Rosa Lichenstein and Anti-Dialectics?

April 2024 Forums General discussion Rosa Lichenstein and Anti-Dialectics?

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  • #87959
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    By happy coincidence, today I’ve uploaded some talks by Steve Coleman from a 1982 series entitled ‘Socialist Thinkers – People Who History Made’. The first three of these can be heard and downloaded via  our audio page.These are as follows:01 – Plekhanov and the Materialist Conception of History 02 – Dietzgen and Dialectical Thought03 – Kautsky and the Critique of Religion There are several others waiting to be converted and edited from the tape cassette originals.  

    #87960
    ALB
    Keymaster
    Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
    In fact, Dietzgen’s rather poor, a priori speculations are far easier to refute than are those of Engels and Plekhanov. But we can discuss this further the moment you post something — anything — of his that is worthy of merit. And by a priori speculation I mean assertions like this: “As a review in the October 1998 Standard put it ‘dialectics means that, in analyzing the world and society, you start from the basis that nothing has an independent, separate existence of its own but is an inter-related and interdependent part of some greater whole (ultimately the whole universe) which is in a process of constant change.'” Not only is there no proof of this, there couldn’t be. For example, how is it possible for everything to be ‘inter-related’ when there are vast regions of space and time that are, and always will be, inaccessible to us? On this, look up ‘light cone’ using Google — for example:

    I don’t see how this refutes the philosophical assumption of the nature of “reality” made by Dietzgen that all that “exists” is the universe as a whole and that what humans do, to understand so as to better live in it, is to name parts of it as if they were separate things, to describe these parts and form theories on the basis of this.  In other words, that the world we observe and perceive is not made up of separate things but that supposedly separate things only exist as these in our minds. In reality these are only parts of a larger whole and so are inter-related in this sense.You seem to be assuming that what Deietzgen was saying is that the world is made up of separate things and that these things are inter-related as separate things. But that’s not what he was saying. Quite the opposite in fact. So light cones and so-called inaccessible regions of space and time do not invalidate his basic assumption. In fact, these are descriptions, based on our observations of part of the world of phenomena, which we use to try to explain what we observe (or, rather, in these cases, of what scientists use to explain what they observe). What Dietzgen was advancing was in fact a theory of the nature of science.

    #87961
    Rosa Lichtenstein
    Participant

    ALB:
     
    “I don’t see how this refutes the philosophical assumption of the nature of “reality” made by Dietzgen that all that “exists” is the universe as a whole and that what humans do, to understand so as to better live in it, is to name parts of it as if they were separate things, to describe these parts and form theories on the basis of this. In other words, that the world we observe and perceive is not made up of separate things but that supposedly separate things only exist as these in our minds. In reality these are only parts of a larger whole and so are inter-related in this sense.”
     
    Of course, what I posted wasn’t meant to refute Dietzgen’s method, but what you have posted above is yet another example of a priori dogmatics, of the sort that, for example, Engels opposed:
     
    “Finally, for me there could be no question of superimposing the laws of dialectics on nature but of discovering them in it and developing them from it.” [Engels (1976), Anti-Dühring, p.13. Bold emphasis added.]
     
    “All three are developed by Hegel in his idealist fashion as mere laws of thought: the first, in the first part of his Logic, in the Doctrine of Being; the second fills the whole of the second and by far the most important part of his Logic, the Doctrine of Essence; finally the third figures as the fundamental law for the construction of the whole system. The mistake lies in the fact that these laws are foisted on nature and history as laws of thought, and not deduced from them. This is the source of the whole forced and often outrageous treatment; the universe, willy-nilly, is made out to be arranged in accordance with a system of thought which itself is only the product of a definite stage of evolution of human thought.” [Engels (1954), Dialectics of Nature, p.62. Bold emphasis alone added.]
     
