Against materialist ontology

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marmot
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Jul 20 2009 08:01
Against materialist ontology

First, I want to say that I accept marxist materialism as a paradigm in an insturmentalist fashion - i.e. it gives accurate predictions. In the same way I might accept quantum mechanics as a useful mathematical paradigm but not necessarily as an ontological perspective. My rejection of materialist ontology has very little to do with spiritual or religious leanings - I simply think all ontological questions are nonsense. I will try to demonstrate why a materialist ontology is problematic.

Materialism argues that everything is made of matter. The problem with this philosophical assumptions is that one feels in asking what is matter. It is necessary to ask such a question because philosophical blunders have a lot to do with confused language. Obviously the definition of matter is different for different contexts and thus, rather than defining it, it makes more sense to argue what is the historico-philosophical origins of the word´s usage in relation to Marxism.
Marxism is a direct outgrowth (and reaction) to enlightment thought. Similar it took its legitimacy from the scientific traditions that were prominent in the 19th century. So it makes sense to start with how thinkers in the enlightment period thought of matter, and then proceed with how scientists in the 19th century conceived it.

The best way to look at ¨matter* from enlightment period is taking a look at Newton. while Newton was not exactly a philosopher, his physical conception of the world influenced philosophers immensely. For example, it is well known Kant was an enthusiastic Newtonian. Newton was certainly not the classical materialist because he was religious. However, to Newton, the Universe was a giant machine - even if the machine was built by God. Thus in a way, his mechanistic conception of the universe was the seed for enlightment and 19th century materialism.

For Newton, matter was inherently corpruscular - i.e. it was made of tangible bodies. While Newton did not have a conception of atoms, the fact was that his dealt with extended bodies like planets, particles, etc. He even thought that light was made of tiny corpuscules. There was no place for objects lacking bodies like waves.

Materialism in enlightment thought was inherently °mechanistic". It followed from the metaphor of the machine - that the universe might be this gigantic machine and that its inner affairs - like those of a machine - follow a determined path. Machines are determinstic simply because we make them to be so - when we press a button, we certainly expect the machine to function in a certain predictable way. Similarly, to Newton, the Universe was this machine and the one that had pressed the initial button was God.

In the 19th century, matter was still corpruscular. The newtonian paradigm was so widespread to the point that when Maxwell wrote his treatsie on Electricity and Magnetism, he did not think of electromagnetic waves as ethereal entities with no concreteness whatsoever, as was thought with the advent of einsteinian relativity, but as mechanic waves that travelled on this extended body called the aether.

Furthermore, 19th century science, at least physical science, was built upon the metaphor of a universe as a machine. Laplace argued that one only needs to know the momentum vector and position of all particles at a given time to know the future of the Universe. Indeed, physicists were so sure about this wordview that by the turn of the 19th century, Max Planck was suggested to not study physics because "it was almost complete".

This was the philosophical/scientific world in which Marx lived and as such it makes sense to think of his materialism in relation to this world - a corpruscular, mechanical universe. Unfortunately, in this age, this is worldview makes absolutely no sense at all for several reasons. There are two blunders in this wordlview, one is philosophical, and the other simply is that this worldview is completely outdated.

The philosophical blunder existed since the inception of the kind of materialism Marx was raised with. One, ontological assumptions are pure apriorism. It demands someone to step outside the world and take a peek at it. We cannot step outside the world, both physically and/or linguistically, so every ontological assumption is synthetic apriori and thus nonsense. Ontological assumptions are not something that can be proven true or false. In this realm you can say anything. Its like arguing about the existence of God - requires someone to step outside the world to make such a judgement. So when one is talking in this ontological terms he or she is not saying anything. So arguments about the existence or non existence of God, or arguments about everything being material or immaterial, about invisible pink unicorns - are completely nonsensical.

Second, the only way the metaphor of a corpruscular, mechanical universe would work (which is more or less what Marx materialism is - matter is determined by other matter ad infinitum, like a machine) is if there was a God. Because if the universe is this orderly machine, rationally architectured for a certain purpose, then it must have been determined by a Mind. After all, if the machine was not made by a Mind then it would not be a machine at all. Because if we analyze the context in which the word machine is used, machines are made for something, and the only one that can determine what is the purpose of something is a mind. So the metaphor is empty. Rocks dont have a purpose, factory engines do.This is a big part of the reason why many prominent physicists were religious - from Newton to Einstein. The metaphor of the machine comes hand in hand with the enlightened view that the universe is law abiding and rational. One might argue that perhaps Marx did not meant this, but then what did he mean otherwise? Everything is matter is a very vague, almost empty statement. It only makes a little sense if we situate it in its appropiate context. Otherwise the whole materialist philosophy reduces to word play.

Finally this type of materialism is completely ahistorical. If Marx meant by materialism as a deterministic, corpruscular universe, in the way Newton and Maxwell might have thought of it, then there is no physical scientist today with that interpretation. In the worldview of quantum mechanics, elementary particles are not bodies with structures. Mathematically, they might contain values like momentum, spin, angular momentum, charge, etc, but no physicist today conceives them as little hard balls as how might have the universe been thought of 200 years ago. Even calling them particles at all might be a confusing statement in itself, because the way physicists conceive of them is as elements in this mathematical framework - i.e. wavefunctions in Hilbert Space. Dalton thought of the atom as a hard, physical ball - a very concrete, physically intuitive concept - not as a density function. Furthermore, there is very little space for the machine metaphor (even if we assume the Universe was created by a Mind) in quantum mechanics, because at its fundamental level, fundamental particles behave in probabilistic wavefunctions.

Readers might protest that I am being pedantic. They might say I am confining philosophical materialism into a very narrow definition. But then, what does one mean when one says that all aspects of the world are material?

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jura
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Jul 20 2009 12:28

I would broadly agree with your critique of mechanistic materialism, but why do you think Marx was a proponent of this world-view? It seems to me you are confusing (or conflating) Marx with Engels. As far as I can remember, apart from a few very short passages, Marx never expressed faith in the "material unity of the world" (in the sense of the basic thesis of dialectical materialism, i.e. everything is matter) or in the "dialectical" nature of, err, nature.

