From: JulioHuato <JulioHuato- at>

Date: Tue, 5 May 1998

Subject: Re: dialectics, shmialectics ... what does it matter?

I must admit that I enjoy reading Cyril a great deal, even if I'm not always able to understand him. In all cases, however, his insightful and provoking remarks make me think a bit harder, which is obviously a good thing.

For that reason, I'll use now his note on Andy's dialectics to express some of my views in frank opposition to his (Cyril's). I must say cautiously (but without irony) that I reserve the right to change my opinion as soon as Cyril provides a response. :-)

(1) Among other things, I think of Hegel's Logic as I think of Marx's Capital -- that is, as "recipes for good thinking." What other reason could there be for most of us trying to painfully read Hegel and/or Marx? Good cooks do not strictly follow the recipe, but -- still, I guess -- recipes help. Bad cooks (like me) benefit enormously from merely sticking to the recipe as close as they can: trying to just mimic the patterns of thought of those thinkers. (Mere imitation is a step in education, is it not?) As long as we don't try to impose bad cooking as if it were THE cooking ... But, why deriving (from Hegel, Marx, whoever) recipes for good thinking is wrong?

(2) I think of Hegel's Logic (the content of his work called Logic), not only as an ontological description (the Idea unfolding), but also as a description of how individual human minds (a manifestation of the Idea) appropriate the objects of their reflection, pretty much in Andy's sense. It doesn't matter to me a whole lot whether Hegel intends this or not, because (and Cyril emphasizes cognition as a historically dependent process) I also try to USE Hegel to fit my purposes (those conditioned by history as of today), and not only to understand Hegel in his own context and concerns. In fact the latter makes sense to me only subordinated to the former. Why not?

(3) History is not pure contingency, or is it? Hegel, for one thing, thought of history as an essential unit, connected by the fact that all history is ultimately the Idea unfolding. Even if we don't buy the idea of the Idea, I suspect there is regularity, structure, whatever ... at different levels, in history ... reaching up to the overall unity of human evolution (some sort of BEING-NOTHING-BECOMING). I suspect there's structure comprising the whole arch of human history (at a certain level). To the extent that there are constancies, shouldn't mathematical forms play a role in answering fundamental philosophical questions?

But even if "shouldn't" is the answer, the fact is mathematical forms are being used already. A great philosophical conundrum is the connection between the brain (a "material" organ) and the phenomenon of consciousness (non-"material"). Nowadays, there are some mathematicians occupied with this riddle, and some of them have proposed theories that may bypass the conflicts of the Cartesian dualistic view of this connection. And they are using mathematical forms to think through the problem. It all started (I think) as a controversy about the possibility in principle for an artificial machine (the hypothetical Turing Machine) to replicate all the functions of the human mind. One of the sides (Roger Penrose, etc. vs. Marvin Minsky, Daniel Dennet, etc) alludes (as far as I understand) Godel's Theorem (a mathematical form) to support the claim that such replicability is impossible in principle. It seems to me that mathematical forms are proving to be useful in Philosophy. Why am I wrong?