Absolute Idea

Abstract and Concrete

Analogy

Analysis and Synthesis

Anthropologism

Appearance

Behaviourism

Cause & Effect

Classification

Cognition

Deduction

Definition

 Determinate & Indeterminate

Determinism

Dialectical Materialism

Dialectics

Essence

Essentialism

Formalism

Formal Logic

Function

Functionalism

Historical Materialism

Idealism

Induction

 

Intuition

Intuitionism

Logic

Logicism

Phenomenology and Phenomenon

Understanding

Unity of Opposites

Universal

Universalism

Value

Speculative Logic

Structuralism

Structure

Surplus Value

Absolute Idea

The “Absolute Idea” is both the apex and foundation of the philosophical system of Hegel. It includes all the stages of the Logic leading up to it; it is the process of development with all its stages and transitions. The Absolute Idea, or “World Spirit”, plays the same kind of role for Hegel as a deity “History is the Idea clothing itself with the form of events” (Philosophy of Right, § 346), and Marx rejects the need for any such concept since history is the product of people, not the other way around. Like "Absolute truth" knowledge of the Absolute Idea is an unattainable ideal, representing the whole of Nature which has developed to the point where it is conscious of itself, or the concept of Nature developed to such a degree of concreteness that it has “returned to itself” - an absolutely comprehensive, practical and concrete concept of the world.

Hegel defines the Absolute Idea as the “unity of the Theoretical Idea and the Practical Idea". The Theoretical Idea is the completed Notion or concrete concept of the world or object; the Practical Idea is the activity expressing this concept (practice); the unity of the two means fully “conscious practice”, people acting in true accord with their own nature.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Abstract and Concrete

Abstract and Concrete are philosophical concepts concerned with the development of conceptual knowledge. A proper understanding of what is meant by “abstract” and “concrete” is vital to making sense of dialectics. For Hegel and for Marx, the contrast between abstract and concrete does NOT mean the contrast between ideals. Rather ‘A concrete concept is the combination of many abstractions’. A concept, such as a number or a definition, is very abstract because it indicates just one of millions of the aspects that a concrete thing has, ignoring all other aspects. Concepts are the more concrete the longer and more thorough they are described. If we say "The British working class are those who work for a wage and live in the UK", then we've made a very abstract concept. To make it more concrete is to show the many aspects of it; showing the historical circumstances of its rise and development, the state of the world it developed in, etc.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Analogy

Analogy means the establishment of similarity in certain aspects, relations or properties between quite dissimilar things. Analogy makes possible deduction of properties of the thing on the basis of reasoning which is made comprehensible by contemplation of the analogue (or "model"). All of mathematics is essentially analogy, since it is highly developed reasoning based on very thin abstractions which can be applied to almost any concrete thing.

Analogy is also the form of superficial reasoning which, lacking knowledge of a thing, draws conclusions which may be valid for a superficially similar thing and impose them on something, thus animism and all kinds of religion. See induction and what Hegel calls the "Syllogism of Allness"

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Analysis and Synthesis

Analysis and Synthesis are philosophical terms denoting the processes of mentally breaking down of a whole into its constituent parts (analysis), and reconstituting a whole from its parts (synthesis). Dialectics is a unity of both analysis and synthesis. Both analysis and synthesis take part, alternately, in every stage of the cognition of a thing. Like ‘abstraction’ and ‘generalisation’, both analysis and synthesis arrive at new knowledge of the thing, and both are required for an all-sided knowledge of a thing — breaking it down and identifying its various parts, aspects, and then arriving at a new understanding based on how the parts interact and merge with each other etc., and gaining a new conception of the parts.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/a/n.htm#analysis

Anthropologism

Anthropologism is point of view in which human nature is exhaustively determined by the culture in which a person lives, leaving no room for human agency.

From this standpoint, “growing up” is simply a matter of acquiring the culture into which you are born and adopting one of the available roles within it. Social change is either a result of outside forces or arises from the dynamics of the social structure itself, from “laws of history” or “internal contradictions” or whatever.

From this abstract anthropological point of view, the psyche is a non-entity. According to Feuerbach for example:

“The new philosophy is the complete and absolute dissolution of theology into anthropology, a dissolution in which all contradictions have been overcome. ... The new philosophy makes man, together with nature as the basis of man, the exclusive, universal, and highest object of philosophy; it makes anthropology, together with physiology, the universal science.” Principles of the New Philosophy

Marx responded:

The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism — that of Feuerbach included — is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism — which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such.” [Theses on Feuerbach]

Society does not change by itself; people have to change what they do, or decide to do something about it. Certainly, it is not enough that people want to change things, more often than not the outcome of our efforts is quite opposite to what we intended, and at best deciding what to do is nothing more than clearly seeing what is necessary — but things change because people change them.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/a/n.htm#analysis

Appearance

A philosophical term concerned with the relativity of perception and the difference between immediately given sensual knowledge and conceptual knowledge of the lawfulness of things. Appearance is the dialectic of Form and Content, the recognition of the difference between them. In Hegel’s Logic, Appearance is the second grade of Essence, moving beyond the recognition of the outer form of a thing to its lawful, inner character or content. Appearance is a modification of Being which includes Essence but is transient and unstable, because it is still partial or abstractly one-sided.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/a/p.htm#appearance

Behaviourism

Behaviourism is the reactionary trend in psychology which rejects consciousness as a possible subject for science and instead aims to develop the science of control of people’s behaviour.

