The Heart of Dialectics
By Dennis Loo (5/7/14)
In the Preface to Globalization and the Demolition of Society, I distill the book’s key themes and arguments in the space of two highly concentrated paragraphs. At the beginning of that summary I say the following:
Everyone and everything that exists does so only in relationship to other beings and to other things. (p. xii)
I mean this as literally as it is possible to mean anything. In fact, I mean this more literally than any other statement could possibly be literal.
One of the manifestations of this point is the relationship between individuals and groups. But that is only one concrete manifestation of this larger point that I would argue is the heart of dialectics.
Existence itself cannot be without dialectics being true. Put another way, it is impossible for there to ever have been or ever be a state in which there is not matter in motion. Put still another way, it is impossible for there to ever have been a time or ever be a time when there is only space without matter or matter without space.
In the Bible, Genesis reads:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
Like any other human society’s beginnings mythology, an explanation is offered in metaphor (some believe the Bible to be literally the Word of God) for the beginnings of the World. Let’s consider it as a literal account and examine its validity.
In the biblical tale, the Spirit of God precedes the creation of the Universe. According to dialectics, in which everything and everyone that exists only does so in relationship to other things and beings, however, a spirit of God or any other kind of disembodied spirit could not have ever existed separate and apart from a material universe.
What would the nature of this disembodied spirit be? Some say that that is unknowable. But if you argue that something is unknowable, then absolutely anything is possible and you are arguing that reason has no meaning. Those who believe based on faith would not demure from this. They would say that faith takes over when reason fails. Again, however, if you accept that there are limits to reason and that faith explains what reason cannot, then you are no longer operating in the realm of science and reason and when you do that, then absolutely anything could be true because there is no longer a criterion by which to determine and test whether something is true of the objective world. The world that we live in not only depends upon our use of reason and the stability and inescapability of the fact that a physical world exists outside of our consciousness of it, we all operate based upon this. Even those who claim to be motivated by faith or by some version of radical relativism (e.g., those who deny the existence of an objective reality separately existing from subjective states of mind) operate in their day to day life based upon the stability of the independent existence of an objective world. That is because the objective world governed by certain physical laws actually does exist.
When I use the word “stability” I don’t mean unchanging in the sense that the physical world is unchanging. It is changing all the time. What I mean by stable is that consciousness is based upon a) brain matter which is a material thing, and b) that when I die the universe will go on because my consciousness of it isn’t what brings it into being.
In the world of physics and specifically Big Bang Theories, some hold that before the Big Bang there was nothing. Something came from nothing.
Based on dialectics, however, I would argue that something cannot ever come from nothing and that in some physical form, prior to the Big Bang, material substance existed in some form of matter in motion. Energy, matter, and time as we know from Relativity Theory, are inter-related phenomena. While a Big Bang, a gigantic explosion, occurred a very long time ago to create the expanding universe that we know of today, the universe (which by definition is everything there is) that we know of was preceded by some other universe. It did not come from out of nothing.
If all that exists only exists because it is relative to what it is not, then the only proper approach to understanding has to be dialectical because dialectics rests upon the fact that existence can only occur in relation to other beings and other things. There is no “up” without a corresponding and necessary “down.” There is no “in” without a corresponding and necessary “out.” There is no “right” without a “left.” There is no “sound” without a corresponding and necessary “silence.” There is no life without death. Thus, the notion of heaven and hell where there is life everlasting does not make sense. The notion of god does not make sense any more than there can be only sound and no silence or matter without space. There is no existence without everything being bound up with other things. In other words, boundaries between things are only relative and they only exist because everything and everyone only exists in relation to everyone and everything. Solitary existence of something or someone, in other words, is impossible.
What most people are trained in their thinking to do is to think in mechanical and static terms. They do not see the inherent dynamism in any state of being, including the state of being of the body politic. They see only the power of those in authority and the apparent acquiescence of those who are under that authority. They do not see the dynamic tension and rumblings beneath the surface that can explode under the proper circumstances. They do not see that under conditions of dominance, conflict does not go away and it is not absent because the surface appearance is that of acquiescence. Under conditions of dominance, conflict continues to exist but in a more hidden and subtle form, waiting for the opportunity at some point to become open conflict. People using mechanical and static ways of seeing things do not see the possibilities but only the current state. They think that what is possible is that which is more or less what is already going on. They do not see that the apparent current state is full of dynamism that can be unleashed to create a dramatically different situation if you understand the dialectics of the situation.
Those in authority adhere to and propagate mechanical and static ways of seeing things. This serves their purposes and helps to discourage people from seeing and acting upon dramatically changing the status quo. This is the equivalent of having as your intellectual tools a Phillips screwdriver that you are using to try to turn the head of a flat head screw.
This site aims to accomplish two related goals. First, it complements Dennis Loo's book Globalization and the Demolition of Society so that people reading the book can get more deeply into it. (See navigation bar above, labeled "GDS Book Annotations"). We believe that his book is a landmark, providing a solid foundation for politics of a new path. Taking such a path is critical to humanity and the planet's future. As his book's dust jacket states:
[F]ree market fundamentalism - also known as neoliberalism - makes us not more secure or prosperous: it tears the social fabric and undermines security, leading inevitably to disasters on the individual, regional, and global levels.
Neoliberalism is based on the mantra that market forces should run everything. It aims to eliminate job and income security, the social safety net (including welfare and other social guarantees), unions, pensions, public services, and the governmental regulation of corporations. It consequently undermines the basis for people to voluntarily cooperate with authority as almost everyone is increasingly left by themselves to face gargantuan private interests, with governmental and corporate authority ever more indifferent to the public’s welfare.
Those in charge of our collective fates in government and business personify a heartless system based on profit and plunder. They have been relentlessly instituting profoundly immoral and unjust policies even while they insist that they are doing the opposite. We, on the other hand, stand for and are fighting for a radically different system and set of values than this.
Second, in order to get at the truth and because the ways in which humanity's historic striving for understanding and its capacity to wonder and imagine are very rich and diverse, we seek to reflect that richness and diversity on our site. See "About Us" on navigation bar. We intend to be engaging and compelling, as the best investigative journalism and art are, and relentlessly scientific, rigorous, and direct, as those who cherish the truth are. We believe that we can be both accessible and sophisticated. As Loo lays out in his book,
Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 326-7)