Transcendental materialism? No, thanks!

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dave c
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Jun 13 2010 07:49
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If you want logic and proofs, try analytic philosophy, buddy. That's what it's for. Continental philosophy is based on axioms, that's how it works.

This implies that logic and proofs are not based on axioms.

Wikipedia wrote:
In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proved or demonstrated but considered to be either self-evident, or subject to necessary decision. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom)

Logic and proofs, from Aristotle and Euclid on, rest on certain axioms.

On the other hand, Hegel is often interpreted as going against this tradition, with good reason. His Logic does not rest on axioms. He writes at the very start of the Introduction to his Science of Logic,

Hegel wrote:
In no science is the need to begin with the subject matter itself, without preliminary reflections, felt more strongly than in the science of logic. In every other science the subject matter and the scientific method are distinguished from each other; also the content does not make an absolute beginning but is dependent on other concepts and is connected on all sides with other material. These other sciences are, therefore, permitted to speak of their ground and its context and also of their method, only as premises taken for granted which, as forms of definitions and such-like presupposed as familiar and accepted, are to be applied straight-way, and also to employ the usual kind of reasoning for the establishment of their general concepts and fundamental determinations. Logic on the contrary, cannot presuppose any of these forms of reflection and laws of thinking, for these constitute part of its own content and have first to be established within the science. (Humanity Books edition, translated by A.V. Miller, page 43)

See also Hegel's Lectures on the Fine Arts:

Hegel wrote:
If we start with the Concept itself of the beauty of art, it at once becomes a presupposition and a mere assumption; mere assumptions, however, philosophical method does not allow; on the contrary, what is to pass muster has to have its truth proved, i.e. has to be shown to be necessary. (https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/ae/introduction.htm)

This is of course not to say that Hegel does what he says he is doing. His "proofs" are nonsensical.

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Noa Rodman
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Jun 13 2010 22:37

Right Dave, I have been trying to say just that the whole time.

By the way, I don't find the place in the Grundrisse where Marx speaks of the proletariat as substanceless subjectivity, which Zizek writes of in all his books. Where is it? eek

communistingoodfaith
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Jun 14 2010 00:28

Pffft. What a joke.

"I have been trying to say that the whole time". That's utter nonsense. You presupposed it each time without bothering to explain it.

I don't see the point in you adding "dialectical" to "materialist" either, since there's nothing that distinguishes what you put forward and straight materialism. But you obviously felt the need to do so. So you think Marxism is bullshit? Then why are we having this conversation? Indeed, why accuse Zizek of not being a Marxist, as if it's any complaint when you aren't one either? No class struggle, no marxism - great. Then I don't know why we're talking about anything other than you want to waste both of our times.

Only a few short months ago you were telling me the working class was ordained to create revolution, and now you've changed your tune. Go tell someone else.

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Noa Rodman
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Jun 14 2010 13:07

The 'dialectical' in materialism means at most just the following;

Ilyenkov wrote:
Rather what is subject to philosophical generalisation is the development of scientific knowledge, the dialectical process of the ever more profound, all-sided and concrete comprehension of the dialectical processes of the material world, so that it cannot be excluded that even tomorrow natural science itself will re-evaluate its results in a ‘negative’ manner.

Hence one can speak of dialectical materialism.

The Stalinist/Maoist philosophical additions (jumping on certain flaws in Engels) to 'dialectical materialism' ARE bullshit, but, contrary to what Zizek and you believe, that does not mean Marxism is bullshit: that's conflating Stalinism/Maoism with Marxism.

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you were telling me the working class was ordained to create revolution, and now you've changed your tune.

I still stand by that, which Lukacs didn't come up with (his error was to Hegelianize it), but Engels and Marx, when they wrote in the Holy Family:

Quote:
When socialist writers ascribe this world-historic role to the proletariat, it is not at all, as Critical Criticism pretends to believe, because they regard the proletarians as gods. Rather the contrary. Since in the fully-formed proletariat the abstraction of all humanity, even of the semblance of humanity, is practically complete; since the conditions of life of the proletariat sum up all the conditions of life of society today in their most inhuman form; since man has lost himself in the proletariat, yet at the same time has not only gained theoretical consciousness of that loss, but through urgent, no longer removable, no longer disguisable, absolutely imperative need -- the practical expression of necessity -- is driven directly to revolt against this inhumanity, it follows that the proletariat can and must emancipate itself. But it cannot emancipate itself without abolishing the conditions of its own life. It cannot abolish the conditions of its own life without abolishing all the inhuman conditions of life of society today which are summed up in its own situation. Not in vain does it go through the stern but steeling school of labour. It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is visibly and irrevocably foreshadowed in its own life situation as well as in the whole organization of bourgeois society today. There is no need to explain here that a large part of the English and French proletariat is already conscious of its historic task and is constantly working to develop that consciousness into complete clarity.

