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Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism
Abbreviations Used At This Site
Return To The Main Index Page
One or two comrades have attempted to respond to some of the points I raised here.
1. Paula has this to say:
This doesn't sound right to me. In every 'real world' contradiction, the two terms exclude each other and yet exist together. Male excludes female, female excludes male; yet male and female obviously do exist (and act!) together. Parent and child are mutually exclusive, in the sense that whoever is the parent is not the child, whoever is the child is not the parent; yet the parent is the parent of that child, the child is the child of that parent, etc. Master vs servant, capital vs labor ... you get the drift.
So perhaps in the real world all contradictions are 'dialectical' in this sense. If Rosa objects to Marxists inflating this simple idea with fancy words, she may have a point. But the idea itself seems correct.
And yet, to state the obvious, males and females aren't contradictions! Nor do they turn into one another (as the dialectical classics tell us they should -- dozens of quotations to that effect can be found here).
But, in what sense do they 'exclude' one another? Does the existence of a male exclude the existence of a female? Clearly not. So, either Marx was wrong, or we still do not understand what a 'dialectical contradiction' is.
More-or-less the same can be said of the other examples Paula gives. [And I have heard them all a thousand times. Is there nothing new in the 'dialectical' universe?] Does parent A turn into his/her child B, and vice versa? Does master C turn into servant D, and vice versa? Does capitalist E turn into worker F, and vice versa?
2. Ian Wright had this to say:
Your [i.e., Paula's -- RL] examples are relational properties, but I (perhaps
incorrectly) think the best way to understand "dialectical contradiction" is in
the sense of a "real contradiction" as described by Marx:
"The exchange of commodities cannot, as one has seen, take place without
fulfilling contradictory conditions, which exclude one other. Its development
which makes commodities appear as something with two aspects, use value and
ex-change value, does not make these contradictions disappear, but creates the
form in which they can move themselves. This is in any case the only method for
resolving real contradictions. It is, for example, a contradiction that a body
fall constantly toward another, and also constantly fly away from it. The
ellipse is one of the forms of movement by which this contradiction realizes
itself and resolves itself at the same time." Marx, Capital Vol 1.
have one force that makes bodies fall toward each other (stability). And we have
another force that makes them fly away (instability). So the attractor states of
each independent force are mutually exclusive. But both forces act to determine
the trajectory of the body, and the "dialectical contradiction" is resolved by
the appearance of new emergent and dynamic behavior, e.g. an orbit.
I think this is also the way to understand the "law of value" in the economy. It is a "force" that, if it operated in isolation, would push trajectories toward an equilibrium point of prices proportional to labor-values. But it's not the only "force" that acts in this complex system. So the actual trajectory does not fully converge to this equilibrium, but is a complex outcome of the interactions.
We need the method of abstraction to consider the forces in isolation in order to eventually fully explain the empirical trajectory or sequence of events. So it is necessary to make assumptions that directly contradict empirical reality in order to understand empirical reality (c.f. Newton's first law of motion that states that, if undisturbed, a body will move with constant velocity forever: a statement that is clearly in conflict with everyday experience). In Roy Bhaskar's terminology this is creating an "experimental closure" that isolates the action of a single mechanism.
I have dealt with most of these points in Essay Eight Part Two and Essay Three Parts One and Two.
However, the quotation from Marx is no use at all in helping us understand what a 'dialectical contradiction' is. Marx, like so many others, simply helps himself to this word without once explaining clearly what he means, nor does he critically evaluate the sub-Aristotelian 'logic' Hegel used to derive his own 'contradictions' (which, therefore, turn out not to be contradictions, after all, and so cannot be inverted to 'stand on their feet').
And forces cannot be contradictions either.
Here is a summary of the argument I have used in Essay Eight Part Two to show this:
In this Part of Essay Eight it is argued at length that there is no way that "contradictions" can be interpreted as "opposing forces", nor vice versa.
In fact, since most of the motion in the universe is governed by the action of only one central force (i.e., in classical Physics, the force of gravity which governs the motion of planets around stars, and stars around galactic centres of mass, etc.), classical DM can't account for most of the bulk changes that take place in nature. Now, even if this phenomenon is regarded as the result of the complex inter-relation between gravitational fields, change in motion would still be caused by only one force: the resultant. No contradiction has just one term.
