Essay Eleven Part Two: DM-Wholism -- Full Of Holes




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As is the case with all my work, 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.




This Essay depends on much that has been established in Part One, which should therefore be read in conjunction with it.


It is important to note 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 my comments (often adding greater detail and substantiating evidence), and I have even raised objections (some obvious, many not -- and, indeed, some that will have occurred to the reader) to my own arguments -- which I have then answered. [I explain why I have adopted this tactic in Essay One.]


If readers skip this material, then my answers to any objections they might have will be missed, as will the extra evidence and argument.


[Since I have been debating this theory with comrades for over 25 years, I have heard all the objections there are! Many of the more recent on-line debates are listed here.]


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


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


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


Finally, a word of warning: this is perhaps the most convoluted and difficult of the Essays so far published at this site. I have tried many times to make it clearer, but I am far from sure I have always succeeded. Even so, I will continue striving to render this Essay simpler and easier to follow in the many re-writes that this will require.


[I have explained here why my emphasis on simplicity and clarity is important. However, Hegel-fans can console themselves with the thought that, as difficult as this Essay is, it palls into insignificance next to the prolixity of Hegel's 'Logic'.]




As of April 2017, this Essay is just over 67,000 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: 19/04/17.]


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(1) Totality And Nirvana


(a) Introduction


(b) Part And Whole


(c) Greater, Before Or After?


(2) Thought Determines 'Being'?


(3) Flights Of Fancy


(a) Levins And Lewontin


(b) Property Relations


(4) Some Parts Are Bigger Than Some Wholes


(a) Cat And Mouse Dialectics


(5) Non-Dialectical Wholism


(a) The Elephant In The Room


(6) Partial Rationality


(a) The Whole Truth


(b) Dialectical Medicine And Spare Part Surgery


(7) A Total Mystery?


(8) The 'Spirkin Defence'


(9) How 'Materialist Dialectics' Leads Its Adherents Astray


(10) Notes


(11) Appendix A -- Further Examples Of Non-Wholist Science


(a) Synthetic Chromosomes


(b) Laboratory-Grown Kidneys


(c) Synthetic Vaginas


(d) Cartilage Grown In The Lab


(11) References


Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism


Abbreviations Used At This Site


Return To The Main Index Page


Contact Me


Totality And Nirvana




In Part One of this Essay, it was argued that not only have dialecticians made no attempt to tell us -- not even vaguely -- what their "Totality" is (so that we might have some idea what their theory is actually about), it is in fact impossible to do so. That isn't just because such an endeavour would itself be riddled with paradox and confusion, it is because of the defective tools dialecticians inherited from Hegel have only succeeded in crippling their ability to account for anything whatsoever, let alone their "Totality". In the end, the DM-"Totality" turns out to be no different from Nirvana, about which (logically) nothing could be said.


[That explains the many allusions to the via negativa (of Mystical Theology) in Part One.]


In this Part of Essay Eleven we will see how this fatal defect over-shadows DM-Wholism in general -- that is, the idea that the mysterious "Totality" forms a Cosmos-wide Unity, where part and whole are interconnected by "internal relations", so that the nature of each is determined by all, and the nature of all is determined by each.


[The doctrine of "internal relations" will be further dissected in Essay Four Part Two.]


As I pointed out at the end of Part One (as well as here and here), the belief that everything is part of an interconnected Whole is shared by most forms of ancient and modern Idealism, and all known forms of Mysticism. This is particularly true of the strain of Esoteric Mysticism that infected Hegel's thought -- Hermeticism:


"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 to the conventions adopted at this site.]


However, that particular topic will be addressed in more detail in Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here; see also here and here); this Part of Essay Eleven will focus mainly on the finer details of this obscure doctrine -- that is, if any sense can be made of them --, and not so much with where this ancient dogma originated.


Finally, since this entire project began as a critique of Rees (1998), I will begin with his attempt to give some sort of account of DM-Holism.

Part And Whole


Integral to Rees's less than half-hearted 'definition' of the "Totality" is the following analysis of the relationship between part and whole:


"[W]hen we bring these terms [belonging to the totality] into relation with each other their meaning is transformed…. 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.


"In this analysis, it is not just the case that the whole is more than the sum of the parts but also that the parts become more than they are individually by being part of a whole….


"[F]or dialectical materialists the whole is more than the simple sum of its parts." [Rees (1998), pp.5, 77.]1


As usual, no evidence is given in support of these universal theses. Instead, a few trite examples are wheeled out that supposedly 'illustrate' their validity (they will be examined below), but, as is the case with other areas of Dialectical Mysticism, it is assumed that the mere assertion of a bold thesis will command our respect, if not our complete acceptance. Anyone who rejects, disagrees with, or even questions these dogmatic theses has obviously failed to get the point and clearly doesn't 'understand' dialectics.


Nevertheless, there appear to be several related claims that are being advanced by Rees (and others -- on that, see Note 1):


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the part.


G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.


G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.


However, given the nature of the "Totality", G4 can't be correct. If all parts are already situated somewhere inside this mysterious 'container' (the "Totality"), how is it possible for them to become "more than they [were] individually" on their own? Surely, the whole point of this theory is that parts can't exist as individuals separate from the whole? Universal interconnectedness was supposed to have established that there is an intimate and universal connection between every part and the Universal Whole. If so, how can parts become "more" than they were individually when they have never been, and will never exist as, isolated individuals?


Surely, parts are supposed to be like those who we were once told smoke Strand cigarettes -- aren't they?


Greater, Before Or After?


It could be argued in response to this that when parts enter into new relations with other parts or with other wholes they do become more than they would have been (or had once been) otherwise.


However, if everything is already part of some whole-or-other, and all sub-wholes are parts of the Mega-Whole -- the "Totality" --, and everything is ("internally") inter-linked all the time with everything else, how is this possible?


All parts are parts of some whole-or-other, and hence all parts are parts of the Universal Ensemble; so, they are always and everywhere essentially conditioned by everything else, so we are told.1a


Of course, some DM-apologists might want to argue that not all things are "internally" related. But, this can't be correct. G1 tells us that the entire nature of a part is determined by its relation to all the other parts, and to the whole; external relations can't effect these intimate, 'logical', connections. They could only come about if the interconnections that any part has with all the others are "internal" (i.e., 'logical' or "essential"). If this weren't so, then any agglomeration of matter would constitute an organised whole, and an organism, say, would be no different from a heap of body parts or organs. [More on this later. See also: Note 1a; link above.]


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the part.


Be this as it may, parts plainly do not enter the universe from the 'outside'. It isn't as if they were stored away in a sort of 'metaphysical ante-chamber', hermetically sealed-off from the rest of nature until they joined in the rest of the 'cosmic action'.


Note what Levins and Lewontin had to say on this:


"The first principle of a dialectical view, then, is that a whole is a relation of heterogeneous parts that have no prior independent existence as parts. The second principle, which flows from the first, is that, in general, the properties of parts have no prior alienated existence but are acquired by being parts of a particular whole." [Levins and Lewontin (1985), p.273. Bold emphases added.]


If so, how is it possible for these parts to become "more" than they had been before? They remain part of the "Totality" either side of any subsequent moves they make or incorporations in which they become involved. So, they should stay the same whatever happens -- that is, if their entire nature is determined by their relation with the whole, the Mega-Conglomerate called the "Totality", as indicated above. Since they are interconnected at all times with everything else, from where does this semi-miraculous novelty arise? How can they become "more" than they were before? Surely, the only way that they could become "more" would be if their entire nature wasn't determined by the Whole, by the "Totality"?


An appeal to Engels's first 'Law' at this point (i.e., the one that asserts that "quantity" passes over into "quality", etc.) would be to no avail. As we saw in Essay Seven, this 'Law' is far too fragile to bear any weight put on it. But even if that weren't the case, precisely what constitutes a "quantity" and what a "quality" in this case would be entirely unlcear.2


Anyway, if this 'Law' could have the above effect (so that a merely quantitative local increase of parts could at some point "pass over" into a local "qualitative" change, introducing localised novelty), then the entire nature of the part wouldn't be determined by its "internal" relations with the Whole, but would be determined by its relations with other local parts of the Whole. How the latter can alter the logical properties of a body (so that its qualitative nature changes as a result) is, therefore, still a mystery.


In short, it isn't easy to see how novelty can emerge in a dialectical universe.


[This particular topic has been discussed at length in Essay Seven Part One, and will be explored in more detail in Essay Three Part Three.]


Despite this, if we aren't careful when identifying the parts, we might end up dividing the Whole -- or, alternatively, we might end up confounding the parts when identifying the Whole --, as we saw was the case with general terms and particulars (as they feature in Traditional Philosophy), in Essay Three Part Two.


That is, on the one hand, we might end up linking each part only with one part of the Whole (i.e., the sub-whole to which it becomes a part -- for example, when DM-theorists tell us that a heart is only a heart when it is in some body or other), and not the entire Whole (thus undermining Universal Interconnectedness). On the other hand, if we argue that the entire nature of the part is determined by its relation to the Whole (the "Totality"), then every part in the entire universe must be identical (or virtually identical), since whatever minor local differences there are in each such relation will be completely swamped by their relation to the Whole. Otherwise, we will have to abandon the claim that the entire nature of the part is determined by its relation to the Whole, since its nature will be determined by its relation to the local whole of which it is a part. For example, if the entire nature of a heart is determined by its relation to the "Totality", then it won't matter if it is in a body or not. On the other hand, if it does matter, then the entire nature of a heart can't be determined by its relation to the "Totality".


Again, one will look in vain in the writings of dialecticians for any guidance on these issues --, which means that DM isn't just Mickey Mouse Science, it is Minnie Mouse Metaphysics, too.


Because of this, I am forced (once more) to consider whether or not there are any options available to DM-theorists which might enable them to give some account of these 'dialectical' parts as and when they are incorporated into their respective 'dialectical' wholes that don't sunder the parts or divide the Whole.


In order to keep track of the parts involved, they will be 'time-stamped', so to speak --, as will the relevant wholes, too.


[In what follows, "T" will be used to refer to various different "Totalities" (whether or not these are the Mega-"Totality" itself, or some local Minor-"Totality", such as an animal's body), "t" employed to designate temporal intervals of arbitrary duration, and "p" for some randomly-chosen part at a specific time. In addition, the subscript "i" will be used to refer to any randomly-selected element drawn from the set indicated; hence, "ti" refers to any such time interval. Also,  "pt,r" will be used to designate the different members of the set of parts which exist at a given moment; hence, "p1,1" is short for "part one at t1", "p1,2" for "part two at t1", "p2,1" for "part one at t2", and so on.]


First, let any "Totality", Ti, be the sum of all its time-stamped parts at each ti. Consider, for example, part p1,1, the entire nature of which (at t1) is determined by its relation to whole, T1. Let the 'same' part (at a later time t2) be p2,1, such that its ("essential") nature is either different from, or perhaps even the same as it had been at t1.


[Let either of these be such in relation to T2, the new whole that must emerge as a result, as the case may be.]


Hence, T1 will be the mereological sum of all such time-stamped parts, p1,r, at t1 (i.e., Σp1,r); the 'new' "Totality", T2, will be those parts at t2 (i.e., Σp2,r), and so on.


["Σ" is a summation sign, and here stands for "the sum of...". So, "Σp1,r" means "the sum of all the parts at t1", and "Σp2,r" means "the sum of all the parts at t2". Hence, Tn will be "Σpn,r", or "the sum of all the parts at tn" --, i.e., the "Totality" at the nth time interval.]


In view of this, it is worth asking: What precisely is the entire "Totality" meant to be here?


It seems there are three distinct possibilities:


(1) The "Totality" is one of T1, T2,..., or Tn; or,


(2) The "Totality" is the sum of all these time-stamped "sub-Totalities", i.e., T1 + T2 +...+ Tn (=ΣTr); or


(3) The "Totality" is something else.


If (2) were correct, then each Ti wouldn't really be a whole simpliciter; it would be a sub-whole, since each Ti would be part of the bigger whole (i.e., ΣTi).


If, on the other hand, (1) were correct, it would mean that each "Totality" will have been misnamed, since, plainly, none of them would be the "Totality". Clearly, that is because, for any Ti, there would be n-1 other Tis that will have been excluded.


Either way, this obscure 'entity' should now perhaps be demoted, and broken to the ranks, as it were, since it, too, would be part of a bigger Whole -- hence, at best, Ti would merely be a sub-"Totality".


Plainly, option (3) would take us back to where we were in Essay Eleven Part One.


In addition, (1) would seem to imply that the duration of these sub-"Totalities" could be, and probably is, exceedingly short -- each being ephemeral in the extreme, reduced as they now are to time-sliced collections of such time-stamped parts, all of which would 'exist' for much less than a nanosecond (that is, if all things are constantly changing).


But, as we have seen here, this would in turn mean that in order to account for objects and events 'inside' any particular "Totality", Ti, an appeal would have to be made to events and processes that were either non-existent or weren't parts of that "Totality", at that time. Naturally, this would make the original introduction of this mysterious entity (i.e., the "Totality") pointless --, in view of the fact that it was meant to help DM-theorists account for just such objects and processes.


Furthermore, option (2) implies that as ΣTi grows in size (with the incorporation of each new Tk) it would either be (2a) Subject to change, or it would in fact be (2b) Identical to the four-dimensional manifold discussed in Part One of this Essay.


But, and once more, (2a) would imply that there was no such thing as the "Totality" (since it would be ever-expanding). Worse still, it would mean that, whatever it was, the "Totality" was in fact 'composed' largely of non-existent parts (i.e., those that 'exist' only in the past). (2b), of course, would imply that nothing could change. [Why that is so was also discussed in Part One of this Essay.]


Despite the above, an attempt might be made to account for the 'dialectical' passage through time of these time-specific "Totalities", as each brings into existence the next in line (because of, one presumes, their own "internal contradictions"). But, this response itself faces the serious difficulties highlighted in Essay Seven Part Three, where it was pointed out that in relation to development, DM-theorists are decidedly unclear as to whether (i) These "internal opposites" bring about change, or whether (ii) They are created by change, or even whether (iii) Objects/processes actually change into their opposites.


Generalising this, it would now be unclear whether or not the entire "Totality" changes because of (a) Its own internal opposites, or whether (b) It creates these opposites as it changes -- or even whether (c) It turns into its opposite.


But, what is the 'opposite' of a "Totality"? A vacuum? A 'Nullity'? A 'Nothing'?2a


Again, as far as (a) is concerned, the origin of these 'opposites' would itself be obscure, just as it would be unclear how they could cause change (especially when it is recalled that change actually produces them, not them it; we saw this in Essays Five, Seven Part Three, and Eight Parts One, Two and Three).


If the above points are rejected for some reason, and it is maintained that opposites aren't in fact produced by anything else (that is, if change doesn't produce these opposites), then they must either be eternal or self-created beings.


Once more, it could be argued that objects and processes can have many opposites. Some cause change, and some are produced by it. Either or both of these are subsequently altered in turn by their own (new) dialectical opposites, as the NON unfolds.


However, as we saw here, Hegel postulated for each object or process its own internally-linked, unique "other'" He had to do this to forestall the disastrous consequences of his adoption of 'Spinoza's Greedy Principle' [SGP] -- i.e., "Every determination is also a negation" -- and, of course, in order to refute Hume's criticisms of rationalist theories of causation. The problem here is that if an object or process merely turns into "what-it-is-not" (where this "what-it-is-not" is required by Hegel's 'logic' to make the nature of an object or process "determinate"), then it could in fact develop into anything whatsoever.


On that basis, but without Hegel's caveat, since Tony Blair, for example, isn't Mt Everest, or Jupiter, or a Slime Mold (as far as we know), or not a socialist, he can only turn into one or more of these 'opposites', and countless others, too. So, if this Hegelian 'safety feature' is removed (i.e., that each object or process has a unique "other" that it turns into), anything could turn into anything else (as a result of such a profligate and careless 'use of negation').


[We found that Hegel himself slipped up in this regard, too, since the SGP is in fact unworkable. This will be demonstrated in Essay Twelve Part Five. See also Essay Three Part One, here and here.]


[NON = Negation of the Negation.]


Of course, it could be argued that the processes mentioned above stretch back into the mists of time; there, not only are the many and varied states of affairs extant in nature connected 'dialectically' (which means that it is in fact inadmissible to separate them, one from another, as has been done in this Essay), one state ('moment') of the universe is caused (or, perhaps better, is 'mediated') by an earlier one, and so on indefinitely.


But, this just reproduces all the problems more usually associated with Theism, specifically those connected with the question, "Who created 'God'?" In this case, if all things need a prior cause (or 'mediation'), and that itself is one of these 'internal opposites' (or is itself part of a relation with one such), the question would naturally arise: "Precisely what created, or 'mediated', that opposite?" Pushing this back into the indefinite (or 'infinite'?) past is no solution at all; we certainly don't accept a similar a cop out when Theists come out with it. Either it is the case that opposites cause change (and so must be self-caused beings themselves -- minor deities, as it were), or they are brought into existence by change, and so can't cause it.


Covering this with several layers of dialectical jargon would no more be acceptable here than it would be if Theists tried to do the same with respect to their jargon about 'God' and 'His' assorted mysterious 'properties', 'powers', and 'nature'.2b


So, it won't do to appeal to a 'dialectical' interplay between cause and effect (dragging in that even more obscure notion, "mediation") -- on the lines, perhaps, that the comments above separate cause from effect, when they are in fact 'internally'-connected --, since the origin of this dialectical interplay would be subject to the very same unanswerable query.


This is, of course, why Theists in the end had to appeal to 'logical' principles inherent in 'the Deity' to account for the uncreated nature of 'God' -- burying 'His' existence, say, in 'His' nature, a là Anselm -- or, admitting that this is all just big a 'mystery', and should simply be "grasped" as an article of faith.


[Of course, dialecticians will have to do something similar -- indeed, they do.]


To be sure, Hegel had a 'solution' to this quandary that ran along similar 'logical' lines. This was based on obscure, Hermetic goings-on between 'Being', 'Nothing' and 'Becoming' –- which 'argument' will be destructively analysed in Essay Twelve (summary here). However, unless we can find some physical evidence that these mysterious entities kicked off the Big Bang (or whatever it is that scientists finally conclude about the origin of The Universe), neither science nor consistent materialism will have much use for them.


Naturally, only Idealists will cavil at this point.


If, on the other hand, these opposites are produced by something else (inside the "Totality"?), that option would collapse (1) into (2): they would be produced by change, but wouldn't cause it. The adoption of (3), of course, would amount to the abandonment of any sensible account of development, for it would then be unclear what makes anything change into its opposite (if anything does).


It could be objected once more that the "Totality" is in fact a dynamic whole, changing over time as a result of its 'internal contradictions'. The above comments seem to want to 'freeze-frame it', and then not only bemoan its lack of internal cohesion, but complain about the absence of change!


Or, so it could be argued...


But, quite apart from the problems this volunteered reply faces (analysed in great detail in Essay Eight Parts One, Two, and Three), the first sentence of the last but one paragraph is of indeterminate meaning itself. That is because we have yet to be told what this nebulous entity (i.e., the "Totality") actually is. As it stands, that sentence is no clearer than this one is: "It could be objected that God is a dynamic Being...".


Hence, the word "dynamic" cannot of itself provide this 'theory' with a viable life-line since we have as yet no idea precisely what is being called dynamic --, no more than we would if someone called 'God' "dynamic".


In short, just as soon as the "Totality" is fragmented in the above manner, by the introduction of temporal constraints, it proves impossible to restore it to any sort of unity. On the other hand, if no temporal constraints are imposed upon it, then either the "Totality" can't change, or the notion itself fails to relate to anything in the material world.


So, either (a) we are confronted by a new "Totality" at each instant in time, comprised of all the time-stamped parts at that moment, or (b) the 'same' "Totality" must encompass every time zone and sub-"Totality" in its massively over-arching domain.


However, in the latter case, the "Totality" would once again contain things that do not (now) exist (namely those time-stamped parts from the past (and the future?)). In the former case, there would be a potentially infinite number of "Totalities" with no links between them, and thus explanatory of nothing at all.


Independently of this, it could be argued that since relations between the parts change, their nature must change, too. [This was in fact discussed in Note 1a.]


In answer to that (and putting aside for the moment the serious problems this attempted rebuttal faces when confronted with the other DM-thesis that change is internally-generated, not externally-motivated), let us assume the following:


P1: Part p1 is an element that enters into a relation with whole W1, and W1 is itself part of the "Totality", T.


[For ease of reference, I have dropped the complicated labelling system introduced earlier. In that case, "p1" now merely refers to the first randomly chosen part of W1, leaving reference to time out of the equation for now.]


Here, p1 is clearly also part of T -- as is W1. But, by becoming part of W1, p1 does not cease to be part of T, and neither does W1. In its relation to T, neither p1 nor W1 could become "more" than they once were, since they are both still parts of T -- and not part of, say, T1, some other "Totality".


Recall that G1 and G2 assert that the entire nature of a part (like p1, or W1) is determined by its relation with other parts and with the whole. Unless we add a rider to these theses -- for example, that parts can become "more" than they were by remaining parts of the same whole (and hence that the entire nature of the part isn't determined by its relation to the whole (i.e., with the "Totality"), but by its relation to a 'sub-whole', say W1), or that a whole can alter even though it retains the same parts -- neither p1 nor W1 can change. Of course, if W1 can't change, then p1 can't either, since p1 fluctuates in line with W1, according to G1 and G2.


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the part.


Perhaps these serious initial problems can be circumvented in some way, perhaps not. I will leave that time-bomb in the lap of DM-fans, for them to attempt to defuse.3


Independently of all this, there is an obverse difficulty concerning the "more" alluded to in G3 and G4, if it this comparative is taken at face value. This can be seen if G3 and G4 are supplemented in the following way:


G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.


G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.


G5: Let whole W1 have parts pw1-pwn, and let pw1-pwn form a set, Pw.


G6: Let the 'same' parts when not parts of W1 be p1-pn, and let p1-pn form a set of parts, P.


G7: For any pwi, and any pi, let pwi > pi (where pwi and pi are the ith members of Pw and P, respectively).


G8: Let the sum of the parts that are elements of Pw be Σpwn, and the sum of the parts that are elements of P be Σpn.


G9: Either: W1 > Σpwn.


G10: Or: W1 > Σpn.


[">" means "is greater than".]


In ordinary language, G9 and G10 translate out as the following:


G9a: The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts it already has.


G10a: The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts as they were before they became its parts.


Now, there are several difficulties with this attempt to make DM-Wholism clear. The first centres on G7 and its ordinary language translation, G7a:


G7: For any pwi, and any pi, let pwi > pi (where pwi and pi are the ith members of Pw and P, respectively).


G7a: Any part of a whole is greater than that part was before it was incorporated into that whole.


[G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.]


At first sight it looks like G7 (or G7a) might capture the thought intended by G4, but that can't be so. That is because the wording of G7 (and G7a) actually permits the following (which isn't what was intended by G4):


G11: pw1 > p2.


G11a: pw1 > p1.


The problem here is that G11 says that a certain part of a whole is greater than some other part, not necessarily the 'same' part, before it became incorporated into that whole.


Now, what G4 appears to imply is G11a, where comparisons are drawn between the 'same' part either side of incorporation into the relevant whole. This, of course, assumes that a one-one relation can be set up (even in theory) between a part before and after its absorption into W1. But, the difficulty here is that if a part becomes more when it enters into an subsequent ensemble than it had been on its own, it might not be possible to specify of any part that it was the same part before as it is after its integration into some whole-or-other. In which case, too, it wouldn't be possible to say that the said part was more after incorporation than it was before. If there is no way to say they are the same part, before and after, then it can't be said that one of them has become "more". G11 brings this difficulty out by changing the subscripts.


Unfortunately, DM-Wholism appears to mean that after assimilation a part might not be the same part it had been before incorporation because of the "greater than" descriptor that applies to it upon amalgamation. In fact, this comparative is much more than a simple "greater than", since the entire nature of a part is determined by its relation to the other parts and to the whole of which it is a part. So, the entire nature of the part is transformed by incorporation into the new whole of which it becomes a part. In which case, it can't be the same as it was before incorporation, and hence "more" can't apply to it, as pointed out in the previous paragraph.


It could be argued that it would surely be possible to identify these parts either side of incorporation, despite such changes. Consider an example here: a human heart outside the body is physically the same as it would be inside the same body, even though a functioning heart is more than just a material object when incorporated into its host. As such, it would be operating as an integrated organ, which allows it to fulfil a certain role in relation to the entire organism of which it is now a part.


Or, so it might be argued...


This alleged counter-example will be considered in more detail later, but for present purposes it is sufficient to point out that a heart outside the body is not the same physical object it had been inside. Not only does it lose some matter (blood, etc.) when extracted, the electrical, hormonal and other chemical inputs cease. Moreover, the body, too, isn't the same without a heart. So, the above description is not only inaccurate, it is prejudicial, for neither heart nor body are the same either side of removal/incorporation.


Furthermore, hearts aren't added to bodies as a sort of after-thought, so that it is becomes possible confirm or confute the above comparisons. Hearts develop alongside the rest of the organism. This means that an animal without a heart (plainly!) wouldn't be identical with one that had a heart; indeed, that animal would be defective in the extreme, and thus non-viable. The same goes for hearts themselves, if they are situated outside a given body.


So, it isn't too clear what if anything can be concluded from such an inaccurate description. Certainly, a heart isn't physically the same, and it isn't even 'dialectically' the same, given such radical surgery. In that case, we still lack a perspicuous account of what the DM-alternatives before us really amount to.


Of course, this alleged counter-example in fact works against DM. If it is indeed possible to identify a heart before and after it has been put into a body, then it isn't the case that it is completely different because of the new sub-Whole of which it is now a part, contrary to what G1 and G2 asserted:


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the part.


If, according to G1, the entire nature of the part is determined by this new relation it has with this body, then this heart must be completely different after it has been put in that body. But, it isn't completely different, so G1 and G2 are false.


The dilemma that confronts dialecticians is thus quite stark:


(1) No part could be the same before and after assimilation (since each part is not just "more" than it was before, it is completely different, because its entire nature will have been changed as a result of the "internal relations" operating inside that whole); or,


(2) If each part is the same after incorporation, that would mean there can't have been any change to those parts as they entered into this new whole, and so they won't now be "more" than they were before -- and hence their entire nature won't have changed.


In the first case, it would be impossible to say of some part whether or not it was greater before, later, or at any time, since, ex hypothesi, it will have entirely changed in the process -- if we are to believe G1 and G2.


The assumed change here is so radical that it would be rather like asserting that a stadium was greater than a symphony, or perhaps, that a ham sandwich was greater than a science fiction novel -- since, according to DM-theorists, in such circumstances there will have been a logical change to the 'objects' in question (in view of the new "internal relations" enjoyed by part and whole).


Of course, it could be argued that these latest comparisons are bogus, since the parts that are of interest to dialecticians are far more similar either side of incorporation than such distantly related or even totally unrelated objects.


But, if that is so, then the entire nature of the part can't be determined by the new whole it enters into -- and, if that, too, is the case, an important strand of DM-Wholism will go out of the window with it. In short, G1 and G4 can't be held true together.


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.


G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the part.


In fact, the situation is far worse even than this: before incorporation not only will an individual part not be a part of the new whole (since it hasn't joined it yet!), not even this new whole will be the same whole for it to join -- for the reasons given in G1 and G2. That is because, before and after amalgamation parts and wholes must both become different (indeed, entirely different!) from what they once were.


Simple comparisons like this can't, therefore, be made for part or whole either side of any supposed union. Hence, without serious distortion, no aspect of this metaphysical fantasy is describable by anyone who seriously believes it. That is because nothing is either comparable or contrastable before or after amalgamation. In any such development, entire natures of parts and wholes must change, if G1 and G2 are to be believed. That is, entire natures, not 90%, or 95%, nor yet 99%, but they must be 100% different. G4, therefore, isn't defensible as it stands, and it isn't at all clear how it might be repaired without abandoning G1, or other fundamentally important DM-theses.4


In the second case, clearly, G1 and G2 would have to be revised or abandoned. G3 is similarly ambiguous:


G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.


G9: Either: W1 > Σpwn.


G10: Or: W1 > Σpn.


G9a: The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts it already has.


G10a: The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts as they were before they became its parts.


As indicated above, G3 might imply one or other of G9 and G10 (and their ordinary language counterparts, G9a and G10a).


In that case, the following question suggests itself: Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts before amalgamation (i.e., G10/10a), or after (i.e., G9/9a)?


But, G10/G10a can't be correct. That is because, before incorporation the (same) whole plainly wouldn't exist for a comparison to be made with any new whole that might arise after the event. That is in turn because (according to G2) the nature of the whole is determined by its relation to its parts, including this new one. Hence, before this particular part became a part of some whole or other, that whole couldn't have been the same as it subsequently became, for it didn't exist. This means that G3 must imply G9/G9a (which option(s) I will return to consider in more detail later).


As we shall see, the problem with Metaphysical Holism (or even with DM-Wholism) is that it isn't in fact possible to identify parts separately from wholes at any time during a transaction between them, for to do so would be to sunder the organic unity supposedly governing everything in the universe, and from which both part and whole derive their entire nature.


Furthermore, it is impossible to do so even in thought, and for the same reason -- as was outlined above. Perhaps it would be better to say here that to separate the parts from the whole (even in thought) is to change their nature (in thought), and hence to misidentify or misconstrue them (according to G1). If so, this type of Holism/Wholism can't even be described (without it falling apart -- no pun intended).


[However, as we will see in Note 5, the situation is even worse if we throw in the infinitary nature of DM-epistemology.]5


Thought Determines 'Being'?


Returning to an earlier passage from TAR:


"[W]hen we bring these terms [belonging to the totality] into relation with each other their meaning is transformed…. 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.


"In this analysis, it is not just the case that the whole is more than the sum of the parts but also that the parts become more than they are individually by being part of a whole….


"[F]or dialectical materialists the whole is more than the simple sum of its parts." [Rees (1998), pp.5, 77.]


The opening sentence of this quotation seems to suggest that this entire exercise is merely methodological, that it need not imply anything about reality itself. Otherwise, what would be the point of saying: "when we bring these terms into relation with each other their meaning is transformed"? [Emphasis added.]


But, if the world is dialectically-structured before we investigate it, then whatever we do can't affect the nature of the part/whole relation in reality, surely? Of course, Rees might simply be making a point about our comprehension of the part/whole relation as it features in "subjective dialectics".6


Even so, there is a further problem that Rees and others have missed: if it is true that we humans are also parts of the Whole, any change we initiate -- even in thought -- must have an affect on the rest of the "Totality"!


This new twist now raises alarming possibilities dialecticians have plainly not noticed.


Indeed, at first sight it looks like DM-Wholism implies that thought in fact determines "Being" (just as "Being" determines thought), as Hegel maintained -- that is, DM-Wholism means that the nature of reality depends on our thoughts about it (and vice versa)!


How else are we to interpret G1 and G2?7


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the part.


The only apparent interpretation of G1 and G2 that might neutralise the above conclusion would be one that declared that it is only our understanding of the parts that is altered when we adopt this viewpoint, as Rees maintained -- nothing more.


And yet, if that were so, how could G1 or G2 remain true? If our thoughts are in fact part of the 'Totality', and are determined by their own "internal relations" with it, and all parts inter-determine one another likewise -- as indeed they do to the entire nature of the whole according to G2 --, then not only must it be true that reality determines our thoughts about it, our thoughts about reality must determine reality in return. If this weren't so, G1 or G2 would have to be revised, or abandoned, once more. If the part makes the whole (and vice versa), then even the most insignificant thought about reality must be altered by -- and must alter in return -- all of nature, on this view.


[The 'relative importance or remoteness' defence is defused here.]


The Idealist implications of DM have been reasonably clear up to now in the Essays published at this site; here, we find them totally confirmed by DM-Wholism.8


[Pun intended.]


Flights Of Fancy


Levins And Lewontin


Theoretical considerations like these are unlikely to cut much ice with DM-fans. Hence, a discussion of the more concrete claims advanced in TAR and other DM-texts that are connected with this issue is clearly called for.


[DB = Dialectical Biologist, i.e., Levins and Lewontin (1985).]


The first problem here is that Rees and other DM-theorists provide us with few examples of what they mean -- that is, any that are supposed to illustrate the rule (or the 'law') they claim governs the relationship between parts and wholes, allegedly right across the universe, not just locally. However, Rees does mention one particular example, which had in fact been lifted from DB. Alas, even this turns out to be a rather unfortunate choice.


As was the case with the more theoretical examples considered earlier, this particular example of the part/whole relation is connected with the following (hackneyed) formula that Holists incant from generation to generation:


"For dialectical materialists the whole is more than the simple sum of its parts." [Rees (1998), p.77.]


To this the authors of DB added the following comment:


"The fact is that the parts have properties that are characteristic of them only as they are parts of wholes; the properties come into existence in the interactions that makes the whole. A person cannot fly by flapping her arms simultaneously. But people do fly, as a consequence of the social organisation that has created airplanes, pilots and fuel. It is not that society flies, however, but individuals in society, who have acquired a property they do not have outside society. The limitations of individual physical beings are negated by social interactions. The whole, thus, is not simply the object of interaction of the parts but is the subject of action of the parts." [Levins and Lewontin (1985), p.273.]


The general idea here appears to be that novel properties "emerge" (out of nowhere, it seems; they certainly cannot be reduced to the microstructures of each part, or of each whole -- according to Rees (1998), pp.5-8, and other dialecticians we will meet in Essay Three Part Three), because of the new relationships that parts enter into when they become incorporated into wholes -- coupled with the new natures they acquire as a result.9


The above passage seems to be claiming that: (1) When human beings act as individuals (or, is it in less developed social wholes?) they lack certain properties --, in this case, the power of flight. Nevertheless: (2) As a result of their social organization, human beings apparently gain this new 'property' collectively -- even though as individuals they still can't fly. The conclusion then seems to be that: (3) Because of economic and social development (etc.) people acquire characteristics that they wouldn't have had otherwise --, which appears to indicate that when they are appropriately socially-organised, human beings become "more" than they would have been without it.


But, once again, in what sense are human beings "more" than they were before flight became possible? Manifestly, they still can't fly. They don't sprout wings, develop engines or grow sophisticated landing gear.10


Whatever meaning can be given to the "more" that human beings supposedly become, it can't have resulted from the part/whole relation. That is because immediately before or after flight finally became possible no new wholes or parts actually came into existence -- nor did these new parts and allegedly novel wholes become newly related, either.11


Hence, even if these hackneyed sayings (i.e., G3 and G4) were true, flight wouldn't be one of their exemplars.


G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.


G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.


It could be objected that the above is incorrect. The point is that as the forces and relations of production develop (and as new modes of production arise), human beings enter into novel and more complex social and material relations with one another. These generate or facilitate new capacities and possibilities that were unavailable in earlier modes of production.


[HM = Historical Materialism.]


Now, this way of putting things won't be controverted here (nor anywhere else for that matter), but it is worth adding that this HM-style re-formulation of the picture only works because the part/whole metaphysic has been dropped. This can be seen by the way that the language used in the above rejoinder only becomes available (and begins to make sense) when the unhelpful metaphysical 'concepts' under review here have been discarded. There is no mystery about the details of the social organisation of production and the new capacities it makes available to human beings. But, this has nothing to do with the alleged DM-connections between parts and wholes (for reasons given in previous paragraphs and in Note 10).


Independently of this, it is worth wondering how such a scenario could be made consistent with G1.


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the part.


So, are we really meant to believe that the entire nature of passenger, NN, say, is determined by her relationship with the aeroplane she has just boarded? [Or is it with some other whole that we must compare or interconnect her?] Conversely, is the entire nature of this new aeroplane/passenger ensemble determined in return by passenger, NN? What if she missed the flight and passenger, MM, took her place? Would the entire nature of that plane, and all on board, have (totally) changed as a result? It should do if the entire nature of part and whole affect each other in the manner suggested.


