Is Marxism A Science?

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mhou
Is Marxism A Science?
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This question has come up on a variety of topics and deserves further inquiry on its own merit. I think it is.

Quote:
It seems clear that if the whole surplus-value were consumed for enjoyment, the process of valorization would only be a process of conserving value and there would be no increase in value. Or, what is the same thing, the increase would be fixed in enjoyment and would be unable to re-enter the production process. It is therefore impossible to find a capitalist who consumes surplus-value for la bella vita.

"This presupposition is the same as presupposing the non-existence of capitalist production and therefore the non- existence of the industriial capitalist himself"- Marx, Capital Vol.II

This means: when it has been shown once and for all that the driving force of the capitalist system is not the individual capitalists desire to enjoy profits, but the impersonal requirements of social capital- a social force which only a revolution will be able to overthrow- to grow by means of surplus-value, one has shown the exact reasons for the necessity of the death of capitalsm and thus, Marx indicates, its scientifically determined non-existence. But obly a science that is revolutionary and no longer doctrinaire can achieve this result! (Poverty of Philosophy, MECW p.6)

-Camatte, Capital & Community

The underlying idea here is that Marxism is a science by virtue of its methodology to analyze the real movement of capital, with all of its social, economic and political manifestations, which finds the answer to sublimating capital in the class struggle and the mechanism of revolutionary classes and development of the productive forces as the motor of history and the foundation for a post-capital, communist way of life. Theory based on the real movement of history and society.

Is Marxism a science?

jk1921
I think that it (probably) is

I think that it (probably) is as well, but this raises all types of throny epistemologic, political and social questions. In what sense is it a science? What is the relationship between the organization and science and, hence, between the organization and the broader working class? How do the masses realize science? Karl Korsch once wrote that it is impossible to be a Marxist without practising Marxism (i.e. being involved in the political struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat)-so, if this is true, then Marxist science would seem to be much different from what we are used to labeling "science." Of course, Korsch ended his career a positivist. Was this due to the weight of the counter revolution?

Fred
It depends what you mean by

It depends what you mean by science, and I'm not just being glib.  I think Marxism is a theory, and a proletarian theory at that, and a method for analyzing the social world with a view to actively changing it for the better of all humanity. But if some comrades want to call it a science, that's alright by me. I don't really understand why it looms as such a big issue. Perhaps someone can explain.  

jk1921
Why science is important...

Fred wrote:

It depends what you mean by science, and I'm not just being glib.  I think Marxism is a theory, and a proletarian theory at that, and a method for analyzing the social world with a view to actively changing it for the better of all humanity. But if some comrades want to call it a science, that's alright by me. I don't really understand why it looms as such a big issue. Perhaps someone can explain.  

If its not a science, i.e. if we cannot say as a matter of objective truth that captialism is doomed--through a material economic crisis that can not be ameliorated--we have no ground upon which to say communism is a material necessity and thus no basis upon which to challenge reformism and accomadation with the status quo. In other words, we have no basis upon which to counterpose class consciousness to false consciousness.

Fred
jk. I thought you thought

jk. I thought you thought that the whole problem with consciousness was that its life (existence) couldn't be proved scientifically.  Now you seem to be saying that science is the basis upon which we are able to counterpose class consciousness to false consciousness. Do you now regard consciousness, and its subterranean development as being an objective truth?

 

And wouldn't it be possible for someone - definitely not me or anyone who visits this forum - to look at the current state of society with all its ills and conclude that it is in decay?  And go on to conclude that we could build a much better society if only everyone worked, and we didn't have to work for wages to make a profit for some idle bugger etc. and to arrive at the point Marx, Engels and the Communist League reached in 1847 when they wrote the manifesto?  I doubt the guys in the Communist League regarded what they were doing as being "science", or even initially that they were discovering, or revealing, a theory of society, which a comrade 160 years later on this forum would pronounce to be "science" and thus an objective truth: unchangeable, dogmatic, and somewhat like holy scripture. 

I don't know whether the communist left regards what it says and does as being based on science, or being based on the premise that the history of mankind since the loss of innocence and the society of primitive communism, that this history, and the consequences that can be drawn from it, are all the result of class struggle. Not the result of science, though some comrades might say that we wouldn't even know about class struggle if it wasn't for science. But then I'm not one for objective truths and so have less need to be bolstered up by the hectic search for their existence. 

Also. In post 2 above jk, you begin by saying you think Marxism is a science, but rapidly move on to doubting this, and end by declaring Karl Korsch a positivist. If a comrade wants science but thinks traditional bourgeois science doesn't answer that need, then there's always the less dogmatic,  less cocksure kind of science advocated and discussed at length by LBird. Why not embrace that and leave objective truths to Karl Korsch? 

jk1921
because

Fred wrote:

 Why not embrace that and leave objective truths to Karl Korsch? 

Well, then we would have to stop saying communism was a material necessity, because we wouldn't be able to prove that captialism was bankrupt and we would have no basis to reject reformism. We would have to submit to the democratic will (which is thouroughly reformist) or take up Blanquism. Communism would be reduced to a "nice idea" once again, as it was for most in the Communist League.

LBird
Entangled questions of science, Communism and consciousness

Fred wrote:
If a comrade wants science but thinks traditional bourgeois science doesn't answer that need, then there's always the less dogmatic, less cocksure kind of science advocated and discussed at length by LBird. Why not embrace that and leave objective truths to Karl Korsch?

Yes, if we can characterise 'science' as of two types, ie. the 'traditional bourgeois' and the 'less dogmatic, less cocksure', why can't we see Marxism as a 'science' of the latter?

In fact, I personally would call the 'less dogmatic, less cocksure' form of 'science', the proper type of science, the actual form all science must take if humans are to understand the world, both natural and social. And I would be tempted to name it, a bit more snappily, as 'revolutionary proletarian' as opposed to the present 'traditional bourgeois'.

Thus far, my attempts to generate a discussion to help improve my fumbling notions of the content of 'the scientific method' have not met with any success. I've received neither support nor criticism, just apparent indifference. So be it.

However there is the related issue, encapsulated in this reply to Fred's post:

jk1921 wrote:
Well, then we would have to stop saying communism was a material necessity, because we wouldn't be able to prove that captialism was bankrupt and we would have no basis to reject reformism.

What does jk mean by 'material necessity'?

If something is needed by humans, surely it is a 'material necessity'?

What is this form of 'material necessity' that is needed for Communism, that is not a human necessity? How does this provide 'proof' of the bankruptcy of capitalism? Surely humans will experience this? Through poverty, wars, etc.

jk1921 wrote:
We would have to submit to the democratic will (which is thouroughly reformist)...

Where is the historical location of 'democracy' within a specific society? Surely proletarian democracy (the basis of Workers' Councils) will be very different to reformist bourgeois democracy (sic)?

jk1921 wrote:
Communism would be reduced to a "nice idea" once again, as it was for most in the Communist League.

How does struggling for proletarian democracy reduce to a 'nice idea'? What else, other than active humanity, is the basis of Communism?

jk1921
Basics

LBird wrote:

[How does struggling for proletarian democracy reduce to a 'nice idea'? What else, other than active humanity, is the basis of Communism?

The scientific fact, expressed by numerous long equations worked out by economists somewhere skilled in the econometric discipline (Andrew Kliman perhaps, I don't know), that if humanity does not replace capitalism with communism, captialism will decompose into barbarism and eventually destroy human civilization or perhaps even the entire planet, because there is no way to reform it. This is "true" regardless of whatever reformist ideas the majority of the proletariat has in its head at any given moment in time. Understanding this is an expression of science and scientific work. Its not merely an expression of a political preference, but of a material fact--objectively true for everyone regardless of whether or not they understand it. 

The proletariat may or may not, one day, come to realize this "truth." Science and democracy may, yet, one day coincide with one another--but until that day Marxists, grouped together in revolutionary organizations of one form or another, have the task of defending the scientific analysis of captialism and the necessity of the communist program against all forms of false consciousness within the proletariat, be they reformist, reactionary, nihilist or whatever.

This seems like a basic statement of communist activity that goes all the way back to Marx and was even defended by your councilist forefathers in the GIC (see quote above). What has changed since then? Its an honest question.

LBird
Basics?

jk1921 wrote:
The scientific fact...

What is 'science'?

It seems pointless continuously citing science and scientists, if we don't agree on what constitutes 'science'.

You have a faith that I don't share, jk.

mhou
Quote:[How does struggling

Quote:
[How does struggling for proletarian democracy reduce to a 'nice idea'? What else, other than active humanity, is the basis of Communism?

The argument that Camatte uses is that Marx's methodology, in its application, reveals that capitalism creates the basis for communism in its own development (growth of the productive forces- growing autonomization of exchange-value- proletarianization of non-proletarian populations, socialization of labor, etc.)- and is pushed toward crises due to internal contradictions which have only 1 solution: the communist world that is within pregnant capitalism.

Do you think radical democratism is the content of a communist revolution, a transitional period? That seems to miss most of the defining characteristics of communism.

jk1921
OK

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
The scientific fact...

What is 'science'?

It seems pointless continuously citing science and scientists, if we don't agree on what constitutes 'science'.

You have a faith that I don't share, jk.

Let's try this a different way then: Do you think captialism's crisis is an "objective fact" or not? Do you want a revolution because you think it is necessary for humanity's future to continue or do you just prefer it to reformism as a matter of taste?

LBird
Different discussions in play

jk1921 wrote:
Let's try this a different way then: Do you think captialism's crisis is an "objective fact" or not?

jk, if you want to discuss "capitalism's crisis", that's fine by me. I'm sure some other comrades will engage with you.

Me? At the moment, I want to discuss 'science'. So I would ask, in reply to your statement above, 'what is an "objective fact"?', 'what theory of cognition do you employ to ascertain a 'fact'?', 'do you agree with a tripartite schema of subject, object and knowledge? If not, what schema do you propose?', 'what is 'reality'?', 'is your subject an 'individual' or a 'social individual'?', etc., etc.

We're going round in circles, mate. At present, I want to discuss 'science'. If you don't, that's OK. Let's leave it for another time, eh, comrade?

jk1921
Basic Level

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
Let's try this a different way then: Do you think captialism's crisis is an "objective fact" or not?

jk, if you want to discuss "capitalism's crisis", that's fine by me. I'm sure some other comrades will engage with you.

Me? At the moment, I want to discuss 'science'. So I would ask, in reply to your statement above, 'what is an "objective fact"?', 'what theory of cognition do you employ to ascertain a 'fact'?', 'do you agree with a tripartite schema of subject, object and knowledge? If not, what schema do you propose?', 'what is 'reality'?', 'is your subject an 'individual' or a 'social individual'?', etc., etc.

We're going round in circles, mate. At present, I want to discuss 'science'. If you don't, that's OK. Let's leave it for another time, eh, comrade?

Well, you could start it off by saying whether or not you think there are such things as "objective facts." I am afraid we really have to start this off at a very basic level, before we get into theories of cognition and tripartite schemas.

LBird
End of the road?

jk1921 wrote:
Well, you could start it off by saying whether or not you think there are such things as "objective facts."

And you could start it off by saying what you mean by 'objective'.

Why aren't you interested in discussing what 'science' is? God knows, I've tried to stimulate a debate, with you and other posters, but you just won't engage with a discussion.

You appear to be equating 'reality' with 'objective' knowledge.

But if one accepts a tripartite separation of 'object', 'subject' and 'knowledge', that assumption cannot stand. Reality isn't the same thing as knowledge of reality.