And also, Leninist materialism (including its post-Lenin epoch) tried to solve some of the problems you mention, particularly the corpuscular conception of matter, by stating that matter is simply "objective reality", which is inherently dialectical, and takes up different forms. Soviet and Eastern Bloc philosophers wrote a lot abou the dual, "corpuscular-wave" nature of particles, about relativity, the "redshift" etc. and sought to interpret these phenomena as evidence of the inherent dialectic of matter. I'm no natural scientist, but as far as I can judge, they did their best to cope with the newest discoveries in physics, chemistry etc. (And some of it was quite interesting - for example A. Oparin's research into the emergence of life from anorganic matter, which of course was meant to provide arguments for the dialectical qualitative changes in nature as well as theoretical ammunition for "scientific atheism" against creationism. And not just that. The official dialectical materialist paradigm, whatever we may think of it, managed to deliver some results which were ahead of Western science - think Vygotsky's anticipation of cognitive sciences, for example.). So I think that your arguments would need some improvement if you wished to argue against the more modern versions (late 1980s) of dialectical materialism.

I think that quite a powerful critique of dialectical materialism was provided by the Czechoslovak philosopher, Marxist theoretician, poet and dissident, Egon Bondy (1930-2007). He argued against all substantialist ontological models (materialism or idealism), and for the primacy of ontological individuals (not substances) and their relationships (which he thought of as "dialectical"). But his work is quite unknown in the west, I guess.

Boris Badenov
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Jul 20 2009 14:25
marmot wrote:
So the metaphor is empty. Rocks dont have a purpose, factory engines do.This is a big part of the reason why many prominent physicists were religious - from Newton to Einstein. The metaphor of the machine comes hand in hand with the enlightened view that the universe is law abiding and rational. One might argue that perhaps Marx did not meant this, but then what did he mean otherwise? Everything is matter is a very vague, almost empty statement.

materialism does not just come out of enlightenment; materialism has been around for thousands of years, but its history has naturally been obscured by the defenders of religion (the victors); the Carvakas in Ancient India advocated materialism as part of their atheist and anti-religious stance; the point was to realize that there is no soul to save after you die, no other world where the "righteous" would be rewarded for their lives of self-denial. Same goes for Epicureanism, even though its materialism was based on the outdated theory of atomism.
Materialism has embraced science historically, unlike all other philosophical schools which have emphasized metaphysical Truths, but its purpose, imo, has never been to serve merely as a "philosophy of science." It has been first and foremost an attempt to free the human intellect from the shackles of fear and superstition; the fact that it sometimes used dodgy science to argue with the proponents of religion is only a consequence of the evolution of science; religious arguments have always been the same however.
You may be right about Marx, although he definitely rejected any assumption that there was a Mind behind it all, but materialism is not an empty philosophical statement. It is, and has always been, a political statement.

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Jul 20 2009 15:08
Vlad336 wrote:
materialism is not an empty philosophical statement. It is, and has always been, a political statement.

Vlad, I think that even a cursory look at the history of philosophy and the history of struggles shows that this is not true. Various idealist world-views - all sorts of Christian heresies, for example - were put forward as ideologies of liberation by many movements. The view that "materialism = progressive, idealism = reactionary" is ridiculously simplistic and smacks of hardline Stalinist "history of philosophy is the history of struggle of materialism against idealism" fairy tales.

Of course atheism (and its "anticipating forms" like pantheism and deism) played an important political role, but that does not mean that materialism can't make a good ruling class ideology. In fact, the fathers of classical liberalism were, at least in their social theory, materialists.

Boris Badenov
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Jul 20 2009 15:11
jura wrote:
Vlad336 wrote:
materialism is not an empty philosophical statement. It is, and has always been, a political statement.

Vlad, I think that even a cursory look at the history of philosophy and the history of struggles shows that this is not true. Various idealist world-views - all sorts of Christian heresies, for example - were put forward as ideologies of liberation by many movements. The view that "materialism = progressive, idealism = reactionary" is ridiculously simplistic and smacks of hardline Stalinist "history of philosophy is the history of struggle of materialism against idealism" fairy tales.

Those Christian heresies were progressive precisely because they were materialist in nature; why would anyone want to hold things in common and build a socialist utopia when life in heaven is the ultimate and only goal for a true Christian?
I am not dismissing radical "idealism," but any movement struggling for better material conditions in the here and now is materialist by definition regardless of what its members profess to believe in. This may sound patronizing, how can one be a materialist and not know it etc., but we have to remember that back then religion was not just a set of beliefs, but a language in itself. You spoke it whether you were a Lutheran nobleman or an Anabaptist preacher.

Quote:
Of course atheism (and its "anticipating forms" like pantheism and deism) played an important political role, but that does not mean that materialism can't make a good bourgeois ideology. In fact, the fathers of classical liberalism were, at least in their social theory, materialists.

True, but just because bourgeois ideologues can use something, that doesn't make it bad.
While the religious language of medieval and early modern popular radicalism may have been inevitable, materialism would have clarified their position better than some spuriously interpreted Bible passage that talks about how the poor shall inherit the earth. Materialism as the realization that material needs are not illusory or morally corrupting, that suffering will not be rewarded in the afterlife, has been a radical stance, and remains so today (the fact that some capitalists are also atheists and materialists does not change that).
marmot's criticism of outdated materialism is from the perspective of advanced quantum physics, but how many people today have access to this kind of knowledge or have time to debate it? Is the realization that material needs are the only driving force of human life to be criticized because it's supposedly crypto-idealist and out of touch with modern science? In a world where the vast majority of workers are still under the spell of religious dogma, deconstructing materialism holds little actual value for anarchism or for any revolutionary movement imo (although I'm all for debating this shit here).

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Jul 20 2009 15:46
Vlad336 wrote:
Those Christian heresies were progressive precisely because they were materialist in nature; why would anyone want to hold things in common and build a socialist utopia when life in heaven is the ultimate and only goal for a true Christian?

Hmm, what a strange "materialist nature" - believing in the Creator, in the divinity of the Scripture, etc.

Vlad336 wrote:
I am not dismissing radical "idealism," but any movement struggling for better material conditions in the here and now is materialist by definition regardless of what its members profess to believe in.

Not only does it sound patronizing, it's based on a completely different concept of "materialism" than the one that is being discussed here - if you think that struggling for better material conditions is materialist simply because what the struggle is about are "material" conditions, that's fine, but I can't see how this is related to materialism as an ontology or ideology. I also wonder how such concept of materialism can be useful at all - in the end, everything becomes materialist, even the feudal lords fighting to better their own "material conditions" (or sustain them) against the peasants.

Vlad336 wrote:
True, but just because bourgeois ideologues can use something, that doesn't make it bad.

I didn't say that. What you said, however, implied that materialism is somehow inherently more progressive than idealism. To that I say - it depends.

