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Thread: @nti-dialectics Made Easy -- Thread Two

  1. #161
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    On the other site Andrew never answered my questions or Rosa's rebuttals. He just dropped out of the conversation once Rosa had thoroughly pummeled him... I had no idea what he was talking about with his 'concepts' and 'intents'... Except, maybe to say, 'that language couldn't be analyzed meaningfully at all in abstraction' (whatever the hell that means )....


    Andrew said:
    “I’m always asking you, directly or indirectly, to first PROVE that you or anyone can meaningfully analyze language in abstraction from concepts and intents.”


    I asked:

    "Are the ‘concepts and intents’, as you have used it here, some sort of classification in language?



    If not where and what are these ‘concepts and intents’?


    If these ‘concepts and intents’ are represented WITH language, aren’t they subject to the same analysis and scrutiny as as other ‘ordinary language’?"

  2. #162
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    Thanks for these comments, Jean-Luc:

    This seems like a very reflexive response. It seems, as you outlined in your Essay Twelve, that their sense of self-worth/commitment to the revolution is based on a certain idea(s) (given the state of the left what else do they have to base it on but an idea?). So, when you take a bat to the idea, they associate so strongly with it, that they think you are attacking their character.

    Very similar to psuedo-intellectuals when you challanges their 'ideas' or indoctrinated religious types when you challenge their 'beliefs' or 'faith'. This all seems strangely divorce of a marxist, scientific or even decent approach to 'progress'.

    Unfortunately this type of behavior extends well beyond Dialectics in the revolutionary left. With what seems to a semi-outsider as bunch of pissed off people, with a greater than thou attitude, all teething-at-the-bit to be the next Che, Mao, Lenin.

    I don't really understand which proletarians, those that are informed, think they are going to be communicating to...

    Thanks for your ongoing work Rosa. I certainly enjoy reading your posts and am about half-way through your essays and find the work clear, precise and convincing.
    I agree with what you say, but then vast majority of dialecticians react this way -- and that includes those who post here -- as you will soon see if you follow the links posted here:

    http://************************/RevLeft.htm

    I try to explain why they do this (which is connected with their class position and origin), here:

    http://************************/page%2009_02.htm

    --------------------------

    Actually, Andrew dropped out because one of the characters who has been posting there physically threatened him.

    But, I was 'pummeling' him, as you say.

    -----------------------

    By the way, Jean-Luc, can you see my post number 46 there? The reason I ask is that I posted a long reply to 'Juurrian' yesterday, and my screen reads "This post is being moderated", and this message has been there for over 24 hours. So, I just wonder if others can see it, too.

  3. #163
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Thanks for these comments, Jean-Luc:



    I agree with what you say, but then vast majority of dialecticians react this way -- and that includes those who post here -- as you will soon see if you follow the links posted here:

    I try to explain why they do this (which is connected with their class position and origin), here:

    --------------------------

    Actually, Andrew dropped out because one of the characters who has been posting there physically threatened him.

    But, I was 'pummeling' him, as you say.

    -----------------------

    By the way, Jean-Luc, can you see my post number 46 there? The reason I ask is that I posted a long reply to 'Juurrian' yesterday, and my screen reads "This post is being moderated", and this message has been there for over 24 hours. So, I just wonder if others can see it, too.
    I actually did mean essay Nine not Twelve in my previous post.

    Rosa, I cannot see your post. I don't see a post 46 at all.

    Too bad to hear about the situation with Andrew, don't wish any physical harm of course.

    I have been following the posts here (lurking), especially in regards to philosophy and dialectics, so I am familiar with the type of reaction you are describing. What I don't understand is why it is so difficult to provide an explanation for 'dialectical contradictions'. It seems to me that such a large concept, especially put forth by people who pride themselves in the accountability of their analysis and theories, should be able to be explained rather simply. Further, if this 'theory' or 'concept' is going to be used to explain relationships and the interaction of human-beings and objects and everything that exists in irrefutable ways, it follows that there should be a mountain of evidence that cross references different scientific disciplines.

    With out this evidence it seems that dialectical contradictions are about the same as seeing 'the hand of god' in everything or seeing the attractions of 'auras'. Simply put; rose tinted glasses. I actually don't mind the whole idea of dialectical contradiction, not as a 'law', but as nice metaphor. An interesting way of seeing things, on occasion, sometimes, when it works out. Sort of like saying, "you fill my soul with happiness", while using the word soul to mean something like 'all the things that make up who I am'. But then the whole thing seems so damn interpretable that it becames relatively meaningless, at least from a scientific point of view.

    But the way the word 'contradiction' gets thrown around (along with other dialectical doozies) without the evidence seems equivalent to trying to convince everyone that color quinacridone magenta exisits everywhere in the world and wherever it shows up it is an example of 'something'.

    I think the cause for this "mindset" is the cause for prejudice against alot of the left, Marxism and communism in general. In my experience, I have felt very alienated and removed from any sort of left activism because the people organizing (more often leading, appointed without any sort of democratic process) often seemed to have an air of 'entitlement' in some way. I figured this had to be a result of a inherited belief structure but could never really put my finger on it. I think essay Nine is excellent example of tracing the historical progression (or lack there of) of belief and bias in the revolutionary left.

    It is hard for me to imagine such thinking people can't see they have replaced one dogma with another.

  4. #164
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    My post was this:

    Jurriaan are you addressing me, or your 'followers'?

    And why the emotive and abusive response? What have I ever done to you?

    "But this is a petitio principii, Rosa just assumes what has to be proved. I defined a dialectical contradiction very clearly, as two opposite conditions which nevertheless presuppose each other and depend on each other for their existence, a situation which can exist because the opposition of the two conditions is in some way mediated, or contained in some way, by something else."
    In fact, I did not "assume" anything, I merely quoted Marx back at you. If you want to pick a fight with him, that's up to you.

    Jurriaan:

    "Rosa then argues that if the two conditions mutually exclude each other, they cannot co-exist, but this is just an assertion with an appeal to tautological definition."
    I did not argue this, Marx did.

    [And what is a 'tautological definition, for goodness sake?]

    Jurriaan:

    "BTW Rosa's Phd dissertation must be total rubbish, you can tell that straightaway from the puberal mode of argumentation."
    Well, you are the one who does not seem to know the difference between an inconsistency and a contradiction, and you seem to think that formal contradictions are nonsensical -- so that accusatory finger of yours needs rotating through 180 degrees. Your grasp of logic does not appear to be all that secure.

