THE BURNING OF TROY
By Alfred de Grazia
Part Four: Polemics and Personages
More research is needed to delineate the attitudes of Karl Marx
and Frederick (or Friedrich) Engels towards the Uniformitarian
and Catastrophist paradigms of the nineteenth century, and to
explain why the two men chose to align themselves with the
Uniformitarian rather than the Catastrophist mode of thought.
After all, were they not complete revolutionaries?
The term "paradigm" has been popularized by Thomas Kuhn in
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962; 2nd ed.,
Chicago, U. of Chicago Press, 1970). The term embraces much of the
theory and discussion employing the terms "world-view" (J. C.
Greene), Weltanschauung (A. von Humboldt), "ideologies"
(Mannheim), "models" (R. Thom), "fictions" (Vaihinger).
Kuhn's term is unquestionably appropriate as he defined it:
"On the one hand, it stands for the entire constellation of
beliefs, values, techniques, and so on, shared by the
members of a given community. On the other hand, it
denotes one sort of element in that constellation, the
concrete puzzle-solutions which, employed as models or
examples, can replace explicit rules as a basis for the
solution of the remaining puzzles of normal science." (p. 175)
It may be too often assumed that there is little which is
problematical in the position of Marx and Engels on the present
issue. That is, Marx and Engels were aspiring "modern"
scientists; the movement of "true" science was along
Uniformitarian lines; therefore marxism would join the victorious
ranks of science, which, being politically neutral and
scientifically objective, could serve communists as well as
capitalists in education and politics.
However, if the following steps are developed in the present
research inquiry, the matter may be cast in a different light:
The Uniformitarians adhered to a paradigm of science that
can be abstracted and observed as a developing process.
Its elements were composed typically of the following
beliefs: time and space are absolute; the Newtonian laws
of gravity and motion govern natural events rigidly; the
heavens are constant and the universe is orderly; they
operate through measurably equal units of time and
through measurably equal coordinates of space; time is
long and uninterrupted by sudden leaps; the surface of the
earth has accumulated its features over long periods of
time; nor are sudden leaps found in biology and cultural
history, which have proceeded "by very short and slow
steps" (Darwin); and social change is part of "cosmic
evolution" (Herbert Spencer).
The U paradigm can be considered broader than its
circumscribed form as a mere hypothesis that rates of
change in geology are to be considered as having been
uniform unless proven to the contrary. Rather, the U idea
is taken in its broadest form as a world view, in the period
of its great victory. For it was tied to two centuries of
prior changes in the sciences of man and the skies. The
philosopher-psychologists Locke, Hume, Fontanelle, and
Diderot had made of man a mechanical creature, highly
determined by external forces. Hutton, the father of
geological uniformitarianism, published his Theory of the
Earth in 1775. Writes S. E. Mason A History of the
Sciences (1962, 403), "Hutton based his view that the
rock-forming agencies of the earth were constant on the
by now established theory that the solar system was
mechanically stable and permanently self-sustaining."
The close friendship and association of Darwin with the
great U geologist adds credibility to the labeling of a U
paradigm. In fact the peak prestige of the U paradigm
would probably be registered around 1875, after the
publication of the Descent of Man. (The Origin of the
Species had been published in 1859.) By 1875, too,
Ernest Renan was widely known for his social-scientific studies
of religion and myth, foreshadowing The Golden Bough
of James Frazer, of whom it has been said that "Frazer
seems an English Renan, so close do the two men appear
at a number of points both in outlook and reputation."
(Vickery, 1973) The U paradigm penetrated all scientific fields.
The Catastrophist paradigm, whose principles had been
steadily eroding between 1600 and 1875, offered the
following beliefs: the world, the species, and mankind
were created abruptly; they were repeatedly subject to
destruction by divine or natural forces in the skies and
earth; the time spanned by these catastrophes was short,
changes in temporal and spatial dimensions of the
universe are brought on by divine, heroic, and natural
forces that are immense and unpredictable; all the hosts of
heaven - sun, moon, stars, planets - may change their
motions and qualities; in this awful setting, measurement
is less of the essence of being than miracles; history
moves in cycles.
Even since ancient Greek science (Parmenides,
Pythagoras, Plato (et al). there had been a scientific type
of catastrophism, employing the divine very much as
Newton and most modern Uniformitarians did, as a
removed and/ or mechanical power. This strain had been
modernized, even as Newton was writing, by his disciple
Whiston, and later by eminent figures such as Vico, N. A.
