Why dialectics?

Juan Inigo jinigo at inscri.org.ar
Thu Mar 2 23:23:36 MST 1995

Some days ago, Fellini wrote:

> ... the
>problem of dialectics in Marxism is much more complex than a simple
>'inversion' or than the crude distinction between 'idealism' and
>'materialism'. In regard to Hegel, dialectics cannot be separated from
>his system. But in Marxism the tendency is just to take dialectics as a
>method, irrespective of the system. But the result of such a strategy
>seems to be merely a substitution of Hegel's Spirit with
>'matter', 'history' or 'class consciousness' of the proletariat. But
>this leaves us with the critique of Colletti: you cannot have dialectics
>and 'materialism' at the same time, for dialectics is the necessary
>vehicle for the annihilation, or at least 'degradation' of the material.
>(Although T. Smit may be right when he is arguing that there is no
>annihilation of the material in Hegel, Colletti's critique, of
>'dialectical materialism' still holds, for what the dialectical
>materialists  did was not make Hegel upside down; theirs was just a
>mechanical substitution.) That is, Marxists did not add anything to Hegel.
>In this regard, what Bhaskar is doing seems to be what Marx and marxists
>have not done, that is, "to save dialectics" from Hegel, for in
>Hegel, it seems to me, there is no way to separate the 'rational kernel'
>from the 'mystical shell'.

I would have preferred to answer this assertion by following Bhaskar's
developments until uncovering the social necessity he personifies, that
makes him present scientific cognition (and, therefore, conscious action)
as unavoidably rooted in its very negation, i.e., philosophy. But I'm still
completely short of time, so I can only get into the discussion by quoting
parts of my work that are directly related to it:

Reality, matter, has the self-affirming by means of self-negation - the
necessity of self-determining, contradiction - as its general form. Hence,
each natural concrete form (and therefore, each natural form specifically
developed as a social one) is the realized necessity of its abstract forms
in their becoming, from the simplest one (matter as such), to one that
negates itself as such concrete form (realized necessity) affirming itself
as a potency (a necessity to be realized), whether this necessity is a
simple immediate one, a necessity developed into its specific form of a
possibility or a possibility mediated in its realization by possibility
itself .

Cognition is the way in which a subject regulates the realization of its
own potency as the necessary concrete form of realizing a potency inherent
in its environment, by appropriating these two potencies in their
virtuality as purely such potencies. The subject of the cognition by means
of ideas always starts by facing its object as something external to itself
as such subject. Under its simplest form, this cognition reaches the
necessity of the subject's own action just insofar as this one virtually
manifests itself to the subject's mind as an immediate link between the
mutual necessity of subject and object. Consequently, such form of
cognition does not go beyond the very exteriority of the subject and of its
object. It is determined, thus, as immediate ideal cognition.

This cognition develops into cognition by means of thought when the subject
goes beyond the immediate concrete forms to discover their necessity as
realization of their abstract forms. Nevertheless, on performing this
advance, the subject comes up, first of all, against the exteriority of the
abstract forms themselves; that is to say, the subject starts by ideally
facing the abstract forms in what these forms have of realized necessity,
under their appearance as purely concrete forms. From which, the
appropriation of a real necessity by thought takes its most primitive
specific form by ideally placing by itself in a causal relation the real
forms (abstract and concrete ones) starting from the way they present
themselves to it; that is, by mentally conceiving links among the real
forms on the basis of their exteriority; and, therefore, independently from
their necessity. Cognition becomes a mental construction that follows a
causality alien to the real one: the ideal representation of reality. Logic
is the scientific general form of this mental necessity.

The appropriation by thought of the real forms in their virtuality
transcends the exteriority of these forms by ideally accompanying them in
the unfolding of their real necessity. In this way, scientific cognition
mentally reproduces their real concatenations, thus taking the form of an
ideal reproduction of reality. This cognition has no way of proceeding
other than by making each real concrete form account for the necessity that
it carries in itself as being already realized, and each abstract real
form, for the development of the necessity to be realized which it is.

Reality simply is the self-affirming by means of self-negation. Dialectical
cognition, dialectics, is the method to virtually appropriate this
contradiction that reality is, by following its development so as to
reproduce it through the path of thought. Seen the other way round,
dialectics does not belong in reality but in human cognition of reality;
or, rather, it belongs in reality, in matter, in what this one takes its
specific form of human cognition.

To avoid any confusion, we must not forget here the formal specificity of
mathematical cognition as a necessary moment in the reproduction of reality
by thought: to cognize the determinations of the magnitude of real
necessity in itself we must naturally follow a logical necessity, due to
the actual specificity of these determinations as forms of the
self-affirming by means of the negation of self-negation.

Beyond this specificity, the certainty about the need of a logic to
appropriate reality by thought inevitably implies that real forms are taken
as if they were incapable of being the realization of their own necessity,
as if life should be insufflated to them by the cognition process itself.
Representations, whether on an idealist or a materialist basis, cannot
avoid carrying in themselves this appearance. Let us look at it a little
closer. To assert the need of a logical necessity to apprehend in thought
any real form means, by itself, to assert that this real form has no
necessity of its own to be mentally followed: being there a real necessity,
why should we appeal to a mental one instead of just following it through
its development, with our thought?

Hence, real forms appear as being unable to relate, to move, by themselves
at the beginning of the representation process. But they emerge from this
process overflowing with relations. Hegel just sticks to this appearance up
to its end. He gives logic as its content, that is, as the content of the
abstractly ideal necessity, the general form of the development by thought
of the real necessity, placed not as the ideal reproduction of matter but
as the development of the real necessity itself. Dialectics is thus
inverted, appearing as the development of the Idea placed as the real
subject that engenders matter. On doing so, Hegel pushed representation
beyond its limits. The real necessity lay there with its strength
unchained, ready to be called into action.

Naturally, standing dialectics on its feet after such inversion has nothing
to do with entering 'matter' where Hegel writes 'idea' and vice versa.
Hegel's inversion is embodied in the form itself of the process of
cognition; it is embodied in the conception of this process as a logical
one. In fact, to proclaim logic as an inescapable condition for scientific
cognition is nothing but to consecrate the idealist inversion, that
prioritizes a mental necessity over matter's necessity.

Nothing to be surprised at, after all, considering that Marx himself has
already stated at the most primitive step of his research that 'Logic [the
pure speculative thought] is the money of spirit, the speculative, the
thought-out value, of man and of nature; its essence that has become
completely indifferent to any real determination and which is, therefore,
unreal; it is the alienated thought that hence abstracts from nature and
the real man; the abstract thought.' (1844 Manuscripts)

Hegel already clearly pointed out the difference between representation,
whose development obeys a necessity external to its object, and dialectical
cognition, that follows the unfolding of the necessity immanent to this
object . Nevertheless, he was unable to avoid the appearance that it is
about the necessity of the Idea itself, While he develops the ideal
reproduction of capital's necessity, Marx stresses the specificity of the
method he has discovered, in his well known remarks on scientific
procedure: it is not about interpreting the world and, therefore, it is not
about _representing_ it, but about changing the autonomous regulation of
the social metabolism process into a conscious one, ruling our
revolutionary action by "_reproducing_ the concrete (in fact, the concrete
we are) through the path of thought."

Juan Inigo
jinigo at inscri.org.ar

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