What good is dialectics redux

Hans Despain DESPAIN at econ.sbs.utah.edu
Tue Jun 20 03:54:09 MDT 1995

> Here are some open questions for all those out there who aren't
bigoted > Stalinist idiots (sorry, Jim):
> What does or could it mean to apply dialectics to science? What could it
> mean to say the universe is dialectical? How can anyone believe that being
> properly dialectical could actually be a criterion for a valid scientific
> theory? How would a "dialectical" approach to natural science differ from a
> "hypothetic-deductive" or "empirico-logical" approach? Can "dialectical" be
> given a precise, unambiguous definition, so that when you see two
> approaches to scientific problems, you can clearly say (and others will
> tend to agree with you), "This one is dialectical, that one isn't"?
> Rahul

 Rahul this confusion is exactly why I have made a point to distingish
between ontological and epistemological dialectics.  If one leaves
dialectical materialism aside, along with the (unaddressed by Marx)
ontological commitments, dialectics is a method which is a quite
capable method and approach to science.  Tony Smith offers a nice and
accessible presentation of epistemological dialectics in his
*Dialectical Social Theory and Its Critics* 1993;  also Smith's
*The Logic of Marx's Capital: Reply's to Hegelian Criticisms* is an
outstanding presentation of Marx's "systematic" epistemological
dialectics.  He also has the lead article in a book on Marx's
method edited by F. Mosely, which after expounding "systematic"
epistemological dialectics as a way to construct knowledge
(and understand Marx) he conculdes that we should be committed to a
pluarlism toward methodology.  Klaus Hartmann's "non-Metaphysical"
interpreations of Hegel, expounded by Terry Pinkard are some other
examples. B. Ollman's *Dialectical Investigations* leaves aside
Hegelian and ontological dialectics and presents a "commonsense"
epistemological dialectic, based on the art of abstraction.  And,
finally Reuten and Williams (1987) also offer Bhaskar's critique of
"actualism" in their argument for systematic dialectics.

Most all work on "dialectical materialism" gets tangled in the web of
ontological dialectics, either attempting to deny Hegel's and/or
Engels' dialectically ontological commitment.  Bhaskar's Dialectical
Critical Realism, with it's "logic of absence" re-constitutes the
Hegelian and Materialist ontology to both their advantage (Bhaskar
*Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom* 1993; *Plato Etc.* 1994).

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

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