Responses To Kosloff, Mage And Others


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Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism


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The material below follows on from an earlier discussion, accessible here (which revolved around DM-supporters serial inability to tell me what a 'dialectical contradiction' is).


Comrade Kosloff responded as follows:


And Aristotle and the whole mode of thinking of Greek society, obviously, fell from the sky. So Rosa, the Historical Materialist, can't be bothered with explaining why logic came about as a product of the necessities of life, and instead gives us this accidental, bourgeois, at the very root, view that logic was the particular fancy of this particular philosopher which happens to work according to the ordinary language standard of clarity, which Rosa takes for granted. Remember? It is PEOPLE who make their own history, it is their actions, not your whimsical taste for clarity.


He'll be telling me grass is green next! What on earth makes comrade Kosloff think I don't already know and accept all this? The reason I take ordinary language as my standard of clarity is because the word itself ("clarity") is from ordinary language --, and, of course, because Marx advocated it:


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 emphasis added.]


Which is important advice most comrades seem to ignore because of their infatuation with Hegel.


Kosloff again:


Remember? It is PEOPLE who make their own history, it is their actions, not your whimsical taste for clarity.


And yet, when it comes to Dialectical Logic [DL], clarity goes out of the window, and individuals like comrade Kosloff here criticise those who seek to recover some of it. And it isn't hard to see why: sloppy 'logic' like that inherited from Hegel is the only way this mystical 'theory' can be made to seem to work.


And, of course, people make their own history, I agree; but Dialectical Marxists have made a mess of things now for over 150 years. Despite this. the connection between long-term failure like this and the mystical and obscure ideas they inherited from Hegel never occurs to them. And we know why, too. Which is odd, especially in view of the fact that they never spare an opportunity to remind the rest of us of the connection between theory and practice (or, to use the buzz-word, praxis)!


And Marx, well he just happened to be a particular communist, but no relation to the historical conditions in which he lived though, no siree.

Nice sarcasm, but alas it is directed at the wrong target; here is why:


As it turns out, the reason why the majority of dialecticians have not only unwittingly accepted the alien-class ideas encapsulated in 'Materialist Dialectics', but have clung to them like terminally-insecure limpets, is connected with the following considerations:


(1) Marx's own analysis of the nature and origin of religious alienation.


(2) Lenin's warning that revolutionaries may sometimes respond to defeat and disappointment by turning to Idealism and Mysticism.


(3) The personal biographies and class origin of all leading Marxists and/or dialecticians.


(4) The fact that this theory helps mask the long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism itself (because of its insistence that 'appearances' contradict underlying 'essences'), thus offering consolation for unrealised expectations and dashed hopes.


1) Concerning religion, Marx famously argued that:


"The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man -- state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.


"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.


"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo." [Marx (1975b), p.244. Bold emphasis alone added.]


Of course, no one is suggesting that Dialectical Marxism is a religious dogma -- but it functions in ways analogous to one. That serious allegation and the materialist background to it will now be explained.


Plainly, dialecticians are human beings with ideas in their heads; moreover, and every single one of them had a class origin. The vast majority of those who have led our movement, or who have influenced its ideas, or who now try to influence its ideas, have not come from the working class. Even worker-revolutionaries, if and when they become full-time or 'professional revolutionaries', turn into de-classé, or even petty-bourgeois Marxists, too. And yet, the accusation that all such comrades harbour ruling-class ideas for the same sorts of reasons that the religious hold onto their beliefs is regarded by dialecticians as so obviously wrong, it is treated with contempt, and the one making this allegation often counter-accused of "crude reductionism". Indeed, no dialectician, as far as I'm aware, has subjected the origin of 'materialist dialectics', or the reason for its acceptance by the vast majority of Marxists, to any sort of class analysis.


This clearly suggests that dialecticians see themselves as exempt from a Marxist analysis of the origin of their own ideas, and thus think they are somehow immune from the material constraints that affect the rest of humanity.


