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The New Dialectics
The Dialectical Phenomenology of Michael Kosok

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Dialectics of Nature

Michael Kosok

 

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Impossible! This is the general reaction of most people familiar with dialectics (either as Hegelians or as Marxists), or of those studying nature (i.e., the scientists). As a dialectician, so runs the argument, you are dealing essentially with a subjectively constituted schema that has validity for the conceptual process, but not as such for nature “out there.” Thus, Hegelians remain abstract, while most Marxists regard dialectics as an ideology or, at best, as a methodology to be “used.” The scientists, on the other hand, see nature as an objective process not intrinsically reflective of any such “subjective” logic as dialectic, and, at most, regard the dialectic as a curiosity giving “intuition” but not real insight. All miss the concrete immediacy of the dialectical process, i.e., the way in which dialectic expresses the dynamics of whatever is immediately present, be it thoughts, feelings, sensations or intuitions in the shape of objects, equations or people.

Hegel, first and foremost, is the philosopher who regarded dialectical movement as his “object” of knowledge winding up with the absolute. However, having discovered the dynamics of dialectic, Hegel tried to “distill” the essence of this dynamics out of the immediacy of the world situation from which dialectics emerges into awareness. Thus, the philosophic insight of Marx lies precisely in his intuition that the logic of dialectic and the immediacy of the world context must themselves be in a dialectical relation, lest dialectic be reduced to a mere empty form, and immediate existence reduced to a blind play of forces. Hence, “dialectical materialism,” regarded not as a party slogan or as an ideology, is but a way of giving expression to the concrete immediacy of “existence” displaying its “essence” as lying in a dialectic of relations, such that “reality” is at once immediate and dialectical (i.e., a “mediation” of relations).

Therefore in order to present a meaningful “dialectics of nature,” and a “unified field theory of the sciences” — which includes all sciences (both “natural” and “humanistic”) — Marxist dialectic must be reconsidered as its basis. However — and this is essential — precisely because Marxism as concrete dialectic is a philosophy of dialectic and therefore a philosophy of transformation, creation and movement, Marxism itself must be a dialectical philosophy, and not an abstract “position” or ideology forcing the world around it to conform to a given pattern. Any perspective of dialectical movement must itself be within that movement, lest the dialectic turn out to be only a partial and abstract account of the world, ignoring the fact that any perspective outlined by an individual or a society is paradoxically within the very world it is “describing.”

This paper is divided into three sections. The first section outlines the philosophic basis necessary to present a dialectic of the sciences as a possibility. The second section then considers the revolution of perspective necessary for such a dialectic to manifest itself as an integral aspect of scientific practice. This revolution is a revolution of consciousness, and thus part of a fundamental change in both personal and social awareness and modes of being — i.e., in both subjective and intersubjective orientations. Finally, in section three, a concrete presentation of a dialectics of nature and a unified field theory of the sciences is given — detailing what such a perspective means for the major natural and social sciences, and indicating how such a perspective can itself become a science — with its own principles and theories subjected to the test of history for validation and modification. In concluding this section, I briefly outline a new theory of relativistic quantum mechanics based upon a dialectics of nature, and present it as a concrete example of what can be done in one field, i.e., physics.

 

1. The Philosophical Basis

“The chief defect of all previous materialism (including Feuerbach’s) is that the object, actuality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object of perception, but not as sensuous human activity, practice [Praxis], not subjectively. Hence in opposition to materialism the active side was developed by idealism — but only abstractly since idealism does not know actual, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects actually different from thought objects: but he does not comprehend human activity as objective.”

We find here, in Marx’s first thesis on Feuerbach, a singular formulation of what one can call the “vital core of Marxism” — and consequently that which any living and relevant Marxism must explicitly express in order for it not to degenerate into an abstract ideology. For Marx, praxis is at once subjective and objective and never one or the other. It is that specifically human state in which each act is directed towards an object-of-action (i.e., it is a sensual act and not an “empty” thought process), while at the same time, every object is always an object-of-action (i.e., expresses an active state of awareness and not a passive datum of “blind” given). Paraphrasing a famous Kantian insight: subjective awareness without objective content is “empty,’’ while objective content without subjective awareness is “blind’’ to which one can add the Hegelian intuition that abstract subjectivity, as an empty nothingness, and abstract objectivity as blind being, can show no becoming whatsoever. This means, however, something quite radical and is more disruptive to one’s usual categories of behavior than would be expected from a mere casual reading of Marx’s first thesis. It means, specifically, that subjectivity is an act whose content is always objective, while objectivity is a content whose form is always subjective. This circular mutuality of interdependency is precisely what needs to be clarified in order to understand both Marxism in general, and the meaning of a dialectics of nature relevant for modern science in particular. A noncritical intuition of subjectivity and objectivity (or in their localized forms, thinking mind and sensed matter, feeling soul and physical body, etc.) not only tends to regard subjectivity and objectivity as separable states of being, but any mutual or circular interdependency between such separable states in turn seems to give rise to paradoxes and confusions as to just what is real and what is not. Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 abound in such circular interdependencies between the subjective humanism of man and the objective naturalism of nature — i.e. “[thru praxis]... man has become... the being of nature, and nature... the being of man.” Elsewhere: “natural science will in time subsume under itself the science of man, just as the science of man will subsume under itself natural science: there will be one science.” Thus a dialectics of man implies a dialectics of nature and vice versa.

