Brief Comments on the Relationship between Marxism and the Hegelian Dialectic

By C. S.

This article originally appeared in May of 2008 in Marxist-Humanism Today, the online publication of the now-defunct Marxist-Humanist Committee.

“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.Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!”

— V. I. Lenin, Conspectus of Hegel’s Science of Logic [1]

Marx says in his Postface to the second edition of Volume 1 of Capital [2] that his method is none other than the dialectic. It is not, however, a direct application of the Hegelian dialectic. On the contrary, Marx tells us that the dialectic in Hegel-based on the journey and self-development of the Idea, of which the world is a result or “external appearance”-is exactly the opposite of his own. With Marx we have a materialist dialectic wherein the Idea is a “reflection” of the real world rather than its creator [3]. And yet Marx also goes on to call himself a “pupil of that mighty thinker [Hegel],” and says that the “mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner,” calling the “rational kernel” inherent in Hegel’s dialectic “critical and revolutionary” [4].

Much has been made of these remarks on Marx’s relationship to Hegel, as well as of that relationship simpliciter. Where some (in the Structuralist and Analytical camps) have seen a complete rejection of Hegel, others (in the broadly “Western” and Humanist camps) have seen an important continuity between the two thinkers. This question has fascinated me since I first encountered Marx six years ago. I surmise that its importance was all the more apparent to me given that my introduction to Marx was not the Communist Manifesto (as is usually the case with most contemporary readers), but rather Erich Fromm’s Marx’s Concept of Man.

I wish below to briefly examine two aspects of Capital and Marxism in general that are greatly illuminated by the reading of Hegel, particularly the Phenomenology of Spirit and the Science of Logic: (1) the dialectical structure of Marx’s critique, and (2) the difference between abstract and concrete negativity.

Reading Capital in Light of Hegel’s Dialectic

Marx begins his analysis of the “wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails” with what appears to be (but is in fact not) the most concrete form distinguishable therein-the commodity [5]. I have come to realize that this starting point bears more than a coincidental resemblance to Hegel’s own in the Phenomenology of Spirit [6]. There, Hegel begins his examination of the phenomenal development of consciousness from its apparently most concrete form: Sense-Certainty. Right away, however, Hegel shows us how this “bare fact of certainty… is really and admittedly the abstractest and poorest kind of truth” [7]. Likewise, to begin an analysis of the capitalist mode of production with the commodity as an “elementary form” is to begin from the most seemingly concrete-but, in fact, most abstract- point of departure. Hegel and Marx are both quick to show how these beginnings, chosen by some because they bear the superficial mark of immediacy, harbor within them irreconcilable contradictions. It is the development of these contradictions, through negativity, that will take them all the way to the highest and most concrete forms in their respective scientific analyses. Thus, in Marx’s own analysis in Capital, we see how the fundamental contradiction within the commodity form-the duality between its exchange-value and its use-value-is unfolded into subsequent forms (exchange-value, money, surplus value, capital…) by a constant process of diremption and coming back into self at higher and more concrete stages of development.

Another aspect of the structure of Capital that is illuminated by the reading of Hegel is the question of the relationship of actual historical development to Marx’s critique. If it must be stated simply: Marx is not doing history in Capital-at least he is not crudely reporting history. On the contrary, the forms that he is considering are not necessarily abandoned once higher forms supercede them, as though they were left behind in the chronological past. Nor, for that matter, are the forms we find in Marx’s analysis considered in the order in which they appear historically (although some rough correspondence exists, just as with Hegel’s Phenomenology). Rather, all of the forms are ‘moments’ of a totality that is the process of development of the capitalist social formation.

Instead of a historical reporting, what we have in Marx’s analysis is a logical unfolding of the social categories under his purview. This explains both why Marx does not consider the political economists in the order in which they contribute to the overall development of that branch of knowledge, and also why he relegates the discussion of the historical genesis of capital to the very end of Volume 1.

That Marx is unfolding the different forms logically and not historically can be further ascertained if we consider specific moments in his analysis. Consider how, even though he has deduced the money-form from the commodity-form in Chapter 1, in Chapter 2 he tells us that: “We have already reached the result [the money-form] by our analysis of the commodity. But only the action of society can turn a particular commodity into the universal equivalent” [8]. Or consider how the entirety of Capital is replete with instances where, as Hegel puts it, the “object” comes into correspondence with its “notion” and vice versa. For instance, in Chapter 3 Marx says:

In world trade commodities develop their value universally. Their independent value-form thus confronts them here too as world money. It is in the world market that money first functions to its full extent as the commodity whose natural form is also the directly social form of realization of human labor in the abstract. Its mode of existence becomes adequate to its concept. [9]

Money, the “universal” commodity inasmuch as all other commodities express their exchange-value in it, acquires a mode of existence that is truly universal once we have the development of the world market, for the value (based upon socially necessary labor time) of each commodity is now determined, not at the national, but at the global level.

A deeper understanding of the Hegelian method, then, allows one to more fully grasp the argument inCapital; most importantly, the dialectic allows us to comprehend the correspondence of capital (the category) to capital (the social formation).

Concrete Negation and Socialism

Just as the entire unfolding of Capital is more perspicuously grasped in light of its affinity with the dialectical unfolding of the phenomenal forms of consciousness in the Phenomenology, so are the different attitudes within Marxist (and other radical) theory to the post-capitalist society better understood in terms of Hegel’s categories of abstract and concrete negation.

The analysis in Capital confronts us with the urgency of revolution. It is clear that Marx’s thought never ceased to be moved by his own dictum: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it” [10]. The certainty that history is not over (pace Fukuyama), and that finite substances have within them irreconcilable contradictions that lead to their ultimate subsumption in higher forms, is perhaps the most valuable aspect of the dialectic that we inherit from Hegel. After so many failed revolutions in the 20th century, especially the turning of the Russian Revolution of 1917 into a brutal State-Capitalist society, the question still confronts us today: What kind of society comes after capitalism? [11] It is exactly here that the difference between an abstract and a concrete negation-elucidated by Hegel in his section on Lordship and Bondage-becomes so crucial.

Many Marxists today insist that the answer to this crucial question is simply: we do not (or cannot) know [12]. The section on Lordship and Bondage shows the danger political movements run into when their opposition to capitalism is indeterminate or abstract. There, we see how the life and death struggle between two self-consciousnesses in pursuit of recognition results not in their self-certainty, but in the rupture of the dialectical process:

They cancel their consciousness which had its place in this alien element of natural existence…But along with this there vanishes from the play of change the essential moment; viz. that of breaking up into extremes with opposite characteristics; and the middle term vanishes from the play into a lifeless unity… [13]

This act of self-consciousness Hegel calls “abstract negation,” which he distinguishes from the kind of (concrete) negation “characteristic of consciousness, which cancels in such a way that it preserves and maintains what is sublated, and thereby survives its being sublated.”

The lesson to be drawn from this distinction is that the abstract opposition of terms does not lead to a higher form of appearance but instead to a reversal in the unfolding of the dialectic of phenomenal forms of consciousness. In like manner, abstract opposition to capitalism-that is, practical opposition that is not grounded in a determinate vision of the new society-fails, despite all its good intentions, and ultimately turns into its opposite (i.e. the capital form). Furthermore, the attitude of abstract negativity creates a vacuum in which the term “socialism” gets thrown around and applied to just about anything.

Here, then, is an area in which a return to Hegel contributes greatly, not only in understanding a problem in Marxism, but also in beginning to posit its solution. The task now becomes figuring out just what a determinate negation of capitalism “looks like,” and once we begin to explore this question it becomes clear to us that Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program and some of the passages inCapital in which he discusses “an association of free people” (Cf. pp. 171-173) have much promise as a starting point.

Recreating the Dialectic

If I have spoken of how the Hegelian dialectic shines light on the reading of Marx and on debates within contemporary Marxism it is not to imply that I take the dialectic to be a done deal. As a method, it has nothing in common with a series of results that must be memorized and merely regurgitated in the right circumstances. Each area of philosophy has, for Hegel, its appropriate starting-point and laws of development, which are immanent to the subject matter being considered. This is why Hegel begins the Science of Logic with a lengthy discussion of the appropriate starting point, [14] and, likewise, why he addresses the question of a starting point in the Philosophy of Right. Hegel says in that late work that

The science of right is a section of philosophy. Consequently, its task is to develop the Idea-the Idea being the rational factor in any object of study-out of the concept, or, what is the same thing, to look on at the proper immanent development of the thing itself. [15]

The fact that we must concretize the dialectic for our own empirical circumstances and for the subject matter under consideration is the reason why Marx’s comments in the Postface to Volume 1 ofCapital seem so ambiguous. But they are nothing less than what we would expect from someone who has truly grasped Hegel’s method, appropriating it for his own circumstances. So too, for us, the dialectic must be a living process whose further determinations must be worked out through the “seriousness, the suffering, the patience, and the labour of the negative” [16].

NOTES

[1] See p. 180 in Lenin, V I. Collected Works. Vol. 38. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972.

[2] Marx, Karl H. Capital. NYC, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1976. Hereafter, ‘Marx.’

[3] Marx, p. 102.

[4] Marx, p. 103.

[5] Marx, p. 125.

[6] All my references to Hegel are to the Phenomenology of Spirit, excerpted in Hegel: The Essential Writings, edited by Frederick G. Weiss. NYC, N.Y.: Harper & Roe, Publishers, 1974. Hereafter, ‘Hegel.’

[7] Hegel, p. 54.

[8] Marx, p. 180.

[9] Marx, p. 241.

[10] This is Thesis XI on Feuerbach. See p. 173 in the 2nd edition of Karl Marx: Selected Writings, edited by David McLellan. Oxford, U.K: Oxford University Press, 2000.

[11] For a shrewd analysis of this situation, see Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom: From 1776 Until Today.

[12] See, for instance, John Holloway’s Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today and Moishe Postone’s Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory.

[13] Hegel, p. 74.

[14] Hegel, p. 102-13.

[15] Hegel, p. 265. Emphasis added.

[16] Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit (Miller trans.), Paragraph 19.


61 Comments on “Brief Comments on the Relationship between Marxism and the Hegelian Dialectic”

  1. 1Barry Marshall said at 6:46 pm on May 6th, 2009:That’s a good overview of the old Hegel-Marx dialectic conundrum. I have a couple of points.A few years ago I would have torn my hair out trying to “apply” or “utilise” Hegel’s dialectical system in relation to Marxism – with disastrous results, naturally. Plenty of Marxist scholars have written many thousands of pages on this problem (funnily enough, you never encounter scholars engaged in the opposite endeavour) which only seem to end up treating dialectics as some kind of mystification, when actually Marx is pretty blunt on this issue.You are right to point to the Postface to the Second edition of Capital, but you miss out Marx’s most crucial point. “In its mystified form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension and affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up …”Hegel and Marx are pulling in two different directions. For Hegel, all development of our fragmentary society will tend towards reconciliation. The old caricature of the conservative Hegel is wrong – Hegel was a liberal by the standards of his own time – but he did argue, like Adam Smith, that everything could and would work out ultimately for the best.You cannot separate Hegel’s Logic from his Philosophy of Right: they form an integrated whole, which ends at its beginning, only to be “inwardly richer”. (“Hence the last phase falls again into a unity with the first …” [PoR para 32].) Each part of the picture is a piece of the totality and none makes sense on its own.In the three volumes of Capital, however, Marx shows how capitalist society is fundamentally unstable, how all its categories are internally different – not synthetic – even at the most basic abstraction, the commodity (eg, between its use-value and exchange-value).Marx takes the forms of appearance of things and illuminates the craziness behind them. It is true that Marx “coquetted with modes of expression” peculiar to Hegel. In the chapter on Money in Capital Vol 1 this yields elegant results, but I wouldn’t take it too far.
  2. 2Andrew Kliman said at 11:04 pm on May 6th, 2009:A few thoughts on the issue of the starting point of _Capital_ and its relation to abstract/concrete:(1) It might be helpful to engage with the arguments of Raya Dunayevskaya and Martin Nicolaus, both of whom come down on the other side. I.e., they say that the commodity is concrete and that Marx starts from the concrete. At least that’s how I read them. See Dunayevskaya’s _Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation, and Marx’s Phisosophy of Revolution_, Ch. 10, esp. p. 133 (epigraph), pp. 134-35, p. 141; and Nicolaus’ preface to the _Grundrisse_, Penguin/Vintage ed., pp. 35-38.(2) In his “Notes on Adolph Wagner” (in German and English athttp://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1881/01/wagner.htm), Marx refers to the commodity as concrete: “the simplest concrete element of economics” (das einfachste ökonomische Konkretum). Earlier in the same text, he calls the commodity “the concrete social form of the product of labor” (die konkrete gesellschaftliche Gestalt des Arbeitsprodukts) the concrete social form of the product of labor. … But what I think is more relevant to the issue of starting-point than the word “concrete” is a comment that comes right before this: “I do not proceed from ‘concepts,’ hence neither from the ‘concept of value,’ and am therefore in no way concerned to ‘divide’ it. What I proceed from is the simplest social form in which the product of labour presents itself in contemporary society, and this is the ‘commodity.'”(3) I think the words “abstract” and “concrete” may be causing more problems than they resolve here. The starting point is not a concept or set of concepts. It is something that appears simple and non-problematic. But it is internally divided. Its “factors” exclude one another but exist together as a unity. There is much more to it than appears at first sight. The dualities it contains are “unfolded into subsequent forms (exchange-value, money, surplus value, capital…),” as Carlos put it. … If we can agree about this, then we might not need to fit the starting-point into a procrustean bed.(4) A corollary: the “method of rising from the abstract to the concrete” may be a procrustean bed that we can do without. Instead we can examine Marx’s specific argumentative strategies-thus rising from the abstract to the concrete! :-)(5) One point I don’t want to lose sight of is that beginning with the commodity, and “unfolding its dualities into subsequent forms” serves a crucial POLITICAL purpose. Marx *must* start with the commodity in order to argue successfully against Proudhon et al. that the contradictions which they see in money and markets (exchange) are just phenomenal forms of a deeper contradiction that’s inherent in the commodity form and commodity production themselves. The political implication (as Marx says) is that trying to retain commodities and commodity production, but without money and free exchange, is non-viable: money and free exchange (vs. exchange of equal amounts of concrete labor) inexorably arise on the basis of the commodity and commodity production. In order to get rid of money and free exchange, an end to the production of commodities is needed.
  3. 3Rosa Lichtenstein said at 3:22 pm on May 16th, 2009:Unfortunately, the author of this article has ignored the many glaring errors in Hegel’s ‘logic’ – errors which have been uncritically copied across into ‘Materialist Dialectics’ (despite the ‘materialist flip’ Hegel’s dialectic is alleged to have had inflicted upon it).I have outlined Hegel’s more serious errors here:http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/Outline_of_errors_Hegel_committed_01.htm
  4. 4Andrew Kliman said at 1:58 pm on May 22nd, 2009:A response to Rosa Lichtenstein:With regard to the alleged non-contradiction in “John is a man” or “the rose is red,” your case seems to me to hinge on the following (on the page you cite):”Hegel … plainly thought he could ignore the logical/grammatical distinctions that exist between the various terms he used, or, at least, between the roles they occupied in language – i.e., between naming, saying, describing and predicating (i.e., saying something about something or someone).”However, as you wrote shortly before that, Hegel was trying to show “that motion was built into OUR CONCEPTS, as thought passes from one pole to another” (my caps).These aren’t the same thing.Concepts have to do with consciousness; analysis of the functions that terms play in a language does not.So, for instance, it’s certainly possible to make an analytical distinction between the “is” of identity and the “is” of predication, but I happen to have encountered lots of people who try to define things by giving examples of them (I’m a teacher). Their statements of what things “are” contain the contradiction that you say isn’t present, no?And it isn’t clear to me that a meaningful definition-as opposed to a lists of attributes (predicates)-can always be given. Define “God,” for example.
  5. 5Rosa Lichtenstein said at 2:48 pm on May 24th, 2009:Andrew, first of all, the page you read is a basic introduction to my ideas intended for novices. I develop my argument in far more detail at the links listed at the end:”However, as you wrote shortly before that, Hegel was trying to show “that motion was built into OUR CONCEPTS, as thought passes from one pole to another” (my caps).Concepts have to do with consciousness; analysis of the functions that terms play in a language does not.So, for instance, it’s certainly possible to make an analytical distinction between the “is” of identity and the “is” of predication, but I happen to have encountered lots of people who try to define things by giving examples of them (I’m a teacher). Their statements of what things “are” contain the contradiction that you say isn’t present, no?”I don’t see this alleged ‘contradiction’, and neither you nor Hegel have shown that there is one here.”And it isn’t clear to me that a meaningful definition-as opposed to a lists of attributes (predicates)-can always be given. Define “God,” for example.”And, I am not sure why you have introduced the word “definition” here, since I did not use this word.Finally:

    “Concepts have to do with consciousness; analysis of the functions that terms play in a language does not.”

    I am far from convinced that you (or Hegel) can make this distinction – even Hegel had to use language (and illegitimately so, as I have shown) to try to make his point. He might have *thought* he was dealing with ‘concepts’, but what we actually find him doing is juggling with jargonised linguistic expressions. In every case, the ‘concepts’ he is alleged to have considered are always represented in language. Hence, my criticism of his use of language is legitimate.

