Beliefs, science, art and Marxism.

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Fred
Beliefs, science, art and Marxism.
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There is some discussion about this started on the thread "On the Party and it's relationship to the class" but that is not the right place for it. Perhaps the topic might warrant a thread of its own?

Some comrades don't believe in "beliefs" as a sound basis for thought and comment, certainly not for anyone claiming to be Marxist, but trust only in science whenever possible. Fair enough. Others believe that beliefs which have undergone some testing in time can form a trustworthy basis for human action. But surely even science starts out from beliefs? When Newton saw the apple fall straight down, rather than sideways, he had a hunch, an initial belief, that some physical force was at work, and came up with gravity. The same is true of Marx. He had a hunch that forces were at work in society which were beyond everyday perception. He was right, and came up with class struggle as a force of history. The bourgeoisie beg to differ, preferring the invisible hand or something even vaguer! They're mistaken. So if a comrade feels that their connection to Marxism is more like an act of faith, or stays at the level of a belief: I BELIEVE IN THE PROLETARIAT; THE ONLY REVOLUTIONARY CLASS; BEGOTTEN OF THE BOURGEOISIE and so on, is this necessarily reprehensible? But I suppose it could be dangerous, and I suppose I'm partly joking when I should be serious, but I don't think beliefs are just to be dismissed for not being scientific, but see them as a basis for science. Contentious? Newton was a scientist. True. But was Marx?

Anyway don't we need to widen our grasp of what science is? The bourgeoisie insist on a great divide between science and art, and are overfond anyway of seeing the world and everything in bits and pieces. No holistic point of view for them; all is fragmented. Could not the novel "Portrait of a Lady", rather than being downgraded as fiction, be seen for what it is: a sociological study in depth of the Machiavellian ruses of the bourgeoisie in pursuit of profit: the sleazy sophisticate Osmond landing the rich but surely naive heiress Isabel? The author's presentation and analysis of the lies and deceit at work, and the use of art commodities themselves as seductive toys, establish the whole work as a serious study with a scientific basis in reality. And, were not Michelangelo and Leonardo - always billed by the bourgeoisie as major artists and their products worth a lot of money on the market now - not in fact early scientists, technicians and engineers? Their buildings, inventions, new techniques in paint, weapons of war, awareness of architectural principles and so on, not merely artistic but based on scientific understandings. Similarly, the amazing sculpture produced in the ancient worlds, and the renaissance, while easily labelled art because of it's beauty, represents the triumph of a scientifically based engineer over natural forces.

So if you claim the label "art" for Marxism and a belief in beliefs, be aware that they may only be condemned to this nomenclature as a result of the bourgeoisie's extremely limited understanding of what might constitute science, and that you may be dismissing the beginnings of a new and developing science.

Recently, on various forum threads, there have been disputes about what constitutes science, and what constitutes proof of various claims made for and against whatever it is that the proletariat is or isn't doing at this time in history. Scientific proof may be demanded; beliefs and feelings (even worse!) may not be accepted. But didn't marxism emerge originally on the basis of feelings about humanity's condition, for which some sort of rational justification was then sought?

In the 19th century three major sciences were established - Darwinism, Freudianism and Marxism. All three remain under attack from bourgeois factions, but then all three are related in seeking the betterment of humanity. But what they also do is widen our concept of what may be regarded as being science, and it's important to bear that in mind when we discuss matters relating to the revolutionary proletariat, who imposes no restrictions on ideas and the culture of debate.

LBird
'Science' as a method starts from human assumptions

Fred wrote:
But surely even science starts out from beliefs?

Fred, your hopeful question has been already answered with a resounding 'Yes!' by the most recent and most advanced philosophers of science, like Imre Lakatos.

Lakatos suggests that all scientists employ what he calls a 'research programme', at the heart of which is bundle of assumptions and axioms that he calls the 'hard core' of the programme.

The 'hard core' is essentially an empirically unverifiable set of ontological beliefs. One could call it 'faith'.

Given this approach, it's not hard to make a scientific case for having 'faith in the proletariat'!

Of course, those (including Communists) who have been brainwashed by our society to 'believe in science' as a method for producing objective (in the positivist sense) knowledge, will argue against this position.

Furthermore, I think that we can say that as science is humanised, we can also outline a 'proletarian science' as distinct from present '[bourgeois] science'.

Cue the uncomprehending jokes about 'proletarian molecules' and cries of 'Stalinist Lysenkoism!'.

There's an interesting debate to be had by critical Communists.

jk1921
Brainwashed?

LBird wrote:

Fred wrote:
But surely even science starts out from beliefs?

Fred, your hopeful question has been already answered with a resounding 'Yes!' by the most recent and most advanced philosophers of science, like Imre Lakatos.

Lakatos suggests that all scientists employ what he calls a 'research programme', at the heart of which is bundle of assumptions and axioms that he calls the 'hard core' of the programme.

The 'hard core' is essentially an empirically unverifiable set of ontological beliefs. One could call it 'faith'.

Given this approach, it's not hard to make a scientific case for having 'faith in the proletariat'!

Of course, those (including Communists) who have been brainwashed by our society to 'believe in science' as a method for producing objective (in the positivist sense) knowledge, will argue against this position.

Furthermore, I think that we can say that as science is humanised, we can also outline a 'proletarian science' as distinct from present '[bourgeois] science'.

Cue the uncomprehending jokes about 'proletarian molecules' and cries of 'Stalinist Lysenkoism!'.

There's an interesting debate to be had by critical Communists.

 

Yes, it is an intersting debate and the Lakatos thesis is very evocative. But isn't it a little presumptive to say that people who are uneasy with empirically unverifiable claims have been "brainwashed"  by science?

LBird
Some prefer 'socialised'!

jk1921 wrote:
But isn't it a little presumptive to say that people who are uneasy with empirically unverifiable claims have been "brainwashed" by science?

Presumably, then, these 'people' were 'uneasy with empirically unverifiable claims' from birth? If so, it makes one wonder how 'witches' and 'spells' ever gained any purchase within societies! What with all these naturally gifted 'scientists'.

No, to be serious, it seems clear that notions of 'science', its method and 'personal uneasiness' are all social products of a certain society in a certain period. 'Science', et al, are historically specific.

I've used 'brainwashed' as a synonym for 'socialised', because it throws the issue into sharp relief, that is, the question of 'Is science socially neutral?'.

As a Communist, I'd answer this question with an emphatic 'No!'. We're all 'brainwashed' in this society about many things, not least the bourgeois version of 'science' and its reliability, certainty and objectivity.

As you say, jk, it's a (very) interesting debate!

LoneLondoner
Is science really just faith?

LBird wrote:

Lakatos suggests that all scientists employ what he calls a 'research programme', at the heart of which is bundle of assumptions and axioms that he calls the 'hard core' of the programme.

The 'hard core' is essentially an empirically unverifiable set of ontological beliefs. One could call it 'faith'.

Actually I think that is a bit going beyond what Lakatos actually said if I have understood correctly the summary of his ideas in Alan Chalmers remarkable and accessible (short!) book "What is this thing called science?" (which I believe can be found as a downloadable PDF on the web).

It seems to me that what Lakatos says (and in this he is very close to Kuhn) is that a "programme of research" (or a "paradigm" to use Kuhn's term) is a collection of theoretical statements and research methods which a scientific community has agreed to accept as "given". This is not the same thing as saying that they are empirically unverifiable, and in that sense they cannot be said to be based on faith.

I rather like this discussion of scientific method by Richard Feynman.

The problem with it is, that it is very Popperian in its form and if it were taken as such would in effect mean that it is impossible to have a scientific approach to history (which of course as marxists we think should be possible).

However, the basic insistance on experiment (and above all on public experiment) is surely right. This for is part of the core of scientific method: it requires that the scientist expose his hypotheses, method, evidence, and results to general scrutiny. In what way would a "proletarian" science be different from a "bourgeois" science?

 

LBird
Not 'just', but 'includes'

Lone Londoner wrote:
Actually I think that is a bit going beyond what Lakatos actually said if I have understood correctly the summary of his ideas in Alan Chalmers remarkable and accessible (short!) book "What is this thing called science?"

I too would recommend Chalmers’ very readable book, but I think that he does not cover the very area of science that we, as Communists, are probably the most interested in. When I read his latest edition (3rd, 1999) he seemed to me to be a bit confused towards the end, and failed to take what I consider to be the most important step of discussing science in a political context (and, especially, exposing one’s own ideological beliefs, including Chalmers’ own), although he accepts that these issues are “of great importance”.

Chalmers, 1999, p. 249 wrote:
…an epistemological study of the kind that I have conducted in this book cannot be achieved without due attention to the full range of senses in which science is social. In this book I have not faced the challenge…

Furthermore, I think that he unwittingly exposes at least one assumption that I, for one, don’t share with him.

Chalmers, 1999, p. 252 wrote:
Although it is true that scientists themselves are the practitioners best able to conduct science and are not in need of advice from philosophers…

True’? On the page next to this I wrote one word: ‘Mengele’.

I think that scientists are in need of, not only advice from philosophers, but also that their ‘practice’ should be subject to the democratic control of the class conscious proletariat. Society must take charge of its science, and no longer leave it in the hands of the bourgeois few, the infamous ‘experts’.

Lone Londoner wrote:
It seems to me that what Lakatos says (and in this he is very close to Kuhn) is that a "programme of research" (or a "paradigm" to use Kuhn's term) is a collection of theoretical statements and research methods which a scientific community has agreed to accept as "given".

Yep! That’s exactly the point, isn’t it? Who are these ‘scientific communities’ which agree amongst themselves their ‘theory and method’ is a ‘given’?

We’re back to Mengele and the SS, here. Scientists have ideological and political assumptions, and these play a great part in shaping their scientific ‘givens’.

Science is not an objective (in the positivist sense) or disinterested activity. Ever since Einstein insisted upon the importance of the position of the observer even in physics, humanity has eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge!

On Feynman, one thought occurred to me right at the start, where he says that if ‘theory’ is contradicted by ‘experiment’ and ‘observation’, it is ‘wrong’. But Einstein maintained that ‘Theory determines what we observe’. From this viewpoint, it’s possible to argue, scientifically, that if ‘observation’ clashes with ‘theory’, it is ‘observation’, or what we ‘see’ with our own eyes, that might be ‘wrong’, rather than the ‘theory’. I think Marx’s famous maxim that ‘… all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided’ is a good guide, here.

Lone Londoner wrote:
This is not the same thing as saying that they are empirically unverifiable, and in that sense they cannot be said to be based on faith.

No, it’s not the same thing. But many scientific statements are accepted without any empirical evidence, usually on the basis that, eventually with further experimentation, the evidence ‘will’ emerge. What are we to call the period within which evidence is yet to emerge (and remember perhaps it never will), if not a period of ‘faith’? Lakatos’ discussion about Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, et al, and the way science actually worked in history, is very revealing.

Lone Londoner wrote:
The problem with it is, that it is very Popperian in its form and if it were taken as such would in effect mean that it is impossible to have a scientific approach to history (which of course as marxists we think should be possible).

Depends upon what we mean by ‘scientific’, and which begs the very question that we’re discussing! I think a ‘scientific approach to history’ is entirely possible, but then perhaps I have a twisted sense of what ‘science’ is! A lot of it revolves around notions of ‘truth’, as being either ‘THE TRUTH’ (many scientists, and certainly most laypersons hold to this interpretation), or partial truths, truth as an approximation to reality. Those who hold up science as a method of producing ‘absolute truth’, which is correct once and for all, have difficulties with the idea of something being ‘a bit true’. I think that history, just like science, can produce ‘partial truths’. The interesting, and never ending, quest for humanity is to identify the ‘bits’ of scientific and historical claims which are true and those that aren’t! A healthy critical and anti-authoritarian attitude for the proletariat to take.

Lone Londoner wrote:
However, the basic insistence on experiment (and above all on public experiment) is surely right. This for is part of the core of scientific method: it requires that the scientist expose his hypotheses, method, evidence, and results to general scrutiny.

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. But I’d also add, preceding ‘his hypotheses’, ‘her political ideology’. I think I also assume that women will play a part in science, comrade! Let’s settle on ‘their political ideology and hypotheses, method…’.

Lone Londoner wrote:
In what way would a "proletarian" science be different from a "bourgeois" science?

Just some thoughts, for discussion:

A breakdown of the separation between the ‘sciences’ and the ‘arts’, and between disciplines generally;

Democratic control of research funding, the ‘scientific authorities’ and activities within science;

Recognition of the impossibility of certain truth, and suspicion of all scientific results;

Completely open publication of all scientific papers;

Scientific education freely open to all, from kindergarten to post-PhD research;

Science will be a popular concern, not the preserve of a few;

Nature and humanity will become reconciled.

Anyway, there’s lots to discuss, and plenty of room for clarification, but I’m trying to keep each post of a readable length, so I’ll stop here. On the surface, Lone Londoner, I don’t think that we are too far apart.

jk1921
The problem of ought

LoneLondoner wrote:

The problem with it is, that it is very Popperian in its form and if it were taken as such would in effect mean that it is impossible to have a scientific approach to history (which of course as marxists we think should be possible).

Its not clear how you are using "should" here, but I think it is instructive of the problems of integrating Marxism into some kind of scientific perspective. Strictly speaking, scientists don't deal with "shoulds" (in the noumenal sense of the word). There is no scientific reason for wanting something to be true or not. Science is about discovering what is true and what is false, even if it violates our normative desires and assumptions about the world. To bring it back to recent discussions--we may want the proletariat to be the revolutionary class, but this will not stop sociology from telling us it can't be, because it has been "deconstructed," "recomposed" or whatever (if that is what sociology in fact tells us, which it is far from conclusive). But what does a committed Marxist do in this eventuality? Pack up and go home because the scientists have told us our desires are senseless--barred by objective sociological reality from ever coming to fruition? That seems unlikely.

