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    Default Second Response To Anti-Dialectics Site

    [INDENT]"Dialectical logic demands that we go further…. [It] requires that an object should be taken in development, in 'self-movement' (as Hegel sometimes puts it)…." [Lenin (1921), p.90. Bold emphases in the original. Italic emphasis added.][/INDENT]

    Here, not only are objects said to be capable of moving themselves, but Lenin even says that DL "requires" us to view their motion in no other way.

    It looks, therefore, like Lenin was committed to the belief that not only can light bulbs change themselves, but also (by implication) that books on dialectics write themselves -- just as DM-fans fool themselves into believing far too much of what they have read in Hegel.2

    Well, perhaps Lenin was merely referring to the development of certain systems, and not the movement of objects from place to place, their locomotion? If so, the impertinent 'counter-example' from earlier (i.e., the one about light bulbs) is neither sensible nor apposite.

    But, Lenin's words were in fact pretty clear; he asserted that DL demands or requires that "objects" (not processes, nor yet systems, but objects) be taken in "development, in 'self-movement'", so he included both -- development and self-movement -- in this caveat. And, all this is quite apart from the fact that, as we have seen, Lenin counterposed this view of reality to that of the mechanical materialists, who hold that objects move because of the action of external forces:

    (Anti-dialectics Site Essay Eight - "How Many Dialecticians Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb")


    An observation first of all, Lenin did not become the main theoretician of the only workers’ movement in the history of humanity (so far) to have successfully seized and held state power more than momentarily , that he can be treated or dismiissed as an idiot. So when looking at his writings, that may seems ridiculous, it might be worth taking a step back and asking “have I got this right or am I missing something?” After Marx, Lenin stands as the greatest theoretician that the revolutionary workers movement has yet brought forth.

    Lenin was the first to link the rise of imperialism with the problems of accumulation experienced within the domestic economies of the world’s leading capitalist nations in Imperialism The Highest Stage of Capitalism . He showed why the drive to war and conquest in modern times sprang from the difficulties experienced by capitalists in making profit, not in a direct and obvious way but rather in an objective yet mediated way. In making this theoretical link which cannot be seen on the surface of society, he tied the anti-war struggle to the struggle against capitalist society itself. He made the revulsion that working people felt at the barbarity of the First World War, into a practical project of the need to fight against capitalism. This is the practical importance of theory as a guide to action.

    So let us be generous to Lenin and assume that even if he was saying something mistaken and theoretically incoherent, it is not going to be as obvious as Rosa seems to suggest on her anti-dialectics site. Let us take what Lenin says in context and see if we can construe a meaning that is more coherent. In choosing between two competing interpretations – to do justice to what a thinker meant – the form of expression may use terms differently to how it is commonly understood and that has to be allowed for. So if the competing interpretations of a work take a different meaning of a particular expression then the one that makes the whole argument sensible should be preferred to the one that renders it nonsense.

    The word “object” should be regarded as a social object (for example a commodity or a society), it is not a physical thing although physical things are involved - it is a social relationship . So analogies with natural objects may be used for illustrative purposes, but this should not be confused with the fact that it is a social “object” being discussed not a physical “thing”. It is legitimate to call social relations in this sense “objects” because they have an existence in the real world. They are not physical “things” but they have a material existence (meaning they are part of our reality).

    So in the passage above Rosa is confusing Lenin’s use of “objects” to mean physical things rather than social relations (which have a real existence – in that sense are “objective” not just in our heads). Everything that she says in the rest of that essay flows from this misunderstanding of “object” to mean physical thing. It is only on this basis that she could counterpose the ideas of Lenin to those of Newton to make it seem they are discussing the same topic, that would make what Lenin is saying nonsense. It is not.

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Ravi:

    An observation first of all, Lenin did not become the main theoretician of the only workers’ movement in the history of humanity (so far) to have successfully seized and held state power more than momentarily , that he can be treated or dismissed as an idiot. So when looking at his writings, that may seems ridiculous, it might be worth taking a step back and asking “have I got this right or am I missing something?” After Marx, Lenin stands as the greatest theoretician that the revolutionary workers movement has yet brought forth.
    Where have I dismissed him as an 'idiot'? [Still making stuff up, I see.]

    What I am doing here is showing how Lenin's "genius" (as Wittgenstein called him, at the same time as saying his philosophy was "piffle") was corrupted by Hegel and ruling-class thought:

    The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch.... [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65. Bold emphases added.]
    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.
    It is no wonder you keep making the same mistakes, since you deliberately ignore the above, no matter how many times I remind you of it.

    R:

    Lenin was the first to link the rise of imperialism with the problems of accumulation experienced within the domestic economies of the world’s leading capitalist nations in Imperialism The Highest Stage of Capitalism . He showed why the drive to war and conquest in modern times sprang from the difficulties experienced by capitalists in making profit, not in a direct and obvious way but rather in an objective yet mediated way. In making this theoretical link which cannot be seen on the surface of society, he tied the anti-war struggle to the struggle against capitalist society itself. He made the revulsion that working people felt at the barbarity of the First World War, into a practical project of the need to fight against capitalism. This is the practical importance of theory as a guide to action.
    What has this got to do with my argument?

    [Hint: nothing at all! May I suggest you look up the meaning of the word 'relevant'?]

    So let us be generous to Lenin and assume that even if he was saying something mistaken and theoretically incoherent, it is not going to be as obvious as Rosa seems to suggest on her anti-dialectics site. Let us take what Lenin says in context and see if we can construe a meaning that is more coherent. In choosing between two competing interpretations – to do justice to what a thinker meant – the form of expression may use terms differently to how it is commonly understood and that has to be allowed for. So if the competing interpretations of a work take a different meaning of a particular expression then the one that makes the whole argument sensible should be preferred to the one that renders it nonsense.

    The word “object” should be regarded as a social object (for example a commodity or a society), it is not a physical thing although physical things are involved - it is a social relationship . So analogies with natural objects may be used for illustrative purposes, but this should not be confused with the fact that it is a social “object” being discussed not a physical “thing”. It is legitimate to call social relations in this sense “objects” because they have an existence in the real world. They are not physical “things” but they have a material existence (meaning they are part of our reality).

    So in the passage above Rosa is confusing Lenin’s use of “objects” to mean physical things rather than social relations (which have a real existence – in that sense are “objective” not just in our heads). Everything that she says in the rest of that essay flows from this misunderstanding of “object” to mean physical thing. It is only on this basis that she could counterpose the ideas of Lenin to those of Newton to make it seem they are discussing the same topic, that would make what Lenin is saying nonsense. It is not.
    This ignores what Lenin actually said:

    "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. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).

    "In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self-movement'.

    "The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.

    "The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) 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.357-58. Bold emphases added.]
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...5/misc/x02.htm

    Notice that Lenin includes in this 'self-movement', "everything existing", "all phenomena and processes in nature", and "all processes in the world".

    But, what of these 'objects'? Well, we needn't speculate since Lenin himself told us:

    Dialectical logic demands that we should go further. Firstly, if we are to have a true knowledge of an object we must look at and examine all its facets, its connections and “mediacies”. That is something we cannot ever hope to achieve completely, but the rule of comprehensiveness is a safeguard against mistakes and rigidity. Secondly, dialectical logic requires that an object should be taken in development, in change, in “self-movement” (as Hegel sometimes puts it). This is not immediately obvious in respect of such an object as a tumbler, but it, too, is in flux, and this holds especially true for its purpose, use and connection with the surrounding world. Thirdly, a full “definition” of an object must include the whole of human experience, both as a criterion of truth and a practical indicator of its connection with human wants.
    Bold added.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...921/jan/25.htm

    So, the word "object", as Lenin understood it, even includes tumblers!

    Hence, according to Lenin, tumblers 'self-move'!

    Which explains the joke:

    Q: How many dialecticians does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: None at all, the light bulb changes itself.
    You'd do well to familiarise yourself with your own 'theory', and with the writings of those you look to for 'philosophical' advice, before you post any more irrelevant comments about my work.

    [We saw in the previous thread on this that you studiously ignore what Marx had to say about Das Kapital -- that it was a Hegel free zone -- just as you ignore what he had to say about 'ruling ideas' and philosophical distortion. Is this what the good folk here have to endure: weeks of irrelevancies from you?]
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 08-26-2013 at 2:42 AM.

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    Default Re: Second Response To Anti-Dialectics Site

    Do you have the full quote of Wittgenstein referring to Lenin as a genius? I'd be interested in reading it as well as the context in which it was aid.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Ravi: Now I covered all these issues in the Essay you plainly skim-read, or read with a bag over your head -- as less biased readers can judge for themselves:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2008_01.htm

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Second Response To Anti-Dialectics Site

    That reference appeared in an article written by John Moran back in the 1970s (re-posted at my site; link below) in an interview with Professor A C Jackson, one of Wittgenstein's (communist) pupils:

    "Jackson mentions Wittgenstein’s having spoken of Lenin as 'a genius and a philosophical primitive'."
    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Wittgen...and_Russia.htm

    It is recorded in Note 23, at the bottom.

    Here is what Wittgenstein's biographer, Brian McGuinness, had to say (taken from my soon-to-be-published Essay):

    "[Wittgenstein's] sympathies in the Thirties (and, as we will see, throughout the war) were with the Left. So were his associations: returned to Cambridge in 1929, he took up again with the Apostles, by now largely a left-wing group. He lodged with the leading left-wing economist [Maurice Dobb -- RL] who was their most active senior member (some now think him their spymaster). Of four Cambridge men to die in the Spanish Civil War, three were, if not disciples, at least pupils or associates of Wittgenstein. His great friend [Francis Skinner -- RL], also tried to enlist despite a game [i.e., crippled -- RL] leg (and we may be sure he did it with Wittgenstein's approval). The Marxists, of course, criticised Wittgenstein's philosophy (confining themselves usually to that of the Tractatus) and he was critical of theirs -- principally of it being a philosophy at all; but they had attended his classes and had breathed his air. He, for his part, began (with Skinner) to study Russian. His teacher was Fania Pascal, she too wife of a Marxist and active in the British Soviet Friendship Society. Wittgenstein learnt the language well and had clearly retained a nostalgia for Russia formed in the first war -- a nostalgia for the Russia of Tolstoy perhaps, but it led him to visit the Russia of Stalin and even to think of settling there. The atmosphere of Stalinism contained something that attracted him: a total destruction of early twentieth-century social forms was required (he thought) if there was to be any improvement. 'Die Leidenschaft verspricht etwas' ['Passion does not want to wait' -- Nietzsche; full quote below -- RL], he said to Waismann: the passion that infused society there meant that some good would come from it. Again: Wittgenstein accepts the dark and terrible side of things. A Russian leader acts because he must: Lenin (here Wittgenstein repeated a cliché of the time) was like a man who had seized the wheel from a drunk (Lenin's philosophy was of course piffle). Fania Pascal had the impression that the sufferings of so many in the Russia of the 20s and 30s were accepted by Wittgenstein as an accompaniment, relatively unimportant, of the affirmation of a new society. Misery there would have been anyway: now at least it was for a purpose. His attitude toward the Russia of Lenin and Stalin mirrors his dismay at the total unemployment and dejection of 30s Jarrow (where Drury worked): the only solution, he said, is to get these people all running in the same direction. He seems to have thought that this had happened in Russia, and it is perhaps equally important for understanding his attitudes that that he thought it would not happen in England.

    "When the Pascals moved to Birmingham, they found Wittgenstein a frequent visitor: the Vice-Chancellor was a Cambridge friend (a former polar explorer) but Wittgenstein belonged to a strongly left-wing circle there. He belonged not as one active politically, but as a friend: yet for him that required a coincidence in approach to judgements of value. George Thomson and Nicholas Bachtin (brother of Michael) were his closest friends, the one a leading Marxist interpreter of antiquity, the other a former White Russian officer now a Communist, both men of remarkable literary gifts.... There and not in Trinity he found his friends. Though he did not applaud their ideology or their political activity when they went in for it, his sympathies lay with them and he shared their dislikes." [McGuinness (1999), pp.139-40.]
    Bold added.

    The exact reference will become available in a week or so when I publish my Essay on Wittgenstein.

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Second Response To Anti-Dialectics Site

    I have now added Ravi's 'criticism' of my work, and a heavily edited version of my response above, to End Note 01 in the above Essay:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2008_01.htm#Note_01

    I considered it worth preserving as a warning to posterity.

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    Default Re: Second Response To Anti-Dialectics Site

    If you look in context at the quote from Lenin used by Rosa it is on the subject of a dispute over the relationship between the Trade Unions and The Soviets. The example of the tumbler is used as an illustration that any object has a multiplicity of definitions. In other words it is not a single property, but a potentially infinite number with the relevant aspect from this infinite range of definitions being decided by the context.


    "A tumbler is assuredly both a glass cylinder and a drinking vessel. But there are more than these two properties, qualities or facets to it; there are an infinite number of them, an infinite number of “mediacies” and inter-relationships with the rest of the world. A tumbler is a heavy object which can be used as a missile; it can serve as a paper weight, a receptacle for a captive butterfly, or a valuable object with an artistic engraving or design, and this has nothing at all to do with whether or not it can be used for drinking, is made of glass, is cylindrical or not quite, and so on and so forth.

    Moreover, if I needed a tumbler just now for drinking, it would not in the least matter how cylindrical it was, and whether it was actually made of glass; what would matter though would be whether it had any holes in the bottom, or anything that would cut my lips when I drank, etc. But if I did not need a tumbler for drinking but for a purpose that could be served by any glass cylinder, a tumbler with a cracked bottom or without one at all would do just as well, etc."

    So it is making an illustrative point that a single definition will never capture reality (physical or social). So Lenin is discussing the role of the trade unions and for illustration refers to a tumbler being multi faceted.

    Now I will not deny this in philosophical terms is an imprecise use of a idea of multifaceted reality and slips into seeing dialectics being relevant to the tumbler. But neither Lenin (nor Marx) were philosophers, they had read philosophy, but both were practical revolutionaries. Instead of looking to give a general explanation of the universe and everything in it both physical and social, they were primarily interested in social and political questions.

    Rosa you might not have directly called Lenin an idiot but to suggest that he had a delusional belief in some sort of animism where inanimate objects (tumblers) have some sort of living essence is to misunderstand how it fitted into a discussion on the role of Trade Unions in Soviet society, is implying as much. If you draw out what he seems to be saying about tumblers as a general philosophical position rather than what he was actually saying about trade unions then you will miss the true meaning of his idea. As I said in the thread on my first response to the anti-dialectics site, any quote taken out of context and spun in a mistaken way. This procedure could make anyone including Marx or Lenin, seem like idiots. How that quote fits into broader explanation is the only way to get its meaning. Truth and meaning are contextual.

    Lenin was not interested much in the properties of spherical objects (tumblers or otherwise), he was a addressing a social and political question (in its historical context) and using an example that is simple to grasp. That he expressed it in such a way that a philosophically trained radical like Rosa could almost a century later show it to be an unsupportable position on dialectics is unfortunate until we put it back in its context. The whole pamphlet was on Trade Unions and for Rosa to pick one little analogy about tumblers and use it as a point that Lenin was hopelessly confused is grossly unfair. People should read the whole of Lenin's pamphlet and decide for themselves.

    Read in context Lenin shortly after the quote above saying

    "I have not, of course, run through the whole notion of dialectical logic, but what I have said will do for the present. I think we can return from the tumbler to the trade unions and Trotsky’s platform."

    and see whether his discussion of dialectics is in relation to the trade unions or to tumblers.

    You can find the whole of Lenin's pamphlet here http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...921/jan/25.htm

    The point about Lenin's understanding of imperialism was drawn out to show that it was dialectically derived from Marx's view on accumulation and he is not to be taken as ever theoretically sloppy on social questions. But more on that in a future post!
    Last edited by Ravi; 08-26-2013 at 3:17 PM.

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Second Response To Anti-Dialectics Site

    R:

    If you look in context at the quote from Lenin used by Rosa it is on the subject of a dispute over the relationship between the Trade Unions and The Soviets. The example of the tumbler is used as an illustration that any object has a multiplicity of definitions. In other words it is not a single property, but a potentially infinite number with the relevant aspect from this infinite range of definitions being decided by the context.
    Indeed, but the following comment tells us how wide-ranging Lenin considered his principle of 'self-movement' to be:

    "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. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).

    "In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self-movement'.

    "The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.

    "The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) 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.357-58. Bold emphases added.]
    Perhaps you failed to notice that Lenin applied this notion to: "everything existing", "all phenomena and processes in nature", and "all processes in the world".

    The question is; Does this tumbler exist?

    It seems so. [Perhaps you disagree.]

    In that case, according to Lenin, it must 'self-develop', or 'self-move'.

    But, let us suppose you are right in what you say: How does a tumbler 'self-develop', or 'self-move', even if it is a commodity, and all the other things you say about it are true?

    You have signally failed to explain that conundrum. [Indeed, how does a Trade Union 'self-develop', or 'self-move'?]

    Now, in the above passage, Lenin is contrasting the old 'mechanical materialist' view of change:

    In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.).
    With his 'dialectical' view of change:

    In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self-movement'.... The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.
    Notice that? The 'second view' provides the "key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing" -- which, as we have seen, applies to tumblers.

    But, what of the other things you have to say? Do they imply that this tumbler does not exist, and hence is not subject to 'self-movement'?

    So it is making an illustrative point that a single definition will never capture reality (physical or social). So Lenin is discussing the role of the trade unions and for illustration refers to a tumbler being multi faceted.
    Indeed, but how does that show this tumbler does not exist, and hence isn't subject to 'self-movement'?

    You left that part of your answer out.

    But, what does Lenin tell us about this 'object' in this passage:

    Dialectical logic demands that we should go further. Firstly, if we are to have a true knowledge of an object we must look at and examine all its facets, its connections and “mediacies”. That is something we cannot ever hope to achieve completely, but the rule of comprehensiveness is a safeguard against mistakes and rigidity. Secondly, dialectical logic requires that an object should be taken in development, in change, in “self-movement” (as Hegel sometimes puts it). This is not immediately obvious in respect of such an object as a tumbler, but it, too, is in flux, and this holds especially true for its purpose, use and connection with the surrounding world. Thirdly, a full “definition” of an object must include the whole of human experience, both as a criterion of truth and a practical indicator of its connection with human wants.
    According to Lenin, this 'object' has connections with the "surrounding world", and hence it 'self-moves'. So, Lenin certainly believes it exists, and hence 'self-moves'.

    In your haste to limit these 'mediacies' to its nature as a commodity, or a glass object, you are guilty of ignoring the following (and we already know you are good at ignoring things you do not like, or can't answer; we saw that in the last thread, where you were quite happy to ignore what Marx had to say about the 'dialectical method'):

    but the rule of comprehensiveness is a safeguard against mistakes and rigidity.
    And hence, you are guilty of ignoring the 'demands of dialectical logic'.

    So, what is your response? This:

    Now I will not deny this in philosophical terms is an imprecise use of a idea of multifaceted reality and slips into seeing dialectics being relevant to the tumbler. But neither Lenin (nor Marx) were philosophers, they had read philosophy, but both were practical revolutionaries. Instead of looking to give a general explanation of the universe and everything in it both physical and social, they were primarily interested in social and political questions.
    1) Marx was in fact a trained philosopher. You need to upgrade your knowledge of his biography.

    2) If Lenin was such a poor theorist, why listen to anything he had to say?

    3) I agree with you about Marx (that his ideas apply to human development), but Lenin had things like this to say about the 'dialectic in nature' (which you seem to have conveniently ignored, once again):

    "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. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).

    "In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self-movement'.

    "The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.

    "The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) 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.357-58. Bold emphases added.]
    If, for Lenin, the 'dialectic' applies only to human development, why did he say things like the above, that it :

    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',
    Why did he say that:

    The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.
    Why did he contrast 'the dialectic' with older, mechanical views of change which account for nature in terms of an "external push from 'god'"?

    These don't look like ideas you can explain away by saying:

    Instead of looking to give a general explanation of the universe and everything in it both physical and social, they were primarily interested in social and political questions
    When this is precisely what Lenin was doing.

    Why did he also say things like this:

    "Flexibility, applied objectively, i.e., reflecting the all-sidedness of the material process and its unity, is dialectics, is the correct reflection of the eternal development of the world." [Lenin (1961), p.110. Bold emphasis added.]
    Or this?

    "Thought proceeding from the concrete to the abstract -– provided it is correct (NB)… -- does not get away from the truth but comes closer to it. The abstraction of matter, the law of nature, the abstraction of value, etc., in short all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, truly and completely." [Ibid., p.171. Bold added.]
    Or this?

    "Logical concepts are subjective so long as they remain 'abstract,' in their abstract form, but at the same time they express the Thing-in-themselves. Nature is both concrete and abstract, both phenomenon and essence, both moment and relation." [Ibid., p.208. Bold added.]
    Or this (where, like Hegel, Lenin 'derives' the entire dialectic from a sentence about 'John'!):

    "To begin with what is the simplest, most ordinary, common, etc., [sic] with any proposition...: [like] John is a man…. Here we already have dialectics (as Hegel's genius recognized): the individual is the universal…. Consequently, the opposites (the individual is opposed to the universal) are identical: the individual exists only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual. Every individual is (in one way or another) a universal. Every universal is (a fragment, or an aspect, or the essence of) an individual. Every universal only approximately embraces all the individual objects. Every individual enters incompletely into the universal, etc., etc. Every individual is connected by thousands of transitions with other kinds of individuals (things, phenomena, processes), etc. Here already we have the elements, the germs of the concept of necessity, of objective connection in nature, etc. Here already we have the contingent and the necessary, the phenomenon and the essence; for when we say John is a man…we disregard a number of attributes as contingent; we separate the essence from the appearance, and counterpose the one to the other…." [[Lenin (1961), pp.359-60. Bold added.]
    Or this:

    "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?…. [B]Mutual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others./B]" [Lenin (1961), pp.196-97. Emphases in the original.]
    All taken from here:

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...w/volume38.htm

    Or this:

    "Nowadays, the ideas of development…as formulated by Marx and Engels on the basis of Hegel…[encompass a process] that seemingly repeats the stages already passed, but repeats them otherwise, on a higher basis ('negation of negation'), a development, so to speak, in spirals, not in a straight line; -- a development by leaps, catastrophes, revolutions; -- 'breaks in continuity'; the transformation of quantity into quality; -- the inner impulses to development, imparted by the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body, or within a given phenomenon, or within a given society; -- the interdependence and the closest, indissoluble connection of all sides of every phenomenon…, a connection that provides a uniform, law-governed, universal process of motion -– such are some of the features of dialectics as a richer (than the ordinary) doctrine of development." [Lenin (1914), pp.12-13. Bold emphases added.]
    Lenin, V. (1914), 'The Marxist Doctrine', reprinted in Lenin (1970), pp.1-18.

    --------, (1970), Karl Marx (Foreign Languages Press).

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...ranat/ch02.htm

    And, in case you want to explain all this away (or, indeed, ignore it again), he has this to say:

    "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….
    Bold added.

    Notice that this "alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing..."

    [Repeated several times to minimise the likelihood you'll try to ignore it once more -- some hope!]

    So, you might be right about Marx, but you are hopelessly wrong about Lenin.

    Here are a few other things he said about the dialectic in nature:

    1. the objectivity of consideration (not examples, not divergencies, but the Thing-in-itself).

    2. the entire totality of the manifold relations of this thing to others.

    3. the development of this thing, (phenomenon, respectively), its own movement, its own life.

    4.the internally contradictory tendencies (and sides) in this thing.

    5. the thing (phenomenon, etc.) as the sum and unity of opposites.

    6. the struggle, respectively unfolding, of these opposites, contradictory strivings, etc.

    7. the union of analysis and synthesis—the break-down of the separate parts and the totality, the summation of these parts.

    8. the relations of each thing (phenomenon, etc.) are not only manifold, but general, universal. Each thing (phenomenon, process, etc.) is connected with every other.

    9. not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its
    opposite?].

    10. the endless process of the discovery of new sides, relations, etc.

    11. the endless process of the deepening of man’s knowledge of the thing, of phenomena, processes, etc., from appearance to essence and from less pro found to more profound essence.

    12. from co-existence to causality and from one form of connection and reciprocal dependence to another, deeper, more general form.

    13. the repetition at a higher stage of certain features, properties, etc., of the lower and#

    14. the apparent return to the old (negation of the negation).

    15. the struggle of content with form and conversely. The throwing off of the form, the transformation of the content.

    16. the transition of quantity into quality and vice versa ((15 and 16 are examples of 9))
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...ic/summary.htm

    And:

    The correctness of this aspect of the content of dialectics must be tested by the history of science. This aspect of dialectics (e.g. in Plekhanov) usually receives inadequate attention: the identity of opposites is taken as the sum-total of examples [“for example, a seed,” “for example, primitive communism.” The same is true of Engels. But it is “in the interests of popularisation...”] and not as a law of cognition (and as a law of the objective world).

    In mathematics: + and —. Differential and integral.
    In mechanics: action and reaction.
    In physics: positive and negative electricity.
    In chemistry: the combination and dissociation of atoms.
    In social science: the class struggle.
    http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...5/misc/x02.htm

    The last comment is topped off with this gloss:

    The identity of opposites (it would be more correct, perhaps, to say their “unity,”—although the difference between the terms identity and unity is not particularly important here. In a certain sense both are correct) is the recognition (discovery) of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature (including mind and society). 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. The two basic (or two possible? Or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).
    Bold added. [Repeated once again!]

    Rosa you might not have directly called Lenin an idiot but to suggest that he had a delusional belief in some sort of animism where inanimate objects (tumblers) have some sort of living essence is to misunderstand how it fitted into a discussion on the role of Trade Unions in Soviet society, is implying as much. If you draw out what he seems to be saying about tumblers as a general philosophical position rather than what he was actually saying about trade unions then you will miss the true meaning of his idea. As I said in the thread on my first response to the anti-dialectics site, any quote taken out of context and spun in a mistaken way. This procedure could make anyone including Marx or Lenin, seem like idiots. How that quote fits into broader explanation is the only way to get its meaning. Truth and meaning are contextual.
    Again, you miss the point (which Wittgenstein saw quite clearly): that Lenin's genius was ruined by the crazy theory he allowed to colonise his brain (I explained why the dialectical classicists allowed this to happen in that other thread -- they were educated in class society to see the world this way; their 'social being' limited and shaped the ideas they were capable of forming).

    In a similar manner, Newton allowed his genius to be spoiled by all the time and energy he wasted on Alchemy, Kabbalism, Hermeticism, and Biblical Numerology. If I point this out about Newton, that doesn't not imply I think he is an 'idiot', any more than Newton scholars think he was an 'idiot' when they pointed it out before me:



    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_N...eligious_views

    http://www.isaac-newton.org/

    Truth and meaning are contextual.
    Well, we can debate that dogmatic statement another time, but let us suppose it is true (but only in this context, according to you!) -- the above quotations tell us what, for Lenin, the context is.

    Lenin was not interested much in the properties of spherical objects (tumblers or otherwise), he was a addressing a social and political question (in its historical context) and using an example that is simple to grasp. That he expressed it in such a way that a philosophically trained radical like Rosa could almost a century later show it to be an unsupportable position on dialectics is unfortunate until we put it back in its context. The whole pamphlet was on Trade Unions and for Rosa to pick one little analogy about tumblers and use it as a point that Lenin was hopelessly confused is grossly unfair. People should read the whole of Lenin's pamphlet and decide for themselves.
    We can both play that game:

    That he expressed it in such a way that a philosophically confused individual like Ravi, almost a century later, could ignore what Lenin had to say about 'everything existing'.
    Now, you might want to sell us a 'sanitised' version of Lenin's view of 'the dialectic', but you aren't going to get far, or convince anyone, if you ignore what he actually said about it.

    Recall, I am not attacking your idiosyncratic and sanitised view of 'the dialectic', but 'the dialectic' as it has been understood by the classicists -- Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky --, and by the vast majority of revolutionaries ever since.

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    It comes down to whether you think that Lenin's view that dialectics extended to nature was fatal to the coherence of his political and social outlook. If you think that physical objects behave in the same way as social phenomena, then the flip side of that is that social phenomena behave like physical objects.