    More details here:
    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2003_01.htm
    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/rosa.l/page%2008_03.htm

  6. 6Andrew Kliman said at 4:38 pm on May 24th, 2009:Dear Rosa,You write, “I don’t see this alleged ‘contradiction’, and neither you nor Hegel have shown that there is one here.”I have; it’s just that, as you say, you don’t see it. A lot hinges on *definition*, a concept that, as you say, you’re not sure why I introduced.So let me explain my point further. To define, as I’m using the term, is to state an “‘is’ of identity.” But when “X is …” is followed by predicates of X, the “is” is an “‘is’ of predication.”So the contradiction consists of an ATTEMPT (and thus it is a matter of consciousness, not just linguistic function) to identify something that does not identify it. Instead of being identified, the something is being assigned predicates, none of which serve to identify it. If I’m not mistaken, Hegel believes that this is endemic to the propositional form itself, and thus that the propositional form is incapable of expressing “truth” (understood in a special technical sense here; Hegel is aware that the rose is in fact red.).So my point is this: BY ITSELF, “X is Y” (where Y is not identical to X) is not contradictory. But is is a contradiction if and when the INTENDED “is” is the “is” of identity. It’s much like, if not an actual instance of, a contradiction in terms (like “round square”) or category error (yellow logarithm).I also wrote, “Concepts have to do with consciousness; analysis of the functions that terms play in a language does not.”You replied, “I am far from convinced that you (or Hegel) can make this distinction – even Hegel had to use language (and illegitimately so, as I have shown) to try to make his point.”

    I think this is a straightforward error. I am saying that concepts and language aren’t identical-I wrote, “These aren’t the same thing”-and specifically that concepts are irreducible to language (and thus analysis of concepts is irreducible to linguistic analysis of terms). You have responded that the claim of non-identity must be rejected (or is unconvicing) because language is needed to “represent[ ]” (express) concepts.

    Language (or some other medium of communication) is also needed to express joy, outrage, grief, puzzlement, etc., etc. But that doesn’t imply that joy, outrage, grief, puzzlement, etc., etc. are identical to or reducible to language.

  7. 7Rosa Lichtenstein said at 5:25 pm on May 24th, 2009:Andrew:”I have; it’s just that, as you say, you don’t see it. A lot hinges on *definition*, a concept that, as you say, you’re not sure why I introduced.”If you want to re-define the word “contradiction” so that certain linguistic expressions now count as ‘contradictions’, then surely anyone can do this. So, a supporter of the present system could ‘define’ capitalism as ‘fair and non-exploitative’ – but, I do not think we’d fall for that one. Same here.”So the contradiction consists of an ATTEMPT (and thus it is a matter of consciousness, not just linguistic function) to identify something that does not identify it. Instead of being identified, the something is being assigned predicates, none of which serve to identify it. If I’m not mistaken, Hegel believes that this is endemic to the propositional form itself, and thus that the propositional form is incapable of expressing “truth” (understood in a special technical sense here; Hegel is aware that the rose is in fact red.).I am not sure what an ‘attempt’ is here that is not just another move in language. Nor am I sure what you call ‘identifying’ something amounts to. If Hegel, and perhaps you, think that predication is intended to ‘identify’ something, then both of you will have fallen into the trap I mentioned in my short essay:”Hegel plainly thought he could ignore the logical/grammatical distinctions that exist between the various terms he used, or, at least, between the roles they occupied in language – i.e., between naming, saying, describing and predicating (i.e., saying something about something or someone). This ‘enabled’ him to pull-off several neat verbal tricks -, and from the ensuing confusion ‘the dialectic’ emerged.” [I should, of course, have included “identifying” here, but it is implicit in the comment about naming.]But, we already have devices in language that allow us to identify things: we can point at a rose and say “That’s a rose”, or at an individual called “John” and say. “John is over there. He standing next to your father.” We do not need to examine ‘concepts’ to be able to do this.So, the propositional form (in fact Hegel got into an awful muddle over judgements and propositions) is not he least bit misleading or problematic, provided we are prepared to take Marx’s advice:

    “The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life.” [Marx and Engels (1970), The German Ideology, p.118.]

    It is precisely because Hegel indulged in such a “distortion” of ordinary language that he thought he could derive a ‘contradiction’ (which wasn’t one anyway).

    Andrew:
    “So my point is this: BY ITSELF, “X is Y” (where Y is not identical to X) is not contradictory. But is (it?) is a contradiction if and when the INTENDED “is” is the “is” of identity. It’s much like, if not an actual instance of, a contradiction in terms (like “round square”) or category error (yellow logarithm).”
    But, you have yet to show these are ‘contradictions’, and, of course, the phrase ‘contradiction in terms’ is a misnomer. [If you want me to explain why, I will.]

    And category errors aren’t contradictions either; they are just ill-formed, just as “the but is of” is ill-formed.

    Andrew

    “I think this is a straightforward error. I am saying that concepts and language aren’t identical-I wrote, “These aren’t the same thing”-and specifically that concepts are irreducible to language (and thus analysis of concepts is irreducible to linguistic analysis of terms). You have responded that the claim of non-identity must be rejected (or is unconvincing) because language is needed to “represent[ ]” (express) concepts.

    Language (or some other medium of communication) is also needed to express joy, outrage, grief, puzzlement, etc., etc. But that doesn’t imply that joy, outrage, grief, puzzlement, etc., etc. are identical to or reducible to language.”

    And yet, if you or Hegel misused words for the things you mention, you (plural) would rightly be taken to task. So, my criticism of Hegel’s (distorted) use of language was apposite, after all.

  8. 8Andrew Kliman said at 9:01 pm on May 24th, 2009:Dear Rosa,Regarding your 1st point: You have not understood me.I didn’t say I was going to define “contradiction” to mean by it what I want (“so that certain linguistic expressions now count as ‘contradictions'”). I said that I have shown that there’s a contradiction, but, because you didn’t understand the sense in which I was using the word “define,” you don’t or didn’t see the contradiction.Next point. Where I wrote, “So the contradiction consists of an ATTEMPT (and thus it is a matter of consciousness, not just linguistic function) to identify something that does not identify it.”You reply, “I am not sure what an ‘attempt’ is here that is not just another move in language. Nor am I sure what you call ‘identifying’ something amounts to.”I suspect that this is the heart of the matter.Have you ever meant to say something, but something else came out? Lots of people have had this experience; I have. If so, you were attempting to say something, but the “move in language” was not consonant with that. (My point here is not that this is a contradiction. My point is that an attempt to do something, by means of language, isn’t reducible to the “move in language.”)Have you ever meant to say something, but couldn’t find the words for it? So that your use of language is actually something like, “I can’t find the words for what I’m trying to say”? Lots of people have had this experience; I have. This is an instance of an attempt to use language to achieve an aim that is not reducible to the use of language, since the language used (“I can’t find the words for what I’m trying to say”) does not achieve the aim of expressing the first thing one means to say.

    Now, your point may be that there are NO intentions behind statements which are irreducible to the language used, or that you are skeptical that there are any such intentions. My hunch is that, if there are no such intentions, then Hegel is wrong about contradiction-and a lot else. But before one can rightly conclude that’s he’s wrong, one must FIRST show that there are no intentions behind statements which are irreducible to the language used. The burden of proof is on s/he who would reduce the use of language to the “moves in language.”

    Then you write, “If Hegel, and perhaps you, think that predication is intended to ‘identify’ something, then both of you will have fallen into the trap I mentioned in my short essay.”

    No, I think that PEOPLE predicate when THEY intend to identify. ( I *think* this was Hegel’s view as well, but I’m just speaking for myself here.) The trap you mentioned is not about that.

    And so we’re back to THE KEY, BASIC issue I raised at first. Hegel is talking about one thing (concepts, which people intend to express by means of language); you’re talking about something else (language itself). You “prove” him wrong by changing the subject.

    Now I grant that you’re not talking about something else IF there are no irreducible concepts, just language use. But the burden is on you to FIRST prove that.

    You also write: “we already have devices in language that allow us to identify things: we can point at a rose and say ‘That’s a rose’, or at an individual called ‘John’ and say. ‘John is over there. He standing next to your father.’ We do not need to examine ‘concepts’ to be able to do this.”

    You’re right; you’re not sure what I call “identifying” something amounts to. It wasn’t what you exhibit in the examples above (the verbal equivalent of pointing or singling-out). What I meant by “identify” is the verb form of identity: “to identify” in this sense is to say what something identically is, what it is using the “‘is’ of identity.” So my point is that people sometimes intend to do this when they start off “X is,” but then they offer predicates instead.

    Yes, please do explain why round square is not a contradiction, and why “contradiction in terms” is a misnomer rather than a distinct kind of contradiction from the kind that you are willing to call contradiction.

    I don’t understand your final response, “And yet, if you or Hegel misused words for the things you mention, you (plural) would rightly be taken to task. So, my criticism of Hegel’s (distorted) use of language was apposite, after all.” I’m saying that concepts and language aren’t identical. You have responded that the claim of non-identity must be rejected (or is unconvicing) because language is needed to “represent[ ]” (express) concepts. But this just doesn’t make sense.

    To then claim in defense-as you seem to do-that Hegel is misusing language is clearly to beg the question. That’s because your claim that he misuses language is based upon a prior reduction of concepts to language, but that’s the very point at issue.

  9. 9Rosa Lichtenstein said at 10:28 am on May 26th, 2009:I’m away from home right now; I’ll reply when I get back.
  10. 10Rosa Lichtenstein said at 11:09 am on June 5th, 2009:Andrew:”I didn’t say I was going to define “contradiction” to mean by it what I want (“so that certain linguistic expressions now count as ‘contradictions'”). I said that I have shown that there’s a contradiction, but, because you didn’t understand the sense in which I was using the word “define,” you don’t or didn’t see the contradiction.”And yet you haven’t shown this is a contradiction – unless you mean to use this word in a new and as yet unexplained sense. But, what is this new sense? [Hegel also failed to show this.]In response to my:”I am not sure what an ‘attempt’ is here that is not just another move in language. Nor am I sure what you call ‘identifying’ something amounts to.”You replied:”I suspect that this is the heart of the matter.”Have you ever meant to say something, but something else came out? Lots of people have had this experience; I have. If so, you were attempting to say something, but the “move in language” was not consonant with that. (My point here is not that this is a contradiction. My point is that an attempt to do something, by means of language, isn’t reducible to the “move in language.”).”

    Are you suggesting now that a *failure* to say something that had been intended is a contradiction? How does that relate to Hegel’s “The rose is red”? What ‘failure’ is there here? Did Hegel intend to say something else? [Are you confusing error with contradiction?]

    Then you add:

    “Have you ever meant to say something, but couldn’t find the words for it? So that your use of language is actually something like, “I can’t find the words for what I’m trying to say”? Lots of people have had this experience; I have. This is an instance of an attempt to use language to achieve an aim that is not reducible to the use of language, since the language used (“I can’t find the words for what I’m trying to say”) does not achieve the aim of expressing the first thing one means to say.”

    Once more, how is this related to contradiction? What ‘contradiction’ is there here?

    And, of course, the two examples you give above are accessible only because we are language users; so the content you supply/attribute here is indeed a “move in language”, and that is precisely what we find Hegel doing (whatever else he might have thought he was doing):

    “In its abstract terms a Judgment is expressible in the proposition: ‘The individual is the universal.’ These are the terms under which the subject and the predicate first confront each other, when the functions of the notion are taken in their immediate character or first abstraction. (Propositions such as, ‘The particular is the universal’, and ‘The individual is the particular’, belong to the further specialisation of the judgment.) It shows a strange want of observation in the logic-books, that in none of them is the fact stated, that in every judgment there is still a statement made, as, the individual is the universal, or still more definitely, The subject is the predicate (e.g. God is absolute spirit). No doubt there is also a distinction between terms like individual and universal, subject and predicate: but it is none the less the universal fact, that every judgment states them to be identical.

    “The copula ‘is’ springs from the nature of the notion, to be self-identical even in parting with its own. The individual and universal are its constituents, and therefore characters which cannot be isolated. The earlier categories (of reflection) in their correlations also refer to one another: but their interconnection is only ‘having’ and not ‘being’, i.e. it is not the identity which is realised as identity or universality. In the judgment, therefore, for the first time there is seen the genuine particularity of the notion: for it is the speciality or distinguishing of the latter, without thereby losing universality….

    “The Judgment is usually taken in a subjective sense as an operation and a form, occurring merely in self-conscious thought. This distinction, however, has no existence on purely logical principles, by which the judgment is taken in the quite universal signification that all things are a judgment. That is to say, they are individuals which are a universality or inner nature in themselves – a universal which is individualised. Their universality and individuality are distinguished, but the one is at the same time identical with the other.

    “The interpretation of the judgment, according to which it is assumed to be merely subjective, as if we ascribed a predicate to a subject is contradicted by the decidedly objective expression of the judgment. The rose is red; Gold is a metal. It is not by us that something is first ascribed to them. A judgment is however distinguished from a proposition. The latter contains a statement about the subject, which does not stand to it in any universal relationship, but expresses some single action, or some state, or the like. Thus, ‘Caesar was born at Rome in such and such a year waged war in Gaul for ten years, crossed the Rubicon, etc.’, are propositions, but not judgments. Again it is absurd to say that such statements as ‘I slept well last night’ or ‘Present arms!’ may be turned into the form of a judgment. ‘A carriage is passing by’ should be a judgment, and a subjective one at best, only if it were doubtful, whether the passing object was a carriage, or whether it and not rather the point of observation was in motion: in short, only if it were desired to specify a conception which was still short of appropriate specification….

    “The abstract terms of the judgement, ‘The individual is the universal’, present the subject (as negatively self-relating) as what is immediately concrete, while the predicate is what is abstract, indeterminate, in short the universal. But the two elements are connected together by an ‘is’: and thus the predicate (in its universality) must contain the speciality of the subject, must, in short, have particularity: and so is realised the identity between subject and predicate; which being thus unaffected by this difference in form, is the content.” [Hegel (1975), pp.230-34, §166-169.]

    Hegel’s argument (confused though it is – on that see J Rosenthal (1998), The Myth Of Dialectics (Macmillan, 1998, pp.111-36), is specifically *linguistic*. It is on this basis that his ‘argument’ is susceptible to my criticisms.

    Then you add:

    “Now, your point may be that there are NO intentions behind statements which are irreducible to the language used, or that you are sceptical that there are any such intentions. My hunch is that, if there are no such intentions, then Hegel is wrong about contradiction-and a lot else. But before one can rightly conclude that’s he’s wrong, one must FIRST show that there are no intentions behind statements which are irreducible to the language used. The burden of proof is on s/he who would reduce the use of language to the “moves in language.”

    In fact, and despite the spin Hegel attempted to inflict on his own defective argument, my criticism of Hegel is not in any way connected to what might or might not have gone on in his Hermetically-compromised brain. So, I am not the least bit interested in, nor can I see the relevance of, these secret and inaccessible “intentions”; my concern is with the defective analysis Hegel gave of simple indicative sentences. These are out in the open, and they *are* moves in language, subject to public scrutiny; they are not buried in an occult world of his own, or your, imagining. What he alleges of them is plainly and demonstrably incorrect. There is no contradiction in these sentences; the ‘dialectic’ is thus entirely bogus, a figment of Hegel’s sub-Aristotelian ‘logic’.

    In response to my:

    “If Hegel, and perhaps you, think that predication is intended to ‘identify’ something, then both of you will have fallen into the trap I mentioned in my short essay.”

    you reply:

    “No, I think that PEOPLE predicate when THEY intend to identify. ( I *think* this was Hegel’s view as well, but I’m just speaking for myself here.) The trap you mentioned is not about that.”

    Well, we’ll need to see the results of a scientific survey of a representative sample of human beings to see if you are right or not here (except, your confident assertion suggests you are already in possession of the results; if so, please post them, or a link to them, etc.).

    Anyway, what people intend to do and what they actually do is in no way a contradiction. The only contradiction I can see here would be something like the following: “These n individuals all intend to say “p”, and it is not the case that they all intend to say “p”.” Is that what you meant? If so, it’s not what Hegel meant.

    Then you add:

    “And so we’re back to THE KEY, BASIC issue I raised at first. Hegel is talking about one thing (concepts, which people intend to express by means of language); you’re talking about something else (language itself). You “prove” him wrong by changing the subject.

    “Now I grant that you’re not talking about something else IF there are no irreducible concepts, just language use. But the burden is on you to FIRST prove that.”

    Not so; I look at his actual argument (which is manifestly in language, and about language), and unmask the serious confusions under which he labours.

    Even you have to use language to talk about what Hegel did or did not do in the ‘privacy’ of his own ‘consciousness’ – and Hegel too found he had to use language to give vent to his confused ‘reasoning’. You/Hegel can talk about ‘concepts’ all day long, but in the end, to make the point, Hegel had to refer us to indicative sentences. It is here that his ‘argument’ (rather fittingly) self-destructs.

    In reply to my

    “we already have devices in language that allow us to identify things: we can point at a rose and say ‘That’s a rose’, or at an individual called ‘John’ and say. ‘John is over there. He standing next to your father.’ We do not need to examine ‘concepts’ to be able to do this.”

    you say:

    “You’re right; you’re not sure what I call “identifying” something amounts to. It wasn’t what you exhibit in the examples above (the verbal equivalent of pointing or singling-out). What I meant by “identify” is the verb form of identity: “to identify” in this sense is to say what something identically is, what it is using the “‘is’ of identity.” So my point is that people sometimes intend to do this when they start off “X is,” but then they offer predicates instead.”

    But even if we do do this, how is that a contradiction?

    Anyway, Hegel certainly did not argue this way (as the long quotation above shows). Again, whatever he *thought* he was doing, his ‘argument’ is about the alleged structure of certain indicative sentences, and that is where it falls flat.

