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Idealism vs. Materialism

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Soviet cogitations: 10001
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 12 Nov 2013, 00:27
There is no "different". At best, there's additional things and properties of things, but we can discover them through science.
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
Soviet cogitations: 1115
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
Party Member
Post 12 Nov 2013, 00:35
Rosa, I recently started reading your essay(s) (I got to essay three before real life got in the way of all my reading and most of my forum activity). So far I have come to the conclusion that you are right. I planned to comment on this more fully when I finished your essays and thus could be in a better position to discuss it (although having followed and participated in some of your debates on dialectics on this site I suppose I have something of an insight as to what's coming). However, I doubt I will finish your essay any time soon due to other activities taking up my time.

From my initial impressions the thing that really grabbed my attention was the idealist/a priori argument. Although I have never participated in the communist movement, this seems to be the greatest problem the movement is encumbered with. Communists are too idealistic about what Marxism, socialism, communism and the revolution "should" look like. Rather than trying to win power for the proletariat and allowing them to be the ruling class (and thus answering this question), communist parties - both current and historical ruling ones - all tried to dictate how a socialist society should be. This idealism didn't extend from the dialectic, but extended to it just like it extends everywhere else from what music people should listen to to what they should wear and what they should read etc.

Thus we saw the socialist countries all try and dictate how people should live their lives. They attempted to impose socialist ideals onto a population they did not trust to conform to these ideals naturally. This can also explain why they never actually granted political power to the working classes.

From debating on this forum for many years I think that part of the problem why this idealism is so prevalent is because Marxism is one big intellectual competition. Everyone wants to argue their version and use Marxist theory to back it up. They attempt to cite Marx et al to justify their ideals and get very defensive when challenged on many things (not just dialectics). The whole "you don't understand dialectics" is simply an extension of "you don't understand Marxism" which many are quick to try and deploy as a weapon in one of their many debates to try and silence an opponent. This perhaps explains splits far more than simply issues over the theory of dialectics. When someone challenges someone else's ideals they get so defensive they would rather leave than admit defeat. No one wants to admit to being wrong and so even the slightest theoretical difference can become a cause for splitting as no-one will consider giving way even on the most minor of differences. Since Marxism is so wrapped up in complex theory people don't want to admit they are ignorant of any part of it. Thus the acceptance of dialectics as a credible theory is simply part of an emperor's new clothes syndrome whereby to admit uncomprehension would leave one open to attack by fellow Marxists who possess slightly different ideals to you.

This may have been largely a waste of time (in that you concluded all this later on in your essay and I haven't got to that bit yet). Anyway, my 2 cents so far.

Also, a few points I made whilst reading up to essay 3.

*In Essay II you say that dialecticians cannot be certain that their theory is applicable to the entire universe. My response is, is there are theory that we can be certain is applicable to the entire universe? How do we know that particle physics can be applied on the other side of the Crab Nebulae?

*You talk about how dialectics supposedly provides a 'master key' to the dialecticians which unlocks the secrets of the universe. Yet does historical materialism not constitute this? It seems to provide a 'master key' to historical development of all human society!

*Here you say that Bukharin offers two choices: 1 that nothing changes; 2 that all things change all the time. You say that a third option (that some things change while others do not) would supersede both his theories. Yet is his second theory not more accurate when you consider that all particles are always in motion (is this not a form of change?)

As you can see, this is pretty minor stuff, but just a few things that caught my attention.

One final point relates to some examples you posted (on your site somewhere but I don't know where) and which we debated a few years ago here. You highlighted two examples as part of an attempt to disprove dialectics. They went something along the lines of this:

Example 1 (E1): To see this, let us suppose that object/process A is composed of two 'internal' opposites O* and O**, and A thus changes as a result. But O* cannot itself change into O** since O** already exists! If it didn't already exist, according to this theory, O* could not change, for there would be no opposite to bring this about!

Example 2 (E2): Of course, this is all quite apart from the fact that many things just do not change into their opposites (or even because of them). When was the last time you saw a male cat turn into a female cat? Your left hand into your right? An electron into a proton? Or even a material object turn into an immaterial one?

As far as I can tell, E2 contradicts E1 and vice-versa. You say the left hand cannot turn into the right hand (its opposite). Well according to E1 these cannot be each other's opposites because the two opposites cannot exist simultaneously. If you want to persist in saying that the left and right hands are indeed each other's opposites then this clearly negates E1 as the two opposites do exist simultaneously.

