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Thread: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Here is my long overdue demolition of Engels's 'First Law':

    Engels and Mickey Mouse Science

    Anyone who has studied or practiced genuine science knows the great care and attention to detail that has to be devoted by researchers, often over many years or decades, if they want to add to or alter even relatively minor areas of current knowledge, let alone establish a new law. This was the case in Engels's day, just as it is the case today. Moreover, the concepts employed by scientists have to be analytically sound, and supported wherever possible by relevant mathematics. The quotation of primary data is also essential -- or it has at least to be reviewed and/or referenced by the scientists involved; supporting evidence has to be precise, detailed, meticulously recorded, and subject not only to public scrutiny, but also to peer review.

    [DM = Dialectical Materialism.]

    In contrast, the sort of Mickey Mouse Science one finds in Creationist literature is rightly the target of derision by scientists and Marxists alike. And yet, when it comes to DM, we find in Engels's writings (and those of subsequent dialecticians) little other than Mickey Mouse Science. Engels provided his readers with no original data, and what little evidence he offered in support of his 'Laws' would have been rejected as amateurish in the extreme if it had appeared in an undergraduate science paper, never mind a research document --, even in his day! It is salutary, therefore, to compare Engels's approach to scientific proof with that of Darwin, whose classic work is a model of clarity and original research. Darwin presented the scientific community with extensive evidence and novel data, which has been expanded upon greatly over the last 150 years.

    Contrast, DM-Mickey Mouse Science with the real thing -- here, for example, is one report of the accuracy achieved by the instruments aboard the recently launched Gaia satellite:

    "'Gaia was not designed to take Hubble-like pictures; this is not its operating mode at all. What it will eventually do is draw little boxes around each of the stars you see in this picture and send just that information to the ground.'

    "The satellite has been given an initial mission duration of five years to make its 3D map of the sky.

    "By repeatedly viewing its targets, it should get to know the brightest stars' coordinates down to an error of just seven micro-arcseconds -- an angle equivalent to a euro coin on the Moon being observed from Earth." [Bold emphasis added.]
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26073173

    Even back in the 16th century, astronomers were concerned with accuracy and precision; Tycho Brahe, for instance, was able to observe the heavens with the naked eye to an accuracy of one arcminute (1/60th of a degree!). Once again, this is typical of genuine science, which, naturally, sharply distinguishes it from the 'science' we find associated with DM.

    Hence, the picture is almost the exact opposite when we turn to consider not just the paucity of evidence illustrating (it certainly does not prove) Engels's first 'Law', 'the transformation of quantity into quality' [Q/Q], but also the total lack of clarity in the concepts employed (on that, see below). In Anti-Dühring and Dialectics of Nature, for example, we aren't told what a "quality" is, nor how long a dialectical "node" is supposed to last. Furthermore, we are left completely in the dark what the phrase "addition" of matter and energy means, nor are we told what the energetic (thermodynamic) boundaries are (or if there are any!) to the systems under consideration. Indeed, we aren't even told what constitutes a system/body, nor what counts as that system/body "developing"!

    Moreover, supporting 'evidence' alone is considered; problem cases are just ignored. In this, too, DM further resembles 'Creation Science'.

    Again, unlike genuine science, this situation hasn't changed much in dialectical circles over the last 140 years. This prompted me to observe (below):

    Moreover, this Law is so vaguely worded that dialecticians can use it in whatever way they please. If this is difficult to believe, ask the very next dialectician you meet precisely how long a "nodal point" is supposed to last. As seems clear, if no one knows, anything from a Geological Age to an instantaneous quantum leap could be "nodal"!
    Any who doubt this should compare the average DM-text (even those that sincerely try to prove there is a dialectic of nature, such as Woods and Grant's Reason in Revolt [henceforth, WG], or Gollobin (1986)) with a bona fide scientific/technical paper that has been published in any randomly chosen issue of, say, Nature. The difference between Mickey Mouse Dialectical Science and genuine science will immediately be apparent.

    [UO = unity of Opposites; FL = Formal Logic.]

    In the place of hard evidence, what we invariably find in DM-texts are the same hackneyed examples dredged up year-in year-out. These include the following hardy perennials: boiling and/or freezing water, cells that are somehow both alive and dead, grains of barley that 'negate' themselves, magnets that are UOs, Mamelukes' ambiguous fighting ability when matched against French soldiers, Mendeleyev's Table, the sentence "John is a man", homilies about parts and wholes (e.g., "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts", etc., etc.), characters from Molière who discover they have been speaking prose all their lives, laughably weak and misguided attempts to depict the principles of FL, "Yay, Yay", and "Nay, Nay", anything more than this "cometh of evil", wave/particle 'duality', 'emergent' properties popping into existence all over the place, etc., etc., etc.

    [In fact, in the Essay to which I have linked below (see the next section), I show that not even these examples work!]

    Even then, we are never given a scientific report on any of these phenomena; all we find in DM-texts are a few brief, amateurish and impressionistic sentences (or, at most, a handful of paragraphs) on each example. At its best (in, say, WG, or Gollobin (1986)), all we encounter are a few brief chapters of secondary or tertiary evidence, specially-selected, and heavily slanted in the favoured direction. No contrary evidence is even so much as mentioned.

    In contrast, and in relation to, say, economics, politics, history, or current affairs, Marxists are keen to provide countless pages of primary and secondary data and analysis (much of it original), which they update regularly. But, when it comes to dialectics all we are presented with is watery-thin 'evidence', and even thinner reasoning. Small wonder then that to its Marxist opponents, like myself, this area of theory is regarded as risibly weak and is treated with the contempt it deserves.

    Q/Q

    [a] Nodal Logic?

    In what follows, I will confine myself to outlining what I consider to be the most obvious and glaring faults in Engels's 'First Law', the change of 'Quantity into Quality'.

    [I have already shown that if, per impossible, the 'Second Law' (i.e., the 'Unity and Interpenetration of Opposites', or 'Development Through Internal Contradiction') were true, change and development would in fact be impossible. Since the 'Third Law' (i.e., the 'Negation of the Negation') is intimately bound up with the second, this means that these 'Laws' are, at best, hopelessly confused, at worst, incoherent non-sense.]

    Comrades should remember that the material here is only a summary of my objections to this 'Law'. However, I have entered into this topic in unprecedented detail here:

    http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007.htm

    Now, Engels famously asserted the following:

    ...[T]he transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned. [Engels Dialectics of Nature, p.63. Bold emphasis alone added.]
    https://www.marxists.org/archive/mar...3/don/ch02.htm

    Moreover, these changes aren't smooth or gradual:

    It will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…. [Plekhanov The Development of the Monist View of History, p.613. Bold emphasis alone added.]
    https://www.marxists.org/archive/ple...nist/ch05b.htm

    What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness.... [Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, p.282. Bold emphases added.]
    https://www.marxists.org/archive/len...-lect/ch03.htm

    But, there are many things in nature that change smoothly with no 'leap'/'node' anywhere in sight; think of melting metal, rock, glass, plastic, butter, resin, toffee and chocolate. Here, the change in 'quality' from solid to liquid is gradual and not at all sudden. When heated, metals, for instance, gradually soften and become liquid; there is no sudden "leap" from solid to liquid. Sure, many things do change 'nodally' (i.e., in "leaps"), but many others do not. So, the 'nodal' aspect of this 'Law' is defective.

