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

David P Á david at miradoiro.com
Tue Jan 14 01:25:40 MST 2014

On 13/01/2014 19:06, shaun may wrote:
> For example, take Newton's Law,  F = ma

Sorry to be nitpicky here but Newton's law is f=dp/dt, force is the
derivative of momentum against time, which resolves to m*a when mass is
constant. A common special case.

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

Agree that it expresses an identity. I would say that it expresses an
identity between the values of the variables rather than the variables
themselves, but maybe this is pedantic too.

> 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 magnitude of force is the product of the magnitude of mass and
acceleration. (Incidentally this is a vector.) Mass and acceleration are
not force, definitely, but their magnitudes determine that of force.

> 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. 

I'm a bit lost here. Where is the distinction and opposition on the
expression? I'm willing to entertain that force may have some
ontologically distinct status from being a mere product of mass and
acceleration (or the derivative of momentum against time). But the
equation is only referring to values.

If I say that the price of butter is determined by the year on the
Gregorian calendar over the period of the moon's orbit (let's imagine
this, coincidentally, were true) that's not to say that there's some
kind of ontological relation here, but that these values happen to be
the same. An equality doesn't need to be construed more strongly than to
state the vvalues on both sides coincide. There is no presumed causal or
ontological link.

> 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.

So are you saying the actual value of force, in newtons, for a constant
mass object under classical mechanics, is different from m*a? If not,
what is that saying?

> 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.

I would say formal logic and model theory have a pretty nuanced language
to talk about things like this: x is necessarily y, x is y for all
possible worlds where z is true, etc. For causality we have things like
Pearl diagrams.

> 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.

So, I must ask here: is there something different that must be done at
the computational level to find out the value of magnitudes? If not,
what is the meaning of this statement?

> 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. 

To acknowledge dialectics has a heuristic function doesn't mean that we
can jump well in advance of evidence and make confidence statements
about the shape of the world. It may guide our investigation, hint at
where there are probable holes in understanding, call our attention to
the type of evidence we should be collecting, etc; but it cannot
substitute for evidence itself.

> 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.  

I would say that it is quite interesting, and constructive, that Marx's
project is as we speak being formalised and inquired into with formal
tools. Things like econophysics and analyses of the labour content of
commodities and their relation to bourgeois prices are, in my view, akin
to the progress between pre-atomic notions on thermodynamics and ideal
gasses, and modern notions of statistical mechanics, whereby we find out
that formalisms or intuitions we were using without evidential grounding
are confirmed through experiment and made rigorous.

> 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.

Logically impermissible? Is this the formal logic you have been
declaring insufficient? My view is that the cosmos may or may not be
dialectical, and that we cannot conclude this in advance. Further, when
dialecticians begin to make statements about formal logic and
mathematical identities that do not seem to have any operational results
in terms on how I should calculate magnitudes, I'm not sure what to
conclude from that but that there is nothing there for me to use.
Dialectics is, in my view, highly useful in conceiving of complex
systems like biology and cybernetics, but eventually we have to
calculate things, and we do that through formal symbolic manipulation.
Until someone can clearly explain how to do this any other way, that's
all that I can do.


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