Dialectics

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S. Artesian
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Oct 14 2011 16:35
jura wrote:
The conclusion I'm led to by piter's and S. Artesian's posts is that basically

Marx's dialectic = his critique of philosophy + critique of political economy.

I'm not convinced by this at all. Such a concept of dialectics is so broad that it becomes meaningless (why invent an extra term?). It confuses method and content, theory and reality, as well as different periods in Marx's intellectual development (mind you, the German Ideology and other earlier works are not presented dialectically, as opposed to parts of Grundrisse, A Contribution... and Capital).

Contrary to this, I'd propose a concept of Marx's dialectic as a specific method of presentation ("theory construction") of the critique of political economy which fulfills Marx's goal of "reproducing the concrete in thought", i.e. reproducing the really existing capitalist relations as a network of interdependent and mutually justifying categories which enable us to grasp capitalist reproduction conceptually.

Wrong: Marx's dialectic = his critique of philosophy + critique of political economy.

Right: Marx's dialectic= his critique of history= the social organization of labor= the conflict between labor and the conditions of labor=class struggle.

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jura
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Oct 14 2011 16:48

So the dialectic is class struggle. Writing about class struggle equals writing about the dialectic. Hence, Thiers and Guizot were dialecticians.

Congratulations on the obscurity.

S. Artesian
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Oct 14 2011 18:41
jura wrote:
So the dialectic is class struggle. Writing about class struggle equals writing about the dialectic. Hence, Thiers and Guizot were dialecticians.

Congratulations on the obscurity.

Not just any writing, not just any dialectic. It's qualified. Marx's writing, Marx's dialectic.

You want to abstract the "dialectic" as a method of inquiry divorced from its subject/object. No can do. Dialectic doesn't exist in thought, it's a theory of knowledge. It has a concrete existence in the social relations of production.

No more Thiers than Stalin as "dialectician" ; and no more than Lukacs was a dialectician.

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jura
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Oct 14 2011 19:34
S. Artesian wrote:
You want to abstract the "dialectic" as a method of inquiry divorced from its subject/object.

Actually, I never said anything like that. To be honest, I'd rather remain agnostic on this question. I do find some of the arguments that the dialectic is "a specific logic of a specific subject" ("eigentümliche Logik eines eigentümlichen Gegenstands", as Marx had it in the 1840s) quite convincing. On the other hand, much of the talk of the "real dialectic" is pretty obscure (from Engels to Lukacs to Ollman).

S. Artesian wrote:
Dialectic doesn't exist in thought, it's a theory of knowledge.

So theories do not exist in thought? Or did you mean to say it's not a theory of knowledge? If so, I don't have a problem with that; to me, the dialectic represents a specific approach to representing reality in thought (which is not the same as a "theory of knowledge").

S. Artesian
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Oct 14 2011 19:47
jura wrote:
S. Artesian wrote:
You want to abstract the "dialectic" as a method of inquiry divorced from its subject/object.

Actually, I never said anything like that. To be honest, I'd rather remain agnostic on this question. I do find some of the arguments that the dialectic is "a specific logic of a specific subject" ("eigentümliche Logik eines eigentümlichen Gegenstands", as Marx had it in the 1840s) quite convincing. On the other hand, much of the talk of the "real dialectic" is pretty obscure (from Engels to Lukacs to Ollman).

S. Artesian wrote:
Dialectic doesn't exist in thought, it's a theory of knowledge.

So theories do not exist in thought? Or did you mean to say it's not a theory of knowledge? If so, I don't have a problem with that; to me, the dialectic represents a specific approach to representing reality in thought (which is not the same as a "theory of knowledge").

Meant to say it is not a theory of knowledge.

Let me provide a concrete example: I think Marx's Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850 and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte are classic demonstrations of Marx's dialectic. These are critical "documents" in the development of Marx's analysis, and his "extracting the rational kernel" of Hegel's dialectic.

OTOH, I think Lukacs History and Class Consciousness demonstrates no dialectic at all, and, in fact represents a step backward.

