Fwd: Re: M-TH: Re: Marx conceiving of nature dialectically

2000-06-03 Thread Charles Brown

 Andrew Wayne Austin [EMAIL PROTECTED] 12/23 2:54 AM 
. . . need to correct some mistatements of fact . . .

On Tue, 22 Dec 1998, Charles Brown wrote:

I thought the examples that James F. gave in natural history and biology
fit the Engels model. . . . I welcome this as affirmation of Engels's
position . . . .

I have long argued that aspects of evolutionary theory and evolutionary
process may be described as dialectical and I was open-minded about this
matter. What I dispute is Engels argument that the dialectic is the
general laws of development in nature, society, and thought. I have never
a priori rejected the possibility of any form of change being dialectic.
What I have rejected is the view that all change is a priori dialectical.

Charles: So your position is that we just
have to wait and see as each type of change
comes up as to whether it is dialectical ?
Has any type of change been discovered
yet that was not dialectical as you understand
Marx to mean dialectical ? What is it ?

Below, Charles contradicts himself. First, he says that

However, Darwinism is also classically Marxistly dialectical . . . as
described by Lenin in _The Teachings of Karl Marx_ especially with
respect to Stephen Jay Gould's punctuated equilibrium, in which, I
believe the punctuations are major extinctions in the history of life.

But then he writes that 

the point is that catastrophes, revolutions, leaps within slower change
or evolution renders this fundamental theory of natural history more
dialectical in the Hegelian sense than it was in the Darwinian form. 

In this argument we find that Darwin's theory is said to be dialectical in
the classically Marxist sense. 

Charles: The answer to your riddle,
Andy,my boy, is that I used Darwinism
the first time to include Stephen Jay
Gouldism as part of Darwinism. And the
second time I used Darwinism, I should
have said original Darwinism not modified
by Gould's theory. This was an equivocation
of my use of the word "Darwinism." 
But the point is consistent for anyone
trying to understand.

And the example given is Gould's theory of
punctuated equilibrium. But then in the next sentence we find that whereas
Gould's theory is dialectic, it is more dialectical in the Hegelian sense
than in the Darwinian form. The problem is that revolutions, qualitative
leaps, and so forth, are Marxian dialectical (and the form is Hegelian).
But this is different, Charles says, than the Darwinian form. So, the
conclusion is this: Darwinian evolution is not dialectical. I agree.

Charles: The conclusion one more
time, is that Darwinism is more dialectical
than the theories of biology which 
prevailed when he wrote his famous
thesis, creationism etc. But Darwinism
was not fully dialectical in the Hegelian

You mentioned that evolutionism had
been around for a thousand years
and Darwin's father was an evolutionist.
But if you look in any biology basic
textbook , which will have a sketch
of Darwin's biography, you will find
that Christian creationism was the
prevailing theory of Darwin's day
OF THE BEAGLE. The 101 text
I just read says that Darwin was
going out to find data to uphold
creationism over a recent geological
theory that held the earth's
geology had evolved.

The point here is that relative
to his day, Darwin's theory was
none other than a LEAP, a 
revolution, a qualitative change,
from a metaphysical or anti-dialectical
conception of natural species, to
an elementarily , though not fully
dialectical conception.

Marx and Engels considered that he [Darwin] was using their method in

Where does Marx ever say that Darwinian evolution is an application of
Marx's dialectical method?

Charles: In his book _Ever Since Darwin_
in the essay "Darwin Delay" , Stephen
Jay Gould says the following:

"In 1869, Marx wrote to Engels about
Darwin's _Origin_"

  (Get this Andy, this is Marx speaking)


This seems to be evidence that Gould endorses Engels use of the dialectic
in natural history. He seems to find use for the three principles that
Andy mentioned a number of times. 

All these quotes by Gould don't prove or even support Engels' claim that
dialectics are general law in nature, society, and thought. What is the
point of quoting Gould? 

Charles: Andy, I am starting to
think that you are incorrigible.
These quotes from Stephen Jay
Gould blow your argument
out of the water. First of all you
haven't denied that Marx and
Engels said what Gould says they
do. Second, Gould is the perfect
one for this discussion because
he is a recognized expert in
paleontology or natural history.
He is not a philosopher or
social scientist. He has basic
data knowledge about change
outside of human history, in
a discipline of 

Fwd: Re: M-TH: Re: Marx conceiving of nature dialectically

2000-06-02 Thread Charles Brown

 Rob Schaap [EMAIL PROTECTED] 12/20 12:04 PM 
G'day Chas,

I'll be glad to yield to your
suggestion. I cannot say
that I yield on the substantive
point, though ,as I said in
my post, I have great respect
for James F's opinion.

