Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Dialectic of "Subject-ivity"

Dear Readers,

For those of the tradition of Marxian thought to which I subscribe, the term "subject" in general -- as a "genos" -- refers to a name rightly [or aptly-descriptively] placed into the subject position of a well-formed, e.g., Indo-European, sentence, i.e., that is placed into the action-initiating, or 'agental', position of that sentence.

Sometimes, that "subject" will be the name of a human person, or of a human collectivity, and then, in that case, we will be dealing with specifically human "subject-ivity", and with the "dialectic of human Nature" "species" of the dialectics of Nature.

If that sentence has the same name in both the subject and the object positions, and if that sentence also has a verb which names the essential activity of that subject-object, i.e., that activity which expresses the very nature or character of that subject/object, then we have a "self-reflexive" sentence, describing the "self-change", or "autokinesis", of that subject-verb-object, and we also have a "subject-verb-object identical" sentence.

This kind of sentence, describing a "self-duality", or "intra-duality" between the "subject-aspect", or "agent aspect", and the "object aspect", or "recipient of action", aspect, of the given  "subject-verb-object-identical" sub-whole described by the sentence -- the existential [NOT propositional] "internal contradiction", or "immanent contradiction", or "self-contradiction", that drives the self-induced development of that "EVent-ity" -- is especially well-formed for describing dialectical processes.

For example, the sentence --

"Humanity -- i.e., the complex unity of the "human phenome/human genome" -- when it is self-observed historically, is seen to have net-expandedly reproduced itself, as such, in both quantitative and qualitative senses of the term "net expansion"."

-- is such a sentence.

But the following sentence is also such a sentence --

"The star called the sun continually self-gravitationally implodes itself, and, concurrently, also continually thermo-nuclearly explodes itself from its core, producing a billions-of-years-prolonged, but still transient, "dynamically quasi-stable quasi-stasis" in the stellar main sequence, until its core Hydrogen "fuel" is fully-depleted / converted into Helium "ash", i.e., until it has "polluted" itself with Helium "waste", causing its inner fusion fire to go out, so that it begins again to implode / contract / self-densify its core even further, eventually crossing the density threshold whereafter that Helium "ash", that "waste", that "entropy", turns into a new "free energy", a new "resource", a new "fuel"."

The latter sentence, which, although its subject and object positions are occupied by the name of a natural object / "event-entity" which is NOT a HUMAN-natural object, not a HUMAN subject, nevertheless describes a causal agency or AGENT, and thus a subject in our generalized sense;  a generator of actions upon the rest of the universe [within its light-cone, or via "quantum entanglement" even outside of its "light-cone", however much or little attenuated by distance the impact of these actions may be], AND of actions back upon itself; actions that change this subject-verb-object, and which ultimately bring about its no-longer-existence as-such, as a star.

This latter "self-re-flex-ive", "self-change"-describing sentence also describes a dialectic of nature, but a dialectic of EXTRA-human nature, or of "EXO-human Nature", and of largely PRE-human Nature, rather than describing a dialectical process of/within human nature -- within the human zone of nature, e.g., within that "complex unity" known as Earth's noosphere/biosphere.

Thus, in this sense, not all "subjects" are human subjects, and not all "subject-ness", or "subject-ivity",  or "subject-hood" is human, or self-conscious, "subject-ivity".

For more about this view, see F.E.D.'s "Introductory Letter" --\

-- [see especially the section entitled "The Secret of the Historical Dialectic"].



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Marxian Theory is the Incipient Self-Theory of Humanity

Dear Readers,

Claim.  Marxian Theory is, in its essence, and in the historical destiny that its essence requires, the theory of human praxis, indeed, the theory of human social self-reproductive practice as a whole, the total self-theory of humanity, the self-science of the human species, superseding the crippling ideologies that have characterized human cognition throughout the entire historical arc of class societies, culminating in the present, self-globalizing, capital-/wage-labor-based class society, the final chapter of the pre-history of humanity.