Of course, this brackets for the moment any discussion of how scientific consensus is formed, the disciplining effect of "research programmes" and "paradigms," the interpenetration of bourgeois ideology and power with science, the possibility that history and society can actually be studied in the same scientific way as matter, etc. These are all legitimate and very interesting areas that should be explored, but in the end it seems like we are still faced with the same dilemna. How do we react when our political desires come into conflict with what science tells us is possible? On what basis can we develop a critical approach to science that remains at the same time scientific and which doesn't devolve into faith, new age mysticism, collective delusion, Hegelian trickery or any of the other things we are regularly accused of?

 

 

 

LBird
Good questions

jk1921 wrote:
Science is about discovering what is true and what is false...

One of our problems, jk, is defining what we mean by 'true' and 'false'. I think all critical realists would refer to 'reality' as the measure, but accessing that 'true' reality is part of the problem.

jk1921 wrote:
How do we react when our political desires come into conflict with what science tells us is possible?

Well, if 'science' is a human activity, and thus class-based, first of all we'd have to clarify 'whose' science is doing the 'telling'.

jk1921 wrote:
On what basis can we develop a critical approach to science that remains at the same time scientific...

Since human science is class-based, different classes will have differing opinions about which 'approach' is 'critical and scientific', and which is 'ideological and anti-scientific'.

I think our first task is to determine just what we Communists mean by 'science'. Or, indeed, is there a 'science' which is entirely outside of socio-political considerations, which can unite both Communists and conservatives as mere 'truthseekers'? An 'objective method'?

jk1921
Transcendence

LBird wrote:

I think that scientists are in need of, not only advice from philosophers, but also that their ‘practice’ should be subject to the democratic control of the class conscious proletariat. Society must take charge of its science, and no longer leave it in the hands of the bourgeois few, the infamous ‘experts’.

I agree with you that science--or perhaps better put the instrumental rationality that undergirds it--becomes dangerous when it loses its social moorings, but I suppose the standard response is that the abscence of democratic control is precisely what makes science science. The only people scientists answer to are other scientists (the so-called community of peers). They could really care less what the unwashed masses think about their work. There is an element of self-referentiality here it seems. And of course, there is a parallel here to the idea that the revolutionary organization embodies class consciousness in its element of depth--but that is another discussion.

In some ways the idea that science could be subjected to democratic control is very frightening. What would the implications of that be today? Creationism taught on par with evolution? Of course, this isn't what LBird is talking about. But it would seem that in order for the class conscious proletariat to take control of science that there would need to be some kind of radical change in the relationship between science and society that it is hard to imagine. Perhaps this would mean something akin to the Einstein quote in LBird's post where the separation between subject and object had been overcome to an extent that the need for a separate class of scientists becomes socially superfulous? Is this a little too utopian?

 

LBird
Universal Rationality?

jk1921 wrote:
I agree with you that science--or perhaps better put the instrumental rationality that undergirds it--becomes dangerous when it loses its social moorings...

A further consideration is that not just 'instrumentality' is an issue, but that also the very notion of 'rationality' itself is at question: is there a non-human 'rationality', perhaps from an external source (god? another planet?), or is 'rational', once again, a class-conditioned set of ideas?

jk1921 wrote:
...but I suppose the standard response is that the abscence of democratic control is precisely what makes science science.

Well, it's certainly the 'standard bourgeois response'! A case of 'our standards and theirs'?

jk1921 wrote:
In some ways the idea that science could be subjected to democratic control is very frightening. What would the implications of that be today?

I don't know about the bourgeoisie, but it certainly frightens me!

But, of course, we're talking about democratic control by a class conscious proletariat, at some undefined point in the future, when workers in their masses have rejected capitalism and are all actively and consciously attempting to build a new society. As an example, look at the massive educational advances made upon peasants by the hothouse of Stalinist rule in Russia and elsewhere. How much more can we expect to see earth-shattering developments by a self-active class?

But 'today'? No, we don't yet control our society, so we can't yet democratically control science.

jk1921 wrote:
But it would seem that in order for the class conscious proletariat to take control of science that there would need to be some kind of radical change in the relationship between science and society that it is hard to imagine. Perhaps this would mean something akin to the Einstein quote in LBird's post where the separation between subject and object had been overcome to an extent that the need for a separate class of scientists becomes socially superfulous? Is this a little too utopian?

The essence of the 'radical change' would be the emergence of Communism. But that will be a long process, not a sudden event.

'Hard to imagine'? 'Too utopian'? Perhaps, but discussion within the proletariat might make it a bit easier to imagine, and little less utopian.

Then again, perhaps not.

Fred
LBird. I so agree with

LBird. I so agree with everything you've said in your posts above, and the way in which you've said it, that I'm lost for words. But thank you comrade, so much.

Fred
And thanks to you as well jk.

And thanks to you as well jk. The debate above between you and LBird must be an excellent example of the culture of debate we all seek. You both done a good job!

LBird
Comradeship

Fred wrote:
LBird. I so agree with everything you've said in your posts above, and the way in which you've said it, that I'm lost for words. But thank you comrade, so much....And thanks to you as well jk. The debate above between you and LBird must be an excellent example of the culture of debate we all seek. You both done a good job!

Thanks for your gratifying compliments, Fred. Obviously, some things that I've said can be challenged, clarified or improved, but I was hoping to help others find their feet on these issues of great importance to Communists, so if I've done that for you, I'm happy. As you also say, a 'culture of debate' must exist between us all, even if some arguments become very heated, because political debate won't go away after the glorious day! We need to nurture minority views, too, to help us contrast what we think we 'know'. We can all constantly learn.

On this particular issue of 'science', I'd recommend that comrades, in addition to Chalmers' introductory book mentioned earlier, perhaps read:

Jonathon Marks (2009) Why I am not a scientist

Of course, Marks does regard himself as a scientist, as do most people who take the positions that I've been taking on this thread, but not a 'scientist' of the positivist sort, which is, unfortunately, still the common, layperson's, understanding of 'science', I think. It's what we're all taught at school, is re-inforced daily in the media, that we learn in our social interactions with doctors, dentists, academics, etc., and suits the bourgeoisie just fine to maintain. It's about 'authority', and 'unquestionable authority' at that. The TRUTH can't be argued with, can it?

It's ironic that critical realists see themselves as defending science, not destroying it, but our unfamiliar position is always accused of being anti-scientific.

But that's not the end of our interesting discussion, yet, I hope! On my part, I think that all Communists should adopt a 'critical realist' stance, regarding science. What do others think?

Two more (but more detailed and difficult) recommendations:

Roy Bhaskar (1975) A Realist Theory of Science [a key science text]

Margaret Archer (1995) Realist social theory: the morphogenetic approach [a sociological application of critical realism]

I don't pretend to understand everything they say: I'm still learning, too, which is why I want to discuss these issues further.

jk1921
Thanks

Fred wrote:
And thanks to you as well jk. The debate above between you and LBird must be an excellent example of the culture of debate we all seek. You both done a good job!

 

Thanks for that Fred.....

LoneLondoner
Very stimulating

Like Fred, I find this exchange very stimulating and would like to take up some of Lbird's remarks in particular.

Lbird wrote:

I too would recommend Chalmers’ very readable book, but I think that he does not cover the very area of science that we, as Communists, are probably the most interested in

I strongly agree with this, in fact all the way through his book I could feel marxism poking its head above the surface (he even refers to marxism on several occasions as a potentially scientific method, though he never actually gets down from the fence on this one: in the second edition of the book there is actually a chapter heading on "Popper Lakatos and Marx, defenders of objectivism"). He makes the important point that the scientific method is only possible in certain kinds of society: science is itself a social product and can only appear and survive in certain kinds of society.

Lbird wrote:

I think that scientists are in need of, not only advice from philosophers, but also that their ‘practice’ should be subject to the democratic control of the class conscious proletariat. Society must take charge of its science, and no longer leave it in the hands of the bourgeois few, the infamous ‘experts’.

It seems to me here that we should separate the actual knowledge and practice of science from the social purpose that science serves. For example, most members of society are unable to practice theoretical physics: we don't have the knowledge or the training to understand (beyond what one could hope for an educated layman) the theory behind the Higgs Boson. So yes, the scientific community is the best practitioner of science.

On the other hand, it is for society to determine whether it is desirable to devote huge resources into actually finding the Higgs Boson by building an LHC (obviously here I'm abstracting from the fact that it is bourgeois society that decides today). To take another example, it is probably possible to use the same techniques of genetic manipulation and selective breeding on man as it is on other animals, and so produce 7-foot tall blond blue-eyed human beings, perhaps even to the point of a new speciation. But this is very different from determining whether we should do this.

Certainly it's not possible to completely divorce the scientific outlook from the influence of bourgeois ideology in which we are all immersed (and it is more and more difficult to do so the nearer you get to a study of mankind and human society itself). Nonetheless, I like Engels' words quoted by Knight: “.... the more ruthlessly and disinterestedly science proceeds, the more it finds itself in harmony with the interests of the workers.”. It seems to me that there is, or should be, an objective quality to science which means that it is, in a sense, independent from and antagonistic to bourgeois society, which is and can only be founded on an ideological and hypocritical view of the world whose purpose is to justify or better still to hide its own class domination. It is surely no accident that Carlo Rovelli in his latest book ("Supposing time doesn't exist" - I have read this in French and I don't know if it is yet available in English) denounces the decline in funding for fundamental science (ie science which has no apparent immediate practical use).

Lbird wrote:

On Feynman, one thought occurred to me right at the start, where he says that if ‘theory’ is contradicted by ‘experiment’ and ‘observation’, it is ‘wrong’. But Einstein maintained that ‘Theory determines what we observe’.

I absolutely agree with this and it is indeed one of Chalmers' arguments against what he calls "naive inductivism" - and it raises some very fundamental questions about how we, as marxists, analyse reality. Indeed, and at the risk of being polemical, this is one of the things that distinguishes the ICC from the ICT (a question that comes up here from time to time). The ICT, at least in the discussions I have had with them, believes in "facts" and simply does not understand why the ICC is so concerned to establish a theoretical basis for the analysis of reality - in this sense, the ICT never really goes beyond naive inductivism, which makes them (IMHO) empiricists rather than marxists.

In fact, I personally like the idea of science as a "productive force", rather like the development of industry, as it is suggested by an article on this site: "it seems to me that we can, and should, view science from two angles: on the one hand, science is a productive force, a social form which has emerged from the development of a critique of religious temporal and spiritual authority by the rising bourgeoisie, the development of technology which made new tools available to natural philosophy, and the constant demands of capitalist production for a more advanced productive apparatus. In the period of decadence, science has also become one of the most vital instruments of war. On the other hand, science is a materialist – non-teleological – way of looking at the world which must aim not only to explain but to predict, in other words to justify its theory through experiment."

Lbird wrote:

Those who hold up science as a method of producing ‘absolute truth’, which is correct once and for all, have difficulties with the idea of something being ‘a bit true’.

Absolutely so, yes indeed! There is a sense in which a scientific outlook can degenerate into "scientism", ie the fundamentally religious idea that science offers "absolute truth". It does not: on the contrary science is founded on doubt, the ability to constantly question and criticise its own conclusions. And if we accept this, then science is a very different thing from faith.

jk1921
Absolute Truth?

LoneLondoner wrote:

Indeed, and at the risk of being polemical, this is one of the things that distinguishes the ICC from the ICT (a question that comes up here from time to time). The ICT, at least in the discussions I have had with them, believes in "facts" and simply does not understand why the ICC is so concerned to establish a theoretical basis for the analysis of reality - in this sense, the ICT never really goes beyond naive inductivism, which makes them (IMHO) empiricists rather than marxists.

Please don't tell me the ICC doesn't believe in facts!

LoneLondoner wrote:

Lbird wrote:

Those who hold up science as a method of producing ‘absolute truth’, which is correct once and for all, have difficulties with the idea of something being ‘a bit true’.

Absolutely so, yes indeed! There is a sense in which a scientific outlook can degenerate into "scientism", ie the fundamentally religious idea that science offers "absolute truth". It does not: on the contrary science is founded on doubt, the ability to constantly question and criticise its own conclusions. And if we accept this, then science is a very different thing from faith.

What does "absolute truth" even mean? Is there perhaps a straw man in here somewhere? Who believes in abolsute truth? I agree with the last paragraph about what distinguishes science from faith--but I will have to admit to suffering a degree of cognitive dissonance here between this and other threads, were some comrades appear to have such a high degree of certainty in the immutability of the soviet form that it does appear to raise the issue of faith.

Another issue of course, is that while it may be true that science is never complete, we have to be careful not to take such ideas as legitimating a fall into relativism, where we can just make up our own facts to suit our poliitical desires or claim that the facts don't matter, because there really are no such things as facts. This just doesn't work.

We still seem to be stuck in an antinomie between empiricist scientism (crude realism) and a kind of relativist mysticism that lacks a solid grounding in some kind of empirically verifiable method. I don't have the resolution and wonder if there really even is one?

 

mikail firtinaci
theory and subjectivity

jk1921 wrote:

We still seem to be stuck in an antinomie between empiricist scientism (crude realism) and a kind of relativist mysticism that lacks a solid grounding in some kind of empirically verifiable method. I don't have the resolution and wonder if there really even is one?

Interesting point JK. Perhaps there is not a resolution. After all even if we assume to choose one over the other we never really live with them but with both. The mistake is to assume that one can follow the other in a mechanical fashion. I think Lone's post express this tendency. I don't think that there ever can be an a priori "theoretical basis" that let us to see the things as they are. All sorts of theories are also produced by practical experience, engagement with ideas expressing material things.

So I incline towards a Dietzgenist monism according to which seperation of empirical from theoretical is an absurdity. There is no "pure reason." And the fear of material experience, fear that it may be tainted with earthly limitations is just another expression of the intellectual distrust to grasp the material possibilities or the real material limitations themselves in practice.

