Essay Eight Part One: Change Through 'Internal Contradiction' -- An Incoherent Dogma




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


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


It is also worth pointing out that a good 50% of my case against DM has been relegated to the End Notes. This has been done to allow the main body of the Essay to flow a little more smoothly. This means that if readers want to appreciate fully my case against DM, they will need to consult this material. In many cases, I have qualified and amplified my ideas in these Notes and added more supporting argument and evidence. I have also raised objections (some obvious, many not -- and some that will have occurred to the reader) to my own allegations and assertions, which I have then proceeded to answer. [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 to my arguments will be missed, as will the addition 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 debates are listed here.]


Finally, phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" (etc.) used at this site (in connection with Traditional Philosophy and DM), aren't meant to suggest that all or even most members of various ruling-classes actually invented these ways of thinking or of seeing the world (although some of them did -- for example, Heraclitus, Plato, Cicero, and Marcus Aurelius). They are intended to highlight theories (or "ruling ideas") that are conducive to, or which rationalise the interests of the various ruling-classes history has inflicted on humanity, whoever invents them. Up until recently this dogmatic approach to knowledge had almost invariably been promoted by thinkers who either relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the system for the elite.**


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


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


As of October 2016, this Essay is just over 47,500 words long; a summary of some of its main ideas can be found here.


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


[Latest Update: 21/10/16.]



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(1) Introduction


(2) Have Dialecticians Refuted Newton?


(a) How Many Dialecticians Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?


(3) Unfair To Lenin?


(a) There Must Be Some Explanation


(b) Systematic Or Objectual Change?


(c) Dialectics And Causation


(i)  Causation: 'Internal' Or 'External'? The Problem Stated


(ii) Contradictions Begin 'Who Knows Where?'


(4) Contradictions And Causation: 'Internal' Or 'External'?


(a) Yet More Dialectical Equivocation


(b) Atomism Returns To Haunt Dialectics


(c) Nixoned


(d) Another Rescue Attempt


(e) Retreat Into The Concrete Bunker


(5) The Total Confidence Trick


(a) Word-Juggling Once More


(b) Contradictions And Change


(6) Decision Time


(a) The Choices Before Us


(b) A Dialectical Way Out?


(7) Everything You Wanted To Know About HEX But Were Afraid To Ask


(a) Cartesians Beware


(b) Are We Any The Wiser?


(8) Idealism Rears Its Ugly Head


(9) Leibniz On Interaction


(10) Notes


(11) References


Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism


Abbreviations Used At This Site


Return To The Main Index Page

Contact Me





The aim of Essay Eight, Parts One, Two and Three is to analyse the rather odd DM-idea that change is the result of 'internal contradictions'.


Part One will examine what sense, if any, can be made of this idea.


Part Two, will focus on the thesis that forces (in nature and society) can be used to model, or even represent, 'dialectical contradictions'.


Part Three will concentrate on (a) The very best Marxist account of 'dialectical contradictions' I have read in the last 30 years' research of this theory -- , which will be subjected to detailed and destructive criticism and, (b) Michael Kosok's lamentable attempt to 'formalise' Hegel's dialectical 'logic'. As far as I am aware, this is the first time his 'formalisation' has been critically examined by someone who knows a little modern logic.



Have Dialecticians Refuted Newton?


How Many Dialecticians Does It Take To Change A Light-Bulb?


Consider this rather intriguing question: Do objects move one another, themselves, or a bit of both?


Dialecticians have a revolutionary answer. But you might not like it.


Lenin put things this way:


"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. 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 the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.


"The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) 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. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphases added.]


This is a rather odd passage since it seems to suggest that things can move themselves. If so, much of modern mechanics will need to be re-written. On this view, presumably, when someone throws a ball, the action of throwing does not in fact move the ball. On the contrary, the ball moves itself, and it knows exactly where it is going and how to get there, traversing its path independently of gravity. 'Intelligent projectiles' like this, it seems, need no guidance systems -- they happily 'self-develop' from A to B like unerring homing pigeons.01


[If this seems unfair to Lenin, then please read Note 1 before making up your mind -- or skip forward to here.].1


To make matters worse, Lenin didn't assert this innovative piece of mechanics just the once:


"Nowadays, the ideas of development…as formulated by Marx and Engels on the basis of Hegel…[encompass a process] that seemingly repeats the stages already passed, but repeats them otherwise, on a higher basis ('negation of negation'), a development, so to speak, in spirals, not in a straight line; -- a development by leaps, catastrophes, revolutions; -- 'breaks in continuity'; the transformation of quantity into quality; -- the inner impulses to development, imparted by the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body, or within a given phenomenon, or within a given society; -- the interdependence and the closest, indissoluble connection of all sides of every phenomenon…, a connection that provides a uniform, law-governed, universal process of motion -– such are some of the features of dialectics as a richer (than the ordinary) doctrine of development." [Lenin (1914), pp.12-13. Bold emphases added.]


Now, these comments come from a published essay (on Marx), so the loose phraseology associated with this new theory of motion can't be put down to the fact that Lenin's earlier words appeared in unpublished notebooks.


Perhaps then this is the point of that old anti-dialectical joke:


Q: How many dialecticians does it take to change a light bulb?


A: None at all, the light bulb changes itself.


A touch unfair? Maybe so, but could this scientific regression on Lenin's part (whereby he seems to want to return to Aristotelian theories of motion and change) be the result of a mere slip of the dialectical pen? Perhaps Lenin was using language non-literally or metaphorically. [Indeed, this was the reaction of a couple of bemused DM-fans when confronted with this example of pre-Galilean mechanics --, which is an excuse that is worryingly reminiscent of the way that some theologians try to rescue the Book of Genesis when faced with the discoveries of modern science.]


Is it possible then that Lenin didn't really mean what he said? Or, is there perhaps a suggestion in what he did say that he thought change had more complex, external causes, too?


Well, as if to disappoint his fans, and provide no help at all for those who still think that dialectics has anything of worth to teach modern science, Lenin not only repeated this rather odd claim, he "demanded" that all DL-fans see things his way:


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


Here, not only are objects said to be capable of moving themselves, but Lenin even says that DL "requires" us to view their motion in no other way.


[DL = Dialectical Logic.]


There is also this passage quoted in The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (I have not been able to verify this quotation or locate a hard copy source -- if anyone knows exactly where one can be found, please e-mail me):


"Self-motion that exhibits direction and irreversible change is a special type of self-motion called self-development. Here the idea of self-motion merges with the dialectical conception of development. In this conception, 'the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of "self -movement"' (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. sock, 5th ed., vol. 29, p.317). [Quoted from here; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


It looks, therefore, like Lenin was committed to the belief that not only can light bulbs change themselves, but also (by implication) that books on dialectics write themselves -- just as DM-fans fool themselves into believing far too much of what they found in Hegel.2


Well, perhaps Lenin was merely referring to the development of certain systems, and not the movement of objects from place to place, their locomotion? If so, the impertinent 'counter-example' from earlier (i.e., the one about those light bulbs) is neither sensible nor apposite.


But, Lenin's words were in fact pretty clear; he asserted that DL demands or requires that "objects" (not processes, nor yet systems, but objects) be taken in "development, in 'self-movement'", so he included both -- development and self-movement -- in this caveat. And, all this is quite apart from the fact that, as we have seen, Lenin counterposed this view of reality to that of the mechanical materialists, who held that objects move because of the action of external forces:


"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 the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new." [Lenin (1961), p.358. Bold emphasis alone added.]


There would be no contrast here if objects didn't move themselves in the DM-scheme-of-things, both developmentally and as they locomote. As we will see, this is indeed how Lenin has since been interpreted by his epigones: holding to the view that things actually self-develop and self-locomote. [On this, see Note 3.]


Moreover, it is surely the case that, as things develop, some other things will have to move -- even if only inside whatever it is that is doing the developing. So, it isn't easy to see how anything can develop if nothing else locomotes.


Anyway, as we will also see, whatever Lenin intended, his 'innovative' mechanics can't apply to nature. This isn't so much because he was mistaken, but because it is entirely unclear what he could possibly have meant by what he said.


And Lenin wasn't alone in wanting to return modern science to this ancient 'theory' of change and motion (i.e., one that views nature as a living, self-developing 'organism', or as a Whole that contains nothing but 'organisms' of this sort --, which, like animals, propel themselves about the place). On this view, nature is en-souled, or enchanted -- where everything is alive, governed by some form of intelligence or will. [There is more on this in Essay Fourteen (summary here).]


Other DM-worthies have made similar claims. Here is Bukharin:


"The basis of all things is therefore the law of change, the law of constant motion. Two philosophers particularly (the ancient Heraclitus and the modern Hegel…) formulated this law of change, but they did not stop there. They also set up the question of the manner in which the process operates. The answer they discovered was that changes are produced by constant internal contradictions, internal struggle. Thus, Heraclitus declared: 'Conflict is the mother of all happenings,' while Hegel said: 'Contradiction is the power that moves things.'" [Bukharin (1925), pp.72-73. Bold emphases added.] 


Not to be outdone, Plekhanov joined this backward-facing stampede, too:


"'All is flux, nothing is stationary,' said the ancient thinker from Ephesus. The combinations we call objects are in a state of constant and more or less rapid change…. In as much as they change and cease to exist as such, we must address ourselves to the logic of contradiction….


"…[M]otion does not only make objects…, it is constantly changing them. It is for this reason that the logic of motion (the 'logic of contradiction') never relinquishes its rights over the objects created by motion….


"With Hegel, thinking progresses in consequence of the uncovering and resolution of the contradictions inclosed (sic) in concepts. According to our doctrine…the contradictions embodied in concepts are merely reflections, translations into the language of thought, of those contradictions that are embodied in phenomena owing to the contradictory nature of their common basis, i.e., motion….


"…[T]he overwhelming majority of phenomena that come within the compass of the natural and the social sciences are among 'objects' of this kind…[:ones in which there is a coincidence of opposites]. Diametrically opposite phenomena are united in the simplest globule of protoplasm, and the life of the most undeveloped society…." [Plekhanov (1908), pp.92-96. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Unfortunately, the paragraphs above appear in the Appendix to Plekhanov (1908), which hasn't been reproduced at The Marxist Internet Archive with the rest of the book. Nor do they appear in Plekhanov's Selected Works -- i.e, Plekhanov (1976). They can, however, be found here, under the title Dialectic and Logic. As far as I can determine, in print and in English, they only appear in the Lawrence & Wishart edition. The notes to that edition tell us the following: "This appendix is an extract from Plekhanov's preface to Engels's Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy. These notes on dialectic and logic were included in the German edition of the book in accordance with Plekhanov's wish." (Ibid., p.110, Note 98.)]Bold emphases alone added.] 


Countless secondary DM-figures say more-or-less the same sort of thing.3


Unfortunately, Lenin and his co-dialecticians failed to take note of the origin of these ancient ideas: Hermetic Philosophy is based on the belief that the universe is alive; indeed it is a cosmic egg -- later transmogrified by Hegel into a Cosmic Ego.


Since eggs appear to develop all of their own, and because Hegel's Immaterial and Immanent Cosmic Ego self-develops, it clearly seemed 'natural' for Lenin and his epigones to think this was true of nature, too.


Nevertheless, not even eggs develop of their own; in fact, it is hard to think of a single thing in the entire universe (of which we have any knowledge) that develops of its own, or which moves itself. Not even Capitalism does. Switch off the Sun and watch American Imperialism fold a whole lot faster than Enron.4


And yet, if Lenin were correct, no object in the universe could possibly interact with anything else (since that would amount to external causation, and objects wouldn't be self-motivated). Self-motivated beings must, it seems, be causally isolated from their surroundings, otherwise they wouldn't be self-motivated. This in turn must mean that, despite appearances to the contrary, nothing in reality interacts with anything else. This would, of course, make a mockery of the other DM-claim that everything in reality is interconnected.


So, based on the defective doctrines of ancient mystics, and no evidence at all, we find Lenin once again propounding cosmic verities that don't make sense even in DM-terms -- and which not even a lowly chicken observes.



Hold Your Horses -- Unfair To Lenin?


There Must Be Some Explanation


But, perhaps this is all a bit too quick.


Maybe there is a way of interpreting Lenin (and the other DM-stalwarts) which prevents this self-destructing theory from moving itself ever closer to the edge of the trash can of history.


Is there any way of preventing the contradictions that seem to lie at the heart of the DM-theory of change from tipping it over the edge, lemming-like, into oblivion?


As this Essay will show, there isn't; by the end of Part Two it will be abundantly clear that the self-destruction of at least this part of DM is inevitable. Moreover, and ironically, too, this denouement won't have been externally caused (by me); it will have been entirely internally self-generated -- thanks to Hegel, his Hermetic forebears, and that Cosmic Egg.



Systematic -- Or Objectual Change?


So, is it possible that the above conclusions are a little precipitate? Is there a perfectly reasonable explanation that not only exonerates Lenin and other dialecticians, but which also shows that they didn't in fact believe such crazy things?


The solution to this 'difficulty' might lie in the difference between objectual change and systematic change; that is, it might revolve around whether or not 'dialectical' change concerns change to objects or to systems.


In what follows I propose to examine a number of ways in which a case for the defence could be mounted -- however, that task hasn't been helped by the thoroughly confused way this doctrine has so far been formulated by dialecticians. In fact, as we will see, to a man/woman they have simply recapitulated all the errors of Traditional Ontology --, but, in this case, in an alarmingly amateurish manner.


Or, to put this another way: if this were a trial, I'd be tempted to advise DM-fans to plead guilty and throw themselves on the mercy of the court.



DM And Causation


TAR opened its discussion of DM with a consideration of CAR -- to which I have elsewhere counter-posed its far more pernicious DM-opposite: HEX. We have already encountered several core HEX-type doctrines: Totality, interconnectedness, mediation -- but here we meet change through 'internal contradiction'.5


[DM = Dialectical Materialism; HEX = Hegelian Expansionism; CAR = Cartesian Reductionism; TAR = The Algebra of Revolution (i.e., Rees (1998)); DB = The Dialectical Biologist (i.e., Levins and Lewontin (1985)).]


However, there is an initial but no less important problem that requires resolution up front: i.e., the question whether causation is "internal" or "external" to an object, process or system. The contrast between these two different accounts of change -- or at least the 'dialectical' relation between them -- might allow defenders of Lenin to extricate their way out of the difficulties noted above.


Well, we'll see...



Causation: Internal Or External?


According to John Rees (quoting DB), CAR-theorists hold that:


"Causes are separate from effects, causes being properties of subjects and effects the properties of objects." [Rees (1998), p.4.]


Rees went on to argue that one of the problems associated with this conception of causation is that it appeals to something Hegel called a "bad infinity" (or, in a more recent translation, "spurious infinity"), which supposedly involves a chain of 'external' causes. This particular approach is to be avoided, it seems, because:


"…it postulates an endless series of causes and effects regressing to 'who knows where?'" [Ibid., p.7.]


One implication of such 'externalist' theories of causation is that they:


"…leave the ultimate cause of events outside the events they describe. The cause is external to the system." [Ibid., p.7.]


On this account, CAR seems to imply (overtly or covertly) that, for instance, the universe had an external cause or origin --, something that clearly has unacceptable theistic implications (to which Lenin alluded, as we saw earlier):


"[N]ature forms a totality, which it must unless we depart from materialism completely and become believers in the supernatural…." [Ibid., p.78.]


However, with respect to other theorists who adopt various forms of 'externalism', Rees asserts that they:


"…often find themselves courting semi-mystical explanations of original cause." [Ibid., p.78.]


Indeed, Trotsky went even further, arguing that:


"Whoever denies the dialectical law of the transition of quantity into quality…must, in the last analysis, turn back to the biblical act of creation." [Trotsky (1986), p.113.]6


Rees's solution to this problem is to counterpose his own brand of 'internalism' as a fully adequate explanation of causation and change (but clearly not of the origin of the universe).7 This is because 'internalism' is based on the idea that:


"…the cause of change [lies] within the system…and it cannot be conceived on the model of linear cause and effect…. If change is internally generated, it must be a result of contradiction, of instability and development as inherent properties of the system itself." [Rees (1998), p.7.]


Furthermore, a system that appeals to a linear series of causes is inferior to one that does not; this is because:


"[It offers a] mere description, not explanation; the what, but not the how or the why." [Ibid., p.7.]8


Despite this, Rees never really explains how an 'internalist' account of the Universe side-steps the need for a deistic or theistic explanation of origins. If, as some like Spinoza believe, there is only one (immanent) substance constitutive of nature (which is 'God'), then 'internalism' cant be an effective bulwark against theism.


Moreover, Rees and other dialecticians have done nothing to show that an external cause of the universe can't also be a natural cause. Of course, if the following (suppressed?) premisses were added to the account:


P1: Nature is co-extensive with the universe,


P2: Anything external to the universe is supernatural,


that possibility would indeed have been excluded. But, since there is no empirical way of establishing the truth of P1 or P2, their veracity may only be 'justified' definitionally -- perhaps even stipulatively. However, once accepted, either or both of them would, of course, brand DM as a conventionalist (or perhaps even a subjectivist) theory.9


Anyway, even if the cause of the development of nature were internal, it would still be possible to ask whether the whole system had a cause -- as, for example, Thomist theologians do. And, whatever other fatal weaknesses their 'theories' have, Thomists don't appeal to "bad infinities".10


Furthermore, since DM-theorists themselves have inherited their theory of development from Hegel (albeit re-worked and then allegedly given a materialist 'flip') -- who was openly offering both an 'internalist' and a non-standard theistic account of reality -- it is a little rich of dialecticians pointing fingers at other theorists, accusing them of the very thing that their own theory had originally been predicated upon, before 'inversion'.


So, it rather looks like 'internalism' is itself compatible with AIDS, and hence with mystical versions of Christianity (and, of course, with Hermetic Philosophy in general), after all.


[Hegel's Hermetic intellectual influences and roots are outlined here).]


[AIDS = Absolute Idealism.]



Contradictions Begin 'Who Knows Where?'


Now, Rees left it entirely unclear how 'internalism' could provide the sort of explanation that CAR's linear externalism supposedly failed to deliver. Non-linear 'internalist' causal chains seem to be just as incapable of answering "how" and "why" questions as those that are both 'linear' and 'externalist'.


Of course, in the final analysis, this all depends on what is to be counted as an explanation. In Hegel's case, an 'explanation' had to be 'ultimate', or "rational", in order for it to count as genuinely 'philosophical'. That is partly why he took such a dislike to "bad infinities"; they seemed to him to be entirely 'irrational'.


But, if "bad" infinities are all that nature has to offer (that is, if there simply are no ultimate explanations to be had for anything, even if we knew what an 'ultimate explanation' could possibly look like), materialists will just have to get used to it. It would be foolish of them to emulate Hegel's mystical approach to knowledge and expect an ultimate account where there is none to be had. We certainly can't rule "bad infinities" out in such an a priori way, or just because they throw a spanner in Hegel's neat, 'rationalist' picture of reality -- a world-view Hegel himself inherited from his Hermetic and NeoPlatonic predecessors, anyway.


And, why should anything (let alone everything) have an 'ultimate explanation'? Where did the expectation that there ought to be an ultimate explanation itself come from? In fact, did it not arise from the very same misapprehension and projection that Feuerbach located in Christianity (and religion in general) -- in alienated thought?


And, of course, this world-view itself (i.e., the idea that there are, or can be, 'ultimate explanations' of anything) is an ideologically necessary component if the ruling-classes are to carry on 'ruling in the same old way'. That is because an 'ultimate explanation' can't be accessible to the senses, but must be derived from thought alone -- otherwise it wouldn't be ultimate and hence would itself need accounting for. In that case, such an explanation has to relate to or rely upon 'rational' principles, which somehow inhabit a hidden, abstract world anterior to the material universe we see around us. Ruling-class ideologues have always viewed the world this way; the material universe can't be sufficient to itself, or there would be no 'rational order', hence no 'rationale' for the status quo, no 'god'-ordained 'justification' for gross inequality, oppression and exploitation. And that is why this "ruling idea" has dominated every single intellectual and religious tradition, across every known class society, right across the planet throughout human history:


"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch." [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65. Quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]


[In Essays Twelve and Fourteen, these issues will be addressed in more detail. Summaries here and here.]


If so, this entire issue needs to be approached by Marxists with a little more circumspection than has hitherto been the case. Rather than simply up-ending Hegel (in order to put his theory 'on its feet', or otherwise), revolutionaries should long ago have given him the material boot.


Moreover, if "explanation" here means providing a HEX-like account of everything, then DM fails even in this regard. As we have already seen, HEX-type theories are impossible to construct -- being infinitary at both ends.11 In which case, it rather looks like dialectics can't answer "how" or "why" questions, either.


Indeed, as we shall see throughout this site, beyond trivialities, DM can't answer any questions at all.





Yet More Dialectical Equivocation


In Essay Seven it was asserted that DM-theorists equivocate over what they mean by "internal opposite". Sometimes they seem to mean "physically, or spatially internal", at others, "logically internal". In the latter case, an "internal opposite" implies the nature and existence of, and is interconnected with, its dialectical "opposite"; in the former, this seems not to be the case. [On several more serious difficulties this equivocation presents dialecticians, see here.]


Here, for example, is Kuusinen:


"By a dialectical contradiction Marxism understands the presence in a phenomena or process of opposite, mutually exclusive aspects which, at the same time presuppose each other and within the framework of the given phenomenon exist only in mutual connection." [Kuusinen (1961), p.93.] 


The link between 'dialectical opposites' here is clearly logical.


By way of contrast, the link in the following isn't:


"A developing thing has within it the embryo of something else. It contains within itself its own antithesis, a negating element which prevents it from remaining inert and immutable. It contains an objective contradiction; opposite tendencies operate within it and a mutual counteraction or 'struggle' of opposites forces or sides takes place, leading eventually to the resolution of the contradiction, to a radical, qualitative change of the thing." [Ibid., p.96.]


Here, these 'contradictions' are internal to a body, which makes this a spatial relation.


Afanasyev is even clearer:


"The interaction, the struggle of opposites of a given object make up its internal contradictions. The contradictory relations of a given object to its environment are its external contradictions....


"Both internal and external contradictions are inherent in objects and phenomena of the material world, but internal contradictions, those within the object itself, are the principle contradictions that are decisive in development, for they are the man source of movement. Motion, as understood by Marxist dialecticians, is the self-motion of matter, internal motion, whose driving forces or impulses are contained within the developing objects and phenomena themselves." [Afanasyev (1968), p.98. Bold emphases alone added.]


This isn't to suggest that DM-theorists don't interlink these two conceptions of the relation between 'dialectical opposites' in a 'contradiction', or build a wall between them; far from it. Here, for example, is Konstantinov:


"Any object, being a relatively independent system, has its own internal contradictions, which are in fact the basic source of its development. The differences between several such objects are external contradictions. These are closely connected with the internal contradictions, and interact with them. If we regard an object as an element of a larger system which includes other objects, the contradictions between such objects become internal contradictions, that is, contradictions of the given, larger system. For instance, the relationships between the socialist and the capitalist systems are external contradictions. But inasmuch as these opposed systems are part of a wider, all-embracing hole -- contemporary society -- they are aspects of the internal contradictions of contemporary world development, the basic, major contradiction determining th development of social phenomena in our epoch." [Konstantinov et al (1974), p.150. Bold emphasis added.]   


However, this only serves to confirm an earlier observation: DM-theorists view such contradictions spatially; only if an 'external contradiction' is viewed this way could it change into an 'internal contradiction', now regarded as part of a wider system. Logical relations, it would seem, don't change in this way. Consider and example used by dialecticians to illustrate a logical connection: that between father and son/daughter. The use of "father" implies the individual concerned has a son or a daughter. These terms, so we are told, are 'internally connected'. But this logical connection isn't affected by spatial relations. If the son or daughter climbs into a rocket and heads off to the Moon, their father still remains their father. In like manner, the relation between capitalist and worker is 'internal', too, and the alleged 'contradiction' between these classes is also held to be logical (that is in a 'dialectical' sense of "logical"): each term, indeed, each class, implies the other. A capitalist couldn't be a capitalist unless he/she employed workers, and vice versa. This logical connection means that the contradiction between capitalist and worker is inherent in their relationship; it is an 'internal contradiction', which can only be broken in a classless society.


As I have put this point in Essay Eleven Part Two:


Of course, it could be argued (indeed, it is argued by those fond of talking this way) that there is an "internal" relationship at work in Capitalist society, which, for example, organically connects members of various classes to the system as a whole, and to members of other classes....


Furthermore, using an 'internal relation' that DM-fans themselves employ: suppose that capitalist, C1, goes on a trip across the globe, all the while remaining the owner of her company back in, say, Paris, France. In that case, would she be any less of a capitalist with each mile she travels away from her home country? Are the relations of production and ownership separation-distance-sensitive? Would her employees be more, or less, workers as a result?