Nevertheless, it will be maintained here that the above comrades do indeed hold on to ruling-class ideas -- even if they are not aware of this fact -- and they do so for at least two reasons:


First: Because of their petty-bourgeois or non-working class origins, and as a result of the superior education they generally receive in bourgeois society, the vast majority of Marxists have had "ruling ideas", or ruling-class forms-of-thought, forced down their throats almost from day one. [More on this below. See also Essay Two, and in Essay Three Parts One and Two.]


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

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

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

Another way is to persuade the majority (or a significant section of 'opinion formers', philosophers, teachers, editors, 'intellectuals' and administrators, at least) that the present order either works for their benefit, is ordained of the 'gods', or that it is 'natural' and cannot be fought, reformed or negotiated with.

Hence, a world-view is necessary for the ruling-class to carry on ruling in the same old way. While the content of this ruling ideology may have altered with each change in the mode of production, its form has remained largely the same for thousands of years: Ultimate Truth is ascertainable by thought alone, and can therefore be imposed on reality dogmatically.

So, these non-worker founders of our movement, who had been educated to believe there is just such a hidden world 'behind appearances', which governs everything, looked for principles in that invisible world that told them that change was inevitable, and part of the cosmic order. Enter dialectics, courtesy of the dogmatic ideas of that ruling-class mystic, Hegel.

This allowed the founders of this quasi-religion to think of themselves as special, as prophets of the new order, which fact workers, alas, could not quite grasp because of their defective education and reliance on ordinary language and 'commonsense'.

'Fortunately', history has predisposed these dialectical prophets to ascertain the truth about reality for them, which means these prophets are the 'naturally-ordained' leaders of the workers' movement. That in turn means that these 'leaders' are also teachers of the 'ignorant masses', who could thus legitimately substitute themselves for the unwashed majority -- in 'their own interests', you understand --, since the masses are too caught up in 'commodity fetishism' and lost in the banalities of 'commonsense' to see the truth for themselves.

And that is why dialectics is a world-view.

It is also why dialecticians cling on to this theory like grim death (and become very emotional (and abusive!) when it is attacked by yours truly), since it provides them with a source of consolation that, despite outward appearances to the contrary, and because this hidden world tells them that Dialectical Marxism will one day be a success, everything's OK, and nothing in the core theory needs changing -- in spite of the fact that that core theory says everything changes! Hence, it is ossified into a dogma, and imposed on reality. A rather nice unity of opposites for you to ponder. [More on this below.]

So, this 'theory' insulates the militant mind from the facts.

In that case:

Dialectics is the sigh of the depressed dialectician, the heart of a heartless world. It is the opiate of the party. The abolition of dialectics as the illusory happiness of the party hack is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.

Hence, these sad characters will need (materialist) workers to rescue them from themselves.


Second: as noted above, because Dialectical Marxism is so unbelievably unsuccessful, revolutionaries have had to convince themselves that this isn't so, that the opposite is indeed the case, or that this is only a temporary state of affairs --, otherwise they'd just give up. Because dialectics teaches that appearances are "contradicted" by underlying "essences", it fulfils a unique role in this regard; hence, it is able to provide comrades with much needed consolation in the face of such long-term failure, telling them that everything is peachy, or that things will change for the better one day. This 'allows' Dialectical Marxists to ignore this long-term failure, rationalising it as a mere "appearance" and hence false, or illusory. So, faced with any and all set-backs, revolutionaries almost invariably respond with a "Well that doesn't prove dialectics is wrong!"


So, just like the religious, who can look at all the evil in the world and still see it as an expression of the 'God of Love', who will make all things well in the future, dialecticians can look at the last 150 years and still see the 'Logic of History' moving their way, and that all will be well in the end. This means that the theory that prevents them from looking at reality objectively is also the theory that helps guarantee another generation of failure by masking it. [This theme is developed below, and in Essay Ten Part One (where the usual objections to this way of seeing things are neutralised).]


