Science and ruling class ideology

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Demogorgon
Science and ruling class ideology
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This is a split from the thread on Stephen Hawking.

There is fundamental question lurking underneath that debate about the relationship between science and ruling class ideology.

This question has already been touched on by JK who states: "[The article] sets up science, in fact it appears only a certain kind of science, as in and of itself virtuous and ideologically-free, such that the scientific life becomes a locus of personal virtue and "service to humanity." Hawking had a "scientific mind" and served humanity from the centers of bourgeois academic privilege and prestige, whiel the rest of us either do bullshit work or engage in professions that are hopelessly tainted by ideology or which actually only reproduce captialism. Of course, the idea that science as practiced in bourgeois society is beyond ideology is itself spurious--especially the philosophically and abstract math-heavy field of cosmology that Hawking championed. In fact, some of the major precepts of what one might call "establishment cosmology" have been attacked by other scientists--many of them associated with the political left--as inherently ideological. I have no desire to enjoin the substance of this debate here, but it is important to acknowledge that it exists."

The question here is not the merits, or otherwise, of SH's cosmological theories but whether science itself is a form of enquiry that can escape the confines of ruling class ideology. Since it is meaningless to claim that science is a form of ruling class ideology without specifying which historical class it emanates from, the next question is whether science is a specifically bourgeois form of thought?

If science orginated before the capitalist mode of production did (say in Newton), then to what extent is it a specifically bourgeois form of thought? Does it represent feudal thought (in which case, how does it survive today), or revolutionary bourgeois thought?

If so, how does "bourgeois" science relate to the characteristics of the bourgeois mode of production?

It should go without saying that even if we conclude that science can step outside class boundaries, this does not automatically lead to the conclusion that it always does so. Is science truly transcendent? Or is it still limited by bourgeois (and other) class relations?

Lastly, there is the small matter of communism. Will a communist society continue to employ scientific method? Or will a new method arise? What is the relationship of Marxism to that method? Is Marxism the application of science to society or is it a fundamentally different methodology that can be applied to the natural sciences?

LBird
The social purpose of 'science'?

What is the social purpose of 'science'?

Whose social interests are served by the 'purpose' which is claimed to be at the root of 'science'?

Of course, the answer to these questions (like all political questions) is an ideological one.

The two main contenders for an answer to the first question are:

a) to make known a 'reality' which 'existed' prior to human activity; This is the universal revealing of 'The Truth'.

b) to create a 'reality-for-us', a form of 'reality' which we can change, because it only 'exists' in relation to our social production of 'it'; This is the creation of 'the good life'.

a) is the social ideology which emerged with ruling classes (initially in Ancient Greece, and latterly pressed home by the bourgeosie), and allows the ruling class to build a 'Universe-for-them', which cannot be argued with, because its 'knowledge' is 'Eternal Truth'.

b) is the social ideology suited to the exploited classes, and is a Democratic Communist ideology, which suits the interests and purposes of the class that actually creates the world we live in.

'Science' is a political and ideological battleground, and we have to consciously decide which ideology of science suits our revolutionary purposes.

A) suits the purposes of an elite, who can pretend that they're simply 'discovering' 'True Reality', and thus can keep the social production of 'scientific knowledge' in the hands of the ruling class, and pretend that there is no need for democratic accountability within 'science'.

B) is Marx's view of 'science'. He argued that different modes of production, and the classes within them, socially produce their own 'Objective Reality'.

Which 'science' seems suitable to the interests and purposes of the class conscious revolutionary proletariat?

Demogorgon
False dilemma fallacy

There is no contradiction between examining a reality that exists independently of human activity and then human activity changing that reality. You pose a classic false dilemma fallacy here.

Indeed, this is the entire premise of Marx's theory of labour which is based on human activity working on pre-existing matter to make it useful for humanity: "But coats and linen, like every other element of material wealth that is not the spontaneous produce of Nature, must invariably owe their existence to a special productive activity, exercised with a definite aim, an activity that appropriates particular nature-given materials to particular human wants."

That's mistake number 1.

Secondly, you repeat your continual strawman against science, which makes no claim to "eternal truth". If this was the case, then how do you explain how scientific theories continually evolve and change? Moreover, how does your position tally with the fact that testing, evaluating and modifying scientific theories is the absolute core of scientific practice?

You're confusing the totalising elements of bourgeois ideology (which does desire eternal truths) and how it presents science (especially popular science) with scientific methodology which rejects eternal truths.

That's mistake number 2.

Now, here's a direct question for you (and remember the rules about direct questions). Please explain precisely how the fact that an object exists independently of me means I can't change it? For example, if I stumble across a lump of granite, why can't I use it to create a sculpture?

LBird
The views of Marx contradict Demo's ideology

Unfortunately, Demogorgon hasn’t answered my reasonable philosophical question regarding his ‘science’, about which social purpose and whose social interests his own posts are intended to defend. This is very ironic, because he continually and falsely keeps accusing me of not answering direct questions, when anyone reading my posts can always see my direct quotes from Marx and other communists (for example, see the current ‘Stephen Hawking’ thread, where I directly quote Marx about the political dangers of ‘materialism’, but Demo chooses to ignore Marx – we’ll discover why, as this post proceeds).

 

I’ll openly state, so that everyone can be clear, about my political views about the ‘social purpose and interests of science’. The social purpose of science is to build a better world for all humanity, and this is in the interests of the revolutionary, class conscious, proletariat (who, even whilst unconscious of it, build any world that we humans know, but to ruling class designs), because only the proletariat can determine, by democratic methods, what a ‘better world’ is for them. There are no other social classes, or ‘special individual’ within them, who can determine for the proletariat, outside of the conscious activity of the proletariat itself. This, of course, is the core of Marx’s politics: the self-determination by the proletariat itself of its own social product – which, for Marx, includes any ‘nature’ that we humans know.

 

So, we can now proceed to expose Demo’s obvious ignorance of Marx’s politics, Marx’s ideology of ‘social production’, and Marx’s views about ‘nature-for’ humans.

 

Demogorgon wrote:
There is no contradiction between examining a reality that exists independently of human activity and then human activity changing that reality. You pose a classic false dilemma fallacy here.
[my bold]

 

Here, Demo begins by hiding his ideological belief in ‘a reality that exists independently of human activity’ (I’m still not sure whether Demo is conscious of this hiding of his ideology, or whether it’s a product of his unexamined adoption of ‘materialism’ – having read many of Demo’s posts, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that it’s simply his ignorance of philosophy, and of the socio-historical roots of his belief). He simply assumes ‘reality independent of human activity.’ Demo never asks from where he got this ‘assumption’. Of course, it’s a basic bourgeois ideological concept, a classic ‘ruling class idea’, which Demo will defend against Marx’s ‘social production’.

 

For Marx, there is no ‘reality that exists independently of human activity’, because any reality that we know is a social product of our theory and practice. In Marx’s words, ‘we produce our object’ – that is, any ‘Objective Reality’ is our product, and does not ‘exist’ outside of our activity. Again, we don’t ‘change a reality that exists’, but rather ‘we can change a reality that we have ourselves produced’. Marx’s views were formed within German Idealism, with its concept of ‘entausserung’, or ‘externalisation’, in which any ‘external world’ is a result of conscious activity. Marx employed this concept of ‘entausserung’, and related it to human activity (as opposed to the idealists previously relating it to the activity of the divine), and so Marx introduced the concept of ‘social production’. This was a revolutionary step, and ensured that for the proletariat, it would become conscious of its own ‘entausserung’, and realise that bourgeois ideologists were lying that ‘the world’ just ‘simply existed’ and merely ‘awaited discovery’ by bourgeois ‘experts’, like Stephen Hawking.