Of course, no one imagines that class or economic relations can be reduced to the links between their 'parts' taken severally...but it is nevertheless the case that C1 will rightly be classified as a capitalist by her legal/ownership connections with items that are interconnected by the relations of production and ownership. In that case, distance won't affect these relations -- nor her, nor her employees, in these respects. Taken severally or collectively, such things aren't governed by inverse square laws.


In that case, it doesn't seem possible to change an 'internal contradiction' (logically so conceived) into an 'external contradiction' without undermining its logical status, and hence rendering it merely spatial. By running these two sorts of 'contradiction' together, we end up undermining the entire notion. [On that, see here and here. Also see Note 26.]


So, in what follows, I will explore the ramifications of this confusion where it resurfaces in this DM-distinction between 'internal' and 'external contradictions'.


We have already seen that there appears to be a serious problem with Lenin's claim that change is internally-motivated, and that things can move themselves.


But, on the other hand there also seem to be several ways this problem might be resolved -- and in favour of Lenin. Consider the following options:


(1) Lenin and other DM-theorists were speaking non-literally.


(2) They didn't mean what they said.


(3) An appeal to internal contradictions doesn't rule out external causation -- the two are 'dialectically' interconnected. The important point is to concentrate on the system within which things change and develop.


(4) Lenin's words can be re-interpreted so that they apply only to self-moving objects (if there are any), but to nothing else.


However, in this Essay I won't be considering options (1) and (2); anyone desperate enough to clutch at these two straws should find reconciling The Book of Genesis and modern science relatively easy in comparison.


The most promising line of defence seems to be that offered by (3) -- with (4) held in reserve, just in case.


Indeed, Rees himself seems to have opted for (3). Hence, on the one hand he argued that:


"The cause of change [lies] within the system…and it cannot be conceived on the model of linear cause and effect…. If change is internally generated, it must be a result of contradiction, of instability and development as inherent properties of the system itself." [Rees (1998), p.7.]


"[T]he natural and social world [form] a single totality developing over time as a result of its internal contradictions." [Ibid., p.285.]


On the other, he reminded us of Lenin's claim that:


"Development is the 'struggle' of opposites." [Ibid., p.186; quoting Lenin (1961), p.358. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


In the above, it looks like Rees means "internal" in the topological or spatial sense mentioned above. So, an "internal contradiction" is one that merely operates within a body or system -- same with the second Kuusinen quote.


So, at first sight it seems that the apparent disparity here -- between the claim that change is internally-generated and the idea that change is induced by opposites (factors/forces) external to a system, process or body -- could be reconciled by noting that the Totality is a "mediated" whole in which the parts mutually condition one another as UOs -- with these interpreted, perhaps, as "antagonistic forces".12


In that case, opposites so conceived wouldn't in fact simply be 'external' to a particular system, since the relation between them would be 'internal' to the wider system of which they form a part. [As noted earlier, this is indeed a point developed by several STDs.]


Or, so the argument might go.


[UO = Unity of Opposites; STD = Stalinist Dialectician.]


Naturally, this raises questions (which will also need exploring) about the connection between "external contradictions" and the "logically-internal contradictions" mentioned above. If such "external contradictions" turn out to be the same as "logically-internal contradictions", then the distinction dialecticians draw between "internal" and "external" 'contradictions' would seem rather empty. In that case, any attempt to rescue Lenin by an appeal to "external contradictions" must fail, since, in that case, everything that develops and/or moves will do so only as a result of "internal contradictions" of two apparently different kinds --, which aren't really different when these superficial labels are removed --; the two different kinds being (a) "external contradictions", which are in fact disguised or mis-identified "logically-internal contradictions", and (b) genuinely "external contradictions", which don't actually turn out to be "logically-internal contradictions", after all, merely "spatially external" to some body or system.


On the other hand, if these "external contradictions" aren't "logical contradictions", then Hegel's response to Hume's criticism of rationalist theories of causation must fail. This in turn means that dialecticians would now have no theory of change that goes beyond the "constant conjunction" of events (as these were pictured in Hume's theory).


[Several of the above issues will be explored in more detail in Essay Three Part Five. In the meantime, see Note 17 and Note 22.]


Despite this, the above response still fails to resolve a number of difficulties.


From what Rees says, all change is internally-driven. But, if that were so, no object could have any effect on any other. Conversely, if objects do have an effect on each other, all change can't be internally-driven.


In fact, if Lenin were correct, and every change was the result of a "struggle of opposites", those opposites would have to be internal to bodies, or processes, but not external to either. We met this problem in Essay Seven Part One (here).


But, if such opposites are external to the relevant bodies and/or processes, then, clearly, it wouldn't be correct to say that all change is internally-driven.


On the other hand, if these opposites are internal to some system or other, then, plainly, one system would have no effect on any other -- unless they were both internal and external to each other at the same time (but how?), or perhaps internal to some other (third and larger?) system, which itself contained everything relevant to such changes.13


[It is worth reminding ourselves that when Hegelians speak of "internal relations", they are not talking about spatial relations, but dialectical-logic relations. Hence, it could be objected that the discussion above seems to ignore this important fact. However, as pointed out earlier, this is because Dialectical Marxists do the same -- or, at least, they appear so to do. This is, of course, what lies behind all that dialectical talk about "external pushes" that dialecticians attribute to mechanical materialism, which doctrine they say implies there must be an external cause of the universe. This "external" 'push' certainly looks both spatial and non-logical.


Nevertheless, this supposedly serious defect (or omission) will be rectified as this Essay proceeds (particularly here), and in Essays Eight Part Three, Eleven Parts One and Two (especially here and here) -- but more fully in Essays Three Part Five and Four Part Two (when they have been finished).]


[MIST = Maoist Dialectician.]


Now, this problem seems to have arisen because of the stark, un-dialectical contrast drawn above between what is internal to an object, process or system, and what is external to it. [It is also worth recalling here that this distinction was introduced by STDs and MISTs in their attempt to 'justify' the doctrine of 'socialism in one country', which is why Trotskyist dialecticians, by-and-large, appear to have ignored it (although Trotsky himself alluded to it). In that case, of course, they have made it much more difficult to rescue Lenin's theory of 'self-movement' from absurdity. And before the former (STDs and MISTs) begin to gloat, the distinction itself seems to be unviable anyway -- that is, in addition to the many problems it faces, which have been noted in this Essay.]


And yet, according to DM, objects, processes and systems in nature are all part of a mediated Totality, and mediation seems to blur the distinction between what is internal and what is external to any or all of these. [That is the point of the reference to "misperception" in D4, below.] For example, what is logically external to a body or process could be spatially internal or external to it/them, and the same could be true of what is logically internal, too. But, universal, mediated interconnection seems to run across these distinctions, making them appear either pointless or empty.


And, it is little use referring to the level of analysis, the level of abstraction, or the level of explanation at work here -- which might mean that what might appear to be "external" one minute could appear "internal" the next, as these levels are changed (which seems to be the line that Konstantinov, for example, might what to pursue) -- since, that would mean that the external world is sensitive to what we know, or can say, about it. In an Idealist system, this would present no problem, but no materialist theory can live with that conclusion. The world is what it is independently of what we know or say about it, surely?


Be this as it may, and once again: there would seem to be little point making such a fuss about the internal cause of change if in the end causes 'dialectically-external' to a given body or system also mediate it, and contribute to its development. In that case, Rees might just as well have said:


"The cause of change [lies] both within the system and without…and it can and it can't be conceived on the model of linear cause and effect…. If change is internally and externally generated, it must be a result of contradiction, of instability and development of internal and external properties of the system itself." [Edited misquotation of Rees (1998), p.7. Italic emphases added.]


And Lenin should have said:


"Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in 'self-movement' and in movement by external forces (as Hegel nowhere puts it)…." [Edited misquotation of Lenin (1921), p.90. Bold emphases in the original.]


Which would rather ruin the point, one feels.


Worse still, if change were externally-driven, that would leave the universe open to external influence, too, allowing 'God' to sneak back in through a side door. What is there now to stop a non-Marxist 'Dialectical Mystic' from claiming that 'God' created all the UOs in nature, and started the whole thing off with a Big 'outside' push -- or 'Bang'?14


On the other hand, and once more: if objects and processes, systems and sub-systems are all internally-driven, then they can have no effect on each other. And, if that is so, equally, there seems to be no point in stressing the mediated nature of the Totality.


Whichever way we turn, we seem to hit a dialectically un-yielding brick wall.


But, once again, perhaps even this is a little too quick?



Atomism Returns To Haunt DM


Beginning again, afresh: the DM-Totality itself seems to be a Mega-system that contains many sub-systems. I say "seems" here because, as we will find out in Essay Eleven Parts One and Two, it is far from easy to decide what dialecticians themselves think their 'Totality' either is or contains.15


If so, and as we are about to find out, DM-theorists face a serious, possibly fatal, dilemma: either every single thing in their universe is made of simple but eternally changeless objects, or they are composed of sub-systems that can't interact.


However, before I substantiate the above assertion, a couple of preliminary points need to be made -- I hasten to add that I am not endorsing the following ideas, they are merely being explored to try to make sense of this part of DM:


(1) I shall count a system as any object or process that is made of simpler interconnected proper parts. For example, an atom is made of a nucleus and 'orbiting' electrons; the solar system, of a centrally-placed sun and orbiting planets, and so on --, each of which is a sub-system in its own right. A sub-system is a system which is also a proper part of another system. By "system-specific" I mean processes (geometrically or topologically) internal to a given system or sub-system.


A proper part is a part that is less than, or is not identical with, the part of which it is a part; alternatively, if a is a proper part of b, then b is not a part of a, nor is it equal to a.


I am, of course, referring to systems that aren't mere agglomerations (so-called 'Mereological Universalism'), but unified and internally interconnected wholes. [On this see Simons (1987), Varzi (2015), and van Cleve (2008).]


(2) A simple object is one that has no parts, and, in view of the above, isn't therefore a system. Apparently, electrons and photons are elementary particles, but whether they are metaphysically simple is unclear. [On this, see Castellani (1998).]


(3) This means that nature is composed of at most two sorts of 'entities': systems and simple objects -- or, to use the jargon: complexes and simples, (or, to use the jargon about the jargon, "mereological simples"). We needn't assume that these are mutually exclusive categories, nor that there actually are any simple objects (which aren't further divisible), only that there might be.


Now, the reasons for saying that either everything in the DM-universe is made (1) Of simple but eternally changeless objects, or it is composed (2) Of sub-systems that can't interact can be summarised in the following series of connected, informal propositions (which. I think, include all the relevant possibilities appertaining to systems, objects, change and interaction):15a


D1: Change is internal to systems. Objects and processes in each system mutually condition one another (as UOs).


D2: Change (to objects and processes) is internally-driven, not externally-motivated.


D3: Objects within systems change because of their internal relations and/or contradictions.


D4: On the one hand: Objects in a particular system don't have external relations with one another. What appear to be external links are in fact misperceived or misidentified internal relations.16


D5: Systems themselves can't affect each other except by their own internal inter-systemic relations of the above D4-sort.


D6: Alternatively: Individual and separate systems can't have such an effect on one another, otherwise change wouldn't be wholly internal to a particular system.


D7: Hence, single objects and/or processes can't be systems, otherwise they couldn't influence each other (by D6).


D8: On the other hand, once more, objects and processes must be sub-systems (and hence systems in their own right), since they are composed of an indefinite (possibly infinite) number of their own sub-units (molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles, and so on). But even then, as systems themselves, objects and processes couldn't exert an influence one another (again, by D6).


D9: This means that at some point there must be simple units of 'matter' that aren't themselves systems. Otherwise, if everything were system-like (or, if all that exists were composed of sub-sub-sub-…systems, to infinity) nothing could have any effect on anything else (by D6) -- that is, if all change is internally-motivated.


D10: But, if there were such simple units (i.e., if these hypothesised 'simples' have no 'parts', and hence aren't systems themselves) they would be changeless. If that weren't the case, given the DM-theory of change, these 'simple' units would have to be UOs themselves (thus they wouldn't be simple, after all), and would be subject to their own internally-driven development. Moreover, if these 'simples' were changeless, they could have no effect on one another (or they wouldn't be changeless). Indeed, it isn't easy to see how a 'simple' could change in any way at all -- other than by a rearrangement among themselves.


D11: Hence, reality is either (a) composed of a (possibly) infinite hierarchy of systems that have no influence on each other, or it is (b) composed of fundamental (non-system-like) objects that are changeless and have no effect on anything.


However, as I have pointed out in Essay Seven Part Three (slightly edited), the idea that matter can be infinitely divided and that at each level there are 'internal contradictions' (or inner opposing "tendencies") that drive change, at each further stage down -- even in the smallest particles of matter -- creates insuperable problems:


This implies that every single change must involve a potentially infinite number of "tendencies" within "tendencies" within "tendencies". Let us suppose it does imply this, and that each interaction between these inner "tendencies" takes, say, 10-10 seconds to act (i.e., each takes one ten-billionth of a second). Let us further suppose that there is a series of, say, 10100 of these "tendencies" within "tendencies" within "tendencies". Now, even though this number is huge (i.e., it is one followed by a hundred zeros, and called a Googol), it is way short of infinity. But, let us suppose there is this number of such inner, inner "tendencies" involved in each 'dialectical' change of, or to, an object/process into its opposite. If these changes (to those inner, inner "tendencies") each take 10-10 seconds to complete, then any single change of, or to, an object/process into its opposite (i.e., A into not-A) will take 10-10 x 10100 = 1090 seconds to complete. If a year is 60 x 60 x 24 x 365 = 31,536,000 seconds, then each such change will take 1090/31,536,000 = 3.171 x 1083 years to complete -- that is, approximately 3 followed by 83 zeros, years! If we now take into consideration the latest estimate of the age of the universe --  at approximately 14 billion years (that is, 14 followed by nine zeros) --, then each 'dialectical change' -- even assuming there isn't an infinite series of these inner, inner "tendencies" -- would take approximately 2 x 1073 (i.e., 2 followed by 73 zeros) times longer to happen than the entire length of time that has elapsed since the 'Big Bang'!


On the other hand, an infinite series of these inner, inner "tendencies" will take an infinite number of years to complete. The 'dialectical' universe would grind to a halt just as soon as it 'began'.


Of course, if there isn't an infinite number of these inner, inner "tendencies", then at some point there will be a "tendency", B*, that changes into another "tendency", B** (or even into not-/non-B*) that won't itself have been caused, or initiated, by a struggle of still further inner, inner "tendencies". At this point, the theory would collapse, since it would then be obvious that any change (every one of which must begin with this very last uncaused "tendency" to change) will have been uncaused, and which would thus just 'happen'. In that case, since any and all changes must begin with this first 'uncaused change', 'dialectical change' won't ultimately be the result of a struggle between 'opposites', but will just happen spontaneously, and will thus have had no 'dialectical cause'. The DM-classics would stand refuted, once more.


Be this as it may, both horns of this dilemma 'contradict' (rather appropriately, one feels) all we appear to know about nature. Is there any way to avoid this fatal conclusion? Could there be a 'dialectical' way out of this DM-cul-de-sac?


Perhaps we should start again with a consideration of the following propositions (wherein "T" stands for "Totality", or "the Totality", depending on the context):


D12: Change is a result of "internal contradictions".


D13: Objects within T change only because of this internal dynamic.


D14: Reality is a mediated T; change is a consequence of a 'struggle' between opposites.


D15: No element of reality can be considered in isolation; all mutually condition one another.


However, D12 is ambiguous. The word "change" could mean:


(1) "Systematic change" (that is, it could mean "change internal to a particular system"); or it could mean:


(2) "Change internal to an object" -- as it does in D13 -– leaving it unclear whether or not this sort of change is wider-ranging, involving inter-objective or trans-systematic change.


Nevertheless, D13 seems clear enough:


D13: Objects within T change only because of this internal dynamic.


This clearly states that change arises only as a result of a dynamic internal to objects.


But, if that were so, it would once again be difficult to see what influence objects could have on each other. If change is internal to an object, then the relations it supposedly enjoys with other objects would be irrelevant in this respect -- ex hypothesi, they could have no impact on the changes the latter underwent. This seems to imply that objects must be self-caused or self-motivated beings (indeed, as Lenin "demanded").


Once more however, whatever changes an object undergoes -- since they are exclusively internally-generated -- they can't be a function of the relations which that object enjoys with other objects, otherwise the cause of change wouldn't be internal to the said object, but external, after all -- and thus not the least bit 'rational' (since this would imply a "bad/spurious infinity").17


On the other hand, if change is internal to a system of mediated objects or processes, then it can't be the sole result of a dynamic internal to the objects in that system, but must be a function both of the inter-systematic relations between systems and bodies and of the 'internal contradictions' within those systems or bodies themselves.


Furthermore, if change is system-specific (that is, if it is internal to, and solely confined within systems), then the relations between those systems would become problematic, once more. Clearly, change can't be exclusively system-specific if different systems are to have an actual effect on one another.


The question is, which of these is the correct account? Is change: (A) The result of a dynamic internal to systems? (B) Is it internal to objects? Or, (C) Is it a consequence of the external effects bodies have on each other?


[It is worth noting that Option (C) in fact allows change to be internal to systems even while it remains external to the bodies forming that system.]


Is therefore change body-specific, system-specific, or is it inter-systematic?


Or, is it: (D) A complex combination of all three?


But: if (D) were the case, what would be the point of saying that change is motivated internally (in bodies, processes or systems) if it is also externally-driven?


On the other hand, why say that everything is interconnected if change is exclusively internally-generated, and the alleged interconnections between systems or bodies have no part to play?


Up until now, DM-theorists appear not to have noticed these serious difficulties implied by their 'theory' of change. Since DM is supposed to be the philosophy of change, clearly this isn't a minor flaw, one that can easily be ignored or dismissed.18



President Nixon Saves The Day


It could be objected that it is possible to resolve these problems by referring to the 'dialectical' interplay between objects and processes (i.e., between 'internal' and 'external' contradictions'), or even the interconnections within and between systems.


But, beyond offering merely a verbal gesture, this vastly overworked response doesn't actually provide any clear answers to the above questions -- not, that is, unless it turns out that objects themselves are in fact disguised systems. Clearly, this would, and does mean that objects aren't really simple, but are composed of their own interconnected parts.


But, as noted above, if that were so, the contrast between external and internal causation would disappear, and DM-'internalism' would become either an empty notion or a meaningless mantra. [It would also lead to the universe coming to a grinding halt (as we saw above).]


There seems to be little point in emphasising that change is internally-generated if it is externally-motivated, too (no matter how much this is fluffed-up with the usual 'dialectical' jargon) -- still less any point in arguing for the internal development of objects if they are in fact interconnect sub-systems themselves, subject to external constraints.


One might just as well try to defend theism by claiming that whereas, on the one hand, the universe is self-caused and needs no creator or external cause, on the other, Divine Logic "insists" that it does indeed possess an external cause, and that 'He/She/It' (i.e., 'God') is 'dialectically related' to the world (with that particular phrase left conveniently and permanently obscure). If such a theist then played the "Nixon" card,19 and claimed that Divine Logic enables its adepts to "grasp" this 'explanation' as a 'dialectical solution' to the "mystery of creation", we wouldn't be all that impressed, and rightly so.


Well, what is sauce for the Deist, is surely sauce for the DM-ist, too. We should no more be inclined to accept the word of a Theological Mystic who claimed he/she could 'solve' the 'contradiction' between the universe having an internal (but no external) cause, and the (alleged) fact that it actually did have an external cause, after all, than we should be prepared to do the same when DM-theorists concoct a similarly obscure 'explanation' expressed in dialectical jargon.


However, there is another obvious way of responding to the above criticisms: Interpret one particular strand of this DM-conundrum as committing believers to the view that only systematic change is driven by "internal contradictions".


But, that would immediately prompt the question: Of what are these systems themselves composed? If they, too, are composed of objects then plainly the above dilemma would simply reassert itself. Are these 'objects' (i) simple or are they (ii) complex sub-systems, too?


Considering (ii) first, if objects are to be edited out on the grounds that they are really systems (i.e., they are composed of (possibly) infinite sets of further sub-systems -- meaning that there is nothing fundamentally simple in reality), the entire edifice would collapse for want of bricks. If there are no objects, only systems, then there would seem to be nothing 'deep down' to condition anything else internal to any given system.20


D6: On the other hand, individual and separate systems can't have such an effect on one another, otherwise change wouldn't be wholly internal to a particular system.


But, if change is system-specific, according to D6 -- i.e., if change is internal, and confined to each sub-system --, then, once more: none of these sub-systems could interact, otherwise change wouldn't be system-specific.


Considering now option (i); conversely, if there are fundamental objects internal to systems, but which aren't themselves sub-systems (that is, if they are simple), even if they condition each other externally, they would possess no inner contradictory lives of their own (since, ex hypothesi, they would have no parts to be part of an 'internal contradiction'). But, as we have seen, this would imply that such objects are eternally changeless.21


On the other hand, again, if these supposedly fundamental objects conditioned each other externally, that would imply they had parts and weren't fundamental after all. [Why that is so is explained in Note 22.]22


So, unless the existence of simple objects -- which aren't systems themselves -- is countenanced, systems-as-such would have no 'bricks'. Alternatively, if systems are comprised of such 'bricks', reality must be fundamentally discrete. In that case, change will be externally-motivated since such simples would possess no internal contradictions of their own -- although, as Note 22 established, simple objects can't interact externally, anyway!


So, if objects aren't systems, they don't have an internal structure and aren't therefore UOs. Unfortunately, once more, this option would rule out interaction, for reasons outlined earlier (and in Notes 17, 21, 22, and 23).


On the other hand, again, if there are no such 'bricks' (no 'simple objects'), and nature is system-like 'all the way down', as it were, then these systems can't interact, unless we admit that change is externally-motivated, after all.


This means that the dilemma that faced classical Ontology now confronts DM; the fundamental constituents of reality must be either:


(1) Extensionally significant bodies of matter (or energy). This option preserves the systematic nature of reality (since it allows for the indefinite divisibility of parts, treating them as infinitary systems themselves subject to endless sub-division). Or:


(2) Fundamentally changeless atoms (or extensionless points). This alternative safeguards the objects at the expense of the 'unity of nature'.


In the second case, reality would be composed of finitely (or 'infinitely'?) small but eternal 'billiard balls'; in the first instance, everything would be made of an infinitely thin/abstract sort of 'gas'/'plasma' (not itself made out of anything else). Either way, causation would disappear, for nothing could have an effect on anything else in either set-up.23


Of course, as noted above, the DM-'solution' to this (Kantian) antinomy -- following Hegel -- is to "grasp" it as a "contradiction". This handy logical trick clearly 'solves' everything by Nixoning it, which is a convenient escape route that DM-advocates reserve for their own exclusive use; no one else is permitted to take advantage of this thoroughly dishonest argumentative dodge.


However, this disingenuous approach to philosophical problems doesn't succeed in achieving what it was set up to evade (i.e., the glaring contradictions in DM itself). That is because it is still unclear how anything can be fundamentally atomic -- and hence maximally causally isolated from the rest of nature -- while at the same time being thoroughly systematic and interconnected with everything else in existence. The DM-account of causation seems to imply both!


Instead of wanting to 'grasp' a monumental confusion of this order of magnitude, DM-theorists should rightly want to disown it.



Another Rescue Attempt


At any rate, the above "grasped" non-solution means that yet another serious difficulty DM-theorists face must be resolved on their behalf.


To this end, we need to re-consider D12-D15 (in particular D14) in more detail (wherein "T" stands for "Totality", or "the Totality", depending on the context).


D12: Change is a result of "internal contradictions".


D13: Objects within T change only because of this internal dynamic.


D14: Reality is a mediated T; change is a consequence of a 'struggle' between opposites.


D15: No element of reality can be considered in isolation; all mutually condition one another.


Unfortunately, as we have seen, D15 creates serious problems for D14, for if change is inter-systematic then it is hard to see how the 'contradictions' internal to any sub-system of T can contribute to the wider picture. As noted above, their influence doesn't stretch beyond the boundaries of that system; but if that is so, it is difficult to see how systems could be interconnected. In the end, it all depends on how wide-ranging inter-systematic change is taken to be -- and how the internal dynamic of each sub-system of T is conceived. Consider, therefore, the following possibilities:


D16: Let T comprise n disjoint sub-systems, S1 to Sn.24


D17: Also, let change to any Sk-th sub-system of T be a result of its "internal contradictions".


D16 and D17 seem to be essential moves for DM-theorists to make, otherwise, the yawning chasm of HEX might imply remote causation (on this, see Essay Ten Part One) -- which we have good reason to question (on this, see Essays Seven and Eleven Part One). Anyway, change to any Sk-th item must be internally-driven (according to D12 and D13); if not, the following infinite inflation would threaten to unfold:


D18: Change in any Sk-th element is a result of its "internal contradictions" and of its relations with m other elements or sub-systems within T (where m < n).


D19: Change to these m elements or sub-systems of T is a result of their own "internal contradictions" and of their relations with p other elements or sub-systems of T (where p < n), and so on.


