UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The epistemological and metaphysical implications of dialectical materialism Edwards, James Henry


The theory of dialectical materialism is essentially the product of the joint efforts of Karl Marx and Frederich Engels. Such men as V. I. Lenin, George Plekhanov, J. Dietzgen, and J. B. S. Haldane have added very little either in terms of original contributions or in terms of refining and elaborating the main tenets of the theory. In this respect, V. I. Lenin's influence on the theory is negligible; what he has written is primarily a criticism of the deviationists and opposing schools of thought, and also a substantiation of the original postulates of Marx and Engels. The same may be said of Plekhanov and Dietzgen with the exception that they are considered, by Lenin and most of the Marxian "purists", as deviationists owing to the modifications they attempted in the epistemology. Such Marxians, as J. B. S. Haldane and many of the present day socialists may also be classified as deviationists as they consider dialectical materialism more in terms of technique rather than as a highly integrated revolutionary philosophic schematism. In view of these divergencies of opinion, the writer has treated dialectical materialism as primarily the theory formulated by Marx and Engels and reiterated by Lenin. The views of the Marxian deviationists are, however, also considered wherever they throw light on the aims and postulates of the philosophy of Marx and Engels. The schematism examined is always given in the final analysis, the same test, namely, does it substantiate the over all claim that this is a dynamic, completely meaningful universe in which man is able to actively influence his environment, and in which man is, himself, influenced by the environment. The general conclusion is that, owing to the Marxian concept of mind as a reflector and the rejection of any type of teleological factor, the active determinism enunciated in this philosophy is not implicit in its basic metaphysical and epistemological tenets. In addition, owing to the concepts of abrupt break, emergence of novelty, and the dynamic nature of terms and entities, it is not possible to logically deduce from a plurality of causes a specific effect, e.g., the inevitability of the collapse or negation of capitalism. In other words, the writer maintains that there is no sound basis for the claim that certain events must inevitably occur at some future time. In short the theory is an unsuccessful attempt to postulate an active deterministic philosophy through merging two schools of thought, namely, materialism and idealism.

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