Thread: On Anti-Dialectics

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  1. #1
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    [FONT=Verdana]Sorry about the last post, I started to do it, then had technical problem and couldn't finish till now.

    I was reading from Rosa's link on "Anti-Dialectics For Dummies". Although I am not the first to discuss this, and hopefully not the last, I am going to address a few things contained in it that I thought should be addressed. Knowing on the outset that this discussion will almost certainly degenerate into a heated debate about "What Mao meant by 'contradiction'" or "Was the USSR a qualitative or quantitative leap" (or some other topic that really deserves its own thread), I will try to get it all out here in the beginning and stick with the debate as long as it remains on topic. Here we go!

    Originally Posted by Rosa
    And yet, this theory is much more than this, for dialecticians also believe that the world is an integrated whole, a "Totality", with all its parts interconnected and interdependent...Ruling elites have always seen the world this way; no less so Hegel.
    First of all, in Hegel's time the ruling class was not the bourgeoisie. It was the feudal aristocracy. Hegel himself was a bourgeois revolutionary. That being said, i don't think this statement is quite true. Maybe some held the view that the "universe is a totality", although I don't think this became a ruling class idea until existentialism in the 19th/20th century, if they did it was always tinged with a metaphysical perspective that really changed their practical outlook. They did not recognize the internal changes in a thing, only the external. Using this logic, everything that exists has always existed. Capitalism has always been here, in one form or another. But this is, of course, entirely false. Hegel's dialectics were very revolutionary, but he could only take it so far.

    Originally Posted by Rosa
    The 1917 revolution has been reversed, practically every single 'socialist' state has abandoned Marxism, all four internationals have gone down the pan, and few revolutionary parties these days can boast active membership levels that rise much above the risible. To cap it all, billions of workers world-wide not only ignore DM, they have never even heard of it.
    Well, firstly, 300 years ago bourgeois revolutionaries were undergoing the same types of problems. They were jailed and repressed. Their revolutionary concepts were easier to carry out because they already had an enormous wealth, just not the legal groundwork necessary to expand it, which is what they were fighting for. I don't think it's fair to say that since there isn't a strong revolutionary movement in Britain or the US that dialectics is false. By that logic you could say that Marxism itself is bogus, but that would be ignoring all the scientific evidence that supports it. Not many workers today understand trigonometry, or have even heard of Newton’s equation for determining the movement of celestial bodies. Does that make it false?

    Originally Posted by Rosa
    If this is difficult to believe then ask the very next dialectician you meet precisely how long a "nodal point" is supposed to last. You will receive no answer. But, if no one knows, then anything from a Geological Age to an instantaneous quantum leap could be "nodal"!
    Although Engels may have supported a "stages theory", to put it in our modern jargon, this is not necessarily dialectical or supported by modern Marxist. It would be undialectical to see these things as rigid and structured. I think that the modern outlook is that these changes are not sudden. I don't know any Marxists who think that way. Capitalism will not presto-chango into socialism, just like water does not presto-chango into ice or steam. The organs for socialism will develop under capitalism, and soviets will likely be formed and run by the workers before the final revolution. That's what happened in Russia. Trotsky disproved the stages theory, or at least showed why it is not feasible under imperialism, by using dialectics I might add.

    Originally Posted by Rosa
    [T]here are substances studied in Chemistry called isomers. These are molecules with exactly the same atoms, but their geometrical orientation is different, which lends to each their different properties. So, here we have a change in quality caused by a change in geometry, but with the addition of no new matter or energy
    How is that not a quantitative change? If I was standing up straight, and I extend my right leg out, as though I were going to take a step that is a quantitative change. Yes I have the same amount of legs, but the quantity is not my legs, it is the distance between my legs that has changed in quantity. If I extended it too far I will lose my balance and fall over; a quantitative change creating a qualitative change.
    [/FONT][FONT=Verdana]
    [/FONT]
    Originally Posted by Rosa
    [FONT=Verdana]To see this, let us suppose that object/process A is composed of two 'internal' opposites O* and O**, and thus changes as a result. But O* cannot itself change into O** since O** already exists! If it didn't already exist, according to this theory, O* could not change, for there would be no opposite to make it do so![/FONT]
    [FONT=Verdana]

    Dialectics does not determine that O* will become O** or vice versa, but that A, through the struggle of O* and O**, will become B. A new product, created from the contradictions within A.

    Originally Posted by Rosa
    However, when asked to provide any evidence to support such bold assertions [that formal logic regards things as fixed and motionless], DM-fans go rather quiet or just become evasive.
    Who does? Not me. This guy seems pretty vocal about it:

    "The Aristotelian logic of the simple syllogism starts from the proposition that ‘A’ is equal to ‘A’. This postulate is accepted as an axiom for a multitude of practical human actions and elementary generalisations. But in reality ‘A’ is not equal to ‘A’. This is easy to prove if we observe these two letters under a lens—they are quite different from each other. But, one can object, the question is not of the size or the form of the letters, since they are only symbols for equal quantities, for instance, a pound of sugar. The objection is beside the point; in reality a pound of sugar is never equal to a pound of sugar—a more delicate scale always discloses a difference. Again one can object: but a pound of sugar is equal to itself. Neither is this true—all bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour, etc. They are never equal to themselves. A sophist will respond that a pound of sugar is equal to itself “at any given moment”.
    [/FONT] [FONT=Verdana]Aside from the extremely dubious practical value of this “axiom”, it does not withstand theoretical criticism either. How should we really conceive the word “moment”? If it is an infinitesimal interval of time, then a pound of sugar is subjected during the course of that “moment” to inevitable changes. Or is the “moment” a purely mathematical abstraction, that is, a zero of time? But everything exists in time; and existence itself is an uninterrupted process of transformation; time is consequently a fundamental element of existence. Thus the axiom ‘A’ is equal to ‘A’ signifies that a thing is equal to itself if it does not change, that is, if it does not exist." - Leon Trotsky, The ABC of DM

    [/FONT] [FONT=Verdana]I would like to state in closing that DM is an incredibly practical theory that has a real basis in our material world. But also, that "Marxism" is not the things that Marx or Engels themselves said, it is a living theory, discovered by Marx himself, but like Hegel could only take it so far. They were wrong about some things. That is why we need revolutionaries to pick up where they left off. People like Lenin and Mao, who through their understanding of DM had a safeguard from rigidity and narrow-mindedness. DM is a guiding principal which allows us to have an expanded view of the forces that control our world. It also makes Marxist one of the most optimistic of revolutionaries because we know that a change is inevitable. One day this system will come crashing in on itself. The question is: will this change be forward or backward? Socialism or barbarism?