I know it doesn't really affect your argument as a whole, but do these two examples not contradict each other?
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 12 Nov 2013, 03:35
Comrade Gulper: Sure, we can argue whatever we like -- say, that we are all shape-shifting lizards -- but is there any proof that either idea (the one you suggest, or the shape-shifting theory) is true?
Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein on 12 Nov 2013, 04:08, edited 3 times in total.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 12 Nov 2013, 04:06
gred:

Thank you for those comments. Here's my reply to the things you ask:

Quote:
*In Essay II you say that dialecticians cannot be certain that their theory is applicable to the entire universe. My response is, is there are theory that we can be certain is applicable to the entire universe? How do we know that particle physics can be applied on the other side of the Crab Nebulae?


Well, you will see when you read Essay Twelve that scientific theories are in fact rules we use to make sense of the world (this topic will be covered in greater depth in Essay Thirteen Part Two, which will appear sometime in 2014), and rules aren't the sorts of things that are capable of being true or false, only useful or useless, practical or impractical, obeyed or disobeyed.

When we apply these rules to nature, among other things, we make predictions about what we expect to see there -- for example, on the distant stars you mention. In some cases we can confirm those predictions, but in many others we might not be able to do so for some time (or ever!). But it is its interface with nature (when we apply these rules in observation and experiment) that distinguishes science from metaphysics.

However, when scientific theories are regarded as fundamental truths about all of nature, they become metaphysical, and as such they are incoherent non-sense. I have summarised that argument here:

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Why_all_ph ... nsical.htm

Quote:
*You talk about how dialectics supposedly provides a 'master key' to the dialecticians which unlocks the secrets of the universe. Yet does historical materialism not constitute this? It seems to provide a 'master key' to historical development of all human society!


Historical materialism is a scientific theory, and as such is a rule (or set of rules) we can use to understand the movement of human history and the class war. If, however, it is turned into a fundamental truth about history, it becomes metaphysical, and hence incoherent non-sense, too.

Quote:
*Here you say that Bukharin offers two choices: 1 that nothing changes; 2 that all things change all the time. You say that a third option (that some things change while others do not) would supersede both his theories. Yet is his second theory not more accurate when you consider that all particles are always in motion (is this not a form of change?)


Depends on what you mean by 'change'. If you define it in the way you have done (following option 2), and then treat that as a fundamental truth about all of reality, then you will have imposed a certain view on nature, and that approach will be metaphysical, too.

You can certainly apply option 2 to nature as a rule, but since it rules out certain possibilities (that some things do not change) it strikes me as a prejudicial rule, and thus of limited use/applicability. The problem is that dialecticians treat it as a fundamental truth, not as a rule.

Quote:
As far as I can tell, E2 contradicts E1 and vice-versa. You say the left hand cannot turn into the right hand (its opposite). Well according to E1 these cannot be each other's opposites because the two opposites cannot exist simultaneously. If you want to persist in saying that the left and right hands are indeed each other's opposites then this clearly negates E1 as the two opposites do exist simultaneously.


Remember, I am not asserting either E1 or E2, but trying to explore every conceivable implication of the theory that all things change because of a struggle between opposites, which then turn into those opposites.

So, my argument is: On the one hand, suppose E1 were the case, then A, B and C are implied, which are impossible/incoherent.

Now suppose E2 were the case, then D, E, and F are implied, which are impossible/incoherent.

So, either way, the dialectical theory of change is impossible/incoherent.

Remember, in logic (formal and informal) we don't assert the truth of any premises we use, we only assume they are true for the purpose of the argument, and see where that takes us.

The argument appears in all its glory, here:

http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007. ... ain-Change

[The above link won't work properly if you are using Internet Explorer 10, unless you switch to 'Compatibility View' (in the Tools Menu).]

Hope that makes a few things a little clearer.
Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein on 12 Nov 2013, 12:36, edited 2 times in total.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 12 Nov 2013, 04:21
Incidentally, can someone tell me how to insert a link behind text at this site? The 'url' button just puts 'url' in square brackets around certain words.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
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Soviet cogitations: 12385
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 18 Apr 2010, 04:44
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Philosophized
Post 12 Nov 2013, 11:28
Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
Incidentally, can someone tell me how to insert a link behind text at this site? The 'url' button just puts 'url' in square brackets around certain words.


[url][/url]

Put your URL in here [url=blahblah.com]THEN PUT YOUR LINKING TEXT IN HERE[/url]

Voila. Link behind words.
Miss Strangelove: "You feed giants laxatives so goblins can mine their poop before the gnomes get to it."
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 12 Nov 2013, 12:37
Ok, thanks!
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 1115
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
Party Member
Post 18 Nov 2013, 20:46
Another thing I forgot to mention.