As will readily be appreciated, D19 threatens to expand rapidly into another HEX-like proposition (if the sub-systems of T are held to be disjoint), at the same time as undermining D12 and D13.25


This explains why the compartmentalisation of T -– noted in D17 -- was so important. Without it, D14 and D15 would support some rather odd ideas, such as the following: the latest (2005) UK New Labour majority in Parliament was partly caused by insignificant changes in the density of minute pockets of Hydrogen gas in the large Magellanic Cloud precisely 601.345266789309865789024354685 million years ago, and vice versa.


Moreover, this would also be true at every other moment in universal history (past, present, and future)! Similarly, and even more bizarrely, this would implicate every other event in universal history (at every moment, past and present) with the aforementioned Labour majority, and vice versa.26


While New Labour supporters may be permitted the view that their recent victory was historic, even they might balk at the cosmic significance it appears to assume given this overly-inflated view of interconnectedness. Even if anyone was credulous enough to believe this unlikely scenario, there is no way it could be verified; it would thus have to be imposed on reality.26a


And, it will not do to argue that dialecticians assent only to the 'relative' interconnectedness of objects and processes in reality, not their absolute inter-relatedness, as the above seems to allege. That dodge has been neutralised here.


Clearly, the difficulty in this case revolves around the problem of specifying the dimensions, boundaries and sphere of influence of each Sk. But, how do we decide the extent to which T should be partitioned into non-interacting sub-systems? And, where do we stop? Unless we are careful, this attempt to forestall HEX is in danger of collapsing back into CAR, as the permissible sub-elements of T become increasingly microscopic. Is there any way of preventing this collapse? Unfortunately, in the absence of 'objective' criteria, any partitioning of T must, it seems, be arbitrary. If we partition T into n elements, why not 2n, or even 10n?


In that case, it rather looks like DM has its own "bad infinity" -- which stops (and starts) "who knows where?"


The choice before DM-fans now appears to lie between one or more of the following options:


(a) Full-blown HEX with its incipient scepticism and its destructive implications for science.


(b) The partitioning of T in order to avoid HEX, accompanied by an attempt to scratch around for an ad hoc principle that limits the size of n in order to avoid a collapse back into CAR.


(c) A compartmentalisation of T that rules out universal "mediation".


(d) An admission that DM has its own "bad infinity", but now in both directions (i.e., down the CAR-brick road and along the HEX-rated route).


(e) The concession that the cause  of change isn't internal to bodies or systems.


Of course, the adoption of (d) would remove whatever motivation or rationale there might once have been for rejecting CAR in the first place.



Retreat Into The Concrete Bunker?


Admittedly, D12-D19 are abstract in form, whereas dialecticians in general make it perfectly clear that it is only as a result of examining concrete examples or situations that the precise details of systematic change may be understood and verified. Perhaps this is the problem with the above criticisms?


Indeed, as TAR notes:


"Contradiction is, therefore, the form of the explanation…. [This is] because the explanation itself will depend on the concrete, empirical conditions that obtain…. The exact contradictions and the working out of those contradictions will vary accordingly." [Rees (1998), p.7.]


Unfortunately, this caveat fails to neutralise the difficulties outlined above. According to DM, the material world is independent of our knowledge of it. In that case, whether we are aware of it or not -- given this view -- one or other, or more, of D12-D15, or of (a) to (e) above, must obtain.


Anyway, the 'abstract' analysis applied to T can be adapted and extended to any "concrete situation" depicting actual events. Consider, therefore, the following:


D20: Let C be a concrete situation comprising n disjoint elements or sub-systems C1 to Cn.


D21: Also, let change to any Ck-th sub-system or element of C be a result of its "internal contradictions".


D22: Hence, change in Ck isn't a consequence of its relations with any other Ci.


But, once again, D22 means that T can't be a mediated whole; if D22 were true, T's concrete sub-systems would exist in permanent causal isolation. This implies that D22 should perhaps be replaced by one of the following:


D23: Change in any Ck-th sub-system is a result of its relations with m other elements or sub-systems of C. Or,


D24: Change to C isn't a consequence of its relations with any other concrete sub-system of T.


Unfortunately, D24 would still mean that each C is a hermetically-sealed sub-unit of T, while D23 itself threatens to inflate into HEX if each C is extended or expanded widely enough --, and the mediationally-air-tight seals around it loosened, even slightly.


We needn't labour the point any further; D20-D24 can easily be adapted so that they mirror the problems created by D16-D19, above.


So, any attempt to retreat into a concrete bunker can't save DM. This entire approach either collapses it back into CAR (resulting in the postulation of what are in effect 'elementary particles', which don't interact and don't change), or it threatens to expand uncontrollably into HEX, contradicting D12 and D13. Hence, one or more of options (a) to (e) above still appear to be unavoidable.


Of course, these problems arose because DM-theorists -- in a thoroughly traditional fashion -- sought to provide an a priori metaphysical theory of causation -- and one that doesn't appear to have been thought-through with sufficient, or any, care) -- which they then peremptorily imposed on reality. Indeed, Rees himself appears to be quite happy to derive substantive truths about the world (as part of a formal -- or possibly as a permanently un-cashed 'concrete' -- promissory note) from the meaning of a few conveniently vague terms:


"…[T]he cause of change [lies] within the system…and it cannot be conceived on the model of linear cause and effect…. If change is internally generated, it must be a result of contradiction, of instability and development as inherent properties of the system itself." [Ibid., p.7. Bold emphasis added.]


Rees nowhere explains why change has to result from "internal contradictions" (or even why it can't arise from external conflict and/or tension, or a mixture of both), or just from "contradictions" simpliciter, or perhaps from something else. Nor does he explain how a contradiction could possibly make anything change.


[Since this entire topic was discussed at length in Essay Five (here) --, where, among other things, examples were given of objects and processes that remained the same even while they changed --, no more will be said about that particular topic in the present Essay.]


Other DM-theorists have attempted to derive similar results using their own brand of half-baked, a priori reasoning (examined in Part Two of this Essay, and in Essay Seven); these were linked to the supposed logical concomitants of change, wherein objects change because they turn into 'what-they-are-not', or because they already contain 'what-they-are-not'.27


However, suitably attentive readers will have noticed once again the dearth of "careful empirical" work offered in support of these bold DM-theses. Moreover, they will no doubt also have observed how substantive theses like these have been derived from the supposed meanings of a handful of words (such as, "opposite", "change", "contradiction" and "unity").


Plus ça change



Total Confidence


Word-Juggling Once More


It now looks like TAR's conclusions (and those reached by other dialecticians) are based only what words like "Totality", "abstract", "concrete", "opposite", and "change" (etc.) seem to mean.


In the first case, since the word "Totality" appears to mean "everything in the universe" (or "everything in existence"), it then appears obvious (to DM-fans, but not on the basis of any evidence -- it just looks 'self-evident') that the Totality can't be caused by anything 'outside' itself, otherwise such a cause would be part of the original whole, by definition. Consequently, simply because of what the word "Totality" appears to mean, Rees and other DM-theorists conclude that causation must be internal to whatever they have severally or collectively decided it must be internal to.


This can be seen from the way the way that Rees uses modal terms like "cannot" and "must":


"…[T]he cause of change [lies] within the system…and it cannot be conceived on the model of linear cause and effect…. If change is internally generated, it must be a result of contradiction, of instability and development as inherent properties of the system itself." [Ibid., p.7. Bold emphasis added.]


If this thesis were empirically-based, such modal terms wouldn't be needed. Indeed, if this theory were based on evidence, Rees would have written something like this:


"Evidence so far suggests that the cause of change lies within the system…and hence that it shouldn't be conceived on the model of linear cause and effect…. If change is internally generated, which viewpoint the available data supports, then it is reasonable to conclude that it is a result of contradiction, of instability and development in and between the observed properties of the system itself." [Edited re-write of ibid.]


Now that would be to take the following words seriously:


"'[The dialectic is not a] magic master key for all questions.' The dialectic is not a calculator into which it is possible to punch the problem and allow it to compute the solution. This would be an idealist method. A materialist dialectic must grow from a patient, empirical examination of the facts and not be imposed on them…." [Rees (1998), p.271. Bold emphases alone added.]


"[The laws of dialectics] 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 when no real historical knowledge is available." [Ibid., p.9. Bold emphasis added.]


Furthermore, since change involves an object or property becoming what-it-is-not (again, this too is assumed to be the case because of what certain words associated with change appear to mean -- on that, see here), change through contradiction is thought to have universal applicability.28


So, once more, from words alone another branch of 'Superscience' has emerged. Now, to most people, this might not seem such a big deal, but as we will see in Essay Twelve (summary here), and as both Rees and Novack point out, this tactic depends on an Idealist view of reality -- specifically that nature is Mind, or, it is just 'condensed language' -- and is thus governed by a priori, 'logico-linguistic laws', accessible to 'thought' alone.


Here is George Novack, again:


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


The fact that certain 'truths' about fundamental aspects of reality have been inferred from the meanings of certain words can be seen if we direct our attention to the answers that might be given to the following questions: How do DM-theorists know that the cause of change is always and only internal? How can they be so sure that change universally results only from contradictions? How do they know that the Totality is a mediated whole?


As seems clear, the only possible answer to such questions is that this sort of knowledge is either based on (1) What words like "Totality", "abstract", "concrete", "opposite", and "change" (etc.) really mean, or on (2) Whatever these concepts are thought to imply, etc.29


These (and other terms) are then used as part of an interpretative device that selects, sifts and then colours whatever 'evidence' is finally produced in their support (which, as we saw in Essay Seven, is sparse to the point of embarrassment), which in turn means that these concepts can't have been derived from experience or from a consideration of concrete events. These concepts and terms are far too general for that; but more importantly they aren't even phrased as if they depend on experience. Moreover, we have already seen that all those "insistences", "demands", "musts" and "requires" in DM-literature rule out the defence that DM is based on a tentative review of the available evidence.30


[AIDS = Absolute Idealism.]


The ease with which theses like these are regularly cobbled-together by dialecticians in its own way reflects on the totalising influence of AIDS: it is only because the world is (thought to be) 'rational' that a systematic DM-explanation of reality is possible.30a The alleged DM-inversion of the Hegelian Absolute -- with its associated 'logical' connections left in place --, which then promptly morphed into the DM-"Totality", accounts for the absolute confidence with which dialecticians think they can derive so much from so little. Because Hegel's system hasn't actually been up-ended, but left the same way up (with a few 'materialist-sounding' phrases plastered all over it), dialecticians have issued themselves with a licence to impose their own concepts on reality.31


If all that is real is rational, and all that is rational is real, a priori thesis-mongering like this makes perfect sense. The rest is, of course, simply window dressing, sold to the unwary with just enough 'dialectical spin', and a surfeit of tradition.


However, as DM-writers would also have us believe, not only is our present state of knowledge partial and relative, all future knowledge will always remain similarly incomplete. And yet, in the face of that slightly more honest admission, dialecticians are still quite happy to inform us what must be true of every atom in the entire Universe, and for all of time -- i.e., that everything must change because of its "internal contradictions".


This alone indicates their theory isn't dependent on evidence but has its source elsewhere -- in Mystical Hermetic Philosophy.



Contradictions And Change


Putting the above difficulties to one side for now, I propose to take D12-D15 at face value, but concentrate on D13-D15 (since they seem more closely to represent the DM-consensus) in order to try to rescue this part of 'Materialist Dialectics' from oblivion.


D12: Change is a result of 'internal contradictions'.


D13: Objects within T change only because of this internal dynamic.


D14: Reality is a mediated T; change is a consequence of a 'struggle' between opposites.


D15: No element of reality can be considered in isolation; all mutually condition one another.


However, D13 looks unnecessarily vague, so I will alter it to the following:


D25: Change within T is caused solely by its 'internal contradictions'.


[Where "T" refers to the "Totality", or "the Totality", depending on the context).]


The difficulty with this version of D13 is that it is still unclear what it means to say that 'contradictions' cause change (and thus motion) -- we have already seen in Essay Five that there are good reasons to question this idea.


However, in this connection Rees notes that Marx's criticism of Hegel's use of the term "contradiction" in effect involves replacing it with a consideration of the antagonistic relation between real material forces:


"Marx was, however, obliged to transform completely the terms of the dialectic when he altered its starting point from abstract concepts to real material forces. Mediation is no longer a peaceful process of reconciliation…. Contradictions are no longer between concepts but between real, material forces…. [Marx and Engels's analysis] starts out from real, material, empirically verifiable contradictions. The forces involved are not merely ideas or even ideologies, though these are also present, but real economic and political institutions, classes, and parties." [Rees (1998), pp.68-69, 83.]


As we shall see (in Part Two) this is the generally accepted view in DM-circles; that is, that material forces either represent, embody, or, in certain configurations, actually are contradictions.


Hence, on that basis, it could be argued that the discussion above is thoroughly misguided; indeed, it could even be maintained that the identification of contradictions with real material forces provides DM with a scientific and concrete interpretation -- one that identifies the material analogues of causation --, which completely refutes the objections advanced so far in this Essay, and elsewhere at this site.


In which case, D25 should perhaps be re-written as:


D26: Change within T is caused solely by internally-opposed material forces.


But, D26 isn't obviously true. Nature is full of forces of attraction, which don't even look oppositional. Of course, DM-theorists would be the first to admit that there are dynamic equilibria and/or disequilibria between attractive and repulsive forces in nature. D26, therefore, needs further adjustment:


D27: Change within T is caused solely by internal forces of attraction and repulsion.


[D25: Change within T is caused solely by 'internal contradictions'.]


However, it will be shown (in detail) in Part Two of this Essay that there is no interpretation of D27 that makes it equivalent to D25. It isn't even plausible to suppose that "forces of attraction and repulsion" could serve either to explicate or replace "contradictions".32



Decision Time


The Choices Before Us


In advance of this, the question whether or not DM-theorists are right to claim that contradictions find a material analogue in material forces doesn't in fact affect the point at issue -- which is whether or not change is internal to each system or sub-system, whatever causes it. Even if forces could be represented in the way dialecticians suppose they can, the very same difficulties highlighted earlier would still apply.


In that case, if change is indeed internal to each system then one of the following options would, it seems, have to be true (take your pick):


(A) There is only one system -- the Totality --, the contents of which are all (potentially or actually) maximally interconnected. Every object in the Totality is subject only to the operation of external causes. That is because the entire nature of the part is determined by its relation to the whole and to other parts, but not by a relation that any given part has with itself, and hence not by processes internal to each object.




(B) There is only one system -- the Totality --, which is (potentially or actually) maximally interconnected. But, change is exclusively internal to each object or process in this Totality (because everything is a UO). In that case, nothing can be interconnected with anything else.




(C) Change is internal to every system, and nature forms an infinite 'ascending' and/or 'descending' hierarchy of systems and sub-systems ('all the way up', or 'all the way down', as it were). In such a set-up, ultimately there is nothing that could be, or could become, the opposite of anything else. That is because, either:


(i) The fundamental constituents of reality are extensionless 'simples' -- which, because they can be mapped onto or modelled by the Real Numbers, have no 'size' (no dimensions). This means that such objects possess no internal connections with anything else (unlike the Reals); they are therefore eternal and changeless. If they were subject to change then they would be systems themselves and hence wouldn't be extensionless points, or simples. As extensionless points they can have no effect on each other, or on anything else, or they would change. Hence, if systems are infinitely divisible in this way, change can't ultimately be internally-motivated -- or, rather, the only change that would be possible in this case would arise from the rearrangement of these eternally changeless 'simples'.




(ii) The fundamental constituents of reality are systems. But, if that is so, they can't have opposites that cause either of them to change. That is because those opposites would have to be external to any given system, which would mean that change wouldn't be internally-driven.


[These opposites can't be internal to any given system. If they were, that system couldn't change into that opposite, since that opposite would already exist.]




(D) Everything (but the Totality) is a sub-system of some sort, no matter how much, or to what extent, it is sub-divided. In that case, there are no fundamental point masses, or simples, since every sub-system is infinitely divisible. In this set-up, while change is internal to the Totality it isn't internal to any of its sub-systems, but external to each. That is because, if change were exclusively internal to such sub-systems they could have no effect on one another. But, if no sub-system had any effect on any other, there would be no change in the Totality over-and-above, perhaps, the rearrangement of these sub-systems. Hence, while the Totality changes, its sub-systems don't.


In that case, given this option, change would be internal to the Totality but external to all of its sub-systems. Moreover, even if the latter were UOs, that fact would have no influence on whether they changed or not. If it did, change would be internal to each sub-system, contrary to the supposition. So, if (D) is to stand, change wouldn't be the result of instability internal to each sub-system -- because the latter, on this supposition, are all externally-motivated.


However, a moment's thought will show that this option can't work in the way described -- if change is merely the re-arranging of subsystems, then any larger system containing these subsystems would itself change internally, contrary to the hypothesis.




(E) Change isn't just internal to the Totality, it is both internal and external to all its sub-systems (as they 'mediate' one another, or as they 'dialectically' interact). In that case, change to these sub-systems can't be the sole result of their own internal instabilities and/or 'inner contradictions', as dialecticians maintain.


Unfortunately, this would have profound implications for HM and the revolutionary overthrow of Capitalism, for example. On this scenario, the contradictions internal to Capitalism would be insufficient to cause its demise. External causes (over and above the class struggle and the falling rate of profit, etc.) would be required --, including perhaps bad weather, meteorite impact, or alien intervention (etc.).


Naturally, no one believes the class struggle is hermetically sealed against the rest of nature, but since these influences stretch off into infinity this would present DM with its own "bad infinity", which would end "who knows where?"


Moreover, if change is also external to every system, then the Totality (which is a system, too) must itself be susceptible to just such external influences.


Any attempt to forestall that implication would prompt the same sort of objection that stumps naive supporters of the Cosmological Argument [henceforth, COMA] for the existence of 'God': if everything has a cause, then the question is: what caused 'God'?


In like manner, if every system is subject to external causation, then what caused the Totality?


Clearly, this challenge can only be neutralised by an appeal (i) to the alleged 'definition' of the Totality or (ii) to an infinite set of causes, which stretch off to "who knows where?" -- in the way that theists respond to similar objections to the COMA. [That isn't surprising, given the mystical origin of DM.]


However, as Kant noted, the COMA has to be buttressed by a surreptitious appeal to the Ontological Argument [henceforth, ONAN]. So, from the supposed definition of the word "God" (i.e., as "That than which nothing greater can be conceived"), 'His' necessary and actual existence are 'deducible'. In this way, questions about 'His' origin are rendered illogical or irrational.


Similarly, but in this case based on the meaning of "Totality" (i.e., as "All that there is" or, maybe, "That than which there is nothing else", or even "That outwith which nothing else can be conceived"), it could be argued that there is nothing outside the Totality that could cause it to exist.


So, the only way that dialecticians could defend this fall-back position (should they chose to adopt it) would be to use an 'atheistical' version of the ONAN, on the lines that the Totality is "That than which there is nothing else".


Of course, such a defence would make plain the Linguistic Idealism evident in DM, since, once again: from the meaning of a few words fundamental truths about reality will have been derived.


But, more importantly, if change is caused by the interplay of opposites, and objects and systems turn into those opposites (as the DM-classics inform us), then, whether or not it is internally-, or externally-induced, change would be impossible. As we have seen -- here --, if the opposite of a body or system already exists, that body or system can't change into it, for it already exists!


On the other hand, if it doesn't already exist it can play no part in helping to change that object or system, to begin with!


In view of their unwise commitment to 'inverted' Hegelian 'logic' (allegedly put back 'on its feet'), there seem to be no other viable options available to DM-fans.


Moreover, if the last of these alternatives is correct, then (as we will also see here) the similarities between DM and Mystical Christianity would become even less difficult to ignore. For if there is a force external to the Universe that conditions it, then the Totality will have an external cause after all, and the DM-search for "how" and "why" will have run into the Ground Of All Being -- which ends 'we all know where...'.


The choice of name for such an ultimate cause in no way affects any of the above points -- nor does it resolve the problems they have exposed -- since a Deity by any other name is still a Deity.


As Hegel himself noted:


"Every philosophy is essentially an idealism or at least has idealism for its principle, and the question then is only how far this principle is carried out." [Hegel (1999), pp.154-55; §316.]


For once, it looks like he was right.



Is There A Dialectical Way Out Of This Hermetic hole?


There are other alternatives that could be added to the above list of Dialectical Difficulties, but those considered there should suffice. All seem inimical to the DM-theory of change. Some even undermine HM.


In that case, DM faces yet another material brick wall in its endeavour to explain change -- the material world itself.


Everyday language -- developed out of collective labour and interaction with the material world -- resists such idealist impertinences. It is thus no surprise, therefore, to see that DM collapses into incoherence yet again.


So, no way out then...


HEX Maniacs


Cartesians Beware


In their characterization of CAR, the authors of DB speak about the "intrinsic properties" that objects must possess if CAR were the case.


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


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


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


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


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


Contrary to CAR-theorists, dialecticians appear to believe that objects and processes have what can only be called an 'extrinsic' nature -- that is, one that is a consequence of the relations each object or process has with other objects and processes.33


[DB = The Dialectical Biologist (i.e., Levins and Lewontin (1985); HEX = Hegelian Expansionism; CAR = Cartesian Reductionism.]


Unfortunately, as we will see, this DM-option rapidly inflates into HEX.


Consider the following example:


D28: Sodium has the properties it has as a result of its atomic structure.


But, because D28 is expressed in what might seem to be reductionist, CAR-like terms, it won't be entirely acceptable to DM-theorists. The following therefore should be more in line with their anti-CAR agenda:


D29: Sodium has the properties it has as a result of its interconnections with other atoms.


However, even this seems to get things wrong since Sodium appears to have the relations it has with other atoms because of its inherent properties or dispositions, and the latter in turn seem to be based on Sodium's sub-atomic structure. While it is surely a truism that unless there were other atoms, Sodium would not behave the way it does, the unique atomic structure of each element must surely have some bearing on its nature and properties (otherwise, much of modern Chemistry would have to be binned).


This seems to indicate that even though D29 looks anti-reductive, it has in fact omitted the mediated nature of Sodium -- that is, D29 fails to express Sodium's transient nature as a complex congerie of processes in dialectical tension and/or relation with its surroundings, reflected in and by its inner structure, since that too interacts with other atoms (etc.). Perhaps then the following is closer to the truth?


D30: Sodium has the properties it has because of its mediated nature and its interconnections with other atoms.


Moreover, in D30, the word "nature" could be understood to mean "atomic structure" (with there being no implication that there was anything static about Sodium), as in the following amended version of D30:


D31: Sodium has the properties it has because of its mediated atomic structure and its interconnections with other atoms.


But, whatever is true of Sodium must be true of these other atoms, too:


D32: Sodium has the properties it has because of its mediated atomic structure and its interconnections with other atoms, which in turn have the properties they have because of their mediated atomic structures and their relations with still other atoms.


But, as seems clear, D32 is another incipient HEX-type sentence. In which case, it isn't easy to see how the following implication might be prevented:


D33: Sodium has the properties it has because of its mediated atomic structure and its interconnections with the entire universe, for all of time, and vice versa.


Put like this, D33 looks like another example of Hegel's idea that "the truth is the whole", which is itself an eminently mystical notion. [Hegel (1977), p.11; Preface, paragraph 20.] Glenn Magee makes this clear:


"Another parallel between Hermeticism and Hegel is the doctrine of internal relations. For the Hermeticists, the cosmos is not a loosely connected, or to use Hegelian language, externally related set of particulars. Rather, everything in the cosmos is internally related, bound up with everything else.... This principle is most clearly expressed in the so-called Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, which begins with the famous lines 'As above, so below.' This maxim became the central tenet of Western occultism, for it laid the basis for a doctrine of the unity of the cosmos through sympathies and correspondences between its various levels. The most important implication of this doctrine is the idea that man is the microcosm, in which the whole of the macrocosm is reflected.


"...The universe is an internally related whole pervaded by cosmic energies." [Magee (2008), p.13. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases and links added. More on this topic here.]


And yet, D33 is completely implausible. It isn't just that there are no credible causal interconnections (that we are aware of) between the atoms of Sodium, which are currently on or near the earth's surface, and events on the other side of the universe today (or billions of years ago), but, even if that were believable, it would be difficult to see how these could possibly explain Sodium's properties as opposed to merely re-describing them in a rather complicated, infinitary sort of way.34


Of course, this is why metaphysicians like Hegel (and his Hermetic friends) had to appeal to a 'Mind', or to 'Mind'-like principles, to provide a rationale for existent beings, dressed up in suitably important-looking a priori finery. If there were no logical or conceptual connections between objects and events, then it wouldn't be possible to give a rational explanation of the course of events -- just infinitary re-descriptions, based on "bad infinities" -- and, of course, those nasty, unreliable 'appearances'.


This is the insurmountable barrier that constantly confronts DM-theorists; by avowedly inverting Hegel's system, they have forfeited the right to call on the principles Hegel employed to give his system its pseudo-explanatory force: the over-arching 'Mind' supposedly lying behind all development. And yet, dialecticians have no choice: they have to appeal to mystical principles like this to give their theory its 'rational' cutting edge.


