Dialectics

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snipfool
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Oct 9 2011 15:51

No no no. The chicken came first.

piter
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Oct 9 2011 15:57
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is the problem in a nutshell. Everything "starts" from the concrete. That's the whole point of historical materialism.

yes, as Dr Faust said "at the start is action".

but it doesn't means that concrete should stand in a binary opposition to abstract, and I think it's what pose problem to Lbird.
but binary opposition is not concrete, even if concrete is one term of the opposition...

S. Artesian
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Oct 9 2011 17:07
jura wrote:
S. Artesian wrote:
Everything "starts" from the concrete. That's the whole point of historical materialism.

"Everything" except Marx's dialectical presentation of economic categories in Capital driven by the contradictory determinations of particular categories, i.e. Marx's dialectic.

No, Marx makes it quite clear the he derives these categories in the abstract from their concrete manifestations; from their historical, social origins. In fact the criticism he consistently raises against Ricardo is that Ricardo never questions the abstraction of labor into value; how historically this occurs, why it occurs, and what the concrete determinants are the compel labor-power to present itself as a value in exchange for the value of the means of subsistence.

That's the point Marx is exposing, explaining, explicating in all 3 volumes, in the Economic Manuscripts 1857-1864, in A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy-- that this specific form of property, where all production is the production of value, requires a specific organization of labor, and the need to aggrandize that labor-power becomes the barrier to the accumulation of capital.

Not to put too fine a point on it. That's why I said discussing dialectics separate and apart from the object/subject of its inquiry is a step backward.

LBird
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Oct 10 2011 07:45

I'd appreciate any comments about these two tentative lists of what I consider 'dialectics' is, and what it isn't. Each is in numbered pairs which are opposed to each other, for contrast and illustration.

If anyone has suggestions for additions or removals, or just clarification of these, please let me know.

Dialectics: What it is

1 Monism, unity of consciousness and nature in matter
2 Humans, consciousness and understanding
3 Philosophy of internal relations
4 Epistemology – partial knowledge of real world, partial truths
5 Materialism and Scientific Realism
6 Essences of reality hidden, uncovered by theory, deduction
7 Heuristic method – does not explain, prove, predict or cause
8 Theories pose questions to be asked
9 Answers come through empirical research
10 Theories can be amended or rejected if conflict with research
11 Seeks oppositions, tensions, reciprocities, transformations
12 Recognises Qualitative levels based on different organisation
13 Evolutionary change leads to Revolutionary change
14 Theory, research, clarification, explanation, feedback
15 Object of inquiry is Systems and change
16 Holistic
17 Whole is greater than the sum of its parts
18 Complexity
19 Interdependent relationships, interactions
20 Synthetic
21 Higher levels, irreducible to lower levels, with emergent properties
22 Novelty, qualitative change, evolution leads to revolutionary leaps
23 Quantitative and Qualitative
24 Dynamic, fluid, change, discontinuity
25 Development, regression, variability, growth, decay, history
26 Processes, time periods, multi-generational eras
27 In historiography, mainly How and Why explanation
28 In sociology, mainly structures and classes, macro

Dialectics: What it isn’t

1 Dualism, separation between matter and spirit
2 Nature, matter and being
3 Philosophy of motion
4 Ontology – complete knowledge of real world, truth
5 Idealism or Positivism
6 Appearances as they seem, open to senses, induction
7 Three ‘Laws’ of Dialectics – explain, prove, predict and cause
8 Theories determine answers
9 Answers come from theory
10 Theories are true – assumes empirical research is wrong
11 1. Unity and conflict of opposites, contradictions
12 2. Quantity into Quality, numeric addition causes change
13 3. Negation of the Negation
14 Hegelian Triad – thesis, antithesis, synthesis
15 Object of inquiry is Parts and stability
16 Particularistic
17 Whole is only its parts
18 Simplicity
19 Separate parts, divisions, atomised components
20 Isolated, un-integrated, discrete
21 Reductionism to lowest level
22 Basic, quantitative change, slow evolution only
23 Quantitative only
24 Steady, static, rigid, continuity
25 Constancy, fixity, similarity, ahistoric
26 Events, instants, lifespan
27 In historiography, mainly What, When and Who description
28 In sociology, mainly individuals and psychology, micro

piter
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Oct 10 2011 18:02

Lbird, I'll make a few comments :

Dialectics: What it is :

1 Monism, unity of consciousness and nature in matter

unity of cosnciousness and nature is in human actions not in "matter". (of course human action is material but what is the point in saying it is "matter"?).
revolutionnary dialectics in regards to materialism is not about metaphysical materialism and "matter" but about the practical/theoretical critique of capital, about people changing themseles and the world at the same time in revolutionnary practice.

2 Humans, consciousness and understanding

what do you mean by saying that dialectics is that?

13 Evolutionary change leads to Revolutionary change

it can, not always do.

16 Holistic

holy shit! no. Marx criticising philosophy said (German ideology for ex.) we must start from concrete individuals and their practice, relations, etc...not start from some big holy whateveryoucallit

17 Whole is greater than the sum of its parts

yes but that's not holism, Aristotle was saying that in his time. but well yes it goes well with dialectics okay...

