Philosophy and Ideology. Z. A. Jordan 1963


The criticism of dialectical logic, of its relation to formal logic, and of the evidence produced in support of its claim that was raised on all sides in the years 1946-1948, put the Marxist-Leninist dialecticians into a philosophically untenable position. Dialectical logic appeared to be a huge misunderstanding, born of terminological ambiguities, ignorance of matters of fact, logical errors, primitive misconceptions and self-contradictory claims. Although Schaff stuck to his guns, he recognised that the relation of dialectics to formal logic was an ‘extremely complicated question’. He pleaded for patience and suspension of judgement until some undisclosed logical and dialectical problems were solved. Self-contradiction, he stated, is self-destruction. Marxist-Leninists accepted the requirements of consistency, did not deny the importance of formal logic, and were only concerned with finding the limits of its validity[714].

After the lively discussions on the relation of dialectics to formal logic, which took place in the period 1946-1948, the next few years were marked by no significant developments. However, behind the scenes a slow-moving but decisive shift of opinion was taking place among the Marxist-Leninist dialecticians which finally resulted in the abandonment of the logic of contradiction by a considerable proportion of them. This happened in 1955 and the years 1955-1957 witnessed the revival of the discussions on the validity and role of the principle of non-contradiction.

With one exception, these discussions were conducted exclusively by Marxist-Leninist philosophers and were embarrassingly and solemnly elementary in character. Some Marxist-Leninists confessed their errors and fully accepted the position of logic and common sense. Others gave up the most glaring dialectical fallacies and retained only some residual and harmless opinions concerning not so much logic as its philosophical foundations. Finally, a small group refused to revise their views. This group also defended the old stand in a novel manner and tried, though unsuccessfully, to comply with the requirements of consistency.

Several factors contributed to the shift and to the final change of opinion. One of them was undoubtedly the results of the discussions on logic and dialectics in the Soviet Union. These results not only strengthened the hand of the logicians, but also set in motion new processes of thought among Marxist-Leninist philosophers. As Schaff put it, one cannot accept the validity of formal logic and contend that there are contradictions inherent in things and phenomena of Nature. Either the former or the latter must be rejected. Hic Rhodus, hic Salta! The times, he added, when M. B. Mitin (the leading Soviet philosopher of the ‘thirties and still a man of considerable influence in the Soviet Union) could describe formal logic as ‘fiddlesticks’ and consider the matter closed, were over[715]. The fourth edition of the Short Philosophical Dictionary (1954) published in a Polish translation in 1955, expounded antiquated views on formal logic and spoke somewhat ambiguously on the difference between a ‘logical’ and a ‘dialectical contradiction’, but made a firm demand for the adherence to the laws of logic which are universally valid and absolutely necessary in all thinking[716]. About 1955 the logicians resumed the criticism of the view that dialectics follows a logic of its own, can do without the law of non-contradiction and is incompatible with formal logic. This view, they stated, rests on logical errors and fallacious thinking[717].

The alternative, formulated by Schaff, was not difficult to solve. Formal logic has proved its usefulness in the development of science and the alleged contradictions, to which the founders of Marxism-Leninism referred, turned out to be on closer examination only apparent contradictions, resulting from terminological inaccuracies, verbal confusions or the mistaken use of logical terms. These were the views which the logically trained philosophers presented in the discussions of 1946-1948 and which they continued to press and to spread in their teaching and other activities. They were increasingly accepted by the followers of Marxism-Leninism, although hardly anything of it transpired in print at that time[718].

There was yet another factor that seemed to have played a considerable role in the described development of events – the expurgation of Marxism-Leninism from Hegelian influences, to which reference was made in one of the preceding chapters. Schaff, who in 1946-1948 led the ineffective fight against the principle of non-contradiction and in the period 1955-1957 became the leading force among Marxist-Leninist philosophers for the abandonment of the logic of contradiction, belonged to the anti-Hegelian wing. The expurgation of Hegelian ideas from Marxism-Leninism was accompanied by a markedly increased respect for logic and common sense.

It was probably no matter of accident that while praising Stalin for correcting Engels in the formulation of the laws of dialectics and for having stopped ‘coquetting Hegel’, Schaff also extolled Stalin’s ‘iron logic’, his precision and struggle against every kind of muddle-headedness and ambiguity. For Stalin, dialectics presupposed the respect for logic. Stalin also exposed the deviation which made dialectics and formal logic oppose each other and which denied that the latter possessed any significance. The rejection of formal logic, Schaff stated, turns dialectics into sophistry. Stalin, a true dialectician, restored the teaching of formal logic at secondary schools and universities, revived the interest in logic and showed that it does not possess superstructural character[719].