    Jurriaan:

    "The real logical or semantic question is, under what condition would it make sense (or to be reasonable) to speak of two opposite conditions which nevertheless presuppose each other?"
    But, this in no way helps us understand what you dialecticians are banging on about when you use the phrase "dialectical contradiction".

    Jurriaan:

    "Reflective dialectical thought goes right back to Heraclitus and even earlier, and there are many different ways of describing dialectical contradictions and their further implications, I don’t deny that. But the basic idea is quite simple, and there is no particular mystery about it at all, our facilitary and front office staff have deal with this sort of thing all the time."
    Yes, and Heraclitus was a confused mystic, who, among other things, thought that he could determine what was true of all moving bodies and/or processes in the entire universe, for all of time, based on a badly executed thought experiment about stepping into a river!

    [He screwed up because he confused count nouns with mass nouns.]

    Such a priori dogmatics has dominated much of 'western' thought ever since, including that which Hegel inflicted on humanity (whom you are happy to ape).

    Jurriaan:

    "This already shows that Rosa does not grasp formal logic, notwithstanding the brainless Wittgenstein bullshit, which is a ruse."
    Oh dear, you are really getting worked-up, aren't you?

    Do you have low impulse control?

    I'd get that seen to if I were you.

    [Shows I hit a nerve, though, doesn't it?]

    In reply to your flat denial, I can quote you as many logic textbooks as it takes that will tell you exactly what I have told you about the difference between a contradiction and an inconsistency (why, even Aristotle distinguished between the two).

    Can you do the same?

    I think not.

    And this is not a Wittgensteinian point; as I noted, logicians since at least Aristotle's day have recognised it.

    Nevertheless, I must say, I like the fine, dialectically-complex word you used in your searching, well-reasoned response to me.

    What was it again? -- Oh yes: "Bullshit".

    So incisive!

    I can see I stand no chance...

    But, may I remind you: you were the one who appealed to Wittgenstein in your last reply to me. What was all that about 'Wittgensteinian bullsh*t', then? Don't you even know your own mind?

    Jurriaan (addressing me now -- I am honoured!):

    "Well, it’s very simple Rosa: just like in Catch-22, what you are dealing with is that in order to apply the rule, you have to negate the rule, and in order to not apply the rule, you have to apply the rule. This may seem unprincipled, but in the bureaucracy there is always a hierarchy of principles which renders such improvisation legitimate. This situation arises, often, because academics like Rosa, who styles himself a 'Wittgensteinian Trotskyite', are paid rich helpings of tax money to devise rule systems and conceptual hierarchies which cannot in fact be applied, because these so-called 'academics' have an extremely poor understanding of what is actually humanly, socially and practically involved in a work process or an administrative process. Their task is to describe what’s happening and rendering it meaningful to the ivory tower of management, Plato's philosopher kings, but this is obviously quite different from the operative staff who actually have to make things work, and therefore face dialectical contradictions all the time."
    I am not an academic, but a worker, and a trade union rep (unpaid), too. So, the above comment of yours is just hot air. But, you clearly needed to get it off your chest.

    Feel better now?

    Anyway, you'd do well to concentrate on what I actually say, and resist the temptation to make baseless personal attacks on me from a position of total ignorance.

    Hey, but what do I know? After all you are the expert logician here. Perhaps abusive and foul language, compounded by lies and invective constitute a new form of valid argument? 'Jurriaan's lemma', perhaps?

    Jurriaan (again addressing his rapidly dwindling audience):

    "Here Rosa misses the point completely. The real point is that non-arbitrary human reasoning extends far beyond what we can capture in deductive and inductive inference, and that is just where dialectical reason only begins! But 'Rosa' has no grasp of it at all. Now how can we ever have any constructive discussion when Rosa doesn't even understand the most elementary problems of reason?"
    And where did I deny that "human reasoning extends far beyond what we can capture in deductive and inductive inference..."?

    Nowhere, that's where.

    Still can't resist the temptation to make stuff up, I see.

    And, may I remind you, once again, that you are the one who can't tell the difference between an inconsistency and a contradiction, and you seem to think that formal contradictions are nonsensical -- so I do not think you have any reason to indulge in all that chest-beating -- impressive though it is!

    [Phew, what a 'guy', girls...!]

    "This is just puberal, studenty pharisee crap once again. Of course you are going to be perpetually puzzled by the normality of 'dialectical contradictions' if you deny their existence tooth and nail! It would be like saying the sun doesn't exist, even although everybody thinks the sun does exist, on the ground that most people cannot adequately 'define' the sun in terms of formal logic. Well, big deal."
    Ah, what fine, dialectico-scatological words -- coupled with impressive, diversionary bluster!

    We can all learn much from you. I'm certainly taking notes!

    But, wait! Where did I ask for a definition, or even one in 'Formal Logic'?

    I note, however, that you did not once quote me to that effect -- better then just to make it all up, eh?

    Indeed, I can quite imagine a benighted Jesuit soul like you arguing with Galileo about the Copernican system, four hundred years ago:

    Seventeenth-century-Jurriaan:

    "Of course you are going to be perpetually puzzled by the normality of a stationary earth, if you deny its existence tooth and nail! It would be like saying the sun doesn't exist, even although everybody thinks the sun does exist, on the ground that most people cannot adequately 'define' the sun in terms of formal logic. Well, big deal. And no, I won't look down your telescope, that is just puberal, studenty pharisee crap once again."
    And look what happened to those sad dinosaurs. I'd hate to think you are headed the same direction, even though it looks like you are dead set on emulating them.

    Anyway, don't say I didn't warn you...

    Jurriaan -- working 'himself' up into a right old lather (crash team on stand-by, please!):

    "Yeah, Rosa does need help, but he or she 'is not sure I am the person to help him or her”'. When all else fails, hang out the victim… The hypocrisy is that I already tried to help him/her, by explaining what a dialectical contradiction is and what the utility of dialectics is, in plain language, sacrificing the free time that I have. Then he/she says, 'I am not sure'. Well, big deal. On to the next one."
    But, you didn't explain what a 'dialectical contradiction' is, since you missed out a key Marxist component, which makes the whole 'concept' implode.

    So, not only are you not the person who can help me, you are not even the person to help yourself! This is because you do not seem to understand your own 'theory'!