    Use of the ‘is’ of identity is quite uncontroversial (for example when we say ‘Cicero is Tully’, or ‘Obama is President of the USA’), so much so that only someone keen to justify some rather dubious and inaccessible mental gyrations (involving ‘concepts’) will confuse it with the ‘is’ of predication.

    Then you say:

    “Yes, please do explain why round square is not a contradiction, and why “contradiction in terms” is a misnomer rather than a distinct kind of contradiction from the kind that you are willing to call contradiction.”

    This would be a contradiction: “x is round and x is a square and anything which is square is round, and anything which is round is not square” (although, for obvious reasons, I will use a shorter version of this below).

    The phrase ‘contradiction in terms’ is a misnomer since terms cannot say anything, only sentences or clauses can do that (or, to be more precise, they are the means by which we say things – in the sense that we propose things). So, if someone utters “Round” and someone else utters “Square” (and they utter nothing else, and they are not using ellipsis), neither would be saying anything (in the sense of proposing anything), and so would not be contradicting one another. The simplest contradiction here would be “X is a square” said by the first individual, and “No it’s not; it’s round, and nothing round can be a square”, said by the second.

    But, it’s a relatively harmless misnomer – until, that is, someone wants to extract from it a few Hermetic nostrums.

    Finally:

    “I’m saying that concepts and language aren’t identical. You have responded that the claim of non-identity must be rejected (or is unconvincing) because language is needed to “represent[ ]” (express) concepts. But this just doesn’t make sense.”

    Concepts, even the rather mystical ones to which Hegel alludes, typically make it into the material world in the shape of certain words. So, as noted above, even Hegel had to put his confused thoughts into language. What is so difficult about that claim?

    “To then claim in defense-as you seem to do-that Hegel is misusing language is clearly to beg the question. That’s because your claim that he misuses language is based upon a prior reduction of concepts to language, but that’s the very point at issue.”

    No question has been begged by me; *even you had to use language to make the above point*.

  11. 11Rosa Lichtenstein said at 11:11 am on June 5th, 2009:By the way, Hegel (1975), mentioned in my post above, is his Shorter Logic.
  12. 12Rosa Lichtenstein said at 11:16 am on June 5th, 2009:And this sentence:”This would be a contradiction: “x is round and x is a square and anything which is square is round, and anything which is round is not square” “should in fact be:”This would be a contradiction: “x is round and x is square and anything which is square is not round, and anything which is round is not square” “.
  13. 13Andrew Kliman said at 10:17 pm on June 5th, 2009:Thanks for the reply, Rosa. I’m on vacation and will reply when I return.But just one thing. Given that “anything which is square is not round, and anything which is round is not square” regardless of whether one stipulates this at the same time as one goes around saying “x is,” then “x is round and x is square” is a contradiction, right? And given that “x is round and x is square” is arrant pedantry up with which I will not put, a round square (a concept that implies what the arrantly pedantic phrase says in language) is a contradiction, right?
  14. 14Rosa Lichtenstein said at 4:04 pm on June 11th, 2009:Looks like my last post was deleted!So, I will try again,Andrew:”But just one thing. Given that “anything which is square is not round, and anything which is round is not square” regardless of whether one stipulates this at the same time as one goes around saying “x is,” then “x is round and x is square” is a contradiction, right? And given that “x is round and x is square” is arrant pedantry up with which I will not put, a round square (a concept that implies what the arrantly pedantic phrase says in language) is a contradiction, right?”No, it’s not a contradiction (unless, again, you are using this word in a new and as yet unspecified sense), and for the reasons I gave.As far as ‘pedantry’ is concerned, a slap-dash attitude to complexity and detail would not be tolerated for one second in other areas of knowledge.Can you imagine the fuss if someone were to argue that it does not matter what the Magna Carta said, or when the Battle of the Nile was fought, or who precisely fought it, or what the Declaration of Independence actually contained, or what the exact wording of Newton’s Second Law was, or whether “G”, the Gravitational Constant, was 6.6742 x 10^-11 or 6.7642 x 10^-11 Mm^2kg^-2, or indeed something else? Would we accept this sort of objection from someone who said it did not matter what the precise wording of a contract in law happened to be? Or, that it did not really matter what Marx meant by “variable capital”, or that he “pedantically” distinguished use-value from exchange-value – or more pointedly, the “relative form” from the “equivalent form” of value -, we should be able to make do with anyone’s guess? And how would we react if someone said, “Who cares if there are serious mistakes in that policeman’s evidence against those strikers”? Or if someone else retorted “Big deal if there are a few errors in this or that e-mail address/web page URL, or in that mathematical proof! And who cares whether there is a difference between rest mass and inertial mass in Physics! What are you, some kind of pedant?”We certainly do not tolerate it in mathematics (one of my specialties), or in logic. In fact, as is easy to show, Hegel’s arguments only appear to ‘work’ because of the sloppy logic he used.

    We would unwise to emulate him.

  15. 15MHI said at 4:31 pm on June 11th, 2009:Rosa,I was moderating some comments and accidentally deleted your post, although I had thought I deleted another one. This was purely an accident and had no malicious intent.- A
  16. 16Rosa Lichtenstein said at 12:22 am on June 12th, 2009:Fair enough!
  17. 17Rosa Lichtenstein said at 12:24 pm on June 27th, 2009:I am going to be disconnected from the internet for a few weeks while I move home, so I will not be able to respond to any replies for a while.
  18. 18Rosa Lichtenstein said at 6:32 pm on September 5th, 2009:Ok, I’m back on line.Let’s have your best shot…
  19. 19Andrew Kliman said at 10:21 pm on September 6th, 2009:Hi Rosa,As I understand your argument, you maintain that if I explicitly state”x is round and x is square and anything which is square is not round, and anything which is round is not square”I am being self-contradictory.But if I don’t talk like a logician, but like a regular person, so that I say “this” instead of “x,”and if I don’t use stilted English, but instead turn “this is round and this is square” into “this is a round square,”and if I don’t explicitly define what the words “round” and “square” mean or what they exclude, because the people I’m addressing know the common meanings of these words, and I’m using them in the normal way,then I’m not being self-contradictory.

    Some questions:

    1. Do I have you right?

    2. If so, has anyone (except Russell and Frege and Mr. Spock …, anyone who talks normally) everbeen self-contradictory? (I’m referring to normal discourse, not long chains of philosophical or scientific or mathematical reasoning.)

    3. If not, then aren’t you just using the word “contradictory” in a way that’s different from how others use it?

    4. If so, then when you deny that a contradiction in terms is a contradiction, isn’t this just a matter of semantics?

    5. Do you maintain that arguments (such as enthymemes) are invalid and unsound if they fail to supply stuff like definitions of common words?

    6. If so, haven’t all the arguments you’ve been making against Hegel and against me been invalid and unsound?

    P.S. My point about arrant pedantry wasn’t to excuse sloppy thinking. It was to defend normal ways of speaking. I’m sorry, but life is far too short to write “a thought shall be defined as sloppy if and only if …” and such junk, unless and until it becomes necessary.

    There are a couple of horrible simultaneist Marxist economists-Simon Mohun and Roberto Veneziani-out there who picked at a proof Alan Freeman and I had offered which showed that, given commodity production, surplus labor is the sole source of profit according to the temporal single-system interpretation. Their claim that the proof was invalid rested on the alleged fact that we hadn’t proved at the total price of output is non-zero.

    We had proved that some commodities’ prices must be positive and some quantities of outputs must be positive (these things are implied by the term “commodity production”), but these great minds claimed that the TSSI is “incoherent” and our argumentation was “seriously deficient” because we still hadn’t proved that the total price of output (obtained by multiplying each commodity’s price and output together and then summing across all commodities) is always positive. If the positive prices are associated with commodities whose quantities are zero, and if the positive quantities are associated with commodities whose prices are zero, the total price is zero! Ha ha ha.

    In our response, we exposed this tendentious and enervating arrant pedantry for what it is:

    ‘they deny that we proved that P [the total price of output] > 0. … [Their] argument relies on a very uncharitable reading of our proof that isn’t consonant with our intended meaning. We noted that “commodity production is incompatible with cases in which all prices are zero” (K&F 2006: 122). Here and later in that paragraph, we were referring to prices of of things that actually exist. This should have been obvious: if something doesn’t exist, neither does the price of it! But for the benefit of the rigorous M&V, we shall now “revise” our “incoherent” and “seriously deficient” (M&V 2007: 139) proof accordingly:

    Under commodity production, as we showed, P < 0 is impossible and P = 0 only if all prices of of things that actually exist are zero. But commodity production is incompatible with cases in which all prices of of things that actually exist are zero. Hence P > 0.’

    There really isn’t enough time in this life to go around saying “of things that actually exist” again and again. Everyone knows that when one says ‘prices of commodities,’ one is referring to commodities that actually exist, since those that don’t exist don’t have prices! Only pieces of s*** would pretend that this isn’t clear.

    So, when one has to show that horrible simultaneist-Marxist economists like Mohun and Veneziani aren’t the disinterested champions of rigor that they make themselves out to be, and that their real goals are to put the TSSI in its place and perpetuate the myth that Marx’s value theory has been proved internally inconsistent, then, yes, adding the words of things that actually exist is in order. What’s especially in order is ridiculing the s*** that makes this arrant pedantry necessary.

    But otherwise, it’s just arrant pedantry, up with which I will not put.

  20. 20Rosa Lichtenstein said at 8:29 pm on September 7th, 2009:Andrew, thanks for the reply, but I am not sure you have got the point:”But if I don’t talk like a logician, but like a regular person, so that I say ‘this’ instead of ‘x,’My earlier response, to which this is part of your reply, was aimed at explaining to you, not to someone on the street, why “contradiction in terms” is a misnomer. If I were addressing a “regular person”, I would, naturally, use much more colloquial expressions. This, of course, does not invalidate my reply to you.Andrew:”and if I don’t use stilted English, but instead turn ‘this is round and this is square’ into ‘this is a round square,’ and if I don’t explicitly define what the words ’round’ and ‘square’ mean or what they exclude, because the people I’m addressing know the common meanings of these words, and I’m using them in the normal way, then I’m not being self-contradictory.”But, earlier you used the term “contradiction in terms”, and that misnomer is what I addressed. You did not ask if you were being self-contradictory. Had you asked that originally, my reply would have been different.Andrew:”1. Do I have you right?”

    No, since you are now confusing “self-contradictory” with “contradiction in terms”.

    Andrew:

    “2. If so, has anyone (except Russell and Frege and Mr. Spock …, anyone who talks normally) ever been self-contradictory? (I’m referring to normal discourse, not long chains of philosophical or scientific or mathematical reasoning.)”

    1. This is not a Fregean or a Russellian point. So, why you introduce these two (let alone Spock) is unclear.

    2. Again, you were speaking philosophically in your earlier post; you were not arguing in ‘normal discourse’ – discourse which, it is worth recalling, would not countenance the whacko things Hegel had to say. And that is why I responded to you philosophically. If you want to restrict this discussion to ordinary language/discourse, then that would be preferable to me, since Marx had this to say of the distortions one finds in mystics like Hegel:

    “The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life.” [The German Ideology, p.118.]

    Andrew:

    “3. If not, then aren’t you just using the word ‘contradictory’ in a way that’s different from how others use it?”

    The point of philosophical analysis is to examine critically the use to which certain words are put. Now, you wanted to employ “contradiction in terms” philosophically, and addressed that use.

    Andrew:

    “4. If so, then when you deny that a contradiction in terms is a contradiction, isn’t this just a matter of semantics?”

    If we are speaking philosophically, then “round square” is not a ‘contradiction in terms’, and for the reasons I said. I did not use the word “contradiction” (on its own) of this phrase, so you are drifting off the point in this reply of yours when you introduce this word, in this context.

    Andrew:

    “5. Do you maintain that arguments (such as enthymemes) are invalid and unsound if they fail to supply stuff like definitions of common words?”

    What is the enthymeme here? [Or do I misunderstand you?]

    And I have never asked for a definition.

    Andrew:

    “6. If so, haven’t all the arguments you’ve been making against Hegel and against me been invalid and unsound?”

    Well, my arguments weren’t set out formally, but were examples of highly informal logic. As such I stand by them, and for the reasons I have outlined above, and in earlier posts.

    Andrew:

    “P.S. My point about arrant pedantry wasn’t to excuse sloppy thinking. It was to defend normal ways of speaking. I’m sorry, but life is far too short to write ‘a thought shall be defined as sloppy if and only if …’ and such junk, unless and until it becomes necessary.”

    Well, unfortunately, Hegel’s ‘arguments’ depend on sloppy thought/logic, and when I have exposed this in the past, those who think we have anything to learn from this incompetent bumbler tend to respond with the same sort of defence -, that is, by accusing me of ‘pedantry’. And this is the only way he can be defended. Hence my reaction to you, which I still maintain.

    And, as I have pointed out above, we are not using “normal ways of speaking”; had philosophers like Hegel used “normal ways of speaking” then the crazy doctrines they dreamt up would not have seen the light of day. We are here discussing Hegel’s odd ideas philosophically, and that is why I have replied in the way I did.

    And thanks for that material on Simon Mohun, etc. but I could not see its relevance. But you say this:

    “There really isn’t enough time in this life to go around saying ‘of things that actually exist’ again and again. Everyone knows that when one says ‘prices of commodities,’ one is referring to commodities that actually exist, since those that don’t exist don’t have prices! Only pieces of s*** would pretend that this isn’t clear.”

    Sure, but the confusion Hegel inherited from medieval and ancient logicians needs exposing, and that is what I have tried to do. Such confusions depend on the use of the sort of sloppy language I have also exposed, part of which re-surfaces in the philosophical use of phrases like “contradiction in terms”.

    In a similar way, Anselm’s notorious ‘Ontological Argument’ relies on an odd use of language, and only careful analysis will expose this. It will not do, therefore, for a supporter of Anselm to complain about ‘pedantry’.

    Nor would we accept anyone who rejected Marx’s careful distinction between the equivalent and the relative form of value on the grounds that this was yet another example of “arrant pedantry”:
    Andrew:

    “But otherwise, it’s just arrant pedantry, up with which I will not put.”

    Well, that’s for you economists to decide, but when you stray into logic and/or philosophy, we refuse to tolerate sloppy thought.

    Like it – or lump it…

  21. 21Andrew Kliman said at 10:29 pm on September 7th, 2009:Hi, Rosa,You wrote, “if someone utters “Round” and someone else utters “Square” (and they utter nothing else, and they are not using ellipsis), neither would be saying anything (in the sense of proposing anything), and so would not be contradicting one another.”And you wrote, “This would be a contradiction: “x is round and x is a square and anything which is square is round, and anything which is round is not square.”So what’s not right about this paraphrase:”you maintain that if I explicitly state’x is round and x is square and anything which is square is not round, and anything which is round is not square’I am being self-contradictory.But if I don’t talk like a logician, but like a regular person, so that I say “this” instead of ‘x,’

    and if I don’t use stilted English, but instead turn ‘this is round and this is square’ into ‘this is a round square,’

    and if I don’t explicitly define what the words ’round’ and ‘square’ mean or what they exclude, because the people I’m addressing know the common meanings of these words, and I’m using them in the normal way,

    then I’m not being self-contradictory.”

    Since you seem to think that I’m not getting your point, or evading your point, let me assure you that I’m at the very start of your point, your “linguistic analysis.” I’m always asking you, directly or indirectly, to first PROVE that you or anyone can meaningfully analyze language in abstraction from concepts and intents. When you suggest that concepts are represented by language, which can then be analyzed in abstraction from the concepts, that’s not proof, just question-begging.

    Let me make this even simpler. Is the statement “Rosa Lichtenstein is a hairbrush” true or false?

    Analyze this.

  22. 22Rosa Lichtenstein said at 11:25 am on September 8th, 2009:Andrew:”You wrote, ‘if someone utters “Round” and someone else utters “Square” (and they utter nothing else, and they are not using ellipsis), neither would be saying anything (in the sense of proposing anything), and so would not be contradicting one another.””And you wrote, ‘This would be a contradiction: “x is round and x is a square and anything which is square is round, and anything which is round is not square.”‘”So what’s not right about this paraphrase:”you maintain that if I explicitly state ‘x is round and x is square and anything which is square is not round, and anything which is round is not square’ “I am being self-contradictory.”But if I don’t talk like a logician, but like a regular person, so that I say ‘this’ instead of ‘x,’ and if I don’t use stilted English, but instead turn ‘this is round and this is square’ into ‘this is a round square,’ and if I don’t explicitly define what the words ’round’ and ‘square’ mean or what they exclude, because the people I’m addressing know the common meanings of these words, and I’m using them in the normal way, then I’m not being self-contradictory.”Well, you’d be better off quoting me rather than trying to paraphrase what you think I have said, since I passed no comment on an earlier version of the content of your last paragraph. Indeed, I went out of my way to say:”But, earlier you used the term ‘contradiction in terms’, and that misnomer is what I addressed. You did not ask if you were being self-contradictory. Had you asked that originally, my reply would have been different.”

    And, as I have pointed out before, too, I did not mention the need for a definition, so why you are perseverating on this I do not know.

    Andrew:

    “Since you seem to think that I’m not getting your point, or evading your point, let me assure you that I’m at the very start of your point, your ‘linguistic analysis.’ I’m always asking you, directly or indirectly, to first PROVE that you or anyone can meaningfully analyze language in abstraction from concepts and intents.”

    Well, I was trying to explain (at your request) why your attempt to use the phrase “contradiction in terms” *philosophically*, not colloquially, is a misnomer – in that case, I was pointedly not doing this: “analyz[ing] language in abstraction from concepts and intents”, since your intentions were clear (as was the philosophical context): to defend some rather odd ideas Hegel inflicted on humanity, ideas he derived from precisely this: an “analy[sis of] language in abstraction from concepts and intents”, and, of course, the speculations of centuries of earlier mystics.