I wasn't suggesting you stop talking about this, 

Charles: Oh good, cause I do have
a few thoughts regarding what Jim
F. said. Just checking. That hammering
the lid on the box sounded kind
of like a coffin metaphor, so I figure you
were dead serious. Never can tell
you know.

My understanding is that Andy and
Jim F. are saying that they disagree
with the Engels and Lenin position
of what is called dialectical materialism
which looks for  Marx's (not
Hegelian , though it is a tranformed
Hegelian dialectic) dialectic in
nature and culture(human history).
I thought the examples that
James F. gave in natural history
and biology fit the Engels model.
I thought they were similar to
those which Levins and Lewontin
make in _The Dialectical Biologist_.
They develop a definite dialectical
aspect of biology related to the
priority of the whole over the parts.
I welcome this as affirmation
of Engels's position on the issue
of this thread. and 
in _Anti-Duhring_ and _The 
Dialectics of Nature_ ( the latter
by the way is unpublished notes 
in preparation for a book  All of
the criticisms of Engels oversimplification
do not take this into account).

However, Darwinism is also
classically Marxistly dialectical 
both in its transition from creationism
to evolutionism ;and as
described  by Lenin in
_The Teachings of 
Karl Marx_ especially with respect to
Stephen Jay Gould's punctuated
equilibrium,in which, I believe
the punctuations are major
extinctions in the history 
of life. I'll copy the larger 
passage on this later.But
the point is that catastrophes,
revolutions, leaps within 
slower change or evolution renders
this fundamental theory of
natural history more dialectical
in the Hegelian sense than
it was in the Darwinian form.

James F. seems to know Stephen
Jay Gould fairly well. I am not trying
to say what Gould's philosophical
position is. I am glad for Gould's work.
Unrelated to this thread ,
I had been reading Darwin's 
_The Origin of Species_ to better
understand the types of issues we
are discussing here.  I noticed that
Darwin put a lot of emphasis on
gradual change. I thought to myself
that's not all the way dialectical. Not that Darwin
was a conscious dialectician,but I knew
that Marx and Engels considered that
he was using their method in biology.
Then I heard of Gould's punctuated
equilibrium as modification of Darwin
and I thought he's rendered it more

Whether Gould agrees with that
I don't know. James F. indicated
elsewhere that Gould is a Marxist.
So, I assumed that he may have
seen his  theory as making
natural history more Marxist or
dialectical. From the discussion
of Gould on the other list
came the following post.

Chas.:The dialectical is me looking at what Gould
is saying and analyzing it. I have never
heard Gould use the term to describe it.
However, Engels says somewhere that
most good scientists then ( and now we might add)
proceed dialectically but without knowing
it. I will look for the statements from
Engels and maybe Haldane, if you like.

The principle in question is the interpenetration
of quality and quantity. Darwin describes
evolution as continuous (gradual). The punctuations
would make it continuous with rare discontinuities.

What say you ?

Charles Brown

Writing about punctuated equilibrium in *The Panda's Thumb* Gould writes:

"If gradualism is more a product of Western thought than a fact of nature,
then we should consider alternate philosophies of change to enlarge our
realm of constraining prejudices. In the Soviet Union, for example,
scientists are trained with a very different philosophy of change-the
so-called dialectical laws, reformulated by Engels from Hegel's philosophy.
The dialectical laws are explicitly punctuational Eldredge and I were
fascinated to learn that many Russian paleontologists support a model
similar to our punctuated equlibria." (pp.184-5)

In a review of Lewontin et al., *Not In Our Genes* reprinted in *An Urchin
in the Storm* Gould writes:

"...we cannot factor a complex social situation into so much biology on one
side, and so much culture on the other. We must seek to understand the
emergent and irreducible properties arising from an inextricable
interpenetration of genes and environments. In short, we must use what so
many great thinkers call, but American fashion dismisses as political
rhetoric from the other side, a dialectical approach.

