Materialism and the Contemporary Natural Sciences (page 6)

Robert Steigerwald

There is no need for a miracle, for a divine, supernatural act to explain biological development. The only possibility of avoiding this conclusion would be the statement that the laws ruling it have been created together with the world by an extrahuman force. But then reasonable arguments for the possibility and necessity of this extranatural power must be found, and that cannot be established by scientific means.

The question then arises: Does this conception of evolution not also imply the impossibility of predicting the future development of social systems, since at such a bifurcation point the system staggers, fluctuates, tries to replace the old order by a new one, but with no certainty about what will be chosen? Does this not disprove the materialist historical conception that socialism is the system that follows capitalism? This question alone is challenge enough for materialism in historical and social theory.

Wherever the materialist historical conception is viewed as a theory of an unalterable, mechanical sequence of several social systems, that at bifurcation points only a predetermined, one-dimensional process could develop, then this theory has been made into a monster, deserving the criticism it receives. Hawking correctly warns against the arbitrary application of natural laws to society: “One has to keep the investigation of the fundamental laws of science and the study of human behavior in separate compartments” (1993, 136). Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel laureate in physics (creator of quark theory), referring to the terms chaos and energy field, writes that such conceptions of modern theories and hypotheses of natural sciences have turned originally “useful concepts into meaningless clichés” (1994, 27).

I also wish to recall the consequences of trying to transfer perceptions from biological evolution theory, especially Darwin’s, to society. It is true that theories that contradict fundamental physical laws cannot be correct. Higher forms of systems that have undergone evolutionary development such as biological and social systems have in common the tendency to reproduce themselves. Self-organization is an especially high level of development, possible only if in such a system changes do occur (for example, mutations in biological systems), otherwise the systems would stagnate. These changes are the material of evolution, leading to a competition among viable systems. In this competition, the systems that survive are those that are best able to adapt to the conditions in which they exist.

Yet important differences exist, as has been pointed out by Ebeling:

  1. The “testing” of different principles for the activity of nonhuman living organisms is not subject to the moments of consciousness that occur among humans in a social context as they seek ways for optimal satisfaction of certain needs.
  2. In the social sphere, technical or social variations or mutations begin in the mental sphere with thought experiments that can be combined with real experiments. This we do not find in prehuman evolution.
  1. In the social sphere, the selection among possibilities of development already begins during a stage in which actions are planned on the basis of values that follow from theoretical and ethical standards, unlike biological systems (the simulation of chances of survival of prebiotic or primitive biotic systems follows other norms).
  2. These valuations in the social sphere utilize collective knowledge, which today increasingly has a worldwide nature, with the result that on the one hand, development is accelerated, while on the other isolation causes great harm to the isolated system (1990, 671ff.

With this background, let us look at what happened in 1989 and the following years. Was there a multiplicity of choices for the systems that were collapsing? Was it really impossible to foresee what would follow the breakdown?

Despite somewhat different conditions and despite differences in the quality of the leading persons in most of the state systems that collapsed, the question of property became the pivotal factor, so that the former socialist ideological-political superstructure was destroyed and replaced with a capitalist one. At the bifurcation point that was arrived at in the social sphere, not only did unforeseeable processes take place, but class forces encountered each other in a struggle for their interests, as is projected in the materialist conception of history and the theory of scientific socialism.

« 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 »

Notes


1. Reference to a German poem by Christian Morgensternm “Die unmögliche Tatsache” (The Impossible Fact) in which a man named Palmström is run over and killed while improperly crossing an intersection. Upon contemplating the circumstances of his death, he reasons that the car that ran him over should not have legally been there. He then concludes that he is not dead because “what must not be, cannot be.”—Ed.


2. Translation of quotations from non-English sources in the Reference List were made by the translator.


3. In the discussion that follows, I do not deal with differences in the kinds of models or the difference between material and theoretical models.


4. The author is referring here to the historically dominant variety of critical realism in Europe, which is akin to a form of neo-Thomism. See Hörz, Röseberg, et al. 1980, 165-77).


Reference List

Acham, Karl. 1974. Analytische Geschichtsphilosophie. Munich: Alber. 1977. Über Parteilichkeit und Subjektivität in der Gesellschaftswissenschaft. In vol. 1 of Theorie und Geschichte. Munich: Kossel/Mommsen.