    So, pick a fight with him, them and/or your good self, not me.

    Andrew:

    “When you suggest that concepts are represented by language, which can then be analyzed in abstraction from the concepts, that’s not proof, just question-begging.”

    I agree, but as I pointed out, that is what Hegel himself did, as Marx pointed out. And, what is worse, *you are trying to defend this approach to philosophy*.

    Andrew:

    “Let me make this even simpler. Is the statement ‘Rosa Lichtenstein is a hairbrush’ true or false?

    “Analyze this.”

    Well, I’d be more inclined to rise to this challenge if you could bring yourself to address the main point of my earlier criticism, something you (understandably) keep avoiding, or obscuring with various smokescreens: what the dickens are you dialecticians banging on about when you use the phrase “dialectical contradictions”?

    We have only been waiting for 200 years for a clear answer to this so I am not surprised to see you try to put the evil day off (when you have to answer this question (not that any of you are the least bit interested in doing this anyway)) for a few more hours.

    [Answer: the sentence ‘Rosa Lichtenstein is a hairbrush’ is in fact senseless (neither true nor false), since the criteria of application (or, indeed, the domain of quantification, if we talk more technically) of a name for a human being do (does) not range over predicate expressions for items of hair care. Now perhaps you can give us a clear answer to my challenge — for a change?]

  23. 23Jean-Luc Lebris said at 1:54 pm on September 8th, 2009:Andrew:”I’m always asking you, directly or indirectly, to first PROVE that you or anyone can meaningfully analyze language in abstraction from concepts and intents.”Are the ‘concepts and intents’, as you have used it here, some sort of classification in language?If not where and what are these ‘concepts and intents’?If these ‘concepts and intents’ are represented WITH language, aren’t they subject to the same analysis and scrutiny as as other ‘ordinary language’?
  24. 24Charles B said at 5:14 pm on September 8th, 2009:Here’s my exchange with Rosa. She spends most of her time developing cute _ad hominems_, but those don’t count as arguments. She seems to have it backwards as to whose irascible (smile).In terms of the “is” of predication and the “is” if identity, my first comment demonstrates what the contradiction is in “John is a man.” Rosa couldn’t see it then either.CBhttp://lists.econ.utah.edu/pipermail/marxism-thaxis/2007-August/021365.htmlRosa gets CB (smile)
    Charles Brown
    Thu Aug 23 09:48:11 MDT 2007

    —————————

    I may be lliterate, but at least she admits I’m logical.

    CB

    ^^^^^^^

    Logical Illiterates Strike Again

    A year or so ago I had the great misfortune to correspond with an irascible fellow who could not resist making ill-informed comments about my Essays, all the while refusing to read them.

    I refused to continue to correspond with him on that basis, and, it seems, he has been sulking ever since. Last year I had occasion to slap some materialist sense into him (here), but I fear that this incorrigible Idealist is beyond even my help. Despite several attempts to inoculate him from his own folly, Mr B has once again demonstrated that he is immune to the influence of modern logic, preferring his own brand of sub-Hegelian make-believe. Commenting on an argument of mine, he had this to say:

    “CB: The sentence ‘John is a man’ means John is both the same and different from Joe, Jack, Rosa, Charles… It is precisely the ‘is’ of predication that is a unity and struggle of opposites. The ‘is’ of identity ‘He is John.’ – that is not a tautology.

    CB: This should be ‘that is a tautology’.” [Quotation marks changed to conform to the conventions adopted here.]

    This odd piece of reasoning was exposed for what it is here, and here.

    Despite this, Mr B hopes to neutralise my arguments by referring merely to his own not inconsiderable authority in this field – that is, the field usually occupied by Popes and assorted dictators whose word is law. And in matters logical, that should be enough for us. It certainly is for Mr B.

    He now deigns to comment on the musings of my colleague Babeuf; here is an example of truly innovative historical materialism:

    “CB: Another fundamental activity was the raising of children. I’m thinking language/culture emerged between parents and children.”

    It is reasonably clear that Mr B has shot from the hip again – or rather shot from the holster and into his foot -, for if the above were the case, not only would parents and children confront each other like Pentecostal ecstatics, mouthing incomprehensible noises at one another, no two families would share the same idiolect. Communication between families would thus be impossible. In that case, ‘culture’, as Mr B sees it, would soon begin to resemble that cacophony which constantly sounds in his head.

    Now, in Essay Twelve Part One, I asserted that most Marxists give lip-service to the idea that language is a social phenomenon, but fail to think through the implications of that fact, and talk and write as if language were a private affair. Mr B has shown once again that when it comes to getting things wrong, he is keen to elbow his way to the front of the queue. How language can be social, but remain a family affair is perhaps another one of the ‘contradictions’ that still compromises his thought processes:

    “Before I had even heard of dialectics – living in the a mental (sic) world of strict formal logic – I started to ‘run into’ lots of contradictions and paradoxes. My own road to dialectics was a posteriori, not a priori.”

    Mr B here confuses matters biographical with matters logical; unless -, of course, he thinks paradoxes are a posteriori. But, even if he were right, this otherwise commendable public confession of his own confused thought should not be read as mere humility. On the contrary, the road to Hermetic-enlightenment – a path which all true dialecticians have to pass along in order to qualify as adepts (and the reasons for this are exposed here) – elevates them way above the rest of us mortals. This means that if ever they regain power somewhere they can screw-up once more in a truly almighty and awe-inspiring manner. After all, they have a suitably screwy theory to help them on their way.

    But what is this? It is none other than our old friend Mr D, who volunteers a riposte so devastating I hesitate to post it here for fear it might affect the reader’s sanity:

    “This is just stupid, even more stupid than the Trotskyist recitations of dialectics.”

    Mr D, someone who is not known for his ability to string a clear argument together – but a well-respected expert at drawing attention to that fact -, probably does not know that the material about which he is commenting has to be compressed into a three minute slot, and has to be kept to a level that makes it comprehensible to mere workers. And here he can be forgiven, for over the years, at his site, he has developed an enviable skill at repelling such lowly types, and to the extent that he has probably forgotten their limitations. One of which is that they find the mystical ideas he spouts incomprehensible. It’s a good job then that we have substitutionists of his calibre to do their thinking for them.

    Now, we have already seen that Mr D takes exception to anyone who cannot compress a PhD thesis into a sentence or two -, a skill he taunts the rest of us with, since, as the sentence above reveals, he can squeeze several into a single line. He is, I am sure, working on doing the same with a single word.

    We wait with baited hooks…

    Mr B then posted a few sections from a summary Essay of mine, but the eagle-eyed Mr D swooped in for the kill, with yet more lethal prose:

    “This is all pretty juvenile leftism.”

    Well, Mr D should know.

    But, it is rather unfair of him to pull rank, and complain that my words are juvenile when he still has his dialectical diapers on. And as if to prove it, he throws another toy out of his pram:

    “The entire history of philosophy to Rosa is a scheme, a ruse, duplicity.”

    He might like to quote where I say this, or even imply it.

    But, accuracy is not Mr D’s concern; we have seen that several times already.

    [Less charitable readers might be forgiven a snigger or ten here when they notice that Mr D thinks that the history of Philosophy can be a “a ruse, duplicity”. Philosophy itself might be so described (but not by me), but how the history of that bogus discipline can be depicted thus is a question that perhaps Mr D’s psychiatrist is alone qualified to answer.]

    Back to Mr B, for he is intent on providing yet more amusement. In response to that summary of my criticisms of Lenin’s crass remarks, he bravely leapt to his defence (but the reader will soon see that Lenin would be better defended by his sworn enemies, if this is the best Mr B can do):

    “Anyway, the first thing I noticed is that this is from ‘Philosophical Notebooks’. That means personal musings, talking out loud to oneself, unpublished personal thoughts. That doesn’t mean they can’t be criticized, but it also means we can’t be sure what status Lenin gave them, but there’s a good chance that he didn’t publish them because he may have had criticisms of them himself. It’s kind of cheating to attribute to them such a fundamental status in Lenin’s arguments for his positions.”

    So, with Mr B as his defence attorney, Lenin would be well advised to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court.

    Mr B should know (but I hesitate to praise him too much here) that Lenin’s words are treated as gospel by practicing Marxists, and it is these I am addressing in my Essays, not armchair HCDs like him.

    However, if Mr B is right, and we can disregard Lenin’s amateurish musings, all well and good, In that case, perhaps we should throw Hegel’s Hermetic hodge-podge onto Hume’s bonfire too? Since the latter’s work reads like an extended April Fool’s joke, who will miss it?

    But, how does Mr B handle the summary of my argument? Well, it is worth pointing out that the comment below was written after he had pointed out that Lenin was summarising his own ideas, and should not be treated unfairly because of that. No problem, Rosa’s summary can be treated with disdain; after all consistency is not to be expected of someone who thinks reality is riddled with contradictions.

    “Also, the ‘John is a man’ discussion is not given in the discussion itself and inferentially by it being a personal diary, the logical status that Rosa gives it, i.e. that Lenin claimed to derive eternal truths and universal principles out of it. On the contrary, he seems to be discussing it as an example, not some kind of fundamental proof of the universality of dialectics. That’s really cheating by Rosa. She portrays this example by Lenin as if he uses it in the opposite of the way he actually does. Can’t remember whether I raised this with Rosa when she was here. I do remember she got pretty angry pretty quickly , started hurling insults pretty quickly when challenged. I realize she gets challenged a lot, so for her it was just the same old lunkheadism, but I mean, I really can’t see where Lenin employed the ‘John is a man’ thing as fundamentally, can’t see where he attempted to derive as much from it as she claims. She should start with an example from something published. When she uses an intellectual diary note, it could very well be that Lenin didn’t publish it because he thought of some of the same criticisms of it that she did.”

    Can anyone figure out what this muddle-head is trying to say here? Is there a an actual counter-argument in there – anywhere?

    Now, Mr B should know that Lenin is here summarising an argument Hegel inflicted on humanity (one that had first appeared in Aristotle, but which assumed classical form in Aquinas and Buridan (references can be found in Essay Three Part One)), where he does try to derive everything from the nature of ‘judgements’ – sentences of a certain sort – where the “is” of predication is re-configured as an “is” of identity. Hegel uses “The rose is red” to show that the universe is fundamentally contradictory. Is it unfair of me to point this out? Perhaps it was even more unfair of Hegel to advert to his own logical incompetence in this way?

    [That argument, if such it may be called, is dissected here, and here.]

    In passing, Mr B notes I get angry very quickly. Here is how I explained why this is so (on the opening page of this site):

    How Not To Argue 101

    This page contains links to forums on the web where I have ‘debated’ this creed with other comrades.

    For anyone interested, check out the desperate ‘debating’ tactics used by Dialectical Mystics in their attempt to respond to my ideas.

    You will no doubt note that the vast majority all say the same sorts of things… They all like to make things up, too, about me and my beliefs.

    25 years (!!) of this stuff from Dialectical Mystics has meant I now take an aggressive stance with them every time – I soon learnt back in the 1980’s that being pleasant with them (my initial tactic) did not alter their abusive tone, their propensity to fabricate….

    So, these days, I generally go for the jugular from the get-go.

    Except, of course, I do not get angry, I just go on the offensive.

    Mr B’s earlier correspondence with me showed that he too was quite happy to make stuff up about my ideas (without bothering to check). But still he wonders why I become aggressive. In response, I’d post this quite rare picture of him, but even I am not that cruel:

    Based on a summary of my argument – which even at 71,000 words represents less than 10% of the material I have so far published – he thinks he has understood my work. Had he bothered to check (and you can stop that sniggering at the back; I am sure one day he will) he would have seen that I quote from published work, scores of times, right across the DM-spectrum. Indeed, I manage to show that every single dialectician indulges in the same sort of a priori dogmatics – in private notebooks and published work – as Lenin, Engels and Hegel. In fact, that is the only way they can make this loopy ‘theory’ seem to work.

    But, how does this super-scientist answer that allegation?

    “Hegel, Marx, Engels, Lenin give lots of other examples as the basis for their generalization rendering their claims a posteriori, not a priori.”

    However, we can leave Marx out, for he is almost totally silent on this ‘theory’. As for the rest, here is what I say in Essay Seven:

    To be sure, there are a handful of scientists who accept this and the other two ‘Laws’ as laws – particularly those who hail from previous generations of the Communist Party (e.g., Bernal, Haldane and Levy, etc.), but it is quite clear that these comrades would have treated with contempt a PhD thesis that relied on evidence as weak as that found in this area of dialectics. Indeed, their acceptance of the adequacy of the ‘data’ in support of DM is somewhat analogous to a similar acceptance by scientists (who are also Creationists) of ‘evidence’ in favour of, say, the scientific accuracy of the Book of Genesis.

    In general, however, the examples usually given by dialecticians (like Hegel, Lenin and Engels) to illustrate their ‘Laws’ are almost without exception either anecdotal or impressionistic. If someone were to submit a paper to a science journal purporting to establish the veracity of a new law with the same level of vagueness, imprecision, triteness, lack of detail and overall theoretical naivety, it would be rejected at the first stage. Indeed, dialecticians would themselves treat with derision any attempt to establish, say, either the truth of classical economic theory or the falsity of Marx’s own work with an evidential display that was as crassly amateurish as this -, to say nothing of the derision they would show for such theoretical wooliness. In such circumstances, those who might be quick to cry “pedantry” at the issues raised in this Essay would become devoted pedants, and nit pick with the best.

    Now, anyone who has studied or practiced real science will know this to be true. It is only in books on DM (and internet discussion boards) that Mickey Mouse material of this sort seems acceptable.

    And this is what I say in the Basic Introductory Essay:

    Anyone who has studied and practiced genuine science will know the lengths to which researchers have to go to alter even minor aspects of current theory, let alone justify major changes in the way we view nature.

    In stark contrast, and without exception, dialecticians offer a few paragraphs of trite (and over-used) clichés to support their claims. Hence, all we find are hackneyed references to things like boiling water, balding heads, plants ‘negating’ seeds, Mamelukes fighting the French, a character from Molière suddenly discovering that he speaks prose, and the like, all constantly retailed. From such banalities, dialecticians suddenly derive universal laws, applicable everywhere and at all times.

    Even at its best (for example, in Woods and Grant (1995), which is one of the most comprehensive defences of classical, hard-core DM to date, and Gollobin (1986), which is if anything even more comprehensive), we encounter perhaps a few dozen pages of secondary and tertiary information, extensively padded out with repetition and bluster (much of which is taken apart here). Contrary evidence (of which there is much) is simply ignored. This is indeed Mickey Mouse Science.

    As Essays Two and Seven show, the universal and eternally-true theses dialecticians regularly lift from Hegel go way beyond even the meagre evidence Engels, Lenin and Hegel offered in support.

    Mr B’s parting shot:

    “With this initial seriously cheating move by Rosa, I have trouble getting up the energy to look at her further arguments.”

    Well, what a loss to humanity!

    Please, someone e-mail him and tell him to “get” it up.

    Otherwise I will have no one to poke fun at.

    Word Count: 2710

    Return to the Main Index

    © Rosa Lichtenstein 2007

    Hits since August 14 2007:

  25. 25Andrew Kliman said at 6:49 pm on September 8th, 2009:Hi Rosa,You answered, “the sentence ‘Rosa Lichtenstein is a hairbrush’ is in fact senseless (neither true nor false), since the criteria of application (or, indeed, the domain of quantification, if we talk more technically) of a name for a human being do (does) not range over predicate expressions for items of hair care.”This answer is incorrect.The statement “Rosa Lichtenstein is a hairbrush” is true.I decided to name my hairbrush after you.So much for your linguistic analysis.The example shows that language cannot be analyzed without regard to intent. Signs have no meaning in the abstract, and no meaning determined solely by their relationship to other signs.Signs like “is”. Or “John” and “man”.

    I’ll soon be working on a paper for the November _Rethinking Marxism_ conference that will discuss why and in what sense “capital” is internally contradictory. I’ll be happy to send it to you when it’s done.