The real founder of behaviourism was Ivan Pavlov, but Pavlov’s behaviourism was of a different character from the behaviourism that was developed in the U.S. by B F Skinner and others.

The term was defined by B. Watson in 1913: “Psychology as the behaviourist views it, is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behaviour.”

Constructivism on the other hand, is concerned with how a subject uses consciousness to control their own behaviour. For constructivism, it is possible to draw conclusions about consciousnes from the collaboration of the psychologist with the subject, as opposed to the bourgeois scientific norm of experimental science, which requires the isolation of the experimental subject from any form of collaboration.


Originated by J. B. Watson of Chicago University, in 1913, behaviourism arose as a trend in modern bourgeois psychology, based philosophically on pragmatism and positivism.

Behaviourism continues the mechanistic trend in psychology, reducing psychic phenomena to the reactions of the organism. The trend identifies consciousness and behaviour the main unit of which it considers to be the stimulus-reaction correlation. Knowledge, according to behaviourism, is entirely a matter of the conditioned reactions of organisms.

In the 1930s Watson's theory was superseded by a number of neo-behaviourist theories, of which the leading exponents were C. Hull, E. Tolman, E. Guthrie and B. Skinner (b. 1904). The neo-behaviourists (except Tolman) borrowed I. Pavlov's terminology and classification of forms of behaviour, and substituted operationalism and logical positivism for the materialist foundations of his theory.

Skinner also approached the process of education from neo-behaviourist positions and developed the theory of linear programmed instruction, which was criticised by Soviet psychologists such as A. N. Leontiev, P. Ya. Galperin, and others.

While making use of conditioned-reflex techniques, behaviourists ignore the role of the cerebral cortex in behaviour. Contemporary behavioursim has also modified the stimulus-reaction formula by inserting what are called "intermediate variables" (skill, excitation and inhibition potential, need, etc.). This does not, however, change the mechanistic and idealist nature of its essence.

Behaviourism was also criticised by Pavlov in his article, titled, A Physiologist's Answer to Psychologists, 1932.

Contributed by Sugejn Jerdna

Cause & Effect

Understanding of Cause and Effect is a basic mode of scientific investigation, the discovery of the specific causes of phenomena and the complete cause: “When all the conditions of a fact are present, it enters into Existence”. However, the fixed opposition between cause and effect is limited, since every effect is also a partial cause of its own conditions of existence. The concept of reciprocity arises from an understanding of the whole network of cause-effect leading to an understanding of "complete cause".

Scepticism says that Causality is simply a subjective construction, which flies in the face of the obvious successes of industry and natural science. However, the limitation of the standpoint of Causality is shown in the inability to conceive the world and humanity's part in it as a single whole.

Classification

A notion begins to emerge when we 'identify' 'different' things and begin to observe the relations between them. Hegel points out that the natural science of his time was largely at that stage, 'classifying' things, and either identifying or differentiating, but not yet understanding Opposition and Contradiction, and thus missing Transition and real immanent relation. This stage of the development of natural science lends itself to abstract formal logic and methods of formal comparison.

The two principal methods of classification are Taxonomy and Typology.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Cognition

Cognition means acquiring knowledge of the objective world.

The central concept in the Marxist understanding of Cognition is practice, which is the criterion of truth for Marxism. While the objective world is the source of knowledge, mere existence as part of the world and sensuous contact with the world does not provide knowledge of the world. Only struggling to change the world can create conditions for acquiring knowledge. Even then, only if action is connected with theory can theory be changed and knowledge acquired, for blind, impulsive activity can lead to success or failure but not knowledge.

Central to the problem of cognition is the relation between Subject and Object. Different understandings of the subject-object relation lead to scepticism — that cognition is impossible, Relativism &151; that knowledge is possible but has no objective significance; dogmatism &151; that knowledge is not only possible but can be absolute and final; Empiricism and Rationalism which emphasise respectively Experience or Reason in Cognition; Objectivism and Subjectivism which emphasise the role of the objective world or subjective consciousness in the process of Cognition.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/c/o.htm#cognition

Deduction

Deduction and Induction are terms denoting opposite methods of reasoning. Deduction is the method of inference which substantiates a conclusion on the basis of a number of previously established premises by means of the application of laws of logic, rather than by drawing on experience. Induction is begins from a number of given facts and arrives at the principles exhibited in these facts, opening the possibility for deducing new facts or hypotheses. However, it should be kept in mind that cognition is impossible without both deduction and induction. Neither induction nor deduction can go more than a single step without the help of the other. Criticising formal logic, which rigidly separate Deduction and Induction, Hegel asks: “Where do the laws of logic come from? And where do the premises come from?”. Deduction and induction are a unity of broadly the same nature as analysis and synthesis.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Definition

In the section on Synthetic Cognition in the Science of Logic, Hegel makes a criticism of the formal kind of reasoning based on Definitions and Axioms, an aribtrary division of the subject matter and theorems. Here Hegel says: “Definition, in thus reducing the subject matter to its Notion, strips it of its externalities which are requisite for its concrete existence; ... Description is for representation, and takes in this further content that belongs to reality. But definition reduces this wealth of the manifold determinations of intuited existence to the simplest moments”

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Determinate & Indeterminate

1. To determine a thing is to know what it is, as in measuring something to determine its length; indeterminate means that the thing has not yet formed into something one way or the other, or it is not recognisable for what it is. Determinate Being, or Dasein — “being there” — means being present as a specific thing, rather than just a collection of attributes or potentialities.

