On fire: A dialectical heritage

By Jason Devine

February 24, 2019 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — Heraclitus has come down to us as the philosopher of Πάντα ῥεῖ, of the view that everything flows. This immediately calls to mind the image of water. Indeed, a saying of his that most commonly attends discussions of his philosophy is the following: “Upon those who step into the same rivers, different and again different waters flow.”[1] However, this can only lead to false impressions. For fire plays a far greater and more fundamental role for Heraclitus, as both an element and a metaphor, than water ever did. Fire expresses and is the eternal alteration between life and death, movement and rest, between uniformity and diversity viz. what has come to be known as the dialectic.

It should be recalled that Hegel consciously built his system on the basis of Heraclitus. As he once famously stated, “there is no proposition of Heraclitus which I have not adopted in my Logic.”[2] In taking over the latter’s dialectic he also absorbed his notion of fire. But the dialectic does not remain still. Not merely do its forms change, but the human comprehension of the dialectic varies as well. Thus we find Hegel’s dialectic more concrete compared to Heraclitus, while fire was reduced to a subsidiary function within the totality of Hegel’s system. And yet fire and the dialectic remained inextricably bound together.

Finally, in considering Marx, we find yet another alteration in the conception of fire and dialectics. Here Marx’s materialist outlook is an advance on the idealism of Hegel, and yet also represents, on one level, a return to the materialism of Heraclitus. This is a true concretisation of the dialectic. And yet, unlike the previous two, fire does not play an important conceptual role for Marx. Rather it sinks to the level of a mere metaphor for the dialectic of human activity. By examining the development of the notion of fire in the dialectics of Heraclitus, Hegel, and Marx light can be cast on the essence of their dialectical thought. More specifically, when we look at the continuity and discontinuity of the imagery of fire across these three great thinkers, we can see how they dialectically passed the torch of the dialectic as a tool of enlightenment.

According to Hegel, the history of philosophy is the dialectical progression of human thought. Since the principle by which this development occurs is the dialectic, this history is also a history of the dialectic itself. As such the importance of Heraclitus is that he took “the dialectic itself as principle.”[3] For Hegel the latter is an unfolding totality, one which moves from the abstract to the concrete. As he stated in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy:

The advance requisite and made by Heraclitus is the progression from Being as the first immediate thought, to the category of Becoming as the second. This is the first concrete, the Absolute, as in it the unity of opposites. Thus with Heraclitus the philosophic Idea is to be met with in its speculative form; the reasoning of Parmenides and Zeno is abstract understanding.[4]

Here the logical and the historical are united.[5] Everything before Heraclitus is seen as abstract, one-sided, merely preparatory. Hence he and his philosophy were viewed by Hegel as both temporally and logically subsequent to the Eleatics. He echoed the same sentiments later on when he stated that “As the first concrete determination of thought, becoming is also the first genuine one. In the history of philosophy it is the system of Heraclitus that corresponds to this stage of the logical Idea.”[6] For Hegel, then, Heraclitus is the first real step forward in the development of human thought. This he accomplished by positing the dialectic, and thereby concretising previous thinking. It is no wonder then that, as noted above, Hegel held him in such high regard. Nor can there be any doubt of the importance which a study of Heraclitus holds for understanding Hegel’s method and system.

Marx and Engels, unsurprisingly, both studied Heraclitus but only ever wrote about him in passing.[7] His importance to them was less theoretical and more so historical. This is not to say that they did not esteem his philosophy. As Marx wrote to Ferdinand Lassalle upon receiving the latter’s book on Heraclitus: “I have always felt a great TENDERNESS for this philosopher, whom I prefer above all the Ancients save Aristotle.”[8] Engels, for his part, argued that Heraclitus was an important philosophical forerunner:

When we consider and reflect upon nature at large or the history of mankind or our own intellectual activity, at first we see the picture of an endless entanglement of relations and reactions, permutations and combinations, in which nothing remains what, where and as it was, but everything moves, changes, comes into being and passes away. This primitive, naive but intrinsically correct conception of the world is that of ancient Greek philosophy, and was first clearly formulated by Heraclitus: everything is and is not, for everything is fluid, is constantly changing, constantly coming into being and passing away.[9]

In light of Engels’ statement that the “old Greek philosophers were all born natural dialecticians,” this can only mean that, similar to Hegel, he held Heraclitus to be a founder of the dialectic.[10] But a distinction should be noted here. According to Hegel the importance of Heraclitus is the place he holds in the progression of the Absolute Idea i.e. the former interpreted the latter idealistically. Engels, however, understood Heraclitus to be an early materialist philosopher and, therefore, represented an initial advance in humanity’s conceptual grasp of material reality. While it is true that neither Marx nor Engels produced a systematic study of Heraclitus, this cannot obviate the powerful influence the latter had on philosophy in general, and dialectical logic in particular.[11]

The exact details of the life of Heraclitus are not known. The information that exists is, like his philosophy, fragmentary. What can be assured, as Robinson has remarked, is that Heraclitus “lived during the period spanning the end of the sixth century and the beginning of the fifth century BC.”[12] Further, he was an aristocrat and lived in the Greek port city of Ephesus. The latter was a place of great wealth, serving as a commercial hub in the ancient world. It was here that Heraclitus is said to have written a single book entitled On Nature, although there is debate as to whether this is true or not.[13] Whatever he actually wrote, all that has come down to us are fragments which, a careful reading reveals, have common threads binding them together.[14]

In fragment 30 Heraclitus lays bare the nature of reality, stating that “The cosmos, the same for all, none of the gods nor of humans has made, but it always was, and is, and shall be: an ever-living fire, being kindled in measures and being extinguished in measures.”[15] Heraclitus’ meaning here can be taken as both literal and symbolic. First, he is asserted that everything is literally made of fire as it is the basic element of reality. This, therefore, includes the other basic elements: “The turnings of fire are, first, sea; and of sea, half is earth and half fiery waterspout…Earth is poured out as sea, and is measured according to the same ratio it was before it became earth.”[16] While stating that the different elements transition between each other, his assertion is that fire is the primary element which underlies the others and to which they return: “Fire lives the death of earth, and air lives the death of fire; water lives the death of air, earth that of water.”[17] Hence a cycle is formed with fire being both the beginning and end viz. the entire universe is an infinite ring.

Secondly, therefore, Heraclitus’ also means fire in the symbolic sense of the continual flux and change of fire as it burns: its form is always altering and yet it remains the same. This constant change is not chaotic however, as his mention of measures imply that this movement is ordered, structured, and lawful. In what is presumed to be the introduction to his work Heraclitus wrote that “This logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it…all things come to be in accordance with this logos.”[18] He stated further that “it is necessary to follow this what is common. But although the logos is common, most people live as if they had their own private understanding.”[19] What is the logos? It is fire and as the latter takes many forms, we should not be surprised to find the logos under different names. Thus “All things are an exchange for fire, and fire for all things, as good for gold and gold for goods.”[20] This exchange is the turning between opposites, so that “Fire is want and satiety,” or, in other words “God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, satiety and hunger.”[21] The logos is Fire, and Fire is God: the whole of existence.