27 In historiography, mainly How and Why explanation
28 In sociology, mainly structures and classes, macro

nothing to do with historiography and sociology I would say. well, criticising it maybe...(dialectics is against artificial academic separation anyway...and taking into account history and society don't mean you have to dwell in historiography and sociology, the point is to change it you know... (here I'm a bit humorous, but also serious at the same time).

Dialectics: What it isn’t

1 Dualism, separation between matter and spirit
2 Nature, matter and being

okay "matter" and spirit goes together in human action.
what do you mean with number 2?

5 Idealism or Positivism

it is a critique of both philosophical materialism and idealism as it is a critique of philosophy as a whole, but yes it is a materialist critique of philosophy.

11 1. Unity and conflict of opposites, contradictions
13 3. Negation of the Negation

it can be about contradictions, and also about "negation of negation" if it means revolutionnary practice and not some metaphysical shibboleth.

14 Hegelian Triad – thesis, antithesis, synthesis

Hegel was really more richer and complex than that, so no need to say that Marx really don't care about that silly triad...

not sure about where do we go with that.

as some had already told you dialectics lies more in capital (the book) and in theoretical/practical critique of capital (the social relations) than in any collections of generalities...

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Oct 10 2011 21:15
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as some had already told you dialectics lies more in capital (the book) and in theoretical/practical critique of capital (the social relations) than in any collections of generalities...

I just read this whole thread through and as so often I agree with Piter again. I find it amazing that it took until him to bring up the term praxis! I will add that a useful book, the one that most fully explained what dialectics in Marx is for me, is Felton C. Shorthall's The Incomplete Marx. Certain chapters have excellent explanations of how Marx's work is 'dialectical' and his critique of idealism and vulgar materialism. A chapter that deals with a lot of points that Piter raises is 'Totality and dialectic in Hegel and Marx'.

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Oct 10 2011 21:19

Also, Piter please post some more of your work that you mentioned on this subject. I could possibly help translate it from French if you need a hand and I have some spare time.

LBird
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Oct 11 2011 03:40

piter, thanks very much for your comments. I’ll try to address and clarify the issues you’ve mentioned.

piter wrote:
1 Monism, unity of consciousness and nature in matter
unity of cosnciousness and nature is in human actions not in "matter". (of course human action is material but what is the point in saying it is "matter"?).
revolutionnary dialectics in regards to materialism is not about metaphysical materialism and "matter" but about the practical/theoretical critique of capital, about people changing themseles and the world at the same time in revolutionnary practice.

Here I’m trying to state that there is no ‘consciousness’ outside of ‘matter’; in the opposing point 1 I made in the second list, I tried to show that the alternative to this position is the need for ‘spirit’ or ‘god’ – that is, something outside of ‘matter’. I reject the separation of consciousness from matter, which is ‘dualism’.

As you say, ‘consciousness’ is a practical issue.

piter wrote:
2 Humans, consciousness and understanding
what do you mean by saying that dialectics is that?

I don’t agree that there is a ‘dialectic’ in nature, outside of human consciousness. I think ‘dialectics' is the relationship between human consciousness and nature.

piter wrote:
13 Evolutionary change leads to Revolutionary change
it can, not always do.

Yes, of course: I shall change ‘leads’ to ‘can lead’. Just a poor choice of word by me. I was just trying to capture that slow ‘evolutionary’ change often does not simply remain forever ‘evolutionary’! It can speed up considerably!

piter wrote:
16 Holistic
holy shit! no. Marx criticising philosophy said (German ideology for ex.) we must start from concrete individuals and their practice, relations, etc...not start from some big holy whateveryoucallit

Perhaps you misunderstand my use of the word ‘holistic’. My fault, of course. I should have used the term ‘totality’. I contrasted ‘holistic’ with ‘particularistic’, which I had hoped would clarify my intended meaning.

Quote:
17 Whole is greater than the sum of its parts
yes but that's not holism, Aristotle was saying that in his time. but well yes it goes well with dialectics okay...

Yep, I agree.

piter wrote:
27 In historiography, mainly How and Why explanation
28 In sociology, mainly structures and classes, macro
nothing to do with historiography and sociology I would say. well, criticising it maybe...(dialectics is against artificial academic separation anyway...and taking into account history and society don't mean you have to dwell in historiography and sociology, the point is to change it you know... (here I'm a bit humorous, but also serious at the same time).

Yeah, here I was just trying to put some ‘meat on the bones’ of what it means to think dialectically about some particular academic subjects, of which others will be familiar. In history, for example, the sources can tell us relatively easily the Who, What and When of the past, but it needs interpretation to suggest How and Why, which change with every generation of historians. That’s because the How and, especially, the Why are always current concerns, not the concerns of the past. An example of ‘dialectical thinking’, eh? I think it was Croce who said that every generation must rewrite history.

piter wrote:
1 Dualism, separation between matter and spirit
2 Nature, matter and being
okay "matter" and spirit goes together in human action.
what do you mean with number 2?