2. Thought determination refers to something "taking on a value", becoming a "particular" as when the length of an object is "determined" by measuring it. In Hegel's writing, the term "thought determination" comes up very frequently; but it doesn't mean very much. Lenin mentions several possible words for the same thing, and later makes light fun over Hegel's use of the word. "Determine" also has the meaning as in "determine the outcome" - see the following entry, "Determinism".

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Determinism

Determinism is the acceptance of causality as an objective relation. If carried to the point of absolute (or mechanical) determinism - the denial of chance and accident - as in the case of Laplace, determinism becomes a kind of fatalism in which everything is absolutely determined by what has gone before.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Dialectical Materialism

The combination of Dialectics and Materialism. The materialist dialectic is the theoretical foundation of Marxism (while being communist is the practice of Marxism).

"It is an eternal cycle in which matter moves, a cycle that certainly only completes its orbit in periods of time for which our terrestrial year is no adequate measure, a cycle in which the time of highest development, the time of organic life and still more that of the life of being conscious of nature and of themselves, is just as narrowly restricted as the space in which life and self-consciousness come into operation. A cycle in which every finite mode of existence of matter, whether it be sun or nebular vapour, single animal or genus of animals, chemical combination or dissociation, is equally transient, and wherein nothing is eternal but eternally changing, eternally moving matter and the laws according to which it moves and changes.

Fredrick Engels: Dialectics of Nature.Introduction

"Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, or motion without matter, nor can there be."

"Change of form of motion is always a process that takes place between at least two bodies, of which one loses a definite quantity of motion of one quality (e.g. heat), while the other gains a corresponding quantity of motion of another quality (mechanical motion, electricity, chemical decomposition).

"Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature, and so-called subjective dialectics (dialectical thought), is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature."

Fredrick Engels: Dialectics of Nature

But dialectical materialism insists on the approximate relative character of every scientific theory of the structure of matter and its properties; it insists on the absence of absolute boundaries in nature, on the transformation of moving matter from one state into another, that from our point of view [may be] apparently irreconcilable with it, and so forth.

Vladimir Lenin: Materialism and Empirio-criticism

With each epoch-making discovery even in the sphere of natural science, materialism has to change its form; and after history was also subjected to materialistic treatment, a new avenue of development has opened here, too. [Ch. 2, The End of Classical German Philosophy]

"For dialectical philosophy nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher."

Fredrick Engels: The End of Classical German Philosophy

An example of dialectical materialism applied is the materialist conception of history .

'Dialectical Materialism' was coined by Karl Kautsky and popularised in the Second International after the death of Marx and Engels.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/d/i.htm#dialectics

Dialectics

Dialectics is the method of reasoning which aims to understand things concretely in all their movement, change and interconnection, with their opposite and contradictory sides in unity.

Dialectics is opposed to the formal, metaphysical mode of thought of ordinary understanding which begins with a fixed definition of a thing according to its various attributes. For example formal thought would explain: ‘a fish is something with no legs which lives in the water’.

Darwin however, considered fish dialectically: some of the animals living in the water were not fish, and some of the fish had legs, but it was the genesis of all the animals as part of a whole interconnected process which explained the nature of a fish: they came from something and are evolving into something else.

Darwin went behind the appearance of fish to get to their essence. For ordinary understanding there is no difference between the appearance of a thing and its essence, but for dialectics the form and content of something can be quite contradictory — parliamentary democracy being the prime example: democracy in form, but dictatorship in content!

And for dialectics, things can be contradictory not just in appearance, but in essence. For formal thinking, light must be either a wave or a particle; but the truth turned out to be dialectical — light is both wave and particle. (See the principle of excluded middle)

We are aware of countless ways of understanding the world; each of which makes the claim to be the absolute truth, which leads us to think that, after all, “It’s all relative!”. For dialectics the truth is the whole picture, of which each view make up more or less one-sided, partial aspects.

At times, people complain in frustration that they lack the Means to achieve their Ends, or alternatively, that they can justify their corrupt methods of work by the lofty aims they pursue. For dialectics, Means and Ends are a unity of opposites and in the final analysis, there can be no contradiction between means and ends — when the objective is rightly understood, "the material conditions [means] for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation" (Marx, Preface of Contribution to a Political Economy)

One example of dialectics we can see in one of Lenin's call: “All Power to the Soviets” spoken when the Soviets were against the Bolsheviks. Lenin understood, however, that the impasse could only be resolved by workers’ power and since the Soviets were organs of workers’ power, a revolutionary initiative by the Bolsheviks would inevitably bring the Soviets to their side: the form of the Soviets during the time (lead by Mensheviks and SRs) were at odds with the content of the Soviets as Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Councils.

Formal thinking often has trouble understanding the causes of events — something has to be a cause and something else the effect — and people are surprised when they irrigate land and 20 years later — due to salination of the land, silting of the waterways, etc — they have a desert! Dialectics on the other hand understands that cause and effect are just one and another side of a whole network of relations such as we have in an ecosystem, and one thing cannot be changed without changing the whole system.

These are different aspect of Dialectics, and there are many others, because dialectics is the method of thinking in which concepts are flexible and mobile, constrained only by the imperative of comprehending the movement of the object itself, however contradictory, however transient.

