Essay Eleven Part One: The "Totality" -- A Complete Mystery, Even To Dialecticians

 

Technical Preliminaries

 

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Preface

 

Apart from Essay Three Part Two this has been one of the most difficult to write. That is partly because so little has been published by dialecticians themselves over the last 200 years that offers readers any help at all understanding what they mean by "the Totality" (or "the Whole"), as will soon become apparent to anyone who is tempted to think otherwise -- and, of course, who bothers to read this Essay!

 

In fact, tackling this particular topic is what one imagines swimming through syrup would be like -- but even then one would at least have something to struggle against. With respect to "the Totality" (and "the Whole") there is precious little. Admittedly, there a handful of dialecticians who vaguely gestured at explaining what "the Totality" is supposed to be, but beyond the usual highly compressed and practically useless minimum amount of information (quoted extensively below), the bemused reader faces what is in effect a blank page, for all the good it does. This theoretical desert has been made worse by what turns out to be well over a century of prevarication and deflection (by dialecticians themselves) with respect to this supposedly core concept.

 

The reason often given for this is that it should be pretty obvious to one and all what "the Totality" is, but as we are about to find out, that isn't even remotely the case.

 

Nevertheless, it is important to emphasise up front that Holist theories of human social and economic development won't be considered in what follows (unless, of course, such ideas impact negatively on revolutionary politics or they involve the use of obscure Hegelian jargon), since that would introduce issues integral to Historical Materialism [HM], a theory I largely ignore in these Essays (for reasons outlined here). In that case, both Parts of Essay Eleven are largely but not exclusively devoted to criticism of 'dialectical' theories applied to the natural world.

 

Unfortunately, some parts of this Essay are a little repetitive. I have endeavoured to rectify this relatively minor fault and will continue to do so in future re-writes. Having said that it is worth adding that books and articles devoted to Dialectical Materialism [DM] are themselves highly repetitive, so any criticism of this theory/method can hardly avoid a little of it, too.

 

Independently of that, long experience has taught me that unless the same point is made several times over (perhaps from different angles), it fails to register in far too many dialectical heads (for reasons explored in Essay Nine Part Two).

 

In what follows, I have hyphenated my use of the word "interconnection" (and related terms) for reasons that should become clear as this Essay unfolds.

 

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

 

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

 

The difference between DM and HM, as I see it, is explained here.

 

Several readers have complained about the number of links I have inserted in these Essays, because they say it makes them difficult to read. Of course, DM-supporters can hardly lodge that complaint since they believe everything is inter-connected, which must surely apply to Essays that attempt to debunk that very idea. However, to those who do find they make my Essays difficult to read I say this: ignore them, unless you want to access further evidence and argument in support of a particular point, or a certain topic fires your interest.

 

Others wonder why I have linked to subjects or issues that are part of common knowledge (such as recent US Presidents, UK Prime Ministers, the names of rivers, mountains, films, or even words that are in common use). I have done so for the following reason: my Essays are read all over the world and by people from all 'walks of life'. In that case, I can't assume that topics which are part of common knowledge in 'the west' are equally well-known across the planet -- or, indeed, by those who haven't had the benefit of the sort of education that is generally available in the 'advanced economies', or any at all. Some of my readers also struggle with English, so any help I can give them I will continue to provide.

 

Finally, on this specific topic, several of the aforementioned links connect to web-pages that regularly change their URLs or, indeed, which vanish from the Internet altogether. While I try to update such links when it becomes apparent that they have changed or the sites themselves have disappeared, I can't possibly keep on top of this all the time. I would greatly appreciate it, therefore, if readers informed me of any dead links they happen to notice.

 

In general, links to 'Haloscan' no longer seem to work, so readers needn't tell me about them! Links to RevForum, RevLeft, Socialist Unity and The North Star also appear to have died.

 

It is also worth pointing out that a good 25% of my case against DM (in this Essay) has been relegated to the End Notes. That has been done to allow the main body of the Essay to flow a little more smoothly. This means that if readers want fully to appreciate my case against DM, they should consult that additional material. In many cases, in those Notes, I have qualified my argument, often adding greater detail and additional supporting evidence. Indeed, I have even raised objections to my own remarks (some of which might seem obvious, but many aren't -- and some might even have occurred to the reader), to which I have then responded. I explain why I have adopted this approach in Essay One.

 

If readers skip this material, then my replies to any objections they might have will be missed, as will this extra evidence and argument, alongside those qualifications. Since I have been debating this theory with dialecticians for well over thirty years, I've heard all the objections there are!

 

[I have also linked to many of the older on-line debates here.]

 

Finally, phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", "ruling-class ideology" (etc.), employed throughout 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, indeed, "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 has almost exclusively been promoted by thinkers who either relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the prevailing system for the elite.**

 

However, that issue 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 the above applies to DM has been explained in several other Essays published at this site (especially here, here and here). In addition to the three links in the previous paragraph, I have summarised my argument (but written with absolute beginners in mind), here.]

 

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

 

As of December 2023, this Essay is just over 217,500 words long -- a significant percentage of which consists of lengthy and extensive quotes from the DM-classics and the writings of subsequent DM-theorists. In addition, a large section of approximately 40,000 words from this Essay's old Appendix A has now been moved to a new location, which I am currently re-formatting, re-editing and re-writing.

 

A much shorter summary of some of the main ideas expressed in this Essay can be accessed here.

 

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

 

[Latest Update: 04/12/23.]

 

Quick Links

 

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(1)  The Mysterious "Totality"

 

(a) The Aims Of Essay Eleven, Parts One And Two

 

(b) Hamlet -- Without The Prince

 

(c) 'God', The "Totality" And Negative Theology

 

(d) The "Totality Is Everything" Gambit

 

(2)  What Do The Dialectical Classics Themselves Have To Say?

 

(a) Totally Empty

 

(3)  Where The Shoe Originally Pinched -- John Rees's Theory

 

(a) Where This Project Began

 

(b) John Rees Bottles It

 

(c) Putting The Part Before The Horse [That's Not A Typo!]

 

(4)  It's An Awful Job -- But Someone Has To Do It

 

(a) Defining The Indefinable

 

(b) Totalitarian Ontology

 

(c) A Whole With A Gaping Hole In The Middle

 

(d) A Fit-Up?

 

(e) Is The Past Ideal?

 

(f) The Elusive Membership List

 

(g) An Ontological Blank Cheque Issued To Scientists?

 

(h) 'Objectively' On, Then Off, The Cosmic Membership List [CML]

 

(i) A Totally Porous Boundary

 

(5)  Universal Inter-Connection -- Fact Or Fantasy?

 

(a) Precisely What Is Inter-Connected With What?

 

(b) Inter-Connectionism Comes Apart At The Seams

 

(c) Maximal Inter-Connectionism

 

(d) Non-Maximal Inter-Connectionism

 

(e) Universal Inter-Connection Incompatible With Change Through 'Internal Contradiction'

 

(6)  The Epistemological Definition

 

(a) What Do We Know?

 

(b) Kant's 'Noumenon' By Any Other Name

 

(c) Engels's Quasi-Theology

 

(7)  The "Totality" -- Universal And A Priori

 

(a) Surely Not

 

(b) What Else Could A "Totality" Be?

 

(c) Is Dialectical Materialism A Conventionalist Theory?

 

(d) Is Dialectical Materialism A Metaphysical Theory?

 

(e) Is Dialectical Materialism A Scientific Theory?

 

(f) Guilty As Charged -- Dialectical Materialism Isn't A Scientific Theory

 

(g) Dialectical Materialism In Hot Water

 

(8) Interlude One --  Are 'Dialectical Contradictions' Different?

 

(a) Contradictions And 'Defective Theories'

 

(α) 'Good vs 'Bad' Contradictions

 

(i)  Type (A) And Type (B) Contradictions

 

(ii)  Type (C) And Type (D) Contradictions

 

(iii) Supporting Quotes

 

(b) Problems Begin To Emerge

 

(c) The Dialecticians' Dilemma

 

(d) DM "Spirals" Off Into Oblivion

 

(9) Interlude Two -- The 'Heraclitean Flux', Fact Or Fantasy?

 

(a) Maximal Heracliteanism [MAH] -- Or, 'Cratylean' Change

 

(i)  Ultra-MAH -- UMAH

 

(ii) Cut Price MAH -- CMAH

 

(b) Mao To The Rescue?

 

(c) Minimal Heracliteanism -- MERD

 

(d) Are There Any Remaining 'Dialectical-Straws' Left That Are Worth Clutching?

 

(e) Ollman And Rees Give The Game Away

 

(f) A Last Metaphysical Throw Of The  Dice?

 

(10) The Fetishism Of The Word

 

(a) The Repeated Collapse Of DM Into Absurdity

 

(b) Is DM Just A 'Method'?

 

(11)  Pick Your Mystic

 

(12) This Essay Is Way Over The Top

 

(13) Via Negativa? -- Or Viagra?

 

(14) Appendix A -- Scientists Frequently Change Their Minds (New Location)

 

(15) Appendix B -- Alexander Spirkin On The "Totality" And Universal Inter-Connection

 

(a) The Principle Of Universal Connection And Development

 

(b) Comment

 

(16) Notes

 

(17) References

 

Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

Abbreviations Used At This Site

 

Return To The Main Index Page

 

Contact Me

 

So, What Is It?

 

The Aims Of Essay Eleven, Parts One And Two

 

Parts One and Two of this Essay will attempt to find out what DM-theorists mean by:

 

(1) The "Totality";

 

(2) 'Universal Inter-connection'; and,

 

(3) The obscure, but oft repeated, one-liner: "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts; the parts make the whole and the whole makes the parts" -- i.e., DM-'Wholism'.

 

The first two will be covered here, in Part One; the third will be tackled in Part Two.

 

Hamlet -- Without The Prince

 

Imagine for a moment, if you will, Hamlet without its main character, the Prince, or at least without a single description of 'him', such as whether 'he' is indeed a Prince, is male, female, trans, non-binary..., or if 'he' is even a human being. In such circumstances questions would rightly be asked about what role this 'character' could possibly occupy in a play supposedly about 'him', just as serious doubts might be raised about the competence (or even the sanity) of its author, William Shakespeare.

 

Fortunately, we needn't indulge in such flights-of-fancy.

 

Imagine now, if you can, a theory (or 'method') that its supporters tell us is (among other things):

 

(4) The "world view of the proletariat";

 

(5) A general account of everything in existence, how it develops and changes;

 

(6) A revolutionary 'method' aimed at helping change society;

 

(7) An explanation of how everything is inter-connected in something called the "Totality";

 

And finally that,

 

(8) The "Totality" is a fundamental concept, to such an extent that nothing can be fully understood without reference to it.

 

Consider, too, the following additional fact: every single one of that theory's advocates studiously avoids -- or even refuses -- to say what the "Totality" actually is, or what its supposed "inter-connections" are deemed to be, or, indeed, how they know so little (and, indeed, say so little) about this obscure 'system', 'object' or 'process'...

 

Wonder no more! For that theory is DM, those supporters are Dialectical Marxists, and they are serial prevaricators and world champion deflectors.

 

[DM = Dialectical Materialism/Materialist, depending on the context.]

 

If you still harbour doubts, I invite you, dear reader, to search through their writings -- and for my sins I have had to do just that for the last thirty-five years! Even if you are the slightest bit interested, you will find precious little to help you decide what DM is in fact about, for its most fervent and devoted proponents have yet to tell anyone (least of all one another) what the mysterious "Totality" actually is!

 

In which case, this isn't so much Hamlet without the Prince, it is Hamlet without the..., er..., well..., er..., um..., er..., er...

 

Indeed, over the last thirty-five years I have made a point of asking many of the DM-fans I know or have met (personally or on the Internet) what they think the "Totality" actually is. Of those who bothered to reply, most were puzzled (if not slightly annoyed) that I even thought to ask such an impertinent question, something they imagined had a very clear, obvious and unambiguous answer. So, some tended to respond with, "Nature, the World, what else?", but refused to say any more -- perhaps because, as we are about to find out, there is no more that could be said. Others gestured toward the heavens with an airy, "All that!" -- rather like parents who try to explain to small children where 'God' is supposed to hang out (perhaps with an accompanying remark to the effect that, "He's up there, in heaven"), wafting their hands vaguely skywards. Still others confessed they didn't know what the "Totality" was, but declared that they still believed in it, rather like children with hand-waving parents.

 

Dialecticians of, shall we say, a more scientific frame-of-mind referred me to the 'Big Bang', perhaps forgetting that the latter is a key part of a theory of origins. It tells us little about "everything" and its supposed inter-connections, as we will also soon discover.

 

At this point, readers possessed of a more kindly or empathetic disposition might be tempted to respond: "This can't be! Surely someone has specified clearly what the DM-'Totality' actually is. After all, they have had at least 150 years to come up with something!"

 

Admittedly, a handful of DM-theorists have put forward a few very brief and rather vague ideas about this mysterious 'entity', but beyond the barest of details they have either sat on their hands or nervously looked the other way.

 

I suspect these guys could prevaricate for their country.

 

Indeed, DM-fans are remarkably coy about the precise nature of their "Totality", and it isn't hard to see why: There isn't one.

 

Or, to be more accurate: there is in fact no way of sensibly referring to whatever it is they think they want to refer to as the "Totality".

 

It should come as no surprise, therefore, to discover that this 'entity' -- the "Totality" -- was first dreamt up by card-carrying Mystics, and to this day this concept still remains locked in their vice-like grip.

 

No wonder then that no one can say what 'it' is!

 

"God", The "Totality" And The Via Negativa

 

Just as theologians (and ordinary believers) find it impossible to say who or what 'God' is, it has proved no less difficult for DM-fans to say what the "Totality" is. That isn't so much because of what those two words might appear to mean, it is because both are in fact devoid of any clear meaning, and for surprisingly similar reasons.01a

 

Even for believers, 'God' is unlike anything you or I or anyone could possibly experience, conceive or sensibly put into words. Anyone tempted to think otherwise has simply latched onto an inferior sort of 'deity' in whose 'name' it wouldn't be worth persecuting a single 'infidel' or 'heretic'.

 

Naturally, this means the faithful have found it impossible to speak about 'God' without employing a set of inappropriate metaphors, misleading analogies and obscure euphemisms. For many centuries theologians appealed to a wide variety of what can only be described as verbal dodges and linguistic tricks in a vain attempt to make 'God'-talk vaguely comprehensible. Unfortunately, even though many of the terms they have press-ganged into service are well enough understood in everyday life (such as "father" and "son"), the intentional target of all this theologising and analogising isn't. Precisely what is being analogised? The response from believers? Yet more gobbledygook -- or, and far more often, just deafening silence. It's all a "mystery", you see...

 

In fact, it turns out to be quite impossible to answer questions like these without demoting 'God', and to such an extent that 'He' would now sink to the same level as 'His' alleged creation. So, if you have to compare 'God' to one of 'His' creatures in order to 'understand' 'His' nature (using analogy, metaphor and other tropes, alongside words like "father", "person" or "architect"), it soon becomes impossible to distinguished 'Him' from them, except, perhaps, in terms of 'His' supposed magnitude. On the other hand, if 'He' is then sharply distinguished from 'His' creation (so that no terms really, or literally, apply to 'Him') then nothing at all can be said about 'God'. But, just as soon as any words are pressed into service in order to characterise this mysterious 'Being', 'He' is automatically embroiled in yet another ignominious ontological demotion.

 

If the gap between the 'Divine' and the mundane is infinite, any attempt to bridge it must border on 'blasphemy', since it will either identify 'The Creation' with the 'Creator', or it will reduce the 'divine' to the profane. On the other hand, if the gap is infinite, that will make 'God' absolutely incomprehensible, not only rendering the word itself meaningless, but all talk about 'Him' entirely vacuous.

 

Both approaches having failed, 'god-botherers' often fall back on a time-honoured via negativa, beloved of Christian Mystics. For them, 'God' is not this, not that, not...

 

As that lapsed, right-wing atheist, the late Anthony Flew, once observed, in this way 'God' winds up suffering "death by a thousand qualifications". In the end, 'He' ends up no different from Nothing.01

 

But, if we know nothing whatsoever about 'God' (unless we demote 'Him' in the above manner), and if 'He' is indeed indistinguishable from 'Nothing', how is the use of the word "God" any different from, say, "Slithy Tove"? Other than appealing to a rather questionable tradition --, whereby the word "God" has been attached to all manner of things (ranging from money to natural powers and forces, from Roman Emperors to...,  yes..., even Eric Clapton) --, what can Believers point to in order to explain the meaning of this word to those who only see before them on the page or screen three perfectly ordinary letters ("G", "o", and "d") knitted together into an inky sort of triplet, "God"?

 

 

Figure One: Is Clapton 'God'?

 

 

 

Figure Two: Some Think This Album

Says, "Maybe!"

 

In like manner, to what can the DM-faithful appeal in order to help non-believers comprehend their own invisible and equally incomprehensible 'Being'?

 

As we are about find out, this 'inverted' DM-Deity -- the "Totality" -- likewise faces death by a thousand 'dialectical' qualifications.

 

Or, to be more honest, a thousand dialectical-prevarications...

 

The "Totality Is Everything" Gambit

 

At this point, less patient members of the DM-fraternity (who have made it this far) might be tempted to respond with the following seemingly obvious retort, the "It's everything!" gambit --, as in, "Damn it, it's perfectly clear what that the Totality is; it's everything!"

 

Unfortunately, that knee-jerk rejoinder is little help since it immediately prompts the following response: "And what does that include?"

 

As we are about to discover, there is no way of answering that question in any way that fails to sink DM one millimetre per second slower than it has already sunk Theism.

 

For instance, does "everything" include:

 

(a) All that exists now?

 

(b) All that previously existed?

 

(c) All that will one day exist?

 

(d) All that could exist?

 

(e) All that might have existed?

 

(f) Everything that has been discovered?

 

(g) Everything that hasn't (yet) been discovered?

 

(h) Everything that has been found, then lost (like Phlogiston)?

 

(i) Everything that has been lost then found, then lost again (like Democritus's and Dalton's indivisible atoms)?

 

(j) The 'Gods' of the Apache Nation -- surely they are part of 'everything'..., or are they?

 

(k) The mythical beasts of yore?

 

Or,

 

(l) All of the above..., and more?

 

Who knows?

 

For example, in relation to Item (k), above, scientists could one day unearth some of those fabulous creatures. Any who harbour doubts might like to ponder the discovery of the following remarkable beasts: the Coelacanth, glypheoid lobsters, jurodid beetles. Or, of course, they can watch this video about the truly horrendous-looking and scarcely believable animals that have so far been discovered lurking in the deep waters off our coasts (viewer discretion is advised!).

 

At this point, the patience of one or two readers might have stretched way past breaking point. If so, they are encouraged to maintain their composure a little longer since the reason for asking the above rather odd questions will soon become clear. In fact, several more, increasingly problematic but mercifully far less annoying questions will soon emerge that promise to make those aired above seem rather trivial in comparison.

 

[TOR = Theory of Relativity.]

 

Some might now direct our attention to the TOR, which, on some interpretations, seems to imply that the universe is finite and unbounded. "This is the Totality, our finite and unbounded universe!", they might insist. Now, I don't wish to question the validity of the TOR, but since we don't yet know for certain whether that mathematical aspect of this theory -- i.e., the supposed fact that the universe is indeed finite and unbounded -- actually applies to our world, it can hardly help in any (convincing, let alone successful) attempt to understand what the "Totality" is.

 

As physicist, Paul Davies, once observed: "Cynics often say that there is speculation, speculation squared, and cosmology."

 

Anyway, as we will also soon discover, the TOR itself is no friend of DM.

 

To cap it all, there have been, and there still are, DM-theorists who reject current theory -- i.e., much of the TOR, as well as the alleged fact that the universe is finite -- and who therefore also question whether it is either bounded or unbounded. They also cast doubt on the 'Big Bang' itself. [On that, see Note 27.]

 

As I hope to show, even if clear answers to such perplexing questions were forthcoming from the DM-fraternity, our problems would only just be beginning, for as Russell's Paradox has taught us, unless we define "everything" with due care (and, it is worth adding, completely arbitrarily), we will end up with a "Totality" that contains things it doesn't contain!

 

[A recent criticism of what has come to be known as "universally unrestricted quantification" can be found in Hellman (2006).]

 

At this point, it is worth noting that we are beginning to face the same sort of problems in connection with the "Totality" that we have seen confront Theologians for many centuries in connection with 'God', and who (in response) also found they had to invent obscure metaphors, vague analogies and opaque jargon in order to 'explain' 'His' nature.

 

[Readers are encouraged to keep that thought (and the next) in mind as this Essay unfolds.]

 

One suspects that down this road lies our very own 'dialectical' via negativa as DM-theorists tell us, time and again, "No, the Totality does not include this, or that, or this, or...; nor does it mean this, or that, or...".

 

Be this as it may, even if DM-theorists ever do manage to define the "Totality" (either carefully or satisfactorily), it would clearly be a creature of convention, and, just like "God", a human invention.

 

No wonder then that DM-fans fall silent when they are asked to fill in the yawning gaps in their 'knowledge' of this 'God'-substitute, the "Totality".

 

[Below, I return to consider the vacuous "'It's Everything!' Gambit" (henceforth, IEG) in much more detail.]

 

Well, What Do The Dialectical Classics Themselves Have To Say?

 

Totally Empty

 

Ok, what do they say?

 

The short answer to that question is, "Not a lot."

 

The long answer is, "Well..., er..., not a lot, squared."

 

Well, what do they say? Engels, as usual, writes much but manages to say little (of any real help):

 

"When we consider and reflect upon Nature at large, or the history of mankind, or our own intellectual activity, at first we see the picture of an endless entanglement of relations and reactions, permutations and combinations, in which nothing remains what, where and as it was, but everything moves, changes, comes into being and passes away.... We see, therefore, at first the picture as a whole, with its individual parts still more or less kept in the background; we observe the movements, transitions, connections, rather than the things that move, combine, and are connected. This primitive, naive but intrinsically correct conception of the world is that of ancient Greek philosophy, and was first clearly formulated by Heraclitus: everything is and is not, for everything is fluid, is constantly changing, constantly coming into being and passing away....

 

"[The] new German philosophy culminated in the Hegelian system. In this system -- and herein is its great merit -- for the first time the whole world, natural, historical, intellectual, is represented as a process -- i.e., as in constant motion, change, transformation, development; and the attempt is made to trace out the internal connection that makes a continuous whole of all this movement and development." [Engels (1892), pp.405-08. Some paragraphs merged. Bold emphases added.]

 

"The whole of nature accessible to us forms a system, an interconnected totality of bodies, and by bodies we understand here all material existences extending from stars to atoms, indeed right to ether particles, in so far as one grants the existence of the last named. In the fact that these bodies are interconnected is already included that they react on one another, and it is precisely this mutual reaction that constitutes motion. It already becomes evident that matter is unthinkable without motion." [Engels (1954), p.70. Bold emphasis added.]

 

So, no clearer then...

 

[As should seem obvious, each of the above passages offer their readers what is in effect just a variant on the IEG, from earlier.]

 

Perhaps 'The Great Teacher', Stalin, had the answer?

 

"Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard Nature as an accidental agglomeration of things, of phenomena, unconnected with, isolated from, and independent of, each other, but as a connected and integral whole, in which things…are organically connected with, dependent on, and determined by, each other. The dialectical method therefore holds that no phenomenon in Nature can be understood if taken by itself, isolated from surrounding phenomena…. The dialectical method therefore requires that phenomena should be considered not only from the standpoint of their interconnection and interdependence, but also from the standpoint of their movement, their change, their development, their coming into being and going out of being…. Speaking of the materialist views of the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, who held that 'the world, the all is one...,' Lenin comments: 'A very good exposition of the rudiments of dialectical materialism.' [Lenin (1961), p.347.]" [Stalin (1941), pp.837-38, 845. I have used a different edition of Lenin's Philosophical Notebooks here. Several paragraphs merged. Bold emphases added.]

 

Plainly not...

 

What about Bukharin?

 

"I am now writing on paper with a pen. I thus impart pressures to the table; the table presses on the earth, calling forth a number of further changes. I move my hand, vibrate as I breathe, and these motions pass on in slight impulses ending Lord knows where. The fact that these may be but small changes does not change the essential nature of the matter. All things in the universe are connected with an indissoluble bond…." [Bukharin (1925), p.66. Bold emphasis added.]

 

We needn't labour the point.1 There is little to nothing in the DM-classics that is of any real help in trying to understand what dialecticians are referring to when they talk about the "Totality", never mind 'universal inter-connection'.

 

[I have quoted several more DM-theorists to the above effect here and in Appendix B.]

 

A few years ago, Martin Jay published an excellent book entitled, Marxism And Totality. The Adventures Of A Concept From Lukács To Habermas [i.e., Jay (1984)], but, in over 500 pages, he studiously refused to say what his book was actually about!

 

Admittedly, in Chapter One, Jay very helpfully summarised several classical and early modern Holist theories of nature and society, but they were themselves no less vague, imprecise and as devoid of supporting evidence as the above passages are. Maybe because he found little material to speak of in the DM-classics (or, indeed, in the writings of contemporary 'systematic' and other academic dialecticians) to help him explain this obscure concept, Jay ducked several important questions. Such as whether Ancient Greek and Early Modern theories of 'the Whole' are the same as, or are different from, one another, or, indeed, are the same as, or are different from, the DM-"Totality" itself. Are all these "Totalities" the same? Or different?

 

After all, how would it even be possible to decide?

 

[LOI = Law of Identity.]

 

For instance, how would it be possible to determine whether Hegel's 'Whole' is the same as, or is different from, Plato's? Or, Plotinus's? Or, Aristotle's? Or, any of the many "Wholes" that litter most of the world's philosophical and mystical belief systems? Given the additional fact that Hegel went out of his way to undermine the universal validity of the LOI, how could they be the same?

 

Here, for example, is Alan Watts informing his audience about The Totality Of All Being -- but, is his 'It' the same as Plato's 'It'? Or even Hegel's?

 

 

Video One: Is Alan Watts A DM-Ally?

Or A DM-Embarrassment?

 

After listening to what Watts had to say are you, dear reader, any the wiser?

 

Email me if you think you are..., but don't forget to include a detailed, jargon-free explanation -- and one supported by sufficient evidence.

 

Admittedly, the above mystics all use typographically similar-looking words (e.g., one or more of the following: "Being", "The Whole", "The Totality", "One", etc., or their equivalent in their own language), but if the use of similar-looking words was enough to equate whatever they supposedly depicted, we would surely be justified in concluding that, for example, Plato's "Forms" were identical to those complicated, pre-printed sheets of paper you have to complete in order to apply for a job, obtain a driving licence or sign up for a credit card. Plainly, the use of typographically similar-looking words isn't sufficient to identify the many 'Wholes' that Traditional Thinkers have invented over the last two-and-a-half thousand years. After all, is every 'god' the same?

 

Does anyone possess an Identikit picture of the "Totality", one that might help identify this mysterious 'object', perhaps in a line-up of likely candidates? Has anyone seen its likeness etched in the sand, shaped in the clouds or carved on the surface of Mars (in the way that some claim to have discerned images of Jesus or The Virgin Mary on a slice of toast or even a grape)?

 

Indeed, precisely what is the criterion of identity for mystical, or even 'dialectical', "Totalities"?

 

Worse still, we don't have anything that could even be labelled as a partial description of a single "Totality", ancient or modern, to assist us in our quest. Can you, dear reader, imagine trying to decide whether or not two individuals -- say, Woodruff Durfendorfer and Arthur Farfenickle -- were the same or were different if you were given no clear description to work with, no pictures to guide you, no DNA to rely on, no relatives, friends or acquaintances to ask? But, even then you would at least have something to go on: the knowledge that these two were at least supposed to be human beings. Concerning the many "Wholes" and "Totalities" that assorted philosophers and mystics have concocted, we don't even have that much to go on. We have no idea what kind of 'entity' we are dealing with here, the existence and identity of which we are being asked to contemplate. We literally have nothing to work with.

 

No good doing a Google search or consulting Wikipedia.

 

Of course, as noted above, this puzzle hasn't been helped by the fact that none of the ancient 'thinkers' who concocted these ideas were at all specific about the nature and extent of the "Whole" they had just dreamt up. Neither were the aforementioned mystics, and for obvious reasons.

 

After all, a crystal clear mystic would lose his or her licence to mystify.

 

Nevertheless, in relation to the entire set of "Wholists" (ancient or modern), post-Hegelian Dialectical Mystics are easily the vaguest, most equivocal and evasive. Prevarication and obfuscation taken way beyond the call of duty.

 

The rest of Martin Jay's book is devoted to expounding what contemporary dialecticians have or haven't thought about history, society and the economy as possible examples of what can only be described as 'sub-totalities' (but even that might be to read too much into what he was trying to say!). However, as far as can be ascertained (and except for the opening chapter) the "Totality" itself is conspicuous by its absence from the entire work! That omission is, of course, quite remarkable in itself. Indeed, it is decidedly odd, just as odd as it would have been had Darwin neglected to mention natural selection, or had omitted all talk of species, past, present and future, from On The Origin Of Species.

 

That isn't to pick a fight with Jay, since his book is an excellent guide in its own way -- a sort of Dialectician's Alice, as it were. To be sure, if anyone wants to know what Dialectical Marxists think about social wholes (albeit, 'described' in what looks for all the world like an obscure, quasi-human, perhaps even Martian dialect), this is the place to look.

 

[HCD = High Church Dialectician; that term is explained here.]

 

Even card-carrying HCDs seem unwilling, or unable, to tell an expectant world what the "Totality" actually is. Here, for instance, is Alan Norrie (attempting to translate into English the obscure Venusian patois that litters the late Roy Bhaskar's writings on this and other topics):

 

"Totality, then, is the place where different things are seen in their connection and are viewed as a whole." [Norrie (2010), p.87. I return to Norrie's book in Essay Nine Part Two.]

 

Well, that clears things up, and no mistake! "Totality" is the "place" where all the 'dialectical' action transpires, it seems. That suggests, for Norrie (and maybe Bhaskar) that the "Totality" is a methodological device, which, for all we know (or, rather, for all Norrie and Bhaskar apparently know) might be no more 'real' than the Crystalline Spheres of medieval astronomy. Or no more real than the Tooth Fairy, which is another 'methodological device' to which the hand-waving parents we met earlier sometimes appeal in order to 'explain' why children's teeth sometimes vanish from under their pillows to be replaced by a few coins.

 

[I return to Bhaskar's work briefly, below, and again in Essays Eight Part Three and Nine Part Two, but more extensively in Essay Thirteen Part Three.]

 

Update September 2023: Here is Helena Sheehan's attempt at clarification:

 

"Totality is an ongoing process, not a static or finished thing. The verb totalizing, rather than the noun totality, better captures its open-ended, always striving, process. It is an activity rather than an object. It is an orientation toward the whole, not a finalized conception of the whole. It is a way of thinking that endeavours always to understand each phenomenon within the pulsing whole and the complex nexus of its interactions." [Sheehan (2023), quoted from here, accessed 26/09/2023. Spelling modified to UK English; bold emphases added.]

 

So, for Sheehan, it looks like "Totality" is a methodological concept, an orientation toward "the whole". But that is of little help since she says virtually nothing about what this "whole" is supposed to be! The term itself appears twenty-seven times in Sheehan's article, but by the end the bemused reader will scratch her head and wonder what the hell Sheehan is referring to -- except later in the same article the "whole" seems to be equated with "nature". So, at best, this rather weak attempt to address the topic (in an article whose title promised so much 'Totality: Decades of debate and the return of nature', from someone who is otherwise a first-rate theorist) turns out to be no more than a vague nod in the direction of the IEG!

 

Nor are we told what this "nexus of interactions" is, a key part of the overall theory other theorists have also left in limbo, as we will soon discover.

 

[I have said a little more about Sheehan's article, below.]

 

So, it seems Dialectical Marxism is still missing its Prince of Denmark.

 

The audience is becoming restless.

 

That is because Dialectical Marxists promised so much -- a "method oriented toward" or even a 'theory about' "the whole"/"everything", but we have yet to be told what this "whole"/"everything" is!

 

They want their money back...

 

Where The Shoe Originally Pinched

 

Where This Project Began

 

This project began back in July 1998 and was originally intended to be an extended review of, and response to, John Rees's book, The Algebra Of Revolution [Rees (1998a), or TAR], but it rapidly grew into something much more comprehensive. Rees's book, for all its faults -- and all its strengths --, has proven to be widely influential in one of the most geographically-extensive, unorthodox Trotskyist Tendencies on the planet, the IST/UK-SWP. In that case, it is well placed to spread yet more dialectical confusion.

 

[Several years after the above words were first written Rees resigned from the UK-SWP and now helps run Counterfire, which means his ideas are no longer viewed by the IST as 'ideologically sound'. Comrades who at one time lauded this book now either do the opposite, or they simply ignore it! An ironic fate for any book on dialectics to have to face.]

 

Anyway, since Rees is one of the more recent DM-authors to situate the "Totality" at the heart of his ideas in this area, his book appears to be a reasonably good place to start.

 

Unfortunately, as we are about to find out, it doesn't matter where we begin, the 'descriptions' of this mysterious entity (advanced by DM-fans drawn from all wings of Dialectical Marxism) turn out to be thinner than a flatworm on a crash diet!

 

 

Figure Three: Flatworms -- Remarkably Substantial In Comparison

 

Rees Bottles It

 

Hence, it is no surprise to discover that, even though Rees clearly believes the "Totality" is a core DM-concept [Rees (1998a), pp.5-8], apart from a few rather vague gestures at defining or even explaining the term, he never really tells us what 'it' is!

 

Hard to believe? Well, one of the few 'attempts' Rees makes at informing us what his book is actually about is the following:

 

"Totality refers to the insistence that the various seemingly separate elements of which the world is composed are in fact related to each other." [Rees (1998a), p.5.]

 

There seems to be something wrong with that 'definition' since it tells us that the "Totality" is actually an "insistence"!

 

Can this be what "everything" is, an "insistence"?

 

Is this what the 'Big Bang' ushered forth? An ever-expanding "insistence"?

 

Admittedly, if the above rather odd 'definition' were to be interpreted much less unsympathetically, it would appear to suggest that Rees intends the word "Totality" to be understood methodologically (rather like Alan Norrie from earlier and Helena Sheehan, below) But, even supposing that was his intention, exactly how the "Totality" can be used this way is far from clear, especially if we still have no idea what the "Totality" actually is!

 

Furthermore, the above 'definition' seems to imply that the idea that nature forms a 'unified whole' is either:

 

(i) A useful fiction;

 

(ii) A regulative idea (i.e., it functions as an interpretative device dialecticians like Rees use in order to assist them understand/explain nature and society, all the better to help change the latter); or,

 

(iii) A statement of theoretical intent -- a sort of 'dialectical promissory note' that indicates what Rees aims to do with the concept. In which case, as the rest of this Essay will reveal, we are still waiting...

 

Nor are we told what the "relations" Rees mentions actually are, even though they're supposed to inter-connect objects and processes right across the "Totality" (or they're supposed to express the sort of inter-connections of interest to DM-theorists). In fact, we still remain in the dark whether or not every object and process is inter-linked with every other object and process, or only with some, let alone in what way they are inter-related.

 

[There is much more on these issues, below.]

 

Unfortunately, there are few other clues in Rees's book that help the bemused reader understand the nature of this supposedly key DM-'concept', 'object', 'process' or 'methodological device'. One of the few extra clues on offer appears in another brief passage where Rees attempts to link the "Totality" with "universal inter-connectedness" itself, which is also something other DM-theorists attempt to do (on that, see here and here):

 

"Lenin's worry is that previous explanations of dialectics have simply shown that reality forms a totality and that things which are assumed to be opposites are in reality connected with one another. But they have not stressed that reality is a contradictory totality or that it is the mutually antagonistic relationship between the parts of the totality which are the motor force of its change and development.... [The] natural and social world [form] a single totality developing over time as a result of…internal contradictions…. [N]ature is an interconnected system that developed for millions of years before humans." [Ibid., pp.186, 285-86. Bold emphasis alone added. Paragraphs merged.]2

 

This all-too-brief description of the "Totality" suggests it is much more than a mere "insistence".

 

This appears to equate the "Totality" with all of nature -- indeed, with all of "reality" --, but, as we will soon discover, those terms themselves are far too vague to be of much use to anyone (other than a child with arm-waving parents). In fact, Rees is here offering us his own version of the IEG ploy, discussed in more detail below.

 

Worse still, what Rees has to say doesn't really distinguish DM from, for instance, Mystical 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. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. More on this topic here. Paragraphs merged.]

 

However, Rees has an answer to the above claim that mystics also have their own theories of, or ideas about, the "Totality":

 

"Totality alone is not, however, a sufficient definition of the dialectic. Many undialectical views of society make use of the idea of totality. The Catholic Church has its own mystical view of the all-embracing nature of God's creation and a very practical view of the temporal hierarchy that goes with it. 'The Taoist tradition in China shares with dialectics the emphasis on wholeness, the whole being maintained by the balance of opposites such as yin and yang.'... [Rees is here quoting Levins and Lewontin (1985), p.275.] What unites all these explanations is that they see the totality as static.... What they lack is any notion of a totality as a process of change. And even where such systems grant the possibility of instability and change, it is considered merely as a prelude to a restored equilibrium.... Change, development, instability, on the other hand, are the very conditions for which a dialectical approach is designed to account." [Rees (1998a), p.6. Paragraphs merged.]

 

However, there are countless mystical systems that view the world in almost exactly the same way as DM-theorists -- that is, as an unstable, developing and changing Whole, which exists in states of permanent or semi-permanent change/stasis, suffused by countless 'unities of opposites'. For example, here is how the Kybalion (reputably the third most important book of Hermetic Philosophy) expressed this idea:

 

"'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....

 

"CHAPTER IX VIBRATION 'Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.' -- The Kybalion.

 

"The great Third Hermetic Principle -- the Principle of Vibration -- embodies the truth that Motion is manifest in everything in the Universe -- that nothing is at rest -- that everything moves, vibrates, and circles. This Hermetic Principle was recognized by some of the early Greek philosophers who embodied it in their systems. But, then, for centuries it was lost sight of by the thinkers outside of the Hermetic ranks. But in the Nineteenth Century physical science re-discovered the truth and the Twentieth Century scientific discoveries have added additional proof of the correctness and truth of this centuries-old Hermetic doctrine.

 

"The Hermetic Teachings are that not only is everything in constant movement and vibration, but that the 'differences' between the various manifestations of the universal power are due entirely to the varying rate and mode of vibrations. Not only this, but that even THE ALL, in itself, manifests a constant vibration of such an infinite degree of intensity and rapid motion that it may be practically considered as at rest, the teachers directing the attention of the students to the fact that even on the physical plane a rapidly moving object (such as a revolving wheel) seems to be at rest. The Teachings are to the effect that Spirit is at one end of the Pole of Vibration, the other Pole being certain extremely gross forms of Matter. Between these two poles are millions upon millions of different rates and modes of vibration.

