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On Dialectical Materialism

In order to escape the ranty nature of my most recent posts, and because I used the last rant to blather about the meaning of historical materialism, I have decided to make this post about dialectical materialism, that other part of Marx's methodology, but in a far less polemical manner.  Dialectical materialism is intrinsically connected to historical materialism, after all, and though they are part of the same totality, many theorists and revolutionaries have found it useful to separate these moments, isolating them from each other in order to explain them separately before putting them back together.  And though there is sometimes a danger in dividing them into moments rather than seeing them as part of a whole (i.e. an entirely mechanical approach to this methodology as evidenced by Stalin's Foundations of Leninism), there is still something analytically important about this division.

Ever since this blog has been in existence I have complained about the inability of people to think dialectically; I have especially been annoyed by the practice of spuriously slapping the label dialectical on things that are probably not dialectical.  Yes, I have also been guilty of this practice––and I am glad that I had at least one referee during my dissertation writing days who would circle the word "dialectical" every time I used it in my thesis and demand that I explain how the relationship I was describing was dialectical.  As it turned out, close to fifty per cent of my "dialectical" relationships were decidedly not dialectical.

Dialectical logic, best codified by Hegel in The Science of Logic, is the unity of opposites.  Yes, this is a simplification, but this is a blog entry and here we're all about simplification; otherwise I would end up writing an entire book––but these books have already been written and here I am more concerned with boiling things down to their crudest and simplest logical forms.  So rather than getting into debates about the negation of the negation, and vanishing into the heady realm of the logical process of dialectics schematized in the Logic, I want to point out that, primarily, a logical relationship that is "dialectical" is a relationship that is about the "unity of opposites."  That is to say that the either/or claim essential to some versions of formal logic (A v ~A, something is either one thing or the other [i.e. it is raining or it is not raining, it cannot be both at the same time]) is, while correct on one logical level, ultimately insufficient.  Dialectical logic claims that things can be both either one thing or the other just as––and this is dialectically important––they can also and at the same time not be either one thing or the other (A & ~A).  So either/or and also not either/or.  While it is correct to assert that it cannot both be raining and not raining at the same time at a given moment, once we imagine the fact of raining in a larger process, then the logic of A v ~A, while in some ways correct, is also insufficient.  Is the fact of sleet an instance of raining or not-raining?  Do we not say that sleet is both snow and rain at the same time?  And yes, this is a crude analogy, but all analogies are imperfect––at a later point below I will try to demonstrate the importance of dialectical relationships and process in the context that Marx, the progenitor of dialectical materialism, judged important: the social and historical arena.

[Editorial Note: below in the comments, Neil, whose academic work is on Hegel, has provided Hegel's reasons for the unity of opposites and the extent of what this means for Hegel.  And since he is a Hegelian and I am not, and has probably read the Logic more times than I will (or am willing to) read it, as well as other important things by Hegel––and since he has formulated in a couple paragraphs what would take me pages––readers interested in the Hegelian background should check out that comment.]

Now dialectical logic is one thing, but what do we make of dialectical materialism?  Marx, Lenin, and Mao were wont to return to Hegel's Logic in order to grasp the logical methodology of dialectics before they wrote their great works (Capital for Marx, State and Revolution for Lenin, On Contradiction and On Practice for Mao), but Marx and those who took him as their antecedent were also working in a terrain that was significantly different from the one occupied by Hegel.  Whereas Hegel's dialectical investigation, and all the relationships that formed his world historical philosophical process, concerned thought and ideas as primary (yes, again I am simplifying, but once again it is important to boil things down to their fundamentals), the marxist tradition takes the material and concrete world as fundamental.  Ideas emerge, in the last instance, from the material world rather than vice versa.  History is not thought working itself out (Hegel's Phenomenology), but a thoroughly material process shaped by real human beings living in real historical and social moments.

In his time, Marx was confronted with a line struggle between two traditions emerging from the European Enlightenment: German Idealism best typified by Hegel's dialectical idealism; crude materialism best typified by the English empiricists.  In many ways these traditions were opposites, an either/or competition, but Marx, who was a revolutionary materialist who was always interested in praxis but who understood the importance of Hegel's Logic, audaciously used the logic Hegel had schematized to dialectically unify these opposites.  And once they were dialectically unified they were transformed into something that was no longer the same as they had been before––this was not simply an inversion of Hegel's dialectics but something new.