"Dialectical thinking should be taken more seriously by Western scholars,
not discarded becasue some nations of the second world have constructed a
cardboard version as an official political doctrine. The issues that it
raises are, in another form, the crucial questions of reductionism versus
holism, now so much under discussion throughout 

Fwd: Re: M-TH: Re: Marx conceiving of nature dialectically

2000-06-02 Thread Charles Brown

Andy Austin had asked:

What does it mean to say something is not fully dialectical? Does that
mean that it only meets one or two of the three laws of dialectics, such
as unity and contradiction of opposites, but does not meet one or both of
the other two criteria (quantity into quality and the negation of the
Charles: I responded as follows. I want
to put on the thread here a section
from Lenin's _The Teachings of Karl
Marx_ which speaks to this issue
of the partial dialectiality of Darwin's
thesis as written by Darwin. Original
Darwinism (not modified by Gould's
 theory of punctuated equilibrium).
First follows my comment from the
previous post.

Charles: Lenin in _The Teachings
of Karl Marx speaks directly to this
issue. He points out that Marx's
theory of  evolution has more
to it than the "current" theory,
meaning Darwin's. Darwin's has
gradual change ,which is part of
Hegel's. Gradual change is more
dialectical than creationism with
no change. Revolution/evolution
is even more Hegelian. So in 
a way Darwin's lacks the idea that
new quality arises from quantitative
leaps or discontinuities. 

Here is a passage from Lenin


Marx and Engels regarded Hegelian
dialectics, the theory of evolution most
comprehensive, rich in content and profound,
as the greatest achievement of classical
German philosophy. All other formulations
of the principle of development, of 
evolution, they considered to be one-
sided, poor in content, distorting and
mutilating the actual course of
development of nature and society
(a course often consummated in
leaps and bounds, catastrophes,

 (quoting Engels) Marx and I were 
almost the only persons who rescued
conscious dialectics...{from the
swamp of idealism, including Hegelianism}
by transforming it into the materialist
conception of nature... (Anti-Duhring)
Nature is the test of dialectics, and we
must say that science has supplied a 
vast and daily increasing mass of material
for this test, thereby proving that, in
the last analysis, nature proceeds 
dialectically and not metaphysically
(Anti-Duhring) (this was written before
the discovery of radium, electrons,
the tranmutation of elements, etc.
- Lenin's insert) (end quote of Engels)

Again Engels writes:

The great basic idea that the world
is not to be viewed as a complex of
fully fashioned objects, but as a complex
of processes, in which apparently
stable objects, no less than the images
of them inside our heads (our concepts),
are undergoing incessant changes, arising
here and disappearing there, and which
with all apparent accident and in spite of 
all momentary retrogression, ultimately
constitutes a progressive development-
this great basic idea has, particularly since
the time of Hegel, so deeply penetrated
the general consciousness that hardly
any one will now venture to dispute it
in its general form. But it is one thing to
accept it in words, quite another thing
to put it in practice on every occasion
and in every field of investigation (Ludwig
 In the eyes fo dialectic philosophy, nothing
is established for all time,
nothing is absolute or sacred ( See
Andy). On everything and in
everything it sees the stamp of 
inevitable decline; nothing can resist
it save the unceasing process of
formation and destruction, the unending
ascent from the lower to
the higher - a process which that 
philosophy itself is only a simple
reflection with the thinking brain.  (
Ludwig Feuerbach) (end quote of

Thus dialectics, according to Marxism,
is "the science of the general laws
of motion both of the external world
and of human thinking.

This  revolutionary side of Hegel's
philosophy was adopted adn
developed by Marx. Dialectical
materialism "does not need
any philosophy towering above the
other sciences." (Anti-Duhring).
Of former philosophies there remain
"the science of thinking and its laws
- formal logic and dialectics. (Anti-
Duhring). Dialectics, as the term
is used by Marx in conformity with Hegel,
includes what is now called the theory
of cognition, or epistemology, or
gnoseology, a science that must
contemplate its subject matter in
the same way - historically, studying
and generalising the origin and development
of cognition, the transition from
non-consciousness to consciousness.
In our times the idea of development, of
evolution ( i.e. Darwinism -CB)
 has almost fully penetrated
social consciousness, but it has done
so in other wasy, not through Hegel's
philosophy.  Still, the same idea, as
formulated by Marx and Engels on the basis
 of Hegel's philosophy, is much
more comprehensive, much more abundant
in content than the current theory of
evolution . (THIS IS WHAT I AM
-CB) A development that repeats, as it were,
the stages already passed, but repeats them
in a different way, on a higher
plane (negation of negation) ;
 a development, so to speak,
in spirals, not in a straight 

Fwd: Re: M-TH: Re: Marx conceiving of nature dialectically

2000-06-02 Thread Charles Brown


I just came across the below. Interjections 

Another dialectical concept is sublation
or supersecession or to preserve and
overcome ( a contradiction ). Marx, Engels
and Lenin use this from Hegel too. It 
occurs as a variation of some of the
more elementary concepts of dialectics.

