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

 

Preface

 

This page might take half a minute or so to load because of the many YouTube videos embedded in it. For some reason I can't work out, Internet Explorer 11 will no longer play these videos. Certainly not on my computer! However, they play in other Browsers.

 

It has come to my attention that articles that have been cut and pasted from the BBC News website have for some reason failed to appear in the on-line version of this Essay (which seems to be the case only in the Appendix). I am now taking steps to find out why this has happened, and then rectify it.

 

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

 

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

 

If you are viewing this with Mozilla Firefox you might not be able to read all the symbols I have used -- Mozilla often replaces them with a "°". I do not know if other browsers are similarly affected.

 

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

 

A US comrade (Brian Jones) has made a half-hearted attempt to reply 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 response, here, and my reply 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 attempted to respond to some of the points made in this Essay. On that, see here.

 

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

 

As is the case with all my work, nothing here should be read as an attack either on Historical Materialism [HM] -- a scientific 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 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 also 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 Traditional Philosophy and DM), aren't meant to suggest that all or even most members of various ruling-classes actually invented these ways of thinking or of seeing the world (although some of them did -- for example, Heraclitus, Plato, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius). They are intended to highlight theories (or "ruling ideas") that are conducive to, or which rationalise the interests of the various ruling-classes history has inflicted on humanity, whoever invents them. Up until recently this dogmatic approach to knowledge had almost invariably been promoted by thinkers who either relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the system for the elite.**

 

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

 

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

 

Finally, readers will find that in what follows I repeatedly link to a specific section of a new Essay of mine (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 several allegations I advance. I have done this since experience has taught me that the vast majority of DM-fans either haven't read these passages (or if they have, they have clearly failed to appreciate their implications), and as a result they reject out-of-hand the ridiculous consequences implied by '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 about their own theory! And even then, when confronted with the relevant passages, in black and white, chapter and verse, staring at them on the page or screen, they still refuse to believe their own eyes, and tend to react in a series of predictable ways -- to which I have also responded, here.

 

Hence, I have adopted the same tactic in this Essay, and have included scores of reminders in the text below (and now here). In which case, apologies are owed in advance to neutral readers for this constant and tedious, but necessary, repetition.     

 

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

 

As of September 2017, this Essay is just under 181,500 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'.

 

[Latest Update: 30/09/17.]

 

Quick Links

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

(B) Quantity 'Passes Over' Into Quality

 

(1)   A Leap In The Dark?

 

(2)   Punctuated Equilibrium

 

(3)   Facts Dialecticians Prefer To Ignore

 

(4)   Does This 'Law' Work Both Ways?

 

(5)   Awkward Counter-Examples Pile Up

 

(6)   Isomers Refute The First 'Law'

 

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

 

(8)   Yet More Counter-Examples Keep Stacking Up

 

(9)   Nature Is Far Too Complex To Force Into A 'Dialectical Straight-Jacket'

 

(10) Indistinct Thermodynamic Boundaries

 

(11) Trotsky In The Soup

 

(12) Trotsky And The Fox

 

(13) "Quality" Defined?

 

(14) Back In The Soup

 

(15) Quantity And Quality Once More

 

(16) Boiling Mamelukes And Balding Water

 

(i)     Water, Water, Everywhere

 

(ii)    Mendeleyev -- Refutes DM

 

(iii)   Adding Energy

 

(iv)   Hirsute Hilarity

 

(v)    Nuclear Melt-Down

 

(vi)   Faecal Fun

 

(vii)  Confusion Over Chaos

 

(viii) Mamelukes vs Napoleon

 

(17) Genuine Science vs Amateurish Anecdote

 

(i)   Mickey Mouse 'Dialectical' Science

 

(ii)  Genuine Science

 

(iii) Engels's 'Law' Derived, Not From Scientists, But From A Christian Mystic

 

(18) Conclusion

 

(C) The Interpenetration Of Opposites

 

(1)   The 'Law' Defined

 

(2)   Why DM Can't Explain Change

 

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

 

(i)   Spatially Or Logically Internal?

 

(ii)  DM Foiled By Felines?

 

(iii) Is This An Iron Law?

 

(iv)  Does Nature Work In Pairs?

 

(v)   Are Cats Non-Dialectical?

 

(vi)  Suicidal Cats

 

(vii) Have Hermaphrodites And Other Organisms Been Given DM-Exemption Certificates?

 

(4)   Not Just Bad News For Cats

 

(i)   The Story So Far

 

(ii)  Capitalism vs Socialism

 

(iii) The Forces And Relations Of Production

 

(5)   Plastic Laws

 

(6)   Use Value And Exchange Value

 

(7)   Lenin Maxes Out

 

(8)   Single-Celled Reactionaries?

 

(9)   Every Confirmation Is Also A Refutation

 

(10) The Dialecticians' Dilemma

 

  (i)   The Dilemma Stated

 

  (ii)  Wave-Particle Duality

 

(11) The Revenge Of The Petty-Bourgeois Cell

 

  (i)   Alive, Dead -- Or Both?

 

  (ii)  Follow That Molecule!

 

  (iii) Dialectical Metaphor?

 

  (iv) Change Into What?

 

  (v)  A New 'Theory'?

 

(12) Diabolical Logic Confronts Mathematics

 

(i)   Marx, Engels And Mathematics

 

(ii)  Cornforth's Confusions

 

(iii) Aristotle Used Variables

 

(iv) Dialectics Meets The Calculus -- And Comes Unstuck

 

(13) Dialectical -- Or Just Plain Dotty?

 

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

 

(i) No Hard-And-Fast Boundaries?

 

(D) The Negation Of The Negation [NON]

 

(1)  No Grain Is An Island

 

(2) The 'Internal Opposites' Of Grain Are What, Then?

 

(3)  Terminator Four: The Rise Of Monsanto

 

(i)  Barley Believable

 

(ii) Seedy Theory Confronted By Genetic Engineering

 

(4)  Socialism Introduced From 'Without' -- By Aliens?

 

(5)  Moth-Eaten Dialectics

 

(E) Conclusion: Same Old Same Old

 

(F) Notes

 

(G) Appendix A: Yet More Anti-Dialectical Science

 

(1)  Non-Hegelian Triads Strike Back

 

(2) Infertile Mosquitoes Confound The NON

 

(3) Ancient Life-Form Hasn't Read Hegel

 

(4) Suicide Gene Takes Out DM

 

(H) References

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

Introduction -- The Three 'Laws'

 

In this Essay, I aim to show that Engels's 'Three Laws of Dialectics' -- that is, where any sense can be made of them -- are so vague and confused that it is impossible to determine whether or not they are true.

 

However, while many dialecticians claim that 'The Three Laws' express the core ideas of classical DM, others regard them as far too crude and formulaic. TAR, on the other hand, appears to adopt a middle course, slightly downplaying their significance, preferring to define DM in terms of "mediated Totality" and change through "internal contradiction", etc. [p.5.] Nevertheless, its author also 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 precisely where Marx "insisted" the above, or anything like it. Engels's 'insistence', on the other hand, can be read here.]

 

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

 

Indeed, in a recent article in Socialist Review, Rees endorsed this 'Law' unreservedly -- and on the basis of just one example, the hardy perennial, water freezing 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 with the conventions adopted at this site. Two paragraphs merged.]

 

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 with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

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

 

Virtually every DM-theorist does likewise: first they insist that these 'Laws' haven't been imposed on nature, next they proceed to foist them on nature.

 

As we will soon discover, Rees blithely ignored the countless 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 those allegations will be fully substantiated in what follows.]

 

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

 

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

 

Even so, Engels summarised these three '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

 

Engels summarised the First 'Law' as follows:

 

"...[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. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Exactly how Engels knew that it was 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, nor yet from the meagre evidence he offered in support, 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. That untoward conclusions is also true in relation to the vastly increased body of evidence we have today.

 

Indeed, this is something Engels himself acknowledged:

 

"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: Engels didn't derive this 'Law' from a research tradition established in the physical sciences, he copied it from Hegel, who similarly based it on a handful of anecdotal and trite examples, which he also badly garbled.

 

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 had 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 or motion; in which case, Engels's conclusions above aren't 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, or not at all. Add to that the fact that the results of human practice aren't as straight-forward as Engels seems to think; on that, see here.

 

This conundrum is rendered all the more puzzling 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 that 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' was 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 from the Foreign Languages edition. Bold emphases 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 emphases 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 emphases added.]

 

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 added the following thought:

 

"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 or the popular science of his day -- is a neat trick that 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 fail to 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 (something 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. Paragraphs merged.]

 

However, since the scientists of Engels's day (from whose work he was generalising) were Christians, as was Hegel, one would expect them to talk this way. But, their own conclusions (about these alleged "laws") don't follow from the evidence they had 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 think to 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, there are countless processes in nature (and society) that 'disobey' this 'Law', 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 equivocal -- and they remain in that state to this day.

 

[Of course, it could be argued that there are many scientific laws that face similar problems with regard to isolated, anomalous 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 DM-fans like to use while leaving it studiously vague).

 

Here is how Hegel depicted this 'law':

 

"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 -- 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 emphases 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. (Unfortunately, the Index page for this book over at the Marxist Internet Archive has no link to the second half of Chapter Five, but it can be accessed directly here. I have informed the editors of this error. Added June 2015: this has now been corrected!)]

 

Finally, 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 with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

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

 

They include the following: melting or solidifying plastic (polymers), metal, resin, rock, sulphur, tar and asphalt, toffee, sugar, chocolate, wax, butter, cheese, and amorphous solids, such as glass and plastic.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 "nodal points" of transition -- and that includes 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 the above comments are seriously mistaken should consult Note One, as well as this and this, and then perhaps 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

 

 

[I recommend you turn the volume right down for Video Three!]

 

This property, 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 "pedantry". But, because of this omission, dialecticians feel free to indulge in some sloppy, subjective, off-the-cuff, a priori Superscience, in which amateur pastime they all seem to be experts -- hardly one of them fails to come up with his or her own favourite, or idiosyncratic example, tested, of course, only in the 'laboratory of the mind', and which remains studiously un-peer reviewed; that is partly 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.]

 

When faced with the above, DM-fans often point to the precise melting points of various substances as proof that there are "nodal" points in nature. However, they pointedly ignore amorphous solids (such as glasses, gels, and plastics), which have no melting point:

 

"Amorphous solids do not have a sharp melting point; they are softened in a range of temperature." [Quoted from here; accessed 03/05/2015.]

 

"Amorphous solids tend to soften slowly over a wide temperature range rather than having a well-defined melting point like a crystalline solid." [Quoted from here; accessed 08/04/2015. Bold emphasis added; spelling altered to UK English. See also here.]

 

And since:

 

"Almost any substance can solidify in amorphous form if the liquid phase is cooled rapidly enough...", [Ibid.]

 

this must mean that "almost any substance" lacks a melting point if handled in the above way. In turn, this implies that there are countless non-'nodal' (non-"leap"-like) changes in 'quality' in nature.001a

 

[See also: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/21328/amorphous-solid. Notice: I am not arguing that there are no sudden changes in nature and society, only that not everything changes in this way, 'refuting' this 'law'.]

 

Do DM-theorists even so much as mention, let alone consider, these glaring counter-examples?

 

Are you joking!?

 

[I have said much more about amorphous solids, especially glass, below.]

 

Punctuated Equilibrium

 

Another example recently offered up in support of this 'law' 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, a snail on downers would be remarkably sprightly in comparison!

 

[However, this DM-joker thinks that while (i) A 'nodal' change is 'instantaneous', (ii) An 'instant' can last thousands of years! It is good to see this comrade really does 'understand' dialectics.]

 

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" could inhere, and hence change. Worse still, it isn't easy to see what the supposed quantities are supposed to be in this case, either.01aa

 

It could be objected that these "quantities" are quite clearly the countless 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 phenomenon are given in the next but one paragraph.] Moreover, novel qualitative changes introduced by mutation cannot 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, here at least 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 (or, and far more likely, for no reason!), the following questions remain: (a) What precisely is being slowly and quantitatively accumulated, here? And, (b) 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 all these separate changes additively combine somehow into one big qualitative change -- i.e., in the emergence of a single very deep pink bird! Or, that if, say, several thousand Red Deer all individually manage to run a little faster that every one of these extra cm/sec increments in each animal's speed will combine to make an extra km/sec in one incredibly nippy animal!

 

Natural selection, so we are told, will impact on those populations of organisms that produce less (surviving) offspring, so that certain characteristics are eliminated -- others 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, or to which 'body' it was being added!). [On this, see, for example, Coyne and Orr (2004).]

 

We also see comments like this:

 

"Underpinning this conception of human beings as both part of the natural world -- beings who were wholly physical in nature -- and yet different in crucial ways from other parts of nature, was a theory of dialectics adapted from Hegel in which, amongst other things, quantitative change (such as the evolution of the brain) could turn into qualitative change (such as consciousness)." [Rob Hoveman, quoted from here; accessed 05/05/2018. Bold emphasis added.]

 

But no single human brain sees this quantitative accumulation; no single organism sees this progression in brain size; no single proto-human develops in this way. So, precisely what is the body that has been changed in quantity so that a new 'quality' emerges in that body as a result? A least with water we have the same body of water being boiled! At least we have the same elastic band being snapped, or the same head losing hair. All we have here are populations of proto-humans with a range of individuals who have slightly larger brains (one supposes), every single one of which individuals dies without a further increase in their brain size, the next generation having slightly bigger brains (one supposes again). Again, as this process unfolds there is no one proto-human being whose brain gradually increase -- from the small brain comparable with that of our ape-like ancestor to the large brain of Cro-Magnon 'Man' --  until 'consciousness' finally popped into existence.

 

Once more we see something less than a half-formed DM-idea passed off as if it were cutting edge science, with little or no evidence offered in support. The problem with this is that the above 'argument' appeared in an article that was meant to promote Marxism as a scientific theory; but, imposing half-baked ideas on it that Hegel dreamt up only succeeds in undermining HM.

 

[I take up this sorry tale and further expose its patent absurdities in Essay Thirteen Part Three, Sections Seven and Eight.]

 

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 species --,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 manifolds embedded the 4-space of Relativity Theory), then it can't actually change in any straight-forward sense.

 

To be sure, this depends on how we define the 'object'/'body' in question and how we depict change. It is no surprise, therefore, to find both of these notions have been left impressively vague by comrades who quote this particular example in support of the First 'Law' (which is clearly part of the reason they think they can get away with citing it). [For example, here.]

 

Hence, if a certain 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 particular 'species' won't have changed as a result of its 'internal contradictions', or, indeed, as a result of anything else, for that matter. That is because these manifolds don't change; four-dimensional objects do not 'exist' in time to change -- time is one of their 'in-built' dimensions, as it were. On the contrary, 'time' exists in them; they neither perdure nor endure in time. 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'/'body'), it cannot gain or lose 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' wouldn'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 just happen to 'experience', or 'decide to focus upon'.

 

[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 do so, 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, if they are willing to consign change merely to our 'subjective' apprehension of 'reality'.

 

Alternatively, if a species isn't to be defined in this way (i.e., 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'/'body'. Moreover, in populations, individual organisms change neither by "contradicting" one another nor 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 identify them. Indeed, no single thing actually changes in an evolutionary sense, only whole populations, and they manifestly do so non-dialectically.

 

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 don't appear to be any that are internal to a particular organism which motivates evolutionary change in that organism.

 

And, this isn't 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 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.

 

Again, as we will also find out, depicting any of these as 'contradictions' -- howsoever they are caused -- is radically confused. [This topic is discussed in more detail in Essay Eight Parts One, Two, and Three.]

 

[On this subject 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 don't 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 and survive, no one imagines that they do this by struggling with those that didn't or couldn't run as quickly -- 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 don't. So, if this 'Law' applies here, it does so only fitfully. Once more, calling this sort of competition a "contradiction" is a serious error.

 

Why that is so will soon become apparent.

 

According to the Dialectical Classics, objects and processes change because of (a) A "struggle" between "dialectical opposites", and (b) 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 escaping antelope, 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.]

 

[I have posted several videos and pictures that illustrate heterospecific cooperation in Note 1b.]1b

 

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

 

Facts Dialecticians Prefer To Ignore

 

The difficulties the First 'Law' faces do not stop there. When heated, objects and bodies change in quality from cold to warm and then to hot with no "nodal" point separating these particular "qualitative" stages -- hot water is significantly "qualitatively" different from cold water. 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 qualitative transition. Bodies with a high relative velocity are "qualitatively" different from those with a low relative velocity -- any who doubt this should stand in front of a stationary bus, and then in front of one moving at top speed. [Only joking!] In like manner, the change from one colour to the next in the normal colour spectrum is continuous, with no "nodal" points evident anywhere 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 objects in nature move in such a manner, most things in reality seem to disobey this aspect of Engels's rather 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 isn't the result of continuous background changes. For example, quantum phenomena are notoriously discontinuous where such changes aren't preceded by continual, or even gradual, quantitative increases, as this 'Law' demands:

 

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

 

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

 

"[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphasis alone added. (Unfortunately, the Index page for this book over at the Marxist Internet Archive has no link to the second half of Chapter Five, but it can be accessed directly here. I have informed the editors of this error. Added June 2015: they have now corrected it!)]

 

"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.]

 

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

 

The argument above is plainly this:

 

(i) Quantitative increase in matter or energy results in gradual change,

 

and hence

 

(ii) At a certain point, further increase breaks this "gradualness" inducing a "leap", a sudden "qualitative" change.

 

But, sub-atomic, quantum changes occur suddenly with no "gradual" build-up. For example, electrons in an atom don't "gradually" absorb energy and then "leap" to an new orbital. A 'quantum leap' is exactly that, a sudden change caused by a discrete addition of a unit of energy. This isn't like poring a liquid into a container, more like dropping a ball into it. The same can be said when inter-atomic or inter-molecular forces break down. They don't slowly or gradually break and then suddenly break; there is no change in "gradualness", even there.

 

"Changes of energy, such as the transition of an electron from one orbit to another around the nucleus of an atom, is done in discrete quanta. Quanta are not divisible. The term quantum leap refers to the abrupt movement from one discrete energy level to another, with no smooth transition. There is no 'inbetween'. The quantization, or 'jumpiness' of action as depicted in quantum physics differs sharply from classical physics which represented motion as smooth, continuous change. Quantization limits the energy to be transferred to photons and resolves the UV catastrophe problem." [Quoted from here; accessed 15/12/2015. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Minor typo corrected. Paragraphs merged.]

 

Hence, discontinuous quantum, sub-atomic and inter-molecular phenomena, can't be recruited to fit, or illustrate, this 'Law'.

 

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

 

Some might argue that in relation to the above there are, indeed, sudden changes. For example, at some point a speeding car will be deemed to be travelling fast (for instance, when it exceeds local speed limits, or is in excess of, say, 50 mph). However, this response would drive a gaping hole through this 'law' (no pun intended), for it will be a human observer who will decide in each case that a car is travelling fast, or that a lump of metal is hot, or a sound loud.

 

There are several problems with this reply:

 

(a) It will be the human observer that undergoes the supposed nodal-change here, not the objects in question. There is no objective point at which a car is travelling fast, or a sound loud. So, in this case, a qualitative change will have taken place in the human observer, not the object (the car) in question. While the latter will have had energy added to it, it hasn't changed in the required manner, the observer has -- but that observer has had no energy added to her.

 

(b) It is even less clear what a 'quality' is supposed to be in such cases. Are there objective laws in nature that decide when a lump of iron is hot and when it is not? Is that lump objectively hot at, say, 99oC, but not objectively hot at 98oC? As we will see below, given the DM-definition of 'quality' there is in fact no DM-'quality' in such cases. In relation to hotness, there is no point at which a lump of metal "is what it is and not something else" and which is then something substantially new, as the definition requires.

 

[It could be objected that a human observer will have had energy added to her, the light energy that enters her eyes. I have dealt with objection in extensive detail here, here and here; sceptical readers are directed there for more details.]

 

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 supposedly builds into quality, which then, at some point, initiates a sudden revolutionary 'leap'. [An excellent example of this approach can be found here, a more recent one here: Rees (2008); another can be found here. See also Molyneux (2012), pp.49-50.] Once more, exactly what is the 'dialectical'-body that is involved in such circumstances? What matter or energy has been added to what? No good looking to DM-fans for an answer to these awkward questions, since they never even ask them, content merely to repeat, mind-numbingly, the mantras they have uncritically imported into Marxism.

 

Anyway, how do we know that social changes like these aren't like the solid-to-liquid phase, or state of matter transformation metals, glasses and plastics undergo? How do we know theses social changes aren't gradual, too? Since Capitalism clearly isn't a liquid, but a solid (or a collection) of sorts, the transition to socialism should go rather smoothly, if we insist on appealing to this analogy. [On this, see Note 9.]