 

Here are a series of direct quotes from Marx, to give a brief flavour of his political ideas about ‘nature’ and ‘existence’ (there is no reference to ‘nature-in-itself’, or an ‘independent nature outside of human activity’:

 

Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, wrote:
… The human aspect of nature exists only for social man; for only then does nature exist for him…The nature which develops in human history – the genesis of human society – is man’s real nature; hence nature as it develops through industry, even though in an estranged form, is true anthropological nature …I ask: Who begot the first man, and nature as a whole? I can only answer you: Your question is itself a product of abstraction. Ask yourself how you arrived at that question. Ask yourself whether your question is not posed from a standpoint to which I cannot reply, because it is wrongly put. Ask yourself whether that progress as such exists for a reasonable mind. When you ask about the creation of nature and man, you are abstracting, in so doing, from man and nature. You postulate them as non-existent, and yet you want me to prove them to you as existing. Now I say to you: Give up your abstraction and you will also give up your question. Or if you want to hold on to your abstraction, then be consistent, and if you think of man and nature as non-existent, then think of yourself as non-existent, for you too are surely nature and man. Don’t think, don’t ask me, for as soon as you think and ask, your abstraction from the existence of nature and man has no meaning. Or are you such an egotist that you conceive everything as nothing, and yet want yourself to exist?... The way in which consciousness is, and in which something is for it, is knowing. Knowing is its sole act. Something therefore comes to be for consciousness insofar as the latter knows this something. Knowing is its sole objective relation.
[my bold]

 

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/comm.htm

If any comrade wishes to read Marx’s own words in book form (of which I’ve just given a few extracts), I’d recommend Karl Marx: Early Writings, pp. 277-400 (1992) Penguin Classics. There are many, many more examples of Marx insisting that nature and humanity are inescapably linked.

 

From this account of Marx’s ideas, we can see that Demo’s concept of a ‘classic false dilemma fallacy’ is intended to hide the political choice that we workers inescapably face: do we allow the bourgeois to determine our reality (what they call ‘The Real World’ or ‘The External World’ or ‘Pre-existing Reality’ or ‘The Universe’), or do we insist that only we workers can determine and produce our reality (what we’d call ‘Reality-for-us’ or ‘Our External Product’ or ‘Existence-for us’ or ‘Our Universe’).

 

Whilst the creation of any ‘reality’ that we know is left in the hands of bourgeois ideologists, like Hawking, then we will remain subservient to a political force not of our own making. One key task of the revolutionary proletariat is to democratise our education system, including all universities and research facilities, and to elect anyone who is part of that system. There are no ‘special individuals’ or ‘geniuses’ who ‘know our world’ better than the entire proletariat. To accept that political claim, is to keep us disarmed within all social production, including ‘science’.

 

 

 

 

Demogorgon wrote:
Indeed, this is the entire premise of Marx's theory of labour which is based on human activity working on pre-existing matter to make it useful for humanity"But coats and linen, like every other element of material wealth that is not the spontaneous produce of Nature, must invariably owe their existence to a special productive activity, exercised with a definite aim, an activity that appropriates particular nature-given materials to particular human wants."

That's mistake number 1.

[my bold]

‘Pre-existing matter’? Whose concept is this, Demo? Or are you going to continue pretending to us that you, as an individual, simply dreamt it up?

You’re out of your depth in discussions about Marx’s philosophy – this is your mistake, I’m afraid.

For what it’s worth (though I already know that you’ll ignore this), Marx never mentioned ‘pre-existing matter’ – you’ve just made that up. If anyone is your inspiration, it’s Engels, who thought that when Marx used the term ‘material’, he meant ‘matter’. This error of Engels has been well discussed on this site, and I’ve given dozens of quotes from Marx, Engels, Pannekoek, etc., so I won’t repeat them all again, here. The quotes I gave earlier from Marx should suffice.

 

Demogorgon wrote:
Secondly, you repeat your continual strawman against science, which makes no claim to "eternal truth". If this was the case, then how do you explain how scientific theories continually evolve and change? Moreover, how does your position tally with the fact that testing, evaluating and modifying scientific theories is the absolute core of scientific practice?
[my bold]

So, ‘science’, eh? No mention of whose ‘science’. And whatever happened to your earlier claim about ‘pre-existing matter’? Surely you’re arguing that this is an ‘eternal truth’? It must be, if it supposedly ‘pre-exists’ our social creation of ‘it’.

On the contrary, it’s Marxists who claim that we humans created ‘matter’, and can give a socio-historical account of its origins in class society (‘matter’ is the synonym of ‘private property’, of a social ideological concept transferred to ‘nature’), and its more recent bourgeois development through ‘mass’ and into ‘energy’ (all supposedly ‘pre-existing’ our creation of them, even though we humans keep changing 'it'). Your ‘materialist’ ideology cannot account for the emergence and change of ‘matter’. It’s your ‘god’, which is why you defend it so tenaciously.

 

Demogorgon wrote:
You're confusing the totalising elements of bourgeois ideology (which does desire eternal truths) and how it presents science (especially popular science) with scientific methodology which rejects eternal truths.

That's mistake number 2.

[my bold]

‘Science’, again, eh? That asocial, ahistorical, pure, politically neutral, elite, activity that you’re so keen to defend. As for ‘scientific methodology’, that’s going to have to await another post, and a whole new lesson for you, from a Marxist socio-historical perspective.

 

Demogorgon wrote:
Now, here's a direct question for you (and remember the rules about direct questions). Please explain precisely how the fact that an object exists independently of me means I can't change it? For example, if I stumble across a lump of granite, why can't I use it to create a sculpture?
[my italicised bold]

Well, we’ve done to death the ‘independently existing object’, already. Suffice to say, this concept is not one of Marx’s. It’s a staple of bourgeois materialism.

But, you’ve excelled yourself with your final flourish, Demo! No Marx, no social production, no history, no ‘scientific method’, no philosophy, no proletariat, no communism.

Nothing but the isolated ‘I’, Demo the bourgeois individual, desperate to defend the right of ‘The Individual’ to ‘Know Independently of Society’.

You’re going to have to read about the history of the social product ‘science’, Demo.

LBird
Philosophical advice from a Marxist

If I can give you some comradely advice, Demo. About your philosophical position.

You need to clarify for yourself just what you consider Marx's 'active side' to be. That is, what, in your ideology, is the 'conscious agent', the 'active creator', the 'producer'.

From Marx's perspective, the 'active side' is humanity, and in a mode of production in which there are classes within the social production process, the 'active side' is the exploited class. Thus, for Marx, the 'active side' is a social producer.

Within bourgeois ideology, however, the 'active side' is an individual. You might be familiar with late 19th century US Pragmatism, as an example of this ideological assumption.

This is a key isssue to be resolved - is the 'active side' either a social or an individual actor?

Your last question in your previous post suggests that the ideology that you currently employ regards the 'active side' as an 'I', 'an individual who makes things'.

This is a serious political, philosophical, and methodological error, on your part.