History: Dialectics has its origins in ancient society, both among the Chinese and the Greeks, where thinkers sought to understand Nature as a whole, and saw that everything is fluid, constantly changing, coming into being and passing away. It was only when the piecemeal method of observing Nature in bits and pieces, practiced in Western thinking in the 17th and 18th century, had accumulated enough positive knowledge for the interconnections, the transitions, the genesis of things to become comprehensible, that conditions became ripe for modern dialectics to make its appearance. It was Hegel who was able to sum up this picture of universal interconnection and mutability of things in a system of Logic which is the foundation of what we today call Dialectics.

As Engels put it:

“the whole world, natural, historical, intellectual, is represented as a process — i.e., as in constant motion, change, transformation, development; and the attempt is made to trace out the internal connection that makes a continuous whole of all this movement and development.” [Socialism: Utopian & Scientific]

It was in the decade after Hegel’s death — the 1840s — when Hegel’s popularity was at its peak in Germany, that Marx and Engels met and worked out the foundations of their critique of bourgeois society.

Hegel’s radical young followers had in their hands a powerful critical tool with which they ruthlessly criticised Christianity, the dominant doctrine of the day. However, one of these Young Hegelians, Ludwig Feuerbach, pointed out that Holy Family was after all only a Heavenly image of the Earthly family, and said that by criticising theology with philosophy, the Young Hegelians were only doing the same as the Christians — Hegel’s Absolute Idea was just another name for God! For Feuerbach, ideas were a reflection of the material world and he held it to be ridiculous that an Idea could determine the world. Feuerbach had declared himself a materialist.

Marx and Engels began as supporters of Feuerbach. However, very soon they took up an opposition to Feuerbach to restore the Hegelian dialectic which had been abandoned by Feuerbach, and to free it from the rigidity of the idealistic Hegelian system and place the method on a materialist basis:

“Hegel was an idealist. To him, the thoughts within his brain were not the more or less abstract pictures of actual things and processes, but, conversely, things and their evolution were only the realized pictures of the ‘Idea’, existing somewhere from eternity before the world was. This way of thinking turned everything upside down, and completely reversed the actual connection of things in the world. ” [Fredrick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific]

Thus, for Marx and Engels, thoughts were not passive and independent reflections of the material world, but products of human labour, and the contradictory nature of our thoughts had their origin in the contradictions within human society. This meant that Dialectics was not something imposed on to the world from outside which could be discovered by the activity of pure Reason, but was a product of human labour changing the world; its form was changed and developed by people, and could only be understood by the practical struggle to overcome these contradictions — not just in thought, but in practice.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/d/i.htm#dialectics

Essence

The significance or meaning of something.

Historical development: Whereas medieval philosophers had seen Essence as some hidden quality of things which was attainable only by the action of Reason or Faith, Kant reduced this idea to the “Thing-in-Itself”, stripped of all sensible properties. Hegel solved the age-old problem of Essence by understanding Essence as a contradictory process of development, what he called the “genesis of the Notion”.[Hegel, Shorter Logic]

Hegelian definition: Whereas in Being, things just come into being and pass away, the form of development in Essence is the “struggle of opposites”.[Hegel, Shorter Logic]

The development of essence according to Hegel goes through three phases: "reflection" in which differences show themselves as opposition and build up to contradictions; Appearance, which is the struggle of Form and Content, with each successive form revealing a deeper content; and Actuality, the reciprocal action of Cause and Effect.

The concept of Essence is very central to Hegel's Logic, being the second of the three books of the Logic, and Essence was a central target of his critics who claimed that philosophy should be based on Being not Essence (see Existentialism). It is also central to Marxism which, contrary to positivism and empiricism, refuses to accept that the truth of things is given immediately to the senses.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/e/s.htm#essence

Essentialism

Essentialism” is an ambiguous word, like the term “Essence” from which it is derived, generally depending on whether the Platonic/Aristotlean or Hegelian genealogy is referred to. The word was introduced in modern times by Karl Popper in his 1945 work The Open Society. Essentialism is the assertion that there is exists some meaning behind what is immediate given to sensuous perception (phenomenon). Popper took the meaning of ‘essence’ from the Aristotlean genealogy but held that meaning was constructed by institutions and social practices, and it was the business of science to construct definitions reflecting these objectively existing ‘essences’.

Generally-speaking, “essentialism” is used with a negative connotation in contrast to subjectivist constructivism in feminist or postmodern social theory. That is to say, “essentialism” is taken to mean that there is an essential meaning of something that is not given in perception (perception being taken to mean sensuous contemplation), in contrast to constructivism which is taken to mean that meaning is constructed by the subject in practical or critical activity. Broadly speaking the term has the same meaning as “metaphysics” had for positivism.

For Marxism, constructivism and essentialism are not mutually exclusive, since the meaning of essence is taken from the Hegelian genealogy rather than the subjective idealist current and is understood as social and historical, critical activity. Thus, all social and cognitive processes do have a meaning which is indeed “constructed” by the subject, but the subject is a social subject, rather than an individual, whose activity is socially and historically conditioned. In line with the Hegelian genealogy of philosophical terms in Marxism, the “essence” which is revealed by social practice is the dialectical unfolding of the thing through successively deeper and deeper meanings. Essentialism then is concerned not with some final essence which can never be revealed, but rather is concerned with the process of revealing ever deeper meanings.