So, DM-theorists find at every stage they have to re-introduce fetishised (teleological) concepts through the back door (via the sophisticated reflection theory (on this, see Essay Three Part Three, and  Essays Twelve Part Four and Thirteen Part Two, when they are published), spruced-up with just enough abstractions to satisfy all but the most fastidious of Traditional Thinkers -- and with no little word-magic thrown in for good measure --, in order to provide the necessary or even 'logical' rationale for their supposedly non-Ideal Universe.35


Unfortunately, these shiny new DM-concepts are now no longer the ultimate principles upon which Hegel himself relied. They are just yet more 'brute facts' about the odd way that DM-theorists use language.


This ancient, mystical approach is necessary because material reality can't supply its own rationale -- since, plainly, it isn't Mind.


But, unfortunately, brute facts seem to be all the universe has to offer.


And that is why DM-fans need Hegel's system. For them, the material universe is insufficient as it is; they find they have to appeal to an Ideal World (i.e., "the Totality", the secular version Hegel's 'Absolute'), which is anterior to the senses, and accessible to thought alone. They need, they require a 'world-view'. As I have pointed out elsewhere:


Moreover, the founders of our movement weren't workers; they came from a class that educated their children in religion, the classics and philosophy. This tradition taught that behind appearances there lies a hidden world, accessible to thought alone, which is more real than the material universe we see around us.

This way of seeing things was concocted by ruling-class ideologues, who viewed reality this way. They invented it because if you belong to, benefit from or help run a society which is based on gross inequality, oppression and exploitation, you can keep order in several ways.

The first and most obvious way is through violence. This will work for a time, but it's not only fraught with danger, it is costly and it stifles innovation (among other things).

Another way is to win over the majority (or, at least, a significant section of "opinion formers", bureaucrats, judges, bishops, generals, intellectuals, philosophers, editors, teachers, administrators, etc.) to the view that the present order either, (1) Works for their benefit, (2) Defends 'civilised values', (3) Is ordained of the 'gods', or is (4) 'Natural' and thus cannot be fought against, reformed or negotiated with.

Hence, a world-view that helps rationalise one or more of the above is necessary for the ruling-class to carry on ruling in the same old way. While the content of this aspect of ruling-class ideology may have changed with each change in the mode of production, its form has remained largely the same for thousands of years: Ultimate Truth (about this 'hidden world', underlying appearances) is ascertainable from thought alone, and therefore can be imposed on reality dogmatically and aprioristically....

So, the non-worker founders of our movement -- who, because of their class origin, had been educated from an early age to believe there was just such a hidden world lying behind appearances, and which governed everything -- when they became revolutionaries looked for 'logical' principles in that abstract world that told them that change was inevitable, and was part of the cosmic order. Enter dialectics, courtesy of the dogmatic ideas of that ruling-class mystic, Hegel. Hence, the dialectical classicists were happy to impose their theory on the world (upside down or the "right way up"), since, to them, because of their socialisation and education, it seemed quite natural to do this. After all, that's what 'genuine' philosophy is -- or, so they had been socialised to believe


Of course, if the facts end up contradicting DM, they can safely be ignored, since this hidden world not only "contradicts" appearances (so we are told), it is more real than anything genuinely material. [Which is, presumably, why DM-theorists also tell us matter is an 'abstraction'.]


And that is why DM-fans bury their heads in the sand; their faith lies in this hidden world -- and that isn't surprising, either, since this idea was imported into Marxism from the wild speculations of a Christian mystic.


Finally, these comrades imported such alien-class ideas unwittingly. They knew no better; their petty-bourgeois being determined their petty-bourgeois 'consciousness'.


But, in the end -- and as is the case with Hegel's system --, DM turns out to be at best merely re-descriptive, and not the least bit explanatory. By using the class-compromised concepts the above comrades retrieved from Hegel, all that they have been left with are yet more brute facts, only now framed in Idealist terminology, obscured behind a wall of hopelessly impenetrable prose.36


Anyway, all this is quite apart from the infinitely thin evidential support there is -- or could ever be -- for such recklessly hyper-bold claims. No wonder DM-theorists resort to "insisting" that reality is this way or that, and that the world "must" be thus and so; they have to do this, since the facts don't 'speak for themselves' so they have to be made to say what they want them to say.37


Indeed, as Engels pointed out, not realising that these words apply to his own theory:


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


"The general results of the investigation of the world are obtained at the end of this investigation, hence are not principles, points of departure, but results, conclusions. To construct the latter in one's head, take them as the basis from which to start, and then reconstruct the world from them in one's head is ideology, an ideology which tainted every species of materialism hitherto existing.... As Dühring proceeds from 'principles' instead of facts he is an ideologist, and can screen his being one only by formulating his propositions in such general and vacuous terms that they appear axiomatic, flat. Moreover, nothing can be concluded from them; one can only read something into them...." [Marx and Engels (1987), Volume 25, p.597. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Furthermore, and to return to the argument, since the properties of Sodium aren't particularly unique in this respect, whatever applies to Sodium must apply to 'opposing forces', too, regardless of their nature -- i.e., either they are continuous (and are thus a consequence of the field), or they are ultimately particulate (and are merely the result of an exchange of momentum).37a


Hence, even if DM-theorists were correct interpreting contradictions as 'opposing forces', their theory would still amount to little more than a re-description of nature, and not an explanation. That is because even a thoroughly comprehensive listing of all the interconnections that exist between objects and processes (whether or not these include forces) would be no less of a re-description than reductive CAR-like competitor theories are. Without a set of Ideal or mind-like principles to lend the universe some level of rationality, an explanation that captures the 'why' of things will always escape dialecticians


And yet, all we would be left with is a set of 'mind-like' brute facts.38


But, as argued in Essay Ten Part One (and in more detail in Essay Three Part Three), whereas a reductive description can at least begin somewhere, the DM-version can neither begin nor end.


This shows that DM itself can't account for the "why" of things any more successfully than CAR.


No better perhaps, but certainly much worse.39



Are We Any The Wiser?


Well, are we? Are we any clearer about whether dialecticians believe that things change because of their 'internal contradictions', because of their 'internal' or their 'external' relations with the rest of the "Totality", or because of something else?


Plainly not.


In that case, are we any clearer about how and why 'contradictions' (internal or otherwise) are actually capable of causing change, or even making anything happen?


Once more, the answer is in the negative.


It is now time to clutch at the last straw available to supporters of this drowning theory, and examine opposing forces. Perhaps they can provide DM with an urgently needed life-line?


It is to that question that I turn in the next Part of this Essay.





01. One recent critic has responded to this Essay in the following terms:


"An observation first of all, Lenin did not become the main theoretician of the only workers' movement in the history of humanity (so far) to have successfully seized and held state power more than momentarily, [so] that he can be treated or dismissed as an idiot. So when looking at his writings, that may seems ridiculous (sic), it might be worth taking a step back and asking 'Have I got this right or am I missing something?' After Marx, Lenin stands as the greatest theoretician that the revolutionary workers movement has yet brought forth.

"Lenin was the first to link the rise of imperialism with the problems of accumulation experienced within the domestic economies of the world's leading capitalist nations in Imperialism The Highest Stage of Capitalism. He showed why the drive to war and conquest in modern times sprang from the difficulties experienced by capitalists in making profit, not in a direct and obvious way but rather in an objective yet mediated way. In making this theoretical link which cannot be seen on the surface of society, he tied the anti-war struggle to the struggle against capitalist society itself. He made the revulsion that working people felt at the barbarity of the First World War, into a practical project of the need to fight against capitalism. This is the practical importance of theory as a guide to action.

"So let us be generous to Lenin and assume that even if he was saying something mistaken and theoretically incoherent, it is not going to be as obvious as Rosa seems to suggest on her anti-dialectics site. Let us take what Lenin says in context and see if we can construe a meaning that is more coherent. In choosing between two competing interpretations -- to do justice to what a thinker meant -- the form of expression may use terms differently to how it is commonly understood and that has to be allowed for. So if the competing interpretations of a work take a different meaning of a particular expression then the one that makes the whole argument sensible should be preferred to the one that renders it nonsense.

"The word 'object' should be regarded as a social object (for example a commodity or a society), it is not a physical thing although physical things are involved -- it is a social relationship. So analogies with natural objects may be used for illustrative purposes, but this should not be confused with the fact that it is a social 'object' being discussed not a physical 'thing'. It is legitimate to call social relations in this sense 'objects' because they have an existence in the real world. They are not physical 'things' but they have a material existence (meaning they are part of our reality).

"So in the passage above Rosa is confusing Lenin's use of 'objects' to mean physical things rather than social relations (which have a real existence -- in that sense are 'objective' not just in our heads). Everything that she says in the rest of that essay flows from this misunderstanding of 'object' to mean physical thing. It is only on this basis that she could counterpose the ideas of Lenin to those of Newton to make it seem they are discussing the same topic, that would make what Lenin is saying nonsense. It is not." [Quoted from
here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; several minor typos corrected.]


Here is how I have replied to this criticism (heavily edited):

Where have I dismissed Lenin as an 'idiot'?

What I am doing here is showing how Lenin's "genius" (as
Wittgenstein called him, at the same time as saying his philosophy was "piffle") was corrupted by his appropriation of some rather odd ideas from Hegel (upside down or 'the right way up'), and from ruling-class thought in general:

"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch.... [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65; quoted from here. Italic emphases added.]

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

It is no wonder you keep making the same mistakes, since you deliberately ignore the above, no matter how many times I remind you of it.


But what of this?

"So let us be generous to Lenin and assume that even if he was saying something mistaken and theoretically incoherent, it is not going to be as obvious as Rosa seems to suggest on her anti-dialectics site. Let us take what Lenin says in context and see if we can construe a meaning that is more coherent. In choosing between two competing interpretations -- to do justice to what a thinker meant -- the form of expression may use terms differently to how it is commonly understood and that has to be allowed for. So if the competing interpretations of a work take a different meaning of a particular expression then the one that makes the whole argument sensible should be preferred to the one that renders it nonsense.

"The word 'object' should be regarded as a social object (for example a commodity or a society), it is not a physical thing although physical things are involved -- it is a social relationship. So analogies with natural objects may be used for illustrative purposes, but this should not be confused with the fact that it is a social 'object' being discussed not a physical 'thing'. It is legitimate to call social relations in this sense 'objects' because they have an existence in the real world. They are not physical 'things' but they have a material existence (meaning they are part of our reality).

"So in the passage above Rosa is confusing Lenin's use of 'objects' to mean physical things rather than social relations (which have a real existence -- in that sense are 'objective' not just in our heads). Everything that she says in the rest of that essay flows from this misunderstanding of 'object' to mean physical thing. It is only on this basis that she could counterpose the ideas of Lenin to those of Newton to make it seem they are discussing the same topic, that would make what Lenin is saying nonsense. It is not."


This ignores what Lenin actually said:

"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. 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 the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.

"The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) 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. Italic emphases added.]

Notice that Lenin includes in this: "everything existing", "all phenomena and processes in nature", and "all processes in the world".


But, what of these 'objects'? Well, we needn't speculate since Lenin himself told us:


"The gist of his theoretical mistake in this case is substitution of eclecticism for the dialectical interplay of politics and economics (which we find in Marxism). His theoretical attitude is: 'on the one hand, and on the other', 'the one and the other'. That is eclecticism. Dialectics requires an all-round consideration of relationships in their concrete development but not a patchwork of bits and pieces. I have shown this to be so on the example of politics and economics....


"A tumbler is assuredly both a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel. But there are more than these two properties, qualities or facets to it; there are an infinite number of them, an infinite number of 'mediacies' and inter-relationships with the rest of the world....


"Formal logic, which is as far as schools go (and should go, with suitable abridgements for the lower forms), deals with formal definitions, draws on what is most common, or glaring, and stops there. When two or more different definitions are taken and combined at random (a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel), the result is an eclectic definition which is indicative of different facets of the object, and nothing more.


"Dialectical logic demands that we should go further. Firstly, if we are to have a true knowledge of an object we must look at and examine all its facets, its connections and 'mediacies'. That is something we cannot ever hope to achieve completely, but the rule of comprehensiveness is a safeguard against mistakes and rigidity. Secondly, dialectical logic requires that an object should be taken in development, in change, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it). This is not immediately obvious in respect of such an object as a tumbler, but it, too, is in flux, and this holds especially true for its purpose, use and connection with the surrounding world. Thirdly, a full 'definition' of an object must include the whole of human experience, both as a criterion of truth and a practical indicator of its connection with human wants. Fourthly, dialectical logic holds that 'truth is always concrete, never abstract', as the late Plekhanov liked to say after Hegel. (Let me add in parenthesis for the benefit of young Party members that you cannot hope to become a real, intelligent Communist without making a study -- and I mean study -- of all of Plekhanov's philosophical writings, because nothing better has been written on Marxism anywhere in the world.)" [Lenin (1921), p.90-93. Italic emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

So, for Lenin, the word "object" even includes tumblers, and their "relation with the rest of the world." Hence, according to Lenin, tumblers "self-move"!


In which case, "object" isn't restricted in the way you suggest.

You'd do well to familiarise yourself with your own 'theory', and with the writings of those you look to for 'philosophical' advice, before you post any more ill-advised and ill-informed comments about my work.


1. Some might feel that this is unfair, in that dialecticians themselves account for motion and change in a much more sophisticated way than this caricature would have us believe.


This 'more sophisticated' account (if such it may be called) -- involving the interplay between opposing forces, and the dialectical interaction within the 'mediated Totality' -- will be examined throughout the rest of this Essay, and in detail in Part Two. The "Totality" itself will be the subject of Essay Eleven Parts One and Two, along with its supposed 'interconnections'.


2. As Hegel himself declared:


"Instead of speaking by the maxim of Excluded Middle (which is the maxim of abstract understanding) we should rather say: Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in Earth, neither in the world of mind nor of nature, is there anywhere such an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things will then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being, and what they essentially are.


"Contradiction is the very moving principle of the world: and it is ridiculous to say that contradiction is unthinkable. The only thing correct in that statement is that contradiction is not the end of the matter, but cancels itself. But contradiction, when cancelled, does not leave abstract identity; for that is itself only one side of the contrariety. The proximate result of opposition (when realised as contradiction) is the Ground, which contains identity as well as difference superseded and deposited to elements in the completer notion." [Hegel (1975), p.174; Essence as Ground of Existence, §119. Bold emphases added.]


"[B]ut contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality; it is only in so far as something has a contradiction within it that it moves, has an urge and activity." [Hegel (1999), p.439, §956. Bold emphasis added.]


Apparently, Hegel just happened to be 'using' a pen when 'his' books in fact wrote themselves (because of their obvious (and literal) 'internal contradictions').


However, it seems there might be an avenue of escape from this Idealist quandary, but it isn't one that should recommend itself to many DM-fans. That seemingly attractive bolt hole will be examined presently.


3. Not much room here for doubt. And that isn't just my rancid view of this murky area of DM-'physics'; indeed, as the quotations below show, this is how Lenin and Hegel  have been interpreted since (see above, in Note 2).


This is how Mao saw things:


"The metaphysical or vulgar evolutionist world outlook sees things as isolated, static and one-sided. It regards all things in the universe, their forms and their species, as eternally isolated from one another and immutable. Such change as there is can only be an increase or decrease in quantity or a change of place. Moreover, the cause of such an increase or decrease or change of place is not inside things but outside them, that is, the motive force is external. Metaphysicians hold that all the different kinds of things in the universe and all their characteristics have been the same ever since they first came into being. All subsequent changes have simply been increases or decreases in quantity. They contend that a thing can only keep on repeating itself as the same kind of thing and cannot change into anything different. In their opinion, capitalist exploitation, capitalist competition, the individualist ideology of capitalist society, and so on, can all be found in ancient slave society, or even in primitive society, and will exist for ever unchanged. They ascribe the causes of social development to factors external to society, such as geography and climate. They search in an over-simplified way outside a thing for the causes of its development, and they deny the theory of materialist dialectics which holds that development arises from the contradictions inside a thing. Consequently they can explain neither the qualitative diversity of things, nor the phenomenon of one quality changing into another. In Europe, this mode of thinking existed as mechanical materialism in the 17th and 18th centuries and as vulgar evolutionism at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. In China, there was the metaphysical thinking exemplified in the saying 'Heaven changeth not, likewise the Tao changeth not', and it was supported by the decadent feudal ruling classes for a long time. Mechanical materialism and vulgar evolutionism, which were imported from Europe in the last hundred gears, are supported by the bourgeoisie.


"As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development. Contradictoriness within a thing is the fundamental cause of its development, while its interrelations and interactions with other things are secondary causes. Thus materialist dialectics effectively combats the theory of external causes, or of an external motive force, advanced by metaphysical mechanical materialism and vulgar evolutionism. It is evident that purely external causes can only give rise to mechanical motion, that is, to changes in scale or quantity, but cannot explain why things differ qualitatively in thousands of ways and why one thing changes into another. As a matter of fact, even mechanical motion under external force occurs through the internal contradictoriness of things. Simple growth in plants and animals, their quantitative development, is likewise chiefly the result of their internal contradictions. Similarly, social development is due chiefly not to external but to internal causes.... According to materialist dialectics, changes in nature are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in nature. Changes in society are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in society, that is, the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, the contradiction between classes and the contradiction between the old and the new; it is the development of these contradictions that pushes society forward and gives the impetus for the supersession of the old society by the new. Does materialist dialectics exclude external causes? Not at all. It holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes. In a suitable temperature an egg changes into a chicken, but no temperature can change a stone into a chicken, because each has a different basis. There is constant interaction between the peoples of different countries. In the era of capitalism, and especially in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, the interaction and mutual impact of different countries in the political, economic and cultural spheres are extremely great...


"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.


"Contradiction is the basis of the simple forms of motion (for instance, mechanical motion) and still more so of the complex forms of motion." [Mao (1961b), pp 312-13, 316. Bold emphases alone added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


We will have occasion to return to some of the details of Mao's argument later.


And, here is a greatly shortened list of quotations taken from the writings of lesser DM-luminaries who declared (perhaps unwisely) that things do indeed change/move themselves -- beginning with David Hayden-Guest (who also sneaks in a reference to "external relations", a topic that will also be examined later in this Essay):


"The second dialectical law, that of the 'unity, interpenetration or identity of opposites'…asserts the essentially contradictory character of reality -– at the same time asserts that these 'opposites' which are everywhere to be found do not remain in stark, metaphysical opposition, but also exist in unity. This law was known to the early Greeks. It was classically expressed by Hegel over a hundred years ago….


"The importance of understanding this contradictory character of things, is that it gives the clue to the inner process of their development which takes place through the conflict of the opposites....


"[F]rom the standpoint of the developing universe as a whole, what is vital is…motion and change which follows from the conflict of the opposite....


"Development is always the result of internal conflict as well as of external relations, themselves including conflict. It can only be explained and rationally grasped to the extent that the internal contradictions of the thing have been investigated…." [Guest (1963), pp.40-45. Bold emphases alone added.]


Here, too, is comrade Thalheimer (who directly links this doctrine with ideas he derived from Hegel's 'Master Deduction', analysed in Essay Twelve -- summarised here):


"The most general and the most inclusive fundamental law of dialectics from which all others are deduced is the law of permeation of opposites. This law has a two-fold meaning: first, that all things, all processes, all concepts merge in the last analysis into an absolute unity, or, in other words, that there are no opposites, no differences which cannot ultimately be comprehended into a unity. Second, and just as unconditionally valid, that all things are at the same time absolutely different and absolutely or unqualifiedly opposed. The law may also be referred to as the law of the polar unity of opposites. This law applies to every single thing, every phenomenon, and to the world as a whole. Viewing thought and its method alone, it can be put this way: The human mind is capable of infinite condensation of things into unities, even the sharpest contradictions and opposites, and, on the other hand, it is capable of infinite differentiation and analysis of things into opposites. The human mind can establish this unlimited unity and unlimited differentiation because this unlimited unity and differentiation is present in reality....


"...[I]t is more difficult with such opposites as true and false and still more difficult with the concepts of being and non-being, which are the most general of all, the most inclusive, and, at the same time the poorest in content. The average person will say: how can one unite such absolute opposites as being and non-being? Either a thing is or it is not. There can be no bridge or common ground between them. In the treatment of Heraclitus I have already shown how the concepts of being and non-being actually permeate each other in everything that changes, how they are contained in changing things at the same time and in the same way; for a thing which is developing is something and at the same time it is not that something. For example: a child which is developing into a man is a child and at the same time not a child (sic). So far as it is becoming a man it ceases to be a child. But it is not yet a man, because it has not yet developed into a man. The concept of becoming contains the concepts of being and non-being. In this concept they permeate each other....


"We shall now take up the second main proposition of dialectics...the law of development through opposites.... Not until Hegel was this law completely developed.


"This law applies to all motion and change of things, to real things as well as to their images in our minds....


"...[This law] states, in the first place, that all motion, development, or change, takes place through opposites or contradictions, or through the negation of a thing.


"...The negation of a thing from which the change proceeds, however, is in turn subject to law of the transformation of things into their opposites...." [Thalheimer (1936), pp.161, 165-66, 170-71. Bold emphases added.]


Novack adds his repetitive 2 cents' worth (here, at first, writing about plants and seeds, but soon losing his grip on reality):


"Each phase of the plant's manifestation appears as a reality and then is transformed in the course of development into an unreality or an appearance. This movement, triadic in this particular case, from unreality to reality and then back again to unreality, constitutes the essence, the inner movement behind all appearance....


"In this dialectical movement, in this passage out of and into opposition, resides the secret to the movement of all real things.... Dialectics is the logic of matter in motion and thereby the logic of contradictions, because development is inherently self-contradictory. Everything generates within itself that force which leads to its negation, its passing away into some other and higher form of being....


"This dialectical activity is universal. There is no escape from its unremitting and relentless embrace...." [Novack (1971), pp.87, 94. Bold emphases added.]


And, as if this weren't enough, here is Cornforth:


"The second dogmatic assumption of mechanism is the assumption that no change can ever happen except by the action of some external cause.


"Just as no part of a machine moves unless another part acts on it and makes it move, so mechanism sees matter as being inert -- without motion, or rather without self-motion. For mechanism, nothing ever moves unless something else pushes or pulls is, it never changes unless something else interferes with it.


"No wonder that, regarding matter in this way, the mechanists had to believe in a Supreme Being to give the 'initial push'....


"So in studying the causes of change, we should not merely seek for external causes of change, but should above all seek for the source of change within the process itself, in its own self-movement, in the inner impulses to development contained in things themselves...."


"...'[S]truggle' is not external and accidental. It is not adequately understood if we suppose that it is a question of forces or tendencies arising quite independently the one of the other, which happen to meet, to bump up against each other and come into conflict.


"No. The struggle is internal and necessary; for it arises and follows from the nature of the process as a whole. The opposite tendencies are not independent the one of the other, but are inseparably connected as parts or aspects of a single whole. And they operate and come into conflict on the basis of the contradiction inherent in the process as a whole.


"Movement and change result from causes inherent in things and processes, from internal contradictions.


"Thus, for example, the old mechanist conception of movement was that it only happened when one body bumped into another: there were no internal causes of movement, that is, no 'self-movement', but only external causes. But on the contrary, the opposed tendencies which operate in the course of the change of state of a body operate on the basis of the contradictory unity of attractive and repulsive forces inherent in all physical phenomena....


"Why should we say that contradiction is the driving force of change? It is because it is only the presence of contradictions in a process which provides the internal conditions making change necessary.... It is the presence of contradictions, that is of contradictory tendencies of movement, or of a unity and struggle of opposites, which brings about changes of movement in the course of a process." [Cornforth (1976), pp.40-43; 90, 94. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphases added.]


And Baghavan:


"Hegel pointed out that the co-existence, the unity, the interpenetration of opposites constitutes an inner and inherent contradiction, a basic instability in all things which leads to development and change....


The existence of contradictions in all things gives rise to self-movement." [Baghavan (1987), p.90. Bold emphasis added.]


And Mandel:


"All motion has a cause....


"A fundamental cause of all motion, all change, is the internal contradictions of the changing object. In the final analysis, every object, every phenomenon, changes, moves, is transformed and modified under the influence of its internal contradictions...." [Mandel (1979), p.162. Bold emphases added.]


Here are our old friends, Woods and Grant:


"Dialectics explains that change and motion involve contradiction and can only take place through contradictions.... Dialectics is the logic of contradiction....


"So fundamental is this idea to dialectics that Marx and Engels considered motion to be the most basic characteristic of matter.... [And, referring to a quote from Aristotle, they add (RL)] [t]his is not the mechanical conception of motion as something imparted to an inert mass by an external 'force' but an entirely different notion of matter as self-moving....


"The essential point of dialectical thought is not that it is based on the idea of change and motion but that it views motion and change as phenomena based on contradiction.... Contradiction is an essential feature of all being. It lies at the heart of matter itself. It is the source of all motion, change, life and development. The dialectical law which expresses this idea is the unity and interpenetration of opposites....