You talk about how dialecticians utilise ruling-class thought to shape their theory. Does this not apply to Marx's theories of economics? His is descended directly from the bourgeois classical school of Smith and Ricardo. Presumably ruling-class thought is ok in these circumstances?
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 18 Nov 2013, 21:57
gRed:

Quote:
You talk about how dialecticians utilise ruling-class thought to shape their theory. Does this not apply to Marx's theories of economics? His is descended directly from the bourgeois classical school of Smith and Ricardo. Presumably ruling-class thought is ok in these circumstances?


My comments about the ideas of the ruling-class applied to the construction of philosophical theories, not scientific theories. Marx's economic theory is a scientific theory.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 10001
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 18 Nov 2013, 22:31
Everything constantly changes because there is no such thing as "rest" or however you'd like to call a state of non-change. This is a fundamental tenet of modern science and accusing Bukharin - or anyone else who says it - of charlatanerie is plainly ridiculous. All of modern chemistry rests on this fact, and I'm sure most other natural sciences do too, but I'm less of an expert in these.

Also, Why Everything is Connected to Everything Else, Explained in 100 Seconds.
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
Soviet cogitations: 1115
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
Party Member
Post 18 Nov 2013, 23:13
Quote:
Everything constantly changes because there is no such thing as "rest" or however you'd like to call a state of non-change. This is a fundamental tenet of modern science and accusing Bukharin - or anyone else who says it - of charlatanerie is plainly ridiculous. All of modern chemistry rests on this fact, and I'm sure most other natural sciences do too, but I'm less of an expert in these.


I can see how this (and other aspects of dialectics) influenced Marx's thinking concerning his economic theories, but I don't think that dialectics can be used as some sort of scientific method. You ultimately just have to ask yourself this: Why not just use the standard model of physics? Why does scientific socialism have to use some special "dialectical science" when surely Marx et al all recognised established Newtonian science? Do you not recognise relativity because Einstein didn't use dialectics? The trouble with dialectical materialism (as far as I can see) is that the dialectics don't hold up under scrutiny from the materialism.
Soviet cogitations: 10001
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 19 Nov 2013, 00:17
Quote:
I can see how this (and other aspects of dialectics) influenced Marx's thinking concerning his economic theories, but I don't think that dialectics can be used as some sort of scientific method.


It's not. It's not a replacement for the scientific method, nor is it some magic key to uncover the mysteries of the universe. You don't need to be a dialectician to think correctly. However, I've found that dialectics is immensely helpful in examining phenomena of all sorts. It helps me understand chemistry (I study pharmaceutics), it helps me understand social phenomena, and I've even used it for relationship advice. It's like a Schablone (not sure which word to use here) that helps me, and other Marxists, in organizing thoughts. The big advantage of dialectics is that everything that exists can be described in dialectical terms, and that doing so is almost always immensely helpful in understanding things. But I'll even concede that this might be a matter of personal preference. Rosa obviously has a different opinion and I've given up on trying to argue about the "truth" of dialectics, given that dialectics is neither true nor untrue, but a tool. She claims it's counter intuitive and crazy, I (and many others) think it's the single biggest achievement of pre-Marxian philosophy.

For example, the truth is always concrete. There is no abstract truth. The criterion of truth is praxis. These are pieces of dialectical awesomeness that pop up in my mind pretty much every day when I think about things, and they guide my thought process towards clearer results. You don't need to be conscious of dialectics in order to analyze things in their concreteness, of course, but I (and many others) wouldn't even know that doing so is important if it weren't for dialectics. Or take the fact that everything constantly changes. In my experience, the only people who are constantly aware of this fact are dialecticians and scientists. But it's important to be aware of that fact in order not to commit all sorts of absurd mistakes.

Quote:
You ultimately just have to ask yourself this: Why not just use the standard model of physics?


I don't know of anyone who would tell you to use dialectics "instead" of physics. I mean there have been some immensely embarrassing episodes under stalinism, where "Einsteinism" was condemned as a "metaphysical, bourgeois theory", but it's easy to see the political motivations behind that. In any case, this just shows that dialectics in itself won't really make you cleverer.

Quote:
Why does scientific socialism have to use some special "dialectical science" when surely Marx et al all recognised established Newtonian science?


But who ever claims such things other than stalinists? It's true that stalinism has made a huge fetish out of dialectics, but I'm sure we agree that if stalinism represented Marxism, it would hardly be a theory worth paying any attention to at all.

Quote:
Do you not recognise relativity because Einstein didn't use dialectics?


In Dialectics of Nature, Engels keeps saying how science is moving closer to a dialectical perspective on things, and I (and many other people) believe that relativity was a breakthrough in this process. Relativity is a thoroughly dialectical view of the world. Engels's claim that motion is the mode of existence of matter was really just a foreshadowing of the mass-energy equivalence that Einstein discovered. Einstein (like many other accomplished scientists) was an extremely important contributor to dialectics, even though he never said a word about it and it's safe to assume that he probably didn't know very much about it.