Just that ‘dialectics’ doesn’t happen in ‘nature, matter or being’. Dialectical thinking is the interaction between consciousness and nature. This is why I emphasised ‘abstraction’ before ‘concrete’ in my discussions on this thread. I think this emphasis is also in keeping with modern scientific method.

piter wrote:
5 Idealism or Positivism
it is a critique of both philosophical materialism and idealism as it is a critique of philosophy as a whole, but yes it is a materialist critique of philosophy.

I think I agree with you here: I contrasted those with ‘5 Materialism and Scientific Realism’.

piter wrote:
14 Hegelian Triad – thesis, antithesis, synthesis
Hegel was really more richer and complex than that, so no need to say that Marx really don't care about that silly triad...
not sure about where do we go with that.

Full agreement, perhaps?

piter wrote:
as some had already told you dialectics lies more in capital (the book) and in theoretical/practical critique of capital (the social relations) than in any collections of generalities...

Hmmmm… this might be the only real point of disagreement between us, piter. I think that a ‘dialectical method’ can be rationally extracted from Capital and the rest of Marx’s works, so that it can be taught and used by Communists. As for Hegel, for most people he will remain a mystery and unread.

So, I don’t agree that one necessarily has to read Marx or Hegel to be able to have some grasp, and to be able to use, a dialectical method. With the explanation of ‘how’ to do this being in plain old English, not the impenetrable gibberish in which it’s usually explained, and which drives people away in droves from what could be a useful way of understanding the world.

What’s more worrying is that this method of understanding dialectics, by reading 19th century gibberish, is also the method advocated by the Trotskyist parties like the SWP. Arbeiten et al on this thread aren’t the first to try to ram shite down my throat! Perhaps this realisation will make them pause for thought. Probably not. I prefer to think critically with the help of others in English, rather than read meaningless ‘blah, blah, blah…’.

Malva wrote:
I will add that a useful book, the one that most fully explained what dialectics in Marx is for me, is Felton C. Shorthall's The Incomplete Marx. Certain chapters have excellent explanations of how Marx's work is 'dialectical' and his critique of idealism and vulgar materialism. A chapter that deals with a lot of points that Piter raises is 'Totality and dialectic in Hegel and Marx'.

Thanks for the links, Malva. I’ve had a very brief scan of the latter link, and my first impression is that it is in line with my thinking, but it needs deeper reading and thought, which I will try to give it soon. The main problem is that I don’t like reading online, but the book seems to be out of print and unobtainable, but I’ll try to get a copy or, if necessary, print off the chapter from your link. Thanks again.

Especial thanks to piter.

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Oct 11 2011 04:11

Incomplete Marx is a very good recommendation. It's probably the book I would suggest now rather than Ollman and Cole.

LBird
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Oct 11 2011 09:17

Back from playing with the other kids in libcommunity, eh, Khawaga?

Tojiah, tastybrain, Arbeiten, jef costello...

Tell me again, how many of youse five are 'professional' 'teachers'?

Khawaga wrote:
Incomplete Marx is a very good recommendation. It's probably the book I would suggest now rather than Ollman and Cole.

Anyway, on your grown-up point, yes 'Incomplete Marx' seems to be written in comprehensible English, but your recommendation of Ollman was also very worthwhile, if only to get my creative juices flowing. I've only had a glance at Cole, and it seems less so, I'm not sure.

When I've had some more feedback concerning my lists above, I'd like to post a short (2-page?) guide to a 'dialectical method', which hopefully some will find useful. This is partially based on Ollman, so I have that to thank you for, too.

If you personally have any comments/criticisms of my lists, please feel free to let me know. We should all be trying to work together to make 'dialectics', in some form, understandable and useful to a wider Communist audience.

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Oct 11 2011 10:11

aaaah man, I couldn't resist putting a picture of Stalin up on the libcommunity thread. Denouncing people you don't agree with as non-communist is crazy stuff. On the professional teacher thing, I don't think I ever said I was one? If I gave that impression then I'm sorry about that.

Quote:
We should all be trying to work together to make 'dialectics', in some form, understandable and useful to a wider Communist audience.

On this point I'm not so sure i agree. I'm sure many will jump down my throat for saying this. But I don't think you need dialectics to be a communist. The marxist dialectic itself has a complex history in the Soviet union (sciences that had to be 'dialectical', forecasts of the future that were justified 'dialectically' etc, etc).

LBird
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Oct 11 2011 10:49
Arbeiten wrote:
On this point I'm not so sure i agree. I'm sure many will jump down my throat for saying this. But I don't think you need dialectics to be a communist. The marxist dialectic itself has a complex history in the Soviet union (sciences that had to be 'dialectical', forecasts of the future that were justified 'dialectically' etc, etc).

The problem is, Arbeiten, is that you don't know what 'dialectics' are (and I'm not sure, yet, I do either), so you can't judge whether we Communists 'need' them or not. And the anti-theoretical, anti-philosophical, anti-method attitude of you and your childish playmates, tastybrain and Tojiah, doesn't help one bit. In fact, it's a hindrance. At least I'm prepared to think critically with the help of my fellow Communists to try to unravel the problem.

We'd have more success, I think, if you three and our resident 'teachers' helped with this process, rather than stooping to egotistical accusations (and that's just on these mainstream threads - the issue of the Libcommunity thread is beneath contempt).