It is an escapism of some sort; like the historical escape of bourgeois scientist into the labratory. Historically the elitist science emerged during the english revolution and 17th century in the fight between radical millenerians and newly emerging bourgeoisie or monarchist intellectuals. Anti-mechanicisim (read materialism in its early form) of Newton is a case in point. Newton radically anti-revolutionary, and publicly anti-alchemist, had many notebooks on alchemy he secretly kept. His main concern was to prove the existance of god against the radical atheists -sort of spinozists- who were "crudely" mechanist, arguing against any kind immaterial spiritual force. Newton was so disturbed with this atheist idea that, he wanted to prove that there is a spiritual force connecting everything, in a universal form, expressed in the undisputable abstract language of nature or the creation; mathematics. Hence we got the theory of gravity...

And thanks also to Newton's relentless efforts, all sort of other "mystical" thinkings, thinkings on cosmological questions that divert from the official "science" were excluded from universities and the public. So a paradigm was set, in which only proving god's existance in the form of law of gravity in every case examined for which the same "theoretical basis" was employed again and again.

I guess I am trying to say that no theoretical base is a guarantee for any kind of "diversion from the true path." You can not escape from sectarianism also by simply asserting the "incompleteness" of theory. Theory upholding contemplation as its first premise, exlcuding practice and excluding belief in principle or disconnecting it from the act of contemplation is always perfect. Such theories are so perfect that they can float above the facts without being disturbed by the reality. They are usually excuses or expressions of disbelief for the human potential and distrust for change, expressed in escape from subjectivity and will to action, like the scientist in isolation.

What we call academic marxism is in fact a product of such a disbelief of the potential of proletariat developed among western european CP intellectuals. Some of these people commiting themselves into the defense of their motherland and the so called "workers' motherland" in the second world war have become disillusioned in the end. The depth of this disullisonment led them to a self-imposed isolation or entrenchment in the academy - a familiar type; scientist in isolation. French structuralists or British marxists are cases of such escapist tendencies in my opinion. This type of academicians who freely call themselves marxists without fearing an expulsion or reprimand is a post-war phenomenon. It is only after the war or with 1930s that communism or marxism could be thought of as something that can be detached from workers, from their daily struggles, most importantly as a practical preparation for attacking on state. So we had marxism as a pure theoricism.

LBird
A proposed Communist method of science

I’d like to make another contribution to our discussion about the nature of ‘science’.

Lone Londoner, post 5, edited wrote:
For this is part of the core of scientific method: it requires that the scientist expose their hypotheses, method, evidence, and results to general scrutiny.

To re-arrange and further elaborate the ‘scientific method’ partially outlined earlier by Lone Londoner, I would propose the following as the ‘scientific method’:

“Society, ideology, theory, method, hypothesis, define empirical evidence, test empirical evidence, results (each stage exposed to general scrutiny), and then loop back to ‘theory’ and repeat, ad infinitum”

The starting point for ‘common sense’ philosophy of ‘science’ is step three (theory), whilst my steps one and two are seen as outside of the concerns of ‘science’.

This proposed outline of the ‘scientific method’ has the merit (in one sense) of placing ‘science’ squarely within a ‘society’ from the start. This, I think, would suit most Communists, as it would allow us to locate ‘science’ within ‘social classes’. However, it also has the demerit (in another sense) of placing ‘science’ within a ‘social ideology’. This, I think, would not suit most Communists, as perhaps it would allow ‘religion’ to be accepted as a legitimate basis for a ‘science’.

(NB. ‘merit’ and ‘demerit’ are here both defined by a Communist! I don’t consider the Theory of Evolution and Creationism as on a par, but that’s because I’m a Communist, not because of some spurious ‘objective scientific method’)

The insistence that ‘science’ starts with ‘society’ means that ‘the human element’ is placed front and centre in any discussion about the nature of ‘science’, its method and results. We can stop pretending, as do the bourgeoisie, that ‘science’ is an activity which is only open to the self-selecting few, and which should be policed by that same self-selecting few, and that those masses outside of the self-selecting few should have (necessarily uncomprehending) faith in that self-selecting few, their theories, methods and results.

Their ‘science’ is not our ‘science’.

The former ‘science’ is the last redoubt of ‘authority’ for the bourgeoisie.

The latter ‘science’ is the proletarian science which re-unites humanity with nature, in all its aspects, through democratic controls.

NB. I’ve phrased this post in very strong terms, not because of my certainty, but because I think it will thus produce a strong reaction, the better to expose and illustrate those contrary positions for further debate. I hope comrades will accept my method and bear with me!

LoneLondoner
Some flaws

I can see several problems with what you propose:

1) You seem to be starting from the notion of a "Communist" science (as you have said before I think) which would be "democratically controlled by the proletariat", but this in itself assumes that it is possible for the proletariat to "step outside" capitalist ideology, which is not in fact possible under capitalism (you can criticise ideology from a proletarian viewpoint, but "the ruling ideas are those of the ruling class" as Marx said). Not to mention of course the fact that the proletariat under capitalism doesn't control the forces of production (that's why we need to make a revolution!) so doesn't control scientific production either.

2) If we are talking about a communist society on the other hand, then under communism there will be no social classes and no proletariat... so the issue will be posed completely differently.

3) Finally, you come to the question of objectivism: ie, is there an objective reality which is accessible to science? I think the answer is yes, and Creationism is crap not because I'm a communist but because it is crap "science" and objectively wrong (and can be proven to be objectively wrong). Indeed a little simple arithmetic proves it wrong. Work out the size of the Ark you would need to build to keep all the millions of land species on the planet, and you will see what I mean.

mikail firtinaci
pushing things to absolute leads to absurdity

LoneLondoner wrote:

1) You seem to be starting from the notion of a "Communist" science (as you have said before I think) which would be "democratically controlled by the proletariat", but this in itself assumes that it is possible for the proletariat to "step outside" capitalist ideology, which is not in fact possible under capitalism

But at the same time ICC says that the main strength of the proletariat compared to the bourgeouisie is its consciusness. Now by pushing your point too much to the extreme you are kind of annuling the significance of the proletarian consciousness. Worse, by pushing it too hard you are creating a picture as if you can access the true consciousness and calculate to what degree ideology and consciousness are composed in the minds of the workers, objectively. You can not do that comrade. This can not be known in the sense that bourgeois social scientist claim to know things.

Worker consciousness is something also spiritual expressing itself in the willingness to fight and to go on offense. Willingess to fight can only be accessed in the fight, by being in the fight, involving in every fight. Only then we can know the limits of the fighting spirit but only within it. Our assesments will always be tactical and strategical - which is inescapable.

In relation to that, our self-consciousness can only be realized and its degree becomes visible to us, in the fight - not objectively. So we have to start the discussion first clearly taking our side, subjectively and from the position we stand in the fight.

You have also said this:

3) Finally, you come to the question of objectivism: ie, is there an objective reality which is accessible to science? I think the answer is yes, and Creationism is crap not because I'm a communist but because it is crap "science" and objectively wrong (and can be proven to be objectively wrong). Indeed a little simple arithmetic proves it wrong. Work out the size of the Ark you would need to build to keep all the millions of land species on the planet, and you will see what I mean.

The problem with the creation is not that it is wrong. Many people, many clever and scientific people got things really wrong sometimes. That does not reduce the importance of their theories. As I have tried to point out, the problem with Newton's theory of gravitation was not that it was wrong (actually it is not absolutely correct either - plasma, for instance, electiricity defies gravity) but it was the subjective expression of a class perspective proposed as the objective law of everything.

No knowledge is absolute and all knowledge is relative. Right or wrong are too limited categories to access the value and significance of things. The degree of the relativity is that of human subjects'. And in the capitalist society, the dominant science is the science of capitalists, hence it expresses their subjectivity or the limitations of their subjectivity.

Communists can not simply take this over nor they can use its conception of objectivism without being subsumed by its social context (academism, sociologism, denial and denigration of action, individualism etc.)

jk1921
Comments

Here are some of my thoughts on what LBirds proposes via commentary on some of the points LoneLondoner raises:

LoneLondoner wrote:

I can see several problems with what you propose:

1) You seem to be starting from the notion of a "Communist" science (as you have said before I think) which would be "democratically controlled by the proletariat", but this in itself assumes that it is possible for the proletariat to "step outside" capitalist ideology, which is not in fact possible under capitalism (you can criticise ideology from a proletarian viewpoint, but "the ruling ideas are those of the ruling class" as Marx said). Not to mention of course the fact that the proletariat under capitalism doesn't control the forces of production (that's why we need to make a revolution!) so doesn't control scientific production either.

What does it mean for science to be "controlled"? Does this mean censorship? What if a scientist decides he/she wants to investigate a problem or issue society has said is off limits? Are we back to the days of Galileo? Would this necessitate some kind of repression? A state? Or are we assuming here that we are in communism and such an eventuality as a scientist rejecting the social (or democratic) consensus won't happen? There is a more general question about the relationship between individual and society under communism here.

LoneLondoner wrote:

2) If we are talking about a communist society on the other hand, then under communism there will be no social classes and no proletariat... so the issue will be posed completely differently.

Right. What is there to be afraid of regarding science in a classless society? Wouldn't the alienation, separation and domination that currently characterizes scientific production have been abolished? Might it even be that science itself is transcended, as there is no longer any real separation between science and society--subject and object, etc.?  Or is it implicit here that there really is something about science itself that tends towards domination--as various theorists have suggested (Frankfurt School, various feminists, deep ecologists, primitivists, etc.) ? Does society always have to be "on guard" to steer science towards appropriate societal, ethical ends? If so, does this suggest science has its own autonomous logic that cares not about social needs?

LoneLondoner wrote:

3) Finally, you come to the question of objectivism: ie, is there an objective reality which is accessible to science? I think the answer is yes, and Creationism is crap not because I'm a communist but because it is crap "science" and objectively wrong (and can be proven to be objectively wrong). Indeed a little simple arithmetic proves it wrong. Work out the size of the Ark you would need to build to keep all the millions of land species on the planet, and you will see what I mean.

I agree with Lone here about the necessity to recognize an "objective reality." However, its not clear to me that all versions of creationism can be scientifically proven wrong. Sure, young earth creationism is bunk--but many creationists think that fossil evidence was created by God in order to test our faith and that the Earth really is only 6000 years old (or whatever) as stated in scripture--even though the fossils etc. are real. I cannot prove this wrong, because I cannot prove God does not exist using any available scientific tools. Others even accept evolution, but still believe God set the whole thing in motion at some point in the distant past. Moreover, let's not forget Lerner's admonition that the Big Bang theory is really creationism masquerading as science. At the end of the day, unscientific claims cannot be proven wrong scientifically. This is something that sets the so-called New Atheisim (Dawkins, Maher, etc.) against the  approach of someone like Stephen Jay Gould for whom religion and science inhabit separate spheres and are mostly incommensurable. One need only replace religion here with ethics in order to see that if Gould's approach is correct, we have a real conflict on our hands, in which it is not always possible to legitimate desireable social arrangements through an appeal to science. Yet, this kind of leaves science dangling and brings us back to the problem outlined above in #1.

jk1921
To Be Fair

mikail firtinaci wrote:

LoneLondoner wrote:

1) You seem to be starting from the notion of a "Communist" science (as you have said before I think) which would be "democratically controlled by the proletariat", but this in itself assumes that it is possible for the proletariat to "step outside" capitalist ideology, which is not in fact possible under capitalism

But at the same time ICC says that the main strength of the proletariat compared to the bourgeouisie is its consciusness. Now by pushing your point too much to the extreme you are kind of annuling the significance of the proletarian consciousness. Worse, by pushing it too hard you are creating a picture as if you can access the true consciousness and calculate to what degree ideology and consciousness are composed in the minds of the workers, objectively. You can not do that comrade. This can not be known in the sense that bourgeois social scientist claim to know things.

To be fair to Lone Londoner, I think he means that the proletariat cannot step outside capitalist ideology in the day to day workings of capitialism (under which science is subsumbed). I think its clear that he does not think that proletarian consciousness is impossible. I think it is consistent to see the proletariat subsumed to bourgeois ideology in the "normal," "workaday" state of affairs of capitalism, but still building it consciousness on the subterreanean level (i.e. our entire discussion of SMC). Perhaps this is where the disconnect is coming from? Maybe it is possible to understand the daily functioning of captialism in a scientifically objective manner (wasn't this what Das Kapital was supposed to be?), while the level of SMC requires a different methodology of active engagement that is characterized by things like knowledge as creation, the interdependence of subject and object, the act of observation changing what is observed, etc. as you seem to argue for in the rest of your post?

Maybe social science is a perfectly fine method for understanding and describing the dead reality of daily captialist social relations, while the plane of SMC requires a different approach in which the kind of Archimedian view point that is supposed to characterize objective science is not strictly possible? Perhaps the captialist ideology at work here is that since "objective science" in some ways corresponds to the dead reality of daily captialism under which everything (man included) is objectified its methods are thus identified as science tout court? But does this make objective science always wrong? Just as "evidence based medicine," the disease/sickness model, etc. are scientific when the object is the corporeal body, but ideology when it is the human psyche, perhaps the methods of social science are perfectly capable of describing an objective social reality, but are unable to conceive of anything other than "facts" of the short-term status quo?

LBird
Responses

 

Lone Londoner, post 19 wrote:
You seem to be starting from the notion of a "Communist" science (as you have said before I think) which would be "democratically controlled by the proletariat", but this in itself assumes that it is possible for the proletariat to "step outside" capitalist ideology, which is not in fact possible under capitalism (you can criticise ideology from a proletarian viewpoint, but "the ruling ideas are those of the ruling class" as Marx said).

Yes, I do argue that a ‘Communist’ science controlled by the ‘proletariat’ (or the successors of the ‘proletariat’ within a Communist society, whatever name we give to a victorious self-conscious productive humanity) is separable from the current ‘bourgeois science’. And, again, I do assume ‘that it is possible for the proletariat to "step outside" capitalist ideology’, because that is how Communist ideas can spread within our current society, a society which contains both dominant ‘ruling’ and emerging ‘oppositional’ ideas.

