Lemmon (1993), pp.168-79.] To cap it all, they assert that Wittgenstein's work was somehow "based on the old laws of identity", when he in fact argued as follows:

 

"Roughly speaking, to say of two things that they are identical is nonsense, and to say of one thing that it is identical with itself is to say nothing at all.

 

"Thus I do not write 'f(a,b).a = b', but 'f(a,a)' (or 'f(b,b)'); and not 'f(a,b).~a = b', but 'f(a,b)'....

 

[Wittgenstein explains what he is doing here: "Identity of object I express by identity of sign, and not by using a sign for identity. Difference of objects I express by difference of sign." (5.53, p.105.) -- RL.]

 

 "The identity-sign, therefore, is not an essential constituent of conceptual notation." [Wittgenstein (1972), 5.5303-5.533, pp.106-07.]

 

"'A thing is identical with itself.' -- There is no finer example of a useless sentence.... It is as if in our imagination we put a thing into its own shape and saw that it fitted." [Wittgenstein (2009), §216, p.91e.]

 

"'a = a' is a perfectly useless proposition." [Wittgenstein (1976), p.283.]

 

"The law of identity, for example, seemed to be of fundamental importance. But now the proposition that this 'law' is nonsense has taken over this importance." [Wittgenstein (1993), p.169.]

 

The passage quoted above from Wittgenstein (1972) -- the Tractatus -- comes from his early work. We also read the following in a letter Wittgenstein sent to Bertrand Russell (dated October 1913):

 

"But just now I am so troubled with identity...." [Wittgenstein (1979), p.125. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

We also read this from a note dated 29/11/1914:

 

"I believe that it would be possible wholly to exclude the sign of identity from our notation and always to indicate identity merely by the identity of the signs....

 

"By means of this notation the pseudo-proposition (x)x = a or the like would lose all appearance of justification." [Ibid., p.34e.]

 

Not finished, these two continue:

 

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

 

On a similar basis, therefore, algebraists were unwise to introduce symbols into mathematics. And yet, how many ordinary people understand algebra? Does that mean algebra is "elitist"? More revealingly, W&G's jibe (about the esoteric nature of modern logic) hides, one feels, the fact that these two comrades found even elementary Symbolic Logic far too difficult to grasp. [Exhibit A for the prosecution was recorded earlier.]

 

To be sure, MFL is undeniably difficult. As I noted above, in my own study of University Mathematics and Postgraduate Logic, for example, I found that advanced Abstract Algebra (Group Theory) was far easier to follow than advanced MFL (especially if we throw in the Philosophy of Logic, surely one of the most difficult subjects yet devised by the human brain). Others, of course, may find the reverse is the case. But, that no more impugns MFL than it does, say, Group Theory, Lie Algebra, or Sturm-Liouville Theory (this link to a PDF).

 

Readers, however, will no doubt have noticed how W&G managed to throw in a snide remark about the contrast between FL and priests in the ancient world, whose knowledge, we are told, actually involved the mastery of "occult symbols" and certain unspecified practicalities, unlike modern logicians. This from comrades who sing the praises of a logical 'theory' (DL) which has no known practical applications (other than that of thoroughly confusing its acolytes and, of course, of crippling Soviet Agriculture), but who nevertheless endlessly snipe at an entire discipline that has countless such applications.

 

And, as far as "Byzantine jargon" is concerned, anyone who reckons they can learn something (anything!) from Hegel's Logic has little room to accuse others of an excessive devotion to jargon. The technical terms found in MFL are there for the same reason they are there in modern mathematics. No such grounds exist for excusing the barrage of terminally obscure verbiage and tortured prose that hits readers of Hegel's Logic -- quite the reverse, as we shall see.

 

Unfortunately, there is more:

 

"Terms such 'monadic predicates,' 'quantifiers,' 'individual variables,' and so on and so forth, are designed to give the impression that formal logic is a science to be reckoned with, since it is quite unintelligible to most people. Sad to say, the scientific value of a body of beliefs is not directly proportionate to the obscurity of its language. If that were the case, every religious mystic in history would be as great a scientist as Newton, Darwin and Einstein, all rolled into one." [Ibid., p.98. This appears on pp.102-03 of the 2nd edition.]

 

The new terminology employed in MFL was introduced simply because the old logic of subject and predicate failed to do justice to inferences found in everyday life, to say nothing of the complex deductions made by mathematicians and scientists. Moreover, W&G's reference to religious mystics is a little rich in view of the Hermetic writings from which they caught such a virulent dose of dialectics.

 

"In Moliere's comedy, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, M. Jourdain was surprised to be told that he had been talking prose all his life, without realising it. Modern logic merely repeats all the old categories, but throws in a few symbols and fancy-sounding terms, in order to hide the fact that absolutely nothing new is being said. Aristotle used 'monadic predicates' (expressions that attribute a property to an individual) a long time ago. No doubt, like M. Jourdain, he would have been delighted to discover that he had been using Monadic Predicates all the time, without knowing it. But it would not have made a scrap of difference to what he was actually doing. The use of new labels does not alter the contents of a jar of jam. Nor does the use of jargon enhance the validity of outworn forms of thought.

 

"The sad truth is that, in the 20th century formal logic has reached its limits. Every new advance of science deals it yet another blow. Despite all the formal changes, the basic laws remain the same. One thing is clear. The developments of formal logic over the past hundred years, first by propositional calculus (p.c.), then by lower predicate calculus (l.p.c.) has carried the subject to such a point of refinement that no further development is possible. We have reached the most comprehensive system of formal logic, so that any other additions will certainly not add anything new. Formal logic has said all that it has to say. If the truth were to be told, it reached this stage quite some time ago." [Ibid., pp.98-99. This appears on p.103 of the 2nd edition.]