Once more: in all this, which is part and which is whole? Is the entire nature of airline passenger, MM, determined by his/her relation with one or more of the following 'wholes': the aeroplane, the Airline, the Airport, the flight controller, the factory that built the aeroplane, the other passengers, the man at the check-in desk (and his sick grandmother), MM's whole life up to that point, the entire earth and its history, the cluster of galaxies of which ours is a part…?


Which one of these is the 'whole' that makes MM "more"?


Moreover, do we include in the part, here, passenger MM's hand luggage, her glasses, her clothes, her unborn foetus, the cells now sloughing off her skin, the air coming out of her lungs, the material she just flushed down the loo?12


Which parts and which wholes are in the end entirely constitutive of, say, passenger, NM, in seat 26 -- minus his toupee, sun glasses and copy of The Da Vinci Code, which he left at home by accident? What if he hadn't forgotten any of these items?


And, would an aeroplane be more of an aeroplane if there were 100 people board it as opposed to 99? Is the airport itself more than it would otherwise have been if passenger, MN, had failed to check-in last Sunday at 19:02?


But, all these would have to be the case if the entire nature of each part and whole is determined in the way that G1 and G2 assert. In that case, passenger, MN, must indeed be greater than he would have been had he not flown last Sunday; and the same would be true of the airport. And if MN repeats this journey regularly, over many years, is there no end to how much more she will become?


Is this the case with anything else? Is the entire nature of the universe enhanced as a result? If everything is interconnected (in order for it to be true that the nature of the whole is determined by its relation to the parts), and inter-linked by these mysterious "internal relations", then the universe must be more of a universe than it used to be because MN checked in last Sunday. To be sure, had MN's cosmic significance not escaped her on the day in question, she would surely have been much better insured.


[It could be argued that the above considerations are ridiculous since DM-Holism is concerned with organic wholes, not conglomerations or mere aggregates. But, we have already seen that the passenger/plane example isn't an organic whole, and looks for all the world like a conglomeration/aggregate! Anyway, I return to this topic in much greater detail below (where I question whether the distinction between organised wholes and aggregates (etc.) can successfully be maintained).]


In Essay Three Part One, we saw this DM-thesis (about parts and wholes) is a direct consequence of Lenin's reading of Hegel, and thus his derivation of a set of inter-galactic truths from a sentence like "John is a man"! Here, then, is the 'rationale' underlying Hegel and Lenin's use of such sentence (although Hegel used 'The rose is red'), and from which Lenin claimed all of dialectics flowed:


Now, the correct 'dialectical' analysis of propositions like this reveals the following deeper truth: ordinary language vaguely alludes to an identity between subject and predicate names (or the objects they designate; Hegel continually mixes the two up, and so do his latter-day acolytes, DM-theorists). But, this can't be correct, because no particular can be identical to a universal. This then leads "speculative reason" dialectically to the opposite conclusion that the subject of such an ascription of identity isn't and can't be identical with the said predicate (now interpreted as a named abstract particular). So, in reality John can't be identical with this predicate, or with what it 'names' (i.e., John isn't identical with Man, or 'Manhood'). 'Thought' is thus led to the negation of this putative identity.


[It is worth adding the following two points, here:


(1) In traditional Logic and Grammar, a predicate is that part of a proposition/sentence which is used to say something about whatever is named by the subject term. So, in "John is a man", "John" is the subject, and "is a man" (or, according to many, just "a man") is the predicate. Hegel then resurrected a Medieval theory (invented by Roman Catholic theologians -- now called 'The Identity Theory of Predication' -- which re-interpreted the "is" here, not now as one of prediction, but of identity. So, in this case John is now said to be identical with Manhood, a supposed universal term. From word-juggling like this, 'the dialectic' emerged!


(2) An 'abstract particular' is like a genuine particular (such as the chair you are now sat in (if you are), the screen you are looking at -- or even, you), to which we can, if we so choose, give names, or pick out by the use of singular terms (such as "the screen you are now looking at", or "him over there"). Except, 'abstract particulars' don't appear to exist in the world around us. They are, however, still capable of being designated by the use of names or other singular expressions (such as "The Form of the Good", "Manhood", or "The Population").


However, as noted in the main body of Essay Three Part One, abstractions are supposed to be general (they supposedly pick out all cats, all dogs, all men/women, all electrons, etc.), and yet they are in fact particular in form (since they speak of "Man/Womanhood", or "The population"). Unfortunately, when used by those who seek to account for generality (i.e., our capacity to refer to all cats, or all dogs), 'abstract particulars' in fact only succeed in destroying it. Plainly, this is because neither a singular term nor a particular can be general -- the chair you are sat on is not all chairs there are or have ever been, the screen you are now using is not every screen there has ever been or will be. Nor can "the chair you are sat on" or "the screen you are now using" refer to all chairs or screens there are or have ever been. So, and alas, every theory invented by Traditional Philosophers (and that includes DM-theorists) ended up destroying generality, and with that went the capacity language has for saying anything at all. (Further details can be found in Essay Three Part One.)]


But this, too, can't be the entire truth, since John is essentially a man -- in that sense he is identified by his essence. This once more leads 'thought' back in the opposite conclusion once more, to the negation of the former negation, yielding the final result that John is not not-identical with Manhood -- all of which concepts are now understood in a new and more 'determinate' light. This astounding conclusion now expresses an 'essential' truth about John -- and, indeed, about everything else in the entire universe, since a similar 'analysis' reveals that every object and process is essentially connected with its own 'other' (on the origin and importance of that term, see here), in a negative, and then in a 'doubly negative', sort of way, along similar lines --, which 'liberating analysis' isn't available to those who are trapped either by 'formal thinking' or 'commonsense'. Or, of course, those who don't 'understand' dialectics.


As part of these odd proceedings, Spinoza's 'principle' is dragged off the bench and sent into play, as a result of which we are informed that every determination is also a negation. [On that, see here, and here. Incidentally, neither Hegel, nor Spinoza (still less Lenin) even so much as attempted to justify this 'principle'.]


So, not only is "thought" driven to opposite poles in its bid to differentiate an object like John from all others (and this we are told necessarily involves in every single case, negativity -- that is because, clearly, John is not Peter, not Fred, not Tarquin…, neither is he a mountain, a planet, a coffee mug, a meteorite...), "thought" is then forced to conclude that no individual object could be identical with a universal. In that case, John is not mankind. But, as we saw, a further consideration of his 'concept', his 'essence', tells us he is also not not-mankind, which means his original identity needs revising -- or, making more 'determinate', to use the buzzword.


John is thus made 'determinate' by negation (as is everything else). The whole here determines the part and the part determines the whole, via negativity.


Hey presto, it is now 'obvious' that everything in existence has negativity (or 'difference') programmed into it, simply because dialectically-'enhanced' subject-predicate propositions reveal this hidden truth to those with the eyes to see; and it is this negativity which powers the universe.


The Big Bang from the Big Re-write....


Several other myth-begotten creatures of DM-lore owe their existence to this error of simple syntax, one of them being the quasi-mystical "Totality". A reading of the "is" of predication as an "is" of identity motivates the idea that everything must be inter-related.


The 'reasoning' runs something like this:


If, as in H1 below, John is both identical and not identical with a universal, and this universal has the infinite built into it (otherwise it wouldn't be a universal), then John is only himself when he is viewed in infinite dialectical connection with everything else of the 'same' sort.


If John is now put in a similar relation with all the predicates applicable to him (including all the negative examples expressed in propositions like "John is not Blair", or "John is not the Pope", "John is not an interstellar dust cloud"), then he is in fact only an individual of the sort he is because of the seemingly endless and infinite (negative and positive) connections he actually has with everything in existence (i.e., all those "mediacies" that Lenin spoke about), which alone give him his 'determinate' nature -- if we but knew what the latter was in all its infinite glory (which is why Engels said what he did about the "asymptotic" path to knowledge). Moreover, all these properties and relations are "internally related" to John -- not externally, or materially, but 'logically' -- every last one guaranteed by a participle of the diminutive and suitably distorted verb, "to be", namely "is".


H1: John is a man.


John thus assumes truly cosmic significance; the whole of reality is linked to him and this makes him what he essentially is. Not only that, but everything else is conditioned in like manner by John in return. John is now at the centre of an intricate web of identities and differences spanning right across all that exists, for all of time. This unassuming individual is now situated at the very heart the meaning universe -- and so is everyone and everything else. All of reality defines what John means, all of reality is what gives meaning to his existence and substance to his nature. To a small extent, all of 'Being' depends on him, and he depends on all of 'Being' in return. "As above, so below", as the old Hermetic saying put things.


All this from a simple sentence written in Indo-European grammar!


[The point of that comment is that only the above family of language uses "is" as the copula in predication. So, not only is this Hegelian word-juggling bizarre in the extreme, it is highly parochial.]


Who'd have thought it?


Even so, one small step for John is a huge step for mankind. Innovative logic like this can't be held in check, can't be restricted to just one individual; it has quite expansive, if not imperialist aspirations as humanity itself now assumes universal significance. The fate of our entire species now takes centre stage in John's meaning universe (and not just his) -- the fate of every last atom of which is 'determined' by the semi-Divine Logic built into 'reality' by DL. Thus, whatever happens to John, or to humanity, is interconnected with everything in existence, and vice versa. Indeed, each of us has their cosmic role assigned them by linguistic magic like this....


Not only is John related to the Whole, he is what he is because this dialectically-'developed' diminutive verb implies he both is and is not identical (and then not not-identical) with an infinite concept.33 Indeed, and in this way, every person, atom, and tiny speck in the entire universe, and every process in nature, for all of time, has assigned to it its rightful 'mediated' place in the Infinite Whole. Every single object and process is identical with, and not identical with, and then not not-identical with its unique 'other', guaranteed by a 'logic' that smuggled identity into sentences in place of boring old predication....


This view of reality pictures the logical structure of sentences mirroring the logical 'essence' of 'Being'; everything is simultaneously both at the centre of an infinite web of relations and at its periphery -- all are at once insignificant and yet all are cosmically important (a 'unity of opposites'). Part and Whole are thus interlinked and inter-determine one another....


In this way, mystical Christianity was smuggled into Marxism; linguistic chicanery of this sort is no less bogus upside down as it is 'the right way up'.


Hegelian word-magic and garbled sub-Aristotelian 'logic' like this -- as opposed to scientific theory and observation -- is the real source of DM-Wholism, and much else besides. Small wonder then that it falls apart upon examination.


It could be argued once more that no DM-theorist in her left mind would argue this way, and that is because the interconnections mentioned above are not all of the same order or type. Some things in nature are intimately inter-related; others more remotely so. In that case, local events will have a vanishingly small effect on distant objects and processes in the solar system -- never mind the rest of the Galaxy, or, indeed, the universe at large (and vice versa). Fortunately, that response has been neutralised here and in Note 14.


Indeed, it is worth asking again: What exactly are the parts and the wholes in this example? For instance, is the carpet on a plane one of the parts? Is it now "more" of a carpet than it was before it was laid on the plane? What about the drink dispensers? Is a drink dispenser "more" of a drink dispenser on a plane than one in the airport? Have both carpet and dispenser acquired this new property of flight, as it were, parasitically? Is an aeroplane "more" of an aeroplane with a pencil on board than one without? But, where do we stop? Is a passenger on an aeroplane "more" of a passenger if the 'plane she is on had two such dispensers, as opposed to an aeroplane with only one? Does quantity affect property here?


Of course, such questions are obviously crazy -- but, that is only because they have been prompted by the vague and obscure concepts found in DM. The confused nature of the aircraft example presented in DB is a direct consequence of the unworkable, Metaphysical-Wholist ideas expressed in G1-G4.


Property Relations


In the above passage, the authors of DB referred to the ability to fly as a "property" that humans acquired as a result of social organisation, one they lacked earlier. But, is it correct to call this a "property"? Should we not rather want to call it a "facility", or perhaps a realisable "opportunity"? This is because no human beings can actually fly, and they cannot do so collectively, either. It is the machines we build that do all the flying!


But, if we still insist on calling it a "property", then perhaps we shouldn't be shy and declare that, for example, digital TV images are also "properties" that human beings have gained, or have attracted, as a result of their new capacity to walk around electronics stores. Or, to change the example: by inventing printing, humanity has perhaps acquired the "property" of browsing in second-hand bookshops.


In any case, in what sense is flying a property? What if someone carried a parrot onto a plane? Would that bird now have a double property? Perhaps the 'plane has acquired the property to be able to say "Pretty Polly!" Or, what if, say, an eagle carried off a rabbit? Would that hapless rodent thereby have acquired the new property of flight? -- Or, perhaps, the property of being 'kidnapped' by winged assailants? Indeed, would the new eagle/rabbit-whole be symmetrically unified (as far as part/whole determinations are concerned, and as G1-G4 seem to suggest)? Do eagles, therefore, acquire anything from rabbits when they enter into such predatory part/whole ensembles? Does, for example, the eagle part of this airborne duo acquire the rabbit part's ability to wriggle excessively when carried off by large predatory birds? But where does this end? On a demonstration, for example, do those protesting acquire the new property of being hit by police truncheons? Or, do those who use the Internet acquire the property of being harassed by trolls?13


Parts Bigger Than Wholes?


Cat And Mouse Dialectics


It could be argued that the above considerations amount to little more than pedantic nit-picking. But, even if that were so, far more serious problems afflict DM-Wholism than these relatively minor quibbles. Precisely what these are may be appreciated if we consider why the following would be an illegitimate counterexample to G3:


G12: Part of a cat is bigger than the whole of a mouse.


[G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.]


Here a part (i.e., the cat's stomach, say) is bigger than a whole mouse, which seems to contradict G3.



Figure One: Parts Bigger Than Wholes?


Superficially, the reason why G12 would be ruled out rather quickly as a legitimate counterexample to G3 is that it confuses parts and wholes from different animals. Indeed, that might also be one of the reasons why the eagle/rabbit objection above would also be rejected (along with some or all of the rest). But, if so, and since passengers and aeroplanes are as separate as rabbits and eagles, or even cats and mice, DB's own example might have to be abandoned for the same reason.


At any rate, TAR's abstract schema didn't mention this aspect of the part/whole relation (and neither do other DM-theorists): i.e., that objections based on inter-systemic part/whole connections aren't legitimate. However, it isn't easy to see how counter-examples like these could be ruled out without fatally damaging DM-Wholism. If everything is interconnected (and the entire nature of all that exists is determined by everything else, mediated by that mysterious 'dialectical glue', "internal relations"), then mice and cats' stomachs, eagles' claws and rabbits' fur, Laurel and Hardy's bowler hats, custard powder and Quasars, and a host of other things must be interlinked as parts of The One Big Mega-Whole.



Figure Two: One Inter-Linked Bowler?

Or Two Separate Hats?


Unfortunately, Rees and other DM-theorists have so far failed to provide us with any way of deciding precisely what does and what does not constitute a legitimate system/part comparison in this area of DM.  [This merely underlines a problem highlighted earlier -- as well as in Part One.]


[This brings us to something this Essay has been skirting around since the beginning: we have ignored distinctions dialecticians clearly draw between different types of wholes, and different kinds of parts, important factors the omission of which seem to undermine much of this Essay. That response I call 'Spirkin's Defence' [SD], which is covered in detail in Note 14.]14


Anyway, rabbits and eagles, cats and mice form part of the same food chain and ecological system. So, perhaps they are from the same whole, after all? How are we to decide? What are the real, or the 'objective', boundaries between parts and parts, parts and wholes, or even between wholes and wholes? Are there any? Or, is this aspect of DM just as 'subjective' as we have found much of the rest of it to be?


DM-theorists certainly need to decide where the boundaries of their parts and sub-"Totalities" lie so that they themselves can figure out what this terminally-vague theory of theirs commits them to, if nothing else!


[However, for reasons spelt out here, they are highly unlikely to take that piece of sound advice, even if they were listening! Indeed, and to date, any attempt to criticise this 'scientific theory' is met with little other than blatant fabrication and personal abuse, spiced-up with the use of by now de rigueur scatological language, compounded by no little special-pleading. A good example of the latter tactic can be found here. Readers should note the posts of one "Gilhyle", who constantly advances this 'excuse'.]


Of course, the problem is that because we know absolutely nothing about the "Totality" -- or what constitutes any of its sub-"Totalities" (if it has any) --, or, in fact, anything about its parts,15 we are in no position to reject any aspect of the entire universe as a legitimate part of some whole-or-other, and vice versa.


And, truth be told, neither are dialecticians!


In which case, for all anyone knows, some parts could be bigger than some wholes (several examples are given below). Who is to say? We certainly can't rule this out on an a priori basis. The evidence from the material world -- as opposed to the vague musings drawn from the Ideal DM-world, or even from a detailed perusal of Hegel's Logic -- is quite plain: there are countless parts of animals that are bigger than wholes of other animals. And, if we throw in the plant kingdom, the evidence becomes overwhelming.


Anyway, what happens if the said cat eats the said mouse? Has the mouse become "more" than it was before? As a new part of this cat, is it now "more" than the whole mouse it once was when not part of that cat? To be sure, it has become part of a new whole, but in what sense has the mouse become "more" (of a mouse?) than it was before? This question becomes all the more awkward when we remember that cats often dismember mice when they eat them. So, when swallowed, the hapless rodent might not even be a mouse. In that case, as far as this non-dialectical, ex-mouse is concerned, would something less than a mouse have become something more than a mouse?


This is perhaps one "emergent property" that even DM-theorists might be reluctant to swallow, even if the cat saves them the trouble of having to do it.16


It could be argued that the molecules making up the mouse have become "more" than they were before since they will in this case be absorbed into a higher organism. But, what if the mouse is eaten by a crocodile, or consumed by a snake, or by ants -- or even by bacteria? Is this aspect of DM-theory -- which tells us that parts become "more" when absorbed into wholes -- sensitive to some sort of evolutionary pecking order? In that case, what if the cat eats a kitten? Or, if a lion eats a monkey? And what if you, dear reader (the Dialectical Deity forbid), were eaten by a lion? Would that amount to part/whole evolutionary insubordination?


Bucking The System: Non-Dialectical Wholism


Can You Spot The Elephant In The Room?


Again, it could be objected that all this is misconceived since DM-theorists are quite clear that they mean to refer to parts that are integrated into the same system -- as G9 and G9a indicate:


G9: W1 > Σpwn.


G9a: The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts it already has.


If so, many of the above counter-examples could be dismissed as totally irrelevant since they patently ignore this important detail. In fact, TAR itself used an example lifted from an article on Engels (written by Sean Sayers) to make this particular point a little clearer:


"Of course, a living organism is composed of physical and chemical constituents, and nothing more. Nevertheless, it is not a mere collection of such constituents, nor even of anatomical parts. It is these parts unified, organized and acting as a whole. This unity and organization are not only features of our description: they are properties of the thing itself; they are constitutive of it as a biological organism." [Rees (1998), p.77; quoting Sayers (1996), p.162.]


The idea here seems to be that it is the integration of certain parts into the same organism (or system, or whole) that changes them in specific ways; moreover, this particular feature is constitutive and typical of relevant whole/part unions. In that case, it looks like it is the organization of the parts into an integrated whole which is the key feature, and that this isn't a separate (or separable) component of that whole; on the contrary, it is an expression of the inter-relation of the parts themselves that go to make that whole. And yet, we still await an explanation of the logical or 'internal' links that are supposed to emerge as a result of all this.


So, while there may be little outward difference between, say, a heart that has been removed from an organism and the same heart when it was operating inside its former owner, there is nonetheless a real difference not reducible to anything else relevant here. An integrated and working heart is a functioning part of an organism; in such an environment that heart isn't what it would otherwise be if it were detached from the body of its owner.


Or, so the argument might proceed...


To be sure, we define a heart, for instance, as an organ that fulfils a specific function in a body, but this just means that this is a de dicto, not a de re, definition of that organ. Dialecticians need the link they surmise here to be more than this; the connection between the parts of an organism and that organism itself are meant to be de re, and not just de dicto, but we have yet to be told how they can derive the latter from the former.17


This topic is examined in more detail in Note 14 and Note 17, and it will be picked-over again presently. But, in advance of that, a few preliminary difficulties need airing, not the least of which concerns the fact that this new twist would make the example given in DB (the one concerning the novel "property" of flight) redundant, unless, of course, we imagine human society is organic in some way, or that human beings inside aeroplanes aren't the same as those waiting in the departure lounge. Does anyone actually think there is a logical, or 'internal' link between such individuals and the aeroplanes they are about to board? Or, does this hypothetical link only kick in when they take their seats?


And, how does this analogy help us understand class society? Are any of the passengers on an aeroplane any the less human if they go by train or boat instead? Or, if they parachute off the 'plane?


Where is the 'organic unity' we seek in this case?


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. That response is also examined in Note 11, Note 14 and Note 17.


However, since this involves issues drawn from HM, that topic will largely be ignored at this site -- except: "internal relations" will be subjected to destructive criticism in Essay Four Part Two. Consequent on that, the application of such "relations" to class society will be given an entirely new interpretation, as will the alleged organicism alluded to earlier.


[SD = Spirkin Defence; LOI = Law of Identity.]


Putting this to one side for the time being, it is worth pointing out that in general DM-apologists who are impressed with this particular point (or with those found in the SD) will have to abandon Trotsky's criticisms of the LOI in order to make this argument work. If not, we should have to admit that the following are legitimate counter-examples to the organicist ideas that Sayers's argument promotes:


G13: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of an adult elephant.


G14: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of an adult elephant.


Why this is so will now be explained.


Compare G13 and G14 with G3:


G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.


In G13 and G14, we have two examples (concerning the parts and wholes of living organisms) where G3 doesn't seem to apply. In order to neutralise these two counterexamples, G3 must be re-interpreted along lines suggested in G9 and the propositions that led up to it:


G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.


G5: Let whole W1 have parts pw1-pwn, and let pw1-pwn form a set, Pw.


G6: Let the 'same' parts when not parts of W1 be p1-pn, and let p1-pn form a set of parts, P.


G7: For any pwi, and any pi, let pwi > pi (where pwi and pi are the ith members of Pw and P, respectively).


G8: Let the sum of the parts that are elements of Pw be Σpwn, and the sum of the parts that are elements of P be Σpn.


G9: Either: W1 > Σpwn.


G10: Or: W1 > Σpn.


[Recall, G9 means the following:


G9a: The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts it already has.]


This means that G13 and G14 could be neutralised only if they were changed into the following falsehoods (and then rejected on that basis):


G15: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of the same baby elephant.


G16: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of the same baby elephant.


[G13: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of an adult elephant.


G14: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of an adult elephant.]


G15 and G16 effectively neutralise the implications of G13 and G14, but only by making an overt appeal to the LOI! Hence, dialectical quibbles over whether or not the word "same" can capture the fluid nature of reality will have to be shelved, for if the word "same" is regarded as inadequate in G15 and G16 then it must be inadequate in the following as well:


G17: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of the same elephant when it is an adult.


G18: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of the same elephant when it is an adult.


But, in G17 and G18 the use of the word "same" allows for change through continuity, and, if anything, is closer to its supposed 'dialectical' meaning than the 'same' word in G15 and G16.


Unfortunately, this adjustment transforms G17 and G18 into effective counterexamples to G9/G9a -- the only viable reading of G3 we could find. That is because the 'whole' in G9/G9a has changed. That is, in G17, the whole that used to be a baby elephant has now grown into a whole constituting that same elephant when it has matured into an adult. So, at a later date, one of that baby elephant's parts will have grown and become bigger than it used to be, and would now be greater than the whole to which it once belonged -- which earlier whole (i.e., the baby elephant) can't itself change since it is 'frozen' in the past. G18 makes a similar point, but the other way around.


[IED = Identity in Difference (i.e., "Improvised Explanatory Device").]


This returns us to a problem that was aired in Part One of this Essay (as well as in Essay Eight Part One). The obscure nature of the "Totality", or, indeed, that of any of its sub-"Totalities", and the dialectical equivocation over the meaning of "internal" (so that, one minute it seems to mean "spatially internal", the next "logically or conceptually internal") shows that it is now impossible to neutralise this difficulty in any obvious way.


We saw in Part One (and earlier in this Essay) that unless dialecticians include the past as part of their "Totality", it wouldn't be possible to account for development -- or even for their vague idea of 'change through continuity' --, using the IED ploy.


But, as soon as the past is included, and the Totality is seen as some sort of four-dimensional manifold --, where, unfortunately for dialecticians, there would be no such thing as 'objective' change -- change itself would be no more than our limited and 'subjective' view of things, and the entire theory would lose its Heraclitean clout (indeed, the universe would become quintessentially Parmenidean!).


On the other hand, if this four-dimensional view of time is rejected, dialecticians would have to admit that the "Totality" contained non-existent things as part of their now non-objective, 'objective' whole -- namely, those items now locked in the past, which no longer exist!


Alternatively, once more, if the "Totality" doesn't contain the past, then in order to account for contemporary class society -- or, for the state of the universe --, dialecticians would have to appeal to things outside the "Totality" to account for things inside it, defeating the whole point of introducing such an obscure idea as the "Totality" in the first place.


And, as far as sub-"Totalities" are concerned, the same problems apply, but on a reduced scale. So, if one of these lesser obscurities is meant to be an object in 4-space too, then any 'change' it undergoes would be no less illusory.


[The reason why I have introduced 4-space here is that, if Relativity Theory is correct, then each of us, and every object and process in the universe, is a manifold stretched out in 4-space. If so, then the 'whole' that represents any such object at one moment in time (which would be an orthogonal hyperplane slice through that manifold) will be smaller (i.e., occupy less 3-space) than a part of that object at a later time -- if that object grows in size (i.e., occupies more of 3-space). In which case, a whole here would be less than its parts, let alone less than the sum of those parts -- as we have seen was the case with G17 and G18 above.


Presently, I propose to examine some of the ramifications of this idea, using the phrase "sub-'Totality'" in place of "orthogonal hyperplane slice through that manifold", which, I think, is not only a little less convoluted, it is easier to comprehend. So, in the comments below, one of these "sub-Totalities" will be, for example, the entire universe at a particular moment in its history. (This idea continues from, and depends upon, ideas introduced earlier and in Part One. They won't be fully understood by anyone who has skipped this earlier section, or who hasn't read Part One.)]


Once more, if this idea (from modern Physics is rejected), then any "sub-Totality" [call it "ST(01)"] out of which a another "sub-Totality" [call it call it "ST(02)"] had developed will no longer exist to provide an 'objective' account of why and how this development had occurred, since call it ST(01) is locked in the past and has thus ceased to exist. On the other hand, if these earlier non-existent "sub-Totalities" are deemed to be part of the over-arching "Totality" itself, the latter would once again contain countless billions of these non-existent "sub-"Totalities" (one for each non-existent 'moment' in the past).


Alternatively, if the past isn't part of the "Totality" --, and thus no past "sub-Totality" is part of the "Totality" --, we would again have to appeal to things outside the "Totality" to account for things inside it.


At the very least, if the past is allowed back in, the immediate difficulties would return, for then some parts would be bigger than some wholes, and vice versa, as G13 and G14 asserted (but which is now made plain in G17 and G18):


G13: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of an adult elephant.


G14: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of an adult elephant.


G17: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of the same elephant when it is an adult.


G18: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of the same elephant when it is an adult.


In that case, some parts would be bigger than earlier wholes, and some sums of parts would less than some later wholes of the same animal as it developed.


On the other hand, if these "sub-Totalities" aren't manifolds in 4-space, then the above problems would simply resurface. In that case, a "sub-Totality" would be ephemeral in the extreme -- having a 'duration' in the 'specious' present (surely of shorter length than a yocto-second (i.e., less than 10-24s)), with no link to its former non-existent 'self' from which it had developed or had emerged. That is because, in the present, such links to the past wouldn't exist, either. If they did still exist, they couldn't link anything with the past, since, in order to exist they too would have to be in the present, not the past.


Here is why:


Call such a link, "L(01)", and consider again ST(01) and ST(02). Let L(01) connect ST(01) with ST(02). But, if ST(01) no longer exists, since it lies in the past, then it can't connect ST(01) with ST(02), since on half of that 'link' is no longer there.


On the other hand, if L(01) does indeed connect ST(01) with ST(02), then ST(01) must still exist (and for the same reason). In that case, the past would have to exist alongside the present, implying that the past is just a disguised form of the present.  


Moreover, L(01) would be part neither of ST(01) -- otherwise, plainly, it would be part of that unchanging four-dimensional 'object', ST(01), after all, and thus it wouldn't be able to link ST(01) to ST(02) -- nor part of the over-arching "Mega-Totality" [call this "MT"), which is comprised of sub-"Totalities", not links between them.


On the other hand, if MT does contain these links, they must be part of some "sub-Totality" after all, unless we suppose these links aren't interconnected with everything around them. If the latter is the case, there would then be countless billion things (namely these links between all these "sub-Totalities") that aren't interconnected with everything in the universe, and hence which aren't part of any "Totality" at all -- and DM would suffer another body blow.


If the last point is accepted (that these links aren't part of any "Totality"), we should once more have to appeal to things outside the "Totality" to account for things inside it, and the whole point of appealing to this nebulous concept would vanish.


Of course, if these links are part of some "sub-Totality-or-other", then they can't link the "sub-Totalities" after all!


[The reason for saying that is just a reprise of the above argument, the details of which are left to the reader to complete -- just as soon as their local DM-soothsayer has come clean about the nature of MT, its parts and its "sub-wholes"). It is important to add that I am here neither accepting nor rejecting the idea that the universe is a changeless manifold in 4-space. However, it isn't easy to see how DM-fans can exclude this view of 4-space -- other than with a dismissive sweep of the hand. (I will, nevertheless, add several comments about this view of 'reality' to Essay Thirteen Part Two.)]


Recall that, when translated, G9 amounts to the following re-write of G9a:


G19: A whole is greater than the sum of those parts when they are assembled as parts of that whole (not as they had been before they were so assembled).


[G9: W1 > Σpwn.


G9a: The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts it already has.


G17: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of the same elephant when it is an adult.


G18: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of the same elephant when it is an adult.]


Of course, the problem is that G17 and G18 introduce temporal comparisons between parts and wholes of organisms as and when they are considered at earlier or later dates.


Naturally, some readers might not regard G17 and G18 as counterexamples to G9, which doesn't itself include temporal constraints of this sort -- although, if it were paraphrased along the lines expressed in G19, it would contain an oblique reference to such temporal factors.18 But, if that is so, G9 and G19 couldn't appear in a dialectical account of 'reality'. Quite apart from the four-dimensional problems outlined above, if G17 and G18 lack any temporal constraints, they would appear to freeze-frame parts and wholes, which would mean they are of no use to DM-theorists.


Maybe G9 could be altered to include a suitable temporal reference, perhaps along the following lines:


G20: Let W1 and Σpwn at time t1 be Wt1 and Σpt1wn, respectively.


G21: Wt1 > Σpt1wn.


Translated, G21 reads either the same as G21a, or the same as G21b, depending on how abstract this option is deemed to be:


G21a: A whole at a given moment is greater than the sum of its parts at that instant.


G21b: A whole at a given moment is greater than the sum of its parts at the same time.


Re-written in this way, G21a would seem to rule out some of the counterexamples listed above. However, quite apart from its 'un-dialectical' import (it refers to the sorts of instants in time to which Trotsky took great exception, and which would surely come to grief in the four-dimensional minefield outlined earlier),19 this appearance is illusory. That is because, for some systems, at some time, the whole could in fact be less than the sum of its parts at that time. A greatly truncated list of examples illustrating this possibility is given below:


(1) A valuable diamond is dropped into molten lead. On its own the diamond is worth, say, £10,000 ($19,000). But, as part of the new diamond/lead whole, it is now almost valueless, even while at least one of its parts is worth £10,000 ($19,000).


There are countless examples that run along similar lines: a house might be worth £200,000 ($380,000), but as part of a forest fire/house whole, it would be worthless; a car might be worth £7000 ($13,500), but as part of a car/crusher whole it would be mere scrap; a "Big Mac" might be 'worth' 99p ($1.90) on its own, but as part of a rat/burger whole it would be valueless; and so on.


It could be objected that these examples don't in fact involve the exact same moment in time. This is correct, but only if "same moment" means "same abstract instant". However, since that would 'freeze-frame' reality once more, that response itself wouldn't appear to be of much use to DM-fans. On the other hand, if "same moment" is interpreted along the lines suggested in G21b, many of the above examples would still be relevant -- that depends, of course, on how we understand the phrase "same time".


G21b: A whole at a given moment is greater than the sum of its parts at the same time.


However, the obverse of this is that if "same time" is defined too tightly, or too narrowly, in order to rule out the above 'difficulties', then that would impose on reality yet another abstract and a priori structure. In fact, there are no 'objective' criteria here to which we can appeal to stop this from happening -- or prevent a consequent slide into 'subjectivity' and/or idealism'' -- whatever is done. This is the permanent bind that ensnares all metaphysical theories. At some point, Traditional Thinkers have to use language in certain ways, often (implicitly or explicitly) setting-up new conventions as and when they do so. The problem is that when this has been done, they invariably interpret these new conventions as 'objective' features of reality, and not artefacts of these conventions.


[Why and how this happens is explained at length in Essay Twelve Part One.]


The same comments apply, mutatis mutandis, to the next batch of counter-examples:


(2) Consider a set of non-zero forces aligned in a couple so that the resultant at some point is zero. In this case, each part is greater than the whole (which is zero!), and the whole is equal to, but not greater than the sum of the parts.


Of course, we could always apply the SD here and argue that this isn't the 'right' sort of whole, but what if these forces operate inside an organism (or indeed, inside Capitalism)? [This is quite apart from the fact that the SD is itself shot through with vagueness, and thus is of little use to anyone -- as we saw in Note 14.]


(3) Consider a rope made from, say, 1000 strands of material, with each strand, say, 0.5 metres long. Let these strands overlap one another for approximately 90% of their length. Collectively, because of this overlap the fibres stretch (as part of the whole rope) for only 50 metres. However, the sum of the lengths of these strands taken individually is 500 metres -- which would be (and is!) their total length at that instant had they not been woven into that rope. But, the rope is still only 50 metres long. Here the whole is considerably less than the sum of the parts.


Indeed, every item of clothing is a counter-example to this trite rule, for in each case, the total length of all the strands of fibre constituting any garment is greater than the length of that garment as a whole. And what goes for garments goes for most manufactured goods, as well. And what is more, this applies to the parts of countless organisms, too: hence, the total length of all the muscle fibres in a wombat is greater than the length of a whole wombat. And we needn't stop at fury rodents: the total length of all the xylem tubes in a tree is greater than the length of that tree, and so on.


(4) Consider gases; let the volume occupied by two different gases be, say, 1000 cm3. When mixed they react and now occupy only, say, 750 cm3. Here the sums of the volumes of the parts when separate is greater than the whole volume occupied together.


(5) A familiar feature relating to the "form" of sports team players also illustrates the limitation of the Wholist-mantra. Often, when in a different team, each player can play well below "form". This happens quite often when football players, say, play for England. So, here the sum of the performances of footballers when they play for England as a whole, say, is less than that taken severally when not in that team, or in some other team. Colloquially, we would say such players play well below form, etc.20


Of course, some might try to reject or neutralise one or more of these counter-examples because of their figurative and/or vague use of language (even though not all of them are guilty in this respect, and even though this aspect of DM is itself shot through with figurative language and terminal vagueness, so dialecticians have no room to point any fingers in this regard!), or because they aren't relevant to what the part/whole relation 'really' means, as outlined in G1-G4. However, since we are never told what DM-Wholism 'really' amounts to, it is impossible to decide whether or not even this counter-claim is itself legitimate.


