K problému dialektiky přírody
Vít Bartoš (Technical University of Liberec)
Contradictions: A Journal for Critical Thought II, no. 1 (2018): 13–40
Keywords: Dialectics of nature, Friedrich Engels, biology, physics, adaptationism, humanism
The aim of this article is to update some of Engels’s ideas on the topic of the dialectics of nature and to bring those ideas into the context of contemporary developments in the natural sciences (especially biology). Firstly, we examine the question of the very possibility of dialectics (dialectical processes) in nature because, at least since Lukács, there has been a significant tradition denying the existence of dialectical processes in nature because nature has no acting, conscious subjects. We argue that dialectics is universally present not only in the actions of the subject, which is an old-fashioned relic of anthropomorphism, but in nature itself. Secondly, we identify some basic problems in Engels’s theory of nature as it is described in his Dialectics of Nature. We are especially interested in Engels’s employment of dialectics as a general method of investigating the nature of physical and biological reality. We find that some principles of dialectics (as Engels understands them) are not consistent with the fundamental principles of physics, such as the second law of thermodynamics. In addition, in the domain of biology it would seem quite difficult to make Engels’s Lamarckian concept of evolution consistent with his own concept of dialectics, not to mention with the paradigmatic Darwinian approach. Finally, we point out that there is a renaissance of dialectical thinking in modern biology that can be understood as a partial confirmation of Engels’s intuitions regarding dialectics. Especially in the works of Richard Levins, Richard Lewontin, and Stephen J. Gould we can see how dialectics was applied in their disputes with genetic and environmental determinists and adaptationists.
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