Albrecht, Erhard, Werner Ebeling, et al., eds. 1974. Streitbarer Materialismus und gegenwärtige Naturwissenschaft. Vol. 33 of the series Zur Kritik der bürgerlichen Ideologie. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Aristotle. 1912. Aristotle’s metaphysics. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 2000. Nicomachean ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Becker. Oskar. 1954. Grundlagen der Mathematik in geschichtlicher Entwicklung. Freiburg: K. Alber.

Bernal, John D. 1969. Science in history. London: C. A. Watts.

Bertalanffy, Ludwig von. 1953. Biophysik des Fließgleichgewichts. Brunswick: Vieweg.

Beurton, Peter. 1978. In 100 Jahre “Anti-Dühring,” edited by R. Kirchhoff and Todor I. Oiserman, 325 ff. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Biller, E. 1992. Chaos-Forschung: Revolution des naturwissenschaftlichen Weltbildes. In Freidenker, Organ des Deutschen Freidenker-Verbandes. No. 4. Dortmund.

Bitsakis, Eftichios. 1988. Quantum statistical determinism. Foundations of Physics 18, no. 3. 1988. Potential and real states in quantum mechanics. Manuscript. 1989. Quantum probalities, Manuscript. Athens. 1993. Scientific realism. Science and Society 57, no. 2:160-93

Blokhintsev, Dmitrii I. 1968. The philosophy of quantum mechanics. Dordrecht: Reidel.

Bolhagen, P. 1967. Gesetzmäßigeit und Gesellschaft. Zur Theorie gesellschaftlicher Gesetze. Berlin.

Born, Max. 1969. Quantenmechanik der Stoßvorgänge. In Wellenmechanik. Einführung und Originaltexte, by G. Ludwig. Berlin.

Brugger, Walter. 1980. Der dialektische Materialismus und die Frage nach Gott. Munich.

Brugger, Walter, ed. 1988. Philosophisches Wörterbuch. Freiburg: Herder.

Buhr, Manfred. ed. Enzyklopädie der bürgerlichen Philosophie im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Leipzig 1988.

Buhr, Manfred, and Todor I. Oiserman, eds. 1981. Vom Mute des Erkennens. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Bunge, Mario. 1963. Causality: The place of the causal principle in modern physics. Cleveland: Meridian Books. 1973. Quantum mechanics in search of its referent. In Philosophy of Physics, by Mario Bunge. Boston: Reidel. 1980. The mind-body problem: a psychobiological approach. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Darwin, Charles. 1998. The variation of animals and plants under domestication. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.

Descartes, René. 2001. Discourse on method, optics, geometry, and meteorology. Indianapolis: Hackett.

de Vries, Joseph. 1958. Die Erkenntnistheorie des dialektischen Materialismus. Munich: Pustet.

Dingler, Hugo, 1952. Über die Geschichte und das Wesen des Experimentes.Munich: Eidos Verlag

Ebeling, Werner. 1989. Chaos Ordnung Information: Selbstorganisation in Natur und Technik. Frankfurt-on-Main: H. Deutsch. 1990. Erneuerung als Grundmerkmal der Evolution. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, no. 7.

Ebeling, Werner, and Rainer Feistel. 1994. Chaos und Kosmos: Prinzipen Evolution. Heidelberg: Spektrum Akademischer Verlag.

Edlinger, Karl, Wolfgang F. Gutmann, and Michael Weingarten. 1991. Evolution ohne Anpassung, Frankfurt-on-Main: Waldemar Kramer.

Eigen, Manfred. 1992. Steps towards life: A perspective on evolution. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Eigen, Manfred, and Ruthild Winkler. 1981. Laws of the game: How the principles of nature govern chance. New York: Knopf.

Einstein, Albert. 1929. Über den gegenwärtigen Stand der Feldtheorie. In Festschrift für Prof. D. Aurel Stodola, edited by E. Honegger. Zürich. 1979. Albert Einstein: Autobiographical notes. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court. 1995. Physics and reality. In Ideas and Opinion, by Albert Einstein, edited by Carl Seelig. New York: Crown Trade Paperbacks.