 

Interpreted that way, the First 'Law' is of no 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 hair. If this can happen, and if dialectical revolutionaries aren't needed, their obsolete theory isn't either.2

 

[I hasten to add that I don't think capitalism can be reformed away, but must be overthrown -- however, the analogy drawn against Engels's First 'Law' suggests the opposite.]

 

Reciprocal?

 

This 'Law' is in difficulties in other respects. Clearly, not every change in quantity "passes over" into a change in quality. Why not? [Don't expect an answer from DM-fans, dear reader!] Indeed, there is an obvious way of reading the "vice versa" codicil attached to this law which suggests quality should "pass over" into quantity:

 

"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 with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Engels made the same point, this time in a 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 with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Engels is quite clear: just as quantity passes over in quality, the reverse also takes place -- quality passes over into quantity!

 

However, I haven't 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 'loophole' (in fact, it is more like the Grand Canyon) in Engels's 'Law'. 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 the quantity of their words definitely does not morph into quality) -- or even for some sort of vague recognition that such difficulties exist.

 

But, the "reciprocal" action of this 'Law' is hard to understand for other reasons, too. Is Engels really 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 isn't 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 remains 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 this is an application of this 'Law' in forward gear, as it were -- that is, the gradual addition of new hair will change one alleged quality (baldness) into another (hirsuteness). 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' were to work 'backwards'.

 

[I consider another example of this 'law' supposedly working in reverse gear, here.]

 

Awkward Counter-Examples Pile Up

 

[Word of warning: When confronted with many of the counter-examples listed below DM-fans generally respond by pointing out that Engels's' 'Law' only applies to developing bodies and systems, which rules them out. I have dealt with that attempted rebuttal here and here.]

 

As we delve deeper, serious problems continue to 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 it; the same amount of poison given over a short space of time will kill, 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 (i) time constraints and (ii) levels of concentration of the substances involved, but this extremely vague First 'Law' says nothing of these additional factors. And, try as one might, it isn't easy to see how these unquestionably material aspects of nature (i.e., levels of concentration 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 face no little derision -- and that would be 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. [Pictures have been posted in Note 3.]3

 

Lest someone is tempted to argue that these aren't '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'.

 

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 seem to work -- a bit like "An apple a day keeps the doctor away", or even, "A watched kettle never boils".

 

Indeed, given the additional fact that this 'Law' has no discernible mathematical content it is rather surprising it was ever called a law to begin with. That is not say that Engels and others have tried to apply this 'law' to mathematical objects -- as if they develop! --; I have responded to that unwise move, here.

 

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

 

Isomers Refute This 'Law'

 

[Word of warning, again: When confronted with counter-examples like those itemised in what follows, DM-fans generally respond by pointing out that Engels's' 'Law' only applies to developing bodies and systems, hence the 'Isomers objection', for instance, is misguided. I have dealt with that reply here and here. Among other things, I point out that Engels himself appeals to Isomers to illustrate his 'Law' -- e.g., Engels (1954), p.67 -- so DM-fans can hardly complain when his own examples are used against him.]

 

Nevertheless, the situation is even worse than the above 'difficulties' 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 molecules 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.

 

Consider one example of many: (R)-Carvone (spearmint) and (S)-Carvone (caraway); these molecules are composed of the same number of atoms (and, indeed, of the very same elements), with the same bond energies, but they are nevertheless qualitatively distinct because of the different spatial arrangement of the atoms involved. The same is true of some of the Fullerenes. Change in geometry here leads to 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 to the left (laevo) or to the right (dextro), respectively -- such as, L-, and D-Tartaric Acid. What might at first sight appear to be small energy-neutral differences such as 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.

 

Once more: change in quality, but from identical quantity.4

 

Recall, too, that the above 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: (a) Change of place, and (b) Energy added or 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 that, see below.] Engels's profound lack of mathematical knowledge clearly let him down, again.

 

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, energy will have to be expended. But that energy hasn't 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 aren't at all clear about this), it is the latter form of energy (but not necessarily always Potential Energy) that is relevant to this 'Law', not the former. The first doesn't really change the quality of any bodies concerned; the second does. [Although, of course, in the limit, the first can. Enough friction will often melt a body or set it on fire, for example. I will consider that option presently.]

 

If so, then the above counter-examples (e.g., involving Enantiomers) must 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 this energy won't be stored in the case as chemically recoverable (i.e., structural, or new bond) energy.

 

Despite this, a few die-hard dialecticians might be found who might want to argue that any expenditure of energy is relevant to this 'Law'. That would be an unfortunate move since it would trivialise it, 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 for DM 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 this '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 isn't 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 isn't 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; one standard Organic Chemistry text defines them 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. Paragraphs merged.]

 

Another source adds that tautomerism involves:

 

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

 

And, Wikipedia characterises Tautomers 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 05/10/2008 (the article has been altered somewhat since then). Spelling modified to conform with UK English. Several links added.]

 

Even though many of these reactions require catalysts (which add no energy or matter to the original compounds), in each case the product is a 'qualitatively' different substance, 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, when it says:

 

"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 has been added to the molecule in question, it has merely been re-distributed within that molecule, as Clayden, et al pointed out:

 

"Tautomers are isomers differing only in the position of hydrogen atoms and electrons. Otherwise the carbon skeleton is the same." [Clayden, et al, op cit.]

 

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

 

"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 05/10/2008; the article has been substantially changed since.]

 

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, that this hapless First 'Law' has been refuted yet again.

 

Counter-Examples Just Keep Stacking Up

 

[Word of warning, again: 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. Once more, I have dealt with that objection here and here. Anyway, several of the cases considered below are in fact examples of "development".]

 

(A) The Triple Point

 

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 a change in quality with no addition of energy or matter at this point.

 

(B) Age Hardening

 

Consider, too, a process called "Age Hardening" (or "Precipitation Hardening") in metallurgy, a process discovered by Alfred Wilm. When, for example, an alloy of Aluminium (e.g., Duraluminium) is "quenched" and then left at room temperature it will harden considerably over time. Here we have a change in "quality" with no matter or energy added to, or subtracted from, the alloy, refuting Engels. To be sure, this process can be controlled if the alloy in question is maintained at a high temperature, but it still happens if it is left at room temperature, as Wilm discovered.

 

(C) Re-Aligned Forces

 

If two or more forces are aligned differently, the qualitative results will invariably be different even when the overall magnitude of each force is held constant.

 

Take 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 intermediary 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 now 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

 

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, examples referenced in connection with the Periodic Table --, the arrangements listed elsewhere 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, even where there is "development", 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 they are chosen carefully. So, a force could still '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 or stipulation -- and, incidentally, 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 earlier this Essay. There, forces were moved 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.

 

(D) Ordering Relations

 

Perhaps more significantly, this 'Law' takes no account of qualitative changes that result from (energetically-neutral) ordering relations in nature and society (several examples of which we have already met). Here, identical physical structures and processes can be ordered differently to create significant qualitative changes. One example of this 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 in sight. 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 not, as the case may be -- as in, say, "dialectics" and "csdileati" (which is "dialectics" scrambled). [Which one of these makes more sense I will leave to the reader to decide.]

 

Perhaps more radically, the same set of 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 completely 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 completely 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 accommodate 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) needn't 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 that is required.

 

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 as a result. 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?

 

(E) Context

 

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 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 its 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.

 

 

 

Figure Two: Gallic Refutation?

 

Many more examples of contextualised qualitative change (supervenient on an energy-neutral background) come to mind: think of the way that the 'same' action can assume different qualities if the circumstances are filled in. For instance, suppose a driver puts her hand out of the window; depending on the background, that same physical act could be one or more of the following: a right turn signal, a friendly gesture to a friend, an effort to cool down, an attempt to throw away or catch something, an aimless act, a coded message, an act of bravado, an attempt to pay at a toll booth/drive in fast food outlet, and so on. As we all know, there are countless examples of this sort of situation (for each energy-neutral local environment) where bodily movements can take on qualitatively different aspects if the surrounding circumstances are filled in.

 

Other counter-examples include the following: Wrong signatures on two different localised cheques could invalidate both. Swap the signatures around and they would become valid. The same number (a large 20, say) printed on a batch of £20 (or $20) notes would be qualitatively different from the same number (the serial number) printed on all the same notes (which would invalidate them since they would then all have the same serial number). A necklace in your pocket might result in your arrest. The same one in mine might win me a reward (and vice versa).

 

Once again, doubtless the reader can think of her own examples of such 'dialectically-challenged' facts.6

 

(F) Qualitative Change Caused By Other Qualitative Changes

 

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. Italic 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 that results (i.e., its colour), while the qualities that are mixed have. 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 another 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 isn't 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 quantity of paint still exists, namely n litres of each (and 2n litres of both), 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 also 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 we finished with 2n litres; but at the end, we also have a new quality (a new colour) created by no overall increase in matter. And, the same will be true if these mixtures are increased indefinitely by the continuous addition of paint (in the same ratio -- say, by pouring both into a huge vat at the same rate from two pipes -- both of which are fed from two tanks, the entire ensemble (of mixing vat, pipes, paint, tanks, room(s)/area(s) etc.) located in one area of a factory, or several); here the "same object" will be this particular room/area (etc.), to which no new energy or matter has been 'added'. 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 also of 2n litres).

 

Indeed, mixing 2n litres of two n litre batches of different molten metals (exhibiting 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 an assortment of chemicals (as solids, liquids, or gases) that are capable of being mixed, as it can with light, sounds and tastes.

 

Indeed, the vast majority of chemical reactions can be characterised in this way.7

 

Matter in general is therefore reassuringly non-dialectical.

 

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

 

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

 

Another, and perhaps more significant, instance of qualitative change where there is no implied change in quantity includes the "Big Bang" (if it actually happened), which, so we are told, 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.

 

As should seem plain, this constitutes the ultimate counter-example to this rather pathetic 'Law': the development of everything refutes it!

 

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

 

Either way, DM crashes to the ground in flames.

 

(G) Remote Change

 

It isn't easy to shoehorn remote changes into Engels's ill-fitting dialectical boot, either.

 

So, for example, the largest cut diamond on earth (in a safe, say, in New York) could change into the second largest if another, bigger diamond is cut in, say, Amsterdam. Here we would have a change in quality produced by no change in quantity to the object in question (the diamond in New York). This also applies to other remote changes. For instance, 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 or to that object.

 

There are countless examples of remote change like this.

 

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

 

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

 

A president of a given country visiting, say, the UN Headquarters in Manhattan, can cease to be president if, while she is away, she is deposed at home, even while no relevant matter/energy has been added to or subtracted from her.

 

The oldest known vertebrate fossil on earth could becomes the second oldest if another even older one is discovered.

 

We needn't labour this point; as noted above, there are countless examples of remote change like this, so many that this Essay could easily be doubled in length if I were to consider even a tiny fraction of them.

 

[Notice that many of the examples in the last few paragraphs relate to 'developmental' changes.]

 

(F) Context And Ordering Relations Again

 

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).

 

Should anyone object to that example, we need only alter it slightly: imagine another "Keep off the Grass" sign, but now in front of, but a few yards/metres away from a huge picture of a lawn. Imagine this large background picture is removed and replaced by a huge picture of a Marijuana stand, again a few yards/metres away from the "Keep off the Grass" sign. The sign itself will have had no matter or energy added to it, but it will have altered in 'quality'.

 

Some might still object that the object here is in fact the "Keep off the Grass" sign and the background picture, since it is that picture which gives the sign its meaning. If so, there will have been an addition of matter to this sign as each background picture was changed.

 

In that case, all we need do is alter the example once again: imagine another "Keep off the Grass" sign in front of, but a few yards/metres away from two huge pictures of a lawn and a Marijuana stand, one of which picture is in front of the other. Imagine one of these background pictures is moved so that it is now behind the other picture. Imagine also that this move is powered by a battery operated device. The sign itself will have had no matter or energy added to it, neither will the entire ensemble -- that is, the sign, the two large pictures and the battery-operated mechanical moving device will have had no matter or energy added to them, since this ensemble is self-sufficient in energy -- but the entire set of objects will have altered in quality as these two large pictures are swapped.

 

[The objection that this is a highly contrived example has been rebutted in Note 6a.]

 

A circle will look like an ellipse (qualitative change) if viewed from certain angles, for no change in, or addition of, matter/energy to that shape.

 

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 is, of course, a potentially infinite number of examples of this sort of change imaginable for 2-, or 3-dimensional shapes, for n points (be they mathematical or physical -- so this isn't necessarily an abstract set of counter-instances).8

 

[Any who object to the above might like to explain how energy/matter has been 'added' to such points.]

 

In The Soup, And Vice Versa

 

And worse is to come: 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" is somehow able to create an increase in the salt content of soup!

 

Now, this isn't an unsympathetic interpretation of this 'Law' 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 with 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. Bold emphasis added.]

 

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, as Engels says we can, then we can't appeal to a quantitative increase leading to a qualitative change, but must appeal to a qualitative development inducing a quantitative change -- that is, that a change in taste is able to create salt out of thin air.

 

Be this as it may, it is worth examining Trotsky's anecdote more closely on its own terms, since it will help expose the many serious errors and confusions that afflict even the few examples dialecticians have scraped together to illustrate their 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.]

 

[We have already found there is confusion in passages like the above over the nature of the 'dialectical'-body to which matter or energy has been added.]

 

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 isn't what allegedly changed the quality of the soup -- that development is supposed to have resulted from the quantity of salt added.

 

In fact, the quantity of the original soup hasn't 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 have changed the taste of the resulting salt/soup mixture, as the latter 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 has changed either side of that "leap".

 

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 itself; there doesn't 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' (the 'increase in quantity' part) is either mis-stated or it doesn't apply to the very substance being added, the salt.

 

As far as the second half is concerned (i.e., the alleged alteration in quality either to 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; soups do not taste themselves, or perceive their own taste. 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) doesn't 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 that remains so even at the limit where the soup 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 doesn't change (or, at least, not in a way that is relevant to Trotsky's purposes). Hence, a change in the quantity of salt hasn't "passed over" into a change in the quality of the soup (as soup), which means that the second part of this 'Law' (the change in 'quality' part) seems to be defective, too.

 

If there is a qualitative change anywhere at all that is relevant to the point Trotsky was trying to make, it seems to occur in the third party, here -– that is, in the taster. We are forced to interpret this 'thought experiment' this way unless, of course, we are to suppose that tastes actually reside 'objectively' in soups, as one of their alleged 'primary' qualities, perhaps. 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 aren't being tasted! But, this example 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 this 'Law' is to apply to her. That is, her 'qualitative' change (if it may so be described) must have been induced by a quantitative change 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? A new tongue or a larger mouth? In fact, there is none at all -- or, none that Trotsky mentioned, and certainly none that is at all obvious.

 

Plainly, it is a quantitative change in the salt/soup mixture that resulted in the new quality as perceived by that taster, but that specific quantitative change had no effect on any quality actually in the soup (as previous comments sought to show -- tastes don't reside in soups!). But, there now seem to be no relevant quantitative changes in the taster which could 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 weren't 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 an 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 or energetic change here; matter or energy will have been transferred to the taster (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, or 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 herself are 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 is a continuation of the argument set out in the previous section against Trotsky's attempt to illustrate Engels's First 'Law' by referring to a parable about a cook adding 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 it was that 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 the properties of bodies or processes that make them what they are, alteration to which will change that body or 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 Marxist 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 is an Aristotelian notion.

 

But, as a solid (ice), liquid, or a gas (steam), water remains H2O; no new "kind of thing" has emerged. Iron is still iron as a solid or a liquid. Oxygen is still oxygen in its liquid or gaseous state. The same can be said of all substances that undergo state of matter changes and which don't breakdown on heating or cooling.

 

"Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else..." [Ibid.]

 

Moreover, countless substances exist as solids, liquids, or gases, so this can't be what makes each of them "what it is and not something else". What makes iron, for example, iron is its atomic structure, and that remains the same in all three states of matter.
 

However, 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, no new substance emerges as a result; liquid iron, gold and aluminium are still gold, iron and aluminium. Worse still: as we have seen, 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, as noted above. The same is true of gases and solids. So, a state of matter isn't a "kind of thing", but a state possessed by kinds of things -- so we speak of liquid iron, liquid mercury, gaseous oxygen, gaseous nitrogen; and if that state changes, the "kind of thing" that a particular substance is does not (in general) change. To be sure, some substances do change when heat is added -- for example, solid Ammonium Chloride sublimates into Ammonia gas and Hydrochloric Acid when heated, but this isn't typical. [In fact, DM-theorists would be on firmer ground in this instance than they are with their clichéd water as a liquid, solid or gas example.] Again, liquid mercury is still mercury, just as solid mercury is. Melted sugar is still sugar. The same is true of plastics, and all the metals. Liquid chocolate is still chocolate. 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, and cooling liquid mercury would move it around the Periodic Table!8b1

 

But, the volunteered DM-objection at the beginning of the previous paragraph (that different states of matter are different "kinds of things") -- should it ever be advanced by a dialectician -- only goes to show just how vague these 'definitions' of "quality" are. Indeed, it allows DM-fans to count different states of matter as different "kind of things", but they don't regard shape, colour, heat, or motion as different "kinds of things". Hence, for example, an object in motion isn't counted as a different "kind of thing" from the same object at rest (both relative to some inertial frame). Spherical ingots of iron aren't regarded as different "kinds of thing" from cylindrical ingots of iron. A red box isn't a different "kind of thing" from a green box. Sure, gases, liquids and solids have different physical properties, but so do moving and stationary bodies, and so do spherical and cylindrical objects. So do differently coloured objects. 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".

 

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

 

But what about this?

 

"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, op cit.]

 

Are these "laws of motion" what make iron what it is and not another thing, so that it is "no longer the same kind of thing"? As we have just seen, even if Cornforth were right about these new "laws of motion", that wouldn't re-classify iron and place it in a new location in the Periodic Table. This doesn't make iron a "new kind of thing". Furthermore, we have already seen that rapid changes to sub-atomic or inter-molecular forces (of the sort that Cornforth envisages) can't be recruited to this 'Law', either.

 

Be this as it may, we have just seen in relation to the 'definition' found at the Marxist Internet Archive that:

 

"Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else..." [Ibid.]

 

As noted earlier, countless substances exist as solids, liquids, or gases, so this can't be what makes each of them "what it is and not something else". Again, what makes lead, for example, lead is its atomic structure, and that remains the same whether or not that metal is in its solid or its liquid state. As such, it remains "the same kind of thing".

 

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.]

 

We will have occasion to question whether there are any "essential features" or properties in nature (sometimes associated with a technical term, "natural kind"); readers are re-directed to Essay Thirteen Part Two for more details. [That Essay will be published in 2018. Until then, see Note 8c. Since the above was written I have added several relevant comments about "natural kinds" to Essay Eight Part Two. Readers are directed there for more details.]

 

Back In The Soup

 

Independently of this, it isn't at all clear that someone's liking or 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 deem 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 don't 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 convenient choice of descriptive framework. Once again, this introduces a fundamental element of arbitrariness into what dialecticians claim is a scientific law. And how would that be any different from "foisting" DM on nature?

 

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' had supposedly been 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, this is the best attempt I have seen to date. Unfortunately, it fails badly.

 

I will add some thoughts on this over the next few months.

 

Given this new twist, it now seems that quantitative change to material bodies (such as salt/soup mixtures) actually cause changes to human senses (of a vague and perhaps non-quantitative -- or even non-qualitative -- kind); these in turn bring about some sort of qualitative change in the senses 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 aren't "unconscious dialecticians", and neither is anyone else outside the DM-fraternity --, and that is probably because they aren't 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?

 

Is this yet another catastrophic failure of Engels's 'Law'...?

 

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

 

 

Video Seven: Anti-Dialectical Cat?

[Warning: Graphic Footage.]

 

Of course, Trotsky didn't have access to YouTube, but his epigones do. In that case, they will no doubt be interested to see footage of rabbits chasing off larger cats and dogs, and a whole host of other non-dialectical animal antics (such as a domestic cat chasing away a larger fox).

 

It would be tedious to list them all so I will finish by adding a link to a page with a series of pictures that show a lioness defending a fox cub from the predatory attention of a much larger male lion.

 

It looks like the animal kingdom is well stocked with very conscious anti-dialecticians!

 

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 merely 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. Anyway, where is the alleged "development" in this case? Or, are we to suppose with Hegel that the very same house has been slowly reduced in size so that it gradually assumes the size of a grain of sand?

 

It could be objected that there could be no houses the size of a grain of sand, so the above objection is spurious. Of course, that is the very point: if the size of a house were reduced so much, it would cease to be a house, even if one such has never been constructed. Beyond a certain size, what might look like a house ceases to be of any use, and can't actually house anyone. A Dolls House isn't a house.

 

 

Figure Three: Would You Like To Live Here --

With Hegel?