Please take this advice in the comradely spirit it was meant.

Demogorgon
LBird wrote:I’ll openly

LBird wrote:
I’ll openly state, so that everyone can be clear, about my political views about the ‘social purpose and interests of science’. The social purpose of science is to build a better world for all humanity, and this is in the interests of the revolutionary, class conscious, proletariat (who, even whilst unconscious of it, build any world that we humans know, but to ruling class designs), because only the proletariat can determine, by democratic methods, what a ‘better world’ is for them. There are no other social classes, or ‘special individual’ within them, who can determine for the proletariat, outside of the conscious activity of the proletariat itself. This, of course, is the core of Marx’s politics: the self-determination by the proletariat itself of its own social product – which, for Marx, includes any ‘nature’ that we humans know.

The social purpose of science should be to build a better world for all humanity, that is without question. But the reality is that, today, this is simply not the case. Science serves the bourgeoisie first and foremost.

The problem with LBird’s position here, even though I agree with the sentiment, is that here he appears to approve of science as being in service to the proletariat. Yet, if science can serve the proletariat, how can it be an essentially bourgeois method? If it can serve the bourgeoisie, how can it be a proletarian method?

Later, LBird lambasts me for talking about science as an “asocial, ahistorical, pure, politically neutral, elite, activity”, yet he runs into exactly the same problem himself. Yet here, too, we have this "science" appearing in an ahistorical form.

The second problem here is that the aims of science – or more accurately, the uses to which science are put to – are no guarantee of its validity. Thousands of people pray for God to aid them in natural disasters, but although the aim is to save human life the efficacy of this activity is for nought.

So the actual question under discussion here needs to be clarified. Is it the uses to which science is put to in bourgeois society or the validity of science as a method?

Quote:
Here are a series of direct quotes from Marx, to give a brief flavour of his political ideas about ‘nature’ and ‘existence’ (there is no reference to ‘nature-in-itself’, or an ‘independent nature outside of human activity’

The section of the EPM that LBird quotes from is a critique of the religious view of creationism: “The Creation is therefore an idea very difficult to dislodge from popular consciousness. The fact that nature and man exist on their own account is incomprehensible to it, because it contradicts everything tangible in practical life.

The experience that gives rise to creationism is the lived experience that human beings create other human beings, that we were created by our parents. Who then created our parents? Their parents and so on and so forth! This is related to the classic "cosmological argument" which argues because everything that exists there must be a cause - ultimately, there must be a first cause, which is God.

Marx then goes on to say: “The creation of the earth has received a mighty blow from geognosy – i.e., from the science which presents the formation of the earth, the development of the earth, as a process, as a self-generation. Generatio aequivoca is the only practical refutation of the theory of creation.

A couple of things are noteworthy here. Firstly, Marx looks to the science of his day (apparently, Lyell, according to the note) to provide weapons with which to combat creationism. This, he believes, has been achieved in the matter of the formation of the Earth. It is not entirely clear exactly what Marx is referring to with "generation aequivova" - it is usually taken to mean spontaneous generation. At the time, there was a major debate raging over this topic, but Marx doesn't draw on any specific conception of it, but simply draws on the idea that the Earth was self-generating.

But while science now offered a specific rational explanation of how the Earth had come to be, there still remains the problem of humanity. The science of his day – this was pre-Darwin – had not produced a systematic account of this. He then proceeds to construct an argument through a sort of Socratic dialogue, to argue that humanity – as science, in his view, has shown the Earth to be – is self-generating. At no point, does he offer an actual scientific explanation - the aim here is to demonstrate the formal possibility of this (i.e. without a specific theory of abiogenesis for example), albeit one based on practical experience.

I’m not sure why LBird didn’t quote this passage from the text, because it seems to articulate his own position better than the other bits, but his conclusion is this:

But since for the socialist man the entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labour, nothing but the emergence of nature for man, so he has the visible, irrefutable proof of his birth through himself, of his genesis. Since the real existence of man and nature has become evident in practice, through sense experience, because man has thus become evident for man as the being of nature, and nature for man as the being of man, the question about an alien being, about a being above nature and man – a question which implies the admission of the unreality of nature and of man – has become impossible in practice.

Here Marx elaborates on what he means by humanity being self-generating, from a socialist perspective. It is through labour that humanity self-generates, through which we not only create our physical existence but also the meaning for that existence as a part of nature.

Although this experience is hidden by class society, it is one that can be grasped by "socialist man" and posed against "everything tangible in practical life” from whence the problematic of infinite progression comes from. This direct experience of self-creation thus, in his view, annihilates the false question of a chain of “who begat who” going right back to the First Cause. 

This, Marx argues, makes the entire religious conception of nature and humanity being created by an alien being – God – meaningless: “the question about an alien being, about a being above nature and man – a question which implies the admission of the unreality of nature and of man – has become impossible in practice”.

Some points thus arise.

Marx is not arguing against science, not even the "bourgeois" science of his day - in fact, he appeals to it in the first part of the argument - but attempting to fill in the gaps of a science that has not yet provided a comprehensive origin of humanity. Nor is he implying that nature is a product of humanity, for humanity. This would be simply returning to the premise that nature was created by God for humanity, negating God from the equation and thus giving humanity primacy in the creation process. Marx argues that this negation of God is meaningless: “Atheism, as the denial of this unreality, has no longer any meaning, for atheism is a negation of God, and postulates the existence of man through this negation; but socialism as socialism no longer stands in any need of such a mediation. It proceeds from the theoretically and practically sensuous consciousness of man and of nature as the essence.”

The idea that man creates nature is thus as muddle-headed as the idea that God creates nature. I would suggest that this is the point at which bourgeois materialism gets itself stuck. From God sitting outside the world, now we find humanity doing the same. Nature is still something separate from humanity, whether as something humanity creates or studies.

This isn’t where Marx leaves it. On the contrary, the final synthesis of his argument is that humanity and nature form a unity. In the context of science, we are not beings outside of the universe, trying to understand it – we are the universe trying to understand itself. In humanity, we find the nature that knows itself.

How then to explain why Marx, in other works, talks about humanity and nature as if they were separate? The latter way of posing the question is clearly visible in Capital where he uses the latter method when describing the labour process.

I already quoted one example earlier in this thread, but there are many others, such as this one:

The use values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities, are combinations of two elements – matter and labour. If we take away the useful labour expended upon them, a material substratum is always left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter. Nay more, in this work of changing the form he is constantly helped by natural forces. We see, then, that labour is not the only source of material wealth, of use values produced by labour. As William Petty puts it, labour is its father and the earth its mother.

Here, Marx directly counterposes human activity to “matter”, “Nature”, and “natural forces”. Indeed, Nature furnishes this matter without the help of man. (Incidentally, this answers LBird’s other criticism where he says “Marx never mentioned ‘pre-existing matter’”. This is exactly what he does here. True, he doesn’t use that exact phrase, but the meaning is identical. At the risk of spelling it out, it is impossible to change something that does not already exist. The “something” in this case is matter.)

Immediately prior to this, he states: “So far therefore as labour is a creator of use value, is useful labour, it is a necessary condition, independent of all forms of society, for the existence of the human race; it is an eternal nature-imposed necessity, without which there can be no material exchanges between man and Nature, and therefore no life.”

Here, he talks about material exchange between humanity and nature.

