Marx on the Dialectics of Elliptical Motion

in Historical Materialism
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Abstract

It is a widespread view that Marx did not apply dialectics to nature, and that Engels’s writings on this subject are a distortion of his outlook. This paper examines Marx’s discussion of elliptical motion and some other physical phenomena, and shows that he did indeed find contradictions and oppositions in nature, and thus recognised a dialectics of nature. In addition to analysing relevant passages in Marx’s texts, his study of the physics and mathematics of elliptical motion is reviewed and compared with Hegel’s position.

Marx’s conception of how dialectical contradictions are resolved is reviewed in order to interpret his claim that the contradiction in elliptical motion is ‘solved’ but not ‘overcome’ by that motion. Textual evidence is presented that Marx regarded ‘real contradictions’ as resolved only by ‘development’, a process in which the conflict between the opposing sides of the contradiction becomes more intense. The consequences of this interpretation for Marx’s analysis of elliptical motion are explored, and some alternative interpretations are discussed.

Marx on the Dialectics of Elliptical Motion

in Historical Materialism

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References

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  • 33.

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  • 34.

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    Marx 1966pp. 327 327 n. 390; Marx and Engels 1976r pp. 313 313 n. 2. On Marx’s study of chemistry see Marx to Engels 22 June 1867 Marx and Engels 1976u p. 385; Marx to Engels 7 December 1867 Marx and Engels 1976u p. 495; Antonova 2004 pp. 60–77. Marx’s excerpts on chemistry from 1877–83 appear in Marx and Engels 1999a.

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    Engels 1968bp. 348; Marx and Engels 1976m p. 356.

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    Hegel 1978bp. 77; Hegel 1969 p. 441.

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    Hegel 1978bp. 78 Hegel 1969 p. 442.

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    Hegel 1978bp. 76; Hegel 1969 p. 440.

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  • 54.

    Hegel 1978bp. 69; Hegel 1969 p. 435.

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    Marx 1983app. 81–2; Marx and Engels 1976n pp. 84–5.

  • 57.

    Marx 1990p. 533 emphasis added; Marx and Engels 1976b pp. 293–4.

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    Marx 1992p. 323.

  • 59.

    Marx 1966p. 792; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 752. Negativity is an abstraction of conflict not of the absence of something. Both Marx and Hegel generally understand it in this way. In the 1844 Manuscripts Marx praised Hegel’s ‘dialectic of negativity’. Marx 1990 p. 574; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 332.

  • 60.

    Marx 1965cp. 509; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 139.

  • 61.

    Marx 1966pp. 127–8; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 123.

  • 62.

    Marx 1966p. 152; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 149.

  • 63.

    Hegel 1978ap. 21; Hegel 1969 p. 32.

  • 64.

    Marx 1966p. 63; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 58.

  • 65.

    Marx 1964ep. 342; Marx and Engels 1976j p. 335.

  • 66.

    Marx 1966pp. 641 149 152; Marx and Engels 1976r pp. 609 145 149. The claim in Stachel 2010 and Göhler 1980 p. 67 that for Marx polar opposites are not logical contradictions is certainly true but beside the point. The cited passages show polar opposites can be or can become dialectical contradictions. My view is that there is no difference in Marx’s usage between opposition and polar opposition except that Marx may have regarded the polar terminology as more accessible.

  • 67.

    See Marx 1966p. 587; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 562; Marx 1983a p. 81; Marx and Engels 1976n p. 85; Marx 1965c p. 500; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 131.

  • 68.

    Marx 1961ap. 77; Marx and Engels 1976f pp. 101–2.

  • 70.

    Marx 1965ap. 259; Marx and Engels 1976s p. 247; Marx 1983a p. 259; Marx and Engels 1976n p. 350.

  • 71.

    Marx 1992p. 323 cf. Marx 1965a p. 259; Marx and Engels 1976s p. 248.

  • 72.

    Marx 1983ap. 662; Marx and Engels 1976o p. 153.

  • 73.

    Marx 1992p. 323 cf. Marx 1965a p. 259 Marx and Engels 1976s p. 248.

  • 74.

    Marx 1983app. 661–2; Marx and Engels 1976o p. 153.

  • 75.

    See Marx 1966p. 209; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 205. Marx asserted there that the transformation of money into capital takes place in the sphere of circulation and also does not take place there. In Marx 1983a p. 314; Marx and Engels 1976n p. 327 Marx asserted that capital both posits and does not posit necessary labour.

