Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Reading notes: An Introduction to the Logic of Marxism by George Novack

An Introduction to the Logic of Marxism by George Novack


VII. The Marxist Revolution in Logic

....We have not yet really begun to think. Further social advances will inevitably produce tremendous advances in human thought and practice and in the knowledge of human thought.

....Marx and Engels lifted this revolution in the science of logic to a still higher level by separating the rational substance within Hegel's thought from its irrational idealist shell and placing dialectics upon a solid materialist basis. They made dialectics materialist and materialism dialectical. This twofold transmutation was an epoch-making event in the history of thought.

....Just as they cast aside the false Utopian and idealist sides of Saint-Simon's, Fourier's and Owen's social criticism and incorporated their socialist doctrines and outlook into a consistently materialist framework, so they divorced Hegel's dialectics from its mystical idealist shell and absorbed its valid content and vital ideas into their new world outlook

....science of logic in the first half of the nineteenth century underwent a double revolution as it emerged from the creative minds of the great German bourgeois philosophers and then passed through the criticism of the founders of scientific socialism. In a certain sense this is one of the most striking examples of combined development in the history of human thought.

1. How Marx and Engels Departed from Hegelianism

....Marx and Engels adopted a critical attitude toward the ideas they received from their teachers. They not only retained certain elements of their thought; they also transmuted others, while at the same time they rejected leading ideas of each.

....The steps in their emancipation from Hegelian and all other forms of idealism on the one hand, as well as from one-sided materialism on the other, are clearly delineated in their writings of the eighteen-forties.

....Just as socialism is being brought into existence far more consciously than any previous social system, so the theory of socialism has been created far more consciously than any earlier philosophy.

2. The Role of Feuerbach

....Feuerbach is the catalytic agent which engendered and then speeded the precipitation of dialectical materialism from the contact of Marx and Engels with Hegelianism.

....From Feuerbach they received a materialist criticism of Hegel and a reaffirmation of the fundamental position of materialism which had fallen into degradation and disfavor in Germany

..... Feuerbach exposed the unreality and errors of Hegel's speculative excesses from a materialist point of view. He placed the fetishistic speculations of the Hegelians with the sober truth of materialism. 

.... Marx and Engels were helped to liberate their minds from the idealism with which Hegel's thought was supersaturated.

..... Feuerbach's thought, they pointed out, had two serious errors. It was nondialectical and it was incompletely materialist. Feuerbach mistakenly rejected Hegel's dialectical logic along with Hegel's idealist aberrations. Just as the great idealists, in their over-anxiety to do justice to the processes and products of thought, suppressed the truth of materialism, so this materialist thinker slighted the achievements of the great idealists in the science of logic.

....Feuerbach was a materialist in his general outlook- but not in the specific application of materialism to history and society. 

....He believed, for example, that love was the cement and the motive force of human society

....dialectics is the logic of evolution and revolution, that is, of slow and gradual molecular processes, which at a certain stage produce a leap into a new molar quality. Feuerbach's materialism was more akin to the mechanical and metaphysical materialism of the seventeenth-century English and the eighteenth-century French materialists than to dialectical materialism.

3. The Defects of Hegel's Thought

....so Hegel's absolute idealist philosophy reflected the many-sided concrete content of history and the development of scientific thought.

....Owing to the retarded state of scientific knowledge in his day, nature itself for Hegel experienced no fundamental historical development but remained more or less the same. The evolution of society, too, stopped short for Hegel with its capitalist mode. He had an exclusively bourgeois horizon. In politics, in his old age, he could not visualize a more perfect state than a constitutional monarchy. (His model here was the firstborn of capitalism -Britain.) 

...."Hegel operated with ideological shadows as the ultimate reality. Marx demonstrated that the movement of these ideological shadows reflected nothing but the movement of material bodies." (In Defense of Marxism, p. 51.)

....Hegel drove idealism to its most consistent and extreme expression. He believed that ideas constituted the essence of all reality and that it was the development of ideas that urged the rest of reality forward. 

....key conception of Hegel's dialectics that everything is limited, perishable and bound to pass into its opposite. Hegel's thought was smitten by this inherent and incurable opposition between its claim to be a system of absolute truth and its dialectical method, which asserted that all truths were relative. Thus it was, said Engels, that "the revolutionary side becomes smothered beneath the overgrowth of the conservative side." (Feuerbach, p. 13.)

....Hegel broke the ground and sowed the seeds for the renovation of logic and gathered the first harvest: the first and thus far the only systematic exposition of the laws of the dialectic. Marx and Engels continued the cultivation and harvested the second and richer crop - the structure of dialectical materialism.

4. The Marxist Criticism of Hegelianism

...."My own dialectical method is not only fundamentally different from the Hegelian dialectical method, but is its direct opposite. For Hegel, the thought process (which he actually transforms into an independent subject, giving to it the name of "idea") is the creator of the real; and for him the real is only the outward manifestation of the idea. In my view, on the other hand, the ideal is nothing other than the material when it has been transposed and translated inside the human head . . .

    "Although in Hegel's hands dialectic underwent a mystification, this does not obviate the fact that he was the first to expound the general forms of its movement in a comprehensive and fully conscious way. In Hegel's writings, dialectic stands on its head. You must turn it right way up again if you want to discover the rational kernel that is hidden away within its mystical shell."

....Marx and Engels unambiguously assert that dialectics arises out of and applies to the processes of nature. Marx and I, says Engels, "were pretty well the only people to rescue conscious dialectics from German philosophy and apply it in the materialist conception of nature and history." Those revisionists who claim that dialectics does not apply to nature but only to society or to the mind contradict the plain words of Marx and Engels. They are either ignorant or willful deceivers.

....Those critics who identify Marxism with Hegelianism not only lack dialectics; they even violate the rules of formal logic. Two things having certain characteristics in common are not necessarily the same, even according to the reasoning of formal logic. The fact that the goose is an animal doesn't mean that all animals are geese. The fact that Marxism derives historically from Hegel and that Marxism and Hegelianism use the dialectical method does not prove that they are essentially the same. It is precisely through this kind of false reasoning that Eastman and Wilson seek to classify Marxism as a branch of Hegelianism and idealism. Astronomy came out of astrology and chemistry out of alchemy. Are these sciences, therefore, to be considered identical with their prescientific forerunners?

....Idealist dialectics gave a more correct delineation of the forms of the thought process. Materialism had correctly insisted upon the primacy of the material content of objective reality. Dialectical materialism combined the essential truths of these two branches of thought into a new and higher system of philosophy.

....Feuerbach's halfhearted materialism, which absolutely opposed itself to German idealism, also begot its negation in dialectical materialism. This movement of two opposing trends of thought into their dissolution and then their resolution into a new synthesis was genuinely dialectical. Thus the evolution of dialectical materialism provides proof of the truth of its own ideas.

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