Essay Seven Part One: Engels's Three 'Laws' Of Dialectics

 

Preface

 

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A US comrade (Brian Jones) has attempted to respond to a letter I sent to the International Socialist Review concerning several of the issues raised in this Essay. The original letter can be accessed here, comrade Jones's reply here, and my response to him here.

 

More recently, a UK comrade has also tried to reply to some of my criticisms; the details can be found here and here.

 

More recently still, another US comrade has also tried to respond to some of the points I have made in this Essay. On that, see here.

 

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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. Indeed, in this particular Essay, most of the supporting evidence and argument is to be found there. This has been done to allow the main body of the Essay to flow a little more smoothly. This means that if readers want to appreciate more fully my case against DM, they will need to consult this material. In many cases, I have qualified my comments (often adding greater detail and substantiating evidence), and I have even raised objections (some of which are obvious, many not -- and some that will have occurred to the reader; indeed, several have actually been raised by a handful of readers and/or critics; for instance, Brain Jones, mentioned above) to my own arguments -- which I have then answered. [I explain why I have adopted this tactic 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.]

 

It should be pointed out that phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" (etc.) used at this site (in connection with Philosophy and DM) aren't meant to imply 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 relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the system for the elite.

 

However, this will become the main 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.

 

Finally, readers will find that I have repeatedly linked to a specific section of my new Essay (Why Dialectical Materialism Can't Explain Change) -- namely where I quote literally dozens of passages from the DM-classics and lesser DM-works in support of my allegations. I have done this since bitter experience has taught me that the vast majority of DM-fans either haven't read these passages (or they have failed to realise what they were being told), and so refuse to accept the ridiculous consequences that flow from the DM-theory of change. So, in debate with them I find I have to remind them continually of what their own classics tell them; and even then -- when they are confronted with the facts, in black and white, chapter and verse -- they refuse to believe their eyes, and tend respond in several predictable ways (to which I have also replied, here). Hence, I have adopted the same tactic in this Essay, and have inserted scores of reminders in the text below. In which case, apologies are owed to neutral readers for this constant repetition.     

 

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As of August 2014, this Essay is just under 151,500 words long; three much shorter summaries of some of its main points can be accessed here.

 

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

 

 

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(A) Introduction -- Engels's Three 'Laws'

 

(B) Quantity 'Passes Over' Into Quality

 

(1)   Not Everything Changes In 'Leaps'

 

(2)   Confusion Over Chaos

 

(3)   Awkward Facts Dialecticians Prefer To Ignore

 

(4)   Does This 'Law' Work Both Ways?

 

(5)   Counter-Examples Begin To Pile Up

 

(6)   Isomers Refute The First 'Law'

 

(7)   Tautomers, Resonance And Mesomers -- More Nails In The DM-Coffin

 

(8)   Counter-Examples Just Keep Stacking Up

 

(9)   Indistinct Thermodynamic Boundaries

 

(10) Trotsky In The Soup

 

(11) "Quality" Defined?

 

(12) Back In The Soup

 

(13) Quantity And Quality Once More

 

(14) Boiling Water And Balding Mamelukes

 

(15) DM And Mickey Mouse Science

 

(C) The Interpenetration Of Opposites

 

(1)  Exactly Why Dialectics Can't Explain Change

 

(2)  Is Everything Really A 'Unity Of Opposites'?

 

(3)  Suicidal Cats

 

(4)  Not Just Bad News For Cats

 

(5)  Plastic Laws

 

(6)  Lenin Maxes Out

 

(7)  Single-Celled Reactionaries?

 

(8)  Every Confirmation Is Also A Refutation

 

(9)  The Dialecticians' Dilemma

 

  (i)   The Dilemma Stated

 

  (ii)  Wave-Particle Duality

 

(10) The Revenge Of The Petty-Bourgeois Cell

 

  (i)   Alive, Dead -- Or Both?

 

  (ii)  Follow That Molecule!

 

  (iii) Dialectical Metaphor?

 

  (iv) Change Into What?

 

  (iv) A New 'Theory'?

 

(11) Engels, Marx And Mathematics

 

(12) Dialectics Meets The Calculus -- And Comes To Nought

 

(13) Dialectical? Or, Just Plain Dotty?

 

(14) Is The Second 'Law' Incompatible With The First?

 

(D) The Negation Of The Negation

 

(1)  No Grain Is An Island

 

(2)  Terminator Four: The Rise Of Monsanto

 

(3)  Socialism Introduced From 'Without' -- Perhaps By Aliens?

 

(4)  Moth-Eaten Dialectics

 

(E) "Laws, Jim, But Not As We Know Them"

 

(F) Conclusion: Same Old Same Old

 

(G) Notes

 

(H) References

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

 

Introduction -- The Three 'Laws'

 

In this Essay, I aim to show that Engels's 'Three Laws of Dialectics' -- where any sense can be made of them --  are far too confused for anyone to be able to determine whether or not they are true.

 

However, for many dialecticians these 'Laws' encapsulate the core ideas of classical DM. Others regard them as far too crude and formulaic. TAR, however, adopts a  middle course, downplaying their significance somewhat, while preferring to define DM in terms of "mediated Totality" alongside change through "internal contradiction", etc. [p.5.] Nevertheless, its author noted that:

 

"The 'three laws' are...useful reminders of forms in which dialectical contradictions sometimes work themselves out.... The three laws are not, even in Hegel, the only way in which dialectical development can take place. They can't be understood without the broader definition of the dialectic discussed above [pp.3-8]. They are not, as Marx and Engels were quick to insist, a substitute for the difficult, empirical task of tracing the development of real contradictions, not a suprahistorical master key whose only advantage is to turn up where no real historical knowledge is available." [Rees (1998), pp.8-9.]

 

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

 

[Alas, Rees forgot to point out where Marx "insisted" this, or anything like it. Engels's 'insistence' can be read below.]

 

However, as Essay Two has shown, this is precisely how these 'Laws' (and other dialectical principles) have been interpreted by dialecticians for over a century -- that is, as just such a master key.

 

Indeed, in a recent article in Socialist Review, Rees endorsed this 'Law' unreservedly; on the basis of just one example -- the hardy perennial, water freezing and/or boiling -- he was happy to assert:

 

"Indeed this is a feature of many different sorts of change, even in the natural world. Water that rises in temperature by one degree at a time shows no dramatic change until it reaches boiling point when it 'suddenly' becomes steam. At that point its whole nature is transformed from being a liquid into a vapour.

 

"Lower the temperature of water by a single degree at a time and again there is no dramatic change until it reaches freezing point, when it is transformed from a liquid into a solid -- ice.

 

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

 

From that, Rees suddenly "leaps" to this conclusion:

 

"This is why Marx described the dialectic as 'an abomination to the bourgeoisie' and why Lenin said of this method that it 'alone furnishes the key to 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to 'leaps', to the 'break in continuity'...to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new'". [Ibid. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

So, here we see yet another example of a priori dogmatism, and one based on little or no evidence. One minute, these 'Laws' aren't a master key, next they are, and are then imposed peremptorily on "everything existing".

 

Virtually every other DM-theorist does the same.

 

As we will soon discover, Rees blithely ignored the numerous cases where "qualitative" change isn't the least bit "sudden", just as he ignored the many instances where this 'Law' doesn't work. [Both of these claims will be fully substantiated in what follows.]

 

Nevertheless, as noted above, this Essay is aimed at showing that these 'Laws' are far too vague and confused even to be assessed for their truth or their falsehood.

 

Hence they are certainly of no use at all in helping revolutionaries understand the world and therefore how to change it.

 

Even so, Engels summarised these 'Laws' in the following way:

 

"The law of the transformation of quantity into quality, and vice versa; The law of the interpenetration of opposites; The law of the negation of the negation." [Engels (1954), p.62.]

 

Earlier, he had characterised them thus:

 

"Dialectics as the science of universal inter-connection. Main laws: transformation of quantity into quality -- mutual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes -- development through contradiction or negation of the negation -- spiral form of development." [Ibid., p.17.]

 

 

'Law' One: Quantity Into Quality

 

Here is Engels's summary of the First 'Law':

 

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

 

Exactly how Engels knew that it is impossible to "alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion" he annoyingly kept to himself. His certainty in this regard can't have been based on the limited evidence available in his day, for there is no body of evidence that could confirm that it is "impossible" to alter the "quality" of a body in the way he says. This is also true with respect to the vastly increased knowledge we have today.

 

Indeed, this is something Engels himself recognised:

 

"The empiricism of observation alone can never adequately prove necessity." [Ibid, p.229.]

 

Perhaps Engels was simply being careless in his choice of words in these private notebooks? Maybe so, but no dialectician since his day has noticed that it isn't possible to derive an "impossibility" (or a "necessity") from a set of contingent facts, no matter how large it is.

 

[But, we already know the answer to that one; Engels didn't derive this 'Law' from a research tradition in the physical sciences, he copied it from Hegel, who similarly based it on a handful of anecdotal and trite examples, and ones he badly garbled, too.]

 

To be sure, Engels went on to argue:

 

"This is so very correct that it does not follow from the continual rising of the sun in the morning that it will rise again tomorrow, and in fact we know now that a time will come when one morning the sun will not rise. But the proof of necessity lies in human activity, in experiment, in work: if I am able to make the post hoc, it becomes identical with the propter hoc." [Ibid., pp.229-30. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

However, it isn't too clear how human intervention can create a necessity where there was only a sequence of events before human beings intervened. Engels seems to think this is obvious, when it isn't. In fact, as we will soon see, it is possible to alter the qualitative state of a body without the addition of matter and/or motion; in which case, Engels's conclusions above are not just non-obvious, they are false.

 

Of course, this is quite apart from the fact that this 'Law' is supposed to work in the natural world, independently of human intervention. If so, Engels appeal to human action to derive a necessity here would mean, it seems, that this 'Law' operated only contingently in nature.

 

This puzzle is rendered all the more acute when we recall that for Engels matter itself is an abstraction. [Cf., Engels (1954), p.255: "Matter as such is a pure creation of thought and an abstraction...."]. In that case, it seems energy must be, too. If so, it isn't easy to see how anything can be altered qualitatively by the addition or subtraction of an 'abstraction'.

 

To be sure, Engels's characterisation of this 'Law' is slightly more tempered in AD:

 

"This is precisely the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations, in which, at certain definite nodal points, the purely quantitative increase or decrease gives rise to a qualitative leap; for example, in the case of heated or cooled water, where boiling-point and freezing-point are the nodes at which -- under normal pressure -- the leap to a new state of aggregation takes place, and where consequently quantity is transformed into quality." [Engels (1976), p.56. I have used the online version here, but quoted the page numbers for the Foreign Languages edition. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"With this assurance Herr Dühring saves himself the trouble of saying anything further about the origin of life, although it might reasonably have been expected that a thinker who had traced the evolution of the world back to its self-equal state, and is so much at home on other celestial bodies, would have known exactly what's what also on this point. For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules -- including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper: heat, light, electricity, magnetism. In the same way, the transition from the physics of molecules to the physics of atoms -- chemistry -- in turn involves a decided leap; and this is even more clearly the case in the transition from ordinary chemical action to the chemism of albumen which we call life. Then within the sphere of life the leaps become ever more infrequent and imperceptible. -- Once again, therefore, it is Hegel who has to correct Herr Dühring." [Ibid., pp.82-83. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"We have already seen earlier, when discussing world schematism, that in connection with this Hegelian nodal line of measure relations -- in which quantitative change suddenly passes at certain points into qualitative transformation -- Herr Dühring had a little accident: in a weak moment he himself recognised and made use of this line. We gave there one of the best-known examples -- that of the change of the aggregate states of water, which under normal atmospheric pressure changes at 0°C from the liquid into the solid state, and at 100°C from the liquid into the gaseous state, so that at both these turning-points the merely quantitative change of temperature brings about a qualitative change in the condition of the water." [Ibid., p.160. Bold emphasis added.]

 

However, in that book, and surprising though this might seem, Engels had already provided his own neat refutation of this 'Law':

 

"Whereas only ten years ago the great basic law of motion, then recently discovered, was as yet conceived merely as a law of the conservation of energy, as the mere expression of the indestructibility and uncreatability of motion, that is, merely in its quantitative aspect, this narrow negative conception is being more and more supplanted by the positive idea of the transformation of energy, in which for the first time the qualitative content of the process comes into its own, and the last vestige of an extramundane creator is obliterated. That the quantity of motion (so-called energy) remains unaltered when it is transformed from kinetic energy (so-called mechanical force) into electricity, heat, potential energy, etc., and vice versa, no longer needs to be preached as something new; it serves as the already secured basis for the now much more pregnant investigation into the very process of transformation, the great basic process, knowledge of which comprises all knowledge of nature." [Ibid., p.15. Bold emphases added.]

 

Attentive readers will no doubt notice that Engels argues that the same amount of energy can be transformed and appear in a different form, with a whole new set of qualities. So, here we have qualitative change with no addition of matter or energy! In all my years studying DM (over thirty and counting...), I have yet to encounter a single author (DM-supporter or critic) -- and I have waded through far more of this material than is good for any human being to have to endure -- who has spotted this fatal admission in this classical DM-text.

 

But, even that will sail right over the heads of the DM-faithful. [Here is why.]

 

We will be told, perhaps, that the fact that Engels has himself killed off this part of DM is an academic, pedantic detail -- a nit-picking point, mere 'semantics', "logic-chopping" --, etc., etc.

 

However, it is worth recalling this isn't a minor point; these energetic changes govern much that happens in the entire universe -- indeed, as Engels himself points out;

 

"[I]t serves as the already secured basis for the now much more pregnant investigation into the very process of transformation, the great basic process, knowledge of which comprises all knowledge of nature." [Ibid.]

 

Putting this fatal and self-inflicted blow to one side, Engels did at least try to deny that his:

 

"...laws [have been] foisted on nature and history as laws of thought, and not deduced from them." [Engels (1954), p.62.]

 

He also declared the following:

 

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

 

But, Engels's precipitous deduction of a necessary law (i.e., one that uses the word "impossible") from only a handful of cases -- largely drawn from a few areas of nineteenth century chemistry, buttressed by a handful of quirky, anecdotal examples taken from everyday life and/or from the popular science of his day -- is a neat trick dialecticians alone seem capable of performing.

 

Even if Engels had access to evidence several orders of magnitude greater than we have today, that would still not justify his use of "impossible".

 

Less partisan observers might be forgiven for concluding that Engels either did not know what the word "foisted" meant, or he hoped no one would notice when he indulged in a little of it himself.

 

Despite this, it might seem that Engels actually had an answer to these objections (and one he also lifted from Hegel):

 

"'Fundamentally, we can know only the infinite.' In fact all real exhaustive knowledge consists solely in raising the individual thing in thought from individuality into particularity and from this into universality, in seeking and establishing the infinite in the finite, the eternal in the transitory. The form of universality is the form of completeness, hence of the infinite. We know that chlorine and hydrogen, within certain limits of temperature and pressure and under the influence of light, combine with an explosion to form hydrochloric acid gas, and as soon as we know this, we know also that this takes place everywhere and at all times where the above conditions are present....The form of universality in nature is law, and no one talks of the eternal character of the laws of nature than the natural scientists.... All true knowledge of nature is knowledge of the eternal, the infinite, and hence the essentially absolute.

 

"...[This] can only take place in an infinite asymptotic progress." [Engels (1954), pp.234-35. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

However, since the scientists of Engels's day (from whose work he was generalising) were Christians, as was Hegel, you'd expect them to talk this way. But, their own conclusions (about these alleged "laws") do not follow from the evidence they gathered any more than the existence of God does. As we will see in a later Essay, in their attempt to explain the content of their work to non-specialists, scientists often indulge in amateur metaphysics, but this should no more influence us than their political opinions do. And, since scientists are constantly changing their minds over the nature of these 'eternal' laws, only the unwise would base their philosophy on such shifting sands.

 

As I argued in Essay Eight Part Three:

 

"How is it possible to translate the word 'infinite' as 'law-governed process'? Now Engels tries to equate the two, but an 'always' and 'at all times' are not an 'infinite'.

 

"In a later Essay, we will see that this view of scientific law is a carry-over from ancient animistic beliefs about nature, and so it is no surprise to see this idea re-surface here in such Hermetically-compromised company. [On this, see here and here; the first is Swartz (2009), the second Swartz (2003).]"

 

Nevertheless, where sense can be made of it, Engels's First 'Law' is, at best, only partially true -- as we shall soon see. There are countless processes in nature (and society) that 'disobey' it, so it can't be a law (in any sense of that word, but see here). And, even where it seems to work, it does so only because Engels left several key terms vague and undefined -- in which indeterminate state they remain to this day.

 

[It could be argued that many scientific laws face the same problems with regard to isolated exceptions. That objection has been neutralised here.]

 

 

A Leap In the Dark?

 

Engels's First 'Law' is supposed to work discontinuously (i.e., "nodally"), allowing nature and society to develop by making "leaps" (a term which all DM-fans like to use, even while they leave it studiously vague).

 

Here is how Hegel depicted things:

 

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

 

And here is Engels -- again copying Hegel:

 

"With this assurance Herr Dühring saves himself the trouble of saying anything further about the origin of life, although it might reasonably have been expected that a thinker who had traced the evolution of the world back to its self-equal state, and is so much at home on other celestial bodies, would have known exactly what's what also on this point. For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules -- including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper: heat, light, electricity, magnetism. In the same way, the transition from the physics of molecules to the physics of atoms -- chemistry -- in turn involves a decided leap; and this is even more clearly the case in the transition from ordinary chemical action to the chemism of albumen which we call life. Then within the sphere of life the leaps become ever more infrequent and imperceptible. -- Once again, therefore, it is Hegel who has to correct Herr Dühring." [Engels (1976), pp.82-83. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"We have already seen earlier, when discussing world schematism, that in connection with this Hegelian nodal line of measure relations -- in which quantitative change suddenly passes at certain points into qualitative transformation -- Herr Dühring had a little accident: in a weak moment he himself recognised and made use of this line. We gave there one of the best-known examples -- that of the change of the aggregate states of water, which under normal atmospheric pressure changes at 0°C from the liquid into the solid state, and at 100°C from the liquid into the gaseous state, so that at both these turning-points the merely quantitative change of temperature brings about a qualitative change in the condition of the water." [Ibid., p.160. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Here, too, is Plekhanov:

 

"[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

And this is what Lenin had to say:

 

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

 

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

 

"The identity of opposites (it would be more correct, perhaps, to say their 'unity,' -- although the difference between the terms identity and unity is not particularly important here. In a certain sense both are correct) is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society). The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement,' in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites. The two basic (or two possible? Or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).

 

"In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self'-movement.

 

"The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new." [Ibid., pp.357-58. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Unfortunately for these a priori dogmatists, many things in nature change qualitatively without passing through such "nodal" points -- not even so much as a tiny "leap".

 

These include the following: melting or solidifying plastic (polymers), metal, resin, rock, sulphur, tar, toffee, sugar, chocolate, wax, butter, cheese, and glass.01 As these are heated or cooled, they gradually change (from liquid to solid, or vice versa). There isn't even a "nodal point" with respect to balding heads! Individuals do not suddenly become bald.01a  In fact, it is difficult to think of many state of matter transformations (from solid to liquid (or vice versa)) that exhibit just such "nodal points" -- and these include the transition from ice to water (and arguably also the condensation of steam). Even the albumen of fried or boiled eggs changes slowly (but non-"nodally") from clear to opaque white while they are being cooked.1

 

Those who think that the above comments are seriously mistaken should consult Note One, as well as this and this, and then think again.

 

For anyone who doubts the above, there are scores of videos on YouTube that show metal, plastic, chocolate, glass, and other solids melting slowly -- for example, these:

 

 

Video One: Melting Plastic Spoons

 

 

Video Two: Glass Blowing

 

 

Video Three: Forging Iron

 

 

Video Four: Melting Chocolate

 

[Turn the volume down on Video Three, and off on Video Four!]

 

This, of course, allows chocolate and plastics to be shaped, glass blown and metals forged.

 

It is also worth reminding ourselves that one of the reasons why the Twin Towers of the Trade Centre in New York collapsed in September 2001 was that the intense fire softened the supporting steel columns so that they lost their capacity to support the buildings. Sure, the collapse when it came was relatively sudden, but the softening wasn't -- the South Tower took 56 minutes to collapse after being hit, the North Tower 102 minutes. The steel didn't go from hard to soft in a few seconds, nor did it need to liquefy in order to initiate each collapse.

 

 

Video Five: Why The Twin Towers Collapsed

 

Naturally, all this depends on how the duration of a "nodal" point is defined. Unfortunately DM-fans have to this day failed to specify the length of a single "node" (nor have they even so much as mentioned their duration -- indeed, discussions on the Internet have shown that this objection wrong foots most DM-fans, so they either ignore it, or call it "pedantic"). But, because of this, dialecticians are free to indulge in some sloppy, subjective, off-the-cuff, a priori Superscience (which they all seem fond of indulging in -- hardly one fails to come up with his or her own favourite and/or idiosyncratic example, tested, of course, only in the 'laboratory of the mind', and studiously un-peer reviewed -- which is why I have called this aspect of DM: Mickey Mouse Science).

 

[Since the above was written, I have discovered that this isn't strictly true. The very first book I have encountered (in over 25 years of trawling through the wastelands of DM-literature) that at least tries to deal with this 'difficulty' is Kuusinen (1961) -- a work I first read in 2007. My response to Kuusinen's attempt to defend Engels can be found here. I have also responded to several objections to my comments about the length of a 'dialectical' "node" in my other Essay, Engels And Mickey Mouse Science.]

 

Another example offered up in this regard is Steven Jay Gould's theory of "Punctuated Equilibria". Unfortunately, amateur dialectical palaeontologists have failed to notice that the alleged "nodal" points here last tens of thousands of years! This is a pretty unimpressive "leap" -- it is more like a painfully slow crawl. Indeed, snails on downers are considerably more nimble!

 

Moreover, since no individual organism actually changes into a new species, there is no obvious object or body here which alters in quality as quantitative variations accumulate. This contradicts Engels once more:

 

"Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Engels (1954), p.63. Emphasis added.]

 

Again, we seem to have neither an Hegelian, nor yet an Aristotelian "substance" in which such "qualities" can inhere, and hence change. Worse still, it isn't easy to see what the alleged quantities are supposed to be in this case, either.

 

It could be objected that these "quantities" are quite clearly the many minor variations that accumulate over many generations in populations of organisms, which lead at some point to a qualitative "leap", a species-change. But, many small variations are qualitative already, and many of the latter occur in different organisms, not cumulatively in just one of them. [Examples of this is given in the next but one paragraph.] Moreover, novel qualitative changes introduced by mutation can't arise slowly (and then make a DM-"leap" after they have been accumulated), since they already appear suddenly. In other words, there is no slow gradual change here, no "interruption in gradualness" (since there is no obvious gradualness), leading to a mutational "leap"; mutations themselves are sudden and already qualitative.

 

So, at least here we appear to have changes in quality caused by no obvious or straight-forward changes in quantity!

 

In any case, even if the above comments are rejected for some reason, the following questions remain: What precisely is being slowly and quantitatively accumulated, here? And in what are all these quantitative changes occurring/inhering? No one supposes that if, for example, several hundred thousand Canada Geese all change colour slightly (for instance, if they all become marginally pinker), that these will all additively combine somehow into one big qualitative change (i.e., the presence of very deep pink in one of these birds!). Or, that if, say, several thousand Red Deer can all individually run a little faster, that every one of these extra cm/sec increments in each animal's running speed will combine to make an extra km/sec in one incredibly nippy deer!

 

Natural selection, so we are told, will impact on those populations of organisms that produce less (surviving) offspring, so that certain characteristics are preserved, which then proliferate in the descendants of those who produce the most (or which survive the most). But, speciation is the result of much more complex processes than mere additive increase (even if we knew what was being 'added' here, DM-style!). [On this, see Coyne and Orr (2004).]

 

On the other hand, if a species is to be regarded as an object in its own right -- perhaps stretched out in time, as some taxonomists picture things --,1a then that 'object' will only seem to alter as 'changes' accumulate. That is because, if a species is defined in this way (as a temporally-extended 'object', a bit like the objects/manifolds embedded the 4-space of Relativity Theory), then it can't actually change in any straight-forward sense. [To be sure, that depends on how we define the object in question and how we depict change.]

 

It is no surprise therefore to find both these notions have been left impressively vague by comrades who quote this particular example in support of the First 'Law' (which is probably part of the reason they think they can get away with referencing it). [For example, here.]

 

Hence, if a species is characterised in this way (as a sort of four-dimensional 'sausage' -- i.e., as a manifold in 4-space), then even if the First 'Law' actually applied to it, this 'species' won't have changed as a result of its 'internal contradictions', or as a result of anything else, for that matter. That is because these manifolds do not change; four-dimensional objects do not 'exist' in time to change -- time is one of their 'in-built' dimensions, as it were. Indeed, and on the contrary, 'time' exists in them, they neither perdure nor endure in it. Since everything temporally-true of each of these manifolds is true of the whole of it 'all at once' (so to speak -- because it is a single, four-dimensional 'object'), it can't lose or gain properties or "qualities" --, unless, of course, we insist on embedding it in a fifth-dimension and (confusingly) call this new context "Time". But then, of course, this five-dimensional 'object' won't change, either, and for the same reason. [There is more on this in Essay Eleven Part One.]

 

Without this 'extra-dimension', any predicates true of this four-dimensional manifold will stay true of it for good, for there is no past, present or future as far as this 'object' is concerned. In that case, 'change' would amount to no more than our subjective mis-perception of a 'succession' of orthogonal hyper-plane 'slices' through this manifold that we happen to experience.

 

[This forms part of the so-called "Block view of time". On this, see the PDF article here. Incidentally, I take no stance on this view of time here; I will, however, in a later Essay.]

 

As should now seem obvious, dialecticians can only afford to view the universe in this way if they are prepared to abandon their belief in change -- or, consign change merely to our 'subjective' apprehension of reality.

 

Alternatively, if a species isn't to be defined in this way (as a four-dimensional collective sort of 'object'), then because no single organism actually evolves, change to a species can't be the result of its 'internal contradictions', once more -- since, on this view, a species is merely a certain sort of collection, not an object. Moreover, in populations, individual animals/plants do not change by "contradicting" one another (or their environment), howsoever the word "contradiction" is understood. There are no 'internal contradictions' in such populations here to cause change -- or, if there are, dialecticians have yet to point them out. Indeed, no single thing actually changes in an evolutionary sense, only whole populations, and they manifestly do so non-dialectically.1b

 

In that case, not only is Gould's theory not an example of this 'Law' at work, not even Darwin's is!1c

 

 

Confusion Over Chaos

 

Recently, dialecticians have appealed to Chaos and Catastrophe Theory in their endeavour to show that this nineteenth century 'Law' is bang up-to-date. Processes in nature studied in this branch of science clearly change rapidly. However, it is important to note that rapid change in nature and society is neither being denied or asserted in this Essay. What is being challenged is the thesis that all change is "nodal". Some changes are, many aren't. Moreover, as we will also see, the term "quality" is defined in DM-circles in terms that would rule-out many of these catastrophic changes as being 'dialectical'. That is because no new DM-"qualities" actually emerge in such transitions.

 

For example, in the famous "three body" problem, whatever the outcome, the planetary bodies involved are still planets and they are still satellites; their orbits are still orbits. What new DM-"quality" has "emerged" in this case?

 

[Here is a JavaScript simulation of this phenomenon. Indeed, the transitions in this example appear to be non-"nodal". (You can alter the parameter in the top left hand corner of the page.)]

 

Moreover, chaotic (turbulent) flows, either side of the alleged "node", are still flows, and the liquids/gases involved are still the same substances. No new Aristotelian/Hegelian "quality" has "emerged" here, either.

 

To be sure, some chaotic systems certainly seem to conform to this 'Law' -- but, that is only because the phrase "nodal change" has been left conveniently vague, and only because few dialecticians are prepared to ask awkward (but obvious) questions about what a DM-"quality" is supposed to be. [On that, see here, here and here.]

 

However, there are alternative scientific and/or mathematical models of reality that explain chaotic systems (indeed, they do so with far more clarity) --, and they do not fall foul of the other examples listed in this Essay, which refute this 'Law'. So, if we needed a theory of change here, DM wouldn't be it.

 

 

Facts Dialecticians Choose To Ignore

 

The difficulties the First 'Law' faces do not stop there. For example, when heated, objects change in quality from cold to warm and then to hot, with no "nodal" point separating these particular qualitative stages. The same happens in reverse when they cool. Moving bodies similarly speed up from slow to fast (and vice versa) without any "nodal" punctuation marks affecting this transition. In like manner, the change from one colour to the next in the normal colour spectrum is continuous, with no "nodal" points evident at all -- and this is also the case with the colour changes that bodies experience when they are heated until they are red- or white-hot. Sounds, too, change smoothly from soft to loud, and in pitch from low to high, and then back again in a "node"-free environment. In fact, with respect to wave-governed phenomena in general, change seems to be continuous rather than discrete, which means that since the majority of particles/objects in nature move in such a manner, most things in reality seem to disobey this aspect of Engels's unimpressive 'Law' -- at least, at the macroscopic level. Hence, here we have countless changes in "quality" that are non-"nodal".

 

To be sure, some wave-like changes are said to occur discontinuously (indeed, the word "node" is used precisely here by Physicists), but this is not the result of continuous background changes. For example, quantum phenomena are notoriously discontinuous, but such changes are not normally preceded by continual or gradual quantitative increases, as this 'Law' would have it. They occur suddenly with no build-up. So, discontinuous quantum phenomena can't be made to fit this 'Law' -- unless, of course, that 'Law' altered on a post hoc basis so that they can. Naturally, that done, this 'Law' would no longer be 'objective'.

 

Several more comments on the application of this 'Law' to microscopic and/or quantum phenomena will be added at a later date.

 

Dialecticians often apply this "nodal" aspect of the First 'Law' to Capitalism -- in a bid to illustrate by analogy the revolutionary change from one Mode of Production to another, as quantity allegedly builds into quality, at some point initiating a sudden revolutionary 'leap'. [An excellent example of this can be found here, a more recent one is Rees (2008); another can be found here. See also Molyneux (2012), pp.49-50.] But, how do we know that social changes like this aren't like solid-to-liquid phase or state of matter transformation we witness in metals, glass or plastic? How do we know that they aren't gradual, too? Since Capitalism is clearly not a liquid, but a solid of sorts, the transition to socialism should go rather smoothly, if we rely on this analogy. [On this see Note 9.]

 

Interpreted that way, it looks as if the First 'Law' is of little use to revolutionaries since it clearly suggests that they aren't needed, and that Capitalism can be reformed away non-discontinuously -- a bit like the way metal, say, can slowly melt, or the way that heads can slowly turn bald as they lose their hair. Even worse, if this can happen and dialectical revolutionaries aren't needed, their obsolete theory isn't either.2

 

[I hasten to add that I do not think capitalism can be reformed away, but must be overthrown -- however, the analogy drawn against Engels's First 'Law' could suggest this.]

 

 

Reciprocal?

 

But, this 'Law' is in difficulties in other respects, too. Clearly not every change in quantity "passes over" into a change in quality. And yet, one way of reading the "vice versa" codicil attached to this law suggests that they should:

 

"The first law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Yet the 'mechanical' conception amounts to nothing else. It explains all change from change of place, all qualitative differences from quantitative ones, and overlooks that the relation of quality and quantity is reciprocal, that quality can become transformed into quantity just as much as quantity into quality, that, in fact, reciprocal action takes place." [Ibid., p.253. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

And he said the same in published work:

 

"In proof of this law we might have cited hundreds of other similar facts from nature as well as from human society. Thus, for example, the whole of Part IV of Marx's Capital -- production of relative surplus-value -- deals, in the field of co-operation, division of labour and manufacture, machinery and modern industry, with innumerable cases in which quantitative change alters the quality, and also qualitative change alters the quantity, of the things under consideration; in which therefore, to use the expression so hated by Herr Dühring, quantity is transformed into quality and vice versa. As for example the fact that the co-operation of a number of people, the fusion of many forces into one single force, creates, to use Marx's phrase, a 'new power', which is essentially different from the sum of its separate forces." [Engels (1972), p.160. Bold emphasis added; italic emphasis in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Engels is quite clear here: just as quantity passes over in quality, the reverse is also true, quality passes over into quantity!

 

If this is so, then we should expect all changes in quantity to "pass over" into changes in quality (or there would seem to be no point to the vice versa codicil).

 

However, I have not been able to find a single DM-theorist who interprets this 'Law' in this way (i.e., "reciprocally", as Engels calls it), so perhaps I am the only one who has ever noticed this 'loop-hole' (in fact, it is more like a Grand Canyon) in Engels's 'Law'. But, even if this weren't so, it would still be difficult to explain why only some changes in quantity "pass over" into changes in quality. One will look in vain for any attempt to address this problem in the highly clichéd and repetitive writings churned out by DM-fans (on whose pages quantity definitely does not morph into quality) -- or for some sort of vague recognition from these clones that such a difficulty even exists.

 

But, the "reciprocal" action of this 'Law' is hard to understand for other reasons, too. Is Engels saying that a "qualitative" change in matter passes over into "quantity", i.e., that, say, the change from liquid water to steam adds energy to the process? Or that, bald heads make their owners lose hair? If not, it is not easy to see what this "reciprocal" aspect implies. [More on this later.]

 

It could be argued that when steam condenses, or when ice melts, latent heat is released. So, a change in quality produces energy, just as Engels says. However, quite apart from the fact that there is no change in quality here (since the substance involved stays H2O throughout), the reverse rule, if applied across the board, descends into absurdity. For example, if a bald man loses his baldness, does this create new matter or energy? Of course, the change itself is the result of new hair growing, but that is an application of this 'Law' in forward gear, as it were -- that is, the gradual addition of new hair will change one quality (bald) into another (hirsute). But, there is no way of making sense of the idea that the change in quality here, of itself, creates new hair, which it would have to do if this 'Law' is to work backwards. [I consider another example of this 'law' supposedly working in reverse, here.]

 

 

Counter-Examples Mount Up

 

[Word of warning: When confronted with examples like those itemised below, DM-fans generally respond by pointing out that Engels's' Law only applies to developing bodies and systems, which rules these counter-examples out. I deal with that reply here and here.]

 

As we delve deeper, several more serious problems arise; for example, the same number of molecules at the same energy level can exhibit widely differing properties/qualities depending on circumstances. Think of how the same amount of water can act as a lubricant, or have the opposite effect, say, on wet clothes; the same amount of sand can help some things slide, but prevent others from doing so; the same amount of poison given over a short space of time will kill, but given over a longer period (in small doses) it could benefit the recipient -- Strychnine comes to mind here.

 

To be sure, the effect of quantitative stability of this sort (supervenient on definite qualitative change) is also sensitive to (1) time constraints and (2) levels of concentration (of the substances involved), but this extremely vague First 'Law' says nothing of these. And, try as one might, it isn't easy to see how these unquestionably material aspects of nature (concentration levels and duration) can be accommodated to the Ideal dialectical universe Engels uncritically appropriated from Hegel (upside down or 'the right way up').

 

But, what sort of scientific 'Law' leaves details like these out? In fact, if a Mickey Mouse 'Law' like this were to appear in any of the genuine sciences, its author(s) would be treated with derision -- and that is so even if it had been aired in an undergraduate paper!

 

However, other recalcitrant examples rapidly spring to mind: if the same colour is stared at for several minutes it can undergo a qualitative change into another colour (several optical illusions are based on this fact). Something similar can happen with regard to many two-dimensional patterns and shapes (for example the Necker Cube and other optical illusions); these undergo considerable qualitative change when no obvious quantitative differences are involved. There thus seem to be numerous examples where quantity and quality do not appear to be connected in the way that DM-theorists would have us believe.3

 

In fact, there are so many exceptions to this 'Law' that it might be wise to demote it and consign it to a more appropriate category, perhaps classifying it alongside trite rules of thumb that sometimes work -- a bit like "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", or even "A watched kettle never boils".

 

Indeed, given the fact that this 'Law' has no discernible mathematical content it is rather surprising it was ever called a law to begin with.

 

[Recall, I have responded to several obvious objections to the above points in the Notes at the end -- links in the above paragraphs.]

 

 

Isomers Refute This 'Law'

 

Nevertheless, the situation is even worse than the above might suggest; there are countless examples in nature where significant qualitative change can result from no obvious quantitative difference. These include the qualitative dissimilarities that exist between different chemical compounds for the same quantity of matter/energy involved.

 

For instance, Isomeric molecules (studied in stereochemistry) represent a particularly good example of this phenomenon. This is especially true of those that have so-called "chiral" centres (i.e., centres of asymmetry). In such cases, the spatial ordering of the constituent atoms, not their quantity, affects the overall quality of the resulting molecule -- which, as we can see, Engels said couldn't happen:

 

"[Q]ualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Here, a change in molecular orientation -- a change in geometry, not quantity -- alters quality.

 

[Word of warning, again: I have dealt with the counter-argument that Engels's 'Law' only applies to developing bodies and systems, hence the 'Isomers objection' above is misguided, here and here. Among other things, I point out that Engels himself appeals to Isomers to illustrate this 'Law' -- e.g., Engels (1954), p.67 -- so DM-fans can hardly object if use them to criticise it!]

 

Consider one example of many: (R)-Carvone (spearmint) and (S)-Carvone (caraway); these molecules have the same number of atoms (of the same elements), and the same bond energies, but they are nonetheless qualitatively distinct because of the different spatial arrangement of the atoms involved. The same is true of some of the Fullerenes.

 

Change in geometry -- change in quality.

 

This non-dialectical aspect of matter is especially true of the so-called "Enantiomers" (i.e., symmetrical molecules that are mirror images of each other). These include compounds like (R)-2-clorobutane and (S)-2-chlorobutane, and the so-called L- and D-molecules, which rotate the plane of polarised light the left (laevo) or the right (dextro) -- such as, L- and D-Tartaric Acid. What might at first sight appear to be small energy-neutral differences like these have profound biochemical implications; a protein with D-amino acids instead of L- will not work in most living cells since the overwhelming majority of organisms metabolise L-organic molecules. These compounds not only have the same number of atoms in each molecule, there are no apparent energy differences between them. Even so, they have easily distinguishable physical qualities.

 

Change in quality -- identical quantity.4

 

Recall, too, that these are no less material changes than any Engels himself considered, so no genuine materialist should be embarrassed by them. It isn't as if I'm proposing non-materialist causes here!

 

In response, it could be argued that Engels had already anticipated the above objection:

 

"It is surely hardly necessary to point out that the various allotropic and aggregational states of bodies, because they depend on various groupings of the molecules, depend on greater or lesser quantities of motion communicated to the bodies.

 

"But what is the position in regard to change of form of motion, or so-called energy? If we change heat into mechanical motion or vice versa, is not the quality altered while the quantity remains the same? Quite correct. But it is with change of form of motion...; anyone can be virtuous by himself, for vices two are always necessary. Change of form of motion is always a process that takes place between at least two bodies, of which one loses a definite quantity of motion of one quality (e.g. heat), while the other gains a corresponding quantity of motion of another quality (mechanical motion, electricity, chemical decomposition). Here, therefore, quantity and quality mutually correspond to each other. So far it has not been found possible to convert motion from one form to another inside a single isolated body." [Ibid., pp.63-64. Bold emphases added.]

 

However, Engels slides between two different senses of "motion" here: (1) change of place, and (2) energy added/subtracted. In this way, he is able to argue that any change in the relation between bodies always amounts to a change in energy. But, this depends on the nature of the field in which these bodies are embedded (on this, see below, and in Note 4a); Engels's profound lack of mathematical knowledge clearly let him down here.

 

Independently of this, Engels also confused the expenditure of energy with energy added to a system. The difference between the two is easy to see. Imagine someone pushing a heavy packing case along a level floor. In order to overcome friction, the one doing the pushing will have to expend energy. But that energy has not been put into the packing case (as it were). Now, if the same case is pushed up a hill, Physicists tell us that recoverable energy has been put into the case in the form of Potential Energy.

 

Now, as far as can be ascertained in the examples of interest to dialecticians (but again, they are not at all clear on this), it is the latter form of energy (but not necessarily always Potential Energy) that is relevant to this 'Law', not the former. The former sort does not really change the quality of any bodies concerned; the latter does. [Although, of course, in the limit it can. Enough friction can melt a body, or set it on fire, for instance. I will consider this presently.] If so, then the above counter-examples (e.g., involving Enantiomers) will still apply, for the energy expended in order to change one isomer into another is generally of the first sort, not the second.

 

To be sure, some of the energy in the packing case example will appear as heat (and/or perhaps sound), and will warm that case slightly. But that energy will not be stored in the case as chemically recoverable (i.e., structural, or new bond) energy.

 

Despite this, a few die-hard dialecticians could be found who might want to argue that any expenditure of energy is relevant here. That would be an unfortunate move since it would make this 'Law' trivial, for in that case it would amount to the belief that any change at all (no matter how remote), since it involves the expenditure of some form of energy somewhere (but not necessarily energy put 'into' the bodies concerned), is the cause of qualitative change to other bodies somewhere else. This would make a mockery of Engels's claim that only energy added to the bodies concerned is relevant to this 'Law'.

 

"Change of form of motion is always a process that takes place between at least two bodies, of which one loses a definite quantity of motion of one quality (e.g. heat), while the other gains a corresponding quantity of motion of another quality (mechanical motion, electricity, chemical decomposition)." [Ibid. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Several examples of this sort of change are given below. The problems this creates are discussed at length in Note 5 and Note 6a, where attempts to delineate the thermodynamic boundaries of the local energy budget involved (which would have to be specified in order to prevent remote objects/energy expenditure being allowed to cause proximate change) are all shown to fail.

 

Moreover, as noted above, Engels himself considered isomers as an example of the 'Law', even though there is no "development" in this case! [On that, see here.]

 

Finally, Engels seems to think it is always clear what constitutes a single body:

 

"Here, therefore, quantity and quality mutually correspond to each other. So far it has not been found possible to convert motion from one form to another inside a single isolated body." [Ibid.]

 

However, nature is not quite so accommodating. In fact, when we look at the material world, and refuse to impose an a priori scheme like this on it, we see that the picture is not as straightforward as Engels would have us believe. Indeed, as we will soon discover, it is easy "to convert motion from one form to another inside a single isolated body." The reader is again directed to Note 5 and Note 6a for more details.

 

 

Tautomers, Resonance And Mesomers

 

Even more embarrassing for this 'Law' are tautomers; these feature as an:

 

"isomerism in which the isomers change into one another with great ease so that they ordinarily exist together in equilibrium." [Quoted from here.]

 

Wikipedia characterises them in the following way:

 

"Tautomers are organic compounds that are interconvertible by a chemical reaction called tautomerization. As most commonly encountered, this reaction results in the formal migration of a hydrogen atom or proton, accompanied by a switch of a single bond and adjacent double bond. In solutions where tautomerization is possible, a chemical equilibrium of the tautomers will be reached. The exact ratio of the tautomers depends on several factors, including temperature, solvent, and pH. The concept of tautomers that are interconvertible by tautomerizations is called tautomerism. Tautomerism is a special case of structural isomerism and can play an important role in non-canonical base pairing in DNA and especially RNA molecules.

 

"Tautomerizations are catalyzed by:

 

"1. base (a. deprotonation; b. formation of a delocalized anion (e.g. an enolate); c. protonation at a different position of the anion).

 

"2. acids (a. protonation; b. formation of a delocalized cation; c. deprotonation at a different position adjacent to the cation).

 

"Common tautomeric pairs are:

 

"3. ketone -- enol, e.g. for acetone (see: keto-enol tautomerism).

 

"4. amide -- imidic acid, e.g. during nitrile hydrolysis reactions.

 

"5. lactam -- lactim, an amide -- imidic acid tautomerism in heterocyclic rings, e.g. in the nucleobases guanine, thymine, and cytosine.

 

"6. enamine -- imine.

 

"7. enamine -- enamine, e.g. during pyridoxalphosphate catalyzed enzymatic reactions.

 

"Prototropic tautomerism refers to the relocation of a proton, as in the above examples, and may be considered a subset of acid-base behaviour. Prototropic tautomers are sets of isomeric protonation states with the same empirical formula and total charge.

 

"Annular tautomerism is a type of prototropic tautomerism where a proton can occupy two or more positions of a heterocyclic system. For example, 1H- and 3H-imidazole; 1H-, 2H- and 4H- 1,2,4-triazole; 1H- and 2H- isoindole.

 

"Ring-chain tautomerism occurs when the movement of the proton is accompanied by a change from an open structure to a ring, such as the aldehyde and pyran forms of glucose.

 

"Valence tautomerism is distinct from prototropic tautomerism, and involves processes with rapid reorganisation of bonding electrons. An example of this type of tautomerism can be found in bullvalene. Another example is open and closed forms of certain heterocycles, such as azide -- tetrazole. Valence tautomerism requires a change in molecular geometry and should not be confused with canonical resonance structures or mesomers." [Quoted from here; accessed 05/10/08. Paragraph numbering altered; spelling changed to conform to UK English. Several links added.]

 

One standard Organic Chemistry text defines tautomers as follows:

 

"Tautomers are isomers differing only in the position of hydrogen atoms and electrons. Otherwise the carbon skeleton is the same." [Clayden, et al (2001), p.205.]

 

On enol tautomerism, it adds:

 

"In the case of dimedone, the enol must be formed by a transfer of a proton from the central CH2 group of the keto form to one of the OH groups.

 

"Notice that there is no change in pH -- a proton is lost from carbon and gained on oxygen. The reaction is known as enolization as it is the conversion of a carbonyl compound into an enol. It is a strange reaction in which little happens. The product is almost always the same as the starting material since the only change is the transfer of one proton and the shift of the double bond." [Ibid., pp.524-25.]

 

Even though many of these reactions require catalysts (which add no energy or matter to the original compounds), these are qualitatively different substances, refuting the First 'Law'. This is a particularly intractable series of counter-examples because it involves the "development" of one substance into another.

 

Of course, it could be argued that the above Wikipedia source acknowledges the fact that there is a change in matter or energy between the resonating isomers -- for example, here:

 

"Tautomers are organic compounds that are interconvertible by a chemical reaction called tautomerization. As most commonly encountered, this reaction results in the formal migration of a hydrogen atom or proton, accompanied by a switch of a single bond and adjacent double bond. [Wikipedia. Link above. Bold added.]

 

But, no energy or matter is added to the molecule, it is merely re-distributed within that molecule, as Clayden et al points out.

 

Resonance (mesomerism) is more controversial still,4a0 but no less fatal to this 'Law':

 

"Though resonance is often introduced in such a diagrammatic form in elementary chemistry, it actually has a deeper significance in the mathematical formalism of valence bond theory (VB). When a molecule can't be represented by the standard tools of valence bond theory (promotion, hybridisation, orbital overlap, sigma and pi bond formation) because no single structure predicted by VB can account for all the properties of the molecule, one invokes the concept of resonance.

 

"Valence bond theory gives us a model for benzene where each carbon atom makes two sigma bonds with its neighbouring carbon atoms and one with a hydrogen atom. But since carbon is tetravalent, it has the ability to form one more bond. In VB it can form this extra bond with either of the neighbouring carbon atoms, giving rise to the familiar Kekulé ring structure. But this can't account for all carbon-carbon bond lengths being equal in benzene. A solution is to write the actual wavefunction of the molecule as a linear superposition of the two possible Kekulé structures (or rather the wavefunctions representing these structures), creating a wavefunction that is neither of its components but rather a superposition of them, just as in the vector analogy above (which is formally equivalent to this situation).

 

"In benzene both Kekulé structures have equal weight, but this need not be the case. In general, the superposition is written with undetermined constant coefficients, which are then variationally optimized to find the lowest possible energy for the given set of basis wavefunctions. This is taken to be the best approximation that can be made to the real structure, though a better one may be made with addition of more structures.

 

"In molecular orbital [MO -- RL] theory, the main alternative to VB, resonance often (but not always) translates to a delocalization of electrons in pi orbitals (which are a separate concept from pi bonds in VB). For example, in benzene, the MO model gives us 6 pi electrons completely delocalised over all 6 carbon atoms, thus contributing something like half-bonds. This MO interpretation has inspired the picture of the benzene ring as a hexagon with a circle inside. Often when describing benzene the VB picture and the MO picture are intermixed, talking both about localized sigma 'bonds' (strictly a concept from VB) and 'delocalized' pi electrons (strictly a concept from MO)." [Quoted from here; accessed 05/10/08.]

 

 

Figure One: Examples Of Resonance

 

In view of the fact that these are distinct qualitative variations on a common theme, created by no new energy or matter added to the body in question, it seems therefore this luckless First 'Law' has been refuted yet again.

 

 

Counter-Examples Just Keep Stacking-Up

 

[Another word of warning: When confronted with examples like those listed below, DM-fans generally respond by pointing out that Engels's' Law only applies to developing bodies and systems, which supposedly rules these counter-examples out. I have dealt with that objection here and here.]

 

Moving into Physics, consider the Triple Point:

 

"In thermodynamics, the triple point of a substance is the temperature and pressure at which three phases (for example, gas, liquid, and solid) of that substance coexist in thermodynamic equilibrium. For example, the triple point of mercury occurs at a temperature of −38.8344°C and a pressure of 0.2 mPa." [Quoted from here.]

 

Once again, we have here changes in quality with no addition of energy or matter at that point.

 

Moreover, if two or more forces are aligned differently, the qualitative results will invariably be altered even where the overall magnitude of each force is held constant.