If you don't accept the tripartite schema, say so, and go on to describe another schema, so we can discuss it. If you accept it, but think that knowledge of reality is identical to reality, say so, and I can use the development of science since Einstein to disprove your assertion.

If you're not interested in discussing what science is, why enter a discussion, ignore what's being said, and persist in going around in circles?

jk1921 wrote:
I am afraid we really have to start this off at a very basic level, before we get into theories of cognition and tripartite schemas.

jk, cognition and schemata are the 'basic level'. So is the work of Bhaskar, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Archer, Chalmers, and of several others whom we haven't got to yet.

The basic level is a discussion of what we mean by 'science'. This is a philosophical discussion. If you're not interested in reading these writers and discussing their ideas, why keep asking me to discuss it? You know what I'm going to say, because I've said it several times already, over several threads.

Now, either engage, or just drop it. I can't keep repeating myself.

You have the last word, comrade.

jk1921
Intimidated

LBird wrote:

I know what I'm going to say, because I've said it several times already, over several threads.

Now, either engage, or just drop it. I can't keep repeating myself.

You have the last word, comrade.

LBird, you can't, as a matter of good faith, expect others to engage you on the level of your own specialized interests. If we were going to do that, you'd site Lakatos, Schaff, Chalmers, et. al.; I'd reference Habermas, Benhabib and Foucault and we would get absolutely nowhere, which may in fact be why the conversation has gotten nowhere from your perpsective. Have you considered that maybe you are intimidating people away from trying to engage with these issues, because they are simply unfamiliar with the terms you are trying to use to frame the debate?

How can we frame this then so that there can be a productive discussion? It seems to me like the very basic question of whether or not there are such things as "objective" facts is a good place to start. What do I mean by "objective"? An assertion that is valid for everyone regardless of whether or not they believe it to be so.

Maybe someone else can chime in on this?

A.Simpleton
Chiming in..and a good idea mhou

To give the question it's own space: 

(To LBird: lack of response my fault, because I couldn't quite grasp the main plot, arriving half way through the 'movie' as it were: obviously points were being clearly made but from deductions from deductions from basic positions I would have had to guess at - but not indifference: it's had me reading, thinking, re-thinking : Lakatos : Jan Appel's 'memories : Lenin/Luxemburg correspondence) 

(To jk : a bit intimidated, a bit 'put off' ( not as in by a bad smell! ): you most relevantly mention 'labels' on the consciousness thread and of course these 'shorthand' words are fine and necessary otherwise every post would be 6 volumes long. But I agree; double edged sword viz an investigative, thinking-out-loud, comment in the flow 'reified' into an assumed eternal stance etc.)

Is Marxism a Science?

Good question: Have I ever asked myself? not really: Is it of primary importance? ..watch this space.

I would tend towards Fred's stance as an immediate response right now but thanks to all your contributions I shall do some mental labour

****

I did (mixed blessing) choose 'Sociology' for two years after Archaeology/Anthropolgy also for two years as a student.

It was there that my 'eureka' moment happened (it was Archimedes by the way,Fred) from Marx's four steps of Alienation. And so -although 40 years ago- the names Popper, Habermas, Foucault, Lakatos are remembered.

As are the grinding hours failing to digest Positivism, Structuralism, Ethnomethodology etc. Marx was a blessed relief and trusty machete in that jungle I can tell you....;

The first essay I was set was:

'Can Social Science ever be Objective or Ethically Neutral?'

Why would it want to be?      was what I handed in .

AS 

 

 

 

 

 

Fred
Nice to read you again

Nice to read you again Comrade Simpleton. Thank for Archimedes: and 'ethnomethodology' as a reminder of days gone by. 

LBird
Last time?

jk1921, because I do believe that you are posting in good faith, I will make another attempt to try to explain what the problem is.

jk1921 wrote:
What do I mean by "objective"? An assertion that is valid for everyone regardless of whether or not they believe it to be so.

But an 'assertion' is a human act, 'validity' is a human judgement, and 'belief' is a human choice.

I think you mean (and correct me if my assumption is wrong) that 'objective' means the same as 'reality'. So, an 'objective assertion', for you, is a human statement that is the same as the really existing thing that it asserts.

Now, I've tried to show, many times, that this is tantamount to arguing that the human product 'knowledge' is the same as the really existing thing that something is known about (the object). This, in philosophical terms is 'positivism'. This philosophy of positivism was thought to be the basis of 'science' until Einstein, and it was believed that it produced 'objective knowledge'. In other words, objective meant "an assertion that is valid for everyone regardless of whether or not they believe it to be so".

But Einstein argued for relativity in physics (not just social science), which meant that no 'assertion is valid for everyone' (and this is before we get to your later point about 'belief'). Einstein argued that the position of the observer has to be taken into account in understanding physical reality. This doesn't mean 'physical reality doesn't exist', but it does mean that our understanding of it is problematic.

One way of trying to understand this difficulty is to employ a tripartite model, of separate 'object' (real reality, existing outside of human attempts to understand it), 'subject' (an active humanity, trying to understand the objective reality), and a third entity, 'knowledge', that is produced by the interaction of active subject asking questions and a reality which exists as an object of questioning.

So, for this perspective (which I'd argue should be used by Marxists), 'objective' means 'socially objective' knowledge. It can't mean 'objective' in the sense of 'exactly the same as reality': this is not possible for physics or any other science.

Now, if you start an argument with 'this is an objective fact' (eg. capitalism in crisis), and if you employ the positivist philosophy you are entitled to use this as a concrete basis to proceed with further statements.

But if one employs the latest scientific method (and bourgeois thinkers have got us to this point!), then one is entitled to ask 'who created this social-objective fact?', and examine first this issue.

Now, if one has no time for this, fine, then stick with a totally discredited positivism, and proceed to use 'science' to tell you the 'objective truth'.

But don't be surprised when even supporters of capitalism are able to show that you're using an outdated method, and can thus undermine your later arguments in favour of Communism.

For my part, I refuse to engage with positivists (whether bourgeois or proletarian) because I already know that their views are a century out of date. What's more, Einstein himself was some sort of socialist, so I think we should take a leaf out of his book, accept his belief that 'Theory determines what we can observe', and try to make some progress in understanding reality. But it's not obvious.

I hope that this helps, jk, comrade.

MH
objective fact?

jk1921 wrote:

How can we frame this then so that there can be a productive discussion? It seems to me like the very basic question of whether or not there are such things as "objective" facts is a good place to start. What do I mean by "objective"? An assertion that is valid for everyone regardless of whether or not they believe it to be so.

I might as well pitch in here: surely an ‘objective fact’ is ‘an assertion that can be verified by scientific experiment or for which external, empirical evidence exists?’ Which maybe what jk had in mind anyway? This would help stitch together the discussions on subterranean maturation of consciousness and ‘is marxism a science’.  And I can't see, as LBird seems to assume, that this use of the term 'objective' leads to confusing the resulting knowledge with reality itself. Surely this (or a similar, more exact) definition of an 'objective fact' is primarly what allows us to distinguish verifiable knowledge from mere subjective belief? Does anybody out there seriously want to argue that the current state of human knolwdge about reality is, in fact, reality itself? I suspect one reason why there is not more attempt to engage with LBird's 'tri-partite model' is that it is so obvious no one disagrees with it. Can we move on now?!

KT
If's and Buts

 

If 'we' (the increasingly class conscious proletariat, including its political minorities) succeed in overthrowing the existing state apparatus and begin our long dance to further transform ourselves by abolishing capitalist social relations through the expansion of the material basis for a society of abundance, then Marxism will have proved itself to be a science. Not just any science, but the science. The science that abolishes science as a category alienated from society as a whole.

But if, on the other hand, the proletariat fails definitively in its historic mission, then – well then for all kinds of reasons, all bets (and discussions) are off. For a very long time at least.

In his Theses on Feuerrbach (unpublished until 1924) ,Marx says: “The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness [Diesseitigkeit] of his thinking, in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.”

So this is not really a theoretical or philosophical debate we've having, but an eminently practical one. Make the revolution and the transformation, thereby proving the correctness of our theoretical science and science of theory, or ...

LBird
Lack of stamina?

MH wrote:
I might as well pitch in here: surely an ‘objective fact’ is ‘an assertion that can be verified by scientific experiment or for which external, empirical evidence exists?’

But the study of the human activity of science shows us that "an ‘objective fact’ [which] is ‘an assertion that can be verified by scientific experiment or for which external, empirical evidence exists" can later be shown to be untrue.

MH wrote:
I suspect one reason why there is not more attempt to engage with LBird's 'tri-partite model' is that it is so obvious no one disagrees with it.

And I suspect if comrades agreed with it, they wouldn't start with such a leading question as "Do you think captialism's crisis is an "objective fact" or not?".

MH wrote:
Can we move on now?!

If 'we' do, I won't be participating! If that suits everyone else just fine, it does me, too!

One more thing I'd like to say to jk. If we accept the notion of 'social-objectivity', then we then have a history of 'objectivity' which changes over time. So, when someone mentions 'objective knowledge', we can ask 'when was it objective?'. This allows us to date 'objective knowledge', because we know from science that what's 'true' at one point, isn't 'true' at another. Phlogiston, the ether and Piltdown Man perhaps fit this pattern: they were all 'scientific' and thus 'objective' fact at one point in the history of science, but now they are not.

MH wrote:
And I can't see, as LBird seems to assume, that this use of the term 'objective' leads to confusing the resulting knowledge with reality itself. Surely this (or a similar, more exact) definition of an 'objective fact' is primarly what allows us to distinguish verifiable knowledge from mere subjective belief?

Yes it does, because when someone starts with a statement which is 'objective', they assume it can't be challenged. What they mean by 'objective' is 'true, once and for all'. Science shows us that this can't be done. 'Objective' is a human product, and so it is fallible. It's not a copy of reality.

Futhermore, you're still making the mistake of assuming that 'social-objective' means 'subjective'. This is incorrect, as I've tried to show with a tripartite theory of cognition.

For you, there is only 'objective' and 'subjective' knowledge.

With the tripartite model, there is a third, 'social-objective', which is neither 'The Truth' (what's commonly called 'objective knowledge') nor 'Personal Opinion' (what's commonly called 'subjective knowledge'). It's the product of humans, it has a history and it is fallible. It's not 'The Truth', but a partial truth (at best), and it's not the product of individual genius, but of social activity.

The strength of this notion of 'social-objectivity' is that it clearly lets politics into science (because it's a human 'objectivity'), and in my opinion should be the method that Communists openly adopt. It's an anti-authoritarian method, that decries 'experts' (who are often wrong, en masse, even after their supposed 'objective' method has been employed), and allows for mass participation in the social activity of science.

Now, if you want to 'move on, now', be my guest. I'm running out of steam, so I'll admit you've all got me beat.

MH
Agree

Yes I think that helps us get back to the point...!

jk1921
Thanks

LBird wrote:

One more thing I'd like to say to jk. If we accept the notion of 'social-objectivity', then we then have a history of 'objectivity' which changes over time. So, when someone mentions 'objective knowledge', we can ask 'when was it objective?'. This allows us to date 'objective knowledge', because we know from science that what's 'true' at one point, isn't 'true' at another. Phlogiston, the ether and Piltdown Man perhaps fit this pattern: they were all 'scientific' and thus 'objective' fact at one point in the history of science, but now they are not.