Despite this, it might still be wondered how this relates to anything that is even remotely applicable to the theories entertained by hard-headed dialectical atheists. Surely, it could be argued, any attempt to retrace a commitment to Materialist Dialectics to its alleged origin in alienated fantasy is both a reductionist and an idealist explanation?


Fortunately, Lenin himself supplied a materialist answer to this apparent conundrum, and John Rees kindly outlined it for us when he depicted the period following the failed 1905 Russian revolution in the following terms:


"[T]he defeat of the 1905 revolution, like all such defeats, carried confusion and demoralisation into the ranks of the revolutionaries…. The forward rush of the revolution had helped unite the leadership…on strategic questions and so…intellectual differences could be left to private disagreement. But when defeat magnifies every tactical disagreement, forcing revolutionaries to derive fresh strategies from a re-examination of the fundamentals of Marxism, theoretical differences were bound to become important. As Tony Cliff explains:


"'With politics apparently failing to overcome the horrors of the Tsarist regime, escape into the realm of philosophical speculation became the fashion….'


"Philosophical fashion took a subjectivist, personal, and sometimes religious turn…. Bogdanov drew inspiration from the theories of physicist Ernst Mach and philosopher Richard Avenarius…. [Mach retreated] from Kant's ambiguous idealism to the pure idealism of Berkeley and Hume….


"It was indeed Mach and Bogdanov's 'ignorance of dialectics' that allowed them to 'slip into idealism.' Lenin was right to highlight the link between Bogdanov's adoption of idealism and his failure to react correctly to the downturn in the level of the struggle in Russia." [Rees (1998), pp.173-79, quoting Cliff (1975), p.290. Bold emphases added. (However, I can find no reference to "dialectics" in Cliff's book.)]


[References can be found in the Bibliography at the end of Essay Nine Part Two.]


As Cliff goes on to argue:


"With politics apparently failing to overcome the horrors of the Tsarist regime, escape into the realm of philosophical speculation became the fashion. And in the absence of any contact with a real mass movement, everything had to be proved from scratch -- nothing in the traditions of the movement, none of its fundamentals, was immune from constant questioning.


"...In this discussion Bogdanov, Lunacharsky, Bazarov and others tried to combine marxism with the neo-Kantian theory of knowledge put forward by Ernst Mach, and Richard Avenarius. Lunacharsky went as far as to speak openly in favour of fideism. Lunacharsky used religious metaphors, speaking about 'God-seeking' and 'God-building'. Gorky was influenced by Bogdanov and Lunacharsky....


"Lenin's reaction was very sharp indeed. He wrote to Gorky, 'The Catholic priest corrupting young much less dangerous precisely to "democracy" than a priest without his robes, a priest without crude religion, an ideologically equipped and democratic priest preaching the creation and invention of a god.'" [Cliff (1975), pp.290-91. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at my site.]


It is quite clear from this that the experience of defeat (and the lack of materialist input from a mass working-class movement) redirected the attention of certain revolutionaries toward Idealism and to searching for a mystical explanation for the serious set-backs Russian Marxists had witnessed after 1905. Plainly, that search provided these comrades with some form of consolation -- just as Marx alleged of religion pure and simple.


But, there is another outcome that Rees and others have clearly failed to notice: this major set-back turned Lenin toward Philosophy and dialectics. These were subjects which he had largely ignored up until then. While it is true that Bogdanov and the rest turned to Mach, Berkeley, Subjective Idealism, and other assorted irrationalisms, it is equally clear that Lenin too reverted to Hegel and 'objective' Mysticism.


Nevertheless, Lenin's warning shows that revolutionaries themselves are not immune to the pressures that lead human beings in general to seek consolation in order to counteract disappointment, demoralisation and alienation. As we have seen, Lenin was well aware that alien-class ideas (which 'satisfied' such needs) could enter the workers' movement from the "outside" at certain times.


