Dialectics of Nature
Dialectics of Nature, by Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

 (1883), is an unfinished work
Unfinished work
An unfinished work is creative work that has not been finished. Its creator may have chosen never to finish it or may have been prevented from doing so by circumstances outside of their control such as death. Such pieces are often the subject of speculation as to what the finished piece would have...

 which applies Marxist ideas, and in particular the principles of Dialectical Materialism
Dialectical materialism
Dialectical materialism is a strand of Marxism synthesizing Hegel's dialectics. The idea was originally invented by Moses Hess and it was later developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels...

, to science.

In his 1939 preface, J.B.S. Haldane states "most of the manuscript seems to have been written between 1872 and 1882, that is to say it refers to the science" of that era. "Hence it is often hard to follow if one does not know the history of the scientific practice of that time. The idea of what is now called the conservation of energy was beginning to permeate physics, chemistry and biology. But it was still very incompletely realised, and still more incompletely applied. Words such as 'force', 'motion', and 'vis viva' were used where we should now speak of energy". Some then controversial topics of Engels' day, pertaining to incomplete or faulty theories, are now settled, making some of Engels' essays dated. "Their interest lies not so much in their detailed criticism of theories, but in showing how Engels grappled with intellectual problems".

One 'law' proposed in the Dialectics of Nature, is: 'The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa. Probably the most commonly cited example of this is the change of water from a liquid to a gas, by increasing its temperature (although Engels also describes other examples from chemistry). In contemporary science, this process is known as a phase transition
Phase transition
A phase transition is the transformation of a thermodynamic system from one phase or state of matter to another.A phase of a thermodynamic system and the states of matter have uniform physical properties....

. There has also been an effort to apply this mechanism to social phenomena, whereby population increases result in changes in social structure .

Dialectics and its study was derived from Hegel who had studied the Greek philosopher Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom...

. Heraclitus taught that everything was constantly changing and that all things consisted of two opposite elements which changed into each other as night changes into day, light into darkness, life into death etc.

Engels's work follows on from what Engels had said about science in Anti-Dühring
Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, commonly known as Anti-Dühring, is a book written in German by Friedrich Engels, published in 1878. It had previously been serialised in a periodical. There were two further editions in German in the lifetime of Engels...

. It includes the famous The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man, which has also been published separately as a pamphlet. Engels argues that the hand and brain grew together - an idea supported by later fossil discoveries, though it seems the foot came first. (See Australopithecus afarensis: Bipedalism.)

Most of the work is fragmentary, but it has points of interest. In biology, he says:

External links

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