 

OK, thank you for stating your ideas on this, I appreciate it. But I would still like to know what you (or anyone else who wants to jump in) thinks this means for the Marxist assertion that capitalism suffers from an "objective" crisis that cannot be amelirorated. What happens to the notion of communism as a "material necessity," if we have to qualify this by saying, "Oh, BTW, we might be wrong about that"? If we say that, aren't we admitting that we don't really know if captialism is doomed to wreck human civilization, that it might be a self-sustaining system after all? Why wouldn't this cause our entire theoretical approach (the necessity of an organization of revolutionaries, indeed the very existence of revolutionaries themselves as produts of the class struggle, the critique of false consciousness, etc.) to go down the toilet? Why wouldn't we be reduced to just another millenarian sect with nothing to back up our claims other than a personal preference for one kind of politics?

LBird
Ranting, but socially-objective ranting

jk1921 wrote:
But I would still like to know what you (or anyone else who wants to jump in) thinks this means for the Marxist assertion that capitalism suffers from an "objective" crisis that cannot be amelirorated.

What it means, jk, is that the Marxist theory of crisis has the status of 'scientific' knowledge!

Something is really going on, humans are theorising to explain it, we could be wrong or the theory could be amended, and the theory's 'objective' content is strengthened with the passing of time, as it continues to match what reality appears to show us.

It's not 'The Truth', it's socially-objective, and it's better 'science' because it openly exposes its class and ideological roots.

The bourgeoisie cannot do this, thus their 'science' is poorer science.

Plus, this method allows us to call many other human activities 'science', like sociology or psychology, which now can be fitted into the scientific method.

Isn't this what Marx thought possible? The reconciling of 'natural' and 'social' science?

Of course, the bourgeoisie thought that Marx meant making 'sociology' like 'physics', which was deemed to be impossible.

Little could they imagine, that their 'objectively true', positivist method, would be subsumed into sociology! Only the proletariat can take this stance, because we have no 'objective' reason to hide any part of reality; on the contrary, the bourgeoisie must hide exploitation. This fatal weakness undermines their 'science'.

They cannot tell the truth, but we can. Humanity can stop hiding and destroying its own potential, and can develop every person on the planet.

Science is class-based, and we must have a method that exposes this truth. When we demand the full publication of all scientific papers, and demand that every human has access to a full scientific education, beyond post-PhD research, and that all who are interested in science have a say in its running, today's scientists, who are becoming more alarmed at the direction the bourgeoisie are taking their 'science', both theoretically and in pay and conditions for scientists, will begin to look to us for answers.

We can't do this if we maintain that their science produces the Truth. We are then left, like reformists with the Market, saying 'there is no alternative'.

There is an alternative to their Market and their Truth, and we, the proletariat, are the only ones who can embody it.

I need a lie down now, comrades. Spittle is starting to form on my lips and my temple is throbbing. A dark room, yes...

mhou
Lbird- you posted this in the

Lbird- you posted this in the consciousness thread:

 

Quote:
The basis of science is 'social theory'.

This part of the 'Rome Theses' of the Communist Party of Italy (1922) demonstrates the relationship between workers informed by the science of the working-class (Marxism) and non-communist workers:

"The specification and definition of the characteristics of the class party, which is the basis for its constitutive structure as organ of the most advanced part of the proletarian class, does not mean that the party need not be bound by close relations with the remainder of the proletariat – indeed it demands that it should be. The nature of these relations derives from the dialectical way of viewing the formation of class consciousness and a unitary organization of the class party, which transports a vanguard of the proletariat from the terrain of partial, spontaneous movements provoked by the interests of groups on to the terrain of general proletarian action; and which does not achieve this by rejecting those elemental movements, but accomplishes their integration and transcendence through living experiences, by pushing for their realization, taking active part in them, and following them attentively throughout their development."

Would you consider the active participation of those influenced by 'scientific socialism' (Marxism- science of the proletariat) in the general activity of non-communist fellow workers an application of social theory- or a living science?

LBird
Obscured view

There's a lot to consider in your post, mhou!

mhou wrote:
...the relationship between workers informed by the science of the working-class (Marxism) and non-communist workers...

Do you mean the relationship between workers informed by proletarian science and workers informed by bourgeois science? If so, what do you consider this difference to consist of?

mhou s quote wrote:
...the class party, which is the basis for its constitutive structure as organ of the most advanced part of the proletarian class...

I'm not a Leninist, mhou, so I don't see a 'class party' as the 'most advanced part of the proletarian class': 'uneven consciousness' affects a 'party' as much as a 'class'. Given a choice based on my experience, I'd put class ahead of party in consciousness.

mhou s quote wrote:
...dialectical...

Whenever I see this word, my 'bullshit' detector goes into overdrive! I've tried many, many times to get adherents to tell me what it means, but they never do.

mhou wrote:
...an application of social theory- or a living science?

You'll have to define, and spell out the contrasts between, 'social theory' versus 'living science', mhou. I'm not sure what you're getting at.

mhou
Quote:You'll have to define,

Quote:
You'll have to define, and spell out the contrasts between, 'social theory' versus 'living science', mhou. I'm not sure what you're getting at.

Internationalist Perspective often call Marxism a living science- that is, a theoretical panoply that interacts with other methodologies or currents and is constantly being applied or evolving; that it isn't a closed, self-referential system (as the Stalinists tried to make it- with 'diamat' and 'histomat').

You wrote that 'science is a social theory'- so I wanted to get your take on IP's definition of Marxism ('living science').

Quote:
Whenever I see this word, my 'bullshit' detector goes into overdrive! I've tried many, many times to get adherents to tell me what it means, but they never do.

In the quote its used to describe the relationship between the party of the proletariat and the non-party members of the proletariat- the latter informing the former who act with the latter on the basis of the classes actions and experiences. In a period of rising class consciousness and revolutionary crisis, the party, an amalgam of the most class conscious workers, learns from and engages with non-party workers for the purpose of pushing crisis activity (factory occupations, self-organization, mass demonstrations) into the revolutionary movement for communism.

Quote:
I'm not a Leninist, mhou, so I don't see a 'class party' as the 'most advanced part of the proletarian class': 'uneven consciousness' affects a 'party' as much as a 'class'. Given a choice based on my experience, I'd put class ahead of party in consciousness.

But you haven't experienced the class party; only opportunist mockeries of the concept. Do you at least recognize that left communist conceptions of the class party are not the same as Trotskyist conceptions of the party?

Bordiga formulated that the combined efforts, experiences, actions and creativity of the organized advanced minority of the working-class achieves a higher level of development than individual party militants could achieve on their own; Damen used the term 'dialectical centralism' to describe the kind of centralism necessary for a party (opposed to both Bordiga's organic centralism and Lenin's democratic centralism). Again, the word 'dialectical' here means the interplay between different levels of experience, consciousness, theoretical understanding and political maturity and the end result of all these confrontations (of experience, ideas, actions) is an organization that can achieve greater clarity and have a better impact on the revolutionary movement than individual militants could on their own. The example Damen uses is Lenin going to the sailor's under his own initiative with the April Theses, which in turn informed the party (which after that point moved in the direction of 'All Power to the Soviets' and the communist revolution, in line with the movement of the class). Yes, I know what happened when the revolution failed; I know what the Bolsheviks did and did not do and what Lenin did afterward- the point is only this specific example, that moment in time of the party and its militants being 'in sync' with the movement of the class and each (class and party) working in tandem in the movement for communism. I'm also arguing that this does not necessarily lead to Kronstadt and Kolyma. Same as Victor Serge's argument that the germs of the gulags and Stalinism were present in Lenin and the Bolshevik Party in 1917- but so were a multitude of other 'germs', one of which was the unity of class and party shown in 1917 and early 1918.

Quote:
Do you mean the relationship between workers informed by proletarian science and workers informed by bourgeois science? If so, what do you consider this difference to consist of?

Nope; nothing to do with a 'bourgeois science'- only Marxism. Workers who do and workers who do not adhere to a Marxist framework. The former being communists and the latter are not communists.

 

"Because Marxism denies that a quest for “absolute truth” could have any meaning, and sees doctrine not as a gift of the eternal spirit or abstract reason, but as an “instrument” of work and a “weapon” of combat, it postulates that this instrument or weapon should not be abandoned “for repairs” in the midst of an operation or at the height of the battle. Victory is secured by having good tools and weapons from the very start, in peace as well as in war." - Document From A General Meeting of the Party, 1952, International Communist Party

LBird
Mandy or dialectics? I know which I prefer

mhou wrote:
Internationalist Perspective often call Marxism a living science- that is, a theoretical panoply that interacts with other methodologies or currents and is constantly being applied or evolving;...

I know nothing at all about IP and their 'living science', so I can't comment. If you can explain, I'd like to know if it's supportive of my current efforts, as outlined on these several threads.

mhou wrote:
...the party, an amalgam of the most class conscious workers...
[my bold]

This assumption is precisely what is at issue on several other threads, mhou. As I've said, I don't share this assumption. If consciousness is 'uneven', it's also uneven in a party, and I daresay to a greater extent than amongst the wider class. I'm not a Leninist.

mhou wrote:
But you haven't experienced the class party; only opportunist mockeries of the concept.

'But you would say that, wouldn't you?', to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies. All Leninists claim that they are the one true Leninist party. Personally, I think Leninism is an infantile disorder of the class. We must grow out of it.

mhou wrote:
Nope; nothing to do with a 'bourgeois science'- only Marxism. Workers who do and workers who do not adhere to a Marxist framework. The former being communists and the latter are not communists.

Well, if these are non-Communist workers, they must adhere to 'bourgeois science'. There isn't an 'objective' position in society from which anyone can understand reality. If they are not Communists, their worldview will clash with ours. In fact, they'll support the bourgeoisie, its ideas and methods, both in science and in politics.

mhou wrote:
Damen used the term 'dialectical centralism' to describe the kind of centralism necessary for a party (opposed to both Bordiga's organic centralism and Lenin's democratic centralism). Again, the word 'dialectical' here means the interplay between different levels of experience, consciousness, theoretical understanding and political maturity and the end result of all these confrontations (of experience, ideas, actions) is an organization that can achieve greater clarity and have a better impact on the revolutionary movement than individual militants could on their own.

Well, I did warn you about my opinions about 'dialectical', but you've insisted in using it.

I think it means 'moondust', which when sprinkled on anything, magically makes it 'better'. Only snake-oil salesmen sell 'dialectics'. Like most who've previously encountered it, asked questions which remained un-answered in understandable terms, and have rejected it, I'm not buying today, thanks.

I've had very long and difficult conversations on LibCom about 'dialectics', and have even tried to suggest a method of 'democratic dialectics', but it went nowhere. Priests don't like lay interference in their specialist matters.

Anyway, back to 'science'?

jk1921
Questions

LBird wrote:

mhou wrote:
...the party, an amalgam of the most class conscious workers...
[my bold]

This assumption is precisely what is at issue on several other threads, mhou. As I've said, I don't share this assumption. If consciousness is 'uneven', it's also uneven in a party, and I daresay to a greater extent than amongst the wider class. I'm not a Leninist.

I don't think mhou (or anyone lese for that matter) really disagrees with you on this point, but it is unclear why this is such a problem?

LBird wrote:

'But you would say that, wouldn't you?', to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies. All Leninists claim that they are the one true Leninist party. Personally, I think Leninism is an infantile disorder of the class. We must grow out of it.

Where are these "Leninists" again? The ICC does not think it is the one true party.

LBird wrote:

Well, I did warn you about my opinions about 'dialectical', but you've insisted in using it.

I think it means 'moondust', which when sprinkled on anything, magically makes it 'better'. Only snake-oil salesmen sell 'dialectics'. Like most who've previously encountered it, asked questions which remained un-answered in understandable terms, and have rejected it, I'm not buying today, thanks.

I've had very long and difficult conversations on LibCom about 'dialectics', and have even tried to suggest a method of 'democratic dialectics', but it went nowhere. Priests don't like lay interference in their specialist matters.

