Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NGUYỄN THIÊN THỤ *DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM AND HISTORICAL DIALECTICS

 


DIALECTICAL  MATERIALISM
AND HISTORICAL DIALECTICS


by NGUYỄN THIÊN THỤ

I. DIALECTIC 

According to Encyclopedia Britanica,  dialectic, also called dialectics,  originally a form of logical argumentation but now a philosophical concept of evolution applied to diverse fields including thought, nature, and history.
Among the classical Greek thinkers, the meanings of dialectic ranged from a technique of refutation in debate, through a method for systematic evaluation of definitions, to the investigation and classification of the relationships between specific and general concepts. From the time of the Stoic philosophers until the end of the European Middle Ages, dialectic was more or less closely identified with the discipline of formal logic. 

Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis. Although this model is often named after Hegel, he himself never used that specific formulation. Hegel ascribed that terminology to Kant Carrying on Kant's work, Fichte greatly elaborated on the synthesis model, and popularized it.

On the other hand, Hegel did use a three-valued logical model that is very similar to the antithesis model, but Hegel's most usual terms were: Abstract-Negative-Concrete. Hegel used this writing model as a backbone to accompany his points in many of his works.

The formula, thesis-antithesis-synthesis, does not explain why the thesis requires an Antithesis. However, the formula, abstract-negative-concrete, suggests a flaw, or perhaps an incomplete-ness, in any initial thesis—it is too abstract and lacks the negative of trial, error and experience. For Hegel, the concrete, the synthesis, the absolute, must always pass through the phase of the negative, in the journey to completion, that is, mediation. This is the actual essence of what is popularly called Hegelian Dialectics.
Another important principle for Hegel is the negation of the negation, which he also terms Aufhebung (sublation): Something is only what it is in its relation to another, but by the negation of the negation this something incorporates the other into itself. The dialectical movement involves two moments that negate each other, something and its other. As a result of the negation of the negation, "something becomes its other; this other is itself something; therefore it likewise becomes an other, and so on ad infinitum". 

Something in its passage into other only joins with itself, it is self-related. In becoming there are two moments: coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be: by sublation, i.e., negation of the negation, being passes over into nothing, it ceases to be, but something new shows up, is coming to be. 

What is sublated (aufgehoben) on the one hand ceases to be and is put to an end, but on the other hand it is preserved and maintained. In dialectics, a totality transforms itself; it is self-related, then self-forgetful, relieving the original tension.
 

II.  DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM

1. IDEALISM

An argument for idealism, such as those of Hegel and Berkeley is ipso facto an argument against materialism. Matter can be argued to be redundant, as in bundle theory, and mind-independent properties can in turn be reduced to subjective percepts.
If matter and energy are seen as necessary to explain the physical world, but incapable of explaining mind, dualism results. Emergence, holism and process philosophy seek to ameliorate the perceived shortcomings of traditional (especially mechanistic) materialism without abandoning materialism entirely.
2. MATERIALISM 
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter or energy; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance, and reality is identical with the actually occurring states of energy and matter.

To many philosophers, 'materialism' is synonymous with 'physicalism'. However, materialists have historically held that everything is made of matter, but physics has shown that gravity, for example, is not made of matter in the traditional sense of "'an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist'… 

So it is tempting to use 'physicalism' to distance oneself from what seems a historically important but no longer scientifically relevant thesis of materialism, and related to this, to emphasize a connection to physics and the physical sciences." Therefore much of the generally philosophical discussion below on materialism may be relevant to physicalism.

3.DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM

  According to Encyclopedia Britanica, dialectical materialism,  a philosophical approach to reality derived from the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. For Marx and Engels, materialism meant that the material world, perceptible to the senses, has objective reality independent of mind or spirit. 

 

They did not deny the reality of mental or spiritual processes but affirmed that ideas could arise, therefore, only as products and reflections of material conditions. Marx and Engels understood materialism as the opposite of idealism, by which they meant any theory that treats matter as dependent on mind or spirit, or mind or spirit as capable of existing independently of matter. For them, the materialist and idealist views were irreconcilably opposed throughout the historical development of philosophy. 