 

Consider just one example: let forces F1 and F2 be situated in parallel (but not along the same line of action), and diametrically opposed to one another . Here these two forces can exercise a turning effect on a suitably placed body. Now, arrange the same two forces in like manner so that they are still parallel, but act diametrically along the same line (i.e., these two force vectors have opposite senses). In this case, as seems clear, these forces will have no turning effect on the same body. Here we have a change in quality with no change in quantity, once more. Since there are many ways to align forces (as there are with other vector quantities, like velocities and accelerations, etc.), there are countless counter-examples to the rather pathetic First 'Law' here alone.4a

 

Perhaps more significantly, this 'Law' takes no account of qualitative changes that result from (energetically-neutral) ordering relations in nature and society. Here, identical physical structures and processes can be ordered differently to create significant qualitative changes. One example is the different ordering principles found in music, where an alteration to a sequence of the same notes in a chord or in a melody can have a major qualitative impact on harmony, with no quantitative change anywhere apparent. So, the same seven notes (i.e., tones and semi-tones) arranged in different modes (Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aolean and Locrian) sound totally different to the human ear. Of course, there are other ways of altering the quality of music in an energetically neutral environment over and above this (such as timing).

 

Another example along the same lines concerns the ordering principles found in language, where significant qualitative changes can result from the re-arrangement of the same parts of speech. For instance, the same number of letters jumbled up can either make sense or no sense, as the case may be -- as in, say, "dialectics" and "csdileati" (which is "dialectics" scrambled up. [Which one of these makes more sense I will leave the reader to decide.]

 

Perhaps more radically, the same words can mean something qualitatively new if sequenced differently, as in, say: "The cat is on the mat" and "The mat is on the cat". Or, even worse: "It is impossible to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic", compared with "It is impossible to understand Hegel's Logic, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Marx's Capital." Here there is considerable qualitative difference with no quantitative change at all.

 

[What are the odds that Engels would have tried to alter his First 'Law' to counter that awkward fact?]

 

There are many other examples of this phenomenon, but a few more should suffice for the purposes of this Essay: a successful strike (one that is, say, planned first then actioned second) could turn into its opposite (if it is actioned first and planned second). Now even though the total energy input here would be ordered differently in each case, the overall energy budget of the system (howsoever that is characterised) need not be any different. So, the addition of no extra matter or energy here can turn successful action into disaster if the order of events is reversed. Of course, we can all imagine situations where this particular example could involve different energy budgets, but this is not necessarily the case, which is all I need.

 

There are literally thousands of everyday examples of such qualitative changes (where there are no obvious associated quantitative differences), so many in fact that Engels's First 'Law' begins to look even more pathetic in comparison. Who, for example, would put food on the table then a plate on top of it? A change in the order here would constitute a qualitatively different (and more normal) act: plate first, food second. Which of us would jump out of an aeroplane first and put their parachute on second -- or cross a road first, look second? And is there a sane person on the planet who goes to the toilet first and gets out of bed second? Moreover, only an idiot would pour 500 ml of water slowly into 1000 ml of concentrated Sulphuric Acid, whereas, someone who knew what they were doing would readily do the reverse. But, all of these have profound qualitative differences if performed in the wrong order (for the same energy budget).5

 

How could Engels have missed examples like these? Is dialectical myopia so crippling that it prevents dialecticians using their common sense?

 

Pushing these ideas further: context, too, can affect quality in a quantitatively neutral environment. So, a dead body in a living room has a different qualitative significance compared to that same body in the morgue (for the same energy input). A million pounds in my bank account has a different qualitative feel to it when compared to the same money in yours.

 

"Ceci n'est pas une pipe" has a different qualitative aspect if appended to a picture of a pipe, compared to being attached to a picture of, say, a cigarette. Indeed, "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" itself can change from qualitatively false to true depending on how it is interpreted. Hence, as a depiction of what the painting by Magritte is about (i.e., a pipe) it is false. But, despite this, it is also literally true, since manifestly a picture of a pipe is not a pipe! Change in quality here, but no change in quantity.6

 

 

 

Figure Two: Gallic Refutation?

 

Furthermore, qualitative change can be induced by other qualitative changes, contrary to Engels's claim:

 

"...[Q]ualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion...." [Engels (1954), p.63. Emphasis added]

 

For example, in a 1:1 mixture of paint, one litre of brown can be made by mixing two half litres each of red and green, but the same qualitative effect can be achieved by using less or more of both (say, 2 litres of each), but in the same ratio. Here a change in the quantity of mixed paints has no effect on the qualitative properties of the mixture (i.e., its colour), while the qualities mixed do. In this case, two qualities (two colours) will have changed into a new quality (a new colour) when mixed. Not only do the same amounts (and proportions) of red and green paint exist before and after mixing, for any fixed amount of each, the two former qualities will have merged into a single quality. So, here we have qualitative change produced by qualitative change.

 

Of course, it could be argued that the mixture contains more paint than it did before (which means that there actually has been a quantitative change), but this is not so. In general, prior to mixing there were n litres of each colour (and 2n litres of both) preserving the 1:1 ratio; after mixing the same amount of paint still exists, namely n litres of each (and 2n litres of both, for any n), still preserving the 1:1 proportion. The qualitative change in colour has nothing to do with the quantities involved, but everything to do with the mixing of the two previous qualities in the same ratio.

 

To be sure, if the ratio of the mixed paints were changed, a different qualitative outcome would emerge, but as noted above, even this won't happen "nodally", and so it seems to be of little relevance to the First 'Law'. Hence, if the ratio is kept the same, we would have here a change in quality initiated by qualitative change only, and not by an increase in quantity.6a

 

And this example also applies to the development of this body of matter; at the start we had 2n litres of paint, and at the end we had 2n litres. But at the end we also have a new quality (a new colour) created by no increase in matter. And, the same will be true if the mixture is increased indefinitely, by the continuous addition of paint (in the same ratio, say, by pouring it into a huge vat from two pipes). Moreover, what applies to colour will apply to other qualities, too -- for example, heat (where the mixing of two 2n litres of hot and cold water creates a warm mixture of 2n litres).

 

Also, mixing 2n litres of molten metal (with severally different qualities) can lead to a qualitatively new alloy, for example, brass or pewter. This point clearly applies to any mixing of 2n units (or other amounts) of any sort of matter. Indeed, something similar can be achieved with the mixing of chemicals (as solids, liquids, or gases) that are capable of being mixed, as it can with light, sounds and tastes.7

 

Matter in general is thus reassuringly non-dialectical.

 

Any who object to these examples need only reflect on the fact that they do not represent a challenge to materialism (since they are all manifestly material changes), they merely throw into doubt Engels's rather restrictive 'Law'.

 

In short, only someone more intent on defending Engels than they are in understanding nature will find reason to cavil at this point.

 

Other instances of qualitative change where there is no implied change in quantity include the following: the "Big Bang" (if it actually happened) led to the formation of a whole universe of qualitative changes, with no overall increase in energy or matter (in the universe). Now, here we have a massive change in quality (with Galaxies and planets, and all the rest, emerging out of the original debris) with no overall change in the quantity of energy in the universe.

 

On the other hand, if the 'Big Bang' is rejected -- with an infinite universe is postulated in its place -- since there can be no increase in energy in the entire universe, any qualitative changes in the whole of nature will still occur with no increase in the universal quantity of energy.

 

More counter-examples rapidly stack up: a child living in, say, Paris can become an orphan (qualitative change) if both of its parents die in South Africa (meaning that no quantitative change will have happened to that child -- unless, of course, we are meant to re-interpret a change to a distant geographical/familial relation as a quantitative change).

 

The largest cut diamond on earth (in a safe, say, in New York) could change into the second biggest if another, bigger diamond is cut in, say, Amsterdam. This example also applies to other remote changes. For example, the biggest star in a galaxy could become the second biggest if another star hundreds of millions of light years away (but in the same galaxy) grows in size (perhaps over millions of years) through accretion of matter. So, in both cases, there would be a qualitative change to the first object with no relevant matter or energy added or subtracted from/to that object. There are countless examples of remote change like this.

 

A cheque drawn, say, in New York will become instantaneously worthless (qualitative change) if the issuing bank in Tokyo goes bust (meaning that no quantitative change will have happened to that cheque).

 

A Silver Medallist in, say, the Olympics can become the Gold Medal winner in a certain event (qualitative change) if the former Gold medallist is disqualified because of drug-taking (meaning that no quantitative change will have occurred to that Silver Medallist).

 

[Notice that the last few paragraphs present examples that are all developmental.]

 

Two identical "Keep off the Grass" signs can mean something different (qualitative change) if one of them is posted on a garden lawn and the other is positioned near a stand of Marijuana plants, at the same height above sea level (thus, with no difference in energy).

 

A circle looks like an ellipse (qualitative change) when viewed from certain angles for no change in energy.

 

The same three mathematical (or physical) points can undergo a qualitative change if, say, from being arranged linearly they are then re-arranged as the corners of a triangle (with no energy added to these points). Here, there would be a qualitative change with no quantitative change, once again. There are, of course, a potentially infinite number of examples of that sort of change imaginable for 2-, or 3-dimensional shapes, for n points (be they mathematical or physical -- so this is not necessarily an abstract set of counter-instances).8

 

 

In The Soup, And Vice Versa

 

Worse still, as we saw earlier, the aforementioned "reciprocal" "vice versa" codicil attached by Engels to this 'Law' renders it totally useless -- if not completely crazy --, since it suggests, for instance, that qualitative change can effect quantitative material change. Consider this example of Trotsky's:

 

"A housewife knows that a certain amount of salt flavours soup agreeably, but that added salt makes the soup unpalatable. Consequently, an illiterate peasant woman guides herself in cooking soup by the Hegelian law of the transformation of quantity into quality…." [Trotsky (1971), p.106.]

 

Engels's vice versa codicil suggests that a change in quality from "palatable" to "too salty" can create an increase in the salt content of soup!

 

Now, this is not an unsympathetic interpretation on my part, for, as we have already seen, Engels himself signed up to it:

 

"Yet the 'mechanical' conception amounts to nothing else. It explains all change from change of place, all qualitative differences from quantitative ones, and overlooks that the relation of quality and quantity is reciprocal, that quality can become transformed into quantity just as much as quantity into quality, that, in fact, reciprocal action takes place." [Engels (1954), p.253. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

As did Novack:

 

"The dialectical process of development does not end with the transformation of quantity into quality…. The process continues in the opposite direction and converts new quality into new quantity." [Novack (1971), p.92.]

 

This suggests that changes in quality are capable of inducing quantitative changes, that is, that new matter or energy can be created by a qualitative change!

 

Hence, as noted above, if this vice versa codicil is to be believed, a qualitative change from, say, unpalatable soup to tasty-soup would in effect produce a quantitative pay-off: it must cause soup to have more salt in it! Clearly this magic trick will be of interest to those who still (foolishly) think that matter and energy can't be created ex nihilo. And yet there seems to be no other way of reading the vice versa codicil except as just such a 'metaphysical blank cheque'.

 

It could be objected that such a qualitative change will have been produced by a quantitative increase in salt, but that is just the First 'Law' applied in forward gear, as it were. If we apply that 'Law' in reverse, then we can't appeal to a quantitative increase leading to a qualitative change, but must appeal to a qualitative change inducing a quantitative change -- that is, that a change in taste must be able to create salt out of thin air.

 

Nevertheless, it is worth examining Trotsky's anecdote more closely, since it will help expose the many serious errors and confusions that afflict even the few examples dialecticians have scraped together to illustrate this ramshackle 'Law.'

 

"Every individual is a dialectician to some extent or other, in most cases, unconsciously. A housewife knows that a certain amount of salt flavours soup agreeably, but that added salt makes the soup unpalatable. Consequently, an illiterate peasant woman guides herself in cooking soup by the Hegelian law of the transformation of quantity into quality…. Even animals arrive at their practical conclusions…on the basis of the Hegelian dialectic. Thus a fox is aware that quadrupeds and birds are nutritious and tasty…. When the same fox, however, encounters the first animal which exceeds it in size, for example, a wolf, it quickly concludes that quantity passes into quality, and turns to flee. Clearly, the legs of a fox are equipped with Hegelian tendencies, even if not fully conscious ones. All this demonstrates, in passing, that our methods of thought, both formal logic and the dialectic, are not arbitrary constructions of our reason but rather expressions of the actual inter-relationships in nature itself. In this sense the universe is permeated with ‘unconscious’ dialectics." [Trotsky (1971), pp.106-07.]

 

But, what exactly did Trotsky imagine the change of quantity into quality to be, here?

 

Does an increase in the quantity of salt alter the salt's own quality? Presumably not. Does the quantity of soup change? Perhaps only marginally; but even so, the quantity of soup is not what allegedly changed the quality of the soup -- that is supposed to have resulted from the quantity of salt added.

 

In fact, the quantity of the original soup has not actually changed -- merely the quantity of the salt/soup mixture --; and neither has the quality of the salt altered (just its alleged quantity).

 

What appears to have happened (in this less than half-formed 'thought experiment') is that the addition of too much salt to the soup is supposed to change the taste of the resulting salt/soup mixture as this is perceived by the taster. Hence, at a certain ("nodal") point, a further increase in the quantity of salt alters the quality (i.e., the taste) of the soup, so that its acceptability changes either side of that juncture.

 

But, once more, even here the increased quantity of salt has not passed over into any change in its own quality. What has occurred is that one quality (a palatable taste) has morphed into another quality (an unpalatable taste) as a result of a quantitative change made to one ingredient (salt) added to the salt/soup mixture. So, a certain quality of the soup has changed from being acceptable to being unacceptable as a result of the increased quantity of salt that the mixture contains.

 

However, the relevant quality of the added salt remains the same no matter how much is added. Salt is (largely) Sodium Chloride, and it tastes salty whether it is delivered by the spoon, the bucket or the train-load. In that case, neither the quantity nor the quality of the salt has "passed over" into anything in the salt; there does not therefore seem to be anything in the initial part of this story for that particular aspect of the salt to "pass over" into.

 

Consequently, the first half of this 'Law' is either mis-stated or it does not apply in this case -- i.e., to the salt.

 

As far as the second half is concerned (i.e., the alleged alteration in quality either in the salt or the soup), the postulated change relates to the taste of the soup. But manifestly, the soup remains salty no matter how much salt is poured in, as we saw. What we seem to have here is a batch of soup that becomes increasingly salty as more salt is added.

 

What qualitative change then is meant to have taken place? Again, it seems that this change relates to the acceptability of the taste of the soup as perceived by the taster. Hence, at -- or slightly beyond -- the alleged "nodal" point, the taste of the soup will become objectionable. But, this particular change is confined to the one doing the tasting. Manifestly, it isn't the soup that alters in this respect. On one side of the "nodal" point the soup is objectively salty (i.e., it contains dissolved salt); on the other side it is still objectively salty, but with more salt in it. The difference is that on one side, the taster tolerated the taste and continued to like it, but on the other side the taste became intolerable and she ceased to enjoy what she was sampling. This means that the soup itself has not actually changed in this respect, merely the taster's appreciation of it that has.

 

It now seems that a change in the quantity (of salt) does not actually affect the soup –- except, perhaps, its volume (very slightly) and its composition as a salt/soup mixture. No matter how much salt is dumped into the soup it remains just that, a salt/soup mixture, only with higher proportions of the former ingredient -– and this is so even at the limit where it perhaps turns into sludge or a semi-solid lump, or whatever. A trillion tons of salt can't change that.8a

 

Consequently, even with respect to the relevant quality (interpreting the latter as this salt/soup mixture, if it can be so described), the concoction does not change (or, at least, not in a way that is relevant to Trotsky's purposes). Hence, a change in the quantity of salt has not "passed over" into a change in the quality of the soup (as soup), which means that the second part of this 'Law' seems to be defective, too.

 

If there is a qualitative change anywhere at all (which is relevant to the point Trotsky is trying to make), it seems to occur in the third party -– that is, in the taster. We are forced to interpret things this way unless, of course, we are to suppose that tastes actually reside 'objectively' in soups, as one of their alleged 'primary' qualities. If that were so, qualities like this (that reside in soups, and not solely in tasters) would have to be able to alter 'objectively', even when they are not being tasted! But, it can't mean that; no sane dialectician (one imagines!) believes that tastes reside in the objects we eat. Hence, if this 'Law' is to work in this case, the qualitative change must reside in the soup-taster, not the soup.8b

 

If so, this qualitative change must have been induced by a quantitative change in the taster, if the 'Law' is to apply to her. But, what quantitative change could have taken place in this taster that might have prompted a corresponding change in (her) quality, or in her changed perception of a quality? Does she grow new nerve cells, or an extra head? In fact, there's none at all -- or, none that Trotsky mentioned, and certainly none that is obvious.

 

Plainly, it is a quantitative change in the salt/soup mixture that altered its quality as perceived by that taster, but it had no effect on any quality actually in the soup (as previous comments sought to show -- tastes do not reside in soups!). But, there now seem to be no (relevant) quantitative changes in the taster which initiate a corresponding qualitative change in her.

 

In that case, the best that can be made of this half-baked example is that while quantitative change leads to no qualitative change in some things (i.e., soups), it can prompt certain qualitative changes in other things (i.e., tasters), the latter of which were not caused by any quantitative changes in those things themselves, but by something altogether mysterious.

 

So, the second part of the 'Law' is now doubly defective.

 

Of course, it could be objected that there is indeed a quantitative change in the said taster, namely the quantitative increase in salt particles hitting her tongue. But, this just pushes the problem one stage further back, for unless we are to suppose that tastes reside in salt molecules (or in Sodium and Chlorine ions), the qualitative change we seek will still have occurred in the taster and not in the chemicals in her mouth -- and we are back where we were a few paragraphs back. There seems to be no quantitative change to the taster apparent here; she does not grow another tongue or gain more taste buds. It is undeniable that there will have been an increase in salt molecules hitting her tongue, and that these will have a causal effect on the change in taste as she perceives it, but even given all that, no change in quantity to the taster herself will have taken place.

 

Again, it could be objected that there is a material/energetic change here; matter or energy will have been transferred to the taster (and/or her central nervous system) which causes her to experience a qualitative change in her appreciation of the soup.

 

In fact, what has happened is that the original salt has merged/interacted with the taster's tongue/nervous system upon being ingested. But, it is at precisely that point that the earlier problems associated with the salt/soup mixture now transfer to the salt/nervous system 'mixture'. Since tastes do not exist in nerves any more than they exist in soups, we are no further forward. And, as far as changes to the quantity of the taster is concerned, this will depend on how we draw the boundaries between inorganic salt molecules and living cells. Since this 'difficulty' is considered in more detail below, no more will be said about it here.

 

 

The 'Definition' Of Quality

 

[This section continues the argument (set out in the previous one) against Trotsky's attempt to illustrate Engels's First 'Law' with a parable about a cook adding some salt to soup.]

 

In any case, it seems rather odd to describe a change in taste (or in the appreciation of taste) as a qualitative change to a taster, whatever caused it. As the term "quality" is understood by dialecticians, this can't in fact be a qualitative change of the sort they require. Qualities, as characterised by dialecticians -- or, rather, by those that bother to say what they mean by this word -- are those properties of bodies/processes that make them what they are, alteration to which will change that body/process into something else:

 

"Each of the three spheres of the logical idea proves to be a systematic whole of thought-terms, and a phase of the Absolute. This is the case with Being, containing the three grades of quality, quantity and measure.

 

"Quality is, in the first place, the character identical with being: so identical that a thing ceases to be what it is, if it loses its quality. Quantity, on the contrary, is the character external to being, and does not affect the being at all. Thus, e.g. a house remains what it is, whether it be greater or smaller; and red remains red, whether it be brighter or darker." [Hegel (1975), p.124, §85.]

 

As the Glossary at the Marx Internet Archive notes:

 

"Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else and reflects that which is stable amidst variation. Quantity is an aspect of something which may change (become more or less) without the thing thereby becoming something else.

 

"Thus, if something changes to an extent that it is no longer the same kind of thing, this is a 'qualitative change', whereas a change in something by which it still the same thing, though more or less, bigger or smaller, is a 'quantitative change'.

 

"In Hegel's Logic, Quality is the first division of Being, when the world is just one thing after another, so to speak, while Quantity is the second division, where perception has progressed to the point of recognising what is stable within the ups and downs of things. The third and final stage, Measure, the unity of quality and quantity, denotes the knowledge of just when quantitative change becomes qualitative change." [Quoted from here. Accessed August 2007. This definition has been altered slightly since.]

 

This is an Aristotelian notion.

 

Cornforth tries gamely to tell us what a 'dialectical quality' is:

 

"For instance, if a piece of iron is painted black and instead we paint it red, that is merely an external alteration..., but it is not a qualitative change in the sense we are here defining. On the other hand, if the iron is heated to melting point, then this is such a qualitative change. And it comes about precisely as a change in the attraction-repulsion relationship characteristic of the internal molecular state of the metal. The metal passes from the solid to liquid state, its internal character and laws of motion become different in certain ways, it undergoes a qualitative change." [Cornforth (1976), p.99.]

 

And yet, as we have seen, no new substance emerges as a result; liquid iron, gold and aluminium is still gold, iron and aluminium. [Worse, metals melt slowly, not nodally!]

 

Of course, it could be argued that liquid and solid states of matter are, as Cornforth seems to think, different "kinds of things", as required by the definition. But, to describe something as a liquid isn't to present a kind of thing, since liquids comprise many different kinds of things. The same is true of gases and solids. So, a state of matter isn't a "kind of thing" but a quality possessed by kinds of things; and if that quality changes, the "kind of thing" that a particular substance is does not (in general) change. To be sure, some substances change when heat is added -- for example, Ammonium Chloride (solid) sublimates into Ammonia gas and Hydrochloric Acid (when heated), but this isn't typical. [In fact, DM fans would be on firmer ground here (no pun intended) than they are with their clichéd water as a liquid, solid or gas example.] Liquid Mercury is still Mercury just as solid Mercury is. Melted sugar is still sugar. So is plastic, and so are all the metals. The elements aren't situated where they are in the Periodic Table because they are solid, liquid or gas, but because of their Atomic Number. This shows that states of matter aren't "kinds of things"; if they were, solid Mercury would no longer be Mercury.8b1

 

But, the volunteered DM-objection at the beginning of the previous paragraph, should it ever be advanced by a dialectician, only goes to show how vague this 'definition' is. It allows DM-fans to count different states of matter -- but not shape, colour, heat or motion -- as different "kind of things", so that, for example, an object in motion is not counted as a different "kind of thing" from the same object at rest; or that spherical or cylindrical ingots of iron aren't different "kinds of thing". Sure, gases, liquids and solids have different physical properties, but so do moving and stationary bodies, and so do spherical and cylindrical objects. And so do different colours. It isn't easy to see why green and red objects aren't different "kinds of things" if liquids and solids are allowed to be. And it is no use pointing to the "objective" nature of states of matter as opposed to the "subjective" nature of colour, since shape and motion are just as "objective".

 

[The "subjective" nature of colour will be questioned, anyway, in Essay Thirteen Part One -- as will the philosophical use of the terms "subjective" and "objective".]

 

Other than Cornforth, Kuusinen is one of the few DM-theorists who seems to make any note of this 'difficulty':

 

"The totality of essential features that make a particular thing or phenomenon what it is and distinguishes it from others, is called its quality.... It is...[a] concept that denotes the inseparable distinguishing features, the inner structure, constituting the definiteness of a phenomenon and without which it cease to be what it is." [Kuusinen (1961), pp.83-84. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

But, it isn't at all clear that someone's liking/not liking soup defines them as a person -- or as a being of a particular sort. While scientists might decide to classify certain aspects of nature (placing them in whatever categories they see fit), none, as far as I'm aware, has so far identified two different sorts of human beings: "soup-likers for n milligrams of salt per m litres of soup versus soup-dislikers for the same or different n or m". And even if they were to do this, that would merely save this part of DM by means of a re-definition, since it is reasonably clear that these two different sorts of human beings do not actually exist -- , or, at least, they didn't until I just invented them. Once again, that would make this part of DM eminently subjective, too, since it would imply that changes in quality are relative to a choice of descriptive framework. Once again, this introduces a fundamental element of arbitrariness into what dialecticians claim is a scientific law.

 

Moreover, as has also been noted, H2O as ice, water or steam, is still H2O. As a liquid or a gas, Helium is still Helium. If so, these changes can't apply to any of the qualities covered by the DM/Aristotelian/Hegelian principles quoted above. So, it now seems that these hackneyed examples of Q«Q either undermine the meaning of a key DM-concept on which this 'Law' was supposedly based (i.e., "quality"), vitiating its applicability in such instances -- or they weren't examples of this 'Law', to begin with.8b2

 

Update 07/03/2014: I have just received a copy of Burger et al (1980), the existence of which I had been unaware until a few weeks ago. One of the contributors to this book [i.e., Erwin Marquit (Marquit (1980)] makes a valiant attempt to define "quality" (and "system"), among other things. In fact, it is the best attempt I have seen to date. Unfortunately, this attempt fails badly; I will add some thoughts on this over the next few days.

 

 

Back In The Soup

 

Given this new twist, it now seems that quantitative changes to material bodies (such as salt/soup mixtures) actually cause changes to sensory systems (of a vague and perhaps non-quantitative -- or even non-qualitative -- kind); these in turn bring about some sort of qualitative change in the sensory modalities of the tasters involved. If so, the original 'Law' (applied in this area) is woefully wide of the mark; it should have read something like the following:

 

E1: Change in quantity merely causes change in quantity to the material bodies involved [no misprint!], but at a certain point this causes qualitative alterations (but these might not be Hegelian, or even Aristotelian, qualities) to the way some human beings perceive the world, even though these individuals have not undergone a quantitative change themselves.

 

Put like this, it isn't at all clear that anyone would conclude this (or anything like it) from their cooking soup (as Trotsky maintained). And we can be pretty sure about that -- since not even Engels got close to this more accurate version of his own 'Law'. Nor did Trotsky! It is scarcely credible that non-dialectical cooks, workers, or anyone else, for that matter, would advance much further -- or even this far -– based only on their own experience.

 

Of course, this can only mean that peasant cooks are not "unconscious dialecticians", and neither is anyone else outside the DM-fraternity --, and this is probably because they are not quite so easily conned by mystical Idealists.

 

[I resume my analysis of the other things Trotsky said above (about foxes, etc.) in Essay Nine Part One.]

 

Anyone who still thinks Trotsky is right in what he says about animals should check out the following video, which shows an ordinary-sized domestic cat chasing off two much larger alligators:

 

 

Video Six: Trotsky Trumped?

 

Yet another catastrophic failure of Engels's 'Law'...?

 

And here is a video of a cat chasing off a larger dog, which was attacking a small boy:

 

 

Video Seven: Anti-Dialectical Cat?

[Warning, Graphic Footage.]

 

 

Quantity And Quality Once More

 

Nevertheless, the above 'definitions' of "quantity" and "quality" aren't without their own problems.

 

"Each of the three spheres of the logical idea proves to be a systematic whole of thought-terms, and a phase of the Absolute. This is the case with Being, containing the three grades of quality, quantity and measure.

 

"Quality is, in the first place, the character identical with being: so identical that a thing ceases to be what it is, if it loses its quality. Quantity, on the contrary, is the character external to being, and does not affect the being at all. Thus, e.g. a house remains what it is, whether it be greater or smaller; and red remains red, whether it be brighter or darker." [Hegel (1975), p.124, §85.]

 

"Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else and reflects that which is stable amidst variation. Quantity is an aspect of something which may change (become more or less) without the thing thereby becoming something else.

 

"Thus, if something changes to an extent that it is no longer the same kind of thing, this is a 'qualitative change', whereas a change in something by which it still the same thing, though more or less, bigger or smaller, is a 'quantitative change'.

 

"In Hegel's Logic, Quality is the first division of Being, when the world is just one thing after another, so to speak, while Quantity is the second division, where perception has progressed to the point of recognising what is stable within the ups and downs of things. The third and final stage, Measure, the unity of quality and quantity, denotes the knowledge of just when quantitative change becomes qualitative change." [Quoted from here.]

 

First of all, it isn't too clear if there is a real distinction between "quantity" and "quality" here if we rely on what Hegel says:

 

"[A] house remains what it is, whether it be greater or smaller; and red remains red, whether it be brighter or darker." [Hegel (1975), p.124, §85.]

 

For Hegel, house size seems to be the "quantity" here, but beyond a certain size, houses are no longer houses. Hence, a 'house' the size of a grain of sand isn't a house. Neither is one the size of a galaxy. Isn't this a "qualitative" change? So, size is also a "quality". Moreover, extremely dark blue is no longer blue (since it is indistinguishable from black). Is this another "qualitative" change? Or is it "quantitative"? In that case, there seems to be no clear distinction here between what is a "quantitative" and what is a "qualitative" change. And it is no use appealing to yet another 'get-out-of-a-dialectical-hole-free-card', saying that quantity has "passed over" into quality in these instances, since this slide in fact affects the definition of these two terms. If we have no clear idea what we are talking about, then it isn't possible to say what has "passed over" into what. And, where is the alleged "development" here? Or, are we to suppose that the very same house is gradually reduced in size so that it gradually assumes the size of a grain of sand?

 

Secondly, as we have seen, the phrases "something new" and "ceasing to be what it is" are hopelessly vague, too. We aren't told what constitutes novelty or what "ceasing to be" amounts to, either. As we have also seen, dialecticians, including Hegel, regard ice, water and steam as "something new", when we now know they aren't. But, these equivocations 'allow' dialecticians to apply this 'Law' when and where is suits them, just as it 'allows' them to refuse to acknowledge counter-examples when and where they like, too. indeed, it is reasonably safe to predict that several of the counter-examples listed above will have been rejected out-of-hand by dialecticians on this basis alone. For instance, heating water from cold to very hot is a "qualitative" non-"nodal" change by any ordinary standard, and it produces nothing "new" -- if by "new" we mean a "new substance", or a "new kind of thing". And yet, if we mean either of these, then ice and steam aren't "new" either. Nevertheless, you will find dialecticians who will brush these off as irrelevant; either that, or they just ignore them. [A good example of both tactics can be found here. There are plenty more here.]

 

What is finally decided upon here will, of course, depend on how we view the status of Aristotelian "essences" (or "essential properties"). Further discussion of this will take us too far from the main topic of this Essay, so no more will be said about it here.8c

 

 

Boiling Water And Balding Mamelukes

 

The other hackneyed examples DM-theorists regularly roll out to illustrate this 'Law' (i.e., boiling water, balding heads, Mendeleyev's table, the alleged fighting qualities of Mamelukes, and, of late, Catastrophe and Chaos Theory), in fact only seem to work because of the way that the word "quality" has been 'defined' (or, rather, the way is hasn't been clearly defined) by dialecticians.9

 

For example, in the case of boiling water, the increase in quantity of one item (i.e., heat) is alleged to alter the quality of the second (i.e., water). As noted above, "quality" is characterised in Hegel's work in Aristotelian terms (i.e., as that property which is essential to a substance/process, without which it must change into some other --, or as "determinate being", to use the Hegelian jargon; on this, see Inwood (1992), pp.238-41). And yet, by no stretch of the imagination is liquidity an essential property of water. Once again, either side of the alleged "qualitative" change, this substance remains H2O. Boling or freezing does not change it into another substance; water in its solid, liquid or gaseous form is still H2O. Quantitative addition or subtraction of energy does not result in a qualitative change of the required sort; no new Hegelian or Aristotelian "quality" emerges here. No "new kind of thing" emerges as a result. [On this, also see Note 9.]

 

Unfortunately, this means that the most widely-, and over-used example in the DM-book-of-tricks supposedly illustrating this 'Law' does not in fact do so!

 

In that case, this 'Law' should perhaps be re-written in the following way:

 

E1: An increase in the quantity of one item leads to a change in what is perhaps not one of the qualities of another.

 

With that, much of the 'metaphysical bite' of this 'Law' disappears; in fact it becomes rather toothless.

 

In addition, it seems a little odd to describe an increase in heat as an increase in quantity when what happens is that the relevant water molecules just move about faster if energy is fed into the system. Of course, it could be objected that this is precisely Engels's point; since energy can be measured (here, as an increase in heat, say), then that increase in heat is indeed an increase in quantity -- in this case, "quantity of motion". But, the original idea appeared in Hegel at a time when heat was regarded as a substance, Caloric. [For Hegel's view, see here.] We now know that what really happens is that molecules just move faster -- after having interacted with still other faster moving molecules. [This is something Engels admits anyway; see Engels (1954), pp.63-64.]

 

So, when Engels speaks here of an increase in energy as a quantitative increase, he was either using a façon de parler, or he had not quite abandoned the old idea that heat is a substance. Of course, we might still want to call this phenomenon an increase in "energy" if we so wish, but if we do, that would merely plunge this part of the First 'Law' into complete darkness, since the word "energy" (if it too is not a façon de parler) is not the name of an identifiable substance that can be qualified in this way.10

 

Furthermore, using "quantity" to depict the change in motion of molecules is rather dubious, anyway. Certainly, we can speak of an increase in velocity here, but there is no such thing as a quantity of velocity that could sensibly said to increase. Velocity is not a substance either, and although we certainly use numbers to depict it, we do not refer to anything called the "quantity of velocity" (except again, perhaps as a façon de parler). Since velocity is a vector, its magnitude is given by a scalar, but velocity itself is just that scalar operating in a that direction. To call the magnitude of a vector a "quantity" would be to confuse a vector (or indeed a direction) with a substance.

 

And this is not mere pedantry. As we saw above, this is in line with Hegel's own definition of the word:

 

"Quality is, in the first place, the character identical with being: so identical that a thing ceases to be what it is, if it loses its quality. Quantity, on the contrary, is the character external to being, and does not affect the being at all. Thus, e.g. a house remains what it is, whether it be greater or smaller; and red remains red, whether it be brighter or darker." [Hegel (1975), p.124, §85.]

 

This too is underlined by the Glossary at the Marx Internet Archive:

 

"Quantity is an aspect of something which may change (become more or less) without the thing thereby becoming something else.

 

"Thus, if something changes to an extent that it is no longer the same kind of thing, this is a 'qualitative change', whereas a change in something by which it still the same thing, though more or less, bigger or smaller, is a 'quantitative change'.

 

"In Hegel's Logic, Quality is the first division of Being, when the world is just one thing after another, so to speak, while Quantity is the second division, where perception has progressed to the point of recognising what is stable within the ups and downs of things. The third and final stage, Measure, the unity of quality and quantity, denotes the knowledge of just when quantitative change becomes qualitative change." [Quoted from here. Bold added.]

 

Hence, if we adhere to this definition strictly, there can be no "quantity" of energy, because it is not a "thing", or an "aspect" of a thing in any meaningful sense of these words.

 

Nevertheless, even if it were appropriate to depict energy in this way, neither the heat nor the faster molecules change in quality themselves. Any amount of heat still stays as heat; motion is still motion. This shows that energy and heat are not "kinds of things", and hence that their increase isn't even quantitative, since they can't therefore be "aspects of something. If they were then according to this 'Law' and increase in energy at some point would "pass over" and it would change into a "new kind of thing".

 

If so, then the "quantitative" aspect of Engels's First 'Law' is defective, since, given that quantity has to be an aspect of certain "kinds of thing", and energy and motion are not "kinds of things", they can't increase or decrease in quantity.10a00

 

Hence, the First 'Law' does apply to this 'phenomenon'!

 

In that case, it should now perhaps be re-written along the following lines:

 

E2: An increase in the quantity of one item (e.g., heat) leads to no qualitative change in that item, while it can induce an alteration in the quality of another item (e.g., water), which will in turn have changed in quality while undergoing no quantitative change itself -- but which qualitative change is inadmissible anyway since it isn't a quality definitive of the latter (e.g., water as H2O).

 

Or, even:

 

E3: An increase in what isn't the quantity of one item (e.g., heat) leads to no qualitative change in that item, while it can induce an alteration in the quality of another item (e.g., water), which will in turn have changed in quality while undergoing no quantitative change itself -- but which qualitative change is inadmissible anyway since it isn't a quality definitive of the latter (e.g., water as H2O).

 

This is not an impressive 'Law'; still less is this hackneyed example (water) a convincing instance of it.

 

As far as balding heads are concerned, it isn't easy to see how this over-worked example illustrates the First 'Law', either. That is because it is difficult to believe that someone with, say, n hairs on his or her head is hirsute, when the same person with n-1 hairs is objectively bald -- even if at some point or other (and not necessarily the same point) we all might subjectively change the words we use to depict either.

 

Now, if it could be shown that those with precisely n-1 hairs on their heads (for some specific n) are always objectively bald, and that this is an essential defining quality of baldness, or of bald people (in the Aristotelian/Hegelian sense required), so that a change from n to n-1 hairs always results in baldness, and which rule is true for all hirsute human beings, then the First 'Law' might have some life left in it in this one instance. It could then be a dialectical 'Law' that applies only to the balding parts of nature, but nothing else. [Which is longhand for saying it can't therefore be a law.]

 

Anyway, is baldness really a "new kind of thing"? With respect to baldness, human anatomists (and even hairdressers) have yet to define hair loss in such Aristotelian terms. Hence, and unfortunately for DM-fans, they have so far failed to categorise all follically-challenged individuals in this way, declaring that anyone with n-1 hairs is essentially bald, whereas anyone with n hairs is still essentially non-coot. Until they do, there are no "nodal" points here, just as there seem to be no particular (Aristotelian/Hegelian) "qualities" definitive of bald human beings for dialecticians to latch onto. So, in this case, too, it is impossible to see how an 'objective' example of this dialectical 'Law' could apply --, merely a 'subjective' impression of it, and one that has to rely on a quirky application of an already vague Aristotelian/Hegelian 'definition' of "quality".

 

So, it seems that the change in "quality", if it occurs here, takes place not in the one going bald, but in the one describing him/her that way. In which case, with respect to human balding, a change in the quantity of hair on one person's head will merely change the quality of someone else's opinion of him/her -- and even that occurs subjectively and (possibly even) non-"nodally", too.

 

There isn't much here on which to base a dialectical 'Law', at least nothing that would fail to brand this part of DM as a fringe science, at best.

 

Clifford Conner tries to sell us this example of a change in "quality":

 

"Atomic bombs and nuclear reactions have given us an unsurpassable illustration of this law, and Engels would surely have appreciated this one, too. When the nuclear fuel is brought together, if there is less than a certain exact amount, which is called the 'critical mass', nothing will happen. But, if a little more fuel is added, and a little more, and a little more, eventually the 'critical mass' will be reached and the nuclear chain reaction will be initiated." [Conner (1992), p.29. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

But, has a new "kind of thing" emerged here? In fact, no "new kind of thing" has resulted from this process. All that happens is that a certain sort of reaction speeds up dramatically:

 

"Fission chain reactions occur because of interactions between neutrons and fissile isotopes (such as 235U). The chain reaction requires both the release of neutrons from fissile isotopes undergoing nuclear fission and the subsequent absorption of some of these neutrons in fissile isotopes. When an atom undergoes nuclear fission, a few neutrons (the exact number depends on several factors) are ejected from the reaction. These free neutrons will then interact with the surrounding medium, and if more fissile fuel is present, some may be absorbed and cause more fissions. Thus, the cycle repeats to give a reaction that is self-sustaining.

 

"Nuclear power plants operate by precisely controlling the rate at which nuclear reactions occur, and that control is maintained through the use of several redundant layers of safety measures. Moreover, the materials in a nuclear reactor core and the uranium enrichment level make a nuclear explosion impossible, even if all safety measures failed. On the other hand, nuclear weapons are specifically engineered to produce a reaction that is so fast and intense it can't be controlled after it has started. When properly designed, this uncontrolled reaction can lead to an explosive energy release." [Wikipedia, accessed 08/11/11.]

 

 

 

Figure Three: A Non-Dialectical Chain Reaction

 

As another source points out:

 

"Although two to three neutrons are produced for every fission, not all of these neutrons are available for continuing the fission reaction. If the conditions are such that the neutrons are lost at a faster rate than they are formed by fission, the chain reaction will not be self-sustaining.

 

"At the point where the chain reaction can become self-sustaining, this is referred to as critical mass.

 

"In an atomic bomb, a mass of fissile material greater than the critical mass must be assembled instantaneously and held together for about a millionth of a second to permit the chain reaction to propagate before the bomb explodes.

 

"The amount of a fissionable material's critical mass depends on several factors; the shape of the material, its composition and density, and the level of purity.

 

"A sphere has the minimum possible surface area for a given mass, and hence minimizes the leakage of neutrons. By surrounding the fissionable material with a suitable neutron 'reflector', the loss of neutrons can reduced and the critical mass can be reduced.

 

"By using a neutron reflector, only about 11 pounds (5 kilograms) of nearly pure or weapon's grade plutonium 239 or about 33 pounds (15 kilograms) uranium 235 is needed to achieve critical mass." [From here. Accessed 08/11/11. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

So, and again, no "new kind of thing" results from this process -- the "old kind of thing" merely speeds up. Hence, this can't be an example of the First 'Law'.

 

Conner continues:

 

"I was reminder of the transformation of quantity into quality by an article i read...about resort beaches in New Jersey. Health inspectors periodically check the ocean water for faecal coliform bacteria. They measure it in parts per millilitres of water. If it is below 200 parts, the allow the beaches to remain open; above that number they close them down. Some resort owners were caught throwing chlorine tablets into the ocean just before the inspectors were dues to arrive.

 

"It was a futile attempt, as it turned out, to prevent a transformation of quantity into quality, but it was rather remarkable to see capitalists sneaking around trying to 'unpollute' the environment." [Conner (1992), p.29. Spelling modified to agree with UK English; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

But, this isn't as remarkable as seeing DM-fans scratching around, desperately trying to impose their ramshackle 'theory' on the world. In this latest example of Mickey Mouse Science, Conner failed to ask himself what the new "quality" is that is supposed to have come into being here. But, no new "kind of thing" has emerged; all we have are more bacteria in the water over and above a figure set by the authorities. Either side of this figure, the water is still polluted, it is just that above 200 the authorities deem that it is 'cost effective' to close the beach.

 

As Karl Popper noted, just like Freudians (and he could have added just like Fundamentalist Christians, too), Dialectical Marxists only look for conformation of their 'theory', and even then they have to ignore what that theory actually tells them!

 

"I found that those of my friends who were admirers of Marx, Freud, and Adler, were impressed by a number of points common to these theories, and especially by their apparent explanatory power. These theories appear to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred. The study of any of them seemed to have the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, open your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirmed instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refuse to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still 'un-analyzed' and crying aloud for treatment.

 

"The most characteristic element in this situation seemed to me the incessant stream of confirmations, of observations which 'verified' the theories in question; and this point was constantly emphasize by their adherents. A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history; not only in the news, but also in its presentation -- which revealed the class bias of the paper -- and especially of course what the paper did not say. The Freudian analysts emphasized that their theories were constantly verified by their 'clinical observations.' As for Adler, I was much impressed by a personal experience. Once, in 1919, I reported to him a case which to me did not seem particularly Adlerian, but which he found no difficulty in analyzing in terms of his theory of inferiority feelings, although he had not even seen the child. Slightly shocked, I asked him how he could be so sure. 'Because of my thousandfold experience,' he replied; whereupon I could not help saying: 'And with this new case, I suppose, your experience has become thousand-and-one-fold.'

 

"What I had in mind was that his previous observations may not have been much sounder than this new one; that each in its turn had been interpreted in the light of 'previous experience,' and at the same time counted as additional confirmation. What, I asked myself, did it confirm? No more than that a case could be interpreted in the light of a theory. But this meant very little, I reflected, since every conceivable case could be interpreted in the light Adler's theory, or equally of Freud's. I may illustrate this by two very different examples of human behaviour: that of a man who pushes a child into the water with the intention of drowning it; and that of a man who sacrifices his life in an attempt to save the child. Each of these two cases can be explained with equal ease in Freudian and Adlerian terms. According to Freud the first man suffered from repression (say, of some component of his Oedipus complex), while the second man had achieved sublimation. According to Adler the first man suffered from feelings of inferiority (producing perhaps the need to prove to himself that he dared to commit some crime), and so did the second man (whose need was to prove to himself that he dared to rescue the child). I could not think of any human behaviour which could not be interpreted in terms of either theory. It was precisely this fact -- that they always fitted, that they were always confirmed -- which in the eyes of their admirers constituted the strongest argument in favour of these theories. It began to dawn on me that this apparent strength was in fact their weakness." [Popper (1966), pp.34-35. Spelling modified to agree with UK English; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Of course, Popper used this observation to attack Marx's Theory of History, but as we will see in a later Essay, that was misguided. Even so, his comments certainly fit the sort of Mickey Mouse Science we find DM-apologists peddling.

 

As I noted above:

 

The phrases "something new" and "ceasing to be what it is" are hopelessly vague.... We are not told what constitutes novelty or what "ceasing to be" amounts to, either.... Dialecticians, including Hegel, regard ice, water and steam as "something new", when we now know they aren't. But, such equivocation 'allows' dialecticians to apply this 'Law' when is suits them, just as it 'allows' them to refuse to acknowledge counter-examples when and where they like, too.

 

Several more examples will be added at a later date.

 

As far as the other examples dialecticians use to illustrate this 'Law' are concerned: there are far too few in number that actually work (even when the above difficulties are ignored) to justify the epithet "Law" being attached to any of them. If, in comparison, say, Newton's Second Law of motion worked as fitfully as this 'Law' does (or was as vaguely-worded and was as non-mathematical), physicists would certainly refuse to describe it as a law. If, for instance, the rate of change of momentum even under controlled conditions were in fact proportional to the applied force in now and then (and even then, if this were the case only if key terms were either ignored, remained ill-defined or were twisted out of shape), no one would have taken Newton seriously. And rightly so.

 

But, this is Mickey Mouse Science, after all...

 

 

'Hard' Science Vs Amateurish Anecdote

 

The reason why I have called DM "Mickey Mouse Science" is quite plain. The examples usually given by DM-fans to illustrate the First 'Law' are (almost without exception) either amateurish, anecdotal or impressionistic. If someone were to submit a paper to a science journal purporting to establish the veracity of a new law with the same level of vagueness, imprecision, triteness, lack of detail and/or mathematics, aggravated by comparable theoretical naivety, it would be rejected out-of-hand at the first stage, its author's reputation forever tarnished.

 

Indeed, dialecticians would themselves treat with derision any attempt to establish, say, either the truth of classical economic theory or the falsity of Marx's work with an evidential display that was as crassly amateurish as this --, to say nothing of the contempt they would show for such theoretical wooliness. In circumstances like these, dialecticians, who might otherwise be quick to cry "pedantry" at the issues raised here (and in other Essays published at this site), would become devoted pedants themselves, and would nit-pick with the best at such inferior anti-Marxist work.10a0

 

[Indeed, they already do this to my work. In one breath they complain about my alleged "pedantry", in the next they home in on what they assume are minor errors (in detail or in wording) that I have supposedly committed. Here is just the latest example; concentrate on the comments of one "Gilhyle". Here is another. Toward Engels they show infinite patience; critics like me are pilloried for the simplest of assumed errors.]

 

Now, anyone who has studied or practiced real science will already know this. It is only in books on DM (and Internet discussion boards) that Mickey Mouse material of this sort seems acceptable.10a

 

At this point we might wonder where Engels's predilection for Mickey Mouse Science came from. After all, he was familiar with the careful and detailed work of contemporary scientists (like Darwin). Why then was he prepared to assert that his 'Laws' were indeed laws on the basis of very little primary data (or none at all), but relied on secondary or tertiary (but nonetheless selectively-chosen) evidence and sloppy analysis, instead? Well, we need look no further than Hegel for a clue, for Hegel was the original Mickey Mouse Scientist (making Engels merely the Sorcerer's Apprentice).

 

 

Figure Four: Researching For A PhD In Dialectics?

 

Here is Hegel's detailed 'proof' of this 'Law':

 

"The system of natural numbers already shows a nodal line of qualitative moments which emerge in a merely external succession. It is on the one hand a merely quantitative progress and regress, a perpetual adding or subtracting, so that each number has the same arithmetical relation to the one before it and after it, as these have to their predecessors and successors, and so on. But the numbers so formed also have a specific relation to other numbers preceding and following them, being either an integral multiple of one of them or else a power or a root. In the musical scale which is built up on quantitative differences, a quantum gives rise to an harmonious relation without its own relation to those on either side of it in the scale differing from the relation between these again and their predecessors and successors. While successive notes seem to be at an ever-increasing distance from the keynote, or numbers in succeeding each other arithmetically seem only to become other numbers, the fact is that there suddenly emerges a return, a surprising accord, of which no hint was given by the quality of what immediately preceded it, but which appears as an actio in distans [action at distance -- RL], as a connection with something far removed. There is a sudden interruption of the succession of merely indifferent relations which do not alter the preceding specific reality or do not even form any such, and although the succession is continued quantitatively in the same manner, a specific relation breaks in per saltum [leaps -- RL].

 

"Such qualitative nodes and leaps occur in chemical combinations when the mixture proportions are progressively altered; at certain points in the scale of mixtures, two substances form products exhibiting particular qualities. These products are distinguished from one another not merely by a more or less, and they are not already present, or only perhaps in a weaker degree, in the proportions close to the nodal proportions, but are bound up with these nodes themselves. For example, different oxides of nitrogen and nitric acids having essentially different qualities are formed only when oxygen and nitrogen are combined in certain specific proportions, and no such specific compounds are formed by the intermediate proportions. Metal oxides, e.g. the lead oxides, are formed at certain quantitative points of oxidation and are distinguished by colours and other qualities. They do not pass gradually into one another; the proportions lying in between these nodes do not produce a neutral or a specific substance. Without having passed through the intervening stages, a specific compound appears which is based on a measure relation and possesses characteristic qualities. Again, water when its temperature is altered does not merely get more or less hot but passes through from the liquid into either the solid or gaseous states; these states do not appear gradually; on the contrary, each new state appears as a leap, suddenly interrupting and checking the gradual succession of temperature changes at these points. Every birth and death, far from being a progressive gradualness, is an interruption of it and is the leap from a quantitative into a qualitative alteration.