 

I have been unable to find the term "Monadic predicate" in Aristotle, but that doesn't mean he didn't use monadic predicates. But so what? Ancient mathematicians used ideas and abbreviations that are analogous to the symbols employed by modern mathematicians; does that mean that modern mathematics is full of "fancy-sounding terms", and thus fit only for ill-informed derision? Or, that modern formalism is no advance over ancient mathematical terminology?

 

And, of course, a monadic predicate (such as "ξ is a confused dialectician") can apply to more than one individual (as in "Anyone who reads RIRE, and believes everything they have read, is a confused dialectician"); so it isn't true that 'monadic predicates' are expressions that "attribute a property to an individual". Plainly, in this case, it applies to anyone who reads and believes what they read in RIRE (which could be no one, or it could be hundreds of individuals).

 

The question whether or not MFL has been usurped by advances in science will be dealt with elsewhere at this site (however, see Harrison (1983, 1985) and Slater (2002) on the LEM and QM); but, as far as the allegation that MFL has reached the end of the line is concerned, only someone who knows nothing of the subject will think to assert this. Even a cursory look along the relevant shelves in a University Library will soon show how the subject is continuing to blossom --, as, indeed, will a quick Google search.

 

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

 

In fact, this by-now-familiar 'head in the sand' approach -- perfected by W&G -- is reminiscent of the stance adopted by Roman Catholic Theologians in relation to Galileo's work: "Stick to Dogma -- and under no circumstances look down that telescope!"

 

One last comment by W&G is worth quoting:

 

"Another type of syllogism is conditional in form (if...then), for example, 'If an animal is a tiger, it is a carnivore.' This is just another way of saying the same thing as the affirmative categorical statement, i.e., all tigers are carnivores. The same in relation to the negative form -- 'If it's a fish, it's not a mammal' is just another way of saying 'No fishes are mammals.' The formal difference conceals the fact that we have not really advanced a single step." [Ibid., p.86. This appears on p.90 of the 2nd edition. The italic emphasises appear in the on-line version, not the published editions.]

 

Alas, W&G seriously expose their self-inflicted ignorance here; a hypothetical proposition -- such as: 'If an animal is a tiger, it is a carnivore' -- isn't even an argument, so it can't be a syllogism.

 

On the other hand, if the above example were a conditionalised proposition (i.e., an argument that has been transformed into a conditional sentence), the original argument must have had a suppressed premise (as in, "No fish is a mammal" in relation to 'If it's a fish, it's not a mammal'). Either way, these aren't syllogisms.

 

Nevertheless, W&G have clearly missed the point of hypothetical deductions in MFL (something that was in fact absent from AFL, but not Stoic Logic). We can surely reason from premisses whose truth-status is unknown to us (as scientists often do), in order to try to establish their truth-value. Indeed, it is no less important for us to find out whether or not some of our beliefs are false, and we often do that by drawing out their consequences. This can't be done with categorical reasoning -- unless the hypothetical mode was being used implicitly.

 

Hypothetical reasoning has always featured in the sciences (on that see, for example, Losee (2001)); these days this aspect of logic tends to be connected with "thought experiments" --, but, plainly, the two aren't the same. Even so, "thought experiments" have been employed by scientists for centuries in order to confirm or refute certain theories and/or hypotheses. Galileo was a past master at this, as was Einstein.

 

[On thought experiments, see the popular account in Cohen (2005). More scholarly studies can be found in Brown (1986, 1993, 2002, 2005, 2014), Häggqvist (1996), Horowitz and Massey (1991), McAllister (2005), Norton (1996, 2005) -- these link to PDFs -- and Sorensen (1992). Brown, however, adopts a Platonist view of "thought experiments", something rightly rejected by Norton, for example. Another quick Google search will reveal dozens of articles on this topic alone. Also see John Norton's page of classic examples.]

 

But, we don't need to appeal to technical, or even arcane, aspects of the scientific method; W&G themselves engage in their own form of hypothetical 'reasoning'. They do this when they derive what they take to be false conclusions from premisses which they attribute to what they call "formal" thought. They manifestly do not hold the latter propositions true; they merely reason from their assumed truth to what they then claim are obvious falsehoods implied by those assumed truths, in order to show that the original assumptions must have been false, or were of limited applicability. They couldn't do this with a categorical argument, where the premisses are known to be true, or known to be false.

 

[In saying this, the reader shouldn't assume that I am attributing to W&G a clear or coherent logical strategy here; few of their arguments work (and many are directed at targets that would give the phrase "straw man" a bad name, as we have seen). But, that isn't the point; they certainly intended to argue hypothetically, which is.]

 

In practice, we see once again that dialecticians only succeed in shooting themselves in their oversized feet, which they have firmly lodged in their even bigger collective mouths.

 

Finally, a more faithful and accurate account of the foundations of AFL can be found in Lear (1980).

 

And About Ordinary Language

 

Dialecticians' Mistaken Assumptions

 

This is how the contrary argument will be put in Essay Twelve (some of this material has already been posted in Essay Six, but it has been re-posted 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 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, and duration:

 

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

 

[In each case, where there is a noun form of the word listed, its verb form is intended. So, where you see "ring", for 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 it is 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, was 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? Why translate Hegel into the vernacular if the latter can't cope?

 

On the other hand, if we are capable of comprehending Hegel's obscure ideas only when they have been rendered into ordinary-ish sorts of terms, why do we need his convoluted jargon to reveal to us what 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 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 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 theological 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 One: "Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics"

 

Indeed, science itself is shot through with metaphor and analogy which often makes it difficult to interpret literally. [I will say more about this in Essay Thirteen Part Two. See also this quotation from physicist, David Peat.]