This is shown further in fragment 10, where Heraclitus argues that “Things taken together are whole and not whole, being brought together and brought apart, in tune and out of tune; out of all things there comes a unity, and out of a unity all things.”[22] Fire, then, stands for the process of the unity and division of opposites, or what Engels referred to as the “interpenetration of opposites.”[23] This all-embracing process determines everything: “War is the father of all and the king of all, and some he shows as gods, others as humans, some he makes slaves, others free.”[24] Hence, war is fire and fire is war: “For fire will advance and judge and convict all things.”[25] Furthermore, chaos is order and order is chaos: “It is necessary to know that war is common and justice is strife and that all things happen in accordance with strife and necessity.”[26] The lawful order of reality, then, arises out of the eternal flux of its process. As Heraclitus wrote, “The most beautiful arrangement is a pile of things poured out at random.”[27] Chance and necessity, life and death, unity and division: everything is a universal alteration.

It is clear from the above that when Heraclitus made references to God he did not mean so in either a monotheistic or polytheistic sense. No his philosophy was an ancient materialism: if not atheistic, then at least pantheistic. Certainly, according to the logic of his thought, there is reason to believe that his whole point in referring to the logos by different names was intended to elucidate the unity amid diversity. It was also likely intended to aid the understanding of those who read his work by shining a light on popular ignorance. And this is why fire best represented the whole matter: for fire is always moving, always altering, and yet remaining the same: “Changing, it rests.”[28] The creation of fire arises from destruction and in destroying it creates.[29] This means, further, that this eternal process of change is self-regulating, as is implicit in fragment 30 quoted above. In other words, there is an inner logic to reality i.e. precisely the logos. The logic of Heraclitus, then, is dialectical and its most lucid expression is fire.

In leaving Heraclitus and turning to Hegel, we find a number of dialectical transitions. For example, fire remains a symbol of the dialectic, but its conceptualisation differs viz. the framework shifts from a materialist pantheism to absolute idealism. Further, where the dialectic is implicit in the thinking of Heraclitus, it is explicit in Hegel. In fact, we can characterise this development as the move from ancient to modern dialectics. From a Marxian perspective, then, Hegel represents both a progression and a retrogression compared to Heraclitus. In order to properly appreciate the historical significance of the former, his relationship with the latter must be illuminated and cognised.

Hegel, in the second part of his Philosophy of Nature, “Inorganic Physics,” discussed the four elements of air, fire, water, and earth. As these follow upon the elementary particles, which, for Hegel, is a moment of unity, of identity, the four elements therefore represent a moment of diversity, the splitting into opposition of the original self-identity. He classifies the four into a similar structure viz. air as a phase of universal, abstract unity, fire and water as a phase of particular, mediated antithesis, and earth as individualised identity. Though the elements differ amongst themselves in their concreteness, each taken alone is abstract as opposed to their concrete unity:

The individual identity, by which the different elements in terms of both their difference from each other and their unity with each other are bound, is a dialectic which constitutes the physical life of the earth, the meteorological process. It is in this process alone that the elements, as dependent moments, have their existence, being generated in it and posited as existent.[30]

The Earth itself, then, is the totality, the integration of the elements and hence is the moment of a self-unity. What matters here is not the scientific basis or lack thereof of Hegel’s writing. Rather it is the very structure, the logic of his conception. As Thomas Posch has argued “it may thus be said that all categories developed in the Science of Logic have their respective counterparts in the Philosophy of Nature (and also in the Philosophy of Spirit); moreover, the succession of the logical categories and of their respective counterparts is roughly the same.”[31] This can also be said for his History of Philosophy. In other words, the question here concerns Hegel’s dialectical method.

Within this general context, Hegel wrote the following passage about fire itself, and which can only be considered Heraclitean:

The elements of the antithesis are (a) being for itself not the indifferent being of rigidity, but rather being for itself posited in individuality as a moment, and therefore material selfhood, light identical to heat: fire. This element is materialised time, absolutely restless and consuming, and causes the self-consumption of the subsisting body as it conversely destroys the body through its external approach. In consuming another, fire consumes itself.[32]

When Hegel stated that “fire…is materialised time,” he was referring to Heraclitus, especially to the latter’s “ever-living fire.” Fire, for both thinkers, is the continual flux, the constant change of reality. The manifold of appearances are always altering, but the essence remains the same viz. the permanent diremption of unity, its re-establishment via the fusion of its oppositions, and the eventual self-division.[33] It should be recalled that Heraclitus was not conscious of this principle and thus presented the dialectic abstractly or, as I stated above, implicitly. Accordingly, only with Hegel was it made explicit, or further concretised. That is to say, the dialectic was shown to be not a mere dance between unity and division, between immediate and mediate, but, more specifically, the movement from the abstract to the concrete, the unfolding of the totality.

Yet the reference to time in relation to fire does not refer only to constant transmutations in general. Hegel, in his section on Heraclitus, in his History of Philosophy, provides an overview and systematic reading of the latter’s philosophy by referring to most of the fragments. There he wrote that “Understanding the abstract process as time, Heraclitus said: ‘Time is the first corporeal existence,’ as Sextus (adv. Math. X. 231, 232) puts it…Corporeal here means abstract sensuousness; time, as the first sensuous existence, is the abstract representation of process.”[34] Since time is the abstract expression of process, therefore fire, as a more concrete expression of the latter, is materialised time. And we can see the same formulation in the Philosophy of Nature: “Time, as the negative unity of being outside of itself, is just as thoroughly abstract, ideal being: being which, since it is, is not, and since it is not, is.”[35]

What, though, exactly is this process? To answer the question it must be emphasised that Hegel did not believe that Heraclitus actually held that fire was truly the basic principle. Rather he stressed that while some ancient authorities argued that fire was primary, and others held other elements to have that status, he denied all four of them that role. Thus he wrote that

Heraclitus could no longer, like Thales, express water, air or anything similar as an absolute principle—he could no longer do so in the form of a primeval element from which the rest proceeds—because he thought of Being as identical with non-being, or the infinite Notion; thus the existent, absolute principle cannot with him come forth as a definite and actual thing such as water, but must be water in alteration, or as process only.[36]

Hegel here argued, quite logically, that the basic principle for Heraclitus was the dialectic, the flux of opposites, and therefore could not be a sole element. Heraclitus had said that “We step into and do not step into the same rivers. We are and are not.”[37] This is what Hegel phrases as the identity of being and non-being. Yet Hegel’s argument was undoubtedly an instance of his making explicit what was implicit in Heraclitus. Indeed, he went on to remark that