 

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

 

"In thinking about the gradualness of the coming-to-be of something, it is ordinarily assumed that what comes to be is already sensibly or actually in existence; it is not yet perceptible only because of its smallness. Similarly with the gradual disappearance of something, the non-being or other which takes its place is likewise assumed to be really there, only not observable, and there, too, not in the sense of being implicitly or ideally contained in the first something, but really there, only not observable. In this way, the form of the in-itself, the inner being of something before it actually exists, is transformed into a smallness of an outer existence, and the essential difference, that of the Notion, is converted into an external difference of mere magnitude. The attempt to explain coming-to-be or ceasing-to-be on the basis of gradualness of the alteration is tedious like any tautology; what comes to be or ceases to be is assumed as already complete and in existence beforehand and the alteration is turned into a mere change of an external difference, with the result that the explanation is in fact a mere tautology. The intellectual difficulty attendant on such an attempted explanation comes from the qualitative transition from something into its other in general, and then into its opposite; but the identity and the alteration are misrepresented as the indifferent, external determinations of the quantitative sphere.

 

"In the moral sphere, in so far as it is considered under the categories of being, there occurs the same transition from quantity into quality and different qualities appear to be based in a difference of magnitude.

 

"It is through a more or less that the measure of frivolity or thoughtlessness is exceeded and something quite different comes about, namely crime, and thus right becomes wrong and virtue vice. Thus states, too, acquire through their quantitative difference, other things being assumed equal, a distinct qualitative character. With the expansion of the state and an increased number of citizens, the laws and the constitution acquire a different significance. The state has its own measure of magnitude and when this is exceeded this mere change of size renders it liable to instability and disruption under that same constitution which was its good fortune and its strength before its expansion." [Hegel (1999), pp.368-71, §§774-778. Emphases in the original.]

 

"The identity between quantity and quality, which is found in Measure, is at first only implicit, and not yet explicitly realised. In other words, these two categories, which unite in Measure, each claim an independent authority. On the one hand, the quantitative features of existence may be altered, without affecting its quality. On the other hand, this increase and diminution, immaterial though it be, has its limit, by exceeding which the quality suffers change. Thus the temperature of water is, in the first place, a point of no consequence in respect of its liquidity: still with the increase of diminution of the temperature of the liquid water, there comes a point where this state of cohesion suffers a qualitative change, and the water is converted into steam or ice. A quantitative change takes place, apparently without any further significance: but there is something lurking behind, and a seemingly innocent change of quantity acts as a kind of snare, to catch hold of the quality. The antinomy of Measure which this implies was exemplified under more than one garb among the Greeks. It was asked, for example, whether a single grain makes a heap of wheat, or whether it makes a bald-tail to tear out a single hair from the horse's tail. At first, no doubt, looking at the nature of quantity as an indifferent and external character of being, we are disposed to answer these questions in the negative. And yet, as we must admit, this indifferent increase and diminution has its limit: a point is finally reached, where a single additional grain makes a heap of wheat; and the bald-tail is produced, if we continue plucking out single hairs. These examples find a parallel in the story of the peasant who, as his ass trudged cheerfully along, went on adding ounce after ounce to its load, till at length it sunk under the unendurable burden. It would be a mistake to treat these examples as pedantic futility; they really turn on thoughts, an acquaintance with which is of great importance in practical life, especially in ethics. Thus in the matter of expenditure, there is a certain latitude within which a more or less does not matter; but when the Measure, imposed by the individual circumstances of the special case, is exceeded on the one side or the other, the qualitative nature of Measure (as in the above examples of the different temperature of water) makes itself felt, and a course, which a moment before was held good economy, turns into avarice or prodigality. The same principles may be applied in politics, when the constitution of a state has to be looked at as independent of, no less than as dependent on, the extent of its territory, the number of its inhabitants, and other quantitative points of the same kind. If we look, e.g. at a state with a territory of ten thousand square miles and a population of four millions we should, without hesitation, admit that a few square miles of land or a few thousand inhabitants more or less could exercise no essential influence on the character of its constitution. But on the other hand, we must not forget that by the continual increase or diminishing of a state, we finally get to a point where, apart from all other circumstances, this quantitative alteration alone necessarily draws with it an alteration in the quality of the constitution. The constitution of a little Swiss canton does not suit a great kingdom; and, similarly, the constitution of the Roman republic was unsuitable when transferred to the small imperial towns of Germany." [Hegel (1975), pp.158-59.]

 

Readers will no doubt note that rank amateurism is not confined to Engels (or even Woods and Grant); Hegel could 'amateur' with the best of them.10a1

 

So, this 'Law' can be made to work in a few selected instances if we bend things enough (and if we fail to define either "quality", "node", "leap", "same body", "new kind of thing", and "addition of energy" -- or, if we ignore Hegel's own vague 'definition' of "quality" into the bargain).

 

In contrast there are countless examples where this 'Law' does not apply, no matter how we try to twist or bend it.10b

 

Why Engels's First 'Law' was ever called a law is therefore something of a Dialectical Mystery.

 

[Other examples of this 'Law', to which DM-fans appeal, are discussed in more detail in Note 9.]

 

 

'Law' Two: The Interpenetration Of Opposites

 

The Second 'Law' of dialectics  -- unsurprisingly -- fares little better.

 

We saw above how Engels depicted it:

 

"The law of the interpenetration of opposites.... [M]utual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes...." [Engels  (1954), pp.17, 62.]

 

Here, in a published work, he says more or less the same:

 

"Already in Rousseau, therefore, we find not only a line of thought which corresponds exactly to the one developed in Marx's Capital, but also, in details, a whole series of the same dialectical turns of speech as Marx used: processes which in their nature are antagonistic, contain a contradiction; transformation of one extreme into its opposite; and finally, as the kernel of the whole thing, the negation of the negation. [Engels (1976) p.179. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Lenin added a few extra details:

 

"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]….

 

"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing….

 

"The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58. Emphases in the original.]

 

It is worth noting at the outset that the doctrine that nature and all it contains is a UO, and that change is powered by their 'contradictory' interaction, is also found in all known mystical religions/philosophies. [More on that in Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here). Until that Essay is published, the reader is directed here and here.]

 

 

Exactly Why Dialectical Materialism Can't Explain Change!

 

[An up-dated and greatly expanded version of this argument has now been published in Essay Seven Part Three.]

 

Surprisingly, DM-theorists (like Lenin and Engels, quoted above) are decidedly unclear as to whether objects/processes change because of (1) A contradictory relationship between their internal opposites, or because (2) They change into these opposites, or even because (3) Change itself creates such opposites.

 

[FL = Formal Logic; NON = Negation of the Negation: UO = Unity of Opposites; DM = Dialectical Materialism.]

 

Lenin's words merely illustrate this confusion in an acute form; he speaks, for instance, of the "transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other…." We will see below the havoc such an idea would create, if true.

 

Engels is equally unclear: "[M]utual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other...." The same can be said of Plekhanov:

 

"And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite…." [Plekhanov (1956), p.77. Bold emphasis added.]

 

And, here is Mao:

 

"Why is it that '...the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another'? Because that is just how things are in objective reality. The fact is that the unity or identity of opposites in objective things is not dead or rigid, but is living, conditional, mobile, temporary and relative; in given conditions, every contradictory aspect transforms itself into its opposite....

 

"In speaking of the identity of opposites in given conditions, what we are referring to is real and concrete opposites and the real and concrete transformations of opposites into one another....

 

"All processes have a beginning and an end, all processes transform themselves into their opposites. The constancy of all processes is relative, but the mutability manifested in the transformation of one process into another is absolute."  [Mao (1961b), pp.340-42. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added.]

 

[Follow this link for literally dozens more quotations from the Dialectical Classics and contemporary dialecticians that tell the same story.]

 

Once more, these inform us that objects and processes not only change (1) Because of a struggle between their 'internal opposites', but also that (2) They change into these opposites (indeed, according to Lenin, they change into all of them!) as a result of that "struggle", and that they (3) Produce these opposites while they change --, or, they do so as a result of that change.10b1

 

[In what follows, I will be ignoring the equivocation (noted below) whereby dialecticians sometimes seem to mean by "internal opposite", "spatially-internal opposite", and sometimes they appear to mean "conceptually-", or "logically-internal opposite" -- the latter of which was certainly what Hegel appeared to mean by this phrase.]

 

As we are about to see, this idea -- that there are such things as "dialectical contradictions" and "unities of opposites" (etc.), which cause change because they "struggle" with one another and then change into each other -- presents DM-theorists with some rather nasty dialectical headaches, if interpreted along the lines expressed in the DM-classics and in the writings of countless DM-theorists (quoted above and at greater length here, where several objections that have been levelled against the argument presented in this Essay have been neutralised).

 

In order to see this, let us suppose that object/process A is comprised of, or possesses, two "internal contradictory opposites", or "opposite tendencies", O* and O**, and it thus changes as a result.

 

[Henceforth, in order to save on complexity, I will omit the phrase "or possesses".]

 

But, O* can't itself change into O** since O** already exists! If O** didn't already exist then, according to this theory, O* couldn't change, for there would be no opposite with which it could "struggle" in order to bring that about.

 

[Once more, several obvious objections to this line-of-attack are neutralised below. Incidentally, the same problems arise if these are viewed as 'external contradictions'. (However, as we will see in Essay Eight Part One, 'external contradictions' attract serious difficulties of their own.)

 

I have avoided using "A" and "non-A"/"not-A", here, in order to prevent certain options from being closed off too soon. Not much hangs on this, anyway, which readers can confirm for themselves if they replace O* and O** with "A" and/or "non-A"/"not-A" respectively throughout.

 

Concentrating on A alone won't help, anyway. If A changes into non-A/not-A, A will have to exist at the same time as non-A/not-A, or A and non-A/not-A couldn't 'struggle' with one another in order for A to change into one or other of non-A/not-A. Once more: if non-A/not-A already exist, A can't change into either of them, since, plainly, it/they already exist!]

 

What is more, these 'opposites' have to co-exist -- as Gollobin points out:

 

"Opposites in a thing are not only mutually exclusive, polar, repelling, each other; they also attract and interpenetrate each other. They begin and cease to exist together.... These dual aspects of opposites -- conflict and unity -- are like scissor blades in cutting, jaws in mastication, and two legs in walking. Where there is only one, the process as such is impossible: 'all polar opposites are in general determined by the mutual action of two opposite poles on one another, the separation and opposition of these poles exists only within their unity and interconnection, and, conversely, their interconnection exists only in their separation and their unity only in their opposition.' In fact, 'where one no sooner tries to hold on to one side alone then it is transformed unnoticed into the other....'" [Gollobin (1986), p.113; quoting Engels (1891a), p.414. Bold emphases added.]

 

Mao made the same point:

 

"The fact is that no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation. Without its opposite aspect, each loses the condition for its existence. Just think, can any one contradictory aspect of a thing or of a concept in the human mind exist independently? Without life, there would be no death; without death, there would be no life. Without 'above', there would be no 'below').... Without landlords, there would be no tenant-peasants; without tenant-peasants, there would be no landlords. Without the bourgeoisie, there would be no proletariat; without the proletariat, there would be no bourgeoisie. Without imperialist oppression of nations, there would be no colonies or semi-colonies; without colonies or semicolonies, there would be no imperialist oppression of nations. It is so with all opposites; in given conditions, on the one hand they are opposed to each other, and on the other they are interconnected, interpenetrating, interpermeating and interdependent, and this character is described as identity. In given conditions, all contradictory aspects possess the character of non-identity and hence are described as being in contradiction. But they also possess the character of identity and hence are interconnected. This is what Lenin means when he says that dialectics studies 'how opposites can be ... identical'. How then can they be identical? Because each is the condition for the other's existence. This is the first meaning of identity.

 

"But is it enough to say merely that each of the contradictory aspects is the condition for the other's existence, that there is identity between them and that consequently they can coexist in a single entity? No, it is not. The matter does not end with their dependence on each other for their existence; what is more important is their transformation into each other. That is to say, in given conditions, each of the contradictory aspects within a thing transforms itself into its opposite, changes its position to that of its opposite. This is the second meaning of the identity of contradiction.

 

"Why is there identity here, too? You see, by means of revolution the proletariat, at one time the ruled, is transformed into the ruler, while the bourgeoisie, the erstwhile ruler, is transformed into the ruled and changes its position to that originally occupied by its opposite. This has already taken place in the Soviet Union, as it will take place throughout the world. If there were no interconnection and identity of opposites in given conditions, how could such a change take place?" [Mao (1961a), pp.338-39. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

As, indeed, did Engels:

 

"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 (1891b), p.496. Bold emphasis added.]

 

The online version renders this passage slightly differently:

 

"And one cannot have one side of this contradiction without the other, any more than a man has a whole apple in his hand after eating half." [Quoted from here.]

 

In that case, these 'opposites' must co-exist.

 

Anyway, it is hard to see how O* could "struggle" with O** if O** didn't co-exist with O*!

 

Moreover, it is no use propelling O** into the future so that it is what O* will change into, since O* will do no such thing unless O** is already there, in the present, to make that happen!

So, if object/process A is already composed of a 'dialectical union' of
O* and not-O* (interpreting O** now as not-O*), O* can't change into not-O* since not-O* already exists.

 

[Several alternatives now suggest themselves which might allow dialecticians to dig themselves out of this deep dialectical ditch. I have considered some of them in Note 10b1a.10b1a]

 

Naturally, these problems will simply re-appear at the next stage as not-O* readies itself to change into whatever it changes into. But, in this case there is an added twist, for there is as yet no not-not-O* in existence to make this happen. In which case, the dialectical process will simply grind to a halt, unless a not-not-O* pops into existence (out of thin air, it seems) to start things up again or to keep things going. But, what could possibly engineer, or have engineered, that?

 

Indeed, at the very least, this 'theory' of change leaves it entirely mysterious how not-O* itself came about in the first place. It seems to have popped into existence from nowhere, too.

 

[Gollobin (above) sort of half recognises this without realising the serious problems it creates for his theory.]

 

Returning to the last point: where not-O* itself came from. It seems it will have to have come from O* since O* can only change because of its struggle with not-O*, which does not yet exist! And pushing the process into the past (via a 'reversed' version of the NON) will merely reduplicate the above problems -- as we have seen in Note10b1a, in relation to C, S, and F -- Capitalism, Socialism and Feudalism.

 

[However, on the NON, see below.]

 

[NON = Negation of the Negation; FL = Formal Logic.]

 

Maybe this is too quick. In order to see if the above is a little too hasty, it might be wise to push this into the past to see if we can circumvent these 'difficulties'. To that end, let us suppose that O* itself came from object/process X, and that not-O* came from object or process Y. However, according to the DM-classics, X itself can only change because it "struggles" with its own "opposite" -- call this "not-X". As a result of that "struggle", X changes into not-X. But, and once again, not-X already exists, so X can't change into it! If not-X didn't already exist, there would be nothing with which X could "struggle", and hence change.

 

We hit the same non-dialectical brick wall.

 

Of course, this leaves the origin of not-X itself unexplained! And yet, it can only have come into existence because of an earlier "struggle" with its own opposite, X! However, as we have seen, X can't change into not-X, since not-X already exists! If it didn't, X couldn't in fact change since there would be nothing there with which it could "struggle". In which case, both X and not-X must have popped into existence from nowhere.

 

The same problems afflict Y. Once more, according to the DM-classics, Y itself can only change because of a "struggles" with its own "opposite" -- call this "not-Y". As a result, it changes into that opposite, not-Y. But, and once again, not-Y already exists, so Y can't change into it! If not-Y didn't already exist, there would be nothing with which Y could "struggle", and hence change.

 

In addition, this leaves the origin of not-Y unexplained. Not-Y can only have come into existence because of an earlier "struggle" with its own opposite, Y! But, Y can't change into not-Y, since not-Y already exists! If it didn't, Y couldn't change. In which case, both Y and not-Y must have popped into existence from nowhere, too.

 

It could be objected that the above seems to place objects and/or processes in fixed categories, which is one of the main criticisms dialecticians make of FL. Hence, on that basis, it could be maintained that the argument presented in this Essay is completely misguided.

 

Fortunately, repairs are relatively easy to make: let us now suppose that object/process A is comprised of two changing "internal/external opposites" O* and O** -- the latter once again interpreted as not-O* --, and thus develops as a result.

 

The rest still follows as before: if object/process A is already composed of a changing 'dialectical union' of O* and not-O*, and O* develops into not-O* as a result, then this can't happen. As we have already seen, it isn't possible for O* to change into not-O* if not-O* already exists, and this is so whether or not O* and not-O* are changeless or constantly changing objects and/or processes.

 

Of course, it could be objected that not-O* develops into O* while not-O* develops into O*.

 

[This objection might even incorporate that eminently obscure Hegelian term-of-art: "sublation". More on that presently.]

 

If that were so, while this was happening, O* and not-O* would no longer be opposites of one another --, not unless we widen the term "opposite" to mean "anything that an object/process turns into, and/or any intermediate object/process while that is happening". Naturally, that would make this 'Law' work by definitional fiat, rendering it eminently 'subjective', once more. It would also threaten to undermine this 'Law' in other ways, since, as we will see, each object/process has to have a unique "opposite" (something Hegel and Lenin called its "other").

 

Ignoring this 'difficulty' for now -- and even supposing it were the case that not-O* 'developed' into O* while not-O* 'developed' into O*, and that such process were governed by the obscure term "sublation" -- this option still won't work (as we are about to find out).

 

In order to see this, it might be a good idea to develop this objection further. To that end, it could be argued that Engels had anticipated the above difficulties when he said:

 

"[RL: Negation of the negation is] a very simple process which is taking place everywhere and every day, which any child can understand as soon as it is stripped of the veil of mystery in which it was enveloped by the old idealist philosophy and in which it is to the advantage of helpless metaphysicians of Herr Dühring's calibre to keep it enveloped. Let us take a grain of barley. Billions of such grains of barley are milled, boiled and brewed and then consumed. But if such a grain of barley meets with conditions which are normal for it, if it falls on suitable soil, then under the influence of heat and moisture it undergoes a specific change, it germinates; the grain as such ceases to exist, it is negated, and in its place appears the plant which has arisen from it, the negation of the grain. But what is the normal life-process of this plant? It grows, flowers, is fertilised and finally once more produces grains of barley, and as soon as these have ripened the stalk dies, is in its turn negated. As a result of this negation of the negation we have once again the original grain of barley, but not as a single unit, but ten-, twenty- or thirtyfold. Species of grain change extremely slowly, and so the barley of today is almost the same as it-was a century ago. But if we take a plastic ornamental plant, for example a dahlia or an orchid, and treat the seed and the plant which grows from it according to the gardener's art, we get as a result of this negation of the negation not only more seeds, but also qualitatively improved seeds, which produce more beautiful flowers, and each repetition of this process, each fresh negation of the negation, enhances this process of perfection. [Engels (1976), pp.172-73. Bold emphases added.]

 

"But someone may object: the negation that has taken place in this case is not a real negation: I negate a grain of barley also when I grind it, an insect when I crush it underfoot, or the positive quantity a when I cancel it, and so on. Or I negate the sentence: the rose is a rose, when I say: the rose is not a rose; and what do I get if I then negate this negation and say: but after all the rose is a rose? -- These objections are in fact the chief arguments put forward by the metaphysicians against dialectics, and they are wholly worthy of the narrow-mindedness of this mode of thought. Negation in dialectics does not mean simply saying no, or declaring that something does not exist, or destroying it in any way one likes. Long ago Spinoza said: Omnis determinatio est negatio -- every limitation or determination is at the same time a negation. And further: the kind of negation is here determined, firstly, by the general and, secondly, by the particular nature of the process. I must not only negate, but also sublate the negation. I must therefore so arrange the first negation that the second remains or becomes possible. How? This depends on the particular nature of each individual case. If I grind a grain of barley, or crush an insect, I have carried out the first part of the action, but have made the second part impossible. Every kind of thing therefore has a peculiar way of being negated in such manner that it gives rise to a development, and it is just the same with every kind of conception or idea....

 

"But it is clear that from a negation of the negation which consists in the childish pastime of alternately writing and cancelling a, or in alternately declaring that a rose is a rose and that it is not a rose, nothing eventuates but the silliness of the person who adopts such a tedious procedure. And yet the metaphysicians try to make us believe that this is the right way to carry out a negation of the negation, if we ever should want to do such a thing. [Ibid., pp.180-81. Bold emphases and link added.]

 

Engels's argument is that "dialectical negation" isn't the same as ordinary (or even logical) negation in that it isn't simple destruction, nor is it a cancelling. Dialectical negation "sublates"; that is, it both destroys and preserves, so that something new or 'higher' emerges as a result. Nevertheless, as we have already seen, Hegel's use of this word (i.e., "sublate") is highly suspect in itself, just as we will also see: this 'Law' (i.e., the NON) is even more dubious still (partly because Hegel confused ordinary negation with 'cancelling out', or with destruction, as, indeed, did Engels).

 

Despite all this, it is worth asking: Does the above comment by Engels neutralise the argument presented earlier? Is the argument here guilty of the following:

 

"These objections are in fact the chief arguments put forward by the metaphysicians against dialectics, and they are wholly worthy of the narrow-mindedness of this mode of thought."? [Ibid.]

 

To answer this question, let us once again suppose that object/process A is comprised of two changing "internal opposites"/"tendencies" O* and not-O*, and thus develops as a result. Given this scenario, O* would change/develop into a "sublated" intermediary --, but not into not-O* --, incidentally, contradicting the DM-worthies. If was are to believe what they tell us, O* should, of course, change into not-O*, not into some intermediary.

 

Putting this minor quibble to one side, too: Given this 'revised' view, we may now suppose that O* does indeed change into that intermediary. To that end, let us call the latter, "Oi*" (which can be interpreted as a combination of the old and the new; a 'negation' which also 'preserves'/'sublates').

 

If so, Oi* must remain forever in that state, unchanged, for there is as yet no not-Oi* in existence to make it develop any further!

 

[Recall that according to this 'theory', everything (and that must include Oi*) changes because of a 'struggle' with its 'opposite'.]

 

So, there must be a not-Oi* in existence to make Oi* change further. To be sure, we could try to exempt Oi* from this essential requirement on an ad hoc basis (arguing, perhaps, that Oi* changes spontaneously with nothing actually causing it), and yet if we do that, there would seem to be no reason to accept the version of events expressed in the DM-classics, which tells us that every thing/process in the entire universe changes because of the "struggle" of opposites (and Oi* is certainly a thing/process). Furthermore, if we make an exemption here, then the whole point of the exercise would be lost, for if some things do, and some things do not change according this dialectical 'Law', we would be left with no way of telling which changes were, and which were not subject to it.

 

[That would also mean that the Second 'Law' isn't a law, either -- which is what we found was the case with the First 'Law', too.]

 

This is, of course, quite apart from the fact that such a subjectively applied exemption certificate (issued to Oi*) would mean that nothing at all could change, for everything in the universe is in the process of change, and is thus already a 'sublated' version of whatever it used to be.

 

Ignoring this 'difficulty', too: Even if Oi* were to change into not-Oi* (as we suppose it must, given the doctrine laid down in the DM-classics), then all the problems we met earlier simply reappear, for Oi* would only be able to change if not-Oi* already exists to make that happen! But, not-Oi* can't already exist, for Oi* hasn't changed into it yet!

 

On the other hand, even if we were to suppose not-Oi* already exists, Oi* couldn't change into it since not-Oi* already exists!

 

Again, it could be objected that the dialectical negation of O*, which produces not-O*, isn't ordinary negation, as the above seems to assume.

 

In that case, let us now suppose that O* turns into its 'sublated' opposite, not-Os*. But, if that is to happen, according to the Dialectical Classics, not-Os* must already exist if O* is to struggle with it and then change into it! But, and once again, if that is so, O* can't turn into not-Os*, for it already exists! Alternatively, if not-Os* didn't already exist, then O* couldn't change since O* can only change if it "struggles" with what it changes into, i.e., not-Os*!

 

We hit the same non-dialectical brick wall, once more.

 

It could be objected that the above abstract argument misses the point; in the real world things manifestly change. For instance, to use Mao's example, peace changes into war, and vice versa. Love can change into hate, and so on.

 

No one doubts this, but DM can't explain why this happens. For peace to change into war, or vice versa, it would have to struggle with it. Has anyone witnessed this odd event? Can abstractions like these actually struggle with one another? And yet, both Mao and Lenin tell us the following:

 

"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing…. 

 

"The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Bold emphases added.]

 

"The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to end.

 

"Engels said, 'Motion itself is a contradiction.' Lenin defined the law of the unity of opposites as 'the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society)'. Are these ideas correct? Yes, they are. The interdependence of the contradictory aspects present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of all things and push their development forward. There is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist....

 

"The contradictory aspects in every process exclude each other, struggle with each other and are in opposition to each other. Without exception, they are contained in the process of development of all things and in all human thought. A simple process contains only a single pair of opposites, while a complex process contains more. And in turn, the pairs of opposites are in contradiction to one another.

 

"That is how all things in the objective world and all human thought are constituted and how they are set in motion....

 

"War and peace, as everybody knows, transform themselves into each other. War is transformed into peace; for instance, the First World War was transformed into the post-war peace, and the civil war in China has now stopped, giving place to internal peace. Peace is transformed into war; for instance, the Kuomintang-Communist co-operation was transformed into war in 1927, and today's situation of world peace may be transformed into a second world war. Why is this so? Because in class society such contradictory things as war and peace have an identity in given conditions.

 

"All contradictory things are interconnected; not only do they coexist in a single entity in given conditions, but in other given conditions, they also transform themselves into each other. This is the full meaning of the identity of opposites. This is what Lenin meant when he discussed 'how they happen to be (how they become) identical -- under what conditions they are identical, transforming themselves into one another'....

 

"Why is it that 'the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another'? Because that is just how things are in objective reality. The fact is that the unity or identity of opposites in objective things is not dead or rigid, but is living, conditional, mobile, temporary and relative; in given conditions, every contradictory aspect transforms itself into its opposite. Reflected in man's thinking, this becomes the Marxist world outlook of materialist dialectics. It is only the reactionary ruling classes of the past and present and the metaphysicians in their service who regard opposites not as living, conditional, mobile and transforming themselves into one another, but as dead and rigid, and they propagate this fallacy everywhere to delude the masses of the people, thus seeking to perpetuate their rule....

 

"All processes have a beginning and an end, all processes transform themselves into their opposites. The constancy of all processes is relative, but the mutability manifested in the transformation of one process into another is absolute.

 

"There are two states of motion in all things, that of relative rest and that of conspicuous change. Both are caused by the struggle between the two contradictory elements contained in a thing. When the thing is in the first state of motion, it is undergoing only quantitative and not qualitative change and consequently presents the outward appearance of being at rest. When the thing is in the second state of motion, the quantitative change of the first state has already reached a culminating point and gives rise to the dissolution of the thing as an entity and thereupon a qualitative change ensues, hence the appearance of a conspicuous change. Such unity, solidarity, combination, harmony, balance, stalemate, deadlock, rest, constancy, equilibrium, solidity, attraction, etc., as we see in daily life, are all the appearances of things in the state of quantitative change. On the other hand, the dissolution of unity, that is, the destruction of this solidarity, combination, harmony, balance, stalemate, deadlock, rest, constancy, equilibrium, solidity and attraction, and the change of each into its opposite are all the appearances of things in the state of qualitative change, the transformation of one process into another. Things are constantly transforming themselves from the first into the second state of motion; the struggle of opposites goes on in both states but the contradiction is resolved through the second state. That is why we say that the unity of opposites is conditional, temporary and relative, while the struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute.

 

"When we said above that two opposite things can coexist in a single entity and can transform themselves into each other because there is identity between them, we were speaking of conditionality, that is to say, in given conditions two contradictory things can be united and can transform themselves into each other, but in the absence of these conditions, they can't constitute a contradiction, can't coexist in the same entity and can't transform themselves into one another. It is because the identity of opposites obtains only in given conditions that we have said identity is conditional and relative. We may add that the struggle between opposites permeates a process from beginning to end and makes one process transform itself into another, that it is ubiquitous, and that struggle is therefore unconditional and absolute.

 

"The combination of conditional, relative identity and unconditional, absolute struggle constitutes the movement of opposites in all things." [Mao (1961b), pp.316, 337-38, 339-40, 342-43. Bold emphases alone added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

If the above DM-classicists are right, how can peace change into war unless it "struggles" with it?

 

It could be argued that the contradictory aspects (or underlying processes/tendencies) of a given society, or societies -- which might give the appearance of peace -- are what turn peace in to war; it is the mutual struggle of these contradictory aspects (or underlying processes/tendencies) that change the one into the other.

 

In that case, let us call these underlying contradictory aspects (or underlying processes/tendencies) UA and UA*. If the above is correct, it is the struggle between UA and UA* that changes Peace (P) into War (W). But, if this is indeed so, the DM-classics are wrong; P and its opposite, W, do not actually struggle with one another, even though they are opposites, and even though they should do this (if the DM-classics are to be believed). What changes P into W is a struggle between their non-opposites, UA and UA*. And yet, if either UA or UA* changes P into W, then one or both of them must be the opposite(s) of P, and if they are the opposite(s) of P they should change into P! Either that, or the DM-classics are wrong.

 

On the other hand, if UA and UA* are indeed opposites of one another, they should change into each other. But, they can't do that since they both already exist!

 

Once again, we hit the same non-dialectical brick wall

 

It could be argued that if we consider a more concrete example, we might be able to understand what the DM-classics meant when they claimed that things change into their opposites.

 

[In what follows, I examine 'concrete cases' that have been put to me in discussion by those who doubt that the general criticisms above apply in these instances. Apologies are owed in advance for the somewhat repetitive nature of this material, but those who raised these examples thought they could circumvent the above criticisms by introducing them. In every case, they only imagined this by ignoring one or more of the core DM-theses advanced in the classics: 1) Everything changes because of a 'struggle' with its 'dialectical opposite', (2) Everything changes in to that 'opposite', and (3) Change produces that opposite. In that case, the following material is aimed at showing that if we accept what the DM-classics have to tell us, the aforementioned general criticisms apply in each particular case. Hence the need for repetition.]

 

Consider "John" again: While it might be the case that John is a boy, in a few years time it will be the case that John is a man (all things being equal). Now, the fact that other individuals are already men doesn't stop John changing into a man (his opposite). So, John can change into his opposite even though that opposite already exists. In that case, the above objections fail.

 

Or, so it could be maintained.

 

And yet, as we have seen, this theory tells us that all things/processes change because they "struggle" with their 'opposites', and that they "struggle" with what they will become (i.e., that 'opposite').

 

Are we to assume, then, that John has to struggle with his opposite? If so, he must struggle with all the individuals that are already men if he is to become a man himself (assuming that all other men are his opposite).

 

Alternatively, are we to suppose that John must struggle with what he himself is to become, his individual opposite -- i.e., himself as a man --, even before it/he exists? If not, then the above response is beside the point; John can only change if he struggles with his opposite, but that opposite does not yet exist. Plainly, if his opposite does not yet exist, he can't struggle with it, and hence can't change. We hit the same problem.

 

Moreover, in view of the fact that John must turn into his opposite, doesn't that mean he has to turn into these other men, too? Or, does he turn into just one of them? But, it seems he must do one or the other if the DM-Classics are to be believed.

 

Anyway, according to the DM-worthies quoted here, John can only change because of a struggle between opposites taking place in the here-and-now. If so, are we really supposed to believe that "John-as-a-man" is struggling with "John-as-a-boy" in the here-and-now? Or, that the abstraction, manhood, is struggling with that other abstraction, boyhood?

 

Some might be tempted to reply that this is precisely what adolescence is, and yet, if that were the case, John-as-boy and John-as-a-man would have to be locked in struggle in the here-and-now. Of course, adolescence can't struggle with anything, since it, too, is an abstraction. And a struggle in John's mind over what he is to become can't make him develop into a man, either! It should hardly need pointing out that a struggle in the mind can't change a boy into a man. This isn't to deny that such struggles take place, it is merely to point out that thinking doesn't make something so -- if it did, beggars would ride.

 

Nevertheless, John-as-a-man doesn't yet exist, so John-as-a-man can't struggle with John-as-boy. On the other hand, if John-as-a-man does exist alongside John-as-boy, so that 'he' can struggle with his youthful self, then John-as-boy can't change into 'him', for John-as-a-man already exists!

 

To be sure, John's 'opposite' is whatever he will become (if he is allowed to develop naturally), but, as noted above, that 'opposite' can't now exist otherwise John wouldn't need to become him! But, and once again, if that opposite doesn't exist, John can't change, for there would be nothing with which he could struggle.

 

Looking at this a little more concretely: In ten or fifteen years time, John won't become just any man, he will become a particular man. In that case, let us call the man that John becomes "ManJ". But, once more, ManJ must exist now or John can't change into him (if the DM-classics are to be believed) -- for John can only become a man if he is now locked in struggle with what he is to become, his own opposite, ManJ.

 

Once more: if that is so, John can't become ManJ since ManJ already exists!

 

It could be objected that the DM-classics are arguing that an object in change takes on an opposite property or quality, expressed as the negation of the predicate term that once applied to it. So, in abstract terms, if A is F (where "A" is perhaps the name of a person, such as John, or that of some object or process, and "F" is some property or quality he/it possesses) -- then the A that is F becomes the A that is not-F. [Or, rather: it used to be the case that "A is F"; now it is the case that "A is not-F".] This is surely possible, indeed, actual. Moreover, A being F doesn't prevent it becoming not-F on the grounds that F already exists, or even because not-F already exists (since, plainly, not-F doesn't yet exist). So, dialectical change is not only possible, it is actual.

 

This is just a generalisation of the point made above about John becoming a man, and is susceptible to the same sort of rebuttal: if not-F doesn't already exist, then A can't struggle with it, and hence can't change.

 

It could be argued that not-F does exist, so this struggle can take place. Hence, A can both struggle with not-F and become not-F. More concretely, tendencies in John that maintain him as a boy (F) are locked in a struggle with those that are changing him into a man/not-a-boy (not-F).

 

But, are we really supposed to believe that John changes into a tendency (for that is what not-F is, according to this objection)?

 

[I examine the 'opposite tendencies defence' in more detail, here.]

 

Independently of that, it is difficult to believe that anyone who has read the DM-classics could imagine that this new interpretation finds any support in what they have to say. For example, if it is indeed the case that the A that is F turns into the A is not-F -- or if A's being F develops into A's being not-F -- then, according to those classics, they must struggle with one another. But, how can this happen if it is admitted that the A is not-F doesn't yet exist?

 

It could be countered that what is important here is that F applied to A turns into its opposite, not-F. Now, many not-Fs will typically already exist. For example, John might be alive one day (i.e., A is F), but the next he could be dead/not alive (i.e., A is not-F). But, many others were dead or weren't alive the day before, when John was alive. But, that doesn't stop him from becoming not alive (not-F), contrary to the repeated assertions above. The fact that some things are not-F doesn't prevent other things from becoming not-F, too.

 

Again, this is just a re-packaged version of the point made above about John becoming a man. In this case, when he dies John doesn't just become any old corpse, he becomes John's corpse. If that is so, and the DM-classics are to be believed, then that can only happen if John struggles with his opposite, i.e., with his own corpse! Do we all really have to fight our own future dead bodies in order to die?

 

It could be objected that this could happen if F struggles with not-F. Life and death/not-life are dialectically opposed to one another, as Engels pointed out. So, the forces that keep John, for example, alive are opposed to those that are killing him, and which will kill him one day.

 

But, if that is so, and the DM-classics are correct, then these dialectical opposites must turn into one another. Is it really the case then that the forces that keep John alive will turn into those that are killing him, and vice versa? Will anabolic processes become catabolic processes, and catabolic processes become anabolic processes? In fact these processes don't even struggle with one another! [Follow the links below for more details.] But, they should if we were to believe everything we read in those dusty old DM-classics.

 

[Since I have devoted several sections of this Essay to this very point, the reader is re-directed there for more details.]

 

Furthermore, and returning to the whatever A refers to, mentioned above: A doesn't just change into any old not-F, it changes into a particular not-F. Let us call the particular not-F that A changes into "FA". Once more, according to the dialectical classics, every object/process changes because (1) It struggles with its opposite and (2) It changes into that opposite. If so, A can only change by struggling with FA; but FA already exists, so A can't change into it. If FA didn't already exist, A couldn't struggle with it in order to change.

 

No matter how many bends we try to negotiate with this rusty banger of a theory, it still ends up wrapped around the same old non-dialectical tree trunk.

 

Consider another concrete example: wood being fashioned into a table. Once more, according to the dialectical classics all objects and processes change because of a 'struggle' of opposites, and they also change into those opposites.

So,  according to this 'theory', the wood that is used to make a table has to 'struggle' with what it turns into; that is, this wood has to 'struggle' with the table it turns into!

In that case, the table must already exist, or it couldn't 'struggle' with the wood from which it is to be made.

But, if the table already exists, then the wood can't be changed into it. Indeed, why bother making a table that already exists?

On the other hand, if the table doesn't already exist, then the wood can't 'struggle' with its own opposite; that is, it can't 'struggle' with the table it has yet to become!

Either way, this sort of change can't happen, according to this 'theory'.

 

And, it is little use introducing human agency here, for if a carpenter is required to make a table, then he/she has to 'struggle' with the wood to make it into that table -- since we are told that every object and process in nature is governed by this 'Law'. But, according to the Dialectical Classics, objects and processes 'struggle' with their dialectical 'opposites', and they turn into those opposites. If so, wood must turn into the carpenter, not the table! And the carpenter must change into wood!

 

With a crazy theory like this at its core, is it any wonder Dialectical Marxism is a by-word for failure?10b2
 

[These, of course, are simply more concrete versions of the general argument outlined above. For an answer to the objection that objects and processes change in stages, see Note 10b2 (link above).]

 

Consider another hackneyed DM-example: water turning into steam at 100oC (under normal conditions). Are we really supposed to believe what the DM-classics tell us, that the 'opposite' that water becomes (i.e., steam) makes water turn into steam? But, this must be the case if the classics are correct.

 

Hence, while you might think it is the heat/energy you are putting into the water that turns it into steam, what really happens, according to these wise old dialecticians, is that steam makes water turn into steam!

 

In that case, save energy and turn the gas off!

 

It might be useful to make this example a little more concrete: To that end, let us track a water molecule to see what happens to it this liquid is heated. In order to identify it, call it, "W1", and the steam molecule it turns into, "S1". But, if the DM-classics above are correct W1 can only turn into S1 by 'struggling' with it. In that case, S1 must already exist, otherwise W1 couldn't struggle with it and thus change! But, how can W1 turn into S1 if S1 already exists?

 

In fact, according to the DM-classics, opposites turn into each other; if so, S1 must change into W1 at the same time that W1 is turning into S1! So, while you are boiling a kettle -- according to this Super-scientific 'theory' -- steam must be condensing back into the water you are boiling, and it must be doing so at the same rate it is turning into steam!

 

One wonders, therefore, how dialectical kettles manage to boil dry.

 

Of course, the same argument applies to water freezing (and, as we have seen, to any and all alleged examples of 'dialectical'-change).

 

It could be objected that the opposite that liquid water turns into is a gas (i.e., steam/water vapour); so the dialectical classicists are correct.

 

However, if we take the DM-classics at their word, this gas must 'struggle' with liquid water in the here-and-now if water is to change into it. But, plainly, this gas doesn't yet exist, or the water would already have changed into it! In which case, water would never boil if this 'theory' were true, since the gas it is supposed to change into isn't there yet for it to struggle with. And yet, it is plainly the heat we add that causes the change not the gas!

 

It could be maintained that what happens is that the heat energy input into the system makes water boil. Indeed, but then, if heat makes water boil, that water must struggle with this heat, and then change into it, just as heat must change into water! If not, the DM-classics are wrong, and dialecticians are left with no theory of change.

 

[Follow the above link for an explanation why Hegel and Lenin both adopted this rather odd theory of change.]

 

Finally, it could be pointed out that Lenin actually argued as follows:

 

"The identity of opposites (it would be more correct, perhaps, to say their 'unity,' -- although the difference between the terms identity and unity is not particularly important here. In a certain sense both are correct) is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society). The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement,' in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites. The two basic (or two possible? Or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation)." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

As one critic of my argument put things (this is in fact one of the few detailed and carefully argued responses to my objections I have encountered in the last eight years on the Internet):

 

"This is a complete misreading of the law of unity and interpenetration of opposites. To borrow Rosa's symobology (sic), a contradiction means in essence that an entity A contains internally contradictory tendencies O* and O** which cause A to turn into not-A. The struggle within A is between O* and O**, the internal tendency for it to stay the same (O*) and the internal forces acting on it to change (O**). The whole essence of dialectics is that O* and O** can not exist within a stable equilibrium. Rosa quotes Lenin saying quite clearly that we are not dealing with O* turning into O**, but with the working-out of 'internally contradictory tendencies' within A.

 

"Now, Rosa may point out that some presentations of dialectics may say that things 'struggle with and become' their opposites. This is looking at the outside -- the change from A to not-A, because of the internal tendencies O* and O**. Not-A does not yet exist as a realized entity; it does not need to. The struggle is the internal struggle between O* (which preserves A) and O** (which causes its transformation into not-A). In essence we can say that O** is the seed of the unrealized entity not-A which exists within the realized entity A, and A struggles (in the form of O*) against its transformation into not-A (through the operation of O**).

 

"Now, Rosa's going to object that dialectics pictures entities that 'struggle with' what they are going to become, which presupposes that these entities already exist. But this is because she fails to distinguish between the realized entities A and not-A, and the internal tendencies O* and O**. When A exists, both O* and O** exist, and struggle with one another. These may be united within a physical object such as a seed, which contains structures that form its O* to keep it a seed, and yet has a tendency O** to transform into its opposite, a seedling. Or they may be united in capitalist society, such as the capitalist class O* which struggles with the working class O** over the control of the means of production. The working out of this contradiction is nothing less than the struggle for socialism....

 

"Again, Lenin talks about these tendencies in phenomena and processes that elude your grasp. The above is precisely what I have been illustrating with the difference between A (the entity) and O*/O** (its contradictory tendencies) that you have not understood.

"Things do not change into their contradictions, which is what your mock-refutation entails, they change into their opposites. That is, A does not change into O**, but into not-A.
O* does not change into O** but into not-O*." [Bold added.]

 

Readers will look long and hard and to no avail to find where I say that things "change into their contradictions", but into their contradictories, in this case into not-A (which is what the DM-classics tell us). Just as they will look long and hard for a singe quotation from the DM-classics (certainly this critic offered none) that supports this revisionist reading of the theory. The above critic will also need to tell us why not-A isn't the 'contradictory' of A.

 

It could be objected that the above critic did refer us to this quotation from Lenin:

 

"The identity of opposites (it would be more correct, perhaps, to say their 'unity,' -- although the difference between the terms identity and unity is not particularly important here. In a certain sense both are correct) is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society)." [Lenin (1961), p.357. Bold emphasis alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

However, when asked (several times), the above critic refused to comment on this quotation from Lenin:

 

"Dialectics is the teaching which shows how Opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical, -- under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another, -- why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another." [Lenin (1961), p.109. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

According to the above, the opposite tendencies within A -- that is, "the internal tendency for it to stay the same (O*)" and "the internal forces acting on it to change (O**)" must change into one another. But, how can they do that if each of them already exists? No wonder this critic ignored Lenin's words. [However, see below.]

 

But, what about this part of the argument?

 

"Now, Rosa may point out that some presentations of dialectics may say that things 'struggle with and become' their opposites. This is looking at the outside -- the change from A to not-A, because of the internal tendencies O* and O**. Not-A does not yet exist as a realized entity; it does not need to. The struggle is the internal struggle between O* (which preserves A) and O** (which causes its transformation into not-A). In essence we can say that O** is the seed of the unrealized entity not-A which exists within the realized entity A, and A struggles (in the form of O*) against its transformation into not-A (through the operation of O**)."

 

Unfortunately, this ignores the philosophical background to Hegel's theory (which Lenin accepted, even if he had to put it "back on its feet"). That background is outlined here.

 

It could be argued that this critic has answered the point made by Lenin (that opposites are transformed into one another):

 

"Now, Rosa may point out that some presentations of dialectics may say that things 'struggle with and become' their opposites. This is looking at the outside -- the change from A to not-A, because of the internal tendencies O* and O**."

 

And yet this fails to explain why O* and O* do not change into one another. Despite being pressed on this many times, this critic refused to respond. Moreover, this isn't to look "at the outside" (whatever that means!). The DM-classics are quite clear, this applies to "everything existing" and it is an "absolute":

 

"The law of the interpenetration of opposites.... [M]utual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes...." [Engels (1954), pp.17, 62.]

 

"Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature, and so-called subjective dialectics, dialectical thought, is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature." [Ibid., p.211.]

 

"For a stage in the outlook on nature where all differences become merged in intermediate steps, and all opposites pass into one another through intermediate links, the old metaphysical method of thought no longer suffices. Dialectics, which likewise knows no hard and fast lines, no unconditional, universally valid 'either-or' and which bridges the fixed metaphysical differences, and besides 'either-or' recognises also in the right place 'both this-and that' and reconciles the opposites, is the sole method of thought appropriate in the highest degree to this stage. Of course, for everyday use, for the small change of science, the metaphysical categories retain their validity." [Ibid., pp.212-13.]

 

"And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite…." [Plekhanov (1956), p.77.]

 

"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]….

 

"In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics….

 

"The splitting of the whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the 'essentials', one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristic features) of dialectics….

 

"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing…. 

 

"The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58.]

 

"'This harmony is precisely absolute Becoming change, -- not becoming other, now this and then another. The essential thing is that each different thing [tone], each particular, is different from another, not abstractly so from any other, but from its other. Each particular only is, insofar as its other is implicitly contained in its Notion....' Quite right and important: the 'other' as its other, development into its opposite." [Ibid., p.260. Lenin is here commenting on Hegel (1995a), pp.278-98; this particular quotation coming from p.285.]

 

"Dialectics is the teaching which shows how Opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical, -- under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another, -- why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another." [Ibid., p.109.]

 

"Of course, the fundamental proposition of Marxian dialectics is that all boundaries in nature and society are conventional and mobile, that there is not a single phenomenon which cannot under certain conditions be transformed into its opposite." [Lenin (1916). Quoted from here.]

 

"Why is it that '...the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another'? Because that is just how things are in objective reality. The fact is that the unity or identity of opposites in objective things is not dead or rigid, but is living, conditional, mobile, temporary and relative; in given conditions, every contradictory aspect transforms itself into its opposite....

 

"In speaking of the identity of opposites in given conditions, what we are referring to is real and concrete opposites and the real and concrete transformations of opposites into one another....

 

"All processes have a beginning and an end, all processes transform themselves into their opposites. The constancy of all processes is relative, but the mutability manifested in the transformation of one process into another is absolute."  [Mao (1961b), pp.340-42. In all of the above, bold emphases alone added; quotation marks have been altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[And these are only from the classics; we have seen that 'lesser' DM-works also say the same thing. However, this critic was a fellow Trotskyist, and so might not be prepared to accept what Mao had to say. But, as we can see, Mao was merely echoing Lenin.]

 

It could be argued that some of the above passages merely say that everything changes into its opposite; they don't say that they change into one another. But, if everything changes into its opposite, and that opposite is also part of everything, then it too must change into its opposite; that is, O* must change into O**, and O** must change into O*.

 

But, what of the argument itself? Are "tendencies" causal agents? Aren't they (i.e., both the tendencies and the changes) rather the result of other causes? For example, do we say that the "tendency" for glass to break is what makes it break, or do we appeal to inter-molecular forces within glass, and an external shock? But, can't we call these inner forces "tendencies", too? Are there such inner "tendencies" in glass? If there are, what are their causes? Or, are they uncaused? In fact, if we just appeal to "tendencies" to explain things, noting is explained. "Why did that glass break?" "It just has a tendency to do so." "Why is it raining?" "It simply has a tendency to do so in this area." "Why did those cops attack the strikers?" "They have a tendency to defend the bosses." So, an appeal to a "tendency" is no explanation at all.

 

Or rather, if we insist on regarding and appeal to "tendencies" as an explanation, that is because we also view the word as a shorthand for other causes (known or unknown) at work in the system. Consider the "tendency" of the rate of profit to fall. Is that uncaused? But, no Marxist will argue it is. Indeed, Marxists point to several contributory causal factors that combine to make the rate of profit tend to fall over time. Would any of us have been satisfied if Marx had simply said there a "tendency" for the rate of profit to fall, and made no attempt to explain its cause/causes?

 

Hence, "tendencies" aren't causes; they are the result of one or more causes themselves. So, this critic is mistaken, an internal "tendency" can't "preserve A", nor can the opposite "tendency", O**, cause a "transformation into not-A", since these "tendencies" are derivative not causative. Indeed, as the DM-classics inform us, the cause of these "tendencies" is the "unity and interpenetration of opposites", the "contradiction" and the "struggle" that results from this.

 

As Gollobin points out (quoting Engels):

 

"Opposites in a thing are not only mutually exclusive, polar, repelling, each other; they also attract and interpenetrate each other. They begin and cease to exist together.... These dual aspects of opposites -- conflict and unity -- are like scissor blades in cutting, jaws in mastication, and two legs in walking. Where there is only one, the process as such is impossible: 'all polar opposites are in general determined by the mutual action of two opposite poles on one another, the separation and opposition of these poles exists only within their unity and interconnection, and, conversely, their interconnection exists only in their separation and their unity only in their opposition.' In fact, 'where one no sooner tries to hold on to one side alone then it is transformed unnoticed into the other....'" [Gollobin (1986), p.113; quoting Engels (1891a), p.414. Bold emphases added.]