    Some might want to appeal to the exact melting points of solids -- which are unique for each substance -- as clear examples of 'nodal' changes ("leaps") -- however, this is what we read about the so-called "amorphous solids" (such as glasses, gels, and plastics):

    Amorphous solids do not have a sharp melting point; they are softened in a range of temperature. [Bold emphasis added.]
    In an amorphous solid, the local environment, including both the distances to neighbouring units and the numbers of neighbours, varies throughout the material. Different amounts of thermal energy are needed to overcome these different interactions. Consequently, amorphous solids tend to soften slowly over a wide temperature range rather than having a well-defined melting point like a crystalline solid. [Bold emphasis added; spelling altered to UK English.]
    Furthermore:

    Almost any substance can solidify in amorphous form if the liquid phase is cooled rapidly enough....
    Hence, this must mean that "almost any substance" lacks a melting point if cooled in the above way. In turn, this implies that there are countless non-'nodal' (non-"leap"-like) changes in nature.

    http://www.majordifferences.com/2013...l#.VZVhn1LbKXI

    http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Wikitext...orphous_Solids

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amorphous_solid

    [Notice: I am not arguing that there are no sudden changes in nature and society, only that not everything changes this way.]

    Unfortunately, this means that this 'Law' can't be used to argue that the transformation from capitalism to socialism must be 'nodal' (i.e., sudden) (which is one of the main reasons for adopting and promoting this 'Law' among Dialectical Marxists), for we have no idea whether or not this particular transformation will be one of its many exceptions. Plainly, we could only appeal to this 'Law' in this case if it had no exceptions whatsoever.

    This means that the whole point of adopting this 'Law' in the first place has now vanished.

    [It is important to add that I certainly do not believe that the revolutionary transformation of society will be gradual; but then I don't accept this 'Law'!]

    'Quantity' and 'Quality'

    Unfortunately for DM-supporters, not all qualitative differences are caused in the way Engels says, so this 'Law' can't therefore be a law.

    For example, the order in which events take place can effect quality, too. Try crossing a busy main road first and looking second. Now, try it the other way round. If you survive, you might notice the difference! Furthermore, anyone (not wearing protective clothing) who pours half a litre of water slowly into a litre of concentrated sulphuric acid will face a long and painful stay in hospital, whereas the reverse action is perfectly safe.

    When confronted with examples like these, or even those given below, DM-fans generally respond in the following way:

    They simply ignore them!

    In fact, it turns out that this 'Law' is so vaguely worded that dialecticians can (and do!) use it in whichever way they please. If comrades find that difficult to believe, they should try the following two experiments:

    (A) Ask the very next dialectician you meet precisely how long a "nodal point"/"leap" is supposed to last. You will receive no answer! But, if no one knows, then anything from a Geological Age to an instantaneous quantum leap could be "nodal"! Is a ten thousand year change really all that "sudden"?

    Plainly, this introduces a fundamental element of arbitrariness into what dialecticians claim is an objective 'Law'.

    And, it isn't good enough for dialecticians to dismiss this as mere "pedantry". Can you imagine a genuine scientist refusing to say how long a crucially important time period in her theory is supposed to last, accusing you of "pedantry" for even thinking to ask?

    (B) Next, enquire precisely what a "quality" is supposed to be. If your respondent knows their theory, you might be told that it is a property the change of which alters a process/object into something novel; a "new kind of thing". But, more often than not you will be fobbed off, or just ignored, once more.

    Now, the above 'definition' of "quality" was in fact borrowed from Aristotle, via Hegel.

    Unfortunately, given this 'definition', many of the examples DM-theorists themselves use to illustrate their 'Law' actually fail to do so.

    For instance, the most hackneyed (overused) example is water turning to ice or steam, when cooled or heated. But, given the above 'definition' this wouldn't in fact be an example of 'qualitative change', since water as a solid (ice), a liquid, or a gas (steam) is still H2O -- no "new kind of thing" has emerged. Quantitative addition or subtraction of energy doesn't result in a qualitative change of the required sort; nothing substantially new has emerged. This substance remains H2O throughout.

    Consider several more examples: When heated beyond its melting point, Iron remains Iron, even as a liquid. The same goes for all the other elements. Liquid Nitrogen is no less Nitrogen than its gaseous or solid forms are. Sulphur is still Sulphur as a liquid and as a solid. Again, nothing substantially new has arisen.

    Finally, there are substances studied in Chemistry called Isomers. These are molecules with exactly the same number and type of atoms, but their geometrical orientation is different, which lends to each their different properties. So, here we have yet another change in 'quality' caused by a change in geometry, but with the addition of no new matter or energy -- contradicting Engels:

    [Q]ualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned. [Engels Dialectics of Nature, p.63. Bold emphases added.]
    http://www.chemeddl.org/resources/st...initions16.htm

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enantiomer

    Engels's First 'Law' is either defective from beginning to end, or it is hopelessly vague and confused. In which case, it is of no use in helping develop revolutionary theory, and so it has no role to play in changing society.

    High time we ditched this useless and failed 'theory'.

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

    Gollobin, I. (1986), Dialectical Materialism. Its Laws, Categories And Practice (Petras Press).

    Woods, A., and Grant, T. (1995/2007), Reason In Revolt. Marxism And Modern Science (Wellred Publications).

    http://www.marxist.com/rircontents.htm
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 05-31-2016 at 11:04 AM.
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Hello, Rosa. I have discussed diamat with you before on this site, revleft and, I believe, your website. I thought I would give the argument another try.

    It seems to me that one of the best examples of the quantity to quality "law" is the transformation of hydrogen into more complex atoms. For instance, a hydrogen atom is a different "quality" from a gold atom. Yet the only real difference is the number/quantity of protons, neutrons and electrons contained in each atom. (I'm not concerned at present with sub-atomic particles.) As the force of gravity in the interior of a star fuses two hydrogen atoms together to form a new element, helium (actually helium-4, I think), a huge amount of energy is released, thus beginning the star's "burning."

    This process of quantitative changes leads to the creation of the lighter elements, each of a different quality (lithium, carbon, etc.) Finally, iron is formed and the star can no longer support the increased gravitational forces so it explodes and the additional energy released then creates the rest of the atoms.

    The essential point is that there is no qualitative difference between a hydrogen atom and a gold atom except for the quantity of its constituent parts. There is no way, as far as I know, of telling a hydrogen electron or proton from a gold electron or proton.

    Another example is the breaking and creation of the hydrogen bond. When water boils and is converted to steam the water molecules begin to move more rapidly and the hydrogen bond between the atoms is "broken." As far as I know, there is no gradual, smooth breaking of the bond. It simply happens, and this has been proved at the atomic level. It is a sudden, revolutionary, if you will, break , a sudden leap, as Engels said.

    Another more current example is the Greek referendum today. There is no question there is a qualitative difference in Greek society today. A quantitative build up of austerity over the last few years finally led to the sudden "leap."

    Any thoughts?

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Thanks for that redshifted.

    Ok, let's have a look at what you had to say:

    It seems to me that one of the best examples of the quantity to quality "law" is the transformation of hydrogen into more complex atoms. For instance, a hydrogen atom is a different "quality" from a gold atom. Yet the only real difference is the number/quantity of protons, neutrons and electrons contained in each atom. (I'm not concerned at present with sub-atomic particles.) As the force of gravity in the interior of a star fuses two hydrogen atoms together to form a new element, helium (actually helium-4, I think), a huge amount of energy is released, thus beginning the star's "burning."
    As I pointed out in my post, one of the problems discussing this 'law' with comrades is that they never tell us what they mean by "quality" (which is part of the reason why I labelled this aspect of Engels's work 'Micky Mouse Science'):

    In fact, it turns out that this 'Law' is so vaguely worded that dialecticians can (and do!) use it in whichever way they please. If comrades find that difficult to believe, they should try the following two experiments:

    (A) Ask the very next dialectician you meet precisely how long a "nodal point"/"leap" is supposed to last. You will receive no answer! But, if no one knows, then anything from a Geological Age to an instantaneous quantum leap could be "nodal"! Is a ten thousand year change really all that "sudden"?