To Heraclitus the truth is to have grasped the essential being of nature, i.e. to have represented it as implicitly infinite, as process in itself; and consequently it is evident to us that Heraclitus could not say that the primary principle is air, water, or any such thing. They are not themselves process, but fire is process; and thus he maintains fire to be the elementary principle, and this is the real form of the Heraclitean principle, the soul and substance of the nature-process. Fire is physical time, absolute unrest, absolute disintegration of existence, the passing away of the ‘other,’ but also of itself; and hence we can understand how Heraclitus, proceeding from his fundamental determination, could quite logically call fire the Notion of the process.[38]

To Hegel, fire is both a symbol and a physical manifestation of the higher, single principle: the unity and opposition of Being and non-being. Being is what it is because it is not non-being, and vice versa. However, being inextricably bound, being mutually dependent, they are not different, but the same. Hence, instead of being two poles standing apart and structuring each other, it is actually a self-opposition, a self-determining. As there is no determination by an external other, hence finitude, but rather a self-relation, it is thus an infinite relation.[39]

As we can see, Hegel repeated Heraclitus but not exactly. More particularly, Hegel, aside from his idealism, held that no element could predominate among others. Where he did repeat Heraclitus, following the nature of the dialectic, was in the idea of eternal change. Time continues on and does not stop. However, we cannot touch or see time: it is immaterial. Fire, then, as ever changing, ever consuming, is a materialisation of time, and therefore perfectly exemplifies the negativity of the dialectic, the unity and division of Being and non-being.[40] Hegel explicitly made this the bedrock of his system:

This universal principle is better characterized as Becoming, the truth of Being; since everything is and is not, Heraclitus hereby expressed that everything is Becoming. Not merely does origination belong to it, but passing away as well; both are not independent, but identical. It is a great advance in thought to pass from Being to Becoming, even if, as the first unity of opposite determinations, it is still abstract…This philosophy is thus not one past and gone; its principle is essential, and is to be found in the beginning of my Logic, immediately after Being and Nothing.[41]

With this passage Hegel not only gave a brief overview of the beginning of his Science of Logic, but he also disclosed a most compact summary of his dialectics. Further, in grasping the latter as the foundation, it should be quite comprehensible that we find Hegel’s method and categories replicated across his system. It is an organic whole and each part represents a possible entry point for grasping the totality; all are interrelated.[42] Therefore, any one of Hegel’s works can be taken as a means to light the way in studying his entire philosophy.

In leaving Hegel and advancing towards Marx, we again find a materialist understanding of the dialectic. But this was not a simple repetition of the materialism of Heraclitus: the dialectic is not a circle, but a spiral.[43] Indeed, Engels argued in 1859 that an aspect of Marx’s “establishing the dialectical method” after Hegel, was divesting it “of its idealist wrappings.”[44] More specifically this involved the “elaboration of a world outlook that was more materialist than any previous one.”[45] Marx’s scientific socialism, therefore, recognised the materiality of existence, but not in the form of a basic element. Fire, as will be seen, plays no key role in Marx’s thought. Rather, it serves as a symbol for the foundation of his dialectical logic: labour, practical human activity.

The identification of fire and the dialectic was replicated by Marx, but the form this took changed over the course of his career. For example, in 1841, while a Young Hegelian, he was working on his doctoral dissertation. Here he provided a systematic Hegelian reading of Epicurus. Marx wrote that, “Time, on the other hand, is the fire of essence, eternally consuming appearance, and stamping it with dependence and non-essence.”[46] In view of the analysis above it is clear that there is nothing specifically “Marxist” in this formulation: time as an eternal process, as an all-consuming perpetual fire which expresses the dialectical flux between essence and appearance. At this moment it could not have been otherwise; so that, although Marx wrote his doctoral dissertation under the sign of atheism, he was repeating the form and content of the Hegelian reading of Heraclitus.[47]

Years later, in 1857, amidst the heat of his intensive studies in political economy, Marx wrote in his notebooks that “Labour is the living, form-giving fire; it is the transitoriness of things, their temporality, as their formation by living time.”[48] The dialectic of fire, as perpetual transformation, as destructive creation-creative destruction, still persists, but not as the basic building block of reality, nor as an expression of the Absolute Spirit coming to consciousness. No, here it stands as a metaphor for the open-ended power of human agency. It is no longer a mystical logic, but the logic of labour.[49] As Marx wrote just before the above line:

The transformation of the material by living labour, by the realization of living labour in the material – a transformation which, as purpose, determines labour and is its purposeful activation (a transformation which does not only posit the form as external to the inanimate object, as a mere vanishing image of its material consistency) – thus preserves the material in a definite form, and subjugates the transformation of the material to the purpose of labour.[50]

Reality is in a permanent flux: the only constant is change. To describe this unstable condition as an eternal, self-regulating fire can only be done symbolically. Nor does the pre-ordained logic of God’s plan guide the hands of humanity. It is not by some higher will that humanity changes its environment, determines its existence, but rather it is only according to its own agency. It is human activity that is self-determining, self-regulating, self-creating, self-structuring, etc. Human existence is social and this social world is the product of labour, of the collective re-shaping of the natural world over time. Labour is the practical blaze that clears away the past and opens a way for the future.

The theoretical transition point in Marx’s conception of the dialectic was in 1844. It was in that year that Marx was busy with a number of studies and among which he began, but did not finish, a critique of Hegel’s philosophy. In his opinion,

The outstanding achievement of Hegel’s Phänomenologie and of its final outcome, the dialectic of negativity as the moving and generating principle, is thus first that Hegel conceives the self-creation of man as a process, conceives objectification as loss of the object, as alienation and as transcendence of this alienation; that he thus grasps the essence of labour and comprehends objective man – true, because real man – as the outcome of man’s own labour.[51]

For Hegel the scope of the human drama is a historical process of development, of self-becoming. Humanity, the subject, is faced with an alien world, the object: it struggles with it, fights with it, alters it. Through the alienation process it comes to see itself in the object, to recognise itself in it. Humanity comes to being, comes to self-recognition, by overcoming the alienation viz. subject and object become one. Hence Marx goes on to argue that “Hegel’s standpoint is that of modern political economy. He grasps labour as the essence of man – as man’s essence which stands the test: he sees only the positive, not the negative side of labour. Labour is man’s coming-to-be for himself within alienation, or as alienated man.”[52] By “modern political economy” Marx here especially referred to the work of Adam Smith, Jean-Baptiste Say, and David Ricardo. But “modern political economy” at that time was, of course, bourgeois political economy and, hence, trapped within the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production: increasingly it was degenerating into vulgar economics, moving away from its original scientific insights and falling into pure ideology.[53]

