Julio 13.2.:

> >With regards to the crucial philosophical question of the objectivity of the
> >world, the Kantian separation of the universe in-itself and the universe for-
> >us, and the Hegelian critique of this separation, Annette and I may have a
> >honest disagreement. I think that Annette's assertion "nature in itself
> >doesn't exist!" is partially contested by her last sentence in the same
> >paragraph: "we can be certain that there is really nature out there, because
> >we are ourselves nature and interact within the nature." Partially, because
> >the reasoning that states, "If nature is objective, then nature in-itself is
> >graspable" is far from being obvious. By the way, not everyone (we) is sure
> >that there is really nature out there. Some people deny it (solypsists). But
> >that's not an issue to be voted on. That's a scientific (and philosophical)
> >task.

Annette (15.2.): Iam reminding that Hegel also refused "thing in itself". These things would be without any interactions. Such things don´t exist (and merely therefore we can´t grasp them).
Would it be better to differ: "nature for us" and "nature without us" (and "nature through us")? Than I think that nature without us is dialectically and nature for us in the same way and more (plus subject-object-dialectics).

Dialectics in Nature?

from an eMail-discussion:

From: Annette Schlemm Attention:
Please replace AT by @!!!.

Hello again,

This is a happy coincidence. For some time I have been considering the question whether dialectics are applicable to nature; just as you are discussing this topic. I have a few problems reading quickly enough, so I can't deal with all the interesting mail. But I´am able to contribute some relevant thoughts.

Some years ago (in 1982) I read a debate in the German "Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie" about this topic. There wrote two couples. One couple maintened that dialectics DOES NOT exist in nature (Renate Wahsner and Horst-Heino von Borzeszksowki) and the other (Nina Hager and Fritz Gehlhar) argued that dialectics DOES exist in nature. Of course the second opinion was supported by leaders of "marxist-leninist" philosophy in GDR. I couldn't understand the controversy, because the opponents seemed to miss one another´s point. Of course I was convinced of the existence of a dialectic of nature; I had read Engels, when I was 15. Some years later I was yurprised to find a rejection of nature-dialectics by the modern German "Philosophers of Praxis". How they could be so stupid!? But later, reading Sartre did not come as a surprise, and now I could follow his argument.

I think, we must distinguish between two questions:

  1. Is there dialectics in nature? and if so -
  2. Can science reflect this or do we need philosophy for that?

R.Wahsner argued, that in science requires only "understanding" - whereas with philosophy: "reason" is added. In a further article she wrote ("Marxistische Blätter" 1995), that this opinion is not the same as a "metaphysical (view of) nature".

Hegel and Sartre denied nature-dialectics concept in order to emphasize the human dialectics. If there were dialectics in nature, the people would be "only like" (reduced to) nature. And Hegel, Sarte and Philosophers of Praxis emphasized the human potential to create new dialectic interactions. (Wahsner didn't discusse this aspect, she and her partner only discussed the epistemology involved. )

In appreciating this point of view I can see an identity and a distinction. Yes, I support the idea of a particular role for people, but I can separate these aspects WITHIN the dialectics. Lau Kam To wrote:"dialectics is either comprehensive or you have internal contradiction within the dialectis itself." Why not the second? It would be odd if "dialectics" were not dialectical!

Sartre missed "totality" and "negation" in nature. (In society it exists in visions of the future). I think, we can interprete it in nature also. I´am avoiding "all-embracing wholeness" (which spiritualists often use over-emphasized). But I think that each concrete, evolving unit is such a totality, yet in evolution it negates itself and so on...

(I have a problem: I really I can´t say anything about nature "in-itself". I can say something about dialectictal interactions in nature for all nature "for us". But "for us" meand the evolutionary process right up to our existence!).

Schelling´s assertion of dialectics in nature is of no help to us. He derived this assertion from his starting point for all philosophy: There must be freedom for people. Thus far this is not a proven assertion. This means that all is based on an assumtion pf a basic freedom of people. Therefore Schelling assumed dialectics to be part of nature also -while others deny dialectics in nature on the same grounds...

My opinion is: Yes, there are dialectic interactions in nature, because there is evolution. (Strictly, we should noc call this:"dialectics in nature". "dialectics" means "method", "theory" (like "physics"). )

To show this, we have to find the dialectictal contradictions. And we have some problems in cosmological evolution!! In literature (GDR) I found :

  1. dialectictal contradiction of "continuity and discontinuity" or "wave and particle" for elementary particles. But: does that mean evolution??? I think: no. These are dialectictal contradictions of cognition, not of the nature herself.
  2. contradiction between "attraction and repulsion". But: in this contradiction not "on moment includes its other moment". It is only a "opposition" ("antithesis"), not a dialectictal contradiction (in Marxism-Leninism we didn't make distinctions like that, but her it is useful). Attraction and repulsion is an application of the 3rd Axiom of Newton: Force = Counter-Force. It restricts the possibilities of forces according to the 2nd Axiom of Forces - it isn't a source of motion or evolution.

