Radicals and a science fetish?

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lem
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Dec 7 2006 22:46

Edited: While I don't disagree with any of your points, I don't see how you've shown me to be wrong on anything confused

lem
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Dec 7 2006 22:49

I thought that this was quite insightful!

Quote:
I personally would say that science should only be privilged wrt things that are trying to do the same things.

Tbf I haven't been following your discussion with redtwister, but this did adress one of your points. I wasn't saying that science is bad, just giving a practical response.

lem
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Dec 7 2006 23:02

I vite we move this debate beyond a mindless right/wrong duality, so RedHughes can mutter something about Horkheimer for a few hours. With no quotes sad

Nah, I mean, Gurrier hasn't moved beyond anything. I suppose I could ignnore him!

RedHughs
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Dec 7 2006 23:30

Sorry if I'm sounding snide.

Sometimes I just panic about having all my insightful bits vanish in dualistic shouting.

Take care,

Red

lem
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Dec 7 2006 23:51

Yeah well fair enough, but was the comment I made to you dualistic shouting. I am intersted, as it was an attempt to enegage with apoint that you had mede in your last post.

RedHughs
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Dec 8 2006 08:30

OK,

Quote:
I personally would say that science should only be privilged wrt things that are trying to do the same things.

Seems like a reasonable point, though I'm not sure that any other efforts to understand the world do exactly the same thing as science. For argument's sake, I will guess that the calendar of the Mayas predicted the weather and provided some form of unifying myth - so the Mayan calendar wouldn't be as accurate as an atomic clock but a Mayan wouldn't necessarily benefit from losing the calendar and gaining such a clock.

Best Wishes,

Red

MalFunction
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Dec 8 2006 13:14

i find the history of science and technology quite interesting. we're only now beginning to appreciate what the empirical workers found through experiment centuries

viz:

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Professor Ian Freestone, Cardiff School of History and Archaeology, said: “Manufacture of the crucibles used in early metallurgy and alchemy challenged the potters as they were required to withstand conditions more extreme than those required of other ceramics. In this case we find that the properties of a material which we regard as modern and high-tech, in this case mullite, were being exploited centuries ago by craftsmen who had a limited scientific understanding of their products but a great deal of skill and ingenuity

http://www.lockergnome.com/nexus/news/2006/11/23/21st-century-technology...

lem
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Dec 8 2006 16:37

Totally confused with that exchange with RedHughes. I apolgise if I came across slightly childish, I had been drinking.

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Seems like a reasonable point, though I'm not sure that any other efforts to understand the world do exactly the same thing as science. For argument's sake, I will guess that the calendar of the Mayas predicted the weather and provided some form of unifying myth - so the Mayan calendar wouldn't be as accurate as an atomic clock but a Mayan wouldn't necessarily benefit from losing the calendar and gaining such a clock

Are you arguing that if they did want a unifying myth they should still except scientific explanation? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it doesn't seem particularly rational, or something.

You don't have to reply. Gurrier does though.

redtwister
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Dec 12 2006 23:16

Hi Red,

Sorry I have not replied, I have been tied up, but also trying to respond carefully. We have very different notions of science, obviously, but I appreciate your thoughtful reply and so I will try to work this up carefully. I managed to spend a few hours on it today and should be done if I can find another hour or two in the next few days.

Cheers,
Chris

RedHughs
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Dec 14 2006 21:58

Chris, I await your reply

You don't have to comment on the following but I would to mention this (I'm probably just repeating my basic approach anyway).

new item wrote:
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is clamping down on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest agency subjected to controls on research that might go against official policy. New rules require screening of all facts and interpretations by agency scientists who study everything from caribou mating to global warming. The rules apply to all scientific papers and other public documents, even minor reports or prepared talks, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Folks mention that the advent of capitalism was necessary to for the growth of science. This seems quite reasonable. It is also worth noting how in the present, decaying period of capitalism ("decadent", "later", "spectacular" or whatever) you see bureaucracy harnessing and controlling science. As Guy Debord said, they are willing to cut down the tree of science to make a cudgel. I think that this present decay of rationality cannot be analyzed effectively by those who take the perspective that scientific rationality is nothing but an epiphenomena of capitalism (not that this really is Chris' interpretation but it is what I have gotten out of Chris statements, fill more in if I'm wrong). Of course, the opposite position is also absurd - who might merely regret the decay of the rationality and not see the capitalist dynamic behind it (the Mike Ruperts, the Lyndon Larouches, etc).

And here, I perhaps self-indulgently return to the original theme of dialectic; I see it as an extra-scientific perspective that looks meta-structurally at material society and sees science (among many other things) as a result. Even more, the dialectic hinges on understanding human activity as a generative phenomena, as a force constantly creating new things yet also limited and only able to begin where it is historically situated - this goes into the concept of labor power and it shows a *creative power* which expands beyond what could be fully described (if this isn't formal enough for you are, I am distinguishing between general recursive and partially recursive descriptions here). But this creative power is still limited by the structure of capitalism. We can see modern capitalism has basically allowed human creativity to expand the chains with which humans bind themselves with. And this same dynamic means that the proletariat, the negation of this dynamic, is ever present in the growth of the elaborate of capital (hence the Marx quote about "radical chains").

And here, I go back to the position that dialectic applies uniquely to human society and that the pure scientific method becomes less relevant (though I would say that border is still going to be fuzzy - the border of science cannot be determined by science).

Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to go about this. Gurnier seems to be missing in action but I would wonder how s/he would comment on all this.

Best,

Red

gurrier
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Dec 15 2006 00:40
RedHughs wrote:
Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to go about this. Gurnier seems to be missing in action but I would wonder how s/he would comment on all this.

Hmmm. Most of the fundamental content seems fairly sensible, although I would just have said.

"Humans are as creative as they can be within the structural limits of the social system that they live in and will push at those limits."

All the stuff about "the dialectic" is poppycock though - you've even turned it into an agent for christ's sake. It's just a simple analytic device - it only exists in the eyes of the observer, it isn't an inherent quality of reality and giving it agency takes the idea far out into the outer reaches of mysticism. The passage would actually make more sense and be less weird if you just called it 'religion' (try it - substitute 'religion' for 'dialectic' above and you get a fairly run of the mill statement of the special nature of religion).

Finally, the notion that the proletariat is the negation of this dynamic is a little past its sell by date. All the evidence to date suggests that Marx was badly wrong in thinking that capitalism would sow the seeds of its own downfall through its creation of the proletariat - it's a purely faith-based statement.

gurrier
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Dec 15 2006 01:29
revol68 wrote:
gurrier aren't you a class struggle anarchist? Who exactly else is going to tbe the grave digger of capitalism, small shop keepers, CEO's, Lawyers, Stock Brokers?