Edit: Moreover, your usage of "use" implies that those mean bourgeois ideologues took the liberatory and radical materialism from the people and "used" it to formulate their own ideology. That's just not true. Hobbes or Locke were honest proponents of materialism (even against other, idealist bourgeois philosophers) at a time when atheism would still get you in trouble. Their materialism played an important role e.g. against reactionary views of society (social contract vs. divine intervention), but, nevertheless, it formed the basis of an ideology that we as communists oppose.

Vlad336 wrote:
Materialism as the realization that material needs are not illusory or morally corrupting, that suffering will not be rewarded in the afterlife, has been a radical stance, and remains so today (the fact that some capitalists are also atheists and materialists does not change that).

Again, your concept of materialism is different than the one being discussed. Anyway, I agree that materialism in this sense had been radical at times (always depending on the social circumstances), but not always - for example, the Epicureanism you mentioned was, in a nutshell, an ideology of free citizens shying away from politics in a time of gradual decay of Greek society.

Vlad336 wrote:
Is the realization that material needs are the only driving force of human life

(The sound of Marx rolling in Highgate.)

Vlad336 wrote:
In a world where the vast majority of workers are still under the spell of religious dogma, deconstructing materialism holds little actual value for anarchism or for any revolutionary movement imo (although I'm all for debating this shit here).

You can say that about any theoretical debate. Personally I won't content myself with wrong political or theoretical positions just because they're opposed to the prevalent ideology.

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Steven.
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Jul 20 2009 17:31
marmot wrote:
So the metaphor is empty. Rocks dont have a purpose, factory engines do.This is a big part of the reason why many prominent physicists were religious - from Newton to Einstein.

just a word of clarification here: Einstein wasn't religious. He was a free thinker/agnostic
http://atheism.about.com/od/einsteingodreligion/tp/Was-Einstein-an-Atheist-.htm

Boris Badenov
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Jul 20 2009 17:57
jura wrote:
Vlad336 wrote:
Those Christian heresies were progressive precisely because they were materialist in nature; why would anyone want to hold things in common and build a socialist utopia when life in heaven is the ultimate and only goal for a true Christian?

Hmm, what a strange "materialist nature" - believing in the Creator, in the divinity of the Scripture, etc.

class struggle = materialist
believing in the Creator = predominant ruling class ideas

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Not only does it sound patronizing, it's based on a completely different concept of "materialism" than the one that is being discussed here -

so what? materialism can mean more than the concept being discussed here, which I think is a purely ideological rationalist strawman that has little to do with materialism as a historical current. Of course the universe is not made from tiny corpuscles, of course scientific socialism is bullshit, but that doesn't make materialism per se an untennable position.

Quote:
if you think that struggling for better material conditions is materialist simply because what the struggle is about are "material" conditions, that's fine, but I can't see how this is related to materialism as an ontology or ideology.

It's not because materialism doesn't have to be an ontology or a pure for-itself ideology.
Simply recognizing the material nature of class struggle is, in my opinion, an instance of a materialist understanding, because it sure isn't metaphysics.

Quote:
I also wonder how such concept of materialism can be useful at all - in the end, everything becomes materialist,even the feudal lords fighting to better their own "material conditions" (or sustain them) against the peasants.

yes, precisely, because reality is material. Feudal lords may very well be fighting from a pure sense of duty, and peasants may be motivated by nothing but religious fervour; that doesn't change the material nature of their struggle. In today's context, capitalists may be exploiting workers merely because of a philosophical belief that the free market is the ultimate stage of human civilization, that does not change the material nature of class-based exploitation.
Saying that reality is material may seem like a truism to you, but it really isn't, because the ruling class has always tried to obscure the naked material nature of class society with
vague notions of "freedom", "rights" etc.

Vlad336 wrote:

I didn't say that. What you said, however, implied that materialism is somehow inherently more progressive than idealism. To that I say - it depends.

obviously it depends. In an age of religion materialism may very well be the Epicurean apathy of certain individuals of the ruling class while apocalyptic idealist fervour may motivate the struggles of the dispossessed. That doesn't mean that religion is right and materialism (by which I do not mean some antiquated 18th century positivist rationalism) is wrong.

Quote:
Edit: Moreover, your usage of "use" implies that those mean bourgeois ideologues took the liberatory and radical materialism from the people and "used" it to formulate their own ideology.

It most certainly does not imply that. If materialism has been prevalent as an ideology in any age, it's because it was embraced by the ruling class. And to say that there can be any talk of meanness on the part of Locke et al (as if moral intention was what made ideology) is not even a caricature of what I said, it's just plain fabrication.

Quote:
That's just not true. Hobbes or Locke were honest proponents of materialism (even against other, idealist bourgeois philosophers) at a time when atheism would still get you in trouble. Their materialism played an important role e.g. against reactionary views of society (social contract vs. divine intervention), but, nevertheless, it formed the basis of an ideology that we as communists oppose.

I agree; not sure why you think I wouldn't.

Quote:
Vlad336 wrote:
Is the realization that material needs are the only driving force of human life

(The sound of Marx rolling in Highgate.)

What is that supposed to mean? I admit that my phrasing is problematic, but pedantry aside, our material needs is what makes us do what we do. Even religion (in its most apotropaic forms) confirms this.

Quote:
You can say that about any theoretical debate.

No you can't. A theoretical debate on the role of unions, the means of everyday struggle, etc. would have real practical value. Saying that 19th century materialism is not all that doesn't, but of course that doesn't mean we can't discuss it (there are way worse threads than this one in the theory section).

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Jul 20 2009 20:07

Einstein wasn't religious by the way - this is an often repeated lie made up by christians. Oops Steven already pointed it out....

Materialism doesn't deny the existence of waves - it seems a bit odd to make this distinction between matter and waves, which isn't important to materialism.

marmot
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Jul 20 2009 21:12
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I would broadly agree with your critique of mechanistic materialism, but why do you think Marx was a proponent of this world-view? It seems to me you are confusing (or conflating) Marx with Engels. As far as I can remember, apart from a few very short passages, Marx never expressed faith in the "material unity of the world" (in the sense of the basic thesis of dialectical materialism, i.e. everything is matter) or in the "dialectical" nature of, err, nature]

Marx did not write much aobut materialism as an ontology. His materialism was in relation to sociology. I am not sure if he necessarily had the ontology I described in my first post, but the matter is that most class struggle anarchists and marxists have exactly that worldview I mentioned. Thus the critique is mostly on the beliefs held by marxists, not necessarily by marx itself. Furthermore, the materialism I described was the materialism of the time, so I would think that was what he meant when he used the word mateiralism.

