Oddly enough, however, we find a DM-classicist like Lenin arguing along familiar lines, for all the world sounding like a born-again Realist with added Hegelian spin: "Thought proceeding from the concrete to the abstract -- provided it is correct (NB)… -- does not get away from the truth but comes closer to it. The abstraction of matter, the law of nature, the abstraction of value, etc., in short all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, truly and completely." [Lenin (1961), p.171. Emphases in the original.] Unfortunately, Lenin forgot to say how any of this is remotely possible if abstractions are creations of the human mind. If scientific knowledge more truly reflects the world the more its abstractions are correct, how could this be if abstractions do not exist 'objectively', in some form or other, for science to reflect? If abstractions don't exist in the outside world then what could there be in nature for scientific knowledge to depict? On the other hand, if they do exist, what are they composed of and what form do they take?

Poor fearing comprehension. Nothing here about Platonism. Just the nature of scientific idealization. Compare Leszek Kolakowski. Or Marx's general introduction to the Grundrisse.

Traditional theorists often call such abstractions the "essential" features of reality, which, according to them, underlie appearances and/or the material world. In contrast to the particulars we meet in everyday life, abstractions appear to be general in form. Indeed, the use of abstractions, so we are told, allows human cognition to arise from immediate experience to more general knowledge of the world. In that case, abstractions seem to be required in order to express generality and help in the formation of scientific knowledge. But, if they are general in form, does that mean that abstractions are somehow 'spread out', as it were, dispersed over the concrete objects they collect together, uniting the seeming diversity we see in nature? Or, are they no more than 'unifying principles', which are essential for the progress of science? Perhaps they are, but more work will need to be done before it is clear just how such 'principles' are more than merely "useful fictions", handy at least for boosting the morale of scientists.

Lenin does not promote the former idea of abstraction, nor does any Marxist. What you call generality seems to be closer to what Marx and Lenin are getting at.

Well, are abstractions like classes, then? Classes are abstract particulars of a rather peculiar sort: they are singular in form, but compound in nature. If Universals are like classes -- which exist anterior to material reality -- that would appear to suggest they are like ghostly containers of some sort, but with material contents. Does this intellectualist approach to reality therefore commit us to the existence of classes over and above their members? Indeed, does such a theory amount to a sort of bargain basement Platonism?

This has nothing whatever in common with the cite from Lenin. We know that Marx & Engels criticized this conception in THE HOLY FAMILY.

Nevertheless, using their 'natural' abstractive skills, intrepid abstractors are supposed to be able to ignore certain features of material objects, enabling them to form more general ideas or concepts to which increasingly wider classes of objects belong. At least that is what the metaphysical brochure would have us believe. But, materialists should be suspicious of such moves: how could abstractions be material (in any sense of the word) if adepts have to disregard certain aspects of material reality to derive some idea of them? Indeed: if, according to Lenin, materiality is bound up with "objective existence" outside the mind, how could a single abstraction be material if it requires the exercise of mental gymnastics to conjure it into existence? Even worse, how could any of them be "objective"?

This has nothing to do with Lenin's claims. And see Marx in Grundrisse: from vague notions of a complex whole to decisive general abstract relations to the conceptual reconstruction of the concrete.

If this is correct, it would seem that the class of concrete objects could only ever have aspiring, but never successful members. Moreover, given this way of seeing things, no sentient material being would ever have the remotest idea what could possibly count as the genuine article, since bona fide concrete particulars will only emerge from their shells at the end of an uncompletable infinitary exercise in interconnection. The dots determining the shape of that particular metaphysical puzzle will it seems never be joined up. Indeed, an fully accurate depiction of the very first concrete particular will only leap from the Ideal page on 'Epistemological Judgement Day', so to speak. Because of this, it looks like no human being will ever be in a position to form a clear idea of a single concrete particular; on that score, humanity is doomed never to know what they are.

The British Neo-Hegelian Idealists, perhaps?

Dialecticians might take exception to these claims because they ignore the dialectical interplay between the knower and the known, and the abstract and the concrete. They also seem to confuse subjective with objective dialectics.

What she said.

Clearly, there is no way that surgically enhanced words like these could have been social products, nor could they have been grounded in material reality -- by material practice. They had a strictly limited utility radius and a highly exclusive clientele; and deliberately so. Only words such as these could act as intermediaries between select human beings and the 'Mind of God'; only they could reflect "Essence", "Being" and the "Rational" order of reality. In this way, therefore, theories exploring the relationship between "Thought" and "Being" were covert extensions to Theology. Of course, these are no mere suppositions; what we know of the history of Philosophy fully supports this unflattering view. This quasi-mystical approach to knowledge supplied a rationale for the use of language as a handy device, one that enabled adepts to gain ready access to truths about the underlying 'necessary' structure of Reality. Profound secrets of "Being" could be laid bare by thought alone; no expensive equipment or messy experiments were required. In fact, no contact with the material world was needed at all. Wealth, patronage, leisure, a lively imagination and a flare for jargon are all that were required. No coincidence then that this approach to abstract ideas has proven to be highly conducive to a ruling-class view of nature and society. [More of this later.] This ancient, aristocratic attitude to 'knowledge' has re-surfaced many times, in many disguises, in different Modes of Production right throughout history. It is in fact a common theme that unites every shade of ruling-class thought, despite its frequent re-packaging as history unfolded.

Much truth in this, but sloppily conceived from the first sentence. A number of philosophers of different stripes would agree, from Dewey to Adorno.

