Dialectics and HOW things are related

HANS DESPAIN HANS.DESPAIN at m.cc.utah.edu
Wed Jul 12 23:22:31 MDT 1995


It was Chris S. who suggested that dialectics cannot tell us HOW things are
related, and since Lisa R. brought it up again, I will again take issue with
this.  Because it is the role of epistemological dialectics in a
Hegel(ian) or Marx(ian) sense that is meant to tell us HOW things, or
more specifically, HOW our categories to reconstruct the world are related.

In a previous post by Juan I. he had briefly summarized a Marxian
commitment to the LTV, though Juan did not say that his reading is a
dialectical interpretation, it is easily seen that Marx in
*Capital* wants to demonstrate HOW the categories (corresponding to
real referents [things]) are related.  Thus, *if* Marx can be said to be
employing epistemological dialectics he certainly must have believed that
dialectical logic is a method to understand HOW categories to reconstruct
an understanding of capitalism are related.

I would like to push Chris S. on this issue, for further clairification
on the intention of his comment.  For if he meant, that dialectics as
method is fallible, I have no issue with his comment, but if he meant
that the aim of dialectics as method is not to (re-)construct HOW our
categories are related, consequently provided us with the notion of
necessity, I beg to take issue.

What makes dialectics revolutionary, as the Young Hegelians very much
understood, was that dialectics not only help in reconstructing the world in
thought, but in so doing provides an immanent critique of the subject,
for it in fact tells us the (Kantian and Hegelian) categorical
relationship of our categories versus the (Humean and deductive)
hypothetical relationship of categories.

Marx's critique of capitalism can be aruged to be categorical because it
does not depend on a (hyopthetical) or an external standard, but on the
internal standards of its own claims, based on the categories required to
make sense of it.

The best book availible on Marxian epistemological dialectics is Tony
Smith's *The Logic of Marx's Capital: Replies to Hegelian Criticism*.
Though this book has be criticized for its "abstract" replies to
"abstract" Hegelian criticisms it is truely an great book for getting
general feeling for epistemological dialetics.  And perhaps a more
accessible introduction to epistemological dialectics is Ollman's
*Dialectical Investigations*.  Also quite quite useful is Tony Smith's
*Dialectical Social Thoeries and Its Critics*.

The nice thing about these books specifically is that they (almost) only
address epistemological dialectics, with very little comment on ontological
dialectics.  In others neither spend much ink on the fact that things are
related, but on HOW and WHY the categories are dialetically related as
they are argued to be (but at the same time this is the weakness of these
books, but it makes them very accessible, which is a significant problem
for learning dialecitical theory).

Also, at issue in a discussion of dialectics is is transcendental
reasoning and ontology.  Marxian dialecticans have generally been
successful for providing an *social* ontology (Ollman's *Alienation* for
example), but have been generally unsuccussful in providing a general
ontology to apply to natural science (dialecitcal materialism for
example).  And transcendental philosophy seems to be generally an
under-rated reasoning technique (Chris S. do you have any comments on
transcendental philosophy?).

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



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