Quote:
The trouble with dialectical materialism (as far as I can see) is that the dialectics don't hold up under scrutiny from the materialism.


But there are no counter-examples. Everything that matter does can be expressed in dialectical terms. I concede that for most phenomena we encounter from day to day it's quite useless to do so (and so did Engels), but it's possible nonetheless.
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 19 Nov 2013, 14:03
Mabool:

Quote:
For example, the truth is always concrete. There is no abstract truth.


Well, that proposition is itself abstract.

[It certainly isn't concrete!]

So, if it is true, then because of what it says about 'abstract truth', and because it is an 'abstract truth' about truth, it can't be true.

[In other words, it's a self-refuting proposition.]

On the other hand, if it is false, it isn't true anyway.

Either way, it isn't true.

Mabool, you really must stop listening to hopelessly poor logicians (like Hegel and Lenin).

And I'd like to see just one clear example where dialectics helps, or has helped anyone (in Chemistry, or anywhere else, for that matter). I have been asking comrades now for well over 25 years, and I have yet to be given a single example where it is of any use at all. Of course, we are often given vague descriptions where it is claimed to be of some use, but when pressed for details, DM-fans soon go quiet, or they change the subject.

Quote:
In Dialectics of Nature, Engels keeps saying how science is moving closer to a dialectical perspective on things, and I (and many other people) believe that relativity was a breakthrough in this process. Relativity is a thoroughly dialectical view of the world. Engels's claim that motion is the mode of existence of matter was really just a foreshadowing of the mass-energy equivalence that Einstein discovered. Einstein (like many other accomplished scientists) was an extremely important contributor to dialectics, even though he never said a word about it and it's safe to assume that he probably didn't know very much about it.


I fail to see how Relativity is 'dialectical'. Indeed, as I have shown, if dialectics were true change would be impossible (so that would rule out all of physics, never mind Relativity). In fact, the only ideology that seems to me to be uncontroversially 'dialectical' is the one dreamt up by Parmenides:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/parmenid/

Quote:
But there are no counter-examples. Everything that matter does can be expressed in dialectical terms. I concede that for most phenomena we encounter from day to day it's quite useless to do so (and so did Engels), but it's possible nonetheless.


In fact, there are countless counter-examples. Or, to be more precise, there would be if we could figure out (or we were told) precisely what Dialectical Materialism was actually saying. And that is because, as it now stands, it is far too confused for anyone to be able to say whether or not it is true, let alone if matter 'obeys' its 'laws'.

Quote:
Everything constantly changes because there is no such thing as "rest" or however you'd like to call a state of non-change.


How do you know this to be true?

Anyway, the above statement of yours looks pretty abstract to me, so, if what you said earlier about 'abstract truth' is itself true, it can't be true that 'everything constantly changes', can it?

And sure, modern day Platonists and Neo-Platonists -- like Professor Cox --, claim that all things are connected -- but as I have also shown, this can't be true, either.

Anyway, and once again: the claim that everything is connected looks rather abstract, too, so it can't be true either, can it?
Last edited by Rosa Lichtenstein on 19 Nov 2013, 16:15, edited 5 times in total.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
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Post 19 Nov 2013, 14:32
I can weigh in by saying that I don't give a single scrap of care about this debate on any of this anymore. I'd rather help thrash out economic and social policies that people can get behind. I have found from experience that it's the CWI group in the UK and the SWP in the UK that turn whatever "system of analysis" (I don't know what it is, but it's arcane and has predicted that the downfall of capitalism is imminent for years and years now) they use into something internally referential and highly vague in meaning, indeed meaningless in a lot of cases. It's this internal patois, often rubber stamped and sanctified by their central committees, that really stops any kind of internal democracy going anywhere. Tourish touches upon the control of how debates should be framed by what language is permitted within them:

Dennis Tourish in his essay Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism and Cultism: A Case Study wrote:
5. The "sacred science"
This aspect of ideological totalism is particularly apt to Trotskyist politics. Lifton describes it as follows:

"The totalistic milieu maintains an aura f sacredness around its basic dogma, holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence. This sacredness is evident in the prohibition (whether or not explicit) against the questioning of basic assumptions, and in the reverence which is demanded for the originators of the Word, the present bearers of the Word, and the Word itself ... the milieu ... makes an exaggerated claim of airtight logic, of absolute ‘scientific’ precision. Thus the ultimate moral vision becomes an ultimate science; and the man who dares to criticise it, or to harbour even unspoken alternative ideas, becomes not only immoral and irrelevant but ‘unscientific’ " (p.487).

