30 August, 2016

Is Reason Merely Formal Logic? (Part 2)

Hill Arches by Henry Moore

Quantitative and Qualitative Changes

Though I didn’t realise during my formal education, Physics also vigorously excluded all areas involving any Qualitative Change. This was obscured by the obvious meticulous attention to quantitative change, which, in fact, seemed to be its primary concern, and most experiments were attempts to distil-out the most important quantitative relations between the significant factors involved. So, though such forms of Change were easily accommodated, both on the mathematical, and the physical, models of Reality, when things changed to become something else, the system avoided them like the plague. It simply was not able to deal with such phenomena.

Ultimately, of course, a more rigorous treatment of the Nature and Weaknesses of these types of Reason had to be addressed. And, such a treatment would have to do TWO COMPLETELY opposite things. It had to explain WHY the system worked so well (as in Euclid), and yet failed so profoundly as in the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Physics (for example).

Somehow, such a study would have to deal with the “truth-within-falsity”! I can express the problem in no more appropriate way!

But, there were the to-be-expected confidences of youth beginning to grasp the World for the first time. The trajectory of the studies of my maturity turned out to be long and full of necessary detours.

Such a path was unavoidable, because I insisted on a multi-discipline approach. Instead of my writings being outpourings of my specialist studies, they had to be a search in themselves, and were, therefore, no synopsis of where I was, but, on the contrary, a running commentary on how I was travelling, and what I was discovering. My chosen path regularly took me into areas that I knew little about, but were obviously crucial to my chosen task. I, therefore, regularly dedicated whole periods to subjects, in which I had no experience, and these “detours” were perhaps THE most important part of my studies and profoundly changed my conceptions.

The best example of a similar, dramatic process elsewhere that I can give for this, was embodied in the excellent BBC TV series by Aubrey Manning entitled Earth Story, in which he, a life-long biologist, had his world “illuminated” by a serious study of Modern Geology. It transformed his understanding, and changed the “tempo” of his view.

In a similar way, I, a Physicist and Mathematician, have had my theoretical foundations regularly reformulated as a consequence of serious studies in Biology, History, Palaeontology, Philosophy, Pedagogy, Art, Marxian politics, Computing and many others.

Such a width of increasing knowledge and understanding cannot but undermine your narrow, purely discipline-based conceptions of the World. You are driven to an attempted synthesis, and this brings you constantly up against your often narrowly-based and unquestioned assumptions. You “realise” the short cuts and invalid extrapolations of your cherished methodologies, and you can only end up as a generalist rather than a specialist – what can only be called a philosopher.

The Crucial Inadequacies in Pluralist Reasoning

Let us relate this adult stage of my investigations. After a long knowledge-gathering phase, I started on my journey with the Paradoxes of Zeno.

Initial attempts were to “solve” his presented contradictions, and my skills in Mathematics convinced me that I could “explain away” his confusing conclusions. But what I discovered were the limitations of my own techniques and the profundity of his purposes. Throughout all the time since my first finding Zeno, I have regularly returned to these Paradoxes for a reappraisal, in the light of my ever-widening other studies. For surprisingly the thoughts of this Greek who lived 2,500 years ago, I found to resonate in all areas of human study. Zeno revealed the most important weaknesses of Reason, which until his revelations, no-one had addressed.

He showed that the two most obvious principles used in dealing with Space and Time were both inadequate alone. These were the “obvious” assumptions of Continuity and Descreteness, and both could be shown to lead to contradiction.

NOTE: Though I could give chapter and verse on these many occurrences, it would interrupt the flow of my overall argument here. So, I will, at this time mention only one area where the Paradoxes of Zeno transformed the attitudes of my students. I found it essential to introduce them into my teaching of the Calculus.

NOTE: I will NOT again be drawn into the innumerable “disproofs” of Zeno’s methods using modern mathematics and “even-more-modern” philosophical positions. He, after all, lived in the sixth century BC. Reading the achievements of the past from a NOW standpoint almost always throws out the baby along with the bathwater. The constant recurrence of Zeno’s Paradoxes is due to the fact that they contain profound truths and these MUST be addressed in every context, not circumvented.

Zeno of Elea

Not only was this work of Zeno profoundly important, but it also carried with it the opposite truth, that both these assumptions, and the Reason, based upon one or the other, could also, and did, produce profoundly true and useable extractions. Such methods were both true and yet clearly, and at the same time, also inherently flawed.

They were necessary and yet incorrect!

Now, needless to say, such contradictory conclusions wedded together in the same method (that of Zeno), did not entice queues of thinkers to embrace Zeno’s ideas. They usually simply ignored his Paradoxes as clever, spoiling tactics, and continued with their very recently discovered and obviously wonderful and dependable methods, taking care to use them ONLY in amenable areas of application.

“While he’s worrying about That, let us get on with the innumerable possibilities of This!”, was their attitude. A thousand descrete successes were more important than a single profound but almost unintelligible error.

Returning to Euclid’s Theorems (and Mathematics in general) what were his assumptions and premises?

Euclid assumed perfectly straight lines of zero thickness. They would be conceived of on perfectly flat planes of infinite extent. Any identified position on such a plane – a point – would also be of zero extent. Parallel Lines (evidently keeping the same distance apart) were pointing in the exact same direction: they were at 0o to one another and would never cross.

Now, do these assumptions truly reflect Reality? The answer is a clear “NO!”.

