is science "socially neutral"?

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LBird
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May 23 2012 12:54
andy g wrote:
give up on this "I'm so proletarian" stuff with Jura too - it is a childish substitute for an argument.

What 'stuff'? jura made a statement that was meaningless to me, and they don't seem keen to enter the discussion in any meaningful way, much like ocelot and the other, err, contributor.

Up until now, you've seemed to be keen to actually discuss, but 'childish', aimed at me?

I'll leave you to engage with someone else, perhaps one of those three, and for once refrain from answering in the same tone.

Communists? I wonder, sometimes...

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May 23 2012 20:58
LBird wrote:
But, to continue with your point about 'objectivity', I think 'objectivity' is relative, and that knowledge produced by the proletariat is more 'objective' than that produced by the bourgeoisie.

Not only does objectiveness being relative defeat the whole point/meaning of the word objective, the whole proletariat objectivity over bourgeoisie objectivity stinks a bit to me. It seems just trivial and silly bourgeoisie bashing for no reason. But more importantly, saying this seems to imply that objectivity is not only relative, but subjective. This is just plain stupid because then we are not talking about objectivity at all.
Now Im sure we both agree that the notion of objectivity is largely ridiculous for the reasons people have said above (science cant be taken out of the social, historical, and most importantly, human, context etc etc), so why don't you just say that instead saying what is considered to be objective is actually relative and subjective?

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May 23 2012 21:28

this 2006 thread went over much of the same ground http://libcom.org/forums/thought/radicals-and-a-science-fetish
was a sweet trainwreck! Loved that thread.

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qbbmvrjsssdd
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May 23 2012 22:02

The whole distinction between soft and hard science is a bourgeois prejudice. Anything subjecting society to close examination is "subjective" and "unverifiable", whereas "real" science deals with matter that doesn't have any immediate repercussions in the social world. Not that social science is supposed to supply socialism with a necessary foundation, heh heh, since there is a limit to its objectivity. But it is just as much folly to assume that the physical sciences are infallible.

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May 24 2012 09:17

With respect, your last point is a bit of a strawman. I haven't seen anybody on this thread suggest that any science (hard or otherwise) is "infallible" or entirely free from the influence of the paymasters.

As an anecdotal aside, in the field of physics, I have a good friend and comrade who did a summer job as an intern at the Lawrence Livermore labs, fixing their software. After correcting various egregious bugs in their code, he was hauled up on a disciplinary and forced to put the bugs back in, as the corrected code was ruining their results. From which (and a more extensive knowledge of the state of the field as a whole) he takes the conclusion that high-energy (aka particle) physics is a degenerate research programme (to use Lakatos' excellent phrase - big fan of Lakatos & Kuhn, btw), parasitic on the congressional billions that "bigger bombs" physics attracts.

In general, in this thread I haven't really seen anyone take either of the extreme, "absolute" positions so far. i.e. the extreme positivist line that science is "above society" and infallible. Or the other extreme of total relativism, that the results of scientific research are as arbitrary and contingent as literary criticism of classical Persian love poetry.

Despite the best efforts of certain willful controversialists to find some fundamental dichotomy here, we appear mainly to be discussing whereabouts in the middle we should locate ourselves. (Relative) consensus may be boringly undramatic compared to violent controversy, but it would be pathological to deny the former in favour of the latter, as a matter of course.

steve y
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May 24 2012 19:30

WE NEED THE SCIENCE OF MASS CONSCIOUS REVOLUTIONARY PRACTICE. Instead of 'bourgeois science' and 'proletarian science' revolutionaries should simply look at objective science, which is in the interests of workers and the broader humanity, and subjective science, which at the social, political and economic levels the bourgeoisie are interested in presenting all interpretation of scientific truth as it holds that the relatively recent capitalist system is eternal with 'self-evident natural laws', which include 'a fair day's pay for a fair days work', etc. So almost all scientists are bought-off, money, careerism and obey the academic norms of hierarchy in science.