  • 76.

    Marx 1965ap. 849; Marx and Engels 1976s p. 828.

  • 77.

    Marx 1965cp. 163; Marx and Engels 1976p p. 391.

  • 78.

    Marx 1974ap. 367; Marx and Engels 1976b pp. 164–5.

  • 79.

    Marx 1965dp. 80; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 275.

  • 80.

    Marx 1965dp. 117; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 308.

  • 81.

    Marx 1965dp. 256; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 394.

  • 82.

    Marx 1965dp. 492; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 501.

  • 83.

    Marx 1965dpp. 485 129; Marx and Engels 1976q pp. 495 319.

  • 84.

    Marx 1965dp. 134; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 324.

  • 85.

    Marx 1965dpp. 80 84; Marx and Engels 1976q pp. 275 278.

  • 86.

    Marx 1992p. 315. Cf. Marx 1965a p. 259; Marx and Engels 1976s p. 248.

  • 89.

    Hegel 1978bp. 75; Hegel 1969 p. 439.

  • 90.

    Marx 1966pp. 118–19; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 113.

  • 91.

    Marx 1990p. 533; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 294; Marx 1983a pp. 160 445; Marx and Engels 1976n pp. 166 463.

  • 92.

    Marx 1965dp. 454; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 459.

  • 93.

    Marx 1983ap. 360; Marx and Engels 1976n p. 376.

  • 94.

    Marx 1983ap. 643; Marx and Engels 1976o p. 134.

  • 95.

    Marx 1990p. 574; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 332.

  • 96.

    Marx 1972p. 122; Marx and Engels 1976e p. 168.

  • 97.

    Hegel 1978bp. 79; Hegel 1969 p. 443.

  • 98.

    Hegel 1978bp. 69; Hegel 1969 p. 435.

  • 99.

    Hegel 1978ap. 114; Hegel 1969 p. 107.

  • 100.

    Hegel 1978ap. 168; Hegel 1969 p. 152.

  • 102.

    Hegel 1979p. 472; Hegel 2002 p. 238.

  • 103.

    Marx 1974bp. 292; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 88. On Marx’s conception of mediation in this work see Rosental (ed.) 1975 pp. 29–36; Berki 1971 pp. 199–219.

  • 104.

    Marx 1974bp. 292; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 88.

  • 105.

    Marx 1974bp. 290; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 86.

  • 106.

    Marx 1974bp. 295; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 91.

  • 107.

    Marx 1974bp. 293; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 89.

  • 108.

    Karev 1927p. 182.

  • 109.

    Marx 1966p. 179; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 175.

  • 110.

    Marx 1966p. 179; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 175; Marx 1965c p. 509; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 139.

  • 111.

    Marx 1983ap. 250; Marx and Engels 1976n pp. 257–8. This passage repeats several of the points that Marx made in his earlier critique of mediation for example about the problematic character of mediation between the mediator and the extremes. Christ is supposed to be a mediator between God and man but he became more important than God. The saints became more important than Christ and the priests more important than the saints.

  • 112.

    Marx 1965cp. 509; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 140.

  • 113.

    Marx 1966p. 325; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 311. Presumably Marx is referring to the limit of a ratio when both numerator and denominator approach zero. For example the limit as x approaches zero of sin(x)/x = 1.

  • 114.

    Marx 1965dpp. 83–4; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 278; Marx 1965c p. 171 Marx and Engels 1976p p. 401.

  • 115.

    Marx 1966p. 151; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 148; Marx 1964a p. 69; Marx and Engels 1976g p. 106; ‘. . . the industrial bourgeoisie and the industrial proletariat confronted each other without mediation [unvermittelt]’.

  • 116.

    Marx and Engels 1957ap. 194; Marx and Engels 1976c p. 183.

  • 117.

    Marx 1965ap. 336 n. 46; Marx and Engels 1976s p. 322 n. 45.

  • 118.

    Marx 1961bp. 254; Marx and Engels 1976f p. 336.

  • 119.

    Marx and Engels 1959ap. 491; Marx and Engels 1976e p. 516.

  • 120.

    Marx and Engels 1962ap. 163; Marx and Engels 1976l p. 267.

  • 121.

    Marx 1974bp. 290; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 86.

  • 122.

    Marx 1965dpp. 83–4; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 278. Marx 1966 p. 21; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 16.

  • 123.

