Dialectical method ?

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Thu Sep 4 03:59:24 MDT 2003

Eric Blair wrote:

"Critique, then, is just another way to describe the product of the
dialectical method is it not?  That's at least how I understood the term."

The problem here really is that nobody has been uncontroversially able to
specify the meaning of "the dialectical method" and indeed I've met people
who think it's just a method used by jerks to get off. More seriously,
proponents of "the dialectical method" assume that there is one method which
can be generally applied in scientific inquiry, social analysis or political
activity. This has nothing in common with Marx, who believed that a method
must be appropriate for the subject to which it is applied. Therefore there
is no such thing as "the dialectical method", only methods which involve
dialectical procedures. But as far as Marx is concerned, it's really a
question of discovering the dialectics in the subject itself, and this can
only be accomplished through a critical inquiry and empirical investigation.
This takes a lot of work, as I mentioned, which few people are prepared to
do. They would rather go straight for the "big picture", the "overview of
things" and jabber a bit about the dialectical relationships between
abstractions. But this is a vacuous procedure.

Commenting on a description of the method used in Das Kapital, Marx says "Of
course the method of presentation must differ in form from that of inquiry.
The latter has to appropriate the material in detail, to analyse its
different forms of development, to trace out their inner connexion. Only
after this work is done, can the actual movement be adequately described. If
this is done successfully, if the life of the subjectmatter is ideally
reflected as in a mirror, then it may appear as if we had before us a mere a
priori construction."

The vulgar Marxists however prefer to take that "a priori construction" and
superimpose that construction on reality according to some analogies. But
that has nothing in common with Marx - in fact was one of the reasons why he
said "All that I know is that I am not a Marxist".

In the Preface to the Phenomenology of the Spirit, Hegel wrote:
"Should anyone ask for a royal road to Science, there is no more easy-going
way than to rely on sound common sense; and for the rest, in order to keep
up with the times, and with advances in philosophy, to read reviews of
philosophical works, perhaps even to read their prefaces and first
paragraphs. (...) This common road can be taken in casual dress;
but the high sense for the
Eternal, the Holy, the Infinite strides along in the robes of a high priest,
on a road that is from the first no road, but has immediate being as its
centre, the genius of profound original ideas and lofty flashes of
inspiration. But just as profundity of this kind still does not reveal the
source of essential being, so, too, these sky-rockets of inspiration are not
yet the empyrean. True thoughts and scientific insight are only to be won
through the labour of the Notion. Only the Notion can produce the
universality of knowledge which is neither common vagueness nor the
inadequacy of ordinary common sense, but a fully developed, perfected
cognition; not the uncommon universality of a reason whose talents have been
ruined by indolence and the conceit of genius, but a truth ripened to its
properly matured form so as to be capable of being the property
of all self-conscious Reason."

In the Preface to the French edition of Capital, Karl Marx writes:

"it is to be feared that the French public, always impatient to come to a
conclusion ... may be disheartened because they will be unable to move on at
once. That is a disadvantage I am powerless to overcome, unless it be by
forewarning and forearming those readers who zealously seek the truth. There
is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing
climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits".


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