Updated: Feb 27
This is Part 1 on Marxism, here the focus will be on explaining the philosophical underpinnings of Marxism. Part 2 will be Marxist history and later topics will cover relevant economic problems with the theory.
The obvious place to look to see how bad Marxism is where it has been implemented. Over 100 million dead. To put that in perspective that is the equivalent of the world being hit by 41 Covid-19 plagues as of February 2021.
If you think that people should cover their mouths with masks lest they spray out Covid-19 you should definitely agree that people’s faces need to stop spraying out Marxism too.
If you want to distance yourself from those with a deadly virus. May I suggest you distance yourself from Marxists
If you sneer at those who myopically ignore tragedies that aren’t immediately affecting their area. Let me introduce you to the millions worked to death in Soviet death camps or the millions starved or tortured in China. Generations were ground into the dirt by the boot of the State as slaves.
If there were people who suggested Nazi socialism ought to be brought back, they would be dismissed out of hand. Why? Because that ideology has well known and disastrous consequences. It killed 6 million Jews. We know how evil it is. Lets never bring it back.
But Marxism and its derivatives have killed far more. Yet it is praised in elite universities, championed in the streets and baked into political platforms.
Still some say, “It’s great on paper, it just doesn’t work in reality”. No, it’s an absolute dumpster fire on paper and its a dumpster fire in reality.
Let's pretend for a moment that those 100 million starved, enslaved, beaten, raped, or murdered bodies don’t exist (This step may have already have been taken by some),
hold our noses, examine this filthy ideology, and find out just why it has its obvious and predictable consequences. What makes Marxism so bad?
We begin with everyone’s favorite subject, Philosophy. Feel free to skip this one if you just don’t care. There is boredom ahead for the determined reader, but come on, what else are you going to do? Watch cat videos? You can do it!
I consider myself fairly well versed in philosophy for an amateur. That said there are many different philosophical schools and the one undergirding Marxism is not one of my specialties. So my apologies to all those who know continental philosophy much better than I. I mean it when I say, what is written below is just scratching the surface.
Personally, I think that much of the complexity of Hegelianism comes from purposeful obfuscation of its actual claims, incoherence of the system and finally, constant use of over intellectual jargon for the purpose of making people feel smarter than they actually are. I’ll do my best on this topic, here we go:
Under the hood of Marxism purrs the philosophical engine of Hegelianism to power it off the proverbial cliff of rationality.
Hegelianism is a type of Idealism. This means it takes ideas or logical propositions as real things. But it is goes even further. Hegel believed in absolute idealism. This means that the only things that exist are these ideas. Hegel says, “The rational alone is real”.
This takes the form of ontological monism. Which is a pretentious way of saying that things which have being are ultimately unified into one thing. In Hegel's case this one thing is the “Absolute Spirit”. Everything unfolds out of this one thing through a process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis (Not that he every used that language specifically). Essentially, the basis of being, consciousness, and thought emerge from a conflict that creates a synthesis of contrary things. These new things intersect again with further things and the cycle continues.
To explain what's above a bit further:
Step one: A thesis is put forward. For example: Things exist.
Step two is a negation of the thesis. This can take three forms (explored below)
Step Three: New synthetic knowledge is created.
This is the division of “being” where pairs of things that seem to have nothing to do with each other are shown to be interrelated.
The pair of: Existing things vs Qualitative properties
One might explore the interconnectedness of qualitative properties like redness using the concept of a thing in existence. A question may be, what type of existing thing is redness? This could yield a conclusion that redness is a type of being even though it is also a qualitative property therefore the two seemly disconnected things are unified in this conflict. We are left with a synthetic knowledge as a result.
In this system we must be careful not to use the traditional Aristotelian logic of A=A or Not A = Not A. This is seen as a mutilation of the thing studied, and a move away from finding the unity that ultimately is reality as reality itself.
This is the division of “Essence” with this method the goal is to show how the two imply one another.
Inside-ness implies outside-ness. Or Redness is the mode of self awareness of a being that has the being of redness existing in itself as an idea.
In this case the mode of being of existing implies the quantitative property in the form of redness.
This is the division or contradiction according to “Notion”. If you thought the last two where confusing, hold on to your hat…
The identity of a thing is broken into its parts where the parts are evaluated according to universality or particularity.
A Human being is both individual and a member of a universal kind. Remember, we are in Hegel world where only the rational exists and being, consciousness, and ideas are roughly convertible. Hegel might say humanity represents the content of the idea of humans in the context of something-others. These something-others are in a process of passing back and forth the thesis and negation bringing forth the unity of the many humans into the clarity of the human kind.
What all of this is meant to be an alternative to is the more Platonic or Aristotelian form of dialectic where premises are offered then logic is used to reach a conclusion. Hegel would say that this type of process can only lead to radical skepticism. Negation of premises in the ways above on the other hand can reassemble ideas ultimately into the one spirit.