Labour is alienated under capitalism viz. it takes place in the context of a class-divided division of labour where, consequently, the average products of labour, and labour itself, are privately bought and sold on the market.[54] Classical political economy takes this fact to be timeless, as essential to labour itself. Hegel, despite his great historical grasp, accepted this premise, and his understanding of labour was consequently itself alienated. Therefore, Marx continued,

The only labour which Hegel knows and recognises is abstractly mental labour. Therefore, that which constitutes the essence of philosophy – the alienation of man who knows himself, or alienated science thinking itself - Hegel grasps as its essence; and in contradistinction to previous philosophy he is therefore able to combine its separate aspects, and to present his philosophy as the philosophy.[55]

Hegel’s achievement here was also his failure. The same alienated understanding which allowed him to grasp the essence of philosophy and the development of humanity, also meant that he “fell into the illusion of conceiving the real as the product of thought concentrating itself, probing its own depths, and unfolding itself out of itself, by itself.”[56] Thus, for Hegel, the coming-to-be of humanity is actually the coming to be of God viz. the identity of subject and object is determined on an idealist basis. This is why Marx’s point about the “essence of philosophy” being “alienated science thinking itself” is key. Marx was moving away from philosophy and struggling for a scientific method and outlook, towards what he termed the “new” materialism.[57] This was achieved the following year with the writing of his theses on Feuerbach and the German Ideology. It was precisely the historical focus on human practical activity that constituted the basis of scientific socialism.[58]

Labour, however, does not just produce our food and clothing, build housing, etc. It also creates our social relations and provides the basis for human thought. Marx discussed this fact in the course of a critical attack on Proudhon, which made in an 1846 letter to Pavel Annekov. Written just before he began work on his Poverty of Philosophy, this is one of the most important pieces of Marx’s oeuvre, and one that remains, even today, woefully under-read and understudied by Marxists. As Marx argued:

M. Proudhon has very well grasped the fact that men produce cloth, linen, silks, and it is a really great merit to have grasped such a small matter! But he has not grasped that, according to their productive forces, these men also produce the social relations amid which they manufacture cloth and linen. Still less has he understood that men, who produce their social relations in accordance with their material productivity, also produce ideas, categories, that is to say the abstract ideal expressions of these same social relations. Thus the categories are no more eternal than the relations they express. They are historical and transitory products.[59]

This is the material, historical basis for the growth of human consciousness, of knowledge, of what Marx termed the ideal. However, this is still a generalisation and does not address the specifics of how this process develops. On this question Aristotle had already provided an essentially correct argument. According to him, it was through the experience of repeatedly perceiving different phenomena that general concepts began to emerge in our consciousness. As this process was repeated and compounded, even more abstract and general concepts, expressing the universal essence of the variety were and are formed.[60] Yet, in light of Marx, the weakness of Aristotle’s position here is obvious: he treats the development of concepts or categories, as simply a result of the repetition of perception. But, as we have seen, humans are no passive observers; rather they are active agents. Ergo, it is through the reiteration of practical activity and its comprehension i.e., the process of active abstraction, that knowledge arises.[61]

Further, it should be recalled that the history of humanity is one of class struggles. With the growth of the class-divided division of labour, theory and practice are increasingly specialised and relatively divided. The performance of mental and physical labour tends to become the purview of specific social groups. More specifically, sections of the ruling class become focused on the systematisation of abstract thought. Aristotle had already rightly noted that “those who are in a position which places them above toil have stewards who attend to their households while they occupy themselves with philosophy or with politics.”[62] Or, in the words of the German Marxist August Thalheimer, “As Aristotle said, leisure is the premise of philosophy.”[63] Of course though, Aristotle was not a Marxist: he was not making a historical analysis of the development of society. Rather, he was simply describing how society functioned in his time. In order to understand the rise of philosophy we need to look elsewhere.

August Thalheimer provided the first popular Marxist analysis of the development of abstract thought. He argued that there were “universal material conditions for the development of philosophy and science and for the disintegration of the popular religion in ancient times.”[64] Of these he listed “the first in importance” as “the advance in the development of the productive capacity, in the productiveness of the economy, in the mastery of nature” which was “distinctly connected with the development of private property and a commodity economy.”[65] Continuing on he argued that the “second and closely related condition” was that “with the development of a commodity economy in which merchant capital and money capital grow up alongside of the priestly class and the landowners, a new class of people appears who enjoy free time, who have leisure to develop themselves and to dedicate themselves to art and science.”[66]

As an example of this historical dialectic, Thalheimer referred to Greece, for it was there that “the development of philosophy and natural science is closely related to the development of Greek commercial cities on the coast of Asia Minor, where, as early as the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., there emerged a materialistic viewpoint opposed to the priesthood.”[67] The cities which Thalheimer emphasised were “Miletus and Ephesus” and which stood “culturally and economically, far above contemporary Greek development.”[68] The intellectual revolution seen here was not only based on the leisure afforded the wealthier classes, but also on

the fact that through the growth of commercial shipping the intellectual horizon of these Greeks of Asia Minor was tremendously widened. These first Greek merchants traversed the whole Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, etc., with their merchant ships. They came to know many strange peoples, religions, manners, and customs.[69]

Ephesus, of course, was the home of Heraclitus.[70] And so, underlying the abstract fire of the latter, we find the concrete fire of human practical activity. Yet this is only one aspect of the question. The full scope of the practical basis of philosophy, of systematised abstract thought, can and should be extended. To be more specific, while Thalheimer built upon Aristotle’s second insight into the formation of philosophy, the first was later developed by the English Marxist George Thomson. He argued that the extensive development of the commodity value-form was directly reflected in growth of philosophy in ancient Greece. For example, in regards to Heraclitus he asserted that the “concept of a self-regulating cycle of perpetual transformations of matter is the ideological reflex of an economy based on commodity production.”[71] How exactly though? In Thomson’s words,

civilised thought has been dominated from the earliest times down to the present day by what Marx called the fetishism of commodities, that is, the ‘false consciousness’ generated by the social relations of commodity production. In early Greek philosophy we see this ‘false consciousness’ gradually emerging and imposing on the world categories of thought derived from commodity production, as though these categories belonged, not to society, but to nature. The Parmenidean One, together with the later idea of ‘substance,’ may therefore be described as a reflex or projection of the substance of exchange value.[72]