Anyway, back to 'science'?

So, dialectics are little more than a farce? What are the alternatives to dialectics in your opinion?

LBird
Maintenance of the aim

jk1921 wrote:
So, dialectics are little more than a farce? What are the alternatives to dialectics in your opinion?

Comrades, can't we leave 'consciousness', 'party, and 'dialectics' to other threads, and discuss 'science'? Please.

jk1921
Science

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:
So, dialectics are little more than a farce? What are the alternatives to dialectics in your opinion?

Comrades, can't we leave 'consciousness', 'party, and 'dialectics' to other threads, and discuss 'science'? Please.

These things have nothing to do with science?

lem_
hi,   mostly in philosophy

hi,

 

mostly in philosophy [19th / 20th C] the use of the word 'science' is something between polemic and a supposed harmony of goals. phenomenology springs to mind. which is why i am almost completely ambivlanet about this question [fwiw].

i would say that the latter is the sole issue inside marxism, but perhaps i am having an unimaginative day.

LBird
Exhausted and handing over the baton

jk1921 wrote:
These things have nothing to do with science?

What is 'science', jk? You tell us.

mhou
Quote:I know nothing at all

Quote:
I know nothing at all about IP and their 'living science', so I can't comment. If you can explain, I'd like to know if it's supportive of my current efforts, as outlined on these several threads.

That's what I'm trying to get to the bottom of- can you expand on what you said that 'science is social theory'?

I'm assuming that means you view science as not a closed or self-referential system.

Quote:
This assumption is precisely what is at issue on several other threads, mhou. As I've said, I don't share this assumption. If consciousness is 'uneven', it's also uneven in a party, and I daresay to a greater extent than amongst the wider class. I'm not a Leninist.

I agree; but if a worker knows that communism is necessary, this alone puts them at a higher level of class consciousness than their co-workers: everything that comes with Marxist analysis is a matter among those workers who have become communists- who are collectively 'more advanced' than their co-workers and peers by nature of this understanding. Some sections of communists think the unification of individual communists into 1 organization allows the collective discussions, debates, theoretical elaboration and practical activity to blossom into something 'greater' than any 1 individual communist could achieve on their own- which recognizes that even within the minority of workers who are communists, there are different levels of political maturity.

I don't know to reconcile the idea that recognizing uneven class consciousness (especially as it relates to communists and the rest of the working-class) is 'Leninist', but in other threads you promote the idea that worker-communists will be the ones forming councils, committees and assemblies in a revolution.

The application of Marxism is relevant to this thread specifically- if Marxism is a science, it is in its conclusions (which are practical applications): Cervetto wrote that the most determinate element in the science of Marxism is the formation of the class party- based on Marx and Engels writing that classes are divided politically into parties and struggle on the political terrain through parties. If Marxism is a science, the party-form and its formation, organization and activities before and after a revolution are indeed relevant to a discussion of whether or not Marxism is a science.

Quote:
'But you would say that, wouldn't you?', to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies. All Leninists claim that they are the one true Leninist party. Personally, I think Leninism is an infantile disorder of the class. We must grow out of it.

That's a narrow minded way to answer the question. So I suppose we're all Trots then too because the SWP calls itself a party? Not just Leninists- but Bolshevik Leninists to boot.

Quote:

Well, I did warn you about my opinions about 'dialectical', but you've insisted in using it.

I think it means 'moondust', which when sprinkled on anything, magically makes it 'better'. Only snake-oil salesmen sell 'dialectics'. Like most who've previously encountered it, asked questions which remained un-answered in understandable terms, and have rejected it, I'm not buying today, thanks.

I've had very long and difficult conversations on LibCom about 'dialectics', and have even tried to suggest a method of 'democratic dialectics', but it went nowhere. Priests don't like lay interference in their specialist matters.

Dialectics are a major facet of Marxism; and specifically Marxist dialectics at that (as opposed to Hegelian etc. dialectics). I can't speak for other people (like these Trots and Leninists you see in the shadow of every communists) or your efforts to talk about dialectics elsewhere. But you aren't even engaging with an explanation after asking for one- saying 'I think dialectics are bullshit so tell me why I shouldn't think it is bullshit in that quote', then getting a response, then go back to saying 'dialectics are still bullshit' isn't a discussion. Who's a specialist here? Or at libcom for that matter?

The root defense of Marxism as science is also tackled in a similar manner to what Camatte does in Capital and Community in this article from the N + 1 journal:

Detail Labour and Production Plan

http://www.quinterna.org/lingue/english/articles_en/detail_labourer.htm

That deconstructing the real movement of capital reveals the basis of history, politics, economics, social theory and the means to be an active agent in the transformation of these bases of human society- determined by specific methodology and analysis, united with the theory and practice of the working-class in the class struggle and its real movement.

 

jk1921
I don't know what science is,

I don't know what science is, but I suppose a basic statement of the way it has been culturally constructed is something like the following: there is an objective world independent of human existence and perception; this world is more or less knowable, either as it is (copy theory of epistemology) or probablistically; there is an investigational method that allows us to gain access to something approaching the "objective truth"; that objective truth is valid for everyone regardless of whether or not they believe it is; statements about what is the objective truth of the world must be capable of being empirically verified by observation or experimentation.

It seems to me that would be a good starting point for the question of whether or not Marxism is science. To what extent does it fit this description, if at all?

lem_
"there is an objective world

"there is an objective world independent of human existence and perception"

 

you may be right that lots of people consider this a foundational tenet of science, but there are [globally] anti-realist scientists, doing scientist things regardless. personally i would consider existing theory the cornerstone of what makes something broadly speaking, scientific. scientology isn't science because it doesn't take science seriously, not because of its metaphysics.

marx took science seriously, i think. certainly the economics of his day.

fwiw, i think the frankfurt school would argue against what you said - being the definition of sociology. it seems there are many similar critical psychologists and sociologists still operating in academia, though perhaps i am wrong.

LBird
Lies, damned lies and scientific knowledge

One way of conceptualising ‘Scientific Knowledge’ is by comparing it to ‘Official Government Statistics’. I would like to publicly acknowledge the brilliant and extremely helpful suggestion by A.Simpleton, which inspired this post. In fact, this is the reason why I entered onto these threads, to help develop my own understanding with the aid of sympathetic comrades. I think development is a social task, not an individual one.

Here are what I consider to be some similarities of ‘Scientific Knowledge’ (SK) with ‘Official Government Statistics’ (OGS):

  • SK and OGS are both based upon a ‘reality’ which exists outside of their texts
  • That reality in itself tells us nothing; it must be interrogated
  • SK and OGS are both created by humans actively asking specific questions about that reality
  • SK and OGS are never a ‘final truth’, but can always be compared with another set of answers, gained by once more questioning the original reality
  • If the human-created questions change, then SK and OGS will also change
  • SK and OGS are not a complete mirror of that reality, which is impossible
  • SK and OGS are a subset of reality, and thus are (at best) ‘partial truths’
  • SK and OGS can be completely (or partially) wrong, due to erroneously crafted questions, accidental human error, deliberate deceit or misinterpretation of ‘answers’
  • SK and OGS have a history, and can often be disproved and shown to have been wrong, even when previously believed to have been correct and truthful
  • The tripartite model fits both well: the ‘object’ (external reality, natural or social) is actively interrogated by a social ‘subject’ (a science community or government department), which produces ‘knowledge’ (research papers or statistical reports)
  • SK and OGS have more credibility if their production is subject to democratic oversight and accountability
  • The notion that SK or OGS are disinterestedly produced is an actively propagated myth by the current producers
  • SK and OGS are produced by specific societies, and if these societies are class-based, so also will be, firstly, the ‘object’ that is specified, secondly, the active ‘subject’ that is socio-economically selected (including their questions) and, thirdly, the particular interpretation put on the results that is then established as ‘knowledge’

As evidence for more connections between ‘science’ and ‘official statistics’, we can perhaps look to Marx’s Capital, which for a great part was actually based upon the official statistics contained in the UK government’s ‘Blue Books’. That is, of course, if we regard Marx as a scientist!

I would personally appreciate it, if any comrades can add to the above list, so that my own understanding continues to grow.

Once more, comradely thanks to A.Simpleton, even though they may not agree with how I’ve developed their suggestion.

lem_
hi LBird man,   sorry i

hi LBird man,

 

sorry i didn't much understand what you were getting at above.

in reply to your question what is science, i wanted to draw another analogy with philosophy. philosophy IMO is what philosophers do, and philosophers are those individuals that there is consensus among the academic establishment, are [or were] philosophers.

this isn't a million miles from the dictionary's definition:

  1. The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline.
  2. A set of views and theories of a particular philosopher concerning such study or an aspect of it.

which itself defines science as:

  • The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment

not that helpful. it may be helpful to work out what marxism would be if it isn't a science, and then consider how to demarcate the two. pseudo-science isn't the best of terms IMO, because it is about how a body of knowledge if presented and need say nothing else about the theory's truth or usefulness.

if marxism is neither science nor philosophy, then perhaps it is something between practical knowledge, and folk belief. being so would not necessarily mean it is not science or philosophy.

i would hazard that it's not about objectivity of the world that will produce an answer [as much as it can be answered - i mean people use words differently and have different limits] for those who ask this question.

 

is dialectics sysematic enough to class as science? does marxism involve 'experiments'? really this is all just semantics, i feel..................

LBird
Revision required

lem_ wrote:
hi LBird man,

sorry i didn't much understand what you were getting at above.

I'm afraid you'll have to read the earlier part of this thread, and several recent others with 'science' in the title to which I've contributed, to 'understand what I'm getting at', lem_. Especially, the stuff on Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Schaff's 'theories of cognition', and 'paradigms and research programmes'.

If you read these, and you have any further questions, I'll be glad to answer them. I'm sure that you'll understand why I'm not going to go through them, all again, now.

On 'Marxism as a science', we haven't really got on to that issue yet, because we've been trying to get some basic agreement on what 'science' itself is, first.

Perhaps that will come soon. Perhaps not.

A.Simpleton
What's in a name already ...

An unexpected outcome but a positive one, because if nothing else it is your contributions comrades which have temporarily woken me up a bit: thinking of myself as 'way behind the curve' if you like. 

To  lem_ first of all;

I like the formulation: look the word up in a dictionary (which is not a 'bible' but not a book of lies either) find a definition and then you add 'not really very helpful'... agreed with a smile.

Yes it does, on the face of it, seem we may be embarking on an 'semantic' voyage and by the time I'm finished you -and indeed I myself- may be convinced of it :@-! but how about floating in 'definition of terms' 'precision': 'consistency' 'method' 'systematically'  (which in itself actually is only a six syllable way of saying  'thorough' in practice.)

Whether a carpenter or a surgeon, 'precision' means something in practice does it not?

In the former case imprecision results in the glass not fitting the window frame: in the latter it could result in extended life-span or death.

Now: to LBird - and this is not a cheap shot or indeed a rebuttal of your elaboration or development :  if my message was at least thought provoking or 'inspiring' I'm glad :@}

But so that we are all on the same page : what I actually wrote was :

'Objectivity' and its assumed qualities is a word that has annoyed me for forty years : the truth is, it [i.e 'objectivity'] is about as valid as Official Government Statistics. 

A different statement from:

'Scientific Truth is about as valid as Official Government Statistics' :

Which is not to say that it is not linked/related or relevant to what is work in progress on this thread (a nod to Fred here about the 'hectic search' )

I felt and still do disgust and frustration at The Bourgeousie's regular use of 'the assumed qualities of objectivity' ...things like ;'oh your evidence is just anecdotal' 'you have no empirical evidence' (meaning probably:'you haven't deafened 14 chaffinches to prove that if you do, they can't learn to sing)

All comrades are aware that The Bourgeoisie distort our very language and bias/deform science as a strategy to their gain and advantage.

