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Thread: What is dialectics?

  1. #101
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Moreover, even if we needed a (philosophical) theory of change (which we don't), dialectics (in that it would make change impossible) wouldn't make the bottom of the reserve list of viable candidates.
    Out of curiosity, what are the other, viable candidates you have in mind?
    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.

  2. #102
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    The classic version is to be found in Aristotle (with his four causes of change and stability):

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ar...e-metaphysics/

    Of course, earlier Greeks had their own theories of change -- or, rather, theories that made change appear illusory, in some cases -- Parmenides, for example.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/parmenides/

    Plato was perhaps the first major theorist to introduce the idea that things actually change/move themselves (which is from where Hegel pinched this notion, and thus from where DM-fans got the idea).

    http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=G...gbs_navlinks_s

    "Athenian. Then we must say that self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves the other is second." [Plato The Laws, Collected Works, p.1552.]
    Here is how I have put things in Essay Eight Part One (Note Four):

    As Plato indicates, this theory derives from earlier mystical and animistic notions. The idea seems to be that the only sort of motion which is rational is, obviously, that which has reason and thus a will behind it. If the universe is ultimately rational, then all motion must be of this sort, that is, it must be internally-generated, and thus goal-directed. Otherwise the universe would be irrational, which is an insult both to our 'rationality' (or, rather, the 'rationality' of certain philosophers and boss-class hacks) and the 'Deity'. Plainly, this is the source of the various teleological systems of nature that have been imposed on the world since Ancient Greek times (and possibly earlier). It's also why DM-theorists have struggled hard to deny their theory is teleological, even though it is replete with teleological concepts, lifted from Hegel and Mystical Christianity. [Putting them 'on their feet' thus in no way alters their teleological implications.]

    Indeed, this is why external causation was favoured by empiricists, 'crude materialists' and assorted atheists (so much for it implying a 'push' from 'god'!), and it's also why DM-fans look askance at it. Just like Hegel and other mystics, they regard this approach to causation as irrational. [It's also why some Marxists seem happy to confuse reasons with causes.]

    And, it's why, for example, John Rees argued this way:

    "…the cause of change [lies] within the system…and it cannot be conceived on the model of linear cause and effect…. If change is internally generated, it must be a result of contradiction, of instability and development as inherent properties of the system itself." [Rees The Algebra of Revolution, p.7.]

    "[External causation offers] mere description, not explanation; the what, but not the how or the why." [Ibid., p.7.]
    This puts DM-fans in the rationalist wing of traditional thought, and thus on the side of the 'Gods', as I pointed out elsewhere:

    This explains why Lenin could declare that he preferred intelligent Idealism to "crude materialism".

    "Intelligent idealism is closer to intelligent materialism than stupid materialism.

    "Dialectical idealism instead of intelligent; metaphysical, undeveloped, dead, crude, rigid instead of stupid." [Lenin Collected Works, Volume 38, p.274.]
    By nailing their colours to this ruling-class masthead, dialecticians have placed themselves on the side of the Gods.

    Diodorus Siculus is, in think, the originator of this image:

    "When the Gigantes about Pallene chose to begin war against the immortals, Herakles fought on the side of the gods, and slaying many of the Sons of Ge he received the highest approbation. For Zeus gave the name of Olympian only to those gods who had fought by his side, in order that the courageous, by being adorned by so honourable a title, might be distinguished by this designation from the coward; and of those who were born of mortal women he considered only Dionysos and Herakles worthy of this name." [Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4.15.1.]
    But, my reference is in fact an allusion to an image in Plato's Sophist, one of his more profound surviving works. Indeed, that dialogue is the principle source of much of subsequent Idealism. The part reproduced below features a conversation between an Eleatic "Stranger" (who appears to be a follower of Parmenides) and a character called "Theaetetus":

    "Stranger. We are far from having exhausted the more exact thinkers who treat of being and not-being. But let us be content to leave them, and proceed to view those who speak less precisely; and we shall find as the result of all, that the nature of being is quite as difficult to comprehend as that of not-being....

    "...There appears to be a sort of war of Giants and Gods going on amongst them; they are fighting with one another about the nature of essence.

    "Theaetetus. How is that?