 

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 -- still less what counts as a relevant form of novelty. For instance, consider a raft of examples from earlier:

 

So, for example, the largest cut diamond on earth (in a safe, say, in New York) could change into the second largest if another, bigger diamond is cut in, say, Amsterdam. Here we would have a change in quality produced by no change in quantity to the object in question (the diamond in New York). This also applies to other remote changes. For instance, 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 or to that object.

 

There are countless examples of remote change like this.

 

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

 

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

 

A president of a given country visiting, say, the UN Headquarters in Manhattan, can cease to be president if, while she is away, she is deposed at home, even while no relevant matter/energy has been added to or subtracted from her.

 

The oldest known vertebrate fossil on earth could becomes the second oldest if another even older one is discovered.

 

We needn't labour this point; as noted above, there are countless examples of remote change like this, so many that this Essay could easily be doubled in length if I were to consider even a tiny fraction of them.

 

Are these 'remote changes' relevant or not? True to form, such 'pedantic' details are passed-over in silence by DM-fans. But, this is Mickey Mouse Science, after all!

 

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 that suits them, too. Indeed, it is reasonably safe bet that several of the counter-examples listed above (or elsewhere in this Essay) will have been rejected out-of-hand by dialecticians on that basis alone. For instance, heating water from cold to very hot is a "qualitative" non-"nodal" change by any standard, and it also results in something nothing "new" (if we leave that word in its current 'DM-vague' condition). And yet, if we mean by "new", something substantially new, then ice and steam aren't "new", either. Nevertheless, there are dialecticians who will brush these factors off as irrelevant. Either that, or they just ignore them.

 

[An excellent example of both tactics put to good use 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 Mamelukes And Balding Water

 

Water, Water, Everywhere

 

The other set of 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) only seem to work because of the way that the word "quality" has been 'defined' (or, rather, the way it 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 or process, without which it must change into "something else" --, 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 doesn't change it into another substance; water in its solid, liquid or gaseous form is still H2O. So, quantitative addition or subtraction of energy does not result in a qualitative change of the required sort; no new Hegelian or Aristotelian "quality" emerges. No "new kind of thing" is created as a result.

 

It is worth looking at this and other examples in more detail. As water is heated steam increasingly leaves the surface in a non-"nodal" fashion. [The sudden breaking of inter-molecular, or even inter-atomic, bonds will be considered presently.] The rate at which water vapour leaves the surface increases gradually as the temperature rises. There is no sudden 'leap', in this case. So, even here we have a smooth transition from liquid to gas; indeed, if a pan of water is kept at 99oC for long enough, all of the water will slowly disappear as steam. And, who doesn't know that water evaporates slowly at room temperature? Who has never dried clothes on a line, crockery or cooking utensils on a drainer? Who on earth doesn't know that some rivers, ponds and lakes dry up in hot weather? Where is the "leap", in such cases? Examples like these illustrate a well-known fact: many, if not most processes in nature run smoothly, and are non-"nodal".

 

At 100oC events accelerate dramatically; but even then they do so non-"nodally". Some might find that assertion hard to believe, but a few tenths of a degree below the critical point -- depending on the purity of the water, surrounding conditions and atmospheric pressure, as well as how the liquid is being heated (etc.) --, bubbles begin to form more rapidly in the liquid. This process accelerates increasingly quickly as the boiling point is approached. What we see, therefore, is a non-"nodal" change of phase/state of matter, even here. The phase or state of matter change in this case isn't sudden -- like the snapping of a rubber band, or the breaking of glass. We don't see no bubbles one second and then a microsecond later a frothing mass, which we would do if this were a "nodal" change.

 

Of course, dialecticians could concede the truth of the above observation -- i.e., that before the liquid reaches 100oC water molecules leave the surface all the time --, but they might still reject the above assertion that this isn't an example of "nodal" change. They might even add that when a water molecule changes from its liquid to its gaseous state certain chemical bonds are broken, and that this happens suddenly, and "nodally". But, even this is not as clear-cut as it might seem. Certainly, when a bond is broken, that will be sudden, but there is no "break in gradualness" (required by this 'Law' --on this, see the quotations a few paragraphs down), in this case. Bonds don't gradually break, and then suddenly break. They just break. There are only "nodes" in this case.

 

So, this vague 'Law' doesn't even apply to the breaking of chemical bonds!

 

Naturally, "nodal"-points could be re-defined thermodynamically, in terms of latent heat (enthalpy of vaporisation/condensation), etc. But, latent heat is involved throughout the evaporating process, not just at 100oC. What happens at the boiling point is that the vapour pressure of the liquid equals that of the surrounding medium. In fact, it is possible to induce boiling (in many liquids, and not just water) by lowering the surrounding pressure sufficiently. This can also take place without any obvious addition or subtraction of any matter or energy to or from the liquid concerned.

 

[Raising or lowering the pressure in the surrounding medium isn't to add or subtract anything to or from the liquid concerned. It might result in matter leaving the surface of that liquid, but lowering pressure removes matter from the surrounding atmosphere, not the liquid itself. The questions is:  Is this what Engels meant by the addition or subtraction of matter and energy? As with many other things connected with this hopelessly vague 'Law', who can say?]

 

"What about latent heat?", someone might object:

 

"Latent heat is the heat released or absorbed by a chemical substance or a thermodynamic system during a process that occurs without a change in temperature." [Quoted from here; accessed 04/11/2011.]

 

Of course, the idea that the temperature of the water stays the same as it boils is an abstraction, since, unless every molecule of water is being heated alike, and at the same time, the convection currents induced in the liquid will mean that there are micro-differences in temperature throughout that liquid. We have what is called a "mixed-phase" system here, as bubbles form in some places but not others. [On that, see below.]

 

As suggested above, this objection seems to depend on the idea that latent heat is only involved at the boiling point (or, at the phase/state of matter transition). If so, that will have nothing to do with the events in the lead up to that point (the alleged "gradualness" that is finally broken, resulting in a "leap"), as this 'Law' requires:

 

"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.]

 

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

 

"[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphasis alone added. (Unfortunately, the Index page for this book over at the Marxist Internet Archive has no link to the second half of Chapter Five, but it can be accessed directly here. I have informed the editors of this error. Added June 2015: they have now corrected it!)]

 

"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 emphases 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.]

 

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

 

So, once again, we see this shaky 'Law' doesn't easily accommodate to this hackneyed example, even if we throw in latent heat. [I return to latent heat, below.]

 

Anyway, the volunteered DM-reply from earlier itself depends on how a "nodal point" is defined.

 

As we have seen, since the length of a dialectical "node" has been left hopelessly vague, dialecticians can only challenge the above assertions if they are prepared to define precisely the length of a DM-"node". Otherwise, my opinion is as good as theirs -- which is why I earlier labelled this 'Law' subjective in the extreme.

 

Is there a DM-Standards Authority to which we can appeal? Genuine scientists use this system; that is, of course, why their results can be checked, and are even described as "objective". But, are there any standards at all in the DM-wing of Mickey-Mouse Science?

 

The answer is pretty clear: there aren't.

 

On the other hand, if dialecticians take the trouble to re-define the word "node" just to accommodate these awkward non-dialectical facts (we noted earlier that in certain circumstances this is called a "persuasive definition"), it would become increasingly difficult to distinguish DM from stipulative conventionalism.

 

However, it is worth pointing out that there isn't in fact a problem with this approach, since scientists do this sort of thing all the time. Unfortunately, though, this means that if DM-theorists were to do this, they would have to abandon their claim that DM is 'objective', and admit that their 'theory' is conventional, after all -- and fourth-rate conventionalised ruling-class 'wisdom', to boot.

 

To this end, DM-theorists could get their act together and specify a minimum time interval during which a phase or state of matter transition must take place for it to be counted as "nodal". In relation to boiling water, say, they could decide that if the transition from water to steam (or vice versa) takes place in an interval lasting less than or equal to k seconds/minutes (for some Real Number, k), then it is indeed "nodal". Thus, by dint of just such a stipulation, their 'Law' could be made to work (at least in this respect) in this case. But, there is nothing in nature that forces any of this on us -- the reverse is, if anything, the case. Phase/state of matter changes, and changes in general, take different lengths of time. Moreover, under differing circumstances even these intervals can alter, too. If so, as noted above, this 'Law' would become 'valid' only because of yet another stipulation, or imposition, which would make it both eminently 'subjective' and conventionally dogmatic.

 

However, given the strife-riven and sectarian nature of dialectical politics, any attempt to define a DM-"node" could lead to yet more factions. Thus, we are sure to see emerge the rightist "Nanosecond Tendency" -- sworn enemies of the "Picosecond Left Opposition" -- who will both take up arms with the 'eclectic' wing at the "it depends on the circumstances" 'clique' at the 'centrist' "Femtosecond League".

 

On the other hand, if such phase/state-of-matter changes were to be defined thermodynamically, then many of them would be too abrupt. But, even this isn't as clear-cut as it might at first sight seem:

 

"The first-order phase transitions are those that involve a latent heat. During such a transition, a system either absorbs or releases a fixed (and typically large) amount of energy. Because energy can't be instantaneously transferred between the system and its environment, first-order transitions are associated with 'mixed-phase regimes' in which some parts of the system have completed the transition and others have not. This phenomenon is familiar to anyone who has boiled a pot of water: the water does not instantly turn into gas, but forms a turbulent mixture of water and water vapour bubbles. Mixed-phase systems are difficult to study, because their dynamics are violent and hard to control. However, many important phase transitions fall in this category, including the solid/liquid/gas transitions and Bose-Einstein condensation.

 

"The second class of phase transitions are the 'continuous phase transitions', also called second-order phase transitions. These have no associated latent heat. Examples of second-order phase transitions are the ferromagnetic transition and the superfluid transition.

 

"Several transitions are known as the infinite-order phase transitions. They are continuous but break no symmetries.... The most famous example is the Kosterlitz-Thouless transition in the two-dimensional XY model. Many quantum phase transitions in two-dimensional electron gases belong to this class." [Wikipedia. Bold emphases added.]

 

Unfortunately, the above article has since been changed somewhat since I first consulted it; here is a later version:

 

"First-order phase transitions are those that involve a latent heat. During such a transition, a system either absorbs or releases a fixed (and typically large) amount of energy. During this process, the temperature of the system will stay constant as heat is added: the system is in a 'mixed-phase regime' in which some parts of the system have completed the transition and others have not. Familiar examples are the melting of ice or the boiling of water (the water does not instantly turn into vapour, but forms a turbulent mixture of liquid water and vapour bubbles). Imry and Wortis showed that quenched disorder can broaden a first-order transition in that the transformation is completed over a finite range of temperatures, but phenomena like supercooling and superheating survive and hysteresis is observed on thermal cycling.

 

"Second-order phase transitions are also called continuous phase transitions. They are characterized by a divergent susceptibility, an infinite correlation length, and a power-law decay of correlations near criticality. Examples of second-order phase transitions are the ferromagnetic transition, superconducting transition (for a Type-I superconductor the phase transition is second-order at zero external field and for a Type-II superconductor the phase transition is second-order for both normal state-mixed state and mixed state-superconducting state transitions) and the superfluid transition. In contrast to viscosity, thermal expansion and heat capacity of amorphous materials show a relatively sudden change at the glass transition temperature which enable quite exactly to detect it using differential scanning calorimetry measurements....

 

"Several transitions are known as the infinite-order phase transitions. They are continuous but break no symmetries. The most famous example is the Kosterlitz–Thouless transition in the two-dimensional XY model. Many quantum phase transitions, e.g., in two-dimensional electron gases, belong to this class." [Quoted from here; accessed 20/02/2015. Bold emphasis and one link added. Italic emphases in the original. Spelling adapted to UK English; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Another source had this to say:

 

"Discontinuous phase transitions are characterised by a discontinuous change in entropy at a fixed temperature. The change in entropy corresponds to latent heat L = TΔS. Examples are solid-liquid and liquid-gas transitions at temperatures below the critical temperature.

 

"Continuous phase transitions involve a continuous change in entropy, which means there is no latent heat. Examples are liquid-gas transitions at temperatures above the critical temperature, metal-superconductor transitions and many magnetic ordering transitions." [Quoted from here; accessed 20/02/2015. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

A second added:

 

"Since the entropy is continuous at the phase transition, the latent heat is zero. The latent heat is always zero for a second order phase transition." [Quoted from here; accessed 20/02/2015. Bold emphasis added.]

 

A third concurs:

 

"'Discontinuities' at continuous phase changes (2nd order or higher): For continuous transitions, the entropy is continuous crossing the phase boundary and so there is no latent heat." [Quoted from here; accessed 20/02/2015. Bold emphasis added.]

 

[Both of which agree with the earlier Wikipedia article before it was changed.]

 

This is, of course, just another way of making the same point that was made earlier: not all changes are unambiguously "nodal".

 

Now, with respect to the length of "nodal" points, Kuusinen had this to say (Kuusinen doesn't use the word "node", but it is plain that his "leaps" are "nodes"):

 

"The transition of a thing, through the accumulation of quantitative modifications, from one qualitative state to a different, new state, is a leap in development. This leap is a break in the gradualness of the quantitative change of a thing. It is the transition to a new quality and signalises (sic) a sharp turn, a radical change in development." [Kuusinen (1961), p.88. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphases added.]

 

This seems pretty clear: all "leaps"  are "sharp" turns, "radical" breaks in "gradualness". Kuusinen clearly defines "nodes"/"leaps" exactly as Hegel and Engels had done. So, how does he handle the slow qualitative changes we met earlier?

 

"Leaps, transitions from one quality to another are relatively rapid.... The leaps are rapid in comparison with the preceding periods of gradual accumulation of quantitative modifications. This rapidity varies, depending upon the nature of the object and the conditions in which the leap occurs. Some substances pass at once from the solid to the liquid state on reaching a certain critical temperature.... Other substances -- plastics, resins, glass -- do not have an exact melting point. On heating, the first soften and then pass into the liquid state. We might say that in their case the qualitative change, i.e., the leap, occurs gradually. But it is still relatively rapid." [Ibid., p.88. Italic emphasis in the original, bold added. Paragraphs merged.]

 

This is all very confusing; "leaps" are rapid except where they aren't! That is about as scientifically useful as defining acids (a là Brønsted-Lowry) as "substances which donate hydrogen ions, except where they don't"! Would a genuine scientist be allowed to get away with cop-outs like this? Would anyone take a Physicist seriously who said that a half-life, for instance, is the time taken for radioactive compounds to decay to half their original mass, except where they don't?

 

Apparently, in this branch of Mickey Mouse Science, this is fine.

 

However, this sits rather awkwardly with Engels's take on the matter:

 

"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 0oC from the liquid into the solid state, and at 100oC 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. [Engels (1976), p.160. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Engels seems to know nothing of Kuusinen's protracted "nodes". Or, does "sudden" mean the same as "protracted" on Planet Dialectics? [See also here.]

 

Now, Kuusinen tries to get round this 'difficulty' with the usual "relatively-speaking" get-out clause tacked on at the end. But, the transition from liquid water to steam (at 100oC) is genuinely rapid no matter how quickly or slowly the water is heated up in the build-up to that point. And the melting of say, plastic can be long and drawn out (lasting weeks, if necessary) if the temperature rise is regulated accordingly.

 

And we might well wonder: "Relative to what?" With what may we 'objectively' compare the time it takes for plastic objects to melt so that we might truly say that the melting was "relatively sudden" or "relatively slow"? [However, we have addressed this point already.]

 

But, what about the opposite? Many qualitative changes are very slow and protracted even though the build-up is rapid. Which means that the "relatively-speaking" get-out clause can't apply. Consider the larval stage of moths. The larva or grub will build a cocoon rapidly, but the radical 'qualitative' changes inside that cocoon (from larva to adult moth), in its pupal stage, are painfully slow (relative to the previous stage and the lifetime of most moths and butterflies) -- ranging from a few weeks to many months. To be sure, when the moth breaks out, that change will be rapid, but the unseen 'qualitative' changes that have already happened are slow. By no stretch of the imagination is this unseen development -- these radical qualitative changes -- a "leap", even "relatively-speaking".

 

And, the same comments apply to the development of reptiles, birds, fish and other animals that grow inside egg sacks. Even a human baby takes nine months to "leap" from the fertilised egg stage to being a fully-developed foetus before it is born --; as is well known, fertilisation and parturition are pretty rapid in comparison. So, the "relative" clause isn't just vague, it fails to apply in any meaningful sense in many cases itself.

 

Even the countless cell divisions that take place in an embryo's development are non-"nodal". Cells don't "suddenly" divide. To be sure, some of the processes in cell division are "sudden", but not all are. The division itself is slow.

 

Naturally, this depends on how DM-fans define "sudden" and "nodal", but we have been here already.

 

All this is, of course, independent of these comments concerning the subjective implications of this "relatively-speaking" get-out clause.

 

In short, Kuusinen's amateurish attempt to spell-out the length of these dialectical "nodes"/"leaps" is no more impressive than the other things he and his fellow Mickey Mouse Dialectical Scientists try to sell us.

 

Mendeleyev -- Refutes DM

 

Another over-used example enlisted to illustrate this 'Law' is Mendeleyev's Table.

 

"Finally, the Hegelian law is valid not only for compound substances but also for the chemical elements themselves. We now know that 'the chemical properties of the elements are a periodic function of their atomic weights' (Roscoe-Schorlemmer, Complete Text-Book of Chemistry, II, p. 823), and that, therefore, their quality is determined by the quantity of their atomic weight. And the test of this has been brilliantly carried out. Mendeleyev proved that various gaps occur in the series of related elements arranged according to atomic weights indicating that here new elements remain to be discovered. He described in advance the general chemical properties of one of these unknown elements, which he termed eka-aluminium, because it follows after aluminium in the series beginning with the latter, and he predicted its approximate specific and atomic weight as well as its atomic volume. A few years later, Lecoq de Boisbaudran actually discovered this element, and Mendeleyev's predictions fitted with only very slight discrepancies. Eka-aluminium was realised in gallium (ibid., p. 828). By means of the -- unconscious -- application of Hegel's law of the transformation of quantity into quality, Mendeleyev achieved a scientific feat which it is not too bold to put on a par with that of Leverrier in calculating the orbit of the still unknown planet Neptune." [Engels (1954), pp.67-68. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[The example of Neptune isn't in fact a happy one; on that, see here.]

 

The claim is that scientists can be regarded as 'unconscious dialecticians' is a fantasy by means of which DM-theorist like to flatter their theory -- clearly in compensation for the fact the 99.9% of scientists consciously totally ignore it --, that is, if they have ever even heard of it. Indeed, as Erwin Marquit was forced to admit:

 

"In the developed capitalist countries very little has been written on the physical sciences by scientists and philosophers who consciously base their work on dialectical-materialist methods of analysis." [Marquit (1980), p.77.]

 

Marquit offers two main reasons for this: (i) The harassment and discrimination dialecticians face from academic institutions, and (ii) The complete separation of philosophy from science in the training of scientists. He failed to consider another, and far more likely, option: (iii) DM is Mickey Mouse Science almost on a par with Creationism, so no wonder genuine scientists won't touch it with someone else's barge pole. [More on that here, and here.]

 

Concerning the Periodic Table, here are Woods and Grant:

 

"The science of chemistry made great strides forward in the 19th century. A large number of elements was discovered. But, rather like the confused situation which exists in particle physics today, chaos reigned. Order was established by the great Russian scientist Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev who, in 1869, in collaboration with the German chemist Julius Meyer, worked out the periodic table of the elements, so-called because it showed the periodic recurrence of similar chemical properties.

 

"The existence of atomic weight was discovered in 1862 by Cannizzaro. But Mendeleyev's genius consisted in the fact that he did not approach the elements from a purely quantitative standpoint, that is, he did not see the relation between the different atoms just in terms of weight. Had he done so, he would never have made the breakthrough he did. From the purely quantitative standpoint, for instance, the element tellurium (atomic weight = 127.61) ought to have come after iodine (atomic weight = 126.91) in the periodic table, yet Mendeleyev placed it before iodine, under selenium, to which it is more similar, and placed iodine under the related element, bromine. Mendeleyev's method was vindicated in the 20th century, when the investigation of X-rays proved that his arrangement was the correct one. The new atomic number for tellurium was put at 52, while that of iodine is 53. The whole of Mendeleyev's periodic table is based on the law of quantity and quality, deducing qualitative differences in the elements from quantitative differences in atomic weights. This was recognised by Engels at the time...." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.50-51. Paragraphs merged.]

 

In this particular case, the argument appears to be that as elementary particles are added to certain atoms they change qualitatively into others, which isn't, of course, how Mendeleyev saw things, nor is it how Engels interpreted his 'Law'. That is because elementary particles were unknown in their day; indeed, the atomic theory of matter wasn't widely accepted until after the work of Jean Perrin, 40 or 50 years later still. As the above quotations show, Engels interpreted this example in terms of atomic weight.

