From: "Stephen Taylor"
Subject: Nature & the DIALECTIC
Date: Fri, 1 May 1998
Flora Tristan (continued):
"I can see how the dialectic can be used as a logic tool to help understand nature, history and social relations..."
I'm happy with that. The absolute philosophy represents a momentous breakthrough after 2000+ years of Aristotelian logic. But Flora adds:
"but it dies with the human race to my way of thinking."
Panic. The water is over my head. Now how does one swim? Will it help to bundle math with the dialectic? I think it will. We have these two languages. One (math), is symbolic. The other, whose highest scientific expression is the dialectic, is verbal. Now, the skeletal frame-work of ordinary language is not mathematics but the 'dialectic'. However, math and the dialectic, properly taken, map to each other in such a way that, if it is difficult to see how the one 'sits', a glance at the other will give the answer. The real meaning of, 'in such a way', is that, in the unity of our consciousness only their synthesis forges the way through.
Admittedly this is a surprising claim. It all hinges on the two words, 'properly taken'. What I am saying is that Hegel never broke through into math, while math as currently taught is a scam and broken reed. The dialectic and math, each is pregnant with great erudition. Neither is, at the moment, 'properly taken'. Need I mention that the math/dialectic interface, central in the brain/mind relation, is equally that reflected in the mind/matter and spirit/world controversy?
The unity of math and dialectic is central to our human nature---namely our ability to comprehend our conscious self in terms of the world in which we live, and the world in terms of our self. As intrinsic to our means of knowing we cannot get away from it. The whole is a system in contradiction. Each side in each respect is criterion for another against it. We see the world through human-tinted spectacles, and objectify our self in the process. Each viewpoint is 'on its head' in relation to its other, and the ever-flowing cross current in the system of contradiction is in one viewpoint math, in another the 'dialectic'.
To return to Flora's idiom, what 'dies with the human race' must also be born with it, and as such be that which makes the human human. So what, added to the animal form, makes it human? What, taken from the human form throws it back onto its animal foundation? Flora answers, 'the dialectic'. The ancients asked this question, and answered god, an ancestor or antecedent power who shaped and breathed the spirit of life into the dust of the ground.
Hegel's system is an evolution, even in its circular completion. As an evolution of spirit it prepared the way, making it possible in the generation that followed for Darwin's theory of natural selection to battle its way into broad public acceptance. Hegel never called it an evolution, but his work tilled the ground upon which the crop grew. He never saw the spirit taking form as flesh, except metaphorically, and opted for the perpetual circle of existence taught in his days.
His 'science in the form of system' points to human being, and beyond being mind, as an infinite repository of evolutionary consequence, and the guide in all such accretion is spirit. Without friction no creature would move; without gravity no object would exist or fall, and without spirit no species would arise or evolution occur.
Flora: "Now Hegel might say that the dialectic exists outside human consciousness because Hegel believed in God." Adding, "I do think that God as an entity exists for Hegel. There is the Absolute Ideal, which we mortals coil towards." And, "I think that we're on the same wavelength, when you identify the dialectic with consciousness. It does not exist outside our brains, right?"
This is true, but as a viewpoint it does not exclude its contradictory, the idea that our being, brain and thought are product of a system containing the potential for our production in the first place. And reversing this idea, is not the world in sense the reality of our mind?
In my opinion the dialectic is all about explaining unity in and through contradiction. If we think not of the dialectic but of math, that is, if we substitute, using math as a reference, well, math certainly exists in the mind. It does not exist "outside our brains." But, as Kepler so fervently believed, there is music in the spheres. The world and the entire universe marches to the beat of the mathematical drum. In our mind we grasp the math, and find that, in doing so, we grasp the world.
Now turn the picture upside down. The protons and electrons that comprise the matter of our brain fit, in their antics, into our mathematical formulae, but only behind a veil of probability. Otherwise, in a puckish short of way they call the tune, make the rules. The math which frames the heavens now seems to boil up from a primitive bed. God is required to throw a die to determine where a particle will appear and disappear (the Einstein Bohr controversy).
Right way up the world is an orchestra obeying a conductor. On its head it plays the master, so (switching back to the dialectic), you can have it either way. It's like an egg-timer which runs whichever way you turn it. The dialectic 'does not exist outside our brains,' unless we change our viewpoint, in which case it does, and the whole supportive scenery is rearranged.
Your turn to comment. Can I thank you for the remark that for Hegel God is something that humans strive towards, the striving being what Hegel called Objective spirit. I read Hegel's Logic years ago in the grip of a terrible frustration, understanding the words but barely any sense. I now look forward to reading it again, this time hopefully with more interest and understanding.
Steve Taylor 98/05/01