Louis Althusser, is probably the only philosopher who spent a lot of time trying to make sense of how Marx's dialectical materialism was an utter transformation of Hegel's dialectical materialism.  And though I do not always agree with Althusser, I think that in this area he is probably the only thinker who has been able to explain this transformation:
"That is why materialism is called dialectical: dialectics, which expresses the relation that theory maintains with its object, expresses this relation not as a relation of two simply distinct terms but as a relation within a process of transformation, thus of real production. […] It is in this sense that the Marxist dialectic can only be materialist because it does not express the law of a pure imaginary or thought process but the law of real processes of material nature.  That Marxist materialism is necessarily dialectical is what distinguishes it from all previous materialist philosophies.  That Marxist dialectics is necessarily materialist is what distinguishes the Marxist dialectic from all idealist dialects, particularly Hegelian dialectics." (Louis Althusser, Theoretical Practice and Theoretical Formation)
Even though Althusser also divides dialectical materialism from historical materialism in a complete manner (sometimes it seems as if he sees them as completely distinct rather than part of a whole), and on this I perhaps disagree, he does make a pretty good argument for the utter difference between Marxist and Hegelian dialectics, between dialectical materialism and dialectical idealism.  And rather than explaining this in further detail here, I'll defer the interested reader to Althusser's writing on the subject (most notably the collection Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists which contains the above essay) for more information on that matter.

Rather than get bogged down on philosophical debates about the what of dialectical materialism, I want to focus on the why of dialectical materialism.  That is, why dialectical materialism should be used in conjunction with historical materialism––why a materialist apprehension of dialectical logic is important for the science of history, and why revolutionary communists need to appreciate this––a why that is not really answered by the mechanical schematizations of dialectical materialism best typified by Stalin and Trotsky.  (We can also add Engels' Dialectics of Nature that, despite a few exceptions, does not demonstrate the same sophisticated grasp of dialectics as Anti-Duhring.)  If we keep with the simplicity of "dialectical" as the unity of opposites, and "dialectical materialism" as this logic applied in a [historically] materialist manner, then maybe the entire notion of dialectical materialism will make more sense.  So let's look at some key examples in marxist theory.

1) the material-ideology dialectical relationship: Clearly a revolutionary materialist judges that the material, concrete reality is fundamental, but this does not mean that ideas are simple projections of the material reality.  While all ideas might have emerged at one point from material reality [or, to place it in a subset of this problematic, all ideas in the superstructure are the product, in the last instance, of the "economic" material/social relations of the base], they also influence the material reality.  In The German Ideology Marx and Engels speak of how ideologies, while being organized ideas, are also and at the same time akin to a "material" or "self-determining" force.  In On Contradiction Mao speaks of ideas that might have been produced from a given economic/material moment as possibly "obstructing" later economic/material moments.  But if we think of how things can be both material and ideological at the same time, we don't even have to move to this broader temporal level.  For example, imagine a police officer.  Police are ultimately a material force of real and concrete bodies armed with real weapons, "special bodies" organized to defend the ruling class, but we also provide them authority because of the ideas that structure the meaning of police.  The uniform and the badge do not gain their power because they have a material essence that generates the authority of policing; we understand the meaning of the flashed badge, the idea that people dressed in this uniform knocking at our door possess state authority.  And yes it is true that ultimately this authority is backed by real guns and real military equipment: but this is the last instance.  A police officer is understood and idea-ized as a police officer when s/he flashes her badge, not simply when she pulls her gun or baton.

