Thread: The failures of Dialectical Materialism

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    Default The failures of Dialectical Materialism

    When Marx synthesized his readings of Hegelian dialectic with philosophical materialism, it was effective. Due to the scientific knowledge available, Materialism was a valid philosophical response to Idealism. Such is not the case today. Materialism as a philosophical school of thought is no longer given as much validity due to scientific advancements throughout the 20th century, specifically advancement made in quantum theory. To quote physicists Paul Davies and John Gribbin:

    Then came our Quantum theory, which totally transformed our image of matter. The old assumption that the microscopic world of atoms was simply a scaled-down version of the everyday world had to be abandoned. Newton's deterministic machine was replaced by a shadowy and paradoxical conjunction of waves and particles, governed by the laws of chance, rather than the rigid rules of causality. An extension of the quantum theory goes beyond even this; it paints a picture in which solid matter dissolves away, to be replaced by weird excitations and vibrations of invisible field energy. Quantum physics undermines materialism because it reveals that matter has far less "substance" than we might believe. But another development goes even further by demolishing Newton's image of matter as inert lumps. This development is the theory of chaos, which has recently gained widespread attention.— Paul Davies and John Gribbin, The Matter Myth, Chapter 1

    Materialism is currently having trouble surviving as the scientific paradigm in philosophy of science, and as a science in itself. This, inherently, requires us to question the validity of Dialectical Materialism. Not as much as the Dialectical logic, but the Materialist perspective. Therefore, as Marxists, our beliefs in metaphysics are in a sort of crisis, and it's a crisis that threatens the entire foundation of the Marxist analysis, as the whole purpose of Dialectical Materialism to be formulated in the first place by Marx and Engels was to justify their beliefs and to provide a logical ground on which their belief system can stand on. In the past, the Marxist analysis itself has been under attack, yet it has survived into the contemporary world as a significant force to be reckoned with. However, now the ground itself upon which Marxism stands is being swept from under our feet, and the ground around us is collapsing. Here, in light of the scientific developments threatening philosophical materialism, I must pose the following questions; 1) Is it possible to regain the ground which has been lost and to establish the validity of philosophical Materialism once again? 2)Is it even worth our effort to do so? Or, is it time for Marxists to (ironically, might I add) to leave Marx himself behind due to the present conditions until we can regain ground lost?
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    Materialism is currently having trouble surviving as the scientific paradigm in philosophy of science, and as a science in itself.

    I wouldn't waste too many nights with sleeplessness over this -- note that by taking *scale* into account we can note that the 'macro' physical world that we're used to in navigating everyday life is distinctly different from the *subatomic* physical realm, as you've noted:



    Then came our Quantum theory, which totally transformed our image of matter. The old assumption that the microscopic world of atoms was simply a scaled-down version of the everyday world had to be abandoned. Newton's deterministic machine was replaced by a shadowy and paradoxical conjunction of waves and particles, governed by the laws of chance, rather than the rigid rules of causality.

    The *subatomic* realm isn't the one that we operate in, so all macro-scale physical phenomena -- 'materialism' -- can remain unchallenged in our conception and capability within.

    Your line here is effectively taking on the burden of a general unified theory / Theory of Everything, when such 'responsibility' isn't objectively called-for, or necessary to retain the macro-scale philosophical grounding of materialism.



    A theory of everything (ToE), final theory, ultimate theory, or master theory is a hypothetical single, all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework of physics that fully explains and links together all physical aspects of the universe.[1]:6 Finding a ToE is one of the major unsolved problems in physics. Over the past few centuries, two theoretical frameworks have been developed that, as a whole, most closely resemble a ToE. These two theories upon which all modern physics rests are general relativity (GR) and quantum field theory (QFT). GR is a theoretical framework that only focuses on gravity for understanding the universe in regions of both large-scale and high-mass: stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, etc. On the other hand, QFT is a theoretical framework that only focuses on three non-gravitational forces for understanding the universe in regions of both small scale and low mass: sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules, etc. QFT successfully implemented the Standard Model and unified the interactions (so-called Grand Unified Theory) between the three non-gravitational forces: weak, strong, and electromagnetic force.[2]:122
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    How does quantum theory invalidate materialism? I know practically bugger all about QT, but it is still 100% a study of matter. So, matter is different than what we have thought in the past, only means that a materialist worldview has to be adapted to be concurrent with scientific discoveries - kind of a trivial truth.

    Those men you quote are not consistent in their own claims. Because matter is shown to be less "substantial" than previously imagined, matter does not exist? Matter has been transformed into something not material?

    I know no place in Marx where it suggests that this particular woldview is dependent upon Newtonian physics. Marx and Engels made certain extrapolations based on their current knowledge of natural sciences, to show how these processes might be seen to work in actuality, but I don't see that Marxist materialist analysis in any way stands and falls with these extrapolations being valid or not.

    Moreover, materialism in the Marxist sense has to do mainly with social processes, which are surely material in any sense you want to use the term, but has quite little to do with particles and waves.
    That, and it means that the world of ideas is fundamentally derived from the material world, no matter how quirky this material world eventually turns out to be.
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    The study of societies, history, and socio-economics are still largely full of idealist nonsense. These are the subjects, and more importantly movements for democracy/socialism, that Marxism attempts to bring a more scientific approach to.