Quote:
And also, Leninist materialism (including its post-Lenin epoch) tried to solve some of the problems you mention, particularly the corpuscular conception of matter, by stating that matter is simply "objective reality", which is inherently dialectical, and takes up different forms. Soviet and Eastern Bloc philosophers wrote a lot abou the dual, "corpuscular-wave" nature of particles, about relativity, the "redshift" etc. and sought to interpret these phenomena as evidence of the inherent dialectic of matter. I'm no natural scientist, but as far as I can judge, they did their best to cope with the newest discoveries in physics, chemistry etc. (And some of it was quite interesting - for example A. Oparin's research into the emergence of life from anorganic matter, which of course was meant to provide arguments for the dialectical qualitative changes in nature as well as theoretical ammunition for "scientific atheism" against creationism. And not just that. The official dialectical materialist paradigm, whatever we may think of it, managed to deliver some results which were ahead of Western science - think Vygotsky's anticipation of cognitive sciences, for example.). So I think that your arguments would need some improvement if you wished to argue against the more modern versions (late 1980s) of dialectical materialism

Well this is the problem I pointed - concerning confused language. the term "objective reality" is tautological. To religious folks God is objective reality.

The issue of matter *taking different form" is the old rationalist bunk on substance. WIth such vague wordings "dialectics¨" can justify everything.

The reason why I tried to elucidate on what was the context of the materialism used by Marx, is to try to give a benefit of doubt. If one is not specific about the way such words are used one ends up with confused thought and empty propositions,. (I.e. there is one substance, and that substance is God)

Quote:
I think that quite a powerful critique of dialectical materialism was provided by the Czechoslovak philosopher, Marxist theoretician, poet and dissident, Egon Bondy (1930-2007). He argued against all substantialist ontological models (materialism or idealism), and for the primacy of ontological individuals (not substances) and their relationships (which he thought of as "dialectical"). But his work is quite unknown in the west, I guess

The most powerful critique of dialectical materialism I can think of lies implicit in the methodology of analytical philosoiphy. It is aprioristic nonsense that uses crass, and confused language. Because the language is already confused, it can justify anything.

marmot
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Jul 20 2009 21:17
888 wrote:
Einstein wasn't religious by the way - this is an often repeated lie made up by christians. Oops Steven already pointed it out....

Materialism doesn't deny the existence of waves - it seems a bit odd to make this distinction between matter and waves, which isn't important to materialism.

I think Einstein was religious. He might not have been religious in the sense of christianity or traditional religious. But he believed some sort of pantheism, as if the universe was or was created by a Mind.

Materialism as the way it has been traditionally conceived of defines that the universe is made of fundamentally matter. Matter has volume, size, mass, etc. Wave-functions, the way physicists conceive them, are not even physically intuitive in the way a water wave might be.

marmot
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Jul 20 2009 21:23
Vlad336 wrote:
marmot's criticism of outdated materialism is from the perspective of advanced quantum physics, but how many people today have access to this kind of knowledge or have time to debate it? Is the realization that material needs are the only driving force of human life to be criticized because it's supposedly crypto-idealist and out of touch with modern science? In a world where the vast majority of workers are still under the spell of religious dogma, deconstructing materialism holds little actual value for anarchism or for any revolutionary movement imo (although I'm all for debating this shit here).

Actually, that is not the totality of my criticism. The task is dissolving philosophical language, not necessarily just dissolving materialism. I think the dissolution of philosophy has a lot of value to working class movements because it is precisely abstracted philosophy that has formed a big bulk of ruling class ideology. The world is everything that is the case and there are enough words in working class, ordinary language to describe it. We don´t need ontology.

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Joseph Kay
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Jul 20 2009 21:23
marmot wrote:
Materialism as the way it has been traditionally conceived of defines that the universe is made of fundamentally matter. Matter has volume, size, mass, etc. Wave-functions, the way physicists conceive them, are not even physically intuitive in the way a water wave might be.

surely the intuitiveness of something is an epistemological question rather than an ontological one? i mean in an ontological sense energy is no less material than matter; it's not transcendent, can't be created or destroyed etc

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Jul 20 2009 21:35

Newtonian mechanics isn't entirely 'mechanistic' as it relies on instantaneous action at a distance. For instance, to preserve the angular momentum of objects in gravitation orbits. How do material objects 'feel' each others presence? If one describes it as a gravitational field - what material is the field made of? Quantum mechanics, in some senses, is more 'materialistic'. It posits that there are wave/particle gravitons, shooting around at the speed of light, enabling these actions to happen in a determined fashion.

Scientific theories have never been as materialist as perhaps materialist ideologists would have wished. Materialism has to be judged on its own merits and not justified (or rejected) simply as an extension of, supposedly indisputable, scientific findings into the sphere of human relations.

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Jul 20 2009 21:37
marmot wrote:
The most powerful critique of dialectical materialism I can think of lies implicit in the methodology of analytical philosoiphy. It is aprioristic nonsense that uses crass, and confused language. Because the language is already confused, it can justify anything.

Analytical philosophy, with its positivist legacy, is problematical in itself. It's useful in criticizing just about any non-analytical philosophy, but to be honest, I can't see how it can be useful as a basis or a methodology for communist theory (and even though I oppose Engelsian or Leninist materialism, I still think we need a scientific method).

marmot
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Jul 20 2009 22:13
Joseph Kay wrote:
marmot wrote:
Materialism as the way it has been traditionally conceived of defines that the universe is made of fundamentally matter. Matter has volume, size, mass, etc. Wave-functions, the way physicists conceive them, are not even physically intuitive in the way a water wave might be.

surely the intuitiveness of something is an epistemological question rather than an ontological one? i mean in an ontological sense energy is no less material than matter; it's not transcendent, can't be created or destroyed etc

The issue here is that your °materialism° only seems to work if you extend its purpose and definition from the one it was originally conceived (atleast in the way Marxism and anarchism saw it). It all boils down to language. Its always problematic to extrapolate a word, like matter, from its context, and then using it in a universal way. (like ontology)

Besides, wave function dont exist in the same way a water wave might. It is a useful mathematical construct, nothing more.

marmot
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Jul 20 2009 22:15
jura wrote:
marmot wrote:
The most powerful critique of dialectical materialism I can think of lies implicit in the methodology of analytical philosoiphy. It is aprioristic nonsense that uses crass, and confused language. Because the language is already confused, it can justify anything.

Analytical philosophy, with its positivist legacy, is problematical in itself. It's useful in criticizing just about any non-analytical philosophy, but to be honest, I can't see how it can be useful as a basis or a methodology for communist theory (and even though I oppose Engelsian or Leninist materialism, I still think we need a scientific method).

Analytical philosophy is generally useful for clarification. However, the idea is that philosophy cannot make meaningful knowledge, only clarify arguments. The only "method" we need is observing the world and trying to learn from it.