Yet, the whole structure turns out to be extremely useful, and the imperatives of the methodology so persuasive, that it is clear that this obvious “fiction” somehow delivered Truth of a kind!

Now, we can easily drop into a simplistic argument as to why this was the case with Euclid’s work.

We can say that Truth “on a certain scale” was embodied in the theorems. The thickness of the lines and dots could be disregarded, when distance, shape and geometric relations were the significant elements to be considered. Euclid’s simplifying assumptions were “empowering”, in that they threw away irrelevances in the search for higher spatial relations. And, of course, all this is true!

BUT, Mankind did NOT see it that way at the time!

The general consensus, among the users of this body of Knowledge, was that the essence of geometric reality had been extracted from the mire or blurring of inconsequential everyday Reality. The process was one of revealing the Essences out of which Reality was built!

But, that was certainly NOT what had been achieved!

Even at this early stage in Mankind’s development of methods of Thought, he had, in fact, invented the idea of a Model. In order to deal with Reality, an intelligent set of simplifications were always necessary. Any old simplifications would NOT do however. The removals had to be of detachable things which were not significant in the given area of study, and the revelations of its embedded truths.

Mankind learned that the division of Reality into areas, systems and indeed Parts, was useful.

He had unconsciously "invented" Plurality – the division of anything into its supposedly-independent component Parts, in order to make any sort of sense of it. Of course as soon as any Part was isolated, even conceptually, IT had to be addressed, and then the obvious next step was to consider its components too.

But, you can’t do that willy-nilly, and tumble into a possible infinite regress!

And, crucially, Reality is NOT composed of separable Parts!

In Essence, Reality is definitely holistic and not pluralistic. All elements are inter-related, inter-dependant and indeed mutually determining in the last analysis.

The isolation of Parts to explain things is merely a useful Model.

So, Mankind’s settling on Plurality presented him with many problems as well as useful models.

For it to work, he had to constrain Reality in dramatic ways. He had to “corral the beasts” in order to tame them. Plurality only worked if the context was either naturally constrained, or purposely controlled by Man himself in deliberate and appropriate ways.

Plurality was initially quite severely restricted to those areas of Reality, which were quite naturally constrained – naturally-stable sub divisions of Reality as a whole. And this certainly kept the progress to a relatively slow pace.

But it blossomed when Mankind’s knowledge reached sufficient proportions for quite small, unnatural areas to be physically constrained in MOST of its involved variables, purposely-chosen to be fixed values, and effectively “nailed to the floor” in order to “reveal” some hinted-at regularity embedded in Reality, which normally first exposed, and then hid, its beguiling regularities.

Plurality became profoundly useful with the invention of the “experimental set up”.

Now, I have dealt with such things at great length, elsewhere, so I will not repeat it all again here. What is required, in this essay, is to clarify the methodology of Mankind in attempting to deal with a holistic Reality. To do this he constrained Reality in a series of important ways, to identify “in isolation” some of its relations. He delineated his areas of study. He made clear (at least sometimes) his assumptions and premises. He physically constrained the area with often prodigious controls. He forced a series of changes in the magnitude of various parameters, noting their consequent effects on other values, and via these results extracted a relation, which he then generalised into an abstract formal equation.

This is the main Methodology of Science, and its power has been demonstrated a million times in the achievements of centuries of Technology.

But not everything is amenable to such forms of study. Once more, the methodology limited those areas to be studied to those that could be so constrained.

Science became not only a method, but also a defined area, wherein such a method could be applied. The Method could not but actually define its areas of application. And, where such physical controls were not possible, these methods could NOT be used. In addition, these same methods of scientific investigation ALSO defined those areas wherein its achievements could NOT be used.
Now, before I go any further, I cannot continue without making clear that the vast majority of human concerns were necessarily-omitted from this area of feasible investigation and use. Most things could NOT be treated in this way and so were not addressed by the scientists.

An equation may seem to relate two clear things in isolation, but that does not mean that, with it, we have in our hands one of the many “components” of Reality. To think that assumes that Reality is composed of separate Parts that exist independently of one another, and can be brought together to reproduce some area of the Whole. And that is certainly NOT true!

To use such equations (necessarily isolated, extracted and abstracted from a constrained piece of Reality), the EXACT SAME conditions must also be constructed for its effective and predictable USE! The equation would only be true with those precise defined conditions – defined on extraction.

So, every equation has its own Domain of Applicability, and if that Domain is not adequately delivered and maintained, the equation will FAIL. So, if we use the equation within that Domain it will work, but if those conditions are NOT in place, or if they change during use, for whatever reason, the equation will give increasingly more and more incorrect predictions until they are completely wrong!

Ask any school student of Science and he will be guaranteed to confirm this point. It’s why most of his experiments gave the wrong answers!

So, in applying our logical methods we have to clearly delineate our areas of application. We have to limit, in some way, our theatre of operations – either physically or conceptually, or most likely in both of these ways.

Even Reason is predicated upon a defined area with defined assumptions and premises, and Euclid’s Theorems are a perfect model of the method.

NOTE: The assumption that these extracted “truths” are eternal, and can be “summed” in some way to reproduce phenomena in Reality, first in Parts, and subsequently “as a Whole” is, of course, NOT PROVEN.

So, Man, via Control, found a way of bending certain constructed situations to producing predicted outcomes, and being both intelligent and flexible, as he undoubtedly is, he made them serve his needs (as well as fitting his conceived of "needs" to only he could deliver).

Surely, such a methodology is remarkable?

