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Thread: Anti-Duhring

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    Default Anti-Duhring

    [Sorry, Rosa, but even this non-dialectician is compelled to force you into tackling head on the very "Pauline" founder of what is known today as "Marxism," who combined Karl Marx and Frederich Engels' scientific socialism with August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht's classical social democracy - albeit while standing on his head. ]

    "Only owing to Anti-Dühring did we learn to read and understand Capital the right way."

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/scrapping-...34/index6.html

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa
    Whoever said that is an idiot; the Tokyo telephone directory would have been better than 'Anti-Duhring' in this respect. In its 'philosophical' capacity, it is without doubt one of the worst books ever written by a Marxist.

    A week ago, I wrote to the International Social Review making the above point to them: that this book is (philosophically) among the very worst ever written by a Marxist.

    Let's see if they publish it.
    Preliminary thoughts (of course, in the polemical style of his most well-known disciple)?
    "A new centrist project does not have to repeat these mistakes. Nobody in this topic is advocating a carbon copy of the Second International (which again was only partly centrist)." (Tjis, class-struggle anarchist)

    "A centrist strategy is based on patience, and building a movement or party or party-movement through deploying various instruments, which I think should include: workplace organising, housing struggles [...] and social services [...] and a range of other activities such as sports and culture. These are recruitment and retention tools that allow for a platform for political education." (Tim Cornelis, left-communist)

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    Preliminary thought: throw the 'philosophical' content of this execrable book on top of Hume's bonfire.

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    ^^^ Maybe it just wasn't dynamic enough for you.
    "A new centrist project does not have to repeat these mistakes. Nobody in this topic is advocating a carbon copy of the Second International (which again was only partly centrist)." (Tjis, class-struggle anarchist)

    "A centrist strategy is based on patience, and building a movement or party or party-movement through deploying various instruments, which I think should include: workplace organising, housing struggles [...] and social services [...] and a range of other activities such as sports and culture. These are recruitment and retention tools that allow for a platform for political education." (Tim Cornelis, left-communist)

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    No, the problem with this book is that it was ever written.

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    What may be most interesting about this book is why Engels felt the need to get into all this philosophical stuff at all. What was characteristic of Duhring was the claim that there are formal principles, which form a logical structure which are valid for all reality - thus suggesting an expanded realm for logical analysis.

    It is that claim that led Engels to go into philosophical matters. Logic, for Engels is tautological and trivial. Significant principles are abstracted from reality and not prior to it. Funnily enough in making this point, Engels begins by referrig to Hegel's "delirious fantasies" (MECW 25 P. 34)

    Equally ironic in the context of recent discussions on this board is how Engels immediatley goes on to reject philosophy: "we need no philosophy for this purpose but only positive knowledge of the world" (MECW 25 P. 35) and then goes on to affirm the partial and limited nature of all human understanding of reality as against any philosophical perspective that insists on its own absolute character, something Marx and Engels never believed in.
    "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" - quoted by Marx
    "Things rarely work out well if one aims at 'moderation'..." - Engels
    "By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock." Sir Philip Sydney
    "The most to be hoped for by groups who claim to belong to the Marxist succession (...) is for them to serve as a hyphen between past and future....nothing can be held sacred – everything is called into question. Only after having been put through such a crucible could socialism conceivably re-emerge as a viable doctrine and plan of action." - Van Heijenoort

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    Too bad then that Engels showed he was a philosophical incompetent in this execrable book...

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    Well you would be right Rosa if Engels was engaged in your beloved practice of philosophy. But he isnt. He is engaged in critique. And what is striking in that regard is the pages of detailed review of Duhring's views which, in philosophical terms, involved only in reestablishing the legitimacy of Kant's antinomies against Duhrings optimistic rationalism (MECW 25 P. 39-78), and Kant was not quite bad at philosophy.