    Jurriaan -- now in full waffle mode:

    "This again is a dumb slur from the nihilist enemy of reason which Rosa is. Einstein as a physicist was not at all an 'idealist', other than having political and human ideals. Einstein is referring to the fact that our ability to actually test theories is far more limited than our creative ability to theorize and draw logical inferences, in part because our ability to construct valid empirical tests is practically limited, whereas our ability to speculate theoretically in abstracto is much less limited, so that the effect is, that the amount of scientific theory we have, is typically disproportionately larger than the amount of valid scientific evidence to back it up. He suggests that there exists a series of basic ('axiomatic') assumptions, discovered through creative inquiry, which, 'if' they are true, would explain the scientific evidence we have, and if we do not have those assumptions, then we cannot explain the scientific evidence. This may seem to weaken the possibilities for scientific knowledge, but in fact armed with these assumptions we are able to explain very much, since we can show convincingly that predictions made using these assumptions will in most cases yield confirmation of the assumptions, or are at least consistent with what we would expect. The point is that these 'axiomatic' assumptions cannot themselves derive simply from the data, though they are informed by them – the central problem of dialectical theory – nor are they amenable to a complete proof by the data. But that is just to say that Einstein, as a scientific realist, rejected a simplistic empiricist account of the relationship between theory and data, according to which Hempelian 'covering laws are strictly generalisations from clusters of sense data. The theory, which contains many logical inferences, and the data gathered, are for Einstein 'semi-autonomous' from each other: they inform each other but are not reducible to each other. He implies thereby that the task of science is to bring the theories we have, and the data we produce, closer together in a rational way, and he expresses his optimism that creative inquiry can enable us to do this – possibly, with the belief that, since we are ourselves part of the universe, we are able to improve our understanding of it. This contrasts with the skepticist mysticism of the Popperian view according to which reality is too complex and variegated, and our abilities too limited, for us to know very much for certain about it at all, so that most people are deluded, and all we can do is demolish illusions, even although there are always far more illusions than we can demolish. Einstein suggests that in reality people are not so deluded as Karl Popper implies and that the “proof is in the pudding” ('The skeptic will say: "It may well be true that this system of equations is reasonable from a logical standpoint. But this does not prove that it corresponds to nature." You are right, dear skeptic. Experience alone can decide on truth.') – if we are able to transform nature consistent with our explicated theory of it, this is an experiential proof of sorts that we can really know essential aspects of nature, even if the proof is not an absolute and final one."
    Thanks for that, but it in no way shows Einstein wasn't an idealist. Anyway, since I do not want to distract attention from the hole you have dug for yourself (in so far as you can't explain the obscure phrase "dialectical contradiction" to eagerly waiting humanity), I will give you this one for now. We can debate it another time.

    Jurriaan -- the veins in 'his' neck bulging alarmingly:

    "The bourgeois intellectuals wax with an air of profundity about all the things we cannot know about 'financial risk' and so on, completely ignoring what billions of ordinary folks are proving by their actions every day! Which just tells us that their so-called “innocence” (ignorance really) is just feigned, growing out of their own loves and hates. In the same way, 'Rosa' hates 'dialectical materialism' and tries to create an elaborate defence of that hate. But the real scientific questions are thereby missed altogether. I have never denied that 'dialectical materialism' is a philosophy of Marxist-Leninist bureaucratism, and I have strongly argued against its totalitarian applications. My views on this issue are on public record. But it is another thing to deny the existence of the dialectical characteristics of reality. I am not prepared to do that, in good part because I experience them every day as a normal occurrence, and to deny that would be to deny part of reality. Of course I realise that academic theorists, seeking to be profound, concoct all kinds of nonsense about dialectics, but this does not deter me at all from acknowledging the dialectical characteristics which reality can have. It is just that, rather than focusing on the nonsense, I studied writers like Charles Taylor and Mario Bunge, in other words people who tried to make some constructive sense of the notion."
    Translated this reads: "Sorry, I can't explain what a 'dialectical contradiction' is, so I will just kick up a cloud of dust to hide that fact...".

    As I said in my reply to Rakesh: at least have the courage to admit this openly!

    It will at least mean we can stand that crash team down.

    PS. If anyone wants to know why dialecticians are almost all invariably like Jurriaan here (emotive, irrational and abusive) when their precious 'theory' is attacked, I have provided a detailed explanation here:

    http://************************/page%2009_02.htm

    PPS: Jurriaan, I have added a link at my site to your reply to me since I am building up a database there of all the abusive and obnoxious dialecticians (scores of them, in fact; the vast majority of whom are as unpleasant and abusive as you are -- all without provocation, too) with whom I have debated this 'theory' over the last four years on the internet.

    Since my essays will long outlast you, I have guaranteed that your rather unpleasant personality disorder will never be forgotten. Here it is:

    http://************************/RevLeft.htm

    Thanks, Jurriaan, for supplying me with yet more data!

    Any more bile in there? Let it out, then -- it all adds to my data!

    Have a nice fume...

  5. #165
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    Jean-Luc:

    I have been following the posts here (lurking), especially in regards to philosophy and dialectics, so I am familiar with the type of reaction you are describing. What I don't understand is why it is so difficult to provide an explanation for 'dialectical contradictions'. It seems to me that such a large concept, especially put forth by people who pride themselves in the accountability of their analysis and theories, should be able to be explained rather simply. Further, if this 'theory' or 'concept' is going to be used to explain relationships and the interaction of human-beings and objects and everything that exists in irrefutable ways, it follows that there should be a mountain of evidence that cross references different scientific disciplines.
    Well, no one here has been able to tell us either.

    I actually don't mind the whole idea of dialectical contradiction, not as a 'law', but as nice metaphor. An interesting way of seeing things, on occasion, sometimes, when it works out. Sort of like saying, "you fill my soul with happiness", while using the word soul to mean something like 'all the things that make up who I am'. But then the whole thing seems so damn interpretable that it becames relatively meaningless, at least from a scientific point of view.
    I agree, but the use of this 'metaphor' explains nothing either.

    I think the cause for this "mindset" is the cause for prejudice against alot of the left, Marxism and communism in general. In my experience, I have felt very alienated and removed from any sort of left activism because the people organizing (more often leading, appointed without any sort of democratic process) often seemed to have an air of 'entitlement' in some way. I figured this had to be a result of a inherited belief structure but could never really put my finger on it. I think essay Nine is excellent example of tracing the historical progression (or lack there of) of belief and bias in the revolutionary left.

    It is hard for me to imagine such thinking people can't see they have replaced one dogma with another.
    Indeed, and this was one of the themes of Essay Nine Part Two.

    -----------------------

    I have e-mailed the MIH site and asked them why the moderation is taking so long.