    “We all agree that in every field of science, in natural and historical science, one must proceed from the given facts, in natural science therefore from the various material forms of motion of matter; that therefore in theoretical natural science too the interconnections are not to be built into the facts but to be discovered in them, and when discovered to be verified as far as possible by experiment.” [Ibid., p.47. Bold added.]
     
    “The general results of the investigation of the world are obtained at the end of this investigation, hence are not principles, points of departure, but results, conclusions. To construct the latter in one’s head, take them as the basis from which to start, and then reconstruct the world from them in one’s head is ideology, an ideology which tainted every species of materialism hitherto existing…. As Dühring proceeds from ‘principles’ instead of facts he is an ideologist, and can screen his being one only by formulating his propositions in such general and vacuous terms that they appear axiomatic, flat. Moreover, nothing can be concluded from them; one can only read something into them….” [Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 25, p.597, ‘Preparatory Materials’. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphasis added.]
     
    Now, it’s possible to show that all such dogmatic philosophical theories are non-sensical — I have summarised the argument and posted it here:
     
    http://www.revforum.com/showthread.php?788-Why-all-Philosophical-Theories-are-Non-Sensical
     
    “You seem to be assuming that what Dietzgen was saying is that the world is made up of separate things and that these things are inter-related as separate things.”
     
    I am not in fact assuming anything of Dietzgen.
     
    “But that’s not what he was saying. Quite the opposite in fact. So light cones and so-called inaccessible regions of space and time do not invalidate his basic assumption. In fact, these are descriptions, based on our observations of part of the world of phenomena, which we use to try to explain what we observe (or, rather, in these cases, of what scientists use to explain what they observe). What Dietzgen was advancing was in fact a theory of the nature of science.”
     
    But this is inconsistent with what you claimed above:
     
    “In other words, that the world we observe and perceive is not made up of separate things but that supposedly separate things only exist as these in our minds. In reality these are only parts of a larger whole and so are inter-related in this sense.”
     
    The point of my comment about light cones is that if modern science is correct, Dietzgen can’t be.
     
    Of course, Relativity was introduced long after Dietzgen had died, but that just shows how unwise it is of any theorist to try to impose a dogmatic scheme on nature.
     
    And, if we needed a philosophical theory of the universe (which we don’t), Dietzgen’s ideas wouldn’t even make the bottom of the reserve list of viable candidates.
     


    #87962
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Engels isn’t criticising Dietzgen in the quotes you give. If anything, Dietzgen would have criticised Engels’s approach which assumes that the so-called “laws of dialectics” actually exist in nature and can be discovered. Dietzgen’s argument was that what science is essentially doing is describing what we observe in nature (or, rather, in the world of experience) and that therefore the “laws of nature” are our decriptions of what we observe, with a view to predicting future experiences so as to better survive.The theory of relativity does not refute Dietzgen’s theory of the nature of science. As a more accurate, and so more useful, description than previous ones of the same phenomena it was an example of what Dietzgen meant science was and how it progressed (by better and more useful descriptions).The Dutch astronomer Anton Pannekoek (who wrote A History of Astronomy which became a standard textbook) who accepted Dietzgen’s theory of science had no problem accepting relativity Here is what he wrote in chapter 6 of his book (originally written in German in 1938) criticising Lenin’s materialism Lenin As Philosopher:

    Quote:
    Hence, according to Lenin, “materialism” accepts Newton’s doctrine, the basis of which is that there exists an absolute space and an absolute time. This means that the place in space is fixed absolutely without regard to other things, and can be ascertained without any doubt. When Mach says that this is the point of view of contemporary physicists he surely represents his colleagues as too old-fashioned; in his time already it was rather generally accepted that motion and rest were relative conceptions, that the place of a body is always the place relative to other bodies, and that the idea of absolute position has no sense.Still there was a certain doubt whether or not space-filling world ether did not offer a frame for absolute space; motion or rest relative to world-ether could be rightly called then absolute motion or rest. When, however, physicists tried to determine it by means of the propagation of light, they could find nothing but relativity. Such was the case with Michelson’s famous experiment in 1889, arranged in such a way that in its result nature should indicate the motion of our earth relative to the ether. But nothing was found; nature remained mute. It was as if she said: your query has no sense. To explain the negative result it was assumed that there always occurred additional phenomena that just cancelled the expected effect – until Einstein in 1905 in his theory of relativity combined all facts in such a way that the result was self-evident. Also within the world-occupying ether – absolute position was shown to be a word without meaning. So gradually the idea of ether itself was dropped, and all thought of absolute space disappeared from science.With time it seemed to be different; a moment in time was assumed to be absolute. But it was the very ideas of Mach that brought about a change here. In the place of talk of abstract conceptions, Einstein introduced the practice of experiment. What are we doing when we fix a moment in time? We look at a clock, and we compare the different clocks, there is no other way. In following this line of argument Einstein succeeded in refuting absolute time and demonstrating the relativity of time. Einstein’s theory was soon universally adopted by scientists, with the exception of some anti-semitic physicists in Germany who consequently were proclaimed luminaries of national-socialist “German” physics.The latter development could not yet be known to Lenin when he wrote his book. But it illustrates the character of such expositions as where he writes:“The materialist view of space and time has remained ‘harmless,’ i.e., compatible, as heretofore, with science, while the contrary view of Mach and Co. was a ‘harmful’ capitulation to the position of fideism.” (210)Thus he denotes as materialist the belief that the concepts of absolute space and absolute time, which science once wanted as its theory but had to drop afterwards, are the true reality of the world.

    In other words, it was Lenin’s version of “dialectical materialism” not Dietzgen’s that was repudiated by the theory of relativity.You say we don’t need a “philosophical theory of the universe”, but surely we need a “philosophy of science” or, if you prefer, a theory of science? You must have one, even if only implicitly. What is it?

    #87963
    Rosa Lichtenstein
    Participant

    ALB:
    “Engels isn’t criticising Dietzgen in the quotes you give. If anything, Dietzgen would have criticised Engels’s approach which assumes that the so-called “laws of dialectics” actually exist in nature and can be discovered. Dietzgen’s argument was that what science is essentially doing is describing what we observe in nature (or, rather, in the world of experience) and that therefore the “laws of nature” are our decriptions of what we observe, with a view to predicting future experiences so as to better survive.”
    I agree, and I don’t think I said he was. But, Engels is making a general point about a priori dogmatics (into which trap Dietzgen has fallen) — even though he (Engels ) is guilty of advancing plenty of his own dogmatic theses:
    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2002.htm
    However, Dietzgen is actually going further than you say here — indeed, as you pointed out earlier:
    “In other words, that the world we observe and perceive is not made up of separate things but that supposedly separate things only exist as these in our minds. In reality these are only parts of a larger whole and so are inter-related in this sense.
    No amount of evidence can show this to be the case (indeed, current theory tells us it can’t be the case).
    “The theory of relativity does not refute Dietzgen’s theory of the nature of science. As a more accurate, and so more useful, description than previous ones of the same phenomena it was an example of what Dietzgen meant science was and how it progressed (by better and more useful descriptions).”
    In fact, it shows that everything can’t be inter-connected. So, it does refute what Dietzgen has said  as well as others who have said more or less the same sort of thing — for example:
    “Another parallel between Hermeticism and Hegel is the doctrine of internal relations. For the Hermeticists, the cosmos is not a loosely connected, or to use Hegelian language, externally related set of particulars. Rather, everything in the cosmos is internally related, bound up with everything else…. This principle is most clearly expressed in the so-called Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, which begins with the famous lines ‘As above, so below.’ This maxim became the central tenet of Western occultism, for it laid the basis for a doctrine of the unity of the cosmos through sympathies and correspondences between its various levels. The most important implication of this doctrine is the idea that man is the microcosm, in which the whole of the macrocosm is reflected.
     “…The universe is an internally related whole pervaded by cosmic energies.” [Glenn Magee, Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition  (2001), p.13. Bold emphases added.]
     http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/en/magee.htm
     This is indeed a feature of all mystical systems of thought, whose adepts were asserting such things before any evidence became available. So, Dietzgen more closely resembles these mystics than he does scientists. Indeed, he pinched this idea from Hegel and the German naturphilosophers — who in turn lifted it from Jakob Boehme and Plotinus, among others.
    And thanks for the Pannekoek reference, but I have a copy of the book you mention, and have read it. In fact there is very little I haven’t read and studied about this theory over the last thirty odd years of researching this topic. And I thnk he is wrong about Lenin (but we can duiscuss this another time) — not that I want to defend Lenin’s version of dialectical materialsm, which is every bit as poor as Dietzgen’s and Engels’ versions
     “You say we don’t need a “philosophical theory of the universe”, but surely we need a “philosophy of science” or, if you prefer, a theory of science? You must have one, even if only implicitly. What is it?”
    No, I don’t have a theory of science, and nor do I want one — and nor do we need one. As I pointed out, all such theories are non-sensical — and I can prove it. [See the link I posted earlier.]


