Re: [xmca] Response to DK about Volition

From: Steve Gabosch <sgabosch who-is-at>
Date: Mon Sep 10 2007 - 05:45:39 PDT

At 04:58 PM 9/10/2007 +1000, Andy Blunden wrote:
>Allahu Akbar!!

LOL. I don't see nature as Almighty in the sense a religious person
would see God or Allah. Nature certainly is vast, though. If the
big bang epicenter started sending out light 13.7 billion years ago,
the diameter of the visible universe should be 27.4 billion light
years, but we know it is much bigger than that because the universe
is expanding. We know this because the total mass of galaxies would
collapse the known universe otherwise. Also, such linear
calculations are invalid because spacetime is curved. We know this
because of the way light coming from the stars behaves, and from the
behaviors of subatomic particles. And we might be dealing with not
just one universe, but multiverses. We know this is possible because
we have mathematical tools for imagining reality in more than three
dimensions, and because we theorize that there was a reality before
the big bang. Mindblowing ideas, aren't they?

My point here is that a scientific approach to nature, full of awe
and imagination, is entirely different from a religious view of the
supernatural. One is based on empirical fact, the other,
spiritualist faith. Nature is ultimately knowable; God is not.

- Steve

>At 10:11 PM 9/09/2007 -0700, Steve Gabosch 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"??
>>>>>xmca mailing list
>>>>xmca mailing list
>>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380
>>> 9435, AIM identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
>>>xmca mailing list
>>xmca mailing list
> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380
> 9435, AIM identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
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Received on Mon Sep 10 05:48 PDT 2007

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