Of course, if General Relativity is correct (where gravity has been replaced by the motion of bodies along geodesics and world-lines, forces having been edited out of the picture) most of the bulk motion in the universe would take place under the action of no forces at all. This is underlined by Nobel Laureate, Professor Wilczek (of MIT), who makes a more general point about forces in modern Physics:
"The paradox deepens when we consider force from the perspective of modern physics. In fact, the concept of force is conspicuously absent from our most advanced formulations of the basic laws. It doesn't appear in Schrödinger's equation, or in any reasonable formulation of quantum field theory, or in the foundations of general relativity. Astute observers commented on this trend to eliminate force even before the emergence of relativity and quantum mechanics.
"In his 1895 Dynamics, the prominent physicist Peter G. Tait, who was a close friend and collaborator of Lord Kelvin and James Clerk Maxwell, wrote
"'In all methods and systems which involve the idea of force there is a leaven of artificiality...there is no necessity for the introduction of the word 'force' nor of the sense−suggested ideas on which it was originally based.'"
[The above now appears in Wilczek (2006), pp.37-38.]
No forces, no 'contradictions', therefore!
[DM = Dialectical Materialism.]
This is something that even dialecticians have admitted:
"Gravity is not a 'force,' but a relation between real objects. To a man falling off a high building, it seems that the ground is 'rushing towards him.' From the standpoint of relativity, that observation is not wrong. Only if we adopt the mechanistic and one-sided concept of 'force' do we view this process as the earth's gravity pulling the man downwards, instead of seeing that it is precisely the interaction of two bodies upon each other." [Woods and Grant (1995), p.156.]
However, and despite what Woods and Grant say, a mere "relation" between two bodies is incapable of making one or both of them move, unless there is a force there (or something else consequent on that relation -- such as a time-based trajectory along a "world-line", perhaps?) to bring it about.
Naturally, all this means that most of the changes studied in Physics can't be the result of "contradictions" -- if, that is, the latter are still to be regarded as opposing forces.
In view of the above, it might be wise to interpret "opposing forces" as figurative 'contradictions'. Alternatively, forces could be described as 'contradictions' as a part of a sort of shorthand, which would then enable the modelling of different types of accelerated motion. Naturally, that approach would allow the word "force" to be edited out of the picture as a physical entity in its own right. Indeed, Engels seems to have had this in mind in the quotation below, where he argues that attraction and repulsion should not be regarded as forces, but as simple forms of motion. This retreat was perhaps recommended to him by his admission that the concept "force" was derived from ancient animistic/mystical views of nature, hence its use in DM could smack of anthropomorphism:
"When two bodies act on each other…they either attract each other or they repel each other…in short, the old polar opposites of attraction and repulsion…. It is expressly to be noted that attraction and repulsion are not regarded here as so-called 'forces', but as simple forms of motion.... [Engels (1954), pp.70-71. Bold emphasis added.]
"The notion of force, however, owing to its origin from the action of the human organism on the external world…implies that only one part is active, the other part being passive…[and appearing] as a resistance." [Ibid., p.82. Bold emphasis added.]
However, this revision has two untoward consequences Engels appears not to have noticed:
(1) It makes his version of DM look even more positivistic that it already seems (at least in DN). If the appeal to forces in nature is no more than a shorthand for the relative motion of bodies, then forces will have no real counterparts in nature. The whole idea would then be little more than a "useful fiction", invented to account for the phenomena instrumentally. This would make the identification of forces with contradictions even more problematic; plainly, and once again: if there are no forces, there can be no DM-'contradictions'.
[DN = Dialectics of Nature, i.e., Engels (1954); UO = Unity of Opposites.]
(2) Given this re-write of the word "force", the contradictory relationship between bodies would become little more than a re-description of their relative motion. [Woods and Grant seem to be thinking along these lines, as we saw earlier.]
Anyway, the figurative reading of forces as 'contradictions' runs counter to the claim advanced by dialecticians that they are offering a literal and 'objective' account of nature. It is not at all easy to see how figurative language can fill in the physical gaps in an explanation, any more than, say, the following can account for Juliet's beauty:
"But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."
[Romeo and Juliet, Act Two, Scene Two.]
Or, at least, any more than would describing a man as a "pig" imply he has a curly tail and is a potential source of bacon.
Nevertheless, even if this proves to be an acceptable resolution of Engels's problem, it would still not provide DM-theorists with a viable way out of their difficulties. Taken literally or figuratively, the equation of DM-'contradictions' with forces cannot work -- whether this applies to events in nature or society. This is so for several reasons.
Contradictions As Mathematical Models?