 That is to say, Marxism starts from the idea that matter is the essence of all reality, and that matter creates mind, and not vice versa. In other words, thought and all the things that are said to derive from thought - artistic ideas, scientific ideas, ideas of law, politics, morality and so on - these things are in fact derived from the material world. The 'mind', ie., thought and thought processes, is a product of the brain; and the brain itself, and therefore ideas, arose at a certain stage in the development of living matter. It is a product of the material world.

 4.THE LAWS OF DIALECTICS


  Marx and Engels answer all  questions by utilizing the three laws of motion, i.e. dialectics, first discovered by the Greek philosophers and codified by Hegel. These three laws are discovered within nature instead of being superimposed upon it.
  • The law of the unity and conflict of opposites;
  • The law of the passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes;
  • The law of the negation of the negation.
 (1). Law of Opposites 
Marx and Engels started with the observation that everything in existence is a unity of opposites. For example, electricity is characterized by a positive and negative charge and atoms consist of protons and electrons which are unified but are ultimately contradictory forces. Even humans through introspection find that they are a unity of opposite qualities. Masculinity and femininity, selfishness and altruism, humbleness and pride, and so forth. The Marxist conclusion being that everything "contains two mutually incompatible and exclusive but nevertheless equally essential and indispensable parts or aspects." 

Some opposites are antagonistic, as in the competition between capitalists and laborers. Factory owners offer the lowest wages possible, while workers seek to maximize wages. Sometimes this antagonism sparks strikes or lockouts.

(2). Law of Negation

The law of negation was created to account for the tendency in nature to constantly increase the numerical quantity of all things. Marx and Engels demonstrated that entities tend to negate themselves in order to advance or reproduce a higher quantity. This means that the nature of opposition which produces conflict in each element and gives them motion also tends to negate the thing itself. This dynamic process of birth and destruction is what causes entities to advance. This law is commonly simplified as the cycle of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

In nature, Engels often cited the case of the barley seed which, in its natural state, germinates and out of its own death or negation produces a plant; the plant in turn grows to maturity, and is itself negated after bearing many barley seeds. Thus, all nature is constantly expanding through cycles.

In society, we have the case of class. For example, the aristocracy was negated by the bourgeoisie; and the bourgeoisie then created the proletariat that will one day negate them. This illustrates that the cycle of negation is eternal, as each class creates its "grave-digger", its successor, as soon as it finishes burying its creator.


Karl Marx focused on this law in order to prove that the capitalists was destroyed by the proletarians. But in nature and in humankind there are many degrees of negation. Negation sometimes means complete destruction, sometimes is only a change. The bourgeois in the feudal system did not die but they became the new bourgeois in the industrial revolution.

The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.(Communist Manifesto).

In the class antagonisms and in the class struggle, one of two side will win, or all will die, but the middle class still alive. Thus the law of negation cannot be applied to every situation.

(3). Law of Transformation

This law states that continuous quantitative development results in qualitative "leaps" in nature whereby a completely new form or entity is produced. This is how "quantitative development becomes qualitative change". Transformation allows for the reverse with quality affecting quantity.

This theory draws many parallels to the theory of Evolution. Marxist philosophers concluded that entities, through quantitative accumulations, are also inherently capable of "leaps" to new forms and levels of reality. The law illustrates that during a long period of time, through a process of small, almost irrelevant accumulations, nature develops noticeable changes in direction.

This can be illustrated by the eruption of a volcano which is caused by years of pressure building up. The volcano may no longer be a mountain but when its lava cools it will become fertile land where previously there was none. A revolution which is caused by years of tensions between opposing factions in society acts as a social illustration. The law occurs in reverse. An example would be, that by introducing better (changing quality) tools to farm, the tools will aid the increase in the amount (change the quantity) of what is produced.


In contradiction to Hegelian idealism, Karl Marx presented Dialectical materialism (Marxist dialectics):

My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e. the process of thinking, which, under the name of ‘the Idea’, he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of ‘the Idea’. With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought. (Capital, Afterword, Second German Ed., Moscow, 1970, vol. 1, p. 29).