This could be a purpose built characterisation of the CWI, as discussed above. Trotskyism, as defined by the CWI, is the only pure strain of such ideology (and hence of Marxism) left in the world, since the many others claiming such sanctity have in reality capitulated to "the pressures of capitalism". Only the group’s ideology offers salvation. The effect is to secure a redoubled effort from the members in party building, presented as a race between the creation of mass revolutionary parties built in the image of the CWI and world destruction.

6. Loading the language
Lifton has described this as the extensive use of what he termed "the thought-terminating cliché", used as "interpretive short-cuts" (p.488). Repetitive phrases are regularly invoked to describe all situations, and prevent further analysis. Expressions such as "bourgeois mentality" are bandied around as a signifier of something which is an ultimate evil, in contrast to the ultimate goodness of the group’s beliefs. Lifton describes the overall effects thus:

"For an individual person, the effect of the language of ideological totalism can be summed up in one word: constriction. He is ... linguistically deprived; and since language is so central to all human experience, his capacities for thinking and feeling are immensely narrowed" (p.489).

This is observable in the CWI’s documents, and has been widely commented on by independent observers. The writings of CWI leaders are a compendium of clichés – "dazzling" prospects are always said to exist in the immediate future, "colossal" opportunities to build are identified in every situation, the years ahead are invariably referred to as "the coming period", the group’s prognoses are frequently signaled by the tautologous expression "we predict in advance". The spectacle is one of thought attempting flight, only to find, in mid-motion, that all its moving parts have been superglued together.

In addition, the language of demonisation is used to describe dissidents. Both sides in the 1991/92 split accused the other of "bending to the pressures of capitalism". It is inconceivable that honest differences could exist which should be debated on their merits – they are invariably viewed as signifying the presence of alien class interests, to be engaged in mortal combat. The language is one of all or nothing – complete agreement or absolute separation becomes the norm.

It is also startling, in reading CWI documents over an extended period, to see how the same catastrophist ideas are repeated over and over again, without members apparently noticing that the predictions of 20, 30 or 50 years ago are the same as today and have yet to be borne out. A 1996 document produced by the faction expelled from the CWI in 1992 closes by advancing the by now familiar prediction that:

"The coming period into the new millennium will be a period of convulsions for capitalism nationally and internationally. The socialist transformation of society will once again be on the agenda. The whole world situation is such that one victory in an important country would electrify the masses and lead to the socialist transformation of the entire globe."

The impoverishment of language used by these groupings, in which historical analysis regularly gives way to hysterical analysis, is clearly a major reason for the members’ inability to grasp either the repetitious nature of its perspectives or the derivative nature of its analysis. Linguistic asphyxiation leads to intellectual paralysis. By narrowing the range of thought it also hinders falsification. Members lack the information required to compare predictions with reality, to distinguish between evidence and assertion, and eventually to think.


Thusly the left is populated by highly shitty groups that babble on about democracy, yet don't practice anything close to it, talk about socialism, yet have no idea, even vaguely, how to get there (no, and as I keep saying, "it will be democratically decided" is a useless assertion, nobody wants to be wandering in the desert of civil war and social collapse for forty days while someone applies ad hoc measures and then simply decides "yeah, that'll do, we'll keep that for the next few decades").
A better place to start would be openly criticising how these groups manipulate language and how their crap newspapers offer nothing of use other than copy/pasting some shit Lenin said.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 18 Apr 2010, 04:44
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Post 19 Nov 2013, 15:34
It's priestly language, to be precise. The same sort of exclusive "in group" language that priests use to keep their internal discussions out of the hands of the profane public.

The language of science and philosophy can be "democratized" without being cheapened. The sooner we realize that, the better.
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Post 19 Nov 2013, 21:58
Mabool wrote:
It's not. It's not a replacement for the scientific method, nor is it some magic key to uncover the mysteries of the universe. You don't need to be a dialectician to think correctly. However, I've found that dialectics is immensely helpful in examining phenomena of all sorts. It helps me understand chemistry (I study pharmaceutics), it helps me understand social phenomena, and I've even used it for relationship advice. It's like a Schablone (not sure which word to use here) that helps me, and other Marxists, in organizing thoughts. The big advantage of dialectics is that everything that exists can be described in dialectical terms, and that doing so is almost always immensely helpful in understanding things. But I'll even concede that this might be a matter of personal preference. Rosa obviously has a different opinion and I've given up on trying to argue about the "truth" of dialectics, given that dialectics is neither true nor untrue, but a tool. She claims it's counter intuitive and crazy, I (and many others) think it's the single biggest achievement of pre-Marxian philosophy.