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


G2: The part makes the whole and the whole makes the part.


G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.


G4: Each part becomes more when it is part of a whole than it would otherwise have been (individually) apart from that whole.


Nevertheless, the real problem facing DM-advocates, it seems, is how they can consistently disallow counterexamples like G17 and G18 -- or the others listed above -- without undermining their version of the trite Wholist-mantra (recorded in G3). Naturally, one way to do this might be to declare (unconvincingly) that in the case of G17 and G18 the two organisms in question weren't the same animal. Ironically, as noted above, this would mean that DM couldn't itself handle change over time. That is because, if on the one hand it is impossible to identify the same animal as it changes over time, then it is equally impossible to say that it (the same animal) had changed into an adult (as opposed, for example, to having died, disintegrated, disappeared, or had been eaten by a predator). But, on the other hand, if we decide that in this case these are the same organisms, then the counterexamples above (alongside G17 and G18) would become legitimate, once more.


Naturally, if they aren't the same animals, then the IED defence (deployed earlier) will have to be abandoned.


G17: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of the same elephant when it is an adult.


G18: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of the same elephant when it is an adult.


However, it would seem that DM-theorists will need to make a desperate move like this -- that is, they would have to declare that the animals alluded to above weren't the same -- because of the 'un-dialectical' thesis expressed by G21a:


G21a: A whole at a given moment is greater than the sum of its parts at that instant.


Of course, if G21a is acceptable to DM-theorists, it would rule out their neat formula applied to things that change, for, as we saw above (in G17 and G18), a whole can (and mostly does) become less than one of its parts at a later time.


As it stands, G21a is very un-dialectical since it only seems to be valid if nothing changes! Once more, G21a looks as if it relies on instantaneous comparisons, something Trotsky ruled out as abstract and inapplicable to things that exist in material reality. However, if parts can become bigger than the wholes they once were a part of, then G9 (and G3) will have to be rejected.


G9: W1 > Σpwn.


G9a: The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts it already has.


G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.


To be sure, many of the annoying counterexamples listed above only seem to work because of their vague use of certain terms (i.e., "part", "whole", "sub-Totality" and "Totality"). However, if these counterexamples were to be rejected by dialecticians on that basis (that is, if they were ruled-out simply because the vague language they use creates such problems), that would once more concede the point that this thesis (about part/whole relations) can only be made to appear to work because of the imposition of yet more a priori dogma. That, of course, would make this part of DM conventional and/or metaphysical, and not at all 'objective'.


Anyway, many of the above counterexamples used words in perfectly ordinary contexts. So, it is a moot point, therefore, on what 'objective' grounds they could be rejected --, or at least rejected on a basis that still allowed for the retention of the few favourable examples of the part/whole relation DM-theorists have scraped-together over the years, which are no less 'vague'.


However, if we are desperate to hang onto G9, come what may, then perhaps we could try the following re-write:


G22: For any time tk, Wtk > Σptkwk.


Translated this means:


G22a: At any subsequent time a whole is greater than the sum of the parts of the same whole at that time.


[G21: Wt1 > Σpt1wn.


G21a: A whole at a given moment is greater than the sum of its parts at that instant.


G21b: A whole at a given moment is greater than the sum of its parts at the same time.]


G22 and G22a render G21 and G21a so that they more closely resemble G21b, and this might indeed neutralise several of the above counterexamples, since they relate parts to wholes as they change diachronically. Suitably altered, too, G22/G22a could rule out all reference to earlier or later times, as was the case with, say, G18.


G18: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of the same elephant when it is an adult.


Unfortunately however, G22 (and G22a) only work because of a clear use of the LOI again (i.e., "same whole") -- and this use can't be watered-down so that it now becomes "approximate identity". This isn't just because the latter term is itself parasitic on strict identity (on that, see here), but any such watering-down will sever this alternative's only life-line, collapsing it back into earlier versions which had to be rejected for reasons outlined above. G22 and G22a only work because of the strictness of the terms they employ.


G22: For any time tk, Wtk > Σptkwk.


G22a: At any subsequent time a whole is greater than the sum of the parts of the same whole at that time.


Anyway, one interpretation of G22 might require time to be made of instants, as opposed to intervals, if this version of the part/whole relation is to work. Since that would make this option 'un-dialectical', it, too, must be rejected by DM-fans who are concerned with consistency (should there be any who fit that particular description!).


On the other hand, if we consider the tensed variable in G22, highlighted in bold in G22a (its ordinary language equivalent):


G22a: At any subsequent time a whole is greater than the sum of the parts of the same whole at that time


and interpret it as referring instead to an interval, then, as noted earlier, that interval would have to be arbitrarily restricted so that the subsequent growth of the organism in question wasn't allowed to refute the thesis under consideration. Otherwise any organic growth taking place in that interval (expressed in G13, G14. G17 and G18) would falsify this option, as we saw earlier.


G13: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of an adult elephant.


G14: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of an adult elephant.


G17: The whole of a baby elephant is smaller than part of the same elephant when it is an adult.


G18: The sum of the parts of a baby elephant is less than the whole of the same elephant when it is an adult.


This would be particularly true in the case of rapidly growing organisms.


So, it seems that whatever is done to it, this Wholist thesis is either thoroughly conventional, or patently false -- that is, if any sense can be made of it to begin with.


Partial Rationality


The Whole Truth?


Again, few of the above arguments are likely to impress convinced DM-clones, let alone persuade them that their neat formula is unreliable -- or even that it is itself 'un-dialectical' in that it freeze-frames organisms and fails to consider their growth (as we saw in the previous section)!


This is perhaps because the reasoning presented at this site uses analytic techniques uncongenial to the 'holistic' approach preferred by the faithful.


However, that response itself ignores the fatal objection that DM-Wholism can only be made even to seem to work if organisms don't actually grow and develop --, which is an odd sort of thing to have to say about this supposedly quintessential, developmental 'philosophy of change', DM!


Fortunately, however, we don't have to employ such tactics alone to demonstrate the weaknesses of DM-Wholism.


Returning to the passage written by Sean Sayers (quoted earlier):


"Of course, a living organism is composed of physical and chemical constituents, and nothing more. Nevertheless, it is not a mere collection of such constituents, nor even of anatomical parts. It is these parts unified, organized and acting as a whole. This unity and organization are not only features of our description: they are properties of the thing itself; they are constitutive of it as a biological organism." [Sayers (1996), p.162.]


Now, this argument only looks plausible because it is based on a consideration of biological systems; hence, it fails to explain how a generalised sort of Wholism operates throughout non-organic nature, or indeed the rest of the universe.21


So, even if Sayers were correct, what he says would be of little use in trying to understand the vast bulk of the material world in Wholist terms. For example, what sense could be made of the idea that a mountain is only a mountain because of its relation to the whole (which whole)? Or that, the Sun was only the Sun because of its relation to…, er..., well, what?21a


[Once more, we could appeal to the SD here and claim that arbitrary collections of objects aren't the sorts of wholes that dialecticians consider to be of prime importance. But, the Solar System is a system, and a mountain is part of a geological system. The problem here is that, as we saw in Note 14 (as well as Note 3 and Note 11), the SD can't itself distinguish dialectically significant wholes from arbitrary conglomerations; or, at least, it can't do so on an 'objective' basis. The same comments apply SD-type responses to many of the counter-examples given below. Registering that particular point here will save me having to make it over and over again as and when they emerge.]


When a wider selection of examples is considered, further fundamental weaknesses in DM-Holism soon emerge. Consider, for instance, a car. Do its parts cease to be what they once were if they are removed from that vehicle? Does a wheel, for example, cease to be a wheel if it comes off its axle? Or, if it is removed while the car to which it belongs is being serviced? Is it any less of a wheel? Why replace it then? Does the axle cease to be an axle when it loses a wheel? Is it, too, any less of an axle? What would any replacement wheel be re-attached to then? Indeed, what happens to a lorry with four doubled-up rear wheels if it loses one while the other three remain on the axle? Would they still be wheels, and would they still be on an axle if the entire nature of a part is determined by its relation others, and to the whole?


In a similar vein, consider the following unlikely conversation in the Parts Department of a garage:


NN: "Can I have a fan belt?"


NM: "Sorry, mate, you can't because fan belts are only fan belts when they are attached to the cooling system of an engine."


Or, another in a café:


MM: "Can I have a slice of cake?"


MN: "No, but you can have a slice of non-cake, which used to be cake when it was attached to the whole cake before we sliced it up for you."


If a part is only a part -- and its nature is fully determined in the said manner when it is incorporated in a whole --, the Parts Department in the above example is surely mis-named. It should be called the "Non-Parts Department" -- or, perhaps:




Or, maybe even:




Interested readers can now join in and dream up their own 'Dialectical Menu' for the 'Wholist-café' mentioned earlier.


It could be objected that fan belts and the like are what they are because they have been designed to fit cars, and that it is this intended role that makes them parts of the wholes they later join. But, this would make the part/whole relation impossibly vague, for in that case we wouldn't know what is part and what is whole -- or how they are connected -- until some intention or other had been ascertained. And that difficulty would apply to the designers, too. How could they form an intention to design this or that part if they couldn't independently identify it first before they formed that intention?


Furthermore, there can be no intention manufacture a part of some whole if that part is only the part it later becomes when it is located in that whole, which is manifestly the case with a fan belt until it is so attached. In which case, we'd have something like the following:


An 'intention' To Make-An-Unknown-'Object'-Whose-Nature-Remains-Obscure-Until-The-Latter-Has-Been-Determined-By-Its-Attachment-To-Another-'Something-Or-Other'-That-Is-Itself-Indeterminate-This-Side-Of-The-Aforementioned-Union-Into-A-New-Whole-Of-Some-Sort-Or-Other


Worse still, this new change of focus (and onto intentions) might have untoward teleological implications for the parts of plants and animals, to say nothing of the rest of the Universe. Was the Sun 'intended' to warm the earth and keep it in orbit? Are the stars there merely to provide gainful employment for Astrologers? Or, maybe to assist wayfarers traverse oceans?22


In addition, consider cases where objects retain their identity ('designed' or not), even though they feature in a temporary or semi-permanent whole for which they weren't actually 'intended'. Examples of this would include instances where, say, ordinary tools (such as a hammer) are used in non-standard ways -- to prop open doors, deter a rioting Policeman, or smash the windows on buses carrying scabs. Or, where a house brick might be used to weigh some papers down, frighten some more scabs, or 're-configure' a group of Nazis. In the latter case, the brick clearly remains a brick throughout; the fact that it won't lose any of its usual properties if it enters into, say, a new brick/'damaged-Nazi-whole' will be one of the reasons why it would be recommended to that end. Are Nazis any more scum-like (or brick-like) when they are in a new 'Nazi/brick whole' than they were before? Would this brick be more of a brick when lobbed at a scab than it would be if it were thrown at members of, say, Britain First? Does the said scab get a similar 'wholistic promotion' because the brick knocks him out? If parts and wholes are entirely inter-determined in the way specified (by means of these "internal relations"), most or all of these would be the case.


It could be argued once more that the above aren't relevant counter-examples since the items in question weren't originally designed to feature in such systematic wholes, nor do they assume wider functional roles as working units in either their old or their new guises. But, we have been here already. A response like this would rule out one or more of the few positive examples to which that Rees and other DM-fans themselves appeal. For example, where is the 'organic unity' in the aeroplane example the authors of DB advanced? Moreover, it would still fail to account for the altered roles that systematically-functioning items often undergo as a result of inter-systemic exchange -- even while they retain their 'identity'.


Consider, for instance, a seat from an old car; it could still be used (when separated from that car) as a seat in a house, or as a display in a museum, or as part of a barricade (but still serving as a seat for the barricaders). If the properties of parts actually changed as a result of their separation from the wholes they were 'meant' to fit (as this 'theory' implies they should) a seat would no longer be of any use in such new surroundings.


And, we don't have to invent weird and wonderful counter-examples drawn from human interaction; consider cases where animals commandeer parts taken from other animals and use them in the same or nearly the same way as their former owners. For example, Hermit Crabs use the shells of other sea creatures as protection. Is such a shell more or less of a shell in this new organic whole? The same question, it seems, can be asked about octopodia. [Film here.]


What about holes in the ground, or in trees, used as 'homes' and successively occupied by rabbits, foxes, moles, badgers, assorted birds, and even bees and wasps? Does a hole, therefore, become "more" of a hole whole when it is part of, say, a new mole hole whole than when it was part of a former vole hole whole? Indeed, does a mole or a vole become more or less of a mole or a vole whole in their new mole or vole hole whole?


Think, too, of wool and feathers gathered by birds to line their nests, used for warmth and padding, and so on. Again, consider the way that human beings use animal skins to keep warm, employing the latter in the same way their former owners used them. Does wool, for example, become more of an insulator when it forms part of a new child/pullover whole than when it was on the original sheep? Does it become more woollen when used as part of a scarf/worker ensemble?


What about the medical use of animal parts in human bodies? Xenotransplantation would be a non-starter if parts and wholes were "internally related", as DM-theorists would have us believe. Are heart valves taken from pigs (and other animals) no longer valves when they leave the body of the donor animal and are about to be transplanted into a human heart?


Indeed, before Tony Cliff received such a valve, did he point out to the doctors that on sound dialectical lines it is no use transplanting a pig's valve into his heart since it wasn't part of the whole that constituted his body? If so, those concerned forgot to make a note of it. [Birchall (2011), pp.542-43.]


Update July 2012: The PBS Channel has just carried a programme -- aired on UK cable TV, 26/07/12 -- about a new treatment being tried out in New Zealand using transplanted pig cells to manage diabetes.


We also read this report from the BBC:


"Animal transplants coming 'soon'


"Are pigs about to migrate from the dinner table to the operating table? Using animals as a source of organs for transplantation into humans was once one of medicine's next big things -- a solution to transplant waiting lists.


"However, there have been problems with rejection -- and recently stem cells have been grabbing the spotlight. But some researchers are now saying that transplants from animals 'could soon become a reality', but not necessarily as originally expected. There is still a pressing need for organs. In the UK there are 8,000 people on the waiting list -- three die every day.


"Several technologies are trying to meet the demand. In August, a patient from London was the first in the UK to have his heart replaced with a mechanical one while stem cells have been used for simple structures such as the windpipe. However, using stem cells to build more complicated organs such as a heart is a long way off and mechanical body parts are used in the short term before an actual transplant. Using animals as a source -- known as 'xenotransplantation' -- is another potential solution.


"Whole organs


"Pigs have been used as a source of heart valves, which control the flow of blood around the heart. Here the pig cells are chemically stripped away and when the remaining structure is transplanted, human cells grow around it. Stripping away the living material would not work for most transplants -- nobody would want the heart that did not beat.


"However, that living material has a big problem, namely rejection. The human immune system attacks the pig tissue, which it recognises as foreign. Dr David Cooper from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre is one of a group of researchers arguing in the Lancet that the problems with organ rejection are being overcome. Some pigs -- GTKO [α1,3-Galactosyltransferase Gene-Knockout -- RL] pigs -- have been genetically modified. They no longer produce a pig protein, galactosyltransferase, which the immune system would have attacked. The authors say that this kind of rejection is 'not the main cause of graft failure', however, 'other issues have become more prominent'.


"Problems such as damaging blood clots and inflammation will require further genetic modification. As a result they say that: 'Overall, clinical pig organ xenotransplantation will probably not be undertaken in the next few years.'


"Smaller scale, greater promise


"While therapies are distant on the whole organ level, they believe researchers are getting closer to transplanting small numbers of cells. In patients with type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks islet cells in the pancreas, which control sugar levels. Most people can manage the condition with insulin, but some have therapy to replace the lost cells. Around one in 500 patients with type 1 diabetes have unpredictable low sugar levels and only those are currently suitable for the treatment.


"However, in the UK there is a waiting time of up to 18 months and the number of cells which can be transplanted to each patient is limited. The authors argue that using pigs as a source for these cells is 'much more encouraging', than using whole organ transplants. They write: 'Because pig insulin was given to patients with diabetes for decades, and because a diabetic monkey survived for more than one year supported only by pig islets, clinical pig-islet xenotransplantation will almost certainly be physiologically successful.' Clinical trials are underway in New Zealand to test that theory.


"Dr Martin Rutter, senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, said he was 'interested, but cautious'. He warned that: 'It is still not clear whether it is an effective treatment or a safe treatment. If it proves safe and effective it could be an amazing development.'


"It has also been suggested that some cells in the brain could be transplanted to ease neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's or that pigs could be a source of corneas. 'With regard to pig tissues and cells, as opposed to organs, it would seem that clinical xenotransplantation could soon become a reality,' the researchers conclude.


"NHS Blood and Transplant said organs from animals had huge potential for the future to fill the gap between availability and demand, but there were 'many complex issues still to overcome' and that there was 'still a long way to go'.  It says until then, getting more people to donate organs would be the most successful strategy."


And this from the BBC in early 2014:


"I am standing in a fully functioning operating theatre. A surgeon and team of specialists in green smocks are preparing to operate. But I'm not in a hospital. I am on a farm deep in the Japanese countryside. On the gurney about to undergo the knife is a six-month-old female pig....


"The unconscious pig is about to become a surrogate mother -- and the embryos she is now carrying are very special. They are chimeric, that is, they carry genetic material from two different species. In a nearby shed Prof Nagashima takes me to see his most prized possessions. For this I have to change into full smock, hat, boots and mask. It is not to protect me, it is to protect the occupants -- fully grown chimeric pigs.


"Halfway down the long white shed, I am introduced to pig number 29 -- a large, hairy male with jutting tusks. Number 29 is a white pig, but he is covered in coarse, black hair. More importantly, inside, he has the pancreas of a black pig. How is that possible? It starts off by making what Prof Nagashima calls 'a-pancreatic' embryos. Inside the white pig embryo, the gene that carries the instructions for developing the animal's pancreas has been 'switched off'.


"The Japanese team then introduce stem cells from a black pig into the embryo. What they have discovered is that as the pig develops, it will be normal except for its pancreas, which will be genetically a black pig's. But this is just the first step.


"In a lab at Tokyo University Professor Hiro Nakauchi is taking the next one, and this is even more astonishing. Prof Nakauchi takes skin cells from an adult brown rat. He then uses gene manipulation to change these adult skin cells into what are called 'iPS' cells. The amazing thing about induced pluripotent stem cells is that they have many of the same characteristics as embryonic stem cells. In other words, they can develop into any part of the animal's body. IPS cells were first created in 2006 by Japanese medical researcher Dr Shinya Yamanaka. In 2012, he won the Nobel Prize for his discovery. In his lab, Prof Nakauchi has succeeded in using these iPS cells to grow a brown rat pancreas inside a white mouse.


"So why is all of this so important? The ultimate objective of this research is to get human organs to grow inside pigs. By itself, that would be a massive breakthrough for science. But what Prof Nakauchi is trying to achieve goes further. He is hoping to develop a technique to take skin cells from a human adult and change them in to iPS cells. Those iPS cells can then be injected into a pig embryo.


"The result, he hopes, will be a pig with a human pancreas or kidney or liver, or maybe even a human heart. Not only that, the organ would be genetically identical to the human from which the skin cells were taken. This is one of the holy grails of medical research: the ability to reproduce a human organ that is genetically identical to the person who needs it. It could mean an end to donor waiting lists, and an end to problems of organ rejection.


"But there are many potential obstacles ahead. The first is that pigs and humans are only distantly related. It is one thing to get a black pig pancreas to grow inside a white pig, quite another to get a human pancreas to do the same. Prof Nakauchi is confident it can be done. He thinks it will take at least five years, but admits it could take much longer." [Taken from here; accessed 03/01/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space. Link added.]


Again, DM-fans should write to the doctors in Japan and New Zealand, as well as to the Lancet, telling them this research is a waste of time and money since the nature of these parts is determined by the whole, and so they can't be transplanted or engineered successfully.


Except, as the first of the above articles notes: parts of animals have already been used in this way.


In the summer of 2013 the following appeared in the New Scientist:


"Mouse heart beats again thanks to human stem cells


"A newly beating heart is part-mouse, part-human. For the first time, a mouse heart has been made to pulse again by stripping it of its own cells and rebuilding it with human ones (see video...).


"To create the hybrid heart, Lei Yang at the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues took the heart from a mouse and, in a process that lasted 10 hours, removed all its cells. The remaining protein scaffold was then repopulated with human heart precursor cells -- stem cells that had differentiated into the three types of cell required for a heart. After a few weeks, the organ started to beat again. 'Our engineered hearts contain about 70 per cent human heart precursor cells, which provide enough mechanical force for contraction,' says Yang. The precursor cells were derived from induced pluripotent stem cells generated from human skin cells, and were then turned into cardiac precursor cells. A previous study used human embryonic cells to achieve similar results, but the success rate in converting them to beating heart cells was very low.


"Although the designer hearts do beat rhythmically, they aren't strong enough to pump blood effectively and the team found that the heart's rhythm differed from a normal mouse's heart. Yang thinks this is because the added cells were not as mature as adult heart cells or properly synchronised. 'We did not rebuild the whole cardiac conduction system, which could control the rhythmic beatings of a heart,' he says. The team's next step will be to improve the mechanical and electrical synchronisation of the heartbeat.


"The study builds on previous work by Yang and colleagues where human heart precursor cells, derived from embryonic stem cells, successfully differentiated into different heart cells when injected into a mouse heart. In another recent study, a rat's heart was bioengineered by seeding a scaffold with another rat's stem cells.


"Yang's long-term goal is to create human hearts that can be used for transplants, for drug testing and to better understand how a heart develops. 'Using our method, we could generate both muscle and vascular-like structures in the engineered heart constructs,' says Yang. 'We hope to make a piece of human heart tissue soon but our dream is to regenerate a human heart organ.'


"The main challenge is to scale up the system to work with human heart scaffolds. There, the biggest problem will be the sheer number of cells needed to reseed a human heart." [New Scientist 219, 2931, 24/08/2013. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space. Links in the original.]


And now (in late January 2014), a major break-though in stem cell production has been announced by Japanese scientists:


"Stem cell 'major discovery' claimed


"Stem cell researchers are heralding a 'major scientific discovery', with the potential to start a new age of personalised medicine. Scientists in Japan showed stem cells can now be made quickly just by dipping blood cells into acid. Stem cells can transform into any tissue and are already being trialled for healing the eye, heart and brain.


"The latest development, published in the journal Nature, could make the technology cheaper, faster and safer. The human body is built of cells with a specific role -- nerve cells, liver cells, muscle cells -- and that role is fixed. However, stem cells can become any other type of cell, and they have become a major field of research in medicine for their potential to regenerate the body.


"Embryos are one, ethically charged, source of stem cells. Nobel prize winning research also showed that skin cells could be 'genetically reprogrammed' to become stem cells (termed induced pluripotent stem cells)....


"Now a study shows that shocking blood cells with acid could also trigger the transformation into stem cells -- this time termed STAP (stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency) cells. Dr Haruko Obokata, from the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Japan, said she was 'really surprised' that cells could respond to their environment in this way. She added: 'It's exciting to think about the new possibilities these findings offer us, not only in regenerative medicine, but cancer as well.'


"The breakthrough was achieved in mouse blood cells, but research is now taking place to achieve the same results with human blood. Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, said if it also works in humans then 'the age of personalised medicine would have finally arrived."


"He told the BBC: 'I thought -- "my God that's a game changer!" It's a very exciting, but surprise, finding. It looks a bit too good to be true, but the number of experts who have reviewed and checked this, I'm sure that it is. If this works in people as well as it does in mice, it looks faster, cheaper and possibly safer than other cell reprogramming technologies -- personalised reprogrammed cell therapies may now be viable.'


"For age-related macular degeneration, which causes sight loss, it takes 10 months to go from a patient's skin sample to a therapy that could be injected into their eye -- and at huge cost. Prof Mason said weeks could be knocked off that time which would save money, as would cheaper components.... The finding has been described as 'remarkable' by the Medical Research Council's Prof Robin Lovell-Badge and as 'a major scientific discovery' by Dr Dusko Ilic, a reader in stem cell science at Kings College London.


"Dr Ilic added: 'The approach is indeed revolutionary. It will make a fundamental change in how scientists perceive the interplay of environment and genome.' But he added: 'It does not bring stem cell-based therapy closer. We will need to use the same precautions for the cells generated in this way as for the cells isolated from embryos or reprogrammed with a standard method.'


"And Prof Lovell-Badge said: 'It is going to be a while before the nature of these cells are understood, and whether they might prove to be useful for developing therapies, but the really intriguing thing to discover will be the mechanism underlying how a low pH shock triggers reprogramming -- and why it does not happen when we eat lemon or vinegar or drink cola?'" [Quoted from here; accessed 31/01/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space. Link in the original. Although this work was later exposed as a fraud, that doesn't affect the argument. On that, see below.]


And, in February 2014 we read the following from The Independent:


"Human skin cells have been turned into stem cells which have the potential to develop into fully-formed embryos, simply by bathing them in weak citric acid for half an hour, a leading scientist has told The Independent on Sunday. The demonstration that the technique, which was pioneered on mouse cells, also works on human skin cells raises the prospect of new treatments for incurable illnesses, from Parkinson's to heart disease, based on regenerating diseased organs in situ from a patient's own stem cells.


"Although there is no intention to create human embryos from skin cells, scientists believe that it could, theoretically, be possible to do so given that entire mouse embryos have already been effectively created from the re-engineered blood cells of laboratory mice. Creating the mouse embryos was the final proof the scientists needed to demonstrate that the stem cells were 'pluripotent', and so capable of developing into any specialised tissue of an adult animal, including the 'germ cells' that make sperm and eggs.


"Pluripotent stem cells could usher in a new age of medicine based on regenerating diseased organs or tissues with injections of tissue material engineered from a patient's own skin or blood, which would pose few problems in terms of tissue rejection. However, the technique also has the potential to be misused for cloning babies, although stem cell scientists believe there are formidable technical, legal and ethical obstacles that would make this effectively impossible.


"A team of Japanese and American scientists converted human skin cells into stem cells using the same simple approach that had astonished scientists around the world last month when they announced that they had converted blood cells of mice into stem cells by bathing them in a weak solution of citric acid for 30 minutes. The scientist who instigated the research programme more than a decade ago said that he now has overwhelming evidence that the same technique can be used to create embryonic-like stem cells from human skin cells.


"Charles Vacanti, a tissue engineer at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, said that the same team of researchers has generated stem cells from human dermal fibroblasts -- skin cells -- which came from a commercial source of human tissues sold for research purposes. 'The process was very similar to the one we used on mouse cells, but we used human dermal fibroblasts that we purchased commercially,' Dr Vacanti said. 'I can confirm that stem cells were made when we treated these human cells. They do the same thing [as the mouse cells].


"'They revert back to stem cells, and we believe the stem cells are not a contamination in the sample that we were inadvertently sent by the company, but that they are being made, although we still have to do the final tests to prove this,' he added. 'We have strong evidence that we have now made human stem cells by the same technique used on mouse cells and it suggests that there is probably a parallel process going on. I'm 98 per cent comfortable with the results so far.'


"Detailed genetic tests and further experiments will be needed to prove beyond any doubt that the cells are true stem cells, although Dr Vacanti emphasised that he will not be carrying out the same experiments on the human stem cells that led to the creation of mouse embryos from mouse stem cells. 'My interest is to demonstrate the biological process, to grow your own perfect embryonic stem cells in order to repair your own damaged tissues -- but without making an embryo,' Dr Vacanti said.


"'In order to repair tissues you need embryonic stem cells, but the irony is that in order to show that you don't need an embryo you have to sometimes create an embryo -- in mice at least.' Asked whether it would be possible in theory to follow on from the mouse research to show that skin cells could be turned into viable human embryos -- effectively a clone of the donor of the skin samples -- Dr Vacanti said: 'This is an offshoot, an unintended consequence, so the answer is "yes".... This would be the natural conclusion, but I won't be the one that does it.'


"Robert Lanza, a stem cell expert at Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts, said that if the technique has been made to work on human cells as Dr Vacanti has described, then it could be a 'paradigm changer' in terms of using stem cells for therapeutic purposes. However, the development also raises serious questions about its possible unauthorised use for cloning babies.


"'Because of the ease of the methodology, this research could have serious ethical ramifications,' Dr Lanza said. 'If the cells are truly totipotent [able to develop into any cell type], then this technology could be used to clone organisms...and perhaps even humans.' Haruko Obokata, a young post-doctoral researcher now at the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, startled the world two weeks ago when she explained how she created embryonic stem cells from the blood of mice by simply bathing the murine blood cells in a weak solution of citric acid for half an hour.


"Dr Obokata began the research in 2008 in the United States after being recruited to work in the laboratory of Charles Vacanti, a colourful and engaging scientist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who first had the idea of creating stem cells from blood or skin cells by subjecting them to some kind of traumatic stress. Dr Vacanti, along with his pathologist brother Martin, had previously published studies indicating that stem cells are spontaneously created when ordinary tissue is stressed by either mechanical injury or by rising acidity.


"He believed this was the body's natural repair mechanism, when damaged adult cells revert to an embryonic state which we call 'stem cells'. His initial studies, published more than 10 years ago, were met with ridicule. On one occasion, Dr Vacanti was heckled at a scientific conference. 'People said we were nuts. They said it was heresy, that we should withdraw our scientific papers,' Dr Vacanti said.


"However, Dr Obokata's painstaking research, now published in the journal Nature after unusually severe scrutiny by peer reviewers, appears to have proved Dr Vacanti right. Making embryonic stem cells from human skin or blood could not be any easier." [Quoted from here; accessed 09/02/2014. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space.]


This momentous break-through couldn't have been made by anyone who (consistently accepts DL, since it is obvious from this that it isn't its relation to the whole that makes the part, but the ingenuity and expertise of the scientists involved that does.


Are DM-fans prepared to warn these scientists that they are wasting their time, since the "whole is greater than the sum of the parts", and the 'entire nature of the part is determined by its relation to the whole'?


The fact that they aren't so prepared suggests that even they don't believe this aspect of their own theory. Either that, or they really haven't given it much thought.


However, in March 2014, serious doubt was cast on the above 'breakthrough' -- but not by DM-fans quoting Hegel, but by genuine scientists who didn't for once think to argue that this research violated sacred 'DM-Law'.


[Over the next few years, in addition to the many examples quoted in the main body of this essay and in the Endnotes, I will be adding further instances of non-Wholist science to Appendix A.]


Dialectical Medicine And Spare Part Surgery


Admittedly, Sean Sayers's point gains whatever legitimacy it might seem to have from a consideration of organic wholes. If Wholism can be shown to be defective here, DM-theorists would no longer have good reason to advocate it anywhere else.


To that end -- and in addition to the examples given in the previous section -- consider cases where organic compounds retain their properties in new surroundings (or wholes): for instance, when blood and bone are used as fertiliser. The only reason such things are used in these new roles is because of the properties they have. No one would use blood in such a way if it ceased to possess all those properties once it had been put on the ground.


Similarly, think of the way we use certain organic chemicals to fulfil different tasks -- for instance, the same type of plastic can be used to wrap things, isolate or insulate them, burn or kill things. Other examples include artificial sources of insulin (from pigs, bacteria or from yeast), hormones, clotting factors (the use of Chinese Hamster Ovaries (CHO), for example), stem cells, and cell culture in general to help treat human beings (or, indeed, other organisms).


The following example (from 2008) of this use of medical technology only serves as a reminder that this is an empirical, not a logical, issue: the growth of a woman's trachea from her own stem cells to replace a diseased wind pipe (obviating the need to use tissue rejection medication). And, in 2011, a totally artificial heart was fitted to a UK man. None of this would be possible if 'the entire nature of the part was determined by the whole' were true.


In addition, what about complex organic entities that seem to preserve their identity and all their properties in new contexts? For example, if an organ is kept alive/fresh outside the body on a machine, or in a freezer, not only is it still the same organ, it can be used as such in another body. Skin remains skin when grafted onto a new area of the same body, or the same or different area of a new body. It doesn't cease to be skin in between graftings. Similarly, blood that is transfused still remains blood.22a


Moreover, if DM were true, we wouldn't see reports like this:


"Blind people could one day have their sight restored thanks to a treatment that borrows a gene from an unlikely source -- algae -- and inserts it into the retina. The technique has succeeded in restoring the ability to sense light and dark to blind mice, and clinical trials in humans could begin in as little as two years. 'The idea is to develop a treatment for blindness,' says Alan Horsager, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Genetic Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, who leads the research. 'We introduce a gene that encodes a light-sensitive protein, and we target the expression of that gene to a subset of retinal cells.'


"Some 15 million people worldwide have some form of blindness, such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP) or age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In people with these conditions the photoreceptors, which transform light hitting the eye into electrical impulses, are damaged, preventing the brain from receiving image information. As the global population ages, it is thought that the number of people affected will increase. There are experimental attempts to develop electronic implants and to use stem cells to grow new retinal tissues to restore sight, but there is currently no commercial treatment available.


"Horsager hopes his work will change that. His team's approach is based on gene therapy, where a 'tame' virus is harnessed to transfer a gene into target cells in the recipient. In this case the gene of interest is one that makes Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), a photosensitive protein used by unicellular algae to help them move towards light. The target cells are bipolar cells in the retina. The retina contains three cellular layers that work together to detect and transmit light signals to the brain.... The first layer contains the photoreceptors -- the rods and cones that detect light. The second layer is made of bipolar cells that act as a conduit between the photoreceptor and the third type of cell, the ganglion, which transmits the light signals to the brain.


"In people with RP and AMD, the photoreceptors have been damaged and lost, so the ganglion cells do not receive signals and the brain cannot produce an image. The idea behind the gene therapy is to make the bipolar cells function as photoreceptors by producing ChR2. The modified bipolar cell would then be able to sense light and transmit a signal to the ganglion.


"Horsager's team tested their technique using three groups of mice: one with normal vision, and two groups of mouse strains that naturally become blind with age in a similar way to people with RP and AMD. One blind group was treated with the gene therapy, while the other two groups were not. Treated mice received a sub-retinal injection of the virus containing the algal gene. Ten weeks after the injection, the team dissected some of the mice and used immunolabelling to see whether ChR2 was being expressed in the retina. They found that the protein was being made by the bipolar cells.


"But the strongest evidence of the treatment's success came when treated mice were put in the centre of a water maze with six possible corridors, only one of which led to a ledge that the mice could clamber out of the water onto. With a guiding light shining at the end of the corridor which contained the ledge, the gene-therapy mice were able to find the escape platform 2.5 times faster, on average, than the untreated blind mice. The work will appear in Molecular Therapy.


"Repeating the test 10 months later, the team found that the treated mice were still showing significant improvements in vision compared with the untreated blind mice. 'Our expectation is that this would be a one-time treatment that is permanent or semi-permanent,' says Horsager. Concerns have been raised about the safety of gene therapy in the past, not least about links between the viruses used to transfer the genes and disease. Horsager says the algal genes were only expressed in the target cells, and that there is no evidence of an immune response in the mice, suggesting that the transfer of the foreign gene has been restricted to the bipolar cells.


"However, small amounts of ChR2 DNA were found in other tissues. 'Regulatory agencies would be very concerned that ChR2 DNA was found in tissues outside of the treated eye,' says Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Massachusetts. Horsager's team believe the rogue DNA is due to cross-contamination during the analysis process.


"'It's a good paper, and it's clear that they are heading towards a clinical trial with the information they are gathering,' says Pete Coffey of the department of ophthalmology at University College London. But he points out that although there is a statistical difference between the performance of the treated and untreated mice, that difference is small. Coffey also adds that, as Horsager and colleagues admit, the mice seem to be seeing the difference between light and dark, but not much more. Nevertheless, he thinks this sort of technology will be seen in the clinic before a treatment based on a stem cell replacement for photoreceptors. That's because stem cells must be connected to existing neural networks -- something that's not yet possible -- whereas gene therapy simply involves making what is left in a diseased eye photosensitive.