Ever since Marx turned the dialectic of Hegel on its feet, since Einstein's relativism, since quantum, complexity, chaos, systems theories, etc; a new non-linear, organic, holistic body of sciences has been challenging the old mechanistic, reductionist, Newtonian method, which served its purpose in its days. However, the old science now still governs the political and economic thinking and actions of hierarchical rule. Although we don't see the rich refusing to use the new sciences to make bombs or profits, say with nanotechnology, information sciences and technology, etc.

And just look how the information technology and sciences are being used by the masses in recent times!

The old and new sciences however, are elastically connected. Although somewhat economistically Marx did point out that the fundamental contradiction in bourgeois society was between the productive forces (technology, science, labour skills) and relations of production (capital and labour). How many Marxists and anarchists still wrongly say the fundamental division in capitalism is between labour and capital, is class struggle?

However, scientific and technological exponential developments since Marx show that we humans can now rule our own workplaces and communities - that we can cooperate openly without private ownership of land and the means of production. What is needed today is mass conscious revolutionary practice. Yet instead of a holistic organic practice, we are left with the hierarchical 'theory and practice' or the totally inadequate 'praxis'.

What is missing today is that revolutionaries and libertarians have not synthesised all these new exponential developments into a new and higher dynamics of conscious revolutionary practice, a new paradigm, a leap forward from Marx and Engels dialectic, which sought to understand the real material world in the head, as thoughts, logic, etc.

Today we need to investigate, incorporate and transcend Marx’s revolutionary practice as outlined in his brilliant “germ of a new world outlook”, ie, the “mice-gnawed scribbled notes” (Engels quotes) that Engels discovered after Marx died. I mean the jotted notes written by Marx in the ‘Eleven Theses on Feuerbach’ in 1845. And Engels called them, the “germ of a new world outlook”, something truly amazing yet ignored by Marx's 'followers' as they already had that germ, or rather a finished theory that they called Marxism. Anyway, after 1845 Marx got stuck in political economy for the rest of his life, only very partially carrying out his broader project. The so-called Marxists cannot do this work as the dialectic for them has become a deity of stone to worship. More on this soon.

solid - stevey

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jura
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May 24 2012 20:02

Behold the founding statement of stevey-thought.

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Un ossu
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May 24 2012 22:14

Given the length of this thread, I shan't be able to quote anyone. Namely, I remember the arguments, but I can't recall who said what and I don't feel like reading it all over again. So I'll try to address but the questions raised.

First of all, I think it would be extremely important to distinguish science as social activity (i.e. the proceeding of those who claim to be endeavoring to systematically describe the reality) and science as a set of propositions (i. e. ideas in our heads) which comes as a result of such activity. Of course, all of us are perfectly aware of this distinction, but it is also important to use it explicitly so as to avoid confusion.

So, in my opinion, it would be no use discussing the nature of science in the former sense since its class nature is pretty obvious. Regarding the scientific propositions, the matter is much more complex. I tend to differentiate my appraisal depending on whether we are talking about theoretical science (i. e. assertions concerning repeatable features of natural events) or historical science (i. e. assertions regarding particular spatiotemporally defined events). Unlike historical science, theoretical propositions are formulated on the assumption of their usefulness for predicting future events. So, as far as they concern our lives, it is fairly difficult for anyone to impose practically failed theoretical propositions. That is why we tend to rely on the laws of mechanics, or the function of antibiotics, such as proposed and tested by the dominant bourgeois science (understood as human activity), while we all tend to be more critical about the prevailing scientific description of the foundation of the first states or of the Spanish civil war. Regarding the so-called social (theoretical) science, I think that it, while benefiting from scientific knowledge, is not science in itself, since it deliberately use a method which is different from what we usually call scientific method. Namely, the elaboration of its propositions combines scientific and "common sense" not scientifically tested premises. Of course, this is something which isn't going to change after deposing capitalism, since human beings need and will need to make decisions even in the absence of a relatively complete understanding of all the factors involved, and that's where such social science steps in. Given its nature, it is clear why its propositions are even more biased than those of historical science and why we tend to hate bourgeois theoretical social science.
So it seems to me fairly clear that historical and social science are so much permeated with bourgeois self-sustaining prejudice that a possible communist revolution will necessarily represent a breaking point in their development and a thorough revision will be inevitable.
But what about "hard" theoretical science? Is it trans-historical or objective? In my opinion, it's totally absurd to maintain something like that, since even under capitalism, mankind did witness enormous change in the corpus of scientific knowledge. How could scientific knowledge of any kind be possibly trans-historical or objective if it's just ideas which are part of our pretty historical and subjective (even if inter-subjective)intellectual experience? So, even the "hardest" science will continue to change as it did in the past. And I shall repeat it again: as it did in the past. Thus, while the idea that theoretical "natural science" propositions could be trans-historical is no doubt exaggerated, there is some point therein. Namely, in my opinion, their will be no breaking point connected to social revolution and comparable to the one that will be experienced by historical and social science.