    Plainly, this introduces a fundamental element of arbitrariness into what dialecticians claim is an objective 'Law'....

    (B) Next, enquire precisely what a "quality" is supposed to be. If your respondent knows their theory, you might be told that it is a property the change of which alters a process/object into something novel; a "new kind of thing". But, more often than not you will be fobbed off, or just ignored, once more....
    So, if you'll forgive me pointing this out: you have once again confirmed my prediction!

    But, what about the example of this 'law' you mentioned?

    It seems to me that one of the best examples of the quantity to quality "law" is the transformation of hydrogen into more complex atoms. For instance, a hydrogen atom is a different "quality" from a gold atom. Yet the only real difference is the number/quantity of protons, neutrons and electrons contained in each atom. (I'm not concerned at present with sub-atomic particles.) As the force of gravity in the interior of a star fuses two hydrogen atoms together to form a new element, helium (actually helium-4, I think), a huge amount of energy is released, thus beginning the star's "burning."
    Well, it is important to look at what Hegel, Engels and Lenin actually said about this 'law':

    "With this assurance Herr Dühring saves himself the trouble of saying anything further about the origin of life, although it might reasonably have been expected that a thinker who had traced the evolution of the world back to its self-equal state, and is so much at home on other celestial bodies, would have known exactly what's what also on this point. For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules -- including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper: heat, light, electricity, magnetism. In the same way, the transition from the physics of molecules to the physics of atoms -- chemistry -- in turn involves a decided leap; and this is even more clearly the case in the transition from ordinary chemical action to the chemism of albumen which we call life. Then within the sphere of life the leaps become ever more infrequent and imperceptible. -- Once again, therefore, it is Hegel who has to correct Herr Dühring." [Engels, Anti-Duhring, pp.82-83. Bold emphasis added.]

    "It is said, natura non facit saltum [there are no leaps in nature]; and ordinary thinking when it has to grasp a coming-to-be or a ceasing-to-be, fancies it has done so by representing it as a gradual emergence or disappearance. But we have seen that the alterations of being in general are not only the transition of one magnitude into another, but a transition from quality into quantity and vice versa, a becoming-other which is an interruption of gradualness and the production of something qualitatively different from the reality which preceded it. Water, in cooling, does not gradually harden as if it thickened like porridge, gradually solidifying until it reached the consistency of ice; it suddenly solidifies, all at once. It can remain quite fluid even at freezing point if it is standing undisturbed, and then a slight shock will bring it into the solid state." [Hegel, Science of Logic, p.370, §776. Bold emphasis added.]

    "[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov, The Development of the Monist View of History, p.163. Bold emphasis added.]

    "The 'nodal line of measure relations'... -- transitions of quantity into quality... Gradualness and leaps. And again...that gradualness explains nothing without leaps." [Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, p.123. Bold emphasis added.]

    "What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness. The unity (identity) of Being and not-Being." [Ibid., p.282. Bold emphasis added.]
    The argument here is plainly this: (1) Quantitative increase in matter or energy results in gradual change, and hence that (2) At a certain point, further increase breaks this "gradualness" inducing a "leap", a sudden "qualitative" change.

    But, this doesn't happen with your example. Between the elements you mention there is no gradual increase in protons, neutrons and electrons leading to a sudden change -- there are only sudden changes as these 'particles' are added! For example, as one proton and one electron are added to Hydrogen, it suddenly changes into Helium. Hydrogen doesn't slowly alter and then suddenly "leap" and become Helium. Indeed, how could you 'gradually' add a sub-atomic particle? The same is true of every other element in the Periodic Table. In that case, this isn't an example of this 'law'. There is no "interruption" in 'gradualness'.

    Even the fusion of two or more atoms violates the "interruption" of 'gradualness', too. These atoms don't slowly combine and then suddenly do so. They do it all at once.

    That is quite apart from the fact that we still don't know what you mean by "quality" or "leap"!

    As I also pointed out (elsewhere):

    But, this lack of clarity 'allows' dialecticians to apply this 'Law' when and where is suits them, just as it 'allows' them to refuse to acknowledge counter-examples when and where they like, too, applying this 'law' in an entirely subjective manner.
    Can you imagine this happening with a genuinely scientific law?

    But, what about this?

    Another example is the breaking and creation of the hydrogen bond. When water boils and is converted to steam the water molecules begin to move more rapidly and the hydrogen bond between the atoms is "broken." As far as I know, there is no gradual, smooth breaking of the bond. It simply happens, and this has been proved at the atomic level. It is a sudden, revolutionary, if you will, break , a sudden leap, as Engels said.
    1) Once again, we are given no clear idea what a "quality" or a "leap" is here; so, and with all due respect, this is yet another example of 'Mickey Mouse Science'.

    2) The hackneyed water example doesn't work either. The hydrogen bonds do not gradually break and then suddenly break, which they would have to do if Lenin and Engels were right that the point of this 'law' is to explain the 'break in gradualness'.

    3) But, even if we ignore the above points: water doesn't go from liquid to a violently frothing mass in a split second. As I have also pointed out elsewhere:

    Compare this with the same body of water heated up very slowly (perhaps as a result of long-term global warming), so that it evaporated gradually over the space of several centuries, for the same input of energy. Clearly, there would be no "nodal" point at all in this case -- because, in this instance the water would never actually boil, even though it would still evaporate. Indeed, evaporation takes place all the time, right round the world as the oceans re-cycle water into the atmosphere very undialectically. Even if there were a "nodal" point here, it would be protracted, not short. Calling it "nodal" would therefore do violence to this word once again....

    Returning to the over-used boiling water cliché: at 100oC, events accelerate dramatically; but even then they do so non-"nodally". A few tenths of a degree below the critical point, depending on the purity of the water, ambient conditions and how the liquid is being heated (etc.), bubbles begin to form more rapidly in the liquid. This process accelerates increasingly quickly as the boiling point is approached. What we see, therefore, is a non-"nodal" change of phase/state of matter, even here. The phase or state of matter change in this case isn't sudden -- like the snapping of a rubber band, or of the breaking of glass. We do not see no bubbles and then a microsecond later a frothing mass, which we would do if this were "nodal".

    Of course, dialecticians could concede the truth of the above observation -- i.e., that before the liquid reaches 100oC water molecules leave the surface all the time --, but they might still reject the above assertion that this isn't an example of "nodal" change. They might even add that when a water molecule changes from its liquid to its gaseous state certain chemical bonds are broken, and that this happens suddenly, and "nodally". But, even this is not as clear-cut as it might seem. Certainly, when a bond is broken, this will be sudden, but there is no "break in gradualness" (required by this 'Law'), in this case. Bonds do not gradually break, and then suddenly break. They just break. There are only "nodes" in this instance.
    Notice what I also said in my post:

    I am not arguing that there are no sudden changes in nature and society, only that not everything changes this way.
    Hence, and to repeat: this 'law' is far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to say whether or not it is true or false.

    Even if we are recklessly charitable and ignored its terminal vagueness and many confusions, this 'law' fails to work far more often than where it seems to work -- so it can't be a 'law'.

    The problem is that there is a fundamental flaw in this 'Law'. If you emphasise 'gradualness' these 'nodal' points become less clear. If you emphasise these 'leaps', then you lose the 'gradualness'.

    I'll make this point clearer in my next post.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 07-06-2015 at 11:05 AM.
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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    This has been taken from Essay Seven Part One at my site:

    Despite this, it is quite clear that the "nodal" aspect of the First 'Law' is incompatible with the Unity and Interpenetration of Opposites [UIO] (the 'Second Law'), or at least with the link between the UIO and the DM-criticism of the LEM.

    [LEM = Law of Excluded Middle; FL = Formal Logic; DL = Dialectical Logic.]