"'The question,' says Coffey, 'is how good is it going to be? Just light/dark or are people going to be able to read large texts?' Horsager's team is trying to go beyond simple light/dark discrimination by precisely activating particular cells in the retinal system. However, the tests used so far don't say much about visual acuity. 'If you can get acuity back it would be phenomenal for anyone who's been blind,' says Coffey." [New Scientist 210, 2808, 16/04/2011, pp.10-11. The on-line article is slightly different from the published copy. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space; some links added.]


The above experiments would be non-starters for logical reasons if DM were true and the entire nature of the part were determined by its relation to the whole.


In this connection, an argument George Moore used against Hegelian Holism a hundred years ago seems apt:


"…[I]f an arm be cut off from the human body, we still call it an arm. Yet an arm, when it is a part of the body, undoubtedly differs from a dead arm: and hence we may easily be led to say 'The arm which is a part of the body would not be what it is, if it were not such a part'…. But, in fact, the dead arm never was a part of the body; it is only partially identical with the living arm. Those parts [i.e., properties] of it which are identical with parts of the living arm are exactly the same, whether they belong to the body or not…. On the other hand, those properties which are possessed by the living, and not by the dead, arm, do not exist in a changed form in the latter: they simply do not exist there at all. By causal necessity their existence depends on their having that relation to the other parts of the body which we express by saying that they form part of it. Yet, most certainly, if they ever did not form part of the body, they would be exactly what they are when they do." [Moore (1959), pp.34-35; quoted in Hylton (1990), p.122.]


Hylton goes on to point out that:


"The implication of the last sentence is that if, in violation of causal necessity, a living arm could survive in isolation from the body, i.e., all its properties could continue to exist…, then it would be, in isolation from the body, exactly what it was when attached to the body. Causal dependence, Moore is saying, is not the sort of constitutive relation which the Idealists had sought, yet causal dependence is all we need in order to give an account of what the Idealists would have called an organic unity.


"The analysis just quoted is, it seems to me, by far the strongest argument that Moore has against internal relations -- it enables him to claim that they are simply unnecessary to account for the facts." [Hylton (1990), p.122.]


This point can be developed further. Consider again the facility we currently have for transplanting organs or re-attaching limbs (etc.). In such cases, few would want to argue that a kidney belonging to, say, donor NN, but now in recipient NM's body was no longer a kidney, or that it ceased to be one in the few hours it was outside either body (if stored, for instance, in a fridge). However, when attached to the new body, a whole new range of causal interactions kick in (many of which doctors not only now understand, but can manipulate, prevent, speed up or slow down -- they could hardly do this if these links were in some way logical). So, if handled in the right way, the new organ will function just like the old one for many years.


On the other hand, if the entire nature of the part is determined by its "internal relation" to the whole, medical staff would no longer need to go to the trouble of tissue-typing donors and recipients. They would merely refer an anxious patient and his/her relatives to textbooks on DL, throw in a couple of references to "internal relations", and they would soon come to appreciate the logical connection that exists between their loved one's organs and the rest of his/her body -- as well as the analogous relation that holds between a potential donor's organs and his/her body. Relatives would no doubt then agree that organ donation was a non-starter because kidney K in donor NN's body ceases to be a kidney when removed and then transplanted into someone else's body, and let the poor sod die.


The fact that health workers don't do this (and are right not to so do) shows that the connection between an organism and its parts isn't logical (in the DM-sense of this word), but causal -- and that we all know this to be so.23


Of course, the case for DM-style Wholism hasn't been strengthened by the news that scientists feel they are now on the brink of fitting whole artificial hearts into human chests. [On that, see here.] The question is, however: Is such a heart a heart before or after it is fitted? Admittedly, this project has still to be tested, but scientists plainly wouldn't bother doing this if there were 'internal' links between a heart and the body of its owner or its recipient; they'd simply ring up their local Hegelian Idealist (or, perhaps, one of their poor cousins, a DM-fan) for advice, or simply give up.


Indeed, once this topic is examined more closely its ridiculous consequences become all the more apparent. So, if it were true that:


"…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. Emphasis added.]


then medical or biological intervention would be viewed in a completely new light. For instance, if the "entire" nature of a bodily part were determined by the "internal relations" it enjoyed with the other parts and with the whole of which it is a part, then any alteration to one part of a given body would automatically change all its other parts. There doesn't seem to be any other way of interpreting the above passage which avoids this crazy conclusion.


Does this mean, therefore, that whenever someone has a haircut -- or whenever they trim their toenails -- their brain, for example, ceases to be a brain? But, this should happen if the "entire" nature of a brain is determined by its relation to each and every other part of the body, including hairs on heads and nails on toes. If, on the other hand, we admit that a brain remains a brain either side of a trip to the barbers -- or a visit to the Chiropodists -- then the relation this organ has to the hairs and the nails of any body to which they are attached determines neither its "entire" nature, nor theirs.


[The "relatively important" defence (should anyone attempt to use it) was defused here.]


Of course, it could be objected that this challenge to DM-Wholism relies on a caricature of that theory, since no dialectician in her left mind would admit that minor changes like this have such profound implications.


Maybe not, but in that case, G1 will need to be abandoned or modified, since it clearly implies this.


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


And yet, if we consider more significant changes, the same problems arise. In which case: Does a brain cease to be a brain if a patient's leg is amputated? What if a kidney is removed, or a patient is put on a dialysis machine? Does a brain cease to be a brain if an artificial heart is fitted, or the same unfortunate patient is put on a heart-lung machine for weeks or even months?


Now, these considerations don't present problems for consistent materialists who reject Hegel's obscure "internal relations", but they do for adherents of Dialectical Mysticism.


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


We needn't labour the point; the problems we are continually facing with respect to the attempts made by DM-theorists to outline their theory have arisen from at least two sources:


(1) Their reliance on the defective 'logic' Hegel inflicted on humanity (upside down or 'the right way up'), and:


(2) A  misconstrual of the complex social rules we have for the use of certain words (i.e., those connected with the LOI, motion, the LOC, and now here, with the part/whole relation), as if they expressed substantive truths about the world.24


In short, dialecticians are serial fetishisers and distorters of language -- indeed, in this they resemble traditional metaphysicians.


A Total Mystery?


As both Parts of Essay Eleven have shown, the "Totality" and the part/whole relation have yet to be given a clear exposition by DM-theorists -- or one that even looks vaguely coherent.


However, we now know much about what the "Totality" isn't, but nothing of what it is. In that case, the allegation made at the beginning of Part One of this Essay (that the DM-"Totality" may be understood only by means of a via negativa) still looks sound. This isn't the least bit surprising given the mystical origin of this way of viewing nature.


Hence, as things now stand, the "Totality" appears to be so 'contradictory', its 'border fence' so full of gaping holes, that it might include -- for all we know, or for all that DM-theorists themselves know(!) -- the complete Hindu pantheon, all the Norse gods, the departed spirits of the entire Apache nation, and possibly even the Evil One Himself.



Figure Three: Satan -- In Or Out?


Why, it might even contain the 'real' Hamlet...



Figure Four: DM -- Tragedy Into Farce?


There is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.  [Hamlet, 2. 2]





1. This also appears to be what Marx was trying to say:


"A being which does not have its nature outside itself is not a natural being and plays no part in the system of nature. A being which has no object outside itself is not an objective being. A being which is not itself an object for a third being has no being for its object, i.e., it has no objective relationships and its existence is not objective.


"A non-objective being is a non-being….


"A being which is not the object of another being therefore presupposes that no objective being exists." [Marx (1975b), p.390.]


Which is a rather more Hegelian way of making largely the same point.


Incidentally, it is worth pointing out that Aristotle also accepted something similar to this principle (that the whole isn't a mere sum of the parts):


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


This gives the lie, I think, to comments like this:


"According to formal logic, the whole is equal to the sum of its parts." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.57.]


A "beside" is not an "equal to". Readers will note, too, that Woods and Grant failed to cite a single logic text in support of their contention. Indeed, as we will see in later re-writes of this Essay, Hegelian Wholism is itself partly dependant on Aristotle's version.


Nevertheless, John Rees isn't the only dialectician to make comments along similar lines. Here is his former UK-SWP comrade, Ian Birchall:


"So, rather than the whole being a simple sum of its parts, the parts can be understood only in the context of the whole. As Lenin points out, a hand is only really a hand if it is part of a body." [Birchall (1982), quoted from here.]


Here, too, are the thoughts of a card-carrying Stalinist, Sheptulin:


"When we consider a phenomenon from the point of view of its content it appears as a whole, as a totality of all the elements and aspects that make it up and of all their interactions. It is through this totality that content relates to form....


"[The content of a part], however, is conditioned not only by their specific nature, but also by the general nature of the whole. For this reason they play their specific roles not by themselves but as parts of the whole. On the other hand, the general nature of the whole...depends on the specific nature of the parts that make it up....


"The interconnection of the whole and part, expressed in the dependence of the quality of the whole on the specific nature of its component parts, on  the one hand, and the qualities of the parts on the specific nature of the whole, on the other, results from the interconnection between parts within the whole, this interconnection constituting the structure of the whole....


"...[T]he properties of the elements depends on the structure of the whole they make up, whereas the structure of the whole depends on its constituent elements, their nature and quantity. In other words, the elements of an object and the structure of this object (the manner of connection of the elements) are necessarily interdependent and constitute a dialectical unity." [Sheptulin (1978), pp.227-31.]


And, here is Cornforth:


"The last dogmatic assumption of [mechanical materialism] to be mentioned is that each of the things or particles, whose interactions are said to make up the totality of events in the universe, has its own fixed nature quite independent of everything else....


"Proceeding from this assumption it follows that all relations between things are merely external relations. That is to say, things enter into various relationships one with another, but these relationships are accidental and make no difference to the nature of the things related.


"And regarding each thing as a separate unit entering into external relations with other things, it further follows that [mechanical materialism] regards the whole as no more that the sum of its separate parts....


"Not one of these assumptions is correct. Nothing exists or can exist in splendid isolation, separate from its conditions of existence, independent of its relationships with other things.... The very nature of a thing is modified and transformed by its relationships with other things. When things enter into such relationships that they become parts of a whole, the whole cannot be regarded as nothing more than the sum of the parts.... [The] mutual relations which the parts enter into in constituting the whole modify their own properties, so that while it might be said that the whole is determined by the parts it may equally be said that the parts are determined by the whole." [Cornforth (1976), pp.46-47.]


The fact that things in general exist in wholes, of a loose or even of a tightly organised sort, in no way shows that there are "internal relations" between things, or even that the phrases "internal relation" and "external relation" make any sense at all (that is, as DM-theorists seem to want to use these terms). Cornforth has imported these terms from Idealism and Traditional Philosophy, subjecting them to no sort of interrogation, and has nevertheless imposed his own 'meaning' on them. [More on this later (and in Essay Four Part Two).]


It is also worth pointing out here that while Cornforth takes a dig at "mechanical materialism" for its dogmatism, he is quite happy to inflict on reality a few dogmatic ideas of his own. So, for instance, how could he possibly have known the following?


"Nothing exists or can exist in splendid isolation, separate from its conditions of existence, independent of its relationships with other things.... The very nature of a thing is modified and transformed by its relationships with other things." [Ibid.]


Of course, and with considerably more justification, Cornforth could have argued that up to now we have only ever encountered objects that fit this description (plainly so, since it isn't easy to see how we could come to know about an intrinsically isolated object), but he certainly can't dogmatically assert that nothing could so exist. Nor could he legitimately conclude that any of these relations are necessarily "internal", or that the nature of anything must be "transformed by its relationships with other things". It might turn out that some of these relations are "external" (i.e., causal and mechanical), but which inflict no such radical changes on these "other things" –- or, it might not. Either way, this is surely an empirical issue.


Here are Levins and Lewontin:


"In contrast, in the dialectical world view, things are assumed from the beginning to be internally heterogeneous at every level. And this heterogeneity does not mean that the object or system is composed of fixed natural units. Rather the 'correct' division of the whole into part varies, depending upon the particular aspect of the whole that is in question.... It is a matter of simple logic that parts can be parts only when there is a whole for them to be parts of. Part implies whole, and whole implies part. Yet reductionist practice ignores this relationship, isolating parts as pre-existing units of which wholes are then composed. In the dialectical world the logical dialectical relation between part and whole is taken seriously. Part makes whole, and whole makes part....


"The first principle of a dialectical view, then, is that a whole is a relation of heterogeneous parts that have no prior independent existence as parts. The second principle, which flows from the first, is that, in general, the properties of parts have no prior alienated existence but are acquired by being parts of a particular whole. In the alienated world the intrinsic properties of alienated parts confer properties on the whole, which may in addition take on new properties which are not characteristic of the parts: the whole may be more than the sum of the parts. But the ancient debate on emergence, whether indeed wholes may have properties not intrinsic to the parts, is beside the point. The fact is that the parts have properties that are characteristic of them only as they are parts of wholes; the properties come into existence in the interactions that makes the whole. A person cannot fly by flapping her arms simultaneously. But people do fly, as a consequence of the social organisation that has created airplanes, pilots and fuel. It is not that society flies, however, but individuals in society, who have acquired a property they do not have outside society. The limitations of individual physical beings are negated by social interactions. The whole, thus, is not simply the object of interaction of the parts but is the subject of action of the parts." [Levins and Lewontin (1985), pp.272-73.]


But, how can these two possibly know all this? The fact that this allegedly follows from "simple logic" (if it does) in no way justifies its imposition onto nature. Ten planet Earths added to twenty planet Earths makes thirty planet Earths, but this tells us nothing about the number of planet Earths there are in the solar system. These two authors plainly felt they could derive substantive truths about nature from what they regarded as "simple logic", but that can only mean they think logic runs the world. As we will see (in Essay Twelve (summary here)), this idea itself implies that 'reality is rational', and hence is 'Mind', or 'Mind-like'.


Comrades who have been seduced by the superficial appeal of a priori superscience like this will find the above points not only impossible to accept, but hard to grasp, since this superscientific approach to knowledge is the way Philosophy has always been practised. This age-old approach delineates what counts as 'acceptable' Philosophy, just as it establishes the only 'legitimate' endeavour to which Philosophers should rightly aspire. In contrast, the method adopted at this site makes a radical break with this tradition, as one would expect of an avowed radical.


[These comments follow from ideas presented in Essays Two, Three Part One and Twelve (summary here). They will be spelt out a little more concisely in Note 23, below.]


We will return to Levins and Lewontin later.


Alexander Spirkin had this to say, in perhaps one of the best dialectical summaries of these ideas I have so far encountered -- so Trotskyist readers should avert their eyes at this point since this part of the "wooden and dogmatic" Stalinist 'dialectic' is much clearer than anything they have so far managed to cobble together:


"Nothing in the world stands by itself. Every object is a link in an endless chain and is thus connected with all the other links. And this chain of the universe has never been broken; it unites all objects and processes in a single whole and thus has a universal character. We cannot move so much as our little finger without 'disturbing' the whole universe. The life of the universe, its history lies in an infinite web of connections....


"Connections exist not only between objects within the framework of a given form of motion of matter, but also between all its forms, woven together in a kind of infinitely huge skein. Our consciousness can contain no idea that does not express either imagined or real connections, and in its turn this idea must of necessity be a link in a chain of other ideas and conceptions....


"A system is an internally organised whole where elements are so intimately connected that they operate as one in relation to external conditions and other systems. An element may be defined as the minimal unit performing a definite function in the whole. Systems may be either simple or complex. A complex system is one whose elements may also be regarded as systems or subsystems.


"All things, properties and relations that strike us as something independent are essentially parts of some system, which in its turn is part of an even bigger system, and so on ad infinitum. For example, the whole of world civilisation is no more than a large and extremely complex self-developing system, which comprises other systems of varying degrees of complexity.


"Every system is something whole. So anything that corresponds to the demands of unity and stability -- an atom, a molecule, a crystal, the solar system, the organism, society, a work of art, a theory -- may be regarded as a system. Every system forms a whole, but not every whole is a system.


"We usually call the parts of a system its elements. If in investigating a system we wish to identify its elements we should regard them as elementary objects in themselves. Once we have established them as something relatively indivisible in one system, elements may be regarded in their turn as systems (or subsystems), consisting of elements of a different order, and so on.


"...Structure is the type of connection between the elements of a whole. It has its own internal dialectic. Wholeness must be composed in a certain way, its parts are always related to the whole. It is not simply a whole but a whole with internal divisions. Structure is a composite whole, or an internally organised content.


"But structure is not enough to make a system. A system consists of something more than structure: it is a structure with certain properties. When a structure is understood from the standpoint of its properties, it is understood as a system. We speak of the 'solar system' and not the solar structure. Structure is an extremely abstract and formal concept....


"We call something a whole that embraces all its parts in such a way as to create a unity.


"The category of part expresses the object not in itself but as something in relation to what it is a part of, to that in which it realises its potentials and prospects. For example, an organ is part of an organism taken as a whole. Consequently, the categories of whole and part express a relationship between objects in which one object, being a complex and integral whole, is a unity of other objects which form its parts. A part is subject to the influence of the whole, which is present, as it were, in all its parts. Every part feels the influence of the whole, which seems to permeate the parts and exist in them. Thus, in a tragic context even a joke becomes tragic; a free atom is distinctly different from an atom that forms part of a molecule or a crystal; a word taken out of context loses much or all of its meaning.


"At the same time the parts have an influence on the whole. The organism is a whole and dysfunction of one of its organs leads to disbalance of the whole. For example, against a background of rational thinking an obsessive idea may sometimes have a very substantial effect on the general condition of the individual.


"The categories of whole and part are relative; they have meaning only in relation to each other. The whole exists thanks to its parts and in them. The parts, in their turn, cannot exist by themselves. No matter how small a particle we name, it is something whole and at the same time a part of another whole. The largest whole that we can conceive of is ultimately only a part of an infinitely greater whole. Everything in nature is a part of the universe.


"Various systems are divided into three basic types of wholeness. The simplest type is the unorganised or summative whole, an unsystematic conglomeration of objects (a herd of cattle, for example). This category also includes a mechanical grouping of heterogeneous things, for example, rock consisting of pebbles, sand, gravel, boulders, and so on.


"In such a whole the connection between the parts is external and obeys no recognisable law. We simply have a group of unsystematic formations of a purely summative character. The properties of such a whole coincide with the sum of the properties of its component parts. Moreover, when objects become part of an unorganised whole or leave such a whole, they usually undergo no qualitative change. For this type of whole the characteristic feature is the varying lifetime of its components.


"The second, more complex type of whole is the organised whole, for example, the atom, the molecule, the crystal. Such a whole may have varying degrees of organisation, depending on the peculiar features of its parts and the character of the connection between them. In an organised whole the composing elements are in a relatively stable and law-governed interrelationship. Its properties cannot be reduced to the mechanical sum of the properties of its parts. Rivers 'lose themselves' in the sea, although they are in it and it would not exist without them. Water possesses the property of being able to extinguish fire, but the parts of which it is composed, taken separately, possess quite different properties: hydrogen is itself flammable and oxygen maintains or boosts combustion. Zero in itself is nothing, but in the composition of a number its role is highly significant, and at times gigantically so, by increasing 100 into 1,000, for instance. A hydrogen atom consists of a proton and an electron. But strictly speaking, this is not true. The statement contains the same error as the phrase 'this house is built of pine'. The mass of an atom of hydrogen is not equal to the total mass of the proton and the electron. It is less than that mass because in combining into the system of the hydrogen atom the proton and the electron lose something, which escapes into space in the form of radiation.


"The third, highest and most complex type of whole is the organic whole, for example, the organism, the biological species, society, science, arts, language, and so on. The characteristic feature of the organic whole is the self-development and self-reproduction of its parts. The parts of an organism if separated from the whole organism, not only lose some of their properties but cannot even exist in the given quality that they have within the whole. The head is only a head because it is capable of thinking. And it can only think as a part not only of the organism, but also of society, history and culture.


"An organic whole is formed not (as Empedocles assumed) by joining together ready-made parts, separate organs flying around in the air, such as heads, eyes, ears, hands, legs, hair and hearts. An organic whole arises, is born, and dies together with its parts. It is an integral whole, with distinguishable parts. Sensations, perceptions, representations, concepts, memory, attention do not exist in isolation; they form the synthetic knot which we call consciousness. The elements that make up the whole possess a certain individuality and at the same time they 'work for' the whole. The whole is invisibly present, as it were, and guides the process of 'assembly' of its elements, that is to say, of its own self.


"The defining attribute of harmony is a relationship between the elements of the whole in which the development of one of them is a condition for the development of the others or vice versa. In art, harmony may be understood as a form of relationship in which each element, while retaining a relative independence, contributes greater expressiveness to the whole and, at the same time and because of this, more fully expresses its own essence. Beauty may be defined as harmony of all the parts, united by that to which they belong in such a way that nothing can be added or taken away or changed without detriment to the whole.


"The parts of a whole may have varying degrees of relative independence. In a whole, there may be parts whose excision will damage or even destroy the whole, but there may also be parts whose loss causes no organic damage. For instance, the extremities or a part of the stomach may be removed, but not the heart. The deeper and more complex the relationship between the parts, the greater is the function of the whole in relation to them and the less their relative independence.


"The various parts making up a whole may occupy by no means equal positions. Some of them are less mobile, relatively stable, others are more dynamic; some exist only for a time and are doomed soon to disappear, others have the makings of something more progressive. There are some parts without which the whole cannot be conceived and there are others without which it can carry on quite well although with some loss to itself....


"The highest form of organic whole is society and the various social formations. The general laws of the social whole determine the essence of any of its parts and the direction of its development: the part behaves in accordance with the essence of the whole.


"For scientific analysis to be able to move in the right direction, the object must constantly occupy our consciousness as something whole. When we are investigating a whole, we break it down into its parts and sort out the nature of the relation between them. We can understand a system as a whole only by discovering the nature of its parts. It is not enough to study the parts without studying the relationship between them and the whole. A person who knows only the parts does not yet know the whole. A single frame in a film can be understood only as a part of the film as a whole.


"An overabundance of particulars may obscure the whole. This is a characteristic feature of empiricism. Any singular object can be correctly understood only when it is analysed, not separately, but in its relation to the whole. Each organ is determined in its mode of operation not only by its internal structure but by the nature of the organism to which it belongs. The importance of the heart can be discovered only by considering it as part of the organism as a whole. The methodological fault characteristic of mechanistic materialism is that it understands the whole as nothing more than the sum of its parts." [Spirkin (1983), pp.82, 97-103. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


We will have occasion to return to Spirkin's discussion later.


Here, once again, are Woods and Grant (those who think 'Stalinist dialectics' as 'wooden and dogmatic' should compare what follows with Spirkin's words above):


"According to formal logic, the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. On closer examination, however, this is seen not to be true. In the case of living organisms it is manifestly not the case. A rabbit cut up in a laboratory, and reduced to its constituent parts is no longer a rabbit. This fact has been grasped by the advocates of chaos theory and complexity. Whereas classical physics, with its linear systems, accepted that the whole was precisely the sum of its parts, the non-linear logic of complexity maintains the opposite proposition, in complete agreement with dialectics....


"Modern atomic theory has shown the incorrectness of this idea. While accepting that complex structures must be explained in terms of aggregates of more elementary factors, it has shown that the relations between these elements are not merely indifferent and quantitative, but dynamic and dialectical. The elementary particles which make up the atoms interact constantly, passing into each other. They are not fixed constants but are at every moment both themselves and something else at the same time. It is precisely this dynamic relationship which gives the resulting molecules their particular nature, properties and specific identity.


"In this new combination the atoms are and are not themselves. They combine in a dynamic way to produce an entirely different entity, a different relationship, which, in turn, determines the behaviour of its component parts. Thus, we are not dealing merely with a lifeless 'juxtaposition,' a mechanical aggregate, but with a process. In order to understand the nature of an entity it is therefore entirely insufficient to reduce it to its individual atomic components. It is necessary to understand its dynamic interrelations, that is, to arrive at a dialectical, not a formal, analysis....


"Life is a complex system of interactions, involving an immense number of chemical reactions which proceed continuously and rapidly. Every reaction in the heart, blood, nervous system, bones and brain interacts with every other part of the body. The workings of the simplest living body are far more complicated than the most advanced computer, permitting rapid movement, swift reactions to the slightest change in the environment, constant adjustments to changing conditions, internal and external. Here, most emphatically, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Every part of the body, every muscular and nervous reaction, depends upon all the rest. Here we have a dynamic and complex, in other words, dialectical, interrelationship which alone is capable of creating and sustaining the phenomenon we know as life....


"It is necessary to acquire a concrete understanding of the object as an integral system, not as isolated fragments; with all its necessary interconnections, not torn out of context, like a butterfly pinned to a collector's board; in its life and movement, not as something lifeless and static. Such an approach is in open conflict with the so-called 'laws' of formal logic, the most absolute expression of dogmatic thought ever conceived, representing a kind of mental rigor mortis. But nature lives and breathes, and stubbornly resists the embraces of formalistic thinking. 'A' is not equal to 'A.' Subatomic particles are and are not. Linear processes end in chaos. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Quantity changes into quality. Evolution itself is not a gradual process, but interrupted by sudden leaps and catastrophes. What can we do about it? Facts are stubborn things." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.57-60, 82-83.]


Indeed, facts are stubborn things. As we will see, they are about as unkind to DM-Wholism as the class struggle has so far been to Dialectical Trotskyism, especially to its Woods/Grant off-shoot.


Finally, David Bohm had this to say:


"Indeed, when this interpretation is extended to field theories, not only the inter-relationships of the parts, but also their very existence is seen to flow out of the law of the whole. There is therefore nothing left of the classical scheme, in which the whole is derived from pre-existent parts related in predetermined ways. Rather, what we have is reminiscent of the relationship of whole and parts in an organism, in which each organ grows and sustains itself in a way that depends crucially on the whole." [Bohm (1984), p.x.]


It is here, perhaps, that we can see the baleful effects of far too much (or even just enough) Hermetic Mysticism on the mind of a great scientist -- no wonder he later went on to eulogise Uri Geller!


However, we needn't labour the point; any number of DM-texts could have been quoted (several more will be below) that advance similar dogmatic claims.


1a. The idea seems to be that if the actual nature of something changes, this must be because of factors that aren't merely "external" to the object or process in question. So, for example, the mere agglomeration of objects can't affect their nature. In order to alter the 'logical' or "essential" properties of such objects and processes, new "internal" connections must be set up. But, how is that possible? What is the 'logical' connection between, say, your appendix and your big toe? What is the 'internal' connection between, for example, a rock and the mountain to which is a part? What is the 'logical' connection between, for instance, the Planet Mars and the Planet Jupiter?  Once more we are left in the dark.


Despite this, we note once again the equivocation here: DM-theorists slide effortlessly between a 'spatial' and a 'logical' sense of "internal", apparently failing to notice the difference.


For instance, here is an example of the 'logical' sense of "internal", which soon slides over into the 'spatial' sense of the word:


"...[C]ontrary to metaphysics, not only are fundamental opposites involved in every subject-matter, but these opposites mutually imply each other, are inseparably connected together, and far from being exclusive, neither can exist or can be understood except in relation to the other.


"This characteristic of opposition is known as polarity: fundamental opposites are polar opposites. A magnet, for example, has two poles, a north pole and a south pole. But these poles, opposite and distinct, cannot exist in separation. If the magnet is cut in two, there is not a north pole in one half and a south pole in the other, but north and south poles recur in each half. The north pole exists only as the opposite of the south, and vice versa; the one can only be defined as the opposite of other." [Cornforth (1976), pp.66-67. Bold emphases added. Plenty more examples have been posted here. There is another example of this equivocation on Cornforth's part, here.]


The 'logical' sense plainly underlies Cornforth's claim that one opposite "implies" the other, and that one can't be "understood" without the other. So, the  existence of the proletariat implies the existence of the capitalist class; the one can't exist (logically can't exist) without the other. The 'spatial' sense surfaces in Cornforth's assertion that these opposites can't exist in "separation". But, if these items are 'logically' connected (like father and son, say) then they can surely exist in separation from one another; manifestly, the son remains a son even if his father dies, goes on a world cruise, or hops on a rocket bound for Mars.


The magnet example isn't too clever either, as we saw in Essay Eight Part Two -- indeed, if the legendary magnetic monopole is ever discovered (as it seems it might have been; on that see here and here), this classic DM-example will plainly go the same way as the crystalline spheres and the luminiferous ether. But, even if this monopole remains undiscovered, the magnet example is rather unique. What other examples are there from the natural (not the social) world where these alleged opposites imply one another, or where they can't exist apart? Other than electrical phenomena (which can exist in glorious isolation, so electrical phenomena don't qualify, either!), there don't seem to be any other opposites that exist in this way.


Not even anabolic processes (another popular DM-example) imply catabolic processes. Whether one can exist without the other is somewhat dubious, too. Quite apart from the fact that these processes operate largely on different molecules, they take place in different parts of the cell. So, in vivo, they are separated. [On this, see here.]


An electron, too, can exist in splendid isolation from its alleged 'opposite' (as can a proton and a positron; indeed, positrons and electrons have to be isolated since contact would annihilate both, not turn either into its 'opposite' (as the DM-classics tell us the must always do) -- in fact, the situation is a little more complex than this; on that see here), but even if an electron couldn't so exist, what precisely is its opposite? Is it the positron or the proton? [As we saw here, it has to have a single, unique opposite -- its "other", as Hegel and Lenin both called 'it'.] But, that question alone gives the game away, since it tells us that this connection can't be 'logical', since, if the one implied the other, as we were told they should, we would already know the answer. Scientists had to discover the positron, and they did so long after they knew about electrons. By way of contrast, the north and south pole of magnets were discovered all in one go, as it were. Logical connections don't have to be discovered. As soon as we know that a man is a father, we know that he has a son or a daughter (even if they are dead); we don't have to wait for someone to locate his progeny. As soon as we know that WW is a proletarian, we automatically know she must work for a capitalist of some sort. Who on earth is going to try to find out if a vixen really is a female fox, or a cygnet is a baby swan?


Moreover, the atom is held together (largely) by the opposite charge of elections and protons. Hence, it might seem that we have here the opposites we seek. Of course, this would mean that the positron can't be the 'logical' opposite of the electron. But, the electron still doesn't imply the proton, either. They, too, were discovered at different times. [On that see here and here.]


Again, but perhaps more significantly, since we have been told by the DM-classics that 'dialectical opposites' "inevitably" turn into one another, who has ever witnessed a father turning into his son? Or an electron into a proton (or even a positron)? Or the proletariat into the bourgeoisie, and vice versa? The medieval peasantry into the Feudal Aristocracy, and vice versa? The relations of production into the forces of production?


Hence, as with most other examples found in this sub-branch of Dialectical Mickey Mouse Science, Cornforth has plainly given this a priori, mystical thesis insufficient thought.


And, as far as mysticism is concerned, compare what Cornforth had to say (and what other DM-fans have to say) about opposites with this passage from the Kybalion (one of the most important books in the Hermetic cannon):


"CHAPTER X POLARITY 'Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.' -- The Kybalion.


"The great Fourth Hermetic Principle -- the Principle of Polarity -- embodies the truth that all manifested things have 'two sides'; 'two aspects'; 'two poles'; a 'pair of opposites,' with manifold degrees between the two extremes. The old paradoxes, which have ever perplexed the mind of men, are explained by an understanding of this Principle. Man has always recognized something akin to this Principle, and has endeavoured to express it by such sayings, maxims and aphorisms as the following: 'Everything is and isn't, at the same time'; 'all truths are but half-truths'; 'every truth is half-false'; 'there are two sides to everything'; 'there is a reverse side to every shield,' etc., etc. The Hermetic Teachings are to the effect that the difference between things seemingly diametrically opposed to each is merely a matter of degree. It teaches that 'the pairs of opposites may be reconciled,' and that 'thesis and antithesis are identical in nature, but different in degree'; and that the ''universal reconciliation of opposites' is effected by a recognition of this Principle of Polarity. The teachers claim that illustrations of this Principle may be had on every hand, and from an examination into the real nature of anything....


"Light and Darkness are poles of the same thing, with many degrees between them. The musical scale is the same-starting with 'C' you moved upward until you reach another 'C,' and so on, the differences between the two ends of the board being the same, with many degrees between the two extremes. The scale of colour is the same -- higher and lower vibrations being the only difference between high violet and low red. Large and Small are relative. So are Noise and Quiet; Hard and Soft follow the rule. Likewise Sharp and Dull. Positive and Negative are two poles of the same thing, with countless degrees between them...." [Anonymous (2005), pp.pp.59-62. Spelling altered to conform to UK English. For more quotations from other mystical systems along similar lines, see here.]


In the following passage, Cornforth again confuses "internal" with "spatially-internal":


"...[H]ow far is [change and development] determined by the working out of the contradiction inherent in the process itself, or by internal causes, and how far is it determined by external or accidental causes?


"It is determined by both, but in different ways.


"Both in nature and society different things are always interacting and influencing each other. Hence external causes must always play a part in the changes which happen to things. At the same time, the character of the changes always depends on internal causes....


"Consider, for example, such an event as the hatching of a chicken. The chicken does not develop inside the egg unless heat is supplied from outside. But what develops in the egg , what hatches out, depends on what is inside the egg...." [Cornforth (1976), pp.99-100.]


Here, "internal" is plainly a 'spatial', not a 'logical' notion. After all, is the inside of a chicken's egg a logical space?


Of course, this is where Engels's Q«Q 'Law' is supposed to come into play, since it is apparently through the mere increase in the quantity of a certain item that qualitative change and novelty are supposed to enter into the picture. Moreover, this novelty can't (one presumes) be predicted solely from the nature of the elements concerned, which is supposed to be what puts a block on "reductionism".


However, and once again, it isn't easy to see how an "external relation" -- which is what a quantitative increase or decrease is -- can effect the required "internal", 'logical', or "essential" development that an object or process is supposed to undergo.


And, it is little use arguing that while it might not be easy to see how this happens, the plain fact is that it does. That is because, on the basis of dialectical principles, this shouldn't in fact be possible. If the (logical/'essential') nature of each item in the "Totality" is determined by its relation to that Whole, then the nature of any such item can only change when its "internal" relation with the Whole (to which it belongs) alters. Now, that relation with the Whole -- since it constitutes the logical/'essential' nature of each part, or so we are told -- can't result from of its mere position or location within that Whole. If that were possible, an object would change its 'essential' nature merely by moving, that is merely by a change in its external relations. Nor can it be the result of other such "external" factors. This is, one presumes, why the 'logical' nature of each part is determined by its "internal" relations with the Whole and with other parts. And yet, these "internal" relations can't themselves change. That is because, no matter what happens to an object, given these dialectical constraints, its "internal" relations with the Whole must always remain the same. Separation distance can't affect a logical relation. The supposition that it might be able to do this can only have arisen because of the equivocation mentioned earlier, where DM-theorists slide between a spatial and a logical understanding of "internal". So, for example, the presumed logical relation connoted by the word "son" isn't affected if the individual concerned moves to the other side of the planet, or, indeed, is shot into space on the next rocket. If a capitalist goes on a world cruise, she remains a capitalist.


Even so, it is still far from easy to see how 'logical' or 'essential' properties can be created by mere proximity. But, what else is there in the dialectical box of tricks that is capable of altering, or creating, such 'fundamental' properties, or effecting such changes? Indeed, how is it possible for a mere increase in number, or the amount of matter/energy input into a system, to alter the logical link between opposites? If the items involved are internal opposites already, they must also be 'dialectical-logical' opposites --, so that the object or process in question can be described as a UO. That is, unless we are to suppose that there are objects and processes that aren't UOs. But, if that were so, those objects and processes couldn't change! And, if, in turn, that is so, the mere addition of matter and/or energy couldn't change them qualitatively, either.