This seems to be an insoluble contradiction. In the EPM, Marx talks about the unity of humanity and nature. But, in Capital, he talks about material exchange between humanity and nature. Yet, a unity cannot exchange with itself. Exchange, by definition, requires separation.

Are we to appeal to the Althusserian idea of an epistemological break? Is the work of the early Marx in opposition to the later? I don’t think this is the case.

As is always the case in the Marxian dialectic, this unity between humanity and nature does not preclude them being distinct. Unity is, in fact, predicated on their distinctness because it is the dialectical relationship between two distinct elements within a unity that provides the motive force that allows the unity to develop.

To look at only the unity without examining the distinctions within it is as flawed as only seeing distinctions divorced of unity. It is legitimate to do either any particular moment, of course, because there are different dynamics at play depending on which perspective we take. What is problematic is to examine one at the exclusion of the other.

Without this dialectical understanding, by continually insisting on the unity of humanity and nature without understanding or even acknowledging the distinction, we up repeating the exact same error that I think Marx was critiquing in the EPM, the idea of humanity replacing God as the creator of nature.

There is thus no demand in Marx for an ontology where nature only comes into existence once humanity does. Indeed, elsewhere Marx states explicitly that nature precedes humanity, particularly in The German Ideology:  “They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity.

In other words, some material conditions are created directly by human activity, others already exist (“furnished by Nature without the help of man” no doubt).

Later, he is even more explicit: “Of course, in all this the priority of external nature remains unassailed, and all this has no application to the original men produced by generatio aequivoca; but this differentiation has meaning only insofar as man is considered to be distinct from nature. For that matter, nature, the nature that preceded human history, is not by any means the nature in which Feuerbach lives, it is nature which today no longer exists anywhere (except perhaps on a few Australian coral-islands of recent origin) and which, therefore, does not exist for Feuerbach.”

I must confess, however, that I may be wrong in seeing the arguments that Marx makes in the EPM and later as having a fundamental unity. This is because Marx actually seems to allude to and categorically reject the previous argument he made there: “All-round dependence, this natural form of the world-historical co-operation of individuals, will be transformed by this communist revolution into the control and conscious mastery of these powers, which, born of the action of men on one another, have till now overawed and governed men as powers completely alien to them. Now this view can be expressed again in speculative-idealistic, i.e. fantastic, terms as “self-generation of the species” (“society as the subject”), and thereby the consecutive series of interrelated individuals connected with each other can be conceived as a single individual, which accomplishes the mystery of generating itself. It is clear here that individuals certainly make one another, physically and mentally, but do not make themselves.

Here, he seems to denounce the idea of “self-generation” as speculative, idealist, fantastic, etc. i.e. the way he posed it in the EPM, of “man” generating himself, as being false. Either Marx is contradicting himself or there is something else at play here.

Certainly, he is right that “man”, conceived of as an individual, as an entity in itself cannot self-generate. Only when we examine the inner workings of “man”, that we encounter another dialectic. Humanity is the unity of many individuals – humanity is society. Individuals are both part of society, yet distinct from it. It is the interrelationships between individuals that compose society – or to put it in the dialectic terms I used earlier, those relationships provide the motive force that allows the development of society, its co-creation.

The real point of EPM here is that it is only through a unity of science that likewise examines humanity and nature as a unity, that the riddle of how humanity emerged can be solved. In other words, the history of nature is the history of humanity, just as the history of humanity is the history of nature. From earlier in the same section of the EPM: "History itself is a real part of natural history and of nature's becoming man. Natural science will, in time, subsume the science of man, just as the science of man will subsume natural science: there will be one science."

This "one science", a science examining the unity between humanity and nature, is only possible because that unity exists in reality.

Marx was not able to offer the exact explanation for human origins. It was left to Darwin to provide this, but Marx's utter conviction in a materialist explanation for the origins of humanity allowed him to understand what sort of science was needed to achieve this understanding. And, indeed, when it arrived in Darwin's Origins he enthusiastically embraced it even though that embrace was a critical one.

Indeed, in Capital, Marx used Darwin as the starting point for a sidenote about science: "Darwin has interested us in the history of Nature’s Technology, i.e., in the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as instruments of production for sustaining life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man, of organs that are the material basis of all social organisation, deserve equal attention? And would not such a history be easier to compile, since, as Vico says, human history differs from natural history in this, that we have made the former, but not the latter? Technology discloses man’s mode of dealing with Nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations, and of the mental conceptions that flow from them. Every history of religion, even, that fails to take account of this material basis, is uncritical. It is, in reality, much easier to discover by analysis the earthly core of the misty creations of religion, than, conversely, it is, to develop from the actual relations of life the corresponding celestialised forms of those relations. The latter method is the only materialistic, and therefore the only scientific one. The weak points in the abstract materialism of natural science, a materialism that excludes history and its process, are at once evident from the abstract and ideological conceptions of its spokesmen, whenever they venture beyond the bounds of their own speciality."

Why, he asks following Vico, is it harder to understand human history than natural history, when we have made human history and not natural history? Here, again, Marx poses human and natural history as conceptually separate.

Moreover, he equates the "materialist" method with the scientific method. However, his approval of materialism is not uncritical. To be truly scientific, materialism has to abandon abstraction, ground itself in history and the process of history. This echoes, again, the EPM in its call for a unified science that proceeds from the unity of humanity and nature.

The science of his day, for all its advances, had not yet reached this synthesis because the bourgeoisie are unable to truly apply the scientific method to the human question. There, "science" remains trapped in ideology.

Lbird wrote:
Well, we’ve done to death the ‘independently existing object’, already. Suffice to say, this concept is not one of Marx’s. It’s a staple of bourgeois materialism.

This post is already too long and I fully admit I haven't covered half your points, but this has to be said because you're, once again, dodging a question.

Firstly, rejecting the question because I use the term “I” is disengenous because the question is equally valid even if you substitute "I" for another entity. Let us imagine a primitive hunter-gatherer tribe moving into an area with lots of granite (or flint, or trees, or any other item “nature furnishes without the help of man”). Or the first communist colony ship to Mars, which will find all sorts of materials to hand when it arrives. Really, take your pick.

Secondly, what I'm trying to unpick here is the non sequitur at the core of your argument. So I'll try again using as precise as terms as possible.

Your argument essentially follows this logical form:

  1.  
    1. IF reality exists prior to human action …
    2. THEN that reality cannot be changed only discovered.
       
  2. We know they can be changed because we change it
  3. Therefore reality cannot exist prior to human action.

What I am questioning here is the IF-THEN portion of your argument, which must be shown to be correct before the conclusion can be accepted. (I don't dispute point 2.)

So, you need to demonstrate why the fact that something exists prior to humanity and thus was not created by humanity cannot be changed by humanity.

If you cannot demonstrate this, you must abandon your conclusion that reality cannot exist prior to human action.

jk1921
I don't think we can see

I don't think we can see science--or the scientific method--as essentially bourgeois in nature. In fact, science long precedes the bourgeois epoch, even if prior to the Enlightenment it was forced to compete with multiple other forms of knowledge (ways of knowing) and was often subjected to suppression by the forces of the state and the church. But I do think it is the case that bourgeois society is the first form of human society that incorporates science into its legitimating ideology and in which science, independent of its role in advancing human knowledge of the world, comes to serve as a form of social power itself.