RedHughs
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Oct 14 2011 21:30

Some clever person should follow current fashion and write something like "Dialectics - the good parts".

My opinion on this:

The bad parts of dialectic is the implication that there is some process of calculation that allows a clever dialectician to determine exactly the results of contradictory forces coming and so chart a "scientific" direction through them. That is mystification since no such process exists. This is how Stalinist dialectics was really bad, back in the day - though blaming this on dialectics rather than on the exigencies of a dictatorial party seems like a mystification (of the idealist rather than dialectical fashion).

The good parts of dialectics involve seeing that quantitative changes become qualitative changes, that both history the internal dynamics of a system determine its results and so-forth. This kind of thing isn't about having a calculation process but rather having a useful framework to combine your observations and calculations into.

Given this caveat, I don't think Stalin dialectics book is other bad. Or, the main thing that's bad about it is the scientism that runs through it. I seems like one can criticize it as shallow but if the "deep" version still involves the implication that dialectician is going calculate a result in a fashion not available to ordinary minds and that we should just go with it, then all one has done made the mystification "deeper" (I'm not saying Artesian has done this, I'm more asking for a clarification).

Dialectics doesn't tell us that, say, in a given situation a quantitative expansion of production results in qualitative changes. But when we notice this tendency, we put observations in a dialectical framework. And oppositely, dialectics can give us clues to look at quantitative and qualitative changes and research whether these transform into each other and so-forth.

TL;DR conceptual framework, not calculation method...

LBird
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Oct 15 2011 07:01

Firstly, just an updated list of characteristics of dialectics and their opposites, taking into account the criticisms made earlier. I've also added a further point, to emphasise the need for practical activity (point 10), again because of the issues brought out during our discussion.

I don't know how to post a table in this format, but if anyone wants to use the two lists as I intended then to be used (for contrast), I'd use Word to create a two-column table and post the first list into the left, and the second into the right column. Perhaps this will help to bring out what I'm trying to get at with each numbered pair.

Any further comments appreciated.

My attempt at outlining a 'dialectical method' will follow in a second post.

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. Practical activity and human interaction with nature
11. Theories can be amended or rejected if conflict with research
12. Seeks oppositions, tensions, reciprocities, transformations
13. Recognises Qualitative levels based on different organisation
14. Evolutionary change can lead to Revolutionary change
15. Theory, research, clarification, explanation, feedback
16. Object of inquiry is Systems and change
17. Totality or Wholism
18. Whole is greater than the sum of its parts
19. Complexity
20. Interdependent relationships, interactions
21. Synthetic
22. Higher levels, irreducible to lower levels, with emergent properties
23. Novelty, qualitative change, evolution leads to revolutionary leaps
24. Quantitative and Qualitative
25. Dynamic, fluid, change, discontinuity
26. Development, regression, variability, growth, decay, history
27. Processes, time periods, multi-generational eras
28. In historiography, mainly How and Why explanation
29. 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. Contemplation or philosophising
11. Theories are true – assumes empirical research is wrong
12. 1. Unity and conflict of opposites, contradictions
13. 2. Quantity into Quality, numeric addition causes change
14. 3. Negation of the Negation
15. Hegelian Triad – thesis, antithesis, synthesis
16. Object of inquiry is Parts and stability
17. Particularism
18. Whole is only its parts
19. Simplicity
20. Separate parts, divisions, atomised components
21. Isolated, un-integrated, discrete
22. Reductionism to lowest level
23. Basic, quantitative change, slow evolution only
24. Quantitative only
25. Steady, static, rigid, continuity
26. Constancy, fixity, similarity, ahistoric
27. Events, instants, lifespan
28. In historiography, mainly What, When and Who description
29. In sociology, mainly individuals and psychology, micro

LBird
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Oct 15 2011 07:09

[with thanks to Khawaga, who pointed me in the direction of Ollman, whose book inspired this attempt to make 'the dialectical method' open to the understanding and, more importantly, the criticism, of all workers.]
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Outline of a suggested Dialectical Method