    But I prefer Engels' other parrallel theme in these pages - namely that rather than develop our conceptions of motion, evolution and life from Hegel's Logic, we should instead develop our conceptions of those things not from either philosophy or ordinary discourse, but from science.
    "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" - quoted by Marx
    "Things rarely work out well if one aims at 'moderation'..." - Engels
    "By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock." Sir Philip Sydney
    "The most to be hoped for by groups who claim to belong to the Marxist succession (...) is for them to serve as a hyphen between past and future....nothing can be held sacred – everything is called into question. Only after having been put through such a crucible could socialism conceivably re-emerge as a viable doctrine and plan of action." - Van Heijenoort

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    Gil:

    Well you would be right Rosa if Engels was engaged in your beloved practice of philosophy. But he isnt. He is engaged in critique. And what is striking in that regard is the pages of detailed review of Duhring's views which, in philosophical terms, involved only in reestablishing the legitimacy of Kant's antinomies against Duhrings optimistic rationalism (MECW 25 P. 39-78), and Kant was not quite bad at philosophy.
    1) His 'critique' shows he was a philsophical incompetent.

    2) He also propounded dialectiacl theses, which confirm his status as the George W Bush of philosophy.

    3) Kant was systematically confused.

    But I prefer Engels' other parrallel theme in these pages - namely that rather than develop our conceptions of motion, evolution and life from Hegel's Logic, we should instead develop our conceptions of those things not from either philosophy or ordinary discourse, but from science.
    Well, that is both your problem and your punishment.

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    Well there can be no doubt that in the fullness of time the contradiction whereby Kant is still thought of as a great philosopher rather than as a 'systematically confused' person while your own contributions go unrecognised will be resolved in some synthesis satisfying to both justice and logic.

    It is important to have some regard to the context within which Engels propounds these dialectical theses. The most important point is that while replicating Hegel's idealism, Duhring rejected the dialectic. It is precisely the influence of Duhring in the German workers movement on the basis of these formulations which required Engels to formulate generalities that he had otherwise generally avoided. that is the sense in which we must call Engel's propositions 'critical' rather than positive, i.e. they are not so much his own doctrines as his rejection of the opposing views.

    So it is Duhring's proposition that (dialectical) contradiction = absurdity which leads Engels to formulate the alternative view that (dialectical) contradiction is a characteristic of the understanding of change. Contradiction on this view, might be seen as that characteristic of a descriptive proposition of a state or condition, when the object of the proposition is changing. This would be to talk about the proposition, i.e. to look at the matter formally.

    What is interesting/confusing/challenging is that Engels does not speak of the characteristic of the proposition, but of the characteristic of the object....we could talk about that. But to do that might be to miss the prior moment of the argument, which is the proposition: let there be a term 'dialectical contradiction', and let that term be the name of the characteristic which is common to all objects in a process of change and not present in objects not subject to change. hus Engels counterposes an alternative critical option to Duhring's identification of contradiction with absurdity., let contradiction be change.
    "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" - quoted by Marx
    "Things rarely work out well if one aims at 'moderation'..." - Engels
    "By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock." Sir Philip Sydney
    "The most to be hoped for by groups who claim to belong to the Marxist succession (...) is for them to serve as a hyphen between past and future....nothing can be held sacred – everything is called into question. Only after having been put through such a crucible could socialism conceivably re-emerge as a viable doctrine and plan of action." - Van Heijenoort

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    Gil (still siding with ruling-class hacks):

    Well there can be no doubt that in the fullness of time the contradiction whereby Kant is still thought of as a great philosopher rather than as a 'systematically confused' person while your own contributions go unrecognised will be resolved in some synthesis satisfying to both justice and logic.
    Not so; Marx already told us he was -- I have merely confirmed it.

    Want to know how and where he did?

    You only have to grovel...

