Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism

—   Si - Sk   —



An event which is “one of a kind” and is therefore often harder to analyze and understand because there are no patterns to discern from multiple instances of similar events.

“For now, let’s just note that any proper account must explain why the evolution of complex life [on earth] happened only once: our explanation must be persuasive enough to be believable, but not so persuasive that we are left wondering why it did not happen on many occasions. Any attempt to explain a singular event will always have the appearance of a fluke about it. How can we prove it one way or another? There might not be much to go on in the event itself, but there may be clues concealed in the aftermath, a smoking gun that gives some indication of what happened.” —Nick Lane, The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life (2015), pp. 50-51.

        1. [Physics:] A time and place (or point in space-time) where some physical quantity would appear to become infinite. This normally means a point where the known laws of physics, or at least the equations used to express them, no longer apply.
        2. [More generally:] A point at which there is a major qualitative leap in the state or condition of something. Although there are great numbers of qualitative leaps occurring all around us, the term ‘singularity’ is mostly used only for especially disastrous changes, particularly in human society. The possible future advent of
artificial intelligence on a level that far exceeds that of human beings is often called a singularity in this sense.

The major dispute and falling out between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union which first developed after Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in 1956. The dispute spread from merely the appraisal of Stalin and the issue of
cults of personality to encompass many other ideological issues, the question of whether the Soviet Union was still on the revolutionary path, and even territorial disputes. Though we revolutionary Marxists may disagree with China on some secondary aspects of this great dispute (especially with regard to Stalin and having cults of personality), overall we strongly side with Mao and China, and condemn the revisionist and social-imperialist nature of the U.S.S.R. in the Khrushchev and later periods.

SISMONDI, Jean Charles Léonard Simonde de   (1773-1842)
Swiss economist and historian. Considered by some to be sort of an early socialist. Marxist attitudes towards Sismondi have varied tremendously. Lenin looked down upon him as a vulgarizer of
Ricardo. But Marx himself (in volume 3 of TSV which was not available to Lenin at the time he made his judgments) had much more sympathy toward Sismondi and viewed him as understanding some very fundamental points about capitalism that Ricardo could not grasp or accept:

Sismondi is profoundly conscious of the contradictions in capitalist production; he is aware that, on the one hand, its forms—its production relations—stimulate unrestrained development of the productive forces and of wealth; and that, on the other hand, these relations are conditional, that their contradictions of use-value and exchange-value, commodity and money, purchase and sale, production and consumption, capital and wage-labor, etc., assume ever greater dimensions as productive power develops. He is particularly aware of the fundamental contradiction: on the one hand, unrestricted development of the productive forces and increase of wealth which, at the same time, consists of commodities and must be turned into cash; on the other hand, the system is based on the fact that the mass of producers is restricted to the necessaries. Hence, according to Sismondi, crises are not accidental, as Ricardo maintains, but essential outbreaks—occuring on a large scale and at definite periods—of the immanent contradictions.” —Marx, TSV, 3:56.

Marx does go on to say that Sismondi “wavers constantly” on many issues, and that his ideas are anything but well-worked out. “He [Sismondi] forcefully criticizes the contradictions of bourgeois production but does not understand them, and consequently does not understand the process whereby they can be resolved.” [Ibid.] Nevertheless, Marx later says that “Sismondi was epoch-making in political economy because he had an inkling of this contradiction” (the profound difference between Labor and Capital in the capitalist production process), that Ricardo could not understand. [TSV, 3:259.]


SKEPTICISM   [General Concepts Of]
1. Questioning, or caution in accepting things as certainly true.
2. The view that human beings can attain no certain knowledge of the world; i.e., philosophical or epistemological
        Sense #1 is clearly rational and scientific, but sense #2 carries things to a ridiculous extreme.
        For an essay discussing this matter in more depth, see: “Do We Know For Certain that the Earth Goes Around the Sun?” at: http://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/certain.htm. See also below and: DOUBT,   UNCERTAINTY

SKEPTICISM   [School of Philosophy]
An ancient Greek philosophical school or trend founded by Pyrrho (c. 365-275 B.C.). The best-known of the ancient Skeptics were Aenesidemus and Sextus Empiricus (2nd century A.D.).
        Skepticism has also arisen anew from time to time in later philosophy. Sometimes this has had a progressive effect (as when it was used to oppose medieval Christian dogmas), but more often since the time of Kant philosophical skepticism has been used for reactionary purposes (e.g., to oppose science and materialism). One of the most recent forms that bourgeois skepticism and pessimism has taken is in the school known as
        See also: TROPES

Skepticism—a philosophical trend that casts doubt on the possibility of knowing objective reality. It arose in ancient Greece as early as the 4th to 3rd centuries B.C. (Pyrrho, Aenesidemus, Sextus Empiricus). The adherents of ancient skepticism drew agnostic conclusions from the premises of sensationalism. Making the subjectivity of sensation into an absolute, the skeptics insisted on the need to refrain from any definite judgments about things. They considered that man cannot go beyond his sensations and determine their truth.
         “During the period of the Renaissance, the French philosophers Michel Montaigne, Pierre Charron and Pierre Bayle made use of skepticism for combating medieval scholasticism and the Church.
         “In the eighteenth century skepticism was revived in the agnosticism of Hume and Kant, and an attempt to modernize ancient skepticism was made by Gottlob Schulze ([in his book] Aenesidemus). The arguments of skepticism were used by the Machists, neo-Kantians and other idealist philosophical schools from the middle of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century.” —Note 49, LCW 14.


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