Well, yes it is, and is universally applauded as the solution to ALL problems in the modern world, where it is called “Science”, but is more accurately termed Technology!

And, could not this be considered as wholly sufficient?

The answer has to be a resounding, “NO!”.

23 August, 2016

Marxist Theory Today I

Marxist Theory Today?

Descriptive, Retroactive 

and both 

Activity-Based & Implemented

Initial Steps upon a Very Long Road

NO! This isn't going to be about the necessary return to seriously studying the Classic Works!

It is crucially about both understanding and using the powerful Dialectical Materialist Method, which is the revealing heart of Marx's contributions to Philosophy, and in producing all those Classic Works too. And, as it is both the most profound Philosophical Stance and Method, it is genuinely applicable to literally all serious disciplines.

It certainly isn't just a guide to political activity!

For example, did you realise that it can be effectively and successfully applied to transcending the many impasses in Modern Sub-Atomic Physics?

Do you think Karl Marx spent decades in the British Museum tackling day-to-day questions in political tactics, and the most appropriate activities to undertake?

He didn't. He was a serious, professional Philosopher.

And, via his studies, he also became a serious professional Economist: no time-saving, short-cuts were available then, just as they are not available now!

But, neither does that mean that we all have to follow the full, demanding path as Marx.

But, quite certainly, a significant number of us, as well as being fully integrated with the activities of their comrades, must in return be respected for, the essential contributions that they will be making NOW, and continually thereafter: Marxism is not a finished Philosophy, nor is it a Religion to be followed unquestioningly!

They must both safeguard and develop our crucial Theory, as well as constantly developing both its range and its depth!

I have just commenced reading a book contributed to, and edited by, my first Marxist hero, Cliff Slaughter. 

I originally came across him in the late 1950's, when I went to Leeds University to study Modern Physics. It was Cliff's exceptional intervention in a Students' Union Debate, which made it clear to me that I too should become a Marxist. No one had got even close to his serious position and informed arguments: he, quite clearly, had the theoretical means, and had acquired the necessary knowledge, to trounce the opposition.

I was young and relatively uninformed, and my decision was to join the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) - as the elected leader of the whole student body, at that time, was an able member of that organisation, and he had invited me to my first political discussion group.

But, for several very important reasons, it was not what I needed at that time.

A couple of years later, I joined the SLL/WRP, and was active for many years, and committed for the rest of my life to a Revolutionary Socialist stance. But, in spite of an initial success among Working Class youth, not only myself, but the whole Party, despite some significant achievements, got lost.

Achieving a Daily Paper, became an end in itself, and the theoretical level declined, just when and where it had to be at its best. So, in spite of many well conceived of campaigns, such as Youth Training for unemployed Working Class youth ,and later Workers' Aid in Bosnia for the miners of Tuzla during the war there in the 1990s, the organisation was on the wane.

But, in spite, of personally being involved for a very long period, the level of Marxist Theory was poor, and its development woeful.

The scandal of the long-time leader Gerry Healy was enough to dissociate the whole organisation, into rival ineffectual groups.

But, unusually it seems, I had initially actually joined the fray for purely philosophical and theoretical reasons. Though a Working Class youth from the Victorian slums of industrial Manchester, I wasn't at all political until I got to University.

I was there to study what I believed might be the key to understanding the World - Science, and particularly Physics.

But, sadly, in my first year at University, I immediately found myself disagreeing with my lecturers on almost everything they had to deliver! In spite of being too young and inexperienced to present any coherent alternative, I, nevertheless, knew immediately that what they were peddling was rubbish.

For, early in my career at Grammar School I had thought the key would surely be Mathematics, and was particularly good at it.

But, interesting and stimulating as it was, it was only abstract description, and causally-explained absolutely nothing. Physics, on the other hand, offered a great deal more, so in spite of my exceptional abilities in Mathematics, I determined upon Science, as being the best bet for developing a real understanding of the World around me.

And later on, when at University, I was greatly stimulated by socialist ideas and became politically active, and I happened upon Lenin's book Materialism and Empirio Criticism, in which he severely criticised the philosophical stance of the then leading physicists Henri Poincaré and Ernst Mach, who clearly were the forerunners of the very stuff I was being force-fed in my then present-day Physics course. 

Clearly, this Marxism was, indeed, as universal in applicability as I required.

I had probably found the route to a countering of the pernicious Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, that currently dominated Modern Sub Atomic Physics. My decided objective was to pursue this philosophy, and its political practice, as the means to address all my perceived problems.

But, whenever I tried to talk about Science to my new comrades, not a single one thought that my concerns were the least bit relevant to what were their, and should be my, crucial political tasks. Indeed, I was often told that it was a diversion, or even an excuse, for avoiding the real day-to-day activities that just had to come first.

It didn't convince me!

I not only built an impressive personal Marxist library of the Classic works, but ran a bookstall in the Students' Union, selling a wide variety of left books of all kinds (most of which were provided upon a sale or return basis by the Communist Party Librarian in that city, who, by the way, had fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War).

Indeed, my stall was popular with literally the whole of the Left in the student body, and discussions took place around it, every time it occurred, so that it grew in size and influence, and as I had read many of the books on offer, I was able to explain what they were about to enquiries from potential customers.

I even pushed books which were not rated by some of my political colleagues, such as John Berger's brilliant critical works and his novel A Painter of our Time about a Hungarian Painter who abandons his life in the U.K. to return home at the time of the Hungarian Revolution.