    Marxism can and has absorbed new discoveries because at the most basic, it identifies root dynamics in capitalism. The details from thinkers in the past might become antiquated, but the overall class-approach won’t change until people change those dynamics. Marxism as dogma, can and should be outmoded though.
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    I don't see this as a crisis, especially if we have a correct understanding of what Marxian-Engelsian materialism is in essence, and compared to the earlier (think La Mettrie) and later (think Bataille) materialisms. The proposed materialism of Marx is more like a sort of anti-idealism, and not hardline matter-based metaphysics. Materialism in this sense rather means an anti-idealistic understanding of social relations, from economy to culture to everyday life. Whereas earlier thinkers in one way or another thought that it is ideas that guide humanity and history, or great people - who are sort of personifications of such ideas. Think of Beethoven's Eroica; which began as a musical objectivation of the idea of freedom, and the personification of this idea, Napoleon Bonaparte. The Marxist approach is fundamentally different: it works, unlike much of the quasi-Platonic Western philosophical canon, not on a top-down, but on a bottom-up basis. This is the basic meaning of what Marxian materialism consists of. Quantum theory, and all the fashionable trends that come with it, are non of our concern as communists. I doubt it is pushing the Marxist understanding into a crisis. In fact, I would be more worried about dialectics, it is much more problematic than the materialistic part of Marxist understanding.
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    When Marx synthesized his readings of Hegelian dialectic with philosophical materialism, it was effective. Due to the scientific knowledge available, Materialism was a valid philosophical response to Idealism.
    For Marx and Engels materialism was not some kind of pseudo-scientific response to idealism. It was the recognition that reality was not created by some God, or spirit or some magical creature. Reality could only be understood scientifically, one reason for Engel's title "Scientific Socialism." They believed that reality could be understood only by observation, experimentation, (and production.) If you want to claim that modern physics undermines materialism then you must explain how religion explains modern physics.

    Then came our Quantum theory, which totally transformed our image of matter.
    Quantum theory began to develop in the early 20th century with Max Plank and Einstein. Plank realized that light could not be solely explained in terms of wave theory but that it also behaved like a particle. Einstein carried this one step further and proved not only that light behaved as a particle but that light existed as discrete "quanta" or photons. Each photon carried a certain quantized amount of energy depending on its frequency. These sub-atomic particles or "lumps" of matter (whether photons have "mass" appears to still be unclear) in a beam of light, if anything, prove the basic argument of materialism.

    Even the force of gravity is now known to be carried by a particle.

    Quantum physics undermines materialism because it reveals that matter has far less "substance" than we might believe.
    This is true, but only because science shows that the atom is almost entirely empty space.

    Some physics is governed by laws of chance? So what? That's been known since Heisenberg. It's impossible to predict the precise location of a sub-atomic particle because its speed and direction are effected by the observation itself. On the macro atomic scale we can predict with an incredible accuracy the location, strength, direction, age, etc. of millions of black holes. If you want something absolutely, fantastically, unbelievably material, look at a black hole.

    Therefore, as Marxists, our beliefs in metaphysics are in a sort of crisis, and it's a crisis that threatens the entire foundation of the Marxist analysis,
    Marx and Marxists are in no sense metaphysical!

    In addition, "materialism" is not essentially about material "things."

    Engels:
    The great basic thought that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of readymade things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable no less than their mind images in our heads, the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away, in which, in spite of all seeming accidentally and of all temporary retrogression, a progressive development asserts itself in the end — this great fundamental thought has, especially since the time of Hegel, so thoroughly permeated ordinary consciousness that in this generality it is now scarcely ever contradicted. But to acknowledge this fundamental thought in words and to apply it in reality in detail to each domain of investigation are two different things."

    This constant change, process, regression, progression, instability, you might say chaotic and based only on chance is materialism. If the word "material-ism" is unsuitable, then you could call it transformationism, or permanent revolutionism, etc.
    Last edited by RedMaterialist; 25th January 2018 at 19:13. Reason: mass of photon; what is materialism
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    Even the force of gravity is now known to be carried by a particle.

    This, itself, is relatively *controversial*, and all bourgeois-science paradigms should be reinvestigated, anyway, or else we could end up with more planets being de-planetized, or with the official-science denial of *centrifugal* force:


    https://www.revleft.space/vb/threads...23#post2859223


    ---


    I've come across the claim that the entire *concept* of 'gravity' is superfluous, and that the "gravitational" attractive force can simply be explained by the conventional *electrostatic* force:



    Electrogravity[edit]

    At one time, Brown believed his devices produced a new field that interacted with the Earth's gravitational pull, a phenomenon he labeled electrogravitics. Several researchers claim that conventional physics cannot adequately explain the phenomenon.[6]

    Videos:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=yout...w=1365&bih=702
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    This, itself, is relatively *controversial*, and all bourgeois-science paradigms should be reinvestigated, anyway, or else we could end up with more planets being de-planetized, or with the official-science denial of *centrifugal* force:
    along with denial of climatology and nuclear physics.
    I wonder if the OP thinks planet warming is as invalid as "materialism."
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    along with denial of climatology and nuclear physics.

    Hmmmm, isn't this *stereotyping* to some extent -- ?

    I'm not a climate-change denialist, and I'm not being dismissive of nuclear physics with anything I've said.
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    Hmmmm, isn't this *stereotyping* to some extent -- ?

    I'm not a climate-change denialist, and I'm not being dismissive of nuclear physics with anything I've said.
    No, no. I meant that to the Tragicfarce poster. Sorry.
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    No, no. I meant that to the Tragicfarce poster. Sorry.

    No prob.
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    The materialism in dialectical materialism doesn't really form a basis for Marx's real critique of capitalism, therefore it would not trammel Marxist socialism. It isn't that important to Marxism. If the dialectic of historical societies still holds, then that is okay. Capitalism is anyway a material society of mere people, at most! Most of a Marxist socialism would remain intact.
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