The essential tasks for the Marxists of today
Most of our established methods assume immutability and seem to have served us very well. Even Formal Logic would crumble if nothing stays the same – if all things were in constant change into other things!
Systems of rationality, such as Euclidian Geometry would surely prove to be mere invention? It is clear that we are reaching the nitty-gritty in a number of separate and vital ways.
Once again, our dichotomous imperative drives us towards the precipice of contradiction. We immediately assume that Change undermines everything, and all our achievements grounded firmly on permanence will be thrown away. But as they say on the cover of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – DON’T PANIC!
We have to see Stability within Change to cope with these problems.
Stability & Change
The reason that we succeed with our immutability assumptions is that Reality is MOSTLY stable – indeed, it is actually self-regulatingly stable as its primary mode. It keeps itself stable most of the time, in spite of constant minor changes. In spite of the holistic Whole of innumerable contending factors and the bottom to top, and side to side mediations, these do NOT generally lead to total Chaos. And the reason is that there are also stabilising top to bottom mediations that constantly adjust to keep a maintainable balance. The normal situation is that destabilising factors are countered by changes by the rest of Reality, producing periods of relative stability, where assumptions of |immutability are approximately and usefully true.
BUT, all this is NOT to say that immutability is therefore the Truth. It isn’t!
Behind the temporary stability, there is always an incipient instability, which DOES lead to Change of various kinds. The most conducive Changes we term Evolutionary, while the cataclysmic changes we term Revolutions!
Within the tiny DOT of our span of existence, Reality has been relatively stable, changing only in an evolutionary way, but as soon as we expand the timescale beyond this DOT, we see Reality as subject to the most drastic and far reaching revolutions, where everything can be overturned.
These are termed Emergences, and are most clearly and exhaustively categorised by a single stupendous and irrefutable example – The Origin of Life on Earth!
Do you doubt that this Revolution occurred?
The evidence is indisputable!. And as they say in Logic “There exists a…….”, which implies that others of a similar nature must also be possible, indeed likely. Now, working up a generality from a particular is not to be recommended as a reliable process, but the very existence of a particular of such vast and far reaching importance, does at least infer that it is one of many.
So though we can establish that such a category of Events does exist we cannot fully define that generality. To do that we must have available a whole range of examples, within which we are able to discern the commonalities that can be seen to DEFINE the category.
Nonetheless, the Origin of Life is pretty special. Whatever is wrong with this back-to-front method, its existence does pose a whole series of vital questions which strike at the heart of our previous (and now rapidly dissolving) assumptions. and if for nothing else the indisputable occurrence of that Event does prove the case foe other such Events – for Emergences as regular, if rare, creative Revolutions.
But, as I have already intimated, such things don’t happen very often, indeed NEVER within the time on earth of Mankind, so in chasing the nature of these important happenings, we have no choce but to take what is available.
The really fundamental work on this area was undertaken WITHOUT full consciousness of a physical significance or even of a sociological aspect.
The crucial work was done by Hegel, when “Thinking about Thought!”. He too was preoccupied, as Zeno had been, with the limitations our our universally agreed assumptions and premises, but these occurred primarily, and to his way of seeing essentially, in Human Thinking.He cringed at the absence of Change in Formal Logic, for he was perfectly well aware of the trajectory of Thought itself, which was shot through with Realisation and new conceptions. To consider Thought without addressing Change was moronic. He became intent upon the need for a Logic of Change to replace Formal Logic.
He could conceive of only one area of study to develop this new Logic, and that was obviously in dealing with the trajectories and achievements of Human Thinking, and despite, once again, it being a non-objective way to do it, he felt that he had no choice but to trace the pathways and the poetry of effective Thinking, and reveal ITS LOGIC.
His contributions (in the esoteric area of Philosophy) were a total revolution, and left a mark on Humanity still evident to the present day. He was able to show that Emergences (though he didn’t call them that) were in fact legion within Thought, and he attempted to map their diverse trajectories. A whole generation of disciples (The Young Hegelians) mushroomed up around this significant work, and it was they who realised the universal nature of his “Emergences"
They, and most particularly, Karl Marx, widened the subjects of study to include History, Economics, Science and Social Development – indeed, Marx had the objective of widening the sphere to include the Whole gamut of Human Endeavour and study. Indeed, he was intent upon that crucial area of Social Emergences - or Revolutions, (and in particular the French Revolution) which he saw as evidence of Emergences occurring everywhere and at every possible Level.
But, though vast strides were made by the Marxists, it has to be remembered WHEN they did their work – in the latter half of the 19th century.
Though what was available in Science was avidly annexed to the new approach, there was still a paucity of areas for detailed studies. Just as with Hegel and Thought, so with the Marxists, the obviously available and vital area was clearly the Social Revolution. The unavoidably aberrant growth switched from Thought to Politics. Such interludes were lopsided but essential nevertheless, and they brought significant results.
Active Philosophy - Revolution
The next generation carried out the FIRST conscious Social Revolution in October 1917 in Russia.
Now, this is not a political essay, but no-one can deny the vital contribution of Marxism in this essential undertaking. The path was unavoidable, yet crucial, sothere need to be no apologies for what was achieved. For, it was, as usual the problem of pulling ourselves up by our own bootlaces.
The general study of Emergences was NOT undertaken. By this I mean the must-have-occurred Emergences in the development of Reality as a whole, which includes the Emergence of the Origin of Life on Earth, and the obviously following cascade of Emergences involved in the subsequent Evolution of Life itself.
In spite of the importance of such Events throughout the full history of Reality, this approach was neglected and indeed “elbowed out” by the well established methodologies of Science and Formal argument. The consensus attitude omitted addressing Emergences at all!
Indeed, they were dismissed as self-kid!
A mechanistic alternative ruled the roost, and because of the evident inadequacies of such an approach, substituted a pragmatic patchwork of separate Domains, for any attempt at a coherent, comprehensive and integrated Emergentist perspective.
And it still pertains to this day.
This post is the eighth in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work is now available as a Special Issue. Read it all here!