Boulanger, Cuvier, and Buckland. The strain was much
more evident in the time of Marx and Engels than now.
Marx and Engels were deeply engaged in developing a
paradigm of Socialism (or Communism) that was
composed of numerous elements: materialism (with
atheism); economic determinism (which Engels traced
back to the beginnings of life itself); the stability of the
heavens and earth in the very process of continuous
change. Science as a unity, embracing nature, species,
societies, and individuals, all responding to similar laws.
All is to be measured along a historical continuum in
which (the Hegelian dialectic) opposing forces move
according to three principles: that quantities change into
qualities and vice versa, that the opposites interpenetrate,
and that negations are in turn negated. That geogeny
teaches the evolution of the Earth was stated by Marx in
1844. The species evolved a will that is capable
independently of abetting the relentless historical process:
"Man is the sole animal capable of working his way out of
the merely animal state." (Engels, Dialectics of Nature,
New York: International Publ., 1940, p. 187.)
Given a sharply defined set of these three paradigms, one
may expect to find that all three paradigms
"interpenetrate" to some degree, but that the Marxist
Paradigm overlapped considerably more with the other
two. That is, close analysis may show that, with an
approximately equal logic, rationality and (at least at that
time) "evidence", either the Uniformitarian or the
Catastrophist paradigm could be made to fit the Marxist
paradigm. There are clear indications in their work of this:
for example, Engels believed that mankind evolved first
on the lost continent of Lemuria in the Indian Ocean,
which sank catastrophically. Elsewhere he adopts the
theory that intense atmospheric change (heat, etc.) can
bring about conditions for new species of life and life
itself. He rejects Lamarck's "vital aim" of evolution but
often shows Lamarckian as well as Darwinian beliefs,
even including the racial acquisition and inheritance of
mathematical aptitude. Both Marx and Engels held to a
kind of cyclical or at least helical theory in their historical
dialectics, and Engels speculated upon a long-range
cyclical cosmology - with worlds being born and then
dying out, only to be reborn. His sense of absolute time
was perhaps a little shaky, now taking in the grand new
sweeps of geological time enthusiastically, and then again
conjecturing a rapid evolution within the record of the
human species. It remains to be seen how much he knew
about or how seriously he considered the scientific-catastrophists
such as N. A. Boulanger, or the scientific
side of theists such as Buckland. At times he gave hints of
backsliding; thus, writing in Dialectics of Nature (led.
1966, 28); "The defect of Lyell's view - at least in its first
form - lay in conceiving the forces at work on earth as
constant, both in quality and quantity ... the earth does not
develop in a definite direction but merely changes in an
inconsequent fortuitous manner."
Marx and Engels were conducting a triple campaign a) to
revolutionize philosophy: They had turned Hegel upside
down and were using his historical dialectics to unite all
phenomena of nature, biology, and society into a single
scheme. b) to offer political programmatics to the world:
From the great philosophical scheme would be deducible
the principles of the future society, the classless
communist society. And c) to lead a political revolution.
Any action on their part such as to align themselves with a
scientific paradigm could not be accomplished to the
neglect of any of these three goals. That is, to them a
"fact" or "theory" of science, such as "long-term time",
"drop-by-drop geology", or step-by-step biological
evolution through natural selection could never be simply
such. Either it could be made to fit their truly global
paradigm and world-scheme, or it had to be discarded, or
it was a mistake. Yet they were compelled to confront any
assertion that engaged the attention of the "intelligentsia"
or "the masses," and, of course, such were the elements of
the great paradigms.
Whereupon, Marx and Engels assimilated, not without
negative criticism, the Uniformitarian paradigm to their
own Socialist Marxist paradigm in several philosophical
steps. There is many a statement in the Marxian literature
of the type of "We were first to..." and "Come into our
camp..." And, also, direct statements show under what
conditions they would accept "long-time"; "evolutionary
biology"; stable nature, and "natural selection" into this
Simultaneously, they might have been seeking to attach to
their movement the social respectability that began to
accrue rapidly to "up-to-date" science. Their contempt of
Catastrophists is manifest: "Cuvier's theory of the
revolutions of the earth was revolutionary in phrase and
reactionary in substance" (Engels, Dial. of Nat., p. 10)
Their pride at being the essence of the modern scientist is
manifest in many places.
They attempted to recruit practitioners of the new science
to their political movement - or at least to their philosophy
which, significantly, they felt would inevitably lead to
their politics. Charles Darwin was the most notable case.