    "Stranger. Some of them are dragging down all things from heaven and from the unseen to earth, and they literally grasp in their hands rocks and trees; of these they lay hold, and obstinately maintain, that the things only which can be touched or handled have being or essence, because they define being and body as one, and if any one else says that what is not a body exists they altogether despise him, and will hear of nothing but body.

    "Theaetetus. I have often met with such men, and terrible fellows they are.

    "Stranger. And that is the reason why their opponents cautiously defend themselves from above, out of an unseen world, mightily contending that true essence consists of certain intelligible and incorporeal ideas; the bodies of the materialists, which by them are maintained to be the very truth, they break up into little bits by their arguments, and affirm them to be, not essence, but generation and motion. Between the two armies, Theaetetus, there is always an endless conflict raging concerning these matters.

    "Theaetetus. True.

    "Stranger. Let us ask each party in turn, to give an account of that which they call essence.

    "Theaetetus. How shall we get it out of them?

    "Stranger. With those who make being to consist in ideas, there will be less difficulty, for they are civil people enough; but there will be very great difficulty, or rather an absolute impossibility, in getting an opinion out of those who drag everything down to matter. Shall I tell you what we must do?

    "Theaetetus. What?

    "Stranger. Let us, if we can, really improve them; but if this is not possible, let us imagine them to be better than they are, and more willing to answer in accordance with the rules of argument, and then their opinion will be more worth having; for that which better men acknowledge has more weight than that which is acknowledged by inferior men. Moreover we are no respecters of persons, but seekers after truth." [Plato The Sophist, Colleccted Works, pp.267-68, 246a-246d. I have used the on-line version here.]
    The battle itself is described in Hesiod's Theogony (lines 675-715).
    From this it's clear that Marxist Dialecticians are far closer to the Gods than they are to the materialist Giants!

    [Readers shouldn't conclude from this that I favour external causation. In fact, I reject both theories since they are metaphysical and thus non-sensical.]
    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2008_01.htm

    However, more recent theories can be found here:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/change/

  3. #103
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Comrades might like to know that a supporter of my site sent two letters to the editors of Socialist Review and Socialist Worker in response to two articles about John Molyneux's new book, The Point Is To Change It: Introduction To Marxist Philosophy.

    They chose not to publish either of them (no surprise there!). They can both be accessed here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/SR_Letter_003.htm

  4. #104
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Another group of 'courageous' DM-fans has attempted to argue with me in my absence over at RevLeft:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/anti-diale...933/index.html

    My response can be found here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Dialect...onfusion_2.htm

  5. #105
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    I love Maoism. It's awesomely hilarious. 'No investigation, no right to speak!' — always stated by the person who assumes that they have done the requisite investigation(s) themselves, and therefore do have a right to speak.

    It's really a wonderful catch-all slogan. Whenever someone disagrees with you about anything, just say that, and you're done. Mao is known for having come up with a lot of such banalities in his writings, which is why I never understood his popularity. Even back in the day when I was buying a lot of bullshit in terms of left-sect lit., I never bought Maoism because of this. Have you ever tried reading Mao? It's really bad stuff.

    By the way, here's the original source for that quote:

    Unless you have investigated a problem, you will be deprived of the right to speak on it. Isn't that too harsh? Not in the least. When you have not probed into a problem, into the present facts and its past history, and know nothing of its essentials, whatever you say about it will undoubtedly be nonsense. Talking nonsense solves no problems, as everyone knows, so why is it unjust to deprive you of the right to speak? Quite a few comrades always keep their eyes shut and talk nonsense, and for a Communist that is disgraceful. How can a Communist keep his eyes shut and talk nonsense?

    It won't do!
    It won't do!
    You must investigate!
    You must not talk nonsense!
    http://www.marxists.org/reference/ar...6/mswv6_11.htm

    So it wasn't just intended as a harmless slogan, it actually has political consequences; if it is judged that you haven't done the proper investigation(s) into something, you'll be deprived from the right to speak about it.
    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.

  6. #106
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    I have, alas read Mao, but only his works on Dialectics; but I agree with you about the quality of his work, at least the parts I have read.

    However, the passage you quote is one of the least worst I have seen of his.

  7. #107
    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Is that a good or bad thing?