 

[On this, see Nye (1972). On Mendeleyev, see Gordin (2004), and on the Periodic Table in general, see Scerri (2007).]

 

Be this as it may, the elementary particles involved don't themselves appear to change (in the relevant sense --, that is, they don't change qualitatively), but, even if they did, the atoms concerned do not. What seems to happen is that as new particles are added, new atoms come into being with new qualities. So, the old qualities and the old atoms simply disappear. Change of quantity, disappearance of quality, perhaps?

 

Naturally, dialecticians will want to argue that this isn't what Engels's Law implies in this case, maintaining perhaps that a change in quantity does indeed lead to a change in quality, and that this is a classic example confirming this Law. It is only the deliberate mis-description above that once again raises spurious doubts.

 

Or, so a response might go...

 

But, even dialecticians will agree that not just any old quantitative increase in elementary particles or energy will alter the relevant qualities to produce the different elements in the Periodic Table. It takes certain sorts of elementary particles to change one element into another, and since these particles exhibit their own qualities -- and they effect the changes they do because of those qualities --, it is clear that it takes qualitative and structural-geometric change to induce development of the elements in the Periodic Table. So, if we ignore for the moment the 'disappearing atom' observation above, when new qualities (not merely additional quantities) are added to atoms they change in quality themselves. In which case, the application of this 'Law' isn't as clear-cut as DM-fans would have us believe, even in this allegedly classic example.

 

This point also applies to quantum 'leaps' -- for example, when an electron jumps from one quantum state to another. Here, electrons don't gradually change and then suddenly 'leap'; there are only 'leaps'. This 'Law' fails to apply even here!

 

[The relevant passages from the DM-classics and other DM-sources have been posted below.]

 

Readers who might be tempted to regard this as a minor point that can be safely ignored only needs to re-read what Lenin said:

 

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

 

This very point -- the interruption of gradualness terminating in a "leap" -- distinguishes "the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition". So, according to Lenin, this is a core principle of dialectics, which can only be ignored by those who want to undermine the distinction between dialectical and non-dialectical transitions.

 

The problem is that this means that the vast majority of examples to which DM-theorists appeal to illustrate their law (ranging from water boiling to Mendeleyev's Table) fail to illustrate it!

 

Of course, dialecticians might still want to insist that a quantitative increase or decrease is what effects qualitative change, in this case; but, again, there is nothing in the phenomena themselves that forces that description on us. Hence, this 'Law' is subjective, at best, when it is applied in this instance; i.e., it only appears to work if a preferred description is imposed on the facts. Once more, how is this different from forcing a certain view on nature?

 

Furthermore, since even dialecticians will admit that it is only certain qualities that effect the desired changes in this area, the depiction outlined in the previous paragraph is in fact consistent with a more honest qualitative re-appraisal of the phenomena in question. In that case, by clinging to Engels's First 'Law' as stated, dialecticians would be foisting onto nature a view that isn't even in line with their own more honest appraisal of it!

 

Of course, Hegel had already appreciated this fact in his 'nodal line of measure' -- it isn't just a mere increase in quantity that induces change. As noted above, these changes are also qualitative in a different sense because of the new geometry (i.e., the new orbital structure) of the resulting atoms, and it is this new geometry as much as anything else which determines the novel properties of the resulting change. Here quantity is only tangential. Hegel knew nothing of quantum change.

 

Moreover, as we saw earlier, there are many different ways that change can be depicted in Physics and Chemistry (for example, in relation to Isomers and the ordering relations that occur both naturally and artificially in nature and in human interaction with it); moreover, the energetics involved can be parsed in many different ways. In that case, plainly, there is no single law that governs every chemical change (except, perhaps, the Conservation of Energy) -- or, all change in general. Indeed, in this, one of its best examples used by DM-fans, we discover that even if we accept the standard picture, it is as much quantity as it is geometry that 'determines' quality.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphasis alone added. (Unfortunately, the Index page for this book over at the Marxist Internet Archive has no link to the second half of Chapter Five, but it can be accessed directly here. I have informed the editors of this error. Added June 2015: they have now corrected it!)]

 

"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.]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

These comments also apply to the other examples drawn from Organic Chemistry -- quoted by Engels: cf., Engels (1954), pp.161-63, and (1976), pp.65-68(and Woods and Grant (1995), whose ideas are further examined in Note 4).

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

M1: 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.

 

Adding Energy

 

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 (perhaps here, as an increase in temperature), then that increase in heat is indeed an increase in quantity -- in this case, the "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; cf., 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 hadn't quite abandoned the old idea that heat is a substance. Of course, we might still want to describe this phenomenon as 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, isn't just a façon de parler) isn't the name of an identifiable substance that can be qualified in this way.

 

Marquit rightly makes much about the lack of any clarity concerning the nature of energy in modern physical science -- cf., Marquit (1980), pp.80-83 --, but his definition, which he claims to have found in DN, isn't much to write home about:

 

"Energy is a measure of the capacity for change in the form of motion." [Ibid., p.83. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

In fact, this isn't much different from the 'definition' offered by scientists!10

 

One standard text defines energy as follows:

 

"Energy is a measure that is associated with a state (or condition) of one or more bodies." [Halliday, et al (1993), p.188.]

 

A Dictionary of Physics had this to say:

 

"Energy: A measure of the ability of an object or a system to do work" [Harrison (1999), p.58.]

 

This is all rather odd; we are told elsewhere that matter is really a form of energy -- so, is everything really made of a "measure of a capacity for change in the form of motion"? Everything is made of a "capacity"? Or an "ability"?

 

But as Lenin argued, the question remains, what then is it that moves? Engels and Marquit can't answer that question without going round in circles: It is matter that moves, and matter is energy which is a capacity to move. But, what moves? It is matter that moves and matter is energy which a capacity to move...

 

In fact, Lenin appeared to reject Engels and Marquit's definition because it goes round in circles, in the above manner:

 

"What moves...? (p.319.)

 

"If energy is motion, you have only shifted the difficulty from the subject to the predicate, you have only changed the question, does matter move? into the question, is energy material? Does the transformation of energy take place outside my mind, independently of man and mankind, or are these only ideas, symbols, conventional signs, and so forth? And this question proved fatal to the 'energeticist' philosophy, that attempt to disguise old epistemological errors by a 'new' terminology." [Lenin (1972), p.324. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

But, Lenin had no answer, either. He failed to tell his readers what matter and energy are! No wonder Engels was forced to say that matter is just an abstraction! That can only mean that energy is an abstraction, too!

 

It is at this point we hit absurdity: according to DM-theorists, the quality of bodies and processes is changed by the addition or subtraction of an abstraction! The universe is not only made out of an abstraction, it is changed by the addition or subtraction of yet more abstractions!

 

No wonder Lenin preferred Idealists to boring materialists:

 

"Intelligent idealism is closer to intelligent materialism than stupid materialism. Dialectical idealism instead of intelligent; (sic) metaphysical, undeveloped, dead, crude, rigid instead of stupid." [Lenin (1961), p.274.]

 

As I pointed out in Essay Three Part Two, this puts Lenin and other DM-fans on the side of the 'Gods':

 

Diodorus Siculus is, I think, the originator of this image:

 

"When the Gigantes about Pallene chose to begin war against the immortals, Herakles fought on the side of the gods, and slaying many of the Sons of Ge [or Gaia, the 'Earth Goddess' -- RL] he received the highest approbation. For Zeus gave the name of Olympian only to those gods who had fought by his side, in order that the courageous, by being adorned by so honourable a title, might be distinguished by this designation from the coward; and of those who were born of mortal women he considered only Dionysos and Herakles worthy of this name." [Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4.15.1.]

 

However, this trope alludes to an image painted in Hesiod's Theogony (links at the end) and in Plato's Sophist, one of his more profound surviving works. Indeed, this dialogue and two of his other dialogues -- Theaetetus (Plato (1997d)) and Parmenides (Plato (1997c)) -- are the principle source of much of subsequent Idealism.

 

The section reproduced below revolves around a conversation between an Eleatic "Stranger" (who appears to be a follower of Parmenides) and a character called "Theaetetus":

 

"Stranger. We are far from having exhausted the more exact thinkers who treat of being and not-being. But let us be content to leave them, and proceed to view those who speak less precisely; and we shall find as the result of all, that the nature of being is quite as difficult to comprehend as that of not-being....

 

"...There appears to be a sort of war of Giants and Gods going on amongst them; they are fighting with one another about the nature of essence.

 

"Theaetetus. How is that?

 

"Stranger. Some of them are dragging down all things from heaven and from the unseen to earth, and they literally grasp in their hands rocks and trees; of these they lay hold, and obstinately maintain, that the things only which can be touched or handled have being or essence, because they define being and body as one, and if any one else says that what is not a body exists they altogether despise him, and will hear of nothing but body.

 

"Theaetetus. I have often met with such men, and terrible fellows they are.

 

"Stranger. And that is the reason why their opponents cautiously defend themselves from above, out of an unseen world, mightily contending that true essence consists of certain intelligible and incorporeal ideas; the bodies of the materialists, which by them are maintained to be the very truth, they break up into little bits by their arguments, and affirm them to be, not essence, but generation and motion. Between the two armies, Theaetetus, there is always an endless conflict raging concerning these matters.

 

"Theaetetus. True.

 

"Stranger. Let us ask each party in turn, to give an account of that which they call essence.

 

"Theaetetus. How shall we get it out of them?

 

"Stranger. With those who make being to consist in ideas, there will be less difficulty, for they are civil people enough; but there will be very great difficulty, or rather an absolute impossibility, in getting an opinion out of those who drag everything down to matter. Shall I tell you what we must do?

 

"Theaetetus. What?

 

"Stranger. Let us, if we can, really improve them; but if this is not possible, let us imagine them to be better than they are, and more willing to answer in accordance with the rules of argument, and then their opinion will be more worth having; for that which better men acknowledge has more weight than that which is acknowledged by inferior men. Moreover we are no respecters of persons, but seekers after truth." [Plato (1997b), pp.267-68, 246a-246d. I have used the on-line version here.]

 

The battle itself is described in Hesiod's Theogony (lines 675-715), available here.

 

From this it is quite clear that Marxist Dialecticians are far closer to the Idealist 'Gods' than they are to the materialist Giants!

 

Here, too, is Richard Feynman's telling admission:

 

"In order to talk to each other, we have to have words, and that's all right. It's a good idea to try to see the difference, and it's a good idea to know when we are teaching the tools of science, such as words, and when we are teaching science itself.

"To make my point still clearer, I shall pick out a certain science book to criticize unfavourably, which is unfair, because I am sure that with little ingenuity, I can find equally unfavourable things to say about others. There is a first grade science book which, in the first lesson of the first grade, begins in an unfortunate manner to teach science, because it starts off an the wrong idea of what science is. There is a picture of a dog -- a windable toy dog -- and a hand comes to the winder, and then the dog is able to move. Under the last picture, it says 'What makes it move?' Later on, there is a picture of a real dog and the question, 'What makes it move?' Then there is a picture of a motorbike and the question, 'What makes it move?' and so on.

"I thought at first they were getting ready to tell what science was going to be about -- physics, biology, chemistry -- but that wasn't it. The answer was in the teacher's edition of the book: the answer I was trying to learn is that 'energy makes it move.'

"Now, energy is a very subtle concept. It is very, very difficult to get right. What I meant is that it is not easy to understand energy well enough to use it right, so that you can deduce something correctly using the energy idea -- it is beyond the first grade. It would be equally well to say that 'God makes it move,' or 'spirit makes it move,' or 'movability makes it move.' (In fact, one could equally well say 'energy makes it stop.')

"Look at it this way: that's only the definition of energy; it should be reversed. We might say when something can move that it has energy in it, but not what makes it move is energy. This is a very subtle difference. It's the same with this inertia proposition.  Perhaps I can make the difference a little clearer this way: If you ask a child what makes the toy dog move, you should think about what an ordinary human being would answer. The answer is that you wound up the spring; it tries to unwind and pushes the gear around.

"What a good way to begin a science course! Take apart the toy; see how it works. See the cleverness of the gears; see the ratchets. Learn something about the toy, the way the toy is put together, the ingenuity of people devising the ratchets and other things. That's good. The question is fine. The answer is a little unfortunate, because what they were trying to do is teach a definition of what is energy. But nothing whatever is learned.

"Suppose a student would say, 'I don't think energy makes it move.' Where does the discussion go from there? I finally figured out a way to test whether you have taught an idea or you have only taught a definition.

"Test it this way: you say, 'Without using the new word which you have just learned, try to rephrase what you have just learned in your own language. Without using the word "energy," tell me what you know now about the dog's motion.' You can't. So you learned nothing about science. That may be all right. You may not want to learn something about science right away. You have to learn definitions. But for the very first lesson, is that not possibly destructive?

"I think for lesson number one, to learn a mystic formula for answering questions is very bad. The book has some others: 'gravity makes it fall;' 'the soles of your shoes wear out because of friction.' Shoe leather wears out because it rubs against the sidewalk and the little notches and bumps on the sidewalk grab pieces and pull them off. To simply say it is because of friction, is sad, because it's not science." [Quoted from
here. Spelling modified to UK English; quotation marks also altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Minor typo corrected; several paragraphs merged. Bold emphases in the original.]

 

It is instructive to note that when push comes to shove, even great physicists have to appeal to ordinary language and common understanding to explain why anything actually happens.

 

Be this as it may, another problem rears its ugly head: using "quantity" to depict the change in motion of molecules is rather dubious, on other grounds. Certainly, we can speak of an increase or decrease in the velocity of certain molecules, here, but there is no such thing as a quantity of velocity that could sensibly be said to increase. Velocity isn't a substance, either, and although we certainly use numbers to depict this vector, we don't 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, or even with a scalar,

 

And this isn't mere pedantry on my part. 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 Marxist 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 emphases added.]

 

Hence, if we strictly adhere to this definition, there can be no "quantity" of energy, because it isn't a "thing", or an "aspect" of a thing in any meaningful sense of those words. In fact, as we have seen: we have no idea what energy is!

 

Nevertheless, even if it were appropriate to depict energy in the way Engels attempted, neither the heat nor the faster molecules change in quality themselves. Any amount of heat still stays as heat; motion is still motion. This confirms that energy and heat aren't "kinds of things", and hence that their increase or decrease isn't even quantitative, since they can't therefore be "aspects" of something. If they were, then according to this 'Law', an 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, if "quantity" has to be an aspect of certain "kinds of thing", and energy and motion aren't "kinds of things", they can't increase or decrease in quantity.

 

Of course, this is a ridiculous conclusion, since energy is largely quantized; but that just shows how defective Hegel's and Engels's 'definitions' of "quantity" are.

 

Hence, the First 'Law' doesn't seem to apply to such 'phenomena'!

 

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

 

M2: 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:

 

M3: 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 isn't an impressive 'Law' ("A stitch in time saves nine" is far more impressive in comparison!); still less is this hackneyed example (concerning water) a convincing instance of it.

 

Hirsute Hilarity

 

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 choose different words we use to depict either.

 

Now, if it could be shown that those with precisely n-1 hairs on their heads are always objectively bald, and that this is an essential defining quality of baldness, or of bald people, or of bald heads (that is, in the Aristotelian/Hegelian sense required by DM), 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 would 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' can 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 one occurs here, takes place not in the one actually 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.

 

Nuclear Melt-Down

 

Not deterred, Clifford Conner hopes to sell his readers this example of 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 with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

But, has a new "kind of thing" emerged here? In fact, as before, 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 08/11/2011. For those who don't like Wikipedia, the same is argued here, at BBC Science.]

 

 

 

Figure Four: 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 08/11/2011. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

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

 

Faecal Fun

 

Not deterred (no pun intended), 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, they 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 due 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 with the conventions adopted at this site. Paragraphs merged.]

 

But, this isn't as remarkable as the sight of 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 tell his readers what the new "quality" is supposed to be that he thinks has come into being in this case. But, plainly, 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 the figure of 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 (1974b), pp.34-35. Spelling modified to agree with UK English; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis and link added.]

 

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

 

As I noted earlier:

 

The phrases "something new" and "ceasing to be what it is" are hopelessly vague.... We aren't told what constitutes novelty or what "ceasing to be" amounts to -- still less what counts as a relevant form of novelty.... 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 that suits them, too.

 

Confusion Over Chaos

 

More recently, dialecticians have appealed both to Chaos and Catastrophe Theory in their vain endeavour to show that Engels's nineteenth century 'Law' is in fact bang up-to-date. The natural processes investigated in these branches of science at some point clearly change rapidly. [Again, 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", or rapid. Some changes are, many aren't. (I have found it necessary to repeat this several times since critics who claim to have read this Essay seem to think I am denying there are any rapid changes in nature and society.)]

 

However, as we will see, the term "quality" is defined in DM-circles in terms that rule-out many of these catastrophic changes from being categorised as 'dialectical'. That is because no new DM-"qualities" 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"?

 

[Here is a JavaScript simulation of this phenomenon. Indeed, the transitions in this example appear to be non-"nodal". (You can alter the parameters 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 liquids/gases. No new Aristotelian/Hegelian "quality" has "emerged" here, either.

 

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

 

However, there are scientific and/or mathematical models of reality that explain chaotic systems (indeed, they do so with far greater clarity) --, and they don't fall foul of the other counter-examples listed in this Essay that 'refute' this 'Law' -- namely the theories from whose popularisations DM-theorists themselves learnt about these chaotic systems in the first place.

 

So, if we needed a theory of change in such cases, DM wouldn't be it. Nor nearly it.

 

Mamelukes vs Napoleon

 

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 example to which Engels himself appealed will go 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, what is the "same body", here? At best, all we have in this instance is a changing collection of non-identical Mamelukes and French soldiers (unless we are to suppose the same collections of Mamelukes and French soldiers were used each time -- even after they had been defeated, or perhaps killed/wounded). This is hardly the "same body".

 

Does anyone think that Napoleon (or even Engels!) actually carried this experiment out? At best, this was a 'thought experiment'. But, that hasn't stopped DM-fans quoting it as if it were gospel truth. Hence, we don't even have a single material body to consider, here, just a few vague musings by about different collections warriors! Plainly, there can be no 'development' here (this never took place!), and the objection advanced against many of the counter-examples listed in the Essay (i.e., that they are irrelevant since they apply to systems or bodies that aren't developing) falls by the wayside. Which DM-fan has ever objected to this example of Engels's on the grounds that (a) It doesn't apply to a body/system to which matter or energy has been added, and (b) It involves a 'thought experiment' about a 'system' that isn't developing?

 

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

 

As far as the other examples dialecticians use to illustrate this 'Law' are concerned: there are far too few that seem to work (even when the above difficulties and equivocations are ignored) to justify the title "Law" being attached to this part of Engels's theory. In comparison, if, say, Newton's Second Law of motion worked as fitfully as this 'Law' does (or it was as vaguely-worded and was also a mathematics free zone), physicists would laugh at anyone wh0 described it as a as a law. If, for instance, the rate of change of momentum, even under controlled conditions, were in fact proportional to the applied force only 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...

 

Genuine Science Vs Amateurish Anecdote

 

Mickey Mouse 'Dialectical' Science

 

The reason why I have labelled DM "Mickey Mouse Science" is now quite plain. The examples usually offered by DM-fans to illustrate their First 'Law' are almost without exception either anecdotal, impressionistic, or amateurish. 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, lack of detail and no supporting mathematics, failings compounded by theoretical obscurity, it would be rejected out-of-hand at the first stage, its author's reputation forever compromised.

 

As I have argued elsewhere:

 

Anyone who has studied or practiced genuine science knows the great care and attention to detail that has to be devoted by researchers, often over many years or decades, if they want to add to or alter even relatively minor areas of current knowledge, let alone establish a new law. This was the case in Engels's day, just as it is the case today. Moreover, the concepts employed by scientists have to be analytically sound. The use of primary data is essential (or it has at least to be reviewed or referenced by the scientists involved); supporting evidence has to be precise, detailed, meticulously recorded, and subject not only to public scrutiny but also to peer review.

 

In contrast, the sort of Mickey Mouse Science one finds in Creationist literature is rightly the target of derision by scientists and Marxists alike. And yet, when it comes to DM we find in Engels's writings (and those of subsequent dialecticians) little other than Mickey Mouse Science. Engels supplied his readers with no original data, and what little evidence he offered in support of his 'Laws' would have been rejected as amateurish in the extreme if it had appeared in an undergraduate science paper, let alone in a research document --, even in his day! DM-theorists today almost invariably present their readers with a few paragraphs, or, at best, a few pages of highly selective secondary and tertiary 'evidence' of the sort that Engels paraded before his readers. It is salutary, therefore, to compare Engels's approach to scientific proof with that of Darwin, whose classic work is a model of clarity and original research. Darwin presented the scientific community with extensive evidence and fresh data, which has been expanded upon greatly over the last 150 years. All we find in DM-'science' is mind-numbing repetition and vaguely-worded anecdotes.