Lone Londoner, post 19 wrote:
Finally, you come to the question of objectivism: ie, is there an objective reality which is accessible to science? I think the answer is yes…

And so do I. But…it is only partially accessible. Doubt about our ‘knowledge’ of reality must be a given for our view of science. Agreement that there is an objective reality is not the same as being a positivist. I think mikail firtinaci’s post covers your points quite well, so I won’t merely repeat them.

jk1921, post 21 wrote:
What does it mean for science to be "controlled"? Does this mean censorship? What if a scientist decides he/she wants to investigate a problem or issue society has said is off limits? Are we back to the days of Galileo? Would this necessitate some kind of repression? A state? Or are we assuming here that we are in communism and such an eventuality as a scientist rejecting the social (or democratic) consensus won't happen? There is a more general question about the relationship between individual and society under communism here.

Well, unless you agree that Dr. Mengele should have been free to continue with his clearly ‘scientific’ experiments, then the answer is “Yes, science will be ‘controlled’”. I’m very clear that the likes of Mengele, if I have a vote on it, won’t be allowed “to investigate a problem or issue society has said is off limits”. Live human experiments, like vivisection of twins, will, I hope, be declared ‘off limits’ in a Communist society. Every society imposes its own morals upon its members, and Communist society will be no different: the essential difference will be ‘democratic control’, rather than ‘minority class control’. Only individualist anarchists seem to think that a society without any ‘social controls’ is possible: as a Communist, I don’t. Communism isn’t the freedom of every individual to do as they please.

jk1921, post 21 wrote:
Does society always have to be "on guard" to steer science towards appropriate societal, ethical ends? If so, does this suggest science has its own autonomous logic that cares not about social needs?

In a word, ‘Yes’. We must ensure that ‘societal, ethical’ considerations are in the forefront of our ‘science’. Clearly, ‘bourgeois science’ ‘cares not about social needs’. Little Boy and Fat Man? Morality must play a part in our ‘Communist science’. And that morality must be democratically decided by us all, not self-appointed priests or ‘scientists’.

jk1921, post 21 wrote:
I agree with Lone here about the necessity to recognize an "objective reality." However, its not clear to me that all versions of creationism can be scientifically proven wrong.

As I’ve said several times now, no-one disagrees with the notion of an ‘objective reality’: it’s our access to it that is the concern of critical realism. I think we all, the posters on this thread so far, agree with you, jk1921. On ‘creationism’, I think that you’re correct, once we move away from red herrings like ‘Noah’s Ark’. Many ideas produced by ‘science’ (phlogiston, the ether?) have been proved ‘wrong’, but we don’t reject ‘science’ simply because we can point to obvious errors. Creationism cannot be so easily disregarded, either.

jk1921, post 22 wrote:
But does this make objective science always wrong?

If we define ‘objective science’ as ‘science from the class perspective of the proletariat’ (or its inheritors within Communist society, to satisfy LL!), then we can say ‘science’ can be more partially right, than it is now under the bourgeoisie.

For humanity, that’s the best it gets!

mikail firtinaci
I think

Thanks for bringing up the Kapital. I think it is a good example. Even though I did not read it fully in detail I want to say a few things:

In my opinion, as I tried to say in another post, Kapital did not born into a void. After the defeat of 1848, Marx and Engels delved into the problems they have only passingly referred before. Engels started to work on military tactics. In order to avoid a 1848 scenario, he seriously studied military "science" even published a few articles in military journals (anonymously) on the weakness of the Hungarian strategy in 1848.

Marx on the other hand started to work on the question of the maturation of the conditions for the proletarian victory, which they realized they have overlooked before 1848. His study was tactically oriented fit to their strategy. First tactical reason was to analyze whether if the self-confidence of the political economy was well founded. Second, more serious was to move from its theoretical contradictions (of which they already were aware of before) to the possible cracks in economy in the foreseeable future. So Kapital (in my humble opinion) was intended to be a manuel for the fighter.

It was definitely not an objective piece since it did not make any new observations, or new theoretical contributions for the science of political economy. Still, it was also based on a very close examination of the available historical data, on the shop floor and on the general conditions of the working class daily life. It converted certain aspects of the political economy for an analysis of possibilities and prospects for the real struggle and also appropriated certain elements of this science to give a road map for the millenerian spirit of the earlier working class traditions to find their way in the new temporal horizon of the crisis ridden capitalism.

It was not scientific in the sense that it was "cold tempered." It was scientific because it appropriated the rigour of the bourgeouis inventions for the proletariat to use in its immediate and long term fights.

jaycee
I think the key point is to

I think the key point is to understand what Marx menat when he said "there will be one science". This in my view means that science will  firstly lose its seperate or elite nature as people have already said.But most importantly it will cease to be seperate from all other forms of social life and human capacities and human attempts to understand the world.

That is it will no longer mean a rejection or downplaying of other forms of knowledge and understanding such as myth, religion, history, psychology etc. that will mean that there will be one collective attempt of humanity to understand itself  and the universe in a total way and not a fragmented way.

Science currently is underpinned by a lot of bourgeois assumptions and modes of thinking, in particular it is related to a very alienated view of the universe. For example if we consider the way we describe the universe and its fundamental "essence" to call this matter or atoms or even energy comes no where near the emotional or poetic significance that a word like God , spirit or Tao can. This is a problem of science in its current form, it attempts to do away with human emotion/perception instead of being able to intergrate its findings into a truly human view of the universe. It wilol never be a true science or a truly human path while it rejects human experience and conscisousness.

 

LBird
Clarification required

jaycee wrote:
This in my view means that science will firstly lose its seperate or elite nature as people have already said.But most importantly it will cease to be seperate from all other forms of social life and human capacities and human attempts to understand the world.

I go along with what you've written here, jaycee, as long as by 'human' you mean 'the victorious Communist proletariat', and not just any old ahistoric conception of 'people', disregarding classes and the real development of the exploited section of humanity. No return to ghosts, gods, myths and witches.

jaycee wrote:
For example if we consider the way we describe the universe and its fundamental "essence" to call this matter or atoms or even energy comes no where near the emotional or poetic significance that a word like God , spirit or Tao can.

Ahhh... I think we might have a bit of a disagreement coming on, jaycee...

jaycee wrote:
This is a problem of science in its current form, it attempts to do away with human emotion/perception instead of being able to intergrate its findings into a truly human view of the universe. It wilol never be a true science or a truly human path while it rejects human experience and conscisousness.

On the contrary, I think that science's attempt, if not 'to do away with', but rather 'to temper', human emotion/perception, is an entirely positive step for humanity. Human 'perception' is a 'social' perception, mostly tied, until Communism, into 'ruling class perception'. And 'perception' can often be shown to be 'wrong' by a science that we wish to preserve and develop, not destroy.

I've very little time for talk of god, spirit or myths, outside of attempts to explain their origins and use by ruling classes, past and present, to exploit us.

This, perhaps, is where I sympathise strongly with jk1921's desire not to throw the scientific baby out with the bourgeois bathwater, if I've understood jk correctly.

jaycee
I agree that we shouldnt aim

I agree that we shouldnt aim to simply return to naive belief in gods, spirits etc. But i do agree with Jung that these things are an integral part of the human psyche and that the modern "scientific" way of dealing with them amounts basically to cutting off an important part of our minds, the unconscious part which throws up these ideas. This is in my view connected with the modern worlds stunting of and disregard for our instinctive sides.

Also as I said before the scientific view of nature is underpinned by a bourgeois form of conscioussness and a bourgeois experience and understanding of nature. This is a view which sees the universe as a collection of seperate "things" and also carries on largely unconscious Christian undertones, like someone mentioned above the idea of "the Big Bang", also with its view of hmanities relationship to nature, with humans as a seperate/superior being to th rest of nature.

If I relate this to your point about how its a good thing that science has tempered human emotion/perception I would agree, in fact in one sense I would say it doesnt go far enough in this while also stating that it goes way too far in this direction as well.

Firstly in terms of not going far enough: This scientific approach is very close to the Buddhist approach in that emotion and subjectivity are attempted to be overcome and the limitations/delusions they can affect are consciously distrusted. However in Buddhism the individual is throroughly trained in this art through meditation etc. Also the emotion/perception is not kept out of consciousness as it tends to become in "science", rather the aim is to be fully aware of its effects and to be able to view/experience this subjectivity objectively (if that makes sense).

In terms of going too far: Basically I mean what I have said just now that the (current) scientific view point, in rejecting, totally the subjective experience limits itself to only being able to understand one aspect of reality, mainly the so called external world. It becomes the study of "things" and bits. untill there is "one science" then the human element will always be left out.

Its difficult to talk about these ideas and not leave out important points but I probably waffled enough and Ive got work I should be doing.

mhou
Quote:Democratic control of

Quote:
Democratic control of research funding, the ‘scientific authorities’ and activities within science;

Is this truly a worthwhile goal [for communists]? When reading this statement it brought memories of reading William Z. Foster's Syndicalism pamphlet, or old turn of the  century industrial unionism propaganda- if we limit our scope to what is ideal in the society we live in today, where the working-class doesn't disappear after the revolution, and proceeds to run society on democratic principles, we end up with technocracy; Allende and his super-computers, the most modern capabilities of operating a command economy as efficiently as possible. I fear a series of events that ends up capable of placing the working-class in control of production and development of the productive forces, and it stops, it 'goes along to get along', would've been an opportunity to develop a social revolution and abolish class society that was stopped for mere self-management (and thus put brakes to the kind of social relationships and individual development potentially possible in Trotsky's Literature and Revolution for instance).

LBird
Lost

mhou, I'm not quite sure what point your making, in response to my view that the social activity of 'science' should be under democratic control. Could you re-phrase it? Or are you opposed to such control?

mhou
You phrase it as 'the

You phrase it as 'the proletariat democratically controlling scientific activity'- is not the revolution what will abolish classes, and leave the field and realm of science under the direction and influence of human beings of no class (in the context of a post-capitalist, communist world), rather than specifically the working-class? This seems like a pretty important distinction: one has been connected to counter-revolutionary activity, ideas and regimes, and the other is what communists seek to create. If the working-class still exists, class society still exists. If that is the case, what would be the reason that science would not be applied as it is now (for the purpose of capital accumulation and expansion, developing productive forces) under such conditions?

The world according to turn of the century syndicalism would be the cooperative commonwealth of workers running industry as it is today, along the same lines, with elected experts from every industry at the head of industrial unions making societal decisions based on their specialization in their given industry. The example Foster gives is of medical professionals 'ordering' all members of the human race to take a new vaccination because it is 'for the good of all; and non-medical professionals, like steelworkers and miners, are not in a position to make expert medical decisions'. If we maintain the proletariat as it is, even if it is in control of affairs like the assumption of people like Foster and early syndicalists, it would still be operating an exploitative and class based society similar to the one we have now- just more democratic, more technocratic. The statement you made reminds me of these kinds of visions of a post-revolutionary society; I'd think it isn't what communists are proponents of.

Fred
The best way to overcome

The best way to overcome "subjectivity" is to die. I'm sure most buddhists would agree.

jaycee wrote:
Basically I mean what I have said just now that the (current) scientific view point, in rejecting, totally the subjective experience limits itself to only being able to understand one aspect of reality, mainly the so called external world. It becomes the study of "things" and bits. untill there is "one science" then the human element will always be left out.
.

Nobody, and not even science, can reject subjective experience, because it's all we humans have. As to "objective reality" well I suppose tbere has to be one somewhere, maybe, but whether we as humans really see it for what it is I am inclined to doubt. Subjectivity effects everything: the class point of view effects what we see and how we evaluate it: and, in this society, cultural pressures still play a large part in the way many of us interpret reality even given the benefit of scientific findings, which we have to come to terms with subjectively. The class conscious proletariat sees and evaluates things differently from a died in the wool old-fashioned bourgeois.

As for science wanting to temper, or do away with human emotion... isn't this the bourgeoisie again? I suspect the bourgeoisie are frightened of emotion, unless it's contained in music or film. And given the totally untutored forms emotion takes in bourgeois society - it's wild and uncontrollable - no wonder they don't like it. And it is the bourgeoisie's trying to pretend emotion doesn't exists, or is to be ignored because it's "bad", that allows them unfeelingly to detonate their nuclear devices and other crimes, like austerity, which they do with impunity, as they try to ignore all human feelings, or downgrade them as childish or unscientific.

But we don't want to be like them, do we? As jk pointed out: fear has, in the past, been very positive for humanity, protecting us from the saber-toothed tiger and other monsters. Under communism, perhaps we'll be able to make very positive and creative use of our emotions, intuitions, and subjectivity, rather than looking to some mythical objective science to help keep them under wraps.

mikail firtinaci
hmm

I think there is no better way to put it:

The best way to overcome "subjectivity" is to die.

 

jaycee
I did say that it is science

I did say that it is science as it is now, which means bourgeois science, which aims to do away with human emotions not science in general. But the science of the future (if there is one for humanity) will not be 'science' in the way we know it because there will be one science i.e. one attempt to understand the world and reach 'truth'. This will not sepertae art, religion (at least what is positive and universal in religion) philosophy etc from science.

with regards to overcoming subjectivity, I wouldn't necessarily say that this is completely accomplishable or desirable but I also think that it i only the bourgeoisie who have seen the workaday worlds consciousness as the only kind of conscisoussness that can be achieved. I think the idea of there being a higher form of conscioussness and a higher form of humanity than its present state is something which all cultures apart from capitalism have held to be deeply important and I think we take the bourgeois mode of life and mode of conscisousness too seriously if we lose sight of this. Alienated humanity isn't the only form of huanity there is.

I agree that humans have to harness their emotions rather than reject them,but as you say that is precisely what bourgeois science does a communist science would I think regain the art of and drive to master human consciousness and emotion and mastery does not mean repression or denial-the complete opposite in fact, it means as Freud said 'making the unconcios conscious' which for me means the same as Marx said 'nature becoming man' and also as the mystical aim of kabalah and other systems which aim to 'turn the darkness into light'.

 

 

jk1921
Is Marxism a Science?

jaycee wrote:

I did say that it is science as it is now, which means bourgeois science, which aims to do away with human emotions not science in general. But the science of the future (if there is one for humanity) will not be 'science' in the way we know it because there will be one science i.e. one attempt to understand the world and reach 'truth'. This will not sepertae art, religion (at least what is positive and universal in religion) philosophy etc from science.

