Time: matter in motion



NGC 6302: The Butterfly Nebula


Doomed Star Eta Carinae


Images: top/middle/bottom

The Orion Nebula

The Orion Trapezium

The Orion Nebula Trapezium


In the Valley of Orion Nebula visualisation


Images: 1st/2nd

Want to see a good display on New Year’s Eve?

NGC 6357: Stellar Wonderland

NGC 6357: Stellar Wonderland


Image (click twice to fully enlarge)

Lenin: the recent revolution in natural science, and philosophical idealism – part eight

A massive star in NGC 6357

A massive star in NGC 6357

“Matter has disappeared” (continued)

The opinions expressed by Bogdanov in 1899 regarding “the immutable essence of things”, the opinions of Valentinov and Yushkevich regarding “substance”, and so forth – are similar fruits of ignorance of dialectics. From Engels’ point of view, the only immutability is the reflection by the human mind (when there is a human mind) of an external world existing and developing independently of the mind. No other “immutability”, no other “essence”, no other “absolute substance”, in the sense in which these concepts were depicted by the empty professorial philosophy, exist for Marx and Engels. The “essence” of things, or “substance”, is also relative; it expresses only the degree of profundity of man’s knowledge of objects; and while yesterday the profundity of this knowledge did not go beyond the atom, and today does not go beyond the electron and ether, dialectical materialism insists on the temporary, relative, approximate character of all these milestones in the knowledge of nature gained by the progressing science of man. The electron is as inexhaustible as the atom, nature is infinite, but it infinitely exists. And it is this sole categorical, this sole unconditional recognition of nature’s existence outside the mind and perception of man that distinguishes dialectical materialism from relativist agnosticism and idealism.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 243

The first image (a 180 degree panorama) sent from another planet (Venus). Venera 9, 1975

The first image (a 180 degree panorama) sent from another planet (Venus). Venera 9, 1975

Opportunity at Santa Maria Crater, Mars, 2011

Opportunity at Santa Maria Crater, Mars, 2011

Philae on comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, 2014

Philae on comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, 2014

Flying past Neptune’s moon Triton


Part eight/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image sources: 1st/2nd/3rd/4th

Marx acknowledges his debt to mysticism – and its potential

NGC 7635: The Bubble Nebula

NGC 7635: The Bubble Nebula

‘I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker…The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.

In its mystified form, the dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and glorify what exists. In its rational form it is a scandal and an abomination to the bourgeoisie and its doctrinaire spokesmen, because it includes in its positive understanding of what exists a simultaneous recognition of its negation, its inevitable destruction; because it regards every historically developed form as being in a fluid state, in motion, and therefore grasps its transient aspect as well; and because it does not let itself be impressed by anything, being in its very essence critical and revolutionary.’

Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, Postface to the Second Edition 1873, Penguin, London, 1982, pp. 102-103


Contra sacerdotes latentes


The one (theoretical) absolute is change

The one (theoretical) absolute is change


Leibniz’s perspectivism


*   *   *

For Leibniz, the nature of the knowledge we have of the world is perspectival, limited and finite. It is perspectival and limited because we are all in different places at any one time and can only view the world from those positions (literal perspective), have different beliefs about the world (metaphorical perspective) and finite not only because our monadic lives must end but because, despite our intellects, we can never grasp the world in its fullness and totality as can God in his omniscience.

The degree to which our monadic capacities as ‘mirrors’ of God are developed determines the degree to which we can reason and understand God, his beneficence and the world – this very ability enables us to appreciate our limitation.

Leibniz wrote of ‘clear and distinct’ ideas. A differentiation between things gives a clear idea (for example we can reason about objects because we can perceive their form) but when it is known why a thing is as it is, what its essential properties are, the idea is distinct.

Leibniz thought that scientific knowledge, though it aims to provide both clear and distinct ideas can only ever be limited because it is based on sensory information and reflects our finitude as monads.

The ideas of empiricism and mechanistic physics give confused, contingent truths whereas the ideas of metaphysical reason lead to necessary truths, truths that are distinct – the ‘knowledge’ of particular concern to Leibniz.

The knowledge of these necessary and eternal truths distinguishes us from animals and carries us beyond science, beneath science, to the true knowledge of ourselves, the world and God.

For example, when we think about time and space clearly and distinctly we will know that they are not real, that they refer (Leibniz drawing on Neoplatonic duration) to the simultaneity and flux between monadic representations.

As monadic ‘mirrors’ of God and his ‘mind’, we bear not only our futures but these innate ideas or truths in our own ‘minds’ as dispositions or tendencies. Leibniz denied that such knowledge was limited by our experience.

While our knowledge can only ever be limited and perspectival, God’s is perfect and infinite – not only is this monadic world his creation, all perspectives (again drawing on Christianity and the Neoplatonic hypostases of Intellect and the One) are united, co-ordinated and harmonised in his mind, the world.

Consistent with God’s laws, it is an harmonisation of the internal states of the monadic substances, their perspectival representations (beliefs, perceptions) and appetitions (desires, drives).

The interactions and interconnections between monads and their states – and therefore God’s harmonisation – are pre-ordained by him. In our finitude, we can only poorly realise this true knowledge.

That thought grasps its object from a particular point of view is an excellent, necessary approach to knowing the world.

When two people look at the same object or consider the same issue yet think and speak about it differently, they do so because they relate with that object or issue from their own perspective.

The questioning and testing of these perspectives, each in relation to the other and to their objective circumstances, can result in the deepening of our understanding of what is seen or considered.

In the process, we embrace and engage with the engine of the world – contradiction.

To bring perspectives constructively to a subject is to cut facets on a rough diamond.

