Dialectics of Nature

Russell Pearson spectres at innotts.co.uk
Fri Sep 6 19:12:10 MDT 1996


Lisa's earlier points about clarification are becoming increasingly
relevant in this debate!
Now Hugh reminds us that Marx's analysis of capitalist relations uses
a great deal of Hegel's logical method and he gives some splendid
exmaples to this effect. All well and good. I for one am not an
Althusserian and accept that more than mere 'coquetting' with
Hegel's method is taking place. Thus, I am _not_ arguing from an
'anti-dialectical' position, nor am I an 'anti-dialectician', which to be
sure stikes me as an impossible position for anyone to occupy,
without thereby re-affirming the dialectic.

Hugh mentions the _Grundrisse_ and the use of the metabolic
metaphor. In _Capital_ Marx uses many phantasmagorical
metaphors. Derrida aside, this does not mean that he is talking
literally of spooks, any more than the romantic metaphor of
metabolism entails a dialectic of nature. Thus Hugh's argument does
not follow.
Further problems arise when Hugh lets his mother's cat of of its bag.
In human relationships with all such four legged beasts some sort of
dialectic takes place, and this is also true of the rats and
cockroaches he mentions. Put simply our relationship with the natural
world is dialectical and this is no more so than when it comes to
domesticated animals or those that owe their existence to human
activity, such as sewer rats. Thus there is no dividing line between
the social and the natural: nature for us is never raw, but always
cooked, so to speak.
But does it follow that dialectical processes take place in the natural
world independently of any human activity?
(We can futher split this down to biological and chemical activity. On
the question of the former, are those supporters of a dialectics in
nature arguing that, for example a dialectic is present in evolution? Or
put more crudely, that there were dialectical processes in the age of
the dinosaur?
In relation to the non-organic world, are they arguing that dialectics
can be found for instance, in those chemical processes that exist
beyond human intervention, or even cognition?)

At the risk of repetition, the question that I am trying to draw out is
this: in the absence of the human are there still dialectics?

Hugh it would appear says yes, that it is a 'fundamental principle of
nature'.  Now this does indeed strike me as metaphysics.
Now if there are such fundementals, please could Hugh, or some
other purveyor of the dialectic as divine principle, point some out?

With regards Bhaskar, the problem here is avoiding a side debate
about totality!
Could Gary point out where Bhaskar locates dialectics within nature
as part of his transcendental proof? From my reading of Bhaskar he
says that there 'sometimes' dialectics take place in nature, and that
contradiction is a necessity for change to take place. However he
thinks that this whole debate 'fades into insignificance' once we look
at the implications of materialist diffraction.
But what the hell does he mean by that?!

Russell


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