Dorset weekend

The Necessity of Contradiction Sunday 28 May 2006 session

Food for thought

Contradiction – Logic. A statement that is false under all circumstances. Collins English Dictionary

Contradiction – a category expressing the inner source of all movement and development – Soviet Dictionary of Philosophy

The well-bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves. – Oscar Wilde

I believe that truth has only one face: that of a violent contradiction – George Bataille

Sameness leaves us in peace but it is contradiction that makes us productive. – Goethe

Motion is existent contradiction – G.F. Hegel

Motion is itself a contradiction – Engels

Negation is something definite, has a definite content, the inner contradictions lead to a replacement of the old content by a new, higher one – Lenin

Activity is a “contradiction” – the purpose is real and not real, possible and not possible”  – Lenin

“Formal thought makes its fixed principle that contradiction is unthinkable; but in truth the thinking of contradiction is the essential moment of the concept” - Hegel

Introduction: Connecting ideas with practice

Predominant modes of thought under capitalism

What are its features?

All these features are marked by limitations of “formal thought”.

The Importance of Philosophy website gives a clear view of how formal thought denies the existence of contradiction as anything apart from a “mistake” in reasoning.

“A contradiction arises when two ideas each make the other impossible. Contradictions don't exist in reality because reality simply is as it is and does not contradict itself. [my itals – CL] Only our evaluations of reality can contradict each other. If you think you have found a contradiction, then check your premises.”

It shows the connection between this “rational” philosophy goes hand in hand with maintaining the status quo of capitalism. On the same site it defines capitalism as:

 “the only moral political system because it is the only system dedicated to the protection of rights, which is a requirement for human survival and flourishing. This is the only proper role of a government. Capitalism should be defended vigorously on a moral basis, not an economic or utilitarian basis”
– Importance of Philosophy website

The contradictory nature of reality: reality-sponsored contradictions

Contradictory movement in everything. Reality is contradictory in and of itself.

Can something be contradictory in itself and still exist? How do changes take place? Do things really change in history?

All things change through their internally contradictory nature – sometimes not evident, other times more apparent. Periods of slow quantitative growth suddenly change to explosive revolutionary change. “gradual and punctuated evolution”.




Social and historic processes:

Class conflicts:


Philosophical concepts

Quantum reasoning (i.e. dialectical reasoning through contradiction) will make formal logic look like a child’s game in the future.

Dialectical approach: Everything is a contradiction – arising out of the unity and conflicts of opposites. There is movement in everything, especially the problems and issues that we are concerned with. Social and political change.

The new arises out of the old. Changes in form and content. That is a contradiction. In each phenomenon or process we need to discover internal contradiction in order to be not only abreast but ahead of things.

How what we do affects and changes the outcome of processes.

Contradictions in thought and practice

Activity is a contradiction: the purpose is real and not real, possible and not possible – Lenin.

Connection between ideas and practice is the law-governed nature of the world – movement through contradiction in the process itself.

Materiality of our ideas, their accuracy and this-sidedness.

Realising a project involves forming an abstract idea of it based on our observations and the theory of it formed through analysis and reasoning. Necessary if we are to acquire knowledge of how to change things and not get frustrated when things don’t go our way.

An outlook that embraces contradiction rather than rejecting it as a “problem”. Enables us to grapple with processes, The endless discovery of new sides and the “key to the ‘leaps’  the ‘break in continuity’ to the transformation into the opposite, the destruction of the old and the emergence of the new.” Lenin, Essay on Dialectics

Concept embraces abstract and concrete

The task is to “unearth some of our deepest implicit assumptions and hold them up to critical examination” – David Papineau, essay on The Tyranny of Common Sense

Frustration and difficulty in realising our aims.

Contradiction is what happens when we encounter reality.

Things do not necessarily turn out as we plan. Not that our abstractions are necessarily wrong. Correct or incorrect, they are indispensable in the formation of our theoretical understanding of things.

The concrete in thought as a combination of abstractions.(the abstract is a stage in the development of the concrete). Truth as a process of ever increasing approximation to reality.

The concept of contradiction is driven by reality, not by our abstract image of it.

Instead of “cleansing” the contradictions and struggles we encounter in reality (see p.135 of Vol.38), we seek to grasp how they allow us to find the levers of change.  By putting our ideas into practice we become agents for change. We form an abstract concept through analysis but reality is always different.

There is a constant process of interaction as we test out our ideas in practice. Checking the difference between our theoretical concepts and  reality so that are able to bring about the changes we want.

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