Marxian theory is the embryonic worldview of democratic-communist humanity, an empirically-grounded, science-based worldview -- which decidedly does not continue what Marx described as the ahistorical, "abstract materialism" that disfigures and holds back the advance of the sciences, and of the productive forces, in the capitalist era -- which does not continue to impose the contra-empirical, atomistic and reductionist metaphysics that characterize the way in which capitalist ideology infects and enfetters the present-day sciences, including "Mathematical Platonist" and related metaphysical fetishisms of contemporary mathematics.

Marx knew all of this, and planned his life's work accordingly, beginning even before his and Engels' first full-length critique of a capitalist era ideology, written in 1847:  The German Ideology.

Maximilien Rubel put it this way --

"According to a plan Marx had developed in 1844, political economy was the first of the topics to be investigated, and critical treatment of that theme was to be followed by the "critique of law, morality, politics, etc." The project was to be wound up with a "special work" that would demonstrate the unity of the whole, show the relation between the various parts and finally end with a "critique of the speculative manner in which these subjects have been dealt with until now." In other words, Marx had at that early date envisaged the critique of political economy as being but one brochure among several, all designed as prolegomena to a fundamental work whose thematic construction was to be the systematic critique of bourgeois social institutions and ideologies." [Maximilien Rubel, Rubel on Karl Marx: Five Essays, Joseph O'Malley and Keith Algozin, editors, Cambridge University Press [New York: 1981], p. 190].

Marx's mathematical manuscripts -- an incipient dialectical, immanent critique of the differential calculus -- written much later in Marx's life, numerous comments in the volumes of Capital, and Engels' testimonies in Anti-Duhring and in his Dialectics of Nature manuscript, all attest that modern natural science and mathematics were among the loci of capitalist ideology that they had slated for immanent critique.

The dialectical, immanent critique of ideologies is a task that resides at the heart of Marxian praxis, and is a task to which Marx devoted the greater part of his life-effort, because Marx's materialism is not a crude "Matter-ism", which is really just idealism in disguise, an idealism of the Abstract Idea of Matter.

Marxian theory is a dialectical synthesis of mechanical materialism and dialectical idealism, based upon a withering practical critique of both.

Marxian historical materialism is a psychohistorical materialism, based upon the realization that it is with cognition, and only with cognition, that humanity "practices" -- that humanity can experience, know, shape, and re-shape its reality.

Commodity, Money, Value -- Capital itself -- are not, at root, physical objects, physical materials: they are psychohistorical materials, psychohistorical materialities, formed in the collective, memetic, 'human-phenomic' intersubjectivity of the communal praxis of human societal self-re-production.

In particular, the revolution that we must make out of capitalism -- out of OUR societal practice as the capital-praxis -- is not simply a matter of a neo-Jacobinoid putsch.

Modern humanity must transform its own <<mentalite'>> in the process of the descendant-phase self-disorganizing system that is itself as the declining capital-praxis, to even enable itself to make that revolution at all.

Producing a new scientific and self-scientific world-view, and producing a new world, must go hand-in-hand, or we will never get there.

Just because Marx and Engels were unable to complete the critique of capitalist ideology as a whole that they had planned, does not mean that any Marxian movement, subsequent to their lives, and worthy of the name "Marxian", is somehow "off the hook" if it fails to continue the work that they began.



Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sartre and Ollman on the "dialectics of nature" controversy, plus a brief dialogue

Dear F.E.D. Dialectics Blog Participants,

Below are two salient quotes on the "dialectics of nature" controversy, the first from Jean-Paul Sartre, the second from Bertell Ollman, plus a record of a recent dialogue about them in which I took part --

The Quotes.