 

So, as Lenin also noted, these 'internal opposites' not only struggle, they turn into one another:

 

"Dialectics is the teaching which shows how Opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical, -- under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another, -- why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another." [Lenin (1961), p.109. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

But, this can't happen, and for reasons explored above.

 

Well, perhaps it is the struggle between these "opposite tendencies" that causes A to change? Here is my critic again:

 

"When A exists, both O* and O** exist, and struggle with one another. These may be united within a physical object such as a seed, which contains structures that form its O* to keep it a seed, and yet has a tendency O** to transform into its opposite, a seedling. Or they may be united in capitalist society, such as the capitalist class O* which struggles with the working class O** over the control of the means of production. The working out of this contradiction is nothing less than the struggle for socialism...."

 

But, the DM-classics are quite clear: when these opposites struggle, they change into one another, as noted above several times. [And it is no use this critic blithely asserting that this is to be found only in "some presentations" of the theory. It is found throughout the DM-classics and other DM-texts, as we have seen.] So, O* must change into O**, and vice versa. Otherwise, O* and O** will be changeless beings. If they themselves have causal powers, or are causal powers, then they, too, must also be objects (structures?), relations, or processes of some sort. In which case, they, too, must change. On the other hand, if they don't have causal powers, or they aren't causal powers, then, of course, they can't cause change themselves. And, we can see this critic also assumes this to be so, since he has stopped calling O* and O** "tendencies"; they have become the "capitalist class" and the "working class", respectively. And, these surely change one another, and thereby change themselves. They are the most important cause, or one of the most important causes, of change in Capitalism.

 

Indeed, this critic admits they do change:

 

"That is, A does not change into O**, but into not-A. O* does not change into O** but into not-O*."

 

And yet, if we ignore the impromptu 'theory' this critic has pulled out of thin air and accept the account given in the DM-classics, this can only happen if O* struggles with not-O*, and then turns into it, which puts us exactly where we were several paragraphs back.

 

In which case, my refutation still stands.

 

[Readers are encouraged to read my lengthier reply to this critic, here. Several more objections are fielded here. I will return again to the tendencies within capitalism that this objector thinks cause it to change or remain the same.]

 

This, of course, doesn't deny that change occurs, only that DM can account for it.

 

Alternatively, if DM were true, change would be impossible.

 

Howsoever we try to re-package this 'Law' we end up with the same insuperable problems, which can't simply be Nixoned away.

 

[As far as social change is concerned, see here, here and here.]

 

However, as we have seen, this 'theory' is just an elaboration of the following example of a priori Superscience concocted by the Mystery Meister Himself:

 

"Neither in heaven nor in earth, neither in the world of mind nor nature, is there anywhere an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things with then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being and what they essentially are. Thus, in inorganic nature, the acid is implicitly at the same time the base: in other words its only being consists in its relation to its other. Hence the acid persists quietly in the contrast: it is always in effort to realize what it potentially is. Contradiction is the very moving principle of the world." [Hegel (1975), p.174. Bold emphases added.]

 

As this quotation indicates, and as the next few sections of this Essay and Essay Eight Part Three will demonstrate, Hegel made a quasi-'logical' attempt to 'derive' such 'opposites' from his criticism of the LOI, but his reasoning was defective from beginning to end -- and demonstrably so. The bottom line is that, far from specifying that each object was paired with its unique dialectical "other", Hegel inadvertently conceded that objects and processes were confronted on all sides by countless "others", fatally damaging his theory of change.

 

Leaving such technicalities aside, and ignoring for the moment the question of how Hegel, Engels, Lenin and Plekhanov knew this 'Law' was true of everything in the entire universe, for all of time -- this topic was examined in more detail in Essay Two) -- when it is based only on a ham-fisted Idealist 'thought experiment', it is worth pointing out that many things seem to have no internally-interconnected opposites. For example, electrons, which, while they appear to have several external opposites (even though it isn't too clear what the opposite of an electron is -- is it a positron or is it a proton? --, it is clear that electrons do not seem to turn into either of them), they appear to have no internal opposites as far as can be ascertained. In that case, they must be changeless beings -- or, if they do change, it can't be a result of their "internal contradictions".10c

 

Admittedly, electrons had only just been discovered in Lenin's day, but that makes his dogmatism even more puzzling -- especially when it is recalled that it was Lenin who insisted that all knowledge is provisional and relative.

 

 

Is Everything Really A 'Unity Of Opposites'?

 

It is worth noting at the start that the relevancy of the comments in this section depend on what dialecticians mean by "internal opposite". Sometimes they seem to mean "spatially-internal", at other times they appear to mean "logically-internal". [This ambiguity is examined in more detail in Essay Eight Part One. However, much of the present and subsequent sections depend on interpreting "internal opposites" in one way -- i.e., spatially.]

 

[Even so, the other alternative (i.e., interpreting "internal opposites" logically) will also be considered. On the serious difficulties this equivocation presents DM-theorists, see here.]

 

Anyway, it is plain that this particular equivocation has arisen because of an inappropriate organicist metaphor dialecticians have inherited from Hegel. Of course, the parts of an organism are both spatially-, and logically-internal to that organism, but, when we move beyond Biology, this metaphor loses its plausibility, and the above equivocation (between the spatial and the logical meaning of "internal") is bound to create problems -- indeed, as we are about to find out.

 

Despite the above fatal flaws, it is difficult to believe Lenin and the others were serious in claiming that everything is a UO (incidentally, a dogma they neglected to prove, merely basing this idea on an a priori observation Hegel lifted from Spinoza (that is, that 'every determination is also a negation'); more on this later) -- just as it is impossible to make sense of Lenin's claim that "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [changes] into every other…."

 

"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]…." [Lenin (1961), p.221. Emphases in the original.]

 

Are we really supposed to believe that, say, a domestic cat is a UO? But, what is the opposite of a cat? A dog? A tulip? A tin of beans?

 

In the logical sense of this term, it should be 'non-cat'. And yet, if "non-cat" were the opposite of "cat", it would mean that if everything does indeed change into its opposite, cats must change into everything that they are not -- that is, each cat must change into any one or more of the following 'non-cats': a tin of beans, an oak tree, a pebble beach, a pair of cuff links, a dog basket, a rift valley, a petrol station, a carburettor, an asteroid, or a galaxy, to name but a few 'non-cats'. [The obvious dialectical response to this objection will be considered presently.]

 

On the other hand, if we interpret "internal" spatially, then, according to Lenin, cats must contain all these things if they are indeed unities of their opposites -- i.e., they must presumably be a unity of cat and 'non-cat', especially if 'struggle' with the latter (i.e., this 'non-cat') causes a cat to change. Is, therefore, each unassuming domestic moggie a repository of all its myriad opposites, and do these opposites contain their own sets of opposites, ad infinitem, like glorified Russian Dolls?

 

Well, it seems they must if, according to Lenin: "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [changes] into every other…." If change is the result of an "internal" struggle between opposites (declared above to be an "absolute" by Lenin), and everything changes into everything else, or at least into its 'opposite', then cats must both contain and change into (at some point) a whole host of things, which must in turn contain and change into yet more things (or even, perhaps, back into cats).10d

 

It is little use complaining that these are ridiculous conclusions; if everything changes into its 'opposite' (or, indeed, into all of them), then all must follow. Those who still object should rather pick a fight with dialecticians -- not me -- for concocting such a crazy view of change.

 

[The obvious objection that this discussion ignores 'mediated essences' is fielded in Note 10e.]10e

 

 

 

Figure Five: Another Dialectical Catastrophe?

 

So, if cats change, as surely they do, then they must both struggle with and change into their opposites. But, where are these 'opposite cats' with which they are supposed to be struggling? And how do they feature in and cause the changes they allegedly bring about in the original animal? On the other hand, if they don't do this, does this mean that feline parts of nature aren't subject to dialectical law? Is this why cats have nine lives?

 

Now, Engels did at least try to address these fatal objections to his theory; he argued that we must learn from nature what the actual properties of objects and processes are in each case, and hence, presumably, what each can legitimately change into. [To be sure, he made this point in relation to the First and Third of his 'Laws', but there is no reason to suppose he would have denied this of his Second 'Law'.] In addition, he pointed out that 'dialectical negation' isn't annihilation. [Engels (1954), p.63 and (1976), p.181.]

 

However, nature and society are annoyingly ambiguous in this respect. For example, lumps of iron ore can turn, or be turned into many different things (with or without the input of human labour, etc.). These include: cars, car parts, rolling stock, aeroplane components, ships, submarines, magnets, surgical equipment and surgical appliances, cutlery, kitchen utensils, scaffolding, chains, bollards, barriers, cranes, plant machinery, tubes, engines, ornaments, jewellery, girders, weapons, sheet metal, tools, instruments, wire, springs, furniture, doors, locks, keys, gates, grates, manhole covers, lifts, escalators, anchors, railings, rail tracks, wheels, zips, bars, handcuffs, bullets, iron filings, rivets, nails, screws, steel wool, steel helmets, armour, iron supplements -- alongside other assorted naturally occurring or artificial substances, such as, cytochrome nitrogenase, haemoglobin, hematite, magnetite, taconite, ferrofluids, countless ferrous and ferric compounds (including rust, Ferrous and Ferric Sulphides, Fools Gold, etc., etc.) -- to name but a few.

 

Are we really supposed to believe that all of these reside inside each lump of iron? Or, which are 'logically' connected with them, as one of Hegel's unique "others"? If we adopt the logical view of "internal opposites", how can all of the above be logically-related to iron ore and its unique "other"? If not, what exactly is the point of this 'Law' if iron can change, or be changed into any one of the above?

 

If each one of the above isn't the unique "other" of iron ore, and yet iron ore can be turned into all of them, then that fact alone seems to return a rather unfavourable verdict concerning the validity of this 'Law'.

 

Again, switching back to the 'spatial view' of "internal opposites": if these items don't exist inside each lump of iron -- or, even if these items do not confront each other as antagonistic external or 'logical' opposites --, how is it possible for human labour and/or natural forces to turn iron ore into such things while remaining in conformity with 'dialectical Law'? Does human labour work with, or work against the 'Laws' of dialectics? If a lump of iron doesn't (logically or spatially) 'contain', say, a carving knife, how is it possible for human beings to change iron into carving knives, and for this to be done dialectically? Are there changes in reality that aren't governed by 'dialectical law'?

 

Are these iron 'Laws' not in fact applicable to iron itself?

 

In that case, exactly which opposites are ('logically'/physically) united in, or with any particular lump of iron ore? Or, indeed, with all such lumps?

 

Of course, it could be objected that the above considerations are ridiculous and completely misconstrue the nature of this 'Law'. No one supposes that cats and nuggets of iron ore contain their opposites. Indeed, this is how Woods and Grant explained things:

 

"Nature seems to work in pairs. We have the 'strong' and the 'weak' forces at the subatomic level; attraction and repulsion; north and south in magnetism; positive and negative in electricity; matter and anti-matter; male and female in biology, odd and even in mathematics; even the concept of 'left and right handedness in relation to the spin of subatomic particles.... There are two kinds of matter, which can be called positive and negative. Like kinds repel and unlike attract." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.65.]11

 

But, if nature works in pairs (at least), what is the paired opposite of a cat that causes that animal to change? If they have no opposites, then these feline parts of nature (at least) do not work/exist in 'dialectical pairs'. And, what applies to cats must surely apply to countless other things. What then are the external and/or internal opposites of things like the following: Giraffes, Snowy Owls, Mountain Gorillas, Daffodils, Oak trees, Chinese Puzzles, broom handles, craters on the Moon, copies of Anti-Dühring, the ten thousandth moth to hatch in Cook County, Illinois, USA, in May 2012 -- or the question mark at the end of this sentence (on your screen, not mine)? All of these are subject to change, but not, it seems, as a result of any obvious oppositional pairing, tension or 'struggle' with anything unique to each.

 

Is a question mark, for example, really locked in a life-and-death struggle with other punctuation marks? Or, even with its Hegelian 'other'? But, what is the 'other' of a "?"? An "!"?

 

It could be objected to this that in the case of cats (and some of the other objects listed above), the opposites concerned are plainly "male" and "female". But, even if that were so, these are manifestly not "internal opposites", and neither are they "internally related" to each other -- they are causally, historically and biologically related. Sexual diversity isn't a logical feature of reality -- if it were, there would be no hermaphrodites or asexual organisms. So, change in this case can't be the result of any 'internal contradictions' that exist between male and female organisms. Even if this weren't so, is it really the case that males and females must always conflict? [Anyone who has, for example, seen Leopard Slugs mating might be forgiven for thinking that these fortunate creatures have had a dialectical exemption certificate encoded into their DNA at some point. They do not 'conflict'!]

 

Moreover, the following research would have to be ruled out in advance by all good DM-fans, since it violates DL, as it supposedly features in sexual reproduction:

 

"'Three people, one baby' public consultation begins

 

 

"A public consultation has been launched to discuss the ethics of using three people to create one baby. The technique could be used to prevent debilitating and fatal 'mitochondrial' diseases, which are passed down only from mother to child. However, the resulting baby would contain genetic information from three people -- two parents and a donor woman. Ministers could change the law to make the technique legal after the results of the consultation are known.

 

"About one in 200 children are born with faulty mitochondria -- the tiny power stations which provide energy to every cell in the body. Most show little or no symptoms, but in the severest cases the cells of the body are starved of energy. It can lead to muscle weakness, blindness, heart failure and in some cases can be fatal. Mitochondria are passed on from the mother's egg to the child -- the father does not pass on mitochondria through his sperm. The idea to prevent this is to add a healthy woman's mitochondria into the mix. Two main techniques have been shown to work in the laboratory, by using a donor embryo or a donor egg.

 

"How do you make a baby from three people?

 

"1) Two embryos are fertilised with sperm creating an embryo from the intended parents and another from the donors. 2) The pronuclei, which contain genetic information, are removed from both embryos but only the parents' is kept 3) A healthy embryo is created by adding the parents' pronuclei to the donor embryo, which is finally implanted into the womb.

 

"However, mitochondria contain their own genes in their own set of DNA. It means any babies produced would contain genetic material from three people. The vast majority would come from the mother and father, but also mitochondrial DNA from the donor woman. This would be a permanent form of genetic modification, which would be passed down through the generations.

 

"It is one of the ethical considerations which will be discussed as part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's consultation. The chair of the organisation, Prof Lisa Jardine, said: 'It is genetic modification of the egg -- that is uncharted territory. Once we have genetic modification we have to be sure we are damn happy.' She said it was a question of 'balancing the desire to help families have healthy children with the possible impact on the children themselves and wider society'....

 

"However, treatments in IVF clinics will be years away even if the public and ministers decide the techniques should go ahead. There are still questions around safety which need to be addressed. One of the pioneers of the methods, Prof Mary Herbert from Newcastle University, said: 'We are now undertaking experiments to test the safety and efficacy of the new techniques. This work may take three to five years to complete.'" [Quoted from here. Some links added; several paragraphs merged to save space. Quotation marks modified to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases in the original. Accessed 17/08/2012.]

 

And, in late February 2014, we read that three-parent babies are expected to be born in the UK in the next year or so:

 

"Britain sets out plans for first '3-parent' IVF babies

 

"By Kate Kelland, February 27, 2014

 

"(Reuters) -- Britain proposed new regulations on Thursday that would make it the first country in the world to offer 'three-parent' fertility treatments to families who want to avoid passing on incurable diseases to their children.

 

"The move was praised by doctors and but feared by critics, who say the technique will lead to the creation of genetically modified designer babies. The technique is known as three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF) because the offspring would have genes from a mother, a father and from a female donor. The British plans come as medical advisers in the United States began a series of public hearings this week to consider whether there is scientific justification for allowing human trials of the technique.

 

"The treatment, only at the research stage in laboratories in Britain and the United States, would for the first time involve implanting genetically modified embryos into women. The process involves intervening in the fertilization process to remove faulty mitochondrial DNA, which can cause inherited conditions such as fatal heart problems, liver failure, brain disorders, blindness and muscular dystrophy.

 

"It is designed to help families with mitochondrial diseases -- incurable conditions passed down the maternal line that affect around one in 6,500 children worldwide. Mitochondria act as tiny energy-generating batteries inside cells.

 

"'Jumping the gun'

 

"Announcing draft plans to allow the technique and launching a public consultation on them, Britain's chief medical officer Sally Davies said the proposed move would give women who carry severe mitochondrial disease the chance to have children without passing on devastating genetic disorders. 'It would also keep the UK in the forefront of scientific development in this area,' she said in a statement.

 

"But David King of the campaign group Human Genetics Alert accused the government of 'jumping the gun' in laying out new laws before the treatments had been thoroughly investigated.

 

"'If passed, this will be the first time any government has legalized inheritable human genome modification, something that is banned in all other European countries,' he said in a statement. 'Such a decision of major historical significance requires a much more extensive public debate.'

 

"Although some critics of mitochondrial transfer say it is akin to creating designer babies, replacing faulty mitochondria with healthy ones would not be genetic engineering in the usual understanding of the term. It would not make a child smarter, sportier, more attractive, or otherwise different from what his genome and environment would produce in the normal way.

 

"Britain said the proposed new rules would be subject to public scrutiny and parliament's approval. Many scientists, campaigners and medical experts welcomed the government's decision. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust international medical charity, urged the government to 'move swiftly so that parliament could debate the regulations at the earliest opportunity and families affected by these devastating disorders can begin to benefit'.

 

"Peter Braude, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at King's College London, welcomed the move, saying: 'It is true that genetic alteration of disease risk is an important step for society and should not taken lightly.'

 

"'However the proposed changes to the regulations ensure it will be limited to informed couples, who understand from sad personal experience the significant effects of their disease, and are best placed to balance the risks of the technology with the possibility of having children without mitochondrial disease,' he added.

 

"Scientists are researching several three-parent IVF techniques. One being developed at Britain's Newcastle University, known as pronuclear transfer, swaps DNA between two fertilized human eggs. Another, called maternal spindle transfer, swaps material between the mother's egg and a donor egg before fertilization.

 

"A British ethics panel review of the potential treatments in 2012 decided they were ethical and should go ahead as long as research shows they are likely to be safe and effective. Because Britain is in the vanguard of this research, ethical concerns, political decisions and scientific advances are closely watched around the world.

 

"Britain's public consultation on the draft regulations began on Thursday and was scheduled to run until May 21, 2014." [Quoted from here; accessed 28/02/2014, updated here, 03/06/2014. Quotation marks modified to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Spelling altered in line with UK English. Several paragraphs merged to save space. Links added.]

 

Notice, there is no mention of the violation of Engels's Second 'Law' as a legitimate objection to this research, and I have yet to see a single article/blog entry written by a DM-fan anathematising this work. But, what price the UO if it is so easily by-passed/abrogated by reactionary scientists like these?

 

To be sure, modern medicine is quite remarkable; a few snips of the surgeon's scissors and Bob's your aunty. And yet -- but this should hardly need pointing out -- males do not change into females (nor vice versa) of their own accord, which is what the DM-classics tell us must happen with all such opposites.

 

Moreover, while it is true that cats are able to reproduce because of well known goings-on between the male and the female of the species, cats themselves do not change because of the relationship between the opposite sexes of the cat family. If they did, then a lone cat on a desert island would surely be capable of living forever (or, at least, of not changing). In that case, as long as this eternal (and miserably celibate) moggie kept clear of members of the opposite sex, it would be able to look forward to becoming a sort of feline Super-Methuselah.

 

But, what are we to say of those organisms that do not reproduce sexually. And worse, what are we to make of, say, hermaphrodites? Are the latter an expression of some sort of cosmic/bourgeois plot against DM? Even worse, what about Pseudohermaphroditism?

 

And what should we conclude about things like broom handles and copies of Trotsky's IDM? Do they change because of the tension created by their own inner/outer or 'logical' opposites? But, what could they possibly be? Is the opposite of IDM, Mein Kampf or Stalin's Problems of Leninism? Could it even be these Essays?

 

In view of the fact that the Dialectical Gospels tell us that such opposites "turn into one another", does this mean that IDM will change into one of my Essays? Well, perhaps TAR will, since my work was originally aimed specifically in opposition to that book. In which case, had this work not been undertaken, would TAR and IDM have been eternally changeless books?

 

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

 

In that case, the above passage from RIRE does little to help resolve this problem.

 

On the other hand, if cats don't change as a result of the machinations of their external or 'logical' opposites, but because of their 'internal contradictions', then factors internal to cats must surely be responsible for their development (if, as noted above, we interpret "internal" spatially -- since we seem to have got nowhere interpreting it 'logically'). Should we now look inside cats for these illusive opposites? If so, do these opposites appear at the level of that animal's internal organs? But what is the opposite of, say, a cat's liver? Does it have one? If not, is it an everlasting liver? On the other hand, if it does, will a cat's liver one day turn into a cat's 'non-liver' (a fossil trilobite, say, or the Dog Star, maybe)?

 

In order to discover what the 'internal contradictions' are in this case, perhaps we should delve even deeper into the inner workings of these awkward, feline aspects of 'Being'?

 

If cats' livers have no opposites, then perhaps their liver cells do? But once more, what is the opposite of a cat's liver cell? A kidney cell? A blood cell? (An onion cell?)

 

As we ferret deeper into the nether regions of feline inner space, perhaps these elusive opposites will appear at the molecular or atomic level? Some dialecticians seem to think so -- but they have only been able to pull this dodge by ignoring their own claims that all of nature works in pairs. [In that case, we have yet to be told what, say, the River Amazon is twinned with, let alone what the Oort Cloud's dialectical alter ego -- its "other" -- could possibly be.]

 

Nevertheless, it could be argued that 'internal opposites' actually involve the relations that exist between sub-atomic or inter-atomic forces and processes at work inside lumps of iron, cats, and much else besides.12

 

But, if each thing (and not just each part of a thing), and each system/process in the Totality, is a UO (as we have been assured they are by the above DM-luminaries), then cats and iron bars (and not just electrons, π-mesons (Pions) and positrons, etc.) must have their own internal and/or external opposites -- that is, if they are to change.

 

So, for a cat to become a 'non-cat' -- which is, presumably, the 'internal' or 'external' opposite it is supposed to turn into --, it must be in dialectical tension with that opposite in the here-and-now, if the latter is to help cause it to change. [We saw this in an abstract form earlier.] If not, then we can only wonder what dialecticians imagine the forces are (and from whence they originate) that cause cats, or lumps of iron, to change into whatever their opposites are imagined to be.

 

And even if molecular, inter-atomic or sub-atomic forces actually power the development of cats, cats in general will still have to change because of their paired macro-level opposites (whose identities still remain a mystery). It isn't as if each cat is struggling against all the protons, electrons and quarks there are beneath its fur. Nor are we to suppose that cats are constantly conflicting with their internal organs, fur or whiskers. If they were, then according to DM-lore quoted here, cats would have to turn into their internal organs, fur or whiskers, and the latter would have to turn into cats!

 

And even if sub-atomic particles were locked in a sort of quantum wrestling match with one another, the changes they induced in the average 'dialectical moggie' must find expression in macro-phenomena at some point, or cats would not alter at all. But what on earth could those macro-phenomena be?

 

Furthermore, if change is to be located ultimately at the quantum level, then what are all those sub-atomic particles changing into? Many are highly stable. But, even supposing they weren't, and if the DM-classics are to be believed, whatever they change into must exist right now if it is to cause them to change into it. And yet, if these opposites already exist, the original particles can't change into them. The very best that could happen here is that these 'opposite particles' must replace the originals (which then magically disappear!).

 

But, that is where we came in...

 

In which case, given this view of nature, things do not actually change, they just vanish, and other (seemingly identical) things take their place -- and they do so undialectically, too, since their opposites will have simply vanished. But, with no more 'opposites' to motivate them, they plainly can't be subject to further change.

 

 

Suicidal Cats

 

Moreover, if the forces that cause cats to change are solely internal to cats, then as far as the mutability of such mammals is concerned, they must be hermetically sealed-off from the rest of nature (as must everything else -– this dire dialectical difficulty is examined in more detail in Essay Eight Part One, and Essay Eleven Parts One and Two), otherwise change would not be internal to cats.

 

If, on the other hand, the causes of feline change are external to cats, then 'internal contradictions' can't be responsible for changing them into 'non-cats', and we are back where we started.

 

Furthermore, if we now ignore this 'either-or', and claim that cats change because of 'internal' and 'external' contradictions, then we would be faced with the prospect of cats changing into their internal and external opposites, if the Dialectical Prophets are to be believed. But, and once more, if these opposites already exist (which they must do if they are to help bring about such changes), then cats can't change into them!

 

The same difficulties apply to sub-atomic particles: if the forces that cause change are solely internal to such particles, then as far as their mutability is concerned, they must be hermetically sealed-off from the outside world, otherwise change would not be internal to these particles. If, on the other hand, the causes of particulate change are external, then 'internal contradictions' can't be responsible for changing them into a 'non-whatever'.

 

Alternatively, once more, if the opposites of such particles cause them to change into such opposites, then they needn't bother changing, for those opposites already exist. On the other hand, if those opposites do not already exist, what could possibly cause these changes?

 

In the macro-world, the idea that change is the result of 'internal contradictions' would seem to mean that when, say, a cat gets run over, that cat actually self-destructs, and the car that hit it had nothing to do with flattening it. One might well wonder then why nature produced such suicidal beasts. [Is this perhaps an example of natural de-selection?]

 

This seems to be the implication of the sort of things dialecticians say:

 

"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing…. 

 

"The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Bold emphases added. There are plenty more quotations of the same sort listed here.]

 

Of course, it could be argued (along Leibnizian lines) that had the cat been internally strong enough it would have survived its unequal tussle with the car. So, the real cause of this cat's changed shape is in fact to be found inside that cat. [This argument is outlined here.] As we will see in Essay Eight Part One, some DM-theorists do indeed argue along similar lines.

 

There is something to be said for this argument, but fortunately not much. Whatever it is that causes a cat to alter when run over is clearly not whatever it is that maintains that cat's anatomical integrity from day to day. Something must have upset this regime in order to transform this cat's shape; cats do not spontaneously flatten themselves. Few of us would be happy to be told by a Leibnizian drunk driver that it isn't his fault that the family pet is spread half-way across the road because the cat itself is the cause of its radically altered anatomy. In such cases, we clearly have an example of interacting causes for the demise of that cat, none of which can be put down solely to events internal to that unfortunate animal. Of course, dialecticians do not deny this, but as Essay Eight Part One will show, their 'theory' can't account for such complexities.

 

Someone could object that dialectics can account for such catastrophic reconfigurations of cats. A combination of internal and external forces is the cause of their new geometry. But, not even that will work, for if a cat is to change into a flat cat, then according to the DM-worthies quoted here (where we are told that all objects and processes "inevitably" turn into their opposites because they struggle with them), such a flat cat must already exist in order to flatten the non-flat cat into a flat cat. So the driver (unless we are desperate enough to describe her/him as a "flat cat", on the basis that he/she is the obvious cause of the flattened cat in question), given this new turn of events, didn't flatten the cat, the non-existent flat cat did that!

 

[Or, of course, if we are even more desperate to find a cause, some cause, any cause, to rescue this theory, we could suppose there are ethereal flat cats (in a nether world somewhere) working evil on their less pancake-like counterparts this side of the veil -- and just in time, too, for lorries to run them over. Is this too stupid an explanation to contemplate? Well DM-theorists already postulate the existence of all manner of weird and wonderful 'abstractions' -- which are nowhere to be found in the material world -- to account for events and processes in nature. So, perhaps this is an 'abstract' flat cat? (In fact, those who already "understand dialectics" should be able to get their heads around this conundrum with ease.)]

 

Furthermore, if we opt for that earlier get-out clause and describe the driver as a "flat cat", so that at least we would have a dialectical sort of cause that reconfigured such cats, then that driver (this 'flat cat') must likewise turn into her/his opposite, too, if the Dialectical Gospels are to be believed. Alarmingly, this opposite must either become a non-driver or a flat cat! So, in this Hermetic pile-up both driver and cat become flat cats! And the non-flat cat that the car hit must become a car driver!

 

A nice coincidence of opposites!

 

Despite this, and whatever their commitment to this 'Law' finally amounts to, one supposes(!) that no dialectician still in command of her/his senses would excuse, say, a policeman for inflicting on her/him actual bodily harm on the basis that Leibnizian nature unwisely failed to incorporate into the heads of militants the ability to withstand Billy Clubs.

 

Once again, dialectics would be disproved in practice; gashed heads on picket lines are not produced by "self-development".

 

Alternatively, if the causes of feline (or cranial!) mutability are both internal and external, then change can't be the sole result of 'internal contradictions', and things would not in fact be "self-developing", as Lenin maintained.

 

Alas, as we have seen, there doesn't appear to be any way we can squeeze into this picture an 'opposite' that non-flat cats turn into so that that 'opposite' can help produce the required flattening in the said feline.

 

So, even while unfortunate moggies sometimes turn into pancake-like non-cats in traffic accidents, the opposite that they 'develop' into can't have been part of the UO that ironed them into that novel shape.

 

In which case, it remains a mystery what the 'opposite' of a cat is (i.e., what a cat must turn into), which is part of the UO that brings about such topological re-configurations --, if the DM-worthies are to be believed. Is there a third causal item here (as we supposed above), yet to be discovered either by Zoologists, forensic scientists, time travellers, or cat psychics -- over and above the non-flat cat and the flat cat -- which is part of such all too common feline tragedies?

 

 

Not Just Bad News For Cats

 

The flat cat catastrophe isn't a problem confined to furry mammals; it re-surfaces and applies in a different guise with respect to several structures and processes in 'Materialist Dialectics', too.

 

For example: if (1) all things change into their dialectically-paired opposites, and (2) change is caused by the 'dialectical tension' between these opposites, and if (3) Capitalism is to change into Socialism, then Socialism must now exist somewhere for that to happen!

 

As far as revolutionaries are concerned, that observation alone means that not only is DM of no use to them, it is worse than useless.

 

But, is there any truth to this latest allegation?

 

In order to see that there is indeed more than enough truth in the above accusations it might be a good idea to examine the connection between the Capitalist Relations of Production [CRAP], and Socialist Relations of Production [SORP] --, but, more pointedly, the link between Forces and Relations of Production [FP and RP, respectively], where it is patently obvious that neither of these change into the other (their 'other', their 'opposite').

For the purposes of argument, let us assume that SORP doesn't actually exist anywhere on earth right now. However, given the above DM-theses, if CRAP is to change into SORP, SORP must already exist in the here-and-now for CRAP to change into it, by struggling with it!

But, if SORP already exists, it can't have come from CRAP (its 'opposite') since CRAP can only change because of the action of its own opposite (namely -- SORP!) -- unless SORP exists before it exists!
 

The same comments apply to "potential SORP" (or even to some sort of "tendency to produce SORP", be this a 'sublated' tendency, or indeed an actuality -- it matters not).

 

In order to see this, let us call "potential SORP", "PSORP", and a 'sublated' "tendency to produce SORP", "TSORP".

 

According to the DM-classics, if PSORP is to change into SORP, it has to (1) struggle with its opposite, and (2) change into that opposite. So, PSORP has to both struggle with and change into SORP. But, that means that SORP must already exist, otherwise PSORP will have nothing with which it can struggle. And, if that is so, PSORP can't change into it!

 

The same comments apply to any potential or tendency in CRAP to produce SORP. So, if we call the tendency in CRAP to produce SORP, "TSORP", from earlier, and if TSORP is to change into SORP, SORP must already exist, otherwise no struggle can take place between them.

 

But, let us suppose there is a tendency in Capitalism to produce SORP (howsoever this is understood), and a tendency to oppose its production. Let us call each of these "TCRAP" and "TCRAP*", respectively.

 

Once again, if these are 'dialectical opposites' (and always assuming they aren't the only changeless things/processes in the entire universe), they can only change by struggling with one another, thus changing into one another -- if the DM-classics are to be believed.

 

However, they can't change into one another since each of them already exists!

 

[Anyway, are we really supposed to believe that the tendencies (in capitalism) to produce socialism, as well as those tendencies that oppose it, must change into one another -- for example, that, say, the working class must change into the Capitalist Police/Courts (etc.), and Capitalist Police/Courts (etc.) must change into the working class?]

 

So, the same non-dialectical brick wall blocks our path, once again.

 

Let us now assume that it is TCRAP that changes CRAP into SORP. But, if that is so, TCRAP must struggle with and change into CRAP, not SORP! That is because the DM-worthies tell us that everything in the entire universe changes into that with which it struggles.

 

In that case, SORP must have popped into existence from nowhere --, or it must have always existed --, if DM is correct.

 

Once more, this isn't to deny change, nor is it to suggest that the present author doesn't want to see the back of CRAP and the establishment of SORP; but if DM were correct, this will not only never happen, it can't happen.

 

To be sure, in the real world very material workers struggle against equally material Capitalists, but neither of these turn into one another, and they can't help change CRAP into SORP, since neither of these is the opposite of CRAP or SORP, nor vice versa, either.

 

[On the 'contradictions' Marx which speaks about in Das Kapital, see here. On 'real material contradictions', see here.]

 

 

Plastic 'Laws'?

 

If it is further complained that in many of the above examples human intervention has to be taken in to account, for it is human labour that changes many of the processes that already occur, or which might occur naturally, into the artificial products mentioned earlier. Because of this, different principles apply since our activity will have interfered with the normal operation of the natural opposites of things like iron ore.

 

But, aren't we part of nature?

 

Putting this awkward reminder to one side for now, what about those substances that didn't exist (so far as we know) before human beings made them?

 

Is plastic, for instance, governed by dialectical 'Law'? What then is the natural/"unique" 'opposite' of polyethylene? Is that 'opposite', whatever it is, the same 'opposite' of Polypropylene, polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polymethylpentene (TPX)?

 

Has humanity made things that are both above and beyond the dialectical 'Law'?

 

Again, if each of these plastics does indeed have a "unique" opposite (which they must have, or they couldn't change -- if the DM-classics are to be believed), how is it that human labour was able to make/bring into existence each of these opposites at the same time as making a new plastic? Or, was this done by default, as it were? Do these "unique" opposites pop into existence in some sort of metaphysical antechamber the moment we invent/manufacture each of these plastics? If not, how are they going to change if there are no opposites with which they can then begin their struggle?

 

[Incidentally, it is no use appealing to the inter-atomic and/or sub-atomic forces here as the causes of change in the above substances, since that would leave the unique "other" of, say, PVC out of the picture. And, as we have seen it must have a unique "other" if it is to change -- according to the DM-classics. Anyway, do these inter-atomic and/or sub-atomic forces change into one another? If so, a Nobel Prize awaits the first DM-fan to publish on this.]

 

Furthermore, if human labour is able to turn plastics into all manner of things (such as bottles, bags, food containers, guttering, drainpipes, insulation, toys, car parts, pens, keyboards, DVDs, cell phone casings, chess pieces, etc., etc.), do they not therefore have countless artificial (or is it natural?) 'opposites' themselves -- namely the things we turn them into? [I.e., do they have as many 'opposites' as the things we can change these plastics into?] And, were all these artificial 'opposites' created the moment the original substances were manufactured? All of them? But, they must have been, since, according to the dialectical classics, every object in the universe has a unique 'opposite' (its "other"), and sooner or later turns into that 'opposite' -- and they do this by struggling with that 'opposite'. Or, this happens because we struggle with these 'opposites'. So, has anyone in human history struggled with the plastic bag they hoped to manufacture, before they made it?

 

On the other hand, and once again, if these 'opposites' only popped into existence when the above plastics are changed into them (meaning that human labour can't have created these 'opposites' in the act of making the original plastic substance), how is it possible for those non-existent 'opposites' to 'contradict' the existent unchanged plastic so that the plastic could be changed into them?

 

But worse, if the 'opposite' of, say, PVC causes it to change, how does human labour feature anywhere in this transformation? What is the point of building factories and studying polymer chemistry if (according to the DM-classics) the 'opposite' of PVC is what changes lumps of PVC into plastic buckets, or storage containers, all by itself? When human beings work on PVC to change it into all of the many things that they can and do change it into (using complex techniques and expensive machinery), are they merely onlookers -- not part of the action, as it were --, just viewing things that would have happened anyway, naturally?

 

Or, have the capitalists discovered a way of by-passing dialectical 'Law'? Are all polymer scientists therefore reactionaries?

 

But, if human labour [HL] can change such things into their 'opposites', then that must mean that HL is the unique 'opposite' of, say, PVC, otherwise it couldn't change it into anything (according to the DM-worthies). In that case, HL must change into PVC -- and vice versa!

 

We are also told that exchange value [EV] is "congealed labour time" [LT]. This is, of course, a serious problem, since use value [UV] is supposed to 'contradict' EV -- but, UV and EV do not seem to "struggle" much either. But, according to the Dialectical Gospels, UV must both struggle with and change into EV. Has anyone ever witnessed this 'abstract wrestling match'? Here is Scott Meikle (who might have):

 

"All the contradictions of capitalist commodity-production have at their heart the contradiction between use-value and exchange-value. Marx reveals this contradiction to lie at the heart of the commodity-form as such, even in its simplest and most primitive form....

 

"The simple form of value itself contains the polar opposition between, and the union of, use-value and exchange-value.... [Marx writes that] 'the relative form of value and the equivalent form are two inseparable moments, which belong to and mutually condition each other...but at the same time they are mutually exclusive and opposed extremes.' Concerning the first he observes that the value of linen can't be expressed in linen; 20 yards of linen = 20 yards of linen is not an expression of value. 'The value of linen can therefore only be expressed relatively, that is in another commodity. The relative form of the value of the linen therefore presupposes that some other commodity confronts it in the equivalent form.' Concerning the second: 'on the other hand, this other commodity which figures as the equivalent, can't simultaneously be in the relative form of value.... The same commodity can't, therefore, simultaneously appear in both forms in the same expression of value. These forms rather exclude each other as polar opposites.'

 

"This polar opposition within the simple form is an 'internal opposition' which as yet remains hidden within the individual commodity in its simple form: 'The internal opposition between use-value and exchange-value, hidden within the commodity, is therefore represented on the surface by an external opposition,' that is the relation between two commodities such that one (the equivalent form) counts only as a use-value, while the other (the relative form) counts only as an exchange-value. 'Hence, the simple form of value of the commodity is the simple form of the opposition between use-value and value which is contained in the commodity.'" [Meikle (1979), pp.16-17. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

Despite this, how does Meikle tackle the problem of change? Indeed, how does he introduce opposition?

 

"The poles of an opposition are not just united. They also repel one another. They are brought together in a unity, but within that unity they are in tension. The real historical existence of the product of labour in the commodity-form provides an analogue of the centripetal force that contains the centrifugal forces of the mutual repulsion of use-value and exchange-value within it." [Ibid., p.26.]

 

Well, the first point is that opposition here is simply asserted, it isn't derived logically or conceptually. In which case, this is just another brute fact and not the least bit necessary, as we had been led to believe. [I have elaborated this argument in considerable detail in Essay Eight Part Two.]

 

However, there are so many metaphors in the above passage it isn't easy to make much sense of it. Anyway, it is reasonably clear that Meikle has reified the products of social relations (UV and EV) and in this reified state they have become the actual agents, with human beings (or, perhaps, commodities themselves) the patients. How else are we to understand the word "repel" here? Do they actually repel each other (like magnets, or electrical charges)? Or, do we do this because of the way we manufacture use values and then exchange them?

 

And, do these "opposites" show any sign of turning into one another, as the DM-classicists assured us they must?

 

Furthermore, how can the forms that underpin UV and EV (i.e., the equivalent and relative form) provide an analogue of the forces Meikle mentions? If forces are to act on other forces, or on other bodies, they need to fulfil a handful of crucial conditions first -- the most important of which is that they should at least have the decency to exist. But, these two forms can't co-exist. This is what Marx had to say:

 

"The relative form and the equivalent form are two intimately connected, mutually dependent and inseparable elements of the expression of value; but, at the same time, are mutually exclusive, antagonistic extremes -- i.e., poles of the same expression. They are allotted respectively to the two different commodities brought into relation by that expression. It is not possible to express the value of linen in linen. 20 yards of linen = 20 yards of linen is no expression of value. On the contrary, such an equation merely says that 20 yards of linen are nothing else than 20 yards of linen, a definite quantity of the use value linen. The value of the linen can therefore be expressed only relatively -- i.e., in some other commodity. The relative form of the value of the linen presupposes, therefore, the presence of some other commodity -- here the coat -- under the form of an equivalent. On the other hand, the commodity that figures as the equivalent cannot at the same time assume the relative form. That second commodity is not the one whose value is expressed. Its function is merely to serve as the material in which the value of the first commodity is expressed.

"No doubt, the expression 20 yards of linen = 1 coat, or 20 yards of linen are worth 1 coat, implies the opposite relation. 1 coat = 20 yards of linen, or 1 coat is worth 20 yards of linen. But, in that case, I must reverse the equation, in order to express the value of the coat relatively; and, so soon as I do that the linen becomes the equivalent instead of the coat. A single commodity cannot, therefore, simultaneously assume, in the same expression of value, both forms. The very polarity of these forms makes them mutually exclusive." [Marx (1996), pp.58-59. Bold emphases added.]


"We saw in a former chapter that the exchange of commodities implies contradictory and mutually exclusive conditions. The differentiation of commodities into commodities and money does not sweep away these inconsistencies, but develops a modus vivendi, a form in which they can exist side by side. This is generally the way in which real contradictions are reconciled. For instance, it is a contradiction to depict one body as constantly falling towards another, and as, at the same time, constantly flying away from it. The ellipse is a form of motion which, while allowing this contradiction to go on, at the same time reconciles it." [Ibid., p.113. Bold emphasis added.]
 

If these items "mutually exclude" one another, how can they both exist at the same time? On the other hand, if they both do co-exist, so that they can indeed 'contradict' one another, how can one of them "exclude" the other? [Again, I have said much more about this in Essay Eight Part Two.]

 

Other than conceptually, how then can they repel -- or provide the wherewithal for other objects and processes to repel -- anything?

 

This is, of course, the unyielding rock upon which we have seen all such Idealist speculations founder.

 

It could be argued that these 'repulsions' occur in our thought about the simple commodity form. But, even there, they can't co-exist, for if they could, they wouldn't 'mutually exclude' one another! On the other hand, if they do genuinely "exclude" one another, we can't even think of them acting on one another, for if we were to so think, we must, of necessity, misconceive them.

 

Or, are we supposed to imagine there is some sort of wrestling match taking place in our heads, such that, when we think of the one it elbows out of the way (out of existence?) the other? Perhaps then, depending on circumstances, we could declare equivalent form the winner over relative form by two falls to a submission (UK rules)?

 

 

 

Figure Six: Equivalent Form Slam Dunks Relative Form In A Skull Near You

 

It could be objected that the fact that something is a relative form excludes it from being an equivalent form. This is where the opposition arises; the one is the opposite of the other.

 

But, "opposite" isn't the same as "oppositional", as I have shown here.

 

Of course, in Marxist economics we have (1) Labour Power [LP] and )2) Capital [C] cycles, and the like, but does LP really "struggle" against C? Not obviously so, it would seem. As we have already noted, very material workers most certainly struggle against their equally material bosses, but how is it possible for LP to struggle against C?

 

Someone might object that this misrepresents DM; it is the inherent dialectical contradiction between capital and labour (or that between the relevant classes) that foments struggle.

 

Perhaps so, but until we are told what a 'dialectical contradiction' is, that response itself is devoid of sense (since it contains a meaningless phrase: "dialectical contradiction"). [More on that in Essay Eight Parts One, Two and Three.]

 

Once more, this isn't to deny change, merely to underline the fact that DM can't account for it.

 

 

Lenin Maxes Out

 

Furthermore, is it really the case that everything turns into its 'opposite', and is made to do so by "struggling" with its "opposite", its "other", as Hegel, Engels, Lenin, Mao and Plekhanov said? To be sure, certain states of matter do change into what might conventionally be called their "opposites" (e.g., a hot object might change and become cold; something above might later be below, and so on -- but even here, these opposites do not cause these changes!), but this is certainly not true of everything. Do men, for instance, turn into women, fathers into sons, brothers into sisters, left- into a right-hands, the working class into the capitalist class, forces of production into relations of production, use values into exchange values, negative numbers/electrical charges into positive numbers/electrical charges, electrons into protons, and matter into 'anti-matter'? If not, what is the point of saying that everything changes into its opposite? And why claim that objects and processes have internal or external opposites if in most cases they feature nowhere in the action --, or, again, if many things do not turn into them?12a

 

Furthermore, if Lenin were correct when he said that "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [changes] into every other…", it would mean that everything (and every property) must change into every other property!

 

But, if that were so, heat, for example, would change into, say, colour, hardness and generosity (and much else besides); liquidity would transform itself into brittleness, circularity and inquisitiveness (and much else besides); gentleness would turn into speed, opacity and bitterness (and much else besides); triangularity would develop into arrogance, honesty and duplicity (and much else besides), and so on.

 

Is there a single person on the planet not suffering from dialectics who believes any of this?

 

Once again, if these bizarre changes aren't the case (as they plainly are not!), and if such things are not implied by these terminally vague 'Laws' or by what Lenin said, what is the point of him asserting that this is precisely what everything does?

 

Of course, it could be pointed out that these comments were recorded in notebooks, so we shouldn't interpret them too literally, or regard them as expressing Lenin's more considered beliefs. But, has a single dialectician ever pointed this out about this comment when they have quoted it? Hardly. Anyway, as we have seen, since Hegel's unique 'other' requirement is unsustainable, this is indeed a consequence of the Second 'Law'.

 

That was the point of the observation made earlier about dialecticians vacillating between the idea that UOs cause change and the belief that objects and processes change into their opposites -- sometimes veering toward the doctrine that change produces these opposites. The first of these alternatives is examined in Essay Eight Part One, but if the second alternative were the case, we would surely witness some bizarre transformations in nature and society as men changed into women, cats into dogs, banks into charities and the Capitalist Class into the Working Class -- and then back again!

 

However, as has been argued in detail above, if change merely creates these opposites then, plainly, that outcome can't have been the result of a "struggle" between two co-existing opposites -- clearly not, since at least one of them would not yet exist! Hence, with respect to objects in the latter category, change would create them, not them it.

 

This completely scuppers the DM-account of change for it is now clear that there is nothing in the DM-scheme-of-things that could cause the many and varied changes we see in nature and society.

 

In which case, and once again: if and when change occurs, dialectics -- the much vaunted theory of change -- can't explain it.

 

Indeed, if DM were true, change would be impossible.

 

 

Single-celled Reactionaries?

 

However, turning to specifics, Engels claimed that:

 

"…life consists precisely and primarily in this -- that a living thing is at each moment itself and yet something else. Life is therefore also a contradiction which is present in things and processes themselves, and which constantly asserts and resolves itself; and as soon as the contradiction ceases, life, too, comes to and end, and death steps in." [Engels (1976), p.153.]

 

But, what is the 'contradiction' supposed to be here? Is it: (1) Living cells contain dead matter; (2) Life is a constant struggle to avoid death; (3) Life can only sustain itself by a constant struggle with dead matter; or does this in fact relate to (4) The contrast and/or conflict that is supposed to exist between these two processes -- life and death --, which conflict constitutes the dynamism we see in living things? And, what on earth is the (5) "Something else" that each living thing is supposed to be, or to become, according to Engels?

 

As far as (1) is concerned, the contrast between living and dead matter seems to depend on the obsolete idea that there is an intrinsic difference between living and non-living molecules -- that there is a 'life force' at work in nature. While it is unclear whether or not Engels believed this (in fact, in several places he seems to reject this idea --, e.g., Engels (1954), p.282), it is reasonably clear that subsequent dialecticians don't accept it. So, it seems reasonable to conclude that this can't be what underlies the 'contradiction' in this case.

 

With respect to (2): while it is undeniable that most living things constantly strive to stay alive, it is still unclear what the alleged UO is supposed to be here. If a living cell is a UO, and the scene of a bitter struggle between life and death -- in the sense that each cell contains within itself both life and death, slugging it out, as it were --, what physical form do these mysterious processes/beings take? It isn't as if we could easily identify either or both -- as we can with, say, magnetic or electrical phenomena. There, the presence of apparently opposite poles and/or charges is specifiable and measurable. Here (with respect to life), there do not seem to be any easily identifiable opposing forces. [Anabolic and catabolic processes will be considered presently.]

 

And yet, if dialecticians are correct, and everything is indeed a UO, each living cell should (it seems) contain death within itself (as an 'internal opposite'), and not just have it confronting it externally. But, what material form does 'death' take? Are we to imagine that a black, shrouded figure, sickle in hand, inhabits every living cell?

 

 

Figure Seven: The Two Main Protagonists In Each Dialectical Cell?

 

If not, how is 'death' to be conceived of in this case? Indeed, what form does 'life' itself take? Is it perhaps an incarnation of the Archangel Gabriel? Or, maybe Louis Pasteur?

 

On the other hand, if this particular UO is a set of opposing processes (or, indeed, if it is to be regarded as a special type of interaction between certain sorts of forces), as options (3) and (4) seem to suggest (picturing living systems constantly battling against disintegration, the latter perhaps manifested in catabolic reactions), then we are surely on firmer ground.