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Jul 20 2009 22:59
Vlad336 wrote:
class struggle = materialist
believing in the Creator = predominant ruling class ideas

Sounds quite confusing to me. Does that mean that whenever a ruling class wages class struggle, it is being (unknowingly) materialist and is actualy secretly opposed to its own ideology? I'm sorry, but frankly I can't see what's the value in that and how such a concept of materialism can make any sense and be used to make distinctions in the history of philosophy or of class ideologies or whatever.

Vlad336 wrote:
Simply recognizing the material nature of class struggle is, in my opinion, an instance of a materialist understanding, because it sure isn't metaphysics.

(Materialism can be just as metaphysical as idealism, so I wouldn't juxtapose materialism to metaphysics.) OK, so now we've come to a clarification that what you really mean is not materialism as an ontological position (because that's what materialism is and that's what most dictionaries will tell you - I don't have a problem with you having a differenct concept of it, but you should at least try to define it and not just start labeling this or that materialist without giving an explanation) but an instance of it applied to understanding society, which doesn't presuppose an overall materialist world-view.

Vlad336 wrote:
yes, precisely, because reality is material. Feudal lords may very well be fighting from a pure sense of duty, and peasants may be motivated by nothing but religious fervour; that doesn't change the material nature of their struggle.

Are you really saying that since reality is material (whatever that means - ideas are a part of reality and they certainly are not material in the sense an apple is material) and the struggle has a "material nature", everything and everyone is materialist? Now I'm confused again. Your concept of materialism has become boundless.

Edited (I removed a passage where I completely misunderstood what you meant).

Vlad336 wrote:
Saying that reality is material may seem like a truism to you, but it really isn't, because the ruling class has always tried to obscure the naked material nature of class society with vague notions of "freedom", "rights" etc.

When you say reality is material, you are saying nothing about the nature of class society. Philosophers, including slave owners, had held the view that reality is purely material centuries before the bourgeoisie started talking about "rights" and before any sort of class analysis existed. And on the other hand (as I had already noted) some of the first philosophers who stated the basic principles of bourgeois ideology (like the right to private property deduced from the inalienable right to own one's body) were... English empiricists and materialists.

Vlad336 wrote:
What is that supposed to mean? I admit that my phrasing is problematic, but pedantry aside, our material needs is what makes us do what we do. Even religion (in its most apotropaic forms) confirms this.

Either you are using material (again) in a sense that is too general and all-embracing (thus losing any analytical value), or you are just wrong. It is obvious that humans do not have just material needs and that social life is not reducible to the satisfaction of such basic needs, nor can you explain all social phenomena (like ideology) just from them. Reducing humans to "material needs" is the crassest vulgar materialism which Marx staunchly opposed (and made fun of).

Vlad336 wrote:
No you can't. A theoretical debate on the role of unions, the means of everyday struggle, etc. would have real practical value. Saying that 19th century materialism is not all that doesn't, but of course that doesn't mean we can't discuss it (there are way worse threads than this one in the theory section).

You said that 1. "In a world where the vast majority of workers are still under the spell of religious dogma, deconstructing materialism holds little actual value for anarchism or for any revolutionary movement imo". You can actually nicely apply that logic to the debate on unions: 2. "In a world where the vast majority (well perhaps not the vast majority but certainly hundreds of millions) of workers have no union representation or even some elementary organization for immediate, purely economic struggles, criticizing the unions holds little actual value etc.". As I said, I won't content myself with positions that I think are fundamentally wrong (1. metaphysical materialism and reducing history to "material needs"; 2. support for trade unions) simply because they can be useful at times (1. in countering religious dogma; 2. in gaining some concessions).

dave c
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Jul 20 2009 22:19
marmot wrote:
Furthermore, the materialism I described was the materialism of the time, so I would think that was what [Marx] meant when he used the word mateiralism.

Not at all. He considered his materialism to be distinct from "the old materialism": http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm.

Also possibly of interest are some of his earlier comments on French and English materialism: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/holy-family/ch06_3_d.htm

I think you also might be sympathetic to Pannekoek's comments on "middle-class materialism", which he sees as being revived by Leninist Marxism in opposition to Marx's approach: http://www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1938/lenin/ch02.htm

marmot wrote:
The world is everything that is the case and there are enough words in working class, ordinary language to describe it. We don´t need ontology.

If you like Wittgenstein, I would recommend a book I just read called Philosophy and Mystification by a Wittgensteinian, Guy Robinson. It happens to deal with mechanistic materialism quite a bit. Robinson draws from Marx quite heavily in his critiques. Here is one mention of Marx:

Guy Robinson wrote:
It was the business of the classical economists, for example, to present the market and the associated capitalist mode of organizing social, production and property relations as "natural" and "inevitable" rather than as the result of practices adopted and developed by humanity. It is ironical, though perhaps not surprising, that Marx, who regarded these as human and historical developments and not as coming from an eternal source, should have been so resolutely labeled "determinist" instead of those economists, past and present, who regard market relations as inevitable and eternal. (245)

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jura
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Jul 20 2009 22:35
marmot wrote:
Analytical philosophy is generally useful for clarification. However, the idea is that philosophy cannot make meaningful knowledge, only clarify arguments. The only "method" we need is observing the world and trying to learn from it.

I don't have much interest in philosophy, I was talking about a methodology in the sense of a "toolbox" with which we can analyze social reality beyond the superficial apperances. Well then, what's the difference between, say, Comte's and Marx's method? Or A. Smith's and Marx's method? They would all tell you that, generally speaking, they are observing the world and trying to learn from it. The question remains, how do you observe the world, what are you looking for, how do you intend to find it etc. The answers that analytical philosophy provides e.g. in historiography did not seem satisfactory to me (and they were mostly irreconcilable with Marx's approach).

Boris Badenov
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Jul 20 2009 23:37
jura wrote:
Vlad336 wrote:
class struggle = materialist
believing in the Creator = predominant ruling class ideas

Sounds quite confusing to me. Does that mean that whenever a ruling class wages class struggle, it is being (unknowingly) materialist and is actualy secretly opposed to its own ideology?

this is quite nonsensical, and no I am not saying that the ruling class are all schizos who act both for and against their material interests. But the reality of class is a material one; it's not good vs. evil, even though that's how it was often portrayed in the past by popular radicals.
If Thomas Muntzer says that communism is the will of god (or something like that) that doesn't mean there is a god who actually wills it; communism is simply the direction that the struggle is moving toward.
Ditto for Baron Von Shite saying that feudalism and hierarchy are divinely ordained.
A very ridiculous example, I know, but honestly I can't make it any clearer.

