[Marxism] Dialectics & Science (reply to Calvin Broadbent)

Rob Lucas roblucas at lucasandblench.com
Wed May 26 19:00:27 MDT 2004

> For Marx, to really understanding something entails understanding its being
> in a process of transformation. The more one is *actively* and *consciously*
> involved in this process of transformation, the better one can understand
> it. But, one cannot transform the world in any deliberative way without
> having some objective understanding of it. This is Marx's 'praxisual' view,
> and it is not pragmatic, it is scientific.

Yes, but both "objective" and "scientific" have a distinctly different
meaning in a dialectical context than a conventional one. Most importantly,
dialectical movement must take us beyond a simple separation of subject and
object. "Pragmatic", in this context, would surely take on a distinctly
different meaning to conventional usage as well. "Pragmatic"/ "objective",
"scientific", "law"- whatever; ultimately the dialectic is more important
than any of these terms considered externally to it.

> Marx does not believe in sheer
> irrational voluntarism, he believes in understanding and transforming.
> The scientific scientist will always take into account his own subjectivity
> in analysing his 'facts' (cf. Einstein's theory of relativity).

Einsteinian relativity is the exception rather than the rule. What's more,
the accounting for the relation of subject to object is distinctly different
in Einstein to Marx. There are the odd scientists who would still call
themselves dialectical- e.g. Levins & Lewonthin, but again, these are a
distinct exception, and they would certainly not see themselves as working
within the dominant model of scientific research. I believe some work has
been done by Chilean biologists which deals with structures of observation
used in scientific work, and has a degree of recursivity (this is what
Niklas Luhmann's system theory is apparently based on), but again, this is a
relatively long way from the dialectic.
Whilst scientists may acknowledge their active role in the making of science
in principle, I think few would be concerned with incorporating something
about that activity into their work; as I said, this is simply beyond the
purview of most science, and with the degree of specialisation which has
been reached today, one cannot reasonably expect these scientists to
suddenly turn round and start being dialectical.

> Real science 
> is normally formed out of 'practical' scientific work. Few scientists would
> dispute this- this does not in itself mean their work is any less
> scientific. An a priori conception of science as detached is much more false
> science.
> Incidentally, I believe there is an ongoing attempt in the 'natural
> sciences' to formulate a unifying theory of complex systems, and not merely
> settle for 'complementarity' amongst isolated branches.

Indeed there is. "String" theory is, I've heard, the closest we've got to a
theory of everything. However, I think you'd have a tough job selecting 1
paper out of 1000 that really dealt with the unifying theory as opposed to
very small, distinct areas; this is simply how science works these days-
practical necessity means that if you're writing a paper about a T-Rex'
muscle structure, that is all the paper is about- nothing more. The majority
still work in loose "complementarity" rather than on grand unifying

Surely we cannot simply say that dialectical thought and science are exactly
the same thing?



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