    [/FONT] [FONT=Verdana]If anyone would like to read the sampled text, which I highly recommend you do, it can be found here:

    [/FONT] [FONT=Verdana]http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Anti-D_For_Dummies%2001.htm[/FONT]
    "The emancipation of the working class will be an act of bears." - Karl Marx

    "It's not power that corrupts, but bears." - VI Lenin

    "Political power grows from the mouth of a bear." - Mao Zedong

    "Bears are more dangerous than ideas. We don't let them have ideas. Why would we let them have bears?" - Josef Stalin
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    BT:

    First of all, in Hegel's time the ruling class was not the bourgeoisie. It was the feudal aristocracy. Hegel himself was a bourgeois revolutionary. That being said, i don't think this statement is quite true. Maybe some held the view that the "universe is a totality", although I don't think this became a ruling class idea until existentialism in the 19th/20th century, if they did it was always tinged with a metaphysical perspective that really changed their practical outlook. They did not recognize the internal changes in a thing, only the external. Using this logic, everything that exists has always existed. Capitalism has always been here, in one form or another. But this is, of course, entirely false. Hegel's dialectics were very revolutionary, but he could only take it so far.
    First, it is important to recall that I noted at the beginning of the introductory essay you read that it is precisely that, a very basic introduction. As I point out at the beginning of another such essay at my site:

    Please note that this Essay deals with very basic issues, even at the risk of over-simplification.

    It has only been ventured upon because a handful of comrades (who were not well-versed in Philosophy) wanted a very simple guide to my principle arguments against DM.

    In that case, it is not aimed at experts!

    Anyone who objects to the apparently superficial nature of the material below must take these caveats into account or navigate away from this page. It is not intended for them.

    It is worth underlining this last point since I still encounter comrades on internet discussion boards who, despite the above warning, still think this Essay is a definitive statement of my ideas.
    Now, I did address the point you raised about Hegel; when I speak of "ruling-class theory" I am in fact speaking about views which express a ruling-class view of reality, or one that is conducive to it: that there is an invisible world, underlying 'appearances', accessible to thought alone, and derivable from language a priori. It is not necessary for members of the ruling class to author such theories themselves; as Marx noted, they hire, encourage or promote 'prize-fighters' to do that for them.

    This is the form all such philosophical theories have assumed over the last 2400 years, even if the exact content has changed as each mode of production has arisen.

    Now, even though you say that Hegel was a bourgeois revolutionary, this does not affect the above point: he too was concerned to replace a medieval version of the above world-view with a bourgeois view (but I am not persuaded it was bourgeois, but we will let that go for now): that is, there is still an invisible world, underlying 'appearances', accessible to thought alone, and derivable from language a priori, only this time it's a changing reality.

    Sure it was revolutionary, but that does not mean it was true or that it did not represent a ruling-class view of reality.

    In fact, his theory is far too confused to make it that far; too confused for anyone to be able to describe it as true or false.

    Well, firstly, 300 years ago bourgeois revolutionaries were undergoing the same types of problems. They were jailed and repressed. Their revolutionary concepts were easier to carry out because they already had an enormous wealth, just not the legal groundwork necessary to expand it, which is what they were fighting for. I don't think it's fair to say that since there isn't a strong revolutionary movement in Britain or the US that dialectics is false. By that logic you could say that Marxism itself is bogus, but that would be ignoring all the scientific evidence that supports it. Not many workers today understand trigonometry, or have even heard of Newton’s equation for determining the movement of celestial bodies. Does that make it false?
    Well, every bourgeois revolution has succeeded, some very quickly --, so, if truth is tested in practice, we should all be supporters of the bourgeois system!

    Now, I nowhere argue this:

    I don't think it's fair to say that since there isn't a strong revolutionary movement in Britain or the US that dialectics is false.
    In fact, I go to some length in the longer version of this Essay at my site to counter this inference. What I do allege is that dialectics is far too confused to be described as either true or false. I then point to its ruling class origin and note that it is therefore no surprise that it has presided over 150 years of almost total failure.

    I then pose a dilemma to dialecticians: if they still believe that truth is tested in practice (a view I do not share incidentally), then practice has returned an unambiguous verdict: it can't be true. If they want to reject that verdict (as most do), then they cannot also hold on to the view that truth is tested in practice. Either way, dialectics takes a sizeable hit.

    By that logic you could say that Marxism itself is bogus, but that would be ignoring all the scientific evidence that supports it.
    I don't see the logic in this. I make no claims about Marxism, but about Dialectical Marxism. Marxism hasn't in fact been tested yet, only the spoiled version: Dialectical Marxism.

    Not many workers today understand trigonometry, or have even heard of Newton’s equation for determining the movement of celestial bodies. Does that make it false?
    One of the reasons I set my site up was to answer such obvious objections, so it is rather tedious having to field the same objections year in year out at RevLeft. Of course, you were not to know that this has been debated to death at RevLeft, many times over, and that I have answered this objection many times too, and scores of others. Here we go again:

    It's only a poor education that prevents workers from understanding, say, Newton's theory; but no amount of education will help them, or anyone else for that matter, understand dialectics. If anyone does understand dialectics, then they have kept that secret well hidden for 200 years.

    This might seem rather dogmatic, but it is based on over 25 years of intensive study and debate; I have studied everything there is to read (in English) about this theory, and have yet to find a single dialectician who can explain it in comprehensible terms. Certainly no one at RevLeft has been able to do so in the four years I have been here, and the same is true of other discussion boards I have been on. No academic dialectician has been able to do so when I have tried to debate it with them, either. You can find the evidence substantiating those allegations collected here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/RevLeft.htm

    Although Engels may have supported a "stages theory", to put it in our modern jargon, this is not necessarily dialectical or supported by modern Marxist. It would be undialectical to see these things as rigid and structured. I think that the modern outlook is that these changes are not sudden. I don't know any Marxists who think that way. Capitalism will not presto-chango into socialism, just like water does not presto-chango into ice or steam. The organs for socialism will develop under capitalism, and soviets will likely be formed and run by the workers before the final revolution. That's what happened in Russia. Trotsky disproved the stages theory, or at least showed why it is not feasible under imperialism, by using dialectics I might add.
    Engels did not hold a 'stages theory' and all the dialectical classicists argue that change is "nodal", even Trotsky did! You can find the quotations at my site:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007.htm

    Trotsky disproved the stages theory, or at least showed why it is not feasible under imperialism, by using dialectics I might add.
    But, as I pointed out, dialectics can be used to 'prove' anything you like, and it opposite, in the same breath -- and it has been used that way, many times. The Stalinists use it to show Trotsky is wrong, and so do the Maoists. They both use it to show each other is wrong. The many warring Trotskyist sects do the same to one another, too. Once more you can find the proof of these allegations at my site:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2009_02.htm

    Use the 'Quick Links' at the top to jump to Section 7: Case Studies.

    You then quote Trotsky:

    "The Aristotelian logic of the simple syllogism starts from the proposition that ‘A’ is equal to ‘A’. This postulate is accepted as an axiom for a multitude of practical human actions and elementary generalisations. But in reality ‘A’ is not equal to ‘A’. This is easy to prove if we observe these two letters under a lens—they are quite different from each other. But, one can object, the question is not of the size or the form of the letters, since they are only symbols for equal quantities, for instance, a pound of sugar. The objection is beside the point; in reality a pound of sugar is never equal to a pound of sugar—a more delicate scale always discloses a difference. Again one can object: but a pound of sugar is equal to itself. Neither is this true—all bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour, etc. They are never equal to themselves. A sophist will respond that a pound of sugar is equal to itself “at any given moment”.

    Aside from the extremely dubious practical value of this “axiom”, it does not withstand theoretical criticism either. How should we really conceive the word “moment”? If it is an infinitesimal interval of time, then a pound of sugar is subjected during the course of that “moment” to inevitable changes. Or is the “moment” a purely mathematical abstraction, that is, a zero of time? But everything exists in time; and existence itself is an uninterrupted process of transformation; time is consequently a fundamental element of existence. Thus the axiom ‘A’ is equal to ‘A’ signifies that a thing is equal to itself if it does not change, that is, if it does not exist." - Leon Trotsky, The ABC of DM
    I have in fact subjected this passage to detailed and lengthy criticism here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2006.htm

    A couple of points though:

    1) Aristotle's logic doesn't even mention the law of identity; that was invented in the middle ages. He doesn't even use this law implicitly, nor does he rely on it.

    2) Modern logic (and indeed Aristotle's logic too) can handle change quite well -- especially modern temporal and modal logics. Proof here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2004.htm

    3) Trotsky confused the law of identity with the principle of equality, so he attacked the wrong target! Now, if it is maintained that they are the same, then we have at least one example of the law of identity where it works, namely here. On the other hand, if they aren't the same, then Trotsky did indeed attack the wrong target.

    4) In order to confirm Trotsky's claims about weighing sugar we would have to do identical experiments. In that case, the law of identity will have to apply to these if we are to verify what he tells us are its limitations. But, if nothing is identical with anything else (or even itself), then we can't trust the results of any experiment that allegedly shows this, since the experiments that supposedly do this would not have been conducted in exactly the same way each time, meaning that the data obtained cannot be relied upon.

    Hence, Trotsky, or anyone who agrees with him, would have to appeal to, and rely upon, the veracity of the law of identity applied to repeated experiments in order to attempt to criticise it! On the other hand, if anyone succeeds in revealing this law's limitations, then the evidence used to do so would be unreliable (having been obtained from unreliable experiments), vitiating Trotsky's argument!

    Of course, if it's not possible to do identical experiments, then there would be no way to confirm Trotsky's claims about sugar!

    5) How does Trotsky know that everything is changing all the time? This is a dogmatic imposition onto nature of something that should only emerge after a lengthy empirical enquiry, and not be the result of a hasty 'thought' experiment.

    6) If he is right, then his words must have changed since he wrote them, which means that we no longer have access to exactly what he wrote. On the other hand, if we have access to exactly what he wrote, then not all things are changing all the time. If we can access exactly what Trotsky meant, then that at least is unchanging. In that case, Trotsky's claims themselves are unreliable, hence we can ignore them.

    7) Finally, the law of identity is no enemy of change, since, if two things are identical then they will change equally quickly. Moreover, if something is self-identical it will change equally quickly as it itself does. With those observations much of the rationale for dialectics goes out of the window.

    These, and dozens of other objections to this rather poor argument of Trotsky's, are rehearsed at length at the above link.

    How is that not a quantitative change? If I was standing up straight, and I extend my right leg out, as though I were going to take a step that is a quantitative change. Yes I have the same amount of legs, but the quantity is not my legs, it is the distance between my legs that has changed in quantity. If I extended it too far I will lose my balance and fall over; a quantitative change creating a qualitative change.
    Well, the stereoisomers I referred to have exactly the same molecules and energy, so there is no quantitative change here, merely a geometrical one.