    Now unlike Engels in the Dialectics of Nature (part of Anti-Duhring), where he is extensively showing the dialectic applying to nature Lenin does not do this. So Lenin was rather (after Engels) uncritically accepting of the dialectic applying to nature - but except for illustrative purposes he never draws out how the dialectic applies to nature. He is always looking at social/political problems and showing why a dialectical conception is the only way to understand them, the parallel with physical nature is not thought through which if he was to be considered philosophically makes the dialectic an incoherent notion.

    This makes the legacy of Lenin's thought complicated. If we read him as seeing the dialectic applying to nature in the same way that it did to society, then the criticism of mechanical materialism really does not make sense. This is one possible reading (which Rosa has taken), but if you take the opposite approach I am suggesting, which is that read Lenin as whenever he is talking about reality being dialectical as only having social reality as his focus then his status as a great theoretician makes more sense.

    I am not saying that more quotes cannot be brought to support Rosa's position, what I am saying is that despite the form of expression which is philosophically confusing, the political meaning in a specific context makes more sense.

    So there had been lots of criticism of the Bolsheviks by other revolutionaries in Russia and beyond that to push the unrest in the country in a revolutionary direction was premature. The argument ran using dialectical sounding arguments that Russia was too economically backward to successfully move towards communism, it needed to undergo decades of development before it might be ready. If Lenin really thought of society (or parts of it) behaved in the same way as mechanical or biological objects then he would have no argument against this reasoning. Instead he argued that socialism is not built in one country (and couldn't be), but that Russia as the weakest link in the imperialist chain of advanced capitalist nations could act as the inspiration and trigger for revolutions elsewhere. Lenin was counting on revolutions in other countries and when they didn't materialise (particularly after the failures of revolution in Germany in 1919), he warned of the dangers of isolation for the young workers' state.

    The point about this if Lenin's was a really a mechanical or biological grasp of the dialectic then appreciating the possibility of revolution succeeding in Russia would not take the form it did. Except for posing the question specifically in relation to a given social problem, Lenin's method cannot be really seen.

    I wish that it was less ambiguous than that, but that is why Rosa's view was interesting in the first place because it does have some credibility and she does marshal evidence to back up her point, that her critics were ineffective in challenging, because they like her took the form of presentation (in which the dialectic does apply to nature) and in the content (only in Lenin's case, Engels on this is too confused in his later years after Marx's death) which uses it only on social questions.

    So going back to the original pamphlet, it should be clear that Lenin is arguing against both Trotsky and Bukharin in their conception of what a trade union is and how it relates to a workers' state. He attacks the formalist presentation of Trotsky and Bukharin and shows why a truly dialectical conception of the role of a trade union has to look at it in an all rounded way (or from the viewpoint of totality if you wanted to pose it in Hegel's terms) of what its role means in these specific conditions rather than posing it ahistorically as though what a trade union is, is given by a single definition as a particular type of workers organisation that applies in any situation. Lenin was saying a trade union does not have the same role and meaning in a workers state that it does under capitalism. This is what dialectics means on the social question of trade unions and how it differs from Trotsky and Bukharin's more formalist (or formal logical) treatment of the same question here. The tumbler is a confusing detour, if taken in isolation and drawn to extremes will then prove problematic.

    It comes down to whether you want to be harsh in interpreting Lenin or not. Read in context whether what Lenin is saying about trade unions is confused or incoherent and see how the illustration of the tumbler is used to support his argument, you can draw your own conclusions if physical objects being dialectical (in this context to illustrate something as multi-faceted and not reducible to one or two definitions) affects his judgement http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...921/jan/25.htm on trade unions, I would say not. In many of the other quotes Lenin is saying nature but is talking about man's nature (which is necessarily social). The quote that includes that "nature is both abstract and concrete" is definitely referring to society, it is only aspects of society that can really exist in abstract form, physical reality is only ever concrete.

    If you take my approach (call it sanitised if you like, I call it clarified) to see the dialectic only making sense in relation to social objects (like trade unions) not physical ones (like tumblers except in quite unimportant ways) then Lenin can be saved from appearing hopelessly confused on the political issue. The alternative is to see that philosophical confusion has to lead to political confusion.
    Last edited by Ravi; 08-26-2013 at 10:37 PM.

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    Ravi:

    It comes down to whether you think that Lenin's view that dialectics extended to nature was fatal to the coherence of his political and social outlook. If you think that physical objects behave in the same way as social phenomena, then the flip side of that is that social phenomena behave like physical objects.
    In fact, 'it comes down to' whether you are prepared to accept what Lenin himself has to say about his own ideas or whether you want to impose your own opinions on him.

    If you think that physical objects behave in the same way as social phenomena, then the flip side of that is that social phenomena behave like physical objects.
    How about this radical idea: Shall we let Lenin tell us what he thinks?

    "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. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation)....

    "The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new." [Lenin (1961), pp.357-58. Bold emphases added.]
    Conclusion?

    Lenin certainly disagrees with you.

    So, if you want to understand what he believes, it isn't a good idea to begin by ignoring what he has to say, and then compounding your error by saying the opposite of what he has said.

    Now unlike Engels in the Dialectics of Nature (part of Anti-Duhring), where he is extensively showing the dialectic applying to nature Lenin does not do this. So Lenin was rather (after Engels) uncritically accepting of the dialectic applying to nature - but except for illustrative purposes he never draws out how the dialectic applies to nature. He is always looking at social/political problems and showing why a dialectical conception is the only way to understand them, the parallel with physical nature is not thought through which if he was to be considered philosophically makes the dialectic an incoherent notion.

    This makes the legacy of Lenin's thought complicated. If we read him as seeing the dialectic applying to nature in the same way that it did to society, then the criticism of mechanical materialism really does not make sense. This is one possible reading (which Rosa has taken), but if you take the opposite approach I am suggesting, which is that read Lenin as whenever he is talking about reality being dialectical as only having social reality as his focus then his status as a great theoretician makes more sense.
    Bold added.

    Are you serious?

    I have quoted numerous passages from his work where he does apply it to nature. Here they are again (repeated once more so that you can ignore them once more):

    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',
    The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.
    "Flexibility, applied objectively, i.e., reflecting the all-sidedness of the material process and its unity, is dialectics, is the correct reflection of the eternal development of the world." [Lenin (1961), p.110. Bold emphasis added.]
    "Thought proceeding from the concrete to the abstract -– provided it is correct (NB)… -- does not get away from the truth but comes closer to it. The abstraction of matter, the law of nature, the abstraction of value, etc., in short all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, truly and completely." [Ibid., p.171. Bold added.]
    "Logical concepts are subjective so long as they remain 'abstract,' in their abstract form, but at the same time they express the Thing-in-themselves. Nature is both concrete and abstract, both phenomenon and essence, both moment and relation." [Ibid., p.208. Bold added.]
    "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?…. [B]Mutual dependence of notions all without exception…. Every notion occurs in a certain relation, in a certain connection with all the others./B]" [Lenin (1961), pp.196-97. Emphases in the original.]
    "Nowadays, the ideas of development…as formulated by Marx and Engels on the basis of Hegel…[encompass a process] that seemingly repeats the stages already passed, but repeats them otherwise, on a higher basis ('negation of negation'), a development, so to speak, in spirals, not in a straight line; -- a development by leaps, catastrophes, revolutions; -- 'breaks in continuity'; the transformation of quantity into quality; -- the inner impulses to development, imparted by the contradiction and conflict of the various forces and tendencies acting on a given body, or within a given phenomenon, or within a given society; -- the interdependence and the closest, indissoluble connection of all sides of every phenomenon…, a connection that provides a uniform, law-governed, universal process of motion -– such are some of the features of dialectics as a richer (than the ordinary) doctrine of development." [Lenin (1914), pp.12-13. Bold emphases added.]
    [References and links in my last post.]

    The question is: Can you point to a single passage of Lenin's that tells us the dialectic isn't applicable to nature?

    The next question is: Are you more interested in understanding Lenin, or in imposing your opinions on him?

    As we saw with Marx in the last thread, the answer to these questions is pretty clear: you aren't the least bit interested in 'dialectics' as Lenin, and the vast majority of revolutionaries have understood it. You are more interested in substituting for it your 'sanitised' version, in defiance of what the dialectical classicists have said about it.

    I am not saying that more quotes cannot be brought to support Rosa's position, what I am saying is that despite the form of expression which is philosophically confusing, the political meaning in a specific context makes more sense.
    In other words: you aren't interested in what Lenin had to say. Just as you weren't interested in what Marx had to say about 'the dialectical method' -- that, for him, it is a Hegel-free zone.

    So there had been lots of criticism of the Bolsheviks by other revolutionaries in Russia and beyond that to push the unrest in the country in a revolutionary direction was premature. The argument ran using dialectical sounding arguments that Russia was too economically backward to successfully move towards communism, it needed to undergo decades of development before it might be ready. If Lenin really thought of society (or parts of it) behaved in the same way as mechanical or biological objects then he would have no argument against this reasoning. Instead he argued that socialism is not built in one country (and couldn't be), but that Russia as the weakest link in the imperialist chain of advanced capitalist nations could act as the inspiration and trigger for revolutions elsewhere. Lenin was counting on revolutions in other countries and when they didn't materialise (particularly after the failures of revolution in Germany in 1919), he warned of the dangers of isolation for the young workers' state.

