Engels and the Dialectics of Nature

Considerations in a Universe of Quarks and Black Holes

A 10 session class and discussion with Alex Steinberg

This class will journey into quantum physics and 21st-century cosmology as background for a study of dialectics in natural science and philosophy. Readings include Engels’ Dialectics of Nature and excerpts from other philosophers and scientists writing since Engels. (The syllabus is below). We will explore themes from that classic text that are relevant for contemporary scientific thinking. Among questions we propose to address: Does quantum theory force us to abandon determinism? Did time exist before the Big Bang? Are the laws of nature eternal? Is there one universe or are there multiple parallel universes? What does it mean to call oneself a “materialist” when scientists use terms like “dark matter”? The goal of the class is a deep appreciation of dialectical thinking and how it helps us understand the real worlds in which we live and struggle.

ALEX STEINBERG is an independent scholar. He has has taught courses in the the philosophies of Marx, Hegel, Heidegger, and Nietzsche at alternative educational institutions such as New Space for Pluralistic Anti-Capitalist Education, the Brecht Forum, Marxist Education Project, and more. He has published papers on questions of philosophy and the natural sciences, including on Heidegger and Nazism, Marxism and Humanism, and Hegel’s Philosophy of History, and has presented at Left Forum, Historical Materialism Conference, and the First International Conference on Trotsky in Havana, Cuba.


all classes and events are sliding scale. We do not deny admission anyone who does not have the ability to pay. Please write to info@marxedproject.org for a link code to be able to participate.


Syllabus (week by week): Class 1: Dialectics – Fundamental features and its place in the history of philosophy, Class 2: Engels and the Dialectics of Nature, Class 3: The dialectical revolution in the Life Sciences. Class 4. The paradox of Schrodinger’s cat: The positivist solution of the Copenhagen interpretation. Class 5. The Many Worlds interpretation: From positivism to magical realism. Class 6. Resurgence of realism and dialectics in the work of the Marxist physicist David Bohm. Class 7. A brief survey of the conceptual revolution of relativity theory. Class 8. The Big Bang and the origin of the Universe. Class 9. The discovery of black holes and gravitational waves. Class 10. A Universe, a Multi-verse, Cyclical Universes and Cosmological Natural Selection


The Universe: Past, Present, Future

Alex Steinberg

This class is for all who desire to explore together the mysteries and fascinations of our universe. No prior knowledge of astrophysics or mathematics is required. We will have two books from which we will read selected essays: Welcome to the Universe by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss and J. Richard Gott and Now: The Physics of Time by Richard A. Muller

Note: There is also a problem book supplement to Welcome to the Universe. We will be using the initial Welcome to the Universe book and not the supplement in this class series. Of course some students may wish to get the problem book on their own.

Together we will get to the bottom of a number of concepts that are widely discussed but poorly understood.

We will ask and look for answers to such questions as:

1. Is our universe finite or infinite?
2. Is it heading for a final state of entropy known as heat death
3. What exactly is meant by entropy?
4. What do we mean when we say two events happen at the same time?
5. Can you go backwards in time?
6. What was before the Big Bang?
7. How does understanding our galaxy, other galaxies, this broad universe, inform our living on our planet Earth?

The facilitator of this class, Alex Steinberg, has previously taught widely including on the philosophy of Hegel and Marx, the dialectics of nature, the implications of dialectics for contemporary science, and contemporary philosophical trends on the left and right inspired by Nietzsche. He recently conducted a walking tour centered on what Leon Trotsky did in his few months living in New York City prior to the Russian Revolution.

Life, the Universe and Everything

Life, the Universe and Everything: A Dialectical Guide to the Galaxy
7 more sessions
Tuesday, February 7 through March 21, 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Facilitated by Alex Steinberg

In this series we will be placing the dialectics of Marx and Engels within a broader philosophical tradition.

We will look at Engels discussion of the fundamental forces of nature: matter, time, space and motion in the context of the philosophical conflict between a relational view of the world and a mechanical one. We will also look at the conflict between Newton and Leibniz and the subsequent vindication of the relational view with Mach and Einstein.

Also examined will be the contemporary “crisis in physics” — the conclusion to which mechanical reductionism has led both in philosophy and in recent attempts to develop a cosmology that incorporates both relativity theory and quantum theory. Contributions of Hegel, Engels, C.S.Peirce, Einstein, and contemporary physicist such as Lee Smolin will form the basis for this discussion.

The sessions will conclude by tying the idea of the cosmos as a living system of dynamic evolving complexity to the Notion in Hegel’s Logic and from there to an interpretation of Marx’s Capital that places it firmly within the same Hegelian dialectic that is being developed in contemporary cosmology.

Alex Steinberg has previously taught a number of courses on Hegel at the New Space. He taught Engels and the Dialectics of Nature at the Brecht Forum. At the Marxist Education Project he has taught Spectres of the Dialectic, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Fascism and the Left Nietzscheans and Dialectics 101 previously, along with organizing a discussion of recent events in Greece and special events on The Radicalism of James Joyce. He has presented papers at the Left Forum and Historical Materialism Conferences.He has also lectured in Athens Greece on the subjects ranging from dialectics and the American political landscape. Alex has also served on the local and national boards of radio station WBAI.