2) the productive forces-productive relations relationship: Here is a key historical debate in the history of marxist theory.  On the one hand you have people who argue that revolution is produced by the development of forces of production (of the machines and factories) and that socialism cannot be achieved without a certain level of development; on the other hand you have people who argue that revolution can only be produced by relations of production, by intentionally organizing to overthrow a system and that the proper productive relations can be developed afterwords.  This is what is known as the debate between "economic determinism" and "voluntarism".  But if we look at these things dialectically, we can understand that this apparent contradiction exists in unity.  Both productive forces and productive relations are necessary: we cannot just wait for technology to develop and make revolution without organizing and the revolutionary subject; socialist revolution cannot be made without taking into account the forces necessary to produce socialization.

3) the necessity-contingency relationship: In order to make sense of history scientifically, in order to be proper historical materialists, we have to understand the necessities of actually existing history: these things happened because these other things happened.  At the same time, however, history is not planned in stone: things do not necessarily happen because of some metaphysical plan; there was a broader contingency and there is only necessity because we have to understand history as it actually happened.  The necessary rules of history cohere because of contingent moments, but to assume that only contingency reigns and that we cannot understand rules after naming what actually happened as something that produces necessity is to fail to grasp that both contingency and necessity are, though different moments, a unity of opposites.

4) the produced-producing relationship:  In the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte Marx speaks of humans as "producing" history, but then adds that this production happens only "in circumstances directly encountered from the past."  As a species we are both historical agents/subjects and the products of past historical agency: we cannot produce history outside of the limits we are given by "the weight of dead generations."  Post-structuralism places the emphasis primarily on the moment of being produced, and philosophies such as existentialism wax eloquent about humans having supreme agency; a dialectical approach unifies both of these moments.  (And here is where I part ways from Althusser who went too far in his necessary rejection of "humanism" and obliterated the agency moment of this dialectical relationship… But that is another quibble for another post.)

5) the internal-external relationship:  In marxist historiography there are often debates over whether change happened because of internal or external pressures.  Take, for example, the debates about the transition to capitalism––some argue that long distance trade and colonialism were fundamental [external relations], others argue that the enclosure of the commons in England and class composition were fundamental [internal relations].  A proper dialectical understanding, however, grasps the unity of the internal and external realities: the class composition and enclosure were what provided the laboratory for transition, but composition and enclosure were affected by and partially driven by the colonialism of the merchant capital period.  Analogously, it makes no sense to think of a chicken hatching into an egg without taking into account the relationship between the egg's internal nature and its external pressures.  The chicken egg cannot hatch anything other than a chicken, but it can only hatch a chicken if it is properly incubated––nor can it hatch a chicken if some external force decides to make it into an omelette.

6) the universal-particular relationship: I have discussed this dialectic at various points on this blog, mainly because I feel the failure to grasp its meaning has resulted in so many dogmatic interpretations of Marx, and have connected it to the sub-dialectic of "continuity-rupture."  Broadly speaking, however, there is often a [non-dialectical] tension between the notion of universality and particularity, especially when it comes to values.  Postmodernists like to argue that it is "totalizing" to imagine a world that possesses any universal concepts or values when we live in world filled with so much difference––thus, they claim, all we can speak of is particularity.  But the dialectical materialist argues that particularities only make sense when judged against historically established universals, and at the same time universals can only be expressed through concrete particular moments.  When we want to speak of a universal concept like class struggle, for instance, we cannot uncritically impose the categories of one socio-historical context on the concrete reality of another.  The universal categories are a guide, but they can only be understood through investigation of a particular and concrete circumstance.  Thus, there is a continuity with the universals of historical materialism between the Paris Commune and the October Revolution, but a rupture between particulars.  And the continuity of the universal only makes sense because of the historical application of the particular rupture.  (But this dialectical relationship has been notoriously hard to grasp.  The failure to grasp its meaning is the reason why so many marxist cults keep arguing that every revolutionary movement has to be identical to the October Revolution, even though this revolution was particularly non-identical to the Paris Commune.)

Obviously my explanations of the above dialectical tensions were far too brief––each one could have been used to produce its own post or multiple posts––but they were intended only to provoke discussion.  The point was to show why an appreciation of dialectical materialism is necessary for those who claim to be revolutionary communists and/or historical materialists.  Moreover, I am also interested in the historical failure that results from our occasional inability to think through problems in a dialectical manner.  So many of us (and I include myself in this category) make hasty and mechanical generalizations that fail to live up to the standard of dialectical nuance.  So many of us use the word dialectical to justify non-dialectical judgments.