Cosmological evolution is grounded in the expansion-impulse. Expansion is the last ground of cosmic structur-building. Gravitation and atomic forces interact - but just 10-43 sec. after the "Big Bang" they no longer "include each other" (how dialectictal contradictions need). In this sense we have to accept, that we don't know the dialectics interaction-force/contradiction - it existed only before/during and shortly after the Big Bang. It doesn't destroy our materialistic point of view. I won´t miss having to research these contradictions as a heuristical solution.

This search shows, that I also assume the possibility for science to reflect dialectical contradictios. If science strives for cognition of "essence", it has to reflect contradictions. In my opinion essence includes contradictions.

If science is able to do that, I cannot say. Perhaps another kind of science or another concept of science is needed (Marx speculated about unity of science and philosophy in another society!).

Now to some points of your discussion:

Alex asks, if Marxists need a dialectics of nature to justify the validity of historical materialism? I think: no. It was a false assumptiom by Stalin, that historical materialism is the "extension" of dialectics in nature - into society. I need the aid of dialectics of nature against the spiritualist deniers of evolution in nature! They assumed "eternally harmonious cycles" in nature and derive from that, that we have to subordinate our activities in the world to these "natural" cycles . I´am holding out for a co-evolutionary concept.

Some days later I answer to some mails:

Thank you for your statements.

  • Yes, "we are not deux ex machina in the universe, but a specific subset of nature with some interesting specificities" (Julio 7.2.).

This is an interesting phrasing, which shows the problem exactly. Therefore dialectics is dialectical itself.

"Human dialectics (is) opposed to natural dialectics" (Julio) because of its new possibility to create (working/ conscious). It negates forms of "old" negativity and creates quite new. The forms of negation differ: in non-human nature, there the borders are exceeded by "consumption of conditions". (This is a principle of self-organization and evolution: each process reaches its borders/limits only by "consumption of conditions" (limit-benefit).) Humans must not wait for any "consumption of conditions". They can conscious decide to do somewhat to reach and exceed borders and limits of their life. (Of course they need some conditions - but they can create conditions itself corresponding their plans. This is a negation with a new quality by comparition with natural negations. )

Answer from Julio (13.2.):

>Julio : I see a non-sequitur here. Annette's reasoning shows (and I agree with >that) that the specificity of human existence within nature is qualitative in >character. However, I see no reason why two qualitively distinct phenomena, >one built on top of the other (one resulting from the evolution of other,
>etc.), imply the non-existence of basic structures underlying them both, >structures such as those reflected in the categories and laws of (subjective) >dialectics (as, say, in Hegel's Logic). >

Annette (15.2.):
Please excuse me, I can´t write English very well. Therefore my argumentation isn´t subtly enough...
I don´t see "two qualitatively distinct phenomena" - but a difference.
Sometimes this difference is a contrast. If there were only dialectics in nature and we reflect it - and have to follow only this dialectics - this would be not acceptable (and Sartre refused such a thought). Fichte described the difference of two possible points of view in his writing: "Die Bestimmung des Menschen" ("Destination (?) of people"). Therefore I emphasize the difference too: against constraints, to follow only "natural" dialectics without new human possibilities to act and create. Dogmatical Marxism didn´t differ. They saw social laws like natural laws. We had "to follow" them (the leaders of party, who knew all laws better...). Sartre and others refused these consequences - and I think like Julio, it is not necessary to refuse dialectics in nature to do that. We must only emphasize the real difference. It is interesting to hear, how other people define this difference... (Sarte: existence before essence... ).

  • "Did Hegel refuse dialectics in nature? I'm not sure this is accurate. IMO, the entire Hegelian universe is "dialectic." (Julio 7.2.).

and "Hegel regarded the universe as organic." (Alex 10.2.).
In my knowledge Hegel refused dialectics for nature. In the "Shorter Logic" §24 (1817) he wrote: "Insofar human is a natural being ..., it is a relation, which should not be... The spirit/mind shall be free and... through it-self...". You can interpret this: only "through itself" is a dialectical relation, I think.

In his "Lectures on history of philosophy" (ed. 1833 by Michelet) he said: "There are existences <plural A.S.>, which on-sided belong to necessary, these are natural things." (introduction, A3.). And in his first "organical" writing he also distinguished between "organic things" and "inorganic things" - the later are not dialectically! (chapter V A.a.).
"The natural things can't make their mark to the free being-for-itself... their being-there is limited as Being-for-other." (Shorter Logic, § 76). (I hope, you find the quotations, I can't better translate...).

Julio 13.2.:

>Annette quotes Hegel to support the claim that he rejected the idea of >dialectics in nature. I'd like to check the context of the reference first.
>As I understand it, the movement of the Idea from absolute indetermination in >the Being to the absolute determination in the Notion, through the Essence >represents the movement of the whole damn thing we call the world, reality, >universe, everything, etc. with the traits that Alex mentioned in his >contribution (organic, teleological). I must admit that Annette's quotations >confuse me.