 

Contrast, DM-Mickey Mouse Science with the real thing; here, for example, is one report of the accuracy achieved by the instruments aboard the recently launched Gaia satellite:

 

"'Gaia was not designed to take Hubble-like pictures; this is not its operating mode at all. What it will eventually do is draw little boxes around each of the stars you see in this picture and send just that information to the ground.'

 

"The satellite has been given an initial mission duration of five years to make its 3D map of the sky.

 

"By repeatedly viewing its targets, it should get to know the brightest stars' coordinates down to an error of just seven micro-arcseconds -- an angle equivalent to a euro coin on the Moon being observed from Earth." [Quoted from here. Accessed 06/02/2014. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Even back in the 16th century, astronomers were concerned with accuracy and precision; Tycho Brahe, for instance, was able to observe the heavens with the naked eye down to an accuracy of one arcminute (1/60th of a degree!). Once again, this is typical of genuine science, which, unfortunately, starkly distinguishes it from the 'science' we find in DM.

 

Genuine Science

 

In late September 2011 the news media were full of stories about an experiment that seemed to show that a beam of neutrinos had exceeded the speed of light.

 

"'Light-speed' neutrinos point to new physical reality

 

"Subatomic particles have broken the universe's fundamental speed limit, or so it was reported last week. The speed of light is the ultimate limit on travel in the universe, and the basis for Einstein's special theory of relativity, so if the finding stands up to scrutiny, does it spell the end for physics as we know it? The reality is less simplistic and far more interesting.

 

"'People were saying this means Einstein is wrong,' says physicist Heinrich Päs of the Technical University of Dortmund in Germany. 'But that's not really correct.'

 

"Instead, the result could be the first evidence for a reality built out of extra dimensions. Future historians of science may regard it not as the moment we abandoned Einstein and broke physics, but rather as the point at which our view of space vastly expanded, from three dimensions to four, or more.

 

"'This may be a physics revolution,' says Thomas Weiler at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who has devised theories built on extra dimensions. 'The famous words 'paradigm shift' are used too often and tritely, but they might be relevant.'

 

"The subatomic particles -- neutrinos -- seem to have zipped faster than light from CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, to the OPERA detector at the Gran Sasso lab near L'Aquila, Italy. It's a conceptually simple result: neutrinos making the 730-kilometre journey arrived 60 nanoseconds earlier than they would have if they were travelling at light speed. And it relies on three seemingly simple measurements, says Dario Autiero of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Lyon, France, a member of the OPERA collaboration: the distance between the labs, the time the neutrinos left CERN, and the time they arrived at Gran Sasso.

 

"But actually measuring those times and distances to the accuracy needed to detect nanosecond differences is no easy task. The OPERA collaboration spent three years chasing down every source of error they could imagine...before Autiero made the result public in a seminar at CERN on 23 September.

 

"Physicists grilled Autiero for an hour after his talk to ensure the team had considered details like the curvature of the Earth, the tidal effects of the moon and the general relativistic effects of having two clocks at different heights (gravity slows time so a clock closer to Earth's surface runs a tiny bit slower).

 

"They were impressed. 'I want to congratulate you on this extremely beautiful experiment,' said Nobel laureate Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after Autiero's talk. 'The experiment is very carefully done, and the systematic error carefully checked.'

 

"Most physicists still expect some sort of experimental error to crop up and explain the anomaly, mainly because it contravenes the incredibly successful law of special relativity which holds that the speed of light is a constant that no object can exceed. The theory also leads to the famous equation E = mc2.

 

"Hotly anticipated are results from other neutrino detectors, including T2K in Japan and MINOS at Fermilab in Illinois, which will run similar experiments and confirm the results or rule them out (see 'Fermilab stops hunting Higgs, starts neutrino quest')....

 

"Even if relativity is pushed aside, Einstein has worked so well for so long that he will never really go away. At worst, relativity will turn out to work for most of the universe but not all, just as Newton's mechanics work until things get extremely large or small. 'The fact that Einstein has worked for 106 years means he'll always be there, either as the right answer or a low-energy effective theory,' Weiler says." [Grossman (2011), pp.7-9. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Also see the report in Socialist Review. Subsequent experiments have confirmed the result, but some scientists think they have found a flaw.]

 

This is how genuine science is practiced. Three years spent looking for possible errors! Even today, scientists around the world are still pouring over the data, examining it closely for mistakes, in the experimental details or in the interpretation of their results. They certainly don't attack each other for having the temerity to question Einstein. Nor do they moan about "pedantry" when their work is peer reviewed; and they definitely don't retreat into a 'dialectical sulk' and refuse to engage with those who insist on their work being checked and double-checked.

 

That is the difference between science and dialectical quackery. And, it takes a little more than a few references to balding heads, boiling water, melting points, or the ambiguous fighting habits of the Mamelukes to refute even a remotely possible counter-example to Einstein's theory.

 

Oddly enough, a hasty reference to the a priori and dogmatic musings of a Hermetic Mystic who lived 200 years ago isn't sufficient, either.

 

Update March 2012: The above experiment has been repeated, and it now confirms that neutrinos don't travel faster than light:

 

"Neutrinos clocked at light-speed in new Icarus test

 

 

"An experiment to repeat a test of the speed of subatomic particles known as neutrinos has found that they do not travel faster than light. Results announced in September suggested that neutrinos can exceed light speed, but were met with scepticism as that would upend Einstein's theory of relativity. A test run by a different group at the same laboratory has now clocked them travelling at precisely light speed.

 

"The results have been posted online.

 

"The results in September, from the Opera group at the Gran Sasso underground laboratory in Italy, shocked the world, threatening to upend a century of physics as well as relativity -- which holds the speed of light to be the Universe's absolute speed limit. Now the Icarus group, based at the same laboratory, has weighed in again, having already cast some doubt on the original Opera claim. Shortly after that claim, Nobel laureate Sheldon Glashow co-authored a Physical Review Letters paper that modelled how faster-than-light neutrinos would behave as they travelled.

 

"In November, the Icarus group showed in a paper posted on the online server Arxiv that the neutrinos displayed no such behaviour. However, they have now supplemented that indirect result with a test just like that carried out by the Opera team.

 

"Speedy result

 

"The Icarus experiment uses 600 tonnes -- 430,000 litres -- of liquid argon to detect the arrival of neutrons sent through 730km of rock from the Cern laboratory in Switzerland. Since their November result, the Icarus team have adjusted their experiment to do a speed measurement.

 

"What was missing was information from Cern about the departure time of the neutrinos, which the team recently received to complete their analysis. The result: they find that the neutrinos do travel at the same speed as light. 'We are completely compatible with the speed of light that we learn at school,' said Sandro Centro, co-spokesman for the Icarus collaboration.

 

"Dr Centro said that he was not surprised by the result. 'In fact I was a little sceptical since the beginning,' he told BBC News. 'Now we are 100% sure that the speed of light is the speed of neutrinos.'

 

"Most recently, the Opera team conceded that their initial result may have been compromised by problems with their equipment. Rumours have circulated since the Opera result was first announced that the team was not unified in its decision to announce their findings so quickly, and Dr Centro suggested that researchers outside the team were also suspicious.

 

"'I didn't trust the result right from the beginning -- the way it was produced, the way it was managed,' he said. 'I think they were a little bit in a hurry to publish something that was astonishing, and at the end of the day it was a wrong measurement.'

 

"Four different experiments at Italy's Gran Sasso lab make use of the same beam of neutrinos from Cern. Later this month, they will all be undertaking independent measurements to finally put an end to speculation about neutrino speeds. The Minos experiment in the US and the T2K experiment in Japan may also weigh in on the matter in due course -- if any doubt is left about the neutrinos' ability to beat the universal speed limit." [Quoted from here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space.]

 

Again, this is how genuine science is conducted -- results have to be rigorously tested before they are accepted -- unlike Mickey Mouse DM-'Science'.

 

Consider another example -- the following brief description of the precautions (highlighted in bold) taken by one scientist trying to ascertain a more accurate value for the Gravitational Constant, G:

 

"Harold Parks's belongings were already leaving for France when he realised gravity had given him the slip. 'The movers were in my apartment taking my stuff away,' he says. He was in his lab at the research institute JILA in Boulder, Colorado, making the final checks on an experiment that had taken up the past two years of his life -- to precisely measure the strength of gravity. 'The signal shouldn't have changed,' he recalls. 'But it did.'

 

"That was 10 years ago. Having relocated, for a while Parks was tempted to give up on gravity. But the force exerts a mysterious pull on those who measure it. After a sojourn at the high temple of metrology, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris, France, Parks was back in Boulder, rebuilding and improving his old experiment....

 

"Meanwhile, Parks was beavering away in Boulder. His and [his supervisor] Faller's experiment was a variant of an apparatus that had been used to try to pin down big G before. It consisted of two free-hanging pendulum bobs surrounded by four massive stacks of tungsten. Moving the tungsten masses inwards...draws the bobs closer together by an amount 1000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Still, the shift is large enough to be picked up by a laser interferometer.

 

"Not that it is easy to be sure the movements are down to gravity alone. 'It's about thinking of all the things the world can do to you to muck up your experiment,' says Parks. The pair set up the pendulums in a vacuum to avoid the effects of temperature changes and air resistance slowing the pendulums' movements. They also floated the tungsten stacks on a thin layer of air to stop them vibrating unexpectedly. Even so, tiptoeing anywhere near the experiment was a no-no: the additional mass of a person would weigh down one side of the floor and nudge the apparatus ever so slightly.

 

"The problems didn't stop at the doors of the lab. Next to, and towering over, the basement where the experiment was situated was a high-rise block. As the sun crept across the sky during the day, it warmed first one side of the tower and then the other, causing it to expand unevenly. The effect was to imperceptibly tilt the tower and everything attached to it, including Parks's lab, first one way and then the other.

 

"Even that cruel trick was nothing compared to what was unmasked the day the fire alarm sounded. 'There had been regular spikes in data taken during the day,' says Parks. 'They just went quiet.' It turned out that a surge in current each time the elevator moved in the tower caused a slight change in the magnetisation of the pendulum bobs, moving them ever so slightly and skewing the results." [Webb (2011), pp.45-47. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added.]

 

[Another recent example of genuine, careful and original science can be accessed here.]

 

Do we see such attention to detail in Engels's work on DM, or in that of later dialecticians? Or, anything even remotely like it?

 

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

 

[In fact, they already do this with 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 wording in my Essays. Here is just the latest example; concentrate, for example, on the comments of one "Gilhyle"; here is another. At the same time, they show infinite patience and understanding when it comes to Engels, Lenin or Trotsky's work on DM. Critics like me are pilloried for the slightest of assumed mistakes.]10a

 

When we compare this amateurish approach to evidence, proof and clarity with the opposite state of affairs apparent in, say, HM, the contrast is stark indeed. In economics, history, current affairs, and politics Marxists display commendable attention to detail and admirable clarity, almost invariably adding page after page of (often novel) facts, figures, tables, graphs, references, and detailed analyses to their books and articles -- much of which shows signs of careful thought and painstaking research. They also devote much space -- indeed, sometimes whole articles and books -- to analysing concepts like "ideology", "mode of production", and "alienation" -- but hardly ever even so much as a single paragraph to "quality" or "node", to say nothing of the other missing detail noted earlier -- for example, here, here, and here.

 

Engels's 'Law' Derived, Not From Scientists, But From A Christian Mystic

 

At this point we might wonder where Engels's predilection for Mickey Mouse Science came from. After all, he was familiar with the careful and detailed work of contemporaneous scientists like Darwin. Why then was he prepared to assert that his 'Laws' were indeed laws on the basis of very little primary data -- or, in same cases, none at all -- instead, relying as he does on secondary or tertiary (and selectively-chosen) evidence --, compounded by highly compressed, vague and sloppy analyses, instead? Well, we need look no further than Hegel himself for a clue, for he was the original Mickey Mouse Scientist -- which makes Engels perhaps the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

 

 

Figure Five: 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. Italic 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.]

 

If only all scientific papers were this rigorous, detailed and technically competent!

 

Sarcasm to one side, readers will no doubt be relieved to note that rank amateurism like this isn't confined to Engels -- or even Woods and Grant. Hegel could 'amateur' with the best of them.10a1

 

We have already seen that even though Hegel asserts that these changes represent a break in gradualness, they don't:

 

"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." [Ibid.]

 

In no way is the transition from one number to the next a break in gradualness. The number two doesn't slowly change into the number three and then sudden change into it. And there is no development here either -- two does not develop into three. His other examples are no better: the chemical compounds he mentions do not gradually change into whatever they change into, they do so abruptly. Hegel seems to half recognise this all the while still imagining that there is gradual change where there is none!

 

"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." [Ibid.]

 

After saying that such processes represent an "interruption of gradualness" he then tells us that water does not gradually turn into ice!

 

It could be objected that is unfair to Hegel since he had earlier argued as follows:

 

"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." [Ibid.]

 

Hegel points out that temperature, for example, increases gradually, but that gradual increase is then interrupted by a "nodal" change in the "quality" of the water as it freezes abruptly. We have already seen that what makes water "what it is" and not something else (as Hegel defines "quality") is the fact that it is H2O, not that ice is hard. Countless things are solid, so that can't be what makes this substance what it is and not something else. If solidity were the "quality" here then we would have to say that water as ice is a rock, a lump of metal or a table, because they are all solid.

 

"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. Bold emphasis added.]

 

But, the whole point of this is that there is supposed to be a change in quality of the water; that quality does not change gradually, but abruptly. The temperature might change gradually, but even that doesn't change into something new, slowly or abruptly. But we have been here already; readers are referred back to the earlier discussion of the changes water undergoes.

 

The examples drawn from chemistry are even less apposite, as we have seen. There is no break in gradualness anywhere in sight here.

 

Conclusion

 

So, this 'Law' can only be made to seem to work in a few selected instances if we bend and twist enough concepts totally out of shape; and if we fail to define either "quality", "node", "leap", "same body", "new kind of thing", and "addition of energy" with any clarity (or at all) -- and, if we ignore Hegel's own vague 'definition' of "quality" into the bargain.

 

In contrast there are countless examples where this 'Law' just doesn't apply, no matter how we try to twist it.10b

 

Why Engels's First 'Law' was called a law in the first place is therefore something of a Dialectical Mystery.

 

'Law' Two: The Interpenetration Of Opposites

 

The 'Law' Defined

 

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

 

We saw above that Engels depicted it as follows:

 

"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, and in 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 for more details.]

 

Why Dialectical Materialism Can't Explain Change

 

An up-dated and greatly expanded version of the argument presented in this sub-section has now been published as Essay Seven Part Three. Readers are directed there for my more considered thoughts on this topic as well as my replies to critics.

Begin this Essay again here.

 

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 with 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 and how they become 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. Minor typos corrected; missing words "and how they become", found in the published version, added. I have informed the MIA of these errors.]

 

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 with 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 with 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 with 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 with 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'?

 

The relevancy of the criticisms advanced in this sub-section depend on what dialecticians mean by "internal opposite"; readers should bear this in mind as they read on. As noted in an earlier Essay, DM-theorists sometimes seem to mean by "internal", "spatially-internal", at other times they appear to mean "logically-internal". Invariably they also slide effortlessly between a logical and a spatial understanding of "internal" (more on that here).

 

[UO = Unity of Opposites.]

Spatially Or Logically Internal?

 

Nevertheless, even though the spatial sense of "internal" (see the previous paragraph) seems reasonably clear, an example might help clarify the difference between these two senses of that word: all the lines of longitude on a map are logically-internal to the Prime Meridian in Greenwich. Their geographical location and numerical value depend on that Meridian and are defined by it. Any change to the latter automatically alters each of the former. Remove the Prime Meridian and they disappear with it. Slide the Prime Meridian fifty miles east or west, and they all move with it. The nature and existence of each associated meridian thus depend on the Prime Meridian. In this case, although each meridian line is also geographically related to the Prime Meridian, they aren't spatially internal to it, they are logically internal to it -- and, of course, the relation between the Prime Meridians and each meridian is a UO. For example, they don't 'struggle' with, and then change into, one another:

 

"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), p.358. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Objects and processes that are 'dialectical opposites' (in a 'logical sense') are supposed not only to imply, they inter-define each other. The classic example given by DM-theorists is the relationship between the capitalist class and the proletariat; there would be none of the former without the latter, and vice versa. They exist or cease to exist together and they inter-define one another. Or so we have been led to believe. [I have said much more about this, and why the link between the capitalist class and the proletariat isn't even logical, and hence isn't dialectical, in Essay Eight Part Two.]

 

On the other hand, the phrase "spatially-internal" applies to objects and processes that are merely located inside another object or process. No logical connection is necessarily implied. So, although both your appendix and your brain are both located inside your body, there doesn't appear to be any logical connection between them. If there were, you couldn't ever have your appendix removed without your brain ceasing to exist. In addition, it isn't easy to see how, say, the alleged UO between electrons and protons (or is it positrons?) is logical, as opposed to being merely spatial. Electrons can exist without protons, and vice versa.

 

The use of terms like "internal" dates back to Leibniz and Kant. Kant called this type of link "analytic"; in Leibniz it was "necessary". For the latter, each substance (or 'monad') contained its "complete idea", or 'list' of predicates true of it, assigned by 'God'. So everything true of that substance, everything that happens, or will happen, to it, has been encoded internally (in a spatial sense), so they are all necessarily true of it (in a logical sense), if we but knew it. We might not be able to discern or ascertain the necessary connections that existed here, but that didn't mean they weren't necessary. The logical and the spatial connotations of this connection were thus united in Leibniz's work. Kant eliminated the overt metaphysics and concentrated on the conceptual connections alone that we can ascertain (even if he later attempted to milk some metaphysics out of such ideas).

 

However, as with most things in Traditional Thought, the seeds of this confusion stretch back into the fog generated by Ancient Greek Metaphysics, an internally-generated mist surrounding the spurious 'problem' of the link between a substance and its accidents. This set of confused ideas were later imported into Mediaeval, and then post-Renaissance, Philosophy, where one concept was said to be internally related to another if the definition and existence of one automatically implied the existence and nature of the other, or of the rest.10c1

 

Here, for instance, is Kant:

 

"In all judgments in which the relation of a subject to the predicate is thought (if I consider only affirmative judgments, since the application to negative ones is easy), this relation is possible in two different ways. Either the predicate B belongs to the subject A as something that is (covertly) contained in this concept A; or B lies entirely outside the concept A, though to be sure it stands in connection with it. In the first case, I call the judgment analytic, in the second synthetic." [Kant (1998), p.130. Bold emphasis alone added. (This link might not work in Internet Explorer!)]

 

To use a highly clichéd example, bachelor was said to imply unmarried man, and vice versa -- the one 'contained' the other.10c2

 

However, the equivocation mentioned above -- whereby DM-fans slide between these two different senses of "internal" -- clearly dates back to Leibniz and Kant, who helped create this confusion by their choice of the words like "contained". Hence, it was only a matter of time before the spatial connotation came to the fore and replaced the logical connotation of "internal". This took place in Hegel's system (that is, if it possible to decide what, it anything, Hegel was truing to say!); on this, see Inwood (1992), pp.142-44, 197-99, and as we have seen, in DM.

 

Despite this, there is still a clear distinction between something being logically-, and something being spatially-internal. Nevertheless, the spatial sense of "internal", as that connotation found its way into in Dialectical Marxism, whereby two objects or 'concepts' were said to be complementary parts of a UO simply because they are inside something (while perhaps also appearing to be 'opposites') doesn't of itself make them 'dialectical opposites' -- that is, unless there were some sort of logical connection between them whereby they imply each others existence, just like the existence of the proletariat is said to imply the existence of the bourgeoisie, and vice versa.

 

Much of the sloppy thought that passes for 'dialectics' in this area is a direct result of this equivocation. DM-fans have appropriated the spatial sense of this term assuming without proof that the factors involved were also dialectical opposites just because they were inside some body, process or system. This helps account for their profligate use of 'contradiction', which they see everywhere -- for example, see here. [We will see this again below when we come to discuss Engels's ideas about life and death, where both connotations become hoplessly entangled.] Rarely, if ever, do they show how the existence of one of these items implies the existence of the other -- nor vice versa. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, if not universally, there is no such connection in nature itself, so it is small wonder they draw a veil over this topic when pressed, and then look the other way.

 

Once again, much of the following material depends on interpreting "internal opposites" in one way -- i.e., spatially -- since that is how DM-theorists largely understand this term. Even so, the other alternative (i.e., reading "internal opposites" logically) will also be considered where applicable. Readers will need to keep this in mind as they proceed.