It would seem that science is constituted specifically by the fact that it is not art, religion, philosophy, mysticism, mythology, etc. Is it possible that by positing the unity of all these things at some post-revolutionary point in time what we are really saying is that science under class society is itself a form of alienation which must be transcended? Then what becomes of the scientific status of Marxism? Wasn't this the great achievement of Marx and Engels, to raise the workers' movement out of the morass of utopianism and put it on a "scientific" foundation? So, if science=alienation and Marxism=science, than Marxism=alienation? Is it a reflection of the objectifying tendencies of captialism, and Castoriadis was right after all? But if Marxism isn't a science per se then what is its improvement over other ways of apprehending the world? It seems one inevitably ends up in trouble here and crashes once again into the interminable problem of either posing that there are "multiple sciences" or accepting something like the Popperian vision of science as objective knowledge unclouded by myths, emotions, etc.

 

jk1921
Reading over some of these

Reading over some of these posts again, I am struck by what appears to be some important differences regarding the nature of science in a future communist society between what LBrid descbribes compared to Jaycee.

For Jaycee, it seems that in a future communist society science would almost be transcended, as humanity fused with nature in a way that seems imponderble today--reuniting science with art, religion, myth, etc. Alienation is overcome in the identity of the subject-object and as such there is little to fear from "science run amok."

For LBird, it appears that science would continue to have some kind of independence in the post-revolutionary period (although it is not clear to me if he is talking about full communism or not). There would almost be a "dictatorship of the proletariat" over science through which it sets the societal and ethical boundaries of what consitutes research in the interests of the overall human community. There would appear to still be some independent scientific drive independent from society itself that society must be on guard to steer towards desireable ends.

Of course, it could be that LBird's ideas correspond to the immediate post-revolutionary period and Jaycee's reflect fullblown communism, but regardless there appear to be two different visions (although not necessarily mutally opposed in all aspects) of just what science is and what its future might be.

mhou
Quote:Is it possible that by

Quote:
Is it possible that by positing the unity of all these things at some post-revolutionary point in time what we are really saying is that science under class society is itself a form of alienation which must be transcended? Then what becomes of the scientific status of Marxism? Wasn't this the great achievement of Marx and Engels, to raise the workers' movement out of the morass of utopianism and put it on a "scientific" foundation? So, if science=alienation and Marxism=science, than Marxism=alienation? Is it a reflection of the objectifying tendencies of captialism, and Castoriadis was right after all?

"If Marx, in a given period of his participation in the struggle of the proletariat, expected too much from scientific forecasting, to the point of creating the intellectual foundation for the illusions of economism, it is known that he did not personally succomb to those illusions. In a well-known letter of December 7, 1867, accompanying an article where he himself criticized Capital, an article which Engels would later present to the press as the work of an adversary, Marx clearly disclosed the limits of his own science, ". . . The subjective tendency of the author (which was perhaps imposed on him by his political position and his past), namely the manner in which he views and presents to others the ultimate results of the real movement, the real social process, has no relation to his own actual analysis." Thus Marx, by denouncing the "tendentious conclusions" of his own objective analysis, and by the irony of the 'perhaps' with reference to the extra-scientific choices imposed on him, at the same time shows the methodological key to the fusion of the two aspects."

-Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, #89

Fred
jk wrote: But if Marxism

jk wrote:
But if Marxism isn't a science per se then what is its improvement over other ways of apprehending the world?

Good question jk. But does Marxism have to be "a science" in order to proclaim it's vast improvement over other ways of apprehending the world? I think not. First of all Marxism makes sense to anyone who thinks seriously about it, which the bourgeoisie and their epigones never even try to do, and is clearly at an advantage over religion, which doesn't survive rational questioning. (My major assumption here as a humanist is that human rationality, especially as it generates consciousness in lieu of half-baked ideas stemming from ideologies and false consciousness, is the key to human progress, and opens the door to the proletarian revolution.). Rationality, and the desire to make sense of things, has produced what little science we have. From this point of view, science confirms rationality.

What other ways of apprehending the world are there, except religion and politics? Either things happen haphazardly, and theres no explanation and no possible rational plan - only the will of the gods, as in the Greek myths and the various religious texts - or there is the class struggle expressed in political terms. The class struggle is the only explanation for what happens to humanity whilst living on this planet that makes real sense, and offers improvements. The improvements to existence offered by religion usually require the recipient to be dead. Politics is thus an improvement over religion, and, in political terms, and from a working class point of view, Marxism is currently the only rational, sensible and coherent kind of politics around, the underpinnings to the bourgeois political forms having been undermined by the failure of their economic method.

But whether any of this proves, or necessitates Marxism to be a science, I don't know and don't really care. At least Marxism is rational and makes sense, and is clearly no religion - except for those whose subjectivity tends to turn most things into superstitions beyond the reach of sensible explanations.

As to the dispute which jk sees between Jaycee and LBird, I doubt it's actually there, and find what they say easily reconcilable. And, as to Guy Debord...enfin I never understand what he's on about as he always seems to tie himself up in convolutions of his own making, and possibly needs new spectacles.

Fred
Unfortunately I forgot to

Unfortunately I forgot to mention ART in the above post, so just a brief word. In serving the needs of the ruling class, art is either religious or political. It's religious nature is more apparent than is it's political nature, which is traditionally expressed in it's acceptability of subject matter and the form of expression of that content. Where form or content are challenged, we have rebellion: and what is rebellion - especially where it has an underpinning consciousness of what it's doing - but the highest kind of political expression. Religion, as an opiate, is political too: distracting people from their earthly difficulties with promises of forgiveness and paradise after death, or with religious splendors of music, incense and sound, available weekly at religious gatherings as an art experience in itself.

Mozart and Beethoven satisfied their audiences by audibly challenging aristocratic expectations ( The marriage of figaro: the Eroica) and bringing forward the expectations of an increasingly powerful bourgeoisie through changes both to form and content. The Impressionists and Cubists rebelled against what had become traditional bourgeois expectations in regard to painting and the visual arts by challenging not only the content of paintings but the techniques used, and eventually the subject matter itself.

Thus a case can be made for saying that all art is political. (Im sure books must have been written saying the same thing.) Religion is clearly political too. It isn't surprising then to consider that science must inevitably be political at it's base. The whole of life, living as we do under the intensely applied Dictatorship of tbe Bourgeoisie, is political and there's no escape apart from a proletarian triumph. Marxism is our only hope. But this doesn't make Marxism a science necessarily.

jk1921
Capitalism and Modernity

Fred][quote=jk wrote:
. But does Marxism have to be "a science" in order to proclaim it's vast improvement over other ways of apprehending the world?

 

Well I don't know. But yes, it seems in modernity that science is the ultimate rubric by which everything is judged. This raises the question of modernity and Marxism's place within it. Is modernity simply identifiable with capitalism, or is it something broader that also encompasses the emergence of rationality and science in the Enlightenment? Meiksins-Woods argues this point. Captialism is something that developed in English rural property relations (and eventually took over the world). It was not stricly speaking a bourgeois phenomenon. The bourgeoisie is who made the French Revolution against absolutism and needed the Enlightenment to do so. So is it possible that Marxism is part of a broader Enlightenment project and has to be judged on those terms? On the terms of modernity in which science and rationality are the ultimate measuring stick?

Why is it important to be scientific? Well, because if you are not it might cause you to ignore reality and make all kinds of fantastical predictions based on what you want to happen rather than what a sober, objective analysis of reality suggests is likely to happen. In other words, you might become what one could call a mystical new age cult.

Fred, your post does seem to me to raise spectre of Nietsche. If Marxism isn't a science--it must be a "will to power" then right? The question then becomes whose will to power? The proletariat itself or revolutionary minorities? But then we get into issues that have been raised by others (Mikhail, most prominently) of the role of revolutionary will in overcoming what appear to the objective barriers to revolution presented to us by the world. In other words, revolutionary practice creates a new revolutionary reality. Objective reality is changed by the subjective act of apprehending it through the lens of the proletarian viewpoint. Of course, all of this is pretty standard 1918-1923 Hegelian Marxisms (Lukacs, Korsch, etc.) that seemed to fit rather nicely with the emerging scientific ethos of the time--based on relativity, etc. The question now is can this approach be convincing today?

 

Fred
Okay. Forget Nietsche. Yes,

Okay. Forget Nietsche. Yes, Marxism is a science. But not in the way in which chemistry, geology and botany are. It's not a compartmentalized science - not a subject for study on a bourgeois curriculum - it is more in the category of "a theory of everything" kind of science; like the theory of evolution; or Freud's discovery of the subconscious and the development of psychology.

Darwin, Marx and Freud were scientists of a new kind who understood that Natural History (in Darwin's case), Historical Materialism (in the case of Marx) and the investigation of the human mind (for Freud) did not fit within the confines of any particular scientific "objective" subject, as was normal with science as practiced under bourgeois rule, but were theories of a gigantic sort embracing any number of scientific methodologies, including history and knowledge about the emergence and development of humanity itself. For Darwin, Marx and Freud humanity was or became the subject of their scientific endeavors; and this was something new for science. This meant that their theorizing and discoveries did not fit well with the traditional methodologies of the "hard" "objective" sciences, which became just adjuncts to the new all-embracing theories being developed by them. In a sense this placed them outside the confines of bourgeois ideology - only recently identified by the communists - and rendered what they were doing problematic for bourgeois society. This didn't bother Marx of course, nor I think Freud, but it was certainly a worry for the more "respectable" Darwin, who was undermining the foundations of bourgeois society almost as much as Marx himself.

So, yes jk, of course Marxism is a science and a great theoretical and practical understanding of humanity's historical and material development, with implications for our future. And Darwin's discovery and elaboration of the origin of species, including ourselves, is really another part of the Marxist endeavor to understand the world and change it for the better, on the basis of scientific knowledge. And Freud's perhaps tentative as yet discoveries about the human mind, while they may await further elaboration, are a third part to this new science of humanity, which the bourgeoisie generally speaking does not like. They resist acknowledging Darwin, Marx and Freud as major scientific thinkers. They dislike all-embracing theories and seek to discredit them via Popperian approaches, which are very good for validating traditional compartmentalized scientific endeavors, where experiment is king, but are not appropriate for dealing with the history and evolution of humanity and the theories generated to explain these events. To deal with the new sciences perhaps we need a new Popper. I dont know.

mikail firtinaci
not objective barriers

JK;

I don't recall saying that "will is needed to overcome objective barriers." I simply say; there is a division between communism as a living idea as expressed through the revolutionary minorities and communism as a real movement of the working class. I say; overcoming this division necessitates a the creation of a positive and optimistic prospect for communism, creation of a mood through proaganda, analysis but also with the deed showing that objectively there is no historical limit in front of us to make a revolution and pass into communism.

The divison is important. This division stems from the historical defeats of the workers and victory of a certain section of the bourgeoisie in the last century. Communism is denigrated as an idea. Moreover, capitalism seemed triumphant.

Paradoxically this caused the capitalists and its science to become more pessimistic, less subjectivistic and ahistorical. Bourgeoisie does not trust itself, it lacks courage to face up the many faced crisis of the capitalist society. It is synical now. I think I disagree partially with the thesis of decomposition in the sense that this pessimism ("no future") is not coming from "petty-bourgeoisie" but from the ruling class itself; most clearly loss of any confidence in a universal subject in post modern/structuralist theories, like those of Althusser, Foucault, Deleuze, Said, Spivak, etc. A similar trend is also prevelant in the truly petty-bourgeoisie autonomist marxism and its retreat to the utopia of a small property owners golden age as in the case of midnight notes or certain anarchists' and libertarians' fetishization of democracy.

All these are expressions of the fear from party. Our age and its bourgeois thought want us to give up subjectivity in favor of a slow death. The dominant ideology is now wait and seeism. Any action is deemed authoritarian. The atomisation in individual, the unexpected result of the civil society is complete. 

And there is only one serious historic alternative that still challenges this prevelant individual atomisation, this pessimism, objectivism and crude materialism: communism. Even in its absence, the elephant in the room is still the communist party. Every post modernist always start with a criticism of communism. All histeric rightists still see its shadow lurking in every corner. All liberals still hate it the most. Everyone in civil society still fears it and any serious bourgeois political debate is still beginning with the declaration of its objective impossibility; enough to show how objectively possible it really is.

In my experience you can justifiably reduce the essential claim of all contemporary bourgeois philosophy, sociology and history to this slogan; withold the proletarian subject and its party.

So what I say is we to move towards the unity of those two; party and class. I say there is no mechanical or automatic process leading to this with which we can somehow refrain actively involving. communism is the fullest expression of human subjectivity -the unrealized claim of enlightenment. And now this is only possible through working our way towards the collective subject, towards the party.

 

LBird
Science and Marxism?

Fred wrote:
...humanity was or became the subject of their scientific endeavors; and this was something new for science. This meant that their theorizing and discoveries did not fit well with the traditional methodologies of the "hard" "objective" sciences...

Furthermore, "the traditional methodologies of the "hard" "objective" sciences" themselves started to produce 'theories and discoveries' which undermined their own method.

'Science' itself has undermined its own (positivist/objectivist) theoretical basis; it's not those who criticise the common-sense version of 'science' who cause the problem, but the study of how 'science' actually works in practice.

We now know that 'physics' is much more like 'sociology' than was thought in the past, when physics was seen as the 'hard science' which produced 'truth', whereas sociology, like all the so-called 'human sciences', allegedly produced only 'opinion'.

Fred wrote:
They dislike all-embracing theories and seek to discredit them via Popperian approaches, which are very good for validating traditional compartmentalized scientific endeavors, where experiment is king, but are not appropriate for dealing with the history and evolution of humanity and the theories generated to explain these events.

Have more confidence, Fred! It's a bourgeois myth that 'experiment is king', that measurement and empirical tests are a basis for 'truth'.

Popper's method has been discredited even for physics. This isn't to argue that experimentation shouldn't be used, but is to argue that experimentation is a human act, and as such is subject to the strengths and weaknesses of humans.