    Here are both Hegel and Engels:

    "Instead of speaking by the maxim of Excluded Middle (which is the maxim of abstract understanding) we should rather say: Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in Earth, neither in the world of mind nor of nature, is there anywhere such an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things will then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being, and what they essentially are. Thus, in inorganic nature, the acid is implicitly at the same time the base: in other words, its only being consists in its relation to its other. Hence also the acid is not something that persists quietly in the contrast: it is always in effort to realise what it potentially is." [Hegel Shorter Logic, p.174; Essence as Ground of Existence, §119. Bold emphasis added.]

    "To the metaphysician, things and their mental reflexes, ideas, are isolated, are to be considered one after the other and apart from each other, are objects of investigation fixed, rigid, given once for all. He thinks in absolutely irreconcilable antitheses. 'His communication is "yea, yea; nay, nay"; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.' For him a thing either exists or does not exist; a thing cannot at the same time be itself and something else. Positive and negative absolutely exclude one another, cause and effect stand in a rigid antithesis one to the other.

    "At first sight this mode of thinking seems to us very luminous, because it is that of so-called sound common sense. Only sound common sense, respectable fellow that he is, in the homely realm of his own four walls, has very wonderful adventures directly he ventures out into the wide world of research. And the metaphysical mode of thought, justifiable and even necessary as it is in a number of domains whose extent varies according to the nature of the particular object of investigation, sooner or later reaches a limit, beyond which it becomes one-sided, restricted, abstract, lost in insoluble contradictions. In the contemplation of individual things it forgets the connection between them; in the contemplation of their existence, it forgets the beginning and end of that existence; of their repose, it forgets their motion. It cannot see the wood for the trees." [Engels Anti-Duhring, p.26. Bold emphasis added.]

    "For a stage in the outlook on nature where all differences become merged in intermediate steps, and all opposites pass into one another through intermediate links, the old metaphysical method of thought no longer suffices. Dialectics, which likewise knows no hard and fast lines, no unconditional, universally valid 'either-or' and which bridges the fixed metaphysical differences, and besides 'either-or' recognises also in the right place 'both this-and that' and reconciles the opposites, is the sole method of thought appropriate in the highest degree to this stage. Of course, for everyday use, for the small change of science, the metaphysical categories retain their validity." [Engels, Dialectics of Nature, pp.212-13. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]
    In order to see how and why these two 'Laws' clash, consider object/process, P, which is just about to undergo a qualitative change (a "leap") from, say, state PA to state PB. For there to be a "nodal" change here it would have to be the case that P is in state PA one instant/moment, and in state PB an instant/moment later (howsoever these "instants/moments" are understood). There is no other way of making sense of the abrupt nature of "nodal" change.

    [To spare the reader, I will just refer to these as "instants" from now on.]

    But, if that is so, then any state description of P would have to obey the LEM, for it would have to be the case that at one instant it would be true to say that P was in state PA at that instant but not in state PB at the same instant; i.e., it would not be true to say that P was in both states at once. That is, if we assume that PB is not-PA, then at any one instant, if this change is "nodal", the following would have to be the case: P is either in state PA or it is in state not-PA, but not both. In that case, these two states wouldn't interpenetrate one another (in the sense that both exist or apply to P at the same time), and the LEM would be applicable to this process over this time period, at least.

    On the other hand, if these two states do in fact interpenetrate each other (in the sense that both exist or apply to P at the same time) such that the "either-or" of the LEM isn't applicable here, and P is in both states at once, then the transition from PA to PB would be smooth and not "nodal", after all.

    [The object or process in question might in this case be undergoing what is called a "mixed phase" transition.]

    This dilemma is independent of the length of time a "node" is held to last (that is, if we are ever told!). It is also worth noting that this inconsistency applies at just the point where dialecticians tell us DL is superior to FL --, that is, at the point of change.
    http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007.htm

    It strikes me that if Hegel, Engels and Lenin's points about 'nodal' change ('leaps') were the case, there would have to be an 'either-or' here. So, at best: this 'law' is 'metaphysical' (if we use that word in the idiosyncratic way that Hegel and Engels employed it)!
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 07-06-2015 at 11:16 AM.
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

  5. #5
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    I'm sorry, I didn't respond to this point:

    Another more current example is the Greek referendum today. There is no question there is a qualitative difference in Greek society today. A quantitative build up of austerity over the last few years finally led to the sudden "leap."
    As I noted, this 'law' is so vague and confused, comrades use it when and where it suits them, ignoring it when it doesn't seem to fit. What is the 'quality' here, and how long is this 'leap' supposed to last? You don't say, and there is good reason for that; there is nothing you could say that wouldn't sink the other 'instances' you have listed (such as the water and the Hydrogen/Helium examples) even faster.

    But, the above example doesn't even make sense in its own terms. Here is what Engels said:

    "...[T]he transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. For our purpose, we could express this by saying that in nature, in a manner exactly fixed for each individual case, qualitative changes can only occur by the quantitative addition or subtraction of matter or motion (so-called energy)…. Hence it is impossible to alter the quality of a body without addition or subtraction of matter or motion, i.e. without quantitative alteration of the body concerned."
    So:

    1) What matter and/or motion has been 'added' here?

    2) What 'body' has had matter and/or motion 'added'? If individual A loses his job as a result of austerity, individual B has her pension cut, C has her operation postponed, D loses his house, while E is promoted because she applied the cuts efficiently, precisely what 'body' has had anything 'added' or 'subtracted'?

    3) Exactly what constitutes 'adding'/'subtracting' matter and motion here? What are the thermodynamic boundaries in this case?

    4) How long is this 'leap' and precisely what is it? If A becomes militant this week, while B did the same two months ago, and C last year, where is the 'leap'?

    Again, and with all due respect, can you imagine genuine science being conducted in such a slap-dash and sloppy manner? Scientists don't just wave a few vague words at the phenomena and then say 'Hey Presto!" Which is why I opened with these comments:

    Anyone who has studied or practiced genuine science knows the great care and attention to detail that has to be devoted by researchers, often over many years or decades, if they want to add to or alter even relatively minor areas of current knowledge, let alone establish a new law. This was the case in Engels's day, just as it is the case today. Moreover, the concepts employed by scientists have to be analytically sound, and supported wherever possible by relevant mathematics. The quotation of primary data is also essential -- or it has at least to be reviewed and/or referenced by the scientists involved; supporting evidence has to be precise, detailed, meticulously recorded, and subject not only to public scrutiny, but also to peer review.

    [DM = Dialectical Materialism.]

    In contrast, the sort of Mickey Mouse Science one finds in Creationist literature is rightly the target of derision by scientists and Marxists alike. And yet, when it comes to DM, we find in Engels's writings (and those of subsequent dialecticians) little other than Mickey Mouse Science. Engels provided is readers with no original data, and what little evidence he offered in support of his 'Laws' would have been rejected as amateurish in the extreme if it had appeared in an undergraduate science paper, never mind a research document --, even in his day! It is salutary, therefore, to compare Engels's approach to scientific proof with that of Darwin, whose classic work is a model of clarity and original research. Darwin presented the scientific community with extensive evidence and novel data, which has been expanded upon greatly over the last 150 years....

    In the place of hard evidence, what we invariably find in DM-texts are the same hackneyed examples dredged up year-in year-out. These include the following hardy perennials: boiling and/or freezing water, cells that are somehow both alive and dead, grains of barley that 'negate' themselves, magnets that are UOs, Mamelukes' ambiguous fighting ability when matched against French soldiers, Mendeleyev's Table, the sentence "John is a man", homilies about parts and wholes (e.g., "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts", etc., etc.), characters from Molière who discover they have been speaking prose all their lives, laughably weak and misguided attempts to depict the principles of FL, "Yay, Yay", and "Nay, Nay", anything more than this "cometh of evil", wave/particle 'duality', 'emergent' properties popping into existence all over the place, etc., etc., etc.