"The universal phenomena of the unity of opposites is, in reality, the motor-force of all motion and development in nature. It is the reason why it is not necessary to introduce the concept of external impulse to explain movement and change -- the fundamental weakness of all mechanistic theories. Movement, which itself involves a contradiction, is only possible as a result of the conflicting tendencies and inner tensions which lie at the heart of all forms of matter....


"...Matter is self-moving and self-organising." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.43-45, 47, 68, 72. Bold emphases alone added.]


And now, a handful of Communist Party hacks:


"The essence of the dialectical contradiction may be defined as an interrelationship and interconnection between opposites in which they mutually assert and deny each other (sic), and the struggle between them serves as the motive force, the source of development. This is why the law in question is known as the law of the unity and struggle of opposites.


"This law explains one of the most important features of dialectical development: motion, development takes place as self-motion, self-development. This concept is highly relevant to materialism. It means that the world develops not as a result of any external causes but by virtue of its own laws, the laws of motion of matter itself. It has dialectical meaning because it indicates that the source, the motive force of development of phenomena is to be found in their internal contradictions. In the past some materialists who rejected any supernatural force as a constant factor influencing natural processes nevertheless had to fall back on the mysterious 'first impulse' that was supposed to have set matter in motion.


"The dialectical doctrine that the motion or development of nature is in fact self-motion, self-development, explains why many contemporary bourgeois philosophers are so vehement in their attacks on the proposition of the contradictory essence of things. Development understood in this way leaves no room for a 'transcendental', mystical 'creative force' external to nature....


"Postulating that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and processes and comprise the motive force of the self-development of nature and society, materialist dialectics explains how this process takes place." [Konstantinov et al (1974), pp.144-45. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphases added.]


"Contradiction also expresses this feature of the relation of opposition, i.e., the mutual exclusion and mutual presupposing of its formative aspects. It can therefore be briefly defined as the unity of opposites which mutually exclude one another and are in struggle. The law of dialectics that demonstrates the driving force of contradictions is formulated as the law of the unity and struggle of opposites.


"According to this law, contradictions are the inner impetus of development, the source of the self-movement and change of things. If things were a constant identity in themselves, and lacked differences and contradictions, they would be absolutely immutable.... Contradiction is a dynamic relation of opposites.... The determining element in contradiction is therefore the struggle of opposites." [Kharin (1981), p.125. Bold emphases added.]


"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. To be means to be in motion.... Like matter, motion is uncreatable and indestructible. It is not introduced from outside but is included in matter, which is not inert but active. Motion is self-motion in the sense that the tendency, the impulse to change of state is inherent in matter itself: it is its own cause." [Spirkin (1983), p.75. Bold emphasis added.]


"The development of the most diverse objects and phenomena shows that opposite aspects cannot exist peacefully side by side; the contradictory, mutually exclusive character of opposites necessarily causes a struggle between them. The old and the new, the emergent and the obsolete must come into contradiction, must clash.  It is contradiction, the struggle of opposites that comprises the main source of development of matter and consciousness....


"...The struggle of opposites is the inner content, the source of the development of reality.


"Such is the essence of the dialectical law of the unity and struggle of opposites.


"...Motion, as understood by Marxist dialectics, is the self-motion of matter, internal motion, whose driving forces or impulses are contained within the developing objects and phenomena themselves." [Afanasyev (1968), pp.95, 97-98. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphases added.]


Incidentally, Afanasyev and one or two others have included in their remarks a discussion of the relation between 'external' and 'internal contradictions', which seems to answer some of the objections made in this Essay. That escape route will be closed off in Note 28.


However, we will see in Essay Nine Part Two that these theorists introduced 'external contradictions' in order to 'justify' the doctrine of Socialism in One Country [SIOC], and to rationalise several regressive political decisions taken for other reasons.


4. DM-theorists are surely aware of these patent truths; indeed, they have a ready answer for such impertinences. [On this, see Note 28 and the rest of this Essay.]


However, this ancient theory of motion in fact predates Aristotle; indeed it can be found in Plato's dialogue, The Laws:


"Athenian. Then we must say that self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves the other is second." [Plato (1997b), p.1552. I have in fact used the online Jowett translation here.]

[On this ancient theory, see Gregory (2000), Jammer (1999), and Skemp (1967).]


As Plato indicates, this theory derives from earlier mystical and animistic notions. The idea seems to be that the only sort of motion which is rational is, obviously, motion and change which has reason and thus an intelligent will lying behind it. If the universe is ultimately rational, then all motion must be of this sort, that is, it must be internally-generated, and thus goal-directed. These internal links must be 'logical', in the sense that they have a rationale underpinning them; external links will lack this property and hence have always been associated with mechanical materialism and hence with atheism. In that case, the universe would be irrational, which conclusion is an insult both to our 'rationality' (or, rather, the 'rationality' of certain philosophers and boss-class hacks) and the 'Deity'. Plainly, this is the source of the various teleological systems of nature that have been imposed on the world since Ancient Greek Times (and possibly earlier). It is also why DM-theorists have struggled hard to deny their theory is teleological, even though it is replete with teleological concepts, lifted from Hegel and Mystical Christianity. [Putting them 'on their feet' thus in no way alters their teleological implications.]


Again, this is why external causation was favoured by empiricists, 'crude materialists' and assorted atheists (so much for it implying a 'push' from 'god'), and it is also why DM-fans look askance at it. Just like Hegel and other mystics, they regard this approach to causation as irrational. [It is also why some Marxists seem happy to confuse reasons with causes.]


And, it is why, for example, John Rees argued this way:


"…the cause of change [lies] within the system…and it cannot be conceived on the model of linear cause and effect…. If change is internally generated, it must be a result of contradiction, of instability and development as inherent properties of the system itself." [Rees (1998), p.7.]


"[External causation offers] mere description, not explanation; the what, but not the how or the why." [Ibid., p.7.]


Here is how I have made a similar point in Essay Eleven Part Two (in relation to a discussion of certain aspects of Christian Fundamentalism and 'Intelligent Design', but it seems relevant to the current theme of this Essay):


There is an excellent summary of the two main avenues theists have taken in their endeavour to conceive of the relationship between 'God' and 'His' creation, in Osler (2004), pp.15-35. [Not unexpectedly, these neatly mirror the tensions in the DM-account of nature, too.]


Here follows a summary of part of Osler's thesis (with a few additional comments of my own thrown in):


Traditionally, there were two ways of conceiving 'God's' relation to material reality: (A) 'He' was related to it by necessity, as an expression of 'His' nature, and (B) 'He' was related to it contingently, because it was an expression of 'His' 'free will'.


If (A) were the case, there would be a logical connection between the properties of created beings and their 'essence' (i.e., the logical core of each being, which is either an expression of its unique nature, or of 'kind' to which it belongs). In turn, this would be a consequence of the logical or conceptual links that exist between 'the creation' and 'God's' nature. If this weren't the case, that would introduce radical contingency into creation, undermining 'God's' nature and 'His' control of 'Creation'. As a result of this, language and logic must constitute reality (why that is so is outlined here).


[Also worth pointing out is the fact that super-truths like this -- about fundamental aspects of 'reality' -- may only be accessed by speculative thought.]


This means that all that exists is (i) An expression of the logical properties inherent in 'God', and (ii) An emanation from 'God' -- that is, material reality must be logically 'emergent' from the 'Deity'; it issues forth from his nature 'eternally', not in time since 'He' exists outside of time. Everything must therefore be inter-linked by 'internal' or 'necessary' relations, all of which are derivable from the concepts implicit in 'God', and which are mirrored in the aforementioned fundamental aspects of creation. This idea is prominent in Plotinus and subsequent Neo-Platonists, like Hegel.


Given this approach, the vast majority of 'ordinary' human beings can neither access nor comprehend this 'rational' view of 'reality'; their lack of knowledge, education -- or even divine illumination -- means that they misperceive these logical properties as contingent qualities. Hence, for them, appearances fail to match underlying "essence". Naturally, this implies that "commonsense" and ordinary language are fundamentally unreliable.


Now, where have we heard all that before?


(B) On the other hand, if 'God' acted freely when 'He' created the world -- that is, if 'He' wasn't acting under any form of 'compulsion' -- because of the logical properties inherent in 'His' nature -- then there would be no logical or necessary connection between 'The Creator' and 'His' creation -- nor, indeed, between each created being. Each and every aspect of reality will therefore be genuinely contingent, and appearances will no longer be 'deceptive', since appearances can't mask the hidden, esoteric 'essences' mentioned above -- for there are none. If so, there are no synthetic a priori truths (as these later came to be known), ascertainable by thought alone. The only path to knowledge was via observation, experiment and a careful study of the 'Book of Nature'. Hence, it is no coincidence that the foundations of modern science were laid in the Middle Ages largely by theorists who adopted this view of 'God' -- for example, Jean Buridan.


[Copleston (2003b), pp.153-67, Crombie (1970, 1979), Grant (1996), Hannam (2009), Lindberg (2007).]


In post-Renaissance thought, the 'necessitarian' tradition surfaced in the work of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz and Hegel; the 'voluntarist' tradition reappeared in an attenuated form in the work of Newton and the early empiricists and the so-called "mechanists", who stressed the connection between 'God's' free will and the contingency of nature, as well as the primacy of empirical over a priori knowledge, alongside the superiority of observation and experiment over speculation and abstract theory.


[To be sure, the above categories are rather crude; for example, Descartes was a mechanist, but his theory put him on the same side of the fence as Spinoza and Leibniz, whereas Gassendi was also a mechanist, but his ideas aligned him with the voluntarists. On this see Copleston (2003c).]


So, when, for example, Fundamentalist Christians look at nature and see design everywhere, they also claim to see 'irreducible complexity' -- the handiwork of 'God' -- and they either put this down to 'His' free creation, or they see it as an expression of logical properties imposed on nature by the Logos (depending, of course, on how they view the nature of 'The Creator' and 'His' relation to the world).


Christian mechanists saw design in nature, too, but their theories became increasingly deistic and then atheistic. The introduction of a contingent link between 'God' and nature severed the logical connection that earlier theorists had postulated, making "the God hypothesis" seem increasingly redundant.


[On this, see Lovejoy (1964). There is also an excellent account of these developments in Redwood (1976). Also see Dillenberger (1988). A classic expression of these developments can be found in the debate between Leibniz and Clarke. Cf., Alexander (1956), and Vailati (1997).]


Much of this had been apparent, however, in the work of the Medieval Nominalists, whose theories sundered the logical link between a substance and its properties as part of a reaction to the tradition begun by Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā, with his separation of 'essence' and 'existence' in created beings), Averroës (Ibn Rushd), and the so-called "Latin Averroists" (e.g., Siger of Brabant). The latter argued strongly in favour of Aristotle's doctrine of natural necessity, undermining 'God's' free will -- at least, so far as the Roman Catholic Church saw things. This reaction was also prompted by philosophical worries about the nature of transubstantiation and the relation between the 'essence' of the emblems (the bread and the wine in the Eucharist) and their 'accidents' (their apparent properties).


The aforementioned reaction was occasioned by the 'Condemnations of 1277', whereby the Bishop of Paris, Étienne Tempier, condemned 219 propositions, among which was the Averroist interpretation of Aristotle -- particularly the idea that the created order was governed by logical necessity. The most important response to these condemnations appeared in the work of the Nominalist, William of Ockham, who, as a result, stressed the free will of 'God' and thus the contingent nature of the world. For Ockham, this meant that there were no 'essences' in nature, nor were the apparent properties of bodies (their 'accidents') logically connected with their 'nominal essence' (as this later came to be called by Locke).


[On this, see Osler (2004), Copleston (2003a), pp.136-55, 190-95, 437-41, Copleston (2003b), pp.43-167, and Copleston (2003d), pp.79-107.]


In the 18th century, a resurgence of the 'necessitarian' tradition motivated, among other things, the "re-enchantment" of nature in the theories invented by the Natürphilosophers and Hegel -- and later those constructed by Marxist Dialecticians.


[On this, see Harrington (1996), Lenoir (1982), Richards (2002), and Essay Fourteen Parts One and Two, when they are published. More details can be found in Foster (1934), Hooykaas (1973), Lindberg (2007), and Osler (2004). For the Hermetic background to all this, see Magee (2008). Cf., also Essay Twelve (summary here). At a future date, I will publish an essay on Leibniz, which I wrote as an undergraduate, and which anticipated some of the ideas in Osler's book, for example.]


So, where Christians see design, DM-fans see "internal relations". Same problematic, same source -- same bogus 'solution' to this set of pseudo-problems.


I will say much more about this in Essay Three Part Five, were I will link the above considerations to Traditional Theories of Mind, Will, Freedom. Necessity, and Determinism -- as well as with the subsequent enchantment of nature apparent in Dialectical Marxism (in Essay Fourteen Parts One and Two (summary here)).


This puts DM-fans in the rationalist wing of traditional thought, and thus on the side of the 'Gods', as I pointed out elsewhere:


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


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


It is quite clear from this that Lenin meant "Dialectical idealism is closer to intelligent materialism than crude materialism...."


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


Diodorus Siculus is, in 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 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 Plato's Sophist, one of his more profound surviving works. Indeed, this dialogue is 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 (1997c), 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!


[Again, this might be why DM-theorists tell us that matter is just an 'abstraction'.]


These competing ideas will be examined in more detail Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here). See also Note 8, Note 17 and Note 22, below.


[Readers should not conclude from this that I favour theories that promote 'external causation' over those that appeal to 'internal' factors. In fact, I reject both theories since they are metaphysical and thus both non-sensical and incoherent.]


5. Several items from this dialectical menagerie were discussed at length in earlier Essays. The Totality itself is the main topic of Essay Eleven Parts One and Two. HEX is examined in much more detail in Essay Ten Part One.


6. This is a very odd claim, too. I will attempt to provide some rationale for it in Note 28, below. Other dialecticians also argue that their 'internalist' account subverts supernatural explanations for the origin of the universe. [Anyway, this claim of Trotsky's is connected with the origin of novelty, which supposedly 'emerge' by means of those obscure dialectical 'leaps'. However, as we saw in Essay Seven Part One, despite the fanfare, DM can't in fact account for novelty and change.]


Here is a selection of quotations (a list which has been greatly shortened -- it wouldn't be difficult to extend it indefinitely) illustrating this line of thought.


First, we have already seen Lenin argue this way:


"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. 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 the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.


"The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) 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. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphasis added.]


But, Engels himself had already set the precedent:


"The philosophy of nature offered us a cosmogony whose starting point is a 'self-identical state of matter', a state which can only be conceived by means of the most hopeless confusion over the relation between matter and motion, and which, moreover, can only be conceived on the assumption of an extramundane personal God who alone can get it in motion...." [Engels (1976), p.183. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Cornforth also elaborates this idea:


"The second dogmatic assumption of mechanism is the assumption that no change can ever happen except by the action of some external cause.


"Just as no part of a machine moves unless another part acts on it and makes it move, so mechanism sees matter as being inert -- without motion, or rather without self-motion. For mechanism, nothing ever moves unless something else pushes or pulls is, it never changes unless something else interferes with it.


"No wonder that, regarding matter in this way, the mechanists had to believe in a Supreme Being to give the "initial push"....


"No, the world was not created by a Supreme Being. Any particular organisation of matter,  any particular process of matter in motion, has an origin and a beginning.... But matter in motion had no origin, no beginning....


"So in studying the causes of change, we should not merely seek for external causes of change, but should above all seek for the source of change within the process itself, in its own self-movement, in the inner impulses to development contained in things themselves." [Cornforth (1976), pp.40-43.]


And, referring to the struggle of opposites, the following author proceeds to argue that:


"This law explains one of the most important features of dialectical development: motion, development takes place as self-motion, self-development. This concept is highly relevant to materialism. It means that the world develops not as a result of any external causes but by virtue of its own laws, the laws of motion of matter itself. It has dialectical meaning because it indicates that the source, the motive force of development of phenomena is to be found in their internal contradictions. In the past some materialists who rejected any supernatural force as a constant factor influencing natural processes nevertheless had to fall back on the mysterious 'first impulse' that was supposed to have set matter in motion.


"The dialectical doctrine that the motion or development of nature is in fact self-motion, self-development, explains why many contemporary bourgeois philosophers are so vehement in their attacks on the proposition of the contradictory essence of things. Development understood in this way leaves no room for a 'transcendental', mystical 'creative force' external to nature...." [Konstantinov et al (1974), pp.144-45. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphases added.]


And, here are two more communist theoreticians:


"[Previous philosophers] did not recognise the contradictoriness of being and were compelled, therefore, either to reject motion, or turn to God, declaring Him the final cause of all changes in the world. Heraclitus was the first to propose that contradiction is the source of motion. Hegel, however, developed the idea on an idealist basis, with respect to pure thought, but only dialectical materialism substantiated this proposition on a truly scientific basis...." [Sheptulin (1978), p.266.]


"The source of the internal activity of matter lies within it.... Motion is absolute, for it is unrelated to anything external that could determine it. There is nothing else in the world except eternally moving matter, its forms, properties and manifestations.


"Any way of constructing [construing? RL] rest as absolute is as intolerable in the conception of motion, as it is in the relativist interpretation of the latter. Many philosophers, however, adhered precisely to such views since they regarded substance as something inert and immutable, and explained the motion of natural bodies through the action of an outside force. Logically this gave rise to the following question: if one body sets another in motion, the latter a third, etc., how then did they start to move? Who wound up the clock of the mechanism of nature? Those who reasoned this way had to recognise the existence of something that provided the initial impulse. Relative to seemingly motionless nature such an entity could only be God...." [Kharin (1981), pp.63-64.]


However, if it should turn out that dialecticians also appeal to external causes to account for the initiation of change (as we will see they do), then the superiority of DM over mechanical materialism simply disappears --, at least in this regard. On that, see Note 28.


7. It isn't clear from what Rees says whether or not he believes the universe is infinite -- in the sense that (1) It had no beginning, or that (2) It is infinite in extent (bounded or unbounded), or even that (3) It is infinitely divisible. Clearly, if the universe did have an origin, and, unless we suppose it caused itself before it existed (!), it seems it must have had an external cause. Of course, if space and time began with the origin of the universe then that alternative might not appear to be available. [Although, it is far from clear what it could mean to say that space and time had a beginning. On that, see Rundle (2004, 2009).]


On the other hand, if the universe were infinite (in every respect), and had no origin (as many DM-theorists still believe, despite the BBT), our grasp of the idea that everything is interconnected would become even less credible -- if not entirely incredible -- and that isn't just because there would be no "everything" to grasp if the universe were infinite. [On this, see Robinson (2003), Rundle (2004, 2009), and Essay Eleven Part One.]


[BBT = Big Bang Theory; STD = Stalinist Dialectician.]


Certainly, Lenin spoke as if he believed nature was infinite. [Lenin (1972), p.314.] Recently, Woods and Grant have declare they also believe that the universe is infinite, and in both 'directions', as it were -- macroscopically and microscopically; cf., Woods and Grant (1995), pp.183-226. [Their ideas will be examined in other Essays posted at this site.] Several STDs quoted in an earlier Essay also appear to believe this.


However, it looks like the failure of scientists to substantiate key areas of the Standard Model (such as the existence of the Higgs Boson and Dark Matter) has given an apparently growing body of other scientists the confidence to question the BBT. [On this, see Chown (2003, 2004, 2005), Lerner (1992) and Mitchell (1995, 2002). Also worth consulting in this regard is Eric Lerner's site.]


Clearly, this is something for scientists themselves to sort out; it isn't up to dialecticians or philosophers to tell them what to think. [I am therefore taking no position on this. Of course, the above was written before scientists claimed they had discovered the Higgs.]


8Idealism Rears Its Ugly Head


[This forms part of Note 8. The argument below continues from that presented in Note 4, and is further continued in Note 17 and Note 22.]


Rees's requirement here echoes an approach to the foundations of empirical knowledge that has been favoured by most metaphysicians since Greek times (and that includes Hegel), which is that only necessary or conceptual truths are capable of explaining the "how" and the "why" of things. Despite the fact that he himself ends up doing this, Novack was quite clear about the issues involved:


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


Incorporated in this body of doctrine was the parallel belief that empirical evidence is an inferior, if not a flawed, basis on which to build 'genuinely philosophical knowledge'.


In Hegel's case, the Platonic contempt for the material world re-appeared in many different forms: (1) As part of his dismissal of so-called "bad" infinities, (2) In his disdain for ordinary human "understanding", (3) In the dichotomy he drew between 'appearance' and 'reality', and (4) His preference for a priori, conceptual 'truths' -- all of which were based upon ancient aristocratic prejudices, subsequently appropriated uncritically by DM-theorists. As James White noted in relation to German Idealism:


"Already with Fichte the idea of the unity of the sciences, of system, was connected with that of finding a reliable starting-point in certainty on which knowledge could be based. Thinkers from Kant onwards were quite convinced that the kind of knowledge which came from experience was not reliable. Empirical knowledge could be subject to error, incomplete, or superseded by further observation or experiment. It would be foolish, therefore, to base the whole of knowledge on something which had been established only empirically. The kind of knowledge which Kant and his followers believed to be the most secure was a priori knowledge, the kind embodied in the laws of Nature. These had been formulated without every occurrence of the Natural phenomenon in question being observed, so they did not summarise empirical information, and yet they held good by necessity for every case; these laws were truly universal in their application." [White (1996), p.29. Bold emphasis added.]


In other thinkers, this class-conscious contempt for ordinary understanding surfaces as part of an almost universal disparagement of the material language of the working-class -- the vernacular --, which is then confused (perhaps deliberately) with 'commonsense'.


This mind-set trades on an ancient aristocratic view of material reality, which held that the physical contingencies of the material world -- that are fit only for working people, "engineers", "technicians", slaves, and the like -- is incapable of providing a solid foundation for a truly philosophical explanation of "Being".


[In Conner (2005) (chapters 2 and 3) there is an excellent survey of the dismissive attitude displayed by boss-class theorists (in the Ancient World) toward ordinary, empirical knowledge --, i.e., knowledge discovered by, and which is thus only of concern to, the 'lower classes' -- a condescending mind set aggravated by an open contempt for the language, lives and experience of ordinary working people. On later developments, see also Eamon (1994).]


This aristocratic contempt was hardened into its classical form by Plato; his 'Gods and Giants' image was examined briefly above, where it was pointed out that in this regard at least, dialecticians are clearly on the side of the 'Gods'.


The political and ideological motivation behind this disdain for the world of appearances, material language and empirical reality is discussed in detail in Essays Nine Part One, Twelve and Fourteen. [Summaries can be accessed here.]


A passage from Baker and Hacker (1988) underlines the futility of this 'aristocratic' approach to knowledge (although they don't use this particular word, and are not making this political point, or any other!) -- which, incidentally, also reveals why dialecticians (like Rees and the others quoted here) have become fixated on a futile search for a metaphysical (and thus ultimately rational) "why" of things:


"Empirical, contingent truths have always struck philosophers as being, in some sense, ultimately unintelligible. It is not that none can be known with certainty…; nor is it that some cannot be explained…. Rather is it that all explanation of empirical truths rests ultimately on brute contingency -- that is how the world is! Where science comes to rest in explaining empirical facts varies from epoch to epoch, but it is in the nature of empirical explanation that it will hit the bedrock of contingency somewhere, e.g., in atomic theory in the nineteenth century or in quantum mechanics today. One feature that explains philosophers' fascination with truths of Reason is that they seem, in a deep sense, to be fully intelligible. To understand a necessary proposition is to see why things must be so, it is to gain an insight into the nature of things and to apprehend not only how things are, but also why they cannot be otherwise. It is striking how pervasive visual metaphors are in philosophical discussions of these issues. We see the universal in the particular (by Aristotelian intuitive induction); by the Light of Reason we see the essential relations of Simple Natures; mathematical truths are apprehended by Intellectual Intuition, or by a priori insight. Yet instead of examining the use of these arresting pictures or metaphors to determine their aptness as pictures, we build upon them mythological structures.


"We think of necessary propositions as being true or false, as objective and independent of our minds or will. We conceive of them as being about various entities, about numbers even about extraordinary numbers that the mind seems barely able to grasp…, or about universals, such as colours, shapes, tones; or about logical entities, such as the truth-functions or (in Frege's case) the truth-values. We naturally think of necessary propositions as describing the features of these entities, their essential characteristics. So we take mathematical propositions to describe mathematical objects…. Hence investigation into the domain of necessary propositions is conceived as a process of discovery. Empirical scientists make discoveries about the empirical domain, uncovering contingent truths; metaphysicians, logicians and mathematicians appear to make discoveries of necessary truths about a supra-empirical domain (a 'third realm'). Mathematics seems to be the 'natural history of mathematical objects' [Wittgenstein (1978), p.137], 'the physics of numbers' [Wittgenstein (1976), p.138; however these authors record this erroneously as p.139, RL] or the 'mineralogy of numbers' [Wittgenstein (1978), p.229]. The mathematician, e.g., Pascal, admires the beauty of a theorem as though it were a kind of crystal. Numbers seem to him to have wonderful properties; it is as if he were confronting a beautiful natural phenomenon [Wittgenstein (1998), p.47; again, these authors have recorded this erroneously as p.41, RL]. Logic seems to investigate the laws governing logical objects…. Metaphysics looks as if it is a description of the essential structure of the world. Hence we think that a reality corresponds to our (true) necessary propositions. Our logic is correct because it corresponds to the laws of logic….