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    Quote:
    I actually don't mind the whole idea of dialectical contradiction, not as a 'law', but as nice metaphor. An interesting way of seeing things, on occasion, sometimes, when it works out. Sort of like saying, "you fill my soul with happiness", while using the word soul to mean something like 'all the things that make up who I am'. But then the whole thing seems so damn interpretable that it becames relatively meaningless, at least from a scientific point of view.
    I agree, but the use of this 'metaphor' explains nothing either.
    I was being sarcastic here.

    One can only hope that Mr.Future-Stroke-Juurrian won't have any sort of leadership role in our movement.

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    Ah, I see...

  8. #168
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    Over at the Coven (otherwise known as the 'Dialectical Materialism' group) it looks like the cadaver is still twitching, and that yours truly is still the centre of attention, for we have this gem from 'Philosophical Materialist':

    Indeed. It doesn't matter how much Marx implemented, explained or defended dialectics post-Capital, we are told that when Marx talked dialectic(s) Marx didn't mean dialectic(s) due to some Wittgensteinian sophistry. If the latter interpretation is true then it would mean that Marx was hopelessly confused by the meanings of words.
    http://www.revleft.com/vb/group.php?...cussionid=2434

    1) There is absolutely nothing 'Wittgensteinian' about my arguments, and this character cannot even find one quotation from what I have said to support this latest dialectical lie.

    2) This comrade can only argue this by ignoring what Marx himself said; so, if anyone is confused it's this clown.

    On that, see the posts above.

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    According to this review of Analytic Philosophy and the return of Hegelian Thought, in at least some contemporary circles of Analytic philosophy there seems to be a move away from the Russellian view of Hegel as an incompetent bumbler, though in some cases from opposing perspectives (eg Brandom and Priest).

    Anyone have any views on the work of the likes of McDowell, Brandom, Priest and Redding and how it relates to Marxist dialectics/ anti-dialectics?

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    DeLeonist:

    According to this review of Analytic Philosophy and the return of Hegelian Thought, in at least some contemporary circles of Analytic philosophy there seems to be a move away from the Russellian view of Hegel as an incompetent bumbler, though in some cases from opposing perspectives (eg Brandom and Priest).
    Yes I am aware of this, and that is why I said:

    Except, those who know any logic by and large ignore this incompetent bumbler:
    DeLeonist:

    Anyone have any views on the work of the likes of McDowell, Brandom, Priest and Redding and how it relates to Marxist dialectics/ anti-dialectics?
    Well, only Priest is a recognised logician, and redding has sold his soul to this Hermetic devil.

    Priest's work on paraconsistency and dialetheic logic shows he has not fully understood Hegel (as others, not just me, allege) -- even if it were possible to understaad Hegel.

    If you want some references on this, I can supply a list.

    The others say they have been influenced by Hegel, but the evidence is rather weak.

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    But, even if DM-theorists were correct, the thesis of universal interconnection is incompatible with change through 'internal contradiction', for if all change is internally-induced then no object or process could be interconnected. Alternatively, if everything is interlinked, then interconnection can play no causal role in change (or change would not be the result of 'internal contradictions', once more).
    I suspect that in practice, in the writings of communist leaders like Lenin and Mao, this 'internal' contradiction is restricted to class conflicts within a society. They are basically saying that a system with a rich set of internal states available to it can have a dynamics between these states that depends in a large measure on social factors internal to the society.

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    Paul Cockshott:

    I suspect that in practice, in the writings of communist leaders like Lenin and Mao, this 'internal' contradiction is restricted to class conflicts within a society. They are basically saying that a system with a rich set of internal states available to it can have a dynamics between these states that depends in a large measure on social factors internal to the society.
    Well, I have actually covered this already; in fact they were quite general in what they said, as were other dialectical classicists, and dialecticians in general (this is a passge form my site; the use of "here" now and then refers to links at my site -- see at the end):

    "If, for instance, the Sophists claimed to be teachers, Socrates by a series of questions forced the Sophist Protagoras to confess that all learning is only recollection. In his more strictly scientific dialogues, Plato employs the dialectical method to show the finitude of all hard and fast terms of understanding. Thus in the Parmenides he deduces the many from the one. In this grand style did Plato treat Dialectic. In modern times it was, more than any other, Kant who resuscitated the name of Dialectic, and restored it to its post of honour. He did it, as we have seen, by working out the Antinomies of the reason. The problem of these Antinomies is no mere subjective piece of work oscillating between one set of grounds and another; it really serves to show that every abstract proposition of understanding, taken precisely as it is given, naturally veers round to its opposite.

    "However reluctant Understanding may be to admit the action of Dialectic, we must not suppose that the recognition of its existence is peculiarly confined to the philosopher. It would be truer to say that Dialectic gives expression to a law which is felt in all other grades of consciousness, and in general experience. Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being stable and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by that Dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than what it is, is forced beyond its own immediate or natural being to turn suddenly into its opposite." [Hegel (1975), pp.117-18.]

    "Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in earth, neither in the world of mind nor nature, is there anywhere an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things with then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being and what they essentially are. Thus, in inorganic nature, the acid is implicitly at the same time the base: in other words its only being consists in its relation to its other. Hence the acid persists quietly in the contrast: it is always in effort to realize what it potentially is. Contradiction is the very moving principle of the world." [Ibid., p.174.]

    "The law of the interpenetration of opposites.... Mutual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes...." [Engels (1954), pp.17, 62.]

    "Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature, and so-called subjective dialectics, dialectical thought, is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature. Attraction and repulsion. Polarity begins with magnetism, it is exhibited in one and the same body; in the case of electricity it distributes itself over two or more bodies which become oppositely charged. All chemical processes reduce themselves -- to processes of chemical attraction and repulsion. Finally, in organic life the formation of the cell nucleus is likewise to be regarded as a polarisation of the living protein material, and from the simple cell -- onwards the theory of evolution demonstrates how each advance up to the most complicated plant on the one side, and up to man on the other, is effected by the continual conflict between heredity and adaptation. In this connection it becomes evident how little applicable to such forms of evolution are categories like 'positive' and 'negative.' One can conceive of heredity as the positive, conservative side, adaptation as the negative side that continually destroys what has been inherited, but one can just as well take adaptation as the creative, active, positive activity, and heredity as the resisting, passive, negative activity." [Ibid., p.211.]

    "For a stage in the outlook on nature where all differences become merged in intermediate steps, and all opposites pass into one another through intermediate links, the old metaphysical method of thought no longer suffices. Dialectics, which likewise knows no hard and fast lines, no unconditional, universally valid 'either-or' and which bridges the fixed metaphysical differences, and besides 'either-or' recognises also in the right place 'both this-and that' and reconciles the opposites, is the sole method of thought appropriate in the highest degree to this stage. Of course, for everyday use, for the small change of science, the metaphysical categories retain their validity." [Ibid., pp.212-13.]