    #87964
    ALB
    Keymaster
    Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
    So, Dietzgen more closely resembles these mystics than he does scientists. Indeed, he pinched this idea from Hegel and the German naturphilosophers — who in turn lifted it from Jakob Boehme and Plotinus, among others.

    I think you need to re-read Dietzgen The Nature of Human Brain Work (1869). He didn’t pinch his basic idea from Hegel (there is no evidence that he had read any Hegel by then, Hegel being a “dead dog” by 1869). He got it from Kant. In fact, one way of seeing his theory is that it is Kant’s without the idea that behind what we experience there is a thing-in-itself that can’t know anything about. So all that exists is the ever-changing world of phenomena which humans try to understand by naming, describing and classifying its parts (Dietzgen’s theory of knowledge and of science). This doesn’t imply the existence of “cosmic energies” (in fact it denies this) or anything mystical like that (which I agree Hegel was).

    Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
    And thanks for the Pannekoek reference, but I have a copy of the book you mention, and have read it. …  I thnk he is wrong about Lenin (but we can duiscuss this another time)

    Actually, it would be interesting to discuss it. Do you mean that you don’t think that Leninism was an ideology for the state-capitalist development of economically backward countries?

    Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
    No, I don’t have a theory of science, and nor do I want one — and nor do we need one. As I pointed out, all such theories are non-sensical

    Yes you do, actually. It seems to be that (as in the quote from Glenn Magee) “the cosmos is …  a loosely connected set of particulars”, ie that the “particulars” have an independent existence and are not parts of a greater whole (which inevitably means that there are inter-related if only for that reason). I don’t think this theory is non-sensical, just a different, less adequate one.