“Essentialism” is often taken to mean the rejection of the possibility of different, opposed meanings being attached to a thing. However, for Marxism such opposing, contradictory meanings are the very nature of essential development.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/e/s.htm#essence

Formalism

Over-emphasis on Form as against the Content or meaning of something, especially in politics or in the theory of Art, Mathematics and Ethics. In Mathematics, Formalism is associated with David Hilbert and reduces mathematics solely to rules for the construction of valid sequences of symbols.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Formal Logic

The system of Logic founded by Aristotle based on the syllogism, which is adequate for testing the validity of deductive reasoning of the form ‘If A = B, and C = A; then C = B’ etc., which is valid only to the extent that (i) the premises (such as ‘ A = B’) are valid, (ii) the terms are self-identical and (iii) the object is not too complex for formal analysis (i.e. it contains details that are unknown).

Many Marxists have written polemics against Formal Logic, particularly as a way of explaining dialectics. However, a cavalier attitude towards the requirements of formal logic when they are relevant is the method of Voluntarism, not Dialectics. Formal Logic reflects the fact that in the world, for practicable purposes, there are things that in order for us to deal with them (in every day life for example), they must be stable and concrete. The point its to know the Limits of Formal Logic

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Function

Function means the outward manifestation of the properties of objects insofar as they form part of a given system of relations and interconnected processes, especially in respect to the aspect of stability or self-generation of a system of relations, as opposed to those aspects of a system and its components which constitute its internal contradictions and forces for change.

See also: Functionalism.

 

Functionalism

Functionalism is the method of investigation which seeks to elucidate what "function" an object plays within a complex system, independent of its outward phenomenal form or its materiality and historical conditioning. Functionalism was popular amongst sociologists and anthropologists in the first half of the century.

Developed one-sidedly, functionalism tends to reproduce the object as static, and misses the internal contradictions, interdependence and life process of the whole and its functional parts. Like structuralism, functionalism has an inherent tendency towards Kantian relegation of the materiality of the object to the status of an unknowable 'beyond'.

Historical Materialism

"This conception of history depends on our ability to expound the real process of production, starting out from the material production of life itself, and to comprehend the form of intercourse connected with this and created by this mode of production (i.e. civil society in its various stages), as the basis of all history; describing it in its action as the state, and to explain all the different theoretical products and forms of consciousness, religion, philosophy, ethics, etc. etc. arise from it, and trace their origins and growth from that basis. Thus the whole thing can, of course, be depicted in its totality (and therefore, too, the reciprocal action of these various sides on one another).

"It has not, like the idealistic view of history, in every period to look for a category [eg. measuring periods of history in accordance to certain ideas], but remains constantly on the real ground of history; it does not explain practice from the idea but explains the formation of ideas from material practice. Accordingly it comes to the conclusion that all forms and products of consciousness cannot be dissolved by mental criticism, by resolution into "self-consciousness" or transformation into "apparitions", "spectres", "whims", etc. but only by the practical overthrow of the actual social relations which gave rise to this idealistic humbug; that not criticism but revolution is the driving force of history, also of religion, of philosophy and all other types of theory.

"It shows that history does not end by being resolved into "self-consciousness as spirit of the spirit", but that in it at each stage there is found a material result: a sum of productive forces, an historically created relation of individuals to nature and to one another, which is handed down to each generation from its predecessor; a mass of productive forces, capital funds and conditions, which, on the one hand, is indeed modified by the new generation, but also on the other prescribes for it its conditions of life and gives it a definite development, a special character. It shows that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances.

Karl Marx: The German Ideology. Chpt 2: Civil Society and the Conception of History

"The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature."

"Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation. By producing their means of subsistence men are indirectly producing their actual material life.

"The way in which men produce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of the actual means of subsistence they find in existence and have to reproduce. This mode of production must not be considered simply as being the production of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production.

Karl Marx; The German Ideology. Chpt 1: Idealism and Materialism

"At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production, or — what is but a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters.

"No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the tasks itself arises only when the material conditions of its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.

Karl Marx; Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Preface

This concept is founded on Dialectical Materialism applied to history. Another name for the "materialist conception of history" formulated by Marx and Engels, 'Historical Materialism' was coined by Engels, and later popularised by Kautsky and Plekhanov.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Idealism

"The great basic question of all philosophy, especially of more recent philosophy, is that concerning the relation of thinking and being.... The answers which the philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps. Those who asserted the primacy of spirit to nature... comprised the camp of idealism. The others, who regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism."

Fredrick Engels
The End of Classical German Philosophy
Chpt. 2: Materialism

Idealism is a thought process (ex. rationalism) of how the material world adheres to ideas. Idealists follow a certain ideal concept (ex. faith) and understand everything from its adherence to that concept.

Idealism is in contrast to materialism, a thought process (ex. dialectical materialism) of how the material world creates ideas. Such ideas thus created are not concrete and fixed, but are constantly changing and being remoulded by the differences and changes in the material world.

Idealism can also be understood as the practice of understanding abstractions through other abstractions; where an abstraction is something that has no basis or relation to reality, but only exists in relation to other abstractions. They do of course have a basis in the real world, but not insofar as the idealist are concerned.

Idealism may reject the existence of the external world (the world beyond thought, beyond sensation) altogether or assert that while a world beyond sensation may exist, it is unknowable. These trends are known as Subjective Idealism. On the other hand, idealism may accept the objectivity of nature but regard the material as the expression of ideal forces such as the Will of God, the absolute Idea, etc whose nature is accessible to the Mind directly. These trends are known as Objective Idealism.