I think you are exaggerating its importance. A tool for understanding scientific socialism? I consider Capital to be Marx's most important work. It is the work he devoted most of his working life to and is the peak of his method and analysis. Surely if dialectics were such a valuable tool as you say, Marx would have mentioned this in Capital? A grand summary, a big disclaimer or a suggestion of which dialectical books to read before attempting vol I. And yet he mentions nothing. The trouble is, people have become so enamored of dialectics it leads people like Lenin to say such idiotic things such as 'it is impossible completely to understand Marx’s Capital, and especially its first chapter, without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel’s Logic.' Again, if this were true, surely Marx would have mentioned it at the beginning of Capital rather than allowing readers to supposedly waste their time reading something they could not hope to understand unless they had read Hegel?

Mabool wrote:
But who ever claims such things other than stalinists? It's true that stalinism has made a huge fetish out of dialectics, but I'm sure we agree that if stalinism represented Marxism, it would hardly be a theory worth paying any attention to at all.


But this fetish continues to this day and is perpetuated amongst non-Stalinists. On several occasions in debates on this board (not naming names) I have suddenly had the somewhat inevitable "you don't understand dialectics" retort thrown at me on a topic completely unrelated to dialectics. It is part of an emperor's new clothes trend that has saturated the Marxist movement where everyone thinks they "understand" dialectics because to admit the contrary is to admit defeat in the endless Marxist theoretical debate (read ego trip) which we all participate in. I think the movement could do with having dialectics purged from its curriculum, or at the very least sidelined from its current role. It should be mentioned simply as a philosophical influence which Marx's thought emerged out of, not the key pseudo-scientific weapon it is so often posited as.

Mabool wrote:
In Dialectics of Nature, Engels keeps saying how science is moving closer to a dialectical perspective on things, and I (and many other people) believe that relativity was a breakthrough in this process. Relativity is a thoroughly dialectical view of the world. Engels's claim that motion is the mode of existence of matter was really just a foreshadowing of the mass-energy equivalence that Einstein discovered. Einstein (like many other accomplished scientists) was an extremely important contributor to dialectics, even though he never said a word about it and it's safe to assume that he probably didn't know very much about it.


But none of this really matters when you can actually understand relativity through the medium of particle physics. Why would you choose to interpret science through an obscure philosophy? Surely the most complete and accurate way to comprehend photosynthesis is through its scientific formula 6CO2 + 6H2O Reaction -->(light energy)--> C6H12O6 + 6O2, rather than trying to look at it in terms of its supposed unities of opposites etc.

Mabool wrote:
But there are no counter-examples. Everything that matter does can be expressed in dialectical terms. I concede that for most phenomena we encounter from day to day it's quite useless to do so (and so did Engels), but it's possible nonetheless.


Of course it can. When dialectics is such an unscientific, and thus flexible theory, everything can be expressed through it. My retort remains: why bother? Why not simply express things through actual science? Everything can be expressed through Christian doctrine because it too can be stretched so as to allow it to encompass anything.




@Rosa:

Quote:
How do you know this to be true?
(Responding to Mabool)

Surely in the same way (or to the extent that) we know that particle physics applies on the other side of the Crab Nebula?



Erichs_Pastry_Chef wrote:
I can weigh in by saying that I don't give a single scrap of care about this debate on any of this anymore. I'd rather help thrash out economic and social policies that people can get behind. I have found from experience that it's the CWI group in the UK and the SWP in the UK that turn whatever "system of analysis" (I don't know what it is, but it's arcane and has predicted that the downfall of capitalism is imminent for years and years now) they use into something internally referential and highly vague in meaning, indeed meaningless in a lot of cases. It's this internal patois, often rubber stamped and sanctified by their central committees, that really stops any kind of internal democracy going anywhere.


Indeed. This is what I meant by the eternal Marxist debate/ego trip I mentioned earlier. Everyone likes to show off their intelligence by discussing and promoting increasingly convoluted theories on Marxism that only they (the leaders) truly understand. All the other intellectual inferiors in the party have to just nod sagely to this obscure (yet supposedly "correct") advice. When the bourgeoisie overthrew feudalism did they need complex nonsensical theories in order to whip up public support? Not that I am aware of.
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 19 Nov 2013, 22:41
gred:

Quote:
Surely in the same way (or to the extent that) we know that particle physics applies on the other side of the Crab Nebula?


Well, we don't know it, it's a prediction/consequence of our theories, but there is no way it can be confirmed. How is it possible to observe every single particle in the universe now, let alone billions of years ago?

But, Mabool's claim that "everything constantly changes" isn't a scientific theory/thesis, nor is it the consequence of one. It is a metaphysical belief and there is no way it can be confirmed. How could anyone confirm that with respect to every single moment in the entire history of the universe that every single particle in the universe has been, or is now, or will always be constantly changing?