    It is important to have some regard to the context within which Engels propounds these dialectical theses. The most important point is that while replicating Hegel's idealism, Duhring rejected the dialectic. It is precisely the influence of Duhring in the German workers movement on the basis of these formulations which required Engels to formulate generalities that he had otherwise generally avoided. that is the sense in which we must call Engel's propositions 'critical' rather than positive, i.e. they are not so much his own doctrines as his rejection of the opposing views.

    So it is Duhring's proposition that (dialectical) contradiction = absurdity which leads Engels to formulate the alternative view that (dialectical) contradiction is a characteristic of the understanding of change. Contradiction on this view, might be seen as that characteristic of a descriptive proposition of a state or condition, when the object of the proposition is changing. This would be to talk about the proposition, i.e. to look at the matter formally.

    1) It matters not what Engels's reason was (as if we did not know already!), the bottom line is that he was way out of his depth philosophically.

    2) We have yet to be told what a 'dialectical contradiction' is -- and we have only been waiting for 200 years.

    3) This 'theory' cannot explain change -- as I have shown -- or if this 'theory' is correct, change cannot happen.

    What is interesting/confusing/challenging is that Engels does not speak of the characteristic of the proposition, but of the characteristic of the object....we could talk about that. But to do that might be to miss the prior moment of the argument, which is the proposition: let there be a term 'dialectical contradiction', and let that term be the name of the characteristic which is common to all objects in a process of change and not present in objects not subject to change. hus Engels counterposes an alternative critical option to Duhring's identification of contradiction with absurdity., let contradiction be change.
    Nice a priori digmatics -- but where's the proof, and where is the explanation of what a 'dialectical contradiction' actually is.

    You know, you'd be better off posting a blank space for all the contribution you have made to understanding these terminally obscure Hermetic concepts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gilhyle View Post
    What is interesting/confusing/challenging is that Engels does not speak of the characteristic of the proposition, but of the characteristic of the object....we could talk about that. But to do that might be to miss the prior moment of the argument, which is the proposition: let there be a term 'dialectical contradiction', and let that term be the name of the characteristic which is common to all objects in a process of change and not present in objects not subject to change. hus Engels counterposes an alternative critical option to Duhring's identification of contradiction with absurdity., let contradiction be change.
    AFAIK contradiction is one of the movements of the dialectical process carried out by all objects, no? What real world objects aren't subject to change?
    Eppur si muove -- Galileo Galilei


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    Quote Originally Posted by gilhyle View Post
    What is interesting/confusing/challenging is that Engels does not speak of the characteristic of the proposition, but of the characteristic of the object....we could talk about that. But to do that might be to miss the prior moment of the argument, which is the proposition: let there be a term 'dialectical contradiction', and let that term be the name of the characteristic which is common to all objects in a process of change and not present in objects not subject to change. hus Engels counterposes an alternative critical option to Duhring's identification of contradiction with absurdity., let contradiction be change.
    If all you mean by “contradiction” is change, then why call it a “contradiction”? We already have a perfectly good word for change, namely “change”.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    If all you mean by “contradiction” is change, then why call it a “contradiction”? We already have a perfectly good word for change, namely “change”.
    The principle of contradiction reflects the dualistic relationship within a whole; the unity of opposites and their struggle. It is the inner dynamic, the how of change, not change itself, which is matter in motion.
    Eppur si muove -- Galileo Galilei


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    Quote Originally Posted by trivas7 View Post
    The principle of contradiction reflects the dualistic relationship within a whole; the unity of opposites and their struggle. It is the inner dynamic, the how of change, not change itself, which is matter in motion.
    So radioactive decay is to be explained with reference to “the unity of opposites and their struggle”?

    Radioactive decay is the process in which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by emitting radiation in the form of particles or electromagnetic waves. This decay, or loss of energy, results in an atom of one type, called the parent nuclide transforming to an atom of a different type, called the daughter nuclide.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyacinth View Post
    So radioactive decay is to be explained with reference to “the unity of opposites and their struggle”?
    Your joking, correct?