 

But, why would anyone want to call such a set-up a UO? What exactly are the opposites that are struggling here? It isn't as if inside each vibrant cell there is another older (or even a decaying) cell waiting to emerge, nor yet one that is fighting the embattled host cell all the time, stabbing it 'inside the back', as it were. Nor is it credible to suppose that catabolism and anabolism are locked in constant struggle with each other. Indeed, it isn't easy to see catabolism as directly 'contradictory' even to anabolism (howsoever the word "contradiction" is understood). These processes do not oppose one another by preventing the other working, or by immediately picking apart what the other has produced; they just work in different ways, often in separate parts of a cell. Nor are they 'internally-related', as they should be if they constitute a genuine 'dialectical contradiction'. [Or if they are, DM-fans have been remarkably coy about the details.]

 

They certainly do not turn into one another (as we have been led to believe they should by the dialectical classics). Nor do the outputs of one always turn into the inputs of the other. For example, the Krebs metabolic cycle produces water and carbon dioxide from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. But, no cycle in animal cells does the reverse. Sure, these products are broken down, but not in a reverse Krebs cycle.

 

So, anabolic and catabolic processes do not typically confront one another in normal cells, opposing whatever the other does. To imagine such a set-up as 'contradictory' would be about as intelligent as, say, maintaining that a group of men digging a road up somewhere was 'contradicting' ("opposing" or "struggling against") another group repairing a house a few hundred yards down the way. Or, that, say, the manufacture of aeroplanes 'contradicts' the scrapping of aluminium chairs!

 

And, even if it were accurate to describe catabolism as undoing the results of anabolism, that would still not amount to either of them 'contradicting' one another. Undoing is not 'contradicting' -- if it were, then doing would be a tautology!

 

Of course, if someone were to insist that despite the above, such processes are contradictory, they would owe the rest of us an explanation of the literal nature of the contradiction allegedly involved here. In that case, it would be pertinent to ask how either process could possibly be "gainsaying" the other.12b

 

But, even if this, too, were rejected, DM would still not be out of the non-dialectical woods. While it could be argued that in this case we do have 'opposites' that are internal to cells, we do not as yet have opposites internal to anabolic or catabolic processes themselves. So, if either of these two cause the other to change, that would clearly be another example of an externally-motivated transformation. Moreover, as noted above, anabolism would have to turn into catabolism, and vice versa -- that is, if the Dialectical Gospels are to be believed.

 

However, according to Lenin all change is internally-motivated, and everything develops of itself:

 

"Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it)…." [Lenin (1921), p.90.]

 

Anabolic processes certainly involve objects (i.e., molecules), but if they undergo development, that can't be the result of an interaction (or 'struggle') with catabolic processes (which would be an external influence, once more). On the other hand, if they alter each other (but how?), then Lenin's "demand" and "requirement" will have to be withdrawn.

 

Nevertheless, here, as elsewhere, the words dialecticians employ look decidedly figurative -- except, in this case it isn't easy to see what the trope could possibly be. And yet, if these words are figurative, that would be all to the good; it would at least allow the interpretation of the 'contradictions' referred to by this 'Law' to be viewed, say, poetically. No one minds if poets contradict themselves (e.g., Walt Whitman), or one another.

 

Even if the word "struggle" were substituted for "contradict", the situation would not change noticeably. Since literal struggles can only take place between agents, that would mean that this part of DM could work only if biochemical reactions in vivo are personified, or if they were under the control of an agent of some sort. In that case, this use of the word "struggle" would clearly be figurative, too. [More on this here, here, and here.]

 

Anyway, as pointed out above, catabolic and anabolic process do not 'struggle' with one another.

 

 

Every Confirmation Is Also A Refutation

 

However, it could be pointed out that the above considerations are highly abstract, and are thus irrelevant (although it isn't easy to see how a cat is abstract). Hence, it could be objected that DM is in fact concerned with real material contradictions confirmed in practice.13

 

But, how could such things be checked to make sure they are genuine "material contradictions"? Fortunately, John Rees explained how (but in relation to concepts drawn from HM):

 

"[O]nce we are sure that our concept of 'capital' is a true reflection of the actual existing capital –- then we can also be sure that any further categories that emerge as a result of contradictions which we find in our concepts will necessarily be matched by contradictions in the real capitalist world." [Rees (1998), p.110.]

 

However, he added the following proviso:

 

"This…is only a safe assumption on the basis of constant empirical verification…." [Ibid., p.110.]

 

The idea appears to be that any contradictions that remain (in a theory that has itself been thoroughly checked against reality at every stage) must "of necessity" be a genuine reflection of actual objects and processes in nature and society (or, in Rees's case, only in society, perhaps). This safeguard is necessary to rid 'materialist dialectics' of the Idealist 'excesses' of Hegel, as well as prevent any of its theories from being, or becoming, defective (in that defective theories are 'self-contradictory'; more on this in Essay Eleven Part One). [Rees (1998), pp.52-53, 108-18.] As Novack points out:

 

"A consistent materialism can't 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.]

 

[This demand must be distinguished from Positivism and/or Empiricism -- on that, see Note 15a.]

 

Nevertheless, as far as DM-contradictions are concerned, it isn't at all clear how this process is supposed to work -- even when it is executed exactly as intended. Presumably, on this basis, 'incorrect' contradictions will be eliminated because: (1) They are self-contradictions, or (2) They have been falsified by experience, or (3) They could not be verified (by appropriate methods).

 

But, with respect to any of the contradictions that theorists might want to retain (and thus regard as correct 'reflections' of reality), how could they be sure that future contingencies would never arise (in the shape of further evidence) that would require their elimination? [On this, see below.] In view of Lenin's declaration that all knowledge is incomplete, it seems they can't.

 

Despite this, (1) can't be right, otherwise we should have to reject Engels's analysis of motion, which pictures it as self-contradictory. Along with that would go many other 'dialectical contradictions'. [On this, see Essay Five and Essay Eleven Part One.]

 

In connection with option (2), what evidence could possibly refute a contradiction? How is it possible for a contradiction to be falsified by experience? Presumably, that would occur if propositions appertaining to experience contradicted something that was already contradictory to begin with. But, what sort of monstrosity would that be?

 

Consider again Engels's depiction of the contradictory nature of living cells:

 

"We saw above that life consists precisely and primarily in this –- that a living thing is at each moment itself and yet something else. Life is therefore also a contradiction which is present in things and processes themselves, and which constantly asserts and resolves itself; and as soon as the contradiction ceases, life, too, comes to and end, and death steps in." [Engels (1976), p.153.]

 

"Abstract identity (a = a; and negatively, a can't be simultaneously equal and unequal to a) is likewise inapplicable in organic nature. The plant, the animal, every cell is at every moment of its life identical with itself and yet becoming distinct from itself, by absorption and excretion of substances…, in short, by a sum of incessant molecular changes which make up life….

 

"Life and death. Already no physiology is held to be scientific if it does not consider death as an essential element of life (note, Hegel, Enzyklopädie, I, pp.152-53), the negation of life itself, so that life is always thought of in relation to its necessary result, death, which is always contained in it in germ. The dialectical conception of life is nothing more than this…. Living means dying." [Engels (1954), pp.214, 295.]

 

[The problems connected with Hegel's and Engels's egregious understanding of the LOI will be tackled in Essays Six, Eight Part Three and Twelve (summary here).]

 

This new batch of difficulties faced by Engels's 'theory' can be brought out by the following argument:

 

L1: Cell C1 is both alive and not alive.

 

L2: Experimental evidence shows that C1 is alive.

 

L3: Experimental evidence also shows that C1 is not alive.

 

L4: L2 falsifies L1.

 

L5: L3 falsifies L1.

 

L6: However, the conjunction of L2 and L3 verifies L1.

 

L7: Therefore, L1 has been falsified and verified.

 

[It is worth noting that this 'argument' isn't valid, and has only been reproduced here to try to make sense of what Rees and Engels could possibly have meant.]

 

From this it is quite clear that confirmation of a 'dialectical contradiction' is all of a piece with its refutation. So, it is still unclear how they can be verified by experiences and/or experiments that also refute them.

 

It could be pointed out that, in this case, DL shows its superiority over 'formal thinking' concerning the point of death, when a cell or organism is still alive, but just about to die, since it is the logic of change. And yet, this response looks rather hollow now that we know that if DL were true, change would be impossible.

 

Finally, it could be argued that observation might confirm that a cell is alive and not-alive all at once -- i.e., it could be claimed that dialectical contradictions can in fact be observed. That response will be considered below.

 

 

The Dialecticians' Dilemma

 

However, as noted above, if reality itself were contradictory, the 'falsification' of a contradiction would also amount to its automatic 'verification', and vice versa. So, it seems that option (2) above is closed-off as far as the investigation of 'dialectical contradictions' is concerned. This must mean that Rees's requirement that contradictions be tested against experience is an empty gesture, since, with respect to DM-contradictions, if reality were contradictory, it would both confirm and refute their presence. In which case, DM-theorists would have no reason whatsoever to reject a single contradiction that featured in their theory. On the other hand, they would at the same time have eminently good reason for rejecting all of them -- at least to prevent their theory from becoming defective. [More on this in Essay Eleven Part One.]

 

The quandary now facing dialecticians we might call the "Dialecticians' Dilemma" [DD]. The DD arises from the uncontroversial observation that if reality is fundamentally contradictory then a true theory should reflect this supposed state of affairs. [Why this is so is explained here.] As Engels himself pointed out:

 

"That is what comes of accepting 'consciousness', 'thought', quite naturalistically, as something given, something opposed from the outset to being, to nature. If that were so, it must seem extremely strange that consciousness and nature, thinking and being, the laws of thought and the laws of nature, should correspond so closely. But if the further question is raised what thought and consciousness really are and where they come from, it becomes apparent that they are products of the human brain and that man himself is a product of nature, which has developed in and along with its environment; hence it is self-evident that the products of the human brain, being in the last analysis also products of nature, do not contradict the rest of nature's interconnections but are in correspondence with them." [Engels (1976), p.44. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

This was quoted approvingly by Lenin:

 

"If we find that the laws of thought correspond with the laws of nature, says Engels, this becomes quite conceivable when we take into account that reason and consciousness are 'products of the human brain and that man himself is a product of nature.' Of course, 'the products of the human brain, being in the last analysis also products of nature, do not contradict the rest of nature's interconnections but are in correspondence with them'. There is no doubt that there exists a natural, objective interconnection between the phenomena of the world. Engels constantly speaks of the 'laws of nature,' of the 'necessities of nature', without considering it necessary to explain the generally known propositions of materialism." [Lenin (1972), p.179. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

However, and this is the problem, in order to reflect nature any such theory must contain contradictions itself, or it would not be an accurate reflection of nature. But, if the development of science is predicated either on the removal of contradictions from theories, or on the replacement of older theories with newer, less contradictory variants, as DM-theorists contend (on this see Essay Thirteen Part Two, when it is published), then science couldn't advance toward a 'truer' and fuller account of reality. That is because scientific theories would then reflect the world less accurately, having had all (or most) of their contradictions removed.

 

[Of course, if the advancement of science is not dependent on the removal of all or most contradictions, then scientists would face intractable difficulties of their own -- for example: How to tell a defective theory (i.e., one that is shot through with contradictions) from a non-defective theory. Fortunately, to date, scientists have not adopted either of these ill-advised dialectical tactics, and have remained stubbornly loyal to the protocols of FL.]

 

[FL = Formal Logic.]

 

Conversely, if a true theory aims to reflect more accurately the contradictions in nature (which it must do if reality is contradictory) then, in order to be consistent with such dialectical demands, scientists shouldn't attempt to remove contradictions from -- or try to resolve them in, or between -- theories. Clearly, on that score, science could not advance, since there would be no reason to replace a contradictory theory with a less contradictory one. Indeed, if DM were correct, scientific theories should become more contradictory -- not less -- as they reflected supposedly 'contradictory' reality more fully. This means, of course, that scientific theory as a whole should become more defective over time!

 

On the other hand, if science advances because of the elimination of contradictions then a fully true theory should have had all (or most) of its contradictions removed.

 

Science should then reflect (in the limit) the fact that reality contains no contradictions!

 

[It is worth noting here that critics of DM have already arrived at that unsympathetic conclusion, and they managed to do that without an ounce of dialectics to slow them down.]

 

However, according to DM, scientific theories should be replaced by those that more faithfully depict reality as fundamentally contradictory -- despite the fact that scientists will have removed every (or nearly every) contradiction in order reach that point! On the other hand, if scientists failed to remove contradictions (or, if they refused to replace an older theory with a newer, less contradictory one), so that their theories reflected the contradictory nature of reality more accurately, they would then have no good reason to reject any particular theory no matter how inconsistent it might be.

 

Whichever way this rusty old DM-banger is driven, the 'dialectical' view of scientific progress (and of 'contradictions') hits a very material brick wall in the shape of the DD every time.

 

Once more, it could be objected that dialecticians do not believe that scientific theories should have all or most of their contradictions removed if science is to advance, merely those that hold up progress.

 

However, dialecticians have so far failed to distinguish those contradictions which are the mere artefacts of a defective theory from those that supposedly reflect the 'objective' state of the world. But, how is it possible to distinguish the latter from the former in DM-terms? How is it possible to decide whether a contradiction is an accurate reflection of reality or whether it is the consequence of a faulty theory if all of reality (including scientific theory) is supposed to be contradictory?

 

An appeal to practice here would be no help, either, since that takes place in the phenomenal world, at the level of experience, which is itself riddled with DM-contradictions! In that case, it isn't easy to see how practice can help confirm (or refute) a theory if its deliverances are themselves part of the same contradictory reality on test.

 

[We saw above that, given DM, confirmation and refutation are all of a piece, anyway. And, as we will see in Essay Ten Part One, practice is no friend of dialectics, either.]

 

 

Wave-Particle Duality

 

Consider a concrete example: DM-theorists generally agree that the wave-particle duality of light confirms the thesis that nature is fundamentally contradictory/dialectical. In this case, light is supposed to be a UO of wave and particle. Precisely how they are a unity (i.e., how it could be true that matter at this level is fundamentally particulate and fundamentally non-particulate all at once) is of course left eminently obscure. Moreover, exactly how this phenomenon helps account for the material world is even less clear.

 

Even though all dialecticians refer to this 'contradiction', not one has yet explained how and why it is a contradiction, nor less how and why it is a 'dialectical contradiction' (even if we knew what these were).

 

Consider these two propositions:

 

Q1: Light is a wave.

 

Q2: Light is particulate.

 

Now, Q1 would contradict Q2 if the following were the case:

 

Q3: No wave can be particulate.

 

Q4: Light must be one or the other, wave or particle.

 

[Q4 is required or Q1 and Q2 would merely be inconsistent.]

 

But is Q3 true? Surely not, for if physicists are correct, light is both!

 

However, that would beg the question. So, independently of the latter, there are in fact plenty of examples of waves in nature that are particulate; e.g., sound waves, water waves and Mexican waves. So, Q3 is in fact false!

 

Moreover, Q4 could be false, too. Light could turn out to be something else about which we do not yet have a concept. That, of course, would make Q1 and Q2 merely inconsistent. Do 'dialectical logicians' know what to do with 'dialectical inconsistencies'?13a0

 

But, even if in some way this were a contradiction, it does nothing to explain change -- unless we are supposed to accept the idea that the fact that light is a particle changes it into a wave, and vice versa. Are we to conclude therefore that these two states/processes are 'struggling' with one another? [The DM-classics tell us they should be!] But what is the point of that? What role does this particular 'contradiction' play either in DM or in Physics? At best, it seems to be merely ornamental.

 

[One benighted DM-fan, when confronted with this objection in private correspondence, claimed that these were 'illustrative' contradictions (even though they do no dialectical work). This can only mean that dialecticians now resemble Fundamentalist Christians even more than one might otherwise have thought. Many of the latter think that, say, the three-dimensionality of space 'illustrates' the truth of the Trinity, God having left this and other clues littered across reality for us to find. [Don't believe me? Then check this out.] In a similar way, and with regard to dialectics, perhaps 'Being Itself' has sent this conundrum our way to inform DM-fans they are on the right path to Dialectical Nirvana: the 'illustrative', but useless, duality of wave and particle! But what exactly does it "illustrate"? The fact that this contradiction does no work? The fact that waves and particles of light are locked in a pointless 'struggle'?]

 

Now, if we put to one side the 'solution' to this puzzle offered by, say, Superstring Theory, there are in fact more than a handful of Physicists -- with, it seems, a more robust commitment to scientific realism than the average dialectician can muster -- who believe that this 'paradox' can be resolved within a realist picture of nature. [Evidence is presented here, and here. Also see Wick (1995).] Whether or not they are correct need not detain us since DM-theorists (if consistent) ought to advise these rather rash Scientific Realists not to bother trying to solve this riddle. That is because dialectics has already provided us with an a priori solution: since nature is fundamentally contradictory there is in fact no solution --, which paradoxical state of affairs should, of course, simply be "grasped", or "Nixoned".

 

However, in this case it is possible to see how practice can't help; if experiments are conducted, which allegedly show that light is both a particle and a wave, then DM-theorists would have no reason to question this supposedly contradictory data, nor to try to resolve this difficulty.

 

Nevertheless, anyone not committed to such an obtuse view of reality would have good reason to question it; and this might, for all anyone knows, assist in the advancement of science.

 

Not so with DM-fans, whose advice could permanently hold things up.13a

 

[However, experiments have so far merely shown that under certain conditions light is particulate, under others it is wave-like, but not both.]

 

In that case, practice alone can't distinguish between these two views (the realist and the dialectical), even though one of these will seriously hold up progress. Moreover, since we know that practically any theory can be made to conform to observation if enough adjustments are made elsewhere, this criterion is doubly defective.

 

[This allegation will be substantiated in more detail in Essay Ten, and in a later Essay on the nature of science -- Thirteen Part Two.]

 

[QM = Quantum Mechanics.]

 

Once more, in advance of any test, if they are consistent, DM-theorists should advise scientists not to bother trying to refute certain interpretations of QM, or resolve the paradox upon which it is based, since there is no point doing so in view of their a priori theory, which sees nature as fundamentally contradictory.

 

Unfortunately, if physicists took this advice, science could not advance to a superior view of nature (if one exists) by eliminating this alleged contradiction. At best, this a priori approach to knowledge would close all available options down, forcing scientists to adopt a view of reality that might not be correct -- and, given what we already know about the history of Physics, probably isn't correct.13b

 

Fortunately, there is little evidence that Physicists have taken any note of this aspect of dialectics, even if any of them have ever heard of it.

 

Now, only those who disagree with Lenin about the incomplete nature of science (or, alternatively, those who have a rather poor grasp of the History of Physics) would risk concluding that contemporary science has already attained a final and complete picture of reality, at least in this particular area. If that is so, Physics surely could only advance by resolving this alleged paradox -- eliminating one of the best examples in the DM-Grimoire, which allegedly shows that nature is fundamentally contradictory.

 

Of course, only those who wish to foist their ideas on nature would object at this point.

 

On the other hand, if DM-theorists' advice to scientists is that they should in general try to replace contradictory theories (such as this aspect of QM, as it is alleged to be) with less logically-challenged versions, then they will have to abandon the idea that nature is fundamentally contradictory -- at least here. This conclusion is all the more pressing in view of the fact that some scientists think they have already solved this problem -- David Bohm, for example, being one of the most important.14

 

But, this is just the DD once again: the dialectically-inspired belief in the 'contradictory' nature of reality, coupled with the claim that science can only advance by removing contradictions can't, it seems, distinguish between contradictions that hold up the progress of science (and which are therefore artefacts of a defective or incomplete theory) from those that reveal the essentially 'contradictory' nature of reality.

 

Although some (like Plekhanov) have acknowledged the problem, it remains unresolved to this day.

 

The various ways there might be for DM-theorists to extricate themselves from the hole they have dug for themselves will be examined in a later Essay, and shown to fail.

 

Dialecticians are therefore advised to stop digging.

 

In addition, it is unclear how option (3) above itself is supposed to work. How is it possible for anyone even to try to verify a DM-contradiction? For example, does humanity possess technology sensitive enough to observe time intervals of the order of, say, 10-100 seconds, so that Engels's claims about motion can be checked? What then about intervals of 10-1000 seconds? And yet, observation of motion would have to be made using time intervals of this order of magnitude (and far better) in order to confirm whether this phenomenon remains contradictory at this level of accuracy, at least. But, where do we stop?

 

Naturally, some might want to appeal to Planck time intervals (of the order of 5 x 10-44 seconds) to provide a natural place to halt, but this is no help at all. A single one of these Planck 'instants' is, so we are told, 1026 times shorter than the shortest time interval so far measured -- an alto-second (or 10-18 seconds). In that case, there is little prospect that these far shorter intervals will ever be measured. And since Planck intervals are theoretical entities, the chances are that this limit too will be revised away one day (in line no doubt with Lenin's claim that knowledge is never final).

 

Anyway, the answer to this particular 'difficulty' is irrelevant. That is because, no matter how brief/ephemeral the time frame involved, no measurement could conceivably test whether a moving object was in two places at once, only whether it is in two places in the same finite interval. [More on that in Essay Five.]14a

 

 

The Revenge Of The Petty-Bourgeois Cell

 

Alive, Dead, Or Both?

 

To resume the argument -- more specifically: with respect to the alleged contradiction outlined in L1, above (i.e., "Cell C1 is both alive and not alive"), how would it be possible to confirm the alleged fact that a cell was alive and dead at the same time? Certainly, just looking at cells won't help. Nor is it much use referring to the vagueness of the boundary between life and death. That is because Engels himself regarded living cells as a unity of living and dead processes (or of opposing tendencies) while such cells were still alive, and this is the alleged contradiction that needs to be confirmed.

 

Now, it is worth reminding ourselves at this point that confirmation is required to prevent this theory being branded dogmatic, a priori and thus Idealist. This is in fact a demand that DM-theorists themselves insist upon:

 

""All three are developed by Hegel in his idealist fashion as mere laws of thought: the first, in the first part of his Logic, in the Doctrine of Being; the second fills the whole of the second and by far the most important part of his Logic, the Doctrine of Essence; finally the third figures as the fundamental law for the construction of the whole system. The mistake lies in the fact that these laws are foisted on nature and history as laws of thought, and not deduced from them. This is the source of the whole forced and often outrageous treatment; the universe, willy-nilly, is made out to be arranged in accordance with a system of thought which itself is only the product of a definite stage of evolution of human thought." [Engels (1954), p.62. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

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

 

"The dialectic does not liberate the investigator from painstaking study of the facts, quite the contrary: it requires it." [Trotsky (1986), p.92. Bold emphasis added]

 

"Dialectics and materialism are the basic elements in the Marxist cognition of the world. But this does not mean at all that they can be applied to any sphere of knowledge, like an ever ready master key. Dialectics can't be imposed on facts; it has to be deduced from facts, from their nature and development…." [Trotsky (1973), p.233. Bold emphasis added]

 

"A consistent materialism can't 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]

 

"This…is only a safe assumption on the basis of constant empirical verification…." [Rees (1998), p.110.]

 

"Our party philosophy, then, has a right to lay claim to truth. For it is the only philosophy which is based on a standpoint which demands that we should always seek to understand things just as they are…without disguises and without fantasy….

 

"Marxism, therefore, seeks to base our ideas of things on nothing but the actual investigation of them, arising from and tested by experience and practice. It does not invent a 'system' as previous philosophers have done, and then try to make everything fit into it…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.14-15. Bold emphases added.]

 

"Engels emphasises that it would be entirely wrong to crudely read the dialectic into nature. The dialectic has to be discovered in nature and evolving out of nature....

 

"Of course, that does not mean we should impose some a priori dialectical construct upon nature. The dialectic, as Engels explains time and again, has to be painstakingly discovered in nature....

 

"Engels did not make the laws of nature dialectical. He tried, on the contrary, to draw out the most general dialectical laws from nature. Not force artificial, preconceived, inappropriate notions onto nature." [Jack Conrad, Weekly Worker, 30/08/07. Bold emphases added.]

 

Once more: how is it possible to confirm that cells are indeed as dialecticians say they are?

 

Perhaps a digression into a consideration of the nature and application of vague predicates (such as "...is alive", or "...is dead") would be useful here --, at least, so far as this alleged 'contradiction' is concerned?

 

However, such a detour is unlikely to help. That can be seen from a consideration of another less fraught but equally vague distinction: the imprecise boundary between night and day. In relation to this transition, few DM-theorists would want to argue (it is to be hoped!) that daylight is itself a contradictory combination of night and day at any specific point on earth not near the boundary of the Sun's westward moving shadow. Hence, at mid-day in high summer on the Tropic of Cancer in blazing sunlight, say, only a complete fool would want to argue that because the boundary between night and day is vague, and because day eventually turns into night, bright daylight is a contradictory combination of night and day (or of darkness and light). And even if it were possible to find a few maverick, hard-core DM-fans who were prepared to argue along these lines, even fewer would agree with them -- except they might both agree and disagree, just to wind them up.

 

Less supercilious critics would ask these mad dog dialecticians for the empirical evidence that backs up the odd idea that light itself (in the form of bright mid-day tropical sunshine) is a UO of light and darkness (or, perhaps of night and day) 'dialectically' slugging it out. Indeed, they might also want to know what work this idea could possibly do in DM, even if it were correct. Are we to suppose that light 'struggles' with its opposite, darkness, at mid-day? Presumably not, since darkness is just the absence of light! Must we argue that darkness makes light change into darkness, and vice versa (which is what the DM-classicists tell us all such 'opposites' must do)? If they are prepared to argue that way, this innovative piece of Physics will no doubt force scientists to re-write their theory of light, for up to now they had recklessly assumed that light was created by the way sub-atomic particles behave, and that this was itself the result of a transformation of one form of matter/energy into another. They had certainly given no thought to the possibility that it was the result of the operation of a privation -- the lack of light -- on light itself, which made nightfall occur!

 

In the real world, the latter, of course, has more to do with the rotation of the Earth, and nothing at all to do with a battle between photons and the absence of photons.

 

In that case, it seems that this 'dialectical union' of light and dark does no work at all, even if we were foolish enough to believe in it.

 

So, there are circumstances where even potentially vague predicates have clear applications -- or they can be paraphrased so that they mimic those that do. In that case, in order to test Engels's claims about living things, we would need a way of deciding whether a certain cell was a UO while it was still unambiguously alive. That is why it was argued (above) that a digression into the applicability of vague predicates would be of no use to dialecticians. No matter how vague the predicate, it would still be impossible to verify Engels's claim that a cell was alive and dead at the same time (or that it was dialectical mix of the two, or of two such 'tendencies' (anyway, how does one confirm a tendency?)) while it was still clearly and unambiguously alive.

 

Even at the boundary between the life and death, we don't possess equipment sensitive enough to verify Engels's a priori thesis, even if we knew how to go about doing it.

 

Of course, it would always be open to a DM-supporter to point out that a living cell is constantly exchanging dead matter with its environment, or that certain parts of the cell are not actually alive while the rest of that cell is. Nevertheless, exactly how this confirms the claim that a cell is alive and dead all at once (or is a combination of such 'tendencies') is still unclear. At best, it would simply demonstrate that living things contain dead matter. It would no more show that when a cell is alive it is also dead than would an analogous claim demonstrate that people are clothed and naked at the same time (or that they possess hidden 'tendencies to dress and undress') because they all have nothing on underneath their garments, and were contradictory UOs for all that.

 

On the other hand, if anyone were foolish enough to suppose this, they would have to suppose further that one of these opposites (being naked, say) was locked in some sort of struggle with the other (being clothed) -- or the aforementioned 'tendencies' were --, which 'explains' why we put clothes on or take them off at various times in the day! In that case, if this 'theory' is to be believed, it isn't we who struggle to take our clothes off, but our nakedness that makes us do this!

 

Again, it could be objected that the issue here is in fact the following: living things are changing all the time; hence, they are a dialectical unity of living and dead matter, or of analogous processes and tendencies. Cells constantly absorb dead matter from their environment and turn it into living matter. Dialecticians certainly do not maintain that an organism (or a cell) is wholly alive and completely dead all at once, as the above comments foolishly suggest. Cells are a dialectical union of two contradictory processes, which union slowly changes the host organism, perhaps even killing it.

 

Or, so it could be argued.

 

Nevertheless, such a response will not do. This discussion is centred on the controversial idea that DM-'contradictions' can be verified or falsified in some way, not that they can be re-jigged theoretically (or 'sanitised') every time this theory encounters an objection. [That particular ploy will be addressed in a later Essay.]

 

It is worth recalling that this is required in order to silence claims that DM is just another form of a priori Idealism.

 

The introduction of yet more jargon here does not help, nor does it amount to any sort of confirmation. It does, however, increase suspicion that this is all that dialecticians are able to offer in order to 'substantiate' their theory: yet more jargonised expressions. And, if that is so, the self-imposed requirement that dialectics be confirmed (somehow) by checking it against material reality is an empty gesture.

 

It could be countered that the above quotations clearly show that dialecticians are also interested in generalisation. DM-theorists try to deduce general laws from nature, which is all that Engels has done here. Since this is what scientists also do all the time, where is the problem?

 

The nature of science and what scientist actually do will be examined in Essay Thirteen Part Two, but in advance of that it is worth directing the reader's attention to this section of Essay Eleven Part One, where this topic is dealt with in more detail.

 

However, to return to more pressing matters: how is even this generalisation (about the nature of life) to be confirmed? In view of the fact that scientists do not make generalisations and then fail to test them, how might we test Engels's claims about life and death?

 

Manifestly, it isn't possible to verify this particular DM-claim (i.e., that cells are a dialectical union of two 'contradictory' processes or tendencies). As it stands, this thesis is no less a priori than anything else to be found in DM. Certainly, no one doubts that living things absorb non-living matter from their environment, but how this verifies the claim that they are a dialectical unity of life and death remains obscure. Still less does it support the thesis that life is somehow 'contradictory', or a union of 'contradictory' processes or tendencies.

 

Clearly we need to examine this question more closely. Perhaps the intended contradiction is meant to be something like the following?

 

C1a: Cell C1 is a (dialectical) combination of living and dead matter/processes.

 

[To avoid repetition, I will omit the couplet "processes or tendencies" from now on; it can be read into my use of "processes".]

 

But, once again, in what way is a combination of living and dead matter/processes a contradiction? If it were, then surely any collection of alleged opposites would be contradictory, too. Thus, presumably, the human body would be contradictory simply because it comes equipped with a left and a right hand -– meaning, perhaps, that those who have lost a limb in an accident are not quite as contradictory as their less orthopaedically-challenged friends are. And, if a surgeon removes a kidney in an operation, should we say she has "resolved a contradiction"? Indeed, in like manner one could argue that we contradict ourselves every time we look in a mirror, turn around, walk backwards, or shake hands. Apart from sounding enigmatic, what is the point of such talk? Other than representing an appeal to yet another linguistic trick (i.e., combining a word with its alleged opposite, as in the schematic "C1 is both A and non-A", or "C1 is both A and B", where A and B are opposites), there is nothing to recommend this approach.

 

[Indeed, quite the opposite (no pun intended), as we will see in Essay Eight Parts One, Two and Three.]

 

Naturally, dialecticians might want to cling onto this odd way of describing things (and this site certainly does this, but without once explaining why such things are contradictions to begin with -- on that site, see here), but if empirical evidence is to decide on such issues (as Engels, Novack, Cornforth, TAR and RIRE (and others) maintain), a verbal artifice like this will hardly do. Otherwise why bother saying that DM requires verification to avoid being labelled "Idealist" if it can only be 'confirmed' by yet more word-juggling? If such an approach were generalised, scientists would only ever need to invent a few verbal tricks of their own, and count that as an adequate verification of any given theory or hypothesis. They could certainly save time and money, which they now unwisely waste on all those 'pointless' experiments!

 

[Some might conclude that the above emphasis on verification and confirmation proves that the present author is a "positivist" or an "empiricist". On that, see Note 15a.]

 

Once more it could be objected that this completely misses the point: left and right hands may be opposites, but they are not dialectically united opposites in change, and neither are mirror images. The parts of a cell are united in this way, as contradictory processes. But, aren't two hands in the same body connected; aren't two lungs or two kidneys?

 

Be this as it may, this would still fail to show that this 'unity' amounted to a contradiction -– nor would it demonstrate that this aspect of DM had been verified, or even that it is verifiable -- or capable of being confirmed in any way at all,-- other than, of course, by the use of yet more obscure terms-of-art wrenched from the dialecticians' phrasebook.

 

 

Follow That Molecule!

 

Anyway, the contradiction between living and dead matter only arises inside the cell; this alleged contradiction is not thought to exist between just any old aggregate of living and dead matter. For a dialectical unity to hold, the two types of matter (or forces) must enter into some sort of close proximity with one another -- an organic union, perhaps? --, and some form of "mediation" must exist between them, or they must be connected by an "internal relation" of some sort. [Unfortunately, the precise details of the DM-story here depend on who is telling it.] In that case, it would seem that dead matter must enter the cell and link up/interact with living matter, in a process of some kind -- but, alas, in an as-yet-unspecified manner.

 

However, what stops us from saying that when 'dead' matter enters the cell it becomes living matter? Clearly, in that case, there would no longer be anything for a DM-'contradiction' to latch onto, since there would only be one type of matter/process in the cell: the living sort.

 

Naturally, DM-theorists will want to challenge this move -– but they can only do so by advancing an opposite stipulation to the effect that dead matter remains dead when it enters the cell, to rebut the contrary stipulation above. This counter-stipulation would then allow DM-fans to continue claiming that the dead matter in question becomes part of a dialectical union/process with living matter when inside the cell.

 

Now, it is worth emphasising that this DM-counter-move could only ever be based on a stipulation. That is because the inspection of cellular processes -- no matter how detailed or fine-grained it might prove to be -- would fail tell us which of these two alternatives is correct. It isn't possible to see that dead matter remains dead/alive inside a cell, any more than it is possible to see when night becomes day (or confirm it in any other way that isn't itself based on yet another stipulation). To be sure, the examination of living cells reveals all sorts of activity going on -– but observation alone can't decide which aspects of this activity are living and which are not, or which ones are the 'struggling' processes DM-theorists require. This is, of course, part of the problem that scientists face trying to define life. [Are prions, for instance, alive? They are certainly active inside cells.]

 

It might be objected here that it is possible to confirm that when non-living matter enters a cell it remains in the same state for a while until it is metabolised by that cell. Hence the above contentions are wrong.

 

However, what we actually see and what we might want to say are two different things. To illustrate this, let us track, say, a single Glucose molecule, G1, as it passes across a membrane into a cell. Naturally, in order to do this we will have to assume god-like powers of vision and observation; but, ignoring that formidable obstacle for the present, we might want to say that while on the outside, G1 is non-living, and -- in view of the objection just noted -- we might also want to maintain that it is still non-living soon after it enters the cell. Once inside, G1 will naturally mingle with other molecules that form part of the metabolic processes of the cell in question.

 

For the sake of clarity, let us call the latter set of molecules, "M", all the while allowing for that set to change its content over time. But, are any of molecules belonging to M actually alive themselves? If we are to derive a contradiction here we need to be in a position to say that some are alive in order to further maintain that both living and non-living molecules co-exist, side by side as part of a 'contradictory' process P. Otherwise, there would be no way to identify both halves of the alleged 'contradiction'.

 

But, would we be able to see (or would we be able to verify in any other way) that any of the elements of M are alive, whatever we finally decide to say? In order for us to verify (as opposed to simply assuming or stipulating, again) that a 'contradiction' exists here, we would have to register an instrumental or sensory impression of some sort that confirmed that certain cellular molecules belonging to M are indeed alive at the same time that G1, its latest recruit, isn't. Or, that there are analogous processes at work in P. But, to what could we appeal, here? Unless we are to suppose that there is something special about living molecules, or processes, which makes them look alive -- or which makes the 'qualities' they exhibit detectable -- or, indeed, we assume they are controlled by a "vital force" of some sort (which could also be observed/confirmed in some way), any subsequent declaration that these molecules (or processes) are alive could only ever be based on yet another stipulation.

 

Of course, the above analysis looks rather reductionist, and no dialectician would want to argue that molecules taken singly actually contradict one another in this way -- in the sense that while one or more of them is alive, another molecule nearby isn't --, even if collections of them are still to be regarded as UOs in their own right. Although, it is also worth reminding ourselves that DM-theorists certainly talk about sub-atomic particles doing just this! Indeed, Hegel himself spoke of acids and bases as contradictory pairs (i.e., when he declared that one was the "other" of the other), and they could hardly do that if their individual molecular structures failed to do this, too.

 

Even so, dialecticians might want to add, as indeed they do, that life "emerges" at certain levels of molecular organisation, as quantity turns into quality (etc.).15 Hence, it is only at such higher levels of complexity that the contradiction arises, or becomes apparent. Naturally, that would mean the above criticisms are badly off target.

 

Or, so it could be maintained, once more.

 

However, to reiterate, this dispute arose because it was assumed that it is possible to see, verify, or confirm (in some way or other, by an appeal to something empirical) the existence of DM-'contradictions', which would justify describing them as "real, material contradictions". This is required, it was claimed, in order to stop DM sliding back into the Idealist swamp from which it had  emerged. Short of doing that, DM would be no different from Hegelian Idealism, in this respect at least.

 

In the present case, the 'contradiction' was supposed to be the following: that inside a cell living matter exists alongside matter that isn't alive, in some sort of 'dialectical' process, union or tension.

 

[I have already discussed the only other viable option: that there exist opposite forces inside living cells -- i.e., those instantiated by anabolic and catabolic processes.]

 

Difficulties then arose over ascertaining what sense could be made of the claim that there was a dialectical 'contradiction' here, as well as over the question whether this 'dialectical' link could be confirmed by observation, or by any other empirical means, as DM-theorists themselves demand of their own theory.

 

It now turns out that this particular thesis can only be verified by an appeal to yet another rather shaky DM-'Law', but not by an appeal to anything empirical. If so, it seems that the existence of DM-'contradictions' can only be confirmed by reference to Q«Q –- but not by comparison with reality --, as we had been led all along to believe.

 

[Q«Q = The Law of the Transformation of Quantity into Quality, and vice versa.]

 

As we saw earlier, Q«Q is either a conventionalised, vaguely-stated 'Law' (more accurately, it is at best a trite rule of thumb which fails more times that it works), or it is yet another example of metaphysical confusion. It certainly can't bear the weight that this latest response places upon it. But, even if it could, we still await the empirical confirmation of Engels's claims about living cells; once again, an appeal to yet more theory is no help at all:

 

"A consistent materialism can't 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.]

 

It could be objected that the above argument fails to comprehend the dialectical process underlying knowledge, the interplay between the abstract and the concrete. But, even if this 'process' were relevant, reliable or, at least, comprehensible, in what way could it help us understand how it is possible to verify or confirm this supposedly 'dialectical' process by observation, or by any other empirical means? Clearly, the above difficulties (concerning empirical confirmation) afflict dialectical processes just as much as they afflict alive/dead 'dialectical' molecules.15a

 

[DM-epistemology (including the alleged relation between the 'abstract' and the 'concrete') is examined in more detail in Essay Two, Essay Three Parts One, Two and Three, and Essay Ten Part One.]

 

Or, are we to suppose that DM-theorists can somehow non-empirically 'intuit' processes of this sort in nature and society? Must we concede that they have a special way of confirming such Supertruths in ways that us mortals do not possess -- but which 'ways' they can't actually explain to anyone else? [If so, how are they different from old-fashioned, unvarnished mystics?]

 

Inside or outside the cell, then, we seem to be unable to confirm the presence of 'contradictions' -- except stipulatively --; certainly not by observation or by experiments that are themselves observation-based (or that are free from yet more ad hoc stipulation), and which are not merely "thought experiments", themselves.

 

Incidentally, to return to an earlier difficulty, not even a god-like observer could see or confirm in any other empirical way whether certain molecules (or processes) are alive or dead -- at any level of complexity or detail -- without recourse to a prior stipulation to either effect. In that case, short of such a convention, not even an 'Ideal Observer' could verify the presence of such 'contradictions'.

 

That being so, the claim 'contradictions' exist in nature and society can't have been derived from experience (nor yet by a process of abstraction) -- it can only have been projected onto reality as just another a priori metaphysical dogma.

 

Now, even though John Rees and others repeatedly refer their readers to the necessary empirical checks that must be made in order to verify the presence of DM-'contradictions', what we actually find in their place in TAR (and in other DM-texts, such as DN, AD, DMH, FPM, PN, IDM and RIRE) are a handful of superficial, conceptual, quasi-investigations into things like motion, identity, living and/or dead matter, matter in general (which we are told is an "abstraction", anyway!), and the nature of the reality -- with little or no empirical evidence to back them up (that has not itself been slanted by yet more stipulations). [These allegations were thoroughly substantiated in Essay Two, as well as in this Essay.]

 

[DN = Dialectics of Nature; AD = Anti-Dühring; DMH = The Development Of The Monist View Of History; FPM =  Fundamental Problems Of Marxism; TAR = The Algebra of Revolution; PN = Philosophical Notebooks; IDM = In Defence of Marxism; RIRE = Reason In Revolt.]

 

All this is not the least bit surprising; no empirical verification of a contradiction is possible -- even in theory -–, as was demonstrated earlier.

 

[Graham Priest's allegations to the contrary will be examined in a later Essay. However, it is quite plain that his 'contradictions' aren't 'dialectical contradictions', to begin with, just rather confused ways of speaking. On that, see Slater (2002, 2004, 2007b, 2007c).]

 

Now, DM-theorists might sincerely believe that there is a 'contradiction' between living and dead matter, life and death (or, indeed, that there are other 'contradictions' in society and nature) -- and that there are 'dialectical' processes at work all over the place --, but until they inform us which particular set of observations or experiments (not themselves dependent on further persuasive stipulations) confirm these acts of faith, they can't consistently maintain that their ideas have been continually checked against reality, and verified by experience. In fact, they have yet to provide even so much as a vague description how the existence of a single 'contradiction' can be confirmed in nature or in society.

 

In fact, and worse: we have yet to be told what a "dialectical contradiction" actually is!

 

Of course, the above objections leave unchallenged the naive idea that DM-'contradictions' had originally been discovered empirically, or were prompted by observation, or, indeed, that they had ever been based on physical evidence of any sort. In fact, as is well known, many were simply lifted from Hegel (or from earlier Idealists). Even those that weren't borrowed in this way are based on Hegel's work (and he, too, offered little or no evidence in support of his dogmatic pronouncements) -- upside down or the 'right way up'.

 

Subsequent observations to 'verify' these 'contradictions' would be otiose, anyway -– that is, if DM-theorists ever bothered to carry out any such tests. John Rees certainly mentions none of the experiments he performed in this regard, neither do Woods and Grant -- the same can be said of Hegel, Engels, Dietzgen, Plekhanov, Lenin, Mao, Trotsky...

 

Dialecticians have not gone down in history as great experimental scientists.

 

Self-appointed Superscientists, certainly.

 

Experiments would be otiose anyway; that is because it isn't possible to see (or to experience) 'contradictions' in nature without a decision already having been made to label them this way (the latter choice itself having been based on an explicit or implicit Idealist convention borrowed from thinkers who were themselves card-carrying members of an ancient, mystical, apriorist, philosophical tradition). This helps explain why so little evidence (as opposed to repeated assertions) appears in DM-texts, and why there is none at all to substantiate the claim that 'contradictions' exist right throughout nature and society everywhere and all the time.

 

Any who doubt this should compare the average DM text (even those that sincerely try to prove there is a dialectic of nature, such as RIRE, or Gollobin (1986)) with a bona fide scientific/technical paper that has been published in any randomly chosen issue of, say, Nature. The difference between Mickey Mouse Dialectical Science and genuine science will immediately be apparent.

 

In the place of hard evidence, what we invariably find in DM-texts are the same hackneyed examples dredged up year-in year-out. These include the following hardy perennials: boiling and/or freezing water, cells that are alive and dead, grains of barley that 'negate' themselves, magnets that are UOs, Mamelukes' ambiguous fighting ability when matched against French soldiers, Mendeleyev's Table, the sentence "John is a man", homilies about parts and wholes (e.g., "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts", etc., etc.), characters from Molière who discover they have been speaking prose all their lives, laughably weak and misguided attempts to depict the principles of FL, "Yay, Yay", and "Nay, Nay", anything more than this "cometh of evil", wave/particle 'duality', 'emergent' properties popping into existence all over the place, etc., etc., etc. Even then, we are never given a scientific report on these phenomena; all we find in DM-texts are a few brief, amateurish and impressionistic sentences (or, at most, paragraphs) on each example. At its best (in, say, Woods and Grant (1995), or Gollobin (1986)), all we encounter are a few chapters of secondary or tertiary evidence, specially-selected, and heavily slanted in the favoured direction. No contrary evidence is even so much as mentioned.

 

In contrast, and in relation to, say, economics or current affairs, Marxists are keen to provide countless pages of primary and secondary data and analysis (much of it original), which they update regularly. But, when it comes to dialectics all we are presented with is watery-thin 'evidence', and even thinner reasoning. Small wonder then that to its Marxist opponents, like myself, this area of theory is regarded as risibly weak and is treated with the contempt it deserves.

 

Incidentally, Lenin let it slip that evidence is irrelevant in this regard:

 

"This aspect of dialectics (e.g. in Plekhanov) usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum-total of examples ['for example, a seed,' 'for example, primitive communism.' The same is true of Engels. But it is 'in the interests of popularisation...'] and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world)."  [Lenin (1961), p.357. Emphases in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]15a1

 

A 'Law of Cognition' follows from a priori reasoning, not from the facts.

 

Nevertheless, even though the examples of 'contradictions' referred to by dialecticians are viewed as instances of genuine DM-principles at work in nature and society, they are mistakenly identified as such. Without exception these alleged 'contradictions' turn out to be anything but contradictions; they are invariably little more than badly described, paradoxical, quirky, or oppositional situations -–, or they are just plain contraries. Even then, little or no evidence is presented to substantiate the hyper-bold extrapolations DM-theorists regularly advance from even this impoverished evidential base to all of nature for all of time. In place of convincing evidence we are offered sketchy, half-baked analyses, derived from a few superficial "thought experiments" (and even these are badly constructed) -- with some homespun Stone Age Logic thrown in for good measure. Our intelligence is then insulted with the claim that this Dialectical Mishmash is the very epitome of the scientific method!

 

[Again, these serious allegations are thoroughly substantiated in the Essays posted at this site.]

 

There thus seems to be no way of interpreting living cells as UOs other than in a poetic or figurative sense -- as a sort of throwback to the romantic era in Biology -- but otherwise of little relevance to modern science. And yet, once again, this shouldn't surprise anyone given that the ideas found in DM originated in mystical Hermetic Theology (which belief system we know for a fact had a profound influence on the aforementioned Romantics and Natürphilosophers of Hegel's day, and thus on Hegel himself). [On this see Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here).]

 

This part of dialectics, therefore, clearly depends on ancient forms of mysticism, not on modern science. It is little wonder then that it can't be confirmed in any way at all.

 

 

Dialectical Metaphor?

 

So, no literal sets of internal opposites are apparent here; this means that, at best, DM-UOs are figurative. But, are these dialectical figures of speech of much use to DM-theorists keen to parade their scientific credentials? Indeed, are they of any assistance to revolutionaries in their endeavour to understand Capitalism and how it can be overthrown?

 

Well, once again, given the fact that dialectics has dominated revolutionary thought for over a hundred and forty years, and during that time Dialectical Marxism has enjoyed legendary lack of success, the only viable response to the above questions must be negative. If practice is a test of truth, dialectics stands condemned out of its own contradictory mouth. In that case, this 'theory' is clearly of no use to revolutionaries either in their endeavour to understand Capitalism or in their desire to overthrow it.

 

Independently of the above, these aren't even good metaphors.

 

For example, as we have already seen, workers do not contain capitalists (their alleged internal 'opposites') literally or metaphorically; the same is probably true vice versa. And, even though Capitalism contains both workers and capitalists, as entire classes they do not seem to change into one another.15a2 More-or-less the same can be said of the forces and relations of production and of the alleged 'contradiction' between use and exchange value. Do factories, power lines and transport systems literally 'struggle' against mill owners, bankers, and/or bourgeois politicians? Do they even seem to do this figuratively? Does the hypothetical use value of, say, a sugar spoon 'struggle' against its monetary (or exchange) value? Does the actual use of an escalator in a shopping mall 'struggle' against…, well, what? Do any of these objects collectively or severally have the wit, brains or brawn to 'struggle' against anything at all? Does a single one turn into the other, as we were told they must?

 

[Certainly, these and other things cause capitalism to change all the time, but not by 'contradicting' anything, and for the reasons given above, in Essays Five and Eight Parts One, Two, and Three, as well as for those summarised below.]

 

This is to deny neither the irrationalities we see in Capitalism nor the horrors we witness every day, but since agent-orientated verbs like "contradict", "struggle", "oppose" (etc.) are clearly out of place in the study of inanimate matter (save we use them figuratively -- but we have just seen that these metaphors are particularly ill-suited to this particular task) and social change, these comments will strike those with a reasonably secure grasp of the vernacular as entirely uncontroversial.

 

Nor is this to claim that HM can't account for such things either; indeed it can, but it needs no help from Hermetic Mysticism to that end. In fact, the reverse is the case: dialectics only succeeds mystifying HM.

 

However, the fact that these assertions will sound controversial only to dialecticians suggests that linguistic naivety is their only defence.

 

 

Living Things Change Into...What?

 

As far as option (5) above is concerned -- the "something else" that each living thing is supposed to be, or to become, according to Engels (i.e., whatever it was he imagined living things were supposed to change into) --, no obvious candidates come to mind. Engels was perhaps appealing to the alleged fact that the LOI does not apply to living matter, and that living things are constantly changing into "what they are not" -- that is, that at any moment a living thing is "A and not A" -- "itself and something else" (etc.).