So, Marx, because of his class position, was predisposed to accept and adopt the sort of a priori dogmatism one finds in Hegel, too.


As far as the dialectical-'faithful' are concerned, all this will fail to go even in one ear, let alone straight out through the other. This is because they refuse to accept that any of the pressures that bear down on the rest of us ordinary human beings could possibly have any effect them, the Dialectical Elect. In that case, social psychology does not apply to such demi-gods.


However, dialecticians are quite happy to reduce their opponents' ideas to their class origins; indeed they do this all the time. In contrast, any attempt to do the same with respect to their own philosophical ideas --, which would trace the fondness leading dialecticians have for Philosophy back to the class origin and class position of these individuals --, is rejected out-of-hand as "crude reductionism"!


But, Lenin was quite happy to 'reduce' his opponents' politics to their class position:


"In a word, Comrade Martov's formula will either remain a dead letter, an empty phrase, or it will be of benefit mainly and almost exclusively to 'intellectuals who are thoroughly imbued with bourgeois individualism' and do not wish to join an organisation. In words, Martov's formulation defends the interests of the broad strata of the proletariat, but in fact it serves the interests of the bourgeois intellectuals, who fight shy of proletarian discipline and organisation. No one will venture to deny that the intelligentsia, as a special stratum of modern capitalist society, is characterised, by and large, precisely by individualism and incapacity for discipline and organisation (cf., for example, Kautsky's well-known articles on the intelligentsia). This, incidentally, is a feature which unfavourably distinguishes this social stratum from the proletariat; it is one of the reasons for the flabbiness and instability of the intellectual, which the proletariat so often feels; and this trait of the intelligentsia is intimately bound up with its customary mode of life, its mode of earning a livelihood, which in a great many respects approximates to the petty-bourgeois mode of existence (working in isolation or in very small groups, etc.). Nor is it fortuitous, lastly, that the defenders of Comrade Martov's formulation were the ones who had to cite the example of professors and high school students! It was not champions of a broad proletarian struggle who, in the controversy over Paragraph 1, took the field against champions of a radically conspiratorial organisation, as Comrades Martynov and Axelrod thought, but the supporters of bourgeois-intellectual individualism who clashed with the supporters of proletarian organisation and discipline." [Lenin (1947), pp.66-67. Bold emphasis added.]


And later on, quoting Kautsky on the social psychology of his opponents, Lenin argued:


"One cannot help recalling in this connection the brilliant social and psychological characterisation of this latter quality recently given by Karl Kautsky. The Social Democratic parties of different countries suffer not infrequently nowadays from similar maladies, and it would be very, very useful for us to learn from more experienced comrades the correct diagnosis and the correct cure. Karl Kautsky's characterisation of certain intellectuals will therefore be only a seeming digression from our theme.


'The problem...that again interests us so keenly today is the antagonism between the intelligentsia and the proletariat. My colleagues [Kautsky is himself an intellectual, a writer and editor] will mostly be indignant that I admit this antagonism. But it actually exists, and, as in other cases, it would be the most inexpedient tactics to try to overcome the fact by denying it. This antagonism is a social one, it relates to classes, not to individuals. The individual intellectual, like the individual capitalist, may identify himself with the proletariat in its class struggle. When he does, he changes his character too. It is not this type of intellectual, who is still an exception among his class, that we shall mainly speak of in what follows. Unless otherwise stated, I shall use the word intellectual to mean only the common run of intellectual who takes the stand of bourgeois society, and who is characteristic of the intelligentsia as a class. This class stands in a certain antagonism to the proletariat.


'This antagonism differs, however, from the antagonism between labour and capital. The intellectual is not a capitalist. True, his standard of life is bourgeois, and he must maintain it if he is not to become a pauper; but at the same time he is compelled to sell the product of his labour, and often his labour-power, and is himself often enough exploited and humiliated by the capitalist. Hence the intellectual does not stand in any economic antagonism to the proletariat. But his status of life and his conditions of labour are not proletarian, and this gives rise to a certain antagonism in sentiments and ideas.