And of course, there are other dialectical relationships, as well as sub-relationships, other than the ones listed that underwrite historical materialism.  At so many given moments we have to think through the problem of the unity of opposites, and the process of transformation this unity implies, if we are to make sense of history in a revolutionary manner.  How can one moment contain both revolutionary and counter-revolutionary possibilities at the same time?  How can a policy be both bourgeois and the product of proletarian struggle––and what does it mean to use bourgeois rights in a non-bourgeois manner?  Part of being a proper historical materialist, a revolutionary communist, is to internalize dialectical materialist thinking.  And yes this is difficult, and no I am not claiming that I am even close to internalizing this way of approaching the world… For this world, this nightmare captained by the bourgeoisie at the centres of capitalism, reduces everything to the harsh moment of either/or: either past attempts at socialism worked or capitalism is the end of history; either you accept capitalist logic or you are annihilated.


  1. Two points to make based on comments on this article passed on to me by friends/comrades. First of all, there was a typo in the fourth paragraph where I used the word "antecedents" incorrectly and caused some confusion with well intentioned readers: this has been corrected, and it serves as a reminder to proof read blog entries that are written in the wee hours of the morning.

    Secondly, it seems as if some readers are confused by the very existence of "dialectical materialism" because they feel it is Stalin's articulation (famously short-handed as "diamat") of Marx's method and thus there is no "dialectical materialism" to Marx, only "historical materialism", and that I am defending a Stalinist approach. Obviously I was clear that I found Stalin's articulation of "diamat" to be crude and mechanical, and decidedly *not* dialectical... I also think it is quite wrong to associate dialectical materialism with Stalinism, and this is a complete error in theoretical thought. Marx and Engels were both dialectical materialists and Marx even planned to write a book on the meaning of dialectical thinking that was materialist. Whatever the case, Marx *never* used either the terms "historical materialism" or "dialectical materialism" but these became names for aspects of his methodology after the fact (similarly, Marx never called his theory "marxist"). And it is clear that Marx was interested in a science of history that was materialist and used an approach to dialectical thinking that was also materialist: hence historical and dialectical materialism. Stalin's crude schematization aside, we also need to remember that all classical marxists (and not simply Stalin) used these terms: Lenin, Luxemburg, and even Stalin's enemy Leon Trotsky accepted "dialectical materialism" as a key theoretical concept connected to Marx's method.

  2. If I am not mistaken it was Plekhanov who first used and systematised dialectical materialism but Marx was a dialectical materialist in the sense you describe of a science of history based upon dialectical thought,

    Comparing Trotsky's" In Defence of Marxism" written not long after Mao wrote "On Contradiction" we see the diffence between sophistry and dialectics. With Mao a materialist dialectic with Trotsky idealist contortions.

    Your point on either/or reminds me of the Søren Kierkegaard attack on Hegel.

    Here we have a religious philosopher insisting it must be one thing or the other just like I meet "relgious" communists telling me if I do not support the false dicotomies/binary logic they pose for me I must be pro imperialist or a counter revolutionary.

    little do they realise that the materialist dialectic was developed to reject such binary thinking !

    1. You're not mistaken. Plekhanov did first formulate dialectical materialism (and the term) and as much as Lenin's approach to philosophy was more sophisticated than Plekhanov's, Lenin still was influenced by Plekhanov to some degree and used the term. (On a side note, I have a friend whose research about the Soviet Union argues that although Plekhanov's theory was defeated politically by Lenin it ended up hiding out in Soviet academia and gaining hegemony in philosophy – and that this severely influenced Stalin's approach to philosophy and is behind his formulations of diamat. Interesting point to consider.)

      I never thought about the Kierkegaard when I wrote this essay, but the comparison is apt. And you do encounter these binaries in dogmatic approaches to revolution. Though, at the same time, both Kierkegaard and Hegel were equally religious and irreligious – the dogmatists of their time would have seen them both as heretical. (And I still have something of a soft spot for Kierkegaard, even if I disagree with so many of his ideas.)