Thomson’s argument here is a stellar contribution to the Marxist critique of philosophical history. Yet, though essentially correct, it contains an incorrect formulation. That is, Thomson here, and elsewhere, makes the formation of philosophical categories and systems the automatic product of the economy. But human thought is not mechanically produced by the impact of the social environment. No, the growth of knowledge is an example of the power of human activity. Therefore, it was not merely the surplus product produced by slave labour, or the new experiences of the rising class of merchants, which aided the development of Greek philosophy, but also the theoretical examination, the active cognition of the repeated acts of commodity exchange developing in the bosom of the slave economy.[73] This is precisely the historical basis for the parallel which Lenin noted between the commodity and the syllogism.[74]

This short study on the history of dialectical logic began with the fire of Heraclitus, progressed to Hegel’s system, and finally moved on to Marx’s method and outlook. We now find that we have returned to Heraclitus, for it was never any sort of fire which set the practical and intellectual world in motion, but rather the dialectic of human practical activity, or what Marx in his earlier period called labour. The dialectic of humanity, then, is the materialisation of the latter. But in this logic, history is not automatic: it is consciously made by humans:

The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity…The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals.[75]

These “real individuals” are not automatons, they have consciousness. So that their activity, whether fully understood or not, is always conscious. To quote Lenin, “The concept (cognition) reveals the essence (the law of causality, identity, difference, etc.) in Being (in immediate phenomena)—such is actually the general course of all human cognition (of all science) in general.”[76] We study being, the object, objective reality, and piercing beyond its immediate surface reach its essence and this gives rise to our concept of it. In turn, we use the concept to understand the essence of new, different beings. All of this occurs within social activity. We move, then, from the concrete to the abstract, and from the abstract to concrete. Hence, although human consciousness reflects reality, it is not a dead mirror, it is not an effect of an impersonal structure.[77] Indeed, it is an expression of the infinite creativity of human agency: we humans collectively forge our reality.

All of our existence therefore is a product of past and present labour viz. of historically developing human activity. As the subject-object, the self-creator, humanity is not the product of any God, nor a “natural” development. In the words of E.V. Ilyenkov,

Nature as such creates absolutely nothing ‘human’. Man with all his specifically human features is from beginning to end the result and product of his own labour. Even walking straight, which appears at first sight man’s natural, anatomically innate trait, is in actual fact a result of educating the child within an established society.[78]

Because we have created this world, it is within our collective power to change it. Yet this can only be done by understanding our current society in its contradictions and revolutionising it “in practice.”[79] In this task there is no better organon than Marx’s dialectical logic. But to grasp the latter we must study it and understand it in its dialectical formation. Heraclitus was the first dialectical logician and all subsequent developments in logic can been seen as refinements in the logos he first set down. The questions is: does one reject or critically accept this heritage? For Marxists, we must unequivocally claim Heraclitus as our teacher, avowing ourselves as his pupils. In the coming revolutionary conflagrations, this ancient thinker still has much to teach us.


[1] Heraclitus, “Fragment 12,” in A Presocratics Reader: Selected Fragments and Testimonia, ed. Patricia Curd and tran. Richard D. McKirahan Jr. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1996), 36.

[2] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Volume 1: Greek Philosophy to Plato, trans. E.S. Haldane and Frances H. Simson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), 279.

[3] Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, 279.

[4] Ibid., 279.

[5] This combination was accomplished, however, on an idealist basis. Engels set forth the materialist understanding of the dialectic between the logical and historical as follows: “Even after the determination of the method, the critique of economics could still be arranged in two ways — historically or logically. Since in the course of history, as in its literary reflection, the evolution proceeds by and large from the simplest to the more complex relations, the historical development of political economy constituted a natural clue, which the critique could take as a point of departure, and then the economic categories would appear on the whole in the same order as in the logical exposition. This form seems to have the advantage of greater lucidity, for it traces the actual development, but in fact it would thus become, at most, more popular. History moves often in leaps and bounds and in a zigzag line, and as this would have to be followed throughout, it would mean not only that a considerable amount of material of slight importance would have to be included, but also that the train of thought would frequently have to be interrupted; it would, moreover, be impossible to write the history of economy without that of bourgeois society, and the task would thus become immense, because of the absence of all preliminary studies. The logical method of approach was therefore the only suitable one. This, however, is indeed nothing but the historical method, only stripped of the historical form and diverting chance occurrences. The point where this history begins must also be the starting point of the train of thought, and its further progress will be simply the reflection, in abstract and theoretically consistent form, of the historical course. Though the reflection is corrected, it is corrected in accordance with laws provided by the actual historical course, since each factor can be examined at the stage of development where it reaches its full maturity, its classical form.” See, Frederick Engels, “Karl Marx, ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’ Part One, Franz Duncker, Berlin, 1859,” in Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (New York: International Publishers, 1989), 225.

[6] G. W. F. Hegel, The Encyclopaedia Logic: Part I of the Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences with the Zusätze, trans. T. F. Geraets, W. A. Suchting, and H. S. Harris (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1991), 144.

[7] The only extensive socialist study of Heraclitus was written by Ferdinand Lassalle. This work, Die Philosophie Herakleitos des Dunkeln von Ephesos, can be found online: https://archive.org/d etails/diephilosophieh01l ass/pag e/n3. However, upon reading it Marx found it wanting and wrote to Engels that “Heraclitus, the Dark Philosopher by Lassalle the Luminous One is, au fond, a very silly concoction. Every time Heraclitus uses an image to demonstrate the unity of AFFIRMATION and NEGATION—and this is often—IN STEPS Lassalle and makes the most of the occasion by treating us to some passage from Hegel’s Logic which is HARDLY improved in the process; always at great length too, like a schoolboy who must show in his essay that he has thoroughly understood his ‘essence’ and ‘appearance’ as well as the ‘dialectical process.’ Once he has got this into his speculative noddle, one may be sure that the schoolboy will nevertheless be able to carry out the process of ratiocination only in strict accord with the prescribed formula and the formes sacramentales. Just so our Lassalle. The fellow seems to have tried to puzzle out Hegelian logic via Heraclitus, nor ever to have tired of beginning the process all over again… Despite the fellow's claim, by the way, that hitherto Heraclitus has been a book with 7 seals, he has to all intents and purposes added nothing whatever that is new to what Hegel says in the History of Philosophy.” See Karl Marx, “Marx to Engels, 1 February 1858,” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works Volume 40, Letters 1856-59 (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1983), 259-260. This judgement was echoed decades later by another interpreter of Heraclitus: “Lassalle, in two ponderous volumes noted above, made the first and most elaborate attempt to reconstruct the system of the Ephesian philosopher. His work exhibits immense labor and study, and extended research in the discovery of new fragments and of ancient testimony, together with some acuteness in their use. Lassalle has a very distinct view of the philosophy of Heraclitus. But it is not an original view. It is, in fact, nothing but an expansion of the short account of Heraclitus in Hegel’s History of Philosophy, although Lassalle makes no mention of him, except to quote upon his title-page Hegel’s well-known motto, “Es ist kein Satz des Heraklit, den ich nicht in meine Logik aufgenommen”.” See, G.T.W. Patrick, “Introduction,” in The Fragments of the Work of Heraclitus of Ephesus On Nature, trans. G.T.W. Patrick (Baltimore: Press of Isaac Friedenwald, 1889), 4. Lenin, in his philosophical studies, essentially repeated the same criticisms: “One can understand why Marx called this work of Lassalle’s “schoolboyish”…Lassalle simply repeats Hegel, copies from him, re-echoing him a million times with regard to isolated passages from Heraclitus, furnishing his opus with an incredible heap of learned ultra-pedantic ballast. The difference with respect to Marx: In Marx there is a mass of new material, and what interests him is only the movement forward from Hegel and Feuerbach further, from idealistic to materialistic dialectics. In Lassalle there is a rehash of Hegel on the particular theme selected: essentially transcribing from Hegel with respect to quotations from Heraclitus and about Heraclitus.” And he ended his notes on Lassalle writing categorically that “In general, ΣΣ, Marx’s judgment is correct, Lassalle’s book is not worth reading.” See, V.I. Lenin, “Conspectus of Lassalle’s Book The Philosophy of Heraclitus the Obscure of Ephesus,” in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 38: Philosophical Notebooks (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), 339-340, 353.