 

Indeed, here is how Thalheimer expressed this point:

 

"The most general and the most inclusive fundamental law of dialectics from which all others are deduced is the law of permeation of opposites. This law has a two-fold meaning: first, that all things, all processes, all concepts merge in the last analysis into an absolute unity, or, in other words, that there are no opposites, no differences which can't ultimately be comprehended into a unity. Second, and just as unconditionally valid, that all things are at the same time absolutely different and absolutely or unqualifiedly opposed. The law may also be referred to as the law of the polar unity of opposites. This law applies to every single thing, every phenomenon, and to the world as a whole. Viewing thought and its method alone, it can be put this way: The human mind is capable of infinite condensation of things into unities, even the sharpest contradictions and opposites, and, on the other hand, it is capable of infinite differentiation and analysis of things into opposites. The human mind can establish this unlimited unity and unlimited differentiation because this unlimited unity and differentiation is present in reality....

 

"...[I]t is more difficult with such opposites as true and false and still more difficult with the concepts of being and non-being, which are the most general of all, the most inclusive, and, at the same time the poorest in content. The average person will say: how can one unite such absolute opposites as being and non-being? Either a thing is or it is not. There can be no bridge or common ground between them. In the treatment of Heraclitus I have already shown how the concepts of being and non-being actually permeate each other in everything that changes, how they are contained in changing things at the same time and in the same way; for a thing which is developing is something and at the same time it is not that something. For example: a child which is developing into a man is a child and at the same time not a child (sic). So far as it is becoming a man it ceases to be a child. But it is not yet a man, because it has not yet developed into a man. The concept of becoming contains the concepts of being and non-being. In this concept they permeate each other...." [Thalheimer (1936), pp.161, 165-66. Bold emphases added.]

 

[Other DM-theorists say the same sort of thing.]

 

But, as we saw earlier, this can only mean that whatever livings things "are not" must already be present in or near to whatever "they are" if this combination is to count as a UO, and if all living things are to change into what they "are not".

 

In this instance, one suspects that Engels and Thalheimer have simply confused a logical principle with an empirical fact: since anything that changes must change into "what it is not" (as a mater of discursive logic, although there are exceptions even to this rule)15b -- either in whole or in part -- these two clearly thought that this general (I would say grammatical) point applies to living things (indeed, to anything) as it changes.15c

 

Now, this brings us back to the problems we noted earlier about the confused way that DM-theorists picture change -- outlined above in general, and in particular in the case of domestic cats. These hapless animals, it seems, must undergo some sort of dialectical change into what they "are not" (or they would remain the same, clearly -- as this argument goes). And this is just the verbal trick DM-theorists put to no good, having inherited more than their fair share of dubious notions from Hegel's very own shaky 'logic'.

 

However, as with other examples of metaphysical word-juggling (found throughout Traditional Philosophy), this one has a tendency to strike back, especially against those who use it unthinkingly. In this case, since living things are clearly not cars, not calculators, not mountains, not Quasars, not sewage systems, not volcanoes, not books on DM -- meaning, of course, that all of these (and more) are "what living things are not" --, Engels's formulation that living things are constantly changing into "what they are not" must imply that all living cells are constantly changing into cars, calculators, mountains, Quasars, sewage systems, volcanoes and books on DM (and much else besides). The fact that living things do not do this (to anyone's knowledge) suggests that cats do not actually change into "what they are not", or anything remotely like it. Here, material reality once again stands in the way of another dotty piece of dialectical chicanery.

 

And, it is no use complaining that this makes a mockery of Engels's claim, since his confusion of a logical principle with empirically determinable facts invites such ridicule. Moreover, dialecticians have no way of neutralising the above objection, or, rather none that leaves this piece of quirky Hegelian word-magic intact. If it is logically true that everything changes into "what it is not", and what an object "is not" is everything that it logically is not, then it must change into everything in the universe that it logically is not.

 

[As we have seen, Hegel tried to block this untoward implication of his 'logic' by appealing to a unique dialectically-united "other" with which objects and processes are pared, so that when they change, they do so in a determinate manner. But, Hegel carelessly holed his own theory below the waterline, for it was obvious to him (as it is to the rest of humanity!) that objects and processes can change in many ways -- more on that here. In that case, dialecticians can't appeal to this hypothetical "other" to neutralise the above objection.]

 

In which case, things do not change as a result of logical principles magicked into existence because of Hegel's tenuous grasp even of AFL.

 

[AFL = Aristotelian Formal Logic.]

 

On the other hand, if Engels's formulation doesn't mean this (i.e., that things do not change into what they "are not"), what then does it mean? While this saying of his might look profound, no sense can be attached to it.

 

Once again, it could be objected that this makes a nonsense of Engels's claims, not because they are confused, but because of the repeated refusal by Ms Lichtenstein to interpret him in a sympathetic way.

 

Well, quite apart from the fact that dialecticians are not known for their sympathetic reading of their opponents' writings (a quick leaf through Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism will amply confirm that accusation -- as should a five minute 'debate' with a dialectical clone on an internet discussion board), the above criticism actually takes Engels words both seriously and literally. When that is done, it is easy to see that no sense can be made of them. Anyone who still thinks otherwise is welcome to make of them what they can (or e-mail me with their best shot!).

 

[They would then, of course, be the dialectical equivalent of those individuals who still think sense can be made of the Christian Trinity.]

 

However, whatever sense can be made of Engels's enigmatic prose, if any can, it is quite clear that dialecticians have totally misconstrued the LOI. As will be argued in detail in Essays Six, and Eight Parts Two and Three, in relation to the LOI, if a living thing changes, then anything identical to it will change equally quickly. That, of course, makes identity no enemy of change.

 

With that observation alone much of DM falls apart.

 

 

A New 'Theory'?

 

But, if we absolutely must view nature metaphorically, poetically, or mystically -- as DM-theorists seem determined to do, given their acceptance of many of the Hermetic ideas they have appropriated from Hegel's work (upside down or the 'right way up') -- that would now allow space for the equally batty idea that nature is not driven by 'contradictions', it is in fact powered by 'dialectical tautologies'.

 

As a result of the present author's own incautious (but temporary, and wholly insincere) dalliance with Metaphysical Superscience/Poetry, compounded by no little word-juggling and home-spun 'logic', this observation can easily be confirmed by the way that each living thing changes:

 

(1) Every single one that we know of changes identically quickly as it itself does.

 

(2) Each and every one of them alters into something which has changed just as much as each itself has done. And,

 

(3) The "something" that each changes into is identical to the thing it has just changed into.

 

Now, since this 'thesis' is apparently tautologious -- or it is at least dialectically/poetically so (i.e., whereby we are allowed to make stuff up as we go along, or as the fancy takes us) -- it might be appropriate to call this novel word-juggled 'theory': Dialectricks.

 

Anyway, the words I have used can easily be 're-defined' on 'sound' and 'consistent' dialectical lines so that the above 'thesis' becomes "tautologious" -- of course, with "tautologious" understood in a special and permanently unexplained sort of way, rather like the way that "contradiction" has its own special and permanently unexplained DM-sort of sense. Indeed, we could insist that just as "contradict" means "conflict", "tautologious" means "harmonious", and dig our heels in DM-style, 'Nixoning' away any and all quibbles on the grounds that erstwhile critics just do not "understand" Dialectricks.

 

Once again, this (temporary and wholly insincere) a priori 'theory' of mine has the advantage of being consistent with every conceivable observation -- unlike dialectics with its dubious DM-'contradictions'. Whether things stay the same, or change (fast or slow, it matters not), they do so no faster than they themselves manage to do it, and they all change into things that are identical with whatever they have just changed into. That, naturally, makes this tautologically-poetic 'theory' of mine far more 'scientific' than DM.

 

I have absolutely no doubt that Marxism will be no less unsuccessful if we were foolish enough to adopt Dialectricks.

 

[As noted above, those still unconvinced by 'innovative logic' like this clearly do not "understand" Dialectricks, but that is probably because they suffer from too much lack of tenderness for the world.

 

Moreover, those impatient with crazy 'logic' like this should perhaps turn an equally critical eye on the same sort of lunacy found in DM all the time.]

 

 

Diabolic Logic Confronts Mathematics

 

Engels rehearsed several rather odd ideas in AD and DN, which are so questionable (or, just plain dotty) that even some of his fans find them "unhelpful".

 

For example, Helena Sheehan claims that Engels's adherence to "inappropriate Hegelian terminology" lies behind some of his less defensible musings [Cf., Sheehan (1993), p.41], even though she is highly sympathetic to his ideas in general. [Ibid., pp.25-48.] The authors of The Dialectical Biologist also reject several of Engels's ideas as "quaint". [Levins and Lewontin (1985), p.279.] Two other comrades (Paul McGarr and Philip Gasper) similarly distanced themselves from certain unspecified failings in Engels's work. [Cf., McGarr (1994), p.155 -- which labels some of Engels's examples "trite" --, and Gasper (1998), p.144 -- which says several of them aren't "very convincing".] This is even though both comrades are quite willing to accept many of Engels's other 'scientific' ideas at face value, subjecting them to very little critical scrutiny.

 

But, who is to decide which of Engels's examples (illustrating the operation of the "laws of dialectics") are "inappropriate" and "unhelpful" (to use TAR's own words; cf., p.75), and which are not?

 

[However, this article might help readers decide.]

 

To assist in the above decision, here are a few of Engels's more 'interesting' ideas for those who have made it this far to consider:

 

"[I]t is a contradiction that the root of A should be the power of A…[as it is] that a negative magnitude should be the square of anything…. The square root of minus one is therefore not only a contradiction, but even an absurd contradiction…. [Again, there is the] contradiction that in certain circumstances straight lines and curves may be identical…that lines that intersect…can nevertheless be shown to be parallel…." [Engels (1976), pp.153-54.]

 

Again, which of these is "unhelpful", "inappropriate", or just plain confused? Indeed, many of the above ideas are difficult to square with a materialist theory of any kind, let alone Engels's "dialectical", a priori version.

 

If mathematical entities like the above are contradictory (as Engels says they are), then they should change. But, which of them are changing? And what are they changing into? On the other hand, if they are changeless, what is the point of calling them contradictory? Again, if they are contradictory, why do they remain in the same state forever? Indices won't one day turn into Matrices, neither will Affine Transformations change into Hermite Polynomials. Negative numbers don't turn into positives; sure, we can multiply negative integers to yield positives, but no one supposes that the original numbers have changed, otherwise no one would be able to use them again. Indeed, if you multiply -2 by -1 to obtain 2, you will see that both the "-2" and the "-1" are still on the page/screen, unchanged. They certainly don't change through 'internal contradictions', either. What, for example, is the 'internal contradiction' in -2? Is it -4/2, or 8/-4, or -8/-1 x -1/4...?

 

[More on that, here.]

 

Or are we to suppose that when -2 'changes' into 2 when multiplied by -1 that -2 and 2 must have been locked in some sort of 'struggle'? Well, it seems they must if they are 'opposites' (and this struggle must turn the one into the other, if the Dialectical-classicists are to be believed). But, what then of the -1? How does it feature in this quasi-Platonic drama? It is certainly not the 'opposite' of 2 or -2, and yet it seems capable of 'changing' both --, and, indeed, capable of mapping any number onto its 'opposite'. To be sure, if we multiply -2 severally and serially by the entire set of negative integers we will obtain the set of positive even integers. Does this mean that -2 has an infinite number of 'opposites', with which it 'struggles'? But, that contravenes a key Hegelian requirement, that each and every object/process has its own unique opposite, its "other".

 

More to the point, where are the real 'material forces' these 'contradictions' supposedly represent? And, where is the "careful empirical work" that substantiates bold claims such as these, evidence that DM-theorists, TAR's author and Engels in particular, insist must always be produced? [TAR, pp.108-12. On this, see Essay Two.]

 

Moreover, Engels's claims make little sense even in their own terms. For example, the iterative rule uk = (-a)k [where "k" and "a" are integers] alternately maps k onto the set of negative or positive integers, for odd or even k. But, where is the "development" in this process? Where is the 'struggle'? In fact, and to rain on this parade, when a = 0, the result of the iteration is always the same -– i.e., zero. Is this an example of change that produces no change? Is this yet another 'contradiction'? Or, is this part of mathematics reactionary?

 

Engels also uses the rather strange term "absurd contradiction" ["The square root of minus one is therefore not only a contradiction, but even an absurd contradiction"] without explaining the difference between an "absurd contradiction" and an ordinary contradiction. That is especially puzzling since many of the 'contradictions' Engels regards as scientifically/mathematically important look no less absurd.

 

Moreover, with respect to his comments about "the square root of minus one", what is so contradictory about Complex Numbers? What are they developing into? Against what are they locked in "struggle"?

 

Is, for example, the expression "a + bi" the contradictory of "-a + bi", "a – bi", "-a – bi", "1/(a + bi)", "1/(a - bi)", "1/(-a - bi)", or "1/(-a + bi)"? If the answer is that it is any particular one of these, then why is "a + bi" not changing into it, as we are assured is the inevitable fate of all such 'contradictory' opposites?

 

Perhaps then, each complex number is the contradictory only of its complex conjugate (in this case "a + bi" would supposedly 'contradict' "a – bi"), since the product of these two yields a Real Number, namely "a2-b2". But, why does this make them contradictory? Once more: these two conjugates don't turn into one another. In fact, they don't change at all.

 

And yet, 1/(a + bi) x a + bi = 1; so why aren't these two 'contradictory'? But, what development is there even here?

 

Moreover, after any randomly chosen conjugate pair has been multiplied out and the answer written down, there are countless trillion copies of the very same symbols awaiting multiplication, queuing up in 'abstract space', all of which will yield identically the same results with no detectable development over the many thousands of years the human race will be doing this (if we survive that long!). Or, to put the same point more concretely: anyone can write out and then multiply -- in impeccably physical ink, on boringly material paper -- "(1 + i)" and "(1 - i)", until the cows next evolve, the result won't change: (1 + i)(1 - i) = 2. Once more, if the planet and/or humanity lasts this long, it will yield the same result in one hundred million years time, and still on paper, still written in ink. Hence, this is just as much a 'concrete' as it is an 'abstract' example.

 

Of course, if you believe everything is 'contradictory' from the start, mathematical objects and processes will naturally be classified accordingly, even where the indications are that they aren't the least bit dialectical -- having failed to notice perhaps that numbers do not 'struggle' amongst themselves (and neither do variables, lines, planes or manifolds), nor do they mirror any identifiably material developments in the real world.16

 

Anyway, how is this different from imposing DM on the subject matter, something dialecticians continually protest they do not do?

 

Of course, Engels focussed part of his comments on "the square root of minus one", but this must have been a mistake, since minus one has two square roots: "i" and "-i" [since i2 = -1, and (-(i))2 = -1], which fact alone rather ruins Engels's point (unless, of course, we now introduce into mathematics the idea that certain of its structures dialectically dither, as it were).

 

Moreover, what he would have said of the potentially infinite set of roots of unity there are in complex number theory, we will never know. For instance zn = 1 (where z is a complex number; n = 1, 2, 3, ... ) has n roots.

 

Furthermore, Engels's comment about lines and curves is no less ill-considered. The fact that some things have a dual aspect (if this is indeed the case with lines and curves!) in no way makes them contradictory. If it did, then we would have to say that the number seven, for instance, is potentially infinitely contradictory, because while it is the sum of countless odd, even and negative integers, it is also one of the square roots of forty-nine and it is identical to the rational number 147/21 -– in addition to being the result of the application of countless other functions to arbitrary sets of numbers and expressions (such as "49x6/7x6", for x ¹ 0).

 

And yet, despite its infinitely 'contradictory' nature, 7 never actually changes. Are all the "material forces" in nature that 7 supposedly 'reflects' in eternal equilibrium, therefore? Or, has this number been knobbled by the CIA?

 

Once more, if lines and planes are contradictory, what are they 'struggling' with, and what are they 'developing' into?

 

Even in dialectical terms, none of this makes any sense.

 

Moreover, it isn't at all clear why Engels regarded the following as contradictory: "the root of A" is also "the power of A". Charitably, this might have been the case if roots and powers were themselves contradictory to one another, and they could turn into each other as a result. But, who apart from Engels and a few of his die-hard disciples would want to accept these consequences?

 

On a similar basis, one might just as well argue that because 10 is a square root of 100, and 102 = 100, and 10 = 100½, and log10102 = 2, and log10010 = ½ that the log function is deeply contradictory in that it 'contradicts' the relevant powers and roots of 10 and 100, which 'contradict' one another into the bargain. But, even given the recklessly profligate nature of DL, is it possible for four items to contradict one another all at once? If it is, should we not now abandon the idea that all concepts/objects/processes are paired UOs (each with its own unique Hegelian 'other') in favour of the more generous notion that they consist of countless UOs -- dialectically adjusting the word "opposite" to accommodate this new development of the concepts involved -- now that we can see that each concept, object or process has a potentially infinite number of 'opposites'? But, tinkering with the meaning of the word "opposite" just to cater for this rapidly burgeoning theory would be no less of a conventionalist cop-out here than it would be anywhere else.

 

Once more: how would this be any different from imposing DM on the facts?

 

It is worth recalling that Engels's comments on this topic didn't appear in an obscure or minor DM-work, nor were they scribbled hastily on the back of an envelope. They were published in a widely recognized and accepted DM-classic, one that has inspired generations of DM-fans, and one that Engels rather oddly claims to have "read" to Marx. [That will have taken days. (In fact it is easy to show that it must have.) Can you imagine it! One wonders how often the ageing Marx must have nodded off, not fully realising the nature of what it was that some would later claim he accepted!]

 

Certainly, Lenin and Trotsky didn't find these rather peculiar ideas at all "unhelpful", or "quaint" -- or, if they did, they remained diplomatically quiet about it.17

 

On the other hand, if we are now supposed to ignore these foibles -– in the way that scientists today disregard, say, Newton's alchemical and theological ramblings -–, then why pay any regard to the other equally strange claims Engels advances? Why should we now accept Engels's assertion that ice "contradicts" water, that life is "contradictory", that grains of barley are "negated" to form mature plants?

 

And, how exactly does ice 'contradict' water? Does it oppose it? Do they exist together at the same time locked in struggle? Does one force the other to emerge from the shadows as the temperature changes? Does something higher emerge as "new content arises from old conditions", if ice is melted and refrozen hundreds of times? [Engels (1976), pp.154-82.] Water has been freezing and thawing for billions of years. Has it morphed into something 'higher'? Is it ever going to become H3O, or something else, as a result?

 

[NON = Negation of the Negation.]

 

It could be argued that this is a spurious counter-example to the NON; as Cornforth points out:

 

"In many processes the working out of their contradictions results in a directed or forward movement, in which the process moves forward from stage to stage, each stage being an advance to something new, not a falling back to some stage already past.

 

"Other processes, however, are not characterised by such a forward movement.

 

"For instance, water when cooled or heated undergoes a qualitative change, passes into a new state (ice or steam), but the movement is without direction and can't be called either progressive or retrogressive.

 

"...If some processes have direction and others have not, this depends solely on the particular character of the processes themselves and of the conditions under which they happen." [Cornforth (1976), pp.108-09.]

 

We will have occasion to look at Cornforth's account of change in Essay Eight Part One, where it will soon become apparent that he, along with other DM-theorists, isn't too clear about what constitutes a process, an object, or even a system, let alone what it means to assert any of these 'develop'. So, according to Cornforth, the non-development of water isn't a counter-example, after all. And yet we are left entirely in the dark as to why some processes 'develop' while others do not.

 

But, what about a genuine development? For example, the 'negation' of feudalism to form Capitalism, and the 'negation' of that in turn to form a socialist society? Certainly, Cornforth doesn't count this as non-progressive; indeed. it is a clear example of development via the NON:

 

"[C]apitalist private property arises only on the ruin and expropriation of the pre-capitalist individual producers.... But when capitalist private property is itself negated -- when 'the expropriators are expropriated' -- then the individual property of the producers is restored once more, but in a new form, on a higher level....

 

"When capitalism arose, the only way forward was through this negation of the negation....

 

"The principle of the negation of the negation is thus an expression of the simple truth that one can't put the clock back and reconstitute the past. One can only move forward into the future through the working out of all the contradictions contained within the given stage of development and though the negations consequent on them." [Ibid., pp.118-19. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphasis added.]

 

Cornforth wasn't alive to see it, but one wonders what he'd have made of the events in the former USSR and Eastern Europe between 1989 and 1991 (and now, perhaps, in China, and possibly Cuba). If history can't go back, only forward, then the sort of free market capitalism that has swept through these countries (without a single worker lifting a finger to defend 'his/her' state) must represent a higher stage of property relations: the negation of the negation of the negation. Either that, or the NON no longer works (and perhaps never did).

 

Of course, if this is rejected for whatever reason, then the only response possible is that, contrary to what Cornforth says, DM-theorists don't in fact learn from history -- rather, they impose their abstract schemas on it:

 

"If some processes have direction and others have not, this depends solely on the particular character of the processes themselves and of the conditions under which they happen." [Ibid., pp.108-09.]

 

"Marxism, therefore, seeks to base our ideas of things on nothing but the actual investigation of them.... It does not invent a 'system' as previous philosophers have done, and then try to make everything fit into it." [Ibid., p.15.]

 

And those who, like me, regard such regimes as State Capitalist should avoid crowing too loudly at the refutation that history has visited upon Stalinism. If, for example, the 1917 revolution has been reversed (in 1921, 1929, 1989, 1991, or whenever), then the NON must have made a serious error, and should perhaps be tossed onto the trash-heap of history (along with the crystalline spheres, humoral theory and Caloric) -- as a bogus 'scientific' concept.

 

Hence, it is worth asking of those who tell us that the NON applies only to things that "develop": Why saddle DM with such a crazy set of examples (e.g., "ice contradicts water", and roots 'contradict' powers) if they play no part in understanding the world and how to change it?

 

[More on the NON, below.]

 

 

Dialectics Meets The Calculus -- And Comes To Nought

 

Another topic often connected with these 'Laws' is the claim advanced by Engels that Descartes's use of variables introduced dialectics into mathematics.

 

Despite what Engels said about mathematics, variables had been in use in FL long before they were employed in Algebra. [Cf., Kneale and Kneale (1962), pp.23-297.]

 

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

 

Indeed, this is what Professor Nidditch had to say about Aristotle's use of variables:

 

"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.]

 

Of course, that fact alone completely undermines the idea that traditional FL couldn't cope with change, and that it uses only "fixed concepts and categories". Moreover, as is pointed out in Essay Four, variables are as widely used in MFL as they are in Mathematics -– in which case, MFL is even more 'change-friendly', as it were, than traditional AFL ever was. [These claims are substantiated in Essay Four.]

 

[A word of warning needs to be interjected at this point: in view of the comments made here, the use of the word "variable" should to be treated with some caution. Indeed, as we will see, there can be no 'variable magnitudes'.

 

However, throughout both this Essay and this site I have in general used "variable" in its traditional sense; the complications discussed at the above link, if introduced into the argument, would make these Essays more precise, but needlessly recondite, for no real gain.]

 

However, what Engels actually said is worth examining on its own merits:

 

"The turning point in mathematics was Descartes' variable magnitude. With that came motion and hence dialectics in mathematics, and at once, too, of necessity the differential and integral calculus…." [Engels (1954), p.258.]

 

Several points need making about this passage and about Engels and Marx's ideas on Mathematics and the foundations of the Calculus in general.

 

(1) The claim that Descartes's invention of "variable magnitudes" introduced "motion" into Mathematics is as confused as it is inaccurate. A more balanced account from a Marxist perspective can be found in Hadden (1994). As Hadden points out, variables began to be used by mathematicians in the late Middle Ages as a result of the development of ideas connected with the nature of what were taken to be the commensurable values of commodities. For example, Nicholas Oresme had anticipated much of Descartes's analytic Geometry in the Fourteenth Century, and had already begun to use algebraic ideas to study motion. [On this, see Boyer (1959), pp.60-95, Boyer (1968), pp.288-95, Edwards (1979), pp.81-93, and Katz (1993), pp.292-99. Some of the original papers can be found in Clagett (1959).]

 

Also worthy of note is the fact that Muslim mathematicians had invented the use of algebraic variables long before Descartes. Engels can't have been unaware of this. [The name "Algebra" gives the game away.]

 

Nevertheless, Engels's point stands or falls on its own merits, irrespective of who actually introduced variables into Mathematics, or when and why this was done.

 

However, as Frege noted, the idea that variables in mathematics refer to 'varying magnitudes' is confused in the extreme. [Frege (1904). Since it is impossible to find anything on-line about this, and there is precious little in the 'Frege literature', as far as I am aware, his arguments have been summarised in Note 17a.]17a

 

(2) As far as Engels's own views on mathematics are concerned, they seem to oscillate between naïve versions of Abstractionism and confused forms of Platonism. Examples of both can be found in Engels (1976): pp.47-50 (naïve Abstractionism), pp.62-63 (naïve Platonism), p.154 (confused Platonism), pp.171-72 (inconsistent Platonism). [Abstractionism is criticised heavily in Essay Three Parts One and Two.]

 

In addition, his ideas on the nature of zero are decidedly odd. [Engels (1954), p.261.]  Engels fetishised this symbol, attributing to it what seem to be autonomous powers:

 

"...[Z]ero is richer in content than any other number. Hence, it is part of the nature of zero itself that it finds this application [i.e., that it equals zero] and that it alone can be applied in this way. Zero annihilates every other number with which it is multiplied...." [Engels (1954), p.261.]

 

Does this mean that if someone tried to calculate, say, "0 x 12", the number "12" would be "annihilated", never to be used by anyone ever again? Or, are we to assume that the numeral itself will disappear from the page in a puff of smoke? If not, what precisely is the force of the word "annihilate" here?

 

As argued in detail in Essays Two, Three Parts One and Two, and Essay Twelve (summary here), Abstractionism is itself a form of Idealism founded on a syntactically inept misinterpretation of general terms as if they were the names of Abstract Particulars, in effect conjuring these into existence by the mere 'power' of naming alone (or, to be more accurate, by means of the nominalisation of predicate expressions, so that they cease being predicative and operate as the names of these Abstract Particulars). On any interpretation, this relies on and supports the ancient doctrine that the underlying structure of reality is abstract, hence rational and mind-like. That accounts for the confused Platonism in Engels's writings, witnessed above.

 

[In fact, comrades who are overly impressed with Engels's mathematical ideas should consult van Heijenoort (1948) in order to have that intellectually debilitating condition cured; a copy can be found here.]

 

(3) Unfortunately, the publication of Marx's Mathematical Manuscripts [Marx (1983)] has revealed the spectacle of a first-rate mind vainly attempting to shoehorn an interpretation of the Calculus into a dialectical boot it won't fit.

 

Correction 20/06/14: In fact, up until today, I had only read a few chapters of Marx's Mathematical Manuscripts, having unwisely taken the word of his commentators that the latter is a work of 'dialectics' (in the traditional Engels/Lenin sense of that word). I have now checked these manuscripts in detail, line-by-line, and can find only one page and one expression that is unambiguously 'dialectical' (in the above sense): Here it is:


"The whole difficulty in understanding the differential operation (as in the negation of the negation generally) lies precisely in seeing how it differs from such a simple procedure and therefore leads to real results." [Marx (1983), p.3.] [Italic emphasis in the original.]
 

That's it! That is the extent of the 'dialectics' (in the above sense of the word) in these manuscripts. And even then this indirect reference to 'dialectics' (in the above sense of that word) is equivocal, at best. Anyway, Marx certainly does nothing with it.

Hegel is mentioned only once in the entire book (that is, if we ignore the many references to him made by the editors and the other commentators in this volume), and then only in passing -- as many times as Kant and Fichte (p.119).

"Contradiction", as far as I can see, makes only one appearance:


"This leap from ordinary algebra, and besides by means of ordinary algebra, into the algebra of variables is assumed as au fait accompli, it is not proved and is prima facie in contradiction to all the laws of conventional algebra, where y = f(x), y1 = f(x+h) could never have this meaning." [Ibid., p.117. Italic emphases in the original.]
 

I think it is pretty clear that this isn't a 'dialectical' use of this word (with that word understood in the above manner, again).

Finally, there is this passage:


"And here it may be remarked that the process of the original algebraic derivation is again turned into its opposite." [Ibid., p.56.]


If readers check, they will also see that Marx isn't arguing 'dialectically' here (with that word understood in the above manner, again), he is simply making a point about the algebraic manipulations he had just completed and is about to complete.

 

Hence, the comment I made above -- i.e., "Unfortunately, the publication of Marx's Mathematical Manuscripts [Marx (1983)] has revealed the spectacle of a first-rate mind vainly attempting to shoehorn an interpretation of the Calculus into a dialectical boot it won't fit" -- is entirely misguided. So, this isn't a work of 'dialectics' (again, in the above sense of that word).

 

As the editors of these manuscripts themselves admit, Marx's analysis of the Calculus was based on his reading of textbooks that were badly out-of-date even in his own day. Marx was clearly unaware of the important work done in Analysis by Cauchy, and of the definitive results obtained by Weierstrass and Riemann –- work that was in fact available in his lifetime (the former having been completed in the 1820s, the latter in the late 1850s).17b

 

Several of the authors writing in the Appendix to the above work make some attempt to explicate and defend Marx's ideas, as well as outline a few criticisms of their own of subsequent developments in Analysis. As these theorists correctly point out, mathematicians working after Weierstrass found that the development of his results required a much clearer understanding of the nature of real numbers, continuity and the logic of infinity than were apparent at the time. Unfortunately, early Logicist theories in this area foundered when alleged contradictions were uncovered in Frege's Grundgesetze. Subsequently, Hilbert's entire foundational program was dealt a severe (but, as it turns out, spurious) blow by Gödel's Theorem.18 Nevertheless, these comrades pointedly failed to show how dialectics could possibly help, or have helped, in any way at all here; indeed, it is quite obvious (from the considerations aired below) that the opposite is in fact the case.

 

Despite this, several other points arise from the comments the above authors (i.e., Yanovskaya, Kol'man and Smith) make about Marx's unpublished writings on the Calculus.

 

(A) Smith himself admits that Marx's analysis is technically limited; for example, it only relates to certain types of analytic functions (Smith (1983), pp.265-66). Moreover, Marx's method of proof relies on binomial and other expansions; however, when it is applied to more complex analytic functions -- such as f(x) = (1 - x - x3)-2/3 --, it faces the sort of problems that afflicted, say, Euler's work: it can't cope with infinite expansions, nor can it take account of expansions that don't converge. Hence, Marx would have found it impossible to explain why trigonometric functions can't be differentiated if angles are measured in degrees rather than radians. Here, the derivative depends on small angle approximations converging on a limit for small values, and this only happens if angles are measured in radians. Since Marx paid no heed to convergence, and had no way of generating general results upon which this branch of the calculus depends, there is no way these functions can be differentiated using his method -- even if, per impossible, his comments about simple algebraic functions had been 100% correct!

 

[On this, and how these and other 'difficulties' were tackled between, say, 1680 and 1870, see Kitcher (1984), pp.229-71, and Lavine (1994). For a college entry-level discussion of some of the mathematics involved in small angle approximations (measured in radians), see, for example, Berry et al (2004), pp.157-65, 210-15, and Heard et al (2005), pp.69-83.]

 

Moreover, other types of ordinary derivatives were not considered by Marx -- for example: dT/dx (the rate of change of temperature with respect to position, where no 'motion' is implied by the variables used); dA/dt or dV/dt (the rate of change of area/volume with respect to time). What sort of 'motion' could these possibly involve? Can an area or a volume be in two places at once, and in one of these and not in it at the same time? What about dr/dt -- the rate of change of a position vector with respect to time? In this particular case, it is even more difficult to see how a changing vector can be given a 'dialectical' make-over. Can a magnitude and a direction occupy two places at once, but not be in one of them while being in another at the same moment -- especially if vectors themselves define locations?

 

Not only that, but higher-order derivatives were ignored by Marx, and it isn't at all clear how these can be reconciled with a 'dialectical' account of change. Are we to suppose that, for instance, d2y/dx2 -- or d(dy/dx)/dx -- expresses how the first derivative itself changes, or how the variables themselves undergo more complex sorts of 'motion' -- or what? What then about dny/dxn? [To say nothing of (dy/dx)n.]

 

And what about several of the more complex (but still rather simple) ways that ordinary derivatives can inter-relate? For example, what sort of 'dialectical spin' can be put on the following?

 

If y = f(u), and u = g(x), then dy/dx = (dy/du).(du/dx).

 

If y = uv, and u = f(x), v = g(x), then dy/dx = (u.dv/dx) + (v.du/dx).

 

If y = u/v, and u = f(x), v = g(x), then dy/dx = [(v.du/dx) - (u.dv/dx)]/v2.

 

Are we to suppose that the 'movement' of all these variables is equal, inter-coordinated -- or even comparable?

 

[Marx did try to examine some of these, but as I will show in a later re-write of this Essay, his endeavours fail rather badly -- nor do they even so much as attempt to tackle the problems raise earlier.]

 

[Update, September 2012: I have just been sent a PDF of a new translation of Marx's Mathematical Manuscripts, which not only contains fresh material (along with new interpretive essays), it confirms once again that Marx was no amateur mathematician, but was very well versed in Analysis from the pre-Cauchy era. I haven't yet had time to digest this material in any detail, but an initial inspection reveals that one or two comments posted in this Essay are now a little inaccurate, and will need to be revised -- particularly those above about Higher Derivatives. However, having said that, this new material confirms the conclusion reached in this section that Marx confused the movement of variables with movement in reality, and that what he says about variables (or, rather, how he refers to them, and what use he makes of them) is untenable. As noted below, this vitiates any attempt to introduce 'dialectics' into mathematics, rendering Marx's attempt to re-configure the Calculus as just so much wasted effort (by an undoubted genius -- on a par with all the time Newton wasted on Alchemy and Biblical Numerology).]

 

On top of this, Marx totally ignored partial derivatives. Perhaps that was because it would have involved him in having to consider variables 'changing' in three or more directions at once!

 

Finally, although Engels mentions it, there seems to have been no consideration whatsoever given to the whole of the Integral Calculus. It is impossible, anyway, to see how the latter could be accommodated within a 'dialectical' framework -- and with that, out would go much of Modern Mathematics and Science. [On the origin of modern theories of integration, see Hawkins (1980).]

 

It could be argued that the Integral Calculus is a sort of 'reverse' Differentiation. But that isn't so. Quite apart from their different proof structures, there are functions that can't be differentiated which can be integrated, and vice versa.

 

(B) Independently of the above, Marx's approach is seriously flawed. That is because it requires a variable, x (taking values in the domain of a function, f(x)), to 'change' into x1, and that this be represented as part of the factorisation of f(x) -- i.e., g(x)(x1 – x), where g(x) and (x1 – x) are both factors of f(x).

 

Now, in order to avoid well-known problems (notoriously outlined by Bishop Berkeley in The Analyst) that had plagued earlier attempts to make the Calculus rigorous, Marx set the value of x1 such that x1 = x (or, rather, he allowed it to "move" back!). This manoeuvre is 'justified' (but not by Marx, by his commentators) with an appeal to appropriately vague 'dialectical principles' (to be examined presently), the upshot of which is that unless the meanings of "=" and "–" have themselves changed, the factor (x1 – x) must equal zero! But, that just leaves the Calculus in the same state it had been in the 18th century, with all the problems that had bedevilled it since Newton and Leibniz's day.

 

[Several commentators have tried to blow away the chaff surrounding Marx's argument, leaving behind the 'rational core', so to speak. Their arguments will also be examined in a later re-write of this Essay.]

 

Hence, despite the obvious genius he displayed in other areas, Marx's ideas on the Calculus are entirely worthless.

 

In fact, there is little evidence anyone has made a serious use of his ideas -- including mathematicians working in the former USSR, where lip-service had at least to paid to them (for career and/or neck-saving reasons). Sure, Marx's ideas in this area were extensively studied [Dauben (2003)], but there is no evidence they were put to any use. And, as far as can be ascertained, no one since has bothered to develop Marx's ideas into a rigorous system, or ironed-out its fatal defects. [However, on more recent attempts to rehabilitate Marx's re-interpretation of these symbols, see below.]

 

(C) Even if the above criticisms are misguided in some way -- and Engels's point about variables introducing dialectics into Mathematics were correct, and Marx's analysis were flawless -- it would still be of no use. That is because it is a fatal error to redirect attention away from motion itself onto the symbols depicting it in an attempt to explain how the Calculus handles movement and change in nature. Marx committed just such an error when he confused the alleged 'motion' of variables and 'quantities' with motion itself in the real world. [It has to be said that Newton and Leibniz were guilty of this, too.] This can be seen by the subsequent use of 'dialectical reasoning' to justify the 'change' of x into x1 (by his commentators, noted above).

 

In this regard, Aristotle's general comment on the rationale underlying Plato's Theory of Forms is apposite: in any attempt to solve a problem it isn't a good idea to begin by doubling it. In this particular case, whatever difficulties there are with understanding the mathematics of motion, they aren't helped by reduplicating the very same problems in the motion of symbols! Clearly, the latter would then need explaining, too.

 

But, how can symbols move? Do they dash about the page? Do they mutate before our eyes? Of course, they are supposed to 'take on new values', but beyond this obscure metaphor, what does this mean? Are they magnetic? Do they attract these values in other ways? Do they adopt them, impersonate them..., fight them? But, what else can "take on" mean? [Of course, as Wittgenstein pointed, the solution here is to see these symbols as an expression of the rules we use to make sense of motion. (More on that later.) However, on variables, see here.]

 

To be sure, a clear account of the rate of change of, say, position with respect to time might not be easy to formulate, but the introduction of the rate of change of symbols with respect to time is doubly confused. [Wouldn't this need second-order symbol..., and so on?]

 

In fact, any attempt to depict motion by the behaviour of symbols -– in this case variables in supposed 'motion' -– would constitute yet another example of Linguistic Idealism [LIE]. On that basis, the 'dialectical motion' of variables (i.e., linguistic expressions) -- if interpreted as reflecting change in reality --, will plainly have been conflated with real changes in nature. Hence, instead of seeing mathematical variables as a means to an end (i.e., as an expression of the rules we use to make sense of motion), they become an end in themselves: their 'motion' has now replaced the very thing they had been introduced all along to explain!

 

Inferences drawn with respect to such variables are then misidentified as a scientific analysis of real motion in the material world. Hence, from a consideration of 'moving' variables we somehow obtain super-dialectical truths about motion in nature, valid for all of space and time!

 

Which, as we have seen, is precisely the trap that ensnared Marx.

 

There have been several other attempts to defend Marx's account of the Calculus; cf., Blunden (1983), Carchedi (2008), Struik (1948), Kennedy (1977) -- republished as Kennedy (2006) --, and Gerdes (1983). [These will be considered in detail here at a later date.]

 

Suffice it to say that every single one of these commentators confuses real motion with 'moving variables' -- among other things --, and hence their conclusions are susceptible not only to the above comments, but also to Frege's criticisms.19

 

 

Dialectical? Or Just Plain Dotty?

 

But, what about Engels's other "unhelpful" idea that parrots and domesticated animals understand what is said to them?

 

"Comparison with animals proves that this explanation of the origin of language from and in the labour process is the only correct one. The little that even the most highly-developed animals need to communicate to each other does not require articulate speech. In a state of nature, no animal feels handicapped by its inability to speak or to understand human speech. It is quite different when it has been tamed by man. The dog and the horse, by association with man, have developed such a good ear for articulate speech that they easily understand any language within their range of concept (sic)…. Anyone who has had much to do with such animals will hardly be able to escape the conviction that in many cases they now feel their inability to speak as a defect…. Let no one object that the parrot does not understand what it says…. [W]ithin the limits of its range of concepts it can also learn to understand what it is saying. Teach a parrot swear words in such a way that it gets an idea of their meaning…; tease it and you will soon discover that it knows how to use its swear words just as correctly as a Berlin costermonger. The same is true of begging for titbits." [Engels (1876), pp.356-57.]

 

Here is an extract from Essay Thirteen Part Three dealing with this passage:

 

Contrary to what Engels asserts, we shouldn't want to concede that animals understand our use of language (or, indeed, that they grasp the import of swear words, for instance) simply because parrots, for example, are capable of making certain sounds, or just because some humans are overly sentimental and believe that their pet dog can "understand every word they say". If understanding were attributable to animals solely on the basis of vocalisation, then we might have to admit that, for example, the ability most of us have of repeating foreign words upon hearing them means that we too understood the language from whence they came, when quite often we do not. [For example, although I can read both Hebrew and Greek, I actually understand very few words of either language.]

 

But, even in such cases we would still be viewing other languages from our standpoint as sophisticated users of our own language, which means that the dice have already been heavily loaded (so to speak) in our favour. Because of this, we often make an educated guess concerning the meaning of any new (foreign) words we might encounter, based on knowledge of our own language. Moreover, we do this against a background of shared behaviour and a common culture that links us, directly or indirectly, with all other human beings. The same cannot be said of parrots, dogs and horses.

 

We should, I think, only want to count someone (or something) as having understood what is said (or what was said to it) if it possessed a sufficiently detailed verbal and behavioural repertoire, at the very least. If, for example, such a 'proto-linguist' could not form new sentences from his/her 'vocabulary', if he/she/it were incapable of negating any of their words, or could not cope with word-order change, if they were unable to refer to anything proximate to or remote from their immediate surroundings, if they could not identify or specify any of the implications of what they said, or of what was said to them, if they could not reason (hypothetically) both with truths and falsehoods, appreciate stories and/or fiction, if they could not respond to humour, or engage in self-criticism, if they were regularly perplexed by new sentences they had never encountered before (even those that contained 'words' drawn from their own repertoire), if they could not follow or give instructions, and so on, then I think most of us would have serious doubts about their capacity to understand the target language.

 

On the other hand, had Engels said the following to one of his parrots: "Swearing is not allowed here because it represents the language of oppression" (to paraphrase Trotsky) -- and the parrot had stopped swearing as a result (or had deliberately sworn even more!) -- we might be a little more impressed with his claims.

 

Despite this, Engels's ideas do not seem to hang together even on their own terms. If language and understanding are the product of social development (augmented by co-operative labour. Indeed, Engels even says:

 

"Comparison with animals proves that this explanation of the origin of language from and in the labour process is the only correct one....

 

"First labour, after it and then with it speech -- these were the two most essential stimuli under the influence of which the brain of the ape gradually changed into that of man...." [Engels (1876), pp.356-57.]

 

If so, how could an animal comprehend our speech without also having gone through the same social development and engaged in the same sort of collective labour with human beings?

 

It could be argued that animals have, and still do work alongside human beings. Think of the phrase "work horse", and the use to which dogs are put in guarding, sledging and hunting, to say nothing of the work done by oxen, donkeys, camels and pigeons, to name but a few. However, without wishing to minimise the use to which human beings have put many animals, this hardly counts as collective labour (any more than the use of wood in buildings counts as part of the collective labour contributed by a tree), but more closely resembles the use of living tools. The differences between human and animal labour do not need to be listed to see that this line of defence won't work. Which Marxist wants to argue that an ox, for example, shows any desire to communicate, or that a donkey or a pigeon shows any sign of verbalising its aims and intentions? But, if their efforts counted as collective labour, we should be prepared to argue that these animals do indeed show signs of a "need to communicate".

 

Moreover, Engels appears to think (somewhat inconsistently) that mere proximity to human beings is sufficient to engender (in certain animals) the "need to communicate". If this were so, then manifestly an ability to use language could not have been the result of collective labour. Surely, in humans (on Engels's own admission) the "need to communicate" arose out of collective labour, not from mere association. In the passage above, Engels seems to think that this "need to communicate" is a free-floating force when it comes to animal behaviour, which can somehow be divorced from its connection with cooperative human labour. This explains why he also appears to believe that mere association with human beings creates such a "need" in these animals. To be sure, the behaviour of domestic animals is different from that of individuals belonging to the same (or similar) species in the wild, but if mere proximity to human beings could account for language, then we should expect cats, cows, donkeys, camels, oxen, sheep, goats, rats, mice, gerbils, fleas, bacteria and lice to be able to communicate with us (to say nothing of viruses).

 

Conversely, if animals were able to talk and/or understand us then language can't be a social phenomenon, nor would it be the result of co-operative labour....

 

Brain size can't be the determining factor here, nor can the length of time these animals have been in human company. As should seem obvious, cats and cows have bigger brains than parrots, and have been far closer to human beings for far longer (as have rats and mice).

 

Is this another example of Engels's prescience, or an indication that on some things his ideas were just a little dotty?

 

In his review of TAR, Alex Callinicos wondered why John Rees had not discussed these and similar ideas in his book. [Callinicos (1998), pp.99-100.] In view of the above, I think it is reasonably clear why that material was omitted: it represents a low point in the thinking of an otherwise great revolutionary, and thus best left tactfully ignored.

 

 

Is The Second 'Law' Incompatible With The First?

 

Despite this, it is quite clear that the '"nodal" aspect of the First 'Law' is incompatible with the Unity and Interpenetration of Opposites [UIO], or at least with the link between the UIO and the DM-criticism of the LEM.

 

[LEM = Law of Excluded Middle; FL = Formal Logic; DL = Dialectical Logic.]

 

To see this, consider object/process P which is just about to undergo a qualitative change (a "leap") from, say, state PA to state PB. For there to be a "nodal" change here it would have to be the case that P is in state PA one instant/moment, and in state PB an instant/moment later (howsoever these "instants/moments" are understood). There is no other way of making sense of the abrupt nature of "nodal" change.

 

[To spare the reader, I will just refer to these as "instants" from now on.]

 

But, if that is so, then any state description of P would have to obey the LEM, for it would have to be the case that at one instant it would be true to say that P was in state PA at that instant but not in state PB at the same instant; i.e., it would not be true to say that P was in both states at once. That is, if we assume that PB is not-PA, then at any one instant, if this change is "nodal", the following would have to be the case: P is either in state PA or it is in state not-PA, but not both. In that case, these two states wouldn't interpenetrate one another (in the sense that both exist or apply to P at the same time), and the LEM would apply to this process over this time period, at least.

 

On the other hand, if these two states do in fact interpenetrate each other (in the sense that both exist or apply to P at the same time) such that the "either-or" of the LEM doesn't apply, and it were the case that P was in both states at once, then the transition from PA to PB would be smooth and not "nodal", after all.

 

This dilemma is independent of the length of time a "node" is held to last (that is, if we are ever told!). It is also worth noting that this inconsistency applies at just the point where dialecticians tell us DL is superior to FL --, that is, at the point of change.

 

So, once more, we see that not only can DL not explain change, at least two of Engels's three 'Laws' are inconsistent with one another (when applied to objects/processes that undergo change).

 

But, this is dialectics; it is supposed to be inconsistent!

 

 

The Negation Of The Negation

 

DM And NON-Sense -- Or, No Grain Is An Island

 

The 'Negation of the Negation' [NON] fares no better than the first two 'Laws'. Indeed, since it is itself an elaboration of the previous 'Law', it suffers from all the latter's weakness. [Readers are therefore referred back to Section C for more details.]

 

As with other DM-theses, the NON is based on a confusion of logico/linguistic categories with objects and processes in material reality, an ancient error Engels copied from Hegel. In fact, Hegel lifted this idea from Kant. [On this, see Redding (2007). More on this below, and in Essays Eight Part Two, Twelve Part Five and Fourteen Part One (summaries of the last two can be found here and here).]

 

Nevertheless, the few examples that DM-theorists have scraped together over the last hundred years or so that supposedly illustrate this 'Law' fail to work even in the way they were apparently intended. For example, concerning grains of barley Engels argues that:

 

"[T]he grain as such ceases to exist, it is negated, and in its place there appears the plant which has arisen from it, the negation of the grain…. It grows, flowers, is fertilised and finally once more produces grains of barley, and as soon as these have ripened, the stalk dies, is in its turn negated…." [Engels (1976), pp.172-73.]

 

However, Engels failed to notice that many plants do not cease to exist (and so can't have been 'negated') when they produce seeds. Do apples trees wither and die when or soon after they grow their first crop of apples? Do fig trees do the same each time they produce figs? Is it really necessary to re-plant a whole vineyard each year?

 

Consider also the animal kingdom: Do all animals drop dead when they produce their off-spring? Are all human children made orphans the moment they are born?

 

If not, much of the living world ignores this obscure 'Law'.

 

[This is quite apart from the fact that most plants, and some animals, reproduce asexually; precious little 'negating' going on there. More on this below.]

 

Leaving aside for now the confusion noted earlier (about whether plants (or whatever) actually change because of a struggle between "internal opposites", or even whether they change into those opposites), if each grain is indeed a UO (i.e., a union of grain and 'non-grain', i.e., a union of the plant it is and the plant it becomes -- where 'non-grain' is the plant the grain becomes and where the latter is itself the negation of the grain, and so on), the grain itself must also contain the plant, not potentially, but actually. If this were not so, the grain would not itself be a union of these opposites -- and hence there would be nothing to cause it to change, and nothing for it to change into.

 

[Objections to this way of reading Engels will be neutralised presently. We also saw here that dialecticians equivocate between two meanings of "internal" (in "internal contradiction") -- that is, between a topological and a logical sense of this word.]

 

However, this 'plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism must (for the same reason) contain its own opposite, yet another plant (i.e., a 'plant-inside-the-plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism, if, according to Lenin, the 'plant inside the grain' is itself a UO). If it is, then it too must contain its own opposite, yet another grain (i.e., a 'grain-inside-the-plant-inside-the-plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism -- and so on, forever.