Arbeiten wrote:
Denouncing people you don't agree with as non-communist is crazy stuff.

I've never 'denounced' anyone - yet more strawmanning.

I think that it's a justifiable opinion for a Communist to hold that we all need to be familiar with the latest bourgeois thinking on science, arts, humanities, etc., let alone Communist thinking, if we are ever to run this planet on Libertarian Communist lines.

That's an opinion. I might be wrong. Perhaps you lot are correct, and us all remaining benighted dickheads about serious issues is the way forward. Personally I doubt it.

You can 'denounce' me again now, for doubting your Communist credentials, eh?

Arbeiten wrote:
On the professional teacher thing, I don't think I ever said I was one? If I gave that impression then I'm sorry about that.

No, don't worry, I never had that impression of you three, good god!

But Khawaga and jef costello, who I know are teachers and I've had time for in the past, seem determined to reinforce my poor opinion of teachers in general. I say 'in general', because there are some fuckin' good teachers out there - perhaps the problem is that often they're not the ones in the 'profession'. I'm speaking from personal experience of friends, not about me. I coudn't teach if I was given 10 years to learn, but that's my problem. If it makes K. & jc. feel better, I have much the same impression of most professors that I've met. Decent enough, great at their particular, extremely narrow specialism, but as much use as talkin' to the man next to me in the pub when it comes to any real social discussion. If fact, I can honestly say that most of the intensely interesting discussion I have had, have been in the pub, rather than the halls of 'academia'. I'm a Communist, and we run rings round them - and managers, bosses, police, etc.

What's more, we all have the ability to do this - it's not my personal attibutes, but a learned attitude. And wrestling with philosophical questions should be a part of any good Communist's experience, along with political activity.

I don't know why I'm bothering to write this, god, I've wasted enough time on here in the past with people who don't want to learn.

Still, I'm determined to learn more about 'dialectics', if only to reject it, and I welcome the help of any Communist who both wants to help me and to learn themselves.

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Oct 11 2011 11:27

How dare you fucking saying I have got an anti-theoretical attitude. From the person who has continuously, for about 4 pages, whined his way through trying understand dialectics by saying it isn't English (gibberish you called it didn't you?) and then accuse me of not knowing what dialectics is? I know what it is, but as I said it isn't my field and i don't think it is mandatory for being teh troo communist. I tried to help you out with some specific problems (the concrete to the abstract, positivism/anti-positivism in Marx) and got it thrown back in my face for apparently being gibberish. That hacked me right off. Ask people for further clarification if it is not clear, don't tell them they are speaking another language.

If you want to keep up with the latest bourgeois/communist knowledge (should we really hold this pathetic distinction anymore?) then you would surely know that there are plenty of communist/anarchist/anarcho-syndalicsts/libertarian communists etc, etc, who are not enamoured by dialectics. It pains me that we are falling out over this when I don't think it needs to be the central tenant to libertarian communism. It was a throw away comment in my last message, i just wanted to assure you and others that there may be a world (even a highly theoretical one) after dialectics.

you have denounced people for not being Communists Lbird, I could quote it but i can't be bothered, why do you think Tojiah made the thread. This is all getting a bit pathetic now. Yes the libcommunity trolling was a bit under the belt and I'm sorry about that. But you deserved a Stalin meme for strongly implying (I would argue, actually borderline denouncing) people were fake commies. It's ludicrous.

and don't ask me if I am a teacher if you god no never had that impression. I am not interested in your pupil/teacher master/slave dialectic (see what I did there? wink. Its a joke btw).

LBird
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Oct 11 2011 11:52
Arbeiten wrote:
That hacked me right off.

It's not a nice feeling, is it?

Arbeiten wrote:
It pains me that we are falling out over this...

Yeah, me too. I still don't genuinely know why asking to discuss dialectics using modern English is such a 'red rag to a bull' to people trying to explain dialectics.

I know, and openly acknowledge, that you've tried very hard to help me - but 'reading Hegel' isn't an explanation of dialectics. I keep saying this, that 'it does not help', but then, as usual in my l_o_n_g experience of asking the 'experts', from numerous parties, the answer is always 'Well, try harder!'. Read Hegel, read Marx's Capital, read some obscure epigone of Marx...

Why not use English, and explain? I'm forced to the conclusion that this, which happens time and time again, is because there is no explanation. It's a form of religion, which if one doesn't accept the central textual basis, is meaningless. And I'm not the only one, by a long chalk, who's come to this conclusion. Chomsky, for example?

Arbeiten wrote:
...why do you think Tojiah made the thread

This seems like a pitiful plea of 'He made me do it!'. You had to join in? But, in the interests of maintaining our renewed comradeship, I won't say what I think of Tojiah. At least you've made a contribution...

Arbeiten wrote:
This is all getting a bit pathetic now. Yes the libcommunity trolling was a bit under the belt and I'm sorry about that.

Well, it takes a good person to apologise.

I hope we can move onto the serious issue (to me, at least) of deciding the value, or not, of 'dialectics'.