    "Further, we find upon closer investigation that the two poles of an antithesis positive and negative, e.g., are as inseparable as they are opposed and that despite all their opposition, they mutually interpenetrate. And we find, in like manner, that cause and effect are conceptions which only hold good in their application to individual cases; but as soon as we consider the individual cases in their general connection with the universe as a whole, they run into each other, and they become confounded when we contemplate that universal action and reaction in which causes and effects are eternally changing places, so that what is effect here and now will be cause there and then, and vice versa." [Engels (1976), p.27.]

    "Already in Rousseau, therefore, we find not only a line of thought which corresponds exactly to the one developed in Marx's Capital, but also, in details, a whole series of the same dialectical turns of speech as Marx used: processes which in their nature are antagonistic, contain a contradiction; transformation of one extreme into its opposite; and finally, as the kernel of the whole thing, the negation of the negation. [Ibid., p.179.]

    "...but the theory of Essence is the main thing: the resolution of the abstract contradictions into their own instability, where one no sooner tries to hold on to one side alone than it is transformed unnoticed into the other, etc." [Engels (1891), p.414.]

    "And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite…." [Plekhanov (1956), p.77.]

    "[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] [I]nternally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]….

    "In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics….

    "The splitting of the whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts…is the essence (one of the 'essentials', one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristic features) of dialectics….

    "The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing….

    "The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58.]

    "Hegel brilliantly divined the dialectics of things (phenomena, the world, nature) in the dialectics of concepts…. This aphorism should be expressed more popularly, without the word dialectics: approximately as follows: In the alternation, reciprocal dependence of all notions, in the identity of their opposites, in the transitions of one notion into another, in the eternal change, movement of notions, Hegel brilliantly divined precisely this relation of things to nature…. [W]hat constitutes dialectics?…. [M]utual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others." [Lenin (1961), pp.196-97.]

    "'This harmony is precisely absolute Becoming change, -- not becoming other, now this and then another. The essential thing is that each different thing, each particular, is different from another, not abstractly so from any other, but from its other. Each particular only is, insofar as its other is implicitly contained in its Notion...' Quite right and important: the 'other' as its other, development into its opposite." [Ibid., p.260. Lenin is here commenting on Hegel (1995), pp.278-98; this particular quotation coming from p.285.]

    "Dialectics is the teaching which shows how Opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical, -- under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another, -- why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another." [Ibid., p.109.]

    "Development is the 'struggle' of opposites." [Lenin, Collected Works, Volume XIII, p.301.]

    "Why is it that '...the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another'? Because that is just how things are in objective reality. The fact is that the unity or identity of opposites in objective things is not dead or rigid, but is living, conditional, mobile, temporary and relative; in given conditions, every contradictory aspect transforms itself into its opposite....

    "In speaking of the identity of opposites in given conditions, what we are referring to is real and concrete opposites and the real and concrete transformations of opposites into one another....

    "All processes have a beginning and an end, all processes transform themselves into their opposites. The constancy of all processes is relative, but the mutability manifested in the transformation of one process into another is absolute." [Mao (1961b), pp.340-42.]

    "The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics....

    "As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development....

    "The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to end.... [Ibid., pp.311-18.]

    "Second, and just as unconditionally valid, that all things are at the same time absolutely different and absolutely or unqualifiedly opposed. The law may also be referred to as the law of the polar unity of opposites. This law applies to every single thing, every phenomenon, and to the world as a whole. Viewing thought and its method alone, it can be put this way: The human mind is capable of infinite condensation of things into unities, even the sharpest contradictions and opposites, and, on the other hand, it is capable of infinite differentiation and analysis of things into opposites. The human mind can establish this unlimited unity and unlimited differentiation because this unlimited unity and differentiation is present in reality." [Thalheimer (1936), p.161.]

    "So far we have discussed the most general and most fundamental law of dialectics, namely, the law of the permeation of opposites, or the law of polar unity. We shall now take up the second main proposition of dialectics, the law of the negation of the negation, or the law of development through opposites. This is the most general law of the process of thought. I will first state the law itself and support it with examples, and then I will show on what it is based and how it is related to the first law of the permeation of opposites. There is already a presentiment of this law in the oldest Chinese philosophy, in the of Transformations, as well as in Lao-tse and his disciples -- and likewise in the oldest Greek philosophy, especially in Heraclitus. Not until Hegel, however, was this law developed.

    "This law applies to all motion and changes of things, to real things as well as to their images in our minds, i.e., concepts. It states first of all that things and concepts move, change, and develop; all things are processes. All fixity of individual things is only relative, limited; their motion, change, or development is absolute, unlimited. For the world as a whole absolute motion and absolute rest coincide. The proof of this part of the proposition, namely, that all things are in flux, we have already given in our discussion of Heraclitus.

    "The law of the negation of the negation has a special sense beyond the mere proposition that all things are processes and change. It also states something about the most general form of these changes, motions, or developments. It states, in the first place, that all motion, development, or change, takes place through opposites or contradictions, or through the negation of a thing.

    "Conceptually the actual movement of things appears as a negation. In other words, negation is the most general way in which motion or change of things is represented in the mind. This is the first stage of this process. The negation of a thing from which the change proceeds, however, is in turn subject to the law of the transformation of things into their opposites." [Ibid., pp.170-71.]

    "The second dialectical law, that of the 'unity, interpenetration or identity of opposites'…asserts the essentially contradictory character of reality -– at the same time asserts that these 'opposites' which are everywhere to be found do not remain in stark, metaphysical opposition, but also exist in unity. This law was known to the early Greeks. It was classically expressed by Hegel over a hundred years ago….

    "[F]rom the standpoint of the developing universe as a whole, what is vital is…motion and change which follows from the conflict of the opposite." [Guest (1963), pp.31, 32.]

    "The negative electrical pole…cannot exist without the simultaneous presence of the positive electrical pole…. This 'unity of opposites' is therefore found in the core of all material things and events." [Conze (1944), pp.35-36.]

    "This dialectical activity is universal. There is no escaping from its unremitting and relentless embrace. 'Dialectics gives expression to a law which is felt in all grades of consciousness and in general experience. Everything that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of dialectic. We are aware that everything finite, instead of being inflexible and ultimate, is rather changeable and transient; and this is exactly what we mean by the dialectic of the finite, by which the finite, as implicitly other than it is, is forced to surrender its own immediate or natural being, and to turn suddenly into its opposite.' (Encyclopedia, p.120)." [Novack (1971), 94-95; quoting Hegel (1975), p.118, although in a different translation from the one used here.]