Definition: The study of how natural consciousness changes nature
(or how humanity changes reality)

Philosophy: Philosophy of the internal relations between parts of a system

Method: The democratic process of abstraction and application

********************
[Lakatosian Hardcore?]

Philosophical axioms

Monist Materialism - nothing exists outside of matter, no separate spirit
Realism - reality exists prior to human enquiry
Method is epistemological (understanding), not ontological (being)
Anti-positivism - reality can’t be fully known, only partial truths
Human mind is active - not passive sense impressions
Theory uncovers hidden reality - senses only register surface appearances
Anti-individualism - science is a democratic social activity, not individual sense impressions

Study assumptions

Totality must remain the central aim, even if unachievable by the researcher
Claims of ‘Truth’ are thus inherently undermined
Researcher is always a product of a society: a ‘social individual in a group’ not a ‘heroic individual’
Target is system and its parts, which are arbitrarily pre-defined by social researcher
Parts are always assumed to exist within a system of relationships
Parts must be examined within their pre-defined interrelationships, not as isolated people, things, events, disciplines, societies or social levels
Focus is current interrelationships, development history and origins of parts, not parts isolated in themselves
Fixity and isolation are only appearances, which obscure a ‘hidden’ concrete reality
Deduction - Hypothesis first, empirical research second
Inescapable selection from the ‘concrete’ is driven by ‘abstract’ theory
********************

[Lakatosian Refutable Variants?]

Detail of Democratic Method of Abstraction and Application – 5 steps
(aims, selections, interpretations, explanations, usage; all subject to successive iterative adjustment and approximations)

1. Epistemology

Deduction, form social theory, ideology, define selection parameters
Extent - define system boundaries of space and time (what & when)
Level of focus - define parts and relations of system, general/specific, similarity/difference, distinctions, classify (who & how)
Perspective - perception, ordering and ranking (why)

Continue until research group reaches democratic agreement

2. Enquiry

Observation, using pre-defined selection parameters
Empirical research – senses and experiences give appearance; theories and analyses give essence
Change - quantity/quality, development, metamorphosis, emergent properties

If unsatisfying results, redo research (2) or change theory (1)

3. Synthesis

Reconstruction, group-clarification, compare research to theory, interpretation

If little research group understanding, reinterpret results (3), redo research (2) or change theory (1)

4. Exposition

Form and content of explanation dependent upon audience’s previous knowledge

If poor social reception and understanding, rework explanation (4), reinterpret results (3), redo research (2) or change theory (1)

5. Praxis

Social interaction, use results in action, persuade, build agreement, testing, critical feedback, adjustment, rejection

If no democratic agreement, encourage criticism (5), rework explanation (4), reinterpret results (3), redo research (2) or change theory (1)

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Malva
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Oct 15 2011 08:01

Well according to Shorthall praxis is a form of ontology. Not in the metaphysical sense but in the sense that Marx assigns humanity an essence and being that is historically developed but where the process of praxis itself remains the same.

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jura
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Oct 15 2011 08:07
LBird wrote:
The democratic process of abstraction and application
LBird wrote:
Continue until research group reaches democratic agreement
LBird wrote:
If no democratic agreement, encourage criticism (5), rework explanation (4), reinterpret results (3), redo research (2) or change theory (1)

Looks like you have a quite different agenda than to understand dialectics. Just saying.

LBird
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Oct 15 2011 08:21
jura wrote:
Looks like you have a quite different agenda than to understand dialectics. Just saying.

Looks like, jura, you have a definition of 'dialectics' that doesn't include the democratic attempt by workers to understand and change the world.

Thus, your 'dialectics', if not subject to democratic interpretation, must be the preserve of a minority who can 'understand dialectics'.

Just sayin'.

Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, III, wrote:
The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.

The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.

Does your 'dialectics' 'divide society into two parts', jura? If it's not democratic, it must do.