 

"Modern Science has proven that all that we call Matter and Energy are but 'modes of vibratory motion,' and some of the more advanced scientists are rapidly moving toward the positions of the occultists who hold that the phenomena of Mind are likewise modes of vibration or motion. Let us see what science has to say regarding the question of vibrations in matter and energy.

 

"In the first place, science teaches that all matter manifests, in some degree, the vibrations arising from temperature or heat. Be an object cold or hot-both being but degrees of the same things -- it manifests certain heat vibrations, and in that sense is in motion and vibration. Then all particles of Matter are in circular movement, from corpuscle to suns. The planets revolve around suns, and many of them turn on their axes. The suns move around greater central points, and these are believed to move around still greater, and so on, ad infinitum. The molecules of which the particular kinds of Matter are composed are in a state of constant vibration and movement around each other and against each other. The molecules are composed of Atoms, which, likewise, are in a state of constant movement and vibration. The atoms are composed of Corpuscles, sometimes called 'electrons,' 'ions,' etc., which also are in a state of rapid motion, revolving around each other, and which manifest a very rapid state and mode of vibration. And, so we see that all forms of Matter manifest Vibration, in accordance with the Hermetic Principle of Vibration." [Anonymous (2005), pp.59-62, 55-58. The first passage can be accessed here; the second, here. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

And, here is the Corpus Hermeticum itself:

 

"For everything must be the product of opposition and contrariety, and it cannot be otherwise." [Copenhaver (1995), p.32. Bold emphasis added.]

 

The on-line version renders this passage slightly differently:

 

"For all things must consist out of antithesis and contrariety; and this can otherwise not be." [Quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Moreover, the Hermetic 'God' isn't external to the universe, but is 'immanent', or 'internal' to it (hence 'He'/'She'/'It' also changes), which is, of course, where Hegel himself obtained the idea.

 

Here is Alan Watts, again:

 

"Buddhist enlightenment consists simply in knowing the secret of the unity of opposites -- the unity of the inner and outer worlds.... The principle is that all dualities and opposites are not disjoined but polar; they do not encounter and confront one another from afar; they exfoliate from a common centre. Ordinary thinking conceals polarity and relativity because it employs terms, the terminals or ends, the poles, neglecting what lies between them. The difference of front and back, to be and not to be, hides their unity and mutuality." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases and link added. Paragraphs merged.]

 

We also learn the following about the Hindu view of 'god':

 

"The three major gods of Hinduism are Brahma (the creator; paradoxically of minor importance in actual practice -- possibly, since his work is completed), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer), each with a wife, to symbolize the androgyny of ultimate reality. By theologians and educated Hindus in general, these gods and their innumerable manifestations are viewed as pointing toward one transcendent reality beyond existence and non-existence, the impersonal world-spirit Brahman, the absolute unity of all opposites.... Hindus envision the cosmic process as the growth of one mighty organism, the self-actualization of divinity which contains within itself all opposites." [Quoted from here. (This links to a PDF.) Bold emphases and links added. Paragraphs merged.]

 

As well as this, concerning Sufist ideas on the subject:

 

"Sufism is usually associated with Islam. It has developed Bhakti to a high point with erotic imagery symbolising the unity of opposites. The subtle anatomy and microcosm-macrocosm model also found in Tantra and Taoism is used by it, dressed in its own symbols. Certain orders use ecstatic music and/or dance which reminds one of the Tantric celebration of the senses. Sometimes, the union of opposites is seen as a kind of gnosis. This is similar to Jnani Yoga." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases and links added.]

 

Furthermore, as noted above, Hegel was also a Hermetic Philosopher, a died-in-the-wool Mystical Wholist, who believed in change through contradiction (which fact, oddly enough, Rees seems to have forgotten). [On that, see here and Note 4, below.]

 

Incidentally, it is worth adding that even fascist mystics have embraced this ancient metaphysic:

 

"The cosmos operates through polarities, and the interaction of these polarities causes change and evolution." [White Order of Thule, quoted from here. Bold emphases added. However, you might need to take a lengthy shower if you decide to follow that link!]

 

Which is ironic in view of the fact that Jewish Mysticism also acknowledged the same basic theory!

 

Finally, there is this revealing comment:

 

"The ancient Egyptians believed that a totality must consist of the union of opposites. A similar premise, that the interaction between yin (the female principle) and yang (the male principle) underlies the workings of the universe, is at the heart of much Chinese thinking. The idea has been central to Taoist philosophy from the fourth century B.C. to the present day and is still embraced by many Chinese who are not Taoists. Nor is the idea confined to the Egyptians and the Chinese. Peoples all over the world, in Eurasia, Africa and the Americas, have come to the conclusion that the cosmos is a combining of opposites...." [Maybury-Lewis (1992), pp.125-26. Bold emphases added.]

 

It wouldn't be difficult to extend indefinitely this list of believers in some sort of 'unity of opposites' controlling the world until it became clear that practically every Mystic who has ever walked the earth thought (or thinks) 'dialectically' and believed in a 'contradictory', changing "Totality".

 

[A longer list of examples like those above, drawn from mystical systems right across the planet, can be found here and here. Many more will be listed in Essay Fourteen Part One (when it is published).]

 

Er..., what was that again about "the ideas of the ruling class..."?

 

Oh yes, this:

 

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

 

So, "Totality" and change through contradiction are just as much at home in Mystical Hermeticism (and other similar systems) as they are in DM -- which is hardly surprising given the fact that the latter developed out of the former. Once again, Hegel was a card-carrying Hermeticist.

 

Finally, and ironically, we have also seen that, contrary to what Rees asserts, DM itself can't cope with change!

 

Be this as it may, in an article about Engels, Rees added the following remarks:

 

"Here the key is to see all the different aspects of society and nature as interconnected. They are not separate, discrete processes which develop in isolation from each other. Mainstream sociological and scientific thought 'has bequeathed us the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, detached from the general context'. Much of our schooling today still follows this pattern -- the development of the arts is separated from that of the sciences, and 'technical' subjects are separated from languages, history and geography. Our newspapers and TV news programmes divide the world up in the same artificial way -- poverty levels and stock exchange news, wars and company profit figures, strikes and government policy, suicide statistics and the unemployment rate are all reported in their own little compartments as if they are only distantly related, if at all. A dialectical analysis tries to re-establish the real connections between these elements, 'to show internal connections'. It tries, in the jargon of dialectics, to see the world as 'a totality', 'a unity'.

 

"To see society and nature as an interconnected totality which is in a process of constant change still leaves one vital question unanswered. What makes this whole process develop? Why does it change? There are any number of religious and philosophical theories which try to answer this question by insisting that the motor of change lies outside the historical process -- with god, or in the unchanging pattern of human nature or in the eternal features of the human soul. Marx and Engels rejected these approaches as mystical and, literally, supernatural. They insisted that the processes which drove the development of nature and society forward must be internal contradictions, not supersensible entities like god, the soul or, as Hegel had argued, the general essence of human consciousness existing somewhere in the ether beyond the consciousness of actual living human beings." [Rees (1994), p.62. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

We have already seen that no sense can be made of these 'contradictions' -- i.e., those that supposedly exist in nature and society (on that, see here, here, here and here). Independently of that, the social aspects of the "Totality" are part of HM, discussion of which will largely be omitted from this Essay. Since I don't deny that HM relies on factors governing and inter-linking the whole of human history, there is nothing much for me to question in this regard.3

 

[HM = Historical Materialism.]

 

But, what about this passage (quoted earlier)?

 

"What unites all these explanations is that they see the totality as static.... What they lack is any notion of a totality as a process of change. And even where such systems grant the possibility of instability and change, it is considered merely as a prelude to a restored equilibrium.... Change, development, instability, on the other hand, are the very conditions for which a dialectical approach is designed to account." [Rees (1998a), p.6. Paragraphs merged.]

 

But that isn't the case with several of the above mystics, for whom the material world will forever remain unstable, with no sense that there will ever be a "restored equilibrium".

 

Also worth pointing out is the fact that in a future communist society (run along lines suggested by Marx) there will be an equilibrium of sorts, because class division will be a thing of the past. Here are Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto:

 

"[T]he first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy. The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible....

 

"When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." [Marx and Engels (1968b), pp.52-53); several paragraphs merged. Bold emphasis added.]

 

At which point, presumably, human society will cease to be a 'contradictory' sub-"Totality".

 

[Unless, of course, we accept the existence of post-revolutionary "antagonistic" vs "non-antagonistic" 'contradictions', beloved of STDs and MISTs. On that, see Essay Nine Part Two.]

 

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

 

Be this as it may, one important aspect of Rees's use of this (yet-to-be-explained) term, "Totality", is the relationship that he and other dialecticians claim exists between parts and wholes:

 

"In a dialectical system, the entire nature of the part is determined by its relationship 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 the whole…." [Ibid., p.5.]4

 

The problem with this is that it still fails to tell us what the "Totality" is, or what it involves. Nor is it clear what these "parts" are, too!

 

[On that, see the next subsection, as well as Part Two.]

 

As far as can be ascertained, that is virtually all Rees had to say in TAR and elsewhere about this supposedly important concept.5

 

Update September 3rd 2023:

 

In an article that is about to be published, Helena Sheehan has this to say about "Totality":

 

"How is it that classical Marxist authors were able to address such a stunning array of issues? In the call for a recent conference on Frederick Engels, organizers suggested possible themes in exploring the legacy of Engels, suggesting class, gender, nature, science, religion, colonialism, capitalism, and socialism. Many more could have been added. The same could be said of Karl Marx, V. I. Lenin, Nikolai Bukharin, and many more authors. What made it possible for them to encompass such a wide range of themes? Of course, many people discuss many things, but do they encompass them in a coherent perspective? Quite often, they do not. There is a difference between scatty and systemic thinking, between eclecticism and synthesis, between pluralism and holism, between a ragbag of assorted notions and a coherent and comprehensive worldview. It is systemic thinking, synthesis, totality that characterized the approach of the above theorists and continues to set apart the best of what has come to be called Marxism.

 

"Totality is an ongoing process, not a static or finished thing. The verb totalizing, rather than the noun totality, better captures its open-ended, always striving, process. It is an activity rather than an object. It is an orientation toward the whole, not a finalized conception of the whole. It is a way of thinking that endeavours always to understand each phenomenon within the pulsing whole and the complex nexus of its interactions. There is a long history of controversy surrounding the concept of totality both within Marxism and in the wider intellectual culture surrounding it. My own version of that history that I propose to sketch here is at odds with the version many other Marxists would put forward." [Sheehan (2023), quoted from here. Bold emphases added; several paragraphs merged. Spelling modified to agree with UK English]

 

Sheehan's comments suggest she views "Totality" in more-or-less the same way as Rees; that is, she understands this term methodologically -- or, at least, she does so as a way of interpreting "the whole". But this brief characterisation looks suspiciously circular, or it does so until we are told what "the whole" is that doesn't rely on understanding what  "Totality" itself means!

 

However, the above article has yet to be published in full on-line, so it would be grossly unfair to comment any further. I will return to consider what Sheehan has to say in more detail when the entire article is finally available. Having said that, later in this Essay I have dealt with other attempts to interpret "Totality" in this way. [Update: Sheehan's article has now been published in full; readers are therefore directed to my other (brief) remarks about it, here.]

 

Clearly, this creates serious problems from the start. The 'uninitiated' have no clear idea what Rees, Norrie, Sheehan and other DM-theorists are actually referring to, or even talking about! And, as we have seen, anyone who might (sincerely) want to find out more about this mysterious "Totality" will search long and hard, and to no avail, through the entire DM-literature for further details.

 

Naturally, this means that DM-theorists themselves have no idea what they are actually talking about, either!6

 

Rather like Theists, then...

 

Putting The Part Before The Horse

 

[The above sub-heading isn't a typo!]

 

Anyway, if, according to Rees, "The part makes the whole, and the whole makes the parts", it turns out that it is in fact be impossible for anyone to determine exactly what this mysterious "whole" amounted to before they were clear about the nature of every single part of it.

 

Indeed, Engels himself said as much (in unpublished preparatory material for his book, 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. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

It is a pity, therefore, that Engels didn't keep the above comments in mind when he, too, began to speculate and fill his work with "figments" of his own (or rather, Hegel's) imagination.

 

[Many of those "figments" and "irrational fancies" were exposed for that they are in Essays Seven Part One and Eight Part Three.]

 

Plainly, if Engels is right and the above clichéd saying about parts and wholes (i.e., "The part makes the whole, and the whole makes the parts") is correct, it would indeed be impossible to determine the nature of any of the parts before the nature of the whole had been ascertained and comprehended. In turn, that means it would be impossible for anyone to grasp a single rudimentary fact about part or whole, since no one would know anything about either (part or whole) before they knew everything about both.

 

[I discuss this self-defeating aspect of DM in much greater detail in Part Two, where I have also responded to several obvious, and a few not so obvious, objections.]

 

As is well-known, this was just one of the many 'epistemological black holes' into which Hegelian Idealism dropped itself, along with the theories of those gullible enough to give credence to anything that confused mystic inflicted on his readers.7

 

And yet, whatever steps subsequent Hegelians finally took (or might still take) in order to haul themselves out of this bottomless pit of obscurity and confusion -- and whether or not they succeed --, they don't appear to be available to DM-theorists. That is because they tell all who will listen that their theory must be based on evidence, not conceptual manipulation or linguistic chicanery -- indeed, as George Novack reminds us:

 

"A consistent materialism cannot proceed from principles which are validated by appeal to abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source. Idealisms may do this. But the materialist philosophy has to be based upon evidence taken from objective material sources and verified by demonstration in practice...." [Novack (1965), p.17. Bold emphasis added. This echoes what Engels also had to say, reproduced below. Other DM-theorists have also been quoted to that effect, here.]

 

But, what sort of evidence can DM-fans point to that hasn't already been compromised in the above manner? Clearly, any and all evidence relates to, includes or is comprised of, such 'parts'. That is, any such evidence incorporates or gives expression to supposed facts that are also part of the 'Whole' -- they aren't external to, or independent of, 'it'. In that case, if this theory (about parts and wholes) is to be believed, the nature of each of these 'parts' -- i.e., the nature of the facts that constitute this supposed evidential base -- can't itself be ascertained or comprehended until the 'Whole' has been, nor vice versa.

 

In short, the meaning and significance of every aspect of this 'evidence' would be unclear until the nature of the 'Whole' has been ascertained. But, that can't happen, either, since the nature of the 'Whole' itself remains obscure, at least until the nature of each part -- or each fact -- had already been comprehended, and so on ad infinitem. There seems to be no way to break into this Idealist circle: the status of all such evidence can't be known, ascertained or comprehended until the 'Whole' has been, and the nature of the 'Whole' can't be understood unless every scrap of determinate physical evidence has been comprehended, in order to do just that!8

 

At this point, an appeal to 'approximate' or 'relative' truth would be no help, either. That is because the nature and status even of 'approximate' or 'relative' truth can't be ascertained until the nature of the 'Whole' had been, if the above neat slogan is to be believed. Nor would an appeal to a series of 'developing approximations' that are supposedly converging on the 'Whole Truth', or, indeed, which are edging ever closer to some form of 'decreasingly relative truth'. According to this theory, unless the entire truth about everything was already known no one would be in any position to know that 'relative truths' were themselves even relative or even approximations. Indeed, unless the entire truth about everything was already known, no one would be in any position to know whether or not there was even such a thing as 'The Whole Truth', to begin with!

 

Furthermore, before humanity possessed a clear idea of what could count as 'Absolute Truth' --, or, indeed, 'The Whole Truth' --, no one would be in any position to declare that 'relative' truth had approximated to that Ideal by so much or so little. An approximation only makes sense if we know with what it is that it approximates, but for us to know that we would have to know what constitutes 'Absolute Truth'! And that in turn is impossible since humanity won't know anything about anything before it had reached that epistemological summit, the Final State. But, according to DM-theorists, humanity will never reach that end point. [Why that is so will be revealed presently.]

 

Again, as Engels pointed out:

 

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

 

In that case, the obscure nature of each DM-part undermines knowledge of the DM-'Whole', just as the shadowy nature of the DM-'Whole' undermines knowledge of each DM-part, the exact opposite of what the neat slogan sought to tell us.

 

Which is yet another ironic 'dialectical inversion' for readers to ponder.

 

That might help explain why Rees was so cagey about the "Totality" and why his 'definition' amounted to little more than a throw-away line, a half-hearted gesture, almost an afterthought. Indeed, there is nothing that could have been said about this nebulous concept, or its murky parts, that would be consonant with a believable form of materialism. Or, for that matter, which didn't automatically undermine DM itself, as we have just seen.9

 

Once again, that shouldn't surprise us given the mystical origin of all such talk.

 

While it now seems clear that nothing could be said about the "Totality" or its parts before everything was known about both, it is also worth pointing out that if dialecticians were correct, it wouldn't even be possible to begin to say anything truthful about anything, since, ex hypothesi, nothing would be known about the parts (and hence about the Whole) until the end of an infinite epistemological journey:

 

"'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.233-35. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"The reproaches you make against the law of value apply to all concepts, regarded from the standpoint of reality. The identity of thought and being, to express myself in Hegelian fashion, everywhere coincides with your example of the circle and the polygon. Or the two of them, the concept of a thing and its reality, run side by side like two asymptotes, always approaching each other yet never meeting. This difference between the two is the very difference which prevents the concept from being directly and immediately reality and reality from being immediately its own concept. But although a concept has the essential nature of a concept and cannot therefore prima facie directly coincide with reality, from which it must first be abstracted, it is still something more than a fiction, unless you are going to declare all the results of thought fictions because reality has to go a long way round before it corresponds to them, and even then only corresponds to them with asymptotic approximation." [Engels to Conrad Schmidt (12/03/1895), in Marx and Engels (2004), pp.463-64. Bold emphasis added. I have used the on-line version here, which differs slightly from the published text.]

 

"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.]

 

"But there are more than these two properties and qualities or facets to [any material object]; 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…. [D]ialectical logic requires that an object should be taken in development, in change, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it). This is not immediately obvious in respect of such an object as a tumbler, but it, too, is in flux, and this holds especially true for its purpose, use and connection with the surrounding world." [Lenin (1921), pp.92-93. Bold emphases alone added. Paragraphs merged.]

 

"Idealism and mechanical materialism, opportunism and adventurism, are all characterized by the breach between the subjective and the objective, by the separation of knowledge from practice. The Marxist-Leninist theory of knowledge, characterized as it is by scientific social practice, cannot but resolutely oppose these wrong ideologies. Marxists recognize that in the absolute and general process of development of the universe, the development of each particular process is relative, and that hence, in the endless flow of absolute truth, man's knowledge of a particular process at any given stage of development is only relative truth. The sum total of innumerable relative truths constitutes absolute truth. The development of an objective process is full of contradictions and struggles, and so is the development of the movement of human knowledge. All the dialectical movements of the objective world can sooner or later be reflected in human knowledge. In social practice, the process of coming into being, developing and passing away is infinite, and so is the process of coming into being, developing and passing away in human knowledge. As man's practice which changes objective reality in accordance with given ideas, theories, plans or programmes, advances further and further, his knowledge of objective reality likewise becomes deeper and deeper. The movement of change in the world of objective reality is never-ending and so is man's cognition of truth through practice. Marxism-Leninism has in no way exhausted truth but ceaselessly opens up roads to the knowledge of truth in the course of practice. Our conclusion is the concrete, historical unity of the subjective and the objective, of theory and practice, of knowing ant doing, and we are opposed to all erroneous ideologies, whether 'Left' or Right, which depart from concrete history." [Mao (1961c), pp.307-08. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[I have quoted several other DM-theorists to the same effect, here. At this point, a knee-jerk appeal to practice would be to no avail, and for reasons set out in Essay Ten Part One.]

 

According to the above, humanity will never achieve this Blessed End State.

 

That is, of course, one of the least appreciated consequences of trying to 'invert' Hegelian Idealism: material reality may only be 'comprehended' by beginning at the end!

 

Hence, not even the Owl of Minerva would be identifiable until Epistemological Judgement Day had dawned, by which time who would be left to care whether or not it flew?

 

[There is more on this topic, here.]

 

It's An Awful Job -- But Someone Has to Do It

 

Defining The Indefinable

 

In the absence of anything that even remotely resembles a superficial characterisation (let alone a definition) of this obscure DM-'object' -- the "Totality" -- we are forced to press the sort of questions that DM-theorists consistently ignore, or from which they prefer to deflect:

 

(1) What exactly is the DM-"Totality"?

 

(2) What does 'it' contain'? And,

 

(3) What is the nature and extent of 'its' inter-connections?

 

I propose to examine two possible approaches/answers to Question (1). The first introduces what I shall call the "Ontological Definition" of the "Totality" (because it involves a consideration of what might comprise a plausible contents list); the second I propose to call the "Epistemological Definition" (since its aim will be to link this mysterious 'entity'/'object'/'process' with the current extent of human knowledge, experience and practice).

 

[However, my use of the word "definition" (above) is slightly misleading. That is because the material below in no way constitutes a definition! In my defence, I can only pass the buck to DM-theorists themselves, whose job this should have been, not mine!]

 

Totalitarian Ontology

 

In response to the foregoing it could be objected that it is perfectly clear that the "Totality" includes everything in the Universe --, or, at least, everything in existence. [This is the IEG, re-stated from earlier.]

 

End. Of. Story.

 

Er..., not so fast, comrade!

 

Does this "everything" include "Possible Worlds", which some philosophers and scientists certainly believe are actual? [Cf., Lewis (1986). See also Divers (2002).] Does it include 'parallel'/'multiple universes'?

 

In fact, many leading physicists believe we exist in just such a "multiverse":

 

"Multiverse theory suggests that our universe, which consists of billions and billions of planets, stars and galaxies and extends out tens of billions of light-years, may not be the only universe in existence. There could be another universe that is completely different from ours with its own natural laws. Even more maddeningly, there may not be just one, but an infinite number of such universes, all of which differ from one another and harbour millions of celestial bodies and even intelligent life forms, just like our own universe....

 

"Multiverse theory assumes that our universe is only a small member of an enormous multitude of universes. The idea of the multiverse arose from a now widely popular theory -- the inflation theory. It was developed in 1980 and filled in some information gaps where the Big Bang theory was lacking. Although the Big Bang theory offers a valid explanation for the origin of the universe, it has three significant problems. First of all, it doesn't explain the flat geometry of our universe. In addition, it also doesn't account for the monopole problem and the horizon problem associated with our universe. In other words, the Big Bang theory fails to explain why there is so much homogeneity in the universe's structure....

 

"The multiverse theory is a hotly debated topic in the scientific world. Some believe that it is merely a fascinating proposition straight out of science fiction, while others support the legitimacy of the multiverse idea. Scientists are trying to find evidence of the existence of multiple universes by observing distortions in electromagnetic radiation left over from an early stage of the universe. Certain special types of black holes can also provide clues to the existence of the multiverse. The idea of multiple universes is so astounding that it has been hypothesized not only in cosmology and astronomy, but also in philosophy, music, literature, science fiction, and even religion. Because of the universality of this idea, these 'other' universes are called by different names, including parallel universes, alternate universes, parallel realities, quantum realities, alternative realities, and more." [Quoted from here. Accessed 24/08/22. Several paragraphs merged; all but two links added. Spelling modified to agree with UK English; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added.]

 

[On this, see Hossenfelder (2022), Chapter Five, 'Do Copies Of Us Exist?'. See also below for evidence that other universes might actually exist.]

 

The following video summarises several of the theories physicists have come up with in this area:

 

 

Video Two: "What Would Other Universes Look Like?"

 

However, the next video questions the theory that there are multiverses, but it does so by inadvertently torpedoing Quantum Mechanics [QM]:

 

 

Video Three: All Multiverse Theories Are 'Unscientific'

 

In the above, theoretical physicist, Dr Sabine Hossenfelder, argues that multiverses are intrinsically unobservable and hence can form no part of science. [Of course, that doesn't itself imply they don't exist only that this topic is no business of science.] And yet, that is also the case with many other states, events and processes that are part of established science and which can't, even in theory, be observed -- such as 'Quantum Superposition'. That state can't be observed without collapsing the wave function involved, thus losing that very quantum state. This isn't to deny there is such a quantum state (nor that there is much indirect evidence such states exist), merely to point out that Dr Hossenfelder's criterion would imply QM isn't a science (at least as it is currently understood)!

 

So, are multiverses part of the "Totality" or not? If they are, are they observable? Or is our current understanding of QM -- or even the nature of science itself -- radically misconceived?

 

Maybe both are, maybe not, but the problem with a knee-jerk "IEG. End. Of. Story!" response is that it is not only hoplessly vague itself, it is far too generous.

 

[IEG = It's Everything Gambit, introduced earlier.]

 

How and why that is so will now be explored.

 

The 'Polo Mint' Totality: A Whole With A Gaping Hole In The Middle

 

If the "Totality" is supposed to include everything that exists, several awkward questions immediately force themselves on us. For instance: Does the "Totality" comprise:

 

(i) All that exists in the present?

 

(ii) All that used to exist in the past?

 

Or,

 

(iii) Both?

 

Since DM-theorists are looking for a historical explanation of the development of class society (etc.), and because they think everything in nature and society is inter-connected, it seems they must at least accept Option (iii), and so count whatever exists, or has existed, in the past and the present as part of the "Totality".

 

But, if (as appears to be the case) the past is no more, how can it be part of anything, let alone the "Totality"? In what sense can something that doesn't exist be a part of anything?10 On the other hand, if the "Totality" does include the past, that will mean 'it' contains countless objects and processes that don't actually exist -- unless, of course, we are prepared to believe that things in the past do in fact still exist, somewhere.

 

[On that possibility and its connection with the TOR, see Video Six.]

 

However, if objects and processes in the past don't actually exist, but are still deemed to be part of the "Totality", then it looks like 'it' must contain some things that can (at best) 'exist' only as ideas about the past -- that is, presumably those that 'exist' in the thoughts of anyone living in the present. And if that is so, it would appear to mean that the "Totality" is part material, part Ideal.

 

Any alternative to that (which holds that only currently existing objects and processes are part of the "Whole") would clearly imply that the vast bulk of the visible universe can't be part of the "Totality", in view of the fact that most of the stars we see at night, for example, no longer exist!

 

Even if the above inferences are misguided in some way, and it turns out that everything in the "Totality" is inter-connected, another inconvenient question immediately imposes itself on us: How is it possible for ideas of the past -- or, how is it even possible for the actual past itself -- to be inter-linked with everything that currently exists? Indeed, if the "Totality" includes objects and processes that 'exist' only as ideas about them (since they no longer actually exist), what were they inter-connected with before any ideas about them had even been formed -- i.e., before sentient life evolved?

 

As seems reasonably clear, while the past might be connected with the present (we will let awkward questions about that possibility slide for now), the past itself surely can't be inter-connected with the present. That is, the present can't be back-connected with the past (which it would have to be for the past and the present to be inter-connected, not just connected). On the other hand, if past and present are inter-connected, that would surely imply some form of 'backward causation'. Alternatively again, if they aren't inter-connected, and the "Totality" itself contains only inter-connected objects and processes, then that would mean the past can't be part of the "Totality", after all!11

 

In that case, until DM-fans inform us otherwise, the above connections will be interpreted causally. Hence, for object, event or process, A, to be "connected" to object, event or process, B, there must be some sort of cause or causal link (actual or potential) running from A to B -- but not necessarily from B to A. However, for such objects, events or processes to be inter-connected, there must be some sort of cause or causal chain (actual or potential) from A to B as well as from B to A

 

[It should also be noted that the word "cause" is here being interpreted very broadly, to include all that DM-theorists themselves might understand by that term, should we ever be told with any clarity what that is!]

 

For example, to state the obvious, while a lightning strike might be the cause of a forest fire, the forest fire isn't the cause of the lightning strike. Plainly, this example illustrates a connection between two events, not their inter-connection. An excellent example of an inter-connection would be a feed-back loop; but even then the various components in such a loop would typically co-exist. Thus, if there is a feedback loop between A and B, it would seem that in the vast majority of cases both A and B would both co-exist in some form or other -- even if the latter turns out to be an ephemeral or intermittent co-existence -- or they must both exist/endure in the same temporal zone (howsoever that is conceived). They won't exist decades or centuries apart, for instance!

 

In this sense, therefore, the question is: How can past and present be inter-connected if we don't allow for 'backward causation'?

 

Furthermore, but more worryingly, any ideas we now form, or which we might now entertain, about the past plainly correspond with nothing at all, since the past doesn't exist for anything to correspond with 'it'/'them' -- except, perhaps, with yet more ideas about 'it'/'them'. Hence, so conceived, the "Totality" wouldn't even be objectively Ideal -- at least, not with respect to the past --, never mind whether or not 'it' is a material, or a physical, 'entity' 'Itself'.

 

If that interpretation of the DM-"Totality" is correct, one half of the supposed 'correspondence relation' between our ideas of the past and the past itself wouldn't exist, or rather, wouldn't hold. That in turn would appear to mean there could be no 'objective' relationship between our ideas of the past and the past itself --, certainly not one of correspondence.

 

In order to avoid intractable problems like these we might be tempted to restrict the "Totality" to things that exist only in the present; that is, we end up limiting the "Totality" to objects and processes that only enjoy contemporaneous material existence, wherever they happen to be located in the universe.

 

Of course, given the validity of Special Relativity, awkward questions about simultaneity will need to be swept under the rug if that option were adopted by DM-theorists and then applied across the board to all of nature.

 

Independently of that, the above suggestion (that we restrict the "Totality" to things that exist only in the present) generates several problems of its own. For example, the "Totality" would contain no historically significant events (or, perhaps worse still, it would contain no historical events at all!), without which nothing that happens in the present would have taken place. Depicted this way, the "Totality" must surely become explanatorily useless, since an appeal would now have to be made to (Ideal) 'objects and processes' outside the "Totality" to account for those inside!

 

Indeed, if the "Totality" were to be limited in this way, it would become precariously ephemeral. That is because the present is of extremely limited duration (that is, if it has any duration!). Nevertheless, just such an extremely slender "Totality" would seem to be implied by this option, whether or not it is correct.

 

Is the DM-Totality, therefore, a Whole with a huge hole in it? Is there little or no substance to it at all?

 

 

Figure Four: The Totality -- Mostly Hole?

 

A Fit-Up?

 

At this point, some readers might be forgiven their growing impatience for it would seem that the present author is putting words in the mouths of Dialectical Marxists, perhaps in an endeavour to run rings around them (no pun intended!).

 

Unfortunately, speculation like this has been forced on us because of the extremely limited information about this topic in the DM-literature, even if some credit (but not much!) is given to the few dialecticians who bother to mention the "Totality" (or its equivalent); or, indeed, those who actually manage to say something (anything!) substantive about 'it'. [On that, see especially Appendix B, as well as here.] This glaring omission represents an information black hole at the heart of Dialectical Marxism, the nature and extent of which is further aggravated by the reluctance of dialecticians even to address this problem.

 

Others might be tempted to conclude that the above is further evidence of the present author's obvious bias and nit-picking pedantry.

 

[On 'pedantry', see here.]

 

Of course, everything is now crystal clear! This is all my fault. How dare I have the cheek to ask such awkward questions! When will I learn!? When will I stop holding DM-fans to their own 'high ideals'? When will I stop reminding them that they never tire of telling the world that if their theory is to avoid being labelled a form of Idealism, it should be supported by evidence, and that the concepts used should all be entirely perspicuous?

 

Here, for example, are the words of just a few DM-theorists who at least gave lip-service to that protocol:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"Just as little can it be a question of maintaining the dogmatic content of the Hegelian system as it was preached by the Berlin Hegelians of the older and younger line. Hence, with the fall of the idealist point of departure, the system built upon it, in particular Hegelian natural philosophy, also falls. It must however be recalled that the natural scientists' polemic against Hegel, in so far as they at all correctly understood him, was directed solely against these two points: viz., the idealist point of departure and the arbitrary, fact-defying construction of the system." [Ibid., p.47. Bold emphases alone added. Unfortunately, this passage no longer appears at the Marxist Internet Archive!]

 

"In this way, however, the whole dogmatic content of the Hegelian system is declared to be absolute truth, in contradiction to his dialectical method, which dissolves all dogmatism...." [Engels (1888), p.589. Bold emphasis added.]

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"The dialectic is not a magic master key for all questions. It does not replace concrete scientific analysis. But it directs this analysis along the correct road, securing it against sterile wanderings in the desert of subjectivism and scholasticism." [Trotsky (1971), p.68. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Idealism and metaphysics are the easiest things in the world, because people can talk as much nonsense as they like without basing it on objective reality or having it tested against reality. Materialism and dialectics, on the other hand, need effort. They must be based on and tested by objective reality. Unless one makes the effort, one is liable to slip into idealism and metaphysics." [Mao, quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"The criticism to which the idealism of the Deborin school has been subjected in Soviet philosophical circles in recent years has aroused great interest among us. Deborin's idealism has exerted a very bad influence in the Chinese Communist Party, and it cannot be said that the dogmatist thinking in our Party is unrelated to the approach of that school. Our present study of philosophy should therefore have the eradication of dogmatist thinking as its main objective." [Mao (1961b) p.311. Bold emphasis and link added.]

 

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

 

"The basic conceptions of dialectical materialism have in the first place been taken from nature, not arbitrarily imposed upon it...." [Novack, quoted from here. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Our party philosophy, then, has a right to lay claim to truth. For it is the only philosophy which is based on a standpoint which demands that we should always seek to understand things just as they are…without disguises and without fantasy…. Marxism, therefore, seeks to base our ideas of things on nothing but the actual investigation of them, arising from and tested by experience and practice. It does not invent a 'system' as previous philosophers have done, and then try to make everything fit into it…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.14-15. Bold emphases added; paragraphs merged.]

 

"Materialism is not a dogmatic system. It is rather a way of interpreting, conceiving of and explaining every question." [Ibid., p.17. Bold emphasis added;]

 

"Separating knowledge from practice, many philosophers have also maintained that knowledge is built up by a process of 'pure thought'. The senses, they say, are unreliable, and cannot be the source of knowledge, to gain which we should...rely on the intellect alone.... What we know about the material world is derived form the exercise of our senses. Any supposed knowledge which goes beyond that is not knowledge but fantasy, and any supposed objective reality inaccessible to the sense is not real but imaginary. [Can this dogma be 'derived from the senses'? -- RL.]

 

"It may be objected that these are dogmatic statements, but there is no dogma here. On the contrary, once we get away from this fundamental materialist position we get away from verifiable knowledge and into the realms of pure speculation. One we allow ourselves to start inventing 'realities' which cannot in any way be detected by the instrumentality of the senses, we are away into the clouds.... [Can this too be 'derived from the senses'? -- RL.]

 

"Hence we should steadily reject all 'principles' and dogmas which claim to be known independent of experience, independent of the exercise of the senses, whether by some inner light or by virtue of some authority. [Such as the alleged contradictory nature of motion, which can't be verified by the senses? -- RL.] We should not trust those who seek to impose their views because they claim to possess some special intellectual gift, or to have been initiated into some mystery, or to be empowered with some special authority. We should be sceptical, and accept nothing from anyone which cannot be explained and justified in terms of practice and sense experience." [Cornforth (1963), pp.156-57. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added; some paragraphs merged.]

 

"Precisely because Marx's dialectic is a materialist one, however, it does not start from intuition, preconceptions or mystifying schemes, but from a full assimilation of scientific data. The method of investigation must differ from the method of exposition. Empirical facts have to be gathered first, the given state of knowledge has to be fully grasped. Only when this is achieved can a dialectical reorganization of the material be undertaken in order to understand the given totality. If this is successful, the result is a 'reproduction' in man's thought of this material totality: the capitalist mode of production." [Mandel (1976), p19. Bold emphasis added. (This links to a PDF.)]

 

"This law of dialectical process is like the others in that it cannot be arbitrarily 'foisted' on Nature or history. It cannot be used as a substitute for empirical facts, or used to 'predict' things without a concrete study of the facts in question…. Dialectics is not magic. It provides no mysterious formulas with occult properties, by means of which most marvellous and unexpected results can be arrived at. [Dialectical laws] are...merely the most general, universally found characteristics of process, and as such they give us a method for investigating processes concretely in various particular fields. But they can in no way eliminate the need for this detailed investigation which falls within the province of one or other of the special sciences." [Guest (1939), pp.49-50, 74. Bold emphases alone added; paragraphs merged.]

 

"The central idea in Dialectical Materialism is that of transformation. The problem is at the same time: How do transformation occur and how can we make transformations occur? The approach to this problem lies not in a philosophical analysis and definition of transformation, but in an examination of all observable facts in the universe as they are known to us from various sources, scientific and historical.... Dialectical Materialism is not a not a formula to be applied blindly either in the natural or human world. The facts must first be known and the field of application delimited before it is possible to say whether such and such a phenomenon exhibits a dialectical movement or is part of a larger process exhibiting such a movement." [Bernal (1935), pp.90, 109. Bold emphases added; paragraphs merged.]

 

"Great care has to be taken not to impose any abstract thought interpretations upon the external world. Its independent properties must be allowed to build up in the mind and not have some premature abstract thought imposed on these, concealed and unknown properties.... Training and using our senses properly means to avoid imposing thought images on the external world." [Gerry Healy, quoted in North (1991), pp.89-90. Bold emphasis added. Paragraphs merged.]

 

Finally, the on-line editors of Tony Cliff's article, 'Deflected Permanent Revolution', added the following remarks:

 

"Marx wrote: 'Philosophers have explained the world. The point however is to change it.' Marxists are often accused by our opponents of being dogmatic and doctrinaire theorists. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the point is to change the world then socialist theory must always be changed and updated in the light of experience. This is what Trotsky did and this is what Tony Cliff set out to do in this re-examination of Trotsky's theory." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases added. This comment does not appear in the pamphlet version of this article. What Marx actually said was this: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it."]

 

[I have quoted several other DM-fans who say more-or-less the same, here.]

 

Unfortunately for DM-fans, the above accusation (about the present author's alleged 'pedantry'), if it were ever to be aired, would only serve to confirm an earlier allegation: that when pressed on this topic DM-fans soon become evasive, and then deflect onto me. It would also concede the fact that not even DM-fans know what their "Totality" is or contains, or, indeed, with what any of its 'parts' are inter-connected! Or even what any of these inter-connections actually are!

 

As we dive ever deeper into these murky dialectical depths it seems the "Totality" is increasingly beginning to resemble what theologians have to say about 'God'...

 

How odd!

 

Anyone would think the 'father of modern-day dialectics' was a Christian!

 

Oh...! Wait...!

 

Is The Past Ideal?

 

However, if the past now exists only as an idea (or better still, now 'exists' only conceptually, expressed perhaps in or by our use of differentially tensed verbs and the like, or maybe only exists in our 'thoughts about it'), and if 'it' is still to be included in 'the Whole', then the vast bulk of the "Totality" must be Ideal. That is because, of course, the past is far longer than the present. It is also because it seems (to some philosophers, at least) that the present has no duration at all. As Augustine pointed out, if the present had any duration, it would have its own temporal parts, a 'before' and an 'after', a 'later' and an 'earlier'. Naturally, that would imply the present was in fact part past and part future, itself.