    "Contradiction is an essential feature of all being. It lies at the heart of matter itself. It is the source of all motion, change, life and development. The dialectical law which expresses this idea is the law of the unity and interpenetration of opposites….

    "In dialectics, sooner or later, things change into their opposite. In the words of the Bible, 'the first shall be last and the last shall be first.' We have seen this many times, not least in the history of great revolutions. Formerly backward and inert layers can catch up with a bang. Consciousness develops in sudden leaps. This can be seen in any strike. And in any strike we can see the elements of a revolution in an undeveloped, embryonic form. In such situations, the presence of a conscious and audacious minority can play a role quite similar to that of a catalyst in a chemical reaction. In certain instances, even a single individual can play an absolutely decisive role....

    "This universal phenomenon of the unity of opposites is, in reality the motor-force of all motion and development in nature…. Movement which itself involves a contradiction, is only possible as a result of the conflicting tendencies and inner tensions which lie at the heart of all forms of matter....

    "Contradictions are found at all levels of nature, and woe betide the logic that denies it. Not only can an electron be in two or more places at the same time, but it can move simultaneously in different directions. We are sadly left with no alternative but to agree with Hegel: they are and are not. Things change into their opposite. Negatively-charged electrons become transformed into positively-charged positrons. An electron that unites with a proton is not destroyed, as one might expect, but produces a new particle, a neutron, with a neutral charge.

    "This is an extension of the law of the unity and interpenetration of opposites. It is a law which permeates the whole of nature, from the smallest phenomena to the largest...." [Woods and Grant (1995), pp.43-47, 63-71.]

    "This struggle is not external and accidental…. The struggle is internal and necessary, for it arises and follows from the nature of the process as a whole. The opposite tendencies are not independent the one of the other, but are inseparably connected as parts or aspects of a single whole. And they operate and come into conflict on the basis of the contradiction inherent in the process as a whole….

    "Movement and change result from causes inherent in things and processes, from internal contradictions….

    "Contradiction is a universal feature of all processes….


    "The importance of the [developmental] conception of the negation of the negation does not lie in its supposedly expressing the necessary pattern of all development. All development takes place through the working out of contradictions -– that is a necessary universal law…." [Cornforth (1976), pp.14-15, 46-48, 53, 65-66, 72, 77, 82, 86, 90, 95, 117; quoting Hegel (1975), pp.172 and 160, respectively.]

    "Opposites in a thing are not only mutually exclusive, polar, repelling, each other; they also attract and interpenetrate each other. They begin and cease to exist together.... These dual aspects of opposites -- conflict and unity -- are like scissor blades in cutting, jaws in mastication, and two legs in walking. Where there is only one, the process as such is impossible: 'all polar opposites are in general determined by the mutual action of two opposite poles on one another, the separation and opposition of these poles exists only within their unity and interconnection, and, conversely, their interconnection exists only in their separation and their unity only in their opposition.' in fact, 'where one no sooner tries to hold on to one side alone then it is transformed unnoticed into the other....'" [Gollobin (1986), p.115; quoting Engels (1891), p.414.]

    "The unity of opposites and contradiction.... The scientific world-view does not seek causes of the motion of the universe beyond its boundaries. It finds them in the universe itself, in its contradictions. The scientific approach to an object of research involves skill in perceiving a dynamic essence, a combination in one and the same object of mutually incompatible elements, which negate each other and yet at the same time belong to each other.

    "It is even more important to remember this point when we are talking about connections between phenomena that are in the process of development. In the whole world there is no developing object in which one cannot find opposite sides, elements or tendencies: stability and change, old and new, and so on. The dialectical principle of contradiction reflects a dualistic relationship within the whole: the unity of opposites and their struggle. Opposites may come into conflict only to the extent that they form a whole in which one element is as necessary as another. This necessity for opposing elements is what constitutes the life of the whole. Moreover, the unity of opposites, expressing the stability of an object, is relative and transient, while the struggle of opposites is absolute, ex pressing the infinity of the process of development. This is because contradiction is not only a relationship between opposite tendencies in an object or between opposite objects, but also the relationship of the object to itself, that is to say, its constant self-negation. The fabric of all life is woven out of two kinds of thread, positive and negative, new and old, progressive and reactionary. They are constantly in conflict, fighting each other....

    "The opposite sides, elements and tendencies of a whole whose interaction forms a contradiction are not given in some eternally ready-made form. At the initial stage, while existing only as a possibility, contradiction appears as a unity containing an inessential difference. The next stage is an essential difference within this unity. Though possessing a common basis, certain essential properties or tendencies in the object do not correspond to each other. The essential difference produces opposites, which in negating each other grow into a contradiction. The extreme case of contradiction is an acute conflict. Opposites do not stand around in dismal inactivity; they are not something static, like two wrestlers in a photograph. They interact and are more like a live wrestling match. Every development produces contradictions, resolves them and at the same time gives birth to new ones. Life is an eternal overcoming of obstacles. Everything is interwoven in a network of contradictions." [Spirkin (1983), pp.143-46.]

    "'The contradiction, however, is the source of all movement and life; only in so far as it contains a contradiction can anything have movement, power, and effect.' (Hegel). 'In brief', states Lenin, 'dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics…'

    "The world in which we live is a unity of contradictions or a unity of opposites: cold-heat, light-darkness, Capital-Labour, birth-death, riches-poverty, positive-negative, boom-slump, thinking-being, finite-infinite, repulsion-attraction, left-right, above- below, evolution-revolution, chance-necessity, sale-purchase, and so on.

    "The fact that two poles of a contradictory antithesis can manage to coexist as a whole is regarded in popular wisdom as a paradox. The paradox is a recognition that two contradictory, or opposite, considerations may both be true. This is a reflection in thought of a unity of opposites in the material world.

    "Motion, space and time are nothing else but the mode of existence of matter. Motion, as we have explained is a contradiction, -- being in one place and another at the same time. It is a unity of opposites. 'Movement means to be in this place and not to be in it; this is the continuity of space and time -- and it is this which first makes motion possible.' (Hegel)

    "To understand something, its essence, it is necessary to seek out these internal contradictions. Under certain circumstances, the universal is the individual, and the individual is the universal. That things turn into their opposites, -- cause can become effect and effect can become cause -- is because they are merely links in the never-ending chain in the development of matter.