"In our eagerness to ensure the objectivity of truths of reason, their sempiternality and mind-independence, we slowly but surely transform them into truths that are no less 'brutish' than empirical, contingent truths. Why must red exclude being green? To be told that this is the essential nature of red and green merely reiterates the brutish necessity. A proof in arithmetic or geometry seems to provide an explanation, but ultimately the structure of proofs rests on axioms. Their truth is held to be self-evident, something we apprehend by means of our faculty of intuition; we must simply see that they are necessarily true…. We may analyse such ultimate truths into their constituent 'indefinables'. Yet if 'the discussion of indefinables…is the endeavour to see clearly, and to make others see clearly, the entities concerned, in order that the mind may have that kind of acquaintance with them which it has with redness or the taste of a pineapple' [Russell (1937), p.xv; again these authors record this erroneously as p.v, RL], then the mere intellectual vision does not penetrate the logical or metaphysical that to the why or wherefore…. For if we construe necessary propositions as truths about logical, mathematical or metaphysical entities which describe their essential properties, then, of course, the final products of our analyses will be as impenetrable to reason as the final products of physical theorising, such as Planck's constant." [Baker and Hacker (1988), pp.273-75. Referencing conventions in the original have been altered to conform to those adopted at this site. Links added.]


As should be clear from all that has gone before, DM-theorists have bought into this view of 'necessary truths' (even if few of them use that particular phrase -- although Lenin and Dietzgen seem to have been rather fond of it; more on that in a later Essay).


For example, dialecticians in general locate the cause of change in the relation between internally-linked opposite (logical?) properties of objects and processes. But, why this should cause change is left entirely unexamined. Indeed, it is left as a brute fact, as the above passage suggests it always must remain -- in which case, it is just a fact about the world that 'contradictions' cause change. No further explanation is necessary.


In reality, this account of change is plainly a consequence of a certain way of describing things (and in a fetishised way, to boot), as we will discover in Essay Twelve Part One.


[A 'brute fact' is one that has no further explanation, and which is contingent 'all the way down', as it were.]


Nevertheless, as we have already seen, there is no reason why contradictory states of affairs should cause change any more than there is a reason to suppose that non-contradictory states should. Both of these options rely on descriptions of the presumed, or even imposed, relations between objects and processes (but not on evidence since (i) no further explanation is possible and (ii) it isn't possible to verify or confirm their existence); they supposedly capture or picture processes in nature that are held capable of making other objects or processes change or 'develop'. Again, how and why they are able to do this is left as a brute fact.


Even an appeal to 'contradictory forces' -- in order to explain why things change -- merely involves yet more objects and processes, more brute facts, none of which adds anything to the 'necessitation' that such an account promised, and now requires. In the end, these forces depend on certain descriptions of them being translated into the vocabulary of QM (or some other branch of Physics), and hence into another set propositions expressing yet more brute facts. When asked why forces must do what they do (or even why a Field, say, is capable of making anything move) the only response possible is: "They just do.... It's just a fact about forces/fields/...". Indeed, as should seem plain, Differential Equations, Hamiltonians, Matrices and the Kronecker Delta can't actually move anything about the place, or even deflect a single particle from its path.


Moreover, the infinite regress (or "bad infinity") dialecticians hoped to avoid by appealing to 'internal contradictions' now simply reappears elsewhere in their theory. When it is fleshed-out, DM just relates objects and processes to yet more objects and processes (or, to be more honest, yet more words about objects and processes), as well as to 'negations', 'opposites', and 'interpenetrations', and the like (i.e., yet more "brute facts", either about the world, or about how human beings are supposed (by dialecticians) to think and talk), 'internal' to other objects and processes.


In all this, the necessitation that had originally been sought simply vanishes in an impenetrable mist of jargon (which leads "who knows where?"). In this regard, the logical and/or 'rational' foundation for knowledge constructed by DM-advocates turns out to be no different in form from that concocted by traditional metaphysicians. In place of the reasons we were promised (i.e., the "why and the how" of things), all we find are yet more DM-objects and processes (or, again, yet more words about objects and processes) -- except, these have now been shunted off into a mysterious, 'abstract' realm, fluffed-up with a handful of vague terms-of-art (like, "mediation", "unity in difference", "internally related", "thing-in-itself"), of convenient obscurity, all of which possess impressive Idealist credentials.


While DM-theorists promised the world a brand new set of explanations, all they delivered was a batch of shop-soiled goods imported from Traditional Philosophy comprised almost entirely of jargonised expressions, masking the 'brute facts' hidden beneath, indeed, as Lenin himself acknowledged:


"The history of philosophy and the history of social science show with perfect clarity that there is nothing resembling 'sectarianism' in Marxism, in the sense of its being a hidebound, petrified doctrine, a doctrine which arose away from the high road of the development of world civilisation. On the contrary, the genius of Marx consists precisely in his having furnished answers to questions already raised by the foremost minds of mankind. His doctrine emerged as the direct and immediate continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy, political economy and socialism.


"The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true. It is comprehensive and harmonious, and provides men with an integral world outlook irreconcilable with any form of superstition, reaction, or defence of bourgeois oppression. It is the legitimate successor to the best that man produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism." [Lenin, Three Sources and Component Parts of Marxism. Bold emphases alone added.]


9Clearly, Rees forgot about several other, equally possible, options.


"[N]ature forms a totality, which it must unless we depart from materialism completely and become believers in the supernatural…." [Ibid., p.78.]


For example, even if something were to exist outside the universe, while it might still be non-natural, it doesn't have to be supernatural. Moreover, there might be other universes out there, which are no less natural than ours.


To that end, in 2010 we read this from the Physics ArXiv Blog at the MIT:


"Astronomers Find First Evidence Of Other Universes


"There's something exciting afoot in the world of cosmology. Last month, Roger Penrose at the University of Oxford and Vahe Gurzadyan at Yerevan State University in Armenia announced that they had found patterns of concentric circles in the cosmic microwave background, the echo of the Big Bang.


"This, they say, is exactly what you'd expect if the universe were eternally cyclical. By that, they mean that each cycle ends with a big bang that starts the next cycle. In this model, the universe is a kind of cosmic Russian Doll, with all previous universes contained within the current one.


"That's an extraordinary discovery: evidence of something that occurred before the (conventional) Big Bang.


"Today, another group says they've found something else in the echo of the Big Bang. These guys start with a different model of the universe called eternal inflation. In this way of thinking, the universe we see is merely a bubble in a much larger cosmos. This cosmos is filled with other bubbles, all of which are other universes where the laws of physics may be dramatically different to ours.


"These bubbles probably had a violent past, jostling together and leaving "cosmic bruises" where they touched. If so, these bruises ought to be visible today in the cosmic microwave background.


"Now Stephen Feeney at University College London and a few pals say they've found tentative evidence of this bruising in the form of circular patterns in cosmic microwave background. In fact, they've found four bruises, implying that our universe must have smashed into other bubbles at least four times in the past.


"Again, this is an extraordinary result: the first evidence of universes beyond our own.


"So, what to make of these discoveries. First, these effects could easily be a trick of the eye. As Feeney and co acknowledge: 'it is rather easy to find all sorts of statistically unlikely properties in a large dataset like the CMB.' That's for sure!


"There are precautions statisticians can take to guard against this, which both Feeney and Penrose bring to bear in various ways.


"But these are unlikely to settle the argument. In the last few weeks, several groups have confirmed Penrose's finding while others have found no evidence for it. Expect a similar pattern for Feeney's result.


"The only way to settle this will be to confirm or refute the findings with better data. As luck would have it, new data is forthcoming thanks to the Planck spacecraft that is currently peering into the cosmic microwave background with more resolution and greater sensitivity than ever.


"Cosmologists should have a decent data set to play with in a couple of years or so. When they get it, these circles should either spring into clear view or disappear into noise (rather like the mysterious Mars face that appeared in pictures of the red planet taken by Viking 1 and then disappeared in the higher resolution shots from the Mars Global Surveyor).


"Planck should settle the matter; or, with any luck, introduce an even better mystery. In the meantime, there's going to be some fascinating discussion about this data and what it implies about the nature of the Universe. We'll be watching." [Taken from here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; minor typos corrected.]


And there is this from Science Daily (August 2011):


"Is Our Universe Inside a Bubble? First Observational Test of the 'Multiverse'


"Science Daily (Aug. 3, 2011) -- The theory that our universe is contained inside a bubble, and that multiple alternative universes exist inside their own bubbles -- making up the 'multiverse' -- is, for the first time, being tested by physicists.

"Two research papers published in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review D are the first to detail how to search for signatures of other universes. Physicists are now searching for disk-like patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation -- relic heat radiation left over from the Big Bang -- which could provide tell-tale evidence of collisions between other universes and our own.


"Many modern theories of fundamental physics predict that our universe is contained inside a bubble. In addition to our bubble, this 'multiverse' will contain others, each of which can be thought of as containing a universe. In the other 'pocket universes' the fundamental constants, and even the basic laws of nature, might be different.


"Until now, nobody had been able to find a way to efficiently search for signs of bubble universe collisions -- and therefore proof of the multiverse -- in the CMB radiation, as the disc-like patterns in the radiation could be located anywhere in the sky. Additionally, physicists needed to be able to test whether any patterns they detected were the result of collisions or just random patterns in the noisy data.


"A team of cosmologists based at University College London (UCL), Imperial College London and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics has now tackled this problem.


"'It's a very hard statistical and computational problem to search for all possible radii of the collision imprints at any possible place in the sky,' says Dr Hiranya Peiris, co-author of the research from the UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy. 'But that's what pricked my curiosity.'


"The team ran simulations of what the sky would look like with and without cosmic collisions and developed a ground-breaking algorithm to determine which fit better with the wealth of CMB data from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). They put the first observational upper limit on how many bubble collision signatures there could be in the CMB sky.


"Stephen Feeney, a PhD student at UCL who created the powerful computer algorithm to search for the tell-tale signatures of collisions between 'bubble universes,' and co-author of the research papers, said: 'The work represents an opportunity to test a theory that is truly mind-blowing: that we exist within a vast multiverse, where other universes are constantly popping into existence.'


"One of many dilemmas facing physicists is that humans are very good at cherry-picking patterns in the data that may just be coincidence. However, the team's algorithm is much harder to fool, imposing very strict rules on whether the data fits a pattern or whether the pattern is down to chance.


"Dr Daniel Mortlock, a co-author from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, said: 'It's all too easy to over-interpret interesting patterns in random data (like the 'face on Mars' that, when viewed more closely, turned out to just a normal mountain), so we took great care to assess how likely it was that the possible bubble collision signatures we found could have arisen by chance.'


"The authors stress that these first results are not conclusive enough either to rule out the multiverse or to definitively detect the imprint of a bubble collision. However, WMAP is not the last word: new data currently coming in from the European Space Agency's Planck satellite should help solve the puzzle." [Taken from here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Of course, if Nature in its entirety -- comprising our universe and any others there might be, which will include natural events and processes outside our universe -- is co-extensive with the "Totality", this option will be closed off, but as we will see in Essay Eleven Part One, DM-theorists have so far failed to tell us what their "Totality" comprises, or even its extent.


And, it is worth asking what the word "supernatural" means, here. Knee-jerk atheists seem to think that the term "supernatural" is readily comprehensible; but if it isn't then P2 doesn't even count as a definition:


P2: Anything external to the universe is supernatural.


However, if "supernatural" itself means something like "external to nature" then it seems that the word "external" must either lose its own sense (in such a context -- if there is or can be nothing external to the universe, then 'it' cannot be anything in particular, let alone 'supernatural'), or it ought to take on a new sense -- rather like the way that the word "number" alters its meaning as we flip through the different sets: , , , and . So, anything 'external' to the currently defined set of all numbers isn't a number (tat least until new sets are defined).


[ is the set of natural numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, ...); is the set of integers (..., -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, ...); is the set of rational numbers (impossible to list; this set includes all previous sets, but also incorporates all those numbers that can be expressed as a ratio of two integers -- i.e., as factions and terminating or recurring decimals); is the set of real numbers (this includes the previous sets, and add the so-called 'irrationals' -- numbers that can't be expressed as a ratio of two integers, such as one of the square roots of two, or π); is the set of complex numbers (of the form, "a + bi", where "i" is the one of the square roots of -1, and "a" and "b" are real numbers).]


Is this the case with "supernatural"? If we extend our definitions, will this word one day make more sense? [Clearly not, but that fact, if it is one, would be impossible to substantiate using the Stone Age Logic and rusty conceptual tools that DM supplies its adepts.]


But, if there is nothing external to the universe (not even space), then that claim itself must lack a clear sense -- as must its denial. [On this, see Rundle (2004), again.]


10. Modern-day Thomists (or even quasi-Thomists) are more sophisticated in their defence of the COMA than many Marxists perhaps realise; and other 'internalist' ideas are alive and well, too, unfortunately.


More details on these and other mystical systems, along with their connection with DM, will be given in Essay Fourteen (summary here).


[COMA = Cosmological Argument.]


[However, my objections to this equally pernicious brand of Mysticism (i.e., arguments for or against the existence of 'God') won't be aired at this site.]


11. This is discussed in more detail in Essays Ten Part One and Three Part Three.


12. Naturally, the use of the phrase "antagonistic forces" makes sense when it is employed in HM. That is because it is human beings (i.e., agents) who shape history under the action of economic, social and class forces (where the word "force" is interpreted in its ordinary sense), whose actions don't take place as a result of impersonal "forces" (except, of course, those implicated in the "forces of production", which can also attract familiar humanistic connotations).


Moreover, language gives human actors the capacity to form or adopt intra-, and inter-contradictory beliefs about their own circumstances and their material interests (which aren't always clearly perceived). Certainly, social and economic factors condition their outcome and are conditioned in return. Hence, in general, the aims and interests of agents drawn from one class can't be reconciled with those of other classes. Such aims and interests are thus rightly said to be "contradictory" because they represent outcomes not all of which can be realised by all parties at once, and not all of which can't without one or more of these agents ceasing to exist, in such circumstances. [On this, see here.]


To be sure, this interpretation lets all the metaphysical hot air out of this a priori DM-balloon -- which over-inflated system would have us believe that impersonal 'contradictions' have the capacity to cause change as if they were agents of some sort themselves.


This view (briefly outlined above) has at least the following going for it: it restricts contradictions (or, to be more precise: it restricts contradictory factors expressed propositionally) to what human beings can say, think and do -- as one should expect with a term that only sensibly relates to human practice -- while it rightly denies it of those factors that can't speak or think.


Admittedly, these comments are sketchy in the extreme, but further elaboration would take us too far afield into HM.


In addition, I don't want to get sidetracked into a discussion of the meaning of that rather obscure term "mediation". As this word features in Hegelian Metaphysics, it is far from clear whether it can be transposed into a scientific context without suffering major distortion (always assuming it has a clear meaning to begin with). [Cf., Inwood (1992), pp.205-08.]


13. Of course, there could be a hierarchy of systems, any one of which contains the sub-systems below it in the ontological pecking order, as it were. This option will be considered presently.


14. This is discussed briefly in Note 10, above, and again below.


However, it is a moot point exactly what could count as an external cause or 'contradiction' in a dialectical system. If everything is interconnected and is part of a mediated Totality, there would seem to be no room at all for external causation -- and hence none for "external contradictions". As noted earlier, it is only by confusing logical and spatial (topological) relations that dialecticians have allowed themselves to imagine there could be 'external contradictions' to begin with (a notion that is foreign to Hegel's system, upside down or 'the right way up' -- just as the idea is absent from Marx, Engels, Plekhanov and Lenin). We will return to this theme later where we will see that it is mainly STDs and MISTs who have fallen into this trap -- just as we will see in Essay Nine Part Two that this theoretical dodge also presented them with a handy ideological 'rationale' for the doctrine that socialism could be built in one country, with all the disastrous consequences this idea brought in its train. [On the serious problems this creates for dialecticians, see here and here, as well as here and here.]


[STD = Stalinist Dialectician; MIST = Maoist Dialectician.]


15. I will explain presently what I count as a system.


15a. I have avoided using the formal techniques of Mereology here for obvious reasons. These can be found in, for example, Simons (1987) and Varzi (2015).


16. This appears to be the view at least of Ollman [Ollman (1976, 1993, 2003)]; more on this in Essay Four Part Two, where 'internal relations' will be destructively criticised.


Nevertheless, this caveat is required in order to harmonise the claim made by other dialecticians (who are mostly Stalinists) that change is induced externally, as well as to allow the incorporation of opposing forces as surrogate 'internal' relations. On this view, even though forces would appear to act as external causes, they actually operate internally on bodies, causing change. [Here, external relations are merely mis-perceived or mis-identified internal relations, it seems. Notice, however, the continual slide between the spatial and the logical senses of "internal", mentioned earlier.]


This avenue of escape will be exposed as a dead end in Part Two of this Essay, and also partially in Note 28, below. See also Note 17, and Note 23.


17. [This continues the argument developed in Note 4 and Note 8.]


"Bad infinity" (or, "spurious infinity" -- Hegel (1999), pp.137, 139) is an Hegelian term, and is roughly equivalent to "endless", in the sense that the number line is endless. The "true infinite" is endless but bounded, rather like a circle. On this , see Inwood (1992), pp.139-42.


This was, of course, part of the reason why Leibniz opted for a 'logical' solution to the 'problem' of causation. In order to provide an ultimate, 'rational' explanation of the world, external causes had to be re-written -- or rather, re-configured -- as internal causes in disguise, which led Leibniz to posit the existence of 'Monads'. These were tiny 'minds' programmed to behave as if they had external effects on each other, but they were in fact all logically inter-connected by means of their 'pre-programmed, pre-installed' predicates, enabling them not only to self-move but also to act as if they had an external effect on one another. They were also hermetically-sealed-off from the rest of nature (they were thus "window-less", as he put it), even though all their predicates contained 'pre-installed' logical links to every other monad. This is indeed the origin of the 'containment' metaphor Kant used to distinguish Analytic from Synthetic truths, an idea Hegel also appropriated. As we will see, this is also the origin of the idea that there can only be 'internal contradictions' in DM. All 'external contradictions' are in fact 'internal contradictions, mis-described, or mis-perceived.


As George Ross notes:


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


"Leibniz's best known concept is that of a monad, literally a 'unit'. At all periods, commentators have found it difficult to decide whether his monads were fundamentally infinitesimal atoms of matter, though described somewhat paradoxically, or whether they were thoroughly spiritual realities, little different from the vital principles of occultist philosophers. Along with Leibniz himself, it could be said that both interpretations are right in what they assert, and wrong in what they implicitly deny. His monads were indeed both the atomic foundations of the material world, and the basis of an organic and holistic interpretation of reality. But for his synthesis to work, his ultimate entities had to be neither simply material, nor spiritual -- they had to be immaterial, but without ending up as the invisible spirits, demons, and angels, and the such-like of the occultist world-view.


"In fact he accepted the basic assumption of the new philosophy that explanations of particular events had to be in terms of mechanical interactions between material particles. He was, indeed, an extremist, in asserting that all events, including human thoughts and behaviour, could be given purely mechanical explanations. For Leibniz, materialists were definitely right in what they asserted, and spiritualists were wrong to deny the universality of mechanical causation. On the other hand, he also saw the orthodox mechanical philosophy as hopelessly one-sided. In his view, its limitations could be made good only by recognising the positive insights of spiritualism. I shall outline just two of the more serious shortcomings he found in crude materialism.


"The first difficulty was that the atomic constituents of matter, or spatially extended substance, could not themselves be spatially extended. This is a consequence of the infinite divisibility of space. However small you take atoms to be, you can still consider them as compounds of smaller parts, and hence not truly atomic. But if you make atoms into indivisible, mathematical points, then they are too small to be characterised by the spatial properties traditionally held essential to matter, such as solidity, size, and shape.


"Instead, Leibniz defined the essence of matter in terms of its dynamic properties. What distinguished solid matter from empty space, or from immaterial things like ghosts or rainbows, was essentially its power to resist penetration or acceleration. He thus circumvented the problem of indivisibility by making the essence of matter a power, or force, or energy -- the terms were interchangeable in his day. Since there was no logical absurdity in conceiving a quantum of energy as existing at a mathematical point, Leibniz's monads could therefore function as energy-points.


"The second main difficulty he saw in materialism was its inability to explain the basic process of mechanical interaction itself, namely the transfer of energy from one material particle to another by pushing or colliding into it. At any level, it was possible to give a provisional explanation in terms of the elasticity of the particles composing colliding bodies. So, when two objects collide, the particles of each are first compressed, and then spring back again from each other, thus reconverting elastic forces back into kinetic energy. But this gets us no nearer to understanding the underlying process of energy transference, since it presupposes precisely the same processes at a more microscopic level: the elasticity of the particles can be explained only in terms of their elastic sub-particles, and so on to infinity. To explain mechanical interaction as mediated by a sub-mechanism merely postpones any solution to the problem of interaction itself.


"As before, Leibniz got round the difficulty by conceptualising the situation in a radically different way. He saw it as a mistake to picture mechanical interaction as consisting in the handing over of parcels of energy from one physical object to another. Really, the colliding body merely functioned as a stimulus to which the other body responded of its own accord. As we all know, every force has an equal and opposite reaction. Leibniz held that colliding bodies reacted by virtue of their own reactive forces. In his terminology, all action was spontaneous.


"However, this gave rise to a new difficulty. Orthodox mechanists explained everything as blind reactions to imposed forces. But if all actions were to be spontaneous, how could monads register what stimuli they were receiving, and react to them in such a way as to avoid complete chaos in the universe? In order to preserve the harmony of things, monads had, in some sense, to 'know' what everything else was doing, and to be motivated to promote the harmony of the whole.


"In the light of these requirements, it is hardly surprising that Leibniz was reduced to metaphor and analogy. In order to express his ideas, he adopted the terminology of spiritualism. He said that monads were like souls, only unconscious: they were sources of energy and spontaneous activity; they perceived their spatial environment without themselves being spatial; and they acted purposefully in accordance with a motivation towards the best." [Ross (1983b). Emphases in the origin. Unfortunately, this link is now dead, as are other links to Ross's work. This work can now be download from here (after registration).]


Hegel adapted this idea, enlarged it grotesquely in the direction of Spinoza -- pebble-dashing it along the way with lorry loads of gobbledygook -- subsequently burying the lot in the self-development of his cosmic 'Super Ego' (the 'Absolute'). Hence, everything in his mystical world was self-moving and inter-linked, as a result.


Engels and Lenin simply swallowed this croc.


[Why the above comrades did this is the subject of Essay Nine Part Two. The Hermetic origin of these notions will be detailed in Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here). See also here, and Note 22 below.]


On Leibniz's early development, see Mercer (2001); on his occult influences, see Ross (1983a, 1998 (the latter of these two links is now dead)). The theological background to all this can be found in Osler (2004); on that, see here.


18. It would be rather like, say, Darwin forgetting to make a note of the fact that the fossil record was inconsistent with his theory (which, as it turns out, he didn't do; he both acknowledged and attempted to explain this incongruity). On the problems that this still poses for his theory, see Schwartz (1999). This is yet another difference between genuine science and the Mickey Mouse Science we find in DM.


19. The 'Nixon' card refers to an underhanded ploy, devised by Richard Nixon and his team, illustrated by the following series of events: in the run-up to the 1968 US Presidential Election, Nixon announced that he had a "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War, which plan he couldn't reveal since that would defeat its 'secret purpose'. As things turned out, he had no plan -- except perhaps to expand the war into Cambodia and Laos!


[Donald Trump came up with the same dodge in relation to fighting ISIS in the 2016 Presidential Election.]


So, in order to 'Nixon' a problem, all a theorist has to do is declare that it has been "solved", and then refuse to explain any further.


In this area of DM, this ploy would involve a dialectician claiming that the world is maximally interconnected even though all its parts are at the same time maximally isolated from one another (and are thus "self-moving"), and that DL allows this contradiction to be "grasped". End of story.


[DL = Dialectical Logic.]


However, this particular 'problem' has been created entirely by dialecticians themselves; the 'solution' on offer (which is that we should all meekly accept or "grasp" a particular DM-contradiction) helps not one iota in understanding what it could possibly mean to suggest that everything is maximally discrete and maximally interconnected, all at once.


Throwing a few jargonised phrases at the page might satisfy the ever-dwindling band of DM-fans remaining on this planet (few of whom can come to much agreement over what these jargonised words imply or mean, anyway), but that is about all it will do.


The use of this tactic is restricted to DM-theorists themselves; DM's opponents are most certainly not allowed to employ it, as we have seen.