I also pushed excellent archaeological works by V. Gordon Childe, such as What Happened in History and Man Makes Himself

And, I finally pressed customers to obtain from libraries the few precious works by Christopher Caudwell such as Studies in a Dying Culture and The Crisis in Physics. I also argued for the more accessible classic pamphlets to one and all, such as the brilliant The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man.

Perhaps surprisingly, the takers were not the most politically active, but, on the contrary, were mostly from the interested penumbra around Left politics.

It, clearly, wasn't what I was supposed to be doing, but, no-one could tell me why it wasn't important. Clearly, I thought Theory was absolutely paramount!

I took my "peculiar" ideas in still other directions too!

I took my interest and practical involvement in Painting further, by joining the Art Society in the Students' Union, and, somehow, became its organising secretary for a couple of years.

"Another diversion! He wont be much use politically!" seemed to be the consensus among my closest political colleagues.

To be continued...

This post is part of new five-part series entitled Marxist Theory Today, which is turn, forms part of our grand series on Marxism & Physics.

16 August, 2016

Issue 45: Bottom Up!

This edition of six papers is a recently completed section of a three-part series developed during the summer of 2016, the latest in an ongoing attempt to counter the current consensus in Physics by a Marxist scientist and philosopher.

Two other sections were also produced between June and July this year, but this one, which I have entitled Bottom Up, is a wholly new slant upon elemental particles, and the early evolution of our universe.

It isn’t the last word on particle physics by any means, but it is a significant rebuttal, written after this theorist made profound contributions upon the famed Double Slit experiments, Quantum Entanglement and quantised orbits.

The rest of this new series will be published here and on the Shape blog in coming weeks.

Becoming a Professional in a Specialist Discipline

Prof. Richard Wolff - professional Marxist?

What is necessary to claim expert status?

When do you actually become a professional physicist, or even a professional Marxist?

It certainly isn't when you first commit to your chosen area-of-study or set of supported-premises: for such disciplines cannot be simply taken-on by an individual's immediate decision to follow that career or stance. Indeed, to do so requires both a significant investment in a comprehensive set of studies, and appropriate assessments at various levels, up to such a standard as to be employed in that field, and capable of delivering what the post entails.

For example, this writer is a professional physicist, having gone through successfully all the levels, up to and including a University degree with Honours, and usually beyond even that in what is considered Postgraduate, studies and achievements.

They don't have the same formal structures available in Educational Institutions for becoming qualified as a Marxist, it being essentially anti-establishment, and certainly also no ivory-tower occupation - necessitating sincere and total involvement in political activism, towards a prior, decided-upon objective, as well as both extensive studies, published contributions, and, most importantly appropriate, productive political analysis, and even acute and penetrating policy-making and leadership in political activities.

Anyone can claim that they have become a Marxist after agreeing with a particular speech, or being convinced by a brilliant Marxist book, but it isn't true! They will, in fact, have only become some sort of follower-of, or maybe an arguer-for, a Marxist position.

I'm afraid that is not nearly enough. For, it is, surely, only equivalent to someone claiming to be a scientist having agreed to a single brilliant lecture, or being convinced by a remarkable scientific work.

To make such a claim would be laughable, and hence, so it is when individuals claim to have become Marxists. And, with many "professed Marxists" or even "professed physicists", such things have not been, and never will be, remotely achieved!

There is, particularly in my own subject, Physics, a widespread self-delusion involving the manipulation, interpretation and use of Formal Equations only, which, because of an undoubted measure of original speculation, can give the appearance that some wholly new Physics has been produced.

But, it is an illusion!

You cannot do Physics, merely by doing Mathematics. And, even the effective use of such formulae does not validate you as a scientist - only as a competent technologist. Of course, these distinctly differently defined disciplines are frequently confused, especially in the last century, when things took a remarkable turn, which effectively banned Explanation (most particularly in Sub Atomic Physics).

NOTE: As I was, personally, and for many years, particularly good at such things, I can say that they are not Physics, without any claims that my criticism is mere "Sour Grapes". For, it took a great deal more to finally become a physicist!

And, of course, the philosophical discipline we term Marxism, even having read all the masters' works, will never suffice, for to be a Marxist, you have to understand and successfully employ the entirely new methods involved. It is essentially Hegel's method of Dialectics, which seeks out what are termed Dichotomous Pairs of contradictory concepts, both of which are surprisingly derived from the very same assumptions, but which always, in the end, result in an undoubted rational impasse, which can only be transcended via a in-depth study of the producing premises involved, and their necessary revision to dissolve the impasse and replace it with a rational pair of options.

Marx's version, was to transfer Hegel's method, wholesale, from the idealist sphere of Thinking, to Reality in general, and its development.

Now, to merely talk of correcting the underlying premises to achieve such breakthroughs, actually tells us Nothing! For, Hegel also rejected our then universally applied Formal Logic as the only means of reasoning. He showed, clearly, that such was solely limited to only stable situations - those in which all change was merely quantitative - which is why its means of expression was Mathematics, which is also limited to the very same constraints.

Formal Logic only applied to Stability!

Hegel knew, from his profound and original researches into Thinking about Thought, that Qualitative Changes were never addressed in development (which for Hegel was exactly what was happening in Thinking), and his work was immensely extended by Marx to include all of Concrete Reality too!

The actual development of material things, the Origin of Life, and its subsequent Evolution, as well as the trajectory of qualitative changes and even Revolutions in Human Societies, were ALL subject to such crucial changes.