Einstein, Albert, Hedwig Born, and Max Born. 1969. Briefwechsel 1916-1955, Munich: Nymphenburger Verlagshandl.

Einstein, Albert, and Leopold Infeld. 1950. The evolution of physics, London: Scientific Book Club. 1969. Über spezielle und allgemeine Relativitätstheorie, Brunswick.

Eisenhardt, Peter, et al. 1988, Du steigst nie zweimal in denselben Fluss. Die Grenzen der wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnis. Reinbek: Rowohlt.

Engels, Frederick. 1942. Letter to Conrad Schmidt, 12 March 1868. In Selected corrrespondence 1846-1895: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, 527-531. New York: International Publishers. 1987. Anti-Dühring [Herr Eugen Dühring’s revolution in science]. In vol. 25 of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected works, 1-309. New York: International 1990. Ludwig Feuerbach and the end of classical German philosophy. In vol. 26 of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected works, 353-98. New York: International Publishers.

Erpenbeck, John. 1980. Psychologie und Erkenntnistheorie:Zu philosophischen Problemen psychischer Erkenntnisprozesse. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. 1989. Das Ganze denken: Zur Dialektik menschlicher Bewußtseinsstrukturen und Prozesse. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Feynman, Richard P. 1965. The character of physical law. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Foerster, Heinz von. 1985. Sicht und Einsicht: Versuche zu einer operativen Erkenntnistheorie. Brunswick: F. Vieweg and Sohn.

Frank, Philipp. 1947. Einstein: His life and times. New York: Knopf.

Friedmann, Aleksandr A. 1922. Über der Krümmung des Raumes. Zeitschrift für Physik 10:377-86.

Gamow, George. 1952. The creation of the universe. New York: Viking.

Geissler, H.-G. 1987. The temporal architecture of central information processing. Evidence for a tentative time-quantum-model. Psychological Research 49, no. 8:99 ff.

Gell-Mann, Murray. 1994. The quark and the jaguar: Adventures in the simple and the complex. New York: W. H. Freeman.

Gutmann, Wolfgang F., and Klaus Bonik. 1981. Kritische Evolutionstheorie. Ein Beitrag zur Überwindung altdarwinistischer Dogmen. Hildesheim: Gerstenberg.

Gutmann, Wolfgang, and Michael Weingarten. 1991. Maschinentheoretische Grundlagen der organismischen Konstruktionslehre. Philosophia Naturalis 28, no. 2. 1990. Die biotheoretischen Mängel der Evolutionären Erkenntnislehre. Journal for General Philosophy of Science 21:309ff. 1995. Die Konstruktion der Organismen: Struktur und Funktion. Frankfurt-on-Main: W. Kramer.

Haken, Hermann. 1984. The science of structure: Synergetics. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Hawking, Stephen W. 1993. Is everything determined? In Black holes, universes and other essays, by Stephen W. Hawking, 127-39. New York: Bantam Books.[[Chk title]] 1996. A brief history of time. New York: Bantam Books.

Heisenberg, Werner. 1971. Physics and beyond; Encounters and conversations. New York: Harper and Row.

Hejl, Peter M. 1989. Self-regulation in social systems: Explaining the process of research. Siegen, Germany: LUMIS, Siegen Univ. 1992. Konstruktion der sozialen Konstruktion: Grundlagen einer konstruktivistischen Sozialtheorie. In Zur Chaos-Theorie : ideologiekritische Betrachtungen: Neue Perspektiven für Natur- Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften, by Rainer Hess und Gerhard Hofner. Frankfurt-on-Main: Verein Wissenschaft and Sozialismus.

Hörz, Herbert, and Karl-Friedrich Wessel. 1983. Philosophische Entwicklungstheorie. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.

Hörz, Herbert, and Karl-Friedrich Wessel, eds. 1986. Philosophie und Naturwissenschaften. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.

Hörz, Herbert, and Ulrich Röseberg, eds. 1981. Materialistische Dialektik in der physikalischen und biologischen Erkenntnis. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Hörz, Herbert, Ulrich Röseberg, et al. 1980. Philsophical problems in physical science. Minneapolis: Marxist Educational Press (MEP Publications).

Holbach, Paul Henri. 1889. The system of nature: Or, laws of the moral and physical world. Boston: J. P. Mendum.

