Dialectics

Hans Despain DESPAIN at econ.sbs.utah.edu
Tue Feb 21 15:59:35 MST 1995


Press' points out that there are many older writings of dialectic,
can someone offer the better ones to read, thank you, Ron Press, for
the two that you offer.

I also believe that the problem Press points to concerning the
dialectician as trickster and esotric thinkers, etc., is a really
problem with trying to understand the issue.  Moreover, if anyone
trys to critique it is often assumed that the critic simply does not
understand.  This happens in both Hegelian, Marxian, and potentially
Bhaskarian dialectic traditions.

This brings up an issue that Dumain brought up in former post,
concerning, what I believe to be a very accessible introduction to
the dialectic of Marx (non-esotric and no tricks).  Namely B. Ollman's
*Dialectical Investigations* and T. Smith *Dialectical Social Theory
and Its Critics*.  Dumain writes that "the virtue of Ollman's book
(specifically chapter 2) is that he goes beyond the usual amateurish
explications... But I don't recall him following through in the way
[despain] you would suggest."

I am not sure what I suggested?  Maybe Dumain could further explain
(by the way I have not read Ollman's early work, but he does have a
section on internal relations in chapter two, is the argument the
same?).  The value of Ollman's book is that it is very accessible
(with a practical applicaton and presentation), while at the same
time offering a very good illustration of how the dialectic works as
method, and not reducing it to empty cliches.

Moreover, chapter three is quite interesting and demonstrates how
dialectic can offer a different interpretaion of phenomena about the
world, without making dialectics sound like gobbily gop, or some
esotric metaphyscial notion of change and/or contradiction.

The problem with Ollman's book as I see it is that it seems to commit
the dialectic too much to a pragmatic interpretation.  In other
words, I believe Ollman to unravel the dialectic too much from
philosophical issues that it is tied to.  Therefore, the
philosophical underpinnings which Marx is committed to are not
addressed, and Hegel is reduced to almost trival mention.

Tony Smith in a recent book review of Ollman's (The Realities of
Abstractions, Sept/Oct 1994 *Against the Current*) mentions that this
is the first volume of a four-volume series.  Tony Smith's own book
*Dialectical Social Theory* 1993, and Ollmans's compliment one
another quite well as an introduction to the subject of dialectic,
especially (and perhaps specifically) dialectic as method.

Smith's book is a nice introduction to Hegel's dialectic of *Logic*
which follows the "non-metaphysical" interpretation of Hegel put
forward by Klaus Hartman (1972), and expounded by T. Pinkard (1988;
1991; and 1993).  He also does a very nice job of demonstrating the
*universality*, *particularity* and *individuality* structure of
Hegel's dialectic and philosophy, and pointing how Marx maybe is using
a similar structure.  Although, Hegel triadic structure does not seem
to fit, glove-like, Marx's (chaotic) structure in *Captial*, it does
seem clear that Marx at least has something like this in mind.

The first part of Smith's book addresses the Hegelian and Marxian
dialectic and the second its critics.  The first section is only 70-
80 pages and very accessible for those of you who may want a nice and
rather short accessible intro.  Ollman's discussion on dialectics of
abstraction is likewise only around >100 pages (chapter 2).

By the way for those of you (economists) who have been tought that
Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis is the Hegelian or Marxian dialectic, the
*universality*, *particularity* and *individuality* expounds the
Hegelian and Marxian dialectical structure much better.  And I will
one day offer this over the list if there is interest.

Hans Despain
University of Utah
despain at econ.sbs.utah.edu







































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