Dialectic as method

Hans Despain DESPAIN at econ.sbs.utah.edu
Thu Jun 22 00:15:03 MDT 1995


Justin I did not mean to suggest that analytical exposes errors, or
to dismiss your views based on this "obvious fallacy."  It is just
that analytical thinkers seem to have a natrual repulsion toward
dialectics.

Also, I do indeed think that a system of thought does indeed self-
justify and self-subsume our thinking.  This should not be understood
to mean that it makes the system correct, but that the system rests
on its organization and structure.  Is not this the goal of deductive
logicians, for example?  I simply do not think that this part of the
dialectic is so radical of an idea.  So I do not believe dialectics
to promise much at all.

My last account of dialectics as "systematic" where draw mostly from
Hegelian notions of such a system.  But I also take this to be the
aim of Marx himself.  I am unsure whether I have over stated the case
or have been mis-understood.  Justin argues that "it's crazy to think
that one could provide such a systematization" and continues by
arguing that thinking is something like a random (Darwinian) process.

The dialectician *begins* with an *empirical moment* by accessing the
categories to describe a particular subject.  This is what Marx was
doing in the British Library.  Marx knew the categories of Political
Economy inside and out.  He then organized these categories in an
ontological order, from the most abstract to the most concrete
specific.  The commodity may not seem so abstract, but Tony Smith
gives an account which argues for the ontological beginnig of Marx's
dialectic as abstract commodity.  It is in this sense that he also
establishes the labor theory of value, for at this abstract level of
analysis labor is (ontolgoically) primary.  The placement of labor is
something that Hegel and Marx agreed on.  But there dialectical
development of their notion differs substantially.

In any event the "beautiful" (Justins term) system I have in mind when
speaking of "systematic" dialectics is Marx's *Capital*, Hegel's
*Logic*, *Phenomenology of Mind*, and *Philosophy of Right*.  Some
more beautiful than others.

I too am suspect of ideal speculative philosophy, but my account of
"systematic" dialectics is meant to also describe Marx's materialist
dialectical system, thus, we cannot reject dialectics with a
rejection of idealism so quickly.  Though many anti-dialectic
Marxists (Colletti); and right to center Hegelian would argue that
this must be the case.

BTW, Dialectics never denies that "beings have particular interests"
or that the "environment is contingent."

Also, I am glad to see that there is a little agreement between
Justin and Chris.  But I am a little concerned that Chris continually
speaks of dialectic as method, but argues for dialectic as process.
Once again this is epistemological and ontological dialectics
respectively.  Thus, I ask Chris what might be his account of
epistemological dialectics?  I remember our discussion of Ollman's
*Dialectical Investigations*, us both agreeing that Ollman's account
does not very well distingish between dialectical method versus other
methods which uses the art of "abstraction."

I would further argue that ontological dialectics commitments us an
ontological connectedness of the world, telling us that "things"
are related, but I would further argue, seemingly unlike Chris,
that our (construction of) epistemological dialectics suggest *HOW*
"things" (categories) are related.  In this sense I see that
dialectics (epistemological and ontological) have relevance for the
natural sciences, (weaker but) similar to the relevance for social
sciences. This seems to me a special case of an argument of
"naturalism," which is interesting for dialectical materialist
circles, but not my field of interest.  Thus, personally I too (like
Chris and Justin) feel that dialectic (might) be best suited for
social questions.

I would also like to comment that I commit dialectic as method to an
epistemological relativism.  Thus, as method, dialectics does *not*
automatically offer us the "truth," any more than any other method.

It also seems to be that analytical philosophy and dialectic
philosophy have something in common, in that the both aim at further
formalization, with perhaps different emphases.  For example, the
dialectic as method insists that our categories are purposfully
investigated, understood and organized.  It is specifically this
organization which gives us the (ontological) picture of the whole,
which we have re-constructed with our categories.

I wanted to suggest that a dialectical system could be
looked as similar to perhaps what Kuhn had in mind with his
disciplinary matrices or Lakatos' scientific research programees.
But one that emphasize the formal structuring of its categories,
which it employees to reconstruct the world in theory.  Also, one that
explicates its ontological commitment.  [this analogy is problematic,
but a part from how Kuhn and Lakatos account of how these paradigms
function it *may be* useful].

Finally, I want to voice my strong agreement with Chris, on his
comments of dialectical thinking necessaiting dynamic thougt.  I too
believe the lack there of to be of crisis proportions.  Especially,
specifically in politics.  To me this is the significance of Ollman's
*Dialectical Investigations*, whereby I believe his book to have
potential as a very valuable text to offer students of all
disciplines.

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

BTW, I am a bit hesitate to continue with more formal arguments of
dialectics and transcendental agrument.  Thus, please let me know if
there is any interest.



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