Science, scientific method and a kind of faith in rationality emerged during the Enlightenment as an ideology with which the bourgeoisie differentiated itself from the church and the aristocracy by constructing a virtue narrative of the superiority of their class and the relations of production they presided over against the remaining vestiges of feudalism. Of course, this historical narrative is not a perfect representation of this period--corresponding best perhaps to the 18th century salons of Paris. Elsewhere, bourgeois society was ushered in through other ideological forms like the Protestant work-ethic, Calvinism, etc., and it is also true that some of the leading figures of the Enlightenment were noble-dilettantes who shunned the vulgar bourgeois world of work for the virtuous life of the mind (and were hated by more pious bourgeois because of it). Still, it is nevertheless clear that the development of science and the application of  rationality to social and productive processes aided and abetted the bourgeoisie in establishing itself as a new ruling class, especially as the industrial revolution advanced and demonstrated in a practical way the superiority of capitalism in improving human living standards. The 19th and 20th centuries saw the application of science and scientific methods to ever increasing areas of human life and an ethos developed that identified the "good life," with one ordered by science and rationality. Of course, in the late bourgeois period (what we call "social decomposition"), this dominance of science as a legitimating ideology has waned to some degree and there has been a reemergence of all kinds of irrationalist ideas and philosophies and even a resurgence of religion.

Still, even if the development of science has in some way gone hand in hand with bourgeois social dominance over the last two centuries, this can't be seen as some kind of indictment of science itself as a way of knowing the truth. There is science itself and science "as applied" in particular social and class contexts. Science can still be capable of discovering, if not "eternal truths" about the objective world, "universal truths" that are valid regardless of what human subjects think about them. The law of gravity is as valid for someone who believes it as one who doesn't. Nevertheless, if these truths are universal, that doesn't mean they aren't open to revision and development given a changing natural world or new discoveries about it.

So even if science today is heavily distorted by the ideological forms of capitalism and the labour process which produces scientific "products." This doesn't mean its conclusions about the world  are always wrong. Of course, it is necessary here to differentiate between different kinds of science: cosmology isn't medicine. Cosmology is dominated by abstract mathematical theorizing with little capacity for independent laboratory confirmation. Moreover, given its remoteness from human endeavor in late capitalism, its practical usefulness is limited, giving rise to cultural critiques of it as fantastical and a waste of resources. Medicine on the other hand has a concrete object to work on and manipulate (the human body) and its conclusions can generally speaking be subjected to independent laboratory verification. Its social usefulness today is without question. Of course, scratch the surface a little bit and its becomes obvious that even medicine is not without its ideological contamination by bourgeois mores--i.e. the seemingly interminable controversies around "mystery" illnesses like myalgic encephalomyelitis, fibromyalgia, chronic pain more generally, which the NHS has concluded are products of poor conditioning and pain tolerance, a conclusion vigorously resisted by many doctors and patient advocacy groups. Clearly, the need of the state to get as many people off of disability benefits as possible affects the kinds of medical experts it will listen to.

It is thus not so easy to separate science neatly into two varieties: ideologically free, neutral and virtuous hard or natural sciences and ideologically contaminated bunk on the other hand, which is why I think it is mistake to suggest that all of social science is useless or that it has a fundamentally different quality than hard or natural science. This was in part my problem with the Hawking article. If Hawking, why not Chomsky?

Of course, none of this says much of anything about the role of science in communist society and the orientation of the proletariat to building a society based on rationalist principles and the scientific ordering of human life. Science is obviously a powerful tool for overcoming human problems in its relationship with nature. But there is also the warning of the Frankfurt School that too strong a reliance on science to tell us what the "good life" is will inevitably have the boomerang effect of subjecting humanity itself to kind of domination. The twentieth century examples of this are plentiful--Tagore mentions one when he talks about the problem of (anti) psychiatry in another thread--but the question of whether this has something to do with science itself as a kind of objectifying gaze from which it can never free itself, or whether it is only an effect of science "as applied" in bourgeois society might not have an obvious answer.

There is an entire other discussion to be had about ethics and morality, which I think probably has much to do with how we conceptualize human mortality and whether or not we believe in a kind of Promethan promise that this might one day be overcome through science. The subject of death has come up in a few other threads recently, so maybe this is something that can be developed further?

 

LBird
Just a quick initial response

I'm a bit pushed for time and the moment (and will be tomorrow), but I wish to reply to Demo's reasonable post, and so will only address in this post the first couple of points that he's made. I'll address the rest later in the week, if time permits.

Demogorgon wrote:

The social purpose of science should be to build a better world for all humanity, that is without question. But the reality is that, today, this is simply not the case. Science serves the bourgeoisie first and foremost.

The problem with LBird’s position here, even though I agree with the sentiment, is that here he appears to approve of science as being in service to the proletariat. Yet, if science can serve the proletariat, how can it be an essentially bourgeois method? If it can serve the bourgeoisie, how can it be a proletarian method?

[my bold]

One has to decide whether 'science' serves human, social, historical purposes, or whether 'science' is (at least in the majority of its practice) a universal, timeless, asocial activity.

If one thinks the former, then 'science' will always be prefixed with its creator: so, bourgeois science, proletarian science, witchcraft science, divine science (or whatever prefix).

If one thinks the latter, then 'science' is neutral (in 'method' or 'practice' or 'ideas'): so, Science.

As a Communist and a Marxist, I regard 'science' as a social product (and not a politically-neutral activity), so I think the former: there is bourgeois science, there is proletarian science. The interests, purposes, politics, methods, products, participants, etc. of any 'science' will differ between both modes of production, and any classes within those modes.

I'm open about my political beliefs, but Demo still seems to regard 'science' (at least potentially) as being a 'universal activity', untainted by ideology, politics, beliefs, assumptions, social interests, and selective purposes of those 'doing science'.

So, we agree what the purpose of 'science' should be (a better world for humanity), but I think that this can only be achieved by a proletarian science using a democratic method. I don't believe that there is an (un-prefixed) 'science' which, of itself, will set out to realise our agreed purpose.

What's more, I think that the historical development of 'science', from the late 19th century especially, provides solid evidence for this belief. Plus, it's what any Marxist would expect.

Demo wrote:
Later, LBird lambasts me for talking about science as an “asocial, ahistorical, pure, politically neutral, elite, activity”, yet he runs into exactly the same problem himself. Yet here, too, we have this "science" appearing in an ahistorical form.

The second problem here is that the aims of science – or more accurately, the uses to which science are put to – are no guarantee of its validity. Thousands of people pray for God to aid them in natural disasters, but although the aim is to save human life the efficacy of this activity is for nought.

So the actual question under discussion here needs to be clarified. Is it the uses to which science is put to in bourgeois society or the validity of science as a method?

[my bold]

I've never claimed that a 'proletarian science' is 'ahistorical'. All 'science' is a specific social product of its times, as is any human product.

As to 'validity', for your ideology, Demo, who or what determines 'validity'?

As a Democratic Communist, I think only the proletariat can determine what is 'valid-for' itself. If you disagree, and think that 'Reality-Itself' determines 'validity', or that only an 'expert elite' can do so, this means that the proletariat doesn't. This is political suicide for our class, because some other power (either external to humanity or superior to the proletariat) determines our world.

I'm sorry to have to cut this short, but you really have to come up with a political explanation of how any proposed 'science' according to your ideology would serve the interests of humanity in communism, if the vast majority don't control that 'science'.

