Dialectical Materialism (A. Spirkin)
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The Principle of Universal Connection and Development

The concept of universal connection. Nothing in the world stands by itself. Every object is a link in an endless chain and is thus connected with all the other links. And this chain of the universe has never been broken; it unites all objects and processes in a single whole and thus has a universal character. We cannot move so much as our little finger without "disturbing" the whole universe. The life of the universe, its history lies in an infinite web of connections.

Whereas the interconnection of things is absolute, their independence is relative. In the sphere of non-organic nature there exist mechanical, physical and chemical connections, which presuppose interaction either through various fields or by means of direct contact. In a crystal, which is an ensemble of atoms, no individual atom can move in complete independence of the others. Its slightest shift has an effect on every other atom. The oscillations of particles in a solid body are, and can only be, collective. In living nature there exist more complex connections — the biological, which are expressed in various relations between and within species and also in their relations with the environment.

In the life of society connections become more complex and we have production, class, family, personal, national, state, international and other relationships.

Connections exist not only between objects within the framework of a given form of motion of matter, but also between all its forms, woven together in a kind of infinitely huge skein. Our consciousness can contain no idea that does not express either imagined or real connections, and in its turn this idea must of necessity be a link in a chain of other ideas and conceptions.

What is a connection? it is a dependence of one phenome non on another in a certain relationship. The basic forms of connection may be classified as spatial, temporal, causal and consequential, necessary and accidental, law-governed, im mediate and mediate, internal and external, dynamic and static, direct and feedback, and so on. Connection does not exist by itself, without that which is connected. Moreover, any connection has its basis, which makes such connection possible. For example, the gravitational properties of material systems condition the force connection of cosmic objects; atomic nuclear charge is a connection in the periodic system of the elements; material production and the community of interests serve as the basis for the connections between human beings in society. The materiality of the world conditions the connection of everything with everything else, expressed in the philosophical principle of universal connection. In order to realise this or that connection there must be certain conditions. They differ for various systems.

Investigation of the various forms of connections is the primary task of cognition. Connection is the first thing that strikes us when we consider anything. We, of course, do not always think about such things. And this is natural enough, for one cannot think only in terms of universal connections when deciding simple everyday or even specific scientific problems. However, on the philosophical level, when one tries to consider universal problems, one cannot adopt the position of never looking further than one's nose. This brings us to the methodological conclusion that in order to know an object in reality, one must embrace, study all its aspects, all the immediate and mediate connections. This is what drives scientific thought in its search for systematic connections everywhere, both in particulars and in the whole. If we deny the principle of universal connection, and particularly the essential connections, this has a disastrous effect not only on our theory but also on our practice. For example, forest-cutting reduces the bird population and this, in its turn, increases the number of agricultural pests. Destruction of forests sands up rivers, erodes the soil and thus leads to a reduction in harvests. There are no birds or animals in nature that are absolutely harmful. The wolf, for example, because it eats other animals, including the weak and the sick, acts as a regulator of their numbers. Paradoxically, the mass extermination of wolves, far from protecting other species, actually reduces their numbers, due to the spread of disease.

So everything in the world is connected with something else. And this universal interconnection, and also the connection of the elements within the whole at any level, form an essential condition for the dynamic balance of systems.

Interaction. The human individual, for example, is not a lone traveller amid the jungles of existence. He is a part of the world interacting in various ways with that world. Separate cultures are not closed, isolated islands. They are like great waves in the ocean of history, which work upon each other, often merging into even broader waves, often clashing with waves of a different dimension, so that the regular rhythm of the rise and fall of individual waves is broken. Like any other system, an organism or a society lives and functions as long as there is a certain interaction of the elements in these systems or of the systems themselves with other systems. Everything that happens in the world may be attributed to the interaction of things, one element of which is equilibrium.

Interaction is a process by which various objects influence each other, their mutual conditioning or transmutation and also their generation of one another. Interaction is a kind of immediate or mediate, external or internal relationship or connection. The properties of an object may manifest themselves and be cognised only through its interconnection with other objects.

The category of interaction is extremely versatile and may be used in various senses. In some cases interaction is understood as the general basis or condition for the develop ment of events; in others it has the meaning of a complex causal relationship. But interaction is most widely understood as a special form of causal connection, namely the two-way relationship.

Interaction operates as an integrating factor by which the parts in a certain type of whole are united. For example, electromagnetic interaction between a nucleus and electrons creates the structure of the atom.