 

[On the serious difficulties this equivocation creates for DM-theorists, see here. We have also seen that a critic of this site also wanted to view these "opposites" spatially -- for example, when he spoke about considering the dialectical process externally (i.e., "at the outside").]

 

Furthermore, it is plain that this particular equivocation has also arisen because of an inappropriate organicist metaphor dialecticians have imported from Hegel. Of course, the various organs and other parts of an organism are both spatially-, and some might even be logically-internal to that organism (even though those organs/parts aren't logically-internal, or logically-related, to one another, as noted above). However, when we move beyond Biology this metaphor loses all plausibility, and the above equivocation (between the spatial-, and the logical-meaning of "internal") is bound to create serious problems -- indeed, as we are about to find out.

 

DM Foiled By Felines?

 

Despite the above fatal flaws, it is difficult to believe Lenin and other DM-theorists were serious in claiming that everything is a UO (which was, incidentally, a dogma they neglected to prove; they based it solely on an unsupported, throw-away line Hegel borrowed from Spinoza -- that is, that 'every determination is also a negation'; I say much more about this in Essay Three Part One -- 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 (spatial) opposite of a cat? A dog? A tulip? A tin of beans? A bag of Catnip?

 

In the logical sense of this term, that 'opposite' should be 'non-cat'. And yet, if non-cat were the opposite of cat, it would mean that if, according to the DM-classics, everything changes into its opposite, cats would change into everything that they are not -- that is, each cat must change into one or more of the following 'non-cats': the Taj Mahal, a tin of beans, an oak tree, a pebble beach, a pair of cuff links, a set of duelling pistols, the Great wall of China, a dog basket, a rift valley, a petrol station, the Great Barrier Reef, a carburettor, an asteroid, the Whirlpool Galaxy..., to name just a few of the non-cats there are in the universe. [One obvious response to this has been neutralised in Essay Seven Part Three.]

 

On the other hand, if we interpret "internal" spatially once more, then, according to Lenin, cats must contain all these things if they are indeed unities of opposites -- i.e., they must presumably be a unity of cat and non-cat, especially if this opposite 'struggles' with the other opposite (i.e., if each cat 'struggles' with one or more of these non-cats inside them), and this is what 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 ("every other"), or at least into its 'opposite', then cats must (at some point) both contain and change into a whole host of things, which must in turn contain and change into yet more things (or even, perhaps, back again into cats).10d

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Figure Six: Yet Another Dialectical Catastrophe?

 

So, if cats change, as surely they do, then, according to the DM-classics, 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 these feline parts of nature aren't subject to dialectical law? Is this why cats have at least nine lives?

 

[I return to this cat theme, below.]

 

Is This An Iron Law?

 

Engels did at least try to address some of 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. [Admittedly, he made this point in relation to the First and Third of his 'Laws' (the change of 'Quantity into Quality' and the 'Negation of the Negation', respectively), but there is no reason to suppose he would have denied this of his Second 'Law' (the 'Unity and Interpenetration of Opposites').] 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 -- i.e., in relation to what we can learn from nature. For example, lumps of iron ore can turn, or be turned into, a host of different things, with or without the input of human labour, etc. These include the following: cars, car parts, rolling stock, aeroplane components, ships, submarines, magnets, surgical equipment, surgical appliances, cutlery, kitchen utensils, scaffolding, pipes, chains, bollards, barriers, cranes, plant machinery, pumps, tubes, engines (diesel, petrol and electric), ornaments, jewellery, girders, guns, spears, swords, axes, machetes, tanks, shells, bullets, sheet metal, tools, instruments, wire, springs, furniture, doors, locks, keys, gates, grates, manhole covers, lifts, escalators, anchors, railings, railroad tracks, bridges, wheels, ball bearings, zips, bars, handcuffs, iron filings, rivets, nails, screws, steel wool, helmets, armour, and dietary supplements, alongside other assorted naturally occurring or artificial substances, such as, haemoglobin, cytochrome nitrogenase, hematite, magnetite, taconite, ferrofluids, countless ferrous and ferric compounds (including rust, Ferrous and Ferric Sulphides, Fools Gold, etc., etc.), to name just a few.

 

Are we really supposed to believe that all of these reside inside each lump of iron? Are each 'logically' connected with iron ore that has just been mined as an Hegelian unique "other"? Are we to suppose there are 'inner tendencies' quietly humming away in each block of iron ore just waiting for the chance to turn into a pair of handcuffs, a tea pot, or a manhole cover?

 

On the other hand, if we adopt the 'logical view' of "internal opposites", how can all of the above be logically-related to iron ore as its unique "other"? If not, what exactly is the point of this 'Law' if iron can change, or be changed, into any of the above items? If each one isn't the unique "other" of iron ore, and yet iron ore can be turned into all of them, then that fact alone suggests that iron ore has no 'other', and hence, according to Hegel and Lenin, it can't change!

 

Alternatively, if we combine the 'spatial view' with the 'logical interpretation' of "internal opposites", the following question now raises its awkward head: If these items don't in fact exist inside each lump of iron (the 'spatial view') -- or, even if they don't confront each other as antagonistic external or 'logical' opposites -- how is it possible for human labour and natural forces to turn iron ore into each of the above objects while obeying 'dialectical Law'? Does human labour work with, or 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 ore into carving knives dialectically? Or, are there changes in nature and society that aren't governed by such 'laws'?

 

Are these Iron-DM-'Laws' not applicable to iron itself?

 

Exactly which opposites are ('logically'/physically) united in, or with, any specific lump of iron ore?

 

Does Nature Work In Pairs?

 

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 or 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 this animal to change? If cats have no opposites as such, then these feline parts of nature (at least) don't exist, or don't interact, in 'dialectical pairs'. And, whatever applies to cats must surely apply to countless other things, too. 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, waste paper, copies of Anti-Dühring, any ten grains of sand in the Gobi Desert, the four thousand-and-first 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 "!"?

 

What should we say about things like broom handles and copies of Trotsky's IDM? Do they change because of the 'dialectical' tension created by their own inner (or outer) '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 Classics 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 at 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 (i.e., Trotsky (1971)); TAR = The Algebra of Revolution (i.e., Rees (1998)); RIRE = Reason In Revolt (i.e., Woods and Grant (1995/2007)).]

 

Hence, the above passage from RIRE is no help at all resolving this problem.

 

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. Female organisms could very well still exist (and thrive if they reproduced parthenogenetically) even if every male organism was wiped from the face of the earth. This shows that the link between males and females isn't logical; the one doesn't imply the other, as is the case (so we are told) with the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

 

[On Parthenogenesis, see Prasad (2012).]

 

As is well-known, parthenogenetic reproduction proceeds without the intervention of the male; it is found in the following right-wing and shamelessly reactionary species: water fleas, aphids, honey bees, lizards, salamanders, nematode worms, turkeys, several species of spider (this links to a PDF), and some varieties of fish. Apparently, it can also be artificially induced in both fish and amphibians. Indeed, we read this from the BBC (in an article entitled "Lesbian Lizards"):

 

"Every individual in this whip-tailed lizard population is female -- genetically the same female. Every time they lay eggs, a clutch of new female clones is born. The lizards live in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, and must be perfectly adapted to their surroundings. As a result, they don't want their good genes diluted by the involvement of males. The females have opted to hang on to their favourable genes and have driven the males to extinction. But the ghost of the male haunts their life nevertheless. Near laying, all the virgins need the stimulation which a male would provide to make them ovulate. With none around, the role is played by a female. In every sense she apes being a male. Driven by a surge of the male hormone testosterone, she temporarily forsakes her true gender -- and goes through the motions of copulating." [The film can be viewed here. Accessed 21/11/2011. Link added.]

 

As well as this:

 

 

 

Looks like lizards, too, can outwit (or be coaxed into outwitting) this rather whimpish 'Law'.

 

Indeed, as can some species of shark:

 

 

Countless other organisms reproduce asexually, showing admirable contempt both for the UO and the NON.

 

Update 12/09/2012: Since the above was written, animals seem to have taken another sharp turn to the right, for now we read this from the BBC:

 

"Virgin births discovered in wild snakes

 

 

"Virgin births have been reported in wild vertebrates for the first time. Researchers in the US caught pregnant females from two snake species and genetically analysed the litters. That proved the North American pit-vipers reproduced without a male, a phenomenon called facultative parthenogenesis that has previously been found only in captive species. Scientists say the findings could change our understanding of animal reproduction and vertebrate evolution. It was thought to be extremely rare for a normally sexual species to reproduce asexually, a process known as facultative parthenogenesis. First identified in domestic chickens, such 'virgin births' have been reported in recent years in a few snake, shark, lizard and bird species. Crucially though, all such virgin births have occurred in captivity, to females kept away from males.

 

"Virgin births in vertebrates in general have been viewed as 'evolutionary novelties', said Warren Booth, from the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, US. Professor Booth is lead author of a paper published in the Royal Society's Biological Letters that challenges this label. He and his collaborators investigated virgin births in wild populations of two geographically separated and long-studied species of snake. They captured pregnant copperhead and cottonmouth female pit-vipers from the field, where males were present. The snakes gave birth, allowing the scientists to study the physical and genetic characteristics of the litters. Of the 22 copperheads, the scientists found one female that must have had a virgin birth. Another single virgin birth occurred within the 37 cottonmouth litters.

 

"'I think the frequency is what really shocked us,' said Prof Booth. 'That's between 2.5 and 5% of litters produced in these populations may be resulting from parthenogenesis. That's quite remarkable for something that has been considered an evolutionary novelty,' he said.... A virgin birth, or parthenogenesis, is when an egg grows and develops without being fertilised by sperm. It results in offspring that only have their mother's genetic material; no fatherly contribution is required. This is not uncommon in invertebrates such as aphids, bees and ants.

 

"It also happens in a few all-female species of lizard; geckos and whiptails for example. But here it occurs across a generation; all female reproduce asexually via a process called obligate parthenogenesis. But asexual reproduction by a normally sexual vertebrate species is still rare, having been reported in less than 0.1% of species. It was only in the mid 1990s that virgin births began to be documented in captive snakes, followed by a captive giant lizard in 2006 and a captive shark in 2007. To date this now includes around 10 species of snakes including a couple of boas, and a python, four species of shark, and several monitor lizards, including the endangered Komodo dragon. Recently the zebra finch and Chinese painted quail were added to the list. All were kept in isolation in unnatural conditions and away from any males. So to find asexual reproduction in two species of snake in the wild on their first attempt was 'astounding', according to Prof Booth and his collaborators. Virgin births should no longer be viewed as 'some rare curiosity outside the mainstream of evolution,' he said....

 

"It remains unclear whether the female snakes actively select to reproduce this way, or whether the virgin births are triggered by some other factor, such as a virus or bacterial infection. 'Any answer is pure speculation at this point,' says Prof Booth. In captivity, two sharks, and three snakes, have been shown to have had multiple virgin births, producing more than one litter via facultative parthenogenesis. As yet, it also remains unclear whether the offspring of these wild virgin births can themselves go on to have normal, or virgin births of their own. In captive snakes studied so far, offspring have so far not been proved viable, that is capable of surviving and reproducing.

 

"However, earlier this year Prof Booth and colleagues reported that a checkered gartersnake that has had consecutive virgin births, appears to have produced viable male offspring. Parthenogenically born copperheads and cottonmouths are also currently being raised and 'in the next two to three years we will know if they are indeed viable,' said Prof Booth. 'If they cannot survive and reproduce, then this is a reproductive dead-end. However, if they are healthy and can reproduce, that opens an entirely new avenue for research,' he said.

 

"Being able to switch from sexual to asexual reproduction could be advantageous; in the absence of males a female could still give birth and start a new, albeit inbred, population. Her genes could still be passed on via her fertile male offspring. Scientists believe that facultative parthenogenesis is more common in some lineages such as reptiles and sharks. However it is unlikely that similar virgin births will be found among placental mammals, which include all the mammals aside from the platypus and echidnas. That is because mammals require a process called genomic imprinting to reproduce, where a set of genes from one parent dominates over the other. The interaction between the two sets of parental genes is required for embryos to develop normally." [Quoted from here. Accessed 12/09/2012. Quotations marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Minor typos corrected; links added. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

Consider, too, the Japanese Knotweed. In the UK, every plant of this noxious weed is female -- but that hasn't stopped its rapid spread:

 

"Every Japanese Knotweed plant in Britain is female and reproduces through its rhizomes or fragments of its own vegetation. Strimming it is the worst thing you can do: it creates millions of tiny pieces, each of which can sprout into a new plant. In Kenidjack [in Cornwall -- RL], the weed quickly spread down the valley: when local residents hacked it from their gardens, tiny fragments fell into the stream and seeded along the bank. For the past three years, local landowners, the county council, the National Trust and other agencies have worked together on an incredibly pain-staking and expensive clearance programme: cutting the knotweed by hand, carefully disposing of the waste and injecting each individual stump with specialist weedkiller. This summer, the valley has been returned to a native normality, with bluebells and bracken." [Guardian G2 Supplement, 14/08/2009, p.11. Links added.]

 

What are the 'interpenetrated opposites' at work here? Which plant (or part of a plant) is the 'negation', and which the NON?

 

As seems likely, this weed has been issued with a DM-exemption certificate in order to reproduce in the UK.

 

Update 02/06/2015: It looks like certain species of swordfish in the USA have joined this reactionary stampede rightwards; here again is the BBC -- all this non-dialectics must be an "abomination" to DM-fans:

 

"Virgin-Born' Swordfish are a first in the wild

 

"By Jonathan Webb Science reporter BBC News. June 1st 2015

 

"Seven sawfish in Florida have become the first virgin-born animals ever found in the wild from a sexually reproducing species. The discovery suggests that such births may be a natural response to dwindling numbers, rather than a freak occurrence largely seen in captivity. It was made by ecologists studying genetic diversity in a critically endangered species of ray. They say that births of this kind may be more common than previously thought. The findings appear in the journal Current Biology....

 

"There are many species, particularly invertebrates, that naturally reproduce alone; some types of whiptail lizard, meanwhile, are bizarrely all-female. But for an animal that normally reproduces by mating, a virgin birth is an oddity. And yet a number of captive animals have produced virgin births. This roster of surprise arrivals includes sharks, snakes, Komodo dragons and turkeys -- all species that normally use sexual reproduction. And in 2012 a US research group reported two pregnant pit vipers, caught in the wild, each gestating baby snakes (inside eggs) that appeared to be fatherless.

 

"But the smalltooth sawfish, a strange-looking beast that grows up to four metres long, is the first sexually reproducing species whose virgin-born babies have been found roaming free and healthy in their native habitat. Andrew Fields, a PhD student at Stony Brook University in New York and the study's first author, said the find was entirely unexpected. It came during a survey of the sawfish population in the estuaries of southwest Florida. 'We were conducting routine DNA fingerprinting of the sawfish found in this area in order to see if relatives were often reproducing with relatives due to their small population size,' Mr Fields said. 'What the DNA fingerprints told us was altogether more surprising: female sawfish are sometimes reproducing without even mating.'

 

"Of the 190 individual sawfish that Mr Fields and his colleagues surveyed, seven had DNA that indicated they only had one parent. Specifically, these seven historic fish had identical copies of at least 14 of the 16 genes that the scientists looked at; if they had arisen from normal sexual reproduction, the team calculated that the chance of the animals being 'homozygous' for all those genes was less than one-in-100 billion.

 

"So they concluded that the seven sawfish -- all of them female, five of them sisters -- were produced by 'parthenogenesis': a process by which an unfertilised egg develops into an embryo. Researchers believe this takes place in vertebrates when the egg absorbs an identical sister cell. Because the resulting offspring have much less genetic diversity than normal sexual offspring, their chances of survival are usually thought to be very low. But the seven fish in Mr Fields' study were up to one year old, normal in size and apparently getting on fine.

 

"'Occasional parthenogenesis may be much more routine in wild animal populations than we ever thought,' said Dr Kevin Feldheim of the Field Museum of Chicago, a co-author of the study. The researchers suggest it might be a last-ditch evolutionary strategy that takes hold when a population goes through an extremely lean patch -- such as that presently faced by the smalltooth sawfish, whose numbers have plummeted to less than 5% of what they were a century ago. But for this to make sense, the 'parthenogens' themselves would have to be fertile, so that they could help the species to bounce back. It is too early to know whether that is the case for the seven sawfish.

 

"Dr David Jacoby is a behavioural ecologist and marine biologist at the ZSL Institute of Zoology. He told the BBC that the Florida findings were 'interesting and groundbreaking', particularly with regard to the question of whether virgin births are a natural adaptation. 'We kind of associate parthenogenesis with invertebrates: corals or crustaceans or things...like that. There are instances of this happening in vertebrates -- birds and reptiles, and some shark species -- but it's all been in captivity. The fact that this has not only been inferred in the wild, but also in a species that is seeing critically low levels of population -- it definitely raises the question as to whether this is a strategy which has evolved.'

 

"But Dr Jacoby cautioned, as did the researchers themselves, that although this remarkable ability might slow the demise of the sawfish, it is unlikely to halt it altogether. 'It doesn't seem as though this type of adaptation is going to be a way of restoring population levels,' he said. 'It's not a get-out clause.' They might have produced a natural miracle, but the sawfish of the Florida estuaries still need human help to avoid extinction." [Quoted from here; accessed 02/06/2015. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged; some links added.]

 

Even odder is the fish Poecillia formosa -- the South American Amazon Molly:

 

"The Amazon molly, a small fish from the rivers of Central and South America, is one of the few species that appears to have rid itself of the need to reproduce sexually. The fish are all female, and scientists had thought that they produced young without ever mixing their genes with those from a male partner. But it turns out the fish were fooling us all along. German biologists have shown that eggs produced by female Amazon mollies occasionally take up small fragments of genetic material from sperm produced by males from closely related species.

 

"The researchers do not yet know exactly how the fish 'capture' these foreign genes, but their finding resolves a long-standing puzzle surrounding the Amazon molly. Evolutionary biologists argue that species which eschew sex should become extinct in less than 100 000 generations. Without the genetic reshuffling brought about by sexual reproduction, harmful mutations should simply accumulate over time, eventually causing the species to die out. The Amazon molly apparently gave up conventional sexual reproduction more than 500,000 generations ago, yet it is still going strong. 'In some of the rivers of Mexico it's taking over,' says Manfred Schartl of the University of Würzburg, who led the team that made the discovery. Schartl believes that some of the small foreign genetic fragments taken up by Amazon molly eggs must contain healthy genes that can counter the effects of damaging mutations.

 

"The researchers made their discovery by breeding Amazon mollies in tanks which also contained male black mollies. The black molly is an ornamental variety of a closely related species which lives alongside the Amazon molly in its natural habitat. In a tiny proportion of the resulting broods, the fish were speckled with black, instead of showing the Amazon molly's usual uniform silver-grey coloration. The researchers looked at cells from these speckled fish and counted their chromosomes. In addition to the Amazon molly's usual complement of chromosomes, the cells contained fragments of black molly chromosome (Nature, volume 373, p.68).

 

"Schartl and his team have shown that these fragments contain the gene responsible for the black molly's characteristic dark colour. They have also found that around 5 per cent of wild Amazon mollies carry similar 'microchromosomes', presumably taken up from sperm produced by related species. This may explain how the Amazon molly has avoided extinction. Amazon molly eggs have ample opportunity to take up genes from foreign sperm because they are triggered to develop by the presence of sperm from related species. But some all-female species, including several salamanders, produce young in the absence of sperm, so the same mechanism can't work for them." [New Scientist, 14/01/1995. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

The situation is in fact even odder:

 

"The South American Amazon Molly...is a particularly fascinating fish. Most generations of this species consist of asexually reproducing female clones. Amazon Mollies produce fully viable clone eggs; however sperm are required to trigger the developmental process. Thus, an Amazon Molly will mate with either of the related species Atlantic Molly (Poecillia mexicana) or Sailfin Molly (Poecillia latipinna). Usually this mating only serves to trigger the cloning process; however, and occasionally (and the necessary conditions are still not well understood) the mating does result in cross-fertilisation between the species. Surprisingly, the offspring of these pairings are not hybrids of the two species, but develop into female, asexually reproducing Amazon Mollies...." [Crozier (2008), p.465. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

With the worst will in the world, it isn't easy to see how such strange organisms can be incorporated into the 'dialectical universe'.

 

Mercifully, there are far too many non-dialectical creatures on this planet to consider here.

 

However, is it really the case that males and females must always conflict/'struggle'? [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 in their DNA. They manifestly do not 'conflict'!]