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May 24 2012 22:39

It seems that the "pure" sciences have been elevated to that status because they have been so implemented by the use of capital in order to support its functioning, e.g. in rationalization and efficiency, as well as the elevation of (bourgeois) economics as a "more scientific" discipline. But I'm only musing.
Why is NASA and the military and their accompanying scientific investigations so important? Because it augments capital, doesn't it? So as an enhancer of capital, the hard sciences gain the privileged status of the ultimate disciplines of truth.

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May 24 2012 22:40

I've forgotten the issue of "proletarian science". Well, I don't think that the idea of "proletarian" social theory and history would be that nuts, to the extent to which it could contribute to the preparation of the social revolution. But I don't like the epithet 'proletarian' since such science and "science" could not be accepted by the majority of the proletarians and thus it simply wouldn't be theirs. 'Revolutionary' would be more suitable. Regarding the idea of a "proletarian" "natural science", it's no use discussing it since we couldn't possibly fund it, and even if we could the money could be spent much better, since the actual state of applied theoretical scientific knowledge is sufficient for organising a communist social production and the maintenance of the capitalist mode of production is threatening with the extinction of mankind.

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May 24 2012 22:53

qbbmvrjsssdd:

Quote:
It seems that the "pure" sciences have been elevated to that status because they have been so implemented by the use of capital in order to support its functioning, e.g. in rationalization and efficiency, as well as the elevation of (bourgeois) economics as a "more scientific" discipline. But I'm only musing.
Why is NASA and the military and their accompanying scientific investigations so important? Because it augments capital, doesn't it? So as an enhancer of capital, the hard sciences gain the privileged status of the ultimate disciplines of truth.

I don't think so. While all scientific activity is necessarily aimed at satisfying the needs of the ruling class, the distinction between scientific theory stricto sensu and social theory (economics comprised) resides in the fact that we can't rely on the latter for predicting future events. Of course, we can try to make predictions by using social theory and act upon such predictions, but then we consciously assume the risk of a failure which is not supposed to invalidate such social theory. So, the difference can practically be experienced by all of us and it has little to do with the ideological domination of the ruling class.

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May 25 2012 20:42

Sorry, I may be sticking stubbornly to my point, and so you'll have to bear with me, but it still seems to me that the natural sciences have been glorified and they owe this glory to their relation and indispensability to capital.

Wolfi Landstreicher wrote:
Science is the attempt to create a system that can present a balanced account of all the resources in the universe, making them available to capital. This is why it must break the universe down into its smallest bits, bits that have a sufficient degree of identity and interchangeability to act as a general equivalent[...]The real end of modern science from the start has been to render the universe into a great calculating machine that will render account of its own resources. So the function of science has always been to serve the economy and its development has been the search for the most efficient means of doing so.

The need to quantify, measure and order phenomena in the known universe corresponds to the needs of capital to valorize and break the social body into consuming/producing atoms. Since capital has been wedded to modern science since its inception the need for it to appear precise as well as efficient has been more than just a scientific matter, but also an economic one. The reputation of science is the reputation of industry and industrial technique.
I have a thick skull though so you'll have to pardon me if I'm missing the point which I think I am, HA HA!

LBird
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May 25 2012 06:51
qbbmvrjsssdd wrote:
The need to quantify, measure and order phenomena in the known universe corresponds to the needs of capital to valorize and break the social body into consuming/producing atoms. Since capital has been wedded to modern science since its inception the need for it to appear precise as well as efficient has been more than just a scientific matter, but also an economic one.