So, to be a Marxist (continuing and extending this development), you have to employ that kind of Analysis to equip both you and your comrades in action to make real progress in understanding what is going on, not only in the present struggle within Capitalism for the hearts and minds of the People, but vitally in understanding its inevitable major Crises and Revolutionary opportunities.

Now judging political activists by such criteria, the last real professional revolutionary Marxists were those in the Russian Bolshevik Party at the beginning of the 20th century.

For example, this professed "Marxist" felt that he was a "recruit" to the cause, aged 19, and joined the Communist Party in the UK, but in spite of a lifetime as an activist, and, within a series of supposedly "Revolutionary Marxist" parties, he has only, finally, become a Marxist in the last few years.

In his case, he only arrived at a sound and productive philosophical stance via a surprising and circuitous route (and it wasn't achieved within and due to any of the professed "Marxist" organisations, he had belonged to for many decades).

For, he was also a serious professional scientist, and a dedicated teacher: but even there, in how he daily earned his living, and passed on his understanding to his students, he wasn't where he knew he had to be. And, this didn't even begin to happen, until he became involved, as a computer software expert, in a wide range of other people's advanced, postgraduate researches.

His contributions were clearly defined: he had to produce software to facilitate his colleagues researches, and his technical abilities were nowhere near as important, as were their professional objectives. He had to understand what they were doing, and invent wholly new computer programs to give them exactly what they wanted.

Surprisingly, the latter course in this series of developments took things into an unusual area - the teaching of professional Dance Performance and Choreography, with a brilliant expert in that field, who required immaculate access and control of recorded footage taken exemplar Dance works by world-class performers, delivering brilliant and innovative pieces.

The mere passive watching would not suffice. Jacqueline Smith-Autard, who was a world leader in her field, required a so-far-impossible control over captured movements, in order to get students to not only reproduce them correctly, but also to understand what sequences and articulations were possible in original choreography. So, our scientist/programmer was presented with something very different. The key features had to be precision Access to particular moves, and immaculate Control of those moves, with full-speed, slow-motion, backwards or forwards motion, looping around a chosen movement, with "multi-screen" simultaneous comparisons of similar moves (not as stills, but as controlled and manipulate-able movies). These tasks proved entirely beyond what was currently available technologically: AND not available anywhere in methodology.

He was forced to use the-then-revolutionary Laser-disc technology, and undertake considerable research into the properties of both video and film, as particularly the increasingly dominant Digital versions of such means. It was in this work that what he had never been able to talk about previously, suddenly gelled into a method.

The solution of many, long-standing problems ensued, not only in Dance, but in movement generally, and, thereafter, into the solutions of major impasses in both Physics and Philosophy.

Of course, what had been lacking in both Science and what was usually considered to be "Marxism" was a sound philosophic stance, when it came to motion, and hence, consequent methods for dealing with the essence of all movement - Qualitative Change!

NOTE: For those who reject this point, may I refer them to Zeno's Paradoxes, and also Hegel's investigations into Dichotomous Pairs and rational impasses.

In Science, the positions taken had been historically-determined by the amalgam of Materialism, Plurality, Formalism and Pragmatism - a surprising mix that only worked by a pragmatic switching between concepts whenever difficulties occurred, and hence was bound to end up with terminal crises, and retreat, marked finally by the changes set-in-stone by the Solvay Conference of 1927.

Solvay Conference

In Marxism, however, the mix was of activism allied with a crude Trade Union consciousness, which simply never addressed the necessity of Revolution, and frankly never understood what it was that both Hegel and Marx had achieved philosophically!

That stance was subsequently totally lost in the fight against interlopers from the enemy class - termed Revisionism - and, crucially, the refusal to view Marxism as a generally applicable Philosophy and method!

Indeed, the major intellectual problems of the 20th century, particularly in Science, were after Lenin's intervention, totally ignored.

But, it was in addressing these areas that Marxism could attain a wholly new and higher level, and re-equip itself politically too.

Remember what Marx had said, "Philosophy thus far had been to interpret the world: the point now was to change it!"

And, in spite of Marx's revolutionary contributions, human reasoning, with the old objectives, still fell far short of what was both possible and necessary, in the new Stance, to achieve the new objectives!

Christopher Caudwell, mightily took up the task on in the 1930s, but was killed in fighting fascism in Spain, long before he had achieved what he was seeking in Physics (see his book The Crisis in Physics).

Elsewhere, professed Marxists refused to concern themselves with such problems, and hence, looked only backwards at the Marxist Canon, without extracting the absolutely vital Marxist Methods involved there. So, instead of actually extending the ground that Hegel and Marx had uncovered, and thus both strengthening and deepening it, they actually returned to the old Formal Rationalism, with a overlaid reformist political agenda only!

The more profound aspects of Marxism, which Marx had got from Hegel, were simply not understood, and hence never used in analysing situations. The famed Dialectic was reduced into a series of tricks, rather than a profound, if difficult, method.

Hegel had realised that all human understanding, at every stage, was always based upon an inadequate set of premises, though each succeeding set was able to reveal more Objective Content (parts or aspects of the truth), and hence allow significant, if limited, progress in our understanding.
Nevertheless, every single new set of premises would inevitably reach its own denouement in yet another major impasse. And, these would always be indicated by what came to be called Dichotomous Pairs of contradictory concepts - both of which were direct consequences of errors or omissions, in the same set of premises. He, and later Marx, realised that the usual solution of switching between these two, entirely pragmatically, could only be taken so far.