Waldemar Rolbiecki, a Marxist-Leninist of the younger generation, was the first to state the conclusions with respect to formal logic and the principle of noncontradiction, which resulted from a new appraisal of the relation between dialectics and logic[720]. Some of Rolbiecki’s views were at once accepted by Polish Marxist-Leninists. Others were, however, challenged both from the viewpoint of orthodoxy and that of logical consistency.

Thus, Polish Marxist-Leninists split in two groups. One was led by Schaff, who came to the conclusion that he was wrong in his previous views on dialectics and formal logic, and that his opponents, Ajdukiewicz and Ossowski in particular, were right. The other section was led by Ładosz, who accused Schaff of yielding to the neo-positivist influence and of being guilty of serious misrepresentation of Marxism-Leninism[721]. These differences of opinion corresponded to a similar division among Soviet Marxist-Leninists. But while in Poland the stand taken by Schaff is supported by an overwhelming majority of Marxist-Leninists and Ładosz is almost isolated in his views, the position in the Soviet Union seems to be dissimilar. Voprosy Filosofii strongly supported the views defended by Ładosz in Poland, and condemned those of Schaff as well as the position, similar to Schaff’s, taken by K. S. Bakradze and N. I. Kondakov in the Soviet Union. What seems to have been finally decided among leading Marxist-Leninists in Poland, still remains in the balance in the Soviet Union[722].

What all the Polish Marxist-Leninists seem to agree upon is the rejection of logical dualism. There is one and only one logic, whose importance for science and philosophy cannot be overestimated. The laws of logic apply universally, both to objects at rest as well as to those changing and in motion. There can be no consistency and, therefore, no science, if contradictory statements are accepted together, or if inferences from contradictory premisses are accepted as valid. Dialectical logic is neither logic in the strict sense, nor formal; it does not deal with and does not provide rules of inference, which constitute the subjectmatter of formal logic and which must be respected also by dialectics, if dialectics is to make sense. If the law of non-contradiction is rejected, anything may be asserted, anything follows from what we assert, all statements are equally valid, no principle and law remains true any longer[723].

Two explanations were offered to account for the fact that until recently a different view had prevailed in Marxist-Leninist philosophy, the validity of formal logic had been rejected or restricted, and a ‘logic of contradiction’ had to be put in its place. The first claimed that not Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, but their followers should be blamed for this error. The founders of the doctrine never questioned the laws of logic, but only a particular and philosophical use made of them. What they said of logic did not refer to formal logic but to logic in the broad sense of this term, and above all, to the theory of knowledge. Even when Marx, Engels, or Lenin did speak of formal logic, they meant Aristotle’s or Hegel’s or traditional logic, which substantially differs from modern formal logic. What did apply to the former is not necessarily true with respect to the latter. The views of the present-day Marxist-Leninists on formal logic cannot justifiably claim the authority of the founders. Dialectics was never intended to be a science about the forms of valid inference, some kind of ‘higher formal logic’. Plekhanov’s logical dualism is a false conception of the relation between formal logic and dialectics, entirely foreign to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine[724].

For obvious reasons this opinion is unacceptable and it was rejected by Schaff and Eilstein. When the classical works of Marxism-Leninism are carefully examined, two things are perfectly clear. First, Marx, Engels and Lenin did recognise the validity of the law of non-contradiction and of the excluded middle whenever they were applied to some particular cases. They did not accept any view or argument which did not conform to these principles; if a view was contradictory or led to a contradiction, it was a sure indication of its falsehood. On the other hand, the founders of Marxism-Leninism did put restrictions on the validity of the principles in question. Both Engels and Lenin were convinced that the principle of non-contradiction and that of universal changeability were incompatible. However vague and inaccurate their use of the term ‘contradiction’ might have been, it must be recognised that in their view real and genuine contradictions sensu stricto were an essential feature of change and motion. They were convinced that an adequate description of natural, historical and social events could not be free from contradictions, for it had simultaneously to assert and to deny the same and in the same respect. Engels and Lenin found Hegel’s opinion that an ‘intelligent reflection. . . . . . consists in the understanding and enunciating of Contradiction’to be self-evident. Plekhanov tried to solve this paradox by his thesis of logical dualism and of the existence of the two realms of being to which dialectical and formal logic apply respectively. Plekhanov’s thesis must be rejected on the ground of experience and of logical consistency.