I find in very strange that so many fellow Communists here have made the mental break with bourgeois thinking that is required to jettison neo-classical economics ('common-sense' individual consumer economics) in favour of a viewpoint requiring different assumptions about social production and exploitation that allow us to use 'value' as a concept, but don't seem to be able to jettison 'common-sense' bourgeois thinking about 'objectivity' and notions of a 'neutral' scientific method.

It's made worse by the fact that I think we all agree that 'science' isn't 'socially neutral' in many institutional ways, and yet some still hang on to essentially positivist views about 'objectivity'.

The range of positions on this aren't limited to 'objective' versus 'subjective', as croydonian seems to think.

There is a position inbetween, that allows us to both reject 'eternal truth' objectivism and reject 'personal opinion' subjectivism. As everyone who takes this stance says, we're trying to defend science, not destroy it.

And I also find it strange that Marxists seem to be the ones trying to give a warning on 'authority', of the scientific kind, to Anarchists!

Please take the last quip as a joke, comrades.

RedHughs
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May 25 2012 06:52
Quote:
The need to quantify, measure and order phenomena in the known universe corresponds to the needs of capital to valorize and break the social body into consuming/producing atoms. Since capital has been wedded to modern science since its inception the need for it to appear precise as well as efficient has been more than just a scientific matter, but also an economic one. The reputation of science is the reputation of industry and industrial technique.

That is simply ridiculous. Human beings have been measuring and ordering phenomena since humans existed. The use of logic itself is pretty much equivalent to the use of numbers and quantification.

Rationality, quantification and measurement serve capital yes, so does sunlight and so does irrationality as found in advertising, "save the children" campaigns and crazed primitivist rants.

LBird
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May 25 2012 07:06
RedHughs wrote:
Human beings have been measuring and ordering phenomena since humans existed.

Yes, humans 'measure and order'.

'Phenomena' (who defines?) don't 'measure and order' themselves.

And as humans change (if one accepts societies do change), then the nature of the 'measuring and ordering' changes, too.

RedHughs wrote:
Rationality, quantification and measurement ...

These are all human traits, not objective realities.

Reason itself has a class component. What's 'reasonable' to the bourgeoisie is not 'reasonable' to the proletariat.

steve y
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May 25 2012 09:06
jura wrote:
Behold the founding statement of stevey-thought.

Thanks Jura - but no one has responded yet to the relevant points I make, like categorising science as a contradiction between objective and subjective science, etc. Maybe its just that you regulars wonder who I am?

I simultaneously joined Solfed and Afed in London earlier this year after well over a decade living the transition from Trot to anarchist - doing much research and writing, and finding my ex-comrades calling me an anarchist.

As for a 'founding statement', well that was a dabble. I will shortly introduce 'stevey-thought' (mud sticks you know, Jura) with the articles, 'Dynamics of Chaos & Order' and 'Summary of Dynamics' for discussion on libcom, which to take things forward I hope will produce a more considered discussion without knee-jerk reactions and one-liners.

It was a weird feeling carrying first the Afed banner and later the Solfed banner on the May Day march - a Trot parallel would instantly expel me as a traitor by both groups and no life-time friends and comrades would ever speak to me again.

And I look forward to meeting many of you new comrades in person in this next period.

X stevey

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May 25 2012 10:14

I totally agree with RedHughs. Of course, the "modern" science is necessarily bound to capitalist goals since what we call here "modernity" is precisely the capitalist era, but it does not mean that the so-called primitive man did no measurement.
LBird is right when they say that "rationality, quantification and measurement" are human traits, but those are biological human traits which precede the division of human society into social classes and we can't help but continuing to do it in pretty much the same way.

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May 25 2012 10:35

steve y

Quote:
WE NEED THE SCIENCE OF MASS CONSCIOUS REVOLUTIONARY PRACTICE. Instead of 'bourgeois science' and 'proletarian science' revolutionaries should simply look at objective science, which is in the interests of workers and the broader humanity, and subjective science, which at the social, political and economic levels the bourgeoisie are interested in presenting all interpretation of scientific truth as it holds that the relatively recent capitalist system is eternal with 'self-evident natural laws', which include 'a fair day's pay for a fair days work', etc. So almost all scientists are bought-off, money, careerism and obey the academic norms of hierarchy in science.