Necessary but not sufficent. I understood redhughs to be expressing an old fashioned mechanical concept of the proletariat overthrowing capitalism, by virtue of its creation by capitalism alone. Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh.

Even so, my money's on the climate as the executioner of capitalism - sadly we'll get it too. Us proles are a long way behind in the running at the moment.

revol68 wrote:
As for dialetics well yes it is an analytic device on one level but it's also the fundamental way that humans relate to the world, not at one with it, nor even at one with ourselves, y'know like how you can't catch your own shadow, or if you try look at yourself in the mirror and put another mirror behind your head it stretches out into infinity?

Bong? Shrooms?

RedHughs
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Dec 15 2006 05:18

Hmm,

Quote:
All the stuff about "the dialectic" is poppycock though - you've even turned it into an agent for christ's sake. It's just a simple analytic device - it only exists in the eyes of the observer, it isn't an inherent quality of reality and giving it agency takes the idea far out into the outer reaches of mysticism.

I notice you quote no specifics here. I'd say my comment SEEMED to give dialectics agency but it didn't really (I certainly wouldn't credit dialectics with agency in anycase). It was just an unfortunate shorthand. I did say "[dialectics].. looks at..." but that was just a short hand for "a person taking a dialectical point of view would look at ...". I think you are inserting a generic critique aimed in the general direction of anyone using the word dialectics - a fill-in-blanks critique with about two seconds spent gathering details. I mean the terminology "science looks at..." has occasionally been used by radicals too but this is an unfortunate pedanticism, not mysticism.

Quote:
Finally, the notion that the proletariat is the negation of this dynamic is a little past its sell by date. All the evidence to date suggests that Marx was badly wrong in thinking that capitalism would sow the seeds of its own downfall through its creation of the proletariat - it's a purely faith-based statement.

Uh, the idea that capitalism generates its supercession doesn't imply the rest of the 2nd International determinism that that this supercession will automatically and directly proceed to glorious sucess. That notion is something of a product of the ... scientism of the 1st and 2nd internationals. The basic idea of capitalism generating its supercession is pretty connected to how "19th century concepts" like class struggle still matter - and to the ways that class struggle still occurs. Whether we proles will actually catch capital before some other catastrophie occurs is still obviously quite up in the air.

The interesting thing is that Gurrier has made various declarations - s/he sits on various scientific commitees, publishes stuff. S/he defends the scientific method. But s/he hasn't said the field that is studied, hasn't touched the question of how or whether the scientific method can be applied to "fields" like human society (or even individual human behavior). I think he's shot entirely for the "low hanging fruit" in this debate. I would like to see some larger point of view or this is just contest between one-liners (not as interesting as you'd think).

Best to all,

Red

redtwister
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Dec 17 2006 05:31

Thanks for the reply Red, it raises the bar in the discussion.

Ok, so we still disagree, but maybe I can add some nuance to this.

On my characterization of science, I am not characterizing it by its intentions. If anything, I view science as another form of labor process which has an attendant conceptualization process associated with. The attempt to treat science as merely an intellectual endeavor or merely an objective way of knowing something called “nature” abstracts from science as a labor process and as the product of human social relations. Focusing on the ideas and the material process is still insufficient. That would be like doing a technical analysis of how an assembly line works, what the people who designed and work on the assembly line think, but no analysis of the labor process or its relation to capital, the production of value, etc. IMO, we can benefit from an approach science learning from how the Johnson-Forrest Tendency, operaismo and later work by people like Harry Braverman and Stephen Marglin, among others, approached technology. Technology is driven by the need to subordinate labor to capital. Technology isn’t neutral. My argument is that neither is natural science. This does not mean that communism means the end of computers any more than it means the falsification of the three laws of thermodynamics, but it does mean a different conceptualization and social employment of that knowledge and of technology, and also the development of knowledge and technology that would be incomprehensible to this society.

My argument is further informed essentially by the work of Alfred Sohn-Rethel, who did not deny in any way, shape or form the validity of the knowledge gained by science, and yet could still argue that science is bound by the limits of the society whose science it is. There is a wonderful essay and exchange in the now defunct journal Radical Science, reproduced in the book Radical Science Essays, on Science as Alienated Consciousness, which grapples with these problems in a very intelligent way. I am also intrigued by Hans-Dieter Bahr's comments in his “Class Structure of Machinery”.

Now, you have suggested that I therefore cannot understand why the US would drop and atom bomb instead of monographs. Aside from being silly and from being followed up by the idea that I am differentiating “good” from “bad” science, something I explicitly rejected in this thread long ago, it misses the point completely. It is what I might call a Red herring.

Just because I know that the development and implementation of technology is driven by class struggle (replacing living labor with dead), that does not mean that I do not know the functional difference between a computer and a typewriter, nor does it mean that I consider either one “good” or “bad”, nor that, again, the revolution will abolish computers.

I am not arguing that natural science does not produce valid knowledge (repetitio ad nauseum), I am arguing that both the way it produces knowledge and the knowledge it produces are outcomes of a capitalist labor process, about the production of a relation to the exterior world in which something exterior to us called “nature”, is conceived as “not human”, and as a source of raw material “resources” for the production of commodities. I am arguing that the science we know is predicated on the split between intellectual and manual labor, and that the current form of science is the product of the specific ways in which that split is articulated. I am not thereby denying the existence of the world, but I am historicizing our conceptualization of it and our relation to it socially.

I find this paragraph particularly enlightening:

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If one were to look at science as material process, one would see scientists intending to understand "the universe" through division and separation and succeeding in getting producible phenomena in those areas which are simple enough to yield to this method (areas like the behavior of solids, non-living chemicals, growth of simple micro-organisms, etc). The characteristics of the material world determine which parts of "the universe" yield to these methods. And since it happens that simple phenomena are also pretty common in the natural world, the natural world has yielded a LOT of reproducible phenomena, making science very effective at describing, predicting and often controlling these phenomena.