To understand the eidos of Marx’s first thesis therefore requires recognition of both the phenomenological inseparability of subjectivity and objectivity, and their intrinsic circular dialectic relation. Marxism must be seen as a dialectic phenomenology. Subjectivity, phenomenologically, simply refers to a field of presence, i.e., an immediate nonlocalized gestalt, “opening,” or “awareness” whose content is constituted by events of mediation or determination — by “objects” of awareness — such that the field is always a field of events and never an abstract field of “consciousness-in-itself.” The events in turn are always events within a field, context, or gestalt of presence and never abstract or detached “things-in-themselves.” Subjectivity as a nonlocalized field of presence is nothing but concrete immediacy, i.e., experience as an on-going-process, in which the events or event complexes present are any objects, products or structures appearing out of the field and thus coexisting with it, be they symbolic systems, physical objects or egos. Ego-awareness is, therefore, a special form of subjectivity and not prior to subjectivity as a pre-ego field condition — such as infancy, pre-man or natural evolutionary processes.

It is precisely this phenomenology of awareness between field and events which at the same time expresses itself as a dialectic of inseparable distinctions, or what in modern science is called a non-linear field of relations. In a dialectic relation, all elements are grasped as elements-of-relation and never simply as elements-in-relation. It is relation, interaction and transformation which constitutes the nature of elements or objects, any element or object “in-itself” being but a one-sided abstraction and alienation from its context within a total process of interaction. Dialectic is but a way of giving expression to the nonlinear totality of inseparable distinctions that constitutes one’s awareness, in which any distinction focused or linearized into consciousness as a posited presence (or “thesis”) by observation, definition, measurement, conceptualization, or for that matter by any activity, is mutually conditioned by its context-of-presence, which qua context, functions as a counterposit or negation (“anti-thesis”). Neither exists as an already well defined entity outside of its mutual boundary relation, and consequently the so-called synthesis or unity of opposites is not a construction of opposites but rather the opposites are nothing but the inseparable sides of a singular boundary state of determination.[1] Dialectics is a logic of transitional relations and transformation states in which the formation of any element, object or structure out of a preformed immediacy of presence is at the same time experienced as its transformation into a relation between its form and its contextual counterform. This means that dialectical activity, while productive of “syntactical” structures and relations of forms, is not a structuralism of forms, for the weakness characterizing structuralism is its lack of any reference to the boundary condition of transformation between objects or forms set into a pattern: forms are given and never experienced in a state of immediacy, subjectivity and objectivity, for example must express itself as a dialectic within both elements. Any singular boundary of transition between any two inseparable sides or elements makes each element “itself” a transition-relation between the two elements (in effect each element expressing the singular transition-state relative to its own modality), lest they are separable into isolated (i.e., “linearized”) elements whose relation is merely external. In this case, each element would appear isolated from the others without its own frame of reference, which serves to relate any one element to all the others and which coordinates elements into gestalts of contrast and/or comparison. Indeed, any one frame of reference is a coordinate system par excellence.

It is this mutual interpenetration of relation (between any elements X and Y appearing within X and Y) which we shall unambiguously refer to as dialectic necessity. The so-called content of any one element is, therefore, precisely the “form” of its relation and activity to its co-functioning context of other elements — i.e. its “properties.” It also means that, as a result, the primary consequence following from “dialectic necessity” is self-determination. All elements are circularly self-referential — each element being a function of itself through the mutual determination it has with its context of other elements.[2] Every element formed (i.e., making a determined appearance) within a state of immediate presence is thus not only transformed through its context, but appears as a self-transformation, all self-relation or self-reflection being self-transformation. Undialectic theories reduce all relation to either a mechanical and deterministic external relation of cause and effect (behaviorism) with a formal combination of terms (formalism) or vitalistic or voluntaristic indeterminism of immediate self-reference without contextual relatedness, producing arbitrary incoherence. Neither position gives expression to an explicit state of self-determinism which is neither rigid nor chaotic, but subtle, fluid, flexible, and living — i.e., dynamic. Actually, rigid determinism and chaotic indeterminacy are the two limiting cases of fluid self-determinism, and they appear as alternatives within any complex state of self-determinism in which the complementary aspects of unitary field coordination and individual event localization can well appear as separable and opposed dimensions.

In modern science, tne dialectic state of interdeterminism is not only expressed by the notion of nonlinearity itself, but is the essence of all field theories in which particles, objects or elements are determined through their properties or “modes of behavior” (i.e., their field) and not considered as “things in themselves.” The distinction between in-itself and for-another, or potentiality and actuality, particle and field, substance and attribute, is consequently relative. One discovers degrees of interrelatedness ranging from relative independence to relative cohesion, the uniqueness of all elements, and the universality of their mutual field always being co-relatively determined through each other. Both relativity and quantum mechanics, as we shall see, are complementary expressions of precisely this condition. Indeed, the principle of “indeterminacy” expresses this condition as a fundamental axiom by stating that the very act of observation (in physical measurement or conceptual formulation) transforms both the observer and the observed, neither being meaningful if isolated. One cannot “stop the world and get off,” even for a moment; all activity — thinking, feeling, acting, meditating, making abstractions and so on — is part of a concrete immediacy of interrelatedness.

Turning specifically to the problem of subjectivity and objectivity, a dialectic phenomenology would demand — by virtue of what we have called “dialectic necessity” — that any “self” or subject in its relation to the “world” or object must itself function as a world-conditioned self and never as a simple detached spirit contemplating abstract mental or spiritual forms. Subjectivity, phenomenologically perceived, must express itself as an intrinsic subject-object dialectic and cannot be the pure domain for a one-sided idealism. Thus, every subjective act is a bodily act, an act that is sensual and practically related to the world as a condition for its very existence. The self is always a body-self, functioning through its physical relatedness in an environment, and the elaborate structures of so-called pure thought or syntactical structuralisms — such as logic and mathematics for example — must at the same time be expressions of this material condition. Physiologically speaking, it is interesting to note that the skin and the brain, or the organ which “senses,” and the organ which coordinates and “thinks,” are actually self-differentiations of the same basic tissue —  namely the ectoderm. Thus, the singular process expressing itself through a dialectic of opposition is a chemical-electronic nerve complex in which the “sensory end” relating the body to its physical functions in an environment, and the “thinking end” coordinating the various modalities of sensation into a totality, are but two inseparable sides. One literally feels with one’s brain and thinks with one’s skin. Sensory feeling and mental thinking are two aspects of a singular organic neurological process and not two compartments of a composite structure. Sensing is at once mental interpretation of some kind, and mental interpretation, no matter how “subtle,” is also a sensual activity. (Thus, thinking or speaking words and symbols are known to co-appear with minute muscular-nerve activity reflective on a body level of the patterns, rhythms and content referred to within the brain.) Many experiments involving eye-detection perception have verified the fact that the so-called direct perception of a given sensual pattern can result in the actual perception of a modified pattern, due to the co-relation between what the eye picks up and what the brain-gestalt expects or looks for (i.e., focuses upon). Indeed, what we sense and see is neither the outer body “as such,” notr our “interpretations,” but the interaction state occurring between-within the systems. Also, any modification in either is a perturbation in the combined interacting system of both.