'My agenda' is to make 'dialectics' accessible to 'society'. 'Dialectics' understood as democratic revolutionary practice, because, for the proletariat, 'is there any other sort of revolutionary practice?'.

LBird
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Oct 15 2011 09:30
Malva wrote:
Well according to Shorthall praxis is a form of ontology. Not in the metaphysical sense but in the sense that Marx assigns humanity an essence and being that is historically developed but where the process of praxis itself remains the same.

I'm afraid you'll have to elaborate for me here, Malva.

As I understand it, 'ontology' refers to 'being', whereas 'epistemology' refers to 'consciousness'.

Given the development of Stalinist notions of 'dialectics' and Engels' 'Dialectics of Nature', I'm inclined, for political reasons (and for Communists, what others are there?!) to stress 'human consciousness' rather than a 'being' which gets, ahem, 'interpreted' by experts who are apart from the democratic proletariat.

But, without diverting the thread off into an 'academic' discussion which most people can't follow, if you can explain a bit more, I'm all ears and open to persuasion.

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Oct 15 2011 10:18

I don't agree with your use of the word "consciousness", LBird. Epistemology is about "knowledge" and I don't think it's the same thing. You seem to attribute it solely to humans, which is, I suppose, a reasonable philosophical standpoint (although not one I share) but my cat knows things, like where her food is and how to pull my strings. If consciousness is knowledge then cats are also nature becoming conscious. I think that's true, but I'm not sure you do.

Anyway I raise the issue because you complain that others use words in unusual ways, and I think you're doing it yourself. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, not consciousness.

I think you might also be using the word "democratic" in a strange way too!

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Oct 15 2011 10:29
LBird wrote:
Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, III, wrote:
The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.

The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.

Does your 'dialectics' 'divide society into two parts', jura? If it's not democratic, it must do.

You completely misinterpret that thesis on Feuerbach. It's a critique of the separation of mind and matter, not some apology for "democracy". The two parts Marx is talking about are the "material circumstances" and ideology. A materialist – in the pre-Marxian sense of the word – social theory divides society in two parts, the material and the ideal, while prioritizing ("making superior") the former. The thesis is therefore pretty much a rejection of the base-superstructure model which is sometimes (wrongly) ascribed to Marx.

I'm sorry, but the validity of a scientific theory is not for the "proletariat" or "society" to decide by voting. If the proletariat democratically agrees that Lysenko's biology is "revolutionary" and scientific, that won't make it valid. Given you've read Lakatos – whose work was basically a reaction against the relativistic (mis)interpretation of Kuhn – you have a very strange idea of what science is.

LBird
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Oct 15 2011 10:53
Pikel wrote:
I don't agree with your use of the word "consciousness", LBird. Epistemology is about "knowledge" and I don't think it's the same thing.

You're right of course, Pikel. Epistemology is the study of knowledge. I was stressing 'consciousness' in opposition to 'being', in the context of a reply to Malva.

Pikel wrote:
You seem to attribute it solely to humans, which is, I suppose, a reasonable philosophical standpoint (although not one I share) but my cat knows things, like where her food is and how to pull my strings. If consciousness is knowledge then cats are also nature becoming conscious. I think that's true, but I'm not sure you do.

In the context of a discussion about a dialectical method, I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here, Pikel. Of course I think cats are conscious.

Pikel wrote:
Anyway I raise the issue because you complain that others use words in unusual ways, and I think you're doing it yourself. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, not consciousness.

The difference with me, mate, is that I make mistakes. I then admit it. I also go on to explain my mistakes in English, so that everyone can see my mistake and judge whether it is a mistake in the sense that it is fundamentally destructive to my thesis, or just a slip of the finger on a internet forum where we all rush at times. I don't try to blather on about some mysterious meaning that can't be understood and which means I'm always correct.

Pikel wrote:
I think you might also be using the word "democratic" in a strange way too!

Yes, I thought that anyone who thinks that 'dialectics' is too mysterious to be understood by most people would think my use of 'democratic' strange. In fact, I mean it in the same way you mean it. Science and its method under democratic control. If that appears 'strange' to anyone, they had better explain who is to control science, if not the revolutionary proletariat. Who educates the educators, then?