It should be conceded that the founders of Marxism-Leninism denied the universal validity of the laws of logic. This error originated with Hegel, with his confusion of contradictories and contraries, and his belief that real contradiction is the root of all movement, change and life. From Hegel the error passed on to Engels, Lenin and to Marxist-Leninist dialectics in general. The founders of Marxism-Leninism were not infallible and to recognise that they committed an error does not mean that Marxist-Leninist philosophy is falling to pieces. The elimination of errors can only strengthen a doctrine in which they are discovered[725].

At this stage the point was reached where serious differences of opinion among Polish Marxist-Leninists began to loom large and two different theories were put forward. Their chief protagonists were Schaff and Eilstein on the one hand, Rolbiecki and Ładosz on the other.

According to Schaff and Eilstein, a sharp distinction should be made between a logical and a dialectical contradiction. The latter is a misleading term, if it is understood to carry a logical meaning. It does not imply that things and phenomena of Nature do and do not possess certain characteristics in the same respect and at the same time, e.g. that a moving body is and is not at a given place at the same instant or that motion is and is not continuous together. What dialectics calls a contradiction might have different meanings. It might refer to the inherence in the object of opposite forces or polar tendencies, or to the incompatibility between parts or aspects of a whole. The mutually exclusive interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the conflict between the productive forces and the relations of production within the capitalist system are the classical examples of dialectical contradictions. These are not contradictions sensu stricto, because opposite attributes do not involve a logical contradiction and do not entail a conjunction of contradictory statements to be true. We not only can but must speak consistently of dialectical contradictions.

In particular, motion is no contradiction. As Ajdukiewicz has shown, there are logical and semantical fallacies in Zeno’s argument. Those who accept it in order to deny that motion is real or who accept it in order to claim that motion is a contradiction, commit a very similar error. This error is prompted by the metaphysical approach that constructs motion from static states.

The core of dialectics is the unity and struggle of the opposites and not the contradiction in the logical sense inherent as ‘corporeal form’ in the phenomena of Nature. The acceptance of the law of non-contradiction does not change the substance of Marxist-Leninist philosophy, makes it a consistent doctrine and reconciles dialectics with logic to the benefit of both[726].

Finally, it was suggested that the expression ‘the unity and struggle of the opposites’ is a metaphor which requires an interpretation before it can be applied to physical objects and processes. For a materialist the question why matter is in motion and what is its source has no definite meaning. He may and must, however, ask the question what are the causes which determine physical processes or events. The principle of the ‘unity and struggle of the opposites’ lays down that the causes should not be looked for outside but within matter itself, in its states, in other physical phenomena or in more elementary events. The principle in question also indicates that matter should not be conceived as consisting of homogeneous particles; matter reveals a differentiated structure and thus includes in itself the principle of motion, dynamic instability and qualitative change[727].

The appearance of contradictions, of antinomies and quasi-antinomies, of incompatible theories which are equally well justified at a given stage of knowledge, can be accounted for without resorting to the assumption of contradictions being inherent in the physical world. If the latter were truly there, we could not escape asserting conjunctions of contradictory statements as valid and true. But the progress of science invariably consists in showing that such conjunctions are invalid and are in fact eliminated by new techniques and the acquisition of new knowledge. The appearance of antinomies and incompatible theories is fully accounted for by the historical and social limitations of knowledge and by the presence of opposite tendencies in Nature[728].

The other Marxist-Leninist school of thought did not accept the view that the term ‘dialectical contradiction’ is a misnomer because it is not in fact a logical contradiction sensu stricto. In conformity with the Marxist-Leninist theory of knowledge, according to which knowledge is a reflection of the outside world, Rolbiecki argued that genuine logical contradictions, that is, other than those resulting from errors and ignorance, constantly eliminated and ever returning in a different form, are an indication of the ‘dialectically contradictory character of reality’ [729]. His views were elaborated and somewhat more systematically presented by Ładosz.

ładosz’s standpoint was essentially a reformulation of the traditional Marxist-Leninist doctrine. He treated lightly all efforts to eliminate or to resolve paradoxes, antinomies and contradictions by logical analysis. Logical analysis results in trivialities. It might achieve its purpose by some technical tricks or ingenuity, without, however, touching the heart of the problem. This was the case, in Ładosz’s opinion, with Ajdukiewicz’s analysis of Zeno’s argument. It was an exercise in logical skill which blurred the real issue and left it unresolved. This real issue is that of the origin of change and motion. In agreement with the Hegelian-Marxian tradition, Ładosz assumed what others find so difficult to comprehend, namely that only logical contradictions sensu stricto make things change and move. On this account he dismissed logical analysis as a futile game and believed that dialectical, real contradictions sensu stricto are everlasting. They differ from purely logical contradictions just because they can never be ‘overcome’ or eliminated. There are, therefore, contradictory statements which are true together and the law ‘one and only one of two contradictory statements is true’ is generally false[730].