    The point about this if Lenin's was a really a mechanical or biological grasp of the dialectic then appreciating the possibility of revolution succeeding in Russia would not take the form it did. Except for posing the question specifically in relation to a given social problem, Lenin's method cannot be really seen.
    Well, as we have seen; Lenin certainly disagrees with you, in which case, it is now reasonably clear you have absolutely no desire to understand Lenin.

    I wish that it was less ambiguous than that, but that is why Rosa's view was interesting in the first place because it does have some credibility and she does marshal evidence to back up her point, that her critics were ineffective in challenging, because they like her took the form of presentation (in which the dialectic does apply to nature) and in the content (only in Lenin's case, Engels on this is too confused in his later years after Marx's death) which uses it only on social questions.
    Again, in other words, my account of Lenin is closer to the truth than yours, and by a couple of light years.

    So going back to the original pamphlet, it should be clear that Lenin is arguing against both Trotsky and Bukharin in their conception of what a trade union is and how it relates to a workers' state. He attacks the formalist presentation of Trotsky and Bukharin and shows why a truly dialectical conception of the role of a trade union has to look at it in an all rounded way (or from the viewpoint of totality if you wanted to pose it in Hegel's terms) of what its role means in these specific conditions rather than posing it ahistorically as though what a trade union is, is given by a single definition as a particular type of workers organisation that applies in any situation. Lenin was saying a trade union does not have the same role and meaning in a workers state that it does under capitalism. This is what dialectics means on the social question of trade unions and how it differs from Trotsky and Bukharin's more formalist (or formal logical) treatment of the same question here. The tumbler is a confusing detour, if taken in isolation and drawn to extremes will then prove problematic.
    1) Ok, so tell us: how does a Trade Union (or any social group/class/category) 'self-develop' or 'self-move'?

    2) Bukharin isn't the least bit interested in formal logic. The fact that you keep waving this phrase about the place, and studiously ignore any attempt on my part to get you to back up what you have to say with argument/evidence from a single logic text book, suggests either (a) you have absolutely no idea what formal logic is, or (b) you don't care, you just like to repeat things you have read in books on the 'dialectic' -- or (c) both.

    It comes down to whether you want to be harsh in interpreting Lenin or not. Read in context whether what Lenin is saying about trade unions is confused or incoherent and see how the illustration of the tumbler is used to support his argument, you can draw your own conclusions if physical objects being dialectical (in this context to illustrate something as multi-faceted and not reducible to one or two definitions) affects his judgement http://www.marxists.org/archive/leni...921/jan/25.htm on trade unions, I would say not.
    1) No, it 'comes down to' whether you want to represent or misrepresent Lenin.

    2) How does a tumbler 'self-move', whatever 'multi-facets' you want to throw into the mix?

    If you take my approach (call it sanitised if you like, I call it clarified) to see the dialectic only making sense in relation to social objects (like trade unions) not physical ones (like tumblers except in quite unimportant ways) then Lenin can be saved from appearing hopelessly confused on the political issue. The alternative is to see that philosophical confusion has to lead to political confusion.
    You are like those Christians, who when they were confronted with modern science, began to 'sanitise' the creation story in the Bible, ignoring what it says or re-configuring it as 'figurative', or 'allegorical', etc.

    So, you aren't defending 'the dialectic'; you are simply promoting your own 'sanitised' version of it, which bears no relation to anything Lenin had to say (or, anything Marx had you say, either).

    As I said in that other thread: this isn't a good start on your part.

    In fact, taking you on is like fighting a dead sheep.

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    Ok let us see if I can draw out why meaning is contextual and that despite the form of expression it is possible to discern someone's meaning from how they use certain terms in their original setting and what the social and political implications of their conceptions are.

    You in the previous thread thought that my view of "consciousness" or "thought" was confused because even when I tried to present it as "the way people see themselves in the world" you still did not think this got us any further. You also say that my interpretation of Lenin here "isn't a good start".

    Let me ask you a few inter-related questions:

    What is a theoretical explanation, for example Marx's Capital? What does it represent in the world?

    It has to be expressed in a specific form of language but if it is expressed in a different form of language does the explanation necessarily have to change?

    What is an interpretation of a theoretical explanation, for example Lenin's take on Capital?

    What criteria do we have for judging the adequacy of an interpretation?

    My reason for having this argument is to clarify what is at stake, so even if it feels like fighting a dead sheep I would ask for your patience.
    Last edited by Ravi; 08-27-2013 at 12:54 PM. Reason: typo missed "if" in last sentence

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    R:

    Ok let us see if I can draw out why meaning is contextual and that despite the form of expression it is possible to discern someone's meaning from how they use certain terms in their original setting and what the social and political implications of their conceptions are.

    You in the previous thread thought that my view of "consciousness" or "thought" was confused because even when I tried to present it as "the way people see themselves in the world" you still did not think this got us any further. You also say that my interpretation of Lenin here "isn't a good start".
    If you want to discern someone's meaning then may I suggest you stop ignoring what they actually have to say -- especially when it comes to Lenin and Marx?

    Let me ask you a few inter-related questions:

    What is a theoretical explanation, for example Marx's Capital? What does it represent in the world?

    It has to be expressed in a specific form of language but if it is expressed in a different form of language does the explanation necessarily have to change?

    What is an interpretation of a theoretical explanation, for example Lenin's take on Capital?

    What criteria do we have for judging the adequacy of an interpretation?
    May I refer you to my response at the end of the last thread:

    There's no point us continuing this non-debate since you refuse to respond to the vast majority of the points I make, while I respond to practically everything you say.

    So, you either answer the questions I have already asked you, and respond to the points I have made, or you post a new set of 'objections' to my essays.

    Failing that, I will just stop arguing with you.
    it is quite clear by now that you haven't come here to debate these issues, but impose your view on Marxism in defiance of the textual evidence, a failing that is greatly compounded by your reluctance to respond to anything you are asked.

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    The difficulty is that we are coming from two different traditions of Marxism, yours the analytic, mine the humanist. We have different frameworks to understand the legacy of Marx's thought. That much has been clear from the two threads so far.

    If I may summarise:

    Your view is that until you define exactly what you mean by your terms at the start of a discussion and stick to that, then no fruitful discussion can proceed because imprecision and confusion will follow. You place great emphasis on the form that someone expresses themselves. The analytic tradition produced such debates as what is the relationship between the economic base of society and its political/ideological superstructure, trying to define what aspects of society were more fundamentally economic and what were the aspects that could be seen shaped by these underlying ones. It is academic in its character. Your version of this tradition is influenced by Wittgenstein.

    My view is that political/philosophical texts or positions take their meaning from the historical context in which they emerge. In that sense, what people take from something written or reported to be said only takes on its meaning from the context of what conditions they were looking to address or explain. In this view that the text only makes sense as a guide to action in those particular circumstances. So Marx's explanation of the architect being different from the bee could be read as a hopelessly Cartesian formulation that action proceeds from thought, that what a man thinks is what he then does. But what he was actually stressing in that illustration from Volume 1 of capital was how man is distinguished from bees (and all other animals) by his capacity to think or being conscious. Lenin is talking about nature in his description of how the dialectic applies to all things, if this is read as nature outside of man then it is will be incoherent. But back in context he is saying that the role of a trade union is not exhausted by the role it used to play under capitalism. It is not the self movement of the trade union that is important here it is the transformation of Russian society that gives the trade union a new meaning. The part (trade union) is defined in its relationship to the whole (Russian society). The idea that a trade union is a defence organisation for workers as presented by Trotsky ignores that when society is changed all the parts of it despite how similar they may look to previously (a membership organisation made of workers from particular industries) they have a different role. The humanist tradition looks at ideas in their historical context and asks what are the political and social implications of taking that position on that question? It sees ideas as a guide to action. That different conceptions have different implications for action.

    So even if I was a hopeless Cartesian dualist or even a Christian does that mean that in drawing out the meaning of Capital and Hegel's influence on Marx's writing of it I must be wrong. The challenge would be then what implications flow from my confused dialectical/dualist/Christian understanding of Capital. (Disclaimer: I am neither Christian nor a Cartesian). The point is to show in practice why my (mis)understanding of Capital could have disastrous consequences. This was Marx and Lenin's approach, I try to make it mine and I'm trying to make it intelligible to you.

    The frustration at talking at each other from across different traditions does not mean we have to be dismissive or not partially enter onto each other's terrain to see where it leads. My main interest in seeing if Lenin expressed the description of the dialectic in a philosophically confusing way is not to show it as unworkable, but rather how he practically addressed questions in the process of leading a workers revolution. It is unfortunate that it is such a mixed legacy, but that is what we have. In that regard Lukacs in his small book Lenin A Study In The Unity Of His Thought is much better at explaining Lenin's method than Lenin himself often was.

    So bearing that in mind, how would you go about answering the four questions I posed in my last post? - Or if that is too many why is my statement that "meaning is contextual" dogmatism in your eyes?

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    R:

    The difficulty is that we are coming from two different traditions of Marxism, yours the analytic, mine the humanist. We have different frameworks to understand the legacy of Marx's thought. That much has been clear from the two threads so far.
    1) I am not an Analytic Marxist; I am like you a Humanist Marxist.

    2) Indeed, we are coming at this from to different angles: I rely on what Marx and Lenin actually tell us about their beliefs and ideas; you make stuff about what you'd like them to have said so that it conforms to your preconceived idea about what you think they should have said.

    And you make stuff up about me and my ideas, too, again, not basing it on anything I have said but on what you think I have said. Here's another example:

    Your view is that until you define exactly what you mean by your terms at the start of a discussion and stick to that, then no fruitful discussion can proceed because imprecision and confusion will follow.
    1) I have made this point before, and several times: Where have I ever asked for a definition?