For an example of idealism, what follows are the beliefs of three prominent idealist philosophers in regards to what is truth. While truth is an abstract, or ideal, from reality; idealists understand such abstractions through equating them to other abstractions:

Descartes: "true are those things that are certain."
Husserl: "truth is doubt"
Hegel: "the element in which truth is found is the notion"
 

The materialist on the other hand understands abstractions by equating them to reality.

Marx: truth is known through practice

We have already had more than one occasion to make ourselves acquainted with [a particular idealist] method. It consists in dissecting each group of objects of knowledge to what is claimed to be their simplest elements, applying to these elements similarly simple and what are claimed to be self-evident axioms, and then continuing to operate with the aid of the results so obtained. Even a problem in the sphere of social life

"is to be decided axiomatically, in accordance with particular, simple basic forms, just as if we were dealing with the simple ... basic forms of mathematics" {D. Ph. 224}.

And thus the application of the mathematical method to history, morals and law is to give us also in these fields mathematical certainty of the truth of the results obtained, to characterise them as genuine, immutable truths. This is only giving a new twist to the old favourite ideological method, also known as the a priori method, which consists in ascertaining the properties of an object, by logical deduction from the concept of the object, instead of from the object itself. First the concept of the object is fabricated from the object; then the spit is turned round, and the object is measured by its reflexion, the concept. The object is then to conform to the concept, not the concept to the object. With Herr Dühring the simplest elements, the ultimate abstractions he can reach, do service for the concept, which does not alter matters; these simplest elements are at best of a purely conceptual nature. The philosophy of reality, therefore, proves here again to be pure ideology, the deduction of reality not from itself but from a concept.

And when such an ideologist constructs morality and law from the concept, or the so-called simplest elements of "society", instead of from the real social relations of the people round him, what material is then available for this construction? Material clearly of two kinds: first, the meagre residue of real content which may possibly survive in the abstractions from which he starts and, secondly, the content which our ideologist once more introduces from his own consciousness. And what does he find in his consciousness? For the most part, moral and juridical notions which are a more or less accurate expression (positive or negative, corroborative or antagonistic) of the social and political relations amidst which he lives; perhaps also ideas drawn from the literature on the subject; and, as a final possibility, some personal idiosyncrasies. Our ideologist may turn and twist as he likes, but the historical reality which he cast out at the door comes in again at the window, and while he thinks he is framing a doctrine of morals and law for all times and for all worlds, he is in fact only fashioning an image of the conservative or revolutionary tendencies of his day - an image which is distorted because it has been torn from its real basis and, like a reflection in a concave mirror, is standing on its head.

Frederick Engels
Equality, Anti-Dühring

Induction

Induction is the method of inference which draws a general conclusion from a number of specific facts. Induction suffers from the flaw that using specific facts to make a general conclusion, while a practical and natural thing for humans to do, is not philosophically correct: such judgements are the substance of prejudice. For instance, after seeing three white people who were bafoons, to use those specific facts to make the general conclusion that all white people are bafoons may be incorrect: there may be whites who are not bafoons. The important thing about induction, is that no conclusion is fixed; and it must always and continually refer back to fact, lest it become ignorance.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/i/n.htm#induction

Intuition

Intuition is the ability to understand truth directly, without recourse to evidence nor reason. Intuition figures in the philosophy of both Descartes and Spinoza in the cognition of axiomatic or essential truths.

Dialectics sees Intuition as a stage in the development of knowledge which is prior to reflection and conceptual knowledge, as for example being involved in activities before having reflected on or thought about.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/i/n.htm#induction

Intuitionism

Trend in the foundations of Mathematics associated with Luitzen Bruuwer which seeks to construct mathematics on the basis of rational intuition, and rejects the validity of the Law of the Excluded Middle. (c.f. Formalism and Logicism)

Intuitionalism refers to philosophical currents which counterpose Intuition to both Reason and Experience as a mode of perception; associated with Henri Bergson.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/i/n.htm#induction

Logic

Logic is the study of forms of thought which are used in reasoning, social practice and history.

Idealism: Logic is using a set of premises to come to a conclusion, without reference to context. However, all premises come from a certain context (i.e. ideas do not just drop out of the sky, but are created in certain circumstances) and the only way to create and verify a set of premises is by reference to the context from whence they come. When the premises are true , reason can be used to bring them to a conclusion; but without reference to context such a practice is idealist.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Logicism

Trend in the foundations of Mathematics associated with the names of Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell, which asserts that mathematics is a branch of Logic and can be constructed without recourse to material outside of formal logic.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Phenomenology

The study of the forms of consciousness. Also a trend in philosophy beginning with Edmund Husserl which sought to found a scientific basis for philosophy by examination of the forms of subjective thought independent of any object. See Phenomenon and Heidegger.

 

Phenomenon

Something manifested to the senses, contrasted with “noumenon” (sometimes called ‘Essence’, ‘thing-in-itself’ or ‘metaphysics’) which is beyond the bounds of experience and is a synonym for Appearance. For dialectics there is no sharp boundary between Phenomenon and Thing-in-itself.

Understanding

Defined by Hegel: “logic has three sides: (a) the abstract side, or that of Understanding; (b) the Dialectical, or that of negative reason; (c) the Speculative, or that of positive reason.”