 

[I hasten to add that I reject the above metaphysical argument (i.e., the one presented by Augustine), but I can see no way that DM-fans will be able to counter it. However. my reason for rejecting it will take us too far afield, so I will have to let that topic slide for now.]

 

These seemingly paradoxical results might end up providing yet more grist to the DM-mill since they appear to advertise the 'contradictory' nature of 'reality'. But, apart from saddling this metaphysical 'problem' with an even more obscure term (i.e., calling it a 'dialectical contradiction'), how would this help anyone understand time or the nature of the present any better?

 

Several other rather surprising results now follow from the above observation --, as well as from the CTT, a theory of truth widely accepted in DM-circles. [More on that in Essays Three Part Four and Ten Part Two, when they are published.]

 

[CTT = Correspondence Theory of Truth.]

 

If propositions about the past are true just in case they correspond with events in the past, then that would actually make it impossible to declare them true. That is because, as noted earlier, there is nothing with which they could correspond other than yet more ideas --, or, in practice, with the content of yet more indicative sentences -- about the past, since the past is no more.

 

Undeniably, we may draw true or false conclusions about the past based on evidence now before us, but such evidence (of necessity) only exists, directly or indirectly, in the present. Furthermore, whatever it was such evidence once related to (in this sense) no longer exists so it is difficult to see how such non-existents could form part of a correspondence relation with anything at all, at least, not in any obvious sense. Or, as seems equally plain, not without another damaging concession to Idealism.

 

In response, it could be countered that the past is an objective feature of reality. If so, it would seem the above conclusions are completely misguided.

 

Or so it could be argued...

 

Unfortunately, the meaning of the term "objective" is, at best, hopelessly vague, at worst, terminally obscure. [That was demonstrated in Essay Thirteen Part One.] Nevertheless, whatever that word appears to mean, it is of little help, anyway. That is because it would still be unclear how anything (such as the past) could be "objective" if it doesn't exist. 'Objectivity' -- according to Lenin, at least -- has something to do with existence independent of the human mind, and yet we appear to have something here (the past) that doesn't exist except we form ideas about it.

 

"To be a materialist is to acknowledge objective truth, which is revealed to us by our sense-organs. To acknowledge objective truth, i.e., truth not dependent upon man and mankind, is, in one way or another, to recognise absolute truth." [Lenin (1972), p.148. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Knowledge can be useful biologically, useful in human practice, useful for the preservation of life, for the preservation of the species, only when it reflects objective truth, truth which is independent of man." [Ibid., p.157. Bold emphasis added.]

 

In which case, plainly, the past (so conceived) isn't independent of the mind, or "of man". That being so, it can't be "objective" (always assuming, of course, that Lenin is to be believed).

 

Again, it could be objected that our beliefs about the past are true just in case they correspond with past individuals, objects and events, whose existence might in turn be confirmed by an appeal to evidence in the form of documents, artefacts and assorted remains, etc.

 

However, quite apart from the circularity of the above rejoinder, this doesn't alter the fact that the past no longer exists, nor does it affect the conclusion that the confirmation of propositions about the past requires the use of contemporaneous objects and events. That is, it necessitates the use of evidence situated in the present, the employment of which is typically augmented by the use of differentially tensed verbs. Once more, that is because such evidence (in the shape of the aforementioned documents, artefacts and assorted remains) clearly exists in the present. Without the use of a working time machine, we don't have access to a body of evidence from the past that is still located there, in the past!

 

Truths about the present are quite unlike those about the past, whatever we finally conclude about the nature of any supporting evidence pertaining to one or both. That can be seen by the way we form sentences relevant to each; as noted above, we use sentences with differentially tensed verbs. That is partly where the rebuttal reported earlier itself went astray; it failed to explain -- as similar attempts must always fail to explain without the use of suitably tensed verbs -- precisely with what contemporaneous propositions about the past are supposed to correspond if 'one half' of that (hypothetical) relation doesn't actually exist.12

 

Admittedly, such 'difficulties' don't just plague the CTT (if and when that theory is applied to past events). The CTT collapses into some form of Idealism whatever time period is chosen for it, or to whatever time frame it is applied (as will be demonstrated in Essays Three Part Four and Ten Part Two, when they are published).

 

Philosophical 'problems' like this (concerning past, present and future) invariably arise because of inappropriate interpretations imposed on phrases like "The past", "The present" and "The future".12a It has thus seemed to some that if such expressions resemble, or seem to function like, Proper Names (or, indeed, they appear to be referential, or it is thought they can be used referentially), then there must be 'something' to which they correspond, or which they designate or name, which 'something' must therefore exist..., er..., somewhere...

 

A 'philosophical search' is then hastily launched in order to locate these pseudo-entities -- 'The Past' and/or 'The Future' -- conjured into existence by yet another crude misuse of language.13

 

Plainly, if the past exists, we have to use the present tense to refer to it -- as has just been done in the previous few paragraphs. Again, if we were to interpret those verbs in a similarly crude manner, it would seem to suggest the past is no longer in the past, but in the present! In turn, that would imply the past has in fact been misnamed or mis-characterised.14

 

The depiction of the past in this way is clearly inappropriate, for it would appear to mean its existence was an empirical question, an active search for which would be appropriate since it would resemble a hunt for, say, Bigfoot, only far more challenging.

 

If something exists, then, in theory, we should at least be able to identify and locate it, even if that can't actually be done at present (no pun intended), or even if this were only possible remotely, 'at a distance', as it were. Unless we accept the possibility of time travel (a fantasy that is itself based on confusions like this -- more on that below and in a later Essay, until then, see Dummett (1993b)), this isn't a viable option.

 

Clearly, these terminological 'difficulties' have arisen out of an inappropriate and misleading analogy drawn between space and time. For some, this connection appears to suggest that just as objects in space can be located somewhere (for example, using an ordered Cartesian triple, <x1, y1, z1>), those in spacetime can be located both somewhere and somewhen (using an ordered quadruple, <x1, y1, z1, t1>). But, the word "time" now assumes an entirely new meaning, since these theoretical moves depend on the aforementioned analogy drawn between location in time and location in space -- or, at least, because these two 'concepts' have now been put on the same level. Indeed, as we have just seen, this is done by the simple expedient of adding a fourth variable to the Cartesian co-ordinate system.15 Clearly, this now suggests that just as we can move about in space we should also be able to move about in time, and hence that such moves can in some way be equated, or even combined in something called "spacetime".

 

Clearly, analogies like this appear to validate the following inference: since objects located in space can (typically) co-exist, that must also be the case with objects located in time. This further motivates the idea that since some future-tense indicative sentences appear to be true now, they must correspond with, or must refer to, events which have yet to occur. It is then but a short step to the conclusion that future events must now exist in a shadowy form in, well..., er...,  'The Future'.

 

Unfortunately, that, too, appears to situate such 'future events' in the present! Similarly with those in 'The Past'.

 

[Notice: the present tense has had to be used to make the above points.]

 

Naturally, this would mean that all events -- past, present and future -- co-exist (present tense, again)! All this 'deep metaphysics' conjured into existence by means of a few simple tricks with coordinate systems, verbs, prepositions and nouns; an entire ontology conjured into existence by the simple expedient of adding another variable to an ordered triple -- creating a theory that, as we will see, no one really understands!

 

[On that, see Note 12a.]

 

Unfortunately, this 'solves' the 'problem' of location in time by completely destroying the difference between past, present and future!16

 

A metaphysical scorched earth policy like this plainly has no viable future (pun intended).17

 

Anyway, and independently of the foregoing, this annoying question remains: are all three, past, present and future, part of the "Totality"?

 

We have yet to be told.

 

The Elusive Membership List

 

In order to side-step awkward questions like these we might be tempted into arguing that the "Totality" includes everything that exists, a-temporally.

 

Unfortunately, that suggestion is little help since it is unclear what a-temporal existence could possibly mean -- except, perhaps, that phrase might apply to a 'Deity' of some sort, and, incidentally, one that couldn't actually do anything.17a That would, of course, link the DM-"Totality" even more closely with those earlier ruminations about 'God'.

 

Independently of all that, can we say anything more about all those 'universal inter-connections'?

 

Here are the thoughts of a fully paid-up member of the HCD-Fraternity outlining an argument in favour of linking inter-connection with "Totality" (in what is a relatively, and uncharacteristically, clear passage from this theorist):

 

"This [i.e., a 'transcendental' deduction for totality -- RL] seems relatively easy for social life. Consider once more our paradigmatic book...in the library.... There is an obvious sense in which the book, if recently published, existentially presupposes all, or at least many, of the others, and the spatio-temporal traditions which nurtured it.... That is to say it would have been impossible without the others. Or consider the text itself. It is an internally related totality. As are the elements of a language, or the ebb and flow of a conversation, the sequential 'habitus' of a routine, the systematic interdependencies of the global monetary system, a play, a sculpture, or an experimental project oriented to the demediation of nature. Or consider simply a musical tune, melody, beat or rhythm. Or reflect on the semantic structure of a sentence, bound in a complex of paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations (and metaphoric and metonymic presuppositions). Or on its physical structure -- for instance, the location of the spaces and punctuation marks within it. Not to treat such entities as totalities is to violate norms of descriptive and hermeneutic adequacy." [Bhaskar (1993), pp.123-24. Links added.]

 

But, how are the things this author mentions inter-linked? While they might turn out to be causally or 'conceptually' related, their inter-connection would still be far from clear. For example, Bhaskar says the following about books:

 

"Consider once more our paradigmatic book...in the library.... There is an obvious sense in which the book, if recently published, existentially presupposes all, or at least many, of the others, and the spatio-temporal traditions which nurtured it...." [Ibid.]

 

While Bhaskar's own work might be related to others on which it depends (i.e., those to which he might have referred or which he studied in order to write the book in question), and to the publishing industry upon which all books depend, how does any of that inter-connect that book with, say, ancient Chinese pottery, Bronze Age Norwegian jewellery or first century Greek hair styles? Are they not part of Bhaskar's "Totality"? Are these items, and countless others, inter-connected? How do we decide which are (and which aren't) legitimate, inter-linked items in Bhaskar's "Totality"? We are given no clues. And Bhaskar doesn't even begin to ask questions about possible or actual inter-connections between the present and the past (like those that were posed earlier in this Essay, here and here, for instance).

 

Anyway, what about "totalities" outwith the social sphere, in nature? Bhaskar is far less clear and much less confident about the answer to that question. The smokescreen of obscure jargon he now throws up is a dead give-away:

 

"First, it might be entered that unless there were internal, and specifically dialectical contradictions..., there would be no internal (radically negating) tendencies to change either for individual things or for their types (including natural kinds) or, more drastically, for the world as a whole, so that the emergence of, for example, science would have been impossible. If my first argument turns on the transcendental necessity of ontological change, my second turns on that of the transcendental necessity for taxonomy in science. Thus it could be argued that unless some explanatory significant things had properties which were existentially essential to them, that is, such that they were not just necessarily connected, but internally related, to them, scientific classification, which depends on the possibility of real (as distinct from merely nominal) definitions, would be impossible. Internal relationality, and so the conceptual possibility of the analytic a posteriori, is bound to the Leibnizian level of the identification of natural kinds, as natural necessity is tied to the demonstration of explanatory adequacy in the dialectic of explanatory and taxonomic knowledge in science.... For if classification is justified only on the basis of superficial resemblance rather than real identity of structure, then there is no rationale for the stratification of science. This depends upon grasping suitably groomed structurata (sic) as tokens of real structures, whose intransitive existence and transfactual efficacy is a condition not only of science, but also of life." [Ibid., p.124. Link added.]

 

There are many things in the above passage with which one might want to take issue (for example, 'internal relations', 'transcendental deductions' and 'natural kinds'; they will all be critically evaluated elsewhere at this site), just as there are others that have already been challenged in this and other Essays (such as the precise nature of 'dialectical contradictions' and 'natural necessity'). Despite this, the above passage still fails tell us what the DM-"Totality" actually is -- other than that it is (maybe) a regulative device aimed at maintaining the morale of scientists (for instance, enabling them to construct taxonomies, for goodness sake!). Or perhaps even for attracting the attention of those who dote on academic gobbledygook like this?

 

Once again, Bhaskar failed to ask the sort of questions posed at this site -- for example, about the physical nature of these connections and inter-connections, or even whether the past and the future are part of this "Totality".

 

Bhaskar is also (and understandably) silent about the mystical and theological origin of these obscure 'concepts'. That might help explain why he finally unravelled as an open and honest mystic later in life. Alas, he too has now gone off to join the Big-Negation-In-The-Sky, so we will never know the answer to that one.

 

Since DM-fans remain steadfastly silent about the nature and content of the "Totality", let alone their inter-connections, maybe they require some assistance, someone to construct a membership list for them?

 

The present author is happy to help out and step into the breach...

 

To that end, if we knew exactly what we are supposed to be talking about, the nature of the elusive "Totality" might become a little clearer -- or at least a little less unclear. Indeed, construction of just such a roll call can only help in our quest to be clear about some of the implications of the wider theory -- i.e., DM itself --, especially if a concerted effort were made to consider every conceivable possibility.

 

[That is my excuse for what is about to follow over the next score or more paragraphs! Readers are encouraged to keep that in mind throughout the rest of this section of the Essay.]

 

So, it is worth posing questions that DM-fans fail, or even refuse to ask. For example: Does the "Totality" include every material object, or only material objects? If the latter is the case, it would seem that the "Totality", or its content list, must exclude non-material 'objects' -- for instance (maybe), 'abstractions', like courage, generosity, justice and equality?

 

[As we saw in Essays Two and Three Parts One and Two, DM-theorists have yet to tell us exactly with what (in this universe) the 'abstractions' they all speak about actually correspond! If they don't correspond with anything, it is difficult to see how they can 'reflect' anything either, and hence how they can form part of a materialist theory, to begin with -- let alone be part of the "Totality". In Essay Twelve Part Four we will see John Rees, for example, unsuccessfully attempt to account for an abstraction like friendship. But at least he tried, which is more than can be said about every other DM-fan I have encountered over the last thirty-five years.]

 

If any of the above 'abstractions' are to be excluded, it might be prudent to throw these spurious creations of Ancient Greek Grammar (i.e., all those 'abstractions') overboard. And yet, doing that would almost certainly sink the 'dialectical theory of knowledge', which relies heavily on the mythical 'process of abstraction'. It would seem, therefore, that the only viable alternative available to dialecticians on this score is for them to conclude that the DM-"Totality" must contain abstractions of some sort or description, the precise nature of which are, alas, no less obscure than the "Totality" 'Itself'!

 

Fitting bed-fellows, then.

 

But, dear reader, don't presume to ask where such abstractions live, reside or are to be found. In 'heaven', with 'God'? In your head? Inside objects and processes themselves? Spread out over the set of all things to which they supposedly apply, like some sort of metaphysical shroud?

 

Puzzled onlookers (some of whom might be tempted to ignore the above advice) should contact their local DM-Soothsayers, who, in response to impertinent questions like these will once again wave their arms vaguely heavenward, if you are lucky -- or, and what is far more likely, accuse you of not 'understanding' dialectics, which happy band (as we discovered in Essay Nine Part One) includes dialecticians themselves -- if you aren't.

 

And, of course, if you're a child, you'll believe everything you are told.

 

Even worse, we have yet to be informed by DM-theorists themselves -- those self-proclaimed materialists -- what matter actually is! Except they tell us that it, too, is an abstraction! Here is Engels:

 

"It is the old story. First of all one makes sensuous things into abstractions and then one wants to know them through the senses, to see time and smell space. The empiricist becomes so steeped in the habit of empirical experience, that he believes that he is still in the field of sensuous experience when he is operating with abstractions.... The two forms of existence of matter are naturally nothing without matter, empty concepts, abstractions which exist only in our minds. But, of course, we are supposed not to know what matter and motion are! Of course not, for matter as such and motion as such have not yet been seen or otherwise experienced by anyone, only the various existing material things and forms of motions. Matter is nothing but the totality of material things from which this concept is abstracted and motion as such nothing but the totality of all sensuously perceptible forms of motion; words like matter and motion are nothing but abbreviations in which we comprehend many different sensuous perceptible things according to their common properties. Hence matter and motion can be known in no other way than by investigation of the separate material things and forms of motion, and by knowing these, we also pro tanto know matter and motion as such.... This is just like the difficulty mentioned by Hegel; we can eat cherries and plums, but not fruit, because no one has so far eaten fruit as such." [Engels (1954), pp.235-36. Bold emphasis and link added. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

"N.B. Matter as such is a pure creation of thought and an abstraction. We leave out of account the qualitative differences of things in lumping them together as corporeally existing things under the concept matter. Hence matter as such, as distinct from definite existing pieces of matter, is not anything sensuously existing." [Ibid., p.255. Bold emphasis added.]

 

These are rather odd things for an avowed materialist to have to say. If matter is an abstraction, how can "definite existing pieces of matter" fail to be abstract, too? Actual examples of an 'abstraction' can't fail to be abstract, surely?

 

Nevertheless, none of this should surprise us since arch-Idealist, Hegel, was also of this opinion (according to Lenin):

 

"If abstraction is made from every determination and Form of a Something, indeterminate Matter remains. Matter is a pure abstract. (-- Matter cannot be seen or felt, etc. -- what is seen or felt is a determinate Matter, that is, a unity of Matter and Form)." [Lenin (1961), pp.144-45. Bold emphasis alone added. The original passage from Hegel has been reposted in Note 57 of Essay Thirteen Part One.]

 

It is instructive, therefore, to see a card-carrying Idealist like Hegel agree with such avowed materialists, that matter is just an "abstraction"!

 

[Incidentally, I have subjected Engels's argument (about eating fruit) to destructive criticism in Essay Thirteen Part One.]

 

In which case, being told that the "Totality" contains or is comprised only of material objects is no help at all, since that would mean it contains, or is comprised only of, abstractions!

 

Maybe that is why Lenin argued as follows:

 

"Logical concepts are subjective so long as they remain 'abstract,' in their abstract form, but at the same time they express the Thing-in-themselves. Nature is both concrete and abstract, both phenomenon and essence, both moment and relation. Human concepts are subjective in their abstractness, separateness, but objective as a whole, in the process, in the sum-total, in the tendency, in the source." [Lenin (1961), p.208. Bold emphasis alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Except, if nature is completely material, it can only be abstract -- since, according to the above DM-classicists, matter is an abstraction. That would make the "Totality" an 'Ideal object', which, once more, shouldn't surprise us given its origin in Ancient Greek, Hermetic and Christian Mysticism.

 

Returning to the proposed list: what are we to say about the following scientific/theoretical entities: Quarks, Superstrings, Wormholes, energy, force, genes, species, and genera? Do they inhabit the "Totality"? Are mathematical concepts and objects -- e.g., π, e, Matrices, Complex Numbers, Partial Derivatives, Banach Space, Hermite Polynomials, the Kronecker Delta, Abelian Groups, Transfinite Cardinals, Self-adjoint Operators (etc., etc.) -- to be excluded, or included?

 

[My use of the word "theoretical" here doesn't mean I question the existence of any of the scientific 'entities' just mentioned, only that many are defined parts of complex and (so we are told) well-founded bodies of theory. In that case, the nature of each is integral to the theory to which it belongs. Any significant change to a given theory (which regularly happens in science, as we are about to discover) can't fail to have a knock-on effect on the defined nature of the said 'objects' and 'processes', too. That is all that is meant by the word "theoretical" in such a context -- and in this Essay --, unless stated otherwise. I will say much more about this in Essay Thirteen Part Two.]

 

But, what about the properties of objects that depend either on their disposition or on their relation to other bodies, such as size, velocity, weight, and hardness? Do these make the Mega Inventory? If so, shouldn't we also rope in the apparent properties of matter, such as solidity, liquidity, colour, smell, taste, and sound? And yet, according to some, these properties and qualities depend solely on their being perceived by sentient beings, which would mean that they aren't 'objective' -- at least, not according to Lenin (re-quoted below) --, even though they appear to exercise some sort of causal influence on other material bodies independently of our perception of them. Is this sufficient reason to strike them from the Cosmic Registry, the fact that they might not have existed countless millions of years ago when there was no one around to perceive them? Is that good enough reason to add them to, or even delete them from, the Cosmic Membership List (henceforth, CML)?

 

What then should we conclude about genuine oddities, such as corners, surfaces and shapes? These rather strange 'entities' seem to disappear at the micro-level, and several even depend on the point of view of the observer. In that case, can they really be part of an 'objective' "Totality"?18

 

Worse still, what are we to say about 'items'/'prospective members' whose natures are even more puzzling or obscure? For example, what should we make of mathematical fictions like the average worker, the mean square velocity of (a body of) gas molecules (which forms part of the Kinetic Theory of Gases), the probability of an event, Spearman's Rank Correlation Coefficient, the Centre of Mass of the Solar System, or the moment of a force? Despite the fact that these are human constructs, some of them also appear to exercise a significant causal influence on material objects, events and processes. In which case, are they 'objective', 'subjective', both or neither?

 

Concerning Centres of Mass (or "Barycentres"), this is what we read at NASA's website:

 

"We say that planets orbit stars, but that's not the whole truth. Planets and stars actually orbit around their common centre of mass. This common centre of mass is called the barycentre.... Every object has a centre of mass. It is the exact centre of all the material an object is made of. An object's centre of mass is the point at which it can be balanced. Sometimes the centre of mass is directly in the centre of an object. For example, you can easily find the centre of mass of a ruler. Try holding your finger under the middle of a ruler in a few different spots. You'll find a spot where you can balance the whole ruler on just one fingertip. That's the ruler's centre of mass. The centre of mass is also called the centre of gravity.

 

"But sometimes the centre of mass is not in the centre of the object. Some parts of an object may have more mass than other parts. A sledge hammer, for example, has most of its mass on one end, so its centre of mass is much closer its heavy end. In space, two or more objects orbiting each other also have a centre of mass. It is the point around which the objects orbit. This point is the barycentre of the objects. The barycentre is usually closest to the object with the most mass. Where is the barycentre between Earth and the sun? Well, the sun has lots of mass. In comparison, Earth's mass is very small. That means the sun is like the head of the sledgehammer. So, the barycentre between Earth and the sun is very close to the centre of the sun. Jupiter is a lot larger than Earth. It has 318 times more mass. As a result, the barycentre of Jupiter and the sun isn't in the centre of the sun. It's actually just outside the sun's surface!

 

"Our entire solar system also has a barycentre. The sun, Earth, and all of the planets in the solar system orbit around this barycentre. It is the centre of mass of every object in the solar system combined. Our solar system's barycentre constantly changes position. Its position depends on where the planets are in their orbits. The solar system's barycentre can range from being near the centre of the sun to being outside the surface of the sun. As the sun orbits this moving barycentre, it wobbles around. [Quoted from here. Accessed 07/08/2022. Spelling modified to agree with UK English; several paragraphs merged. NASA's website also has animated diagrams/videos that illustrate several of the above points. Here, for instance, is a video illustrating this specific phenomenon.]

 

So, not only can barycentres move they can sometimes be located in 'empty space'. If so, according to Lenin (once more), they must be "objective", since they exist 'outside the mind', move and are "independent of man":

 

"To be a materialist is to acknowledge objective truth, which is revealed to us by our sense-organs. To acknowledge objective truth, i.e., truth not dependent upon man and mankind, is, in one way or another, to recognise absolute truth." [Lenin (1972), p.148. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Knowledge can be useful biologically, useful in human practice, useful for the preservation of life, for the preservation of the species, only when it reflects objective truth, truth which is independent of man." [Ibid., p.157. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"[T]he sole 'property' of matter with whose recognition philosophical materialism is bound up is the property of being an objective reality, of existing outside our mind." [Ibid., p.311. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"Recognising the existence of objective reality, i.e., matter in motion, independently of our mind, materialism must also inevitably recognise the objective reality of time and space, in contrast above all to Kantianism, which in this question sides with idealism and regards time and space not as objective realities but as forms of human understanding. The basic difference between the two fundamental philosophical lines on this question is also quite clearly recognised by writers of the most diverse trends who are in any way consistent thinkers." [Ibid., pp.202-03. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"The different forms and varieties of matter itself can likewise only be known through motion, only in this are the properties of bodies exhibited; of a body that does not move there is nothing to be said. Hence the nature of bodies in motion results from the forms of motion." [Ibid., p.248.]

 

Here, too, is Engels:

 

"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be…. Matter without motion is just as inconceivable as motion without matter. Motion is therefore as uncreatable and indestructible as matter itself; as the older philosophy...expressed it, the quantity of motion existing in the world is always the same. Motion therefore cannot be created; it can only be transmitted.... A motionless state of matter therefore proves to be one of the most empty and nonsensical of ideas -- a 'delirious fantasy' of the purest water." [Engels (1976), pp.74-75. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"Motion in the most general sense, conceived as the mode of existence, the inherent attribute, of matter, comprehends all changes and processes occurring in the universe, from mere change of place right up to thinking." [Engels (1954), p.69. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Lenin concurred:

 

"In full conformity with this materialist philosophy of Marx's, and expounding it, Frederick Engels wrote in Anti-Dühring (read by Marx in the manuscript): 'The real unity of the world consists in its materiality, and this is proved...by a long and wearisome development of philosophy and natural science....' 'Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, or motion without matter, nor can there be....'" [Lenin (1914), p.8. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Again, based on the above, the conclusion facing DM-theorists must surely be that since barycentres can not only move, they certainly seem to exist "outside the mind" (and sometimes even in 'empty space'), they must be material and hence 'objective'. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see dialecticians try to explain how something that enjoys no actual physical existence -- that is, a barycentre isn't composed of anything that is itself physical or material -- can nevertheless be 'objective' and material. But, if they are neither, can they really be part of the "Totality"?

 

Any attempt to answer such questions by appealing to 'warped spacetime' and geodesics [WSG] would be no help, either, unless it were also accompanied by a clear explanation of their exact physical nature. That is because WSGs form part of a mathematical model of the universe, integral to General Relativity [GR], and mathematical models aren't physical structures.

 

[There is more about this above, below, and in Note 15  -- as well as here. Again, this isn't to question GR, merely to remind the reader that physicists have yet to explain the physical nature of WSGs (as well as all those 'fields' to which they appeal).]

 

Be this as it may, what are we to say about 'entities' whose status (or 'nature') is even more problematic, such as vacua, mirages, illusions, holes, shadows, 'The Unconscious', mirror and lens images, reflections, refractions, para-reflections, the perspectival properties of bodies, phantom limbs (or the 'phantom perception' of false limbs), dreams, rainbows, fogbows, Brocken Spectres, Heilgenschein, Glories, The Bishop's Ring, Ice Halos, pains, hallucinations, memories and emotions? Are they legitimate denizens of the "Totality", or not?

 

What about those whose nature and existence are either dubious or even more problematic, such as: Phlogiston, Caloric, the Ether, the mysterious powers of the Echeneis fish (which was once widely believed by scientists to be capable of halting the passage of ships(!)), N Rays, Orgone, Bio-Energy and Polywater?19

 

If we disallow some, any or all of the above how can we consistently admit entry to others that are merely theoretical, or are of a highly speculative nature, such as Black Holes19a0, Superstrings, Spacetime, n-dimensional space, Instantons. [Instantons are "pseudoparticles" -- i.e., they are solutions to certain equations in Yang-Mills theory in Gauge Quantum Mechanics. Are these 'particles' physically real, or, since they are merely 'solutions' to mathematical puzzles, are they not merely mathematical 'objects' and as such non-'objective', since they aren't "independent of man"? Are they not the modern-day equivalent of the epicycles of Medieval Astronomy?] What then about branched time zones, Axions and Branes -- which are decidedly weird, even in comparison with several of the items listed earlier?

 

Are we to be liberal or exclusive in the way we draw up the CML -- Menshevik or Bolshevik?

 

An Ontological Blank Cheque Issued To Scientists?

 

It could be argued that we should admit into the "Totality" all and only the existence of objects and processes that scientists themselves acknowledge 'objectively' -- either now or in the future --, supported by the weight of evidence.19a

 

[That is indeed the line John Somerville, for example, takes, here (i.e., Somerville (1967), pp.3-32). It looks like the late John Molyneux did, too -- cf., Molyneux (2012), pp.40-41. They aren't the only ones, either.]

 

The problem with a response like this is that it would present scientists with far too generous an ontological 'blank cheque', so to speak.19b In fact, if this policy were adopted by DM-supporters, many of the objects and processes in the "Totality" that are currently regarded as 'objective' would possess a somewhat precarious -- if not decidedly fleeting -- existence. In that case, just as soon as scientists changed their minds over the nature and existence of these ephemeral 'entities' (as they regularly do), their 'temporary residence permits' would have to be revoked. As should no doubt seem obvious the problem here is that a "Totality" like this, which grows or shrinks in line with the fickle decisions of scientists, could in no way be 'objective' -- if, once again, we agree with Lenin:

 

"To be a materialist is to acknowledge objective truth, which is revealed to us by our sense-organs. To acknowledge objective truth, i.e., truth not dependent upon man and mankind, is, in one way or another, to recognise absolute truth." [Lenin (1972), p.148. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Knowledge can be useful biologically, useful in human practice, useful for the preservation of life, for the preservation of the species, only when it reflects objective truth, truth which is independent of man." [Ibid., p.157. Bold emphasis added.]

 

In addition to several of the items already mentioned (which we might describe as 'virtual', or even 'honorary', members of the "Totality"), the following would possess (or would have possessed) only provisional/temporary squatters' rights: indivisible atoms, the four forms of matter, entelechies, the fifth element, homunculi, the music of the spheres, the celestial spheres themselves, mermaids, humours, cosmic vortices, substantial forms, effluvia, miasmas, leprechauns, goblins, fairies, sprites, witches and demons.

 

As is well-known, scientists/natural philosophers at one time entertained the existence of all of the above, and often across many centuries.

 

Not only that, we might add to the growing list items whose status is at present either highly dubious, questionable, or which might become one or other any day soon: the Higgs Boson, 'selfish' genes, I.Q., race, Morphogenic Fields, so-called "homeopathic" phenomena, "The Placebo Effect", the graviton, gravitational waves, tachyons, the 'Holographic Principle' and Gaia.

 

 

Video Four: Placebo Effect -- Real Or Imaginary?

 

[Update July 2012: I will add a few comments about the recent 'discovery' of a 'particle' (or supposed 'particle', but which is really a 'wave' in the Higgs Field) in the energy range where the Higgs Boson is presumed to exist when it has become a little clearer what exactly has been found. (See also the article reproduced in Appendix A on this topic.) More-or-less the same can be said about the recent detection of 'gravitational waves', the actual discovery of which some physicists are beginning to question.]

 

It is worth recalling that the late Stephen Hawking once laid a bet that the Higgs Boson would never be found. Even though he subsequently conceded that he had lost the bet, it is still perhaps a little too early for anyone finally to agree with him. As we know only too well, scientists frequently change their minds.

 

Not that that is a bad thing, either! In a field where theories are sensitive to new discoveries, one would, and should, expect regular such changes.

 

Even worse, Physicists appear to be unable to make up their minds over whether or not the Higgs Boson explains all the mass in the universe:

 

"So, the Higgs boson has been discovered! That's good news. You may have also heard that the Higgs gives mass to everything in the Universe, and that it's a field. The odd thing is that all of these things are true, if not intuitive. There are some attempts to explain it simply, but as you can see, even the top ones are not very clear. So let's give you something to sink your teeth into: How do fundamental particles, including the Higgs boson, get their mass?" [Quoted from here. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

"But how did the electrons and quarks that make up all the matter in the universe (for technical reasons, perhaps except for neutrinos) get their mass? That we still don't know. But once we understand how the Ws and the Z gain their mass from their interaction with the Higgs field, we assume that we also know how mass in general is created: through the same 'Higgs mechanism,' and that this primeval cosmic event shortly after the Big Bang has thus created the mass of the universe: electrons, quarks, stars, galaxies, planets, trees, animals, and us." [Quoted from here. Italic emphases in the original. Links and bold emphasis added.]

 

"The Higgs boson is important in the Standard Model because it implies the existence of a Higgs field, an otherwise invisible field of energy which pervades the entire universe. Without the Higgs field, the elementary particles that make up you, me, and the visible universe would have no mass. Without the Higgs field mass could not be constructed and nothing could be." [Baggott (2012), p.3. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

This is what Professor Stenger had to say about this 'particle':

 

"In all the recent hoopla about the long-sought Higgs boson, you often hear it said that it is responsible for the mass of the universe. This is not true. Assuming it exists, the Higgs boson is actually responsible for only a small fraction of the total mass of the universe. This is not to say that the Higgs boson is not important. The main role of the Higgs in the standard model of elementary particles is to provide for the symmetry breaking of the unified electroweak force by giving mass to the weak bosons and splitting the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces. It also gives mass to the other elementary particles. If elementary particles did not have mass, they would all be moving at the speed of light and never stick together to form stuff like stars, cats, and you and me.

 

"The mass of the universe, however, is not simply the sum of the masses of the elementary particles that constitute matter. Einstein showed that the mass of a body is equal to its rest energy. If that body is not elementary but composed of parts, then its rest energy as a whole will be the sum of all the energies of its parts. This sum will include the kinetic and potential energies of the parts in addition to their individual rest energies." [Quoted from here. Links and bold emphasis added. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

The following passage comes from an interview with Duke University Physicist, Mark Kruse, which further muddies the water (and not just because Kruse says the Higgs boson is a "point-like particle", when we saw in Essay Seven Part One that, according to Quantum Field Theory, there are no such particles, just excitations in an associated 'field'):

 

"1. Misconception: The Higgs particle gives other particles mass. Correction: The masses of fundamental particles come from interactions with the Higgs field. 'You see this statement all the time, but how would another particle even "give" another particle mass?' Kruse asks, explaining truly it's the Higgs field that provides mass to fundamental particles, such as quarks, electrons and neutrinos.

 

"The Higgs particle is a consequence of the Higgs field. By discovering the Higgs particle, it shows the Higgs field exists. In the math that physicists use to understand the Higgs boson and field, there is a piece of an equation that they interpret as the existence of a Higgs boson, which they see as a point-like particle resulting from the Higgs field 'curling in' on itself, like a knot in a spider's web. Physicists can't interpret the Higgs boson itself to be giving anything mass, but by interacting with other particles, they can argue that the Higgs field is giving resistance to the particles' motion, thereby giving them mass.

 

"2. Misconception: The Higgs field generates the mass of everything. Correction: The Higgs field generates the mass of about one percent of observable matter and possibly all of dark matter. The Higgs field generates mass for quarks, which are the building blocks of protons and neutrons. The protons and neutrons, in turn, form the nuclei at the core of atoms, which are the building blocks of molecules, proteins, cells, plants, animals, planets, stars, galaxies and all the stuff we see in the universe. The mass of quarks accounts for only one percent of the mass of a proton or neutron. The other 99 percent of the mass of observable matter comes from the energy that binds protons' and neutrons' constituent quarks together.

 

"It may seem kind of strange to think that the discovery of the Higgs boson, and thereby the existence of the Higgs field, means scientists have discovered an explanation for only one percent of the observable mass of everything we see. But, 'that one percent is the mass of the fundamental constituents of the universe,' Kruse says, adding that the Higgs field has also incredible consequences for the structure of atoms and molecules. 'If the already small mass of electrons was zero, as it would be without a Higgs field, then everything would just disintegrate,' he says. 'All the atomic structure we are familiar with wouldn't exist. We wouldn't exist. There may still be matter, but it wouldn't be the same. There certainly wouldn't be life as we know it.'

 

"Also, unobservable matter also wouldn't have mass. Scientists believe this unseen, or dark matter, comprises more than 80 percent of the matter of the universe, but it doesn't interact strongly enough with anything to allow its direct observation. Yet, because it has significant mass, 'it must interact with the Higgs field and that's another key point,' Kruse says. 'The Higgs field generates about one percent of observable mass, with the term 'observable' being a very important qualifier, because the Higgs field may be responsible for the mass of all dark matter.'" [Quoted from here. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

Moreover, as is the case in other areas of science, the temptation is to try to account for mass, or even try to explain it, by appealing to several inappropriate metaphors --, for example, here referring to the "syrupy Higgs Field":

 

"Our theory says that matter, at a fundamental level, is made up of particles called quarks and leptons. The quarks make up protons, and protons make up atoms. Mathematically, it's easy to build a theory where the quarks have no mass at all, and in fact they may have been mass-less at the time of the Big Bang, when they came into existence. But clearly they do have mass now. Why?

 

"In the 1960s, Peter Higgs [a British physicist] and others found a kind of mathematical trick to explain it. We now imagine there is a field permeating all of space -- we call it the Higgs field -- and as particles interact with that field, they acquire mass. Think of it like a syrup that the particles have to push their way through. So it's that interaction with the syrup that we see as mass. And the Higgs boson is the 'unit' that makes up this Higgs field." [Physicist Robert Orr, quoted from here. Paragraphs merged; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Links and bold emphasis added. Physics Professor Jim Al-Khalili also appealed to this useless metaphor/analogy in this BBC video, at about 08:30. He also asserts several times that the Higgs gives mass to "every other particle" --, for example, at 36:25 and 37:10. If some of the earlier quoted passages are accurate, that isn't the case.]

 

But, as should seem obvious, a syrup would bring all movement to a halt. So, the Higgs Field is nothing like a syrup. Nor are the following metaphors much use, either:

 

"A Higgs field (named after a Scottish physicist Peter Higgs) is a field supposed to be responsible for the genesis of inertial mass (and, because of Einstein's equivalence principle, gravitational mass). When the universe is extremely hot, a Higgs field (which is supposed to have a certain curve of potential energy; as regards the shape of this curve, there is no unique consensus, except for a certain general feature, among the physicists) exerts a wild influence; but we will neglect this here. Once the universe cools down enough, below a certain temperature, the Higgs field assumes a certain value (i.e. a value of the Higgs field) which corresponds to the lowest energy level (i.e. the potential energy is zero, but the value of the Higgs field is nonzero; this level may be called vacuum). And this energy level continues to prevail throughout the whole universe (uniform, nonzero Higgs field).

 

"Now, suppose a quark or electron moves (supposed fundamental particles which make up composite particles such as proton, neutron, or various atoms) in this uniform Higgs field. If that particle changes its velocity of movement, that is, if it accelerates, then the Higgs field is supposed to exert a certain amount of resistance or drag, and that is the origin of inertial mass. In a slightly more precise terminology, inertial mass is generated by interactions between a particle and the (nonzero) Higgs field. In a nutshell, this is the origin of inertial mass. Of course, other kinds of interaction, such as the strong interaction (governed by the force of gluons, particles gluing quarks together into a proton, say) may contribute significantly to the resulting mass. Moreover, the degree of resistance (drag) of the Higgs field is different depending on the kinds of fundamental particles, and this generates the difference between the mass of electron and that of a quark." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases and links added. Italic emphasis in the original.]

 

As we saw in Essay Eight Parts One and Two (links below), a mathematical object, like a field, can't exert "drag forces" unless it has some sort of physical presence of its own, and is therefore made of something impenetrable or which resists penetration (but what?).