    2) In fact, I begin by looking at what Marx and Lenin said, and work from there. You don't.

    So, the following is just wasted effort on your part (you should take up writing fiction -- you're a natural):

    You place great emphasis on the form that someone expresses themselves. The analytic tradition produced such debates as what is the relationship between the economic base of society and its political/ideological superstructure, trying to define what aspects of society were more fundamentally economic and what were the aspects that could be seen shaped by these underlying ones.. It is academic in its character.
    Where have I even so much as hinted at this: "the relationship between the economic base of society and its political/ideological superstructure, trying to define what aspects of society were more fundamentally economic and what were the aspects that could be seen shaped by these underlying ones."?

    Nowhere, that's where.

    Do you want to discuss my work, or a figment of your imagination?

    Your version of this tradition is influenced by Wittgenstein.
    Once more, I begin with this:

    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. [The German Ideology.
    With which Wittgenstein agrees (whereas you don't):

    "When philosophers use a word -- 'knowledge', 'being', 'object', 'I', 'proposition/sentence', 'name', -- and try to grasp the essence of the thing, one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used this way in the language in which it is at home?

    "What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use." [Wittgenstein (2009), §116, p.53e.]

    "When I speak about language..., I must speak the language of every day." [Ibid., §120, p.54e.]

    "On the one hand, it is clear that every sentence in our language 'is in order as it is'. That is to say, we are not striving after an ideal, as if our ordinary vague sentences had not yet got a quite exceptionable sense, and a perfect language still had to be constructed by us." [Ibid., §98, p.49e.]

    "For philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday." [Ibid., §38, p.23e. Italic emphasis in the original.]
    "It is wrong to say that in philosophy we consider an ideal language as opposed to our ordinary one. For it makes it appear as though we thought we could improve on ordinary language. But ordinary language is all right." [Wittgenstein (1969), p.28.]

    "The thing to do in such cases is always to look how the words in question are actually used in our language." [Ibid., p.56. Italic emphases in the original.]
    "The language used by philosophers is already deformed, as though by shoes that are too tight." [Wittgenstein (1998), p.47e.]
    Wittgenstein, L. (1969), The Blue And Brown Books (Blackwell).

    --------, (1998), Culture And Value (Blackwell, 2nd ed.).

    --------, (2009), Philosophical Investigations, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe, revised by Peter Hacker and Joachim Schulte (Blackwell, 4th ed.).

    Which, because you have ignored Marx's advice, explains why you have been duped by ruling-class jargon.**

    So even if I was a hopeless Cartesian dualist or even a Christian does that mean that in drawing out the meaning of Capital and Hegel's influence on Marx's writing of it I must be wrong. The challenge would be then what implications flow from my confused dialectical/dualist/Christian understanding of Capital. (Disclaimer: I am neither Christian nor a Cartesian). The point is to show in practice why my (mis)understanding of Capital could have disastrous consequences. This was Marx and Lenin's approach, I try to make it mine and I'm trying to make it intelligible to you.
    If you aren't a Cartesian, why do you use Cartesian jargon (for an answer, check out ** above)?

    Or, re-read this (and then ignore it some more):

    "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch...."
    R:

    The frustration at talking at each other from across different traditions does not mean we have to be dismissive or not partially enter onto each other's terrain to see where it leads.
    No, the problem is that I treat you with respect (but this is getting more difficult with each post of yours), and try to respond to most of what you have to say -- relying on your words (which I almost invariably quote), whereas you treat me with disrespect and make stuff up about my opinions, and ignore much of what I say. [You hardly ever quote me.]

    A bit like the way you disrespect Marx and Lenin when you ignore what they have to say, too.

    That's the difference between us.

    My main interest in seeing if Lenin expressed the description of the dialectic in a philosophically confusing way is not to show it as unworkable, but rather how he practically addressed questions in the process of leading a workers revolution. It is unfortunate that it is such a mixed legacy, but that is what we have. In that regard Lukacs in his small book Lenin A Study In The Unity Of His Thought is much better at explaining Lenin's method than Lenin himself often was.
    No, your main interest is in trying to make Lenin say what you think he should, by your lights, have said. You aren't the least bit interested in what he really said.

    And Lukacs was a seriously confused theorist, who, like you, ignored what Marx had said. [See the two quotes from Marx above.]

    Somehow, I rather think you suite one another.

    So bearing that in mind, how would you go about answering the four questions I posed in my last post? - Or if that is too many why is my statement that "meaning is contextual" dogmatism in your eyes?
    May I refer you to my earlier comment:

    There's no point us continuing this non-debate since you refuse to respond to the vast majority of the points I make, while I respond to practically everything you say.

    So, you either answer the questions I have already asked you, and respond to the points I have made, or you post a new set of 'objections' to my essays.

    Failing that, I will just stop arguing with you.
    Add to that, this:

    And stop making stuff up about my beliefs!

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    When I characterise you as part of the analytic tradition, then it might be because you have described the work of GE Cohen (a leading proponent of analytic Marxism) as not analytic enough. In characterising a major debate (base and superstructure) that had taken place within the analytic tradition (including contributions from Cohen). I was not attributing any position on that to debate to you, (I have not seen you express a view on this), I was trying to show what a formalist approach might involve.

    Lukacs being "a seriously confused theorist" in your eyes, when he is regarded as one of the greatest theorists within the Marxist Humanist tradition suggests I have not got my characterisation of where we are respectively coming from that wrong. But I don't need to put a label on our views I was trying to helpful to you. Let's try to draw out the implication of each others views and what that means for how we understand the world as a guide to political action.

    In my saying you ask for a definition at the start of a discussion, how would you characterise your insistence on my explaining what I meant by "consciousness" in the last thread? You kept describing the word as jargon or technical/philosophical language. You refused to allow me to draw you further into Marx's ideas in Capital without a clear explanation of "consciousness" first as though that would not emerge from how I used it in argument. What is that other than a definitional approach to political problems? As though the quote from Marx on the philosophers dissolving language in to ordinary language gives you licence to insist on all questions being defined as linguistic ones. You even said at one point that Marx doesn't always follow his own advice.

    Marx in the whole of Capital brings in technical terms that do not have the meaning they would in ordinary life. But then why would you expect a scientific explanation of the workings of capitalist society be readily understood by ordinary people. It is not that we don't want to make Capital as intelligible as possible to people in everyday life but this is not about getting rid of the technical language or removing all unfamiliar concepts. When miners in South Wales set up Capital reading groups in the early 20th Century do you think they didn't have to enter onto unfamiliar terrain, and learn new concepts and unfamiliar language?

    Any science requires its own language which Capital has in abundance, one will become hopelessly undermined if this is regarded as the key problem to be overcome. Explaining the meaning of the ideas is how well it relates to and explains the social problem it tries to address. So Capital is really about the reasons why capitalism must regularly experience crisis not as an accident or from external factors but as something intrinsic to the system. It shows why capitalism has a trend toward breakdown and I would argue this cannot be done without an idea of dialectics and the limits of formal logic in explaining social change.

    The thrust of your argument on your website is that dialectics is non-sense and has been a baleful influence on Marxism. You claim to regard Capital as his masterpiece yet you will not move past the preface in which a reviewer describes some aspects of the dialectical method which Marx is approving of. You keep repeating this is the only statement of his method he ever made, for you this seals the argument on what dialectics is and what is the debt Marx owes to Hegel. You categorically refuse to move beyond that. That there has been more half a century of scholarship on the relation between Grundrisse (the rough draft of Capital) and the version as he reworked it and got it ready for publication (only the first part completed before his death), should this not in any way sway you from your position of what he said about someone else's summary in that preface?

    The fact that you keep bringing up the same quote and do not respond to substantive points I make for example that Marx very much believed in human consciousness (the bee and the architect), your response was to ask me to prove Marx was a dualist. Or that totality is a useful category for understanding problems (Lenin's characterisation of the role of trade unions in the young Soviet State). You keep going back to definitions and quotes out of context. Or the stuff on the tumbler you have not said yet whether it is peripheral and merely illustrative to the point Lenin was making about trade unions. I have said that Lenin is philosophically incoherent in his description of the method when he seems to apply it to nature, but not politically so in the application of it to the question of trade unions.

    If Lenin or Marx were interested in explaining the inner workings of nature outside of humanity (as the later Engels certainly was) then show where. These will tend to be in passing and not central to the main thrust of their argument. Any argument that is made for posterity is unlikely to deal with the immediate problems faced by a working class movement. Philosophical completeness and coherence was not their main preoccupation, if you want to insist on it then both Marx and Lenin will occasionally fail on this. There is however a spirit (not literally but think of it as a guiding thread) through all their thought on the need for social transformation, every question is posed in terms of revolution, philosophy is an afterthought (except as a historical antecedent). For you to make the killer point here would be to show why the possible philosophical confusion has undermined any of their social/political analysis

    That would start to show that it is dialectics within Marxism that has undermined it and why we need (in your view) to try the non-dialectical version (which I don't think makes sense).

    I will try to infer many things from what you say, (as you have done for example that my view on consciousness implies I am a Cartesian dualist). If the inference is wrong all you need to do is show me why I'm wrong you don't need to accuse me of making stuff up. As for showing me respect, I apologised for making a sarky comment about your arrogance in the last thread, just look at how you are addressing me in this one. But I'm not worried about that I'm pretty thick skinned!

    Can we move on to a discussion of Capital itself and let us see if your understanding of it can make sense of it within formal logical rules and without the dialectic. What is a commodity in Marx's conception and what role does it play within his system of thought?