    [UO = Unity of Opposites; FL = Formal Logic; WG = Woods and Grant; i.e., Reason in Revolt.]

    [In fact, in the Essay to which I have linked below (see the next section), I show that not even these examples work!]

    Even then, we are never given a scientific report on any of these phenomena; all we find in DM-texts are a few brief, amateurish and impressionistic sentences (or, at most, a handful of paragraphs) on each example. At its best (in, say, WG, or Gollobin (1986)), all we encounter are a few brief chapters of secondary or tertiary evidence, specially-selected, and heavily slanted in the favoured direction. No contrary evidence is even so much as mentioned.

    In contrast, and in relation to, say, economics, politics, history, or current affairs, Marxists are keen to provide countless pages of primary and secondary data and analysis (much of it original), which they update regularly. But, when it comes to dialectics all we are presented with is watery-thin 'evidence', and even thinner reasoning. Small wonder then that to its Marxist opponents, like myself, this area of theory is regarded as risibly weak and is treated with the contempt it deserves.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 07-06-2015 at 11:23 AM.
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Quote Originally Posted by redshifted View Post
    Another more current example is the Greek referendum today. There is no question there is a qualitative difference in Greek society today. A quantitative build up of austerity over the last few years finally led to the sudden "leap."

    Any thoughts?
    That reminds me of the old Woody Allen joke:

    Regarding love, heh, you know, what can you say? It's not the quantity of your sexual relations that count. It's the quality. On the other hand, if the quantity drops below once every eight months, I would definitely look into it.
    And:

    Huh, interesting. Are you talking
    pure mechanics or what?
    - His technique is prodigious.
    - [ Flender ] Prodigious?
    - You're confusing sex and love.
    - No, for me, love is very deep.
    Sex only has to go
    a few inches.
    Y-You're all missing the point.
    The point is, I can give
    pleasure many times a day.
    Oh, now really, Flender.
    What has quantity got to do with it?
    - Quantity affects quality.
    - [ David ] Says who?
    - Karl Marx.
    - [ Rita ] Oh, so now
    we're talking economics.
    - Sex is economics.
    The point is a serious one and relates to Rosa's critique: these terms can be used in any context to mean something obvious to all by virtue of their meaning in ordinary language, just as any other term fulfills the same role. For example, in your Greek example, one can say that 'the buildup of austerity of the past years led to a sudden shift expressed by the referendum'. There is no 'law' there, just cause and effect denoted by two events you posit as being related (which may very well not be; that's one of the reasons it's best to avoid talk of 'laws' that imply a high level of certainty).
    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.

  7. #7
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Except, the referendum wasn't at all 'sudden' (it took a week to organise, and ten or twelve hours to implement) -- unless, of course, we bend this word, too, so that it 'fits' the phenomena.
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

  8. #8

    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Let me reply to a couple of points:

    1. Would you agree that gold and hydrogen are elements of different qualities?

    (I don't mean to be tedious, just that I want to work through this.)

    2. On water boiling. Chemicially, water boils (on earth at sea level, etc.) at 100C. This means that a bubble will form at some point within the water. If you use a beaker of water and place a metal rod, say a table knife, in the beaker, at a distinct point on the metal, a bubble will form. It doesn't grow from a very small bubble into a larger one, or slowly form from a ripple of water, the bubble simply appears. I am fairly certain that extremely high speed photography shows that the bubble simply appears. This doesn't mean that the water in the entire beaker is 100C, it only means at a specific place the boiling point has been reached. If, for instance, you add heat or put a lid on the beaker, the water will come to a rolling boil. And the temperature will be much higher, for the beaker as a whole, than 100C.

    It only looks like the water is slowly, gradually coming to a boil. But that's only because the physics and chemistry is not understood. So, why does the bubble appear, like magic, out of nowhere? Because the hydrogen bond between a water molecule has suddenly, dialectically, broken. The bond hasn't slowly, gradually stretched thin and dissolved, it has undergone a definite, spontaneous, break or leap, caused by the quantitative addition of energy.

    Finally, you, as I understand it, do not see any qualitative difference between liquid water and steam?

    Also, briefly. The slow disappearance of water in a puddle, etc over a warm day, is not evaporation, but sublimation, a different process. However, that process would also, in my view, be dialectic.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Lol.

    What Woody Allen is saying is that the fewer times you have sex, the less quality your sex life has. I suppose it goes both ways: too much and it gets boring, too little and you go crazy, unless you're a monk which Allen, one supposes, was not.

    Anyway, it was Hegel who said that quantity affects quality, not Marx.

  10. #10
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    redmaterialist:

    Ok, thanks for that.

    However, with all due respect, I get the impression you didn't read what I posted all that carefully, since I covered many (if not all) of these points in the OP, and in my other posts in this thread.

    1. Would you agree that gold and hydrogen are elements of different qualities?
    Depends what you mean by 'qualities'. [See below.]

    In addition, you will need to show that whatever you understand by this term agrees with what Engels and Lenin (or other dialectical classicists) understood by it (since I am concerned to criticise the classical theory, as opposed to revisionist attempts to sanitise it).

    2. On water boiling. Chemically, water boils (on earth at sea level, etc.) at 100C. This means that a bubble will form at some point within the water. If you use a beaker of water and place a metal rod, say a table knife, in the beaker, at a distinct point on the metal, a bubble will form. It doesn't grow from a very small bubble into a larger one, or slowly form from a ripple of water, the bubble simply appears. I am fairly certain that extremely high speed photography shows that the bubble simply appears. This doesn't mean that the water in the entire beaker is 100C, it only means at a specific place the boiling point has been reached. If, for instance, you add heat or put a lid on the beaker, the water will come to a rolling boil. And the temperature will be much higher, for the beaker as a whole, than 100C.
    I think I largely covered this point; here it is again:

    Compare this with the same body of water heated up very slowly (perhaps as a result of long-term global warming), so that it evaporated [added on edit -- or 'sublimated'] gradually over the space of several centuries, for the same input of energy. Clearly, there would be no "nodal" point at all in this case -- because, in this instance the water would never actually boil, even though it would still evaporate [/'sublimate']. Indeed, evaporation [/'sublimation'] takes place all the time, right round the world as the oceans re-cycle water into the atmosphere very un-dialectically. Even if there were a "nodal" point here, it would be protracted, not short. Calling it "nodal" would therefore do violence to this word once again....

    Returning to the over-used boiling water cliché: at 100oC, events accelerate dramatically; but even then they do so non-"nodally". A few tenths of a degree below the critical point, depending on the purity of the water, ambient conditions and how the liquid is being heated (etc.), bubbles begin to form more rapidly in the liquid. This process accelerates increasingly quickly as the boiling point is approached. What we see, therefore, is a non-"nodal" change of phase/state of matter, even here. The phase or state of matter change in this case isn't sudden -- like the snapping of a rubber band, or of the breaking of glass. We do not see no bubbles and then a microsecond later a frothing mass, which we would do if this were "nodal".

    Of course, dialecticians could concede the truth of the above observation -- i.e., that before the liquid reaches 100oC water molecules leave the surface all the time --, but they might still reject the above assertion that this isn't an example of "nodal" change. They might even add that when a water molecule changes from its liquid to its gaseous state certain chemical bonds are broken, and that this happens suddenly, and "nodally". But, even this is not as clear-cut as it might seem. Certainly, when a bond is broken, this will be sudden, but there is no "break in gradualness" (required by this 'Law'), in this case. Bonds do not gradually break, and then suddenly break. They just break. There are only "nodes" in this instance.
    What happens as 100oC is reached is that bubbles begin to form, and then form more rapidly as the critical temperature is approached. At 100oC this turns into the familiar boiling liquid. However, we never go from no bubbles to a frothing mass in a split second. But, even then, not all the water changes into steam, we have what physicists call a 'mixed phase regime' -- so Hegel, Engels and all the rest got the details wrong.