 

That is to say nothing of gay sex, either. One might well wonder how Woods and Grant propose to account for homosexuality, not just among human beings, but right across the animal kingdom, along DM-lines. Indeed, how might DM-theorists in general account for it? Where is the 'Unity of Opposites', here? Might this not explain the fact that large sections of the Marxist left were openly homophobic until relatively recently. The old Militant Tendency (of which Woods and Grant were leading figures) was apathetic, if not overtly hostile toward gay rights. In some communist countries this is still the case. For example, the Cuban regime was openly homophobic until the 1980s and 1990s. Homosexuality was only decriminalised in China in 1997, and removed from the list of mental illnesses in 2002. Gays still face discrimination in Vietnam. The Soviet Union originally decriminalised homosexuality after the 1917 revolution, but this was reversed in the 1930s, and the situation didn't change much until the 1970s; it was only legalised when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Since then, gay rights have come under sustained attack in Russia in the last few years (which hostility was only slightly reduced because of international pressure threatening a boycott of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, and the World Cup in 2018) -- but, plainly, this has nothing to do with communism. 'Just so' stories to one side, not only is it difficult for Darwinism to account for homosexuality, Dialectical Marxists clearly face similar problems.

 

To say nothing of transgender issues...

 

And what are to say about stories like the following from the BBC?

 

"Fur seals have been caught engaging in an extreme form of sexual behaviour. Specifically, trying to have sex with penguins.

 

"Things are heating up in cold climes of the sub-Antarctic. On a remote, and mostly desolate island, seals have been caught engaging in an extreme form of sexual behaviour. Specifically, they have been trying to have sex with penguins. More than one fur seal has been caught in the act, on more than one occasion. And it's all been captured on film, with details published in the journal Polar Biology. The sexual behaviour of the fur seals hasn't come as a complete shock to the scientists that recorded it.

 

"In 2006, they saw, for the first time, a fur seal attempting to copulate with a king penguin, on Marion Island, a sub-Antarctic island that is home to both species. They published details of that incident, and speculated that the sex act at the time may have been the behaviour of a frustrated, sexually inexperienced seal. Or an aggressive, predatory act. Or a playful one that turned sexual. But the new incidents, published in the study 'Multiple occurrences of king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) sexual harassment by Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella)', still surprised the researchers.

 

"'Honestly I did not expect that follow up sightings of a similar nature to that 2006 one would ever be made again, and certainly not on multiple occasions,' said Nico de Bruyn, of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Scientists routinely monitor wildlife on the island, and look out for rare and unusual behaviour. On three separate occasions, a research team led by William A. Haddad and de Bruyn spotted young male seals sexually coercing what appeared to be healthy penguins of unknown gender. 

 

"Two incidents occurred on Goodhope Bay, and one on Funk beach. The incident in 2006 occurred on a different beach again, called Trypot. 'This really made us sit up and take notice,' said de Bruyn, of the new sightings. All four known sexual incidents followed a common pattern. Each time a seal chased, captured and mounted the penguin. The seal then attempted copulation several times, lasting about five minutes each, with periods of rest in between. Male and female penguins mate via an opening called a cloaca, and the seals are thought to have actually penetrated the penguins in some of the acts, which were caught on film by Haddad. In three of the four recorded incidents the seal let the penguin go. But on one of the more recent occasions, the seal killed and ate the penguin after trying to mate with it. Fur seals often catch and eat penguins on the island.

 

"The incidents are the only time pinnipeds, the group that includes seals, fur seals and sea-lions, have been known to have sex with an animal from a different biological class, in this case a mammal trying to have sex with a bird. The scientists can only speculate about why the seals are behaving this way. But the new observations suggest that having sex with penguins may be becoming a learned behaviour among seals on the island. 'Seals have capacity for learning -- we know this from their foraging behaviour for example,' explained de Bruyn. 'So male seals may see each other coercing penguins, then attempt it themselves. That might explain why the number of incidents appears to be increasing.... But 'if this is learned behaviour, we really can’t think of what the reward may be for these young males,' he adds. 'Other than perhaps learning that these birds are an easier target to practice their copulatory skills.'

 

"The seals were not yet old or large enough to defend harems of female seals, explained de Bruyn. 'Perhaps it is a release of sexual frustration, given the hormonal surges during seal breeding season. It is very unlikely to be failed mate recognition -- i.e. the misidentification of the penguin as a female seal. All in all it's difficult to say really,' he admits." [Quoted from here; accessed 19/11/2014. Spelling adjusted to agree with UK English. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Some links added. (The video from the original article has been omitted.) Several paragraphs merged.]

 

Who hasn't seen cows trying to mount other cows? Here's a video of a bull trying to hump a motorcycle! [YouTube is full of oddities like this.] Who hasn't seen dogs trying to hump table legs, human legs, other objects -- or even other animals? [Here's a video of a dog humping a pillow.] Is a randy dog the 'dialectical opposite' of a table leg? Or is it a pillow?

 

Perhaps 'the dialectic' has by-passed these animals, permitting the copulation of a mammal with a bird, or a dog with a fluffy toy (I had to resist the temptation to call it a "stuffed toy"). Maybe 'Being' has a wicked sense of humour and has planted these sad cases in nature to test the faith of DM-fans, a bit like the way that some Christians think 'God' (or 'Satan') placed certain fossils in the ground to test their faith, too.

 

Of course, the following research would have to be ruled out in advance by all decent, 'God'-, ..., er..., 'Being'-fearing DM-fans, since it is a clear violation of 'dialectical law', as it supposedly governs 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. Quotation marks modified to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases in the original. Accessed 17/08/2012.]

 

Update March 2013: And what about this latest reactionary bulletin from the BBC (about a topic also covered in the Appendix):

 

"The UK could move a step closer to allowing the creation of babies from two women and a man later. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is to advise ministers and report on a public consultation and the latest advances in the field. The three-person IVF technique could be used to prevent debilitating and fatal 'mitochondrial' diseases. But some groups have raised ethical and safety concerns about creating babies with DNA from three people. The babies would have DNA from two parents and a tiny amount from a third person....

 

"Scientists have devised techniques that allow them to take the genetic information from the mother and place it into the egg of a donor with healthy mitochondria. It is like taking two fried eggs and switching the yolks. However, this would create a baby with genetic information from three people, as mitochondria have their own genes in their own DNA. The implications are not just for the couple and the child. If the therapy was performed it would have ramifications through the generations as scientists would be altering human genetic inheritance." [Quoted from here. Paragraphs merged. Accessed 20/03/2013.]

 

Which are the UOs here? More importantly, how is it possible for genetic engineers to by-pass this iron law so easily?

 

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 with the conventions adopted at this site. Spelling adjusted to agree with UK English. Several paragraphs merged. Links added.]

 

Update September 2016: The first 'three-parent baby' has now been born:

 

"The world's first three-parent baby has been born. Scientists revealed the birth of a baby boy, now five months old, using DNA from three parents. Fertility experts hailed the breakthrough as 'great news and a huge deal' for the future of reproduction. But they expressed concern that it was only achieved because US scientists crossed the border to Mexico to take advantage of lax regulation. And critics last night accused the scientists of taking 'outrageous' and 'unethical' steps in order to achieve the world first. The child was born to a couple from Jordan, who had been trying to start a family for almost 20 years.

 

"His mother carries genes for Leigh Syndrome, a fatal disorder that affects the developing nervous system, and caused the deaths of their first two children. The baby was conceived from an egg containing nuclear DNA from his mother and father, and mitochondrial DNA from a "second" mother - an unknown female donor. The aim was to replace defective mitochondrial DNA and prevent the disease being passed on through the maternal line. British researchers expressed excitement about the breakthrough, saying it would 'accelerate' advances in the field and 'tame the more zealous critics'.

 

"The controversial technique -- which allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies, is only legal in this country [the UK -- RL], and this followed fierce parliamentary debate. The breakthrough, which came about using an approach called spindle nuclear transfer was revealed in New Scientist magazine. Scientists from the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City removed the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg -- with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor -- was then fertilised with her husband's sperm. The team, led by Dr John Zhang used this approach to create five embryos, one of which developed normally, and was implanted, resulting in the birth nine months later.

 

"The method has not been approved in the US, so Dr Zhang went to Mexico instead, where he said 'there are no rules'. Defending his decision, he said: 'To save lives is the ethical thing to do'. Other scientists working in the field welcomed the news -- but expressed concern that it had occurred in a country which lacks stringent regulation. Dr Dusko Ilic, a reader in stem cell science at King's College London, said: 'This is great news and a huge deal -- it's revolutionary.' He described the child's birth as an 'ice-breaker' which was likely to be swiftly followed. 'The baby is reportedly healthy. Hopefully, this will tame the more zealous critics, accelerate the field, and we will witness soon a birth of the first mitochondrial donation baby in the UK.'" [Quoted from here. Links added; several paragraphs merged. Accessed 10/10/2016.]

 

[I have posted several more examples of thoroughly reactionary, anti-dialectical science to Appendix A, but specifically in relation to the above story, here.]

 

Notice, there is no mention of this brazen violation of Engels's Second 'Law' by any of the scientists involved in the above investigation (maybe as a legitimate objection to this line of research), and I have yet to see a single article or blog written by a DM-fan anathematising this research -- or, indeed, a single DM-fan objecting to gay sex, or 'dry-humping' dogs, on the same grounds, either! But, what price the UO if it is so easily by-passed, violated or snubbed by reactionary scientists and disrespectful, right-wing animals such as these?

 

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

 

Moreover, while it is true that cats are able to reproduce because of well known goings-on between males and females of the species, cats themselves don't 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 serially miserable, chaste moggie stayed clear of members of the opposite sex, it would be able to look forward to becoming a sort of feline Super-Methuselah.

 

Are Cats Non-Dialectical After All?

 

Returning to an earlier theme, if cats don't change as a result of the machinations of their external and/or 'logical' opposites, but because of their 'internal contradictions' -- or even as a result of their 'internal, opposite tendencies' -- then factors internal to cats must surely be responsible for their development (if, as noted above, we interpret the word "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 this animal's internal organs, or somewhere else? But what is the opposite of, say, a cat's liver? Does it have one? If not, is it an everlasting liver? It must be if it has no 'opposite'. On the other hand, if it does have an 'opposite', will a cat's liver one day turn into a cat's 'non-liver'? -- A fossil trilobite, say, or the Dog Star, maybe? These are all 'cat non-livers'. But, as we have seen, this can't happen unless these 'opposites' struggle with, and then turn into, each other. Has anyone witnessed a cat's live slugging it out with a cat's non-liver?

 

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

 

[I will omit reference to 'opposing tendencies' from now so that unnecessary pedantic detail is reduced as much as possible; readers can assume they are included in what follows.]

 

If a cat's liver has no opposite, then perhaps its 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 found they can only argue this by ignoring their own claim that all of nature works in pair, and we have just seen that was a dead end.

 

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 cats, lumps of iron, and much else besides.12

 

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

 

So, for a cat to become a 'non-cat' -- which is, presumably, the 'internal', or even 'external', opposite it is supposed to turn into --, it must be in dialectical tension with that opposite in the here-and-now if that opposite is to help motivate such a change. [We saw this in more abstract form, here.] 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.

 

Furthermore, even if it is argued that molecular, inter-atomic or sub-atomic forces actually power the development of cats, they will in general 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 buried beneath its fur. Nor are we to suppose that cats are constantly conflicting with their own internal organs, or their fur and whiskers. If they were, then according to DM-lore, cats would have to turn into their internal organs, fur or whiskers, and the latter would have to turn into cats!

 

Moreover, 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 wouldn't change. But what on earth could these macro-phenomena be?

 

Additionally, 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. If not, then there would be nothing with which they could struggle. And yet, if these opposites do already exist, the original particles can't change into them, since they are already there. The very best that might happen here is that these 'opposite particles' replace the originals, which originals then magically disappear! In which case, given this 'disappearing' view of nature, things don't actually change, they just vanish, while other (seemingly identical) objects and processes take their place -- and which they do undialectically since their opposites will have just vanished, so there is now nothing for them to struggle with.

 

But, with no more 'opposites' with which they can struggle, they plainly can't be subject to further change.

 

The entire process would grind to a halt.

 

If we now ask what the 'inner tendencies' are that cause live cats to change into dead cats, it isn't easy to come up with a viable candidate. Some might point to catabolic and anabolic processes as examples of these 'inner tendencies', but they aren't actually tendencies, they are manifestly causal. [We have already seen that tendencies aren't causes.]

 

But, let us assume these processes (anabolism and catabolism) are (possible) viable candidates here -- even then this theory still falls flat. As was noted in another Essay:

 

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 the present Essay to this very point, the reader is re-directed here for more details.]

 

Since these processes don't change into one another (which we have been told should happen to all such opposites), it isn't easy to see how DM can account even for change that cats undergo!

 

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 Essays Eight Part One, and Eleven Parts One and Two), otherwise change wouldn't 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 DM-classics 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, too, otherwise change wouldn't 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 don't already exist, what could possibly cause such changes? There would be nothing with which they could 'struggle'.

 

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 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 posted 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 that car. So, the real cause of this cat's changed shape is indeed to be found inside that cat. [Leibniz's argument is outlined here. As we will see in Essay Eight Part One, some DM-theorists do indeed argue along such lines.]

 

There is something to be said for this argument -- but, fortunately, not much. Whatever it is that causes a cat's shape to alter when run over is clearly not whatever it was that maintained its anatomical integrity from day-to-day. Something must have upset its structural stability in order to transform its shape; cats don't 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 don't deny this, but as Essay Eight Part One will show, their 'theory' can't account for, or cope with, such complexities.

 

Someone could object that DM can account for such catastrophic reconfigurations of cats. A combination of internal and external forces is the cause of their new shape. But, not even that will work, for if a cat is to change into a flat cat, then according to the DM-worthies (link above -- where we are told that all objects and processes "inevitably" turn into the opposites with which they have struggled), the flat cat must already exist in order to turn a 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-shaped counterparts this side of the veil -- this taking place just in time, too, for cars, lorries or buses 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 ethereal moggie 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 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 turns out to be, 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 refuted in practice; gashed heads on picket lines aren't the result of "self-development".

 

Alternatively, if the causes of feline, or even cranial, mutability are both internal and external to one or both, then change can't be the sole result of 'internal contradictions', and things wouldn't 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.

 

Hence, even while unfortunate moggies sometimes turn into flat-as-a-mat non-cats in traffic accidents, the opposite that they 'develop' into can't have been part of the UO that helped iron them into this novel shape.

 

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

 

Have Hermaphrodites And Other Organisms Been Given DM-Exemption Certificates?

 

But, what are we to make of hermaphrodites?

 

Here is Engels:

 

"And if strict monogamy is to be regarded as the acme of all virtue, then the palm must be given to the tapeworm, which possesses a complete male and female sexual apparatus in every one of its 50 to 200 proglottids or segments of the body, and passes the whole of its life in cohabiting with itself in every one of these segments." [Engels (1891b), p.469. Links added.]

 

Are tapeworms, are hermaphrodites, an expression of some sort of cosmic, bourgeois plot against DM?

 

Spare a thought for such 'well stocked' organisms:

 

"Pseudohermaphroditism is a clinical term for the condition in which an organism is born with primary sex characteristics of one sex but develops the secondary sex characteristics that are different from what would be expected on the basis of the gonadal tissue (ovary or testis). It can be contrasted with the term true hermaphroditism, which described a condition where testicular and ovarian tissue were present in the same individual. This language has fallen out of favour due to misconceptions and pejorative connotations associated with the terms, and also a shift to nomenclature based on genetics. The term male pseudohermaphrodite was used when a testis is present, and the term female pseudohermaphrodite was used when an ovary is present." [Quoted from here; accessed 30/08/2017. Links and italic emphases in the original. Spelling modified to agree with UK English. Paragraphs merged.]

 

Or even for examples of Pseudohermaphroditism, a condition exhibited by the African Bat Bug. The New Scientist had the following to say about this strange 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...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, 22/09/2007, p.11. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

Worse still what are we to say about Gynandromorphism, where organisms exhibit both male and female characteristics? Is nature so reactionary that it is ganging up on DM? It certainly looks like it.

 

It is to be hoped that the dialectical deity (aka 'Being') visits these highly confused insects one day to give them more than just friendly marriage guidance counselling.

 

[UO = Unity of Opposites.]

 

In fact, the Second 'Law', with its UOs, seems to be coming under sustained attack from all sides of the animal and plant kingdoms. Consider the sea slug:

 

"Striking that happy balance between giving and receiving in a relationship can be fraught with difficulty. But not, it seems, for hermaphrodite sea slugs. These gentle soft-bodied animals, blessed with both male and female genitalia, solve the battle of the sexes by engaging in 'sperm trading'. They donate sperm only on the condition that they receive it, so thwarting the male desire to fertilise and run. During sex, each slug inserts its penis into the other and one transfers a small package of sperm. The transfer of further sperm will only proceed if the other partner reciprocates by transferring a package of its sperm.

 

"That hermaphrodite sex worked this way was suggested 20 years ago but this is the first time it has been demonstrated. Nico Michiels and colleagues at the University of Tübingen, Germany, sealed off the sperm ducts of Chelidonura hirundinina sea slugs so that they could insert the penis but not transfer sperm. In 57 staged sexual encounters, sea slugs paired with a 'cheating' partner, unable to transfer sperm, were more likely to abandon sex than animals paired with a 'fair trader' (Current Biology, 15, p.792). 'I expect that sperm trading is widespread in hermaphrodites,' says Michiels. 'These sea slugs have found a way to optimise sperm transfer so that both partners benefit.'" [New Scientist, 2521, 15/10/2005. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

There seems to be a unity of non-opposites going on here.

 

Other species of sea slug are even more mendaciously anti-dialectical:

 

"Every cloud has a silver lining. There's even an upside to being repeatedly stabbed -- at least if you're an hermaphroditic sea slug. A species of sea slug known as Siphopteron quadrispinosum is a simultaneous hermaphrodite: each animal has male and female sexual organs, and it can use both at once. An animal acting as a male first uses a syringe-like organ to stab its partner and inject prostate fluid into its body. The 'male' then inserts its penis into the partner's genital opening; the penis has spines that anchor it in place, but harm the other slug.

 

"Because mating is so traumatic for the 'female', the slugs prefer to act male, and often resist mating altogether. But curiously, they still mate as females much more often than is necessary simply to ensure that their eggs are fertilised, says Rolanda Lange of the University of Tübingen in Germany. Lange and colleagues captured groups of sea slugs and gave different groups more or fewer opportunities to mate. The slugs produced the most eggs when they acted as females at a medium rate.

 

"In theory, slugs should act as females just often enough to maintain a store of sperm, and no more. But the slugs mated as females much more often than that. Yet they produced the same proportion of fertilised eggs regardless of how many mating opportunities they had. This indicates that even the slugs that mated the least had gathered more than enough sperm for their reproductive needs. All of this suggests the traumatic mating has some benefit that goes beyond reproduction -- an advantage that offsets the bodily harm. We don't know what that might be, says Mike Siva-Jothy of the University of Sheffield, UK. But the injections of prostate fluid might include nutrients that benefit the stabbed slug.

 

"Male insects and spiders often proffer food as a bribe to persuade females to mate. "Male" sea slugs might be doing the same thing. 'Males are giving with one hand and taking with the other,' Siva-Jothy says." [New Scientist, 01/09/2012, p.14. Quotations marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original, bold emphasis added. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

These non-opposites seem to swap places almost at will.

 

And don't even think about the fire ant:

 

"It is often said that males and females are different species. For the little fire ant, that seems to be literally true. The ant Wasmannia auropunctata, which is native to Central and South America but has spread into the US and beyond, has opted for a unique stand-off in the battle of the sexes. Both queens and males reproduce by making genetically identical copies of themselves -- so males and females seem to have entirely separate gene pools.

 

"The only time they reproduce conventionally is to produce workers, says Denis Fournier from the Free University of Brussels...in Belgium, a member of the team that discovered the phenomenon (Nature, 435, p.1230). But workers are sterile and never pass on their genes. This is the first reported case in the animal kingdom of males reproducing exclusively by cloning, although male honeybees do it occasionally.

 

"But it is too early to assume male and female gene pools are entirely separate, cautions Andrew Bourke from the Institute of Zoology in London. Males may occasionally reproduce by mating with a queen to top up the gene pool. Fournier's study analysed DNA from 199 queens, 41 males and 264 workers collected in New Caledonia in the south Pacific, and French Guiana. Only a much larger study could rule out gene pool mixing, he says." [New Scientist, 2506, 02/07/2005. Paragraphs merged.]

 

And, such dialectically-benighted creatures aren't confined to the non-vertebrate world, for evolution has thrown up the mangrove Killifish:

 

"Something fishy is happening in the mangrove forests of the western Atlantic. A fish is living in the trees. The mangrove killifish (Kryptolebias marmoratus) is a tiny fish that lives in ephemeral pools of water around the roots of mangroves. When these dry up the 100-milligram fish can survive for months in moist spots on land. Being stranded high and dry makes it hard to find a mate, but fortunately the killifish doesn't need a partner to reproduce. It is the only known hermaphrodite vertebrate that is self-fertilising.