What you are criticizing here is mostly how scientific research is done (and not the scientific propositions themselves). All I can say is that we can't do much about it before deposing capitalism, since we don't control the means of production either "material" or "intellectual" or "spiritual". Regarding the "self-evident natural laws", I wouldn't say that bourgeois scientists actually try to present the present state of scientific knowledge as eternal, but I do admit that not everyone has the same possibility of access to means of scientific research so that they could effectively question the dominant scientific propositions. But as I said, little can be done about it under capitalism. Finally, I agree that we have to combat the presentation of the capitalist mode of production as something natural, but such presentation has nothing to do with the scientific method stricto sensu (logic, mathematics, experimental proof and falsification).

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May 25 2012 10:48

Steve Y

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Ever since Marx turned the dialectic of Hegel on its feet, since Einstein's relativism, since quantum, complexity, chaos, systems theories, etc; a new non-linear, organic, holistic body of sciences has been challenging the old mechanistic, reductionist, Newtonian method, which served its purpose in its days. However, the old science now still governs the political and economic thinking and actions of hierarchical rule. Although we don't see the rich refusing to use the new sciences to make bombs or profits, say with nanotechnology, information sciences and technology, etc.

But isn't it maybe so because the "new science" confirms the classical physics relatively to small speeds and macroscopic effects? So how could we possibly apply the "new science" to social relations if we continue to be as big and slow as earlier? laugh out loud

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May 25 2012 11:51

Steve Y

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The old and new sciences however, are elastically connected. Although somewhat economistically Marx did point out that the fundamental contradiction in bourgeois society was between the productive forces (technology, science, labour skills) and relations of production (capital and labour). How many Marxists and anarchists still wrongly say the fundamental division in capitalism is between labour and capital, is class struggle?

Well, what are you actually arguing for? Is the class struggle supposed to be replaced by something essentially different?

idem

Quote:
However, scientific and technological exponential developments since Marx show that we humans can now rule our own workplaces and communities - that we can cooperate openly without private ownership of land and the means of production. What is needed today is mass conscious revolutionary practice. Yet instead of a holistic organic practice, we are left with the hierarchical 'theory and practice' or the totally inadequate 'praxis'.

Marx actually foresaw such development, since he maintained his own epoch was premature for communism. Of course, we need mass revolutionary practice, but we can't produce it, since it's upon the masses themselves to create it through lots of errors and failures, being driven by necessity. We can but try to contribute to such practice by propaganda and active participation to class struggle. That's all, we are not magicians. What should the adequate practice be like? I know you wrote that you would write separate articles about it, but if you introduce an argument, then you should at least give as a hint on what you are implying.

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May 25 2012 16:17

Random Kautsky quote which seemed apposite to the OP.

Quote:
For Lassalle, who coined the aphorism on science and the proletariat, science, like the state, stands above the class struggle. Today we know this to be false. For the state is the instrument of the ruling class. Moreover, science itself rises above the classes only insofar as it does not deal with classes, that is, only insofar as it is a natural and not a social science. A scientific examination of society produces an entirely different conclusion when society is observed from a class standpoint, especially from the standpoint of a class which is antagonistic to that society. When brought to the proletariat from the capitalist class, science is invariably adapted to suit capitalist interests. What the proletariat needs is a scientific understanding of its own position in society. That kind of science a worker cannot obtain in the officially and socially approved manner. The proletarian himself must develop his own theory. For this reason he must be completely self-taught, no matter whether his origin is academic or proletarian. The object of study is the activity of the proletariat itself, its role in the process of production, its role in the class struggle. Only from this activity can the theory, the self-consciousness of the proletariat, arise.

The Intellectuals and the Workers (1903)

Angelus Novus
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May 25 2012 17:39

Here's the rule people: you're only allowed to parade your prolier-than-thou credentials if you're being class-baited in the first place.