    Moreover, and perhaps worse, and as I pointed out in the OP:

    For instance, the most hackneyed (overused) example is water turning to ice or steam, when cooled or heated. But, given the above 'definition' this wouldn't in fact be an example of 'qualitative change', since water as a solid (ice), a liquid, or a gas (steam) is still H2O -- no "new kind of thing" has emerged. Quantitative addition or subtraction of energy doesn't result in a qualitative change of the required sort; nothing substantially new has emerged. This substance remains H2O throughout.

    Consider several more examples: When heated beyond its melting point, Iron remains Iron, even as a liquid. The same goes for all the other elements. Liquid Nitrogen is no less Nitrogen than its gaseous or solid forms are. Sulphur is still Sulphur as a liquid and as a solid. Again, nothing substantially new has arisen.
    As I said, this 'law' is far too vague and imprecise for anyone to decide if it is true or false. And even where some sense can be made of it, it fails to work.

    It only looks like the water is slowly, gradually coming to a boil. But that's only because the physics and chemistry is not understood. So, why does the bubble appear, like magic, out of nowhere? Because the hydrogen bond between a water molecule has suddenly, dialectically, broken. The bond hasn't slowly, gradually stretched thin and dissolved, it has undergone a definite, spontaneous, break or leap, caused by the quantitative addition of energy.
    Again, I covered this in my earlier post (reproduced above).

    You are only able to assert things like this because you have left 'quality' and 'node'/'leap' in the vague condition you found it (indeed, as I predicted! -- I have been debating this with comrades (in person, in writing and on the Internet) for nigh on thirty years, and every last one with whom I have discussed this -- and there are literally hundreds of these comrades, no exaggeration -- does exactly as you have done: leave these words terminally vague); check out the link at the end -- again, as I have already pointed out:

    In fact, it turns out that this 'Law' is so vaguely worded that dialecticians can (and do!) use it in whichever way they please. If comrades find that difficult to believe, they should try the following two experiments:

    (A) Ask the very next dialectician you meet precisely how long a "nodal point"/"leap" is supposed to last. You will receive no answer! But, if no one knows, then anything from a Geological Age to an instantaneous quantum leap could be "nodal"! Is a ten thousand year change really all that "sudden"?

    Plainly, this introduces a fundamental element of arbitrariness into what dialecticians claim is an objective 'Law'....

    (B) Next, enquire precisely what a "quality" is supposed to be. If your respondent knows their theory, you might be told that it is a property the change of which alters a process/object into something novel; a "new kind of thing". But, more often than not you will be fobbed off, or just ignored, once more.

    Now, the above 'definition' of "quality" was in fact borrowed from Aristotle, via Hegel.

    Unfortunately, given this 'definition', many of the examples DM-theorists themselves use to illustrate their 'Law' actually fail to do so.... [Added on edit: for example, this definition of 'quality' rules out the water boiling/freezing example -- on that see above.]

    But, this lack of clarity 'allows' dialecticians to apply this 'Law' when and where is suits them, just as it 'allows' them to refuse to acknowledge counter-examples when and where they like, too, applying this 'law' in an entirely subjective manner.
    redmaterialist:

    Finally, you, as I understand it, do not see any qualitative difference between liquid water and steam?
    Again we are discussing what dialecticians understand by 'quality', not how I might or might not comprehend it.

    The slow disappearance of water in a puddle, etc over a warm day, is not evaporation, but sublimation, a different process. However, that process would also, in my view, be dialectic.
    Call it what you like, even here, we have a slow change in 'quality' with no 'leaps' anywhere in sight.

    [That is, if we are ever told what a 'quality' is, and what a 'leap' amounts to.]

    The many places I have debated this and other DM-laws can be accessed here:

    http://www.anti-dialectics.co.uk/RevLeft.htm
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

  11. #11
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    By the way, this is sublimation:

    Sublimation is the conversion between the solid and the gaseous phases of matter, with no intermediate liquid stage. For those of us interested in the water cycle, sublimation is most often used to describe the process of snow and ice changing into water vapor in the air without first melting into water. The opposite of sublimation is "deposition", where water vapor changes directly into ice—such a snowflakes and frost.
    http://water.usgs.gov/edu/watercyclesublimation.html

    So, my calling the evaporation of water by that term was quite accurate.
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Quote Originally Posted by redmaterialist View Post
    What Woody Allen is saying is that the fewer times you have sex, the less quality your sex life has. I suppose it goes both ways: too much and it gets boring, too little and you go crazy, unless you're a monk which Allen, one supposes, was not.
    Sure, but are those 'laws'?
    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.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    redmaterialist:

    Ok, thanks for that.

    However, with all due respect, I get the impression you didn't read what I posted all that carefully, since I covered many (if not all) of these points in the OP, and in my other posts in this thread.



    Depends what you mean by 'qualities'. [See below.]
    It's very hard sometimes to follow all of your post.

    So, we can't even discuss a change of quantity into quality without agreeing to a definition of quality? If you placed your hand in a pot of cold water, then boiled the water and then placed your hand in the steam, I would think you would agree there is a qualitative difference.

    As to sublimation, I was wrong. Apparently, evaporation is a type of vaporization as is boiling. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporation. However, even with vaporization the escape of a water molecule from its liquid state still depends on the quantitative amount of energy transferred to the molecule, the same case as boiling water into steam.

    If there is a quantitative increase in the energy then the water molecule goes from a liquid to a gaseous "state."

    I think what you are saying is that there is no qualitative difference between a liquid and a gas. Or if there is, it has not been defined yet.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    Sure, but are those 'laws'?
    Well, if the "rules" apply to boiling water and sex, then it seems like a pretty good law. With enough energy transfer a water molecule "escapes" into its gaseous state. If enough sexual energy is withheld from Woody Allen, he escapes into another relationship.

  15. #15
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Redmaterialist:

    It's very hard sometimes to follow all of your post.
    I can't think why. I strive to be crystal clear at all times, and avoid technicalities where I can.

    If you find me difficult to follow, don't ever try to read Hegel!

    So, we can't even discuss a change of quantity into quality without agreeing to a definition of quality? If you placed your hand in a pot of cold water, then boiled the water and then placed your hand in the steam, I would think you would agree there is a qualitative difference.
    It's a key term of this theory; a bit like trying to discuss evolution but failing to define 'species', or 'natural selection'.

    As to sublimation, I was wrong. Apparently, evaporation is a type of vaporization as is boiling. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporation. However, even with vaporization the escape of a water molecule from its liquid state still depends on the quantitative amount of energy transferred to the molecule, the same case as boiling water into steam.
    Where have I denied energy is required in such cases?

    If there is a quantitative increase in the energy then the water molecule goes from a liquid to a gaseous "state."
    I agree; but how does that help Engels?

    I think what you are saying is that there is no qualitative difference between a liquid and a gas. Or if there is, it has not been defined yet.
    The problem is that if you define this in the way that Aristotle, Hegel and, say, the Marxist Internet Archive [MIA], define it, then water turning to steam, or ice melting, do not illustrate this 'law', as I pointed out in my reply to you above.

    Here is how the MIA defines it:

    Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else and reflects that which is stable amidst variation. Quantity is an aspect of something which may change (become more or less) without the thing thereby becoming something else.

    Thus, if something changes to an extent that it is no longer the same kind of thing, this is a ‘qualitative change’, whereas a change in something by which it still the same thing, though more or less, bigger or smaller, is a ‘quantitative change’.