What do you see as metaphysical here?

Also, do you know where Marx speaks of substanceless subjectivity? Zizek claims to be 'radicalizing' Marx here and seems to argue his 'anti-capitalist' stance (4 tensions, commons, etc.) with it. So where is this passage in Marx?

communistingoodfaith
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Jun 14 2010 14:40

The "must" is metaphysical.

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Noa Rodman
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Jun 14 2010 17:24

That is not metaphysical in any sense of the word. What you probably mean is that it's not compatible with the existentialist rehash you adhere to, which is true.

Seriously though, where does Marx speak of the proletariat as 'substanzlose Subjektivitaet', as Zizek all the time says to bolster his revision of Marx's definition of the proletariat and promote a politics of the commons inspired by Negri/Hardt?

communistingoodfaith
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Jun 14 2010 19:16

I'm not your research tool, do your own work.

It IS metaphysical because you haven't proven why the proletariat, which you also leave undefined, unless you're merely adhering to marxism, MUST.

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Noa Rodman
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Jun 14 2010 22:46

I didn't leave proletariat undefined, I assumed it's meaning is known, if not, you might want to open a dictionary. But here is the definition anyway;

Quote:
The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labour power and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death,whose sole existence depends on the demand for labour...

Now, I already did the research on where Marx defines the proletariat as "substanceless subjectivity" and I didn't find it, hence I asked you or anyone else who might know, where is this passage from Marx? If nobody finds it, then I can say without a problem that Zizek is a liar, because Marx not even once defined the proletariat in a such a way (but even now Zizek for sure is already misrepresenting to an incredible extent Marx's views, because there are numerous places where Marx defines the proletariat, but not in Zizek's fashion). Unless shown otherwise, Zizek loses his pretension to marxism here, and because almost his whole political analysis depends on this one reference to 'substanceless subjectivity', his politic theory is (shocker) not marxist.

Quote:
It IS metaphysical because you haven't proven why the proletariat[..]MUST.

Do you also demand proof for why one MUST eat? Use a better word than 'metaphysical' to express your objection, because on your own understanding, TM would be metaphysical.

communistingoodfaith
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Jun 14 2010 23:37

I disagree that there's a strict equality between working class and proletariat. And your definition is puffy, but ultimately vague.

You can conclude whatever you want to about Zizek, not my problem.

You're also drawing an analogy between a biological process necessary to sustain life, and a social process which isn't. Try again

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lamb
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Jun 15 2010 00:03

You guys are arguing over and under each other. I'm surprised you've even kept this up. I might be mistaken but has Zizek ever claimed to be a thoroughly pure Marxist? If I remember correctly there is a lot of Marx he separates himself from. I've been tuning in and out of your guys' discussion so pardon if I missed anything.

There's a core disagreement here that would be helpful to shed a bit more light on, but Noa seems rather reluctant to divulge too much at one time. I might be looking at this naively but what I draw from Zizek's formulations on subjectivity is pretty simple: the subject doesn't fully know itself. This isn't original but drawing on concepts of desire, plasticity, etc., Zizek attempts to demonstrate this in new ways. Obviously there is more to it than this, but I'm confused mostly with what Noa's intentions are here, as it'd really sort the argument out. Is it that Zizek is simply not original, drawing upon existentialist notions, Lacan, whatever, i.e. he's playing into the pop-philosopher role, pretending to be smarter than he is, "not really knowing" what he's talking about, etc. Or is this whole line of theorizing (that challenges Marxism as much as it [supposedly] looks for new ways of critiquing capitalism) bankrupt and we should return to good ol' Marx?

Your point needs to be made more clear, or perhaps briefly pointing to what you agree with instead would be helpful in steering the conversation in a less ridiculous direction. Either you're on a crusade and fancy yourself some internet debating-extraodinaire, in which case you should fuck right off, or you're honestly interested in philosophy, which of course is critique, but I think anyone worth a shit also recognizes the fact that you extract ideas, build off failed ones, reformulate, etc. 'whilst laughing', to put in a Nietzschean vein, rather than going around posturing as the "anti-zizekian" or some shit.

Finally, you've missed something somewhere it seems. Largely, the project of leftist philosophers, post-68, has been to reformulate and critique this notion of proletariat, eg. theorizing subjectivity. One, the bourgeois/proletariat dichotomy is really not as simple as it once was; secondly, there seems to be more to it than that, in that a simple notion of the proletariat as those "whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labour" falls kind of short.