  For Lenin, the primary feature of Marx's "dialectical materialism" (Lenin's term) was its application of materialist philosophy to history and social sciences. Lenin's main input in the philosophy of dialectical materialism was his theory of reflection, which presented human consciousness as a dynamic reflection of the objective material world that fully shapes its contents and structure. Later, Stalin's works on the subject established a rigid and formalistic division of Marxist-Leninist theory in the dialectical materialism and historical materialism parts.



Class struggle is the central contradiction to be resolved by Marxist dialectics, because of its central role in the social and political lives of a society. Nonetheless, Marx and Marxists developed the concept of class struggle to comprehend the dialectical contradictions between mental and manual labor, and between town and country. Hence, philosophic contradiction is central to the development of dialectics — the progress from quantity to quality, the acceleration of gradual social change; the negation of the initial development of the status quo; the negation of that negation; and the high-level recurrence of features of the original status quo

III. HISTORICAL MATERIALISM
 
 Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx (1818-1883). 

1. LAWS OF HISTORICAL MATERIALISM
 
There are some important points in Historical materialism.

(1). Law of  Progress

Marxists believe that the dialectic has guided society in a constant upward spiral. It means that society and everything would develop in progress, not stop or backward..

(2). Five phases of societies
They believe that human society developed gradually into five phases: 
-primitive communism
-slavery
-feudalism. 
-capitalism, 
- socialism. 
when the clash is resolved due to the abolition of classes, society will have achieved communism. Thus, history must obey the laws of the dialectic, and these laws declare that economic structures will eventually evolve into communism, on which the perfect societal superstructure will arise.

The continued clash of the bourgeoisie (the present thesis) with the proletariat (the present antithesis) will lead society into a transitional phase—socialism—and when the clash is resolved due to the abolition of classes, society will have achieved communism. Thus, history must obey the laws of the dialectic, and these laws declare that economic structures will eventually evolve into communism, on which the perfect societal superstructure will arise.This change also follows the law of negation.

(3). Law of change


Dialectics is the philosophy of motion. The dialectical method of analysis enables us to study natural phenomena, the evolution of society and thought itself, as processes of development based upon motion and contradiction.
Everything is in a constant state of flux and change; all reality is matter in motion.


The roots of dialectical thought can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who, just because their civilisation was not yet advanced enough to dissect and analyse nature in its separate parts, viewed nature as a whole, in its connections, dialectically. Nothing in life is static. In the words of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: "All things flow, all change."
 Around us in the natural world are illustrations of the dialectical development of our Earth and space itself. Astronomers are transfixed as super-telescopes allow us to witness the birth and death of distant stars, while no geologist or vulcanologist can function without having an understanding of the basic and interlinked laws of the dialectic – the law of quantity into quality, the interpenetration of opposites and the negation of the negation.

IV. CRITIQUE OF MARXIST DIALECTICS

1. Marx 's dialectic is different from formal logic.
 The formal logician operates within the limitation of three laws:
The Law of Identity – where A is equal to A
The Law of Contradiction – where A cannot be equal to non-A


The Law of Excluded Middle – where A must be equal to A, or must not be equal to A.Formal logic sees cause and effect as opposites, but for Marxists the two categories merge, mix and melt into each other all the time.

2.Karl Marx's theory cannot negativate the role of consciousness. All things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions.The professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame Alvin Plantinga criticises it, and the Emiritus Regius Professor of Divinity Keith Ward suggests that materialism is rare amongst contemporary UK philosophers: "Looking around my philosopher colleagues in Britain, virtually all of whom I know at least from their published work, I would say that very few of them are materialists". Marx was extremist when he appraised materialism.