Once again, Marx warned where this would all lead: to society split into two parts, one superior to the other: the 'scientists' and the 'non-scientists'. This conclusion is not politicially acceptable to communists.

I'll return to these vital issues later in the week.

jk1921
The University

There is also the issue of the institutional mechanisms through which scientific knowledge is produced. Today, that is generally through the university, although also through private foundations, think tanks, corporate and state research arms, etc.--these often share personnel with universities, etc. The university is not an invention of the bourgeoisie and its internal functioning remains even today what many people who have experienced it describe as feudal--following a strict hierarchy where one has to earn the respect of one's peers to advance, often following years of apprenticeship when one is subjected to stark living conditions and the fear of rejection and the accompanying shame . The quest for tenure (available to fewer and fewer academic personnel these days) seems to serve to promote intellectual conformity as much as produce new ideas, even if tenure is ostensibly a  mechanism through which to protect free thinking.

Of course, even if the academic structure of the university is still "feudal" in some respects, there is also the phenomenon of what many today call the "neo-liberal university," in which academic departments are increasingly called upon to demonstrate their efficiency and overall worth to the institution by administrators. Obviously, this leads to a privileging of fields that can bring in money and there have been reports that some universities have simply decided to give up on the humanities and social sciences. With STEM worship all the rage in liberal, meritocratic circles, the universities are still nevertheless the sight of a contentious cultural clash around identity politics with conservatives declaring them locations where young people are taught to hate broader society. Interestingly, in the US, the right-wing has picked up on the student debt issue some and has been using it to attack academia and big government for loading young people up with debt for useless degrees. Meanwhile, the liberal meritocrats remain largely silent on the issue, demonstrating their complicity in a kind of academic-higher education industry-government complex that provides the armies of white collar workers the metropolitan elites depend on to keep the "new economy" moving.

In his piece on "bullshit work," Graeber argues that what is needed is some kind of competition for the universities. He refers back to the salon culture of the Enlightenment to demonstrate that the university is only one way of producing knowledge, there have been other competitors  in the past that have driven the development of knowledge against the conformist tendencies of the universities and more of that is needed today. Perhaps there are also examples to be gleaned from the history of the workers' movement?  But will communist society retain the institution of the university or is Graeber right that an alternative is needed? What is the relationship between the academy as a kind of disciplining institution of knowledge and other forms of knowledge production in the public sphere (an ICC public meeting could even be an example of one such form).

Demogorgon
Validity and terminology

Quote:
As to 'validity', for your ideology, Demo, who or what determines 'validity'?

Validity in science is determined by evidence. The validity of science is determined by its practical outcomes. (The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive).

It is true that who gathers the evidence and interprets it is not a trivial question, but nor is it the central question.

Even when the proletariat grasps science for itself, and uses it to pursue its own aims (to be decided by the mass of workers, in the first instance - and in communism there won't be any "workers", of course) that in itself doesn't answer the question of how they will carry out science.

The proletariat will still have to determine the validity of theories on the basis of evidence, even though it is now workers (and, under communism, people) who now collate and interpret it. How else is a proletarian committee (be this a commission or a mass council) going to distinguish between valid and invalid scientific theories?

If the proletariat is not going to use evidence as the yardstick for how it assesses science, then what is it going to use?

Evidence is a broad term, but ultimately it boils down "sense-perception" which Marx called "the basis of all science" (see the EPM again).

It's possible we may agree on who should do science (the mass of the proletariat in its mass organs), why they do science (to meet the needs of the proletariat as determined by the proletariat), but this still leaves the how.

Simply appealing to democratic mechanisms isn't enough, it is purely abstract. This doesn't mean that democratic mechanisms shouldn't be used, far from it, but this itself cannot explain the validity of a particular vote. What if the vote only offers a small majority? With even a large majority, are those who disagree with the majority then forbidden to research their rejected theory?

If voting is the sole determinant of "truth", then workers can't even change their minds.  If they can't change their minds i.e. their votes really are binding as the sole criterion of truth then you have simply created a new religion. Each new pronouncement must either be in continuity with precedents, regardless of whether its variance with reality; or, it will diverge but contort itself by claiming it's saying the same thing. You can see the Biblical literalists for an example of where that goes.

If they can change their minds, then something must be able to command a higher truth-value than the previous vote. This, in my view, can only be scientific method: the testing of theory by evidence. In that methodology, the only thing that can trump previous evidence is more evidence. This is why science rarely overturns previous theories as a whole, but expands and modifies them as new evidence comes to light.

Lastly, on terminology.

I would (tentatively) argue that "science" does exist, in the sense of scientific method. Science as method existed before the bourgeoisie and, in my opinion, will exist after it. I think it is thus legitimate to talk about science, no prefix required.

Nonetheless, not all societies approach or implement science in the same way. As JK says, bourgeois society has a particular relationship with science both on a practical level (science drives technical development, an essential element of the accumulation process) and on an ideological level (as a legitimiser). The bourgeosie's class position makes it impossible for it truly pursue science (and create Marx's unified science) because this immediately undermines its own class position. It can only really give science free rein in the natural sciences and even here there it is fraught with difficulty, both practical and ideological. It is thus perfectly legitimate to talk of "bourgeois science" when dealing with science as practiced under these conditions.

Similarly, there will be a "proletarian science", one science, which unleashes the true potential of science both in the sense of practical development and also in reunifying us with nature, as Marx suggested in the EMP. Sadly, proletarian science doesn't exist yet, although one might argue that Darwin and others, as the high point of bourgeois science show us glimmers of the former.

Demogorgon
Universities

Very quickly, the question of reclaiming the University was a theme that was raised on the picket line in the recent UCU strikes. One academic gave a presentation, describing the current arrangement as an absolutist court, with the Vice Chancellor in the centre. The hunger for a new way of teaching, learning and researching was palpable.

LBird
Focus of 'science'

Demogorgon wrote:

LBird wrote:
As to 'validity', for your ideology, Demo, who or what determines 'validity'?

Validity in science is determined by evidence. ...

Evidence is a broad term, but ultimately it boils down "sense-perception" which Marx called "the basis of all science" (see the EPM again).

Quick early morning comment.

But 'evidence' is a social product by humans. So the same philosophical question applies to both 'validity' and 'evidence'.

This was Marx's position, too. He argued that 'sense-perception' is socio-historical - that is, 'sense-perception' is a result of social theory and practice (and so 'sense-perception' changes), so, in effect, you're arguing (if you follow Marx on this issue, that is) that 'the basis of all science' is 'social production'.

I agree with that explanation of 'science', too.

So, who controls 'social production'? Who (or what) is the 'active side'?

You are going to have to confront this political and philosophical issue, Demo.

Who or what is the subject? Does the subject produce its object?

Marx argued that subject produces its object. That is 'science' for Marx - the political examination of that productive relationship, in its social and historical context, and the identification of the productive subject, and that subject's interests, purposes, concepts and practice.

LBird
A bit more comment on Demo's post #6

Demogorgon wrote:

The second problem here is that the aims of science – or more accurately, the uses to which science are put to – are no guarantee of its validity. Thousands of people pray for God to aid them in natural disasters, but although the aim is to save human life the efficacy of this activity is for nought.

So the actual question under discussion here needs to be clarified. Is it the uses to which science is put to in bourgeois society or the validity of science as a method?

[my bold]

Once again, aims, uses, validity and method, are all human products.

This is no asocial, ahistorical 'method' (if there was, it would be universal and thus politically-neutral, and so couldn't be changed by the revolutionary proletariat).

So, the same political and philosophical questions apply here, too.

Who (or what)...?

 

Demo wrote:

The idea that man creates nature is thus as muddle-headed as the idea that God creates nature. I would suggest that this is the point at which bourgeois materialism gets itself stuck. From God sitting outside the world, now we find humanity doing the same. Nature is still something separate from humanity, whether as something humanity creates or studies.

This isn’t where Marx leaves it. On the contrary, the final synthesis of his argument is that humanity and nature form a unity. In the context of science, we are not beings outside of the universe, trying to understand it – we are the universe trying to understand itself. In humanity, we find the nature that knows itself.

How then to explain why Marx, in other works, talks about humanity and nature as if they were separate? The latter way of posing the question is clearly visible in Capital where he uses the latter method when describing the labour process.

I already quoted one example earlier in this thread, but there are many others, such as this one:

The use values, coat, linen, &c., i.e., the bodies of commodities, are combinations of two elements – matter and labour. If we take away the useful labour expended upon them, a material substratum is always left, which is furnished by Nature without the help of man. The latter can work only as Nature does, that is by changing the form of matter. Nay more, in this work of changing the form he is constantly helped by natural forces. We see, then, that labour is not the only source of material wealth, of use values produced by labour. As William Petty puts it, labour is its father and the earth its mother.

Here, Marx directly counterposes human activity to “matter”, “Nature”, and “natural forces”. Indeed, Nature furnishes this matter without the help of man. (Incidentally, this answers LBird’s other criticism where he says “Marx never mentioned ‘pre-existing matter’”. This is exactly what he does here. True, he doesn’t use that exact phrase, but the meaning is identical. At the risk of spelling it out, it is impossible to change something that does not already exist. The “something” in this case is matter.)

Immediately prior to this, he states: “So far therefore as labour is a creator of use value, is useful labour, it is a necessary condition, independent of all forms of society, for the existence of the human race; it is an eternal nature-imposed necessity, without which there can be no material exchanges between man and Nature, and therefore no life.”

Here, he talks about material exchange between humanity and nature.

This seems to be the key point at issue.

What did Marx mean by 'nature'?

Engels and the 2nd International, Lenin, etc. (and clearly Demo, too) took this to mean 'matter' - a 'thing existing outside of humans'.

But Marx talks about two forms of 'nature' - 'inorganic' and 'organic'. The former only 'exists' when in relation to humanity, and the latter is a socio-historical product of that relationship, within which relationship humans are the 'active side'.

'Inorganic nature' is not 'matter'. 'Matter' is a social product within 'organic nature'.

This notion of a form of 'nature' being a nothingness has a long tradition, dating back to Ancient Greece, of which thought Marx was very aware. The 'unifier' of 'man and nature' is humanity. The 'unity' is organic nature, our social product. Marx quite clearly refers to a form of 'nature' as a 'nothing for us' - it's our activity (labour) that makes this into a 'something for us' (whether we call it 'matter', 'mass' or 'energy'). Protagoras' 'man is the measure' is a taste of this ideology.

Marx's 'inorganic nature' is his name for what some Greeks called 'hupokeimenon' (literally 'underlying') or 'apoios' (literally 'qualityless'). It's a 'nothingness' unless it's in relationship with a 'maker'. As an aside,  a good rendering of this relational approach is Bogdanov's 'activity - resistance' couplet. This is much closer to Marx than anything Lenin wrote. In this relationship, the two parts define each other - there can't be 'resistance' without 'activity', and there can't be 'activity' without 'resistance'. Neither 'exists' without the other. That is, anything that 'exists' can only 'exist-for' its creator. For Marx, the 'creator' is active humanity - not 'active divinity' (god) or 'passive humanity' (where 'matter' is active and pre-exists its maker).

Marx rejects parts of both 'idealism' and 'materialism', and accepts parts of both 'idealism' and 'materialism' (see his Theses on Feuerbach).

I won't take this any further in this post - it's long enough, and I've covered Marx's 'idealism-materialism' (social production, social theory and practice) in many other threads.

Marx unified idealism and materialism - a common aim within his generation of thinkers, but Marx achieved it.

Marx, EPM, wrote:
Here we see how consistent naturalism or humanism is distinct from both idealism and materialism, and constitutes at the same time the unifying truth of both. We see also how only naturalism is capable of comprehending the action of world history.
[my bold]

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/hegel.htm

LBird
Last part of Demo's post #6

Demogorgon wrote:

Secondly, what I'm trying to unpick here is the non sequitur at the core of your argument. So I'll try again using as precise as terms as possible.

Your argument essentially follows this logical form:

  1.  
    1. IF reality exists prior to human action
    2. THEN that reality cannot be changed only discovered.
       
  2. We know they can be changed because we change it
  3. Therefore reality cannot exist prior to human action.

What I am questioning here is the IF-THEN portion of your argument, which must be shown to be correct before the conclusion can be accepted. (I don't dispute point 2.)

So, you need to demonstrate why the fact that something exists prior to humanity and thus was not created by humanity cannot be changed by humanity.

If you cannot demonstrate this, you must abandon your conclusion that reality cannot exist prior to human action.

[my bold]

The problem with your formulation of your question, Demo, is that, for Marx and many later communists, reality doesn't exist prior to human action.

You are starting from the axiom that 'reality exists prior to human action' - which is fair enough, it's your ideological basis.

This becomes obvious when you see my belief in this, as a conclusion.

But it's not a 'conclusion', but an axiom.

This is a political and philosophical debate about 'axioms', not about a 'universal logic'.

Indeed, logic itself is a human product, and changes.

We can see that you start from the premise of 'two valued' classical logic (If, Then, Else), whereas I don't. I start from the axioms of 'n-valued' logic, where 'n' is 3, or 4, or 5..., depending upon the human chioce made at the start. That is, 'logic' is axiomatic, too. And so, political.

It's better to expose one's ideology, assumptions, axioms, theories and politics, from the start. If 'science' means anything, it should mean the exposing of one's perspective (which is always political).

LBird
Whose 'logic', and who has the power to choose?

Even Betrand Russell was aware of the problems of bi-valent logic!

Russell wrote:
All traditional logic habitually assumes that precise symbols are being employed. It is therefore not applicable to this terrestrial life, but only to an imagined celestial existence.
[my bold]

Quoted in Bergmann, M. (2008) An Introduction to Many-Valued and Fuzzy Logic, p. 2.

LBird
Contrasting ideologies of 'science'

jk1921 wrote:

Science can still be capable of discovering, if not "eternal truths" about the objective world, "universal truths" that are valid regardless of what human subjects think about them. The law of gravity is as valid for someone who believes it as one who doesn't. Nevertheless, if these truths are universal, that doesn't mean they aren't open to revision and development given a changing natural world or new discoveries about it.

Pannekoek, Lenin as Philosopher, wrote:
Hence Historical Materialism looks upon the works of science, the concepts, substances, natural Laws, and forces, although formed out of the stuff of nature, primarily as the creations of the mental Labour of man. Middle-class materialism, on the other hand, from the point of view of the scientific investigator, sees all this as an element of nature itself which has been discovered and brought to light by science. Natural scientists consider the immutable substances, matter, energy, electricity, gravity, the Law of entropy, etc., as the basic elements of the world, as the reality that has to be discovered. From the viewpoint of Historical Materialism they are products which creative mental activity forms out of the substance of natural phenomena.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1938/lenin/ch02.htm

Here, Pannekoek contrasts two ideologies of science. The former follows Marx, and the latter is that of jk1921.