1. [from Jean-Paul Sartre, Search For a Method, translated by Hazel E. Barnes, Vintage Books [New York: 1968], p. xii] --

"Ought we then to deny the existence of dialectical connections at the center of inanimate Nature? Not at all. To tell the truth, I do not see that we are, at the present stage of our knowledge, in a position either to affirm or to deny. Each one is free to believe that physico-chemical laws express a dialectical reason or not to believe it."

2. [from Bertell Ollman, The Dance of the DialecticSteps in Marx's Method, University of Illinois Press [Chicago: 2003], pp. 96-97] --

"What are called the "laws of dialectic" are those movements that can be found in one or another recognizable form on every level of generality, that is, in the relations between qualities that fall on each of these levels, including that of inanimate nature. …

Naturally, the particular form taken by a dialectical law will vary somewhat depending on its subject and on the level of generality on which this subject falls.

The mutually supporting and undermining movements that lie at the core of contradiction, for example, appear very different when applied to the forces of inanimate nature than they do when applied to specifically capitalist phenomena.

Striking differences such as these have led a growing band of critics and some followers of Marx to restrict the laws of dialectic to social phenomena and to reject as "un-Marxist" what they label "Engels's dialectics of nature".

Their error, however, is to confuse a particular statement of the laws, usually one appropriate to levels of generality where human consciousness is present, for all possible statements.

…To be adequately apprehended, such movements on each level of generality must be seen as expressions of laws that are specific to that level as well as versions of more general laws.

Most of the work of drafting such multilevel statements of the laws of the dialectic remains to be done."

The Dialogue.

In response to my citing the quotes rendered above, Vlad Bugera wrote back with the following commentary on them [edited slightly for compatible syntax].

Reply --
"... I agree with Ollman against Sartre:  of course, dialectics is inherent to
inanimate nature.  If we research really complete systems in their development,
we can see it:  Ilya Prigogine's synergetics (from chaos to order) demonstrates the three
basic dialectical laws within inanimate nature clearly."

My Reply to That Reply [edited to add further clarifying content] --
I could not agree more with your views, including your pointing out how Ilya Prigogine's Nobel Prize-winning work on Nonlinear / Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics, and later work on Nonlinear Dynamical Systems Theory, corroborate the dialectical character of "inanimate" -- actually, of decidedly self-animate, self-reflexively self-developing ["nonlinear"] -- Nature.

The dialectic of nature in its pre-human[oid] phases is not a "dialectic without subjects", but is one utterly replete with "subjects" and with "subject-ivity", in the general meaning of the terms "subject" and "subject-ivity", although not, of course, yet in terms of human[oid], self-aware "subjectivity".

But, starting at least with the swarms of bosons, quarks, and leptons believed to have populated our cosmos early-on, the cosmos is populated with entities that fulfill the "subject" role, of action initiation, in Indo-European sentences describing the subjects' actions upon the objects of Nature, then, and ever since.  

This 'sentence-iality' includes both those cases wherein the "natural objects" acted upon by these "natural subjects" are other than those "natural  objects" -- the merely "flexive" and "fluxive" cases -- but also those cases wherein the "natural objects" acted upon by these "natural subjects" are the self-same populations of [ev]entities -- the "self-reflexive", "self-refluxive", "nonlinear" ["higher degree"] cases, the very cases which constitute the essential core of the most dialectical, "self-aufheben" processes of nature.

That is, Nature -- Natural History -- exhibits a "qualo-quantitatively" -- an 'ONTO-quantitatively" -- growing 'meta-population' of populations of natural "subject-objects", or, better, of "subject-verb-objects"; of "eventities" -- of "eventities which are both each-other-transforming, and self-transforming.

The nonlinear "partial" and "total" differential equations-systems that formulate nonlinear thermodynamics and nonlinear dynamical systems theory also express the dialectics of nature especially when the "singularities" of these equations -- moments at finite values of the t [time] parameter when a division by zero arises, typically marking the transition from system "self-evolution" to system "self-meta-evolution" -- to new-ontology-adding system self-REVOLUTION -- are taken into account.