In hegelianism there is a division between the old school and the young hegelians. In the latter camp they defend a liberal order and embrace either pantheism or flat out atheist.
Marx makes the system a bit worse, here is a quote:
My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e. the process of thinking, which, under the name of 'the Idea', he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of 'the Idea'. With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought
Hold on to your brain for a second…… now take all that I explained about dialectic in the abstract and translate that into a materialist worldview. Got it? Great!
Marx now precludes himself from the type of pantheistic idealism of the young hegelians and is committed to an atheist materialist position.
Here is the crazy part though, the philosophical system was built to unify ideas into the great spirit by directing ideas into conflict. The result is a more holistic truth for the mind to know / merge into in a self reflective way.
Remember how I said that being and idea where basically convertible into one another in this view? From a materialist atheist Hegelian view the height of man as a self reflective thing is a material merger into the one, in the form of the State.
Applied to material people, negation method 1 may seek to take two beings that are distinct and merge them into one, for example Man and Woman. The result is the trans-gender movement
An example of negation 2 in a material Marxist young Hegelian system could be power structure vs minority. Based on the essence of power structures the subjugation of a less powerful entity such as a minority is entailed. The existence of a minority implies a power structure of oppression.
Negation 3 Could go something like this: Wealth of a nation is through the labor of the people of that nation. The wealth is a product of a interconnection of the many individuals in their labor. The implication is the equal sharing of wealth because all have participated is individuals to the whole.
Here is what is right and wrong with theories above:
Ideas and Being;
Right: Ideas have being
Wrong: All beings are ideas
Right: There are material beings that have ideas
Wrong: Ideas are material
The right view:
Ideas have being, We have being as both ideas (Form) and Matter. Ideas have being in our intellect which is immaterial.
The use of logic and deduction:
Right: Premises must be generated to reach truth
Wrong: Logic applied to premises to rationally reach conclusions leads to radical skepticism.
Wrong : Breaking down things into logical formulations to apply reason leads away from ultimate truth.
Right Truth is instantiated in reality
Wrong Ideas or other transcendent don’t really exist thus they cannot have bearing on reality. Therefore purely abstract reasoning and deduction does not reflect reality as instantiated in matter.
The right view:
All information comes through our material senses. Our intellects then abstracts from this “sense knowledge” to come to an understanding of the whole. Separating things that have been come to be known into premises and applying logic to reach a conclusion is a valid form of expanding the knowledge of the whole and does not lead to skepticism.
And will you look at that. I read so much darn Hegel that when I go to lay out my position I accidentally set up a dialectic.
Hegel could have made the jump to classical theism with a few tweaks. Divine simplicity says that God is one and completely unified in a similar way that Hegel thinks that the Absolute Spirit is one and unified. Further, Theists say that God is the pure act of existence from where all existence comes. Hegel would say that the “Absolute Spirit” is a being, an intellect and an idea.
Here is the cool part. I am not sure if Hegel gets any credit for this or if he accidentally is expressing the built in biases from living in a largely Christian contest but I think he is kind of describing the Trinity of Christianity.
In Christianity, the Father is the “I AM” the pure act of existence. God the Father is an intellect. He reflects on himself as an idea. This act of self knowledge begets from all eternity the person of Jesus the Son. The love between the two is the Holy Spirit.
Strangely hegelianism is right at home in Trinitarian thought. It affirms that the idea, the intellect and being are distinct in relation but unified in substance. Yep thats Trinitarian. Further is understands that the intellect entails a self knowledge. There is the begetting of the Son. Additionally, he would say that an idea comprehends itself since its being is an act of self revelation taking up residence in an intellect. That last point is pretty darn Thomistic. What is really crazy is the the creative act of God is more or less the same.
In Trinitarian thought. The love between the Father and Son explodes out in a selflessly creative act to create all things. Knowing the creations gives a tiny sliver of the knowledge of God himself. Hegel would not be too far off here either since he sees all things possessing a piece of the unity of the Spirit.
I think Hegel if he was more of a theist would have liked the Christian analogy of God as pure white light passing through the prism of creation to reveal the colors that are internal to his unity.
Where the young hegelians made an enormous mistake was to imagine that all things where made out of God which is pantheism. Instead God is an intellect so we are ideas in the mind of God that are lend that existence that he contains in an unbounded way in his unity.
Once the pantheist move is made, atheism is the next step. Strictly speaking pantheism is atheism. After the denial of God comes the denial of all transcendent reality. Then you are a materialist like Marx.
Hegel's mistakes sowed the seeds for this type of unraveling of his philosophy. Ironically it degrades into what Marxist philosophy claims to be the very opposite of Hegel as the quote before states.
So what is wrong with Marxist philosophy?
First it denied God which is the biggest mistake you could possibly make. Next it embraces materialism which is almost as dumb. Finally it basically abandons logical deduction as a means of finding truth. That last one is just plain incoherent.