    #87965
    Rosa Lichtenstein
    Participant

    ALB:
    “I think you need to re-read Dietzgen The Nature of Human Brain Work (1869). He didn’t pinch his basic idea from Hegel (there is no evidence that he had read any Hegel by then, Hegel being a “dead dog” by 1869). He got it from Kant. In fact, one way of seeing his theory is that it is Kant’s without the idea that behind what we experience there is a thing-in-itself that can’t know anything about. So all that exists is the ever-changing world of phenomena which humans try to understand by naming, describing and classifying its parts (Dietzgen’s theory of knowledge and of science). This doesn’t imply the existence of “cosmic energies” (in fact it denies this) or anything mystical like that (which I agree Hegel was).”
    Well, his son tells us (in Some of the Philosophical Essays, p.8), that in his adolescence (i.e., in the early to mid-1840s) his father “assiduously studied…philosophy”, and since Hegel was still all the rage in Germany at that time, it is highly likely that his reading included Hegel. Given the additional fact that he hit upon ‘dialectics’ (another Hegelian invention), and the idea that everything is interconnected (an idea he either got from Hegel or other German philosophers who were peddling that very idea at the time, having pinched it from earlier mystics like Oetinger and Boehme), the conclusion is pretty safe that Dietzgen lifted this idea from  these mystical German Idealists.
    Sure, Kant had a hand in all this, since Kant was heavily influential on all of German philosophy at that time, and Hegel was the leading figure in the criticism of Kant’s noumena. So, your point merely serves to substantiate my allegations.
    Furthermore, I agree that Dietzgen had stripped much of this mysticism away, but his core idea (that all things are interconnected) is no less mysterious, and was plainly  lifted from Hermetic mystics.
    “Actually, it would be interesting to discuss it. Do you mean that you don’t think that Leninism was an ideology for the state-capitalist development of economically backward countries?”
    Well, I am a Leninist; I just reject Lenin’s version (and all versions) of Dialectical Materialism. But, we can discuss this another time.
    “Yes you do, actually. It seems to be that (as in the quote from Glenn Magee) “the cosmos is … a loosely connected set of particulars”, ie that the “particulars” have an independent existence and are not parts of a greater whole (which inevitably means that there are inter-related if only for that reason). I don’t think this theory is non-sensical, just a different, less adequate one.”
    Again, I do not have a philosophical theory, nor do I want one, and nor do we need one; you have yet to show otherwise.
    And, I’m not sure you have quite grasped what I mean by ‘non-sensical’ — I explain what I do mean, and why all philosophical theories are non-sensical, at the link I posted earlier.
    Here it is again:
    http://www.revforum.com/showthread.php?788-Why-all-Philosophical-Theories-are-Non-Sensical
    I go into this in extensive, almost PhD length detail here:
    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2012_01.htm


    #87966
    stuartw2112
    Participant

     The only scientific methodology you’ll ever need:“Now, as for dialectical materialism, in my view this is a rather obscure notion … It is clear that people do use the word ‘dialectic’ as if they understood it, but I personally have never understood it. In fact, my own feeling is that it is a kind of ritual term which people use when they are talking about situations of conflict and so on. Personally, I do not find it a very useful idea… As for my own methods of investigation, I do not really have any. The only method of investigation is to look hard at a serious problem and try to get some ideas as to what might be the explanation for it, meanwhile keeping an open mind about all sorts of other possibilities. Well, that is not a method. It is just being reasonable, and so far as I know, that is the only way to deal with any problem, whether it is a problem in your work as a quantum physicist or whatever.”

    #87967
    Rosa Lichtenstein
    Participant

    Thanks for that Stuart, but this comment of Chomsky’s not only seems somewhat vague, it doesn’t appear to resemble the many and varied methods scientists have in fact used since at least the 17th century.
    Moreover, it’s not even what Chomsky himself does — his work in Linguistics is largely a priori, and was constructed in abeyance of any evidence. He has since then operated without an ‘open mind’ (as the interview in last week’s New Scientist further confirms).
    Finally, it’s important to distinguish any methods scientists might use from a philosophical theory about science.


    #87968
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    Scientists use many and varied methods: yes, exactly: “The only method of investigation is to look hard at a serious problem and try to get some ideas as to what might be the explanation for it, meanwhile keeping an open mind about all sorts of other possibilities.”I read the interview, but don’t see what you mean about it demonstrating a closed mind. Which bit did you have in mind?

