Dialectical Materialism and the Problem of Change in 20th Century PhilosophyJune 28, 2021
Materialism is the common name of understandings that see matter as the basis of existence.
The idea of materialism has been put forward by different thinkers since the First Age, and the fact that matter is the basis of existence has been defended in different ways. Based on materialist thought, Marx and Engels described Hegel’s dialectic as standing upside down, because it started from the spirit. According to them, Hegel put forward a correct idea in determining the dialectical method with thesis-antithesis-synthesis processes; but he made a mistake by starting the thesis phase with tin. The thesis phase should begin with matter, that is, with nature. With this approach, Marx and Engels put forward the idea of dialectical materialism. According to them, the whole process of existence consists of qualitative leaps formed from the quantitative accumulations of nature. Qualitative accumulations also enable to change the quantitative.
In general, Engels used the dialectical method to explain thought and nature, and Marx to explain the movements and changes of society. Engels tried to explain nature and its dialectic by addressing the scientific knowledge of the period. He argued that thought and nature are in harmonious structures and that the functioning of thought is shaped according to the laws that nature is subject to. As such, it is an epistemological-ontological view as well as being a dialectical method.
By examining the social changes in history, Marx tried to explain the historical transformation by connecting it to the production processes. According to him, people are subject to different classes as those who produce and those who own what is produced in the economic process. While the economic relations of production in the society constitute the infrastructure (foundation) as material elements, institutions such as politics and law constitute the superstructure. According to Marx, the infrastructure determines the superstructure. Marx argues that the economic elements of a society (infrastructure) constitute phenomena such as culture and law (superstructure). According to him, infrastructure and superstructure changes affect each other and create new economic systems. Marx’s orientation is also called historical materialism. Dialectical materialism is one of the philosophical mainstreams of the 20th century.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook