For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Reason in Revolt, Vol. II
Dialectical Philosophy and Modern Science
  • Ted Grant
  • Alan Woods
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Reason in Revolt, Vol. II .  Dialectical Philosophy and Modern Science
About the Author

Ted Grant was born in Germiston, near Johannesburg in South Africa . He was influenced by the ideas of Marxism at an early age and became a convinced Marxist at the age of fifteen. After active involvement in South African Communist politics he emigrated to Britain in 1934 where he joined the Independent Labour Party. Soon he joined the Labour League of Youth, the youth section of the Labour Party, and participated in the struggle against Mosley's Blackshirts, including the battle of Cable Street . In 1938 he helped found the Workers International League which later fused with others to form the Revolutionary Workers Party. Grant became its leading theoretician. He rejoined the Labour Party in 1950 and produced a Marxist magazine called the International Socialist. In 1964 he helped launch the newspaper Militant, acting as its political editor. He was expelled from the Labour Party in September 1983. He is at present a major contributor to the British Marxist magazine Socialist Appeal and its web site 'In Defence of Marxism' (http://www.marxist.com).

Throughout his life Ted Grant has played an active part in the Marxist movement in Britain and internationally. He has written extensively over several decades producing countless articles and pamphlets. His selected writings entitled The Unbroken Thread (http://www.marxist.com/tut) were published in 1989. The book Lenin and Trotsky: What They Really Stood For, co-authored with Alan Woods, was published in 1969. Pamphlets written by Grant include 'Scotland: Socialism or Nationalism" (1992), "Where is Britain Going?" (1995), the book Reason in Revolt: Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science" co-authored again with Alan Woods in 1995 and his book published in 1997.

Alan Woods is the author of many works covering a wide spectrum of issues: Marxism in Our Time (1992), China in Crisis (1994), The Socialist Alternative to the European Union (1997), Revolution in Albania (1997), A New Stage in the Capitalist Crisis (1998), Indonesia: the Asian Revolution has Begun (1998), Kosovo: The Balkans Crisis Continues (1998, and Crisis in Russia, The Free Market Failure, and two books co-authored with Ted Grant, Lenin and Trotsky: What They Really Stood For (1969) and more recently, Reason in Revolt: Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science (1995). He is currently the editor of the Marxist journal Socialist Appeal, published in London and a regular contributor to the popular web site In Defence of Marxism.

About the Book

The first volume of "Reason in Revolt" has been well received in the USA. The Anglo-Saxon world has been highly resistant to broad philosophical...

The first volume of "Reason in Revolt" has been well received in the USA. The Anglo-Saxon world has been highly resistant to broad philosophical generalizations and to Marxism in particular. Yet without such philosophical generalizations it is impossible to acquire a rational understanding of the world in which we live.

First exposed by Marx and Engels, Dialectical Materialism is a comprehensive methodology explaining the unity of the laws that govern nature, science and society, from evolution to chaos theory, nuclear physics to childhood development.

Capitalism is reaching a similar impasse to the one reached earlier by Stalinism. The present crisis has all the hallmarks of one of those major turning points in world history where quantity suddenly turns into quality, like a phase transition in physics. The crisis can be explained in quite scientific terms. To do so, however, a knowledge of the Marxist method - of dialectical and historical materialism - is necessary.

Many blame the activities of the US President. But Mr. Bush is only the unconscious agent of historical processes that he has inherited and the existence of which he does not suspect. Paradoxically, by acting in the way he has, he is hastening the demise of the socio-economic system he hopes to preserve. Now, America has the reputation of the most counter-revolutionary force on earth; but we may come to witness a very graphic example of the dialectic of history!

To date, no one has found serious fault with the science of the book. And every new discovery of science serves to confirm the statement of Engels, that "in the last analysis, Nature works dialectically."

First published in England in 1995 to coincide with Engel's centenary, "Reason in Revolt" has been published in Spanish, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Urdu, and is now being translated into German and Flemish.


Introduction

In general, the Anglo Saxon world has been highly resistant to broad philosophical generalizations and to Marxism in particular. Yet without such philosophical generalizations it is impossible to acquire a rational understanding of...

In general, the Anglo Saxon world has been highly resistant to broad philosophical generalizations and to Marxism in particular. Yet without such philosophical generalizations it is impossible to acquire a rational understanding of the world in which we live.

The word “philosophy” was first supposed to have been used by Pythagoras in the sixth century BC: “Life, he said, is like a festival; just as some come … to compete, some to ply their trade but the rest come as spectators, so in life, slavish men go hunting for fame or gain, the philosophers for truth.” (Diogenes Laertius, 14.)

In the search for truth the human race has come a very long way in the 2,500 years or so since then. The development of the productive forces — industry, agriculture, science and technology — has reached levels that would have been undreamed of in the past. This advance has been most spectacular in the USA.