  26. 26Jurriaan Bendien said at 7:10 pm on September 8th, 2009:In response to Rosa: a dialectical contradiction differs from a logical contradiction in that a logical contradiction is basically a formal inconsistency of meaning, evaluated according to certain inferential rules of propositional logic. From a logically contradictory type of statement anything can follow. A dialectical contradiction describes a situation in which a condition co-exists meaningfully with another condition, in such a way that although the one is the opposite of the other, it also presupposes the other. The dialectical contradiction is “held in place” by the fact that it is mediated by something, or contained by something else. In formal logic we call this either a paradoxical statement, or a nonsensical statement. But in fact in practical life we encounter such dialectical contradictions all the time, and there is nothing particularly mysterious about it.
    To illustrate: I work as a public servant for a local government bureaucracy obliged by oath to follow the rules, yet if I tried to conduct myself only and exclusively according to consistent rules, analogous to a computer programme or a machine, I would find this practically impossible to operate, and my activity would be quickly paralysed. I find myself constantly confronted with dialectical contradictions I have to negotiate, sometimes a bit like a “catch-22″ situation.
    Now the interesting thing in this example is that even although I cannot practically act, only and exclusively, according to consistent rules and survive, nevertheless most people do not regard my behavior as essentially arbitrary, irrational and random. Some of it might be, but most of it is not. They recognise it has a non-arbitrary pattern. And not only that; they can also make correct and valid inferences from my behaviour, even although my behavior is not following any given rule. One could even say that much of my behaviour is predictable, even although does not involve executing a rule.
    From this kind of insight you can learn that there are forms of reasoning (inferential processes) which, although they do not conform to deductive logic, and do not lead to only one conclusion, are nevertheless non-arbitrary, and very meaningful. The reason why they are non-arbitrary is because they “rule in” some possibilities, and “rule out” others; some things cannot follow and are ruled out, the number of things that can follow are limited, and some things are more likely to be the case than others – and all this, even although there is not just one logically compelling conclusion from the reasoning, but several. Again this is a rather obvious insight, but the question now is “why this is so”, how that works, how we could model or describe that. There are many different trends of thought about this (pragmatism, para-consistency, fuzzy logic etc.) and dialectics is one of those trends. One sort of answer is that ordinary language itself, although reasonable, does not conform to formal logic, and therefore that an association can be meaningful and non-arbitrary, without being logical.
    We can also approach the problem from another angle. Deductive logic has severe limits, since P follows “if” Q is the case, and that can be a very big “if”. A deductive argument cannot compel us to induce all the premises it contains, it can tell us only that if we induce certain premises then the conclusion follows. Thus deductive logic only specifies the conditions for making consistent sense; the inductions into the deduction process may be reasonable, but not logically compelling. Therefore, in practice we are always forced to apply two criteria of truth, namely correspondence and coherence, but in applying these criteria we additionally assume a context which exists beyond those criteria. If you pursue this line of thought, you find that actually it is possible to make a very large number of true statements about one object, using various criteria, without necessarily being able to say that one statement is more true than another, or without there being clear criteria for choosing between them, or how they would fit together.
    The question then is whether there are some meta-criteria of meaning and reason, captured by basic categorizations, which would allow us to order the whole of the truths we have discovered about an object in a non-arbitrary synthesis, such that through a series of conceptualizations, the truth about the object “explains itself”, becomes “self-explanatory”. The dialectician would say “yes”, this is possible, we can discover those criteria, but it is not possible to do so by means of deductive inference only, not only because we somehow have to induce premises non-arbitrarily, but also because we need to refer to a meaningful context not provided by the deductions and inductions themselves. We need to start both with what the object is, and what it is not (its negation), and constantly elaborate further what it is and is not, and this involves explicating the dialectical contradictions involved with the object, how these are mediated and resolved, how they give rise to new contradictions. At the conclusion it is proved that, provided a certain starting assumption is made about what the object is and is not, this assumption will validate itself, by showing that it provides non-arbitrary means to integrate all truths about the object consistently, in such a way that the truth about the object “explains itself”, that its full meaning is understood.
    This is merely to say that the dialectical procedure aims to understand the full meaning of the object of study and relativise it appropriately, using meta-criteria to order truth-coherences and truth-correspondences in an rigorous interpretation, which goes beyond formal logical procedures although it utilizes them. The question then remains, whether dialectical properties are just a characteristic of the meaningful universe that human beings generate themselves (a human way of understanding), or whether dialectical characteristics indeed exist mind-independently as objective social realities or objective physical realities. A realist dialectician argues that indeed dialectical features exist objectively in nature and society, since human dialectical meanings have originally evolved out of, and in relationship to, those objectively existing dialectical features (“mind” has evolved out of “matter”). If we say for example that “mind and body are a unit” or a “whole”, we cannot really say that the mind features dialectical characteristics, while the body doesn’t.
    However it is not possible to write a dialectical “rule book” like Marxists try (see above), the question is only whether you can discover the dialectical characteristics of a subjectmatter by means of a comprehensive analysis of all it contains. The dialectician claims, that if you are prepared to delve sufficiently deeply and systematically into the subjectmatter, you will sooner or later confront the dialectical relationships beneath the apparent logical paradoxes and puzzling relationships in the subjectmatter. However, even if you can prove that a dialectical contradiction objectively exists, dialectical thinking does not of itself offer any logical or empirical proofs. It merely claims that “if” a certain assumption is adopted, or “if” you see the subjectmatter this way, then it becomes self-explanatory, and makes integral scientific sense.
    “If, then, it is true that the axiomatic basis of theoretical physics cannot be extracted from experience but must be freely invented, can we ever hope to find the right way? I answer without hesitation that there is, in my opinion, a right way, and that we are capable of finding it. I hold it true that pure thought can grasp reality, as the ancients dreamed.” (Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, 1954).
  27. 27Materialist said at 7:19 pm on September 8th, 2009:This is a good debate. The problem for me is that I think that attempts to analyse philosophy by means of breaking down concepts to words doesn’t work. Surely, the futility of such reductionist schemes was proven by Wittgenstein’s conclusions reached after writing the Tractatus. The project of defining a closed set of axioms that could define reality was doomed at that point. The rest of his life was spent investigating the complex relations between language and concepts in behind it. Rosa seems to ignore this journey.
    What’s more though I think the analytic philosophers have a fundamental flaw. They deny the possibility of a dialectical contradiction. Yet it seems they posit the alternative – logical atomism – that every reality can be broken down to a logical statement. This would appear to require a proof – and I’ve never seen one. It is just held as axiomatic.
    Just why is it that inherent contradiction is denied ‘a priori’ – from this perspective dialectics would appear a much more inclusive approach to describing the complexity of reality than logical atomism. Logical atomism would appear highly idealised in comparison to the complexity offered by a dialectical perspective.
    Finally, the wave-particle duality so bemoaned by champions of analytic philosophy (and anti-marxists) like Popper would tend to suggest that reality does not break down to single identity concepts but instead reflects an inherent contradiction between two apparently mutually-exclusive realities.
  28. 28Rakesh Bhandari said at 11:03 pm on September 8th, 2009:The Engels of Dialectics of Nature (as well as Haldane who defended him) would probably have been interested in this book by Andreas Wagner Paradoxical Lifehttp://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300149234But I am surprised at how abstract this discussion is. Let’s begin where Marx begins.To be sure, Marx coquettes with Hegel in his analysis of the value form as a unity of opposities, but Marx explains himself well enough that further study of Hegel’s logic would shed no light at all on what he is
    saying. Just read Marx. Carefully.
    For example:

    http://tiny.cc/GsfFk

    Commodities are a unity of use value and exchange value. A commodity as a value unites the two as the exchange value for the owner and use value for the purchaser (David Harvey puts it well), but the value form externalizes the contradiction immanent in every commodity-it is both a
    use value and exchange value, but it can’t be both at the same time-by making commodities use values alone and reserving for money a monopoly
    on exchange value or exchangeability (other commodities are no longer
    immediately exchangeable against the array of commodities as in
    the expanded value form).

    Marx is not playing dialectical games here; nor is a special logic required to understand what he is saying. He is trying to understand precisely the position of money in the circulation of commodities (and he loosely borrows the Hegelian idea of a unity of opposites in his analysis of the value form).

    Upon inspection, money turns out not simply to be a device to overcome the double coincidence of wants. In virtue of the role it acquires by its position as the equivalent, it may make sense to hoard it, that is to sell without any immediate intention to buy. Money after all is alone
    the materialization of the social abstract labor time of which all commodities exchange as expressions.

    The payoff here is the critique of Say’s Law and Marx beats Keynes and economics to the punch by more than 70 years.

    Marx did not feel at home in the positivist world of Comte and the atomistic world of JS Mill. So yes he was drawn to Hegel, and he announces that, I think, so his audience will not be surprised by his speaking of unities of opposities, real contradictions (one and the same system engendering two contradictory tendencies as Andrew Collier puts it), the creativity of negative forces, dialectical inversions, quantitative to qualitative changes and of epochal historical differences.

    But one only read Marx to understand what he means by these ideas and concepts. Marx cleans them of Hegelian baggage.

    Marx stands on his own.

    Look forward to disagreement.

    Rakesh

  29. 29Rosa Lichtenstein said at 12:28 am on September 9th, 2009:Ah, I see Mr B has raised his empty head again – helpfully confirming his logically-challenged state of mind by confusing argumentum ad hominem with abuse.http://plover.net/~bonds/adhominem.htmlI have little to say to him, since little goes in.
  30. 30Rosa Lichtenstein said at 12:51 am on September 9th, 2009:Andrew, I see you have now decided to argue in a non-serious manner, clearly having run out of useful/helpful/sensible things to say:”I decided to name my hairbrush after you.”Ah but you will have to get up a lot earlier in the morning to catch me out that easily, for I covered that response in my reply:”the sentence ‘Rosa Lichtenstein is a hairbrush’ is in fact senseless (neither true nor false), since the criteria of application (or, indeed, the domain of quantification, if we talk more technically) of a *name for a human being* do (does) not range over predicate expressions for items of hair care.”You will no doubt now notice that I employed the phrase “name for a human being” in my answer; your use of the typographically identical word “Rosa Lichtenstein” as a proxy name for your hairbrush removes it from that name set.”So much for your linguistic analysis.”So much for a non-logician straying out of his area of competence and failing to read carefully.”The example shows that language cannot be analyzed without regard to intent. Signs have no meaning in the abstract, and no meaning determined solely by their relationship to other signs.”

    But, you ignored an explicitly stated intent of mine – *and* I agreed earlier with you about this:

    “Signs have no meaning in the abstract, and no meaning determined solely by their relationship to other signs.”

    But I went on to point this out:

    “Well, I was trying to explain (at your request) why your attempt to use the phrase “contradiction in terms” *philosophically*, not colloquially, is a misnomer – in that case, I was pointedly not doing this: “analyz[ing] language in abstraction from concepts and intents”, since your intentions were clear (as was the philosophical context): to defend some rather odd ideas Hegel inflicted on humanity, ideas he derived from precisely this: an “analy[sis of] language in abstraction from concepts and intents”, and, of course, the speculations of centuries of earlier mystics.

    “So, pick a fight with him, them and/or your good self, not me.”

    Andrew:

    “Signs like ‘is’. Or ‘John’ and ‘man’.”

    Is this your attempt to defend Lenin? If so it is unsuccessful, since not even Lenin can make words mean what he wants them to – ignoring Marx, for example:

    “The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life.” [The German Ideology, p.118.]

    Andrew:

    “I’ll soon be working on a paper for the November _Rethinking Marxism_ conference that will discuss why and in what sense ‘capital’ is internally contradictory. I’ll be happy to send it to you when it’s done.”

    Thanks, and I’ll read it with considerably more care than you have read my posts here, or my work in general.

    But, as I said in my last post:

    Now perhaps you can give us a clear answer to my challenge – for a change?

  31. 31Rosa Lichtenstein said at 1:34 am on September 9th, 2009:Thanks for your reply Jurriaan, but you seem to think I do not know this:”a dialectical contradiction differs from a logical contradiction”For the last 25 years or more, I have been reading and studying the material dialecticians have been churning out (over the last two centuries), and have yet to see a clear explanation of the latter of these two uses of the word “contradiction”. Let’s see how you get on:”From a logically contradictory type of statement anything can follow. A dialectical contradiction describes a situation in which a condition co-exists meaningfully with another condition, in such a way that although the one is the opposite of the other, it also presupposes the other. The dialectical contradiction is ‘held in place’ by the fact that it is mediated by something, or contained by something else.”Well, Marx added that the two interconnected ‘halves’ of a ‘dialectical contradiction’ “mutually exclude one another”. If that is so, then they cannot exist together, which means that cannot ‘contradict’ one another in the way you require. On the other hand, if they do ‘contradict’ one another, and both exist at the same time (perhaps as opposing forces, or determinations (depending on how you give them physical being)), then they cannot “mutually exclude” one another.Jurriaan:”a dialectical contradiction differs from a logical contradiction in that a logical contradiction is basically a formal inconsistency of meaning, evaluated according to certain inferential rules of propositional logic…. In formal logic we call this either a paradoxical statement, or a nonsensical statement.”Alas, dialecticians are always making this mistake. An inconsistency, in its simplest form, involves two propositions which cannot both be true, but they can both be false, whereas a contradiction involves two propositions that cannot both be true and cannot both be false. So, in logic no contradiction (sans phrase) is an inconsistency, nor vice versa.

    And this is incorrect, too:

    “In formal logic we call this either a paradoxical statement, or a nonsensical statement.”

    Well a paradox might lead to a contradiction, but the two are quite distinct, and no contradiction can be nonsensical, otherwise we’d not be able to understand it to see if it is contradictory or not.

    Jurriaan:

    “But in fact in practical life we encounter such dialectical contradictions all the time, and there is nothing particularly mysterious about it.”

    I’d like to see an example!

    But you helpfully gave us one:

    “To illustrate: I work as a public servant for a local government bureaucracy obliged by oath to follow the rules, yet if I tried to conduct myself only and exclusively according to consistent rules, analogous to a computer programme or a machine, I would find this practically impossible to operate, and my activity would be quickly paralysed. I find myself constantly confronted with dialectical contradictions I have to negotiate, sometimes a bit like a “catch-22″ situation.

    “Now the interesting thing in this example is that even although I cannot practically act, only and exclusively, according to consistent rules and survive, nevertheless most people do not regard my behavior as essentially arbitrary, irrational and random. Some of it might be, but most of it is not. They recognise it has a non-arbitrary pattern. And not only that; they can also make correct and valid inferences from my behaviour, even although my behavior is not following any given rule. One could even say that much of my behaviour is predictable, even although does not involve executing a rule.”

    And yet you failed to tell us what the ‘dialectical contradiction’ is here!

    Jurriaan:

    “From this kind of insight you can learn that there are forms of reasoning (inferential processes) which, although they do not conform to deductive logic, and do not lead to only one conclusion, are nevertheless non-arbitrary, and very meaningful. The reason why they are non-arbitrary is because they ‘rule in’ some possibilities, and ‘rule out’ others; some things cannot follow and are ruled out, the number of things that can follow are limited, and some things are more likely to be the case than others – and all this, even although there is not just one logically compelling conclusion from the reasoning, but several. Again this is a rather obvious insight, but the question now is ‘why this is so’, how that works, how we could model or describe that. There are many different trends of thought about this (pragmatism, para-consistency, fuzzy logic etc.) and dialectics is one of those trends. One sort of answer is that ordinary language itself, although reasonable, does not conform to formal logic, and therefore that an association can be meaningful and non-arbitrary, without being logical.”

    Yes, I know about “fuzzy logic” and “informal logic”, but I fail to see how this helps anyone understand the obscure phrase “dialectical contradiction”.

    Jurriaan:

    “We can also approach the problem from another angle. Deductive logic has severe limits, since P follows ‘if’ Q is the case, and that can be a very big ‘if. A deductive argument cannot compel us to induce all the premises it contains, it can tell us only that if we induce certain premises then the conclusion follows. Thus deductive logic only specifies the conditions for making consistent sense; the inductions into the deduction process may be reasonable, but not logically compelling. Therefore, in practice we are always forced to apply two criteria of truth, namely correspondence and coherence, but in applying these criteria we additionally assume a context which exists beyond those criteria. If you pursue this line of thought, you find that actually it is possible to make a very large number of true statements about one object, using various criteria, without necessarily being able to say that one statement is more true than another, or without there being clear criteria for choosing between them, or how they would fit together.”

    Once more, whatever the limitations of formal logic are (and from the above I am far from convinced you have a firm grasp of logic), this in no way helps us understand the phrase “dialectical contradiction”.

    Jurriaan:

    “The question then is whether there are some meta-criteria of meaning and reason, captured by basic categorizations, which would allow us to order the whole of the truths we have discovered about an object in a non-arbitrary synthesis, such that through a series of conceptualizations, the truth about the object ‘explains itself’, becomes ‘self-explanatory’. The dialectician would say ‘yes’, this is possible, we can discover those criteria, but it is not possible to do so by means of deductive inference only, not only because we somehow have to induce premises non-arbitrarily, but also because we need to refer to a meaningful context not provided by the deductions and inductions themselves. We need to start both with what the object is, and what it is not (its negation), and constantly elaborate further what it is and is not, and this involves explicating the dialectical contradictions involved with the object, how these are mediated and resolved, how they give rise to new contradictions. At the conclusion it is proved that, provided a certain starting assumption is made about what the object is and is not, this assumption will validate itself, by showing that it provides non-arbitrary means to integrate all truths about the object consistently, in such a way that the truth about the object ‘explains itself’, that its full meaning is understood.

    “This is merely to say that the dialectical procedure aims to understand the full meaning of the object of study and relativise it appropriately, using meta-criteria to order truth-coherences and truth-correspondences in an rigorous interpretation, which goes beyond formal logical procedures although it utilizes them. The question then remains, whether dialectical properties are just a characteristic of the meaningful universe that human beings generate themselves (a human way of understanding), or whether dialectical characteristics indeed exist mind-independently as objective social realities or objective physical realities. A realist dialectician argues that indeed dialectical features exist objectively in nature and society, since human dialectical meanings have originally evolved out of, and in relationship to, those objectively existing dialectical features (‘mind’ has evolved out of ‘matter’). If we say for example that ‘mind and body are a unit’ or a ‘whole’, we cannot really say that the mind features dialectical characteristics, while the body doesn’t.”

    Well, there is much here I could take issue with, but I won’t since it is not directly connected with the challenge I raised to Andrew – what the hell is a (Marxist) ‘dialectical contradiction’? – but I notice you keep helping yourself to the phrase “dialectical contradiction” when it is still far from clear what one of these is. [Much of the above is in fact an idealist analysis, anyway –, unless, of course, you can give it a materialist twist somehow. And, good luck there! No one has succeeded on that score in the last 150 years.]