  3. Nice essay, JMP. I really like how you use "dialectic" to criticize all those false oppositions that often appear in Marxist and radical commentary.

    A comment on Hegel. I agree with the general idea that dialectics involves an awareness that oppositions are false and misleading. However, my proposal for making this more precise and consistent with Hegel's work would be to state it in these terms: for Hegel, it is axiomatic that all oppositions are equally conflations. That is, if human consciousness was ever able to compartmentalize (immediately oppose) ideas into self-referential singulars, it would have no basis for understanding the difference between these ideas, and thus the difference would be merely verbal (rather than 'conceptual'). The ideas would be empty forms. For Hegel 'experience' is thus a process of (1) encountering or regressing to these oppositions/conflations despite their untenability and contradictory ('dialectical' in the classic sense, meaning illusory) character, but also (2) undergoing a process in which the untenability of these oppositions/conflations comes to light ('immanent critique').

    This critique of opposition/conflation can be developed in any context (hence HEgel spoke of it in 'encyclopedic' terms). And IMO it is consistent with any criticism of abstractions and reifications acquiring power over the people who think them and use them in given contexts, and hence consistent with Marxism (but not only Marxism). Eg, yes we are free, but what would it require for freedom not to be an empty ideology?

    1. Thanks Neil for the clarification on Hegel. As I mentioned in the post, I was simplifying quickly so as to get to the meaning of dialectical materialism rather than vanish into the heady world of dialectical logic (some of which you've summarized rather beautifully here). But this clarification should also make it apparent that Marx did, as Althusser has argued (and which I eluded to), break from Hegel and that Marx's dialetics [dialectical materialism] is something that, while influenced by the simple form in the Logic, is actually utterly different from Hegel's.

      This is another reason I chose to boil things down to the unity of opposites and explain them within the terrain of Marxism and not Hegelianism. Marx might have been logically influenced by the *Logic* but when he said goodbye to the Young Hegelians and Feuerbach, he also said goodbye to Hegel and his dialectics was something different, and something connected to historical materialism... thus a materialist science. As I mentioned in a comment above, Marx had planned to write a book on dialectics and thus demonstrate his break from Hegel philosophically, just as he was demonstrating his break from liberal political economists in *Capital*. Unfortunately he never got around to it, so I'm interested in making sense of his dialectics as opposed to Hegel's and in many ways I'm with Althusser on this point: it's not simply an inversion, but a transformation... Which is why I've recently returned to reading Althusser's work on this point, mainly because it explains what I'm doing in philosophy, lol.

    2. Yes of course, I was not disputing that Marx and Hegel have very different projects. I was only suggesting a clarification of Hegel.

      Thanks again for writing this interesting blog.

    3. Hey Neil, I didn't think you were disputing the difference between their projects. I was only explaining (though maybe badly) why I didn't get into the clarification you suggested. I also added, right after the comment, an editorial note directing readers who were interested in Hegel's theory of dialectics to your succinct contribution. Obviously my understanding of Hegel is far less extensive than yours – and even if I had decided to work on the clarification you suggested it would have taken me a blundering few pages to write what you wrote in two paragraphs – and so it's best to direct the interested readers to someone who knows his Hegel.

      Thanks, as always, for the input.

  4. After giving it some thought, I actually think that it makes more sense to refer to the marxist philosophical system as materialist dialectics rather than dialectical materialism. You might argue that this is nitpicking, but there's an important point to made from this distinction, namely whether we see materialism or dialectics as the primary aspect of the relationship- which one is primarily an attribute of the other. To be a dialectician is to understand contradiction as the basic category of thought and the universe's development. To be a materialist is to understand the material as primary over the ideal. To be both is to have an understanding of the material-ideal dialectic- that is, although the proper understanding of dialectics is determined by materialism, in the last instance what we are talking about when we say materialism is an understanding of a key dialectical relationship (one where the ideal is effectively counted twice). Therefore materialism is primarily an attribute of dialectics rather than vice versa, making materialist dialectics a more appropriate term to describe the logical system as a whole rather than dialectical materialism.