Somebody says you're an effeminate intellectual wanker 'cause you like vintage wines or fine violins? Then it's cool if you mention that your dad was a coal miner and your ma a leader of the garment workers union.

Otherwise, they're not valid criteria for deciding the correctness of a theoretical position.

signed,

Angelus Novus

Official Accreditor of Proletarian Authenticity

steve y
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May 25 2012 18:10

Un ossu wrote in #49, “we can't do much about it [ie, scientific research or scientific propositions] before deposing capitalism, since we don't control the means of production either "material" or "intellectual" or "spiritual" "

Only we, libertarian revolutionaries, who don’t control the means of production, can today develop the science of revolution, only we can grasp and experiment with the scientific dynamics of a new conscious revolutionary practice, individually and collectively. Only we can grasp the real dynamics of the state; of economics; of growing inter-imperialist rivalry; of the relation between chaos & order in all nature, in human activities, in anarchism and capitalism, in every system; etc, etc. Haven’t our forebears tried to develop this science so many times? We must now go to new heights!

- - - - - -

Un ossu wrote in #50, “the ‘new science’ confirms the classical physics relatively to small speeds and macroscopic effects? So how could we possibly apply the ‘new science’ to social relations if we continue to be as big and slow as earlier?”

The new non-linear sciences are like a symphony orchestra compared to a child banging the tin-can of linear sciences. Sure, human perceptions and scales are limited; sure Newton’s mechanical laws can build a bicycle or basic motorcar. However, they can’t grasp economics, social relations and movements, human activity, evolution and development of everything, or anything more complex. Besides, even motorcars are increasingly becoming full of nanotechnology devices. For grasping more complex things in life we need to understand not just mechanical laws which obey the ‘new sciences’ anyway; but the dynamics of relativity, complexity, dialectics, human activities, systems and in particular the patterns, tendencies and rhythms of the wild dances within and between atoms – ie, quantum dynamics. A new synthesis of the higher dynamics of all nature (which includes us) is urgently needed.

- - - - - -

Un ossu wrote in #51, “Well, what are you actually arguing for? Is the class struggle supposed to be replaced by something essentially different?” This was in response to me saying, “... Marx did point out that the fundamental contradiction in bourgeois society was between the productive forces (technology, science, labour skills) and relations of production (capital and labour).” And I then criticised those who argue that the fundamental contradiction of capitalism was bosses and workers, the class struggle.

Un ossu, you need to read Marx again on this, and I basically agree with him, regarding the significance of technology and science, of labour skills and organisation, in transforming this planet. Though I would argue that class struggle is the all important economic element - and it spreads out entering the pores of almost all human actions – of the more fundamental forces of humanity versus the inhumanity of the system. This is something Marx wrote around in the mid-1840s, but never explicitly analysed it this way as he got caught-up specialising in political economy, doing so little of his hoped-for much longer list of things to do. Read Marx, http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/h/i.htm#historical-materialism

Also in #51 you wrote, “Marx actually foresaw such development, since he maintained his own epoch was premature for communism.” I would like you to find me any quote on this, as I remember him getting excited about the Paris Commune and stating explicitly that it was possible in his generation.

Further in #51 you wrote, “Of course, we need mass revolutionary practice, but we can't produce it, since it's upon the masses themselves to create it through lots of errors and failures, being driven by necessity. We can but try to contribute to such practice by propaganda and active participation to class struggle. That's all, we are not magicians.”

Un ossu, science still doesn’t know how human activity works, what makes us human, what are the natural processes at work in human activity? It is this science and art of developing conscious revolutionary practice, as a method, which really means just being human, amongst libertarians and all progressive activists of all shades, so it can penetrate our communities and workplaces. For until significant sections of the working class and the broader forces of humanity can run their own workplaces and communities, they will not just submit to hierarchy, they will demand it! I will start this discussion soon.

one luv - stevey

RedHughs
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May 25 2012 21:03
LBird wrote:
RedHughs wrote:
Rationality, quantification and measurement ...

These are all human traits, not objective realities.

Reason itself has a class component. What's 'reasonable' to the bourgeoisie is not 'reasonable' to the proletariat.