    Jurriaan:

    “However it is not possible to write a dialectical ‘rule book’ like Marxists try (see above), the question is only whether you can discover the dialectical characteristics of a subject matter by means of a comprehensive analysis of all it contains. The dialectician claims, that if you are prepared to delve sufficiently deeply and systematically into the subject matter, you will sooner or later confront the dialectical relationships beneath the apparent logical paradoxes and puzzling relationships in the subject matter. However, even if you can prove that a dialectical contradiction objectively exists, dialectical thinking does not of itself offer any logical or empirical proofs. It merely claims that ‘if’ a certain assumption is adopted, or ‘if’ you see the subject matter this way, then it becomes self-explanatory, and makes integral scientific sense.”

    Thanks for that, but I am no clearer – and since I am interested in a Marxist analysis of this obscure phrase, I’m not sue you are the person to help me.

    And the Einstein quote you added seems to confirm that you are indeed an Idealist, just like he was.

  32. 32Rosa Lichtenstein said at 2:04 am on September 9th, 2009:Materialist:”This is a good debate. The problem for me is that I think that attempts to analyse philosophy by means of breaking down concepts to words doesn’t work. Surely, the futility of such reductionist schemes was proven by Wittgenstein’s conclusions reached after writing the Tractatus. The project of defining a closed set of axioms that could define reality was doomed at that point. The rest of his life was spent investigating the complex relations between language and concepts in behind it. Rosa seems to ignore this journey.
    What’s more though I think the analytic philosophers have a fundamental flaw. They deny the possibility of a dialectical contradiction. Yet it seems they posit the alternative – logical atomism – that every reality can be broken down to a logical statement. This would appear to require a proof – and I’ve never seen one. It is just held as axiomatic.”

    Where you get this idea from beats me:

    “The problem for me is that I think that attempts to analyse philosophy by means of breaking down concepts to words doesn’t work. Surely, the futility of such reductionist schemes was proven by Wittgenstein’s conclusions reached after writing the Tractatus. The project of defining a closed set of axioms that could define reality was doomed at that point. The rest of his life was spent investigating the complex relations between language and concepts in behind it. Rosa seems to ignore this journey.”

    I am in fact a Wittgensteinian Trotskyist! So, none of this applies to me.

    Materialist:

    “What’s more though I think the analytic philosophers have a fundamental flaw. They deny the possibility of a dialectical contradiction. Yet it seems they posit the alternative – logical atomism – that every reality can be broken down to a logical statement. This would appear to require a proof – and I’ve never seen one. It is just held as axiomatic.

    “Just why is it that inherent contradiction is denied ‘a priori’ – from this perspective dialectics would appear a much more inclusive approach to describing the complexity of reality than logical atomism. Logical atomism would appear highly idealised in comparison to the complexity offered by a dialectical perspective.”

    Again, this does not apply to me, since I do not “deny the possibility of a dialectical contradiction”. The challenge I have raised here is to ask what precisely is it that you dialecticians are banging on about when you use the phrase “dialectical contradiction” – hence, the question of their alleged existence (or otherwise) does not arise until we know what we are supposed to be talking about.

    And I think you have confused Analytic Philosophy with Logical Atomism (a doctrine that died out all of fifty years ago – and which was only a sub-branch anyway).

    Materialist:

    “Finally, the wave-particle duality so bemoaned by champions of analytic philosophy (and anti-marxists) like Popper would tend to suggest that reality does not break down to single identity concepts but instead reflects an inherent contradiction between two apparently mutually-exclusive realities.”

    Well, as I pointed out to Jurriaam, these cannot be ‘material contradictions’ (whatever that means!) since they cannot exist together (as you affirm). On the other hand, if they do exist together, then they cannot “mutually exclude” one another.

    But, these two states of matter are not even contradictory:

    Here is what I have written on this at my site:

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

    [UO = Unity of Opposites. DM = Dialectical Materialism/Materialist.]

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

    Consider these two propositions:

    Q1: Light is a wave.

    Q2: Light is particulate.

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

    Q3: No wave can be particulate.

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

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

    But is Q3 true? Surely not, for if physicists are correct, light is both! However, independently of that, there are plenty of examples of waves in nature which are particulate; e.g., sound waves, water waves and Mexican waves. So, Q3 is in fact false!

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

    But, even if in some way this were a contradiction it does nothing to explain change – unless we are supposed to accept the idea that the fact that light is a particle changes it into a wave, and vice versa. Are we to conclude that these two states/processes are ‘struggling’ with each other? But what is the point of that? What role does this particular ‘contradiction’ play either in DM or in Physics? At best it seems to be merely ornamental.

    Now, if we put to one side the ‘solution’ to this puzzle offered by, say, Superstring Theory, there are in fact more than a handful of Physicists – with, it seems, a more robust commitment to scientific realism than the average dialectician seems able to muster – who believe that this ‘paradox’ can be resolved within a realist picture of nature. [Evidence is given at my site.] Whether or not they are correct need not detain us since DM-theorists (if consistent) ought to advise these rather rash realists not to bother trying to solve this riddle. This is because dialectics has already provided us with an a priori solution: since nature is fundamentally contradictory there is in fact no solution -, which paradoxical state of affairs should, of course, simply be “grasped”, in which case, Physics would grind to a halt.

    This is because if experiments are conducted that allegedly show that light is both a particle and a wave, then DM-theorists would have no reason to question this supposedly contradictory data, nor to try to resolve this difficulty.

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

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

    Not so with DM-fans, whose advice would permanently hold things up.

    Of course, only those who wish to foist their ideas on nature would object at this point.

    More details here:

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

  33. 33Rosa Lichtenstein said at 2:16 am on September 9th, 2009:Rakesh:”To be sure, Marx coquettes with Hegel in his analysis of the value form as a unity of opposites, but Marx explains himself well enough that further study of Hegel’s logic would shed no light at all on what he is saying. Just read Marx. Carefully.”Unfortunately, I have done both, and have yet to see it explained clearly what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is. So, this is no help at all.And thanks for that brief analysis of some of Marx’s ideas, but none of it helps. As I noted in several of the above replies: Marx adds that these must “mutually exclude” one another, and if that is the case, they cannot exist together. In turn, if that is so, they cannot ‘contradict’ one another (except perhaps in thought, but even then, they have to exist in thought together to do that!). On the other hand, if they do exist together, they cannot mutually exclude” on another.Much else of what you say, it seems to me, is no help either, and clearly ignores the above simple point.
  34. 34Rosa Lichtenstein said at 2:27 am on September 9th, 2009:So that we do not presume on Andrew’s hospitality any more, if anyone else wants to pitch in, perhaps they can join with me in debate at RevLeft, where we have thrashed these things out many times – all with the same result: no one seems to know what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is!http://www.revleft.com/vb/philosophy-f33/index.html
  35. 35Rakesh Bhandari said at 2:57 am on September 9th, 2009:The problem here is that you are fixated on the idea of “mutual exclusion” in the abstract. Marx did not write a treatise on logic.The question is what does he mean by mutual exclusion not in the abstract but in the relationship between money and commodities.Money, arising itself as a commodity, comes to exclude all other commodities from themselves acquiring commodities in exchange as they had been able to do so in the simple and expanded value forms and thereby contradicts them, though all commodities are produced as both use values and as exchange values, i.e. for the purposes of acquiring other commodities.Now, even though money, i.e. gold [or silver] alone in the equivalent form, contradicts commodities in the sense specified above-that is, money opposes their directly acquiring other commodities, though this is the very purpose of their production; once there is money, simply put, other commodities don’t and can’t acquire commodities- money can only contradict or oppose commodities because it is in necessary relation to them as their own form of value.We have here a relationship between commodities and money that is both mutually assuming and mutually contradictory.We can call this relationship dialectical; we can say it has the form of a unity of opposites. But the point is not to phrase monger in this way, but to understand the actual complex relationship between commodities and money.And about this you seem to have nothing to say. Hence, your intemperate reply to me is perplexing.
  36. 36Rosa Lichtenstein said at 4:19 am on September 9th, 2009:Rakesh:The problem here is that you are fixated on the idea of “mutual exclusion” in the abstract. Marx did not write a treatise on logic.”1. I mentioned it since Marx did; and I am hardly “fixated” on it. I mentioned it in reply to you only once.2. Sure Marx did not write a treatise on logic, but that just means we are still waiting for a clear exposition of the obscure phrase “dialectical contradiction”.Rakesh:”The question is what does he mean by mutual exclusion not in the abstract but in the relationship between money and commodities.”But, how do these “mutually exclude” (or even “struggle”) with one another?Rakesh:

    “Money, arising itself as a commodity, comes to exclude all other commodities from themselves acquiring commodities in exchange as they had been able to do so in the simple and expanded value forms and thereby contradicts them, though all commodities are produced as both use values and as exchange values, i.e. for the purposes of acquiring other commodities.

    “Now, even though money, i.e. gold [or silver] alone in the equivalent form, contradicts commodities in the sense specified above-that is, money opposes their directly acquiring other commodities, though this is the very purpose of their production; once there is money, simply put, other commodities don’t and can’t acquire commodities- money can only contradict or oppose commodities because it is in necessary relation to them as their own form of value.

    “We have here a relationship between commodities and money that is both mutually assuming and mutually contradictory.”

    Yes, I have read this sort of stuff so many times, the ink is beginning to fade; but you once again help yourself to the word “contradictory” without once explaining in what way they are ‘contradictory’.

    I am not asking for yet another repeat of the same old stuff, liberally sprinkled the as-yet-to-be-explained term “dialectical contradiction”, but an explanation of what one of these is.

    Rakesh:

    “We can call this relationship dialectical; we can say it has the form of a unity of opposites. But the point is not to phrase monger in this way, but to understand the actual complex relationship between commodities and money.”

    Once more: how do these “mutually exclude” one another and yet both co-exist in order for them to ‘contradict’ each other?

    You keep forgetting about this essential feature of this obscure term. Adding in the no less obscure phrase “unity of opposites” in no way helps, either.

    “And about this you seem to have nothing to say.”

    No more than I have much to say about the equally arcane jargon Christians come out with when they bang on about their “Trinity” – a notion that had the same roots in mystical Neo-Platonism as Hegel’s ‘dialectical method’.

    “Hence, your intemperate reply to me is perplexing.”

    In what way was it “intemperate” – unless you think that to disagree with you is to be “intemperate” by definition?

    Finally, I said this in a previous post:

    So that we do not presume on Andrew’s hospitality any more, if anyone else wants to pitch in, perhaps they can join with me in debate at RevLeft, where we have thrashed these things out many times – all with the same result: no one seems to know what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is!

    http://www.revleft.com/vb/philosophy-f33/index.html

    So, can you decamp to there if you want to debate this with me?

  37. 37Rakesh Bhandari said at 6:02 am on September 9th, 2009:Rosa,
    You assert that I give no sensible meaning to the way in which money contradicts or opposes or conflicts with commodities. Of course you don’t tell us how we should understand the relationship between them, so I don’t find any substance to your response.

    Money is the monopolization by one commodity of the equivalent form; such monopolization conflicts with any other commodity becoming directly exchangeable with commodities other than money. In that sense money contradicts and opposes the very essence of commodities in general as they are produced in order to acquire other commodities.
    You also evince no understanding of how the relationship between money and commodities is at the same time mutually assuming. Commodities are produced as a form of value and for them to become just that a single commodity has to assume the position of general equivalent under the pressure of mass exchange (even bimetallism is unstable).

    You simply don’t want to understand this complex relationship that is both mutually assuming and mutually contradictory. And so you won’t also understand how Marx grounds his critique of Say’s Law in terms of his understanding of the relationship of money to commodities.

    I find no need to engage you here or elsewhere.

  38. 38Rosa Lichtenstein said at 6:23 am on September 9th, 2009:Rakesh:”You assert that I give no sensible meaning to the way in which money contradicts or opposes or conflicts with commodities. Of course you don’t tell us how we should understand the relationship between them, so I don’t find any substance to your response.”You can ‘understand’ this in any way you like; all I ask is you tell us what the dickens you mean when you use the obscure phrase “dialectical contradiction”.Rakesh:”Money is the monopolization by one commodity of the equivalent form; such monopolization conflicts with any other commodity becoming directly exchangeable with commodities other than money. In that sense money contradicts and opposes the very essence of commodities in general as they are produced in order to acquire other commodities.”You also evince no understanding of how the relationship between money and commodities is at the same time mutually assuming. Commodities are produced as a form of value and for them to become just that a single commodity has to assume the position of general equivalent under the pressure of mass exchange (even bimetallism is unstable).”As I mentioned in my previous post, I have read this sort of ‘reply’ so many times, the ink is beginning to fade, just as I noted that you help yourself to the term “contradiction” without once explaining why it is a contradiction. In that case, you might as well have said this:”In that sense money schmontradicts and opposes the very essence of commodities in general as they are produced in order to acquire other commodities.”

    Now, Hegel was able to ‘derive’ his ‘contradictions’ by means of some sub-Aristotelian logic, which I have exposed here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Outline_of_errors_Hegel_committed_01.htm

    It seems to me that this defective ‘logic’ is the only rationale you have for using this obscure phrase (that, of course, and tradition), and this was precisely the challenge I raised against Andrew’s article above.

    So far, all we have seen in response is plenty of bluster, hot air and diversionary tactics, but no genuine attempt to tell us what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ actually is.

    Rakesh:

    “You simply don’t want to understand this complex relationship that is both mutually assuming and mutually contradictory. And so you won’t also understand how Marx grounds his critique of Say’s Law in terms of his understanding of the relationship of money to commodities.”

    And when I confront Christians, and ask them to explain the nature of their ‘Trinity’, it won’t do for them to reply:

    “You just do not want to understand….”

    It’s up to you to explain yourself, or stop using this obscure phrase.

    Rakesh:

    “I find no need to engage you here or elsewhere.”

    Fine, I accept your capitulation.

  39. 39Materialist said at 6:31 am on September 9th, 2009:Thanks to RL for responding.
    From the way you argue – using analytic methods – I don’t think you fully understand Wittgenstein’s criticism of using language in ways it cannot be used.

    As for the quantum-duality. As far as I know, no serious quantum physicist denies duality. If they are trying to work out things via string theory – these all occur within the framework of quantum theory itself and certainly nothing yet arrived at challenges, for example, the indeterminancy principle – which itself is clearly a self-contradiction.

    Your argument re: contradictions is a tautology. And, as Wittgenstein said tautologies prove nothing. They are contentless statements.

    Let me prove it. If I posit a contradiction, you will accept the premise then identify that the contradiction either doesn’t exist (not mutually exclusive) or point backwards identifying the contradiction as self-evidently untrue by reason of the coexistence in one case.

    So you’re argument is ‘there’s a contradiction…but there can’t be a contradiction…therefore there isn’t a contradiction’.

    Furthermore, your mode of argument itself assumes the mutual exclusion of contradictions – otherwise you wouldn’t be able to complete the last step of the argument.

    Let us go to wave and particle nature. I understand that you are hopeful some scientist will overturn this uncomfortable truth but so far you haven’t much luck.

    A particle behaves like a point object. A particle, therefore, goes through a hole without suffering any diffraction.

    A wave behaves like a field. It can self-interact and when it goes through a hole it diffracts.

    So when a sub-atomic particle go through a hole there is a question – whether they will behave according to their wave or particle nature. In the end, it is a question of scale and interestingly whether we interfere with them or not. I’ll not bore you with the EPR paradox which you should be aware of – but it all points to the implicit self contradiction within nature at its very smallest level.

    Unless you resort to your tautological denial of contradiction you will see this.

    It is you who deny the possibility of material contradiction (on foot of the assumption that there’s no such thing) who has the idealist philosophy.

    At the end of the day, its a way of understanding nature. Denying what your eyes see and your ears hear to me reeks of ignorance.

  40. 40Rosa Lichtenstein said at 7:13 am on September 9th, 2009:Materialist:”From the way you argue – using analytic methods – I don’t think you fully understand Wittgenstein’s criticism of using language in ways it cannot be used.”In fact, my PhD was on Wittgenstein, so you will need to do more than merely assert I do not understand what he had to say about language.Materialist:”As for the quantum-duality. As far as I know, no serious quantum physicist denies duality. If they are trying to work out things via string theory – these all occur within the framework of quantum theory itself and certainly nothing yet arrived at challenges, for example, the indeterminacy principle – which itself is clearly a self-contradiction.”Well, I provide evidence at my site (link in my last reply to you) which throws considerable doubt on your bold claim here (as you should know, Marxist David Bohm, for instance, had a realist solution to this alleged ‘paradox’).But, even if you are right, this in no way shows that this ‘duality’ is a contradiction, and the fact that you also think indeterminacy is a contradiction suggests you have an insecure grasp of this term, anyway.Materialist:

    “Your argument re: contradictions is a tautology. And, as Wittgenstein said tautologies prove nothing. They are contentless statements.”

    1. In what way is what I argue a ‘tautology’?

    2. And were did Wittgenstein say this (that they prove nothing)?

    [He did say they were ‘senseless’ (Sinnloss) in the Tractatus, but so what? And he did not say they were ‘contentless’.]

    Materialist:

    “Let me prove it. If I posit a contradiction, you will accept the premise then identify that the contradiction either doesn’t exist (not mutually exclusive) or point backwards identifying the contradiction as self-evidently untrue by reason of the coexistence in one case.

    “So you’re argument is ‘there’s a contradiction…but there can’t be a contradiction…therefore there isn’t a contradiction’.”

    I am sorry, but I could make little sense of this; I have nowhere said that contradictions don’t exist. What I have said is that the phrase “Dialectical contradiction” has yet to be explained; until then we do not know what is being alleged to exist, or otherwise.