I will get to it in the text below, but I
would say there is a paradox or
irony in Marx and Engels career
of philosophical publishing. You see
I think in Hegel's heyday, for Young
Hegelians and all philosophers in
Germany , it was unthinkable that
Hegel would fall into such
oblivion as he did. So, Marx and
Engels got off in their start with
a big emphasis on fighting too
much philosophizing (The German
Ideology, etc.). When Marx looked
up at the time of the Afterword to
the Second German edition of 
Capital he had sort of realized
some of what I am getting at here.
The bottom line for the moment is
that Marx didn't feel the need to
write out elementary dialectics
because Hegel already had. 
Marx's dialectic is not just 
"different than Hegel's but
it's direct opposite". It's the
whole Hegel flipped around
with the center pulled out and
used. Being the direct opposite
in a dialectical conception is
closer than being different.
It is an indication of relation
or dialectical opposition between
the two.

Interjections below.

 Andrew Wayne Austin [EMAIL PROTECTED] 12/17 10:09 PM 
On Wed, 16 Dec 1998, Charles Brown wrote:

The generalization, or transhistorical category of class struggle doesn't
mean it is historically universal. Struggle or contradiction or unity and
struggle of opposites is the more general category which would apply to
all human history. 

Okay, so you say you do not think that class struggle is a universal

Charles: Class struggle is not universal
in human history. We all agree on that,
don't we ? The first sentence of the
Manifesto, modern anthropology and
archeology, the old stone age , the
new stone age, most of human
history was not a class society.
Classes arose about 7,000 years ago.
The Origin of the Family, Private,
Property and the State.

But isn't it your position is that the universal dialectic
manifests in concrete reality, of which class struggle is one example? 

Charles: Universal dialectic is like universal
non-universal. I guess you should think
of how change means difference. If the
dialectic is universal , that means change
or becoming different is universal. But
difference is the opposite of universal.
Universal means the same everywhere.
A universal dialect means difference

But CLASS struggle arises with classes.

So the dialectic of class struggle in history is a process that inheres in
the social system itself, and is not the manifestation of a universal
dialectic? This seems at odds with the position of the universal

Charles: The class struggle is a particular
change going on. It is not the same
as all changes everywhere. It is like
them in that it is a changing.

I treat [class struggle] as a limited generalization just like the first

So now you are arguing that the dialectic does not really exist outside of
some social dynamics (such as class struggle)? Are you abandoning you
previous position?

Charles: The dialectic exists in social
dynamics and in physical dynamics.
My position is (ironically) not 
changing in this thread. You are
thinking wishfully when you say that
or refer to back peddling. You wish.

Charles: You asserted that, but you didn't demonstrate it. Natural
selection is dialectical. The struggle for existence involves the
unity and struggle of opposites. 

Explain this, please. How does the process of random variation and natural
selection in populations involve the "unity and contradiction of

Charles: I responded to this before. Since 
this comment this discussion has
extended. I would recommend Levins
and Lewontin's _The Dialectical Biologist_
And I have posted the quote from
Stepehn Jay Gould quoting Engels
on species evolution as cooperation
and struggle, or unity and struggle.
However, I would reiterate the
model I gave before. The species
unit does change as a unity and
struggle of opposites, as the
genotypical range is both a
unity ,as they are all exclusively
fertile (definition of a species) and
a struggle as some will be selected
against that is not pass on
their genes to a viable next

Charles: The dialectic of human history is not the same dialectic as that
of natural history. Darwin's theory is not fully dialectical, but it is
dialectical relative to creationism and the prevailing theories of nature
of his day. 

So now you are saying that whereas natural selection involves the unity
and contradiction of opposites - one of the three laws of dialectics -
class struggle does not involve the unity and contradiction of opposites?

Charles: Andy, you try your best NOT
to understand everything. I