Furthermore, if all objects and processes change because of a struggle between opposites (again, as the dialectical classics tell us they must), and only because of this, then the mere addition or subtraction of matter and/or energy can't effect a change in quality, anyway. That can only result from the aforementioned struggle. In which case, it looks like Engels's Second 'Law' ('the interpenetration of opposites') is inconsistent with the First 'Law ('the change of quantity into quality')!


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


Nevertheless, it is easy to see why DM-fans, who interpret "internal" spatially, are more likely to conclude that the mere proximity of certain objects is enough to create an "internal relation" between them.


So, for instance, when an electron enters an atom, it is supposed to assume part of an "internal" relation with a proton. But, that will only happen because an electron is what it is already -- it was negatively charged before it entered that new whole (and it was negatively charged even before atoms were formed, if we are to believe what physicists tell about the Big Bang). Its "essential nature" is thus given independently of the sub-whole it enters into. The electron doesn't become negatively charged when it enters an atom; it has that charge wherever it goes. But, its 'dialectical nature' is supposed to have been established logically, not spatially, and that nature is dependent on its logical place in the entire "Totally", the entire universe. [I am, of course, rehearsing (as best I can) what I take to be the DM-view of things as I see it, not my own ideas.] The electron is what it is because of its relation to the Whole, which is why it can be negatively charged outside the atom.  


In that case, it would seem that, despite what dialecticians tell us, nothing internal to the Whole can have its 'logical' or "essential" nature changed. As we have seen, these dialectical-logical properties of bodies aren't sensitive to location. Hence, it seems that a mere increase or decrease in quantity, or the simple concatenation of parts in close proximity, can't alter the "essential" nature of any object or process inside the "Totality".


It could be argued that when an individual becomes a capitalist, or even a worker, his/her essential nature does change. So, the above argument is misguided.


Maybe so (although the above picture will be challenged in Essay Twelve Part Four), but there is nothing in the DM-box-of-tricks that can account for this. As I have noted in Essay Nine Part One in relation to this passage from Das Kapital:


"A certain stage of capitalist production necessitates that the capitalist be able to devote the whole of the time during which he functions as a capitalist, i.e., as personified capital, to the appropriation and therefore control of the labour of others, and to the selling of the products of this labour. The guilds of the middle ages therefore tried to prevent by force the transformation of the master of a trade into a capitalist, by limiting the number of labourers that could be employed by one master within a very small maximum. The possessor of money or commodities actually turns into a capitalist in such cases only where the minimum sum advanced for production greatly exceeds the maximum of the middle ages. Here, as in natural science, is shown the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel (in his 'Logic'), that merely quantitative differences beyond a certain point pass into qualitative changes." [Marx (1996), p.313. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Values (it is assumed that these are "exchange values") don't become Capital by mere quantitative increment. It requires the presence of a Capitalist Mode of Production (and thus a change in the Relations of Production), or a different use of that money, for this to be so. The capitalists concerned have to do something with these exchange values. So, the mere increase of exchange values doesn't automatically "pass over" into a qualitative change and become Capital. These values have to be invested (or put to some other specific productive use), and that too isn't automatic (in certain circumstances, they could be consumed). So, what we have here is a change in quality passing over into another change in quality! Quantity has nothing to do with it. The same quantity of money could be used as Capital or fail to be so used. It requires a change in its quality (its use, or its social context) to effect such a development.


As Hillel Ticktin recently pointed out:


"[T]he International Monetary Fund has pointed out that there is something like $76 trillion being held by financial firms, such as private equity in different forms, waiting to be invested. There is...something like $28 trillion that is held in the bank of New York Mellon alone. The amount of money that cannot be profitably invested keeps going up.... It is a crazy situation when such enormous sums of money are being held and not being invested -- a situation that has lasted almost a decade.


"In other words, there is a very large proportion of surplus value that is not going into investment. And money that is not invested is not capital: it is not being used to generate more surplus value." [Quoted from here; accessed 22/01/2016.]


Notice, "money that is not invested is not capital...."


Over the last twenty-five years or so, in my wander across the wastelands of the Dialectical Dustbowl, I have yet to encounter a single dialectician who has pointed out that this application of Hegel's 'Law' by Marx contains a serious error! So desperate have DM-fans become (in their endeavour to find support for their failed theory in what Marx wrote), every single one of them seems to have forgotten, or disregarded, basic principles of Historical Materialism [HM]!


Hence, £x/$y (or their equivalent) owned by a Medieval Lord in, say, Eleventh Century France, couldn't of its own become Capital no matter how large this pot of money became (but see below), whereas £w/$z in Nineteenth Century Manchester, even though that sum might be less than the £x/$y held by the aforementioned Lord (allowing for inflation, etc.), would be Capital if employed in certain ways. It isn't the quantity that is important here but the Mode of Production and the use to which the money is put, that are.


Also worth asking is the following question: How does this money actually "develop"? In what way can it "develop"? Sure, money can be saved or accumulated, but how does a £1/$1 coin "develop" if its owner saves or accumulates more of the same? Even if we redefine "save" and  "accumulate" to mean "develop" (protecting this 'law' by yet another terminological dodge, thus imposing it on the facts), not all money will "develop" in this way. What if the money was stolen or had been expropriated from, or even by, another non-capitalist? What if it had been obtained (all at once) by selling land, slaves, works of art, political or other favours, etc? Where is the "development" in such cases? Notes and coins don't change, or become bigger, if they are accumulated. Money in the bank doesn't "develop" either. Or are we to imagine that in the vaults, of stored on disk somewhere, notes and coins grow and reproduce, or that all those digital 'ones' and 'zeros' on that disk become more 'one'-, and 'zero'-like?


But, this money could still operate or serve as Capital, howsoever it had been acquired, or where it had been stored, depending on its use and the Mode of Production in which this takes place.


Of course, this isn't to deny that there were Capitalists (or nascent Capitalists) in pre-Capitalist Europe; but whatever money they had, its nature as Capital wasn't determined by its quantity, no matter how large it became, but by the use to which it was put. This is also true of the period of transition between Feudalism and Capitalism (before the Capitalist Mode of Production was apparent or dominant); again, it is the use to which money is put that decides whether or not it is Capital, not its quantity.


In which case, this represents an egregious mis-application of Hegel's 'Law' -- by Marx himself! Now, either we believe Marx was a complete imbecile (in that he committed this crass error, and failed even to understand HM!), or we conclude he was still "coquetting" with Hegelian jargon. [Again, these days we would use 'scare quotes' in such circumstances, or we would simply refrain from employing such language altogether.]


Compare the above with Marx's more considered thoughts (where there is no hint of "coquetting"):


"Capital consists of raw materials, instruments of labour, and means of subsistence of all kinds, which are utilised in order to produce new raw materials, new instruments of labour, and new means of subsistence. All these component parts of capital are creations of labour, products of labour, accumulated labour. Accumulated labour which serves as a means of new production is capital.


"So say the economists.


"What is a Negro slave? A man of the black race. The one explanation is as good as the other.


"A Negro is a Negro. He only becomes a slave in certain relations. A cotton-spinning machine is a machine for spinning cotton. It becomes capital only in certain relations. Torn from these relationships it is no more capital than gold in itself is money, or sugar the price of sugar....


"Capital, also, is a social relation of production. It is a bourgeois production relation, a production relation of bourgeois society....


"How, then, does any amount of commodities, of exchange values, become capital?


"By maintaining and multiplying itself as an independent social power, that is as the power of a portion of society, by means of its exchange for direct, living labour power. The existence of a class which possess nothing but the ability to labour is a necessary prerequisite of capital.


"It is only the dominion of accumulated, past, materialized labour over direct, living labour that turns accumulated labour into capital.


"Capital does not consist in accumulated labour serving living labour as a means for new production. It consists in living labour serving accumulated labour as a means of maintaining and multiplying the exchange value of the latter." [Marx (1968a), pp.79-81. Italic emphases in the original; bold added. The on-line version is slightly different to the published version I have used.]


We also have this remark (unpublished by Marx) from Volume Three of Das Kapital:


"Capital is not a thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation of society...." [Marx (1998), p.801. Bold added.]


In which case, the mere accumulation of money, according to Marx himself, can't be, or become, capital if "certain relations" are absent. Once again, quantity has nothing to do with it.


So, qualitative change arises not from mere quantitative increase, but from other factors DM-fans refuse to consider. In which case, DM can't account for qualitative change. Engels's Q«Q 'Law' now seems incompatible with the Part/Whole metaphysic, too! If the latter were correct, novelty couldn't enter into the universe. If Q«Q were valid, then the nature of the part can't be determined by the whole.


On the other hand, even though objects and processes plainly do change ('essentially'), given such dialectical constraints, so we are told, it is difficult to see how they could possibly do this.


It is also plain that the aforementioned equivocation allows DM-fans ignore or brush aside such 'pedantic' quibbles.


[This particular objection will be explored in more detail in Essays Three Part Three, and Four Part Two. See also Note 2 and Note 3, below, and Essay Eight Part One. We have already seen how DM can't cope with change, anyway. We have also seen that the distinction between 'internal' and 'external' opposites, relations and contradictions was invented by STDs and MISTs to rationalise their attempt to 'justify' the doctrine of 'socialism in one country'.]


The distinction itself seems to be unviable anyway (unless, that is, the meaning of "contradiction" has been altered so that it fails to conform with the way Hegel, Marx, Engels, and Lenin seem to have understood it), despite the criticisms made of it above. That is because, the classical DM-notion of a 'contradiction' (as the four aforementioned theorists appear to have used the term) is predicated on the internal relation between dialectically-united opposites. If so, there could be no such thing as an 'external contradiction'. There might be external relations, and external causes (and possibly even external opposites and forces, but even this isn't easy to square with what the DM-classics tell us); but if "contradiction" is understood in the classical way outlined above, "external contradiction" would make about as much sense as "four-edged triangle", or "proletarian monarch".


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


Of course, STDs and MISTs are free to use words as they see fit (not that they need my permission!), but "external contradiction" clashes with other things they say about "opposites". Here are just a few quotations (taken from STD and MIST texts, since this criticism only applies to their understanding of "external") that illustrate what I mean by this:


"Opposites are, then, the internal aspects, tendencies, forces of an object, which are mutually exclusive but at the same time presuppose each other. The inseverable interconnection of these aspects makes up the unity of opposites...[they] are inconceivable one without the other." [Afanasyev (1968), pp.94-95. Bold emphases alone added.]


"...[C]ontrary to metaphysics, not only are fundamental opposites involved in every subject-matter, but these opposites mutually imply each other, are inseparably connected together, and far from being exclusive, neither can exist or can be understood except in relation to the other." [Cornforth (1976), pp.66-67. 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." [Kharin (1981), p.125. Bold emphasis added.]


"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, 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." [Konstantinov, et al (1974), pp.144-45. Bold emphasis added.]


"Opposites are the inner aspects, tendencies or forces of an object or phenomenon which rule each other out [this probably should be "which are mutually exclusive" -- RL] while simultaneously presupposing each other. The interconnection of opposites constitutes a contradiction." [Krapivin (1985), p.161. Bold emphasis added.]


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


"Though opposites have different trends of functioning and development and different directions of change, thereby excluding each other, they do not eliminate each other but co-exist in an unbreakable unity and interdependence....


"The way in which opposites presuppose each other and are inseparably interconnected is a major form through which their unity manifests itself." [Sheptulin (1978), p.260. Bold emphases added.]


"Analysis shows that interaction is possible between objects or elements of objects that are not identical to one another but different. Identity and difference have their degrees. Difference, for example, can be inessential or essential. The extreme case of difference is an opposite -- one of the mutually presupposed sides of a contradiction. In relation to a developing object difference is the initial stage of division of the object into opposites. When it comes into interaction, an object seeks, as it were, a complement for itself in that with which it is interacting. Where there is no stable interaction there is only a more or less accidental external contact." [Spirkin (1983), p.144. Bold emphasis added.] 


"Identity, unity, coincidence, interpenetration, interpermeation, interdependence (or mutual dependence for existence), interconnection or mutual co-operation -- all these different terms mean the same thing and refer to the following two points: first, the existence of each of the two aspects of a contradiction in the process of the development of a thing presupposes the existence of the other aspect, and both aspects coexist in a single entity; second, in given conditions, each of the two contradictory aspects transforms itself into its opposite. This is the meaning of identity....


"The fact is that no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation. Without its opposite aspect, each loses the condition for its existence. Just think, can any one contradictory aspect of a thing or of a concept in the human mind exist independently? Without life, there would be no death; without death, there would be no life. Without 'above', there would be no 'below'; without 'below', there would be no 'above'. Without misfortune, there would be no good fortune; without good fortune, these would be no misfortune. Without facility, there would be no difficulty; without difficulty, there would be no facility. Without landlords, there would be no tenant-peasants; without tenant-peasants, there would be no landlords. Without the bourgeoisie, there would be no proletariat; without the proletariat, there would be no bourgeoisie. Without imperialist oppression of nations, there would be no colonies or semi-colonies; without colonies or semicolonies, there would be no imperialist oppression of nations. It is so with all opposites; in given conditions, on the one hand they are opposed to each other, and on the other they are interconnected, interpenetrating, interpermeating and interdependent, and this character is described as identity. In given conditions, all contradictory aspects possess the character of non-identity and hence are described as being in contradiction. But they also possess the character of identity and hence are interconnected. This is what Lenin means when he says that dialectics studies 'how opposites can be and how they become identical'. How then can they be identical? Because each is the condition for the other's existence. This is the first meaning of identity." [Mao (1961b), pp.337-38. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Three minor typos corrected; missing words "and how they become", found in the published version, added. I have informed the editors over at the MIA of these errors.]


[DM, highly repetitious? The very idea!]


If the above theorists are correct, it isn't easy to see how there could be any 'external contradictions' at all. If every such contradiction is a unity of opposites that imply or presuppose one another, they should all be 'internal'. Indeed, Kuusinen more-or-less rules out any other view of 'dialectical contradictions':


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


If some contradictions aren't 'composed' like this (i.e., if they are 'external', and in relation to which their opposites don't "presuppose" one another, and for which each one isn't the precondition for the existence of the other), then "contradiction" must have two different meanings in DM -- the 'external' sort which can't (in the end) apply to 'dialectical contradictions', and the 'internal', which does.


But, if 'external contradictions' aren't 'dialectical contradictions', what the hell are they?


Anyway, such a concession would fatally compromise the dialectical theory of change since the interaction of 'externally-connected opposites' can't be law-governed, as we saw in an earlier Essay. This would leave DM-theorists with no answer to Hume. [Since I have covered this in detail in Essay Seven Part Three, the reader is directed there for more details.]


Finally, in Essay Eight Part One, we saw that the equivocation between the 'spatial' and the 'logical' sense of "internal" (alongside the ill-defined notions, 'object', 'process', 'system', and 'whole', as they feature in DM), means that 'external contradictions' might also be 'internal' (but, even then, only 'spatially-internal'), if located in a larger system. Confusingly, too, 'logically-', or 'spatially-', 'internal contradictions' could be 'external' to other objects and process within a larger or wider 'whole'!


Consider again, for example, the alleged 'contradiction' inside the atom -- presumably between the negatively charged electrons and the positively charged protons -- which holds the system together. This 'contradiction' is 'internal' to the atom, but 'external' to each particle involved, if interpreted 'spatially'. On the other hand, if these two opposites "presuppose" one another, this 'contradiction' would now both be 'spatially internal' to the atom and (in a 'logical' sense) 'internal' to each particle, too. Moreover, this 'contradiction' is also 'spatially internal' to any molecule or wider sub-system of nature to which it belongs, at the same time, even while it could be logically 'external' to either of the latter!


Of course, several dialecticians acknowledge this; for instance, here is Kharin:


"The existing boundary between internal and external contradictions is not at the same time absolute. The same contradiction may assume different qualities with regard to different systems." [Kharin (1981), p.130.]


However, it isn't easy to see how this could be the case with respect to 'logically internal contradictions'. Presumably the alleged 'contradiction' between capital and labour is one of the latter sort. But, how could this 'contradiction' ever become 'external', or change its "qualities", as Kharin suggests?


Even supposing such 'contradictions' could change in the above manner, then they could only do so because of their own internal 'contradictions' (again, if the DM-classics are to be believed)! So, if the working class becomes the ruling-class, or it abolishes all classes, then this could only happen because of 'contradictions' internal to the working class! If, on the other hand, this takes place because of the 'contradiction' between the working class and the capitalist class, then, since that 'contradiction' is itself external to the working class (even if it is internal to capitalism), it can't change the working class in the above manner, since only its own 'internal contradictions' can do that!


We can, perhaps, now see where this serial confusion is heading -- here is Afanasyev, confusing "internal" with "spatially internal" in like manner:


"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 principal contradictions that are decisive in development....


"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....


"All external influences exerted on an object are always refracted through its inherent contradictions, which is also a manifestation of the determining role of those contradictions in development....


"The source of social development is also contained within society itself, in its inherent internal contradictions...." [Afanasyev (1968), pp.98-99.] 


But, this can only mean that the 'contradictions' internal to capitalism are external to the working class; in which case, on this view, the working class can't change!


On the other hand, if the working class is to change, then, according to the above, it can only do so as a result of its own 'internal contradictions'. The class war, is, however, external to the working class (in a spatial sense), given the above, and so can't affect the development of history.


In which case, the motor of history isn't the class war (as Marx rashly supposed), but the internal strife in any given class. Hence, if Afanasyev is to be believed, the struggle against the capitalists won't actually change the working class into the new ruling-class; internecine warfare inside the proletariat will do that!


Again, I trust we can all now appreciate where the equivocation between the two senses of "internal" (coupled with ill-defined notions of objects, processes and systems) has landed us. The fatal consequences this presents HM -- i.e., if such crazy ideas, upside down or the 'right way up' are adopted -- should be plain for all to see: on this view, the history of all hitherto class societies isn't in fact the history of class struggle!


[Once more the above aren't my views; I am merely exposing the absurd consequences of this theory.]


Of course, the above considerations afflict theories that have been constructed by STDs and MISTs, but there is little room for Trotskyist (or other Marxist) dialecticians to crow. As we saw in Essay Eight Part One, the introduction of 'external contradictions' at least had the merit of absolving Lenin of holding manifestly absurd ideas about motion and change -- even if, in the end, that escape route itself proved to be a dead end.


However, without recourse to 'external contradictions', Trotskyist (or, indeed, other Marxist) dialecticians (who reject 'external contradictions') must face the fact that the old anti-dialectical joke is in reality no joke at all:


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


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


[Why this is a consequence of appealing to 'internal contradictions' as the sole cause of change is explained in detail in Essay Eight Part One (link above). Even so, there are other serious problems that afflict the doctrine of 'external contradictions' in addition to those mentioned in this Note -- problems that threaten to undermine dialectics in its entirety. I have explained what these are in Essay Seven Part Three.]


2As noted above, in Note 1a (and in the main body of this Essay), DM-fans appeal to Engels's shaky Q«Q 'Law' here to account for the "emergence" of novelty. But, what precisely is part and wha is whole, here? Indeed, what is quantity and what is quality? Is the quantity here the number, weight, size or age of the parts --, the energy fed into them, or into the surrounding system? Or, is energy itself one of the parts? [But, how could that be so if energy isn't a 'substance', but merely a "capacity to do work"? Or, is it, as one physicist told me recently, "The ability to turn into matter"?] And, is the quality here something that appertains to the whole, the parts -- or something else?


"Emergence" itself will be discussed in detail in Essay Three Part Three -- however, this is what Woods and Grant had to say:


"Life itself arises from a qualitative leap from inorganic to organic matter. The explanation of the processes by which this occurred constitutes one of the most important and exciting problems of present-day science....


"...Moreover, the task of deciphering the structure of a protein molecule itself was incredibly difficult. The properties of each protein depends on its exact relation to each amino acid on the molecular chain. Here too, quantity determines quality....


"The dialectical relationship between whole and part manifests itself in the different levels of complexity in nature, reflected in the different branches of science.


"a) Atomic interactions and the laws of chemistry determine the laws of biochemistry, but life itself is qualitatively different.


"b) The laws of biochemistry 'explain' all the processes of human interaction with the environment. And yet human activity and thought are qualitatively different to the biological processes that constitute them.


"c) Each individual person, in turn, is a product of his or her physical and environmental development. Yet the complex interactions of the sum total of individuals which make up a society are also qualitatively different. In each of these cases the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and obeys different laws.


"In the last analysis, all human existence and activity is based on the laws of motion of atoms. We are part of a material universe, which is a continuous whole, functioning according to its inherent laws. And yet, when we pass from a) to c), we make a series of qualitative leaps, and must operate with different laws at different 'levels'; c) is based upon b) and b) is based upon a), but nobody in their right mind would seek to explain the complex movements in human society in terms of atomic forces. For the same reason, it is absolutely futile to reduce the problem of crime to the laws of genetics." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.59-60.]


But, what if it turns out that it is a property of the parts that they interact this way when combined, allowing for the reduction of certain properties to those of their parts? [On this, see the electron example above.]


That would make such parts more like pieces in a dynamic sort of jig-saw puzzle. On their own, each piece would carry only a part of the overall picture, which may only be seen, or which becomes apparent, when they are combined with other parts. [This is a faint echo of the way Leibniz, for example, viewed things.] In this way, the final result would arise from the parts merely added together, with the new whole now a sum of such parts, and no more. This would account for the phenomena just as well as the 'theory' Woods and Grant tried to sell us, and it does so without an ounce of mysticism -- i.e., in that it wouldn't now be a mystery where the final picture or properties came from, as is the case with the 'theory' these two have swallowed. [I hasten to add that I am not advocating this theory (indeed, I reject all philosophical theories as non-sensical and incoherent), I am merely pointing out, once again, that Woods and Grant failed to consider (fairly -- or at all!) any alternatives to their seriously blinkered view of the world.]


This 'alternative' to Woods and Grant's 'theory' may or may not be correct -- as I noted above, I will pass no judgement on it --, but, the imposition of an a priori schema onto reality, and one that is based on the mystical musings of a Hermetic Idealist, backed up by an ill-defined and threadbare 'Law' (i.e., Q«Q), sits rather badly with the constant refrain that this is something dialecticians never do.


Attentive readers will no doubt have noticed, too, how, in the last paragraph of the quoted passage above, the "quantities" to which Woods and Grant refer have now morphed into "levels". This, of course, means that Engels should have said:


"Qualitative changes take place not just by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy), but by going up or down one level, too. Hence it is possible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion." [Edited misquotation of Engels (1954), p.63.]


Naturally, that makes this 'Law' eminently Ideal, since this sort of move between levels (resulting in an alleged qualitative transformation) can't itself be consequent on a quantitative change in matter or energy anywhere else in the system. Plainly, magnification is not an addition of energy. [More on this in Essay Seven Part One.]


2a. I have quoted here several dozen passages from the DM-classics, along with several others from lesser DM-luminaries, that support this reading of the 'dialectical theory' of change.


Those tempted to respond that the opposite of the "Totality" is "Nothing" (or even "nothing") should only be allowed to get away with that superscientific, linguistic dodge when they have explained clearly what the "Totality" actually is. As we saw in Essay Eleven Part One, we have been left totally the dark on that score. [No pun intended.]


Anyway, as we will see in Essay Twelve Parts Five and Six, "Nothing" (or, indeed, "nothing") can't act as a name, let alone as the name of the 'opposite' of 'Everything'.


Of course, if the opposite of any Tk is Nothing (or nothing), then that Tk must change into Nothing (or nothing), and vice versa -- as the DM-classics assure us that everything must inevitably do. If so, the world we see around us must be continually changing into Nothing (or nothing), and vice versa -- but not into the next Ti in line (i.e., not into Tk+1)! Moreover, if correct, the DM-theory of change (that everything must struggle with, and then change into, that opposite) also predicts that this Nothing (or nothing) must change back into T, again -- or, into the next Ti in line  (i.e., not into Tk+1).


Has anyone noticed this?


Not only that, but the 'Totality' must struggle with its opposite, too. In which case, it must struggle with nothing! But, how is that different from not struggling at all?


Perhaps we just don't 'understand' dialectics...


2b. Of course, some dialecticians might choose to agree with Engels:


"For that matter, Herr Dühring will never succeed in conceiving real infinity without contradiction. Infinity is a contradiction, and is full of contradictions. From the outset it is a contradiction that an infinity is composed of nothing but finites, and yet this is the case. The limitedness of the material world leads no less to contradictions than its unlimitedness, and every attempt to get over these contradictions leads, as we have seen, to new and worse contradictions. It is just because infinity is a contradiction that it is an infinite process, unrolling endlessly in time and in space. The removal of the contradiction would be the end of infinity. Hegel saw this quite correctly, and for that reason treated with well-merited contempt the gentlemen who subtilised over this contradiction." [Engels (1976), pp.63-64. Bold emphasis added.]


But, exactly why "infinity" is contradictory Engels annoyingly kept to himself. Or, rather, why it is a contradiction that an infinite 'collection' composed of 'finites' is contradictory. Of course, it would be if it were the case that -- or, it had been defined that -- infinite 'collections' are composed only of further 'infinites', but who on earth would attempt to do such an odd thing? [Even then, this would merely be an inconsistency. On the difference between inconsistencies and contradictions, see here and here.]


Unfortunately, however, beyond this rather weak argument, Engels had nothing else to say in support of his claim that infinity is 'contradictory'.


It could be argued that this follows from one of the Antinomies of Pure Reason in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, namely, the First Antinomy: The world had a beginning in time, etc., but, then again, on the other hand, it had no such beginning. [Kant (1998), pp.467-75; 517-30.] This 'contradiction' appears to be based on Kant's rejection of Baumgarten's definition (I am relying on the editorial comments in Kant (1998), by Guyer and Wood for this information; cf., p.743 of the same), that is, that a magnitude is infinite "if none greater than possible" (p.472; A430/B458). Kant argues that no such multiplicity could be the greatest, since units can always be added to it. In that case, an infinite magnitude (and thus an infinite world) is impossible. Kant thought he could derive a contradiction here since no such infinite series is completable, hence time can't have stretched back to infinity -- since, presumably, such an interval has actually been completed (in the here and now). On the other hand, time itself can't be bounded by a first moment in time. In that case, there could be no beginning in time -- implying that time stretches back to infinity. [I omit Kant's comments about space, and greatly compress his argument, of course; pp.470-75.] However, much of Kant's discussion is intimately connected with his view of the nature of space and time as "forms" of our ability to experience anything at all.


I don't want to get bogged down in a detailed critique of Kant here; anyway, ideas about the infinite have undergone a radical change since the work of Georg Cantor. However, it is far from clear that contemporary theorists are at all clear themselves what they mean by the new concepts these innovations have introduced. [On this see, Moore (2001), and my comments here. There is a useful discussion of Hegel's notion of the infinite in Houlgate (2006), pp.394-435.]


However, it is plain that Kant is operating with two different conceptions of the infinite (without realising it), so no wonder he thinks he can derive a contradiction. He regards a set as infinite if (1) No more units can be added to it -- but plainly, as he acknowledges, they can be (hence, no magnitude could be the greatest), and a set is infinite if (2) It isn't completable. Plainly, these two aren't equivalent. The set of Negative Integers is infinite, and yet ordering it from infinity, it is completed at -1 (a point made by Wittgenstein).


Of course, in relation to (1), Kant might have had in mind an infinite set such as the Rationals on the interval: {1,2}. No more can be added to this set. But how do we know? It could be responded that it is obvious from the nature of the Rationals that no more can be added. Once again, how might this be verified? Do we possess computers powerful enough to check this, or human beings who might live long enough to check it? So-called analytic proofs also depend for their cogency on ignoring just such questions (as supporters of Kant's own approach to mathematics (on this, see the next two paragraphs) point out).


In addition, Kant failed to distinguish bounded from unbounded infinites. According to the prevailing view, the Rationals between one and two, for instance, can be put in an equivalence relation with the Natural Numbers, meaning this sub-set of the Rationals is infinite; but this set is bounded above and below. Of course, were Kant alive today, he would probably have asked what the phrase "can be put" means in such contexts, since this plainly can't be done even by super-fast computers, many hundreds of orders of magnitude sleeker than any we have today. Indeed, mathematicians who look to Kant for inspiration ask this very question.


And, it isn't to the point to argue that we can't write down the first number in the set of Negative Integers, since this way of looking at that set means they are completable. [The problem is that the word "completable" is itself vague and ambiguous -- "completable" in what way, and by whom? On this, see Potter (2004) and Tiles (2004). See also the references listed here.] Anyway, we can write down the first and last members of the Rationals between one and two, but few doubt it is infinite.


Fortunately, we now have more precise ways of defining infinite sets. Even so, it is still far from clear whether we understand this area of the Philosophy of Mathematics well enough to be able to say with any confidence that 'The Infinite', so defined, is (or isn't) contradictory. However, in view of the fact that any answer to this question -- or at least any attempt to clarify it --, must be expressed in propositional form, it is reasonably clear that any such answer will only ever be in the negative. That is because, if a proposition were contradictory, it couldn't be a proposition with a clear sense, nor would it even count as a proposition. [Why that is so is explained here.]


Even so, as noted above, Engels's stated reason for regarding the infinite as 'contradictory' is manifestly defective. [I will say much more about this in Essay Twelve Part Five.]


To be sure, Engels considered several of Dühring's (and Kant's) arguments, and concluded that one or more of them is "contradictory", but it is far from clear whether Engels himself was asserting the things contained in the passage in question in AD, or merely exercising a few rhetorical flourishes of his own. [Cf., Engels (1976), pp.57-69.]


3. It could be objected here that as T's parts enter into new relations with one another, T would ipso facto alter, becoming a new "Totality", say, T*. This process could continue indefinitely as the "Totality" itself developed. If so, the parts of a "Totality" could become more than they once were in a new, perhaps evolved, "Totality".


However, this answer is itself vacuous unless and until DM-theorists tell us what the "Totality" itself actually is. [This problem was discussed at length in Part One of this Essay; it has also been summarised here.]


Nevertheless, and independently of the above, this volunteered DM-response is difficult to square with G1:


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


If the entire nature of a part is indeed so determined, then it isn't easy to see how it could change, or enter into new relations with other parts and with the whole -- all of which are likewise so constrained.


If any part, say, pi, is locked in place by its relation with all the other parts, Pn (where Pn is the set of all the parts of T not including pi), and with T -- hence presumably with itself --, and the latter are equally so constrained, change would appear to be impossible. There doesn't seem to be any way that novelty could emerge.


In Note 1a and Note Two above, we have already seen that an appeal to Engels's Q«Q 'Law' would be to no avail here.


Even if novelty were to 'emerge' this way -- somehow -- in line with this 'Law', then the entire nature of any new part couldn't after all be determined by its relation with other parts and with the whole -- that is, not unless there were a law of some sort that initiated such novelty. But, in that case, such a 'law' would allow for a reduction of these new properties to the properties of the assembled parts, undermining the implacable resistance DM-theorists have always shown toward reductionism. [This argument will be more fully developed in Essay Three Part Three.]


Hence, it seems that if change is to be accommodated within DM, G1 will need to be abandoned or modified. In either event, classical DM-Wholism would become untenable.


It could be objected here that the above responses are misguided since it is quite clear that dialecticians believe the nature of any part is determined by a changing, developing "Totality". That means the nature of each and every part, even if entirely so constituted, must change accordingly.


But, if that were so, then any change to parts couldn't be internally-driven (as we have been led to believe), and if in turn that is so, another core DM-thesis will have been fatally-wounded. [On this, see Essay Eight Part One.] Moreover, the proffered response (given above) fails to deal with the fundamental objections raised against this way of seeing things outlined in Note 1a, above.


We will also see here that the DM-reply in the last but one paragraph only works if (1) The "Totality" incorporates the non-existent past -- which, paradoxically would also prevent change from taking place(!) --, or (2) Recourse is made to events and processes that either don't exist or which are outside the "Totality" in order to account for things inside it, vitiating the explanatory role that this obscure entity (i.e., the "Totality") was supposed to occupy in the first place.


[What is more, this is quite apart from the difficulties noted here and here, in relation to the confusion in DM-circles about what exactly causes change.]


It could also be argued that even if the entire nature of each part is determined by its relation to other parts and to the whole, that doesn't mean that all such influences are of equal significance. In which case, parts that are separated by billions of light years, say -- or which aren't relevantly related to one another -- would have vanishingly small effects on each other. In which case, they can be safely ignored. For instance, in relation to changes on this planet, objects on the outer fringes of the visible universe can, for all intents and purposes, be disregarded. Or, to take another example, minor changes to certain parts of an organism (such as those affecting its hair or its toe-nails) will have no effect on the rest of that organism -- which counter-argument might seem to defuse several of the objections advanced here.


Now, this would be an effective response had it been made by anyone other than a DM-fan. As we saw in Note 1a, this is because many of them hold that these 'influences' aren't external or causal, but are "internal" and 'dialectical-logical'. Remoteness has no effect on this type of inter-relation as it operates between part and part, whole and part, or whole and whole.


[Exactly why those DM-fans who reject this 'Hegelian' view of reality (a view that Lenin, for example, certainly accepted) are making a rod for their own backs is explained here.]


To see this, consider an analogy: suppose that NN (who lives in New York) has a husband who unfortunately dies. This would have an immediate effect on the logical/legal status of NN whether her late partner was in New York, New Jersey, or Tokyo at the time of his demise. Distance is irrelevant in this case. To be sure, the news of the bereavement might take longer to reach the widow if her partner had passed away, say, in East Asia, but that has nothing to do with the logical/legal point being made. Plainly, separation-distance doesn't mean that widowhood is governed by some sort of inverse square law, so that if the said partner were twice as far away when he died, NN would now be only one quarter of the widow she would have been had he passed away in her arms.


Consider another example: suppose that the committee which controls the standards encapsulated in SI units were to alter the definition of a metre from 100 to 120 centimetres. In that case, the length of a metre in distant galaxies, billions of light years away, would immediately change. There is no inverse square law at work here, either --, so the length of this (new) metre wouldn't decrease with the square of the distance.


Hence, the system-wide implications of the adoption of "internal relations" (which makes a crazy sort of sense in Hegel's Mystical Whole), can't be defused by pretending that they are really external relations in disguise, subject to inverse square laws, and the like -- and thus are sensitive to separation distance.


To be sure, and as noted above, there are DM-theorists (these are mainly STDs and MISTs) who don't think these relations are all "internal", but we have already seen that such theorists equivocate between a 'spatial' and a 'logical' sense of "internal". However, if relations are to be categorised as "internal" or "external" depending on whether they are on the inside or the outside of the object or process in question, and not on the basis of their 'dialectical-logical' relations, the unity and interdependence of the "Totality" will plainly be called into question. It isn't easy to see how everything can be interconnected, or how the entire nature of the part depends on the nature of the whole, if the relation between part and whole is "external" in the 'spatial' sense of that word.


If STDs and MISTs want to hang on to the doctrine of interconnectedness as well as the part-whole relation, then it seems they will have to accept that objects and processes that are spatially separated must still be internally-related (in the 'dialectical-logical' sense). If so, then remoteness can't affect these inter-relations, and the above points still stand. On the other hand, if they want to maintain a commitment to 'external relations', and thus to 'external contradictions', then much of the rest of DM will fall apart. But, because 'external contradictions' were invented for political reasons connected with the attempt to 'justify' the doctrine of 'socialism in one country', it is pretty clear which option they will choose. However, since history has shown that Lenin and Trotsky were right (when they argued that socialism can't be built in one country), the political reason for holding on to 'external contradictions' has now been refuted by events. [On this, see Essay Nine Part Two, here and here.]


It could be objected that dialecticians have built "relative interconnectedness" into their theory, which shows that the above comments are misguided.