What was necessary, instead, to transcend the impasse, presented by the Dichotomous Pair, by the revealing of the premises involved, and a thorough-going critique of these with consequent inclusion of missing premises, or the replacement of proved-to-be-incorrect assumptions, so that a more true overall set was delivered. Marx had taken Hegel's remarkable achievement in Human Thought, and delivered it in its entirety into the Materialist Stance, thus producing something very different from the aforementioned amalgam of disparate and contradictory stances that made up the position of the then scientists.

What he termed Dialectical Materialism, was very different to the mechanical materialism of the scientists, and was consistent, which couldn't be said for their flexible amalgam of alternative bases.

It, certainly, wasn't merely the inclusion of Hegel's idealist conceptions, which applied only to Human Thinking: it was, according to Marx, intrinsic to material Reality generally, and its capacity to qualitatively change and even evolve!

Now, this was continued to be talked about following Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, but, frankly, never really understood. Indeed, the next sphere of study after the October Revolution in Russia, surely had to be to extend Marxism to Science, and to win the best intellectuals to the revolutionary cause, for its profound philosophical stance, as well as its political objectives.

It didn't happen!

This particular physicist was in so-called revolutionary parties for 50 years, but never came across what was needed. He was a competent physicist, disagreeing with the consensus Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, but, literally, condemned for being "diverted" by such concerns from the "real tasks".

But, they were wrong!

It was by his sole efforts, "pulled up by my own bootlaces" that the necessary task was undertaken, and, after a long gestation period, finally began to deliver results.

For those not well informed of the content and ideas in Modern Physics, a series of major problems had arisen, which the old methods were totally incapable of dealing with. The primary one was certainly the Quantum - a descrete gobbet of pure energy, and, without any material association or receptacle, with the consequent, Dichotomous Pair of simultaneous conceptions embraced in Wave/Particle Duality. The claimed to be determining experiments were the famed Double Slit series, which, to this day, are trotted out as interpretable only by the Copenhagen stance.

But, this Marxist/physicist has solved the whole set without leaving a single anomaly still standing.

He has also extended Darwin's Natural Selection to Non-Living Developments, and developed The Theory of Emergences to be directly applicable across the whole range of possible developments currently known.

Comrades, the tackling and defeat of Copenhagen is being successfully addressed only by this Dialectical Materialist, and in doing so, re-vitalises Marxism across the board, and helps prepare us for the coming major task - the Final Overthrow of Capitalism!

Shouldn't YOU be involved?

Marxism & Physics

This paper was written for a new series of publications, here and on Shape Journal, exploring how Marxist theory can solve the problems in modern physics. 

Economics of Worker Coops

15 August, 2016

Marxism & Physics

Marxism & Physics: a new series from Shape Journal

A Prologue

This essay, plus a following extended series to be posted weekly upon SHAPE Blog, addresses a crucial hole in Marxism, which arose since Lenin's Materialism and Empirio Criticism - a book that vigorously attacked the significant slide in Physics Theory, away from Materialism, at that time, epitomised by the positivist ideas of Henri Poincaré and Ernst Mach.

Since that time, this crucial question - not only for Science, but also for Marxism as a truly, generally applicable Philosophy, was not seriously addressed.

The one incomplete exception was surely embodied in Christopher Caudwell's The Crisis in Physics, but never taken further, as he was killed fighting the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War, while still a young man.

This major omission in the most advanced Philosophy available, was crucial for the discipline of Physics, but also for both the reach and depth of the Marxist Method too.

So here, this physicist, who has been a Marxist all his adult life, and throughout has been aware of this discrepancy, has finally grasped the nettle, and this summer, after 50 years of trying, has finally achieved a breakthrough.


Jim Schofield
August 2016

The Black Hole in Marxist Theory
(How Physics Temporarily Escaped)

A crucial question arises out of the clear failure to recruit professional intellectuals into a Marxist philosophical stance in the last century.

Up to the Russian Revolution it had been precisely within those ranks that Marxism first appeared and developed: indeed, the whole leadership of the Bolshevik Party were such people, and had been wrested from their natural Class stance, by commitment to that Revolutionary alternative presenting a truly enormous potential.

But, the possibility that such Social Revolutions were now possible with conscious, pro-Working Class objectives, changed the emphasis completely, and it was activism and organisation, towards such an outcome, that dominated attitudes among those involved.

You might imagine that the revolutionary transformation of traditional Mechanical Materialism in the Sciences, made possible by Karl Marx's wholesale transfer of Hegel's achievements in Dialectics from an Idealist Stance to one of Materialism, would bring the scientists flocking in. But, it didn't happen!

The crisis precipitated by the discovery of the Quantum, and by the positivist ideas of Henri Poincaré and Ernst Mach, which Lenin quickly and vigorously criticised in his book Materialism and Empirio Criticism, would, certainly, lead us to believe that the defeat of such backward tendencies in Science was nigh. 

After all, the new anomalies and crises in Science were proliferating at an accelerating rate, and it should have been clear that what was needed to tackle the increasing mess, and its ever-strengthening swoop into Idealism, had to be in breakthroughs made by Hegel and, most particularly, Marx! 

The basis of their revolution had been the switch to include Qualitative Changes, Development and, as with Darwin, Evolution (not only of Life, but of all Reality!). And, it wasn't only a change of view, for though primarily based upon Marx's study of Capitalist Economics, Dialectical Materialism - as a method, could profitably be extended to Science: indeed Science would surely be its natural home, and give that stance a deserved, widespread credibility, as well as addressing the many problems clearly mounting up within that discipline.