    #87969
    Rosa Lichtenstein
    Participant

    I was referring to the fact that he re-interprets contrary evidence (such as that produced by Everett — but there are many others) to fit an a priori scheme he constructed back in the 1950s (in abeyance of any evidence, other than a few thought experiments and naive beliefs about how children learn to speak, and how adults learn a second language).
    If you read Chris Knight’s other essays on Chomsky, you will I think, see the point.
    Chomsky is also oblivious, and/or dismissive, of Marx and Engels’s belief that language is a historical/social, not an individual, phenomenon, invented by humans in order to communicate. He rejects the idea that language is communicational in anything other than a very basic sense.
    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/edition.php?issue_id=803
    http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker2/index.php?action=viewarticle&article_id=400
    http://www.chrisknight.co.uk/category/noam_chomsky/


    #87970
    stuartw2112
    Participant

    Yes, I’m well aware of Chris Knight’s criticisms (together we interviewed Chomsky for Radical Anthropology journal, http://www.radicalanthropologygroup.org/new/Journal.html), but I’m no longer convinced that the criticisms are even relevant to Chomsky’s concerns. Basically, Knight is asking what social conditions are necessary before we might expect language to evolve, given current sociobiological theories. Chomsky says, well, we know next to nothing about that, beyond speculation. It doesn’t impact on Chomsky’s concerns, which is, as he says in New Scientist, constructing theories that might tell us something nontrivial about the genetic predisposition for langauge and how it works. 

    #87971
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I have been following my own advice and re-reading Dietzgen’s The Nature of Human Brain Work (together with Pannekoek’s introduction to it). I can’t find any evidence for him having been influenced by Hegel either in ideas or terminology. The only philosophers mentioned are Kant, David Hume, Alexander von Humboldt and Ludwig Feuerbach.For the record, here is the essence of Dietzgen’s position that is being criticised:

    Quote:
    In the practical world of sense perceptions, there is nothing permanent, nothing homogeneous, nothing beyond nature, nothing like a “thing itself.” Everything is changing, passing, phantomlike, so to say. One phantom is chased by another. “Nevertheless,” says Kant, “things are also something in themselves,” for otherwise we should have the absurd contradiction that there could be phenomena without things that produce them.” But no! A phenomena is no more and no less different from the thing which produces it than the the stretch of a twenty-mile road is-different from the road itself. Or we may distinguish between a knife and its blade and handle, but we know that that there would be no knife if there were no blade and no handle. The essential nature of the universe is change. Phenomena appear, that is all.The contradiction between the ‘thing itself,” or its essence, and its outward appearance is fully solved by a complete critique of reason which arrives at the understanding that the human faculty of thought may generalize any number of varied sense perceptions under one uniform point of view, by singling out the general and equivalent forms and thus regarding everything it may meet as a concrete part of one and the same whole.

    Nothing mystical there. No occult forces at work. Nothing occult at all.You say, RL, that you accept the materialist conception of history. This means that, unless you think history is a series of unconnected events, you must accept the concept of history being a continuous stream and a “whole”, from which historians extract, describe and form theories about parts. So, if seeing things as an interconnected whole is acceptable here why does it suddenly become “mystical” when applied to nature and the universe?

    #87972
    Rosa Lichtenstein
    Participant

    Stuart:
    “Yes, I’m well aware of Chris Knight’s criticisms (together we interviewed Chomsky for Radical Anthropology journal, http://www.radicalanthropologygroup.org/new/Journal.html), but I’m no longer convinced that the criticisms are even relevant to Chomsky’s concerns. Basically, Knight is asking what social conditions are necessary before we might expect language to evolve, given current sociobiological theories. Chomsky says, well, we know next to nothing about that, beyond speculation. It doesn’t impact on Chomsky’s concerns, which is, as he says in New Scientist, constructing theories that might tell us something nontrivial about the genetic predisposition for langauge and how it works.”
    Well we’ll just have to disagree over what Knight is doing. Even so, I still maintain that Chomsky is not the last bit ‘open minded’, and he isn’t averse to a little speculation himself — much of it highly implausible.