    The assumption behind the fact that you are not allowed to speak about something when you've not done the proper investigating into that subject is that there is some kind of objective criteria by which it can be determined whether you have done that investigating or not, and that objective criteria is defined by Maoist political practice. Back in Mao's day, it meant anything you said that went against what Mao said. But there is a double effect here; not only is the assumption that you are wrong because you fail to live up to those standards, but also that they are right because they do live up to it. So when you say that you disagree with dialectics for X, Y and Z reasons and they say: 'No investigation, no right to speak!', it means in practice that you have to be shut up in some way (if you were living in Mao's China, this was done quite literally), but much more destructively it means that the opposing view is the only objectively correct one. It's a kind of self-sanitizing of political practice that only the most corrupt of political ideologies ascribe to as an article of faith, which makes it unsurprising that it is a cornerstone of Stalinist ideology.
    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.

  8. #108
    Administrator RevForum Administrator CornetJoyce's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    In Mao's day, you could get Mao tse Tung soup at a Chinese restaurant up the street from the white house. It was pretty good, and the local maoists held it up as a product of Mao tse Tung Thought..

    But then Mao's personal chef came to town and gave cooking lessons. What is it like, hoi polloi asked, cooking for Mao? Frustrating, the chef replied, and recounted how every day, before every meal, he offered the Great Helmsman anything he wanted from the Ultimate Chinese Menu. Mao would ponder the question and say "How about some fish toast?"
    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

  9. #109
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    If that's anything like canned sardines on a saltine cracker, I've "enjoyed" that dish many times myself!

    But seriously, I am familiar with shrimp toast, a common Chinese dish, and from looking at a few recipes for fish toast, it looks like the same basic idea: make a purée of fish and scallions, etc. smear on wedges of toast, deep fry and serve. Not my cup of tea, but I'm not the Chairman, so ....

  10. #110
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Amoeba:

    Is that a good or bad thing?
    I think it good advice to be informed about something before you pass comment. Certainly one can ignore such advice, but in that case, how many will take your opinion seriously?

    But, I agree, it can be used to silence critics.

    However, in the end, such a tactic will expose itself, since we can now see it for what it is.

  11. #111
    Senior Voting Member Apprentice's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Rosa, what do you think about the "wavicle" phenomenon? The fact that forces can be both particles and waves at the same time, despite the fact that being a wave contradicts being a particle? How do you resolve this conflict?

    Researchers in quantum mechanics have also shown that something can be both still and moving at the same time (source: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/1003....2010.130.html).

    Some people claim that the same laws of quantum mechanics may apply at a sociological level as well. Isn't this just some form of dialectics?

    I am sure you are going to demolish this, but I just want to see you do it, because it will help me understand this better.

  12. #112
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    I have in fact answered this one many times. Here is what I have posted on another forum (and indeed earlier in this thread):

    [This was part of a longer piece which demonstrated that dialecticians have no way of telling the difference between 'real contradictions' and those that are the product of a defective theory, the retention of which would hold up the progress of science -- a brief description of this 'paradox' (which I have called the 'Dialecticians' Dilemma') at the end.]

    If you are using Internet Explorer 10, you might find some of the links I have included won't work properly unless you switch to 'Compatibility View' (in the Tools Menu).

    Consider a concrete example: DM-theorists generally agree that the wave-particle duality of light confirms the thesis that nature is fundamentally contradictory/dialectical. In this case, light is supposed to be a UO of wave and particle. Precisely how they are a unity (i.e., how it could be true that matter at this level is fundamentally particulate and fundamentally non-particulate all at once) is of course left eminently obscure. Moreover, exactly how this phenomenon helps account for the material world is even less clear.

    [UO = Unity of Opposites; DM = Dialectical Materialism.]

    Even though all dialecticians refer to this 'contradiction', not one has yet explained how and why it is a contradiction, nor less how and why it is a 'dialectical contradiction' (even if we knew what these are).

    Consider these two propositions:

    Q1: Light is a wave.

    Q2: Light is particulate.

    Now, Q1 would contradict Q2 if the following were the case:

    Q3: No wave can be particulate.

    Q4: Light must be one or the other, wave or particle.

    [Q4 is required or Q1 and Q2 would merely be inconsistent.]

    But is Q3 true? Surely not, for if physicists are correct, light is both!