Arbeiten wrote:
and don't ask me if I am a teacher if you god no never had that impression. I am not interested in your pupil/teacher master/slave dialectic (see what I did there? . Its a joke btw).

Yeah, when they're in English, I get them.

That, unfortunately, is only a half-joke. Or, an interpenetration of an opposite.

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Oct 11 2011 12:07

LBird, just out of curiousity, why do you write communist with a capital c?

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Oct 11 2011 12:17

I think any good anarchist internet milieu needs a certain level of irrational 'your a Stalinist' trolling to ensure we don't loose our minds and actually think the revolution is going to come in our life time Mr. T . I don't think Tojiah made me do it, i don't know the guy apart from the occasional post on here. I did it because sometimes I indulge in petty internet trolling, especially amongst the left.

yeah your right, read Hegel is not helpful. But Hegel was a philosopher. He didn't write tombs upon tombs because his ideas were easy. Chomsky is really disingenuous with his attitude to much philosophy. I don't get the impression he even tries. Which is fine. But I think it is a honey trap to take the Chomskian attitude to dialectics, then try and get people to explain it to you. I honestly think that you can't begin to understand dialectics, or philosophy in general, from such an attitude. Which again is fine, if your not interested and your dealing with different problems, but not from the position of double bind (explain it to me, its bullshit). As for the religion thing, I would agree and disagree, I already hinted to this in an earlier post (post 102, soviet 'dialectical' science, etc). It seems to me, at least, that one can 'dialectify' anything if one has the right amount of Hegelian dexterity (Zizek for example).

LBird
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Oct 11 2011 13:01
jonglier wrote:
LBird, just out of curiousity, why do you write communist with a capital c?

Perhaps because it designates us as the real ideology. As opposed to the also rans of liberalism, conservatism, fascism... It demands attention and demonstrates our importance and self-assurance. After all, those fuckers don't write 'queen elizabeth', do they?

Arbeiten wrote:
yeah your right, read Hegel is not helpful.

That's a big concession for you to make, Arbeiten, given the thread's history.

I admire you for making it.

Arbeiten wrote:
But I think it is a honey trap to take the Chomskian attitude to dialectics, then try and get people to explain it to you. I honestly think that you can't begin to understand dialectics, or philosophy in general, from such an attitude. Which again is fine, if your not interested and your dealing with different problems, but not from the position of double bind (explain it to me, its bullshit).

All I can say here, mate, is that I genuinely have tried to understand the opposing conclusion from mine, but I honestly can't make sense of someone saying, for example, that 'the concrete is abstract'. They might as well say 'the moon is green cheese', and then have a fit when I beg to differ, as far as I'm concerned. I'm genuinely baffled as to why English words, terms and phrases can't be used to explain.

Arbeiten wrote:
As for the religion thing, I would agree and disagree, I already hinted to this in an earlier post (post 102, soviet 'dialectical' science, etc). It seems to me, at least, that one can 'dialectify' anything if one has the right amount of Hegelian dexterity (Zizek for example).

Well, once I've given it a decent amount of time for contributors to criticise my two lists, and nothing of a show-stopper comes out of it, I'll post my very tentative outline of a 'dialectical method' for further criticism.

You may then justifiably conclude it is 'religious twaddle' (so might I!), but at least either we'll have learned that, or we might have a basis for a better method which is of some use to help understand (and change) the world.

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Oct 11 2011 13:08

I stand by the libcommunity thread. You're a frustrating individual, LBird, and it seems the mature way of venting was through a thread in the non-serious part of the forum. As usual it's everyone's else's fault that they're mean to you rather than problems with your behavior. I predict you will find (or, rather invent) more and more Bad Teachers throughout your life. At least you'll get to keep feeling smug and superior. Good luck with that.

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Oct 11 2011 13:43

OK, just a further clarification. I don't regard it as pure pseudo-religious twaddle, but it certainly has the potential to be.

Second. Can I refer you to post 75. I hadn't seen it previously, but it is a post where Mr Jolly suggests watching the peter singer video on youtube concerning Hegel. I agree with him. I have watched this in the past and it really helped me out. In fact Singer's books on Marx was the first time i really 'got' Marxist nomenclature in any tangible way. Though all his stuff on utilitarian ethics sucks grin.

Ok, now the lists,

Dialectics: What it is


Philosophy of internal relations
Materialism and Scientific Realism
Essences of reality hidden, uncovered by theory, deduction

Dynamic, fluid, change, discontinuity
Seeks oppositions, tensions, reciprocities, transformations

 Answers come through empirical research
Theory, research, clarification, explanation, feedback

Object of inquiry is Systems and change
On holism and totality, yes you should be using totality rather than holism.

All this is good, this is what I have a problem with,

Heuristic method – does not explain, prove, predict or cause (I’m not sure on this one, perhaps others could further elucidate what they think, but to my knowledge dialectics have been used as explanatory theories rather than heuristic devices. In fact I think heuristics actually obscures more than it attempts to explain here. As a heuristic device the dialectic would probably not be the most useful!)


Theories can be amended or rejected if conflict with research
 (again, I find practicing dialectics to be a little naught on this one)


Higher levels, irreducible to lower levels, with emergent properties
(I’m not sure whether this is a characteristic of dialectics specifically tbh. But I do think any good social theory worth its salt should have this as its mantra. Critical Realism is good on this front).


