Contrasting Materialisms: Engelsian Dialectical and Bunge’s Emergentist Realism
Despite the fact that dialectical materialism (hereafter DM) raises little interest from contemporary philosophers, Mario Bunge has provided a thorough criticism of DM. This ontology has some merits, being evolutionist (material things change by themselves) and scientific. But the specific ‘dialectic laws’ for material processes, as viewed by Bunge, are at best vague and of limited scope, and at worst incompatible with materialism, or plainly unintelligible. This analysis can be developed by considering the original dialectic laws in Engels’ writings, and also the criticisms and tentative revisions of DM by proponents of dialectics themselves. In this respect, the little-known work of Robert Havemann must be taken into account. This Marxist scientist and philosopher was a severe critic of dogmatic DM and a strong supporter of the scientific method. Nevertheless, he was unable to escape some of the worst obscurities of dialectical thinking. The existence of a modern emergentist, exact and scientist philosophical materialism, exemplified by the clear and large-scoped Bungean synthesis, now makes any excessive concern for DM notions a superfluous, if not even detrimental, intellectual detour.
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