How could this crucial extension not occur?

Indeed, Lenin had effectively managed his remit upon this question, very effectively, in spite of not being a physicist: surely the task cried out for Marxist physicists to complete the rout! But, once more, it didn't happen. And, there were reasons.

In the Socialist Movement, there was an increasing dominance by Democratic Socialists, who rejected Revolution, and with it the philosophical stance of Marx and his followers, and even within those who remained "Marxist", there was increasing emphasis upon political agitation and organisation, and also clear a break from that Social Democracy, with the setting up of Communist Parties across the World.
Clearly, the emphasis with these "Marxist" parties was activism among the Working Class, and work with Middle Class intellectuals, gradually, but increasingly, fell away.

Soon, most professional physicists didn't even hear about Marxism, except, perhaps, as a threat to their privileged existence. And, clearly, several factors within the historical, cultural and intellectual development of Science were crucial in politically countering that possible influence. 

First, culturally, literally all scientists were from a very different Class to the workers, as with all professions. Science was totally dominated by privileged Classes, even up to including the Aristocracy (like Cavendish, for example) .

And, as a full-time, demanding and expensive career, it could not be adopted by those without the necessary and substantial resources. Thus, the Class content within the cultural ideas of scientists, certainly, did not gel with the Class conclusions of Marxism.

But, even that wasn't all!

Science itself, had grown spasmodically, in fits and starts, and in a peculiar ad hoc way - commencing with Pragmatism - "If it works, it is right!", and actually maintaining that as a fall-back position, throughout its history. And, though it had gradually broke from religion, and settled into a thoroughly materialist stance as its bedrock, that actually came very much later, than an early and very close relationship with the first ever intellectual discipline of all - namely Mathematics, which brought in a decidedly Idealist stance into the mix which has also remained there throughout its history.

For, it was Mathematics that first involved an attempt to grasp the quantitative and geometrical patterns so evident in Reality.

Clearly, Science was never a single stance, but a pragmatic mix of contradictory stances, also separated into innumerable and unavoidable sub-divisions, and the gaps between them could never, via the currently available stances, be rationally transcended.

It was a patchwork in every sense!

Indeed, though more correctly termed the "Handmaiden of Science", Mathematics was considered by many scientists to be the Queen of the Sciences, for the discovered relations in the found patterns, enabled formulae to be constructed, which could successfully be employed to predict outcomes, which, along with pragmatism, soon enabled many new uses.

The surprising amalgam of Pragmatism, Idealism and Materialism flexibly, if inconsistently, allowed a kind of piecemeal progress upon many different fronts, with Pragmatism providing the necessary enabling "glue".

And, as the most reveal-able route, Science became besotted with practical applications, and the very philosophical academicism of Marxism, seemed very airy-fairy, compared with all the burgeoning practical uses.

The scientists certainly preferred their amalgam! As a physicist myself, I can safely affirm that, as a group, scientists make lousy philosophers!

But, also there were reasons within the Working Class Movement, and even among self-professed Marxists.

It was because no-one bothered to study the crucial Dialectics of Hegel with regard to its applications in Science. Neither Hegel nor Marx had been up to it, for it required dedicated theoretical work within Science, which as described above was fast becoming a philosophical minefield, with its simultaneously necessary, yet totally contradictory standpoints, and, of course, would have to be carried out by suitably-equipped Marxists, to have any real chance of succeeding! 

Marx, himself, had known precisely what the level of work had to be, and he carried it out, spending many decades in the British Museum studying Capitalist Economics, to finally deliver Capital - his Dialectical Materialist analysis of the Economics of the Capitalist System. Inherent in that work, were the methods required to do the same in other disciplines, but no-one took on the tasks necessary in even one of the Sciences.

Instead Activism was decided upon as the only achievable option!

Sitting in a University Library studying an abundance of works by non-Marxist, and totally eclectic scientists, was an onerous activity, for it not only involved becoming a professional scientist, but also in establishing a consistent, coherent and comprehensive approach applicable across the board.

Not a soul tried!
NOTE: There is a current brilliant exception to this generalisation, though he did the job he tackled correctly, he still only took on today's Capitalist Economics. It is, as you may already be aware, Professor Richard D. Wolff, the American Professor of Economics at the New School University in New York City, USA, who has spent his adult life studying and teaching Economics, and now criticises it with truly devastating effect. He is not only a professional Marxist but also a professional Economist, and his critique is unanswerable.

To show how difficult this could be, let me give an example that I know a great deal about.

I am a qualified physicist, with an Honours Degree in the subject, and very early on indeed, in my University course, I joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (the CPGB), in order to become a Marxist. But, I found no one there, who could (or even wanted to) teach me what that actually meant, and how I could use it.

Instead, we were supposed to learn by reading the classic works of people like Marx, Engels and Lenin. But, though I did precisely as I was advised, it certainly did not make me a Marxist.

And, of course, such advice was rubbish - not only didn't it deliver to me any ideas of method, it also could never ever do that: they were not written to achieve such things.

For, all these works were written long ago, at particular times in the past, and many were only the results of applying a not-overtly-included-method, which though they delivered good advice for the activists of that time, would be useless to inform modern-day Marxists-to-be, on how to address today's many problems: for they were clearly very different. 