    Now Engels and Hegel (and other dialecticians) are quite clear, there has to be an addition of energy and/or matter here; that is the 'quantity' they are referring to, not distance.

    Dialectics does not determine that O* will become O** or vice versa, but that A, through the struggle of O* and O**, will become B. A new product, created from the contradictions within A.
    Unfortunately for you, that is precisely what dialecticians like Hegel, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin and Mao (and many others, too) tell us. You can find the (many) quotations to that effect in the Mao thread, or here:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...0&postcount=76

    And that is why dialectics can't explain change -- or, alternatively, if it were true, then change would be impossible.

    I would like to state in closing that DM is an incredibly practical theory that has a real basis in our material world. But also, that "Marxism" is not the things that Marx or Engels themselves said, it is a living theory, discovered by Marx himself, but like Hegel could only take it so far. They were wrong about some things. That is why we need revolutionaries to pick up where they left off. People like Lenin and Mao, who through their understanding of DM had a safeguard from rigidity and narrow-mindedness. DM is a guiding principal which allows us to have an expanded view of the forces that control our world. It also makes Marxist one of the most optimistic of revolutionaries because we know that a change is inevitable. One day this system will come crashing in on itself. The question is: will this change be forward or backward? Socialism or barbarism?
    1) Give me one practical application of dialectics. [In fact, we have been asking for one for years here, but none has so far been forthcoming.]

    2) In fact, dialectics is itself a rigid and dogmatic system of thought. Proof here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2002.htm

    3) It has in fact presided over 150 years of almost total failure. If we want more of the same, then ignore my criticisms.

    If anyone would like to read the sampled text, which I highly recommend you do, it can be found here:
    You've read the absolute beginners, ground-floor level guide to my ideas; you now need to progress one step up:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Why%20I%20Oppose%20DM.htm

    Or, the extracts posted here:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/nti-dialec...349/index.html
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    But, as I pointed out, dialectics can be used to 'prove' anything you like, and it opposite, in the same breath -- and it has been used that way, many times. The Stalinists use it to show Trotsky is wrong, and so do the Maoists. They both use it to show each other is wrong. The many warring Trotskyist sects do the same to one another, too. Once more you can find the proof of these allegations at my site
    If dialectics is not understood by anyone because it is meaningless or doesn't work, then how can it have been "used" by Stalinists, Maoists and Trotskyists?
    "Events have their own logic, even when human beings do not." - Rosa Luxemburg

    "There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen." - Lenin

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    BTB:

    If dialectics is not understood by anyone because it is meaningless or doesn't work, then how can it have been "used" by Stalinists, Maoists and Trotskyists?
    In the same way that religious mumbo jumbo is used to 'prove' that 'god is love'.
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    Theologians will 'prove' or demonstrate 'truth' by employing a mode of reasoning based on certain premises. The point is whether the premises are safe or true. In the case of religion, if you reject its key premise: that God exists, then all of its arguments, no matter how well reasoned, fall apart.

    On the other hand, the Church has tended to win the argument that God is love by excommunicating or exterminating (or both) anyone who says the contrary. Isn't this more the way Stalin won his arguments? The appeal to dialectics was merely a dishonest appeal to authority, a Marxian version of papal authority, to legitimate acts of oppression which would have happened anyway. There was no real mode of reasoning, no work done, to arrive at this justification. Except in terms of a vulgar abuse of dialectical concepts such as the (ab)use of contradiction to argue that things can become their opposite whenever the Party deems it.
    "Events have their own logic, even when human beings do not." - Rosa Luxemburg

    "There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen." - Lenin

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    BTB:

    Theologians will 'prove' or demonstrate 'truth' by employing a mode of reasoning based on certain premises. The point is whether the premises are safe or true. In the case of religion, if you reject its key premise: that God exists, then all of its arguments, no matter how well reasoned, fall apart.
    Well, I'm glad you put the word "truth" in 'scare quotes', since it suggests that even you see a problem with using that word in relation to talk about 'god'. As I have argued at length in the Religion section (and will continue to do so later this month), the word "god" is an empty word, hence theological 'propositions' make no sense. But that does not stop benighted god-botherers trying to reason about 'his' nature and alleged purpose for humanity, none of which makes sense since it contains the aforementioned empty word "god", among others.

    Same with dialectics.

    On the other hand, the Church has tended to win the argument that God is love by excommunicating or exterminating (or both) anyone who says the contrary. Isn't this more the way Stalin won his arguments? The appeal to dialectics was merely a dishonest appeal to authority, a Marxian version of papal authority, to legitimate acts of oppression which would have happened anyway. There was no real mode of reasoning, no work done, to arrive at this justification. Except in terms of a vulgar abuse of dialectical concepts such as the (ab)use of contradiction to argue that things can become their opposite whenever the Party deems it.
    In fact, as you will soon see if you ever pluck up enough courage to think differently, and for yourself for a change, and reject dialectics, or express your misgivings about it in public, and not just tentatively here, you will be excommunicated and/or ostracised, if not verbally abused, in your party for your pains, unless you are incredibly lucky.

    So, take out the violence, and you lot are little different from the Stalinists in this one respect. Which explains why you can agree with the Stalinists and Maoists over the vast bulk of this theory.

    And if you try to debate with a Stalinist, or a Maoist, you will soon see that they can discuss this theory no more nor no less 'intelligently' than Orthodox Trotskyists or SWP-ers can. In fact, it is hard to slip a party card between SWP-ers or Orthodox Trotskyists discussing dialectics and Stalinists/Maoists.

