Thread: Dialectics of nature, does it work?

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  1. #1
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    Default Dialectics of nature, does it work?

    Personally, I don't think so, for this reason:

    Sartre’s case against a dialectic of nature is quite different from that of an American pragmatist or positivist. His arguments are distinctively existentialist.

    He agrees that history and knowledge are dialectical processes because they are created by humanity and humanity is involved in their development. There is a historical materialism but no dialectical materialism. Dialectics is internal to history. The province of dialectics cannot go beyond human practice. It is illegitimate to extend dialectical laws to nonhistorical, nonhuman phenomena. Sartre presents three main reasons for this restriction:

    1. Dialectics deals only with concrete totalities which human beings themselves “totalised” through practice. History and society are such. Nature, on the other hand, does not constitute a single integrated whole. Nature may be infinite, even contain an infinity of infinites. But it consists of fragmented totalities which have no inner unity, no universal and necessary interconnection. The disunity of nature forbids any universal dialectic.

    2. The contradictions operating in history cannot be the same as antagonisms in nature. Social contradictions are based upon the reciprocal conditioning and organic interpenetration of their contending sides through human mediation. The opposing forces inside a physical-chemical system are not interactive and interrelated in this way. Brute matter, the “practico-inert”, is disjointed, dispersed, resistant to dialectical movement.

    3. We can know society and history from the inside, as they really are, because they are the work of humanity, the result of our decision and action. Their dialectical linkages are disclosed through the contradictory interplay of subject and situation. But physical phenomena remain external to us and to other objects. They are opaque to our insight. We cannot penetrate to their real inner nature and grasp their essence.

    In sum, nature must be nondialectical because of its disunity, its lack of contradiction, its insurmountable externality and inertia. The only possible dialectical materialism is historical materialism, which views our establishment of relations with the rest of reality from the standpoint of our action upon it.

    Orthodox Marxists revert to theology and metaphysics, says Sartre, by extending dialectical laws over nature on purely philosophical or methodological grounds. He does, however, concede that dialectical laws may at some point be found applicable to nature. But only by way of analogy. This presently involves a risky extrapolation, which must await verification through further findings by the natural scientists. And even if they should discover that physical processes resemble the dialectical type and start to use dialectical models in their research, this would provide no insight into the nature of nature, no true knowledge of its essential features.

    __________________________________________________ _________


    Can someone (especially Rosa) please post reasons why Dialectics cannot be used on nature? And please let's limit it to Nature, I need this for a discussion, so I need some concrete examples.
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    Nice post; what it lacks is an understanding that human beings and the dialectical method of their thinking too are part of nature. IOW, we see in human cognition the reflection of the same dialectical processes we see in nature.

    My understanding of dialectics is that it is an epistemological theory before it is anything else, your mileage -- certainly Rosa's -- may vary.
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    I didn't write that, it was from Novack.

    You are right that they are part of nature too, but they are a different part, I believe Sarte would say, because: "Dialectics deals only with concrete totalities which human beings themselves “totalised” through practice. History and society are such. Nature, on the other hand, does not constitute a single integrated whole."

    Or "without humans Nature would be deaf-mute", "dialectics is valid in certain domains but not in others. Its laws apply to mental or social processes but not to nature. A dialectic of nature belongs to Hegelian idealism, not to a consistent materialism."

    Anyway, I think Rosa had some concrete examples of dialectics stumbling when applied to nature (I think it was some chemistry related example), so I was curious for examples like those which disprove that, if you have evidence to the contrary that would be good too.
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    Anyway, I think Rosa had some concrete examples of dialectics stumbling when applied to nature (I think it was some chemistry related example), so I was curious for examples like those which disprove that, if you have evidence to the contrary that would be good too.
    Indeed, Rosa has volumes to prove the absurdity of dialectics. My point is that dialectics is in the world like colors are in an object -- they are a human way of cognizing reality. I guess I don't agree with Sartre, 'totalizing' brings up a whole new set of issues.
    Eppur si muove -- Galileo Galilei


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    Well what do you think of this argument for example:

    Originally Posted by Sartre
    Scientific laws are experimental hypotheses verified by facts; but at present, the absolute principle that ‘Nature is dialectical’ is not open to verification at all. You may claim that some set of laws established by scientists represents a certain dialectical movement in the objects of these laws, but you cannot prove it.

    [These remarks apply, of course, only to the dialectic conceived as an abstract and universal law of Nature. However, when the dialectic is applied to human history, it loses none of its heuristic value. Concealed, it directs the collection of facts; then it reveals itself by making them comprehensible, by totalising them. This comprehension reveals a new dimension of History, and finally, its truth, its intelligibility].

    Neither the laws nor the ‘great theories’ will change, however you view them. Your problem is not whether light transmits energy particles to the bodies it illuminates, but whether the quantum theory can be integrated into a dialectical totalisation of the universe. You need not question the kinetic theory of gases; you need only see whether it weakens the totalisation. You are reflecting on Knowledge. And since the law discovered by the scientist, taken in isolation, is neither dialectical nor anti-dialectical (it is only a quantitative determination of a functional relation), the consideration of scientific facts (that is to say, of established laws) cannot furnish, or even suggest, a proof of the dialectic.

