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Title: Contradiction

Inspectah Ganesha - June 6, 2008 09:24 AM (GMT)
Classically, "contradiction" is used to denote a relationship between two or more ideas in which there is a logical incompatibility. Therefore, two contradicting ideas can both be wrong ("bears are lizards!" "no silly, bears are a rare specie of fungi!") but two contradicting ideas cannot both be right ("Mao was the Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party." "No, ass, Mao never even went to China.")

However, Communists have a long history of hijacking popular words and using them to mean whatever they want to at a given time (see the usage of the word "freedom" throughout history).

Marx generally uses contradiction synonymously with "opposition:"
"existing social relations have come into contradiction with existing forces of production"

Mao (in line with Lenin) uses "contradiction" synonymously with "synthesis:"
"The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics."

As a Marxist and a Maoist, Bob Avakian uses contradiction both ways.
"Dialectics refers to how things are divided into opposing parts, or aspects, and to the contradiction---the conflict and struggle---between these parts and aspects."
"This means (among other things) that, first of all, the thing is able to change (and is in fact constantly changing) because it constitutes (it is) a contradiction."
Although, to give Avakian some credit, he usually uses contradiction in only one way throughout a given speech, and often uses the term "internal contradiction" when he means "synthesis."

John Steele - June 7, 2008 02:00 AM (GMT)
I think you have to distinguish between different sorts of uses of contradiction. In modern logic it’s used in a purely formal way, as holding between two sentences or propositions, one of which negates the other: ‘It is raining’ and ‘It is not the case that it is raining’.

Dialectical contradiction is different: it’s both determinant and concrete. If you say that war and peace are in (dialectical) contradiction, what’s meant is not that the one is simply an abstract cancelling out of the other, but that they are implicated in each other, and therefore form a unity of opposites.

I believe the unity of opposites has three aspects:

- they are implicated in each others’ meanings – neither can be understood without the other

- and they’re also co-implicated in their contents – no war that doesn’t contain some peace, no peace that doesn’t contain some war (This is one of Brecht’s themes in his beautiful play, Mother Courage).

- and they’re co-implicated in their development and becoming – peace becomes war, war becomes peace

And when Marxists talk about the struggle of contradictions, or between the two sides or aspects of a contradiction, it wouldn’t make much sense unless the two aspects were implicated in each other.

These sorts of relations are some of what Lenin is getting at in passages in his Philosophical Notebooks, where he’s making notes and annotations as he’s reading Hegel’s Logic in the years 1914-16, and says things like “Dialectics is the teaching which shows how Opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical,—under what conditions they are identical, becoming transformed into one another,—why the human mind should grasp these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, becoming transformed into one another.”

It was from these notebooks that Mao quoted throughout “On Contradiction.”

And a question, Inspectah Ganesha:

You say -

Mao (in line with Lenin) uses "contradiction" synonymously with "synthesis:""The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics."

I don’t understand how you’re using the term ‘synthesis’ here.

Linda D. - July 12, 2008 12:28 PM (GMT)
Steele...know you're swamped but if you have a chance and there is another Badiou piece posted, could you add a few words from him in this glossary? It's like learning a whole new language.

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