“If one were to look at science as a material process...” I am not primarily looking at science as a material process, anymore than my first concern with the assembly line is its technical structure, though that is certainly not irrelevant on a closer analysis than we can give here. Your starting point takes science’s own claims about itself for granted. It assumes what must be shown. Once one accepts science as first a material process, and not a social/labor process, then the social aspect becomes about “good” versus “bad” science, science versus values, scientific reason versus unscientific (un)reason, and the ethics of science. Rather, in starting with science as a social process, as a labor process, we ask what it produces and how it produces what it produces and the social nature of the labor that produces, and for whom it produces. The result is that natural science itself has to be the subject of our critique, as itself (re)producing not merely knowledge of nature, but capitalist social relations and ideology. Starting from science as a labor process, it is possible to ask systematically about the division of labor in science, from custodians to lab assistants to research assistants to graduate students to scientists doing “normal” science to scientists doing “basic” science; it is possible to think more clearly about the relation of “basic” research, technology and commodities, as well as “objective facts” against “subjective values”; it allows us to look at how this labor process objectively (re)produces different kinds of bourgeois ideology, esp. the naturalization and rationalization of the separation of facts and values, of reductionism, of privileging quantification over logic, quality, the separation of mental and manual labor, etc.

That said, I would partially agree with your assessment of science as a material process, within certain limits, say primarily physics and chemistry or even broadly inorganic natural science, pre-1935, but it hardly will do for biology, especially after the Modern Synthesis. And it becomes increasingly complex once we enter into psychology, psychiatry, and medicine, in which actual knowledge and ideology are very hard to differentiate.

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Yes, it is absolutely true that I view materialism as giving a privileged position to the scientific concept of the material world for this reason. And you can call it tautological since I use scientific evidence for this but I also use my personal, material experience of knowing basic science and using it to understand a variety of everyday occurrences. Human behavior may not yield to simplistic scientific research but human still live in a material world, many of who's components do yield well to such research and thus the understandings which natural science has achieved are important (are the predictions of global warming more or less important than the predictions of various new age gurus, social scientists or remaining shaman (not that shaman don't have other useful stuff to offer us)).

See, this is something of a difference with us. To me, the acceptance of the objective reality of the material world is insufficient. Hell’s bells man, Hegel never denied the objective reality of the material world. Objective idealists do not. In fact, they can even say that God created the world (the Big Bang), and everything thereafter works according to the laws of that that nature and not by deistic fiat. Such people can, except “in the last instance,” still hold a fully scientific view of nature. Not every idealist is an empirio-monist or Berkleyan subjective idealist or Nietzschean irrationalist or Zirzanian primitivist, after all.

The “scientific concept of the material world” refers to a naïve philosophical position: natural-scientific or mechanical materialism, not merely of realism but of the primacy of the material, and is necessary for a certain kind of atheism, but not for doing natural science. This was not even a view held to by all of the greatest scientists, such as Newton or Descartes or other scientists whose research was in part motivated by the desire to say, turn led into gold. Nor is it clear that it was held by contemporary physicists like Heisenberg and certain of the supporters of quantum physics (the pro-Heisenber side opposing Schroedinger and Einstein seem to have won the day mostly, and they were most certainly irrationalists), nor many of the apostles of “complexity” and “chaos”. So at best, you are imputing an unconscious materialism to them: materialism in their research, driven by the nature of nature, so to speak. Of course, one could argue that this requires nothing more than the philosophical realism attendant to both objective idealism and naïve materialism.

More importantly, for me what makes for a real materialism, a really rigorous, scientific (qua wissenschaft) materialism, a revolutionary materialism, is not hugging to natural-scientific materialism, but Marx’s materialism. Marx does not start from the ontological arguments over the nature of reality. Z. A. Jordan’s otherwise uneven book makes a very good case for this: Marx assumed that the material world objectively exists because only a buffoon thinks otherwise. Marx settles with mechanical materialism and its limits already in the Theses on Feuerbach. The primacy in Marx’s materialism does not fall to inorganic matter or even all organic matter or to matter at all: it falls to the social practice of humanity, in which the primacy of the material world is a predicate. Natural-scientific materialism is immune to self-understanding and to the comprehension of human praxis. Marx’s materialism is concerned with human social practice, and science and its comprehension falls exactly within this human social practice. Otherwise, IMO, you are trying to explain natural science by its object, and there you end up with transcendental arguments about the hardwiring of “science” into our heads a la gurrier or the garbage of sociobiology and evpsych.

“Marx, as a materialist, understood that the categories of political economy were a product of historical development and specifically of the historical development of the social relations of production. This point must be emphasised if only because of the attack launched by Althusser and others against this conception, which we believe to be at the very centre of Marxism. In his review of the history of political economy, Marx at all times insists upon the objectivity of the categories of the science: ‘They are socially valid and therefore objective thought forms’…” (Geoff Pilling)

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I view a dialectical as arising out of human, subjective experiences rather than being a universal process which can understand everything equally. It seems to me that a notable weakness of historical Marxism that it viewed dialectics as a superior form of science rather than viewing it as an extra-scientific approach informed by an understanding of science.

I have not claimed that Marx was scientific in the natural-scientific sense, here or in many, many years. I essentially agree with the characterization of Marx made by Helmut Reichelt and Hans-Georg Backhaus that Marx (and the best of subsequent “Marxism”) falls between science and philosophy. That however is a far cry from your treatment of nature as objective, human as subjective which reproduces an essential component of bourgeois ideology, the subject and object divorced from each other.

As for “historical Marxism”, I am not sure what that means. “Marxism historically viewed dialectics as…”? Marxism as a historicist form of knowing?

Rather, Marx certainly viewed dialectic as superior and scientific, but in a specific sense. Marx uses the term critique and science almost interchangeably. As Marx puts it in Capital, Vol. 3 “all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided”. Critique has the task of showing why this appearance is the necessary appearance of that essence, of displaying why this essence takes that appearance. This is the meaning of science qua wissenschaft. It is not a rejection of a mastery of the empirical material, it is not hostile to the analytical work necessary, and it does not deny the reality of the material world (though obviously if we didn’t exist, the “objectivity of the material world” would be meaningless because there would be no one to bother on about its objective existence) nor the non-existence of supernatural beings, but it also does not banish values, meaning, and philosophical questions re: not merely “Is X true?”, but “What is truth?”. Marx’s materialism attends to both fact and value simultaneously. This is not necessary in explaining the motion of planets, but it is necessary in explaining why Galileo understands this in a historically unique way (which cannot be explained merely by technology nor empirical research, as Rudolph Carnap showed long ago in his discussion of Einstein. For a nice discussion of this, see Who Rules in Science, by James Robert Brown, a book I think you would find yourself most amenable to.)

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But since this comes down to a debate on labels, I'll drop it for the fundamental question of whether science should have some privileged position in our understanding of the world in general and revolutionary theory in particular (naturally, I think it should be privileged and that we should be critical of it - which is the useful part of dialectics I see).