'...Quite different is the case of the intellectual. He does not fight by means of power, but by argument. His weapons are his personal knowledge, his personal ability, his personal convictions. He can attain to any position at all only through his personal qualities. Hence the freest play for his individuality seems to him the prime condition for successful activity. It is only with difficulty that he submits to being a part subordinate to a whole, and then only from necessity, not from inclination. He recognises the need of discipline only for the mass, not for the elect minds. And of course he counts himself among the latter....


'...The typical intellectual à la Stockmann regards a "compact majority" as a monster that must be overthrown....'


"Just such feeble whining of intellectuals who happened to find themselves in the minority, and nothing more, was the refusal of Martov and his friends to be named for office merely because the old circle had not been endorsed, as were their complaints of a state of siege and emergency laws 'against particular groups', which Martov cared nothing about when Yuzhny Rabochy and Rabocheye Dyelo were dissolved, but only came to care about when his group was dissolved.


"Just such feeble whining of intellectuals who happened to find themselves in the minority was that endless torrent of complaints, reproaches, hints, accusations, slanders, and insinuations regarding the 'compact majority' which was started by Martov and which poured out in such a flood at our Party Congress (and even more so after).


"The minority bitterly complained of the 'false accusation of opportunism'. Well, it had to do something to conceal the unpleasant fact that it was opportunists, who in most cases had followed the anti-Iskra-ists—and partly these anti-Iskra-ists themselves -- that made up the compact minority, seizing with both hands on the championship of the circle spirit in Party institutions, opportunism in arguments, philistinism in Party affairs, and the instability and wishy-washiness of the intellectual." [Ibid., pp.121-24. Bold emphasis added; quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]


In that case, for dialecticians like Lenin, it was quite legitimate to 'reduce' opponents' ideas to their class position, but not one's own.


Theorists are quite right to point out that when, for example, union militants are drafted into the trade union machine, becoming bureaucrats themselves, their new material conditions have a predictable effect on their ideas and attitudes (for instance, how they regard strikes), and yet they will resist the same conclusion when it is applied to themselves and their material circumstances.


The only conclusion possible here is that it must be a sheer coincidence that revolutionary parties the world over have replicated, time and again, practically every single fault and foible that afflicts the god-botherers among us -- even down to their reliance on an obscure book about an invisible 'Being' (i.e., Hegel's Logic).


So, while all these faults and foibles have well-known material roots when they descend upon the superstitious, they apparently have no cause whatsoever when they similarly grace the sanctified lives of our very own Dialectical Saints. These faults and foibles can thus safely be ignored, never spoken about in polite company.


Until, that is, such comrades are caught with their dialectical pants down -- and even then this can be brushed aside as yet more "bourgeois propaganda".


Unsurprisingly, this just means that the Dialectical Merry-go-round will take another spin across the flatlands of failure, its participants ever more convinced of their semi-divine infallibility.


[These sections have come from here, where the above issues are thrashed out in more detail, and details of the above references can be found.]


And the same comments, it seems, apply to the comrades with whom I am debating this topic -- who have yet to tell me what a 'dialectical contradiction' is.


[Lest some fingers are pointed at me -- I am working class, and up until recently I was a trade union rep (unpaid). (On why workers are not quite so gullible, see here.)]




The anal retentiveness is YOUR anal retentiveness, because lacking a formal model where to fit the dialectic, and reduce it to YOUR sterile mind games, (I don’t mean to scare you by putting YOUR in caps, I only want to stress these are your actions, it is time for you to understand where they come from as pertains your social being) you think advancing the interests of workers is a question of convincing comrades of your philosophy, which is bourgeois pragmatism in disguise, instead of, as it were, engaging in the real movement, or more to the point, the production of an objective consciousness.