    However, that response would beg the question. So, independently of the latter, there are in fact plenty of examples of waves in nature that are particulate; e.g., sound waves, water waves and Mexican waves. So, Q3 is in fact false! Hence, Q1 and Q2 aren't contradictory,

    Moreover, Q4 could be false, too. Light could turn out to be something else about which we do not yet have a concept. That, of course, would make Q1 and Q2 merely inconsistent. Do 'dialectical logicians' know what to do with 'dialectical inconsistencies'?

    But, even if in some way this were a contradiction, it does nothing to explain change -- unless we are supposed to accept the idea that the fact that light is a particle changes it into a wave, and vice versa. Are we to conclude therefore that these two states/processes are 'struggling' with one another? [The DM-classics tell us they should be!] But what is the point of that? What role does this particular 'contradiction' play either in DM or in Physics? At best, it seems to be merely ornamental.

    [One benighted DM-fan, when confronted with this objection in private correspondence, claimed that these were 'illustrative' contradictions (even though they do no dialectical work). This can only mean that dialecticians now resemble Fundamentalist Christians even more than one might otherwise have thought. Many of the latter think that, say, the three-dimensionality of space 'illustrates' the truth of the Trinity, God having left this and other clues littered across reality for us to find. [Don't believe me? Then check this out.] In a similar way, and with regard to dialectics, perhaps 'Being Itself' has sent this conundrum our way to inform DM-fans they are on the right path to Dialectical Nirvana: the 'illustrative', but useless, duality of wave and particle! But what exactly does it "illustrate"? The fact that this contradiction does no work? The fact that waves and particles of light are locked in a pointless 'struggle'?]

    Now, if we put to one side the 'solution' to this puzzle offered by, say, Superstring Theory, there are in fact more than a handful of Physicists -- with, it seems, a more robust commitment to scientific realism than the average dialectician can muster -- who believe that this 'paradox' can be resolved within a realist picture of nature. [Evidence is presented here, and here. Also see Wick (1995).] Whether or not they are correct need not detain us since DM-theorists (if consistent) ought to advise these rather rash Scientific Realists not to bother trying to solve this riddle. That is because dialectics has already provided us with an a priori solution: since nature is fundamentally contradictory there is in fact no solution --, which paradoxical state of affairs should, of course, simply be "grasped"....

    However, in this case it is possible to see how practice can't help; if experiments are conducted, which allegedly show that light is both a particle and a wave, then DM-theorists would have no reason to question this supposedly contradictory data, nor to try to resolve this difficulty.

    Nevertheless, anyone not committed to such an obtuse view of reality would have good reason to question it; and this might, for all anyone knows, assist in the advancement of science.

    Not so with DM-fans, whose advice could permanently hold up Physics.

    [However, experiments have so far merely shown that under certain conditions light is particulate, under others it is wave-like, but not both.]

    In that case, practice alone can't distinguish between these two views (the realist and the dialectical), even though one of these will seriously hold up progress. Moreover, since we know that practically any theory can be made to conform to observation if enough adjustments are made elsewhere, this criterion is doubly defective.

    Once more, in advance of any test, if they are consistent, DM-theorists should advise scientists not to bother trying to refute certain interpretations of QM, or resolve the paradox upon which it is based, since there is no point doing so in view of their a priori theory, which sees nature as fundamentally contradictory.

    Unfortunately, if physicists took this advice, science could not advance to a superior view of nature (if one exists) by eliminating this alleged contradiction. At best, this a priori approach to knowledge would close all available options down, forcing scientists to adopt a view of reality that might not be correct -- and, given what we already know about the history of Physics, probably isn't correct.
    Wick, D. (1995), The Infamous Boundary. Seven Decades Of Heresy In Quantum Physics (Springer-Verlag).

    With that, one of the most hackneyed examples used by DM-fans goes out of the non-dialectical window.
    Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein; 06-09-2013 at 2:12 AM.

  13. #113
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    But, what about this:

    Researchers in quantum mechanics have also shown that something can be both still and moving at the same time
    In fact this has been known for some time, since, in one frame of reference an object can be stationary, but in another it can be moving. So, on a train, you could be sat perfectly still (in relation to the train), but moving at 70 mph with respect to the ground. That shows this isn't a contradiction.

    Some people claim that the same laws of quantum mechanics may apply at a sociological level as well. Isn't this just some form dialectics?
    I doubt this very much. This idea appears in popularisations of science, where amateur metaphysics often intrudes.

    But, even if this were so, I am far from clear how this can be an example of dialectics in action.