Real contradictions sensu stricto not only explain change and motion, but also the appearance of paradoxes and antinomies, as well as the whole course of the development of knowledge, progressing from one contradiction to another. In this respect Ładosz is a pure Hegelian and Leninist. ‘The reflection of Nature in human thought’, Lenin wrote, ‘must be envisaged not as ‘dead’ or ‘abstract’ or static or free from contradiction, but as an eternal process of movement, in which contradictions are forever emerging and being resolved’ [731]. They are ‘dialectical contradictions of thought’, corresponding to those in the outside world. The former are bound up with and inexplicable without the latter. On the other hand, real contradictions in Nature make it imperative that our concepts be kept vague and ambiguous, if they are to be descriptively useful and adequate to what they refer.

ładosz ridiculed the idea that dialectical logic may be formalised to replace formal logic. The idea of a formalised dialectical logic does seem to be utterly unsound and fantastic. How could an inference whose validity is determined by its content be formally considered? How can a method that reconstructs the ‘real movement’ and follows the unfolding of contradictory relations, of which any particular content is made up, be formal? Above all, there is a more basic objection to ‘formal dialectics. Once Hegel’s dialectics is turned upside down, ‘dialectics of facts’ is considered to be primary and the ‘movement of thought to be its reflection evolving in obedience to dialectic laws, the idea of dialectics codified into some kind of formal logic is in fact untenable. Whatever universality dialectics may claim, it cannot be that of logic. Since the emphasis on the dialectics of Nature is conspicuous in Marxism-Leninism, those anxious to uphold the orthodoxy can claim for dialectics only the universality of Nature or History, the universality of the ‘laws of motion’, which the unfolding of natural and historical events must obey.

While asserting that by the discovery and the ‘overcoming’ of objective and everlasting contradictions dialectics reveals the ‘deep truth’ about the world, Ładosz also thought highly of the cognitive value of formal and mathematical logic[732]. To reconcile this view with the recognition of the existence of contradictions sensu stricto he suggested that the binding force of logic, conceived as a system of inferential rules, remains unimpaired provided that it is supplemented by a rejection rule which forbids drawing inferences from contradictory statements. It is not true to say, Ładosz argued, that the acceptance of contradictory statements being true together leads to falsehood and absurdities. Falsehood results only from drawing inferences from such statements. The above mentioned rejection rule ‘constitutes the essence of the non-contradiction principle of formal logic’ [733]. Thus, formal logic and dialectics can be reconciled without giving up anything, either the traditional principles of dialectics or of formal logic.

ładosz’s solution is, however, apparent and does involve a ‘dialectical contradiction of thought’, or more plainly, it leads to a contradiction. The inconsistency of Ładosz’s views on the relation between dialectics and formal logic was shown by Kokoszyńska.

If the theorems of logic are conceived as rules of inference – among Polish logicians this conception of logic had been investigated by Jaśkowski in the ‘thirties and has been adopted by Suszko after the war – we might see in these rules some kind of commands, either hypothetical or unconditional. The former are incomplete, the latter complete expressions. A hypothetical command can always be formulated in the indicative mood, which transforms an abbreviated expression into a complete sentence. Thus, the imperative sentence ‘do this or that’, interpreted as a hypothetical command, means ‘if you wish to bring about an identifiable state of affairs, you should do this or that’. The latter expression is equivalent to an indicative statement ‘the necessary condition of bringing about an identifiable state of affairs is to do this or that’. Unconditional imperatives do not admit of such interpretations. They must be considered as complete sentences and cannot be reduced to an indicative expression which states that something is the case. They invariably tell someone unambiguously to do something or to make something the case.

If logical theorems are conceived as inferential rules, they offer a parallel to a hypothetical command. As complete sentences they state: the necessary condition to assert only true sentences (with respect to some premisses) is to reject a certain sentence p, or: the necessary condition to reject only false sentences (with respect to some premisses) is to assert a certain sentence p. The former corresponds to a forbidding, the latter to a prescriptive command. It is natural to complete ‘logical commands’ in the described fashion, because science is concerned with truth and falsehood and interested solely or mainly in how to achieve the former and to avoid the latter[734].

