Agassi answers what’s wrong with Marx’s dialectic (Draft 5.) 艾格思答马克思辩证法错在哪里 (5 稿)

Agassi answers what’s wrong with Marx’s dialectic (Draft 5.)

艾格思答马克思辩证法错在哪里 (5 稿)


Critical Realism 批判实在论.  “The only serious alternative to these theories (intellectualism, empiricism, and instrumentalism) is the critical view (Karl Popper) that takes scientific theories at face value as true or false and research as the process of proposing explanatory conjectures and undertaking their tests – their attempted refutations. It is an endless process of error elimination.”  (Science and Its History, by Joseph Agassi.  Springer, 2008, page xvii.)

科学的理智唯心论, 经验唯物论, 数学工具论都失败了, 只有 朴耙(波普)的批判实在论以批判就是科学, 科学理论不论真假反映宇宙真实, 假设解释, 测验推翻, 删除错误, 永无终止, 就是科学.  (艾格思科学与历史, 2008, 序xvii 页.)


KWAN Lihuen 关理煊: I suspect that dialectical materialism aspires to critical realism, perhaps falling short.  我怀疑批判实在论就是辩证唯物论.  A rose is a rose, whatever name you call it.  必也正名乎? 


吴基鵬: “我讀書少,但對科學不斷自我修正以接近真相的觀念卻很認同,不是看你的翻譯,也不知這就是唯物辯證法。怪不得我小時候看毛澤東選集時看他实践论的矛盾論看到相似的論述,原來是同一家之言。”

NG Ki-Pang: I have studied little, but I very much agree with the view that science approaches truth about reality by continuous revisions (read corrections, elimination of errors).  Without having read your translation (of quotes from Science and its History, viz. “Four Views of Science”,) I should not have known that it (critical realism) is actually dialectic materialism.  This explains why when I was very young reading MAO Zedong’s Selected Works I found similarity in his (Mao’s) thesis on ccontradictions.  Now I see they are from the same school of thought.”  (Translation.)


Date : August 12, 2009 5:31 p.m. E-mail 电邮:

Subject 题目: Dialectic Materialism 辩证唯物论

Dear Dr Agassi 艾格思教授尊鉴:

This is good criticism for me from my former student NG Ki-Pang, who liked physics at school, and whom I had asked to write a Chinese review of your book on Faraday.  It has exposed my mistake in translation, i.e. equating ‘dialectic materialism’ with ‘critical realism’.

    Dialectic materialism aspires to critical realism, falling short.  批判科学理论的错误, 不断清除错误, 就是理想的科学方法, 也就是唯物辩证法的理想, 可惜唯物辩证法失之毫厘, 谬以千里, 知错能改, 善莫大焉, 错而不改, 中国科学就永远落后.  A Chinese idiom says, “Missing by an inch, the error falls short by a thousand miles.”   Another Chinese saying says, “There can be no greater good than correcting errors we have made.”  If the Chinese do not correct this error in their scientific method, China’s science will never catch up with the West.   How, do you think, Marx’s dialectic has failed?   What has gone wrong?  Critical realism has not yet failed: it has passed all the tests so far.  马克思的辩证法失败了. 是怎么失败的? 错在哪里?可是批判法沒有失敗, 批判法是不断批判改错的科学方法: 假設理論,批判這理論的错误,改除错误,作新的理論假設,又再發現這新理論的錯誤, 改除這错误,永无终止的改除错误,此简易科学方法,经历千万年的考验,至今仍然屹立不倒,

Ki-Pang’s criticism really makes me think, as I had expected, translating and equating ‘critical realism’ as and with ‘dialectic materialism’ in Chinese.  His criticism really makes me think, as I had expected, risking the translation of the ‘critical realism’ view of science as ‘dialectic materialism’ in Chinese.  The questions I ask him I also ask myself.  Let me try to answer my own questions and please tell me if I am wrong:

Marx concludes that he has found the ultimate truth.  But he has not.  Concluding one has found the ultimate truth is not critical at all.  Marx may have pushed a big step forward.  But his dialectic has to be criticized and the error in his dialectic has to be corrected.  His materialism fails to see the wonder of the human intellect, as if the human brain is only a computer of a robot.  He has pushed forward beyond religious superstition, but his matter-only belief is also superstition, not critical.


