January 31, 2014

Motion as the Mode of Existence of Matter

By Vassily Krapivin
What is Dialectical Materialism

A knowledge of the universal forms of the existence of matter is of great importance for a scientific understanding of the world, and motion is one of these major forms. "There is nothing in the world but matter in motion,” Lenin wrote.

Any objects we look at atoms, molecules, living organisms, the surface of the Earth, planets, stars, galaxies, and so on are in a state of constant motion and change. So, motion is universal.

"Motion is the made of existence of matter... there is no matter without motion, nor could there ever have been,” Engels wrote.

But the universality of motion and change in the world does not rule out elements of rest. In the course of any motion and change, the moving, changing object also has some stability, retaining some of its properties over a certain period of time. So motion is inseparable from rest and stability. But rest has a temporary, relative nature.

Take any object, say, a sleeping man. Such a man is in a state of rest, but the rest is only relative, for without changing his position with regard to the objects in the room and to the house itself, the man is moving together with the Earth, and various complex physiological changes, circulation of the blood, breathing, and other processes are going on within him.

So, rest and stability are relative, while motion is absolute. While being in a state of rest in one respect, any object is in a state of constant change and motion in other respects.

The idea that motion is universal and is inseparable from matter was expressed by many philosophers. But pro-Marxian materialists gave motion a narrow and limited interpretation.

The essence of motion was reduced to a change of location in space. Motion was seen from outside, from the standpoint of a change in the location of objects, rather than a change of the objects themselves.

In actual fact, the motion of matter includes not only mechanical movement of objects, but all the changes that happen to them. Engels wrote: "Motion, as applied to matter, is change in general."

Among the diverse forms of matter in motion, Engels emphasises the more important ones. These are: the mechanical form of the motion of matter (changes in the location of bodies in space in relation to one another), diverse physical forms of motion (heat, sound, electromagnetic, intra-atomic, intra-nuclear, etc.), the chemical form of motion (formation and break-up of molecules constituting diverse substances), the biological form of motion (organic life in all its diverse manifestations, the changes taking place in living organisms), and the social form of motion (development of the human society).

All forms of the motion of matter are strictly interconnected and interdependent. Some forms of motion are prerequisites for the emergence of other forms.

Questions for individual study and group discussion:

  1. Re-cap. What are the author's main arguments? How does he see the Marxist understanding of the relationship between matter and motion?
  2. Can you think of some examples of how rest is relative?
  3. Can you think of some examples of motion other than only mechanical movement?
  5. What do you think about these ideas, such as the claim that motion is universal and inseparable from matter? Do you agree? Why or why not?

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