Anyway. we already know this isn't true of certain particles anyway; the photon and the electron are changeless particles -- and the Proton isn't always changing either. It remains stable for at least 10^32 years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proton_decay

http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0312325

To say nothing of quarks, which can't decay.

But, the idea that everything is constantly changing is, if it is anything, an abstract truth (I don't like this term, but it is the kind of phrase DM-fans dote upon), so by Mabool's own criterion (or, to be more precise, according to the a priori thesis dreamt up by notorious mystic, Hegel (that is, that all truth is concrete, etc.) -- who hasn't gone down in history as great experimental or theoretical physicist), it can't be true.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 1115
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
Party Member
Post 19 Nov 2013, 23:36
Quote:
Well, we don't know it, it's a prediction/consequence of our theories, but there is no way it can be confirmed. How is it possible to observe every single particle in the universe now, let alone billions of years ago?

But, Mabool's claim that "everything constantly changes" isn't a scientific theory/thesis, nor is it the consequence of one. It is a metaphysical belief and there is no way it can be confirmed. How could anyone confirm that with respect to every single moment in the entire history of the universe that every single particle in the universe has been, or is now, or will always be constantly changing?

Anyway. we already know this isn't true of certain particles anyway; the photon and the electron are changeless particles -- and the Proton isn't always changing either. It remains stable for at least 10^32 years.


Do we not just come to semantics here? If Mabool had said "according to particle physics, all particles (theoretically) are constantly in motion" (or words along those lines), would that not be scientific? I'm no scientist and I know that absolute zero is theoretically possible (although does it not require infinite energy?) but my point is more down to phrasing rather than the content. While Mabool is saying that everything can be examined dialectically, I am saying that everything can be examined scientifically. The actual "thing" in question here remains unchanged in itself.
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 20 Nov 2013, 11:04
Gred:

Quote:
Do we not just come to semantics here? If Mabool had said "according to particle physics, all particles (theoretically) are constantly in motion" (or words along those lines), would that not be scientific? I'm no scientist and I know that absolute zero is theoretically possible (although does it not require infinite energy?) but my point is more down to phrasing rather than the content. While Mabool is saying that everything can be examined dialectically, I am saying that everything can be examined scientifically. The actual "thing" in question here remains unchanged in itself.


Is this really what particle physicists tell us? And I am not making a point about absolute zero.

But, let us suppose that this is what particle physicists are telling us, is it what Mabool meant? I doubt it.

But, let us suppose that he did mean this. If he further meant it as a universal (theoretical) truth, then it would be an 'abstract truth', and, by Hegel and Lenin's criterion, it would thereby be false (since it isn't 'concrete').

Alternatively, let us further suppose he meant it as 'concrete truth' (but it isn't easy to see how he could mean it this way given what Lenin and Hegel meant by "concrete"), then it would now be a metaphysical thesis, and not a scientific statement.

That is because, as I have explained already, scientific statements like this are rules, and rules are incapable of being truth or false, only practical or impractical, useful or useless.

But, anyway, it's not even a scientific truth, since there are particles that do not change, and this is so even at temperatures well above zero degrees Kelvin. [I gave some examples in my last post.]

These particles certainly might move, but they are changeless while they do so.

Now, if you or Mabool want to define "change" so that it includes "change of place", then that would manufacture a truth about nature by linguistic fiat, thus imposing this thesis on nature, which dialecticians tell us they never do.

Anyway, all we have to do is change the inertial frame of reference, and any particle in the universe can be rendered stationary. Motion is inertial-frame-sensitive (that is, it alters as we change reference frames), so it can't be a fundamental feature of nature (whatever that means) if it alters between reference frames. And inertial frames are human inventions, so they aren't 'part of nature', either.

So, not all things are constantly changing, or moving: if we can 'freeze' any given particle by means of a change of reference frame they can't be.

Hence, this isn't even a 'scientific truth'.

http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/ ... rence.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inertial_f ... _reference

Indeed, if we so chose, we could even freeze the earth and make it the centre of the universe again. Here's how I made this point recently:

Quote:
This is one clear consequence of the Theory of Relativity: with a suitable change of reference frame, it is possible to picture the Earth as stationary and the Sun (etc.) in motion relative to it.... In that case, the only necessary 'correction' to Aristotelian/Ptolemaic Physics (in this respect) would involve the abandonment of the idea that the earth is situated in a unique frame of reference -– but science itself can neither confirm nor confute that particular metaphysical assumption.