2009.8.12  7:56 p.m. E-mail 电邮:

Subject: What’s wrong with Marx’s Dialectic 马克思辩证法错在哪里?

Dear Dr Agassi 尊敬的艾格思教授:

I am stuck 糟糕.  Equating dialectic materialism with critical realism cannot be right. 辩证唯物论不可能就是批判實在論吧?

My questions 我的问题:

1.  Is dialectic materialism critical realism?  究竟辩证唯物论是否明辨真实论?

2.  If not, how does dialectic materialism differ from critical realism? 如果不是,分别何在?

3.  Both view the material world as real, outside and independent of our mind.  Does that make dialectic materialism ‘realism’?  两者都认为外在世界真实存在, 那唯物论就是真实论吗?

4.  In what way does Marx’s dialectic pattern (thesis-antithesis-synthesis) differ from Popper’s critical pattern (conjecture-refutation-new conjecture)?  马克斯的辩证法(正-反-合)与朴耙(波普)的明辨法(假设-推翻-新假设)分别何在?

5.  What does Marx mean by ‘synthesis’?  Does he allow self-contradiction in the synthesis?  I have learned from you that self-contradiction means inconsistency, which cannot be true.  马克思所谓 ‘统一’ 的 ‘合’ 究竟是什么意思?  他的 ‘合’ 容不容许自我矛盾? 您教过我们自我矛盾的理论不可能是真的.

6.  What is wrong with Marx’s dialectic?  马克思的辩证法错在哪里?

7.  What is wrong with his materialism?  他的唯物论错在哪里?

I had better stick to Chinese dictionary translations of ‘critical’ and ‘realism’, and simply put them together (批判实在论)(Sorry you cannot read the Chinese.)(My student has “effectively criticized” me, to borrow your phrase.)  ‘明辨真实论’ 只是我的翻译, 字典的翻译是 ‘批判实在论’.  我的學生指出了我翻譯的錯誤, 現在我改除了我翻譯的錯誤了, 正如您說, 我的學生 “有效的批判了”我了.

Sorry for troubling you 费神了, 请宽恕.

With best regards 顺候近安,

Lihuen 理煊 敬礼


2009.8.12  11:06 p.m. E-mail 电邮:

Professor Agassi answers 艾格思教授答:


The best that can be said is that dialectical materialism is a confused version of critical realism.  辩证唯物论是明辨真实论(批判实在论)的混乱版本.


Critical realism is the merger of two ideas, of dialectics and realism.  明辨真实论是两个概念的合并: 辩证法与真实论的合并.


Materialism as a version of realism: materialists are realists, but some realists, e.g. Einstein are realists but not materialists. Lenin’s book Materialism and Empiriocriticism ends with the assertion that realism is more basic than materialism, but he dogmatically stuck to materialism all the same.  作为真实论一个版本的唯物论: 唯物论者是真实论者, 可是有些真实论者如爱因斯坦是真实论者却不是唯物论者.  列宁书唯物论与实验批判论结论说真实论比唯物论更基本, 可是他仍然依附唯物论教条放不下.


Dialectics is the process of eliminating errors through the finding and eliminating of contradictions.  Marx endorsed Hegel’s idea that contradictions are true, an idea that makes dialectics impossible, yet Hegel called it dialectics.  辩证法是除掉错误的程序: 找出矛盾错误, 除掉矛盾错误.  马克斯认可黑格尔矛盾真论, 矛盾真论等于废了辩证法, 可是黑格尔还是叫它辩证法.


Read Popper’s short paper “What is Dialectics?”  Can you translate it and let it be available in China?  读朴耙短文<什么是辩证法>吧.  你能够翻译给中国读者看吗?


Best 问好,

Joseph 约瑟夫


Conclusion:  Marx’s materialism is not bad.  He and and Engels’ materialism “stressed the fact that the material side of human nature—and more particularly the need for food and other material goods—is of basic importance for sociology.” [1]   Marx’s mistake lies in endorsing Hegel’s idea that contradictions can be true.  Hegel is poison.  It kills dialectic.  It kills scientific method.  It kills science. 


KWAN Lihuen 关理煊 (关健)  Canada 加拿大  2009-8-29  

(Draft 5稿. 1917 words 字.)


[1] Karl Popper: “What is Dialectic?”  Conjectures and Refutations.  London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1963, page  332.

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