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Noa Rodman
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Jun 15 2010 10:33

Of course it's not about Zizek's originality, etc. The length of the thread shows that I take Zizek's theory serious. The reason why there is a breakdown in the communication so to speak, is that Zizek does not give arguments for his theory nor responds to criticisms. You're free to post from any book or article where Zizek actually makes a sound argument.

Also, I don't see where in the Grundrisse Marx defines the proletariat as 'substanceless subjectivity' (Zizek doesn't give a reference), so why do we accept Zizek's claims that he is radicalizing a key Marxist concept?

communistingoodfaith
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Jun 15 2010 11:23

Then don't accept it. Why do you have to publicize the fact that you don't agree?

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lamb
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Jun 15 2010 18:08

Seems like you're just upset that he's sloppy then. Either you like the concepts he's trying to formulate or you don't. It seems like you do not but the reason for this is what you haven't made clear. You seem hung up on a free will/determinism thing, and whether or not Zizek uses, I don't know, useful frameworks and examples?

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Noa Rodman
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Jun 15 2010 22:08

It seems you're making yourselves comfortable in a defensive, sycophantic position by saying that you don't need a reason to agree with TM, but anybody that disagrees does need a reason.

Anyway, this is the passage in the Grundrisse to which Zizek might be referring:

Quote:
The product of labour appears as alien property, as a mode of existence confronting living labour as independent, as value in its being for itself; the product of labour, objectified labour, has been endowed by living labour with a soul of its own, and establishes itself opposite living labour as an alien power: both these situations are themselves the product of labour. Living labour therefore now appears from its own standpoint as acting within the production process in such a way that, as it realizes itself in the objective conditions, it simultaneously repulses this realization from itself as an alien reality, and hence posits itself as insubstantial, as mere penurious labour capacity in face of this reality alienated [entfremdet] from it, belonging not to it but to others; that it posits its own reality not as a being for it, but merely as a being for others, and hence also as mere other-being [Anderssein], or being of another opposite itself. This realization process is at the same time the de-realization process of labour.
carterburke
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Jun 15 2010 22:36
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Then don't accept it. Why do you have to publicize the fact that you don't agree?

I find this to be a very strange question. If that is not the purpose of a "theory" discussion forum, then what is? If someone thinks a scholar's (particularly a somewhat popular and well-read one) work contains significant errors, why on Earth would someone refrain from bringing this up on a discussion forum for such subjects?

communistingoodfaith
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Jun 16 2010 00:30

I think there are problems with Marx and Lenin, quite frankly.

You seem to want nothing but the stark repetition of the exact same thing. You also don't explain why the proletariat MUST shed its chains. Looking around, it doesn't seem like it has to at all. You're interested in nothing new since Soviet Russia. I really don't see the point to this conversation at all.

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Noa Rodman
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Jun 17 2010 11:29

Who's advocating the repetition of the 'exact same thing'? Which things interest you that are 'new since Soviet Russia'? What are the problems that you see with Marx and Lenin? Furthermore, do Zizek/Johnston address them and how? Do you think you can say that they have solved those 'problems'?

Quote:
You also don't explain why the proletariat MUST shed its chains.

It's explained why the proletariat can and must shed its chains. Here is another translation of the passage from the Holy Family, which is perhaps better at conveying the reasons to you:

Quote:
If socialist writers attribute this world-historical role to the proletariat it is not because they believe ... that the proletariat are gods. Far from it. The proletariat can and must liberate itself because when the proletariat is fully developed, its humanity and even the appearance of its humanity has become totally abstract; because in the conditions of its life all the conditions of life of contemporary society find their most inhuman consummation; because in the proletariat man is lost to himself but at the same time he has acquired a theoretical consciousness of this loss, and is driven by the absolutely imperious dictates of his misery – the practical expression of this necessity – which can no longer be ignored or whitewashed, to rebel against this inhumanity. However, the proletariat cannot liberate itself without destroying the conditions of its own life. But it cannot do that without destroying all the inhuman conditions of life in contemporary society which exist in the proletariat in a concentrated form.

There is no mention of History with a capital H that ordains the proletariat as the Messiah with the 'holy mission', so no metaphysics involved here. In fact if you read the context, Marx/Engels are fighting against the metaphysics of the critical critics, who believed that their own critical Criticism had the role to shed the chains. Also, the phrase 'historical mission' was never used by Marx or Engels, it was introduced with the second international and then with ML, etc.

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I really don't see the point to this conversation at all.

I guess boredom does set in for you, because how many times can you write there's a gap and the subject is split without realizing its meaninglessness?