    If not, what is the whole within which the process of radioactive decay takes place?
    Eppur si muove -- Galileo Galilei


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    Quote Originally Posted by trivas7 View Post
    Your joking, correct?
    [/FONT] [FONT=Verdana]No, I’m being quite serious. I’d like you to explain to me how dialectics explains radioactive decay, because frankly I’m at a loss. [/FONT]
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    Quote Originally Posted by trivas7 View Post
    If not, what is the whole within which the process of radioactive decay takes place?
    [/FONT] [FONT=Verdana]Well, what is it? [/FONT]

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    Also, if dialectics is so integral to understanding change, why aren’t the natural science departments riddled with dialecticians? In fact, it makes me wonder how we’ve made any progress in science at all without them.

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    Rosa describes the concept of dialectical contradiction as 'obscure'. I think there is a significant element of truth in that....although I much prefer the word 'vague', which is less emotive. Something may be 'vague' and its a problem or 'vague' and its not a problem. The issue here is whether the vagueness of the concept of dialectical contradiction is a problem.

    Now Hyacinth asked why have the concept if it is equivalent to change ? Reasonable question. I think the answer given by Trivas is essentially correct although it is useful for a moment to try to state it without using other terminology from the same tradition. For that reason, it seems to me useful to acknowledge that what Engels is arguing is that it can be observed, as a general matter, that change is not accidental, change is necessitated or patterned.

    We could understand that commonplace observation in terms of mechanical conceptions of cause, i.e. an immediate proximate prior event which in some sense led to a subsequent event. Now that is itself a highly problematic conception but I wont go into those difficulties in any detail here. But it is fair to say that as an answer it is both 'vague' and problematic and anyone who thinks otherwise can go off and read the fate of Aristotle and 17th century mechanical philosophy.

    But Engels wants to reject Duhrings ideas in another way - without relying on a concept of cause. He wants to say merely that change, generally, is not accidental but happens as a matter of broader, longer processes. Notably this conception covers not only what is locally predicatbly caused but what is locally accidental but the necessity of which can be analysed if viewed collectively.

    This is indeed a 'vague' thing to say. But then the concept of 'change' is also vague and to add the idea of dialectical contradiction is merely to add one highly general conception to another highly general conception. Now we dont find the conception of change intrinsically problematic. We dont find it problematic notwithstanding the fact that we are talking about phenomena that we cant - at this level of abstraction - define very clearly or formally.

    Why then is it so problematic to differentiate between purely accidental, trivial changes which are not capable of serious study and those which are capable of study ? There seems nothing intrinsically unacceptable in a conceptualisation which suggests there is a general characteristic common to all necessitated or patterned changes and that therefore Duhring is wrong to suggest that the understanding of change reduces thinking to absurdity.
    "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" - quoted by Marx
    "Things rarely work out well if one aims at 'moderation'..." - Engels
    "By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock." Sir Philip Sydney
    "The most to be hoped for by groups who claim to belong to the Marxist succession (...) is for them to serve as a hyphen between past and future....nothing can be held sacred – everything is called into question. Only after having been put through such a crucible could socialism conceivably re-emerge as a viable doctrine and plan of action." - Van Heijenoort

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    Quote Originally Posted by gilhyle View Post
    For that reason, it seems to me useful to acknowledge that what Engels is arguing is that it can be observed, as a general matter, that change is not accidental, change is necessitated or patterned.

    We could understand that commonplace observation in terms of mechanical conceptions of cause, i.e. an immediate proximate prior event which in some sense led to a subsequent event. Now that is itself a highly problematic conception but I wont go into those difficulties in any detail here. But it is fair to say that as an answer it is both 'vague' and problematic and anyone who thinks otherwise can go off and read the fate of Aristotle and 17th century mechanical philosophy.
    [/FONT] [FONT=Verdana]If not here could you perhaps get to it somewhere, because this is an important issue. Why isn’t causation (mechanistic or otherwise, there are other conceptions of it [a look through either the Wikipedia page on causation, or else the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy will reveal that]) adequate to account for change?