    In Hegel's Logic, Quality is the first division of Being, when the world is just one thing after another, so to speak, while Quantity is the second division, where perception has progressed to the point of recognising what is stable within the ups and downs of things. The third and final stage, Measure , the unity of quality and quantity, denotes the knowledge of just when quantitative change becomes qualitative change.
    Bold added.

    But when, say, iron melts, it is still iron; no new 'kind of thing' has emerged. Liquid Oxygen is still Oxygen. Water as a solid (ice), a liquid or a gas (steam), is still H20.

    Quality is an aspect of something by which it is what it is and not something else
    But, countless substances are solid, liquid, or gas, so this can't be what makes each of them "what it is and not something else". What makes lead, for example, lead is its atomic structure, and that remains the same whether or not that metal is in its solid or its liquid state. As such, it remains "the same kind of thing."

    In that case, perhaps the most over-used set of examples in the DM-box of tricks (i.e., substances changing in 'quality' when heated or cooled) actually fails to illustrate this 'Law'.

    I think what you are saying is that there is no qualitative difference between a liquid and a gas.
    I'm not asserting anything here, just pointing out that, at best, this 'Law' is an excellent example of Mickey Mouse Science -- at worst, it is incoherent non-sense.

    Well, if the "rules" apply to boiling water and sex, then it seems like a pretty good law.
    With all due respect, you are failing to come to terms with the fact that this 'Law' is far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to say whether or not it 'applies'. If we are charitable, and try to 'apply' it to water boiling, it fails even there!

    [It is worth recalling that I am not attacking Marxism here; I fully accept Historical Materialism (providing Hegel's influence has been completely excised (upside down or 'the right way up'). I just don't think Marxism is helped if it has such an incoherent theory at its heart. Quite the opposite, in fact.]
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

  16. #16

    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Redmaterialist:

    [It is worth recalling that I am not attacking Marxism here; I fully accept Historical Materialism (providing Hegel's influence has been completely excised (upside down or 'the right way up'). I just don't think Marxism is helped if it has such an incoherent theory at its heart. Quite the opposite, in fact.]
    I will try to respond more in detail to your posts, but I am trying to focus on the definition of quality:

    It is a quantified state of stored energy. For instance, an electron occupies a specific energy orbital around an atom. It can only change levels or orbitals in discrete, quantified, non-continuous amounts, i.e. from 1 -2 - 3, never from 1 to 1.5 to 2.7 to 2.9, etc.

    It may look like an oz of lead is gradually, slowly, continuously melting. This is an illusion. What is happening is that the lead is changing quality; the energy orbitals of the electrons in each atom are changing discretely, dialectically, from one level to the next. The quality may be felt as hotter or cooler, or brighter or dimmer.

    Quality in Marx's analysis is the amount, more or less, of the socially necessary labor needed to produce a commodity. The analysis is always of a discrete commodity, a coat or 20 yds of cloth, or most importantly, a unit of time-labor. It even fits with the modern, neo-classical definition of marginal utility, an increase of one unit, etc.

    You are right about the MIA definition of quality, it is far to vague, it also refers to itself. Also, Engels make clear that stability is not a characteristic of dialectics, everything is in motion, unstable.

    On the atomic structure of water, ice, solid lead, molten lead; the atomic structure of each "composition" changes with the addition or subtraction of energy, from crystalline, to liquid, etc. But also the energy levels of the atoms change. As far as isotropes, the chemical name is the same, but the atomic structure is different, again, depending on the amount of stored energy.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Redmaterialist:




    If you find me difficult to follow, don't ever try to read Hegel!
    No doubt. Extremely difficult.

  18. #18
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    redmaterialist:

    It is a quantified state of stored energy. For instance, an electron occupies a specific energy orbital around an atom. It can only change levels or orbitals in discrete, quantified, non-continuous amounts, i.e. from 1 -2 - 3, never from 1 to 1.5 to 2.7 to 2.9, etc.
    1) I'm not sure how that helps Engels.

    2) Even if some case could be made that this had anything to do with 'quality' (a term you have yet to define), I have already shown that this violates Engels's 'Law'. [It really is becoming tedious having to make the same points over and over!]

    Here it is again:

    Well, it is important to look at what Hegel, Engels and Lenin actually said about this 'law':

    "With this assurance Herr Dühring saves himself the trouble of saying anything further about the origin of life, although it might reasonably have been expected that a thinker who had traced the evolution of the world back to its self-equal state, and is so much at home on other celestial bodies, would have known exactly what's what also on this point. For the rest, however, the assurance he gives us is only half right unless it is completed by the Hegelian nodal line of measure relations which has already been mentioned. In spite of all gradualness, the transition from one form of motion to another always remains a leap, a decisive change. This is true of the transition from the mechanics of celestial bodies to that of smaller masses on a particular celestial body; it is equally true of the transition from the mechanics of masses to the mechanics of molecules -- including the forms of motion investigated in physics proper: heat, light, electricity, magnetism. In the same way, the transition from the physics of molecules to the physics of atoms -- chemistry -- in turn involves a decided leap; and this is even more clearly the case in the transition from ordinary chemical action to the chemism of albumen which we call life. Then within the sphere of life the leaps become ever more infrequent and imperceptible. -- Once again, therefore, it is Hegel who has to correct Herr Dühring." [Engels, Anti-Duhring, pp.82-83. Bold emphasis added.]

    "It is said, natura non facit saltum [there are no leaps in nature]; and ordinary thinking when it has to grasp a coming-to-be or a ceasing-to-be, fancies it has done so by representing it as a gradual emergence or disappearance. But we have seen that the alterations of being in general are not only the transition of one magnitude into another, but a transition from quality into quantity and vice versa, a becoming-other which is an interruption of gradualness and the production of something qualitatively different from the reality which preceded it. Water, in cooling, does not gradually harden as if it thickened like porridge, gradually solidifying until it reached the consistency of ice; it suddenly solidifies, all at once. It can remain quite fluid even at freezing point if it is standing undisturbed, and then a slight shock will bring it into the solid state." [Hegel, Science of Logic, p.370, §776. Bold emphasis added.]

    "[I]t will be understood without difficulty by anyone who is in the least capable of dialectical thinking...[that] quantitative changes, accumulating gradually, lead in the end to changes of quality, and that these changes of quality represent leaps, interruptions in gradualness…. That is how all Nature acts…." [Plekhanov, The Development of the Monist View of History, p.163. Bold emphasis added.]

    "The 'nodal line of measure relations'... -- transitions of quantity into quality... Gradualness and leaps. And again...that gradualness explains nothing without leaps." [Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, p.123. Bold emphasis added.]

    "What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness. The unity (identity) of Being and not-Being." [Ibid., p.282. Bold emphasis added.]
    The argument here is plainly this: (1) Quantitative increase in matter or energy results in gradual change, and hence that (2) At a certain point, further increase breaks this "gradualness" inducing a "leap", a sudden "qualitative" change.

    But, this doesn't happen with your example. Between the elements you mention there is no gradual increase in protons, neutrons and electrons leading to a sudden change -- there are only sudden changes as these 'particles' are added! For example, as one proton and one electron are added to Hydrogen, it suddenly changes into Helium. Hydrogen doesn't slowly alter and then suddenly "leap" and become Helium. Indeed, how could you 'gradually' add a sub-atomic particle? The same is true of every other element in the Periodic Table. In that case, this isn't an example of this 'law'. There is no "interruption" in 'gradualness'.

    Even the fusion of two or more atoms violates the "interruption" of 'gradualness', too. These atoms don't slowly combine and then suddenly do so. They do it all at once.