(a) “Thought, as Understanding, sticks to fixity of characters and their distinctness from one another: every such limited abstract it treats as having a subsistence and being of its own.”

(b) “In the Dialectical stage these finite characterisations or formulae supersede themselves, and pass into their opposites.” ...

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/u/n.htm#unity-of-opposites

Unity of Opposites

The unity of opposites is a way of understanding something in its entirety. Instead of just taking one aspect, or one part of a certain thing, seeing something as a unity of opposites is recognizing the dialectical content of that thing. Because everything has its opposite, to understand it one must not only understand its present form and its opposite form, but the unity of those two forms, the unity of opposites.

The term has been used by Marxists such as Engels and Lenin to popularise the dialectical way of understanding things. For example, in his Summary of Dialectics, Lenin refers to the ‘unity, identity, struggle and transformation of opposites’.

The basis for the pervasiveness of the ‘Unity of Opposites’ is many-fold; any concept which is not simply a synonym for something else or the name for an arbitrary collection of elements, must express both the substantial existence of the thing (its Being) and its specific meaning or significance (essence); if a concept is not to be closed and static, it must contain inner conflict.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/u/n.htm#unity-of-opposites

Universal

Epistomology: That there are properties common to all things in the world and laws or principles that are true always and everywhere.

A Universal can exist only through Individuals — the objects to which universal properties are assigned. For example, an apple (individual) is red (universal). At the same time we can say blood (individual) is red (universal). The universal cannot exist if it is not assigned to individual things, while at the same time those individual things can only exist as part of the universe.

Universals can have no existence other than through the practical activity of human beings and the cognitive activity resting upon that. Practice demonstrates whether a Universal has a truly objective basis.

Properties common to all objects are the ‘abstract universal’, in that a person is abstracting a single aspect from the multiplicity of connections and aspects of a thing. ‘Concrete universal’ is a principle or law which unites all the objects perceived, combining them into a single conception.

The process of cognising the Universal either in the form of abstract universals or in the form of concrete notions, entails the process of mediation of Individual and Universal through Particulars.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/u/n.htm#unity-of-opposites

Universalism

Universalism is the assertion, in Ethics, that there exist values which transcend cultural and national differences.

Universalism is a negation of the ethical and cultural relativism characteristic of identity politics which seeks to provide a moral justification for intervention in the affairs of other nations by imperialist or transnational organisations such as the United Nations. For example, “human rights violations” can be a justification for carpet bombing a country or placing trade barriers against it, which would be illegal under international law as it stands.

Marxism affirms the validity of trans-cultural values, but only on the basis of working class Solidarity and internationalism and affirms the right of nations to self-determination. Imperialism supports univeralism only so long as it suits its own ends.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/u/n.htm#unity-of-opposites

Value

The following section was written by:
Vladimir Lenin (edited)

A commodity is, in the first place, a thing that satisfies a human want; in the second place, it is a thing that can be exchanged for another thing. The utility of a thing makes is a use-value. Exchange-value (or, simply, value), is first of all the ratio, the proportion, in which a certain number of use-values of one kind can be exchanged for a certain number of use-values of another kind.

Daily experience shows us that millions upon millions of such exchanges are constantly equating with one another in every kind of use-value, even the most diverse and incomparable. Now, what is there in common between these various things which are constantly equated with one another in a definite system of social relations?

Their common feature is that they are products of labour. In exchanging products, people equate with one another the most diverse kinds of labour. The production of commodities is a system of social relations in which individual producers create diverse products (the social division of labour), and in which all these products are equated with one another in the process of exchange.

Consequently, what is common to all commodities is not the concrete labour of a definite branch of production, not labour of one particular kind, but abstract human labour — human labour in general. All the labour power of a given society, as represented in the sum total of the values of all commodities, is one and the same human labour power. Thousands upon thousands upon millions of exchanges prove this.

As a result, each particular commodity represents only a certain share of the socially necessary labour time. The magnitude of value is determined by the amount of socially necessary labour, or by the labour time that is socially necessary for the production of a given commodity, of a given use-value.

"Whenever, by an exchange, we equate as values our different products, by that very act, we also equate, as human labour, the different kind of labour expended upon them. We are not aware of this, nevertheless we do it."

Karl Marx
Capital, Volume I
Chpt. 1: Section 4

As one of the earlier economists said, value is a relation between two persons; only he should have added: a relation concealed beneath a material wrapping. We can understand what value is only when we consider it from the standpoint of the system of social relations of production in a particular historical type of society, moreover, or relations that manifest themselves in the mass phenomenon of exchange, a phenomenon which repeats itself thousands upon thousands of time. "As exchange-values, all commodities are merely definite quantities of congealed labour time." (Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy).

 

After making a detailed analysis of the twofold character of the labour incorporated in commodities, Marx goes on to analyse the form of value and money. Here, Marx's main task is to study the origin of the money form of value, to study the historical process of the development of exchange, beginning with individual and incidental acts of exchange (the "elementary or accidental form of value", in which a given quantity of one commodity is exchanged for a given quantity of another), passing on to the universal form of value, in which a number of different commodities are exchanged for one and the same particular commodity, and ending with the money form of value, when gold becomes that particular commodity — once the universal equivalent.

As the highest product of the development of exchange and commodity production, money conceals the social character of all individual labour, the social link between individual producers united by the market. Marx analyzes the various functions of money in very great detail; it is important to note here in particular (as in the opening chapters of Capital in general) that what seems to be an abstract and at times purely deductive mode of exposition instead deals with a gigantic collection of factual material on the history of the development of exchange and commodity production.