    Dialectical Reason can only be captured elsewhere, so that it can be forcibly imposed on the data of physics and chemistry. It is well known, in fact, that the notion of dialectic emerged in History along quite different paths, and that both Hegel and Marx explained and defined it in terms of the relations of man to matter, and of men to each other. The attempt to find the movement of human history within natural history was made only later, out of a wish for unification. Thus the claim that there is a dialectic of Nature refers to the totality of material facts – past, present, future – or, to put it another way, it involves a totalisation of temporality. It has a curious similarity to those Ideas of Reason which, according to Kant, were regulative and incapable of being corroborated by any particular experience.
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    Well what do you think of this argument for example:
    Originally Posted by Sartre
    Dialectical Reason can only be captured elsewhere, so that it can be forcibly imposed on the data of physics and chemistry. It is well known, in fact, that the notion of dialectic emerged in History along quite different paths, and that both Hegel and Marx explained and defined it in terms of the relations of man to matter, and of men to each other. The attempt to find the movement of human history within natural history was made only later, out of a wish for unification. Thus the claim that there is a dialectic of Nature refers to the totality of material facts – past, present, future – or, to put it another way, it involves a totalisation of temporality. It has a curious similarity to those Ideas of Reason which, according to Kant, were regulative and incapable of being corroborated by any particular experience.
    Again, my general impression is that I disagree with Sartre's understanding of dialectics. IMO there is no 'dialectic of Nature' as such, the dialectic describes a process of human cognition, not something out in the world. Sartre is vexed by the idea of 'totalization', I don't find it in either Marx or Hegel.
    Eppur si muove -- Galileo Galilei


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    LZ:

    Anyway, I think Rosa had some concrete examples of dialectics stumbling when applied to nature (I think it was some chemistry related example), so I was curious for examples like those which disprove that, if you have evidence to the contrary that would be good too.
    Well, we have already established in numerous threads here that not one single dialectical concept makes a blind bit of sense when applied to nature or society.

    To take one example: we have yet to be told what a 'dialectical contradiction' is -- or, rather, the one or two pathetic attempts made by three or four comrades here to try to tell us what they are collapsed rather quickly, since it turned out that their 'explanation' meant that such 'contradictions' either could not exist, or if they did, they were not 'contradictions' to begin with.

    You can access the painful details here:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...&postcount=464

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...&postcount=465

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.p...&postcount=466

    And throughout that thread.

    Indeed, both Trivas and Gilhyle gave up trying to tell us what this obscure term meant (and then tried to deflect attention from that abject failure).

    The question now is: why are you two continuing to flog this dead dialectical horse?
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    Uncidentally, I have collected the links to all the threads at RevLeft where I have completely trashed this 'theory' here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/RevLeft.htm
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    Rosa, didn't you have some concrete examples of dialectics not being applicable to nature? I remember something you said about ice melting at a certain temperature and its relation to some concept of dialectics.

    I read through all those links and essays of yours but I couldn't find any clear concrete examples like that proving that dialectics cannot be applied to physics or chemistry, or just nature in general.
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    LZ:

    Rosa, didn't you have some concrete examples of dialectics not being applicable to nature? I remember something you said about ice melting at a certain temperature and its relation to some concept of dialectics.
    Yes, you will find plenty in this thread:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/quantity-q...709/index.html

    And a summary of them in the article I had published in Weekly Worker:

    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/688/dialetics.htm

    And another brief summary here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/...mmies%2001.htm

    A longer one here:

    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/...ppose%20DM.htm

    But to answer your specific point: if water or ice is heated or cooled, it still says H20 (as water, ice or steam), so there has been no 'qualitiative' change here. That means that the most over-used dialectical example actually refutes Engels's 'Law'!

    Moreover, many things in nature do not change suddenly (or 'nodally' to use the jargon) when heated or cooled: think of melting metal, plastic, glass, toffee and butter.

    You will find plenty more examples in the links above

    I read through all those links and essays of yours but I couldn't find any clear concrete examples like that proving that dialectics cannot be applied to physics or chemistry, or just nature in general.
    Well they are in there, so I do not know how you managed to miss them.

    Anyway, I am not sure what you mean by a general 'proof'.

    What I actually do is show that the 'Laws' dialecticians appleal to are far too vague and imprecise for anyone to be able to say if they are true or false of nature and/or society, and I take the examples dialecticians themselves use to try to show that dialectics applies here, and show that they do not.
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    Thank you for that, I probably missed them because I was skimming through the Essays which are pretty lengthy.

    And by proof I meant evidence which shows that the laws of dialectics do not work when applied to Nature, like the melting and H20 examples you presented.
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    Well, the short ones are nit all that long.

    You will find other examples in those essays.

    Or did you want me to summarise all this here?
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 19th August 2008 at 21:21.
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    Well, we have already established in numerous threads here that not one single dialectical concept makes a blind bit of sense when applied to nature or society.