Experiment can't prove a theory to be wrong. Our twentieth century Einsteinian apple from the tree of knowledge can't be ignored, if we wish to remain scientists.

I think scientists try to ignore these philosophical discoveries in the same way that economists tried to ignore the labour theory of value.

I think that arguing for a 'proletarian/Communist science' in opposition to a 'bourgeois science', is very similar to arguing for a '(Marxist) classical political economy' in opposition to a 'marginalist neo-classical economics'.

It all depends upon one's theoretical and ideological starting points, hence my outline of the 'scientific method' earlier as being based in society.

[my apologies for being absent from the discussion for a few days: I was blocked from logging-in for some reason]

jk1921
I think Mikhail, Fred and

I think Mikhail, Fred and LBird all make very good points in their last posts. However, I think that we need to acknowledge that the Marxist legacy is far from clear itself on many of these points. There has alway been a tendency in Marxism to attempt to ground it in some kind of scientific viewpoint. This was as much true of Marx as it was for the councilists. The issues of consciounsness, revolutionary will and fighting spirit have all been, and continue to be, burning issues for Marxism. But can we really assimilate these issues to questions like FROP vs. overproduction? This debate seems to be on a different terrain, one in which empirical verfication, econometrics, various statitical methods, etc. are possible and necessary and in which academic specialists are necessary.

In the end, it does not seem possible to critique bourgeois ideology except from a scientific standpoint. You can't critique one ideology with another one. If that is our method then the entire class struggle boils down to a contest between "wills to power," and we can no longer claim to have science on our side. It has often been argued that only the proletarian viewpoint can allow us a scientific understanding of society, because--as a class without a particular interest in captialist society--the proletariat has no bias to protect and is thus capable of understanding the totality. Yet, at the same time the proletariat--in the day to day functioning of capitalism--is always under the influence of bourgeois ideology. So who then exercises the proletarain viewpoint? Who then is truly capable of being scientific? The party?

LBird
Methodological review

jk1921 wrote:
In the end, it does not seem possible to critique bourgeois ideology except from a scientific standpoint.

Doesn't this beg the question, though, of what exactly is the 'scientific standpoint'?

If we take my earlier suggestion of the 'scientific method'...

LBird, post 18, wrote:
“Society, ideology, theory, method, hypothesis, define empirical evidence, test empirical evidence, results (each stage exposed to general scrutiny), and then loop back to ‘theory’ and repeat, ad infinitum”

...then 'ideology' is an inherent part of the 'scientific method' (and, indeed, precedes, 'theory').

jk1921 wrote:
You can't critique one ideology with another one.

Well, we can identify the origins of an ideology within society, according to my suggested method. 'Society' is the first stage, and as 'society' contains classes, we can expect those classes to be the sources of the (second stage) 'ideology'.

Thus 'science' can produce two (or more) entirely 'scientific' accounts which can be 'proved' by their own 'theory, method, hypothesis, etc.', and yet disagree between themselves. Science doesn't produce 'absolute truth', but 'partial truths', and these various partial truths can disagree with each other.

jk1921 wrote:
It has often been argued that only the proletarian viewpoint can allow us a scientific understanding of society, because--as a class without a particular interest in captialist society--the proletariat has no bias to protect and is thus capable of understanding the totality.

Yes, that is our argument: that the version of 'science' that is produced from the 'proletarian viewpoint' is a more 'scientific understanding of society' (and nature), simply because that viewpoint encompasses the interests of the greater part of humanity.

And humans are the ones attempting to understand an existing objective reality. But our access to that reality is not perfect, and never can be. We are not god.

jk1921
Common Sense

LBird wrote:

Thus 'science' can produce two (or more) entirely 'scientific' accounts which can be 'proved' by their own 'theory, method, hypothesis, etc.', and yet disagree between themselves. Science doesn't produce 'absolute truth', but 'partial truths', and these various partial truths can disagree with each other.

 

This is the part that violates "common sense" in a culture that is dominated by a "scientifc viewpoint." Yes, it is true that different people can look at the avialable evidence and come to different conclusions, but both of them cannot be right (although both could be wrong, I suppose). Underneath all attempts to interpret reality there is some process going on that is independent from our attempt to understand it. For example, two or three doctors can examine the same patient and come to radically different conclusions about what is wrong with him/her. But at the end of the day, there is a some biological disease process going on that will run its course with or without a correct diagnosis.

Marxist economics would seem to like to set itself up on the same plane--things like the FROP and overproduction don't depend on an observer effect. They are either happening or they or not. This is what is supposed to make Marxism scientific. It is rooted--grounded--in the objective reality of capitalism's crisis. The proletarian revolution is "not just a nice idea, but a material necessity." Regardles of whether or not the proletariat ever comes to a revolutionary consciousness, capitalist society will continue to deteriorate--rot on its feet--until we either blow ourselves up or regress into barbarism. This in an objective fact--true regardless of our ability, or lack thereof, to figure out what is going on. However, the problematic is set up such that the FROP and overproduction should be empirically discoverable, testable and visible. Either they are happening or they aren't. This doesn't prevent the existence of a tremendous heat around these questions, including intense, even vicious debtate around which one is correct, a debate that seems at times interminable. However, regardless of this--these ideas are either right or wrong and we should, in theory, be able to figure it out--regardless if we ever do or not. Questions of consciousness (in particular the so-called subterreanean maturation of consciousness) do not seem to lend themselves to the same level of empirical visibility, which causes many to wonder if it is even a scientific concept to begin with.

LBird
Inescapable human assumptions

jk1921 wrote:
This is the part that violates "common sense" in a culture that is dominated by a "scientifc viewpoint."

Whose 'culture' produces this 'common sense' of a 'dominant scientific viewpoint'?

The belief that there is a 'science' that produces 'the truth' comes from bourgeois culture.

jk1921 wrote:
Yes, it is true that different people can look at the avialable evidence and come to different conclusions, but both of them cannot be right (although both could be wrong, I suppose).

Unfortunately, 'science' nows tells us that 'both conclusions' can be 'right'. A 'conclusion' is a human construct and 'right' is a human judgement. Depending upon who is doing the judgement, two 'partial truths' can sometimes be both false, or one true, or both true.

'Knowledge' is a social product, not a 'copy' of reality. Reality exists outside of the attempt to 'know' it, but 'knowledge' is always partial.

jk1921 wrote:
Underneath all attempts to interpret reality there is some process going on that is independent from our attempt to understand it. For example, two or three doctors can examine the same patient and come to radically different conclusions about what is wrong with him/her. But at the end of the day, there is a some biological disease process going on that will run its course with or without a correct diagnosis.

'Biological'? This is a pre-existing assumption on your part. I share it, too. But it is an assumption.

If I start from some other assumption, I will come up with yet another (fourth?) conclusion.

As Communists, we must face up to our assumptions: that is the 'scientific method'.

jk1921
I am not rejecting your

I am not rejecting your points LBird. In fact, you may be right that the assumption that science=truth comes from bourgeois, Englightenment culture. But the question is, what does this leave us with and what status is afforded to Marxism then? Some might say that Marxism is more "critique" than science as the dominant culture defines it. Marx once described his project as the, "the ruthless critique of everything existing." But a critique on what basis? Science? Or is it something else? Humanism? The proletarian viewpoint? How do we avoid the trap of postmodern relativism? The idea that there is no truth, and henceforth no ideology--only a contest between competing meta-narratives, that float above reality never really explaining it or making it more accessible? How is the idea of science as "partial truth" different from these ideas? It seems like this suggests that we can only ever grasp a portion of reality and that as soon as we grasp it, it floats away and changes on us again. How can this methodolgy ground a social theory that is based on asserting an objective, inescapable economic crisis that is a permanent feature of captialism and which is immune from human intervention? Surely the ecnomic crisis must be objective and knowable (even if we don't understand all its features yet). Otherwise it isn't anything more than a literary myth, a narrative,a rhetorical device. The necessity of proeltarian revolution can never be "proven," and thus there is no objective basis for communism, itis a matter of subjective will (will to power). This sounds a little like Sorel. Wasn't he a fan of Nietzsche? The idea that ideas shouldn't be judged on the basis of science, but on their practical ability to motivate people towards action? Vitalism? Come to think of it, Sorel's big idea was the "revolutionary myth"  wasn't it?

Fred
jk wrote:Marx once described

jk wrote:
Marx once described his project as the, "the ruthless critique of everything existing." But a critique on what basis? Science? Or is it something else? Humanism? The proletarian viewpoint? How do we avoid the trap of postmodern relativism? The idea that there is no truth...

This "ruthless critique" for me, is based on the proletarian viewpoint. Some comrades would like it to be based on science - but what science exactly? And then there's "postmodern relativism" which sounds very deliberately confusionist, and thus has it's basis no doubt in some bourgeois pseudo science, or bourgeois humanism. There are occasions on this forum when I am glad I am not clever or well read. (I never expected to have to say this, but there we go.) As human beings I believe there are times we have to stop juggling all the academic possibilities coughed up by bourgeois philosophers, and decide what we ourselves think and / or believe in, and take our stand on that. ( I'm not saying that what we believe won't be open to change.). It's possible to go on saying "some might say this... Or, on the other hand, some might say that..." for ever! But life is short. Marx wasn't prepared to spend years considering whether Bakunin might be on to something, but submitted what Bakunin had to say to a ruthless critique, found it lacking, and rejected it.

So Sorel came up with the idea of "the revolutionary myth". Jolly good! Excellent idea! I hope it sold books for him. But it isn't a myth for me, so I reject his idea. I don't use it to question what happened in 1871, or 1917, or to wonder if the proletariat has somehow metamorphosed into the petty-bourgeoisie; because, in the narrative which I have adopted as suiting what I think, the working class is still the only revolutionary class around, despite 2013 not being the same as 1970, and the revolution is needed even more than ever, though I don't know if it'll ever happen.

I don't care what "status" is afforded Marxism today by those who constantly seek to discredit it. All that matters subjectively for me is that it is the only thing I have discovered in my existence - I haven't come across everything, approached all ideas, or read all books - that makes sense of a totally ridiculous and viciously violent world that desperately needs changing rather than anymore increasingly fanciful interpretations. So, in the end, you have to decide what you think is true, and go for that.

Fred
Well said mikail. Quote:And

Well said mikail.

Quote:
And there is only one serious historic alternative that still challenges this prevelant individual atomisation, this pessimism, objectivism and crude materialism: communism. Even in its absence, the elephant in the room is still the communist party. Every post modernist always start with a criticism of communism. All histeric rightists still see its shadow lurking in every corner. All liberals still hate it the most. Everyone in civil society still fears it and any serious bourgeois political debate is still beginning with the declaration of its objective impossibility; enough to show how objectively possible it really is.
LoneLondoner
What is a fact?

jk1921 wrote:

Please don't tell me the ICC doesn't believe in facts!

The real issue here is determining what a fact is, and what significance it has. Let's take an example. In 2009 there was a struggle amongst power station and construction workers centered on Lindsey UK. During the strike, there were some workers who were waving British flags. This is undoubtedly a fact. The problem is, understanding its significance and this is only possible if we put it into relation with other facts, such as:

  1. In 1968, British dockers actually went on strike in defence of the racist politician Enoch Powell who had been sacked for inflammatory speechifying (notably his infamous "rivers of blood" speech).
  2. In 2009 during the same strike that Lindsey was involved in, we saw Polish immigrant construction workers coming out in explicit solidarity, and Italian immigrant workers with a sign (in Italian) reading "Workers of all countries unite" on a British picket line.

IMHO it is at the very least arguable (as we argued indeed) that the dynamic of the working class today is very different now from what it was at the end of the sixties (in the UK, a bit late compared to workers in France).

The point I really want to make, through this example, is that "facts" in themselves, are essentially meaningless. They only acquire meaning in context, which includes history. Moreover, what we are trying to achieve is not just a "photoshot" of a given situation, but to place it within a dynamic that comes from the past and extends to the future. What is important is not "facts" but the relations between them.

Moreover, the "facts" that we see are themselves determined up to a point by theory. Here's an example from science history. When Copernicus published his theory, he included the assertion that the planet Venus has phases visible from Earth, like the moon. Those who opposed Copernicus were able to demonstrate without much difficulty that this was not the case. It was an observable fact that Venus looked like a star, without phases. It was only decades later, with the invention of the telescope, that it became possible to confirm that Venus does indeed have phases, and that Copernicus' assertion was correct, despite apparently contradicting the known and observable facts of his day.

Saying this does not, of course, do away with the existence of an objective reality on which the theory is based and which it aims to explain!

LoneLondoner
Who should control science?

jk1921 wrote:

In some ways the idea that science could be subjected to democratic control is very frightening. What would the implications of that be today?

I don't think there should be "democratic control" of what scientists think. However, what they work on is a different matter, and I think would be even in a communist society. Look at CERN: it cost over €40 billion, which is a colossal allocation of resources. Assuming that social resources are not unlimited over a particular time span, I don't think there is much difficulty in saying that (a communist) society as a whole would have to decide what it wants to allocate resources to in terms of research. Do we want to give priority to fundamental physics, or to something else, for example? That doesn't imply controlling what physicists think, not does it mean that the "truth" of scientific theory can be decided by democratically voting: it can't.

jk1921
Discredit

Fred wrote:
There are occasions on this forum when I am glad I am not clever or well read. (I never expected to have to say this, but there we go.) As human beings I believe there are times we have to stop juggling all the academic possibilities coughed up by bourgeois philosophers, and decide what we ourselves think and / or believe in, and take our stand on that.

Is this the old anti-intellectual, anti-academic meme popping up again? Why is every academic question automatically bourgeois? This seems like sectarianism to me. But Fred, you seem plenty well read to me, in particular on issues of art and culture.

Fred wrote:

I don't care what "status" is afforded Marxism today by those who constantly seek to discredit it. All that matters subjectively for me is that it is the only thing I have discovered in my existence - I haven't come across everything, approached all ideas, or read all books - that makes sense of a totally ridiculous and viciously violent world that desperately needs changing rather than anymore increasingly fanciful interpretations. So, in the end, you have to decide what you think is true, and go for that.