I think I'm being consistent with Marx.

More importantly and relevant, Pikel, what do you think of my 'outline' above?

LBird
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Oct 15 2011 11:00
jura wrote:
I'm sorry, but the validity of a scientific theory is not for the "proletariat" or "society" to decide by voting.

At least you're being honest here, jura.

You separate society into two parts: those who can decide, and those who can't decide, 'the validity of a scientific theory'.

This is inconsistent with Marx.

jura wrote:
...you have a very strange idea of what science is.

What? A human process? Which should be controlled by humans? And that control should be democratic?

I think, in turn, 'you have a very strange idea of what Communism is'.

This discussion is progressing nicely, isn't it?

'Democrats' versus 'Elitists', apparently.

What do you think of my 'outline' of a dialectical method?

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Picket
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Oct 15 2011 11:34
LBird wrote:
Pikel wrote:
I don't agree with your use of the word "consciousness", LBird. Epistemology is about "knowledge" and I don't think it's the same thing.

You're right of course, Pikel. Epistemology is the study of knowledge. I was stressing 'consciousness' in opposition to 'being', in the context of a reply to Malva.

OK, I don't understand why that stressing is necessary but OK.

Quote:
More importantly and relevant, Pikel, what do you think of my 'outline' above?

I don't know, I'm going to come back to it. As someone who thought he had a vague idea what dialectics is (something to do with the method of Aristotle [EDIT: no, Socrates!]) and now realises he has no idea whatsoever what it is, I am very interested in the discussion. So far I don't feel like I am any further forward. I have only skimmed your outline, I will come back to it and try to digest it.

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Oct 15 2011 11:34
LBird wrote:
This is inconsistent with Marx.

Pray tell, when did Marx consult the ballot boxes on the validity of his theory?

If your "democratic control" of science means that scientific theories should be judged by majoritarian views (of whoever) or by political concerns, and not by standards developed within science itself (like consistency, testability etc.)... god help us should views like this should ever again become prevalent (as they were in the USSR in the 1930s, which led to almost complete liquidation of Russian science).

LBird wrote:
'Democrats' versus 'Elitists', apparently.

As a communist I am obviously not a democrat, but that's a separate issue for a separate thread.

LBird wrote:
What do you think of my 'outline' of a dialectical method?

I think it's completely misguided. You confuse methodology with ontology and epistemology, as well as theory with practice. This will only get you to another grand philosophical scheme similar to Engels or Lenin, totally useless for any sort of scientific work.

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Picket
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Oct 15 2011 11:38

my stupid post now deleted.

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jura
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Oct 15 2011 11:41

Pikel: Given that LBird accused me of dividing all of society into two groups, those who deal with science and those who don't, I think his democratic concerns reach beyond the context of a research group.

(Now that you've deleted it, Pikel, I hope my post still makes some sense.)

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Oct 15 2011 12:00
jura wrote:
Pikel: Given that LBird accused me of dividing all of society into two groups, those who deal with science and those who don't, I think his democratic concerns reach beyond the context of a research group.

(Now that you've deleted it, Pikel, I hope my post still makes some sense.)

Realising this is why I deleted my post wink

LBird
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Oct 15 2011 14:21
Pikel wrote:
I don't know, I'm going to come back to it. As someone who thought he had a vague idea what dialectics is... and now realises he has no idea whatsoever what it is, I am very interested in the discussion. So far I don't feel like I am any further forward. I have only skimmed your outline, I will come back to it and try to digest it.

I agree with you, Pikel, it's interesting and initially I only had a 'vague idea of dialectics', but with reading and reflecting upon what others have written, I think that now I have got a better idea. That doesn't mean that I'm correct, but since the views that oppose mine have been very poorly expressed, and my questions avoided, I have gained more confidence in what I'm still grasping at.

jura wrote:
If your "democratic control" of science means that scientific theories should be judged by majoritarian views (of whoever) or by political concerns, and not by standards developed within science itself (like consistency, testability etc.)...