    Moreover, how is a dialectical contradiction a better account?

    As well, why isn’t the concept of a dialectical contradiction subject to the same criticisms as traditional accounts of causality (e.g. Hume’s criticism of causation)?

    The cause for a dialectical account of change rests upon answering these questions.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gilhyle View Post
    This is indeed a 'vague' thing to say. But then the concept of 'change' is also vague and to add the idea of dialectical contradiction is merely to add one highly general conception to another highly general conception. Now we dont find the conception of change intrinsically problematic. We dont find it problematic notwithstanding the fact that we are talking about phenomena that we cant - at this level of abstraction - define very clearly or formally.
    [/FONT] [FONT=Verdana]Actually, apart from the issues that philosophers have with various conceptions of change, I don’t think that the concept of change is at all problematic in ordinary language. We all understand what we’re talking about when we talk about something changing. If change was a problematic concept we wouldn’t be able to effectively communicate with it.

    The same is not true of the notion of a dialectical contradiction. And it isn’t just a matter of it being a technical term, but more due to the fact that no account of a dialectical contradiction has been given in non-dialectical language (at least that I know of, I’d be more than happy to be shown wrong).
    [/FONT]
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    Quote Originally Posted by gilhyle View Post
    Why then is it so problematic to differentiate between purely accidental, trivial changes which are not capable of serious study and those which are capable of study ? There seems nothing intrinsically unacceptable in a conceptualisation which suggests there is a general characteristic common to all necessitated or patterned changes and that therefore Duhring is wrong to suggest that the understanding of change reduces thinking to absurdity.
    [/FONT] [FONT=Verdana]You’re absolutely correct, there is nothing wrong in differentiating between accidents and patterned changes. Duhring (if he did assert what you attribute to him) was indeed wrong. This is not the point of contention. The issue is whether the notion of a dialectical contradiction can account for change at all, and if so can it account for it better than causal (or other non-dialectical) accounts of change? [/FONT]

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    Gil:

    Rosa describes the concept of dialectical contradiction as 'obscure'. I think there is a significant element of truth in that....although I much prefer the word 'vague', which is less emotive. Something may be 'vague' and its a problem or 'vague' and its not a problem. The issue here is whether the vagueness of the concept of dialectical contradiction is a problem.
    There are several different kinds of vagueness. For example, someone could say "The march begins at 1pm or 2pm, I'm not sure...". In principle, this sort of vagueness can be rectified.

    On the other hand, someone could say "I am not sure what 'god' is, whether 'he' is a person, or spirit, or something else - or even whether 'he' is a 'he'..."

    This sort of vagueness is irresolvable.

    The latter sort of vagueness afflicts Hegel's work (and thus the term 'dialectical contradiction').

    And worse -- 'propositions' found in Hegel's work are non-sensical, since they are based on a systematic distortion of language.

    No wonder, then, that Hegel could not explain change, since he is not talking about it, but about something else -- "change" (or its equivalent in German) --, which he has signally failed to define, or even characterise, and which bears no relation to the word as it is ordinarily used.

    In that case, he might just as well have used "BuBuBu".

    As Marx noted:

    We have shown that exclusive, systematic occupation with these thoughts on the part of ideologists and philosophers, and hence the systematisation of these thoughts, is a consequence of division of labour, and that, in particular, German philosophy is a consequence of German petty-bourgeois conditions. The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), The German Ideology, p.118. Bold emphases added.]
    And distorted language is without meaning; it's 'propositions' lack sense, and are incapable of being given a sense.

    But this is what ruling-class thinkers like Hegel (and erstwhile radicals who feed off them, like Engels) have always done.

    Small wonder then that Marx said the ruling ideas are always those of the ruling class.

    I note, finally, that not even Gil can tell us what a 'dialectical contradiction' is.

    And Trivas is even worse; he is content just to repeat the same tired old phrases, which have been shown not to work.

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