Contemporary Soviet dialectical materialism as a philosophy of science is an effort to explain the world by combining these principles: All that exists is real; this real world consists of matter-energy; and this matter-energy develops in accordance with universal regularities or laws. A professional philosopher would say, therefore, that dialectical materialism combines a realist epistemology, an ontology based on matter- energy, and a process philosophy stated in terms of dialectical laws.
Dialectical materialism incorporates features of both absoluteness and relativity, of both an Aristotelian commitment to the immutable and independent and a Heraclitean belief in flux. To its defenders, this combination of opposite tendencies is a source of flexibility, strength, and truth; to its detractors, it is evidence of ambiguity, vagueness, and falseness.
Dialectical materialism has usually been discussed as if it were a uniquely Soviet creation, far from the traditions of Western philosophy. It is true that the term "dialectical materialism" comes from a Russian and not from Marx, Engels, or their west European followers. It is also true, of course, that Soviet dialectical materialism has acquired characteristics that are only explicable in terms of, first, its revolutionary, and later, its institutional setting. But the roots of dialectical materialism extend back to the beginning of the history of thought, at least to the Milesian philosophers and continue forward as subdued, changing, but reappearing strands in the history of philosophy. It is impossible to present here a discussion of the origins of dialectical materialism, which