But it doesn't therefore follow that the 6,000 year old (at least) accumulation of human endeavour and mental labour -to steal a moniker from Prince- 'The Artist Currently Known as 'Science' or 'Knowledge' can or should be casually binned. 

'For 'The Artist Currently Known as Science' however deformed by Capitalism in decline is nonetheless a direct inheritor of the mental labour and product however alienated of 'The Artist formerly Known as Mousike or Episteme' in Greece 2500 years ago (and other forbears - back to Baghdad-ish in fact 'Mesopotamia' where wheat was first domesticated thus allowing grain to be grown for surplus to be stored and 'downtime' from survival ...time to think ...).

Mousike was the 'overword' for everything that was not 'Gymnastike'.(no trans needed) in Classical Greece ( supported of course by 200,000 POWs who worked in the silver mines et al.) 

Or 'Episteme' :'understanding' of which all specifics : algebra, arithmetic,geometry, philosophy,music, ethics ,logic to name a few were subsumed - no doubt equally shaped or mishaped by the Ruling Class of that era. 

 

****

To jk : 'I don't know what science is' .... again agreed ...er. do I? well yes (see above) and yet.... no Hopefully - I am not taking your name in vain in saying that I really do understand that your work and committment is to strengthen theoretical development in the milieu by very appropriately searching for ways to emphasise the solidity of the method - a way of 'independently' proving that we didn't just make this up idly in our lunch break for heaven's sake which is absolutely the case as far as I'm concerned but and precisely because Marx's Bold and sudden -radicaluse out the base  to underpin this or that aspect of Marxist Revolutionary Theory: to put it 'in the armoury' if you like: a 'sharpened' weapon of criticism.

And indeed as I say below : just because the Bourgeoisie distort everything even - especially - words for their own minority ends doesn't mean that 'science' or 'Science' can been thrown away as if getting rid of the word somehow frees us from error . Nor does using the word necessarily confirm correctness. 

It comes to mind that Marx wrote the quote below: in line with his consistently radical 'turning on their head' of all manner of methods and pronouncements by his contemporary 'so called experts' (including his previous 'inspiror' Hegel)

'We must turn the weapon of criticism into the criticism of weapons' and 'we must replace the philosophy of poverty by showing the poverty of philosophy' In that sense I think that the very action of  starting his theory and development from 'Man who is not outside the world but social man in society this society , this present day bourgeois society' (from memory bit paraphrased)   

So to LBird:

This is why I also recognise and hopefully understand in turn your insistence in questioning the meaning of 'science' 'scientific' if the impetus is a similar desire to strengthen the Class Position or the Development of Revolutionary Communism,with 'the criticism of weapons' i.e. questioning the use of 'science' 'scientific' if it is being added unscrutinised then is it an added strength? It is indeed worth investigating and trying to 'understand'. 

Now: ..(if I haven't put everyone to sleep) 

Marx was classics scholar (and it so happens I was also ...) so with some 'precision' and some oversimplifications that I use to explain it to myself rather than just 'semantics'  let's examine this word 'dialectic' .

Dialect: 'dia-lexis'  'dia' through/throughout/continuing  : 'lexis': from 'lego' : I speak (lexicon, dyslectic and so forth are derived from the same root) ; practically interchangeable in that 2500 year old Greek class society with 'dia-logos' : 'logos' : word (amongst other more subtle meanings) hence 'dialogue'. 

 

Hegel: philosopher and 'inspiror' of young Marx imaginatively devised a three part moving model (blunt description for obvous reasons of space))  

thesis: anti-thesis; synthesis: but the synthesis was not a conclusion but a result-turning-into-thenext  

new thesis: new anti-thesis; new synthesis etc.

****

Why this has relevance for me as a Marxist is because, in his own words:

'My relationship with Hegel is very simple ...... I am a disciple of Hegel ,but have taken the liberty of a critical attitude towards my mentor, to rid his dialectic of its mysticism and thus to subject it to a profound change'

The one I outlined above: he brought it down to earth 'rid it of its mysticism' So again: I explain this to myself like this (because I am A.Simpleton :@--)

We have an arm-wrestling match in a pub (called The World) which is moving (time)

 

Two clasped hands, two straining forearms: struggling in locked combat : the two opposed classes.

We actually don't even have to ask -as a child would- why? or who started it ?

(We are born into a class-struggle-society (out of the previous one ,out of the previous one etc the dialectical model 'on it's feet' instead of its head) even if we don't know it  ( as jk pointed out ) and blow me if many don't know or want to know it ... and bugger me if I myself had no idea until I was 23 whatever)

So it goes like this ;

Push         :      Push Back   :     New Position ... leads to 

New Push  : New Push Back:     Next New Position 

And - I'll dare to use the word ~ the beauty of this dialectical model/method is that even if the pushing forces don't cause the tiniest movement of the arms : the classes are never in exactly the same place because remember the pub (called the World)is moving (time).

So its actually a simple mechanism and form but used in a stunningly bold way and 'the right way up' .

And what other kind of method or mechanism would the man who wanted to show the poverty of philosophy, reveal the lies of the Bourgeoisie use but a well designed ,workmanlike one? 

In fact:

Was not Marx's simple yet utterly radical action of starting his analysis the opposite end from the one you were 'supposed' to start from: :viz ' 'Man who is not outside the world etc.(as above) instead of the Philosophers' 'mystical beyond this world of autonomous 'Ideas'? 

Was not that in itself not just a statement of intent but also a practical re-appropriation' (taking back) from their 'alienation' Philosophy, Economic Theory....Previously 'lost-in-space' methods

One thing is sure to me ;

Dialogue may bring understanding of what 'Science' means (or could mean if we re-appropriate it?) 

Dialogue and study will clarify what the dialectic is : it is not the bogeyman some imagine and strangely enough -bad joke coming - :@} it's not rocket science :@} ; a method/tool/template not a science in itself.

Diatribe will not bring these things.

I make no apology for the length of this post : so dear comrade LBird ; you demand an answer to what is a good question - not necessarily the vital question,or even an answerable question in the way you or perhaps any of us would like it to be. Easy to ask  not easy to answer : and throwing the word away isn't the answer either is it ? I have spent two days and burned some midnight oil revising and trying to clarify this Simpleton's thoughts ( I may never walk again.... :@-----)

OK

I have tried my best to share all I can :

I did have A. Simpleton definition under construction for you LBird man ,thinking of how Marx himself would have approached it and then I could hear Yer Man declaiming (because he wouldn't respond in such a linear manner)

Let us not ask : is Marxism a Science ..Let us free Science with Revolutionary Marxism !

( although he himself unsurprisingly didn't much care for the word 'Marxism' but that's another story ) 

mhou has given the space for this thread thankyou mhou and all contributors .

( I shall be out of the office for 94 years now )

LBird
Objectivity versus scientific truth?

A.Simpleton wrote:
Now: to LBird - and this is not a cheap shot or indeed a rebuttal of your elaboration or development : if my message was at least thought provoking or 'inspiring' I'm glad :@}

But so that we are all on the same page : what I actually wrote was :

'Objectivity' and its assumed qualities is a word that has annoyed me for forty years : the truth is, it [i.e 'objectivity'] is about as valid as Official Government Statistics.

A different statement from:

'Scientific Truth is about as valid as Official Government Statistics' :

Which is not to say that it is not linked/related or relevant to what is work in progress on this thread (a nod to Fred here about the 'hectic search' )

Perhaps you could elaborate on what you consider to be the differences between 'objectivity' and 'scientific truth'? That is, where it is not 'linked/related'.

Given what I've written so far on this thread, that 'objectivity' is in fact a human-created 'social objectivity' which has a history, and that I support 'science' as an activity and am trying to defend it, not destroy it, and that 'knowledge' created from a proletarian perspective is more objective, I would maintain that 'objectivity' and 'scientific truth' (of a proletarian, democratic kind, of course) are the same thing.

Clearly, I'll reference the 'tripartite model' of cognition in defence of this position, so if you read what I've already said about this, it might help your argument if you disagree with me

A.Simpleton
Work in progress ....

Greetings LBird:

Indeed I have reflected on this: it was just for the sake of transparency more than anything I was 'publishing' the original text for the wider audience.

And for the sake of 'precision' : not because your substitution of 'scientific truth' - some kind of allegedly 'conclusive', 'eternally irrefutable' fact or set of facts which I feel is a mutual concern - for 'objectivity' was in any way a misrepresentation.

They are indeed closely - perhaps inextricably - related: the distinction is only a matter of components

'objectivity' is a criterion which remains unscrutinised by many (but not all) and certainly not by me : with 'assumed qualities' which remain unscrutinsed, with -as you say- a history of 'lack of scrutiny.

'truth': is a much broader, relative (in my book) 'resulting qualitative fact/result' (allegedly)

'scientific' is a describing word again - often but not always - used unscrutinised.

If I were to mention that one of the reasons (in my university days) that the prevalent -censorious- tendency in whatever field of research to dismiss 'anecdotal evidence' because it was not 'objective' really annoyed me in particular in the case of Jean Piaget's cognitive theory; system of schemas, stages of development, assimilation, accomodation: Construction of Reality in the Child et al. was a specialism I not only took but took joy in, would it be relevant? or are you referring to something else about which I may know nothing?

Either way, to be fair, I feel that in deference to the hosts of the forum that continuing privately at least until we have had a good old dialogue is the constructive way forward.

AS 

 

LBird
Thanks

A.Simpleton wrote:
Greetings LBird:

Indeed I have reflected on this: it was just for the sake of transparency more than anything I was 'publishing' the original text for the wider audience.

And for the sake of 'precision' : not because your substitution of 'scientific truth' ... for 'objectivity' was in any way a misrepresentation.

They are indeed closely - perhaps inextricably - related: the distinction is only a matter of components

Thanks for the reassurance, A.Simpleton! As I've already said, I think that 'objectivity' and 'scientific truth' are, in effect, synonyms. Since they are social standards and products, they are interrelated. I'd be happy for anyone else to discuss the definition or meaning of 'objectivity' and 'truth'.

A.Simpleton wrote:
Either way, to be fair, I feel that in deference to the hosts of the forum that continuing privately at least until we have had a good old dialogue is the constructive way forward.

I'm not so sure about this, though. Anything I've got to say to you, regarding this discussion, I would say publicly, too. I don't mind making mistakes, or re-thinking my positions, or being proved wrong, or just plain learning something I don't know! Of course, if you're talking about personal matters or experiences that you wish to remain private, that's different.

On the other hand, if we're treading on the ICC's 'ideological toes' in any way with our questioning of 'science', I'm sure they'll let us know! They are our hosts, after all, and I know I can be 'difficult'.

lem_
"As I've already said, I

"As I've already said, I think that 'objectivity' and 'scientific truth' are, in effect, synonyms. Since they are social standards and products, they are interrelated. I'd be happy for anyone else to discuss the definition or meaning of 'objectivity' and 'truth'."

objectivity is a motivator, but it is something that we predicate of our knowledge after the fact. wheras truth is always the key to knowledge, something that isn't 'true' isn't knowledge. of course more can be said. my contention is that the questions of philosophy, though perhaps beside the point in the proletarian struggle, can be a healthy response to the world, too. i do not expect to change the world by studying [analytic] philosophy, but no-one can expect to outside of revolution.