    In general, although I don't want to in any way demean your understanding of philosophy since you're undoubtedly more knowledgeable than I am, I've noticed that by viewpoint has been shifting towards more disagreement with you on the nature of philosophy. It seems like it could be boiled down to (though this is an oversimplification) you taking a more Althusserian viewpoint while I consider myself to be more of an Ilyenkovian. Not that I don't think Althusser didn't have good ideas- as a Maoist it would be pretty strange if I didn't, but for the most part I think Ilyenkov was more correct when it came to questions that they were both trying to answer. For example, if I remember right you side with Althusser on seeing philosophy as only being capable of guiding the other sciences rather than making new scientifically developments independently, while I would argue that a proper dialectical appreciation of philosophy would see that, while this might mainly be the case, in certain circumstances (like with Spinoza) this opposite could occur. I would also say that Althusser's 'epistemological break', fails to appreciate the relationship between the form of Marx's writing and its content in his early work.

    I'm not dead set on these views, so maybe there's some reasoning I'm missing that you could point out. Especially since your writing a book on marxist philosophy I think its important to get these basic issues worked out on the topic.

    1. First off, part of me does prefer using "materialist dialectics" to "dialectical materialism" but mainly because the latter has been so codified by formulaic categories that it sometimes is used as a synonym for what accrued in the Soviet Union as the "proper" understanding (and then was pejoratively short-handed as "diamat"). At the same time, I don't think putting a word first or second necessarily determines what is primary. The distinction between historical and dialectical materialism, for example, demonstrates that the first word is merely a subject designation of how we're looking at materialism. But otherwise, I tend to move back and forth between the two.

      Generally I don't agree with Althusser on a lot of things but, yes, I agree with his interpretation of philosophy. Indeed, I think if we don't understand philosophy as something that tails theory and forces meaning/clarification we end up with all of the wrong areas that philosophy finds itself in (i.e. speculative systems). As a materialist I don't think it's possible to think of even people like Spinoza without all of the theoretical developments that were happening at the time… though also, to be fair, Spinoza was writing at a time when philosophy and science *were* conflated so he was doing both theory and philosophy at the same time, and the wrong areas he ended up in (in retrospect) were most probably due to that conflation (i.e. his pantheism). A philosophy that is conflated with theory becomes precisely the kind of speculative system ontology of which Hegel was a paradigm example––this is actually where I think Feuerbach's intervention is quite useful, though as Marx and Engels pointed out he was unable to leave the realm of philosophy altogether and, though critical of speculative system building, kind of was stuck in the same thing: a philosophy that was not philosophy but was still philosophy. Even still, Hegel also recognized the role of philosophy when, in the Philosophy of Right, he speaks of it coming late (the whole "Owl of Minerva" thing), which is quite interesting. To this we can add Wittgenstein's comment, at the end of the Tractatus, about where one cannot speak one must remain silent… one interpretation is that philosophy cannot speak of what is not presented by history without lapsing into the realm of [idealist, for the marxist] speculation.

      Also, I don't think Ilyenkov has a good philosophy of philosophy worked out, though I do appreciate much of what he has to say/contribute. And in other areas I think he is definitely more on point than Althusser (and again, to be clear, there is a lot of areas where I disagree with Althusser, such as his claims about the subject, where he goes with his understanding of "dialectical materialism", and his economism).

      My book on this issue is a lot more complex, and explains precisely what I mean in more detail, and sadly writing blog entries and responding to comments isn't going to be entirely helpful. It's mainly finished in draft form, but need to get around to editing it and sending it out.

    2. Fair enough. I do think it's fine to speak of dialectical materialism as well as materialist dialectics, just that they shouldn't necessarily be conflated. It isn't so much which term comes first as which is the adjective and which is the noun, meaning that the adjective would mainly be seen as an attribute of the noun. Regardless, it isn't the most important point to stay focused on; similarly I would prefer scientific socialist or scientific communist over Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, but I see the latter as being more useful right now.