The development of the productive power of society should be a guarantee of happiness for all humanity. Yet the world has never been such a disturbed and unhappy place as it is at the start of the 21st century. War, unemployment, poverty, disease and hunger stalk the planet.

Our world is rent by a fundamental contradiction. It is the contradiction between “ought” and “is” — between what is possible and what is real. In this world of ours 476 billionaires — mostly Americans — have a greater personal wealth than the total income of half the world’s population, while 35 million people starve to death every year.

This is a world governed by an outdated and irrational economic order that ought to have been abolished long ago, but which refuses to die and condemns the world to new torments with every passing day. It is therefore hardly surprising that the prevailing mood of humanity at the dawn of the new millennium is one of deep pessimism and anxiety. Men and women do not look forward to the future with confidence as they used to. That spirit of cheerful optimism that used to be a characteristic of American people has vanished and in its place there is a bleaker, but also a more thoughtful mood.

Materialism Versus Mysticism

In such times as these, mystical tendencies tend to predominate in philosophy, and the present period is no exception. Reason in Revolt was written in part to combat the intrusion of mystical philosophical ideas in science. This is a retrograde trend that runs counter to the progressive tendency that has propelled the whole development of science from its inception.

In fact, the link between science and philosophy goes back a long way. The early Greek philosophers were materialists who laid the basis for all science. They studied the causes of natural phenomena like lightening, thunder, earthquakes, comets and stars. For all these phenomena they sought rational explanations, free from the intervention of gods and other supernatural agencies. Cicero (in Tusculan Disputations) wrote that the early Greek philosophers studied “number and movement, and the source from which all things arise and to which they return; and these early thinkers inquired zealously into magnitude, intervals, and courses of the stars, and all celestial matters.”

That is to say, the pre-Socratic philosophers studied nature. They were the courageous pioneers who prepared the way for all subsequent scientific advance. They made extremely important discoveries. They knew that the earth was round and that the moon’s light reflected that of the sun. They knew that humans were descended from fish and proved it by examining human embryos and fossils. However, most of these discoveries were the result of inspired guesswork. Inevitably at a certain stage they came up against the limitations related to the given level of technology.

After this, philosophy took a different turning — towards the study of human society, morality and related questions. This led to the development of idealism and ever since then philosophy has been split into the two great warring camps of materialism and idealism. The Middle Ages were marked by the cultural and spiritual dictatorship of the church which imposed its own ossified brand of idealism on men’s minds and burned those who disagreed at the stake. The Renaissance and the rise of the bourgeoisie saw a revival of materialism and a new interest in experiment and observation that permitted science, feed from the fetters of religion, to advance once more.

Materialist philosophy and science have always marched hand in hand. From the time the early materialist philosophers of the Ionian Islands sought a rational explanation of nature without the intervention of the gods, science and philosophy were inextricably connected. In the ancient world, from where all our science is ultimately derived, we have the painstaking investigations of Aristotle into nature. The French philosopher Descartes has a strong claim to be the founder of the modern scientific method, while Bacon in England pioneered the method of experimental science and induction (generalizing on the basis of observed facts).

The input of philosophy into science has been considerable. The German philosopher Leibnitz can claim to have discovered the integral and differential calculus (although Newton may have discovered it at the same time). It therefore does not surprise us that when Newton published his great work in 1687 he called it The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Kant first advanced the hypothesis that the solar system had evolved out of a rotating gas nebula. And when Dalton introduced the modern concept of the atom into chemistry, he had his book published under the title A New System of Chemical Philosophy, (1808).

Science and Philosophy

Nowadays many scientists treat philosophy with contempt. It must be admitted that as far as modern philosophy is concerned this is well deserved. For the past one and a half centuries the realm of philosophy resembles an arid desert with only the occasional trace of life. The treasure trove of the past, with its ancient glories and flashes of illumination seems utterly extinguished. Not only scientists but men and women in general will search in vain in this wasteland for any source of enlightenment.

Yet on closer inspection the contempt displayed by scientists to philosophy is not well grounded. For if we look seriously at the state of modern science — or more accurately its theoretical underpinnings and assumptions, we see that science has in fact never freed itself from philosophy. Unceremoniously expelled by the front door, philosophy slyly effects a re-entry through the back window.

Scientists who proudly assert their complete indifference to philosophy in reality make all kinds of assumptions that are philosophical in character….


More Information
Two of Britain's deans of socialist thought consider the philosophical writings of Marx and Engels in the light of recent advances in the sciences. The authors have written a dozen books; this is Vol. II of a work that is already a hit in ten countries.

Two of Britain's deans of socialist thought consider the philosophical writings of Marx and Engels in the light of recent advances in the sciences. The authors have written a dozen books; this is Vol. II of a work that is already a hit in ten countries.

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Pages 248
Year: 2003
LC Classification: HX541 .G736
Dewey code: 335.4'112—dc21
BISAC: PHI016000
BISAC: SCI075000
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ISBN: 978-0-87586-239-2
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