Since we do not agree on what science means, this will be hard. I do not agree that natural science has some privileged position in revolutionary theory. I am not even sure what you mean by that. Revolutionary theory is the ruthless critique of everything existing, or it is nothing. Natural science is no such thing, whatever its other good qualities. This is neither to reject science nor to reject struggles over the knowledge generated by science, but whether or not water boils at 32 degrees Fahrenheit/0 degrees Celsius or not, whether light is a wave or a particle or both or even whether speciation happens by leaps or gradually is not per se our problem. Even proving evolution will not make a single communist nor increase class consciousness, and if one was to judge by the level of class struggle and not by “scientific enlightenment”, the most radical workers’ movements in the U.S. have often been among people who were devout believers in a creator. The miners in the 1920’s, the workers in the plains states in 1912, Populists in the 1890’s, black and catholic white workers in the 1960’s were all quite theistic on the whole. Meanwhile, the rancid liberalism of sociobiology and evpsych lay claim to being rational, scientific, precise, etc., and all of them are individualistic, defending the status quo (whether liberal neo-liberals or reactionary neo-liberals) and attempting to use science to define the boundaries of humanity, especially to set feminism, communism, anarchism, etc. out of bounds. But these are anti-religious, rational, often atheists, defenders of science against superstition, etc. Who will defend us from their superstition, mysticism, nonsense, etc? In other words, natural scientific rationality is not itself any less absurd when it comes to human beings. The end of religion comes not with the forward march of science but with the abolition of alienated relations between human beings. The knowledge generated by natural science will have to be appropriated, but it is also simply wrong to claim that it will proceed with the same methods or conceptualizations, or that the relevance of that knowledge will be seen in the same way.

I am not supporting people believing in creationism over evolution, btw, but the problem with creationism is that it puts God, not humanity, in the driver's seat. That is the problem, the true problem, with all religion, that it makes human beings and human practice subordinate to another, alien being. Nature, as is the case with sociobiology and evpsych, makes a very similar, though these days more cautiously hedged, claim (and yes, it is possible to argue that it is “bad” science, but that is a technical debate that I honestly can only take so far because i am not a biologist, just an interested layman), but that alien being is nature.

More importantly, while one can make the critique of scientific theories or of reactionary, theistic, idealistic nonsense using science, it is not revolutionary critique because it does not get to the root of why the people who were religious but working class radicals in 1906 are religious but working class reactionaries in 2006. That, not whether we descended from other species, is the problem with the fight. Otherwise, the logical battle is between “enlightened, scientific” individuals and the ignorant masses of what a friend of mine calls Dumbfuckistan. And yet, is it so hard to imagine that the technocratic rationality of contemporary science is quite alienating? That people fear science after Auschwitz, atomic energy and bombs, uncertainty over the uses and abuses of genetic manipulation, Tuskegee, army tests of LSD on unwitting soldiers, agent orange and Gulf War Syndrome, etc., not to mention the simple reduction of work to more and more dull and meaningless activity of machine operation? Scientists may not care if people feel this way, but I think we are obliged to take it into consideration and not merely pretend that science is neutral, is something not connected to capital. This is a new Luddism, arguably, but even though Luddism then was futile and is so now, what animates it is not unimportant and seems to me to be written into the very structure of bourgeois natural science, even as it produces inarguably accurate knowledge of many things in the world.

The problem is not merely to critique bad science, but to critique natural science as such, as a labor process, a social process, just as it is to not bray on about atheism and that “Man makes God”, but to show why X society gives rise to Y religious belief.

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Critiques are appropriate to the domain and not universally applied based only on the ideas of those involved – again, one should look ideas and material processes. I think that the analysis of Thomas Kuhn is a useful look at the natural sciences (see earlier comment). But again, because rocks and human beings are different (shock, horror), scientific methods and processes produce different things when applied to them. Natural sciences really do produce reproducible phenomena used in production and even daily life outside production whereas the social sciences produce primarily ideology (natural sciences can also produce some ideology but these scientists are generally too busy actually dealing with the physical world to be bothered).

I am talking about all the processes. You are the one not looking at the formation of natural science as a social process and natural science itself as a labor process. Kuhn stays completely internal to science, as if science were self-referential for its categories, analyses, insights, innovations, etc.

Also, assuming that Marx’s dialectic is a method we should apply strikes me as completely wrong-headed. Dialectic is not a methodology that can be applied to different objects. Marx’s dialectic and Hegel’s might be opposite, but I still think that the Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit is the most succinct and sharp critique of methodology, although I am also a fan of Richard Gunn, who addresses this matter. Suffice to say, to have a method to apply, one must determine the object and determine that the method is appropriate to the object. In this way, the method can also determine the object uncritically, as only those things that the methodology can recognize are accepted as objects. Dialectic, if it operated in this fashion, would be just another bourgeois ideology. If anything, philosophy as methodology (instead of as a cosmology) is the core of 20th century philosophy, especially philosophy of science, as the victory of natural science has also engendered the banishment of philosophy as anything but methodology, unless one dives into the Nietzschean irrationalisms of Heidegger, phenomenology, existentialism, Deleuzoguattarian Spinozism, etc.

On the last sentence, let me reiterate that human beings produced reproducible phenomena used in production and even outside reproduction in daily life before there was “natural science” as a separate sphere. This includes in capitalist society, where for example the steam engine or Bessemer process were not the product of the conscious application of Newtonian physics. While there is no doubt that science, especially in the 20th and early 21st centuries, has increasingly produced immediate technological innovation (some are beginning to argue that the normal science/basic science division is rapidly becoming irrelevant), and as we enter a period where there are high hopes for using biotechnology to shape and control human beings at the neural, cellular, and genetic levels, not merely through control of the exterior environment or by exterior imposition on the body, human beings have in fact employed technology and techniques and methods systematically for millennia. These techniques were usually not generalized into conclusions re: “nature” (to the extent that such a concept existed prior to the 16th century), and certainly generally not without reference to extra-natural and extra-human explanations, but this was because only capital generalized phenomena and techniques in this fashion, as it generalized particular human labors into homogenous human labor power.

As I said before, the great bladesmiths of Japan and Damascus understood iron and steel very, very well, within the confines of their craft. They understood how to manipulate it, how to hone it, how to fold it so that a sword might be made with a thousand or more folds of steel. They did not have a “scientific” understanding of steel, of its molecular structure, of atoms, of what specifically transpires metallurgically in the process of heat-treating a blade. No more did breeders understand genetics nor silk weavers the biology of silk worms or the chemical properties of silk, nor what transpired when they made dyes and dyed cloth. They generally did not seek abstract, underlying principles independent of the material with which they worked. This abstraction, this generalization, and the resultant quantification and often reductionism (treating of wholes as mere collections of parts, of bodies as machines) only develops with the development of capital.