Holz, Hans Heinz. 1983. Dialektik und Widerspiegelung. Cologne: Pahl-Rugenstein. 1986. Widerspiegelung und Konstruktion. Topos (Bonn), no. 7. 1990. s.v. Widerspiegelung. In vol. 4 of Enzyklopädie der europäischen Wissenschaften, edited by Hans J. Sandkühler, 825 ff. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag.

Hoyle, Fred. 1960. The nature of the universe. New York: Harper.

Kamke, Erich. 1950. Theory of sets, New York: Dover Publications.

Kanitscheider, Bernulf. 1981. Wissenschaftstheorie der Naturwissenschaft. Berlin: de Gruyter. 1984. Kosmologie Geschichte und Systematik in philosophischer Perspektive. Stuttgart: Reclam.

Kedrow, Bonifati M. 1979. Friedrich Engels über die Dialektik der Naturwissenschaft. Berlin: Dietz.

Klix, Friedhart. 1980. Erwachendes Denken: Eine Entwicklungsgeschichte der menschlichen Intelligenz. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.

Kuhn, Hans. 1973. Entstehung des Lebens: Bildung von Moleküleigenschaften. Forschung 14, no. 3: 78-104.

Kuhn, Hans, and J. Waser. 1981. Molecular self-oranization and the origin of life. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl 20:500-20.

Kuznetsov, Boris G. 1979. Einstein. Leben, Tod, Unsterblichkeit. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Landau, Lev D., and Yurii B. Rumer. 1974. What is the theory of relativity? Moscow: Mir.

Lanius, Karl. 1988. Mikrokosmos Makrokosmos. Das Weltbild der Physik. Leipzig.

Lenin, Vladimir I. 1961. Philosophical notebooks. Vol. 38 of V. I. Lenin: Collected works. Reprint 1972. Moscow: Progress Publishers. 1962. Materialism and empirio-criticism. Vol. 14 of V. I. Lenin: Collected works. Reprint 1972. Moscow: Progress Publishers.

Lucretius Carus, Titus. 1998. On the nature of the univeerse, Oxford: Clarenden Press.

Marquit, Erwin. 1980. Stability and development in physical science. In Marxism, Science and the Movement of History, edited by Alan R. Burger, Hyman R. Cohen, and David H. DeGrood, 77-104. Amsterdam: B. R. Gruener.

Maturana, Humberto R. 1982. Erkennen: Die Organisation und Verkörperung von Wirklichkeit: Ausgewählte Arbeiten zur biologischen Epistemologie. Brunswick: Friedr. Vieweg and Sohn.

Maturana, Humberto R., and Francisco Varela. 1987. The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding. Boston: Shambhala. 1980. Autopoiesis and cognition: The realization of the living. Boston: D. Reidel.

Mayr, E. 1984. Die Entwicklung der biologischen Gedankenwelt, Berlin. 1994. Ethik and Sozialwissenschaften, edited by F. Benseler et al. Opladen.

Nelson, Leonard. 1911. Die Unmöglichkeit der Erkenntnistheorie. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

Newton, Isaac. 1934. Sir Isaac Newton’s mathematical principles of natural philosophy and his system of the world. 2 vols. Translate1d by Florian Cajori. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

Oparin, Alexandr I. 1957. The origin of life on earth. New York: Academic Press. 1961. Life, its nature, origin and development. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.

Planck. Max. 1910. Zur machschen Theorie der physikalischen Erkenntnis. Vierteljahreszeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie und Soziologie, no. 4:498.

Plato. 1973. The Timeaus of Plato. New York: Arno Press.

Prigogine, Ilya. 1986. Natur, Wissenschaft und neue Rationalität. In Dialektik: Beiträge zu Philosophie und Wissenschaften (Cologne), no. 12.

Prigogine, Ilya, and Isabelle Stengers. 1984. Order out of chaos: Man’s new dialogue with nature. Boulder, Colo: New Science Library. 1993. Das Paradox der Zeit. Munich.

Prigogine, Ilya, and P. Glansdorff. 1971. Thermodynamic theory of structure, Stability and Fluctuations, New York: Wiley-Interscience.