    That is quite apart from the fact that we still don't know what you mean by "quality" or "leap"!
    So, a quantum 'leap' has no 'gradualness' to it; they are all 'leaps', which is why I also said this:

    The problem is that there is a fundamental flaw in this 'Law'. If you emphasise 'gradualness' these 'nodal' points become less clear. If you emphasise these 'leaps', then you lose the 'gradualness'.
    And I went into this in more detail in my next post, where I showed that 'Law One' is incompatible with 'Law Two' (the 'Unity and Interpenetration of Opposites').

    We can see this incompatibility emerge in your reply: sub-atomic particles can only be in one state or in another, not in-between any two states, which contradicts (rather fittingly one feels) what Hegel and Engels had to say:

    "Instead of speaking by the maxim of Excluded Middle (which is the maxim of abstract understanding) we should rather say: Everything is opposite. Neither in heaven nor in Earth, neither in the world of mind nor of nature, is there anywhere such an abstract 'either-or' as the understanding maintains. Whatever exists is concrete, with difference and opposition in itself. The finitude of things will then lie in the want of correspondence between their immediate being, and what they essentially are. Thus, in inorganic nature, the acid is implicitly at the same time the base: in other words, its only being consists in its relation to its other. Hence also the acid is not something that persists quietly in the contrast: it is always in effort to realise what it potentially is." [Hegel Shorter Logic, p.174; Essence as Ground of Existence, §119. Bold emphasis added.]

    "To the metaphysician, things and their mental reflexes, ideas, are isolated, are to be considered one after the other and apart from each other, are objects of investigation fixed, rigid, given once for all. He thinks in absolutely irreconcilable antitheses. 'His communication is "yea, yea; nay, nay"; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.' For him a thing either exists or does not exist; a thing cannot at the same time be itself and something else. Positive and negative absolutely exclude one another, cause and effect stand in a rigid antithesis one to the other.

    "At first sight this mode of thinking seems to us very luminous, because it is that of so-called sound common sense. Only sound common sense, respectable fellow that he is, in the homely realm of his own four walls, has very wonderful adventures directly he ventures out into the wide world of research. And the metaphysical mode of thought, justifiable and even necessary as it is in a number of domains whose extent varies according to the nature of the particular object of investigation, sooner or later reaches a limit, beyond which it becomes one-sided, restricted, abstract, lost in insoluble contradictions. In the contemplation of individual things it forgets the connection between them; in the contemplation of their existence, it forgets the beginning and end of that existence; of their repose, it forgets their motion. It cannot see the wood for the trees." [Engels Anti-Duhring, p.26. Bold emphasis added.]

    "For a stage in the outlook on nature where all differences become merged in intermediate steps, and all opposites pass into one another through intermediate links, the old metaphysical method of thought no longer suffices. Dialectics, which likewise knows no hard and fast lines, no unconditional, universally valid 'either-or' and which bridges the fixed metaphysical differences, and besides 'either-or' recognises also in the right place 'both this-and that' and reconciles the opposites, is the sole method of thought appropriate in the highest degree to this stage. Of course, for everyday use, for the small change of science, the metaphysical categories retain their validity." [Engels, Dialectics of Nature, pp.212-13. Bold emphasis added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site.]
    Quantum Mechanics plainly involves an 'either-or'. You have the 'leaps' but not the gradualness, so it can't be 'dialectical' (see below). [And we still don't know what you mean by 'leap'!]

    You:

    It may look like an oz of lead is gradually, slowly, continuously melting. This is an illusion. What is happening is that the lead is changing quality; the energy orbitals of the electrons in each atom are changing discretely, dialectically, from one level to the next. The quality may be felt as hotter or cooler, or brighter or dimmer.
    Once again, you are only able to assert this because you have left 'quality' and 'leap' as vague as they ever were. We aren't going to make any progress unless and until you grasp this nettle.

    And, again(!), in the above example, there is no break in 'gradualness', so this can't be a 'dialectical' process -- remember what Lenin said?

    "What distinguishes the dialectical transition from the undialectical transition? The leap. The contradiction. The interruption of gradualness." [Ibid., p.282. Bold emphasis added.]
    So, even if you are right about these orbitals (and I don't doubt you are), according to Lenin, this can't be a 'dialectical' process; orbitals do not gradually change; it's all or nothing with them.

    You:

    Quality in Marx's analysis is the amount, more or less, of the socially necessary labor needed to produce a commodity. The analysis is always of a discrete commodity, a coat or 20 yds of cloth, or most importantly, a unit of time-labor. It even fits with the modern, neo-classical definition of marginal utility, an increase of one unit, etc.
    I'd like to see where Marx called this a 'quality'. [That is, if you ever get round to telling us what 'quality' is -- we are still waiting.]

    Anyway, if these changes are all discrete (as you say they are), then they are all 'leaps'; the 'gradualness' aspect of this 'Law' has been violated again (as predicted; this is a fundamental flaw in the 'Law').

    You are right about the MIA definition of quality, it is far to vague, it also refers to itself. Also, Engels make clear that stability is not a characteristic of dialectics, everything is in motion, unstable.
    Well, at least they tried to define it; with all due respect, you have yet even to make an attempt to define this term!

    This means that your comments are well-and-truly stuck in Mickey Mouse Land -- again, with all due respect.

    On the atomic structure of water, ice, solid lead, molten lead; the atomic structure of each "composition" changes with the addition or subtraction of energy, from crystalline, to liquid, etc. But also the energy levels of the atoms change. As far as isotropes, [I think you mean 'isotopes' here -- RL] the chemical name is the same, but the atomic structure is different, again, depending on the amount of stored energy.
    But, even here, each element isn't a 'new kind of thing' (which was a key component of Aristotle and Hegel's definition of 'quality'). [But, I am not sure why you introduced 'isotopes' here.]

    Anyway, is this a change in 'quality' as you understand this term (we already know it isn't for the MIA, or for Aristotle and Hegel)? It is impossible to say, since you seem more than reluctant to define this key term.

    As I have pointed out (several times!):

    This 'law' is so vague and confused, comrades use it when and where it suits them, ignoring it when it doesn't seem to fit. What is the 'quality' here, and how long is this 'leap' supposed to last? You don't say, and there is good reason for that; there is nothing you could say that wouldn't sink the other 'instances' you have listed (such as the water and the Hydrogen/Helium examples) even faster.
    I hope you'll forgive me for saying this, but I am beginning to suspect you want to leave this 'Law' in its present hopelessly vague state so that you can continue to apply it when and where it suits you, all the while ignoring the many cases where it doesn't work, and the many cases where your own examples don't work, either.
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

  19. #19

    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post

    I hope you'll forgive me for saying this, but I am beginning to suspect you want to leave this 'Law' in its present hopelessly vague state so that you can continue to apply it when and where it suits you, all the while ignoring the many cases where it doesn't work, and the many cases where your own examples don't work, either.
    No, quite the opposite. I think I'm beginning to suspect that there is really no such thing as gradualness. All change is discrete from one energy level to another. It only appears gradual because the changes are so small.

  20. #20
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engels's 'First Law' Debunked

    redmaterialist:

    No, quite the opposite. I think I'm beginning to suspect that there is really no such thing as gradualness. All change is discrete from one energy level to another. It only appears gradual because the changes are so small.
    Again, I hope you'll forgive me for saying this: but you have once again confirmed my prediction that all you can offer here is Mickey Mouse Science.

    We still have no idea what you mean by "quality", "leap"/"node", or even "gradual"; moreover, we have no idea what the 'addition' of matter and/or energy means in this theory, nor what a 'dialectical' body/system is, nor yet what the energetic/thermodynamic boundaries are to a 'dialectical' body/system are. Nor has anyone ever offered any mathematical support for this theory -- and that alone should have rung a few alarm bells.

    This is quite apart from the many examples I have given where this theory fails.
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/index.htm

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