A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Dialectic Materialism

The writing of the famous psuedo-philosopher Hegel is remarkably difficult to understand. This is partly because the translation from German is difficult to render without losing shades of meaning. It is partly because what he said was itself not that clear, being the kind of system one typically expects to hear from stoned students. And it is partly because he was deliberately unclear, so as to conceal his atheism and thus be able to get a job at a university.

One way in which he went about achieving this stunning lack of clarity was through the use of what are known as Dialectical Triads. This was a rhetorical device which might be used in one of two ways.

The first way was for him to present an idea (e.g. master), then to present its opposite (e.g. slave) and then to present the two as the same idea (e.g. master = slave).

The second way was for him to present a pair of ideas (e.g. poverty and unconciousness), then to present a second pair consisting of the opposites to the first pair (e.g. riches and unconciousness); finally, he would choose one idea he liked from each pair and present them together (e.g. riches and conciousness).

Hegel had some wacky ideas, most obviously his disputing the Law of the Excluded Middle. (The law of the excluded middle roughly states that for two propositions P and not-P, exactly one of them is true). However, so far as I am aware he never saw the Dialectical Triads as anything more than rhetorical devices. Certainly, he didn't see them as powerful metaphysical forces which determined the course of history. It took Karl Marx for that particular idiocy to arise.

Marx believed that the driving force of history was a triad of:
Common Ownership & Poverty
Private Ownership & Wealth
leading to
Common Ownershio & Wealth

Based on this, he argued that prehistoric humans had lived under primitive communism in order to survive; there were then the stages of tyranny, feudalism and capitalism; and finally, the great capitalist economies would see workers' revolutions, leading to true communism - the third stage of the triad.

This was Dialectic Materialism; it was also, of course, compkete and utter tosh.

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