Friday, June 1, 2018

Marx Wartofsky on Diderot

I wrote the following on 1 June 1015; only a few words have been changed here. I fortuitously stumbled on this today, coincidentally after reading two other works about Holbach and his circle:

Diderot has long been beloved by Marxists. Here is an interesting essay about Diderot in ...

Wartofsky, Marx W. "Diderot and the Development of Materialist Monism" (1953), in Models: Representation and the Scientific Understanding (Dordrecht, Holland; Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1979), pp. 297-337. (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science; v. 48. Synthese Library; v. 129.)

We see the influences of Spinoza, Maupertuis, Leibniz, La Mettrie, d'Holbach, and how Diderot transcended the limitations of idealism and mechanical materialism.

This change from inorganic to organic matter is, for Diderot, a change in the qualitative level of the organization of matter. These qualitative differentiations within the monistic chain of being characterize his monistic materialism. The aggregates that he speaks of are not merely quantitative combinations, but are qualitative levels of the organization of matter. Thus continuity and discontinuity, the unity of particularity and universality, of quantity and quality, are maintained by Diderot as characteristics of matter in motion. This is not a simple metaphysical unity, not an absolute subsuming of opposites such as we find in the celestial realm of scholasticism, or in Leibniz's monad where there is a metaphysical unity of opposites, or in the metaphysical dialectic of Schelling, but it has the characteristics of such a unity of opposites where the opposition is not merely negated or ignored, but where the very condition of the unity itself is opposition. The pre-Hegelian dialectical element is based on the essential role of process, dynamism, development. The levels are the product of a process in matter, are not preordained, are not prototypes. The flux in Diderot's universe is not a flux-in-itself, it is a flux grounded in matter, in the mode of the existence of matter: motion. Although he never systematizes this process in philosophic terms, it is an essential element in his transformism.

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