 

Now, if the above comment itself turns out to be misguided in some way, and a field is somehow capable of exerting "drag forces" (but how?), that would simply push the problem one stage further back. A mathematical object, so characterised, would be, or would be comprised of, or would be part of, a scalar, vector or tensor field -- and as theoretical physicist, Sean Carroll, points out in this video lecture, a field is simply shorthand for numerical (or other) values attributed to a point in that field, if a measurement were to be taken. In other words, a field is simply a way predicting how an instrument will behave if placed in, or is targeted on, a given point in 'space'. Cynics might even conclude fields are little more than a mathematical version of the old 'Ideal Observer' -- which, if true, would make much of High Energy Physics a new form of Instrumentalism -- or even Objective Idealism.

 

[Which seems to be the conclusion reached in Unzicker (2013), but definitely in Malek (2011) and Lerner (1992) -- a situation which was more-or-less predicted in and by Lenin (1972), except he tended to label such moves, 'subjective idealism'.]

 

What are we to think when we encounter metaphors like this (this one is quite common and widely used in contemporary Physics)?

 

"The collision of distant black holes generates gravitational waves, or ripples in 'space-time'. Space-time can be thought of as a 'fabric' in which the objects of the Universe are embedded. Those objects -- stars, planets, black holes -- make space-time curve in upon itself, just as an elastic fabric holding a ball would do. The more massive the object, the deeper the curve -- the same as in a fabric!" [The European Space Agency, quoted from here; accessed 04/08/2023. Bold emphasis added.]

 

I posted the following comment under this PBS video on YouTube (that talked about the 'fabric' of space and the detection of 'gravitational waves' in that 'fabric'):

 

Physicists keep talking about 'the fabric of space and time', but if it is a fabric, what is it made of? If it isn't made of anything, why call it a fabric? How can it be warped in that case? And if there is nothing there to be warped, how can there be any waves for anyone to detect? Finally, if the word 'fabric' is a misleading metaphor, why use it?

 

To which someone replied:

 

"It's a misleading metaphor, it's used because it's easy. The same way black holes aren't holes, neutron stars aren't all neutrons, and dwarf stars can be pretty big. Once a name sticks it can take a long time to shift it, if ever."

 

I answered as follows (slightly edited):

 

Yes, thanks for that. I am aware it's a misleading metaphor (science in general is full of them), but it still fails to tell us what space/spacetime is made of. If it is made of nothing it can't be physical and hence physics has no business studying it. Worse still, how can it be 'warped' if there is nothing there to be warped? On the other hand, if it is made of something, what is it?

 

[I will enter into this topic in more detail in Essay Thirteen Part Two.]

 

Clearly, mathematical structures/objects like this have no physical presence -- especially when they turn out to be no more than (actual or potential) instrument readings, mentioned in an earlier paragraph. In which case, on their own they can have no effect on anything -- and, for that matter, not even on instruments if they don't actually exist. All we are speaking about here then is the way instruments behave in certain regions of space, under certain circumstances. In this way, contemporary Physics has given up trying to explain physical reality. All it is interested in is measuring and predicting.

 

[On this, see Becker (2018), which makes more-or-less the same point. Also see Ellis (1963, 1965, 1976). I will cover this topic in much more detail in a future re-write of Essay Eight Part Two. In the meantime, readers are directed here for further details.]

 

Admittedly, we might try to represent a field by the use of lines of force, or by constructing a scalar or even a tangent/slope field, etc. However, lines of force are 'infinitely thin' and yet are also absolutely 'unbreakable'. Even worse they misrepresent the supposedly continuous nature of a field! But, such lines (or whatever a field is supposed to be composed of) must allow particles to pass through, all the while remaining coherent themselves --, even though they are in fact made of nothing. Otherwise we should have to appeal to forces of cohesion to account for each of the following:

 

(i) The structural integrity of those 'lines' themselves (or, once more, whatever such a field is supposed to be composed of);

 

(ii) Their capacity to resist motion; and,

 

(iii) Their permeability.

 

[Of course, these are ridiculous questions to ask of mathematical structures, but fields are supposed to be part of the material world, so they are entirely pertinent. I return to this theme below.]

 

But, this just reproduces the same problem one stage further back, for we should now have to account for these new 'cohesive forces'..., and so on, ad infinitem. On the other hand, if a field is continuous (and isn't made of discrete 'lines of force' -- or whatever it is supposed to be composed of), it would be even less capable of resisting motion -- unless, of course, it were particulate in some way, after all. [For more on this, follow the links below.]

 

[Once again, the above remarks are aimed at what are taken to be the physical correlates of mathematical objects and structures, but if we are to explain the physical universe (not how a mathematical model 'behaves'), these correlates must have some sort of physical constitution or presence, or they wouldn't be able to affect anything material. Mathematical objects and structures can't affect instruments.]

 

The above considerations simply form a contemporary version of well-known classical problem, which, as Leibniz noted, confronts all forms of mechanical atomism (or, indeed, mathematical atomism). Any attempt to translate mathematical structures/objects into what would amount to some form of Bargain Basement Platonism (whereby the universe is viewed as fundamentally mathematical -- as seems to be the case in contemporary Physics) would plainly be counterproductive. To repeat, mathematic objects and structures can have no causal effect on anything material.

 

[If anyone thinks otherwise, please email me your best shot.]

 

Again, some might complain about the sort of language used above in relation to the mathematical objects/structures mentioned, since it clearly depends on conflating them with physical objects/structures. But that is itself a roundabout way of admitting they can have no physical effect on the universe, which was the only point of describing them that way. If we refuse to use such language in connection with these objects/structures (since it obviously misrepresents their nature) then they can't be used to explain how the universe works, either. Which might be why many physicists retreat into some form of Instrumentalism and say things like "Don't try to explain, just calculate!"

 

"NYU physicist Alan Sokal likes to consider the big questions. In an interview in The Philosophers' Magazine with Julian Baggini Sokal says: 'I always took an attitude towards physics where I was interested in the fundamental conceptual questions, closer to Einstein's approach than Feynman's.' Sokal asks questions like, 'What does quantum mechanics actually mean?' He says, 'I've been using quantum mechanics for about 35 years, almost three-quarters of my life, and the more I study it the less I understand it. So I can understand why a whole generation of physicists threw their hands up in despair and said "let’s just calculate", but that's not to me a satisfactory final answer.'" [Quoted from here; accessed 07/10/2022. Paragraphs merged. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis and two links added.]

 

But, there will never be a physical explanation of nature while the universe is treated as a mathematical object.

 

[On this in general, see the comments posted here, here and here. Also check out my remarks over at Wikipedia, here and here -- as well as Video Nine of Essay Seven Part One.]

 

But, these developments didn't take place in a vacuum. In his book, What is Real?, Adam Becker presents a convincing case in support of the view that the urgent, practical requirements of the US Defence Department (during WW2 developing the Atomic Bomb ahead of the Nazis, then post WW2, in nuclear competition with the former Soviet Union) meant that fundamental questions about the nature of 'Quantum Reality' (concerning local realism, causation, objectivity, the nature of measurement, whether the Copenhagen Interpretation violated other aspects of physics, etc., etc.) were shelved since they only slowed things down. The pressure was now placed on the need for rapid results, so calculation and prediction were the order of the day, navel-gazing about what it all meant was out. Massive investment in specific areas of Higher Education also meant that physics departments grew in size exponentially over the next decade. In 1941, there were approximately 170 graduate students who gained a PhD in Physics, in the US; in 1951, it was over 500, the number growing faster than in any other discipline:

 

"Plenty of physicists were alarmed and unhappy about this new state of affairs.... Research into the meaning of quantum mechanics was one of the casualties of the war. With all these new students crowding classrooms around the country, professors found it impossible to teach the philosophical questions at the foundations of quantum mechanics. Before the war courses in quantum physics both sides of the Atlantic...spent a great deal of time on conceptual issues. Textbooks and exams from the pre-war period asked students to write detailed essays on the nature of the uncertainty principle and the role of the observer in the quantum world. But, with ballooning class sizes, detailed discussion of philosophy became all but impossible.... The larger classes focussed on 'efficient, repeatable means of calculation,' rather than focussing on foundations. And textbooks nearly dropped questions about foundations altogether, as a new generation of reviewers in physics periodicals praised a new batch of texts for 'avoiding philosophical discussion' and 'philosophically tainted questions.' Textbooks that bucked the trend were condemned for spending too much time on the 'musty atavistic to-do about position and momentum.' The era of Big Science had arrived -- and it had no patience for puzzling over the meaning of quantum physics." [Becker (2018), pp.80-83. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Links added.]   

 

Becker also points out that while there was still no settled or agreed upon understanding of the Copenhagen Interpretation (even among its founders, Bohr, Heisenberg and Jordan), it became expedient to claim that that wasn't the case, and that there was only one way to read the theory:

 

"[T]he idea of a single settled interpretation of quantum physics, associated with the giants Bohr and Heisenberg, went over well in the post-Manhattan world of Big Science. ["Manhattan" was the code word for the top secret US Defence Department programme during WW2 aimed at developing the atom bomb -- RL.] Most physicists were perfectly happy with the jumble of ideas that purportedly constituted the Copenhagen interpretation itself, since questions about the meaning of quantum physics had little bearing on their work. The mathematical formalism of the theory continued to work remarkably well in a wide variety of post-war applications of physics to the military-industrial complex, which turned most physicists to work in nuclear physics or solid-state physics.... Questions of interpretation, while vital for the progress of science in the long term, were immaterial when it came to the hard-nosed applications of quantum theory that were so suddenly and desperately prized. The Copenhagen interpretation's promise of a complete yet obscure answer to the quantum mysteries allowed the new army of postwar physicists to calculate answers without worrying about the meaning of the theory.... The questions at the foundations of quantum physics that had seemed so vital to Einstein and Bohr were dismissed by the new crop of American physicists as dreamy trifles, hardly suitable as subjects of enquiry to be funded by the rivers of money flowing from the Pentagon." [Ibid., p.84. Link added.] 

 

[This is, of course, a classic example of how there is no such thing as pure science, especially in areas that touch on national defence, under capitalism. The move away from trying to understand the basics of QM, or debate its implications and whether certain interpretations were consistent with other settled areas of the subject, to a policy of simply calculating and predicting (which approach still dominates Physics) was motivated, not by 'pure science', but by criteria ultimately decided upon by priorities set by the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex!]

 

The question now becomes: Does the "Totality" possess the equivalent of a 'metaphysical revolving door', or 'ontological landfill site', to cater for all the rejected and discarded objects and processes we have consistently witnessed throughout the history of science? Or maybe even an 'ethereal antechamber' to house all the hopeful, future members of the "Whole", all those, shall-we-say, 'metaphysical migrants' waiting patiently to be allowed entry --, in order to help scientists cater for or even cope with such itinerant and ephemeral denizens of the "Totality", like those mentioned above?

 

[The 'discovery' of the Higgs Boson and 'gravitational waves' -- or, whatever has been found -- only serves to underline this point.]20

 

Finally, what are we to conclude about the following entities and processes whose material nature is highly problematic, or whose physical existence is decidedly questionable: gemmules, singularities, elementary particles, electrons travelling backward in time, tetraneutrons, phase space, Red Mercury, Dark Matter, Cold or even Warm Dark Energy -- indeed, energy itself -- "the Field", strange attractors, the magnetic monopole, gluinos, photinos, winos, binos, zinos, Cold Fusion, MACHOs and WIMPs?21

 

Either the existence of all of the above should be entertained, or those that supposedly fail to qualify for 'objective' existence must be filtered out, the rest put on hold or consigned to scientific 'limbo'. Which are to be discarded, which retained? And on what basis?21a

 

More importantly: which unfortunate comrade is going to chair the 'Dialectical Selection Panel'?22

 

While we wait on those decisions, should any ever be taken, it might be instructive to watch this video (from February 2023), by Dr Hossenfelder (with relevant sections quoted word-for-word, underneath):

 

 

Video Five: What's Going Wrong In Particle Physics?

 

Partial Transcript:

 

"If you follow news about particle physics, then you know that it comes in three types: it's either that they haven't found that thing they were looking for, or they have come up with something new to look for (which they later report not having found), or it's something so boring you don't even finish reading the headline. How come that particle physicists constantly make wrong predictions?...

 

"The list of things that particle physicists said should exist but that no one has ever seen is very long: no supersymmetric particles, no proton decay, no dark matter particles, no WIMPS, no Axions, no Sterile Neutrinos. There's about as much evidence for any of those as for Big Foot.... Some particle physicists even predicted Unparticles and those weren't found either. It's been going like this for fifty years, ever since the 1970s....

 

"Particle physicists believed there'd be more to find and I guess more still believe this today. Or at least they'd tell you they believe it.... Particle physicists wanted [the three fundamental forces] to be unified to one force. Why? Because that would be nicer. Theories which combine these three forces are called 'Grand Unified Theories'. You get them by postulating a bigger symmetry than that of the Standard Model.... But this time more symmetries didn't work.... But you can make those models more complicated so that they remain compatible with observations. That's what particle physicists did and that's where the problems began.

 

"Next there was the Axion...[named by Frank Wilczek in 1978 -- RL]. Unfortunately the Axion turned out not to exist.... But physicists didn't give up on the Axion. Like with Grand Unification they changed the theory so that it will evade the experimental constraints. The new type of Axion was introduced in 1981 and was originally called the 'Harmless Axion'. It was then for some while called the 'Invisible Axion', but today it is just called the 'Axion'. Lots of experiments have looked and continue to look for these Invisible Axions, none was ever detected, but physicists still look for their 'invisible friends'. Wilczek, by the way, invented another particle in 1982 which he called the 'Familon'. No one has found that either.

 

"Yet another flawed idea that particle physicists came up with in the 1970s is Supersymmetry. Supersymmetry postulates that all particles in the Standard Model have a partner particle. This idea was dead-on-arrival because those partner particles have the same masses as the Standard Model particles that they belong to. If they existed they'd have shown up in the first particle colliders, which they did not. Supersymmetry was therefore amended immediately so that the supersymmetry partner particles would have much higher masses. It takes high energies to produce heavy particles so it'd take big particle colliders to see those heavy supersymmetric particles. The first supersymmetric models made predictions that were tested in the 1990s at the large electron-positron collider at CERN. Those predictions were falsified. Supersymmetry was then amended again to prevent the falsified processes from happening. The next bigger collider, the Tevatron, was supposed to find them. That didn't happen. Then they were supposed to show up at the Large Hadron Collider and that didn't happen either. Particle Physicists continue to change and amend those supersymmetric models so that they don't run into conflict with new data....

 

"Then there are all kinds of Dark Matter particles. A type that is particularly popular is called 'Weakly Interacting Massive Particles' (WIMPs for short). Experiments have looked for WIMPs since the 1980s. They haven't found them. Each time an experiment came back empty handed particle physicists claimed the particles were a little bit more weakly interacting and said they needed a better detector.

 

"There are more experiments that have looked for all kinds of other particles, which continue to not find them. There are headlines about this literally every couple of weeks. The PandaX-4T experiment looked for light fermionic dark matter. They didn't find it. The STEREO experiment looked for Sterile Neutrinos. They didn't find them. CDX didn't find light WIMPS. H.E.S.S. [High Energy Stereoscopic System -- RL] didn't find any evidence for WIMP annihilation. The MICROSCOPE experiment didn't find the fifth force. An experiment called SENSEI [Sub-Electron-Noise Skipper Experimental Instrument -- RL] didn't find sub GeV [Giga Electron Volts -- RL] dark matter..., and so on.

 

"The pattern is this: particle physicists invent particles, make predictions for those invented particles, and when these predictions are falsified they change the model and make new predictions. They say it's good science because these hypotheses are falsifiable. I am afraid most of them believe this. But just because a hypothesis is falsifiable doesn't mean it's good science.... Good scientists should learn from their failures but particle physicists have been making the same mistakes for fifty years." [Quoted from the video, 00:00-10:12. Links added. Dr Hossenfelder then spends the next ten minutes explaining in detail why she thinks particle physicists commit these errors.]  

 

The above should give pause to those who imagine we should uncritically accept what scientists have to say, or give credence to anyone who tries to populate the "Totality" with whatever researchers come up with. The next section will further underline this point.

 

'Objectively' On -- Then Off -- The CML

 

Worse still, if we delegate decisions like these to scientists themselves, what are we to say when they revise their theories or change their minds (as they regularly do)?

 

[CML = Cosmic Membership List.]

 

Would it mean:

 

(i) The "Totality" itself changes whenever the scientific community ceases to acknowledge -- or they even reject -- the existence of what had once been considered 'objective' objects and processes?

 

Or, would it show that:

 

(ii) Scientists' understanding of 'objectivity' itself has been revised?

 

If one or other (or even both) of the above are the case, wouldn't it suggest that:

 

(iii) Some (perhaps all?) 'objective' theories are really only 'subjective'?

 

In turn, wouldn't that:

 

(iv) Throw into question the 'objectivity' of science itself?

 

In light of these considerations, how would it be possible to maintain the superior 'objectivity' of any given CML (provided by yours truly, or even put together by DM-fans themselves, should they ever get their act together) if more 'ontological re-edits' are only to be expected a few years down the line -- once again, as invariably happens in science?22aa

 

Conversely, if option (i) turns out to be the case, wouldn't that mean the CML itself depends on decisions made by fallible/fickle human beings? If so, did the "Totality" change when early modern scientists decided that the "fifth element", for instance, no longer made it onto the CML? Or when the Luminiferous Ether ceased even to be listed?

 

We have already seen that Engels defined the "Totality" in the following way, and that, just like Lenin, he thought the (now defunct) Ether was an 'objective' member of the 'Whole':

 

"The whole of nature accessible to us forms a system, an interconnected totality of bodies, and by bodies we understand here all material existences extending from stars to atoms, indeed right to ether particles, in so far as one grants the existence of the last named. In the fact that these bodies are interconnected is already included that they react on one another, and it is precisely this mutual reaction that constitutes motion. It already becomes evident that matter is unthinkable without motion." [Engels (1954), p.70. Bold emphasis added.]

 

But, if the decisions of scientists determine what belongs to an 'objective' CML, then the "Totality" itself must change in line with scientific fashion. If so, did it change again when scientists concluded that Phlogiston and the Planet Vulcan (this isn't the planet mentioned on Star Trek!) were imaginary? Or, could it be that Vulcan was put on hold, consigned to some sort of 'objective'/'subjective' limbo world, quietly subsisting away in a 'Meinongian ante-chamber' somewhere, while researchers made up their minds? Will the "Totality" mutate yet again if, someday, Superstrings are granted (or maybe even denied) 'objective' existence?

 

[Superstrings have already been (partially) transmogrified into Branes and the background theory has itself has morphed into M-Theory. The latter is still in want of any supporting evidence (a situation that isn't ever likely to change).]

 

Is the "Totality", therefore, an artefact of whim, caprice and fashion? Is it 'objective' in a 'subjective' sort of sense? Does it depend on who is on the Metaphysical Review Board? Is it selection-panel-sensitive?

 

A Totally Porous Boundary

 

This isn't a reassuringly promising start.

 

Alas, it only gets worse.

 

If we can't decide on what basis to include, or even exclude, certain objects and processes from this avowedly contradictory "Totality", then maybe it allows entry to those that not only don't exist, but those that can't?22a

 

This latest (and surprising) turn of events now presents those attempting to construct an Ontological Definition of the "Totality" with far more daunting problems than the relatively minor difficulties already encountered. That is because there are a number of controversial DM-theories/laws/principles that imply the 'perimeter fence' (as it were) enclosing the "Totality" is, shall we say, full of holes.

 

Indeed, as we are about to find out, this 'boundary wall' more closely resembles a colander than it does a wok, a sieve more than a bucket.

 

 

Figure Five: Is This An Apt Metaphor For The "Totality"?

Surely Not -- There Aren't Enough Holes!

 

While most rival ontological systems operate with some sort of closed-border policy -- allowing entry to some objects and processes, disallowing others -- it turns out that DM-theorists can't exclude anything at all since they openly admit (if not emphatically insist upon) the existence of innumerable 'contradictions' and paradoxes in each and every nanogram of matter!

 

In which case, it might be more honest to acknowledge that the 'DM-border-fence' isn't so much porous as non-existent. Hence, it looks like the DM-"Totality" could contain impossible, not just contradictory 'objects', and maybe even mythical and imaginary entities, too. Perhaps it includes four-edged hexagons, the round square, the golden mountain, unicorns, the Olympian Gods, the end of the rainbow and even the Adhedral Triangle?22b

 

Anyone tempted to respond that the above list is absurd (since it includes contradictory items that can be ruled out in advance) should once again consult their local DM-Soothsayer before they jump to that conclusion. In fact, given the DM-'principles' mentioned earlier, it is difficult to see how any of the above weird and wonderful prospective members of the "Totality" might be kept out.

 

This means that if the DM-"Totality" is to be rescued from oblivion, some way must be found of preventing these and countless other absurdities from crossing its recklessly permeable 'boundary'.

 

In response, it could be argued once more that the above claims are clearly ridiculous. Dialecticians only acknowledge the existence of contradictions that can be, and have been, empirically verified. They certainly don't acknowledge the actual existence of 'theoretical' contradictions and assorted absurdities like those mentioned earlier, nor do they countenance the mere existence of all contradictory, imaginary or impossible objects and processes.

 

That proffered DM-counter-claim is itself demonstrably false, as we will soon find out. Anyway, even if it were the case that DM-theorists refuse to admit the mere existence of such entities, there is in fact nothing in their 'logic' that rules them out. DL is, alas, remarkably accommodating.

 

Again, it could be objected that many such 'contradictory objects and processes' could easily be excluded if it turns out that they aren't material or don't represent verifiable material forces.

 

But, how do we know that is so and will always remain so? How can anyone be so sure that scientists will never discover such oddities? They already have enough of their own to contend with. Several were listed earlier. Would anyone like to tell physicists that an electron travelling 'backwards' in time is impossible? Or that 'quantum objects' can't be 'in two places at once'? Or that certain particles can't be instantaneously "entangled" across billions of light years of 'empty space'? Or even that 'virtual particles' aren't 'emerging' from that same 'empty space' all the time?

 

[UO = Unity of Opposites; DL = Dialectical Logic; FL = Formal Logic.]

 

Once again, such weird and wonderful objects and processes can't be ruled out by anyone appealing to the obscure notions DL supplies its unfortunate victims. Because of such 'logic', dialecticians already admit the existence of countless billion contradictions (and other assorted 'impossibilities') in every gram of matter, right across the universe -- whose existence can't be, and certainly hasn't been, confirmed by empirical means.

 

In fact, if everything in existence is a UO (as the DM-classics maintain), there should be at least as many contradictions in reality as there are sub-atomic particles (and possibly even more). In that case, if we accept what the DM-classicists have to say, the aforementioned 'impossibilities' and 'absurdities' can't be ruled out in advance of all the evidence having been collected and processed, certainly not on the basis of 'principles' exclusive to DL.

 

As we have already seen (in connection with Engels's analysis of motion, in addition to several other core DM-theories covered here, here, here, here, here and here), DM-theorists already acknowledge the existence of contradictory objects, as well as what might otherwise appear to be impossible objects, processes and events. Examples include the unity of opposite poles in magnets, 'contradictory' opposing forces operating throughout nature (at both the macro-, and the micro-level), contradictory moving objects, 'contradictory' numbers and mathematical concepts/objects, seeds which 'negate' themselves, the existence of actual infinities (that is, the existence of something which both terminates -- so that it is a determinate existent -- and which doesn't terminate because it isn't finite), the fundamentally contradictory nature of matter (in that it is both wave and particle, continuous and discontinuous, at the same time), the (supposed) fact that matter is just an 'abstraction', 'contradictory' cells that are somehow simultaneously alive and dead (or they are teetering on the edge of, or they are caught between, both states), and so on.

 

Once again, if Lenin is to be believed, reality itself is fundamentally contradictory since everything is a UO. He asserted the universal truth of that theory in the absence of any evidence other than what he found in Hegel, Engels, Dietzgen and Plekhanov's work.

 

Lenin's conclusion that everything is a UO couldn't even have been based on the science of his own day! Remember, these have to be 'dialectical opposites', not just any old opposites. That is, each has to imply the existence of the other, and neither can exist on its own -- like the proletariat supposedly implies the existence of the capitalist class and can't exist without it. So, where is Lenin's proof that every single opposite in the entire universe is 'dialectical', in that sense? Did Lenin even attempt to marshal evidence in support of such a contention? Have any DM-fans since then done so? Has a single one of them shown these 'opposites' are all 'dialectical' (in the above sense) right across the entire universe? Or are they merely content to quote Hegel, Engels and Lenin to that effect?23

 

"[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…. [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…. In mathematics: + and -. Differential and integral. In mechanics: action and reaction. In physics: positive and negative electricity. In chemistry: the combination and dissociation of atoms….

 

"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement,' in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing…. The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58. Bold emphases alone added. Several paragraphs merged. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Hence, DM-theorists already accept the actual existence of countless contradictory objects, processes and 'impossibilities' prior to all (or even most) of the evidence has been collected, let alone processed. In fact, in many cases they do so in abeyance of any evidence at all! For example, they all agree with Hegel and Engels that motion itself is contradictory even though not one of them has ever offered any actual evidence in support of that claim. As I have argued later on in this Essay (slightly edited):

 

 Of course, the above...response/explanation is independent of the fact that Marxist dialecticians (as well as card-carrying Hegelians) have yet to produce any actual evidence that substantiates the idea that motion, for instance, is contradictory. Indeed, it is difficult even to imagine what evidence could be offered in support of that rather odd theory. In that case, this Hegelian idea can't form part of scientific knowledge. In fact, the theory that motion is contradictory was and still is based solely on a superficial and highly contentious 'thought experiment' -- or, rather, it is the result of yet another exercise in creative word juggling masquerading as a thought experiment (indeed, as we saw in Essay Five). In that case, this particular doctrine should be abandoned if DM is to remain consistent with its supporters' own rather basic understanding of 'the scientific method' -- i.e., that there should at least be some evidence offered in its support.

 

We can also see this from the additional fact that DM-fans agree with Hegel, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin and Mao that everything, and every process, is, or 'contains', a UO.

 

[The reason for the 'scare' quotes around "contains" is explained in Essay Eight Part One.]

 

If so, for all that even dialecticians know, the "Totality" could contain countless yet-to-be-discovered absurdities. And that is all the more likely to be the case since DM-theorists themselves already confuse contradictions with absurdities, impossibilities and much else besides.

 

Furthermore, if Engels and Lenin are to be believed, an infinite amount of knowledge still awaits discovery. In that case, at any point in history (such as the present) humanity must be infinitely ignorant of the final contents of, or the principles supposedly governing, the "Totality" (that is, if there is such a 'thing', to begin with!). That is because the difference between a finite body of knowledge (such as we currently possess) and an infinite amount is itself infinite. Hence, those who rely on DL are in no position to rule such absurdities out with anything other than infinite uncertainty. Indeed, the only way they could legitimately be excluded would be on the back of an appeal to principles exclusive to FL and ordinary language --, and therefore on the basis of rules incompatible with DL. [On that, see Essay Four.]

 

This means that DM-theorists can't consistently exclude any of the contradictory or 'impossible' items listed earlier solely because of their assumed 'contradictory' or counter-intuitive nature. Theorists who postulate the existence of contradictions everywhere, but who then become arbitrarily fastidious about such things whenever it suits them, or whenever the ridiculous consequences of their theory are exposed, shouldn't expect to be taken seriously.

 

But, what could be more contradictory than a "Totality" that admits among its denizens things that not only do not exist (like the past), but also those that can't exist -- like DM-'abstractions', since, if they exist, they must be concrete?

 

Unfortunately, once this DM-juggernaut starts rolling it takes something a little more substantial than DL to stop it, or even slow it down.

 

If DM isn't to be imposed on the world, but read from it -- as its supporters constantly claim -- they can't consistently stipulate what their "Totality" does or doesn't contain ahead of an exhaustive (empirical) investigation to that end.23a

 

Others might be able to do so, but they can't.

 

This is their millstone; they should wear it with pride.

 

Hence, any attempt to rule out of existence one or more of the contradictory or absurd 'objects' listed above would trap DM-theorists between that millstone and a familiar hard place, FL.

 

By way of contrast, those of us who aren't -- shall we say -- held in thrall by such an egregiously mis-titled 'system of logic' -- i.e., DL -- not only can, we do rule out of existence certain things because of principles expressed by FL and ordinary language. And we are right to do so, too.

 

[Or rather, it is perhaps better to say that it makes no sense to suppose such things exist. (There is more on that, here.) In like manner, we may justifiably deny the legitimacy of DM because it is based on a belief in the existence of 'contradictions' in nature and society.]

 

However, as noted earlier, such a defence is unavailable to dialecticians. That is because they hold the view that humanity must wait on the result of an infinite meander through 'logical space', along the Yellow Brick Road to 'Epistemological Valhalla' (which supposedly leads believers ever closer to a mythical end-state of 'Absolute Knowledge'), before anyone is able to decide whether or not a given empirical (fact-stating) proposition is 'fully true', or its content is even 'concrete'.

 

If so, dialecticians have no good reason to complain about the above allegation -- that their "Totality" might contain any, or even all, of the odd things listed earlier, the (possible) existence of which is a direct result of their cavalier rejection of the protocols of FL (many of which are expressed in the vernacular).

 

The dilemma facing DM-theorists is therefore quite stark; either they:

 

(1) Continue to depreciate/undermine FL and ordinary language -- which unwise tactic helped create this problem --, thus admitting the possible existence of all manner of contradictory objects, events and processes; or they,

 

(2) Reject the existence of contradictory objects, events and processes, thus abandoning their core theory that contradictions and other assorted absurdities exist everywhere in nature and society (because of rules codified by FL or expressed discursively in or by ordinary language). [In addition, they should abandon their unworkable theory of knowledge.]24

 

What now seems clear is that an unwise rejection of certain principles formalised in and by FL has left the DM-"Totality" wide open to infestation by countless weird and wonderful 'entities', the elimination of which will require a swift dose of those very same FL-protocols, in tandem with the adoption of a believable and workable theory of knowledge.

 

Hence, as a result of yet another dialectical inversion, FL would now be required to rescue DM-theorists from the contradictory "Totality" they rashly called into existence; a Whole that could include, for all we know -- or, indeed, for all they know -- characters from Alice in Wonderland and the nonsense rhymes of Edward Lear.24a

 

Universal Inter-connection -- Fact Or Fantasy?

 

Precisely What Is Inter-connected With What?

 

In addition to, but nevertheless compounding of, the difficulties outlined above there remain several unresolved issues concerning the exact nature and extent of the connections and relations that are said to exist between the objects and processes that are supposedly part of this nebulous DM-"Totality" --, should we ever be told with any clarity what any of these are, of course.

 

What little can be gleaned from the remarks DM-fans have committed to paper seems to suggest that the "Totality" is inter-connected, 'contradictory', constantly changing and that that is because of a 'dialectical' relation, or interaction, between its countless 'constituent' UOs.

 

Earlier we saw Lenin advance the following rather bold beliefs:

 

"[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…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other….

 

"To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., [sic] with any proposition...: [like] John is a man…. Here we already have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the individual is the universal…. Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc...." [Lenin (1961), pp.221, 359-60. Emphases mostly in the original.]

 

However, he was also disarmingly honest about where he had obtained these ideas:

 

"Hegel brilliantly divined the dialectics of things (phenomena, the world, nature) in the dialectics of concepts…. This aphorism should be expressed more popularly, without the word dialectics: approximately as follows: In the alternation, reciprocal dependence of all notions, in the identity of their opposites, in the transitions of one notion into another, in the eternal change, movement of notions, Hegel brilliantly divined precisely this relation of things to nature…. [W]hat constitutes dialectics?…. [M]utual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others." [Lenin (1961), pp.196-97. Emphases mostly in the original.]25

 

This reveals that Lenin derived this theory, not from a scientific study of nature, but from a Christian Mystic.

 

Those who claim to be both materialists and atheists should let that sink in for a minute.

 

In relation to the above admission (by Lenin), it is also worth reminding ourselves that Hegel hasn't gone down in history as an experimental or observational scientist of any note. Of course, that doesn't mean he was ignorant of the science of his day, or that he was mistaken or peddled false ideas just because of that, only that he was in no way a scientist. So, why his opinion on such matters should count in the way if has on the Marxist left is a mystery (except perhaps as an accident of history -- a possible answer outlined in Essay Eight Part Two. There I ask the following question: If Hegel had died of Cholera as a child, not as an adult, would anyone on the Marxist left (or anywhere else, for that matter) show any interest at all in 'dialectics'? In addition to that, Lenin also acknowledged that Hegel derived these ideas from a consideration of the concepts supposedly involved, not from the science even of his day (as limited as that was, anyway).

 

[Sceptical readers can check, but there is precious little data in Hegel's work. The scientists back then were virtually all Christians, so they were already in the grip of mystical ideas about the origin and nature of 'the Whole'. As Marx himself pointed out: the ideas of the ruling elite are always the ruling ideas, so none of this should surprise us in the least.]

 

Be this as it may, the nature and extent of these 'universal inter-connections' is still far from clear. For example, does every single object and process in the entire "Totality" instantaneously and continually influence every other object and process in the "Totality" (assuming for the moment that the "Totality" is meant to be the (known?) universe), even across vast expanses of space and time? Does each object and process do so equally or differentially? That is, do objects and processes on the far side of the universe affect those here on Earth, for instance, equally as much as (or is it less than?) the effect objects and processes on this planet have on each other? Or is this influence as much as they affect those on the far side of the universe on the 'return journey' (so to speak)? After all, if there is an "inter-connection" at work here, it would seem there should be a two-way link of some sort in operation. Indeed, as we will see in Part Two, given the Hegelian doctrine of 'internal relations', the answer in this case to such questions would appear to be "equally as much", in both directions! If so, this implies that when you, dear reader, brush your teeth that will have the same effect on your teeth as it has on galaxies billions of light years away! That can't be right, and yet a strict reading of this dogma seems to suggest that is indeed the case.

 

Even if the conclusion drawn at the end of the previous paragraph is misguided in some way, how are inter-connections like these even possible?

 

More important, how might any of it be confirmed?

 

At this point, it is worth recalling once more what Engels, Maurice Cornforth, and George Novack had to say about the necessity to provide evidence, and how this isn't an optional extra:

 

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

 

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

 

"Our party philosophy, then, has a right to lay claim to truth. For it is the only philosophy which is based on a standpoint which demands that we should always seek to understand things just as they are…without disguises and without fantasy…. Marxism, therefore, seeks to base our ideas of things on nothing but the actual investigation of them, arising from and tested by experience and practice. It does not invent a 'system' as previous philosophers have done, and then try to make everything fit into it…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.14-15. Bold emphases added. Paragraphs merged.]

 

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

 

[I have quoted several more DM-theorists to the same effect, here.]

 

But, isn't that what dialecticians have been doing from day one -- reading these ideas into nature? They have been doing that from the day they first opened Hegel's 'Logic' and naively swallowed far more of it than is good for any human being to have to ingest?

 

Inter-connectionism Comes Apart At The Seams

 

Nevertheless, as is the case with other DM-ideas, the belief that everything in the universe is inter-connected soon unravels when it is subjected to the sort of scrutiny dialecticians studiously ignore -- or try to avoid.

 

To that end, it is worth asking the following questions:

 

Exactly which parts of the Universe are inter-related? To what extent are they linked? And in what way? Do these inter-connections extend instantaneously across all regions of space and time? Or is that true only of some? If not, is there some sort of time-delay affecting them all? Or only some? If either is the case, does this mean that the past, for instance, is currently inter-connected with the present -- perhaps by means of light (or maybe even by gravitational) waves as they travel across such vast expanses? Or, do these inter-connections operate only between contemporaneous objects and processes, thereby ruling out some of these (possible) delays? That is, are only presently existing objects and processes inter-connected?

 

On the other hand, does this theory imply that objects and processes in the past are now inter-connected with other objects and processes that exist in the same or different time zones? In that case, are the following five randomly-selected events (from the past) still now inter-connected:

 

(i) The election of Tony Blair as Prime Minister (May 1997);

 

(ii) The sinking of the Bismarck (May 1941);

 

(iii) The discovery of Gold in the Klondike (August 1886);

 

(iv) The loss of the Crown Jewels by King John (October 1216); and,

 

(v) The near extinction of all life on earth at the end of the Permian (approximately 250 million years ago)?

 

If not, which time zones/events are inter-linked and which aren't? And on what basis? And what evidence is there in support of any of this?

 

If the above are all still inter-connected, precisely what is it that inter-links events like the above -- i.e., those that no longer exist? Is there a connecting/inter-linking 'force' of some sort operating here? If so what is it? Does any such inter-connecting 'force' (or 'energy', or whatever it is that supposedly connects these non-existent objects and processes) itself exist in the present? That is, is this mysterious connecting 'agent'/'force'/'whatever' still operating? It would seem that that must be the case if all this inter-linking is itself still currently taking place. On the other hand, if it isn't, how would this mysterious connecting 'agent'/'force'/'whatever' still be able to link anything? Alternatively again, if this mysterious connecting 'agent'/'force'/'whatever' does still exist and is operating in the here-and-now, how is it able to inter-connect objects and events that don't exist (like those listed above, not to mention countless others) with those that do?

 

Even supposing such questions could be answered (that is, should a single DM-theorist bother to do so -- or even deign to consider them), we would still be in the dark over how this 'force', this 'energy' -- or this 'we-know-not-what' -- actually manages to do all this inter-connecting.

 

Bemused readers will search long and hard, and to no avail, through the DM-literature --, as well as anything else written by religious mystics who also promote such ideas (in relation to their openly mystical versions of the "Totality" -- for many of these, the inter-linking 'force' is either 'God' or 'The Holy Spirit') --, for any answers to these and other awkward questions. Or, indeed, for any sign they are even vaguely aware that such questions, such problems, actually exist.

 

Anyway, and to spoil the fun, we already know (from certain precepts enshrined in Relativity Theory -- i.e., those connected with so-called "Light Cones"), that there are significant regions of the universe that can't (physically can't) be connected, let alone inter-connected:

 

"In attempting to diagram relativistic spacetimes, one of the most important features to capture is the causal structure of the spacetime. This structure specifies which events (that is, which points of space and time) can be connected by trajectories that are slower than light, which events can be connected by trajectories travelling at the speed of light, and which events cannot be connected by anything travelling at or below light speed. Events in the first group are said to be 'timelike related', because a physical clock could travel from one event to the other. Events in the second group are 'lightlike related' because a light ray can travel from one to the other. Events in the third group are 'spacelike related'. Given that it is physically impossible (on the standard interpretation of relativity theory) for any causal process to exceed the speed of light, these three possible ways of being connected tell us whether one event is able to influence another." [Quoted from here; accessed 16/06/2022. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; spelling modified to agree with UK English. Bold emphases added.]

 

Has a single DM-fans ever even considered this?

 

[Cynical readers will, I am sure, forgive that facetious question. Of course they haven't! We are dealing with DM-fans -- i.e., devoted, heads-in-the-sand practitioners of Mickey Mouse Science and Minnie Mouse Philosophy. So, that question was merely rhetorical.]