That's sort-of true but what does that have to do with anything?

The discussion of science and objectivity basically needs a context. The bourgeois and the proletariat both need to understand the principles of Newtonian mechanics even if they happen to use these laws to toss missiles at each other. So in some instances, they agree.

It is important to emphasize the historicalness of many things that this society claims are universal. But this emphasis itself needs to be historical, ie, focused on how what is crucial for maintaining this society rather than serving as a rigid dogma or paradoxical pronouncement. The bourgeois individual is certainly a historical creature but human beings will still remain physically distinct after the end of capitalism, etc.

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May 25 2012 22:09
RedHughs wrote:
That is simply ridiculous. Human beings have been measuring and ordering phenomena since humans existed.

You're right, but never in such a ruthlessly systematic way as characterizes contemporary science.

The logic of capitalism needs to work in a way that makes its existence seem unquestionable. This of course is why bourgeois economics and social sciences are deployed in its defense. But I still ask, in what way have the natural sciences been integrated into the superstructure of capitalism? In what way is the modus operandi of science conditioned by its centuries-long interaction with capitalism? Not to mention the detrimental influence on the prosperity and flourishing of knowledge that class society brings. What would knowledge look like in a classless society? How would it be shaped? What kind of significance would it assume?

LBird
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May 26 2012 07:10
RedHughs wrote:
That's sort-of true but what does that have to do with anything?

The discussion of science and objectivity basically needs a context. The bourgeois and the proletariat both need to understand the principles of Newtonian mechanics even if they happen to use these laws to toss missiles at each other. So in some instances, they agree.

The logical position of what you've said is that 'And so, in some other instances, they don't agree'.

No-one is arguing that after the rev that science will be completely different (all the jokes about 'proletarian molecules', etc.), but that in some ways science will be different, as you seem to have pointed out.

We need to discuss this.

Put simply, if 'science' and its 'method' are social activities (as we all seem to agree), how will they differ under Communism, as compared with capitalism?

LBird
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May 26 2012 07:56
Choccy wrote:
this 2006 thread went over much of the same ground http://libcom.org/forums/thought/radicals-and-a-science-fetish
was a sweet trainwreck! Loved that thread.

I think that posts 189 and 202 by redtwister, on the thread link Choccy has helpfully provided, are worth a read.

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May 26 2012 18:19

Saying science is socially constructed isn't an argument against it being right. Language is socially constructed and yet I can still use it to learn things that are objectively true. There are many ways of understanding science, for example as a social phenomenon determined by class society, or as a more or less accurate set of rules that help us understand and survive in the universe - neither really contradicts the other. Science for some people is also a hobby, a job, an identity, a public service, a chore, or an investment opportunity. It can be all these things depending on how you define it and what aspects of it you're describing.

Capitalist society conditions scientists and scientific research to a massive degree. This happens in crude and obvious ways, like when bosses make scientific workers fudge the numbers to keep investors happy, or when socially useful but unprofitable science programmes are cut to make way for better money spinners. It also happens in subtler ways, through social conditioning and the subtler power of academic authority. At the same time, science would be meaningless, and have no value whatever to the capitalists who invest in and control it, if it was all just totally irrelevant to the real world.

~J.

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jura
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May 26 2012 18:45

Good points, jolasmo!

LBird
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May 26 2012 18:46

'being right' and 'objectively true'

are statements that are contradicted by

'a more or less accurate set of rules'

If something is 'right' or 'objective', it can't be 'more or less', can it?

jolasmo wrote:
science would be meaningless... if it was all just totally irrelevant to the real world.

Who argues that 'science is just totally irrelevant'?

Maintaining that 'we can't be completely sure' or that 'humans can't know objectively the external world' (in the sense that the positivists meant it), doesn't mean that 'any old intuitive guesswork will do'.

As I (and others) have said before, those who argue for the human centrality of knowledge of the external world are trying to defend science, not destroy it.

If comrades want to defend 'objective knowledge', then fine, but respond to what those who disagree are actually saying, rather than appearing to believe we want witchcraft and seances on the scientific syllabus.

These are philosophical arguments, and should be treated with care.