 

"Now biologists wading through muddy mangrove swamps in Belize and Florida have discovered another exceptional adaptation. Near dried-up pools, they found hundreds of killifish lined up end to end, like peas in a pod, inside the tracks carved out by insects in rotting logs. 'They really don't meet standard behavioural criteria for fish,' says Scott Taylor of the Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program in Florida, who reports the findings in an upcoming issue of The American Naturalist....

 

"The rotting logs may help explain how killifish occupy such a large range, stretching from southern Brazil to central Florida. Self-fertilisation makes it easy for individuals to colonise new places, and dead logs are good rafts for getting around, says John Avise, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Irvine. 'They might be washed ashore in a rotting log and start a new population.'" [New Scientist, 196, 2626, 20/10/2007, p.20. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

Even worse news, for it now seems that scientists can further 'negate' this 'Law', in so far as it applies to an already DM-confused semi-hermaphrodite worm:

 

"The sexual preferences of microscopic worms have been manipulated in the laboratory so that they are attracted to the same sex, offering new evidence that sexuality may be hard-wired in the brain. By activating a single gene in the brains of hermaphrodite nematode worms, scientists have induced them to attempt to mate with other hermaphrodites, instead of being attracted exclusively to males....

 

"While nematode worms are extremely simple organisms, and details of their behaviour are difficult to apply to people with any accuracy, the researchers said that the existence of a biological pathway to same-sex attraction offered a possible insight into human sexuality. Erik Jorgensen, Professor of Biology at the University of Utah, who led the study, said: 'Our conclusions are narrow in that they are about worms and how attraction behaviours are derived from the same brain circuit.'...

 

"'We can't say what this means for human sexual orientation, but it raises the possibility that sexual preference is wired in the brain. Humans are subject to evolutionary forces just like worms. It seems possible that if sexual orientation is genetically wired in worms, it would be in people too. Humans have free will, so the picture is more complicated in people.'

 

"Nematode worms, of the species Caenorhabditis elegans, are one millimetre long and live in soil, where they feed on bacteria. The overwhelming majority -- more than 99.9 per cent -- are hermaphrodites, which produce both sperm and eggs and generally fertilise themselves before laying eggs. About 0.05 per cent of nematodes are male, however, and these worms must seek out hermaphrodites to reproduce. Hermaphrodites will mate with an available male rather than fertilise themselves, and though they produce sperm they will not impregnate other hermaphrodites as they lack the required copulatory structure.

 

"There are no true females and hermaphrodites were treated as female for the purposes of the study. C. elegans shares many of its genes with human beings and other animals, and is a standard organism used for early laboratory studies of genetics. 'A hermaphrodite makes both eggs and sperm,' Professor Jorgensen said. 'She doesn't need to mate [with a male] to have progeny. Most of the time, the hermaphrodites do not mate. But if they mate, instead of having 200 progeny, they can have 1,200 progeny.'

 

"As the worms have no eyes -- hermaphrodites have only 959 cells and males 1,031 cells -- they detect one another's sex using scent cues. In the study, published in the journal Current Biology, the scientists activated a gene called fem-3 in hermaphrodites. This gene makes the nematode body develop as male, with neurons that appear only in male brains and copulatory structures such as tails. In the experiment, fem-3 was activated only in the brain, so the worms developed male nerve cells but not other male body characteristics. Despite this, they behaved like males, attempting to seek out and fertilise other hermaphrodites.

 

"'They look like girls, but act and think like boys,' said Jamie White, who conducted the key experiments. 'The [same-sex attraction] behaviour is part of the nervous system.' Professor Jorgensen said: 'The conclusion is that sexual attraction is wired into brain circuits common to both sexes of worms, and is not caused solely by extra nerve cells added to the male or female brain. The reason males and females behave differently is that the same nerve cells have been rewired to alter sexual preference.'

 

"In a second phase of the study, the scientists manipulated different kinds of nerve cell in the male brain to determine which were responsible for switching on male attraction to hermaphrodites. They found that, although switching off one of the eight sensory neurons impaired attraction in adults, young males developed normally if just one such nerve cell was intact. This finding suggests that there is considerable redundancy built into the sexual development of males. Dr White said: 'It must be that the behaviour is very important.'" [The Times, 26/10/2007. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged. On the complex mating habits of nematode worms, which are the most abundant animal life-form on the planet (indeed, four out of every five animals on earth is a nematode), see here.]

 

It could be objected that no law is without exceptions, and that applies to Engels's second and third laws, too. And yet, that doesn't stop them from being laws. [One rather brave defender of Engels did indeed advance this objection in response to an article of mine.] In reply, it is worth pointing out that DM is unlike a normal science; its 'laws' are a priori and dogmatic, and were derived from a study of Hegel's 'Logic' not from a scientific study of nature. Hence, they can have no exceptions -- rather like the rules of Pure Mathematics can have no exceptions. This was the point of Hegel's response to Empiricist attacks on Rationalist theories of causation. In a rational universe there are no 'accidents', no genuine contingencies, they just seem that way because we lack the full picture, or have failed to 'understand' dialectics. A 'dialectical view' of nature will reveal to us the necessary connections between every event, between causes and their effects. That was the point of these comments by Lenin:

 

"This aspect of dialectics…usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum total of examples…and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world)." [Lenin (1961), p.357. Emphasis in the original.]

 

"'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." [Lenin (1961), p.260. Lenin is here commenting on Hegel (1995a), pp.278-98; this particular quotation is found on p.285. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"But the Other is essentially not the empty negative or Nothing which is commonly taken as the result of dialectics, it is the Other of the first, the negative of the immediate; it is thus determined as mediated, -- and altogether contains the determination of the first. The first is thus essentially contained and preserved in the Other. -- To hold fast the positive in its negative, and the content of the presupposition in the result, is the most important part of rational cognition; also only the simplest reflection is needed to furnish conviction of the absolute truth and necessity of this requirement, while with regard to the examples of proofs, the whole of Logic consists of these." [Lenin (1961), p.225, quoting Hegel (1999), pp.833-34, §1795. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Lenin wrote in the margin:

 

"This is very important for understanding dialectics." [Lenin (1961), p.225.]

 

A 'law of cognition' and the above comments about "absolute truth and necessity" put DM on a par with the laws of mathematics, not the empirical sciences. Since I have covered this ground elsewhere, I will say no more about it here.

 

Be this as it may, it now appears that scientists can 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....

 

"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, 15/11/2009. Emphases in the original; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

Some might think hermaphrodites are perfect examples of the "unity of opposites", but that can't be so, otherwise their male organs would turn into the female sex organs (and vice versa) after "struggling" with them, if the Dialectical Classics are to be believed. Oddly enough, none of the above scientists report observing this 'struggle', or anything remotely like it.

 

So, it looks like it isn't a spectre that is haunting Dialectical Marxism, but a nematode worm!

 

Not Just Bad News For Cats

 

The Story So Far

 

The above 'problems' aren't confined to changes involving water molecules, worms, bugs or assorted furry mammals; they re-surface in different forms with respect to the structures and processes found in 'Materialist Dialectics'.

 

To summarise the story so far:

 

According to the DM-classics: (a) All Change is the result of a struggle between a unique pair of dialectical opposites, whereby each member of that pair is the "other of the other", and each implies the existence and nature of the other (like the proletariat supposedly implies the bourgeoisie, and vice versa); (b) These opposites must co-exist if they are capable of struggling with one another; (c) Everything changes into its opposites -- that is, everything turns into that with which it has 'struggled'; and (d) Struggle is an "absolute".

 

We have already seen that this creates come rather nasty dialectical headaches for DM-fans, and we are about to twist the non-dialectical knife.

 

Capitalism vs Socialism

 

HM tells us that the capitalist world only be transformed into a socialist world through struggle. So, according to points (a)-(d) above, if Capitalism is to change, or be changed, into Socialism, Socialism must now exist somewhere for that to happen!

 

As far as revolutionaries are concerned, that conclusion 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, and rather surprising, allegation?

 

In order to see that there is indeed more than enough 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 the 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').

 

We have already had occasion to quote the DM-classics, and 'lesser' DM-texts to the effect that they hold to (a)-(d) above, but here is Marx himself extending this idea to the FP and the RP:

 

"In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.

 

"The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.

 

"At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or -- what is but a legal expression for the same thing -- with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters.

 

"Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic -- in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production." [Marx (1968b), pp.181-82. Bold emphases added. Links in the original.]

 

[I shall return to the above quotation and this specific topic presently.]

 

For the purposes of argument, let us assume that SORP doesn't actually exist anywhere on earth right now. However, given what the DM-classics have to say, 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 into SORP because of a struggle with its own opposite-- namely, SORP! -- which doesn't yet exist since CRAP hasn't changed into it yet. That is, unless we are to suppose SORP actually 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 a 'sublated' actuality, it matters not.

 

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

 

To repeat: according to the DM-classics, if PSORP is to change into SORP, it has to (i) struggle with its opposite, and (ii) change into that opposite -- or, (iii) certain tendencies within either or both of these must change them from 'within' -- but we have already seen that this option is a dead-end. 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 since it is already there!

 

The same comments apply to any potential, or tendency, in CRAP to produce SORP. So, let us call the tendency in CRAP to produce SORP, "TSORP"; 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 both a tendency in Capitalism to produce SORP (howsoever that is understood), and a tendency to oppose this. Let us call these, "TCRAP" and "TCRAP*", respectively.

 

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

 

However, they can't change into one another since they already exist!

 

Once more, we keep hitting the same non-dialectical brick wall.

 

Anyway, are we really supposed to believe that the tendencies in capitalism to produce socialism, and the tendencies that oppose it must change into one another -- for example, that, say, the working class (and/or the economic forces that drive workers into struggle) must change into the Capitalist Class/Police/Courts (and/or the forces that oppose workers' struggles, or which impel the bosses to attack workers), and Capitalist Class/Police/Courts (and/or the forces that oppose workers' struggles, or which impel the bosses to attack workers) must change into the working class (and/or the economic forces that drive workers into struggle)? But, that is what the Dialectical-Classics assure us must always happen.

 

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

 

Let us now assume that it is TCRAP that changes CRAP into SORP; that is, there is a tendency in Capitalism that causes CRAP to change -- we can call this the falling rate of profit and/or the proletariat. But, if that is so, TCRAP must struggle with and change into CRAP, not SORP! That is because, and once more, the DM-Worthies tell us that everything in the entire universe changes into that with which it struggles. And, it is reasonably clear that TCRAP must exist somewhere in this universe if it to effect change.

 

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

 

It could be objected that it is the class war that will change society in the above manner -- but more specifically the struggle between the proletariat and the capitalist class. Maybe so, but if the DM-classics are to be believed then these two classes much change into one another! The working class would become the capitalist class!

 

It could now be argued that the proletariat will in fact change into the ruling-class, its opposite. So, this theory is correct, at least here.

 

Or so it might be argued.

 

But, the opposite of the proletariat isn't just any old ruling-class, it is the capitalist class -- the bourgeoisie. This class is the unique "other" of the proletariat with whom they are 'internally' linked. Hence, the former must change into the latter, and vice versa, if this theory were correct. Workers struggle with capitalists, and so, according to this theory, they must change into them, thus making socialism impossible. The existence of a ruling class doesn't imply the proletariat, and many forms of ruling class can exist without the proletariat, but the bourgeoisie can't exist without the proletariat (or so we have been told) -- as, indeed, Mao himself pointed out:

 

"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 the bourgeoisie, there would be no proletariat; without the proletariat, there would be no bourgeoisie." [Mao (1961b), p.338. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Attentive readers will no doubt notice that Mao tells us that the dialectical "opposite" of the proletariat isn't just any old ruling-class, it is "the bourgeoisie". In which case, the proletariat must change into them, and they must change into the proletariat -- that is, if the DM-classics are to be believed.

 

Is this what revolutionaries are fighting for? For the proletariat to become the bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie to become the proletariat?

 

If so, the new parasitic boss-class (i.e., this new class comprised entirely of ex-proles who have just turned into the bourgeoisie) would now constitute the vast bulk of the population!

 

Conversely, there would be a massive reduction of the working class -- compounded by a massive increase in the bourgeoisie -- scarcity would become the norm, surely, with so few workers? Such a society would last about as long as a Mayfly.

 

[I have said much more about this topic, here.]

 

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 (and/or their lackeys), but neither of these turn into one another, and they can't help change CRAP into SORP, either, since neither of these classes is the opposite of CRAP or SORP, nor vice versa.

 

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

 

The Forces And Relations Of Production

 

Returning to Marx's comment quoted earlier, these problems afflict the social and material relations constitutive of each and every Mode of Production. We find Dialectical Marxists often asserting things like the following:

 

"Throughout the mature Marx's economic works the idea that a contradiction between forces and relations of production underlies the dynamic of the capitalist mode of production is present. More generally, such a contradiction accounts for history existing as a succession of modes of production, since it leads to the necessary collapse of one mode and its supersession by another....

 

"The power of the contradiction between relations and forces to act as the motor of history is also stated in the same place: 'at a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production...within which they have been at work hitherto'; and 'from forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters', thereby initiating social revolution." [Harris (1985), p.178, quoting Marx (1968), pp.181-82. Bold emphasis added.]

 

There are, of course, countless DM-theorists who say the same sort of thing; I have quoted several of them here.

 

If this is indeed a 'dialectical contradiction', then the Forces and Relations of Production [FP and RP, respectively] must be 'dialectical opposites', too, and if that is so, they must (a) Struggle with each another, and they must (b) Change into one another -- if the DM-classics are to be believed. Is it really the case that relations of ownership, exploitation and control will struggle with and then change into labour power, factories, motorways, airports..., and vice versa?

 

If so, no one seems to have noticed this remarkable 'punch-up' and subsequent transformation. Have we all missed something...?

 

Plastic 'Laws'?

 

If it is further complained that in many of the above examples human intervention must be taken into account, for, plainly, 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, it is plain that a different set of principles must apply since human activity will have interfered with the normal operation of the natural opposite of things like, say, iron ore.

 

Or, so it might be maintained.

 

But, aren't we part of nature?

 

I dealt with the above 'objection' in another essay; here is my counter-argument (the reader is invited replace the word "wood" with their favourite naturally occurring material, like, say, iron ore, and "table" with whatever that material can be made into):

 

Consider another concrete example with which I have been confronted: wood being fashioned into a table. Once more, according to the dialectical classics every object and process changes because of a 'struggle' between opposites, and it also changes into its opposite.

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 is made 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, since the table is already there!

 

Indeed, why bother making a table that already exists?

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

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

 

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

 

Nor is it any use complaining that the above conclusions are ridiculous -- since they follow directly from what we read in the DM-classics.

 

[I have dealt with this particular objection more fully here.]

 

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

 

Moving on: what about those substances that didn't exist (as far as we know) before human beings made them? Once more, has humanity made things that are above and beyond dialectical 'Law'?

 

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 as the 'opposite' of Polypropylene, polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and polymethylpentene (TPX)?

 

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 is able to manufacture or bring into existence each of these (as-yet-un-named, and before we evolved, non-existent) opposites at the same time as making each new plastic? Or, was this (extra creation of this 'unique opposite') done by default, a side-effect, as it were of making the original material? Did the 'unique opposite' of,  say, PVC come into existence as a by-product when that plastic was first invented/manufactured? Do these 'unique opposites' pop into existence in some sort of metaphysical antechamber the moment we invent or manufacture each of the above plastics? If not, how are such plastics ever going to change if there are no opposites with which they can even begin to struggle?

 

[Incidentally, it is no use appealing to the inter-atomic, or sub-atomic forces here as the cause 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 -- at least, according to the DM-classics. Anyway, do these inter-atomic, or sub-atomic forces change into one another? Do protons, for example, struggle with and then change into electrons? (Or, is it positrons?) 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 products (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? [Do they really have as many 'opposites' as the things into which we can change these plastics? Recall, the DM-classics tell us that these 'opposites' are what every object or process changes into.] And, were all these artificial 'opposites' created the moment the original substances or artefacts were first manufactured? All of them? But, this must be son, since, according to the dialectical classics, every object in the universe has a unique 'opposite' (its "other") that it sooner or later turns into -- and, they do this by struggling with it. Alternatively, these changes happen 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? [Recall, according to the DM-classics, all objects struggle with that with which they turn into.] If so, he/she must have changed into it, and it into him/her! Has anyone noticed these peculiar shape-shifting human beings?

 

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

 

Even worse: if the 'opposite' of, say, PVC is what causes it to change, how does human labour feature anywhere in the picture? What is the point of building factories and studying polymer chemistry, for example, 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? [This seems to be the DM-equivalent of Occasionalism.]

 

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

 

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

 

Use Value And Exchange Value

 

We are also told that exchange value [EV] is "congealed labour time" [LT]. That is, of course, a serious problem since use value [UV] is supposed to 'contradict' EV -- but, UV and EV don't seem to "struggle" much either, with one another or with anything else. 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 much more detail in Essay Eight Part Two.]

 

Unfortunately, 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?

 

[I am using the word "patient" here in its older sense; that is, it relates to that which is acted upon, not that which acts.]

 

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 pre-conditions -- 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? In fact, Marx says that "A single commodity cannot, therefore, simultaneously assume, in the same expression of value, both forms." So, they can't co-exist, after all. [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?

 

That 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 thoughts about the simple commodity form. But, even there, they cannot 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 cannot even think of them acting on one another, for if we were so to 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 Seven: 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 (i) Labour Power [LP] and (ii) 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"). [There is more on that in Essay Eight Parts One, Two and Three. As far as social change in general is concerned, see here, here and here.]

 

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

 

Lenin Maxes Out

 

Again, is it really the case that everything turns into its 'opposite', and does so by "struggling" with that 'opposite', its "other", as Hegel, Engels, Lenin, Mao and Plekhanov argued? 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, or on the right then on the left, and so on -- but even here, these opposites don't cause these changes, they don't struggle with one another!), but this certainly isn't 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, medieval serfs into aristocrats, forces of production into relations of production, use values into exchange values, negative numbers/electrical charges into positive numbers/electrical charges, electrons into protons (or even positrons), 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 just 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…" (Lenin (1961), p.221; emphases in the original) 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 vice versa); liquidity would become brittleness, circularity and inquisitiveness (and vice versa); gentleness would turn into speed, opacity and bitterness (and vice versa); triangularity would develop into arrogance, honesty and duplicity (and vice versa), 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 don't happen (as they plainly do not!), and if such things aren't actually implied by these terminally vague 'Laws' -- or, more specifically, by what Lenin said above --, what is the point of DM-theorists asserting that this is precisely what everything does?

 

Of course, it could be objected that the above comments were recorded in notebooks, so we shouldn't interpret them too literally, or regard them as an expression of Lenin's more considered thoughts. But, has a single dialectician ever pointed this out about these words whenever they quote them? Hardly.

 

Anyway, as we have seen, since Hegel's unique 'other' requirement is itself defective, this is in fact a consequence of the Second 'Law' -- i.e., that "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [changes] into every other…". That was the point of the earlier observation about dialecticians vacillating between the theory that UOs cause change and the idea that objects and processes change into their opposites -- sometimes veering over to 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 working class into the capitalist class -- and then back again!

 

However, as has been argued in detail in Essay Seven Part Three, if change merely creates these opposites then, plainly, that can't have been a result of a "struggle" between two co-existing opposites -- since at least one of them wouldn't exist yet! 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 all around us 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?

 

Turning to specifics, Engels also 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. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Abstract identity (a = a; and negatively, a cannot 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, by respiration, by cell formation and death of cells, by the process of circulation taking place, in short, by a sum of incessant molecular changes which make up life and the sum-total of whose results is evident to our eyes in the phases of life -- embryonic life, youth, sexual maturity, process of reproduction, old age, death. The further physiology develops, the more important for it become these incessant, infinitely small changes, and hence the more important for it also the consideration of difference within identity, and the old abstract standpoint of formal identity, that an organic being is to be treated as something simply identical with itself, as something constant, becomes out of date." [Engels (1954), p.214. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

Plekhanov concurred:

 

"But upon closer investigation it turns out that life itself bears in itself the germ of death, and that in general any phenomenon is contradictory, in the sense that it develops out of itself the elements which, sooner or later, will put an end to its existence and will transform it into its own opposite. Everything flows, everything changes; and there is no force capable of holding back this constant flux, or arresting this eternal movement. There is no force capable of resisting the dialectics of phenomena." [Plekhanov (1974), p.539. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

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

 

As far as (i) 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 (or chemical processes) -- i.e., that there is some sort of 'life force' at work in (living) 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 repudiate it. So, it seems reasonable to conclude that this can't be what underlies the 'contradiction' in this case.

 

With respect to (ii), 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 in this instance. If a living cell is indeed a UO, the scene of a bitter struggle between life and death -- in the sense