Yes I got that -- a point you keep making rather anally, too. And we know why: it saves you having to confront the uncomfortable (if not constipated) fact that you clearly don't know what a 'dialectical contradiction' is.


And, yes, my social being (as part of the working class) means I will never fall for mystical ideas like these. But, as the above shows, your social being means the exact opposite in your case.


But, what about this?


your philosophy, which is bourgeois pragmatism in disguise, instead of, as it were, engaging in the real movement, or more to the point, the production of an objective consciousness.


Well, I don't have a philosophy, and nor do I want one. Indeed, my whole site is set against that useless off-shoot of ruling-class thought, but more pointedly against the fourth-rate metaphysics to be found in the material Marxists imported from Hegel (upside down, or 'the right way up').


And what the hell is an "objective consciousness" -- a sort of disembodied collective mind, maybe?


Comrade Mage replied:


As I pointed out, mathematics is entirely a process of inference. If mathematics does not deal with reality, neither does science. Does RL deal with reality?


Sure mathematicians make inferences, but then so do theologians. Does this mean that they "deal with reality"?


It could be responded that theology isn't entirely a "process of inference"; maybe so, but those parts that are, do they "deal with reality"? I think not.


Of course, apart from the more esoteric areas of Pure Mathematics, mathematics is a body of rules we use to make sense of the world, and which we employ to help 'balance the books of nature', so to speak. But, mathematics "deals with reality" only if one is a Platonist. Where in the world, for example, is a Hermite Polynomial, a Partial Differential Equation or even an Abelian Group? And, are we to suppose that in a Scalar Field there are Real or Complex Numbers (many of which are non-terminating, non-recurring decimals) floating about in space? Or that in a Vector Field there are little arrows all pointing in certain directions? Or even that there are Geodesics, everyone of which is infinitely thin, made of nothing at all -- and yet infinitely strong --, running throughout the entire universe, along which all objects in a gravitational field must move, as if they were glued to tram lines?


Not even science fiction fantasists believe any of this.


But, what about the claim that if this were so, then science doesn't "deal with reality"? Certainly scientists use mathematics to help them explain the world, but then they study this world, not a Platonic world in which these mathematical entities are supposed to exist, or to which they allegedly refer, or, indeed, which they supposedly "reflect". As we saw above, there is no way they can refer to this world (that is, if they are even capable of operating referentially, to begin with).


Does RL deal with reality?


So far as I can see, I do. What on earth made comrade Mage think I don't?


And yet, how does any of this help us understand what a 'dialectical contradiction' is? None at all. But, it does underline the point I made in my last response:


[I]t is quite obvious why these characters do this: to distract attention from the fact that not one of them can tell us what a 'dialectical contradiction' is.


So, the search goes on: Is there anyone on the planet who can tell us what one of these obscure Hegelian 'contradictions' is (upside down, or the 'right way up')?


After all we have only been waiting now for 200 years...




Shane Mage responded as follows:


Where in the world? It is Wittgenstein who said "Die Welt ist Alles dass der Fall ist" -- The world is everything that is the case. If the mathematical propositions that Rosa refers to are correct, then they are the case. If they are the case they are part of the world just as we are -- except even more so, because we will die and no longer be the case while they will continue to be the case forever.

Indeed, Wittgenstein did say this (in the Tractatus), but he also argued that mathematical and logical propositions were senseless (Sinnlos). In his later work he changed his mind, coming to believe that a mathematical proposition is the expression of a rule, just as I have argued.


I think you are doing what Wittgenstein warned against (in the Tractatus -- which was a view he maintained all his life): you are mistaking the forms by means of which we attempt to understand the world with objects and processes in the world -- that is, of confusing the 'eyeglass' that allows us to see things with the things we actually see (to use Kant's metaphor).