    But, worse, how could we tell? DM is far too vague and confused for anyone to be able to say with any confidence what its implications (that is, if it has any) are.

  14. #114
    Senior Voting Member Apprentice's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Fair enough. And what about cognitive dissonance? Have you already discussed that? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

    The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements.[1] It is the distressing mental state that people feel when they "find themselves doing things that don't fit with what they know, or having opinions that do not fit with other opinions they hold."[4] A key assumption is that people want their expectations to meet reality, creating a sense of equilibrium.[5] Likewise, another assumption is that a person will avoid situations or information sources that give rise to feelings of uneasiness, or dissonance.[1]
    So, according to cognitive dissonance theories, contradicting cognitions drive people to eliminate the contradictions by eliminating one of the cognitions or by synthesizing them. According to some, this is the driving force for learning. Scientific theories work in a similar although more advanced way. It is only by a theory being falsified or contradicted that science can progress. Wasn't Hegel just analyzing the workings of his own mind experiencing cognitive dissonance? Trying to move towards a state of mind in which there would no longer be any dissonance. Instead of seeing that his own mind was merely trying to create (or approach) a coherent model of reality, he was too busy purifying his mind. Then Marx came in and saw that the work of Hegel merely reflected how the subjective mind deals with objective reality.

    By the way, I am studying Artificial Intelligence. Sometimes we have to make programs "learn" stuff, like approximating some formula, driving a car, etc. When doing this, we are always talking about the "error" rate (mismatch with reality, i.e. a contradiction).*The machines learn by trying to reduce the "error" rate (i.e. the contradictions) as much as possible. For example, in artificial neural networks, this is done this by changing the weights between connected neurons slightly, sometimes even randomly. The neural network represents a model of (some part of) reality, but it can only become a good approximation by being exposed to examples and its own contradictions.

    That could be another way to view dialectics.

  15. #115
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Apprentice:

    So, according to cognitive dissonance theories, contradicting cognitions drive people to eliminate the contradictions by eliminating one of the cognitions or by synthesizing them. According to some, this is the driving force for learning. Scientific theories work in a similar although more advanced way. It is only by a theory being falsified or contradicted that science can progress. Wasn't Hegel just analyzing the workings of his own mind experiencing cognitive dissonance? Trying to move towards a state of mind in which there would no longer be any dissonance. Instead of seeing that his own mind was merely trying to create (or approach) a coherent model of reality, he was too busy purifying his mind. Then Marx came in and saw that the work of Hegel merely reflected how the subjective mind deals with objective reality.
    I don't think Hegel was clear about anything, least of all what he meant by 'contradiction'. So, I am not too sure how cognitive dissonance helps.

    Anyway, here is the 'Dialecticians' Dilemma', so you can judge for yourself:

    As far as DM-contradictions are concerned, it isn't at all clear how they are to be understood: how might scientists distinguish 'incorrect' contradictions (those that don't in fact exist in nature or society) from those that supposedly reflect the 'contradictions' in nature and society? Presumably, on this basis, 'incorrect' contradictions will be eliminated because: (1) They are self-contradictions, or (2) They have been falsified by experience, or (3) They couldn't be verified by appropriate methods.

    But, with respect to any of the contradictions that theorists might want to retain (and thus regard as correct 'reflections' of reality), how could they be sure that future contingencies would never arise (in the shape of further evidence) that would require their elimination? [On this, see below.] In view of Lenin's declaration that all knowledge is incomplete, it seems they can't.

    Despite this, (1) can't be right, otherwise we should have to reject Engels's analysis of motion, which pictures it as self-contradictory. Along with that would go many other 'dialectical contradictions'.

    In connection with option (2), what evidence could possibly refute a contradiction? How is it possible for a contradiction to be falsified by experience? Presumably, that would occur if propositions appertaining to experience contradicted something that was already contradictory to begin with!. But, what sort of monstrosity would that be?

    [I give some examples of this here.]

    However, as noted above, if reality itself were contradictory, the 'falsification' of a contradiction would also amount to its automatic 'verification', and vice versa. So, it seems that option (2) above is closed-off as far as the investigation of 'dialectical contradictions' is concerned. This must mean that the requirement that contradictions be tested against experience is an empty gesture, since, with respect to DM-contradictions, if reality were contradictory, it would both confirm and refute their presence. In which case, DM-theorists would have no reason whatsoever to reject a single contradiction that featured in their theory. On the other hand, they would at the same time have eminently good reason for rejecting all of them -- at least to prevent their theory from becoming defective.