On this, the late Professor Robert Mills had this comment to make:

"Another way of stating the principle of equivalence, a way that better reflects its name, is to say that all reference frames, including accelerated reference frames, are equivalent, that the laws of Physics take the same form in any reference frame…. And it is also correct to say that the Copernican view (with the sun at the centre) and the Ptolemaic view (with the earth at the centre) are equally valid and equally consistent!" [Mills (1994), pp.182-83.]

[It is worth recalling that Professor Mills was co-inventor of Yang-Mills Theory in Gauge Quantum Mechanics, and was thus no scientific novice.]

And, this is what the late Professor Fred Hoyle had to say:

"Instead of adding further support to the heliocentric picture of the planetary motions the Einstein theory goes in the opposite direction, giving increased respectability to the geocentric picture. The relation of the two pictures is reduced to a mere coordinate transformation and it is the main tenet of the Einstein theory that any two ways of looking at the world which are related to each other by a coordinate transformation are entirely equivalent from a physical point of view....

"Today we cannot say that the Copernican theory is 'right' and the Ptolemaic theory 'wrong' in any meaningful physical sense...." [Hoyle (1973), pp.78-79.]

"We now know that the difference between a heliocentric theory and a geocentric theory is one of relative motion only, and that such a difference has no physical significance. But such an understanding had to await Einstein's theory of gravitation in order to be fully clarified." [Hoyle (1975), p.416.]

Similarly, Nobel Laureate Max Born commented:

"Thus from Einstein's point of view Ptolemy and Copernicus are equally right. What point of view is chosen is a matter of expediency. For the mechanics of the planetary system the view of Copernicus is certainly the more convenient. But it is meaningless to call the gravitational fields that occur when a different system of reference is chosen 'fictitious' in contrast with the 'real' fields produced by near masses: it is just as meaningless as the question of the 'real' length of a rod...in the special theory of relativity. A gravitational field is neither 'real' nor 'fictitious' in itself. It has no meaning at all independent of the choice of coordinates, just as in the case of the length of a rod." [Born (1965), p.345. I owe this reference to Rosser (1967).]

However, this idea pre-dates the Theory of Relativity; as Robert DiSalle notes, it goes back to Leibniz:

"Leibniz, later, articulated a more general 'equipollence of hypotheses': in any system of interacting bodies, any hypothesis that any particular body is at rest is equivalent to any other. Therefore neither Copernicus' nor Ptolemy's view can be true -- though one may be judged simpler than the other -- because both are merely possible hypothetical interpretations of the same relative motions. This principle clearly defines (what we would call) a set of reference frames, differing in their arbitrary choices of a resting point or origin, but agreeing on the relative positions of bodies at any moment and their changing relative distances through time." [DiSalle (2009).]

[Although DiSalle goes on to point out that Leibniz's equivalence principle was actually inconsistent with his view of motion. It took the Theory of Relativity to sort this out.]

Of course, as Leibniz argued, it could always be claimed that Copernican theory is 'simpler' than the Ptolemaic system, but until we receive a clear sign that nature works according to our notions of simplicity (or cares a fig about them), that response won't wash.

This is quite apart from the fact that 'simplicity' is impossible to define in non-question-begging terms. For example, which is the simpler of these two formulae?

(1) θ = Ae^-kt

(2) θ = At^2 + Bt + C

(2) is algebraically 'simpler', but (1) is 'simpler' if we judge simplicity on the basis of the number of terms used. Naturally, the problem of deciding which 'law' (expressed mathematically) is 'simpler' becomes all the more difficult as the complexity level rises.


Born, M. (1965), Einstein's Theory Of Relativity (Dover, 2nd ed.).

DiSalle, R. (2009), 'Space And Time: Inertial Frames', The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

Hoyle, F. (1973), Nicolaus Copernicus. An Essay On His Life And Work (Heinemann).

--------, (1975), Astronomy And Cosmology. A Modern Course (W H Freeman).

Mills, R. (1994), Space, Time And Quanta (W H Freeman).

Rosser, W. (1967), Introductory Relativity (Plenum Press).
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 10001
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 25 Nov 2013, 02:08
Because of its enormous mass, the top quark is extremely short-lived with a predicted lifetime of only 5×10−25 s.[3] As a result top quarks do not have time to form hadrons before they decay, as other quarks do. This provides physicists with the unique opportunity to study the behavior of a "bare" quark.

Photons exist within time, they emerge and are absorbed. You are claiming that a wave is without change. Jesus Christ.

Quote:
Surely the most complete and accurate way to comprehend photosynthesis is through its scientific formula 6CO2 + 6H2O Reaction -->(light energy)--> C6H12O6 + 6O2, rather than trying to look at it in terms of its supposed unities of opposites etc.


Chemistry is full of dialectics. Titration is quantity and quality. Acids and bases are quantity and quality. The whole periodic system is a glorious demonstration of quantity and quality.
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
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