And in fact, jk, just like Engels in his 1890's letters, contradicts his own statement. How can something be 'universal', but 'open to revision'? How can something be 'unchanging', yet 'changeable'?

We communists start from 'changeability', in our initial axioms.

jk1921
A "truth" can be universal to

A "truth" can be universal to the extent it describes an objective reality that is universal in a given frame of reference. The law of gravity is universal everywhere on earth. Of course, that doesn't mean that gravity functions exactly the same at every point on earth--its effects are varied by factors like elevation, resistance, etc.  But for all human subjects, jumping off a cliff leads to the same result--death or catastophic injury. Anyone who doubts this "universal truth" should make sure their life insurance payments are current. Similary, the theory of relativity tells us that time is correlated to speed and that an astronaut travelling near the speed of light can slow down her aging process relative to those left behind on earth. But that is some cold comfort to those who will never see the inside of a space shift and who know that in our social/historical frame of reference life is short and death is certain. 

But that does not mean that these laws are immutable forever. If nature changes, evolves and develops, these laws might need to be revised to correspond to a new reality. But this has nothing to do with reality being the product of human thought or not existing prior to it being known by man. Some natural reality can be stable within a given temporal frame of reference, yet still capable of change. Generations of fisherman rely on their knowledge of stable ocean currents in order to carry out their profession, but climate science tells us that there is a decent probability that these currents will change rapidly after man-mae climate change reaches a certain tipping point and the prior discoverd truths will then becomes practically useless.

Of course, I am not sure that Pannekoek is really saying what LBird thinks he is in that quote. Pannekoek may make a big deal about natural laws being the mental product of men, but nowhere does he say that these are in some way wrong or do not correspond to a natural "substance" that he nevertheless seems to think exists.In fact, he states that natural laws are made out of natural substances. Of course, it is also possible that Pannekoek, straining as he was to differentiate Marxism from Lenin, doesn't really know what he wants to say here--a hallmark of much of his work.

jk1921
Who Says?

I do think that there is a certain, "But who says?" problem that has been alluded to that could be a serious point. This is an issue in the Hawking discussion. The article touts Hawking's scientific achievements, although much of his importance was as a populizer of something like consensus cosmological theory. The text completely ignores the existence of a dissident strain of cosmology that calls founding precepts of that standard theory into question--sometimes in the name of a left-wing critique of ideologies of social power at work in the standard theory.

Its not clear why this alternative strain is ignored--perhaps it is because the main point of the article is about Hawking's life story rather than the substance of his work, but the point remains that the piece rather uncritically accpets the standard narrative, condemning the critics through silence. But on what basis is it decided that this is the scientific treatment? Is it because the vast majority of scientists accept the standard theory as correct? The criteria then as to what consitutes the truth is not political, but a reflection of the consensus of the academic experts, who alone have the power to tell us what the correct view is at any given time. In other words, even though the alternative theory is pushed by those with a political agenda that in some measures could be said to be closer to ours, we ignore it because the academic experts tell us it is wrong.

There is obviously a danger here in taking actually-exisitng (natural) science too seriously on its own terms and being blind to the fact that ideology may be at work there too as it is in softer social sciences. Moreover, there is perhaps a problem of too deferential a stance to academic expertise, which it has been argued is infected on the insitutional level with a certian tendency towards conservatism and which often operates as a disciplining mechanism to protect the professional power of self-appointed elites (through processes like dissertation committees, funding committees, peer review, etc.) A given theory is heretical and deserves to be ignored, because those whose power it threatens say it is. Of course, it is not entirely clear what the alternative is here? Can the same critical methodologies that Marxists use to interrograte ideologies that masquerade as social science be brought to bear on the natural sciences also?

Obviously, this has been tried with, I think, uncertain results, but there also seems the danger of the opposite mistake of thinking that because a particular theory is the most (apparently) radicial take on a given subject, it must be right.  It may be counter-intuitive to modern sensibilities to think that science could be challenged on political grounds--this is what the reactionary anti-modern right wing does all the time, but perhaps it is the case that there might nevertheless be a critical method for interrogating scientific theories for the prescence of the ideolgy the fucntioning of social power through academic insitutions must inevitably produce?

Still, none of this means that because science as it is practiced in capitalism is inherently bound up with ideology and the reproduction of social power that a scientific stance is not itself possible--even if it is imperfectly realized today. Or even that actually existing science is not capable of discovering and explicating phenomena in a scientific way.

 

LBird
'Universal' for whom?

jk1921 wrote:

A "truth" can be universal to the extent it describes an objective reality that is universal in a given frame of reference. 

This is contradictory, jk.

Either something is 'universal' (ie. outside of any 'given frame of reference') or something is only something 'in a given frame of reference' (ie. it's not 'universal').

And 'objective reality' is a social product, so 'objective reality' must have a history of its production, and a 'nature' that changes as the producing society changes. That socio-historical production is encapsulated in Marx's concept of a 'mode of production'.

That's why Marx argues we can change our 'objective reality' - it's a 'reality-for-us', a 'nature-for-us', it 'exists-for-us'. Or, as you in effect put it, it's 'universal-for-us'.

And 'universal-for-us' is a very different concept to 'universal'.

The problem for 'materialists', is that if they accept the suffix '-for-us', then the question arises that, if it's 'for us', why can't we vote on it?

Clearly, for Marx's politics, the ability of the producers to determine for themselves their own product is central.

As I've said many times before, this issue of 'science' (and its alleged 'objectivity' or 'universalism') is fundamentally a political issue. It's about 'who' has the power to determine.

'Objective Reality' is part of a complex of 'ruling class ideas', intended to prevent democratic control of social production. I've given references in the past to histories of science, which explain the emergence and development of the concept 'Objective Reality', and who lost out by its adoption, and who benefitted. Needless to say, 'classes' and 'the bourgeoisie' figure in this social history of production.

LBird
Agreement of the People

jk1921 wrote:

... correspond to a natural "substance" ...

This is the ideological concept of the 'Correspondence theory of truth', jk.

This ideological concept is a counterpart to the ideology of an 'Objective Reality' that is not socially produced.

There are other 'theories of truth', but the one which I consider most suitable for the revolutionary proletariat (with some amendment, perhaps) is the 'Consensus theory of truth'. This 'theory of truth' means that society can change their 'truth'. It's also known as 'Consensus Gentium', the 'Agreement of the People', which you might recognise as the name of the political demand put forward by the revolutionaries at the Putney Debates in 1647, during the English Revolution.

We should be open about our ideologies of 'truth', if openness is to play any part in our proletarian 'scientific method'.

LBird
Fact versus Opinion?

I'm very sympathetic to your discussion in your post #18, jk.

But you should realise that the separation of 'science' into 'hard' ('natural') and 'soft' ('social') is an ideological construct, that even its inventors, bourgeois academics, have come to realise its problems.

And this ideological separation of 'science' into parts was opposed by Marx, who sought a 'unified science'.

Nevertheless, I welcome your discussion of some serious political issues within 'science'.