    Perhaps you are confusing the brief argument I posted above which took issue with the idea that the dialectically united ‘halves’ of a ‘dialectical contradiction’ “mutually exclude” one another – which, if they do, they cannot co-exist, and so cannot contradict one another (except perhaps in thought). On the other hand, if they do co-exist, then they cannot “mutually exclude” one another. But, in that argument, I was not expressing my own beliefs, but merely working out the consequences of what others have said.

    Materialist:

    “Furthermore, your mode of argument itself assumes the mutual exclusion of contradictions – otherwise you wouldn’t be able to complete the last step of the argument.”

    As you can now see, I hope, I do not assume anything of the sort – and neither do any of my arguments.

    Materialist:

    “Let us go to wave and particle nature. I understand that you are hopeful some scientist will overturn this uncomfortable truth but so far you haven’t much luck.

    “A particle behaves like a point object. A particle, therefore, goes through a hole without suffering any diffraction.

    “A wave behaves like a field. It can self-interact and when it goes through a hole it diffracts.

    “So when a sub-atomic particle go through a hole there is a question – whether they will behave according to their wave or particle nature. In the end, it is a question of scale and interestingly whether we interfere with them or not. I’ll not bore you with the EPR paradox which you should be aware of – but it all points to the implicit self contradiction within nature at its very smallest level.”

    But, you have yet to show this is a contradiction, still less a “dialectical contradiction” (a term you have yet to explain, anyway).

    Materialist:

    “Unless you resort to your tautological denial of contradiction you will see this.”

    Once more, which part of my argument is tautological? [And what exactly is a “tautological denial”, for goodness sake?]

    Materialist:

    “It is you who deny the possibility of material contradiction (on foot of the assumption that there’s no such thing) who has the idealist philosophy.”

    Again, what I have *not* done here is deny something (least of all a “possibility”) that has yet to be explained.

    You would do well, therefore, to resist the temptation to make things up about my beliefs, and try to explain this obscure term (for the first time in 150 years!).

    Materialist:

    “At the end of the day, its a way of understanding nature.”

    Well, after studying this ‘theory’ for over 25 years, all I can say is that if we needed another way of understanding nature, dialectical materialism, or even ‘materialist dialectics’, would not be it. In fact, this ‘theory’ is so confused that it wouldn’t even make the bottom of the reserve list of likely, competing candidates.

    Why, you can’t even explain what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is! *And neither can anyone else.*

    Materialist:

    “Denying what your eyes see and your ears hear to me reeks of ignorance.”

    Where do I deny any of this?

  41. 41Rakesh Bhandari said at 12:09 pm on September 9th, 2009:http://www.marx.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/abstract/abstra5d.htm
  42. 42Rosa Lichtenstein said at 12:32 pm on September 9th, 2009:Thanks for that, Rakesh, but I have read and studied the dialectical literature in its entirety (or, at least, that which is available in English), and that includes the works of Ilyenkov.But, Ilyenkov does not explain what these mysterious entities (ie., ‘dialectical contradictions’) are either, so I do not know why you added the above liink.
  43. 43Rakesh Bhandari said at 12:42 pm on September 9th, 2009:Again no engagement with Marx’s analysis of the value form or Ilyenkov’s interpretation of it.
  44. 44Rosa Lichtenstein said at 12:47 pm on September 9th, 2009:Rakesh:”Again no engagement with Marx’s analysis of the value form or Ilyenkov’s interpretation of it.”There’s not much point until one of you (dialecticians) explains to me what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is – of course, if you don’t know, at least have the courage to admit it.
  45. 45Charles said at 12:51 pm on September 9th, 2009:Rosa, Do you think there is any such thing as a contradiction ?Let try some concrete analysis of the concrete situation. Does “toxic asset” in finance represent a contradiction ? Or is it just part of your honky dory contradiction free world ? Lets have your clever retort.
  46. 46CB said at 1:13 pm on September 9th, 2009:Rosa: He now deigns to comment on the musings of my colleague Babeuf; here is an example of truly innovative historical materialism:”CB: Another fundamental activity was the raising of children. I’m thinking language/culture emerged between parents and children.”Rosa: It is reasonably clear that Mr B has shot from the hip again^^^^
    CB: Actually,no. I’ve been in anthropology since 1968, and I have thought about this issue for many, many years. This is the result of long deliberation, not shooting from the hip. And I didn’t shoot from the hip the “last ” time either.
    ^^^^
    – or rather shot from the holster and into his foot -,

    ^^^^
    CB: I think I shot you in the mouth (smile)

    ^^^

    for if the above were the case, not only would parents and children confront each other like Pentecostal ecstatics, mouthing incomprehensible noises at one another, no two families would share the same idiolect.
    Communication between families would thus be impossible

    ^^^^
    CB: Care to elaborate on the “reasoning” by which you reached these conclusions ?

    “Families” were being invented at the same time that language and culture were being invented, dummie.
    ^^^^
    . In that case, ‘culture’, as Mr B sees it, would soon begin to resemble that cacophony which constantly sounds in his head.

    ^^^^^
    CB: However, “that” was not the case, therefore, “culture” didn’t resemble cacaphony, etc.

  47. 47CB said at 1:35 pm on September 9th, 2009:Now, in Essay Twelve Part One, I asserted that most Marxists give lip-service to the idea that language is a social phenomenon, but fail to think through the implications of that fact, and talk and write as if language were a private affair.^^
    CB: No, the relationship between parents and children is social, not private.

    Note: these early “families” or kin groups wherein language and culture were invented are not “nuclear families” of modern capitalism.

    That language and culture are social , and that the human social is expanded enormously in its inception as language and culture is fundamental to what I’m saying, comrade.
    ^^^^^

    ^^^^

    Mr B has shown once again that when it comes to getting things wrong, he is keen to elbow his way to the front of the queue. How language can be social, but remain a family affair is perhaps another one of the ‘contradictions’ that still compromises his thought processes:

    ^^^
    CB: That you think families are not social is an obvious “oversight” on your part.

  48. 48CB said at 1:57 pm on September 9th, 2009:CB: “Before I had even heard of dialectics – living in the a mental (sic) world of strict formal logic – I started to ‘run into’ lots of contradictions and paradoxes. My own road to dialectics was a posteriori, not a priori.”Rosa: Mr B here confuses matters biographical with matters logical; unless -, of course, he thinks paradoxes are a posteriori.^^^^
    CB: Actually, these are biographical experiences with matters logical, no confusion about it for me.

    Once again, are there no contradictions, no paradoxes for Rosa, honey ?

    ^^^^^^^

    Rosa: But, even if he were right,

    ^^^
    CB: Which “he” is,

    ^^^^

    this otherwise commendable public confession of his own confused thought should not be read as mere humility. On the contrary, the road to Hermetic-enlightenment – a path which all true dialecticians have to pass along in order to qualify as adepts (and the reasons for this are exposed here) – elevates them way above the rest of us mortals. This means that if ever they regain power somewhere they can screw-up once more in a truly almighty and awe-inspiring manner. After all, they have a suitably screwy theory to help them on their way.

    ^^^
    CB: Pass

    ^^^

  49. 49cb said at 4:47 pm on September 9th, 2009:But, even if you are right, this in no way shows that this ‘duality’ is a contradiction, and the fact that you also think indeterminacy is a contradiction suggests you have an insecure grasp of this term, anyway.^^^^^
    CB: Certainly there is a way to think of indeterminancy as a contradiction, as a contradiction to the previous way of thinking about particles as having a definite speed and location at the same time. Einstein seemed to think that the principle contradicted his fundamental way of thinking about physics. God does not play with dice or whatever.

    Goedel’s “incompleteness” contradicts previously understandings of the fundamental logical consistency of mathematics.

    Does Rosa have an example of what she considers a contradiction ?

  50. 50Paul Cockshott said at 12:24 pm on September 10th, 2009:Although in general I share Rosa’s distaste of Hegelianism there is a sense in whichl a formula like
    a = not a
    is understandable in terms of materialist dialectics.
    The principle that the negation of the negation is becoming, which
    seemed gobledegook to me when I read it in Hegel, is a commonplace to
    the electrical engineer. If one wants to build a digital oscillator, one
    chains an odd number of not gates together, and you get a result that
    periodically changes from true to false.
    The materialisation of logic as a physical device produces this sort of result. Similarly materialisation of liar paradoxes produces indefinite recursion in a TM.
  51. 51Jurriaan Bendien said at 1:52 pm on September 10th, 2009:“Rosa” (she or he is talking cowardly from behind a pseudonym) claims:> Well, Marx added that the two interconnected ‘halves’ of a ‘dialectical
    > contradiction’ “mutually exclude one another”. If that is so, then they
    > cannot exist together, which means that cannot ‘contradict’ one another in
    > the way you require. On the other hand, if they do ‘contradict’ one
    > another, and both exist at the same time (perhaps as opposing forces, or
    > determinations (depending on how you give them physical being)), then they
    > cannot “mutually exclude” one another.

    But this is a petitio principii, Rosa just assumes what has to be proved. I
    defined a dialectical contradiction very clearly, as two opposite conditions
    which nevertheless presuppose each other and depend on each other for their
    existence, a situation which can exist because the opposition of the two
    conditions is in some way mediated, or contained in some way, by something
    else. Rosa then argues that if the two conditions mutually exclude each
    other, they cannot co-exist, but this is just an assertion with an appeal to
    tautological definition. BTW Rosa’s Phd dissertation must be total rubbish,
    you can tell that straightaway from the puberal mode of argumentation. The
    real logical or semantic question is, under what condition would it make
    sense (or to be reasonable) to speak of two opposite conditions which
    nevertheless presuppose each other? Reflective dialectical thought goes
    right back to Heraclitus and even earlier, and there are many different ways
    of describing dialectical contradictions and their further implications, I
    don’t deny that. But the basic idea is quite simple, and there is no particular
    mystery about it at all, our facilitary and front office staff have deal
    with this sort of thing all the time.

    > Alas, dialecticians are always making this mistake. An inconsistency, in
    > its simplest form, involves two propositions which cannot both be true,
    > but they can both be false, whereas a contradiction involves two
    > propositions that cannot both be true and cannot both be false. So, in
    > logic no contradiction (sans phrase) is an inconsistency, nor vice versa.

    This already shows that Rosa does not grasp formal logic, notwithstanding
    the brainless Wittgenstein bullshit, which is a ruse.

    > And yet you failed to tell us what the ‘dialectical contradiction’ is
    > here!

    Well, it’s very simple Rosa: just like in Catch-22, what you are dealing
    with is that in order to apply the rule, you have to negate the rule, and in
    order to not apply the rule, you have to apply the rule. This may seem
    unprincipled, but in the bureaucracy there is always a hierarchy of
    principles which renders such improvisation legitimate. This situation
    arises, often, because academics like Rosa, who styles himself a
    “Witgensteinian Trotskyite”, are paid rich helpings of tax money to devise
    rule systems and conceptual hierarchies which cannot in fact be applied,
    because these so-called “academics” have an extremely poor understanding of
    what is actually humanly, socially and practically involved in a work
    process or an administrative process. Their task is to describe what’s
    happening and rendering it meaningful to the ivory tower of management,
    Plato’s philosopher kings, but this is obviously quite different from the
    operative staff who actually have to make things work, and therefore face
    dialectical contradictions all the time.

    > Yes, I know about “fuzzy logic” and “informal logic”, but I fail to see
    > how this helps anyone understand the obscure phrase “dialectical
    > contradiction”.

    Here Rosa misses the point completely. The real point is that non-arbitrary
    human reasoning extends far beyond what we can capture in deductive and
    inductive inference, and that is just where dialectical reason only begins!
    But “Rosa” has no grasp of it at all. Now how can we ever have any
    constructive discussion when Rosa doesn’t even understand the most
    elementary problems of reason?

    > Well, there is much here I could take issue with, but I won’t since it is
    > not directly connected with the challenge I raised to Andrew – what the
    > hell is a (Marxist) ‘dialectical contradiction’? – but I notice you keep
    > helping yourself to the phrase “dialectical contradiction” when it is
    > still far from clear what one of these is. [Much of the above is in fact
    > an idealist analysis, anyway –, unless, of course, you can give it a
    > materialist twist somehow. And, good luck there! No one has succeeded on
    > that score in the last 150 years.]

    This is just puberal, studenty pharisee crap once again. Of course you are
    going to be perpetually puzzled by the normality of “dialectical
    contradictions” if you deny their existence tooth and nail! It would be like
    saying the sun doesn’t exist, even although everybody thinks the sun does
    exist, on the ground that most people cannot adequately “define” the sun in
    terms of formal logic. Well, big deal.

    >
    > Thanks for that, but I am no clearer – and since I am interested in a
    > Marxist analysis of this obscure phrase, I’m not sue you are the person to
    > help me.

    Yeah, Rosa does need help, but he or she “is not sure I am the person to
    help him or her”. When all else fails, hang out the victim… The hypocrisy
    is that I already tried to help him/her, by explaining what a dialectical
    contradiction is and what the utility of dialectics is, in plain language,
    sacrificing the free time that I have. Then he/she says, “I am not sure”.
    Well, big deal. On to the next one.

    > And the Einstein quote you added seems to confirm that you are indeed an
    > Idealist, just like he was.

    This again is a dumb slur from the nihilist enemy of reason which Rosa is.
    Einstein as a physicist was not at all an “idealist”, other than having
    political and human ideals. Einstein is referring to the fact that our
    ability to actually test theories is far more limited than our creative
    ability to theorize and draw logical inferences, in part because our ability
    to construct valid empirical tests is practically limited, whereas our
    ability to speculate theoretically in abstracto is much less limited, so
    that the effect is, that the amount of scientific theory we have, is
    typically disproportionately larger than the amount of valid scientific
    evidence to back it up. He suggests that there exists a series of basic
    (“axiomatic”) assumptions, discovered through creative inquiry, which, “if”
    they are true, would explain the scientific evidence we have, and if we do
    not have those assumptions, then we cannot explain the scientific evidence.
    This may seem to weaken the possibilities for scientific knowledge, but in
    fact armed with these assumptions we are able to explain very much, since we
    can show convincingly that predictions made using these assumptions will in
    most cases yield confirmation of the assumptions, or are at least consistent
    with what we would would expect. The point is that these “axiomatic”
    assumptions cannot themselves derive simply from the data, though they are
    informed by them – the central problem of dialectical theory – nor are they
    amenable to a complete proof by the data. But that is just to say that
    Einstein, as a scientific realist, rejected a simplistic empiricist account
    of the relationship between theory and data, according to which Hempelian
    “covering laws” are strictly generalisations from clusters of sense data.
    The theory, which contains many logical inferences, and the data gathered,
    are for Einstein “semi-autonomous” from each other: they inform each other
    but are not reducible to each other. He implies thereby that the task of
    science is to bring the theories we have, and the data we produce, closer
    together in a rational way, and he expresses his optimism that creative
    inquiry can enable us to do this – possibly, with the belief that, since we
    are ourselves part of the universe, we are able to improve our understanding
    of it. This contrasts with the skepticist mysticism of the Popperian view
    according to which reality is too complex and variegated, and our abilities
    too limited, for us to know very much for certain about it at all, so that
    most people are deluded, and all we can do is demolish illusions, even
    although there are always far more illusions than we can demolish. Einstein
    suggests that in reality people are not so deluded as Karl Popper implies
    and that the “proof is in the pudding” (“The skeptic will say: “It may well
    be true that this system of equations is reasonable from a logical
    standpoint. But this does not prove that it corresponds to nature.” You are
    right, dear skeptic. Experience alone can decide on truth.”) – if we are
    able to transform nature consistent with our explicated theory of it, this
    is an experiential proof of sorts that we can really know essential aspects
    of nature, even if the proof is not an absolute and final one.

    The bourgeois intellectuals wax with an air of profundity about all the
    things we cannot know about “financial risk” and so on, completely ignoring
    what billions of ordinary folks are proving by their actions every day!
    Which just tells us that their so-called “innocence” (ignorance really) is
    just feigned, growing out of their own loves and hates. In the same way,
    “Rosa” hates “dialectical materialism” and tries to create an elaborate
    defence of that hate. But the real scientific questions are thereby missed
    altogether. I have never denied that “dialectical materialism” is a
    philosophy of Marxist-Leninist bureaucratism, and I have strongly
    argued against its totalitarian applications. My views on this issue
    are on public record. But it is another thing to deny the existence
    of the dialectical characteristics of reality. I am not prepared to do
    that, in good part because I experience them every day as a normal
    occurrence, and to deny that would be to deny part of reality. Of
    course I realise that academic theorists, seeking to be profound,
    concoct all kinds of nonsense about dialectics, but this does not
    deter me at all from acknowledging the dialectical characteristics
    which reality can have. It is just that, rather than focusing on the
    nonsense, I studied writers like Charles Taylor and Mario Bunge,
    in other words people who tried to make some constructive
    sense of the notion.

    Jurriaan

  52. 52Rosa Lichtenstein said at 9:07 pm on September 10th, 2009:Juurrian are you addressing me, or your ‘followers’?And why the emotive and abusive response? What have I ever done to you?”But this is a petitio principii, Rosa just assumes what has to be proved. I defined a dialectical contradiction very clearly, as two opposite conditions which nevertheless presuppose each other and depend on each other for their existence, a situation which can exist because the opposition of the two conditions is in some way mediated, or contained in some way, by something else.”In fact, I did not “assume” anything, I merely quoted Marx back at you. If you want to pick a fight with him, that’s up to you.Juurrian:”Rosa then argues that if the two conditions mutually exclude each other, they cannot co-exist, but this is just an assertion with an appeal to tautological definition.”I did not argue this, Marx did.[And what is a ‘tautological definition, for goodness sake?]

