[Marxism] Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Quine and Hegel

shaun may mnwps at hotmail.com
Mon Jan 13 11:06:26 MST 2014

A few notes on David's post... All mathematical equations are formalised statements of dialectical relations. 

For example, take Newton's Law,  F = ma

This equation expresses an identity between distinct variables or a distinction between variables in their identity as represented by the '=' sign.

Force is identified as the product of mass and acceleration. But mass and/or acceleration are not force. It is only in their relation that they constitute force. The fact that different variables (representing real entities) appear on opposite sides of the equal sign itself implies identification of distinct variables. 
The very existence of the equation itself denotes the distinctions within the identity and articulates dialectics in a formalised mathematical expression. If there were no distinction and opposition in the identity, there would be no need for the equation itself. Force is the product of mass and acceleration and yet it is more than simply this product. 
To assert that Force is absolutely identical with mass times acceleration is akin to asserting that the whole is absolutely identical to the sum and product of its component parts without the distinction in which the whole is also greater than the summation and product of its parts. In other words, for practical purposes, the equation is only a formal approximation which does not fully embrace the dialectics of the relation but, in spite of this, remains a formalised expression of the dialectics of the variables representing real entities.
The 'formal logician' sees all identity and no distinction or all distinction and no identity. He/she always misses the distinction within the identity and vice versa. In other words, the positivist, empiricist, pragmatist, etc, would deny this latter principle (call it "illogical" or "contradictory of logic", etc) but the dialectician would acknowledge its existence in thought as an intrinsic part and expression of all forms of development and would recognise it expressed in the workings and equations of Physics and Mathematics. Christopher Zeeman's and Rene Thom's work on Catastrophe Theory, for example, is a demonstration of dialectics in higher mathematics as Darwin's work was in Biology.

The equation presents an identification of different variables in a specific relationship with each other which reflects the real, objective character of their relationship in Nature. Accordingly, even in the mathematical formulae of Physics, etc, the humble dialectic rears its ubiquitous head and haunts the the enunciations of formal logic, regardless of its current forms or lineage. They cannot escape its universality. Hence, formal logic as a limiting case of dialectical logic. Repeat : Every mathematical equation is a formalised statement of dialectics, however well disguised those relations may be within the formula itself.

Needless to say, if 'formal logic' is beginning, in today's forms, Frege, Kripke, etc, to articulate the dialectics of the world, then it is in process of ceasing to be 'formal' and indeed becoming dialectical. This is the dialectics of the evolution of logic itself and an implicit recognition of the dialectical character of the cosmos. Why else would it be compelled to move in such a direction? 

Moreover, if we recognise dialectics as having a heuristic function then this, once again, is an implicit acknowledgement of this dialectical character of the cosmos. If we are using dialectics as a means of investigation and discovery then it would be absurd to use it if the world itself were not dialectical in its actual relations. It would be counter-productive as well as counter-intuitive, revealing an absence of insight. 

Philosophically, if we proceeded on the basis of 'evidence' ALONE - which is the hallmark of the Empiricist and not the "Marxist" - the whole of the Marx's project would not have come into being. One of the sources for Marx was, of course, the 'empirical' but the source of Marx's theory as a whole was not 'evidence' alone. As we all know. But for the empiricist, 'evidence' is the gold standard of knowledge.  

The cosmos is dialectical. What form that takes in space and time, etc, I am not qualified to address. I happily leave that to professional Cosmologists who are far better equipped to address it than me.  

In the end, the whole question is not as complex as some think. There are two fundamental bifurcations on the journey. One : either the cosmos is in a constant state of development, of evolution, arising and vanishing determinations and negations or it is not. If you think it is not, you will tend to walk down the road of formalistics which, sooner or later, leads to political conservatism and/or reaction. Two : once we have accepted the proposition that the cosmos is in constant development we reach another fork in this road : either, (a) all this evolution, this life and vitality, is producing and produced by conflicts and contradictions i.e. the cosmos, including Man's relations to it, is inherently dialectical without the need for gods, ghosts or ghouls. This is the revolutionary road. Or (b) we fall into the loving embrace of the Heavenly Father and accept that the ultimate cause behind all this evolution is divine impulse and intervention. As with Newton the Unitarian. We then embrace the religious, theistic, call it what you like. This is the road to the monastery, to mysticism or to the theosophical seminary. 

If you reject materialist dialectics, that is fine. You will not be arrested and it will not interfere with your personal life. But by doing so, you also reject the philosophical basis of Marx's theory. It is not a religious vocation to accept or reject dialectics. Reject as you wish. You may use all manner of subtlety, conceptual evasion and sophistry to reject it. All the back alleys, shortcuts, refuges and hiding places of the philosophical fugitive, Kantianism being the usual one. But there are others, of course. Better just to be honest and state unequivocally,  "I do not agree. The cosmos, in my view, is not dialectical"   But by doing so, you automatically reject Marx's theory and the tradition which has arisen therefrom. You cannot reject the underlying method and then claim to be in accord with its results and findings. It is as simple as that. Nothing 'complex' about it. Really. You may reject dialectics as a comprehensive outlook in one breath then refer to yourself as a "Marxist" in the next breath. Sorry. Logically impermissible. Cannot be a whitewasher and chimney sweep simultaneously. Sophistics. Shaun May  



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