Considering how enveloped Darwin was in the social
circles of "gentlemanly" Whig England, and that his
greatest defender and "social equal", Thomas Huxley,
was a "Social Darwinist", ergo an enemy of the planned
society, it can be ventured here that the attempt to capture
Darwin would be as foolish as trying to hijack an El Al
plane with a penknife. The London Geological Society
was "composed of gentlemen", and was taken over by
liberal Whigs, whose perceived opponents were the
church and Tory establishment, not the capitalist class.
(G. Grinnell, 131, In E. Milton, Ed., Recollections of
Fallen Sky, 1978 (Distrib. by Metron Publications, Princeton)
Marx and Engels are among the founders of the sociology of knowledge
and were past masters at scrutinizing the motives behind people's actions.
Indeed, Marx wrote, promptly upon reading The Origin of
Species, in a letter to Engels (Marx-Engels Selected
Correspondence, Moscow, 1965, p. 128): "it is remarkable
how Darwin recognizes among beasts and plants his English society with
its division of labor, competition, opening up of new markets,
'inventions', and the Malthusian 'Struggle for Existence'". It may be
considered whether they were here acting irrationally, or
perhaps rationally on a "nothing ventured-nothing
gained", or "there is nothing to be lost" basis. Whether
there was actually some long-term losses as a result of
such a "calculated risk" is a question worthy of consideration.
The study has an intense focus on such incidents, but its
ulterior goals are larger than the personal interactions
studied. The earlier interest of the present investigator in
the connections between ideologies and practices (cf. The
Velikovsky Affair) have suggested to him other similar
cases such as the present one of Marx and Engels. The
use of Catastrophists, Uniformitarians, and Socialists for
case study leads in turn to a larger interest in the
sociology and psychology of science.
The opportunity is extraordinary, for Marx and Engels were
interested third parties to the widespread conflict of many years
between Uniformitarians and Catastrophists. How they made up
their minds to support the former, and to what extent they would
support them, are questions whose answers bear importance in
he history and philosophy of science.
Such considerations imply that there will be no lack of
publishing outlets for the final manuscripts, but also that the final
report should also avoid being "captured" by its medium of
publication and should appear in separate monographic format,
or, if not, under the most objective scientific auspices.
The proposed report is conceived as possessing a simple organization as follows:
Prospective Table of Content
The Alignment of Marx and Engels
with Scientific Uniformitarians
against the Catastrophists
A paradox of the scientific and social revolution;
Marx and Engels (revolutionaries) reject "Revolutions of The
Globe" (Cuvier's term) for drop-by-drop and bit-by-bit evolution.
The Setting for Decision (1830-1870)
I. The Socialist Paradigm of Marx and Engels
II. The Uniformitarian Paradigm
III. The Catastrophic Paradigm
Matching the Paradigms
IV. The Three Scientific Models Compared for "Scientificity"
V. The Theological Question and Agnosticism in the Three Models
VI. Social Pressures: Public Opinion and Scientific Opinion on the Paradigms.
VII. The Politics of Scientific Paradigms: The "Social Darwinists"
Win the Uniformitarian Paradigm; Marxists Are Trapped in It.
A Fateful Decision for "Scientific Socialism."
Revision of the conventional view of the decision; query whether
subsequent progress of "communist science" has shown effects
of the internalized paradox or contradiction (e. g. was the
Lysenko episode an "aberration" of Soviet science or was it an
eruption of the internalized contradiction?)
The topic of the proposed research is specific but the materials
of research are diffuse and far-flung. The material to be
consulted does not lend itself to a preliminary set of titles. On
the one hand, a number of works on nineteenth century
intellectual history and histories of science (such as H. T.
Pledge's Science Since 1500, 1959) carry accounts of
Uniformitarianism and Catastrophicism, Darwinism, Marxism,
the struggle between science and religion and so on to other
topics under treatment here. There exist some excellent more
special studies as well, such as C. C. Gillispie's Genesis and
Geology (1951) and John C. Green's The Death of Adam (1959).
The works of Lyell, Darwin, Cuvier, and many another
contributor are of course readily available. The complete works
of Marx and Engels are published in German and beginning to
be published in English (in 100 volumes); meanwhile much of
the essential work, such as Engels' Dialectics of Nature, is
available in English, too. The "Social Darwinists" who 'stole"
Darwinism from Marx and Engels (and socialism) are also
treated in a number of sources, both original and secondary.