 

This objection can't be neutralised by arguing that the opposite of the 'plant-inside-the-gain' is in fact the grain itself, for if this were the case, the 'plant-inside-the-grain' would turn onto that grain, if all things turn into their opposites, as we are told they must. For the 'plant-inside-the-gain' to develop into a plant it has to be in some sort of 'internal struggle' with its own opposite, that is, with what it has to yet to become (i.e., a plant), which in turn has to be internal to that 'plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism. This mist be so if the Dialectical Classics (quoted here) are to be believed. Furthermore, this 'plant-inside-the-plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism is not itself changeless. Hence, if it is to change into its opposite (which opposite I have here surmised to be a 'grain-inside-plant-inside-the-plant-inside-the-grain' sort of organism -- but, that is just my guess), that opposite must already exist for it to change into, or this would be a change with no DM-cause inducing it. The rest follows as before.

 

This must indeed be so if all things are UOs, as Hegel, Engels and Lenin said they were. In that case, Engels's NON (at least as far as barley is concerned) seems to imply the actual existence of an infinite set of organic plant-and-seed 'boxes within boxes', as it were, which is about as believable a picture of reality as that painted by 18th century preformationist/ovist biologists. This is because it would mean that every grain that ever there was must contain, and must be contained by, every subsequent plant that ever there grew, with each of these organic mega-Russian Doll-type organisms complete with its own grains and plants within grains and plants within grains and…, etc, to infinity.

 

 

Figure Eight: The NON Dissected?

 

Of course, dialecticians (most likely those of the Low Church tendency) who accept Engels's seed example as gospel will reject the above analysis. According to them, the UO here is precisely what we see (and understand) as barley seed, with all its law-governed inner processes and interactions with its environment. These help change that seed into a plant, unfolding the aforementioned 'negation' -- the latter of which does not destroy the grain as such, but "sublates" the original negation/seed (it isn't too clear which) from which the new plant emerges.

 

It could then be argued that none of this means that the original seed contains the subsequent plant in any way, as the above paragraphs rashly suppose. Whatever opposites this natural process requires for it make a plant grow from seed can be ascertained from its actual development.

 

[It is worth pointing out that this 'get-out-of-a-metaphysical-hole-free-card' was withdrawn from circulation here.]

 

But, what exactly are these "opposites", anyway? And why do the Dialectical Classics say that things change into their opposites because of an internal struggle between those very opposites, which must already exist for this to happen?

 

"The law of the interpenetration of opposites.... [M]utual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes...." [Engels (1954), pp.17, 62.]

 

"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]…. The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58. Emphases in the original.]

 

"And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite…." [Plekhanov (1956), p.77.]

 

[Many more of the same can be found here.]

 

This can only mean that barley grains contain the plants they subsequently  become; so they are like Russian dolls. There does not seem to be any other way of reading this 'Law' as it is depicted by DM-classicists. That is because there do not appear to be any 'external' opposites that make a seed change into its 'opposite', as the Dialectical Classics assure us must always take place.

 

However, even if we ignore this serious difficulty for the present, what NON-sense can be made of the claim that a plant is the negation of a seed? This idea seems to depend on the ancient belief that all words, including the negative particle, are names -- in this case, the name of a special sort of dialectical process. In fact, as noted above, this idea can be traced back into the mists of time, but in its modern form it surfaces in Kant's claim that there are such things as "real negations". [On that, see here, here and here.]

 

Be this as it may, it is far from easy to follow the 'reasoning' here. Perhaps it goes something like this:

 

If we have a negative particle in language, and it corresponds to something in reality, then it must name or refer to that something. So, since negativity appears in language it reflects real negativity in nature. [Minus the Hegelian gobbledygook, I have yet to see anything more sophisticated than that in DM-writings. Lenin's feeble attempt in this regard will be examined in Essay Thirteen Part One. However, in the work of Hegel and Kant commentators, the argument is far more sophisticated. I will be examining these in Essay Eight Part Two.]

 

But, if that is so, it would become rather difficult to rectify incorrect naming and/or identification (something that is easy to do in the vernacular).

 

If and when misidentification happens in every day life, we have reasonably clear ways of correcting ourselves. If we mistake, say, George Bush for George W Bush, it is easy to put that right; we simply use a definite description and a nominal qualifier (perhaps), such as: "I mean the former president of the USA, George Bush senior."

 

But, if "not" were the name of some thing/some process (DM-fans call it "negativity", and  credit it will almost 'god'-like powers -- as a quick glance at the title of Dunayevskaya (2002) should be enough to convince doubters) and was incorrectly identified as the name of something else -- let's say that it was mistakenly viewed as the name of "or" --, then it would be impossible to point this out. One could hardly say: "Not is not or", which, if the DM-Identity Theory of Predication (which is, as we have seen, is employed by dialecticians) were correct, would be equivalent to "Not = not or", and the first "not" would name something other than not, namely "not or" with which it is now 'identical'!

 

[Exactly why all words aren't names was considered in Essay Three Part One.]

 

More importantly, negation in language typically attaches to propositions (or clauses; however, see here), and if they, too, are names (in that a proposition supposedly names the true, or the false, or a fact, or whatever), then it would seem that any named thing could be negated. This certainly accounts for the nominalisation of the word "negation" in Hegelian/DM-circles, where the word slides imperceptibly between its nominal and verbal forms. One minute it is the name of 'negativity' (or perhaps of a subsequently "sublated" 'opposite'), next it is a process that creates novelty. Of course, it is this 'lexicographical slide' that causes the problem. But, negation is something we do in language, and we do it to, or with, certain sorts of expressions. Treating it as the name of something in the physical world could only therefore amount to the fetishisation of the negative particle. [More on this, too, in Essay Twelve (summary here), but the approach I will adopt is summarised here.]

 

Well, even if this 'syntactic slide' represented a sound piece of Stone Age Logic, negation would still only apply to language, not things. Or, to put this another way, if negation applied to objects and processes in the world, DM-theorists have yet to provide us with the proof. [Further ruminations along these lines are explored here. More details will be given in Essay Twelve and Essay Four Part Two.]

 

Following Hegel and Kant, Engels just assumed that 'things'/processes could be negated; his only 'proof' seems to have been the fact that it is possible to negate sentences and clauses. To be sure, in Kant and Hegel's systems it made some sort of crazy sense to suppose 'things'/processes can be negated. After all, in Hegel's 'mental universe' the line between reality and language/thought had become thinner than George W's stated excuse for invading Iraq. However, in a materialist theory no physical meaning can be given to this odd idea. On a similar basis, one might just as well think that conjunctions can attach to objects in reality just because we can speak about cats and dogs (or, if we attached this connective to processes (such as "riding and swimming")) -- which facility would supposedly then 'allow' us to claim that reality contains 'objects' called "cats-and-dogs" (or "riding-and-swimming"), which an alleged natural process of "conjunction" could turn them into. This linguistic trick could then be justified by an appeal to the Fourth 'Law' of dialectics, the 'Conjunction of the Conjunction' -- in a similar way to how we might suppose, DM-style, that reality contains "negated-seeds". Or even, that nature contains 'and's (to which our word "and" refers), or that things are glued together and thus develop by the "power of andivity".

 

Of course, the motivation for thinking that reality contains negation (and that it does not contain conjunctions) had its own spurious 'logical' origin. It derived from (1) Kant's theory that there are "real negations"; (2) Hegel's defective 'analysis' of the LOI; (3) The odd idea that this 'Law' (stated negatively) implied the LOC and (4) Hegel's belief that the 'logical' processing of certain ideas (connected with Spinoza's reckless claim that 'every determination implies a negation') had profound implications for the entire universe, and for all of time. (2)-(4) are demolished here. [A summary can be found here.] (1) is partially tackled below, but more fully in Essay Eight Part Two.

 

[LOI = Law of Identity; LOC = Law of Non-contradiction.]

 

Even so, this 'secondary' argument (that the world must contain negativity if we have a word for it) fails too, for as we have seen, if this were a sound argument, then reality should  also contain adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and expletives (among other odd items).

 

We saw in Essay Three Part One (and will see again in more detail in Essay Twelve (summary here)), that the idea that inferences like this (i.e., the derivation from language alone of fundamental theses, which are valid for all of space and time) is a dodge that ancient mystics invented to account for the link between the word of 'god' and 'His' creation. This ideological thought-form was then employed to help rationalise and 'legitimate' State Power, since, in that case, the natural world and the State were supposed to reflect the 'divine'/logical order of reality.

 

Moreover, if the structure of language in fact allowed us to infer a priori truths about reality from linguistic expressions then we might just as well openly accept the Ideal nature of the world, and be done with it -- as Novack pointed out:

 

"A consistent materialism can't 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 that case, the materialist flip Hegel's system is supposed to have had inflicted upon it, transforming it into 'Materialist Dialectics', must have been through the full 360 degrees, and not the advertised 180.19a

 

 

Terminator Four: The Rise Of Monsanto

 

Engels argued that as things stand, the development of grain into barley is a natural process; hence the plant that subsequently grows from each seed is its 'natural' negation. But, many things can 'naturally' happen to seeds. For example, they can be eaten or burnt as energy. But they can also rot, ferment, dry-out and be thrown at weddings. In fact, since anything that happens in nature must be natural (it is surely not supernatural), all such processes must, it seems, be governed by these and other DM-'Laws' (that is, if they are genuine laws).

 

Nor could it be agued that the "natural" development of objects and process is whatever would happen to them if they were 'left alone' to develop naturally as a result of the operation of their "internal contradictions". That is because nothing in the DM-universe is ever 'left alone' -- everything is part of an allegedly interconnected DM-Totality. Whatever happens in nature must have been 'mediated' to do so by some DM-'Law' or other, if DM-theorists are to be believed.

 

It could be argued that if seeds are left to develop according their own "internal contradictions", the NON will assert itself quite naturally. In that case, the above examples (of seeds being crushed, or eaten, etc.) are not relevant to this 'Law'.

 

However, quite apart from the fact that the phrase "internal contradiction" is itself as clear as mud (and has yet to be explicated by a single DM-theorist, as Essay Eight Parts One, Two and Three show), dialecticians themselves appeal to "external contradictions" to account for change (since, without these, their theory would imply that everything in nature is either self-moving, or is hermetically sealed-off from the rest of the universe; on this see Essay Eight Part One, again).

 

Anyway, several of the above examples involve 'internal change': rotting and fermenting, for instance. Moreover, when grain is in an animal's stomach that animal's internal regime will take over, and the grain will 'naturally' develop into tissue or energy. In fact, 'internal' to a wedding celebration, the 'contradictions' inherent in the bourgeois institution of marriage will surely prompt someone to throw grain at the hapless couple. All quite 'natural'.

 

So, exactly where the 'natural' boundaries of this 'Law' are to be found is somewhat unclear. Once more, this isn't surprising since DM-theorists haven't given the fine detail of their own theory very much thought.

 

Clearly, the advancement of science and technology often confronts older theories with unexpected problems. Hence, Engels was not to know that one day a company like Monsanto would turn up and develop its so-called "Terminator Gene". This is a gene that can, by all accounts, stop certain plants from producing seeds, which 'scientific advance' seems capable of halting the NON in its tracks --, forcing farmers to buy all their grain from Monsanto, etc.20

 

Is, therefore, the NON so weak and ineffectual that a large corporation can countermand its inevitability? Or, is the NON still at work somewhere in all this, 'negating' the rights of Third World farmers behind their backs, as it were, so that they will no longer be able to produce their own planting seed --, if, that is, Monsanto change their minds, ignore public pressure, and go ahead with the production of this gene? Are Monsanto potential negators of the NON? Or have they learnt how to control it?

 

In this case, shouldn't we rename Monsanto "NONsanto", as a result?

 

But, we needn't wait until Monsanto change their minds and produce this NON-starter; anyone who buys fruit these days knows about seedless grapes. In fact, most fruit nowadays does not come from seed; it is produced by propagation from grafts and cuttings.21

 

The question now arises: how come the NON is so easy by-passed? Countless processes in nature seem to be, as it were, non-NON-events of this sort, as human beings have succeeded in 'upsetting' the 'natural' DM-order of things.

 

And what are we to say about genetic engineering in general? Is this an interference in the operation of the NON, an infringement of the 'dialectical law' that all change is 'internally-generated'? Or is this still a natural process, in view of the fact that none of the scientists or capitalists involved are supernatural beings (so we are led to believe), but are patently physical objects?

 

In that case, if all the above are natural processes, then it can truly be said that no grain is an island.

 

Anything that happens to grain anywhere inside the universe must be natural.

 

Hence, even if barley is dropped into the sea, crushed by a falling tree, genetically modified, or hit by American 'friendly fire', all these (and many more) are natural events and must, one presumes, be governed by DM-'Laws'. In that case, there doesn't seem to be a single thing that could constitute, or which could act as the 'natural negation' of a grain of barley. So, does it have one?

 

On the contrary it seems, given the supposed universal dominion of the 'Laws' of dialectics (which DM-fans tell us are the most "general" laws there are), there must be countless 'natural negations' of anything and everything.

 

Indeed, it now seems that anything and everything could be the natural, or even 'dialectical', 'opposite' of grain -- especially, if according to Lenin "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [changes] into every other…." If that is so, and if we apply this hyper-generous and open-ended 'Law' to Capitalism, once again, it should be possible for the latter, too, to change into a grain of barley, and vice versa. And it is little use saying that this sort of change has never been observed, since, according to the above, anything could be the opposite of grain and/or of Capitalism. Like the proverbial Black Swan, perhaps we just have to wait long enough.

 

In that case, since barley is "not-Capitalism", and Capitalism can only change into what it "is not", recklessly profligate 'logic' like this suggests that revolutionaries should consider radically re-configuring their aims and objectives. Instead of the struggle for socialism, they should perhaps struggle for…, well, er, sowing. Clearly this suggests, too, that our slogans will need to be revised somewhat --, perhaps to: "Capitalism digs its own garden", or "You have nothing to lose but your daisy chains", or "There is a tractor haunting Europe". Or maybe even "From each according to his ability, to each according to his seed"?

 

Now, any who object to the above off-the-wall conclusions should direct their ire at this 'Law', and its Hermetic 'Law'-givers, not at this piss-taker.

 

Either that, or they should say clearly, and for the first time ever, what NON-sense there is to this 'Law'.21a

 

 

Socialism Brought From Without -- Perhaps By Aliens?

 

Nevertheless, and despite the above, as far as the descendants of barley plants are concerned, little development seems to take place; barley stays barley for countless generations -- unless change is externally induced (on that, see below).

 

More interesting, however, is the fact that, based on such long-term lack of change --, and if the NON is to be used as the DM-model for social change (as dialecticians often insist) --, Marxists should now become staunch conservatives, since, in the majority of cases, the NON is itself impressively conservative.

 

So, the NON, applied to barley (and everything else in the living world, it seems), implies a near universal biological stasis (unless, once again, change is introduced from the outside). In that case, anyone foolish enough to use this 'Law' as a metaphor for social change, if they are consistent, should be committed to the idea that society must develop peaceably, naturally, slowly -- possibly cyclically -- with no overall change at the end (unless, again, this is induced from the outside).

 

However, since organisms develop as a result of mutations (mostly in response to violent, externally-induced interruptions to the 'natural' order of growth and reproduction), this process can't, it seems, be reconciled with the above NON-inspired, internally-generated 'theory' of change (or, rather, lack of it).

 

If, on the other hand, this superior, 'externalist' model of development (through mutation) is adopted (wherein the facts of nature are allowed to speak to us for a change, and speciation is recognised as largely externally-motivated), then the revolution, if and when it does occur, should result from the intervention of Aliens, or other NON-humans as external causes -- if, that is, we insist on using the NON as a metaphor for revolutionary change.

 

In that case, it looks like the 'internal contradictions' of Capitalism aren't enough to bring about its end -- since they are far too conservative -- if Engels's analogy drawn against barley seeds is to be believed.

 

Some might object to the above on the grounds that it confuses classical materialist dialectics with Second International Marxism, where the NON was interpreted in deterministic terms. Since history is governed by the actions of human beings, this leaves room for human decision, choice and intervention.

 

Or, so this objection might proceed.

 

However, given the 'law'-like nature of the NON, its effects seem to be no more easy to escape than those of the law of gravity. Of course, DM-theorists get around this by arguing that 'freedom' somehow 'emerges' from 'necessity', as the First 'Law' (i.e., Q«Q)  kicks into gear at some level of complexity.21b But, that 'Law' is far too weak to sustain this semi-miraculous defence; as we have seen, it can't even account for baldness or melting butter!

 

Anyway, this topic will be taken up in detail in Essay Three Part Five. There, we will see that, unless dialecticians come up with new evidence/argument, the NON (whether or not it is interpreted along the lines of Second International theorists) is eminently 'deterministic', eminently NON-Marxist.

 

In response, it could also be argued that some mutations are internally-generated. Perhaps so, but these are errors of replication and can in no way be seen as negations (they are more like random spelling mistakes). Indeed, these 'copying errors' can't have been created by "internal contradictions", since, if the Dialectical Holy Books are to be believed, such changes can only occur if a DNA sequence struggles with the sequence it is to become, its "opposite". This will require that "opposite" exists before it exists! [This argument is developed and defended in detail here.]

 

Moreover, the random nature of these internal copying errors is difficult to square with a law-governed process. Not only are most mutations highly lethal (whether they are internally-, or externally-caused), they aren't the least bit directional. Hence, at any particular point in its history a particular mutation might be of no use to an organism, or population (in terms of natural selection); at another, it could be a species-saver. There doesn't, therefore, appear to be much here that can be squeezed even into this NON-boot.22

 

 

Moth-Eaten Dialectics

 

In addition, it isn't easy to see how this NON-theory is applicable to other natural life-cycles. What for instance are we to make of the development of moths and butterflies? Engels seemed to think their development illustrated his 'laws':

 

"With most insects, this process follows the same lines as in the case of the grain of barley. Butterflies, for example, spring from the egg by a negation of the egg, pass through certain transformations until they reach sexual maturity, pair and are in turn negated, dying as soon as the pairing process has been completed and the female has laid its numerous eggs." [Engels (1976), p.173.]

 

But, moths and butterflies go through the following developmental stages:

 

 AdultEggPupaChrysalisAdult

 

Which is the negation of which here? And which is the NON? And what about organisms that reproduce by splitting, such as amoebae and bacteria? In any such spit, which half is the negation and which the NON?23

 

Spare a thought, too, for Hermaphrodites, for example, the African Bat Bug. This is what the New Scientist had to say about this odd insect:

 

"If you thought human sexual relationships were tricky, be thankful you're not an African bat bug. They show what could be the most extreme case of transsexualism yet discovered. Male bat bugs sport female genitalia, and some females have genitalia that mimic the male's version of the female bits -- as well as their own redundant vagina.

 

"Bat bugs, and their relatives the bed bugs, are renowned among entomologists for their gruesome and bizarre method of reproduction. Males never use the vagina, instead piercing the female's abdomen and inseminating directly into the blood, where the sperm then swim to the ovaries. It is this 'traumatic insemination', as it is termed, which is at the root of the extreme levels of gender bending in the African bat bug, says Klaus Reinhardt of the University of Sheffield, UK.

 

"Female bat bugs have evolved a countermeasure to the stabbing of the male's penis -- structures on their abdomens known as paragenitals. These are a defence mechanism that limits the damage by guiding the male's sharp penis into a spongy structure full of immune cells.

 

"When Reinhardt's team studied bat bugs in a cave on Mount Elgon, Kenya -- already famous as a place that elephants visit to mine for salt -- they found that the males also had defence genitals. What's more, they had scarring on their abdomens similar to that of the females following copulation. In other words, males had been using their penises to stab other males.

 

"If that isn't strange enough, when the team looked at 43 preserved female bat bugs, they found that 84% had male versions of the defence genitals. Females with this male version of female genitals had less scarring due to penetration than the other females.

 

"'This is what we think might have happened,' says Reinhardt. 'Males started getting nobbled (sic) by other males, so they evolved the female defensive genitals. As this reduced the amount of penis damage they were getting, females evolved the male version of the female genitals.'

 

"While theoretical models have predicted that females should evolve different morphologies to escape male attention, this is the first time it has been seen in genitalia, Reinhardt says. 'It's a spectacular example of evolution through sexual conflict.'" [New Scientist, 195, 2622, 22/09/07, p.11. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

It is to be hoped that the NON visits these highly confused insects one day to give them more than just friendly marriage guidance counselling.24

 

And, it appears that scientists can now by-pass this 'Law' at will:

 

"With a surprisingly simple genetic tweak, scientists have transformed nematode worms into hermaphrodites. They report in the journal Science that lowering the activity of just two genetic pathways produces the change.

 

"Evolution from a species consisting of males and females into one consisting of only males and hermaphrodites happens naturally in many nematodes. A team of US researchers says their experiment explains how this might take place.

 

"They say it also provides a simple model helping scientists to work out the mechanism of evolutionary change. The researchers chose to study the evolution of female worms into hermaphrodites because it was a 'striking change' that occurred relatively recently.

 

"Ronald Ellis, a biologist from the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey in the US, who led the research, said that most big evolutionary changes within species happened too long ago to study at the genetic level.

 

"'But this dramatic change happened fairly recently and in a group of animals that we know a lot about...[,] that's why we're studying it to find out how complex traits are created,' he told BBC News.

 

"Dr Ellis said it was exciting to discover that, by lowering the activity of just two genetic pathways he and his team were able to 'take what should have been a female animal and turn it into a cell fertile hermaphrodite'. The two genes the researchers 'tweaked' were one involved in making sperm and another involved in activating them.

 

"'These were small changes to the activity of genetic pathways that already existed,' said Dr Ellis. 'So the pieces were already in place, they just had to be altered so they worked in a slightly new way.' He said the finding was surprising because it was such a simple change that produced a trait that was so dramatic.

 

"Genes of change

 

"The scientists use nematode worms as simple models to show how evolution works at a genetic level. 'We understand how evolution tweaks simple traits, like a giraffe's neck [getting] longer and longer over time,' he said. 'But most of the most important changes -- the creation of the eye, the development of feathers in birds, wings in insects -- involved the creation of novel traits.

 

"'The better we understand this, the better we can understand the kinds of changes that created humans from our ancestors.' Dr David Lunt, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Hull, UK, who was not involved in this study told BBC News that said this was an 'excellent experiment'.

 

"'Scientists study the evolution of sexual systems because it allows us to see all the forces of evolution at once,' he explained. 'We have very few model systems anywhere near as powerful as this one.'" [BBC News, 15/11/09. Emphases in the original; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Some paragraphs merged. See also here.]25

 

However, there appear to be countless processes in nature that are equally NON-defying: for example, how does the NON apply to such things as the periodic extinction of life on earth (by meteorites, or other ambient causes)? When a comet hits the earth (if it does), which is the negation and which the NON? And where is the development here? Do meteorites develop into anything new after they slam into the Earth? Is the resulting crater creative?

 

Furthermore, when a planet orbits a star, is there even a tiny sliver of space for the NON to gain a toe-hold? The said planet may continue to orbit for hundreds of thousands of years with little significant change (in mass, speed, inclination to the ecliptic, etc.). Again, where is the development?

 

[Objections to these objections (on the lines that the NON in fact only applies to 'development') will considered in Essay Eight Part One.]

 

Again, it could be argued that this seriously misconstrues the NON; but we have already seen that events and processes, which dialecticians regard as eminently developmental, do not in fact develop; indeed, they go backwards.

 

So, until DM-theorists actually tell us what is and what is not 'genuinely developmental' (and/or what is or is not in fact a correct example of the NON at work), the above objections must stand as counter-instances with as much right to be such as the (very few) instances to which dialecticians themselves appeal to illustrate this 'Law'. If these counter-examples are defective, then those that DM-fans regularly use are, too.

 

What this shows is that this 'Law' is not just the scrag-end of a piss poor theory, but that as an account of the natural world (and much else besides) it is a definite NON-starter.

 

 

"Laws, Jim, But Not As We Know Them"

 

To be completed...

 

 

Conclusion: Same Old Tune -- Different Words

 

Finally, as noted in Essay Two, with respect to each of these 'Laws', DM-theorists have been quite happy to derive Superscientific theses from a handful of obscure words -- only in this case, such Supertruths have been obtained from badly garbled less than half-formed ideas and seriously botched 'thought experiments'.

 

 

Notes

 

01. April 2011: Since writing this material, I have obtained a copy of Levy (1937), which is in parts a sophisticated defence of classical DM. Indeed, this book contains what is perhaps the most intelligent defence of the 'dialectical outlook' (applied to the physical sciences) that I have so far read. I will add several comments on this book at a later date.

 

Recently, an American comrade was highly critical of passages like this (i.e., those about metals (etc.) melting slowly). Readers can access his criticisms, and my reply, here. Earlier, another comrade raised similar concerns. What he had to say, and my response, can be read here.

 

A few years back, a UK comrade also raised several legitimate points about glass, arguing (at first) that it is a liquid, not a solid. In which case, he claimed that the assertions advanced in the main body of this Essay (that this particular phase transition is slow, not rapid) are incorrect.

 

However, scientists aren't quite so sure about glass. Here is what one online source tells us about it:

 

"It is sometimes said that glass in very old churches is thicker at the bottom than at the top because glass is a liquid, and so over several centuries it has flowed towards the bottom.  This is not true.  In Mediaeval times panes of glass were often made by the Crown glass process.  A lump of molten glass was rolled, blown, expanded, flattened and finally spun into a disc before being cut into panes.  The sheets were thicker towards the edge of the disc and were usually installed with the heavier side at the bottom.  Other techniques of forming glass panes have been used but it is only the relatively recent float glass processes which have produced good quality flat sheets of glass.

 

"To answer the question 'Is glass liquid or solid?" we have to understand its thermodynamic and material properties.'...

 

"Some people claim that glass is actually a supercooled liquid because there is no first order phase transition as it cools. In fact, there is a second order transition between the supercooled liquid state and the glass state, so a distinction can still be drawn. The transition is not as dramatic as the phase change that takes you from liquid to crystalline solids. There is no discontinuous change of density and no latent heat of fusion. The transition can be detected as a marked change in the thermal expansivity and heat capacity of the material....

 

[The author of this article now goes into considerable detail, which I won't quote -- RL]

 

"There is no clear answer to the question 'Is glass solid or liquid?'.  In terms of molecular dynamics and thermodynamics it is possible to justify various different views that it is a highly viscous liquid, an amorphous solid, or simply that glass is another state of matter which is neither liquid nor solid. The difference is semantic.  In terms of its material properties we can do little better.  There is no clear definition of the distinction between solids and highly viscous liquids.  All such phases or states of matter are idealisations of real material properties.  Nevertheless, from a more common sense point of view, glass should be considered a solid since it is rigid according to everyday experience.  The use of the term 'supercooled liquid' to describe glass still persists, but is considered by many to be an unfortunate misnomer that should be avoided.  In any case, claims that glass panes in old windows have deformed due to glass flow have never been substantiated.  Examples of Roman glassware and calculations based on measurements of glass visco-properties indicate that these claims can't be true.  The observed features are more easily explained as a result of the imperfect methods used to make glass window panes before the float glass process was invented...." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis alone added. Accessed 10/11/08. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Some links also added.]

 

Here is another on-line source:

 

"Is Glass a Liquid or a Solid?

 

"By

 

"Glass is an amorphous form of matter. You may have heard different explanations about whether glass should be classified as a solid or as a liquid. Here is a look at the modern answer to this question and the explanation behind it.

 

"Is Glass a Liquid?

 

"Consider the characteristics of liquids and solids. Liquids have a definite volume, but they take the shape of their container. A solid has a fixed shape as well as fixed volume. So, for glass to be a liquid it would need to be able to change its shape or flow. Does glass flow? No, it does not!

 

"Probably the idea that glass is a liquid came from observing old window glass, which is thicker at the bottom than at the top. This gives the appearance that gravity may have caused the glass to slowly flow.

 

"However, glass does not flow over time! Older glass has variations in thickness because of the way that it was made. Glass that was blown will lack uniformity because the air bubble used to thin out the glass does not expand evenly through the initial glass ball. Glass that was spun when hot also lacks uniform thickness because the initial glass ball is not a perfect sphere and does not rotate with perfect precision. Glass the was poured when molten is thicker at one end and thinner at the other because the glass started to cool during the pouring process. It makes sense that the thicker glass would either form at the bottom of a plate or would be oriented this way, in order to make the glass as stable as possible.

 

"Modern glass is produced in such a way that has even thickness. When you look at modern glass windows, you never see the glass become thicker at the bottom. It is possible to measure any change in the thickness of the glass using laser techniques; such changes have not been observed....

 

"Although glass does not flow like a liquid, it never attains a crystalline structure that many people associate with a solid. However, you know of many solids that are not crystalline! Examples include a block of wood, a piece of coal and a brick. Most glass consists of silicon dioxide, which actually does form a crystal under the right conditions. You know this crystal as quartz.

 

"Physics Definition of Glass

 

"In physics, a glass is defined to be any solid that is formed by rapid melt quenching. Therefore, glass is a solid by definition.

 

"Why Would Glass Be a Liquid?

 

"Glass lacks a first order phase transition, which means it does not have a volume, entropy and enthalpy throughout the glass transition range. This sets glass apart from typical solids, such that it resembles a liquid in this respect. The atomic structure of glass is similar to that of a supercooled liquid. Glass behaves as a solid when it is cooled below its glass transition temperature. In both glass and crystal the translational and rotational motion is fixed. A vibrational degree of freedom remains." [Quoted from here. Accessed 07/09/2012. Bold emphases added.]

 

In that case, according to the criteria we ordinarily apply to other substances, glass is a solid, and when heated it loses its 'solid' properties gradually, and non-"nodally".

 

This is confirmed by the Wikipedia article on Glass:

 

"Glass in the common sense refers to a hard, brittle, transparent amorphous solid, such as that used for windows, many bottles, or eyewear, including, but not limited to, soda-lime glass, borosilicate glass, acrylic glass, sugar glass, isinglass (Muscovy-glass), or aluminium oxynitride....

 

"In the scientific sense the term glass is often extended to all amorphous solids (and melts that easily form amorphous solids), including plastics, resins, or other silica-free amorphous solids....

 

"Glass is generally classed as an amorphous solid rather than a liquid. Glass displays all the mechanical properties of a solid. The notion that glass flows to an appreciable extent over extended periods of time is not supported by empirical research or theoretical analysis. From a more commonsense point of view, glass should be considered a solid since it is rigid according to everyday experience." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis alone added. Accessed 10/11/08. This Wikipedia page has changed considerably since it was first accessed, although none of the above substantive points seem to have been altered.]

 

See also the following New York Times article:

 

"'It surprises most people that we still don't understand this,' said David R. Reichman, a professor of chemistry at Columbia, who takes yet another approach to the glass problem. 'We don't understand why glass should be a solid and how it forms.'...

 

"Scientists are slowly accumulating more clues. A few years ago, experiments and computer simulations revealed something unexpected: as molten glass cools, the molecules do not slow down uniformly. Some areas jam rigid first while in other regions the molecules continue to skitter around in a liquid-like fashion. More strangely, the fast-moving regions look no different from the slow-moving ones....

 

"For scientists, glass is not just the glass of windows and jars, made of silica, sodium carbonate and calcium oxide. Rather, a glass is any solid in which the molecules are jumbled randomly. Many plastics like polycarbonate are glasses, as are many ceramics....

 

"In freezing to a conventional solid, a liquid undergoes a so-called phase transition; the molecules line up next to and on top of one another in a simple, neat crystal pattern. When a liquid solidifies into a glass, this organized stacking is nowhere to be found. Instead, the molecules just move slower and slower and slower, until they are effectively not moving at all, trapped in a strange state between liquid and solid.

 

"The glass transition differs from a usual phase transition in several other key ways. Energy, what is called latent heat, is released when water molecules line up into ice. There is no latent heat in the formation of glass.

 

"The glass transition does not occur at a single, well-defined temperature; the slower the cooling, the lower the transition temperature. Even the definition of glass is arbitrary -- basically a rate of flow so slow that it is too boring and time-consuming to watch. The final structure of the glass also depends on how slowly it has been cooled." [New York Times, 29/07/08. Accessed 10/11/08. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

See also here, where we find the following comments:

 

"Glass is an amorphous solid. A material is amorphous when it has no long-range order, that is, when there is no regularity in the arrangement of its molecular constituents on a scale larger than a few times the size of these groups. [...] A solid is a rigid material; it does not flow when it is subjected to moderate forces [...]." [Doremus (1994), p.1.]

 

"Glass includes all materials which are structurally similar to a liquid. However, under ambient temperature they react to the impact of force with elastic deformation and therefore have to be considered as solids." [Pfaender (1996), p.17.]

 

"Amorphous substances, like crystalline solids, are usually characterized by certain areas of short-range order. [...] A long-range order, as in crystals, does not exist in amorphous substances. The designations 'amorphous' and 'noncrystalline' describe the same fact. [...]

 

"Glasses are noncrystalline or amorphous substances. Nevertheless, the term vitreous state is restricted to (i) solids obtained from melts, or (ii) solids produced by other methods and obtained in a compact form or as thin coherent films [...].

 

"Glasses have numerous properties in common with crystalline solids, such as hardness and elasticity of shape [...]. The term 'amorphous solid state' has a more comprehensive meaning broader than that of the 'vitreous state'. All glasses are amorphous, but not all amorphous substances are glasses." [Feltz (1993), pp.7-8. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

"As kinetically frozen forms of liquid, glasses are characterized by a complete lack of long-range crystalline order and are the most structurally disordered types of solid known." [Jeanloz and Williams (1991), p.659.]

 

Several more quotations along the same lines can be found at the above link (where a simple test to decide whether or not a substance is solid or liquid is outlined (in the Appendix at the end)). [However, I haven't yet been able to check the above quotations or the references.]

 

And, here is what we find in a recent article from Science Daily:

 

"Scientists fully understand the process of water turning to ice. As the temperature cools, the movement of the water molecules slows. At 32oF, the molecules form crystal lattices, solidifying into ice. In contrast, the molecules of glasses do not crystallize. The movement of the glass molecules slows as temperature cools, but they never lock into crystal patterns. Instead, they jumble up and gradually become glassier, or more viscous. No one understands exactly why." [Science Daily, 13/08/07. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, I wasn't wrong to call glass a solid, or allege that the phase change here is slow, or "gradual", and not at all "nodal".

 

And, on the so-called "Glass Transition", Wikipedia had this to say:

 

"The liquid-glass transition (or glass transition for short) is the reversible transition in amorphous materials (or in amorphous regions within semicrystalline materials) from a hard and relatively brittle state into a molten or rubber-like state. An amorphous solid that exhibits a glass transition is called a glass. Supercooling a viscous liquid into the glass state is called vitrification, from the Latin vitreum, 'glass' via French vitrifier.

 

"Despite the massive change in the physical properties of a material through its glass transition, the transition is not itself a phase transition of any kind....

 

"The glass transition of a liquid to a solid-like state may occur with either cooling or compression. The transition comprises a smooth increase in the viscosity of a material by as much as 17 orders of magnitude without any pronounced change in material structure." [Quoted from here; accessed 05/11/11. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Another source gives several examples of amorphous materials:

 

"Amorphous materials are ubiquitous in natural and engineered systems. Granular fault gouge in earthquakes faults, thin film lubricants, and bulk metallic glasses are seemingly disparate systems which are similar in that they possess an amorphous structure. Colloids, emulsions, window glass, dense polymers, and even biological tissues are other examples.

 

"Other examples of amorphous materials include colloids and emulsions, foams, glass-forming molecular liquids, traffic jams...." [Quoted from here. Accessed 05/11/11. See also here.]

 

Moreover, they all change non-"nodally".

 

To be sure, all this was unknown in Engels's day -- but he surely can't have been unaware of the fact that glass melts slowly. Why then did he "foist" this 'Law' on the facts?

 

It could be objected (and has been objected, here) that Engels is quite specific; the First 'Law' links the addition or subtraction of matter and/or energy to changes in quality in the natural world, but not in relation to social development:

 

"The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy).

 

"All qualitative differences in nature rest on differences of chemical composition or on different quantities or forms of motion (energy) or, as is almost always the case, on both. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned. In this form, therefore, Hegel's mysterious principle appears not only quite rational but even rather obvious." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

Maybe so, but a few pages later he added this:

 

"In biology, as in the history of human society, the same law holds good at every step, but we prefer to dwell here on examples from the exact sciences, since here the quantities are accurately measurable and traceable." [Ibid., p.68. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Here, he links "the same law" with social change. He then says this:

 

"But to have formulated for the first time in its universally valid form a general law of development of nature, society, and thought, will always remain an act of historic importance." [Ibid., p.68. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, the "same law" applies universally to the "development of nature, society, and thought".

 

Not much wiggle room there, one feels.

 

It could be argued that Engels does not specifically apply this Law in its 'addition of matter and motion' form to social change, and no wonder; the latter sort of change can't be reduced to such crude formulations.

 

Or, so it could be maintained.

 

But, if that is so, it can't be the "same law", nor could it be completely general. Notice that in the same section of DN, Engels refers us back to the 'matter and motion' formulation of this 'Law':

 

"The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy).

 

"All qualitative differences in nature rest on differences of chemical composition or on different quantities or forms of motion (energy) or, as is almost always the case, on both. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned. In this form, therefore, Hegel's mysterious principle appears not only quite rational but even rather obvious." [Ibid., p.63. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

And, he then says:

 

"In biology, as in the history of human society, the same law holds good at every step, but we prefer to dwell here on examples from the exact sciences, since here the quantities are accurately measurable and traceable." [Ibid., p.68. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, and once more, Engels specifically tells us that this is the "same law"; hence the 'matter and motion' protocols must apply here, too.

 

It could be objected that these comments appear in notebooks, so the precise formulation should not be relied upon too much.

 

However, when we read AD, a published work, we see Engels himself connecting this 'Law' to social change:

 

"In proof of this law we might have cited hundreds of other similar facts from nature as well as from human society. Thus, for example, the whole of Part IV of Marx's Capital -- production of relative surplus-value -- deals, in the field of co-operation, division of labour and manufacture, machinery and modern industry, with innumerable cases in which quantitative change alters the quality, and also qualitative change alters the quantity, of the things under consideration; in which therefore, to use the expression so hated by Herr Dühring, quantity is transformed into quality and vice versa. As for example the fact that the co-operation of a number of people, the fusion of many forces into one single force, creates, to use Marx's phrase, a 'new power', which is essentially different from the sum of its separate forces." [Engels (1972), p.160. Bold emphasis alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Here, this 'Law' is applied to social change, and in its 'addition of matter and motion' form, too -- for Engels specifically refers to the:

 

"[C]o-operation of a number of people, the fusion of many forces into one single force, creates, to use Marx's phrase, a 'new power', which is essentially different from the sum of its separate forces." [Ibid.]

 

And human beings are, plainly, made of matter, and many have been known to move.

 

He then adds:

 

"In conclusion we shall call one more witness for the transformation of quantity into quality, namely -- Napoleon. He describes the combat between the French cavalry, who were bad riders but disciplined, and the Mamelukes, who were undoubtedly the best horsemen of their time for single combat, but lacked discipline, as follows:

 

"'Two Mamelukes were undoubtedly more than a match for three Frenchmen; 100 Mamelukes were equal to 100 Frenchmen; 300 Frenchmen could generally beat 300 Mamelukes, and 1,000 Frenchmen invariably defeated 1,500 Mamelukes.'

 

"Just as with Marx a definite, though varying, minimum sum of exchange-values was necessary to make possible its transformation into capital, so with Napoleon a detachment of cavalry had to be of a definite minimum number in order to make it possible for the force of discipline, embodied in closed order and planned utilisation, to manifest itself and rise superior even to greater numbers of irregular cavalry, in spite of the latter being better mounted, more dexterous horsemen and fighters, and at least as brave as the former. But what does this prove as against Herr Dühring? Was not Napoleon miserably vanquished in his conflict with Europe? Did he not suffer defeat after defeat? And why? Solely in consequence of having introduced the confused, hazy Hegelian notion into cavalry tactics!" [Ibid., pp.163-64. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Here, Engels again tells us this 'Law' operates in the same way, and that an increase in the number of disciplined soldiers involved (which is manifestly an increase in matter) changes their quality. So, no wonder he called this a "general law", and "the same law" applying to the "development of nature, society, and thought".

 

It could now be objected that this is ridiculous, since Engels knew that complex social changes can't be reduced in such a crude manner to  'matter and motion'. But, as we will see throughout this Essay, Engels is so confused about such things this isn't a safe inference to make. This is quite apart from the fact that we have yet to see the proof that such a reduction can't be made. Short of that, DM-fans will have to impose this particular belief on nature (i.e., the idea that such a reduction can't be made), despite the fact that this is something they tell us they never do.

 

[Incidentally, the above comment doesn't make any concessions to reductionism, it merely questions, once again, DM-fans' consistency.]

 

Hence, all the above objections fail.

 

01a. It could be argued that balding is a classic example of the operation of this law in that, like the 'heap of sand' paradox, it expresses a sorites problem. So, we have a gradual process as one hair is lost each time; hence, at some point, the individual concerned suddenly becomes bald. I have neutralised this argument here.

 

1. "Not so!" I hear some readers exclaim. But, as we will see, the nature of these "nodal points" is left entirely obscure by dialecticians. Until they clarify what they mean by this concept, not even they will know whether or not the claims made in the main body of this Essay are accurate.

 

To be sure, the picture nature presents us with in this regard is highly complex, which is one of the reasons why Engels's 'Laws' can't possibly capture its complexity, regardless of the other serious flaws they contain.

 

However, it is worth emphasising at this point that the nature of state of matter transitions is not being questioned in this Essay, only whether all of them are sudden/"nodal".

 

Consequently, either the "nodal" aspect of the First 'Law' is defective, or it only works in some cases, not others -- in which case, it can't be a law.

 

In fact, Physicists tell us that what they call "second-order" Phase Transitions can proceed smoothly. As one online source says:

 

"Second-order phase transitions, on the other hand, proceed smoothly. The old phase transforms itself into the new phase in a continuous manner."

 

[See also Note 9 -- where we will find that "first order" phase changes aren't all that straight-forward, either.]

 

Moreover, under certain conditions it is possible to by-pass phase transformations altogether. [More on that later.]

 

Furthermore, it is important to distinguish between states of matter, and phases:

 

"Phases are sometimes confused with states of matter, but there are significant differences. States of matter refers to the differences between gases, liquids, solids, etc. If there are two regions in a chemical system that are in different states of matter, then they must be different phases. However, the reverse is not true -- a system can have multiple phases which are in equilibrium with each other and also in the same state of matter. For example, diamond and graphite are both solids but they are different phases, even though their composition may be identical. A system with oil and water at room temperature will be two different phases of differing composition, but both will be the liquid state of matter." [Wikipedia.]

 

On another page we find the following:

 

"States of matter are sometimes confused with phases. This is likely due to the fact that in many example systems, the familiar phase transitions are also transformations of the state of matter. In the example of water, the phases of ice, liquid water, and water vapour are commonly recognized. The common phase transitions observed in a one component system containing only water are melting/solidification (liquid/solid), evaporation/condensation (liquid/gas) and sublimation/deposition (solid/gas).

 

"Transitions between different states of matter of the same chemical component are necessarily a phase transformation, but not all phase transformations involve a change in the state of matter. For example, there are 14 different forms of ice, all of which are the solid state of matter. When one form of ice transforms into another, the crystal structure, density, and a number of physical properties change, but it remains a solid." [Wikipedia. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, here we have a phase change while the supposed "quality" remains the same!

 

It isn't easy to see how this can be made consistent with the First 'Law'.

 

And, as this Wikipedia article goes on to say:

 

"In general, two different states of a system are in different phases if there is an abrupt change in their physical properties while transforming from one state to the other. Conversely, two states are in the same phase if they can be transformed into one another without any abrupt changes." [Wikipedia. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, even here, some "qualitative" changes are non-"nodal".

 

Indeed, the situation is even more complicated still:

 

"In the diagram, the phase boundary between liquid and gas does not continue indefinitely. Instead, it terminates at a point on the phase diagram called the critical point. At temperatures and pressure above the critical point, the physical property differences that differentiate the liquid phase from the gas phase become less defined. This reflects the fact that, at extremely high temperatures and pressures, the liquid and gaseous phases become indistinguishable. In water, the critical point occurs at around 647K (374°C or 705°F) and 22.064 MPa." [Wikipedia. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"In physical chemistry, thermodynamics, chemistry and condensed matter physics, a critical point, also called a critical state, specifies the conditions (temperature, pressure) at which the liquid state of the matter ceases to exist. As a liquid is heated, its density decreases while the pressure and density of the vapour being formed increases. The liquid and vapour densities become closer and closer to each other until the critical temperature is reached where the two densities are equal and the liquid-gas line or phase boundary disappears. Additionally, as the equilibrium between liquid and gas approaches the critical point, heat of vaporization approaches zero, becoming zero at and beyond the critical point. More generally, the critical point is the point of termination of a phase equilibrium curve, which separates two distinct phases. At this point, the phases are no longer distinguishable." [Wikipedia. Bold emphasis added. Spelling changed to conform to UK English.]

 

This can only mean that qualitative differences between the liquid and gaseous phases of water are energy-neutral beyond this "critical point", contradicting Engels.

 

Here is what a standard Physical Chemistry textbook had to say:

 

"[W]e must distinguish the thermodynamic description of a phase transition and the rate at which the transition occurs. A transition that is predicted from thermodynamics to be spontaneous may occur too slowly to be significant in practice. For instance, at normal temperatures and pressures the molar Gibbs energy of graphite is lower than that of diamond, so there is a thermodynamic tendency for diamond to change into graphite. However, for this transformation to take place, the C[arbon] atoms must change their locations, which is an immeasurably slow process in a solid except at high temperatures." [Atkins and de Paula (2006), p.118. Bold emphases added.]

 

In that case, nature (i.e., the real material world, not the Ideal world that Hegel and Engels dreamt up) is far more complex than this Mickey Mouse 'Law' would have us believe.

 

Once more, not every change is "nodal".

 

Indeed, scientists in the USA recently reported they had discovered a new state of matter, which while being solid, appears to behave like a liquid (hence, here we would have a change of quality with no change in quantity):

 

"In the 15 January 2004 issue of the journal Nature, two physicists from Penn State University will announce their discovery of a new phase of matter, a 'supersolid' form of helium-4 with the extraordinary frictionless-flow properties of a superfluid. 'We discovered that solid helium-4 appears to behave like a superfluid when it is so cold that the laws of quantum mechanics govern its behaviour,' says Moses H. W. Chan, Evan Pugh Professor of Physics at Penn State. 'We apparently have observed, for the first time, a solid material with the characteristics of a superfluid.'

 

"'The possible discovery of a new phase of matter, a supersolid, is exciting and, if confirmed, would be a significant advance,' comments John Beamish, professor of physics at the University of Alberta and the author of a review of Chan's discovery published in the 'News and Views' section of Nature. 'If the behaviour is confirmed, there are enough questions to be answered about the nature and properties of supersolid helium to keep both experimentalists and theorists busy for a long time.'...

 

"'Something very unusual occurred when the temperature dropped to one-tenth of a degree above absolute zero,' Chan says. 'The oscillation rate suddenly became slightly more rapid, as if some of the helium had disappeared.' However, Chan and Kim were able to confirm that the helium atoms had not leaked out of the experimental capsule because its rate of oscillation returned to normal after they warmed the capsule above one-tenth of a degree above absolute zero. So they concluded that the solid helium-4 probably had acquired the properties of a superfluid when the conditions were more extreme....

 

"If Chan's experiment is replicated, it would confirm that all three states of matter can enter into the "super" state, known as a Bose-Einstein condensation, in which all the particles have condensed into the same quantum-mechanical state. The existence of superfluid and 'supervapor' had previously been proven, but theorists had continued to debate about whether a supersolid was even possible. 'One of the most intriguing predictions of the theory of quantum mechanics is the possibility of superfluid behaviour in a solid-phase material, and now we may have observed this behaviour for the first time,' Chan says." [Science Daily, 15/01/2004. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site; spelling changed to conform to UK English.]

 

Sure, the above change is sudden (whoever denied that some changes were?), but, while that particular aspect of the First 'Law' has been partially confirmed in this case, the main part (where Engels said it was impossible to alter the quality of an object/process without the addition or subtraction of matter or energy) has been refuted by the discovery of such superfluids/supervapors, and now by these supersolids, and the substance in question remained Helium either side of the change.

 

Even so, it is entirely unclear whether the term "quality" -- as it is used by dialecticians -- means the same as "state of matter" or "phase". Either way, the substance involved, whether it is in a different phase or state, remains the same substance. So, in that sense, if "quality" is defined in terms of the nature of substances (as was the case with Hegel and Aristotle -- on that, see here), it is clear that even though there are phase/state of matter changes, they can't count as qualitative changes of the right sort, since these substances remain the same throughout. Hence, howsoever slowly or quickly iron melts or solidifies, for example, it remains iron.

 

Now, has a single DM-fan ever given any thought to this awkward fact?

 

Are you serious?

 

Recall, this is Mickey-Mouse Science we are dealing with here!

 

Moreover, as noted above, until we are told the exact length of a dialectical "node", the First 'Law' can't be considered anything other than a hopelessly vague and/or subjective rule-of-thumb -- at best. If "nodal" points are several minutes long, then many of the examples dialecticians give would cease to be "nodal". On the other hand, if they last, say, a few nanoseconds, perhaps none at all would survive. A case of survival of the quickest, one presumes.

 

However, the bemused reader can search through DM-texts till the cows next evolve for any hint of clarity or precision in this regard; indeed, DM has been so amateurishly constructed that this point will not even have occurred to most DM-fans. And, even now (after reading this), they will hand-wave it aside as a pedantic irrelevance -- so sloppy have their thought processes become. [On 'pedantry', see here.]

 

We can be thankful that scientists are not so slap-dash; can you image a Physicist waving aside as irrelevant the timing or duration of, say, certain nuclear reactions?

