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Username Password Forgot password? Shibboleth OpenAthens. Restore content access Restore content access for purchases made as guest. Article Purchase - Online Checkout. Issue Purchase - Online Checkout. People also read Article. Published online: 29 Jul Published online: 5 May Leigh Price et al. Journal of Critical Realism Volume 17, - Issue 2. Published online: 18 Jun Published online: 6 Jul Amber J.

Published online: 29 Feb Ernesto Laclau et al. Under certain circumstances, the universal is the individual, and the individual is the universal.

That things turn into their opposites, - cause can become effect and effect can become cause - is because they are merely links in the never-ending chain in the development of matter. Dialectical thought is "comprehending the antithesis in its unity. We must grant the old dialecticians the contradictions which they prove in motion; but what follows is not that there is no motion, but rather that motion is existent Contradiction itself.

The Greek atomists first advanced the revolutionary theory that the material world was made up of atoms, considered the smallest unit of matter. The Greek word atomos means indivisible.

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This was a brilliant intuitive guess. Twentieth century science proved that everything was composed of atoms, although it was subsequently discovered that even smaller particles existed. Every atom contains a nucleus at its centre, composed of sub-atomic particles called protons and neutrons.

Orbiting around the nucleus are particles known as electrons. All protons carry a positive electrical charge, and would therefore repel each other, but they are bound together by a type of energy known as the strong nuclear force. This shows that everything that exists is based on a unity of opposites and has self-movement of "impulse and activity", to use Hegel's words. In humans, the level of blood sugar is essential for life.

Too high a level is likely to result in diabetic coma, too little and the person is incapable of eating. This safe level is regulated by the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream by the digestion of carbohydrates, the rate at which stored glycogen, fat or protein is converted into sugar, and the rate at which sugar is removed and utilised. If the blood sugar level rises, then the rate of utilisation is increased by the release of more insulin from the pancreas.

If it falls, more sugar is released into the blood, or the person gets hungry and consumes a source of sugar. In this self-regulation of opposing forces, of positive and negative feedbacks, the blood level is kept within tolerable limits. Lenin explains this self-movement in a note when he says, "Dialectics is the teaching which shows how opposites can be and how they become identical - under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another - why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another.

Lenin also laid great stress on the importance of contradiction as the motive force of development. This is best illustrated by the class struggle.

Capitalism requires a capitalist class and a working class. The struggle over the surplus value created by the workers and expropriated by the capitalists leads to an irreconcilable struggle that will provide the basis for the eventual overthrow of capitalism, and the resolution of the contradiction through the abolition of classes. The general pattern of historical development is not one of a straight line upward, but of a complex interaction in which each step forward is only achieved at the cost of a partial step backwards.

These regressions, in turn, are remedied at the next stage of development. The law of the negation of the negation explains the repetition at a higher level of certain features and properties of the lower level and the apparent return of past features. There is a constant struggle between form and content and between content and form, resulting in the eventual shattering of the old form and the transformation of the content. This whole process can be best pictured as a spiral, where the movement comes back to the position it started, but at a higher level.

Concerning the Theory of Productive Forces

In other words, historical progress is achieved through a series of contradictions. Where the previous stage is negated, this does not represent its total elimination. It does not wipe out completely the stage that it supplants. But capitalist production begets with the inevitableness of a natural process its own negation.

It is the negation of the negation," remarked Marx in volume one of Capital. Engels explains a whole series of examples to illustrate the negation of the negation in his book Anti-Duhring. Millions of such grains of barley are milled, boiled and brewed and then consumed. But if such a grain of barley meets with conditions which for it are normal, if it falls on suitable soil, then under the influence of heat and moisture a specific change takes place, it germinates; the grain as such ceases to exist, it is negated, and in its place appears the plant which has arisen from it, the negation of the grain.

But what is the normal life-process of this plant? It grows, flowers, is fertilised and finally once more produces grains of barley, and, as soon as these have ripened, the stalk dies, is in its turn negated.

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As a result of this negation of the negation we have once again the original grain of barley, but not as a single unit, but ten, twenty or thirty fold. The barley lives and evolves by means of returning to its starting point - but at a higher level. One seed has produced many. Also over time, plants have evolved qualitatively as well as quantitatively.

Successive generations have shown variations, and become more adapted to their environment. Engels gives a further example from the insect world. Hegel, who had a giant intellect, illuminated a great many things. It was a debt that Marx repeatedly recognised. Nevertheless, Hegel's philosophical system was a huge miscarriage. It suffered from an incurable internal contradiction. Hegel's conception of history is an evolutionary one, where there is nothing final or eternal.

However, his system laid claim to being the absolute truth, in complete contradiction to the laws of dialectical thought. While Hegel defended the status quo in Germany, the dialectic embraced a revolutionary view of constant change. For Hegel, all that was real was rational. But using the Hegelian dialectic, all that is real will become irrational. All that exists deserves to perish. In this lay the revolutionary significance of the Hegelian philosophy. The solution of this contradiction led back to materialism, but not the old mechanical materialism, but one based upon the new sciences and advances.

The most important of these acquisitions was the dialectical method, the examination of phenomena in their development, in their origin and destruction. The genius who represented this new direction of thought was Karl Marx," writes Plekhanov. Spurred on by revolutionary developments in Europe in , the Hegelian School split into left, right and centre. The most prominent representative of the Hegelian Left was Ludwig Feuerbach who challenged the old orthodoxy, especially religion, and placed materialism at the centre of things again.

Everything in it is in mutual interaction, everything at once effect and cause, everything in it is all-sided and reciprocal…" writes Feuerbach, adding that there is no place there for God. For them, the new philosophy was not an abstract philosophy, but directly linked to practice. Neither Marx nor Engels left behind them a comprehensive book on dialectics as such.

Marx was preoccupied with Capital.

Class consciousness and false consciousness - Social Inequality - MCAT - Khan Academy

Engels intended to write such a book, but was overtaken by the need to complete Capital after Marx's death. Lenin commentated, "If Marx did not leave behind him a 'Logic' with a capital letter , he did leave the logic of Capital, and this ought to be utilised to the full. In Capital, Marx applied to a single science logic, dialectics and the theory of knowledge of materialism three words are not needed: it is one and the same thing which has taken everything valuable in Hegel and developed it further. Today, a small number of scientists, mainly from the natural sciences, have become conscious of the dialectic, which has opened their eyes to problems in their specialised fields.

This relationship between science and dialectical materialism has been fully discussed in the book by Alan Woods and Ted Grant Reason in Revolt.

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They showed, along with Engels, that nature is completely dialectical. Apart from Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge, Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, who regard themselves as dialectical materialists, have also written about the application of the dialectic to the field of biology in their book The Dialectical Biologist:. Constants become variables, causes become effects, and systems develop, destroying the conditions that gave rise to them.

Even elements that appear to be stable are in a dynamic equilibrium of forces that can suddenly become unbalanced, as when a dull grey lump of metal of a critical size becomes a fireball brighter than a thousand suns. Yet the motion is not unconstrained and uniform. Organisms develop and differentiate, then die and disintegrate.

Species arise but inevitably become extinct. Even in the simple physical world we know of no uniform motion. Even the earth rotating on its axis has slowed down in geological time. The development of systems through time, then, seems to be the consequence of opposing forces and opposing motions. For some, contradiction is an epistemic principle only.

It describes how we come to understand the world by a history of antithetical theories that, in contradiction to each other and in contradiction to observed phenomena, lead to a new view of nature. Kuhn's theory of scientific revolution has some of this flavour of continual contradiction and resolution, giving way to new contradiction.