[8] Karl Marx, “Marx to Ferdinand Lassalle, 21 December 1857,” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works Volume 40, Letters 1856-59 (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1983), 226.

[9] Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring: Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969), 30.

[10] Ibid., 29.

[11] This importance cannot be stressed enough. Indeed, the father of formal logic, Aristotle, clearly posited the laws of logic in opposition to Heraclitus: “For a principle which every one must have who understands anything that is, is not a hypothesis; and that which every one must know who knows anything, he must already have when he comes to a special study. Evidently then such a principle is the most certain of all; which principle this is, let us proceed to say. It is, that the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect; we must presuppose, to guard against dialectical objections, any further qualifications which might be added. This, then, is the most certain of all principles, since it answers to the definition given above. For it is impossible for any one to believe the same thing to be and not to be, as some think Heraclitus says.” See, Aristotle, “Metaphysica,” in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: The Modern Library, 2001), 736-737. On this matter we should recall the words of Lenin: “NB: At the beginning of The Metaphysics the stubborn struggle against Heraclitus, against his idea of the identity of Being and not-Being (the Greek philosophers approached close to dialectics but could not cope with it).” See, V.I. Lenin, “Conspectus of Aristotle’s Book Metaphysics,” in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 38: Philosophical Notebooks (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), 366.

[12] T.M. Robinson, Heraclitus, Fragments: A Text and Translation with a Commentary (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), 3.

[13] Ibid., 3.

[14] Again, from Marx’s letter to Lassalle: “I am all the more aware of the difficulties you had to surmount in this work in that ABOUT 18 years ago I myself attempted a similar work on a far easier philosopher, Epicurus —namely the portrayal of a complete system from fragments, a system which I am convinced, by the by, was—as with Heraclitus—only implicitly present in his work, not consciously as a system. Even in the case of philosophers who give systematic form to their work, Spinoza for instance, the true inner structure of the system is quite unlike the form in which it was consciously presented by him.” See, Marx, “Marx to Ferdinand Lassalle,” Collected Works Volume 40, 316.

[15] Heraclitus, “Fragment 30,” in A Presocratics Reader, 37. Lenin, in regard to this statement, commented that it was “A very good exposition of the principles of dialectical materialism.” This is high praise indeed coming from Lenin, and it should further emphasise for all Marxists the necessity to study Heraclitus in order to grasp dialectical logic. See, Lenin, “Conspectus of Lassalle’s Book,” 347. I would add that when Lenin referred to “dialectical materialism” he should be taken to mean Marx’s method. As I have argued elsewhere, there is no philosophy of dialectical materialism and Lenin, for a number of reasons, was mistaken on this question. See, Jason Devine, “On the “Philosophy” of “Dialectical Materialism”,” accessed 30 January 2019, http://links.org.au/node/4667 and Jason Devine, “‘Dialectical Materialism,’ Ideology and Revisionism,” accessed 30 January 2019, http://links.org.au/dialec tical-materialism-ideology-revisionism.

[16] Heraclitus, “Fragments 31a and 31b,” in A Presocratics Reader, 37.

[17] Heraclitus, “Fragment 76a,” in A Presocratics Reader, 37.

[18] Heraclitus, “Fragment 1,” in A Presocratics Reader, 30.

[19] Heraclitus, “Fragment 2,” in A Presocratics Reader, 30. This is echoed in Hegel: “It marks the diseased state of the age when we see it adopt the despairing creed that our knowledge is only subjective, and that beyond this subjective we cannot go. Whereas, rightly understood, truth is objective, and ought so to regulate the conviction of every one, that the conviction of the individual is stamped as wrong when it does not agree with this rule.” See, G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel’s Logic: Being Part One of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), tran. William Wallace (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 35.

[20] Heraclitus, “Fragment 90,” in A Presocratics Reader, 37.

[21] Heraclitus, “Fragment 65,” in A Presocratics Reader, 38; Heraclitus, “Fragment 67,” in A Presocratics Reader, 38.

[22] Heraclitus, “Fragment 10,” in A Presocratics Reader, 34.

[23] Frederick Engels, Dialectics of Nature (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1966), 62.

[24] Heraclitus, “Fragment 53,” in A Presocratics Reader, 37.

[25] Heraclitus, “Fragment 66,” in A Presocratics Reader, 38.

[26] Heraclitus, “Fragment 80,” in A Presocratics Reader, 38.

[27] Heraclitus, “Fragment 124,” in A Presocratics Reader, 35.

[28] Heraclitus, “Fragment 84a,” in A Presocratics Reader, 37. Hegel certainly had this in mind when he wrote that “Appearance is the process of arising into being and passing away again, a process that itself does not arise and does not pass away, but is per se, and constitutes reality and the life-movement of truth. The truth is thus the bacchanalian revel, where not a member is sober; and because every member no sooner becomes detached than it eo ipso collapses straightway, the revel is just as much a state of transparent unbroken calm.” G.W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, tran. J.B. Baillie (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1967), 105. 

[29] This indissoluble unity between creation and destruction was emphasised by Bakunin when he was still a Young Hegelian: “Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life. The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too!” Mikhail Bakunin, “The Reaction in Germany: From the Notebooks of a Frenchman,” in Michael Bakunin, Bakunin on Anarchism, tran. Sam Dolgoff (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1980), 57.

[30] G.W.F. Hegel, “Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature,” accessed 1 February 2019, https://www.marxists.org/reference /archive/hegel/works/na/nature2.htm.