Manufacturing #10A, Cankun Factory, Xiamen City, 2005, Edward Burtynsky

Situations would literally never match after a century of vast changes, so it would have to involve, initially, the establishment of the clearest possible philosophic stance, AND, only then from that basis, could crucially-clear and detailed descriptions of the methods used be adjusted to fit wholly new contexts.

And, it would involve nothing like the application of the same technical steps as used historically. Indeed, even the factors acting now, would be of a very different order to what were critical then.

If, perhaps, the reader had substantial experience and had done detailed studies of how things are today, he or she might be able to begin to extract methods, from the classic works, and re-cast them in a modern context. But, for most of us, that would be totally impossible. The advice given was useless, and to my mind, totally irresponsible!

If you were an activist, it would be the only advice you could give. And, mere activism does not a Marxist make!
I, of course, asked about such things, but only got the same advice - "Consult the classics!".

But, Marx never had time to write theoretically about the Method that he was creating, as well as using - not least because the heart of that Method was Holism, which, as distinct from the usually subscribed-to opposite, Plurality, instead insisted that "Everything affects everything else!".

And, it also dealt with the whole normally totally neglected areas concerned with Qualitative Development and Collapse, and with Stability and Emergence. Compared with the usually adhered-to Plurality, Holism was vastly more complex - no easy rules and tidy encapsulating equations here.

And, crucially, NO extractable causality in the Key Emergent Transformations at all. Compared with his work on Capital, the holist, dialectical method would be both an even more enormous, and also an unavoidably ongoing task. Clearly, most followers of Marx didn't really understand exactly what his Method involved: yet that was the true essence of his contribution!

It was, in retrospect, no wonder that I got no help on such a crucial question: they didn't know either!

The population of real Marxists (by which I mean professional researchers developing rather than revising the theory) was never large enough for these questions to be fully addressed. It clearly was Marx alone who had made the transcending transition, so, it was his remarkable analyses that won followers, and NOT his revolutionary Method

For, "Marxism" to become a fully developed stance, it needed many dedicated theorists, who were not only specialists in their own professional fields, but also committed to doing what Marx had done with Economics. And, that has never really been the case!

Even the very best of those professionals, who did attempt it, such as V. Gordon Childe, the archaeologist, John Berger and Georg Lukasz, the critics, and even Christopher Caudwell, the philosopher, never really cracked the methods involved. The establishment of that crucial and always continuing task remains to be achieved.
And, this loss had significant repercussions, not just in the many ignored specialisms and Subjects, but within Marxism itself. Marxism is still too young to already be able to supply all the answers in every single sphere. Marx himself read bourgeois Economics for decades, before gradually finding the right way to tackle it in a "Marxist Way"!

So, getting back to this particular physicist, I was far too young too, and found no members who could help.

Indeed, my task was particularly difficult, for I had to tackle the monolith of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory - no small undertaking!

In spite of knowing, intuitively, that Copenhagen was a major and debilitating retreat, who was I, a 19 years old student, to take on the World's leading Physicists, especially when I could find no one to help, within what was surely the best place to find a solution?

Only slowly in an academic career that took in Mathematics, Biology and Computing, as well as Physics, did I make any progress at all. And, it was many years later, when I was the Computer Programmer in a Higher Education establishment, dedicated to helping researchers across the whole range of disciplines with their programming needs, did the penny finally begin to drop.

And, surprisingly, it happened when working with an expert in both Dance Performance and Choreography teaching, that the research that I personally had to undertake, finally revealed the real problem in Science. In dealing with the analysis of movement on Video and Film under computer control, I did finally realise what a Dichotomous Pair really was, and how Hegel had addressed the consequent impasse that was always the inevitable result.

As a result, I applied what I had learned to the Key Dichotomous Pair in Copenhagen, usually termed Wave/Particle Duality, and was, thereafter, able using Hegel's method, to crack a whole series of consequent impasses within that stance.

It had taken me 50 years (by myself) to be able to do it!

The key was Zeno's Paradoxes involving the use of the contradictory concepts of Continuity and Descreteness, when attempting to analyse movement over time. Clearly, this Dichotomous Pair arose just as Hegel had discovered - due to flaws within the usually unstated premises which were the basis for both these concepts.

Hegel found that he had to identify exactly what, in those premises, was causing the contradiction. And, he found, that if the flaw was corrected, the halting dichotomy would dissolve into a clear forked path with strictly logical reasons for taking each option. 

Clearly, I had to solve an identical kind of problem in delivering both Access and Control of the Video and Film footage of key movements, and was able to solve them.

But, in addition, I had finally understood the method involved and in Wave/Particle Duality knew that the key to transcending this impasse would be found in the common premises which delivered both of these conceptions.

I studied the premises (usually never overtly stated) and I found the flaw!

Now, looking for concepts, as Hegel had to do when considering Thinking, at first waylaid me, but he was an idealist, and the problem here was about Reality. It turned out that what was wrong in these premises was an physical omission! 

What had been dispensed with in the 19th century because it could not be detected, turned out to be essential for making sense out of the whole panoply of impasses in Sub Atomic Physics.

What was essential was the presence of a Universal Substrate.

And, after much research into a material, but undetectable, Substrate, I managed to remove every single anomaly in the famed Double Slit Experiments. And since that time, I have been able to dismantle item after item within the Copenhagen Stance, and, philosophically, make significant contributions to the processes and productions of Abstraction, as well as delivering an extended Theory of Emergences.