However, the dialectic between subject and object, or self and world, results not only in a world-conditioned-self — as described — but at the same time in a self-conditioned-world. As the experiment with eye-perception clearly illustrates, consciousness is a singular state of interdependence in which the field-relatedness, or the so-called “psychic totality” literally expressing the “common (universalizing) sense” and therefore “meaning” of the functioning distinct senses, is inseparably related to the various distinct events of objective existence that are sensed. “Perception” always involves both. Thus, not only is the self or field which perceives the world as its content itself a part of that world, but the world which it perceives is in turn conditioned by its being present within a field of subjectivity. This means that the instant one attempts to transcend the “mind” versus “matter” game and comes to understand their functioning unity as a field-event co-relativity and dialectic, then not only must the mind appear materialized (and the self embodied), but matter in turn must appear in “mind form” (and the world perceived in self-hood). Just as mind never functions as a detached idealism of non-material relations, matter never appears as an alienated mechanism of materiality void of subjectivity and meaning.[3] Not only is there direct or immediate consciousness experiencing in a “centrifugal” mode of a self sensing a world, but the dialectical necessity previously mentioned demands the inverse also. Mediated consciousness in a “centripetal” mode, in which the self-as-a-world experiences itself as being-sensed by the world as-a-self, must also exist. In fact, the two mediations (of self as a world and world as a self) are mutually conditioned by each other, the self appearing objectified as a body and ego only to the degree to which the self functions within a world which acts as a subjective field relative to which the ego-body functions as its object. Thus, the world must appear as an externalized subjectivity or field (just as the self appears as an internalized event-structure or “ego-body”), whose most explicit form is society itself.

Selfhood, subjectivity or a field of presence is not a localization or a property attached to a body or thing, but rather a condition of presence — a non‑linear field — within which objectifications as distinctions and localizations manifest themselves as a product of its self‑activity. Thus, the ego and its body as an object, and any environmental object with which the ego‑body is in a state of interaction, are mutual localizations co‑determined and co‑determining within a field of presence — the field of presence being precisely the state of interaction, relation and transformation taking place. Subjectivity, as opposed to ego‑consciousness, is nothing but the interactive-­transitive state of objectivity itself and not a passive presence or “mind” detached as a non‑visible nothingness, or a delimited and localized object “in‑itself.” Consequently, this subjective field on one level can appear simply as a completely unlocalized and immediate field, relative to which any mediation, object or event (ego body or environmental body) functions as its self‑mediated content. However, the state of objective interaction constituting the content of the field of presence is such that it must appear (by dialectic necessity) within and relative to any one of its localizations — each localization reflecting the whole field relative to its perspective (as the theory of relativity illustrates in another way), and the field as a whole in turn reflecting each of its localizations as a total‑field phenomenon (which quantum mechanics illustrates in its modality). As a result, should the state of subjectivity or interdependency of all events and patterns or rhythms of events termed event‑complexes (objects) constituting the non‑linear field be such that any one event‑complex or object is sufficiently organized to localize this field in a stable and self‑sustaining way (involving organized repetition, re‑presentation, re‑cognition, re‑production, and self‑reflection or self‑determination through mutual determination on many integrated levels), this would mean the existence of a world‑conditioned self or subjectivity called an ego‑body. However, at the same time, the highly organized object called the ego‑body functions as a localized subjectivity or non‑linear field (displaying ego‑consciousness) precisely because it is an expression of its state or interaction with the totality of event‑complexes or objects. The richer and more complex its state of total‑interaction with the whole world, the richer the ego‑localization of subjectivity that exists within or relative to the ego body. Thus, a double dialectic occurs between the subjective non‑linear field and its objective event‑structure. Should subjectivity or the singular non‑linear field become localized or begin to appear relative to any one particular object within its objective content of interaction in the form of an ego‑body, then at the same time, the mutually co‑existing contextual world of objects it is in relations with, likewise must appear in subjective form, reflecting the singular non‑linear field relative to itself, within which or relative to which the ego‑body now functions and develops as but one member‑object among all other member‑objects of the field.

Subjectivity or the non‑linear field is either a totally immediate field within which all objects are equally well its self‑activity (ego‑consciousness itself not explicitly present, or only potentially available), or this total field appears at once as a self‑mediated immediacy of intersubjectivity. This means that the field appears relative to any one ego body as a “personal I‑field,” and relative to the contextual world as a “counter‑personal (not impersonal nor personal) thou‑field.” There is both the field localized in an object or “ego” that is “seeing” a world of other objects and at the same time the world of objects that is manifesting this field as a wordly “commune” or “field of presence” which causes the ego‑body “to be seen,” making seeing and being seen, sensing and being sensed — or I and thou — mutually conditioned. The importance of this dialectic relation cannot be overemphasised. It is only through a thoroughgoing perception of how the dialectic necessity between subjectivity and objectivity (making each a function of the other) automatically makes all awareness reciprocal at all times, that a genuine perception of both social dynamics and natural dynamics can be understood. Knowledge is never an ego‑centric one‑direc­tional process of observation, but always a dialectic of reciprocal immediacy and thus subjectivity of interaction — no matter how explicit or implicit this reciprocity is perceived. Mere factual or formal knowledge always appears in the form of an object that becomes known, while wisdom is the realization that a full knowledge of awareness reveals relations and hence perceives all objects and structures in a state of mutual, reciprocal determination. Sub­jectivity is but this very condition of mutual self‑determination of object appearance, and therefore is a condition not localizable into the possession of any one object or ego. Wisdom is the realization that subjectivity is always intersubjectivity and thus instead of ego‑centric lust for possession, love of interaction and relation can emerge in its stead.

