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Weakness vs. Force

I did not expect prompt reactions to my monograph Dialectics of Force: Ontóbia, since its content is rather difficult to understand and assimilate. Nonetheless, informational reviews arrived rather quickly.[1] I was waiting, however, for critical reviews, since the regularities I formulated in all sections of the book (philosophy, cosmogony, organics and psychology) are contrary to all notions generally accepted in science. Finally, philosophers were the first to respond – more specifically, Professor V. S. Semyonov, Doctor of philosophical science.[2]

The review starts with several curious remarks concerning me personally. Prof. Semyonov writes: “The author introduces himself as Alex Battler in the countries of the West where he has been living and working in recent years.” Esteemed Professor! I don’t use this name to “introduce” myself in the West. Alex Battler is the legal name I have as a citizen of Canada. O. A. Arin is my literary pen-name in Russia, while my legal name in Russia – in the capacity of a citizen of the Russian Federation – is not German Aliev (that is my son’s name), but R. Sh.-A. Aliev. That is, I am a person with dual citizenship, which is not prohibited by the legislations of the two states. This piece of information is also intended for many of my readers and acquaintances in Russia who can’t grasp for some reason that such things are possible.

I don’t know why the Professor decided that Dialectics of Force was published in the West, and that I read a lecture course based on it. He got mixed up, most likely. In the USA (in China as well, by the way) another one of my monographs was published: The Twenty-First Century: the World without Russia. The work reviewed by Semyonov has been translated into English, but not yet published in the West. I currently don’t give lectures in the West for a number of reasons, one of them being that I am deeply involved in research work and the writing of the promised second part of the trilogy (Society: Force and Progress.)

Let us now move on to the essence. Professor Semyonov commended me for my previous works and also for the fact that in this monograph I popularize “the ideas of materialist philosophy,” “dialectical materialism” and the views of progressive Western and Russian scientists. Much thanks to him for the praise, of course, but what he says is not exactly true.

I “popularize” certain scientists not on the grounds of their “progressiveness” but rather on the grounds of their contributions to the research of the problems I analyze. The word “progressive” as yet has no meaning for me with respect to naturalist scientists and philosophers, and it was precisely with this category of scientists that I dealt when writing the present work. As for materialism and dialectics, they are to me the fundamental scientific tools for cognizing reality (the being), which does not prevent me from using other means of research (for example, the system approach) and ideas born from other world-views when they prove fruitful. Unfortunately, I never have enough time left for popularizing materialist philosophy and dialectics, even though it must be done. It must be done if only because the bankruptcy of bourgeois social science is becoming increasingly evident. It has essentially smothered itself with ideological dogmas. That, however, is a separate topic.

So: after his encouraging praise Prof. Semyonov clearly states his negative opinion of my conception of force. Let me remind to the reader my definition:  “Ontóbia, or ontological force, is a philosophical category for designating an attribute of being which determines its essence through motion, space and time.” (p.78.) Semyonov replies to this: “Such opinions about force as the source and the beginning of the motion of matter are well known, they can be found already in the works of the ancient nature-philosophers. The developing dialectical thought later renounced this idea, hypothesis, ideologeme.”

Esteemed Vadim Sergeyevich! Where did I say anything about force as “the beginning of motion”? I constantly emphasized throughout precisely the simultaneousness of all the attributes of being: matter, motion, space, time and force. And do please tell me: “later” – when was that? It follows from the logic of the paragraph that “after the ancient nature-philosophers” the non-ancient ones renounced the idea of force. However, I name a whole sequence of “post-ancient” philosophers who continued for some reason to research this topic. Did you perhaps mean after Hegel, after Marx, after Spencer? – No reply. In whose person or persons did the “developing philosophical thought” renounce the idea? Did this “thought” perhaps exist on its own - without a “material carrier,” so to say? That, dear Professor, is already “idealism.” You, however, appear to present yourself as a materialist. Where, in which work is this “renouncement” stated?

I draw the readers’ attention to the method of “argumentation” characteristic of many works by Russian researchers. It manifests itself in expressions of the type “they say,” “as is known to all,” “it is considered that.” Who says? Who considers? Known to whom? I am especially taken aback by the usage of the word “we,” as in: we believe, the peoples reject, the majority of mankind, etc.

This meaningless phrase is followed by an old exposition about self-moving matter, the conflict between opposites, etc. in the spirit of Soviet textbooks on dialectical materialism; I don’t object to all these things. What is it the Professor is objecting to? He argues that since “force” cannot be touched, gripped, caught, fixed or measured, it follows that it does not exist at all in matter. “Thus in the philosophical understanding, in the philosophical comprehension of the world, the term “force” does not have its own independent ontological content, like matter, motion, time and space. It is a conditional notion that characterizes the different sides and manifestations of developing matter and consciousness as a synonym, by way of analogy.”

Interesting: “force cannot be measured,” yet somehow researchers do manage to measure it in both classical and quantum mechanics, formulate laws based on it and even win Nobel prizes for their efforts. Are those prizes likewise “conditional” as synonyms?