But, jura, there is no 'science itself', but only 'scientists'. They are a socially-produced group of people, whose views are shaped by the society they live in. Furthermore, they are a group that has been selected according to current socio-economic standards. For all we know, the contemporary Einstein is living in a poor village in Afghanistan or sub-Saharan Africa, and is completely uneducated and thus unable to join the 'scientist social group', which is recruited almost entirely from the university-educated (a small minority of the human race), and within which social group those from rich backgrounds are over-represented.

Surely Communism is going to educate everbody to the standard of which they are able to reach? Surely under Communism most people will have the education, time and desire to participate in discussions surrounding questions of science?

jura wrote:
As a communist I am obviously not a democrat, but that's a separate issue for a separate thread.

I beg to differ, jura. I am a Communist, and not only do I think democratic methods can't be separated from Communism, but also that any 'dialectical method' worthy of that name must be based upon the activity of the democratic proletariat.

I must say, I'm surprised that, up till now, the criticism of my offering has been mostly directed at my inclusion of the term 'democracy' together with 'dialectic' and 'science'.

jura wrote:
think it's completely misguided. You confuse methodology with ontology and epistemology, as well as theory with practice.

This is more promising. Could you elaborate? Because I think all these things, and proletarian democracy, are all interconnected, what with 'dialectics' and all that...

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jura
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Oct 15 2011 14:51
LBird wrote:
This is more promising. Could you elaborate? Because I think all these things, and proletarian democracy, are all interconnected, what with 'dialectics' and all that...

Yeah, well, it seems that absolutely everything is "interconnected" in your view. What results is one huge conceptual mess in which the dialectic cannot be distinguished from materialism which cannot be distinguished from the proletariat which cannot be distinguished from democracy etc. etc. Why even use different concepts, then?

You've drawn up an extremely general scheme of an approach to producing knowledge and applying it. Most of it is really common-sense (and actually agreeable in very general terms) and in no way specific to Marx. You will find similar ideas in critical realism, in Mario Bunge, in various holistic approaches to sociology, and even in orthodox dialectical materialism of the former Eastern bloc. As I said, a lot of that is agreeable and reconcilable with Marx's general approach to science. If that was your goal, that's fine. I still don't see how it can be helpful in any real inquiry, because it's too general (almost tautological), and all of it is just reinventing the wheel, but hey, it's a start.

However, I don't think you've made even the smallest step to understanding what Marx means when speaking of the dialectic. The concept of "contradiction" (which shouldn't be confused with logical contradiction), which is absolutely fundamental to Marx's method of presentation, does not even appear in your scheme. In fact, the contradictory determinations of a commodity, use-value and value, are used as a sort of engine that drives the whole presentation in Capital. (I elaborate on this in my first post.) That is not to say that adding "30. Contradictions are important" will solve the problem.

The fact that Marx's critique of political economy is an immanent critique, which criticizes it's subject on its own terms, so to speak, does not enter your scheme either. These are methodological problems directly related to Marx's appropriation of Hegel's method.1 As I said, you confuse questions of method with general philosophical questions and therefore your scheme has a lot to do with ontology and epistemology, but very little with method.

  • 1. The Science of Logic can be read as a presentation and a critique of metaphysics, just as Marx meant to write "a Critique of Economic Categories or, if you like, a critical exposé of the system of the bourgeois economy. It is at once an exposé and, by the same token, a critique of the system."
LBird
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Oct 15 2011 15:24

Thanks for your comments, jura.

jura wrote:
You've drawn up an extremely general scheme of an approach to producing knowledge and applying it. Most of it is really common-sense (and actually agreeable in very general terms) and in no way specific to Marx... As I said, a lot of that is agreeable and reconcilable with Marx's general approach to science. If that was your goal, that's fine.

Yes, 'common-sense' and 'agreeable', that was my goal. So that it can be understood by workers, in fact.