3. Marx's theory is not materialist,  not scientific  and not objective. It seems Marx's theory is a kind of idealism.

4. Marx was ambitious when he wanted to make the laws for both pure science  and  science of humanities.

5.  In some cases, Law of progress is right. There are many theories that are in conflict with Marx's theory. Buddha taught "Everything is impermanent", Lao Tsu:" Every thing change". Everything never develops in the same  direction. It may go up and down, not in a constant upward spiral. We see Communism now in collapse, not in
a constant upward spiral


6. Marx confirmed that humankind will develop through five phases of societies. That is wrong because many societies did not develop into five phases. The capitalism did not develop in Russia, China, and Vietnam. The Communism did not govern the USA, France, Japan.  Many primitive tribes in  Arizona and in Vietnam still survive. That communism is not indispensable.
Why does society develop into socialism then communism? If socialism is different from communism, thus humankind  develops into six phases.  
 Dialectics is the philosophy of motion. With the law of change, Marx believed that everything is in a constant state of flux and change; all reality is matter in motion. He also claimed the law of negation of negation, why did he confirmed that the communism is the last phase? Why after the phase of communism, human kind becomes inactional? Thus, Marx's theory of dialectics is  full of contradictions.
(7). Law of Opposites
 This idea was borrowed from Georg Wilhelm Hegel who said: "Contradiction in nature is the root of all motion and of all life." 
Marx  focused on the oposites in order to prove his theory of class struggle, and to cause hostility in society , and to spread  the war in the world. So his theory is prejudice and not objective.
 Lao Tsu had an opened mind when he realized that our univers consisted of the oposites and the unity. Lao Zi said:" 高下相倾,音声相和,前后相随 


difficult and easy mutually complete [each other],
long and short mutually measure [each other],
 high and low mutually lean towards [each other]
 sound and voice mutually harmonize [with each other]
 before and after mutually follow [with each other]
[1]. 
  Book of Change said" 一陰一陽之謂道 The successive movement of the inactive and active operations constitutes what is called the course (of things)..[2]..  天地因缊,万物化醇,男女构精,万物化生. There is an intermingling of the genial influences of heaven and earth, and transformation in its various forms abundantly proceeds. [3]

 Thus, men and women. sunlight and rain, workers and capitalists are different but unite together to make our world happy and wealthy. If workers and capitalists struggled , both of them will die and the communists get profits.

 (8). Law of Transformation
 

 This theory draws many parallels to the theory of Evolution. Marxist philosophers concluded that entities, through quantitative accumulations, are also inherently capable of "leaps" to new forms and levels of reality. The revolution made progress, not by its immediate tragicomic achievements but by the creation of a powerful, united counter-revolution, an opponent in combat with whom the party of overthrow ripened into a really revolutionary party. (Marx, Class Struggle in France (1850)
 Charles Darwin believed that his theory of evolution was essentially gradual and that the gaps in the fossil record did not represent any breaks or leaps in evolution, and would be "filled in" by further discoveries. 
Confucius thought that everything has its cause and result, and its result will develop gradually. Book of Change  said:" The murder of a ruler by his minister, or of his father by a son, is not the result of the events of one morning or one evening. The causes of it have gradually accumulated,--through the absence of early discrimination. 臣弒其君,子弒其父,非一朝一夕之故,其所由來者漸矣"[4].
 
Today, new theories, essentially dialectical, have been put forward to explain the leaps in evolution. Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge termed their dialectical theory of evolution "punctuated equilibria". They explained that there were long periods of evolution where there were no apparent changes taking place, then suddenly, a new life form or forms emerged. In other words, quantitative differences gave rise to a qualitative change, leading to new species. The whole of development is characterised by breaks in continuity, leaps, catastrophes and revolutions. (Rob Sewell .What is Dialetical materialism? http://www.marxist.com/what-is-dialectical-materialism.htm).
 Whether the matter develops gradually or quickly, Mao's "leap forward" was certainly a stupid decision of a great communist leader!
 
 Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchil (1874 –  1965) said:" Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."
Indeed,  communism failed in Soviet Union and East Europe, it will fail in China, North Korea and Vietnam.
Marx's theory was a theory of failure and deceit. 

__

[1].Hilmar Klaus. Lao zi. Daodejing. Chapter 2, 
[2]. 周易.繫辭上.English translation: James Legge.http://ctext.org/book-of-changes/xi-ci-shang
[3].周易·系辞下.English translation: James Legge.http://ctext.org/book-of-changes/xi-ci-xia. [4].周易·坤. 臣弒其君,子弒其父,非一朝一夕之故,其所由來者漸矣 http://ctext.org/book-of-changes/kun6?filter=469428 


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