File spoon-archives/marxism2.archive/marxism2_1996/96-07-31.055, message 91

Date: Sun, 28 Jul 1996 13:15:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: dialectics

On Sat, 27 Jul 1996, Justin Schwartz wrote:
> Dialectics is not one thing. Hegel's dialectics is not Aristotle's,
> Aristotle's is not Plato's, Plato's is not Marx's, etc. You cannot
> determine what these various thinkers have meant by dialectics without
> detailed study of what they said about it, a study which cannot elidethe
> differences aming them. Least of all can you derive what something that
> might be dialectics is from a half-baked etymology of the Greek, which as
> fara s I know, none of us know. Greek that is.
	Justin makes an absolutely excellent point here... I am working
very hard on elucidating some of the differences -- but more importantly,
some of the very important similarities and core notions -- between the
various conceptions of dialectic that have been manifested throughout
intellectual and philosophical history.  One thing that most impresses me
is that in nearly EVERY version of dialectic, there is an understanding of
these important essentials:
1.  an emphasis on the analytical integrity of the whole;
2.  an emphasis on the need to analyze the whole from different vantage
points and on different levels of generality;
3.  an emphasis on the internal relations between the parts of a whole, as
manifested structurally and temporally;
4.  and as a by-product of the above, an opposition to various forms of
dualism, reductionist monism, neutral monism (or strict organicity), and
atomism (each of which can be viewed as a methodological orientation
distinct from dialectics).

	I also believe that there is not a single thinker in the history
of Western OR Eastern thought (at least those with whom I am familiar) who
is fully and consistently dialectical.  Nearly every thinker manifests
different methodological orientations in different aspects of their
thought.  Hegel, for instance, can be very dialectical in his
understanding of transcending opposites, but his philosophy of history is
more a manifestation of neutral monism (or strict organicity) in which he,
Hegel, takes a SYNOPTIC vantage point on the whole.  Dialectics demands a
CONTEXTUAL vantage point, not the kind of God-like omniscience that Hegel
seems to demand.  (I would suggest that this kind of SYNOPTIC vantage
point sometimes rears its ugly head in the Marxist theory of history, but
that's another topic for another day.)  The sometimes murky mixture of
dialectics and strict organicity can also be found in Plato (something
which Aristotle went very far to correct).  Plato sometimes makes the
explicit point that dialectic gives us a synoptic vantage point on the
whole.  I'd argue that Plato simply suffers the pitfalls of strict
organicity here.
	This is all pretty abstract stuff, but it does have very serious
implications as applied.  
					- Chris
=================================================Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Ph.D
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics

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