If you want to know why philosophically speaking you shouldn't deny God I can explain briefly but I would recommend grabbing a good book on the subject, Ed Feser is a good place to start. I just want to address what we mean by God and why the middle school retort “If God created everything then who created God” doesn’t grasp what God is.
If God created everything then who created God? Lets work with some easier to understand arguments:
If Water makes things wet, what makes water wet?
Answer: Water contains within its nature the reason for its own wetness. To be wet is to be like water and what can be more like water than water itself?
If “One” makes things singular, what makes “one” singular?
Answer: One contains within its nature the reason for its own singularity. To be singular is to be like one and nothing can be more like one than one itself.
If Salt makes things salty what makes salt salty?
Answer: Salt contains within its nature the reason for its own saltness. To be salty is to be like salt and what is more like salt than salt itself?
And now the big one. As I mentioned earlier the definition of God is “The Pure act of Existence”
If the “The Pure act of Existence” makes things exist, what makes the “The Pure act of Existence” exist?
Answer: “The Pure act of Existence” contains within its nature the reason for its own existence. To exist is to be like the “The Pure act of Existence” and what can be more like the “The Pure act of Existence” than “The Pure act of Existence” it self.
Aristotle would simply say, “the maximum of a genus is the cause of all in that genus.”
The simplest argument for God is the Kalam argument that actually comes from the Islamic world. It goes as follows:
1 Everything that Begins to exist has a cause
2 The universe began to exist
Conclusion: the Universe had a cause
Note, premise one does not say “Everything that exists has a cause” No, it says “begins to exist has a cause”. Unless you want to imagine that things go from absolute nonexistence to whole universes with no cause then stick to affirming the first premise.
Premise two has some philosophical support. I lean towards the view that an infinite temporal series is impossible to traverse therefore a universe or multiverse can not be infinity old. See the famous grim reaper paradox for details. Scientifically speaking conventional wisdom is that yes, the universe began 14.6 billion years ago.
The conclusion is that there is a cause of the universe that is not itself caused. Unpacking what this cause would be like yields the traditional attributes of God like omniscience and omnipotence.
But that is far from my favorite argument. The best most ironclad argument from God is Thomas Aquinas's first way from potentiality and actuality. I have tried had to figure a way to defeat that one, there is no way. It is a bit longer than the super simple Kalam and the point is Marxism and its problems not arguments for God.
Materialism is incoherent. Trying to explain things like intentionality of minds from a purely materialist reductionist philosophical system is like trying to build a yellow wall by stacking more and more purple bricks. It is the wrong kind of explanation, material does not explain things like intentionality or consciousness. As Descarte points out the existence of consciousness is more obvious and undoubtable than the existence of material!
Materialism doesn’t explain things like numbers or logical propositions either. Some deny the existence of numbers which is ridiculous. Others say that numbers only exist in our minds. But this has far reaching consequences and begs the question how can a number exist in a mind if materialism is true? The problems are numerous (pun intended).
Yet another issue with materialism is the causal power regress problem. Imagine a goat as it decides to to eat a particularly juicy blade of grass. First off, the causal arrows all move from the goat as a whole down to its parts and the parts to their parts not the other way around this issue alone precludes reductionism. If that's not enough, there is the question of, “what had the power of intention” the easiest answer is, “The Goat” since a part of a goat does not have intentions. Only whole and entire Goats desire blades of grass. This causal power belongs only to the whole. If this is denied then it must be in the parts. The issue is, relocating the causal power in the parts begs the question. We must then ask the further question how those parts hold the causal power. If the answer is that they hold them in virtue of being the kind of thing that they are, then this is refuting materialist reductionism. If an appeal is made to the parts of the parts then there is an infinite regress problem. Some have said that the solution is an appeal to the parts of the goat plus the relation of those parts such that they have new causal powers such as intentionality. That last point is lovely, in that it is just a modern restatement of what Aristotle would call matter and form. Reductionism must either collapse into the classical matter and form distinction where immaterial form actually exists or it can form an incoherent infinite regress problem.
The latter points lead to the last big philosophical issue with Marxism. They aren’t using logical argumentation. Maybe its because they don’t believe that logical propositions exist? That is a conclusion of the rest of their philosophy. To transition into part 2, history, this is why speech is silenced and force is used instead of persuasion
Why is Marxist Philosophy so Bad? Because its false. Mistakes in something as fundamental as philosophy have ripple effects into other fields as the mistakes are amplified. This philosophy denies God, totally screws up metaphysics, and has piss-poor epistemology.
With Hegel everything was viewed as an idea. Great thing about ideas is there is no real violence done to them by putting them in opposition and finding out the outcome. With the move into materialism, Families, peoples, cultures, races, and classes are pitted against each other, this is violence. This is why Communism, the unity of all into one, was viewed as the final state. It is a material manifestation of Hegel’s the One Spirit. I hope you see now that built into the very core of Marxist thought is violence, conflict, anti-rationalism, atheist, and materialism.