 

[Several other points raised by the above objection will be dealt with below.]

 

The idea that ordinary language can't cope with rapid, slow or even protracted change may perhaps be summarised by the following sentence (which seems to capture something of what Rees had in mind -- those who think otherwise are encouraged to shelve their doubts for a few more paragraphs):

 

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

 

But, is H1a itself written in ordinary language? It certainly looks like it. If it is, it is pertinent to ask what the word "change" in H1a actually means.

 

If we, as ordinary speakers, do not understand this word, what precisely is it that Hegel and Rees are presuming to correct? We may only be educated if we know of what it is that we are ignorant -- that is, if we already know what change is so that we can at least say that the word "change" fails to 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 particular case, what our words convey about change. Indeed, if we want to study change, we can only get a handle on it by the use of words (albeit those that are connected in some way with material practice, etc.), like the ones listed above. Who on earth ever learnt to use such words by reading Hegel?

 

Contrast H1 with the following:

 

H1b: Ordinary language can't account for or depict quantum phenomena.

 

The situation with regard to change isn't at all like the comprehension of, 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 appear in that 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 will remain incomprehensible until we do. That is because H1a would now contain at least one word (i.e., "change") that, on this view, no one -- not one single human being -- yet understands. Unfortunately, this would mean that our knowledge can't be upgraded by means of H1a --, or, for that matter, by the use of any other sentence that employs this as-yet-to-be-explained word (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 have been "slithy tove":

 

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

 

It could be objected here that our use of ordinary terms helps us partially grasp the nature of change, but Hegel's language, or method, provides the wherewithal for us to comprehend the concept 'dialectically', and 'scientifically' (or, indeed, 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 in order to enable its comprehension.

 

But, once again, what does the word "change" in H2a mean? Is it being used in the same way that we use the ordinary word "change"? Or does it possess its own 'special', technical sense, which has yet to be explained? If it does mean the same as the ordinary term, then where does our common understanding of that word (and what it relates to) fall short? Why do we need a theory to explain something we already understand?

 

On the other hand, if our common understanding of this word (and what it relates to) is defective -- if users of this word don't understand it -- then H2a will be incomprehensible as it stands, since it contains a word (i.e., "change") that no one (as yet) comprehends. Until we know the extent of our ignorance (or, indeed, where our ordinary use of this word falls short) -- or even what the subject of this query actually is about --, all the technical 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, especially if they aren't actually employing the vernacular term "change", but a technical alternative (which is, as yet, devoid of any meaning)? Indeed, if in H2a the word "change" has a technical sense, how can that word with this special sense be used to criticise the ordinary word "change" (or point out its limitations) if the ordinary word "change" isn't itself being used?

 

On the other hand, if the word "change" and any terms associated with it 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 available to them at the beginning of their quest is the defective, ordinary word "change", a word that no one as yet comprehends? This side of a clear answer to these questions, H2a is as devoid of sense as H1a ever was.

 

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

 

H2a: Ordinary language can't fully grasp change.

 

Nevertheless, unless we are told in what way the ordinary word "change" -- as we now understand it -- falls short of whatever it is it is supposed to fall short of, a dialectical extension to our knowledge can't even begin. So, the complicated somersaults that dialecticians subsequently, and impressively, perform are irrelevant; given this view, we still don't know what the 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 further 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 very own sentences would be subject to the 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 contained 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 hypothesised linguistic, or conceptual, 'reformers' in fact understand the word "change" differently from the rest of us, then any proposed modification to ordinary language would 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 itself still of undisclosed meaning --, but not to "change" as it is used in ordinary language.

 

The claim here, therefore, is that with respect to the word "change", it isn't possible for anyone even to begin to say in what way it fails to mean what it is ordinarily taken to mean (or even by how much or how little it falls short of this), let alone entertain the possibility that it might or might not mean whatever it now means, without using that word in any attempt to do 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 relevant. We translate foreign words into English using words we already understand, and which translated words were also 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 these 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 compilers 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 write 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) what it meant, then, plainly, it wouldn't appear in a dictionary. If, on the other hand, someone claimed to know what this word meant, but they also let slip that there were unspecified 'difficulties' with their comprehension of this word, and could 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 'words', they wouldn't be listed.]

 

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

 

Once more, this is irrelevant. If and when we correct one another, at least one party to that social interaction would have to understand the corrected words aright before they were corrected. In the above (with respect to "change", and because of this theory), this isn't the case.

 

Some might feel that my comments rely on the word "change" having one and only one correct meaning, but that objection, too, is incorrect. Howsoever many meanings this word has in ordinary language, no one would be able to use it in any sentence seeking to correct that specific use of it if every single one of its many meanings was defective in some as-yet-unspecified sense. Or, less radically: no one would be able to do it either even if that were the case merely with respect to a restricted sub-set of its relevant ordinary connotations -- i.e., those of concern to dialecticians.

 

Moreover, and worse, any attempt to specify what these alleged 'shortcomings' are can't work, either. Consider the following 'attempt' to revise, or correct, the word in question:

 

H3: "Change" 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 DM-theorists can replace the proposed 'dialectical meaning' of "change" offered above with whatever formula they deem fit, or better, 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 her objection (howsoever mild or nuanced, or 'dialectically-motivated' it happens to be) will be subject to the very same unspecified shortcomings, and the objection itself would fail for lack of determinate content.