 

Be this also as it may, in view of the fact that the past doesn't now exist shouldn't such 'connections across time zones' be ruled out or disallowed? Once more, that is because it would seem impossible for anything to be connected (let alone inter-connected) with something that doesn't exist. On the other hand, if the past isn't connected (or isn't inter-connected) with the present, how would it be possible to give a historical account of, say, the origin of class society or the demise of Feudalism?

 

Of course, it is always possible to argue that there must be causal chains of objects, processes and events that connect the past with the present -- perhaps imagined along the following lines:

 

C1: Assume there is series of events stretching from the past to the present: E1, E2, E3..., Ek..., En-1, En (where E1- En-1 are events in the past and En is a specific event in the present).

 

C2: Assume further there is a causal chain that provides a series of links between these events: C1, C2, C3..., Ck..., Cn-2, Cn-1 (where C1 is a causal link between E1 and E2, C2 is a causal link between E2 and E3, C3 is a causal link between E3 and E4, and so on).

 

C3: In addition, let each E and each C, or their chains, be as complex, 'branched' and 'dialectically sophisticated' as circumstances, explanatory power and DM-theorists themselves require (should they ever deign to tell us).

 

[Indeed, each C can even be described as a "mediating cause" (to use a DM-buzz word), just as each E can be said to be subject to change through 'internal contradiction' itself. Incidentally, the word "event" above should be taken to cover events, objects and processes.]

 

But, even if any of the above were/are the case, this supposed chain of causes can't succeed in inter-connecting the past with the present if at least two (sets) of them don't actually exist -- i.e., the first of these two being the past (or, rather, events in the past -- in this case the chain, E1, E2, E3..., Ek..., and En-1, all of which no longer exist), the second being the causal chain itself (or, rather, the series, C1, C2, C3..., Ck..., Cn-2, which also no longer exists). [More on that presently.]

 

Also left out of consideration in all this is the Hubble Sphere, about which we read:

 

"Currently, we are certain that we live in a universe that is expanding at an increasing rate. As you read this, the universe expands at about 70 kilometres per second per megaparsec. [A megaparsec is a million parsecs -- RL.] This means that a galaxy 1 megaparsec away from us is receding at about 70 km/s, another galaxy 2 megaparsecs away from us is receding at 140 km/s, and so on. This is Hubble's law. Following the same logic, one could do the math to compute how far a galaxy has to be in order to move away at the speed of light. It turns out, galaxies 4300 megaparsecs away from us recede faster than light. This distance defines the 'Hubble sphere', an imaginary sphere centred at us, outside which everything recedes faster than the speed of light. Note that, since the universe expands at an accelerated rate, the Hubble sphere increases its radius as time goes by.

 

"Can we see light coming from galaxies outside the Hubble sphere? Receiving light from a source moving faster than light might seem odd, but this is actually possible. Imagine a galaxy outside the Hubble sphere, which emits a light pulse towards Earth. The pulse tries to makes its way to us, but it is 'dragged' away from Earth by a region of space receding faster than light. It looks like we will never receive this pulse -- but wait a sec! As the universe expands, the Hubble sphere gets bigger, too. Now, if the rate at which the Hubble sphere expands is larger than the net velocity at which the photon recedes from us, the pulse will eventually pass from a superluminal region [a region moving faster then the speed of light - RL] into a region receding from us slower than the speed of light. Take a look at this video, which transforms these words into a cool animation. Of course, as long as the pulse is travelling [in] a region receding from us at a velocity smaller than the speed of light, it will eventually reach us. The conclusion is that we still can observe galaxies receding faster than light! Put another way, the Hubble sphere is not the limit of our observable universe.

 

"How can we tell the universe is expanding faster than the speed of light in the first place? The wavelength of a light pulse travelling the universe is stretched as space expands, so the light gets redder. (That is, its wavelength increases.) This so-called cosmological redshift is measured by astronomers, so distant galaxies can be labelled by their redshift. The higher redshift of a galaxy, the faster it is receding from us. For any plausible model of our expanding universe, there exists a relatively simple conversion to translate redshift into recessional velocity. Not surprising by now, some of the galaxies we have observed exhibit redshifts resulting in superluminal recessional velocities!

 

"Finally, one should note that, in practice, a receding galaxy may 'disappear' from our observations due to cosmological redshift. Light coming from the galaxy gets redder and redder, leaving the detectability range of our instrument (our eyes or even a radio telescope). In addition, the time between successive pulses will increase so much that the galaxy will fade out until it vanishes." [Quoted from here; accessed 21/12/2022. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; spelling modified to agree with UK English. Minor typo corrected, links in the original. In the month since this article was first accessed it has disappeared! However, a much more detailed and technical article that says more-or-less the same can be accessed here (consulted 03/02/2023).]

 

It is to be noted that the above article says that this doesn't automatically mean that some radiation coming from regions of space that are expanding faster than the speed of light will never reach the earth, it leaves it open whether or not it is the case with light in general -- a point also made in this video by theoretical Physicist, Lawrence Krauss (which physical limitation scientists have labelled, the "Particle Horizon").

 

[Incidentally, the video linked in the above article explains how it is possible for space to expand faster than light and why that doesn't violate Special Relativity, which means, according to Krauss, that light and other forms of radiation (and that includes gravitational waves) from some regions of the universe will never reach the earth.]

 

If so, those regions can't now be connected with this planet, let alone inter-connected with it. Unless the background theory in contemporary Physics is fundamentally flawed -- or it is abandoned/modified --, that will always remain the case.

 

If we ignore the above 'problems' (at least for the purposes of argument), it could be argued that the present might be connected with the past via such a causal chain --, for instance, from the past to the present (indeed, exactly as pictured a few paragraphs back). But, even if that were the case, the present can't be inter-connected with the past, anymore than you, dear reader, can be inter-connected with The Battle of the Little Bighorn, or The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire -- in the sense that you might now be linked to those events both from past to present (by a complex causal chain of some sort) and reverse-linked to it from the present to the past.

 

Either we acknowledge this insurmountable obstacle or we allow for the existence of backward causation. If so, we would have to be prepared to contemplate the existence of causal links that travel back in time to objects and processes in the past that themselves no longer exist to be affected in any way by anything! In that eventuality, legitimate questions might well be asked about what sort of causal influence can be experienced by something that no longer exists.

 

However, as has also been pointed out, no single item in any of these (suggested) causal chains leading from the past to the present, except perhaps the very last one, will now exist. If so, how such an insubstantial chain of non-existent causes is able to connect something that does exist (the present) with something that doesn't (the past) is still a mystery. At best, that would make this chain and those links Ideal, once more, and hence not in the least "objective", let alone physical.

 

So, at the very most, if the past is connected with the present (by what are in effect 'Ideal causal links') it would make the "Totality" (so depicted) an Ideally connected 'Whole'. Even then, it would still fail to be an inter-connected 'Whole', still less a physically-connected system.

 

Does this surprise anyone given the fact that all such talk originated in the over-heated brains of ancient and early modern mystics?

 

In response to any hard-core DM-fans that have made it this far and who might at this point be heard muttering through clenched teeth: "Of course such things are inter-connected!" one is tempted to reply along the following lines: "Ok, so which minor deity informed you of that supposed fact?". And that question would itself be uttered a few seconds before reminding them that only Idealists foist theories like this on nature, something DM-fans have sworn never to do. That was, of course, the point being made by the following DM-worthies, a few paragraphs back:

 

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

 

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

 

"Our party philosophy, then, has a right to lay claim to truth. For it is the only philosophy which is based on a standpoint which demands that we should always seek to understand things just as they are…without disguises and without fantasy…. Marxism, therefore, seeks to base our ideas of things on nothing but the actual investigation of them, arising from and tested by experience and practice. It does not invent a 'system' as previous philosophers have done, and then try to make everything fit into it…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.14-15. Bold emphases added. Paragraphs merged.]

 

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

 

[Dozens more passages like these were quoted here and in Essay Two.]

 

Be this as it may (once more), in order to help resolve 'problems' like those aired above, let us call the following (extreme) version of this theory, "Maximal-Inter-Connectedness" (or, MIC), which we can characterise like this:

 

MIC: [A] Every object, event and process in the "Totality" is both instantaneously and permanently inter-connected across all time zones.

 

Conversely, let us stipulate that an attenuated version of MIC, which we can call "Non-Maximal-Inter-Connectedness" (or, NMIC), can be characterised as follows:

 

NMIC: [B] The "Totality" is inter-connected, but not everything that has existed, will exist, or now exits is both permanently and instantaneously inter-linked with everything else across all time zones.

 

Taking The MIC

 

Unsurprisingly, I propose to consider MIC first.

 

MIC: [A] Every object, event and process in the "Totality" is both instantaneously and permanently inter-connected across all time zones.

 

It is difficult to see how MIC could possibly be true. If it were, it would imply that every object, event and process in the entire history of the universe (and perhaps even beyond?) is now, always has been, and always will be inter-connected with every other object, event and process across every time zone, permanently and instantaneously, whether or not any of them still exist!

 

Taking three such objects or events at random: it would mean that, for example, the median price of coffee grinders in Brazil on the first of June 2021, the number of grains of sand on Bondi beach between 10:00 and 10:01 am (local time) on the 2nd of July 1742, and the modal oscillation frequency of a handful of atoms of Helium in a small pocket of gas in The Cartwheel Galaxy some 500 million or so light years distant, but exactly 25.35656786098444317 million years ago, are all inter-connected with one another, permanently and instantaneously.

 

Indeed, if everything in reality is inter-connected, the above seemingly insignificant events and processes would have to be taken into account in the scientific explanation of what would otherwise be regarded as unrelated events, like the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, for instance. Historians and scientists would have to include such considerations (as well as countless others) in any account they might give of Lincoln's death.

 

[Issues concerning 'relevance' and supposedly diminishing, and hence 'irrelevant', causal effects will be considered presently.]

 

For example, if MIC were true then the taste of sugar would have to have something to do with the angular velocity of stars in neighbouring and distant galaxies (at all times), and with the three items mentioned above. In addition, all would have to be inter-connected with the smell of diesel oil, as well as the mean weight of all Fiddler Crabs in the Southern Hemisphere eaten by predators on or before 17:02 (local time), June 15th 1247 (Julian Calendar), and with the effect of Selenium Sulphide on the dandruff of Chelsea FC supporters who own Heritage Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul guitars (2006 issue) -- if there are any(!).

 

So, if MIC were the case, all of these (and gazillions more like them) would have to be taken into account by scientists trying to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs or the properties of Tungsten (and vice versa), and much else besides.

 

 

Figure Six: Is Bondi Beach Still Inter-Connected

With Napoleon's Left Foot? And Yours, Too?

 

 

Figure Seven: Are Ageing Coffee Grinders Still Inter-Linked With

The End Of The Last Ice Age?

 

 

Figure Eight: Is The Cartwheel Galaxy Still Inter-Connected

With Attila The Hun's Favourite Sword?

 

 

Figure Nine: Is This Owned By A Chelsea FC Fan? But Is This Cherry Sunburst Gibson Les Paul

Guitar Still Inter-Connected With Julius Caesar's

Last Ever Glass Of Wine (Before And After It Was Quaffed)?

 

 

Figure Ten: Is This Rather Aggressive-Looking Crustacean Still Inter-Linked

With The Origin Of The Crab Nebula?

 

Some might object at this point and argue that dialecticians don't hold such simple-minded, ridiculous and extreme beliefs. Even worse, the above remarks ignore relative connectedness, diminishing effects and hence considerations of 'relevance'.

 

[Once again, those conveniently vague notions will be examined presently.]

 

In advance of a response to questions of relevance it is worth reminding ourselves that:

 

(a) This sub-section is dealing with MIC, not some other version of inter-connection; and,

 

(b) Speculation like this has been forced on us because DM-fans have consistently failed -- or have even steadfastly refused -- to say beyond a few vague banalities what their theory actually implies. So, it would be no use any of them lodging complaints like this while they continue to indulge in what is in effect a protracted 'dialectical sulk', refusing to say anything substantive about their "Totality". 

 

Any DM-fans who still object clearly don't accept MIC. Ok, good for them. But, the question remains: Is MIC what the DM-classicists themselves accepted and promoted?

 

If it is, any rejection by contemporary DM-fans along the above lines would be beside the point. This Essay is concerned with classical DM not recent attempts to 'sanitise' it, or provide hasty and ill-considered repairs, 'on the hoof'.

 

Furthermore, because MIC postulates instantaneous influences/effects, operating ceaselessly across all regions of space and time, inverse square law drop-off rates don't apply -- always assuming, of course, that inverse square law drop off-rates are what the phrase "relative connectedness" itself implies. But, once again, who can say? Certainly not DM-theorists. They have collectively retreated into a corner and sunk into the aforementioned prolonged 'dialectical sulk'.

 

Anyway, even if inter-connectedness were relativised in the above manner, countless objects and events would still be linked, and it is the links themselves that remain obscure (howsoever relativised or weak they are deemed to be).

 

[The idea that "internal relations" between objects and events (postulated by DM-theorists) decrease with distance -- so that 'remote effects' can be ruled out as irrelevant -- has been subjected to sustained and destructive criticism in Part Two of this Essay. The reader is directed there for further details.]

 

Moreover, even if these links were relativised in the above manner, that would still fail to explain how everything is in fact inter-connected. For example, and once again: how are objects and processes in the past inter-linked with those in the present? Or, indeed, with those that supposedly lie in the future? Are such links causal? Are they physical in any way at all? Or are they perhaps something a little more esoteric?

 

According to current theory, it takes many light years for the vanishingly small gravitational effects of distant objects to arrive in the vicinity of our planet, but when they do finally reach us those effects are clearly located in the present. The question now is: What influence do extremely remote objects, some 10-12 billion light years away -- which objects might no longer exist -- currently have here on the earth? Admittedly, light from these distant regions might have some effect (or it will do so when it makes it this far), but for MIC to be valid objects like that must influence the Earth instantaneously across immense distances, even before the aforementioned physical effects arrive in our neighbourhood, and for that to be true in reverse!

 

Of course, as should now seem reasonably clear, if MIC were to be adopted as an official DM-doctrine, it would be impossible to verify.

 

Where would anyone even begin?

 

More mysterious still is the following: whatever inter-connections are imagined to exist between objects, events and processes, the connections themselves can't change and neither can the elements so inter-linked.

 

To see why that is so, consider an earlier sentence:

 

T1: The median price of coffee grinders in Brazil on the first of June 2021, the number of grains of sand on Bondi beach between 10:00 and 10:01 am (local time) on the 2nd of July 1742, and the modal oscillation frequency of a handful of atoms of Helium in a small pocket of gas in The Cartwheel Galaxy some 500 million or so light years distant, but exactly 25.35656786098444317 million years ago...

 

If it is now true that there are such inter-connections between the above items -- call this set of connections, MICA --, then since MICA has been relativised to, and identified by means of, the times so specified, it must always remain the same.

 

On the other hand, if T1 above were false -- and MICA were susceptible to change, after all -- then at any point in time it would be incorrect to say that the said relation expressed by T1 was MICA, and the items mentioned wouldn't be inter-linked in the way that had just been specified. But, if it is now true to say this of them, it must be true to say the same tomorrow (or at any time in the future) about that set of relations.

 

[Recall, MIC connects everything with everything else, permanently and instantaneously, forever throughout all of time irrespective of whether whatever happens to be linked now exists, including the words used to make this very point. If everything is inter-linked -- and words would also appear to be part of everything -- they too must be covered by MIC.]

 

It could be argued that this implausible conclusion (i.e., that these DM-connections themselves can't change and neither can the elements so inter-linked) fails to apply here since dialecticians are openly committed to universal change. In that case, the above relation must also change as and when the objects and events it connects themselves change.

 

But, is this a safe conclusion to draw given the extreme implications of MIC itself?

 

[Anyway, the DM-theory that everything is always changing will be examined in greater detail later on in this Essay, in Interlude Two. Its decidedly weird implications have already been exposed in Essay Seven Part Three.]

 

On the other hand, if the above conclusions are true, it would imply that MIC actually does exclude the possibility of DM-change. That is, of course, because the items in the triple relation (expressed by T1) do not now exist and so can't change. In that case, MICA can't change, either, and neither can the relation between the elements so connected. Since the events in question were time-stamped to make them determinate, this means MICA can't change, either -- because a specific date-stamp identified each element of the set.

 

This can only mean that if the "Totality" includes the past, then the vast bulk of that 'Whole' not only doesn't, it can't change. How odd, then, that DM (if it implies MIC/MICA), supposedly the preeminent theory of change, has at its heart the opposite implication that the vast bulk of the "Totality" is Parmenidean not Heraclitean!

 

T1: The median price of coffee grinders in Brazil on the first of June 2021, the number of grains of sand on Bondi beach between 10:00 and 10:01 am (local time) on the 2nd of July 1742, and the modal oscillation frequency of a handful of atoms of Helium in a small pocket of gas in The Cartwheel Galaxy some 500 million or so light years distant, but exactly 25.35656786098444317 million years ago...

 

Any response along the lines that the above items don't exist so they can't be connected/inter-connected is in fact just a different way of rejecting MIC, but it manages to do so by threatening to question the reason for appealing to a "Totality" to begin with. That is because it would restrict both inter-connection and the "Totality" to objects, events and processes that exist only in the present, which we saw earlier threatens to make 'it' existentially and explanatorily irrelevant. Existentially irrelevant since it would mean the "Totality" is (possibly) durationless, given the extremely ephemeral nature of the present. Explanatorily irrelevant since reference would have to be made to objects, events and processes outside the "Totality" in order to explain anything inside. Why then bother with it in the first place?

 

If we now generalise the above remarks (to take into account every event and process in the entire universe for all of time, including those not now existing --otherwise, this widened set wouldn't comprise all of 'reality'), we would, unsurprisingly, obtain the same result. Hence, if MIC were true, DM-change would be impossible. If every event in the past is now inter-related to every event in both the present and the future (MIC-style), nothing could develop or change. Otherwise we would lose all contact with our capacity to refer to them, and hence link them.

 

[And it won't do to argue that that conclusion is false since many of the objects concerned do now exist; that is because MIC holds that even if many of them do exist, they are all inter-linked with countless more that don't.]

 

Of course, it could be countered that this is thoroughly misguided since nature takes no heed of our capacity to refer to such things, or, indeed, our ability to link them. In which case, the above argument once again confirms that Ms Lichtenstein is an Idealist.

 

In response, it is worth reminding readers (again!) that all this speculation has been forced upon us because dialecticians refuse to say what the "Totality" is, let alone anything specific about the nature of the inter-connections they say exist throughout the whole of 'reality'. Hence, I am not reporting my own beliefs!

 

So, if the universe is changeable (not that I doubt it!), then one consequence of the above considerations is that not only would we be unable to describe nature, we couldn't describe all those hypothetical DM-inter-connections without implying they were changeless, either. In that case, the argument presents DM-theorists with the following dilemma (always assuming they accept MIC):

 

(A) If the DM-universe is describable, and MIC is valid, then nothing can change; or,

 

(B) If the DM-universe changes, it can't be described (in MIC terms).

 

[There is more on this, here.]

 

Option (A) above is in fact the Block View of Time, only rather badly stated.

 

In the following video a Physicist helpfully explains that Theory of Time (alongside some of its less well appreciated implications):

 

 

Video Six: The Block View Of Time And Whether

Or Not The Past Still Exists

 

So, if the universe is a four-dimensional 'object' (or, rather, a manifold) in Spacetime, then each 'event' would in effect form a proper part of an orthogonal three-dimensional 'slice' (i.e., a hyperplane) through that 'object'/manifold embedded in 4-space (indeed, as the above video also points out). In that case, change couldn't actually happen. Or, rather, at best, change would represent a 'subjective view of the world', which would unfortunately mean there is no such thing as 'objective' change.

 

The universe would then be 'objectively' Parmenidean and only 'subjectively' Heraclitean.

 

Of course, that depends on what is meant by "objective" and "subjective"!

 

[However, if Special Relativity is valid (and readers shouldn't take that to mean I think it isn't!), there might be problems constructing such a hyperplane through all points simultaneously. If correct, that complicating factor would make our view of the world even more 'subjective' and parochial. (On that, see Saunders (2002).)]

 

As should now perhaps seem obvious, this means Relativity is no friend of DM. Indeed, the 'Big Bang' itself (since it is a consequence of the TOR) is its mortal enemy. So, when dialecticians refer to the 'Big Bang' (to account for the "Totality" and inter-connectedness), they are actually drawing a viper to their collective bosom. As noted here, that is just one of the reasons earlier generations of Dialectical Marxists opposed -- and some still reject -- the revolutionary new Physics that emerged in the first few decades of the 20th century.

 

[TOR = Theory of Relativity.]

 

On the other hand, if the aforementioned 'dialectical links' are 'objective', that would imply they must exist independently of our capacity to refer to them. And if that is the case, it would still mean they still can't change. Here is why:

 

T2: Let us call the set of all such links, whether or not we know anything about them, S. In that case, S can't change or it would no longer link the time-stamped items it is defined as connecting.

 

T3: Call the set of elements that S connects, . But, can't change, either, since all its elements are time-stamped, too.

 

T4: This means that at the 'moment' of the 'Big Bang' (and possibly even before, if there was indeed such a 'before'), the first elements of S and came into existence and have remained fixed in Parmenidean stasis ever since -- that is, if MIC is true.

 

[The above still applies even if time is 'relativised.']

 

Despite the above, let us now suppose that:

 

(a) There is some way of avoiding all of the paradoxical conclusions that MIC brings in its train (outlined above); and hence that,

 

(b) MIC is compatible with DM-change, after all.

 

Even then, MIC would still face formidable problems. For example, MIC would appear to imply the existence of ceaseless, instantaneous effects across vast expanses of space and time, not least those supposedly connecting things that don't now exist with those that do. In turn, it would require the existence of non-relativistic effects 'travelling back and forth' between such regions at unimaginably large superluminal velocities (leaving the 'warp' speed of Star Trek trailing in the intergalactic dust). Either that, or it would appear to involve (in most cases) inordinate time-delays for all relevant reciprocal influences to do their work, undermining MIC in the process. [Since, in that case, many wouldn't in fact be inter-connected because they would have ceased to exist in the meantime.]

 

So, it looks like MIC presents DM-fans with rather too many debilitating dialectical headaches --, indeed, nothing less than a terminal case of 'Dialectical Migraine'. Hence, if DM itself is to be taken seriously, its adherents would be well advised to avoid MIC like the plague.

 

[Apologies for those mixed metaphors!]

 

Because of that, I will no longer consider MIC in this Essay in any detail (except, of course, in the End Notes!). Any dialecticians still enamoured of it are welcome to make of it what they can.

 

And good luck! You're going to need it.

 

One the other hand, Option (B) from earlier would sink DM faster than several recent Crypto Currencies.

 

[Even so, should any DM-fans remain committed to MIC, they will have to abandon the idea that their theory is acceptable only if it has been confirmed in some way. That is because MIC is as impossible to verify as it is to believe.]

 

NMIC

 

Let us assume, therefore, that NMIC is the more acceptable alternative for DM-theorists to adopt.

 

From earlier we saw NMIC committed dialecticians to the following:

 

[B] The "Totality" is inter-connected, but not everything that has existed, will exist, or now exits is both permanently and instantaneously inter-linked with everything else across all time zones.

 

However, NMIC is itself rather vague (the above characterisation is clearly my suggestion, which has, once more, been forced upon us because the meagre details offered by DM-fans are about as useful as a chocolate fire door). Nevertheless, the nature and extent of even these, shall-we-say, 'chastened' inter-connections are as vague as were those outlined in relation to MIC, and it isn't easy to see how that defect can be rectified -- except, perhaps, on a dogmatic or stipulative basis.

 

But, even if the opposite were the case, and NMIC was entirely perspicuous, it would still face serious problems of its own. For example, some of the aforementioned Helium atoms in the distant Galaxy (mentioned in T1, reproduced below) could have decayed by the time their vanishingly small effects had travelled very far. In which case, those atoms, at least, would no longer exist for them to be inter-connected with anything. Furthermore, the energy they released could fail to reach certain parts of the Universe because of absorption elsewhere. And what is true of them will be true of countless other objects and processes.

 

T1: The median price of coffee grinders in Brazil on the first of June 2021, the number of grains of sand on Bondi beach between 10:00 and 10:01 am (local time) on the 2nd of July 1742, and the modal oscillation frequency of a handful of atoms of Helium in a small pocket of gas in The Cartwheel Galaxy some 500 million or so light years distant, but exactly 25.35656786098444317 million years ago...

 

In addition, NMIC also faces the Light Cone and the Hubble Sphere problems (briefly examined earlier, here and here), both of which tell us there are parts of the universe that not only can't currently interact, they never will be able to do so if Relativity Theory is to be believed.

 

Further questions force themselves upon us: Do these hypothetical 'travelling effects' influence other 'travelling effects' all the time (even if they happen to be moving in opposite directions from a common source), or is that only the case across severely restricted or highly circumscribed time zones? Does the energy from distant Galaxies travelling away from the Earth (never to interact with our planet -- that is, if we assume the universe is infinite and unbounded, and we assume it isn't absorbed somewhere, which means it won't affect the earth, anyway) have any effect on energy radiating from the Earth and similarly moving in the opposite direction, away from those Galaxies? If not, how can such events, or parts of nature, be inter-connected?

 

Is there some sort of hierarchy of levels within or among these inter-connections, with some things affecting others more than they do the rest? Does an inverse square law, or something analogous, apply here?

 

More to the point: has a single DM-theorist attempted to work out the mathematical implications of any of this, let alone considered a single one of the above questions?

 

Worse still, is there any actual evidence (not just more theory) supporting the idea that every sub-atomic particle in the Universe is inter-connected with every other for all -- or even most -- of the time?

 

Of course, one possible response to the above might involve reminding us that all of nature is subject to the same laws (because everything originated in a 'Big Bang' billions of years ago). That would appear to mean everything in the universe is related "by birth and by law" (as it were) to everything else. Indeed, there are well-known theories in Modern Physics that seem to support the idea that the entire Universe might be inter-connected because of: (i) Its unique origin, (ii) A steadily increasing number of universe-wide 'fields' (one for each new 'particle' discovered) and, (iii) "Quantum entanglement". [However, on that, see Note 28.]

 

[As should seem reasonably clear, DM-supporters who believe the universe is infinite (and hence that there was no 'Big Bang') will have a hard time explaining how everything in an infinite universe could possibly be connected, let alone inter-connected. On that, see below and Note 27.]

 

But, even if it is assumed that certain contemporary physical theories are correct --, and we ignore the Light Cone and the Hubble Sphere 'problems' (again, from earlier, here and here), and we draw a veil over the 'Block View of Time' (and we forget that scientists never change their minds; but, on that, see below) --, that would still fail to show that everything is now inter-connected, or will always remain so. For that conclusion to follow, solid evidence and cogent argument are required, certainly far more than has been offered to date by DM-fans --, which, for all intents and purposes, is virtually nil!

 

Furthermore, despite the fact that the above theories in Modern Physics appear to lend support to the idea that certain parts of nature are inter-connected, the actual evidence in their favour is both remarkably thin and heavily theory-laden.26

 

Incidentally, the above response (that everything arose from the 'Big Bang') would fail to explain precisely which laws actually inter-connect the aforementioned price of coffee grinders in Brazil with remote atoms of Helium, let alone the number of grains of sand on beaches in the antipodes, mentioned in T1, above, to say nothing about every other trivial, or even significant, event in the history of the universe --, or, worse still, how any of it might be evidentially confirmed.

 

Despite this, there are several comrades -- whose ideas will be examined in more detail elsewhere at this site -- who question the standard account of the origin of the universe -- for example, Michael Gimbel [Gimbel (2011)], and our old friends, Woods and Grant (1995/2007) [W&G] -- both, henceforth, G&W&G..27

 

According to these dialectical-luminaries, the Universe is infinite both in duration and extent, macroscopically and microscopically, stretching on 'forever', as well as being 'infinitely divisible'.

 

[Having said that, and as far as can be ascertained, W&G don't actually say they believe in infinitely divisibility (but Gimbel does), even though it appears to be a direct implication of their theory that the universe is infinite in extent and intent. Be this as it may, if it were the case that the universe is infinite in the above two directions, most of reality couldn't be inter-connected since nothing would have had a common origin -- plainly because, on this view, there would be no origin of the universe. Oddly enough W&G failed to spot that 'unhelpful corollary' of their theory. I haven't yet been able to determine whether or not comrade Gimbel recognises this disastrous implication of this version of DM. However, on W&G and 'the infinite', see Mason (2012).]

 

In which case, if the Universe is indeed as these comrades picture 'it', 'it' couldn't be a "Totality". Here is why:

 

Imagine asking, say, a waitress to tell you what the total bill is for a meal you had just enjoyed only to be informed that it is an "infinite bill". If it is indeed infinite, it can't have a total. Any reply along the lines that the total is "infinite", or even that it is 'Aleph Zero', would be about as useful as being told 'God' is 'infinite'.

 

Some might object that a bill for such a meal is an inapt analogy. Maybe so, but until we are told with far more clarity than has hitherto been apparent what DM-fans mean by "Totality" (let alone what an 'infinite' "Totality" actually is), it will have to do.

 

Others might respond that some infinities can be totalled -- for instance, those that converge. While I don't wish to deny that some sequences do converge and thus have a total (but only if we accept the possibility that there are infinite sets), from the context it is plain that I was referring to physical infinities, not mathematical infinites. An "infinite bill" would be a physical object. It can have no total, not because the prices on the bill are or aren't convergent (if put in a series), but because the object in question is itself physically unmanageable. Who would there be to 'total' an infinite bill? Upon which piece of paper might it be written or printed? If every elementary particle in this (finite) universe were capable of being turned into a numeral, and all of space into a sheet of rolled up paper, any number that could be symbolised that way, no matter how large, would still be infinitely smaller that the smallest Transfinite Cardinal. That being the case, who could manage, or even handle, a physical bill that was big enough to allow even that non-infinite series of numerals to be written down, let alone totalled? The paper on which an 'infinite bill' would have to be written would also be infinitely larger than this (finite) universe itself. And who the hell would even be able to write such a finite bill, never mind one that was supposedly capable of representing a genuinely infinite number?

 

Anyway, exactly how G&W&G know that the universe is infinite in extent, and had no origin, they forgot to tell their audience/readers. Admittedly, Gimbel did manage to provide several weak arguments in support of that conclusion, but his main reason appears to be that Engels and Lenin promoted these ideas, so that was enough for him! Here is Lenin, for example:

 

"The electron is as inexhaustible as the atom, nature is infinite, but it infinitely exists. And it is this sole categorical, this sole unconditional recognition of nature's existence outside the mind and perception of man that distinguishes dialectical materialism from relativist agnosticism and idealism." [Lenin (1972), p.314. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Apparently what those two non-scientists had to say -- great revolutionaries though they were -- was authority enough for G&W&G. That alone appears to run counter to the following advice offered by Engels himself:

 

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

 

In fact, as soon becomes clear to anyone who actually checks, DM-theories about an infinite universe don't "proceed...from facts", but from ideas inherited from post-Renaissance Hermeticism and Christian Mysticism, where an 'infinite universe' was regarded as a fitting analogy that reflected the 'infinite nature of God'. Belief in anything less would be to demean, or even blaspheme, the 'deity'. [On that, see Bruno (1998), De León-Jones (1997), Koyré (1957), Lovejoy (1964) (this links to a PDF), and Yates (1991).] Unsurprisingly, those mystics also omitted the "careful empirical" work necessary to substantiate the doctrine that the universe is actually infinite, as opposed to being finite but very large, or very old.

 

In addition, an obvious point (that shouldn't really need to be made) is the following: Questions like this should be settled by scientific research not by an appeal to religious dogma (upside down or the 'right way up'). Nevertheless, like many of the other things W&G have to say about nature (and to a certain extent this also applies to Gimbel's ex cathedra pronouncements -- indeed, just as it applies to those expressed by still other DM-fans), they seem perfectly happy to impose such quasi-theological dogmas on the Universe.27a

 

Another possible reaction to the above 'difficulties' might proceed along the following lines:

 

T5: While we might at present be ignorant of these inter-connections, that doesn't imply there are none. The history of science has shown that theories of the Universe have always been framed in increasingly general terms. Over time, the laws scientists eventually discover confirm the fact that wider and wider regions of the universe are inter-connected (and in the way that DM-theorists suppose). Indeed, the development of scientific knowledge shows that the more we discover about nature the more inter-connections we find.

 

However, that response doesn't even begin to tackle most of the problems raised earlier. For example, issues connected with whether or not inter-connections within the "Totality" involve instantaneous effects across vast expanses -- i.e., distances measured in billions of light years. If they do, several of the aforementioned scientific laws and principles would clearly be false (namely, those that depend on Special Relativity).

 

Worse still, as has also been noted, the universal existence of such effects will never -- indeed, can never -- be confirmed. How, for example, would it be possible to test the entanglement of two electrons sent on their way, to be observed when they are a billion or more light years apart? Who is going to be patient enough, or even live long enough, to carry out the required observations across such vast separation distances --, even assuming the human race survived that long and there was anyone left to care, let alone remember they were supposed to keep track of them?

 

Of course, it could be argued that it is "reasonable to conclude" that entanglement occurs at such distances based on what we already know and have already tested experimentally. But, this area of physics is still highly contested, so the above isn't a safe conclusion to draw. There are several other considerations to take into account.

 

First, based on the DM-principles outlined earlier (those relating to the supposedly non-negotiable caveat that theories have to have empirical support, and mustn't be foisted on nature), dialecticians themselves can't consistently accept the breezily up-beat opinion expressed in T5, above. And that is because such hypothetical possibilities are forever incapable of being confirmed. That is quite apart from the additional fact that we still don't know what these inter-connections, which stretch across such vast distances, are supposed to be. Or, indeed, whether they connect/inter-connect events and objects in the past with those in the present, which they surely can't avoid doing if they actually manage to span even one such immense intergalactic expanse.

 

Second, Einstein called such ideas "spooky". Not only did they appear to violate certain tenets of Special Relativity, they also seem impossible to believe -- because of the absence of any conceivable causal explanation or intervening medium.28

 

Third, having said that, in the following video Dr Hossenfelder explains why Einstein's comments have nothing to do with "entanglement", but with measurement. She also shows how "entanglement" doesn't imply "action at a distance", either, but depends on local correlation. She illustrates what she means by the following analogy: Suppose you have two socks, one red and one blue, and you seal each in two separate envelopes. One of those envelopes is then sent on a long journey at the end of which it is opened. If the sock in that envelope turns out to be red, you know immediately that the other sock, thousands of miles away, is blue because of the (prior) local correlation just described -- i.e., that two socks with different colours had been locally correlated from the start. In which case, there has been no "action at a distance". The opening of the second envelope had no causal effect on the colour of the first sock, merely on our knowledge concerning the colour of the second sock in the sealed envelope, which was always blue. In that case, "entanglement" doesn't violate Special Relativity, contrary to what was asserted earlier. Of course, Dr Hossenfelder's analogy depends on 'local realism', that is, it is based on at least two assumptions: (i) that we know that there are two socks and (ii) they have different colours, red and blue. [Her sock example was clearly taken from Bell (1981) -- this links to a PDF.]

 

 

Video Seven: What Einstein Actually Meant

By "Spooky Action"

 

[See also this second video, entitled "Three Different Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics", which questions even Hossenfelder's conclusions as well as those of other physicists. Also check out a more recent video, Video Twenty-One, where Dr Hossenfelder defends her interpretation and defines more carefully what she means by "local realism". Finally check out this even more recent video (i.e., from November 2023), in which Tim Maudlin explains the background to all this with admirable clarity and in great detail, whatever one thinks of the conclusions reached. (One of these conclusions is that if QM is a "local theory" (in the sense given above) and there is correlation (like with those socks), then QM is deterministic and the Copenhagen Interpretation is false.)]

 

[QM = Quantum Mechanics.]

 

However, if that is indeed the case, and if DM-theorists continue to base inter-connection on "quantum entanglement", there would in fact be no physical connection between such events, just correlation. I am far from sure that that is what was meant by "connection", let alone "inter-connection".

 

Moreover, as I pointed out earlier with respect to another of Dr Hossenfelder's videos (i.e., Video Three):

 

In the above (video), theoretical physicist, Dr Sabine Hossenfelder, argues that multiverses are intrinsically unobservable and hence can form no part of science. [Of course, that doesn't itself imply they don't exist only that this topic is no business of science.] And yet, that is also the case with many other states, events and processes that are part of established science and which can't, even in theory, be observed -- such as 'Quantum Superposition'. That state can't be observed without collapsing the wave function involved, thus losing that very quantum state. This isn't to deny there is such a quantum state (nor that there is much indirect evidence such states exist), merely to point out that Dr Hossenfelder's criterion would imply QM isn't a science (at least as it is currently understood)!

 

Dr Hossenfelder argues that Einstein's objections to "spooky action" were actually connected with the above, that is, with instantaneous measurement -- i.e., faster than light collapsing wave functions. But, if this is called into question, far more will be wrong with QM than just "entanglement". Having said that, in another video, Physicist Dr Ben Miles, outlines three possible solutions to this 'puzzle' (one of which is, in effect, Dr Hossenfelder's), the weirdest of which involves "retro-causality" (i.e., 'backwards causation')!

 

Which only goes to show how far some scientists are prepared to stretch their credulity (and even their credibility!) in order to make a currently favoured idea work (which will, in all likelihood, be abandoned or revised beyond all recognition a decade or so down the line!). In the Middle Ages it was crystalline spheres, epicycles and angels pushing the planets about the place; these days it is eleven or more 'dimensions', 'rubber sheets', 'warped spacetime', universal 'fields' and 'effects' preceding their 'causes'!

 

Of course, other physicists disagree with these interpretations. Indeed, if the reader has studied this and related topics for long enough and to any depth, they will also know that if you gathered ten physicists together in a room, you can practically guarantee there will be upwards of twenty different interpretations of QM, never mind much of the rest contemporary Physics (including non-locality, entanglement, relativity theory, the nature of 'particles' and the 'field' --, or even what energy is, for goodness sake!). Anyone who thinks that that is a wild exaggeration only has to read a few discussions of such issues carried out on any randomly-selected physics forum -- for example, this one -- or watch enough YouTube videos/TV programmes (posted or hosted by highly qualified and/or leading physicists -- some of whom are Noble Prize winners, too -- not cranks!), to see that the above remark contains more than a grain of truth. Indeed, in this video physicist Arvin Ash even says "If you asked ten physicists what a particle is, it would not be surprising to get ten different answers...." (at approximately 01:16); and here is what one recent article pointed out about said 'particles':

 

"When I recently asked a dozen particle physicists what a particle is, they gave remarkably diverse descriptions. They emphasized that their answers don't conflict so much as capture different facets of the truth. [However, the rest of the article, with its six radically different theories concerning the nature of 'particles', makes the truth of that 'emphasis' hard to accept -- RL.]  They also described two major research thrusts in fundamental physics today that are pursuing a more satisfying, all-encompassing picture of particles." [Wolchover (2020); accessed 19/06/2023.]