Its not about what status is afforded Marxism by those who constantly seek to discredit it. Its about what status we give it. Do we continue to claim to be the agents of some kind of scientific interpretation of capitalism or not? But it would seem to me that the first people who should be "seeking to discredit" Marxism ARE Marxists themselves. Shouldn't we be constantly reevaluating our assumptions in order to make sure they still correlate to the reality around us? Isn't this the "scientific" thing to do? Are you not the least concerned that what you think is true really is true? At what point to you decide to stop your investigation into truth and just "go with something"? Don't you have to keep submitting your ideas to the test of reality lest you degenerate into intellectual sclerosis?

jk1921
Lines of inquiry

LoneLondoner wrote:

jk1921 wrote:

In some ways the idea that science could be subjected to democratic control is very frightening. What would the implications of that be today?

I don't think there should be "democratic control" of what scientists think. However, what they work on is a different matter, and I think would be even in a communist society. Look at CERN: it cost over €40 billion, which is a colossal allocation of resources. Assuming that social resources are not unlimited over a particular time span, I don't think there is much difficulty in saying that (a communist) society as a whole would have to decide what it wants to allocate resources to in terms of research. Do we want to give priority to fundamental physics, or to something else, for example? That doesn't imply controlling what physicists think, not does it mean that the "truth" of scientific theory can be decided by democratically voting: it can't.

What you outline here is not particularly controversial. It happens even in capitalist society, although these issues are mostly decided by the state in line with what best suits its interests. I think the scenario that I am thinking about is different. For example, how would communist society handle it if science were to one day show that our life trajectories were really hard wired by our genes? This doesn't really sit well with most interpretations of Marxism; yet it is a popular idea today--supposedly backed up by numerous scientific studies. Or would this line of scientific inquiry be barred by ethical considerations? Just like decaying fedual society attempted to shut down Galileo because the very questions he asked threatned to undermine the legitimating ideas of that society--ideas that could scientifically be shown to be wrong.

jk1921
OK

LoneLondoner wrote:

jk1921 wrote:

Please don't tell me the ICC doesn't believe in facts!

The real issue here is determining what a fact is, and what significance it has. Let's take an example. In 2009 there was a struggle amongst power station and construction workers centered on Lindsey UK. During the strike, there were some workers who were waving British flags. This is undoubtedly a fact. The problem is, understanding its significance and this is only possible if we put it into relation with other facts, such as:

  1. In 1968, British dockers actually went on strike in defence of the racist politician Enoch Powell who had been sacked for inflammatory speechifying (notably his infamous "rivers of blood" speech).
  2. In 2009 during the same strike that Lindsey was involved in, we saw Polish immigrant construction workers coming out in explicit solidarity, and Italian immigrant workers with a sign (in Italian) reading "Workers of all countries unite" on a British picket line.

IMHO it is at the very least arguable (as we argued indeed) that the dynamic of the working class today is very different now from what it was at the end of the sixties (in the UK, a bit late compared to workers in France).

The point I really want to make, through this example, is that "facts" in themselves, are essentially meaningless. They only acquire meaning in context, which includes history. Moreover, what we are trying to achieve is not just a "photoshot" of a given situation, but to place it within a dynamic that comes from the past and extends to the future. What is important is not "facts" but the relations between them.

Moreover, the "facts" that we see are themselves determined up to a point by theory. Here's an example from science history. When Copernicus published his theory, he included the assertion that the planet Venus has phases visible from Earth, like the moon. Those who opposed Copernicus were able to demonstrate without much difficulty that this was not the case. It was an observable fact that Venus looked like a star, without phases. It was only decades later, with the invention of the telescope, that it became possible to confirm that Venus does indeed have phases, and that Copernicus' assertion was correct, despite apparently contradicting the known and observable facts of his day.

Saying this does not, of course, do away with the existence of an objective reality on which the theory is based and which it aims to explain!

 

Your point here is legitimate. But from a communications standpoint, perhaps it is best to not criticize another organization for "believing in facts"? I think one should be careful about how this is expressed. But I am still unclear about why the ICT's belief in facts make them un-Marxist empiricists?

Fred
jk wrote:But it would seem to

jk wrote:
But it would seem to me that the first people who should be "seeking to discredit" Marxism ARE Marxists themselves. Shouldn't we be constantly reevaluating our assumptions in order to make sure they still correlate to the reality around us? Isn't this the "scientific" thing to do? Are you not the least concerned that what you think is true really is true? At what point to you decide to stop your investigation into truth and just "go with something"? Don't you have to keep submitting your ideas to the test of reality lest you degenerate into intellectual sclerosis?

A number of things here bother me. Why would a Marxist want to discredit Marxism. Surely somebody who thought Marxism was easily falsified, or easy to puncture some other way, wouldn't embrace it in the first place?

Yes, we should continually try to identify our assumptions, particularly those contained within Marxism (should the party rule on behalf of the class?). But, for a Marxist, the assumption that historical materialism is basically correct, is surely not challengeable? It would be like challenging the fact that the word "red" indicates the colour red and insisting instead that it really means blue! What would be the point of doing this?

Yes, I often wonder whether what I think is "true" or whether I am not in fact a lunatic, in a state of continual mental self-abuse. But my faith/trust/belief in Marxism as a so far unshakeable explanation for the reality of our existence under capitalism has stood the test of time very well. Whether or not it's a science of the kind Popper would approve, doesn't seem so important to me, though some comrades think this is of major significance. If you are a Doubting Thomas as far as Marxism is concerned, then I don't know what the equivalent would be to plunging your hands into Jesus' wounds. Does this analogy finally destroy whatever case I'm attempting to make?

And finally, for now, about submitting ideas "to the test of reality". Yes, we all have to do that. But isn't "reality" possibly different for us all, just a bit? I assume a major part of my current reality to be what I read on this web site juxtaposed and tested against what I have experienced and learned in earlier life. It sounds smug. But what else is there? Books about Marxism, science, economics, philosophy and politics clearly play a much larger part in the lives of some comrades than they do for me. This doesn't make me anti- intellectual however. The Marxist "literature" is obviously important, but only as it goes to inform, support and broaden a point of view. If you are not developing a personal point of view about something, then the literature on it will not help. A point of view is not something fixed and unchangeable, but without it a person is lost. For me the point of view is that of the proletariat, not science or bourgeois humanism. This is not to deny the possibility that the proletarian point of view, and Marxism itself, may well be SCIENCE, but isn't that secondary?

LBird
If not us, who?

Lone Londoner, Who should control science?, post 51, wrote:
I don't think there should be "democratic control" of what scientists think. However, what they work on is a different matter, and I think would be even in a communist society.

I think I agree with the vast majority of what Lone Londoner wrote in post 50, but to me LL's views expressed in post 51 need some further clarification and discussion.

As LL said, it's not a matter of "controlling scientists' thoughts", but of controlling scientists' actions. In the future Communist society, if some Mengele-like thinker started to argue for 'vivisection of twins', I presume that we'd strongly argue against it, but also that the 'thinker' would be allowed to express their minority view. They just wouldn't be allowed the freedom to set up a clinic to put into practice their minority views. In my opinion, that decision would be under our democratic control.

However, this conclusion of mine then puts me at odds with LL:

Lone Londoner, post 51, wrote:
That doesn't imply controlling what physicists think, not does it mean that the "truth" of scientific theory can be decided by democratically voting: it can't.

This statement thus leads to the question: "In a Communist society, 'who' will control 'truth', and 'how' will 'scientific theory' be decided upon?"

If the answers are not 'us' (the victorious Communist (ex-) proletariat) and 'by democratic means', then 'who' and 'how'?

If 'science' hasn't been opened up to everybody with the interest and desire to become involved, because of complete access to scientific education for all from pre-school to post-doctorate research, and the 'aims of research' and the 'interpretation of research results' are still decided by a self-selecting minority, the question becomes compelling:

'Who' shall control science, and 'how' shall they control science?

In my opinion, the democratic control of science by humanity whose interests science must serve, will be a central part of a Communist society.

LBird
Pending

jk1921 wrote:
I am not rejecting your points LBird. In fact, you may be right that the assumption that science=truth comes from bourgeois, Englightenment culture. But the question is, what does this leave us with and what status is afforded to Marxism then?

Just a line to let jk121 that I'm not ignoring your important question, but that, for the moment, I'd rather focus on 'science' itself, and move onto the issue of the status of 'Marxism' later. It's possible that your question might come to be answered in the course of our wider discussion about 'science'.

Alf
summary?

There are a huge number of interesting issues raised on this thread. I wonder if anyone of the contributors would be brave enough to make a summary of the main points so far?

I'm still reflecting on the debate between jaycee and jk1921 about science and alienation. The central question seems to be this: even if science is not something that can be identified with capitalism (hence I don't think the term "bourgeois science" is accurate) there's no doubt that the dominant mode of production and ideology tends to deform the scientific project. This is evident above all in the decadence of capitalism when so much scientific research is geared towards military ends, but the distortion can penetrate deeper into the thought processes of scientists. The view of consciousness and rational thought as something outside of nature and objectively observing its laws certainly falls into the category of alienated thinking in which humanity has ceased to see itself as part of nature. The dialectical view criticised this way of apprehending nature, but the development of science (for example relativity and quantum physics) itself has tended to overthrow it as well.

Thus science, which develops in a world of human estragement, can be deformed by this estrangement, but it also, in moving forward despite the obstacles in its way, becomes an element in criticising and thus in ultimately overcoming the estrangement. I think the same applies to marxism. Athough some of us would hesitate to define marxism as a science, it does certainly learn from and make use of the scientific method as far as it can.  But the point here is that throughout its history marxism, in struggling to oppose the dominant ideology, has also had to wage a constant battle against the influence of that ideology, that way of looking at the world, on its own analyses and positions and practice. This is the fundamental root of opportunism, which never ceases to be a danger for the proletarian movement.  

Not sure if this has clarified anything but I will sign off with a quote from comrade Homer Simpson:

"Facts? You can prove anything with Facts".

 

 

LBird
Facts: Doh! to be exclaimed, or dough to be kneaded?

Alf wrote:
Not sure if this has clarified anything but I will sign off with a quote from comrade Homer Simpson:

"Facts? You can prove anything with Facts".

Perhaps the best line on the status of a 'fact' is from 'What is History?', p. 11:

E. H. Carr wrote:
...a fact is like a sack - it won't stand up till you've put something in it.

The 'something' is 'theoretical stiffening', and this applies to all 'facts', both social and natural.

We can't do without 'sacks', but humans must provide both the internal and external framework for our 'sacks': which sacks we choose from an innumerable variety, what we fill them with to become of use to us, and how we arrange the sacks in relation to each other.

Selection, meaning and construction are human activities: neither nature nor history presents itself to us unbidden.

jk1921
Post-fact

Alf wrote:

Not sure if this has clarified anything but I will sign off with a quote from comrade Homer Simpson:

"Facts? You can prove anything with Facts".

I am not sure what that means. But, I think perhaps it is necessary to put this discussion of facts into some context. In the U.S., it is generally accepted by most commentators that we now live in a "post-fact" world, driven by the right-wing media and the Republican party's descent into "truth-free" obscurantism. Thus, anyone who defends science, formulating policy on the "facts" and rejects "magical thinking" is a hero to the progressive left. How then do we square our Hegelian-Marxist scepticism of the facts with a cultural context in which anyone who questions "facts" is likely to be dismissed as some kind of sectarian obscurantist?

But above this, I think this example helps to highlight the problems I have pointed to above. Marxists, just like today's Democrats, have historically attempted to ground their politics in science. They are merely applying science to the political field. In modernity, there is an impulse to set up science as the ultimate reference point for organizing human society: ethics, morals, etc. are reduced to an effect of science.

To paraphrase Mike Meyers: "If it is not science, it's craaaaaap."

LBird
Science is not truth

jk1921 wrote:
Marxists... have historically attempted to ground their politics in science. They are merely applying science to the political field. In modernity, there is an impulse to set up science as the ultimate reference point for organizing human society: ethics, morals, etc. are reduced to an effect of science.

To paraphrase Mike Meyers: "If it is not science, it's craaaaaap."

jk1921, without you being a bit more specific about what you think 'science' consists of, the above could read:

jk1921 wrote:
Marxists... have historically attempted to ground their politics in truth. They are merely applying truth to the political field. In modernity, there is an impulse to set up truth as the ultimate reference point for organizing human society: ethics, morals, etc. are reduced to an effect of truth.

To paraphrase Mike Meyers: "If it is not truth, it's craaaaaap."

You seem to be arguing that any questioning of 'facts' is anti-scientific. On the contrary, I'd argue that this is the very basis of 'science'. A healthy anti-authoritarian attitude for the proletariat to take.

Science is a human activity.

[later edit]

jk1921, on re-reading your post and what I've said, I feel compelled to clarify a little.

Regarding 'facts', I think three positions can be maintained (not just two):

1. fact = truth;

2. fact = anything anyone wants it to be;

3. fact = partial truth.

The first is 'common-sense' science, or positivism;

the second is relativism, or post-modernism;

the third is the position I wish to defend, based on Critical Realism, what I consider to be the proper basis for 'science' under Communism.

Hope this helps.

[end edit]

jk1921
Truth

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
Marxists... have historically attempted to ground their politics in science. They are merely applying science to the political field. In modernity, there is an impulse to set up science as the ultimate reference point for organizing human society: ethics, morals, etc. are reduced to an effect of science.

To paraphrase Mike Meyers: "If it is not science, it's craaaaaap."

jk1921, without you being a bit more specific about what you think 'science' consists of, the above could read:

jk1921 wrote:
Marxists... have historically attempted to ground their politics in truth. They are merely applying truth to the political field. In modernity, there is an impulse to set up truth as the ultimate reference point for organizing human society: ethics, morals, etc. are reduced to an effect of truth.

To paraphrase Mike Meyers: "If it is not truth, it's craaaaaap."