    Or if you feel more comfortable on the terrain of philosophy explain and substantiate your view that Marx's view of the dialectic in Capital owes more to Kant or Aristotle than to Hegel.

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    Marx very much believed in human consciousness (the bee and the architect)
    You failed to show how that example implies that there is a 'human consciousness'. We concluded that it implies humans have skills which bees don't, not that we have some inaccessible private realm from which we, as individuals, assess the world. This latter implication is what is meant by positing [the existence of] consciousness, and one Marx, for all I've read of him (which is admittedly not all of Capital) rejected.

    So 'consciousness' talk can only ever get in the way, no matter how woolly you want to portray the matter. It is irreducibly a metaphysically individualist way of trying to explain the relationship between the individual and the rest of the world (let alone society).

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    R:

    When I characterise you as part of the analytic tradition, then it might be because you have described the work of GE Cohen (a leading proponent of analytic Marxism) as not analytic enough. In characterising a major debate (base and superstructure) that had taken place within the analytic tradition (including contributions from Cohen). I was not attributing any position on that to debate to you, (I have not seen you express a view on this), I was trying to show what a formalist approach might involve.
    Sure, but I use this to point out that the Analytic Marxists failed to be what their name suggests, and I then use that to distance myself from their ideas.

    Lukacs being "a seriously confused theorist" in your eyes, when he is regarded as one of the greatest theorists within the Marxist Humanist tradition suggests I have not got my characterisation of where we are respectively coming from that wrong. But I don't need to put a label on our views I was trying to helpful to you. Let's try to draw out the implication of each others views and what that means for how we understand the world as a guide to political action.
    His reputation among other Marxists hasn't prevented him from being seriously confused by the ruling-class concepts he imported from Hegel and other boss-class theorists (nor can it). If I am prepared to accuse philosophers like Plato, Descartes, Spinoza and Hegel of being confused, why should it surprise you when I extend it to Lukacs?

    You claim he is a 'Humanist' Marxist (but in his later work he claimed he accepted that there is a dialectic in nature -- see his Tailism and the Dialectic), but his acceptance of ruling-class forms-of-thought fatally undermine his status in this regard.

    In my saying you ask for a definition at the start of a discussion, how would you characterise your insistence on my explaining what I meant by "consciousness" in the last thread? You kept describing the word as jargon or technical/philosophical language. You refused to allow me to draw you further into Marx's ideas in Capital without a clear explanation of "consciousness" first as though that would not emerge from how I used it in argument. What is that other than a definitional approach to political problems? As though the quote from Marx on the philosophers dissolving language in to ordinary language gives you licence to insist on all questions being defined as linguistic ones. You even said at one point that Marx doesn't always follow his own advice.
    You're the one who introduced the word 'definition', not me.

    I merely asked you to explain your odd use of certain words ('consciousness', and 'contradiction', for example) -- which you have yet to do.

    As though the quote from Marx on the philosophers dissolving language in to ordinary language gives you licence to insist on all questions being defined as linguistic ones.
    Well, it will be interesting to see if you can discover another method of explaining yourself that does not involve the use of language -- until you do, questions about the use of words (on Marx's clear advice) must remain paramount.

    Marx in the whole of Capital brings in technical terms that do not have the meaning they would in ordinary life. But then why would you expect a scientific explanation of the workings of capitalist society be readily understood by ordinary people. It is not that we don't want to make Capital as intelligible as possible to people in everyday life but this is not about getting rid of the technical language or removing all unfamiliar concepts. When miners in South Wales set up Capital reading groups in the early 20th Century do you think they didn't have to enter onto unfamiliar terrain, and learn new concepts and unfamiliar language?

    Any science requires its own language which Capital has in abundance, one will become hopelessly undermined if this is regarded as the key problem to be overcome. Explaining the meaning of the ideas is how well it relates to and explains the social problem it tries to address. So Capital is really about the reasons why capitalism must regularly experience crisis not as an accident or from external factors but as something intrinsic to the system. It shows why capitalism has a trend toward breakdown and I would argue this cannot be done without an idea of dialectics and the limits of formal logic in explaining social change.
    I have never criticised the use of technical terms; all I have asked is that you explain those that are controversial, which you have signally failed to do.

    So Capital is really about the reasons why capitalism must regularly experience crisis not as an accident or from external factors but as something intrinsic to the system. It shows why capitalism has a trend toward breakdown and I would argue this cannot be done without an idea of dialectics and the limits of formal logic in explaining social change
    The problem with this is that the jargon you want to import from Hegel (upside down or the 'right way up') does the opposite of what you allege -- unless, that is you can explain it. Hegel screwed up badly in this regard; others have simply compounded the problem by appropriating this jargon (imagining it makes any sense). The result is that if 'dialectics' (as you understand it) were true, change (in nature and society) would be impossible, and capitalism wouldn't 'self-develop', it would grind to a halt (as would the rest of the universe).

    But, you studiously refused to explain what you mean by 'contradiction' -- the 'contradictions' you have so far alluded to (and those other fans of the dialectic mention) don't even look like contradictions, as I have pointed out before. You unwisely chose to ignore this.

    This oversight (deliberate or not) is seriously compromised the fact that you view 'the dialectic' in a totally different way to Marx -- for whom it was a Hegel-free zone.

    The thrust of your argument on your website is that dialectics is non-sense and has been a baleful influence on Marxism. You claim to regard Capital as his masterpiece yet you will not move past the preface in which a reviewer describes some aspects of the dialectical method which Marx is approving of. You keep repeating this is the only statement of his method he ever made, for you this seals the argument on what dialectics is and what is the debt Marx owes to Hegel. You categorically refuse to move beyond that. That there has been more half a century of scholarship on the relation between Grundrisse (the rough draft of Capital) and the version as he reworked it and got it ready for publication (only the first part completed before his death), should this not in any way sway you from your position of what he said about someone else's summary in that preface?
    Once again you refuse to accept what Marx himself (no me) said. Here it is again (for you to ignore once more):

    After a quotation from the preface to my 'Criticism of Political Economy,' Berlin, 1859, pp. IV-VII, where I discuss the materialistic basis of my method, the writer goes on:

    "The one thing which is of moment to Marx, is to find the law of the phenomena with whose investigation he is concerned; and not only is that law of moment to him, which governs these phenomena, in so far as they have a definite form and mutual connexion within a given historical period. Of still greater moment to him is the law of their variation, of their development, i.e., of their transition from one form into another, from one series of connexions into a different one. This law once discovered, he investigates in detail the effects in which it manifests itself in social life. Consequently, Marx only troubles himself about one thing: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting-points. For this it is quite enough, if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over; and this all the same, whether men believe or do not believe it, whether they are conscious or unconscious of it. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence. ... If in the history of civilisation the conscious element plays a part so subordinate, then it is self-evident that a critical inquiry whose subject-matter is civilisation, can, less than anything else, have for its basis any form of, or any result of, consciousness. That is to say, that not the idea, but the material phenomenon alone can serve as its starting-point. Such an inquiry will confine itself to the confrontation and the comparison of a fact, not with ideas, but with another fact. For this inquiry, the one thing of moment is, that both facts be investigated as accurately as possible, and that they actually form, each with respect to the other, different momenta of an evolution; but most important of all is the rigid analysis of the series of successions, of the sequences and concatenations in which the different stages of such an evolution present themselves. But it will be said, the general laws of economic life are one and the same, no matter whether they are applied to the present or the past. This Marx directly denies. According to him, such abstract laws do not exist. On the contrary, in his opinion every historical period has laws of its own.... As soon as society has outlived a given period of development, and is passing over from one given stage to another, it begins to be subject also to other laws. In a word, economic life offers us a phenomenon analogous to the history of evolution in other branches of biology. The old economists misunderstood the nature of economic laws when they likened them to the laws of physics and chemistry. A more thorough analysis of phenomena shows that social organisms differ among themselves as fundamentally as plants or animals. Nay, one and the same phenomenon falls under quite different laws in consequence of the different structure of those organisms as a whole, of the variations of their individual organs, of the different conditions in which those organs function, &c. Marx, e.g., denies that the law of population is the same at all times and in all places. He asserts, on the contrary, that every stage of development has its own law of population. ... With the varying degree of development of productive power, social conditions and the laws governing them vary too. Whilst Marx sets himself the task of following and explaining from this point of view the economic system established by the sway of capital, he is only formulating, in a strictly scientific manner, the aim that every accurate investigation into economic life must have. The scientific value of such an inquiry lies in the disclosing of the special laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, death of a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher one. And it is this value that, in point of fact, Marx's book has."

    Whilst the writer pictures what he takes to be actually my method, in this striking and [as far as concerns my own application of it] generous way, what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?" [Marx (1976), pp.101-02. Bold emphases added.]
    So, this isn't merely "some aspects of the dialectical method" (as you allege), but "the dialectic method" (Marx's words, not mine). You add the phrase "some aspects of" here with no justification. I take Marx's words as he wrote them.

    Again, that's the difference between us.

    You keep repeating this is the only statement of his method he ever made, for you this seals the argument on what dialectics is and what is the debt Marx owes to Hegel. You categorically refuse to move beyond that. That there has been more half a century of scholarship on the relation between Grundrisse (the rough draft of Capital) and the version as he reworked it and got it ready for publication (only the first part completed before his death), should this not in any way sway you from your position of what he said about someone else's summary in that preface?
    1) Marx chose not to publish the Grundrisse, but he did publish this summary of 'his method' and 'the dialectic method'. I have already pointed this out.