 

The reader's attention is also directed toward Professor Sean Carroll's detailed criticisms of Professor Brian Cox's interpretation of "quantum entanglement" (i.e., Carroll (2012)); another physicist, Professor Jon Butterworth, then tried valiantly to mediate between the two (Butterworth (2012)).

 

For more on the above controversy, see this blog post by yet another physics professor, who takes Cox to task for his abusive response to Carroll (and other critics; for instance, Cox calls Carroll and the rest "armchair physicists" and asks why he has to teach them all "undergraduate quantum mechanics"). One of the latter -- the physicist Tom Swanson --, only succeeded in raising the temperature by saying Cox is full of "s*it".

 

Indeed, Swanson then went on to argue as follows (quoting Cox):

 

"'Every electron around every atom in the universe must be shifted as I heat the diamond up to make sure that none of them end up in the same energy level. When I heat this diamond up all the electrons across the universe instantly but imperceptibly change their energy levels.'

 

"You kind of expect the 'rock stars' of physics to not spout crap like this [Swanson is here referring to the fact that Cox used to be a rock star, in the band, Dare -- RL], so it's disappointing when they do. But this isn't a case of him mis-speaking: he doubles down on this notion in a WSJ [Wall Street Journal -- RL] article.

 

'I recently gave a lecture, screened on the BBC, about quantum theory, in which I pointed out that "everything is connected to everything else". This is literally true if quantum theory as currently understood is not augmented by new physics. This means that the subatomic constituents of your body are constantly shifting, albeit absolutely imperceptibly, in response to events happening an arbitrarily large distance away; for the sake of argument, let's say on the other side of the Universe. This statement received some criticism in scientific circles. Not because it's wrong, because it isn't; without this behaviour, we wouldn't be able to explain the bonds that hold molecules together. The problem is that it sounds like woo woo, and quantum theory attracts woo-woo merde-merchants like the pronouncements of New Age mystics attract flies -- metaphorically speaking.' [As I am sure readers know "merde" is French for "s*it", which might help explain why Swanson said "Cox is full of s*it" -- RL.]

 

"Well, no. The issue isn't the Pauli Exclusion Principle itself -- that's sound science. It's what he's done with it. The first, obvious problem is that relativity tells us that the communication can't be instantaneous. The second is that the Pauli Exclusion Principle doesn't work this way. It applies to a single system in which you have all these identical electrons, and they can't be in the same exact state. This is because of their QM [Quantum Mechanical] behaviour if you were to exchange them -- something has to be different about the two electrons. In a crystal, the energies are slightly different as a result, and you get a band of energies. But this does not extend beyond the system, be it crystal or even individual atoms -- the electrons belong to different systems, which are not co-located. Exchanging electrons meaning exchanging systems as well. That's what's different.

 

"Here's a simple argument why this can't be true: we can tell time with atomic clocks. A Cs atomic clock, for example, has electrons in one of two possible ground states, separated by an energy which corresponds to a frequency of 9 192 631 770 Hz. If the energy levels are different, as Brian contends, because of all the other electrons in other Cs atoms in the universe, we wouldn't have this sharp energy difference and shouldn't be able to get the part-in-10^15 kinds of accuracy (and even better levels of precision) from atomic clocks. That we can do this is a pretty strong indication that he's wrong.

 

"Maybe QM is so misunderstood because some prominent physicists are pitching it as mysticism instead of science.... I should be clear that I'm good with pretty much everything else mentioned in the article. It's the mysticism-connectedness angle, and the physics explanation, that is bogus, I don't expect that from Brian Cox." [Quoted from here; accessed 19/06/2023. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site; spelling modified to agree with UK English; several paragraphs merged; one minor typo corrected; all but one link added.]

 

As Swanson points out, the only 'reason' Cox has for arguing that 'all things are connected' is that "some prominent physicists are pitching it as mysticism instead of science" -- rather like DM-fans, in that case.

 

On this specific topic, science writer, Matthew Francis, had this to say about "entanglement" and Professor Cox's views:

 

"If I had to pick one area of quantum mechanics that has the greatest tendency both to bend the mind and to cause mass confusion, that area would be quantum entanglement. Possibly more nonsense has been written and spoken about entanglement than any other concept; even physicists who understand it struggle to explain it to others. That's not even getting into the challenge of comprehension: it can seem profoundly disturbing, and I would say that if it doesn't bother you on some level, you haven't thought about it carefully....

 

[After giving his interpretation of what "entanglement" means, Francis then quotes the above passage from Cox, and comments on it -- RL.]

 

"In other words, Cox seems to argue that every particle is entangled with every other, across the entire cosmos. Besides the problems with relativity and its ban on faster-than-light interactions (which are very well established!), his idea of what a system comprises is too broad. (Tom Swanson has more on this.) Just as entanglement doesn't allow instantaneous communication, it doesn't follow that entanglement from every electron in the universe is responsible for the results of energy levels within an atom. Quantum interactions don't work that way, and we have strong evidence in support of that." [Quoted from here; accessed 19/06/2023. Links in the original.]

 

Moreover, this controversy wasn't just about "entanglement", it also involved a profound disagreement over how to interpret Pauli's Exclusion Principle and Special Relativity -- as the blog post by the aforementioned Physics Professor confirms (and who was also concerned to air his rival interpretation of all three topics, in addition to his ideas about much else besides!).

 

Finally, on this specific topic, historian of science, Adam Becker, reports that the original founders of Quantum Mechanics -- but more specifically the physicists who developed what came to be known as the ('orthodox'/standard/dominant) Copenhagen Interpretation, Bohr, Heisenberg and Jordan -- couldn't agree among themselves what their own theory implied, and often published remarks that contradicted one another, and, on occasion, even themselves! [Cf., Becker (2018), pp.14, 43-60 and 302. For a truly comprehensive history of the countless different interpretations there have been of all areas of QM, see Freire et al (2022).]

 

So, I repeat: if you gathered ten physicists together in a room, you can practically guarantee there will be upwards of twenty different interpretations of QM...

 

[Of course, that is a slight exaggeration! However, concerning energy itself -- the nature of which physicists still can't explain -- see my comments here.]

 

Nor will it do to be told that DM-theorists draw "reasonable conclusions from the available evidence", which means the counter-claim (that the above effects stretching across such vast distances will never be confirmed) is "irrelevant". As we saw in Essay Seven Part One (and will further witness as this Essay unfolds), DM-theorists aren't so easily absolved. If DM-fans were simply drawing "reasonable conclusions from the available evidence", we would see statements like this, for example:

 

R1: "The available evidence so far suggests that the universe is an interconnected whole, but further research is need to determine the nature and extent of these interconnections, whether they include the past and whether or not they are instantaneous across all regions of space and time."

 

In their place we find the following from Engels, for instance:

 

"Dialectics as the science of universal inter-connections…." [Engels (1954), p.17. Bold emphasis added]

 

"The whole of nature accessible to us forms a system, an interconnected totality of bodies, and by bodies we understand here all material existences extending from stars to atoms, indeed right to ether particles, in so far as one grants the existence of the last named. In the fact that these bodies are interconnected is already included that they react on one another, and it is precisely this mutual reaction that constitutes motion. It already becomes evident that matter is unthinkable without motion." [Ibid., p.70. Bold emphases added.]

 

"When we consider and reflect upon Nature at large, or the history of mankind, or our own intellectual activity, at first we see the picture of an endless entanglement of relations and reactions, permutations and combinations, in which nothing remains what, where and as it was, but everything moves, changes, comes into being and passes away. We see, therefore, at first the picture as a whole, with its individual parts still more or less kept in the background; we observe the movements, transitions, connections, rather than the things that move, combine, and are connected. This primitive, naive but intrinsically correct conception of the world is that of ancient Greek philosophy, and was first clearly formulated by Heraclitus: everything is and is not, for everything is fluid, is constantly changing, constantly coming into being and passing away....

 

"To the metaphysician, things and their mental reflexes, ideas, are isolated, are to be considered one after the other and apart from each other, are objects of investigation fixed, rigid, given once for all. He thinks in absolutely irreconcilable antitheses. 'His communication is "yea, yea; nay, nay"; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.' For him, a thing either exists or does not exist; a thing cannot at the same time be itself and something else. Positive and negative absolutely exclude one another; cause and effect stand in a rigid antithesis, one to the other.

 

"At first sight, this mode of thinking seems to us very luminous, because it is that of so-called sound commonsense. Only sound commonsense, respectable fellow that he is, in the homely realm of his own four walls, has very wonderful adventures directly he ventures out into the wide world of research. And the metaphysical mode of thought, justifiable and necessary as it is in a number of domains whose extent varies according to the nature of the particular object of investigation, sooner or later reaches a limit, beyond which it becomes one-sided, restricted, abstract, lost in insoluble contradictions. In the contemplation of individual things, it forgets the connection between them; in the contemplation of their existence, it forgets the beginning and end of that existence; of their repose, it forgets their motion. It cannot see the woods for the trees....

 

"Further, we find upon closer investigation that the two poles of an antithesis, positive and negative, e.g., are as inseparable as they are opposed, and that despite all their opposition, they mutually interpenetrate. And we find, in like manner, that cause and effect are conceptions which only hold good in their application to individual cases; but as soon as we consider the individual cases in their general connection with the universe as a whole, they run into each other, and they become confounded when we contemplate that universal action and reaction in which causes and effects are eternally changing places, so that what is effect here and now will be cause there and then, and vice versa.

 

"None of these processes and modes of thought enters into the framework of metaphysical reasoning. Dialectics, on the other hand, comprehends things and their representations, ideas, in their essential connection, concatenation, motion, origin and ending. Such processes as those mentioned above are, therefore, so many corroborations of its own method of procedure.... This new German philosophy culminated in the Hegelian system. In this system -- and herein is its great merit -- for the first time the whole world, natural, historical, intellectual, is represented as a process -- i.e., as in constant motion, change, transformation, development; and the attempt is made to trace out the internal connection that makes a continuous whole of all this movement and development." [Engels (1892), pp.405-08. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases added. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

And these from Lenin:

 

"[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…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

"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." [Ibid., pp.196-97. Original emphases removed and bold added.]

 

"Dialectics requires an all-round consideration of relationships in their concrete development but not a patchwork of bits and pieces....  A tumbler is assuredly both a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel. But there are more than these two properties, qualities or facets to it; there are an infinite number of them, an infinite number of 'mediacies' and inter-relationships with the rest of the world. A tumbler is a heavy object which can be used as a missile; it can serve as a paper weight, a receptacle for a captive butterfly, or a valuable object with an artistic engraving or design, and this has nothing at all to do with whether or not it can be used for drinking, is made of glass, is cylindrical or not quite, and so on and so forth....

 

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

 

"Dialectical logic demands that we should go further. Firstly, if we are to have a true knowledge of an object we must look at and examine all its facets, its connections and 'mediacies'. That is something we cannot ever hope to achieve completely, but the rule of comprehensiveness is a safeguard against mistakes and rigidity. Secondly, dialectical logic requires that an object should be taken in development, in change, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it). This is not immediately obvious in respect of such an object as a tumbler, but it, too, is in flux, and this holds especially true for its purpose, use and connection with the surrounding world. Thirdly, a full 'definition' of an object must include the whole of human experience, both as a criterion of truth and a practical indicator of its connection with human wants. Fourthly, dialectical logic holds that 'truth is always concrete, never abstract', as the late Plekhanov liked to say after Hegel." [Lenin (1921), pp.90-93. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

And Bukharin:

 

"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. The slightest motion, the slightest alteration in one place, simultaneously changes everything else.... I am now writing on paper with a pen. I thus impart pressures to the table; the table presses upon the earth, calling forth a number of further changes. I move my hand, vibrate as I breathe, and these motions pass on in slight impulses ending Lord knows where. The fact that these may be but small changes, does not change the essential nature of the matter. All things in the universe are connected with an indissoluble bond nothing exists as an isolated object, independent of its surroundings. Of course, we are not obliged at every moment to pay attention to the universal concatenation of phenomena: a discussion of poultry -- raising need not always lead us into a discussion of everything else same time, the sun, the moon, for instance; which would be folly, for in this case the universal bond of all phenomena would not help us. But in a discussion of theoretical questions it is very often necessary for us to bear this relation in mind; even in practice it cannot always be ignored. We are in the habit of saying that a certain man cannot 'see further than his nose', which means that he considers his environment as isolated, as having no relation with what lies beyond it.... When, in simple parlance, we rightly say that 'all the circumstances must be taken into consideration', what we really mean is that a given phenomenon or a given question must be considered with regard to its connections with other phenomena, indissoluble union with 'all the circumstances'.

 

"In the first place, therefore, the dialectic 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." [Bukharin (1925), pp.65-67. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to agree with the conventions adopted at this site. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

And, David Guest:

 

"Dialectical materialism appears at first sight to be a return to the original Greek view of the world from which philosophy started. And, indeed, like this Greek materialism, it sees the world as a single interconnected whole in endless motion…. Every 'thing' is itself vastly complicated, made up of innumerable sides and aspects, related in various ways to every other thing." [Guest (1939), pp.38, 53. Paragraphs merged, bold emphases added.]

 

And, George Novack:

 

"Nature cannot be unreasonable or reason contrary to nature. Everything that exists must have a necessary and sufficient reason for existence…. The material base of this law lies in the actual interdependence of all things in their reciprocal interactions…. If everything that exists has a necessary and sufficient reason for existence, that means it had to come into being. It was pushed into existence and forced its way into existence by natural necessity…. Reality, rationality and necessity are intimately associated at all times…." [Novack (1971), pp.78-79. Paragraphs merged; bold emphasis added.]

 

And, Tommy Jackson:

 

"Its world-conception is Materialist alike in its Objectivity and in its Activity -- in that the world is conceived as a totality, and by means of its inseparably connected and never ceasing interacting movements. And it is Dialectical in that these inter-acting movements are recognised as begetting, of necessity, a perpetual self-transformation of the Universe as a whole -- a universally inter-connected series of processes in which old forms, formations, and inter-relations are constantly being destroyed and replaced by new forms…." [Jackson (1936), p.626. Paragraphs merged, bold emphases alone added.]

 

And, Maurice Cornforth:

 

"Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard nature as just an agglomeration of things, each existing independently of the others, but it considers things as 'connected with, dependent on and determined by each other.' Hence, it considers that nothing can be understood taken by itself, in isolation…. Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics considers everything as in 'a state of continuous movement and change, of renewal and development….' The dialectical method demands, first, that we should consider things, not each by itself, but always in their interconnection with other things." [Cornforth (1976), pp.71-72. Paragraphs merged; bold emphases added.]

 

And, Afanasyev:

 

"The material world is not only a developing, but also a connected, integral whole. Its objects and phenomena do not develop of themselves, in isolation, but in inseverable connection or unity with other objects and phenomena…. One of the most important aims of materialist dialectics is the study of the world as an integral connected whole, the examination of the universal connections of things." [Afanasyev (1968), pp.84-89. Bold emphasis alone added; paragraphs merged.]

 

And, Kuusinen:

 

"The theoretical and practical significance of the causal connection of phenomena is tremendous. But it does not exhaust the multiformity of relations in the objective world. Lenin wrote that 'causality... is but a small particle of the universal connection' and that the 'human conception of cause and effect always somewhat simplifies the objective connection of the phenomena of nature, reflecting it only approximately, artificially isolating one or another aspect of a single world process.' This means that the interconnection of phenomena in nature and society is more extensive and complex than the connection expressed by the relation of cause to effect. In particular, cause and effect are subordinate to the broader relation of interaction. Nature constitutes a single whole, all parts of which are connected in one way or another. In this universal interconnection, any phenomenon, itself the effect of some cause, also acts as a cause in some other connection, giving rise to new effects. The evaporation of water in the seas and rivers owing to the action of the sun's rays, for example, leads to the formation of clouds. These, in turn, produce rain, which moistens the soil and feeds the brooks and streams.

 

"Interaction is also observed in the influence exerted upon each other by cause and effect within one and the same process; in this sense, the two change places -- the cause becoming the effect, and vice versa. The continuous thermonuclear reaction in the sun is an example of such interaction, for the process in which hydrogen atoms are converted into helium atoms creates a high temperature (of the order of millions of degrees) which, in turn, necessarily causes the synthesis of helium atoms from hydrogen atoms. We often observe interaction also when studying social affairs, for example, a greater popular demand for a commodity stimulates greater production of it. In turn, the growth of production produces increased demand. Cause and effect change places. Demand affects production, and production affects demand. Hence, cause and effect should not be viewed metaphysically as ossified, unconnected, absolute opposites. They should be viewed dialectically as interconnected, interconvertible, 'fluid' conceptions. However, it is not enough to demonstrate the interaction of different factors or different phenomena. We still have to find out which side is the determining one in this interaction. It is only when we have discovered this that we can understand correctly the sources of the process, appraise the forces involved in it, and see the main line, the direction of development. And to give a proper idea of the interaction between growth of demand and growth of production in the example cited above, it should be stressed that growth of production is the determining factor in this interaction." [Kuusinen (1961), pp.75-76. (This passage can be found at pp.58-59 of the 1963, 2nd ed., and this links to a PDF of the 2nd ed.) Bold emphases alone added; several paragraphs merged. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

And, Chris Nineham:

 

"Marxism views society as a totality. It attempts to understand all aspects of our world as interconnected and shaped by the capitalist system into which we are all born." [Quoted from here; accessed 08/10/2022. Bold emphasis added.]

 

And, of course, we mustn't forget, 'The Great Teacher' Himself:

 

"Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard Nature as an accidental agglomeration of things, of phenomena, unconnected with, isolated from, and independent of, each other, but as a connected and integral whole, in which things…are organically connected with, dependent on, and determined by, each other. The dialectical method therefore holds that no phenomenon in Nature can be understood if taken by itself, isolated from surrounding phenomena….

 

"The dialectical method therefore requires that phenomena should be considered not only from the standpoint of their interconnection and interdependence, but also from the standpoint of their movement, their change, their development, their coming into being and going out of being…. Speaking of the materialist views of the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, who held that 'the world, the all is one...,' Lenin comments: 'A very good exposition of the rudiments of dialectical materialism.' [PN, p.347.]" [Stalin (1941), pp.837-38, 845. I have used the on-line edition of Lenin's PN, here. Links added. Several paragraphs merged, bold emphases added.]

 

[I have fully quoted Spirkin's more detailed comments about the "Totality" and its supposed inter-connections in Appendix B (followed by a few remarks criticising the main points he tried to make). Dozens more passages (and that is no exaggeration!), which all say the same sort of thing, were quoted in Essay Two.]

 

The nature of the dogmatic (ruling-class) thought-form that runs through -- and is what actually inter-connects -- all of these highly repetitive, boiler plate assertions isn't so much revealed by the dearth of evidence offered in support of the hyper-bold and universal claims they collectively advance (many of which were made before modern physics emerged), as it is by the fact that each of the above theorists imported the same obscure ideas from Hegel, who likewise lifted them from earlier mystical bumblers, who in turn dreamt them up before there was any evidence to speak of. [On that, see Essay Fourteen Part One (summary here).]

 

Oddly enough, Marx and Engels themselves explained why such ideas dominate thought for so long:

 

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

 

"[O]ne fact is common to all past ages, viz., the exploitation of one part of society by the other. No wonder, then, that the social consciousness of past ages, despite all the multiplicity and variety it displays, moves within certain common forms, or general ideas, which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms. The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involved the most radical rupture with traditional ideas." [Marx and Engels (1968b), p.52. Bold emphasis added.]

 

Dogmatic, ruling class ideas "rule" Dialectical Marxism, too. There is no hint of 'reasonableness' anywhere in those earlier passages. They are all unequivocally dogmatic. Nor is there any recognition of their origin in mystical systems of thought.

 

Unfortunately, the above passage (from Marx and Engels 1968b) suggests that it will take a working class revolution to rid humanity (and Dialectical Marxism) of these ideas. As I have argued elsewhere at this site:

 

If I were an Idealist, I'd harbour illusions that my work could make some difference; that is, I'd be under the illusion that Dialectical Marxists could be argued out of their adherence to this creed. But, as a Historical Materialist, I know that only social change will bring to an end the conditions (and the consequent alienation) that motivates the vast majority of comrades into looking at the world in the traditional manner I outlined earlier. Since fundamental social change can only come about through the revolutionary activity of workers themselves, Dialectical Marxists of every stripe are going to need the proletariat to 'save them from themselves'.

 

I stand no chance -- I might as well be speaking Klingon to the cat!

 

[I have also explained in detail why that is so -- and why DM-fans cling to this theory like neurotically insecure Limpets -- in Essay Nine Parts One and Two.]

 

Once more, as we saw in Essay Two, this is par for the course, right across Dialectical Marxism, and in relation to every aspect of DM, not just the "Totality" or "inter-connection".

 

Be this as it may, more worrying still is the following consideration: The latest (volunteered) DM-reply -- i.e., in T5 -- is itself based on a metaphysical view of science. There are, of course, much deeper issues at stake here -- for example, those connected with how Scientific Realism itself should be interpreted (indeed, as hinted at above). In conjunction with that there are also issues arising from any attempt to translate into the vernacular the highly technical language scientists employ --, or, for that matter, render it compatible with 'commonsense' --, should anyone wish to do either or both.

 

[Several of these topics were discussed in Essay Eight Part Two, others will be dealt with in Essay Thirteen Part Two (to be published sometime in 2024). That is quite apart from the fact that the doctrines concocted by the aforementioned mystics were (originally) completely general themselves!]

 

Universal Inter-connection Incompatible With Change Through 'Internal Contradiction'

 

Notwithstanding the above, even if a plausible version of inter-connectedness were forthcoming from the DM-fraternity, it would still appear inconsistent with other DM-theories/'laws'. For example: if, according to dialecticians, all change is internally-driven and based on 'inner conflicts' supposedly initiated by the dynamic relation between constituent UOs (supposedly present in all objects and processes), that would imply change couldn't also be externally-motivated. But, what else does the doctrine of universal inter-connectedness amount to except an appeal to the influence of more complex and remote external causes, or 'mediations'? Hence, if universal inter-connections exist, change can't be wholly internal to an object or system. On the other hand, if change were entirely the result of the conflict between the 'internal opposites' within all objects, processes and systems, inter-connectedness could, at best, only be local. It certainly wouldn't be universal.

 

[It is also worth pointing out that there is a fatal equivocation lying at the heart of the DM-theory that change is the result of 'internal contradictions'. On that see here, here and here. That topic was covered more fully in Essays Seven Part One and Eight Part One (alongside the additional claim that there is some sort of 'dialectical' interplay at work between 'internal' and 'external contradictions'), which will be dealt with again in Part Two of this Essay.]

 

In that case, if dialecticians are determined to cling to their belief in this yet-to-be-defined "Totality", along with all those equally obscure universal inter-connections, the doctrine that change is exclusively generated by 'internal contradictions' will have to be ditched. Conversely, vice versa.

 

Either way, DM would suffer yet another serious body blow.

 

Of course, it is always possible to argue that the above objection relies on an 'either-or' dichotomy; that is, it is predicated on the assumption that change is either externally motivated or it is internally driven. But no dialectician argues in such a crude manner. According to them, change is the result of a "dialectical interplay" between internal and external factors.

 

Or so it could be objected...

 

However, that reply sits rather awkwardly with several remarks made by the DM-classicists themselves, and it fatally compromises the core theory of change proposed by Hegel, which was accepted by Lenin (among others). I have covered that topic in Essay Seven Part Three, here. Readers are referred there for more details.

 

Nevertheless, in connection with the former point -- the idea that there are external causes at work on bodies, processes or systems, and which are involved in some sort of interplay with internal causes (whether these are 'dialectical' or otherwise) -- that was rejected unequivocally by Lenin:

 

"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement,' in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).

 

"In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self'-movement. The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new. The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Bold emphases alone added. Several paragraphs merged. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Lenin didn't just assert this rather odd idea once, he later "demanded" that all DL-fans see things this way (and he did so in a published work -- so this idea can't be hand-waved aside with a claim that it appeared in unpublished notebooks):

 

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

 

In Essay Eight Part One I then argue the following in relation to the above words (slightly edited):

 

Well, perhaps Lenin was merely referring to the development of certain systems, and not the movement of objects from place to place, their locomotion?....

 

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

 

"In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self'-movement. The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new." [Lenin (1961), p.358. Bold emphasis alone added; paragraphs merged. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

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

 

------------------------------------------------

 

Added in Note 2:

 

As Hegel himself declared:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Added in Note 3:

 

This is how Mao saw things:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

And, here is a greatly shortened list of quotations taken from the writings of lesser DM-luminaries who declared (perhaps unwisely) that things do indeed change or even move themselves....

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

"We shall now take up the second main proposition of dialectics...the law of development through opposites.... Not until Hegel was this law completely developed. This law applies to all motion and change of things, to real things as well as to their images in our minds.... [This law] states, in the first place, that all motion, development, or change, takes place through opposites or contradictions, or through the negation of a thing.... The negation of a thing from which the change proceeds, however, is in turn subject to law of the transformation of things into their opposites...." [Thalheimer (1936), pp.161, 165-66, 170-71. Bold emphases added. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

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

 

"Each phase of the plant's manifestation appears as a reality and then is transformed in the course of development into an unreality or an appearance. This movement, triadic in this particular case, from unreality to reality and then back again to unreality, constitutes the essence, the inner movement behind all appearance.... In this dialectical movement, in this passage out of and into opposition, resides the secret to the movement of all real things.... Dialectics is the logic of matter in motion and thereby the logic of contradictions, because development is inherently self-contradictory. Everything generates within itself that force which leads to its negation, its passing away into some other and higher form of being.... This dialectical activity is universal. There is no escape from its unremitting and relentless embrace...." [Novack (1971), pp.87, 94. Bold emphases added; paragraphs merged.]

 

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

 

"The second dogmatic assumption of mechanism is the assumption that no change can ever happen except by the action of some external cause. Just as no part of a machine moves unless another part acts on it and makes it move, so mechanism sees matter as being inert -- without motion, or rather without self-motion. For mechanism, nothing ever moves unless something else pushes or pulls is, it never changes unless something else interferes with it.

 

"No wonder that, regarding matter in this way, the mechanists had to believe in a Supreme Being to give the 'initial push'.... So in studying the causes of change, we should not merely seek for external causes of change, but should above all seek for the source of change within the process itself, in its own self-movement, in the inner impulses to development contained in things themselves...."

 

"...'[S]truggle' is not external and accidental. It is not adequately understood if we suppose that it is a question of forces or tendencies arising quite independently the one of the other, which happen to meet, to bump up against each other and come into conflict. No. The struggle is internal and necessary; for it arises and follows from the nature of the process as a whole. The opposite tendencies are not independent the one of the other, but are inseparably connected as parts or aspects of a single whole. And they operate and come into conflict on the basis of the contradiction inherent in the process as a whole.

 

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

 

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

 

And Baghavan:

 

"Hegel pointed out that the co-existence, the unity, the interpenetration of opposites constitutes an inner and inherent contradiction, a basic instability in all things which leads to development and change.... The existence of contradictions in all things gives rise to self-movement." [Baghavan (1987), p.90. Bold emphasis added; paragraphs merged.]

 

And Mandel:

 

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

 

Here are our old friends, Woods and Grant:

 

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

 

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

 

"The universal phenomena of the unity of opposites is, in reality, the motor-force of all motion and development in nature. It is the reason why it is not necessary to introduce the concept of external impulse to explain movement and change -- the fundamental weakness of all mechanistic theories. Movement, which itself involves a contradiction, is only possible as a result of the conflicting tendencies and inner tensions which lie at the heart of all forms of matter.... Matter is self-moving and self-organising." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.43-45, 47, 68, 72. Bold emphases alone added. Several paragraphs merged.]

 

And now, a handful of Communist Party hacks:

 

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

 

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

 

"The dialectical doctrine that the motion or development of nature is in fact self-motion, self-development, explains why many contemporary bourgeois philosophers are so vehement in their attacks on the proposition of the contradictory essence of things. Development understood in this way leaves no room for a 'transcendental', mystical 'creative force' external to nature.... Postulating that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and processes and comprise the motive force of the self-development of nature and society, materialist dialectics explains how this process takes place." [Konstantinov et al (1974), pp.144-45. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphases added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

"Contradiction also expresses this feature of the relation of opposition, i.e., the mutual exclusion and mutual presupposing of its formative aspects. It can therefore be briefly defined as the unity of opposites which mutually exclude one another and are in struggle. The law of dialectics that demonstrates the driving force of contradictions is formulated as the law of the unity and struggle of opposites. According to this law, contradictions are the inner impetus of development, the source of the self-movement and change of things. If things were a constant identity in themselves, and lacked differences and contradictions, they would be absolutely immutable.... Contradiction is a dynamic relation of opposites.... The determining element in contradiction is therefore the struggle of opposites." [Kharin (1981), p.125. Bold emphases added; paragraphs merged.]

 

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

 

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

 

"...The struggle of opposites is the inner content, the source of the development of reality. Such is the essence of the dialectical law of the unity and struggle of opposites.... Motion, as understood by Marxist dialectics, is the self-motion of matter, internal motion, whose driving forces or impulses are contained within the developing objects and phenomena themselves." [Afanasyev (1968), pp.95, 97-98. Italic emphases in the original. Bold emphases added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

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

 

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

 

Academic Marxists also concur with Lenin. Here is how two HCD theorists summarised Hegel's version of this theory -- after briefly outlining and then rejecting Lucio Colletti's criticism of Hegel [in Colletti (1973)] -- thus revealing its immediate source, as follows:

 

"Now, if we examine more closely the dialectic of the finite in Science of Logic, it becomes clear that, pace Colletti, those pages do not develop a demonstration of the ideal character of the sensuous material world and therefore do not provide the key argument for the idealist nature of Hegel's system. The only thing that Hegel is proving (sic) there is the fact that things are 'finite' means that they carry within themselves the necessity of their own negation. Consequently, they cannot be properly grasped if represented as self-subsistent entities or immediate (or unmediated) affirmations. Instead, things or objects need to be grasped as self-moving, that is, as subjects of their own qualitative transformation into another 'finite' form. An object thus realises its own qualitative determination by becoming another, that is, through self-mediation. This is, in our view, all that Hegel is trying to expound in those pages: real forms of 'being' affirm through self-negation. It is in that specific sense that according to him reality is the movement of contradiction. To put it differently, Hegel's point in these pages is just to say that the true infinite is nothing but the immanent self-movement of the finite, which it affirms through self-negation....

 

"Thus, Hegel's insight into the self-moving nature of real forms, which constitutes his great scientific discovery (sic) and thus that the rational kernel to be found in the Logic, is not inherently tied to his absolute idealism.... [T]he rejection of that Hegelian discovery...inevitably leads to an idealist representation of reality. In effect, when real forms are represented as devoid of any immanent necessity driving them to self-movement, forms of 'being' are reduced to lifeless abstractions which can only be put into external relation with each other by means of subjective reflection.... [O]nly when things are grasped as bearers of an intrinsic objective potentiality for self-movement does it make sense to raise the question of the ideal reproduction of the 'immanent life' of the subject-matter." [Caligaris and Starosta (2015), pp.93-94. Italic emphases in the original; bold added.]

 

In which case, it is clear that Lenin and the rest obtained this view of movement and development, not from a scientific study of the world, but from leafing through a book steeped in Christian and Hermetic Mysticism.

 

----------------------------------------------

 

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

 

Anyway, as we will also see, whatever Lenin actually intended, his 'innovative' mechanics can in no way apply to nature. That isn't so much because he was mistaken, but because it is entirely unclear what he could possibly have meant by what he said.

 

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

 

[There is more on this in Essay Fourteen (summary here).]

 

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

 

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

 

Not to be outdone, Plekhanov also joined in with this backward-facing world-view:

 

"'All is flux, nothing is stationary,' said the ancient thinker from Ephesus. The combinations we call objects are in a state of constant and more or less rapid change…. In as much as they change and cease to exist as such, we must address ourselves to the logic of contradiction… [M]otion does not only make objects…, it is constantly changing them. It is for this reason that the logic of motion (the 'logic of contradiction') never relinquishes its rights over the objects created by motion…. With Hegel, thinking progresses in consequence of the uncovering and resolution of the contradictions inclosed (sic) in concepts. According to our doctrine…the contradictions embodied in concepts are merely reflections, translations into the language of thought, of those contradictions that are embodied in phenomena owing to the contradictory nature of their common basis, i.e., motion….

 

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

 

Countless secondary DM-figures say more-or-less the same sort of thing (as we have seen in Note 3).

 

Unfortunately, Lenin and his co-dialecticians failed to take into consideration the origin of these archaic ideas in Hermetic Philosophy, which is still based on the doctrine that the universe is alive. Indeed it is a cosmic egg, later transmogrified by Hegel into a Cosmic Ego.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

So, based on the defective doctrines imported from the wild musings of a handful of ancient mystics, and no evidence at all, we find Lenin once again promulgating a set of cosmic verities that don't make sense even in DM-terms -- and which not even the lowly chicken obeys.

 

I then proceed to consider every conceivable objection to the above in the rest of Essay Eight Part One (and especially in Note 28); readers are again directed there for more details. In which case, and in view of the above passages, the counter-argument summarised earlier -- that change is the result of a 'dialectical interplay' between internal and external factors --, can't be sustained.

 

The Epistemological Definition

 

What Do We Know?

 

If any aspect of this maximally inter-connected "Totality" is to be rejected (alongside the idea that every atom and molecule, past present and future, has a direct, ceaseless and instantaneous effect on every other atom and molecule across the entire universe, for all of time), then what interpretation can be placed on inter-connectedness that doesn't simply amount to an act of faith?

 

Unless awkward questions like this attract clear answers from the DM-fraternity, faith seems to be the only option available to them. That is because, as has already been pointed out, universal and omni-temporal inter-connections will never and can never be verified.28a

 

Could this be where the "Epistemological Definition" offers a slender ray of hope to beleaguered DM-fans? Might it allow them to cobble-together a solution (of sorts) to the above conundrum, one that is perhaps compatible with a non-mystical view of the universe?

 

Plainly, this new approach to understanding the "Totality" directs attention away from any attempt to construct a speculative Ontology (along the lines of the 'contents list' suggested earlier), and re-focuses it on what is known about the 'Whole', and on any method or theoretical device we have for investigating it systematically -- at least as it has been conceived, or might be conceived, at any point in history. Indeed, this seems to be the characterisation John Rees Alan Norrie and Helena Sheehan prefer. We saw Rees, for example, informing his readers that the "Totality" is an "insistence" of some sort, and he later alluded to the "totality of human experience and knowledge", which also appears to have something to do with the "Totality". [Rees (1998a), pp.5, 236.] In what follows I will simply assume it does.

 

Sheehan also spoke about "Totality" as an:

 

"open-ended, always striving, process. It is an activity rather than an object. It is an orientation toward the whole, not a finalized conception of the whole. It is a way of thinking that endeavours always to understand each phenomenon within the pulsing whole and the complex nexus of its interactions." [Quoted from here.]

 

We saw earlier that Norrie had this to say:

 

"Totality, then, is the place where different things are seen in their connection and are viewed as a whole." [Norrie (2010), p.87.]

 

Unfortunately, as we are about to find out, this switch of emphasis away from the supposed 'object' of knowledge and onto what might be known about 'it' -- or even the methods we might use in order to investigate 'the Whole' -- only succeeds in creating even more problems for the DM-faithful, should they join with the above theorists and choose this particular way of understanding "Totality".

 

Kant's NOUMENON By Any Other Name

 

As should seem reasonably clear, unless it is possible to say something (anything?) about the object of knowledge, epistemologically-motivated claims about 'it' will be entirely vacuous.

 

Consider the following example -- concerning meskonators. An appeal to the "totality of human experience and knowledge" would be no help at all if no one had the faintest idea what a meskonator is. Knowledge about what? In like manner, similar references to the "totality of human experience and knowledge" would be pointless if no one has a clue what the "Totality" is, either. But, DM-theorists can't (or won't) ante-up. Beyond a handful of oft-repeated, vague banalities they have remained studiously unspecific about the nature and extent of the supposed object of their knowledge for over a hundred-and-fifty years -- as indeed were generations of mystics before them, only for far longer. And all the signs are that they intend to maintain this tight-lipped approach into the indefinite future. This Essay certainly won't shift them, even if they bothered to read it!

 

[In order to save readers from trying to search for a definition, "meskonator" is a totally made up word!]

 

Why are dialecticians so reticent? Why do they shy away from telling the world the glad tidings about their "Totality"?

 

In reply, some argue that DM-theorists refuse to be more specific because they will be accused of imposing their ideas on nature. But, that response is rather puzzling when we remember that that that is what they end up doing with respect to the rest of DM, anyway! In fact, they already "insist" that everything is, or is part of, a "Totality" (all the while refraining from informing us what that insistence actually involves or implies), happily imposing this mystical and mysterious theory on nature, supposedly valid for all of space and time!

 

Beyond alleging there is, or there can develop, a "dialectical" relation between the "knower and the known", and apart from giving the whole shebang a quasi-religious label (i.e., "The Totality"), it seems there is little else DM-theorists could say. Indeed, as we have seen, there is precious little they have said about this elusive "Totality", even to one another!

 

An analogous predicament plagued previous epistemologically-driven theories of nature, whose advocates found they had to appeal (either implicitly or explicitly) to an a priori, or even to an a posteriori, ontology of some sort to bail them out. Lacking a 'back-door ontology' of some sort to firm things up, still others meandered off into a Phenomenological swamp, some even lapsed into outright scepticism.

 

In which case, DM-theorists have only gestured at finding a solution to the following dilemma; they should either:

 

(i) Invent and then impose a specific ontology on nature; or,

 

(ii) Face the prospect that their theory is little more than an obscure backwater of Phenomenalism -- or even perhaps of Subjective Idealism.

 

Some DM-fans half-heartedly opt for the first alternative, appealing to a vague and attenuated 'sort of ontology', one that has been seriously compromised by Lenin's refusal to commit Dialectical Marxism to any firm ideas in this area --, shockingly, even about the nature of matter itself! The whole sorry mess is then hived-off into the sciences.

 

[Earlier we saw that that was an unwise move, too.]

 

As we will discover in Essay Thirteen Part One, DM-fans are entirely unspecific about what they even mean by the word "matter" and "material". While they certainly employ materialist-sounding language their ideas soon slide off into vague and confused forms of Idealism.

 

[In fact, we saw in the above Essay that DM actually does turn out to be a form of Subjective Idealism, a doctrine that is (provably) implied by Lenin's theory of knowledge, as the latter was laid out in MEC. Readers are directed to that Essay for more details (summary here).]

 

While dialecticians certainly intend their 'ontology' to be materialist, the asymptotic road to Dialectical Nirvana (along which they are all supposedly feeling their way) is actually paved with intentional but no less Ideal bricks. With such insubstantial building material it is impossible to construct anything that even looks remotely materialist.

 

[MEC = Materialism and Empiriocriticism (i.e., Lenin (1972).]