      Perhaps I didn't choose my terms appropriately before- it would definitely be idealism to see a scientific philosophy/logic developing completely independently of other fields of science and general historical conditions. I guess a more fundamental aspect of the issue is whether philosophy can properly be considered to have an object (and therefore whether it can properly be considered a science or just scientific) or whether it only interprets and orders developments by proper sciences. I would argue that it does have an object- the general laws and development both of thought and reality- and so it is not necessarily ontological to see philosophy as making qualitative advancements relative to other sciences (as Spinoza did in breaking with ideological limitations of contemporary natural scientists), while still maintaining an interdependent relationship with them.

      I'm basically aware from previous blog posts your agreements and disagreements with Althusser; like I said, I was oversimplifying by putting forward an Althusser-Ilyenkov dichotomy, mainly for the sake of brevity. There's definitely a lot of nuance to be seen when studying how their views intersect.

      But yes it's definitely hard to really flesh out these ideas in discussions like this, though they can lead to interesting areas of study, which I think it definitely has for me. I'm looking forward to reading your book.

  5. I hate to rain on this 'dialectical parade', but I have taken this theory apart at my site (and form a Marxist angle), for example here:

    By the way, and with all due respect, your characterisation of formal logic is a joke (in support of which you cite not one single logic text). I have covered this in detail here:

    Or, see my comments over at Wikipedia:

    1. Yep, I've read your troll site and this comment is trolling. And, "by the way" I was trained as formal logician and I do a lot of work in formal logic. As for not citing a single logic text, I generally do not cite very much on my blog. I do in academic papers, though, and I tend to be very pro formal logic in many cases.

      But like I said, I've read your troll site, don't find it very convincing, and like to keep both my formal logic and my dialectical logic together, in separate categories. Why you parachuted in here to inform me of things I've heard a billion times before, not to mention the fact that I teach formal logic to undergrads, boggles the mind.

    2. Ok, so you only want posts that slavishly or dogmatically agree with your theory. So much for this quote from Mao: "Our present study of philosophy should therefore have the eradication of dogmatist thinking as its main objective."

      However, I must apologise for exposing your 'innovative' approach to logical syntax. It must be acutely embarrassing for you to be put in your place by a 'troll'.

      Will you ever forgive me...?

    3. No, I just prefer not to waste time on people who troll. You only popped in here to troll with no interest in having actual dialogue, as is your MO pretty much everywhere online. I have less and less energy these days to spend with internet marxists who want to carry on arcane philosophical discussions. I get enough arcane philosophical discussions with my colleagues, all of whom do so in a much more respectful and less agent provocateur manner. It's far from dogmatic to not waste my time with someone who is, well, quite the dogmatist.

      Indeed, if you've paid attention to much of what is on this site then you would see that I have spent a lot of time and energy debating people who disagree with me, some whose interventions I've found beneficial. I just don't feel that a person who spends their entire life hunting down any references to dialectics so that they can bother people, detract time and energy, and launch arguments that will not even benefit them intellectually (I believe you think you're incapable of learning and superior to everyone else) has much to contribute aside from a bunch of boring thoughts that will just be a useless suck on my energy. If you think this means I've been put in my place by you, go right ahead. Nobody is reading comment strings of posts I wrote years ago, and in fact I usually do not approve comments on posts more than a year old. But yeah, I'm sure it makes you very happy to fight for socialism by having internet debates about philosophy. Here's a challenge for you, get involved in some kind of on the ground organizing rather than wasting your time with this kind of practice. I have comrades who reject dialectics entirely as well, and we will have this kind of conversation forever, but I'd much rather have it with them, since they are comrades, than an internet marxist who gets infuriated when they are not allowed to debate on a forum that is not their own, who gets a thrill in detracting conversations elsewhere to be about their pet project, and believes they are being censored whenever people tire of the energy suck that they are.

      (As for my "innovative" approach to logical syntax, I'm not at all committed to my use of that above. Truth is, I don't think dialectical logic is formalizable, but then I often throw up a lot of reflections and half-thoughts on this blog that I am not completely committed to… because if I was committed to said things I would write them as an academic paper, which I did not. The truth is the formalization annoyed the hell out of me a couple weeks after I read the post, but I like keeping up all of my messy posts [which is the majority here] rather than pretend they didn't exist.]


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