Dialectical Materialism Exam: The Final Paper -- 2023

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1) Work steadily through; attempt every question.


2) Extra marks will be awarded for inconsistency, and an automatic pass granted to any candidate who submits contradictory answers.


3) The use of incomprehensible jargon is mandatory; any attempt at clarity will be severely penalised.


Begin when ready.




Question One


(a) Since the following statement by Lenin is abstract -- it manifestly isn't "concrete" -- and we are told that truth is "never abstract", explain in detail how it can still be true:


Dialectical logic holds that "truth is always concrete, never abstract".... [Lenin, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation And The Mistakes Of Comrades Trotsky And Bukharin. Bold emphases added.]


(b) In light of your answer to (a) above, explain how, if that abstract statement is itself true, why Lenin was still correct to say that truth is "always concrete, never abstract".


Question Two


In view of your answer either part of Question One, explain how Engels may be regarded as a materialist when he asserted that matter is just an "abstraction".

Question Three


(a) Lenin also said the following:


It is impossible completely to understand Marx's Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel's Logic. [Volume 38, Collected Works. Bold emphasis alone added.]


But, did the fact that Lenin admitted he himself couldn't understand parts of Hegel's Logic mean he didn't actually understand Das Kapital?


(b) Explain in detail why Marx never made that claim about his own work.

[Hint: Ignore these awkward facts -- every other dialectician does!]

Question Four


According to Engels:


Motion itself is a contradiction; even simple mechanical change of place can only come about through a body being both in one place and in another place at one and the same moment of time, being in one and the same place and also not in it. And the continual assertion and simultaneous solution of this contradiction is precisely what motion is. [Anti-Dühring. Bold added.]


(a) Who did all that 'asserting' and 'solving' before human beings evolved?


(b) Does the above imply that:


(i) Engels believed that moving objects (or whatever controlled them) are intelligent?




(ii) Objects only began to move after sentient life evolved?


If not, why not?


(c) If:


(i) 'Contradictions' are the result of a "struggle of opposites"; and,


(ii) All motion is a "contradiction"; and,


(iii) All change is caused by "internal contradictions",


explain precisely what sort of 'struggle' is going on inside, say, a billiard ball that keeps it moving.


(d) In the light of George Novack's comment in Question Five, below:


(i) Does the above 'abstract', 'theoretical' argument advanced by Engels show he was an Idealist?


(ii) If not, what physical evidence can you cite that substantiates his assertion about motion -- i.e., that it is a 'contradiction' and that moving objects are in two places at once, in one place and not in it at the same time?


(e) Engels tells us that "a [moving] body [is] both in one place and in another place at one and the same moment" -- that is, it is in two places at the same time.




(i) How far apart are the two places that such a moving body occupies?


(ii) If your answer to (i) is that it doesn't matter how far apart they are, that must mean that any distance will do. In that case, five kilometres is as good as a nanometre. In turn this means that when you are, say, waiting for a bus, and the bus depot is five kilometres from the stop where you are stood, that bus must leave the depot at the exact same time as it arrives at your stop.


(1) Where does the above inference go wrong?


(2) Does this prompt you to change your answer to (i)? If so, what is your new answer?


(iii) Again, if Engels is correct that a moving object is in two places at the same moment, it must also be in a third place at the same time as it is in the second, otherwise it will be stationary at the second location (since it also has to be in the second and third place at the same time). But this must apply to the third and the fourth, the fourth and the fifth, the fifth and the sixth..., and so on. In other words, a moving object must occupy every point in its trajectory at the same time.


Explain in detail where this line of reasoning goes wrong. [Then check this out to see if you were right.]


(iv) Furthermore, a 'dialectically-moving' body can't have been in the first of these two places before it was in the second, nor could it have been in the second after it was in the first -- since, according to Engels, it is in both at the same time. In that case, it can't move from the first to the second place, either -- otherwise it would be in the first before it was in the second. That must apply to the second and the third place, too -- and, indeed, to every subsequent location along its trajectory. So:


(1) Does this mean that there is no such thing as before and after when such objects move, according to Engels?


(2) Does this in turn mean that the bus mentioned above didn't leave the depot before it arrived at your stop -- nor that it arrived at your stop after it left the depot -- since it did both at the same time?


(3) Does this further mean that there is no such thing as during when a body moves along its path? Finally, does this in turn mean that while you might think you were on a bus during, say, a ten mile journey, according to Engels, you're sadly mistaken?


(4) If not, why not?


(v) If an object is in two places at the same time, explain in detail how can it accelerate? Acceleration means occupying more places in the same interval of time, but how is that possible if moving objects occupy two places at the same time?


[The following considerations might assist you in writing your answer: when accelerating, either (a) The two places a moving body occupies are actually further apart, or (b) A moving body occupies more than two places at once. But, between any two points there is not only a third point, there is a potentially infinite number of points. So, (a) and (b) are in fact the same. That being so, non-accelerating bodies must also occupy more than two places at once (unless they skip past, but don't occupy, countless such intermediate points). If so, how can an accelerating body occupy more than a potentially infinite number of places at the same time? (This objection was originally raised by Leibniz.) If such a body can't occupy more points, how can it accelerate?]