On your other point, I've made it very clear that I think that a 'dialectical method' can be separated from Marx's usage. If you don't agree, OK, but to me it's no use criticising me for not mentioning Marx, when I've made it plain that I don't think Marx has, necessarily, to be mentioned. We might use him for illustration, we might not.

jura wrote:
However, I don't think you've made even the smallest step to understanding what Marx means when speaking of the dialectic.

As I say, 'what Marx means' doesn't essentially concern me. I think a 'dialectical method' can be outlined without mentioning Marx's use of it, in Capital, for example.

jura wrote:
The concept of "contradiction" (which shouldn't be confused with logical contradiction), which is absolutely fundamental to Marx's method of presentation, does not even appear in your scheme.

There's good reason for this omission, jura. I think that the 'concept of "contradiction"' outside of logic is meaningless. Marx's method of presentation is a human presentation.

jura wrote:
In fact, the contradictory determinations of a commodity, use-value and value, are used as a sort of engine that drives the whole presentation in Capital. (I elaborate on this in my first post.)

But commodity, use-value and value are human social categories, ways of understanding society. These categories didn't exist before humans thought of them. They only make sense from the perspective of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie still don't recognise them.

jura wrote:
That is not to say that adding "30. Contradictions are important" will solve the problem.

No, I agree. Our differences are far more fundamental than that.

jura wrote:
As I said, you confuse questions of method with general philosophical questions and therefore your scheme has a lot to do with ontology and epistemology, but very little with method.

As I've said before, I'm keen to hear your explanations of this. That doesn't mean we'll end up agreeing, but it will clarify the differences at least.

Thanks again for your participation. Even if we disagree, we should be able to discuss it without rancour.

S. Artesian
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Oct 15 2011 15:26

The dialectic that exists, exists for Marx in the practical activity of human beings-- in the labor process. The labor process is a social process.

The key "concepts" of conflict, antagonism, contradiction are grounded or organized not in some eternal laws of existence, being, or nature, but in the appropriation and reproduction of "existence" "being" "nature" by the social labor process.

The products of labor embody the appropriation of the labor process itself through their own accumulation as property forms, as expressions of ownership. Thus there exists conflict between labor and the conditions under which labor is performed. And that's the on-ramp to the thruway of historical materialism.

Now I think I've used all regular words in the above, and I wish LBird and everyone else good luck in their struggle to explain a dialectical method that is not itself historical.

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jura
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Oct 15 2011 15:38
LBird wrote:
There's good reason for this omission, jura. I think that the 'concept of "contradiction"' outside of logic is meaningless. Marx's method of presentation is a human presentation.

But then your scheme of the (supposed) dialectic can have little in common with Marx's approach, which heavily leans on the concept of contradiction (albeit different than a logical contradiction in the sense of "A & ~A"). I can see you're not interested in Marx per se, but you should make it clear then that your understanding of the dialectic has nothing to do with the method of Marx's critique of political economy, because it completely omits some of its fundamental underpinnings.

LBird wrote:
But commodity, use-value and value are human social categories, ways of understanding society. These categories didn't exist before humans thought of them. They only make sense from the perspective of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie still don't recognise them.

What does this have to do with anything?

LBird
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Oct 15 2011 15:43
S. Artesian wrote:
Now I think I've used all regular words in the above, and I wish LBird and everyone else good luck in their struggle to explain a dialectical method that is not itself historical.

As far as I can tell, S. Artesian, you seem to agree with me that the 'dialectical method' is a human, social, historical attempt to 'understand', through their own activity.

The only word that I've used that you don't specifically endorse, as far as I can see, is my constant use of 'democratic'.

But since you stress the 'social labour process', can I assume that you tacitly support my emphasis on that 'process' being a 'democratic process'? Or do you see 'social labour', 'science', etc. as being outside of the control, in the future Communist society, of the then successful revolutionary proletariat?

Thanks for your help.