20. This much was clear to Zeno. There is a useful summary of this 'paradox' in Pyle (1997). The implications of this horn of the dilemma are reasonably clear: if systems are composed of sub-systems -- 'to infinity', meaning there are no simple objects -- then there are in fact no "internal contradictions". What might appear to be "internal contradictions" will, upon further analysis, turn out to be "external contradictions" -- they are always external to some other system, to infinity. This is one of the least appreciated implications of the DM-idea that matter is infinitely divisible -- all contradictions turn out to be external. [On this, see Note 23, below.]


If it is responded that although the above contradictions might appear to be external, they are still internal to an overarching, encompassing sub-system, no matter how far we analysed the whole set of nested sub-systems. Indeed, these contradictions would be internal to the collection of nested sub-systems. However, these 'internal contradictions' aren't logical, they are spatial. They don't pre-suppose one another, they aren't 'interpenetrated'.


But, in that case, what is to stop a 'Dialectical Theist' from claiming that what might appear to atheists to be an "external push" in relation to the origin of the universe, is in fact "internal" to the entire system -- including 'God' -- now called "Reality", or "Being"?


Be this as it may, this option will merely reproduce its own "bad/spurious infinity", which this approach to change was meant to avoid. This "bad/spurious infinity" will unravel in the opposite direction, as it were; instead of a "bad/spurious infinity" expanding ever outwards, this one will spiral ever downwards, never reaching a rational conclusion.


[At least theists have a 'rational conclusion' -- 'God'!]


Of course, if this series of sub-systems inside sub-systems goes on to infinity, then, as we have seen, the time taken for anything to happen (as infinite sets of sub-systems and their assorted 'internal contradictions' unravel) would be infinite, too. Nothing would happen in this DM-universe (or it would take billions of years for a kettle to boil).


No matter how rapid/brief the interplay between these contradictions proves to be, an infinite number of them would take an infinite time to work through. After all, for any (finite) positive integer, n:


Ào x 10-n = Ào


["Ào" (pronounced aleph zero) is the 'smallest' transfinite cardinal -- i.e., for all intents and purposes, the smallest infinite number.]


In order to avoid this result, all such 'internal contradictions' would have to operate instantaneously, in zero seconds. But, as Trotsky pointed out, that would mean they don't exist. [This is, of course, just a corollary of Leibniz's criticisms of Newton -- on that, see Note 22.]


21. Which would mean, of course, that they couldn't even have an external effect on each other. [Why this is so will be explained in Note 22, below.]


However, if these 'objects' also had an internal structure, or dynamic, they would in fact be sub-systems, not 'simple' objects -- and this infinitary fandango would take another spin around the metaphysical dance floor.


Incidentally, we met a few possible, or even actual, candidates for such 'simple objects' in an earlier Essay, here and here.



22. Leibniz On Interaction


[This forms part of Note 22, and it continues the argument set out in Note 4, Note 8, and Note 17.]


This much was clear to Leibniz. This is how George Ross summarised this idea:


"As significant as his critique of Descartes' mechanics was Leibniz's attack on Newton's account of force. In the Principles, Newton limited himself to describing interactions between bodies in terms of general mathematical laws. This limitation was both a strength and a weakness. Newton succeeded in making the complexities of nature amenable to mathematical description only by simplifying the phenomena: by treating material particles as if they were infinitely hard yet infinitely elastic, concentrated at points, capable of exchanging any amount of force all at once, connected by forces operating instantaneously at a distance, and so on. Leibniz complained that this made Newton's system an idealised abstraction, which could not possibly be true of the real world. In reality, nothing was absolutely hard or elastic, nothing happened instantaneously, and every causal interaction was mediated by a complex mechanism. In general terms, Newton would have agreed with Leibniz's comment. He too believed in underlying mechanisms, but he refused to speculate about them in the Principles (his famous, 'I do not invent hypotheses')....


"Much later, in his Specimen of Dynamics (1695), Leibniz tried to give an account of the mechanism which mediated exchanges of force between colliding bodies. In real collisions (unlike Newton's idealisations), there had to be a finite period during which one body slowed down and the other picked up speed. This implied that bodies had a certain size, and were not absolutely hard or elastic, since the only conceivable mechanism for transfer of force was that bodies were first squashed together, and then gradually sprang back from each other once all the kinetic energy had been taken up. However, as soon as it is accepted that transfer of force between every day objects must be mediated by a mechanism, there is no point at which you stop needing smaller and smaller sub-mechanisms. At no level can you suddenly say that force is transferred directly.


"Elasticity is itself a phenomenon requiring explanation in terms of pushings of particles. At the first instant of impact, the outermost particles of each colliding body push against their neighbours, and these in turn push against their neighbours, and so on right through each body. But then each of these pushings needs to be explained by the compression of sub-particles, and so on to infinity. The conclusion Leibniz drew was that, ultimately, forces were not really transferred at all. All action was, as he put it, spontaneous. The energy required for a body's motion on the occasion of an impact, had to be drawn from its own resources, since it could not actually take up any energy from bodies impinging on it....


"An even more significant aspect of the theory was its abandonment of the traditional notion that matter was essentially inert. Leibniz saw that if the only function of matter was as a passive carrier of forces, then it had no role to play in scientific explanation. Its only role would be the metaphysical one of satisfying the prejudice that forces must inhere in something more substantial than themselves. He maintained that matter was nothing other than the receptive capacity of things, or their 'passive power', as he called it. Matter just was the capacity to slow other things down, and to be accelerated rather than penetrated (capacities which ghosts and shadows lack) -- in other words, inertia or mass, and solidity. So, taking also into account 'active powers' such as kinetic energy, Leibniz reduced matter to a complex of forces. In this he was anticipating modern field theory, which treats material particles as concentrated fields of force –- an anticipation duly recognised by its founder, the Italian mathematician Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich (1711-87)." [Ross (1984), pp.40-44.]


[On this, see also the detailed comments in Mcdonough (2014). Also see Boscovich (1966), and Whyte (1961b). For a useful summary of the development of 'dynamic' theories (in the tradition of Leibniz and Boscovich), see Harré and Madden (1975), pp.161-85. See also Buchdahl (1988), pp.388-469.]


We will be examining some of these ideas in more detail in Part Two of this Essay.


The serious problems faced by naïve materialist accounts of forces are spelled out in detail (with admirable clarity and engaging style) in Schelling (1995), particularly pp.161-69. Clearly, Schelling is also writing in the tradition of Leibniz, Boscovich and the early Kant (of The Physical Monadology [reprinted in Kant (2003), pp.47-66]. Even so, in the end Schelling still can't account for the interaction of forces. [Why this is so will be outlined in Essay Three Part Five.]


There is also a distinct echo of all this in Nietzsche's analysis of forces (which I will develop in a more consistently anti-metaphysical direction in Part Two), outlined in Poellner (2000).


The argument seems to have been: the external interaction of bodies implies they must have some structure (since not all of a body can interact with another at once -- unless all bodies are two-dimensional flat surfaces and interacted only 'face-to-face', as it were). But, if they possess a structure they can't be simple. In which case, simple bodies can't interact.


But, since all systems are made of simple bodies, and no simple body can interact externally, no system can interact externally, either.


This is a simplified version of the argument that motivated Leibniz (and it seems Schelling and Hegel, too). [On Leibniz on causation, see Bobro (2013), and Carlin (2008). Also see Mercer (2001).]


However, the problems faced by 'internal' interactions are, if anything, even more intractable. These will be rehearsed in Essay Three Part Three.


There is a different proof of the impossibility of interaction in Line and Matheson (1987). However, a recent article has called this argument into question; cf., Smith (2007). But, Smith seems to have based his objections on a view of mathematics that isn't sustainable: i.e., that if we can set up a mathematical model of bodies, then physical objects must conform to that description. [More on this later.]


23. And everything would take an infinite amount of time to happen. [This is an echo of Leibniz's criticism of Newton.]


These days, this formless 'plasma' is called "atomless gunk", a phrase which was, I think, first introduced by the late David Lewis. "Gunk", it seems, shares some of the properties of the complexes mentioned earlier, but not all. The word "gunk" apparently applies to any whole whose parts all have further proper parts (and so on, forever (whatever that means!)), whereas this might not be true of complexes. [A complex is either an aggregate or a system; plainly an aggregate is something that is composed of simple parts. On this, see van Cleve (2008), Varzi (2015), and Zimmerman (1996). So, an aggregate is simply a collection, whereas a system isn't; it has some sort of structure, howsoever that is defined.]


At any rate, "atomless gunk" seems to be of little use to dialecticians since it isn't easy to see how it could be the bearer of a single 'internal contradiction', even if we knew what the latter were supposed to be!


In order to counter this it could be argued that if we suppose that (1) Objects and processes within any given system can influence other bodies or systems external to themselves, (2) Change is internally-driven, and that (3) Objects and processes don't in fact causally affect one another, they nevertheless "mediate" each other. In this way change could still be regarded as being internal to a system (or body), nature still seen as an interconnected Totality, and objects and processes could also exert an external influence on other objects and processes. The ideas of several DM-theorists, who appear to argue along these lines, will be discussed in Note 28.


However, the nature of these external 'influences' is highly obscure. How, indeed, would it be possible for objects or processes to 'influence' each other in this sense and for this not to have any causal impact? What sort of 'influence' is this if it changes nothing, if things could proceed in exactly the same way whether or not such 'influences' were operating? And what would be the point of claiming that nature formed an interconnected whole if remote objects never causally affect one another? What would we say to someone who argued that although, say, the centre of mass of the galactic group of which our galaxy forms a part had an 'influence' on the solar system, this wasn't a causal influence? If they couldn't explain what they meant, would we be willing to accept such an obscure idea?


This impasse highlights another, related difficulty: since we still have no clear idea what the DM-Totality is, it isn't easy to comprehend any of its sub-systems, either. Nor is it easy to grasp the nature of any of these sub-systems if they are causally isolated from the rest of the Totality, while at the same time being 'influenced' ('mediated') by other sub-systems, in an as-yet-to-be-explained sense. This seems about as clear as that other pseudo-scientific idea, that stars have an 'influence' on character.


Indeed, this is just the sort of 'explanation' we rightly ridicule when Astrologers come out with it. Of course, these 'cosmic influences' originated in Hermetic and Neo-Platonic Philosophy, anyway. So, given this common source, it is no big surprise to find DM and Astrology share such vague, mystical notions.


A question asked earlier is also worth reviving: Are the sub-systems of the Totality "gunk-like", or are they more like sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, clumps of matter, planets, galaxies, galactic clusters -- or perhaps something else?


Unfortunately, each putative candidate simply creates its own problems. For example, if one of these hermetically-sealed causal systems (that is, one where all change is internally-generated) is, say, our own galaxy, then it couldn't, it seems, have been caused by, or be causally linked to anything outside itself. Plainly, that would mean that: (i) our galaxy had no connection with the so-called "Big Bang", (ii) it receives and transmits no radiant energy, nor is it (iii) under the influence of wider gravitational forces/geodesics, etc. Clearly, the same problems would afflict each of the other candidates listed above, and in like manner.


Considerations such as these seem to indicate that the DM-Totality must be the entire universe, and that each part must be causally-linked to (and not just 'mediated' by) every other. That would further mean that all change in the universe is internally-generated, after all. But, even then, this would fail to solve every problem.


Several possibilities present themselves:


(1) Internally-driven change of this sort must apply to the whole universe. If this weren't so, The Whole would be fragmented in ways explored in the main body of this Essay. If, however, this option is still viable, then everything 'inside' the universe must change as a result of the inter-play between internal and external causal/dialectical factors.


The problem with this is that it would provide DM with its own set of 'bad' infinities, associated with external causation. So, if object/process, P is subject to an external causal set C1, and the latter is subject to external causes of its own (say, C2), and so on, this must surely end "who knows where?" In that case, the "why" that motivated, for example, John Rees couldn't be catered for by DM.


In addition, it would expose the theory to the challenge that if everything is subject to internal and external causal influence, then why not the universe itself? The latter question could only be neutralised by a dogmatic stipulation to the effect that the universe is unique, saddling that response with all the weaknesses that afflict the COMA for the existence of 'God'.


[COMA = Cosmological Argument.]


(2) Let us now assume that change to any part of the universe is generated exclusively internally, and that objects and processes in nature are able to 'influence'/'mediate' one another. But, even then, ex hypothesi, they couldn't do this causally. [Naturally, that just loops this theory back to where we were a few paragraphs ago.]


To be sure, this interpretation not only puts rather too much weight on the word "cause", it seems to operate with a mechanical notion of it, too. However, if this 'mechanical notion' of causation is abandoned, would we be left with a clear enough idea of causation, one that doesn't merely reduce it to constant conjunction, and which thus falls short of implying causal necessitation, which is something most DM-fans argue in favour of (as part of their commitment to determinism, for example)?


[In fact, as we will see in Essay Thirteen Part Three, metaphysical accounts of causation like this in the end either rely on constant conjunction (eliminating necessitation), or on an anthropomorphised version of human action, i.e., they depend on a Universal Will of some sort operating in nature, but which has misleadingly been re-labelled "natural necessity". These issues are analysed with admirable clarity here, and here. The second link is to Swartz (1986), the first is to Swartz (2009). See also Russell (1917b), and the recent essays in Price and Corry (2007). Also seem my comments on determinism, here and here.]


Nevertheless, and despite this, the problem with this 'solution' is that it seems to imply that the universe is populated with infinitely small elementary particle or systems which are causally unrelated to each other --, either that, or it inflates back into option (1) above (as argued in the main body of this Essay).


Another serious difficulty with this interpretation is that as soon as it is decided what constitutes a 'part' of this mysterious whole, it would conflict both with (scientific) fact and theory, since they tell us that there are sections of the universe that are causally isolated from everything else and which are so remote from one another that they can't physically interact. [More on this In Essay Eleven Part One.]


(3) Let us now assume that all change everywhere is internally-generated, with "internally-generated" being interpreted along Hegelian lines (upside down or the 'right way up').


There are several problems associated with this option, too:


(a) External causation would be non-existent if there were only internal links between events and processes. In that case, light bulbs would indeed be able to change themselves.


(b) It isn't easy to decide what this alternative rules out. On this view, for instance, what might seem to be an external cause would in fact be an internal cause misperceived or misidentified -- and "external" would become synonymous with the phrase "internal, but obscure", and we would be no further forward.


For example, we might want to say that a billiard ball responded to the impact of another billiard ball the way it does because of its own internal dynamic (as Leibniz might have argued), not because of a supposed, but misperceived, external 'cause'.


Again, as George Ross points out:


"Leibniz's theory of the spontaneity of all motion is not as silly as it might seem. It is a commonplace that every force has an equal and opposite reaction. In the case of colliding bodies, the reaction is the force holding each body together. If either of the bodies has less cohesive force than the kinetic energy involved in the collision, it will shatter instead of moving as predicted by the laws of mechanics. So Leibniz was right to say that bodies can take up only as much energy as they have the capacity to absorb, even though it does not follow that they cannot absorb energy from each other at all." [Ross (1984), p.43.]


In that case, the second billiard ball would only move off after being hit if its internal cohesive forces were sufficient to maintain its integrity, otherwise it would shatter. Thus, what might seem to us to be an external cause is in reality internal, brought about by the "occasion" of the two objects meeting.


But, even in the case where objects shatter, the particles produced would themselves move off in all directions, caused no doubt by the impact. Exactly how these particles would do that, and not shatter, too, is, on this account, entirely obscure.


(c) On this basis, scientists should concern themselves with the study of internal 'conceptual' links (which would be impossible either to verify or even detect -- because, ex hypothesi, these links would, or could have no external effect on another body, let alone any instruments), and the whole enterprise could become a priori once more (science now having looped back to its Idealist roots in Plato --; certain interpretations of QM, Relativity and M-Theory seem to be well advanced along that path already). Because the links between events and processes would be, on this view, conceptual (since they are 'internal'/'logical', in a Hegelian sense) there would be no material links at all in nature, just 'abstract' connections. [That would, of course, help explain why Lenin said the things he did, as we noted earlier.]


There thus seems to be no way out of this Dialectical Maze -- or at least none that avoids sliding DM back into the sort of Idealist quagmire that originally sired it -- or, indeed, none that fails to undermine materially-based science.


[Bertell Ollman's "internal relations" non-solution will be examined in Essay Four Part Two, but we have already seen that his 'abstractionism' falls apart all too easily.]


Finally, it is far from easy to square external causation/'contradictions' with the requirements of DL. Hence, while each 'external contradiction' might be external to some object, process or system, they must be internal to some other, wider system. Now, the 'contradictions' internal to some wider system must be a function of the internal relations that bodies/processes/sub-systems have with one another. In that case, since these 'external contradictions' are in fact conceptual links (understood as part of a "law of cognition", which reflects "objective reality", as revealed by DL -- according to Lenin), then, once again, 'external contradictions' are simply misperceived 'internal contradictions'. [I take this topic up in detail in Note 28, below.]


Of course, this is just one more untoward consequence of up-ending Hegel's 'logic': everything that happens in nature is governed by some internal relation or other, and thus everything is logically-related to everything else. And even if such things are reflected in the human mind (but linked to practice), this theory implies that reality is just a back-reflection of the human mind -- which, since reality pre-dated the human mind, must mean that the world is Mind, or Mind-like itself.


In this way we can see that putting Hegel the 'right way up' in no way affects the Idealism implicit in his 'logic'.


This argument will be spelt-out in much more detail in Essay Twelve Part Four, where it will be connected with something I have called the RRT.


[RRT = Reverse Reflection Theory. Basically, the idea is that, given DM, language and 'mind' do not in fact reflect reality (as dialecticians maintain), reality is made to reflect the contingent features of how DM-theorists think we think, or talk. Hence, this theory tells us what the world must be like so that it comes to reflect (suitably distorted) language, not the other way round. (Until that Essay has been written the reader is re-directed here and here.)]


24. "Disjoint" means they don't overlap physically, or in any other way. If they weren't disjoint, then the sub-systems of T would more readily collapse into HEX (see below). That is because this interpretation of the sub-units of T would make them all interdependent, and hence interconnected.


25. HEX was a notion introduced in Essay Three Part Three (and again in Essay Ten Part One) as the opposite of CAR, the latter being a descriptor invented, as far as I know, by the authors of DB.


[DB = Dialectical Biologist (i.e., Levins and Lewontin (1965)); HEX = Hegelian Expansionism; CAR = Cartesian Reductionism.]


26. Of course, these seemingly wild claims need adequate substantiation, which will be provided in Essay Eleven Part One. Even so, this conclusion is not unconnected with certain points made in Essay Ten Part One.


It could be objected that the vast majority of the causal links mentioned in the main body of this Essay (i.e., those that allegedly connect the (UK) New Labour victory in 2005 with distant regions of space and time) are so vanishingly small that for all practical purposes they can be ignored.


First, as the argument in this Essay shows, there is no question-begging way of specifying where the boundary lines are between systems and/or sub-systems in the DM-Totality (even if we knew what the latter was!). If all systems affect one another significantly at their boundaries (which they must), and possibly elsewhere, then any attempt to partition the Totality would smack of ad hoc subjectivism.


Second, as Essay Eleven Part One shows, DM-theorists have no developed theory of the 'Totality' (in fact, they have no theory whatsoever of this mysterious entity -- nor even a superficial description of it), so even they would have no way of knowing whether or not these remote effects are (largely) irrelevant. In that case, one dialectician's irrelevant effect could very well turn out to be another's significant input. [More on that here. This argument is used to great effect in Essay Ten Part One to show that DM-epistemology rapidly collapses into scepticism.]


Third, there seems to be little point in practically every DM-text telling us that everything is interconnected (and that the entire nature of the part is determined by its relation to the whole) if the vast bulk can be ignored. blik


Fourth, since DM-epistemology actually implies its own rejection (this was established in Essay Ten Part One), and since it can never be verified (how, for example, could anyone show that the entire nature of the tumbler Lenin mentioned depends on its relation with, say, the Crab Nebula and then with everything else, if, as we will see in Essay Eleven Part One, nobody has a clue what this 'everything else' is?), it would probably be wise to ignore the vast bulk of DM -- indeed, the more the better.


Finally, this objection is tackled head-on in Essay Eleven Part Two and completely neutralised. [This argument has been summarised, here.]


26a. Some might object at this point that all this emphasis on verification, evidence, confirmation and proof shows that the present author is indeed a positivist, or at least an empiricist.


Neither of these is the case. The present author is merely taking DM-theorists at their word:


"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.]


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


"We all agree that in every field of science, in natural and historical science, one must proceed from the given facts, in natural science therefore from the various material forms of motion of matter; that therefore in theoretical natural science too the interconnections are not to be built into the facts but to be discovered in them, and when discovered to be verified as far as possible by experiment.


"Just as little can it be a question of maintaining the dogmatic content of the Hegelian system as it was preached by the Berlin Hegelians of the older and younger line." [Ibid., p.47. Bold emphases alone added.]


"The general results of the investigation of the world are obtained at the end of this investigation, hence are not principles, points of departure, but results, conclusions. To construct the latter in one's head, take them as the basis from which to start, and then reconstruct the world from them in one's head is ideology, an ideology which tainted every species of materialism hitherto existing.... As Dühring proceeds from 'principles' instead of facts he is an ideologist, and can screen his being one only by formulating his propositions in such general and vacuous terms that they appear axiomatic, flat. Moreover, nothing can be concluded from them; one can only read something into them...." [Marx and Engels (1987), Volume 25, p.597. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


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


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


"Whenever any Marxist attempted to transmute the theory of Marx into a universal master key and ignore all other spheres of learning, Vladimir Ilyich would rebuke him with the expressive phrase 'Komchvanstvo' ('communist swagger')." [Ibid., p.221.]


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


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


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


"[The laws of dialectics] 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 when no real historical knowledge is available." [Rees (1998), p.9. Bold emphasis added.]


"'[The dialectic is not a] magic master key for all questions.' The dialectic is not a calculator into which it is possible to punch the problem and allow it to compute the solution. This would be an idealist method. A materialist dialectic must grow from a patient, empirical examination of the facts and not be imposed on them…." [Ibid., p.271. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted here.]


If this means I'm an empiricist, so was Marx:


"The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way....


"The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. The social structure and the State are continually evolving out of the life-process of definite individuals, but of individuals, not as they may appear in their own or other people's imagination, but as they really are; i.e. as they operate, produce materially, and hence as they work under definite material limits, presuppositions and conditions independent of their will." [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.42, 46-47. Bold emphases added.]


27. In order for objects to do this they must be UOs, and as UOs they must in turn contain or imply 'contradictions'. This set of ideas is examined in more detail in Note 28, below. Some of the details underlying this aspect of DM were outlined by Thalheimer, in Note 3.


It should be noted, too, that if an object already contains 'what-it-is-not' (so that, to use the lingo, A is also at the same time non-A), it can't change in at least that respect (i.e., into 'what-it-is-not' -- unless, that is, it turns into a part of itself!). On the other hand, if an object doesn't already contain 'what-it-is-not', then that 'what-it-is-not' can't assist that object to change (for that 'what-it-is-not' will not yet exist).


Of course, this depends on what the word "contains" means here. We have already seen that DM-theorists equivocate between a geometrical and a logical sense of this term. As we have also seen, they inherited this confusion from Kant and Leibniz (and other, earlier mystics).


The problems associated with this way of looking at change were examined in some detail in Essay Seven (here). They will be analysed in even more detail in Note 28, below. See also here, and here -- and Note 4, Note 8 and Note 17.


28. I have been researching this topic intensively now for nearly twenty years, and less intensively for more than thirty, but I have yet to find an explanation of the metaphysical ideas underlying this aspect of DM -- or, indeed, an explanation why change is held to be the result of 'internal contradictions'. There is a rationale of sorts in Thalheimer, and a more substantial account in an Essay written by James Lawler. [A rather weak attempt to address this issue (written from a non-Marxist angle) can also be found in Hahn (2007). I will address her arguments in a later re-write of Essay Eight Part Three.]


As far as I can ascertain, not even Hegel broaches this topic (even though he lays down the principles by means of which some sort of an account of change might be constructed).


[Nevertheless, at a future date, I will endeavour to post here what I take to be the reasoning that motivates this part of DM. It will be an elaboration of points already made here.]


Despite this, several dialecticians have attempted to show how 'external contradictions' can be harmonised with Lenin's claim that matter is 'self-moving'. Mao's and Afanasyev's accounts are among the best I have so far seen (but there are analogous versions in Kharin (1981), Konstantinov (1974), Sheptulin (1978), Yurkovets (1984), and Cornforth (1976), among others). An analysis of Mao's attempt to shed some light on this murky corner of DM will be examined later; so I will focus mainly, but not exclusively, on Afanasyev's analysis in what follows.


He first of all notes that contradictions are not all of one type:


"The most diverse contradictions exist in the world.... We shall examine internal and external, antagonistic and non-antagonistic, basic and non-basic contradictions...." [Afanasyev (1968), p.98.]


