Dialectic as method

Joseph F. Lockard lockard at netvision.net.il
Fri Jun 23 03:35:57 MDT 1995

Hans, Chris S. and Justin, this discussion has been engrossing and I've
been a very appreciative reader.  Despite your thoughtful concern, Hans,
here at least there's no need to worry about the formalism of the
discussion.  Rather, it lends specificity and challenge.

I've a couple questions for you that might help promote general understanding.

As a reader with relatively limited training in philosophy, I'd like an
elucidation of the difference between 'ontological dialectics' and
'epistomological dialectics.'  One might understand both phrases on their
own lexical terms, and yet not understand the relationship and distinctions
between the pair in practical terms.  Would you do us the kindness of
fleshing out these distinctions?  While the posts from Hans have been
suggestive of these distinctions, a precis would be illuminating.

Second, Chris has persuasively argued the limited, fragmented perspectives
of his own field of political science (I needed little persuasion) and
emphasized the functions of wholeness and integrated analysis in
dialectics.  Let me extend the discussion, integrate the false
consciousness thread, and form another couple questions.  Inasmuch as
dialectical materialism relies on the classic threesome of
thesis/antithesis/synthesis via empirical exploration, might it be argued
(or has it been argued) that the inherent polarizations of this analytic
structure impedes holistic analysis?  Given a diversity of material
conditions and cultural practices, which lead to widely varying perceptions
and modes of analytic thought, how can/does dialecticism accomodate
radically divergent worldviews?  The point seems especially important in
view of the multiculturalism/Marxism debates, where the former valorizes
diversity and an attendent fragmentation of social perspective, whereas the
Marxist tradition emphasizes a unification of analysis and praxis.  The
issue of 'false consciousness' appears relevant in this context inasmuch as
given a diversity of cultural perspectives, analytic modes and social
outcomes, 'false consciousness' (whether malignant, e.g. racism, sexism --
or more benign expressions) is an inevitable outcome of a strictly
manichean methodology (pace Abdul JanMohammed, who teaches political
manicheanism in a highly nuanced form).  Might we, for example, be better
off addressing race hatred, sexual or class oppression, or queer-bashing as
possessing distinct cultural phenomenologies linked by common psychologies,
rather than positing an overarching unification under the rubric of 'false
consciousness'?  In short, the questions exercising me here are to what
extent dialecticism might actually conflict with the emerging ideology of
multiculturalism, and whether the orthodox version of false consciousness
can survive that conflict.  For both these questions the issue of
tolerance, and the limits of tolerance, seems a key point for examination.

Third, in a brief, little-explained line, Hans wrote:

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

Hans, could you expand your comments here?

JOE, regretting that he's only got a week left on this list


Joe Lockard                          Tel. (972) 2-246470 [H]
Kibbutz Teachers College             E-mail lockard at netvision.net.il
149 Derekh Namir
Tel Aviv / ISRAEL
Rehov Nissim Behar 3
Jerusalem / ISRAEL


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