I was very critical of Woods, as his book came out, but I hadn’t read it, although I did read his Reason In Revolt.
This summary is useful and suggests the context in which ‘dialectical materialism’ arises but even so the account is too limited: the connection to dualism/nondualism is at least suggestive of some possible sense to made, but I stand by my critique because the history of philosophy cannot be summarized as finding some endpoint in Marx, after rejecting Kant, perhaps the greatest philosopher in world history and a true successor to Plato. Marx appears in the generation of Hegel and his successors as left Hegelians point him to a limited and sterile ‘materialism’ that is already dated now in the era of quantum field theory. That always happens when you contrast/reduce an immensity of thinking to single idea. As to resolving the mystery of dualism via dialectic you had better watch out: the result will be cream puff philosophy. I can be challenged as unfair to the dialectic in Marx, or even Hegel, but after moving through the realm of the yogas, Upanishads, sufism, what to say of Frodo the Hobbit’s world, the Marxist brand is too narrow and amateurish. The mystery of triads can’t be solved so easily as Marxists think. I discuss the field of train wrecks here in my Samkhya: Ancient and Modern. The issue is socialism and it doesn’t need triadic logic, Hegel a la Marx, etc… To throw out Kant and try to replace Hegel with a materialist dialectic. Leftists might study Bennett’s brand of sufi/Samkhya in the progressions of triads to see how vast is the history of ‘dialectic’ and how lowball the Marx brand is.
I recommend a new left that simply sets aside historical materialism, dialectical materialism and operates with a clear and simple recipe approach to socialist categories. The dialectic can be a side reach project that doesn’t vitiate clarity in humble socialists who are forced into a Marxist straightjacket with no chance of debate or understanding. Marxism is asking us to use historical materialism as yardstick to judge all else, and dangers of firing squad if you don’t. And Marxism can’t see through Darwinism, a fatal flaw, and another social ideology with Marxists of all people falling for its bad science, and ending up with Stalin’s social darwinist natural selection.
Marxism is too far gone and needs to be bypassed by socialists who can travel with lighter loads.
[Reading Guide] History of Philosophy: a Marxist Perspective
In Defence of Marxism23 November 2021
Alan Woods’ History of Philosophy: a Marxist Perspective is available to buy now from Wellred Books! It takes readers on a 2,000-year-long journey, starting with the towering thinkers of ancient Greece, through the radical bourgeois philosophers of the Enlightenment, to the dialectics of Hegel, and culminating with the scientific socialism of Marx and Engels. We hope the following guide will encourage comrades and supporters to form reading circles with radical workers and youth around the world!
The reading guide summarises the main points, chapter by chapter, and provides a number of study questions and prompts to facilitate discussion. While the guide is especially suitable for reading groups, it will also help individual readers enhance their understanding of the text. Buy The History of Philosophy today; read and discuss it with friends, peers and comrades; and arm yourself with a thorough understanding of Marxism’s great philosophical lineage (PDF version here).
- The Emergence of Philosophy
- The First Dialecticians
- Aristotle and the End of Classical Greek Philosophy
- The Rise of Christianity
- Islamic Philosophy
- Philosophy in the Middle Ages
- The Renaissance
- Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz
- The Dead End of Kantianism
- Hegel’s Revolution in Philosophy
- From Hegel to Marx
The question may be raised: why bother studying complicated questions of science and philosophy? For our daily lives there is evidently no need for this and at first sight studying a book on the history of philosophy can appear a bit academic. However, if we wish to gain a rational understanding of the world in which we live, and the fundamental processes at work in it, then we clearly do need to study philosophy – essentially a way of looking at the world.
People who pretend not to have any philosophy will inevitably reflect the ideas and prejudices of the society and the milieu in which they live. Life is not a meaningless series of accidents or an unthinking routine, and it is our duty to occupy ourselves with thought at a higher level than the immediate problems of everyday existence.
In this book, Alan Woods outlines the development of philosophy from the ancient Greeks, all the way through to Marx and Engels. They were the ones who brought together the best of previous thinking to produce the Marxist philosophical outlook, which looks at the real material world, not as a static immovable reality, but one that is constantly changing and moving according to laws that can be discovered.
It is this method that allows Marxists to look at how things were, how they have become and how they are most likely going to be in the future, in a long process, which started with the early primitive humans in their struggles for survival, through to the emergence of class societies, all as part of a process towards greater and greater knowledge of the world we live in.
To read the rest of the guide, click on the url: