Jacob Lawrence, "Defeat," 1954
Jacob Lawrence, Defeat (1954)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages


I went to college to learn to differentiate between competing revolutionary tendencies.

Central to this goal, one day I asked my frequently drunken philosophy professor to help me understand dialectics.

What he should have said: "Originally dialectics was the Greek practice of reason through conversation: you narrow in on truth through considered back-and-forth. Hegel reinvented it as an attempt at a logic of transformation, that is, a way of understanding things in process of change. He proposed formal categories for thinking of evolution, such as the mutual relationship between quantity and quality. Marx, Engels and the 20th Century Marxist tradition insist that Marxism is dialectical, but Marx never wrote explicitly about method, and there's debate about exactly what his method and its relation to Hegel really are. The French philosopher Louis Althusser and his circle are very rigorous on these questions, and also controversial. Since it's important to you, why don't we do a class on dialectics next semester? If you can't interest other students, we can do it as an independent study."

What he did say: "I like to think of it as two halves of the same coin. See what I mean?"

You can make jokes about wanting your money back. The bigger issue is that there were no experts. Just this fool and one philosophy student whose purpose in life was to listen to himself permanently.