 

in the mean time, the bourgeois response to questions about realism / objectviity, can in turn IMHO help clarify marx [!] as well as the questions that we will undoubtedly ask ourselves in the course of... life before the revolution?

 

LBird i sent you a PM btw. hope that is OK i won't do so again before any reply :-)

LBird
What's the 'truth'?

lem_ wrote:
...something that isn't 'true' isn't knowledge...

But, given our knowledge of the history of science, lem_, that statement can't be maintained.

There were lots of things that were 'true' (and so were 'knowledge') which later were disproved and so are not 'true', now.

There were lots of things that were 'false' (and so weren't 'knowledge') which later were proved and so are 'true', now.

The problem is, as our study of the history of science shows, that 'truth' and 'knowledge' are not fixed, but can change. They are both socially constructed.

This doesn't mean, of course, that an objective reality doesn't exist. I'm a realist, and so accept the existence of reality outside of our questioning of it. But our access to that reality is problematic. As I've tried to illustrate with the tripartite theory of knowledge outlined elsewhere, 'knowledge' of 'reality' isn't the same as 'reality'. Since 'knowledge' has a history, it can change, as we ask different questions of 'reality'.

And it doesn't help to say that 'true' means 'objective reality', because we don't have perfect knowledge of that reality, so 'truth' is always partial, at best. To maintain otherwise, that 'truth' is fixed and a perfect copy of reality, is to be a positivist, which I'm not.

PS. I haven't yet received a pm from you.

A.Simpleton
Difficult ...toi? :@}

Just joshing,

I equally have no problem with shooting myself in the foot in public or - while we are on the subject of feet - treading on toes. In a similar forum elsewhere I felt initially, for reasons I couldn't quite fathom, treated with 'suspicion' before I had even got to the 2nd post and quite soon got the quip, (mischievously expected at some point) : '..Simpleton by name, Simpleton by nature.' 

I agree: Science In The Open .... ;@-

I do tend to drift into personal anecdotes - usually for good reason even if people miss the point and I think 'hold on this isn't Costa Coffee or a chat room'. Mind you, even in Costa Coffee I very very rarely  talk about the weather ... runs in the family.

At the age of 103, my aunt, who had been bed bound for 2 years in a (good) care home said, the minute I entered on a visit: "ah.. I'm so glad you've come ..I was just wondering whether one could describe matter and anti-matter in a metaphorical way or whether it can only be properly done in the language of mathematics."

!

AS

Footnotes: at the end of the long post above -mainly because I was near that 'darkened room' moment so well coined by your goodself- I forgot to put in a simple but honestly felt sentence : 'I think what we all are doing here is science but -though it may sound a contradiction in terms- sometimes more,sometimes less scientifically'

lem_
knowledge

LBird wrote:

lem_ wrote:
...something that isn't 'true' isn't knowledge...

But, given our knowledge of the history of science, lem_, that statement can't be maintained.

There were lots of things that were 'true' (and so were 'knowledge') which later were disproved and so are not 'true', now.

There were lots of things that were 'false' (and so weren't 'knowledge') which later were proved and so are 'true', now.

The problem is, as our study of the history of science shows, that 'truth' and 'knowledge' are not fixed, but can change. They are both socially constructed.

This doesn't mean, of course, that an objective reality doesn't exist. I'm a realist, and so accept the existence of reality outside of our questioning of it. But our access to that reality is problematic. As I've tried to illustrate with the tripartite theory of knowledge outlined elsewhere, 'knowledge' of 'reality' isn't the same as 'reality'. Since 'knowledge' has a history, it can change, as we ask different questions of 'reality'.

And it doesn't help to say that 'true' means 'objective reality', because... .

doesn't that just mean that what we thought we knew we didn't know - it wasn't knowledge after-all? doesn't it?

 

oh my PM was just to the effect of an apology for not reading this / all threads very closely :-)

Fred
LBird wrote: Perhaps you

LBird wrote:
 Perhaps you could elaborate on what you consider to be the differences between 'objectivity' and 'scientific truth'? That is, where it is not 'linked/related'.

I know this wasn't originally directed at me, but never mind.  A small but niggling point about "scientific truth". Surely the "truth", any kind of truth, doesn't and can't belong to science, or any other compartmentalized branch of knowledge (this "compartmentalization" being a favourite ploy of the bourgeoisie) but only to human beings.  Science is a mere methodology invented by humanity for the furtherance of its knowledge and understanding of the world and human life. Science is practiced by groups of humans and any "truths"that may emerge from their endeavors belong to humanity not the methodology used.  Truths that emerge from the application of science by humanity don't have to be "true" for ever, even if they're vociferously claimed as "objective" at the time of their discovery. I am an enemy of "objectivity" seeing everything as essentially SUBJECTIVE, though realizing that subjectivity can be very unreliable.  Consequently (or maybe not) I am quite prepared to understand all "scientific truths" to be "objective" and "unchallengeable", even "invariable", because I know that for many people such assurances - like life after death - are necessary and consoling. But I don't fall for it anymore. 

LBird
Another alternative?

Fred wrote:
I am an enemy of "objectivity" seeing everything as essentially SUBJECTIVE, though realizing that subjectivity can be very unreliable.

The problem with this common sense formulation, Fred, is that it only posits two alternatives: objective and subjective.

All my posts on the issue of science have been to try to defend science from itself. Science pretended to be 'objective', but this has been shown to be untrue. For many, this can only lead to the conclusion, as you appear to say in your statement, that the only alternative is 'subjectivity'. But this necessarily leads to the destruction of any notion of science, in any meaningful, objective, non-individualist opinion, sense. You can see the problem with this, but turn to essentially lying to the majority, who need 'assurance', whilst you don't. This splits our society into two parts: those (few?) who 'really' know the truth, and the 'many' who must be consoled. Starting to sound like religion, eh?

The answer is the third alternative: 'social objectivity'.

This is neither fixed-for-all-time 'Truth', nor anything-goes-personal-opinion. It represents the human attempt to understand an objectively-existing reality, which is a social understanding, not 'individual, subjective' opinion. As society changes, what's considered 'objective' changes, but it's not individual whim.

Once we posit this form of 'objectivity', we can both defend science from the mystics and market-based individualism, and also accept and internalise into 'science' the scientific lessons of the twentieth century, which show that the present 'authority of science' is a temporal 'bourgeois authority'.

We can try to realise Marx's notion of humanising science. This is not the destruction of science, but its preservation.

LBird
Interpenetration of opposites?

A.Simpleton wrote:
Footnotes: at the end of the long post above -mainly because I was near that 'darkened room' moment so well coined by your goodself- I forgot to put in a simple but honestly felt sentence : 'I think what we all are doing here is science but -though it may sound a contradiction in terms- sometimes more,sometimes less scientifically'

I agree we are doing science, AS!

And there's no contradiction: we're doing more proletarian science, and less bourgeois science.

Dialectics in action, mate!

mhou
Just wanted to post this

Just wanted to post this statement that seemed appropriate to the discussion; it's a footnote in an International Review article:

Quote:
That is to say, a scientific method, and not, as Battaglia put it, a Marxist science – which does not exist.

http://en.internationalism.org/node/2758

 

LBird
Opposing view

mhou wrote:
Just wanted to post this statement that seemed appropriate to the discussion; it's a footnote in an International Review article:

Quote:
That is to say, a scientific method, and not, as Battaglia put it, a Marxist science – which does not exist.

I think that we're starting to get to the crux of our discussion, mhou.

I think that the argument still stands for a 'Marxist/proletarian' science, in opposition to 'a scientific method'. Any scientific method is a human activity, and thus is rooted in a society and a social class.

mhou
I agree with part of your

I agree with part of your post, Lbird.

Even if the advances in all manner of subjects (biology, chemistry, etc.) were determined by class society, I don't agree that all of this is thus 'bourgeois science' and somehow morally inferior to a 'proletarian science'. I still don't quite understand what the objection is to either utilizing or learning from 'mainstream science'- other than an objection based on moralism and moral categories. The relationship between other schools of thought or methodologies (or 'bourgeois science') and Marxism hasn't been only one-way historically.

Fred
LBird

 

 

Fred wrote:

I am an enemy of "objectivity" seeing everything as essentially SUBJECTIVE, though realizing that subjectivity can be very unreliable.<p>  LBird  replied:   The  problem with this common sense formulation, Fred, is that it only posits two alternatives: objective and subjective.<p> All my posts on the issue of science have been to try to defend science from itself. Science pretended to be 'objective', but this has been shown to be untrue. For many, this can only lead to the conclusion, as you appear to say in your statement, that the only alternative is 'subjectivity'. But this necessarily leads to the destruction of any notion of science, in any meaningful, objective, non-individualist opinion, sense. You can see the problem with this, but turn to essentially lying to the majority, who need 'assurance', whilst you don't. This splits our society into two parts: those (few?) who 'really' know the truth, and the 'many' who must be consoled. Starting to sound like religion, eh?<p>  The answer is the third alternative: 'social objectivity'.<p>    Fred replies: You are quite right LBird and I accept your criticism.  "Social objectivity" is the heart of the matter. 

LBird
Political and scientific objections, not moral

mhou wrote:
...I don't agree that all of this is thus 'bourgeois science' and somehow morally inferior to a 'proletarian science'. I still don't quite understand what the objection is to either utilizing or learning from 'mainstream science'- other than an objection based on moralism and moral categories.
[my bold]

I'm not sure why you are categorising my 'objections' as moral objections, mhou.

I would categorise my objections as political and scientific. This is nothing to do with notions of right and wrong. I'm defending both Communism and science.

Politically, I think Communists should support a version of science that employs a democratic method, to ensure mass participation and control of what is an essential human activity, if we are to understand, and thus change, this world, both natural and social. At its heart, this is about challenging the authority of the bourgeoisie and their scientists, who attempt to bolster the view that this society is 'natural' and fixed (genes as the basis for behaviour, mental illness as organic, etc.).

Scientifically, I think my suggestions will produce an improved scientific method, one that has humans at its heart. This is also in line with the latest advances in bourgeois philosophy of science, which seem to tell us that the old positivist notions of 'objectivity' and 'scientific truth' simply can't be maintained any longer. If we, as Communists, don't use and take forward these insights, and fight to maintain a scientific worldview, then the post-modernists, individualists and subjectivists will take centre stage, and destroy science.

Though whether all this adds up to a 'proletarian' science, we need to discuss further. I think that it's possible to make a case for it, but we'd have to compare and contrast two versions, and see what the outcome is. This, I think, is also related to the 'is Marxism a science?' debate.

I think I would argue for a 'proletarian science' and thus see 'science' as a (part of) Marxism, rather than the other way round! That is, Marxism/Communism/the proletariat as the higher level activity, and science as a subset of that human activity, rather than the other way around, as suggested by the very form of the question 'is Marxism a science?'.

That is, the question should be of the form 'is science a Marxism?'. As a tentative answer, I'd respond 'partially, but much science is bourgeois and must be rejected'. Especially, I would target the elitism inherent in today's form of science, in its selective education, state funding, military research aims, and the unrepresentative bodies which control it.

LBird
Regrets? I've had a few...

Fred wrote:
Fred replies: You are quite right LBird and I accept your criticism. "Social objectivity" is the heart of the matter.

Well, this doesn't mean that 'social objectivity' is 'true' or even the best way to approach the issue, but I personally haven't read anything better, yet. One of the reasons for bringing it onto these threads is to test it out against other approaches. As yet, the only response has been to fall back on completely discredited 'objectivity', which is tantamount to a retreat to positivism, as far as I can see. As for the other approach, 'subjectivity', well just about everyone can see where that one is going! The end of science, and the triumph of bourgeois individualism and the market!