I think we ought to ask why it is today, even relative to science in the 16th-19th centuries, current natural science is more and more directly subordinated to production and to generating directly usable technology and what this means. Simply defending science against “irrational enemies” is wholly inadequate.

Are its achievements immense? Indeed. Has it added an incredible wealth of information about the world? Certainly, more than ever before. Has it also rejected other kinds of knowledge that are nonetheless effective? Absolutely. There were things other peoples knew about the world that we have lost because they cannot be measured or comprehended adequately by modern science, no doubt one reason modern pharmaceutical and chemical companies look to pillage what remains of traditional knowledge. Have the separation of facts from values, quantification, reductionism, generalization all been extremely efficient? Yes. At the same time, this knowledge is inseparable from a certain reductive stupidity towards the world, a certain instrumentalism towards those things which cannot be handled in this fashion.

As for Adorno and Horkheimer, I hear a lot of people talk about them, mostly disparagingly, but I am not familiar with their work in this respect. As for what Zerzan does with them, I think we can no more blame Adorno and Horkheimer for John Zerzan than we can blame Bakunin for Bob Black. I know there is deep hostility towards the Frankfurters on this, against Marcuse as well, but that is all I know about the matter.

I certainly have never defended anything even like primitivism. Quite the contrary. I have frequently criticized notions of revolution of simply withdrawing from capital as primitivism inherent in a lot of autonomism (I wrote a long rebuff to just this tendency in the book Auroras of the Zapatistas.) So I must admit that being lumped with such nonsense amuses me greatly.

Well, that is enough for now.

Chris
Off topic, is ASAN still around?

lem
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Dec 22 2006 05:40

Bloody poor showing on my part there. Back to Gurrier: what evidence is there that if you filter scientists through tye cientific methoc what they discover is value free? Gurrier has been beating his chest for 14 pages and I am still fundamentally confused as to why anyone should agree with him.

redtwister
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Dec 25 2006 18:15

Hans Georg Backhaus discusses Marxism as "Between philosophy and science" in Open Marxism Vol. 1, it is the best article in the book.

He makes a few observations that may serve us in this discussion.

"The difference between the object of traditional theory , that of the natural sciences in particular, and the objectivity of critical theory, can be made clear in the following manner.Society is not merely object, but at the same time Subject. It autonomy (Eigengesetzlichkheit) is thus paradoxical. Society is only 'objective' insofar as and 'because' its 'own subjectivity is not transparent' to it. However, what proceeds 'behind the back' of the subjects is the supraindividual totality of work, which Adorno also terms the 'universal', the epitome of 'labour in general.'" (p. 57)

This would seem to indicate that nature as an object and society as an object are incommensurate because society is our production in a way that nature is not.

Further...

"Only by positing a subject-object-dialectic as the core proper of the economic process - which is dialectical insofar as subject and object 'are the same and yet not the same' - does it become sufficiently clear that and how Marx transforms 'economic theory into critical theory.'

Clearly in relation to nature, we cannot say that the subject and object are 'the same and yet not the same'. We are a part of and product of nature, but proceeding from the above question of the constitution of the objective by the subjective and the subjective by the objective, we do not constitute nature.

I do not think that Hegel ever held that Nature could be dialectical, since Nature is essentially flat being. The problem is how this flat being appears to us at all (pace Zizek in The Parallax View.) Hegel's basic critique of natural science is that no matter how correct its observations on nature, it does not grapple with itself as an object (Force and the Understanding, Observing Reason.) Nature does not have a history, for Hegel (Phenomenology, para. 295), insofar as a history would imply the possibility of self-consciousness. I can only speculate that Marx in some sense agrees insofar as for Marx there is no 'History' in the sense that "History' does nothing: history does not fight wars, make art, produce iPods, etc., human beings do. History as such for Marx is only human social practice over time and in space, not a subject. But neither is Society or Spirit, for Marx, and science is clearly a human activity. Now we could say that as a product of nature, human beings are the self-consciousness of nature, that is, natural beings who become conscious of nature and themselves as natural beings. This would follow from Hegel's presupposition if one rejects his theism, which turns Hegel on his head and produces a view which is the exact opposite of Hegel's. Could it be then that evolutionary theory indirectly intervenes in the debate?

I also think that Backhaus' reconstruction of critical theory should properly take us in a direction different from Adorno and Horkheimer because of the incommensurability of society and nature as objects and as objective, that is, in their constitution. Society is constituted by and constitutes its subjects, nature however does not work like this (at least, not in any meaningful sense of Subject as used in philosophy.) However certain scientists like Lewontin have argued to great effect that organisms constitute their own environment to some degree, that there are not environments or ecological niches objective of the organism that exists in them. However, to stretch it would assume that nature like society is both sensuous and supersensuous, which would assume that nature is like society, alienated. I think this is where irrationalism and relativism comes in.

From this, Backhaus does not reject the base-superstructure model, but treats it as a popularization which only makes sense in relation to this subject-object-dialectic. He cites Leo Kofler as an important touchstone, but I am not familiar with Kofler as there is almost nothing in English (brief bio at http://www.answers.com/topic/leo-kofler.)

He further notes on p. 62 that "For Marx it is not its quantitative determination, but the 'doing away with the alienated forms' which constitutes the main task of critical economy, which sees itself to be diametrically opposed to mathematical economics, which, indeed feels 'completely at home in alienation', that is to say, in its element."

I think this further elucidates what is incommesurable between society and nature, if we take (class) society as an alienated/deranged form of human relations. Thus, just as political economy has two tendencies, objective (Ricardo, Smith, Quesnay, etc.) and subjective (Mill, marginalism, Keynes, neo-classical economics, etc.), so capitalist ideology will then have two attitudes towards nature, scientific and irrationalist. The objective takes its methods for granted because it identifies itself with the object, while the latter treats the object as the same as society, as fundamentally irrational and alienated. The former cannot grasp itself as historical and social because it believes that in dealing with an un-alienated object it is itself un-alienated, not a form of human consciousness, while the latter, rejecting any reality as unalienated or as rational or objective, ends up at best with the objectivity of nature as a Kantian ding an sich. Maybe this is why science is hostile to the Kantian unknowability of the thing in itself of SSK, Latour, etc., much as the Catholic church rejects Kant as unreliable in his defense of God. In either case, Kantian skepticism underlies Nietzschean irrationalism, as I have argued elsewhere, and I suspect it underlies much of anti-science and science-studies relativism, as well as the problems in much philosophy of science.