 

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

 

That was the point of using 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" in H3a (now used, not mentioned) actually means something else (or, the processes in reality it supposedly depicts aren't as we ordinarily take them to be), which would imply that we are all currently mistaken about its real meaning, then H3a must be meaningless, too -- or, at best, it must be of indeterminate sense.

 

In that case, the only way that H3a could be made comprehensible would be to replace the meaningless term it contains (i.e., "change") with words that H3a tells us constitute its 'real meaning' -- 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 this attempt to correct the word "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 (or, at least, one current meaning of it), but who was not seeking to alter or revise it, as was the case with H3 and "change". Once more, it is because that word means what it does that makes it inappropriate. This objector isn't suggesting we continue to use the same word with a new meaning attached to it (if that were possible), or even with a revised meaning, only that its current meaning is inadequate to the task at hand.

 

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 are; 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 even 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, not one single person on the planet would be actually understand this word.

 

[Naturally, H9 is absurd. But that is because no one in their left or right mind would try to tell us that the rest of us don't understand a certain word, and that only they do.]

 

It might now be objected that this would undermine the use of stipulative definitions, or re-definitions, of certain words -- that is, definitions which establish by fiat new meanings of, and to, words already in use --, or even newly introduced words: neologisms.

 

Again, this worry is misplaced. Stipulative definitions don't seek to re-define the meaning of ordinary words in their entirety, merely introduce a new meaning, or extend the old. That isn't the case with H3. When someone introduces a new word, or they are re-defining a word already in use, they aren't telling us that up until now no one has understood, or fully understood, some other term -- that is, 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 any earlier uses of typographically similar words, perhaps those employed hundreds of years ago.

 

In fact, the second half of the above worry is simply a variation of the 'translation' objection fielded earlier. The reader is therefore referred back to it.

 

The first half of 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 that they will do so in the future, only that whatever they legitimately once meant will alter, or will have altered. If a word -- say "XXX" -- meant something specific in the past -- "YYY", for example --, that past meaning, "YYY", plainly won't have changed, since the past doesn't change. So, if "XXX" meant "YYY" in, say, 1567, then nothing can now change that fact, or that meaning as it was then -- even if "XXX" now means something different. Nor does it imply that no one understood, or fully understood, the old meaning of such words.

 

The 'dialectical theory' under review here is in fact saying something far more radical. It is telling us that a specific word, "change" (and its related terms), never in the entire history of humanity captured what dialecticians would now like to tell us is the 'real meaning' of "change". The 'dialectical' view is in fact a more extreme version of H11.

 

In response, it could be objected that despite this, the approach adopted in this Essay still can't account for linguistic change. "Indeed," an objector might continue, "why can't we inflict some of Ms Lichtenstein's own moves upon the above sentences?"

 

H12a: The word "XXX" used to mean "YYY", but now it means "ZZZ".

 

H12b: The word "XXX" used to mean YYY, but now it means ZZZ.

 

Perhaps along these lines:

 

H12c: The word "ZZZ" used to mean "YYY", but now it means "ZZZ".

 

H12d: The word "ZZZ" used to mean YYY, but now it means ZZZ.

 

Which neatly mirror H3 and H4:

 

H3: "Change" 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, since they neutralised 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 reply 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 sense in place. What we have now is a modern, typographically identical token of "lunatic" with a new meaning. But, no one is questioning that earlier meaning. No one is suggesting that several centuries ago people didn't mean by "lunatic" someone affected by the moon.

 

Now, if would-be critics want to revise a word in common use, all well and good; no problem with that. But this can't affect the ordinary meaning that that word currently has (or once had). Such a revision would merely relate to this new, and typographically identical, word, with its new, or extended, meaning.

 

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

 

It could be objected once more that this misses the point; a philosophical understanding of change -- as this might feature in the natural and social sciences, on the lines advocated by dialecticians, perhaps -- doesn't seek to replace ordinary language, which is quite adequate in its own sphere of application. It is aimed at augmenting our comprehension of natural and social development, for political, or for other, purposes. The vernacular is inadequate only when we try to use it to account for complex processes in the natural or social world. That is where Hegel's ideas can be of genuine assistance (i.e., when the "rational core" of his system has been separated from its "mystical shell", and then tested in practice, of course).

 

Or, so this latest rebuttal might proceed.

 

However, as we will see in other Essays posted at this site, not only is the above incorrect in general -- in that it is the conceptual wealth expressed in ordinary language which enables the comprehension of both simple and complex changes in nature and society --, it is misguided in particular. That is because we are still in the dark over what it is that dialecticians are actually proposing, or what they are presuming to add to our understanding of a word neither they nor anyone one else yet fully comprehends --, 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 that is), then any use of that word in an attempt to correct these unspecified defects (or even vaguely hint at them) must self-destruct, too.

 

Of course, it could be argued that there is no such thing as a "collective understanding" of this or any other word. That complaint will be tackled head-on in Essay Thirteen Part Three. For present purposes, suffice it to say that if that were the case, then dialecticians themselves would be even more in the dark 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', or common understanding, or advertise its/their shortcomings, it isn't a good idea to tell us there is no such thing!

 

Quite apart from this, we would surely be unwise to listen to dialecticians trying to extend our knowledge of 'change', nor yet to those regaling us with the 'superiority' of their 'theory', if  they have yet to succeed in explaining clearly to the rest of us a single one of their theses (which, as I have shown in these Essays, they have so far failed to do) -- or, indeed, until they have repaired the gaping holes I have 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' upside down or 'the right way up') 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.