So, the 'everything that is the case' doesn't include mathematical propositions (since they are neither true nor false, they are "senseless", in the Tractatus), they are part of the means by which we are able to construct true or false propositions about the world. More-or-less the same is the case in his later work, but there is a complete change of emphasis, as I noted above. Mathematical rules (where applicable) are the socially- and historically-conditioned tools by which we are able to form true or false propositions about the world, in the sciences and elsewhere, and by means of which we carry out practical tasks (such as counting, measuring and weighing).




Comrade Kosloff replied as follows:


Well, I said what I wanted to say and Rosa keeps evading my remarks to the effect that she wants to understand dialectics only from the speculative standpoint because, and I say this in a comradely way, she can only read them abstractly, so I think I'll put it to rest. The discussion at RevLeft shows this too on Rosa's part.

But I appreciate she addresses me as a comrade, and so as a comrade, I'll leave her a quote from one of my favourite singers'

"Que no te den la razón los espejos, que te aproveche mirar lo que mirás." -- Joaquín Sabina

which means "Don't let mirrors be the ones who prove you right, let looking that which you're looking at be of benefit to you."


What is 'abstract' or 'speculative' about the question: What the hell is a 'dialectical contradiction'? One suspects yet another smokescreen here from comrade Kosloff.


And thanks for the line from that song; alas, it makes marginally less sense than Hegel's 'Logic'.


So, and once more: it is no good looking to comrade Kosloff for help, since it is quite plain by now that he, too, doesn't know what a 'dialectical contradiction' is.


The search goes on...



Tom Cod took exception to my remarks about mathematics:


C'mon, applied math is at the heart of science and engineering and lots more so it has a lot of "materiality"; a powerful human ideology that has transformed the world, technical though it may be. You don't have to be an expert, Red or otherwise, to see that.

You are talking to the converted here, Tom; as a mathematician myself, I agree with you. I can't think what is was about what I said that even remotely suggested otherwise.


A clue, perhaps, can be found in the word "materiality"; but until you say more, I can't say more either.




At a different site, Ian Wright responded to an earlier reply of mine:


Apart from the naive physics, which harms her argument, nonetheless Rosa's contention that a resultant force cannot be the result of separate, underlying forces that are ontologically distinct is significant. I very much recommend that Rosa read Roy Bhaskar's "A Realist Theory of Science" because in that book Bhaskar diagnoses and critiques a philosophical stance called "actualism", which denies the existence of underlying, hidden, separate and enduring mechanisms that together determine the empirical stream of events. In this paragraph, Rosa is taking an "actualist" stance.


But we don't have to enter the sometimes esoteric realm of physics to make the point about the existence of real contradictions. Consider a game of tug-o-war. One side is trying to pull the rope to the left, another side is trying to pull the rope to the right. The "attractor state" of each team mutually excludes the other (it's not possible that both teams can win at the same time). So what happens? Emergent dynamics.

Ian, you must remember that the section on forces I added to my last reply was a brief summary of a 100,000 word Essay on forces and 'contradictions', where I go into this in more depth, just as you need to remember that my Essays aren't aimed at experts, but at the average Marxist, not all of whom have a mathematics degree, like me. So, I have to simplify things considerably.


Now, I have read Bhaskar's book, and I don't see how it helps at all. Moreover, I am not taking an 'actualist' stance. In fact, I question the sort of metaphysics people like Bhaskar have imposed on the world (indeed, it is no surprise to me that Bhaskar has lapsed now into open and honest mysticism). In fact, I take no stance at all on either side of this philosophical issue, since I hold that all philosophical theories are non-sensical. [My reasons for saying that are spelt out in detail here -- summarised here.]


Moreover, I fail to see how a tug-of-war is an example of a "dialectical contradiction" (a term that is still in want of clear explanation). Each side doesn't "exclude" the other or there'd be no match. What they are in fact trying to do is prevent the other side from winning, but I covered that option in my last reply to you.


Nor do they turn into one another, which is what the DM-classics tell us they must do.


"Emergent dynamics"?




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