By Maurice Merleau-Ponty
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Additional resources for Adventures of the Dialectic. (Northwestern University studies in phenomenology & existential philosophy)
We wanted to begin this study with Weber because, at a time when events were about to bring the Marxist dialectic to the fore, Weber's effort demonstrates under what conditions a historical dialectic is serious. There were Marxists who understood this, and they were the best. There developed a rigorous and consistent Marxism which, like Weber's approach, was a theory of historical comprehension, of Vielseitigkeit, and of creative choice, and was a philosophy that questioned history. It is only by beginning with Weber, and with this Weberian Marxism, that the adventures of the dialectic of the past thirty-five years can be understood.
Capitalistic production pushes more and more in the direction of a development of technology and the applied sciences. At the start, however, it is not an allpowerful idea; it is a sort of historical imagination which sows here and there elements capable one day of being integrated. The meaning of a system in its beginnings is like the pictorial meaning of a painting, which not so much directs the painter's movements but is the result of them and progresses with them. Or again, it can be compared to the meaning of a spoken language which is not transmitted in conceptual terms in the minds of those who speak, or in some ideal model of language, but which is, rather, the focal point of a series of verbal operations which converge almost by chance.
180-81. 22 / ADVENTURES OF THE DIALECTIC our freedom the work of so many other freedoms. It assumes that we can clarify the choices of others through our own and ours through theirs, that we can rectify one by the other and finally arrive at the truth. There is no attitude more respectful, no objectivity more profound, than this claim of going to the very source of history. History is not an external god, a hidden reason of which we have only to record the conclusions. It is the metaphysical fact that the same life, our own, is played out both within us and outside us, in our present and in our past, and that the world is a system with several points of access, or, one might say, that we have fellow men.