Re: [xmca] Response to DK about Volition

From: Steve Gabosch <sgabosch who-is-at>
Date: Sun Sep 09 2007 - 22:11:27 PDT

Thanks for the Hegel, and the comments. On my formulation
"ever-unique," I can immediately see it has a flaw - if nature was
completely unique from one moment to the next, it would have no
continuity. To avoid this incorrect implication, a better term might
be ever-transforming, or ever-evolving - "Nature is ever-transforming
into new forms" - to contrast with the Ancient Greek idea of history
being a cycle that keeps repeating itself. A metaphor for this would
draw history is an arrow (a zigzaggy one, if you will), not a
circle. Thank you for your insights, Andy.
- Steve

At 10:11 AM 9/10/2007 +1000, you wrote:
>Thanks Steve.
>My reaction is still the same: your claims about Nature are all
>somewhere in between being trivial or category errors. In so far as
>Nature is seen as always changing, under its own internal tensions
>and not from outside, inconsistently and unrepeatably, and we don't
>look too deeply into these claims, they are trivial. But if we look
>at the claims more critically (What does it mean to "change"?), then
>you get into just that space that Hegel was in when he gave
>"dialectics" the exposition which was so influential for Marx and Engels.
>In the section on Reflection in the Shorter Logic, for example,
>Hegel deals with 1), 2) and 4) as logical categories which when,
>subject to criticism, turn out to lead to their own negation. Just
>take "Nature is ever-unique" for example.
>Hegel subjects this claim to critique and shows that it contains the
>claim that things must also be the same in some way in order for
>them to be compared about found to differ and from there he derived
>the notion of "specific difference".
>In other words, unless you are making a trivial claim (Nature is
>always changing) you are making a claim about human activity,
>practice ("All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their
>rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this
>practice.") This is true less obviously about your ontological
>claims, because they impute a mode of subject-activity to the object
>itself, but it is self-evidently true of your epistemological claims.
>In the old days people used to argue about the nature of God. Thanks
>to Spinoza, we now call God by the name "Nature" and argue whether
>Nature is like this or like that. "Theses on Feuerbach" deals with
>this kind of naturalistic religion. It is also the theoretical
>foundation of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory, isn't it?
>At 04:35 PM 9/09/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>>Andy asks:
>>"Tell me: what do you understand by "Nature is NOT dialectical"??"
>>I appreciate these challenges, they sharpen me up. Giving this
>>question of whether nature is dialectical a little more thought, I
>>expand a little on aspects already mentioned, and add a few more.
>>To address Andy's question specifically, if a person more or less
>>agrees with the ontological aspects I have listed below, and will
>>be kind enough to look past the inadequacies of my rough
>>formulations, they are at least de facto on their way holding the
>>view the nature is dialectical. If they disagree with one or more
>>of these ontological aspects, they would probably argue that nature
>>is not dialectical.
>>There are also epistemological aspects to the claim that nature is
>>dialectical. These could also be grounds for rejecting the
>>claim. See what you think.
>>Some ontological aspects of the claim "nature is dialectical":
>>1) Nature is always changing. The "nature is dialectical" position
>>chooses a dynamic model over static.
>>2) Nature is driven by internal contradiction. The "nature is
>>dialectical" viewpoint chooses an internal opposition model over an
>>external interaction model. This is an application of the
>>principle of the unity and conflict of *internal* opposites. It
>>sees contradictions as internal unities and conflicts within larger
>>developing systems, which must always be taken into account. I
>>make a special point of the "internal" aspect of motion and
>>contradiction in dialectical thinking to distinguish dialectics
>>from its more simple cousin, interactionism, which tends to only
>>account for the external features of motion and has difficulty
>>accounting for contradiction.
>>3) Nature develops in a zigzag fashion. The "nature is
>>dialectical" viewpoint chooses a punctuated equilibrium model over
>>a gradualist model, which dominated science until the 19th and even
>>the 20th century in many fields. This is an application of the
>>principle of quantity transforming into quality. Complexity