Of course, the last five 'contradictions' were unknown to Hegel, Marx, Engels, Plekhanov and Lenin. 'External contradictions' in particular can't be made compatible with Hegel's theory of change (upside down or 'the right way up') -- and for reasons explored here, as well as in Note 4, Note 8, Note 17 and Note 22.


Even so, this widening of the net smacks of desperation as DM-theorists try to bend their theory to fit the facts, helping themselves to different types of contradiction as effortlessly as Medieval Astronomers helped themselves to extra epicycles to save their theory (and, indeed, as effortlessly as modern-day physicists help themselves to extra 'dimensions'). In fact, there are rather more sordid reasons for this DM-invention; they will be explored in Essay Nine Part Two, here and here.


Be this as it may, Afanasyev then proceeds to examine the first two categories ('external' and 'internal' 'contradictions'), which are the only ones relevant to the present discussion (the other types of 'contradiction' will be analysed in another Essay -- on that see here):


"The interaction, the struggle of opposites of a given object make up its internal contradictions. The contradictory relations of a given object to its environment are its external contradictions." [Ibid., p.98. Italic emphasis in the original.]


However, exactly what constitutes a DM-'object' is left tantalisingly obscure. We have already seen in this Essay that this isn't a minor detail, one that can be put to one side or left unexamined. Which of these, for example, is an 'object' in this sense: an elementary particle, an atom, a molecule, a cell, a crystal, a lump of copper ore, an organism, a species, a swarm of flies, a herd of elephants, a shopping list, a pile of sand, a soccer team, a coral reef, a population, a mountain, a continent, a planet, a galaxy, a group of galaxies, the universe? Plainly, 'contradictions' that are 'external' to any one of these (other than, perhaps, the last item in the list) will turn out to be 'internal' to others, and vice versa. [Several STDs made a note of this, too. This point has already been made, but from a different angle, in Note 23, above.] Hence, 'contradictions' internal to a galaxy, for instance, might be external to a planet; those internal to a cat will be external to a dog; and those external to a mouse, might be internal to a cat (if the latter eats the former), and so on. In that case, the above distinction (i.e., between 'external' and 'internal') threatens to self-destruct when the details are filled in, especially when this aspect of DM is interpreted spatially.


It is no surprise, therefore, to find that these details are never filled in.


Of course, as noted above (here and here), all this trades on an equivocation between two senses of "internal": (i) "physically" or "spatially internal" and (ii) "logically internal". Hence, while something could be physically external to an object, it might still be logically internal to it. So, for example, a husband and wife are physically external to each other (most of the time), but the fact that one of these partners is, say, a husband logically implies that another (indeed, this other) must be his wife (or he would be either a divorcee or a widower), and this implication is internal to his status as a husband, which thus allows for these and similar inferences to be made. [This is in fact a consequence of how we use words like "husband", "wife", "married", and "imply"; there is nothing metaphysically deep about this. Absent the institution of marriage and these inferences fail.]


However, it isn't too clear that, with respect to the writings of the DM-theorists considered here, this distinction is much use, anyway. In fact, the way they phrase things suggests that they have run these two different senses of "internal" together (which fact will soon become obvious to the reader anyway as she works her way through the quotations given below). Again, this isn't the least bit surprising, since, in the end, the distinction itself is incoherent. That claim will be substantiated in Essay Four Part Two.


Moreover, as we have also seen: if the universe is an object, then, on this view, it, too, must have 'external contradictions', and hence it must have had a cause. In that case, the universe isn't sufficient to itself, as Afanasyev claims (on pp.53ff; see also Note 6 above).


It could be argued that 'external contradictions' are exactly what this author says they are: "the contradictory relations of a given object to its environment", and since the universe has no environment, it has no 'external contradictions'.


But, how do we know?


Appealing to the 'definition' of the universe (which 'definition' might perhaps be: "The universe is all that there is, or exists") has already been shown to be a dead end --, it will be picked apart further in Essay Eleven Part One. Even so, appealing to a definition and then applying it would amount to yet another a priori imposition onto nature, something dialecticians say they never do.


We have also seen that some astrophysicists believe there is evidence for the existence of other universes outside ours -- which, if they are right, means ours has an 'environment' after all.


Be this as it may, this question can't be settled on an a priori basis.


But, even if it turns put to be true that the universe we find ourselves in is all there is, even then, we have seen that this view of 'contradictions' is in fact merely a re-description of it (which neither forestalls a series of "bad infinities" nor supplies DM-theorists with the 'why' of things which they have all along sought). In addition, as we also saw earlier, this theory implies the existence of either, (a) Simple, changeless objects that aren't conditioned by anything else, or (b) Infinitely divisible sub-systems, the contents of which can't support 'internal opposites' (and hence 'contradictions') of any kind, which means, of course, they can't change (at least along DM-lines).


Afanasyev failed to spot these 'awkward' corollaries.


Putting these 'difficulties' to one side for the moment, we perhaps need to examine the use to which Afanasyev puts this distinction. He goes on to argue:


"Internal contradictions are the source of development because they determine the aspect or character of the object itself. If it were not for its internal contradictions the object would not be what it is. An atom, for example, could not exist without the interaction, the 'struggle' of the positively charged nucleus and the negatively charged electrons; an organism could not exist without assimilation and dissimilation, and so on." [Ibid., pp.98-99.]


However, it is clear from this that Afanasyev is confusing the nature of an object with the conditions for its existence. It may or may not be true that a certain atom will disintegrate if there is no integrity or cohesion to it (whatever the cause happens to be), but, in DM, since the nature of the part is determined by its relation to the whole, the 'internal contradictions' supposedly to be found in atoms (etc.) can't be what make that atom what it is (i.e., what defines its 'intrinsic properties'). Given DM, atoms must have 'extrinsic properties'; that is, properties that are defined by their relations with everything else.


Of course, if DM-Wholism is now to be rejected because of this latest 'difficulty', all well and good. But, it seems that these two doctrines (DM-Wholism, and the doctrine of 'intrinsic properties') can't both be true at once (unless, that is, we Nixon this 'contradiction' and then quietly ignore it).


And, it is also worth noting at this point that, just like other dialecticians, Afanasyev has to put the word "struggle" in quotation marks to make his 'explanation' 'work', since, of course, electrons and protons don't struggle with one another; they aren't agents. [On that, see here.]


Moreover, as we will see in Part Two, depicting forces and/or the relations between bodies in this way is misleading; far from there being a 'struggle' going on in atoms -- as with most other things in nature -- they seem to be eminently peaceful beings. Their almost constant state of equilibrium smacks of harmony and cooperation -- or, they would do if we copied DM-fans and anthropomorphised nature at every turn. In fact, if we have to depict nature in this way, it would be more appropriate to call such things "dialectical tautologies"; then join forces with Prince Kropotkin and see an anarchist utopia almost everywhere we look.


Moreover, even if it were the case that certain sub-atomic particles 'struggled' among themselves, it is reasonably clear that they don't turn into one another -- when was the last time an electron turned into a proton? --, which, as we have seen, is another odd claim advanced in the DM-classics. In that case, this 'struggle', if there were one, does no work; it makes no sense, even in DM-terms!


So, what exactly is the point of all this? Fortunately, Afanasyev has an answer:


"All outside influences exerted on an object are always refracted through its internal contradictions, which is also a manifestation of the determining role of those contradictions in development. Changes in the external environment merely give an impulse to the development of an organism, but the direction of development and its ultimate purpose depend on the organism's metabolism, i.e., on the interaction of assimilation and dissimilation that is characteristic of the particular organism." [Ibid., p.99.]


It is worth pointing out once again that Afanasyev can only make this 'work' by concentrating his attention on living things, which, just like the use of the word "struggle", betrays once again the animistic origins of this aspect of DM: if everything is animate -- a Cosmic Egg, if you will --, then cells and organisms can be used (analogically) in this way in order to 'explain' the alleged relation between 'external' and 'internal contradictions' throughout the rest of nature and society. It all makes some sort of crazy Hermetic sense.


However, if we try the same sort of analysis on, say, a billiard ball, it won't work. Once it has been hit, what 'internal contradictions' make it continue to move?


More to the point, what 'internal contradictions made it move in the first place? And it won't do to appeal to Newton's Third Law, here. The "action" that causes the "reaction" is manifestly external to that ball. [And, arguably, the "reaction" is, too. It is this "reaction" which affects the first ball, and that is also external to the latter. However, I have covered this topic more extensively in Part Two; readers are referred there for more details.]


Indeed, what are the 'internal contradictions' that make the planets and stars orbit whatever it is they orbit? It is no use appealing to the operation of certain forces here in a desperate attempt to find the 'internal contradictions' in, say, the Moon, that keep it circling the Earth. In such a set up, 'external' forces are what deflect bodies from their 'natural' rectilinear motion. There is no 'internal contradiction' (i.e., none internal to that planet or that star) to get hold of here.


[And, as we will also see in Part Two, using forces to illustrate 'contradictions' of any sort (external or internal) is thoroughly misconceived, anyway.]


Furthermore, as was pointed out above, Afanasyev has a confused idea of the external/internal dichotomy -- that is, he sees it as spatial, not dialectical-logical.


Nevertheless, the other dialectician mentioned above, Cornforth, has an answer to objections like this -- but, only if we take the word "answer" itself non-literally. Referring to the qualitative changes bodies undergo when affected by external causes, he argues:


"For instance, if a piece of iron is painted black and instead we paint it red, that is merely and 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.]


Despite this, we have already seen that the above change in metals (as they are heated) is smooth (they gradually soften and become molten), so this example wasn't perhaps the wisest of choices; in fact, it refutes the claim that qualitative change is always nodal. [More on this in Essay Seven.]


Putting this to one side for now, what are we to say of Cornforth's response in general? We have already noted the loose way that dialecticians 'define' "quality" (in fact, even though I have checked several times, I can't find anywhere where Cornforth tells us what a DM-quality actually is --, but see below), and how that omission allows them to find 'qualitative' changes whenever and wherever it suits them, ignoring those instances whenever and wherever they don't. In this particular case, it isn't too clear how the liquidity of a metal changes its 'quality'; it still has the same chemical (and many of the same physical) properties, its crystal structure (state of matter) has merely changed. Liquid Gold is still Gold.


But, even supposing a case could be made for arguing that this particular change could be counted as a DM-'qualitative' transformation, it isn't easy to see how this is the result of 'internal contradictions' -- or, indeed, the result of any 'contradictions' that supposedly define the 'intrinsic nature' of this metal (as Afanasyev, for instance, indicated they should).


What seems to happen here is that as the metal is heated up, the vibration of its constituent atoms increases until the inter-atomic bonds can no longer hold them in place in the old crystal structure. But where is the 'contradiction' here? Cornforth leaves this question unanswered; he seems to think we will just assume it has something to do with the inter-atomic forces operating inside the said metal. But, as we noted above, such forces are external to any atom that they operate upon. Indeed, as we have seen, what is internal to one system, is external to another. [Recall the muddle DM-theorists get into over what "internal" means, highlighted earlier.]


Moreover, as we will see in Part Two, this analogy (involving the use of forces to illustrate DM-'contradictions') doesn't work, anyway. But even if it could work, change here would be produced by a resultant force, not a set of 'contradictory' forces. Finally, we have already seen (here) that sudden changes like this (i.e., the breaking of inter-atomic bonds) can't be recruited to the DM-cause howsoever we try.


Cornforth appears to have an answer to this, too; he speaks about "dominance relations" inside objects and processes:


"The unity of opposites in a contradiction is characterised by a definite relation of superiority-inferiority, or of domination, between the opposites. For example, in a physical unity of attraction and repulsion, certain elements of attraction or repulsion may be dominant in relation to others. The unity is such that one side dominates the other -- or, in certain cases, they may be equal.


"Any qualitative state of a process corresponds to a definite relation of domination. Thus, the solid, liquid and gaseous states of bodies correspond to different domination-relationships in the unity of attraction and repulsion characteristic of the molecules of bodies....


"Domination relationships are obviously, by their very nature, impermanent and apt to change, even though in some cases they remain unchanged for a long time. If the relationship takes the form of equality or balance, such balance is by nature unstable, for there is a struggle of opposites within it which is apt to lead to the domination of one over the other....


"The outcome of the working out of contradictions is, then, a change in the domination relation characteristic of the initial unity of opposites. Such a change constitutes a change in the nature of a thing, a change from one state to another, a change from one thing to another, a change entailing not merely some external alteration but a change in the internal character and laws of motion of a thing." [Ibid., pp.97-98.]


Even so, on this view, change is still initiated externally, for the internal relations of objects and processes appear to be incapable of altering their own condition. Electrons, for example, change, not because of an internal struggle (since they are elementary particles; they have no inner structure), but because of their relation to other particles and/or forces. And, howsoever dominant or submissive these relations turn out to be, those to which Cornforth appeals are manifestly external to atoms, just as they are external to sub-atomic particles, too.


Putting this niggle to one side, too, it looks like these "domination" relations are what in the end define a DM-'quality', at least for Cornforth. However, once more we note the anthropomorphic overtones here; it seems that this part of DM can only be made to work if the parts of bodies and processes are in some sort of dominant-submissive relation with one another. Perhaps this unfortunate metaphor (shades of S&M!) can be cashed-out in vector algebra; I will leave that for others to decide or work out. But, even if that were either possible or desirable, it wouldn't help this beleaguered 'theory'. Vectors do not 'struggle' among themselves since they are mathematical objects. Anyone who thinks vectors can 'struggle' has already confused a description of the phenomena with the phenomena themselves (in the way that someone might confuse the numbers on a metre rule with their actual height).


Since Cornforth's account in the end depends on the plausibility of the analogy he drew between forces and contradictions, no more will be said about it here. That will be the topic of Part Two of this Essay; in fact, Cornforth's quirky theory is neutralised here.


Finally, Cornforth's analysis bears an uncanny resemblance to that offered up by Mao (with his "primary" and "secondary" contradictions); but as we saw here, Mao's solution is no solution at all. For example, how can a "domination relation" change into a "submissive relation"? Is it spontaneous, or is it caused by further 'internal contradictions'?


[This argument is set out in more general terms, but in extensive detail, here; the same points are easy to adapt so that they apply to Cornforth's version.]


Nevertheless, one thing is clear, the universal conclusions derived by Afanasyev and Cornforth are based on laughably thin evidence, and on a controversial (and suspiciously animistic) interpretation of the nature of forces. But, that doesn't stop either of them from projecting these ideas right across nature, valid for all of space and time. Here is Afanasyev:


"Lenin called the law of the unity and struggle of opposites the essence, the core of dialectics. The law reveals the sources, the real causes of the eternal motion and development of the material world....


"All objects and phenomena have contradictory aspects which are organically connected and which make up the indissoluble unity of opposites....


"The contradictoriness of objects and phenomena is thus of a general, universal nature. There is no object or phenomenon in the world which cannot be divided into opposites...." [Afanasyev (1968), pp.93-95. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphases added.]


We have already had occasion (in Essay Two) to note similar a priori impositions originating from Cornforth's pen -- and from that of practically every other dialectician.


So we have here yet more a priori superscience, more Idealism. All so traditional, all so predictable.


We will also see that this analysis 'allowed' STDs to argue that socialism could be built in one country -- because the intrinsic nature of the USSR could be defined by its internal relations, not the relations it held with the rest of the Capitalist world. This confusion 'allowed' these theorists to claim that the actions of the imperialist powers, for example, constituted a set of 'external contradictions' in relation to the former USSR, and hence argue that the real nature of the former USSR could be defined by its own 'internal', but "non-antagonistic", 'contradictions'. This then 'enabled' them to conclude (or, rather, it 'allowed' them to rationalise a conclusion already arrived at for other reasons) that socialism could be built in one country. Clearly, this super-plastic theory can be bent into any shape found to be either convenient or expedient.


Moreover, this 'theory' had catastrophic consequences for the European working class (connected with the ultra-left tactics adopted by the Communist Party between 1928 and 1933) -- in the shape of the rise of Hitler --, and later, after another 'dialectical' about turn (connected with the Popular Front), then another (with the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression treaty of 1939), and yet another (connected with the 'Great Patriotic War').


In Essay Nine Part Two, these major Communist Party blunders (which were partly the result of this 'theory' --, or rather, these political u-turns could be sold more easily to cadres because of DM and its various 'contradictions') will be linked with analogous, but far less murderous tactical and strategic errors committed by the Trotskyist movement. This helps account for the precipitous decline in support experienced (in Europe) by Marxist parties of every stripe. Similar, DM-induced screw-ups (by Stalinist, Maoist and Trotskyist parties) have merely ensured this collapse has continued world-wide ever since.


This will form part of a materialist explanation why Dialectical Marxism is so monumentally unsuccessful, and why this disastrous career will continue while it clings to this boss-class 'theory'.


29. The idea that these conclusions have been based on evidence has already been shown up for what it is -- wishful thinking -- in Essays Two to Seven Part Three, Essays Eight Part Two and Eleven Parts One and Two.


30. Again, this was the main theme of Essay Two.


30a. This will be discussed in detail in Essay Twelve Part Four, when it is published.


31. The ideological motivation for this is detailed in Essay Nine Parts One and Two -- and in Essays Twelve and Fourteen (summaries here and here).


32. Once more, several examples of allegedly "real material contradictions" are examined elsewhere at this site, and in detail in Part Two of this Essay.


33. DM-theorists will need to be careful here, too, for if objects don't have intrinsic qualities (presumably, those that originate from their inner nature as a UO -- but see Note 28 above), then the belief that change is internally-driven will be even more difficult to sustain.


Anyway, as we saw in Essay Seven Part One, the situation isn't as simple as this might suggest. Surprising as it might seem, the way that "quality" has been defined (that is, by those DM-theorists that bother doing so!) -- i.e., along Aristotelian lines -- means that objects must indeed have 'intrinsic' (if changing) natures. And yet, given DM-Holism, they must have 'extrinsic natures', too -- which are defined by their relations with everything else in the universe.


One suspects that the deployment of another 'Nixon' card is long overdue here.


34There is a further difficulty dialecticians don't appear to have noticed. Let us suppose that DM-interconnectedness is maximally true, so that each atom (or 'elementary' particle) in the entire universe is interconnected with every other particle, all the time and instantaneously (or not, as the case may be). Now, unless the universe is infinite, particles at the 'edge' of the universe would be subject to a set of influences that are different from those affecting objects situated at the 'centre'. These differential effects need not necessarily be quantitative, but they certainly are directional. So, any particle at the periphery would only undergo interaction with every other particle closer to the rest of the universe, radially, directed toward the centre (or at least within the confines of an ideal 'tangent' that could be drawn at the 'edge' at that point) -- if we regard these connections topologically. [The point of that particular remark will become apparent if the reader consults this.]


Of course, this might not be the case if the universe is finite/infinite and bounded; naturally, all this depends on the details, should DM-fans ever decide to reveal them to us.


However, particles at or near the centre would be subject to effects coming in from all directions. This represents a significant difference in terms of the vector sum operating on any particle in the Totality -- governing the total influences on that particle. [Again, always assuming that such DM-effects/DM-forces can be represented as vectors.]


[MIC = Maximal Interconnectedness; NMIC = Non-MIC; LOI = Law of Identity.]


Now, such observations can be generalised: on this view, there should be differential effects on any particle anywhere in the universe -- even where a particle is compared with its nearest neighbour, situated at the 'centre' or not. Hence, if MIC (this notion is explained fully in Essay Eleven Part One) were correct, all the seemingly identical particles in nature (e.g., photons) wouldn't actually be the same, no matter where they were located, since each and every one would be subject to these differential influences. [These differences needn't be connected with the alleged difficulties associated with the LOI, nor need they be linked to the influence of UOs.] That is because, as TAR points out:


"In a dialectical system, the entire nature of the part is determined by its relationships with the other parts and so with the whole. The part makes the whole, and the whole makes the parts." [Rees (1998), p.5. Bold emphases added.]


Hence, if the "entire" nature of a particle is determined by its relations with everything else, and these are universally differential, that would seem to mean that, for instance, all atoms of the 'same' element will have different properties depending on where and when they are situated in the universe. So, Sodium on earth today, for example, wouldn't have the same properties as 'Sodium', say, in the most distant regions of space, or on Mars (or even those possessed by the 'same' lump of Sodium, say, yesterday). The nature of Sodium would therefore depend on when and where it existed, and we should lose the right to categorise all 'Sodium' atoms as Sodium, at least on the basis of their 'intrinsic properties' (that is, if it has any!). In fact, we would have to time-signature properties, relativising them to a place and a time.


What then are we to say of spectrographic and other evidence that suggests otherwise? Worse, what effect would such an idea have on the 'universal laws' to which DM-theorists frequently appeal? Given their system, no law could be universal, but only maximally local.


[The same conclusions follow even if MIC is abandoned, but I will leave the details for the reader to complete for herself. However, they wouldn't follow if the relations mentioned above are 'logical', and not merely spatial or physical. But, the 'logical' option faces even more serious problems, detailed here.]


It seems, therefore -- and rather appropriately --, that DM-Holism has buried within itself the seeds of its own destruction, for it looks like it implies not just extreme atomism, but ultra nonimalism (or, indeed, ultra-Tropism, as this option might now be called). That is because, on this view, every particle in the universe (including even seemingly identical photons, protons and electrons) would be totally unique, being the product of differential influences depending on where and when they exist.


Small wonder then that some comrades argue that the universe is infinite (which would mean that everything had the same net influence operating on it as everything else, deflating the above conclusions). [Although, I am not suggesting that they have worked this idea out for themselves!]


Unfortunately, however, if the universe were infinite (and even unbounded), and if either MIC or NMIC were true, DM-Wholism would seem to mean that everything in reality should be identical. That is because each particle in the universe would be subject to the same total (i.e., infinite) number of influences and interconnections as all the rest have. This would imply that as far as DM-Wholism is concerned (where the entire nature of the part is determined by its relation to the whole), it wouldn't be possible to distinguish a lump of lead from a diamond since they would both have an infinite number of identical influences acting upon them, and hence would have identical properties. Ironically then, if the universe were infinite, this would make everything identical -- the LOI, instead of being refuted by dialecticians, would have found its strongest allies!


Naturally, because this view of nature is manifestly incorrect, dialecticians who have unwisely accepted DM-Holism should now drop either the idea that the entire nature of the part depends on its relation with the whole, or the thesis that the universe is infinite -- or maybe even both.


[It could be argued that the above contradicts the previous point. No problem; I'll just Nixon it!]


35. The few options left open to dialecticians to avoid the (Idealist) implications of (meaningfully) using the word "rational" in such contexts will be examined in Essay Twelve Part Four, and shown to be non-viable.


36. Naturally, this would be so unless dialecticians are honest enough to admit what was obvious to consistent materialists all along: that their theory (with its spurious inversion of Hegel) implies that 'Mind' does indeed control everything, and that not only does 'Mind' make everything move (via all those 'contradictions', and all that 'struggling'), it supplies its adepts with the reason why things happen the way they do and why they change.


If so, it is now much easier to understand why DM-theorists believe that certain parts of nature and society seem to..., well, 'argue' with one another (when they engage in, or are governed by 'contradictions'), and why dialecticians so readily slip into using animistic, if not anthropomorphic, language at the drop of a principle. In this re-enchanted DM-universe, not only is everything alive, it is intelligent and highly argumentative into the bargain -- indeed, everything seems to argue with itself!


If everything is Mind, then this idea makes some sort of crazy sense -- but, alas, not otherwise.


Anyone who objects to the above impertinent characterisation of DM-'contradictions' needs to explain (and for the first time in 200 years), what 'dialectical contradictions' are. Until then, these 'impertinences' have their place.


[In Essay Twelve Parts Five and Six (summary here), we will see that Hegel's concepts don't in fact have 'motion' built into them (they just have confusion built into them), so they can't provide the motive 'logic' of reality, as Lenin claimed. In the end, the appropriation class-compromised Hegelian jargon like this not only delivers nothing, it has nothing to show for it! DM-theorists have thus sold their radical souls for a mess of pottage that doesn't even contain pottage!


A sneak preview of how this argument will proceed can be found here, and here.]


37. On this, see Note 8, above.


37a. Anyone who objects to this use of the LEM might like to reflect on their own reasoning: either they reject the LEM or they don't -- which is plainly yet another use of the LEM! Now, it could be replied that dialecticians neither reject nor accept the LEM (in all circumstances), they merely point to its limitations. In that case, the LEM either has limitations or it doesn't, and we are back to square one. [On this, see Essay Nine Part One.]


38. This point was made in Note 8, too. And, as we will see in Part Two, such mind-like concepts have a way of sneaking back in through a side door, re-animating and re-enchanting the 'dead' material world that supposedly confronts dialecticians.


[Of course, what is needed here is another account that doesn't collapse into Idealism. That will be attempted in a later Essay.]


39. These comments don't imply that I accept CAR. Recall that CAR was the creation of the authors of DB.





Afanasyev, V. (1968), Marxist Philosophy (Progress Publishers, 3rd ed.).


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