 

Hence, their assistance in this respect 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 Donald Trump is to intellectual achievement. In that case, as far as rival (scientific or philosophical) theories (aimed at helping us understand the world and how to change it) are concerned, DM doesn't even make the bottom of the reserve list of viable candidates. We would be more inclined to accept Trump Thought instead:

 

 

Video Two: Donald Trump Shows DM-Fans

How To Explain Stuff More Clearly

 

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

 

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

 

[A similar, but more detailed argument concerning what Hegel did or didn't understand about his own theory has been published here.]

 

To repeat, it isn't possible to pretend to understand an ordinary word like "change" and then claim that it is defective (whether or not "speculative reason" suggests, or even 'demands', this). Either (i) the objector's understanding of this word is defective -- and the ordinary term is alright as it is --, or (ii) the ordinary word is defective and no one (including that objector) actually understands it, and so should stop using it.

 

In the second case, there would be nothing comprehensible left to modify; in the first, no one need bother.

 

Ordinary Language Isn't A Theory 1

 

It might still be objected that since ordinary language is obviously inadequate in scientific and technical contexts (let alone in Metaphysics), it needs reforming, supplementing or augmenting in some way, or to some extent.

 

And yet, science has managed to make significant progress over the last four hundred years without having to reform the vernacular, even if scientists have had to develop specialised and technical languages all of their own. 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 powerful ideological and economic reasons why some might want to do it, as will be argued in Essay Thirteen Part Two), the alleged clash between ordinary language and science is completely bogus.

 

Of course, no one is suggesting that ordinary language can be used in highly complex, theoretical areas of study (although, even technical scientific and mathematical papers have to use ordinary words at some point), but that is no more a limitation on the vernacular than it is a defect of Das Kapital that it can't predict winning lottery numbers.

 

Metaphysics (partly) arose out of the ancient belief that there are philosophical 'problems' about existence, 'reality' and humanity (etc.) that only expert theorists were capable of solving -- or even understanding.

 

Keith Thomas highlighted a similar tactic among 16th century magicians:

 

"It would be tempting to explain the long survival of magical practices by pointing out that they helped provide many professional wizards with a respectable livelihood. The example of the legal profession is a reminder that it is always possible for a substantial social group to support itself by proffering solutions to problems which they themselves have helped to manufacture. The cunning men and wise women had an undoubted interest in upholding the prestige of magical diagnosis and may by their mere existence have helped to prolong a mode of thinking which was already obsolescent." [Thomas (1972), p.295.]

 

Even though Thomas finally rejects this as an adequate explanation of this phenomenon he notes that the 'special' skill these magicians arrogated to themselves (that is, the ability to solve 'problems' they had invented, or concocted) provided them with a livelihood, a level of prestige and social standing that they wouldn't otherwise have enjoyed. Of course, with respect to superstition and magic, Marxists also take into account 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, or the ubiquity, of metaphysical beliefs is that everyone (including ordinary folk) at some point in their lives has, or expresses, philosophical thoughts of some sort, or they ask metaphysical questions. This is supposed to show that philosophical problems enjoy universal appeal and legitimacy. Hence, the argument could go: if everyone thinks metaphysically (at least at some level, at some point), its existence can't be the result of its invention by an elite group of thinkers.

 

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

 

(1) It is important to distinguish the confused and impromptu musings that many individuals indulge in from time to time on or around such things as the nature of space, time, 'God', 'good' and 'evil', the 'soul', or the purpose of human existence (i.e., 'the meaning of life') -- it is important to distinguish these from the systematic study of metaphysical questions by those who have the necessary leisure time, education and training so to do (i.e., professional philosophers, theorists, and sponsored/patronised, or 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 highly abstract, theoretical view of reality, an approach which has almost invariably been conducive to the interests of the rich and powerful. [On that, see Essay Twelve -- summary available here.]

 

(3) The fact that ordinary people indulge in amateurish metaphysical musings from time to time no more makes Metaphysics a legitimate pursuit than it would do the same for religious or theological discourse. Ordinary people don't somehow turn into theologians if they wonder whether there is a 'god' or an 'after life'. Nevertheless, if and when they do so ponder, that still fails to legitimate Theology. The same applies to Metaphysics.

 

(4) The serial confusion endemic in both groups (that is, among professional, leisured metaphysicians and amateurs) derives from two immediate sources: (a) the misconstrual of certain aspects of language as if they stood for the real relations between things, or, indeed, those things themselves, and (b) the systematic misuse of language. [This approach 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 a fetishised reflection of social reality in a systematic fashion. This they do because: (i) Their theories mirror the world as they see it (i.e., as a universe governed by hidden forces, concepts and "essences"), and (ii) It assists in the legitimation of class division, inequality, oppression and exploitation. [Historically, it is easy to show that this has indeed been the case with most, if not all, metaphysical systems.] And (iii) These days this approach to 'genuine' philosophy is good for the CV. [Again, these topics are expanded on in Essay Twelve.]

 

Lay metaphysicians, on the other hand, have no class-based motivation to fetishise their own language in like manner -- not the least because to do so would clash with the way they already employ the vernacular in their everyday lives.

 

In fact, if ordinary folk in their day-to-day activity were to emulate the approach adopted by metaphysicians, they would probably be 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!"

 

Or:

 

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, that is because it is in daily life where the alleged clash between philosophical musings and 'commonsense' actually occurs and hence really bites. When metaphysicians have to behave like 'ordinary folk' in the real world, their metaphysical fancies lose all credibility. Not one single sceptic or idealist (short of the suicidal) will fail to jump out of the way of a bus or a tram that is headed their way, or pause to work out if that perception is 'real' or imaginary. Not one single philosophical materialist will treat his/her children or relatives as merely complex array of chemicals and electrical impulses. Not one single scientific realist or empiricist will fail to respond to a red light on the grounds that red is only a subjective experience. Not one single metaphysician will turn up late to an interview because 'time is an illusion'. Not one single theist, who might fervently believe 'god' is on his/her side, because their cause is 'just', will fail to take cover when fired at by the enemy. 