[In the above, the word "accelerate" is being used as it is in ordinary language, not as it is employed in physics or applied mathematics.]


Question Five


(a) Is 'Being' identical with but at the same time different from 'Nothing', the 'contradiction' resolved in 'Becoming'?


[The above is a paraphrase of a key argument in Hegel's Science of Logic, Chapter One, a foundation stone of 'the dialectic method', which was endorsed by Lenin and Trotsky as a work of genius.]


In your answer, make sure you explain upon which real, material forces, processes, evidence or practice the above assertion is itself based -- ignoring totally this ridiculous comment (by a confused Trotskyist):


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.... [George Novack, The Origin of Materialism, p.17. Bold emphasis added.]


(b) If you can't explain which real, material forces, processes, evidence or practice the above paraphrase is itself based, does this mean that 'the dialectic method' in fact enjoys no rational support whatsoever, and that change isn't an inherent property of 'Being'?


[Recall, denying that change is an inherent property of 'being' doesn't imply the opposite is the case, i.e., that nothing changes. In fact, it leaves this question to the sciences to answer, thus refusing to impose a given doctrine on nature.]


Question Six


According to Lenin:


Among the elements of dialectics are the following: Internally contradictory tendencies…in (a thing)…as the sum and unity of opposites…. (This involves) not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other.... [Volume 38, Collected Works. Bold emphasis added.]


(a) If "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [transitions] into every other", explain in detail why, among other things, this doesn't mean that you are about to change into a giant squid -- and it into you!


(b) If not, was Lenin wrong that "every determination, quality, feature, side, property [transitions] into every other"?


(c) If Lenin was wrong, does it in turn mean that:


(1) Some "determinations, qualities, features, sides, properties" are in fact changeless, even if only temporarily?


(2) If some things remain the same, even if only temporarily, does that once again mean that change isn't an inherent property of matter and Trotsky was wrong when he said this, "All bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour etc. They are never equal to themselves"?


(3) If not, why not?


Question Seven


(a) Explain fully why there is no conflict at all between these two quotations from Engels:


(i) Finally, for me there could be no question of superimposing the laws of dialectics on nature.... [Anti-Dühring. Bold added.]

(ii) 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. [
Anti-Dühring. Bold emphases added.]


(b) Explain, too, how Lenin could possibly have known the following for a fact (other than by confining his 'research' to reading Hegel's Logic):


(iii) Cognition is the eternal, endless approximation of thought to the object. [Philosophical Notebooks, p.195.]


(c) If the above was indeed known by Lenin -- implying that this particular thought must have corresponded to its "object", if what it says is in fact the case --, does this mean that Lenin had actually managed to transcend the limitations of space and time, and had completed just such an "eternal" approximation -- which, because of that, shows that that process wasn't "endless", after all?


(d) In light of Question One, how can comments (ii) and (iii) above be true if they aren't 'concrete', but are plainly 'abstract'?


Question Eight


In addition, Lenin said the following:


Our sensation, our consciousness is only an image of the external world, and it is obvious that an image cannot exist without the thing imaged, and that the latter exists independently of that which images it. Materialism deliberately makes the 'naïve' belief of mankind the foundation of its theory of knowledge. [Materialism and Empirio-criticism, p.69. Bold emphasis added.]


The image inevitably and of necessity implies the objective reality of that which it 'images.' [Ibid., p.279. Bold emphasis added.]


(a) However, if all we have available to us are images (and Lenin didn't in fact offer any other source of knowledge -- see below), and if an image "inevitably and of necessity implies the objective reality of that which it images" (emphases added), does this mean that Lenin must have believed in the real existence of Santa Claus -- since it is easy to form an image of 'him'?


(b) If not, was Lenin wrong to say that an image "inevitably and of necessity implies the objective reality of that which it images"? [Emphases added.]


(c) Again, if not, then on what basis was Lenin able to distinguish reliable from unreliable images?


[Remember, he can't appeal to practice to help him decide since, on his own admission, all he has available to him are images of practice and images of the results of practice, and he doesn't yet know whether or not such images are reliable. Nor can he appeal to the common understanding of ordinary folk, 'commonsense', past experience, past practice/knowledge, or even science, since, once again, all he has, even here, are images of ordinary folk and what they do or do not believe, images of past practice, experience, 'commonsense' and the results of scientific research. A not-as-yet-shown-to-be-reliable-image can hardly turn another not-as-yet-shown-to-be-reliable-image into a reliable image.]


(d) Does this mean that Lenin was in fact a closet solipsist?


(e) If not, why not?


[Solipsism is explained here.]


Question Nine


(a) If everything in the entire universe is a unity (if not, an identity) of polar opposites, locked in ceaseless 'struggle' -- which opposites, according to the dialectical classics, inevitably turn into one another -- explain why that doesn't mean:


(i) Electrons will change into protons (and vice versa) after 'struggling' with them; and'


(ii) The proletariat will change into the bourgeoisie (and vice versa).


(b) In view of the above, also explain why the medieval peasantry didn't turn into the feudal aristocracy (and vice versa).