Backhaus further implies a fundamental difference between natural and social objectivity in the following:
"If Joan Robinson demands the 'translation' of Marxian terminology, this demand unwittingly betrays the fact that even left neo-Ricardianism mistakes 'alienated forms' for 'natural ones' (Das Kapital, vol. 3, p. 838), 'floats' in them as its 'natural element' (Theories of Surplus-Value vol. 3, p. 493). What is at issue here is a way of thinking that 'possesses the natural air of superficial rationalism' (Das Kapital, Vol. 2, p. 96) which considers the produced forms to be 'natural', to be structures of nature which are not produced by us."

Backhaus is clearly at pains to distinguish between what is natural, that is, what is not produced by us, with society and social structures, which is produced by us, and the "scientific" pretense of political economy to be studying a "natural" object.

The problem with natural science as such then is not per se in the object as it is in the social sciences, but in science itself as human social activity and form of consciousness. I think this is why Alfred Sohn-Rethel argues for science as alienated consciousnesness, but rejects treating it as an ideology. He is making some distinction between the ideological treatment of nature and that we only grasp nature through the categories available to us as social beings and ideology as the objectification, out of human practice, of society, that which has an object-subject structure. The problem then is, does Sohn-Rethel himself fall into a Kantian problem of how it is that we know nature at all if we only know it through an alienated consciousness?

Chris

lem
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Dec 25 2006 19:28

Hi. Interesting post redtwister. I just don't understand this though

Quote:
Society is only 'objective' insofar as and 'because' its 'own subjectivity is not transparent' to it.

Surely we can say that social study is objective in so far and because its own subjectivity is transparent! This seems like the more obvious truth to me. Sorry to bring the discussion down...

lem
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Dec 25 2006 19:56

Yeah. Even if subjectivity was transparent (stipulatively) the act of studing would alter it. I guess I was thinkning of Hegel's absolute knowing (or whatever its called, still haven't got round to reading phenomenology)

RedHughs
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Dec 26 2006 22:28

Hmm, Discussion moving along. My disagreements with the positions that Chris sketches out in his latest post (timestamp: Mon, 25/12/2006 - 18:15) are small and subtle. But they relate to the large disagreements that we had earlier. What I disagree most with are things that he doesn't say - assumptions that he makes about natural science that I think cast his analysis in a different light (I think I would actually move the discussion in the opposite direction from what I think he is imagining my "mechanical materialist" position to be).

There are a lot of issues and since things are going quickly, I am trying to deal with them quickly - I'm not going to do a point-by-point since that would just take too long. I'm sure lots of typos but I am trying to post this before the discussion gets completely stale.

1) Chris chides me for taking the viewpoint that natural science gets correct results based on the view that communism must critique science as a part of capitalism. There is no contradiction in this. What is true must should be true from all viewpoints. The significance of these truths vary from viewpoint to viewpoint but that is a different, though important matter. We can look at science as both a social process and a material process depending on what is most convenient.

2) It is crucial to look at science if you are looking at the practical activity of discovering things that are true. In his recent posts, Chris hasn't said much about the nature of science but his original discussion of it along with off-hand remarks seem to identify it with a kind of Aristotelian exercise of simply applying mathematics and reductionism to the natural world. A purely mechanical exercise in discovering purely mechanical phenomena. In reality, science has to be more complex and sophisticate to deal with the complexity of even unliving reality. The scientific method is a sophisticated feedback system. Skepticism, the reproduction of experiments and the insistence on quantitative results are not simple "reductionism". They are tools which prevent the natural human impulse of observing what one already believes. And given that the tendency to believe what is convenient, what serves one's immediate interest, is extremely powerful, a search for effective understanding needs a framework for filtering out this prejudice. When this process functions effectively, science is not beholden to the particular rationalist or irrationalist viewpoints of various scientists because the scientific method reins-in deviations. Science is not equal to Newton or Heisenberg but to overall approach of questioning one's approach by requiring duplication of experiments, falsification of hypotheses and quantification of results (boo hiss).

This might read like a paean to science but I also totally accept the point that science is product of the capitalism. The point isn't that such a method is invariably arrives at effective understanding. BUT that a more round-about, SELF-QUESTIONING method is necessary to EVEN understand relatively SIMPLY phenomena.

3) Dialectics is not natural science. Here I agree with much of what Chris puts forward but I would add the point that Hegel and more Marx actually failed to be really clear about extra-scientific nature of such an approach. I mean, Hegel’s basic idea of the dialectic itself is profound but every single example he picks ("sense certainty", master-slave relation, science or whatever) is provincial poppycock, the laughable absurdity of a stupid 19th century Prussian. The degree to which he takes up dialectic as having the certainty of "Science" (naturally beyond the certainty that even simple natural science can claim) is the degree to which his approach was clearly counter-revolutionary. We can see this displayed in his support for the North in the American Civil War, where his political position followed from this faith in progress flowing out of a faith in scientism.

It is important not to underestimate the power of scienticism. Certainly, the degree to which Marxian theory has been presented as a scientific certainty is the degree to which the twists and turns of capitalist development have swept it away - and we can see that this is very large degree indeed. Scientism has a considerable resonance by the very effectiveness of science.

4) Contrary to the positions of a "better than science" Marxism, as communists we must be even more self-interrogating than natural science. To be more self-interrogating than natural science requires one to be less certain. As Chris loves to point out, science indeed has its historical origins within the quantification of human activity generated by capitalism. We know that applying the tools of natural science to human activity is impossible since we cannot generate repeatable conditions. Rather, there are particular concepts which flow out of the very natural of the growth of capitalism. In particular, capital quantifies labor, the entirety of human possibilities and thus allows the growth of this materialized quantification - capitalism - to stand against the laborer as a concrete relation even though it is beyond any fixed system of quantification.

5) The opposite of the purely objective scientific Marxism (or communism) is the subjective-object position described by Guy Debord in Society Of The Spectacle, Chapter 4. Since we do not have a natural science to present us with a single, relatively objective position concerning the future path of human society, we must choose the position that is most in harmony with our goal. This choice comes from the process that we are already a part of - rather than being separated from history, we are inherently part of the flow of history and this cannot be separated from choices we make when we are choosing from several otherwise plausible ideas. The scientific encompasses those things which can be verified just because they are objectively proven and in the realm of the social, we are standing outside this area. This concept of extra-scientific activity is very much within Hegel’s preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit.

6) I like the positions of Hegel in the preface to Phenomenology Of Spirit is good but it is akin to describing the solution of an algebraic equation. It's right but it might not make the underlying process evident. Moreover, like a quadratic equation, it yield both the correct answer and impossible values wherein the correct answer needs to be discovered again through a look at the underlying situation. If this whole point seems meaningless, you can ignore but I include it to give an idea of how we reconcile the different points of origin that we are discussing. We are not bourgeois individuals objectively choosing the tools that will bring us the goals which ours egos have arbitrarily decided upon. But it is worth talking like that for a moment - it is a clearer position AND most people today will need to reason themselves out of this position.