    #87973
    Rosa Lichtenstein
    Participant

    ALB:
    “I have been following my own advice and re-reading Dietzgen’s The Nature of Human Brain Work (together with Pannekoek’s introduction to it). I can’t find any evidence for him having been influenced by Hegel either in ideas or terminology. The only philosophers mentioned are Kant, David Hume, Alexander von Humboldt and Ludwig Feuerbach.”
    If he read Feuerbach, then he will have read Hegel (in view of Feuerbach’s own concerns). The evidence of his son, and the circumstantial evidence I mentioned suggest that he was influenced by German idealism and/or mystical Hermeticism, most probably from Hegel himself.
    Indeed, we read this in Some of the Philosophical Essays:
    “Philosophy has discovered the art of thinking. That it has thereby occupied itself so much with the all-perfect Being, with the conception of God, with the ‘substance’ of Spinoza, with the ‘thing in itself’ of Kant, and with the Absolute of Hegel, has its good reason in the fact that the sober conception of the universe as of the All-One with nothing above or outside or alongside of it, is the first postulate of a skilled and consistent mode of thinking, which both of itself and of all possible and impossible objects that they all belong to one eternal and limitless union which is called by us Cosmos, Nature and universe” (pp.274-75.).
    Then we flip forward a few pages and we find a whole chapter devoted to ‘Hegel and Darwin’! [pp.314-41.], where we read:
    “We wish to render the now almost forgotten Hegel what is due to him as the forerunner of Darwin. Mendelssohn, in a dispute with Lessing, called Spinoza a ‘dead dog’. Just as dead appears now Hegel…. Spinoza has long since undergone resurrection from the state of a ‘dead dog’, and so will Hegel, too, find his merits acknowledged by future generations. If he has lost his influence at the present time, it is merely a temporary eclipse.” (pp.314-15.)
    The rest of that chapter shows he was thoroughly familiar with Hegel’s system and method.
    This not only confirms he had read and studied Hegel, but also that he got many of his ideas from him and other assorted mystics and a priori dogmatists, as I alleged.
    “Nothing mystical there. No occult forces at work. Nothing occult at all.”
    Well, I didn’t mention the occult, so I think you and I are operating with a different understanding of the word ‘mystical’ (but see below).
    Be this as it may, the passage you quoted is full of a priori dogmatic pronouncements and Hegelisms. Dietzgen has plainly bought into Hegel’s mystical notion of a ‘contradiction’ (even though it is plain that the thing he calls a ‘contradiction’ isn’t one, and does not even look like one), among other things.
    “You say, RL, that you accept the materialist conception of history. This means that, unless you think history is a series of unconnected events, you must accept the concept of history being a continuous stream and a “whole”, from which historians extract, describe and form theories about parts. So, if seeing things as an interconnected whole is acceptable here why does it suddenly become “mystical” when applied to nature and the universe?”
    Just because I deny that everything is interconnected (or, rather, I claim the idea that everything is interconnected is far too vague to do anything with) does not imply I think that nothing is! Plainly, there is much in history that is connected — whether it all is, or whether it is all interconnected, will require proof (we certainly can’t assert it dogmatically).
    It becomes mystical when applied to the whole of nature since it pretends to give us knowledge that is way beyond anything we could ever espouse to, and which we could never confirm, no matter how hard or how long we tried — and it originated into the mystical contemplations about ‘god’ and ‘his’ cosmos, dogmatic pronouncements promulgated by generations of  boss-class theorists and mystics — like Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Proclus, Pseudo-Dionysius, Hermes Trismegistus, Jakob Boehme, Hans Christoph Oetinger,  and Hegel, among many others.
    Incidentally, this view also provides the ‘rationale’ for Astrology and other assorted ‘New Age’ nostrums. There’s hardly a  mystical system on the planet, as far as we know, that does not or has not viewed the cosmos in this way.
    As Marx said: ‘The ruling ideas are always those of the ruling class’…
    Check out this sacred Hermetic text, and you will see these open and honest mystics have also discovered their own form of dialectics not much different from that of Dietzgen or Engels and Plekhanov (except they did so nearly two millennia ago):
    http://www.gnostic.org/kybalionhtm/kybalion.htm
    Reading that work is like reading a religious version of Dietzgen, or Engels — or even Lenin!
    ‘The ruling ideas are always…’


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