Sure, they might say that this is what they have done, but until they can show how a logical link is capable of varying -- or decreasing, say, with distance -- their words will remain empty.


Once more, but with respect to a different example: consider the Prime Meridian that passes through Greenwich in South East London: all other lines of longitude are unquestionably 'internally'-related to this Meridian (however, I should prefer to express this point differently; I have only adopted this way of characterising it in order to help strangle it). But, no one supposes that longitude 180o West, say, is slightly less of a longitude than 179o West, or that 5o East is more of a longitude than 10o East -- nor even 'relatively' more.


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 (that is, if we are ever told by DM-fans what these parts are!), 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.


It could be objected that as a matter of fact inverse square laws do operate in nature, and because of that the force of gravity operating between, for example, stars separated by millions of light years is negligible.


But, the "internal relations" in DM aren't like gravity -- which is manifestly an external cause --, so this particular force can't be used in such an "internalist" way. [Of course, this is all the more so now that gravity is no longer viewed as a force. On that, see Essay Eight Part Two.]


Once more, it could be argued that "internal relations" are unlike the logical relations outlined above (concerning the goings-on between married partners, varying metric lengths and peripatetic capitalists); so, the above comments are irrelevant.


To be sure, the nature of the interconnections postulated by dialecticians is impenetrably obscure (as we discovered in Part One of this Essay, and as we will see in Essay Four Part Two), but that is precisely the problem. Until we are told what the nature of a single one of these mysterious 'dialectical interconnections' is, not even DM-fans will know if -- or even how -- their commitment to "internal relations" affects these assumed drop-off rates.


Again, as pointed out in Note 1a, the above responses have plainly been motivated by the dialectical equivocation (originally mentioned here). This involves interpreting "internal" one minute in 'spatial' terms (thus confusing "internal relation" with "external relation"), the next in 'dialectical-logical' terms (thus sharply distinguishing the two). This also allows DM-theorists to slip effortlessly between the two, describing a relation, or a 'contradiction', as "internal" from one point of view, and then "external" from another.


Finally, it could be objected that DM-theorists don't claim that everything in the universe is internally-connected.


Unfortunately, that seems to fly in the face of what Lenin had to say:


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


This seems pretty clear; Hegel very helpfully 'divined' these 'internal relations' for us.


[See also here.]


One thing is for sure: bemused readers will search long and hard through the highly repetitious writings of dialecticians (for example, here), and to no avail: they will find not one single comment devoted to this problem. Now, that fact is internally-connected with the profound obscurity of the concepts DM-fans have inherited from Hegel. And this internal confusion will itself only dissipate if these Mystical Musings are ditched.


4. One way to avoid this conclusion might be to argue that G1 doesn't carry the implications that have been imputed to it in this Essay:


G1: The entire nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole.


Hence, it could be maintained that whatever G1 says, DM itself isn't committed to the idea that the entire nature of a whole is determined by any of its parts, nor vice versa. In that case, both whole and part can be compared each side of the amalgamation of one or more extra parts in order to decide if one or both had in fact changed; of course, that wouldn't be something we could establish in advance. This modified view might imply the following:


G1a: The nature of a part is determined by its relation with the other parts and with the whole, and vice versa.


Nevertheless, this 'modified view' would be worse than useless since it would be unclear to what extent part and whole influenced one another. If some aspect of a part wasn't constrained by its relations with other parts, then that particular aspect could, for all intents and purposes, exist in splendid isolation (at least as far as its interconnections were concerned).


To that end, let us suppose that there exists aspect A1 (of part P1), the nature of which isn't affected by the other sub-parts of P1, or by anything else. It would seem therefore that in this respect at least A1 must be isolated, and sealed off from the rest of nature. Are DM-theorists prepared to go down this route to bail their theory out? But, if we allow one exception to G1, why not two..., why not billions? And then what is to stop this option collapsing into CAR?


[CAR = Cartesian Reductionism.]


All this is quite apart from the fact that wholes don't exist except they are made of their parts. So, it isn't too clear from where this additional source of novelty is supposed originate.


Just as it is inconsistent with these declarations of Lenin's:


"[T]he individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say John is a man…we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other…." [Lenin (1961), p.359. Emphases in the original.]


"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [E]ach thing (phenomenon, process, etc.)…is connected with every other…." [Ibid., p.221. Bold emphases alone added.]


"In our times, the idea of development, of evolution, has almost completely penetrated social consciousness, only in other ways, and not through Hegelian philosophy. Still, this idea, as formulated by Marx and Engels on the basis of Hegel's philosophy, is far more comprehensive and far richer in content than the current idea of evolution is. A development that repeats, as it were, stages that have already been passed, but repeats them in a different way, on a higher basis ('the negation of the negation'), a development, so to speak, that proceeds in spirals, not in a straight line; a development by leaps, catastrophes, and revolutions; 'breaks in continuity'; the transformation of quantity into quality; inner impulses towards 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 and indissoluble connection between all aspects of any phenomenon (history constantly revealing ever new aspects), a connection that provides a uniform, and universal process of motion, one that follows definite laws -- these are some of the features of dialectics as a doctrine of development that is richer than the conventional one." [Lenin (1914), pp.12-13. Bold emphasis alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


"A tumbler is assuredly both a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel. But there are more than these two properties and 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….


"[I]f we are to have 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…." [Lenin (1921), pp.92-93. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


These look pretty maximalist. [That descriptor is explained here. See also, below.]


Moreover, and in relation to this, we have seen (in Note 1a and Note Two) that Engels's rickety Q«Q 'Law' isn't much help, either. But, even if it were, the alleged 'emergent' novelty in this case would clearly have been produced by the parts so assembled; it wouldn't 'drop in from the skies', as it were. Hence, even if Q«Q were a reliable 'Law', and even though dialecticians might claim to be able to use it to show how certain aspects of a whole had in fact been determined by its parts (but not the entire nature of that whole), it still wouldn't be possible for them to show that the whole was more than the sum of the assembled parts, or that the qualities they claim had mysteriously 'emerged' as a result weren't reducible to those parts. [On that, see below.]


Some might want to argue here that this entire line-of-thought is thoroughly misconceived, since dialecticians hold that, as things develop, there is a "Unity in Difference", or an "Identity in Difference" [IED], at work in such changes. This means that although an object might change, there would be a clear line of continuity between its different stages so that it could be identified as the 'same object' either side of any such alterations --, which object would itself have been transformed as a result.


Unfortunately, this runs foul of many other things that DM-classicists also have to say.


Here is what Engels, Lenin, Plekhanov, Bukharin and Trotsky argued:


"Dialectics…prevails throughout nature…. [T]he motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites…determines the life of nature." [Engels (1954), p.211. Bold emphases added.]


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


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


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


"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites.


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


"According to Hegel, dialectics is the principle of all life…. [M]an has two qualities: first being alive, and secondly of also being mortal. But on closer examination it turns out that life itself bears in itself the germ of death, and that in general any phenomenon is contradictory, in the sense that it develops out of itself the elements which, sooner or later, will put an end to its existence and will transform it into its opposite. Everything flows, everything changes; and there is no force capable of holding back this constant flux, or arresting its eternal movement. There is no force capable of resisting the dialectics of phenomena….


"At a particular moment a moving body is at a particular spot, but at the same time it is outside it as well because, if it were only in that spot, it would, at least for that moment, become motionless. Every motion is a dialectical process, a living contradiction, and as there is not a single phenomenon of nature in explaining which we do not have in the long run to appeal to motion, we have to agree with Hegel, who said that dialectics is the soul of any scientific cognition. And this applies not only to cognition of nature….


"And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite….


"When you apply the dialectical method to the study of phenomena, you need to remember that forms change eternally in consequence of the 'higher development of their content'….


"In the words of Engels, Hegel's merit consists in the fact that he was the first to regard all phenomena from the point of view of their development, from the point of view of their origin and destruction…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphases alone added.]


"'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….


"…[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.93-96. Bold emphases alone added.]


"There are two possible ways of regarding everything in nature and in society; in the eyes of some everything is constantly at rest, immutable…. To others, however, it appears that there is nothing unchanging in nature or in society…. This second point of view is called the dynamic point of view…; the former point of view is called static. Which is the correct position?... Even a hasty glance at nature will at once convince us that there is nothing immutable about it….


"Evidently…there is nothing immutable and rigid in the universe…. Matter in motion: such is the stuff of this world…. This dynamic point of view is also called the dialectic (sic) point of view….


"The world being in constant motion, we must consider phenomena in their mutual relations, and not as isolated cases. All portions of the universe are actually related to each other and exert an influence on each other…. All things in the universe are connected with an indissoluble bond; nothing exists as an isolated object, independent of its surroundings….


"In the first place, therefore, the dialectic (sic) method of interpretation demands that all phenomena be considered in their indissoluble relations; in the second place, that they be considered in their state of motion….


"Since everything in the world is in a state of change, and indissolubly connected with everything else, we must draw the necessary conclusions for the social sciences….


"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.'


"There is no doubt of the correctness of this law. A moment's thought will convince the reader. For, if there were no conflict, no clash of forces, the world would be in a condition of unchanging stable equilibrium, i.e., complete and absolute permanence, a state of rest precluding all motion…. As we already know that all things change, all things are 'in flux', it is certain that such an absolute state of rest cannot possibly exist. We must therefore reject a condition in which there is no 'contradiction between opposing and colliding forces' no disturbance of equilibrium, but only an absolute immutability….


"In other words, the world consists of forces, acting many ways, opposing each other. These forces are balanced for a moment in exceptional cases only. We then have a state of 'rest', i.e., their actual 'conflict' is concealed. But if we change only one of these forces, immediately the 'internal contradictions' will be revealed, equilibrium will be disturbed, and if a new equilibrium is again established, it will be on a new basis, i.e., with a new combination of forces, etc. It follows that the 'conflict,' the 'contradiction,' i.e., the antagonism of forces acting in various directions, determines the motion of the system…." [Bukharin (1925), pp.63-67, 72-74. Bold emphases added.]


"[A]ll bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour, etc. They are never equal to themselves…. [E]verything is always changing." [Trotsky (1971), pp.64-65. Bold emphases added.]


As we saw in Essay Eleven Part One, these comments appear to endorse a maximalist view of change. If everything and every property is in constant flux -- and this in turn is the result of the countless UOs at work everywhere -- and if everything is "never equal to itself", the IED ploy can gain no grip. Indeed, there would seem to be no point in DM-apologists appealing to Heraclitus's thesis that it is impossible to step into the same river twice, and that "everything flows", if some things don't "flow".


On this view, at no time would an object be equal to itself so that it could truly be said that is was "the same and not the same". If nothing is ever equal to itself, then of any object or process, it would only ever be true that it was "not the same and not the same". On the other hand, if it were the case that an object or process was "the same and not the same", then it wouldn't be true that it was "never equal to itself".


In short: it can never truly be said that anything is a UO in constant flux.


[UO = Unity of Opposites; IED = Identity in Difference (i.e., 'Improvised Explanatory Device').]


In Essay Six, I argued as follows:


Nevertheless, let us suppose that an object, B, has the following properties, qualities or relations: B1, B2, B3,..., Bn.


According to several of the above dialectical worthies, all of these properties, qualities and relations must change all the time (into what they do not say, but presumably it is into their 'opposites', not (B1, B2, B3,..., Bn) -- or perhaps it is (B1*, B2*, B3*,..., Bn*).


[However that possibility is closed off in Essays Seven and Eleven Part One.]


Nevertheless, even as B changes it is still identical with itself. In order to see this, let us suppose that when each property, Bi, changes, it becomes Bi*, in the first instance, and then Bi** in the next, and so on. But at any moment, B's identity will be given by its set of properties, qualities or relations (if we must view identity traditionally). So, in the first case, for example, B will have changed into {B1*, B2*, B3*,..., Bn*}. But, even though B has changed, it retains its changed identity. Hence, as long as B exists it is identical to itself (albeit, its changed self). So, when viewed this way, identity is no enemy of change.


[Dialecticians often appeal to the existence of UOs to defuse this sort of objection; this topic examined in Essays Seven and Eight Parts One and Two.]


Of course, the above scenario (which is called Maximal Heracliteanism (or MAH) in Essay Eleven -- link below) might not be the option that most dialecticians would want to adopt (even though the DM-classicists quoted above seem to be sold on it). If so, they should pause for thought before finally deciding. That is because, if just one of the properties, qualities or relations B enjoys -- say, Bk -- remains the same even for a few nanoseconds then the LOI must apply to it, and the dialectical game is up -- for here we would have something that remained the same, and was identical to itself, even if only momentarily.


In contrast, the maximalist option (i.e., MAH -- this is explained at the following link) has far worse consequences for DM; these will be spelt-out in detail in Essay Eleven Part One).


Either way, Heraclitus is no friend of DM -- or, if he is, he is also its enemy....


Moreover, if everything in the "Totality", or, indeed, in each sub-"Totality", is what it is because of the "internal relations" it has with everything else, and which characterise it completely, so that the "entire nature of the part is determined by its relation to other parts and to the whole", then, if its relations change as it enters a new Sub-"Totality", or sub-whole, it can't fail to alter. Moreover, these alterations aren't minor, superficial features of such an object, they represent 'essential' changes.


[This might seem to contradict the conclusions reached in Note 1a above, but that isn't so. There, the implications of one strand of DM-Wholism were explored (i.e., those connected with the 'emergence' of novelty) based on the idea that 'internal' relations remain fixed. Here, the implications of relaxing that assumption are under review.]


Hence, if everything is a UO, and thus isn't self-identical from moment to moment, and if the entire nature of every object or process is altered upon entering a new whole, there doesn't seem to be anything for the IED ploy to latch onto.


[Anyway, DM-theorists might have to abandon the IED for other reasons; on that, see here.]


On the other hand, if the IED ploy is to gain any sort of grip, several core DM-theses (like those mentioned in the above quotations) must be defective. Either way, dialectics takes another body blow.


Exception might be taken to this entire way of viewing things, in that it is manifestly absurd to suppose that wholes don't change when they incorporate new parts.


That is undeniable, but then this just shows how useless this dialectical 'thesis' really is; it contradicts not just common sense, but other DM-theses. It is a pity, therefore, that DM-theorists reject common sense, too -- or, at least, beyond everyday "banalities", hold it in considerable doubt.


5. Some might be tempted to appeal to the process of abstraction here to neutralise this objection. That would be an unwise move for reasons explored in Essay Three Parts One and Two.


The problem is, of course, that if it isn't easy to identify (or even distinguish) DM-parts and DM-wholes as they feature in the real world, a retreat into the abstract would be a backward step. That is because abstract parts and abstract wholes are even more difficult to identify and/or distinguish.


Of course, this depends on what is meant by "abstract" here, but we have already seen, both traditional and DM-theorists are decidedly unclear in this respect, but if they both mean by this term something like a 'mental construct', then the above comment applies all the more.


For example, there would be no way of deciding whether or not Abstractor A had constructed, formed or identified, say, abstract part 3,000,001 in the same way that Abstractor B had constructed, formed or identified 'it' -- or if either one or both had confused it with, say, abstract part 3,000,002, or something else. Of course, in everyday life such confusions are easily cleared up (because this is facilitated in the open, in a public domain), but if all this philosophical chicanery takes place 'in the mind', in an abstract world, where could one even begin?


The same goes for Wholes, too: how could Abstractor A confirm that he/she had constructed, formed or identified abstract Whole W correctly from moment to moment (especially in the face of the ever-present Heraclitean Flux -- which, so we are told, also works on brains, just as it must screw around with memories, too). Indeed, how could Abstractor A be sure he/she had included in, or had left out, the same elements as Abstractor B, and had mentally arranged them in the same way? [Indeed, how would they know if they were aiming at the same, or even the 'right' target? In fact, in such cases, the word "right" could gain no grip.] Once more, in the real world we typically manage to agree over our use of words, but in the obscure world of 'inner abstractions' and 'representations', how would this be even remotely possible? Guesswork? Brain probes? 'Mind readers'?


[This, of course, assumes that it makes sense to 'abstract', say, a Whole into existence to begin with. Since this topic was dealt with in detail in Essay Three Parts One and Two, no more will be said about it here. In addition, the idea that there are such things as 'inner representations' is put under severe pressure in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]


It could be argued that these 'difficulties' aren't fatal to DM. Admittedly, this 'problem' seems paradoxical or contradictory to our ordinary ways of thinking (in that it requires us to identify parts independently of wholes when the theory says this can't be done). If part and whole depend so intimately on each other, we would have to know both before we knew either -- neither of which would be achievable in advance of the other. But, this simply underlines the limitations of 'commonsense' and ordinary thought, once again. That, of course, is why we need the dialectical method to advance knowledge, since it isn't stymied by ordinary ways of thinking about, or looking at, reality.


Or, so a response might proceed...


At this point, DM-theorists might be tempted to reach for the useful formula -- the one that informs them that dialectics allows such contradictions (or paradoxes) to be "grasped", which means that both 'contradictory' alternatives can be accepted as 'correct', the conflict mysteriously "resolved" somehow. But, this handy escape route would in this case involve the idea that DM-Wholism depends on an acceptance of the fact that (1) There is complete inter-determinism between part and whole and that (2) Neither part nor whole can be known until both have been. As we shall see many times over at this site, whenever dialecticians encounter a 'contradiction' in their own theory, it is casually solved by the use of the handy "grasp" ploy, or its equivalent -- which is often little more than advancing the allegation that anyone who rejects DM (perhaps because it is riddled with such contradictions and confusions) doesn't "understand" dialectics. This means that to "understand" dialectics in effect amounts to turning a blind eye to such contradictions and confusions -- or, at least, it saves dialecticians from having to worry about annoying, 'pedantic' details like these. This is, of course, a novel and innovative use of the verb "to understand".


Clearly, human knowledge wouldn't have advanced much beyond the Stone Age had this strategy been adopted in the past. Consider a few examples: had early modern astronomers been dialecticians they would presumably have grasped the two halves of the following 'contradiction', and have accepted them both as true: the planets move in their orbits attached to crystalline spheres, and they don't. No one would have taken an astronomer seriously who was concerned to argue that way -- who "grasped" both of these as true. Would we lionise Darwin quite so much had he been a DM-fan and had argued that every species had evolved from a common ancestor by natural selection, even while some of them hadn't? Indeed, had Marx argued that in Capitalism there is and there isn't a conflict between the forces and relations of production, would we just shrug our shoulders and simply "grasp" that conundrum?


In like manner, should we be inclined to try to "understand" a theory whose supporters argued that the nature of any part can only be understood when the whole of which it is a part has been comprehended -- but which happy day will never actually come to pass -- while at the same time maintaining that at least this example of partial knowledge can be trusted while the whole of which it is allegedly a part remains shrouded in an infinitely extensive and impenetrably dense fog, even if we could assert that much with any confidence?


Nixon was able to get away with an analogously similar con-trick for a few years (i.e., alleging he had a 'solution' to the Vietnam War, when he hadn't); dialecticians can't expect to be granted the same latitude. [Follow this link for an explanation of the point of that remark.]


[This topic is discussed in more detail in Essay Seven and in Part One of this Essay, where it is connected with what I have called "The Dialecticians Dilemma". Some might object that the above is just another caricature of the nature of 'dialectical contradictions', but since DM-fans studiously refuse to tell us with any clarity what a 'dialectical contradiction' actually is, it will have to do until and unless they come clean. I have dealt with this topic at great length in Essays Eight Part One, Two and Three, and Eleven Part One; readers are directed there for more details.]


Even so, the "grasp" ploy can't work, for no matter how strong their metaphorical grip happens to be, 'grasping dialecticians' [GDs, for short] would still be in no position to specify parts and wholes without also rejecting their own theory -- for to itemise any part in advance of knowing the whole would be tantamount to admitting that the entire nature of the part isn't determined by its relation to the whole. And since knowledge of each part is itself a part of the whole, the entire nature of anyone's knowledge of a part should likewise be determined by the whole, and by his/her knowledge of the whole. Furthermore, since an infinite amount of knowledge separates humanity from the hypothesised epistemological end-state -- when alone knowledge of wholes may be expected to emerge -- then, at any point in history, humanity would be infinitely ignorant about one or both.


[On this, see here, where this topic is linked to something I have called HEX, or "Hegelian Expansionism", the opposite of "Cartesian Reductionism", CAR.]


This point is well-made by Michael Rosen when he refers to something he calls the "post festum paradox":


"If truth requires a system, then it only properly exists at the point of completion of the system: what precedes it is only partial, but not adequate. As critics, however, what should interest us is how that point of completion is obtained, and whether we have arrived at it legitimately or not. But, on one obvious interpretation of the quotations above [see below, RL], what they say is that, except as we attain this point of completion, we are not at the standpoint of truth, and that, therefore, we are not in a position fully to comprehend (and hence to justify or criticise) the method by which it was reached. In this way we have the paradox: to criticise Hegel is to claim that the system does not attain validly its point of completion. But to criticise from any point other than the point of completion violates crucial presuppositions of the system itself, namely, that only someone who has really attained its final point can perceive the rationality of its attainment." [Rosen (1982), pp.23-24. Italic emphasis in the original.]


Of course, Rosen uses this argument to show that Marxist critics of Hegel are in a bind; they can't invert his system (so that it is now set 'the right way up') until the entire process has reached its final denouement, for to do so would be to adopt a partial stance toward it, an irrational stance. This, Rosen claims, is why Marxists from time to time are attracted to irrational schemes of thought (in the way that leading Bolsheviks, say, thought highly of Nietzsche, among others). [Cf., Rosen (1982) p.24.] On this, see Rosenthal (1997, 2002).


More recently, dialecticians of various stripes have gone even further; David Bohm, for instance, was an admirer of Eastern religion (and of Uri Geller, and much else besides), and more recently still, Roy Bhaskar has drifted off into open mysticism (on this see Bhaskar (2002a, 2002b, 2002c) --, to mention just a few cases in point. [These examples are, of course, mine, not Rosen's.]


[Here, for instance, is a lay-dialectician who thinks highly of Daoism (and he isn't the only one), although it seems not to have affected his fondness for scatological language. Here is another nature mystic, who is also a keen DM-fan (an affliction that seems to affect many Greens and other assorted New Age Groupies, especially those influenced by Michael Kosok, Murray Bookchin and Frijtof Capra, although none of these is a Marxist) -- Bookchin (1996), Capra (1997, 1999, 2003), Kosok (2004). For a timely corrective, Stenger (1995) is worth consulting, as is Stenger's web page. See also here.]


Naturally, this also helps account for the mystical predilections of those who Lenin criticised in MEC for just such suspect intellectual moves. [More on this in Essay Nine Part Two, where the class origin of dialecticians will be revealed as the real reason for this continual slide into mysticism, and not an incomplete understanding of Hegel -- that is, of course, because it isn't possible to understand Hegel's Hermetic incoherent non-sense, even partially.]


[MEC = Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, i.e., Lenin (1972).]


Be this as it may, we can surely go further ourselves; consider then the following quotation from Hegel (this was one of the passages to which Rosen was referring above):


"The truth is the whole. The whole, however, is merely the essential nature reaching its completeness through the process of its own development. Of the Absolute it must be said that it is essentially a result, that only at the end is it what it is in very truth; and just in that consists its nature, which is to be actual, subject, or self-becoming, self-development. Should it appear contradictory to say that the Absolute has to be conceived essentially as a result, a little consideration will set this appearance of contradiction in its true light. The beginning, the principle, or the Absolute, as at first or immediately expressed, is merely the universal. If we say 'all animals', that does not pass for zoology; for the same reason we see at once that the words absolute, divine, eternal, and so on do not express what is implied in them; and only mere words like these, in point of fact, express intuition as the immediate. Whatever is more than a word like that, even the mere transition to a proposition, is a form of mediation, contains a process towards another state from which we must return once more. It is this process of mediation, however, that is rejected with horror, as if absolute knowledge were being surrendered when more is made of mediation than merely the assertion that it is nothing absolute, and does not exist in the Absolute." [Hegel (1977), p.11; section 20. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


Hegel himself half spots the problem here, but he simply brushes it aside as merely an apparent contradiction. However, if what he says is true, he himself will require access to the finished system to be able to advocate it as true. Hence, the truth even of his claim that what he says looks contradictory would itself need a completed system to back it up. Short of that, it can't be true -- or, rather, he can't assert its truth. Indeed, it could be completely untrue. In fact, given that what it says contradicts its own content, it can't be true.


Now, anyone who objects to that comment, or to any other, while also accepting this Hegelian formula (i.e., that 'the truth is the whole', upside down or the 'right way up') will, of course, need to climb into a handy time machine, fast forward to the end of existence, and access for us the complete system that backs up that recklessly bold response.


It could be argued that Hegel's claims might be 'partially' true, or 'relatively' true --, but, once more, if these meta-claims themselves are true, we would also need to be standing at the end of time, on the sunlit uplands of Epistemological Judgement Day, even to be able to agree with this minimal assertion. In that case -- unless this response has itself been beamed in from the distant future -- it can be safely ignored.


Of course, Engels himself had already made a somewhat similar point (in unpublished preparatory material for Anti-Dühring):


"Systematics impossible after Hegel. The world clearly constitutes a single system, i.e., a coherent whole, but the knowledge of this system presupposes a knowledge of all of nature and history, which man will never attain. Hence he who makes systems must fill in the countless gaps with figments of his own imagination, i.e., engage in irrational fancies, ideologise." [Marx and Engels (1987), p.597. Italic emphases in the original.]


It is a pity, therefore, that Engels didn't call this to mind when he too began to speculate, and fill his work with "figments" of his own (or rather, Hegel's) imagination. [Many of these "figments" are discussed in Essays Seven Part One and Eight Part Three.]


Finally, Rosen himself considers a number of replies that could be made to this paradox (and readers are directed to his book for more details: Rosen (1982), p.23, et seq.), but we needn't trouble ourselves with them, for if it were possible to find a way to resolve this 'difficulty', and arrive at a true account of Hegel's thought that rescued it from self-inflicted oblivion, then, consistent with Hegel's own precepts (not mine), only the Elect among Hegelians, congregated at the end of time, when the Absolute has finally got its cosmic act together, will have access to it.


And by then, they will surely deserve all they get.


6. Again, it could be argued here that Rees is merely adverting to our altered view of things when we adopt this DM-Wholist stance.


Perhaps so, but if the entire nature of a part is 'determined' by the whole and by its relationship with other parts (which would include, one presumes, any sub-grouping of matter comprising the base on which the thoughts of anyone who did not so think was founded, and out of which those thoughts had also "emerged"), then, paradoxically, the opposite conclusion also follows. That is because the opposite thought -- that reality is not interconnected in the way DM-theorists allege -- would be equally well-founded, having been 'determined' by the whole, too. In short, the whole confirms the valid status any and all refutations of this wacky 'theory'!


And, it is little point objecting that the whole can't determine two incompatible conclusions, since that would be contradictory. Clearly, that is because we should expect the contradictory DM-Whole to do precisely this.


On the other hand, if nature isn't in fact interconnected, this contrary view would be correct, anyway.


So, either way, the idea that nature isn't interconnected would have the edge over its DM-alternative, since it would be correct under both eventualities: that is, it would be correct when it wasn't and when it was.


Perhaps this is one paradox DM-theorists might not want to "grasp" too enthusiastically. Indeed, this is an especially annoying conundrum in that it undermines dialecticians' ability to grasp paradoxes! Continuing the "Nixon" theme, here, we might want to say here that GDs here have been "Deep Throated".


[Readers who know the details of the Watergate affair will understand that allusion.]


[GD = Grasping Dialectician.]


An appeal to human freedom would be of little help, either; if novelty can enter the picture here, then the entire nature of the part can't be determined by the other parts or by the whole. [On this, see Note 1a and Note 3, above.]


7. I return to this theme in Essay Thirteen Part One where I present a much more detailed argument aimed at showing that DM implies human thought does indeed determine 'Being' -- in order to highlight further the Idealist implications of DM-interconnectedness. That argument will show that the 'materialist flip' dialecticians say they have inflicted on Hegel's system actually did work -- but, alas, it managed to do so far better than even they had imagined, since it succeeded in flipping his ideas through a full 360, not the claimed 180.


8. And these comments don't just apply to Rees's formulation; they compromise the ideas of anyone who believes that everything in the "Totality" is interconnected, that the parts determine the whole and the whole determines the part, because of their "internal relations".


This is surely no surprise since it is a direct consequence of adopting concepts drawn from Hegel's Idealist Holism, where 'truth is the whole', etc. Now, in that system, this Idealist dogma makes some sort of crazy sense -- these connections and inter-relationships seem to 'work' to some extent, situated as they are in such a mystical context, inter-linked as they also are by the 'Mega-Thought' developing because of, and through, them.


However, as should seem plain, we witness here yet again another disastrous consequence of trying on the one hand to 'invert' Hegel's mystical system while on the other thinking that its Wholist/Idealist implications can be eliminated.


Plainly, they can't.


9. This is how Rees puts this:


"One important point to note, about this approach is that it is by its very nature, opposed to reductionism. It does not abolish the role of the individual in favour of the whole….


"The principle of contradiction is a barrier to reductionism, where linear notions of causality are not, because two elements that are in contradiction cannot be dissolved into one another but only overcome by the creation of a synthesis that is not reducible to either of its constituent elements.


"Furthermore, a dialectical approach is radically opposed to any form of reductionism because it presupposes that parts and whole are not reducible to each other. The parts and the whole mutually condition, or mediate, each other. And a mediated totality cannot form part of a reductionist philosophy, because by definition, reductionism collapses one element of a totality into another without taking account of its specific characteristics." [Rees (1998), pp.5-8.]


This passage will be examined in more detail in Essay Three Part Three, where DM-anti-reductionist arguments will be reduced to their own incoherent parts.


[It is important to add that this doesn't commit the present author to any form of reductionism. Both of these options (i.e., DM-'Wholism' and scientistic-reductionism) are metaphysical, hence they are non-sensical and incoherent. My reasons for saying this can be found in Essay Twelve Part One.]


10. The only way that human beings would be "more" than they used to be would seem to be as a group. Hence, it could be maintained that as a group, humanity now has a property that it once lacked -- flight. Of course, human beings as a group or as individuals still can't fly; clearly, it is the machines they build that do this!


So, humanity itself still lacks this 'property'.


If it is argued in response that humans can now do something they couldn't do before (namely, fly through space), even this isn't entirely correct. Since we now know that the earth rotates on its axis as it orbits the Sun humanity has in fact been travelling, or flying through space for hundreds of thousands of years. Which means we too have been flying for many hundreds of thousands of years!


Again, it could be maintained that it is only since the invention of dirigibles, balloons and aeroplanes that human beings can do things at will that earlier generations could not: i.e., leave the surface of the earth whenever they wanted, and move about the planet, sometimes at great speed flying to destinations that would have been unimaginable, say, 250 years ago.


But, even this isn't correct. Human beings have been hurtling off cliffs and tall buildings for thousands of years. To be sure, the vast majority don't live to tell the tale, but for a few seconds they manifestly possess the property of flight (in the sense described above).


Once more, it is only in aeroplanes (etc.) that they can leave the surface of the earth at will. And if that is so, it still seems that it isn't humanity that has this novel property, but these new artefacts which have.


Anyway, human beings have been able to leave the surface of the earth at will -- not in dirigibles, balloons, or diving off cliffs and tall buildings -- in gliders. In the 19th century, intrepid glider pilots explored this area of human flight -- pioneers such as Jean Marie Le Bris, John J. Montgomery, Otto Lilienthal, Percy Pilcher, Octave Chanute and Augustus Moore Herring, and earlier still, in China, using human carrying kites.



Figure Five: Which Is Part? Which Is Whole?


Moreover, the properties of these machines are reducible to their parts. Try taking off without engines made of heat resistant materials; a chocolate jet engine will not get you very far -- nor will wings made of margarine or caramel. So, in this case, human beings just hitch a ride, as it were.


In that case, precisely what is the new property humanity is supposed to have gained? The ability to hitch new sorts of rides? Or, the capacity to form queues at check-in desks?


11. When powered flight was finally achieved by the Wright Brothers in December 1903 (or, earlier, by means of the steam/hot air powered machines or balloons of the 1800s -- or even by means of the gliders and kites mentioned in Note 10, above), what novel parts or wholes emerged as a result? To be sure, there was the new 'whole' comprising the Kitty Hawk (the name of the first flying machine) and its pilot, but it isn't easy to see how the entire nature of Orville Wright, say, was determined by this new Orville/Kitty Hawk 'whole', or that the entire nature of the Kitty Hawk was determined by its 'internal relation' to Orville.


Moreover, when the first commercial flights began a few years after this, what new wholes and/or parts came into existence? To be sure, new capitalist ventures were set up, but what is whole and what is part here? Was this capitalist venture 'whole' the workers and the bosses, or the buildings and the legal documents -- or maybe the lawyers who drafted the contracts, the energy fed in from the outside to the lighting or the heating system, the roof on the office building, the waste paper basket in the corner of the room, the air circulating in and through the building, the natural 'forces' holding everything together...? And, are any of these items also parts? Or, are the latter the passengers, the freight, the paint on the aeroplane's fuselage, the rubber molecules in its tyres, the fuel in its tanks, the countless millions of dead sea creatures that went into forming that fuel millions of years ago...?


So many questions, so few answers...


In fact, and in general, as we have repeatedly seen, the precise nature of DM-wholes and DM-parts is terminally obscure. Consider several possible alternatives:


(1) Dialecticians often offer molecules as examples of wholes (see below, and Woods and Grant (1995), p.7), but no single molecule is an isolated unit in nature (as DM-fans are themselves quick to remind us). All share energy and 'particles' with one another. So, what is the whole here? One molecule, two, ten million? And what, for that matter, is a part? [No pun intended.] The sub-atomic particles or the probability waves/perturbations in 'the field' (which Physicists tell us is what these 'particles/non-particles really' are), or a combination of one or more of these items? But, these 'particles' are notorious for not staying put, interacting and merging with one another constantly. And, according to DM-fans, all of these are interconnected with everything else in the entire universe (and this isn't an accidental connection, either -- all are inter-linked by those mysterious "internal relations"), or, at the very least, they are interconnected with other 'particles' in the local vicinity (if we concentrate, say, on those no-less obscure "external relations" for the moment). What then is the boundary between part and part, whole and whole, part and whole, in this dialectical menagerie? If there isn't one, can they be counted as physical parts and wholes, in the first place?


To be sure, there are many different sorts of parts --, for example, part of a play, part of a cake, part of a problem, part of a fight, part of a plan, part of an animal, part of a criminal conspiracy, part of a strike, and so on. These aren't all physically comparable; but, in the material world it must be possible to discriminate among parts to be able to say that they are indeed such, to identify them over time, or even count them.


On the other hand, if it isn't possible to do this, even in thought -- as seems to be the case in this part of DM (no pun intended, again) --, then key elements in this theory become far too vague and obscure to be of any use.


Admittedly, we have already seen one or two DM-theorists tell us something like the following:


"The categories of whole and part are relative; they have meaning only in relation to each other. The whole exists thanks to its parts and in them. The parts, in their turn, cannot exist by themselves. No matter how small a particle we name, it is something whole and at the same time a part of another whole. The largest whole that we can conceive of is ultimately only a part of an infinitely greater whole. Everything in nature is a part of the universe." [Spirkin (1983), pp.99-100.]


