On the Categories of Possibility, Limiting Conditions and the Qualitative Development Stages of Matter in the Thought of Friedrich Engels

  • Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski Berlin
Keywords: movement of matter, evolution, development, materialistic and dialectical thinking, mechanistic thinking, specific quality, possibilities, limiting conditions, Friedrich Engels


The contradictory character of matter is the starting point of Friedrich Engels’s dialectical principles. Matter can move itself, thus producing ever new possibilities of development and gradually leading to the formation of quali­tatively higher forms of movement of matter. In this dialectical conception of development, the explanation of qualitative change is fundamental. Starting from the understanding that the inner contradic­tion is the source of development and its potential, the transition to a new quality is verifiable.  Prob­abilistic laws are the expression of the unity of necessity and chance in the real possibility. Limiting conditions, like specific structures, informational coupling and whole-part relationships and selection processes, restrict the field of possibilities opened by physical laws. This restriction of possibilities on the lower level opens up new possibilities of development on the higher level, where the transition to a new quality is realised. Materialist and dialectical thinking is the important basis of a theory of biology that is neither physicalist nor vitalist, of a theory of computer science that is neither physicalist nor dualist. Mechanistic thinking – reductionism, the denial of the specific qualities of the different forms of movement of matter – leads to philosophies that reduce the human being to an animal or computer and is both dangerous and inhuman. Computer science needs to engage with the history and application of materialistic and dialectical thinking. It needs to grasp the dialectical unity of similarity and difference between automa­ton and human in the concrete process of digitalisation and automation. It must overcome the widespread, increasing interest in reducing the human being to an automaton, in order to maintain the unique quality of the human being. It must protect and enhance the special qualities and abilities of human beings. The danger of anti-dialectical thinking, of modern forms of reductionism and the possibility, indeed necessity, of creating a better society, free from profit, greed and war is discussed in this paper in the context of Engels’s 200th birthday.

Author Biography

Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski was born in 1934. He was professor for information processing at the Humboldt University, East Berlin, from 1972-1992. He now teaches in the fields of ecological informatics and technology assessment at the University of Applied Sciences Berlin (Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin).

His fields of research are: cybernetics, information science, computer science, biological information, knowledge management, knowledge co-production, ecological informatics, medical informatics, informatics and society. He has been guest professor at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, the University of California in Berkeley, the University of Hamburg, and the University of Linz. Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski is author of more than 200 academic contributions that have been groundbreaking for developing a transdisciplinary, unified, and evolutionary understanding of information.

Klaus Fuchs-Kittowski was a Professor of Information Processing at Humboldt University in Berlin. He was born December the 31st 1934 in Berlin. He studied philosophy in Leipzig and undertook postgraduate training in biochemistry, biology, the mathematical foundations of cybernetics and philosophy of science at Humboldt University. He earned a PhD in philosophy on the problem of determinism and cybernetics in molecular biology. In 1964 he was among the founders of the University’s Computer Center and, in 1968, of its Department of Economical Cybernetics and Operation Research, which later became the Department for Theory and Organiza­tion of Science. He was vice Director of the Department and Head of the Division of Information System Design and Automated Information Processing. In 1972, he was awarded the Rudolf Virchow Prize for medical research. He collaborated with the IIASA-group on Modelling of Healthcare Systems and on Data-Communication. He became a member of IFIP/TC9 (International Federation of Informa­tion Processing, Technical Committee 9 – Interaction of Computer and Society). For six years he was Chairman of the “Computer and Work” Working Group 1 of the IFIP/TC9. For this work, he received the IFIP Silver Core. In 1989, Fuchs-Kittowski had the opportunity of working on a project on Evolution of Information Structures led by Peter Fleissner at the Vienna University of Technology. Fuchs-Kittowski was Visiting Professor at the Department of Informatics at the University of Hamburg and Visiting Professor at the Department of Economical Informatics of the Johannes Kepler University in Linz. He currently teaches at the University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Berlin in the field of Environmental Informatics and Society.

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