You seem to be arguing that any questioning of 'facts' is anti-scientific. On the contrary, I'd argue that this is the very basis of 'science'. A healthy anti-authoritarian attitude for the proletariat to take.

Science is a human activity.

[later edit]

jk1921, on re-reading your post and what I've said, I feel compelled to clarify a little.

Regarding 'facts', I think three positions can be maintained (not just two):

1. fact = truth;

2. fact = anything anyone wants it to be;

3. fact = partial truth.

The first is 'common-sense' science, or positivism;

the second is relativism, or post-modernism;

the third is the position I wish to defend, based on Critical Realism, what I consider to be the proper basis for 'science' under Communism.

Hope this helps.

[end edit]

 

Actually, LBird my last post was more about how we communicate these ideas, particularly in a context where anyone who questions "facts" is prone to be labeled an obscurantist. It seems that one of the effects of decomposition--the increasing degeneration of part of the bourgeoisie into bizzare ideology has generated a very strong positivist backlash.

Honestly, I think that if we are to avoid post-modern relativism and a degeneration into a contest between Nietschean wills to power, Marxist critique has to be based on some kind of "science" and science can't be ideology, and we can't posit reality as always some kind of fluid prone to dialectical inversion at any moment. I don't know if your idea of science as "partial truth" gets us where we need to be or not. I'm still mulling that over.

LBird
Two or three?

jk1921 wrote:
Honestly, I think that if we are to avoid post-modern relativism and a degeneration into a contest between Nietschean wills to power, Marxist critique has to be based on some kind of "science" and science can't be ideology, and we can't posit reality as always some kind of fluid prone to dialectical inversion at any moment. I don't know if your idea of science as "partial truth" gets us where we need to be or not. I'm still mulling that over.

jk1921, you still seem to see any questioning of science, truth and fact to be based upon the destruction of science, truth and fact.

There is a third alternative: the re-evaluation of what we mean by science,truth and fact.

Baby-bathwater unity; What baby-bathwater?; Bathwater out, baby kept.

jk1921
Perhaps

LBird wrote:

jk1921, you still seem to see any questioning of science, truth and fact to be based upon the destruction of science, truth and fact.

Well, not really considering I engage in a lot of questioning of science, truth and fact on this forum. The question for me is from where are these questions coming? Are they coming in the name of science against the ideological distortion of science or are they coming against science as a form of ideological domination itself? It is one thing to say science is distorted by ideology; its another to say that science itself is a form of domination that can't help but be ideological in its own right. If its the first one, then we can use a scientific form of ideology critique to redeem science, if its the latter then it is not clear to me from where we speak?

LBird wrote:

There is a third alternative: the re-evaluation of what we mean by science,truth and fact.

Well, there might be. But I still don't see any guarantee that this reevaluation gets us very far without tending towards either 1.) post-modern relativism or 2.) Hegelian dialectical magic "so much the worse for the facts" approach to empricial reality. I'm not convinced that science as "partial truth" gets us out of this bind. On the other hand, I'm not convinced this approach is worthless either......

 

LBird
Three approaches to science

jk1921 wrote:
But I still don't see any guarantee that this reevaluation gets us very far without tending towards either 1.) post-modern relativism or 2.) Hegelian dialectical magic "so much the worse for the facts" approach to empirical reality.

jk1921, do you consider the ‘approach to empirical reality’ to be a simple one? That ‘empirical reality’ simply tells us, of its own accord, what it is? If so, this thinking is in the wholly discredited conservative tradition of positivism and induction. Since Einstein and Karl Popper, humans have known that ‘empirical reality’ has to be actively sought out by humans. ‘Reality’ is not obvious. Our passive eyes alone (by avoiding any ideology which ‘contaminates’ or ‘distorts’ what we see) are not sufficient to identify ‘empirical reality’.

If we accept this lesson, itself bestowed by 20th century science, then we have to also focus upon the human element of the practice of ‘science’, as well as on reality. We can’t put our heads in the sand and continue to pretend that ‘science’ is outside of human thinking, theorising and ideology. But does this necessarily lead us to what you (and all of us) fear: that any old post-modernist, relativist shite is allowed to stand as knowledge?

The answer, I’m sure you’ll be gratified to hear, is a resounding ‘No!’.

jk1921 wrote:
I'm not convinced that science as "partial truth" gets us out of this bind. On the other hand, I'm not convinced this approach is worthless either......

You're to be congratulated on your comradely open-mindedness, jk!

Well, let’s explore ‘the other hand’ and test its ‘worth’…

If we accept as a starting point a tripartite schema of object, subject and knowledge, we can try to categorise the three contrasting views of science, reality and truth that I’ve argued we face a choice over, when identifying what ‘science’ is.

By ‘object’, I mean a ‘reality’ that exists independently of our attempts to understand it; by ‘subject’, I mean a ‘humanity’ which tries to understand the independent reality; and by ‘knowledge’, I mean a ‘product’ created by the interaction of the subject and object.

The first view of science is the outdated 19th Positivist notion that ‘science’ produces the ‘truth’. This is the view of science that is still held by most people, perhaps even most academics and scientists themselves, even though bourgeois thinkers have long since destroyed this ‘common sense’ approach. For this approach, the ‘object’ and ‘knowledge’ are identical. The subject passively observes the ‘object’, and ‘knowledge’ simply appears in the mind of the dispassionate, disinterested, non-ideological, scientist. In this case, ‘empirical reality’ and ‘human knowledge’ is the same thing. The simple ‘experience of reality’ is enough to ‘understand’ that reality. Popper (an active anti-Marxist) condemned this view as the ‘bucket theory of mind’; that objective reality simply pours itself into a waiting, inactive receptacle. This view does not accept our tripartite premise of separate ‘object, subject, knowledge’: it only recognises subject and object. ‘Knowledge’ is a mere copy of ‘object’.

The second view of science is the Relativist notion that it all depends upon the active subject. This view accepts Popper’s criticism about ‘passive mind’, and places its emphasis on the ‘subject’ as actively producing ‘knowledge’. As the active, individual subject’s mind ‘creates’ knowledge, the need for an ‘object’ disappears entirely. It’s ‘all in the mind’ of the creative, artistic human. It’s the act of ‘observation’ that ‘creates’ the ‘object’: the ‘object’ has no independent reality. As Paul Feyerabend had it, in the title of his science book, ‘Anything goes!’. Any attempt to appeal to an independently existing measure of that ‘knowledge’ is seen as an outdated, Modernist, authoritarian act by someone attempting to impose their view of a ‘reality’ that can’t be known, by pretending to have a special (party/class/gender, etc.) insight, to which the individual is not privy. Marxism is seen as the main culprit, here. Relativism prevents oppression and domination, by arguing that any individual’s ‘truth’ is as good as anybody else’s ‘truth’. This view does not accept our tripartite premise of separate ‘object, subject, knowledge’: it only recognises subject and knowledge. ‘Object’ is a mere creation of ‘subject’.

The third view of science is one I would call Critical Realism. This approach accepts an independently existing object, an active, inquisitive subject, and sees knowledge as a product of the interaction between subject and object. This differs from positivism in that ‘knowledge’ is not identical to ‘object’: ‘knowledge’ is also an independent variable, something actively created by humans by their interrogation of external reality. Thus, depending upon the questions posed by humans, ‘knowledge’ is based upon, but not the same as, the object. ‘Truth’ exists, but it must always be partial truth produced by humans attempting to understand reality. Realism differs from relativism in that the ‘object’ is not created by humans, ‘knowledge’ is based on (and can be compared with for confirmation) a questioning of an independent reality, and that the mind of the subject is not an individual mind, but the socially-created mind of a social individual. This view begins from our tripartite premise of separate ‘object, subject, knowledge’: it recognises object, subject and knowledge as three interacting variables.

First view is broadly conservative, the second is broadly liberal, the third, I would argue, is broadly compatible with Marxism.

I apologise to comrades for the length of this post, and it can certainly be improved, extended and criticised for shortcomings and mistakes, but I’ve attempted to explain a very difficult and complex cognitive issue so that anyone with a passing interest in all these issues about the nature of ‘science’ stands some chance of understanding and, hopefully, of engaging with them. It’s my opinion that we need a class that is well-educated in the debate about ‘science’. I only hope that I’ve helped, rather than hindered, this process.

Last word to Charlie:

Marx wrote:
if appearance and reality coincided, there would be no need for science
jk1921
Science and Alienation

LBird wrote:

I apologise to comrades for the length of this post, and it can certainly be improved, extended and criticised for shortcomings and mistakes, but I’ve attempted to explain a very difficult and complex cognitive issue so that anyone with a passing interest in all these issues about the nature of ‘science’ stands some chance of understanding and, hopefully, of engaging with them. It’s my opinion that we need a class that is well-educated in the debate about ‘science’. I only hope that I’ve helped, rather than hindered, this process.

There's no need to apologize and I'd say you have achieved your goal in deepening the discussion of what is a difficult topic.

LBird wrote:

Last word to Charlie:

Marx wrote:
if appearance and reality coincided, there would be no need for science

This brings me back to some of the themes mentioned above (by Jaycee primarily). Could we conceive of communism as a society where appearance and reality do coincide and science is thus transcended in the unity of subject and object? What we conceive of today as science really is an effect of alienation?

LBird
Thanks and further thoughts

jk1921 wrote:
There's no need to apologize and I'd say you have achieved your goal in deepening the discussion of what is a difficult topic.

Thanks for your kind words, jk.

jk1921 wrote:
Could we conceive of communism as a society where appearance and reality do coincide and science is thus transcended in the unity of subject and object?

In short, I'd say 'No'.

To believe that this could be possible would be to fall back into positivism. We are not a unity, which would be an omniscient god. Back to having eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, I'm afraid! We can't undo science's insights.

jk1921 wrote:
What we conceive of today as science really is an effect of alienation?

No, just the practice of science refusing to acknowledge the fruit of science. That is bourgeois alienation, not human alienation.

As I've said before, I think it corresponds to the bourgeoisie jettisoning the fruits of Political Economy and sticking their heads in the marginalist sands of neo-classical 'economics' (sic).

We should have confidence that, as a class, we will take human knowledge forward, and that most bourgeois scientists are now in a dead end, just like their 'economics' professors.

Fred
"We should have confidence

"We should have confidence that, as a class, we will take human knowledge forward..."says LBird. And he's so right. And his succinct description in post 65 above of what he calls "critical realism" is a paragraph of masterful clarity which almost appears to say the unsayable.

Quote:
The third view of science is one I would call Critical Realism. This approach accepts an independently existing object, an active, inquisitive subject, and sees knowledge as a product of the interaction between subject and object. This differs from positivism in that ‘knowledge’ is not identical to ‘object’: ‘knowledge’ is also an independent variable, something actively created by humans by their interrogation of external reality. Thus, depending upon the questions posed by humans, ‘knowledge’ is based upon, but not the same as, the object. ‘Truth’ exists, but it must always be partial truth produced by humans attempting to understand reality. Realism differs from relativism in that the ‘object’ is not created by humans, ‘knowledge’ is based on (and can be compared with for confirmation) a questioning of an independent reality, and that the mind of the subject is not an individual mind, but the socially-created mind of a social individual. This view begins from our tripartite premise of separate ‘object, subject, knowledge’: it recognises object, subject and knowledge as three interacting variables.

Thank you for getting this right, LBird.

LBird
Source

Fred wrote:
"We should have confidence that, as a class, we will take human knowledge forward..."says LBird. And he's so right. And his succinct description in post 65 above of what he calls "critical realism" is a paragraph of masterful clarity which almost appears to say the unsayable...

Thank you for getting this right, LBird.

Thanks for that praise, Fred. But I'd rather expose my source for 'my' analysis, so that comrades can read these ideas in greater detail, and base their own opinions upon a longer discussion. The book is:

Adam Schaff (1976) History and Truth Pergamon Press, esp. pp. 47-54 'Three Models of the Process of Cognition'.

Of course, the whole book is worth a read, and also covers the issue of 'truth', amongst others.

I have some disagreements with Schaff, but that's for another day (perhaps some comrades will read his book and we can critically discuss it on another thread).

Fred
LBird. It's interesting that

LBird. It's interesting that you refer to 'three models of the process of cognition,' because I had been thinking that what you were laying out in post 65 was a type of learning theory, and wanted to proclaim it the proletarian Marxist learning theory revealed, and wanted to compare it to bourgeois learning theories; about education being the transmission of received ideas contained in bodies of knowledge, and science as a body of knowledge blah blah blah. But lost my nerve or something. As an educational process, Marxism is so different from anything the bourgeoisie has ever been able to come up with, isn't it? It's an on-going dynamic process, requiring a hands-on active participatory intelligence/consciousness, and use of knowledge as a resource not a conditioning process, as under the bourgeoisie. The passive acceptance of dead knowledge being what is deemed by the bourgeoisie's ready-made curricula to be EDUCATION. Maybe it's because Marxism isn't a body of knowledge, but rather a way of seeing based on the proletarian point of view; and reflections and analysis based on historic proletarian political experiences, and this is what makes use of the word "science" problematical? But thanks for the reference to "cognition" LBird.

LBird
A gift from planet 'Science', or a human-rooted activity?

Fred wrote:
...this is what makes use of the word "science" problematical?

What makes the use of the word 'science' problematical is that most comrades still have a bourgeois-inspired reverence for the concept of 'science'. We're all brainwashed into worshipping 'science' as the guarantor of 'truth', 'objective knowledge'. It's the ultimate 'authority', and we genuflect to its awesome power! Perhaps these comrades think that if we declare 'Marxism' as a 'science', then we too will have access to its magical powers of certainty! Then we can 'know' beforehand that we are right?

No. Perhaps the question should be posed (to return to jk1921's earlier concerns) as 'Is science a Marxism?'. I think that the sooner 'science' is located within Communist ideology, the better for science, truth, knowledge and humanity!

And science must be subject to democratic controls. The 'active subject' is entire humanity, not a party, sect, group of self-selected 'scientists', or, god forbid, a Central Committee!

I'd pose the question as 'Priesthood or Democracy?'. The answer is one or the other, comrades!

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