    2) There has been even more scholarship devoted to the Koran and the Bible. So what? If this 'scholarship' is full of boss-class forms-of-thought (which Marx sought to excise from Das Kapital, but you wish to reinstate), what use is it?

    3) You say I keep repeating this point -- I do so because you keep ignoring it.

    4) You also say I "refuse to move beyond" it -- which is Ravi-speak for "I'd like you, Rosa, to ignore it to". No chance.

    The fact that you keep bringing up the same quote and do not respond to substantive points I make for example that Marx very much believed in human consciousness (the bee and the architect), your response was to ask me to prove Marx was a dualist. Or that totality is a useful category for understanding problems (Lenin's characterisation of the role of trade unions in the young Soviet State). You keep going back to definitions and quotes out of context. Or the stuff on the tumbler you have not said yet whether it is peripheral and merely illustrative to the point Lenin was making about trade unions. I have said that Lenin is philosophically incoherent in his description of the method when he seems to apply it to nature, but not politically so in the application of it to the question of trade unions.
    1) The question isn't whether Marx used the word 'consciousness' (I have never denied it) so much as it is: what do you mean by this word? You have yet to say (i.e., in a way that does not imply you aren't a modern-day Cartesian).

    2) I have nowhere denied this: "that totality is a useful category for understanding problems"; in fact I have said the opposite, if this word is applied to human social development.

    I do wish you'd stop making stuff up about my ideas!

    3) You also say: "You keep going back to definitions and quotes out of context."

    a) Once again: where have I even so much as mentioned 'definitions' -- except to make a point like this?

    b) If you think anything I have quoted is 'out-of-context', then please supply the context that allows us/you to interpret it differently and/or ignore it.

    I have said that Lenin is philosophically incoherent in his description of the method when he seems to apply it to nature, but not politically so in the application of it to the question of trade unions.
    1) In fact, you said Lenin did not apply the 'dialectic' to nature, when we now know (in fact we always knew, you just chose to ignore it) he did apply it to nature.

    2) I have asked you to explain how a commodity (or even a Trade Union) can 'self-develop'/'self-move'. You have yet to respond.

    If Lenin or Marx were interested in explaining the inner workings of nature outside of humanity (as the later Engels certainly was) then show where.
    1) Once more you make stuff up! I have in fact argued that Marx didn't do this.

    2) I have provided you with the quotations where Lenin does apply 'the dialectic' nature -- you just refuse to acknowledge them (or you prefer to ignore them). Do I have to quote them again?

    These will tend to be in passing and not central to the main thrust of their argument.
    Not according to Lenin:

    "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. The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).

    "In the first conception of motion, self-movement, its driving force, its source, its motive, remains in the shade (or this source is made external -- God, subject, etc.). In the second conception the chief attention is directed precisely to knowledge of the source of 'self-movement'.

    "The first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. The second is living. The second alone furnishes the key to the 'self-movement' of everything existing; it alone furnishes the key to the 'leaps,' to the 'break in continuity,' to the 'transformation into the opposite,' to the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.

    "The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) 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.357-58. Bold emphases added.]
    Notice that this "alone" provides "the key" [an old Hermetic phrase he picked up from Hegel] for Lenin to "everything existing", and it's an "absolute". How much clearer could he be?

    And he applied it (like Engels and Plekhanov before him) to these aspects of nature:

    In mathematics: + and —. Differential and integral.
    In mechanics: action and reaction.
    In physics: positive and negative electricity.
    In chemistry: the combination and dissociation of atoms.
    The question is: can you find anything in his writings that tells the opposite story?

    I will try to infer many things from what you say, (as you have done for example that my view on consciousness implies I am a Cartesian dualist). If the inference is wrong all you need to do is show me why I'm wrong you don't need to accuse me of making stuff up. As for showing me respect, I apologised for making a sarky comment about your arrogance in the last thread, just look at how you are addressing me in this one. But I'm not worried about that I'm pretty thick skinned!
    1) Well, I have based my accusation that you are a modern-day Cartesian on what you have posed here. If you want to avoid further accusations, then you will need to explain what you mean by 'consciousness' in a way that does not imply this.

    2) My other accusation (that you have shown disrespect) was based on the fact that you constantly make stuff up about me (you don't quote me, or hardly ever do -- that irritating habit of yours has re-surfaced in this thread, too), whereas I quote you to a fault.

    Can we move on to a discussion of Capital itself and let us see if your understanding of it can make sense of it within formal logical rules and without the dialectic. What is a commodity in Marx's conception and what role does it play within his system of thought?
    You have yet to respond to most of the points I have raised.

    So, and once again:

    There's no point us continuing this non-debate since you refuse to respond to the vast majority of the points I make, while I respond to practically everything you say.

    So, you either answer the questions I have already asked you, and respond to the points I have made, or you post a new set of 'objections' to my essays.

    Failing that, I will just stop arguing with you.

    Add to that, this:

    And stop making stuff up about my beliefs!
    How many times do you need telling?

    Or if you feel more comfortable on the terrain of philosophy explain and substantiate your view that Marx's view of the dialectic in Capital owes more to Kant or Aristotle than to Hegel.
    1) It isn't a matter of what I feel 'comfortable' with; it's more a matter of: you keep posting supposed criticisms of my ideas, all the while getting them wrong and ignoring the points I make. You plainly don't want to debate with me, but with a figment of your imagination.

    2) I have covered the other things you say (about Aristotle etc.) at my site; I even provided you with a link to it. This is yet another thing you have just ignored.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meridian View Post
    So 'consciousness' talk can only ever get in the way, no matter how woolly you want to portray the matter. It is irreducibly a metaphysically individualist way of trying to explain the relationship between the individual and the rest of the world (let alone society).
    I have said if you prefer we can define consciousness as "the way people see themselves in the world". I have even been prepared to accept the label of Cartesian for the sake of not getting hung up on this philosophical issue of what is the ultimate nature of reality (is it mind or matter or both)? This is not nearly as politically important as to whether dialectics is central (or not) to making any sense of Capital.

    Would you like to answer these four questions for the purpose of political clarification.

    What is a theoretical explanation, for example Marx's Capital? What does it represent in the world?

    It has to be expressed in a specific form of language but if it is expressed in a different form of language does the explanation necessarily have to change?

    What is an interpretation of a theoretical explanation, for example Lenin's take on Capital?

    What criteria do we have for judging the adequacy of an interpretation?


    These matter because theory in Marxism is a guide to action. Is the philosophical position that someone takes on the ultimate nature of reality that central to political action? I've tried to explain my view of "the way people see themselves in the world" is based on their experience of acting in the world. We have an individual sense of ourselves even if these ideas are a fetish of our relations under capitalism. Changing the language that expresses this individual view will do nothing to undo this mystification that arises from the capitalist form itself.

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    Default Re: Second Response To Anti-Dialectics Site

    R:

    Would you like to answer these four questions for the purpose of political clarification.

    What is a theoretical explanation, for example Marx's Capital? What does it represent in the world?

    It has to be expressed in a specific form of language but if it is expressed in a different form of language does the explanation necessarily have to change?

    What is an interpretation of a theoretical explanation, for example Lenin's take on Capital?

    What criteria do we have for judging the adequacy of an interpretation?
    This thread is about criticising my ideas (that's your choice of topic, not mine).

    If you want to debate Das Kapital, and/or your attempt to re-mystify it, please do so in another thread.

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    Default Re: Second Response To Anti-Dialectics Site

    [QUOTE=Rosa Lichtenstein;11762]R:

    1) The question isn't whether Marx used the word 'consciousness' (I have never denied it) so much as it is: what do you mean by this word? You have yet to say (i.e., in a way that does not imply you aren't a modern-day Cartesian).

    So does Marx when he talks about the bee and the architect not imply dualism? He is suggesting for the architect there is the building in thought before it is ever made physically. Where have I said anything that was more "metaphysical" or "individualistic" than could be construed from that section from Volume 1 of Capital. I am not for one moment saying Marx is a dualist but if you want to take that in isolation from his total explanation it certainly could be made out to be. My counter to anyone who wanted to see him as a dualist on the basis of that section alone would be to place it in the context of his argument as a whole. As I have said meaning is contextual which you called dogmatism.


    b)
    If you think anything I have quoted is 'out-of-context', then please supply the context that allows us/you to interpret it differently and/or ignore it.
    I have already shown on Lenin and "the tumbler" that in the context of what he was discussing (trade unions in young workers' state) this was illustrating how any problem is multi-faceted and contextual - that is the only sense in which the tumbler is relevant - that its definition is given not by its features (cylindrical, made of glass) but its use or purpose (to drink from) and these features pertinent to that purpose/role are the only relevant ones. That was as an analogy as to what the role of the trade union was in a post revolutionary Russia, what was its role/purpose in the new society.


    I have asked you to explain how a commodity (or even a Trade Union) can 'self-develop'/'self-move'. You have yet to respond.
    Ok it is worth posing the question starkly, if you think Capital is Marx greatest work and forms a coherent whole what is the relationship between the commodity form introduced at the beginning of Vol 1 and The Tendency for The Rate of Profit To Fall in Vol 3? How would you explain it except as the self-development of the contradictions contained in the simple commodity form? That is how Marx does it or would you dispute this?


    I have covered the other things you say (about Aristotle etc.) at my site; I even provided you with a link to it. This is yet another thing you have just ignored
    .

    The relationship between Marx and Hegel will be drawn out through the above question on Capital. Then we can see if Marx's dialectic owes more to Hegel or to Kant or Aristotle.

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