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jura
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Oct 15 2011 15:46
S. Artesian wrote:
I wish LBird and everyone else good luck in their struggle to explain a dialectical method that is not itself historical.

I suppose you'd agree that the analysis of the form of value in section 3 of Ch1 is a prime example of Marx's dialectical method. If as you say, the dialectic is "itself historical", would you interpret the transitions from the elementary form through the expanded form to the general and money form of value as denoting real historical processes (i.e. the development of money from barter)? If so, how is that any different from Engels' views of the dialectic? (Do you then also accept the Engelsian view that what Marx deals with in the first three chapters is "simple commodity production" as opposed to capitalist production from Ch4/5 on?)

S. Artesian
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Oct 15 2011 19:09
LBird wrote:
As far as I can tell, S. Artesian, you seem to agree with me that the 'dialectical method' is a human, social, historical attempt to 'understand', through their own activity.

The only word that I've used that you don't specifically endorse, as far as I can see, is my constant use of 'democratic'.

But since you stress the 'social labour process', can I assume that you tacitly support my emphasis on that 'process' being a 'democratic process'? Or do you see 'social labour', 'science', etc. as being outside of the control, in the future Communist society, of the then successful revolutionary proletariat?

Thanks for your help.

I don't know that I think there is a separate "dialectical method" as there is a dialectic concretely embedded in the social organization of labor. Now we can say dialectic is the attempt to apprehend history, and that's OK with me, as long as the emphasis is on the real content of the history, and not the "dialectic" itself.

In a way, I my take on dialectic is 1) that it is essential to history 2) that, kind of like what Wittgenstein said-- once you climb the ladder then you can throw it away. And I don't mean throw it away, but don't mention it; don't say "this is dialectic" "this isn't dialectic" because such categorizations have been used to obscure more than they've been used to clarify.

Does that sound ambiguous? What could be more appropriate?

Regarding "democracy"-- the organization of social labor in the future communist society is much more than democratic; it's a condition where individual labor is its own fulfillment; where social labor and indvidual affinity or "talent" are reciprocating"communicating vessels."

Jura wrote:
I suppose you'd agree that the analysis of the form of value in section 3 of Ch1 is a prime example of Marx's dialectical method. If as you say, the dialectic is "itself historical", would you interpret the transitions from the elementary form through the expanded form to the general and money form of value as denoting real historical processes (i.e. the development of money from barter)? If so, how is that any different from Engels' views of the dialectic? (Do you then also accept the Engelsian view that what Marx deals with in the first three chapters is "simple commodity production" as opposed to capitalist production from Ch4/5 on?)

We had a discussion similar to this in a thread regarding Engels' positing of "simple commodity production" which, IMO, posits that "value" and therefore abstract labor exist throughout history. I don't think that's the case.

Right now, I have to babysit my granddaughters, so I'll get back to you later on my views. Suffice it to say, I don't think there ever was such a thing as "simple commodity production" and I do not think "value"-- abstract labor-- predates, as the determining characteristic of society, the organization of wage-labor, of the proletariat.

And thanks to both of you.

LBird
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Oct 15 2011 19:41
S. Artesian wrote:
Now we can say dialectic is the attempt to apprehend history, and that's OK with me...

Well, I think this fits with my 'outline of a dialectical method', above, of 'the attempt by the democratic proletariat to apprehend its own history'.

S. Artesian wrote:
...as long as the emphasis is on the real content of the history, and not the "dialectic" itself.

Yes, my 'emphasis is on the real content of the history of the democratic proletariat, and not the "dialectical method" itself outside of its use by the democratic proletariat to enlighten itself.

S. Artesian wrote:
I don't know that I think there is a separate "dialectical method" as there is a dialectic concretely embedded in the social organization of labor.

It seems to me that this 'dialectic' must be some sort of 'democratic' process, if it involves 'the social organisation of labour', rather than just 'individual labour'.

S. Artesian wrote:
Right now, I have to babysit my granddaughters, so I'll get back to you later on my views.

Sounds like much more fun than 'dialectics'!

Thanks again.