    "Lenin explains this self-movement in a note when he says, 'Dialectics is the teaching which shows how opposites can be and how they become identical -- under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another -- why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another.'" [Rob Sewell, quoted from here.]

    Bold emphases added.
    References and links can be found at my site, here:

    http://************************/page%2007.htm

    Apologies for the above link, but this post is long enough as it is.

    You will no doubt notice that Lenin says this idea covers everything in existence, and governs the eternal development of the world; Mao says more-or-less the same.

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    Default generality of their claims

    Yes they do make quite general claims as Mao does in 'On contradiction', but I would submit that what he is really doing is using the language of dialectics as a metaphor for thinking through military and revolutionary strategy.

    I think one has to distinguish between the linguistic dross and the actual use to which the language is put. Note too, his introduction of concepts like leading or dominant aspect of the contradiction which are really just concepts from strategy expressed in dialectical language.

    It is just the historical accident that Marx happened to have gone to a philosophy course in a German University that landed us with this particular language. Were he formulating it at a later time he might have used the language or graph theory or Markov processes.

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    Paul:

    Yes they do make quite general claims as Mao does in 'On contradiction', but I would submit that what he is really doing is using the language of dialectics as a metaphor for thinking through military and revolutionary strategy.
    Well, I am suspicious of attempts to sanitise the irresponsible things the dialectical classicists had to say by invoking the use of metaphor, just as we surely are suspicious of theologians who try to sanitise the Book of Genesis in order to make it conform to modern science by saying the creation story etc. is metaphorical and allegorical.

    And, Lenin did say this:

    The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing….

    The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute….

    Hegel brilliantly divined the dialectics of things (phenomena, the world, nature) in the dialectics of concepts…. This aphorism should be expressed more popularly, without the word dialectics: approximately as follows: In the alternation, reciprocal dependence of all notions, in the identity of their opposites, in the transitions of one notion into another, in the eternal change, movement of notions, Hegel brilliantly divined precisely this relation of things to nature…. [W]hat constitutes dialectics?…. [M]utual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others.
    Bold added.

    No hint of metaphor here; in fact he says this is an "absolute".

    And, as I said before, Mao said more-or-less the same.

    I think one has to distinguish between the linguistic dross and the actual use to which the language is put. Note too, his introduction of concepts like leading or dominant aspect of the contradiction which are really just concepts from strategy expressed in dialectical language
    Well, I do not see any legitimate use at all for this sort of language; it's all dross to me, I'm afraid.

    It is just the historical accident that Marx happened to have gone to a philosophy course in a German University that landed us with this particular language. Were he formulating it at a later time he might have used the language or graph theory or Markov processes.
    Sure, but I have commented on this in other threads here; for example, this (this was in response to the question: why is dialectical materialism a world-view):

    There are two interconnected reasons, I think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Fortunately, history had predisposed these prophets to ascertain the truth about reality for them, which meant they were their 'naturally-ordained' leaders. That in turn meant these 'leaders' were also teachers of the 'ignorant masses', who could thus legitimately substitute themselves for the unwashed majority -- in 'their own interests', you understand, since the masses were too caught up in 'commodity fetishism' to see the truth for themselves.

    And that is why DM is a world-view.

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

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

    In that case:

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

    Unfortunately, these sad characters will need (materialist) workers to rescue them from themselves.
    Marx came from a class that educated their children to accept the idea that there is a 'rational' structure to reality, accessible to thought alone. So, had he never encountered Hegel, he'd have imbibed other a priori ideas.

    Now, in itself this is no bad thing, but when Hegel's ideas (upside down or the 'right way up') became ossified into a dogma, this did have demonstrably deleterious effects on Marxism.

    This is quite apart from the fact that it is impossible to make sense of these ideas.

    Were he formulating it at a later time he might have used the language or graph theory or Markov processes.
    I retain a healthy scepticism that dialectics can be re-formulated in such terms -- that is, without using the obscure jargon Hegel invented at some stage.

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    It is not a question of recasting dialectics as markov processes. It is a question of having a different framework to think of change over time. That was an underlying appeal of dialectics for Engels certainly.
    We know have quite a rich set of ways of thinking of this. In the 19th century there was not such a rich collection available. People always make do with the theoretical means of production to hand.

    A current generation of marxists who have had a large part of their education from 19th and early 20th century texts needs to broaden their reading to realise what new conceptual models are available.

    Dont downplay metaphor in practical cognition though, it is a basic conceptual mechanism that the human mind uses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Cockshott View Post
    It is not a question of recasting dialectics as markov processes. It is a question of having a different framework to think of change over time. That was an underlying appeal of dialectics for Engels certainly.
    We know have quite a rich set of ways of thinking of this. In the 19th century there was not such a rich collection available. People always make do with the theoretical means of production to hand.

    A current generation of marxists who have had a large part of their education from 19th and early 20th century texts needs to broaden their reading to realise what new conceptual models are available.

    Dont downplay metaphor in practical cognition though, it is a basic conceptual mechanism that the human mind uses.
    [FONT=Verdana]I wouldn't pretend to speak for Rosa. I myself am quite willing to concede the usefulness of metaphors in human thought. Even in the natural sciences, metaphors often play very important roles. [/FONT][FONT=&quot][FONT=Verdana]Scientific concepts have very often been successfully used as metaphors outside their original disciplines, indeed, sometimes so successfully that the original concepts become redefined such that the newer applications of these concepts become seen as being simply extensions of the original concepts.

    Rosa mentioned the invocation of the notion of metaphor by theologians. Non-fundamentalist theologians typically argue that the creation story in Genesis is to be read metaphorically rather than literally, hence in their view there is no necessary conflict between religion and science. In fact this mode of argument goes back many centuries, long before Darwin. Augustine was making similar arguments in order to resolve the conflicts between Christianity and the science of his day. Later on Aquinas developed an analogical theory of divine predicates in order to try to make sense out of religious language, especially language that is supposed to describe God. Aquinas was in effect admitting that if this language was taken literally then it must be taken to be nonsensical. So his analogical theory can be seen as an attempt to show how such language can still have cognitive meaning, despite its obvious problems. However, the theologians have never been consistent about this. If they were they would have to admit that religious language as such is literally nonsensical, and so without cognitive meaning. This point was argued quite effectively by Wittgenstein and many other 20th century thinkers, including the logical positivists, as well as people like Antony Flew, Kai Nielsen, Michael Martin and many others. Most of these people would agree that the theologians have tried to eat and have their cake too in regards to religious language. The theologians want to reserve the right to claim that they can make certain statements concerning God, the afterlife etc, that are to be taken as literally meaningful and literally true while acknowledging that most other religious language cannot be taken as literally true and so can only be understood as being metaphorical.