The material unity of the world, the interconnection of all the structural levels of existence is achieved through the universality of interaction. The chain of interaction is never broken and has neither beginning nor end. Every phenomenon is a link in the general universal chain of interaction. In the immediate sense interaction is causal. Every cause is simultaneously both active and passive in relation to another cause. The origin and development of objects depend on interaction. Every qualitatively defined system has a special type of interaction. Every kind of interaction is connected with material fields and involves transference of matter, motion and information. Interaction is impossible without a specific material vehicle.

The modern classification of interaction distinguishes between force and informational interactions. Physics knows four basic types of force interaction, which provide the key to our understanding of the infinitely diverse processes of nature. These are the gravitational, the electromagnetic, the so-called strong (nuclear) interactions, and the weak (decay) interactions. Every type of interaction in physics has its own specific measure.

Biology studies interaction at various levels: in molecules, cells, organisms, populations, species, biological communities. The life of society is characterised by even more complex forms of interaction, for society is a process and product of interaction both between people and between man and nature.

Unless we study interaction in its general and concrete manifestations we cannot understand the properties, structures or laws of reality. Not a single phenomenon in the world can be explained out of itself, without taking into account its interactions with other objects. Interaction is not only the initial point of cognition but also its culminating point.

Development. Any type of connection or interaction must take a certain direction. Nothing in the world is final and complete. Everything is on the way to somewhere else. Development is a definitely oriented, irreversible change of the object, from the old to the new, from the simple to the complex, from a lower level to a higher one. The vector of a developing phenomenon is towards acquisition of the fullness of its essence, towards self-fulfilment in various new forms. The new is an intermediate or final result of development in relation to the old. Changes may involve the composition of the object (its quantity or quality), the type of connection of the elements of the specific whole, its function, or its "behaviour", that is to say, the means by which it interacts with other objects and, finally, all these characteristics taken as a whole.

Development is irreversible. Nothing passes through one and the same state more than once. Development is a dual process: the old is destroyed and replaced by something new, which establishes itself in life not simply by freely evolving its own potential but in conflict with the old.

The crucial feature of development is time. Development takes place in time and only time reveals its direction. Even the history of the concept of development goes back to the formation of the theoretical notions of the direction of time. The ancient cultures had no knowledge of development in the true sense. They saw time as moving in cycles and all events were thought to be predestined. The old way of thinking was that the sun must rise and set and hasten to its destined resting place, the wind would blow where it listeth and return in its courses, what was bound to happen would happen, and what was done would always be done, and there was nothing new under the sun.

The idea of a universe, perfect and complete, on which the whole ancient view of the world rested, precluded any question of oriented change that might give rise to new systems and connections. Any such change was understood as the evolution of certain possibilities that had been inherent in things from the beginning and had simply been hidden from view. With the rise of Christianity, the notions of time and its linear direction begin to be applied to the intellectual sphere, and, as experimental science takes shape, these notions gradually begin to blaze a trail in the study of nature, giving birth to the ideas of natural history, of oriented and irreversible changes in nature and society. The turning-point here was the creation of cosmology and the theory of evolution in biology and geology. The idea of development then became firmly established in natural science and has since become an object of philosophical investigation.

This orientation of the sciences on the idea of development substantially enriched it with a world-view and methodological principles and played an essential heuristic role. For instance, biology and the history of culture showed that the process of development was neither universal nor homogeneous. If we consider development on a major scale, such as organic evolution, it is quite obvious that certain interactions of processes taking different directions are at work within it. The general line of progressive development is interwoven with changes that give rise to blind alleys of evolution or even paths of regress. Alongside processes of ascending develop ment we find degradation and decay of systems, descents from the higher to the lower, from the more perfect to the less perfect, and a lowering in the level of organisation of systems. An example of degradation is to be found in biological species that die out because of their failure to adapt to new conditions.

Degradation of a system as a whole does not mean that all its elements are beginning to disintegrate. Regress is a contradictory process: the whole falls apart but certain elements in it may progress. What is more, a system as a whole may progress while certain of its elements fall into decay. Thus, the progressive development of biological forms as a whole goes hand in hand with the degradation of certain species.

Cyclical processes such as the transmutation of elementary particles play a significant role in the universe. The branch of progressive development known to science consists of the pre-stellar, the stellar, the planetary, the biological, the social and hypothetical metasocial stages of the structural organisation of matter. On the cosmic scale the processes of progressive and regressive development would appear to be of equal significance.

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