Simply put, I'm yet to find a better way of conceptualising the issue than 'social-objectivity'.

And most of all, Fred, thanks for your comradely concession. For my part, if I come across as an egotistical nutcase, that's my fault, and I apologise. I'm attempting both to test out my ideas and subject them to the criticism of comrades, and to hopefully help comrades advance themselves in learning about this crucial issue of the nature of the human activity of science.

LoneLondoner
What is marxism?

Like any scientific theory, marxism is a systematised set (in the mathematical sense, or you might say "collection") of knowledge which allows us to apprehend and explain reality, but it is not reality itself in its totality. In a world which is a unified whole - the monist world - knowledge is an element, a moment of the whole which both is determined by and reacts on the whole, but can never pretend to be the whole. It can do so still less because the whole is infinite and in movement, in constant transformation. For things to be otherwise, there would have to be an infinite knowledge of a finite and unchanging world, which is an absurdity from the standpoint of both marxism and reality. As a result, in an infinite and constantly changing reality, knowledge and the theories which are part of it can never be "complete". By definition and by the nature of the world from which they spring, knowledge and scientific theory can only remain open and subject to constant enrichment, at the same time as they are stripped of certain parts which have proved wrong, or inadequate to a new reality introduced by change over time.

In marxism, the theory of knowledge is based entirely on praxis, and just as knowledge is a product of praxis, so the validity of theory must be verified and demonstrated in praxis: "The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice" (Theses on Feuerbach).

LBird
Progress?

LoneLondoner wrote:
As a result, in an infinite and constantly changing reality, knowledge and the theories which are part of it can never be "complete".

I'm glad that you seem to agree with my arguments for a 'social-objectivity' which can change and a reality that can only be partially known, that there is never a final 'The Truth', as scientists used to pretend in the 19th century. It's just a shame that some are still taken in by these discredited old theories.

I wonder who'd benefit from most people believing that there is a small minority of 'experts' who have a special access to reality and can tell us the 'objective truth'? That we can't argue with 'scientific fact' or 'objective knowledge'? That it's all really way beyond the natural capabilities of us to comprehend?

Some 'elite', I guess.

LBird
Repeat performance?

LoneLondoner wrote:
In marxism, the theory of knowledge is based entirely on praxis, and just as knowledge is a product of praxis, so the validity of theory must be verified and demonstrated in praxis...

Just like I said as part of my 'outline scientific method', which I posted the other week.

LBird
A basis for further exploration?

Perhaps now is the right time to suggest how we might differentiate a proposed ‘proletarian science’ from the current ‘common-sense’ notion of science, that of a few ‘experts in science’ using a ‘special scientific method’ which produces the ‘objective scientific Truth’.

Clearly, there will be some points of similarity, because we’re not rejectionist ‘proletkultists’, and we have to build upon the best that the bourgeoisie have so far produced. But, equally clearly, there are some aspects of today’s ‘science’ that has to be challenged and improved. Perhaps the nature and extent of that ‘improvement’ would determine whether we could speak of a radically new ‘proletarian science’ or whether it’s really just ‘bourgeois-plus science’, and largely a continuation of current practice.

An added complication is the history of Stalinist interference in ‘science’ in the Soviet Union. Any mention of ‘politicising’ science is always met with the same objections, which of course are justified when talking about party control of science, but I’m not so sure are justified when talking about class control of science.

[And for those who’ll ignore the central thrust of this post, and revert to nitpicking on the margins, by class I mean the revolutionary proletariat attempting to build Communism, both before and after the revolution, when we all know it will no longer be an exploiting ‘class’, but will represent the vast majority of humanity. I’m using ‘class’ as shorthand to differentiate the ‘scientific subject’ from ‘party’, which is very necessary with the thorny subject of political party interference in science]

Before we commence, I’m inclined to list a few areas which I think we would need to cover in our discussion. Also, as an aside, I think that this discussion will throw more light on the issue of ‘is Marxism a science?’.

1. Science as a human activity which has a history; that is, what scientists have actually done (in practice), as opposed to what they say they do (in bourgeois ideology) – Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos.

2. The nature of scientific knowledge; that is, cognition, objective reality, subjective activity, produced knowledge – Schaff.

3. The philosophical basis of Realism; structures, levels – Bhaskar, Archer.

4. The nature of reality itself; that is, ontology, epistemology and empiricism – Bhaskar, Collier.

5. A proposed new ‘scientific method’; Kuhn’s paradigms and Lakatos’ research programmes, and my outline, suggested earlier, of a more encompassing ‘scientific method’.

6. The actual social control of science: funding sources and choices (large projects and personal grants), research priorities (especially skewed to the military and away from civilian needs), state and political interference (prevention of sharing by laws, intellectual copyright, Mbeki and ‘Aids denial’), private companies (science driven by profit not need, restricting access to research papers as commercial in confidence), disciplinary authorities (eg. General Medical Council), academics (selection processes of and decisions on what’s taught), rewards (monetary and symbolic, like Nobel prizes, acclamation by the Royal Society).

If anyone wishes to suggest other authors for discussion to my list, please add them. I’d also add in as some background reading for those who are interested, Chalmers, Marks and Godfrey-Smith. If there are unfamiliar authors mentioned here, and anyone wants more details of their books, please ask.

To some extent, we’ve covered points 1 and 2, so perhaps we could move on to one of the others, perhaps point 3 above?

LBird
A little further reading

Perhaps comrades might want to read this article by Jonathan Marks, which can be downloaded as a PDF at:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1520-6505(1996)5:3%3C75::AID-EVAN2%3E3.0.CO;2-V/abstract

Just click on 'Get PDF (723K)'.

It's only 5-6 pages (including a page of references), and covers some of the areas we've been discussing, like the nature of science, scientists and knowledge.

Hope it helps.

MH
Marxism?

What I find striking about this list of proposed topics for discussion is the complete absence of any contributions by the worker’s movement:  where is Dietzgen? Where is Engels? Where, at least, is Pannekoek; not only a theoretician of councilism but an astronomer to boot!  In fact, apart from a brief mention of ‘bourgeois ideology’, this list could almost serve as the syllabus for a university course in the ‘philosophy of science’. There is nothing explicit at all here about the class struggle, the working class or the need for revolution.  

Also, it ignores the contributions made by other comrades here in response to LBird’s arguments: on the meaning of dialectics; on Marx’s views on ‘objective truth’ from the ‘Theses on Feuerbach’; on the importance for Marxists of defending the historic crisis of capitalism as an ‘objective fact’; on the dangers of rejecting the entire concept of ‘objectivity’ as inherently reactionary or false;  on whether Marxism is a ‘science’ or a ‘scientific method’ or something historically specific (ie. the theoretical weapon of the proletariat), etc.

If this discussion is to go forward, I think LBird first needs to address some of the objections comrades have raised with his central ideas, in particular whether his concept of a ‘proletarian science’ is meant to apply before or after a successful world revolution. It seems quite clear from his recent comments in this thread that he sees this potentially existing today:

Science is class-based, and we must have a method that exposes this truth. When we demand the full publication of all scientific papers, and demand that every human has access to a full scientific education, beyond post-PhD research, and that all who are interested in science have a say in its running, today's scientists, who are becoming more alarmed at the direction the bourgeoisie are taking their 'science', both theoretically and in pay and conditions for scientists, will begin to look to us for answers.” (post #24 in this thread)

At its heart, this is about challenging the authority of the bourgeoisie and their scientists, who attempt to bolster the view that this society is 'natural' and fixed (genes as the basis for behaviour, mental illness as organic, etc.). (…) I would target the elitism inherent in today's form of science, in its selective education, state funding, military research aims, and the unrepresentative bodies which control it.” (post #55).

I agree that Marxists need to have a dialogue with scientists, and to study the best contributions of science and their relevance to the proletariat, and to argue about scientific issues. That is why the ICC has invited scientists to its congresses and published texts on scientific subjects. The proletariat will have to challenge the authority of the bourgeoisie in all areas. But that is different from ‘targeting the elitism’ in current bourgeois science or raising ‘demands’ for ‘the full publication of all scientific papers’, etc., which are clearly unachievable this side of a successful proletarian revolution.

LBird, the whole thrust of your argument is that the need to define a ‘proletarian science’ is a priority for the proletariat to clarify today. In fact you even seem to think that it is possible to come up with a new ‘scientific method’, no less. Let alone whether this is possible, it's necessary to ask why this is a priority for the working class today, given all the other challenges it faces? And what is your response to the objections raised by comrades on this thread, starting with the one set out here?

LBird
Your priorities and mine

MH wrote:
And what is your response to the objections raised by comrades on this thread, starting with the one set out here?

If you're interested in discussing 'science', but don't like my questions, or don't like the philosophers I choose to read and recommend, or don't like my suggestions regarding 'scientific method', or don't like the issues (like dialectics) or thinkers that I choose to ignore for now, or don't like my prioritising on this thread distant philosophical challenges rather than immediate political ones, that's OK by me.

Either redirect this thread into the areas you do prefer, or start another thread. Anyone who wishes to, can then choose to follow the direction that they prefer. I'll try to follow both, because I'm interested in the issues.

I'm posting and discussing on this thread what I consider to be interesting, important and relevent for Communists. If no-one else is similarly engaged, I'll stop posting. I don't want to waste either my or my comrades' time. If there are no responses, I'll soon get the message.

Alf
where?

Due to the pressure of other demands, I haven't been able to keep up with this thread at all, but I am impressed by the passion of all the posters and the number of people it seems to have called to come and discuss with us. According to the figures, tens of thousands have been following these discussions about marxism and science. Welcome back Mr Simpleton.

Is marxism a science?

I think I probably said in a different thread that in the present social system there is a disparity between the 'natural' and 'human' sciences, with the latter (such as psychology, anthropology, etc) still struggling to demonstrate that they are scientific at all; and that following Marx in 1844, there can only be "one science" in a society which has naturalised man and humanised nature.  Is marxism a science? I think KT said earlier on: not yet. And when it has finally proved itself, it will no longer be marxism. There cannot be a proletarian theory when the proletariat has become humanity.

Another way of asking the question is: where, in its history, is science?

Does the approach of the end of bourgeois society - which all of us agree on, I think -  also condemn the main streams of scientific thinking to be reaching certain fundamental barriers? Some cosmologists investigating the edges of the universe have argued this, and no doubt physicists investigating the very very small as well. . .

Some currents of scientific discourse seem to think, on the other hand, that we will soon be able to tie everything together in a few terse mathematical formulae: the final answer to everything. Paradoxically, this view is often espoused by the fanatically 'anti-religious', in fact mechanistic wing. Didn't they say the same at the end of the 19th century, not long before the last great revolutionary breakthroughs in scientific thought (Einstein, quantum physics, and  - some won't agree with this - Freud), at the cusp between ascendance and decadence?

As I said, I agree with Lbird's criticisms of common sense, even if I still don't know what he is really suspicious of in what most of the other posters on this forum say. The outlook of science in communism would look absolutely bizarre from the common sense point of view.

This is probably why I don't agree with jk1921 when he lumps parapsychology in with the rest of the pseudo-sciences. The methodical study of the strange and 'outside' is not the same as falling into it headfirst, without any proper introduction. 

Dismiss this as the ramblings of an overworked old hippy if you will. 

 

A.Simpleton
Utterly Unnofficial Simpleton Statistics show that ....

To be fair LBird 

I don't think falling back on objectivity is the only response you've had. 

But also to be fair to LBird : he has repeatedly and honestly said 'if you don't want to discuss this right now or in this 'order' of merit then fine I'll withdraw' from quite early on .