The first of these is connected with the way that forces are already represented in mathematics and physics, for example --, which does not appear to be even remotely appropriate for exportation and use in depicting contradictions as literal forces. Consider the following:
(A) Forces often operate according to an inverse square law. It is not easy to see how the same could be true of contradictions. Not much sense can be made, one presumes(!), of the idea that a contradiction could operate with, say, only 25% of its former intensity (or whatever the appropriate descriptor is here) if the distance between its oppositional elements is doubled. Do bosses really become more conciliatory if workers walk away from them? Does wealth cause less conflict if the rich move their money to the Cayman Islands? Do appearances contradict reality any the more if someone uses a microscope, or presses his/her face against a desk? And yet, no force in nature has its local or remote strength unaffected by such changes.
Sure, dialecticians speak about the "contradictions" in the capitalist system "intensifying", but this is not because the 'separation distance' between the classes has decreased. Whatever DM-theorists in fact mean by "intensification" here (which seems be that the alleged "contradictions" become more obvious, intractable or crisis-ridden), they certainly do not mean it in the same way that physicists mean it when they talk about, say, the strength of a force field intensifying. Nor is there any mathematics involved. Indeed, while a technician might be dispatched to measure the intensity of a force field in genuine scientific research, no one ever seems to have been asked to do the same with these "intensifying" 'dialectical contradictions'. They (or at least their 'strength') appear to be permanently locked in subjective space, stubbornly impervious to scientific investigation.
(B) Forces in nature can be represented by vectors, the use of which is governed by well-understood rules. As such, for example, they may be inclined at various angles to one another, added, subtracted and multiplied (to give inner, vector or scalar triple products, and the like) -- and by means of which, diverse quantities, such as areas, volumes, field densities, boundary flux (etc.), may be calculated. In addition, vectors may be parallel or orthogonal, to one another, or to previously defined axes, just as they may be decomposed into their components and projected onto a given direction, plane or surface. They can be used to identify and classify the mathematical properties of manifolds. Unit vectors can be defined in a given vector space, providing it with a base and spanning set. Modulii can be ascertained for any given vector, and so-called "Eigenvectors" can be calculated. Furthermore, matrices can be employed to represent vectors more efficiently, their determinants and inverses thus calculated. The ordinary and partial derivatives of vectors may be derived -- and, finally, they can be integrated (as part of line, surface or volume integrals), and so on.
It is difficult to see how any of the above (and a many others) could be true of a single DM-'contradiction' interpreted (literally or metaphorically) as a force.
This brings us to the third reason for questioning the connection between forces and 'contradictions'.
Contradictory To What?
Let us assume that two forces (say, F1 and F2) 'contradict' one another. In that case, one of the following options would, it seems, have to obtain:
(1) F1 must prevent F2 from acting (and/or vice versa), or
(2) F1 must impede F2, perhaps stopping it from producing its usual effects (and/or vice versa).
[There is a third option: that these forces should "struggle" with one another; however, if that is to make sense, then it must be explicated in terms of one or both of the other two.]
In the first case, F2 must either:
(1a) Cease to exist, or
(1b) confront F1 directly (as force on force) while it exists -- if it is to be affected by F1, or if it is to be prevented from operating by it.
However, if in (1a), F2 ceases to exist, it cannot contradict or be contradicted by anything, since it no longer exists to do anything.
Assuming, on the other hand, that F2 is contradicted by F1 up until it ceases to exist, then option (1a) would become (1b).
In the latter case, therefore, the alleged contradiction between F1 and F2 must see these forces as directly oppositional in some way. If so, these two forces must confront one another as forces of attraction and/or repulsion (or as a 'dialectical' mix of the two).
But, once again, it is not easy to see how this configuration could be a contradiction in anything other than a figurative sense. [This is because a literal contradiction involves the gainsaying of the words of another person.]
If, on the other hand, a literal interpretation is still insisted upon here, this sort of confrontation between forces could only take place if they were particulate in some way -- that is, if they registered some sort of resistance to one another. Alternatively, if they are not particulate, it is equally hard to see how they could interact at all, let alone 'contradict' each other. Continuous media have no rigidity and no impenetrability to exert forces of any sort (except, of course, as part of a figurative extension to particulate interaction, after all).