Moreover, your point goes precisely to why I am so excited about the F.E.D. "Dialectical Theory of Everything"!

What F.E.D.'s Marxian immanent critique of "natural" arithmetic, in general, and what Karl Seldon's work, in particular, have achieved, is to discover a "non-standard model" of the "natural" numbers, one which is an extreme opposite of the standard model of the "natural" numbers, and one whose "elements" "behave" DIALECTICALLY.

Those same "elements" -- new KINDS of [meta-]numbers ["aufheben operators"] -- also provide solutions to an equation which is the extreme "aufheben-negation" of Boole's "Fundamental Law of Thought" equation of the original Boolean arithmetic/Boolean algebra. 

The F.E.D. "first axiomatic system"  thus constitutes also a "CONTRA-Boolean Algebra" [one which, of course, aufheben-conserves/contains the Boolean Algebra "fundamental law of thought" equation, but which also supersedes it]; an algebra interpretable as a Dialectical Logic.

This new, dialectical arithmetical/algebraic language is powerful enough to express a univocal "Dialectic of Nature" as a whole — i.e., to dialectically, via concretized versions of the "aufheben" operation alone, generate representations of all known categories of cosmological ontology, in the same order as the historical order in which each such ontological category arose [i.e., was first concretely instantiated] in the natural history of the known cosmos — by means of an equation involving just seventeen symbols [if those symbols are counted in the most maximal way; less otherwise].

F.E.D. has also applied that language to generate compact and startlingly-revealing systematic-dialectical models of the contents of Marx's masterpiece, Capital, as well as historical-dialectical models of the historical "meta-evolution" of the social relations of production, of the historical "meta-evolution" of the social forces of production, of the historical "meta-evolution" of human social formations' "geo-morphologies" / "human geographies", etc., etc.

F.E.D.  got to this new, dialectical-ideographic language by, in effect, in my view, by fulfilling the joint implication of the Goedel completeness theorem and incompleteness theorems at the level of first order Peano "natural numbers" arithmetic.

Mathematical logician John W. Dawson, Jr., also a biographer of Goedel, described this joint implication as follows, in his biography of Goedel ["Logical Dilemmas: The Life and Work of Kurt Goedel", A.K. Peters, Ltd., Wellesley, MA., 1997], pp. 67-68 [square-bracketed parenthetical comments mine] –

"Most discussions of Goedel's ["first incompleteness"] proof … focus on its quasi-paradoxical nature.

It is illuminating, however, to ignore the proof and ponder the implications of the theorems themselves.

It is particularly enlightening to consider together both the [Goedel] completeness and incompleteness theorems and to clarify the terminology, since the names of the two theorems might wrongly be taken to imply their incompatibility.

The confusion arises from the two different senses in which the term "complete" is used within logic.

In the semantic sense, "complete" means "capable of proving whatever is [generally] valid," whereas in the syntactic sense it means "capable of proving or refuting each sentence of the theory."

Goedel's completeness theorem states that every (countable) first-order theory, whatever its non-logical axioms may be, is complete in the former sense: its theorems coincide with the statements true in all models of its axioms.

The incompleteness theorems hold also for higher-order formalizations of number theory.

If only first-order formalizations are considered, then the [Goedel] completeness theorem applies as well, and together they yield not a contradiction, but an interesting conclusion:

Any sentence of ["natural" numbers] arithmetic that is undecidable must be true in some models of Peano's axioms [for the "natural" numbers] (lest it be formally refutable) and false in others (lest it be formally provable). In particular, there must be models of first-order Peano arithmetic whose elements do not "behave" the same as the natural numbers.

Such non-standard models were unforeseen and unintended, but they cannot be ignored, for their existence implies that no first-order axiomatization of ["natural"] number theory can be adequate to the task of deriving as theorems exactly those statements that are true of the [standard] natural numbers."