12 February, 2016

The Crucial Outstanding Tasks for Marxist Theorists

Gustav Klutsis

What is to be Done: IX
The essential tasks for the Marxists of today

The very unavoidability of the Origin of Life on Earth could NOT be tidied away. It demanded explanation, and slowly but surely using Life as a template method, initial definitions of Emergences as radically transforming Natural Events began to be formulated.

Surprisingly, these were NOT lead by the Marxists. Instead, individuals and small groups of scientists began to formulate these generally.

Many Wrong Turnings

Various diverse groups embraced the area of study “from their own discipline standpoints”. Green campaigners were enamoured of the approach, but did little to develop it scientifically (Lovelock comes to mind). The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Laughlin in opposition to the consensus in Modern Physics also lined up on the side of Emergences. Emmeche from the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen published a joint paper with two colleagues from other areas of study espousing the Emergentist approach, and finally Murray Gell-Mann and colleagues at the Santa Fe Institute in America also insisted that they were ”of the same persuasion”. But though I suppose that these were a significant and diverse group of supporters of the idea of Emergence, I’m afraid that they did not turn any significant corners. They were, of course, ill equipped to address the real problems and tasks involved, for these were unavoidably philosophical. In addition it turns out to be impossible for anyone to make contributions in this field who are still following the standard pluralist approach of the majority of scientists. It is clear to me that such researchers, no matter how dedicated, cannot overcome the problems inherent in the pluralist approach. After all, the most essential feature of Emergences MUST be that they are creative! In the same way that Evolution was incessantly punctuated by the entirely New, and involved a regular opening up of new Potential and Form, so it was with all Emergences. The creative aspect of these Events was anathema to most thinkers.

The iron grip of strict Determinism on the one hand, and still-existing religion on the other, were sure they had ALL the answers already. They had always had the answers, of course! To depart from strict Determinism was condemned as Metaphysics on the left hand side, and Sacrilege on the right.

The epitome of the Scientific approach was embodied in the work of Holland (at Santa Fe), who along with ALL his colleagues it seems, was convinced that he could “demonstrate” Emergences via
Computer Simulations.

Forgive me while I fall about laughing uncontrollably. The idea that a retrospective form such as a computer simulation could possibly produce creative Emergences was unbelievable. But, remarkably, that turned out to be the Determinist/Reductionist consensus. Quite clearly such people could never tackle the problem: the Emergence of Life on Earth could never be addressed merely by a re-mix approach.. All they would be able to do is emasculate it! They might be able to turn it into a vehicle for their careers, but they could never address its true essence.

So, Who Could Tackle This Problem? It should be obvious WHO should be doing this work. IT IS YOU!

Indeed, as far as I can see ONLY dialectical materialists could ever address the questions posed in this area. With a multi-discipline approach, and taking in ALL the developments since the time of the great Marxists, we should attempt a Marxist description of Emergent Events, and to do this believably, we must first tackle, then reveal, and finally destroy the prevailing scientific consensus methodology based on Plurality. We must bring about the demise of Reductionist Determinism as the main barrier to progress in this crucial area ( as well as many others)

The undertaking is about Epistemology – the task of understanding and explaining Reality, and about Method – the means by which we do this. The established methodology CANNOT address what we must deal with here, so we must first criticize fully, and then replace, the old methods. We must see the flaws in the old reductionist/Determinist methods and define the necessary alternatives. Not Plurality, But a New Holistic Science.

Now, earlier in this paper, I already intimated that Plurality is not only a purely pragmatic approach to the study of Reality, but also, and unavoidably, imposes the consequent conceptions of Determinism and Reductionism upon how we see things as a whole. These ideas “unify” our global conceptions into what seems like a coherent and comprehensive Whole. But, it is merely a useful myth.

Its opposite, Holism, fared even worse, for though seemingly more all-embracing, still delivered NO effective methodology with which to deal with Reality, and, in any sort of scientific way, reveal its inner workings. So, we are presented with this pair of alternatives, neither of which is adequate to the required task. Therefore, though it seems incomprehensible, our task is defined as having to work through this dichotomous pair to another, different approach, which really does reflect the real situation.

We must explain in detail how these alternatives have in the past only led us astray, and following this attempt a synthesis which transcends their evident contradiction.

No easy task!

First, we must reveal the unavoidable dead-ends involved in a purely pluralistic methodology, and then without clanging over to the opposite extreme of ineffective Holism, point the way instead to a superior methodology.

Of course, such a task is a supreme undertaking, and of course, way too big for a single paper, or even for a single contributor. But a start must be made, for only by such actions will other additional forces be recruited to this fundamental task.

Charlie Chaplin

What is Wrong with Pluralist Technology?

Let us first establish irrefutably the limitations of the now universally established Pluralistic Method. By the processes of isolation, extraction and abstraction we separate embedded relations from their Real World context, control or ignore formative, as well as seemingly trivial, simultaneous factors, and then limit the ground for their intended use, so that they do indeed deliver what is required when used there.

We construct stepping-stones across the veritable river of changing Reality, without tackling the torrent as such. Of course - we are aware that each and every extraction is limited to its own Domain of Applicability – our secure stepping stones, and that if their limits are transgressed, our formulae fail, and we step into the midst of the torrent, and are swept away to oblivion.(For once beyond these limits the formulae are totally useless and give false values for all crucial variables). Indeed, the experienced user of these methods knows, that to ensure any progress, we must abandon our last stepping stone for another in the next Domain.

Our feeble attempts at transcending these boundaries automatically are similar to constructing makeshift bridges from one stepping stone to the next. Such “bridges” can only be retrospective, as each and every stepping stone has to be separately investigated to produce its pluralistic formulae. Only then can these purely artificial bridges be constructed.

The method is what I call “Additive Complexity”, where the various Domains and their formulae, become different “terms” within a cover-all single equation. The terms are integrated in such a way that as we move from one domain to the next, the old term vanishes, while the appropriate new one comes into dominance. It is a clever (and once again pragmatic) trick. But it delivers NO explanation of the transition at all. It is a purely retrospective frig, to deliver a practical, mindless solution..

Though, highly popular amongst engineers, these frigs tell us nothing about what is actually happening, and why. They could not by any stretch of the imagination be called Science. They are mere Technology!

It HAS to be asked, “What is really happening as we move across such boundaries?”

It is abundantly clear that our pluralistic methods cannot address this question, because the answer MUST be contained within the VERY FACTORS that we have either “nailed to the floor” or totally ignored. Clearly, our selection of what was vital, ceases to be true. Our banker, dominant factors will melt away and themselves become negligible, to be replaced by others from those we cast away. Indeed, the very factors necessary to deliver the changes are unavailable, as our pluralistic methods disposed of them as irrelevant.

This post is the ninth 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!

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