Intersubjectivity, therefore, cannot be understood on the social level as a simple ego‑ego activity of two self‑centered individuals somehow “relating,” it must include within its domain nature and the body‑body physics of interacting energy as the mutual content of genuine relation. However, this also means that any body or object of nature — nature being a totality of interacting energy — is the content of an intersubjective state of presence. Have you ever really allowed yourself to experience a tree or rock instead of merely observing it with projections, fantasies, or designs and then reducing it to an object‑complex of feelings, forces, numbers or symbols? Nature is not a given or inert “in-itself,” and man is not an ungiven empty “for‑itself.” These are only abstractions projected for the purpose of analysis. The so‑called problem of the “other” or “other minds” only appears if you really think (Laing notwithstanding) that experience is private and in need of being communicated, i.e., that experience can be “owned” like a commodity. Emotional reactions, thoughts, and object modifications are not examples of experience, but rather products of experience, and qua product, they are indeed distinctions giving uniqueness. We are so used to regarding ourselves in terms of our results (past and future) that the activity of direct experience, and therefore the creation of forms, is eclipsed from view. Once trapped into thinking that we are defined by our products or results, the only thing left to do is to see all elements of the universe in terms of behavior patterns of created structures — be they what we call persons, societies, mathematical equations, atoms or galaxies. The act of creation and genuine subjectivity is suppressed. Wisdom, and love (and therefore philosophy as the “love of wisdom” and life as the “wisdom of love”) is integral and total when it ceases to succumb to its own results and products, by either identifying with them positively or by rejecting them and consequently identifying with them negatively as that which must be ignored or destroyed. Growth and genuine transcendence comes only when one can re‑grasp the relation that exists between the process of experience and its products, realizing that products and results are neither ends (positive or posited goals), not something to be denied (negative goals) but are rather the vehicles and means through which experience can enrich its self‑mediated state of concrete immediacy and express itself in visible forms.

Degeneracy, however, sets in when the reverse takes place and man defines and delimits experience and transitivity in terms of its products or results. Such is the paradoxical challenge of existence — not to be “done in” by the very products of its process! Thus, we can now rephrase Marx’s “standing Hegel on his head,” and indeed the significance of any revolu­tionary perspective which seeks to return experience to itself. The usual interpretation of Marx’s acrobatics is that dialectic idealism was replaced with dialectic materialism. As a result, a thought‑centered, mind‑oriented dialectic making all matter a function of mind was replaced by a matter­-centered dialectic making all thinking and mind a function of matter. Such a simplistic interpretation of subjectivity and objectivity is directly denied by Marx’s first thesis on Feuerbach. The significance of the reversal of Hegel lies in another dimension. It is not a question of unsettling the reci­procal phenomenology between subject and object, mind and matter, or ego and environment, which actually both Hegel and Marx never departed from. In this sense, a critical reading of both reveals that neither ever reduced anything to an abstract one‑sided element. The difference lies in the fact that Hegel’s dialectic of mutual mediations and continual negations and negations of negations represents only products of concrete immediacy in its state of direct‑presence and not the process of immediacy itself. As products, dialectic relations appear as objectifications, idealizations or abstractions of becoming — presented as an atemporal logic of relations — ­instead of revealing the actual dynamics of becoming. In Hegel, the concept of becoming and not becoming itself as an immediate experience (e.g., through the act of reading, thinking, feeling, doing) is one’s concern, and therefore his “application” or “manifestation” of this becoming in nature is unconvincing and incomplete, having left out nature, space and time from the logic of becoming as originally presented. Genuine dialectic, however, is always both concrete‑immediate and reflective‑mediated; both an immed­iate state of objective interaction (defining for us the field of subjectivity!) and the idealized objectifications and products of that interaction. Thus, Marx stood Hegel on his head not by making the subject or ego‑states only a function of the object and matter, but rather by seeing that their mutuality as an objective‑interaction state of concrete immediate experience must be prior to their appearance as products of experience, manipulated in an atemporal state of suspension. Experience does not derive from its objectifications and concepts, but the other way around. This is the philosophic ground of Marx’s ideas on fetishism and alienation.