Röseberg, Ulrich. 1978. Quantenmechanik und Philosophie: Standpunkte des dialektischen Materialismus. Brunswick: Vieweg. Philosophie und Physiks. Leipzig. 1983. Dialektische Widersprüche der physikalischen Bewegungsform der Materie. 1984. Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, no 12. Szenarium einer Revolution. Nichtrelativistische Quantenmechanik und philosophische Widerspruchsproblematik. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Roth, G. 1986. Selbstorganisation und Selbstreferentialität als Prinzipien der Organisation von Lebewesen. Dialektik: Beiträge zu Philosophie und Wissenschaften (Cologne), no. 12. 1988, Annalen für dialektische Philosophie, Cologne.

Ruelle, David. 1993. Zufall und Chaos. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Paris/Tokyo/Hong Kong/Barcelona/Budapest 1992.

Satshkov, Juri V. 1988. Konstruktivnaya rol slutshaya. Voprossi filosofii. German tranlation: Die konstruktive Rolle des Zufalls. Sowjetwissenschaft, no. 5 [1989]).

Schilpp, Paul A., ed. 1970. Albert Einstein: philosopher-scientist. La Salle, Ill: Open Books.

Shmal’gauzen, Ivan I. 1986. Factors of evolution: The theory of stabilizing selection. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

Schramm, E./Weingarten, M. 1987. Biologische Moralund Ethikkonzeptionen zwischen Weltanschauung und reaktionärer Ideologie. Dialektik, Heft 14, Köln.

Schrödinger, Erwin. 1967. What is life? The physical aspect of the living cell and mind and matter. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Smart, John J. C. 1963. Philosophy and scientific realism. New York: Humanities Press. 1972. Further thoughts on the identity theory. The Monist 56.

Spickermann, Wolfgang. 1978. Kosmologie und die Legende vom Schöpfungsakt. Berlin: Frankfurt-on-Main: Verlag Marxistische Blätter.

Steigerwald, Robert. 1999. Abschied vom Materialismus? Zur Antikritik heutiger Materialismus-Kritik. 2d ed. Schkeuditz, Germany: Bonn: GNN-Verlag

Treder, Hans-Jürgen. 1974. Philosophische Probleme des physikalischen Raums: Gravitation, Geometrie, Kosmologie und Relativität. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Varela, Francisco J.. 1990. Kognitionswissenschaft Kognitionstechnik: Eine Skizze aktueller Perspektiven. Frankfurt-on-Main: Suhrkamp. Principles of biological autonomy. New York: North Holland.

Wahsner, Renate, and Horst-Heino von Borzeszkowski. 1989. Physikalischer Dualismus und dialektischer Widerspruch, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

Watson, James D. 1997. The double helix: A personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Weinberg, Steven. 1977. The first three minutes. New York: Basic Books.

Weingarten, Michael. 1991. Darwin, der frühe Darwinismus und das Problem des Fortschritts in der Evolution. In Natur und Museum, Bericht der Senckenbergischen Naturforschen den Gesellschaft, no. 121, May 1. (Frankfurt-on-Main). 1993. Organismen—Objekte oder Subjekte der Evolution? Philosophische Studien zum Paradigmenwechsel in der Evolutionsbiologie. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. 1992. Organismuslehre und Evolutionstheorie. Hamburg: Kovac.

Weizsäcker, Carl F. F. von. 1972. Die philosophische Interpretation der modernen Physik: zwei Vorlesungen. Leipzig: J. A. Barth. 1958. Zum Weltbild der Physik. Stuttgart.

Wetter, Gustav A. 1958. Dialectical Materialism. New York: Praeger. 1958. Philosophie und Naturwissenschaft in der Sowjetunion. Hamburg: Reinbek. 1966. Soviet ideology today. New York: Praeger.

Wolff, Michael. 1981. Der Begriff des Widerspruchs. Eine Studie zur Dialektik Kants und Hegels, Königstein/Ts.: Hain.

Vol’kenstain, Mikhail V. 1964. Sushchhnost’ biologitcheskoi evolyutsii. Uspechi fisitscheskich nauk 143:441ff.

Zahrnt, Heinz. Die Sache mit Gott: Die protestantische Theologie im 20. Jahrhundertt. Stuttgart: Evangelische Buchgemeindex