Quantitative and Qualitative
(could you further clarify what you believe to be the explicit differences between these two in relation to dialectics?).

Dialectics: What it isn’t


Ontology – complete knowledge of real world, truth
(Sorry, I am really confused here there seems to be a slip from ontology to epistemology).

Theories determine answers
(I wish it wasn’t, but this has sometimes been a problem for dialecticians wink).

Negation of the Negation (I always assumed the negation of the negation to be integral to all dialectical movement?).

As for the standard use of English, I know I keep on bugging at this, but I still sense you are being disingenuous. As I said in a previous post, in the beginning I never knew what a 'proletarian' or a 'bourgeoisie' might be. As for mode of production. Well. Imagine if around the dinner table tonight I bought up the mode of production and just expected my family* to understand it because we all have a shared understanding of basic English.

*i actually live on my own, but lets just imagine I had a family....

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Oct 11 2011 15:01

The dialectic, a quite specific concept denoting a method (of theory construction, in my view), is mixed here with all sorts of ontological and epistemological presuppositions. Some of them can be ascribed to Marx fair enough, but most are not even specific to Marx at all and it's totally unclear why they should be associated with "dialectics". One could as well include a full quote from the 1859 Preface or a mixture of quotes from Marx and declare it part of "dialectics".

Moreover, LBird's suggestions are contradictory. On one hand, "dialectics" is

LBird wrote:
the relationship between human consciousness and nature.

on the other hand, it's a set of methodological rules:

LBird wrote:
Theories can be amended or rejected if conflict with research

but also (third hand!) a kind of metaphysics:

LBird wrote:
Materialism and Scientific Realism

This is worse than Soviet philosophy of the 1950s. I can't see how such baseless intuitivism can lead to any sort of clarification of Marx's method.

LBird
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Oct 11 2011 16:16
Arbeiten wrote:
Heuristic method – does not explain, prove, predict or cause (I’m not sure on this one, perhaps others could further elucidate what they think, but to my knowledge dialectics have been used as explanatory theories rather than heuristic devices. In fact I think heuristics actually obscures more than it attempts to explain here. As a heuristic device the dialectic would probably not be the most useful!)

Yes, Arbeiten, you’ve picked up here on something that I also consider being a big difference with what normally passes for ‘dialectics’. As you say, “dialectics have been used as explanatory theories rather than heuristic devices” – I don’t see how ‘dialectics’ can ‘explain’ anything at all. I think that dialectical method is a way of framing human questions of nature; that is, they help to direct us into areas that we consider more important for research than others.

Arbeiten wrote:
Theories can be amended or rejected if conflict with research
 (again, I find practicing dialectics to be a little naught on this one)

This is a difficult one, too. Lakatos suggests that the scientific method consists of ‘research programmes’ which have at their heart a ‘hard core’ of axioms and assumption that can’t be refuted by empirical evidence. The only way, scientifically, in the face of ‘reality’ countermanding the ‘theory’, is to either just ignore reality or to ditch the entire ‘programme’. In other words, according to Lakatos, it’s entirely scientific to ignore results, and he provides evidence from history to back up his stance that this is precisely what scientists do.

We’d have to define which ‘theories’ are our ‘hard core’, and thus irrefutable, and which ‘theories’ are expendable research questions, which can be ‘proved’ wrong.

As will be as very clear to you as to me, this requires a lot of discussion by Communists.

Arbeiten wrote:
Higher levels, irreducible to lower levels, with emergent properties
(I’m not sure whether this is a characteristic of dialectics specifically tbh.

Well, this is the point, mate. We humans define what the ‘dialectical method’ is, that we are to use. It’s not a given from nature.

Arbeiten wrote:
Quantitative and Qualitative
(could you further clarify what you believe to be the explicit differences between these two in relation to dialectics?).

I’m suggesting that just being aware of the need to look for both quantitative and qualitative changes is part of the dialectical method. It’s as simple (and as threatening to our ‘quantitative’ obsessed bourgeoisie) as that. Just teaching the skill of seeking ‘quality in change’ is revolutionary.

Arbeiten wrote:
Dialectics: What it isn’t

Ontology – complete knowledge of real world, truth
(Sorry, I am really confused here there seems to be a slip from ontology to epistemology).

Yeah, I’m arguing that the dialectical method is a method of ‘understanding’, not a feature of the reality being studied. I think the notion of there being a ‘Dialectic in Nature’ is nonsense.

Arbeiten wrote:
Theories determine answers
(I wish it wasn’t, but this has sometimes been a problem for dialecticians ).

This would be part of the above discussion about the status of our particular ‘theory’: in Lakatos' terms, ‘core’ or ‘refutable variant’?

Arbeiten wrote:
Negation of the Negation (I always assumed the negation of the negation to be integral to all dialectical movement?).

Well, since I think the dialectical method is a human construct, that leads me to the conclusion that a notion of a ‘negation of the negation’ in nature is meaningless.