Perspectives are essential to truth and to our knowledge of the world.



Images: top/bottom

Lenin: the recent revolution in natural science, and philosophical idealism – part ten

Is Motion Without Matter Conceivable?

The fact that philosophical idealism is attempting to make use of the new physics, or that idealist conclusions are being drawn from the latter, is due not to the discovery of new kinds of substance and force, of matter and motion, but to the fact that an attempt is being made to conceive motion without matter. …let us examine Dietzgen’s own statements on the question under consideration. He says: “They [the idealists] want to have the general without the particular, mind without matter, force without substance, science without experience or material, the absolute without the relative” (Das Wesen der menschlichen Kopfarbeit, 1903, S. 108). …“The antithesis between force and matter is as old as the antithesis between idealism and materialism” (111). “Of course, there is no force without matter, no matter without force; forceless matter and matterless force are absurdities. If idealist natural scientists believe in the immaterial existence of forces, then on this point they are not natural scientists…but seers of ghosts” (114). …

 Let us imagine a consistent idealist who holds, let us say, that the entire world is his sensation, his idea, etc. (if we take “nobody’s” sensation or idea, this changes only the variety of philosophical idealism but not its essence). The idealist would not even think of denying that the world is motion, i.e., the motion of his thoughts, ideas, sensations. The question as to what moves, the idealist will reject and regard as absurd: what is taking place is a change of his sensations, ideas come and go, and nothing more. Outside him there is nothing. “It moves” – and that is all. It is impossible to conceive a more “economical” way of thinking. And no proofs, syllogisms, or definitions are capable of refuting the solipsist if he consistently adheres to his view.

The fundamental distinction between the materialist and the adherent of idealist philosophy consists in the fact that the materialist regards sensation, perception, idea, and the mind of man generally, as an image of objective reality. The world is the movement of this objective reality reflected by our consciousness. To the movement of ideas, perceptions, etc., there corresponds the movement of matter outside me. The concept matter expresses nothing more than the objective reality which is given us in sensation. Therefore, to divorce motion from matter is equivalent to divorcing thought from objective reality, or to divorcing my sensations from the external world – in a word, it is to go over to idealism. The trick which is usually performed in denying matter, in assuming motion without matter, consists in ignoring the relation of matter to thought. The question is presented as though this relation did not exist, but in reality it is introduced surreptitiously; at the beginning of the argument it remains unexpressed, but subsequently crops up more or less imperceptibly.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 246-248

The world is matter in motion: Voyager 1 approaching Jupiter, 1979

Jupiter’s storms modelled on a soap bubble

Part ten/to be continued…


Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Lenin: the recent revolution in natural science, and philosophical idealism – part nine

Spin up of a super-massive black hole

Spin up of a super-massive black hole

“Matter has disappeared” (continued)

…the new physics wavers unconsciously and instinctively between dialectical materialism, which remains unknown to the bourgeois scientists, and “phenomenalism”, with its inevitable subjectivist (and, subsequently, directly fideist) deductions.

…however much both Rey and the physicists of whom he speaks abjure materialism, it is nevertheless beyond question that mechanics was a copy of real motions of moderate velocity, while the new physics is a copy of real motions of enormous velocity. The recognition of theory as a copy, as an approximate copy of objective reality, is materialism. When Rey says that among modern physicists there “is a reaction against the conceptualist [Machist] and energeticist school”, and when he includes the physicists of the electron theory among the representatives of this reaction (46), we could desire no better corroboration of the fact that the struggle is essentially between the materialist and the idealist tendencies. But we must not forget that, apart from the general prejudices against materialism common to all educated philistines, the most outstanding theoreticians are handicapped by a complete ignorance of dialectics.

V.I.Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975, 243-246


Part nine/to be continued…

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image source

Hypatia of Alexandria and NASA

Rachel Weisz as Hypatia in 'Agora'

Rachel Weisz as Hypatia in ‘Agora’

The NASA website, appropriately and to their credit, has a page on the Neoplatonist Hypatia.

The text states:

‘Sixteen hundred years ago, Hypatia became one of the world’s leading scholars in mathematics and astronomy. Hypatia’s legendary knowledge, modesty, and public speaking ability flourished during the era of the Great Library of Alexandria. Hypatia is credited with contributions to geometry and astrometry, and she is thought instrumental in the development of the sky-measuring astrolabe. “Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all,” Hypatia is credited with saying. “To teach superstitions as truth is a most terrible thing.'”

If only the scientists at NASA were to study and understand Hypatia’s philosophy and developments on it by others, particularly Hegel and then Marx and Engels, who stood it on its feet in a material world, they would have the epistemology that best reflects the world, can best organise what science is telling them about the world’s profoundly poetic and contradictory nature and can best guide their quest for knowledge.

Both the acquisition and organisation of knowledge require an epistemology. For more than one hundred years in particular, since the development of dialectical materialism by Marx and Engels and the rise of a new science, the dominant bourgeois philosophy (neither dialectical nor materialist) has been an impediment to science.

While science (our drive to know and shape the world) pushes ever further past that ideological constraint, it lacks the epistemology necessary to guide its research and fully enable the understanding of its discoveries (see my post ‘Aristotle and Nicholas of Cusa: to be and/or not to be, that is the question’).

Developments on dialectical materialism are the way forward.

Lunar surface, oblique view across Moltke and Rima Hypatia. 24.2° E, 0.6° N. 80mm. Apollo 10, 1969

Lunar surface, oblique view across Moltke and Rima Hypatia. 24.2° E, 0.6° N. 80mm. Apollo 10, 1969


Image sources: top/bottom