    You can find the evidence supporting that allegation at my site -- a place you are doomed never to visit --, here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2009_02.htm

    You can also find ample further proof here, where SWP-ers, orthodox Trotskyists, Stalinists, Maoists, Libertarian Marxists, Academic Marxists, and Left Communists can all be found making the same points, arguing the same way, defending the same dialectical dogmas, adopting the same arrogant and dismissive poses, coming out with the same abuse, often scatological, many, many times over, always emotive, often unprovoked -- so don't tell me there's a difference:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/RevLeft.htm

    And sure, the acts of Stalinist aggression would have happened anyway, but dialectics made it very easy to 'justify', just as it makes every other crazy U-turn in every other Dialectically-demented party easy to rationalise.

    Indeed, it's the non-existent deity's gift to gangsters, opportunists and substitutionists, masquerading as Marxists, or those who defend it from an unprincipled, half-baked, half-way house sort of stance, like someone I could mention.

    Finally, I'd like to see the objective criteria that allow you to distinguish between the legitimate use of "contradiction" from its abuse.
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    BTB:



    In the same way that religious mumbo jumbo is used to 'prove' that 'god is love'.
    This is where you tend to fail on your criticisms. "God is love" has very specific moral ramifications which are quite productive.

    In the same vein, despite all the dramatization around DM, it has some accurate analyses - most specifically, its application to class struggle. I don't think very many theories are developed without any shrd of truth or accuracy to them, and DM, "god is love" are both examples of this.
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    Dean:

    "God is love" has very specific moral ramifications which are quite productive.
    How does that show that religion is not Mumbo Jumbo?

    Indeed, Marx analysed these 'good effects' 150 years ago, when he called this gobbledygook the opiate of the masses and the heart of the heartless world, a universal source of consolation.

    Dialectics works in the same way with Dialectical Marxists.

    In the same vein, despite all the dramatization around DM, it has some accurate analyses - most specifically, its application to class struggle. I don't think very many theories are developed without any shrd of truth or accuracy to them, and DM, "god is love" are both examples of this.
    We are constantly told this, but I'd like to see one! I've only been asking now for four years.
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    Dialectics works in the same way with Dialectical Marxists.
    The consolation Marxists have in the face of defeat is the idea that, generally, human society is subject to change and, specifically, the capitalist mode of production cannot bypass the class struggle and will lurch from one crisis to the next. This enables us to maintain optimism and understand that any victory achieved by the class enemy is transitory and unstable.

    Now, this might have something to do with dialectics, but the real question is whether exponents of anti-dialectics deny these features of human history and capitalism and, if so, how they maintain revolutionary optimism (if, indeed, they do)?
    "Events have their own logic, even when human beings do not." - Rosa Luxemburg

    "There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen." - Lenin

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    BTB:

    The consolation Marxists have in the face of defeat is the idea that, generally, human society is subject to change and, specifically, the capitalist mode of production cannot bypass the class struggle and will lurch from one crisis to the next. This enables us to maintain optimism and understand that any victory achieved by the class enemy is transitory and unstable.
    But, this is ruined by the importation of mystical ideas from Hegel which tell dialecticians (maybe not you, since you can't make your mind up) that the entire universe is governed by the very same laws that form the core of their overall theory. And it is this that tells them that not just history, but the entire universe, is moving their way, and thus cannot be thwarted.

    But, dialectics also works in a more insidious way, since it also teaches that appearances 'contradict' underlying 'essences'. So, even if their eyes tell them that Dialectical Marxism has been an abject and long-term failure, dialecticians feel they can ignore this (or even deny it, you can see Stalinist Dialecticians -- STDs for short -- doing just this in the recent 'socialism in one county' thread in Learning), since underlying reality, which is governed by these invisible 'laws', contradicts such superficial appearances, and tells them that victory is assured, or it will be one day soon.

    Hence all the rabidly up-beat headlines in the revolutionary press (anger is always "growing"; resistance is always "on the increase"; even splits in tiny sects represent a historical advance on the part to the international proletariat -- yes, I know the SWP is the least guilty of all parties in this respect; it's one of the reasons I was attracted to it). [I give dozens of examples of this at my site. Link on request.]

    This is the dialectical equivalent of 'pie in the sky'.

    Now, Historical Materialism cannot do this since it has not been infected with such contradictory, Hermetic principles.
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    BTB:
    But, this is ruined by the importation of mystical ideas from Hegel which tell dialecticians (maybe not you, since you can't make your mind up) that the entire universe is governed by the very same laws that form the core of their overall theory. And it is this that tells them that not just history, but the entire universe, is moving their way, and thus cannot be thwarted.
    (bold added)

    It may be the case that a starting point of the dialectical point of view is that both human society and nature have a history which unfolds on the basis of certain laws of development; laws that can be made intelligible through human enquiry. Further, it may be the case that Dialectical Materialism (as a codified theory of the development of material reality) argues that these laws follow basic and identical underlying processes which unite the development of human society with the natural history of the world (a position which I reject as metaphysical and empirically unfounded). However, this is not the same as saying that even the staunchest and most dogmatic advocate of DM would argue that the universe is moving toward socialism. I've certainly never heard this argument put to me. On the contrary, a true dialectical approach should emphasise the contingent nature of development: just as Marx does in his dialectical exposition of capital where he finds tendency and counterveiling tendency, uncertainty and contradiction.

    But, dialectics also works in a more insidious way, since it also teaches that appearances 'contradict' underlying 'essences'.
    Again, we can scale back these claims. In society it is undoubtedly true that the way social relations appear to those inside them are sometimes at variance with what is actually happening. For instance, the claim that there is such a thing as 'a fair days work for a fair days pay' under capitalism would not be possible if the exploitative nature of the exchange between capitalist and labourer was not in some sense obscure to the actors themselves. This is the foundation of the Marxist use of ideology. Somewhere Marx makes the comparison with the natural sciences (in the first preface to volume one of Capital, I think) and elsewhere makes the claim that science is involved in discovering the mechanisms which underlie the appearances of nature. From this point of view, Marx isn't claiming that there is some invisible essence underlying reality which can only be discovered through thought alone. He is arguing that there are processes which underlie social relations as well as natural relations, which can be discovered empirically (although not only empirically - we still need to make sense of the data by using conceptual tools - facts do not always speak for themselves - if they did there would have been no reason to write Das Kapital).

