The task, bequeathed to us by Lenin, of creating a Logic (with a capital ‘L’), i.e. of a systematically developed exposition of dialectics understood as the logic and theory of knowledge of modern materialism, has become particularly acute today. The clearly marked dialectical character of the problems arising in every sphere of social life and scientific knowledge is making it more and more clear that only Marxist-Leninist dialectics has the capacity to be the method of scientific understanding and practical activity, and of actively helping scientists in their theoretical comprehension of experimental and factual data and in solving the problems they meet in the course of research.
In the past ten or fifteen years, quite a few works have been written devoted to separate branches that are part of the whole of which we still only dream; they can justly be regarded as paragraphs, even chapters, of the future Logic, as more or less finished blocks of the building being erected. One cannot, of course, cement these ‘blocks’ mechanically into a whole; but since the task of a systematic exposition of dialectical logic can only be solved by collective efforts, we must at least determine the most general principles of joint work. In the essays presented here we attempt to concretise some of the points of departure of such collective work.
In philosophy, more than in any other science, as Hegel remarked with some regret in his Phenomenology of Mind, ‘the end or final result seems ... to have absolutely expressed the complete fact itself in its very nature; contrasted with that the mere process of bringing it to light would seem, properly speaking, to have no essential significance’.
That is very aptly put. So long as dialectics (dialectical logic) is looked upon as a simple tool for proving a previously accepted thesis (irrespective of whether it was initially advanced as the rules of mediaeval disputes required, or only disclosed at the end of the argument, in order to create the illusion of not being preconceived, that is, of saying: “Look, here is what we have obtained although we did not assume it”), it will remain something of ‘no essential significance’. When dialectics is converted into a simple tool for proving a previously accepted (or given) thesis, it becomes a sophistry only outwardly resembling dialectics, but empty of content. And if it is true that real dialectical logic takes on life not in ‘naked results’, and not in the ‘tendency’ of the movement of thought, but only in the form of ‘the result along with the process of arriving at it’, then during the exposition of dialectics as Logic, we must reckon with this truth. For it is impossible to go to the other extreme, taking the view that we had allegedly not set ourselves any aim determining the means and character of our activity from the very outset in the course of our analysis of the problem, but had set out swimming at random. And we are therefore obliged, in any case, to say clearly, at the very beginning, what the ‘object’ is in which we want to discover the intrinsically necessary division into parts.
Our ‘object’ or ‘subject matter’ in general, and on the whole, is thought, thinking; and dialectical Logic has as its aim the development of a scientific representation of thought in those necessary moments, and moreover in the necessary sequence, that do not in the least depend either on our will or on our consciousness. In other words Logic must show how thought develops if it is scientific, if it reflects, i.e. reproduces in concepts, an object existing outside our consciousness and will and independently of them, in other words, creates a mental reproduction of it, reconstructs its self-development, recreates it in the logic of the movement of concepts so as to recreate it later in fact (in experiment or in practice). Logic then is the theoretical representation of such thinking.
From what we have said it will be clear that we understand thought (thinking) as the ideal component of the real activity of social people transforming both external nature and themselves by their labour.
Dialectical logic is therefore not only a universal scheme of subjective activity creatively transforming nature, but is also at the same time a universal scheme of the changing of any natural or socio-historical material in which this activity is fulfilled and with the objective requirements of which it is always connected. That, in our opinion, is what the real gist of Lenin’s thesis on the identity (not ‘unity’ only, but precisely identity, full coincidence) of dialectics, logic and the theory of knowledge of the modern, scientific. i.e. materialist, world outlook consists in. This approach preserves as one of the definitions of dialectics that given by Frederick Engels (‘dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of the motion and development of nature, human society, and thought’, i.e. of natural and socio-historical development, and not ‘specifically subjective’ laws and forms of thought).
We think that one can unite dialectics and materialism in precisely that way, and show that Logic, being dialectical, is not only the science of ‘thinking’ but also the science of development of all things, both material and ‘spiritual’. Understood in that way Logic can also be the genuine science of the reflection of the movement of the world in the movement of concepts. Otherwise it is inevitably transformed, as has happened to it in the hands of Neopositivists, into a purely technical discipline, a description of systems of manipulations with the terms of language.
The concretisation of the general definition of Logic presented above must obviously consist in disclosing the concepts composing it, above all the concept of thought (thinking). Here again a purely dialectical difficulty arises, namely, that to define this concept fully, i.e. concretely, also means to ‘write’ Logic, because a full description cannot by any means be given by a ‘definition’ but only by ‘developing the essence of the matter’.
The concept ‘concept’ itself is also very closely allied with the concept of thought. To give a ‘definition’ of it here would be easy, but would it be of any use? If we, adhering to a certain tradition in Logic, tend to understand by ‘concept’ neither ‘sign’ nor ‘term defined through other terms’, and not simply a ‘reflection of the essential or intrinsic attributes of things’ (because here the meaning of the insidious words ‘essential’ and ‘intrinsic’ come to the fore), but the gist of the matter, then it would be more correct, it seems to us, to limit ourselves in relation to definition rather to what has been said, and to start to consider ‘the gist of the matter’, to begin with abstract, simple definitions accepted as far as possible by everyone. In order to arrive at the ‘concrete’, or in this case at a Marxist-Leninist understanding of the essence of Logic and its concretely developed ‘concept’.
Everything we have said determines the design and plan of our book. At first glance it may seem that it is, if not wholly, then to a considerable degree, a study in the history of philosophy. But the ‘historical’ collisions of realising the ‘matter of Logic’ is not an end-in-itself for us, but only the factual material through which the clear outlines of the ‘logic of Matter’ gradually show through [See Marx’s Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right], those very general outlines of dialectics as Logic which, critically corrected and materialistically rethought by Marx, Engels and Lenin, also characterise our understanding of this science.