Arbeiten wrote:
As for the standard use of English, I know I keep on bugging at this, but I still sense you are being disingenuous. As I said in a previous post, in the beginning I never knew what a 'proletarian' or a 'bourgeoisie' might be. As for mode of production. Well. Imagine if around the dinner table tonight I bought up the mode of production and just expected my family* to understand it because we all have a shared understanding of basic English.

Well, ask yourself: ‘has Lbird used English words that you generally understand?’ Probably one or two things need further explanation. No problem – I’ll use more English to explain further, until you do understand everything that I’ve written. I don’t say that ‘you have to read both volumes of Lakatos’ Philosophical Papers’, or that ‘life’ and ‘death’ are the same thing. They might be intimately related, but they are not the same thing. And if any ‘dialectics’ expert says that, in effect, they are, let’s bury them under a real six feet of earth and test their position with empirical research. No, any ‘theory’ that maintains that two different concepts are the same isn’t worthy of the name. It’s hocus-pocus. Like the ‘abstract’ being ‘concrete’. It’s meaningless.

Arbeiten wrote:
i actually live on my own, but lets just imagine I had a family....

If you use the current version of ‘dialectics’, apparently you have, in embryo in your thoughts, which is apparently is the same thing as kids running round your feet!

Thanks for your questions, Arbeiten. The only way that we’ll all clarify what we mean by a ‘dialectical method’ is to discuss it. Preferably in English, for the slow ones like me.

You, or others, might disagree with what I’ve written: that’s OK, let’s clarify and decide. I’m still only at the tentative stage myself – I think I have a view, but it’s open to persuasion.

My central position now, though, is that the 'dialectical method' is under human control, subject to democratic wishes, and is not an imposition from nature upon humans. The famed 'Hegelian Triad'? Hogwash.

LBird
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Oct 11 2011 16:28
jura wrote:
...but most are not even specific to Marx at all...

You're getting to see my point, jura. I think a 'dialectical method' can be separated from Marx's work. He might have used it, and we can test it out to see if he did, but 'Marx' and his 'method' are conceptually different things. So, I can ignore Marx, if I wish, in a consideration of the method that he apparently employed.

jura wrote:
This is worse than Soviet philosophy of the 1950s. I can't see how such baseless intuitivism can lead to any sort of clarification of Marx's method.

But, under my outline, the 'dialectical method' is subject to human control, not 'baseless intuition'. And if it's not under democratic control, who is to both define and clarify the method? 'Nature'? Does nature write posts on here? Or you and other expert 'dialecticians', who struggle to answer my questions in English, and bamboozle even Chomsky? I'm not sure I like the idea of that, mate.

What was it Marx said about 'who educates the educators'?

Android
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Oct 11 2011 17:07

LBird - I must say I find your approach to this whole thread a bit annoying. You obviously have lots of different and contradictory ideas that you're trying to wrestle with. But your posts shift the focus of the thread even when you are demand simpler ("plain English") explanations, making this thread unproductive in my opinion.

For whats its worth, I think Jura's first few posts are very good at outlining a conception of Marx's dialectic, but it is not really his responsibility to put forward alternative conceptions he rejects. I'd recommend re-reading his first few posts and try and engage with them free from the influence of other stuff you've read for the moment anyway because I don't think you've understood the approach outlined in those posts.

No offense intended - keep reading, thinking, questioning and all that. I just find this thread really disjointed.

LBird
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Oct 11 2011 17:46
Android wrote:
LBird - I must say I find your approach to this whole thread a bit annoying.

What's annoying about my 'approach'? Asking for plain English answers?

Android wrote:
...you are demand simpler ("plain English") explanations, making this thread unproductive in my opinion.

So, to use the language that I, and everybody else I know in my day-to-day life, uses, causes this thread to be unproductive? Do you mean that to ask for explanations that I can actually understand is preventing everybody else from progressing? Including Chomsky, I presume?

Android wrote:
You obviously have lots of different and contradictory ideas that you're trying to wrestle with.

Ahhh, good, someone writing something even I can understand. Right, I'm all ears and keen to learn!

Would you like to point out what these 'different and contradictory ideas' are? What are the ones I hold? What are the different ones? How do they contradict each other?

Boy, are you right! I'm already 'wrestling' like mad, it's great, and I'm desperate for someone to help me understand 'dialectics'. I have formed some tentative ideas, but I might be wrong about them.

Android wrote:
For whats its worth, I think Jura's first few posts are very good at outlining a conception of Marx's dialectic, but it is not really his responsibility to put forward alternative conceptions he rejects. I'd recommend re-reading his first few posts and try and engage with them free from the influence of other stuff you've read for the moment anyway because I don't think you've understood the approach outlined in those posts.

Yes, no doubt they are. But I'm asking questions about the dialectical method, not Marx's usage of a method of which I, as yet, don't understand.

Of course, jura doesn't have to outline any 'alternative conceptions', just their own. Once I have had jura's own alternative 'put forward' in a form I can understand, then we can move on to alternatives.

Android wrote:
...try and engage with them free from the influence of other stuff you've read for the moment anyway ...