 

One imagines that if ever the Olympics were run by such cavalier dialecticians, everyone would get Gold on the grounds that precise timing is a 'pedantic irrelevance'.

 

In that case, it is to be hoped that DM-fans are never given the opportunity to run a train service -- and are allowed nowhere near a demolition site.

 

[The above was written before I had read this.]

 

1a. For example, Ghiselin (1975), and Hull (1976, 1988). On this, see here.

 

1b. Of course, it could be objected that organisms do in fact 'contradict' one another when, for example, they compete for scarce resources, etc. Contradictions thus apply to the 'struggle' for survival among conspecifics. Or so it might be argued.

 

But, even if this were a correct way of picturing 'dialectical contradictions', there still do not appear to be any that are internal to particular organisms which motivate evolutionary change in those organisms.

 

And, this is not just because evolution works on populations, not individuals. It is because changes to organisms are both internally- and externally-induced. As we will see, mutations, of course, can be internally-generated (as copying 'errors', etc.), but many are not; they are externally-motivated by radiation, viral and/or chemical agents. Indeed, some organisms even share mutations (for example, bacteria). What kind of 'contradiction' is that?

 

In addition, populations of organisms change in response to environmental pressure (which, so we are told, selects out unfavourable variations). This is clearly an external constraint.

 

As we shall also see, depicting any of these as 'contradictions' -- howsoever they are caused -- is seriously confused. [This topic is discussed in more detail in Essay Eight Parts One, Two, and Three.]

 

[On this topic in general, see Ridley (2004); on the 'external' and 'internal' causes of speciation, see Coyne and Orr (2004).]

 

Notwithstanding all this, it isn't easy to see how conspecific competition could be 'contradictory'. Not only do many animals and plants cooperate (on this see Kropotkin (1939), and Ryan (2002)), those that compete with heterospecifics do not in general struggle against members of their own species. So, for example, if a herd of deer is running away from a predator, and the fastest individuals escape/survive, no one imagines that they do this by struggling with those that didn't/can't -- for example, by deliberately hindering or tripping fellow conspecifics. Of course, there are many examples of organisms that do compete conspecifically, but there are just as many (perhaps more) that do not. So, if this 'Law' applies here, it does so only fitfully. Once more, calling this sort of competition a "contradiction" would be a serious error.

 

Moreover, according to the Dialectical Classics, objects and processes change because of (1) A "struggle" between "opposites", and because (2) Those "opposites" change into "one another". But, competing conspecifics or heterospecifics manifestly do not change into one another as a result of this alleged 'contradiction', or even this 'struggle'. A well-fed lion does not, for example, change into a starving lioness, nor yet a hungry hyena, which it would have to do if the dialectical classics are to be believed (i.e., when they tell us that that objects and processes change into that with which they 'struggle'). Any who are tempted to question this inference are invited to read the many passages I have quoted from the DM-classics that tell us precisely this. [Follow the above link.]

 

Concerning animal cooperation, here is an amazing video of a Hippopotamus rescuing a Wildebeest from the jaws of a Crocodile:

 

 

Video Eight: Hippo Refutes Hegel?

 

Where is the 'contradiction' here? Some might think that the Hippo 'contradicted' the Crocodile, but if you watch carefully, the former says nothing at all to the latter, and the Hippo doesn't turn into the Crocodile, nor vice versa -- as we were told should happen to objects and processes in nature that "struggle" with one another, 'dialectically'.

 

Furthermore, any who think that altruistic or cooperative behaviour in animals and plants can be explained along neo-Darwinian lines, perhaps as a consequence of the 'Theory of Inclusive Fitness', would do well to read Stove (1994a, 1994b) -- the latter has just been re-issued as Stove (2006) --, as well as Franklin (1997), which a response to Blackburn (1994) --, and then think again. [I have discussed this in more detail in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]

 

[For those unfamiliar with work of David Stove, it is worth adding that up until his death in 1994 he was an avowed atheist. He had also been a communist in his youth. He believed that Darwin's theory was the best explanation we have for the origin of the species, but he held that it wasn't itself without serious flaws, especially in relation to human evolution. Later in life he turned into a right-wing conservative who propounded many offensive views, especially about race and about women; but that should no more stop us reading his critique of neo-Darwinism than dialecticians allow Hegel's right-wing views prevent them from reading his 'Logic'.]

 

Update, August 2011: The National Geographic Wild Channel has just shown a documentary about a lioness protecting a new born Wildebeest from attacking Hyenas. Precious little 'contradicting' going on in this encounter, either. Here is a brief trailer of that film:

 

 

Video Nine: Spot The 'Contradiction'

 

And, here is film of another lioness adopting an Oryx calf, apparently one of several that year:

 

 

Video Ten: Better Luck This Time...

 

Update, April 2013: The BBC has a video of a female goat that has adopted two (sheep) lambs. (Not much 'contradicting' noticeable here, either.)

 

And here is a brief picture report from The Guardian:

 

"Kimon, an eight-year-old pet female long-tailed monkey, treats a kitten as her baby in Bintan Island, Indonesia." [Quoted from here.]

 

 

Figure Nine: Fortunately, Neither Of These Crazy, Mixed-Up Animals Has Read Hegel

 

And here's video of another:

 

 

Video Eleven: And Neither Have These

 

As I have repeatedly said: nature is far too complex to squeeze into a DM-boot it won't fit.

 

1c. It is worth noting the response of one comrade (here), who offered what amounts to a subjectivist counter-argument, along the following lines:

 

"She [i.e., Rosa L] also does not understand that thousands of years are actually very short periods of time, geologically speaking."

 

Which fact is not, of course, something that evolution itself understands, possessing neither a memory nor a working knowledge of Geology. Hence, the processes involved clearly do not know when something is short or long, nor do they know when to speed up just to make sure they 'obey' this 'Law'. [The point of that rather odd remark will become clear presently.]

 

As should seem plain, a comparison like this (with all of geological time) depends on a subjective view of events, one that we as observers of the whole process form of the course of evolution and the development of the Earth. The processes themselves have no appreciation of the time periods involved. In that case, to describe these "nodal" points as either "long" or "short" would be to do so from our perspective. From the 'perspective' of the organisms involved, tens of thousands of years wouldn't be a short time. So, for amateur dialectical palaeontologists to describe these "nodal" episodes  as either "long" or "short" would be no less subjective.

 

It could be argued that a ten-, or twenty-thousand year period is short when compared with the hundreds of millions of years that organisms have been evolving; so this is not even remotely subjective.

 

Of course, the point is that nature itself can't take this view -- since, plainly, it isn't conscious! Human observers certainly make comparisons of this sort, and as such these comparisons aren't observer-independent -- hence, they aren't objective. [Of course, that depends on how "objective" is understood.]

 

Again, exception could be taken to this in that the above doesn't imply these comparisons aren't objective. That is because these time periods exist independently of human observers.

 

But, once more, comparisons don't exist in nature. Without conscious beings to do the comparing, they would never be, or have been, made. So, while the processes concerned certainly exist without human observers to record them, this isn't true of the comparisons themselves. [Which is the reason for those earlier, rather odd comments.]

 

Moreover, the phenomena themselves do not dictate to us that we should, or must compare the rapid speciation of a certain organism with the whole of geological time, no more than we would allow similar comparisons to be made with anything else. So, for example, it certainly won't do for someone sat in a restaurant, say, who has been waiting several hours for their food to arrive to be told that in comparison to the amount of time since the Pre-Cambrian Period they have in fact been served rather quickly.

 

Such comparisons aren't forced on us by nature, and that is why we can't just use them anywhere or anyhow we please, as that weak joke sought to bring out. If we insist on drawing lines somewhere, that needs justification of some sort. As far as I am aware, no such justification has been produced by a single dialectician.

 

Anyway, why should we compare the speciation underway in one population with all of geological time? If we have to make comparisons, a more relevant one would seem be one drawn against the length of time that species has been in existence, which may only be of the order of tens of thousands of years. In that case, the time period Gould envisaged for a new bout of speciation would be relatively long (or, rather, it will not always be relatively short), compared to the time period that the said species had been around, making this "nodal" point quite protracted, and hence not really "nodal" at all.

 

There is nothing in nature itself that tells us we have to slice things up one way rather than another (although it might be possible to give some sort of a rationale for one specific choice over an alternative, as was done, for instance, in the previous paragraph). While development may or may not be punctuated, geological time itself hasn't been punctuated for us, with objective periods highlighted for our convenience. Certainly geologists have divided up the past into the familiar geological ages, but that in itself doesn't force any particular choice on us when it comes to comparing the development of a certain species with the whole of earth's history.

 

And we should certainly resist slicing up the past just to make life easy for dialecticians. Naturally, they can parse nature as they see fit, but then that would merely highlight the subjectivism that we already know is inherent in this 'upside-down' version of Hegelian Idealism.

 

In that case, and once more, the comparison of any of these alleged "nodes" with all of geological time would be no less subjective.

 

Of course, all this sits rather awkwardly with what Engels himself said 'leaps':

 

"With this assurance Herr Dühring saves himself the trouble of saying anything further about the origin of life, although it might reasonably have been expected that a thinker who had traced the evolution of the world back to its self-equal state, and is so much at home on other celestial bodies, would have known exactly what's what also on this point. For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules -- including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper: heat, light, electricity, magnetism. In the same way, the transition from the physics of molecules to the physics of atoms -- chemistry -- in turn involves a decided leap; and this is even more clearly the case in the transition from ordinary chemical action to the chemism of albumen which we call life. Then within the sphere of life the leaps become ever more infrequent and imperceptible. -- Once again, therefore, it is Hegel who has to correct Herr Dühring." [Engels (1976), pp.82-83. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"We have already seen earlier, when discussing world schematism, that in connection with this Hegelian nodal line of measure relations -- in which quantitative change suddenly passes at certain points into qualitative transformation -- Herr Dühring had a little accident: in a weak moment he himself recognised and made use of this line. We gave there one of the best-known examples -- that of the change of the aggregate states of water, which under normal atmospheric pressure changes at 0°C from the liquid into the solid state, and at 100°C from the liquid into the gaseous state, so that at both these turning-points the merely quantitative change of temperature brings about a qualitative change in the condition of the water." [Ibid., p.160. Bold emphasis added.]

 

[I have quoted other passages from the DM-classics that say more-or-less the same.]

 

It is hard to see how a 'qualitative' change that took place in a geological time period lasting maybe ten thousand years can be described as "sudden" (Engels's choice of word, not mine). How would describing such a change as "sudden" (when it takes place in a time period that long) be different from imposing dialectics on the facts?

 

Alternatively, if it is claimed that this 'dialectical' re-description isn't subjective, then dialecticians need to inform us of the objective criteria upon which this piece of convenient temporal parsing has been based -- and then show how nature could possibly have agreed to implement these post hoc (after the event) criteria, and why it failed to signpost them more clearly for our convenience.

 

And, it would be interesting to see this subjective re-description applied to several of the other examples DM-theorists regularly use to illustrate this 'Law'. To that end, consider a man who went bald over the space of, say, ten years. Because this time interval is short compared to all of geological time, we could count this as a 'rapid' change, with a short "nodal" point. But, is that sensible?

 

On the other hand, and more reasonably, we would surely compare this example of follicular deterioration with that man's life up to that point. In that case, let us assume this individual is, say, thirty when he finally became follically-challenged, with the first signs appearing when he was perhaps twenty. Given these background details, his subsequent hairless condition can now be seen as the result of slow change and the alleged "nodal" point would have to be adjusted accordingly to conform to this new and more reasonable perspective. Indeed, it would clearly be a rather lengthy "nodal" point --, in which case, describing it as "nodal" would be about as accurate as describing a tortoise as "fleet of foot", and Tony Blair as "honest, straight-forward and true".

 

[However, as is pointed out here, there is in fact no "nodal" point in this case; there is no point at which someone who is not bald becomes bald if they lose just one more hair. Naturally, a person's hair could fall out overnight, in which case, we would have a much clearer "nodal" point; but in the majority cases baldness is progressive, not acute.]

 

Consider another example: what if a certain body of water were heated up very rapidly (for example, because the heat source was immense -- say, from a nuclear explosion), and it went from water to steam in just a few seconds; the "nodal" point involved here would clearly be very short. Compare this with the same body of water heated up very slowly (perhaps as a result of long-term global warming), so that it evaporated gradually over the space of several centuries, for the same input of energy. Clearly, there would be no "nodal" point here -- because, in this case the water would never actually boil, even though it would still evaporate. Indeed, evaporation takes place all the time, right round the world as the oceans re-cycle water into the atmosphere very undialectically. Even if there were a "nodal" point here, it would be protracted, not short. Calling it "nodal" would therefore do violence to this word once again.

 

In that case, the duration of "nodal" points themselves seem to change from short to long, and back again (or, they disappear entirely), depending on the context (or the example under consideration), for the same energy budget. Even better, they appear to do this without the intervention of a single 'internal contradiction'.

 

However, subjectivist conclusions like the one that opened this Note are of little use even to dialecticians, for if we are now meant to refer to the entire geological period if we want to classify such "nodal" changes, then the massive 'qualitative' transition from single-celled organisms to present day flora and fauna manifestly took place over a "nodal" point lasting several billion years. Given that comparison, the phrase "nodal point" must lose whatever connection it might once have had with reality (that is, if it ever had any), since it looks as if it can mean anything to anybody.

 

Someone might still complain that the above several billion year-long "nodal" point isn't a single point at all. There are in fact tens of thousands of small "nodal" points dotted along this entire period, all illustrating dialectical change.

 

But, who says? Where are the objective criteria that decide where "nodal" points begin and end? Or, that help us identify and/or count them? Or, that tell us which periods we are supposed to compare with which? Or, even what the Dickens a "nodal" point is to begin with!

 

So far, not only have DM-fans not thought to define (or even so much as loosely characterise) these all-important "nodal" points, they have signally failed to say how we can count them, distinguish them, compare them or even ascertain their length. [On that, see here.]

 

In Mickey Mouse Science like this, it looks like it is sufficient to wave a loose and ill-defined phrase about and fool oneself into thinking that this constitutes genuine scientific knowledge.

 

This probably helps explain why there is (to my knowledge) not a single PhD thesis (in any of the sciences) devoted to this aspect of DM, and which attempts to tighten-up the loose phraseology of any of its 'Laws', or that confirms a single one with adequate evidence. Of course, there are any number of books and articles produced by DM-fans (which are mostly highly repetitive, and which re-cycle the same handful of examples year in, year out) that offer a few hastily cobbled-together ideas on this topic, supported by a smattering of secondary and/or specially-selected 'evidence'. Almost invariably this 'evidence' is padded-out over a few paragraphs, or over a few pages. [Compare that with the scores of pages of detailed evidence found in standard scientific research papers and monographs. I have given several examples of genuine science at work in Note 10a0.]

 

Woods and Grant (1995) is an excellent example of this genre. Even though their display of 'evidence' is more protracted than is the norm with DM-literature, it is still highly selective and plainly slanted to fit this 'Law' --, rather than this 'Law' having been being derived from all the available evidence. Indeed, they consider none of the obvious points raised in this Essay.

 

In their case, Cornforth's words seem rather apt:

 

"Marxism, therefore, seeks to base our ideas of things on nothing but the actual investigation of them, arising from and tested by experience and practice. It does not invent a 'system' as previous philosophers have done, and then try to make everything fit into it…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.14-15. Bold emphasis added.]

 

As now seems clear, not one of these forays into sophomoric 'dialectical' science would satisfy the requirements even of a first year undergraduate paper in Chemistry, Physics or Biology. Can you imagine saying that about any branch of the genuine sciences?

 

And, as pointed out above, even if Gould's alleged "nodal" points were as subjectively short as they are said to be, during each one of them no individual organism actually undergoes speciation, since speciation applies to populations, or possibly even to 'gene pools', not individuals.

 

So, in this case, the alleged passing over of "quantity into quality" attaches to no identifiable object in nature; hence the First 'Law' doesn't apply, even here:

 

"...[T]he transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Engels (1954), p.63. Emphasis added.]

 

"Change of form of motion is always a process that takes place between at least two bodies, of which one loses a definite quantity of motion of one quality (e.g. heat), while the other gains a corresponding quantity of motion of another quality (mechanical motion, electricity, chemical decomposition). Here, therefore, quantity and quality mutually correspond to each other. So far it has not been found possible to convert motion from one form to another inside a single isolated body." [Ibid., pp.63-64. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Naturally, this sloppy approach to science allows dialecticians to imagine that Gould's hypothesis can be used to 'illustrate' their 'theory', but with no 'objective' criteria or data to back it up. Which, once again, shows that DM has been imposed on nature --, or rather, in this case, it has been foisted on Gould.

 

Finally, it is worth noting that Gould's theory was introduced partly to help resolve a serious difficulty that Darwin's theory has itself faced from the beginning: the fact that there are still far too many gaps in the fossil record.

 

[On this, see Schwartz (1999); cf., also this and this. In fact, since Schwartz's new theory of origins is pointedly non-gradualist, it should appeal to DM-fans more than Darwin's!]

 

Now, without adopting a position on this (since it is outside my area of expertise), we need to remember that Gould and Eldredge's theory is still just a theory. It might not pan out; most theories do not. [This allegation will be defended in Essay Thirteen Part Two.] In which case, DM-fans would be unwise to pin all their hopes on it.

 

There is an excellent article on this here, which stresses the relatively rapid changes that Gould and Eldredge's theory postulates, but it also underlines the fact that these changes are still gradual and not saltational (i.e., they are non-"nodal"):

 

"Punctuated equilibrium is therefore mistakenly thought to oppose the concept of gradualism, when it is actually more appropriately understood as a form of gradualism...." [Wikipedia, quoted from here.]

 

Others might be tempted to appeal to what one might call the 'statistical' defence, and claim that the application of Engels's 'Law' to individual objects (or organisms) in evolution is yet another example of 'formal thinking'. However, and on the contrary, Engels's Laws apply to averaged (etc.) data sets. Or, so it could be maintained.

 

But, unless we can specify what it is that bears the qualities that actually undergo change, this 'Law' (as stated by Engels and Hegel) can gain no grip --, for, in that case, there would be no "quality" of anything specific that would change because of the increase in some other unspecified "quantity".

 

The only way round this 'difficulty', it seems, would be to attribute a "quality" to some sort of 'collective individual', the population (or gene pool) in question. But, as noted above, even here change is smooth, and non-"nodal", and largely externally-motivated. In that case, this option is of no use to dialecticians. [On this see, Coyne and Orr (2004).]

 

Moreover, since statistical values do not appear in nature (that is, the world itself does not contain, nor does it calculate, the mean, standard deviation, cumulative frequency, or Poisson distribution of anything whatsoever), then this response is entirely subjective, too.

 

To be sure, we use statistical concepts to help us understand nature, but that doesn't mean such measures are 'objective' --, any more than the Prime Meridian (through Greenwich, in South London, UK), the Equator, or the Centre of Mass of the Galaxy are 'objective'.

 

2. A clear example of "nodal revolutionism" can be found in Woods and Grant (1995), pp.61-63, but this idea is widespread throughout the genre, as anyone familiar with dialectics is well aware. See also Kuusinen (1961), p.89.

 

3. One benighted DM-soul tried to argue that the increase in quantity here is in fact time (alas, the site where this was argued is likely to close any day soon), forgetting that unless time is energy, this response refutes Engels's 'Law'. That is quite apart from the rather bizarre idea that time is a quantity -- and that it can be added to anything!

 

The Necker Cube looks like this:

 

 

Figure Ten: Invented By MI6?

 

Other examples of the same phenomena can be found at countless sites on the internet devoted to optical illusions; here, for instance.

 

Indeed, the very same material object can change qualitatively if its context and/or background is altered, so that no material change to that object will have occurred, but it will have qualitatively changed. The black figures below are all identical, but they look qualitatively different (and this could form part of a moving image on a level surface, so the figures below could look bigger as they moved into this shape -- or 'developed' --, and thus alter qualitatively with no input of energy):

 

 

 

Figure Eleven: Are These Yet More Spectres Haunting DM?

 

[This example was obtained from here.]

 

Of course, some energy might be expended in the above example, but that is not necessarily so. On that, see here. Moreover, Engels was quite specific; energy had to be added to a system or body; however, in this instance that plainly isn't the case. On that, see here.

 

Lest someone be tempted to argue that these are not 'real' objects, but 'mental' entities, it is worth recalling what Engels had to say:

 

"Dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought." [Engels (1976) p.180. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Necker cubes are at least objects of thought, and so should be subject to this 'Law'.

 

4. This how Wikipedia puts things:

 

"In chemistry two stereoisomers are said to be enantiomers if one can be superimposed on the mirror image of the other, and vice versa. A simple analogy would be that your left and right shoes are enantiomers of each other. Two molecules that are made up of the exact same atoms, having exactly the same neighbours, and differing only in their spatial orientation are said to be stereoisomers. A test for enantiomers can be stated thus: Do the molecules possess mirror planes of symmetry? That is, is it possible to find a plane that cuts through the molecule such that the two halves are mirror images of each other? It has to bisect all of the chiral centres.

 

"An enantiomer of an optically active isomer rotates plane polarized light in an equal but opposite direction of the original isomer. A solution of equal parts of an optically active isomer and its enantiomer is known as a racemic solution and has a net rotation of plane polarized light of zero. A more in-depth explanation of this is in the footnotes for optical isomerism....

 

"Research is expanding quite rapidly into the field of chiral chemistry because, for the most part, only one enantiomer is active in a biological system. Most biological reactions are enzymatic and the enzymes can only attach to one of the enantiomers. (The left-shoe stretcher will only fit in the left shoe, not in the right shoe -- enzymes and their targets must fit together.) This is usually not a problem because mother nature only tends to make the one that you need, but if you are introducing a synthetic chemical care must be taken. For example, one enantiomer of thalidomide cures morning sickness, the other causes birth defects.

 

"There are exceptions where both enantiomers are biologically active. One example is (+)-carvone and (-)-carvone; one smells like spearmint and the other like caraway." [Quoted from here. This page was accessed 31/03/05. it has been changed since. The original article is here.]

 

In addition, it is also worth consulting the following:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isomer

 

http://www.creative-chemistry.org.uk/molecules/isomers.htm

 

See also Nelson and Coz (2005), and Clayden et al (2001).

 

Cameron [in Cameron (1995)] claims that in DN Engels had anticipated this objection:

 

"All qualitative differences in nature rest on differences of chemical composition or on different quantities or forms of motion (energy) or, as is almost always the case, on both. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned. In this form, therefore, Hegel's mysterious principle appears not only quite rational but even rather obvious.

 

"It is surely hardly necessary to point out that the various allotropic and aggregational states of bodies, because they depend on various groupings of the molecules, depend on greater or lesser quantities of motion communicated to the bodies.

 

"But what is the position in regard to change of form of motion, or so-called energy? If we change heat into mechanical motion or vice versa, is not the quality altered while the quantity remains the same? Quite correct. But it is with change of form of motion as with Heine's vices; anyone can be virtuous by himself, for vices two are always necessary. Change of form of motion is always a process that takes place between at least two bodies, of which one loses a definite quantity of motion of one quality (e.g. heat), while the other gains a corresponding quantity of motion of another quality (mechanical motion, electricity, chemical decomposition). Here, therefore, quantity and quality mutually correspond to each other. So far it has not been found possible to convert motion from one form to another inside a single isolated body." [Engels (1954), pp.63-64. Bold emphases added.]

 

Cameron argues as follows:

 

"However, do all qualitative changes arise from the 'addition or subtraction of matter or motion'? Engels points to another factor that is sometimes involved: 'by means of a change of position and of connection with neighbouring molecules it ["the molecule" -- Cameron's insertion] can change the body into an allotrope or a different state of aggregation'.... Engels then is arguing that qualitative change can come about by means of 'change of position' or as he put it in another passage, 'various groupings of the molecules'...." [Cameron (1995), pp.66-67. Quotation marks altered to conform to the convention adopted at this site.]

 

However, as Cameron goes on to point out, Engels also said the following:

 

"For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphases added.]

 

In which case, Engels was either thoroughly confused or he regarded a simple change of position as a "quantitative" change.

 

Even so, the counter-examples considered here (i.e., those derived from stereoisomers) do not just concern mere "changes of position", but a symmetrical re-arrangement of constituent atoms. The point of referring to such isomers in this Essay is that these molecules are exact copies of each other, unlike those involved in allotropy. [Indeed, that is why I did not use allotropic examples.]

 

Now, despite the fact that Engels refers to isomers in DN (see below), it is doubtful whether he had heard of stereoisomers (even though they were first isolated by Louis Pasteur; indeed structural chemistry didn't come into its own until the 1860s -- on this see Brock (1992), pp.257-69). Nevertheless, despite the above, it could be maintained that Engels had covered this base with his comment that "qualitative" change could occur:

 

"...by means of a change of position and of connection with neighbouring molecules it can change the body into an allotrope or a different state of aggregation." [Engels (1954), p.63. Bold emphasis added.]

 

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

 

This means that, should any dialecticians want to use the above passage to argue that Engels had anticipated stereoisomers, then they will have to drop the "only", and that "impossible", too. In that case, why call this a "Law" if it admits of no clear boundaries? Would we call Newton's Third Law a "law" if it turned out that it was typically or commonly possible for a reaction not to have an equal and opposite reaction?

 

This is quite apart from the fact that Engels is denying that such ordering relations are a separate factor in "qualitative" change:

 

"It is surely hardly necessary to point out that the various allotropic and aggregational states of bodies, because they depend on various groupings of the molecules, depend on greater or lesser quantities of motion communicated to the bodies." [Ibid., p.63. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Here, Engels is plainly attempting to reduce aggregational change to his principle requirement -- i.e., that "qualitative" change can "only" come about through the addition of matter and/or energy. Hence, far from anticipating stereoisomerism as a factor in "qualitative" change, Engels is here ruling it out as just such a factor! He is in effect saying that the re-arrangement of atoms is no more nor no less than the addition of matter and/or energy, and that it isn't thus an extra or separate cause of such change which he also had to consider.

 

This reading of Engels at least has the merit of rescuing him from the accusation that he was an outright simpleton, who, on the very same page (and in successive paragraphs) declared that (1) "Qualitative"  change can "only" come about through the addition of matter and/or energy, and that (2) It is "impossible" to alter a "quality" in any other way, even though (3) there is in fact another way to alter such "qualities"!

 

[Perhaps we can put his rather loose wording down to the fact that these comments appeared in what were after all notebooks.]

 

However, as we will soon see (here and here), Engels is decidedly unclear what he meant by the "addition" of matter and/or motion/energy. And that isn't all; he is hopelessly vague about what he meant by "quality", "development", "body" and "process", too. Even though he was no simpleton, Engels was definitely a sloppy thinker. [And this can't be put down to the fact that we are considering notebook entries, for he was no less sloppy in published work on philosophy and science, such as AD.] Moreover, in view of the fact that subsequent dialecticians have merely copied Engels's ideas (and have plainly devoted little or no thought to them), it is reasonably clear that his epigones have failed to merit any other description in this regard, either.

 

Some might object here that these examples do not involve the development of single processes -- they concern parallel processes, or co-existent objects. In that case, they are not relevant counterexamples to the First 'Law'.

 

However, Engels and other DM-fans appeal to various co-existent organic molecules and elements in the Periodic Table to illustrate the First 'Law' (on this, see Note 9 below), produced by parallel chemical reactions. In that case, if they can appeal to examples like this to support their 'Law', they can't legitimately complain when examples of the very same sort are used against them.

 

[It could be objected that the elements in the Periodic Table have all been produced from one another, or at least from other simpler atoms, in what is known as Stellar Nucleosynthesis, so there is development here. In response, it is worth noting that (1) This was unknown in Engels day (so, he was using an example where there is no development), and (2) This isn't true of Hydrogen itself -- it didn't develop from simpler atoms, and (3)Despite what we are constantly told by DM-fans, this 'Law' does not apply to the Periodic Table!]

 

For example, Woods and Grant list several molecules from Organic Chemistry (but they merely lifted this material unchanged from Engels); here, the qualitative differences between the organic compounds they mention are independent of whether or not they have been derived from one another. They patently exist side-by-side:

 

"Chemistry involves changes of both a quantitative and qualitative character, both changes of degree and of state. This can clearly be seen in the change of state from gas to liquid or solid, which is usually related to variations of temperature and pressure. In Anti Dühring, Engels gives a series of examples of how, in chemistry, the simple quantitative addition of elements creates qualitatively different bodies. Since Engels' time the naming system used in chemistry has been changed. However, the change of quantity into quality is accurately expressed in the following example:

 

CH2O2   -- formic acid        boiling point 100o melting point 1o
C
2H4O2 -- acetic acid        "................."   118
o "..............."   17o
C
3H6O2 -- propionic acid  ".................."   140o ".............."    —
C
4H8O2 -- butyric acid      ".................."   162
o ".............."    —
C
5H10O2-- valerianic acid  ".................."   175
o ".............."    —

 

and so on to C30H60O2, melissic acid, which melts only at 80o and has no boiling point at all, because it does not evaporate without disintegrating.'" [Woods and Grant (1995), p.52, quoting Engels (1976), p.163.]

 

Moreover, the plain fact is that Engels himself used the example of isomers to illustrate this 'Law':

 

"In these series we encounter the Hegelian law in yet another form. The lower members permit only of a single mutual arrangement of the atoms. If, however, the number of atoms united into a molecule attains a size definitely fixed for each series, the grouping of the atoms in the molecule can take place in more than one way; so that two or more isomeric substances can be formed, having equal numbers of C, H, and 0 atoms in the molecule but nevertheless qualitatively distinct from one another. We can even calculate how many such isomers are possible for each member of the series. Thus, in the paraffin series, for C4H10 there are two, for C6H12 there are three; among the higher members the number of possible isomers mounts very rapidly. Hence once again it is the quantitative number of atoms in the molecule that determines the possibility and, in so far as it has been proved, also the actual existence of such qualitatively distinct isomers." [Engels (1954), p.67. Bold emphases added.]

 

But, there is no "development" here! Engels notes that there are qualitative differences between already present molecules, so these can't have been produced from one another. He says they are "qualitatively distinct" from one another as they now stand, so not only are they "qualitatively distinct" from any they have been developed from, they are "qualitatively distinct" from those they haven't, and can't have been developed from.

 

Again, if Engels can refer to examples where there is no "development", or to qualitative differences that do not depend on development, to illustrate his 'Law', dialecticians can hardly complain if similar examples are used to refute it.

 

Anyway, it is quite clear that Engels did not appreciate how this radically compromised his claim that:

 

"It is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned." [Ibid., p.63. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Once more: here we have change in geometry "passing over" into a qualitative change, refuting this 'Law'.

 

Nevertheless, it could be objected that Engels is quite clear: he is plainly arguing about qualitative change to the same body. So, the above examples are all irrelevant, since what is being compared there is qualitative change appearing in different bodies.

 

Or, so it could be argued.

 

But, this is just a variation of the 'development' objection we met above, and suffers from all the latter's weaknesses.

 

Furthermore, Engels's version of this 'Law' also leaves it entirely obscure what the "addition" of matter and/or energy amounts to. As we will see in Note 6a below, it is important to be clear about this, otherwise it would be possible to show there are countless counter-examples waiting in the wings that refute this 'Law'.

 

This is all quite apart from the fact it is not easy to see how the elements we find in nature arose by the mere addition of elementary particles. Many were produced by fusion; in that case, the objection recorded in Note 6a applies to one of DM's most overworked examples: Mendeleyev's Table. Of course, we could always try to redefine "fusion" to mean "development", but that would save this 'Law' by yet another terminological juggle, imposing it on nature.

 

Moreover, and once more, if the "same body" requirement is indeed part of Engels's 'Law', then many of the examples DM-theorists themselves use will fall by the wayside. For example, this overworked one from Engels himself goes out of the window:

 

"In conclusion we shall call one more witness for the transformation of quantity into quality, namely -- Napoleon. He describes the combat between the French cavalry, who were bad riders but disciplined, and the Mamelukes, who were undoubtedly the best horsemen of their time for single combat, but lacked discipline, as follows:

"'Two Mamelukes were undoubtedly more than a match for three Frenchmen; 100 Mamelukes were equal to 100 Frenchmen; 300 Frenchmen could generally beat 300 Mamelukes, and 1,000 Frenchmen invariably defeated 1,500 Mamelukes.'" [Engels (1976), p.163.]

But, where is the "same body", here? At best, all we have is a changing collection of non-identical Mamelukes and French soldiers. Hardly the "same body".

 

[And, does anyone think that Napoleon actually carried this experiment out? At best, this was a Napoleonic 'thought experiment'. But, that hasn't stopped DM-fans quoting it as if it were gospel. In that case, we don't even have a single material body to consider, here, just a few vague musings about different collections of them!]

 

Furthermore, as noted above, the organic chemical examples will also have to be ditched, for the differences Engels noted between the various molecules he listed do not depend on them being made from precisely the same atoms, or in the same laboratory, or even at the same time.

 

This, too, will have to go:

 

"And now let the reader admire the higher and nobler style, by virtue of which Herr Dühring attributes to Marx the opposite of what he really said. Marx says: The fact that a sum of values can be transformed into capital only when it has reached a certain size, varying according to the circumstances, but in each case definite minimum size -- this fact is a proof of the correctness of the Hegelian law. Herr Dühring makes him say: Because, according to the Hegelian law, quantity changes into quality, 'therefore' 'an advance, when it reaches a certain size, becomes capital'. That is to say, the very opposite." [Ibid, p.159.]

 

It is quite obvious that the "same body" isn't implied in this case.

 

But, even if it were, Marx's argument here (as reported by Engels) is defective. Values (it is assumed that these are "exchange values") do not become Capital by mere quantitative increment. It requires the presence of a Capitalist Mode of Production (and thus a change in the Relations of Production), or a different use of that money, for this to be so. The capitalists concerned have to do something with these exchange values. So, the mere increase of exchange values doesn't automatically "pass over" into a qualitative change and become Capital. These values have to be invested (or put to some other specific productive use), and that too isn't automatic (in certain circumstances, they could be consumed). So, what we have here is a change in quality passing over into another change in quality! Quantity has nothing to do with it. The same quantity of money could be used as Capital or fail to be so used. It requires a change in its quality (its use, or its social context) to effect such a development.

 

Has a single DM-fan ever given this any thought?

 

Indeed, this 'error' crept into Das Kapital, too:

 

"The guilds of the middle ages therefore tried to prevent by force the transformation of the master of a trade into a capitalist, by limiting the number of labourers that could be employed by one master within a very small maximum. The possessor of money or commodities actually turns into a capitalist in such cases only where the minimum sum advanced for production greatly exceeds the maximum of the middle ages. Here, as in natural science, is shown the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel (in his 'Logic'), that merely quantitative differences beyond a certain point pass into qualitative changes." [Marx (1976), p.423. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Over the last twenty-five years or so, in my trawl through the Dialectical Dustbowl, I have yet to encounter a single dialectician who has pointed out that the above application of Hegel's 'Law' by Marx contains a serious error! So desperate have DM-fans become -- in their endeavour to find support for their failed theory in what Marx wrote, every single one has forgotten basic principles of Historical Materialism!

 

Hence, £x/$y (or their equivalent) owned by a Medieval Lord in, say, Eleventh Century France, couldn't of its own become Capital no matter how large this pot of money became (but see below), whereas £w/$z in Nineteenth Century Manchester, even though that sum might be less than the £x/$y pounds held by the aforementioned Lord (allowing for inflation, etc.), would be Capital if employed in certain ways. It isn't the quantity that is important here but the Mode of Production and the use to which the money is put, that are.

 

Also worth asking: How does this money actually "develop"? In what way can it "develop"? Sure, money can be saved and/or accumulated, but how does a £1/$1 coin "develop" if its owner saves or accumulates more of the same? Even if we redefine "save" and  "accumulate" to mean "develop" (protecting this 'law' by yet another terminological dodge, thus imposing it on the facts), not all money will "develop" in this way. What if all the money was stolen or had been expropriated from, or by another non-capitalist? What if it had been obtained (all at once) by selling land, slaves, works of art, political or other favours, etc? Where is the "development" here? But, such money could still operate/serve as Capital, howsoever it had been acquired, depending on its use and the Mode of Production in which this takes place.

 

Of course, this isn't to deny that there were Capitalists (or nascent Capitalists) in pre-Capitalist Europe; but whatever money they had, its nature as Capital wasn't determined by its quantity, no matter how large it became, but by the use to which it was put. This is also true of the period of transition between Feudalism and Capitalism (before the Capitalist Mode of Production was apparent/dominant); again, it is the use to which money is put that decides whether or not it is Capital, not its quantity.

 

Why did Marx make such a simple error? Was he already in his 'coquetting' phase? [Well, we already know that by the time he came to write Das Kapital, he was in this phase.] That is, was he already beginning to put Hegel's ideas in the equivalent of 'scare quotes', which is what sceptics would do with them these days? This is in fact the only way we can rescue Marx from being accused of making a sophomoric error over his own theory.

 

[I have debated this alleged use of Hegel's 'law' at length over at RevLeft; the argument can be accessed here (beginning with a challenge from a critic in post #202, and then stretching across the next few pages. Recent debates over the some point have been linked to, here.]

 

This 'mistake' re-surfaced in correspondence between Marx and Engels:

 

"Have read Hofmann. For all its faults, the latest chemical theory does represent a great advance on the old atomistic theory. The molecule as the smallest part of matter capable of independent existence is a perfectly rational category, a 'nodal point', as Hegel calls it, in the infinite progression of subdivisions, which does not terminate it, but marks a qualitative change. The atom -- formerly represented as the limit of divisibility -- is now but a state, although Monsieur Hofmann himself is forever relapsing into the old idea that indivisible atoms really exist. For the rest, the advances in chemistry that this book records are truly enormous, and Schorlemmer says that this revolution is still going on day by day, so that new upheavals can be expected daily." [Engels to Marx, 16/06/1867, in Marx and Engels (1975a), p.175.]

 

To which Marx replied:

 

"You are quite right about Hofmann. Incidentally, you will see from the conclusion to my Chapter III [Later, this was Chapter XI, RL], where I outline the transformation of the master of a trade into a capitalist -- as a result of purely quantitative changes -- that in the text there I quote Hegel's discovery of the law of the transformation of a merely quantitative change into a qualitative one as being attested by history and natural science alike." [See Capital, Chapter XI]...." [Marx to Engels 22/06/1867, ibid., p.177.]

 

We will be returning to these letters later. However, it isn't easy to excuse Marx's error here -- except in the manner suggested above -- and, as we can see from the quotation from AD below, Engels made a similar mistake, too.

 

And, where is the "development" in this example of Trotsky's?

 

"Even animals arrive at their practical conclusions…on the basis of the Hegelian dialectic. Thus a fox is aware that quadrupeds and birds are nutritious and tasty…. When the same fox, however, encounters the first animal which exceeds it in size, for example, a wolf, it quickly concludes that quantity passes into quality, and turns to flee. Clearly, the legs of a fox are equipped with Hegelian tendencies, even if not fully conscious ones. All this demonstrates, in passing, that our methods of thought, both formal logic and the dialectic, are not arbitrary constructions of our reason but rather expressions of the actual inter-relationships in nature itself. In this sense the universe is permeated with ‘unconscious’ dialectics." [Trotsky (1971), pp.106-07.]

 

In what way does this fox, or this wolf, "develop"? And what matter has been added to the fox or the wolf?

 

More-or-less the same can be said about this:

 

"In proof of this law we might have cited hundreds of other similar facts from nature as well as from human society. Thus, for example, the whole of Part IV of Marx's Capital -- production of relative surplus-value -- deals, in the field of co-operation, division of labour and manufacture, machinery and modern industry, with innumerable cases in which quantitative change alters the quality, and also qualitative change alters the quantity, of the things under consideration; in which therefore, to use the expression so hated by Herr Dühring, quantity is transformed into quality and vice versa. As for example the fact that the co-operation of a number of people, the fusion of many forces into one single force, creates, to use Marx's phrase, a 'new power', which is essentially different from the sum of its separate forces." [Engels (1976), p.160. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

The reader will look in vain in Das Kapital for Marx's own references to this 'Law' -- saving that one mention in over 2000 pages(!), noted above -- and even then, Marx admitted that he had merely "coquetted" with Hegelian jargon, so this reference can't be taken too seriously. [More on this in Essay Nine Part One.]

 

And no wonder; the examples to which Engels vaguely alludes can't be shoe-horned into this ill-fitting dialectical non-boot. The "quantity" of the things he mentions here do not affect their "quality"; it takes a change in social relations to do that. [Or, does he imagine that a mere increase in machinery turns it into something else?]

 

But, what of this?

 

"As for example the fact that the co-operation of a number of people, the fusion of many forces into one single force, creates, to use Marx's phrase, a 'new power', which is essentially different from the sum of its separate forces." [Ibid.]

 

Unfortunately, this is all rather vague. Does this "fusion" build gradually, leading up to a break, a "leap"? Are individuals added one at a time, until at some point we get this "new power"? But, Marx characterises this as a "leap", in itself, with no break in "gradualness"; all we have here is a "fusion of many forces into one". This is all "leap" and no "gradualness". So, whatever else it is, it can't be an example Hegel's/Engels's 'Law'.

 

There is an example of just such a "new force" in DB:

 

"The fact is that the parts have properties that are characteristic of them only as they are parts of wholes; the properties come into existence in the interactions that makes the whole. A person can't fly by flapping her arms simultaneously. But people do fly, as a consequence of the social organisation that has created airplanes, pilots and fuel. It is not that society flies, however, but individuals in society, who have acquired a property they do not have outside society. The limitations of individual physical beings are negated by social interactions. The whole, thus, is not simply the object of interaction of the parts but is the subject of action of the parts." [Levins and Lewontin (1985), p.273.]

 

Here is how I have dealt with this example in Essay Eleven Part Two:

 

The general idea appears to be that novel properties "emerge" (out of nowhere, it seems; they certainly can't be reduced to the microstructures of each part -- according to Rees (1998), pp.5-8, and other dialecticians we will meet in Essay Three Part Three), because of the new relationships that parts enter into when they become incorporated into wholes, and the new natures they acquire as a result.

 

The above passage seems to be claiming that: (1) When human beings act as individuals (or, is it in less developed social wholes?) they lack certain properties --, in this case, the power of flight. Nevertheless: (2) As a result of their social organization, human beings apparently gain this new 'property' collectively -- even though as individuals they still can't fly. The conclusion seems to be that: (3) Because of economic and social development (etc.) people acquire characteristics that they would not have had without it --, which appears to indicate that when they are appropriately socially-organised, human beings become "more" than they would have been otherwise.

 

But, once again, in what sense are human beings "more" than they were before flight became possible? Manifestly, they still can't fly. They do not sprout wings, develop engines or grow sophisticated landing gear.

 

The only way that human beings would be "more" than they used to be would seem to be as a group. Hence, it could be maintained that as a group, humanity now has a property that it once lacked -- flight. Of course, human beings as a group or as individuals still can't fly; clearly it is the machines they build that do this!

 

So, humanity itself still lacks this 'property'.

 

If it is argued in response that humans can now do something they could not do before (namely, fly through space), even this is not entirely correct. Since we now know that the earth moves on its axis, as it does round the Sun, too, humanity has in fact been travelling/flying through space for hundreds of thousands of years.

 

Again, it could be maintained that it is only since the invention of balloons and aeroplanes that human beings can do things at will that earlier generations could not: i.e., leave the surface of the earth when they want and move about the place, sometimes at great speed flying to destinations that would have been unimaginable, say, 250 years ago.

 

Once more, it is only in aeroplanes (etc.) that they can do this. And if that is so, it still seems that it isn't humanity that has this new property, but these new artefacts which have.

 

Alas, the properties of these machines are reducible to their parts. Try taking off with engines that aren't made of heat resistant materials; a chocolate jet will not get you very far, and neither will wings made of ordinary tissue paper. In this case, human beings just hitch a ride, as it were.

 

So, what exactly is the new property we have gained? The ability to hitch new sorts of rides? Or, perhaps the capacity to form queues at check-in desks?

 

Now, whatever meaning can be given to the "more" that human beings become, this can't have resulted from the part/whole relation. That is because immediately before or after flight finally became possible no new wholes or parts actually came into existence -- nor did these new parts and allegedly novel wholes become newly related, either.

 

When powered flight was finally achieved by the Wright Brothers in December 1903, what novel parts and wholes came into existence? To be sure, there was the new 'whole' comprising the Kitty Hawk (the name of the first flying machine) and its pilot, but it isn't easy to see how the entire nature of Orville Wright, say, was determined by this new Orville/Kitty Hawk 'whole', or that the entire nature of the Kitty Hawk was determined in return by its "internal relation" to Orville.

 

And when the first commercial flights began a few years later, what new wholes and parts came into existence? To be sure, new capitalist ventures were set up, but which was whole and which was part here? Was this capitalist venture/whole the workers and the bosses, the buildings, the legal documents, the lawyers who drafted the contracts, the energy fed in from the outside, the roof on the office building, the waste paper basket in the corner of the room, the air circulating in and through one and all, the natural 'forces' holding everything together...?

 

And, as far as parts are concerned, were they any of the aforementioned items, too? Or were the parts the passengers, the freight, the paint on the aeroplane's fuselage, the rubber molecules in its wheels, the fuel in its tanks, the countless millions of small sea creatures that created that fuel millions of years ago...? [I then proceed to examine the vague DM-idea of "part" and "whole".]

 

As I said, this is all rather vague; but that is par for the course in this area of Mickey Mouse Science.

 

Despite this, and once more: what is the "same body" here? All we seem to have is more of something-or-other -- more machines, more workers, greater division of labour -- what, we don't have is more energy/matter fed into the "same body", for there isn't one.

 

Finally, dialecticians like to use this 'Law' to argue that as one rises in the orders of existence (say, from the molecular to higher levels or organisation) this change in 'quantity' (but, what change in what quantity!?) passes over into a qualitative difference. We saw an example of this in Engels's letter, above. [More on that here.]

 

"Have read Hofmann. For all its faults, the latest chemical theory does represent a great advance on the old atomistic theory. The molecule as the smallest part of matter capable of independent existence is a perfectly rational category, a 'nodal point', as Hegel calls it, in the infinite progression of subdivisions, which does not terminate it, but marks a qualitative change. The atom -- formerly represented as the limit of divisibility -- is now but a state, although Monsieur Hofmann himself is forever relapsing into the old idea that indivisible atoms really exist. For the rest, the advances in chemistry that this book records are truly enormous, and Schorlemmer says that this revolution is still going on day by day, so that new upheavals can be expected daily." [Engels to Marx, 16/06/1867, in Marx and Engels (1975a), p.175. Italic emphasis in the original. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[This was in response to a letter from Marx (already quoted).]

 

Now, there is no way that this can be squeezed into the 'more energy/matter input into the "same body"' straight-jacket. Precisely what energy/matter is fed in here? And, where is the "development"?

 

We will meet this appeal to 'levels' in Essay Three Part Five, where it will be used to counter the DM-claim that these 'Laws' aren't thoroughly deterministic.

 

Hence, and once again, if Engels and other DM-fans are allowed to appeal to things other than the "same body" (and/or matter and energy fed into it), and to things that do not "develop", they can hardly complain if several counter-examples of the same sort are used against them.

 

[There is more on this 'objection' here.]

 

4a0. Resonance was introduced in 1930 by Linus Pauling, and further developed by George Wheland, in order to account for serious problems with the structural formula for Benzene proposed by August Kekulé. However, for many years -- between, say, 1940 and 1970 -- Soviet scientists refused to accept this "bourgeois" "Machist"/"Idealist" concept, preferring the interactive model proposed by Butlerov.

 

[Although UK Marxist J B S Haldane described resonance as a perfect example of dialectical materialism (illustrating once again how this theory can be used to justify anything and its opposite)! More on this in Essay Nine Part Two -- Haldane is quoted in Graham and van Brakel, below.]

 

An excellent summary of this dispute can be found in Graham (1971), pp.297-323 (updated in Graham (1987), pp.294-319), which also contains a useful summary of resonance, and van Brakel (2004), pp.27-34. See also Pauling (1960), and Wheland (1955), the latter of which contains a translation of the criticisms of this concept advanced by two soviet scientists (Tatevskii and Shakhparanov), along with Wheland's reply: pp.613-15.

 

4a. Some might argue that moving a force in the manner envisaged requires energy, so these examples aren't in fact energy neutral. However, just like the example of the organic molecules quoted by Engels, or, indeed, the Periodic Table, the arrangements listed in the main body of this Essay could exist side by side. A qualitative difference then would be obvious, but there would be no quantitative discrepancy between them.

 

In addition, as noted earlier, the expenditure of energy itself depends on the nature of the force field in which they are embedded (i.e., whether or not the field in question is "conservative"). [On conservative forces, see here and here.]

 

In a conservative field, the work done in moving a force in a circuit is zero, but certain (non-circuitous) line integrals in such fields can also be zero, if these are chosen carefully.

 

So, a force could 'develop' in this way in an energy neutral environment.

 

In either case, we would have a qualitative difference for no extra quantitative input of matter/energy. Naturally, once again, this 'Law' could be tightened to exclude these and other awkward counter-examples, but then it would cease to be a law and would simply become a narrow, subjectively applied convention/stipulation (and one that will have been imposed on nature).

 

Again, it could be objected that moving a force in a circuit, even in a conservative field, would merely take it back to where it began, which isn't what was required by the examples given in the main body of this Essay. There, forces were moved to somewhere different. But, that is to misunderstand the notion of a circuit. The point is that in a conservative field, movement of a body from A to B (where A and B could be widely separated, and non-coincidental) is independent of the path taken.

 

This is, of course, quite apart from the p