Our esteemed “materialist” failed to understand that I designated force as ontóbia (the force of being), i.e. as an attribute of being which contains not only matter, but also consciousness. This is firstly. Secondly, I stress many times in the book that force is recognized in its manifestations, appearing in different forms, changing its appearance in accordance with the being-essence of different worlds (inorganic, organic and social.)

Judging by Semyonov’s own works, he numbers himself among Marxists, yet he hasn’t read Marx properly. It seems to me that he never came across Marx’ appraisal of the book The Correlation of Physical Forces by W.R. Grove (London, 1862). Marx writes this of Grove: “He proves that the forces of mechanical motion, heat, light, electricity, magnetism and chemical properties are essentially just modifications of one and the same force; they mutually give birth to each other, replace each other, make the transition from one to the other, etc.” (Marx & Engels. Collected Works, vol. 30, p.533.) So you see, Vadim Sergeyevich, one and the same force manifests itself in different aspects. In the organic world this force manifests itself already in the form of orgάbia (organic force); in the biological realm it transforms into biόbia (biological force).

It is natural to expect it to manifest itself in man and in society; our reviewer does write of this, but see how: “It is widely used practically in all social sciences: economics, sociology, political science, law, international relations, and others. It is usually used in the metaphorical meaning and in the figurative, allegorical sense as a convenient synonym and substitute.”

It is actually the gas-bag political scientists and scholars of international relations who use the word “force” “in the metaphorical meaning and in the figurative sense,” i.e. without any meaning. This is precisely why they are unable to sort out the concepts “center of power,” “center of might” or “international pole.” In each of the listed disciplines, its own “forces” exist. The researchers’ task is precisely to “catch and measure” force and to uncover on this basis the regularity of motion in this or that social field.

Semyonov quotes selectively, with irony, the passage where I say that “ultimately it is knowledge – its accumulation – that is force, that is the base, the foundation of human development,” stressing that this is common knowledge. He forgets to mention that I connect knowledge to negentropy – the only force in nature that opposes the law of entropy growth, i.e. wages the struggle to increase the life delta, which I call “progress.” If Semyonov had mentioned even one work that contains similar conclusions, then I would have agreed that I wrote something that is “common knowledge.”

I had no intention of criticizing the review by V. S. Semyonov. On the contrary, I am obliged to thank him just for reading this difficult work. Nonetheless I am left with an after-taste and a feeling of utter dissatisfaction on account of the fact that this philosopher, who considers himself a materialist and a Marxist, defends his disagreement so weakly, with empty declarations instead of arguments. He should have presented proof along the lines of: yes indeed, there were attempts in the history of philosophy to tie force to matter, for example by such and such, but nothing came out of it because force is not a substance – it is a relationship, etc. He should have proved that my conception of the Big Bang contradicts my own category of force on the ontological level, and that it is silly to assert, as I do, that life starts with man, for isn’t a “dog” a living being?

I am getting the impression that “dialectical thought” departed from Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to be replaced with quasi-scientific empty talk about everything at all and about nothing in particular. One example is the article by the philosopher V. V. Vasil’yev titled The Brain and Consciousness: Exits From the Labyrinth, published in that same magazine. After some justifiably negative comments about the “skeptics” (with respect to the possibility of cognizing consciousness), namely Noam Chomsky and Colin McGinn, the Russian philosopher turns with enthusiasm to John R. Searle, David Chalmers and certain other experts “on consciousness.” It actually fell to me in the past to examine in detail the views of these “experts” who haven’t managed to say one useful word about consciousness in decades. They failed to offer a scientific explanation of the difference between consciousness and thought. They continue to dwell on the artificial problem of mind/body (or mind/brain); some of them became stuck on the «quale» theory, having failed to uncover what it is all about. Vasil’yev, however, takes their nonsensical pronouncements seriously; apparently, he is just as inclined toward “immaterialism” (i.e. elementary idealism) as that whole bunch he quotes. Why wouldn’t that same V. S. Semyonov, since he disagrees with my conception of force, compare my approach to understanding consciousness to that of, say, Chalmers. Why is it that my approach solves the problems of mind/body and consciousness/thought, while theirs don’t? It has been that way in the West for almost 150 years. Why is that?

I could say the same of the Big Bang theory and the problems of the living/nonliving. Comparing works on this topics from the Soviet era and from the current times, I cannot help being amazed how deep scientific thought has fallen in today’s Russia. I am getting the impression that theology has crowded out philosophy, dilettantism has crowded out professionalism. All that’s left is “occasional and immaterial conventions and narratives.” That old cleric Berkeley would have been overjoyed at this development.

Alex Battler

24 June 2006

[1] Universum, no 1 (2005) : 62; P.A. Sergeyev, V.V. Kotilko, “Force as attribute of matter and contemporary problems of world energy,” Business book, no. 5 (2005) : 6; also in: National Interests: Priorities and Security, no 3 (November-December 2005); Knizhnoye Obozreniye (Book Review), no.  25-26 (2005) : 10.

[2] V. S. Semyonov, Voprosy Philosophii (Issues in Philosophy), no. 1 (2006) : 186-187.