Re: [OPE-L] [Jurriaan re] Marx on Chance in History

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Tue Nov 15 2005 - 13:33:19 EST

---------------------------- Original Message ------------------------
Subject: Marx on Chance in History
From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <>
Date:    Tue, November 15, 2005 1:23 pm

To my knowledge, Marx did not write the statement as quoted.

However, GWF Hegel wrote: "In all necessity (Notwendigkeit) is an element
of the accidental (Zufalligen)", which I think Engels quotes in one of his
musings about dialectics. "Zufall" also means coincidence.

The idea here is, that a process occurring otherwise by necessity may be
accompanied or mediated by accidental circumstances which might either
advance, retard or modify the process somewhat, without however annulling
the necessary movement of events.

However, the distinction between the necessary and the accidental aspects
might only be identified in retrospect, and to a certain extent this
distinction depends on one's own vantage point or the context. Viewed from
another perspective or context, what seemed mere accident or coincidence
might well be understood as a necessary occurrence in some sense.

In general, Marx and Engels seemed to take a rather contemptuous view of
magic, both in the sense of rejecting superstitious belief and in the sense
of believing that there was a rational, causal explanation to be found for
apparently magical phenomena. Thus, we might experience something as
"wondrously magical" precisely because we cannot explain the whole
concatenation or confluence of events involved (e.g. "it happened like

In this sense, "magical" comes close to "mystical". Personally I do think
there is a magical or mystical aspect of life, but a lot depends on how
you view it, or when you are receptive to it, i.e. whether you are able to
cognize something imaginatively, in order to appreciate the miracle of its
occurrence. And often people are not so receptive, because they're too
busy with what they deem "necessary".

Obviously, if things happen by pure chance (the "magic of the moment")
there might not be much we can do about them. Hence the ideological use of
the concept of chance: things happen randomly, but we cannot do much about
them or explain them, at best we could have a probabilistic guess. Thus,
our understanding of chance might affect our perception of what we can
and cannot change with our actions.


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