 

Naturally, this means that in ordinary circumstances and surroundings this Philosophical 'Emperor' looks naked, even to 'true believers'.

 

[On this, see Cowley (1991).]

 

Small wonder then that Traditional Philosophy has solved not one single philosophical 'problem' in over 2500 years -- as Peter Hacker reminds us:

 

"For two and a half millennia some of the best minds in European culture have wrestled with the problems of philosophy. If one were to ask what knowledge has been achieved throughout these twenty-five centuries, what theories have been established (on the model of well-confirmed theories in the natural sciences), what laws have been discovered (on the model of the laws of physics and chemistry), or where one can find the corpus of philosophical propositions known to be true, silence must surely ensue. For there is no body of philosophical knowledge. There are no well-established philosophical theories or laws. And there are no philosophical handbooks on the model of handbooks of dynamics or of biochemistry. To be sure, it is tempting for contemporary philosophers, convinced they are hot on the trail of the truths and theories which so long evaded the grasp of their forefathers, to claim that philosophy has only just struggled out of its early stage into maturity.... We can at long last expect a flood of new, startling and satisfying results -- tomorrow.

 

"One can blow the Last Trumpet once, not once a century. In the seventeenth century Descartes thought he had discovered the definitive method for attaining philosophical truths; in the eighteenth century Kant believed that he had set metaphysics upon the true path of a science; in the nineteenth century Hegel convinced himself that he had brought the history of thought to its culmination; and Russell, early in the twentieth century, claimed that he had at last found the correct scientific method in philosophy, which would assure the subject the kind of steady progress that is attained by the natural sciences. One may well harbour doubts about further millenarian promises." [Hacker (2001), pp.322-23.]

 

[Some might think that several philosophical problems have been solved by the natural sciences. That response will be defused in Essay Thirteen Part Two.]  

 

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). Ordinary terms are not only suffused with vagueness, surface grammar encourages users to form, or to think about the import of, potentially misleading expressions (but that comment only applies to the unwary, the unwise, or the obtuse), forgetting, albeit temporarily, that neither we nor they use the vernacular in such 'metaphysical' ways in ordinary life. As Wittgenstein pointed out:

 

"Why is philosophy such a complicated structure? After all, it should be completely simple if it is that ultimate thing, independent of all experience, that you make it out to be. Philosophy unravels the knots in our thinking, hence its results must be simple, but its activity as complicated as the knots it unravels.

 

"Lichtenberg: 'Our entire philosophy is correction [sic] of the use of language, and therefore the correction of a philosophy -- of the most general philosophy.'... You ask why grammatical problems are so tough and seemingly ineradicable. -- Because they are connected with the oldest thought habits, i.e., with the oldest images that are engraved into our language itself (Lichtenberg)....

 

"Human beings are deeply imbedded in philosophical, i.e., grammatical, confusion. And freeing them from these presuppositions [amounts to?] extricating them from the immensely diverse associations they are caught up in. One must, as it were, regroup their entire language. -- But of course this language developed as it did because human beings had -- and have -- the tendency to think this way. Therefore extricating them only works with those who live in an instinctive state of dissatisfaction with language. 

 

"Language has the same traps ready for everyone; the immense network of easily trodden false paths. And thus we see one person after another walking down the same paths....

 

"One keeps hearing the remark that philosophy really doesn't make any progress, that the same philosophical problems that occupied the Greeks keep occupying us. But those who say that don't understand the reason this must be so. The reason is that our language has remained constant and keeps seducing us into asking the same questions. So long as there is a verb 'be' that seems to function like 'eat' and 'drink', so long as there are the adjectives 'identical', 'true', 'false', 'possible', so long as there is talk about a flow of time and an expanse of space, etc., etc. humans will continue to bump up against the same mysterious difficulties, and stare at something that no explanation seems able to remove.

 

"And this, by the way, satisfies a longing for the transcendental [an alternative version of the manuscript has 'supernatural' here -- RL], for in believing that they see the 'limit of human understanding' they of course believe that they can see beyond it.

 

"I read '...philosophers are no nearer to the meaning of 'Reality' than Plato got...'. What a strange state of affairs. How strange in that case that Plato could get that far in the first place! Or that after him we were not able to get further. Was it because Plato was so clever?" [Wittgenstein (2013), pp.311-12e. Italic emphases in the original; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Some paragraphs merged to save space. Link added.]

 

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 subject 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 also worth recalling 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 that is so will be explored in Essays Twelve and Thirteen Part Three). Typically this doesn't happen when users employ 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, prosody, etc.; they can create misunderstanding unless 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 to 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 conflated up. As will be argued at length in Essay Twelve Part One, philosophical pseudo-problems arise out of the misconstrual of rule of language as Super-Empirical propositions, which are then taken to reflect substantive features of the world. DM-theorists, for example, do this in connection with their ham-fisted 'analysis' of the LOI and the LOC -- which they misconstrue as just such Super-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 result.

 

[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 allegations constitute one of the main themes of Essay Twelve (summary here). Other comments connected with this topic have been published in other Essays at this site. 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 were invented by Traditional Theorists keen to argue that discourse (and particularly written language) is really a secret code that they alone were capable of understanding, which somehow maps-out, or mirrors fundamental, underlying, "essential" aspects of reality -- conveniently 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 prying eyes of 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 each form of the State required. In order to do this, Traditional Theorists had to undermine and belittle the communitarian and communicational nature of language, and hence the vernacular. That explains why practically every single Traditional Philosopher -- and now 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 will continue. But, ordinary language remains the highest, if not the 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 already ordinary language terms, and they gain whatever meaning they have from the conventions and practices governing their current use. They don't gain 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 II -- 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 empirical 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 2018.]