    Hence all the rabidly up-beat headlines in the revolutionary press (anger is always "growing"; resistance is always "on the increase"; even splits in tiny sects represent a historical advance on the part to the international proletariat -- yes, I know the SWP is the least guilty of all parties in this respect; it's one of the reasons I was attracted to it). [I give dozens of examples of this at my site. Link on request.]

    This is the dialectical equivalent of 'pie in the sky'.

    Now, Historical Materialism cannot do this since it has not been infected with such contradictory, Hermetic principles.
    On the contrary, certain readings of historical materialism can result in these consolatory reflexes. If it is read as a mechanical stages theory of universal human development like it was portrayed in the 2nd International and, later, in the Stalinized version, then the result is fatalism and it is this reading which produces teleogical certainty.

    However, I have to say that even in the absence of a mechanical reading of HM or the metaphysics of DM, there are many good sociological and psychological reasons why the activists of transformative organisations would require some means of maintaining 'faith' that their endeavours are not useless.
    "Events have their own logic, even when human beings do not." - Rosa Luxemburg

    "There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen." - Lenin

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    BTB:

    It may be the case that a starting point of the dialectical point of view is that both human society and nature have a history which unfolds on the basis of certain laws of development; laws that can be made intelligible through human enquiry. Further, it may be the case that Dialectical Materialism (as a codified theory of the development of material reality) argues that these laws follow basic and identical underlying processes which unite the development of human society with the natural history of the world (a position which I reject as metaphysical and empirically unfounded). However, this is not the same as saying that even the staunchest and most dogmatic advocate of DM would argue that the universe is moving toward socialism. I've certainly never heard this argument put to me. On the contrary, a true dialectical approach should emphasise the contingent nature of development: just as Marx does in his dialectical exposition of capital where he finds tendency and countervailing tendency, uncertainty and contradiction.
    And yet, when we examine the detail, and ignore the brochure (which you have summarised above), that is precisely what this theory implies. Historical Materialism doesn't, but Dialectical Materialism does.

    Or, perhaps you would like to tell us precisely where, if these laws are 'necessary', as Lenin and others describe them, 'contingency' can enter in?

    Again, we can scale back these claims. In society it is undoubtedly true that the way social relations appear to those inside them are sometimes at variance with what is actually happening. For instance, the claim that there is such a thing as 'a fair days work for a fair days pay' under capitalism would not be possible if the exploitative nature of the exchange between capitalist and labourer was not in some sense obscure to the actors themselves. This is the foundation of the Marxist use of ideology. Somewhere Marx makes the comparison with the natural sciences (in the first preface to volume one of Capital, I think) and elsewhere makes the claim that science is involved in discovering the mechanisms which underlie the appearances of nature. From this point of view, Marx isn't claiming that there is some invisible essence underlying reality which can only be discovered through thought alone. He is arguing that there are processes which underlie social relations as well as natural relations, which can be discovered empirically (although not only empirically - we still need to make sense of the data by using conceptual tools - facts do not always speak for themselves - if they did there would have been no reason to write Das Kapital).
    I have covered this reply (which you seem to have copied from John Rees) at my site. Here is part of it:

    Rees's argument, for example, goes as follows:

    "The important thing about a Marxist understanding of the distinction between the appearance of things and their essence is twofold: 1) by delving beneath the mass of surface phenomena, it is possible to see the essential relations governing historical change -– thus beneath the appearance of a free and fair market transaction it is possible to see the exploitative relations of class society, but, 2) this does not mean that surface appearances can simply be dismissed as ephemeral events of no consequence. In revealing the essential relations in society, it is also possible to explain more fully than before why they appear in a form different to their real nature. To explain, for instance, why it is that the exploitative class relations at the point of production appear as the exchange of 'a fair day's work for a fair day's pay' in the polished surface of the labour market." [Rees (1998), p.187. Bold emphasis added.]
    This passage makes it plain that while Capitalism appears on the surface to be fair, its underlying 'essence' is thoroughly exploitative. Hence, in that sense it could be claimed that appearances contradict reality.

    But, unfortunately, Rees's example is not a contradiction, however much we might deplore the things it reveals. [Why that is so is explained more fully in Essay Eight Part Two -- 'True Contradictions'? On the misleading nature of the metaphor that certain truths, or even "essences", somehow lie "below the surface", see below.]

    Perhaps this is too hasty? Maybe we can rephrase Rees's claim so that the alleged contradiction becomes more obvious:

    R17: Capitalism appears to be fair.

    R18: It is not the case that Capitalism appears to be fair.

    This pair of sentences certainly looks contradictory, but because both sentences are about appearances they are not what Rees intended.

    Well, maybe then the following are?

    R19: Capitalism is exploitative.

    R20: It is not the case that Capitalism is exploitative.

    This pair certainly seems contradictory, too, but once again, since these two sentences do not contrast appearance with reality they will not do either.

    A more helpful guide to Rees's intentions is perhaps contained in the relation he says exists between "essence and appearance" and "subjective and objective" views of the world:

    "[F]or Lenin practice overcomes the distinction between subjective and objective and the gap between essence and appearance." [Ibid., pp.190-91.]
    This could mean, therefore, that these hard-to-pin-down DM-'contradictions' actually arise between "subjective" and "objective" views of the world. But, again, what precisely is the contradiction here, even if what Rees says were so?

    Perhaps the following 'argument' might help bring it out:

    R21: Capitalism appears to be fair.

    R22: This appearance leads people (including workers) to think that it is fair.

    R23: Hence, Capitalism is fair.

    R24: But, revolutionary theory and practice convinces some that Capitalism is not fair.

    R25: Therefore, Capitalism is not fair.

    R26: Consequently, Capitalism is both fair and not fair.

