Re: [xmca] Response to DK about Volition

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Sun Sep 09 2007 - 23:58:59 PDT

Allahu Akbar!!
At 10:11 PM 9/09/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>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.
>>7 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 incomprehensible.
>>>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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>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
>> identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
>>xmca mailing list
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Received on Mon Sep 10 00:00 PDT 2007

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