ontological dialectic

Hans Despain DESPAIN at econ.sbs.utah.edu
Fri Feb 24 13:59:09 MST 1995


Chodos is interested in pursuing the issue of the distinction between
ontological and epistemological dialectic.  As I pursue this
distinction, its seems to become more and more important.  It also
seems to me to be very closely related to the discussion between
Dumain and Laari on objective and subjective dialectics.  Moreover,
it seems we can also tie this in to a more clear defination of
*idealism*.

In Hegel, our universal categories are the ideal forms of
the particular equivalents.  Thereby, this is not something that is
simply a process of the mind but is in reference to the real
something that exists (perhaps Hegel is more a realist then many
would like to label him).  [see *Phenomenology of Spirit* "Reason"].
Whereby, the the universality of thought is not a subjective imposed
form on the particular, but the particular itself universalizing in
thought.  Individual consciousness is able to recognize that
universality is not simply an universal abstraction that
individuality imposes on the particular, nor a *real* certainity of
the real thing, but instead an imposed *idealism* of (temporarily)
*knowing* something.  In other words, there is *real* objective world
(intransitive) that exist which we can capture cognitivly (but
perhaps only temporarily) with our ideal forms.  (Bhaskar transitive
dimension may have parallels here).

In Kant idealism there is a strict distinction between the thing-in-
itself and our subjective knowledge of its existence.  Hegel goes
beyond this to say that Kant's distinction turns out to be not a very
good one, for it merely rests on intuitions about certainity
(knowledge), Hegel, believes he can possiblly descibe these Kantian
"intuitions" as a cognitive idealizition of real entities.
Therefore, the ontological question is what *really* exists, and
epistemological question is what do we know to exist.  The answer for
Hegel rests within the dialectic, which can only self-justify itself
in a self-subsuming way.  Wherefore, Hegel's *idealism* is as Dumain
explained, a way of "tampering with the categorial stucture of the
world, and with the relation between empirical facts and abstract
concepts" (feb. 23 22:33).

Now, maybe we can say that the *idealism* and *materialism*
distinction tends to collapse when pressed.  In other words, maybe
the problem is not in idealism itself, for Marx uses ideal categories
in very similar ways as does Hegel, it seems that it is the
*speculative philosophy* that always tends to conclude with the ideal
forms.  Here, the distinction between objective-subjective dialectic
and ontological-epistemological dialectic becomes essential.   For
Hegel, he too often (maybe always in the last instant) concludes that
what we know must be the truth, in other words questions about the
objective world, or better, ontological questions are forced into
epistemological questions (Bhaskar calls this epistemic fallacy).  To
avoid this the ontological questions and ontological dialectic must
remain within their own realm (maybe Marx is saying this but in
different or less explicitly then Bhaskar?).

Thus, in the example that Chodos uses, i.e., infinite-finite, he is
correct to point out the epistemological relativity, but the question
of being must remain separate from this.  The ontological (or perhaps
objective) dialectic in Hegel's *Logic* is that the finite and
infinite are inseparable (remember there is "good" and "bad"
infinite, the good infinite is contained withing the finite, the bad
what we normally refer to in mathematics).

In reference to the "quantum uncertainty principle," of lossing grasp
of oneside has we attempt to grasp the other, this is the point of
the dialectic, to isolate these points of view, and know that both
points of view or perhaps powers are in fact simultaneously in
affect (Ollman abstractions in *Dialectical Investigations* captures
this point quite well [this is the dialectic of dialogue that seems
to be missing in political contracts to the people, and books such
as *The Bell Curve*]).

In Bhaskar the ontological dialectics can refer to real absences
(and real contradictions), whereas epistemological dialectics refer
to absences (and contradiction) in our knowledge of the real objects
that may not exist as absences (or contradictions) in themselves.
Once again it seems a distinction is actually quite important.

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







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