On the other hand, the subtlety (if the word may be permitted) of
the proposed investigation requires that fragments of evidence
and indicators be pulled from many sources. Consultants, who
have spent their lives reading in the voluminous archives, can
probably give some of the best clues to where to look for pieces
of the mosaic. The most important letter of Darwin to Marx
refusing permission to let Volume II of Das Kapital be dedicated
to him (13 October 1880) was first published in the Soviet
Journal Pod Znamenem Marxizma in 1931 (un 1-2). In his
speech at the grave of Marx (17 march 1883), Engels, according
to Valentino Gerratana (New Left Review, 1975, p. 61) quoting
from Marx-Engels Selected Works (London, 1978, p. 435),
"publicly linked for the first time the name of his great dead
friend with that of Darwin," saying "Just as Darwin discovered
the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered
the law of development of human history." The statement is
repeated by Engels in 1888 in his preface to the English
translation of the Communist Manifesto. Again, tucked away in
Marx' Theories of Surplus Value (London, 1969, V. II, p. 121),
is the assertion that Darwin could be used to refute Malthus
(despite Darwin's statement that Malthus was his inspiration for
the theory of natural selection!) Or, in setting a benchmark for
the total disrepute of catastrophism (which is necessary to show
that Marx and Engels would have had strong motives for
eschewing it), one searches out indicators such as The Spectator
(7 May 1887, 626) asserting, "No geologist of repute now
believes that mountain-ranges originated in catastrophes."
The literature in German, French, and Italian on evolutionism
and Marxism is large, and at this point it is hard to say which
works may turn out to contain more than the typical polemical
and philosophical arguments. By the same token, it would be
premature and tedious to list the works of Hume, Kant, Hegel,
Lamarck, Lewis Morgan, Herbert Spencer, and others, who also
have a general relevance and may be cited and quoted in
establishing the "circumstantial evidence" for the character of
the missing pieces of the puzzle.
The three paradigms of Uniformitarian, Catastrophist, and
Marxian thought will have to be originally constructed, though
with reference to numerous works. The specific question of the
research - the psychological dynamics of Marx and Engels in
"adopting" the uniformitarian model in whole or in part - has
not, to the knowledge of the investigator here, been asked
before. The obvious "answer" given or implied in numerous
places in the literature, that "Marx and Engels liked Darwin's
scientific explanation of the origin of species" will, it is believed,
be reduced to a misleading simplism upon the completion of the research.
POSTSCRIPT: A CAUSE FOR EMBARRASSMENT
The research proposed above was submitted for support to the
National Science Foundation in 1977 and turned down smartly
by its anonymous critics. A note in The Journal of the History of
Ideas, (Jan-Mar 1978, 135) based upon articles of
Lewis S. Feuer (32 Annals of Science, 1975, 33 Ibid., 1976),
called the well-known writer Isaiah Berlin to task for repeating a canard
about Marx. Apparently, the widely disseminated story, that
Marx had written Darwin asking for permission to dedicate to
him the second volume of Das Kapital, was false; further,
Darwin had not written to Marx in reply, refusing kindly the
permission. But the Darwin letter had been written to Eward Aveling.
In reply, I. Berlin explained that in truth Marx and Darwin had
not written to each other. Berlin's passage in his book, Karl
Marx, was based on a 1934 article in Biochronik
which in turn cited a Russian translation of Darwin's 1880 letter
in a 1931 work. He added that the story was still being disseminated in the
Soviet Union. Of course, it is also still carried in a number of
Marx complained of the Origin of Species as being "grossly
unfolded in the English manner" and Engels of its "crude English
method." Marx, long before Darwin, had conceived of society as
having a natural history and was a king of evolutionist, without
natural selection. But both approved of his work.
If I were now, six years later, to answer the question I posed for
research: "Why did the great revolutionaries not support
revolutionism?" I would not have to contend with this annoying
proof of their support. I would perhaps move toward the theory
that they gave Darwinism reluctant support because they were
being swept off their feet by the rush to evolutionism, and
because they were so totally joined in opposition to the religious
The implications of the problem posed here, and for my interest
in it, are not alone historical and philosophical. I foresee that
communist theory, impelled by the logic of revolutionism, may
discover quantavolutionary roots in the thought of Marx and
Engels and find their development to be more compatible with
marxist theory than is evolutionism. If so, the center of natural
philosophy and its subtended sciences might shift to the Soviet Union.