Now, there are well-known classical problems associated with the idea that forces are particulate (these are fully referenced in Essay Eight Part One and Part Two) -- not the least of which is that if forces are particulate then they could only interact if they exerted still other forces (contact forces, cohesive forces, forces of reaction, etc.) on other particulates, initiating an infinite regress. That is, in order to account for the ability of particles to resist one another, we would need to appeal to forces internal to bodies to do that, to stop one body penetrating the other, or to prevent distortions tearing that body apart. But, if the forces internal to bodies are particulate too, we would plainly need further forces to account for the coherence of these new particles, and so on. Alternatively, if these forces are continuous, they would not be able to provide such inner coherence.
In the end nothing would be accounted for, since at each level there would be nothing to provide the required resistance/coherence.
So, reducing the interaction between forces to that between bodies means that particles could not 'contradict' one another without exerting non-particulate forces on their operands -- which would once again mean that such entities were incapable of exerting forces, having no rigidity to do so.
Even the exchange of particles (in QM) would succeed in exerting forces only if there were reaction forces internal to bodies which were themselves the result of rigidity, cohesion, contact, etc. Of course, Physicists appeal to various fields, energy gradients and the like, but if these are continuous, the above problems simply re-emerge. If these are particulate, this merry-go-round merely takes another spin around the metaphysical floor. [Some Physicists recognise this problem; many just ignore it.]
[QM = Quantum Mechanics.]
Of course, it could be objected that the above view adopts an out-dated mechanistic view of interaction, and hence is completely misguided. However, the 'modern' mathematical approach in fact surrenders any possibility of giving a causal, or physical account of forces --, or at least one that does not depend on a figurative use of verbs we employ in everyday life to give such an account in the macro-world. So, if a particle is seen as a 'carrier of a force', and that 'force' can be given no 'physical bite', but it is still regarded as being capable of making things happen, forcing particles to divert their line of action (etc.), then the words used must lose contact with those drawn from the vernacular -- such as: "make", "force", "divert" --, as they are used to depict macro-phenomena. Now there is no problem with this, but then such an account would become merely descriptive; it could not explain how fields actually make things happen. Differential equations and vectors cannot make things move, or alter their paths; they merely describe what does happen, as well as perhaps help us balance nature's books and make predictions. (More details on this can be found in the full Essay.)
If problems like these are put to one side for the moment, it would seem that forces could interact only by affecting the motion of bodies that are already under the control of other forces. In that case, (1b) would now reduce to the action of F1 on the effects of F2, or vice versa -- thus becoming option (2).
(1b) F2 must confront F1 directly (as force on force) while it exists -- if it is to be affected by F1, or if it is to be prevented from operating by it.
(2) F1 must impede F2, perhaps stopping it from producing its usual effects (and/or vice versa).
That being so, these forces would 'contradict' one another by preventing the normal effects of one or both of them from taking place. But, once more, if the latter are prevented from happening, they would not exist to be contradicted, and we would be back at square one.
If this set of inferences is rejected for some reason, then if F1 does indeed succeed in 'contradicting', say, the velocity of any body under the control of F2 (call this velocity V2), we would have a conflict between two unlike terms: F1 and V2. Clearly, given this scenario, the original contradiction between two forces will have disappeared to be replaced by a new relationship between a force and a velocity, which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called "contradictory". This is partly because the operating force merely alters a velocity -- in many cases it might even augment it, or merely deflect it -- and partly because a force cannot 'struggle' with a mere rate of change of place.
Nevertheless, for a force to alter the velocity of a body, the force would have to be particulate, too, meaning that inter-particulate forces would come into play once again. As already noted, continuous media have no inner coherence to alter anything -- save they are surreptitiously viewed as particulate, once more. This would then collapse this scenario back into option (1), with all its associated classical/figurative problems. Either way, the alleged contradiction here would evaporate for want of terms.
This criticism would still apply if the word "contradiction" were replaced by "conflict"; clearly, things cannot conflict if they don't exist, nor can they "conflict" with what they have prevented from taking place.
[And what exactly is the 'inner conflict' here that is supposed to make things move? A metaphysical motor of some sort? More on that in Essay Five.
It could be argued that the "conflict" in this case is precisely this: the fact that one force prevents another from acting. That option, and every one of its ramifications, is considered in detail in Essay Eight Part Two (especially here). Their consideration here will prevent this from being a mere summary!]
Also, the word "conflict" lacks the logical multiplicity that the word "contradiction" possesses. The whole point of using the word "contradiction" in DM was to emphasise the limitations of FL. This extension to the term is what allows dialecticians to argue that contradictory states of affairs can exist simultaneously. That was the thrust of the DL-claims examined in Essay Four -- i.e., that "A and not A" could be true. In this case, "A" and "not A" are logically/dialectically connected. Now, if these expressions are propositional, ordinarily the truth of one would imply the falsehood of the other; however, their dialectical connection does not imply this in any straightforward sense -- indeed, it goes beyond this. This is what allows dialecticians to point to the superiority of DL over FL; their logic allows them to "grasp" such contradictions in order to make sense of change.