Quote:
I'm sorry, but frankly I can't see what's the value in that and how such a concept of materialism can make any sense and be used to make distinctions in the history of philosophy or of class ideologies or whatever.

It is useful because it represents the working class' ability to destroy capital's idealism, and see the true nature of class society. It has nothing to do with Englesian diamat gobbeldygook. It is the materialism of Marx, the guy who saw bourgeois philosophy for what it was and closed the book on it.
I grant that this may be my personal interpretation and it may sound confusing, but I think there is room for a materialism that is not obscurantist "dialectical" horseshit nor simpleminded positivism.

Quote:
OK, so now we've come to a clarification that what you really mean is not materialism as an ontological position (because that's what materialism is and that's what most dictionaries will tell you - I don't have a problem with you having a differenct concept of it, but you should at least try to define it and not just start labeling this or that materialist without giving an explanation) but an instance of it applied to understanding society, which doesn't presuppose an overall materialist world-view.

yeah, that's pretty much it. And I did try to define my understanding of the concept repeatedly (and apparently unsuccessfully)

Quote:
Are you really saying that since reality is material (whatever that means - ideas are a part of reality and they certainly are not material in the sense an apple is material)

in the sense an apple is material no, but they are material; they don't come down to us through divine revelation, do they?
the whole quantum physics debate about waves and particles aside, can you point out to me something that is not material?

Quote:
and the struggle has a "material nature", everything and everyone is materialist?

material is not the same as materialist; materialism implies a certain view of reality as matter, it is not matter itself. Everyone is most certainly not a materialist; why would I say that, when the majority of people on this planet still believe in souls and magical thinking?
The struggle does have a material nature, does it not? Its causes are material and its means of development are material. What is so confusing about that?
You may say that is a platitude, of course class struggle is material, but that is because you are already convinced of the material reality of classes. Many people are not, because they prefer to see things in moral, religious, and metaphysical terms.

Quote:

Strange: you, as a materialist say it's a possibility that capitalists may be exploiting workers because of a philosophical belief?

No I'm saying their convictions might be of a philosophical nature.
Most capitalists or supporters of capitalism do after all believe in some sort of inherent justice to the free market system, a justice derived from metaphysical absolutes like Freedom, Rights, Property, etc. For evidence of this, see the discussions with Austrianists in this forum section.
I'm saying that it does not matter if a capitalist thinks capitalism is just from a liberal philosophical perspective. Material reality gives us a different view, one of endless misery for those who labour to maintain this supposedly just system.
Yet even in the face of staggering proof of working-class misery, the capitalist can maintain his philosophical positions because they justify his material goals. If the free market leads to crisis and massive poverty, it is not because the capitalist ideal is wrong, it is because reality has not adapted sufficiently to it. This is the logic of the idealist. Materialism, for me, means counteracting this logic, and showing it to be false. This is why materialism can be used as a "weapon" in the fight against capital.

Quote:
I'm much less enthusiastic about subscribing to materialism as a world-view than you, but I would always tend to say that there is some structural social pressure on capitalists to exploit workers, which at the end of the day has to do with the way production is organized and not with any fantasies that capitalists may have about themselves.

Yes, of course but how many capitalists are aware of such structural impositions? Only those who see beyond the idealism that justifies capitalism philosophically.

Quote:

Philosophers, including slave owners, had held the view that reality is purely material centuries before the bourgeoisie started talking about "rights" and before any sort of class analysis existed. And as I already noted, some of the first philosophers who stated the basic principles of bourgeois ideology (like the right to private property deduced from the inalienable right to own one's body) were... English empiricists and materialists.

You're right. Look, if I implied, or outright stated, above that materialism is inherently radical, I take it back.

Quote:

Either you are using material (again) in a sense that is too general and all-embracing (thus losing any analytical value), or you are just wrong. It is obvious that humans do not have just material needs and that social life is not reducible to the satisfaction of such basic needs, nor can you explain all social phenomena (like ideology) just from them. Reducing humans to "material needs" is the crassest vulgar materialism which Marx staunchly opposed (and made fun of).

As I have stated above, I distinguish materialism as a useful perspective of reality from a simplistic determinist reductionism.
Social life is indeed not reducible to neatly defined material needs, and many aspects of human culture are equally too complex in their structure and causes to be reduced to a set of physical needs.
Ultimately however, our needs, social and otherwise, are determined by our material reality. The cause for me being a communist is a need for a life that is not devoid of any meaning and purpose; it is a material need, not an idealist belief in "humanity's potential" or other such nonsense.
Equally, although there is no specific identifiable physical need that having friends and enjoying art can be said to satisfy, both those things give me pleasure, physical pleasure.
If it seems like I'm endorsing the "crassest vulgar materialism," it's probably because I can't phrase my ideas so as to make myself properly understood, not because I am a hardline behaviourist.

Quote:
You said that 1. "In a world where the vast majority of workers are still under the spell of religious dogma, deconstructing materialism holds little actual value for anarchism or for any revolutionary movement imo". You can actually nicely apply that logic to the debate on unions: 2. "In a world where the vast majority (well perhaps not the vast majority but certainly hundreds of millions) of workers have no union representation or even some elementary organization for immediate, purely economic struggles, criticizing the unions holds little actual value etc.".

Workers who have no union representation are probably interested in what unions can do for them, if anything. I doubt you can say the same about "ontological materialism." Anyway, let's not belabour the point; we are having this discussion, which means there is something worth saying about materialism and its usefulness today. I just don't think that if a worker somewhere in the world today decides he is a materialist and that all that bullshit he was spoonfed in church/temple is worthless, you should counteract that with "yeah, but materialism as an ontological stance is outdated 19th century scientifism." That is just not a very useful point to make imo, but whatever.

marmot wrote:

Actually, that is not the totality of my criticism. The task is dissolving philosophical language, not necessarily just dissolving materialism. I think the dissolution of philosophy has a lot of value to working class movements because it is precisely abstracted philosophy that has formed a big bulk of ruling class ideology. The world is everything that is the case and there are enough words in working class, ordinary language to describe it. We don´t need ontology.

Thanks for clarifying. In light of this, I can say that we are actually in agreement; sorry for any misunderstanding.