    The quandary now facing dialecticians we might call the "Dialecticians' Dilemma" [DD]. The DD arises from the uncontroversial observation that if reality is fundamentally contradictory then a true theory should reflect this supposed state of affairs. [Why this is so is explained here.] As Engels himself pointed out:

    "That is what comes of accepting 'consciousness', 'thought', quite naturalistically, as something given, something opposed from the outset to being, to nature. If that were so, it must seem extremely strange that consciousness and nature, thinking and being, the laws of thought and the laws of nature, should correspond so closely. But if the further question is raised what thought and consciousness really are and where they come from, it becomes apparent that they are products of the human brain and that man himself is a product of nature, which has developed in and along with its environment; hence it is self-evident that the products of the human brain, being in the last analysis also products of nature, do not contradict the rest of nature's interconnections but are in correspondence with them." [Engels, Anti-Duhring, p.44.]
    This was quoted approvingly by Lenin:

    "If we find that the laws of thought correspond with the laws of nature, says Engels, this becomes quite conceivable when we take into account that reason and consciousness are 'products of the human brain and that man himself is a product of nature.' Of course, 'the products of the human brain, being in the last analysis also products of nature, do not contradict the rest of nature's interconnections but are in correspondence with them'. There is no doubt that there exists a natural, objective interconnection between the phenomena of the world. Engels constantly speaks of the 'laws of nature,' of the 'necessities of nature', without considering it necessary to explain the generally known propositions of materialism." [Lenin, Materialism and Empiro-criticism, p.179.]
    However, and this is the problem, in order to reflect nature any such theory must contain contradictions itself, or it wouldn't be an accurate reflection of nature. But, if the development of science is predicated either on the removal of contradictions from theories, or on the replacement of older theories with newer, less contradictory variants, as DM-theorists contend, then science couldn't advance toward a 'truer' and fuller account of reality. That's because scientific theories would then reflect the world less accurately, having had all (or most) of their contradictions removed!

    [Of course, if the advancement of science isn't dependent on the removal of all or most contradictions, then scientists would face intractable difficulties of their own -- for example: How to tell a defective theory (i.e., one that is shot-through with contradictions) from a non-defective theory. Fortunately, to date, scientists haven't adopted either of these ill-advised dialectical tactics, and have remained stubbornly loyal to the protocols of FL.]

    [FL = Formal Logic.]

    Conversely, if a true theory aims to reflect more accurately the contradictions in nature (which it must do if reality is contradictory) then, in order to be consistent with such dialectical demands, scientists shouldn't attempt to remove contradictions from -- or try to resolve them in, or between -- theories. Clearly, on that score, science couldn't advance, since there would be no reason to replace a contradictory theory with a less contradictory one.

    Indeed, if DM were correct, scientific theories should become more contradictory -- not less -- as they reflected supposedly 'contradictory' reality more fully.

    This means, of course, that scientific theory as a whole should become more defective over time!

    On the other hand, if science advances because of the elimination of contradictions then a fully true theory should have had all (or most) of its contradictions removed.

    Science would then reflect (in the limit) the fact that reality contains no contradictions!

    [It is worth noting here that critics of DM have already arrived at that unsympathetic conclusion, and they managed to do that without an ounce of dialectics to slow them down.]

    However, according to DM, scientific theories should be replaced by those that more faithfully depict reality as fundamentally contradictory -- despite the fact that scientists will have removed every (or nearly every) contradiction in order reach that point! On the other hand, if scientists failed to remove contradictions (or, if they refused to replace an older theory with a newer, less contradictory one), so that their theories reflected the contradictory nature of reality more accurately, they would then have no good reason to reject any particular theory no matter how inconsistent it might be.

    Howsoever this rusty old DM-banger is driven, the 'dialectical' view of scientific progress (and of 'contradictions') hits a very material brick wall in the shape of the DD every time.

    Once more, it could be objected that dialecticians do not believe that scientific theories should have all or most of their contradictions removed if science is to advance, merely those that hold up progress.