7) The equations and positions we take are never simple objective formulations. They are objective-subjective fusions. Obviously, we don't want to take positions that are logically contradictory but we still have a large range among positions that are not logically contradictory. Moreover, there are some logically contradictory positions which can be corrected sufficiently to be useful and if these express the conditions of the zeitgeist then such correction is an important part of our activities.

8) Here, the other threads recent threads can be wrapped within this framework:

A) Whether Marx was able to prove that the rate of profit declines is in itself utterly irrelevant - if this position is taken as an oracular statement akin to Nostradamus. Rather, by seeing the declining rate of profit as a contradictions between the increasing socialization of labor and capitalist relations, Marx's particular formulation of the declining rate of profits gives a description of the subjective and structural dynamics with which present day "crisis capital" operates. Obviously, I believe that the modern "Marxian Economic" formulation actually does serve to the reconcile what I believe are the contradictions between Capital I and Capital III but I would say my contribution involves a few extra tweaks to the model to make the consistency clearer and the

B) Just as much, The Situationist's description of "The Spectacle" is also an important objective-subjective analysis. Certainly, the phenomena analyzed in Society Of The Spectacle are not new under capitalism. But considering one can empirically discover that these particular phenomena have become tremendously influential within the larger operation of capitalism after the dawn of the "spectacular era" (post 1940-50), it is a useful practical approach to label them as a "sub-dynamic" - not an autonomous force but as an apparently autonomous force. Certainly, the degree to which the Situationists took the "order-giver, order-taker" view of capitalism is the extent that they were mistaken and propagated a variety of democratic illusions.

C) The conception of communism itself follows this pattern as well. To name communism is to posit a social relationship that is the negation of capitalism. The relevance of the concept comes from we communist subjective identification with this current, our subjective experience of the barest beginnings of communism is part of what makes it a plausible reality.

And anyway, I am quite happy with this approach and it likely will appear in an article in ASAN - considerably reworked, when I happen to have the time and money to publish it.

Red

redtwister
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Dec 26 2006 23:43
Quote:
Chris chides me for taking the viewpoint that natural science gets correct results based on the view that communism must critique science as a part of capitalism. There is no contradiction in this. What is true must should be true from all viewpoints. The significance of these truths vary from viewpoint to viewpoint but that is a different, though important matter. We can look at science as both a social process and a material process depending on what is most convenient.

I would not express it this way. I am not chiding you for arguing that natural science gets correct results at all. I agree. I am “chiding you” (far more gurrier, et al) for not formulating adequately the relation between natural science at the level of 1) conceptualization and 2) labor process in relation to the social relations of capital, which dominates the conceptualization process and determines the labor process. I am distinguishing between dominates in the former and determines in the latter because nature as an object and society as an object are not equivalent objects, a frequent mistake of both scientism and irrationalism (or what we might call the objectivist and subjectivist poles of traditional subject-object dualism.) Natural science deals with an extra-human object and objectivity, but through human concepts generated by human social relations. Social science deals with extra-mental but not extra-human objects and objectivity. The two are not commensurable and this has a lot to do with the possibility of natural science to produce objective knowledge, while at the same time requiring us to ask how it is that natural science comes about how and when it does; with the conceptual apparatus it deploys, which is not merely based on accurate empirical analysis, but conceptualization and thought-experiments; the limits of its knowledge; its incapacity to understand itself; its reproduction of the division between intellectual and manual labor, etc.
For example, Galileo's argument re: inertia was a thought experiment, not an empirical observation. He was quite clear about this. And yet it had tremendous import for studying nature. Whence comes this conceptualization? Sohn-Rethel makes a detailed argument that I cannot reproduce here about the importance of the generalization of exchange-relations for the possibility of conceiving of the problem in a way that allowed its resolution even in the absence of empirical proof.
In a similar way, one could argue that 'punctuated equilibria' was a solution to an old problem in evolutionary biology that was not based on new empirical material or research, but on a specific re-analysis of old empirical material and a known problem. The conceptualization cannot even be reduced to Gould's exposure to Marxism, as the core of the neo-Darwinian Synthesis folks were themselves Marxists. So something else must account for this shift that is not merely internal to science or even to intellectual history proper. That does not invalidate it!

Quote:
It is crucial to look at science if you are looking at the practical activity of discovering things that are true. In his recent posts, Chris hasn't said much about the nature of science but his original discussion of it along with off-hand remarks seem to identify it with a kind of Aristotelian exercise of simply applying mathematics and reductionism to the natural world. A purely mechanical exercise in discovering purely mechanical phenomena. In reality, science has to be more complex and sophisticate to deal with the complexity of even unliving reality. The scientific method is a sophisticated feedback system. Skepticism, the reproduction of experiments and the insistence on quantitative results are not simple "reductionism". They are tools which prevent the natural human impulse of observing what one already believes. And given that the tendency to believe what is convenient, what serves one's immediate interest, is extremely powerful, a search for effective understanding needs a framework for filtering out this prejudice. When this process functions effectively, science is not beholden to the particular rationalist or irrationalist viewpoints of various scientists because the scientific method reins-in deviations. Science is not equal to Newton or Heisenberg but to overall approach of questioning one's approach by requiring duplication of experiments, falsification of hypotheses and quantification of results (boo hiss).

I have not now nor since rejected the formal methods of the 'feedback system' of natural science. Though i have argued against some laughable epistemological construction called The Scientific Method. I have pointed out that they do not explain a lot of things, such as Galileo's inertia or Gould and Eldridge's punctuated equilibria. Nor do they come specifically from the study of nature, hence my points re: peer review coming from Islamic legal theory, religious discussion and philosophy. Nor did I anywhere reject quantitative methods as important and valid. Instead, I questioned the idea that mathematics and quantification is the language of nature, a question of epistemological and ontological implications, and that that which cannot be quantified or reduced to its aliquot parts (re: reductionism) is not within the ambit of scientific knowledge. I have argued that these are essential components of bourgeois natural science, modern science in the bourgeois epoch for the skittish, and that they are products of bourgeois society. This does not automatically require that they obscure every question. In many things, they illuminate what had previously been unclear. However, as we move into other areas, they can in fact obscure complex processes which cannot be treated reductively or which are not per se quantifiable. It is no accident that these problems are highlighted in biology, physiology, medicine and psychology more than in inorganic sciences, and it is no accident that it has been biologists who have led the critique of quantification and reductionism as ontological categories, while accepting them as valid methods within limits.
The quantification of social life is not exactly the same problem, and I have no doubt erred on nearly, and in some cases actually, conflating the two. As I am trying to work through, there is no subject-object relation between nature and human beings in the fashion in which we can talk about it between society and human beings, in which society is treated as Subject, although accounts of nature which try to make it a Subject are IMO amenable to this critique. However, most natural scientists are correctly not teleological in relation to nature because teleology assumes purpose, intent, i.e. consciousness and even self-consciousness. As there is no extra-human society, the issue is not the same and natural science can in fact produce objective knowledge insofar as its object is indeed objective qua extra-human, not merely extra-mental.
The questions arise in the domain of method, conceptualization, labor process, i.e. in science, not in the objective knowability of the object of science, the extra-human world.