However, we have already seen that this sort of response only succeeds in sinking this part of DM even further in the mire (no pun intended). We have already had occasion to examine Hegel's odd idea that 'the truth is the whole':


"The truth is the whole. The whole, however, is merely the essential nature reaching its completeness through the process of its own development. Of the Absolute it must be said that it is essentially a result, that only at the end is it what it is in very truth; and just in that consists its nature, which is to be actual, subject, or self-becoming, self-development. Should it appear contradictory to say that the Absolute has to be conceived essentially as a result, a little consideration will set this appearance of contradiction in its true light. The beginning, the principle, or the Absolute, as at first or immediately expressed, is merely the universal. If we say 'all animals', that does not pass for zoology; for the same reason we see at once that the words absolute, divine, eternal, and so on do not express what is implied in them; and only mere words like these, in point of fact, express intuition as the immediate. Whatever is more than a word like that, even the mere transition to a proposition, is a form of mediation, contains a process towards another state from which we must return once more. It is this process of mediation, however, that is rejected with horror, as if absolute knowledge were being surrendered when more is made of mediation than merely the assertion that it is nothing absolute, and does not exist in the Absolute." [Hegel (1977), p.11; section 20. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


The implications of this for DM are quite disastrous, since this dogma implies that we will only know what constitutes part and what constitutes whole when the mega-Whole is finally known, and that will only take place at the end of an infinite asymptotic DM-meander:


"'Fundamentally, we can know only the infinite.' In fact all real exhaustive knowledge consists solely in raising the individual thing in thought from individuality into particularity and from this into universality, in seeking and establishing the infinite in the finite, the eternal in the transitory…. All true knowledge of nature is knowledge of the eternal, the infinite, and essentially absolute…. The cognition of the infinite…can only take place in an infinite asymptotic progress." [Engels (1954), pp.234-35. Italic emphasis in the original; bold emphasis added.]


"Cognition is the eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object." [Lenin (1961), p.195.]


"A tumbler is assuredly both a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel. But there are more than these two properties and 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." [Lenin (1921), pp.92-93.]


"Dialectics requires an all-round consideration of relationships in their concrete development…. 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)…." [Ibid., p.90. Bold emphases alone added.]


This view wasn't just limited to the DM-classicists; here, for example, is Henri Wald:


"A 'concrete' truth is a logical system of abstractions multilaterally reflecting the real concrete. One truth is more concrete than another to the extent to which it reflects more essential traits of the investigated object. Concrete truth like absolute truth, can only be reached asymptotically ad infinitum." [Wald (1975), p.35. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Italic emphases in the original.]


If this is the case, it means that at any point in human history, the gap between each and every DM-assertion, proposition and thesis is infinitely large, meaning that there is an infinite probability one and all are false -- or, alternatively, there is a vanishingly small chance they are true. And that includes the assertion that "the categories of whole and part are relative." Moreover, incipient DM-scepticism** like this threatens to spill over into our ability to tell part from part, and part from whole, which means that it will only be possible to decide which is part and which is whole when humanity reaches Epistemological Valhalla infinitely far in the future.


[**As noted in Essay Ten Part One, DM-Wholism soon collapses into extreme scepticism.]


A couple of points made earlier are worth repeating (slightly edited):


Now, anyone who objects to these comments, or to any other, while also accepting this Hegelian formula (i.e., that 'the truth is the whole', upside down or the 'right way up') will, of course, need to climb into a handy time machine, fast forward to the end of existence, and access for us the complete system that backs up that recklessly bold response.


It could be argued that Hegel's claims might be 'partially' true, or 'relatively' true --, but, once more, if these meta-claims themselves are true, we would also need to be standing at the end of time, on the sunlit uplands of Epistemological Judgement Day, even to be able to agree with this minimal assertion. In that case -- unless this response has itself been beamed in from the distant future -- it can be safely ignored.


[I have taken this argument up again, below.]


(2) Other DM-theorists refer us to organisms as excellent examples of part/whole ensembles. But, once more, what is part and what is whole here? On that see, the previous point.


Again, as dialecticians are quick to remind us, nothing in reality stands in splendid isolation. If that is true, it is difficult to see how it would be possible to identify and/or distinguish the alleged members of either category, one from another. For example, is a whole, therefore, an identifiable organism --, say, a cat --, or something else? But cats are continually exchanging matter and energy with their environment. Only if we freeze frame a targeted moggie would it be possible to stop annoying seepage like this at its recklessly porous feline boundary. But, such an un-dialectical mammal, it seems, would be of little use to dialectical Whole-Seekers. So, this can't be the cat-whole we seek. But then, what is it?


Does this cat -- which is, according to Physicists, a four-dimensional manifold, a sort of mathematical, furry sausage in 4-space -- comprise all its temporal parts (even if we could identify them), or only those freeze-framed at some arbitrary point in time?


Do DM-objects (parts and/or wholes) endure in time, or merely perdure?


[Readers keen to find out more about the arcane intricacies of this branch of modern Ontology can download this PDF to find out more (This article is in fact Hales and Johnson (2003).) See also Sider (2001), Hawley (2004), and Hawley (2010). While I reject this entire approach to Philosophy (for reasons explored in Essay Twelve Part One), it is incomparably clearer and vastly superior to the trivial, confused and superficial ramblings one finds in books and articles that try to sell us DM-Wholism -- Spirkin's book (partly) excepted.]


Of course, the same problems afflict this hapless cat's parts, too. In that case, a cat's tail, for instance, is not only extended in 3-space, it is also a manifold of a 'tail' in 4-space (intermixed with other manifolds -- of mice, birds, the contents of tins of cat food, and the like -- intersecting with its 'world line'), if modern Physics is to be believed. This non-dialectical, ontologically-complex set of moggie parts is, one suspects, no friend of DM. Indeed, we saw in Part One of this Essay (and in Essay Seven Part One) how this quintessentially reactionary mammal helped demolish several long-cherished DM-theses all on its own. A catabolic process if ever there was one.


Dialecticians who are tempted to respond impatiently to all this along the lines that the above aren't legitimate objections to their theory in view of the fact they themselves admit the existence of just such dynamic and interconnected parts and wholes (for example, cats in relation to their environment), should themselves pause for a moment before pushing that point too far. Unless they are careful, and agree to freeze-frame things once more, this unfortunate cat might wind up being a part that is, say, several miles wide as it dynamically interacts with its environment over several years.


And if we change the example, we could easily end up with, for instance, 'whale parts' that are tens of thousands of miles across as they patrol the Pacific. That is to say nothing of the real size of this dialectical whale-whole if we throw in the motion of the Earth around the Sun, and then the latter's transit through the Galaxy.



Figure Six: Only A Tiny Part Of This Whale-Part?

Or, Is It The Whole Whale?


In fact, and worse, it isn't easy to see how dialecticians can prevent this (or the earlier furry) mammal expanding catastrophically (and about as quickly as HEX did) to encompass the entire universe, if this 'part' is allowed to include all that it interacts with and all to which it is "internally related". This Cheshire Cat In Reverse is, indeed, a sort of metaphysical time bomb purring away at the centre of this ramshackle 'theory'.


(3) Now the whole point of DM-Holism (no pun intended) was to provide an account of capitalism so it could be replaced by socialism. To that end, for example, dialecticians view capitalism as a whole, and various classes as sub-wholes, too -- or even parts.


But, once more, what is whole and what is part, here? Even if we were to wave aside the insurmountable 4-space difficulties noted above (when DM is confronted with modern Physics), as well as the 'asymptotic black hole' we discovered in point (1) above, this isn't an easy question to answer. So, is the entire capitalist class a whole, a part --, or is it part part, or part whole? Is a single proletarian a part, a whole, or wholly part or partly whole?


[Anyone who thinks that my pointing out these 'difficulties' will make the slightest impression on the adamantine skulls of the DM-fraternity (even if the latter could be bothered to read any of this!) knows nothing of their capacity to develop hysterical blindness when it suits them. (In fact, in Essay Nine Part Two, it will be shown that this handy trick is just another form of "cognitive dissonance"). Determined to stay super-glued to these obscure pre-scientific, mystical nostrums -- come what may --, DM-fans soon reach for the "pedantry" button, and press it maniacally, backed up, or not, by a liberal use of the 'sophistry' raspberry, and the 'special-pleading' smoke bomb (along the lines, perhaps, that dialectics is "different", and it can't be expected to be judged by the normal cannons of scientific reasoning, a ploy 'god'-botherers are also rather fond of using) -- on that, see here.


Clearly, benighted DM-critics (like yours truly, RL) have failed to notice that when Lenin said that no science is complete or un-revisable, he meant to exclude DM. Now that this has been made clear, we can surely allow DM-fans to remain in thrall to their mystical mantras, secure in the belief that no advance in human knowledge can, or will ever, disturb their dogmatic slumber.]


12. It could be argued that these objections ignore the distinctions dialecticians make between different kinds of parts and wholes. On this, see Note 14, below, and Note 11 above.


13. This entire topic raises issues connected with the nature of 'part properties' that are dependent on, or arise out of 'whole properties'. Plainly, I can't enter into the finer details of this topic here. Fans of this branch of Ontology (i.e., Mereology) might like to consult Goodman (1966), Casati (2009), Casati and Varzi (1999), and Simons (1987), or the more introductory, Hoffman and Rosenkrantz (1997), pp.43-149, for more details. In such work, admixed with some rather annoying and unnecessary Metaphysics, there is much valuable logical insight; that is especially true of Simons (1987).


14. The 'Spirkin Defence'


[This forms part of Note 14.]


It could be objected that the points made in this Essay are entirely bogus because they ignore the different types of wholes and parts envisaged by DM-theorists. We might call this "Spirkin's Defence" [henceforth SD], after the analysis given in Spirkin (1983), quoted above.


Spirkin argues as follows:


"A system is an internally organised whole where elements are so intimately connected that they operate as one in relation to external conditions and other systems. An element may be defined as the minimal unit performing a definite function in the whole. Systems may be either simple or complex. A complex system is one whose elements may also be regarded as systems or subsystems....


"The categories of whole and part are relative; they have meaning only in relation to each other. The whole exists thanks to its parts and in them. The parts, in their turn, cannot exist by themselves. No matter how small a particle we name, it is something whole and at the same time a part of another whole. The largest whole that we can conceive of is ultimately only a part of an infinitely greater whole. Everything in nature is a part of the universe.


"Various systems are divided into three basic types of wholeness. The simplest type is the unorganised or summative whole, an unsystematic conglomeration of objects (a herd of cattle, for example). This category also includes a mechanical grouping of heterogeneous things, for example, rock consisting of pebbles, sand, gravel, boulders, and so on.


"In such a whole the connection between the parts is external and obeys no recognisable law. We simply have a group of unsystematic formations of a purely summative character. The properties of such a whole coincide with the sum of the properties of its component parts. Moreover, when objects become part of an unorganised whole or leave such a whole, they usually undergo no qualitative change. For this type of whole the characteristic feature is the varying lifetime of its components.


"The second, more complex type of whole is the organised whole, for example, the atom, the molecule, the crystal. Such a whole may have varying degrees of organisation, depending on the peculiar features of its parts and the character of the connection between them. In an organised whole the composing elements are in a relatively stable and law-governed interrelationship. Its properties cannot be reduced to the mechanical sum of the properties of its parts. Rivers 'lose themselves' in the sea, although they are in it and it would not exist without them. Water possesses the property of being able to extinguish fire, but the parts of which it is composed, taken separately, possess quite different properties: hydrogen is itself flammable and oxygen maintains or boosts combustion. Zero in itself is nothing, but in the composition of a number its role is highly significant, and at times gigantically so, by increasing 100 into 1,000, for instance. A hydrogen atom consists of a proton and an electron. But strictly speaking, this is not true. The statement contains the same error as the phrase 'this house is built of pine'. The mass of an atom of hydrogen is not equal to the total mass of the proton and the electron. It is less than that mass because in combining into the system of the hydrogen atom the proton and the electron lose something, which escapes into space in the form of radiation.


"The third, highest and most complex type of whole is the organic whole, for example, the organism, the biological species, society, science, arts, language, and so on. The characteristic feature of the organic whole is the self-development and self-reproduction of its parts. The parts of an organism if separated from the whole organism, not only lose some of their properties but cannot even exist in the given quality that they have within the whole. The head is only a head because it is capable of thinking. And it can only think as a part not only of the organism, but also of society, history and culture.


"An organic whole is formed not (as Empedocles assumed) by joining together ready-made parts, separate organs flying around in the air, such as heads, eyes, ears, hands, legs, hair and hearts. An organic whole arises, is born, and dies together with its parts. It is an integral whole, with distinguishable parts. Sensations, perceptions, representations, concepts, memory, attention do not exist in isolation; they form the synthetic knot which we call consciousness. The elements that make up the whole possess a certain individuality and at the same time they 'work for' the whole. The whole is invisibly present, as it were, and guides the process of 'assembly' of its elements, that is to say, of its own self....


"The parts of a whole may have varying degrees of relative independence. In a whole, there may be parts whose excision will damage or even destroy the whole, but there may also be parts whose loss causes no organic damage. For instance, the extremities or a part of the stomach may be removed, but not the heart. The deeper and more complex the relationship between the parts, the greater is the function of the whole in relation to them and the less their relative independence....


"The highest form of organic whole is society and the various social formations. The general laws of the social whole determine the essence of any of its parts and the direction of its development: the part behaves in accordance with the essence of the whole." [Spirkin (1983), pp.97-102.]


There are a number important points that can be distilled from the above analysis:


(1) Systems are organised entities. They are distinct from their environment, and are minimal units capable of performing definite functions inside the wider whole. What may be whole from one point of view, is part from another, and vice versa.


(2) The universe is the largest whole and contains every system.


(3) There are three types of system:


(a) The first category includes summative and unorganised systems; for example a herd of cattle, a rock, a pile of sand, etc. In such systems, the connection between the parts is external and obeys no set law. The whole here is merely a sum of its parts. Objects do not change qualitatively if they either leave or join such systems.


(b) The second groping comprises what seem to be minimally organised wholes (e.g., atoms, molecules or crystals). Here, not only are the elements related to one another in a law-like manner, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. As parts of the whole:


(i) the elements gain properties, or,


(ii) the whole severally or collectively acquires them.


These are properties that one or both wouldn't have gained on their own. So, for example, Hydrogen and Oxygen can't put fires out, but combined to form water they can.


(c) The third type includes the most complex systems, organic wholes (examples include the wolf, the genus Canis, society, language, etc.). Elements of these systems lose some of their properties when separated from the whole, and can't exist apart from that whole. This type of whole is more than the sum of its parts, too. However, some parts can enjoy relative separation from the whole, but this isn't true of all. Capitalism, it seems, is just such a whole.


Hence, it could be argued that the analysis presented in this Essay has conflated these three distinct types of system, which means it is completely misconceived.


In response it is worth underlining several points (in addition to those that have been made earlier in this Essay):


(1) The distinction between these three types of system isn't as clear-cut as Spirkin would have us believe.


Even in a heap of sand there are forces at work that are law-governed (or, which we can depict that way, at least), and even in an organism there are parts that are heterogeneous (think of bacteria in the gut, hair on a body, dead skin cells the surface, etc.), which an organism can lose without it itself altering as a result, and which parts don't alter when they are lost, either.


Furthermore, it is worth asking the following question: Is a heap of sand still a heap if it loses all its parts? In that case, these parts and that whole are intimately linked. And heaps of sand (on beaches or in deserts) don't accumulate without cause. There are physical forces at work which explain (or can be used to explain) why they are where they are, and why they take the shape they do. In addition, ants, termites, bees, wasps, bats, birds, cattle, bison and other herbivores congregate in colonies, shoals, flocks, swarms and herds for well-known evolutionary reasons; so they aren't 'accidental' conglomerations, either. [On this, see for example, Williams (1966). For other collective nouns, see here.]


Moreover, the 'internal relations' to which DM-theorists also appeal imply that everything in reality is part of One Big Whole. Naturally, this doesn't just blur the distinctions Spirkin tries to draw, it obliterates them -- or, it will do so unless and until DM-theorists themselves decide what they mean by these "internal relations". [On this, see Note 1a.]


Of course, it could be argued alongside Spirkin that in loose conglomerates (like heaps, swarms and herds) its elements are only externally-related. But what makes a herd a herd and a cow in a herd a cow in a herd aren't external relations, whatever else they are. Moreover, given the truth of DM, what makes a grain of sand what it is (that is, whatever it is that determines its nature and properties), is "internally-connected" to something or other, for if this weren't so, sand wouldn't be sand and it couldn't change -- if, that is, change is motivated by dialectical "internal relations" between an object or process and its dialectical "other" (as Hegel puts it). [On that, see here.]


Again, it could be countered that even if this were so, the grains in a heap aren't "internally-linked" to one another. But, how are we to account for each individual grain changing from being an isolated grain to being a gregarious grain? If Hegel is correct, and things change only because of their "internally-linked" 'others', then whatever produces a heap of sand must be governed by the 'Laws' of dialectics. But, until this heap changes into --, one presumes --, "not a heap" (its 'other'?), it must be in dialectical tension with that 'other' now (or maybe this is some other 'other'?), or it, too, will never change. After all, there is only one DM-principle available to dialecticians that 'enables' them to explain change -- these 'others'.


This means that if (in a heap) a particular grain (say, Gi) is resting next to at least one other grain (say, Gk), and it stays next to it, then it must be in dialectical tension with this other 'other', which must be "not-next-to-Gk" (and thus "not-not-next-to-Gk") --, one supposes, again --, so that one day it might indeed change into not being next to Gk -- otherwise, this change won't have been be 'internally'-generated, as had been claimed). In short, each DM-grain must be implicated in some sort of "internal relation" with each local grain (or is it with each not-local grain?), and by a suitable induction, with all the grains in that heap. Hence, there would be a set of "internal relations" even in a heap -- that is, if they change in the way DM-theorists suppose.


And what goes for heaps, goes for herds, swarms, shoals, flocks and colonies, too.


Naturally, the above observations can easily be neutralised by abandoning Hegel's whacky 'theory' of change -- upside down or 'the right way up'.


[But in that case, dialecticians would, of course, be left with no theory of change.]


(2) Although Spirkin sort of half concedes that the picture he painted isn't as clear-cut as he would like, he failed to notice that this 'semi-admission' (if such it be) affects the status of many of the examples he listed.


Consider a species like Canis lupus (The Grey Wolf), not only would the genus to which it belongs (Canis) not be affected if this species died out, the family Canidae wouldn't be either -- nor would the species itself be affected if several wolves died. And more-or-less the same can be said of other social wholes -- animal or human. Hence, human society isn't really affected if, say, few individuals went to live on the Moon. Nor are astronauts altered as human beings when they blast off into space, either.


(3) Concerning the most plausible example Spirkin cites (that of an organism), as we have seen above and will see later, things aren't quite so straight-forward, even here. Hearts remain hearts while they are being transplanted, as do other organs, and so do blood and skin. In fact, there doesn't to seem to be a single part of a human body about which this isn't true. Even something as significant as a head can exist on its own for some time away from its original body, given the right technological support.


As we will see, such wholes aren't as they were imagined to be by the Natürphilosophers (from whom Hegel and Spirkin pinched these ideas), or even as they had been conceived by ancient mystics (from whom all three lifted these Wholist nostrums).


Body parts (etc.) are causally linked to one another -- which explains why they can be separated and can be maintained alive if the right causal substitutes are found for the relevant inputs. Hence, as such, these connections aren't an expression of "internal relations" (a notion which is, as we shall see in Essay Four Part Two, another Idealist fantasy). If they were, there would be no such thing as transplant surgery, blood transfusions or cloning.


Indeed, in January 2007, we heard this from the BBC:


"UK scientists planning to mix human and animal cells in order to research cures for degenerative diseases fear their work will be halted.... Ministers proposed outlawing such work after unfavourable public opinion. PM Tony Blair said any new law would have 'flexibility' to support scientific research that helped people. He said there were 'difficult' issues surrounding creating the embryos, which are more than 99% human but have a small animal component....The creation of hybrid human-animal embryos was first suggested as a way of addressing the shortage of human eggs available for research." [Quoted from here. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site; paragraphs merged to save space.]


Naturally, had Blair asked DM-fans for advice, he could have ruled this project out much earlier -- and on sound DL-line, too -- as a non-starter, and saved a lot of time and money, into the bargain.


Nevertheless, as will soon become apparent, the postulation of "internal relations" is little more than a 'God of the Gaps' approach to biological science, and as such is parasitic on our ignorance of all the material causes operating in nature. In that case, it is dependent on our not knowing all the material causes at work in, and operating on organisms. DM-fans have simply re-labelled such gaps in our knowledge "internal relations". Hence, it is no surprise either to find that this mystical concept has gone the same way as its analogous exemplar from theology -- the genuine "God of the Gaps". Because of scientific advance, we are now able to view such wholes in an entirely new and more consistently materialist light. [On this, see points (4), (5) and (7), below.]


Artificial limbs, replacement hearts, pacemakers, skin and corneal grafts, dialysis, blood and bone marrow transfusions, wigs, hearing aids, glasses, and the like, would all be non-starters otherwise.


(4) Spirkin's analysis bears a worrying similarity with "irreducible complexity" touted by "Intelligent Design" [ID] theorists. [Cf., Behe (2004, 2006), Behe's book, by the way, is taken apart in Orr (1997), and  Shanks (2004); see also here. Cf., also: Brockman (2006), Dembski and Ruse (2004), Forrest and Gross (2004), Foster, Clark and York (2008), Pennock (2000, 2001), Sober (1999) (this links to a PDF), and Young and Edis (2006). However, for a corrective view, parts of which are more in line with the argument developed in Essay Thirteen Parts Two and Three, see Fuller (2008). Be this as it may, in what follows, I am not adopting a view of the alleged parallels between ID and DM, since DM is far to vague to for such a secure opinion to be formed of its core theses, as the Essays published at this site clearly demonstrate. Nevertheless, both systems of thought (and, surprisingly, several interpretations of modern science, too) rely on a systematic anthropomorphisation of nature in order for them to 'work'. Those serious allegations will be substantiated in Essays Thirteen Parts One, Two and Three.]


According to ID-ers, certain aspects of organic wholes are so constituted that they can't be reduced to their parts without fundamental features of their 'design' being lost or destroyed; e.g., the flagellum of certain bacteria, the human eye, and blood clotting factors -- to take just three of their favourite examples. They call this "irreducible complexity", which has been characterised by Behe in the following way:


"The main difficulty for Darwinian mechanisms...that many systems in the cell are what I termed 'irreducibly complex.' I defined an irreducibly complex system as: a single system that is necessarily composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning." [Behe (2004), p.353. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


Which opinion is, of course, virtually indistinguishable from this comment of Spirkin's:


"A system is an internally organised whole where elements are so intimately connected that they operate as one in relation to external conditions and other systems. An element may be defined as the minimal unit performing a definite function in the whole....


"The third, highest and most complex type of whole is the organic whole, for example, the organism, the biological species, society, science, arts, language, and so on. The characteristic feature of the organic whole is the self-development and self-reproduction of its parts. The parts of an organism if separated from the whole organism, not only lose some of their properties but cannot even exist in the given quality that they have within the whole...." [Spirkin (1983), pp.97, 101.]


However, as Behe also notes, this entire topic is linked to the arguments ID-ers like him direct against Darwinism, and in favour of belief in "God" (although, for legal reasons connected with the US constitution, ID-ers don't use that particular word). So, the idea is that organisms are "irreducibly complex" and so can't have evolved by a process of random variation, gene mutation and natural selection -- even though, as some of them concede, these natural processes might induce micro-evolutionary change.


Consequently, critics of ID have targeted "irreducible complexity" for concerted criticism, and in so doing they have inadvertently undermined many of the points upon which Spirkin and other DM-Wholists rely; indeed, it isn't easy to see how DM-theorists can account for evolution with the sort of analysis they peddle.


As far as I know, Inconsistent Dialecticians (who, quite fortuitously, can also be labelled ID-ers) haven't considered this fatal defect in their theory. That is possibly because ID (the quasi-theological version, not the dialectical mutant) is a relatively new phenomenon; even so, ID is based on the now defunct 'Design Argument' for the existence of 'God', invented thousands of years ago, which in turn depends on ideas that share uncomfortably close similarities with DM-Wholism. Hence, the novelty of ID isn't in fact a good explanation of why Inconsistent Dialecticians [henceforth IDD-ers]  have ignored this compromising thrust of their theory. As was pointed out here, this is probably because IDD-ers devote so little (original) thought to DM since (a) It works primarily as a test of orthodoxy, and, like other similar dogmas, it can't be altered, elaborated upon or even clarified, and (b) For fear that anyone foolish enough even to attempt to do so will be called a "Revisionist!" as a result).


[On the ancient origins of the 'Design Argument', see Sedley (2007), and Sorabji (1983).]


Nevertheless, the kind of analysis Spirkin and other DM-theorists have concocted (or, rather, imported from German Mysticism) has only succeeded in re-introducing teleology into science, which undoes much of what many thought Darwin had achieved -- i.e., ridding science of teleology.


Naturally, these are highly controversial allegations, since dialecticians, following Marx and Engels, hold Darwin's theory in such high regard, and seem to think that DM is a logical extension to the latter's theory. [However, it is worth adding that Marx and Engels held serious reservations about Darwin's theory. On that, see Essay Thirteen Part Three.]


But, it is difficult to detect much difference between the ID-idea that there are 'irreducible' complexities in nature and the IDD-claim that there are "emergent properties" that aren't reducible to their parts. [On this, see below.]


(5) Dialecticians appeal to the sorts of points advanced by Spirkin in their argument against "reductionism", referring to "emergent properties" that are unique to wholes, and which can't be derived from their parts. As we will see in Essay Three Part Three, this is another seriously flawed doctrine. Suffice it to say here that this is a secular version of the "God of the Gaps" argument; in this case, we might call it the "Totality of the Gaps" argument [or TOGA].


Hence, the assumed fact (if it is one) that we can't at present reduce DM-wholes to their parts is then used to argue that it is logically impossible to do this.


So, from scientific ignorance we get DM-necessity.


In that case, a gap in our knowledge is all that underpins already shaky TOGA.


But, what if such parts have among their as-yet-to-be-discovered properties just those qualities Holists now deny them on an a priori basis? What if, say, it is a property of Hydrogen and a property of Oxygen that when combined they form water, which is liquid at certain temperatures, and can put fires out because of the properties inherent in the parts? In that case, the whole would be a sum of the parts, and no more.


These two elements certainly combine according to what scientists call a "law"; no one supposes this law is accidental or capricious, or that the new set of properties which arise isn't a consequence of the properties inherent in these two elements. Even DM-fans would be reluctant to conclude that this law, or these properties, 'descend from the skies', as it were. Thus no one supposes that the properties of water are simply 'sports of nature', which aren't related to the properties of their constituent atoms in a law-like manner, and thus aren't connected with the atomic structure of Oxygen and Hydrogen. After all, if this weren't so, any two elements would do just as well! On this (presumed) view, CO2 and NH3 (Carbon Dioxide and Ammonia) would behave exactly like water!


So, if these 'emergent' properties aren't to be regarded as merely coincidental by-products of these two elements, as 'caprices of nature', which just so happen to arise 'out of the blue' when combined, then scientists will rightly look for laws that account for the 'higher order' qualities of water, or whatever, which explain how they can be derived from the properties of their parts.


Now, as I noted earlier, I take no view on this matter (especially given my other comments about the status of 'natural laws' found elsewhere at this site), but one certainly can't impose a priori TOGA-type restrictions on science -- as dialecticians attempt to do, as Spirkin does --, just to protect Hegelian Holism.


It might, indeed, be the case that the above reduction can't be pushed through; it might not. But, this is an empirical matter, not one over which Hermetic Philosophers should pontificate, as if they were born again ID-ers.


[Some might want to argue that this isn't simply an empirical issue, it is also ideological -- in the sense that reductionism is a feature of modern bourgeois science. This topic will be dealt with in Essay Three Part Three, but, suffice it to say here that the threat of reductionism in the social sciences (where it does become openly ideological) can be neutralised on far more effective lines than has hitherto been the case -- if we abandon other covertly ideological ideas and theories imported from ancient, or even contemporaneous ruling-class views of reality (found, for example, in Hegel's work as well as in 'rotated Hegelianism' -- i.e., DM). Metaphysical Wholism is just as much a ruling-class form-of-thought as is Metaphysical Reductionism; both are the result of the imposition onto reality of an a priori scheme.]


Indeed, the strategy adopted by anti-ID-ers (see above -- as well as here and here) has been aimed at showing that structures, processes and organs (such as the human eye, bacterial flagella and the clotting of blood, for instance), could have arisen from small changes, accumulated over time, and thus that their 'complexity' can be reduced to the parts so assembled by natural forces.


(6) The above analogy with evolution is worth pursuing a little further. As we know, one of the more serious problems facing those who believe they can see purposeful design in nature is that they have ignored the results of a long and drawn-out process of historical development, whereby natural events have built complexity from the available 'simpler' parts over vast expanses of time. So, to use a hackneyed example, the human eye didn't spring forth in all its glory overnight; it took hundreds of millions of years to develop, and it now has the properties it has because natural selection shaped the properties of the parts made available to it by variation and mutation, and which properties helped ensure the reproductive success and survival of the populations of organisms involved -- and this was achieved with no overall plan, or aim behind it (since, clearly, nature isn't 'Mind', nor is it guided by 'Mind').


[The employment of certain metaphors here are analysed in more detail in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]


So, what appear to ID-ers and IDD-ers to be irreducibly complex functioning wholes and/or organisms are really the products of a lengthy process whereby such parts were slowly put into causal or structural relationship (but not into some sort of mysterious "internal-relation") with one another, and were thus built into the complex structures we see today.


Hence, IDD-ers make the same sort of mistake as creationists: they look at fully-formed organisms and see logical connections (or Ideal links) where there are only causal relations, assembled over time. Again, this isn't the least bit surprising, since IDD-ers lifted their ideas from Hegel, who borrowed them from other assorted Mystics and Theists -- indeed, the same tradition from which ID itself emerged! Moreover, as we saw in Part One of this Essay, these obscurantists thought that the world was the product of the Divine Logos, by means of which all things were logically inter-linked in a mysterious "Totality"/"Cosmos".


To be sure, DM-fans don't copy all the mistakes of the ID-ers and Creationists by denying descent with modification, etc. However, they do appeal to Engels's shaky first 'Law' to try to explain how novelty has arisen (or has 'emerged') over time. But, just like the 'miraculous' acts of 'God' (which can't be explained), how such a 'Law' can account for novelty remains a mystery, too; it just seems to 'happen'. According to DM-theorists, novelty just 'emerges', almost like magic, from certain states of matter. In like manner, for Christian Fundamentalists, design just 'emerged' from the 'Mind of God', in an equally obscure way. [As we will see later, this helps explain why DM-fans like to toy with Lamarckism (and, indeed, Lysenkoism), and other 'scientific' oddities.]


Of course, it could be argued that IDD-ers can't in any meaningful sense be compared with ID-ers since they are quite clear that nature, not 'God', assembled the parts of organisms over time. However, as noted above, they do argue that because of the 'Law' of the transformation of quantity into quality new properties 'emerged' as a result. Quite apart from the fact that this 'Law' is the next best thing to a joke, it plainly appeals to the same sort or 'emergent' properties not reducible to their parts that ID-ers try to sell us. While ID-ers appeal to myth and miracle, IDD-ers appeal to mysticism and 'emergence'.


Hocus Pocus by any other name...


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.]


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' is related to it by necessity, as an expression of 'His' nature, and (b) 'He' is related to it contingently -- as 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 that weren't the case, this would introduce radical contingency into creation, undermining 'God's Nature' and 'His' control of 'Creation'. As a result 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, and connected with, the 'Deity'; it issues forth from his nature 'eternally' and a-temporally, outside of time, since 'He' exists outside of time. Everything must therefore be inter-linked by 'internal', or 'necessary', relations, all of which were derived from the 'concepts' implicit in 'God', and which are also 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, at best, 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', logical or conceptual, -- 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. 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 called), ascertainable by thought alone. The only path to knowledge was through observation, experiment, and careful study of the 'Book of Nature'. It is no coincidence, therefore, 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 (2003c), 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, the Empiricists, and the so-called "mechanists", who stressed the connection between 'God's' free will and contingency in nature, alongside the primacy of empirical over a priori knowledge and 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 (2003d).]


Now, 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). See also, 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 controversy had been provoked, however, by the work of the Medieval Nominalists, whose theories also 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 concocted by the Natürphilosophers and Hegel -- and later, those invented 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 I wrote as an undergraduate, 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)).


(7) Finally, and once more, in DM (and despite what Spirkin says) it isn't too clear which is part and which is whole -- indeed, as we have seen in Part One of this Essay, it isn't at all clear what a DM-Whole itself is -- so that internal relations could be set up between any supposed 'parts'. [On this, see Note 15 below, and Note 11 above.]


15. For example, is the part here a single human organism? It looks like it must be if the example from DB is to work. Plainly, a human being is a whole of sorts. If so, is the part here a human organ? Again, it must be this if another example (concerning the heart) is to work. But, each organ is a whole, too. Perhaps, the part here is a cell? But, a cell is also a whole. Maybe then it is a molecule, an atom, a proton…? All are wholes in their own right. It seems that the only genuine part here is an 'elementary particle' (but then again, maybe not -- even they might be wholes!). However, few DM-theorists are prepared to admit that such elementary parts exist. But, even if they were to acknowledge their possible/actual existence, these awkward material beings would be inimical to DM-Wholism, anyway. That is because, as we saw in Essay Eight Part One, simple parts like this can't interact, and so can't change.


Perhaps then, parts can be wholes and wholes can be parts? As we have seen, Spirkin admits as much:


"The categories of whole and part are relative; they have meaning only in relation to each other. The whole exists thanks to its parts and in them. The parts, in their turn, cannot exist by themselves. No matter how small a particle we name, it is something whole and at the same time a part of another whole. The largest whole that we can conceive of is ultimately only a part of an infinitely greater whole. Everything in nature is a part of the universe. [Spirkin (1983), pp.99-100.]


If so, how is the entire nature of the part/whole relation to be spelt out? Which parts determine which whole, and which whole determines which parts? And how does a larger whole determine a lesser whole of which it is a part? Put the way Spirkin depicts things, the whole idea (no pun intended) is subjective in the extreme.


[On this, see Note 11 above.]


However, we met this problem in Essay Eight Parts One and Two, where we found it was impossible to decide what, if anything, DM-theorists mean by an object or a system, what 'internal contradictions' are, and what either an 'intrinsic' or an 'extrinsic' property is -- or even what is meant by "internal". [See also Note 1a, above.] We also discovered in Part One of this Essay that the DM-"Totality" is impossible to define, hence the overall motivating factor for DM-Wholism seems to be about as real as a $37 note.


Indeed, anyone who described this theory "hopelessly vague and confused" would be praising it far too highly!


16. It is worth recalling that a cat eating a mouse is just as 'natural' a process as grain turning into barley.


17. A de dicto necessity is one that simply follows from the way we use words -- for example, a regicide is necessarily a king killer, a cygnet is necessarily a baby swan, and a vixen is necessarily a female fox, since that is how we employ such words. A de re necessity, on the other hand, is one that is supposed to operate in nature (or society), and it is held to be independent of our use of language (although, it might influence how we employ language to depict it); these are often called also "natural necessities", and are generally connected with natural law. In Essay Twelve Part One, I explain why philosophical theses to the effect that there are such necessities in nature and society are non-sensical and incoherent.


Ian Hunt [in Hunt (1993)] has developed a strong case for dialectical Wholism (even though much of what he says is susceptible to many of the arguments and objections presented in other Essays at this site; for example, here). I will be devoting an Additional Essay to Hunt's book at a later stage. [Update: It has already been started here.]


Suffice it to say that Hunt's study revolves around wholes that feature in human society, an application which isn't being questioned here (even if the Traditional/Hegelian concepts employed to that end are).


There are forceful arguments to a similar end in Robinson (2003), and Redding (2007) -- this time, however, based partly on Aristotle's work.


[I will add several comments on this topic in a later re-write of this Essay.]


However, the line I will take can be seen from the approach I have adopted here.


18. Although, it isn't easy to see how G9 could fail to involve temporal considerations. If it didn't, it would be a lifeless abstraction of no use to dialecticians.