"If we consider money, its existence implies a definite stage in the exchange of commodities. The particular functions of money, which it performs either as the mere equivalent of commodities or as means of circulation, or means of payment, as hoard or as universal money, point, according to the extent and relative preponderance of the one function or the other, to very different stages in the process of social production."

Karl Marx
Capital, Volume I
Chpt. 6: The Buying and Selling of Labour Power

(assessed October 30th, 2002)

Speculative Logic

The Speculative stage, or stage of Positive Reason, apprehends the unity of terms in their opposition - the affirmative, which is involved in their disintegration and in their transition.”.

In an alternative explanation of the three parts of Logic as three stages in the development of thinking, Hegel wrote that the first is Abstract Understanding; then Dialectical, or Negative Reason and thirdly the Speculative stage of Positive Reason.

Whereas in normal language, ‘speculation’ has a negative connotation, Hegel uses the term ‘dialectical’ to describe the process of criticism and successive sublation of internally contradictory ideas leading up to the formation of the Notion.

http://www.marxists.org/glossary/frame.htm

Structuralism

Structuralism is the method of investigation which aims at revealing the structure of a complex thing, abstracted from its phenomenal form and materiality. This allows attention to be focused on structural similarities between different phenomena irrespective of superficial differences and material content of the object. This method has been popular among sociologists.

Structuralism further denotes a whole trend in philosophy which was dominant from the end of World War II till the rise of post-structuralism in the 1960s. Structuralism had its origins in the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure (c. 1910) and was prefigured by the anthropology of Emile Durkheim at the turn of the century. This trend arose in response to the inadequacy of the exclusive focus, characteristic of the Second Positivism of Mach, on analysis of the data of perception and its rejection of any type of "metaphysics". Saussure showed that the meaning of a word lay not in its phonic form but in its position within a structure of phonemes. Likewise, for Durkheim, various societies based themselves on mythologies the characters and events of which were relatively "arbitrary", but clearly shared a common "structure". Claude Lévi-Strauss is the most eminent exponent of structuralist sociology. The American version is Functionalism, developed by Talcott Parsons, which emphasises the dynamic equilibrium to the various processes within a complex.

Likewise, in economics it was seen that the values of the various econnomic parameters formed a structure much like that of a mechanical structure which could be manipulated by intervention. (John Maynard Keynes).

The limitations of structuralism arise from its focus on form, albeit structural form, at the expense of content, and abstracting from materiality, must needs be ahistorical and contemplative. A dialectical view differs from Structuralism because for dialectics form and content bear a definite relation which analysis is bound to explore, whereas strucuralism regards form as indifferent. Materialism differs from structuralism by recognising the necessary interconnection between the multiplicity of interconnected structural forms within any complex and the need to study the development of structures in relation to underlying social developments.

Foucault's critique of structuralism in Archaeology of Knowledge, reflected the failure of structuralism to resolve the social contradictions manifested at the end of the post-war boom and the loss of confidence in "grand narratives" and is parallel to the emergence of finite mathematics and related technologies relative to analysis and notions of continuum. While drawing attention to the shortcomings of Structuralism Foucault's post-structuralism fails to resolve the very issues which lay at the basis of the earlier rise of structuralism and suffers from much the same short-comings as indicated above.

 

Structure

Structure means the inner organisation of a system, constituting a unity of stable interrelations between the elements, as well as laws governing the interrelations. Many qualitatively different structures overlay each other and interact with each other in the existence of all things - chemical, economic, social, etc. The concept of structure emphasises the aspect of Form which is stable and abstracts from the Content or materiality of things and from the inner contradictions and dynamics of a system. But like all things, the structure, undergo changes and transform into other structures.

Structure is also often contrasted with Function, where interconnected processes rather than things are emphasised, and Structuralism.

Surplus Value

Surplus-value is the social product which is over and above what is required for the producers to live.

The measure of value is labour time, so surplus value is the accumulated product of the unpaid labour time of the producers. In bourgeois society, surplus value is acquired by the capitalist in the form of profit: the capitalist owns the means of production as Private Property, so the workers have no choice but to sell their labour-power to the capitalists in order to live. The capitalist then owns not only the means of production, and the workers’ labour-power which he has bought to use in production, but the product as well. After paying wages, the capitalist then becomes the owner of the surplus value, over and above the value of the workers’ labour-power.

In all societies in which there is a division of labour, there is a social surplus; what is different about bourgeois society is that surplus value takes the form of capital, and surplus value is in fact the essence of production in capitalism.— Only productive work, i.e., work which creates surplus value, is supported. All “unproductive labour” is eliminated.

The capitalists may increase the amount of surplus value extracted from the working class by two means: (1) by absolute surplus value — extending the working day as long as possible, and (2) by relative surplus value — by cutting wages.

Attempts by individual capitalists to increase their profits by introducing machinery or speeding-up production by technique fail as soon as their competitors copy the new technique and restore their market share. The end effect of these improvements in production may be to increase the productivity of labour, but unless the rate of surplus value is increased proportionately, the rate of profit will actually fall.

Having been accumulated as capital, surplus value must then be distributed to landlords, bankers and other parasites, and expended via taxes on the various expenses of maintaining the social fabic.

(assessed October 30th, 2002)

 

 

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