(c) In addition, explain why it doesn't mean that:


(i) The relations of production will turn into the forces of production;


(ii) The relative form of value will change into the equivalent form; and,


(iii) Material objects and processes will change into immaterial objects and processes (and vice versa).


(d) Explain how, if the relative form of value contradicts the equivalent form of value and is therefore its 'dialectical opposite', it is able to "struggle" with the equivalent form of value and then turn into it (i.e., if, according to the dialectical classics, all 'dialectical opposites' are engaged in just such a "struggle" and all change into their opposites)?


(e) If it doesn't mean any of the above, what is the point of the dialectical classics asserting that everything "struggles" with, and then "inevitably" changes into, its opposite?


(f) Finally, explain in detail why this doesn't also mean that, if Dialectical Materialism were true, change would be impossible.


Question Ten


Engels famously informed us that:


The turning point in mathematics was Descartes' variable magnitude. With that came motion and hence dialectics in mathematics, and at once, too, of necessity the differential and integral calculus…. [Engels, Dialectics of Nature, p.258.]


In addition to that, the vast majority of dialecticians assert things like the following:


"Formal logic regards things as fixed and motionless." [Rob Sewell.]


"Formal categories, putting things in labelled boxes, will always be an inadequate way of looking at change and development…because a static definition cannot cope with the way in which a new content emerges from old conditions." [John Rees, The Algebra of Revolution, p.59.]


"There are three fundamental laws of formal logic. First and most important is the law of identity.… If a thing is always and under all conditions equal or identical with itself, it can never be unequal or different from itself." [George Novack, An Introduction To The Logic Of Marxism, p.20.]


[Full details concerning the above sources can be accessed here.]


(a) Explain why even though Aristotle introduced variables into Formal Logic 2400 years ago -- and logicians have been using them ever since -- Formal Logic has been singled out for criticism while mathematics hasn't.


(b) Can you quote, cite or even reference a single logic text (other than those egregiously mis-titled books by Hegel that used the word "logic" in that title) that supports the view that Formal Logic teaches that "things are fixed and motionless"?


(c) If not, can you explain why dialecticians keep asserting such things despite the fact that there isn't a shred of evidence in their support?


(d) Indeed, why do you think they also refuse to tell their readers that Aristotle knew nothing of the so-called 'Law of Identity', and that it was in fact a Roman Catholic invention, concocted in the Middle Ages?


(e) Explain in detail why Marx and Engels's 'dialectical' theory of the Calculus doesn't put mathematical theory back to where it had been in the early 18th century.


(f) Finally, if the 'Law of Identity' doesn't actually preclude change -- since, if an object changes, anything identical to it will change equally quickly --, explain clearly why the entire 'dialectic' doesn't completely fall apart as a result.


Question Eleven


Which ruling-class theory (upside down or the 'the right way up') can you name that will help guarantee revolutionary socialists will have to endure another 140+ years of almost total failure?

[Hint: this theory was concocted by a Mystical Idealist and Christian Hermeticist who lived in Germany about 200 years ago. Fortunately, it is also totally incomprehensible --, which, despite what you might think, has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the 'dialectical left' has been going virtually nowhere slowly for much of the last century.]


Question Twelve


In the light of Question Eleven, complete the following sentence:


"Everything in the entire universe is interconnected, except...".

[Spoiler: "...the long term failure of Dialectical Marxism and its core theory, 'Materialist Dialectics'."]


[Note the use of the term "Dialectical Marxism", in the above -- the non-dialectical version hasn't been road-tested yet.]


Question Thirteen


Lenin also said the following:


Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in change, in "self-movement"…. [Lenin, Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation And The Mistakes Of Comrades Trotsky And Bukharin. Italic emphasis added.]


In light of Question 4(c), if all objects "self-move", how many dialecticians does it take to change a light bulb?

[Warning: the facetious answer we got last year -- i.e., "None at all, the light bulb changes itself" -- will result in an automatic fail.]


Question Fourteen


(i) Lenin committed himself to the following view of 'matter and mind':


The 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. [Lenin, Materialism and Empiriocriticism, p.311.]


Thus…the concept of matter…epistemologically implies nothing but objective reality existing independently of the human mind and reflected by it. [Ibid., p.312.]


It is the 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. [Ibid., p.314. Bold emphases alone added.]


However, since:


(ii)  The 'mind' can't be outside itself; and,


(iii)  Only those objects and processes which are outside the 'mind' can be regarded as material (according to Lenin);


(iv) Explain in detail why:


(a) It would be incorrect to conclude that 'the mind' is immaterial.


(b) In view of the fact that dialecticians continually tell us that they refuse to impose their ideas on the world, what scientific evidence did Lenin offer in support of the things he asserted in (i) above?


(c) Finally, does this mean that Lenin was an Idealist?


Remember once again to pay absolutely no heed to these patently absurd comments (which not even George Novack paid any attention to in his book on 'Dialectical Logic'!):


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.... [George Novack, The Origin of Materialism, p.17. Bold emphasis added.]




Now, comrades, do yourself a favour: read this summary of some of my main objections to this failed theory.



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