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Joseph Kay
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Jul 20 2009 23:33
marmot wrote:
The issue here is that your °materialism° only seems to work if you extend its purpose and definition from the one it was originally conceived (atleast in the way Marxism and anarchism saw it). It all boils down to language. Its always problematic to extrapolate a word, like matter, from its context, and then using it in a universal way. (like ontology)

i don't think it's semantics. it's surely just that our understanding of the material world has developed over time. i mean don't get me wrong, i'm not particularly fussed with ontology and don't lie awake at night contemplating Being as such.

marmot wrote:
Besides, wave function dont exist in the same way a water wave might. It is a useful mathematical construct, nothing more.

well i'm no physicist, but all this would seem to say is that material reality at a fundamental level eludes comprehension except by abstract models. to me that says more about the human brain than the immateriality of the universe - because something is conceived of as an idea does not mean it is constituted of ideas; i mean if intelligent life in the universe was wiped out tomorrow, there's no reason to suppose the nature of elementary particles would change. for instance the 'atomic structure' i was taught at college is only a rough approximation of what an atom consists of, that doesn't mean atoms have no material reality, or that the fact electron orbits aren't orbits as such means electrons are just an idea. i'm not a huge fan of lacan, but (via zizek) this seems to simply be a restatement of the fact the Real always exceeds symbolisation; we can never put into words the entirity of reality. like i say that seems more a reflection of human cognition than ontology.

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jura
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Jul 20 2009 23:58
Vlad336 wrote:
It is useful because it represents the working class' ability to destroy capital's idealism, and see the true nature of class society.

Capital is not "idealist". I tried to strip down my response so that I won't repeat myself, but let me just repeat that there is no eternal struggle between materialism and idealism going on, where materialism represents the more progressive side. There is nothing inherently radical about materialism, just as there is nothing inherently idealist about capital and nothing inherently materialist about the working class.

Vlad336 wrote:
I grant that this may be my personal interpretation and it may sound confusing, but I think there is room for a materialism that is not obscurantist "dialectical" horseshit nor simpleminded positivism.

I agree with that. But precisely because of that such "new materialism" (in the sense of Marx's materialist critique of philosophy) has to detach itself from the whole tradition of the "struggle between materialism and idealism", from the centuries-old heritage of a supposedly progressive materialism that conflates Epicurus with Hobbes with Marx etc. And at first, it seemed that you tend to connect the "new materialism" to this tradition.

To put it shortly, the central tenets of Marx's thought represent a break with much of the preceding philosophical, methodological and scientific tradition. I think we need to emphasize this break more than blur it and adore false heroes just because they were materialists.

Vlad336 wrote:
in the sense an apple is material no, but they are material; they don't come down to us through divine revelation, do they?

But does material mean "not coming through divine revelation", "Man-made"? Because most dictionaries give a very different definition, and ideas certainly don't conform to that. I think there is a certain tendency among communists to use "material" as a synonym for "real", "of great importance", "economic"... So even a statement like "Capital is material" becomes possible. But capital is a social relationship: even though it has a lot to do with the organization of production of material, tangible things in capitalism, you can't just confound it with the things themselves or ascribe the same properties to it. Yes, capital as a social relationship is objective and real, it is of central importance in capitalism, it is the basis of structural imperatives that take up the most shattering material forms and strike upon people more brutally than natural catastrophes, but all of that does not make capital material. (BTW, in this sense, the world "material" is like "dialectics" - it too is used to supposedly explain things or give one's statements more weight, but when you take a closer look, it really just obscures everything or is a mere placeholder for a host of other, more specific words.)

Vlad336 wrote:
I just don't think that if a worker somewhere in the world today decides he is a materialist and that all that bullshit he was spoonfed in church/temple is worthless, you should counteract that with "yeah, but materialism as an ontological stance is outdated 19th century scientifism." That is just not a very useful point to make imo, but whatever.

Of course not. And I also wouldn't tell a Chinese worker who has just formed an illegal union that he's the "left wing of capital" or whatever wink.

bzfgt
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Jul 21 2009 15:30
Quote:
but let me just repeat that there is no eternal struggle between materialism and idealism going on, where materialism represents the more progressive side.

Arguably, according to Marx idealism at a certain point represented the more progressive side--cf. the "Theses on Feuerbach."

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jura
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Jul 21 2009 17:46
bzfgt wrote:
Arguably, according to Marx idealism at a certain point represented the more progressive side--cf. the "Theses on Feuerbach."

I don't know precisely which passage from the Theses you mean, but in the very same text he also writes that the "active side" (practice, praxis) was more developed by idealism. Thus, there is no inherent progresiveness in materialism - idealism, at times, developed certain important themes better than materialism.

Anyway, it is always good to bring up Theses in this context because (at least in my opinion) they represent a clear break from both idealism and traditional materialism, and should be considered one of the founding documents of a new standpoint. Theses 9 and 10 illustrate my point about bourgeois materialists, founders of classical liberalism, particularly well:

Marx wrote:
9. The highest point reached by contemplative materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.

10. The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity.

Obviously, old materialism in this sentence is the materialism of Scottish Enlightenment (where the concept of "civil society" was first developed) and of English empiricists.

dave c
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Jul 21 2009 19:07

The idea of the "inherent progressiveness" of materialism is probably too vague to be of much use. So I will outline some specific senses in which materialism can be said to be progressive in Marx, not sure that I am necessarily disagreeing with anyone. (It depends on how we use the words materialism and idealism.) With regard to Feuerbach, I think that Marx considered his philosophy to make a great step forward (progress) with his critique of Hegelian idealism. It was precisely Feuerbach's materialist critique of Hegelian idealism that was progressive. Where Feuerbach failed, according to Marx, was in not being materialist enough:

Marx wrote:
. . .he is compelled to take refuge in the “higher perception” and in the ideal “compensation in the species,” and thus to relapse into idealism at the very point where the communist materialist sees the necessity, and at the same time the condition, of a transformation both of industry and of the social structure. As far as Feuerbach is a materialist he does not deal with history, and as far as he considers history he is not a materialist. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01b.htm)

At least in The German Ideology, Marx identified this sort of consistent materialism with communism. Now, if we consider religious thinking to be idealist (and I think Marx does), there is a clear sense in which communism, which could be said to be progress over capitalism, does away with the material basis for idealist thought. Of course, it could also be said to do away with the material basis of "materialist" thought, insofar as materialism in the realm of philosophy tended toward a religious view of Nature. But this sense of the word "materialism" would not encompass Marx's materialism. Sure, there is little sense in talking about an eternal struggle between idealism and materialism, but the idealism that eternalizes certain social relations as given by God or Nature acts as ideological support for those social relations. And presumably this would no longer be necessary when those social relations come under the control of the "associated producers":