Difficulties have arisen because of

1) The sheer scope and range (it's an endemic problem to the everything depends on everything else nature of our search on many issues)

2)The question of priorities of the forum and Organisation whose 'guests' we are.

3)Both compounded by the enthusiasm to get volumes across in dialogue boxes:dozens of threads , hundreds of questions ....so much to do ,,,,and so little time ! 

Again it kinda goes with the territory: threads that I might wish had continued conclude: not through lack of interest but owing to more pressing or 'breaking news events.

****

You know that I agree that 'objectivity' as a criterion/tester is 'about as valid as Official Government Stistics' in producing some 'truth' whether 'scientific' or other .

And I haven't changed my mind after 40 years of annoyance : and that the 'result' of whatever 'allegedly' 'objective' research is a 'truth' doesn't convince me either . And the more the vacuous criterion of 'objectivity'  is trumpeted as somehow enhancing that 'truth' the more UNconvinced I become.

Fred posted a similar distrust of 'objectivity' :

Another comrade pointed out that Marx found the very notion irrelevant and of no consequence. It would have been a patently obvious hypocricy if he had, because his starting point was 'man on the earth breathing in and out' : man as a social being here now in this society. 

Hegel was a most abstruse philosopher. I can neither like nor dislike him, (apart from the fact that he looks miserable in pictures but then I suppose it is difficult to smile for two days while your portrait is painted) because he uses words in German in new ways -and indeed invents a few- simply cannot be translated and my German is rudimentary.Even he (as far as my feeble mind can grasp) who did speak of 'absolute truth' asserted that it was only the 'absolute truth' of one age/era. How that pans out heaven only (allegedly) knows ... 

But I did try to study his work : why? Only because Karl Popper reviled him : called him the 'wicked witch' of philosophy, scathingly accusing him of being a major ideological cause of both the First World War ,increasing his vitriol to cite him as an ideological force in causing the Second World War ... utter bunkum.

So -being A.Simpleton and born 'Bolshy'- I thought 'If Popper thinks he's very very bad then he's probably quite good'  but knew I would have to learn German etc.etc. but it was all too 'ethereal'

*

Marx poured considerable scorn on common sense, citing the example that from the 'common sense' point of view 'the Sun obviously goes round the Earth':

Einstein also with a definition that appeals to me a lot 'common sense is actually nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind prior to the age of eighteen'.

I like Lakatos and his accessible style : in the additional notes added to his talk 'Science In The Open' when it was printed, he mentions the build up of anomalies which just don't fit the paradigm (my copy of Kuhn's book was in tatters from constant referral) he shows up the way the 'dominant' normal science establishment protects its inability to explain with jingoese 'these are recalcitrant instances': like the military do: 'collateral damage' for 'carnage and death. 

We have 'jumping the gun' versus 'recollection is too late'

I'll leave it there (hunger)

AS

 

LBird
A good dose of FFS

A.Simpleton wrote:
To be fair LBird

I don't think falling back on objectivity is the only response you've had.

After several threads, and dozens of posts about social-objectivity:

MH wrote:
...the dangers of rejecting the entire concept of ‘objectivity’ as inherently reactionary or false...

Who is 'rejecting the entire concept of 'objectivity'? FFS, 'social-objectivity' has got 'objectivity' in its name!

'Inherently reactionary or false'? FFS, 'objectivity' is, according to modern science, 'reactionary and false'!

The only other response is to look to subjectivity - because apparently, ignoring all my posts, there are only the two options!

I'll leave it there (frustration)

LB

LBird
Dietzgen and Marks

MH wrote:
What I find striking about this list of proposed topics for discussion is the complete absence of any contributions by the worker’s movement: where is Dietzgen?

Right, I've got over my frustration.

MH, I've got a copy of 'The Positive Outcome of Philosophy' by Joseph Dietzgen, on my bookshelf.

If you could point out some passages of his that bear upon our present discussion, I'll be pleased to read them. If there aren't any, that's OK. I can then forget about Dietzgen for the moment, and concentrate on the issues of cognition, etc.

I hope that everybody that's following this thread has read the Jonathan Marks PDF link that I gave earlier, because I think that that short article does bear upon our discussion

LBird
Theory precedes understanding

Well, I've had brief look at Dietzgen, and I've already found:

Joseph Dietzgen, T P O of P, p. 80, wrote:
Science seeks to understand the nature of things, or their true essence, by means of their manifestations. Everything has its own special nature, and this nature is not seen, or felt, or heard, but solely perceived by the faculty of thought.

So much for 'objectivity' from mere passive sense impressions, eh?

LoneLondoner
It wasn't me....

LBird wrote:

I'm glad that you seem to agree with my arguments for a 'social-objectivity' which can change and a reality that can only be partially known, that there is never a final 'The Truth', as scientists used to pretend in the 19th century. It's just a shame that some are still taken in by these discredited old theories.

I wonder who'd benefit from most people believing that there is a small minority of 'experts' who have a special access to reality and can tell us the 'objective truth'? That we can't argue with 'scientific fact' or 'objective knowledge'? That it's all really way beyond the natural capabilities of us to comprehend?

Some 'elite', I guess.

Three points: first, being aware that truth is not something final and objective does not mean accepting your notion of "social objectivity", which frankly I find confused more than anything.

Second, if you actually read the "experts" (at least the ones I read), then they certainly don't think there is a final and objective truth which only they understand. I recommend Carlo Rovelli's book on Anaximander as an illustration (he's one of the developers of quantum loop gravity theory by the way).

Third, well I must come clean: my previous post (#57) wasn't me, it comes from an ICC discussion document written by Marc Chirik at the end of the 1970s.

LBird
Request

LoneLondoner wrote:
...being aware that truth is not something final and objective does not mean accepting your notion of "social objectivity", which frankly I find confused more than anything.

Well, we're  getting somewhere, now. But if you think there are problems with 'social objectivity', why didn't you raise the issue before now? I've been bangin' on about it for weeks, trying to stir a discussion about the concept.

Right, if you accept the tripartite model (object, social subject and knowledge), what relationship do you favour, if not 'social objectivity'?

If you don't accept the tripartite model, what model do you favour?

Perhaps I should say, what model(s) do Rovelli and Chirik employ?

One thing: I give explanations in my own words, so I expect the same courtesy. No links or book recommendations, at this stage. Just explain the model you use, and expose your source (Rovelli/Chirik?), just like I did mine (Schaff).

LBird
My next witness is (shock!) the ICC!

ICC wrote:
Anaximander of Miletos

But – as Engels said – if experimental science began with the Renaissance, the materialist view of the world was born long before that, in ancient Greece. As Carlo Rovelli points out in his study of Thales and Anaximander, and of the society of the Ionian city of Miletos during the first millennium BCE, the materialist outlook is highly atypical: by far the greater part of human history has been dominated by religious explanations of the origins of the world and of man’s place in it. Although Rovelli’s explanation of religious thought is superficial (he visibly understands nothing of Marx, who he cites), his explanation of how materialist thought emerged in Milesian society is far more interesting.

According to Rovelli[8] Anaximander’s importance lies in his “intuitions” (Rovelli explicitly uses the same word as Engels) based on direct observation, but also going beyond observation to seek an underlying principle to the world. Not only does Anaximander propose a model where the heavenly bodies are no longer confined to a dome over a flat earth, but placed at varying distances from a cylindrical earth floating in space, he also proposes the notion of apeiron as the universal constituent of all matter. As Rovelli says, “Anaximander thus proposes that all substances of our common experience can be understood in terms of something else; something which is both natural and foreign to our daily experience. The central intuition here is that in order to explain the world’s complexity, it is useful to postulate, to imagine, the existence of something else, which is not one of the substances we experience directly but which can play the role of an element that unifies all of them”. Anaximander, in fact, sets human thought on the road to quantum mechanics. Rovelli also shows here that intuition is an important element in scientific thought. Experiment and observation are critical, but they cannot take place without the presence of a hypothesis whose validity they are supposed to test, and the hypothesis necessarily precedes the experiment (though of course the hypothesis may itself be the result of previous experiment or observation).

Rovelli goes on to pose the question of how Anaximander’s thought arose in Miletos: what was specific about Milesian society, and later Greek society, that made possible those “brilliant intuitions” that lay the basis for materialist thinking?[9] When we see the answers that Rovelli gives to this question, one can hardly help wondering whether he is not a reader of the International Review, so close are his ideas to those expressed in the article on the Culture of debate. Let us just highlight briefly some of his main points.

Firstly, there is the importance of Miletos as a trading city, in other words a place where many different cultures and strands of thought came together. Amongst these different cultures Egypt played a particular role since it forced the Greeks to recognise that those outside Greek culture were not “barbarians”, indeed that there existed a civilisation whose antiquity was greater than their own legends. All this helped to liberate thinkers like Thales and his successors from their own religious and social prejudices.

The development of trade in turn led to the emergence of a new social structure which destroyed the dominance of the previous aristocratic or oligarchic rule to replace them with a democracy, where decisions are taken by majority vote after discussion. This capacity for debate is in itself a social discovery: “The cultural basis for the birth of science is thus also the basis for the birth of democracy: the discovery of the effectiveness of criticism and dialogue, between equals. Anaximander, who openly criticises his master Thales, does nothing other than transfer onto the terrain of knowledge the common practice of Miletos’ agora: not to approve uncritically and reverentially the god, demi-god, or lord of the moment, but to criticise the magistrate. Not out of lack of respect, but out of an awareness that a better proposal may always exist (...) This is the discovery in the domain of knowledge: that allowing criticism to take its course, and ideas to be called into question, giving the right to speak to all and taking every proposal seriously, does not lead merely to sterile cacophony. On the contrary, it makes it possible to put aside hypotheses that do not work, and to allow better ideas to emerge” (p97).

Rovelli insists on the difference between Anaximander – who challenged the teachings of his master Thales – and the Chinese savants whose main concern was to build and comment on the works of the masters. Anaximander both built on the ideas of Thales and subjected them to criticism, contrary to the Chinese practice (this goes along with a frequent insistence by Gribbin, that whatever the role played by men of genius such as Newton, science is fundamentally incremental, a collective activity of humanity as a whole).

The ability to criticise the ideas of others also implies a willingness to subject one’s own ideas to criticism and debate. But as Rovelli points out, it is the sign of an idea’s strength, not weakness, that it can be called into question. When we are confident in our ideas, in our theories, then we cannot be afraid of debating them – if debate reveals weaknesses or gaps in this or that aspect of a theory then the theory itself can only be strengthened. And even if the theory itself turns out to be wrong (for example, Copernicus’ theory that the sun was at the centre of the universe), by posing the right questions it will have allowed debate to go forwards and the sum of knowledge to increase.

Rovelli writes “in praise of uncertainty”. Science can never take the theories of today as the final “truth”, they are only the best available at any given moment – and we must live with the awareness that we do not know everything, that maybe it will never be possible for mankind to know everything.

[my bold]

http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201203/4739/reading-notes-science-and-marxism

Well, to my mind, LoneLondoner, the suggested concept of ‘social-objectivity’ nicely summarises the main themes in this passage from an ICC publication: that is, the importance of situating scientific thought in a changing society (thus ‘objectivity’ has a history), in liberating it from existing social prejudices (thus ‘objectivity’ takes on today’s new social prejudices), the ancient links between science and democracy (thus ‘objectivity’ is the concern of the many, not the few), and that ‘truth’ is partial and social.

My vote, comrade, is still made in favour of the concept of ‘Social-objectivity’, and I suggest that the ICC agrees with me!

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