    Marx and Engels 1958ap. 464; Marx and Engels 1976d pp. 475–6 (an opposition whose reconciliation is the most sought-after wish); Marx 1964d p. 33; Marx and Engels 1976k p. 106 (fantastic solutions of social oppositions).

  • 124.

    Marx to Annenkov 28 December 1846in Marx and Engels 1954 p. 26; Marx and Engels 1976t pp. 103–4.

  • 125.

    Marx and Engels 1964ap. 461; Marx and Engels 1976g p. 530.

  • 126.

    See Inwood 1992.

  • 127.

    Marx 1966p. 128; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 124.

  • 128.

    Marx 1990p. 525; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 285.

  • 129.

    Marx and Engels 1959app. 463 473; Marx and Engels 1976e pp. 485 495.

  • 130.

    Marx 1964cpp. 524–5; Marx and Engels 1976i p. 168.

  • 131.

    Marx 1974bp. 295; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 91.

  • 132.

    Marx 1965cpp. 500 502; Marx and Engels 1976q pp. 131 132.

  • 133.

    Marx and Engels 1958ap. 48; Marx and Engels 1976d p. 61.

  • 134.

    Marx 1990p. 525; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 285.

  • 135.

    Marx and Engels 1958ap. 457; Marx and Engels 1976d p. 469.

  • 136.

    Marx 1990p. 533; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 294.

  • 137.

    Marx 1966p. 512; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 491.

  • 138.

    Marx and Engels 1957ap. 111; Marx and Engels 1976c p. 105.

  • 139.

    Marx and Engels 1959ap. 490; Marx and Engels 1976e p. 515.

  • 142.

    See for example Marx 1992p. 504 cf. Marx 1965a p. 456; Marx and Engels 1976s p. 438 where Marx writes of an opposition’s being ‘positively overcome [positiv aufgehoben]’.

  • 143.

    Marx and Engels 1957ap. 111; Marx and Engels 1976c p. 105.

  • 144.

    For example see Marx 1965cp. 453; Marx 1965d pp. 87 176; Marx and Engels 1976q pp. 87 281 360.

  • 145.

    See for example Marx 1963p. 32; Marx and Engels 1976o p. 288; Marx 1964b p. 205; Marx and Engels 1976g p. 248.

  • 146.

    Arndt 1994pp. 305–6; Iber 1990 p. 493 n. 26.

  • 147.

    See for example Marx to Sorge 23 May 1872Marx and Engels 1976v p. 377. On Marx’s role in editing the French version see Marx 1989b pp. 717–24.

  • 148.

    Marx 1966pp. 31–2; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 24.

  • 151.

    Marx and Engels 1976rp. 113.

  • 154.

    See Engels to Laura Lafargue 28 April 1886Marx and Engels 1976w p. 436.

  • 155.

    Engels to Marx 16 June 1867in Marx and Engels 1954 p. 135; Marx and Engels 1976u p. 381.

  • 156.

    Engels to Marx 29 November 1873Marx and Engels 1954 p. 222 Marx and Engels 1976v p. 541.

  • 158.

    Horstman 1986p. 69; Arndt 1994 pp. 305–6; Iber 1990 p. 493 n. 26.

  • 159.

    Horstman 1986p. 69.

  • 160.

    Hu 2006bp. 30.

  • 162.

    Hu 2006bp. 32 emphasis added.

  • 163.

    See for example Marx 1965cp. 510; Marx and Engels 1976q p. 140.

  • 164.

    Marx 1966p. 285; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 275. Marx wrote that capitalists are no more concerned with depopulation than with the possible fall of the Earth into the Sun.

  • 165.

    Engels 1968bp. 324; Marx and Engels 1976m p. 332.

  • 166.

    Marx 1983ap. 173; Marx and Engels 1976n p. 179.

  • 167.

    Marx 1966p. 82 n. 32; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 79 n. 1.

  • 168.

    See Marx 1974bp. 293; Marx and Engels 1976b p. 88.

  • 169.

    Marx 1966p. 623 n. 848; Marx and Engels 1976r p. 592 n. 2.

  • 170.

    Lukács 1968p. 63 n. 6; Lukács 1971 p. 24 n. 6.

  • 171.

    See for example Engels 1968bp. 357; Marx and Engels 1976m pp. 365–6.

  • 172.

    Bate Mueller and White 1971p. 35.

  • 173.

    Bate Mueller and White 1971p. 31 equation (1.7–4).

  • 174.

    Geyling and Westerman 1971p. 13 equation 2.2.3 with y0=0 and µ=GM.

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