 

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 implausible 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 savages", 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 set of beliefs and opinions -- and even that depends on who is telling the tale -- that most (all?) human beings are supposed to possess, or to which they assent, whether or not they are aware of it. But, if 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' feet, or even behind the bike sheds at break (recess) 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 being able to say where they came from. But nobody seems able to do this.23a

 

Moreover, if 'commonsense' is encapsulated in, or by, 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 that 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 it looks like no one is capable of listing the 'commonsense' beliefs held by everyone -- or, indeed, themselves. 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 typically 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 or superstitious notions, and the like. Again, the 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 sort of ideas some would classify as 'commonsense', too!24b

 

However, since nobody appears to know which beliefs are to be added to, or deleted 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 finally 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 and obvious 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 seems to have 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 enjoy a mastery of language equal to that of its most accomplished speakers/writers, 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 express, 'commonsense' ideas. However, when pressed to provide 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 nostrums, 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 by means of 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 do so 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 such as "murder", "scabbing", or "voting Tory"; "NN" goes proxy for any (human) Proper Name.]

 

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 what sense they have because of conventions that have been established in, and 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 hold, 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 any single individual, or even by a group (except perhaps at the margins).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, just one expression of our "species being" and are intimately connected with our interaction with the world, our relation with one another, and the links we have 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 so isn't always immediately obvious. 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 demonstrated 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 that strategy will always self-destruct.

 

That means this isn't an ethical issue -- but 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 of that word (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 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, nor were 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 that, 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 attempt 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 term, "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, it seems that most commentators on the far-left 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" typically 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 and sugary drinks!  

 

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 still insist on acting 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 often 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, here and there. 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 the transmission of such ideas might take place 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 Seven), 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 a few members of the vague lists alluded to earlier. This would be, of course, the very first subject 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 really 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.

 

And 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 humans beings 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 simply results in the production of incoherent non-sense; naturally, that might be the intention of an aspiring abrogater -- say, 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; he 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 do not 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 imaginative or figurative extensions to language, see White (1996, 2010), and Guttenplan (2005). More on this in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]

 

28. Spelt 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, 2007, 2013), 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, these authors also 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, as well.

 

The ruling-class and their ideologues have always denigrated the vernacular and the common experience of ordinary working people. It is distinctly unedifying to see Marxists (like this commentator, if he is a Marxist!) copying them.

 

[More details about will be given in Essay Twelve Part Seven (a summary of which can be accessed 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 will put things in Essay Twelve Part Seven (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, while it isn't dependent on that language as such. That particular claim might sound paradoxical, so I will attempt to clarify what is meant by it.

 

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 assert 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", "LGBTQ 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 practice we manage to deny such things every day.

 

So, as noted above, while ordinary language might 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 itself be associated with those ideas.

 

In which case, it is odd that socialists don't advance the opposite claim: 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, or depreciate, the language of the working class, and assume that because there are regressive ideas expressible in the vernacular that this automatically condemns it, while at the same time they ignore their own use of the vernacular to propagandise and agitate the working class. [On this, see Grant (n.d).]

 

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 "formal/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 the 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 helped damage to our movement from the get-go.

 

In contrast, Academic Marxism and 'Systematic Dialectics' have largely been ignored in these Essays since they are politically irrelevant. Indeed, they are capable of damaging only 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). They are welcome to wander down the political cul-de-sac they have helped construct, alone.

 

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 to 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 isn't the 'low grade drivel' one encounters in certain Trotskyist or Stalinist texts, but it is high grade drivel, nonetheless --, and politically inept drivel into the bargain (since it has been written by those who, for all their expensive education, by and large, can't write a clear sentence to save their lives).

 

For example, I have exposed some of the high grade 'drivel' one finds in Marcuse (1968), here. Chomsky's comments are also well worth reading. See also, the example of such academic 'drivel', posted here.

 

[LCD = Low Church Dialectician; HCD = High Church Dialectician -- on these, see below.]

 

As I note elsewhere about these politically irrelevant currents in Dialectical Marxism:

 

High Church vs Low Church

 

There are in fact two main types of dialectician: 'Low Church' and 'High Church'. This distinction roughly corresponds with that between active revolutionaries and Academic Marxists -- of course, there is some overlap at the margins. The members of neither faction are seekers after truth, since, like Hegel, they have already 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 who hale from both Denominations (whether they realise it or not).

 

Low Church Dialecticians [LCDs]

 

Comrades of this persuasion cleave to the original, unvarnished truth laid down in the sacred DM-texts (i.e., those written by Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, and 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 a DM-article of Trotsky's that had been republished at the latter site; my post was based on some of the points made in Essay Six), but as of February 2017 it is still 'waiting moderation'!]

 

[FL = Formal Logic.]

 

In general, LCDs are sublimely ignorant of FL. Now, on its own this is no hanging matter. However, such self-inflicted, woeful ignorance doesn't stop these individuals pontificating about FL, nor 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 Five 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 skilfully 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 any of this (even after it has been 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 of building 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. Here, too, is a diagram of the main branches of, and links between, the leading US Trotskyist parties/tendencies.]

 

Has a single one of these individuals made this connection?

 

Are you kidding!?

 

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

 

High Church Dialecticians [HCDs]

 

HCD 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'), other than, perhaps, Lenin's PN.