    R27: But, the contradiction in R26 implies that R23 cannot be true (based on the truth of R25).

    R28: Therefore, Capitalism is not fair.

    Ignoring the fact that the above argument in hopelessly invalid, its message looks reasonably clear: it is the 'objectivity' of revolutionary theory (expressed in R24) that makes plain the contradiction in R26.

    However, even if that were the case, the contradiction is still not between appearance and reality, but between certain beliefs held about both, or perhaps the inferences made from each.

    Anyway, few people (and certainly no revolutionaries) believe that capitalism is both fair and not fair at the same time. Anyone who gives the matter sufficient thought will agree with R23 or R25, but not both at once. Indeed, that is why R28 would be held true by socialists. However, DM requires both R23 and R25 (and hence R26) to be true at once.

    It could be objected to this that the above appearances lead to the false belief that Capitalism is fair, which is contradicted by the fact that it is not, and it is this which yields the required contradiction. But, no one is questioning the fact that there are all sorts of contradictory beliefs in people's heads. What is at issue here is (1) whether any two can be (unequivocally) held true together and (2) whether appearances contradict reality --, both of which have yet to be established.

    Hence, it does not look like we can construct a clear example of the sort of contradiction Rees had in mind -- even when we use his own choice of candidate!

    The "below the surface" metaphor is no less misleading, either.

    No one supposes that if we scratched away at the surface of material objects, their "essences" would become apparent, or that if we possessed senses vastly superior to those we now have, we would be able to see/sense abstractions, for example. Indeed, as Leibniz noted, even if we were to shrink down to the size of atoms, we would still not be able to see/sense 'thoughts', or the formal properties of bodies -- or the necessities metaphysicians tell us are 'really' there, forever mocking our senses.

    In that case, what does this metaphor actually imply? After 2400 years, we are still not too clear.

    However, in response, dialecticians sometimes point us toward this passage from Volume Three of Das Kapital:

    "Vulgar economy actually does no more than interpret, systematise and defend in doctrinaire fashion the conceptions of the agents of bourgeois production who are entrapped in bourgeois production relations. It should not astonish us, then, that vulgar economy feels particularly at home in the estranged outward appearances of economic relations in which these prima facie absurd and perfect contradictions appear and that these relations seem the more self-evident the more their internal relationships are concealed from it, although they are understandable to the popular mind. But all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided." [Marx (1981), p.956. Bold emphasis added.]
    (1) First of all Marx is here arguing with "vulgar economists" who fail to examine the economy beyond its superficialities, neglecting the relations between the elements of production and exchange, etc. [Marx's criticism will not be challenged here (or anywhere else for that matter).] But in what way do these 'realities' lie 'under the surface', or behind "outward appearances"?

    Well, whatever the answer to that one is, all that Marx in fact did in response was to re-orientate his analysis so that it included wider social and historical factors, those which were also available to theorists not ideologically-transfixed by atomistic theories of language, the economy, individuals and society. In other words, Marx proposed the use of a different grammar/set of concepts to depict the economy. This is nothing new; all major innovations in science do the same. This is not, therefore, to go deeper, but to go social -- exactly the approach suggested here.

    (2) Second, as a general description of science, this is far too vague. But, this is not to criticise Marx, for he was not intending to write a treatise on the nature of science here. It is all too easy therefore to read too much into this passage.

    (3) Finally, even if we take it at its face value, it makes little sense (more on that presently); in that case it cannot help us in our quest to understand this metaphor --, except we read it in the way indicated in Point (1) above. If essence is given by grammar (as Wittgenstein argued), this will provide us with a way of comprehending this figure of speech, one that does not slide back into the usual Idealist quagmire.

    Nevertheless, this metaphor is clearly connected to the ancient idea that nature "hides herself", a doctrine invented, as far as we know, by Heraclitus:

    "Nature loves to conceal herself."
    This idea has dominated traditional thinking ever since. On this see Eamonn (1994) -- although, as Eamonn points out, materialistically-orientated scientists from the Seventeenth Century onward sought to overthrow this view of nature. By way of contrast, it is equally apparent that the tradition that derives from Hegelian Natürphilosophie resisted this modernising move. [More on that in Essay Fourteen (summary here), and in later Parts of this Essay.]

    [On this, see also the detailed analysis in Daston and Galison (2007) of the change that took place only relatively recently in the meaning of the word "objective", which replaced the earlier phrase "true to nature".]

    Hence, it is quite clear that the usual way of reading this metaphor is based on the view that there is a hidden (or, as we might now say, an a priori) structure to reality accessible to thought alone.

    This is connected with the appearance/reality distinction, as Van Inwagen notes:

    "The best approach to understanding what is meant by 'metaphysics' is by way of the concepts of appearance and reality. It is a commonplace that the way things seem to be is often not the way they are, that the way things apparently are is often not the way they really are. The sun apparently moves across the sky -- but not really. The moon seems larger when it is near the horizon -- but its size never really changes. We might say that one is engaged in 'metaphysics' if one is attempting to get behind all appearances and to describe things as they really are." [Van Inwagen (1998), p.11. Bold emphasis added.]
    This means that the aspiring metaphysician must use language and 'thought' to go where our material senses cannot take us. Naturally, this puts the entire endeavour in Idealist territory.

    So, the best that can be made of Marx's use of this metaphor (if we want to absolve him of mysticism and of indulging in Idealist Metaphysics) is to read it naturalistically. That is, if bourgeois economic science views the world superficially, and ideologically, then no wonder it misses essential features of the economy. And by "essential features" I mean those that are necessary to understand it aright -- using the concepts and "forms of representation" found in HM. Now, since the latter concepts are based on, and are consonant with, ordinary/material language, and arise out of a study of the development of our species (with its class divisions and relations of production, etc., etc.), and which connect with our materially-based "forms of life" (indeed, they have arisen out of them), and finally since "essence is expressed by grammar" (as Wittgenstein believed), this interpretation enables us to so rescue Marx.