    To take one example: we have yet to be told what a 'dialectical contradiction' is -- or, rather, the one or two pathetic attempts made by three or four comrades here to try to tell us what they are collapsed rather quickly, since it turned out that their 'explanation' meant that such 'contradictions' either could not exist, or if they did, they were not 'contradictions' to begin with.
    With the due respect, I think I have explained what a dialectical contradiction is, without such explanation collapsing at all.

    Let me try once more, from a different starting point.

    Let's start with a logical contradiction:

    John ate his cake, and saved it for tomorrow.
    Assuming, for the sake of argument, that John's cake is atomic, indivisible, can we agree that this is a formal contradiction of the A ^ !A form?

    Luís Henrique
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    LH:

    John ate his cake, and saved it for tomorrow.
    Why is this a contradiction?

    Both could be true and both could be false. [See below.]

    Assuming, for the sake of argument, that John's cake is atomic, indivisible, can we agree that this is a formal contradiction of the A ^ !A form?
    [Is the "!" sign meant to be negation?]

    1) This is not even a formal contradiction until we know what these "A"s stand for.

    2) If John put the cake in a plastic bag, swallowed it, and planned, say, to sell it tomorrow, both could be true.

    Moreover, if John lied about eating the cake, and that it was a cake, both could be false.

    3) How does this help us understand what a 'dialectical contradiction' is?

    So: we still do not know what a 'dialectical contradiction' is -- or if we do, we know that they cannot exist, and so cannot change anything.
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    Why is this a contradiction?

    Both could be true and both could be false.[See below.]
    If the cake is indivisible, as I remarked, then it is either eaten or saved.

    [Is the "!" sign meant to be negation?]
    Yes, it is.

    1) This is not even a formal contradiction until we know what these "A"s stand for.
    They stand for the same proposition. So this notation means, A and not A.

    It's the standard notation for a formal contradiction in its simplest form.

    2) If John put the cake in a plastic bag, swallowed it, and planned, say, to sell it tomorrow, both could be true.

    Moreover, if John lied about eating the cake, and that it was a cake, both could be false.
    I haven't stated

    "John said that he ate the cake",

    I have stated

    "John ate the cake".

    If John lied about eating the cake, then he did not eat the cake. But what is stated is that he ate the cake.

    And "eat" means "eat" in this context, ie, chewing and swallowing something for nutritional ends.

    3) How does this help us understand what a 'dialectical contradiction' is?
    It will, if we can agree that a proposition like that is a formal contradiction. If we can't, then it is helpless.

    Luís Henrique
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    Please ignore this comment because I'm interested in this discussion you two are having. I just couldn't resist pointing out that if the cake was indivisible, it would probably make digestion impossible, and when it came out the other end the next day, it would in effect have been "saved".
    "delebo inquit hominem"

    "You are my creator, but I am your master.''
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    Please ignore this comment because I'm interested in this discussion you two are having. I just couldn't resist pointing out that if the cake was indivisible, it would probably make digestion impossible, and when it came out the other end the next day, it would in effect have been "saved".
    Now that would truly be saving the appearances!
    Last edited by trivas7; 19th August 2008 at 23:10.
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    LH:

    If the cake is indivisible, as I remarked, then it is either eaten or saved.
    1) No cake is indivisble. This makes the truth-value of the propositions you are using indeterminate, since the meaning of 'cake' is now obscure. If so, your example cannot be a contradiction.

    2) This implies you accept the law of exluded middle.

    3) I showed how John can both eat his 'indivisible' cake, and save it. [See below.]

    And "eat" means "eat" in this context, ie, chewing and swallowing something for nutritional ends.
    But, you can't chew an 'indivisible' cake! Nor can it be digested to give up its 'nutritional' value.

    They stand for the same proposition. So this notation means, A and not A.
    But, we still do not know what proposition they stand for in your example.

    And, as I argued above, in this case they cannot be propositions since they contain at least one word of indeterminate meaning (namely 'cake').

    "John ate the cake".
    But, it isn't even a cake.

    And "eat" means "eat" in this context, ie, chewing and swallowing something for nutritional ends.
    But, if you are allowed to screw around with 'cake; why can't I screw around with 'eat'? And, as I pointed out, John can't chew an 'indivisible' cake. So, even you cannot use your own terms here!

    It will, if we can agree that a proposition like that is a formal contradiction. If we can't, then it is helpless.
    As I have shown, it isn't even a formal contradiction.

    But, even if it were, you have yet to show that both A and ~A are true.

    Only then would it be an actual contradiction.

    And good luck on that one...

    So, we still do not know what a 'dialectical contradiction' is -- or if we do we also know they cannot exist, and so cannot change anything.
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    Chimx, I just noticed your point, which I have also tried to make.

    Well spotted!
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    OK.

    This clearly goes in the direction of sheer nonsence, but let's have another try.

    "John ate all his cake, and saved it all for tomorrow."

    Can we agree that this is a formal contradiction?

    Luís Henrique

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