We can, in fact, summarize the fundamental position of dialectic ­phenomenology as a concrete working philosophy in terms of two mutually related “principles”: the principle of “concrete presence” and the principle of “dialectic necessity.” The first principle gives expression to the reversal just mentioned, i.e., to the need to regard the immediacy of concrete presence and experience as a non‑localized field and process, within which events, mediations, objectifications, abstractions and concepts appear. Thus, the process of experience is prior to its products. This field or subjectivity, itself not localized, is the condition of its own localizations. The second principle then expands upon the relation between any field and its localizations, showing that by dialectic necessity, the mutuality between context and objects — or any elements mutually conditioned — must reflect this single mutuality (of concrete presence and immediacy) relative to each element. Thus, any relation between two elements, X and Y, is productive not only of a direct relation between them, XY, but of a counter‑relation: the Y within X relating to the X within Y. This will generate levels of oposition between terms, and between relations of terms which become higher order terms for higher order relations giving birth to the dialectic matrix. It also gives expression to the mutual co‑determination between all elements of a field such that each element is a function of the whole field, and the whole field, in turn, a function of each element. Together, these two principles give a “working definition” or perspective to phenomenology and dialectics respectively, making it possible to practice dialectical phenomenology within any situation without requiring a complex “rule structure” to which one “fits” in experience. Dialectic phenomenology is a way of experiencing both immediate experience and the reflection or mediation of experience as a single self‑mediated immediacy. Experience, then, is not a mere passive happening or an arbitrary active imposition from the standpoint of reflection, but an integrative state of interaction and self‑development in which both the “being of knowledge” and the “knowledge of being” — immediacy and reflection — mutually co‑determine each other as a single dialectic phenomenology.

Concluding our philosophical introduction to the dialectics of nature — our particular analysis of intersubjectivity — we can see that precisely because subjectivity is beyond any objectification or product, it must appear as a mutual and universal field of seeing and being seen. Thus, it must appear as intersubjectivity. Subjectivity must be objectively self‑reflective and self‑referential lest it appear objectified into the possession of an exclusive owner (called Ego, Society, God, or the Devil) thereby de‑subjectifying both owner and that which it owns — both Master and Slave. It is only through the dialectic of self‑world interpenetration that a self achieves genuine self‑determination or self‑consciousness (i.e., self‑seeing) through the world it is in resonance with, in the form of a co­relative circular state of “seeing and being seen” when this mutual state is explicitly experienced as a singular non‑linearity. This is not to be confused with a mere sum of two linear acts (as Sartre would have it) in which first I see (and objectify) the world, and then the world or the other‑in‑the‑world sees and objectifies me: “two looks do not a mutual-looking make... nor a single look, a look at all.” A single look “as such” is merely a linear, one-­dimensional relation. Hence, it is an abstraction and an alienation from the mutuality of interrelation. Two, three, four and so on, looks are merely a collection of linear acts (productive of paranoid vision). A mutual looking, on the other hand, is a singular, paradoxical, non‑linear experience of subjectivity in a process of creativity, whose products and results are event-­complexes or objects within and among the ego‑bodies and natural bodies constituting its content.

From a dialectic phenomenological viewpoint, therefore, nature, or the world, is never a mere object of contemplation or perception — as Feuberach formulated it — but is always co‑active with man as a functioning totality or Lebenswelt in which a dialogue of mutual interaction and communion is established. It is this co‑active relation between man and nature which Marx in his first thesis called “sensuous human activity, practice [Praxis]” and subjectivity. Man, as a subject, relates subjectively with his environment in the Lebenswelt and is not born out of it as a conquering agent that has to fight against the forces of nature and society in order to maintain his distinct individuality — reducing both to a mass of blind irrational forces and himself to an arbitrary “chance-event” detached from the origin and context that not only bore him but continually re‑creates him through mutual interaction. All event‑complexes appearing objectively — be they so‑called given matter in the form of photons, atoms or stars; living matter in the form of plants and animals; thinking matter in the form of humans; or culture in the shape of tools, institutions or expressed ideas­ are dynamic expressions of non‑linear field activity capable of resonant response with man. They are not just a collection of “things” aggressively consumed and manipulated or observed in a detached manner. The difference in the intersubjective component between man and the various forms of objectivity lies precisely in the scope and depth of the “I and thou” resonance that can be established in the nonlinear state of affecting and being‑affected or seeing and being‑seen. As Marx put it in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, reality “as fully developed naturalism equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism, equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man — the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species.”

 

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