    Now, I am not suggesting that Marx would have put things this way, or even that he'd have agreed with it (but that is certainly possible), but it is the way I view these words and this metaphor, and for the reasons given.
    Daston, L., and Galison, P. (2007), Objectivity (Zone Books).

    Eamon, S. (1994), Science And The Secrets Of Nature (Princeton University Press).

    Laurence, S., and Macdonald, C. (1998) (eds.), Contemporary Readings In The Foundations Of Metaphysics (Blackwell).

    Marx, K. (1981), Capital, Volume Three (Penguin Books).

    Van Inwagen, P. (1998), 'The Nature Of Metaphysics', in Laurence and Macdonald (1998), pp.11-21.

    More details here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2003_02.htm


    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2012_01.htm

    Finally, I'd like to see you derive the concepts Marx uses in Das Kapital empirically.

    The whole point of the Kantian revolution (with which Hegel also agreed) was that such concepts cannot be derived empirically (which was the claim made by the British Empiricists whom they were arguing against) but are brought to experience so that we can make sense of the world.

    That is why Lenin said this:

    "This aspect of dialectics…usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum total of examples…and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world)." [Lenin (1961), p.357.]
    This is a Kantian notion, ruined by the use of quasi-Hegelian jargon.

    Now, I do not go along with this; as you will be able to see from the passages above, I adopt a Wittgensteinian approach here, and argue that these are 'forms of representation' -- rules we use to make sense of the world.

    On the contrary, certain readings of historical materialism can result in these consolatory reflexes. If it is read as a mechanical stages theory of universal human development like it was portrayed in the 2nd International and, later, in the Stalinized version, then the result is fatalism and it is this reading which produces teleological certainty.
    I agree, but then they had to import concepts from metaphysics (another form of consolation) in order for this to work -- namely ideas drawn from classical determinism.

    However, I have to say that even in the absence of a mechanical reading of HM or the metaphysics of DM, there are many good sociological and psychological reasons why the activists of transformative organisations would require some means of maintaining 'faith' that their endeavours are not useless.
    This just tells me that these characters are little different from the 'god-botherers' among us.
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    This is a very interesting subject for someone who was "taught" the standard dialectics of Hegelian philosophy as a basic part and parcel of academic thought.

    Having studied linguistics and communication I just wondered this, no doubt someone will shoot it down in flames, but here goes:-

    In interpersonal communication we have the concept of relational dialectics and the dialectic tension between two people.

    Now, seeing as that any form of written discourse, e.g. Das Kapital is a form of communication between two people, i.e. Marx and the reader, is there not a dialectic tension here also?

    If we look at the three main "tensions" in terms of the communication but viewed as being those between writer and reader and presuming that the communication goal of the writer is to attain a full reading of the text at hand and absorption of the ideas expressed then followed by the acceptance of said ideas. We also need to assume that the reader is interested in the first place or has a specific reason but will need convincing by the writer in either case in order to complete the task of reading the work. We already have some basic "tensions" therefore.

    Privacy-transparency: The relationship between the reader and the writer may be seen as a one way street by some but as the writer communicates his ideas to the reader and the readers subsequently absorbs, analyses, accepts and rejects these idead the relationship through this flow of information may grow closer and stronger in the case of acceptance of rejection may occur leading to distancing. The silent absorption of ideas means that the writer is speaking to the reader on as psychologically intimate basis as during interpersonal communication. Although the interpersonal tension is not the same as this author-reader tension a relationship is created in which a reader may even feel betrayed at a later point on having accepted ideas up to a point only to find perhaps a new idea that repulses him/her. The interesting thing here is that the acceptance is more important in terms of the writer's goal of having the reader "read" and absorb his or her entire idea than perhaps the idea itself.

    Novelty vs. predictability: In the author-reader relationship there is also a need for structure and stability but not at the cost of dynamic communication otherwise, as in a personal relationship the monotony occurs which will lead to the abandonment of the argument by the reader and thus the goal of the author is not attained. The author is active in feeling this tension when writing.

    Autonomy vs. connectedness: This tension has to do with the human need to be part of a group but the same time feel independent and autonomous. In this dialectical analysis the writer cannot overwhelm the potential readers capacity for thought without undermining the readers sense of independent reasoning. Writing becomes didactic and dictatorial and the reader switches off, hereby defeating the goal of the author to have his words reads entirely. We have another tension here.

    Now I don't know if anyone else has thought of this, it was just a thought I had whilst reading through these threads. But when analysing any piece of philosophical writing should not these communicative dialectives be taken into account even when discussing dialectics? Surely these author-reader dialectics affect the dialectic or non-dialectic of any given work. I am sure we could apply these principles to any form of communication by language that fundamentally implies a flow of ideas from a-b and/or b-a.

    Any thoughts?
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    Well, as I am sure you know, dialectics was originally intercommunicative argument between at least two individuals, whereby those involved arrived at the truth by reasoned disputation, but this has nothing to do with the dialectic which is the topic of this thread (except in the most distant of senses).

    Now, what you have to say seems to be related to this older meaning of the word, but I do not think it has anything to do with the dialectic as intended by myself or the OP.
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    Well, as I am sure you know, dialectics was originally intercommunicative argument between at least two individuals, whereby those involved arrived at the truth by reasoned disputation, but this has nothing to do with the dialectic which is the topic of this thread (except in the most distant of senses).

    Now, what you have to say seems to be related to this older meaning of the word, but I do not think it has anything to do with the dialectic as intended by myself or the OP.
    Hello Rosa, yes I was aware of this and now it is off-topic so to speak, was just throwing it in if you like because this is an interesting argument. I do think that they are connected, albeit loosely as they are part of the issue of language, semantics, words and communication.

    Have you per chance analysed the non-Western forms of philosophical dialectics at all?
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    Yes, but not in great detail yet.

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