[31] Thomas Posch, “Hegel and the Sciences,” in A Companion to Hegel, eds. Stephen Houlgate and Michael Baur (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2016), 180.

[32] Hegel, “Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature,” accessed 1 February 2019, https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive /hegel/works/na/nature2.htm.

[33] As Hegel said later in his Philosophy of Nature, “life is essentially the concept which realises itself only through self-division and reunification.” Hegel, “Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature,” accessed 1 February 2019, https://www.m arxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/na/nature3.htm.

[34] Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, 286. Although this fragment is no longer considered to have been written by Heraclitus it does not matter, because in Hegel’s time it was not thought spurious and he therefore had every reason to accept it.

[35] G.W.F. Hegel, “Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature,” accessed 3 February 2019, https://www.marxists.org/reference/ar chive/hegel/works/na/nature1.htm.

[36] Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, 286.

[37] Heraclitus, “Fragment 49a,” in A Presocratics Reader, 36.

[38] Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, 287.

[39] This is, likewise, an aspect of Hegel reading Heraclitus idealistically: “This one is not an abstraction, but the activity of dividing itself into opposites; the dead infinite is a poor abstraction as compared with the depths of Heraclitus. All that is concrete, as that God created the world, divided Himself, begot a Son, is contained in this determination.” Ibid., 284.

[40] “Precisely for the reason that existence is designated a species or kind, it is naked simple thought: nouς, simplicity, is substance. It is on account of its simplicity, its self-identity, that it appears steady, fixed, and permanent. But this self-identity is likewise negativity; hence that fixed and stable existence carries the process of its own dissolution within itself. The determinateness appears at first to be so solely through its relation to something else; and its process seems imposed and forced upon it externally. But its having its own otherness within itself, and the fact of its being a self-initiated process – these are implied in the very simplicity of thought itself. For this is self-moving thought, thought that distinguishes, is inherent inwardness, the pure notion. Thus, then, it is the very nature of understanding to be a process; and being a process it is Rationality.” Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, 114-115.

[41] Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, 283; “If we look more closely at the particular form worn by a philosophy we see that it arises, on the one hand, from the living originality of the spirit whose work and spontaneity have reestablished and shaped the harmony that has been rent; and on the other hand, from the particular form of the dichotomy from which the system emerges. Dichotomy is the source of the need of philosophy...Life eternally forms itself by setting up oppositions, and totality at the highest pitch of living energy is only possible through its own re-establishment out of the deepest fission...When the might of union vanishes from the life of men and the antitheses lose their living connection and reciprocity and gain independence, the need of philosophy arises. From this point of view the need is contingent. But with respect to the given dichotomy the need is the necessary attempt to suspend the rigidified opposition between subjectivity and objectivity; to comprehend the achieved existence of the intellectual and real world as a becoming.” G.W.F. Hegel, The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of Philosophy, eds. H. S. Harris and Walter Cerf (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977), 89, 91.

[42] “Each of the parts of philosophy is a philosophical whole, a circle rounded and complete in itself. In each of these parts, however, the philosophical Idea is found in a particular specificality or medium. The single circle, because it is a real totality, bursts through the limits imposed by its special medium, and gives rise to a wider circle. The whole of philosophy in this way resembles a circle of circles. The Idea appears in each single circle, but, at the same time, the whole Idea is constituted by the system of these peculiar phases, and each is a necessary member of the organization.” Hegel, Hegel’s Logic, 20.

[43] “By describing its circle it expands itself as the subject of the circle and thus describes a self-expanding circle, a spiral.” Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, tran. Martin Nicolaus (New York: Vintage Books, 1973), 746; “The circle in which simple reproduction moves, alters its form, and, to use Sismondi’s expression, changes into a spiral.” Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I Book One: The Process of Production of Capital (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1983), 545; “The capitalistic mode of production moves in these two forms of the antagonism immanent to it from its very origin. It is never able to get out of that ‘vicious circle’ which Fourier had already discovered. What Fourier could not, indeed, see in his time is that this circle is gradually narrowing; that the movement becomes more and more a spiral, and must come to an end, like the movement of the planets, by collision with the centre.” Engels, Anti-Dühring, 324; “Human knowledge is not (or does not follow) a straight line, but a curve, which endlessly approximates a series of circles, a spiral.” V.I. Lenin, “On the Question of Dialectics,” in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 38: Philosophical Notebooks (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), 361.

[44] Engels, “Karl Marx, ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’,” 225.

[45] Ibid., 223. This is what Engels, decades later, would refer to as “the dialectical method and…the communist world outlook.” See, Engels, Anti-Dühring, 13.

[46] Karl Marx, “Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature,” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Volume 1: 1835-1843 (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 64.

[47] “Philosophy, as long as a drop of blood shall pulse in its world-subduing and absolutely free heart, will never grow tired of answering its adversaries with the cry of Epicurus: Not the man who denies the gods worshipped by the multitude, but he who affirms of the gods what the multitude believes about them, is truly impious. Philosophy makes no secret of it. The confession of Prometheus: ‘In simple words, I hate the pack of gods,’ is its own confession, its own aphorism against all heavenly and earthly gods who do not acknowledge human self-consciousness as the highest divinity. It will have none other beside…Prometheus is the most eminent saint and martyr in the philosophical calendar.” Ibid., 30-31.

[48] Marx, Grundrisse, 361.

[49] “In other words, the Notion is the soul of all, thus it is self-moving, i.e. it is God. This is the very basis of Hegel’s dialectic. Contrariwise, the premise of Marx’s dialectic is human activity, and in the first place, labour.” Jason Devine, “Dialectical logic in Plato’s ‘Parmenides’, Hegel’s ‘Logic’ and Marx’s ‘Critique of Political Economy’,” accessed 4 February 2019, http://links.org.au/dialectical-logic-plato-parmenides-hegel-marx-critique-political-economy.

[50] Marx, Grundrisse, 360-361.

[51] Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981), 132.

[52] Ibid., 132.

[53] “The nearer to our time the economists whom we have to judge, the more severe must our judgment become. For while Smith and Malthus found only scattered fragments, the modern economists had the whole system complete before them: the consequences had all been drawn; the contradictions came clearly enough to light; yet they did not come to examining the premises, and still accepted the responsibility for the whole system. The nearer the economists come to the present time, the further they depart from honesty. With every advance of time, sophistry necessarily increases, so as to prevent economics from lagging behind the times. This is why Ricardo, for instance, is more guilty than Adam Smith, and McCulloch and Mill more guilty than Ricardo.” Frederick Engels, “Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy,” in Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981), 154.

[54] As Marx’s studies progressed and his understanding matured, he later distinguished between labour and labour power. 

[55] Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, 132-133.

[56] Marx, Grundrisse, 101.