>>science has made important strides in understanding this principle.
>>4) Nature is ever-unique. The "nature is dialectical" viewpoint
>>chooses a "zigzag" model over a cyclical one. This is an
>>application of the principle of the negation of the
>>negation. Nature is constantly negating, transforming and
>>overcoming itself so the overall outcome is ever-new. This view,
>>developed especially by Hegel in relationship to human history,
>>stands in strong contrast to the cyclical models of nature and
>>society that previously dominated human thought.
>>5) Causation exists in nature - but not linear, mechanical
>>causation - rather, complex dialectical contradiction exists in all
>>forms of motion and development
>>Some epistemological aspects of the claim "nature is dialectical":
>>1) Nature is lawful and knowable. Accurate generalizations about
>>nature are possible. The "nature is dialectical" viewpoint chooses
>>the view that nature as comprehensible over the view that nature is
>>2) Nature is lawful, but has different laws of motion in different
>>domains (for example, chemical, biological, and
>>social). Inappropriate application of laws across qualitatively
>>different domains is possibly the most common methodological error in science.
>>3) Materialist dialectics offers a superior method of modeling and
>>explaining the motions of nature, society, and the individual. It
>>is better at integrating generalizations, and distinguishing
>>domains, than other existing philosophical models (for example,
>>spiritualist, mechanist, dualist).
>>Some of my terminology is of course steeped in the dialectical
>>materialist tradition, and sounds foreign to many in the scientific
>>community today, especially in the US and UK, where dialectical
>>terminology is especially out of favor. Significantly, all or at
>>least many of these so-called dialectical ideas about nature can
>>now be separately found in other terminology traditions in the
>>natural and social sciences, such as in what is coming to be known
>>as complexity science (emergentism, hierarchy theory,
>>self-organization, etc.). There seems to be an overall merging of
>>"dialectical" ideas about nature taking place, with new kinds of
>>understandings and explanations along these lines being developed
>>in all fields. Whereas many would probably categorically deny that
>>"nature is dialectical" - some would argue that only ways of
>>thinking can be "dialectical" (is this your position, Andy?) - that
>>is, if they even accept the notion of "dialectics" at all - they
>>might agree, in different terms, with many or perhaps even all of
>>the ontological aspects I've listed. Despite Engels' terminology
>>being out of favor in many circles, and his priority being
>>unacknowledged or unknown, his arguments that nature is dialectical
>>seem to continue to gain ground, item by item. This is a long-term
>>discussion, and we shall see where it goes in coming years.
>>- Steve
>>At 05:10 PM 9/9/2007 +1000, you wrote:
>>>>Returning to you, Andy, I take it that you disagree with
>>>>Vygotsky, and Engels, and hold the view that nature is not
>>>>dialectical, and that the laws of dialectical motion do not or
>>>>can not be applied to nature. Do I have that right? Perhaps
>>>>not. I am actually not sure what your position is. I am
>>>>perfectly okay with whatever view you hold. Perhaps you would
>>>>like to explain your opinion on this in a few lines, or whatever you need.
>>>>- Steve
>>>Your 3-point justification was perfect, Steve. Reams of quotations
>>>add nothing. The claim is either trivial or a category error.
>>>Different people say different things in different situations for
>>>different reasons. If you are having an argument with a Platonist
>>>theologian or an analytical philosopher there might be a point.
>>>But in a milieu like this I don't understand the point.
>>>There are 101 definitions of dialectics. If all we are claiming is
>>>that things change, that's trivial. If you want to go further,
>>>then I think you will have to specify the meaning of "dialectics"
>>>with some statement about concepts, intelligibility, truth,
>>>knowledge, science or whatever. The claim that "we think like this
>>>because nature is like this" has a certain obvious validity -
>>>thought must follow the contours of its object - but beyond that,
>>>it is a terribly wrong maxim: "Men are cruel because Nature is
>>>cruel" ??? "We drive on the left because nature drives on the left." ??
>>>Tell me: what do you understand by "Nature is NOT dialectical"??
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Received on Sun Sep 9 22:13 PDT 2007

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