G9 was:


G9: W1 > Σpwn.


19. Trotsky argued as follows:


"A sophist will respond that a pound of sugar is equal to itself at 'any given moment'…. How should we really conceive the word 'moment'? If it is an infinitesimal interval of time, then a pound of sugar is subjected during the course of that 'moment' to inevitable changes. Or is the 'moment' a purely mathematical abstraction, that is, a zero of time? But everything exists in time; and existence itself is an uninterrupted process of transformation; time is consequently a fundamental element of existence. Thus the axiom 'A' is equal to 'A' signifies that a thing is equal to itself if it does not change, that is if it does not exist." [Trotsky (1971), pp.63-64.]


This seems to commit Trotsky to things that exist only in the present (otherwise his comment about transformation wouldn't seem to make much sense), but since time is a feature of four-dimensional reality (in Relativity Theory), this might suggest that things in the past can change, too!


It would, however, be unfair to attribute such views to Trotsky on the basis of this brief and badly thought-out passage. [Having said that, as far as can be ascertained, none of his epigones have yet commented on whether (or even how) this passage can be made consistent with Relativity Theory.]


Incidentally, on this theme, Jean van Heijenoort records Trotsky saying of Einstein, "He is essentially a mathematician" --, and he then adds this aside:


"This, of course, was not correct, for Einstein's cast of mind was entirely that of a physicist.... Trotsky's remark was an echo of the discussions that had taken place in Russia around 1922, when an attempt had been made to show that Einstein's theories were in no way a threat to Marxist materialism because they were somehow mathematical fictions." [Van Heijenoort (1978), p.145.]


Those familiar with the development of thought in the USSR (after, say, 1918) will know that Soviet theorists (following the lead given by Lenin in MEC) remained either sceptical of, or hostile toward the Idealism they perceived in some interpretations of Relativity Theory (and, indeed, in other areas of modern Physics). [On this, see Graham (1971, 1987, 1993), Joravsky (1961), Josephson (1991), Vucinich (1980, 2001), and Wetter (1958).]


Now, compare that with the radical change of heart recorded in, say, Omelyanovsky (1979), pp.123-30, where Einstein is said to have resolved certain 'contradictions' "dialectically" in order to present an "objective" view of reality --, and then further contrast it with what Bukharin, for example, was arguing a few generations earlier (i.e., circa 1937, just before he was executed):


"The development of theoretical physics and chemistry over the past two or three decades, the creation of a new physics and microphysics, has thus confirmed the teachings of dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism is not in the least afraid of the...idealist interpretation of Heisenberg's principle, and the similar interpretation of Einstein's theory of relativity. These are ugly ideological growths on the body of science; they have to be exposed and denounced. But they no longer have long to live.


"Lenin was therefore correct in his dispute with the 'idealist physics'...." [Bukharin (2005), p.205. Italic emphases added.]


Hop and skip from Idealism to 'objectivity' within 40 years!


However, Bukharin later spoke of the "genius" of Einstein (p.228) -- so it seems clear that although he disapproved of certain "idealist" interpretations imposed on Relativity Theory, he regarded it as the work of "genius", and perhaps, like Trotsky, he viewed it merely as a "mathematical fiction" -- a bit like the way that, say, the Roman Catholic Church initially received the work of Copernicus, thanks largely to Osiander's introduction to De Revolutionibus.


Of late, however, it seems that some Trotskyists have finally come to terms with (certain parts of) Relativity Theory --, cf., Woods and Grant (1995), pp.141-74, even though it is also clear from what these two say that they haven't quite twigged the fact that this theory implies that change is not an 'objective' feature of reality! [However, it is worth noting the exceptions to this interpretation, and the changes made in the second edition of RIRE, outlined in Mason (2012).]


Contrast this with the much more favourable comments advanced by Paul McGarr (which is probably because he has a PhD in Physics):


"This revolution arose from a profound crisis in science. By the time of Engels' death there were a series of glaring contradictions between different branches of physics. Theories which successfully explained different physical phenomena contradicted each other in fundamental ways. It was out of the attempt to resolve these contradictions that the new scientific revolution was born....


"Relativity theory was developed by Einstein between 1905 and 1915. The first step, known as 'special relativity', was born of a contradiction between theories of motion, dynamics, on the one hand, and theories of electromagnetism -- phenomena such as radio and light waves as well as electric and magnetic forces -- on the other. In dynamics, Newton's laws of motion had stood the test of over two centuries. Then in the 1860s James Clerk Maxwell had put the understanding of electromagnetism on a similar footing by describing all electromagnetic phenomena in terms of a series of simple and beautiful laws. Maxwell's equations were a huge breakthrough, they enabled the prediction of radio waves and led to a host of other developments, and they remain today a key element of modern science....


"A series of consequences follow from Einstein's arguments which seem to challenge commonsense notions of time and space. These new notions have since been tested and confirmed in countless experiments....


"Einstein later extended his theory to provide a new explanation of gravity, which had not been incorporated into his earlier theory of 'special relativity'. 'General relativity' starts from a simple fact. In Newton's theory mass appears, but there are two different masses -- what are known as the gravitational and inertial masses. One is the mass which is the source of the force of gravity, the other is the measure of a body's resistance to change of motion. In fact the two, though in Newtonian physics quite distinct aspects of matter, are always found to be the same. Weightlessness in a falling lift is one example. Einstein's theory is an attempt to explain facts like this. It attempts to incorporate gravity into the new relativistic dynamics.


"General relativity is not, as often presented, simply an exotic tool for speculation about the universe -- though it can help in that too. Something as straightforward as the orbit of the planet Mercury around the sun was never fully explained by Newton's laws -- despite the best efforts of generations of brilliant physicists, astronomers and mathematicians. General relativity now makes it possible to explain it. Again the theory was spectacularly confirmed in 1919 when its novel prediction that light from stars should bend when it passed close to the sun was shown to be correct....


"...Despite the difficulties however, the final form of the theory is the most beautiful and elegant in modern physics. And the key notion in the theory is not so difficult. It is simply that the old notion of matter which exists in a passive, unaffected background of space will not do. Rather matter and the space it exists in are connected and influence each other in fundamental ways. The geometry of space and the distribution of matter mutually determine each other.


"Neither special nor general relativity are in any way a challenge to materialism. By the turn of the century existing scientific theories simply could not explain a growing number of observed facts of nature and, moreover, the theories that explained different facets of nature contradicted each other. The new theories resolved those contradictions, explained the unexplained, and showed both why the old theories had worked within limits and why they broke down beyond those limits...." [McGarr (1994), pp.159-61.]


As we will see in Essay Thirteen Part Two, McGarr's interpretation of the history of science, and what motivates scientific change, is about as accurate as pre-Copernican Physics.


Nevertheless, there is no hint here that McGarr is aware of the fact that, if correct, this glitzy new theory means that change can't happen -- or that, at best, it is merely 'subjective'.


Goodbye Heraclitus, hello Parmenides!


[Whether or not Einstein's theory challenges 'commonsense' will be discussed in Essay Thirteen Part Two. However, the line I will take can be seen from the comments I have added to Essay Three Part Two.]


20. This was brought home quite dramatically in the 2010 World Cup, where each member of the English football team seriously underperformed.


There are several more problematic examples (for Holists to consider) in Nagel (1961), pp.380-97.


21. The ideas expressed in this part of DM are, of course, reminiscent of the ancient doctrine that the world is itself a huge organism, a cosmic egg -- an Orphic Egg, indeed -- which is, in fact, one source of the mystical ideas Hegel helped inflict on the human race:




Figure Seven: A Vastly More Honest

 -- And Believable -- Form Of 'Wholism'?


Of course, the point of all this dialectical emphasis on the holistic nature of organisms isn't merely academic, it is aimed at providing an analogy with class society, but more pointedly with Capitalism. However, since that topic will take us too far into HM, little more will be said about it here. Suffice it to say that the alleged 'logical' link between capitalists and workers (where one is said to imply, or to depend on the other) is in fact merely verbal. [I will say more about this in a later Essay; in the meantime, readers are re-directed here for more details.]


To give an analogy: if say, a limited resource, like a cake, is to be shared out between NN and MM, and NN is to receive more than half, then that will imply MM is to receive less than half. Based on what we mean by these words, we can make the required inferences in advance of sharing that cake, but nature (or even society considered as an object (or a set of relations) in it own right for the moment) can't do this. So, if a capitalist wants to set up a company, he/she will need to initiate certain causal chains that bring it about that he/she hires some workers. There is no logical link here, since robots will do. Of course, it could be argued that the entire capitalist class can't do this or there would no one to whom they could sell their products, but that too would be a causal consequence of a collective set of decisions. Moreover, based on what we mean by these words, we may make these inferences in advance of this taking place, but these inferences themselves don't take place in the outside world, as an expression of a 'logical' link between the items involved. To think otherwise would be to assume social reality was 'mind-like'.


It could be argued that these are causally "necessary" connections. I will say more about that in a later Essay (in the meantime, see here).


It could be objected that the relation between the capitalist and working classes can't be compared to the sharing of a cake! However, the point of that analogy was to show that what might at first sight look like a logical connection is in fact verbal and causal. [On this, see Hacker (2007), pp.57-89.]


[HM = Historical Materialism.]


21a. And it won't do to argue that the Sun, for example, is part of a developmental process that formed the Solar System or the rest of the Galaxy, and thus that this process is in fact the whole in question. That is because the vast bulk of this process no longer exists. In that case, this 'whole' would be a phantom totality, at best.


Furthermore, this is quite apart from the fact that being merely a part of something doesn't establish the 'logical' or 'internal' links DM-fans require. There are no logical links connecting the origin of the Solar System with the formation of the Galaxy. Or, if there are, we are still waiting for the 'dialectical demonstration' which establishes that conclusion -- assertion isn't proof, of course.


22. We saw (here) that teleology like this was one consequence of the DM-thesis that wholes can't be reduced to their parts -- and that this idea doesn't distinguish DM from ID.


[ID = Intelligent Design.]


Moreover, it is worth asking whether the fan belt in the above example was in fact a fan belt before it was made. On this 'new' interpretation, it seems it would be an intended design that makes a fan belt a car part. But, the car in question might not have been made when the intention to make the belt was formed. Of course, that would turn this car into an intentional whole itself since, manifestly, it wouldn't yet exist. In such an eventuality, we would perhaps have to declare that these intentional items related to one another as 'ghostly' parts to 'spooky' wholes -- but then it might prove impossible to say which was the greater: this 'phantom' part or that 'spectral' whole?


Of course, if the manufacture of this 'intentional car' was itself cancelled, the 'intentional fan belt' would thereby cease even to be a ghostly fan belt; it would, in effect, have been exorcised by whomever it was in the nether world who had erased its apparitional identity.



"There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this." [Hamlet 1.5.]

[The reason for the many Hamlet references scattered throughout this Essay will be plain to anyone who has read Part One.]


Among the many other questions worth asking are the following: Is the part (in this intentional whole) the fan belt after it had been made, so that it would then relate either to cars that might or might not have been assembled, or to cars (any cars) that have lost or damaged their fan belts? Or, does a fan belt, as a part, relate to the entire set of (possible, intentional) cars it was designed to fit? This would, of course, mean that the whole (in this latest part/whole relation) was one of potential (not actual) set inclusion. In that case, the part would be the entire set of made and eventually-to-be-made fan belts designed to fit a whole that would itself comprise the entire set of cars (made and yet-to-be-made), designed (or one day to-be-designed) to have these potential fan belts fit them!


Again: is the part here the original design for the fan belt, and is the whole the corresponding design of all the cars intended to accommodate these potential fan belts? Or something else?


Consider the other example mentioned earlier --, that cake. Are the raisins in a cake still raisins even though they are no longer in the packet, but now in the cake? Are all the ingredients of a cake "more" than they were before they were mixed into that cake? Indeed, are raisins actually raisins even when they were in the packet? If we are to be consistent intentional-Wholists, raisins are surely only raisins when on a tree, before they became raisins; just as the above fan belts were only fan belts before they were made, when they were queuing up in 'intentional space' ready to be put into 'intentional/cars'.


22a. It could be objected that it was argued earlier that a heart that had been removed from a body isn't the same as it had been when inside that body. But here the opposite is claimed. Which is it to be?


However, unlike DM-fans, I won't employ the Nixon defence here and claim that this apparent contradiction should merely be "grasped", and then conveniently forgotten, since the earlier argument was aimed at putting pressure on dialecticians to say what they mean by "part" and "whole", as well as to underline the fact that they use such seriously impoverished conceptual tools that they themselves will only ever struggle to say clearly what it is that DM commits them.


In this part of the Essay, I am merely appealing to everyday uses of the word "same" (and related terms) --, not to the sort of obscure jargon used by Hegel and his groupies --, to make a point that parts and wholes aren't related in the way DM-apologists suppose.


Now, the only use of these notions to which I myself am committed is the everyday use. My employment of traditional jargon is merely ad hominem.


[Note that the Wikipedia article (linked to above) brands the above as a fallacy, when it is in fact merely an informal fallacy, and then only sometimes. When used to expose the inconsistencies in another's beliefs (as is the case here), it is eminently sound.]


23. It seems that when we use tools, we regard them as extensions to our bodies -- or so scientists tell us. The question then is: How could we do this if tools aren't in fact body parts, and plainly aren't organically linked to our bodies? Is a hammer more-of-a-hammer when we use it to bang in a few nails? Perhaps these scientists need to be told of the error of their ways and are encouraged to read Hegel's Logic, which will soon put them right.


It needs underlining here that the analysis offered in the main body of this Essay is aimed at defusing the metaphysical one-liner -- expressed in G3 --, it isn't directed against the many and varied material or causal connections that plainly exist between human organs and human bodies, which are easily expressible in ordinary language (when augmented with medical terminology, perhaps).


G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.


24. How 'Materialist Dialectics' Leads Its Adherents Astray


[This forms part of Note 24.]


The nature of the errors DM-advocates continually make is easily illustrated by (i) A consideration of the manner in which DM-theses like these have been 'discovered', and (ii) Their subsequent, sudden and miraculously acquired, 'necessary' status.


DM-'laws' are generally cobbled-together in one or more of the following ways:


(1) Dialecticians will often attempt to construct a superficial (but idiosyncratic) grammatical and/or 'logical' analysis of a limited range of exemplary 'propositions' or ideas, almost invariably copied off one another from generation to generation (and originally from Hegel and his mystical forebears). From these they 'derive' what look like 'super-empirical truths' (theses which apply to all of reality, for all of time), hastily imposed on nature on the pretence that they haven't been. The former include Lenin's attempt to show that everything in existence is a UO based his 'in-depth' one line 'analysis' of the sentence "John is a man", along with Trotsky's conclusions about 'identity' based on a brief examination of few schematic letter "A"s and an imaginary bag of sugar!


(2) DM-theorists will sometimes attempt to derive analogous 'super-empirical truths' from, or base them upon, a handful of rudimentary 'thought experiments' and superficially analysed anecdotal examples -- for example, the oft-repeated discussion of motion (cats moving about on mats, etc.), the transformation of 'quantity into quality' (heads becoming bald, water boiling, the friable fighting ability of the Mamelukes when faced with varying numbers of French soldiers, etc.), the negation of the negation (seeds germinating, cells dying, etc.) and UOs (e.g., fathers and sons -- although, significantly, not mothers and daughters, or fathers and daughters, or even mothers and sons -- life and death, magnets, etc.).


(3) DM-apologists often try to insert into all of this a little elementary 'conceptual analysis' -- for instance, Engels's discussions of motion, his analysis of the metaphysical implications of subject-predicate sentences (a gambit Lenin also used), Trotsky's 'analysis' of identity, Lenin's comments on the nature of matter and motion, and even TAR's own attempt to analyse "parts and wholes", "facts", and "friendship". [Rees (1998), pp.5, 77, 109-10, 131.]


All of these are discussed in detail in various Essays at the site (follow the above links). [Rees's 'analysis' of "friendship" will be examined in Essay Three Part Four.]


One further characteristic of easily discovered universal truths like these (conveniently 'hidden', for example, in the meanings of a few words or in the structure of subject-predicate propositions) is the fact that they aren't based on any evidence -- notwithstanding the subsequent and feeble attempts sometimes made by DM-apologists to produce a few supporting facts to substantiate these a priori theses (which facts actually tell a different story when examined). Rather, these 'verities' are invariably derived from brief, superficial or limited analyses of a few carefully selected words, concepts or examples, compounded by a hasty projection onto the world of the misapplied rules for the use of the terms employed in each case -- in the belief that substantive truths can be effortlessly concocted this way. [These controversial claims are defended at length in Essays Two and Twelve Part One.]


This segue from specially-selected and suitably-doctored words to universal truths about the world invariably goes unnoticed, certainly un-remarked, in DM-circles. In fact, this conceptual sleight-of-hand is so easy to miss that dialecticians imagine the opposite is in fact the case: that their examples actually address 'objective' features of reality, and that their theses have been read from nature rather than having been derived from a determination to use words in rather odd ways. Indeed, it is virtually impossible for those who indulge in this 'logo-magic' to recognise when they are doing it -- even after it has been pointed out to them. [Here is a recent example.]


This is partly because the supposedly 'necessary truths' that emerge at the end of this process look like genuine philosophical gems. Clearly, it is the metaphysical sparkle here that distracts the incautious eye.


Hence, what diverts attention in the present case is the production of a motley collection of "emergent" or "supervenient" properties out of the dialectical conjurer's metaphysical hat, as it were -- to change the image. [On this, see Essay Three Part Three, when it is published.]


As is the case with genuine conjuring tricks, the audience is mystified. Nevertheless, in this case -- unlike stage magic -- even the metaphysical magician involved is baffled. That is because it is unclear to audience and trickster alike where such properties could possibly have come from, how they got here or how they are related to the metaphysical hat from which they had been so unceremoniously wrenched.


Connected with these examples of DM-legerdemain is the accompanying claim that these "emergent" properties "can't be reduced to the parts" upon which they had supposedly been "based". We are never told why these novel properties can't be so reduced -- only that they can't. So, perhaps we'd better not ask. [That's another problem "Nixoned"!]


The accuracy of the above allegations (at least, with respect to the DM-analysis of parts and wholes) can be judged from a consideration of the only possible response a DM-fan could make to anyone who denied, for example, that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts -- or, indeed, to anyone who rejected the idea that there were such things as "emergent" properties and "internal relations", to begin with. Such a response would soon involve the DM-apologist pointing out that the aforementioned sceptic was ignoring what words like "part", "whole", "heart", "organism", and other associated terms, really meant. The argument would then rapidly become embroiled in a dispute about the meaning of certain words.


[MEC = Materialism and Empirio-Criticism; i.e., Lenin (1972).]


It could be objected that this isn't so. Indeed, this entire issue revolves around a dispute about objective reality itself. [This is precisely the line Lenin took in MEC -- more on this in Essay Thirteen Part One.] However, anyone tempted to use this response would have to ignore their own reaction when challenged in the above manner: in order to correct those who questioned homely 'truths' like G3, it would be no use trying to get a DM-sceptic to look harder, or consider more evidence. The problem wouldn't be one of eyesight, but of one of understanding. Which is why DM-fans often resort to the "He/she just doesn't 'understand' dialectics" defence. So, when pressed, DM-theorists soon find they have to appeal to the supposed meanings of words, and to "understanding", to substantiate or defend their theses. That alone shows this isn't a matter of evidence but one of comprehension.


G3: The whole is more than the sum of its parts.


This also explains why DM-theorists are so confident about the universal and eternal applicability of their theses -- when in fact the latter were only ever based on a superficial analysis of a limited range of examples, anecdotes, thought experiments and serially over-worked DM-clichés.


Hence, if DM-principles actually follow from what certain words are taken to mean, their universal applicability is a function of linguistic usage, too -- but not of 'objective reality'. [The idea that this 'reflects' reality has been batted out of the park here. It will be given even more detailed consideration In Essay Twelve Part Four.]


In that case, the truth of DM-theses isn't dependent on evidential support (even if there were much to speak of). And, because this fact is all too easily missed (for reasons that are examined in Essay Nine Parts One and Two, and in several Parts of Essay Twelve (for example, here)), DM-theorists find it impossible to spot the rather oversized beam in their own eye when they complain about the relatively microscopic mote in that of their critics.


Indeed, that is why the counter-examples advanced in this Essay can only be neutralised by a more careful use of words, or by the advocacy of other linguistic principles and/or conventions (such as those governing the use of words for identity, parts, wholes and change, etc.). As we have seen, the interpretation of the hackneyed examples DM-theorists constantly employ depends on a specific, often idiosyncratic, use of language -- which use generally contains hidden ambiguities and equivocations that the counter-examples advanced in this and other Essays force to the surface.


In fact, as social beings themselves, DM-theorists could find no way out of this circle other than by an appeal to the use of language -- that is, if they hope to make themselves comprehensible to others, let alone to one another.


The failure to take into account the socially-sanctioned rules we already have for the use of words connected with parts, wholes, identity, and movement (etc.) helps explain why so many DM-theses readily collapse into incoherence even upon superficial examination. Since language itself is a sort of interconnected 'totality', when its rules are ignored or flouted, it soon becomes impossible to say anything at all without surreptitiously trying to re-deploy (i.e., misuse or distort) them in a belated attempt to minimise the resulting incoherence. We saw this in regard to Trotsky's attempt to attack the LOI by means of a back-door use of that very same 'law', Engels's analysis of motion and now in the discussion of the part/whole relation.


As Marx noted:


"We have shown that thoughts and ideas acquire an independent existence in consequence of the personal circumstances and relations of individuals acquiring independent existence. We have shown that exclusive, systematic occupation with these thoughts on the part of ideologists and philosophers, and hence the systematisation of these thoughts, is a consequence of division of labour, and that, in particular, German philosophy is a consequence of German petty-bourgeois conditions. The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphases added.]


To be sure, it is arguable that Marx was talking about German Idealists, but his comments certainly apply in equal measure to the work of all traditional theorists, especially when he also said similar things about philosophers in general. [More on this in Essay Twelve Part One.]


That is why the present study focuses on the use of language so much: to make this point obvious, and to expose latent DM-non-sense and incoherence as patent DM-non-sense and incoherence.


This means, therefore, that the part/whole metaphysic depends on misconstrued rules for the use of a handful of words, and not on fundamental aspects of reality.


Finally, it is worth re-iterating the point that none of the theses mentioned above concerning the part/whole relation are being asserted or denied in this Essay. Since the distinction itself (and the relation between parts and wholes) is a grammatical feature of our socially-sanctioned use of certain words, and not a truth about the world (even if it enables us to state such truths), the supposition that these words express substantive theses is non-sensical itself. And, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the negation of non-sense is also non-sense.


These and other similarly controversial claims will be defended in Essay Twelve, as well as several others to be published in the Additional Essays section at a later date.


Appendix A -- Further Examples Of Non-Wholist Science


Over the next few years I will post a series of examples of scientific progress that further underline the non-Wholist nature of much of science -- and, indeed, the world.


Synthetic Chromosomes


Almost as if to show that the "whole makes the part" mantra is false, scientists have now manufactured synthetic chromosomes, which feat would, of course, be impossible if Wholism were true. That is because, if the "whole made the part" (etc.), a set of molecules would only constitute a chromosome if they had been formed naturally as part of the metabolic processes inside a given organism, and not otherwise. [This is just a variation on the car parts example we met earlier.]


"Scientists hail synthetic chromosome advance


"David Shukman


"Scientists have created the first synthetic chromosome for yeast in a landmark for biological engineering. Previously synthetic DNA has been designed and made for simpler organisms such as bacteria. As a form of life whose cells contain a nucleus, yeast is related to plants and animals and shares 2,000 genes with us. So the creation of the first of yeast's 16 chromosomes has been hailed as 'a massive deal' in the emerging science of synthetic biology. The genes in the original chromosome were replaced with synthetic versions and the finished manmade chromosome was then successfully integrated into a yeast cell.


"The new cell was then observed to reproduce, passing a key test of viability. Yeast is a favoured target for this research because of its well-established use in key industries such as brewing and baking and its potential for future industrial applications. One company in California has already used synthetic biology to create a strain of yeast that can produce artemisinin, an ingredient for an anti-malarial drug.


"The synthesis of chromosome III in yeast was undertaken by an international team and the findings are published in the journal Science (yeast chromosomes are normally designated by Roman numerals).


"Chucking the junk


"Dr Jef Boeke of the Langone Medical Centre at New York University, who led the team, described the achievement as 'moving the needle in synthetic biology from theory to reality'.

In an interview with BBC News, he said: 'What's really exciting about it is the extent to which we have changed the sequence and still come out with a happy healthy yeast at the end.'


"The new chromosome, known as SynIII, involved designing and creating 273,871 base pairs of DNA -- fewer than the 316,667 pairs in the original chromosome. The researchers removed repeated sections in the original DNA and so-called 'junk' DNA known not to code for any proteins -- and they then added 'tags' to the chromosome.


"Dr Boeke said that despite making more than 50,000 changes to the DNA code in the chromosome, the yeast was not only 'hardy' but had also gained new functions. 'We have taught it a few tricks by inserting some special widgets into its chromosome.'


"One new function is a chemical switch that allows researcher to 'scramble' the chromosome into thousands of different variants making genetic manipulations far easier. The hope is that the ability to create synthetic strains of yeast will allow these organisms to be harnessed for a wide range of uses including the manufacture of vaccines or more sustainable forms of biofuel.


"While genetic modification involves transferring genes from one organism to another, synthetic biology goes far further by designing and then constructing entirely new genetic material. Opponents of the field argue that scientists are 'playing God' by designing new forms of life with the danger of unexpected consequences. A report for the Lloyds insurance market in 2009 warned that the new technology could pose unforeseen risks.


"The synthesis of chromosome III is the first stage of an international project to synthesise yeast's entire genome over the next few years. A team at Imperial College London is tackling chromosome XI, one of the largest with 670,000 base pairs, using a similar technique of creating 'chunks' of bases to insert into the yeast's genome.


"New tricks


"Dr Tom Ellis, who is leading the work, described the creation of the first synthetic chromosome for a eukaryotic organism -- the branch of life including plants, animals and fungi -- as a 'massive deal. Yeast is the king of biotech -- and it's great to use synthetic biology to add in new functions. The fitness of the chromosome is in line with the natural one. Making all these design changes has not caused any major issues -- it behaves as it should -- and it's great to see that others can do it.'


"The Imperial scientists have so far synthesised about one third of the DNA for their chromosome XI with about 5-10% inserted. Their research includes developing synthetic genes for yeast that would allow it to produce antibiotics and to turn agricultural waste into biofuel. With critics arguing that synthetic biology involves meddling in Nature with unknown effects, Dr Ellis and others stress that the new organisms are designed with in-built restrictions.


"The strains of yeast containing synthetic genetic material can only survive in a lab environment with specialist support. To highlight the benefits of the work, Dr Boeke stresses the importance of yeast throughout human history and its potential for the future.


"'Yeast has an ancient industrial relationship with Man -- the baking of bread and the brewing of alcoholic beverages dates back [to] the Fertile Crescent and today the industrial relationship goes far beyond that because we're making medicines, vaccines and biofuels using yeast.'


"The paper describing the first synthetic chromosome concludes with a far-reaching vision looking beyond yeast to more sophisticated organisms, saying: 'it will soon become feasible to synthesise eukaryotic genomes, including plant and animal genomes'.


"In his interview, Dr Boeke explained that this will not be immediate but is getting closer. 'It's still aways off in the future to do entire chromosomes for those organisms but certainly mini chromosomes containing tens or even hundreds of genes are definitely within the foreseeable future,' he said.


"It was only in 2010 that the scientific world was stunned when Dr Craig Venter unveiled the first synthetic genome for bacteria. So this new science is gathering pace and growing in ambition." [Quoted from here; accessed 27/03/2014. Links added; several paragraphs merged to save space. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site; emphases added. See also here.]


Will we now see DL-fans object that scientists are 'playing Hegel' by designing new forms of non-Wholist life? Only non-dialectical time will tell.


Scientists Make A Laboratory-Grown Kidney


"Scientists make 'laboratory-grown' kidney



"A kidney 'grown' in the laboratory has been transplanted into animals where it started to produce urine, US scientists say. Similar techniques to make simple body parts have already been used in patients, but the kidney is one of the most complicated organs made so far.


"A study, in the journal Nature Medicine, showed the engineered kidneys were less effective than natural ones. But regenerative medicine researchers said the field had huge promise. Kidneys filter the blood to remove waste and excess water. They are also the most in-demand organ for transplant, with long waiting lists.


"The researchers' vision is to take an old kidney and strip it of all its old cells to leave a honeycomb-like scaffold. The kidney would then be rebuilt with cells taken from the patient. This would have two major advantages over current organ transplants.


"The tissue would match the patient, so they would not need a lifetime of drugs to suppress the immune system to prevent rejection. It would also vastly increase the number of organs available for transplant. Most organs which are offered are rejected, but they could be used as templates for new ones.


"Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have taken the first steps towards creating usable engineered kidneys. They took a rat kidney and used a detergent to wash away the old cells. The remaining web of proteins, or scaffold, looks just like a kidney, including an intricate network of blood vessels and drainage pipes.


"This protein plumbing was used to pump the right cells to the right part of the kidney, where they joined with the scaffold to rebuild the organ. It was kept in a special oven to mimic the conditions in a rat's body for the next 12 days.


"When the kidneys were tested in the laboratory, urine production reached 23% of natural ones. The team then tried transplanting an organ into a rat. Once inside the body, the kidney's effectiveness fell to 5%.


"Yet the lead researcher, Dr Harald Ott, told the BBC that restoring a small fraction of normal function could be enough: 'If you're on haemodialysis then kidney function of 10% to 15% would already make you independent of haemodialysis. It's not that we have to go all the way.' He said the potential was huge: 'If you think about the United States alone, there's 100,000 patients currently waiting for kidney transplants and there's only around 18,000 transplants done a year. I think the potential clinical impact of a successful treatment would be enormous.'


"There is a huge amount of further research that would be needed before this is even considered in people. The technique needs to be more efficient so a greater level of kidney function is restored. Researchers also need to prove that the kidney will continue to function for a long time. There will also be challenges with the sheer size of a human kidney. It is harder to get the cells in the right place in a larger organ.


"Prof Martin Birchall, a surgeon at University College London, has been involved in windpipe transplants produced from scaffolds. He said: 'It's extremely interesting. It is really impressive. They've addressed some of the main technical barriers to making it possible to use regenerative medicine to address a really important medical need.'


"He said that being able to do this for people needing an organ transplant could revolutionise medicine: 'It's almost the nirvana of regenerative medicine, certainly from a surgical point of view, that you could meet the biggest need for transplant organs in the world -- the kidney.'" [Quoted from here; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space. Accessed 11/04/2014. See also here, and here.]


DM-fans are encouraged to write to these scientists and tell them to stop wasting time and money on this project since they (DM-fans) have a 200-year old book devoted to Christian Mysticism that tells them this sort of thing is impossible.


Doctors Implant A Lab-Grown Vagina


'Reactionary' science, it seems, is gaining momentum:


"Doctors implant lab-grown vagina



"Four women have had new vaginas grown in the laboratory and implanted by doctors in the US. A tissue sample and a biodegradable scaffold were used to grow vaginas in the right size and shape for each woman as well as being a tissue match. They all reported normal levels of desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction; and painless intercourse.


"Experts said the study, published in the Lancet, was the latest example of the power of regenerative medicine. In each woman the vagina did not form properly while they were still inside their mother's womb, a condition known as vaginal aplasia. Current treatments can involve surgically creating a cavity, which is then lined with skin grafts or parts of the intestine.


"Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina used pioneering technology to build vaginas for the four women who were all in their teenage years at the time. Scans of the pelvic region were used to design a tube-like 3D-scaffold for each patient. A small tissue biopsy was taken from the poorly developed vulva and grown to create a large batch of cells in the laboratory.


"Muscle cells were attached to the outside of the scaffold and vaginal-lining cells to the inside. The vaginas were carefully grown in a bioreactor until they were suitable to be surgically implanted into the patients. One of the women with an implanted vagina, who wished to keep her name anonymous, said: 'I believe in the beginning when you find out you feel different. I mean while you are living the process, you are seeing the possibilities you have and all the changes you'll go through. Truly I feel very fortunate because I have a normal life, completely normal.'


"All the women reported normal sexual function. Vaginal aplasia can lead to other abnormalities in the reproductive organs, but in two of the women the vagina was connected to the uterus. There have been no pregnancies, but for those women it is theoretically possible.


"Dr Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest, told the BBC News website: 'Really for the first time we've created a whole organ that was never there to start with, it was a challenge.' He said a functioning vagina was a 'very important thing' for these women's lives and witnessing the difference it made to them 'was very rewarding to see'. This is the first time the results have been reported. However, the first implants took place eight years ago.


"Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have used similar techniques to reconstruct the noses of patients after skin cancer. It could replace the need to take cartilage from the ribs or ears in order to rebuild the damage caused by cutting the cancer away.


"Prof Martin Birchall, who has worked on lab-grown windpipes, commented: 'These authors have not only successfully treated several patients with a difficult clinical problem, but addressed some of the most important questions facing translation of tissue engineering technologies. The steps between first-in-human experiences such as those reported here and their use in routine clinical care remain many, including larger trials with long-term follow-up, the development of clinical grade processing, scale-out, and commercialisation.'" [Quoted from here; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged to save space. Accessed 11/04/2014.]


None of this would be possible if DM-Wholism were true.


Cartilage Grown In The Lab


"Cartilage growing to rebuild body parts 'within three years'


"BBC News 29/12/15


"Patients needing surgery to reconstruct body parts such as noses and ears could soon have treatment using cartilage which has been grown in a lab. The process involves growing someone's cells in an incubator and then mixing them with a liquid which is 3D printed into the jelly-like shape needed. It is then put back in an incubator to grow again until it is ready. Researchers in Swansea hope to be among the first in the world to start using it on humans within three years.


"'In simple terms, we're trying to grow new tissue using human cells,' said Prof Iain Whitaker, consultant plastic surgeon at the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery at Morriston Hospital. 'We're trialling using 3D printing which is a very exciting potential modality to make these relatively complex structures. Most people have heard a lot about 3D printing and that started with 3D printing using plastics and metals. That has now developed so we can consider printing biological tissue using bio-printing, which is very different. We're trying to print biological structures using human cells, and provide the right environment and the right timing so it can grow into tissue that we can eventually put into a human. It would be to reconstruct lost body parts such as part of the nose or the ear and ultimately large body parts including bone, muscle and vessels.'


"The team of surgeons are working with scientists and engineers who have built a 3D printer specifically for this work. Prof Whittaker, who is also the chairman of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Swansea University's medical school, said the project started in 2012 but research in the field has been going on for more than 20 years. He said the work would have to be tested on animals and go though an ethics process [but not a 'dialectical logic' test -- RL] before being used on humans.


"'The good news in the future is, if our research is successful, within two months you'd be able to recreate a body part which was not there without having to resort to taking it from another part of the body which would cause another defect or scar elsewhere, ' he added.


"How The Process Works


"1) Cells are taken from a tiny sample of cartilage during the initial operation and grown in an incubator over several weeks.


"2) The shape of the missing body part is scanned and fed into a computer.


"3) It is then 3D printed using a special liquid formula combined with the live cells for form the jelly-like structure.


"4) Reagents are then added to strengthen the structure.


"5) It is put into an incubator with a flow of nutrients to supply the cells with food so they can grow and produce their own cartilage.


"6) The structure will then be tested to see if it is string enough to be eventually implanted  into patients." [Quoted from here. Accessed 24/04/2016. Paragraphs merged to save space; quotation marks and formatting altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]


Again, this would be impossible if DM-Wholism were true.


More to follow...




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