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The Principle of Contradiction

Edward Conze - Translated by Holger R. Heine - Foreword by Graham Priest

Conze’s monograph The Principle of Contradiction: On the Theory of Dialectical Materialism is his most important philosophical work and the foundation for his later publications as a Buddhist scholar and translator.
The openly Marxist work was published under considerable risk to both printer and author alike in December 1932 in Hamburg, Germany. Only months later, in May 1933, almost all of the five hundred copies of the first edition were destroyed during the Nazi book burning campaign. It is only now, more than eighty years later, that Conze’s key philosophical work is made available to a broad audience in this English translation.
In the work, Conze sets out to develop a detailed account of the historical and material conditions that support the emergence, production, and transmission of theoretical knowledge—as exemplified by the principle of contradiction—and, furthermore, to show that under different social and historical conditions the allegedly necessary truth and indubitable content of the principle would dissolve and be replaced by a radically different understanding of the principle of contradiction—a dialectic understanding of the principle that would compel a rejection of the Aristotelian dogma.
From a Marxist perspective, the analysis and critique of the principle of contradiction is a crucial and necessary step towards a dialectical understanding of philosophical (and political) theory and practice. Conze’s monograph, which attempts to clear the ground for a deeper understanding of the very foundation of classical Marxist thought, may very well be the most comprehensive Marxist critique of the Aristotelian principle of contradiction available to this day.
However, Conze’s pioneering 1932 monograph goes well beyond the constraints of an orthodox Marxist analysis. His erudite and scholarly account of the history and evolution of the principle of contradiction illuminates the thought of Aristotle, Marx, and Buddha, and provides the groundwork for a new cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approach to philosophical theory and practice.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 564Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7391-2712-4 • Hardback • September 2016 • $150.00 • (£100.00)
978-1-4985-4014-8 • eBook • September 2016 • $142.00 • (£95.00)
Holger Heine is an independent scholar.
The Formulation of the Principle of Contradiction
and its Psychological Realization

The Principle of Contradiction and the Principle of Identity

Reasons for the Validity of the Principle of Contradiction
The near-total suppression of Edward Conze’s ‘The Principle of Contradiction’ by the Nazi regime was a huge loss to 20th Century Marxist scholarship. Holger Heine’s discovery of a rare copy of the German manuscript, and production of an English translation, is undoubtedly one of the great gains of the 21st. There is much in the work to interest Marxists of course, but it also makes contributions that are of significance to all scholars of contemporary Philosophy of Logic. Moreover, anyone with an interest in the history of radical thought will find much food for thought within its pages, particularly in Heine’s excellent introduction. The work itself is a tremendously thorough investigation of the notion and nature of contradiction, and the different purported logical, metaphysical, psychological, and social principles that had (at his time of writing) historically been taken to govern it. Simply for this reason, the book should be of interest to anyone working in the philosophy and history of logic, quite regardless of their own theoretical tradition, or opinion of Conze’s.... Heine has achieved something truly wonderful with this translation. He has made available for study an early yet insightful text from a truly great thinker. Its contents resonate with, and bring together, many themes of contemporary thinkers. For the English-speaking academy to lose it to totalitarianism would have been an intellectual tragedy; to now have it available is an intellectual triumph.
Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

The Principle of Contradiction, written by the German polymath Edward Conze in 1932, was all but lost to the world in the Nazi purges of 1933. Fortunately, a few copies survived. Heine is much to be praised for making it generally accessible again in English translation. The book is a fascinating window into the mind of Conze himself and German Marxist thought in this dark period. Conze’s book is notable for its Aristotelian and Marxist erudition, but also resonates with both Buddhist thought and developments in contemporary logic. Heine’s introduction beautifully locates the book in its historical and intellectual context. This is an impressive piece of scholarship all round.
Graham Priest, CUNY Graduate Center

This is a truly remarkable work, a scholarly discovery of major importance. Undoubtedly the most comprehensive work on the dialectical principle of contradiction from a Marxist perspective, and beyond that an encyclopedic history of ideas about contradiction from the ancient Greeks onwards, and an outstanding work of synthesis. Originally published in the 1930s but then effectively lost, it now appears in an excellent translation with a full and useful Introduction by the translator. It will be an essential point of reference for all future philosophical work in this area.
Sean Sayers, University of Kent