In traditional Philosophy, one particular idea motivated the above considerations more than any other: the belief that Logic reflected the essential nature of Being, that nature's secrets could be unmasked by an examination of the logical structure of suitably doctored sentences. It is this no coincidence that the word "speculate" (as in "speculative philosophy", used by Hegel) comes from the Latin speculum, or mirror. Not only were Logic and Epistemology two sides of the same coin, the view prevailed that Logic was just a higher form of Psychology. If Logic was the study of the "laws of thought", as many supposed, and if Logic mirrored the structure of reality, the temptation to regard it as a sort of cosmic super-code, a shortcut to knowledge which mapped out reality way beyond the scope of the senses, became irresistible. Small wonder then that many traditional thinkers succumbed, and reality was viewed as the expression of -- or as identical with -- Logos and Mind.

OK. Marxism at least officially rejects this view. But anticipating your argument, I suppose that Engels began the trend where objective and subjective dialectics are fused, thus 'materialistically' replicating Hegel's notion of objective spirit.

Specially concocted language must therefore be able to link finite minds with the infinite Ground Of Meaning. Clearly, Philosophers were happy to cling onto the delusion that human thoughts (but especially their own) were somehow cosmically significant. This self-deception encouraged the further idea that the essential properties of Being were a reflection of (what were in fact) the contingent features of the logico/grammatical properties of just one group of languages -- the Indo-European family --, which is the language group in which most of these fairy-tales have been spun.

Too much linguistic philosophy.  What a waste.

If religious affectation is the opiate of the oppressed, rationalising suffering in its wake, metaphysical abstraction is the reverse opiate of the oppressor -- rationalising the power of the very class that created the need for such opiates in the first place. That, of course, helps explain why the words "Logos" and "Logic" are not accidentally related -- and incidentally

Interesting thought!

As will be demonstrated throughout this site, this aprioristic tradition in Western Philosophy helped DM-classicists flip Hegel's Idealism into its inverted alter ego: Dialectical Materialism.
A change of name, perhaps; but a ruse by any other name is still a ruse.
(3) Philosophy was thus regarded by those in the know as the source of a special sort of knowledge, one that was anterior to the sciences, but which nonetheless was capable of delivering a superscientific understanding of reality. Philosophical theses supposedly revealed what were in effect super-necessities underpinning Being itself, knowledge of which was attainable by the application of 'reason' alone.

This is certainly not Engels' philosophy, but this mode of thinking became tacitly rooted in Soviet Marxism as a state doctrine.

The downside of this is of course that if for any reason the special role that Philosophers have arrogated to themselves is denied --, that is, if it could be shown that the baroque linguistic structures Philosophers concoct are just "houses of cards" (to paraphrase Wittgenstein) -- then the whole enterprise would cease to have a point. With no reason for its existence, Philosophy would become little more than a source of endless tortured prose; its books fit only for gathering dust in the basement stack of the local library -- or, better still, for providing ample fuel for countless very large bonfires, as Hume suggested.

This is horseshit. British bourgeois philosophy of the most insipid sort. It's not even intelligent ideology critique.

However, the point worth emphasising here is that what had once been the product of the social relations among human beings (ordinary language) was transformed and fetishised into a medium that now appeared as an expression of the real relations between things; in its more extreme form, as those things themselves, and as the only guide to the nature of "things-in-themselves". Language was imbued with magical powers; linguistic megalomania now had a political licence to practice.

You confuse means with ends. Metaphysics is not merely linguistic megalomania. Childish.

With respect to truth, Lenin famously argued that:
"[D]ialectical logic holds that 'truth' is always concrete, never abstract…." [Lenin (1921), p.93.]
On the other hand, he also maintained that:
"Thought proceeding from the concrete to the abstract -- provided it is correct (NB)… -- does not get away from the truth but comes closer to it. The abstraction of matter, the law of nature, the abstraction of value, etc., in short all scientific (correct, serious, not absurd) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, truly and completely." [Lenin (1961), p.171.] At first sight, these two passages do not appear to be consistent. Admittedly, in the second, Lenin does go on to mention "practice" as a crucial component in the "cognition of objective reality", but that does not explain how "all scientific…abstractions" could possibly "reflect nature more…, truly", when "truth is always concrete, never abstract" (emphases added). How can practice reconcile a "never" with an "always"? And how can an abstraction like "All truth is concrete" be true itself? Of course, the epistemology presented in Lenin's work is more sophisticated than this initial paradox might at first sight indicate. This suggests that the resolution of this difficulty will require greater clarity about what DM-theorists mean by their use of words like "abstract” and “concrete".

Last two sentences: just so.

The heart of the argument can be found in the section "The Abstract And The Concrete". It should be read with some care. From what I see, the "Achilles Heel" of Lenin's position would be the assertion of infinite interconnections of any finite object. That is a genuine concern. Otherwise, Rosa's argument about Lenin et al lacks clarity.

In the balance of this section Rosa further expounds on the nature of scientific abstraction and reconstructs the rational meaning of Lenin's assertions, which echo Marx's. Sounds good. But apparently this reasoning cannot get off the ground.

The comes the section: "DM-Epistemology: Set In Concrete?", which begins:

The reason why the dialectical juggernaut cannot begin to roll is connected with the answer to the following questions: (1) What would the implications be for DM if it turned out that instead of beginning with abstract general terms to help refine experience, dialecticians without exception actually started with particulars -- or from terms that named abstract particulars --, and advanced from there by only ever using particulars?
(2) What if, instead of using abstract general terms to account for wider and more general connections in nature, DM-theorists used nothing but the names of abstract particulars, ones that were incapable of accounting for anything? As should seem obvious, unhelpful answers to these questions could deepen the suspicion that DM cannot account for knowledge. If all this is true, not only would DM-epistemology have run off the road and into a ditch, scientific knowledge would be in a hole, too.

To be continued.

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