From Andy, 27th April 1998:What is the Essential Problem?

David, you are quite right about "dialectics of nature" NOT being the question at issue between Lukacs and Engels in 1923 & 1967 at all, but something like: 'Where the hell is Subject and Object dialectic in this' as you say, or to me: something like "does Engels criticise Kant in the spirit of Hegel", with his madder roots and alizarin".

Lest it be thought that I can find NO fault in Engels, my readings over the past few months have led me to find two things that I find unfortunate with Engels: (1) The famous "two great camps" is less than useful for understanding the history of philosophy other than for a decade or three around the 1840/50s, and (2) the famous "three laws of dialectics" for my money does considerable injustice to Hegel's Logic and would seem to lend weight to the conception [common with the Third International] of a kind of deterministic, mechanical "inner force".

I need to train myself to be somewhat more rigorous, so I will restrain myself from further comment until I have done the necessary research, as per my earlier Email.

I would however like to re-state one thing in the "dialectics of nature" discussion. I don't think it helps to confine the question to dialectical logic [even though Sartre for some reason wants to allow dialectics to History but deny it to Nature, while allowing Nature other forms just so long as they can be shown to be "necessary"].

Piaget has done very detailed empirical work on how intuitions of sets and groups are acquired by a child. Such intuitions are a necessary though not sufficient basis for the formation of the human concepts of formal logic. Nevertheless, a discussion of whether there is a "formal logic of nature", taking Piaget's work as read, would clear a number of extraneous questions away from the question of "dialectics of nature". Or as in my earlier Email: Euclid's triangle rather than Hegel's triad.

David, you are also quite right in drawing attention to the fact that for Hegel there could only be a "dialectic of nature" insofar as it is manifested in human culture. No real development in nature was known to natural science until after Hegel's death and there is no reason to believe that Hegel predicted Lyell and Darwin's discoveries.

That does not of course bar Marx and Engels having a different conception on this issue of course. Far from it, just as Kant could hold that formal logic and mathematics are a priori synthetic judgments and 'an priori, and not an empirical, intuition underlies all concepts of space' but we would have to disagree.

I feel I need an epistemology and a Logic on the basis of which Piaget and Vygostsky's psychology and Marx's concepts of alienation and fetishism are comprehensible. I have to agree with you David, that "The question of dialectic in (non-human) nature is one thing; another is the question of 'Nature' IN Hegel's dialectic". It is one thing to "read Hegel materialistically", quite another to distort Hegel as if he were some kind of positivist.