 

Indeed, there doesn't appear to be a single DM-theorist on the planet (now or in the past) who is willing or able to tell us (let alone inform his/her fellow travellers) what matter actually is, beyond describing it as an 'abstraction'! [Follow the "matter" link three paragraphs back for textual proof and analysis.] Since the universe is made of matter, for DM-fans that can only mean the universe is abstract!

 

Unfortunately, this untoward result puts dialecticians in the same bind as theologians, who long ago found they could tell us nothing about 'God' save they dust off yet another via negativa -- ending up with: "'God' is not this, not that, not this, not…".

 

With DM-fans, that becomes: "Matter is not this, not that, not...".

 

So, without a clear idea what these coy dialectical-'materialists' think matter is, their "Totality" does indeed look like Hamlet without the…, er..., well..., er..., um..., er..., eh..., well..., ah..., er..., um...?

 

It is no surprise, therefore, to discover that this timorous and ambivalent approach to ontology means the above dilemma -- involving a choice between an a priori or an a posteriori 'membership list' -- re-surfaces in several different forms elsewhere in DM.

 

On the one hand, DM-theorists maintain the delusion that they haven't imposed their theory on reality (in fact, in debate they vehemently reject that accusation even in the face of clear and overwhelming evidence to the contrary), but have merely "read it from nature and society"; on the other, the way their ideas are actually worded reveals that it has indeed been foisted on the facts. That alone shows their ontology (if such it may be called) is a priori and dogmatic, after all.

 

[Those allegations were fully substantiated in Essay Two. They will be examined again in much more detail in Essay Twelve Parts One to Seven (summary here) as well as in Essay Thirteen Part One.]

 

DM-theorists have saddled themselves with a metaphysical theory that offers no clear conception of the "Totality" -- for example, its extent, what it contains, what it implies and what the nature is of the universal inter-connections they postulate. Their theory in effect presents an ontology that has reified the products of social interaction -- i.e., words -- as if they represented fundamental features of reality (for instance, all those 'contradictions', 'dialectical opposites' and 'negations'). But their obvious incapacity (or unwillingness) to provide any further details means that they have saddled themselves with what can only be described as their own version of Kant's Noumenon. [On why that is so, see Essay Ten Part One.]

 

If, according to DM-theorists, ordinary language is incapable of capturing fundamental truths about the world (that allegation was substantiated here and here), and if humanity is locked in an infinite, possibly even eternal, "asymptotic" traipse along the Yellow Brick Road to 'Absolute Truth' -- the nature of which will, by definition, forever elude us --, then human 'knowledge' will always remain 'infinitely' far from that goal (if there is indeed such a 'goal'!), which in turn means that humanity will always be 'infinitely wrong' about anything and everything!

 

In that case, for all that DM-theorists know their quest for 'Absolute Truth' (or even their search for some sort of decreasingly inaccurate, 'relative truth') could be going in entirely the wrong direction! Given their theory, humanity is and always will be infinitely ignorant at each and every stage in this (supposed) journey. Hence, the probability that the search for knowledge is progressing in the 'right direction' will always remain vanishingly small (indeed, it is 'infinitely' small) -- that is, always assuming there is such a thing as "knowledge", which, given this theory there couldn't be!

 

So, on this account humanity will always remain infinitely far removed from 'Absolute Truth', and hence infinitely ignorant. If DM-epistemology is correct, humanity can't even start building a secure platform from which to launch a scientific search for anything, let alone knowledge --, or even initiate any supposed 'asymptotic' approach on truth. Hence, as we saw in Essay Ten Part One, the DM 'convergence theory of knowledge' actually collapses into irredeemable scepticism.

 

In addition, it is little use appealing to practice. If humanity is always infinitely far from 'Absolute Truth' and thus infinitely ignorant of everything, then anything we conclude about practice (or even about anything!) will have an infinitely high probability of being false. And, that can't fail to be the case with respect to the supposed results of practice. In that case, an appeal to practice (in order to lend solidity to the 'infinitely insubstantial sands' upon which DM-epistemology has so far been built -- those very same sands, incidentally, into which many a dialectical head has been inserted) is no help at all.

 

In fact, given DM-epistemology, there might be no such thing as 'Absolute Truth' for anyone to aim for, let alone approach 'asymptotically'! Neither Engels nor Lenin even so much as attempted to show that there is such a thing (nor did Hegel in relation to his 'Absolute'). Indeed, any claim that there is such as thing as 'Absolute Truth' must itself have an infinite probability of being false. Once more: since human knowledge is always infinitely far from 'The Truth' -- according to DM-theorists themselves -- the claim that there even exist partial or 'relative' truths about anything, even 'Absolute Truth', has an infinitely high probability of being false.

 

In that case, it turns out that the promise seemingly held out by the 'Epistemological Definition' fatally compromises any and all claims that DM is capable of delivering even partial or relative knowledge about anything, let alone the "Totality"!

 

Engels's Quasi-Theology

 

A few readers who have made it this far might be tempted to conclude that the above rather wild claims are completely misguided, if not downright impertinent and possibly even mendacious. Nevertheless, a consideration of Engels's description of the "Totality" might give such individuals pause for thought:

 

"'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.]29

 

Compare that with the following:

 

"The identity of thinking and being, to use Hegelian language, everywhere coincides with your example of the circle and the polygon. Or the two of them, the concept of a thing and its reality, run side by side like two asymptotes, always approaching each other but never meeting. This difference between the two is the very difference which prevents the concept from being directly and immediately reality and reality from being immediately its own concept. Because a concept has the essential nature of the concept and does not therefore prima facie directly coincide with reality, from which it had to be abstracted in the first place, it is nevertheless more than a fiction, unless you declare that all the results of thought are fictions because reality corresponds to them only very circuitously, and even then approaching it only asymptotically…. In other words, the unity of concept and phenomenon manifests itself as an essentially infinite process, and that is what it is, in this case as in all others." [Engels to Schmidt (12/03/1895), in Marx and Engels (1975), pp.457-58, and Marx and Engels (2004), pp.463-64. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

While Engels doesn't actually use the term in the above passage, his words clearly relate to the "Totality" (or, rather, to our knowledge of 'it'), only now expressed in quasi-mystical terms. Admittedly, these remarks appear in unpublished writings, but they succeed in revealing just how close Engels came to overt Idealism, at least in private.

 

Lenin concurred:

 

"Cognition is the eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object." [Lenin (1961), p.195.]

 

"Dialectics as living, many-sided knowledge (with the number of sides eternally increasing), with an infinite number of shades of every approach and approximation to reality (with a philosophical system growing into a whole out of each shade) -- here we have an immeasurably rich content as compared with 'metaphysical' materialism, the fundamental misfortune of which is its inability to apply dialectics to the Bildertheorie [theory of reflection -- RL], to the process and development of knowledge....

 

"Human knowledge is not (or does not follow) a straight line, but a curve, which endlessly approximates a series of circles, a spiral. Any fragment, segment, section of this curve can be transformed (transformed one-sidedly) into an independent, complete, straight line, which then (if one does not see the wood for the trees) leads into the quagmire, into clerical obscurantism (where it is anchored by the class interests of the ruling classes). Rectilinearity and one-sidedness, woodenness and petrification, subjectivism and subjective blindness -- voilà the epistemological roots of idealism. And clerical obscrutantism (= philosophical idealism), of course, has epistemological roots, it is not groundless; it is a sterile flower undoubtedly, but a sterile flower that grows on the living tree of living, fertile, genuine, powerful, omnipotent, objective, absolute human knowledge." [Ibid., p.360-61. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

"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.]30

 

Here, too, is Mao:

 

"Idealism and mechanical materialism, opportunism and adventurism, are all characterized by the breach between the subjective and the objective, by the separation of knowledge from practice. The Marxist-Leninist theory of knowledge, characterized as it is by scientific social practice, cannot but resolutely oppose these wrong ideologies. Marxists recognize that in the absolute and general process of development of the universe, the development of each particular process is relative, and that hence, in the endless flow of absolute truth, man's knowledge of a particular process at any given stage of development is only relative truth. The sum total of innumerable relative truths constitutes absolute truth. The development of an objective process is full of contradictions and struggles, and so is the development of the movement of human knowledge. All the dialectical movements of the objective world can sooner or later be reflected in human knowledge. In social practice, the process of coming into being, developing and passing away is infinite, and so is the process of coming into being, developing and passing away in human knowledge. As man's practice which changes objective reality in accordance with given ideas, theories, plans or programmes, advances further and further, his knowledge of objective reality likewise becomes deeper and deeper. The movement of change in the world of objective reality is never-ending and so is man's cognition of truth through practice. Marxism-Leninism has in no way exhausted truth but ceaselessly opens up roads to the knowledge of truth in the course of practice. Our conclusion is the concrete, historical unity of the subjective and the objective, of theory and practice, of knowing ant doing, and we are opposed to all erroneous ideologies, whether 'Left' or Right, which depart from concrete history." [Mao (1961c), pp.307-08. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

The above view isn't limited to the DM-classicists, either. Here, for example, is Abram Deborin:

 

"The idea does not coincide immediately with reality, but it is derived from reality: reality corresponds to the results of thinking, the idea corresponds to reality, only asymptotically approaching it, to use Engels's expression. As we have seen, Lenin, too, develops the same point of view." [Quoted from here; accessed 08/06/2023. Bold emphasis added.]

 

And here 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 with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

So, this appears to be about as definitive a DM-idea as change through 'internal contradiction'.

 

[However, in order to avoid misunderstanding, it will be argued in Essay Nine Parts One and Two that Engels and the other DM-classicists adopted this quasi-theological world-view unwittingly. Why they did this is also explained in the second of the above two Essays.]

 

These seemingly intemperate, even impertinent, remarks concerning Engels and Lenin will be further substantiated in what follows.

 

The "Totality" -- Universal And A Priori

 

Surely Not!

 

The language DM-theorists employ when speaking about the "Totality" reveals that, despite protestations to the contrary, they regard it as an a priori concept, 'object', or 'process'. Indeed, as noted earlier, their "Totality" is little more than a pale echo of Hegel's Absolute -- and hence of 'God'.

 

The fact that the above isn't a just another baseless accusation can be seen from a consideration of answers that might be given to the following four questions:

 

(A) How do DM-theorists know that reality is restricted to just one "Totality"? Couldn't there be several? Leaving out of consideration sub-"Totalities" for the present, might there not be countless intermingled or intercalated "Totalities"? Indeed, how exactly do DM-theorists count "Totalities" so that they know when to stop at just one?31

 

(B) Following on from (A), how do DM-theorists know that there aren't at least two "Totalities" (or even sub-"Totalities") that are completely unrelated to each other?

 

(C) If we now confine our attention to the known Universe, how do dialecticians know that every part of nature is ceaselessly inter-connected with all the rest? Might there not be facets/areas of 'reality' that are totally unrelated to anything else? Or maybe regions that are inter-linked with relatively few other objects and processes? Why is neither option viable?32

 

(D) What gives DM-theorists the confidence to "insist" in advance of all -- or even most -- of the evidence having been examined, let alone processed, that what they say must be true of every last particle in the universe, for all of time?

 

Ruling out 'divine revelation', there appear to be only two possible responses that might conceivably have allowed DM-theorists to answer such questions in the way they already have:

 

(i) DM is a dogmatic, metaphysical theory; or,

 

(ii) DM is a conventionalist theory based upon a definitional or stipulative use of certain words.

 

Without doubt, claims like these will strike some readers as highly controversial, if not patently false. So, the rest of this subsection will be devoted to explaining, defending and substantiating each of them.33

 

Having said that, because the above questions are themselves inter-linked, explaining or discussing one of them -- i.e., (A) -- will automatically cover the rest. Moreover, it will do likewise for assertions (i) and (ii) above.

 

Well, What Else Could A "Totality" Be?

 

(A): How Do DM-Theorists Know There Is Only One "Totality"?

 

There is an obvious response to the first part of Question (A):

 

(A1) How do DM-theorists know that reality is restricted to just one "Totality"?

 

indeed, such a response might have occurred to the reader, namely:

 

(A2) "Well, that's what the word 'Totality' actually means. There can't be more than one Totality, by definition."

 

There are at least two ways of understanding that reply, each of which corresponds to one or other of accusations (i) and (ii), from earlier:

 

(a) If the 'official', vague and loose DM-characterisation of the "Totality" itself means that concept, or interpretive rule (if it is either one of these) is meant to function as a way of deciding what reality contains -- operating as a sort of methodological or 'theoretical filter', sieve, 'decoder' (so to speak), or, indeed, as a theoretical tool by means of which a series of fundamental truths about nature and society may be constructed/derived, then that would be sufficient to categorise DM as a metaphysical theory. That is because such an approach will have confused a series of linguistic rules with truths about 'reality itself'.

 

[Why that is so was explored at length in Essay Twelve Part One (summary here). As noted earlier, DM-theorists have an idiosyncratic way of understanding the word "metaphysics", which I have also dealt with in that Essay, here.]  

 

Furthermore, if (a) above is correct, it would confirm an earlier contention, that well before even a vanishingly small fraction of the evidence has been collected, let alone analysed, the theory that 'everything' must be viewed as an integral part of an inter-connected 'Whole' had already been declared valid. This would further support the allegation that subsequent evidence (such as there is) is then simply 'shoe-horned' to fit a pre-determined pattern.

 

In that case, if Option (A) were true, it would turn out to be a rather crude way of imposing a favoured view on reality, one that was based solely on the supposed meaning of the word "Totality", which is an approach to knowledge that DM-theorists have always effected to disavow.

 

The fact that Option (A) is the case -- and isn't just the opinion of the present author -- can be seen by the way that the above volunteered response along with the passages quoted earlier suggest that conclusions about the fundamental nature of the entire universe have been drawn from the meaning of a single word -- "Totality". Or, to be more honest, derived from what amounts to a vague gesture at providing little more than a loose characterisation of it.

 

Even if the "Totality" had been well defined in great detail with crystal clarity, and it was plain exactly what DM-theorists were trying to say, 'unbelievers' would still require a convincing argument that at least tried to justify the derivation of a set of fundamental truths, valid for all of space and time, from the supposed meaning of a single word (or even its wafer thin 'definition').

 

Of course, it isn't as if we don't already know where these ideas came from (that is, it isn't as if we don't already know how and why this aspect of 'dialectics' had been decided upon long before even a vanishingly small fraction of the evidence had been collected, let alone processed). The source of this dogma has never been in doubt: it was concocted by Greek, Christian and Hermetic Mystics and polished into shape countless generations of ruling-class ideologues, most of whom "divined" this dogma long before there was any evidence to speak of.

 

As I have argued in Essay Nine Part Two (slightly edited):

 

These considerations help explain why Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao and Dietzgen (to mention just a few) thought it quite natural and uncontroversial to regard previous (non-working class) thinkers as their precursors, and, indeed, the source of many of the concepts and methods they imported into Dialectical Marxism (for example, the yet-to-be-explained 'process of abstraction'), and hence look to them for inspiration.

 

Here are just a few examples where this influence is openly admitted:

 

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

 

"Marxism is an integral world-outlook. Expressed in a nutshell, it is contemporary materialism, at present the highest stage of the development of that view upon the world whose foundations were laid down in ancient Greece by Democritus, and in part by the Ionian thinkers who preceded that philosopher." [Plekhanov (1908), p.11. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphases and links added.]

 

"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…. [M]odern science confirms at every step the idea expressed with such genius by Hegel, that quantity passes into quality….

 

"[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That's how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphases alone added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

"The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia." [Lenin (1947), p.32. Bold emphases added.]

 

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

 

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

 

"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)…. [D]ialectical logic holds that 'truth is always concrete, never abstract', as the late Plekhanov liked to say after Hegel." [Lenin (1921), pp.90, 93. Bold emphases added.]

 

"Flexibility, applied objectively, i.e., reflecting the all-sidedness of the material process and its unity, is dialectics, is the correct reflection of the eternal development of the world. 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."

 

"[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…. [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…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement,' in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing…. The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute….

 

"To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., [sic] with any proposition...: [like] John is a man…. Here we already have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the individual is the universal…. Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say John is a man…we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other….

 

"Thus in any proposition we can (and must) disclose as a 'nucleus' ('cell') the germs of all the elements of dialectics, and thereby show that dialectics is a property of all human knowledge in general." [Lenin (1961), pp.110, 196-97, 221-22, 357-58, 359-60. Bold emphases alone added. Several paragraphs merged. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"[A]ll bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour etc. They are never equal to themselves…. [T]he 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…. For concepts there also exists 'tolerance' which is established not by formal logic…, but by the dialectical logic issuing from the axiom that everything is always changing…. Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradiction, conflict and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc…." [Trotsky (1971), pp.64-66. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"I should like to make the reader understand what the professors, so far as I know them, have not yet understood, viz., that our intellect is a dialectical instrument, and instrument which reconciles all opposites. The intellect creates unity by means of the variety and comprehends the difference in the equality. Hegel made it clear long ago that there is no either-or, but as well as...." [Dietzgen (1917a), p.248. Bold emphasis added.]

 

This approach isn't confined to the DM-classicists; it is universally acknowledged:

 

"Previous chapters have shown that dialectics has a history which embraces many thousands of years and that it has passed through various stages of development. Disregarding the beginnings of dialectics in Indian and Chinese philosophy, the following main stages can be distinguished: (1) the dialectics of the old Greek philosophers of nature, Heraclitus; (2) the second and higher stage, the dialectics of Plato and Aristotle; (3) Hegelian dialectics; and (4) materialistic dialectics. Dialectics itself has undergone a dialectical development. Heraclitus, representing the first stage, develops the dialectics of one-after-the-other; Plato and Aristotle, representing the second stage, develop the dialectics of one-beside-the-other. The latter is in opposition to the dialectics of the first stage, being its negation. Hegel embraces both preceding stages of development and raises them to a higher stage. He develops the dialectics of the one-after-the-other and the one-beside-the-other, but in an idealistic form; in other words, he develops an historico-idealistic dialectics." [Thalheimer (1936), pp.157-58. Bold emphases added.]

 

"The integrity, the wholeness, the irrefutable logic and consistency (sic!) of Marxism-Leninism, which are acknowledged even by its opponents (sic!), have been achieved by the application of the unified philosophical dialectical-materialist world outlook and method. Marxism-Leninism cannot properly be understood without its philosophical basis. The philosophy of Marxism-Leninism is a result and the highest stage of the development of world philosophical thought. It has assimilated al that was best ad most progressive in the centuries of development of philosophy...." [Konstantinov (1974), p.15. Bold emphasis added; paragraphs merged.]

 

"As the philosophy of the working class, Marxist-Leninist philosophy is the supreme form of materialism, a logical result of the preceding development of philosophical thought  through the ages, and of the whole spiritual culture of mankind." [Kharin (1981), p.12. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"The history of Western philosophy, however, begins not with idealism but with materialism. This asserts...that the material world, known to us and explored by science, is real; that the only real world is the material one; that thoughts, ideas and sensations are the product of matter organised in a certain way (a nervous system and a brain); that thought cannot derive its categories from itself, but only from the objective world which makes itself known to us through our senses.

 

"The earliest Greek philosophers were known as 'hylozoists' (from the Greek, meaning 'those who believe that matter is alive'). Here we have a long line of heroes who pioneered the development of thought.... What was startlingly new about this way of looking at the world was that it was not religious. In complete contrast to the Egyptians and Babylonians, from whom they had learnt a lot, the Greek thinkers did not resort to gods and goddesses to explain natural phenomena. For the first time, men and women sought to explain the workings of nature purely in terms of nature. This was one of the greatest turning-points in the entire history of human thought....

 

"Aristotle, the greatest of the Ancient philosophers, can be considered a materialist, although he was not so consistent as the early hylozoists. He made a series of important scientific discoveries which laid the basis for the great achievements of the Alexandrine period of Greek science....

 

"The predominant philosophical trend of the Renaissance was materialism. In England, this took the form of empiricism, the school of thought that states that all knowledge is derived from the senses.  The pioneers of this school were Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704). The materialist school passed from England to France where it acquired a revolutionary content. In the hands of Diderot, Rousseau, Holbach and Helvetius, philosophy became an instrument for criticising all existing society. These great thinkers prepared the way for the revolutionary overthrow of the feudal monarchy in 1789-93....

 

"Under the impact of the French revolution, the German idealist Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) subjected all previous philosophy to a thorough criticism. Kant made important discoveries not only in philosophy and logic but in science.... In the field of philosophy, Kant's masterpiece The Critique of Pure Reason was the first work to analyse the forms of logic which had remained virtually unchanged since they were first developed by Aristotle. Kant showed the contradictions implicit in many of the most fundamental propositions of philosophy....

 

"The greatest breakthrough came in the first decades of the 19th century with George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). Hegel was a German idealist, a man of towering intellect, who effectively summed up in his writings the whole history of philosophy.

 

"Hegel showed that the only way to overcome the 'Antinomies' of Kant was to accept that contradictions actually existed, not only in thought, but in the real world. As an objective idealist, Hegel had no time for the subjective idealist argument that the human mind cannot know the real world. The forms of thought must reflect the objective world as closely as possible. The process of knowledge consist of penetrating ever more deeply into this reality, proceeding from the abstract to the concrete, from the known to the unknown, from the particular to the universal.

 

"The dialectical method of thinking had played a great role in Antiquity, particularly in the naïve but brilliant aphorisms of Heraclitus (c.500 B.C.), but also in Aristotle and others. It was abandoned in the Middle Ages, when the Church turned Aristotle's formal logic into a lifeless and rigid dogma, and did not re-appear until Kant returned it to a place of honour. However, in Kant the dialectic did not receive an adequate development. It fell to Hegel to bring the science of dialectical thinking to its highest point of development.

 

"Hegel's greatness is shown by the fact that he alone was prepared to challenge the dominant philosophy of mechanism. The dialectical philosophy of Hegel deals with processes, not isolated events. It deals with things in their life, not their death, in their inter-relations, not isolated, one after the other. This is a startlingly modern and scientific way of looking at the world. Indeed, in many aspects Hegel was far in advance of his time. Yet, despite its many brilliant insights, Hegel's philosophy was ultimately unsatisfactory. Its principal defect was precisely Hegel's idealist standpoint, which prevented him from applying the dialectical method to the real world in a consistently scientific way. Instead of the material world we have the world of the Absolute Idea, where real things, processes and people are replaced by insubstantial shadows. In the words of Frederick Engels, the Hegelian dialectic was the most colossal miscarriage in the whole history of philosophy. Correct ideas are here seen standing on their head. In order to put dialectics on a sound foundation, it was necessary to turn Hegel upside down, to transform idealist dialectics into dialectical materialism. This was the great achievement of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels...." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.40-42; pp.44-46 in the second edition. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases and links added. Italics in the original.] 

 

"This world outlook of Marxism is called dialectical materialism, a philosophy that is the direct descendent of the great Enlightenment thinkers of the eighteenth century but which revolutionized their thinking by introducing a historical dimension. The achievement was scientific materialism enriched with the theory of evolution propounded by G.W.F Hegel. Materialism states that our ideas are a reflection of the material universe that exists independently of any observer. It's dialectical in that it is always in a state of movement, and change. One of the early dialectical philosophers was the Greek Heraclitus, 'the obscure' (535-475 BCE)." [Brad Forrest, quoted from here. Accessed 22/12/2016. Bold emphases added. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

[Quotations like the above, taken from across the entire spectrum of Dialectical Marxism, would be easy to multiply, something that can be readily confirmed by anyone who has access to as many books and articles on DM as I have, or, indeed, who trawls the Internet.]

 

Notice that according to Lenin, DM is "a continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy". Plainly, a "continuation of" isn't a "break from"! Plekhanov also thought that DM represented the "highest stage...whose foundations were laid down in ancient Greece"; again, that isn't a "break from", either. The others I have quoted pointedly do not demur. In fact, I have yet to encounter a single DM-theorist who rejects this age-old and well-established connection. [If anyone knows of one, please let me know!]

 

(b) On the other hand, if the word "Totality" (and its associated terminology) is meant to function as a "form of representation" -- that is, as a formal device aimed at interpreting experience and legitimating what appear to be a series of inferences that lead to what purport to be scientific conclusions about the world -- that would at least make it clear that DM was just another form of conventionalism, albeit a vague and thoroughly confused version.34

 

Of course, the first alternative, (a), would suggest that DM is simply a re-boot of our old friend, LIE. That is, it would confirm the suspicion that this theory/method is indeed part of an age-old family of philosophical theories, all based on the idea that substantive truths about the world, valid for all space and time, can be derived from the supposed meaning of a few words and nothing more.

 

The second alternative, (b), would indicate that DM at least superficially resembled the sciences -- but only at heavy price. That is because, as noted above, it would confirm that DM is form of conventionalism, based on little more than a series of overt stipulations and/or agreements -- which would unfortunately mean it had been foisted on the facts.35

 

[LIE = Linguistic Idealism (follow that link for an explanation).]

 

As we are about to find out: while DM-theorists have (unwittingly) adopted alternative (a), the way they have done so has only succeeded in sending their theory back in the direction of (b).36

 

Is DM A Conventionalist Theory?

 

There are, of course, many different forms of Conventionalism. Less plausible versions tend to be based on arbitrary stipulation,37 while less implausible alternatives are more 'anthropological', founded on a wide range of customs and practices, many of which have helped shape and drive human social evolution for tens of thousands of years.38

 

[DM = Dialectical Materialism/Materialist, depending on the context; HM = Historical Materialism/Materialist, ditto for the context.]

 

Is DM conventional in one of these senses? If it is, the idea that reality forms a contradictory "Totality" would then be based on one or more of the following:

 

(i) An overt agreement of some sort;

 

(ii) An implicit (or even explicit) stipulation, or series of stipulations; or,

 

(iii) A set of norms derived from, or constitutive of, a wide range of social practices.

 

Of course, any admission that one or more of the above underpin 'dialectics' would confirm what should now be plain for all to see: DM hasn't been read from the world (contrary to what is often claimed for it), it has been imposed on it. That would certainly account for all the "demands", "insistencies", "requires" and "musts" that litter the dialectical-literature --, and that includes the dogmatic nature of DM's 'laws', which are held to be true for all of space and time.

 

[Some might try to deny that that is the case (i.e., that DM-'laws' are "true for all of space and time"), and hence claim that DM grows and evolves over time in response to wider historical, social and scientific developments. But that would be to confuse DM with HM; I have spelt out the difference between the two here. That is quite apart from the fact it fails to tell us which of Engels's 'laws', which of Lenin's "demands", which of Trotsky's "axioms" they are prepared to abandon or even consider revising this side of being accused of "Revisionism!" by the Orthodoxy Police. And it flies in the face of the fact that DM hasn't fundamentally changed in well over a century. (On that, see here.)]

 

Unfortunately, stipulative conventions are no more capable of being empirically true than are rules. A straightforward example of a convention of this sort is the Metric System. However, that system's conversion rules (such as, 1000 kilograms = 1 tonne) are of little use to dialecticians in this respect. Although it is obviously correct to say that one tonne is one thousand kilograms (or, rather, that any object weighing 1000kg will ipso facto weigh 1 tonne, so that an empirical statement to that effect about some object or other would itself be valid), that 'conventionalised fact' hasn't been derived from the 'nature' of the world (even though it is connected with it in other ways, via practice), nor has it been read from it. It is based on a series of agreements and stipulations introduced and adopted a couple of centuries ago. Hence, if this conversion rule is 'true', it isn't empirically true. If it were, it could be empirically false, too. But that would amount to a rejection of the rule, not a new fact about the world. In that case, it is far better to describe such rules as "practical" or "useful" rather than "true". [I have said more about why that is so, here.]

 

Furthermore, if such a system were to be thought of as true, it would make sense for someone to check it. But only the radically confused would dream of trying to check the metric system by actually weighing something in order to confirm that an object that weighed 1 tonne also weighed 1000 kilograms, or attempted to measure a piece of wood to see if one with a length of 10 centimetres was also 100 millimetres long. Plainly, such rules can't be tested in practice, although practice certainly tells us whether or not they are practical or useful, or even whether they have been applied correctly. Obviously, the first of these rules (i.e., 1000kg = 1t) can be used to confirm that a given weight has been converted correctly between the relevant units, for instance. Rules like this tell us if or when a practical interface with the world has been carried out accurately and successfully, correctly or incorrectly, consistently or inconsistently, according to the explicit (or implicit) criteria for their application. [On that, see Polanyi (1962, 1983).]

 

Another more recent, controversial stipulative and definitional convention was used in order to re-classify Pluto, demoting it from its prior status as a planet to that of a "dwarf planet". [I have said more about this in Note 19a.]

 

Having said that, it might now seem that conventional rules like these can create new sets of truths (apparently) out of thin air, so to speak --, or, as happened with Pluto, it might look like they can also create a few 'new falsehoods' alongside 'new truths'. But, rules don't do this by being true themselves, since, once more, they can't be true or false (only useful or useless). Such rules manage to do, or can be used to do, the following:

 

(a) Redistribute truth-values among already existing indicative sentences -- in the sense that any such sentences that might have been written down somewhere or uttered by someone (and recorded) at some point, will have had their semantic status changed from true to false, or vice versa; or,

 

(b) Facilitate or enable the formation/use of novel sentences with new truth-values that weren't possible before. So, in the tenth century, for example, no one could come out with this sentence, "My sword is eighty-five centimetres long", but in the nineteenth they could (which statement would now be capable of being either true or false).

 

But, what about the creation of a 'new truth' seemingly out of nowhere? Consider this example: the following sentence was true thirty years ago, "There are nine planets in the Solar System", but now it is false. By way of contrast, the following sentence is currently true: "The furthest planet from the Sun is Neptune", but thirty years ago it was false. But, nothing 'out there' in the universe has actually changed as a result, even though our stock of truths and falsehood (if such it may be called) about The Solar System has changed. As will be demonstrated in Essay Thirteen Part Two, this is such a common occurrence in science that it is easily missed, and is in fact missed, by most philosophers of science -- and DM-theorists. This isn't the only serious problem Scientific Realism faces, but it one of its most challenging. [That will also be demonstrated in the aforementioned Essay. Part of that material has already been published in Essay Twelve Part One.]

 

However, these considerations also mean that if something is already empirically true, stipulating it to be true would be wasted effort. On the other hand, if a proposition is already empirically false, any stipulation to that effect (or, indeed, its opposite) would be entirely nugatory.

 

Of course, many socially-sanctioned conventions are far more complex and are often nowhere near as precise as the above system of measurement (or rules of planetary re-classification) might suggest. Furthermore, many conventions aren't typically based on explicit agreement, either, but that doesn't affect the point being made. [On this, see Lewis (1969).]

 

Plainly, the truth-values of empirical (scientific) propositions depend on a least two factors:

 

(a) The way the world happens to be; and,

 

(b) The conventions in whose range propositions like this happen to fall. Any such conventions will also determine (or can be used to determine) the meaning of the technical terms that appear in each relevant branch of science, with wider background conventions doing likewise with respect to any words drawn from the vernacular (the latter of which will also be connected with inferences capable of being (validly) drawn in that system).

 

[I will say more about this in Essay Thirteen Part Two; again, some of that material has already been published in Essay Twelve Part One (link a few paragraphs back).]  

 

However, even though we have seen how and why conventions seem to be able to 'create new truths and new falsehoods' (or, indeed, how they can alter existing truth-values), these 'new' or 'changed' truth-values still have to be sensitive to the way the world happens to be. So, no one who uses the metric system can ignore what they are actually measuring (alongside other conventions and assumptions that operate in the background, or are part of the criteria of application peculiar to any given practice).

 

Furthermore, anyone who now asserts that Pluto the largest planet in the Solar System will be wrong on at least two levels -- i.e., calling Pluto a planet and mischaracterising its relative size (as a 'planet'). In addition, if, say, Neptune were to be wiped out -- or even captured -- tomorrow by a passing star, the statement that there are eight planets in The Solar System would become false, even though the convention that determines which satellites of the Sun are planets and which aren't won't itself have changed. Nevertheless, the fact that any such propositions are capable of possessing truth-values (i.e., their ability to possess truth-conditions) is itself a consequence of over-arching, conventionalised linguistic practices human beings have evolved, developed and adapted throughout the course of their history (a point that was also alluded to in a previous paragraph).

 

How could it be otherwise? Conventions like these didn't float down from 'Heaven', nor have they been imposed on humanity by 'aliens'.

 

As will be argued in Essay Twelve Part One, philosophical and ideologically-motivated attempts to give inappropriate linguistic expression to conventions like these -- alongside their misrepresentation as super-empirical truths about reality -- is what originally helped motivate Metaphysics. That took place initially (in the 'West') in Ancient Greece; there were analogous developments in the 'East' around the same time. Because metaphysical propositions were/are based on what turn out to be a set of deliberate misconstruals -- whereby the linguistic products of social interaction were reconfigured/re-interpreted so that they now seemed to 'reflect' the real relation between things, or, indeed, appeared to become those things themselves -- they were/are thereby rendered incapable of being either true or false. They lose their truth conditions. That is because they simply become garbled/misinterpreted rules of language. Muddled or not, they are still rules, so they can't be true or false.38a

 

I outlined a specific example of this sort of (deliberate) misconstrual in Essay Three Part One (slightly edited):

 

We can actually see this happening in the thought of the Early Greek Philosophers (the full details will be laid out in Essay Twelve (summary here and here)). These theorists found that there were no words available to them in the vernacular Greek of their day that allowed them to speculate about the nature of their newly invented abstractions. Hence, they simply manufactured their own terminology --, or they borrowed and then transformed jargon from earlier myths and Theogonies. Consequently, words like "Being", "Logos", "Fate", "The Unlimited", "Nous" -- and "abstraction" (aphairesis) itself -- were co-opted and then put to no good. 

 

However, in order to cope with the many and varied forms of generality available in the vernacular, these thinkers found they also had to appropriate and then make use of words that were already in circulation in every day life. These they nominalised and particularised into "Justice", "Knowledge", "Beauty", "The Table", "Man", "Manhood", "The Equal", and later, "Identity" and "Difference" -- turning ordinary general words into the Proper Names of...newly minted abstract particulars. [Added on edit: A word is particularised when it is changed from a general to a particular term; in this case, when a common noun is transformed into a Proper Noun or Definite Description -- for example, "man" into "Manhood", "beauty" into "The Beautiful" -- or a general verb, such as "runs", is also converted into a Proper Noun, in this case, "Runner". These moves were explained at length in Essay Three Part One, alongside their philosophical, logical and ideological significance).]

 

As the late Professor Havelock pointed out:

 

"As long as preserved communication remained oral, the environment could be described or explained only in the guise of stories which represent it as the work of agents: that is gods. Hesiod takes the step of trying to unify those stories into one great story, which becomes a cosmic theogony. A great series of matings and births of gods is narrated to symbolise the present experience of the sky, earth, seas, mountains, storms, rivers, and stars. His poem is the first attempt we have in a style in which the resources of documentation have begun to intrude upon the manner of an acoustic composition. But his account is still a narrative of events, of 'beginnings,' that is, 'births,' as his critics the Presocratics were to put it. From the standpoint of a sophisticated philosophical language, such as was available to Aristotle, what was lacking was a set of commonplace but abstract terms which by their interrelations could describe the physical world conceptually; terms such as space, void, matter, body, element, motion, immobility, change, permanence, substratum, quantity, quality, dimension, unit, and the like. Aside altogether from the coinage of abstract nouns, the conceptual task also required the elimination of verbs of doing and acting and happening, one may even say, of living and dying, in favour of a syntax which states permanent relationships between conceptual terms systematically. For this purpose the required linguistic mechanism was furnished by the timeless present of the verb to be -- the copula of analytic statement.

 

"The history of early philosophy is usually written under the assumption that this kind of vocabulary was already available to the first Greek thinkers. The evidence of their own language is that it was not. They had to initiate the process of inventing it....

 

"Nevertheless, the Presocratics could not invent such language by an act of novel creation. They had to begin with what was available, namely, the vocabulary and syntax of orally memorised speech, in particular the language of Homer and Hesiod. What they proceeded to do was to take the language of the mythos and manipulate it, forcing its terms into fresh syntactical relationships which had the constant effect of stretching and extending their application, giving them a cosmic rather than a particular reference." [Havelock (1983), pp.13-14, 21. Bold emphases added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Spelling modified to agree with UK English. Links added.]

 

Havelock then shows in detail that this is precisely what the Presocratic Philosophers succeeded in doing: inventing abstract nouns, eliminating verbs in place of these newly-coined nouns, and transforming the verb "to be" in the required manner.

 

Thus was born the so-called 'problem' of Universals (the 'problem' of the "One and the Many"), a family of insoluble conundrums predicated on the above distortion of ordinary language, and nothing more -- again, just as Marx noted.

 

[Readers are referred back to the above Essay for more details.]

 

In short, metaphysical propositions are incapable of being true and incapable of being false, because:

 

(a) They are based on a misconstrual, distortion or reconfiguration of linguistic rules as 'profound' factual/empirical propositions; and,

 

(b) Traditional Philosophers (deliberately or inadvertently) confused these social forms (these linguistic rules) with 'reality' itself. This amounted to a fetishisation of language, which neatly mirrors the fetishism of commodities under capitalism.

 

[I have said much more about this topic in Essay Twelve Parts One, Two and Seven (summary here), where the above seemingly dogmatic assertions were fully justified. As we saw in that Essay, metaphysical theories aren't just non-sensical, they are also incoherent non-sense.]

 

Metaphysicians indulged in such linguistic duplicity because they thought it would help them uncover 'fundamental truths' about the 'essential nature', or even the 'logical form', of 'Reality Itself'. This gave the first metaphysicians we know of in 'the West' (i.e., in Ancient Greece) 'easy' access to 'secrets' hidden from the 'ignorant majority', truths locked behind, or even 'beneath', 'misleading appearances'. In effect, 'secrets' like these were unavailable to 'the masses' -- those who lacked the 'correct' social background, those possessed of insufficient leisure time, or even who lacked the motivation required to indulge in such ideological flights-of-fancy. By their use of such obscure jargon (that only they 'understood') Traditional Theorists were determined to keep the majority in that condition, in the dark --  'The mushroom treatment'.

 

[I have said much more about the use of metaphors like these here.]

 

As I argued in Essay Three Part One (slightly edited, and following on from the passage quoted earlier):

 

This specially-concocted jargon...had to fulfil another pre-condition: it must be capable of connecting 'finite minds' to the 'Ultimate Ground Of Meaning' (which is the principle aim of all mystical thought, a dogma that resurfaced as the "Subject/Object" problematic of German Idealism and later still as a central concern of 'Materialist Dialectics' -- on that, see below). As a result, a seemingly endless series of 'truths' could now 'legitimately' flow from the meaning of a handful of words. For each theorist, Super-Knowledge accessed in the comfort of their heads.