Annette 15.2.:

It seems to me, that in our western philosophy, academic and alternativ... most of people interprete Hegel as a refuser of dialectics in nature. In German papers I never read about other opinions. All the people, who refuse dialectics in nature, quote Hegel in order to support their opinion. It is very interesting for me, to become aquained with your point of view. I am inclined to think that Hegel really refused dialectics in nature. According to Hegel - only people can create dialectics in reflecting nature (subject-object-dialectics). People think In German discussions, it would be better to proceeding on the assumption that Schelling were a better proceeding point for the left as Hegel. But I also showed the limits of Schellings dialectics.

The contradiction of "continuity and discontinuity", which creates motion and its reality: matter, is not convincing for me. I can't see any correspondence with cosmical evolution. This is only a subjective-objective dialectics - and not a "objective contradiction of nature in-itself". To grasp motion and matter - it is a brilliant dialectics - but it is not the ground of cosmical evolution!!!

Thank you, Alex, for your hint to §81. Yes, here Hegel writes, that "everywhere that surrounds us may be viewed as an instance of Dialectics..." But I think, he meanes a subjective-objective-dialectics and not the dialectics of objective "everywhere". In this § 76 (see above) he said, that dialectics sees all things "in and for itself". But in § 76 he said, that the being of natural things (inorganic, I think) is limited as Being-for-other!

Schellings philosophy is often overestimated. He refused history in nature, time-life is a "void life". The creative natura naturans only occurs in the "Absolutes" and all "real" things are things of the undialectic natura naturata. They contain "a little" natura naturans, but it is a bad construction...

Really Schelling didn't derive dialectics of nature from nature. He assumed dialectics/productivity of humans and derived from this the productivity of the whole world.

  • I don't know about Sartre. (Julio)

Annette: Sarte said: Maybe there are dialectical relations in nature, but we don't know them. You can believe or not believe, that chemical-physical laws express dialectic reason. Assertion of dialectics in inorganic nature is a out-of-scientifical assumption. (in "Critique of dialectical reason"). In "New left review" (1969) he said: "I have tried to do all my life […] to give man both his autonomy and his reality among real objects […] I was ignorant of dialectical materialism, although I should add that this later allowed me to assign certain limits to it - to validate the historical dialectic while rejecting a dialectic of nature, in the sense of a natural process which produces and resolves man into an ensemble of physical laws" (Sartre 1969: 46).

  • "Why does "dialectics" mean exclusively method (and/or theory) and not the objective forms of movement and interconnection, etc.? At least in Hegel, IMO, such restriction in the use of the term doesn't seem to be warranted." (Julio 7.2.)

Annette: Hegel really didn't distinguish that. But exactly this is a problem of Hegel. The logic of dialectics isn't identically with the historical evolution. Hegel´s dialectics goes from the abstract to the concrete - in (objective) reality concrete forms of matter become other concrete forms of matter.

And it seems important to me to distinguish subjective and objective dialectics like physical reality and "physics". In German we often distinguish between "biotical" organisms and bioLOGical science.

  • IMO, this is a case of the old Kantian dilemma: Are we truly able to know the thing (eg, nature) in itself? Hegel responded to this in a way that I find convincing. More generally, is there really nature out there? How can we be certain? (Julio)

Annette: What is "nature"? We only know "nature for us", because "nature in-itself" don't exist! "In-itself" would be nature without interactions. In cosmological theory there are some other "universes" without interactions to our home-universe. But exactly these universes are not "in-itself", but only subjectively existing things - until we will interact with them - and than they are "other universes for us".

We can be certain, that there is really nature out there, because we are ourselves nature and interact within the nature!

Some months later another discussion began:

Cyril S., 4 Jul 98 :
I think, we have to distinguish two questions: Two questions: (a) Why is this method good for talking about Nature? (b) If it is, why does Hegel not 'use' it when he talks about Nature? As you all know, Hegel is quite sure that there is no development in Nature, and so no dialectics. These only operate in the realm of Spirit, consciousness, etc. Dialectics is the movement from 'in-itself' to 'for-itself'. So rocks, trees and elephants can't have it, because Nature for Hegel is only 'in-itself'. It has no history, only cyclic changes. Its shapes are a series of separate stages, and not a connected sequence in time.

Julio H., 5 Jul 1998:
Human consciousness is partially a product of natural evolution. Our DNA has a lot in common with those of elephants (and even trees). At least in that restricted sense, to the extent that natural change leads to human consciousness and history, the overall movement from "in-itself" to "for- itself" (dialectics) encompasses natural evolution.

Sartre, Jean-Paul (1969): Interview: Itinerary of a Thought. New Left Review 58 (1969). pp. 43-66.

Please refer as well to (in English):

(refer to "philosophers of praxis" see also: Markovic, M., From Affluence to Praxis, Boston: Beacon Press 1974)

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