    Juurrian:

    “BTW Rosa’s Phd dissertation must be total rubbish, you can tell that straightaway from the puberal mode of argumentation.”

    Well, you are the one who does not seem to know the difference between an inconsistency and a contradiction, and you seem to think that formal contradictions are nonsensical – so that accusatory finger of yours needs rotating through 180 degrees. Your grasp of logic does not appear to be all that secure.

    Juurrian:

    “The real logical or semantic question is, under what condition would it make sense (or to be reasonable) to speak of two opposite conditions which nevertheless presuppose each other?”

    But, this in no way helps us understand what you dialecticians are banging on about when you use the phrase “dialectical contradiction”.

    Juurrian:

    “Reflective dialectical thought goes right back to Heraclitus and even earlier, and there are many different ways of describing dialectical contradictions and their further implications, I don’t deny that. But the basic idea is quite simple, and there is no particular mystery about it at all, our facilitary and front office staff have deal with this sort of thing all the time.”

    Yes, and Heraclitus was a confused mystic, who, among other things, thought that he could determine what was true of all moving bodies and/or processes in the entire universe, for all of time, based on a badly executed thought experiment about stepping into a river!

    [He screwed up because he confused count nouns with mass nouns.]

    Such *a priori* dogmatics has dominated much of ‘western’ thought ever since, including that which Hegel inflicted on humanity (whom you are happy to ape).

    Juurrian:

    “This already shows that Rosa does not grasp formal logic, notwithstanding the brainless Wittgenstein bullshit, which is a ruse.”

    Oh dear, you are really getting worked-up, aren’t you?

    Do you have low impulse control?

    I’d get that seen to if I were you.

    [Shows I hit a nerve, though, doesn’t it?]

    In reply to your flat denial, I can quote you as many logic textbooks as it takes that will tell you exactly what I have told you about the difference between a contradiction and an inconsistency (why, even Aristotle distinguished between the two).

    Can you do the same?

    I think not.

    And this is not a Wittgensteinian point; as I noted, logicians since at least Aristotle’s day have recognised it.

    Nevertheless, I must say, I like the fine, dialectically-complex word you used in your searching, well-reasoned response to me.

    What was it again? – Oh yes: “Bullshit”.

    So incisive!

    I can see I stand no chance…

    But, may I remind you: you were the one who appealed to Wittgenstein in your last reply to me. What was all that about ‘Wittgensteinian bullsh*t’, then? Don’t you even know your own mind?

    Juurrian (addressing me now – I am honoured!):

    “Well, it’s very simple Rosa: just like in Catch-22, what you are dealing with is that in order to apply the rule, you have to negate the rule, and in order to not apply the rule, you have to apply the rule. This may seem unprincipled, but in the bureaucracy there is always a hierarchy of principles which renders such improvisation legitimate. This situation arises, often, because academics like Rosa, who styles himself a ‘Wittgensteinian Trotskyite’, are paid rich helpings of tax money to devise rule systems and conceptual hierarchies which cannot in fact be applied, because these so-called ‘academics’ have an extremely poor understanding of
    what is actually humanly, socially and practically involved in a work process or an administrative process. Their task is to describe what’s happening and rendering it meaningful to the ivory tower of management, Plato’s philosopher kings, but this is obviously quite different from the operative staff who actually have to make things work, and therefore face dialectical contradictions all the time.”

    I am not an academic, but a worker, and a trade union rep (unpaid), too. So, the above comment of yours is just hot air. But, you clearly needed to get it off your chest.

    Feel better now?

    Anyway, you’d do well to concentrate on what I actually say, and resist the temptation to make baseless personal attacks on me from a position of total ignorance.

    Hey, but what do I know? After all you are the expert logician here. Perhaps abusive and foul language, compounded by lies and invective constitute a new form of valid argument? ‘Juurrian’s lemma’, perhaps?

    Juurrian (again addressing his rapidly dwindling audience):

    “Here Rosa misses the point completely. The real point is that non-arbitrary human reasoning extends far beyond what we can capture in deductive and inductive inference, and that is just where dialectical reason only begins! But ‘Rosa’ has no grasp of it at all. Now how can we ever have any constructive discussion when Rosa doesn’t even understand the most elementary problems of reason?”

    And where did I deny that “human reasoning extends far beyond what we can capture in deductive and inductive inference…”?

    Nowhere, that’s where.

    Still can’t resist the temptation to make stuff up, I see.

    And, may I remind you, once again, that you are the one who can’t tell the difference between an inconsistency and a contradiction, and you seem to think that formal contradictions are nonsensical – so I do not think you have any reason to indulge in all that chest-beating – impressive though it is!

    [Phew, what a ‘guy’, girls…!]

    “This is just puberal, studenty pharisee crap once again. Of course you are going to be perpetually puzzled by the normality of ‘dialectical contradictions’ if you deny their existence tooth and nail! It would be like saying the sun doesn’t exist, even although everybody thinks the sun does exist, on the ground that most people cannot adequately ‘define’ the sun in terms of formal logic. Well, big deal.”

    Ah, what fine, dialectico-scatological words – coupled with impressive, diversionary bluster!

    We can all learn much from you. I’m certainly taking notes!

    But, wait! Where did I ask for a definition, or even one in ‘Formal Logic’?

    I note, however, that you did not once quote me to that effect – better then just to make it all up, eh?

    Indeed, I can quite imagine a benighted Jesuit soul like you arguing with Galileo about the Copernican system, four hundred years ago:

    Seventeenth-century-Juurrian:

    “Of course you are going to be perpetually puzzled by the normality of a stationary earth, if you deny its existence tooth and nail! It would be like saying the sun doesn’t exist, even although everybody thinks the sun does exist, on the ground that most people cannot adequately ‘define’ the sun in terms of formal logic. Well, big deal. And no, I won’t look down your telescope, that is just puberal, studenty pharisee crap once again.”

    And look what happened to those sad dinosaurs. I’d hate to think you are headed the same direction, even though it looks like you are dead set on emulating them.

    Anyway, don’t say I didn’t warn you…

    Juurrian – working ‘himself’ up into a right old lather (crash team on stand-by, please!):

    “Yeah, Rosa does need help, but he or she ‘is not sure I am the person to help him or her”‘. When all else fails, hang out the victim… The hypocrisy is that I already tried to help him/her, by explaining what a dialectical contradiction is and what the utility of dialectics is, in plain language, sacrificing the free time that I have. Then he/she says, ‘I am not sure’. Well, big deal. On to the next one.”

    But, you didn’t explain what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is, since you missed out a key Marxist component, which makes the whole ‘concept’ implode.

    So, not only are you *not* the person who can help me, you are *not even the person to help yourself*! This is because you do not seem to understand your own ‘theory’!

    Juurrian – now in full waffle mode:

    “This again is a dumb slur from the nihilist enemy of reason which Rosa is. Einstein as a physicist was not at all an ‘idealist’, other than having political and human ideals. Einstein is referring to the fact that our ability to actually test theories is far more limited than our creative ability to theorize and draw logical inferences, in part because our ability to construct valid empirical tests is practically limited, whereas our ability to speculate theoretically in abstracto is much less limited, so that the effect is, that the amount of scientific theory we have, is typically disproportionately larger than the amount of valid scientific evidence to back it up. He suggests that there exists a series of basic (‘axiomatic’) assumptions, discovered through creative inquiry, which, ‘if’ they are true, would explain the scientific evidence we have, and if we do not have those assumptions, then we cannot explain the scientific evidence. This may seem to weaken the possibilities for scientific knowledge, but in fact armed with these assumptions we are able to explain very much, since we can show convincingly that predictions made using these assumptions will in most cases yield confirmation of the assumptions, or are at least consistent with what we would expect. The point is that these ‘axiomatic’ assumptions cannot themselves derive simply from the data, though they are informed by them – the central problem of dialectical theory – nor are they amenable to a complete proof by the data. But that is just to say that Einstein, as a scientific realist, rejected a simplistic empiricist account of the relationship between theory and data, according to which Hempelian ‘covering laws are strictly generalisations from clusters of sense data. The theory, which contains many logical inferences, and the data gathered, are for Einstein ‘semi-autonomous’ from each other: they inform each other but are not reducible to each other. He implies thereby that the task of science is to bring the theories we have, and the data we produce, closer together in a rational way, and he expresses his optimism that creative inquiry can enable us to do this – possibly, with the belief that, since we are ourselves part of the universe, we are able to improve our understanding of it. This contrasts with the skepticist mysticism of the Popperian view according to which reality is too complex and variegated, and our abilities too limited, for us to know very much for certain about it at all, so that most people are deluded, and all we can do is demolish illusions, even although there are always far more illusions than we can demolish. Einstein suggests that in reality people are not so deluded as Karl Popper implies and that the “proof is in the pudding” (‘The skeptic will say: “It may well be true that this system of equations is reasonable from a logical standpoint. But this does not prove that it corresponds to nature.” You are right, dear skeptic. Experience alone can decide on truth.’) – if we are able to transform nature consistent with our explicated theory of it, this is an experiential proof of sorts that we can really know essential aspects of nature, even if the proof is not an absolute and final one.”

    Thanks for that, but it in no way shows Einstein wasn’t an idealist. Anyway, since I do not want to distract attention from the hole you have dug for yourself (in so far as you can’t explain the obscure phrase “dialectical contradiction” to eagerly waiting humanity), I will give you this one for now. We can debate it another time.

    Juurrian – the veins in ‘his’ neck bulging alarmingly:

    “The bourgeois intellectuals wax with an air of profundity about all the things we cannot know about ‘financial risk’ and so on, completely ignoring what billions of ordinary folks are proving by their actions every day! Which just tells us that their so-called “innocence” (ignorance really) is just feigned, growing out of their own loves and hates. In the same way, ‘Rosa’ hates ‘dialectical materialism’ and tries to create an elaborate defence of that hate. But the real scientific questions are thereby missed altogether. I have never denied that ‘dialectical materialism’ is a philosophy of Marxist-Leninist bureaucratism, and I have strongly argued against its totalitarian applications. My views on this issue are on public record. But it is another thing to deny the existence of the dialectical characteristics of reality. I am not prepared to do that, in good part because I experience them every day as a normal occurrence, and to deny that would be to deny part of reality. Of course I realise that academic theorists, seeking to be profound, concoct all kinds of nonsense about dialectics, but this does not deter me at all from acknowledging the dialectical characteristics which reality can have. It is just that, rather than focusing on the nonsense, I studied writers like Charles Taylor and Mario Bunge, in other words people who tried to make some constructive sense of the notion.”

    Translated this reads: “Sorry, I can’t explain what a ‘dialectical contradiction’ is, so I will just kick up a cloud of dust to hide that fact…”.

    As I said in my reply to Rakesh: at least have the courage to admit this openly!

    It will at least mean we can stand that crash team down.

    PS. If anyone wants to know why dialecticians are almost all invariably like Juurrian here (emotive, irrational and abusive) when their precious ‘theory’ is attacked, I have provided a detailed explanation here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2009_02.htm

    PPS: Juurrian, I have added a link at my site to your reply to me since I am building up a database there of all the abusive and obnoxious dialecticians (scores of them, in fact; the vast majority of whom are as unpleasant and abusive as you are – all without provocation, too) with whom I have debated this ‘theory’ over the last four years on the internet.

    Since my essays will long outlast you, I have guaranteed that your rather unpleasant personality disorder will never be forgotten. Here it is:

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

    Thanks, Juurrian, for supplying me with yet more data!

    Any more bile in there? Let it out, then – it all adds to my data!

    Have a nice fume…

  53. 53Name (required) said at 3:53 pm on September 15th, 2009:Rosa L:
    And the Einstein quote you added seems to confirm that you are indeed an Idealist, just like he was.

    ^^^
    CB: Actually, Einstein comes up a solid materialist. Einstein had admiration for the physcist Ernst Mach. However, Einstein came to disagree with Mach on the reality of atoms. Mach considered the concept of an “atom” as just an aid to thought, not something with objective reality.

    This is the type of issue that Lenin critique’s Mach on in _Materialism and Empirio-Criticism_. Einstein is a materialist by Lenin’s definition in that book

  54. 54CB said at 3:58 pm on September 15th, 2009:Rosa L: “we already have devices in language that allow us to identify things: we can point at a rose and say ‘That’s a rose’, or at an individual called ‘John’ and say. ‘John is over there. He standing next to your father.’ We do not need to examine ‘concepts’ to be able to do this.”^^^^
    CB: These devices are inadequate for things that are not in our presence. So, with only these would not be able to identify most of what language is good for identifying, what language allows us to do that animals , who don’t have language , can’t do.

    Marx couldn’t adequately identify capitalism by saying “that’s capitalism over there.” The founders of human kinship systems couldn’t say “That my great grand mother over there” after grandmother was dead.

  55. 55cb said at 4:24 pm on September 15th, 2009:Rosa L. :But, how does this super-scientist *(yours truly CB, smile) answer that allegation?”Hegel, Marx, Engels, Lenin give lots of other examples as the basis for their generalization rendering their claims a posteriori, not a priori.”However, we can leave Marx out, for he is almost totally silent on this ‘theory’. As for the rest, here is what I say in Essay Seven:^^^
    CB: For a little lesson in rigor for our blooming logician Rosa L., Marx is “_almost_totally silent on this ‘theory’ “, but not totally silent. I think the passage from one of the afterwords or forewords from _Capital_I was posted on this thread already, but I’m sure Rosa has read Marx’s claim that he is a follower of that great thinker, Hegel. Could Marx have meant that he followed everything but the most fundamental ideas of Hegel’s dialectic ? I doubt it.
  56. 56cb said at 8:36 am on September 16th, 2009:On the contradiction implied in “John is a man”, we might ask is John the only man ? If so, then the correct expression is “John is the man”.So, if John is a man , then there are other men. Joe is a man. Jack is a man. Andrew is a man.If John is identical with “a man” , and Joe is identical with “a man”, and Jack is identical with “a man”, then through some kind of transitivity of identities we reach the contradiction thatJohn is Joe. John is Jack.Rosa L will say what is the contradiction in “John is Jack” ?It is that John is not Jack , as stipulated above when we said there are other men besides John. Jack is another man from John is identical with the expression John is not Jack.So directly the contradiction is that we have both John is Jack and John is not Jack at the same time.
  57. 57CB said at 1:31 pm on September 17th, 2009:I have now made the contradiction implicit in “John is a man” so explicit and patent that even contradiction-blind Rosa L. should be able to see it. But thanks to Rosa for pressing the point on this example from Lenin’s philosophical notebooks, as it is only in “contradiction” with Rosa that I was moved to move the thought to full demonstration.The contradiction inherent in the verb “to be” , “is”, can be seen as the same as that found in “self-reference” by modern mathematical philosophers like Russell. Russell’s famous paradox derived from the self-reference of “the set of all sets that don’t contain them_selves_.The wikipedia article on paraconsistency notes the efforts at avoiding self-reference in the logics after that.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraconsistent_logicIn any sentence with a verb form of the verb “to be” makes a reference , a self-reference, of the subject of the sentence. The subject refers to itself in the predicate.”John is a man”, is a reference of John to him_self_ as “a man”, a self-reference.So, modern mathematics rediscovered the paradoxes of self-reference that Hegel had discovered, perhaps as described in the quote of Hegel adduced on this thread by Rosa L. above
  58. 58cb said at 2:24 pm on September 17th, 2009:“Paraconsistent logics are propositionally weaker than classical logic
    It should be emphasized that paraconsistent logics are propositionally weaker than classical logic; that is, they deem fewer propositional inferences valid. The point is that a paraconsistent logic can never be a propositional extension of classical logic, that is, propositionally validate everything that classical logic does. In that sense, then, paraconsistent logic is more conservative or cautious than classical logic. It is due to such conservativeness that paraconsistent languages can be more expressive than their classical counterparts including the hierarchy of metalanguages due to Tarski et al. According to Feferman [1984]: “…natural language abounds with directly or indirectly _self-referential_ (emphasis added -CB) yet apparently harmless expressions-all of which are excluded from the Tarskian framework.” This expressive limitation can be overcome in paraconsistent logic.”

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

  59. 59Rosa Lichtenstein said at 12:50 pm on October 7th, 2009:CB:”These devices are inadequate for things that are not in our presence. So, with only these would not be able to identify most of what language is good for identifying, what language allows us to do that animals , who don’t have language , can’t do. “Where have I denied that? I was making a specific point to Andrew.”Marx couldn’t adequately identify capitalism by saying “that’s capitalism over there.” The founders of human kinship systems couldn’t say “That my great grand mother over there” after grandmother was dead.”Indeed, I agree. What on earth makes you think I do not?
  60. 60Rosa Lichtenstein said at 12:54 pm on October 7th, 2009:CB:”For a little lesson in rigor for our blooming logician Rosa L., Marx is “_almost_totally silent on this ‘theory’ “, but not totally silent. I think the passage from one of the afterwords or forewords from _Capital_I was posted on this thread already, but I’m sure Rosa has read Marx’s claim that he is a follower of that great thinker, Hegel. Could Marx have meant that he followed everything but the most fundamental ideas of Hegel’s dialectic ? I doubt it.”I have covered this point already, here:http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1158574&postcount=73http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1161443&postcount=114http://www.revleft.com/vb/showpost.php?p=1163222&postcount=124http://www.revleft.com/vb/dialectics-and-political-t118934/index.html
  61. 61Rosa Lichtenstein said at 2:52 pm on October 7th, 2009:I won’t take up any more space here; so, comrades can find my other replies to CB here:http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/mr_b_up_to_his_old_tricks.htm

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