Marx wrote:
The religious world is but the reflex of the real world. And for a society based upon the production of commodities, in which the producers in general enter into social relations with one another by treating their products as commodities and values, whereby they reduce their individual private labour to the standard of homogeneous human labour – for such a society, Christianity with its cultus of abstract man, more especially in its bourgeois developments, Protestantism, Deism, &c., is the most fitting form of religion. . . . The religious reflex of the real world can, in any case, only then finally vanish, when the practical relations of every-day life offer to man none but perfectly intelligible and reasonable relations with regard to his fellowmen and to Nature. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm)

From this sort of theory it is no great leap to see a break with this sort of idealism as a step forward for workers trying to understand and overthrow capitalism. (Of course this does not make the working class inherently materialist.) These are the specific senses in which I think materialism is "progressive" in Marx. As for idealism being progressive in that Hegel developed "certain important themes" (within his overall Christian philosophy), I am not sure that this shows all that much. As Marx said in The Holy Family:

Marx wrote:
On the one hand, Hegel with masterly sophistry is able to present as a process of the imagined creation of the mind itself, of the Absolute Subject, the process by which the philosopher through sensory perception and imagination passes from one subject to another. On the other hand, however, Hegel very often gives a real presentation, embracing the thing itself, within the speculative presentation. This real development within the speculative development misleads the reader into considering the speculative development as real and the real as speculative. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/holy-family/ch05.htm)

Even if we grant that Hegel's insights could only have developed within idealism, whatever Marx takes from Hegel he does not consider to be specifically idealist.

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Jul 21 2009 19:16
dave c wrote:
Sure, there is little sense in talking about an eternal struggle between idealism and materialism, but the idealism that eternalizes certain social relations as given by God or Nature acts as ideological support for those social relations.

Dave, I largely agree with what you have written. This passage, however, seems really one-sided and simplistic to me. One of the points I tried to stress above was that it is not only idealism which eternalizes social relations. Adam Smith's "natural propensity to barter" etc. is an archetypal example of a materialist naturalization of capitalism. Same goes for many other political economists, who were, at least in their understanding of society, materialists. Materialist world-view, whether it means a belief in the corpuscular character of reality or a newer, updated version of it, is not a guarantee of a really critical standpoint.

dave c
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Jul 21 2009 23:39

I was using "idealism" in that sentence not as a classification of a branch of philosophy, but as any thinking that explains the social in terms of the transcendent or other-worldly. Thus, materialist philosophers in breaking with the old Christian worldview, nonetheless posited "laws of nature" which took the place of God's laws, standing over and above the world. And in line with this approach to "laws of nature," there is the bellum omni contra omnes as a description of the natural state of man, and a sort of transcendent "human nature" that inheres in each individual. This is materialist in that it comes out of the materialist branch of philosophy, but it is idealist in the sense I intended. I think this is in line with what Marx is doing when he says that Feuerbach is not a materialist when he deals with history. Nonetheless, this sort of use of "idealism" is inadequate for understanding the history of philosophy, even though it does demarcate a critical view of philosophical thinking.

I think Marx tended to identify idealism with mystification, as in this passage:

Marx wrote:
The crude materialism of the economists who regard as the natural properties of things what are social relations of production among people, and qualities which things obtain because they are subsumed under these relations, is at the same time just as crude an idealism, even fetishism, since it imputes social relations to things as inherent characteristics, and thus mystifies them. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch13.htm)

Materialism here is qualified as "crude" because Marx still holds that his approach is a higher form of materialism. So with this usage, in eternalizing capitalist social relations the materialist exhibits a crude "idealism." But they are not thereby adopting a specific theory of mind or anything. I think Marx's use of idealism is inseparable from his critique of Hegel's Absolute idealism, in which the transcendent or infinite represents the truth of the finite and empirical. But maybe I was too quick to use the term "idealism" in this restricted sense.

SatanIsMyCoPilot
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Jul 22 2009 09:50
marmot wrote:
First, I want to say that I accept marxist materialism as a paradigm in an insturmentalist fashion...

I think you may be happier if you considered physicalism as opposed to materialism. physicalism (according to which the immaterial, thought etc. is concrete, real and exists within physical being) can be seen to incorporate materialism, but can also deal with entities that are not objects per se (e.g. the 'values' thgat you speak of).

You may be confusing ontology with metaphysics. A metaphysical account will attempt to describe the absolute, but an ontology is largely just concerned with trying to conceptualise existent being (i.e. i can have an ontological conception of being without claiming to have a metaphyical conception of any ultimate cosmic necessity).

Why is it untenable to ascribe purpose to material things? Does purpose necessarily entail agency and consciousness, e.g. does evolurtion have a purpose? Evolution takes place with the 'purpose' of perpetuating life, but does not necessarily entail a divine creator. Should the word purpose be replaced by another in order to square the distinction between subjective agency and natural processes?

You might be interested in Quentin Messailloux's 'After Finitude - An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency'. It's about trying to conceive being in the absence of consciousness (i.e. breaking through the post-Kantian dividing line that clains that we only have access to that which is given to consciousness)

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Jul 22 2009 09:57
marmot wrote:
Vlad336 wrote:
marmot's criticism of outdated materialism is from the perspective of advanced quantum physics, but how many people today have access to this kind of knowledge or have time to debate it? Is the realization that material needs are the only driving force of human life to be criticized because it's supposedly crypto-idealist and out of touch with modern science? In a world where the vast majority of workers are still under the spell of religious dogma, deconstructing materialism holds little actual value for anarchism or for any revolutionary movement imo (although I'm all for debating this shit here).

Actually, that is not the totality of my criticism. The task is dissolving philosophical language, not necessarily just dissolving materialism. I think the dissolution of philosophy has a lot of value to working class movements because it is precisely abstracted philosophy that has formed a big bulk of ruling class ideology. The world is everything that is the case and there are enough words in working class, ordinary language to describe it. We don´t need ontology.

I totally disagree with the notion that philosophy needs to be 'dissolved' and that we don't need ontology. If you go down the first route yuo end up in dogma, ideology and economic determinism (philosophy should serve the purpose of assisting in the re-thinking the movements goals, assumptions, analyses, discourse, the relation between that discourse and that of which it speaks, etc.). If you go down the second you end up in relativism, which is obviously politically useless

Boris Badenov
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Jul 22 2009 17:04

I don't see how doing away with bourgeois philosophy makes you a dogmatic determinist. Was Marx a dogmatic determinist? Or was he a philosopher? I think he was neither.
ending up in relativism is more of a consequence of embracing pomo philosophy which is on very friendly terms with ontological speculation.

SatanIsMyCopilot wrote:
philosophy should serve the purpose of assisting in the re-thinking the movements goals

how would philosophy be able to serve that purpose when the "movement's" goals are not the product of philosophical specialism?