Thursday, January 27, 2005

Reading :: Dialectics of Nature

Originally posted: Thu, 27 Jan 2005 20:55:22

Dialectics of Nature

by Frederick Engels

I didn't actually read through this book -- I skimmed it, trying to make sense of dialectics as Vygotsky received it, and Engels was a good place to start because Vygotsky cited him more than Marx. (This is part of my research for an upcoming presentation in March.) Skimming usually makes me feel guilty, but in this case I don't, since Dialectics of Nature is not a proper book in the first place. It's put together from unfinished manuscripts that Engels left behind when he died. Engels had been planning on developing the manuscripts into a book, but on Marx's death, he decided to put that project aside in order to prepare Marx's unfinished work for publication. Judging from this book, that was probably a good move. Engels was -- how do I say this? -- definitely the junior partner in that partnership. Dialectics of Nature is impetuous, full of revolutionary fervor, and given to sweeping statements. I can see how Vygotsky, a more careful thinker, leveraged these raw ideas and modulated them appropriately to come up with an account of psychological development.

Engels argued that dialectics, once they are made materialist rather than idealist, constitute a general law of nature. For him, dialectics is the "science of interconnections"

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