[FL = Formal Logic; DL = Dialectical Logic.]
If now the meaning of the word "conflict" is imported to work in place of "contradict", the aforementioned logical connection will be severed, and the alleged superiority of DL over FL would vanish, since no Formal Logician of any sense would deny that things can conflict -- nor indeed would they reject the claim that two propositions expressing conflict cannot both be true (or false) at once. [Indeed, that would be tantamount to them admitting that "conflict" was not synonymous with "contradict".]
On the other hand, if the old FL-connections possessed by the word "contradiction" are exported and glued onto the word "conflict", then the meaning of the latter must change accordingly. In that case, this particular DM-thesis will have been made true solely as a result of mere linguistic tinkering, and that would mean that another DM-'fact' had been created by linguistic fiat, confirming DM's status as a form of LIE. Hence, in this case, from doctored language, Superscientific 'truths' would have flowed.
[LIE = Linguistic Idealism. This is explained here.]
And finally, since only agents are capable of conflicting, this term may be used literally only by those prepared to personify nature.
[This topic is discussed at greater length in the full version of Essay Eight Part Two. Also, see here, and here, where Hegel's logical blunders are exposed as the real source of these odd DL-claims.]
This might help explain why Engels modified his ideas, declaring that:
"It is expressly to be noted that attraction and repulsion are not regarded here as so-called 'forces', but as simple forms of motion." [Engels (1954), p.71.]
In other words it seems that forces should be regarded as "useful fictions". As noted above, Engels was aware of the anthropomorphic origin of the scientific concept of force. So, for once, his scientific intuitions seem to have been working correctly.
But, even if this were a viable option, it is not easy to see how on DM-grounds one form of motion could in fact 'contradict' another form of motion. Classically, if one body alters another's motion, it would have to exert a force on it, which would introduce the very things Engels tried to eliminate.
So, despite what Engels said, DM needs forces; it cannot do without them. It requires them to provide the dialectical 'connective tissue' (as it were) and the motive power of the universe; without them there would be nothing internal to bodies which would be able to connect their motion to that of others, and nothing to interlink processes in the "Totality". In their absence, DM would look little different from "crude materialism". Indeed, without forces, dialecticians could not even pretend to explain why anything moved or developed.
In that case, dialecticians cannot afford to take heed of this rare example of Engelsian good sense. And that is why, in discussion, they all ignore it.
On the other hand, if we acknowledge that forces do in fact exist -- that is, we accept that they are more than just the complex ways of speaking about the interaction of bodies (and thus if we reject Engels's advice) --, then the DM-account will still not work. This is because all such changes are in fact produced by a single resultant force operating in the system, not by two contradictory forces.
In that case, if nature must be populated with forces -- and if the present author is allowed for a moment to indulge in some insincere a priori Superscience of her own --, change would then be the result, not of struggle, but of the cooperation, unity and harmony between forces as they naturally combine to produce change (by means of this cooperatively formed resultant), helpfully assisting particles on their way. If so, we should rather raise an analogy here with logical tautologies -- not contradictions -- and argue alongside other ancient mystics (following the excellent precedent set by Hegel) that nature is indeed governed by forces of empathy, affection and love.
The conclusion seems quite plain: since resultant forces cause every change in nature (given the truth of the classical account), movement in general must be the result of dialectical tautologies. This new 'theory' at least has the advantage of being consistent with classical Physics, and every known observation. The same cannot be said of DM.
Naturally, those critical of the above (wholly insincere) flights-of-fancy would do well to turn an equally sceptical eye on the similarly suspect anthropomorphic moves made by dialecticians all the time.
Alternatively, if it is now argued that both of the 'contradicted' forces (i.e., F1 and F2) still exist even while they interact with one another to produce this resultant, change would then be the result of the operation of at least three forces (the original two and the resultant); that would, of course, create energy from nowhere.
[Needless to say, if this is so, there is a pressing need for revolutionaries to identify this 'third force' since (on this view) it appears to be the one that will put paid to Capitalism!]
In that case, it looks like that the word "force" -- as it is used in DM-propositions -- must be figurative, too. Hence, it now seems that DM can only be made to work if we adopt a poetic view of nature.
The Real Source Of This Theory
On the other hand, if it should turn out that these forces are reminiscent of those found in mystical religious systems (which forces personify 'god', or which carry out 'His' orders (in ancient astronomy, these were the angels who supposedly pushed the planets about the place; in Newton's theory, they were an expression of the direct or indirect action of 'God'), etc.), then it would make eminent good sense to suppose they could 'contradict' one another (i.e., 'argue' among themselves).
It is no surprise, therefore, to find once again that this is precisely from where this 'dialectical' notion has been lifted. This we know for a fact. [On that, see Essay Fourteen (summary here).]
As such, and in this way, DM clearly represents the re-enchantment of nature and society.
So, while modern science has banished will and intelligence from nature, DM has simply re-introduced them.
It could be argued that the real value of 'Materialist Dialectics' lies in its capacity to help revolutionaries understand the contradictions in Capitalism, the better to help change the course of history.
But, it is difficult to picture any of these elements as opposites; the forces of production, it would seem, are no more the opposite of the relations of production than a diesel engine is the opposite of the person using it. And, as argued in detail in Essay Seven, these opposites do not turn into one another, as the dialectical prophets assured us they must. For example, when was the last time that the forces of production turned into the relations of production? Or the proletariat turned into the capitalist class?
Up until now DM-theorists have been more intent on merely asserting that forces are contradictory (seriously overusing this term) than they have been with providing any evidence or argument to show that they are -- or with clarifying what it could possibly mean to assert that they are. Once again, it is clear that DM-theorists have been quite happy to derive yet more a priori Superscience from a set of inappropriate concepts and dubious analogies, compounded by a poetic view of the assorted antics of ancient mystical intelligences, all subsequently confused with a precise logical principle.
Standard examples DM-theorists regularly wheel-out to illustrate the analogy between forces and contradictions are considered in detail in Essay Seven and shown to be misconceived. For instance, the alleged UO between the north and south poles of a magnet (or even that between positive and negative electrical charges) fails to illustrate the opposition between attractive and repulsive forces. In a magnet, two north poles, or two south poles (i.e., two likes), repel -- whereas two opposites (a north and a south pole), attract. So, if anything here, non-opposites 'contradict' (i.e., 'conflict' -- two Norths or two Souths repel each other), while actual opposites do not (North and South attract). Instead of struggle between opposites here we see harmony once more, confirming that change is indeed the result of those aforementioned 'internal tautologies'.
[UO = Unity of Opposites.]
Finally, several examples of "real material forces" supposedly at work in Capitalism are considered in detail in Essay Eight Part Two (here, here, here and here). Under close scrutiny none of them turn out to be contradictions in any meaningful sense of the term. In fact, they all turn out to be one or more of the following: discursive paradoxes, unexpected events, complex inter-relationships, injustices, irrationalities, contraries and/or mistakes.
Of course, if DM-theorists intend the word "contradiction" to be taken in a special sense, all well and good (but see below); however, to date, they have signally failed to say clearly what this 'special' sense is. Or, perhaps more accurately, they have in fact sought to equate it with "conflict", which verbal 'solution' does at least have the advantage of making overt the covert animism in DM -- for only if inanimate matter were sentient or intelligent could it enter into conflict with itself (internally), or with anything else (externally).
As will be argued in detail in Essay Twelve (summary here), the tendency to see conflict in linguistic, moral or conceptual terms (in traditional thought) was a direct consequence of the way that leisure-dominated Greek Philosophers fetishised both language and the natural world, populating it with surrogate discursive terms to give sense to their own mode of being (i.e., those connected with the issuing of orders to minions and the framing laws to run society, which supposedly mirrored the laws of 'God', etc.).. No surprise, therefore, to see this traditional view reappear in DM.
As Marx said, the ruling ideas always rule.
On the other hand, if DM-theorists aim to re-define the word "contradiction" as "conflict" then their theory would merely be a form of stipulative conventionalism -- since there is nothing in the meaning of either the everyday word "contradiction", or in its logical twin, that remotely suggests such a connotation; nor is there vice versa with "conflict".
In that case, it is now clear that this word has been re-defined just to make dialectics work. But, we should be no more convinced of the acceptability of that manoeuvre than we would be if, say, an apologist of Capitalism 'defined' it as "natural" and "beneficial to all". If the re-definition of terms provided a "royal road" to truth, those with the best dictionaries would surely win Nobel Prizes.
These points are made in much more detail in Essay Eight Part Two, where every conceivable objection to my arguments has been neutralised.
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