Sounds like good advice - I take it you're offering the same advice to jura et al, to 'free themselves from their influences'? Goody! That means they'll 'freely' reject all their presuppositions and previous learning about dialectics, and listen to me on a equal basis, too, doesn't it?

Android wrote:
...because I don't think you've understood the approach outlined in those posts.

Yeah, I agree. Because of their previous failure to 'free themselves from other influences', they haven't 'understood the approach outlined in' my posts, either.

Android wrote:
No offense intended - keep reading, thinking, questioning and all that. I just find this thread really disjointed.

No offence taken, mate! I'm going to benefit from your presence, because my 'thinking, questioning and all that' has been OK, but my 'reading' has suffered from people refusing to answer my questions in a language I can understand.

You're right! I too 'find this thread really disjointed'!

You'd think people would be keen to explain themselves, in their own words, just like I do, instead of pointing me to long texts, which beg the question: 'how can I understand these texts if I don't understand what 'dialectics' are?'. Why can't Marx be separated from his method?

You'd think some people were hiding something, wouldn't you?

LBird
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Oct 11 2011 18:29
Arbeiten wrote:
Second. Can I refer you to post 75. I hadn't seen it previously, but it is a post where Mr Jolly suggests watching the peter singer video on youtube concerning Hegel. I agree with him. I have watched this in the past and it really helped me out.

Arbeiten, I've just watched the 10 minute video that you reminded me about.

Not very good news, I'm afraid.

Some examples.

Singer talks about Hegel's idea that Socrates destroyed the 'harmony' of Athenian society.

Socrates lived from 469-399.

There wasn't then, and never had been, 'harmony' in Athenian society.

For example, there was tremendous social turmoil after the time of Solon in the 500s, with political struggles between the coast, hill and plain. A dictator, Peisistratos, ensued.

Try Aristotle's Athenian Constitution in Penguin books, for details of the period.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Athenian-Constitution-Penguin-Classics-ebook/dp/B002RI9VF8

And previous to this, the Athenian peasantry was in debt-bondage to the rich.

So, Hegel was factually wrong.

Then Hegel's triad was explained as a progression, thus: thesis, antithesis and synthesis, and onto a new thesis.

But history proves this sequence wrong. Often, there is not an advance, which this triad suggests, but regression.

If anything, the video has made me even more sceptical of Hegel's actual ideas, never mind the terrible way he presented them, which both in the video agreed was very difficult to understand.

Thanks anyway for pointing me in the direction of more evidence that seems more in favour of my position, mate!

piter
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Oct 11 2011 20:40
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Malva wrote :
Also, Piter please post some more of your work that you mentioned on this subject. I could possibly help translate it from French if you need a hand and I have some spare time.

I reread it and in fact it's not directly about dialectics but more about materialism. more precisely it's a critique of Lenin's materialism (so it's at the same time a critique of many other marxists materialism), but in this critique I state what I think is Marx materialism and what should be a revolutionnary materialism (or it's basic principles and orientation at least).
it's already in the Libcom library, but not on a separated text but as a chapter in my Phd thesis.
here it is, the 4rth chapter, from page 75 to 96 : http://libcom.org/library/l%C3%A9nine-et-lactualit%C3%A9-de-la-r%C3%A9volution-une-critique-marxiste-anti-autoritaire-de-l%C3%A9nine

I'm not sure I now fully agree with all I wrote (especially on some other chapters of the thesis, but that's another story), but I think some of it is relevant.

also, thanks for the Felton Shortall link Malva, I don't know him and it looks interesting...

piter
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Oct 11 2011 20:44

Lbird, I'll answer some of the points you made. but I'm getting too tired to make it tonigh...

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Malva
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Oct 11 2011 21:02

@Piter. Thanks for the link. I have sent you a p.m.

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devoration1
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Oct 12 2011 01:07

I've said it before, but Stalin's 1938 'Dialectical And Historical Materialism' is the best, clearest, most plainly written explanation of Marxist dialectics I've ever seen...

http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1938/09.htm

Even being a translation from Russian to English it keeps the extremely simple explanatory tone. Far easier to follow than even other 'everyman explanation' Soviet texts like 'ABCs of Communism'.

Anyone else ever read it? I'm curious what other people think of it when trying to get to the 'basics' of Marxist dialectics.

S. Artesian
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Oct 12 2011 01:57
devoration1 wrote:
I've said it before, but Stalin's 1938 'Dialectical And Historical Materialism' is the best, clearest, most plainly written explanation of Marxist dialectics I've ever seen...

http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1938/09.htm

Even being a translation from Russian to English it keeps the extremely simple explanatory tone. Far easier to follow than even other 'everyman explanation' Soviet texts like 'ABCs of Communism'.

Anyone else ever read it? I'm curious what other people think of it when trying to get to the 'basics' of Marxist dialectics.

If that's "Marxist dialectics" or "Marxism," then I, quoting Marx, am not a Marxist. Stalin's little Dick and Jane pamphlet is a trivialization of Marx's critique through making the critique that focuses on capital, and on the social organization of labor,into a "philosophy" a "world outlook" a set of laws about the universe..

Stalin's pamphlet, and yeah I've read it, is to Marxism what the popular front is to class struggle, an inflation that divests it of its specific vitality.