Quote:
Dialectics is not natural science. Here I agree with much of what Chris puts forward but I would add the point that Hegel and more Marx actually failed to be really clear about extra-scientific nature of such an approach. I mean, Hegel’s basic idea of the dialectic itself is profound but every single example he picks ("sense certainty", master-slave relation, science or whatever) is provincial poppycock, the laughable absurdity of a stupid 19th century Prussian. The degree to which he takes up dialectic as having the certainty of "Science" (naturally beyond the certainty that even simple natural science can claim) is the degree to which his approach was clearly counter-revolutionary. We can see this displayed in his support for the North in the American Civil War, where his political position followed from this faith in progress flowing out of a faith in scientism.

Um, just a pointer that you slide from Hegel to Marx. Hegel did not live to see the Civil War, and Marx did not deal directly with Sense-certainty (except in The Holy Family, where he takes a swipe at Hegel on this.) Not only that, calling Hegel provincial is laughable, as he like his contemporaries was a student of the natural sciences, political economy, the whole of the European Enlightenment philosophy, and as much of world history as was then known.
More importantly, you would have to show how sense-certainty, sense-perception, Force and the understanding, etc. are 'provincial poppycock', since within these Hegel deals with every single major issue that any philosopher worth naming takes up. For example, para. 293 of the Phenomenology is a tour-de-force hit at the problems of one to many, essnece and appearance, and mind-being, key philosophical issues to say the least, all taken up in the context of Observing Reason, itself framed in relation to organic being (not Force and Understanding which is focused on inorganic being, specifically Newtonian mechanics and even more so the electro-magnetic and chemical theories of his day).
I also disagree with your estimation of Marx's evaluation of the Civil War. I tend to think it flowed from his estimation that labor in white skin cannot be free where labor in black skin is enslaved. While he saw the slave owners as bourgeois, as capitalists of the flesh trade, slavery as a form of labor presented a formidable barrier to the revolutionary organization and solidarity of the class, and the abolition of slavery was essential.
That said, on scientism we agree as to its power and pitfalls.
On the rest, well, I assume you are going off in your own directions with this and for the sake of limiting my replies, I'll leave them aside.
Cheers,
Chris

lem
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Jan 7 2007 11:42

Haven't read /\ posts yet, but, I want to shout a Gurrier again tongue

Gurrier, how can you seriously justify not having an open dialogue with philosophy. If that attitude is taken by scientists, then, if the question has any bearing, its going to be decided on politics, and politics alone: which means we lose. Something like that anyway, there was more to thast point, but Gurrier won't reply anyway sad

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Choccy
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Nov 23 2007 14:20
gurrier wrote:
Lets move on from boring old science and talk about football.

My new "philosophy of football" discussion has the following entry requirements.

* You get extra points if you've never played a game
* Not knowing the rules helps immeasurably
* Watching games is a distraction from the important questions.

Now, for our first topic, we'll discuss the well known viability problem as introduced by Timons of Athens.

"does the ball exist?"

Fuck I just revisited this thread because of the evolutionary spychology stuff that was going on in that Babies can tell if yer good or bad thread

What would be considred football? and when does a particular game stop being football? Does it have to be association-rules? Is 5-aside still football?. What about if you have a rotating goalkeeper or fly-nets? What if you don't play the offside rule?
If you're playing 2 on 2 in the street is it football? What about "headers and volleys"?

So there's no "ideal football", other than you kick the ball with your feet and can't lift it up unless you're in the assigned position of goalkeeper.

the only reason I'm talking this shite is becasue Gurrier is going on about the "rules". I'd of course agree that science clearly does have a rule-set, namely that of methodological naturalism, but as far as the football anaology goes it's not as clear, unless the only rule of football is kick the ball with your feet and don't lift it up.

RedHughs
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Nov 25 2007 22:02

The stupid thing about the science/football analogy is that football is activity intended to have static and arbitrary rules, specifically to limit people and provide fairness. Science shouldn't have rules as such but rather should be whatever approach is effective at gaining an understanding of natural laws. Now, it so-happens that truth-verification feed-back systems involving falsifiable hypotheses, repeatable eperiments and so forth have turned out to be very effective in understanding certain domains. But if science becomes an activity of merely following certain rules, then it degenerates into the scientism.

This is where I think that Kuhn useful. (In my interpretation of Kuhn, at least), Kuhn isn't spouting the useful postmodern BS that science is all in the mind of the scientist. Rather, he has pointed out that the structure of science's feed-back system has changed as the domain changed and that is has had to change. What Kuhn calls "normal science" is a game with a set of rules BUT there is a point where normal science falls off its map and needs to be invigorated by new rules and processes.

Kuhn doesn't talk about the social sciences but I would say that these suffer from the dual problems that experiment aren't particularly applicable to their domain and that these fields have traditionally provided ideological justification to the ruling class (or perhaps just justification for the class position of their own specialists).

Despite all this, I'd still say that science doesn't have any obligation to engage in "an open dialogue with philosophy"(lem) - science is activity with considerable success in various domains but still having limitations. What's philosophy done lately? I'd say Lem would actually need to give a bit of evidence that the philosophy he's talking about isn't a combination of obfuscation and ideological justification. I do think that extra-scientific processes are going to be necessary to revolutionaries in their process of arriving at a functional understanding of this society (an understanding whose purpose is being accurate enough to allow us to be part of the process of change). The problem is that most extra-scientific conceptual processes are just bullshit - are sophisticated linguistic processes which have primarily to justify the speakers social position rather to provide understanding. Science is significant because it runs counter to this normal human activity not through a set of rules but through the general approach of feed-back and falsification. Back to the point that even different natural domains require different feed-back frameworks. And from there, back to the point that revolutionaries understanding the present society need to be more questioning of their approach than even scientists without giving all perspective. And naturally, I see the best parts of dialectics as having the required disciplined flexibility.

Red