    In times past, I was pretty sympathetic towards the idea that dialectics could play a useful role in Marxist thought as long as dialectics was understood as being just a metaphor. I have become less sympathetic to this approach partly because of Rosa's arguments but also in this board and many other forums I have seen many Marxists for whom dialectics is literally true and I have seen how that has helped lead them down the primrose path, in which it may not be such a useful metaphor, especially a much richer set to tools for thinking about change and processes of change than was the case back in the 19th century.
    [/FONT]
    [/FONT]

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimFar View Post
    [FONT=Verdana]I wouldn't pretend to speak for Rosa. I myself am quite willing to concede the usefulness of metaphors in human thought. Even in the natural sciences, metaphors often play very important roles. [/FONT][FONT=&quot][FONT=Verdana]Scientific concepts have very often been successfully used as metaphors outside their original disciplines, indeed, sometimes so successfully that the original concepts become redefined such that the newer applications of these concepts become seen as being simply extensions of the original concepts.

    Rosa mentioned the invocation of the notion of metaphor by theologians. Non-fundamentalist theologians typically argue that the creation story in Genesis is to be read metaphorically rather than literally, hence in their view there is no necessary conflict between religion and science. In fact this mode of argument goes back many centuries, long before Darwin. Augustine was making similar arguments in order to resolve the conflicts between Christianity and the science of his day. Later on Aquinas developed an analogical theory of divine predicates in order to try to make sense out of religious language, especially language that is supposed to describe God. Aquinas was in effect admitting that if this language was taken literally then it must be taken to be nonsensical. So his analogical theory can be seen as an attempt to show how such language can still have cognitive meaning, despite its obvious problems. However, the theologians have never been consistent about this. If they were they would have to admit that religious language as such is literally nonsensical, and so without cognitive meaning. This point was argued quite effectively by Wittgenstein and many other 20th century thinkers, including the logical positivists, as well as people like Antony Flew, Kai Nielsen, Michael Martin and many others. Most of these people would agree that the theologians have tried to eat and have their cake too in regards to religious language. The theologians want to reserve the right to claim that they can make certain statements concerning God, the afterlife etc, that are to be taken as literally meaningful and literally true while acknowledging that most other religious language cannot be taken as literally true and so can only be understood as being metaphorical.

    In times past, I was pretty sympathetic towards the idea that dialectics could play a useful role in Marxist thought as long as dialectics was understood as being just a metaphor. I have become less sympathetic to this approach partly because of Rosa's arguments but also in this board and many other forums I have seen many Marxists for whom dialectics is literally true and I have seen how that has helped lead them down the primrose path, in which it may not be such a useful metaphor, especially a much richer set to tools for thinking about change and processes of change than was the case back in the 19th century.
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    Well first, eastern theologians have always been consistent. I'm from the Eastern Orthodox Christian church :
    Here, however, are two quotes from typical priests of the third largest Christian denomination, Orthodox Christianity, Fr. Andrew Anglorus and Fr. Stephen Freeman:
    …lack[ing] a Patristic understanding of the Scriptures…they do not understand the Scriptures spiritually, ascetically, allegorically, poetically, but only literally. We call such an understanding 'fundamentalist' .


    Genesis, properly read, is not a science text book. It is about Christ and reveals Him as the very meaning and purpose of creation - as well as explicating His Pascha. If you don’t see that when you read the first chapter of Genesis, then no one ever taught you how to read Scripture as the primitive Church read Scripture….Scripture functions as a verbal icon - and like an icon requires an understanding of its spiritual grammar to see it correctly .
    Nor is this simply a way for modern Christians to excuse obviously unscientific biblical passages. St. Maximus the Confessor, living in 500-600 A.D. wrote, “Ignorance, in other words, Hades, dominates those who understand Scripture in a fleshly (literal) way.”

    But also I've never come across a Left theorist today (Alan Wood?) who uses the type of old fashioned dialectics Rosa argues against. Even if they mention Hegel, it's usually only a specific reading of Hegel, in such a way as to refuse the lure of ‘dialectical synthesis’, and so avoid any evolutionary notion of how things as such become reflexively aware of what they really are, a‘progressive development of in-itself into for-itself.’
    Usually it starts from the assumption that reconciliation, mediation, and overcoming difference are impossible.

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    Paul Cockshott:

    It is not a question of recasting dialectics as markov processes. It is a question of having a different framework to think of change over time. That was an underlying appeal of dialectics for Engels certainly.
    We know have quite a rich set of ways of thinking of this. In the 19th century there was not such a rich collection available. People always make do with the theoretical means of production to hand.
    I agree, but then why bother at all with Hegel's and/or Engels's confused thought?

    Dont downplay metaphor in practical cognition though, it is a basic conceptual mechanism that the human mind uses.
    I'm not downplaying it; indeed, quite the opposite. What I am suspicious of, as I noted, is any attempt made by comrades to sanitise the works of Idealists and Mystics with this handy magic wand.

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    Spiltteeth:

    But also I've never come across a Left theorist today (Alan Wood?) who uses the type of old fashioned dialectics Rosa argues against. Even if they mention Hegel, it's usually only a specific reading of Hegel, in such a way as to refuse the lure of ‘dialectical synthesis’, and so avoid any evolutionary notion of how things as such become reflexively aware of what they really are, a‘progressive development of in-itself into for-itself.’
    There are plenty of these quoted at my site, and if you check the websites of as many Marxist revolutionary groups as you can find (and there are hundreds) you will find that the vast majority promote the same, mind-numbingly repetitive theses derived from Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin and co.

    So, it's clear that the vast majority of active Marxist revolutionaries appeal to this obscure 'theory', and it's those that I seek to address, not academic Marxists who have no detectable influence on the class struggle.

    Which is why I post here, and not at specialist Philosophy forums.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Paul Cockshott:



    I agree, but then why bother at all with Hegel's and/or Engels's confused thought?



    I'm not downplaying it; indeed, quite the opposite. What I am suspicious of, as I noted, is any attempt made by comrades to sanitise the works of Idealists and Mystics with this handy magic wand.
    I would not rely on Hegel or Engels at all on this. My contention though, is that the way Mao used it practically is different, and that unless and equivalent conceptual structure is created, his usage of the language of 'contradiction' can be useful for analysis of military polical conjunctures.

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