 

Traditional Philosophers were only too eager to latch onto the belief that human thoughts were universally significant -- i.e., that what went on in certain heads was the best, if not the only, guide to 'Absolute Truth' --, and which also supplied a key to solving the very 'problems' they themselves had concocted. Keith Thomas notes a similar tactic adopted by 16th century magicians:

 

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

 

The bottom line was that they alone -- Traditional Theorists -- had access to the 'hidden knowledge' superhighway, a back-channel that penetrated right into the heart of 'Being', which 'enabled' them to derive necessary truths from jargon they themselves had invented for that specific purpose. This 'allowed' them to generate philosophical theories that couldn't fail to be true, which, for that reason needed no evidence in support. Acting as judge and jury in their own case, these 'thinkers' declared these Super-Verities "self-evident", arguing that only "crude materialists" would think to challenge such a 'self-confirming' and self-serving approach to 'knowledge'. In which case, the history of Traditional Thought amounted to little more than collective indulgence in protracted self-deception.

 

Unfortunately however, this 'highway to Super-Knowledge' was based on what was in effect a contingent feature of a minor aspect of the grammar of one particular language-group -- the Indo-European family --, in which most of these fairy-tales have been, and still are being, spun....

 

But, whatever their origin or provenance happened to be, these abstract, Ideal Forms (or what they allegedly 'reflected') were supposedly more real than objects and processes in the natural and social world around us. In fact, this meant the material universe was somehow 'unreal', 'inferior', 'ephemeral', a 'mere appearance'. Those invisible, underlying 'essences' (just like the 'gods' of old) were the only really real world.

 

Access to nature's secret names (all those 'abstractions') 'allowed' Traditional Theorists to forge a mystical, intellectual link between their thought and the underlying, non-material 'essences' that governed all of reality, 'behind the scenes' as it were. Indeed, it was a near-universal belief that this 'secret knowledge' would help those 'in the know' gain a special sort of control over nature itself (which, of course, is one of the core principles of ancient, medieval and contemporary forms of magic and alchemy). Far more importantly, 'secret knowledge' like this helped 'rationalise' state power and hence the status quo. For if the status and power of the elite were guaranteed by -- indeed, were a reflection of -- The Cosmic Order, class division and oppression could be 'justified' as an irrevocable feature of 'Being'. Or, at least as far as Hegel was concerned, an integral component in the development of 'Being'.

 

In that case, theorists skilled in the art of 'jargon-juggling' and 'word magic' could accrue to themselves no little prestige -- if not power -- as skilled 'legitimators' of the ruling elite.

 

As far as ruling class ideologues were concerned -- in this instance most notably Plato and Aristotle -- the fundamental nature of 'reality' should be reflected in and by the structure and character of the state, an anti-democratic, hierarchical doctrine aimed at legitimating class division and the supremacy of the ruling elite --, to which class such theorists either belonged or by whom they were patronised. The 'content' of these theories was then dogmatically imposed on nature and society since that was the only way to 'ratify' the status quo as 'natural' or 'god-ordained'. Because the state was a 'reflection' of the 'fundamental nature of reality', ordained by 'heaven', inequality, class division, exploitation and oppression 'must' therefore be 'natural', and so couldn't 'legitimately' be opposed, or even questioned.

 

Cosmic Conservatism was thus projected onto and injected into the social and the natural world.

 

These ancient ideas were turned up to Level Eleven by Hegel. The late Michael Inwood explained how:

 

"[First, for Hegel] the concept or thoughts are embedded in the world. The world has a definite logical structure. But these thoughts, this logical structure, also form the core of the human mind. Human beings are essentially thought or thoughts -- not thoughts that they can explicitly unravel all at once, but thought that they can painfully and circuitously become aware of over history in their manifold interactions with the world. So if the thoughts that constitute the human mind are embodied in the world, the world is itself a sort of mind. Second, human minds are an essential phase of God. Without them God would not be self-conscious, not a proper mind at all." [Inwood (2002), pp.xxii-xxiii.]   

 

So, if the world is mind, and humans certainly contradict one another, it makes some sort of crazy Idealist sense (for Hegel and anyone else who buys into hardcore mysticism like this) to suppose contradictions can exist in the world as it sort of 'argues with itself'. But, when Hegel later tells us that:

 

"It shows an excessive tenderness for the world to remove contradiction from it and then to transfer the contradiction to spirit [Geist -- RL], to reason, where it is allowed to remain unresolved. In point of fact it is spirit which is so strong that it can endure contradiction, but it is spirit, too, that knows how to resolve it. But the so-called world (whether it be called an objective, real world or, according to transcendental idealism, a subjective intuition and a sphere of sense determined by the categories of the understanding) is never and nowhere without contradiction, but it is unable to endure it and is, therefore, subject to coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be", [Hegel (1999), pp.237-38, §529. Bold emphasis added.]

 

he surely can't expect to be taken seriously. That is because, for him the world is mind (and it is worth recalling that in German the word for "spirit" and "mind" are the same -- "Geist"), which means that any contradictions in the world must still be in the mind.

 

So, even for Hegel, contradictions only occur in the mind! In that case, it isn't possible to "remove contradiction from [the word] and then to transfer the contradiction to spirit"; hence no one can do it, not even those whom Hegel is criticising for supposedly doing just that! [DM-fans who cite this passage (and many do) never tell their readers this. (I suspect they aren't used to joined-up thinking, so haven't spotted this inconsistency.) Anyway, why should they? To do so would be the philosophical equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot you have just inserted in your mouth!]

 

As a result, alongside Theology, Philosophy became a key component in this, the first systematic, ideological defence/'ratification' of ruling-class wealth, privilege and power (that we know of).

 

No wonder then that Marx commented as follows:

 

"Feuerbach's great achievement is.... The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphases and link added.]

 

Is there a single revolutionary socialist who, after reading what Inwood had to say, now disagrees with Marx that philosophy is to be "condemned"? Alas, I suspect there will be many...

 

Despite this, and in spite of Marx's warning, DM-theorists have unwisely bought into this ancient, ruling-class tradition, failing to recognise the significance of its class-compromised origin, or the ideological role it has played throughout much of human history. As a result, they seriously mistook the nature of Hegel's system (upside down or 'the right way up'), indulging in their own (confused) brand of metaphysical speculation and projection -- a key part of which was the time-honoured (ruling-class) practice of imposing their ideas on 'reality'. Hence, they, too, misinterpreted the product of social relations between human beings (language) as if it "represented" fundamental relations between things, or, indeed, was those things themselves. Language was no longer seen as a means of communication, but as a representational device, a means by which humans (actively) record, translate or express 'perceptions'/'images'/'abstractions' that had supposedly been 'reflected' in the mind or (actively or passively) created by it.

 

[I have subjected these moves to prolonged and destructive criticism in Essay Thirteen Parts One and Three.]

 

The deleterious effect of false steps like these was further compounded by the misidentification of the origin and nature of language as somehow 'natural', based on the 'concepts' and 'processes' mentioned earlier -- "reflection", "inner representation", "image formation", "abstraction" --, subsequently reified as 'emergent' properties of vague and unidentified 'brain processes' or as 'mental objects' of some sort.

 

[Again, I have said much more about that in Essay Thirteen Part Three, here.]

 

[Indeed, we saw this happen (specifically) when -- just like Aristotle and Hegel -- DM-theorists began to confuse predicates with properties, conflating talk about talk with talk about things. [For what that means or implies, see here, here, here and here.] Dialecticians do this when they collectively misinterpret linguistic categories -- for instance, 'negation' and 'contradiction' -- as 'reflections' of processes in nature and society, or as those processes themselves.]

 

This means that DM is also a result of the systematic distortion and misuse of language; for example, once again, misconstruing and misapplying the meaning of ordinary terms, like "contradict", "identical", "different", "opposite", "conscious", "sensation", "thought", and "perceive" -- studiously ignoring Marx's remarks, re-quoted below. As a result, DM-theorists still fail to notice that this approach to 'knowledge' completely undermines their commitment to the social nature of language.39

 

"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 alone added.]

 

Of course, the above characterisation of DM will be totally rejected by dialecticians. Among other things they maintain the belief that while their theory/method might only be 'relatively true', it isn't merely empirically valid, it is also "objectively" true. That is because they maintain it reflects a changing world, having been repeatedly 'verified in practice' and then revised accordingly.

 

[The claim made by some that DM is simply a "method" will be examined presently. Whether or not it has ever been tested in practice was subjected to sustained criticism throughout Essay Ten Part One, as well as here, in Essay Nine Part Two.]

 

However, even though DM bears all the hallmarks of conventionalism -- since its adherents are quite happy to "insist", "require" or "demand" that this or that 'dialectical proposition'/'law' is valid for all of space and time --, if the volunteered dialectical denials outlined in the last but one paragraph are themselves correct, it would seem that DM can't be classified as a form of conventionalism.40

 

Is DM A Metaphysical Theory?

 

The only other way to account for dialecticians' propensity to advance a priori, dogmatic and universal claims about reality, valid for all of space and time, is to conclude that DM is a metaphysical theory, after all. Of course, that claim itself raises serious questions over the correct definition of Metaphysics. That topic has been addressed in Essay Twelve Part One (more specifically, here); readers are directed there for further details.

 

However, given Engels's own rather odd 'definition' of the term "metaphysics" (also covered in the above Essay), dialecticians still insist that DM isn't a metaphysical theory. On the contrary, they regard it as pre-eminently scientific, concerning the material world itself and how to change it.41

 

IS DM A Scientific Theory?

 

In which case, it could be argued that despite earlier claims to the contrary, DM is in fact a scientific theory.

 

But, if that were the case, what are we to make of all the universal, a priori, dogmatic 'laws' and propositions, to say nothing of the many "musts", "insistences" and "demands" its supporters regularly come out with in order to impose DM on the world? Which genuine scientist has ever behaved that way? How often do scientists "demand" that metals "must" expand when heated, "insist" that copper "must" conduct electricity or "require" continental drift to be true?

 

It could be countered that DM isn't the least bit dogmatic; its laws (etc.) are simply hypothetical. [I have met that response on the Internet several times -- for example from this character.] But, that reply isn't even remotely plausible. Not only are DM-theories not hypothetical, they don't even look hypothetical. They are all expressed in language that can't under any stretch of the imagination be interpreted that way. Even aside from all the many aforementioned "demands", "unthinkables" and "insistences" -- not to mention all those "musts", "eternals", "impossibles" and "never anywhere"s all over the place --, DM-theorists themselves label their ideas as "laws of cognition", "objective" and the most "general laws" there are.

 

Not one single DM-classicist describes the claims they make as "hypothetical". [On that, see Essay Two, especially here.]

 

Here follow just few examples of these DM-'hypotheses':

 

Engels

 

"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. The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa…[operates] in nature, in a manner fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or quantitative subtraction of matter or motion…. Hence, it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion…. In this form, therefore, Hegel's mysterious principle appears not only quite rational but even rather obvious." [Engels (1954), pp.211, 62. Bold emphases added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be…. Matter without motion is just as inconceivable as motion without matter. Motion is therefore as uncreatable and indestructible as matter itself; as the older philosophy (Descartes) expressed it, the quantity of motion existing in the world is always the same. Motion therefore cannot be created; it can only be transmitted…. A motionless state of matter therefore proves to be one of the most empty and nonsensical of ideas…." [Engels (1976), p.74. Bold emphases and link added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

Plekhanov

 

"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…. [M]odern science confirms at every step the idea expressed with such genius by Hegel, that quantity passes into quality…. [I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov (1956), pp.74-77, 88, 163. Bold emphases alone added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

Lenin

 

"Flexibility, applied objectively, i.e., reflecting the all-sidedness of the material process and its unity, is dialectics, is the correct reflection of the eternal development of the world. 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."

 

"[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…. [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…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement,' in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing…. The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute….

 

"To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., [sic] with any proposition...: [like] John is a man…. Here we already have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the individual is the universal…. Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say John is a man…we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other….

 

"Thus in any proposition we can (and must) disclose as a 'nucleus' ('cell') the germs of all the elements of dialectics, and thereby show that dialectics is a property of all human knowledge in general." [Lenin (1961), pp.110, 196-97, 221-22, 357-58, 359-60. Bold emphases alone added; several paragraphs merged. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

"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)…. [D]ialectical logic holds that 'truth' is always concrete, never abstract, as the late Plekhanov liked to say after Hegel." [Lenin (1921), pp.90, 93. Bold emphases added; paragraphs merged.]

 

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

 

Trotsky

 

"[A]ll bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour etc. They are never equal to themselves…. [T]he 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…. For concepts there also exists 'tolerance' which is established not by formal logic…, but by the dialectical logic issuing from the axiom that everything is always changing…. Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradiction, conflict and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc…." [Trotsky (1971), pp.64-66. Bold emphases added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

"It must be recognized that the fundamental law of dialectics is the conversion of quantity into quality, for it gives [us] the general formula of all evolutionary processes -– of nature as well as of society.... The principle of the transformation of quantity into quality has universal significance, insofar as we view the entire universe -- without any exception -- as a product of formation and transformation…. In these abstract formulas we have the most general laws (forms) of motion, change, the transformation of the stars of the heaven, of the earth, nature and human society.… Dialectics is the logic of development. It examines the world -- completely without exception -– not as a result of creation, of a sudden beginning, the realisation of a plan, but as a result of motion, of transformation. Everything that is became the way it is as a result of lawlike development." [Trotsky (1986), pp.88, 90, 96. Bold emphases added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

Mao

 

"The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics.... As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development....

 

"The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to end.... There is nothing that does not contain contradictions; without contradiction nothing would exist.... Thus it is already clear that contradiction exists universally and is in all processes, whether in the simple or in the complex forms of motion, whether in objective phenomena or ideological phenomena.... Contradiction is universal and absolute, it is present in the process of the development of all things and permeates every process from beginning to end...." [Mao (1961b), pp.311-18. Bold emphases added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

[Well over a hundred -- and that number is no exaggeration! -- equally dogmatic passages, taken from the DM-classics and the writings of more recent dialecticians, have been quoted in Essay Two.]

 

DM-theorists also claim that their theory only deals with 'real material forces' -- as opposed to 'static' and 'abstract' concepts --, which means that their main concern is with the inter-relationship between concretely developing and historically-conditioned objects and processes in the "Totality" (even if abstraction has to be employed, dialectically, to assist them to that end). Furthermore, this approach forms an integral part of the long-term strategy to bring about the revolutionary transformation of society. Moreover, objects and processes in the "Totality" are said to change as a result of their contradictory nature and their dialectical inter-connection with other objects and processes -- i.e., because of the countless oppositional forces at work within 'The Whole'.42 But, as DM-theorists themselves insist, that doesn't spare them the difficult task of constantly checking their theory against experience, testing it in practice.

 

Unfortunately, the above characterisation only succeeds in casting DM back into the metaphysical fold, once more. That is because dialecticians insist that everything in the "Totality" is related to (or "mediated" by) everything else (depending on which version of 'inter-connectedness' is being promoted by any given DM-theorist), subject to change through 'internal contradiction', and so on. All this is insisted upon before even so much as a vanishingly small fraction of the relevant evidence has been collected, let alone analysed. As we have seen, that helps explain the presence of all those "insistences", "musts", "impossibles", "absolutes", "eternals", "requires" and "demands" -- surely the philosophical equivalent of banging the table --, alongside the equally ubiquitous references to "laws of cognition", "axioms" and "general laws".

 

This should go without saying, but if there were adequate proof, and DM-theorists were in possession of it, all those "insistences" and "demands" would be superfluous.

 

Again, how many times do scientists have to "demand" that water is a liquid (at ordinary temperatures and pressures), "insist" copper is a metal, or "require" cats to be mammals?

 

In fact, just to take one example, if parts and wholes weren't actually inter-dependent in the manner suggested, there would be little point DM-theorists arguing along the following lines:

 

"[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 that 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 (1998a), pp.5, 77. Paragraphs merged; bold emphases added.]42a0

 

That is because DM-theorists would then have to admit their system was an a priori and dogmatic imposition onto a world that might not actually be as they picture it. Indeed, no amount of evidence could confirm the truth of the above remarks (or, for that matter, the truth of the passages quoted from the DM-classics a few paragraphs back), but that hasn't stopped dialecticians asserting them as if it were settled science.

 

We can go further: if the entire nature of the part were determined by the whole (and vice versa), then, as we saw earlier, that fact could itself only be confirmed when humanity knew everything about everything. After all, if Rees were correct, only when the whole had been ascertained would the nature of any part be understood. Until that blessed state is finally reached this theory will have to be imposed on 'reality'. It could only be read from the world at the end of an infinite search for Absolute Knowledge --, if Engels, Lenin and Mao are to be believed:

 

"'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. Bold emphasis alone added.]29

 

"The identity of thinking and being, to use Hegelian language, everywhere coincides with your example of the circle and the polygon. Or the two of them, the concept of a thing and its reality, run side by side like two asymptotes, always approaching each other but never meeting. This difference between the two is the very difference which prevents the concept from being directly and immediately reality and reality from being immediately its own concept. Because a concept has the essential nature of the concept and does not therefore prima facie directly coincide with reality, from which it had to be abstracted in the first place, it is nevertheless more than a fiction, unless you declare that all the results of thought are fictions because reality corresponds to them only very circuitously, and even then approaching it only asymptotically…. In other words, the unity of concept and phenomenon manifests itself as an essentially infinite process, and that is what it is, in this case as in all others." [Engels to Schmidt (12/03/1895), in Marx and Engels (1975), pp.457-58, and Marx and Engels (2004), pp.463-64. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

"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. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"But there are more than these two properties and qualities or facets to [any material object]; 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…. [D]ialectical logic requires that an object should be taken in development, in change, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it). This is not immediately obvious in respect of such an object as a tumbler, but it, too, is in flux, and this holds especially true for its purpose, use and connection with the surrounding world." [Lenin (1921), pp.92-93. Bold emphases alone added; paragraphs merged.]

 

"Dialectics as living, many-sided knowledge (with the number of sides eternally increasing), with an infinite number of shades of every approach and approximation to reality (with a philosophical system growing into a whole out of each shade) -- here we have an immeasurably rich content as compared with 'metaphysical' materialism, the fundamental misfortune of which is its inability to apply dialectics to the Bildertheorie [theory of reflection -- RL], to the process and development of knowledge....

 

"Human knowledge is not (or does not follow) a straight line, but a curve, which endlessly approximates a series of circles, a spiral. Any fragment, segment, section of this curve can be transformed (transformed one-sidedly) into an independent, complete, straight line, which then (if one does not see the wood for the trees) leads into the quagmire, into clerical obscurantism (where it is anchored by the class interests of the ruling classes). Rectilinearity and one-sidedness, woodenness and petrification, subjectivism and subjective blindness -- voilà the epistemological roots of idealism. And clerical obscrutantism (= philosophical idealism), of course, has epistemological roots, it is not groundless; it is a sterile flower undoubtedly, but a sterile flower that grows on the living tree of living, fertile, genuine, powerful, omnipotent, objective, absolute human knowledge." [Lenin (1961), pp.360-61. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

"Cognition is the eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object." [Ibid., p.195. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"Knowledge is the reflection of nature by man. But this is not simple, not an immediate, not a complete reflection, but the process of a series of abstractions, the formation and development of concepts, laws, etc., and these concepts, laws, etc., (thought, science = 'the logical Idea') embrace conditionally, approximately, the universal, law-governed character of eternally moving and developing nature.... Man cannot comprehend = reflect = mirror nature as a whole, in its completeness, its 'immediate totality,' he can only eternally come closer to this, creating abstractions, concepts, laws, a scientific picture of the world...." [Ibid., p.182. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

"Dialectical materialism insists on the approximate, relative character of every scientific theory of the structure of matter and its properties; it insists on the absence of absolute boundaries in nature, on the transformation of moving matter from one state into another." [Lenin (1972), p.312. Bold emphasis added.]

 

"'Here once again we find the same contradiction as we found above, between the character of human thought, necessarily conceived as absolute, and its reality in individual human beings with their extremely limited thought. This is a contradiction which can only be solved in the infinite progression, or what is for us, at least from a practical standpoint, the endless succession, of generations of mankind. In this sense human thought is just as much sovereign as not sovereign, and its capacity for knowledge just as much un-limited as limited. It is sovereign and unlimited in its disposition..., its vocation, its possibilities and its historical ultimate goal; it is not sovereign and it is limited in its individual expression and in its realisation at each particular moment....'

 

"'Truth and error, like all thought-concepts which move in polar opposites, have absolute validity only in an extremely limited field, as we have just seen, and as even Herr Dühring would realise if he had any acquaintance with the first elements of dialectics, which deal precisely with the inadequacy of all polar opposites. As soon as we apply the antithesis between truth and error outside of that narrow field which has been referred to above it becomes relative and therefore unserviceable for exact scientific modes of expression; and if we attempt to apply it as absolutely valid outside that field we really find ourselves altogether beaten: both poles of the antithesis become transformed into their opposites, truth becomes error and error truth'.... Here follows the example of Boyle's law (the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to its pressure). The 'grain of truth' contained in this law is only absolute truth within certain limits. The law, it appears, is a truth 'only approximately'.

 

"Human thought then by its nature is capable of giving, and does give, absolute truth, which is compounded of a sum-total of relative truths. Each step in the development of science adds new grains to the sum of absolute truth, but the limits of the truth of each scientific proposition are relative, now expanding, now shrinking with the growth of knowledge." [Ibid., pp.150-51, quoting Engels (1976), pp.108-09, 114. The on-line and published translations are slightly different. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphases and link added.]

 

"Idealism and mechanical materialism, opportunism and adventurism, are all characterized by the breach between the subjective and the objective, by the separation of knowledge from practice. The Marxist-Leninist theory of knowledge, characterized as it is by scientific social practice, cannot but resolutely oppose these wrong ideologies. Marxists recognize that in the absolute and general process of development of the universe, the development of each particular process is relative, and that hence, in the endless flow of absolute truth, man's knowledge of a particular process at any given stage of development is only relative truth. The sum total of innumerable relative truths constitutes absolute truth. The development of an objective process is full of contradictions and struggles, and so is the development of the movement of human knowledge. All the dialectical movements of the objective world can sooner or later be reflected in human knowledge. In social practice, the process of coming into being, developing and passing away is infinite, and so is the process of coming into being, developing and passing away in human knowledge. As man's practice which changes objective reality in accordance with given ideas, theories, plans or programmes, advances further and further, his knowledge of objective reality likewise becomes deeper and deeper. The movement of change in the world of objective reality is never-ending and so is man's cognition of truth through practice. Marxism-Leninism has in no way exhausted truth but ceaselessly opens up roads to the knowledge of truth in the course of practice. Our conclusion is the concrete, historical unity of the subjective and the objective, of theory and practice, of knowing ant doing, and we are opposed to all erroneous ideologies, whether 'Left' or Right, which depart from concrete history." [Mao (1961c), pp.307-08. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

Other DM-theorists concur. Here, for example, is Cornforth:

 

"What then is truth? It is correspondence between ideas and objective reality. Such correspondence between our ideas and reality is only gradually established, and then the correspondence is often no more than partial or incomplete.... In such cases, we should not say that our idea was false, but yet it would not be absolutely -- completely and in all respects -- true. Truth, therefore, is not a property which an idea, or a proposition, either possesses or does not possess; it may belong to an idea to a certain degree, within certain limits, in certain respects....

 

"This characteristic of truth...is very well known to science. The laws which science establishes certainly reflect objective processes; they correspond to the real motion and interconnection of things in the external world. Yet science has established few laws which can claim to be absolute truths.... [M]any erroneous views in science and philosophy, which have had to be, not modified, but rejected as errors, concealed a certain truth which received in them an erroneous distorted expression....

 

"We should recognise, then, that certain erroneous views, including idealist views, could represent, in their time, a contribution to truth -- since they were, perhaps, the only ways in which certain truths could first begin to come to expression.... Complete, full, absolute truth -- the whole truth and nothing but the truth about everything -- is something we can never attain. But it is something toward which we are always approximating.... The correspondence is never complete, exact, absolute. But it continually approaches yet is always infinitely distant from that absolute limit as truth and knowledge continually advance...." [Cornforth (1963), pp.135-45. Bold emphases added; several paragraphs merged.]

 

And here 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 with the conventions adopted at this site. Bold emphasis alone added.]

 

Of course, we already know where the above ideas originated; they didn't arise out of the sciences, they popped out of the fevered imagination of a card-carrying Christian Mystic -- as Lenin himself acknowledged:

 

"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 emphases alone added.]

 

"Flexibility, applied objectively, i.e., reflecting the all-sidedness of the material process and its unity, is dialectics, is the correct reflection of the eternal development of the world. 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."

 

"[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…. [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…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement,' in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing…. The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute….

 

"To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., [sic] with any proposition...: [like] John is a man…. Here we already have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the individual is the universal…. Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say John is a man…we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other….

 

"Thus in any proposition we can (and must) disclose as a 'nucleus' ('cell') the germs of all the elements of dialectics, and thereby show that dialectics is a property of all human knowledge in general." [Lenin (1961), pp.110, 196-97, 221-22, 357-60. Bold emphases alone added. Several paragraphs merged. Quotation marks altered to conform with the conventions adopted at this site.]

 

So, these ideas were borrowed from Hegel, who famously (and dogmatically) asserted the following:

 

"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.]

 

According to the above, this side of the 'completion' of an 'infinite epistemological meander', no one would know the 'full truth' about anything. But, until humanity knew the 'full truth about everything' (which blessed state we have just been told by Engels & Co will never be attained), no one will be able to assert anything about the Whole -- even, for instance, that there is a Whole, that it is indeed a Whole, or even that it is a Whole -- with anything other than infinite uncertainty.

 

In turn, similar remarks also apply to the parts. No one would be able to assert anything about them -- for instance, that this or that is a part -- with anything other than infinite uncertainty, too, at least, not until the Whole had been comprehended first.

 

[On that, see here and Part Two of this Essay.]

 

In which case, when DM-theorists advance claims about parts and wholes (even if they try to argue that such claims are only 'partially', or 'relatively', true), they will have to have access to knowledge that only the hypothetical Epistemological End-State could ever deliver (i.e., the terminus that alone constitutes 'complete' or 'Absolute' knowledge -- 'Dialectical Valhalla' Itself). Before then, DM-theorists will be unable say, with anything other than almost zero confidence, that what they have is even 'relative' or 'partial' knowledge, to begin with.

 

That is because the assertion that there are such things as parts and wholes -- or even the claim that knowledge is only ever 'partial', or 'relative', etc. -- would still require complete knowledge. If the entire nature of any part -- including at least this part of the total picture, that is, this part here in this Essay (or in TAR, or in PN, or MEC -- or anywhere else for that matter), expressed in words (on this page/screen, or on any page/screen) concerning 'partial knowledge' itself -- were actually determined by the whole (or vice versa), then no one, least of all a dialectician, would be in any position to assert (with anything other than almost zero confidence) this 'partial' truth (if such it be) until 'Epistemological Judgement Day' had been reached and all was revealed to the congregated 'DM-Elect'.

 

[PN = Philosophical Notebooks; MEC = Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (i.e., Lenin (1961) and (1972), respectively).]

 

On the other hand, if the theory that there are parts and wholes (that completely inter-condition one another) isn't itself a 'partial' truth (and hence isn't subject to the above constraints), it must be an 'Absolute' truth, and one whose status had been decided upon before every item in an infinite set of 'partial' truths has even been formulated, tabulated or accessed, let alone processed/comprehended. But, that would only succeed in undermining that very idea (i.e., the belief that there are parts and wholes and that they completely condition one another). That is because, on this view, at least one part (i.e., this view of the whole, expressed in this paragraph, or this view that is dependent on the whole being 'true') wouldn't itself be conditioned by all the other parts, since, plainly, the latter do not yet exist as items of knowledge for them to be able to condition anything in this sense. Hence, the entire nature of at least one part (i.e., this one, about the above, here suggested, 'Absolute truth') wouldn't be dependent on every other part, contrary to the claim.

 

Once more, if that too were to be denied -- and, if dialecticians were still determined to maintain their commitment to the validity of DM-epistemology (as it now stands) --, that rejection will itself have been made in abeyance of the infinite amount of evidence necessary to substantiate it (according to the above quotes from Engels, Lenin, Mao & Co). At that point it should become clear to one and all that that denial will itself have been imposed on part and whole alike, not derived from either.

 

[There is much more on this in Part Two.]

 

Hence, the above considerations mean that sweep-of-the-hand Wholism like this is little more than a disguised form of dogmatic apriorism.

 

And thinly disguised it is, too.

 

Be this as it may, and despite what dialecticians might still try to maintain, it is possible to show that DM-propositions haven't been checked against the available evidence in anything like the manner claimed. Nor have these DM-'super-truths' been derived from the dearth of evidence its supporters have so far cobbled-together.

 

For example, consider a typical DM-assertion (taken from the opening page of TAR):

 

"The very possibility of human life is governed by contradictions." [Rees (1998a), p.1.]

 

Admittedly, Rees also mentioned several examples of contradictions he thought supported the above claim (but which unfortunately turn out not to be contradictions, to begin with; on that see here). Independently of that, his general claim can't be -- and in TAR it certainly wasn't -- supported by a careful analysis of all the evidence (or even a sizeable or representative fraction of it). Indeed, no matter how much evidence DM-theorists amassed it would still only represent a tiny percentage of all the facts necessary to justify a generalisation about "the very possibility of human life" and what supposedly governs it. Moreover, as noted above (but in more detail here and Part Two): given DM-epistemology the gap between any large finite body of knowledge and 'Absolute Knowledge' is itself infinite.

 

Of course, it could be argued that it is perfectly obvious to Marxists what Rees is referring to, even if it isn't to Ms Lichtenstein. But that rather breezy response misses the point.

 

In order to see why, let us assume for the purposes of argument that DM-epistemology is 100% 'valid'. [The reason for the 'scare quotes' around "valid" will become a little clearer reasonably soon.] Even supposing that were the case, the yawning chasm of ignorance that separates DM from Absolute Truth would still be infinite, if Engels & Co are to be believed. Hence, the above proffered DM-response is itself misguided. It, too, can't be asserted with anything other than almost zero confidence, given the infinite abyss of ignorance that separates it from Absolute Truth (again, if Engels & Co are correct).

 

That is what is so obvious to the present author even if DM-fans prefer to insert their heads back into the nearest non-dialectical sand dune.

 

Nevertheless, the presence of this bottomless pit of ignorance hasn't stopped dialecticians from advancing any number of "musts", "demands", "requirements" and "insistences" concerning all of reality, for all of time -- for example, that it is a unified, 'contradictory', 'inter-connected', a "mediated" 'Whole', and that every last particle within its porous boundary is constantly changing. The vast majority of DM-assertions like these go way beyond what could reasonably be justified even by an appeal to a large finite body of evidence (i.e., one whose size is far greater than any currently available, and vastly more than DM-theorists themselves have scraped-together, which, as we saw in Essay Seven Part One, is precious little), never mind the infinite amount that will only be available to humanity on 'Epistemological Judgement Day', way off in the infinite future, which blessed state will have to have been attained if DM-propositions may finally be asserted with 100% confidence.

 

In fact, and to spoil the fun: as we have already discovered, many of these DM-claims will never, and can't ever, be confirmed -- even at the End of Time --, let alone tested in practice.

 

Sceptical readers are referred back to the Light Cone and Hubble Sphere problems from earlier (here and here) for the reason why.42a

 

What is now abundantly clear: bold and expansive DM-claims (like this one) function in a different way and serve a specific purpose. They 'allow' those who advance them to stipulate, or lay-down, theoretical markers in advance that define the approach they intend to take with respect to the interpretation of the restricted range of facts about nature and society currently available to them. Indeed, as noted above, they are best described as a fetishised "form of representation" -- which is a round about way of saying (once again!) that they have been foisted on the facts.42b

 

[More about that later; until then, see Glock (1996), pp.129-35. The political and contingent psychological factors that motivate DM-theorists to make moves like this were exposed (at length) in Essays Nine Part Two and Twelve Parts One to Seven (summary here).]

 

Verdict: Guilty As Charged -- DM Isn't A Science

 

In response, it could be countered that not only is DM a science, dialecticians themselves rely on the latest scientific research in support of their ideas. Where relevant, this also informs the tactics revolutionaries adopt in furtherance of the socialist transformation of society.

 

Despite the above counterclaim, the fact that DM is conventional in form -- but metaphysical in both intent and content, all the while failing to be a science -- can be seen by the way its supporters themselves try to relate their ideas to the natural and social world.

 

DM-theorists take it as read that the world exists independently of our knowledge of it, but they are nevertheless quite happy to insist that they know in advance what its most general characteristics must be.

 

As far as we know this dogmatic approach to 'knowledge' began in the 'West', in Ancient Greece, with (what are now) the fragmentary and obscure ruminations of that ancient mystic, Heraclitus. This next-level obscurantist was quite happy to inform humanity what must be true of all of reality for all of time based on what he thought was true about stepping into a river!

 

This is what we read about his almost unparalleled influence on 'Western' thought:

 

"Heraclitus, along with Parmenides, is probably the most significant philosopher of ancient Greece until Socrates and Plato; in fact, Heraclitus's philosophy is perhaps even more fundamental in the formation of the European mind than any other thinker in European history, including Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Why? Heraclitus, like Parmenides, postulated a model of nature and the universe which created the foundation for all other speculation on physics and metaphysics. The ideas that the universe is in constant change and that there is an underlying order or reason to this change -- the Logos -- form the essential foundation of the European world view...." [Quoted from here. Bold emphases and links added.]

 

As we have also seen, the above 'general features of reality' weren't derived by DM-theorists from a scientific examination of the world, nor are they (even) now a representative summary of human experience in its entirety. They were lifted from Hegel, who inherited them from previous generations of mystics (like Heraclitus). In turn, those mystics dreamt them up at a time when there was hardly any evidence to speak of. Despite this, they were quite happy to impose these dogmas on nature and society, just like DM-theorists do today.

 

[There is more on this topic in Essays Two and Nine Part Two, but it will be covered in much greater detail in Essay Fourteen Part One (when it is published).]

 

DM-theorists claim these 'mystical ideas' have been given a materialist flip, having rotated them through 180º, so that they now stand 'on their feet', the right way up -- which claim turns out to be about as genuine as a nine bob note (or a sixty-one cent coin, if you are reading this in the United States!) -- the 'mystical' outer layer having excised.43 But, because these ideas allegedly relate to the "Totality" (and are supposedly valid for all of space and time), they can't have been obtained by anything other than a priori means, whoever dreamt them up and through howsoever many degrees some claim they have been spun.

 

In response, it could be objected that there are wider, theoretical considerations that help determine the validity of the conclusions reached by DM-theorists. Indeed, it could be maintained that this is exactly how scientists themselves frame the universal laws they discover, many of which -- especially in physics -- are also believed to operate across all of space and time. If so, this approach to the study of nature is tried-and-tested, based on centuries of experience and knowledge, in tandem with increasing levels of 'abstraction' and generalisation, not to mention practical applications in engineering, technology, medicine, agriculture, etc., etc. If this isn't a problem for science and technology, how can it be one for DM? What has Ms Lichtenstein got to offer in comparison?

 

Or, so it could be argued...

 

However, leaving aside the obvious point that the above response completely undermines the claim that DM hasn't been imposed on nature -- since it openly admits it! -- DM isn't like any known, or any conceivable, science. Although the criteria distinguishing science from pseudo-science are somewhat controversial, one thing is reasonably clear: scientists can't claim the world is contradictory, in whole or in part.

 

That idea can't be entertained -- not because of any supposed adherence to bourgeois ideology, or because of any alleged excessive "tenderness toward the world" -- but because it would make science itself impossible.44

 

A scientific theory that admits reality is contradictory would lose its ability to explain anything. That is because any theory that contemplated the existence of contradictions everywhere would make it impossible to distinguish confirmation from refutation. If an empirical proposition and its contradictory were both true, or could both be true together, confirmation and refutation would be all of a piece.45

 

[The handful of options available to DM-supporters that might seem (to some) capable of neutralising this deadly dialectical defect have been neutralised below in Interlude One. Now, in connection with asking what the present author has 'to offer' in return, readers are reminded that if DM isn't a science, it is surely important to point that fact out, which I am about to do. The rest of that proffered DM-response clearly amounts to little other than 'sour grapes', coming in from any dialectician temped to make use of it.]

 

To be sure, on its own this doesn't prove DM itself is misconceived, but it does show that it can't be a science. And, as we will soon find out, DM isn't even remotely like a science. In fact, if DM were correct, scientific knowledge would be impossible, and not just for the reasons outlined above, or because of the additional fact that if DM were true change would be impossible, but also for those about to be aired below.46

 

DM In Hot Water

 

DM isn't even remotely like a science because its theoretical and its empirical 'propositions' say nothing at all (if they are understood as they were intended to be taken by their proponents), unlike empirical, scientific propositions. The latter present us with certain (often specific) material possibilities in relation to objects, events and processes, automatically excluding others.

 

For instance, consider the following rather straight-forward example:46a

 

S1: Water boils at 100°C.

 

[Of course, propositions like S1 are these days usually expressed using of universally quantified conditionals. I have omitted that (unnecessary) detail for obvious reasons. I have also deliberately kept this example boringly simple so that the point being made isn't obscured by needless complication or irrelevant technicalities.]

 

Given the usual ceteris paribus (i.e., "all things being equal") clauses, the truth of S1 makes the following sentence false (and vice versa):

 

S2: It is not the case that water boils at 100°C.

 

If the aforementioned ceteris paribus clauses (such as "under normal conditions of pressure and water purity", etc.) are ignored, S2 itself might become true under certain circumstances -- for example, if the water in question contains impurities, or the ambient pressure was either raised or lowered. But, even then, what S2 expresses would still rule out the truth of S1. Against the required background conditions -- or even without them -- when S1 is true, S2 is false, and when S1 is false, S2 is true.47

 

Compare that with a typical 'proposition' taken from DM (or at least from Trotsky's version of it):

 

S3: This bag of sugar weighs 1 kg and doesn't weigh 1 kg.

 

Or (for dialecticians who aren't Trotskyists!):

 

S3a: This moving object is both here and not here, in one place and in another, at the same time.

 

Whatever background is supplied for them, because S3 and S3a rule nothing out, they actually say nothing. [Why that is so will be explained presently.]

 

The implications of the above remarks remain the same even if S1 were to be replaced by a more specific (i.e., a more concrete example), such as:

 

S4: This particular body/volume of water boiled at 100°C.

 

S4a: It is not the case that this particular body/volume of water boiled at 100°C.

 

[Henceforth, I will just speak of a body of water. Of course, this assumes the above are speaking about the same body of water.]

 

In that case, based on S4/S4a, the temptation might be to think that further qualifications could allow both (S4 and S4a) to be true at once. For instance, the following:

 

S5: Parts of the water in this container boiled at 100°C, and parts of it did not. [Yielding what is called a "mixed phase" state of affairs.]

 

S6: The same body of water may boil at 99.999°C on one occasion, and boil at 100.001°C on another, and parts of it might do both or neither at the same time.

 

S3: This bag of sugar weighs 1 kg and does not weigh 1 kg.

 

S3a: This moving object is both here and not here, in one place and in another, at the same time.

 

Clearly, that is because the predicate, "ξ boiled at 100°C" is vague.

 

[The use of Greek letters like, "ξ", is explained here. If that presents a problem for readers, just view that predicate expression as "...boiled at 100°C", or even "x boiled at 100°C".]