 

More often than not, HCDs reject the idea that the dialectic operates throughout nature, sometimes inconsistently using the aforementioned 'Law' to account for the evolutionary 'leap' that underpinned our development from our ape-like ancestors -- which tactic allows them to claim that human history and development are therefore unique --, just as they are equally dismissive of simple LCD souls for their adherence to every last word found in the DM-classics.31

 

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

 

HCDs are mercifully above such crudities; they prefer The Mother Lode -- straight from Hegel, Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks, 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, The Wafflemeister Himself, Slavoj Zizek.

 

This heady dialectical brew is often fortified with a several litres of hardcore jargon drawn 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, the charlatan's charlatan, Jacques Lacan.

 

Or, maybe even infused 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 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, the Nazi, Martin Heidegger, and Hans-Georg Gadamer.

 

[Chomsky's penetrating thoughts on many of the above 'thinkers' can be accessed in Note 31a.]

 

HCDs are generally, but not exclusively, either academics or they are itinerant 'intellectuals' and 'bloggers'. In common with many of those listed above, tortured prose is their forte -- and pointless existence is their punishment.

 

Almost any randomly-selected issue of, say, Radical Philosophy, or Historical Materialism, will provide ample confirmation of the baleful influence the ideas and prose style of many of the above have had on left-wing 'intellectuals'. [Here is yet another example to add to the membership list of The Hallowed Society for the Production of Gobbledygook. Also, see my comments, here.]

 

 

Figure Six: 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 good only for the CV.

 

Plainly, the sanitised version of dialectics that HCDs inflict on their readers (purged of all those Engelsian 'crudities') isn't an "abomination" in the eyes of those sections of the bourgeoisie that administer Colleges and Universities, or, indeed, who publish academic books and journals.

 

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

 

Nevertheless, the ranks of both factions, HCD and LCD alike, 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 compromised 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 even be tempted to argue that dialectics 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, Seven Part One, Ten Part One, as well as in Part One of this Essay.

 

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 an example of the work of a single academic Marxist that has had any impact on the class war -- except perhaps negatively. [Any who disagree with that indictment are invited to e-mail me with the details of any counter-example they think I have missed.]

 

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

 

This has meant that the baleful influence of Hegelian Hermeticism becomes important at key historical junctures (i.e., those involving defeat 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, and after the Second International caved in to nationalist warmongering at the beginning of WW1.

 

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 dogmatic thesis-mongering.

 

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 heap 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 approach is regarded by this commentator as "tragic", so be it.

 

Moreover, I employ ideas and methods drawn from Analytic Philosophy and Modern Logic since they are incomparably superior to the Hegelian gobbledygook upon which most academic Marxists dote. In addition, these methods (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 to do much with.

 

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

 

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 quite 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 delivers 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'. Exactly why DM-theorists use an analogous argument to depreciate FL is rather puzzling, to say the least.

 

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 some 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 (i) FL can easily cope with change, and that (ii) 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, concrete 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.

 

Notes

 

1. Important, 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 has been 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 135 years. It is no exaggeration to say that a good 99% of FL is less than 160 years old. However, you wouldn't be able to conclude that by reading any randomly selected DM-text. Quite the opposite in fact; naïve readers might 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 for 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 and at length.

 

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 "...in 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 employing 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 the more recent 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: (i) Confuse George Boyle, the Dean of Salisbury, with George Boole, the mathematician and logician, (ii) Spell Gottlob Frege's name incorrectly (these errors were brought to Alan Wood's attention by a supporter of this site soon after the 1st edition RIRE came out, and they remain uncorrected in the 2nd edition), they (iii) Completely mischaracterise semantics and syntax. Semantics is only indirectly connected with the validity of an argument, and syntax doesn't directly concern "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 an Optician:

 

 

Video Three: Dialectical Myopia?

 

Several of the revolutionary advances made by modern logicians over the last 150 years will be outlined later 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 both 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"; because of that belief dialecticians were 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 Super-Science 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 did.

 

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, 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 (alas, 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? But, 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 Seven: 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 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, too?

 

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 finally emerged that were capable of applying some form of logic. That would mean that chickens would be capable of using logic while Dung Beetles wouldn't. Well, it would be good to see the evidence 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 too vague and confused to supply Trotsky with any support at all.] 

 

Anyway, in what sense can a chicken be said to know about "grain...in general"? Are they also expert Botanists? Newly hatched chickens will peck away at grain, too, having had no schooling about 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 pass 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". to boot.

 

Unfortunately, however, the syllogism is a seriously 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 to master Stoic Logic, at least -- 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 to science 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, indeed, that of other DM-Gurus -- witness the nauseating 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 Leibniz, 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), as well as 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 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, or which reflect aspects, of reality. This response will be defused in Essay Twelve, where it will be shown that it depends on an implicit form 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 likewise, 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 to be 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 the hidden world of 'essences' (a world only revealed to us by Traditional Philosophers a few thousand years ago) if they were 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 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 or mathematical languages, or in a model), according to the syntax and the semantics of the 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 has 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 the 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 the following 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 premises of an argument don't 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 will 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 many interpretations of argument schemas drawn from FL.

 

To be sure, the above changes aren't of the sort that interest dialecticians, but, as I pointed out 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 in this Essay.

 

There is an excellent account of Aristotelian Logic in Smith (2017). 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 is 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. On this, the reader should consult Essays Five, Six, Seven Part One, Eight Parts One, Two, and Three, as well as Eleven Part One.

 

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 at the end, and the bracketed numerals are 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 in Hunter (1996); more advanced logic in Bostock (1997) (this links to a PDF) and Mendelson (1979). A recent and comprehensive su