[57] “The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity.” Karl Marx, “Theses On Feuerbach,” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology: Critique of Modern German Philosophy According to Its Representatives Feuerbach, B. Bauer and Stirner, and of German Socialism According to Its Various Prophets (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), 617.

[58] “All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice… The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” Ibid., 617.

[59] Karl Marx, “Marx to P.V. Annekov,” in Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy: Answer to the “Philosophy of Poverty” by M. Proudhon (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1978), 174.

[60] “So out of sense-perception comes to be what we call memory, and out of frequently repeated memories of the same thing develops experience; for a number of memories constitute a single experience. From experience again–i.e. from the universal now stabilized in its entirety within the soul, the one beside the many which is a single identity within them all-originate the skill of the craftsman and the knowledge of the man of science, skill in the sphere of coming to be and science in the sphere of being…When one of a number of logically indiscriminable particulars has made a stand, the earliest universal is present in the soul: for though the act of sense-perception is of the particular, its content is universal–is man, for example, not the man Callias. A fresh stand is made among these rudimentary universals, and the process does not cease until the indivisible concepts, the true universals, are established: e.g. such and such a species of animal is a step towards the genus animal, which by the same process is a step towards a further generalization.” Aristotle, “Analytica Posteriora,” in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: The Modern Library, 2001), 185.

[61] “When Hegel endeavours—sometimes even huffs and puffs—to bring man’s purposive activity under the categories of logic, saying that this activity is the ‘syllogism’ (Schluß), that the subject (man) plays the role of a ‘member’ in the logical ‘figure’ of the ‘syllogism,’ and so on,—THEN THAT IS NOT MERELY STRETCHING A POINT, A MERE GAME. THIS HAS A VERY PROFOUND, PURELY MATERIALISTIC CONTENT. It has to be inverted: the practical activity of man had to lead his consciousness to the repetition of the various logical figures thousands of millions of times in order that these figures could obtain the significance of axioms. This nota bene.” V.I. Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book The Science of Logic,” in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 38: Philosophical Notebooks (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), 190.

[62] Aristotle, “Politica,” in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: The Modern Library, 2001), 1135.

[63] August Thalheimer, Introduction to Dialectical Materialism: The Marxist World-View (New York: Covici Friede, 1936), 62.

[64] Ibid., 60.

[65] Ibid., 61.

[66] Ibid., 61.

[67] Ibid., 62-63.

[68] Ibid., 63.

[69] Ibid., 63-64.

[70] Marc Shell, building on previous Marxist work, has offered the following brilliant insight: “The monetary form of exchange, which Plato feared, informs many fragments of Heraclitus. Of these, one of the most telling is the simple fragment that reads, ‘The way up and the way down are one and the same.’ Heraclitus of Ephesus refers not only to the transformations of fire (pyros tropai) but also to its monetary exchanges (chrysou antamoibai). The way up and the way down refer to sale and purchase. Ephesus, a port on the Mediterranean, was a trading center between Sardis (the capital of Lydia, where gold was minted) and major trading nations (such as Phoenicia). The way to which Heraclitus refers is (in part) a road like that between Sardis and its port, Ephesus.” Marc Shell, The Economy of Literature (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 60-61.

[71] George Thomson, Studies In Ancient Greek Society, Volume II: The First Philosophers (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1955), 282. For Thomson this influence logically extended beyond Heraclitus: “The power of abstraction embodied in the Platonic theory of Ideas and in Aristotelian logic was an intellectual product of the social relations created by the abstract process of commodity exchange.” Ibid, 321.

[72] Ibid., 301.

[73] Marc Shell is therefore not quite correct when he attributes the “ingenious” recognition of the connection between the development of commodity production and Greek philosophy to Thomson. See, Shell, The Economy of Literature, 39. The fact is that much of Thomson’s analysis traverses Thalheimer’s pioneering work. Whether the former read the latter is unknown, for Thomson does not cite him. Regardless, by the time Thomson was writing, Thalheimer had long ago been deemed persona non grata by the official Communist movement. See, Robert J. Alexander, The Right Opposition: The Lovestoneites and the International Communist Opposition of the 1930s (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1981), 136-138.

[74] “In another section of his notebooks Lenin again connected Hegel and Marx. He wrote that ‘The beginning – the most simple, ordinary, mass, immediate ‘Being’: the single commodity (‘Sein’ in political economy). The analysis of it as a social relation. A double analysis, deductive and inductive – logical and historical (forms of value).’ Lenin directly maintained that both Hegel and Marx start with the barest category and, therefore, that the commodity plays the role of ‘Being’ in Capital. Lenin thus made an even more explicit equation between the two thinkers than he had previously suggested. This thought could have occurred to him in the course of his studies, or he could have had Engels’ well-known 1891 letter to Conrad Schmidt in mind, where Engels gave the latter advice in regards to studying Hegel. Engels, near the end of his letter, wrote that ‘If you compare development from commodity to capital in Marx with development from Being to Essence in Hegel you will get quite a good parallel: here the concrete development which results from facts; there the abstract construction.’ Lenin may have been thinking of this, but even if he did not, it does not truly matter. More importantly is that both Engels and Lenin drew a parallel between the process of development of the commodity and the basic categories of dialectical logic.” Jason Devine, “Dialectical logic in Plato’s ‘Parmenides’, Hegel’s ‘Logic’ and Marx’s ‘Critique of Political Economy’,” accessed 7 February 2019, http://links.org.au/dialectical-logic-plato-parmenides-hegel-marx-critique-political-economy.

[75] Marx and Engels, The German Ideology, 36-37.

[76] V.I. Lenin, “Plan of Hegel’s Dialectics (Logic). (Contents of the Small Logic (Encyclopaedia)),” in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 38: Philosophical Notebooks (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976), 316. The three parts of Hegel’s Science of Logic are Being, Essence, and Concept, (also translated as Notion).

[77] “Alias: Man’s consciousness not only reflects the objective world, but creates it.” Lenin, “Conspectus of Hegel’s Book The Science of Logic,” 212.

[78] E.V. Ilyenkov, The Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx’s Capital (Moscow: Progress Publishers: 1982), 71-72; “On the contrary, following Spinoza and Marx, Ilyenkov didn’t act on the premise that a human is a dead automaton, but he starts from a living, object oriented active subject –an animal or a human...Just this mental train enables us finally to overcome the dead end of old psycho-physical dualism. The act of thought or psychic act doesn’t start in Ilyenkov’s logic from external stimulus, and doesn’t finish in meaningless mechanical response. It starts from spontaneous directed to its object activity of living subject.” Alexander Surmava, “Evald Ilyenkov and The End of Stimulus - Respond Paradigm” accessed 6 February 2019, http://www.academia.edu/340 90482/Evald _Ilyenkov_vs_Lev_Vygotsky.

[79] Marx, “Theses On Feuerbach,” 616.