To see what this conception of logic entails, another preparatory step must be made. In any systematic examination we can distinguish five different levels of discourse. First, the objects and their relations, investigated by a given science (the objective level); second, the statements describing these objects and their relations (subjective level); third, the statements concerning the truth and falsehood of the second level statements (the metatheoretical or semantical level); fourth, the rules of procedure acquired from the knowledge of the investigated objects (the methodological level); fifth, the systematic order of thought and the consistent adherence to the rules of procedure established in the universe of discourse of which a given science makes use.

So far as logic is concerned, the distinction between the different levels of discourse has a long tradition. Aristotle distinguished the ontological and the logical principle of non-contradiction (corresponding to the first and second or third of the differentiated levels of discourse) and we are all well acquainted with its fourth level, since we follow the command ‘Do not ever assert the conjunction of contradictory statements’ [735].

The principle of non-contradiction can easily be formulated in terms of the first level, but to deal with other logical formulae in the same manner becomes awkward. As a rule, and for obvious reasons, we carry on logical investigations on the second and the third level. In principle, logical theorems can also be formulated in the language of methodology. This is what Ładosz suggested should be done. Then, however, certain conclusions become inevitable.

What is stated in methodological terms, determines the truth and falsehood of what is asserted at the lower levels of discourse. This is true as long as the ‘logical commands’ are conceived as incomplete hypothetical sentences. The rule: ‘Accept every alternative of contradictory statements’ would entail the truth of any such alternative. The rule in question expressed as a complete sentence means: the necessary condition of rejecting only false statements is not to reject any alternative of contradictory statements. It follows therefrom that if an alternative of contradictory statements is rejected, a true statement is rejected. Therefore, the alternative cannot be false, and not being false it must be true. The same reasoning applies to any other logical theorem conceived as a ‘command’ and reduced to a methodological rule.

In particular, the methodological rule of non-contradiction implies that no conjunction of contradictory statements is true. It cannot be true, therefore, that either the sentence ‘motion is and is not continuous’ is true, as Ładosz asserted, or, what is the case according to dialectics, that motion is and is not continuous. By declaring his adherence to the methodological rule of non-contradiction and asserting the above indicated sentence, Ładosz contradicts himself. Generally speaking, logic and dialectics are not thus reconciled, but exclude each other. What the former holds to be false, the latter declares to be true, and conversely. Ładosz’s claim that he has produced a new theory of the relation between dialectics and formal logic, which is consistent and allows the adherence of both to their respective traditional principles, is not justified. The solution failed to achieve its purpose and the old conflict remains unresolved[736] .

The contradiction can be avoided by conceiving ‘logical commands’ as unconditional. In this case the methodological rule of non-contradiction does not entail the conclusion that no conjunction of contradictory statements is true. A command might not be obeyed for some reason or other and the failure to follow it does not involve a contradiction, though it is exposed to the objection that such a behaviour is not consistent.

To adopt this attitude gives rise to some other important difficulties, which are extremely embarrassing to a Marxist-Leninist; they do seem to come into conflict with some of his other basic assumptions. How is the discrepancy between the nature of reality, which contains contradictions sensu stricto, and the requirements of thought, forbidding to accept contradictory statements and striving to eliminate them, to be explained? Is it not probable that if reality were as full of contradictions as Ładosz supposed it to be, the human mind would evolve a different logic from that which it actually adheres to? Furthermore, does not the acceptance of real contradictions sensu stricto lead to what Marxist-Leninist calls ‘agnosticism’? To say that A is and is not B together implies that we have equally good reasons to assert both. Therefore, we do not know what A is. If we knew, we could decide whether it is or is not B. Thus, however, the irrationalistic solution of the relation between dialectics and formal logic is reinforced by agnosticism. While being able to give some explanation how antinomies and quasi-antinomies arise, Ładosz cannot account for the fact that the human mind strives for their solution or elimination. This striving is a Sisyphean and senseless toil, doomed to failure or trivialities, if we are to believe what Ładosz said. From his theories there emerges a world in which an existentialist, but not a Marxist-Leninist, might feel at home[737].

This criticism, to which no reply has been given, concludes the long-drawn battle between the logicians and the dialecticians about the meaning to be attached to the principles of dialectics, about the status of the law of noncontradiction and of formal logic in general. In the course of this discussion Polish Marxist-Leninists substantially changed their original ideas and, in fact, revised the classical Marxist-Leninist theory.

This restored peace between the logicians and Marxist-Leninist philosophers so far as the fundamentals are concerned. On this basis only a philosophical discussion becomes possible and other differences of opinion can be seriously examined instead of being simply dismissed by both sides, though for different and not equally well justifiable reasons.