Social Scientist. v 4, no. 39 (Oct 1975) p. 66.

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Review Articles

Dialectical Materialism and Scientific Method


THE COMMITMENT to study the sciences is central to an understanding of modern materialism since the principles of materialism are "not the starting point of investigation, but its final result; they are not applied to nature and human history, but abstracted from them; it is not nature and the realm of humanity which conform to these principles, but the principles are valid in so far as they are in conformity with nature and history."x Thus a knowledge of the sciences, both natural and social, their achievements, the process of their growth and their inter-relationships, is essential for a conception of nature which is dialectical and at the same time materialist. Dialectical materialism concerns itself with the most general laws of motion of nature, history and thought. The search for these most general laws, based on a knowledge of the sciences, is a 'philosophic5 enterprise. Scientific philosophy as the study of most general laws of motion develops in close connection with the development of specialized sciences. Marxist philosophy is, in the words of Engels, "a world outlook which has to establish its validity and be applied not in a science of sciences standing apart, but in the positive sciences.'92

Engels maintained that the scientists, like all other sections of society, do not possess a choice between having a philosophy and none at all, but "natural scientists may adopt whatever attitude they please, they will still be under the domination of philosophy. It is only a question whether they want to be dominated by a bad, fashionable philosophy or by a form of thought which rests on acquaintance with the history of thought and its achievements."8 The validity of this asssertion is fully corroborated by Graham's study of the relationship between science and philosophy in the Soviet Union which convincingly brings out the fact that "dialectical materialism has influenced the work of some Soviet scientists, that in

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