    However, dialecticians have so far failed to distinguish those contradictions which are the mere artefacts of a defective theory from those that supposedly reflect the 'objective' state of the world. But, how is it possible to distinguish the latter from the former in DM-terms? How is it possible to decide whether a contradiction is an accurate reflection of reality or whether it is a result of a faulty theory, if all of reality (including scientific theory) is supposed to be contradictory?

    An appeal to practice here would be no help, either, since that takes place in the phenomenal world, at the level of experience, which is itself riddled with DM-contradictions! In that case, it isn't easy to see how practice can help confirm (or refute) a theory if its deliverances are themselves part of the same contradictory reality on test.
    So, the adoption of Hegelian ideas would hold science up permanently -- the exact opposite of what Hegel-fans, and/or the official brochure tells us.

    Then Marx came in and saw that the work of Hegel merely reflected how the subjective mind deals with objective reality.
    Well, Marx moved away from Hegel's confused ideas all his life, to such an extent that he abandoned them completely in his most important and mature work, Das Kapital. Proof here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%20...arx-And-DM--11

    By the way, I am studying Artificial Intelligence. Sometimes we have to make programs "learn" stuff, like approximating some formula, driving a car, etc. When doing this, we are always talking about the "error" rate (mismatch with reality, i.e. a contradiction).*The machines learn by trying to reduce the "error" rate (i.e. the contradictions) as much as possible. For example, in artificial neural networks, this is done this by changing the weights between connected neurons slightly, sometimes even randomly. The neural network represents a model of (some part of) reality, but it can only become a good approximation by being exposed to examples and its own contradictions.

    That could be another way to view dialectics.
    Well, I think that looking at our psychological lives in this way is thoroughly misconceived (see the thread on Artificial Intelligence in this section on this -- I have yet to reply to Gent, by the way), but even if it weren't, I fail to see how this in any way illustrates dialectics.

    We don't even know what a 'dialectical contradiction' is, for goodness sake!

  16. #116
    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Comrades might find this interview of interest:

    http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=8663

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    Senior Voting Member Apprentice's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    That's a tough dilemma, but I think I am able to explain some things. I will do that when I get home. Although, I am sure you are going to destroy my explanations again. You are way too good at this.

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Well, I have been debating this with dialecticians now since the early 1980s, and have read, seen and heard every reply there is.

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Comrades might be interested in a spirited debate between yours truly and a few hardy dialectical souls over at RevLeft:

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/anti-diale...933/index.html

    My replies are here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Dialect...onfusion_2.htm

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    Default Re: What is dialectics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    Ok, here's an article I had published in Weekly Worker back in 2007 (with a few additions):


    What Is Wrong With Dialectical Materialism?

    For instance: the most hackneyed example they use is that of water turning to ice or steam when cooled or heated. But, given the above, this would not be an example of qualitative change, since water as ice, liquid or steam is still water (i.e., H2O). Quantitative addition or subtraction of energy does not result in a qualitative change of the required sort; nothing new emerges. This substance stays H2O throughout.

    Comrades can find more details here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Why%20I%20Oppose%20DM.htm
    I come here from RevLeft where I used occasionally to debate with Rosa Lichtenstein until she was banned, for reasons I am still not entirely clear about. There appears to have been a show trial, but I don't think RL ever confessed. The water to ice to steam question has been around a long time. Rosa argues that since the chemical formula of water is the same for all states, liquid, solid and gas, therefore the quality of the water has not changed.

    No one, as far as I know, has ever said that the chemical formula for something is the only definition of "quality." Marx even notes that isomers (which Rosa mentions later) have the same chemical name, but are completely different compounds: "To borrow an illustration from chemistry, butyric acid is a different substance from propyl formate. Yet both are made up of the same chemical substances, carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O), and that, too, in like proportions – namely, C4H8O2. If now we equate butyric acid to propyl formate, then, in the first place, propyl formate would be, in this relation, merely a form of existence of C4H8O2; and in the second place, we should be stating that butyric acid also consists of C4H8O2. Therefore, by thus equating the two substances, expression would be given to their chemical composition, while their different physical forms would be neglected." Capital, Ch. One.

    For Rosa, a living human would be the same quality as a dead human because the chemical formula for each is the same. For dialectics a human is in a continual state of transformation from living to dying. Modern science seems to me to be a daily proof of dialectics: evolution, the relatively of time, the big bang origin of the universe, etc.

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